I don’t know how long I sat on the floor of my room shaking from the aftermath of our insanity but eventually I got cold. To warm up again I showered, staying under the scalding water for a long time as if it could take away some of the sting of what had happened but it didn’t. At some point during my shower I made up my mind what to do next, knowing no one would like it but I didn’t much give a damn.
I dressed in comfortable, easy to move in clothes and then I sliced into the main system using old but still valid override codes from my time with Lord Vader. I was a little surprised that they still worked but didn’t question my luck, and managed to download everything I would need without tripping any noticeable alarms. Then I packed everything I owned, which wasn’t much, in a carry-all bag that was slung over my shoulder as I slipped out of my quarters. I thought I had managed to escape notice when I heard someone yell my name.
“Miss Gabriel!” A young voice shouted as I stalked down the corridor towards the small hanger where my ship was. “Miss Gabriel please…wait…I have a message for you from the Grand Admiral….”
I didn’t stop and the young messenger had to run to catch up with me, waving what looked like an envelope in his hand. “Miss, he requested that I give ….” He started, holding out the envelope.
I flapped my hand abruptly at him in a Shut Up Right Now manner and he shut up instantly. “Let Admiral Larsen deal with it or better yet tell the Grand Admiral to shove it up his….” The young man’s eyes widened significantly and I shook my head, biting off the comment on the tip of my tongue, “Oh never mind! Tell the Grand Admiral that what ever it is he has to say to me can wait until I return!” I snapped and kept on walking leaving a very flustered young man who could only stare at me still holding the hand written note in his hand. I was known for many things but being outright rude, up until now, had not been one of them. A tiny part of me felt bad, the rest of me just didn’t care. No one else followed me, or came after me and by the time I had made it to the hanger bay where my ship was the Virulent was on battle alert. Another battle drill but this time I was not only awake for it, I welcomed it.
I wondered, as I sat in the pilot’s seat of my ship and started the engine, if Thrawn and I would ever learn. I wondered if I would ever learn. As I watched all the onboard lights go green I shook my head, probably not, I thought. I seemed doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again. I punched in an access code and the hanger bay shield dropped. I styled the Ahnkeli’Su’udelma out of the hanger and slipped out into space.
It took whoever was in charge of flight ops on the Virulent approximately three minutes to figure out what I was doing and alert the Admiral, a few seconds later I heard Ged’s voice over the comm. asking me what the hell I thought I was up to. I ignored him. When Ged got tired of the radio silence he threatened to use a tractor beam, waiting to see if that would stir me out of my disobedience, it didn’t. When I saw the telltale spike of the Virulent’s tractor beam powering up I just smiled, set my co- ordinates and then I micro jumped just out of its range, one of the more useful tricks which I had learned from Thrawn. The comm. crackled to life again and a very annoyed sounding Ged Larsen threatened me with everything from court martial to execution if I didn’t get my ass back on board this very minute. I ignored him some more because I just didn’t want to speak to him at all and since I blamed him for the current mess it seemed appropriate to lump him in with the same black hole of frustration I had stuck Thrawn. As far as I was concerned both men could go to all nine Corellian hells and stay there. I had work to do. I sighed and stared at the co ordinates I had put into the nav computer, watching the countdown to the jump tick off too slowly. I let out the breath I had been holding when the stars elongated sweeping me into the hyperspace lane and as far away from both Ged and Thrawn as was possible.
As the Ahnkeli’Su’udelma slipped into hyperspace I knew a subtle sense of relief and even though I understood I was running away from the problem at hand but I didn’t care. I was, I thought to myself, quite good at running away, but then again so was Thrawn he just did it under the guise of having to save the galaxy. I sighed; there is nothing more powerful than wounded pride compounded by guilt and anger. No wonder I thought as I unstrapped myself from the cockpit to go to the galley and make some tea, that Lord Vader had turned to the Dark Side. Being in a relationship was enough to drive anyone around the bend.
It took me nearly two days to travel to Obroa-Skai and as I requested landing permission from Planetary Flight Control I wondered why it was I kept ending up on planets that were mainly cold and snowy, it was as if the universe really hated me. From above I could see the white of the snows that covered a great deal of the planet and for a moment I was sharply reminded of Navaari and Hjal. Everything had seemed so peaceful there, so uncomplicated.
“Ahnkeli’Su’udelma, you are cleared for landing bay two-nine-aurek,” A very bored sounding controller droned, breaking into my thoughts, “please observe the rules and see the dock-master upon arrival, OSPFC out.”
“Roger that, flight.” I answered and took my ship in to land.
There had been no trouble with getting a landing permit, I was a civilian with a civilian ship and Obroa-Skai was a neutral world and by all accounts quite beautiful. It was a mix of tundras, deserts, grasslands and mountains with a standard day of twenty-six hours. It was also home to what was probably the largest repository of galactic information known to all, with maybe the exception of what ever the Emperor had managed to squirrel away on Wayland. The planet had remained neutral throughout the entire Galactic Civil War, which was quite a feat given how valuable the information the great libraries held was. I had read that the New Republic had petitioned the Obroans heavily to get them to join them but so far the Obroans had not done so, preferring their neutral status for the time being.
I was grateful that the way from the large docking bay to the main library was all through covered walkways, and while I was certain that the planet was beautiful and worth exploring I didn’t have the time to do so. I may have been angry with Thrawn but I could still do the job he had given me, besides it would satisfy my own curiosity as well.
The great library was stunning. Built to reflect the peaceful nature of the Obroan culture, it arched tall and serene above everything else. When I stepped through the main doors I was astonished at how the natural lighting of the world I was on played around the grand hall. It was like watching light dance and for reasons I could never explain it reminded me sharply of home, though I wasn’t exactly sure which home that was. I sighed and went to find the main desk. I had half expected to meet some sort of resistance when I went into the main building but there had been no visible security measures at all and after living for so long under strict security rules it felt weird to come and go freely.
With a sigh I stopped looking around and went to what looked like the main information area and spoke to the young female Obroan who was seated there.
“You’ll need to fill out these forms and apply for an access card and code.” She told me when I asked about getting into the main library for information. I took the forms she handed me and filled them out quickly. She scanned through them and nodded, added the information to the computer and then a few moments later handed me an access card. “This will grant you access to all open areas of the system,” she said, “If you are looking for rare material then you will need a temporary pass.”
I thanked her and took the slim duraplast card from her fingers. She must have seen something of the “how do I find what I need” look on my face because then she asked, “Are you looking for anything specific?” The librarian at the information desk asked.
I thought about it for a second and then smiled. “Yes, I am looking for information about a planet in the Ojoster Sector called Wayland.”
The young Obroan typed something into her terminal and then a few seconds later handed me a small chit. “You’ll need this access code to get the information you need, go to terminal Senth, in the planetary map hall. There isn’t a great deal known about the world but we do have some information on store.” She smiled and then as an afterthought added, “Is there something of interest on that planet?” she asked, “I have a note here which states the late emperor tried to get us to delete all information pertaining to Wayland from the data banks.”
I raised both eyebrows, “Really, how strange. I am just doing a research project for some surveyors, you know how it goes, they don’t tell me anything just want someone to get the information for them.” I sighed and made out like an exasperated assistant.
“Typical, no one ever wants to do their own research.” She commiserated, “Well good luck, if you need anything else, let me know, I am here until twenty-four hundred hours.”
I thanked her and then went in search of terminal Senth in the planetary map hall.
She had been right, there wasn’t much information about Wayland but the most vital thing was, its location. I stared at this for a long time and then, after copying what I needed onto a data-chip, I left the library feeling like a ghost and made my way back to my ship. Once I had paid the Dock Master and left the confines of the planet’s gravity well, I locked in my next set of co-ordinates to the nav computer and watched as once again the stars exploded into the hyperspace-lane. Thrawn would probably be annoyed that I didn’t return directly to give him the information he had asked me to gather but I didn’t much care. I needed to go someplace quiet, some place where I could think. Not for the first time did I wish my father was still alive, I wanted his advice, his comfort but he was gone and Tatooine no longer seemed like I place I belonged to so instead I found myself headed towards the only other place I had ever really called home and the one person I knew I could trust to hear me out without judging me and who could send the information I had gathered to Thrawn without any issues.
By the time I reached Hjal I was exhausted. The journey from the inner ring to the tingle arm took nearly four days and I did not slept well all during that time. Nightmares plagued me, especially the ones which somehow managed to feature both Thrawn and Wayland together. I should have just returned to the fleet and handed over the information to Thrawn but I was still angry at him and I needed a way to send the data I had found securely without having to go back.
Navaari was waiting for me as he said he would be, and after a hug I thought would crush all my bones he gestured for me to straddle the sled so we could head back to the enclave. We didn’t speak, it was far too cold, and by the time we arrived I was half asleep. He nudged me awake and told me to go inside, get changed and warm up, once he had finished with the hounds and the sled he’d come and join me.
By the time he was done I had showered, dressed in clean, warm, comfortable and was sitting on the couch holding a very large glass of the brandy I had brought with me. Thrawn was right; I drank when I didn’t want to face what ever issues were in front of me. As I sat there waiting for Navaari I realised Thrawn was right about a lot of things but he was also wrong as well, he just didn’t like this being pointed out to him. I watched Navaari come in, strip off his warm gear then sit beside me on the couch. There was a long silent pause while we summed each other up and then he spoke.
“So, little pup, you want to be telling me your side of it?” He asked, letting me know that he had already heard Thrawn’s.
I made a face. “He knew I’d come here.” I said flatly, wondering how Thrawn could have known what I was going to do even before I did.
Navaari shrugged. “He mentioned you might be showing up, though not for the reasons I was thinking.”
“What exactly did he tell you?”
“That you had an argument and it was not very pretty. That it was having to do with another man.” Navaari was careful to keep his voice neutral.
I sighed and then because there would be no peace until I had done so, I told him the whole story, every bit of it, without exaggeration, hysterics or tears and he listened without interruption.
There was a long silence after I had finished and then he asked, “Do you like this other man, this Larsen?”
“Yes, but not in the way Za’ar thinks.” I said with a nod. “Ged is a good man, smart, funny and a loyal Imperial but I think we’re like fire and oil. A little of both is wonderful but too much and it’s utterly consuming. What would start out as a sweet little romance would end very badly, we’re too much alike in too many ways. I’d rather keep him as a friend than have a short, torrid affair with him at the risk of ruining everything else. I think he would have also figured this out sooner or later, he’s not a stupid man but like most men he has to push, you know, to see how far he can get.” I shrugged a little, “And sex is sex no matter what name you slap on it, it’s often the logical conclusion to a chase….”
“So you came here before that happened?”
I nodded, “It’s tempting, you know, just a little.” I sighed.
“So is walking out in a storm, but that is not making it a good idea.” Navaari chided.
“I know, but just because I felt something, some spark doesn’t mean I am willing to throw the last ten years away for a fling. I’m silly and impetuous but not utterly stupid. I needed time to think before things got out of hand. He kissed me and I liked it but…. ” I shrugged not knowing how to finish. I had thought long and hard about everything that had happened while on the flight to Hjal and come to the conclusion that while a fling with Ged would probably be fun, exciting and sweet that he was also a career officer and he did not want a wife or a girlfriend, at least not in me at any rate. I was interesting to him but once he had bedded me that interest would grow cold pretty quickly.
“It is easy to let the physical take over.” Navaari nodded. “I am understanding this perhaps better than you might be thinking.”
I just smiled. “Well then you know why I needed time away. I don’t want to have an affair with anyone other than Za’ar. It’s nice to know that someone else finds me attractive but that doesn’t mean I have to or will fall for him instantly does it?”
“And why did you not tell Nikätza’arth’pavjäska this?” Navaari asked with a nod.
“I tried,” I made a face, “but you know how well he listens when his mind is already made up. He saw a bunch of misleading clues and put them all together to come up with the wrong conclusion. Za’ar…well he’s sometimes just too damned smart for his own good or maybe it’s just that I am terrible at hiding how I feel from him. He read my guilt and he thought he was right because he always thinks he’s right. He did not give me much of a chance to explain anything and then when Ged showed up with a bottle of wine and high hopes, well that just made an even bigger mess.” I sighed, “Why is it that men always assume the absolute worst?”
Navaari smiled, “Because underneath the bravado and arrogance we are all being terrified that females will see right through us and discover our every flaw, then leave us because of this. Nikätza’arth’pavjäska pushed because he was letting his fear of losing you get in the way of his ability to think clearly, you do seem to be having a way of doing that to him. No wonder he is never thinking clearly when it comes to you.” He said.
“Well, you know what, that’s his problem and not mine.” I retorted tartly.
“Aye, so it is. He does have his hands full with you and he is not knowing what to do about this some days.” Navaari teased and let the matter drop for the moment.
“I need you to send him this.” I dug out the second data chip from my bag, the one I had made after my trip to Obroa-Skai.
“What is it?”
“Information he asked me to obtain for him.”
“You should take it to him yourself, pup.”
I shrugged. “I need some space, Navaari. He’s so wound up about this campaign he’s on that I feel as though I am either in his way or simply there on demand for him when he needs to let off steam. I’m tired of it. He doesn’t want me to step foot onboard the Chimaera for some reason he won’t explain. I was on Ged’s ship in the first place because he wanted me safe, or so he said but now I wonder if he wasn’t trying to set something up so we could have this fight and he could end this relationship. I’m tired of the secrecy and everything else and maybe he was right, maybe I want too much from him and maybe things between us are just not going to work out.”
“Rubbish child!” He snorted as he took the little chip from my fingers. “After all he has done to be able to have you as close to him as is possible, how can you be believing such a thing?”
I made a face. “It’s easy when he acts like a complete idiot. There are moments when I think it would be so easy to just walk away….” I said with a sigh.
“Do you still love him?” Navaari asked suddenly.
I looked him straight in the eyes. “How can you even ask that?” I said sadly. “Some days I think if I could love him more than I already do I’ll explode from the weight of it.” I replied, then added, “But sometimes that’s not enough and sometimes it’s just too much.” I swirled my drink around my glass and sighed.
I wasn’t sure I was making sense but Navaari nodded and looked at the data chip in his hand. “I’ll send this now, that way if there’s an answer it will arrive sooner rather than later. What is on this anyway?”
“An access code which will give him the ability to data mine for the whereabouts of a planet he’s looking for.” I didn’t tell Navaari I already knew where this planet was, I didn’t think he would like that all that much and I certainly didn’t want him to tell Thrawn.
He nodded and vanished. He always knew how to get in touch with Thrawn, it was a Dantassi thing. I finished my drink and poured some more. For the first time in a long time I felt the terrible tension that had somehow managed to creep into my daily life dissipate. I leaned back and closed my eyes, and was almost asleep when Navaari returned.
“You are exhausted little one, you should get some rest.”
I smiled. “Was there an answer?” I asked.
“He asked me to be telling you that he is grateful for your help and glad to hear you are safe.” Navaari said sitting beside me. “He indicated that perhaps it would be good for you to remain here for a while.”
I smiled and shook my head. “He wants me out of the way while he goes to find Wayland.” I said a little crossly.
“Can you be blaming him?”
“No.” I agreed. “I promised him I would stay away from that place.”
“Yes, but he also knows you.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“He knows that your curiosity often outweighs your common sense.” Navaari said, “He also thought you should know that Ged Larsen is particularly angry with you for leaving his ship in the way you did. His words were ‘she will be required to apologise for the breech of decorum when she returns to the Virulent.’”
I rolled my eyes. “Men and their wounded pride.” I said, “Well I’m not going back for a while, so he will have to wait for his apology.”
Navaari laughed. “Well, pup, you are welcome to stay here as long as you want, this is your home and I am more than happy to be having you to myself for a while.”
I nodded. “I’d like that, Pa’tjad’cu-sja.” I said leaning against his shoulder. “Things always seem so much clearer when I am here.”
“That is because this is your home.” He told me, wrapping his arm around my shoulders. “Besides you will not be going any place for awhile anyway, there is a large storm laying in from the North so you will be grounded for a few days.”
“I can live with that.” I said with a yawn. “So tell me, how are things with you and An’jast’a.”
“You have not yet heard?” He asked, surprised, “I sent word; you should have received it before you left.”
“Heard what?” I grumbled wondering in that had something to do with the envelope the young officer was trying to give me before I fled the Virulent.
He chuckled, “Are you wishing to see us bound?”
I turned my head to look at him. “What?”
“I have asked her and she has said yes, this was last week. I sent you a message but then you arrived here without knowing so I am thinking the message missed you.”
“You and An’jast’a will perform the Nai’da?” I asked not even bothering to hide my delight.
“Yes, in one month from tomorrow. If you are wanting to stay this long?”
I flung my arms around him. “Oh Navaari, of course I’ll stay for that, are you crazy? Will An’jast’a mind?”
“Mind? No, Kycsi’i she will be delighted, you are as a child to me, you are family. If you would like to, you can stand for me.”
I opened my mouth and then closed it again, “But…your daughter, will she not stand for you?”
He shook his head, “She is unable to attend.” He said in a tone of voice that told me he did not want to speak about what ever had passed between them just yet.
“I will be honoured to stand for you Pa’tjad’cu-sja.” I told him quietly, meaning every word.
He smiled, “Then it is Da’han’s fortune that brings you here.”
“No, it was a rather nasty argument with Za’ar that brings me here.” I said wryly.
“Then Da’han is working in mysterious ways, Kycsi’i.” He said.
I couldn’t argue with that and I was happy to have a good reason to stay here. I snuggled into his warmth and let my exhaustion take over. He let me doze for a little while and then, before I completely fell asleep, he sent me to bed and for once I didn’t dream, or if I did they were not unkind dreams. I had a month’s grace to find some peace and I wasn’t going to waste it.