“Sir? Should we inform the admiral?”
Nylan Bridger didn’t bother to look up from his boards, monitoring communications, taking a slow sip of his cup of caf. “Who’s officer of the watch, Mr. Carelli?”
Howie sighed. Being stuck at gunpoint was nothing new to him, but this was just ridiculous. He guessed that these guys were out of work mercenaries, as anybody official would have just taken him into custody. If he made the wrong move, he was dead.
“You see,” the handler said, “We can’t have you blab our dirty little secrets. If word got out as to what we’ve been doing, it would look bad for the Republic.”
It was just another job.
That’s what he told himself every time they sent him in. He’d been doing this for many years now. Many more years than he’d been able to count. It wasn’t as if he had much choice either. Officially, he was dead. Officially, the pile of junk he had once called his ship had exploded upon takeoff, blasting him into his component atoms. A faulty power coil, the official investigation had determined. A terrible tragedy.
Problem was, he was very much alive.
Tag Rendar’s office—her new office, as the old was still occupied by the absent Alek Cannelle, Chief of Intelligence for Sector 27—had begun to take on the personality, slowly but surely, of its occupant. The cabinets slowly had begun to be filled again with pictures, mementos—an old flight helmet, holos of various stripes, a crystal bar set in one corner cabinet. A few blank pages of…paper?…were still scattered across the floor, half under furniture. Tag didn’t seem to notice their presence as she waved for Les to take a seat, sinking down into the chair behind the desk.
“Hear you hit a rough patch the past couple weeks, huh?”
Les wondered why he felt so suddenly shy. He shifted uncomfortably in the chair. “I guess so.” He coughed to clear his throat.
Tag was perched on the corner of Indy’s desk when the admiral walked in, juggling an armload of files and her own caf cup. Indy blinked at the other woman a moment, then shook her head.
“You still remember my lock code.”
“You still haven’t changed the overrides,” Tag corrected.
She leaned in the doorway, arms crossed across her chest, watching him as he rolled up articles of clothing, stuffing them into his duffle bag. Even after so many years after he quit being a pilot, he still carried the long, cylindrical duffle bag meant to fit neatly into the small cargo compartment of an X-wing.
“When’s your transport leave?”
“Couple days,” he answered, stuffing another shirt into the bag before looking up at her. “You’re in uniform.”
The journey back to Xenen seemed to take forever. Little was said between Janet and Les, and he was glad to give his mother space. What he sensed from her was such a mixture emotions, each about to spill over, while she struggled to keep the lid on them, hang in there, survive, keeping her focus on the task of getting them home again. Under the not-so-inconsequential guise of keeping an eye out for the Vong, Les assigned himself to lookout duty, situating himself at a gunner station with a broad bank of windows to the stars, currently a swirling kaleidoscope as the Stormcrow hurled through hyperspace.
His arm ached. His new one. Absently he flexed that hand, sheathed in a black glove, faintly aware of the servos and wires he felt working throughout, performing duty in place of the muscles and tendons that should be there. It would be a lifelong reminder of the events on Coruscant – of his old master.
The day had been long, and being completely honest with himself Kyle could freely admit that last thing he wanted to do was give an undisciplined kid a lesson about why it’s not nice to try an kill your mentor.
He sighed, lowering his head and calming his emotions. No, it wasn’t entirely Les’ fault…Kyle knew the corrupting nature of the dark side of the Force and how it threw you common sense out the window. Seeing that side of him and knowing it intimately now made it nearly impossible for Kyle to give in the seduction of power, though he was far from invulnerable as well. And now here he was, standing next to Les and not sure where to go. It was one of the very rare times where he would seek Skywalker out for his advice.