Derek's head was buried beneath the
bulkhead where a crew station once was, as he examined the complex state
of rewiring that Valeria had done to her gunship. "I still can't believe
you turned this gunship into a one man ... one person ... ship," he
said, as he attempted to slide his body out from underneath, but instead
awkwardly banged his noggin. "Ow," he groaned, as he finally sat up on
the floor of her vessel's command lounge, slowly rubbing at the welt
that was forming on the left side of his forehead. "A few dozen of these
and we might give the Empire a real run for their money in this sector,"
he pointed out, as he let out a tired old groan and rose back to his
feet as he continued to marvel at the Caritas Ascendant, sticking
his head and nosing around everything in the most obnoxious of ways.
There was a time when he was interested in starship engineering and
followed the latest tech journals, but since joining the Rebellion he
had largely been presented with broken down ships long past their prime
whom he could barely keep operational. This ship, however, was a
"It wasn't just me." She was sitting in
the swiveling pilot's chair, one of six in the combination command
deck/lounge. The ship had previously had 6 more backup stations located
at various places throughout the ship, in case the command deck was
damaged. Valeria had evidently decided that was just more things that
could break. They were accompanied in the unusual command deck, one of
few that were equipped with a fully stocked automated food processor, by
her astromech, which had plugged itself in to one of the six stations.
It had been that droid who had brought them into hyperspace following
their departure from the planet. "Its been dozens of modifications, and
at least that many visits to people like your tech specialists to fix
the problems resulting from them."
Derek's hand never left the swelling
bump on his forehead as he moved to one of the empty chairs, his eyes
scanning over the various displays. "I'm amazed Imperial customs hasn't
impounded her by now..." he said to her as he slid the old synthetic
leather flight jacket from his shoulders and draped it over the back of
his seat. "Thanks for saving my life back there..." he said quietly,
avoiding eye contact at all costs.
"Ehehe...well, it hasn't been easy." Her
R3 unit was rather quiet, rarely making any sort of beeps of
acknowledgement. It seemed that his primary role onboard the ship was to
manage power, shield and other systems, as well as to plot the
hyperspace coordinates. "You're welcome." She seemed to turn a little
bit pink than normal. "Actually, I kind of got the impression that you
didn't enjoy that swoop ride very much."
Derek offered her a slight series of
nods at her last statement, as he finally looked towards her with his
kind, middle-aged face. "Truth be told I nearly lost it on that ride,"
he said reluctantly while shifting uncomfortably in the seat. "That's
not normally my speed," he explained, his right hand moving across his
body to adjust the chronometer on his left wrist as he began to tense
"Activate the massage circuits." She
nodded to him as she seemed to pick up on the fact that he was
uncomfortable. The command stations each had form chairs with massage
circuitry and optional sleep inducing harmonics. It probably was not
very wise to make battle stations so comfortable that you might fall
asleep in battle, but so much about Valeria defied logic that it
probably was not surprising. "To be honest that was a bit...closer to
death than I prefer getting."
"Oh you've got to be kidding..." Derek
said in disbelief as the back of his chair began to gently massage his
back. "Certainly this was not a stock feature?" he asked, as he leaned
back against it and began to feel soothed. "Well ... it is a war. If I
counted all the times I've come close to death in this past year..." he
stopped, looking up at the bulkhead, realizing the conversation had
moved surprisingly morbid. "You know I've been meaning to ask..." he
said, as his eyes darted to study her features carefully. "I can't quite
make out what species you are..." he said nervously, his cheeks flushing
red to a few shades of pink lighert than her.
"Not stock, no, but absolutely
necessary. I can show you my legal identification." She smiled and
started to reach into one of the pockets of her jacket, before frowning.
Valeria then took off the garment, leaving her only in her
armorweave-reflec polymer Thinsuit, and began to search it more
thoroughly. Finally she would retrieve her identicard. "Says "human"
here." She grinned, showing those big white teeth of her's. "And I
suppose I'm human enough."
Derek's eyes squinted as he attempted to
read the identification card, his eyesight not being what it once was.
"If you're a Human ... then I'm a Hutt," Derek said as he cut loose with
an uproarious laugh and rubbed his increasingly expanding stomach.
"Fine, fine. You strike me as a woman who enjoys her secrets so I won't
pry," he said with a wink as his eyes trailed over her Thinsuit.
Certainly that did not seem stock either, he thought to himself as he
tried not to let himself be caught lingering too long on any one
particular part of the suit. Finally he cleared his throat and attempted
to shift the topic to something less uncomfortable. "You're really
helping an important cause, you know," he said, as he offered her a
warmhearted, genuine smile that flashed just a hint of his teeth.
She flicked him her identification in a
way that showed him her skills with Sabacc card tricks had other
uses...tricks with similarly sized cards? It did indeed have her listed
as human, though IDs could be faked. Perhaps she even had a parent who
felt she would have a better life under the Empire without the stigma of
being a near-human. "If you Rebels succeed in restoring the Republic, I
hope you reach Admiral by then."
Derek lacked the skills to tell a
counterfeit ID card from a legitimate one and was quick to move it back
to her. "Admiral Atio?" he said with a slight laugh as he shook his head
at her in embarrassment. "Oh. No, no. Too many As, don't you think?" he
said, as he rose from his chair and moved to a standing position next to
her seat. His eyes looked out at the hyperspace tunnel in front of them
and he considered his place in the galaxy. "I'll be happy if I just live
to see the day ... regardless of rank. As soon as this war is ended I'm
resigning my commission and going on a nice, long vacation," he said, as
he turned to look down at her with the smile that never seemed to leave
his face. He was an optimist in a galaxy that seemed dominated by
pessimists as of late.
"Oh no no, I have big plans for you."
She slid the ID card back where it belonged, before suddenly noticing a
smudge on the dome of her astromech. Valeria began to polish it off,
while the astromech showed a total lack of reaction. "When you all go
legit, I need you to be an Admiral so you can lobby for a full pardon
for me." She shook her head in order to toss that waist-length red hair
back, apparently doing it either as a force of habit, or simply because
she liked to show off.
"A pardon?" Derek asked, as his hand ran
over the controls of her ship, petting it as if it were a living
creature. "Anything you want to confess?" he asked her, somewhat joking,
but with a hint of sincerity. "I'm a good listener," he quickly added,
as he took the seat directly next to hers. He tried not to notice what
she did with her hair, but he was only halfway to being dead, and it did
cause him to shift somewhat uncomfortably. He was told if he enlisted in
the Rebellion he would travel to exotic locations, but he did not
necessarily expect to meet such exotic individuals.
"Oh, I don't keep records that good.
Just, you know, a blanket pardon." She turned back to him evenly, long
enough to spread her hands in an expression of innocence. "Most of the
gear I have would have been illegal even in the Old Republic for a
civvie. Not to mention I have a..." She licked her lips with a pink
tongue. "...somewhat illustrious career as a smuggler, pirate, thief,
bounty hunter, privateer..." She turned back to the astromech and
continued to buff its dome. "I may be forgetting something."
"The Alliance has taken on a lot of
individuals with checkered pasts. It's going to take people from all
walks of life to pull this off," Derek explained as he folded his hands
in his lap like a child, feeling quite in awe of the technological
display around him. He had heard the Mon Calamari had begin refitting
ships for the fleet ... perhaps one day he would serve upon a ship that
was not threatening to explode at every turn. "I'm sure when the day
comes your contributions will be remembered," he said, as he reached out
with a hand to affectionately pat her R3 unit. "The information you're
passing to the Empire alone I'm sure will merit your record being
purged," he said with a nod of his head as he looked her over again,
trying his best to surmise her age. The skin color made it somewhat
difficult for him to study the features that usually gave him clues into
"Not sure how much I want it to be
remembered, but the pardon will be appreciated." She would finally turn
away from the astromech and return to her seat in the chair, crossing
her arms beneath her chest. She looked young, younger even than she
acted, which was rather immature to say the least. Based on her face,
she would have looked like a human anywhere between her late teens to
her early twenties. Of course, according whatever intelligence Jane had
provided, Valeria had been active as a criminal for at
least nine years.
By now Derek had concluded she was young
enough to be his daughter and thus cooled his thrusters considerably. He
did not want word getting through the ranks that he was some sort of
'dirty old man'. "Oh! I almost forgot," he said, as he turned his
attention to the jacket that he had removed and pulled a small datadisk
from it carefully. "Your next bit of gossip for your Imperial
'friends'," he said with a smile as it seemed their plot was working
She reached for the datadisk, plugging
it into her wristcom as she started to examine its contents. "I'm not
saying I believe in...your cause, but sometimes I do wish I could
make...some of the Imperials...reconsider their allegiances. They're not
all irredeemable." She sounded very thoughtful as she said this.
"I've lost a lot of friends in this war
so far," Derek explained, sounding somewhat dejected as he reflected on
it. There were not even time for funerals for many of them. Heck, in
most cases there was not even anything to bury. "I've yet to meet an
Imperial worth redeeming," he said, nervously clearing his throat as he
thought on more happier times.
"You can't fool me." As she spoke her R3
unit unplugged its scomp link from one of the command consoles. The
astromech even had the benefit of devices on the floor of the command
deck that would lock its wheels into place. Those released now, allowing
it to head into the rear of the ship on whatever job it was moving to.
"I've seen the Rebel recruiting posters. Believe it or not this ship
even 'bombed' some of them on a place you guys thought was susceptible
to joining. A lot of your officer corps come from
Derek brought two fingers on his right
hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose as he felt a headache starting
to come on. "Yeah. We have our fair share of defectors. But as each day
goes by only the true diehards are remaining within the Imperial
military..." he explained, as he pulled his hand away and offered her a
smile again. "I, for one, feel no remorse for any of those Imperials we
killed back there on Ralltiir," he said with honest conviction, meaning
every word that he said.
"Did we?" Valeria looked thoughtful as
her eyes followed the astromech while it left the command lounge, most
likely going into the engine room or some other area of the ship. "I
never regret killing in the heat of the moment. but I don't kill in
anger. Combat...is a thrill. I don't need to feel guilty about killing
for a good cause." She bit her lip, those large white teeth sticking
out. "But...in a different circumstance, I wouldn't be surprised if most
of those stormies were capable of love, and all the emotions you and I
are capable of." Valeria seemed to be a rather emotional person herself.
"A thrill, huh?" Derek asked, as a
confused look came over his middle-aged face. His left hand went to the
side of his head and he nervously scratched at it. "Remind me not to get
on your bad side..." he added, with a nervous laugh as he moved from his
seat to begin exploring her ship. "Is there anything to drink on here?"
he asked, having run out of the flask of Corellian Brandy that Minersha
had brought him some time ago.
She nodded towards the food processor
nearby, a GourmetMaster 500 that was linked directly to the ships
stores. He could order his drink or even a meal and had it prepared by
the device. "You don't have to worry. I don't do revenge killings." She
inclined her head slightly. "Life in this galaxy is too short and brutal
to fill your heart with negative emotions." The smuggler apparently had
a philosophical side to her. There were even some commonalities to the
sentiments she was expressing to that of the extinct Jedi Order.
"I can't say I ever used one of these
blasted things..." Derek said, as he tried his best to order himself a
Corellian Ale. Getting nowhere, he brought his hand up to the back of
his head and scratched instinctively, wondering how best to use it. "Uh.
Is it voice activated?" he asked, before roughly slapping the side of
the machine. "Little help?" he finally pleaded with her, as he gave up
on trying to get the blasted thing to work.
She assisted him in figuring out how to
place the order. The food processor would interface with the ship's
stores and shortly produce the requested drink. It was a lot easier than
doing it yourself, it seemed, once you knew how. "My contact with the
Empire, I really wish I could show them how they are."
"Ah," Derek said cheerfully as he
examined his mug of Corellian ale and begin to sip from it gingerly.
Slowly he walked back to his seat so he would be careful not to spill
his beverage. "Oh. Don't suppose you're willing to share the identity of
your Imperial contacts with me yet, are you?" he asked with a small
snort, realizing how dangerous a game they were playing.
"I don't think that would help either
one of us..." Her eyes narrowed lightly. "..but I can tell you, I wish I
could pull...them...out of this whole thing. It may be naive, but I
would like to be able to turn them, you know? We could back a ways."
"Well this doesn't sound too promising,"
Derek said as he took a much needed sip of that Corellian Ale. "Not
having second thoughts are you?" he asked, as his eyes scanned her
features nervously. "This person may be your friend ... but deceiving
them is central to the Rebellion's plot in this region. Remember,
Valeria ... it was your idea," he prodded her, as he quickly finished
the ale, his resolve stiffening almost immediately from the liquid
"I'm not. If I wasn't doing this, they'd
be in the same position as they are now. At least this way, I have a
chance at reaching them." She sounded very wistful. "If things had gone
differently, I might be in their position." Valeria paused for a second,
before shaking her head. "Well, probably not, but you get the idea."
"Is that why you're doing this, Valeria?
To help your 'friend'?" Derek asked of her, sounding somewhat
disappointed. Her loyalties were somewhat ambiguous to begin with, but
it troubled him that she was so close to her contact. He studied her
features again, before his eyes instinctively went to his chronometer.
They should be coming out of hyperspace any time now, he realized. Had
they talked the entire trip? he wondered to himself as he prepared to
strap himself in to the seat once again.
"This may be giving away a bit too much
about my motivations, but.." She leaned backwards in her form chair,
letting her hair hang down behind her. "..I never do anything for just
one reason. Life would be awfully boring if I did." She started to count
off reasons on her fingers. "I want to help her. I like making credits.
Being a double agent is fun. I was bored. Maybe, just maybe, I might
have a soft spot for the rebels. Those are just the reasons off the top
of my head."
"Are those reasons listed in priority?"
Derek asked, shooting her a quick wink. The girl had as many motives as
fingers, he was quick to note as a light hearted smile found its way
creeping onto his visage.
"If I ever sort out my priorities,
you'll be the first to..." Suddenly a rather bothered expression
appeared on her face. She sniffed something with her nose, then sighed.
"Oh damn it. A blaster shot must have missed my head by a couple inches.
I hate it when my hair smells like ozone." At the moment she had picked
up some of her hair by the end and was holding it in front of her face,
smelling it. Easy to do when it went down to your waist.
"Yet another advantage in the battle of
the sexes," Derek was quick to add as he ran a hand through his
relatively short hair before winking playfully at her. "I can see you're
easily distracted. Luckily nothing shiny caught your eye whilst you were
flying that swoop," he pointed out, with a quick laugh. "But seriously,
kid, you've got to stay focused. Your 'friend' may not feel the same
way. People don't like to be deceived..." he added slowly, as if he were
speaking from someplace deep within.
"I know a male Wookiee or two that might
disagree with you." Valeria took another sniff of her hair, deciding
that it needed to be washed rather quickly. "And no, I'm sure they won't
like being deceived. I want to either turn them, or make sure they never
find that out." She paused. "You don't mind if my droid washes my hair
while we're talking, do you?"
"You have a droid ... to wash your
hair?" Derek said unexpectedly as he nearly choked back his Corellian
Ale upon first hearing it. "Personally I wouldn't trust a droid to clean
my shoes after what I saw in the Clone Wars," he added with a firm nod
of his head as he looked over again. "Well. If you gotta wash your hair
... you gotta wash your hair..." he said, rolling his eyes at the
lengths women went to concerning their appearance.
"Don't be silly." She tapped a few keys
of her comlink before standing up from her seat. "I have a medical droid
to wash my hair. I can't stand the stink of ozone on me. For whatever
reason it really likes to cling to my hair." Valeria did find some
amusement in his reactions. "Not sure how your Rebellion's famed X-wings
would do without their astromechs."
"You're probably too young to remember
armies of tens of thousands of battle droids threatening every world in
the Republic, my dear," Derek said with genuine apprehension as he tried
to come to terms with the idea that she had programmed her medical droid
to serve as a stylist. "True. Astromechs have their uses, but there's
something about droids..." he said somberly, his left hand instinctively
clenching into a fist as he thought about it.
"From the holovids, I always thought the
Xim the Despot's battle droids had a lot more style." An MEV-series
medevac droid would enter the command lounge, looking surprised at there
being another sentient present. It would promptly unfold its repulsorbed,
which Valeria would probably jump onto. The MEV droids hovering was
slightly jostled, before it stabilized and remove the basin of hot water
it had brought from some other part of the ship.
A smirk curled upon his face and he had
to bring a hand in front of his face to hide the amusement he found at
the situation that was unfolding in front of him. He bit at his lower
lip and tried his best not to laugh, but there was something ridiculous
about the young woman having her hair done in the middle of a
conversation by a droid. "I trust this is not all on my account?" he
said, as he finally regained his composure and could speak without the
threat of laughter.
"Well, you mean, aside from not wanting
to offend your nose with bad scents?" Valeria made herself comfortable
on the retractable repulsorbed. The medevac droid was starting to work
on her hair without complaint, something that was almost certainly far
beneath its skills. "MEV's a caapable field surgeon and an even better
"Have you also trained it to warm your
slippers on a cold night?" Derek asked, before finally succumbing to an
uncontrollable bout of uproarious laughter. "I'm sorry!" he quickly
apologized, with cheeks flushed red with embarrassment. He got up from
his seat and began to walk towards the droid to get a better look at the
process. "Your hair is awfully long, you know..." he pointed out, as he
got an up close look at it as the droid worked its 'magic'.
"I thought I would try growing it to my
knees once, but decided it'd be impractical for combat." Valeria kept
her arms folded beneath her chest as she lay on her back on that
repulsorbed. "It can do an okay massage, but I've got a lot of teaching
to do before its as good as a trained Cafarel." She raised a finger.
"Plus, this ship is climate controlled."
"It's a more a home then a ship then?"
Derek asked as he studied the length of her hair, figure it was already
at least half a meter too long for combat purposes. He was enjoying the
time he had spent with her. It felt as if they were far away from the
war at the moment, even though they were in the thick of it presently.
"I can see you've given every aspect of this vessel's operation
considerable thought," he pointed out, as his brown eyes scanned the
interior of the ship once again.
"It's both, really. Why I'm very happy
to accept half my payments from you in work from your techs. I ask a lot
out of the Ascendant, and I'm not mechanic enough to figure out how to
make it work by myself." She pointed that finger towards the food
processor. "You can get a meal from that, too."
"I never eat on a stomach filled with
Corellian Ale..." Derek whimsically pointed out as he extended a finger
in her direction. "Unless you've got that droid programmed to mop as
well?" he said with another wink, as he took another cold, refreshing
sip of that beverage which had consumed so much of his life.
"Pfft. You need a stronger stomach." She
would shut her eyes as the droid finish washing her hair, apparently
feeling rather trusting in the presence of the Commander.