The buzzer of my door rang.
The door opened, and to my surprise, in walked General Airen Cracken, head of New Republic Intelligence. I immediately jumped to my feet and saluted. He returned it. We sat down, and he hit me with a real zinger without preamble.
"Commander, a planet has been discovered out on the Rim. Its name is Earth. The people, somehow, know more about the Republic-Imperial War than the NRI does. The government has agreed to tell us a few things that we don't know if we prove to the citizenry that certain… uh…characters are in fact real. One of the people on this list is you.
"Yes, you. Commander, the Senate has authorized a mini mission to Earth. The Terrans have given us a few tidbits of information, and it is enough that we think we need all they have. The Senate, with concurrence from Chief Councilor Mon Mothma, has agreed that four shall be sent: you, Captain Celchu, and Lieutenants Janson and Klivian, as all four of them are on the list. Do you agree?"
"Sir, in theory. I have a question, however. What precisely will this entail?"
Craken glanced at his datapad. "The Terrans have decided that they will bring in an `expert' who has studied the four of you in as much detail as they have. This person will spend some time with you and will report to their government whether or not you are genuine. The `expert' is- this surprised me too- is a seventeen-year-old girl named Joy Steresa. She is a member of an organization- now don't blush, Commander! -called the Wedge Antilles Admiration Society and is known to her friends as `Arwen'. I have spoken with her over the comm, and when I expressed my doubts as to whether she could know whether or not you are in fact you, she informed me of certain aspects of my life that I had forgotten."
All I could do was stare.
Three weeks later, I was in the Terran version of formal wear in a ballroom. Wes, Tych, and Hobbie were as well. The leader of the region was fêting us, and at some point we were to meet our guide/debunker. I looked around and saw the leader, whose name, if memory served, was Bush, walking towards me next to a young woman in a red dress. She was blonde, of average height and had a very no- nonsense way of carrying herself. From the way she was carefully keeping her distance from Bush, I gathered that she did not like him much.
"Commander Antilles, this is Joy Steresa. Miss Steresa, this is-"
That was as far as he got. She cut him off, snapping rather irritably, "My last name is pronounced Ster-es-a, not Saint-T-er-e- sa!"
In a more polite tone, she said, "It is nice to meet you, Commander."
She extended her hand, which I shook. Seeing her so close-up, I judged her to be a person who went out in the sun a great deal and further exercised frequently, probably by lifting weights. Despite the delicate manner that she presented her hand to me, I could feel the strength in her grasp. She turned and greeted Tych, Wes, and Hobbie, getting their names perfectly right- which few people do- and then politely asked Tych about how Winter was. Tych gaped. There were few people in the Republic who knew of his relationship with Winter and here was complete stranger knowing about it in detail!
The rest of the night passed without major mishap. The next day, Arwen (as she requested we call her), came to our hotel and informed us that we had to leave the city we were in and go to a different one. She said that we would only need two changes of clothes and would be returning to Washington, so we could leave all our other things there. Thirty minutes later, I was thoroughly miserable. The five of us were scrunched in a speeder that could comfortably hold three. Worse, Wes was commenting on the music. Arwen was playing a selection of songs that appeared to have little or nothing to do with each other over the speeder's sound system, and Wes was commenting on the lyrics and demanding to know what each reference in the songs were to. I had examined the label of the case she removed the disc from and didn't recognize any of the eight songs.
"Why doesn't she care about her reputation? Your reputation is important!"
"Many people don't care about their reputations," Arwen replied, sounding patient.
"What is a `skater boy'? What's `ballet'? What's `MTV'?" Arwen twitched and didn't reply.
"What's a termite? What's Cheez Whiz? Why should we kill him?"
Arwen, apparently, had learned to tune him out.
"Who's David? What does `hallelujah' mean? Who was taking a bath on her roof and why?"
"Where's Bangkok? Why wouldn't the queens they use impress me? All women impress me!"
Arwen choked back laughter.
"You wanna know what's under my clothes? I'll show you!"
I shot Wes a glare and he moved his hand away from the fastener of his shirt.
"What does `preppy' mean? Are my clothes preppy? Should I take them off?"
"But she told me to!"
"What's a VW Microbus? How much is a ton? What's the draft? Who's Alice? Hey, sergeants do talk like that! Wedge, sing along with feeling!"
While I did agree that sergeants spoke like that, I felt no need to join the 'organization' and I wondered how singing would make the military refuse to take me. When we arrived in New York, I turned to her and asked how she had managed to tune Wes out. "I have yappy sisters," was her reply.
Continued in Part Two