Red Dragon Inn
Stars End Sector => Stars End Bar & Grill => Undetectable => Topic started by: Yana Triem on April 21, 2017, 01:49:44 PM
"Cargo freighter Nemesis, transmit passcode and await confirmation."
Sitting in the co-pilot's seat, Yana glanced over at Kalen warily, tapping in the passcode Trethin had provided him with when the two men had spoken. She was on board with the plan, of course she was. Orsk had thought it all through; their cargo space was loaded with strong boxes filled with credit bars, more than enough to pay off her debt and then some to the unscrupulous man who held both of them on a short leash. That was only the first step of the plan. The second step - getting into Trethin's personal quarters - that was not going to be so easy. But they were committed to this little venture now. They'd have to see it through, or die trying.
"Cargo freighter Nemesis, passcode confirmed. Proceed to Docking Bay 4 and await inspection."
"Proceeding to Docking Bay 4."
The name of the ship alone was proof of what they were planning, but Kalen had gambled that Trethin's ego was such that he'd think nothing of it. It was just a name, after all, and the ship and their mission was deserving of such a name. Kalen exchanged a glance with Yana. From this point on, they'd have to be very careful what was said between them, and they'd have to be in perfect understanding of the other, as their lives and the life of his sister depended on it. He had yet to mention that little tidbit of information to her, hoping she would understand when he did.
Trusting him to bring the ship in safely, Yana drew in a slow breath. "Ready to hate me for the next twenty-four hours or so?" she asked quietly, watching as the docking bay doors opened ahead of them. Trethin would have his people go over every inch of the ship, they both knew. They'd made certain there was nothing incriminating anywhere.
"So long as you don't hate me when it's all over," he replied, regretting the fact that he hadn't told her about his sister yet, but he knew she had her own reasons for hating Trethin and he didn't want to lay his own troubles on her shoulders. He turned his attention to piloting the ship in for landing, having little trouble with the controls. This was the easy part.
"I thought we'd established that I don't hate you," she pointed out. Established as in ... spent the last two nights so wrapped up in each other it was a wonder either of them got any sleep at all. She wasn't entirely sure what that meant, still, but it was something she thought she'd like to continue doing. "Have you ever been here before?"
He ignored her reply, not wanting to think about what they'd shared the last few nights. He knew he was starting to have feelings for her, and in his experience, that never ended well. Maybe this time would be different, but he wasn't getting his hopes up. If nothing else, he'd never forget the few nights they'd shared together. "Once or twice," he replied, vaguely. Even so, he'd always been treated more like a prisoner than a guest, Trethin going so far as to handcuff and blindfold him on occasion.
"He doesn't treat his guests with any more dignity than his prisoners," she warned him. She'd been a "guest" of Trethin once or twice herself; she knew what he was going to expect her to put up with, and in order for them to get where they needed to go, she was going to have to do it. "All the guards' weapons are set to kill. On this station, no one gets a second chance."
He also knew they'd be relieved of their own weapons. This was going to be a risky venture, but the stakes were too high to back out now. "He'll be happy to see us when he sees all those creds," Kalen said, knowing Trethin had no reason to suspect a betrayal, so long as he held Kalen's sister's life over his head.
"He won't think twice about killing us if he isn't," Yana murmured, twisting to lower the landing gear as he brought them into the bay. There was an armed team of guards already waiting for them - the inspection they were expected to allow. "Here goes nothing."
Kalen hadn't stopped to consider the fact that Trethin might find them dispensable now that they'd repaid Yana's debt, but he had a feeling the man would find some excuse or other to keep them under his yoke. "I won't let him hurt you," Kalen insisted, though he wasn't sure what he could do about it if they were outnumbered. If he was going to die, at least he'd die fighting.
"You might have to look the other way for a while, then," she told him. Her tone was already back to the cool, business-like cadence she had shared with him during the first weeks of their acquaintance, her expression shut down the way it had been until he'd pried her open not so very long ago. This woman knew how to protect herself in this place; she wasn't sure her companion did.
He knew the same was just as likely for her. He wasn't quite sure what kind of reception they were going to get from Trethin, but he figured the knowledge that they'd brought him a small fortune might work in their favor. No matter what happened now, it was too late to turn back. They were just going to have to see this through to the end, but at least, they'd be together, and Kalen found himself hoping he'd put his trust in the right place.
She glared out through the cockpit window at the guards waiting for them as the ship settled in the docking bay, glancing away only to power down. "See you on the other side," she murmured, dropping her hand out of sight to squeeze his before she rose to her feet, making her way out of the cockpit and toward the gangway. Letting Trethin's people on board.
"Be careful," he murmured quietly, albeit a little belatedly, unsure if she'd heard. He'd been in worse scrapes than this, but this time it wasn't only his life that was on the line, but hers, too, and it was that small detail that had his insides tied up in knots. Once she was out of sight, he steeled his nerves for what was to come over the next twenty-four hours or so before getting up to follow. He took one last glance around the cockpit of the ship he'd already grown so attached to, wondering if they'd survive this, before following Yana toward the gangway.
Their reception was not gentle. Both of them were manhandled off the ship and disarmed; Yana went along without fighting it, her eyes downcast in a submissive manner that Kalen knew was completely against her character-type. They were held at blaster-point until the ludicrous "inspection" was done, the contents of their cargo bay stacked in front of them as one of Trethin's more officious minions assiduously counted the credit bars and signed off on the shipment.
"Captain Triem, Dain," she said finally, betraying a little reptile in her background with the forked tongue that slithered out to taste the air. "Lord Trethin invites you to a small gathering he is holding this evening. Clothing is provided for you. You will not stray from your guest rooms until you are summoned."
Kalen was far less submissive than Yana, shrugging off the guards who were trying to manhandle him with a glare of warning. They wouldn't have expected much less from him anyway, and he had no trouble playing the part of an indignant guest. "Coya," Kalen acknowledged the woman. "As charming as ever."
Coya turned her reptilian eyes onto him disdainfully. "You look very well for someone who was a captive until recently," she said, the deep suspicion in her voice suggesting that some of Trethin's closest hadn't bought the story Orsk had told them to spin. "You should learn some deference, Dain. Like our little smuggler here."
"I'm a fast healer," he told her, though he didn't really want them to put that to the test. He refused to give her the satisfaction of knowing how bad off he'd really been or that after rescuing him, Yana had hired a healer. "Now, what fun would that be?" Kalen replied, with hardly a glance at Yana.
Coya's thin lips curved into a smirk as she stepped back, nodding to the guards. "Take them," she ordered. Rough hands gripped arms to pull the pair out of the docking bay and into the station itself - rougher than they needed to be, in Yana's case. She offered no resistance, too used to the way this place worked, and still she was gripped hard enough to bruise. She flickered the barest glance in Kalen's direction as her guards dragged her off in the opposite direction, their "guest" rooms separated by several internal bulkheads. Trethin was suspicious enough not to want them close enough to be confederates, it seemed.
Kalen gritted his teeth against the warning he wanted to give the guards not to hurt her. He'd never seen her as submissive as this and wondered just what it was that made her so terrified of Trethin. It couldn't just be the holo he held over her head, could it? He met her gaze only for a split second before turning away, as annoyed as she was that they were being split up, though he couldn't blame Trethin for not trusting them.
He didn't see her again for several hours. Time enough to examine every inch of the room he was put into; time enough to go over their plan for getting into Trethin's personal quarters. Time enough to make the most of the refresher and change into the clothing laid out for him - no weapons, and far more sparkle than anyone in their right mind would wear. Trethin wanted him uncomfortable, that much was clear.
It would take more than flashy, uncomfortable clothing to upset Kalen. He was more upset at the fact that they'd been separated, though he'd expected as much. He was afraid of what he'd do if he found they'd hurt her, more worried for her safety than his own. Though it was only a few hours, it felt like days, with nothing to do but pace back and forth and search his room for listening devices.
When he was finally summoned, it was in the presence of two guards, who escorted him through the warren of corridors to Trethin's state room, where the man held court. The room were full of people of various races, mingling and drinking, all of them dressed in their own clothing, though only the station's guards bore weapons. Yana was already there, her jaw clenched in suppressed fury. It wasn't difficult to see why.
Like Kalen, her clothes had been taken away from her, and what she wore now was clearly designed to take away every vestige of dignity and self-worth she possessed. It consisted of a single white tunic, cut to her mid-thigh, with a deep vee that exposed the valley between her breasts to her navel. Thigh-high boots were on her feet, and her waist, wrists, and neck were adorned with gold. Even her hair, usually pulled back into a scruffy knot, was braided ornately. And beside her, leering at the view she presented, was Trethin himself - a corpulent man who, nonetheless, exuded a dangerous intelligence.
Though Kalen felt a bit like a dandy in his overly sparkly clothing, at least he was fully clothed and not being displayed like an ornamental attachment on Trethin's arm the way Yana was. What surprised him even more than Yana's appearance was the unexpected surge of anger and jealousy he felt toward Trethin when he saw how the man was treating her, and yet, for all the rage he was feeling, his expression remained impassive where she was concerned.
"Ah, Dain ..." As Trethin acknowledged him, the guards fell back, but his bodyguard - a large Kaloran, somewhat similar to the Bothans in another galaxy - remained close by. "Welcome, welcome. My favorite mercenary. My dear boy, you've done so well. I shall have to reward you."
To Kalen's credit, he hardly bristled at the greeting from Trethin, which they both knew to be as fake as the hair on the man's head. He didn't react much to the praise either, needing to play the part well of a man who was loyal to Trethin, despite his obvious hatred. There was only one reward Kalen wanted, and it was one that he couldn't mention here in public. "I think we both know what reward I would prefer," he replied.
"Alas, my boy, it is out of my hands," Trethin dissembled, spreading his hands as though making the point clearer. One of those hands landed on Yana's rear end, squeezing quite obviously, yet all she did was grit her teeth and clench her hands. "Oh, well done, Yana," the fat man declared cheerfully. "I almost didn't feel you hating me for a moment there. Isn't she delicious, Kalen? Bet you never thought you'd see her look so womanly after all that time cramped on her ridiculous little shuttle."
Kalen was having enough trouble schooling his expression and tempering his emotions without Trethin baiting him. He knew the man was trying to distract him and maybe even tempt him with Yana's presence, but all he was really accomplishing was making him more angry. Kalen's gaze darted briefly to Yana, before moving back to Trethin. If they weren't surrounded by guards, he might have decked the man for touching her, though it certainly wouldn't have been a fair fight, but Kalen wouldn't be so easily distracted.
"What do you mean, it's out of your hands?" he asked, narrowing his eyes at the man. He didn't have to pretend to detest him, when the man already knew how Kalen felt, and Kalen realized in that moment, that Trethin was never going to let him or Yana be free, no matter what he might have promised.
Trethin's eyes narrowed a little at the challenge to him. "Careful, Kalen," he warned in a low voice. "You don't want to cause a scene, do you?"
At his side, Yana's eyes darted to Kalen, trying to warn him with just a single flash of contact against pushing so hard so soon. Trethin wasn't nearly drunk enough to let it go by without reprisal yet. One corpulent hand took hold of the gold chain at her neck, tugging her along as Trethin began to walk.
"If it were in my power to end the bounty, boy, I would do it," he said, ebullient in his baiting of the man at his side. "Alas, once a bounty has been posted for so long, it becomes nigh on impossible to retract."
Kalen narrowed his eyes that much further, obviously enraged at Trethin's implied threat, though both men knew it wasn't the bounty that Kalen was concerned about so much as the safety of his sister. It didn't help that Trethin was treating Yana more like a possession than a person, but there wasn't much Kalen could do about it just yet. "Why are we here?" he asked, falling into step just behind Trethin. Oh, how he would've have loved to shove a dagger into the man's back at that moment.
"To celebrate, of course!" Trethin waved his glass at the gathering around them. "You spat in the eye of a long-time enemy, and paid me a fool's ransom in credits into the bargain. Is that not something to celebrate? What do you say, Yana?" He pulled on the gold in his hand, making her stumble off-balance and into him, unable to correct before he released the chain and wrapped his arm possessively about her waist, his hand once more on her rear. "Mmm, what was that?"
Gritting her teeth, she glared at him as she answered. "I'd be more inclined to celebrate if you would acknowledge that my debt is paid."
Trethin laughed. "Oh, no, darling," he told her, patting her bottom familiarly. "That money wasn't yours to give. But as I have already told you ... there are other ways to repay me."
Kalen clenched his jaw, unable to say a word without giving himself and Yana away. He had to play the part of a man who'd been betrayed and left behind for dead, rather than that of a partner and lover, despite Trethin knowing just which of Kalen's buttons to push. As for Kalen, he'd be more inclined to celebrate once the man was dead, but if he cared at all for his sister's life and that of Yana's, he had to continue with this charade for a little while longer. "Well, let's celebrate then. Where's the booze, Trethin?"
"Over there. We'll speak more, later." Trethin's attention was already turned onto Yana, enjoying making her squirm and knowing she couldn't do a thing about it without ending up a corpse in space. He didn't give Kalen a second look, dismissing him from his mind.
That was perhaps the first mistake Trethin had made since Kalen and Yana's arrival. Kalen could only hope there'd be more. There was no mistaking the fact that he didn't really want to be there, and he was careful not to get himself drunk, though he had to make it look like he was drinking more than he really was. Somehow he managed to keep an eye on Trethin and Yana, while appearing not to care. The only way Trethin was going to allow him a little slack was if he believed Kalen was loyal, even if it was only because he'd blackmailed into that loyalty.
Kalen had the easy side of things, in her opinion. Yana was not allowed more than two steps away from Trethin all night, listening to him proposition and insult her with equal measure, enduring unwelcome hands on her body and his leering stares. But there was method to this madness; she'd known this was what he wanted to do to her, that he expected her to be worn down by his persistence, if nothing else. She just hoped Kalen understood why her body language began to soften over the course of the evening; why she stopped pulling away from the lecherous man who held her leash. Why, when Trethin retired for the evening, he took her with him.
Kalen didn't need an explanation to know why Yana and especially Trethin behaved they way they did. He hadn't been expecting Trethin to treat her like a slut, and yet, it didn't really surprise him all that much either. Though it infuriated him to see her treated that way, he had to pretend not to care, and that, for him, was the hard part. It wasn't hard to tell that he didn't really want to be there, but then, no one really expected him to be jovial, considering he still seemed to be in Trethin's thrall. Once Trethin retired for the evening, it seemed the party was over, and all of his so-called guests were returned to their rooms, including Kalen. The first thing he did upon returning was get rid of the ridiculous cape that was part of his party outfit and which only served to get in his way.
The minutes ticked by, until half a cycle had passed. What the hell was Yana doing? But any ruminations on just how far she was going to have to go were cut short by his door sliding open. The guard sneered at him. "Boss wants to have that little talk now, merc," he was told. "Get moving."
Just the word "merc" ground on Kalen's nerves. He fancied himself a pilot, more than anything else, with dreams of becoming the captain of his own ship. A dream he was on the cusp of achieving, if all things went according to plan. "Now?" Kalen echoed, mirroring the guard's sneer. "I was just going to catch a little shut-eye."
"Now." The rifle was aimed directly at him. "Don't think he'd mind too much if I spaced you instead, but he wants to break that little girl good and proper first. So get moving."
"What has that got to do with me?" Kalen asked, grudgingly starting toward the door. He wasn't quite sure where he was being herded, but if Trethin was hoping to break Yana the way Kalen thought he was, he might unknowingly be playing right into their hands.
He wasn't given an answer. Trethin paid the guards on his station well enough not to ask questions and to look the other way when he had special guests. This one was no different, marching Kalen through the warren of corridors to the planet-side of the station. It figured Trethin would live on the side that offered the best views.
The guard pressed a button on the console beside the door, and Trethin's voice snapped in reply. "Yes, what?"
"Brought the merc, Boss," the guard reported.
"Yes, yes, let him in," was the answer, and a moment later, the door opened. The guard pushed Kalen inside roughly.
The guard's treatment didn't come as anything of a surprise either, gentle in comparison to the way he'd been treated after Yana had left him behind a few weeks before. He still wasn't sure why Trethin had summoned him here, but he hoped it worked in their favor. He only hoped the man hadn't broken Yana the way he'd said he would or that she'd betrayed him a second time.
There was certainly no lack of luxury in Trethin's private quarters. As the door slid shut and locked at Kalen's back, however, it became clear that it was lacking a certain bodyguard. The Kaloren was stretched out on the floor, unconscious, the fur on his nose and the back of his head matted with blood from a very determined impact or several. And Trethin? The man himself was sporting a bloody nose of his own, hog-tied painfully on the end of his sumptuous bed, glaring at Yana, who was busily gagging him. There wasn't a mark on her.
Kalen looked from Yana to the guard to Trethin and back, feeling an odd sense of annoyance that she seemed to have things under control all on her own. "You seem to have things well in hand here," he observed, with just a hint of annoyance in his voice. It had been a long day and an even longer evening, though he suspected it had been far more unpleasant for her than for him.
She straightened, frowning back at him. "You want me to get him to call the guard back in here?" she demanded, waving a hand that was definitely bearing the marks of skinned knuckles at him. "After four hours of being groped, I think I can be forgiven for taking my temper out on them, don't you?"
Kalen frowned, his annoyance fading a little. He wasn't annoyed with her so much as with Trethin, after all. "Are you all right?" he asked, unable to hide the concern in his voice. If Trethin hadn't figured out by now that they were working together, he would know that for certain now.
"Apart from wanting to throw up every time I think about his hands, fine," she said, her tone short with a combination of fear and anger. "We need to find that console. It'll be in here somewhere."
Kalen's frown turned to a scowl, hoping the man had got no farther than putting his hands on her. Now that she had Trethin hog-tied, he didn't look as dangerous as he'd seemed, but he knew that if the guards found out what was really going on in here, their lives would be forfeit. His gaze turned back to Trethin, who wasn't looking too happy about his situation. "Why not just ask him?"
Yana looked at him, vaguely exasperated. She reached out and pulled off the gag.
"... mercenary scum, your little whore is dead, you hear me, dead! But I'll make you watch, you can watch as every one of my men ..."
Whatever the threat was, Yana cut it off by neatly jamming the gag back into Trethin's mouth. "I had to switch the gun to kill and aim it at his balls to make him shut up long enough to get you here."
"Maybe you're trying too hard," Kalen remarked, looking around for the blaster in question. He'd learned that most men like Trethin were cowards at heart, relying on their lackeys to do their dirty work for them. Once Trethin realized they meant business, he'd be more than happy to give them what they wanted.
"By all means." She gestured toward the still noisy Trethin, stalking away toward a suspiciously smooth wall. No art, no screens, no porthole ... just smooth bulkhead. No wonder she thought it was behind there.
Kalen retrieved the blaster rifle and checked the setting before pressing it against Trethin's temple, his finger on the trigger. "Care to talk, or would you rather I cook your brain like a fried egg?" he asked, none too gently.
The tied man shied away from the blaster against his temple, his eyes swiveling in the hope of finding some rescue. His bodyguard was out for the count, taken by surprise and beaten into unconsciousness by a small woman Trethin had been certain was already broken. The guards believed he had requested Dain's presence; even if they remained outside the door, they couldn't get in here in time to save his life. He glared at Kalen, muttering something through the gag.
"What's that? I couldn't hear you?" Kalen asked, mockingly. "Oh, I forgot," he continued, reaching for the gag. "One wrong move and you're dead," he warned, with a tone of voice that said he meant it. They still needed Trethin a little while longer, but the man didn't need to know that.
Trethin's eyes glanced toward Yana briefly, and back to Kalen. Yana didn't have the ability to kill a man in cold blood, face to face, but Kalen definitely did, even if it didn't sit well with him. Trapped in a room with two people who had more than reason enough to despise him, he didn't really have much choice. He offered a sharp nod, agreeing to their terms if only to save his own skin.
Kalen tugged the gag from Trethin's mouth none too gently, the blaster rifle still pressed against the man's temple. He leaned close, his voice low enough that Yana might not hear. "You know what we want. Give it to us and you'll never hear from us again." That much was true enough, though Kalen had no intentions of leaving the loose end that was Trethin hanging.
Trethin snarled back at him. "She'll be dead before you reach her," he threatened, laughing when Yana looked back at them sharply. "Oh, he didn't tell you about Mira? Tsk, tsk, Dain. It isn't nice to use one woman to rescue another."
"If she dies, you die," Kalen replied, practically growling at the man through clenched teeth. No, he hadn't had a chance to tell Yana about his sister yet. Orsk hadn't even told Kalen her name, but at least Trethin was confirming what little Orsk had told him. "Where's the console?" he asked, shoving the rifle harder into Trethin's temple.
The bound man winced, knowing when he had pushed his luck too far. "Press on the bulkhead a little below her hand," he said, looking toward Yana.
She lowered her hand and did just that, and the entire bulkhead slid soundlessly upward, revealing the nerve-center of Fax Trethin's criminal empire. "Gag him again, we can go from here without his help," she said over her shoulder, not daring to look at Kalen. Who was Mira? And why was this the first she was hearing about a rescue?
"And the holo?" Kalen asked further, without even looking toward the now exposed control center. It wasn't just his sister he wanted, but the holo of Yana's father, too.
"On the display," Trethin growled, nodding toward the far wall, where his various trophies were on display. "Deactivated."
Yana bit down an angry comment on his hording of her father's last words, her hands busy on the console as she synced up the Nemesis datacore with the information stored here, copying and transferring every last scrap. The codes Orsk had given them were good, sending her to the modules he wanted and the modules they needed, deactivating the tractor beam and setting the engines of the station to overload on a timer.
"Good boy," Kalen told him, and might have even patted him on the head if he wasn't so busy holding the rifle to his head. "Sit tight and it will all be over soon." One way or another, anyway. He reached over to replace the gag in the man's mouth and check his bonds. They didn't need him getting himself free while they were trying to escape. It was going to be hard enough trying to get through all of Trethin's guards and Kalen hadn't yet decided whether they should take Trethin with them as insurance or not yet.
"Mira?" Yana asked mildly from where she was working on the console. It wasn't jealousy talking, though that would definitely come later. She was actually trying to locate the information on this mysterious woman, fairly certain that Orsk's codes weren't designed for that. "Might help to have a surname to go with that, or this is going to take a long time."
"Ardinn," Kalen replied, which should have answered most of her questions about Mira with that one simple name. He didn't really want to have to talk to Trethin again, but he wasn't afraid of using a little physical coercion to get what he wanted, if needs be. "Did you get the holo?" he asked, knowing how important that was to her.
"I will in a second," she said, bringing up the information on the screen for him. "There. Copy it across on the link, I'll grab the holo." She twisted away, striding across the room to search for her father's holocube in the display of trophies.
Kalen punched the necessary controls to copy his sister's location over to the nav system on board the Nemesis. He knew he owed Yana an explanation, but it was an explanation that would just have to wait a while longer. They still had to blast their way past Trethin's guards before they could make good on their escape.
She knew the holo without needing to check. It was her father's, the way he had sent and stored messages for years. His last message for her would be on this. Returning to Kalen's side, she tucked the holo into his pocket. "Almost done?"
"Just finishing up," Kalen told her, watching the console output as Trethin's fortune was transferred to several fake bank accounts scattered across the galaxy, after which they'd eventually make their way to Orsk and lastly to them.
"How good a shot are you?" she asked, tapping in the last of the codes to wipe Trethin's database clean as the last of his money winged its way out of this galaxy. "There are two guards on the door, and we only have one gun."
"It shouldn't be a problem," he replied, considering they had the advantage of surprise on their side. Even if he missed, it would take the guards a moment to draw their weapons - long enough for Kalen to shoot them both, or so he hoped. It wasn't that he was over-confident, so much as he needed to believe they were going to get out of this alive.
"All right." She stepped back from the console, glancing over at Trethin. "Now you can punch him." She walked out into the other room, and given the loud crunch that followed, she had apparently kicked the Kaloran bodyguard in the face.
Kalen followed Yana's glance over at Trethin, finding he felt no desire to punch the man or cause him any further physical pain. He had suffered humiliation at Yana's hands and he had not only lost everything he'd worked so hard for, but he was about to the one thing more precious to him than anything else - his life. He didn't see much point in adding insult to injury, even if the man did deserve it. "I think we're done here," he said, dismissing Trethin from his mind and his life forever, he hoped.
"You ready?" she called to him, ignoring the prone man on the bed. It was time to get moving - that timer gave them a little under ten minutes to get safely out. It was just as well she knew her way around this station.
"Right behind you," he told her, following at her heels, the blaster rifle in his hands and set not to stun, but to kill. There was no point in sparing men that were going to be dead in a matter of minutes anyway.
She waved him back from the door, opening it to offer a sweet smile to the guards standing there. "Why don't you two come and join the party?" she suggested, beckoning to them with a come hither finger. She took two steps back as they crowded through the door toward her ... and dived out of the way.
It was almost like shooting fish in a barrel, as the old saying went. Kalen blasted one of the guards in the chest before swinging the blaster around to do the same to the other. It was almost too easy, but he knew getting past the rest of Trethin's guards would prove more of a challenge. "Come on," he told her, as he stepped over one fallen guard. "We don't have much time."
"Oh, you know where you're going, do you?" she asked a little acerbically, snatching up one of the blaster rifles that had fallen with the guards. She really wasn't dressed for action sequences, but with any luck, this one would be over very soon. "This way, flyboy." She jerked her head, taking off down the corridor at a run.
There wasn't any time for a costume change now, and he was too bent on their escape to worry about her lack of proper clothing. He arched a brow at the nickname, but only briefly, before darting after her. He might have admired the way she looked, if he wasn't so worried about getting her out of here alive.
Trethin was so confident in the security of his station that there were no guards to intercept them in the corridors. The problems started when Yana opened the doors to the docking bay containing their ship. There were four armed men guarding the Nemesis, and even without prior warning, they were alert to anyone trying to get away.
Four wasn't so bad, Kalen thought. Two for him, and two for her. Piece of cake, or so he hoped. He silently signaled to Yana to indicate that she should go right, while he went left, allowing them to handle two guards each.
She nodded back to him, hoping like hell there was at least some cover in there. Checking the setting on her rifle, she darted forward into the bay, getting off one lucky shot that took down one of her designated opponents. The other one, however, was a better shot and had quicker reaction times. He was taking cover on the gangway of their ship, which made firing at him risky if she didn't want to hit anything important.
Kalen wasted little time in taking out one of the guards before the other returned fire, a shot just barely missing him as he ducked out of the way. Eliminating these guards was going to prove a little harder, considering they couldn't risk any damage to the Nemesis in order to make their escape. He ducked and rolled, finding cover behind a barrel of some sort before firing again.
Yana was still running. Her side of the hangar was distinctly lacking in cover, but so long as she kept moving, she thought she could probably avoid being shot. That thought lasted as long as it took for the guard to shoot the blaster right out of her hand, the small explosion peppering her hand and arm with sparks that burned.
Kalen was having enough trouble trying to keep under cover from the barrage of blaster fire coming his way without worrying about Yana, too. He muttered a curse in some obscure language before ducking out from behind the barrel to dart toward Yana and shove her out of the way of fire.
She let out a grunt as he tackled her, both of them rolling behind the command console of the docking bay. "I was almost here!" she objected, shaking out her hand. Her fingers still stung from the impact that had knocked the blaster out of her grip.
"Almost is not good enough!" he grumbled back, handing her his blaster. "I'm going to draw him away from the ship. When I do, I want you to shoot him." He didn't wait to see if she'd agree with him. It was a reckless plan and one that might not work, but all she needed was one clear shot and the odds would be in their favor.
"Wait, I thought you were the better shot!" The panic on her face was more than enough to prove that despite how comfortable she was wearing a blaster, she was definitely not comfortable actually shooting one. "There are two of them shooting at us!"
"I trust you!" he told her, not giving her much choice before darting out from behind the console again. They couldn't afford for the command console or the ship to be damaged, and they only had a few minutes until the entire station was blown to kingdom come. Kalen disappeared from view, the guard near the ship taking the bait and going after him.
"Oh, you ... absolute ..." The actual insult was lost in a scream of blaster fire as Yana popped up from behind the console, letting loose more than enough shots to riddle the guard moving toward Kalen. He wasn't going anywhere, that was for sure. As the other guard's attention turned to her, she shot out from behind the console, accelerating toward the ship.
Kalen heard the blaster fire behind him and hoped it was Yana doing what he'd instructed. It only took him a few seconds to reach one of the fallen guards and swipe the blaster up from the ground, but in the meantime, he was an easy target. Thankfully, no fire came his way, and he turned to find Yana moving toward the ship, but he couldn't find the last guard.
As Yana reached the gangway, the other guard made his move. He shot - not at her, but at the gangway in front of her feet, sending her reeling back in shock at the spray of sparks that rose to block her way, threatening to blind her. Now she was the easy target, and there was the guard taking aim.
As soon as the last guard showed himself, Kalen let loose a barrage of blaster fire in his direction, before making a beeline for the ship not only to shield Yana from any further fire but so that they could make their escape. "Get inside!" he shouted, as he joined her, knowing they were running out of time.
"Would you like to teach me how to wipe myself next?" she snapped back at him, both of them running up the gangway. Her hand slapped the pressure button that would close and seal the access way. "You're the pilot, fly the damned thing!"
"You're welcome!" he shouted back, wasting no time before dashing around the deck in a hurry to get to the cockpit. "Come on, querida," he whispered to the ship as he took the pilot's seat. "Don't let me down," he urged her as hit the controls to power her up.
Yana joined him, dropping into the co-pilot's seat to flip switches and get the secondary systems online as the ship powered up at his touch. The station was beginning to rumble around them, the overload starting its catastrophic chain reaction that would see the whole place blasted into tiny pieces - them with it, if they didn't get out now.
Fortunately, luck was with them as the ship quickly powered up, triggering the opening of the docking bay doors, and in a matter of seconds, the ship was rising off the ground and breaking away from the station just as it was starting to break apart. "Jumping to light speed," he warned her, once they were free of the station, needing to get them well away from the place before it exploded.
"Calculating," she agreed, having to stand up to reach the display. It didn't matter where they were heading right now; they could change course when they were clear of the explosion brewing behind them. And they were apparently going to be changing course to go and rescue this Mira person. There was the jealous pang she'd known was coming. Still not a good time for it, though. "Done - punch it!"
He pushed the lever forward that would bring the engines online and jump them to light-speed, saying a silent prayer to whatever Gods were listening to get them the hells out of there before they became part of the explosion. Thankfully, the ship gave a familiar lurch and the stars started to blur before the Nemesis shot forward, putting lightyears between them and the explosion behind them.
Yana jerked back down into the co-pilot's seat with the lurch into light-speed, gripping the arms of the chair as she waited for the dizziness to pass. "So ... we did that, then," she said mildly, not entirely sure whether now was the right time for conversation.
"Yes," he replied, leaning back in the pilot's seat with a sigh of relief, though it wasn't so much relief he was feeling as it was grief. Now that Trethin was dead, he felt an all encompassing feeling of grief, not for Trethin but for the man's life who Trethin had taken, and yet, he knew this was not the time. "I need to look at your hands," he told her, shoving his feelings away and forcing himself to deal with what was right in front of him.
She glanced down at her bare arms, the speckling of burns that covered her hands all the way up to her elbows. It only just occurred to her that she was still wearing a good chunk of gold, too - Trethin had always gone for the best. "How much do you think we can get for all this?" she asked, gesturing to the belt and cuffs, lifting the chain about her neck thoughtfully.
"It depends on where we peddle it. It's not worth much on Rhy'Din, but there are other places where it could be worth a small fortune." Enough to buy back her beloved Pandora, if she so wished, and then some. The thought of that made his heart ache, wondering if this was the beginning of the end of their so-called partnership. "Set a course, will you? I'm going to fetch the bacta," he told her. It wasn't a request.
"Where to?" she asked, her tone heavy as she sat forward. She knew where to - she'd seen the information over his shoulder. She just felt a perverse need to hear him say it out loud. He wanted to rescue this woman Trethin had goaded him with. No doubt she would be on her own again shortly after they touched down on Rhy'Din. Maybe Orsk would let her buy back Pandora in exchange for work.
"Faraxen," he replied, predictably given the information she'd seen over his shoulder. This was her chance to protest or at least to ask questions, or maybe it was his chance to explain, but before that could happen he'd disappeared in search of the bacta.
She didn't answer him, knowing he was already gone. For a few moments, she was busy, tapping in coordinates, gently easing Nemesis in and out of lightspeed to correct their course. But once that was done, she became aware of an ache in her chest. She felt sick. And all because he was free to collect his woman and drop her like a stone. What was wrong with her? Two nights of admittedly amazing sex did not equal a lifelong commitment, even she knew that.
He wasn't gone long, just long enough to find the bacta and bring it back to the cockpit. Those few minutes, though, had given him time to think. He wasn't worried so much about telling Yana about his sister as he was about trying to explain why he hadn't mentioned her before. "He didn't hurt you, did he?" he asked, once he'd returned. He was referring to Trethin, knowing the man had treated her badly, but hoping he hadn't gotten very far.
She glanced up as he returned. "Course laid in," she reported, but his question turned her face to stone for a moment. "A few bite marks, nothing that won't heal." Given that those bites weren't visible, even with how little she was wearing, it was a fair bet Trethin had gotten further than either of them were happy with.
He came back not only with the bacta, but with a blanket, pausing a moment to place it around her shoulders before settling himself in a seat and reaching for her hand. "I should have made him suffer," he mused aloud, unable to hide the hatred he felt for Trethin from his expression or his voice, even though the man was now presumably dead, thanks to them.
"He suffered plenty," she said quietly, not entirely sure how to reconcile her aching heart with the soft flutter that came with the way he wrapped the blanket around her. She hissed softly as his fingers rubbed over the speckling burns on her skin. "Sorry."
"He caused a lot more suffering than he got in return," Kalen said as he spread the bacta over her burns, as carefully as he could. "I suppose I should tell you about Mira," he admitted suddenly, needing to get it off his chest it ate away at his conscience. "I never met her, but she's Rhel's daughter."
"He's gone now," Yana told him. They could both be very certain of that, at least. His confession, however, distracted her from those thoughts, startling her with the sense of guilt that came with knowing she was being jealous over nothing. "She's your sister?"
"Apparently," he replied, which meant that he was Rhel's son, his birth son - a fact he had not known himself until a few days ago. "She's just a kid really. I'm not sure how Trethin got his hands on her, but he's been threatening me with her safety for years."
"And we have no idea what kind of safeguards he had in place in the event of his death," she said, her voice quiet as she considered this. "We'll be at Faraxen within a few hours - it's on the other side of the galaxy. Time enough to study that record for any clues, at least."
"Yes, exactly," he replied, looking up from her hand to meet her gaze, and there was the Kalen she knew - the one who was starting to care about her, even if he hadn't said so in so many words. "I'm sorry about Trethin. I wish I could have stopped him from ... from hurting you."
Her free hand rose to touch his cheek, fingertips teasing through the scruff he called a beard. "I knew he was going to hurt me," she admitted apologetically. "He always does. But I didn't think telling you in advance would be a good idea. Your temper's almost as destructive as mine is."
"I had to make him think I didn't care," Kalen admitted, her touch doing something to his insides that had very little to do with physical desire and more to do with feelings of the heart. "But I do care, Yana. I care very much," he told her, despite knowing she might spurn him, as he'd been spurned before.
"Why?" That wasn't the response most people hoped for when they confessed a growing attachment, but then, Kalen wasn't most people, and he'd experienced first hand how prickly this particular woman was. Yana couldn't see herself the way he saw her. And as much as she wanted him to say this and mean it, to want her the way she wanted him, as a presence in her life not just in her bed, it was going to take more than one confession to convince her he wasn't just being kind. "Of everyone in all the galaxies, why would you even consider me?"
"Because, Yana, you are not like anyone else I have ever met," he explained, finding it difficult to put his feelings into words. "I know you want your freedom, your independence, but I was hoping now that we are both free of Trethin, we might continue this partnership for our own sakes." He sighed, knowing that didn't come out quite the way he'd wanted it to, but hopefully she'd forgive him. "It has been a long time since I have cared about anyone the way I care about you."
She bristled a little as he implied that he knew her thoughts, but thankfully she had enough control not to say the first thing that came into her head. "I'm not a pilot," she pointed out. "I'm barely a mechanic. All I know how to be is a smuggler. And I have a terrible temper, I get jealous over the littlest things, I'll drive you completely insane. But ... but if you want to-to keep what's going on here happening, then ..." She sighed, closing her eyes as she rushed her way through what came next. "I like you too please don't leave me anywhere."
For a woman who claimed not to be a pilot, she'd managed her little fighter well enough, but he didn't bother to point that out, instead focusing on what else she seemed to be trying to tell him. It was almost as if she was trying to talk him out of it, and yet, there she was, blurting out something about liking him and asking him not to abandon her. "Is that what you think? That I'll leave you behind?"
She didn't dare open her eyes, knowing herself well enough to be pretty sure that if she actually looked at him, he wouldn't get an answer. "You've got family," she heard herself say with a certain amount of reluctance. "I'm used to being alone. Everyone leaves me behind eventually."
He wasn't sure why she wouldn't open her eye and look at him, unless she was afraid he might see something there she didn't want him to see. "Stop saying that, Yana. Why is it so hard to believe that I care for you? Yes, I have family. I have a sister I have never met and who probably knows nothing of my existence. I have a father who died without acknowledging me as his son and a mother who died after giving me away. What kind of family is that?" he asked, with just a hint of bitterness in his voice, though it was not directed toward her. "I'm sorry," he said after a moment. "You should see what your father had to say on that holo."
Her eyes snapped open at the bitter tone in his voice, wondering if he knew how lucky he was. He had a sister, he had family - the man who had raised him, whom he had loved like a father, actually was his father. "My mother left," she blurted out. "When I was a baby, she left me. I don't know where she went or if she's even still alive. My father ..." She sighed, looking down at her hands. How could she even begin to explain her relationship with her father? "The holo," she agreed with a faint nod. "Unless it fell out of your pocket."
He reached into that pocket, pulled out the holo, and handed it to her. "Why don't you see what he had to say while I get us something to eat?" he asked, thinking she'd probably prefer to watch that in private.
"Thank you." She smiled, unable to deny a thrill of excitement as the holo dropped into her palm. She would finally get the goodbye she'd been lacking for seven years, finally know what her father's last thoughts were. She'd built it up in her mind, all her hopes clinging to a message that might somehow excuse the years of neglect that had gone before. She knew there wouldn't be any words of love on there - Hix Triem wasn't like that - but maybe there was something just for her.
He moved to his feet to let her watch that holo in private, but before he left, he leaned close to touch a kiss to her brow, tenderly, almost protectively. Whatever it was he was thinking and feeling had very little to do with leaving her behind.
Her smile softened as he kissed her brow, her eyes following him out of the cockpit. He cared about her. Her. With that thought in her mind, she rose from her seat, moving to plug in the holo. A lump caught in her throat at the hologram that formed.
"Papa," she whispered to the familiar face, forcing herself to listen as he began to speak.
"Orsk, if you're seeing this, then I'm dead. Pandora is yours, all debts considered cancelled as per our agreement. Keep the girl out of trouble. The apartment on Rhy'Din is already sold ..."
It was a shock, to hear that the message was for Orsk, but Yana hadn't truly expected the whole thing to be for her. But as the message moved on, detailing accounts she'd never known about, planets she'd never heard of, people whose names she didn't recognize, her hopes began to sink. There was nothing there for her. No word of goodbye, not even an acknowledgement that she was his daughter. Just an instruction to Orsk to keep the girl out of trouble. Just the girl.
Thankfully, Kalen made good on his promise, busying himself in the ship's galley, while Yana watched what he assumed was a private and final message from her father. He gave her as much time as she needed, keeping to the galley until she was ready to join him, respecting her need for privacy. Whatever the message might be, she knew how to find him if she needed him.
It took her a long time to emerge from the cockpit, the holo in her hand. Her eyes were red-rimmed, her cheeks blotchy, betraying the tears she'd been so careful to keep absolutely silent. She set the holo down on the table with a dull thud. "It's for Orsk," was all she said, already turning away.
"For Orsk?" he echoed, setting down the sandwich he had just about finished. There was one for her, too, along with a cup of coffee. He'd made sure the galley was well-stocked before they'd left Rhy'Din, not without Orsk's help. It took a minute for him to realize what she was saying, noting the tell-tale signs of tears on her face. He'd never seen her cry before, not even a little, but the holo had clearly not been what she was hoping for. His expression darkened for a moment, those familiar feelings of anger and hatred washing over him, this time where her father was concerned. Or maybe it was Trethin who was to blame. Whichever the case, they had both clearly hurt her. "What did he say?"
She stilled as he echoed her, unable to just walk away when she knew he deserved some kind of explanation. She'd been so insistent on getting the holo. What a pointless hope that had been. Story of her life, really. "It's a message for Orsk," she told Kalen quietly, more subdued than she'd been since he'd known her. "Instructions on what to do with his ship, with his property. Who to give the proceeds from the sales to. Turns out Pandora was never meant for me, she should have gone straight to Orsk in the first place. And the money he made off selling her should have gone to people I've never heard of."
He felt deflated, almost like someone had just punched him in the gut, but he knew that was nothing compared to what she must be feeling. No wonder she felt so alone and worried so much that he'd abandon her, like everyone else had done before him. Well, he knew a little of what that felt like, though Rhel - no, his father - had never abandoned him, never turned his back on him, never walked away from him, like hers had. What was he supposed to say to all that? There wasn't anything he could say or do to take away her pain, but maybe he could give her a little hope for the future. He moved to his feet and closed the distance between them, surprised to find his heart aching for her and wishing there was some way he could take away a little of her pain. He reached to adjust the blanket he had wrapped around her shoulders, using it mostly as an excuse to touch her and be close to her.
"Well, you're not alone. Like it or not, you're stuck with me now, and Orsk has promised us a big enough percentage of Trethin's money that we don't have to worry about being indebted to anyone ever again." It wasn't exactly words of comfort, but his heart was in the right place.
She snorted softly, her lips curving in a half-hearted smile as he tried to comfort her. Not alone. Did he have any idea how much that meant to her? Without thinking, she stepped close, burying her face against his shoulder as her arms wrapped about his waist, clinging to him as she shuddered, forcing herself not to cry again. Hix Triem wasn't worth crying over. But the idea of him, the unfulfilled promise of the father he could have been ... she had never let go of it, and now she knew it had just been a child's fantasy. "I will never betray you," she whispered to Kalen. "As long as you want me, I'll be right here. Even if you make me so mad I can't speak."
He knew that was a big promise for her to be making and a big promise for him to be accepting, but he did accept it, in his heart and his head and in his life. Were they going to drive each other crazy? Probably, but he didn't care. Despite everything, he couldn't help smiling. For two people who'd spent a good part of their lives as lonely as two people could be, neither of them was alone anymore, so long as they kept those promises to each other. They'd come a long way from barely tolerating each other, as they had on the Pandora, not so long ago. "Careful or I might think you're proposing marriage," he teased, his arms going around her to hold her close.
"In your dreams," was the snarky response, only somewhat muffled by the press of his shirt. She lifted her head, taking a better look at what he was wearing. "You look like a disco ball that's been crushed and spread out to dry."
He chuckled, taking no offense at her remark regarding the outfit Trethin had made him wear. "And you look like a ..." He trailed off with another chuckle. "I don't think I can say it without risking a black eye," he teased, glad to see she was smiling again, even if it was only temporary.
"I look like a whore, yes, I know." She rolled her eyes at him, acutely aware that she was flashing a good deal more skin than she was entirely comfortable doing. "I should get dressed, I guess."
"Eat first," he urged her. "It will be a few hours yet before we reach Faraxen," he reminded her, his smile fading a little at the mention of that. He wasn't sure what to expect when they got there, and he was far more nervous about meeting this long-lost sister of his than he'd let on. What if she didn't believe him? What if she hated him? What if she blamed him for whatever Trethin had put her through? He had a million questions and none of them would be answered until they got to Faraxen.
Yana nodded, gently extricating herself from their embrace. She hugged the blanket closer about herself, not reacting well to the natural chill of the ship now they were in hyperspace, and turned to claim her sandwich and coffee, heading to the crew lounge to get comfortable while she ate. "We should take a look at that information," she pointed out. "Sooner we know what we're walking into, the more prep we'll have time for."
"I suppose we should," he replied, sounding just a little reluctant about the idea, or maybe he was just worried what he'd find when they got there. "Rhel didn't say much about his daughter," he admitted, unable to hide the troubled expression from his face. "And he never told me ..." He hesitated a moment before continuing, not really wanting to lay his troubles on her shoulders. "He never told me I was his son." It seemed others had known the truth though - Orsk and Trethin, for starters.
She curled up on one of the couches, leaning over to bring up the information on Mira Ardinn on one of the screens before lifting her sandwich to her lips. Her eyes settled on him, glad to have some distraction from her slightly broken heart anyway. "He was a good man," she said, swallowing her mouthful. "Everything I've heard about him says he was. So he made some mistakes, he was only human. He did what he thought was right. That's all anyone can do, if they choose that path."
He'd refilled his own cup of coffee before following her to the crew lounge and settling himself on a chair, keeping a polite distance between them, though he wasn't quite sure why. He'd been trying to sort out Rhel's motivations ever since Orsk had told him the truth of his parentage, but all he could come up with was the possibility that Rhel must have thought he was protecting him somehow by not telling him the truth. He didn't really want to consider the alternatives. He suddenly felt selfish even thinking about Rhel, when Yana was so upset about her own father, and he forced himself to focus on the task ahead.
"I've never been to Faraxen," he mused aloud, changing the subject.
She seemed to understand a little of why he was changing the subject, wishing she could help him make sense of what little he knew and what that meant for him. But she didn't even understand her own heart right now, what hope did she have for helping him? Instead, she turned her attention to the subject at hand.
"I have," she said thoughtfully. "It's a shipyard planet, pretty much. Most of the land mass is covered with yards busy scrapping or building. Almost all of them are owned by corporations or private businessmen - doesn't surprise me Trethin had holdings there. But why would he be keeping your sister there?"
"I don't know," Kalen replied, almost wishing he'd tried to wheedle more information out of the man before they'd left, but it was too late now. "Maybe he thought it was an obscure enough place to hide her. He's been holding her safety over my head ever since Rhel died. She couldn't have been more than child then. Who does that, Yana? What kind of scum threatens a child's life?" he asked, turning confused eyes toward her. He'd never mentioned any of this to anyone before; he'd never trusted anyone enough to mention it until now.
"Scum like Trethin," she said simply. Setting her empty plate aside, she inched closer to him, shy of actually making contact. Whatever was between them felt strangely fragile right now. "In a few hours, we'll have her safe," she promised him faithfully. "We can decide what happens next when that is done. Does she know about you, that Rhel raised you?"
He stared at the screen, as if hoping to find some of the answers to their questions there. "I don't know," he echoed his earlier reply. He really knew very little about her, other than the fact that she was at least a decade younger than him. He wasn't even sure when Rhel had conceived her or with who. Everything about her was a mystery to him, but her name and, finally, her supposed whereabouts - as long as Trethin hadn't lied about it. "What if she doesn't believe me?" he asked, with a worried expression on his face.
Yana frowned thoughtfully. "All right," she said, working it through in her own mind. "The worst case scenario is that she doesn't know who you are, and she thinks Trethin is - was - her real father. I can't see him as the type to keep up that kind of pretense, so it's doubtful she thinks that way about him. There must be something you know about Rhel, something she'd know too, something only you two would know."
"Why would she stay on Faraxen, unless Trethin was keeping her there against her will?" Kalen asked, trying to work it through himself, just as he had been doing for days. "Unless ..." he said, trailing off as he followed a particular thought to its logical conclusion. "You said Faraxen is a shipyard planet? What if Rhel stopped there to have work done on his ship and that's how he met her mother? It stands to reason he would have left her with her mother, rather than bring her to Rhy'Din. What if Trethin never did anything but keep an eye on her over the years?"
"It's a possibility," Yana nodded, glad to see that he was at least trying to see a lighter side to the situation. She had her reservations about finding the girl in the company of her mother, but she didn't want to deflate Kalen when he was considering it. She chuckled lightly. "We might be about to pick up a home-grown mechanic, you realize."
"Is there anything about her in the planet's records?" he asked. He'd done his fair share of searching for her in the last decade or so, but it was a big universe and searching for one person was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Now that they had an idea where she was located, though, it was a different story.
"Let's take a look." Slithering closer to the screen, Yana tapped in a search, watching as the information skidded past for a moment before she had to take her eyes away. "These things always make my eyes cross."
Kalen took a swallow of his coffee as he turned his attention to the output of information skidding past on the screen, a small smirk at her comment. "It takes some getting used to," he said, as he tried to follow the scroll of information.
There were a lot of Trethin holdings on that planet, it seemed, and each of them listed personnel in the dozens, even hundreds. But somewhere in the middle of all that scroll was the name they were looking for. Ardinn, Mira. Grease monkey. Garvenel's Scrap.
"There!" Kalen exclaimed, leaning forward and pointing at the screen as his sister's name scrolled past. "Go back a little. It was right there," he told her, since she was the one who was sitting in front of the control panel.
It was just as well Kalen had spotted it. Yana's eyes were watering trying to follow the scroll. As he pointed, she paused the search, scrolling back in the hope that she'd be able to see it herself. And there it was. "Wow, they let her keep her name," she mused. "They must have been very sure you'd never look here."
He frowned as he stared at the screen, reading the tiny snippet of information over several times, as if trying to memorize it or convince himself that it was real. Of course, they'd been sure he'd never look. The bigger question was how had Trethin found out about Mira when not even Kalen had known how to find her? "I spent years looking and couldn't find anything. How did Trethin find her before I did?"
"Garvenel's Scrap," Yana murmured, tapping that in for the search. At the very least, it would give them some idea of where to land. She glanced at Kalen, not sure how to answer that question. "How did Rhel die, Kalen?" she asked gently, hoping it had been clean. If it hadn't been, if Trethin had had a closer hand in it, then she had a horrible feeling she knew how the man had known about Kalen's sister in the first place.
"Trethin killed him," Kalen replied, not really wanting to go into the details. Wasn't that enough to tell her what she needed to know? It wasn't so hard to figure out how Trethin had learned about Mira then, though it made Kalen's heart sore to think about it. "Why didn't Trethin kill me, too?" he asked, though the answer seemed obvious enough. Why kill Kalen when Trethin could force him into making him more money?
"Then that's how he knew," she told him in a dull tone, reaching to touch his hand briefly. "He can't hurt you anymore. He can't hurt her anymore." She didn't see the need to answer his question; it seemed obvious. Trethin had got a decade of loyal service out of Kalen, after all.
"I should have killed him a long time ago," Kalen said, through gritted teeth, well aware of her touch and her attempt to comfort him, but too full of hatred to acknowledge it just yet. Oh, they were a pair, weren't they, he thought. Both of them filled with guilt and grief and anger and loneliness. Maybe that was why they understood each other so well. The memory of Rhel's death was making his heart ache, closing his eyes against the sting of tears.
"He's dead now. Cursing his corpse won't change the past." She drew her hand back, twisting to another screen to bring up a scan of Faraxen, locating Garvenel's Scrap. "I'll put these coordinates into the navi computer, and get changed."
He nodded his head mutely, turning to stare off into space, one hand curled beneath his chin, as he struggled with his memories and his grief and his guilt. He thought that Trethin's death would put all of that to rest, but all it seemed to do was open old wounds, better left alone.
Her fingers brushed over his hair as she slipped past, making her way first to the cockpit, and then to the captain's quarters, where they had been sleeping. It seemed to be their quarters now, though they hadn't actually said it out loud. Eager to be rid of the barely-there outfit Trethin had put her in, she set the gold pieces to one side, stripping out of the tunic and boots to wash quickly in the 'fresher and apply bacta to the bites she didn't really want Kalen to see.
Whatever it was she was doing in the captain's quarters, he left her to it, even though part of him realized these might be the last moments of privacy they would be able to enjoy together before they arrived on Faraxen in search of his sister. He sat there alone for a long while, struggling with the feelings he'd kept bottled up inside for too long. After a while, he brushed the tears from his face and got up off the chair to go in search of a fresh change of clothes.
She'd covered up by the time he was moving, swearing as she picked the braids in her hair free. Yana was definitely not a woman at home with being particularly womanly, as evidenced by the sheer violence with which she ripped her comb through her hair.
At least, he'd emerged from his grief and guilt and arrived in their quarters in time to notice what she was doing to her hair. "You're going to go bald doing that," he warned, with just a hint of teasing in his voice.
"I wouldn't have to do it at all if that bloody droid hadn't twisted it all into knots," she complained, dragging the last of the tangles free. A fair amount of hair came away on the comb, too, but she barely glanced at it, turning her attention to gathering her mane up into the familiar knot at the back of her head.
He sighed, hearing the annoyance in her voice and deciding to take pity on her, though he'd never so much as brushed a woman's hair before. He made his way over to her and snatched the comb from her hand. "Let me before you pull it all out," he scolded, moving to slide the comb through her hair and very carefully free whatever tangles she'd missed.
"But you -" Her objection died was he drew the comb through her hair, startled by how soothing it felt. No one had ever combed her hair for her - at least, not that she remembered. She felt herself relax with the comforting sensation, a faint smile touching her lips. "I care for you, too, you know," she said, the words blurting out before she could stop them. "I'm not very good at it, but I do care."
With her back to him, she might not be able to see the look on his face, but she could probably hear the smile in his voice. "I know," he replied, his touch surprisingly gentle as he worked the tangles from her hair and smoothed it out with a hand. He wasn't going to be able to style it the way she liked, but he wasn't doing a bad job of combing it out, surprised to find he liked the feel of her hair against his hand.
His answer made her smile deepen, her head turning as she twisted in place, hands catching his. "We're a mess, aren't we?" she pointed out, her eyes itching from her tears not so long ago but dry once again. "Why don't we put our messes together and see if anything comes out whole?"
Despite everything they'd both suffered over the last few days, his smile matched hers. "I'm willing to try if you are," he replied, meeting her gaze as her hands caught hold of his. Despite everything, there was hope in his eyes that hadn't been there before and maybe a hint of something else neither of them had ever expected. He leaned down to touch his lips to hers in a surprisingly tender kiss.
"I wouldn't have suggested it if I wasn't -" His kiss cut her off, but the words were just for the sake of saying something, anyway. She still wasn't used to gentle, to tender, but he was teaching her slowly. Her hands released his, fingertips skimming through his beard just before that kiss ended. She breathed him in, her eyes soft as she held his gaze. "Get changed," she told him. "I'll be in the cockpit."
He was a little surprised himself that he was capable of this kind of tenderness, this kind of caring. It was encouraging anyway and boded well for a sister he'd never met yet, as well as whatever the future held for him and Yana. "Yes, ma'am," he replied with a sparkle of amusement in his eyes at the obvious effect he was having on her. Given a little more time, they might have gone a little further, but he knew as well as she did that it wouldn't be long now before they reached their destination.
She smirked, rolling her eyes at him as she walked out, her hands rising to twist her hair into the familiar knot as she went. Though it might take another hour to reach Faraxen, they needed to be ready for whatever was waiting for them. That meant checking their weapons, and making sure they had an escape route.
It wasn't long before he joined her, dressed in his usual nondescript tan and brown, looking more the smuggler than the dandy Trethin had forced him to look like. Without a droid to do it for them, he'd gathered up the coffee cups and sandwich plates and taken them to the galley before joining her. He didn't really mind cleaning up after himself; it made him feel more in control of his life than to have a droid take care of it for him. "How much farther?" he asked, standing behind her and looking over her shoulder at the stars whizzing past.
"Half an hour, if that," she answered, glancing over her shoulder at him. "I've been taking a look at the planet stats - there's no planetary defenses, and no surface to air ordnance. There's no unifying security force, either. If we're walking into a fire fight, we should be able to handle it - no more than ten or twelve on site at Garvenel's."
"I doubt Trethin had much time to warn them," he said, sliding into the pilot's seat. Thankfully, she'd taken care of that for him, and though he'd hated Trethin, he'd found himself unwilling to stoop to the man's level in torturing answers out of him.
She leaned back in her seat, drawing one knee up to her chest as she studied him for a moment. "May I make a suggestion?" That was a surprise in itself - Yana never asked for permission to air her ideas, she just threw them out there and expected to be heard. Evidently Kalen had managed to impress on her how important this was to him.
"Don't go in blasters blazing?" he guessed, punching a few buttons on the console to see just how much farther they had to go until they reached their destination. He was only half joking, though he had no idea what it was she wanted to suggest.
She snorted, rolling her eyes at him. "No," she agreed. "I was thinking more along the lines of infiltration. They're a scrap yard. I'm sure there's something I could yank on Nemesis that wouldn't damage her too much; just enough to give us a reason to go looking for a replacement. It's a low priority request, from a private ship owner with no connections - chances are whoever's in charge would drop her right in our laps. I'm actually suggesting stealing her."
"Stealing ..." Kalen echoed, furrowing his brows at her as he tried her to follow her train of thought. "Steal my sister?" he asked, unsure he liked the sound of that. Was she talking about kidnapping her or convincing her to work for them?
Yana laughed at the confusion on his face. "And you call yourself a smuggler," she teased, the fond note in her voice erasing any cruelty in her words. "Look, the end game is to get her off that planet and out of their hands, isn't it? If she proves difficult to convince, we just have to get her on board and take off - she can be convinced another time. If she's anything like you, though, she'll be itching to get off that planet, and I suggest we just take off, rather than go through whoever it is holding her leash."
"Don't you think we should tell her first?" he asked, unsure how he felt about what boiled down to kidnapping his own sister. With Trethin dead, there was no telling who was holding her leash, if anyone, but they had no way of knowing what her situation was here. If they ended up kidnapping her in hopes of rescuing her, she might end up hating them as much as they'd hated Trethin.
"It's just a suggestion," she pointed out. "She's your sister, you're the one in charge of this. I'm just hoping to avoid being shot at twice in one day." She shrugged, leaving it up to him to decide. "Am I sabotaging a non-essential system or not?"
From the look on his face, he was at least thinking about it. "It's a good idea," he admitted after a moment's consideration, at least as far as the intentional sabotage was concerned. "But I think kidnapping should be a last resort."
"Please tell me you're not planning on marching up to this Garvenel person and asking nicely to take her away," Yana groaned. "By all means, get her permission to take her away, but don't ask Trethin's man on the spot, Kay."
"Do you take me for a fool, Yana?" he asked, blinking in momentary surprise to hear her shorten his name to a more familiar and intimate version. "I only think we should talk to her first," he explained, not giving a flying fig about Garvenel or whoever might be working for Trethin.
"I never said we shouldn't!" she protested, throwing her hands up. "I'm not suggesting we go down there, grab her and run. I'm just saying let's not invite a fire fight if we don't have to."
"No, of course not," he replied in quiet agreement. Despite just having shared a tender moment, it seemed it was going to take a while before the pair was going to see eye to eye on everything, and then there were their individual tempers to deal with. "I just don't want to start off on the wrong foot, yes?"
Yana managed to hold in another eye roll, but it was a close thing. "I'll yank a compressor coil when we land," she offered, the closest they were going to come to a compromise. "That can always be shoved back in place for a short hyperdrive burst, and reattached properly once we're out of immediate danger."
Maybe he was erring on the side of caution, but this was his sister - Rhel's daughter - they were talking about. On the other hand, if the only way to get her off the planet was to kidnap her, well, then he'd have to seriously consider it. "Yana, she's my sister," he urged her as gently as he could. Well, half sister anyway.
"I know," she told him. "But we don't have a lot of room for finesse here. Make contact, offer her a job if you have to, but we have to get her off this planet before news comes through to Garvenel that Trethin's dead. We have no idea what he'll do to her when he gets that news."
"You realize Trethin has to be paying them to keep her there," Kalen pointed out. Without Trethin to pay them, there wasn't much point in keeping Mira on Faraxen, but they might be willing to let her go for a price. He didn't much like the idea of buying his sister's safety, but it might save them from a firefight and further complications.
"Yeah, and I don't see the point in paying them anymore just to give her a little freedom," Yana said stubbornly. "You really want to line the pockets of someone who's happy to take money to keep a little girl in a scrapyard her whole life?"
"No, I want to buy her freedom, just like I would have bought yours!" he argued, just as stubborn as she was and saying a little more than he'd planned on saying.
"And if you were listening to me, instead of only hearing what you want to hear, you'd understand that there's a way to get her free without paying them a cent or starting a fight!" she argued right back again, her voice rising impatiently. Oh, she'd absorbed what he'd said, but right now, the important part of the conversation was focused on deciding how they were going to get Mira off Faraxen.
"Yes, but your way means they'd have reason to look for us, and my way does not," he argued back, not quite as impatient as she was. In the end, he would have to decide whether her plan or his plan was better. Neither was perfect, but they wouldn't really be able to make a final decision until they were there.
"Are we planning on coming back to this galaxy anytime soon?" she countered pointedly. "Trethin's contacts are going to be looking for us anyway - I was under the impression we'd be giving this galaxy a wide berth for a few years while Orsk gets his claws in deep anyway!"
Kalen clenched his jaw, not really wanting to admit that she might be right, even if she was. "What you are proposing is kidnapping her," he argued further, though if she was being kept there against her will, she might be more than willing to jump at the chance to join them.
"Yes, that's what I'm saying, if she doesn't want to come with us," she agreed with a fervent nod. "If she does, there's no point to this argument. If she doesn't, are you really going to just shrug your shoulders and walk away? Really?"
"I don't know," he admitted a little too quietly, as he got up from the pilot's seat. "I need to check our weapons," he told her, or maybe he just needed to think.
She let him go, gritting her teeth at how dense he was being. At least, in her opinion, he was being dense. She was all for taking the girl away to Rhy'Din, or somewhere else, somewhere away from Trethin's dead fingers, whether she wanted to come or not. The whole point of this was to get Mira safe. Yana wasn't sure what the problem was.
He went to do exactly what he told her he was going to do, though it was only in part to check their weapons and in part to consider her argument. She was right, and he knew it. Why should they reward Trethin's men further for keeping his sister from him? No, it was only that Kalen was worried for her safety - the safety of a sister he'd never met - and was willing to do whatever needed to be done to keep her safe. Was he willing to cut and run, like Yana was suggesting? If that was what it would take to make sure Mira was safe, hells yes. He was ready and willing to do that and more.
There was little need, or desire, to talk it over further as they came out of hyperspace near Faraxen. Yana contacted Garvenel's Scrap as they entered the atmosphere, citing a burnt out compressor coil as the reason for their unscheduled stop. She also gave them a false name, just in case. There was no reason for them to suspect that the battered ship contained the one person they'd been told never to allow anywhere near their teen-aged hostage, whether she knew she was a hostage or not.
The conversation had waned once he'd returned to the cockpit, both of them focused on the task at hand and too stubborn to admit either might be wrong. So long as they got Mira out of there safe, none of it mattered anyway. Though Kalen hadn't said so in so many words, he was grateful for Yana's help. There was no one he trusted more or would have wanted at his side, even if they didn't always agree.
Safely on the ground, Yana powered down, handing Kalen the compressor coil she had dug out of the spares compartment and run a heavy current through to back up their story. "You know what to do," she told him. "I'll keep the home fires burning."
"You're not coming with me?" he asked, taking the compressor coil in hand, but not yet moving from the pilot's seat. His insides were suddenly all twisted up inside, the memory of her abandoning him once before still a little too fresh, but he pushed it aside. She'd come back for him; she'd stayed with him; she cared for him, when no one else had.
Her eyes found his, warm and certain. "No," she told him quietly, though she could have taken offense at what she knew was going through his mind. "I'm waiting for you." She reached out to touch his hand. "I'm not going anywhere without you, Kay. Never again. But you're the only person who can do this, and you need someone with their hand on the controls if things go sideways."
"And what if they figure out who I am?" he asked. It was possible. There was no telling what Trethin might have told them about him, and yet, there was no reason to think they might suspect him either. He was simply a traveler in need of a part, at least, until word reached them of Trethin's demise.
"Grab her and run," was Yana's only advice there. "Better bet would be not to be obvious. You're a cargo pilot whose ship needs a part replaced and fitted, or you're not going to make your drop on time. That's all they need to know. If they ask about me, I'm the co-pilot who's good with numbers but should be kept as far away from the engines and circuitry as is possible."
"Keep the engine running," he told her, though it was hardly necessary. It was a saying he'd once heard on Rhy'Din, which simply meant she should be ready to leave at a moment's notice. He didn't bother to say good-bye because this wasn't good-bye. It wasn't even see you later. He was only planning on staying there as long as he had to go get his sister out of there.
"Here." She tossed him a small device. "Comm link. Just in case you need rescuing." She winked at him, smiling teasingly. "Get going, you're keeping them waiting."
"You rescued me once already," he reminded her, hoping she wouldn't have to do it again. "Be back as soon as I can," he promised, hoping, too, that he'd be able to keep that promise. He'd caught the comm link and shoved it some place safe and unseen. There was a blaster pistol strapped to his thigh, but it would hardly look out of place in a place like this.
The gangway lowered as he approached, proof enough that Yana was watching his every move. Faraxen proved to be a dry world, the air choked with metallic dusts from the ship work that went on all over the planet. The clouds they had drifted through to land painted the sky ocher, with no sight of the sun that made the air unpleasantly warm. The scrapyard was piled high with metals and parts, with ships half-stripped and some completely emptied of workable pieces. Droids were visible sorting through this debris, supervised by humans.
One of those humans was waiting for him - a rough looking man, wiping his hands on a rag. "You Staffen Ors?" he asked, his voice rasping from years of exposure to the contaminants in the air.
"I'm Ors," Kalen confirmed, going along with the ruse without so much as batting an eye. He'd been a smuggler long enough to know how to play the game of cat and mouse, when he needed to. The only thing he'd never managed to be able to disguise or fake was that damned accent of his. He tossed the man the burnt out compressor. "Looking for one of these and someone who knows how to replace it," he explained, unsure what he was going to do if the man decided to direct him to someone other than Mira. He supposed he'd just have to poke his nose around.
The man caught the part, inspecting it for a moment. "Should be something around here that suits," he said with a nod. "Get you to your drop, anyway. Universal creds only, none of that local junk." He tossed the part back to Kalen, turning to bellow into the scrapyard. "Ardinn! Get your skinny butt out of that engine and do your job!"
A voice sounded from the back end of one of the stripped ships. "All right, all right, don't get your panties in a wad!"
"Course," Kalen replied with regard to the creds, doing his best to remain as neutral as possible, though as soon as the man snapped Rhel's surname and he heard a female voice in response, his heart thudded painfully in his chest. It seemed he was either in luck or some higher power was looking out for him today. Despite his anxiousness, he couldn't help but smirk a little at the girl's feisty response, which reminded him a little too much of the woman he'd left on board the Nemesis.
The first thing to emerge from the engine, however, wasn't the girl herself. As the man - who must be Garvenel - stalked back to whatever it was he was doing, a metallic rumbling made itself known, and a small, spherical-based droid came rolling into view, dropping the foot or so from the exhaust port onto the compacted ground with a dull thud. It was a very distinctive-looking droid, and utterly unique - in this galaxy, anyway.
Turning its dome toward Kalen, it suddenly let rip with a series of loud, excited beeps, rolling toward him with all the delight a droid can offer. [Friend-Kalen! You are here! Is it time to go?]
The little droid was something Kalen wasn't expecting to see and hadn't prepared for. Its name was BB-D2, and it had once belonged to Rhel, but Kalen had written it off for lost years ago. To find it here with his sister was a pleasant and unexpected surprise, though it could prove disastrous if anyone found out who he was.
"Shh," Kalen said quietly, glancing toward the man who'd just walked away to see if he was paying them any attention. He crouched down so that he was on a level with the little droid and silently signed him a brief explanation of why he was incognito. It was a silent language Rhel had taught him when he was a boy and had come in handy on more than one occasion. It was a good thing it was a language he had also programmed into the little droid.
The little droid wobbled on his axis, paying close attention to Kalen as he signaled his intentions and reasons for being here without his own name. A small aperture opened on his side, and he extended his gas igniter, lighting it up in the only thumbs up the droid could manage. Then he closed himself up and trundled away, beeping loudly to pull his mistress out from the engine she was still fiddling with.
"Okay, okay, BB, I'm coming," she mollified the imperiously beeping droid, shaking her head with a grin as she dropped out of the exhaust port. And there she was, Kalen Dain's little sister - tall for her age, slender rather than skinny, dark hair piled into a ragged bun on the top of her head, brown eyes laughing at her droid companion, and almost every inch of her covered in dirt and grease. She eyed Kalen warily. "What's the part you need?"
Face to face with his long lost sister for the first time in his life, he looked her over silently, speechless for a moment before remembering the trumped up reason for his presence there. He tossed her the burned out coil, just as he'd tossed it to the man a few minutes earlier. "Looking for a replacement part and someone who knows how to install it," he told her, his heart racing, though his expression remained impassive.
She caught the coil, turning it over in her hands, whistling through her teeth. "You've got a faulty circuit in there somewhere if it did this to a compressor coil," she informed him. "Anything I put in is just going to get zapped the same way unless you find it and fix it." She looked down at the droid beside her. "Go get the compressor coil out of my box, Beebs," she told him, smirking as the little droid rolled away, whistling to himself cheerfully. Looking back at Kalen, she looked expectantly. "You gonna show me on board, or do I have to ask permission like some fancy core-worlder?"
"Uh, no ... I was just expecting ..." Kalen bit his tongue. What was it about this girl that had him stammering like an idiot? "... someone older," he sputtered, in an attempt to hide his faux pas. He darted a glance back to look for the droid. If he grabbed and ran now, they'd be leaving all her possessions behind, though he doubted she owned much of any worth, other than the droid. "This way," he said, gesturing toward where Yana had landed the freighter.
"Hey, I'm a good mechanic," Mira defended herself in a heated voice, pointing one finger in his direction. "Might not get paid the same as the men, but I'm better than they are and they know it. You want someone to do this half-assed, ask for one of them. You want it done properly? Step aside, flyboy."
"As it happens, I'm looking to hire a mechanic. You know anyone who might be interested in getting off this gods-forsaken rock?" he asked, as casually as he could, falling into step just behind her.
"Frack, I'd sell my soul to get off this rock," she said, brushing her fingertips over the underside of the ship as they approached the gangway. "Your ship's kind of familiar, but I'm pretty sure I've never seen one like this here. Is she an old model or something?" Ducking up and into the ship, she waited for directions toward the appropriate grating and panel.
Kalen glanced back over his shoulder. Where the hells was that droid? He didn't want to leave without it, if he could help it. He glanced back at the news that the ship seemed familiar, though he knew Corellian freighters weren't exactly rare. "Old, but she's still got a lot of life left in her," he replied, hoping he didn't sound too lame, as he followed her up the gangway, stalling for time.
The girl snorted with laughter. "If she can blast a compression coil like this, she's definitely lively." She looked at him curiously. "Engine room?" she asked, startled to hear a dragging sound behind them. BB-D2 was rolling up the gangway, dragging a bag behind him. "Beebs, what are you doing?" she asked in bemusement. "I just wanted the coil, not ... wait, is that my bag?"
The little droid beeped happily. [We are leaving, Friend-Mira! Friend-CLASSIFIED is here for us!]
Kalen arched a brow as the little droid joined them, dragging Mira's bag with him ... her ... it. He looked from the droid to the girl, unable to hide the smirk from his face. "You did say you wanted to get off this rock, yes?" he asked her. "I would say now is your chance, but we must be quick about it." He didn't bother to say why.
Mira's eyes widened, her jaw dropping as she turned her bemused stare from the droid onto Kalen. "Are you for real?" she asked, shaking her head. "No, don't answer that. BB says you're safe to go with, we're going. What about this part? You can't take off with a coil out."
Kalen was already moving to close the gangway door, pulling the comm link from his pocket to contact Yana in the cockpit. "Cargo safely on board. Get us out of here," he told her. "There's no time to explain now. Consider this a rescue," he told Mira, as he moved past her toward the cockpit. "Come on. You need to strap in for takeoff. This might get a little bumpy."
As soon as he contacted Yana, the ship's engines fired. BB-D2 let out a happy whistle, rolling away in Kalen's wake. Given little choice, and not entirely sure how she'd gone from taking on another crappy small job with no commission to breaking free of the planet she'd been on for ten years with no sign of escape, Mira shrugged and followed. "So ... no broken parts then, huh?"
"No broken parts," he confirmed, leading both her and the droid toward the cockpit. So far, it had been almost too easy, but he wasn't complaining. "This is Yana, my ... co-pilot," he explained before dropping into the pilot's seat. "Any trouble so far?" he asked her, hoping his sister had the sense to strap herself into one of the seats behind them in case they were fired on or pursued.
Yana glanced back as Mira dropped into the seat behind Kalen, fumbling with the straps. Despite the dirt, she could see a definitely family resemblance there. "No, but I think our friend over there is on the verge of realizing we haven't paid for anything," she told Kalen, nodding to where Garvenel was looking around his yard wildly. "You landed us, I suggest you take off or I'm liable to bounce off that destroyer hull on the way up."
"So she's the reason you came to a scrap planet?" Mira asked, grinning at the look Yana shot her. "Hey, you're pretty. Work it hard enough, you don't have to be good at flying."
"Man the guns, just in case," Kalen told Yana, since he was taking over flying. He didn't think there was much they could do to stop them, but they couldn't be too careful. Of course, he was going to light speed as soon as they were free of the planet's gravity and the ships in orbit around it. He was busy punching buttons and moving levers to get the ship off the ground, wasting no time with explanations except for one: "No, you are," he told Mira.
Flipping the co-pilot controls to auto, Yana nodded, rising from her seat to squeeze past Mira and jog to the gun turret, clambering out of sight. Mira watched her curiously, turning her head back when Kalen's answer sank in. "Wait, me?" she asked in confusion. "Oh, come on, now you're just playing with me. Who comes halfway to nowhere for a nobody like me?"
She jumped as an explosion in front of them announced that Yana was taking no chances. The short-tempered woman Kalen had put on gunnery duty had just blown up Garvenel's main building on principle alone, sending the entire yard into a panic.
Kalen couldn't help but smirk a little as Yana sent her message to those on the ground, even as the ship rose off the landing pad and started away from the planet. "She's got a bit of a temper," he explained, regarding what Yana had just done. "BB, tell her," he told the droid, so that he could concentrate on maneuvering past the ships in orbit and out into free space.
"Was that really necessary?" Mira asked, regarding the explosion.
Yana's voice came over the inter-ship comm. "No, but it made me feel better."
Despite herself, Mira snorted with laughter at the unexpected answer, glancing down as BB-D2 trundled into the cockpit, launching into an explanation of who this man was and why he was here in the first place. There was a lot of excited whistling involved - the little droid had apparently been waiting for this day for a very long time.
In Kalen's estimation, the explosion was hardly necessary, and yet, it seemed to have made Yana feel better. After everything they'd been through the last few weeks, they needed a victory like this. "Jumping to light speed. Hang on!" he warned, loud enough for Yana to hear him in gun turret. He punched a few more buttons and pushed a lever forward that made the ship lurch and the stars blur before she shot forward and out of this sector of space.
The lurch was enough to send BB rolling backward out of the cockpit with a shrill whistle that sounded more like a celebratory whoop than anything. He didn't appear to have any brakes, or rather, wasn't using them - he rolled straight down the turret access and wedged in the hatch directly above Yana, unable to get himself out. Muffled cursing suggested that she was trying to push him back out from beneath.
Left in the cockpit, Mira was silent, trying to process what she'd been told. That this man was Kalen Dain; her brother, the man her father had told her would come for her one day the last time she'd seen him. That she still had family, and he was right here. It was a lot to take in for a scrapyard brat who'd spent the last ten years working hard for just enough food to keep her going.
Kalen set a course for home, which these days was Rhy'Din, unsure what to make of his sister's silence. Either she was in too much of a state of shock to say anything or she didn't believe what BB had told her. What did you say to the last remaining living member of your family - one you had been waiting a long time to meet and thought you never would? He turned in the pilot seat to take a better look at her now that they had made their escape, leaving Yana to deal with the droid.
"I'm Kalen," he told her. "Rhel was my father, too. I've spent the last ten years looking for you. I know it's a lot, but there will be plenty of time to talk later. For now, are you hungry? Thirsty? Is there anything you need?"
She raised shocked eyes to him. "I know who you are," she said quietly. "BB's been telling me stories about you and Dad for years. He said ... Dad said you'd come for me, one day, but that was on Ena'tar, and then people came and took me to Faraxen, and ..." She let out a disbelieving huff. "I guess I stopped believing BB after a while." There was a pause as she looked at him, drinking in the features that told her he was her father's son. "I'm Mira," she said, introducing herself belatedly even as her stomach rumbled at the thought of food.
"All good ones, I hope," he said, with a faint smile. He reached over to take her hand, not in greeting so much as to make sure she was real and vice versa. "We have a lot of catching up to do, but first I think I should show you around." And get her something to eat, from the rumbling sound coming from her stomach. "Yana! Stop fooling around with that droid and help me show Mira around."
As Mira tentatively squeezed his hand, Yana called Kalen something highly uncomplimentary from beneath BB-D2. The little droid beeped cheerfully, and with a loud thump, was unceremoniously heaved out of the turret access hatch to roll harmlessly back toward the cockpit. "Move, ball," Yana told BB as she climbed out herself.
The droid whistled and trundled back into the cockpit. [Friend-Kalen, who is the small female?]
Kalen knew the droid could only be referring to Yana, who didn't seem to have been too charmed by his sister's companion. "Her name is Yana. She is my ..." Here he hesitated again. Co-pilot, partner, friend, lover? All of the above? "... partner," he continued, thinking that word seemed to encompass her best. "Yana, this is BB-D2. He once belonged to Rhel." Kalen realized there was a lot of explaining to do on both sides, but first things first.
Leaning in the doorway of the cockpit, Yana looked down at BB-D2 as the domed head swiveled to look up at her.
[Friend-Kalen, is Yana your life mate?]
Mira choked on her breath, biting down a grin as her eyes flickered between Kalen and his co-pilot.
Yana's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Why do I get the feeling asking for a translation is going to get me a big bag of lies?"
Kalen smiled at Yana's remark, answering BB's question as honestly and yet vaguely as he could. "Time will tell, amigo." He then looked to Yana, that same smile still on his face, "Shall we show Mira around?" he asked. After all, as far as he was concerned, it was their ship - just as much hers as it was his.
[Does the presence of your body odor on her and hers on you not indicate physical intercourse?] BB wasn't going to let this drop, it seemed, making Mira snorted with laughter.
"Beebs, seriously?" she asked, patting her little friend fondly. "Even I know you don't just jump in and ask things like that."
Yana sighed at the by-play, rolling her eyes at all three of them, feeling detached from the familial trio. "You show her around," she suggested to Kalen. "I'll set a course for one of the Gates, ping you when we're close."
Clearly, the little BB unit had never learned any manners, as far as privacy was concerned anyway. Kalen ignored the droid's question, frowning at Yana's reply, knowing she was probably feeling left out. It's how he would have felt anyway, but he didn't want to push her too far, hoping in time, she'd come around. He had plenty of room in his life for both a sister and a ... whatever Yana was. "If you're sure," he replied. He could just as easily have handled the controls, while Yana showed Mira around, but he wasn't going to turn down the chance to get to know her better.
"I'm sure," she nodded to him, doing her best to keep her voice from sounding flat. Despite everything they'd shared, she knew she didn't compare with having his sister at his side. "Go on, you know you want to show off."
BB backed out of her way as she edged into the co-pilot's seat once again, beeping curiously at Mira. Mira shook her head at the droid. "You can charge up when we land," she promised her friend.
Show off? That's not quite what Kalen had in mind. What he had in mind was showing Mira around the ship so that she could eat and clean up and make herself comfortable, not to show off. Despite his annoyance at Yana's remark, he didn't want to make a scene in front of his sister, and he couldn't very well ask her to excuse them a moment when she had nowhere else to go either. He and Yana had an understanding, and as far as Kalen was concerned, finding his sister wasn't going to change that, but maybe Yana felt differently.
"Come on," he told Mira, as he turned away from Yana, not wanting to argue with her, even as she brushed him off. "I'll show you around."
Yana hadn't meant it to be facetious or rude; in her own way, she was trying to give brother and sister space to start getting to know each other. She had a feeling there might be another argument brewing, though.
Glancing awkwardly between them, Mira nodded as Kalen turned to her, taking the opportunity to unstrap herself and escape the cockpit, turning automatically toward the port side and the engine room. "This way?" she asked, gesturing past the couches and chairs that made up the lounge.
Kalen came to a halt outside the crew quarters across the way from the lounge, thinking it would probably better to give her the quarters farthest from his and Yana's, not just because of the occasional shouting matches. "You can stow your gear in here, if you like," he told her, pressing a thumb against the button that opened the door. She was perfectly welcome to do more than that, of course, but that kind of went without saying. He wasn't sure yet what was going to happen once they reached Rhy'Din, but he thought they'd worry about that once they got there.
Snagging her bag from where BB had left it on one of the chairs, Mira peered into the room Kalen had opened. Two bunks, and a wide space between them; lockers, and a refresher. It was the most luxurious space she'd seen since she was seven years old. "Whose is the other bunk?" she asked curiously, dropping her bag onto the nearest.
"No one's," he replied, confirming that she wouldn't be sharing a room with either him or Yana, and the droid clearly didn't require a bunk. "We haven't had a chance to hire a crew, and I'm not sure we will," he explained further. "Come on, I'll show you the rest of the ship." He was understandably relieved to have rescued her so easily and excited to have met her at last, but something Yana had said had dampened that excitement a little.
"All this space, just for me?" Mira looked stunned, afraid to touch anything for fear of getting it dirty. She hadn't had a decent wash in what felt like years, layers of grime and grease on her skin built up over time. "Why don't you want to hire a crew?" Her curiosity was piqued by that statement, not understanding why he'd want to run this ship by himself, with only Yana to help him.
"We haven't got that far yet," he told her, knowing there was a lot he still needed to explain. "Would you like to clean up first? I can get you something to eat before I show you around," he suggested, though it was really up to her. He didn't even know if she had a clean change of clothing, and he didn't want to borrow any of Yana's things without her permission.
She hesitated, looking down at herself, ashamed of the state she was in and embarrassed to have to admit something else. "I, um ... I don't have anything else to wear," she said awkwardly. "Guess I'm not much of a good thing for you, huh? Been here just a little while, and I already stuck a wedge in with your girl."
"It's not your fault," he said, not bothering to deny or confirm whether Yana was his girl. "We're both just too used to being alone. I'll find you something to wear later," he promised, even if he had to give her something of his own. "You're a mechanic, yes? I think you might find this interesting," he told her as he continued on. "Med Bay on your right. Escape pods," he said, gesturing toward each as they passed, moving past the crew lounge on the left and stopping as they neared the end of the main corridor. "Engineering is in here. There's an access panel at the end of the corridor."
"I'm a grease monkey," Mira informed him proudly. "I can fix anything." A series of beeps sounded from behind her as she fell into step with Kalen. "All right, most things," she conceded. "But what I can't fix right away, I can work out pretty fast." She peered into each compartment as he pointed them out, but the moment engineering was mentioned, she slipped past him, striding into the space that held the mechanical linkages and workings of the ship like she owned it.
Just as he always insisted that he could fly anything. "A mechanic," he corrected, preferring that to grease monkey, just as he did pilot to flyboy. She'd already seen the cockpit and probably spied the ladder that led to the gunnery turret. "There's another cargo hold on the other side of the ship. Galley, Circuitry Bay." He didn't bother to mention the Smuggling Hold, at least for now. "Home away from home."
Mira was running her hands over the panels as he spoke, listening to the ship sing to her. "You know she drags on take off, right?" she said suddenly, twisting to look at him. "I bet it's the sublight oscillator. Just needs taking out and cleaning up, I can do that in a day. She'll stop pulling to the ground when you fire her up straight away."
He arched a brow, impressed with how she'd noticed that. He'd noticed it, too, but hadn't really known what the problem was and hadn't had enough time to tinker with it to find out. "How'd you learn all that?" he asked curiously, doubting it was anything Rhel had taught her.
She gave him a look that suggested he should rethink that question. "I grew up scrapping ships," she pointed out in amusement. "BB taught me bits here and there, but he mostly just told me what parts I was tinkering with and what they do in a real ship. Garvenel had me crawling through ducts to fix circuit outages until I got too big, and then I got upped to engines. It kinda comes naturally."
"But ... You didn't grow up there. You grew up on Ena'tar, yes?" he asked, not knowing anything much about her really, except that she was Rhel's daughter. He wasn't sure how Trethin had found out about her or what had happened to her mother. He wasn't sure why Rhel had kept her such a secret from him, unless it was to protect them both.
She shrugged. "I was seven when they took me to Faraxen," she told him. "My mom was pretty broken when they told us about Dad. She told me to go with them, so I did. She died about a year later. I think she just gave up."
If Kalen did his math right, that was right about the time when Trethin had Rhel killed or shortly thereafter. "I'm sorry," he told her, and from the tone of his voice, he seemed to really mean it. There had been enough death and grief and hardship to go around, but maybe that was all behind them now. "A man named Trethin was responsible for ... for his death," Kalen explained, unsure how to refer to her father - their father. Unlike her, he had always known him as Rhel. He'd only learned the man was his father a few days ago, and it still hadn't completely sunk in. "I assume Trethin is the one who had you taken to Faraxen."
"Who?" She just looked confused by the name-drop, scratching her head with one long finger inserted into the scruffy bun atop her head. "Never heard of any Trethin. Garv got pissy if I asked to leave, so I stopped asking. Stowed away once, but they found me and took me back."
"Garvenel was probably keeping you there for Trethin. Either that or ..." Kalen wasn't sure he wanted to think about the alternative explanation, which implied her mother had either been forced to give her daughter up or had done it of her own free will. Whichever the case, they were both orphans now, as was Yana. "Doesn't matter. You're free now to do as you please."
She held his gaze for a long moment. "Can I stay with you guys?" she asked hopefully. "I can fix this old girl up like new, I swear it. Won't even cost much - I just need access to a scrapyard, and I can jury-rig pretty much any part to do what I need it to. I just ..." She deflated a little. "I don't have anywhere to go."
He wasn't sure about Yana, and he didn't want to have to choose between them, but Mira was blood. She was Rhel's offspring, too, and he couldn't turn his back on her. "I didn't bring you here to abandon you," he told her, practically repeating the promises he and Yana had made to each other only a short time before. "We can always use a mechanic," he assured her, though his reasons for keeping her with them went a lot deeper than that. "Would you like something to eat?" he asked, changing the subject.
"He's a good cook," Yana's voice interjected from the doorway.
Mira blinked in surprise, tilting her head to look around her brother at the little woman standing behind him.
Yana was holding an armful of towels and clothing pilfered from Kalen's wardrobe. There was nothing in hers that would fit the tall teenager. She offered the girl a faint smile. "Maybe you should clean up before you try eating, though," she suggested. "The refresher in your bunk is good to go, the tank'll be hot by now."
"Can I?" Mira's eyes strayed to Kalen, asking for permission to wash up while he cooked, since apparently that's what was happening.
Kalen's gaze swung toward Yana at the sound of her voice, a hint of surprise on his face, before looking back at his sister. "Yes, of course," Kalen replied. "I'll be in the galley. Opposite side of the ship. You can't miss it," he told her. He wasn't sure if Yana was going to join him or not, but he felt a lot better knowing her demeanor seemed to have softened.
Mira's grin reappeared, eager at the thought of washing herself really clean and wearing something clean, even if it wasn't hers. BB-D2 collected the towels and clothes from Yana's arm, trundling back toward Mira's bunk as the teenager jogged after him.
"Pink stuff, then white stuff on your hair, green for the rest of you," Yana called after her, chuckling at the excited, "Okay!" she got back before the door swished shut on her.
"Thank you," Kalen said, turning to Yana once Mira had disappeared into what was likely to become her quarters. "How long before we reach the Gate?" he asked, knowing they wouldn't be killing time the same way they had before Mira had arrived. He wasn't only thanking her for the towels and the clothing, but for making his sister feel welcome, despite the awkwardness of the situation.
"About three hours," Yana told him, stepping back into the corridor. "Long enough to feed her and wash her clothes. I'll take her to get a few things just for herself when we get to Rhy'Din - somehow I don't think you're the type to enjoy shopping." She offered him a glimpse of a teasing smile.
He winced at the thought of that. "I wouldn't know what to buy," he admitted, relieved to see the smile he was coming to know and, yes, even love. "What do you think a hungry teenager is likely to eat?" he asked, moving forward to take her hand, his fingers brushing against her palm.
"She looks like she's been living on half-portion ration bars for years," she said, the faintest suggestion of a blush on her cheeks as his fingers skimmed over her palm. "Something light's a good idea. I think we're going to have to make sure she doesn't go straight for the rich stuff for a while; it'll take time for her stomach to get used to having more than protein to break down."
Fortunately, they had a decent stock of food to choose from in the galley, but right now, making her something to eat was the least of their problems. "I was thinking it might be good to have a mechanic on board," he told her, lifting her hand to touch a kiss to her palm. He wasn't sure why he'd done it exactly, except that he'd wanted to.
If he'd thought Yana had softened by bringing his sister clothes and towels, it was nothing to the way she seemed to melt as his lips brushed her palm. Contentious their relationship might be, but neither one was immune to the other. Her thumb passed softly over his lips as she smiled up at him. "Someone who isn't going to impale herself on necessary equipment while tinkering, huh?" she teased, citing her own clumsiness. "Kay, even if she had no practical skills at all, she'd be welcome on board. You know that, right?"
He hadn't kissed her hand because he'd wanted to soften her up or manipulate her into agreeing to keep his sister around, but he couldn't deny he'd been worried. "I don't know what we're going to do now," he said, not having thought too much about what they might do once Trethin was dead. If Orsk kept his part of the bargain, they'd have enough money now to do whatever they wanted - if only they could figure out what that was.
"How about we take it one step at a time?" she suggested, squeezing his hand as she drew him away from the engine room toward the galley. She smirked at the sight of BB-D2 standing guard outside Mira's room, as though either of them might try to burst in while his mistress was occupied with the 'fresher. "We get back to Rhy'Din, we check in with Orsk, we make sure all our debts are paid off, we celebrate for a night. Then we can talk about what happens next. All three of us."
All three of us. Kalen couldn't help but smile at that. It seemed she'd meant it when she'd said she wasn't going anywhere, and he couldn't help but feel relieved to know she was happy to include Mira in their little circle. "That sounds like a plan," he replied, his hand still in hers and making no attempt to pull away as they started toward the galley.
[Friend-Kalen, your chosen life mate is very small.] The beeping of BB-D2 followed them as they went past him. [The odds of losing her in your bed are 31-to-1.]
Yana glanced over her shoulder at the droid. "I'm going to have to learn to speak droid, aren't I?" she said in amusement.
Kalen chuckled at BB's remarks, which, thankfully, Yana did not understand ... yet. "Didn't anyone ever tell you it's impolite to talk about someone when they can't understand Droid?" he asked the droid as they moved past. "You might be better off not knowing what he's saying," he told Yana, mostly in jest.
Yana rolled her eyes, ignoring the whistle from the droid as they passed him by. "So he's talking about me, then," she inferred with a faint grin. "Let me guess ... something about how I'm bad for you because of all the rude words I used when I had to push him out of my way earlier?"
Kalen chuckled again at her guess. He couldn't remember when the last time was that he'd really felt like laughing. "He thinks you're small," he told her, leaving the part about the life-mate and getting lost in his bed out.
"He's right, I am small," she shrugged. "Not as small as him. Or as heavy." She said that last part just a little louder, grinning at the offended beep that echoed along the corridor back at her. "We'll get along fine," she promised Kalen. "He's just going to have to get used to me."
"I'd forgotten about BB. He belonged to Rhel," Kalen told her, furrowing his brows in thought as they passed the captain's quarters before arriving at the galley. "I am still not sure how she came to be on Faraxen," he mused aloud. Oh, he knew what she'd told him, but it still puzzled him.
Yana frowned with him thoughtfully, taking up a lean against the main counter in the galley. "I doubt she knows the truth of it herself," she said in a pensive tone. "It's probably somewhere in those files we're handing off to Orsk - he'll let us know if he finds it." Mentioning Orsk, however, brought her own father to mind, and the message that she would have to give to the Bothan seven years out of date. Her expression darkened for a moment.
"What is it?" He asked, observant enough to notice the change in her expression, even as he moved about the galley gathering up the various items he needed to up something to fill the empty hole in his sister's stomach.
His voice rescued her from dipping deeper into those thoughts and embarrassing herself with tears again. "Just thinking about that holo," she sighed heavily, shaking her head. "That belongs to Orsk, too. Might have to sub more into his take from Trethin's holdings to cover what should have gone to the people Hix mentioned." Hix, not Dad, not father. That was almost cold.
He frowned over at her, his expression full of concern and sympathy. Here she was with a father who hadn't shown her any affection, and him with a father who'd never told him the truth of his parentage. "We're quite the pair, aren't we?" he asked, not really expecting an answer. "Orsk doesn't need to see the holo, you know," he pointed out, though he didn't want to start that partnership on the wrong foot.
Her smile was rueful. "Yes, he does," she countered reluctantly. "He knows who those people are; I don't. I've never heard those names before. If ..." She drew in a shaky breath. "If they were important to Hix, then they might not know what happened to him. Orsk should let them know."
"I suppose," he reluctantly agreed, though knowing what he did now of her so-called father, he didn't think the man was much better than Trethin. "Mira said some men came for her after Rhel was killed and that her mother told her to go with them. I assume they were Trethin's men. Do you think they threatened her?" he asked, changing the subject, but only because it was all sort of related in a strange sort of way.
"Gods, I don't know, Kay," she sighed. She couldn't even begin to guess at what had happened to take Mira away from her mother. "BB was there, wasn't he? Maybe you should ask him. Anything we talk about here is just going to be conjecture."
"Mm," he murmured thoughtfully, as he poured out some liquid egg mixture onto a pan and folded in some cheese. "Don't you think he would have already told Mira anything he knew?" he asked, though he wasn't too sure. It was hard to say where a droid was concerned.
"Would she have asked?" Yana shrugged. "She was just a little girl, and Rhel sounds like the kind of man who would program that droid to protect her at all costs. That includes her psychological and emotional well-being, you know. After a few years of non-answers, I know I'd stop asking."
Put that way, there was no telling what the little droid might know that he wasn't saying, but Kalen wasn't as concerned about his own past as he was about Yana's and Mira's. "Orsk might know something about your mother," he suggested as he flipped the egg mixture.
She snorted derisively. "I don't want to know," was her harsh response. "She abandoned us. One day she was there; she put me to bed, she told me to have sweet dreams, and the next morning, she was gone. Hix wasn't back for three days, Kay. She left a five year old alone for three days. Completely alone. I still remember eating what I could find out of the trash can."
He wasn't going to make excuses for her parents, not when he was only just beginning to understand his own past. Some people just had no business having children, it seemed. "If I am ever lucky enough to have a family, I will make sure I am there for them." It wasn't exactly a promise - not to her, anyway, but to himself. As fond as he'd been of Rhel, smuggling was no way to bring up a child.
"They'll be lucky children to have you for a father." It was a compliment, but edged with the by-now-familiar wariness. It was going to take time for Yana to really, truly believe that he wasn't going anywhere without her. "And Mira seems like she'd be a great aunt, though your kids would likely end up covered in grease and flying A-Wings without your permission."
Though he hinted at some of his dreams to Orsk, he'd yet to say much about them to Yana, taking things, as she'd said, one step at a time. "I'm sorry about Hix, querida. I know you were hoping for more." He wasn't really sure what else he could do or say to ease her pain. He had already promised he wasn't going anywhere; she would just have to take him at his word.
Her expression was pained for a moment, internally forcing that pain away before it could intrude further. This time was about Kalen and his sister, not about her and her silly hopes. ?I can?t talk about it,? she said quietly. ?Not yet, anyway. Maybe if we find out more, I?ll be able to explain why I was such an idiot over a holo that doesn?t even belong to me.?
"You don't have to explain," Kalen told her, but whether that was because an explanation wasn't needed for him to understand or whether he just didn't want her to think she was obligated to give him an explanation, he didn't say. He slid the omelette onto a plate and poured a glass of milk made from a powdered milk mixture that was unlikely to spoil.
"Yes, I do," she argued gently. "But ... only to you, and not before I'm ready. I don't want to mar this reunion with your sister just because I'm screwed up, Kay." She touched his hand with tentative fingers, offering an almost shy smile. "I'll go get Mira out of the 'fresher and check on our course."
?You're not screwed up, Yana," he assured her. If she was screwed up, then so was he. It occurred to him that the three of them were quite the trio, all of them screwed up in their own way, and mostly because of the faults and failings of their parents. He offered a soft, hopefully reassuring, smile and leaned down to touch a kiss to her lips. "Nothing's changed, Yana," he told her, reminding her without saying so that he wasn't going anywhere.
"Yes, it has," she smiled in response, her lips brushing his tenderly for a brief moment. "But in the best way." She squeezed his hand, stepping back to venture out of the galley in search of his little sister. Things had changed, but definitely for the better. Instead of alone, they were together. It was a good place to be planning a new life from, free of debts and obligations to anyone but themselves. Would that life be without its troubles? She hoped not. Yana Triem enjoyed getting into hot water every now and then.