The Consequences of Alderaan
Asylane looked up from the pile of datapads spread over the entirety of her desk. Leia watched her run a hand through her black hair. There were dark rings under her brown eyes and her usually golden skin had turned pallid.
Leia understood what she was going through. Alderaan had contained everything that Asylane had ever really valued. And it was gone. Leia felt it too. Every morning, she had to remind herself that she was in charge now, not her father. There wouldnít be anymore meetings where he treated her like another member of the staff, even as his brown eyes laughed at her.
But Leia had thrown herself into defeating those responsible once and for all. It helped keep her mind off of it and focused on the task at hand. Asylane did not have that discipline.
Leia handed the girl another datapad. When she took it, she smiled wanly. It looked horribly strained - like a caricature. Leia wondered, not for the first time, if Asylane was relieving her pain in a bottle of Whyrenís every night.
No, it wouldnít be Whyrenís for Asylane; it would be Alderaanian wine. Leia wondered if it could be considered rather pointless to drown oneís sorrows in something that would only bring the memories back. There was nothing that Leia could really do about it, though. What Asylane chose to do when she was off-duty was her own business as long as it didnít affect her work. If anything, Asylane had catapulted herself into her work with a vehemence unsurpassed by anyone.
"Why donít you get away from all of this," Leia suggested gently.
Asylane gave another strained smile. "No, thanks, Iím fine."
Leia should have known that a simple suggestion wouldnít make the girl leave. "We have a new set of recruits coming in ten minutes. We need someone to give a tour."
"Wedge can do it, or maybe Luke." She was adamant.
Leia shook her head. "Theyíre both busy on planning. And before you suggest it, Hobbie and Wes are with them."
Asylane turned back to her cluttered desk. "The new squadron again? I have a list of potential pilots for them here somewhere." She started fiddling with piles of flimsy and datapads. "I swear I put it here yesterday."
Leia laid a hand on her shoulder. "Thatís who Iím sending you to meet. Theyíre potential Rogues. No one has a better sense of day-to-day operations than you."
Asylane ran her hand through her hair again and rubbed at her eyes, rimmed red from lack of sleep. "Okay, but you need someone to man the terminal."
"Iíll do it for a few hours."
"Your Highness - "
She sighed. "Alright." Standing, she stretched her thin arms over her head. Leia noticed that her costly tunic was rumpled and creased. She obviously hadnít hung it up after the last time she had washed it.
"Do you want me to take them by Lukeís office at some point?"
Leia nodded. "If you can. Luke said that he wanted to meet them."
Asylane nodded. Her shoulders were rounded. They hadnít been rounded a month earlier. Leia watched her as she took one last look at her cluttered desk and left.
When she was sure she was gone, Leia sat down in the chair Asylane had vacated. Asylaneís desk had always been a nightmare, but Leia knew that it had had a sort of confusing order behind it. That order had gone to seed. Asylane herself had gone to seed and the attack had only been a month ago.
Before she had returned to the base at Yavin, Leia had met Asylane no more than four times, yet she had always been strong. She had come from a well-respected Alderaanian family and had managed to get herself into the University of Agamar with fantastic test scores. Anyone like that would be a valuable asset. Leia could remember that first day clearly - the girl had been so tall, so head-strong. Her black hair flowed behind her in a silken mass and her dark brown eyes flashed with all kinds of emotion. She had not really been beautiful, just stunning. A person you didnít want to cross.
But now, all of that had changed. Her hair had lost its luster through inattentive brushing, her skin was no longer the pretty gold it had been, but had become somewhat sallow and yellowed. And her eyes, the most beautiful part of her, were sunken in their sockets and red-rimmed from lack of sleep - Leia doubted that it had been from crying; perhaps crying would have done some good.
As it was, Asylane was stuck in a rut. The consequences of Alderaan.
Leia leaned back in her chair. They would pay.
Asylane moved down the corridors of the temporary base. They were on Dantooine for the moment, biding time in the abandoned base until the scouts could find a more permanent place. They were looking for holes in the Imperial watch. She had a list of potentials on her desk somewhere.
Part of the problem was that she kept copies of every message except the most confidential. That way, if they were lost or misplaced, one would always know that they were somewhere on her desk. It was just a matter of having the determination to locate it. She used to find the mess comforting - just one more assurance that she was doing something useful. It used to have a bizarre order, but that was gone now. Aylane didnít much care, either. Searching through the spread gave her an excuse to stay on duty a little longer. Before she returned to her quarters and drank herself into a stupor by draining every last drop of any native Alderaanian liquor.
Perhaps she wasnít doing her part to preserve what remained of their Great Culture, but she didnít much care. The fact that it was Alderaan she was drinking brought back happier memories. Her whole family gathered together, loud and obnoxious; her mother seeing her off her first day of university and her fatherís face when she told him she had been accepted; her first kiss, stolen on a vacation to the ocean; the first time she had made love, terrifying and passionate; her sister giggling over Face Loran while her brother moaned with distaste. Memories, all of them. They could never be re-lived.
She needed a drink.
But, she could do that after she saw to the task at hand.
She ran a distracted hand through her dark hair, figuring that she needed to make some kind of good impression. Her fingers caught on snarls. She pulled at them viciously, ignoring the pain that came with it. There were more important things than hair.
She didnít want to do this. She wanted to go back to her lonely desk and work the way she knew how. None of this diplomatic bull shit.
Unfortunately, Asylane thought, Leia was still her superior, and what Leia said went without question. With a sigh, she traipsed into the hangar.
The transport, like all the Rebellionís transports, was entirely unremarkable. Had it been in the service of the Empire, the ancient corvette would have been scrapped by now. But with a strapped budget, the Rebellionís pitiful excuse for a navy needed all the help they could get.
She mustered up her reserve and smiled as the hatchway steamed open. Her cheeks hurt with the effort.
Tycho disembarked first. He knew he looked like hell; he knew that the dark circles under his eyes would hardly impress Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia. He couldnít have given less of a damn. The contact he had met on Commenor, a citizen of Naboo named Letty, had told him that it didnít matter what he looked like because theyíd all be required to do something important.
Letty had mentioned survival ratings and they hadnít been good. Tycho didnít care about that, either.
Had he not been immune to everything, he would have been thoroughly unimpressed with the Rebellionís makeshift headquarters. As it was, the sight of the very thin, slight, dark-haired creature at the foot of the ramp did little to arouse his interest.
Her smile was strained and there were dark circles under her eyes. "Asylane!" he heard Letty call.
The girl looked up. Her expensive tunic was rumpled and her hair flowed down her back in a tangled mess. The strained smile remained fixed in place. "Hello, Letty," she said quietly. Her voice was hoarse.
Letty pushed her way past Tycho and bounded towards Asylane. "Oh love, Iím so sorry." One of the things that had irritated Tycho about Letty, had been her infernal good humor and optimism. She seemed to be relatively unconcerned with everything. She managed to sound cheerful even when trying to show pity.
Asylane, to her credit, just shrugged. "Weíre all coping."
Letty nodded and turned to Tycho. Apparently Letty knew that the girl did not feel like conversation. "Well, as you seem to be their tour guide, you might as well learn their names." She took Tychoís arm and pulled him towards her. "Asylane Vinson, meet Tycho Celchu."
Tycho had picked up a very shrewd habit of evaluation while he was in the military. He eyed the girl up. Her skin was pallid and very deep circles rimmed her eyes. Her clothing hung off of her in folds, proving that she had lost a lot of weight in a very short time. It didnít take a genius to peg her for an Alderaan survivor.
"Tycho," she said softly, "thatís an Alderaanian name."
"So is Asylane." She looked up at him and he was unsurprised to see deep pain reflected in their brown depths. He saw the same thing in the mirror every morning.
She turned towards the other recruits as Letty introduced each one. She nodded at many, and gave the same strained smile a dozen times. "Okay," she said. "Weíre not in the habit of glamorizing anything." She gestured to the hangar around them. "This is as glorious as itís likely to get. And itís only temporary. Chances are, the new base wonít be quite this nice."
Tycho could appreciate honesty. The recruits around him nodded seriously. Letty let out a laugh. "Welcome to the military, people."
There was a loud crash. Startled, Tycho reached for his blaster. Several others did the same. "Hobbie, you inept fool!"
Tycho looked towards the noise. Hobbie Klivian, fellow ex-Imperial and Tychoís former bunk-mate was trying to re-stack a toppled pile of crates. So Klivian had made it through the Battle for Yavin. "Shut up, Wes," Hobbie grumbled to the short dark-haired man behind him, still in the doorway. "You shoved me."
Wes, shrugged. "Itís all fair." He looked up. "Goodey! Bait!" He bounded into the hangar. "Letty, you brought us a souvenir!"
Asylane, standing behind Tycho, gave a long-suffering sigh. "Great," she muttered. "These idiots."
Hobbie followed his energetic partner. "Tycho?"
Tycho stuck out his hand, which Hobbie took and shook with great enthusiasm. "Hello, Hobbie."
"How are you doing? Itís been a good three months since it all happened and six since Iíve seen you last."
"Iím coping," he answered honestly.
Hobbie nodded. "What about Ovi?"
Ovi couldnít. Did take out a couple of stormtroopers, though."
Hobbie let his eyes lower. "Casualties from all sides."
Asylane made a noise beside them. Tycho looked at her. She had turned around and was surveying the supplies around the hangar. At least she was making a pretense of doing so. Hobbie raised an eyebrow at Tycho, as if to say, She knows.
Tycho could understand where she was coming from.
"So," Hobbie said, shoving his hands into the pockets of his flightsuit, "did you make lieutenant?"
Hobbieís mournful expression turned into a nod. "Biggs and I always told you that youíd be more than a meaningless statistic." His smile disappeared. "Too bad Biggs and Porkins didnít live to see you come over. Piggy always said that you were too moral to stay for long."
Tycho felt an unexplained spasm of pain shoot through him. It must have shown on his face, because Hobbie immediately realized that he had said the wrong thing. He raised his hand to make an apology.
"Too bad it took such a cataclysmic act to make it happen," Tycho said softly.
Asylane gave a choked cry from where she was bending over piles of ration boxes. Hobbie looked at her. "Laney," he said softly, "if you want, Wes and I will take over your touring duties."
Asylane whirled to face them. Her eyes were wet, but her cheeks were absolutely dry. "What brought on this sudden change of heart?" she asked, her voice trembling with emotion. Tycho knew she was about to cry.
Hobbie leaned over and put a hand on her thin, trembling shoulder. "Go get some sleep."
Asylane nodded, her curtain of dark hair falling into her eyes. "Thank you. I need to get back to work."
"No, Laney," repeated Hobbie softly. Tycho had never heard him sound so tender. "You need sleep."
"I have work," she said firmly.
"Go, or Iíll have Wes escort you to your room."
Wes, who had been talking with Letty and joking with the other recruits, looked up at the mention of his name. "Huh?"
Asylane shook her head. "Fine." She turned on her heel and stalked off.
Hobbie looked back at Tycho. "With any luck, sheíll fall asleep before she can drink herself into a stupor." Somehow, Tycho wasnít surprised. "If she could just let herself go, sheíd be alright, but she canít seem to do it." He shook his head.
Tycho understood her perfectly. A common ground.
"Come on," Hobbie said, brightening, "youíre a pilot, right? Weíll take you to Rogue Squadron headquarters. Youíll like Luke and Wedge."
Tycho followed him, taking another step towards revenge.
Asylane was tired. Exhaustion, coupled with severe cold. Hate and all that lay in its glorious expanse.
To love, to hate, what did it matter anyway.
Hoth was cold. Hoth was more than cold. But she didnít feel it - a numbness, though she couldnít feel her toes or her fingers. It didnít matter.
Nothing mattered but the defeat of the Empire.
She stamped her feet, trying to regain feeling in her toes. She hadnít really felt them since the Rebellion had moved its headquarters to Hoth. She squinted at the terminal screen and rubbed at the frost that had built up along the casing.
She looked up and came face to face with Tycho Celchu, one of Rogue Squadronís newer and more successful pilots. Fellow Alderaan survivor. She could see herself reflected in his eyes. It was a shadow with him, like it was with every single one of them - those who had made it.
"Luke wanted me to ask you if you had the latest cables from Mon Mothma - something about proton torpedoes."
She reached under a stack of datapads and handed it to him wordlessly, taking in his disheveled appearance - blond hair flopping over his forehead, dark circles ringing his aristocratic features. Asylane wondered if he indulged himself at night like she had for the three months after theÖdisaster.
Leia had raided her storage cupboards and had taken everything but the wine. She had also sat Asylane down and tried to brush the tangles out of her hair. Her dark curls, once shiny and clean, had been left alone for so long that by the time Leia managed to brush it out, it was so split and broken that she had finished by cutting it all off. Asylane had obliged Leiaís whim for two reasons. One, Leia was still the Princess of Alderaan, and would continue to be the Princess of Alderaan with or without the traditional palace in Alderaa. Two, despite all assumptions to the contrary, Asylane wanted to change - no more of the past
She was sick of sitting in the dark. She wanted to heal.
To heal was slightly more complicated then announcing it to the world and expecting it to just appear. She smiled at Tycho and shoved a lock of her newly shorn hair behind her ear. The smile was strained, but it was better than nothing.
"I hear youíre the success story of the Rogues."
Tycho nodded, though he didnít smile. Asylane understood. They were on the same level - a perfect understanding. "If you say so," he said. There were lines on his forehead. She knew that Tycho was too young to have lines in his face, just as she knew that she was too young to be as pallid as she was.
Consequences of Alderaan.
Lifeís a bitch.
On an impulse, she reached up and took his hand. It was a decidedly affectionate gesture for her. She squeezed his fingers. He looked shocked, but ever the perfect gentleman, he gave a sad little smile and returned the gesture. He clutched the datapad to his chest and released her hand. Nodding, he ducked around a technician and disappeared out of sight.
She sighed and turned back to the terminal.
Constantly in demand was the story of her life. She turned. "Your Highness."
"How are you feeling?" Leia looked concerned. Leia was overly concerned with her well-being. She needed a drink. Nope, Leia had made that a non-option.
"Fine," Asylane answered. "Iím not going to go on a rampage, if thatís what youíre concerned about."
Leia shook her head. "Youíre too concerned about getting revenge."
"Arenít you?" Asylane snapped. "Isnít Tycho?"
Asylane shivered. "Damn this cold."
Leia laughed. "Weíre looking for a replacement, but I donít know when oneíll come up." When Asylane didnít answer, Leia sighed. "Why donít you talk to him."
Asylane pretended to focus on her terminal screen. "Who?"
"He has his flyboy friends to keep him company. And I have work."
The Princess shook her head. She had let her hair down from its braids, presumably to keep her ears warm from the cold of Hoth. They had been heating the base, but it was too expensive to make sure that things remained the traditional temperatures. Leia sat down gracefully in an unoccupied chair. "I think that you both need to talk to someone."
Asylane tried not to snap at her. "Look," she said through clenched teeth, "I donít want to Ďtalk aboutí anything. Iím fine. Tychoís fine. Weíre recovering. Can we please drop the subject?"
A spasm of anger marred Leiaís pretty face. "No! We canít just let the death of a billion innocents Ďgoí. They need to be revenged. The Empire must pay, but not at the expense of the survivorsí health. Look at yourself, Laney. Youíre too thin. Thatís why youíre so cold; you look positively emaciated."
Asylane narrowed her eyes. "Your highness," she emphasized the word coldly, "I donít need anyone."
"Everyone needs someone," Leia returned just as icily.
Asylane gave a bitter laugh. "This from Ms. Independent herself."
"Iím not the one who emptied two and a half bottles of whisky in a night."
Asylane turned back to her terminal, giving her commander the cold shoulder. She hoped that it would convince Leia to go away. It didnít work.
"As your commanding officer," Leia said angrily, "you are going to get better if I have to force feed you with my bare hands. Itís a direct order. You canít twist it and get out of it like you have so often in the past." And with that, she stood up and stalked off, leaving Asylane fuming.
Yes, she wanted to stop being so miserable, but being ordered to do it was not something that appealed to her sensibilities. Leia had no right to insert herself into Asylaneís misery and pull her out of it.
Leia had been Asylaneís best friend since she had joined the Rebellion when she was eighteen. She had questioned Leiaís decisions sometimes, but she had always respected her. Now, however, she was fuming. Leia may have lost everyone just like Asylane had and Tycho had, yet she had others to help her. No one would dare tell the Princess of Alderaan to stop moping and move on, but they thought nothing of doing it to a poor little secretary.
Besides Leia had Luke and Chewie and, in some strange way, Han. Asylane had no one.
She propped her chin on her hand and blew a lock of black hair out of face. Tycho had no one - everyone he had ever known had been blown to pieces along with Asylaneís family and friends and a billion other innocent faces.
Leia thought that pushing two lonely people together would jump-start the healing process. Well, there was nothing that would make Asylane happier than proving Leia wrong.
Yes, she would go to that "meeting". One of the consequences of Alderaan for Asylane had been the loss of idealism. She did what she did now, not for some ideal sense of ethics like she had in the beginning. She wanted revenge.
She knew that Leia was wrong.
Tycho was fiddling with the engine of his snow speeder. The damned things didnít run well in the cold and they had a tendency to stall. If it did it while he was flying in it, it would make for a very short trip. Tycho wanted to make sure that if he had to go, he was going to take out at least ten Imperials with him.
Tycho looked up. "Commander."
Luke stood ran a hand over the metal body of Tychoís snow speeder. "This thing is beat up."
Tycho shrugged. "It was like that when it arrived, sir."
Luke smiled at him. "I know. Asylane did the best that she could when I commissioned her to find them, butÖ" he trailed off and grinned. Tycho was once again reminded of how young he really was. Just now twenty. Tycho felt old.
"Yes sir," he said simply.
Luke leaned up against the side of the speeder. "You donít need to call me Ďsirí, Tycho," he said for what must have been the thousandth time since Tycho had joined the Rebellion.
"Yes, sir," Tycho answered him, reluctant to break the formality.
Luke shrugged good-naturedly. "Are you happy here?"
The Alderaanian stared at his commanding officer. They did not ask these questions in the Empire. "Yes sir."
Luke frowned and shook his head. "No youíre not, Tycho," he said gently. "I can feel your pain."
Tycho wished that Luke would stop with his Force-feeling obsession. It grated on his nerves and made him feel as if he didnít have any feelings that remained a secret to Luke. He stayed silent.
Luke was still looking mournful - with his tousled blond head and tragic facial expression, he kind of looked like Hobbie Klivian. Hobbie was quite a bit taller than Luke, however. "I can feel it in Leia, too," he said prophetically, "though not nearly as strong as it is in you. You must let go."
"When the Empire is gone," Tycho answered crossly, eager to change the discussion or, preferably, end it completely.
His twenty-year-old commanding officer went on as if he hadnít heard him. "Asylane shows it as strongly as you do. The same anger. The same absolute sense of hate. The same sense of hopelessness."
"I am not hopeless," Tycho snapped. "Iím busy."
Lukeís blue eyes met his own. "Talk with her, lieutenant. You understand each other."
Luke cocked his head. "No? Too bad because youíve been ordered to."
Tycho turned back to his speeder. "You canít do that, sir. Itís my own prerogative what I do with my time."
The farmboy from Tatooine shook his shaggy blond head. "When I become worried about your effectiveness in battle, it does become my business. And I just ordered you to do it. Sorry."
Tycho stared at him open-mouthed. "This treatment is no better than the Empire," he said coldly, eyes flaming like blue ice.
Luke shrugged and walked away. "Get back to work, lieutenant."
Damn Luke Skywalker and his meddling self to the seven hells of the Sith. He knew Tycho would never disobey a direct order - not with his background.
Luke met up with Princess Leia in her chambers at 1900 hours. "So," he began with no other preamble as soon as the portal to her apartment had swished closed, "I kept my half of the bargain; did you keep yours?"
Leia looked up from the datapad in he hand, one half of her lovely face in shadow from the lamp on her desk. "Well then, all we can do is hope that they help each other."
Continued in Part Three