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 Post subject: RS Plot 15f
PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2007 7:39 am 
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Many thanks to General Horn for helping me out and writing parts of Corran's involvement in the shopping for Wedge's requested items. :-)

*****

"And when she's waaalkin' she's looookin' so fiii-iii-iiine..." Wedge sang teasingly as Tyria walked into his office where he was filling Corran in on the earlier meeting he'd had with the higher-ups. "Seriously though...you look really nice."

"Well thank you," Tyria laughed. "Oh, and while we're on the subject, I forgot to tell you earlier that you look pretty good yourself, what with wearing your formal uniform while you're in your holonet conference with the brass. I noticed it right away, but by the time I was about to mention it, I was already in hot water with them for barging in on the meeting. I didn't think it was an appropriate time to mention that you're incredibly sexy in uniform."

"Okay, enough with the love-fest," Corran protested, "Some of us would like to keep our breakfast down."

"You're just jealous that I have a woman who tells me I'm sexy," Wedge returned, "If you had one of your own, you wouldn't mind this."

"Ah, but she only thinks you're sexy in uniform, and since you're rarely in uniform, that doesn't mean much."

"She never said only when I'm in uniform. That's just the only time you've actually heard her say it."

Corran was about to retort, but stopped suddenly. "Wedge, why are we standing here discussing your sexiness? This conversation has become very disturbing."

Wedge pondered. "You know what? You're right. We must now discuss something manly. So anyway, I did 200 one-arm-push-ups this morning before my holonet meeting."

"Yeah, I know how it is," Corran nodded, "I lifted weights for an hour this morning before breakfast."

"Excellent. My manhood is now back in place. Yours?"

"Back where it belongs," Corran affirmed, "Although I daresay that shopping with your wife will knock it down again."

Tyria had stood by watching in amusement as the two generals had gone back and forth. "I am so glad I'm not a guy," she declared.

"I'm rather glad you're not a guy, too," replied her husband.

"Good grief!" Corran exclaimed, "It never ends! Let's go already if we're gonna go!"

"Yeah, I guess you're right. We should get going," Tyria agreed. She hesitated, turning to Wedge. "I'll see you later."

"Yeah..." He looked at her.

"Okay. Bye..." And still she hesitated.

"Corran," Wedge said suddenly, "turn around."

"What?!" Corran demanded, "What for? I refuse to take part in your childish little game."

"Fine, don't turn around. But don't say I didn't warn you." With that, Wedge pulled Tyria over to kiss her goodbye. Not a long kiss, by any means, nor a particularly romantic one, but enough of one to make Corran roll his eyes and mutter something under his breath about 'the old days before Wedge went insane.'

"Yeah, yeah. Let's go! I want to get this over with." Corran stood in the doorway, tapping his foot.

"Be careful," Wedge told Tyria.

"I will. Love you."

"Love you too." Wedge turned to Corran. "I don't love you, Corran, sorry. But be careful just the same. And if anything happens to her--"

"I know, you'll kill me. We're leaving now." Corran grabbed Tyria's arm and fairly yanked her out of the office. "Finally!"

"I thought Jedi had the gift of patience," Tyria remarked.

"We do, but it only goes so far. Standing around for 45 minutes while you and Wedge tell each other goodbye like you're going on a year long tour of the Outer Rim manages to push one to one's limits."

"That was so not 45 minutes."

"Felt like it."

"Honestly, Corran."

Corran sighed. "I have a feeling this is going to be a very long day."

*****

When they were on their way, with Corran in the driver's seat of the transport, Tyria rummaged around looking for some music to put on. "There is no good music in here," she announced, "Everything is like...rap."

"Rap has its place," Corran said defensively.

"Yep, straight down the garbage chute," Tyria nodded.

"Ouch, so harsh."

"And so true."

"In your opinion. Totally off topic, but what is this all about, anyway?"

"All what?"

"This. The groceries, the dinner thing."

Tyria shrugged. "I felt like making dinner for the squadron. So what?"

Corran raised one eyebrow and looked at her. "Tyria. Please. Don't act like it's nothing unusual. You're cooking dinner. For the entire squadron. That is so entirely out of your normal routine. And we all know that going out of your normal routine is not something that happens very often, and when it does, it's a big deal. So don't try to act like nothing's going on. What gives?"

"Okay, fine. I was talking to Wedge, back on the frigate, about stuff...and we decided that I really need to try to get interact more with the squadron and stuff, and not be so...closed. Well, he decided it a long time ago; I only agreed, finally. And so I thought that one good way would be to cook dinner for everyone; it would be a nice time to just...hang out. And...it would put me in a place where I'd really be having some interaction, showing that I really am trying to be part of the group, you know?"

"Yeah," Corran nodded, "that sounds like a good idea. So what are you going to make?"

"I have a fantastic recipe for a rich, hearty stew. Lots of meat and vegetables -- mostly meat. And I'm gonna make some bread and biscuits -- I figure some variety will be good. And then for dessert, I'm trying to make up my mind between a cheesecake or a gooey chocolate layer cake."

"Could you make frosted dewback claws?" Corran asked hopefully.

"Corran, that's a breakfast pastry," Tyria pointed out.

"But it could be a dessert!"

"Uh-uh. The recipe I have for the chocolate layer cake is positively to die for."

"I still want frosted dewback claws."

"Sorry. But tell you what. Since you're being so nice and accompanying me on this shopping excursion, I'll get the ingredients, okay, and make them for breakfast tomorrow."

"For real?!"

"Yes, for real," Tyria laughed, "I promise."

"Cool."

*****

The shopping cart was filling up fast with the ingredients for the feast Tyria had planned. "What should we do for drinks?" she questioned Corran, "I mean, anything specific you might be in the mood for?"

"Well, if you want a party atmosphere, booze is always good. Especially since I've never tasted your cooking...it might be necessary."

Tyria frowned. "Corran Horn, I can cook very well. Wedge has eaten my cooking many times, and you see he hasn't suffered any ill effects."

"That I can see," Corran pointed out, "I mean, how do I know that he didn't spend the rest of the night in the refresher, yodeling over the porcelain canyon?"

"'Yodeling over the porcelain canyon?!'" Tyria repeated in bewilderment, "'Yodeling over the porcelain canyon?!' Okay, I've heard many little euphemisms for...that...but never that one. I mean...gee...I've heard 'hurl your cookies,' and 'blow your lunch,' and 'praying to the porcelain god,' and 'Technicolor yawn,' but...'Yodeling over the porcelain canyon?!'"

"You haven't heard that?!" Corran asked in shock, "Tyria, everyone has heard that!"

"Not me! I certainly haven't!" Tyria paused. "Oh my--" And suddenly, she was nearly doubled over, laughing. "Porcelain canyon!" she gasped out, "Porcelain canyon!"

Corran glanced around uncomfortably. "Tyria," he said in a low voice, "please try to control yourself."

But she was too far gone.

"Tyria. Colonel. Please. People are going to start to stare. And I know you don't want that."

Somehow, the colonel managed to compose herself. "Sorry. I just...porcelain canyon... Anyway."

"Yeah. Anyway." Corran grabbed her elbow and steered her to a less populated area of the store. "Okay, I think we're safe over here -- if you have another fit of hysterical laughter, no one is around, so we don't have to fear that they'll send for security."

"Okay, okay. I'm calm now. I'm good."

"You realize, of course, that if I'm asked to submit my opinion for your next psyche eval, I can't lie."

"Yeah, whatever. Do you wanted your frosted dewback claws or not?"

"Fine, fine. Let's get this shopping trip over with already."

"Relax."

*****

The grocery shopping was soon done, and as they loaded the items into the refrigerated compartment of their transport, Tyria laid out the itinerary for the rest of the shopping day.

"We need to go to that department store we passed on the way here -- I need some stuff."

"Stuff?" Corran questioned, "What kind of stuff?"

"Just stuff. I need socks, mascara, stuff like that."

"You say 'stuff like that' as if socks and mascara are the same type of item; I fail to see the connection."

"They are both under the category of 'stuff.'"

Corran pondered. "I guess you could say that mascara is like...socks for your eyelashes."

"I'm learning new things today," Tyria informed him. "About porcelain canyons and socks for eyelashes...I never thought today would be educational."

"People do not realize that I am a wealth of information, and that I would be more than happy to impart my knowledge to them, if they would just listen." Corran managed to look properly forlorn and neglected.

"All right, Professor, just shut up and let's get to the department store."

"See? People just don't appreciate me." With a sorrowful sigh, and muttering something about it being a hard life, Corran acquiesced.

As they were exiting the transport, Tyria's com buzzed. "Colonel Antilles," she answered. "Oh, hi, Janson..............What?......................He wants what?!.............. Uh-huh................Why?!.........Uh-huh.............Well, okay........................ Yeah........that's fine, no problem.............................Okay, bye."

Tyria turned to Corran with a bewildered look on her face. "That was Janson."

"Yeah, I kinda figured that when you addressed him by name."

"Oh, yeah. Anyway, Wedge had him com me to tell me to pick up a few things."

"And you look thoroughly confused because.........?"

"Because of what he wants me to pick up."

Corran waited.

"Deodorant, razors, underwear and........Chocolate Ewok Krispies."

"I see..." Corran began slowly, failing to see the reason for the intensity of Tyria's side of the comlink conversation, before the full realization hit. "And he asked Janson to ask you?!?!"

"That puzzled me, too. Maybe he was trying to give Janson something to do, because Janson was bugging him?"

"That fails to justify it. Just imagine the comments Janson must have found himself obligated to give."

"True, true," Tyria nodded. "I don't know. The Chocolate Ewok Krispies thing is also hard to understand."

Corran shrugged. "I don't think so," he said, unrolling a napkin from his pocket and withdrawing a couple of the larger Krispies to pop into his mouth. "I do have a theory now, though."

"A theory? On?"

"Wedge's usage of the Janson as an emissary for personal items."

"Do tell."

"Perhaps the base has been attacked. Or they want on a secret mission without telling us. Now they've been captured, and while Wedge is being tortured for information, Jansen's managed to procure a comlink but has to speak in code because it insecure. Razors could mean...bring big weapons. Or X-wings. Maybe X-wings are needed to get them out. Deodorant suggests a stench or strong aroma, and that would mean...help me out here."

"Corran.........that's about as believable as your 'socks for eyelashes' theory."

"A sewer!" the general exclaimed. "We need to fly X-wings down a sewer line and rescue them from short, furry, sewage-covered creatures holding them hostage."

"Well, the only thing I can say to that is.....well, as someone we both know very well once said, 'You realize, of course, that if I'm asked to submit my opinion for your next psyche eval, I can't lie.'"

Corran gave her a hurt expression. "You can't ping me for being creative. Your Wedge-got-annoyed-by-Janson theory is dull. Besides, it happens every day, and Wedge isn't always asking Janson to ask you for new underwear and cereal."

"Or maybe he just remembered he needs those things, and was too busy to com me himself, so he just gave Janson the list."

"Still...of all the Rogues to choose to relay the message...Janson.... To me it smells of ill will afoot."

"Ill will? You're reading into it too much. Anyway, let's go inside and get started."

"You mean I have to help you buy Wedge's underwear now?"

"Well no, of course not, I'm perfectly capable of--" Tyria broke off as a sudden horrifying realization dawned on her. "Corran."

"What?! Where?!" the general looked around wildly for the direction of attack.

"I've never...I've never bought underwear before. Er...men's underwear."

"Erm...what's to it? You don't exactly choose style and color for basic military skivvies. Just get the right size and--"

"What?"

"You do know his size, right?"

"I know the measurements of his pants," Tyria offered helpfully.

"That works. As long as he doesn't walk around with baggy pants hanging down around his knees, the size is the same."

"Really? Wow. I would not have guessed that." She paused. "I can't believe I don't know how to buy men's underwear."

"Well, if you haven't bought for Wedge before, I wouldn't expect you to."

"This will go down in history - this is the first time I've ever found something I didn't know how to buy. Oh, I also know that it won't be boxers; does that change as far as the measurement? Or is it the same across the board?"

"Pretty much. I could send you out for X-wing targeting system replacement parts if you really want a shopping challenge, though."

"Thanks, this should be enough of a challenge. I've never bought razors, either."

They had reached the underwear aisle.

"Wow," Tyria remarked as she looked at the supply. "How devastatingly boring."

"You could spice things up with Little Lost Bantha Cub knickers?" Corran suggested, holding up a package. "But I'm not sure they come in his size."

Tyria laughed, taking the package. She traced the image of a "Little Lost Bantha Cub" with her finger, before hurriedly thrusting the package back on the shelf. "You're right. Not his size. But my goodness...everything in this aisle - in his size - is.................black or white. I am so glad I'm not a man."

"Razors now?"

"Yeah, I guess." Tyria tossed the package that Corran had selected into the cart. "Onward to the wonderful world of razors."

"When it comes to razors, things get a bit more difficult," Corran said, picking up an odd contraption with five vicious blades pointing every direction. "But first choose something that's actually made for the human epidermis."

"As in...not that one."

"Right. Now here's an interesting one. Laser Scalpel 5000. You can burn the hair right off your face without singeing your skin."

"No. He prefers to just shave."

"It would be helpful if you could remember what he normally shaves with."

"Ummm....a razor?"

"Analog or electric?"

"Not electric. Oh, and...let me think...three blades. Yes. It's hard to remember; I only used it once."

"I see.... Metal blade? Synth-blade? Vibro-blade? Reverse action? V-tip? Tri-lateral? Self-cleaning?"

Tyria looked at him blankly. "Wait. My razor. It's the same brand as my razor." Tyria turned to the other side of the aisle, with the women's razors. "Here!"

"Matching razors? Very romantic."

"We didn't do it on purpose. They just happen to be good razors" She sighed as she kept looking. "This brand makes a lot of men's razors," Tyria observed.

"But it's...aloe vera green. The men's too..." Corran trailed off.
"His is not green."

"Phew. Wedge's masculinity was in question there for a moment."

"Fear not. His razor is very manly. His razor is........sexy."

"Somehow that just made his razor seem a whole lot less manly."

"Only because you're a man. But...maybe it's not the razor that's sexy; maybe it's just when he's holding it. Oh, and it has three blades. It's a heavy duty one, too; good thing, 'cause the man seems to have a five o'clock shadow by noon, I swear."

"A good, manly quality. Deodorant now?"

Tyria glanced at the razor Corran handed her. "This is the one!"

"The Force was with me on that one."

"Apparently," Tyria answered, tossing the razor into the cart, along with some razor refills for herself. "Yes, deodorant."

Corran snatched a random tube of Powerman Triathalon Warrior III off the shelf and tossed it into the cart. "There, we're done."

"No, no. That's not what he uses."

"He'll live. Besides, if you use the same kind all the time, you develop a rash.'

"Oh brother. It's.........this one." Tyria grabbed one and tossed it into the cart. "Good. We can get my stuff now."

"You'll find me on that bench outside."

"Nope; he said you have to stay with me. Sorry."

"Now I know why Wedge had Janson tell you he needed underwear. Between that and making me shop with you, he's obviously suffered a serious mental collapse."

Tyria rolled her eyes. "Mascara time," she announced. Corran groaned as he was dragged, against his will, into the horrifying world of cosmetics. "It won't take long," Tyria promised, "I just need to find two mascaras. Help me."

"Help you? I can't help you; I don't know what to even look for!"

Tyria held up a package. "See this? I need one that looks just like it, but that says, 'Waterproof Black' on the side, and another just like it that says 'Clear' on the side. Got it?"

"Waterproof Black and Clear," Corran nodded. "Why would you want clear? I mean...they don't make clear socks for feet; why would they make clear socks for eyelashes?" He paused. "Although waterproof socks for feet would be pretty awesome. Eyelashes get all the special products, I suppose." Another pause. "However, on the other hand, I supposed that waterproof socks would end up making your feet really sweaty. Okay, nix that idea."

"Corran, you are seriously disturbed."

"I'm in the cosmetics section of a store, helping my best friend's wife look for mascara. Why does it come as a shock to you that I'm disturbed?"

"Good point."

"Yeah. So anyway...you ready to leave?"

"If I can find the mascara," she replied.

After a few more minutes of scrounging through the racks of mascara, Corran handed Tyria the two mascaras. "Here -- your eyelash socks, milady -- in waterproof black and clear."

"Thank you. Okay, we can leave now."

After paying for the purchases, the general and the colonel went back to the transport.

"Thank the Force we're finally almost finished!" Corran exclaimed, "Now we just go back to the grocery store for the Chocolate Ewok Krispies, and we'll be done."

"Not quite," Tyria informed him, "I have a few other little stops to make, some other things I need. Believe me -- since we don't know how long we're gonna be stuck on that base, I'm making a day of it while we're out and about."

Corran sank down into the pilot's seat. "I knew it. I just knew this was going to be the longest day in the history of my life."

*****

To be continued by me...


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2007 3:57 am 
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A Gav/Mish production of total awesomeness

A week (give or take a day) after the call to Face
=================================


The hatch to the TIE cockpit clicked free and swung open to allow its occupant exit.

A black helmet emerged first, paused, and then was removed by a pair of gloved hands. The pilot ran a hand through his damp hair and threw a smirk at the Line Captain standing at the sim-controls. "So?"

Allistre nodded to the technician that the exercise was over. "A flawed performance at best."

Gavin arched an eyebrow. It had been difficult to discern whether or not Zak had been a trader all along, or if he'd been recaptured along with Rillao and the two had simply been brainwashed. In either case, he'd decided to label the former ally as 'Fully Imperial'... he certainly acted like it.

"I suppose the fact that a single 'rebel scum' took out a little more than a third of your squad, before being shot down -- taking out one more in the explosion -- could be seen as 'flawed'..." he retorted as the other 15 sim hatched popped open to release their users. "But six from the elite being taken down by a single 'rebel scum'? Gotta be sayin something"

"Apparently I need to start performing summary executions if you cannot maintain to mine and the Emperor's standards." Allistre raised his voice so the other pilots could hear him clearly. The message was obviously meant form them rather then Gavin.

"I don't know why Brie wanted you a part of our exercise today, scum, but until Grant gives the order to have you interrogated and brainwashed, you'll always be just that: scum. Your reckless style of piloting, your flagrant disregard of orders, your apparent inability to function as a subordinate would end any Imperial pilot's career with their execution. It and you have no place in
any of the Grand Admiral's squadrons. Pilots dismissed!"

Daggers flew back and forth as the stream of pilots marched out between them.

"Now get out of my training room," Allistre finished coldly as he followed his pilots out.

------------------------------------------------------

Strings of electricity crackled around his fingers; they were only momentary, sparking for a second and then disappearing again. Gavin's forehead was damp with sweat as his brain bounced between what had happened the previous day and what Shira had taught him within the last few hours.

"You're not concentrating enough!" Shira said indignantly. She stood off to one side, watching him intently.

He glanced her way, irritated by her rebuke. She'd woken him up in the middle of the night - no advanced warning, no explanation -- and ordered him down to one of the less frequently used cargo bays... on the other side of the Bloodlust. Dragging himself clear across the ship in an undershirt, boots, and a random pair of utility pants with unkept hair and a half-dead expression on his face turned out to be a real treat.

However, his grogginess and grumpiness had quickly worn off when Shira had enlightened him as to why she'd roused him at such an ungodly hour: he was to learn a new ability.

What had confused him the most was the fact that Shira was willingly teaching him something dangerous. In comparison to every other encounter, things had become much more... familiar. Something like that hadn't happened since... before Shira had turned and the two of them were squad-mates. Perhaps familiar was the wrong word... maybe "tolerant" was the best choice.

Familiar, tolerant, whatever it was, Shira had turned out to be a very harsh teacher. Yet as frustrating as she was, her continual nit-picking at his successes provided an ample supply of frustration to fuel his power. Focusing once again on his half-closed hand, he reached out further, drawing more and more on the Force. The sparking slowly grew more frequent, more intense.

A smirk formed in the corner of his mouth as he felt success was not far away.

Shira was pleased with how the man before her was progressing. It had been a slow start but gradually he was learning to control his anger, not let it overcome him, but to use it for his own gain. If he could learn to channel this anger, he would become powerful...

Perhaps too powerful?, she wondered, then dismissed the thought as soon as it had arrived.

There was no one she could not take on, even with her current... disability... she could swipe him down with a blink of her eyelashes, paralyse his legs at the ankles just by nodding towards them, thrust him across the room and into the wall a few metres behind just by flicking her wrist casually. She twitched her finger and knew he could not help but feel the disdain which she threw at him through the Force. He would use this, mould it until it became a part of him, she could almost visualise it as a dark smoke, crimson perhaps, drifting towards him, encircling him, entering him through his pores as they excreted biological oils that protected his skin. It stealthily slid into him, through these pores, through his skin and continued deep within his very being. Soon he would become infused with it and this is when he needed to succumb to it, not only that but to breathe it deeper within, where it could be metamorphosed into something useful, something angry, something malevolent. It would only be then that he could ball it up and control its movement through him, out of him, use himself as a conduit for its energy.

She smiled.

Yes, he was learning. But how fast? How soon would the smirk the arrogant young man had plastered on his face fall, once more into that of unhelpful frustration, which he had not yet learnt to siphon into his soul, but instead let it leak out uncontrolled and unpredictably?

She watched his fingertips twitch.

A bright flash erupted from the middle of his hand. Instinctively, Gavin jerked his arm away, flinging his hand behind him. Gritting his teeth, he brought his hand back around. It took a moment for his nerves to register the pain from what his eyes saw. His hand was criss-crossed with bright red burns and small holes had been burnt into his outer layer of skin where the electricity had been arcing. Thrusting his hand against his side, he squeezed tight with his other arm as the blistering pain finally reached his brain. He leaned over slightly, applying more pressure. He'd failed again.

Apparently sooner than she'd thought.

"Aw, did the Jedi hurt his finger? Perhaps you want to go home and let your mummy kiss it better?" Shira's tone was, unsurprisingly, one of mocking. She scowled at Gavin, who she knew was feeling the after effects of creating electricity and then not having anywhere to dissipate it. She knew what it felt like to be electrocuted, both by accident and on purpose, from herself and from others. She had no feeling in part of her lower back, since part of a delicate network of wires, blood and circuitry in her lower spine because of it. Channelling electricity was hard enough when you were 100% human, flesh, blood and bones was the limit to your problems, but when technology was infused, well, that became another matter entirely. She did not think about exactly why or how she bypassed these components when controlling the aggressive power, it was not her problem after all. But Gavin should not have any of these problems.

And that aggravated her, as it had (she imagined) aggravated Vader when he had tutored her of the power, when he had touched her skin and she had felt the energy coarse through her, in that moment as crucial to her wellbeing as the blood which through its power, heated in her veins.

She closed her eyes. Vader. His death was inevitable, but it still occasionally shocked her. Or rather... Recently it had shocked her. Recently a lot of things had been happening to her which otherwise ought not to. She snarled internally. Not for much longer.

"Lemme guess," an angry voice cut through her thoughts, "'this hurts you more than me'?!"

She opened her eye to find her pupil standing fully upright again, slowly and painfully flexing his noticeably shaking hand.

"It always hurts you more than it does me," Shira replied curtly. "Which is why you are weak and will fail." She motioned for him to continue trying; "Again."

Again. This would be the fifth time she'd ordered him to try again. Letting his injured hand fall to his side, he reached his other hand towards her. This time, rather then concentrate on his hand, he locked his gaze with hers.

The air around his hand ionized as he slowly rotated his palm upwards, clenching it into a half-fist like before. Blue-purple sparks danced around his palm until they grew into thin arcs.

Again... again... failure after failure... he hated failure.

The arcs grew thicker and brighter as power rushed into his hand.

Did he have it this time? The most recent failure had certainly let him see that it was within his grasp, but also Shira knew that dread would now be within him. He could not afford to wonder "What if it doesn't work?" or linger on the pain of his inadequacy. Perhaps she would extinguish the spark this time? Or the next? She considered he was approaching success too fast. If you rush to a window, do you not hazard falling out of it? He needed another lesson. Perhaps a little humility? Perhaps a little... reason?

She took a deep breath in, and when she expelled it, the metaphorical crimson smoke had turned the colour of dried blood, a dark rich colour, beautiful in its anger. It thrust towards him, charging the air in the room as it did so, and she awaited his response. It would be quick.

It was beautiful: a violent bouquet of purple-and-blue-white energy flowing between his fingers. A painful throbbing in his other hand remind him of the danger this un-discharged electricity, but he ignored it... he'd succeeded and he wanted to take the moment to relish in it.

He unlocked his gaze from Shira's to focus on the deadly force in his hand.

It was glorious.

The air in his lungs suddenly froze. He felt something, like cold tendrils, forcing their way through his pores, screaming through his bloodstream until his entire body burned. His eyes shot wide with panic as he felt his control slipping. The contained ball of lighting began to leak, shooting spidery arcs out in all directions as Gavin looked up to see the mischievous smile on Shira's face.

"WHAT THE HELL DID YOU JUST DO?!?" he demanded as his eyes darted around the cargo bay, searching for something somewhere to discharge the energy into.

She shrugged and internally revelled in his mental anguish. "When you can handle the energy, I can show you."

"ANY SUGGESTIONS?!?" In all honesty, he'd've loved nothing more than to clamp his hand around her arm and fry her cybernetics, but killing her now would only cause problems.

"Practice makes perfect." She smiled in good humour.

"DAMN YOU SHIRA!!" he shouted as an arc caught him on the chest. Slack-jawed in indescribable pain, he doubled over as the burst of energy momentarily stunned his heart. Muscles contracted and then went limp as the arc in contact with his chest fizzled out.

Joints buckled as he started to fall. For a moment, the anger in his face disappeared as he shot Shira a look she'd never expected. It simply seemed to say, "run".

Within seconds Shira knew the power he'd accumulated was too much for his body to take; his anger towards her had made it combustible. To run would not be enough. She reacted without thinking, pushing herself from the floor and enclosing herself in a Force bubble, hanging foetus-like in the room. She wondered somewhat distantly if the womb would hold, and closed her eyes, better to concentrate on strengthening it.

The electricity leapt from his hand as he slammed against the hard floor. Insulated poorly, if at all, the metal absorbed the energy, dissipating it across the entire bay, frying any unprotected circuitry and overloading several of the bay's glowpanels.

Shira opened her eyes when she heard Gavin's body fall, hard, to the floor. The electricity had ruined the room, which had plunged into near darkness, and the smell of burning flesh hung in the air with the inevitable accompanying metallic twang. When she felt it safe, the bubble around her disappeared and she stepped, as though down a small number of stairs, to the floor. Totally illusionary, but Shira was not in the habit of doing things without a theatrical flourish.

She knelt by the seemingly unconscious man and wrinkled her nose. The smell emanating from his flesh was entirely too familiar. His right hand and arm were covered in blackened scabs and blisters from the experience, smoke rising from his palm, fingers twisted towards the ceiling.

"I hate you..." he muttered as his half-open eyelids twitched from the residual charge.

"Hate is just the beginning." Shira paused for a moment at the door and, without looking back, added, "I'm not done. Conference room A-36, ten minutes."

Gavin heard the door swoosh closed before he allowed himself to groan.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2007 12:53 am 
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Thanks to GH for his assistance in helping me write C (I did the writing, but his insight helped tremendously).

***********************************************

After returning to the grocery store to pick up the Chocolate Ewok Krispies, Tyria was giving Corran the next stop on the itinerary when he interrupted. "No, no, no."

Tyria stopped, surprised. "What?"

"No. We're not doing anything else until we eat something. Or at least, until I eat something. You don't have to eat if you don't want to, but I need something. I'm starving. We have to get some lunch, or I'm not going anywhere else."

"Oh really. I could just get in that pilot seat myself and take us where we need to go."

Corran smirked. "Oh, yeah. I'm so scared. You think you could get me out of this seat? I'd like to see you try it. I might not be as tall as Wedge is, but I'm still bigger than you. A lot."

With a sigh of defeat, Tyria gave in. "Fine. And heck, I'll even let you pick the place."

"Oh, you'll let me, eh? Thanks for your permission, Colonel. I already picked a place anyway. I saw it on the way here."

When they arrived at the restaurant, Corran hurried to the door, anxious to get in and start checking out the menu, Tyria close behind. He pushed the door open and went inside, then turned back to see where Tyria had gone.

She came in a moment later, looking slightly cross. "Thanks a lot, Corran. It's okay; I've never liked my face anyway," she said, rubbing her nose.

"What?! What are you talking about?"

"You! You went tearing through the entrance like a bat out of hell, and I assumed you'd be a gentleman and hold the door. But nooo."

"Did it hit you in the face?" Corran inquired.

"No, Corran. I'm just rubbing my nose because that's the new fad. Of course it hit me in the face, you idiot!"

Corran was taken aback. "For the Force's sake, Tyria, I'm sorry. Here, let me look at it." He moved toward her, attempting to move her hand so he could look at the damage, but she gave his hand a light smack with her free one.

"Don't touch it!" she squealed, "I think it might be broken."

"Are you serious?"

"I don't know, I can't see it; why don't you look at it?"

"Because you just told me not to touch it, and you won't move your hand away from it."

She moved her hand. "There, how does it look?"

"Like your nose."

"Corran, please. Can you tell if it's broken or anything?"

"Can I touch it?"

"I guess so." He reached to feel it, and she winced. "Ouch!"

"Tyria, I didn't even touch it yet! Relax!"

"Sorry." Corran tried again. "Ow, ow, ow..."

"Tyria."

"Sorry."

"Well," Corran said after examining it, "it doesn't feel broken; then again, I don't know why you're asking me to find out if it is or not. I mean, you're the doctor."

"And I recognize the value of a second opinion." She felt her nose again, then pulled out a compact with a mirror. "It doesn't look swollen to me; is it swollen?"

"No. It might just bruise a little."

"Yeah, probably. No problem; I'll tell Wedge you hit me."

"He'd probably thank me. Man, for being a doctor, you're sure a difficult patient. Now let's let the hostess know we're ready for a table."

*****

Once they were eating their lunch, Corran settled back in his chair. "So, Tyria, how have you been?"

She looked at him in surprise. "What?"

"How have you been?"

Tyria cocked her head. "I'm not sure I understand."

"What's not to understand?! This is not brain surgery, Tyr. And even if it was..."

"Very funny, Corran."

"I know, that was a lame joke. But seriously. How are you?"

"Why are you asking this, Corran? You never ask me that. Or at least, not like this. The casual, 'How's it going,' and stuff, but never so seriously. What gives?"

"All right. I'll come clean, okay?" He sighed. "I've just noticed lately that you haven't been entirely yourself. On the outside, you have been. The only time someone would notice would be...well, I only noticed because on the outside, you've been acting like normal. But there's something in your sense, I can feel it in the Force. And in that regard, it's obvious. I don't know what's causing it, but--"

"What do you sense? What is it that you're picking up on?"

"The only way I can describe it is to just say that there is a sense of profound...sadness."

Tyria's eyes filled. "I didn't know it was so obvious."

"Not to the average person. Outside of what I picked up through the Force, it's not obvious at all."

"That's good," she replied.

"So that's why I'm asking. How are you?"

"I'm okay. It's fine. I mean...really, I'm okay."

Corran shook his head. "Tyria, rule number one of the 'Communication Between Master and Apprentice Handbook' clearly states, and I quote, 'If the apprentice tries to lie to his or her master, he or she must be prepared to face a one hundred percent failure rate. In addition to the failure, punishment by severe flogging will be meted out.' In other words, Tyria, don't insult my intelligence by telling me that everything's fine."

"Okay. It's not fine. But it will be."

"I don't care about 'it' being fine. I'm trying to find out how you are."

Tyria looked away.

"All right, if you're going to make me try to pry it out of you, I'm up for it. I'll be totally honest and admit that the only reason I didn't put up more of a ruckus about having to come shopping with you was because I knew it would be a good opportunity to get you alone and try to find out what's going on. Because I'm not getting anything any other way. I know I haven't been around a lot. Right after Sekar IV, Janson, Halley, Myn and I were gone. I know I wasn't here for that ordeal you went through with Bowman--"

"I called for you. Through the Force. When that was happening. You were too far away."

Corran nodded. "Yeah...Is that what this is about? Because I didn't notice this sadness in you before Sekar IV. But after...like I said, it's deep sadness."

"No. It's not about that." For once, Tyria wasn't forthcoming with her feelings.

"All right. Well." He cleared his throat. "To be honest, it's got me concerned," he ventured. "It's not just that you're a little down about something. It's deep-seated. It's a big thing."

"It's going to be okay," Tyria insisted.

Corran set down his fork. "Okay, Tyria. I'm half done with my lunch, and you've been pushing yours around your plate and haven't taken more than two bites. It's one of your favorite dishes, and you haven't eaten since this morning, so you should be eating. So spill. Spill, or I'll eat all your food, and you'll be hungry later. No more Mr. Nice Guy."

"Corran, really--"

"No. Something is wrong. Is everything okay with you and Wedge?"

"Wha--"

"For all I know, that bruise on your nose has been there all day and you're trying to cover it up with that bogus story that I slammed the door in your face."

Tyria looked at Corran in horror. "Corran, you can't really think that he--"

"Of course I don't think that. I know Wedge about as well as I know myself, and I know he'd never hit you. But what's bothering you? And if by some insane twist of unbelievable reality he is doing something to hurt you, I'll kill him. But you've got to tell me."

"Let me assure you, Corran, that Wedge has done nothing of the kind. He's been nothing but the kindest, gentlest husband that any woman could ask for. And if he was doing something like that...I'd tell you. Not necessarily because I'd want to, but simply because I'd be incapable of hiding it from you. So rest assured."

"I'm already assured about that. So what then? Is he cheating on you? Has he been diagnosed with terminal cancer? What?"

"No and no. He'd never do that."

"Well, to be honest, it's not like he could control a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Then again, maybe he could; you're the doctor, you tell me."

Tyria half-laughed.

"Good, I at least got a chuckle out of that." He paused. "Tyria, does it have anything to do with......children?"

Her face fell. "Children..." she whispered, almost to herself.

"Okay. I noticed at times that the sadness kind of...increased when you happened to focus on children who were around while we were at the store. And also, especially when I handed that pack of Little Lost Bantha Cub underwear to you as a joke. So...I'm thinking of two possibilities here. Either you want them and he doesn't, or else you're pregnant and you're not happy about it."

"Right," Tyria snorted, "If I were pregnant, it'd be nothing short of a miracle."

Corran looked at her. "Oh, come on, Tyr. He can't be that busy."

Tyria blushed in spite of herself. "No. It's not that. It's just--"

"Then you want them and he doesn't? He wants them and you don't?"

"No. More that we both want them, but we can't have them."

"Forgive me, but I'm not following you."

"We can't have children, Corran. Or, more accurately, I can't."

"CS?" Corran inquired.

"Related to it," Tyria replied.

Corran let out a sound that sounded like air escaping from a balloon. "I don't know what to say."

"He didn't tell you?"

"No, he didn't. Tyria, I'm so sorry."

"Thank you. I'm not sad about it all the time, even though you sensed it. Like you said, it's a deep-seated thing, but it's not at the forefront, necessarily. It's tucked down in that little place deep inside, where you keep everything that you don't want to remember but are incapable of forgetting. If that makes sense."

"It makes sense," Corran nodded, "That's where I keep the memories of when my mother passed away."

"Yeah...mine too."

"It's a good thing you're going to try to get to know the other squadron members. You might be surprised to learn that pretty much all of them have something tucked away in that little place too."

"Really?"

"Oh, yeah. Think about it. You know Wedge's of course, how he saw the explosion that killed his parents. And even Janson has one. I can't really say what it is...but he has one. You'll learn things about people as you allow yourself to get closer."

"Wow. I'd never have thought Janson would have something in that little secret place."

"Yeah. You see, Tyria, that's the wonderful thing about letting yourself get closer to people and letting them get closer to you. You find common ground. You find empathy and understanding. You relate to them and they relate to you. And that's what holds a squadron together. That's what makes the squadron a family, Tyr. As you get to know everyone, you'll find one thing, for sure -- that as diametrically different as we all are from each other, we're also very much the same."


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"The time for revolution is at hand!

"Brothers and sisters, we will surely face adversity. But remember this! No battle is worth fighting without adversity!

"Now stand with me, my friends, and if necessary, die with me, for we fight the eternal war. But we shall prevail! WE SHALL PREVAIL! Say it with me, brothers and sisters! WE SHALL PREVAIL!"

The red-faced Janson raised his fist, ready to slam it back down on the podium, but was interrupted by Wedge's head pushing its way through a non-specific portion of the mission briefing room's wall.

"Janson," the floating head began to say, then paused as it saw the gathering of Rogues, combatants, and base personnel in front of the general. "What is this?"

Wes just shrugged at Wedge. "Oh, just another meeting of the Noble Bachelorhood and Sisterhood of Bachelorettes. You're not invited."

"Thank you. Did this secret guild meeting really require a holographic wall over the door?" General Antilles questioned, indicating the seemingly solid wall he was poking his head through.

"Yes, and your presence is now soiling our sanctum," Janson glared.

"Well, it might work a little better if the door didn't already have a sign over it."

Wes ignored the comment. "So, what did you want?'

"Don't you have a mission starting in 28 minutes and," Wedge glanced at his wrist chronometer, "17 seconds?"

"Priorities, Wedge, priorities. Can't you see I'm tending my flock?"

General Antilles walked away muttering about why in the galaxy he'd decided to let Janson use valuable squadron resources on a PR mission.

* * *

"Rogues, form up," General Wes Janson ordered, having traded his pulpit for his cockpit.

The four X-wings of Flight Yub Yub, flying abreast, squeezed into the narrow trade route through the asteroid field of the shattered prison planet of Despayre, the birthplace of the first Death Star and the first victim of its terrible power.

"Sir, I detect a Leonore Luxury Liner Incorporated C-3 passenger liner designated Qualita Prime approaching dead ahead at 12 klicks," Captain Taz Krayli reported.

"Acknowledged, Ten. All ships, break off and conceal yourselves in the asteroids until your get my signal. Scurvy Dog Flight, prepare for action on my mark."

"Acknowledged, Rogue Three. We're primed and ready for a little swashbucklin'."

Just as the sleek luxury liner reached their position, six Uglies, beautifully crafted by Flight Officer Hayden Krah and his team of mechanics on Phalanx Base, sprung out of the asteroids and formed a blockade in front of the Qualita Prime.

The leader of Scurvy Dog Flight spoke, "Passenger Liner Qualita Prime, you have been waylaid. Cut your engines or we will be forced to cut them for you."

The captain of the liner did not reply, but continued to fly his ship toward the blockade.

"Qualita, cut your engines or we will perforate your hull!"

The starship suddenly accelerated, driving straight at the Uglies. Several sections of its hull popped open, and laser cannons--typically rare on a luxury cruiser--burst out, sending a sheet of deadly energy at the fake pirates.

"Dogs, break off!" the flight leader ordered as the ships scattered to avoid the barrage.

From his position hidden behind a nearby metallic asteroid, Janson exclaimed. "Rogues, this bad boy's packin' some heat! Engage!"

Abandoning their ploy to "rescue" the luxury liner from the claws of the pirates, Flight Yub Yub burst out of cover and fired on the engines of the fleeing vessel.

"Fire disabling shots only, but don't let them escape the asteroid field!" Janson ordered, launching a pair of proton torpedoes.

"Roger that, Rogue Three," Scurvy Dog Flight acknowledged. "Joining pursuit. We won't let them get away."

But time was short as the four X-wings and six Uglies plunged after the starship, weapons blazing, with reduced effect on the fortified shielding. It accelerated with modified thrusters, forcing the starfighters to shunt more power to their engines and less to their lasers.

Several minutes later, the luxury liner escaped the asteroid field and prepared its hyperdrive as it soared into clear space. It pulled up abruptly as an Imperial Star Destroyer hyperspaced directly in front of it. Its bristling array of laser cannons opened up, striking out at the Qualita Prime and its attackers.

"EVASIVE!" Janson screamed as a turbolaser burned past his hull.

Even with its defensive upgrades, the luxury liner shuddered under the massive assault, unable to protect itself and unable to escape.

A belly section of Qualita Prime suddenly blew off, and a scimitar-shaped light freighter emerged, slipping past the barrage and making an escape run along the rim of the asteroid field.

"Follow that ship!" General Janson ordered, evading another laser and shunting all of his power away from lasers to engines.

The Star Destroyer drew its attention away from the badly damaged luxury liner and shifted its weapons toward the unknown freighter.

The freighter pilot expertly navigated the edge of the asteroid field, which shielded it and prevented the Star Destroyer from getting close enough to capture it in a tractor beam, yet it maintained enough speed to increase its distance ahead of the giant battleship.

"He's going to hyperspace!" Flight Officer Leefa Do'Fey announced, and within moments the freighter slipped back out of the asteroid field and winked into light speed.

A minute later, the Star Destroyer followed.

"They obviously know where he's going," Janson remarked. "Hayden, get a reading on the hyperdrive exhaust and see how far they jumped. IQ, draw me a map of the most likely directions. There can't be too many out here."

* * *

General Corran Horn lay on his stomach in the long, golden grass, breathing in the fragrant scent of nature and ignoring the thistles poking through his camouflaged garb. Even though he knew that only the Witches of Dathomir possessed the incredible power to control the weather, he willed the breeze to stop waving the tall grass about.

He and his wingmate, Captain Moor Myomor, waited, and finally they were rewarded as the guard on duty stepped out of the tiny communications outpost and closed the door behind him. He lit a death stick and gazed across the beautiful, rolling prairie with a look of disgust on his face.

Corran lifted the small, native bird captured in his hands and threw it at the guard. The bird spread its wings, beating them in the man's face and squawking loudly as it clawed madly. The guard yelped, swinging his arms in front of his face.

Moor used the commotion as an opportunity to stealthily slide up behind the man and emit a puff of vapor around his head from a handheld emitter. He slipped back around the wall of the building as the guard gave a loud yawn, now ignoring the bird as it flew frantically toward the sky.

The guard shook himself, then yawned again. He slumped against the side of the building, slid down into a comfortable sitting position, and fell fast asleep.

Sliding up against the side of the building to conceal themselves from observers at the nearby Imperial base, the two Rogues slipped through the door and entered the outpost. As expected, only a single attendant was on duty, comparing transmission readouts with the numbers on his datapad. Deeply engrossed in his work, it was easy enough for Corran to creep up behind him and send him to dreamland with the same drug used on the guard.

Moor slid a preprogrammed datacard into the main console while Corran went to work on the actual hardware of the satellite. The datacard, with one of Janson's automated slicing programs embedded on it, slipped past the initial layer of defense and copied the incoming transmission codes. Meanwhile, Corran accessed the main satellite relay and connected a tiny, unnoticeable instrument Hayden and Taz had engineered.

Completing their objective, the Rogues exited the outpost and crept away via the tall grass as the guard and technician woke up from their short naps, a little confused about their sudden drowsiness but unsuspicious and unwilling to let each other know of their brief laps of duty.

In a low running crouch, Corran and Moor made their way several miles back to the Nameless. The YT-2000 light freighter, originally purchased for Corran, Janson, Halley, and Myn's mission to Tanaab, had been outfitted for stealth operations. A prototype holographic exterior blended it into any scenery and special equipment passively redirected the majority of radar signals gently around it. The technology that allowed this drained all the ship's power away from its weapons and shield systems, making it useless in combat but well worth it for slipping unnoticed in and out of Imperial sectors.

Colonel Tyria Antilles and Captain Ailie Datul were operating inside the freighter, running point as they surveyed the Imperial base's activities, letting their two comrades know when it was safe to make each of their moves.

Once all four Rogues were back inside, Tyria lifted the Nameless low above the ground and continued to use the giant boulders they'd been hiding behind as cover as they escaped over the rim of the little-populated planet.

In space, as Tyria completed a series of microjumps to mask their presence, Corran decided to get an early start on his mission report to Wedge, wrapping up yet another operation in the continuing battle to reduce--and eliminate if possible--the growing threat of Grand Admiral Grant's regime, and namely his Super Star Destroyer Bloodlust.

Despite the incredible firepower of the Bloodlust, capable of demolishing entire fleets and reducing planetary populations to slag, Grant treated it like a child afraid that his brand new birthday toy blaster was going to be taken away now that he'd destroyed a family vase with it. He repeatedly jumped from system to system, despite the enormous fuel costs, making him practically impossible to track.

The New Republic's battle against Grant's outlying planets and the Rogue's and compatriot's destruction of key communications relays on the inner rim had still allowed Grant to keep most of his ships in those regions but had encouraged him to keep his precious Bloodlust safe in the core of his territory. This greatly restricted his movements with the giant battlecruiser, but also made him more paranoid then ever. Thus, following Face's suggestion, the New Republic forces had ventured no further than the inner rim. They continued to fight Grants forces there, doing their best to wear down the larger combined force of Grant's ships and those of his allies, and providing a distraction as more Imperial forces moved from the core to the rim, allowing the Rogues and their compatriots to perform covert reconnaissance and sabotage operations in the core region.

The mission Sanity Flight was on was one such sabotage operation. When the time came for a final assault on or infiltration of the Bloodlust--however in the universe that would be done--the Rogues could send out a signal to three booby-trapped Imperial communications outposts in the core. The signal would enter the outposts' computers, trigger the devices Corran had installed, then send a burst of a data transmission back to the Rogues of all the ship movements the three outposts were seeing. The triangulated data transmission would be very brief to avoid detection, but hopefully it'd send enough information back to the Rogues and Wraiths in order to see the current location of the Bloodlust. Then they'd be able to fly to it and, either alone or with a great army, bring the battleship to its knees.

While most of what the Rogues, Wraiths, and those working with them had done in order to get closer to the Bloodlust and gain intel on it had been challenging, actually engaging the ship through either a barrage of proton torpedoes or a flurry of silent vibroblades spelled the sort of impossibility both squadrons dreaded but where somehow expected to achieve. Whatever idea was to be cooked up to actually accomplish that, it needed to be something absolutely extraordinary.

"General, incoming message from Janson," Ailie's voice came over the intercom from the cockpit to the kitchen/lounge of the YT-2000 freighter.

Corran pressed a button on the round table in front of him. "Thanks, Ailie. I'll take it back here."

Janson's voice crackled through, "Horn, we, uh...we're going to need a little help here."

The general sighed. He'd expected this. "What'd you do now?"

"Well...we kind of got ambushed by a Star Destroyer, the passenger liner nearly got destroyed, and we're now chasing a fleeing ship halfway across the system. And the way he's moving, he's obviously got something big to hide."

Corran pounded his fist against the table to indicate his head banging repeatedly against it for Janson's benefit. "Wes, Wedge isn't going to be happy about this. What do you need me to do now? Clean up the mess?"

"No, I just need you to board the passenger liner and call in a rescue & recovery team. It got pretty messed up by the ISD, and it won't be going anywhere soon. I need you to interrogate the ship's captain and find out what this ship we're chasing is carrying."

General Horn let out a long exhale. "Okay, we're on it. But you owe me."

"Thanks. And, Corran, when has Wedge ever been happy about what I do?"

The general shut off the commlink and strode to the cockpit of the Nameless.

"Tyria, set course for the Despayre system. Janson's gotten himself in trouble again."

* * *

When the Nameless reverted to real-space near the edge of the asteroid field, it was obvious from the amount of oxygen and fluids leaking from the Qualita Prime that Janson's brief description was right on par.

"I hope there's still a captain alive for us to question," Moor commented, surveying the deteriorated state of the luxury cruiser.

"I can see what you mean," Corran affirmed. "Ailie, contact Scurvy Dog Flight and have them join our boarding party. If we wait for the rescue & recovery ship to arrive, they'll probably only be recovery.

The Nameless and the four Uglies of Scurvy Dog Flight remaining from the brief battle with the Star Destroyer docked with the passenger liner and entered in full spacesuit gear. They moved through deserted sections of the ship, gently nudging away space-frozen corpses floating freely due to the damaged gravitational generator. They finally reached an intact door, and both Corran and Tyria could sense many living beings inside.

"CorSec police raid style," Corran indicated before entering the emergency airlock.

After the room had filled with a breathable level of oxygen, the four Rogues and four Dogs burst through the second door, barking orders as they went.

"GET DOWN! ON THE GROUND! DON'T MOVE! STAY WHERE YOU ARE!" Corran, Moor, Ailie, and two of the Dogs bellowed to the terrified passengers as they moved down the aisle, shoving their weapons menacingly at each person in turn.

Following closely just behind them, Tyria and the two other Dogs stunned the passengers with non-lethal Stokhil spray sticks.

The Coruscant police raid style involved stunning everyone in sight upon initial entry, but the danger with this came from the stunners being too slow in a large group of people to stun everyone before the remaining suspects could fire on them with lethal force. However, the CorSec police raid style involved the raiders in front pacifying as many people as possible through intimidation while the raiders in the back stunned everyone now sitting or lying still for them. This freed up the raiders in front to have their weapons set to "kill" in order to take down any hostiles they couldn't get close enough to to stun. Using lethal force on any hostile going for his weapon also discouraged anyone else from trying the same thing.

Moor took down a guard foolishly raising his blaster pistol, using a single, surgical shot to kill him in order to avoid hitting any unintended victims in the crowded corridor with stray fire. Most of the passengers were unarmed, though, and the Rogues and Dogs made their way through two more cabins. They stopped at the bridge door.

Hot-wiring the simple security system, Corran lifted the door a few inches.

"Sweet dreams," Ailie said as she rolled a sleeping gas grenade in.

Waiting a few seconds for it to have effect, the eight pilots burst into the surprisingly dark room, the only light coming from a faint star glow from outside the giant viewport. Suddenly the bridge's ceiling and floor lights lit up, illuminating seven armed Imperial officers wearing oxygen masks. The eight figure was obviously the ship's captain, pointing an E-11 blaster rifle directly at Corran's heart.

The two groups kept their weapons raised at each other, each gun aimed for a certain kill.

"Lay down your weapons, captain," Corran ordered, hoping the man couldn't see him starting to sweat through his helmet visor. "Reinforcements will be here any moment. We can end this without anymore bloodshed."

"Never!" the Imperial captain spat. "We do not surrender to Rebel scum!"

"Your loyalty to the Empire already seems in question," Corran pointed out. "It was obvious you betrayed them when that Star Destroyer started blowing holes in your ship."

The Imperial captain growled. "We are the most loyal sons of the Empire. It is others who betray!"

"What was in that ship that fled from here? What were they carrying?"

"That is not your business."

"It's going to be soon," Corran replied. "You're either going to die here once reinforcements come pouring in, or you can surrender now to the New Republic. Those of you who have not committed atrocities will be dealt with lightly. If you have useful information, we can bargain."

"Silence!" the captain bellowed indignantly. "Do not speak to my men! We will never bargain or betray! We stand for the Remnant, the true Empire, unlike traitorous dogs like 'Grand' Admiral Grant! He will pay! Your Rebellion will pay! The Empire will rise again! We'll crush you, we'll destroy--"

He suddenly fell silent as a blue bolt of electricity enveloped his body, dropping him to the floor unconscious. The weapons of Imperial officers swiveled automatically toward the remaining officer who had fired the stun blast. The Rogues and Dogs took the opportunity to take their shots.

Only one officer was left standing.

"You did a noble thing, son," Corran addressed him, lowering his weapon and stepping toward the traitorous officer and his unconscious captain.

"I'm willing to bargain," the officer replied shakily, letting the pistol drop from his hand.

"Let's talk."

* * *

"Janson," Corran's voice buzzed with interference over the commlink as Janson's X-wing ploughed into a planetary atmosphere, generating a ball of fire. "We've apprehended the luxury liner's captain and one of his aides. Apparently, the ship was being run by Imperial officers, probably unbeknownst to the passengers, and it was being used to transport some vital starship schematics. You'll never guess for which ship."

"The Bloodlust?"

"Darn," Corran replied. "Yes, and those are going to be vital in taking it down. The schematics of a Super Star Destroyer are about as rare and hard to fine as an unopened bag of popcorn on the Rogue's Arrow, and these Imperial Remnant operatives went to great lengths to find them. They were transporting them in secret inside a ship that was aboard the Qualita Prime. Somehow, Grant found out what they were doing and ambushed the Prime with that Star Destroyer."

"So the ship we're now chasing has the plans," Janson confirmed.

"Correct. Continue pursuit. "We're sending more reinforcements your way, and we'll be coming too, but it'll take a few hours to reach you."

"Acknowledged. If you could speed things up a bit, it would help. We got here just in front of the Star Destroyer, and we're right behind the fleeing ship, but the ISD's forces will be on top of us before reinforcements get here."

"Just hang in there, Janson. You must secure those schematics before Grant does. May the Force be with you."

General Janson ended the conversation and changed the commlink channel as the four X-wings of Flight Yub Yub dropped into the unidentified planet's lower atmosphere.

"Guess what, guys, we're the last best hope for the galaxy."

"Awesome!" replied Taz, "But I thought we always were."

To be continued...


Last edited by General Corran Horn on Fri Apr 20, 2007 1:26 am, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2007 9:54 pm 
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Written by me. Set around-ish the time of everything else that's going on.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The planet was one of lush, blue forests with towering trees and dense foliage. Mountains in the distance loomed with snow-caped peaks. Though Shadow was tall, everything around her seemed unnaturally large and over-sized. <i>So this is what it feels like to be short</i>, she thought.

Shadow set out towards what she had been told was the direction of an Imperial base five miles away, looking around her as best she could with the dense layering of trees. A scouting squad of six Imps was hot on her trail, and unless she wanted to have to fight them, she needed to reach the base before they reached her. In theory, she should easily be able to outdistance them, but practice rarely matched theory.

Her objective was simple: find the base, find the captive, and punch a code on her datapad for further instructions. On a forested planet similar to her home, Shadow did not anticipate many problems. She was in her element. Her biggest challenge was to resist becoming too comfortable in her surroundings. She was too easily prone to distractions, mostly from within her own head. Shadow had to find a way to push past her own thoughts in order to focus, something she had trouble doing on a regular basis, let alone during a task which required absolute focus.

The first mile went past without any hitches, making Shadow suspicious. There should have been some commotion from the scouts behind her by now... They hadn't been that far behind, and she should have at least heard them getting closer. Risking a few moments of distance, Shadow quickly climbed one of the blueish trees and looked back the way she had come. Where there should have been several white blobs there was nothing. A few furry mammals, some birds and a reptile, but no white stormie blobs.

When the second and third mile went the same as the first, Shadow knew something was wrong. At the very least, there should have been some kind of perimeter scout for the base she was nearing, but there was nothing. Not only was something wrong, paranoia was setting in, resulting in Shadow looking behind her, retracing her tracks every quarter mile, and wondering constantly where the challenge was. For all that had happened, she might as well have been on a stroll through a lovely, if gigantic, forest.

By the time Shadow was nearing the base, she was thoroughly confused. This was nothing like a normal Imp operation. There should have been lasers, more guards, guns and some kind of explosive somewhere. What had she found? Nothing.

At the five mile mark exactly, Shadow approached a clearing in the woods that revealed an entrance to an underground base, obviously Imperial by the stormie standing guard. Finally, some semblance of normality, with one hitch. There was only one. Not two, three, four or five, but just one. Not even any hidden nearby, as Shadow had just scouted the region and found no one. And oddly enough, even with all the back tracking, the group that had been on her tail had still not shown up. There was definitely something amuck with the entire situation.

After quickly dispatching the guard with a thunk to the back of his hollow sounding helmet, it was mere moments before Shadow was inside the base. Slicing had become a lot easier for her since Gav-.....

Gavin. There he was again, just when she thought he was locked away in a little box in the back of her mind, he came back to remind her of just how big a part of her life he had been. She never thought she'd miss him so much, never knew she'd have to.

Rather than let her quickly sinking stomach plummet to the floor, Shadow pushed every thought in her head inside the little box. She was calm, she was focused. She was creeping down a dark hallway, looking for a captive. There was a light ahead. Pressing herself flat against the wall, Shadow inched forward and took the barest of glimpses into the room.

There, in a cell, was who appeared to be Gavin.

<i>Captive found,</i> reported the directive in her vision.

It wasn't happening. It couldn't be happening. Face wouldn't do this, not to her, not yet, not now. Did he know Gavin would be here? Was he supposed to be?

Taking a deep breath, back against the wall, Shadow reached into her pocket and punched in her code for further orders. They appeared almost immediately and made her skin turn a ghostly shade of white. Closing her eyes for a brief moment, she willed the directive to be different. Cracking her eyes open, the dreaded words were still there: <b> Kill Captive.</b>

Thoughts, feelings, emotions and temperatures all raced through Shadow's mind and body at once. She couldn't do it. There was no way. Why were they doing this to her? What had she done to deserve to be put through such misery, such torture?

"I know you're there," said a voice from the next room. She knew it was Gavin. He had always been good at knowing when she was around, even before his Force powers kicked in. She had to make a decision, and she had to make it quickly.

Taking a mental breath, Shadow straightened up, put her hand to her blaster and stepped around the corner. "I figured you did," she said, grasping for the strength to keep her voice from wavering. Her nerves were hanging by a thread, threatening to snap at any moment if she wasn't careful. "You also know why I'm here, no doubt."

"I do," he said evenly, giving her a blank look that belied the mental processing she knew was going on in his brain. He stood in the middle of the dimly lit room, surrounded by a kind of Force shield to keep him prisoner. A ysalamiri in the far corner kept Gavin powerless. "I also know that you won't be able to do it. That's not who you are."

Shadow slowly traced the contours of the blaster as the minutes ticked by. He was right, she couldn't do it. Gavin had ripped her heart out when he left, when he went to the Dark Side. By all rights she should hate him. Killing him should be easy. But it wasn't. In spite of everything, she still loved him, and probably always would. He was her other half. Her beloved. How do you kill someone you love and value more than your own self?

A single tear trickled out of the corner of Shadow's eye. She couldn't. She wouldn't.

"I love you," she whispered, looking the man she loved in the eye.

"I knew you couldn't do-" Gavin choked off as he crumpled to the floor.

But she did.

*****************
Shadow slumped out of the simulation pod, falling to the floor in wracking sobs. She had no idea how she had done it, even in a simulation, but she had. And it killed her. How could she have killed him? She hated herself. No self-respecting person would be able to so easily end the life of someone they loved.

Face was there, as she knew he would be. He had assigned her to enter the simulation, but he hadn't told her what the program would be. Now she knew why. He needed as accurate an assessment of her as he could get. He needed to know that if the need arose, she would be able to do her job.

If she hadn't been so consumed with hyperventilating, twitching, mentally screaming and sobbing, Shadow probably would have been tempted to commit some kind of crime against a commanding officer. Perhaps when she had more control.

"I'm sorry, Shadow," Face said sadly. His body language exuded regret. Deep down, she knew he hated to have done it. But he had.

Nothing mattered anymore. Eventually her breathing would return to normal and the sobbing would die down. Shadow curled herself into a ball, covering her head with her arms. All of her carefully constructed barriers to make normal life bearable had been shattered. Now the pain was worse than ever, compounded exponentially by having to live through being a murderer. There was no going back now. There never would be. All she could do now was to learn to exist.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 1:58 pm 
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Because I'm working at 12 hours shift sat at the front office of Hammersmith Police Station with no internet access and nothing to do... What else should I do but plot!

So, here it is! A direct response to Shadows plot (I love it when someone writes something that compels you to reply!)

*edit* It seemed to grow a bit more than originally planned... I guess that's what happens with 12 hours to kill!

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He had helped her up, and held her as she shook, her sobs racking her body as she experienced the guilt of what she had just done. Admittedly, it was only in simulation, but the holographic technology, coupled with the training droids and forcefield projectors that they had rigged in the Saculs training room, made it realistic enough. A trained expert knew that the environments were fake, but the people, especially ones they knew as well as Gavin... they were easy to create, and create realistically.

It was not a simulation that he had creating lightly. Part of him hated himself for doing it. A very large part in fact, a part that felt physically wounded as each stifled cry sliced the cold air in the training room. He hated himself at that moment in time, but he knew he was going to, and he suffered in silence. Someone had to do it, and he couldn't put the burden onto anyone else.

The sobbing stopped, and he could feel Shadow recoil slightly from him, as if she'd just remembered who had put her through the ordeal.

"Shadow, consider yourself relieved from duty for the rest of the shift." Face considered offering a half apologetic smile, but thought better of it. If he were in her position, he'd consider swinging for his CO. He'd already decided that if she did, he wouldn't defend himself, and wouldn't put her on report for it. It was the least he deserved.

"Understood." Her voice was strangely detached, although there was still an undercurrent of raw emotion. Face was thankful for that. He now knew that Shadow would kill Gavin if she had to, and perhaps her final defensive wall had been broken down, and she could finally release her emotions.

Without another word, Shadow straightened up and left the training room, heading for the front of the ship and her quarters. Face remained where he was briefly before glancing at the nearest security sensor. "Sacul?"

"I'll keep an eye on her." The disembodied voice returned, scarily humanlike in its emotion.

"Thanks. Can you ask..." Face paused, wondering whom the best person to ask would be. "Can you ask Red to pop in and see her in a few hours. Just to make sure she's OK."

"Yes Colonel."

Face smiled to himself. He could tell that the Sacul knew the seriousness of the situation. She hadn't insulted him yet. He wondered where along the line he had sacrificed his humanity, and then shook at his head, annoyed at his wallowing in self-pity. Now was not the time to act churlish. He cleared his throat. "Patch me through to the bridge."

"Piggy here." The mechanical voice of the newest Wraith rang from the speakers.

"What's the ETA for the rendezvous with the Arrow?"

"We'll be there in just under four hours."

"How's the presentation looking?"

"It's looking good Face. Keyta's got the code working in visual mode, and I've sorted out the graphics. We'll put on a good show Boss."

Face nodded, although his porcine crewmate couldn't see him. The Wraiths had cobbled together a plan for taking down the Bloodlust. It wasn't simple, it wasn't even complete, but it certainly had all the hallmarks of a Wraithplan, in that it was so crazy, it might just work. "Thanks pal. I'll be up there before we exit hyperspace."

His reply was a brief grunt, which Piggys translator had been programmed to ignore, and the comm cut off.

"Sacul?"

"Yes?"

"Run training program LoranAlpha"

The subdued beep of the computer told him that the program was running. He allowed it a few moments to get up to speed, before turning to face the training area once more.

"Hello Loran." The smile was just right, the posture perfect. Her voice was an exact copy, as well as the perfect holographic overlay. Face didn't reply. The smile broadened. "What... you're not pleased to see..."

With blinding speed, the DL44 holstered on his right thigh found its way into Face's hand, the weapon came up, and, without appearing to aim, Face pumped three shots into her forehead. The image wavered as the energy passed through it, and Shira collapsed to the floor.

As soon as it begun, the training simulator stopped, the training droid, now devoid of its holographic glamour, got back to its feet, and returned to the side of the room. Face stood there, breathing heavily, trying to control the churning in his stomach. He reholstered his blaster, automatically thumbing it to full power once more. He was pleased to notice, that despite wanting to, his hand wasn't shaking. Not like it had the first time.

He could do it. He kept telling himself that he could kill the person he once... loved? Was that the right word? It had been just over eight months since he had last seen her in person. Over eight months since that morning on Myrkr, where they had tried to talk about their feelings and their future. Over eight months since it had all gone horribly wrong, and now Face was going to have to kill his ex lover. He knew he had to do it; he couldn't let anyone else take responsibility. This was his task, and his task alone.

He hadn't told any of the other Wraiths about it (although he assumed that most of them had figured it out themselves), and certainly not Wedge or Corran. Corran would (quite rightly) point out that personal vengeance wasn't a good course of action. Face knew he was correct, but he wasn't certain that killing Shira was in the name of vengeance. Or was it?

Deep in thought, Face moved over to one of the weight benches and sat down, mulling over the situation. Did he once love Shira? Well, yes. He had to admit that at one point in his life he loved her. She seemed vibrant and alive. Admittedly, there was always an edge of darkness about her, but she seemed to be coming out from under the veil she had clouded herself in. Then there was the time he needed her. A time filled with his own personal demons when he just needed something, anything to feel alive, and she was there. She could offer him pleasure and companionship, but she couldn't offer what he really needed. She couldn't offer him a future.

Sure, he had stuff to live for; he had his friends, his team, and his fine collection of holodramas... But he also had his mission. Originally, his desire to continue fighting to atone for the damage he'd felt he'd done, but recently, he fought because he could. If he didn't fight, then someone else, someone not quite as good, would take his place, and more innocent people would die. Shira couldn't offer him a future away from that.

But could Asha? The thought stuck in Face's head as he leaned forward, his eyes staring into the distance. Did he love her? He certainly enjoyed her company, and their physical union was certainly every bit as good as he'd enjoyed with other women, and without the dark feeling that his previous lover had engendered. Asha was bright, like a warm Tatooine sunrise after the desert night Shira embodied. Face smiled at the thought. Asha also provided him with something else... a future. For the first time in a long while Face could picture himself in a future where he no longer had to fight, with family and friends and a small planet to call his own. Face nodded, then sobered, not allowing himself to indulge in the fantasy. Shira was still out there, and until he achieved some form of closure, he could never allow himself to be as close to Asha as he wanted.

So why did he want to eliminate Shira's threat personally? Was it, as Gavin had suggested, a personal vendetta? Why should he, especially considering his lack of Force capability, be the one to take Shira down? What had made her his responsibility? Face sighed out loud. "Why does it have to be me?"

"Because you made me."

Face looked up, startled, there, on the bench across from him, sat Shira. Reacting without thinking, Face snatched a throwing knife from his sleeve and threw it across the gap with impulsive speed. The knife passed cleanly through Shiras right shoulder, and embedded itself in the wall. Shira laughed, and gestured to her shoulder. "Even now, after all your training, you can only go for a disabling shot."

"You're not real." It was a statement, although there was an undercurrent of a question that Face refused to let surface.

Shira smiled. "Of course not. I'm merely a representation of me hidden in the Saculs databank. A small program which you created back when I was a Wraith to help in training simulations. The Sacul has merely accessed all the reports on me, all the psych evals, as well as her own observations and created me."

Face shivered. Program LoranAlpha was still running, a program he had created purely to test himself against Shira. Apparently, the Sacul had increased the parameters to include a mental fight as well. "You're obviously not very well programmed, you should know that I had no part in your creation."

Shira smiled, and stretched languidly, a move perfect in its execution. "But you're forgetting, when you asked the Sacul to create me, you asked her to make it as realistic as possible. In fact, you even uttered the words 'Use any resources you can'." Shira smiled "And so she did. Your personal diaries and reports have been accessed. Loran... I know what you've been thinking."

Face shook his head. "I didn't create you. You were Darth Vaders personal assistant before you'd even thought about joining Stealth Squadron."

"Really?" Shira stood from her perch and walked over to where the inert training droids stood. She stroked one of them along the shoulder, and the droid seemed to shudder. Face's eyes blinked as he tried to make sense of it all. It seemed that Shira's sense for the dramatic had been noticed and emulated by the Sacul. Then his eyes widened in recognition. When she had joined the Wraiths, Shira hadn't been overly dramatic, she'd been sullen and withdrawn. Even in her capacity as Vaders hand, she had been silent and unseen. It was his own sense of the theatrical that she had picked up. He shook his head briefly to clear his mind and refocused on Shira.

The droid that she had been 'stroking' had initiated it's combat procedure. All the training droids in the room were hardwired to the Saculs mainframe, so she could control as many of the six droids at a time as she wished. The combat droids themselves were humanoid shaped, with powerful and responsive servomotors to provide impressive co-ordination, speed and strength in all of its limbs. However, the crowning glory was a thick layer or organic based synth skin, which could change the droid to any configuation. With commands from the Sacul, the droid could change its height, build and body shape as well as simple changes to its synthskin to make it as tough as armour, or as soft as fur.

Whilst inside the holographic projection range of the training room, there was also the ability to project detailed holos onto the droid, from stormtroopers to Ewoks, as well as any individual who had been subjected to a full holographic scan... which surreptitiously happened to anyone who ever set board on the ship.

In fact, at one point, Face applied a particular holographic overlay, and rather amusingly fought himself. Although, despite the extensive programming the duplicate (or FakeFaace as Kai had humorously named it) had been given, it had lasted less than a minute before being defeated. Face smiled internally at the thought, programming was no substitute for experience. The Colonel then switched his undivided attention back to Shira. The droid had finished its calibration, matching Shira's size, weight and other 'attributes'. With an overly staged gesture, Shira stepped into the droid, and breathed deeply in. "There, that's better."

"OK, so you picked up a certain theatricality from me." Face nodded, automatically settling into a relaxed combat stance. "What else?"

Shira's response was an artful combination of moves, attempting to sweep away Face's guard, at the same time as multiple, seemingly random strikes towards his neck. As he was expecting the attacks, they were no effort to deflect. It was a simple Echani attack pattern, devastating in its own right, but quite a mild form of the infamous martial art of the Imperial Royal Guard. And, despite her previous employment, Shira had never been taught Echani, at least, not until she had become Face's lover.

It continued for a few more moments, with Shira throwing numerous different combinations of attacks from several more martial arts, including Teras Kasi and some Mystral moves. As skilled as the programming was, the moves weren't as precise as Shira could manage in real life, and certainly not as precise as Face himself. But the point had been made. Face could remember every training session in which he had taught her in these moves, and every equally energetic session afterwards.

The sparring stopped as quickly as it had begun. "OK. You've made your point, I taught you a few moves and made you a little bit better at unarmed contact. But you have the Force, anything I could have taught you is nothing compared to what you can do with the darkside."

Shira stopped and smiled. "You still don't get it, do you lover?"

"Then tell me."

"I used to be a Sith before I met you. You helped me to curb that side of me, and use my other talents. To think before I acted, to not give into my emotions. You taught me the plans, the backup plans, the contingencies... You taught me the tactics and the psychologies..." She paused and smiled. "Loran... Face... You took a broken, confused ex-Sith, and turned her into the most dangerous woman in the galaxy."

Face's mouth went dry. "How did you..."

"Know? Loran, I always know what you think." Shira smiled wickedly, reaching up to unbutton her top "And I always know what you like."

"Freeze program." Face managed, his throat feeling suddenly constricted. Shira froze in mid action, her expression promising both pleasure and pain in equal measures. "Sacul?" Face's voice could have frozen a wampa on Hoth.

"Sir?" The image of the Sacul flickered to life to his right, the amalgamation of Tuatara Lone and Wynessa Starflare, two of the galaxies most famous holostars, and right now she was looking as embarrassed as Face had seen either.

"What. Is. That?" The Lorridian bit off every word.

"A simulation as per program LoranAlpha?"

Face clenched his jaw a few times, not trusting himself to speak. "Terminate program."

"Yes sir."

Shira flickered once, and then disappeared. The training droid slowly returned to its default state, before walking back its to place on the wall. "Shall I delete the program? Or return it to its original parameters?"

Face locked eyes with the image of the computer, his expression set in stone. "No."

The Sacul nodded, flickering out of visual existence once more.

For a long while Face stood there, staring at where Shira had just been standing. No. Not Shira, no matter how much it acted like the real thing, it was still only a simulation. So why had it gotten him so rattled? He glanced at his chrono. Now was not the time. He still had to get himself cleaned up for his meeting with the Generals. He took a deep breath, leaving the training room and his thoughts behind him. For now.


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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 10:27 am 
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The quiet hum of the holoprojectors was drowned out by the subtle murmuring of the occupants of the briefing room. The Arrow had numerous different rooms for this, including one room large enough to house every single fighter pilot, commando and member of the bridge crew, plus several more besides. However, this briefing was much smaller.

The briefing room itself was more a conference room, roughly circular, with a large oval table in the middle. Several holoprojectors, currently dormant, were scattered throughout the room, and sixteen comfortable chairs were arranged around the table. It was, Face mused, almost identical to the conference/briefing room they had set up on the Sacul.

Wedge and Tyria were already there, sharing a moment of quiet conversation. Wes, for once, had actually arrived early, and was pouring over his datapad, a slight frown on his lips. Face hid a quick grin, if Janson was frowning, that meant a good start for their idea. Corran was also there, chatting animatedly to Halley. Locker, Morkha and Zakitt Uprann (the Firestorm Team Leaders) were seated at the far end of the table, looking vaguely menacing, even without their armour and wearing the pleasantly blank looks that all professional soldiers somehow shared. Finally, Darm Gizzard, Callista and Feylis rounded out the group, representing High Flight.

Face glanced up at his friends, and then slid his look to his fellow Wraiths. Keyta was sat on his right, typing into the main holoprojector, no doubt making last minute alterations and checks to their presentation. Piggy was sat on his immediate left, flicking through data on his personal datapad faster than Face could even see, let alone comprehend. Sometimes, despite his uniqueness, people forgot exactly how much of a genius Piggy was.

Sensing his look, Keyta glanced up at Face, her expression the characteristic guilt of a codeslicer being caught in front of a computer. "Sir?"

"We good to go?"

The Bothan nodded in reply, decisively closing her personal datapad down. "Ready boss."

"Piggy?"

The Gammorean closed his datapad with a quiet click. "Ready Face."

Face smiled, and then turned to his fellow pilots. "Generals, Colonels, Major, Captains." He began, nodding at each of the assembled operatives. "We're here to discuss how to take down the Bloodlust." Face smiled, without preamble.

"This isn't a briefing session; this is a speculation/brainstorming session. We've come up with a few ideas, but you're all highly trained professionals, so hopefully we can bash together something resembling a plan."

Wedge smiled. "You mean you haven't already come up with a master plan, five contingencies, and five back-ups for each contingency?"

Face smiled back, accepting the jibe in the humour it was intended. "I didn't say THAT." He nodded to Keyta, and the large holoprojector loomed to life about the table.

There, suspended in midair, was the Bloodlust, spinning slowly around its vertical axis. "This is the Bloodlust. It is a typical Executor-Class Star Destroyer. It is 19 kilometres long, it has 2,000 turbolasers, 2,000 heavy turbolasers , 250 concussion missile tubes, with 30 missiles each, 250 ion cannons, 500 laser cannons and at least 144 TIES." As Face spoke, the large graphic was peppered with increasingly large amounts of colour-coded weapon emplacements, until the entire ship was filled with the iconic representation of the deadly arsenal.

The Colonel paused, allowing the stats to sink in. "It is at least, to say the least, a bloody huge ship. And of course, she never goes anywhere without her escort of two Star Destroyers. A head-on fight will require most of the New Republic Defence fleet to be present, something that we don't have the luxury of right now. So... here's a plan."

The large graphic of the Bloodlust disappeared, to be replaced by something completely different... lines upon lines of computer code.

Wedge peered at the lines of code that scrolled vertically in the air in front of him. "OK... you've got me."

Face smiled. "It's OK Wedge, this means nothing to me either. Wes?"

The smaller General furrowed his brow once more. "As far as I can tell, it's the tracking code for a concussion missile."

"Correct." Keyta smiled, happy that this portion of the presentation had begun well. She looked over at the Firestorm, their faces showing signs of confusion, and she sighed. It wasn't their fault, they weren't pilots. And, to be honest, Face had looked pretty confused during this portion as well. She was half tempted to resort to using action figures again, but thought better of it. It might work for Face, but she'd look a bit daft in this slightly more professional company.

The Bothan codeslicer sighed, and continued. "Pretty much every missile or torpedo has a very small communications computer on board. It allows the missile to be steered or detonated by the firing craft. It also has its own sensors, proximity sensors that allow it to judge whether it's going to hit its target or not, atmospheric sensors that will detect changes in atmosphere that will throw off its manoeuvring, that sort of thing.

"Well, this is almost the standard computer code for concussion missiles, very much like the ones used by both the NR and the Empire. There is no one standard code, as each company is slightly different in its execution, but they pretty much do the same thing. Before the missiles are loaded into any launcher, whether it's X-Wing or capital ship, they're checked by the loading mechanic, or sometimes the pilot."

Wedge nodded. "It's part of the pre-flight checklist that we encourage every Rogue to do for themselves."

"So how come you didn't recognise it?" Keyta asked, her expression slightly predatory.

"Well... I don't check the code personally, I just plug my datapad into it and it confirms the programs authenticity and that no codeviruses have been inserted." Wedge explained, his eyes narrowing as he tried to work out where this train of reasoning was going."

"Excellent!" Keytas eyes were smiling, as she turned to Wes once more. "In the absence of an actual missile to check, could you have a look for us General?"

Wes shook his head. "I've been scanning this for about an hour now, with far more scrutiny than we usually give these things. All I can come up with is that it's slightly different, but I can't work out what it's supposed to do. It's not quite as efficient as the program we usually use, but it's still perfectly within normal parameters."

Keyta nodded. "Precisely what we're after."

Now it was Tyrias turn to frown. "So, you've invented a code that doesn't do anything?"

"If you'll excuse me Colonel, you're half correct." Piggy smiled easily. "In that it doesn't do anything now." His voice had turned conspiratorial, an impressive feat for the mechanical translator buried in his throat.

Tyria shook her head in resignation. "Sometimes I think all the Wraiths have been infected by Face's theatrics."

Face snorted in amusement, but did not respond.

"As I mentioned before. Each missile has the ability to communicate with the launching craft. This means that each missile has the ability to receive comm signals. So, when these particular missiles receive a particular comm signal, a slight change happens."

Keyta waved her hand dramatically, with a sly wink at Tyria as she did so. The graphic on hovering in the air was hit by a shimmering wave, signifying the signal. The code changed, ever so slightly shifting as the command altered a few sections.

"Ta Da!" Keyta proclaimed, waving her hands as if performing a magic trick.

Silence ensued.

Keyta dropped her exuberance in mock resignation. "General Janson, could you inform your esteemed colleagues what the new code does?"

The General produced his datapad with a flourish. "Never fear, Lucky Red Seven shall save the day!"

Tyria muttered something that sounded suspiciously like "Oh great, it's spreading." as Janson plugged his datapad into the terminal.

"OK... we have a couple of new trigger codes, neither of them raising too many alarms. One is an atmospheric trigger; the other is an overload trigger. Nothing major. There's also a pulse transmission. As far as I can tell, when this thing explodes..." Wes peered intently at his datapad. "It sends out another transmission like the first." He looked up at Keyta, his brow still furrowed. "I'm still confused."

Keyta smiled. "Look at the atmos trigger."

Wes frowned, and peered closer. "This thing will cause the warhead to explode if the atmosphere surrounding it is..." He paused, a slow grin spreading on his face "...0psi. This warhead will explode the second it leaves the launcher and enters a vacuum."

"The picosecond it leaves the launcher." Keyta corrected, her own smile increasing. "And once it explodes the pulse transmission is sent out again. Too many signals activates the overload trigger. Once missiles are overloaded, they'll explode in waves."

Wes whistled, and leaned back. "If we can get these missiles onto the Bloodlust, the resulting explosion will cause some serious damage."

Face nodded, leaning forward once more. "If our estimates are correct..." The image of the code changed back to the Bloodlust, the concussion missile launchers highlighted. "...There should be anywhere between 10% and 14% of the ships structure will be destroyed. Along, of course with its concussion missile launchers and..." He paused, waiting for the others to catch up.

It was Corran who made the connection first. "Any TIE with missiles in." Corran smiled. "TIES don't have life support. Whenever the first one launches, it'll explode, and the corresponding pulses sent out will destroy the rest of the TIES still in the hangar, hopefully destroying the rest of the fighters still there."

Face nodded. "And with the fighters gone, as well as the missiles... Well, let's just say that helps our task a little."

"I don't get it." Gizzard spoke up, his hand half raised as though he wasn't used to this less formal briefing. "If you can alter the code with a comm signal, why don't you just blow them up?"

Piggy smiled. "Glad you asked Colonel." He pressed a few buttons and the code appeared once more. "This was the most subtle change we could in order to initiate the destruct sequence."

The code, seemingly indistinguishable from the original floated once more in the air. Wedge looked to Janson.

"Well?"

Wes nodded sagely. "I can see why they didn't use this."

"Care to explain?"

Janson cleared his throat. "In the simplest of terms... With the original code, trying to spot the incongruity was like trying to see a wampa during a snowstorm on Hoth. With this code, it's like trying to spot a rancor at a Jawas tea-party."

Wedge smiled at the description. "So, the only way you could slip the program into their missiles, was to make it subtler."

Keyta nodded. "It's a shame, but it'll work just as well."

"So how do we get the missiles onto the Bloodlust?" asked Halley, leaning forward

"Simple." Face smiled. "We go to the plant that makes them, and change them there."

"And how were you planning on doing that?" Wedge asked, his eyebrow raised.

"We were going to ask them nicely."

"Nicely?"

"Sure."

"And if they said no?"

"We'll be diplomatic."

"Face, being diplomatic doesn't mean saying something soothing as you pull the trigger."

Face grinned. "I know Wedge, but it's OK. We've got that area of the plan sorted."

Wedge gauged the Wraith leader. "Do I want to know?"

Face shook his head.

"Going through the front door?"

Face nodded his head.

Wedge cleared his throat, before speaking brightly. "Moving on!"

"Quite." Face smiled, leaning forward. "What's the status of your droid project?"

Wes and Corran shared a look. "You weren't supposed to know about that!" Janson whined.

Face smiled. "Wes, it IS my job."

The General shrugged in return. "Well, not as good as we'd like. We've got our influence on about 8% of the droids on the ship, but the rate of increase isn't as sharp as we'd like."

"How long until we manage to we can influence enough of the population?"

Wes shook his head. "The security is tougher than we'd like. We can't get anywhere near any of the important part of the ships systems, and the increase in control has slowed." At Face's unchanged expression, Wes shrugged and continued. "About 2 to 3 years, if the rate doesn't increase."

Face sighed. "Does that mean the project is a no go?"

Corran shook his head. "We've just readjusted the parameters." Smiling at Face's confused look, Corran continued. "Grant is a very, VERY clever tactician. But he's also just a man, and his paranoia helps us in the fact that he wants to know about EVERYTHING, and he also doesn't trust anything."

Face nodded, gesturing for his friend to carry on. Corran picked up his datapad and checked a few annotations, then continued. "We've managed to get into the basic household maintenance program. Nothing major, but we can disrupt lights, gravity, air scrubbing, that sort of thing. Nothing to a dangerous level, there are too many safe guards for that, but we can certainly make a nuisance of ourselves."

Face smiled. "Trying to overload Grant?"

"Something like that." Corran admitted "But the real trick comes later."

"Trick?" Piggy asked, his mechanical voice taking on an inquisitive tone.

"A day or so before we initiate the final assault, we're going to make the droids act... strangley."

Face raised his eyebrows in confusion. "Which will achieve what?"

"Nothing in itself. But it will certainly cast suspicion on the droid population of the Bloodlust."

Understanding blossomed in Face's mind, like a proton torpedo explosion. "Grant will ban every droid on the Bloodlust until he works out what is going wrong." Face's smile grew wide. "With no droids, and the added confusion of the basic programs twitching around, it's enough to drive the sanest of people crazy!"

Wes smiled "And Grant is about as sane as a Gungan with his tongue in a blender!"

There was a collective pause round the table as the mental image Wes described halted everyone's thought process momentarily.

Wedge shook his head, trying to clear the mild hallucination. "So, we've got the Bloodlust without missiles, hopefully without fighters, without droids and with random glitches in its programming. Grant is paranoid and overloaded. Do we have the advantage yet?"

"No Sir." Locker spoke up, leaning forward onto the table. "Get us onto the Bloodlust. Then that'll make Grant even MORE overloaded, and we'll have the advantage."

"Locker, you can't be serious, twelve of you against an entire SSD's worth of troops!?" Halley responded, his jaw dropping at the plan.

Locker shook his head. "We're not going after any target in the Bloodlust. Three teams of four troops, no agenda, therefore impossible to pin down. We'll just run around, blowing holes in stuff. We'll keep our suits sealed, so we can just blow a hole in the bulkhead and jump into space if things get too hairy. We probably won't accomplish a huge amount of damage, but we can certainly make a mess!"

Face nodded in response. "It's a good addition to the plan. We'll work out how to get you on later. I've got a contact on board that might be able to help too. Route the stormies in the wrong direction, that sort of thing."

"You have an agent on board? A Wraith?" Tyria frowned in confusion.

Face shook his head. "NRI have an agent, I merely know who they are, and can make contact. I'm only their handler at this moment as I'm the closest qualified."

"Can we know who?" There was a slight edge to Wedge's voice at this news.

"Sorry Wedge, you can't. But I can tell you it's neither of the people you're thinking of."

Wedge looked at Face for a long heartbeat, before nodded slowly. "OK."

Face smiled his thanks before turning back to the group. "Any questions?"

Every hand, including those of Piggy and Keyta shot up into the air. Face sighed and banged his head on the desk. "Why do I get the feeling this is going to be a long night?"

The response was a chorus of smiles that would have made any carnivore happy.


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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 6:42 pm 
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About.... 20 mins after the last Shira/Gav plot

Yet another Mish/Gav production.
================================

Despite the heavy dose of painkillers the medical droid had pumped into his burnt arm, the numbness in the limb had suddenly started to wear off. It took Gavin a few short paces before what he was being told sunk in.

"You're joking..." he finally said.

"If I was joking," Shira answered back pleasantly, "the painkillers you received from the infirmary would have been switched with filoxyhorporin and you'd be a fetching shade of orange right now."

He glanced Shira over as he continued to pace, now more of a means to balance out the load on his brain; his was the sort that suffered the quirk of requiring "busy work" in order to process things best. Her poise was typical, but beneath the exterior, she wasn't as pleasant as she was coming across.

"Why are you telling me this?"

Shira, who was perched on the top of the conference table, hands on either side of her body, the better to evenly distribute the weight, leaned forwards slightly. The amulet fell forwards and downwards, the purple light highlighting to Gavin the more base attractive aspects of the woman in front of him. He attempted to rip his eyes away, lest Shira do so in a less metaphorical manner. His brain caught up as Shira replied; "That's a ridiculous question, I thought better of you, apprentice." The word was loaded. Shira paused to let Gavin acknowledge the title, "There are some situations the consequences of which even I cannot foresee. Should anything untoward happen, I would undoubtedly require your assistance." She cocked her head to oneside, "It also serves to explain certain ways I have treated you in the past few months. I do not apologise; I had my reasonings for choosing this moment to inform you." She cleared her throat and her voice became lower for a few moments as she added, in a fashion somewhat more malevolent even than her usual demeanour, "I trust you acknowledge and accept the compete concealment of this information, Gavin."

The laugh escaped before he was aware of it.

"You," he said, trying to reign in the disbelieving laugh and smile that had overtaken him, "need and trust another person?"

He stopped pacing and gently gripped his arm through the bandages containing the numerous bacta patches as the tingle of burnt nerves started to return. His first thought was that Shira was trying to inflame his injury, but as the sensation leveled out, he knew that wasn't the case.

"Well this certainly explains a few things in the last few months."

"Yeeees." Shira elongated the word, not so much that she sounded like a snake, but so much that Gavin knew she must be considering how she framed what she was next going to say. It was slightly unsettling, to say the least. "I am confiding in you mainly due to my concerns it might get worse. Despite the amulet."

"You realise that before too long, Grant will find out... and then the both of use will be in a rather... vulnerable... situation..."

"I have no wish to cast aspersions as to Grant's capabilities," Shira began, obviously wishing to cast aspersions as to Grant's capabilities, "I do not, however, believe he will be our greatest threat in any moment of vulnerability."

She turned her neck from left to right. It clicked as she did so. Her voice then filled with venom. "Loran, on the other hand, will no doubt be just as bothersome as ever. We must assess the man."

Her eyes closed. An image of the man flooded through static and entered into her mind's eye. A further glimpse of an image followed it; Her hands running through his damp hair, slicked back, his eyes flashing at hers, so close, his mouth biting down on her neck, her nails digging into his back. His shoulders movi--she opened her eyes. "Your thoughts, Gavin."

Gavin's eye's were clamped shut, his face twisted in a mask of disgust. "Remind me... never to try and probe your mind when your defenses come down."

The tingling sensation in his arm exploded into a full-on deep burn.

Gavin cried out in pain as he gripped his arm tightly. "ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT! I GET IT!"

"Although I applaud your underhandedness, reading my mind will only give you more of that." She paused, satisfaction etched momentarily on her face. "Your assessment of the problem of Loran, Gavin?"

"Personally or tactically?" he asked through clenched teeth.

"With regards to the situation I find myself in, should he find out." They both knew instinctively he would find out.

"Obvious problems aside..." he said, releasing his arm as the pain subsided. "As any good tactician knows, the best time to strike is while your enemy is vulnerable. But... as much as Face would deny it, there's an element of personalness to this. Still, I wouldn't expect this condition of yours to faze him for long."

Reaching out, he called a chair from the table to him and eased himself into it. "As a matter of erring on the side of caution, I wouldn't put it past Face, or the Republic to have operatives on board the Bloodlust... if the past has taught me anything, it's to act as if your enemy knows all about Plan A."

"Plan A was to eliminate the problem." Shira remarked in a voice that only just fell short of being a sigh. Gavin blinked it aside.

"Face is not the immediate problem." He waited a few moments before continuing, "You no doubt have a Plan B and probably a Plan C and D... so assuming you becoming incapacitated, what's the plan? I'd rather not have you lying in a medical bed and be met by a few dozen elite troopers when Grant decides you're not useful anymore."

Shira grinned. "Such a scenario is where the advanced Force techniques I am teaching you will come in useful. Dispersal of Force electricity such as you encountered during training can be manipulated and controlled and will, as such, become highly useful in the slight chance I may become incapacitated." She spoke as through she would be scraping muck from the sole of her boot. "You are to take out as many of any perceived enemy as possible and get yourself to safety, to continue your work elsewhere."

She looked at his eyes. "I am under no allusions as to whose skin you would prefer to save first, mine or your own." Her smile broadened. "I would not expect a true Sith to think otherwise."

She clicked her neck again, and readjusted her weight on the desk, one slender arm holding her weight, the other resting on her right side. Her right fingers drummed a pattern into her stomach, and she winced slightly.

"You should have no trouble with the guards, nor acquiring a spacecraft to get you away from the ship, probably before he even realises what is happening. He is a creature of advanced suspicion, but his powers of anticipation? Not so."

She reached with her free hand into a pocket and pulled out a datachip. "A set of holo frequencies." She explained, throwing it casually to Gavin, who caught it just as nonchalantly, "they will eventually lead to safe-houses I have set up on several planets. Providing you have the know how. Which you will."

"For the record, which may actually surprise you," he said, slipping the datachip into a pocket. "Until I'm ready to strike out on my own, your skin is my concern... until such time, I can't afford to have you die on me and right now... neither can you."

Shira was taken aback. So he had not evolved along the line to true power as soon as she expected him to. So be it. He would learn. "In that case it may please you to hear I have no plans to die in the recent future."

Ugh, she missed it entirely. That's probably the last time I try and say something nice... even it if is merely professional...

He glanced her over again. This attractive, dangerous woman had maintained her invulnerability in a situation that he'd half-expected her to crack. It wasn't a matter of if her condition would get worse, they both knew it was going to get worse... it was only a matter of time. He still wasn't entirely sure why she's told him... only that she had. Perhaps she wasn't as invulnerable as she pretended, as her power made her. There was something in her eyes that knew she needed him but refused to acknowledge it. She was cracking... subtly.

"Oh good."


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PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 3:41 pm 
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Before Face's story; directly after my last story
Please appreciate the fact that, although this is a continuation of my whole "Tyria cooking dinner" thread, this particular story is written mainly for comedic purposes only.

"Tyria," Corran protested, "I'm not going in there with you. I didn't even want to know that you shopped here. Ever. I'm not going in."

"Corran, you have to come in with me. Wedge was very firm in his instructions."

"Well why do you have to go in there now? Can't you wait and let Wedge come with you another day?"

"No! I don't want him to know yet." She looked at him pleadingly. "Please, Corran? This is really important to me."

The general sighed in defeat. "Fine. I'm going in with you. But that's it. I mean it -- you can't show me anything, you can't ask for my opinion on anything, you can't tell me about anything you're looking at, purchasing, etc. I mean it. And I'm only going in under duress and because, as you said, Wedge was adamant."

"Of course. I'd never dream of trying to show you things or asking you to get involved with my selections. That'd be extremely disturbing."

And so they entered Victoria's Secret, Corran with his eyes glued to the floor, still protesting all the way. "You think it's not disturbing that I'm even coming inside with you? Wrong. It's very disturbing. Worse than the eye socks. I still don't see why you can't do this another day, with someone else as your bodyguard."

"Because," Tyria replied impatiently, "I owe him an apology."

"I hate to break it to you, Tyr, but...although I haven't looked around, I think it's safe to say that I don't think anything in here will fit him."

"Shut up, Corran."

"What'd you do, anyway?" Corran inquired.

"What'd I do?"

"Yeah, that you owe him the apology for?"

"Oh, that. It's nothing."

"No," Corran demanded, "you're not gonna drag me in here by making me feel guilty by telling me that you owe Wedge an apology for something, and then not tell me what it is. That's not fair."

"No."

"C'mon, Tyria, you've got to play fair with me! This is one of the most embarrassing situations of my life, you owe me an explanation."

"Fine," Tyria said brusquely, "if you must know, there was one night where...uh...well, he started feeling all...romantic...if you get what I mean and...uh...I made some comment about how if we couldn't have children, what was the point."

"Ouch."

"Yeah. I wasn't in a very good mood...and it all just came out completely wrong. I apologized and everything, but...once words are said, the damage is done. Repairing it takes time."

Tyria began browsing around, with Corran at her heels, eyes still glued to the floor. And then a voice.

"Corran Horn? Is that you?" Corran jerked his head up. A man hurried toward him from across the store. "Corran Horn, this is the last place I'd have expected to see you. Been a long time."

"Clovis Stoend," Corran stammered, "Yeah...it's been a long time." Clovis Stoend was a pilot that Corran and Wedge had known back in the days when Wedge had re-formed Rogue Squadron, and Corran had joined up. Clovis had not been made part of the squadron, but he had known both of the other men at the time, before they all went their separate ways.

"So," Clovis greeted, extending his hand, "how've you been? How's Wedge?"

"Oh, I'm doing fine; Wedge is fine. You know...Rogue Squadron's still going strong, so busy as ever. What about you?"

"Ah, I got out of the military years ago. Honorable discharge, due to disability. Injured my back in a battle, and couldn't take those cramped cockpits anymore."

"Sorry to hear that, Clovis, you were always a good pilot."

"Thanks. But it could be worse...I made it out with my life, making up for the time I lost while chained to the military."

"Ah, I see." Corran, mortified at having been found in this store of all stores, wasn't talking much.

"So what brings you here?" Clovis asked, "Not to town, but to this store, in particular?"

"Corran," Tyria interrupted, coming up to him, "there you are. I thought you were right behind me, and I--" Spotting Clovis, she broke off and looked at Corran curiously. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize you saw someone you knew...?"

Clovis eyed Tyria up and down, the sight of her wedding ring not escaping his notice. "Well, Corran Horn, I'll be damned," he said in amazement, "You went and got married!"

Kill me now. Corran begged inwardly, glancing upward as if he expected a lightning bolt to crash through the ceiling and put him out of his misery at that very moment. When no lightning bolt arrived, Corran choked out, "No, no. She's not my wife. She's most assuredly not my wife. This is Tyria. Antilles. Wedge's wife."

"Oh," Clovis answered pleasantly. Then his eyes widened in understanding. "Oooohhhhhhhhhh."

"No!" Corran exclaimed, "No! It's not like that. Noooooo. No. See, Wedge is back at that base we just took for the Republic...and Tyria needed to do some shopping because she's making a dinner for the squadron, and she had to pick up some other things, and a while back, this guy who's like a pseudo-Sith-Lord or something tried to kill her, and since he's still on the loose, Wedge wanted me to come to town with Tyria, in case that guy was around, so I'm just like her bodyguard for the day. See?"

Clovis blinked. "Okay, you're gonna have to come up with something better than that, pal. That's too far-fetched to even begin to make sense. You'd better work a little harder on your cover story. And since you seem to be busy with...other things right now, I'll be going. Wouldn't want to distract you from being a 'bodyguard' and all that." He leaned in closer to Corran and said in a low voice that Tyria couldn't hear, "Nice going, man. Just try to keep Wedge from finding out." He winked and was on his way.

General Horn turned to Tyria with a glare that could've frozen the entire planet of Tatooine four times over. "Tyria," he growled, "I am going to kill you."

*****

Back in the transport after all of the shopping was completed, Tyria brought up the subject of Clovis Stoend. "So...who was he, anyway? I mean, it was obvious you knew him."

"Ah, just some guy from back when Wedge re-started Rogue Squadron; long time ago. He was a pilot back then, not in the squad, but we knew him back in the day."

"So...an old friend?"

"Well, I wouldn't exactly call him a 'friend,' per se. He was one of those obnoxious types that thinks he's your friend when, in reality, you really just want him to go away."

"Ah," Tyria nodded, "rather like Janson?"

"Something like that," Corran agreed, "but worse. Much worse."

"Scary."

"You have no idea. Thanks to you dragging me into that store, he now thinks that you're married to Wedge--"

"Uh...newsflash, Corran. I am married to Wedge."

"Well if you'd let me finish, Miss Impatient, he thinks that you're married to Wedge but that you and me are......"

"I," Tyria said.

"You what?"

"No, no. You said 'you and me are,' but it's actually 'you and I are.'"

"Forget the grammar lesson, Tyr," Corran said in exasperation, "The point is that you and I aren't!"

"Of course we aren't. You know that, I know that, and Wedge knows that. So the three most important people that need to know, already know. So forget it. Like you said, he's just an obnoxious sort of person anyway, so don't worry about it."

"I won't worry about it...but one thing is certain. You owe me for this, Tyria. You owe me big."

"Whatever," Tyria laughed.

"I mean it. I'm not sure yet how I'll have you repay me, but mark my words, I'll think of something."

*****

They'd ridden in silence for a few minutes when Corran suddenly spoke. "There's always adoption," he said.

Tyria blinked. "I'm sorry?"

"I mean for you and Wedge...whenever you're ready to have kids, adoption is always there to consider."

"Thanks for the thought, Corran," Tyria replied, "but I'm not completely ready to consider that step yet. I mean, I'm just not quite ready to give up on the idea of actually having our own. Maybe it's stupid, but I just...really want to be able to have his baby. I'm still holding out for future medical developments."

"It's not stupid. But...if those future medical developments never come around, there are other options."

"Are there, Corran?" Tyria asked, "Are there really? I mean, let's be realistic about the whole adoption thing for a second. Will that really be an option for us? We're not exactly poster children for ideal adoptive parents, you know? What kind of mother in her right mind would choose us to be her child's parents, considering the life that we lead? We're fighter pilots, for the Force's sake! Wedge is the leader of Rogue Squadron. And then, even if it wasn't a private adoption, it's not like the Department of Children & Families is going to choose us as worthy candidates. Let's face facts here -- they're not going to choose a couple who is in a high risk occupation, and who could be killed and leave the child an orphan at any moment. They're just not." Tyria sighed. "You know, Wedge has brought up the same point...about adoption being a possibility when we're ready. He brings it up to try to make me feel better, to give me some hope. I just don't have the heart to tell him that I already know that it won't happen. He already feels helpless enough as it is when it comes to this particular situation...I can't destroy what little he feels he can offer to comfort me and help me through it."

"I didn't mean while you're still in the military. And I'm sure he doesn't either. We're men, Tyr, but we're not entirely stupid."

"I just don't know if I can see him leaving the military. Or me, for that matter. I mean, we already gave up that Coruscant position that would've made the whole adoption thing a lot easier...so...who knows what the future will hold for us? But where he leads, I'll follow. As long as I'm with him...that's all I really need."

Corran glanced over at her. "You know...There are a lot of things about the future that I'm not sure of. But one thing that I am sure of is that...however you end up becoming a parent, whether it's through adoption, or if you actually give birth to a baby, however it happens, you will be a very loving mother."

Tyria's eyes filled. "You don't know how much that means to me."

"When you love someone," he continued, "you give that person everything. You already do with Wedge. And when you have a child, you'll do the same thing. That kid will be the most loved kid in the galaxy." He glanced at her again. "Provided," he added quickly to lighten the mood, "that you don't smother it to death."

Tyria laughed. "Ah, like I do Wedge, huh?"

"Exactly," Corran nodded. Then he punched her lightly in the arm. "Nah, I think he kinda likes it. And you're good about letting him hang out with the guys now and then."

"Letting him? Corran, I don't let Wedge do anything. If he wants to hang with the guys...he does."

"Sure, sure."

"Corran! I mean it!"

"I know you do. I'm just giving you a hard time."

"Well phooey on you."

"Lighten up."

"Whatever."

Corran turned into the parking lot of another grocery store.

"What are you doing?" Tyria questioned immediately, "We're done. You've been hawking me to hurry up and get done so that we could get back to base, and now you're stopping?"

"Relax, Tyr. I just decided I want to get some hot chocolate mix so I can have some in my quarters at night before I turn in. That all right with you?"

"I don't care what you do in your quarters at night, it's no skin off my nose. Unless you burn the place down with your hotplate."

"You really think men are stupid, don't you?" Corran mused, "Like I'd be using a hotplate. I have a microwave in my quarters, so you're quite safe from hotplate related fires. At least, on my account. I don't know if Wedge uses hotplates or not, so you'll want to be careful in case he has tendencies to lean toward pyromania by hotplate."

"Good grief, Corran. Go in and get your hot chocolate."

"Aren't you coming?"

"No, I'm all shopped out; I'll wait here."

"I thought for sure you'd want to come in with me to make sure I knew how to buy things on my own. Seein' as how you think men are stupid and all."

"I don't think men are stupid. Now go inside and get your hot chocolate already. And hey, could you please grab me the latest copy of People while you're in there?. Thank you."

"My, my, demanding, aren't we. I'll be back in a minute."

A few minutes later, Corran returned and put the hot chocolate mix in the back, then got in the transport and tossed Tyria's magazine to her. "Here. You don't even owe me anything -- it's a gift."

"I know; I never intended to pay you for it."

"Ah, you're presumptuous, too. Figures."

"I just consider it a restitution for slamming the door in my face at the restaurant. Now we're even."

"Oh no we're not. You still owe me -- big -- for the whole Victoria's Secret incident. But since I don't know how you'll pay me yet, just...read your magazine and let me get some peace and quiet. Man, I'm telling you what...it's a dang good thing we didn't end up married...I think we'd have driven each other crazy within hours."

"Or at the very least, you would've driven me crazy," Tyria replied. "Now shut up so I can read this. It's the 100 Most Beautiful People issue."

"I can't believe you read that stuff anyway...it's so superficial."

"No, a lot of the people they list are also good people who do a lot of good for humanity. You know, give millions to the poor, help out in shelters, that sort of thing. Besides, even if it was all superficial and stuff...sometimes we need that kind of thing. When reality gets to be too much...you just want to forget about it for a little while and look at something that's all about fun and frivolity and lighter subjects."

"I guess that's true. Like Napoleon Dynamite, that sort of thing. Forget reality for a while."

"Exactly. Now let me read my magazine."

"Fine. I'll shut up now."

"Good."

A few minutes passed in relative silence, as Tyria flipped pages in the magazine, commenting on various photos, showing them to Corran, asking his opinion. Then suddenly...

"CORRAN!!!"

Corran slammed on the brakes and brought the transport to a sudden halt. "WHAT?!" he demanded.

"Are you out to kill me today? First you try to decapitate me with the door at the restaurant, then you try to give me serious whiplash on the ride home!"

"What is wrong with you? When you're in a transport riding with someone, you don't just, out of a dead silence, suddenly scream out the pilot's name at the top of your lungs and expect him to just carry on as usual. I thought I hit something or you saw something or something. So what in the galaxy are you yammering about?"

"I'M IN HERE!"

"Uhh...yes, you're right here. But I can take you right over to the funny farm if you need me to."

"NO, NO! CORRAN! I'M IN HERE! IN THE MAGAZINE!"

"Oh come on, I'm sure it's the gal from Underworld. Everyone says you look like her."

"Then why does the caption say my name?"

"Give me that." Corran grabbed the magazine and gaped in shock when he saw that Tyria was right. "Wow. So that means...you're like...famous. I mean, other than being in Rogue Squadron."

"Well no," she said, taking the magazine back, "I mean...it even says right here, 'In spite of being a member of Rogue Squadron, the New Republic military's most elite starfighter squadron, Colonel Antilles was virtually unknown individually until she jumped instantly into fame upon her marriage to General Wedge Antilles, whose claims to fame include having been present at both Death Star battles and being instrumental in those victories.' So that's my only real claim to fame; I wouldn't even be in here if I hadn't married Wedge."

"It lists your accomplishments too, doesn't it?"

"Yes...but the fame isn't for those things...it's just for being 'General Antilles' wife.' My accomplishments as an individual apparently don't mean much compared to the fact that -- gasp -- I got married to General Antilles."

"You could always get divorced; problem solved."

"No, then I'd just be known as 'General Antilles' ex-wife.'"

"Worse."

"Exactly."

"Well, look at it this way. They became aware of your existence because you married him. But that's not why you made it into the magazine. If you'd looked like a Hutt, you wouldn't be in there, Wedge's wife or not."

"I suppose."

"Face it, Tyria, they noticed your existence because you're Wedge's wife, but you're in that magazine because they think you're hot. What number are you, anyway?"

"Five."

"Wow. Well, that's something to be proud of anyway...number five out of a hundred? That's an accomplishment."

"I guess. Wow, I wonder what Wedge will say."

Corran snorted. "He won't be happy. In fact, he's gonna be pretty mad."

"Mad?! Why?!"

"Because you're not number one."

"Oh please."

"I'm serious! Mark my words! He considers you the most beautiful woman he's ever seen in his life; he's not gonna be pleased that you're only number five."

"Corran," Tyria argued, "he's my husband; he has to say he thinks I'm the most beautiful woman he's ever seen."

"I beg to differ. Sadly, there are plenty of men out there who absolutely don't think that their wives are the most beautiful women they've ever seen. But Wedge really thinks so."

"Whatever."

"You don't believe me?"

"Come on, Corran. I'm not ugly, but...I've never really considered myself to be all that pretty. Certainly nothing out of the ordinary."

"And you think that Wedge thinks you're 'nothing out of the ordinary' too, huh?"

"Honestly? I know he's attracted to me...and he thinks I'm pretty...but...I figure it's because he loves me."

"He thought you were the prettiest woman he'd ever seen before he ever loved you. I don't guess he's ever told you what he said to me when he introduced us for the first time."

"Umm...no?"

Corran chuckled. "Well, it was like this. When you first came to the squadron, I wasn't around, so when I got there a few days later, he had to introduce me to you, of course. So he says to me, 'You've got to meet the new pilot. Wait till you see her. She's...gorgeous, Corran.' So you come in, he introduces us, blah, blah, blah. Then you leave and he just remarked about your appearance again. So yeah. He thought that a long time before he ever loved you."

"I wonder why he never told me that."

"Uhh...possibly because it's not exactly appropriate for a CO to go up to his subordinate and say, 'Hey, you're gorgeous.' We're not really looking to get slapped with sexual harassment suits, you know."

"No, no, you idiot. I meant afterward. I don't know...you'd think he would've told me."

"Not really; he might not even remember. All he knows is that he thought you were a looker as soon as he met you. I remember it because not only was it the first time I met my future apprentice, but also because...Wedge wasn't ever wont to say things like that. Serious type...he might notice women...but he never really commented on their looks and stuff. So it stuck out in my mind. So yeah...it's not just that he loves you and thus thinks you're pretty. He thought you were pretty, and then fell in love with you for who you are, not what you look like. He considers the looks thing a nice bonus."

"Wow. That's really sweet."

"Whatever. Anyway, now that we've been stopped out in the middle of nowhere for 45 minutes, I'd like to start heading back to the base now if that's okay with you."

"What's with you and your exaggerations of 45 minutes? Everything, in your mind, takes 45 minutes, even if it's 45 seconds or two minutes or whatever."

"Tyria, shut up and finish reading the magazine. Or gaze lovingly at your picture, or whatever it is you want to do with it."

"I don't gaze lovingly at pictures of myself. What, do you think I'm Face or something?"

"Face gazes lovingly at pictures of you? Does Wedge know that?"

Tyria rolled her eyes. "No, stupid, he gazes lovingly at pictures of himself. Something I'd never do."

"Yeah...I can't see you gazing lovingly at pictures of Face."

"Corran, I meant--"

"I know what you meant. Now shush and read your magazine."

"Fine." Tyria flipped the magazine back open as Corran, enjoying the silence, began flying back toward the base once again.

"CORRAN!!!"

Again, the general slammed to a stop. "TYRIA!!!"

Tyria jumped. "What?!"

"I'm only going to say this once, okay? Please. Stop. DOING THAT!!!"

"I'm sorry. I just...you're not gonna believe this."

"Try me."

"Face is in here too."

"In the magazine?"

"Yes."

Corran grabbed it. "You're serious. Wow. So now both squads are now not only famous just for being the squadrons we are...but now each one has a member who's made it into the '100 Most Beautiful' issue of People magazine. Now we can all feel famous too because we can wave this magazine around and say, 'Hey, I know Number 5 and Number 17!' Imagine how proud we'll be."

Tyria gasped. "Wait, wait. Did you say 'Number 5 and Number 17' just now?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Face is 17?"

"Assuming you mean that he's Number 17 in this magazine, and not 17 years of age, yes."

"Corran! Do you know what that means?!"

"No, but I'm sure you're about to tell me."

"It means that...finally, right there in print, is irrevocable proof that I outrank him. I, Colonel Tyria Antilles, at last, officially outrank Face." Tyria sighed happily. "Corran, life does not get better than this."


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 5:13 am 
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By Face and Mish, with comedy subplot from Gav (who wanted his name in the credits!). This plot inspired by Tyria's last plot!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was one of those ridiculously rare moments of quiet. The mission planning for the raid on the missile sites was finished, and the sims had been run. The mission itself wasn't for another 24 hours, and so the Wraiths were sat, relaxing in the RecRoom as the Sacul drifted aimlessly in space.

Face sat, absentmindedly twirling his fingers through Asha's hair as she lay on his lap, listening with half an ear to an argument between Rrowv and Myn. He wasn't sure what it was about, but it involved the word 'puny' a lot.

Asha was reading one of those trashy 'celebrity' magazines in which people get rated on their looks. Face wasn't bothered with it all. He's been number one once, that was enough.

Asha made a noise that sounded like a strangled sand panther, and struggled to stifle a laugh.

Face glanced down at her, his eyebrows raised. "What's going on?"

"You're in here!" Asha giggled. "Number 17."

Face winced. "Oooh, dropped a bit from last years standing." He smiled. "Want to know why?"

"Why?"

"You."

At Asha's startled look, Face smiled and continued. "According to Lucius' research... when it became knowledge that I was involved with someone, my ratings dropped a few."

"Who's Lucius?"

"Lucius Xoff. He's the manager of Visage Enterprises. He handles my money and stuff."

"How much are you actually worth?"

"Enough."

"Ahhh, Lucius." Kai's voice had a wistful-far-away tone to it.

"Hey, who else is in there?" Red asked absently, looking up from the holodflick she and Kai were almost entirely involved in watching.

"Lucius and me go waaaay back. Once, a few years back when I was reckless and fancy free, when I was on Nar Sha---WAIT A MINUTE! What the hell are you reading?!"

Asha looked across the room with a startled glance. "Urm... Galactic People?"

Kai's eyes widened in response "You don't want to read that trash! You, an educated upright outstanding member of any community you care to join at any given time, reading a tabloid of extreme tabloidyness. It will rot your brain! You don't want your brain to rot any more, your common sense has already been rotted to nothing, look whose lap you're lying on!!"

Face glanced at Kai, his eyebrows furrowing in suspicion. "What's going on?"

"I am attempting to stop your beautiful girlfriend from experiencing a total moral and rational decline!"

Red swung around sharply and she looked at Kai. "Moral? Rational? Those are the very concepts you are against!"

Kai pouted. "I'm growing as a person."

Suddenly Void and Elassar ran, or more like scooted by the open hatch on miniature hovercarts. "Hide from Janson!"

Face glanced at the pair of carts zooming though the rec-room without even raising an eyebrow. "Ohkaay."

"Hey!" Asha exclaimed once more. "It says here that you've been offered promotion to General on four occasions!"

Face turned back to Asha. "That should be confidential, and certainly not in a gossip mag."

Asha shrugged. "You really don't have time to look for a mole for the Galactic People magazine."

"I know." Face shrugged. "Besides, it's actually five. The last time it was an order to accept the promotion."

"What happened?"

"I got promoted, and then immediately demoted for disobeying orders."

"Oh."

"And this is exactly the reason why no-one should be reading the slanderous liable and gossip prevelant in such magazines!" Kai exclaimed.

Asha continued flicking. "Great Pits of Maw... is that TYRIA?"

The entire conversation in the rec-room stopped suddenly.

The silence was punctuated mere seconds later by Kai. "TYRIA?!" She pounced onto Face and Asha and the magazine. "Yeah! Heh! Tyria! Look at that! She's in the magazine... of course! Heh."

"Uh, Kai?"

"Yes Face?"

"Get off us."

Kai scrambled off her commanding officer and his girlfriend. With the magazine.

With one fluid motion, Face grabbed the magazine off the Twi'lek and held it away from her. "What exactly is it that you're worried about Kai?"

Kai flailed slightly. "I already told you. Moral decline!"

She snatched the magazine back off Face and stepped backwards, only to be met with a strong feline arm wrapped around her waist. Mewing slightly, Kai was lifted clean off the deck, and the magazine removed from her grasp.

"Thank you Rrowv."

"Welcome."

"Let me go!" Kai exclaimed. She was doing a lot of exclaiming recently, she considered fleetingly. Possibly not conducive to getting people to do what she wanted them to do. "I'm allergic to heights!"

"You're a pilot." Rrowv pointed out.

"That's different."

Face flicked through the magazine, pausing on one page. His eyebrows shot up, his jaw moving just as quickly in the opposite direction. "Urm... Kai?"

"Put me down Rrowv!" Kai said, just as she was being placed on the floor. Her lekku twitched as Face addressed her. "...Yes Face?"

"Are you number 3?"

Kai put on her best sultry voice. "I'll always be number one to you, honey."

Face twirled the magazine round to show the page to Kai, and incidentally the rest of the room. There, on the page, declaring the number 3 spot in 100 Most Beautiful Beings was a very familiar looking person.

"Kai?!"

"It's not what you think."

Face's right eyebrow rose. "What do I think?"

Kai shrugged helplessly. "Whatever you think, that's not what it is."

"I think that there is a person in here, that looks VERY much like you, but wearing not a lot of clothes and called 'Kalaya'uden'. That's that I'm thinking."

Silence.

"Well?"

"...LOOKS like me, you say?" Kai had by now regained a slight amount of her cool. "In that case it is what you think. She does look an awful lot like me. Hot. Phwoar. MORAL DECLINE!"

"It is you Kai. You both have a scar on your right lekku." Red pointed out, her mouth twisted in an enormous grin.

"A scar you say? A scar?" Kai's eyes widened. "The lengths some Twi'lek will go through to be equated with the wonder that is me. Honestly. This is why I warned you about these magazines. Nothing but slander and gossip and edited clips!"

Kai paused. "Although you do have to admit, she was robbed of the top spot."

"Rrowv?"

Without warning, Kai was yanked into the air once more, this time, a quick flip and she dangled upside down, her face level with that of the Colonels. The huge Togorian holding her struggling form easily.

"Shall we try this again?"

"And now I am upside-down!" Kai rolled her eyes. "Why am I upside-down?"

"Because Rrowv is holding you upside-down."

Kai sighed, a world-weary sigh. "Why is Rrovw holding me upside-down? Did I not mention an allergy!"

"Why are you in this magazine as Kalaya'uden?"

"...I was... young... and... knew no better?"

"This picture is less than three months old."

"I... was... drunk?"

Silence.

The whiirrrr of hovercarts scooted by again. "He's found us!"

Janson... or a very bad mock-up made up of pillows, blankets, and a bucket being led along by Piggy came hobbling by. "I'll get you dirty rustlers!" Piggy cried out in a very bad impression of Janson.

Face glanced into the hallway and shrugged a minuscule shrug.

"You're always drunk."

"There are levels!"

Face gave Kai a Look.

"I was... deep undercover on a secret mission from General Antilles?"

"Let me put this simply. Are you, in what little spare time I give you, masquerading as a Twi'lek glamour model?"

"All the blood is rushing to my lekku."

"Kai!"

"Mine's rushing elsewhere."

"MYN!"

The sniper offered a shrug. "What? She IS number three!"

Kai glanced over at Myn; "I'll talk to you later, baby."

Face glanced at Myn. "Down boy!" Then turned his glare to Kai. "Should I be concerned that you're a security risk?"

"Should you be concerned I beat your sheb by 14 places?

"So you admit it's you?"

"I can neither confirm nor deny that."

"That's a yes!" Red interjected.

"It could be a double bluff!"

"Not necessarily!" Kai shot back at exactly the same time Face spoke.

Face sighed. "How much do you get?"

"9,000 credits a shot, 55,000 for an hour shoot. But I will have to rethink those prices considering I am now third most beautiful being in the universe, as voted by Galactic People readers."

Kai paused, then looked up at Face guiltily. "...whoops."

"Busted."

"It's always the money!" Kai bemoaned.

"It's your weakness." Rrowv nodded, setting the pouting Twi'lek down gently.

Suddenly, there was a loud crash and the sound of three bodies and a pillow-man colliding.

"What was that?" Kai asked, hoping to divert the assembled room's attention elsewhere.

"Just Piggy and Void destroying Shadow's kitchen. Her vengeance will be swift and deadly."

Kai's eyes widened. "How did you--?"

"The CO is all-knowing." Red stated mysteriously.

"Just so's ya know, Face, I'm really not a security risk." Kai's voice was quiet.

"Just so you know... I'm not jealous."

"Yeah right."

Face shrugged. "Maybe a little."

"That's more like it. Now can we get on with the holo? Perhaps without Myn eyeing me up?"

Myn's features flushed slightly.

"I may need to borrow that mag later, Face." He then looked sheepishly at Kai, who was treating him to a murderous glance. "What did I say?"

Face looked at Kai, then at Asha, then blinked. "Holo. Flick."

The Wraiths settled down back to watching the holoflick, the interruption causing the argument between Myn and Rrowv to cease - for the moment. Asha settled back down, her head resting on Face's shoulder. He stroked her hair absently, then smiled.

"Go on then, say it!" Kai said after a while.

"Hmmr?" Face murmured, already lost in the holoflick and the comfort of Asha's body against his own.

"Say it! I beat Tyria!"

Face grinned widely. "Hey, you're right! Good girl! Nice, Kai. Nice."

_________________
My doctor says that I have a malformed public-duty gland and a natural deficiency in moral fibre, and that I am therefore excused from saving universes.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 10:04 pm 
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Shadow was sitting politely on the stool in her kitchen, meal planning for the upcoming week. So far things were looking up. Life was going on in spite of her heart saying it wouldn't, and being amongst the Wraiths in all of their insanity and family-like companionship was comforting. Meal times around the large table were especially close times of bonding. It was almost enough so that Shadow didn't notice Bowman's spot at the table having been filled. The empty space next to her had been shuffled around a few spaces and filled by the new-ex-returned Piggy. Face remained on her right, while Kai had been delighted to have been placed closer to the "head" of the table.... and the alcohol.

So far, the meals had been scheduled 2 days in advance. Tonight would be braised chickens with vegetables and a new kind of rice that a Gungan had been selling on Coruscant, and tomorrow was a large roast with all the trimmings. The next was supposed to be apple-glazed pork chops, but Shadow was considering changing that for Piggy's sake, or at least providing an alternative that wasn't akin to cannibalism...

Just as Shadow reached for her recipe index, she heard a loud battle cry from the corridor that was immediately followed by two hovercarts carrying Void and an extremely devilish-looking Elassar.

"Quick Shadow, we need a place to hide! Janson is hot on the pursuit!" exclaimed Elassar, peeking inside cupboards as if he might actually fit inside.

Grabbing a wooden spoon, Shadow gave a good thwack to the knuckles of the crazed Devorian. "Outside my kitchen, that's where, now scoot! Otherwise you'll get more than a rap with a light stick of wood."

"Ow!" he winced, cradling his poor had as if he'd been mortally wounded. "We can't leave Shadow! Janson could be coming at any moment. What do you want us to do, just float out of the kitchen, innocent as we are, into the waiting and hungry maws of the Janson to our certain death?"

Shadow shrugged. "Living is your worry not mine; my concern is dinner. Now get OUT!" Shadow grabbed an ear of each of the boys and pulled them towards the large door they had come in by. Being on hovercrafts made the whole process much easier since there wasn't any traction.

"AAAAIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE!" screamed something that Shadow didn't have time to process before a large blob of Janson-shaped pillows, blankets and a leaky bucket charged through the door, crashing into the three already inside and knocking the whole group against the rack of pots and pans against the wall.

With a strong urge for murder, Shadow struggled to get out from under the piling of males and electronics on top of her to no avail. Somehow she had gotten wedged partially under the rack and was further trapped by a now-broken hovercraft. She could only stare in horror as Piggy chased Elassar and Void around the kitchen with a mop (that surely had come with the leaky bucket).

Void, cleverly, had practically scaled a wall to cling to a pot drying rack over the sink, thinking himself out of reach and safe. "Catch me if you can, Snoutface!"

"You wanna bet?" the Gamorrean replied, aiming the mop and landing it squarely in the Defel's furry face. A game of balance and tug-of war ensued as the two struggled for control of the mop while Elassar tied Piggy's shoes together.

Knowing this could and would only end badly, Shadow whistled at the top of her lungs, hoping to get some reinforcements. The boys, too busy with their fun, hardly noticed. Luckily, Kettch in his pantry closet had. Quickly coming to her rescue, her furry friend managed to dig away at the crushed hover bits until Shadow was able to wiggle out. The two conferred briefly, knowing that it would take more than yelling to get the mob under control.

Less than a minute later, Shadow pressed the emergency lock-down button she had had installed for situations like this... or in case the empire attacked the kitchen. All exits were sealed and a loud blaring noise sounded, temporarily confusing her attackers. Meanwhile, Shadow and Kettch pulled hard on the ropes the Ewok had tied around the intruders' feet, hoisting them high in the air over the cutting table from a bar Shadow used to dry herbs or butcher meat. On the way up, Void had tangled himself in the drying rack and managed to take part of it with him, while Elassar managed to send the cake for the evening's dessert crashing to the floor, followed by a sugar sculpture Shadow had been working on. Securing the ropes to another large bar on the wall, Shadow walked over to inspect her captives.

Slowly pacing around the island of the kitchen, Shadow crossed her arms and glared forcefully. "For SHAME, all of you. Piggy I can almost forgive a smidgen because he's new, but Void and Elassar.... Both of you know the rules about the kitchen. Not only do you come into my kitchen without permission, but then you proceed to destroy it! The whole place is not only a mess, but hours and hours of work in cabinetry, shelving, cake and sugar have been destroyed. What do you have to say for yourselves?"

Elassar looked the most contrite, playing up his puppy dog eyes that he had been trying to use earlier to their fullest advantage. Void looked as if he was trying to vanish on the spot. Piggy, however, looked like he was missing a piece of the puzzle and expected something to make sense at some point in the near future. All the same, the three muttered in subdued mumbles something close to "Sorry Shadow..."

"Sorry isn't going to cut it, boys," she snapped. Kettch chittered in agreement, poking Piggy in the nose before going to tug at Elassar's horns. "You not only need to amend what you've done wrong, you need to pay me back personally. And I'm going to take it out of your hides."

The three non-humans shared a common look of trepidation upside-down as Shadow proceeded to detail exactly what their punishment would entail.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 1:03 am 
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A Gavin and Mish production...

Time: 0500 Imperial Standard Time
Several weeks after the celebrity magazine thread
==================

"Little help here!"

The uncharacteristically low-tech swing doors into the medical bay burst open as Gavin lowered his boot and half-carried, half-dragged Shira's half-limp form into the bay.

"What is the nature of the emergency?" the monotone 2-1B medical droid asked, turning to face the sudden intrusion.

"Brie, Shira," Gavin replied, giving his answer in a form that would take the droid the least amount of time to translate into a databank query. As expected, her condition had gotten worse; beyond what the amulet's power could apparently handle. Tightening his hold around her waist, he shifted the arm slung over his shoulder to keep his 'master' from slipping into a tangled pile. "Medical records 1895 through 1907."

The obsidian-black chassised droid paused a moment, its golden eyes dimming slightly as it accessed the specified records. "This facility is not designed to handle this type of situation. Please transfer the patient to Medical Bay 327."

"Then get a droid up here designed to handle it because she ain't goin nowhere," Gavin growled.

- - - - - -

Shira was aware of the fact that Gavin appeared to be having an argument with a medical droid which was at least a series older than was regulation for the class of the Bloodlust; a Superstar Destroyer should have series eight... this one was a seven, if not older. Gavin should have inserted a sonic implement, maybe a screwdriver, into the socket hidden beneath the right 'ear' and told it not to argue with him... all this Shira would have thought, were she not currently doing all she could to shut out the incredible urge to kill everything around her Right. Now.

The voices had started again approximately twenty minutes ago, ten before she had called Gavin, interrupting another of his training exercises, and five before he had managed to convince her that, "no, hitting, kicking and spitting at him was a bad idea and maybe it would be more to her advantage to go along with his plan of taking her somewhere something could actually be done because he was certainly in no way desiring or qualified to handle it alone".

Shira's eyes, dilated, fixed on Gavin's arm, which was bleeding a little from her earlier struggles. Then she was aware of only sweat and a scream that continued through -- from? -- her skull and into the room beyond the door. Just as suddenly as she had fixated on Gavin's cut, her vision was filled, instead, with smoke and blood, running down the walls in a steady stream. The blood was dark red, globular in places, she knew part-clotted with the familiar stench that only partially healed wounds, attempting to heal further but heavily infected, could emit.

- - - - - -

"That will not be necessary, I am perfectly capable of perfor-- " the droid replied

"Good," Gavin cut him off, feeling his load starting to come back to life again. "Where's she goin?"

"Please move the patient to the primary examination bay," the droid replied, extending a clawed 'hand' to direct him.

- - - - - -

She blinked, her eyes clouded once more. Now sweat appeared on her brow, but she knew this only because she could taste it on her lips, blood in her mouth. Was that... hers? It didn't taste unusual; slightly coppery, metallic was how people usually described it. Ha, she was mostly metallic so it fit good enough, it must be her. But she had not... she was not... then pressure, pushing down on her from above. She screamed in pain, a strange sounding noise, low, guttural, as if emerging from the abdomen itself. She attempted to press down on her stomach, to stop the pain, but instead it caused more. She moaned. This had to stop. Someone, something, was doing this to her. She rippled with the Dark Side. Someone would pay.

- - - - - -

Doing his best to block out her anguished cries and the ever-growing dark aura beginning to form around her, he gently -- as gently as one could with a nearly limp body -- lifted her onto the medical bed. Large drops of sweat covered her brow, occasionally running down the side of her face.

"Looks like the amulet didn't exactly work like you wanted it to..." he said, looking back at the medical droids as they began sterilizing their appendages. The amulet... that damned amulet, forever dripping with the blood of every human and alien he had to cut down to bring it back.

"The amulet!" Shira repeated, clutching the cool artifact she had grasped in her left hand. It was supposed to work, it had worked. It was supposed to work. He had got it for her, he had told her and retrieved it and had given it to her and she had it now and it had worked and why did it no longer work? It should have worked. This was not the 'quell' she had been promised. Not the 'quell' she had translated, researched, that he had obtained. What good was this, if it did not quell? It had to. Within. It quelled within. What use was it if it did not!? Shira was now, if there was a slither of hope she had not been before it was gone, furious. The amulet pulsed deeper purple.

Gavin noticed its light emanating from between Shira's fingers. He also noticed the trickles of blood spilling from her palm. Sharp little bugger, that gem. He looked up again. "How bad?"

"QUELL IT, GAVIN!!!" she cried.

The medical status-display on the bulkhead next to them snapped to life. He gave it a quick read through; for never having gone to medical school, he had a decent idea of what each of the indicator meant. "If you don't relax, you're going to rupture an artery. Then 'poodoo' won't even begin to describe the mess we'll be in."

Shira heard 'rupture' and 'artery' and nothing else. The screaming had begun again, from within her. NO. THIS IS NOT. - she inhaled sharply - THIS IS NOT HOW IT IS TO BE. She felt the cool metal of the table, which she belatedly realized she must have been placed on, beneath her warm up. She concentrated on this, and it steamed slightly as the drops of condensation began to boil. Condensation that had once, she presumed, been her sweat. If she concentrated on this, and only this, perhaps the nightmare would be over. She could be truly alone again. Quelled.

The status-display chimed an alarm, catching Gavin's attention. Body heat rising, the strain on her artificial muscles exceeding safety limits, brain activity off the charts. He focused his attention on Shira again as the medical droids began to approach. Her face and neck gleamed dimly as the bay's lighting reflected off her damp skin. If she didn't stop fighting it, the strain would kill her first. Insanity or death? Thoroughly frustrated, he did the first thing that came to his head.

A new pain, sharp and raw across her face, confronted Shira, thrusting her from her own mind into a new, disturbing reality.

"Gavin!" She demanded, looking up into the younger man's face from what appeared to be a supine position. Her entire body throbbed with pain, which she was dimly aware would soon take over her conscious again. "What the frag is going on?!"

"You're in the medical bay," he said, clenching his hand in the other. "You weren't exactly responsive after I dragged you in here..."

He paused, pondering the wisdom of his next statement; it may have been stupid, but it'd worked. "Whatever's going on in that head of yours, I had to... distract you... before you killed yourself."

She grabbed his arm, feeling fuzziness at the edges of her vision as the darkness took over once more. "Don't let it happen, Gavin. Don't let it happen to me."

Her voice was shallow, weak. Not the voice one would expect to hear from a self-appointed dark lady of the Sith. She fell unconsciousness as the heavy dose of sedative the medical droid had eventually given her, took over.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 6:02 pm 
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In the story so far, we have Flight Yub Yub leading a public relations mission that involves a staged pirate attack on a luxury liner. However, the liner is hiding a ship that contains an Imperial engineer who has stolen detailed schematics of the Bloodlust from Grand Admiral Grant in an Imperial operation to either topple Grant or convince him to work with the rest of the Imperial Remnant. The engineer's ship makes a run for it, pursued by one of Grant's Star Destroyers and Flight Yub Yub. Flight Yub Yub gets ahead of the ISD and tracks the fleeing ship to a mysterious planet.

[Queue eerie music]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The four glorious X-wings of the infamous Flight Yub Yub soared majestically through the bottomless chasm, holding steady through violent gales as a beam of light broke through the stormy cloud layer and alighted upon them as if the planet itself were anointing these fearless saviors of the galaxy.

Corran held up a hand.

"What?" Janson looked at him, annoyed.

"Wedge, I just want you to know that the only parts of this narrative I can confirm are the parts I was present for," Corran said.

"Understood," Wedge replied. "Could you make your story a little less...flowery?"

"Fine," the pudgy general growled.

The four outdated starfighters plodded through the ugly crack in the ground, buffeted about by a stale breeze, its pilots blinded by the harsh glare of sunlight in their eyes.

"Janson, just tell me the facts."

"Do you want to hear this story or not?"

Wedge sighed and waved at Janson to proceed.

The general grimly gripped his flight stick, struggling to hold it steady as the planet's violent storm systems threatened to smash his X-wing into the canyon walls. Perspiration beaded on his forehead--not from fear or physical exertion, but from the fact that he'd forgotten to fix the cooling system on his snubfighter.

"Again?!"

"Corran, shush," Wedge silenced him.

"Because of the stormy cloud layer, we couldn't track him from above, so we had to follow him through the rugged landscape," Janson continued. "He kept well enough ahead of us to make it difficult to track him. We could only catch him on our radar occasionally, but it was enough for us to follow. Until we lost him completely."

"Janson, it's been three minutes since I've been able to ping him," Hayden reported. "Do you think he's gone to ground?"

"Most likely. We haven't slowed at all. I'd suggest we break up into a search pattern, but we'd lose each other in no time these canyons. Chop back throttle to 50%. We don't want to fly pell-mell into a trap."


"It was a genius suggestion," Janson explained, "because moments later, Leefa screamed something unintelligible that ended with the words 'pull up!' and 'drunken dewback!' I'm not sure what the drunken dewback bit was about, but we all pulled up just in time to avoid an invisible energy shield our quarry had erected about his base. He'd overlapped enough of the shields to fill up all the grooves in the canyons, making it impossible to get a starfighter through."

"Go to ground!" Janson ordered, pulling his X-wing out of a loop and pointing it toward the river far below. "We'll have to get through on foot."

The four ships landed on the bank, their landing gears sinking in the soft mud. The pilots leapt out. A bird flapped overhead, cawing loudly at the intruders, before smacking into an invisible barrier and sliding to the ground.

"We found the shield."

Taz, Hayden, and Leefa covered the X-wings with a holographic camo-net while Janson rigged up the repulsar lift backpack he had long ago constructed to allow him to bring IQ along piggy-back style. Next, the pilots ducked under the nets and opened the cargo compartments, sifting through for the most necessary supplies--blasters, detonation pack, glowlamps, slicing kits, etc. Everything needed to become uninvited guests. Taz nearly fell over when he saw what Leefa chose to bring.


"What?" Wedge asked as Janson paused in his narrative.

"Chestwaders."

Corran guffawed.

"Yes, Leefa--Mr.-Be-Prepared. He insisted that if it rained and things got soggy, we'd all wish we had chestwaders. We failed to mention the fact that we didn't normally carry fishing gear on a space mission, but we were laughing too hard as he put them on."

"Now that we can rest easy because Leefa won't get his trousers wet... Taz, see that boulder over there? It's in the shield's path. Get rid of it."

"Yes, sir!" Taz saluted, tossing the detonation pack on his back and sprinting toward the obstacle.

With an explosion that thundered off the canyon walls, the boulder rolled down the slope and splashed into the river. The four pilots quickly skittered through the gap in the shield made by the missing boulder. A second later, the air shimmered with energy, and the hole sealed up.

"Sith," Taz exclaimed, staring at the hole.

"What?"

"We're going to have to find another way back. I accidentally left the detonation pack back there," the captain said, pointing towards the backpack still on the outside of the shield.


"Understandably, I went on a little rant at that moment, but I'm not going to repeat what I said. Needless to say, we left the explosives behind and struck out in the direction we figured the source of the shields would be. It wasn't long before we found it," Janson explained.

They gazed over the vast sea of fire and turmoil. Gouts of lava spewed from countless volcanoes, melting the once majestic city stretching to the horizon into a cesspool of metal and stone liquefied to its raw elements. Two battered spaceships chased each other across the angry, red sky in a duel to the death as a flaming battlecrusier nosed into the ground in a giant fireball.

"Some day, son, this will all be yours."

"Cool!"


"Janson!" Wedge retorted.

"Oh, sorry. I was just reminded of a scene from a story I'm writing."

Wedge and Corran stared at him incredulously. "You write?"

"Ya, I have some short stories I'm working on."

"Fascinating. In the meantime, could you continue with this one?"

"Can we say 'mad scientist's lair'?" Janson asked, turning back to his comrades.

"Get that gleam out of your eye, General," said Halley. "We're not looking for real estate."

The four pilots gazed at the large hill. At the summit, sitting next to a large shield generator, was an even larger dome-shaped structure. Surrounding the building, all around the sides of the hill, stood at least a hundred lightning poles, 200 feet tall, and at least 20 feet apart. Bolts of lightning ceaselessly targeted the poles, sending bursts of electricity into the dome.

Janson shrugged. "At least the energy bill would be cheap."

"Ya, but how are we actually going to get up there?" Leefa asked the obvious.

"Lightning poles absorb the electricity. We'll be safe walking through them as long as we don't touch any of the poles," Taz surmised.

Hayden tapped him on the shoulder. "Did you happen to notice how many bolts of electricity are shooting between the poles? You couldn't get me to walk through there if you were chasing me with a pack of rabid rancors."

"Both a power source and a security fence," Janson marveled.

"Janson!" the three pilots snarled.


"Obviously," Wes explained, "though they be engineers, they have no appreciation for the finer arts."

"I think they were more concerned about its deadliness than its ingenuity," Corran commented.

"One must take a moment to appreciate the little things of life," Janson replied.

Wedge rolled his eyes. "Just continue."

"At that moment, we discovered a door in the hillside, presumably an access tunnel leading beneath the lightning field to the dome. In other words, the only way in by foot if you didn't want to be a fried ranat. Unfortunately, the keeper of the lair didn't provide any sort of access panel for us to slice, and we didn't have our explosives anymore to blow our way through. We were also running short on time because we knew the Imps would be landing any moment and sending ground forces through the shield to assault the dome as well. While they may have had good ideas on how to get to the dome, we didn't think they'd let us tag along."

"Okay, either we find a way to pass our bodies through 12 inches of solid durasteel or we figure a way to deflect lightning bolts so we can get through the field. Personally, I find the latter more viable, but I'm open to any suggestion," Janson said.

Hayden's head swivelled slowly toward Leefa and his eyes alighted on the rubber chestwaders. "I have an idea."

"I can't believe you making me do this," the Bothan complained, his voice muffled by the rubber bag over this head with two eyeholes cut but no mouth hole. "There has to be a universal law against this."

"Just look at the bright side," Janson quipped as he assembled the last piece of Leefa's suit, assembled from his chest-high fishing boots and every scrap of rubber they could find in their gear. "We'll never make fun of you for wearing chestwaders on a ground mission again."

"Get going," Taz said, giving the Bothan a push.

Leefa waddled forward, his whining growing silent as he entered the lightning field. His comrades watched with bated breath, wondering whether they should have so quickly scarified their colleague to the fire....

She slapped him hard across the face as the settling sun blazed in her fiery red hair.

"That's for abandoning me and leaving me to rot in a prison on Beltagreuse IV for sixteen months!" she screeched.

"C'mon, honey," he said, gripping both her arms so she wouldn't hit him again. "I'll make it up to you."


"Janson...focus," Wedge growled.

"Sorry, another story," Janson apologized. "Bolts of electricity hit Leefa several times, even once knocking him to the ground where he laid still for a few moments, but the rubber suit kept him alive. Finally, he made it past all the poles, found another door in the ground near the base of the dome, and ten minutes later, opened the opposite door for us. We made our way through the tunnel to the dome silently. One, to not make unnecessary noise. And two, because Leefa didn't want to speak to any of us. Well, also, he didn't exactly seem in the condition. He still looked a bit dazed, and all his fur was standing straight on end once he took the suit off. It was quite a sight. Like a full-body fro-hawk."

Corran snerked. "Sorry."

"The dome security was quite tight, but with my masterful slicing skills, plus IQ's assistance, we got in seemingly unnoticed. The inside of the dome was incredible. It was like a museum of Imperial technology--some of it mainstream, but most of it bizarre and probably failed. I instantly suspected the facility to be the lair of a top Imperial engineer who had secluded himself into this fortress in order to get work done. Aside from a few low-level droids, the place was lifeless. Well, that is until Hayden decided to poke his nose into a corner."

"Check it out. A Phase III dark trooper!" Hayden exclaimed excitedly.

"You're joking!" Taz sprinted forward to prove Hayden wrong but couldn't.

He gaped at the over 9-foot-tall battle droid, reminiscent of an armored stormtrooper but far more deadly. Its armor was black instead of white, and instead of a standard E-11, it held a modified Imperial repeater assault cannon, capable of firing 400 plasma shots and 40 dumb-fire missiles without reloading. Also equipped with a jetpack, the dark troopers were envisioned by General Rom Mohc as the next generation of stormtrooper. Despite the dark troopers' success as both a battle droid and human exoskeleton, their development became too expensive for the post-Endor Empire to continue after former stormtrooper Kyle Katarn defeated General Rom Mohc in battle and destroyed his Dark Trooper Project production ship
Arc Hammer.

"A dark trooper?!" exclaimed Wedge and Corran in unison.

"Yes," Janson confirmed. "Somehow, one of the last few--or perhaps the last--Phase III dark trooper had ended up in this Imperial engineer's lair. Or perhaps he was the original creator."

"We'll find that out soon enough," Corran added. "But what happened next?"

"Hayden 'accidentally'--or so he claims--hit the power switch on the dark trooper. Now, I'm not calling him a liar, but I don't think an engineer as brilliant as Hayden ever accidentally turns something on. I think he just couldn't resist accidentally turning it on."

Wedge shook his head. "I don't think I'm even going to try to understand that."

"IT'S...ALIVE!!!" Taz screamed, backing out of the corner in a run and tripping over Leefa.

Hayden dove for cover while Janson heroically stood his ground as the behemoth sprung into the center of the room with its signature, bone-chilling growl. At that point, the general decided that heroicness at this point was synonymous with deadness--


"Those aren't even words," Wedge commented.

--and dove for cover as well. The dark trooper apparently had an aggression complex and traced a line of plasma fire at the obvious leader of the group. The display table Janson was crouched behind exploded into a shower of debris as the general rolled away. The battle droid shifted his aim at Taz and Leefa, a tangle of limbs in the middle of the floor, and launched one of his dumb-fire missiles, which at that range, needed absolutely no targeting system.

The Taz-Leefa tangle unsuccessfully tried to roll out of the way in opposite directions but was saved as an empty crate flew into the air and intercepted the missile. The box blew into an angry fireball, raining flaming debris on the two pilots who finally managed to untangle themselves and run for cover behind a 20-foot-tall janitorial droid.

Hayden spun his newfound gravity gun--swiped from a nearby display case--to cock it and looked for another object to "throw." He instead decided to use it to create cover so he could make his way to the next door. Taz and Leefa were closest to the door but unable to leave their cover in order to make a break for it.

Janson, however, was on the opposite side of the room from the door.

"Give me some cover fire!" he screamed as the dark trooper turned its attention back to him.

Janson fired three bolts at its face. Two of them were absorbed by the armor, but the third destroyed one of the trooper's red eyes, sending it into a mechanical rage.

Taz and Leefa holstered their blasters and instead accessed the controls on the giant janitorial droid, sending it rolling at the dark trooper with its seventeen arms failingly wildly and its mechanical voice blaring "WET FLOOR. WET FLOOR. PLEASE USE AN ALTERNATE ROUTE."

The dark trooper wasn't eager to obey and launched a full volley into the larger droid. The four Rogues broke cover and ran for the door as the never-commissioned-for-mass-production janitorial droid was blow apart limb by limb. It left enough time for the pilots to slice through the next door and escape into the next room.

They collapsed to the ground panting.

"On second thought," Janson said after he caught his breath, "I think I'm going to see what else is on the housing market."


"The rest of the rooms were relatively uneventful," Wes explained to the two generals, "which made me suspect that either this place truly was deserted or that the engineer we had chased had landed here and was laying a trap for us. The latter was confirmed when we entered the final room at the center of the dome and a thick, blaster-proof transparisteel cage was dropped over us."

"We're moving," Leefa stated the obvious again as the platform beneath their feet began to swing.

It brought them closer to the center of the large, spherical room, filled with catwalks, mobile equipment platforms, and computer stations. A technological Mecca, in Janson's mind. At the very center of the room was an oblate spheroid transparisteel chamber. Inside was a man, dressed in a black cape, skintight superhero costume, and an eyemask. He spoke.

"Fools! You have desecrated my inner sanctum! But now you shall be my first victims as you witness my glorious transformation into the galaxy's greatest superbeign!!!"


Wedge snorted. "Wes, this isn't Janson story hour. Get back to the actual report!"

"I'm serious!" Janson insisted. "Okay, maybe I fudged a little on his lines, but I'm not a transcriber, so what do you expect?"

"This is ridiculous," Wedge said.

"I heartedly agree," Janson replied. "He then started going on this whole monologue about how he was going to destroy the Rebellion and return the Empire to its former glory and bring peace and justice to the galaxy. And how his newest invention was going to allow him to become the most powerful being in the galaxy by making him invincible and invisible and yada yada yada. I don't even remember what he said after that because it was sithin' boring! I mean, how many power-hungry bad guys and warlords have I met who say exactly the same thing? It was like the script out of a B-holoflick!"

"Your whole life is a B-holoflick," General Antilles muttered.

"I'll take that as a complement. So, here we were, stuck in this blaster-proof transparisteel cage suspended by a steel cable over a bottomless shaft. Naturally, we spent the length of the monologue devising a brilliant means of escape."

"One...two...THREE!" Janson counted off, and the four pilots threw themselves against the cell wall.

The cage swung a couple feet before swinging back the other direction.

"Okay, I expected a bit more progress than that. This time, let's keep up the motion and build up pendulum momentum. On three again. One...two...THREE!"

Back and forth the pilots leapt from one side of the cage to the other, sending the suspended chamber sailing closer and closer to a conveniently exposed plasma beam.

"FASTER!" Janson screamed, "FASTER!" as he threw his weight back and forth with even greater ferocity.

"Umppff," went Leefa as Janson's bulk sandwiched him into the wall.

Minutes later, the four pilots collapsed exhausted on the floor of the cage.

"We can't do it," concluded Taz. "It's too far. And I think it's already too late."

In the center of the room, the mad scientist concluded his tirade and threw up his arms. Green bolts of electricity enveloped his body, shaking it in convulsions as he continued to laugh manically.

"Hold the commlink," Hayden said, a gleam in his eye.

He picked up his new gravity gun and pointed it at the metal emitter for the plasma beam in an attempt to pull the cage toward it.

"No! WAIT!" Taz yelled, tacking Hayden's legs.

Hayden's finger hit the trigger, and the gravity gun flew out of his hands, instantly welding itself against the transparisteel barrier that blocks its line of sight.

Cracks began to appear in the transparisteel wall as the gravity's pressure built. Taz's expression turned from horror to elation to horror again as the cracks continued into the adjoining walls, floor, and ceiling.

Hayden leapt for the gravity gun to turn it off, but his hand had barely grasped around the stock when the entire cage shattered.

Taz grabbed Hayden's legs as he fell, then yelped as Janson clasped his ankle. Leefa was the last in the dangling chain, and sunk his claws into the general's trousers, slicing them from waist to ankle.

The Bothan held on Janson's feet and looked as the shreds of his trousers fell around him.

"Sith! Didn't want to see that!"

"Do something!" Hayden gasped, his hands straining to maintain their grip on the gravity gun magnetized to the bottom of the steel cable that had previously been attached to the roof of the cage.

"Swing!" Taz yelled, prompting the four pilots to wave back and forth, nearly pulling Hayden's arms out of their sockets with the weight of three pilots hanging from him.

"No, dimwits! Together!" Janson bellowed. "Hayden, you swing first, as much as you can manage. Then Taz, build off his momentum. I'll build off that and so on."

With a bit more coordination this time, the--


"Hold on," Wedge interrupted. "Hayden couldn't possibly hold the weight of three people hanging on his feet, especially when you're one of them."

"Hey, I've lost some weight! See? My paunch used to go out to here, but now it only goes out to here."

"Janson, pushing on your stomach doesn't make it smaller," Corran commented.

"Anyway, through our combined brilliance and efforts, we confounded the laws of physics, surpassed the bounds of realism, and found ourselves safely across the chasm on a catwalk."

"Hang on," Corran interrupted. "I want to know how exactly you did it."

"Fine."

"If we had enough rice," Hayden suggested, "we could fill the pit up, then add water, causing the rice to expand and 'lift' us to safety."

"If that's the best solution you can think of," Janson commented, "I think I'll let go right now."

"Please do," Hayden said, straining all the weight.

"We could try swinging again," Taz suggested. "Then, at the height of our arc, Hayden will disengage the gravity gun, and we'll fly onto the nearest catwalk."

"And if the laws of gravity decide to come into play, then what do we do?" Hayden snorted.

"You'll still have the gravity gun. If we miss the catwalk, you can still suction to the bottom of it."

"And somehow we all manage to keep hanging onto each others' ankles the whole time?"

"At least the two of us will make it."

"How generous," Janson growled. "Hayden, what level influx capacitor does that use?"

The pilot tilted his head up and studied the gravity gun. "Four."

"That's plenty. If you reach up and switch the input cable with the outflow converter, we could overclock the capacitor and get at least a level ten gravity field out of it. It will only last a few seconds before overheating, but that's all we'll need. You can release the gravity field, we'll huddle around the gun as we drop, then reverse the gravity field to create a repulsar lift effect strong enough to sufficiently slow our descent to allow us to survive."

"Brilliant!" said Hayden. "Now could you suggest something that doesn't involve me hanging by one arm to modify the gun with the weight of three people on my feet, dropping to a near certain death, then climbing out of a bottomless pit in the 0.00009% chance that we actually survive impact?"

"We could just climb up this cable we're hanging on, shimmy across the beam that's holding it, then slid down the strut to the catwalk," Leefa suggested.

There was a stunned silence.

"I was going to suggest that next," Janson said.


"Sure you were," said Corran.

"Shush."

"Watch where you're puttin' them paws," Janson retorted as Leefa climbed up him, then Taz, then Hayden before scaling the cable.

Next Janson climbed, then Taz, and finally a very exhausted Hayden. Several minutes later, they were safely on a catwalk.

"FOOLS!" the mad scientist cried from inside his oblate spheroid chamber, his eyes bloodshot, his body bulging with new muscles. "You have only spared yourselves so that I can rip you apart limb from limb! Prepare for a new definition of pain! BWAHAHAHAHA!"


"How original," Corran muttered.

"Quiet," said Wedge."

"Plasma power coil, 5 o'clock," Hayden pointed out.

"Right," Janson replied, unholstering his blaster pistol and lining it up.

The beam struck the coil, causing the power to surge and strike the mad scientist inside the bubble with a painful bolt of electricity.

He yelped, then fell to the ground twitching.

"Taz, Leefa, go grab the professor," Janson ordered. "Hayden and I will search the database for the
Bloodlust plans before the Imps get here."

"And did you?!" Wedge jumped in.

"Wedge,Wedge, shhh, shhh," Janson made a motion with his hand. "You need to cut down on your sugar pills."

"Just keep going," Corran said impatiently.

Janson continued. "We downloaded as many datums as we could--"

"Datums?" Wedge inquired.

"Plural for data."

"Then why don't you just use data???"

"Datums sounds cooler," Janson cleared his throat. "Ehem, as I was saying. We downloaded as much data as we could before a legion of stormies cut their way through the door. With the unconscious engineer in tow, we hightailed it to his hangar bay where his starship was berthed. We blasted off and headed for orbit. Once we were a safe way away, the entire facility blossomed into an enormous fireball."

The mighty general shed a silent tear as the glow from the explosion revealed the harsh contours of his rugged face.

Wedge snerked.

"Oh well," said General Janson to his comrades. "We couldn't let all that technology fall into the hands of the Empire."

"What happened to your droids and X-wings?" Wedge suddenly thought to ask.

"They laid low until the Imps all left and took off. They arrived here a half hour ago."

"So you entered orbit, went to lightspeed, and showed up back here," Wedge concluded.

"Not quite," Janson said.

"Star Destroyer dead ahead!" Taz yelled from his seat the targeting station. "He's trying to block us!"

"Get some more juice out of these engines," Janson ordered to Hayden. "We'll slip past them."

"Another contact!" Taz yelped. "And I hope it's just a bug on the radar, because it's exactly what we don't want it to be."

"What, the Death Star?!"

"No, the
Bloodlust!"

"To be continued," Janson said.

"What?!?!" Wedge and Corran barked in unison, jumping out of their seats like two vornskrs ready for the kill.

"The engineer's ship has a really good soda bar, and I kind of drank too much on the way back... I'll only be a minute!"

Janson dashed out the door before the two generals could tackle him.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 4:47 pm 
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Not the revenge plot everyone was hoping for, but hey, it's plot!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shadow hunkered down with a couple of blankets on the over-sized lounge chair she'd long ago purchased for her quarters. When it came to 'stuff', she was generally a minimalist, but there were a few things she felt were important, and a good chair she could curl up in was one of them.

Tucking her feet into the crack between the cushion and the arm of the chair, Shadow tilted her head back and let out a long sigh. It had been a long week. Doling out punishment had not been easy, but it had been necessary. She needed her space, and the kitchen was the only place other than her quarters she was going to get it. Besides, if everyone ran into her kitchen all the time, she'd never get any cooking done.

Just as she was getting comfortable, a large lump became apparent under the chair cushion. Reaching to extract whatever it was, Shadow was surprised to pull out a fuzzy gray throw. Immediately the lump under her transferred itself to her throat as Shadow stiffed her emotions. Memories flooded through her mind as she fingered the soft and cozy material.

*~*~*~*

<i>"Here, I got you a present," Gavin said as he pulled a box out from behind the overstuffed lounge.

"You didn't have to get me a present. It isn't even my birthday," Shadow replied, snuggling closer as she opened the box. Within lay a rich-looking gray fabric. As she pulled it out of the box, she realized that the thick, fuzzy mass was a blanket. "Oh, it's so nice and soft!"

"I know you're always getting cold," Gavin said as he nuzzled the top of your head. "I hoped that when I'm not around to keep you warm it might be an adequate substitute."

Shadow pulled the blanket over both of them and tilted her head up. "Nothing and no one could replace you, but I'm glad for the thought all the same." Leaning up, she gave him a big kiss. "Besides, you come pre-warmed while the blanket doesn't."

"I see how it is, you're just using me for my body heat," he quipped, attempting and failing to sound offended.

"Yep, and don't you forget it," Shadow teased back, slipping her icy hands just under the hem of his shirt for emphasis.

"GAAHH! Why you little minx! I'm going to get you for that..." With that, Gavin began tickling Shadow mercilessly until she promised never to put cold hands on him again, a promise both of them new wouldn't last more than twenty-four hours, if that.</i>

*~*~*~*

Shadow fingered the warm, soft blanket, hugging it close. It was one of a few things Gavin had given her that she still had. No matter how much she tried to forget, move on, recover or anything else, she still missed Gavin with a fierce intense pain that had a tendency to overwhelm her at times. She just didn't feel complete without him. It wasn't that she missed anything he did or said... She simply missed him, Gavin, his person and his presence.

Yet, given all that had happened, could she ever take him back? Even if everything changed? Would she be able to forgive and not judge? Burying her face in the blanket, tears began slowly streaming down her face. It was just so hard, being torn like this, not knowing what to do about the present, let alone what she would do if something changed.

So many things she didn't know... So many she wanted to.. And yet, deciding one way or another wouldn't help the fact that she missed the one she loved terribly. Yes, missed and still loved him so much it hurt. Curled up with two blankets now, Shadow tearfully wondered if she'd ever stop hurting; if ever something would happen that would make everything okay again. Maybe one day...


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 6:12 pm 
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A follow up to breaking into the kitchen!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The taskmistress walked back and forth slowly along the lineup. The men (or rather, creatures), looked pathetic. Spineless. Cowardly. Terrified. Perhaps the blow torch she carried around and blasted occasionally was too much? But no, they were as they should be.

"Gentlemen, you are hereby in servitude to yours truly. You will do what I want, when I say I want it, until I deem your service completely rendered. Is that understood?"

"Ma'am, yes ma'am!" they replied with quick, sharp, military precision.

Shadow paused to look directly at Elassar. "And what are the consequences for failing to complete servitude?"

The Devorian sweated a bit and stared straight ahead. "Ma'am, servitude to Kettch, ma'am. Accompanied by a lifelong career of service to yourself."

"Excellent,"said Shadow in a quiet and slightly evil voice. She was going to enjoy this.

"Now, gentlemen, this is the first briefing of your duties for the day. Having known most of you for quite some time, the briefing will be extremely necessary as it has been proven that the skills required are definitely lacking."

Shadow stepped back and pulled out a laser pointer. Highlighting the objects as she went would help avoid confusion. "The first item is called a 'broom'. Its function is to clear debris off the floor by gently sweeping the debris into a small pile and then into the second item, a dustpan. Debris is then deposited in a waste receptacle. Are there any questions?"

When silence followed, Shadow knew it was safe to resume. "Next we have a mop. It is used by dipping the cloth end into a bucked of soapy water and then pushing it around on the floor, removing stains and other marks. Moping may be done only after sweeping has occurred. Further questions?"

There were none, only frustrated and pained expressions attempted to be contained by failing masks of stoicism. Perfect. "Now, follow me." The boys followed along, single file, into the dish room. "This is where dishes are washed. Sink one is for soapy water. Sink two is for rinse, and the industrial hose is for dish cleaning only. Sink three is for sanitizer. Scrub dishes in the rinse sink, wash them in the soap water, rinse, and let soak in sanitizer for at least one minute before placing on the drying rack. Also known as that large shelving unit to the right that has grates for shelves."

About now Void was starting to turn a delicate shade of pale under his fur. Shadow assumed it had something to do with the fact that most cats hated water, and seeing large tubs of them connected to a powerful sprayer had something to do with it.

Clearing her throat, Shadow backed out of the dish room and the three enslaved ones followed silently. Back around the large butcher-block table, Shadow pulled out a large tomb-like binder and thunked it down on the very clean surface. "This is a manual that details the precise way in which each and every instrument, appliance, tool and pointed object is to be cleaned and cared for. If you have not seen the object before, look it up. Each item is accompanied by a name, picture and instructions. If anything is harmed during your servitude, you shall have to work longer in order to repay for the item's worth. Understood?"

The three nodded, clearly shaken as they glanced around, looking at many items in the kitchen that, it was clear, they had never seen or heard of before in their entire lives.

"Right then," continued Shadow. The final duty will be to maintain proper hygiene of yourselves while doing these tasks. One cannot clean dishes if they are not clean themselves. This will require daily washing with soap and water, grooming, trimming, etcetera. Skin will be clean. Fur will trimmed. Horns will be filed. You will report daily at 0600 for inspection.

"Now, the daily schedule is as follows. You shall rotate dish duty, starting with Piggy on breakfast, Void at lunch and Elassar at dinner. The following day will have Void at Breakfast, Elassar at dinner and Piggy at dinner. The routine follows to rotate until servitude is complete. Whoever is doing breakfast dishes will also be sweeping and mopping the kitchen and dining area. The other two will be in charge of cleaning the stove, counters, oven, cabinets and tables in the mess hall, as well as setting the tables before each meal.

"Now, lunch is in one hour. As we have missed the morning scheduled inspection, you will report back here in forty-five minutes for inspection before lunch. Get going, for tardiness will not be tolerated." Shadow sent them off with a final blast of her blow torch and watched as the three were reduced to mere children at the tasks set before them.

Shadow chuckled to herself once she was alone. Yes, she was going to enjoy this, but after not enjoying much for a long time, wasn't it deserved?


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 7:25 pm 
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~Continuation in the Squadron Dinner Thread~

Corran strode into Wedge's office. "Clovis Stoend thinks Tyria and I are having an affair," he announced, "I just thought you'd want to know."

Wedge blinked.

"Thought you'd also want to know that we're not."

Wedge blinked.

"Say something."

"What exactly," Wedge said finally, "do you want me to say? You come barging into my office and announce that you're not having an affair with my wife, when there was never any thought in my mind that you were. What am I supposed to say? 'Thank you'? And how does Stoend fit into this?"

"I ran into him in town. In Victoria's Secret, specifically."

"What were you doing in there?"

"I was in there under duress. Tyria forced me to go in with her. I had no choice."

Wedge raised an eyebrow. "Do you really expect me to believe that she forced you to go in with her? C'mon, Corran, you're quite a bit bigger than she is; I have a hard time seeing her forcing you to do anything."

"You're married to her; you should understand. At any rate, I will never recover from the humiliation of that little forage into that store."

"So," Wedge asked, "did she buy anything?"

"Yeah."

"What'd she get?"

"For the Force's sake, Wedge! I didn't look! Are you crazy? I'd been living in blissful ignorance, holding on to this little delusion that you guys just didn't do that, and that little shopping trip completely destroyed that notion forever. I'm scarred for life now." Corran sighed. "And stop raising your eyebrow at me like that."

"Sorry. I just have to say...if you've been living with that little notion since the wedding, you are delusional."

"It's the same idea as with your parents. I mean, you just don't like to think about that in relation to them. It's...intensely disturbing."

"I'll give you that," Wedge agreed. "I don't get why she had to go in there today though. I mean, as soon as things calmed down around here at some point, I'd have gone with her, saved you the embarrassment."

"She insisted. Something about owing you an apology for something."

"An apology? For what?"

Corran cursed himself under his breath for mentioning it. "Something about...asking what the point was if you couldn't have children."

"Oh. That." Wedge coughed.

"Hey Wedge," Corran said slowly, "about the baby thing...I'm sorry, man."

Wedge nodded. "Thanks. Yeah...she's taken it pretty hard."

"So I gathered from our conversation today. I'm surprised you never mentioned it."

"Well, when we first found out, she asked me not to. It's hard for her; she's felt like she's had to redefine herself as a woman. Or something. I don't know; it's complicated. She's complicated."

Corran chuckled. "Gee, ya think? Face it, Wedge -- the woman complicates 'hello.' You, of all people, know that."

Wedge laughed. "True. But anyway, yeah...Shadow knows, and Halley. And Bowman pulled it out of her mind during the attack. But if you could just still not say anything...I mean, not that you would, but..."

"No problem, pal. Mum's the word."

Thanks. So anyway, is she all set for the dinner then?"

"Yeah. She's even making me frosted dewback claws for breakfast to repay me for going with her."

"Nice! Hope she makes enough for me!"

"Don't count on it, those are mine."

"We'll see about that!"

"We sure will," Corran agreed, "I'm the one who had to endure a day of shopping with her. Plus, I bought her lunch. And a magazine. So I get all the dewback claws."

"You bought her lunch? Why? Did she run out of money?"

"Of course not. I just thought it was the gentlemanly thing to do. Besides, I don't think she would've stopped for lunch at all if I hadn't paid, and I was starving, man."

Wedge chuckled. "Yeah...she does that. Sometimes I think that if she wasn't forced to eat, she'd die of starvation."

"Anyway, that's when she told me about the baby thing. I had to drag it out of her. I've sensed something was 'off' in her sense, since I got back. Hadn't been able to put my finger on it, but I wanted to be able to talk to her and see what was up. You know...had to make sure you weren't beatin' her up or anything."

"Oh yeah, I can see why that's always been a huge concern," Wedge laughed, "seeing as how I'm so harsh with her all the time."

"Exactly." Corran grinned. "But anyway, I just felt that, as her former Jedi master, I needed to make sure everything was okay."

"Yeah. Thanks for that," Wedge replied sincerely, "What do I owe you for the lunch?"

Corran waved him off. "Hey, don't worry about it."

"Sure?"

"Yeah. I mean, it's not like we ate at the Ritz or anything; it's not gonna leave me destitute."

"Glad to hear it. And thanks."

"No problem. Now then, what kind of work are you plowing through now? You were working on this same stuff when we left this morning and you're still at it. Why don't you let me spell you for a while?"

Wedge raised his eyebrow. "You mean you actually want to do some real work and not go gallivanting around the planet looking for hidden bases?"

"I wasn't looking for that base. I just happened upon it."

"Whatever it was, it was just a sneaky way to get out of working. Why the sudden change of heart?"

"Maybe I'm just being a nice guy and offering to take some of this work off of you so that you can go spend some time with your wife."

"You expect me to believe that? You, the quintessential noble bachelor, want to do something that will help me go spend time with the person who turned me into a noble non-bachelor?"

Corran furrowed his brow in thought. "Hmm. Actually, I think Janson is more the quintessential noble bachelor."

"I think you might be right," Wedge agreed. "Still...what are your reasons?"

"Wedge, I just spent the day with a woman who spent the entire time wishing I was you. She didn't say it, but I could sense it. She misses you. For reasons I'll never fully understand, she's crazy about you. Or maybe she's just crazy. Jury's still out on that one, though leaning heavily toward believing it's psychosis."

"We haven't been able to see much of each other lately. I miss her too."

"Exactly. So get moving and spare me the details."

"All right. If you're sure. But if you have any questions, just com me."

"If I have any questions? C'mon, Wedge, I can handle it -- I'm a general too, you know."

"Ah yes. I almost forgot. Okay, I'm going then. Don't bug me unless it's a real emergency."

"Yes sir."

*****

When Wedge entered their quarters, Tyria stood to greet him with a hug. "Hey. How was your day?" she asked.

"Boring. I know it all comes with being a general, Tyr, but all the technical red tape wears on you after a while. How was yours?"

"Productive. I am all set for the dinner tomorrow, and I got some other shopping in, too. Oh, and here. Your deodorant, razors and underwear. I hope the underwear are the right size; Corran had to help me."

Wedge looked up. "Corran had to help you buy the underwear? Why in the galaxy...?"

"Because, Wedge. I've never bought men's underwear before. I didn't know what to look for."

"What's so hard about it? As long as you know the pants size, you're fine."

"I know that now," Tyria informed him, "but I didn't then. Women's underwear sizes are not the same as their pants sizes, so I had no clue. That's how Corran got involved."

"Well, he got it right," Wedge observed after inspecting the package. "Ah, and good, the razors. I know you use mine occasionally for your legs, but I'll be danged if I ever use yours."

"I got your Chocolate Ewok Krispies, too," Tyria offered.

"Ohhh! I almost forgot! Good. I love snacking on these things."

"Do you suppose," Tyria mused, "that Ewoks have Chocolate Human Krispies?"

"Now that's just gross."

"Why is it any different than Ewok Krispies?"

"It just is. So anyway, what else is new?"

"This." Tyria slapped the People magazine down in front of him.

He stared at it blankly. "Tyria, you know I don't read this kind of stuff."

"I know. But read this one. Just go through it page by page. You'll see something that will absolutely and utterly astound you."

She sat by, waiting expectantly while Wedge impatiently turned the pages of the magazine, studying each page carefully before moving on to the next. And suddenly he stopped. "Whoa."

Tyria grinned.

"I can't believe Kai got herself in here! And at number three, to boot."

The grin vanished. "WHAT? GIVE ME THAT!" Tyria snatched the magazine from him and stared at the page, dumbfounded. "Oh, for the love of..." She was shaking her head. "How did I miss that? HOW did I miss it? I mean, I kinda for a second thought that it slightly resembled her...but...how in the galaxy did you recognize her so fast?"

"Well, based on what you said, I wasn't just flipping through -- I was scrutinizing every detail."

"Go figure."

Wedge looked at her questioningly. "Based on your reaction, I'm thinking this wasn't the thing that you were talking about when you said I'd be astounded?"

"Correct."

"Then I'll keep looking."

"If you want to. It's no big deal now."

"Sure it is. I'll keep looking until I see if I can find what you were talking about."

"Whatever." Tyria sighed. "You know, I'd bet money that she was completely smashed when the notion came upon her."

"You think I'm gonna bet against you? Nothin' doin'. She's always smashed. The editors were probably smashed, too." He continued paging through the magazine carefully, bypassing the numerous ads between the pages that contained actual content.

But the wind had gone out of Tyria's sails. Seeing herself as number five had been such a shock and, she had to admit, she'd been rather proud of it. But now that Kai -- of all people -- had been seen as number three...five was more of a disappointment. She reached out suddenly and tried to grab the magazine from her husband's hands. "Just forget it."

He whipped it out of her reach. "No. I'm not going to forget it. You wanted to show me something that was apparently important to you, and I'm going to find it."

"C'mon, Wedge, just let it go."

"No." He stubbornly continued flipping through the ads. And then... "Tyria! You're in here!" He looked up at her, astounded -- just as she'd predicted.

Tyria smiled shyly.

"Which is further proof," Wedge added, "that the editors were totally schnockered when making their selections."

Tyria's smile disappeared immediately. "You certainly know how to make a girl feel desirable," she said tersely. She sat down on the bed and turned away from him.

Wedge had realized his faux pas even before Tyria had responded. As he crossed the room toward his wife, he cursed himself inwardly with every epithet he could call to mind. "Tyria," he began when he reached her, putting his hand on her shoulder, "What I said came out totally wrong. But come on, Tyr. Think about what you already know about me and how I feel about you, not to mention what you know about how I feel about your looks and your body. For crying out loud, woman, give me the benefit of the doubt once in a while!"

Tyria sighed. "You're right. I'm sorry. So...what did you mean?"

"Thank you. What I meant was that anyone who could see a picture of you and then choose anyone else as number one was obviously drunk out of his mind."

"Even over Kai, huh?"

"Yep. Even over Kai. I mean...not that she's not attractive -- she is. But she just doesn't do anything for me. Compared to you, she just doesn't even come close. I don't care what the magazine editor says." He glanced at her, a mischievous grin on his face. "Especially," he added with a wink, "since he was plastered."

"Now that's how to make a girl feel desirable."

"Ha. You ain't seen nothin' yet."

"Oh really?" Tyria inquired coyly.

"Yeeeeup. Want to go to dinner?"

"Sure. I'm up for scrounging the mess hall for something decent."

"No, no. I mean have dinner out. At a restaurant. You know, like a...date."

Tyria's eyes lit up. "A date?! A real one? Just the two of us?"

Wedge laughed. "Yes, a real date, just the two of us. It'll be just like high school. I'll spend the whole time hoping that if I behave myself, you'll let me get to third base."

"Oh really. And what, pray tell, do you consider third base?"

"This," he answered. He leaned over and kissed her deeply.

"Mmm," Tyria murmured, "Yes, if you behave, getting to third base is a definite possibility."

*****

They'd finished their dinner and were waiting to order dessert and caf when an anguished cry sounded from the other side of a restaurant. "Somebody help me!"

A moment later, another voice followed, "We need a doctor!"

Almost before the words registered in Wedge's mind, Tyria was out of her chair. "I'm a doctor!" she called, hurrying toward the commotion. He quickly followed her and reached the crowd a few moments after she did.

There was a woman on the floor, almost completely reclining, with a pained expression on her face. "I'm pregnant," she said desperately, "My baby's not due for another month, but I...I think my water just broke...and..."

"Have you been having contractions long?" Tyria inquired, dropping to her knees so that she could converse with the young mother-to-be more easily.

"Just minor ones...until now. All of a sudden, just--Bam!" She suddenly moaned and doubled over.

Tyria reached out and took the woman's hand. "Try to relax, sweetie," she said softly, "Don't tense up. Squeeze my hand if you need to. Now, breathe..." Tyria coached the woman through some breathing until the contraction was over. "Okay. That lasted about a minute. Do you know when your last contraction was?"

"No...I..."

"Is this your first baby?"

"Yes," the woman answered, "But...if this is any help to you, my grandmother and mother both had very fast labors. Like this one seems to be going -- they go from almost nothing to transition very suddenly. I should've kept that in mind, but since I'm not due for another month..."

"Well," Tyria said, "do you have a regular doctor that you can call to meet you at the hospital and check you out?"

"No, no. I'm just here visiting a friend. I live--" She broke off and took a deep breath, gritting her teeth.

"Another one?" Tyria asked in surprise. The woman nodded emphatically. "Okay. Here, give me your hand. Try to relax, okay? Let's breathe, all right? Ready? Okay..."

After the contraction, the woman sighed. "This can't be happening. This is...not supposed to be like this."

"Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's find out just how far you along you are and if we can do anything to slow this down. It might be a false start; it happens sometimes." Tyria smiled at the woman. "What's your name?"

"Emily," she said with a small smile, "What's yours?"

"I'm Tyria. It's nice to meet you, Emily."

"Nice to meet you too."

"All right. Now that we're past the introductions, I think we're gonna get real close real fast. If it's all right with you, I'd like to do an exam so that we can see what's really happening here."

"Here?!" Emily gasped, "Are you out of your mind?!"

"Well...perhaps there's a more private area..." Tyria turned to the crowd which was still gathered. "Is there a manager here, or someone else in charge?"

A man stepped forward. "I'm the owner. Jonah Mast."

Tyria nodded. "Very good, Mr. Mast. Now, I'm sure that you've never been asked this before, but I need you to clear this crowd out of here." Tyria smiled, "I'm sure that Emily here would prefer not to have an audience at this particular moment."

"I can't just clear the restaurant out -- you'll have to go somewhere else. This isn't a hospital, this isn't a clinic. This is a dining establishment, lady!"

"I'm well aware of that, Mr. Mast," Tyria said shortly, "But I'm also well aware of the fact that this woman may well be getting ready to deliver a baby right here in this very spot. I'm sure that your customers will be happy to give Emily some space so that she can go through this birth with as little trouble as possible, under the circumstances."

"Listen, lady, you can't just come in here and try to take over my restaurant. You'll have to go to the hospital or...anywhere else but here!"

Tyria stood and frowned at the restaurant owner. "I see. And where do you propose we should go, Mr. Mast? Out on the sidewalk in front of the building? Or perhaps you'd prefer that we go around the corner to the back alley? Things like this get a lot of publicity, Mr. Mast, and I'm sure you don't want to be known as the man who turned a woman out of your 'dining establishment' when she was on the verge of giving birth, now would you? What would people say? I would strongly suggest to you, Mr. Mast, that you clear out this area since there are no hospitals nearby where we can go."

Defeated, Mr. Mast nodded. "All right. I'll clear the room."

"Thank you very much. Oh, and I'm Dr. Antilles. You may stop addressing me as 'lady.'" Tyria turned to Wedge. "Wedge, I need you to do something for me. My medical bag is in the transport; I need you to get it." Just as Wedge set off on his errand, Emily gasped and gripped Tyria's hand again and Tyria turned back to her. "Okay, it's okay. Breathe, sweetie. Come on..."

When Wedge returned with the bag, Tyria grinned at Emily. "Okay. Let me just tell you that I don't normally get this familiar with new people."

Emily chuckled. "No problem. I completely understand."

When Tyria completed the check, Emily looked at her questioningly. "Well?"

"Well...you're dilated to eight centimeters, and if things keep progressing like they have been, the way you've been having contractions so close together and the fact that you're already dilated to eight and barely even knew you were in labor for most of it, you're progressing so quickly that I really don't think we should even try to make it to a hospital."

"You mean I'm going to have my baby right here? Right now?"

"I'm thinking so," Tyria nodded.

"Oh, wow."

"Yeah. Now, if you'll excuse me for a second, I want to talk to Mr. Mast."

Tyria stepped outside where Wedge and Mr. Mast were waiting. The original crowd had dispersed for the most part, with only a few stragglers remaining. The colonel addressed the restaurant owner. "Mr. Mast, I want to thank you for clearing the restaurant like you did. Emily is going to be having this baby here. She's almost ready to deliver -- it won't be too long now. I'm wondering if you have any small rooms that perhaps you use for private parties or something. If you do, we need to use one of them. I think it would be much more beneficial for all concerned if we could move into one of those rooms to go ahead and get prepared for the delivery."

"Of course," Mr. Mast said, acquiescing immediately this time, "I'll have some of the waiters move the table out of one of our private dining rooms to get it ready."

"Excellent. We'll also need some hot water and a lot of towels. The sooner the better."

Mr. Mast nodded and set off to his task, and Wedge spoke to Tyria in low tones. "Are you sure this is a good idea? I mean...she's having a baby. Like...here. Is it safe? Are you sure there's no time to get to a hospital? I mean, I'm just thinking about the safety for her and her baby. And you..."

"What about me, Wedge?" Tyria demanded, "I know what I'm doing; this isn't my first time. And yes, it's perfectly safe. Probably safer than at a hospital, really. Births really should be handled with as little intervention as possible. Women have done it since the beginning of time, and it started out all natural, with no intervention. Just having someone standing by in case something goes wrong, but hospitals are so intrusive. It's healthier for mother and baby to just let nature take its course. So there's nothing to worry about. Everything is going just fine."

"Okay, okay. Bear with me, Tyr, please? I never even read anything about the topic at all, much less been present for an actual birth, so cut me some slack. Besides, I was more concerned with...Listen, Tyria, be honest with me. Are you going to be okay with this? Considering?"

Tyria looked at her husband evenly. "Yes. I have to be, because she needs me. She's young and she's scared, and if I'm not here, she's alone." She softened slightly and reached over to squeeze his hand. "I'll be fine, Wedge."

A few minutes later, Mr. Mast returned to advise Tyria that the room had been prepared and the hot water and towels were on their way.

"Okay," Tyria said, going to Emily, "Mr. Mast has become quite accommodating and we're going to be moving to a private dining room so that we'll have complete privacy. Can you stand up? Let me help you." Tyria helped Emily stand, then called out. "Wedge, I need you to help Emily to the other room."

~Wedge's POV~

I went over to the woman and asked gently, "Can you walk?" She took a couple of small steps, then looked at me helplessly, shaking her head. "Okay. Here, hang on." I lifted her up and turned to Tyria and Mr. Mast. "Lead the way," I said.

Once in the room, Mr. Mast gestured to a makeshift 'bed' that had been fashioned with a large tablecloth spread on the floor, and several folded towels stacked up as pillows. I put Emily down and turned to leave, but Tyria stopped me. "Stay," she said firmly. "I'm gonna need you here to help me."

I stared at her. "Uhh...Tyr, in case you've forgotten, I'm not a doctor."

"No, you're not. But I need you stay because every doctor has an assistant."

"But again, I don't have the training that you have; I don't know the first thing about childbirth."

"Well," she said briskly, "there's no time like the present to learn. Don't worry, I'm not going to have you performing medical procedures." She turned to Emily. "Now then, is there a daddy that you want us to call?"

"No. 'Daddy' turned his back the moment he found out. I don't have anyone you can call that can get here in time. Serves me right, I suppose, for getting myself into this mess before there was a ring on my finger. So I'm alone."

Tyria reached and took Emily's hand. "We all make mistakes sometimes," she said kindly, "And this baby isn't a mess. This baby is going to be the joy of your life. And you're not alone. We're here for you, okay? Now, this is my husband, Wedge. He and Mr. Mast are going to stay in here because I'm gonna need them. We're gonna get you through this, okay? And when it's over, you'll have a beautiful baby."

Emily smiled tiredly. "Thank you." She leaned back against the pillows.

I turned to my wife. "What do you need me to do?"

"Sit next to her. Help her breathe."

"Help her breathe? With all due respect, I think she's been doing fine breathing on her own since she was born."

"Like this," Tyria said, demonstrating the breathing technique, "Help her breathe that way when the contractions come."

"How will I know when a contraction comes."

Emily suddenly groaned.

"Like that," Tyria said. "Hold her hand. She needs something to hold on to. Go on, help her breathe." She started breathing to help Emily, and I joined in, trying to get the hang of it.

"I feel like a fool," I confessed when it was over.

"Don't. It's perfectly normal. Now then, you concentrate on helping her with that while I make sure we've got things ready for when the baby comes."

As I obeyed Tyria's orders, I watched her between Emily's contractions. She had transformed from a restaurant patron into an efficient doctor. Suddenly, she owned the restaurant. She spoke with authority as she directed Mr. Mast to get her the things she would need for after the baby's birth. As some of the waitresses were around offering to help, she took them up on their offers, instructing them to do this or that, to get this or that. It was never a question -- always a direct command. And yet at the same time, still polite. Very much in charge and in control of the situation, but never condescending.

As I kept watching her, I suddenly felt guilty. I was supposed to be helping this poor girl through childbirth, but instead I was watching my wife's every move. She was just doing her job -- being the doctor, helping the person in need. But there was something about her that was different. Something in her that I didn't often see. As I watched her working, it struck me. She was exuding self-confidence. She was so sure of herself, of every move she made, of every word she said. There was no question in her, she wasn't second-guessing herself. She knew what she was doing, and there was no doubt in her mind. She was sure. And seeing her acting with such calm assurance suddenly struck me as very...sexy.

"Wedge!" Tyria's voice broke into my reverie.

"Huh? What?"

"For the Force's sake, would you please pay attention? You've got to help her concentrate on the breathing!"

"Sorry," I replied meekly, turning back to Emily.

"That's better. I don't know where your mind was, but stay focused." She turned around to busy herself with something else.

"Somewhere in the gutter," I muttered.

"What?" Tyria asked, turning around, "I didn't hear you?"

"Nothing. It wasn't important."

*****

Before long, the labor began to pick up. The contractions were coming more quickly, lasing longer, and were much more intense. I somehow managed to remember the breathing techniques Tyria had shown me, and was able to help Emily stick to them. She gripped my hand as if for dear life, trying her best to concentrate through the pain.

Tyria checked the baby again. "Emily," she said, "it's time to push, okay?"

Emily nodded tiredly. "Okay...I'll do my best."

"Good girl. Wedge, keep her focused."

"Got it."

The contractions were coming fast and hard. Emily barely had time to take a breath after one contraction before another was upon her. I was doing a good job of keeping her focused on the breathing...until she started to push.

In my entire life, I'd never seen a woman working so hard through so much pain, to do something that supposedly came naturally. In my entire life, I'd never been so glad to be a man. Because I knew that if I ever had to do something like this, I would die. No doubt about it. There was no way. Women had been doing this for millennia, and I had one question for them: Why?!

"Wedge!" Tyria said sharply, "Focus!"

"Sorry," I said, "What do you need me to do?"

"Coach her! Look, Wedge, think of it like an X-Wing mission, okay? You've got to focus and you've got to keep your pilots focused. Concentrate."

"Okay." I turned to Emily, trying to think like a commanding general of a squadron in the thick of battle. "All right Emily, come on, you can do this. Squeeze my hand like you're firing a torpedo at a really persistent TIE fighter! Vape it! Get mad! Do it!"

Emily blinked.

Tyria stifled a laugh. "Wedge...I meant to stay as focused as you would in a battle; not bark orders like you really are -- Emily is not going to know the lingo."

"Sorry. I'm no good at this, Tyr, I just--"

"No. No, no, no. Look at it this way. In battle, we follow your lead. You're our anchor. We follow you and we make it through. Now you're Emily's anchor, okay? Getting her through this is your number one priority. You've got to stay focused on her. I need you to do that. Okay?"

"Okay." I looked at Emily. "I'm sorry...I'm trying."

She smiled faintly. "Don't apologize...you're fine..."

"Emily," Tyria said, "Give me a good, hard push!"

I reached for Emily's other hand, holding both of hers in mine. "Emily, look at me," I told her. She met my eyes and I nodded. "That's it. Just stay focused right on me, and push. Ready? Go." She screwed up her face and pushed with all of her strength, crying out and groaning with her exertion. "Good job!" I exclaimed, "You're doing great!"

I glanced back at Tyria for approval, and she nodded, "Perfect." Directing her attention back to Emily, she said again, "Okay, give it another push."

Emily did so, squeezing my hands so hard that I thought she might break them. And so it went. Her eyes focused on me, her ears attuned for Tyria's prompts to push, the process was repeated time and again.

After what seemed an eternity, Tyria spoke with great excitement in her voice. "Emily, I think this is gonna be it -- one more hard push and your baby will be here!"

"I can't," Emily replied, sagging back against the pillows, "I'm just too tired. Make it stop."

"Emily," I said gently, "the only way to make it stop is to just give it one more. You've come this far, and you've done so great. Just one more. You can do it -- I know you can. We're right here with you, and you're gonna make it through this."

She sat up again, setting her jaw in determination. "Okay," she whispered. I squeezed her hands and she squeezed back. Then she took a deep breath and gave it her all.

Her eyes filled with tears as she heard her baby's first cries. Across the room, Mr. Mast fainted.

Tyria, Emily and I laughed, and then Tyria announced, "You have an absolutely beautiful baby girl."

I looked at Emily. "You did it! I knew you could do it!"

"I couldn't have, without you two," she said weakly, leaning back against the pillows. Tyria cut the cord and cleaned the baby up a bit, then handed her to her mother. "I can't believe it," Emily breathed as she held her child for the first time, "I'm a mother." She paused, then added, "Her name is Tyria."

Tyria looked up, stunned. "Oh, you don't have to--"

"I want to. She just...needs to be named for someone who is smart and kind and amazing."

"Thank you," Tyria said softly, her eyes brimming.

*****

As we headed back to the base after the eventful evening, Tyria scooted over in the seat to sit close to me. "Not exactly the night out we were expecting, was it?" she remarked, leaning her head on my shoulder.

"No...No, it wasn't. But it was a good night just the same."

"Can you believe she named her daughter after me? I mean, that blows my mind."

"Yeah, I can believe it. Doesn't blow my mind at all. Come on, Tyr; you were there for her when she needed you, and you helped her and she trusted you, and just...it makes perfect sense to me that she named the baby after you."

"I bet if it'd been a boy, she'd have named him Wedge. You were so great. I couldn't have done it without you. Once you were able to stay focused and stop talking like she was fighting TIEs, you did great. She needed an anchor, and that's what you were. I was so glad you were there, Honey."

"Well I'm glad I was able to help. But let me tell you...I don't think I've ever felt so foolish in my life as when I was helping her breathe."

Tyria laughed. "Oh brother, it wasn't foolish at all; you were doing what was necessary. I actually thought it was kind of cute."

"Yeah, whatever!" I paused. "Tyr...would you hate me if I told you that a part of me is actually glad that you'll never have to go through all of that pain?"

She sighed and snuggled a little closer. "No. Would you think I was totally insane if I told you that part of me is heartbroken that I'll never get to?"

I put my arm around her. "No, my love, I wouldn't."

*****

We'd arrived back at the base, disembarked from the transport and were heading further inside when Tyria stopped me. "Will you look at that moon?" she remarked from where she stood looking out of the still-open hangar bay entrance. I turned and followed her gaze. The moon was low in the sky, shining bright and full, and the expanse around it was filled with confetti-like stars. The sight of it, shining over the snow-covered landscape, was enough to take my breath away. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" she asked softly.

"It is," I agreed, tearing my eyes from the scenery to turn to look at her. "Reminds me of that night on Gremfeld...outside the tapcafe..." I trailed off as I recalled the memory.

"And you kissed me for the first time," Tyria finished.

"And you kissed me back."

"Yes, I did."

"Hey Tyr," I began, "back when we were at the restaurant and you were delivering the baby...I just want to tell you...you were amazing. I mean, they way you just took control of the situation; you were incredible. You just...started telling people what to do and they did it, no questions asked. You were so in control of the whole situation. You were so...self-assured. I'd never seen you as a doctor in action before, and it just blew me away. I don't think I've ever seen you so confident. It was a different side of you that was just...different. And that was redundant and I sound like an idiot. But what I'm trying to say is just that...it was sexy, Tyr. It was sexy." I paused. "You're blushing."

"How could you possibly know that?!"

"Because every time I tell you anything like that, you blush. It's cute." I grinned at her.

~Tyria's POV~

We stood out there for a few more moments, looking at the moon and the stars and the landscape. And listening to the complete, perfect silence. Even without talking, just being with him was enough. With all that had been going on, moments alone were rare, and I'd learned to savor them.

Wedge broke the silence suddenly. "Tyria."

I froze. It wasn't what he said -- he said my name all the time. It was how he said it -- in that tone. The tone that gave me butterflies and made my heart skip a beat. I turned to face him, and our eyes met. We held each other's gaze until I couldn't take it anymore. I pulled him down and kissed him hard, running my fingers through his hair. He cupped his hands around my face as he kissed me back.

"Pulling an extra duty shift this evening, Sir?" A voice broke into the moment and we were forced to pull apart. I turned to see Drake Norlem, one of the High Flight pilots, standing there. I blushed. Stealing a glance at my husband, I saw the tips of his ears going slightly red.

"Oh, uh..." he stammered, "we just...got back and..."

"And apparently you've reached the home stretch. Good evening, Sir." Drake continued on his way past us as if nothing had happened.

Wedge turned to me. "Well. If that didn't completely spoil the mood."

~Wedge's POV~

"Only if you let it spoil the mood," she replied, "Come on, I'll race you back to our quarters."

"You want to race?!" I questioned in surprise, "After delivering that baby and all of that, you've still got energy to race?! I don't think I can make it."

"You'd better believe it, Flyboy! Remember earlier when you said you'd be hoping you could get to third base? Well, now I'm thinking more along the lines of home plate. So you'd better have some energy left!"

Suddenly, I was no longer tired. "Well come on!" I said, jogging past her, "What are you waiting for?!"

*****

~Later~

Next to me, my wife sighed contentedly as I absently stroked her hair. "You sound...happy," I remarked.

"Gee, ya think? Can't imagine why." She paused and said suddenly, "Do you ever feel like you want to do something totally out of the ordinary?"

"Uhh...that was random," I replied, "Out of the ordinary in what way?"

"Well, you know, just like...do something that is entirely out of character. Something that is just completely unlike you, that people would look at you in astonishment and say, 'That was so not like you!' That kind of thing."

"Hmm." Pondering for a few moments, I said simply, "Not really. I mean, I can't think of anything like that that I'd want to do. Why, do you?"

"Sometimes. Sometimes I want to break out of my shell a little bit and just...loosen up a little and for once in my life not be so tightly wound. Just do something that would show that hey, yes, I can lighten up sometimes and have fun, and show people that I do have a life beyond being an uptight, goody-two-shoes colonel."

"In other words you want to break out of your shell and be yourself and have some fun."

"Yeah. That. I want to do something that would be really fun, that would shock people. Well, part of the fun would be derived from shocking people, but...yeah."

"You're making a good start with the dinner tomorrow," I pointed out.

"Ha," she replied, "you're assuming I'll be capable of moving tomorrow."

I laughed. "You'd better be; you promised dinner to the entire squad, and they won't take too kindly to it if you don't come through. Not to mention, you promised Corran you were gonna make him those frosted dewback claws for breakfast. Speaking of which...he claims that since he went shopping with you, and bought you lunch and a magazine, that he's the only one getting any of those things. I was wondering if I might prevail upon you to spare a few for your poor husband? Please?"

"Oh, I see how you are," Tyria laughed, "you've been wanting to make that request since the nanosecond you heard I was making those dewback claws, but you didn't say a word all evening, until now...you don't ask your question until the odds are tipped wildly in your favor."

"Of course. That's the best time to make requests, isn't it? I mean, I really can't see you refusing me anything now, you know?"

"You're right. I'm indebted to you forever. Yes, you can have some of the dewback claws. With extra frosting, too."

"See? All my hard work paid off!"

"Pfft." She sat up suddenly, reaching for her com.

"What are you doing?" I inquired curiously.

"Remember how I said that sometimes I want to do something that's totally unlike me and totally out of character?"

"Yes..."

"Well, I'm about to."

"Should I be scared?" I demanded.

But she merely grinned. Keying a few things into her com, she spoke into it. "May I have your attention please! This is Colonel Tyria Antilles and I have an announcement to make, so listen up! All members of Rogue and Wraith Squadrons...let the record reflect that...Wedge Antilles is a god. Thank you."

~Meanwhile...~
~Reader's POV~

Halley, who had decided to take a nap before waking up for his nightly midnight snack of peanut butter with popcorn, was suddenly jarred awake from a very pleasant dream that had morphed into an image he had never ever thought to think about, and would hopefully never have to dwell upon again.

Corran, filling out some final forms and paperwork in the room he'd claimed as his office, winced as his final illusions about his commanding officer and former apprentice were shattered to the dust with great finality. He made a mental note to demand some heart medication from Tyria in case she made a habit of making such disturbing announcements.

In his quarters, Deven Tarn laughed aloud. Go Wedge! he thought.

Janson, in the computer lab, was oblivious. As always.

~Wedge's POV~

"You did not!" I gasped, grabbing the com from her. But I saw that it had indeed been set to broadcast her declaration to the PA system of the base. And to the Sacul. I closed my eyes in horror. As if our base wasn't bad enough, but now...Face is never gonna let me hear the end of this!

"I can't believe you did that!" I exclaimed as she fell back onto the pillows in a fit of hysterical laughter.

"Neither can I!" she gasped out, still laughing. I couldn't help myself. I laughed too, then leaned down and kissed her deeply. "Wedge!" she exclaimed suddenly when we pulled apart.

"What?" I demanded, kissing her again.

"Make sure that com is turned off!"

I checked it quickly. "Yeah, it is. Good thing; I think the Rogues and Wraiths have had enough entertainment for one night."


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2007 6:33 pm 
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Here we go, the third part of the Flight Yub Yub epic. This would have been the last part, but after an excellent plotting session with Dru last night, you'll have to endure one more part. But it's genius! And, yes, after this story, I'll try to continue my new trend of shorter Plots. This one in particular was the victim of too many ideas crammed into one space, but the humor throughout should keep it very enjoyable, although you may want to read it in multiple sittings.

In the story so far, we have Flight Yub Yub leading a public relations mission that involves a staged pirate attack on a luxury liner. However, the liner is hiding a ship that contains an Imperial engineer who has stolen detailed schematics of the Bloodlust from Grand Admiral Grant in an Imperial operation to either topple Grant or convince him to work with the rest of the Imperial Remnant. The engineer's ship makes a run for it, pursued by one of Grant's Star Destroyers and Flight Yub Yub. Flight Yub Yub gets ahead of the ISD and tracks the fleeing ship to a mysterious planet. Once on the planet, the Rogues infiltrate an Imperial scientist's lair. After fighting their way through one of the last remaining Phase III Dark Trooper, they encounter an eccentric and superhero-costumed Imperial scientist who is bent on destroying Grant and returning the Empire to its former glory. Unfortunately, he also doesn't like intruders, and cages the Rogues. They escape, taking the scientist with them, and steal his ship as Grant's forces invade the planet in search of the Imp scientist and the stolen Bloodlust plans. At this point, Janson returns from the restroom to continue his mission report.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I'm back," said Janson as he returned to Wedge's office to finish his report.

"Did you wash your hands?" asked Wedge.

"Yes."

"Why's your hair wet?" Corran inquired.

"I gave myself a self-swirly. I find them very relaxing."

"Oh, I'll give you one anytime you want," Wedge muttered.

"Anyway," Janson said as he flopped down on the small, worn couch in Wedge's office. "Where was I?"

"This is report time, not nap time, Wes."

"I think better in the horizontal position."

"You were escaping from the planet," Corran reminded, "after thwarting an evil villain in costume."

"Ah, yes, thank you. That's when the
Bloodlust decided to pop in for a visit in addition to the ImpStar already in orbit bearing down on our path to escape. Not exactly the welcome wagon"

"THEY'RE FIRING AT US!" Taz cried in a harsh, strangled voice.

He cleared his throat.

'They're firing at us!" he said in a deeper tone as a shaft of green light burned past them and flash-burned a grove of trees.

Another laser blast from the Star Destroyer high above lanced down in front of them, frighteningly close.

"Get us down to the treeline!" Janson ordered to Leefa as the general grabbed the co-pilot's controls.

The spaceship nosed down sharply and leveled out mere meters above the extensive tree top. A dank mist hovered over the trees, partially obscuring the fleeing craft. Taz and Hayden continued to spray a hail of fire at the pursuing TIEs from their turret controls in the cockpit.

Abruptly the TIEs pulled off pursuit and headed for orbit.

Janson looked at Leefa and shrugged.
Then the Bloodlust opened up.

It was like Armageddon itself had arrived as the sky filled with fire and. Destruction rained from above in sheets of lethal energy, laying total waste to everything it touched.

Leefa wrestled the small starship around a rocky outcropping masked by the roiling clouds of thick smoke.

"We're going to be toast if we stay out here much longer!" Hayden yelled over the din.

"Not even toast!" Janson yelled back. "Fried dewback left in the oven for a half century! Find us another outcropping, Leefa, and we'll lay low until it stops."

"Lasers bad. Lasers bad," Taz moaned, hugging himself and rocking back and forth.

"He wasn't," Wedge insisted.

"No, not actually," Janson admitted, "but I'm trying to add a little drama here."

"As if being pummeled by an
Executor-class Star Destroyer isn't dramatic enough?"

"I live an exciting life," Janson shrugged. "Even things like that can seem a little dull at times. And I can tell you that I did get tired of it, waiting for what seemed like hours for it to finally stop."


"They'll be sending out the ground troops next," the wise general mused, rubbing his grizzled chin and staring intently at the radar display from their perch beneath a rocky overhang.

"That's what I just said," Taz retorted.

"You just read my thoughts, that's all."

Hayden and Leefa returned from their inspection of the ship. "We searched her top to bottom, but we only found these. That leaves us with four hand blasters, two thermal detonators, and a set of rusty throwing knives."

"And our wits," Taz added.

"Well, I wasn't going to bank on those."

"We do have one other weapon," Janson said, popping open IQ's secret compartment and pulling out the detached sections of a SoruSuub X-45 Sniper Rifle.

"Oh, that's what that extremely obvious bulge on the side of his torso is for," Hayden commented.

"No, it's reverse psychology," the general countered. "By putting a very obvious compartment on the side, it makes it look like nothing dangerous could possibly be hidden inside, otherwise it would have been better hidden."

"I think you just couldn't get it to fit," Taz muttered under his breath.

Janson ignored him as he quickly assembled the rifle and slung it over his shoulder.

"There's a city several miles to the east. Grab some necessary supplies, download as much data as you can from this ship, and we'll walk there and steal a new ship."

"What about the professor?" Taz asked, indicating the engineer/mad scientist still tied up in the corner.

"Oh, right."

Janson walked over him and rested the barrel of his rifle against the man's abdomen.

The engineer's muscles had returned to their normal size, and he looked tired and withdrawn. Yet the fury in his eyes showed he still had enough energy to make himself a nuisance.

"Listen up, superman. We could very easily leave you here for the Imps to collect or just shoot you ourselves. But out of the goodness of our hearts, we're going to take you with us. And your only chance of survival from Grant's ground party is to stick with us and do everything we say. If you do get foolish and try to run, though, we've already implanted a small, explosive device inside of you while you were unconscious."

Janson withdrew a small cylinder from a nearby compartment and hovered his thumb menacingly over the base of it.

"One push of this button, and the device will burst, spreading poisons throughout your system that will cause you excruciating pain for about, oh, six hours or so, before it mercifully kills you. Follow?"

The man nodded. "I follow."

Taz caught Jansons eye as he saw the general deposit the sonic toothbrush into his back pocket.

"Anyway," Janson clapped his hands, "Pack light, and we'll be off. Leave the explosives, take the Pringles."

"Speaking of munchies," the portly general interrupted himself and rolled off the couch.

"I knew I had a stash in here somewhere," he mused, sliding his hand between Wedge's couch cushions. "There you are."

He pulled out an unmarked can and popped it open. Wedge gave him "the look" specially reserved for Janson that only he and Face had perfected.

"Ah, meat surprise," Janson dug into it with a spoon produced from his shirt pocket. "Nature's best brain food."

"Is that what you put into it?" Corran coughed.


The prey stalks the hunter, sniffing the air for his scent, haunting his steps through the jungle. The hunter continues forward, cautious but unaware as the prey creeps up behind him and readies for the pounce.

"Whoa...ungh..OOFFF!" Hayden stumbled over a large tree root with Taz and Leefa falling over him.

The general spun around angrily.

"With all the noise you three are making, it's a wonder the entire legion isn't on top of us by now!" he whispered harshly.

"Just how many hours a week do you think we spend crawling through dense, foggy, slime-infested jungles?" Taz asked.

"Besides," Leefa added. "You were the one it took us five minutes to disentangle from that bush back there."

"Shut up," Janson glared. "I would have thought that your movements through the forest would have at least been catlike."

"I am NOT a cat," the Bothan hissed, the fur rising up on his neck.

"I suggest we stop complaining," Hayden said, nervously looking around. "The Imps aren't going to have pity on us and decide not shoot us when they hear us."

The four pilots and engineer crept relatively silently forward through the brush, ears listening for the sounds of their pursuers.

"ACHOO!" exploded into the silence.

Janson spun around angrily to see who was the culprit, but all three of his comrades shook their heads and raised their weapons.

The general motioned for them to crouch in the small gully as he nosed his sniper rifle through a bush.

"Quiet, Lanley!" a voice whispered harshly through a helmet filter. "With all the noise you've been making, I wouldn't be surprised if the Rebels are on the other side of the planet by now."

"Sorry, I'm allergic to moss," a second helmeted voice replied.

Janson pushed aside a leaf to see two Imperial scout troopers standing in a clearing.

"What?! Why did you volunteer for planetside scout duty in the first place?! We're surrounded by moss!"

The other scout trooper shrugged. "I'm more allergic to desk work."

"Good grief. Just remember to mute your helmet speaker before you sneeze."

"You mean, like th-th-thi-thi--" he muted his mic, and his head shook rather comically in silence.

"Ya, and that looks hilarious."

"Ungh. Uck. You don't even want to know what the inside of my helmet is like right now."

"Gross, dude."

"Hey, look at that rabbit. It's got one foot!"

"What? No, dummy, it's got three feet."

"Well, I meant only one back foot, of course. Haha, look at it hop. I wonder what would happen if I shot it."

The other trooper slapped down his barrel. "Idiot! You're already making enough noise as it is. Leave the rabbit alone."

"What's it sniffin' at in that bush?"

"Psst. Psst. Shoo. Shoo!" Janson whispered harshly as the rabbit sniffed curiously at the general's nose.

Janson bared his teeth at the persistent creature. Instead of shying away, the creature flashed his own fangs and sunk them into the general's schnoz. Janson gave a muffled grunt.

"Probably a high-pitched scream," Corran commented."

"What was that?"

The two scout troopers dropped into combat stances, looking every direction for the source of the sound.

"I dunno. Let's check it out."

"No, call it in first."

"Right."

The trooper reached up to adjust his helmet comlink and dropped to the ground dead. The second trooper died as well before he could respond.

Janson grimaced as he slid his rifle barrel back out of the bush. Although he was only behind Myn and Moor in accuracy, he never enjoyed sniping.

"Not very sporting, in my opinion," Janson commented.

There was a chime at the office door before Wedge reply with something sage.

"Come in."

An aide popped his head in, but instead of addressing the commanding general, he swiveled toward the reclining one.

"Sir, your DF-342K has arrived."

"Excellent," Janson sat up excitedly. "Just set them on my desk. I'll unlock my office from here."

"But, sir...they're still...moving."

"Dispatch them for me, would you? I'm a bit busy right now."

"Uh...yes, sir."

Janson sighed and collapsed back onto the couch as the aide scurried off. "It's so hard to get good help around here. Now where was I?"


The humidity hung like an oppressive cloud, weighing down the pilots' spirits as they sloshed quietly through the stagnant stream, their watchful eyes darting back and forth for any sign of the extensive enemy forces dogging their every step.

The river naturally had less cover than the dense jungle, but it still provided a screen of tall grass and allowed them to move twice as quickly toward their destination. Still, Janson didn't like the feeling of slimy creatures slithering over his feet as he walked waist-high through the thick soup.

A flash of light caught Janson's eye, and the water near his right leg heated up to a scorching degree. Ignoring the pain, he ducked his head beneath the water and worked his way over to the bank before popping his head back up in a clump of reeds.

"Anyone see where that came from?" Janson signaled with a hand gesture to the pilots now behind him.

With only half his head above the water, Leefa raised his macrobinculars and scanned the trees. He targeted a spot and transmitted the coordinates to Janson's sniper scope.

The general sighted in, saw the harsh curve of a camouflaged helmet, and squeezed the trigger.

The sniper fell from the tree and landed in a soft bush, muffling the clatter of his armor. Janson signaled Taz to scavenge the body as he moved to a better position to look for more snipers.

Taz gave him a look of, "What am I, bait?" but moved forward nonetheless, crawling on his stomach as he slithered his way up the bank.

He returned with spare power packs, a canteen, and ration bars as Janson sighted another sniper and dispatched him.

"We continued on down the river," Janson said, propping his feet up on the arm of Wedge's couch and staring up at the ceiling, "which widened into a swamp, and had a nasty fight with a small squad of troopers, picking up weapons and minor blaster burns along the way. Then they decided to bring out the long guns."

"TIE," Leefa warned, his keen ears picking up the faraway whine of Twin-Ion Engines.

The pilots dropped to their earlobes in the water as the sound came closer.

"A dupe," Hayden burbled, just before it dropped its payload.

Explosions detonated in a line thirty feet from the river, spraying up fans of white smoke with touches of green and violet.

Taz stared, entranced by the beautiful yet dangerous display before Janson screamed "DOWN!!!"

Having never heard the general scream with terror of that degree, Taz flattered himself against the bottom of the shallow river but could not help looking up.

If Armageddon had come at that moment, Taz wouldn't have noticed, as everything above him was consumed with giant, rolling balls of black and orange fire.

"Hold on, you're narrating from Taz's point-of-view now?" Corran interjected.

"Shush," Janson ordered. "You're ruining the flow of the story."

"It's a story all right," Corran muttered.

"You're just jealous because Wedge only
skims your reports."

"What?!" Corran turned angrily toward Wedge.

General Antilles seemed intensely interested with a loose thread on his shirt cuff.

Janson continued his story before Corran's face could get redder.


The fire consumed everything like an avenging god, incinerating the vegetation with a fury no natural fire could match. The surface of the river steamed and bubbled as the temperature rose to a boiling degree, forcing Taz to dig himself into the cool mud on the bottom to shield his delicate epidermis.

After a minute, which of course seemed like an eternity, the pilot's lungs began to burn. He managed to ignore it for another thirty seconds, then rose to the surface, gasping for air. Unfortunately, there wasn't much air left to be had.

His vision grew gray and sparkly as he gasped for a breath in the large quantities of carbon monoxide. He closed his eyes and concentrated on gathering enough air in the deoxygenated atmosphere. His head dropped below the surface of the water, making him draw in water instead.

Taz sputtered, expelling the liquid for his lungs, and grabbed for a tree branch to hold him up. It seared his hand, causing him to drop it instantly into the water and cradle it in pain. He looked up again at the offending branch, and saw that it was still covered in the boiling napalm goo.

But at least he could finally breath again. He threw his had back and drank in the cool breath as oxygen rushed in to equalize the void. Janson emerged from the water like a sea monster and crawled shakily up the bank. The other pilots followed, stumbling across the smoking lunar landscape into the green trees beyond.

It was several minutes before Janson could speak again as the pilots collapsed beneath the untouched foliage. There was a level of warfare in which a man's adrenaline could allow him to ignore pain and fear in the face of terror and destruction. But there was another level in which all that was torn away, leaving a man exposed and naked to the entire universe crushing down upon him--the level beyond fear.

"And that's the name of my current novel in the works."

"Um...creative?" Corran commented.

"Hold on a second," Wedge interjected. "What happened to the scientist? You haven't mentioned him fifteen minutes."

"Oh..." Janson trailed off in thought. "Him. We got tired of him whining and moaning the whole time, and we figured that all we needed was his brain, so we performed a battlefield lobotomy."


"How's the merchandise?" the general asked.

"Safe and sound," Leefa patted the sack at his side.

"JANSON!" Wedge exclaimed.

"Sorry, couldn't resist."

"That's for sure," Corran muttered.

"It was obvious that he would have rather died than be captured by the Imps, and it soon became obvious to him that sticking with us was the only way to survive, so we handed him a weapon early on. We needed as much firepower as we could get, and from the way he grabbed the gun when I tossed it to him, it was apparent that he knew how to handle a weapon.


"We have to face it, guys. We're not going to make it to any one of the cities before these guys catch us. It's a miracle we've been able to dodge them so far."

"White flag time?" Leefa snorted.

"No, time to go on the offensive," the general replied, cocking his mini-shotgun for effect. "We need to ambush them. A small enough group for us to take, detached from the main force, and with at least five working speeder bikes. And we have to take them down before they can call in every reinforcement on the planet."

"Do you want fries with that?" Taz quipped.

"I love that word," Janson smiled.

"What, 'fries'?"

"No, that too, but 'quipped.' I'll need to edit more of them into my current novel."

"Are you going to make us feel obliged to read this masterpiece of yours?" Wedge grimaced.

"No, no," Janson waved at him. "I wouldn't expect any but the most skilled reader to appreciate all of its subtleties."

"Or the most blind," Wedge said in a cough.


"Bingo," whispered Janson to his three pilots and the professor, who still looked a bit disoriented after having his brain reinserted into his skull. A dozen scout troops were regrouping in a clearing, trading intel and swapping supplies. A couple had even taken the opportunity to remove their helmets and snack on barely edible ration bars.

Janson's master strategizing mind kicked into gear.

"Hayden, sneak through the bushes to the west and take out the two troopers on the left. Leefa, go east and clear out the two Imps on the right. Taz, you and the professor swing around to the north and take out the five guys furthest from us. I'll stay here and snipe the three dudes closest to us. Don't attack until I fire. Comprendé?"

"Ya, just one question," Taz said as the three pilots stared blankly. "Which way's north?"

The general rolled his eyes. "It's the side of the tree the moss grows on."

"But it grows on every side here," Leefa pointed out.

"Good grief," Janson retorted. "Here, you go that way. You go that way. You got that way. And I'll aim this way."

It would have worked perfectly had a scout trooper not sneaked around and cowardly shot the general with a stunbolt in the back once he was alone.

Feeling the paralyzing energy coursing through his body, Janson spread himself out on the ground and made as many contact points as possible to divert some of it away. Still numb and barely conscious, the general waited until the scout trooper was walking over to him, then kicked out his feet to trip him. The soldier lost his balance and tumbled head over heels down the hill.

Having bought himself a few seconds of freedom, Janson--

"Hold on a second," Corran cut in.

"But this is the best part!" Janson protested


--pawed groggily at his pack and removed a--

"Where did IQ go?" Corran interrupted again.

"IQ?"

"Ya, astromech droid. Rubbish barrel-shaped. About yea high. I can't see you creeping through the woods and hiding in bushes with that guy on your back. And I don't see you leaving him behind for anything either."

"Simple. Another battlefield lobotomy. I just removed his brain and stuck it in an ammo carton in my pack."

"
You would do that to your droid?"

"Why not? The droid is only his brain. The rest is just a carcass," Janson said, patting his own paunch. "I'll find him a new body this evening."

"Please continue," Wedge demanded impatiently.


--hypodermic needle and stabbed himself in the leg with a shot of adrenaline. He laid still for several seconds as the effects washed through him, overpowering the cobwebs, then pulled himself to his knees.

The Rogues, having never gotten Janson's signal, had taken advantage of the distraction provided by the tripped scout trooper rolling comically down the hill to attack anyway. Several troopers went down, but the rest dove for cover and returned fire, forcing the pilots to duck down and shift their positions.

Meanwhile, the fallen trooper dashed back up the hill and came at Janson with a growl of ferocity. The general grabbed the barrel of his nearest weapon--his sniper rifle--and swung it like a club. The trooper grabbed it, yanked it out of the general's hands, and tossed it down the hill. He pulled out his own handblaster and aimed it at Janson's head.

The general dove forward to tackle the soldier, but was driven back by a powerful kick to the head. Dazed, he tried to roll away from the inevitable laser blast. But instead of firing, the scout trooper was distracted by a Rogue laser glancing off his helmet. As the soldier turned his head, Janson threw his spent minigun at him, then his pack. The trooper teetered and fell back down the hill.

Janson picked up his fallen blaster and snapped off several shots into the clearing, injuring two troopers. But the rest had already scattered into the surrounding woods, and the whines of more speeder bikes signaled the arrival of reinforcements.

Still experiencing the dueling forces of the stun blast and adrenaline shot, the general stumbled away from the clearing and circled around to meet up with his comrades. He hit the dirt as a flurry of laser blast burned past his scalp. Hunkering down in the tall grass, he fired back through the blades before rolling out of the way as returning fire spat back.

Six scout troopers, he counted. He checked the ammo reading on his blaster. Darn. Six shots. He'd have to split them up if he wanted any chance of surviving this.

"And this is the part where you dug into your sack and threw a Meat Surprise grenade?" Wedge guessed, indicating the can still in Janson's hand.

"No, I tossed them a pan of Sith!Cake and they sat down to have a picnic," Janson joked. "Keep in mind, my backpack was still down the hill, so I threw the only thing I had on me that seemed threatening. The emergency flares strapped to my left calf. Flight Suit Requirement 38-447G. All New Republic Starfighter's Command flight suits for Class A through D starfighters must include no fewer than eight A29-Standard Emergency Flares attached to the upper calf of the left leg."

"You know," said Wedge, "in all my years of flying, I can't recall ever actually using those."

"Except for pranks," Corran added.

Wedge coughed. "Yes, there was the one time."


After several fruitless seconds of searching his person for any sort of distraction device aside from his nearly-spent blaster, Janson's hand fell upon the cylinders strapped to his leg. Biting off the end of each one with his teeth, he tossed them in quick succession at the six troopers. The purple flames didn't burn much of the damp vegetation, but they scorched a stand of bushes, letting off a reeking, overwhelming odor.

"I found that one out quickly following the napalm strike."

The scout troopers scattered, pulling off their helmets as the insufficient filters let the stench get trapped inside. Janson scampered off after the Imp furthest from his comrades.

The Imp was standing in a bowl-shaped clearing and putting his helmet back on as the general crept silently up behind him. He wrapped one arm around his neck, grabbed his head with the other hand, and gave a quick twist. But the helmet was loose-fitting and spun in Janson's grip.

Blinded but now angry, the soldier jabbed an elbow into Janson's gut and roundhoused him with an armored fist, knock the dazed general to the ground. Having dropped his E-11 into a thick bush, the trooper dove at the fallen pilot with a vibroknife.

Janson scrambled for his own blaster and fired. Then let out an audible "oof" as the dead body landed on top of him. He saw stars; then a scout trooper floating in them as he appeared at the lip of the bowl-like depression.

The Imp noticed his fallen comrade first, which was his fatal error. He noticed the general beneath the corpse a millisecond after the laser burned into his chest. The trooper fell like a rag doll and rolled down into the pit on top of Janson as well.

The general struggled to get out from under the weight of the two bodies, but ducked back down as several lasers impacted with their armor--a couple of them ricocheting.

Beneath his newly-dubbed "cover," Janson plugged both of them with neat shots to the head.

Then the fifth trooper showed up and signed Janson's arm, throwing off the general's first shot. The pilot fired his last shot, only hitting the man in the leg.

The Imp tumbled into the pit and collided with the general as he tried to get out of the way. He grappled with the soldier for his blaster, and shots flew wildly into the air. Their faces were only an inch apart as they tried to pull the gun out of each other's grip. Janson breathed hot air on the trooper's helmet eyepieces, fogging them up. Momentarily disoriented, the soldier lost his balance as the general threw his considerable weight on top of him, bringing him to the ground. Janson pressed the blaster onto the man's neck until he lay still.

"FREEZE!" a filter voice yelled from above.

Janson spun around to see the final scout trooper leveling a blaster rifle at him. The general fired his new E-11 on reflex, but it gave an empty click.

SIIIIITTTHHH!!! Janson screamed to himself and threw his body to the side, laser bolts tracing his trajectory.

His hands hit the ground first, grasping another fallen blaster, before the rest of his body impacted, the line of fire cutting too high a curve.

The general blindly held down the trigger as body sank into the soft soil. Five blaster bolts traced up the scout trooper's body from right ankle to forehead. He twisted in a pirouette from the impact, then spun gracefully to the ground, landing in a sitting position with his back propped up against a tree.

Janson lay there amidst the six corpses for a moment to catch his breath and his wits, then leapt to his feet as four figures emerged from the underbrush. They stared at the carnage with looks of incredulity.

"Where were you guys?!?!" Janson demanded. "You missed it all!"

"You can embellish your tale of it later," Taz replied. "Reinforcements are in the vicinity. We've got to nab those speeder bikes before they get here."

"And did you embellish it?" Wedge demanded.

"Phaw. A life such as mine needs no embellishment," Janson said, licking off the spoon from his Meat Surprise meal and sticking it back into his shirt pocket.


"There's no way we're getting to those speeder bikes," Leefa said, crouched on top of a nearby hillock, looking through his macrobinoculars. "I see a command Chariot, and I count three, no, maybe four dozen troops exiting Hoverscouts. They're coming this way."

"Emperor's black bones!" Janson exclaimed as he dove into the dirt beside Leefa and looked through Leefa's macrobinoculars.

"They were swarming out the vehicles like a Camassi fire drill," Janson explained, "and I put their numbers more at five dozen. These troops were also wearing camouflage. We scampered around the recent battlefield and gathered our gear, ammo, and more weaponry in 60 seconds flat. The Imps were coming fast, but that also meant they were confident about their 60 to 5 ratio and weren't being careful or quiet. Rather, they were running in order to flank us on all sides.

"At this point, I wordlessly threw the scientist an EE-3 blaster carbine, a Power 5 heavy blaster pistol, and a DH-17. I didn't care if the fellow wanted to see my slow roast over an Ewok fire as long as he was pointing the weaponry in the Imps' direction.

"For myself, I opted for a T-21 light repeating blaster, an E-11, and a Scout trooper holdout blaster to complement my sniper rifle.

"We could see troops already behind us and to our left, so we angled away from them, running through the trees at the top of a ridge, keeping our height advantage. From our position, I could see enough clearings with troops running through them to gauge their general maneuvers. They were following standard Imperial strategies, but at a faster clip than I normally saw. It was obvious they excited for the hunt, and that their commanders had given them a bit too much freedom. I figured that could help us if we could keep ahead of them long enough for their ranks to scatter.

"Then things got really unfair when an enormous X-85 Titan dropship plunged out of the sky from the
Bloodlust above and let off six more Hoverscouts and a second Chariot directly in our path, about two miles from our position. Troopers disgorged themselves like upchucking Adegan eels and split into two groups, one running to our left, the other to our right. The Imps had formed two pincers, and they were quickly clamping down."

"GO! GO!" Janson screamed as he realized what was happening.

He headed straight toward the gap, a couple miles ahead, tearing through the jungle with abandon. The Rogues and Imp scientist followed, crashing through branches, palm fronds, and shrubbery.

"We managed to get ahead of most of the hoard, but as we ran downhill through a slanted gully, I could hear speeder bikes in the trees to our left. Due to the thick vegetation, they couldn't fly very fast, but were able to keep up with us and not tire. We shot at two bikes that slipped past the treeline, forcing them back in. Another bike angled at me from my right, and I turned to shoot him as I ran. But as I did, the ground suddenly dropped out from beneath me, and I tumbled down a hill, coring the biker in the helmet with a single shot while rolling end over end."

"Hah! Right," Wedge snorted.

"No, really!" Janson insisted.

"Luck shot," Corran said.

"We turned into a thicker grove of trees, evading speeder bike pursuit, and suddenly came upon--"

"Wait," Wedge interjected.

"What? This is a good part."

"It just seems odd to me that they'd be expending that many troops to chase you instead of just frying you from above," the commanding general pointed out, the tone in his voice suggesting doubt in Janson's tale.

"The way I figure it," Janson explained," is, one, they wanted to give their troops some more practice in forest operations, two, shooting at us with SSD lasers would vaporize us without them knowing whether they'd actually gotten us or not, and three, I think they were enjoying the thrill of the chase more than we were.

"All that being said, we broke into a clearing in full run, and right in front of us eight scout troopers looked up in surprise. They were standing around four speeder bikes and apparently awaiting a belated signal to join pursuit of us. They took one look at us, running straight at them with enough armaments to take down an AT-AT, and they ran. By that time, too, we were so covered in mud, dirt and leaves, that we probably looked more like swamp monsters anyway.


"Rookies," Janson snorted as he halted in surprise in front of the five awaiting speeder bikes. "Looks like we've found our rides, boys."

"Janson, you've got one slipping up behind you at 7 o'clock!" Taz warned as soon as they were off.

"I see him. Jam their transmissions--center switch," Janson ordered as he flew at breakneck speed through a maze of tree trunks. "We're going to have to lose the big party back there."

A laser burned past the general, causing him to juke to the right out of reflex, nearly smashing him into a large rock. He fired his braking jets and nosed up, letting his bike's repulsar lift "bounce" him off the hard surface. Two more lasers burned close. Janson was tempted for a moment to grab his hand blaster and shoot behind him, but he knew if he took his attention off maneuvering the dangerous course through the forest for even a second, he'd make a nice, pretty fireball he wouldn't be alive to see.

Then the trees unexpectedly dissolved into a large meadow. Pink, triple-crowned flowers waved lackadaisically in the breeze. Mist-draped mountains formed a backdrop for the stand of majestic trees encircling the glen. And shiny, red lasers burned past Janson's head.

The long grass parted in waves as the general pulled hard to the left, coming around in a tight loop that brought him back to the tree line. He held his thumb on the speeder bike's trigger as his pursuer emerged from the woods, flying directly into Janson's line of fire. Laser fire splattered across the vehicle, splitting it three sections, none of which could sustain flight on their own.

The scout trooper hit the turf in a lifeless clatter of armor in rolled for at least a hundred feet before coming to rest in a cluster of daises.

The rest of the Rogues entered the meadow, weaving crazily to avoid laser fire from their pursuit. Janson gunned his engine and sped toward the troopers, firing rapidly. Laser blasts traced along the length of one speeder bike, separating each component. The scout trooper suddenly found himself operating only a seat and handle bars and promptly tumbled to the grass in a clatter of armor as the explosive remains of his vehicles exploded.

The rest of the Rogues turned on their pursuers, and soon speeders were tracing their way in a deadly dance around the meadow, trying to connect each other with red beams of light.

Hayden's lasers picked a trooper clean off his bike, allowing the vehicle to safely slow to a stop as its accelerator lever was released. But the pilot was forced to bail as laser blast decimated the back end of his speeder bike, sending it into a spin. Hayden bounced and rolled along the grass before ending in a lifeless heap.

The scientist incredibly came to his defense, circling around him and hitting a biking trooper in the leg with a full-powered blast. He slipped his bike into a slide, decimating the last bike with a line of fire.

Taz gaped, then slid to a stop next to the fallen pilot.

"Hayden, give me a sign here," Taz demanded, pulling a small med pack from his rucksack.

But the pilot didn't respond.

"He's still breathing, but it's shallow. Collapsed lung, probably."

Janson confirmed it by running a portable x-ray over his neck. "We're going to have to do a Tracheotomy. Looks like a couple of his limbs are crushed too."

"You've gotta pull through, Hayden," Leefa insisted, even though the pilot couldn't hear him.

"I'll skip the gory details, but we successfully inserted a tube into his lung and carefully put him on a speeder bike. We knew we were probably damaging limbs beyond repair, but leaving him there would mean certain death."

"Taz, hook Hayden's bike to mine. I'll tow it. Let's get into the tree cover. We need to concoct a new plan."

"Times passes," Wes transitioned, adding a flurry of musical notes.

"Explain again how this will actually work," Jason said doubtfully.

"We need a distraction the pull the enemy off our tail so we can grab a ship. So, we'll send our fake selves flying in the wrong direction while our real selves sneak up to the ship, dispose of a few remaining sentries, and run for orbit," Taz explained.

"And how are you going to create convincing fake images of ourselves?"

"Simple, with the speeder bike's built-in holoprojectors. They're standard on all Imperial models. We put the holoprojectors in record mode while we sit on the bikes pretend riding. A little swaying side-to-side, a bit of ducking, and some occasional looking over our shoulder. We'll record a good five-minute loop, then project the images of ourselves onto the bikes in the exact same riding positions. Fortunately, the Imps finally updated the holoprojectors to full-color, high-quality. Then, we send four speeder bikes flying on autopilot to a chosen waypoint far away from us. The illusion will be perfect."

Janson snorted. "Somehow, I doubt they'll even last five minutes. Especially when they see four of us instead of five."

Hayden shrugged. "We won't even need five minute's distraction to hijack a ship."

"A week's pay if it doesn't work," Wes said.

"If it doesn't work, we'll probably be dead."

"Then it'll give you incentive to live."

* * *

General Janson smiled to himself as the Imps took the bait and raced after the four holographic figures speeding by on bikes. At least he hadn't specified a general's week's pay in the bet.

Two felled guards later, and they were aboard an Imperial-issue Gat-12j Skipray Blastboat, blasting toward space.

The three Rogues and Imp engineer easily slipped into the large starfighter's pilot, co-pilot, and gunnery stations, leaving the unconscious Hayden on the floor strapped to a makeshift pad.

"We've got a Skipray on our tail," Taz report from the co-pilot/sensory officer's station.

"Good," said Janson. "I hate flying alone."

"Correction. We have five Skiprays on our tail."

"Must have had a sale."

"And I'd hate to mention this, but we've also got two wings of TIEs come at us over the horizon from both sides."

"Eeyooookay, this isn't getting any prettier," Janson paled.

"And the Bloodlust is dead ahead," Taz reported.

"Can I go home now? I don't want to play anymore."

[To be concluded]


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 1:27 am 
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Fourth and final part of Flight Yub Yub epic.

In the story so far, we have Flight Yub Yub leading a public relations mission that involves a staged pirate attack on a luxury liner. However, the liner is hiding a ship that contains an Imperial engineer who has stolen detailed schematics of the Bloodlust from Grand Admiral Grant in an Imperial operation to either topple Grant or convince him to work with the rest of the Imperial Remnant. The engineer's ship makes a run for it, pursued by one of Grant's Star Destroyers and Flight Yub Yub. Flight Yub Yub gets ahead of the ISD and tracks the fleeing ship to a mysterious planet. Once on the planet, the Rogues infiltrate an Imperial scientist's lair. After fighting their way through one of the last remaining Phase III Dark Trooper, they encounter an eccentric and superhero-costumed Imperial scientist who is bent on destroying Grant and returning the Empire to its former glory. Unfortunately, he also doesn't like intruders, and cages the Rogues. They escape, taking the scientist with them, and steal his ship as Grant's forces invade the planet in search of the Imp scientist and the stolen Bloodlust plans. Flight Yub Yub, with the Imperial scientist now fighting alongside them, are pursued across the surface of the planet by Grant's forces, escaping death many times through their luck, ingenuity, and Janson's tale-telling abilities. They steal a Skipray Blastboat, but are pursued by an enormous force, that drives them directly into the jaws of the Bloodlust.

[Dum. Dum. DUMMMM...]

Written by Corran Horn and Dru Kargin

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now I need to use the restroom," said Wedge, getting up from his desk and walking out of the office.

Corran shuffled around in his chair.

Janson whistled a bit of a tune, then forgot the rest of the song and stopped.

Corran rapped his fingers on Wedge's desk.

Janson made popping sounds with his mouth.

Shuffle. Shuffle.

Whistle.

Rap. Rap. Rap. Rap.

Pop. Pop.

"Ahh, I feel much lighter now," Wedge commented, returning from the refresher unit. "Now are we getting to this glorious finale of yours?"

"Are you mocking my mission report?"

"No," General Antilles put up his hands in innocence, "but with all this build-up, I'm expecting something impressive."

"Just to warn you, though, I may lose you here for a few minutes, because this is going to be way over your head, but trust me, it's the best part of the whole dang story."


"It's a trap!" Leefa croaked.

"Really?!" General Janson retorted sarcastically, his hands firm on the helm of the Skipray Blastboat, driving for deep space. "You mean you didn't actually realize that 20 minutes ago when the rest of us did?!"

There was one thing Janson hated worse that dying, and that was dying while annoyed. Ever since the five Skiprays and the two wings of TIE Fighters had latched onto their jet trail, it had been obvious that they were forcing the Rogues into a direct path with the Super Star Destroyer Bloodlust. The general had tried to slip past them, but while the Skipray was even faster than aT-65 Incom starfighter, the TIE Interceptors in pursuit were 50 kmh faster and were approaching from either side.

The Bloodlust loomed ahead. Janson looked at it. Blinked. And looked again. It was impossible to gauge its size with nothing to compare it with, and knowing that it was 11.8 miles in length just didn't help much.

Needless to say, it was getting uncomfortably bigger, and it wouldn't be long before one of its many tractor beams would lance out and ensnare the little blastboat.

Janson dove into a bag, withdrew IQ's innards, ripped open a control panel on the onboard computer system, and hastily tethered the whole mess together with a spaghetti of wires.

"What the heck are you doing?" Leefa demanded, panicked.

"I don't know, I don't know," Janson muttered, working furiously. "I just had an insane idea. I doubt it will work."

"Well, don't leave us in the dark here," Taz demanded. "I don't want my last words to be 'Uhhhh...'"

'We're going to try to evade the super star destroyer's tractor beams."

"That's impossible."

"That's a slightly irrelevant point when we don't have any other options besides death and surrender."

"We could just try to construct a miniature death star superlaser out of a Tic-Tac container too," Leefa retorted.

"Seriously," Janson commented to Wedge and Corran, "I have a squadron of fatalists."

The general sighed heavily. "Okay, here's what I'm doing, and only because I need your help. Tractor beams work on the principle of projecting a beam of gravity that latches onto solid masses, right? We can't see them, but they are affecting space along the entire length of the beam. If we turn on our own cargo tractor beam, we could swing it in a rapid pattern in order to "detect" the other tractor beams. As the tractor beams pass through each other, they'll be a noticeable tug."

"Ya, and what's to keep the tractor beams from latching onto each other and dragging us ever so faster toward impending doom?" Leefa demanded.

"We swing our tractor beam fast enough so that unfortunate little scenario doesn't happen."

"Now let me get this straight," Taz insisted, "You're going feel the tug of the other tractor beams and somehow figure out where they are fast enough to avoid them, even though they'll be swinging too?"

"Not possible," Janson replied.

"That's what I'm trying to convey here."

Janson shook his head. "Why the heck did you think I plugged IQ into the ship? To download new music? IQ will note the tug of our tractor beam on their tractor beams, then use that data to construct a visual display of the swinging beams and project that onto my viewport so I can navigate past the beams. I'll be flying through a graphical maze.'

"Ya, a maze with constantly moving walls," Leefa snorted.

"I won't be any harder than shooting womp rats in my T-16 back home."

"That's Luke's line."

"It's entirely possible that I became general in the most elite starfighter squadron the galaxy because I possess extraordinary piloting abilities. They didn't promote me for inventing a toothpaste tube that could get all the paste out without having to roll it."

"Wait, you invented one?" Leefa asked in surprise.

"Uh, no," Janson blinked in confusion. "I don't...I don't think so. But my point is, I think I can actually do this."

"You know," the engineer spoke for the first time in hours from one of the gunnery positions, "I realize that this is your scheme to cheat death, but seeing as I'm involved as well and have even less of a desire to become a guest of Grant, I'd like to point out that it's obvious you nerfherders, despite your technical proficiency, know nothing about starship tractor beams. They don't shine them around like glowlamps waiting for a ship to get caught in their path. Basically, the configuration you describe sounds, tactically, like "hunting blind," flailing their arms about hoping to grab a gnat. That'd be an idiotic waste of energy. Rather, they simply use their targeting system to target a ship, then fire the tractor beam at it. It'd be impossible to avoid. Sorry."

Janson deflated like a large balloon.

"Actually," Janson explained, "I was just as disappointed because he'd ruined the entire premise to my next book."

"Good grief," said Wedge.


"I may be an idiot compared to you guys when it comes to technology, but wouldn't the obvious solution be to make ourselves difficult for the Bloodlust's targeting system to track?" Leefa piped up, glancing nervously out the viewport at the dagger-shaped SSD.

"Skipray Blastboat's don't exactly come equipped with a cloaking device," Janson shot him a look that very well suggested he was an idiot. "And we don't have sensor reflective plating either."

"And constructing a disruption field out of spare parts is out of the question," Taz added.

General Janson drummed his fingers on the control board, deep in thought.

"We could always slice the Bloodlust," the engineer suggested.

Janson sat straight up. "I'm figuring that you're not referring to physically splitting the ship in two but rather the more improbable task of hacking a Super Star Destroyer's targeting system to turn it off."

"That's right."

The general shook his head. "Now this is my field. First, we'd have to be within the shields, which means already being in the grip of a tractor beam. Second, it'd take years, heck, decades to slice into an SSD from scratch, even with detailed schematics of the ship's computer system. We'd have to have system profiles, access codes, passwords or even a backdoor code just to get started!"

The scientist smiled. "I'm sure you're well aware of the fact that programmers tend to be a lazy, careless bunch. Since they hate work, they're going to create simple backdoor command followed by a simple authorization. It just so happens that one of them left his backdoor codes on the actual schematics for the Bloodlust. You did think to steal them before you blew my place up, right?"

"What kind of imbeciles do you think we are?" Janson retorted, producing the datacard from his pouch.

He inserted it into IQ. The droid immediately projected the three-dimensional schematics of the Bloodlust and zoomed in on the targeting system. The engineer navigated closer.

"You know this system?" Janson inquired.

"Not as well as I'd liked. I've studied the Bloodlust for weaknesses, but I never thought I'd be slicing into it while being sucked into its hangar. Ah, there we go. Here's the backdoor. It's for servicing defunct computer systems. Its purpose is to get in and take computer systems offline for maintenance or reboot a crash."

"I know all that," Janson said impatiently.

"Seriously," the general interjected. "I've never met anyone who put so much effort into insulting my intelligence."

"It's obvious that he was an expert programmer too," Corran pointed out.

Janson snorted. "A middling one at best."


"We don't have time to get into the targeting system itself," the scientist continued, "but we may be able to do something on a root level that will do the trick."

"Like issuing a command to overflow the garbage compactors so everyone has to evacuate that section of the ship?" Taz suggested.

Both programmers ignored him.

"We could reboot the root system, which might prevent the systems from communicating so sensors work but can't talk to targeting," Janson contemplated.

The engineer shook his head. "The system's too modular for that."

Janson gave a short laugh. "Ya, I guess they figured out after the Death Star that having one weak point that can take down the whole station isn't ideal. Could we focus our attack only on the targeting module in order to make it more plausible?"

The engineer sifted through layers of basic computer systems in the schematics. "We could disable a modular system by writing a cascading 'virus' sort of program that goes from system to system, dropping the reboot backdoor. That would disable as much, or as little, of the systems as we wanted, since some systems will require hardware interaction or would use a different backdoor. An intelligent design of the systems would have several layers of modularity, both vertical and horizontal. Not only do you have different levels in the computer hierarchy, to avoid losing the whole ship when one processor goes down, but you have the 'nodes' in that hierarchy split across the ship. So you don't just have 'the targeting module,' you have 'the full forward targeting module' and the 'fore-starboard targeting module' and so on. So, to disable all targeting, we'd need to write a 'virus' to batch in the code to each one in sequence. It's a silly script that would take about 1 minute to write. The script would attack module after module in a sequence since we can't log in to every module, disable it, then log in to the next one."

"And we wouldn't need to disable the entire ship's targeting system," Janson added, "because we can hang around on specific spot. If the Bloodlust rolls in order to expose us to an unaffected region, we can easily 'roll' with it. We'll be able to do that long enough for the scripts to do their dirty work and allow us to escape."

The engineer nodded. "This all comes back to the backdoor code, which is more complicated than simply knowing one command. I also have to know where to login with the backdoor account, know the backdoor account, know the backdoor access code, know the backdoor root's specific shell commands, and know the secondary backdoor code to authorize life-system reboots."

"Yes, yes, I realize all this," Janson added quickly.

"All of which I happen to know because I spent plenty of time in my lab studying these plans and, more importantly, I'm just plain brilliant," the engineer smirked.

"I would have spaced him at that moment just for the smug look he had on his face if he didn't have the data I needed," Janson grumbled from his position on the couch.

"Anyway, this marvelous script I'm about to write is just a series of shell commands. It'll shut down as many targeting nodes as we want, within about a millisecond of each other. They might be down for... 2 minutes."

"That might be enough time to get out of the tractor beam's range again," Janson surmised.

"It would be, and significantly so," the scientist confirmed. "Tractors are not particularly long range, especially for small targets. And a Skipray is significantly faster than an SSD, so it'll put good space between us two in a hurry. However, once the targeting system goes down after we run the script through it to disrupt the targeting system's communication for a couple minutes, the Bloodlust will still be able to operate the tractor beams manually via the glowlamp beam scenario. That's where your original experiment will come into play."

Janson took a little bow. "So, to summarize.... We let a tractor beam take hold of us--as if we'll have a choice--and let it pull us toward the Bloodlust. Once we're inside the shields, and before we get sucked into a hangar bay, we transmit our virus script via a backdoor in the targeting system. The script takes down enough modules to disrupt the targeting system for a couple minutes, breaking the tractor beam's hold on us and forcing the Imps to swing the beams manually in an effort to lock back onto us. I'll be using our own tractor beam to 'detect' their tractor beams via gravitational pulls when our beams cross. IQ will translate that data into visual representations of their beams and project it on our viewport, giving me a virtual maze to fly through in order to escape the beams. We slip past the SSD, hold off the few starfighters that manage catch up with us, jump to hyperspace, and congratulate our collective genius when we get to base."

"Basically," the engineer confirmed.

"ARE YOU GUYS FREAKIN' DONE YET?!?!" Leefa screamed as the Bloodlust filled the Skipray's viewport and a tractor beam latched onto the ship.

"That's what I've been wondering," Corran muttered.

"So did it work?" Wedge asked.

"Well, we're bloody here, aren't we?!" Janson retorted.

"After all that techno mumbo jumbo discussion that seems like it would have taken far more time than you actually had, I figured that you probably just discovered a big red button that just shuts the whole sithin' SSD down," Wedge spat back.

"And it wasn't just a few starfighters that had caught up to them by the time Sanity Flight and High Flight Squadron arrived," Corran added. "They had half the Imperial navy swarming them, and if it wasn't for our ferocious, head-on attack that made the Imps scatter, Flight Yub Yub would be free-floating atoms right now. We barely all made it to hyperspace as it was. When Janson sent us the call for reinforcements, he didn't tell us we'd need an entire fleet!"

"Oh, there was one thing I wanted to ask you, Wes," Wedge said. "Could we use those backdoor codes again in our final strike against the
Bloodlust?"

"Yes, but we'd better be ready to blow the whole ship up at that point, because it was one chance in a hundred that we actually escaped."

"Wait," Corran interjected, "don't you think that the Imps would change the backdoor codes or get rid of the backdoor all together after this has happened?"

Janson shook his head and laughed. "Actually, this is the best part of the whole story." He sniggered some more before he could continue. "The presence of the backdoor would be easily deduced. Finding it and changing it would be tougher, particularly since it's probably hardcoded. Remember, this access code isn't for any sort of regular access. You're not going to log in with it for regular maintenance. This is 'I'm recovering a derelict and I don't know any of the passwords, so I'm going to use the universal backdoor to get in and make myself a real account and reboot the modules to bring them back online.' Getting rid of this backdoor would work... but it would involve recoding the OS kernel, or at least the shell, and reinstalling it on every computer core in the ship."

"Would it be worth it?" Wedge asked.

Janson continued without answering, "And if they didn't design the SSD themselves, they may not have the source code, which would mean they'd be writing it from the ground up. It'd take them five years.

"Wow," said Corran. "I guess they'd have to get the source code from the builder -- demands, payments, threats, theft, etc."

"That depends on how tight-lipped the original designers were with their code," Janson answered. The Imperial designers, which probably aren't part of Grant's force, don't trust anyone but themselves with the secrets of the source code. They'd have compiled it and distributed it in binary, to avoid slicers being able to find holes in the source to exploit."

"Protecting it like a Hutt's lair," Corran asked.

"Right. So, the OS source code is hiding someplace, in a computer system not connected to any remote networks, in a dungeon."

"In the stomach of a Hutt lord," General Horn added.

"So Grant could be running around Imperial space right now, desperately searching for the source code for his computer system's OS before we can slice into his SSD again and do some real damage this time," Wedge surmised.

"Yes, that's quite possible," Janson confirmed. "But, again, the backdoor would be fairly limited. It would let you create admin accounts, which you could then use to glean the information and do basic maintenance stuff like reboot, shutdown, power up, etc. Maybe a memory dump too."

"Every time we're in range of the
Bloodlust we could wreck havoc on their systems?" Wedge asked, rubbing his hands together.

"Keep in mind," Janson cautioned, "that we would need to be inside the shields to do anything."

"So then only for the final battle," Wedge said. "We could insert you and/or your tech team to momentarily shut down key systems to help the boarding party."

"Exactly," Janson grinned.

"Sounds great," Wedge clapped his hands. "So which holding cell do we have this scientist in?"

"Oh, I released him when we arrived on the
Arrow," General Janson replied.

"YOU WHAT?!?!"

"Cool it, Wedge. I knew he wouldn't be flight risk once I learned a little something about him. I almost forgot to mention this, but while we were in hyperspace on the way back here...


"You know," the scientist said as he relaxed in his gunners chair, "I thought that maybe Rogue Squadron had lost its edge over the years -- wasn't exactly the elite squadron it still claimed to be. But after seeing that flying back there and how you managed to survive on that planet and keep me alive too, I can't say that your squadron has lost any of its penchant to beat the odds. In fact, your ability to creative ability to get out of seemingly impossible situations seems to have increased over the years."

"Well, thank you," Janson beamed. "That's quite a complement, especially coming from an Imp. So you were pretty familiar with us back in the day, eh?"

"Ya, you could say that. I even flew with you for a while, though I didn't wear spandex superhero costumes and I went by the name of--" the scientist grabbed the side of his face and tore it off.

There was a knock on Wedge's office door.

"Ah, perfect timing," Janson said, pressing a button on his sleeve.

The lights in the office abruptly dimmed to a dim red, then began to pulse with blue as a pulsing techno beat shook the small room. The door burst open in a puff of smoke, and a figure somersaulted in, fireworks shooting from his arms and legs as he--

"JANSON!" Wedge yelled, "stop with the narration! Story's over now. Dru merely walked in."

"Oh, ya," Janson said, looking at Dru Kargin, who had merely walked in after knocking.

General Janson cleared his throat.

Ehem.

He cleared it again.

Ehem.


"There, that's better. Out of story mode. Into real-time mode now."

Wedge gave him a peculiar look, then turned his attention back to the new arrival.

"Commander Kargin, this is an unexpected but pleasant surprise. Or is it still General Kargin?"

Dru held the salute until General Antilles returned it and took a seat, adopting a far more casual posture, akin to his mercenary days.

"Haven't been a self-proclaimed general in years," he said. "I'm sure you have a lot of questions about my whereabouts, so let me start at the beginning. "

Dru sighed and heaved his booted feet up onto a vacant chair nearby. "Where've I been? Well, that's a decent enough question I suppose." His right hand thoughtfully found his beard and grabbed at it, while looking lost in thought.

"Well, I believe you're both aware," he indicated Generals Antilles and Horn, "that information brokering was something I'd always wanted to try my hand at. So, after I resigned Rogue Squadron a few years ago, I spent some months fading from the radar, hopping from place to place, making contact in-person only to keep myself off the HoloNet. You know, standard procedure."

Janson grinned not-so-inwardly, "Dru, for you, staying off the HoloNet has never been standard procedure."

Dru returned the grin with a slight chuckle, "Well, anyhow, I made good use of my time, making a few good contacts and finding myself a crew I could trust. That's when I took on the title General Kargin of the Hawkbats. I borrowed an old freighter, just an old Action VI -- no Wild Karrde, but a fine ship -- and started doing honest cargo hauling. I picked my runs carefully, and at every destination, a good part of the profits went toward buying information. Long story short, after a year or two we were doing pretty good business trafficking everything from corporate secrets to smuggled 'stim. We picked up a few Z-95s and mounted some Quad-Cannons on the Stingray for defense and made a small name for ourselves in the world of underground information trafficking."

Wedge arched an eyebrow and looked ready to comment, but Dru cut him off. "No, General, I know what you're thinking, but I didn't sell any of your secrets. Everything I learned here that I swore to keep secret is still locked up in here." He tapped his right temple for effect. "I went to great pains, in fact, to keep the topic even from surfacing, so I wouldn't be tempted.

"Well, business was good, up until about a year and a half ago. We got ambushed while planet-side, and lost two of our best. We were a close group, and the squad just wasn't the same after that. After a month or two of tying up loose ends, we decided it was time to part ways."

Wedge recognized the smoldering ash of loss and defeat in Dru's eyes as the younger man sighed heavily. He knew the feeling all too well. Shifting his feet, Dru distracted himself for a moment, lighting a finely-crafted pipe and giving it a good suck.

"After that, I liquidated my share of the assets and picked up a black-market X-Wing, which I currently have parked on a nearby moon. It took me a full month to get it in flying condition, but when I did, I started taking high-risk, high-pay gun-for-hire jobs, originally as a front for more information dealing. Turns out, though, that people are a lot less likely to trust a one-man outfit in a snubfighter, and I didn't have a lot of success with the latter. About six months ago, I landed a job to infiltrate one Dr. Ghanz -- that's your mad scientist, Wes, er, General Janson -- steal some information, and dispatch him. Well, he was one tough cookie to crack. To get in, I wound up signing on as his 'apprentice;' I tell you, this guy had an ego that would make Palpatine weep. Well, once I got in, three things became obvious: this guy was as sadistic as he was narcissistic, he was a brilliant designer, and he was ridiculously well connected. I quickly realized that I could make more money selling his secrets than the original job paid, so I decided to play the game for a while and see what happened. Turns out, about two months ago, he went and killed himself in one of his experiments, so I whipped up a good disguise, and started masquerading as our mad scientist."

Janson chuckled, "A real stretch for you, I'm sure."

Dru smiled broadly, "Well, the genius was natural, of course. The sadism and cruelty, though, were tougher, so I mostly made up for that with finely-worded threats. Anyhow, his contacts were just as morally bankrupt as he was, and all that exposure to vile cruelty was making me start to rethink what I really wanted to do with all my information. I had almost talked myself out of rejoining the war, but then Janson and Flight Yub Yub stumbled in, and well, the rest is history. I mean, his story. Whichever."

General Antilles tapped his chin for a long moment in silence, then spoke: "You know, it's incredible how you just summed up the last three-and-a-half years or so of your life in two minutes, yet it took Wes TWO HOURS to relate ONE DAY!"

"Touché" said Janson.

"There are a couple parts of Janson's story that include you that still don't make sense to me, though," Wedge added.

"Yes?" Dru asked.

"The superhero costume."

"All part of the role. Dr. Ghanz wore it in his psychotic mad scientist phases. I believe he truly thought that he had super powers."

"Trapping my pilots in a cage and threatening to kill them?"

"Keeping up appearances, and I thought they were bumbling Imps at the time."

"The muscle-making, expanding, whatever you call it machine you were inside of?"

"Legitimate. It would have worked had Janson not destroyed it. Now the technology is lost forever."

"Not revealing your identity until the end?"

"I enjoy surprise endings. And, as I alluded to before, I wanted to see if the Rogues were still up to snuff. I was conflicted when I first saw them, realizing they were a possible link to returning to RS, yet I wasn't sure if I wanted to or could even return to this life. At first, I was hoping I could slip away, remain anonymous, and return to my mercenary life elsewhere, but as we escaped death time after time together throughout the day, I got nostalgic."

"Your desire now?"

"To rejoin Rogue Squadron and fight for a cause once again."

"Done," said Wedge, "granted you pass the normal tests we have to put all new and returning pilots through. Just to make sure you're still up to snuff for us."

"Understood, sir."

"Janson, take him down to the simulator room, then have the med droids administer a physical test."

Once they left, Wedge let out a long, tired breath and stared up at the ceiling.

"Quite a few surprises today."

"For sure," Corran replied.

"How's Hayden doing?"

"Not good. Tyria thinks he'll pull through, but he's sustained massive injuries. I'd forgotten he's allergic to bacta because he's rarely gotten injured until now, but it looks like he'll need a lot of limb and organ replacements to ever be brought up to flight status again."

"I see," Wedge said grimly. "We'll do everything we can for him. In the meantime, Commander Kargin will fly in his stead. I'm not convinced it's safe yet to put RDM in a cockpit."

"Safe for him or safe for us?"

"Exactly," Wedge replied. "What do you think of Janson's mission report? Just how accurate was it?"

"Mostly accurate, I'd say, but highly dramatized. We can ask Dru later. I already questioned Leefa, and all he said was , 'First my life flashed before my eyes when the ImpStar was trying to kill us. Then my life flashed before my eyes when the lightning field was trying to kill us. Then my life flashed before my eyes when the Dark Trooper was trying to kill us. Then my life flashed before my eyes when the mad scientist was trying to kill us. Then my life flashed before my eyes when the Bloodlust was trying to kill us. Then my life flashed before my eyes when all the guys on the planet were trying to kill us. Then my life flashed before my eyes when those starfighters were trying to kill us. Then my life flashed before my eyes when the Bloodlust was trying to capture us. Then my life flashed before my eyes when the mad scientist pulled his face off, and--and--and...can I got to bed now?'"


[Four-part series concluded, nearly 20,000 words later. Thank you for reading. Redeem your prize at the counter.]


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