My ship had been a gift or, better to say, a reward for a job well done. She was really the only thing that was truly mine and I loved her. Lord Vader had named her after his long dead wife and Thrawn had translated that name into his native language. I had lost count of many hours I had logged in space in this ship but she was my second home, I stored my most precious belongings in my ship and I knew almost every nut and bolt, shimmy and whine of her engines.
While Ged slept and recovered, I spent a fair amount of time in the engine room. It was warmer than the rest of the ship and it gave me something to do. There was nothing wrong but I liked to check and double check everything all the same. When I wasn’t messing around in the engine room I was in the cockpit reading or studying star charts. Lord Vader had been almost an encyclopaedia of knowledge about star system and their planets and I had learned from his example. All knowledge was worth having Thrawn liked to say and he wasn’t wrong.
I missed Lord Vader greatly. He had been unpredictable, bad tempered and often harsh but I had learned to see beyond all of that. I had learned to love him, after a fashion, and his death still left a gaping hole in my life which surprised me. It felt to me that my entire life had been marred by the deaths of people I loved and now I mourned for Jarack as well.
When Thrawn had confirmed that it was Jarack who had gone missing I had hoped for his safe return. Jarack had been a quiet constant in my life for years, delivering letters, playing messenger and becoming a friend whose presence always brightened my day. Seeing his death through the images from the data chip Ged had given me had been like a slap on the face and now that I had time to process it I cried for his loss.
As we travelled through the quieter hyperspace lanes it felt to me as though the entire galaxy was holding its breath, waiting for whatever was about to happen next to decide the course of history. It was a turning point and I sincerely hoped that Thrawn could accomplish because what he was trying to do. I had the feeling that if the Empire was not somehow re-established then chaos would ensue.
We were too far off the main hyperspace lanes to receive reliable holo transmissions so there was no way to know how things were going or what had happened on Coruscant with the arrival of Thrawn’s fleet.
I wished I had known more about his plans but he had never one to let me in on his military secrets. I suppose it was his way of keeping his private life separate from his military one but often I felt very left out. There was an entire galaxy of things I didn’t know about the man I shared my bed with and, mostly because I was nosey and wanted to know everything, I found this a little frustrating. I prayed that he could retake Coruscant and re-establish Imperial rule so that we could all have some sort of normal life, not that I really knew what normal was but I hoped I could get used to it.
In between the engine room and the cockpit was the tiny galley and it was here Ged found me when he woke up. His presence changed the atmosphere but I tried not to let it show.
He sat down stiffly and gestured to the cup in my hand. “Is there more of that? I’m thirsty.”
“You should be resting.” I told him as I got up to make him tea and something to eat.
“I’ve rested enough.” He replied. “How long have I been out for anyway?”
“Nearly two days.”
“You sedated me for two days?” He asked with an edge of anger in his voice.
“No, you really were just asleep for most of it. I pumped you full sedatives and pain killers so I could clean the wound and stitch you up because you were being a poo-doo head but after that I only kept up with the pain meds, not more sedation. You came out of it a couple of times but only for a few moments. The rest was all you, your body needed time to heal, it happens sometimes after being badly injured with pointed stick thing to the gut.” He nodded and accepted the cup of mint tea I gave him. “There’s honey in it, drink it all. You’re dehydrated.”
He cradled his hands around the cup, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” I said as I sat back down. “I hope you like it, it comes from Tatooine.”
“No I meant for fixing me up. I didn’t know you were a medic on top of all your other skills.”
“Oh.” I shook my head with a laugh, “No I’m not a medic Ged, I just learned some basic first aid.”
“You could have fooled me.” He said. “I took a look at the job you did on me and it’s pretty good all things considered.”
I nodded. “I watched carefully as someone patched me up and I have a great memory.” I lied a little, I didn’t want to have to explain about my relationship with the Dantassi, that was far too private.
Ged raised his eyebrows at me. “Patched you up?”
I shifted around in the seat and hiked up my skirt to show him the still vivid white scar that adorned my thigh.
Ged swore. “How the hell did you get that?”
“It’s a long story.” I said smoothing out my skirt again.
“And you don’t want to talk about it?”
“Do you want to talk about why Lee Vander went after you like that? Why he turned traitor?”
Ged made a face and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I see your point but you deserve to know some of it at least.” He sighed and took a sip from the still too hot tea. “It was a command decision I had to make a long time ago. I can’t go into details but it had to do with a ground op that went terribly wrong. I had a choice to make and regardless of how I chose people were going to die. I had to choose how many, I chose the smaller number.”
“It was a mess. We all lost people we knew.” He drew a deep breath. “Unfortunately, among those who died were two of Lee’s best friends and, although I didn’t know it at the time, also his lover.” He stared into the mug he was holding. “It never occurred to me that he couldn’t handle it, that even though he was one of the best pilots and agents I ever had the privilege of serving with, he was trained for these sorts of incidents, trained to kill without impunity and yet he couldn’t get past this one incident. How he must have hated me to have carried that hatred for so long and I never saw it. All that time he was lying to me and I never saw it once.” He was suddenly so sad and I didn’t know what to do about it. Lee had been his friend but had also betrayed him and that was a difficult thing to reconcile with. I understood that probably better than most.
“Sometimes it’s hard to see especially from people we love and think we know. Most of the time I think they can be the hardest of all to read.” I remarked.
He nodded. “You know, the Grand Admiral knew I planned on asking for your help, you know, to retrieve Jarack Behl. He told me that you were well suited for just such a job although I don’t think he liked the idea much.”
“I do know,” I replied with a small nod, “He mentioned it to me but I wasn’t in much shape to go gallivanting across the galaxy on some hopped up rescue mission and in the end maybe that’s a good thing, after all now you know who your traitor was and he’s been dealt with.”
“I had no idea it would turn into such a clusterfuck though. I had not expected that at all. I figured it would be a straight forward in and out job because I trusted my source. I trusted Lee with my life, what a joke that turned out to be. If you hadn’t been there I might very well be dead. Whether you like it or not, that little trick of yours in being able to pull the memories from objects saved my life, saved our lives.”
I wasn’t going to argue with him. “I’m sorry about Jarack.”
Ged regarded me for a moment and then said, “So, the scar on your leg, how did you manage to get that because a bacta treatment shouldn’t have left such a scar.”
“I was on the wrong end of a hunt and a dip in a tank was out of the question.” I said cryptically.
“A hunt?” He asked with a healthy amount of skepticism. “What the hell were you hunting?”
“I wasn’t hunting anyone. I was the one being hunted.” I said tightly. It surprised me that I was still angry over what had happened on Myrkr.
Perhaps he sensed that because he didn’t press further, “Who patched you up?”
I mulled over my answer for a bit then told him. “Thrawn did.” And then seeing the look on his face I decided that perhaps I had better explain a little more. “He was looking for something on a planet called Myrkr and we ended up being hunted by a lunatic named Ormante who thought he could outwit Thrawn. It wasn’t pretty and that’s where I got the scar on my leg.”
“Myrkr? You’ve mentioned that name once before but I don’t know much about the planet.”
“No one does really, or at least mostly no one unless you count smugglers and thieves who use the planet as a hide out. The planet was removed from the Imperial Planetary database at Palpatine’s request.”
I smiled. “Because of what lives there.” I said and then tried as best I could to explain about the ysalamiri and the vornskrs.
“The creatures that can repel the force? The ones he has on board the Chimaera?” Ged whispered, “No wonder Palpatine wanted that planet kept hidden but what did Thrawn want with them on Nirauan? I remember you mentioned the subbasement was full of them but you didn’t say why. I thought he was using them to keep that dark Jedi clone of his in line”
“He needed them for his cloning project. It has something to do with preventing cloning sickness when a clone is grown at accelerated speed. ”
“That explains his success. I thought he was using pre existing clones while waiting for his own to mature but now I see he was growing his own at an accelerated rate. The only place I can imagine him finding such facilities would be at Wayland.”
“Yes, but how did you know?”
Ged gave me a grin.
I sat back in disgust and made a face. “Yeah, yeah super secret spy for the Emperor. Where the hell were you when Thrawn was looking for the co-ordinates to that planet?”
“I didn’t say I knew where it was just that I knew of its existence and it isn’t as if Thrawn ever asked me about this stuff.” Ged retorted, then said more quietly. “I knew Thrawn had access to clones but he was very tight lipped about the details. So how do you know all of this?”
“Because,” I said with a shrug, “He showed me his facility on Nirauan.”
“He has cloning chambers on Nirauan as well?”
I nodded. “He called it his testing ground but I don’t understand it much. All I know is the ysalamiri give me a hell of a headache and I can’t think of anything worse than being made force blind by being around them.”
“Force blind? Is that what you call it? It’s an apt description. It’s part of the reason when we meet in person he comes to my ship. I can’t stand being in their proximity, that and he likes to keep our meetings somewhat clandestine. ”
I nodded, “The life of a Grand Admiral, secrets and more secrets followed by still more secrets.”
“So how do you know about the cloning facility on Nirauan if it is supposed to be so... secret?”
I made a face and took a deep breath, “Because to satisfy my curiosity and prevent me from poking my nose where it didn’t belong, he showed the facility to me.” I replied, “But he was smart, he knew the ysalamiri would make me sick, he’d seen it before so he showed me the lab just the once, explained a little about what he was doing, I saw some of his work and then I got the hell out of there as soon as I could. It hurt. I never understood what it was that made being force sensitive so special until then. He could have told me all the lies in the galaxy then and I would never have known.” I rubbed the back of my neck, all of my muscles ached. “It was quite the set up that he had and he was growing clones and not just human ones at that.”
“Nirauan, well that makes sense. If he is accelerating clone growth then he would have needed a testing area. If I understand the science correctly from my discussion with the Emperor accelerating clone growth leads to madness, especially if there is any consciousness transference involved. It has to do with the force and its influence on all living things. Remove the force and you can manipulate the growth cycle without risking cloning sickness.” He said, “That’s very clever.”
I made a face. “We are talking about Thrawn remember.” I didn’t ask what he meant by consciousness transference but it made me shudder and remember the dreams I had been having about the emperor reborn.
“How could I forget?” He said as he reached over to put his hand on mine but I pulled away, fiddling with my cup instead. Suddenly the galley felt too small and the silence that engulfed us was awkward and uncomfortable.
He nodded and toyed with his empty tea cup. “You look tired. When did you last sleep?”
I shrugged. “I napped here and there but ....”
“You were too busy playing nurse.” He interrupted, “Well, I’m fine, the wound is healing well and I even put a clean bandage on it myself. I’ve rested enough for now so please go and get some rack time. You look like crap.”
I looked at him and nodded. “Okay.”
“Okay? Just like that okay? No arguing?”
“No arguing, you’re right, I’m tired.” I stood up and put my cup in the sink, “The ship is on auto pilot with all the proximity alerts set to maximum distance. We’re in the middle of hyperspace on one of the quieter routes, I checked the engine about two hours ago and for the first time in ages there’s nothing else to do, I do have one question though.”
“I’m all ears.”
“How did Morrish know you would be there, at the palace? I thought you told me no one else but Vander knew.”
“Morrish had been on Coruscant for several days dealing with another matter.”
“That room, the one that housed the mainframe? He was there for that right?”
Ged nodded. “He was to copy the data from it so that when we complete our move to the secondary Imperial stronghold we would have complete records of every op, every mission and agent that was available just in case the recapture of Coruscant doesn’t go as planned. However, that plan had to change once you told me about your remarkable talent. As soon as I knew what you could do, I knew that no matter what precautions the Emperor had taken to safeguard the information on those databanks it would never be enough. So it became imperative to get to that room. I knew that Morrish would be there if he had stuck to the time frame of the plan we were all working on. That took precedence over everything, which is why we went there first.”
“You took an awful risk.”
“It paid off and I had a lot of help.” He said giving me a sly, knowing grin.
“So the Virulent has a new captain?” I asked switching topics, suddenly feeling uncomfortable again.
Ged watched me for a moment then nodded, “A lot has changed since you were last stationed on board. Go and get some sleep we can talk about this when you are more awake.”
I nodded. “You’re not at all what I thought you were.” I said over my shoulder.
“Is that good or bad?” Ged asked.
“I don’t know yet.” I answered and made my way to my cabin. Sleep when it came was without dreams and I was grateful.