“And where do you think you’re going?”
Arilyn Bullian went rigid, slowly turning her gaze toward the voice’s source. Karinlyyn Bridger Kel-Solan stood in the hatchway leading into the Firelance’s cockpit, dressed in the silver mesh armor of an Auyn, her honey-brown hair plaited into a braid. Ari swallowed bile as she looked her mentor up and down. The other woman was armed to the teeth.
Must be pretty serious Order business if the open Warmistress is on her way up.
There was no question in her mind that Karinlyyn was on her way up to Wayfarer to meet up with Cay and whoever else from the Order was up there, either making or stopping trouble.
“The same place you’re going,” Ari said, squaring her shoulders and swallowing hard, trapping a cough in her throat. “I’m going up to Wayfarer to find Cay.”
“Funny you should say that. I’m on my way up there myself, but I happened to see your engines warming up on the private pad and decided to have a look.” Karinlyyn crossed her arms and regarded her with a stern, serious expression that Ari wasn’t entirely accustomed to seeing directed at her—her relationship with her mentor had been secret smiles and winks, of praise and gentle correction, far different from what most of the Auyn who trained under Karinlyyn Bridger Kel-Solan experienced, based on the whispers she’d heard. “What’s your rush?”
“I need him to give me permission to come aboard the Legacy or give Dav permission to take leave,” Arilyn said, turning back to her control board. Her heart began to beat a little bit harder, a little more painfully as stinging tears started to rise. “I keep seeing things, Auntie, and I can’t weather this storm by myself. Dav’s the only one who’s ever understood.”
“Your mother would—”
“I can’t tell Mom,” Ari snapped, twisting back toward Karinlyyn. “Dav’s the only one who understands this right now. I need him.” He needs me, too, but that’s neither here nor there. He’s still… She swallowed a sigh at the thought. He’s still frakked up from everything going on with Dad. He still wants to hate him for what he did to Mom and by extension what he did to us. But the rest of us don’t and Dav’s still trying to hang onto that pain and hate and that’s not good.
Not when he’s a frakking Jedi it’s not.
Karinlyyn kept staring at her for a long moment before the older woman sighed, smiling a wry smile. “Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter, does it? Mind giving me a lift?”
For a nanosecond, Ari considered saying yes, she did mind, no, the Warmistress could most certainly not snag a ride up to Wayfarer with her.
It was only for that fraction of a moment, though, before the impulse faded and left only weary resignation in its wake. Arilyn nodded. “I’ll give you a lift if you’re ready to go right now.”
The older woman spread her arms. “I have everything I need on my person right now. I taught you to be prepared for anything, didn’t I?”
“You did,” Ari agreed, turning back to the controls. “You trained me well.”
“I’m sure that Mackenzie—”
“I don’t want to talk about your son, Auntie,” Arilyn said, her jaw tightening. “Slider’s made a lot of choices in his life and breaking our partnership isn’t one I want to talk about.” She hated being abandoned. Being abandoned by blood kin was even worse.
Karinlyyn fell silent. The only reason Arilyn knew she was still there was because she could sense her and because a moment later, the older woman dropped into the copilot’s seat next to her. “I’m sorry,” Karinlyyn said after a moment.
“You don’t have anything to be sorry for. You don’t make his choices for him any more than my parents made my choices for me.” Ari willed her hands not to shake as she finished her pre-flight sequence. The Firelance lifted from the pad under her practiced control and she angled the sleek ship toward the upper atmosphere and Wayfarer beyond. The pair sat in silence until the dark blue of the sky began to give way to the darkness of space. “It must be pretty serious Auyn business if you’re not babysitting Alexander Kerensky’s daughter right now.”
Karinlyyn snorted softly. “Knew about that, did you?”
“I don’t sleep all the time,” Ari said softly. I barely rest when I do sleep. Mostly I sit in the window and watch the world and wish that I didn’t feel like three day old bantha shit all the time. Her eyes fluttered closed for a bare moment, then opened again as the last vestiges of atmosphere gave way to the starlit darkness of space. “And you’re not the only person who trained me.”
A faint smile touched Karinlyyn’s lips. “No,” she agreed. “No, I’m not.”
Whatever hopes they both had for me, though—whatever hopes any of them had for me—are going to be for naught, I’m afraid.
The memory of the vision she’d had while on the comm with Davil tugged at the back of her brain. She’d been able to breathe again. She’d felt good.
Maybe there’s hope.
Her breath caught. She hadn’t dared to hope for a long time.
“I’m fine, Auntie,” she said as she angled the nose of the Firelance toward Wayfarer station. “Everything’s fine.”