With Les’ departure, the apartment seemed to settle into a peace that was slightly less uneasy. Mark and Janet stood in the living room, now lit with a single lamp by the door, staring blankly at the door after their wayward Jedi was taken away so suddenly in the night.
Was there anything that lay within their control, anymore?
A long moment passed before either of them thought to go close the door. Janet stood there with her hand paused on the control, thinking. Then she turned without a word and went on back to bed. Mark came in after her and began to change clothes.
“What are you doing?” she asked as he pulled a shirt over his head. “Where are you going?”
“Out,” he said simply.
“Just – out,” he said, leaving the room with his boots in hand. She let it go with that. Less than a minute later she heard the front door slide open and close again, and the house fell once again into repose. But she could not. Tossing and turning for another hour, maybe more, she gave up, got up, and got into her uniform.
She regretted to wake Asya at such an early hour, but the girl slept better than any Wyler these days, and so was a good sport at having to rise earlier than usual. She ate her breakfast in silence, offering no questions as to where Les or Mark were; she seemed to know, and thus chewed unconcernedly, giving answer to her mother whenever conversation was attempted. Then out of the blue she asked:
“Where is my cam?”
“Yeah. You know, the one I got for my birthday last year.”
Janet froze in the middle of pouring herself a second cup of caf. Asya hadn’t expressed an interest in it since she’d dropped it upon being dragged away by the Vong. “I think I might know. Why?”
Asya picked at what was left in her bowl. “I was hoping that if you still have it and it still works, I could maybe take some holofilm today.”
Given a reason to hope, Janet smiled, and it felt good to do so. “It’s with your dad. We’re about to go and see him, so get dressed quick and we’ll head on over to the Stormcrow,” she told her, having a good idea that was where they would find him. A girl on a mission, Asya hopped up from the bar and hurried to her room to get ready to go. “Then over to ops and see what good I can do,” she said into the steam rising from her mug. “If any.”
Early morning at Shay Memorial, and the base was rousing itself to the dawn. The hangars were abuzz with activity and the smell of caf was heavy in the air. Janet could see before they reached the ship that the cockpit lighting was on in the Stormcrow, confirming her suspicion. But Mark wasn’t there, so while Asya busied herself making a search for her cam there in the cockpit, Janet went in search of him. He was nowhere to be found in the usual places, and she was beginning to think she’d made a mistake, when she found him in the passenger cabin, stretched out in one of the fold-out bunks, staring up at the ceiling.
“The family quarters are more comfortable,” she observed.
“Yeah, but this room reminds me of the Raven.” He offered nothing more, yet Janet could see that something was gnawing at him. She came over and knelt beside him, giving him a moment of silence to gather his thoughts. Abruptly his expression changed, his mouth spreading into a grin. He gave a sudden laugh. “Hey, remember the fire ants in E’trall’s bunk? Who was it did that – Jester?”
The memory coming to her from the distant place it had been stored and forgotten, her smile joined his. “I do believe it was, the same who filled the helmets with shave cream. Or was that one of Dakin’s retaliations? Oh, wow. That was way back in the Katarn days. I haven’t thought about that in a long time! Hey – ” she exclaimed with the appearance of a random memory that was stirred by the others. “There was that time we had to make our way across this Imp facility disguised as storm troopers, and we came through that door and somebody, I don’t remember who, tripped on the grating or something, and we all tumbled down this staircase and landed in a heap of curses and white armor.” She laughed, while Mark’s face reddened and he stifled a grin.
“That was me,” he confessed.
“No way! You couldn’t have been with us at that time.”
“Remember, I had to come along and diffuse somethingerother, leaving the Raven hidden in a wooded area. And I…couldn’t really see out the helmet very well….”
“Oh my gosh, you’re right!”
Staring at the ceiling, Mark’s smile began to wane. “Seems so long ago, all of it,” he said. “Like another life, even. Feels like I’ve gone through several lifetimes. Sum it up into one, there’s been some rough patches and some places I didn’t think I’d survive; but overall, I think I’ve lived a pretty good life. At least, I’ve tried to.”
The color drained from Janet’s face. “What are you getting at?”
He turned his head at last to look at her, and smiled disarmingly, his eyes still shining with nostalgia. “You, Janet Skyy – you’ve made it all worthwhile.”
“Nice of you to say so, but I’m telling you, you’re kind of worrying me, here.”
As though he hadn’t heard, he went on, “I’ve got you, still. And Asya.”
She lowered her brows. “You’ve left someone out.”
His face fell and his eyes clouded. “He doesn’t need me, anymore.” Casting his gaze once more to the ceiling, he said, “I’m not sure if he ever did.”
“You’re feeling sorry for yourself!” she declared in shock.
“Yeah,” he sighed matter-of-factly. “Yeah, I suppose I am.”
“Well…you’re not to do it!” she said. “What am I supposed to do with you then, Mark Wyler?”
“Well, snap out of it.”
He sighed again.
He looked at her quizzically. “I’m not sure if this’ll hold the two of us.”
Obediently sliding as close to the wall as he was able, Janet squeezed in beside him, having to prop herself up with one hand to the floor as they lay side by side on a bunk barely wide enough for one person. Now seeing the ceiling from his perspective, the lay of the tile grid over their heads and the play of the shadows, she found herself suddenly cast into the past. “Hey, this does remind of the Raven.” He turned his head to smile at her. Locking his eyes with hers, she told him, “Mentors and tutors, they will come and go – but remember this, Marcus Wyler II: there hasn’t come a day yet, nor will there ever be, when a boy doesn’t need his father.” Thinking of her own father, she added, “And even when he’s grown, there is only one man who he can turn to and call Dad and know will be there for him, whether in body or in spirit. There is no one in this galaxy or any other who can fill your shoes.”
He turned away and rubbed a hand over his forehead. It was a long moment before he could get out the words,
She smiled and reached over to smooth the hair he’d rendered even further unruly. “And as for that other person who qualifies to call you Dad, and she’s in the cockpit right now, searching for her cam. I suggest you get in there and point it out to her before she tears the place apart. I’ve got to get on to ops.”
Heading down the final corridor to the Stormcrow’s landing ramp, Janet was feeling pretty good about herself for coming up with the right thing to say at the right time, and wishing she could do the same for herself. Halfway down the ramp, she stopped short. A voice, strong and loud and growing closer, wafted up to her from below. She knew that song, and she knew the voice. It was a pirate song, a favorite of a one Trevvik Wyler. Rooted where she was, she waited as the singer approached, clear to her by now that the owner of the voice would soon appear at the foot of the ramp. As he came to the end of his song, he made his appearance, and seeing Janet standing there waiting for him, he stretched out his arms and the last note, making a grand finale of it. Dropping his arms, there he stood, still held together by that old black trench coat, with that oversize knife hanging from his belt on one hip, too-large pistol on the other. He grinned so broadly that Janet couldn’t help but return the smile.
“Hiya, sis,” he greeted, swaying a little on legs like the trunks of sturdy trees.
“Trevvik!” she exclaimed, running the rest of the way down to throw her arms around his burly neck. He swallowed her in his brawny arms. Catching a whiff of his breath as he laughed, it became evident that he was quite drunk. “What are you doing back? I thought you’d gone off Vong hunting with your old crew.”
“Eh…heh. Stupid…pirates!” Janet steadied him as he teetered almost to the point of falling down, and wrinkled her nose as he laughed again. “It’s a good tale, but I’m not going to bother. Let’s just say that good times can’t last forever, eh?” he slurred, and Janet got the idea that something terrible had befallen his party in line with their quest for Vong hides. “So I thought I’d come by this way and see if anyone by this way still be alive. You’re looking fine and quite alive, if you don’t mind my saying, General.”
“You too – it’s so good to have you back!”
He gave her an exaggerated salute. “Here to help, ma’am! Just don’t be getting any ideas to be fitting me for a uniform. I admit straight up I’m too much trouble for that, and I’m sure Cap would agree. Speaking of trouble, where is that scrawny brother of mine? Scrawny…brainy…brother….” Staggering up the ramp, he started in on the song again. Shaking her head, Janet recalled what it was she had been doing and stepped out from beneath the ship and resumed her journey.
Suddenly she stopped. Covering her mouth, she spun back around to look up at the Stormcrow looming large in the cavernous hangar as she realized that Trevvik was in for a little Asya-sized surprise.