Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Audra Baldwin, Liz Dorner, Nate Lentz, Christopher Levy, Larry Mottola, and Thomas Rogers.
One year before the Battle of Yavin (34:10:4) in the Alderaan system: Alderaan (Aldera: Royal Palace) and Argo.

Celana Aldrete, Commander Derek Atio, Major Kerrie Kiley, Petty Officer Tashi Ling, Sergeant Zev Ordo, Senator Bail Prestor Organa, General Carlist Rieekan, Lady Jelena Rodney, Trooper Leilia Sangre, Corporal Seekith Shardin, and Captain Dagon Tong.


The Corellian Corvette Argo exited hyperspace in the Alderaan system. The vessel had spent the previous two weeks undergoing refit and had seen many personnel changes before receiving her new assignment. No longer assigned to the Rebel Fleet hiding in the Vergesso Asteroids, the venerable Argo had reverted to her paint scheme from decades earlier when she served as a consular ship in the Royal Alderaan Civil Fleet. Complete with original transponder the small vessel finally appeared presentable, just in time for her homecoming.

Brandy-brown pools flickered beneath a set of loose chocolate bangs, dispersed about Tashi's forehead haphazardly, despite how many times she kept brushing them back behind her ear. "Making our approach," she announced to whoever was in the immediate vicinity and/or whoever was paying attention. Eyes panned across the readouts for a moment before settling back in her chair to wait for instructions.

Commander Derek Atio ran a hand across his chin and grimaced. He had received orders from command to shave prior to this assignment ... the crew would never pass on Alderaan looking their usual unkempt selves. Although they were operating in a sector of space friendly to the Rebellion, he nevertheless felt uneasy being this deep in the Core. "Sensor scan, Mister Ling," he said calmly as he attempted to sit more professionally in his seat.

She ignored that damn remark and went about sweeping the area with the sensors. Her brow furrowed. "Oh you're gonna love this. The usual traffic a bonus, one Imperial-class Star Destroyer" she quipped in wry amusement.

"Relax," Derek said without any alarm, "Intelligence said its just here for a diplomatic function. Steady as she goes."

"Oh I see. The kind of diplomacy where they barrage planetary targets from space. That kind of diplomatic function. Right on" she commented dryly. The Argo continued on towards Alderaan, cruising n casually, despite whatever apprehension the pilot may have been feeling.

The communications viewscreen flickered to life as the Argo approached and the face of a young Human male flickered into view. "Argo ... we have you on our screens now," he began, "You are cleared to land in Aldera. Welcome home.

"Alderaan, huh?" The somewhat sleepy-eyed visage of Leilia Sangre peered over the left shoulder of the pilot's chair, as if she'd popped up from nowhere. She had wandered in from the quarters she had unofficially claimed as hers, half-asleep, but curious as to their location.

"Yes," Commander Atio said as he swiveled his chair to Leilia, "I see you weren't one of those reassigned." He laughed in light of the recent personnel changes.

"Hey, they can't reassign someone that wasn't assigned to begin with right? " Leilia gave a grin and a wink, plopping down into the closest chair. "So what's this place like, anyway?"

"Peaceful," Commander Atio explained as he swiveled forward to watch the landing, "'ll hate it."

"Heh, you think so huh?" Leilia chuckled lightly, and slumped back in her chair. "I think it ought to be an interesting change. For a while, at least."

Tashi answered the controller before closing the channel "Roger that." She guided the corvette into the atmosphere and towards the region their designated landing pad. Their arrival uneventful, they skirted the last leg of their approach to get an aerial view of the terrain before putting down. The landing smooth and even more uneventful, the ship settled on its gear without so much as a bump. Tashi wrapped up her 'to-do' list for settling in before turning in her own chair and slapping the arm rests with the palms of her hands. "...And that's a wrap" she said, getting to her feet. "I need a smoke and a cup of coffiene" she muttered, taking a moment to stretch out her lean figure for a moment.

"Not so fast, Tashi," Derek explained as he rose from his seat, "We're about to be in the presence of royalty." He thumbed down on the intercom and broadcast a message to the barracks, "Captain Tong ... form a small detail and meet us at the ramp in ten minutes. I want everyone looking their best. I want us to make a good impression in our new assignment."

Well, that little announcement had Leilia sitting upright in her seat. "Huh? Royalty? Are you serious?"

"We'll do our best." Tong did not know what the captain thought they had in these foot lockers, but his only idea was to put the men in battle dress. BDUs and full armament. And that was what he told his two men to suit up in. "Standard uniform and load out. If the captain doesn't like it, he'll get over it." The Cuy'Val Dar certainly had the mentality any other spec ops unit. They did not look pretty, but they worked. Tong did not even need to change, he just grabbed his EE-3 on the way out the door, and pulled his LBE on before zipping it up. The cigarra hanging from his lip flared for a moment as he nodded. "Sobriety optional."

Seekith strapped on his standard issue vest over his tank top. He debated about whether or not to bring the powerpack for the his T-21 light repeating blaster. He knew they were going to be on a peaceful planet, and that he was to be out there more for show then combat readiness. Better safe than sorry, he thought as he slung the back over his shoulders. He quickly moved to fallow after Tong.

Zev was already dressed in his usual green BDUs. He acknowledged Tong's order about the armament, his hands double checking that the usual set of grenades were clipped to his belt. Noticing that everything was in order, he grabbed his E-11 and followed down the ramp behind the others.

Leilia looked disconcerted for all of a half minute...before making a dash straight for the closest refresher, doing what she could to make herself presentable ... scrubbing her face, twisting her multitude of braids into a neater-looking rope down her back. Five minutes later, she was as ready she could get. "Well, it's not getting much better than this right now, folks," Leilia muttered beneath her breath as she headed toward the ramp to join the rest of the crew.

Tashi's face contorted as she looked herself over. She was hardly 'presentable,' but it didn't matter much to her in slim-fitting cargo pants, knee high black boots, a grey long sleeve shirt with red stripes down the sleeves with a short sleeved button-up shirt over it, left open and tied in the front. "This is my fancy dress," she shrugged, stuffing her hands into her pockets and shuffling away from the bridge for the exit.

Tong made his way to the receiving point, and waited patiently, his hand gripped around the pistol grip of the weapon, and his eyes remained on the hatch.

Upon arrival, Commander Atio looked over the ragtag assemblage of individuals and swallowed to keep from commenting on their appearance ... or lack thereof. He cleared his throat nervously before slamming his palm down upon the button that descended the ramp. Light began to creep inside the vessel and he squinted his eyes ... he had been spending so much time aboard ship that natural light had become foreign to him. "Try not to get us in trouble," he lectured as he strode down the walkway.

To that, Tashi swallowed hard before emitting a loud lengthy belch. She grinned and followed Derek down the ramp. "Sure thing, boss."

An elegantly dressed Human female stood on the walkway leading from the landing platform to the palace, waiting patiently for their crew to debark.

Leilia knew there was no way to improve on her rather tattered shirt and trousers, and her black boots were scuffed beyond real repair; nevertheless, she squared her shoulders and straightened her back, head held high and proud, as she joined the crew, looking almost as if she were the royal party, rather than their visitor.

Tong took a deep breath, and tried to calculate how much money these hostages would net, he let it go, and headed down the ramp, disembarking.

Zev followed Tong down the ramp, letting out a small yawn in the process.

As Seekith filed of the ramp behind Zev, he tried his hardest stifle a cough or two. He whispered to Zev, "Ah, blast all this clean air."

The middle-aged woman approached the group and bowed politely to them. "Captain Atio?" she asked politely as she looked over the group.

"Yes," Derek said as he stepped forward and returned the woman's cordial greeting.

"I am Celana Aldrete," she explained, "Aide to Prince Bail Organa." She smiled politely, "Please follow me." Her eyes scanned over the crowd a bit disgusted by the sight of the weapons, "I assume our communication about not bringing any weapons did not reach you ... unfortunate." The woman pursed her lips, turned on her heels, and began walking across the platform towards the palace.

Commander Atio squirmed in embarrassment, shook his head at the assemblage, and then followed Celena at a brisk pace.

Tong looked at the greeter for a moment and tried to decide if she was serious. This squad, leave without their weapons? Unlikely. But he managed to squash his comment about her not receiving the message about leaving bureaucratic morons out of any proceedings, and followed the ship's commander. He was surprised that she had not mentioned the disruptor pistol on his left thigh.

Tashi expression was somewhere between amused at the woman's penchant for condescension and irritated to be yet a pawn in the service of the powerful. Tashi glanced to her colleagues and followed after them.

Well, it was official ... Leilia could not stand this so-called aide. The look she had just given them all gave the impression she had just come across a really ugly bug... and the comment about leaving weapons behind? Hah! No, definitely did not like the aide.

Seek again whispered to Zev, "So does that mean we need to put these back?"

Rarely known to bite his tongue, Zev did so this time. He convinced himself it was for the best, as his immediate thoughts would likely make this meeting less cordial. He turned over his shoulder and simply shook his head at Seekith, "You can put yours back, but this baby is staying right where it is."

Leilia overheard Seek whispering, and could not help but mumble a response back. "They can separate me from my whip when they pry it form my cold, dead fingers."

Hearing both answers, Seekith just smiled his famous feline grin and followed after one.

Tong glanced over his shoulder, and uttered as he walked. "Just can it. No one is surrendering weapons unless I order it."

Once inside the palace, Celana Aldrete guided them through a series of corridors through the Aldera Royal Palace. She looked over her shoulder at the group with a look of disapproval. She turned her face towards an archaic, ornate door. With two hands she pushed the door open and revealed a lavishly decorated chamber in which two middle-aged men were seated. When the doors opened the men immediately rose and stood regally, waiting for their guests to arrive. Celena bowed gracefully to the first of the men. "Your Highness," she began, "Allow me to present Commander Derek Atio and the
'crew' of the Argo."

Bail Organa nodded to Celena and then smiled warmly at his guests as they filed into the room. "Welcome to Alderaan, Commander," he said politely, "I know of the Argo well. Captain Dartanyn was a good man who served my people well. Your loss is shared by all Alderaanians."

General Rieekan, the other man present in the room, turned his attention to the soldiers that had accompanied the Commander. "Captain...Tong isn't it," he began, "Your men won't last long here equipped like that. They'll stick out like sore thumbs and we'll have the Empire breathing down our necks. In light of 'recent developments' we can't have that."

"Given some of the crews rare ability to start a fire fight without us being there, I'd prefer it if they kept their weapons. Besides, since when did my men start operating on Alderaan long enough for someone to notice we were here for more than tea?" Tong looked at the General squarely, and gave no salute.

"I certainly hope you enjoy our planet ... and our tea, Captain Tong," Bail Organa said jokingly to lighten the mood somewhat, "Because the situation will necessitate that you remain on Alderaan for some duration." He then turned his attention to the others, "Come, come. Be seated. We have much to discuss." He gestured towards the vast array of seating arrangements that were available before retaking his seat.

Leilia glanced between Tong and the General, , then flicked her gray-violet gaze toward Bail Organa as he made a comment. She couldn't help but give a faint smile at his words; she liked that one.

Commander Atio nodded politely at the Prince before taking a seat himself.

The idea of operating here did not appeal to Tong much. His business was in the Ringali Shell, and taking this commission was starting to seem like a mistake, but he took a seat all the same, and waited for more of the briefing. The carbine hung easily from its tactical sling, and rested between his legs at a ready position.

Leilia frowned slightly at the seating arrangement, ultimately claiming a seat giving her as best a view of the entryways as possible, and as far from the Prince as the seating would allow.

Tashi felt a bit awkward here, as if she'd missed the departing flight for this whole operation. Reluctantly, she had a seat and waited, looking none too thrilled.

Zev took an available seat at the table, resting his E-11 on the tabletop, safety on.

"Lights," General Rieekan ordered in a monotone voice.

Celena, who had remained positioned by the door, dimmed the lights in the chamber.

The General turned his attention towards the fireplace and adjusted an ancient statuette of a falcon perched on it. The painting of the late Queen Mazicia Organa atop the mantle retracted revealing a modern viewscreen. Rieekan pointed at the Gordian Reach as he began, "Using intelligence gathered from data collected by your unit and others we have gained a fairly accurate disposition of Imperial forces in the Outer Rim. This region of space is remote and unguarded. Our scouts have indicated the fourth moon of the planet Yavin is an ideal candidate for the construction of a new, centralized base." He lowered his hand and looked over the group, "General Sewell has taken charge of the effort, but first we must move personnel and resources from across the galaxy to Yavin. The blockade runner is the ideal type of vessel for such an assignment and since the Argo has a history as a consular ship the Empire 'should not' questions your movements." He turned his attention back to the viewscreen where several planets were now highlighted, "You must move forces from our bases on Nentan, New Kisge, and inside of Bothan Space to the new base at Yavin."

Bail Organa spoke up from his seated position, "Some of our finest and most respected officers are scattered throughout the galaxy with scant resources. I am confident that if we begin to pool our resources we may be able to win our first victory over the Empire."

"General, if my unit and the ones like it have shown anything, it's that bases are more targets than anything. But the Empire won't be content with hit and run raids? Why are you going to make their job easier? Seems like an effort in futility or stupidity, I'm just not sure which is more fitting at this point." Tong took a short pull off the cigarra as he spoke, but looked the general dead in the eye the entire time. "And why are you using a commando unit to do a supply office's job?"

Seekith grimaced at the idea of being wasted on escort duty.

During the briefing, Leilia had unconsciously shifted into her favored style of sitting; slouched low in her seat, angled to cross her ankles on the edge of the table. She listened intently to the explanations, flicking her eyes toward Tong during his little speech. She kept her mouth closed, waiting to see how this would resolve itself.

The General turned his attention to Captain Tong, "To answer your questions ... our effort thus far has met with some difficulty. While our forces have struck some minor blows against the Empire, we are lacking that one great, definitive victory that will turn the tide of popular support in our favor. We believe that only by coordinating our efforts can such a feat be achieved."

"I will answer the second part of the question," Bail Organa said, "In this war men and materials are far more valuable than territory held. We need our best personnel ensuring their safety during this time of transition. We cannot afford to fail at this critical juncture. This base 'must' be established."

"I've run Imperial interrogations before. How long do you think it will take them to find your base, and park a few ISDs in high orbit? You're doing what every first week combat soldier is taught not to do, bunching up. You put your best all in one place, and the Empire might even drop Bantha poodoo on your heads just for amusement before they start the barrage and bombing runs." Tong's dead eyes bounced back and forth between these two, the cold predatory gaze not yielding any emotion, even if he thought this was a waste of resources.

Zev's thoughts had drifted for several moments, settling on his second true love...Sabaac. However, the sudden heated argument ensuing between Tong and the General had brought him back to the moment.

"The intelligence you and others have brought us shows that this region is ideally situated for a base," General Rieekan, "And 'should' the Empire eventually locate it ... we will be ready for them." He paused, "The matter is not open to further discussion. You have your orders and I expect you to carry them out."

Bail Organa rose from his seat and motioned for Celana to reactivate the lights, "Gentleman ... please." He turned his attention to the Commander and the Captain, "Enjoy your stay on Alderaan, but please ... make a greater effort to blend in ... for all our sakes."

"Of course, Your Highness," Commander Atio said as he bowed in the manner he observed Celana performing earlier.

"You're taking a group of men and women who know have proven to be effective raiders, and turning them into bodyguards and babysitters. I'm sure such tasks wont be a problem. Even a bureaucrat could do it." Tong still had no emotion in his voice, but it was clear what he thought of all this. He turned to his men, and nodded towards Zev. "Alright, you heard them. Civvies and concealed side arms, blades too. Nothing seen." He spoke as he decided it was time to find a drink.

Leilia gave a faint smile as she dropped her feet from the table, stretching the kinks from her back. "Well, this is going to be fun. How long are we here?" She didn't ask anyone in particular, just tossed the question out and hoped for an answer.

"Your first assignment will be in one week," the General informed Leilia. He turned his attention to the Commander, "Why isn't this one in uniform?"

"She's blending in. Take your pick. You want a pack of commandos ready to sweep and clear the palace, or a bunch of people that no one will notice?" Tong glanced over at the General and then back to his troops and gave a nod. "Let's go."

"She's not technically a soldier, sir," Derek explained, "We picked her up from that prison camp on Berea."

Leilia winced. Blast, she knew she shouldn't have opened her mouth. She glanced toward the door, wondering if she could slip out now and escape further notice. She was really in no mood for another interrogation.

"Oh," the General said as he sized up Leilia, "You're drafted. Welcome to the Alliance Special Forces."

"Uh." Leilia blinked once, then twice. When no intelligent response to the General announcement rose to her lips, she just closed her gaping mouth and followed after Tong. Now she needed a drink.

"Very well, Captain," the General said politely, "See that this woman is conscripted immediately."

"She's already Cuy'Val Dar. I doubt conscription papers will be in order. None of the rest of us have files with our names on them anyway." Tong was in no mood to be polite, or assuage flag rank egos, so he lit a new cigarra, and waited for his troops to get moving.

Seekith was still shaking his head as he stood and started tp walk from the room. He spoke as if he was writing a letter, "That right mother, I joined a top notch commando unit to become a glorified security guard! Huge step up from the Espos."

Leilia's long legs quickly ate up the floor as she stalked toward the door, muttering beneath her breath what must have been several vicious curses in some unfamiliar language. She snagged Seekith's arm as her strides took her right past him. "C'mon, soldier, you're buying me a drink."

Leilia couldn't help but give a chuckle at Seek's words. "Sweetheart, you have me confused with someone who didn't spend half a standard year in prison. If I had another set of clothes, I'd be wearing them already." She shook her head and gave a grin. "So...once you buy me that drink.. I'm going to be a girl for a change to do a bit of shopping."

Tong chuckled and nodded again to Zev. It was time for them to go. He waited for his XO to get moving, and then did the same, heading directly back for the Argo, for a change of clothes, and a drink. He caught up with the other two without trying, and shook his head. "Drink after you change, or during. I don't care, but make sure you conceal all weapons. Or else you're going to make me offend the General's tender sensibilities again."

Zev got to his feet and followed behind Tong, letting out a small sigh of relief as he returned the nod towards his CO.

Seekith nodded at Tong's orders and then grinned back at Lei, "I'll buy you a drink, but first you might need to let me borrow some civvies... " he was joking of course.

Seek clapped his hands excitedly, "Uu! Uu! Shopping! ... wait, do they even have blaster shops hear?"

Leilia laughed outright at Seek's weirdness. "I doubt it, but I bet if you go to the right stores, you can find the raw materials to make one!"

"Blast," Seek appeared to sulk, "I guess I'll just have to be a pretty scarf or something then."

"Maybe the General had it right. If I'd known that my troops looked forward to shopping so much, I would have volunteered the lot of you for this mission." As Tong spoke, he made his way up the ramp, and into the Argo.

Leilia paused at the bottom of the ramp. She did not have any clothes to change into, unless you counted the tattered prison garb she'd been picked up in.. but it was worse of than what she had on now. So, she waited outside the ship and deftly released her hair from its twist. When her braids were allowed to once more fall freely, Leilia's prized whip was easily concealed in its place at the small of her back, its black coloring lost within the black of her nearly ankle-length tresses.

Seek patted Tong on the shoulder as he made it up the ramp, "Oh captain, we're just joking. You know we would all rather be gutting a Stromtrooper and hanging him with his entrails right now if we had the choice."

Tashi watched them filter out one by one, chewing idly on the inside of her lip before light brown eyes shifted back to Derek and the two head honchos.

"Your Highness," Commander Atio turned his attention to Bail Organa as the soldiers departed, "We noticed a Star Destroyer in orbit. Is there always one stationed here?"

"No," Bail Organa said with a laugh, "Unfortunately that's here on my account."

"Forgive me Your Highness," Commander Atio continued, "But I do not think I follow."

"My retirement from the Senate," Bail Organa explained awkwardly, "There's something of a ceremony in my honor later in the week. I'm afraid it will be very busy around here until then. I would invite you and your personnel of course, but I do not know if they would ... fit in."

"Of course, Your Highness," Derek said with a polite nod.

Bail Organa turned his attention to the woman next to Derek, "And who is this?"

"Petty Officer Tashi Ling," Derek explained, "My pilot."

Upon mention of her name, Tashi gave an obligatory nod. Feeling largely uncooperative in front of the panel of 'judges' she did not bother to salute, bow or smile.

Bail Organa bowed politely to Tashi and smiled to her as he rose. "It is an honor," he said with the charm that he was renown for. He turned his attention to the Commander, "Always treat your pilots well, Commander. There is no position aboard a ship more critical."

This time, Tashi allowed for a casual smirk. "I'm only the pilot when everyone else calls in sick," she dropped her booted feet to the floor. "Am I excused as well?" she inquired openly, envious that everyone else was probably burrowed into some booth at the local pub by now throwing back cold ale.

"I will do my best Your Highness," Derek said with a polite bow. "Yes, Tashi. We have taken enough of his time as is," he smiled once again at Bail before moving out of the chamber.

Taken enough of 'our' time you mean, Tashi thought to herself as she got to her feet. She followed Derek out, waiting for the doors to close before she said something audible enough for his ears only. "This makes me very uncomfortable," she stated. "And I don't mean the pomp and circumstance."

Commander Derek Atio walked through the meandering corridors of the Aldera Royal Palace. He stopped suddenly and turned to Tashi. He looked both ways down the halls. When he was convinced they were alone he swiftly moved his head towards hers, closed eyes, and kissed her passionately. He savored the moment before withdrawing his head, opening his eyes, and smiling at her, "You look good when you clean up."

The woman was astounded, shoving him off of her before looking about nervously. "What are you doing?!" she hissed.

"Ugh," Derek groaned as he stumbled backwards, "I'm sorry. I just always wanted to have a kiss inside a palace."

She shook her hands at him. "Are you insane?!" She scowled, risking another glance about and slightly relieved to find they were still alone. "Let's get the hell out of here. This place creeps me out" she grumbled, moving off down the corridors.

Derek walked down the corridor next to Tashi, doing his best to nurse his bruised ego. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye he spotted something unexpected. He thrust his arm out in front of Tashi to stop her before she could go any further.

Initially, she smacked into him. On the recoil she composed herself enough to follow his gaze.

Major Kerrie Kiley walked down the corridor slowly, amazed by the decadence of the palace. She had heard it was more than seven hundred years old, but she did not expect it to be of such a grand design. Her guard was down as the last thing she expected was to encounter any sort of problem inside the palace. Nevertheless, she had been instructed to protect the Admiral's family throughout their stay in the Alderaan Sector.

Lady Jelena Rodney strode eagerly behind her bodyguard. She hardly felt it necessary, but she was in too pleasant a mood to argue with her father over such a minor detail. She had been in the palace since a very early age and therefore was not nearly as impressed as Kerrie. Still, you could not tell it by her face. She was more enthusiastic than she had been since she was forced to leave Alderaan many years ago. Now she was home and would soon be reunited with her friend, Princess Leia Organa.

"Come on," Derek said quietly to Tashi as he grabbed her by the arm and began heading back in the direction from which they came, "Let's get out of here before we're seen."

Even as she was being dragged away, Tashi's eyes were locked on the tell-tale grey uniform in a flurry of rage and disbelief. As the scene disappeared from view, she turned to hasten after him. "What the hell is going on?" she demanded of Derek, him being the commander of their outfit and presumably the one who likewise had a good explanation as to why they were here to begin with in such a ridiculous assignment.

"Probably just one of the guests the Prince warned us about," Derek explained to Tashi as he followed the corridor hoping to find an alternate exit, "Still. I didn't expect them to be here now."

"We'll assign blame later. Let's just go now" she said between breaths as they hurried off. "Ideas?" Tashi asked, looking about curiously.

"Let's try though here," Derek said as he pushed open a doorway to reveal a public refresher. "Hmm," he said as he let the door close suddenly on his dismayed face.

Tashi half-frowned and bowed "After you." She moved past him and continued down the hall, eyes vacillating from wall to wall for a doorway or junction or exit.

Suddenly a rather plump middle-aged woman, well-dressed and quite elegant emerged from one of the chambers. "Who are you?" she asked as she stared at the pair.

"Uh," Derek said nervously as he froze, "We're just visiting."

"Do you happen to know where the nearest exit it?" Derek asked.

"Yes," the woman announced, "Right back down the way you come."

"I'm sorry," Derek explained, "But we can't go back that way."

"Oh?" the woman asked, "Why?"

"Too many people that way," Derek told her, "My friend here ... her hair is a mess ... looks awful ... doesn't want to be seen you see."

The woman took a closer look at Tashi and smiled, "Oh I understand completely. Continue up the corridor. Fifteenth door on the left."

"Thank you," Derek said and smiled politely and began walking down the corridor again.

Tashi was too busy trying to decide if that was a compliment or an insult. She found herself trudging after Derek yet again, still stupefied as to what was going on.

Finally reached the fifteenth door, Derek slowly opened it and was relieved when it revealed a walkway leading back towards the landing platform ... thought it would be a quite a long walk. He stepped outside, smiled at her, and held the door open.

Tashi stepped out, looking around, grateful to be out of that mess of corridors and out from under the keen speculation of the elitists. It was like a breath of fresh air and she inhaled it deeply. "And all I wanted since we touched down was a drink" she said to herself absently.

"We're outside the palace," Derek observed, "Can I kiss you now?"

"No!" Tashi insisted, eyes flickering about involuntarily. "Someone will see and that will mean trouble" she added. She moved past him and walked briskly, eyes shifting about as they moved in continuous surveillance.

"How about that drink then?" Derek waited a moment and watched her walk a bit before racing to catch up with her.

She threw him a sideways grin and nodded. "Alright, Captain. It's a date. Lead on" she conceded.

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