The Consequences of Alderaan
Asylane Vinson was focused intently on her notes. They were hand-written scribble, done in faded graphite on thin flimsy - virtually illegible to anyone and everyone. But they were terribly important in all respects. She gnawed on the tip of her finger thoughtfully as she squinted at her tiny print. It was unclear what the message was about and Asylane, in a fit of characteristic absentmindedness, hadn?t remembered to transcribe them while the information was still fresh in her mind. She took a hundred messages like these a day. Sometimes they were simple supply lists, others were transmissions from Rebel spies, still others listed the casualties for the day.
Whatever the list was, it was never pleasant.
She had managed to figure out that this particular message had been sent from Bail Organa and Mon Mothma to Jan Dadonna. For the life of her, however, she couldn?t remember what it had been about.
Tossing her pencil down on the table in front of her, she leaned back and pressed the palms of her hands into her eyes. She had a headache. She always had headaches these days. Spending hours in front of the glowing terminal screen, pouring over Intel reports, supply and casualties lists, simple communications, and the other miscellaneous transmissions that passed over her desk throughout the day, couldn?t be good for her eyes.
She missed home. Yavin 4 was not home. She missed her parents, her siblings, her friends, all safely tucked away back on Alderaan. Some of them knew what she had gone off and done with her life; others were blissfully unaware.
She could still remember her father?s reaction. "What the hell did you do?" he had yelled when she had announced that she had dropped out of the University of Agamar and was going to do something "meaningful" with her life.
Her father had thought that the life a diplomat was a perfectly "meaningful" pursuit. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn?t quite convince him that the term "diplomatic" applied to her about as well as "brilliant" applied to a Gamorrean.
So, she was a secretary. But she was a "meaningful" secretary.
She sighed and opened her eyes. Turning towards the terminal beside her, she ran a hand through her disheveled black hair. She?d finish translating that message later after her eyes had taken a break. She scrolled down the rows of text in front of her, reading about one in every three lines.
She leaned in closer to the screen, squinting in order to see the tiny letters better. The Princess had been taken into custody by the Empire on Espionage charges.
This was bad, very bad. She whirled around, searching through the minefield of datapads and bits of flimsy that littered her desk, looking for her comlink. This needed to get to Alderaan and Mon Mothma as quickly as possible before Leia was executed.
She couldn?t locate it; she whirled the other direction, checking the stacks on the other side. As her gaze swept over the terminal screen, however, a new message flashed across, replacing the news report on Leia?s capture.
Asylane?s eyes caught on the headline for one short moment. She screamed.
Lieutenant Tycho Celchu tried for the fourth time to reconnect his call to Alderaan.
"Just give up," Ovi, his roommate, told him. Ovi Teris was from Commenor, though his parents had moved to Alderaan when he was still young. It was not statistically probable that two lieutenants from the same planet would end up being bunkmates, but in Tycho?s case, it had worked, thereby allowing for a mutual connection between the two that might not have occurred otherwise.
Tycho hit the side of the terminal in a vain attempt to make it connect to the Alderaan line. He was irritated. It had taken him twenty solid minutes to get the damn line to connect the first time and then it had cut out half-way through the conversation. That was three hours ago. He had tried on-and-off to get the bloody awful thing to work all afternoon with absolutely no success.
"Look," he said, turning to Ovi, "I haven?t seen my fianc?for three months."
Ovi flopped down on his bunk and batted his eyelashes at Tycho. "You could just do what the rest of us do in that situation."
Tycho leaned back in his chair and raised an eyebrow. "You mean satisfy yourself with the spank bank?"
Ovi made a face. "No." He propped his head on his hands. "Sample the local cuisine."
The blond pilot rolled his eyes and turned back to the terminal. "Thank you, no. I like my relationships to be successful."
His roommate started laughing. "Man, she has you whipped."
Tycho ignored him pointedly and tried to refresh the connection again. Leave it the Empire to screw up the damned communications lines. It was his birthday and he couldn?t even get a successful call home. The lines had always been erratic, so he tried to avoid calling directly because it was expensive and difficult. Hololetters worked perfectly fine, and Force knew that he used them often enough, but today was his birthday and his father had pulled some strings to get the connection open in the first place.
"Hey Tycho," Ovi called, "isn?t your dad someone important in the whole inter-system communications thing?"
Tycho nodded. "Sithspawn!" The connection failed again.
Ovi started laughing. "I?m sure this complaint is going to come up next hololetter."
"You have no idea." Tycho hit the terminal with the palm of his hand. The screen flickered with the impact and then returned to the same bland gray it had been for the last ten minutes. He leaned his head back and ran a hand through his blond hair. It was as long as regulation would allow - preserved that way for Nyiestra. She liked to run her hands through it. It was one of their few gestures of affection.
There was a beep at the door. "Come in!" Ovi called.
The door slid open with a swish. Tycho didn?t look up; just leaned his head back over the edge of his chair and rubbed at his eyes. They hurt from staring at the terminal screen.
"What is it, Ribsim?" he heard Ovi ask none to politely. Cadet Jenik Ribsim was not Ovi?s favorite person in the division. "Well, come on, you idiot, spit it out."
Tycho looked up. Ribsim was still standing in the doorway, a look of pure shock marring his pale face. His blue eyes were fixed on Ovi?s with a look of terror. "Um," he stuttered.
"Oh for the love of the Force," Ovi said angrily. "Say it. We don?t have all day."
Tycho saw Ribsim?s eyes flick over to him and widen in apology. "It?s okay, Jenik," he said gently, "he?s not going to eat you."
Ribsim?s eyes dropped to the floor. "Have you two seen the latest news reports?"
Ovi was irritated. "No. Genius here?s been tying up the terminal for the last four hours."
Tycho leaned forward in his chair, an ominous chill creeping down his spine. "Why?"
The Cadet looked up and met his eyes apologetically. "Alderaan," he said simply.
"What about Alderaan?" Ovi demanded irritably. "I really can?t stand this cryptic bull shit of yours."
Ribsim?s gaze moved from Tycho to Ovi. He nodded sadly. "Just look." And he turned and walked out.
The chill had grown into a full-fledged shudder. Tycho turned back towards the terminal and opened the news folder, the place where all of the most important information and best-crafted propaganda could be found. There, in brazen red letters, clear as day, Tycho?s world came crumbling.
"What?s it say?" Ovi asked anxiously as he untangled himself from unmade bedclothes and rushed to the other side of their small quarters. Had Tycho been paying attention, he would have heard the note of fear in Ovi?s voice. As it was, he just stared at the headline numbly.
A gasp behind him told him that Ovi had seen it as well.
The voice jolted Asylane out of her thoughts. She looked up and smiled. "Hello Wedge," she said softly, trying to make herself sound cheerful.
Wedge Antilles, the sole survivor of the original Red Squadron, sat down in the chair beside her. "You?re not partying like the rest of us."
Asylane shrugged and gestured at the glass of Whyren?s in front of her.
Her drinking partner shook his head. "I don?t think so, Laney. Being the wallflower for the night doesn?t count."
She looked at his eager face - so intent to make her feel better. His dark brown hair was plastered to his forehead with sweat and his kind brown eyes looked tentatively down at her, only slightly hazy because of alcohol consumption. Any smart retort she may have wanted to make died on her lips.
"I?m tired," she said simply.
"If you were tired, you?d just go back to your quarters. But you didn?t. You?re here. Why?"
Asylane shook her head. "Because it?s a party."
"Oh," was his only response. He looked down at his own bottle of lomin ale and ran his finger down the side. He looked back up at her, his brown eyes pleading with her own. "It only gets better with time," he said sympathetically.
"But time hasn?t passed yet," she responded ruefully. She leaned down and picked up her glass. She tipped it back and dumped the contents down her throat, relishing the fiery feeling she got as the whisky spread itself along her limbs and to the tips of her fingers and toes.
Wedge leaned over and put his hand on hers. "If you ever want to talk, I?ll understand."
She smiled sadly at him. "Not now."
"No, not now," he agreed.
She squeezed his hand briefly as she stood up from her chair. Wedge looked up at her, concern written on his boyish, handsome features. And then she turned her back on him and walked out.
Tycho got off of the Imperial transport and glanced around the hangar. He was on leave. Interesting concept, because he wasn?t on Alderaan. Going home was what one did when given leave. Commenor wasn?t home.
Actually, Tycho could only remember going to Commenor once in his life; it wasn?t even a place that had some sort of emotional attachment. Why was he here?
He couldn?t remember exactly - all he knew was that it was impossible to get a transport to Alderaan these days. Alderaan wasn?t an option anymore, not for him, not for Ovi, not for anyone. He felt numb.
He moved through the throngs of sapient creatures that populated the hanger without any real thought. His thoughts were elsewhere - the family vacation to the falls, where his brother had tossed his sister Mia into the lake to teach her to swim; his sixteenth birthday when he had caught his eldest brother in the closet with Jenn Marn; the first time he had ever kissed Nyiestra.
The memories of Nyiestra were some of the most poignant. If he closed his eyes, he could feel her long, elegant fingers running through his hair as he lay on her lap. He could almost feel her underneath him as they made love, or see her smile when he said something amusing. Often, he could look around him and see little things that would have made her laugh - contents for the hololetter that would never be sent.
Tears had not come yet. Tycho wondered if they ever would.
The Empire had given out conflicting reports on the incident - Alderaan was a dangerous Rebellion strong-hold, Alderaan was the victim of a freak accident, Alderaan had been hit by a giant asteroid. But the Empire could hardly make a real excuse that would satisfy the few Alderaanians left alive. How does one explain away the destruction of an entire planet? The death of several billion could not have been the product of a freak accident.
The word had leaked around his squadron. It was a demonstration of terror, no reason for it but Grand Moff Tarkin?s own ego.
For that, Tycho couldn?t forgive.
He had made his decision. He could fly; he had beaten the odds of TIE pilot and had made lieutenant. He was valuable. Biggs Darklighter and Hobbie Klivian had told him once that he?d be more than a statistic with the Rebellion. He?d be important.
Some misguided sense of loyalty had forced him to say no when they staged their infamous mutiny. Some misguided sense of ethics that had been pounded into him since childhood.
But none of that mattered now.
Ovi, too, had reached a decision not long after the initial reports had come out. He had snapped, pulled a blaster out and shot himself. But then, Ovi had never been stable.
Tycho considered following his example. Maybe taking out a few officers with him. But he was infinitely more rational than that. It was as Hobbie had said, he was a statistic - his insignificant death would do nothing for or against the Empire. He wanted to twist the vibroblade and show them just how awful the consequences would be.
That was why he was on Commenor. To meet a contact. The next step.
Continued in Part Two