<BEEP> <BEEP> <BEEP>
The sound was annoying and persistent. Either someone was trying to message me or the alarm chrono was trying its damnedest to wake me up. Either way, all I wanted to do was throw the Sith-infested device, whichever was making the infernal noise, across the room, burrow deeper under the covers and sleep for a week.
But I couldn’t quite find the strength to fling the noisemaker into the wall. Instead I cracked open one eye and looked at the bedside table. Joy, I had a call. Probably Wedge asking me to come back the Squadron. He had called me dozens of time during the past few months. Each time I answered him with one word: No.
I just couldn’t go back, at least not yet. The emotional wounds were too fresh. And I didn’t know if I could be around Wes without breaking down. We both wanted to get back together, relive the happiness we had experienced before, but there was too much distrust between us. He would always be suspicious of Jaster; I would always worry that some blond would steal him away.
We were at an impasse.
Groaning at my hurtful thoughts, I rolled over and slapped the comm on. Instead of a holo of Wedge, Risha appeared. She was fairly bouncing, something she rarely did. "Sis, what the hell are you doing in bed?"
I love my sister, but the bouncing combined with that tone almost made me hang up on her. "What’s going on, Rish?" I was growling, I didn’t care. I was unemployed now; I had left the Rogues months ago. And I was wealthy. I was supposed to sleep in.
"You need to fly to Halin."
I gave her a confused look. I had never even heard of the planet, let alone been there. "Where’s that and why do I need to go there?"
"Don’t ask questions," Risha snapped. She was in Intel mode now. Something big was going on if she’d go all military on me. "Get here ASAP."
I sat up, pushing a braid behind my ear. "You can’t pull that shit on me, Sis. You don’t tell, I’ll go to some pleasure planet and get a facial."
She snarled then settled down. "Selina, I need you here NOW. It’s important and you’ll regret it for the rest of your life if you don’t come."
Intel had been trying to recruit me as soon as they realized what my previous career had been. My reputation as a thief had them fairly frothing at the mouth to sign me up. But instead, I had gotten conned into Rogue Squadron. Not that I had truly minded at the time. It allowed me to work with the man I loved. But now…Now both Cracken and Rish were trying to get me to sign up. Personally, I was sick of the military life.
I considered Risha’s words, this wasn’t a plea from Intel, it was from my sister. Something was going on that she couldn’t deal with. That she, for some reason, thought I was the only one who could deal with it.
"Ok, Sis. I’ll be there as soon as I’m done packing…"
Risha gave me THAT look. "Uh huh…"
I sighed. Rish knew me too well. "Ok, ok…I’ll pack light and be out within the hour."
I stared at the little holo standing on the table. "I need info though."
Sis looked uncomfortable. "What do you need to know?"
"Am I going in peace or going in war?"
Risha chuckled, "Even in peace, you’re prepared for war."
I knew what that answer meant. She and her operatives had no idea what would happen. The situation hadn’t been locked down. Meaning, act as if everything is fine, but come ready to take on a garrison of Stormies. Lovely…
We said our good-byes and I switched off her transmission. Groaning, I threw off the covers and searched for my haversack.
Halin was a pretty little planet. Vibrantly colored flowers bloomed all around the landing field, the bright colors cheering me as my x-wing settled onto the ferrocrete. When I popped open the canopy, warm air spilled over me, smelling sweet like freshly baked pastry.
Sis was waiting at the edge of the clearing, fidgeting from one foot to the other. As soon as I shut down the ship’s systems, Risha was running towards the snubfighter. "Quick trip," she said, trying to make conversation when it was obvious she wanted to drag me off to whatever situation she had referred to.
I patted the side of my ship and gave Zephyr a few commands to ensure no one would be able to get within ten meters of the ship without me knowing it. "You know I’ve modified her. She was one of the fastest ships in the Squad." Damn, saying the word "was" hurt.
She nodded absentmindedly and fairly bounced while I grabbed my gear out of the cargo compartment. "Sis, chill. I’m not going anywhere until I change out of my flight suit."
I glared at her. I was not going to back down on this issue. "I am not parading around in "Shoot me" orange." I held up a handful of the brightly colored cloth. "I’m a walking target in this thing."
She grudgingly led me to a ‘fresher in the improvised spaceport. As I changed into a pair of dark brown trousers and a fawn colored shirt, I could picture her grumbling to herself, complaining about how I was slowing her mission down. I didn’t really care if I was slowing her mission down. If whatever situation Rish had thrown me in turned dangerous, I was not going to be the main target because of an obnoxiously bright flight suit.
After pulling on my boots, I slid a pair of sheathed vibroblades into the tops. Knives of plain metal slid into sheaths hidden beneath the full sleeves of my blouse. A pair of blasters accompanied the blades. Personally, I disliked blasters. As a thief I had never carried one. An armed thief was a dead thief. Security guards had no qualms about shooting a being with a blaster in her hand. But someone who was unarmed made them pause, which has saved my life a few times.
When I exited the ‘fresher, Risha was glaring at me but she seemed to grudgingly agree that the change in attire was necessary. "Nice boots," she commented as she lead me to wherever this situation was.
"Thanks. I got them from that shop on level Seven Hundred owned by the Twe’lik."
"Bitch," she muttered. It was her favorite shop and she had an addiction for shoes that matched my own.
Chuckling, I toyed with the end of my braid. "Don’t complain too much, I got you a pair too."
She smiled, the first time she had been out of Intel mode since I landed. "Thanks, Sis."
"Welcome. So what’s going on?"
She looked at me, trying to decide what to say. I stopped walking and crossed my arms over my chest. "Until you tell me what’s going on, I’m not moving another step."
A frustrated sigh escaped her. "You are Corellian, aren’t you?"
I answered with a grin. That might not be my native planet, but it was where I was raised. Which meant the usual Corellian stubbornness has been ingrained into my psyche at a very young age. "Tell me."
"All right, all right, but can we talk and walk?" She began walking away, I waited, then realized she was explaining why I was on Halin. Should’ve known she would find her own interpretation of my words.
The explanation left me curious and not exactly sure Rish had told me anything. While I was off moping in our apartments on Coruscant, she had been off on some Intel operation and found some very fascinating data pertaining to a previously unknown Imperial prison. She and her group had been sent to Halin to find the prison and see if there were any Rebels left alive on the planet.
Sounded like one of Risha’s less violent assignments. And there seemed to be no reason for my presence on the planet. When I asked her why she needed me, she just gave me a non-committal grunt and told me to follow her.
Eventually she led me to what looked like a medical center. My heart slowed, threatened to stop. Rish was beside me so who had been hurt? I would have known if it was Celeste. I might not be a Jedi, but the Force would have told me. Anyway our sister was busy annoying the hell out of Luke Skywalker on Yavin. Wedge and Wes were with the Rogues. Who could it be?
"Sis, you know I hate hospitals…" I let my voice trail off as Risha took me inside. "And I’m not a medic. What can I do here?"
We stopped in the waiting room, her eyes dark with concern. "There were people in the prison, Sis. And they weren’t treated very well."
I swallowed hard. There was a sinking feeling in my gut. Something bad was happening and I didn’t have a clue what it was. "I figured that. Imps aren’t known for their hospitality."
She nodded, then touched my arm. "We found someone in there that you knew awhile ago. He’s in bad shape. He was in that Hell for months. It tore him up mentally and physically. He won’t let anyone near him. So I thought…"
I didn’t understand. "I’m not a medic. I can’t treat him, whoever he is."
"No, but you might be able to calm him enough to allow us to treat him."
I asked more questions, trying to figure out who in the galaxy Risha was referring to. But she was annoyingly silent.
We walked past rows of begins on cots, their filthy wounded bodies making me want to retch. I didn’t. I couldn’t dishonor them by showing how horrified I was by their condition. These beings were the true heroes of the Rebellion. They were the ones that paid for the freedoms I defended as a Rogue.
Suddenly, I was thankful that I had fought as a pilot. If I died had for the cause, I would have been vaporized in my ship, not left to rot in some prison.
I tried not to shudder at the thought. When I had decided to become a thief, I knew I could easily end up in jail, but a civilian facility was a pleasure planet compared to the prison the Empire had created.
I would die before I allowed myself to be locked away in such a hell.
"Selina?" Risha was giving me a worried look. I smiled weakly, trying to reassure her. Then I realized she was waiting beside a closed door. "He’s in here."
Rish looked nervous, almost terrified. Now I was really beginning to worry. Who was this person who merited a private room while everyone else was forced to lie in a common room filled with cots? "Why is he separated from the others?" I asked softly. "Officer?"
"No. He was…violent when he woke." Risha was having to drag the words out. She was not at ease with the situation and from the look on her face she was feeling guilty for throwing me to this being. "We sedated him. Put him in here so that he wouldn’t disturb the others."
Uh huh…Why did I suddenly feel like I was being thrown into a rancor pit?
Oh well, Sis wouldn’t let anything too horrible happen to me. And if I could calm this being down so he could be treated…
Shrugging, I palmed open the door and walked inside. Risha stayed in the hallway, looking in nervously as I walked towards the bed. Gods, what had he done to terrify Rish so much?
Then, as my eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness, I realized that it was not his reaction that she feared it was mine.
Dear gods, how could it be….
Tentatively, I moved to the bed, unable to believe that it was true. I sat down on the mattress, afraid to touch him. Afraid that if I did, he would fade away like the Force mist that had almost killed me only a few months before.
But fear and uncertainty could last only so long. My hand was moving, trembling slightly as I touched his face. I had thought he was dead. Everyone had told me he was dead….
My fingers slid over his forehead, down to the prosthetic covering the left side of his face. He had once told me that he wasnn’t suppose to be able to feel any sensation through the prosthetic, but somehow he could always sensed when I touched the metal.
It seemed that his words were truth. His eye opened, the optic slowly fluttered to life as I traced the border between metal and flesh. I gave him a trembling smile. "Welcome back, Ton."
To be Continued...
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