View Full Version : The Sound of Thunder

Roz Coralix
Jun 22nd, 2019, 02:33:37 PM
It was 11:10 when Roz started to pack her things. She skipped breakfast, and made herself a stimcaf from the basket of complimentary supplies. Finishing was a struggle, like swallowing sand; the warmth spread, untangling the tension of a long and restless night. From her dresser, she snatched a small bottle and gave it a shake. There was a lonely rattle, and the bottle was quickly stashed away with everything else. She crossed the room, toes curling at the soft kiss of carpet, and stepped onto the balcony.

The Grand Dame Hotel was a proud and unsubtle confection that took its place amongst a bejewelled stretch of resorts known locally as the Golden Mile. The Golden Mile intersected Tyrena south of the Auric River, where it lead all the way to the Gold Beaches, which were almost certainly more than a mile away. Roz drank in the sight like cheap and unwelcome liquor, grimacing at the aftertaste. She pushed a smoke to her lips and indulged a long first drag. The morning sun was climbing, setting duracrete mountains ablaze and stitching the street below in ribbons of gold. In too many ways, Tyrena reminded her of the Capital, and wasn't that just the point? To draw the wealthy elite from their gaudy towers with a palatable facsimile of home? There were so few places left in the city that resembled Corellia, the real Corellia. But they were there, if you knew where to look.

Above, the sky was an unbroken canvas of creamy blue, a picture uncluttered by the tedious conga lines of big city traffic; all of the larger transports and freighters were being redirected to a secure port outside of town, as they had been since the first day of the blockade. Below, a ceaseless buzz of human traffic - well, mostly human - for all their freedom and culture, Corellians still managed to find places to hide their aliens. Even from all the way up on the 78th floor, Roz could spot the square jaws and straight backs of the people who called themselves natives, the impostors, who were but the symptom of a disease. When they spoke, it was with the clipped reserve of Coruscant lords and ladies, not with the breezy confidence of common folk.

From inside her room, a low chime sounded. Roz lifted the smoke for one last kiss, and flicked it into the expanse. On her dresser, there was a metal disc about the size of an adult's palm, she pressed its flashing blue light and watched as a ghostly figure took shape before her:

Iyla Sung was a tall square-shaped woman, here, no bigger than a table lamp, whose tanned-leather face and platinum grey curls were painted in shades of holographic blue. She wore a plain and functional blouse, neat slacks, and other than a simple floral brooch, there was no jewellery at all. She looked every part the middle-class house wife at a garden party, and it was a look that was wildly at odds with the woman she knew. The steel in her gaze was telling, and yet, the lines at the corners of her eyes and mouth betrayed a woman of good humour. She greeted her old friend with a smile.

"Hey, old girl. How'd it go on the puttie green?"

Iyla's mouth tightened into a thin line, too quick for her quick smile. She regarded her attire and conceded.

"Thrilling. I won by 6 thripwits. You should've seen it."

"Six whole thripwits, huh?" Roz frowned and folded her arms, considering the fictional victory with a nod, "That's a lot of thripwits."

"You bet your ass it is. Keeps me young, and it's a damn sight better than chugging stimcaf and sucking death sticks. Don't you reckon?"

"I wouldn't know," Roz shrugged off the implication, "Valeri Cliq doesn't smoke."

"Valeri Cliq," Iyla enjoyed that, "Sounds like smart gal."

"You ain't seen her shoes," Roz sat on her bed and started to wage war with a pair of faux leather death traps, "Hey, don't you have that trip coming up with Ket, Moro, and Fig?"

"Sure do. We're taking the train together. Just like old times." Iyla paused, and Roz could feel her staring spears through her chest, "What about you? Productive trip?"

"Old business, new faces. You know how it goes."

"I know. You get a good deal?"

At first, Roz couldn't look at her.

"Difficult to say." When their eyes finally met, there was an apology there, "Listen, I got a bus to catch, and I heard the traffic's gonna be hell. You take care of yourself, old girl."

Iyla smiled at last, "Safe journey, Lix. See you soon."

The cool blue faded and the burbling stopped. Silence rushed in through the open balcony door; it lingered, an oppressive emptiness baked in the summer morning's heat. This high up, it was normal to have strong winds, expected even, but there was nothing normal about the stillness outside. It was as if the whole planet was holding its breath.

When she left her room, Roz was accosted at once by the same roguish porter who'd welcomed her to the hotel not 2 days previous, he once again unburdened her of her luggage and led the way to the elevator. She allowed it because it was to be expected of someone who looked like she did, with her smart black business suit and practised power walk, she even tipped the idiot for his trouble. Checking out was quick and painless. She left behind Valeri Cliq and the Grand Dame Hotel without so much as a second glance. Outside, there was a cab waiting. And Jules - the porter had introduced himself - was unwavering in his service, under her watchful eye he busied himself with her luggage, and loaded it into the trunk. Everything except her dainty purse, which she clutched in both hands as she eased herself into the back seat. Before he shut the door behind her, Jules was afforded a fleeting smile.

"Where to, miss?"

The droid had an eerie white grin which flashed whenever it spoke. In the mirror, it watched her with its lifeless eyes. Unuttered words crashed like giant slabs of ice in the pit of her stomach. She swallowed.

"The starport. Quickly."

Jeryd Redsun
Jun 22nd, 2019, 02:35:31 PM
It was 11:15, and every corner of the Sunrise Shack throbbed with bright conversation and robust outbursts of laughter. Over the vibrant din there was music, a jaunty piano melody punctuated by bold flourishes of brass, and driven along by sizzling percussion; it was an alien sound to Jeryd's ears that permeated the still heat of the shack. It would've been wrong to call it a bar, though it served drinks and food aplenty, the Sunrise Shack was little more than a thatched roof of golden dried palms, with small round tables beneath it. There were no walls, and, other than a few strategically placed support columns, patrons were treated to the lively panorama of Gold Beach, and the smell of salty sea air as it drifted in on the coastal breeze.

His companion found them a table immediately, seized with ruthless efficiency the moment its previous occupants rose to leave. They took their seats and reviewed the drinks menu in wordless contemplation; Jeryd recognised nothing and found himself craving everything, while his drinking buddy, on the other hand? He arrived at his choice with tentative resignation. Then, with all the reserve of a fat kid at a candy store, Jeryd joined the scrum of half-naked bodies clamouring around the bar.

Six months had passed since he first arrived at the Citadel. And now that he had completed his core training, a cruel protracted approximation of boot camp for Force adepts, his superiors had granted him and his fellow cadets leave to enjoy some R&R away from the gloomy labyrinth of corridors and classrooms, free from the scrutiny of instructors and the unrelenting punishment of training droids, where they could once again feel something close to normal. And normal, to Jeryd Redsun, was the glamorous hedonistic abandon of Corellia's Gold Beaches.

Spanning a generous stretch of coastline, between Coronet and Tyrena, the beaches were considered to be one of the greatest natural wonders of the Core Worlds. In pictures, it was easy to see why, but in person, it was unquestionable. Eons of exposure to the tides and the wind had transformed the typically course brown sand into a soft, almost flour-like, powder of perfect white; here, the sun's glow was amplified, mirrored by the sand, and the gold of its namesake came from hundreds of species of crustaceans that originated there, whose shells contained gold mica-like particles that gilded the coast over thousands of years. And, beyond the relative shade of the shack, countless young men and women basked in its incandescent dreamscape.

Bash was right, Jeryd told himself as he drank in the view. Bashbie Quavering-Tosh was an old wegsphere chum who joined the academy the same time he did. They grew up together, trained together, graduated together, and, when the time came, they planned to visit the Gold Beaches together. Unfortunately, a change of orders and an armed escort put an end to those plans forever. He wondered about his old friend, then: perhaps he'd already seen the beaches for himself, and with new friends; he was probably Junior Lieutenant Quavering-Tosh, by now. Absently, Jeryd pushed his mirror shades up into his hair and scanned the crowded tables for a familiar face. And they were familiar, all of them, in a way: handsome healthy youths, with confident smiles and perfect skin, who dressed well and carried themselves with just a hint of superiority. Imperial kids, mostly military, he assumed, with their plummy accents and disposable incomes. Lka would have a field day.

And there it was. The porcelain-white grin that had been plastered to his face all morning faltered. Thoughts of his old mentor, Lka Jibral, surfaced with frustrating regularity since he disappeared. Jeryd dismissed his thoughts, and the feeling of bitterness that fed off them, like some malformed parasite. In his rational mind, he understood: Lka was an agent of the Empire, with a long history of covert and classified operations to his name; it stood to reason that, when duty called, he vanished without a trace. Such was the nature of his work. 'Four weeks. Five weeks. Six weeks,' went the mantra, and, 'He'll be back soon.' But he never was. Though they were both loyal to the Empire, that didn't stop him being jealous of it.

He ordered his drinks from a friendly guy who had a moustache that belonged on a man twice his age. And, while he waited, he considered his unlikely companion: Jensen Par'Vizal. He was a fellow cadet who started out as something of an enigma, a kid of unusual character and uncommon skill. It took the intervention of Knight Jibral to bring them together in a partnership that had at times been as equally challenging as it was rewarding. Under Lka's charge, he and Jensen had been afforded certain privileges and freedoms that took them far beyond the boundaries of the Citadel. They both saw the value in that and they clung to every opportunity that came their way. Now, in Lka's absence, they clung to each other.

Jensen wasn't anything like his other mates. Hells, he couldn't be any further removed from old Bashbie Quavering-Tosh, but he couldn't deny there was an ease between them that was quite unlike anything he'd known. It didn't matter that they had more differences than similarities, they had a kinship, of sorts, an understanding that was forged in the fires of great peril. They worked well together; Lka must've seen that before they did. Had he seen more? Jeryd asked this of himself often. Had Lka identified a compatibility between Cadet Par'Vizal and himself in their formative days at the Citadel? Or perhaps he just had a soft spot for broken things.

"Here ya go, big fella. One Hanava Kavasa and a Maramere Asp."

The drinks arrived with the force of a proton bomb, vaporising the gloom. Jeryd's smile returned in earnest as he took in the sight of his Hanava Kavasa, a bright creamy cocktail housed in the fresh furry shell of a hanava fruit, and Jensen's Maramere Asp, an altogether more sophisticated beverage with a blood red zherry sitting at the bottom. To his delight, both drinks came complete with their own colourful little umbrellas. The barman was paid and generously tipped, and Jeryd returned to their table, where the drinks were placed with no small amount of ceremony.

"Take your hat off, bud. You won't burn in here."

Where Jeryd elected to wear as little as possible for their first trip to the beach, Jensen, being of ginger persuasion, erred on the side of caution. It had been a hard fought battle to get him into a pair of shorts at all, but tragically, it was on the matter of the tank top where they had reached what could only be described as irreconcilable differences. Still, with Jeryd's help, he looked the part. If only there was some way to replace that snow white complexion of his with a healthy bronze finish.

"So, I was thinking..." Before he got into it, Jeryd took a first taste of his cocktail. It was sharp and fruity, at first, and then sweet and creamy and cool. His eyebrows climbed in a moment of almost spiritual revelation, and he started pointing at his dressed-up hanava fruit, "This is... it's... oh my... I can't... I can't... you... you gotta try this."

Suddenly, the Hanava Kavasa was extended in offering, cupped reverently in Jeryd's hands. From over the top of his floral umbrella, he watched his drinking buddy with owlish anticipation, and waited.

Jensen Par'Vizal
Jun 26th, 2019, 08:21:16 PM
Much like everything else that Jeryd had offered him that lead them to this point, Jensen eyed the havana fruit shell with equal parts curiosity and skepticism. It had all begun with the offer of an accompanying holiday, which all things considering seemed not only prudent but - as loathe as Jensen was to admit - possibly enjoyable. Of course, that decision had been questioned countless times over during Jeryd's assistance in selecting what would be considered proper attire. Battle lines had been drawn there, but in the end the red haired cadet had been adorned in shorts of a marginally inoffensive length, in an agreeable pattern and dark color; a linen button up shirt that was a suitable replacement for preferred attire; and the most questionable item of all, a straw hat in the trilby style. Throughout the trip from Coruscant to Corellia, Jensen had been quite under the impression he was the butt end of a rather cruel joke, but the reality was far worse. He fit in. The apparel camouflaged perfectly among the others that could be mistaken for peers. It wasn't an easy acceptance, but Par'Vizal found himself appreciative towards Redsun's genuine aid.

Oh, if only Knight Jibral could see them now.

That particular notion was amusing, amusing at how the thought threatened to force the very edge of his mouth to curl upwards, and amusing at how it seemed fitting. A mentor figure lost to the winds. It was duty, no doubt, and blame could hardly be placed, but it stung the back of the mind all the same. Far too reminiscent of who he had been born to emulate in how duty pulled the necessary teacher away from the protege.

But Jensen wasn't entirely on his own. Whether by design or accident, Redsun had been placed in his path. And while his fellow cadet was lacking in knowledge that he craved in some areas, Jeryd was far more abundant in areas that Par'Vizal needed. He was the replacement that the universe had seen fit to situate in Evelyne's place when it came to instructions on how to simply be as expected. Not that Jensen would have called Jeryd a sibling. They had become closer during their shared experiences and guidance at the hands of Jibral, but not that close.

So now they were here, at this junction of a decision to be made squarely on Jeryd's suggestion. To drink or not to drink?

But what was life if not the thrill of experience?

Jensen shrugged a shoulder and took hold of the offered beverage and tasted a sample. His reaction wasn't nearly as outlandish as his companion's, but the quirked eyebrow and surprised look was enough for now.

"You know, this mixture should be nauseatingly sweet but I believe the - is that rum? - offsets it just enough..." He let his voice fade as he passed the drink back to it's proper owner. "Not quite my style, mind you, but not bad, either. Impressive, actually. I wouldn't have thought to put those flavours together."

Jeryd's earlier comment hadn't been entirely lost in the not-quite-cloying taste of the Hanava Kavasa and Jensen raised a hand to the hat - that had kept the sun off his face and kept the cadet from obtaining what would surely be a rather horrific burn - and slowly plucked it from his head and set it to the side table. Another point of embarrassment that was endured to remain non-conspicuous. While he typically kept his hair slicked back in what would be appropriate in the Citadel, Jensen had opted to simply let it be natural, which now resulted in a red fluff that jutted out in whatever angle it dared please. It should have been appalling in it's casualness, but once again, it matched others in the vicinity. Enough so that concern over it was lost quickly after it surfaced.

"If I'm to be honest, I never pictured Corellia like this. You always hear about the shipyards and industrialized places." He paused to pluck the bright green umbrella from his own beverage and began to spin it between his thumb and two fingers. "Bad habit made from never really leaving Coruscant, I guess. I always picture every other civilized planet looking exactly like home and always find myself surprised when it's not. An ice world you expect ice, but this..."

Another shrug of his shoulder as he continued to spin the small umbrella and raised his own glass with the other hand, not exactly in a mock toast, but a small approximation. "Not entirely the shit-hole they make it out to be."

Jeryd Redsun
Jul 19th, 2019, 10:48:02 AM
"I'll drink to that."

Jeryd raised his hanava fruit enough to return the gesture before making good on his word. It was like a tropical milkshake, but with an unmistakable bite every time it hit the back of his throat; to save face, he suppressed an urge to cough. In Imperial society, drinking laws were strict and enforced so heavily that even the most rebellious of teens thought twice about trying their luck with a fake ID. Beyond the occasional glass of wine at a family dinner, a cheeky whiskey with the old man on Empire Day, or one regrettable experience involving a bottle of Vasarian brandy on his brother's birthday, Jeryd had very little experience with alcohol. Now he was of age, and with no parents in sight, he was going to make it count.

"This is so far removed from the Redsun family holiday experience," he said, his gaze was wandering again, "We spent our time sailing in the Lake Country on Naboo, or skiing down the slopes of the Toloran alps. That's repulsor skiing, mind you, not the contact crap the old farts like to do. But I think my parents would sooner join the Rebellion than spend a day in this place."

Now, he glanced back to Jensen wearing the first hint of a smile, "That's the problem with Corellia: it's full of Corellians."

Words straight from the mouth of Captain Weximan Redsun himself, and yet, how easily Jeryd found them rolling lazily off his own tongue. Sure, not all people were the same, but stereotypes existed for a reason. And Corellians... they were a particularly intolerable breed, with their disproportionate sense of self-importance, their cocky swagger, the self-obsessed noise they like to make at every opportunity; Corellians were obnoxious, the turds that refused to be flushed. Fortunately, the Gold Beach was a tourist trap, and the locals were scarce.

For a moment, Jeryd watched Jensen for his reaction. He found himself wondering if this was where their prejudices finally aligned, around the grease monkeys and hyperfuel heads who valued isolationism over unity, or if Jensen's upbringing had truly been as sheltered as it seemed. The latter was not a stretch to imagine, he decided, considering the man across from him.

"Like I said, I've been thinking..." Jeryd disconnected his alcohol lifeline long enough to fish a folded pamphlet from his back pocket, it was unfurled on the table to reveal an illustrated itinerary of activities, courtesy of the Gold Beach tourist board. Jeryd's finger prodded the pamphlet with practised precision.

"There's a beach party tomorrow night. I don't know much about it but I see bonfires, drums, punch bowls, and girls in grass skirts with flowers in their hair." Jensen's expression defied comprehension, so he muscled onwards, "Deep-sea diving, with fishes and coral reefs? Very cool. There's something called a, uh... booze cruise? It promises to be 'a relaxing afternoon of sun, sea, and chilled out beats.' And there's the Gold Beach Games! Looks like some sort of sporting event, with... whipped cream and inflatable... nevermind."

Clearing his throat, Jeryd swiftly turned the pamphlet over and beamed, "Speed boats! See? And there's a cove nearby that offers spelunking. I always wanted to do that."

Upon risking a glance at his companion, Jeryd's smile collapsed in on itself. It wasn't that Jensen looked uninterested, he just seemed so... Jensen about it all. With decisive firmness, he planted his finger on another section of the page, and said, "Bar crawl. Tonight. A perfect opportunity for us to drink too much, make complete arses of ourselves in front of strangers, and then fall into bed with them by the end of the night. It's tradition, Jensen, and you don't mess with tradition."

Jensen Par'Vizal
Sep 28th, 2019, 04:41:46 PM
He knew his expression had fallen squarely into the realm of painfully neutral as Jeryd had listed off the possible excursions and adventures, but it wasn't for any cruel purposes. Strangely, Jensen knew that his companion would understand that and work with it. It was refreshing to simply let himself be at times, typically withheld for moments of solitude. Letting his mask dissipate around others wasn't something that he had done for... well, ages it seemed. True, it had happened with intended purpose around their mentor from time to time, but with Jeryd? It was different. It wasn't as though Jensen felt obliged to reveal his true nature with his associate, it came more from a - fascinatingly enough - sense of familiarity? Or was it merely the fact that he felt he could be himself and not be fussed over? Whatever it was, it was appreciated in it's fleeting moments of availability. The act would have to return shortly enough after it's brief intermission.

Jensen sipped at his own drink, trying hard not to get washed away in vivid and tumult visions of his own family holidays. Of when they all had been happy, or at least the best approximation of it. Alive seemed a more accurate term in hindsight. The memories tugged at his consciousness; a false sun setting, casting a glow among projected clouds over a man made lake and made the cabin behind cast long shadows deep into foliage pruned to perfection to mimic a wilderness that Jensen wasn't sure actually existed outside of the getaway sphere. His mother's voice calling him and his sister back from the dock their feet hung over, his sister's legs long enough that her toes skimmed the water while Jensen contemplated the lifespan of the fish that had been thrown into the illusion. It was the best experience that Coruscant had to offer, and the young boy had spent the entire trip trying to figure out how it was all made possible rather than just enjoying it.

There was no opportunity for that here, though. Everything was... Well it wasn't real, now was it? The entirety of the Gold Beaches were as much an illusion as the indoor cabin-grounds had been, just different in their delivery method.

Jensen had to drag his mind back to his companion as Jeryd was pointing out the latest option. Bar Crawl. Tradition. He took too large a drink from his glass, the alcohol burning it's way down his throat and warmed his stomach.

"I have not actually been drunk before..." He looked up from the pamphlet and let his mask fall back into place, complete with a half amused grin. "But with you to watch my back? Why the frell not? Think I'll leave the falling to you, though."

Half drained as it was, Jensen raised the Maramere Asp in a toast.

"To traditions."

Bear Banthabrand
Nov 19th, 2019, 09:21:39 PM
There I was, staring down the business end of a blaster, with my hands and feet bound tight; I had to admit there were fancier ways to travel. And yet, even as the stun cuffs made a meal of my wrists, even as the diligent silence of Officers Chinpubes and Babyface eroded my patience with the dogged determination of sarlacc bile, I had to concede this wasn't the worst thing to happen to me in the back of a van. Across from me, Officer Babyface cradled his blaster - some CDEF piece of shit - with ferocious intent. I started to wonder if he knew something I didn't, as if we were about to be ambushed by the White Worms or attacked by a team of Emberscale Assassins at any moment. Meanwhile, his neighbour had no time for thoughts of would-be assassins, for he had eyes only for me. A big fella, went by the name Obadex Cramm, whose bulbous bald dome shimmered on the horizon of my vision like a waning moon. Had a look about him like he'd just eaten a bad crawlfish. Now, his silence I savoured like a crisp Lake Country chardonnay.

Obadex Cramm was a Coreworlder, no-one knew exactly where from, but he had that raised-on-the-rough-side-of-the-Imperial-tracks organ grinder kind of music to his voice that turned every vowel in his mouth into a trumpet blast. Liked to growl out the words like they were stuck at the back of his throat. Aged 30-something, I guess; young enough to take risks, old enough to know better. He made a name for himself in the Corulag slaughter pits, back in the day, and became Berugga the Hutt's prize fighter for a while. Nowadays, he's small-time, a slave to drugs and paranoia, which is exactly what a decade of chronic head injury will get you for your trouble. Word on the street was he'd killed a man for booze credits, but that wasn't what landed him in the back of a CorSec wagon with yours truly. Not exactly.

The wagon stopped and I felt the thrum of the repulsor die beneath my feet. Twenty seconds later, I was being ushered out with a blaster barrel prodding my back like the finger of some grubby kid at a birthday party. Instead of wanting to know where the bathroom was, however, Officer Chinpubes was keen to direct me towards towards a broad flight of stairs that led to a very familiar building. In the stark durasteel light of day, I squinted like a newborn and trudged onward in defiance of the pain that was waking in every muscle of my body. Behind us, Babyface had Cramm in tow; the going was slow, his every movement laboured; the groans and hisses of discomfort tinkled about my ears like heaven-sent raindrops on a hot summer's day.

The CorSec station on Tyrena Main was built during the proud twilight years of the Republic, and stood as a monument to a kind of opulent prosperity that was all but forgotten. Unlike the prefabricated shacks that sprung up like quivering sentries around the Skids, this place stood shoulder to shoulder with the duracrete giants that dominated the city skyline. It was all straight lines and hard angles, an uncompromising visage of Corellian justice, and a precursor to the Imperial aesthetic. Officers trickled down the stairs in pairs, dressed in smart cream jackets, grey pants, and shiny boots that reached their knees; they were everywhere, the boys and girls of CorSec; good folks, most of them, provided you didn't remind them whose pocket they were in.

I was led through two sets of plexiglass doors, and found myself inside an expansive white reception area; the walls reached all the way up through the heart of the building to a domed glass roof that blazed with sunlight high above us. There was a large desk in the middle of the room, flanked by two smaller stations, each manned by immaculately-dressed guards. Behind the desk, a woman with cropped copper hair and a leather eye-patch was dispensing curt instruction to the other officers at their terminals. When she saw us approaching, she left her post immediately and marched a resounding beat over the smooth polished floor in our direction. There were four silver pips on her blue collar.

"What is going on here, Corporal?" she said, with effortless authority.

"A disturbance of the peace, ma'am," Officer Chinpubes began. That was one way of putting it, I figured, but I wasn't in the mood for the Corporal's hot take.

"Captain, I am here to collect the bounty on Obadex Cramm, AKA the Bulfus Bomber. Your men, here, have been kind enough to escort us back to the station."

"Captain, this man instigated an altercation on private property without any provocation!" Officer Babyface fired up at once.

"Because I'm a bounty hunter," I said, weary from the tedium of repeating myself.

"We were alerted to a 10-15 at the Chapter House in Broadside. When we arrived at the scene, we discovered a violent exchange unfolding in the Cloister of Solitude. Eye-witnesses stated he disguised himself as the Prime Orator and ambushed Mr. Cramm during the Ceremony of Rekindling."

"Bounty hunter..."

"Captain, this man may claim..." Babyface was turning pink, "He defiled the Celestial Sanctum! An entire wardrobe of priceless chasubles has to be destroyed to remove the corruption!"

"Hey!" I started to get the impression Officer Babyface was a man of faith, but that was no reason to get personal. Luckily, for him, the Captain intervened. She speared me with her ice blue eye, and fired a similar warning shot at her subordinates. In the new silence, she consulted her reader, a non-regulation wrist-mounted computer. Within a few taps, she was cycling through a catalogue of holographic mugshots until, inevitably, a familiar face appeared. She didn't even afford Obadex Cramm a second glance.

"Corporal, put this man away."

It was worth the wait just to see the looks on their faces. Cramm didn't go easy, of course. It took both Babyface and Chinpubes, along with the help of two others to wrestle him into the back; his protests could be heard long after he was gone from sight. Something about a breach of his spiritual rights. Looked like the Captain could smell the bantha shit, too. She turned on her heel, and made a beeline for one of the rooms adjacent to the main hall. I liked how the others parted, making a hole before they're left trampled in her wake. That was a woman to follow, I figured. So I followed her.

"I do not appreciate you making a scene in my station, bounty hunter." She didn't look back, "Let's get you out of those binders, and I'll see to your reward. Then I want you gone. Understand?"

"Yes, ma'am."

The door opened with a whisper. I approached with caution, careful not to scrape my armour on the frame - shit gets more banged up indoors than in a damn shootout. The office was painfully spartan, there wasn't a scrap of clutter anywhere, and every piece of furniture was arranged in regimented formation. If a room could have a personality, it would be a conservative Sikarran math teacher, who was also a vegetarian. From behind her desk, the Captain produced a small fob that I recognised at once. The fob was given a casual wave over the blinders, which clicked, and fell to the floor with a clatter. My wrists rejoiced.

"My hero."

I rubbed at the tender skin once, and stepped forward. What little space left between me and the Captain was closed when I placed my hand on the small of her back, and drew her in with an awkward clatter of brass buttons on breastplate. She froze when our lips met, just for a second, the same as always - to reflect on all the bad decisions that landed us here - before the rigid tension bled from her muscles and she returned the kiss. Not one to push my luck in the workplace, I pulled away, but not so far that I couldn't feel the warmth of breath on my neck. I managed a smile, it felt like exercise.

"Thanks for having my back out there, Huntmaster."

It was 11:21.