Category Archives: Stories

Yours, Kaidan

I… I can’t.  This is too much right now.  I don’t want to do this without you.


I can’t sleep without dreaming about you.  We’re in some sort of forest only it was too green and you are so far away from me.  I try to run, but I can never reach you.  You just keep walking away from me.  You don’t even look back.

I wake up in a cold sweat every night.  You’re still not here.  I need you to come back again.


It’s been a few weeks now.  They found Anderson’s body.  They still haven’t found…

Everything is so different.

I miss you so much.

Please don’t be gone.


I’m supposed to be recording my thoughts.  They said it would make it… easier…  I’m not sure how it’s supposed to make you… being gone easier.  It’s been a month now.  We’re getting used to this new existence.  Joker and EDI seem so happy.

I envy them.

I love you.

I miss you.


Shepard,

We put your plaque up today on the wall in the mess, right above Anderson’s.  You’re really gone this time.

The first time you died… well… I wasn’t ready for that.  I’m not sure we can ever be ready for someone we love to die suddenly, but that was too sudden.  I didn’t want to accept it.  It took so long for me to move on.

And then you came back.  I thought it was our chance to start over, to finally get the ending we deserve after all those battles and all this war and all this suffering.  I can still hear your last words to me “No matter what happens, know that I love you.  Always.”

I will always love you, Shepard.

I don’t know what to do now.

I miss you.

Kaidan.


Shepard,

Liara said it is good that I’m talking to you like this.  Cortez isn’t so sure.  We had a good talk, Cortez and I.  He told me about his husband and how you helped him let go.  I’m not ready yet, to let you go.  It’s only been a little over a month since…

The Reapers are helping us rebuild Earth.  Whatever you did, you did an amazing job.  I knew you would.

It’s still too new, but I get it now.  The first time you died, it was so sudden that I couldn’t really understand.

This time, I think I’m starting to understand.  Doesn’t make the bed any less cold at night.  I miss you so much.

Love,

Kaiden


Hey Shepard,

I had another dream about you last night.  We were in that forest, only it was different this time.  It wasn’t as green this time and I could just make out the faint shape of others in between the trees.  You were standing in front of me, looking at me.  I could see your mouth moving, but I couldn’t hear anything.  I reached out, but you disappeared.  Then you were suddenly farther away.  I tried to run for you, but I couldn’t move fast enough.

You’re gone.  Out of my reach.  I miss you every waking moment.  The least you can do is let me have some peace at night.


I’m sorry.

I just miss you.  And I love you.  And it’s not fair that you’ll never get to miss me.

I love you,

Kaidan


Shepard,

I didn’t notice it until Dr. Chakwa asked me, but the head aches are completely gone.  I haven’t had a single problem since… Since we all changed.  Whatever you did, whatever happened up there, it changed the L2 implants somehow.  Doc ran some tests but they all came back the same.  The green circuits were able to stabilize the implants somehow.  She doesn’t understand it, but apparently others are seeing the same thing.

So, that’s something good, I guess.

Doesn’t make me miss you any less.

I love you,

Kaidan


Hey Shepard,

The Geth and the Quarians are rebuilding together.  I get updates from Tali.  She can take her suit off.  She says she owes it all to you.

Wrex says they are rebuilding, too.  The first Krogan baby was born not too long ago.  They are learning how to control their breeding so that they won’t over populate their planet.  He wishes he could thank you in person.

I wish you could see this.  We are rebuilding London.  You would have loved seeing the Reapers added flair.  It’s so amazing that you were able to give us this.

Maybe it’s selfish of me, but sometimes, okay more than sometimes, I wish I could give this all up just to hear your voice again.

I love you,

Kaidan


Diana has a recording of you.  I’m not sure you knew she was recording because you are smiling and laughing.

I’d give anything to see that smile again, to hear that laughter again, to feel you against me again.

I can’t do this right now.  I’m sorry.

I hate this.


Shepard,

I’ve watched that clip a dozen or so times now.  Joker and Vega are getting a little worried about me.  I think Joker actually asked EDI to limit my access.  She came to me, though.  I never realized how much she missed you too.  You’re the reason that she’s alive, that she can feel sad about you being… gone.

I’m sad all the time.  Sometimes, when we are in the middle of a mission or working on rebuilding and fixing all the damage I can ignore it.  But I miss you so much.  I knew it would be goodbye, back on Earth right before the final push.  But you sounded so sure that we would see each other again.  You were going to be waiting for me and I better show up.

I showed up, Shepard.  I’m still here.  Where are you?  You said you’d be waiting for me!  Instead you had to go and die!  Again!  I don’t want to do this without you…


I’m sorry, Shepard.  For last time.  You’re gone and I’m still here and… I can’t always deal with it.

I got through to Garrus.  They are building on Palaven with the help of the Reapers.  He’s just as stunned as the rest of the galaxy.  We caught up on the Citadel and traded Shepard stories.  He told me about your work with Cerberus, when… after you came back.  It’s still one of my big regrets that I didn’t go with you then.  But it was good to talk to Garrus.  It was good to remember what you stood for, even when I thought you were going against all of what we fought for.

He told me how he offered to, how did he phrase it?, relieve some tension with you.  And you turned him down.  Apparently, you turned down quite a few similar offers.  I guess I never realized that you felt that much for me.  I’m sorry if I ever accused you otherwise.

It’s been two months and the Normandy is officially fully operational again.  I’m not sure what we will do or where we will go.  There is barely any conflict in the galaxy.  The Geth and the Quarians continue to work side-by-side with each other.  The Krogan are rebuilding and working on fixing their planet.  The other races are doing the same.  Earth is… almost boring.  We understand each other.  We help each other.  Organics have the technology we need and synthetics have the understanding they need.  I asked EDI about it once and she said that she didn’t need to ask you any more hard questions because she understood now.

I wish you were here to see it.

Love you,

Kaidan


Hey Shepard,

I finally was able to get through to my mom today.  She’s alive and well and has been helping with the rebuild in Canada.  Dad… He didn’t make it.  We’re having a funeral for him.  I wish they could have met you.  I’m not really the religious sort, but I kind of hope that you and my dad will be waiting for me.

I love you.

Kaidan


Hey Shepard,

I was officially made commander of the Normandy today.  They were going to remove your name from the Captain’s cabin, but I asked that they leave it.  They just added my name above yours.

Commander Alenko.

Commander Shepard.

It shouldn’t matter.  I’ve been sleeping in that room with you for months.  I’ve been sleeping in that room alone for months, too.  I just feels weird now that it’s officially…mine.  It’s not yours.  It’s not ours.

I think about you every day.  I miss you every day.  I love you always.

Kaidan


Hey Shepard,

Almost a whole new crew.  Cortez is still here.  And so are Donnelley and Daniels.  Traynor and Westmoreland and Campbell all decided to stay as well.  But the rest are gone now.  Adams was promoted and has been working on Earth, redesigning some new engine system.  Liara left for the Citadel, although I still get an occasional update from the Shadow Broker on the last splintered remains of Cerberus.  Garrus and Tali left to rebuild their worlds.

Joker, of course, is still our pilot.  I don’t think they will ever be able to replace him now.  EDI would stop that.

I see them, when they think no one is looking, holding hands or just casually touching when they talk.  I miss those moments with you the most.

Love you,

Kaidan


Hey Shepard,

Sometimes I wish I had just pulled you up on the Normandy when Garrus and I were evacuated.  I wish I had just held on tight and said screw the rest of the galaxy and never let you go.

You would have hated that.  And I know it would have changed everything for the worst.  But I would have had that much more time with you before all life in the galaxy was wiped out again.  Some days, on the really bad days, I think I would have preferred that.

Love you,

Kaidan


Shepard,

The Council, or what’s left of it, actually sent us out on a mission.  Some crazy Krogan rogue group is targeting the Salarians!  Can you believe it?  After everything we went through with the Reapers and trying to rebuild society in the aftermath, these lunatics decide they still have a grudge to settle.  Man, do they have a quad.

Wrex actually contacted the Council and let them know what was happening.  I think it’s a good step toward some positive relationships in the future.  Hopefully.  Anyway, the Council called me in because I’m still a Spector and I have combat experience against Krogan.

It was a lot like it used to be, racing off in the Normandy to solve the problems of the galaxy.  Some things never change, I guess.  Vega’s a good guy, too.  This was his last mission with us.  He’s shipping off to N7 after this.  Says you inspired him.

Some things change a lot, though.  You weren’t there, leading the charge.  I’ve lead my number of charges, but I got so used to following you into battle.  It was weird to lead again, especially without you there.

I still miss you every day.  The bed seemed extra cold after the heat of the fight.

I love you so much.

Kaidan


I had a dream about you again last night.  We were in that forest and there were dark shadows all around us.  But you were standing in front of me.  You were so beautiful.  I tried to reach out and touch you, but I couldn’t reach you.  I couldn’t move fast enough.  You tried to tell me something, but I wouldn’t hear you.  I could just see your lips moving.  I couldn’t reach you.

I’m sorry I couldn’t be with you, in the end.  There is nothing I would have wanted more.  I should be mad at you because you robbed me of that by putting me on the Normandy, but I can’t be.  I would have done the same.  I would have done anything to make sure you came out of there alive, even if I couldn’t join you.

I can’t be mad at you for doing the same.

I love you.

Kaidan


Hey Shepard,

I never realized all the little things you had to do while being in command.  Shift changes and personnel schedules and combat duty rosters.  Traynor’s been a big help.  She said she used to work with you doing that stuff all the time.  Kept you up to date on messages and missions and the crew too.  I didn’t realize you guys were so close.

I’m not sure, but I don’t think she likes my organizational style.  Things keep shifting piles.  She doesn’t say anything though.

Love you

Kaidan


Shepard,

New orders came in today.  We’re the fastest ship in the galaxy which means they have us running errands are VIPs from one side of the system to the other.  Garrus helped us escort some Turrians to the Citidel for more supplies.  A Geth ambassador needed a lift to Krogan space.  And of course the Krogans are moving around like crazy trying to get their planet rebuilt.  Meanwhile, the Reapers are moving supplies from one place to the next just to make sure everyone has what they need.

I think you would have handled it all better.  I’m starting to get bored with all this running around.  I don’t mean to complain because peace is nice for once, but I’m a solider.  I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to be doing anymore.

I miss you every day.

Love you

Kaidan


Hey Shepard,

Finally got around to playing chess with Traynor.  She’s really good.  Guess I need more practice.

She mentioned that she has dreams about you.  They sounded a lot like the dreams I’ve been having.  We’re in the forest and I can see your lips moving but I can’t hear anything.  You’re so close I can almost touch you, but every time I reach out, you’re gone.

Her dreams sounded so similar it was weird.  What are you trying to tell us?

Love you

Kaidan


Shepard,

I talked to Dr. Chakwa today about the dreams and she is having them too.  In fact, everyone on the ship is having similar dreams about you.  And not just on the ship.  I got in touch with all the old crew and they all said the same.  I’m not sure how to feel about that.  Dr. Chakwa is looking into it.

Is it just because we were all so connected to you that we still feel the pain of your death?  I kind of think it’s something more…  I wonder if, in some way, you’re still with us.  Traynor likes the idea.

Love you

Kaidan


Hey,

Today is the one-year university of your… They are calling it Synthesis Day in the Citadel.  We call it Shepard Day on Earth.  The Alliance is raising a statue of you and Anderson in London to celebrate.  We were all invited as heroes of the London advance.  I didn’t want to go, but Joker and EDI convinced me to.  They were right, of course.

The statue of you is pretty good.  You have this fierce look on your face, the determination to never quit.  I’ve seen that look a hundred times.  You never wanted to give up, even when things were at the worst and we couldn’t convince the Council that first time with Sovereign, you didn’t want to give up.  It’s a great look to capture.

They had us all on stage: me and Garrus and Tali and Vega and Cortez.  Joker and EDI held each other while they put your statue up.  I thought I was going to lose it.  I almost walked away.  But this weird thing happened.  Traynor grabbed my hand and squeezed.

I’m not sure how I feel about it.  My heart was in the pit of my stomach as I watched them immortalize you in stone.  I was back at ground zero, the place where I last saw you alive.  I could almost see you again as you told me you loved you and then walked away.  The pain was still there and the longing and anguish because I knew I was never going to see you again.  And all that was back and fresh.  I could almost hear the gunfire and smell the blood.

And then she was there and her hand felt warm.  It was real and grounding and I felt… I don’t know.

I still miss you all the time.

I still love you.

I’m not sure what to do about this other thing.

Kaidan


Hey Shepard,

Joker and EDI convinced me to go on a double date with Samantha – Traynor.  It… It was nice.  She was nice.  Maybe… I’m not sure…

I saw you again in my dream last night.  They are becoming less and less frequent.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’m slowly letting you go or because you are slowly fading away.  We learned that just about everyone has the dreams.  Dr. Chakwa can’t explain it fully, but I think it was you that changed everything last year. I don’t know what you did, but I’m convinced you somehow became a part of us all.  And maybe that part is now fading.  You didn’t try to talk this time.  Instead you just smiled at me.  I didn’t try to reach out either.

Maybe it’s a sign.

I still miss you, but the pain is lessening.  It always does with time.

Yours,

Kaidan

 


That First Job

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything original.  I needed to jot something down to maybe get some creative juices flowing once more.  So I sat down and started writing a character I’ve haven’t visited in a while.  Hopefully it’s okay.

This is part of what is becoming more of a series than I though it would be.  There is no real order because each story is contained, but this is the third story I’ve shared with this character.  Enjoy.


That First Job

My grandfather always warned me to be prepared.  He would place his tanned and scared hand on my shoulder, locked his eyes, one bright and brown the other hazy and milky and blind, with mine and say in his booming voice, “Be ready.”  I was small, awed by what he had seen and what he had to say and what he had to show me still.  So I said, “for what?”  And he would look over my head, his one good eye seeing things I couldn’t dream of.  “For anything.”

I’m pretty sure this is not what my grandfather had in mind when he said to be prepared for anything.  I’m pretty sure he was thinking of long-gone battles and mostly forgotten thoughts of rebellion and war with the Imps.  I’m pretty sure he wanted me to be prepared for the day when humanity threw off our alien overloads/protectors.  He, sadly, is still waiting for that.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean that I should be prepared to hang by my fingertips off the side of building I was trying to rob while the security team looked for me.  Or maybe he did.  Sometimes it was hard to know with Grandfather.

My fingertips ached.  I deeply regretted opting for the cheaper climber gloves.  The upgrade had gecko pads which would have allowed me to cling to the side of the building in a, slightly, more comfortable position.  Lesson learned: don’t be miser when you are trying to steal from a high-rise.  Next time.

If there was a next time.

They, the nebulous they, always tell you to never look down when in a high place.  Of course, once that thought entered your head, there was no getting rid of it.  They were always right.  Never look down.

The street was really far away.  The people looked like the tiny robotic bees the Imps released after most of the real bees died off some twenty years ago.  They buzzed to and fro in their sleek motopods.  It was one of the first things the Imps gifted us with, as an apology for utterly destroying Guangzhou, the heart of world trade and finance, to teach us a lesson about trying to fight back.  The motopods were pretty neat though, sleek metal teardrop shaped pods that could communicate with each other seamlessly.  Apparently it eliminated something called traffic.  My teacher in school once said that people died by the tens of thousands in the automobiles they used before the Imps arrived.  Most people thought it was a fair trade.

My earpiece crackled and I almost lost my grip.  “Not on this floor,” the metallic voice came through.  The secretary team sent up the androids.  That was a blessing in disguise.  It meant they were less likely to double back to the floor they already checked; the floor I was currently dangling from.

“Circle back down.  He can’t have gone far,” the human controller replied.  Sweat was pouring down my face, but I couldn’t help the smirk.  Did no body read the classics anymore?

Now the hard part.  I trained for this.  I trained hours every day for a year for this.  I canvased the building, got in with the deliver companies that ran to this floor, knew where ever sensor and camera and floor monitor was.  It would do me no good if I couldn’t get in through the fucking window.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I shifted my weight on my feet and to a single hand.  My shoes, more high quality than the gloves apparently, held me fast against the slick-looking glass on the side of the building.  What most people didn’t know is that it wasn’t glass, but a porous material that helped trap carbon dioxide from the air and siphoned it through capillaries in the building to an underground plant that converted it into sugars.  All the old buildings from just after the Imps took over was built from it.  Their second gift was the material.  The best thing about it, though, was the fact that climber shoes found all the tiny pores and could cling to them.

My fingers on my left hand were sore.  I flexed them a few times before extending my arm up to grasp the lip of the window sill.  It held firm.  A few moments later, I had my other hand on the lip of the sill.  Slowly, I moved one foot than the other.  It would do no good to rush now.  I’d waited too long for this.  Rushing would only mean mistakes and mistakes meant getting caught.  Deep breath.

The nice thing about high-rise condos is that nobody locks their windows.  Because why?  The window pivoted on a hinge, leaving just enough space for me to crawl through.  It was also the only window in the place without a camera on it.  Because, again, why?

I pulled myself up and eased through the space, careful where I placed my hands and feet as I crawled through.  There wasn’t a camera on the window, but there was a floor monitor about a foot away in front of the sliding balcony door.  Most people thought it was would be easier to scale the building and enter through the balcony, I guess.  Standing, I flexed my body, popping the creaks out and rolling the muscles.  All that training paid off.  I was sore, but I could still move to do what needed to be done next.

I carried a small hip pack.  I dug through it now, finding the remote device and pushing a button.  Hacking into the security system wasn’t easy, but I’d managed it.  The cameras, at least, would show the empty house.  The sensors and floor monitors were a different story.

I learned young that I was really good with patterns.  My grandfather and I would play this game for hours where I had to figure out the patterns in his code.  It was only after I saw my first Imp that I realized I could put my special skill to a different use.  Imps walk weird, but there is a pattern to their movements, and they like to put sensors on the floor that match those patterns.  If you can’t follow their walking styles, you trip the monitors.  The Imp who lived in the condo was no exception.  And I knew his pattern.

So I moved through the living room, through the kitchen, into the collection room.

There were several items that, by themselves, were worth a fortune.  I walked right past them.  There was only one thing that was priceless in that room.

The security system was a Z12-T34 LASER system.  It was one that studied and understood on a personal level.  I crouched at the base of the display and slide aside the panel.  The Z13-T34 LASER system.

Well, fuck.

Of course.

Deep breath.

Fuck.

The Z13-T34 was just different enough that I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking at.  But time was running out and I’d come too far to back out now.  I blinked twice rapidly and my digital display opened in front of my eyes.  Rapid eye moments back and forth quickly typed in a search for the new specs.  Of course nothing that I needed popped up.

Except maybe…

One site compared the old system with the new system.  It was enough.

For once, time was on my side.  The owner of the condo was away at the main Imp archive in Paris and the bots had already scanned this level of the building.  They were unlikely to research the area.  I pulled out my tools from my hip bag and set to work, referencing the website models as needed.

I thought I would be nervous, with sweat dripping from my temples like in the old Hollywood spy movies Grandfather watched with me when I was a kid.  Instead, I felt cold and calm as my fingers and tools made quickish work of the wires and security protocols in place that protected my query.  The new system was not that different from the old, luckily, and the few major changes were easy to understand with the help of the website I’d found.  It took only a handful of minutes longer than I practiced for, but the system lights flickered and died with the last press of a button.

I stood and just stared for a moment at the model in front of me.  It wasn’t very big, maybe the size of my hand.  For some reason, it was bigger in my mind.  Carefully, I lifted it from the display and cradled it.  It was lighter than I thought too.  I flipped it over.  There, on one of the landing feet were my Grandfather’s initials, just like he said.  Now that it was in my hands, I felt the nerves start to flare up.

Deep breath.  I still had to get out of here.  I pulled a small piece of cloth from my hip bag and wrapped the model as carefully as I could.  The Millennium Falcon was coming home.


Read the other adventures from our lovable burglar


Unexpected Part III: I Won’t Say It

Parts I and II can be found here and here.  Takes place during The Shadow of Revan storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  PC is the Imperial Agent.  Minor spoilers.

Part III

I don’t know what to do any more.  I’ve been disavowed for the murder of Colonel Darok.  The chancellor wanted me arrested and imprisoned.  Satele wants nothing to do with me.  She won’t even talk to me through the holonet.  Thanks, Mom.  Good to know that you don’t trust your own son in this matter.  They won’t listen.  They don’t understand that Revan is back and a real threat.

So now I’m on the run.  With Lana.

If you asked me two months ago if I would ever trust a Sith with my life, I’d have laughed in your face.  But she’s the only one I can trust right now.

Except maybe you.

“You made it,” Lana sighs.  I lean against the table behind me, crossing my arms over my chest.  Ever the picture of nonchalant.

“The way Revan was laying waste to that place, I wasn’t sure you’d come out of it in one piece.”  It comes out smooth and casual, but I can feel my heart quicken.  I really am glad that you made it out alive.  The thought gives me pause for a moment.  I haven’t had time to really examine my thoughts and feelings from earlier, when you were on the rooftop and I couldn’t get to you.  Too much was going on then.  Too much is going on now.  But the thoughts drift to the surface none-the-less.  I really am glad that you are alive.

“What are you talking about? I’m hardly in one piece…” Ceetoo Deefour complains.  Jakarro growls at him to stuff it.  I think he also threatened to dismantle the droid further, although I’m not sure how.  Ceetoo is just a head at this point.

“Anyway, my point is: glad you got out of there.  Any ally right now is a welcome ally.”  The picture of casual.  No feelings what-so-ever.

“So coy,” you reply, practically cooing.  “I think someone in the SIS has a crush on me…”

I can feel the heat rising off my face.  There it is.  Out in the open.  Just like that.  I can handle this.

“What, me? Into you?  That’s so… You know, don’t be ridiculous.” I practically stutter.  Smooth, Theron.  Real smooth.  That’ll show her what I think of that.  Me, have a crush on the Imperial agent?  Yeah, right.  Right?

“If I may say, Agent Shan, you appear to be rather flush all of a sudden.” Ceetoo comments.  Damn that droid.

“We’re gonna—Jakarro and I and the droid, we’re leaving now so you can have your… official Imperial debrief or whatever.”  I turn and stalk out of the room, being very careful to not appear as if I’m running.  I don’t even wait to see if Jakarro is following me.

“Lana, when you’re done, we can start picking out backwaters to go lie low in.”  I don’t look back, but I can practically feel you watch me as I leave.  I can picture your piercing blue eyes following me as I turn a corner.  I can almost see the small smirk on your full lips, the hint of a thin eyebrow raised in amusement because you must see that your joke has clearly gotten under my skin.

I stop a few paces from the hanger where Jakarro’s ship is waiting.  It seems rude to just barge into a ship that isn’t mine.  I lean with my back against the wall, arms across my chest, head back, and close my eyes.  I take a deep breath and let the thoughts roll over me.  You can do this, Theron.  You’ve been calm and collective in many circumstances that should have killed you, many times over.  You’ve thought your way through each and every one and come out on top.  This is no different.  Just be calm and relaxed and think it through.

“Ah, Agent Shan,” Ceetoo Deefour’s voice cuts through my concentration.  “We were worried that in your haste to get away from the commander that you forgot where the ship was docked.”

“I wasn’t in a hurry to get away from anyone,” I counter.  “They just seemed like they didn’t want me there.”

Jakarro growls in Wookie.  “I agree,” Ceetoo replies.  “It does appear that Agent Shan left quite abruptly after the commander’s comment about his crush.  Perhaps the commander’s observations where more astute than-“

“Stow it, Ceetoo.  That’s ridiculous.  I do not have a crush on the commander,” I put as much bravo and mocking into my tone as possible.  I’m not in to that Imperial spy.  “She’s not even my type.”  I add as I follow Jakarro into his ship.  He growls and grumbles a reply, something akin to “sure sure, whatever you say.”

“She’s not!” I insist, but Jakarro is no longer listening to me.  He has a galactic map pulled up and is discussing places to hide with Ceetoo.  How can they possibility think that I like you?  You’re good in a fight, to be sure, and I’m glad you’re alive.  I’m not sure why, exactly, but I’m really happy that I got to see you again.

“Nar Shaddaa is out of the question,” Ceetoo points out with a sigh, or as close to a sigh that a droid can get.  “We’re wanted there as well.”

“How about Rakata?” Lana pipes in from behind.  I didn’t even hear her board the ship.  I tweak with my sensors a little, but they are working just fine.  Need to upgrade if a Sith can get past them.  Maybe a quick side trip to Nar Shaddaa wouldn’t be a bad thing.

“She thinks you’re cute,” Lana says casually as she leans in for a better look at the map.

“Wha-?” That catches me completely off guard.

“The great Jakarro says it would also give him some satisfaction to take out the remaining Revanite bases.”  Jakarro growls something, but I miss it.  I’m still stuck on Lana’s off-the-cuff remark.  I realize that my mouth is open and close it.

“Yes, but we want to hide from the Revanites, not announce our presence, at least not until we know more about what they are planning.  Hmmm.”  Lana moves the map around, trying to find an out-of-the way planet.  “I meant the commander of course.  She told me that she’s glad I reached out to you because she thinks you’re cute.  Or maybe handsome?  Or was it good-looking?  I can’t really remember the exact words.  You get the point, though yes?”

“I don’t… I mean… I’m not… Stop looking at me like that.”  I turn back to the map, but I can barely focus on the images in front of me.  I’m sure my face is on fire because it feels warm.  Come on, Theron, get it together.  You are an adult who doesn’t get distracted because some girl – woman – thinks you’re good-looking.

“We have some intel from the Revanites on Rakata.  No, Jakarro, we don’t want to destroy them just yet, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep track of their movements.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with Lana.  We need more information.”  You think I’m good-looking…

Jakarro growled about something about Nal Hutta.  “The wonderful Jakarro says that he has contacts on Nal Hutta that might be able to help us.

“We’ve nowhere else to go,” Lana replies, pushing back from the map display and smiling.  “Theron?”

“I’ve, uh,” Snap out of this.  “Yeah.  If Jakarro has some contacts that won’t immediately turn him in, I think it’s a good place to start.  Plus, I bet I can find some supplies and parts I need to help me decode what we got from the Revanite databases on Rakata.  With any luck, we can figure out what they have planned next.”

“Then it’s settled.  Jakarro, plot a course.  We’ll see if we can find any more allies on Nal Hutta.”

“We have allies?” I ask, but regret it as soon as it leaves my lips.

“The commander, of course,” Lana replies.  She seems to relish that fact that just the thought of you scrambles my brain.  I can’t think straight and this is not the time to lose my head.  Blast it.

“Look, she’s not even my type.  Plus, she was clearly joking.  I don’t have a crush on her.”

“Of course not,” Lana replied, but in a smug way that made me kind of want to punch her in the face.  I refrained.  It’s not nice to punch literally the only person in the galaxy who has my back in the face.  Well, maybe not the only person.  I guess Jakarro is in this with us.  And you.  At least I hope you’re in this with me-us!

“I’m going to see if I can decode more of the Revanite intel we gathered on Rakata.” I say to the room, but Jakarro is already off to plot our course and Lana just waves me off.

“Let me know if you find anything.”

I do not stalk back to my quarters.  I have every intention of doing what I told Lana and Jarakko I was going to do: work on decoding the intel.  But your eyes dance in front of my face and I can’t focus on the delicate task at hand.  Instead, I sit back on my bunk and try to figure this out.

I wasn’t lying when I said you weren’t my type.  You’re not really.  You’re smart, yes, but enhancements do that.  It’s difficult to hide your implants when the slim tendrils attach above your eyebrows and at your temples.  I assume the ones that caress your checks and sit above your mouth are also microphones.  I suppose you do that because you’re not interested in hiding your implants.  Why would you be?  Mine aren’t exactly hidden either, what with the flashing yellow lights at my temple.  So, yes, you’re smart.  And quick, which isn’t always the same thing.

There is a pose to you that I’ve not seen in many other woman, a grace that defines your every move.  Oh sure, I guess some would say the Jedi have the same grace when they move, but yours is different.  You move with economy, no step wasted, every movement has a purpose, but there is a fluidity to it as well.  It’s the confidence that you have, the way you hold yourself.  Some have told me I move like that.  I’ve rarely seen it in others, even other SIS agents.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it attractive.

You’re not beautiful though.  Or really even pretty.  I’d use the word handsome, but that somehow seems insulting.  You are striking, though, with your sharp check bones and sharp nose and amazing eyes.  And your full lips.  I’ve always gone for the pretty ones, with the delicate features and the need to be rescued.  You have proven more than once that no one needs to rescue you.  You are the exact opposite of delicate.  I know you can handle yourself, I can see that you are perfectly attune to your own needs and have no fear in pursuing them.  Perhaps that why your flirting has taken me so off guard.  I’m not used to someone being so direct with me, especially when that person is another spy.  Perhaps that’s why I’m more attracted to you than I’m willing to admit.

Huh?  Maybe you were joking or maybe you’re just better at reading people than I am.  That wouldn’t be too hard, actually.  For all my skill as a slicer, I’m not great with understanding people.  Blast it!

It’s fine, Theron.  So I’m attracted to an Imperial Agent.  It’s not like I’m going to see you again in the near future, especially since I’m running for my life from the very people you happen to work for.  Not like it would work out anyway, what with you being an Imperial spy and me being a Republic spy.

Still I certainly don’t have to tell Lana and Jakarro that you were right!


Unexpected Part II: Why do I care?

Takes place during The Shadow of Revan storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  PC is the Imperial Agent.  Minor spoilers.

You walk up the beach towards us and I can feel the confidence in your steps.  Or maybe that’s due to the blaster riffle strapped to your back and the vibroblade sheathed on your hip.  You nod to Lana and me before greeting the Wookie and his droid.

“Jakarro.  Deefour.”

I let them bicker about the proper way to treat you before I chime in with my own greeting.  “Hey.  We’re set to move on the Temple of the Ancient when you are.”

I’m not sure the type of response I am expecting, but you are all business.  It’s nice to work with a professional who knows how to get the job done.  We brief you on the situation with the traitors’ base of operations.  Lana and I won’t be on the ground ourselves, that’s your job and I don’t like stepping on toes, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t already scouted the area.

“Should warn you, it’s a rough road to the temple.  The area’s lousy with tribal Rakatans more than happy to fight.  Found that out the hard way…”  You nod at me as Lana finishes her last words of wisdom to you.  Some ridiculous Force mumbo-jumbo about staying focused.  I watch you before you turn away to head up the trail and into battle.  There is a fire in your eyes that I know all too well – you are going to enjoy this.

Lana and I head to Jakarro’s ship to monitor you from above.

Watching you work is a learning experience.  You slip in and out of the tribal Rakatan camps, your stealth generator quite impression (I am most definitely not jealous).  You kill some of them, but only when you can’t get around them or are attacked.  It’s not exactly what I expected from an Imperial agent.  I guess I’ve dealt too much with the overtly evil and destructive side of the Empire.  And while I’ve had a few run ins with other Imperial agents, I’ve never really seen their work up close and personal before.  You are minimalistic and precise.  I can appreciate both.

I track your progress on my monitors.  The route you’re on is going to take you straight into a mountain, but the only other route goes right through the largest of the Rakata settlements.  Nothing can be done about it.  I am genuinely sorry though.

You acknowledge with a muffled, “On it,” and switch courses without another question.  I’m not sure if it’s because you trust me or because you know Lana is standing right next to me watching everything I do.  Or maybe you’re just a professional who knows how to get the job done.

“Did you just send her toward that rancor?” Lana chirps from my side.  Opps.

“No way around that rancor.  I do not envy you,” I comment into the comms, partly because you need to be warned but also because I’m curious what you’ll do.  I can hear the small sigh, but you activate your stealth generator (okay, fine, I want one of those) and slip behind the rancor, slicing it down the back before it even knows you’re there.  You make quick work of it and its handler.  My respect for you is growing by the minute.

My implants pick up a signal from the Revanites camped near your position.  They came across a cache of Rakata-tech weapons.  I have seen what those types of weapons do to people.  We do not want them keeping those.

“Might want to do something about that,” I inform you as you work your way deeper into the Revanite camp.  I watch on the monitor as you use your stealth generator to sneak around Revanites, killing only when you have to.  Even then, you make it quick.  I suddenly wonder if all Imperial agents are like you.  Somehow I doubt it.  Lana keeps saying that you are special.  I’m starting to believe her.  And believing a Sith can be a dangerous game.

Finally, you arrive at the Revanite main base.  “Look for a control console and open a channel there,” I instruct you like this is your first time or something.  “I’ll be able to slice into their systems remotely.”  You’ve already given me access before I can complete the sentence.  Lana is tapping at the keypad next to me.  She might make a decent slicer one day.

“That’s it.  We’re in.  Theron?”

“Okay,” I start my work.  While you are great at the ground work, I excel at slicing.  “According to the structural plans, the only way to get at the head Revanites is through that conscription center.”  I pull up the plans and silently curse.  There are tanks of cyborgs in there.  “The cyborgs are dormant for now, but they’re set to go on high alert once they detect you.  A console overload will fry them from the inside.”  I type at the keypad, trying to find a way to remotely trigger the overload.  Unfortunately, the cyborg console isn’t connected to the main computer system.  Can’t slice something if it isn’t connected.

“Nope.  Can’t work the power safeties from here.  You’ll have to do the honors.”

“A sound plan,” Lana adds.  She turns to me, “Theron, why can’t I get this sensor to work?”

Boy do I know a dismissal when I’ve heard one.  She wants to talk to her agent alone, huh?  Fine.  We’ll play the game, Lana.  “Because Jakarro isn’t a big fan of upkeep?” I shrug.  “Probably a dead relay.  I’ll check it out.”

I rise out of the chair and make my way to the back of the ship, but not before syncing my implants to the ships onboard communications relay.  Come on guys, I’ve been in this business for a long time now.  I’m willing to work with you and Lana, but that doesn’t mean that I trust Lana.  I’m not quite sure how I feel about you, yet.  You’re quick, efficient, and very smart.  You’re also an Imperial and very lethal.  I don’t exactly distrust you, but I’m not ready to put my guard down around you.  Probably never will be.

My implants crackle with static before they pick up the relay.

“…might want its own Infinite Army someday.  You would have to fight those cyborgs, but…”  That’s Lana for you.  I should have known that she would want to take the cyborgs for the Empire.  Too bad I couldn’t have fried them from up here.  I pretend to tinker with the sensors relay system in front of me.

“There goes any concern of you getting too cozy with the Republic spy,” you reply.  Do I detect just a little bit of…relief in your voice?  As if you ever had to worry about Lana and me.  I think I’m going to be sick just thinking about it.  No thank you.  I want none of that.

“Make no mistake, I serve the Empire.”

You sigh.  It’s faint, but I can hear it.  I don’t envy you fighting those cyborgs.  I do admire your loyalty to the Empire, if only a little bit.  And honestly, I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same if our situations were reversed.  Loyal to a fault.  “As do I.  We’ll do this your way.”

Ah, that’s my cue.  I stroll back into the cockpit.  “Hey, what happened?  Why’s the console still running?”  I’m not a bad actor when I have to be.  Ball’s in your court, Lana Beniko.

“We couldn’t make it work.  The room will have to be traversed the hard way.”  Not bad.

“Are you sure?  What did you try?” I probe.  Lana glares at me.  I risk a glance at you.  There’s that smirk on your lips again, just like I saw on Manaan.  You make no attempt to hide it.  You also make no attempt to assist Lana.  I’m still watching you when Lana replies.

“Everything.”  Not very creative, Lana, but I’ll let it drop.  By the flash in your dark blue eyes and the smirk on your full lips, I’m sure you are amused at the situation.  Not everyone can think of good excuses quickly.  It’s a skill that takes years of practice.  I know you understand.

“If you say so,” I reply without pushing.  But that doesn’t mean I’m done.  “Hey, those sensor relays were fine, by the way.  Not sure what the problem is.”

“Was,” Lana says quickly, “The senor appears to be working again…”

“The Revanite leaders are inside, yes,” you finally say.  “Do we have a fix on them?”

Ok, fine, I get your point.  I sit back in my chair and begin typing again, scanning the temple for any signs of the Arkous and Darok while you activate your stealth generator and sneak inside the temple.  I stop typing for a moment to watch as you dispatch the cyborgs waiting on the inside.  I shouldn’t be surprised at the speed that you finish them.  I also notice the swell of your vitals and the small red flash that indicates you’ve been wounded.  I know you have combat triage training, but I glance accusingly at Lana anyway.

“There was no way around it,” she maintains, not looking away from her station.

“Yeah,” I grunt in reply.  No time to argue about it.  The scanners are picking up movement on the temple-roof.

“Might be Darok and Arkous trying to make an escape,” I say to you after conveying the information from the scanners.  You turn a corner, expertly sneaking past Revanites that litter the temple.  I’m sure most agents would have killed them all.  I’m not sure why you let them live, but I do admire it.  After we capture their leaders, maybe we can convert the followers away from life as a cult member.  I don’t know if that’s what you’re thinking too, but I want to hope that it is.

That gives me pause.  I stop typing for a moment to contemplate.  Why do I care what you’re thinking?  Why does it matter to me that you aren’t killing the cultists?  Why do I care that you were injured fighting the cyborgs?  You are an Imperial agent.  We are enemies.  The second this alliance is over, we will be back fighting each other.  But right now, none of that matters.  Right now, we are allies and I can admire an ally, right?  That’s all it is, admiration for an ally.

“Theron,” Lana says, glancing at me as she monitors her station.  I don’t glance back as I resume typing.  I don’t answer her.  Instead, I comm you.

“Look like they’ve got a shuttle-we can shoot it down if we have to, but I’d rather take them in for questioning if you can.  Hurry!”

You hurry toward the temple-roof, where Jakarro joins you.  I know Darok won’t back down.  I’ve knew him for a bit now, I’ve looked into his record.  He doesn’t give up.  I just hope Arkous isn’t as foolish.  But there is no luck.  Neither Revanite will stand down.  I can only watch as you and Jakarro fight them off.  Lana visibly swoons when Darth Arkous falls.  I look away when Colonel Darok falls besides him.

Your voice comes over the comm as your image is projected on the holo.  You stand calmly, yet I can hear the remorse in your voice.  “Arkous and Darkos were never going to be taken alive.  They were never going to talk.”

Lana shakes her head. “I felt Darth Arkous’s passing.  This is an unfortunate turn.”

Jakarro replies, his Wookie loud as he yells his victory and revenge.  His droid agrees, but I can’t.

“Blast it!” I shout.  I’m not really mad at you.  I’m mad that Darok was stupid enough to fight to the death.  “Those two were running the show.  They were our best hope of exposing the Revanites.”

You nod, perhaps understanding my anger, perhaps agreeing with me.  Lana, on the other hand, shakes her head again.

“No.  They weren’t in change.  The disturbance in the Force,” she trails off for a moment, “I still feel it.  It’s…arrived.”

The second she says it, the scanner go crazy.  They beep and lights flash as several ships jump out of hyperspace almost on top of the planet.

“We’ve got company!” I yell over the noise.  “Ships. Capital-sized, whole bunch of them.  Can’t tell if they’re yours or ours, but one of them’s dropping in to visit.”

The image that comes over the holo isn’t possible.  I know that man.  I would know that man anywhere.  He is a part of me, a part of my history.  I have known about him since I was old enough to understand Jedi and Sith.  But he’s dead.  He’s been dead for a century.  It isn’t possible.  It must be an imposter.

“As important as Arkous and Darok were to the cause, their deaths won’t stop us.  They won’t even slow us down.”

“That voice.  I’ve heard it before.”  I don’t even realize I said the words out loud until they sound in my eyes.  I’d know that voice anywhere.  I heard recordings of his voice for most of my life.

“It’s Revan,” Lana remarks, almost as shocked as I am.

“I almost had the Infinite Army I wanted so badly.  But even without them, I have enough.”

I can’t speak.  I can’t barely breathe.  “If you think you can take on the Empire, you’re in for a rude awakening.”  Of course you can speak up to Revan.  It’s right there that I realize that my admiration for you might be a little more than pure admiration.  I push that though to the way back of my brain.  I can analyze that later.

But you’ve managed to wake me from my shock.  Instead, I start preparing the ship to come get you.  I realize as I listen to you talk, to you goat Revan, that you are stalling for time.  Lana must realize it too.

“We have to hurry,” she urges.  She doesn’t need to tell me twice.  We work together, trying to get to you.

“I’ve finally let the Revanites into my world-a world you have to be erased from.”

Oh no.  “Turbolasers are locking on…!  Get out of there!”

Both Lana and I realize it at the same time.  “We can’t reach you in Jakarro’s ship!  Take the shuttle!”

The turbolasers lock on to the temple-roof.  All’s I see is a flash of red and the destruction on the scanners.  Lana goes pale.

“I’m sure she made it,” I say as I maneuver the ship away from the capital-sized ships.  “But we have to leave, now!”

“We can’t just leave her behind.”

I look at the scanner.  They’ve locked on to us.  “We don’t have a choice.  We’ll be shot to pieces if we try to land now.  We have to go, Lana.”

One of the pursuing ships fires at us, almost hitting us.  It’s enough to rock the small smuggler ship to the side, almost throwing Lana to the ground.

“Ok, let’s go.”  Neither of us says it, but I hope you are alive.  I hope I meet you again.


Unexpected Part I: Oddly Flattered

Takes place during The Shadow of Revan storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  PC is the Imperial Agent.  Minor spoilers.

I frantically type at the keypad in front of me, trying to get the pod down to save you. And you just…stare at me through the holo.

“You’re…with the Republic, aren’t you?”

“That’s right. I’m also saving your lives. You got a problem with that?” I’m ready for this fight. I know who you are, Cipher Nine. I’ve read all your files, and trust me, they were huge. You have fought the Republic at every turn. I know you are going to have a problem with this. Except…

“Just get us out of here.” That’s it. No fight or argument.

“Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to do.” A few more keystrokes and the pod is there. I watch on the holo as the building shakes and you catch your balance. “Okay, all set. Climb in and enjoy the ride.” You scramble away, no time for thanks. I didn’t really expect it anyway.

I never really expected to be here, either. To my left is a Sith Lord, meditating on the whereabouts of her traitor. I was just following the trail of Colonel Darok, my traitor. In whatever bizarre twist of the Force, it led to this Sith and her Imperial flunky. Just great.

Lana comes out of her meditation and stands. I always thought Sith would be taller, more imposing, but Lana is a head shorter than me. It’s a little hard, and scary, to imagine how this petite blonde got through the Sith Academy, especially if only half of the rumors coming out of SIS are true.

“Find anything?” I ask, trying to make small talk.

“I’m not sure,” she replies hesitantly, her Imperial accent light and almost soothing. If a Sith can be soothing, which I highly doubt. There isn’t more time for small talk when you round the corner and stop in front of Lana. You’re…taller than I thought. Holos can be deceptive like that.

“Welcome back,” Lana practically coos, “Once again, you’ve displayed a skill and determination that few possess.”

I wouldn’t go that far. “I’ve seen worst,” I comment nonchalantly. And it’s true. I’m probably one of the few people who isn’t a Jedi to walk away from a fight with a member of the Dark Council.

“Perhaps I should make proper introductions…”Lana states, sounding slightly uncomfortable. Although who can ever really know with the Sith. It’s so hard to figure out their tone with that accent.

“No need to tell me who I’m addressing.” I step forward. I can feel the smirk creeping across my face and do nothing to hide it. “I’m Theron Shan-Republic SIS, and your new ally.” And I wait for the cringe or the disgust to wash over your face. You have to know who I am. I imagine that the ledger you have on me is just as large as the one I have on you. Instead, you smile and your eyes light up. They’re deep blue.

“You could always join the Empire. I think you’d make a welcome asset.”

Not the first time I’ve been asked to defect to the Empire, but I know what you are capable of and the offer coming from you… “I’m oddly flattered. Not even going to consider it, of course, but flattered.”

While we catch you up on what we’ve learned and why I’m teamed up with you in the first place, I watch you. You are the picture of calm. Even as we tell you about the Colonel and the Darth and the Order of Revan, you remain poised. I’m a little surprised that you’ve dealt with the Order of Revan before, more surprised that it was on Dromund Kaas. The Imperials had the Order of Revan right in their backyard and we barely even knew about it. But Lana is right about one thing: they have grown very bold.

“That means I can’t trust my people,” I add, “and Lana can’t trust hers-present company excluded.” Did I just see you smirk? It must have been my imagination because there is definitely not a smirk on your lips as you introduce your new Wookie friend.

“This is Jakarro,” you say, still calm. Yeah, I must have imagined the smirk. The droid is saying something, but I’m a little distracted by the fact that you are looking at me. Not really the looking by itself, but more the fact that I can’t read that look. I get Lana: she’s a Sith and will probably stab me in the back the second this whole thing is over. But you… I thought I had a handle on you from the records we have. I also thought that you would be more resistant to the idea of working with SIS. But it doesn’t seem to really bother you at all. Actually, if that tiny flash in your eyes is anything to go by, I’d say you are enjoying it a little.

“Hey, Jakarro,” I say, turning from you to address the Wookie. I can’t keep staring at you. I’m just going to over analyze what I see. “How would you feel about helping me track those two down?”

I knew I would like Jakarro. Smugglers make the best allies; they always have the greatest contacts who are willing to talk for the right amount of credits. I’m not so sure I want to let him drive, though.

“We’ll talk about it. Lana, will you be joining us?”

The blonde shakes her head in the negative. “We don’t know how deep the Revantes’ influence runs. I must learn what I can from within the Empire.”

I nod at her and look at you. You incline you head once before turning your back on me, making the conversation between you and Lana more private. It’s also an interesting show of…trust? Too early to tell. As I walk towards the hanger, I feel like I can be sure of one thing: this is going to be very interesting.


Bitter Sweet

Takes place at the end chapter IX of SWTOR: Knights of the Fallen Empire. This is from the smuggler’s POV.

She turned a full circle, taking in the sight, the smell, the feel of being back in her ship.  Her ship.  She owned the clothes on her back, the blasters at her side, and her ship.  It was all she ever needed: a good blaster and a fast ride.

She still couldn’t believe that five years had passed.  It all felt so much more recent than that.  She could still smell the ozone from the blaster bolt to the emperor’s chest that started all this mess.  In hindsight, maybe she should have just knelt before him and accepted the inevitable.  She could almost hear Akaavi’s snort of disapproval.  Could almost hear Risha telling her how stupid an idea that was.  Could almost see the disappointment on Corso’s face.

She choked up at just the thought.  For some reason, the fact that Corso was gone hadn’t really hit her yet.  But here she was, on her ship, and her husband was not the one piloting it.

She suddenly felt very alone in her ship.  They were all gone.  She sank to her knees, her hands covering her face.  Risha was like her sister and she would never see her again.  She didn’t always get along with Akaavi, but she still admired the other woman.  Even Guss was part of the family: maybe the really annoying younger brother but part of the family none the less.  Bowdaar was her loyal bodyguard and would never let her down.  Turned out she let him down by never returning.

And Corso.  He’d sent her a holo when she disappeared five years ago saying he was still looking her her.  Five years ago.  Was he still looking for her?  Could he still have a hope that she was still alive?  It had been so long.

But Theron found her ship.  Where was Corso?  Would he really abandon everything they had?

She felt the tears tickle at the palms of her hands as the ghosts of her former life flooded over her.  She gulped in for air once before taking a few steadying breathes.  She would find him again.  She would find all of them again.  She took another breathe and stood, her fingers trailing a line up the haul of her ship.

She had her ship again.  She was alive.  For the moment the Eternal Empire couldn’t find her.  Theron and Lana would keep looking for Corso and the others.  While they were going through their channels, she would go through hers.

She slowly walked the halls to the cockpit, letting the joy mingle with the sadness until it was all bitter sweet.


Love Stories

1:

He thought they would be together forever.  She never wanted to leave his side.  But some things were more important than love.  Some things couldn’t be ignored while they were safe in each other arms.  Neither of them would allow the world to crumble around them when there was something they could do to stop it.  So, on the night before she left, they held each other.  They made love like it might be the last time they ever saw each other, because they both know that was more than a possibility.  He stroked her hair, wondering how he could be so lucky to have spent time with her.  She breathed him in, glad that he was a part of her life.  And in the morning, there were lingering glances and long touches as they dressed.  There were whispered declarations and unspoken promises.  He stood at the gate with her, last words of a life they both wished they could have but both knowing it wasn’t for them.  His lips pressed firmly to hers.  And then she was leaving, one last look goodbye, her eyes sparkling with tears and the promise that she could return to him one day.  Even if it took a lifetime, he would find her again one day.

2:

He knew he would break her heart one day.  She knew it too, but she would fight it for as long as she could.  She saw what happened to him when the spirit took over.  She saw what happened to him when the calling came.  Yet she stayed by his side, continued to fight for him, continued to fight with him.  Even after all he’d done, she stayed.  Nothing was more important than their love.  She didn’t care if the world fell apart around them, and it was, because he was by her side.  And he realized he didn’t care that he was crumbling with the world, as long as she was by his side.  Together, they would get through the worst of it.  As long as they were together.  He never suspected that she would break his heart.  She never thought it would be her sacrifice that saved them.

3:

She never thought she could love anyone, let alone a Templar.  She was never given that luxury in the Circle, too afraid and too aware of the consequences.  He once hated mages for what they could do, what they could become, what was done to him.  And yet here they were, him a former Templar, her a former Circle Mage.  A good old fashioned pair of star-crossed lovers.  They knew they would never be permitted to be together in their former lives.  But this was a new era, a new start, a new beginning.  He was no longer a Templar, no longer forced to watch mages, hateful and fearful.  Although he still watched one mage.  She was no longer a Circle Mage, no longer forced to be scrutinized and feared by the Templars.  Although she still enjoyed the attentions of one Templar; former Templar to be exact.  There were other problems they would face, but in that moment, none of it mattered.  For the first time in a long time, she felt like she could love.  Not for the first time since he met her, he felt like he could love her.


I’ve Got Her Back

Takes place in the Trooper storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic before they take down the Gauntlet.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Lieutenant Aric Jorgan eyed the pieces of his disassembled weapon, making sure all were well oiled and ready to be assembled into his assault rifle. He picked up a piece, turning it over in his paw. His eyes drifted from the weapon to the captain as she spoke with Dorne. His sensitive Cathar ears could barely pick up the conversation.

“No need to worry. We’ll figure out this personal thing. Until then, I’ll continue to vouch for you.” Captain Dosna’s voice was low, smooth, and calm. He’d rarely seen her angry and never heard her yell. She was cool under pressure. She stuck up for her team. She was smart, creative, and stared danger in the face. She was the perfect leader for Havoc Squad.

He was head over heels in love with her.

Jorgan would never tell her, of course. She was his commanding officer. He was her second in command. They could never be together. He knew that. Still, he vowed that he’d follow that woman to hell if she asked him. He’d already followed her into more Imperial bases then he cared to count and he’d keep doing it as long as she kept him in Havoc.

The captain turned from Dorne and Jorgan lowered his gaze back to his weapon. Wouldn’t do to get caught starting.

Yuun, a Gand, popped his head out of the communication room, his compound eyes rotating around the command room before finding the captain. He spoke, his native tongue choppy but fluid somehow. It filled Jorgan’s translator and converted to common.

“Captain Dosna, General Garza coming through the holonet.”

“Thank you, Yuun.” The captain stood in front of the holocommunicator, her back and spikey dark grey hair facing Jorgan.  He placed his reassembled weapon back in the weapon’s locker and joined her.

“We expecting any new assignments, Captain?  I thought the Gauntlet was too important for anything else.”

“Not sure, Lieutenant.  But if the general is giving us something new, you can bet it’s important,” She replied with a brief smirk before she faced the holo, her back rigid and her shoulders straight.  General Garza suddenly stood before them, her uniform and neat white hair tinged with blue from the holo.  The captain offered a crisp salute as the other members of Havoc Squad formed up behind Jorgan.

“At ease, Captain.  I have bad news.  Jonas Balkar is missing.”  Jorgan could sense the captain tense next to him.  Balkar was an SIS agent they’d worked with several times.  He was a good agent, if a little too flirty with the captain, but he’d helped them out when he didn’t have to.

“Do we know what happened?” the captain asked.

“He was in deep cover on Balmorra, but he had a drop point.  He’s missed two scheduled drops now.  The information he is collecting is vital to the Republic, Captain.  Of course, he isn’t officially on Balmorra so the Republic can’t send in an official rescue mission.  But there is an SIS agent on Balmorra with more information about Agent Balkar’s last known whereabouts.”

“I understand, General.  Thank you.”

“Garza out.”  The holo went blank.  The captain stared at it for a moment before she turned to face her crew.

“Looks like Havoc Squad has a mission.”

“Sir,” Dorne piped in, her Imperial accent filled with concern.  The captain put a hand up, stopping her before she started.  Jorgan’s fur bristled.  He already knew what Dorne was protesting.  They couldn’t officially go to Balmorra and rescue the SIS agent.  Jorgan didn’t think a little think like official orders would stop the captain.  Besides, they had the general’s blessing so any repercussions would be minor.

“I can’t order any of you to take part in this mission,” the captain started.  “If you want out, this is your stop.  But I’m going in.  I don’t leave people behind.”

Jorgan stepped behind the captain before she even finished the first sentence.  “I’m right behind you, Captain.”  She smiled at him.  Her ceremonial facial tattoos shifted, making her smile appear wider, brighter.

“Of course we do not leave people behind,” M1-4X stated.  His mechanical voice did little to squash his patriotic fever.  “Agent Balkar is a valiant hero of the Republic and must be rescued.”

“The path leads to Balmorra, so I will follow the captain there.”  Yuun added.  Jorgan wasn’t sure what the path the Gand referred to was, but he was glad to have the tech with them.  It would make it easier to slice into any computer terminals that needed to be hacked.

“Regulation 23-C81 states that any personnel with important information regarding the survival of the Republic be placed in Republic hands.”  Dorne might be a stickler for regulations, but Jorgan had to hand it to her: she knew how to twist the regulations when she needed to.

All eyes turned to the last of their crew, the Weequay Tanno Vik.  Jorgan did not like this solder, and he made no qualms about it either.  Vik was reckless, self-serving, and didn’t follow orders all too well.  He was also the best damn demolitionist in the Republic and they were probably going to need him to break Agent Balkar out of whatever prison he was held in.

“Will there be Imperials?” the pruney faced alien asked as he leaned against the frame of the command room.

“I can’t promise it, but most likely,” the captain replied, folding her arms over her chest.  “You come, though, you follow my orders.  We do this my way, Vik.”

Vik frowned and pushed himself from the door.  “All right.  If it means I get to destroy some Imperial prisons, I’m in.”

Captain Dosna looked around the command center.  She met every solder’s eyes, finding Jorgan’s yellow eyes last.  She didn’t need to say thanks.  She just nodded.  “All right, set course for Balmorra.”

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

Vik bolted for cover and covered his ears.  The door to the detention block blast open, setting off alarms and covering the ward in smoke and debris.  Captain Dosna stood and gestured to her team.

“Forex, Vik, watch the corridor.  Dorne, grab your med kit.  Jorgan, cover me.”

She didn’t bother to double check if everyone followed her orders before she ran toward the smashed door, Dorne at her heels.  Jorgan turned to the Weequay and droid.  “Tell Yuun to get the evac ship ready to go on my orders.”  He could hear blaster fire inside the detention block.

“Affirmative,” M1-4X replied.  “They approach.”  His blasters fired, each taking down an Imperial guard.  Jorgan saw several more behind the ones Forex shot down.

“This’ll be fun,” Vik shouted before taking off down the hall, his techblade drawn.  Jorgan hurried to the captain, his assault rifle pointed at the entrance to the detention block, ready to shoot down anything Forex or Vik let through.  As he backed into the room, he noticed a few Imperial guards lying face down on the floor.

“He’s in bad shape, Sir,” Dorne was saying from one of the cells.  Jorgan glanced around.  The detention block held six cells, three on the left, three on the right.  He found Dorne and the captain in the second cell on the right.  The captain was on her knees next to Balkar, her hand on his chest.  Dorne had her med kit out and was injecting something pink into his neck.

“Balkar,” the captain said.  He could detect a bit of panic edging into her voice.  .  “Hey, can you hear me?” she asked.  Jorgan couldn’t see the agent, but he heard a moan.

“Fey,” he whispered.  “Fey.  You have to leave.  They’ll get you.”

“Shhh,” the captain whispered.  “Dorne?”

“I’m not sure we should move him, Captain.”

“That’s not an option, so stabilize him so we can get out of here.  You hear me, Balkar.  I didn’t go through all this trouble to watch you die here.”

“You shouldn’t have come,” Agent Balkar whispered again.

“Specialist Vik is wounded,” M1-4X called from the front of the detention block.  Captain Dosna stood, unstrapped her blaster rifle ran forward.  “Grab him while I cover your,” she called back to Jorgan.  The Cathar didn’t hesitate.  He didn’t leave people behind, no matter how much he hated them.

Blaster fire filled the hall outside the detention block doorway.  The captain bull rushed the first Imperial, slamming the butt of her rifle across his face.  He crumbled to the floor, leaving an opening for Jorgan.  He charged ahead, pumping his assault rifle as he did.  An Imperial in front of him fell to the ground.  Blaster bolts whizzed by his head, cover fire from the captain and Forex.  An ion blast hit an Imperial to his right and he seized up as the electricity surrounded him.  Jorgan didn’t look to see if he survived or not.  The captain was watching his back.

Vik clutched at a wound on his side, but his free hand still swung his techblade, as he fought off two Imperials.  Jorgan pulled the trigger on his gun, releasing a charged up bolt.  One of the two Imperials stumbled to his death moments before Vik finished off the second.

For a brief moment, the hallway was empty of living foes, but Jorgan could hear the pounding feet of backup on its way.  Without speaking, Vik leaned against Jorgan and half walked, half limped back to the make-shift cover in the prison entrance.  Vik slumped to the floor, a kolto pack already in his hands. M1-4X stood over him, his blasters pointed down the hall.

Jorgan rejoined the captain and Dorne again.  “How’s he doing?” he asked.

“Almost stable,” Dorne replied.  She looked up at the captain.  “But it’s not going to be easy getting him out of here alive.”

“If it was easy, they wouldn’t have sent in Havoc Squad,” the captain replied.  Jorgan could tell she was tense.  There was a pitch in her voice that normally wasn’t there.  He’d been in hundreds of scraps with the captain, most of them life or death situations.  She was always optimistic about their chances of survival, but he could hear the worry now.

“Captain,” he said softly.  “A word.”

She led him a little ways away from Dorne and the others, but her eyes drifted back to Balkar.

“Captain, you know I don’t like leaving men behind, but-“

“We’re not leaving him.”  She turned to stare at Jorgan, grey-blue eyes hard behind her brown facial tattoos.  “We get our people out.”

“Yes, sir,” Jorgan replied quickly.  “But sir, if I may ask, why is Agent Balkar so important?  He’s in pretty bad shape.  He might not make it anyway.  Couldn’t we just get the information he retrieved?  Is his life really worth risking the lives of our whole-“

“He’s my husband,” Captain Dosna whispered, her gaze settling back on the wounded man.

Jorgan felt his heart drop into his stomach and explode all at the same time.  Her husband.  The captain was married.  She’d never-  He’d never-  Things clicked into place all at once: Balkar flirting with her when they were on Nar Shadda; Balkar’s sudden involvement on Tatooine; The hint of jealousy whenever Balkar teased Jorgan about being jealous of their flirting; Balkar’s willingness to help Jorgan, to help them, find the Deadeyes.

“You’re Fey,” he whispered back.

“Captain Feyree Dosna Balkar.”

“But, when?  How?  It’s not in your record or file.  I’ve combed through all your personnel records.”

A tiny smile graced her lips.  “Almost four years.  It’s officially an unofficial marriage.  We couldn’t risk someone using me to get to him.  Or vice versa once I was made the commanding officer of Havoc Squad.  As far as any one knows, we’re just an elite squad rescuing an important asset.”  She looked back to Jorgan then, her eyes pleading with him.

“That’s why General Garza told you.”

“Yes.  She and a handful of other brass know about Jonas and me.  I have an understanding with the general when it comes to my husband.  And I’m not leaving him here, Lieutenant.”

Jorgan paused for a moment.  “What would happen if the situation were reversed?”  He asked, but he already knew the answer.

“You should see what that man can do when he is inspired.”

Jorgan didn’t need to hear any more.  “Dorne, let’s get Agent Balkar ready to move.  M1-4X, Vik, be ready to lay down some cover fire on my mark.”  He hit his com.  “Yuun, we’re gonna need that evac ready to go.  We’re coming out hot.”

The captain nodded and put a hand on his arm.  “You’ve got my back?”

Jorgan snorted in reply.  Captain Dosna just nodded again.  She returned to Dorne and helped her get Agent Balkar to his feet.

“Dorne,” Jorgan snapped once Balkar was to his feet.  “Vik was wounded.  Check him out before we get going.”

“Sir?” she asked the captain.  The Zabrek nodded.  Jorgan deliberately turned his back on them, blocking them from the eyes of the other.  He couldn’t block out their whispered conversation.

“Fey, you shouldn’t have come.” A wince.  “What if something happened?  I couldn’t-”

“Shh.  I wasn’t going to leave you, Jonas.  We made a promise to each other.  I’m getting you out of here.  Now, come on.”  A grunt.  “That’s it, love.”  Louder, “Jorgan.”  He glanced back.  Balkar’s arm was slung over her shoulder and his other hand clutched her backup blaster pistol.  “Let’s move out!”

“Havoc Squad, let’s go!”

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

Jorgan opened the door to the medical recovery room the Republic assigned Agent Balkar.  The captain sat on the bed next to the agent, her hand firmly held in his.

“Captain,” he said, trying not to look at their joined hands or how Balkar was gently rubbing her fingers with his thumb.  “They’re shipping us out on assignment.  General Garza will have the details once we’re in the air.”

“Understood, Lieutenant.  You’re dismissed.”  Jorgan turned and closed the door softly behind him, but not before he heard a muted “I love you.”

With the door securely shut behind him, Jorgan allowed himself a small sigh.  He knew they could never be together while they were in Havoc Squad.  He planned on retiring in Havoc Squad, so he’d given up on the dream of them being anything other than CO and XO.  Still, in the back of his head, he’d always hoped that maybe, one day, when they’d both retired he could confess his love for her and she would return it.  He put his hands on his hips and shook his head.  Any fantasy about a life they could have growing old together was up in flames.  It had been a stupid fantasy anyway.  The Cathar sighed again and ran a pawed hand over his face.

He could always leave Havoc Squad.

He dismissed that thought immediately.  He wouldn’t leave Havoc.  He wouldn’t leave Captain Dosna.  So what if she was married.  He would still do everything in his power to protect the Republic at her side.

The door opened behind him.  “Ready to move out, Lieutenant.”

“Lieutenant Jorgan,” Balkar called from inside the room.  Jorgan looked back.  The two men made eye contact and Jorgan realized that Balkar knew.  The SIS agent knew that he was in love with the man’s wife.

“Keep her safe out there.  She’s something special,” Balkar called.  Jorgan nodded.

“I’ve got her back.”


Betrayed

This was inspired by two things: seeing some fanfic that one of my friends wrote and playing Star Wars: The Old Republic.  This contains some spoilers for the Sith Warrior storyline in SWTOR, so be warned if you ever plan on playing that game. And thanks, Rasheda Poe for sharing some of your stories.  It has made me want to write again.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Lord Raerkex narrowed her blood red eyes.  She knew there was someone on her crew who was plotting against her.  The Voss had told her as much.  She suspected Vette or maybe her apprentice at first.  But the Twi’lik was too weak to go against the Sith lord and Jaesa was enjoying her new-found freedom from the Jedi order too much to be plotting against her master.  The Talz and Lieutenant Pierce were new to her crew, so they were likely suspects.  It wasn’t until Quinn fed her the lie of the Imperial blockade surrounding Corellia that she even suspected the loyal captain.  She’d been right to suspect him.

“I’m sorry, My Lord,” he insisted, his clipped Imperial accent almost making him sound genuine.  “This was a very difficult thing for me to do, but Darth Baras is my true master.”

“You dare to side with him.”  Lord Raerkex did not even raise her voice as she stared at her most trusted companion.  “I am the Emperor’s Wrath.  You side with Darth Baras knowing I following the Emperor’s will.”

“I’m afraid the Emperor is nothing more than a absent landlord.”  He glanced behind him as the empty hanger’s cargo door swung open, revealing two battle droids.  “Ah, yes.  I have been watching you, My Lord, and I know your strengths and your weaknesses.  These battle droids have been programmed to eliminate you.”  His voice, ever professional, betrayed no emotion as the battle droids, two N4-SW-Runners if she wasn’t mistaken, came to stand next to him.  Lord Raerkex studied them.  They were tall droids, possibly wookie height.  Their three legs making them fast but hard to topple.  The two arms each ended in large guns, and Lord Raerkex had no doubt that they guns were equipped with maximum firepower in hopes of taking her out.

She narrowed her eyes further as she turned back to Quinn.  She was Sith; her crimson-hued skin a testament to her status as a Sith Pureblood.  She was attuned to the dark side of Force in ways other races could only wish.  She was the Wrath of the Emperor.  He would not destroy her with mere machines.

“You are a fool, Quinn,” she stated clearly.

“I’m sorry, My Lord,” he repeated.  Then he lifted her hand and pointed at her.  “Kill her,” he commanded and his words seemed to falter just a little, but Lord Raerkex stopped paying attention.

She leapt at the nearest droid, her lightsabers drawn and poised for attack.  She slashed down at its metal body, the purple hue of her blade scarring through its surface, damaging but not breaking.  The second droid raised its gun at her, but Lord Raerkex shoved her hand at it and directed the Force to fire.  The blast hit the droid and sent it flying back toward the hanger wall where it smashed and fell.  She knew she only stunned it, but it would buy her enough time to finish off the first droid.  She slashed at the first droid again with her lightsabers, tearing off chunks of metal as she did.  It swung its guns toward her, firing, but she leapt to the side, blocking with her off hand as she did and the bolt flew back at the machine, damaging it further.  The droid stumbled over one of its legs, and the opening was just what the sessioned Sith warrior was waiting for.  She jumped at it, slashing her lightsabers over her head and into the droids mainframe, smashing it with the powerful stroke.

A blaster bolt blackened the case of the now dead droid.  Lord Raerkex looked up to see Quinn, his face set in a frown, his blaster pistol pointed at her.  She swept her arm him, releasing a jolt of the Force as she did.  It knocked the pistol from his grip and sent him tumbling the ground.

“I’ll deal with you in a moment,” she growled before leaping to the second droid.  It went down just as quickly as the first.  When she turned to back to Quinn, she found him on his knees just staring at her.

“My…My Lord,” he stammered.  “I…I…”

“You made a grave mistake, Quinn,” Lord Raerkex finished for him as she stalked to his position.  “One you shall not make again.”

“Yes, My Lord.  I see now the erro-” She didn’t let him finish.  Instead, she flicked her wrist, using the Force to slam his against the wall.

“I don’t take kindly to being betrayed, Quinn,” she said, her hand stretched out to him, her grip tightening into a choke hold.  He started to gasp even though she was not touching him.  Lord Raerkex allowed herself the tiniest of smirks to grace her purple lips.  She did enjoy using the Force to choke people, especially people who had betrayed her.  He clawed at his throat, trying to remove the pressure, but he would not succeed.  She’d killed much stronger foes with this technique.  He would succumb just as the others had.

For a moment, when he collapsed to the floor his breath barely escaping, she considered letting up.  Maybe she could let him live and he would be loyal to her.  Maybe she could use this as an example of how benevolent she could be in the face of errors.  The thought slipped away.  She could not show mercy, else her crew might think they could betray her and get away with it.  That was unacceptable.  She put more power into her grip, cutting off his air supply completely.

Captain Quinn went limp.  She could feel his life energies fade to nothing.  A pity, really.  He was a brilliant tactician and had assisted her in dozens of missions for both her former master and her new master.  And he wasn’t a bad lover either, if only a little by the books.  Lord Raerkex kicked at his corpse, rolling it over.  Dead blue eyes stared back her as she reached down and tore the captain’s bars from his uniform.

“Quinn,” she murmured.  “You should have never betrayed me.”  She signed, straightened, and returned to her ship.  Lieutenant Pierce met her at the airlock.

“Quinn?” he asked.

“An agent of Darth Baras,” Lord Raerkex replied coldly.  She turned to glare at Pierce, but he wisely did not say anything against the former captain other than a brief, “Yes, My Lord.”

She tossed him the bars before she turned from him, her cloak billowing behind her.  “Captain Pierce,” she called over her shoulder.  “Join me in my quarters.  We have plans to make for Corellia.”

“Yes, My Lord.”  His voice was like gravel.  Lord Raerkex smiled.  She was sure Pierce would be a far more adventurous companion.  And hopefully far more loyal.


That One Job With the Kid

This is a prequel piece to That One Job In Beijing, which you can read here.  Enjoy!


The One Job With the Kid

Dayna Doskocil

I pressed my hand against the kid’s mouth, half a centimeter under his nose. I didn’t want the kid to die, I just needed him to shut up for half a fucking second so I could think. This was a cluster fuck if I’ve ever seen one, and I’ve been in plenty of cluster fucks in my day. My mind briefly wondered to Paris, three or four years ago now, but I firmly pushed it away. I needed to stay focused. Stay sharp. Because I was good, one of the damn best in the biz, but I knew this kid was going to be a problem.

How in the hell the little shit got past security was beyond me? Maybe they just let him waltz through because he was only a kid. And the little shit was smart enough to get through the access door into the back area, the Imps only area. But his plan seemed to falter there. The kid was pretty lucky that I’d already been there, lifting the flute.

The kid stumbled and groaned next to me, his foot wavering from the burn mark. He’d stepped off the path. Probably because he didn’t know about the path. Most people didn’t. I wasn’t most people. I knew about the paths the Imps set up in their special storerooms. It was my talent, my gift if you will. Maybe a bit like a superpower, although no one really thought about superheros anymore. It was really a shame because right now I felt a little like Daredevil – blind, in the dark, having to rely on my other senses to get the hell out of this room, fighting against the man… in a sense. If you could call Imps men.

I did cheat a little. Daredevil never had a vibrosuit. The fabric clung to my body, special cells picking up the smallest vibration in the room, the slightest breeze, a hint of a temperature change. It was how I found the kid in the first place.

That and his scream when he stepped across the first tile on his way to his prize.

“I swear on my mother’s grave, if you get me caught, kid, I will leave you for the Imps,” I hissed in the kid’s ear. He stopped his moaning and made an attempt to walk in a straight line. I used my leg to guide him, shifting his damaged foot three centimeters to the right. The exact placement was important. I paused for a moment as our feet came to rest in the correct square of floor. I pictured the room in my mind: the main entrance two meters north, the display I’d just lifted the flute from was eight meters to the west, the vent I’d entered from three meters southwest from the display. It was why I picked that vent in the first place. But it was a long way to travel with a wounded child. I’d need another exit. The front entrance was closest, but it was suicide to take that one. There would be Imps out there and both me and the kid would be humped if I ventured there.

I was a little surprised that we hadn’t been caught already. The kid’s first screams had been loud. Really loud. Planet-blowing-up-force-disturbing type of loud. Either the Imps on guard duty were out at the moment or this room had better soundproofing than I thought.

Or the Imps were on their way right now.

I could ditch the kid, of course. Leave him and let the Imps arrest him. He’d be shipped off planet to one of the asteroid mines for a few years, certainly no more than 10 years. He’d come out a young man still, his life ahead of him. If I got caught… A shiver traveled up my spine. The Imps weren’t as forgiving toward humans who took their fancy toys. And I’d taken my fair share of their fancy toys. There would be no asteroid mine for me.

I couldn’t just leave the kid, though. Wasn’t in my nature to leave a kid, no matter how he might fuck everything up for me, at the mercy of the Imps. No one deserved that. That left one option. I hated this part.

“I need both my hands,” I hissed in his ear, my hand still tightly clamped over his mouth. “If you make a sound, I’ll leave you here.” He didn’t move. “I need some physical confirmation that you understand, kid.”

The slightest of nods answered my question. Slowly, I removed my hand. The kid, to his credit, didn’t move, didn’t make a sound except for the slightest hike in his breathing. The kid was scared to death. Good. That would make this a little easier.

“I have to move over there,” I pointed but quickly realized the futility of the gesture. He couldn’t fucking see in the dark. What was this kid doing in here anyway? If he was here to lift something, he sure was doing a piss poor job of it.

A small hand groped in the darkness until it found my leg. “Don’t leave me,” he whispered.

Well, isn’t that just heart melting pathetic? I peeled his hand from my suit. “If you want to get out of here, you’ll stay right here. Don’t move. Don’t make a sound.”

“Please don’t leave me,” he whispered again. I could feel the moisture on his face through the enhanced abilities of the vibrosuit. “I don’t want to go to the mines. Please.”

Shit. I wasn’t really going to leave the kid anyway. “Yeah yeah,” I whispered back. “I’ll be right back, but you stay right there.” His hand snaked out again. Damn it. I was never going to get us out of here if he didn’t let me go.

I dug into my pouch and found an ancient card that my grandfather gave me when I was a boy. It had a faded picture of Han Solo on it. I didn’t believe in good luck charms. I believed in skill and practice and patience. But it reminded me of my grandfather so I carried it with me.

I pressed it into his hands. “This is my good luck charm, “ I lied. “As long as you have that, I’ll come back for you. Ok?” He clutched the card and nodded, his hand leaving my pants. I straightened, tilted my head to get my place and took off to the south.

Three small steps, one large step, right, right, right, left. The pattern was etched into my mind and I followed, always staying within the path until I was under the vent in the center of the room. It was 50 meters up, which is why I never used the central vent. Too high, too much rope needed, too high a chance of falling, too high a chance of getting caught. Nope, side vents were the best. But, when the only other option is getting caught, you take the least desirable alternative.

The tensile I always carry with me only has enough strength to carry me. But I could drop it back down and get the kid. If we moved quickly, maybe we could both-

A sharp vibration rippled through the air towards the front of the storeroom. I spun, swore. The Imps were on their way. That was the vibration of a door sounding somewhere close by, maybe the lobby door for the storerooms. They’d be here soon.

Shit, fuck, damn, fuck.

On to alternative plan D.

I ran as fast as I could back to the kid, who stood stock still, still clutching my Han Solo card. I cringed a little at the damage he must be doing to it.

“Okay, kid,” I hissed as I took my card back from him. He jumped a little and clutched at my leg. I pushed him away. “We’ve got to get out of here. I’m going to carry you.” Without waiting for an answer, I picked the kid up and swung him on to my back, desperately glancing around for a way out.

There wasn’t- Holy fucking shit, I’m such a dumbass!

“Kid,” I hissed, “I have a way to get us out of here, but you have to do exactly what I say. Can you do that?” A nod.

Ok. This would work. “Count to 120. Then start crying. This is really important. I need you to do this or you’re going to the mines.” The kid starting tearing up.

“Not yet,” I hissed. “Count to 120.” Then I took off, praying to…well, hoping that the kid wasn’t as stupid as I had first thought. I made it to my entrance point, crawled through the vent and retrieved my bag from the ventilation shaft.

“50, 51, 52,” I counted silently as I rummaged through the pack, plucking out street clothes and stashing the flute in the secret pocket sewn in just for jobs.

“73, 74, 75” I didn’t bother removing the vibrosuit. It took too long and my clothes would cover it. The last part was street shoes and a ball cap. I walked out of the closet without looking, a little risky but the clock was ticking.

“102, 103, 104.”

I ran down the hall, working up a sweat before I can across the first Imp.

“Oh thank God,” I cried out, trying to put as much fear in my voice as I could. “I can’t find my son. He was standing right next to me one minute and then he was gone. We’re here for a school assignment. He was supposed to stay with me.”

The Imp put its hand up, the claws at the tip reflecting in the florescent hall light. “One moment,” it said, its voice like a fingernail rubbing against a microphone. It moved its head to the side, the large black shields over its eyes glinting and the white of its breather reflecting the light from above. It nodded.

“We may have found him. Follow me.” Their gait was awkward, their backward knees making their stride smaller than expected for their size. I followed, trying not the mimic the way it walked, a gait I have practice for hours and hours in order to follow the paths in the storerooms.

It led me to the storeroom lobby, where the kid was standing, his arms wrapped around him as an Imp knelt besides him examining his foot.

“Christian!” I yelled as I ran to him, pulling him into a hug, hoping like hell the kid got what was going on.

“Dad!” He yelled back. I smirked. The kid wasn’t as stupid as I first thought. I put him on the floor and turned to the Imp.

“Thank you so much. I was worried sick about him.” I turned to the kid. “Don’t you ever wonder off again. I was so worried about you.”

The kid turned him face down, his hands winding in the fabric of his shirt. “I was just looking for the bathroom.” The Imp next to him stood.

“His foot will be fine. Please be mindful of the signs next time. You will be escorted out of the museum.”

“Of course, of course,” I agreed eagerly. An Imp escort out of the place I’d just robbed. Now that was a first.

The one who helped me, I think – all the damn Imps look alike – walked us through the halls and out of the main entrance. I carried the kid until we were around the corner from the joint before I set him on the ground.

“All right, now scat. You almost cost me the job. Be glad I didn’t leave you there.” I said before turning and heading the other way. I had a drop to make.

“I don’t have anywhere to go,” the kid called after me. “I was breaking in there to prove I could do it for Mr. Kelp.”

I paused. “Mr. Kelp?’

“Yeah, he’s gonna let me be part of his gang. He said I needed to break into that place to show him I was worthy.” The kid puffed his chest out.

“Didn’t do that great of a job,” I remarked as I turned. The kid deflated, his head hung.

“Mr. Kelp said I had to.”

I sighed. I knew Kelp. He ran a gang of trouble makers and common thieves. Most of his boys were on the asteroids or dead by the time they were 15. This kid couldn’t have been more than 10.

“Shit,” I muttered. “Hey, kid, know anything about Batman?’

“Who?” Kids these fucking days. No one knew any history.

“Batman. He was this crime fighting guy. Had a sidekick named Robin who helped him out.” A tiny light flared to life behind the kid’s eyes.

“A sidekick.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, yet. You’re barely apprentice worthy.” I sighed again. “Kelp will just get you killed, kid. If you want to learn the trade-“

“You’ll teach me!” The kid jumped up and down. “You’ll really teach me?”

“You have to do exactly what I say. We’ve got to teach you some brains. Can’t just break into an Imp storeroom without some plan.”

“I promise. Whatever you say.”

I sighed again. “All right. Come on. What’s your name?”

“Zek.”


Successfully Mad

Accepting yourself and your mental illness

NeuroLogica Blog

DaynaJD's Blog

Paleocave Blog

Trust us, we're scientists

Brachiolope Media

The best podcasts in all of SCIENCE!

Sara Dobie Bauer

bestselling author and book nerd