"This show has been booked for months, Hobbie. How did you manage to pull this off?" Wedge Antilles asked the usually mournful Rogue.
Tonight, Derek "Hobbie" Klivian seemed rather excited. Excited for Hobbie, anyway. Wedge was beginning wonder if he should be nervous.
The show in question was the opening night of the Starlites' Coruscant tour. They were a trio of sisters with exquisite voices, renowned throughout the galaxy for their beauty and flexible performing style. Kat and Kayla, the twins, provided a stunning background to Sordey's throaty, sexy voice.
"If it was Wes, not Hobbie, bringing us here, I would swear there was a woman or women involved, and I don't mean the Starlites" Tycho Celchu added teasingly.
Wes Janson responded to the jibe with a good-natured grin. He was a big fan of the Starlites and in too good of a mood to rise to the bait.
Hobbie just smiled knowingly. "Who says there isn't a woman involved?"
Before this comment could register with his companions, they entered Giovani's. Giovani's was a rather exclusive dinner theater where patrons could take in a variety of performances following a delicious meal. It was also renowned for a wide selection of exotic liquors and mixed drinks. Many entertainers performed "opening nights" here before taking their tours to more accessible venues.
Hobbie spoke briefly with the hostess who greeted them. She led the foursome to a front-row table with five chairs and place settings. Before any of them could ask about the extra space, the hostess stated, "The Admiral will be with you shortly."
Admiral? Wedge wondered. From Hobbie's earlier comment about a woman, Wedge realized their mystery guest had to be female. Hobbie maneuvered so that the empty space was between himself and Tycho.
Wedge couldn't help thinking this evening was going to be real interesting.
As was typical of such a high profile occasion, private security was in evidence throughout the establishment, and not just any private security team either. The Guardiens were on duty as was apparent from the distinctive, well-tailored aquamarine uniforms. Individual Guardien units were distinguished by the colored sashes they wore around the waist of their uniforms with the sleeve cuffs serving to distinguish between the fighter pilot, ground-based and ship-based divisions.
The unit on duty was wearing the light blue sashes and black cuffs that were indicative of their best and most legendary group of fighter pilots: Angel Squadron. Tycho's long-time friend, Terra Sharlee, one of the Guardiens' founders, led the Angels.
Tycho pitted Hobbie with an accusing glare that was a mixture of hurt that she had not tried to contact him and excitement at finally seeing her again after nearly a decade. The last time they had seen each other was during the rather chaotic year following his "separation" from the Empire. They had managed to keep in touch through letters but communication was sporadic given the sensitive nature of his position with the Rogues, not to mention the events of his life since then.
They had tried to see each other several times but their various duties had just not allowed it. The few times their schedules had appeared to mesh, one or the other would get reassigned, called back to duty, or any of a number of other minor inconveniences including a small war on at least one occasion.
Hobbie tried to look innocent, but failed miserably. "Sorry I didn't say anything but she wanted to surprise you."
Wes' reaction was slightly less than enthusiastic. "Oh, no. I'm in trouble," he moaned as he placed his head on the table and covered it with his hands.
"Easy, Wes, you're safe. It's the Angels, not the Black Widows." Hobbie reassured him. His voice was not without amusement.
Wedge leaned over to Tycho, "Do we want to know?" To which Tycho replied, "Probably not."
Hobbie's mood was beginning to make sense to Wedge. Terra must be here. Wedge had wanted to meet her since Biggs told him about some of their exploits on Prefsbelt IV during her visits to Tycho while he was attending the Imperial Academy there. Hobbie, Tycho and even Soontir Fel had followed up with additional stories that made their fellow Rogues wonder how much was true and how much was exaggerated fantasy.
Wedge's curiosity had been further piqued when she contacted him upon hearing the news that Tycho was on trial for the murder of fellow- Rogue Corran Horn. She was concerned about Tycho and obviously wanted Wedge's reassurances. She had also asked if she could send letters to Tycho in care of Wedge. She had understood security would have to read the letters and didn't care. She just wanted to be sure Tycho received them and knew she was thinking of him even though she was unable to be there in person.
Wedge remembered the uplifting affect on Tycho when he had told the blond Rogue of the discussion with his old friend. Tycho was happy to hear news of her but agreed it was probably best that she wasn't there. "She would no doubt end up in the next cell if she was," Tycho had admitted wryly.
What was the nickname Tycho had for her? G.A.? Wedge couldn't remember and was about to ask when he noticed Tycho's and Hobbie's attentions were on a nearby door that led to the backstage area.
A woman in an evening gown had just emerged and was headed toward their table. Terra was slightly shorter than Wedge, pretty but not drop-dead gorgeous. She wore a mint green dress and bright blue sash, which accentuated a graceful, athletic build and deep green eyes. Dark golden hair fell in waves to just below her shoulders. Her bearing and presence were serious with a hint of mischief and Wedge realized the stories had to be true.
The Rogues stood politely as she approached. Tycho enfolded her in a friendly hug and spoke quietly in her ear. This open show of affection was quite out of character for the normally reserved pilot.
She laughed and turned to Hobbie to give him a hug. "Glad you could drag him down here, Hobbs. You didn't have to tell him, did you?"
"He didn't have a clue." Hobbie was obviously enjoying being the one to spring the surprise for a change rather than being on the receiving end.
She looked approvingly at Wes and Wedge. "So which one of you are going to introduce me to your adorable dates?" she asked the blonds as Tycho held the empty seat for her.
Tycho chuckled as they returned to their seats. "Well, at least your sense of humor hasn't changed. Terra, I'd like you to meet General Wedge Antilles. Wedge, I'd like you to meet Lady Terra Sharlee."
She nodded in his direction and smiled. "It's nice to finally meet you in person, General. I've never gotten the chance to thank you for playing messenger for me."
He returned her nod and smiled, "Please, call me Wedge and it was no trouble at all. I was glad to do it."
Terra, this is Major Wes Janson. Wes, Terra."
So you're Wes Janson. I've heard a lot about you from the Black Widows." Terra tried hard to conceal the smirk that threatened to creep across her face.
Hobbie was clearly amused by Wes' dismay. Wedge and Tycho exchanged a "maybe we should hear this story" look. They made an unspoken agreement to question Hobbie later if they couldn't get Terra to share over dinner.
Throughout dinner, the Rogues asked about the Guardiens' organization. She filled them in on the history of the organization and told them how a holodrama producer had approached the then Captain Soontir Fel hoping he and some of the Academy cadets could serve as stunt pilots. He had been in the middle of training exercises so he had recommended Terra who had been visiting at the time.
She had quickly awed the producer and other crewmembers with her flying skills and professional approach. By the end of filming, she was THE stunt pilot of choice. She began recruiting other pilots: usually female. For many, this would be their only opportunity to fly ships like the TIE due to the Empire's prejudices against women.
On one occasion, she had been working with the maintenance crews to prepare a new group of Interceptors for filming when pirates had attacked their transport. Since the transport was essentially armed only with simulated weapons, it was up to her pilots to drive them off. Fortunately, they had not yet gotten around to swapping the live weapons for fake ones on the Interceptors.
The organization evolved from there into security specialists. Terra had utilized the financial genius she had inherited from her grandmother to acquire small capital ships and other interested partners and leaders. The Guardiens currently boasted over three dozen medium-sized transports and small capital ships. Each ship carried assorted shuttles and fighter escorts. They had become quite possibly the best (and most expensive) name in private security serving professional sports teams as well as various entertainers.
With a little prodding, Terra was more than happy to entertain them with the story of Wes' encounter with the Black Widows, much to Wes' chagrin. During the time Wes and Hobbie were assigned to training squadrons, the Black Widows had been on an assignment on the same planet. It was inevitable that Wes "Lady's Man" Janson would encounter one of the Guardiens many all-female squadrons.
Apparently, the Black Widows were able to smuggle Wes onto their transport for a little "private training" in the squadrons' pilots' lounge. The trouble occurred when the ships' captain went in search of the pilots who were supposed to be in the simulators. And this captain didn't have a sense of humor about unauthorized guests not to mention that the Widows were technically on duty at the time.
Dinner was over by the time she finished. "Your presence was something of an issue but the real problem was that they were supposed to be on duty. A problem that never would have arisen if they had just gone through channels to begin with. I'm sure even Captain Darwitz would have allowed a duty change if she had known. I just think the Widows didn't want to have to share you since most of our pilots would die for a chance to meet the Rogues. You're something of idols to them."
Wedge groaned. "Please don't tell them that. Their egos are big enough as it is."
She smiled sympathetically at Wedge. "If your pilots are anything like mine, I feel sorry for you."
"So, does this mean I'm not in trouble?" Wes asked incredulously.
"Not with me, anyway. They were the ones on duty, not you. As to their 'extra-curricular' activities, what they do in their off-duty time does not concern me too much as long as it's not illegal or reflect poorly on the organization."
"Hey, Wedge, can we keep her?" Wes asked enthusiastically.
She laughed. "I doubt the New Republic could afford my salary. Besides, I think Tycho and Hobbie are worried about all the stories I can tell about them."
Before either Tycho or Hobbie could reply, her comlink beeped. Following a short, mostly one-sided conversation, she returned her attention to the Rogues. "Sorry, I have to go back to work. I'm not on duty but I am on call and it wouldn't be good for the others to see me breaking my own rules." She winked playfully at Wes.
The Rogues stood as she did and she waved them back to their seats. The mischievous gleam was back in her eyes. "Please be seated and enjoy yourselves. It's not often that I get to buy dinner for four handsome Rogues. You are cleared to join me backstage after the show, if you like."
They agreed and with a quick hug for Tycho, she returned through the backstage door just as the lights were dimming in anticipation of the Starlites taking the stage.
Following the performance, the Rogues were escorted backstage and handed off to Terra who introduced them to the Starlites. Much to Wes' delight, the sisters invited the Rogues to join them for drinks at a nearby club.
Wedge and Tycho had early meetings and declined but Wes and Hobbie agreed to join them since they were off till 1400 when the Rogues had simulator time planned. Wedge was about to suggest that they return to base also when Terra interceded on their behalf.
"Don't worry. I'll be chaperoning and I promise to make sure they make it back to the base by noon if Tycho will join me for lunch." Outnumbered, Wedge had no choice but to reluctantly give in.
With that settled, Terra escorted Tycho and Wedge to the exit. When they reached the door, Wedge asked Terra, "You sure they won't be a problem?"
I'm sure. I've had practice handling Hobbie." She looked meaningfully at Tycho. "And Wes can't be that bad compared to Biggs and Tycho when they were at the Academy. Plus, I have the feeling there is an entire squadron of ladies willing to help 'reprimand' them if they get out of line."
Wedge looked at Tycho and grinned. "You know, Tych, maybe we should keep her. It would be worth it just to hear the stories you haven't told us."
Tycho looked at his commanding officer, "You say that now, but the first time she makes you look bad, you'd be ready to space her."
She smirked at Tycho, "You forgot disobey a direct order."
Tycho looked mock thoughtful, "No, I think he's used to that by now."
Wedge rolled his eyes, "Thanks, I think."
With that, the threesome exchanged good-byes and Terra returned to her charges for the evening.
After they were out of earshot, Wedge asked curiously, "Is she really that good?"
"Better, but it has been almost ten years since I've seen her fly...."
Continued in Part 2