Odessen is far out of Arcann’s sight, and the only planet in the galaxy where the Force is completely in balance. The dark side doesn’t take over like it does Korriban, nor does the light blind anyone senses like it might on Tython. It is far from home, wherever ‘home’ is, and now it has to turn into a military base.
The physical structure is getting there: I look out to the hills hile standing on the fresh cememnt and metal of the look out. It leads to one of the spheres that track incoming and outgoing ships. The other sphere next to it keeps track of what the Republic and Empire are up to. I glance at the corner of my eye to see people enter the main war room. Soon I will have to hold a meeting there: See what people we have, see what people we need, and start working on any leads towards Arcann’s weaknesses. Even forces as powerful as the throne, and Zakuul Knights, has a weakness. It shall be found.
It has been a few long month carving a hole in a mountain, and turning it into a functioning system. It has been a long three months to keep Imperial and Republic forces from killing each other: It’s amazing the ripples of the Revanite threat have caused. A decade ago, Zakuul would have the galaxy under lock and key. Not completely because Arcann would have destroyed them, but because the factions wouldn’t set aside their differences to a common goal. The fact some have chosen to do so I a miracle thanks to the Revanite threat. Or in Lana’s opinion, thanks to me.
I see the anti-air turret is ready to make short work of the wrong visitors, and I feel the railings are as strong as Alderaan’s rocks. Perhaps stronger. I hear the rumble of ships taking off and landing, not really turning to look. There is nothing to see, really. Nothing for me to see. I hope there is nothing for me to see, anyway. I’ve missed five years and seen too much in almost four months or so. Makes one tired, and makes them cold to certain things.
A sith pureblood? Cold? I chuckle to myself as I listen to the birds singing. Sith are supposed to be passionate creatures, not cold with indifference. I guess five year slumbers change one’s inner workings? Would a Jedi go mad after 5 years? Hard to say.
I glance down at my commlink and examine it. It’s a new one, different from Imperial or Republic. I like its sound quality. I’ll start tinkering with it soon. I always tinker with commlinks: get the right channel where none are eavesdropping on me is always my first priority. Well it used to be. I haven’t done it yet… No point with no time to really sit to myself.
The few times I have, such as now, have been consumed with wonder: Where is he? Why have I not found him? Why wasn’t he with us at the Gravestone? Why did he not find us on Zakuul? Why was he not at Asylum? I looked in between gathering missions, and rescuing some of Koth’s crew, on Asylum for Theron Shan. I could not find him!
People saw him on Asylum. I remember bringing him up to Koth: “Tell me, did Lana ever bring a man named Theron Shan on some of your missions? Or are you the only handsome man she’s met?”
“Theron Shan? I’ve heard of him. Tall, tanned skin, implants, used to work for the SIS?” I nod at Koth’s description, and my hopes rise.
“Yes, that is the man. Is he on Asylum now, and I’ve simply missed him?”
Koth shook his head, and jumped when sparks flew. I walked up to the panel and opened it. I used one of the portable flashlights I was able to find on Zakuul’s surface to look at the compartment. “I think some of the fuses are burnt out. Do you have any…”
I glance to Koth and take one of his spanners and rubber gloves. I get to work on it, commenting, “This ship certainly is confirming to be trouble to maintain. I hope it will prove to be worth the fuss.”
“You and the Gravestone have something in common,” Koth points out, “As your rescue proved.”
I chuckle and get the minor emergency under control. “Yes,” I began the conversation again, “Theron Shan?”
“Right, right. Yeah, I’ve seen him here on a few missions. He even came here once or twice… But that was months ago. He likes to keep to himself.”
My heart sank a little at that but not too much. The joys of spy work: It is a solo job. I wondered if I could track him down? I know I am important to defeating Arcann, but that doesn’t mean I can’t at least try to get real companions back in my life! He might be easier to track down then my family on Korriban…
My family on Korriban. I sigh as Odessen’s breeze watches over me. In theory, I have an adopted mother and father. I have an adopted older brother. Biologically they’re my aunt and uncle, and cousin on my father’s side. They adopted me after I left home. They’ve been my immediate family since I was fifteen. And they’re dead for all I know! Lana gave me the basic overview of the galaxy… Yet, when I ask for specifics I am usually met with a tired look, or people don’t know.
I rub the spot on my gut where the kolto patches used to be: Count your blessings, Cipher Eight, since you could’ve been killed! Arcann stabbed me with his saber, and I felt my life spilling out with each passing second. It is a miracle I am alive. I could’ve used Valkorian’s power to get out of such a predicament, but I refused. I don’t care if it’s my dormant force powers, or his, I am not. Using. The. Force. Valkorian needs to do better then promise fancy magic tricks for me give up part of who I am just so I can…
“Love what you’ve done with the place.”
My thoughts freeze. I hear footsteps approach me, and I feel eyes on me. I know that voice. I’ve known it since I was in danger of becoming fish food on Manaan. Is this another dream? I scratch myself with a claw fingertips (I have five fingers like humans but they sharpen into claws, not fingernails, like my Sith ancestors), and I feel the pain. It’s real, and that voice truly spoke. Yet I doubt my ears, so I slowly turn around. The same jacket, light pants, same brown spiked hair, and same implants. My breath stops as I look him over.
Theron shrugs and states, “Hadn’t seen you a while. Wasn’t sure you remembered me.”
I clear my throat and start again, “It’s… It’s great to see you again Theron.” That was good- Not too formal, nor too mushy but with a good bit of friendly chatter.
“Good,” he says with a smile and walks closer to me, “Wasn’t sure based on what Lana said you went through. What you’re going through.”
He walks past me to the railing, and I follow. My eyes cannot help taking his form in. His physique (I may have a weakness for well formed buttocks), his scent, and his voice make me stumble. I catch myself, thank the Force, as I shouldn’t betray too much of emotions right? It’s not like we’re meeting at a gay bar where I’m allowed to be more flamboyant. No, this is a military base and we haven’t spoken a word in over five years. Need to be a bit more patient. Theron Shan turns to me and smiles, but I notice his eyes just look at me. No following my form, no moving closer, and no indication that he desires to throw himself at me as much as I want to throw myself at him. Easy, Crim…
“Been a long five years,” he cuts into my thoughts again, “feels like everything’s changed.”
I smile genuinely for the first time in five years, and say quietly, “You got better looking.”
Theron holds up a hand and says quickly, “I don’t know about that but hey, Crim, I’ll take it.”
I use every last once of my strength not to look down and run a way from the conversation: That is not how I expected him to respond to the flirt! I know it was a small flirt, and wasn’t meant to sweep him off his feet, but I didn’t expect a non-response! Has… has he moved on? Why wouldn’t he move on- I’ve been gone for five years, and he’s had a galaxy to find someone else. He has someone else, and the person already tells him he got better looking.
I look at him, and resist saying many things, and resist saying how I feel about this: Arcann has taken so much from me, and now he’s taken Theron Shan. Petty reason to get revenge on the galaxy’s ruler, but combine it with destroying everything I’ve built, robbing five years of my life from me, and now stealing the first man to actually understand me? Hmph!
Right, time to continue the conversation. Regardless of his feelings, I will strive to work with him and have decent conversations with him. I clear my throat and try small talk: “I see you’re with our organization- Or are you simply keeping tabs on us and sending it to the SIS?”
“No,” he answers, “No SIS agent here, unless you’ve defected since waking up. No, I left the SIS years ago; Lana’s brought me in to manage operations. But before we get into all the more-or-less official stuff, I’ve got something for you.”
“You’ve found… my family? Anything?”
“No luck so far but…”
I hear a woman’s voice shout over the comms, “It needs work- a lot of work!” as my X-70B Phantom lands a few feet in front of us.
I grin as I see it descend. Finally, a small piece of what was. Perhaps I can still salvage what is between Theron and I? I’ll even settle for a good friend! Perhaps if I invite him on my ship for whatever alcohol is on there…
“When you’re up for it, it’s time for the official stuff. I’ll be inside,” Theron says and walks away.
I turn around and simply wave, “Bye,” and then sigh when he’s out of ear shot. “Need to move faster, Crim…” I mutter to myself as I head towards my ship: Meetings can wait; I want to go home.
I walk up the ramp to my ship, and just stand in the doorway. I look around, breathing in the scent. It smells cleaner, yet still distinctly mine. I see a gay pride poster still hanging near the entrance. The fridge where I keep my drinks are still there, and waiting for me to get one out I hope. The floor looks spotless, and ready for me to walk in.
I step on it: It still makes the same sounds! I smile when I see the lady who flew it in walk past me. She smiles back and gives a thumbs up: “Nice piece of starship you got.”
“Statement: Greetings, Master! I am pleased to see you have survived.”
“HK?!” I grin and give the droid a hug. “Finally, a friendly face. I’m glad to see you survived.”
More shocking then hugging a droid? A droid that slowly hugs you back! I guess some of his protocol subroutines haven’t been completely lost. “Comfort: I did indeed survive, master. Tell me, do we have more undesirables to liquidate.”
“Always,” I answer while pulling back and looking around, “But those can wait a little bit HK-51. Zakuul isn’t going anywhere soon.”
HK-51 follows me around the ship. I am assuming to make sure I do not disappear on him again. Where is 2V-R8? Don’t tell me HK-51 polished everything! The target dummies are still in their place. My clothing is still where it should be in the closet. My bed looks warm and inviting, with a giant duvey cover that has a picture of my favourite Rotworm player on it. The bridge looks ready for me to pilot the ship away. That is tempting: I could pilot away to Nar Shaddaa or to Korriban, bidding farewell to all of this chaos so I can piece life together on my own terms. Then I could move on from Theron Shan…
I need to get out of these clothes: I’ve worn the same out fit for five years! No wonder I feel a tad icky. I go to the refresher: The water tank is filled to the brim, same with the hot water tank. I grin, and shout to HK-51: “HK-51, I’m having the longest shower in the galaxy! Make sure no on disturbs me, not even Lana.”
HK-51 stands outside the fresher. “Statement: Yes, master, of course master.”
I grin wider and toss my clothing off. I step into the shower and let the water flow over me. The warmth of the water washes the ick away, and restores a sense of my own sentient self. The smells of my shampoo and conditioner, the best from the last salon I went to on Ziost on that specialized in pureblood hair, remind me of what normal life is like: I get up, shower, and ensure my body is cared for. It doesn’t include running all over strange planets, getting locked in carbonite, and never having a chance to sit and breath briefly.
I finish my long shower, and head back to my room. I don’t bother putting clothing back on: It’s just HK-51 and myself, and he only wears his birthday suit. I lay down on my bed and resist crawling under the sheets and staying there forever. Instead I ask HK-51, “So… HK-51… Any messages for me over the last five years?”
HK-51 walks in and nods. “Affirmation: Yes, there are a couple of messages of note- One from Darth Caedusios was sent to you two years ago, and another from Agent Shan sent two and a half years ago.”
“Caedusios? My brolin sent me a message?” I run my claws through my hair. “He may be alive… Forward both messages to my computer.”
Hk-51’s eyes glow a little bit. “Statement: All messages have been forwarded to your computer, Master. Request: Please do not make me clean anymore of the ship than I have. Doing mere protocol droid work could result in my ability to liquidate undesirables getting rusty.”
I chuckle, and get up to read the messages. “Don’t worry, HK-51, I can get another 2V-R8 unit to do the cleaning. Or I could get a Republic model? I have many droid options here! Tell me, is there bloodwine left?”
HK-51 nods. “Affirmation: It is, Master. Tell me, will the taste of blood compel you to liquidate more undesirables?”
I chuckle and state, “Perhaps, perhaps not. Still, please get me a glass.”
As he leaves to get the bloodwine, I stand in front of the full body mirror in my room. I haven’t seen myself in five years- I haven’t changed much. My eyes are still pale… Though my hair has gotten slightly longer. I should get it trimmed at some point. I wonder if there are any underground barbers? My facial tendrils have grown a bit, and the only people that can remove them died on Ziost. I frown at myself and glance to my computer. “Maybe some immigrated to Nar Shaddaa?”
Deciding my ship is getting a little chilly, I put on a robe from my wardrobe. HK-51 brings me the bloodwine and sip it. It’s chilled just the way I like it, and the taste brings me back to when I was a young boy and my parents let me try it for the first time. It was during a party they were holding for other Lords, and showing off how wonderful and powerful their son was. Must confess, I have loved parties back then. It was the only time mother and father showed a whiff of actually loving me. It was small, but it was relief from their usual ways. When they let me try bloodwine, I felt more drawn into the conversations. Bloodwine is my people’s best drink, and to finally be allowed to drink it was like finally being accepted into the popular group at school, or being considered a gay cantina’s best customer.
Speaking of best customer, I look up the different gay cantinas I know. If I am going to move on, I will just have to accept Theron Shan has moved on as well. Good thing Nar Shaddaa still has most of them, and Dromund Kaas’ underground seems to be alive and kicking. I will visit, and see which of the cuties are still there. Alright, I think I am ready to read any mail! I read Caedusios’ first… What I would give to have him here right now, telling me where I should go from here.
His hologram appears on the screen, and he starts to speak in my people’s tongue:
I write this with a heavy heart because you are missing. I don’t know if you will get this, or if I’ll ever see you grace my fortress on Korriban again. It is odd writing a letter to my brolin <brother> who is dead for all intents and purposes, but alive out there because I can still feel his presence. Note that I am doing everything in my power to find you, which is very limited thanks to Zakuul’s stranglehold on the Empire, and Empress Acina deciding we have better things to do than hunt a missing agent.
Nevertheless, I am doing what I can! I hope it is successful, for I do miss not having a nwit brolin <small brother> to speak with. You give a different perspective… That perspective must not be lost. This is why I am shouting to the void: one must shout if they want an echo to come back.
I want you to know that mother, father, and I miss you deeply and that we are proud of the work you’ve done as an agent. I bet in wherever you are there is some reflection, and perhaps some regret. In our line of work, the hard choices needed to be made. It’s easy for others to judge us from afar or on high in their comfort. They don’t come down to the trenches, nor go and gather information while protecting one’s identity from Republic ears. Don’t listne to those voices. Instead, I hope you listen to the voice taht tells you your work within the Imperial military was nothing to be ashamed of. Furthermore, your work in intelligence was commendable and worthy of our Empire. I do so hope you listen to that voice, and not give into despair.
That is all I wish to say. I do so hope you read this and come back to us.
Sincerely, nulis <love> your brolin,
I wipe a small tear from my eyes. If only I went to Caedusios after Yavin IV… I could’ve used that pep talk. Better late then never, I suppose. The next letter is from… Theron Shan. I look at it and almost not read it, but then I take a breath and select it. I owe Theron at least to hear his message, regardless of its contents. As Theron talks, I change from my robe into more formal clothing. I might as well head to this meeting after I hear the last of my mail. Theron’s letter almost makes me faint:
I’ve written this message twice now. Okay, more than twice. Kinda weird writing something that may never be read.
Lana says you’re locked in carbonite, but alive. (Yeah, we’re in touch. Long story.) I like to think you’re having one crazy dream. And maybe I’m in it. But I don’t want to presume.
We never declared what this–you and me–is… was… Have I mentioned I’m bad at relationships? Another reason I’m a workaholic.
I’m rambling. The point I’m trying to make is-whatever’s between us, I want you to know that I care about you. A lot. The whole galaxy’s lost its mind. The thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that you’re out there, and we’re putting together a plan to rescue you. I might not be there-we’ve all got our parts to play–but I haven’t forgotten about you or our time together. I never will.
Theron cares about me? He cares about me?! I suppose he answered the burning question: He’s not the best at relationships, so didn’t say anything earlier! I bet he was as nervous as I was… Well, the time for being nervous and unsure is almost over. As my brolin said, I have nothing to be ashamed of and I’m Tsis, which is Sith for purebloods. I will go and try to rally these people together into a fighting force, and find a way into Theron Shan’s heart!
“Come on, HK-51,” I shout into the ship as I head for the exits, “We have an alliance to build!”
“Don’t look at me”, I hear a voice say as I enter the conference room, “I’ve snuck into some crazy places, but stations like these are another deal altogether.”
I slowly enter and look around the room: I see Koth, Lana, Theron, Senya, and some new people. One of them looks like a cathar, but with smaller ears and wears a Republic uniform. Another is a blue hutt that speaks basic? Things have changed in the last five years.
I see a couple of Voss there, and a mirlian smuggler. Some nod their heads at me as Theron speaks: “Alright, we’ll table it for now, we’ve got company.”
I glance around the room, and gulp quietly. I look to Theron and ask, “What’s all this?”
“We’re building a healthy alliance, but it’s not enough. The Core Worlds are still under the threat of Arcann’s considerable reach.”
“An alliance of who?”
“Hylo Viz,” the mirlian spoke up, “Sure you’ve heard of me. Broke the toughest blockade in galactic history? Republic’s greatest outlaw hero, basically.”
I raise an eyeridge and then nod in her direction. One of the voss steps forward. “Your visage surfaced in my trials. I am the Mystic Sana-Rae. I will assist you.”
They all go down the list. I widen my eyes when the Hutt asks about experimenting on my brain. Doesn’t anyone else besides me think my brain has been kriffed with enough?
“Hello, all of you,” I say with a smile, “and no, Doctor, you can’t experiment on my brain.”
The Doctor face palmed while Theron turned to me. He looks quite handsome in that light. Theron comments, “So, that’s the team. Any questions?”
There are millions of questions in my head! Many questions that maybe should not be answered today. At least not when one is burning in my mind since I heard his voice again, and read his letter: “What do I have to do to find out what you’ve been up to all these years?”
Theron smiles knowingly, and answers, “We’ll get a chance to talk. Soon.”
Then everyone dispersed. Including Theron! I do hear them talk of a party at the cantina. A party? I smile and then race back to my ship. My partying outfits from when I would visit gay cantinas on Nar Shaddaa are still there. I can wear one, go to the party, and not stop until Theron lets me talk to him. Alone.
HK-51 is flustered, I think. I only assume he is from voice tone, as droids do not really have body language or social ques. He and I are at the party. I’m wearing one of my favourite outfits for going gay-cantina hopping- Full metallic purple body suit with a zipper at the front lowered enough to get a glimpse of my chest’s ridges, and cuts that reveal my hips. I know this will attract many eyes, male and female, but it is worth the risk if the right eyes focus on me.
HK-51 speaks as I walk past him: “Statement: For the last time, I was not on the place called Asylum and I have never met you before..”
“Well look who it is,” Theron looks at me with a raised brow, “don’t worry we didn’t really start without you.”
I look around the place with a smile, my hips moving to the beats coming from the jukebox. I have missed dancing, missed conversation… Theron Shan’s eyes are on me. I can feel it. “Yes, we’ve only just begun,” Lana states and hands me a drink, “We weren’t sure you’d attend.”
“Why not? I love these kinds of parties. Reminds me of the time I snuck into one of Kaas’ cities underground gaybars,” I sip a drink in between sentences, it tastes good but not strong enough to really do anything to me, “besides a chance to unwind and relax after what we’ve been through is exactly what we need.”
Koth looks at me. “Wait a minute- gay bar?”
“Yes. Gaybar,” I glanced to him and stated simply, “Obviously you did not quite catch my flirts while we were on Zakuul. Do you want my autograph now?”
Kotch chuckles and looks down. “Nope- Just keep bein surprised at the Outlander being a rebel.”
Did Theron tense at our exchange? He did and he still is with the way his shoulders barely move, and his lips press together. I drink some of the ale, smiling over at the group. “What kind of Outlander conforms? Besides a boring one? Though, I wouldn’t categorize being gay as a form of rebellion.”
Theron smirks and hands me another beverage after I polish mine off. Koth looks around, “Though the outlander is right- we need time to relax. Now get this guy,” He nods to Theron, “to cheer up.”
“I’m reasonably cheery. I’m joining in. And now you are too!” Theron looks up at me with a smirk.
I smile down into those beautiful eyes. I could keep drinking, but that would mean missing a chance to really speak with Theron. Again. Not happening. “I was actually hoping to have a talk with one of you first…” I speak as an invitation.
“Really? Who did you have in mind?” Koth asks, head poking up.
I point to Theron. “Come on, Theron. Let’s catch up.”
Theron nods, “You got it,” and we walk away.
At first we are silent, and I take advantage of it to enjoy his presence. The silence though… Too much silence in five years! Time to address the many banthas in the room. “Half a decade, and you can stay silent?”
Theron looks down and shakes his head. “Yeah, not the best reunion. What do you want to know?”
“Why are you no longer with the SIS?” Yes, start with something small and simple-ish.
“With the way everything changed, the SIS didn’t seem right for me anymore. So, I walked away. Kept up with my contacts, pretty much did what I was already doing, just not for the Republic. Not for anything. Against Zakuul.”
Alright, for right now I will go back to being the professional: “Were you able to make any headway?”
“I have found sympathetic Zakuulans, but not many. A lot of folks moved out here from the core worlds. I’m having better luck of recruiting them, but they’re also under suspicion of being dissidents. And I guess Lana already filled you in on the rest…”
I nod slowly and we are silent for a moment. I drink the rest of my second beverage and take a breath. “Theron… I… So many things I want to say…”
“You don’t have to say anything. You can be as quiet as you like,” he states and comes closer, “you’ve earned it after everything. Want you to know, I’ll do everything I can to keep things running smoothly around here.”
I move closer and almost reach for his face. Almost. Instead I raise my right eye ridge, and smirk: “So, you’ll take care of anyone who needs you?”
Theron smirks back, and shakes his head. “Not just anyone,”and his eyes soften, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to thaw you out. Look at all you’ve accomplished. Everyone who chose to rally behind you. I haven’t been one of those ‘destiny’ people in a long time, but this? Sure feels like it.”
“If you mean being here with you? I agree.” Then, I was moving before I could stop myself. Seeing those eyes, the way his face was shaped, and those lips made something click within me. He was in my arms, and I pressed my lips to his.
It was different from Rishi, and Yavin. It was more real, and had a stronger connection. He opens his mouth, and I return his movement. I taste his lips, mouth, and eventually he moves from mine and I feel lips along my jaw. I feel my hands going to his jacket, and stop myself. He rests his head against my shoulder, and hold him there by wrapping my arms around his waist.
“Why did you stop?” he asks me very quietly.
“Because we’re out in public, and I don’t think you’re ready for my more adventurous side. I’m not ready for my adventurous side.”
Theron chuckles and steps back. “We should head back to the party…”
“I’m not letting you walk away from me, Theron,” I blurt out without thinking and walk closer to him, taking his hand. “I’ve waited over five years for us to be here. I’m not going to let you disappear into the crowd, forgotten.”
Theron looks up at me, and brushes his fingers along my chin. “And I won’t let you stay here while I go back out there alone. I know we still haven’t decided things, and us, but I will give us the chance to find out this time.”
We head back to the group. They talk about other things, but my mind is too focused on the ex-SIS agent to really pay attention. Hopefully we will continue our conversation soon. Now I’m just enjoying being in the presence of my romantic interest and saying to hell with the rest of the galaxy.