Commander Derek Atio had a turbulent 48
hours having dealt with a refugee crisis on Ralltiir, a ravenous ice
monster in the Essesia system, and rushing Valeria back for emergency
medical treatment aboard her ship. He barely had time to close eyes for
nap, let alone sleep or take a meal. He was beginning to smell of
someone that needed to spend some time in the refresher, but before he
could turn in he had to make sure that she was all right. As he reached
the docking hatch of the Caritas Ascendant, he climbed up a small step
ladder and banged repeatedly on the docking coupling to get her
attention. In his other hand was a bottle of Corellian Ale ... he could
use a drink and he figured she might need one too.
The boarding ramp was lowered after a
moment, although it was not Valeria who greeted him. Instead it was her
R3 unit, whose designation she had not yet shared with him. He did not
speak or beep at him, since the droid probably was not sure whether he
spoke Basic. Instead his dome merely rotated to indicate the area inside
the ship, then backed away from him and returned to his duties. This
must have been its way of inviting him onboard.
"Ugh," Derek Atio groaned as he climbed
aboard the ship and carefully set the bottle of Corellian Ale down on
the deck plating before he climbed aboard. "Hello?" he called out, as he
finished entering the ship and rose up to his feet. His hands rested on
both of his hips as he spun around to have a good look around.
"Valeria?" he said again, as his attention shifted to the bottom of ale,
which he promptly picked up.
The R3 unit went into the rear of the
vessel, where from previous experience Derek would have noted as being
the gunship's cargo bay. It was a rather quiet droid ... not talkative
like those astromechs on all the hit HoloNet comedies. Instead it
appeared to simply let humans figure out what it wanted them to do.
The MEV droid would be hovering outside
of the ship's medical bay. With its repulsorbed folded up behind it and
two of its four arms retracted, it looked a lot different than it had
during the previous events of the day. When he saw the Commander he
would nod his head briefly in his direction.. "Greetings, Commander. I
believe the last of the cargo has finished offloading. Captain Minersha
is no longer onboard. You are here to see the patient?" The medevac
droid was very matter of fact in his speech, always calm. It must have
made for an interesting bedside manner.
Derek always felt important in the
presence of droids who addressed him properly. Most of the people he
spent time with probably did not even realize he was a Commander. Given
the nature of his work he often spent such little time in uniform that
he had forgotten his rank at times as well. "Yes. Is she ...
presentable?" he asked, as he moved towards the medical bay, but did not
MEV paused to interpret the question.
"She is taking visitors. Against medical advice, she has elected to
spend her time outside of the tank in her personal quarters on the port
side. I would prefer that she remain here where I can monitor, but I
suppose we are only meters away." He would nod to the Commander, before
opening up the medical bay and entering it. The interior of the medical
bay was in disorder from the surgery which had taken place there.
Obviously he had a lot of cleaning up to do.
Derek agreed with the MEV droid's
assessment that Valeria was stubborn for refusing to follow medical
procedures, but taking the bottle firmly in hand he headed down the
corridor towards her quarters. As he approached, the door opened
automatically and he poked his head in. "Valeria?" he asked, as a
kindhearted smile formed on his middle-aged face. He had never been in
her cabin before and had no idea what to expect.
Perhaps it was not much of a surprise,
but it seemed that she had given the same amount of attention to her
private quarters as she had turning the ship's command deck into a
lounge. It was very big for any kind of cabin onboard a ship of this
side, complete with many soft places to sit. Currently Valeria was on
her bed, glad only in what seemed to be conveniently placed medical
tape. It was all patients were allowed to wear inside a bacta tank. She
was not sleeping, however. Instead, she seemed to be doing a very
unsteady handstand when he entered. Valeria had obviously been wobbling
even before he had entered, no doubt from diminished strength soon after
surgery, but she topped over when he arrived, landing on the bed. Still,
she was smiling. "Why hello there."
Derek's left hand came up to his head
and ran through his hair as he considered her position. "Uh ... am I
interrupting?" he asked, wondering if perhaps she was suffering from the
effects of painkillers. After seeing how she was dressed ... or rather
undressed ... he considered backing out of the room.
"Oh. This..? Ah, no." She recovered and
moved to slowly sit up in the bed, even as she gestured for him to take
a seat on a couch in the quarters. Apparently she also had a very
extensive refresher in her quarters, accessible from the outside, that
would allow someone to take a water bath. It was a luxury on such a
small ship, to be sure. "Was just...trying to see if I've still got it.
"And do you still have it?" Derek asked
as he slid across the room and took a seat on the sofa. "I wanted to
make sure you were all right, and also to apologize that our little
supply run almost got you killed..." he said, as he poured two glasses
of the Corellian Ale. One, maybe two, for him depending on her
"Right now I don't. Still too weak to do
tumbling, but maybe my next trip to the bacta tank will fix that." She
did not go through much trouble to make herself presentable. The medical
bandages would not fall out of place, and for now that seemed to be
enough. "Its alright, really. The only permanent damage was to my pride,
Derek took hold of his Corellian ale and
took a tender sip. He desperately needed it and the cold, refreshing
beverage smoothly went down his throat. "When do you think you can go
back to work?" he asked, some what reluctantly, as his eyes fixated on
the glass rather than on Valeria. The war did not stop just because
someone had a rough encounter with a wampa.
"I think I might not want to do anything
on the ground for a day or so more. Less than what MEV wants, but it
should be enough." Valeria grinned as she picked up one of the sheets
off of her bed to cover herself. Not for her own discomfort, but for
his. "My ship will still be available for use."
"When you're better I'm going to need
you to give your 'friend' some more information," Derek said, as he
finished his first glass of the Corellian ale. "Those nobleman you named
were all rounded up by the Empire and haven't been heard from since. You
did a good job there, Valeria," he said, as he poured himself a second
glass of the ale.
She idly grabbed a brush and began to
very gently tend to her mane, which was of considerable length. No doubt
some part of it had been yanked out by being grabbed by the wampa, but
it was hard to notice given how much there was. "Its not easy, leading
my friend astray. I hope I can reach her...everyone deserves a better
fate than being deceived by the Empire."
"Don't get soft, Valeria. Whatever she
was to you then, she's one of them now..." Derek said as he aggressively
took a long swig of the Corellian ale. "Remember those children we
rescued the other day? They're monsters..." he said angrily, as he did
best to calm himself by quickly downing the remainder of the glass.
"I'm only as soft as I ever was." She
continued to brush her hair so gently it almost seemed like she was
worried about it falling out. The smuggler smiled, showing those big
white teeth no longer stained with blood. "Its alright that you're
motivated by wanting to right wrongs. Its just not what makes me go. I
want people to be happy." She paused. "I think you'll find that hasn't
kept me from ending more than my share of lives."
"I was happy ... before the Empire,"
Derek mentioned bitterly, avoiding eye contact at all costs at this
point. A trembling hand reached for the bottle of Corellian ale, which
quickly found itself being poured into a third, quick glass. "I think
we've all done our fair share of killing lately," he admitted, his head
finally tilting up to look at her directly and offered a kind smile.
"All the Empire can offer is
contentment. Believe it or not, I don't believe the end result of their
policies would be suffering. If they deal a final defeat to your
Rebellion, I expect Imperial citizens can expect a dull life of safety
and security where their choices are made for them." Valeria put down
her brush and took up a mirror, beginning to inspect herself.
"The Empire will be defeated, Valeria.
Every day they try and tighten their grip and every day another hundred
star systems slip from their grasp," Derek explained, sounding very
passionate about their cause. He was tired and had been drinking ... now
was as good a time as there ever would be to get honest answers out of
"You don't have to worry. I don't pick
sides based on who I think is going to win." She looked at the Corellian
Ale, taking a break from inspecting herself in the mirror. She did not
ask for any, however, perhaps respecting her doctor's wishes for once.
"Besides, I always pick my side when it comes down to it."
"Well I for one am glad to have you on
our side," Derek said as he reached into his pocket and pulled out
another data disc that Alliance Intelligence had made up for him. "I'm
afraid this one might do your 'friend' a bit of harm, but it's for the
cause..." he informed her, as he placed it down on the table for her to
study later. "I'll trust you to do the right thing," he said solemnly,
nodding his head for extra emphasis as he spoke.
"What is it?" She looked at the data
disk on the table, her arms crossing beneath her chest. Her torso was
still marked from where the claws had gouged multiple scratches across
it, but it was healing fast with the help of the bacta. It looked like
it might not even leave a scar.
"It's the list of several Imperial
officers with falsified evidence linking them as traitors to the
Empire," Derek admitted nervously, as he finished his third, and would
most likely be his final glass of the Corellian ale. "Of course they're
completely loyal to the Empire, but then again ... that's the problem,"
he said with a snicker as he put the cork back in the bottle.
"This sounds like something that will
get those officers killed rather than just investigated. Do you think
that's for the best?" Valeria looked very thoughtful as she watched his
reaction, wondering if the play he was making was a wise one. "Are they
at least war criminals?" She was still hoping to make sure she could
justify this to her friend when this was all over.
"They are key officers in various
positions throughout the Ringali Shell. We've selected areas where we
have done well so it will be more accepted that these men are disloyal,"
Derek explained, having gone over it in a briefing with Alliance
Intelligence earlier. "They are all criminals, Valeria. And with a
little luck it will allow officers who are more supportive to the cause,
or at least more inept, advance in rank," he explained to her, as he
began to stand from his sofa.
"If they're going to be executed for
this, I'd like it if they at least had done something to distinguish
themselves as villains compared to other Imperial officers." Valeria did
not look happy about it, but she did not offer any further resistance.
She obviously did not want to make Kerrie an accessory in the murder of
"Make up a story in your mind. Whatever
helps you sleep at night. They're all guilty of something. I've long
since stopping trying to pin them on specifics ... I could never keep
track," Derek explained as he folded his arms in front of his chest and
examined her carefully. Was she having second thoughts, he wondered
quietly to himself as he looked her over for any sign of concern.
"Let me have access to your intel
sources on this one. Just the files on them. It's for the best." Valeria
had placed her hands on her legs now, using them to prop herself up. It
was not clear why she was asking for the files. Perhaps to salve her
conscience. Perhaps as an explanation to Kerrie when the time came for
the truth to come out.
"If that's what it'll take," Derek said,
as he considered her request very carefully. Of course he would grant it
... he had little choice if he wanted her compliance ... but surely
there was something more to this than Valeria was letting on. "How close
was this 'friend'?" he reluctantly asked, wishing he had not yet put the
cork back in the bottle.
"I'm not wired like other people,
Derek." She smiled as she kept the bed sheet pulled around her body. "I
can't help but let people get close. Keeping them at a distance is
impossible for me." As she turned slightly there was a Blazing Claw
tattoo visible on her bicep, the universal symbol of the pirate. Given
how simple they were to remove given the level of technology, this was
either a passing fad or a memento. Either that, or she was really
dedicated to piracy.
"Well let me tell you, Valeria," Derek
began, as he walked over towards the bed where she was sitting. He
placed a rough hand upon her shoulder and looked her directly in the eye
as he spoke, hoping she would understand his meaning. "This is a war. No
matter how close you two used to be ... wars change people. And if I
were her, and I found out someone was deceiving me, I'd try to kill them
if I ever found out ... no matter how close I was to them at some point.
Understand?" he asked, as he removed his hand and slowly backed up to
where he was earlier standing.
"I understand..." She smiled to him as
he touched her, but there was a silent "but she'll forgive me" that was
implied in her response. Valeria was decidedly somewhat odd. She always
believed that she could win people over in the end, even if all logic