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17 January 2011 @ 07:21 pm
The Second Fall, ch. 2/?  
Title: The Second Fall
Fandom: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Pairing: Carth/fem!PC
Rated: M for sexual content and occasional profanity
Spoilers: Yes, for KotOR I and II
Status: In progress
Summary: Through their memories, the Republic war hero and the redeemed Jedi Knight struggle to reconcile their pasts while grappling with what is–and isn't–meant to be.

Rinna put one hand to her forehead and another at her hip as spare clothes, equipment, and small supply kits lay strewn across her bed. Perusing her effects, she waited for something to jump out at her, something with meaning or personal value, but nothing triggered.

Perhaps touch would spark a memory. She reached for a tunic, rubbing the stiff fabric between her fingers. Standard-issue. Nothing sentimental there. Her hand drifted over to a blaster pistol. Looked new. Had she fired it on the Endar Spire? She picked it up–apparently, she was left-handed–feeling the weight in her palm. A little on the heavy side. Probably wouldn't have been her first preference.

She then grabbed a vibrosword that had seen its fair share of use, her hand melding to the hilt. The blade a natural extension of her arm, she cut through the air with a few effortless swings–now that was more like it. As she rotated the weapon, it flared in the mid-morning light, bringing attention to the tiny nicks that marred the sword. Tilting it closer to her face, she noticed blood had spattered where the blade met the hilt. Maybe that pilot had done a half-assed job of cleaning it while she had been checked out the entire week.

She froze. If he had gone through her belongings, he hadn't rooted through her underwear, too, had he?

Preferring not to think about the disturbing fetishes her partner may or may not have, she instead tightened her grip on the vibrosword, trying to conjure up any image that might have been associated with it. A thrust forward evoked a sudden recollection of a guttural cry and the little resistance she had felt as the blade aimed for a chink in her opponent's armor and ripped into flesh. No names, no faces came to mind; maybe it had been a Sith trooper she encountered down one of the corridors of the Endar Spire.

Someone had attempted to contact her over the communicator within that time period, urging crewmembers towards the bridge. That must have been Onasi.

But there had been a second man's voice…yes, that tow-headed twit. The one who seemed compelled to bombard her with trivial information despite the fact that they were moments away from exploding into fracking space dust. What was his name? Traviss? Trav…something? No, Trask–Trask Ulgo.

They raced towards the bridge, sirens blaring in their ears. Rinna felt the burn in her lungs, the smoke growing thicker as the heat exuding from the flames started to blister her skin. Trask held out an arm, signaling her to halt as he peered around the bend to scout out the area ahead. Before them, one of the blast doors opened, a black-clad figure of highly questionable repute advancing in their direction.

"Damn, another dark Jedi!" Trask gritted his teeth, motioning for Rinna to make a run for it. "Listen, I'll try to hold him off. You just get to the escape pods. The commander's waiting for you!"

"But what–"

He had to shove her. "Go!"

The door clanked shut.

Oh, god. He'd given his life for her.

The realization struck a chord, but once the initial sense of awe washed away, it wasn't so much the amount of bravery her fellow Republic combatant had exhibited that bothered Rinna–it was why.

"The commander's waiting for you!"

What did that mean? Was Onasi really waiting for just any survivor…or had someone specifically intended to keep her alive?

She sighed, stroking her temples as if it would jog her memory. Onasi had mentioned something about her thrashing in her sleep before finally emerging from her comatose state. She remembered having visions of light and sound–fusions of yellow, green, and red; the drone of pulsating energy. Lightsabers? That meant Jedi…and Sith. But for what reason would she have been privy to such a battle? Had she simply played spectator to another random encounter on the Endar Spire?

Or had she just dreamt it all?

No, Rinna thought, that wasn't quite right, either. She reached further into the void, struggling to make out a face, but she found herself grasping at nothing but…darkness. A darkness that seemed to take on a life of its own, fueled by…what? Anger? Pride?

Cold sweat drenched her forehead, her throat growing parched. She felt a squeezing in her fists as two black tendrils twisted about her wrists.

Or was it…desperation?

Large talons spawned from the inklike coils. Her lungs collapsed as the talons tore into her chest, burning through her like dry ice against delicate skin. The pain spread up into her throat and clawed at her neck, her heart seizing up as she gasped for breath…

…and then there was no more, as if all was cut off.

What the hell was that?

She slowly sat back down on her bed, biting at her thumb. Beyond the intermittent flashes, digging into her subconscious for some hope of enlightenment was akin to sticking her hand into murky waters and trying to keep the sand and slime from slipping through her fingers. But there had to be something else; certainly her life encompassed more than the few hours she spent on that ship. There should've at least been a holograph, a memento, even just a little trinket in her belongings that was a fond reminder of friends, family…anything.

Did she have a family?

"Forget something?"

She spun around to find Onasi sitting in a beaten-up armchair, cloth in hand as he polished his blaster. Her eyes narrowed. Had he been watching her? "I'm…not sure. Is this all I packed?"

The question had been more for herself than her uninvited audience, but he still thought enough to give an indifferent shrug of the shoulders. "It's possible something went missing in the crash."

Really? That was his helpful insight? "Gee, thanks, Commander; I hadn't thought of that."

He stopped mid-wipe, looking up at her from beneath bunched-together brows, but said nothing.

Another sigh followed as she chewed at her lip. Inhaling deeply, she closed her eyes, summoning her memory once more. The muscles in her shoulders eased as she continued the slowed respirations, almost as if they were instinctual, and gradually, the scene came into focus. A wave of yellow swept across a blue canvas, soon expanding into a panorama of golden grains glistening against a cloudless sky. She probed further, a name forming: Deralia. That must have been her home planet. A pair of faces swirled into shape, male and female…her parents? And they were…farmers? She suddenly winced, clutching her stomach as a sharp pang seared through it–no, wait…had been farmers. She remembered now: over a decade ago, an outbreak of disease combined with prolonged famine had claimed hundreds of lives. And her parents had been among the body count.

Rinna's throat constricted, choking back a pain that was all too familiar, yet the wound stung as if experiencing it for the first time. Did that mean…did that mean she was the only one in her family to have survived?

As her head fell into her hands, something slipped out from under her shirt, dangling freely below her chin. It was a tarnished ring, a rather cheap little thing, threaded through a neck chain. She'd seen the piece of jewelry when dipping in for a quick shower, but hadn't thought much of it at the time. Was it a sign of a significant other?

"Happy birthday, big sis!"

That was Rinna's only warning before the mischievous monster pounced on her from behind, knocking the wind out of her. Good grief, for the thirteen-year-old's wiry frame, Kaela sure was heavy.

Before Rinna had a chance to say her thanks, Kaela bounced onto the couch and shoved into Rinna's hands a tiny box adorned with a faded pink bow. "Open it! Open it!"

Rinna popped the cover off, her eyes widening when she saw the glint of a minute wine-colored gemstone set in a plain metal band.

"Remember when we passed by that jewelry shop? The one in Octavia Sector?" Kaela said, anticipating the questioning eyebrow Rinna was bound to throw at her. "I didn't have enough to get the exact ring you were looking at, but I tried to get one like it."

"But Kae…where'd you even get the money for this one?"

"Oh, you know…I just helped a few people out here and there…"


"It was all perfectly legal; I swear!" Rinna raised her eyebrow even higher, Kaela countering with a toothy grin. "Well…at least no one got hurt?"

Great. Maybe setting an earlier curfew wasn't such a bad idea. Or just setting a curfew, period.

"So you like it, right?"

Rinna's shoulders fell as she exhaled in resignation. It was the thought that mattered, right? "Of course, Kae." She wrapped her arms around her, giving her a tight squeeze. "I love it."

"Umm…Rin? Do you mind if I wear it sometimes?"

Rinna laughed, tickling the girl until she squealed. "I should've figured there was a catch."

There was a warmth in her cheeks as the corners of her lips curved north. A sister…she had a sister. Eight years younger. Or nine, maybe?

The smile instantly retracted, however, when her mind flipped back to the present. If Rinna had enlisted in the navy, what had happened to Kaela?

She heard the zip of a jacket and the plodding of footsteps towards the door. "If you're just about set, we really should be going." Onasi sounded borderline annoyed. Must have been his passive-aggressive way of telling her she needed to get her ass in gear. Fine. She wasn't thrilled to be a mere tag-along on a reconnaissance outing, but she needed the change of scenery. Wasn't like she was going to figure out much more being cooped up in the apartment, anyway.

Per Onasi's direction, they headed over to the Upper City Cantina. He stayed his distance, always a few paces off to the side, eyes alert to his surroundings but never making direct contact with her. Not a man of small talk, she guessed. In the silence, Rinna found it difficult to keep her thoughts from drifting back to Kaela, tempted to examine every possible worst case scenario. What if she had…or what if–

No, no, this wasn't helping. She'd only end up thinking in circles. But the commander…he knew things she didn't. Or at least things she couldn't recall. If not personally, he had to have at least known of her prior to the Sith ambush; perhaps she could strike up a conversation, making the usual queries about his military service and other harmless topics, and then work her way towards gleaning any bits of information about what had transpired on the Endar Spire.

That backfired.

Onasi had appeared understanding enough back at the hideout that morning, allowing her some time and space to gather her bearings about their current predicament. He'd even made her a surprisingly decent cup of caffa–none of that watered-down shit that tasted like bantha urine–as he'd attempted to assuage any doubts about the exact intent of their mission on Taris.

But he'd prepared questions of his own. Ones, she now realized, that had probably been coursing through his mind all week. What really happened on the Endar Spire? What was her role? If she was just a common soldier, why had she been put under Bastila's command? What did the Jedi want with her? And though he never overtly stated it, she more or less inferred from his interrogation that he thought it much too convenient that she was transferred last minute and somehow managed to be the only other survivor of the attack.

As for her knee-jerk retort: "It's an absolute pleasure to be working with you, too, Onasi."

He glowered at her. Didn't score any points with that remark, did she?

So much for the idea that he might have light to shed; clearly, he was just as clueless as she was. Wonderful. She sucked in a breath of air through her teeth, deciding her best bet was to placate him with the truth about her damaged memory. He never replied with more than a grunt, but she'd understood the look on his face. He wouldn't buy the amnesia excuse for long.

Though the commander turned out to be a dead end, the trip to the Upper City Cantina paid off. Tossing around a few lowbrow euphemisms with one of the patrons at the bar was all it took to work out a means of infiltrating subterranean Taris. That, and it had sent Onasi into one hell of a tizzy. Was it really that easy to screw with his head? Entertaining, to say the least. As long as she didn't end up lighting the wrong fuse.

While Onasi ducked out and investigated the dueling matches, Rinna used the opportunity to slip away and log onto the nearby HoloNet terminal, fingers typing furiously as she searched the database for her sister's name. First attempts proved fruitless, but her heart swelled in her chest once she finally stumbled upon an entry or two that seemed promising. That is, until her eyes settled on a particular headline: Sith initiate gone missing in Korriban caverns, presumed dead.

She felt a lump form in her throat as she scrolled further down the page. Was this really how it had ended up? That Kaela was…dead? With no sign of a body? And with no better hint than that she was pulling some stint as a…a Sith student? How the hell…when the hell did this–

"We have to go."

"But wait, I–"

"Now." She almost fell off her stool when Onasi grabbed her by the shoulder. "A couple of Sith soldiers came in asking questions about survivors from the crashed pods. I'm not taking any chances."

Forced to continue their intelligence gathering elsewhere, they spent the rest of the afternoon making casual inquiries and dealing with the occasional inane confrontation. Upper City was a magnet for jackasses, it seemed. But truth be told, Rinna was grateful for the diversion. Staying focused on other matters kept her afloat, kept her from losing it completely–that, and the fact that she still couldn't wrap her head around what she had discovered in the cantina. Before Onasi had hauled her away, she'd caught the timestamp of the article, dating it back to over six years ago, so that answered the question of when the hell it had happened. But how the hell had it happened? Why would a little girl–her little sister–fall in with those power-hungry pricks? How did she even manage to get to Korriban?

The article in of itself was baffling. Who would give a damn about one Sith? And an initiate, no less? Why had it been worth publishing, and why had it been so easy to find? It had taken a few tries, true, but it had been by no means painstaking. It was almost as if…as if the information had been waiting to be found.

A niggling in the back of her brain reminded her that the idea wasn't entirely implausible. After all, what did she really remember about Kaela at this point? But to think that her sister had gotten tangled up with the Sith–no, something about it stunk worse than a pile of bantha poodoo. She'd only a moment to skim over the article; maybe she had missed something important, interpreted something incorrectly, or…

She expelled a sigh. Or maybe Onasi's paranoia was just rubbing off on her. She shuddered inwardly. Great, and it had only been, what, not even ten hours?

Rinna had to believe there was something she wasn't seeing. It was the only way she'd be able to keep going. Though the notion that they held the fate of the universe in their hands–however begrudgingly–helped a wee bit, too.

After a quick run back to the apartment to clean up, Onasi motioned towards the door. "It's going to get dark soon. We should start heading over to that party of yours."

"Think we should pick up a bottle of Tarisian ale to bring along?"

"Why the hell would we do that?"

"It's proper etiquette."

"Yeah, right. Etiquette. Did 'proper etiquette' ever cross your mind when you used my own blaster on me? Or was that just your way of saying good morning?"

"You're still sore about that? I didn't know who you were! And I didn't actually fire the damn thing, did I?" She gritted her teeth. "Though something tells me I'm going to regret that I didn't."

"What's that?"

"Nothing, Commander."

Conversation hit a lull as they ventured back outside. "So…" Rinna waited for the word to land, but Onasi showed more interest in staring off into space than continuing any sort of discussion. Sure, there were a million other people she'd rather be talking with right now, too–that is, if she could ever recall any of their names–but beggars couldn't be choosers, buddy. "This Bastila Shan…what is she like?"

That got his attention. "You're kidding, right? I thought you two would've met. She was the one who personally requested your transfer."

Her mouth hung open for a moment before deciding to clamp it shut again. That, she hadn't expected (and if she didn't know the most basic of facts, just how much was she really forgetting?), but she didn't care to risk another onslaught of implied accusations by pursuing the subject further. "I…only saw her once, for a debriefing. We never actually talked face-to-face." Then again, they very well could have and she just didn't remember.

"There's not much to tell. Bastila's…a private person. Very aloof. Just as well, I guess. I don't make it a habit to get to know people more than I have to." His pace slowed, casting towards her a sideways glance that was probably as close as he'd ever commit to making eye contact. "Nothing personal."

Of course. She certainly didn't take it personally when he grilled her like a criminal earlier, so why should she start now? "So that means…you're not a fan of mixing business with pleasure?"

He shot her a double-take, almost stumbling over his own feet. "No."

She suppressed a smile as he inched a couple steps away from her. Dear lord, he really was that easy.

"She's younger than you–Bastila," he said, clearing his throat. "Only twenty-two, maybe twenty-three years old."

"And exactly how old do you think I am?"

He waved her off. "That's not what I meant. And I'm not falling into that trap."

Maybe Onasi was smarter than he looked.

"Because of her advanced battle meditation techniques, Bastila holds the key to leading the Republic to victory. And she's arrogant as hell because she knows it. You two would probably get along famously." He snorted. "Can't say I envy her, though. The girl's got a lot of weight on her shoulders. Too much, if you ask me."

Rinna didn't bother to chip in a response, instead retreating back into her own thoughts. So the Jedi was only twenty-two years old, not long into adulthood. About the same age as Kaela, if she had…

She stopped in her tracks, spotting the sign for the north side apartments. The high-rise architecture wasn't unlike the complex on the south end of the city, albeit in a much more aesthetically pleasing condition. "Onasi, over here. This must be the place."

He shielded his eyes from the glare of the setting sun as he studied the gold-plated lettering, then riffled a hand through a few wayward strands of hair. "The name's Davin, remember?"

"And I'm Catia; I know. We've been over the plan several times already."

"A plan that better work."

The scraping of their soles against the floor echoed in the unusually empty hallway, Onasi taking a quick glance at the datapad to ensure they had the right apartment number. The low, throbbing bass emanating from a couple doors down apparently wasn't indication enough. As they approached their destination, however, Rinna felt a gradual knotting in her stomach. "Wait…" she said when he reached for the buzzer.

"What? Don't tell me you're having second thoughts now."

"I…no." She clutched the ring on her necklace, fiddling with the gemstone. "It's nothing."

He sighed, putting away the datapad and feeling along the small of his back where his blaster remained tucked away under his belt. Hopefully, the man knew enough to kick the nervous habit for the duration of the party. "Then let's just get this over with."

That was the first–and she suspected the last–time she wholeheartedly agreed with him.

As they entered the apartment, the room opened up into a spacious and well-furnished living area, the muted cyan lighting lending to the relaxed ambiance. The same couldn't be said for the choice of music, unfortunately; judging by the raucous blare of drums and squealing guitars, it was some off-shoot of heavy isotope.

Something clicked. Heavy isotope…Kaela'd been a fan of that one band. What was their name again?

"Come on, Rin!" Kaela whined, splaying herself over the kitchen counter. "You know how much I love the Bloody Rancors!"

"So you can watch some group of sweaty men prancing around in ratty wigs while screaming like a bunch of laki cats in heat? So much for educating you in good music taste, I see."

"I still have good taste. I just traded your good taste for a better one."

Sweet, wasn't she? "Kae, you know how tight our budget is."

Kaela clasped her hands together. "Oh, please, please, please, please,
please! I promise I'll do dishes for an entire year!"

"With your track record? I'm not so sure about that…"

"Laundry? 'Fresher duty? Make your caffa every morning?"

The fourteen-year-old directed a finger towards Rinna's half-empty cup, which had grown cold in the midst of the day's distractions. As her brow furrowed in deep concentration, it wasn't ten seconds before the caffa bubbled and wisps of steam began to rise. She'd been practicing. Show-off.

Rinna bit back a grin. "We'll see." She patted Kaela on the shoulder, placing a meager portion of nerf sausage with a few greens in front of her. "Right now, it's kind of a toss-up between having fun and this little thing called eating."

The music was awful back then, and it was still awful several years later. But maybe…maybe she should have bought those tickets while she still had the–

"You must be Yun's new friends." Rinna's gaze jerked over to the right where a man with poor posture stood next to the built-in bar, sporting a gut that suggested he had not yet grasped the concept of drinking in moderation. "I'm Willem, self-appointed bartender for the evening. Can I get you something to drink?"

"Got anything stiff?" As soon as she said the word "stiff," she noticed out of the corner of her eye that Onasi had raised an eyebrow, but she ignored it.

"There's a bottle of Keluvian brandy if you want to set your insides on fire."


Willem fetched a small tumbler with ice and filled it nearly to the brim. Once he had turned his back, leaving Rinna to debate how on earth she was going to gulp it all down, Onasi snatched the drink out of her hands. "What the hell?" she hissed.

He pulled her out of earshot as he set down the drink on an unoccupied table. "You don't know what's in that."

"I watched him pour the drink."

"Doesn't mean anything."

"Are you always like this?"

"It keeps me alive."

Frack. This was going to be a long night.

There was a sense of listlessness in the air as Rinna made a quick assessment of their surroundings. A guest hunched over on a stool absent-mindedly swirled his finger in his drink as the bartender spun long-winded anecdotes; two other guests braved the makeshift dance floor, if the klutz attempting to revive last decade's moves while a less-than-impressed brunette feigned interest could be counted as dancing. The only spark of enthusiasm in the entire room lingered over in the corner where a couple of kids intent on swallowing each other's tongues went about groping as if picking out market produce. Tasteful and attractive. Rinna barely held back a roll of the eyes, reminded of the time she'd caught her younger sister making out with that Twi'lek from her history class. Studying, her ass.

From the looks of it, Onasi wasn't terribly ecstatic himself, arms folded over his chest and glaring down the length of his nose at anyone who so much as glanced at him. Going incognito–obviously not his strong suit. She nudged an elbow in his direction. "You need to work on your boyfriend act. So far, not very convincing."

He slowly rotated his head towards her. "What, should I have bought flowers?"

"I'm partial to expensive chocolates, actually."

"Buy your own damn chocolates."

"And they say romance is dead."

He angled his stare at the enamored teenagers, his top lip curling. "I'm not kissing you."

"Kissing? Relax, Captain Tightpants," she said, shaking her head when he took a self-conscious glimpse of his attire. "I'd sooner kiss your ass than swap spit with you."

"Oh." A flush of color swept up his stubbled neck. "Well…good. I think. Though…did you have to make it sound so horrible?"

She let out a disgruntled sigh. A real piece of work, this guy was. "Sorry, I'm eight years old and still believe in cooties. For Force's sake, I just meant that we should be over there dancing…or at least mingling. You know, pretending to enjoy ourselves so we don't blow our cover?"

"Most of the people here are nearly half my age. And do I look like I mingle? They're Sith." He pointed a finger at her. "This was your idea."

"Yes, and god forbid you socialize with another human being."

"So what do you call yourself, Gorgeous? Don't tell me you're a Hutt in disguise."

Her nostrils flared. There he went again with the damn pet names. "Maybe if I was, you'd finally drop the sweet talk."

"Keep flattering yourself." He lowered his voice, expression sobering. "Anyway, I think it's a little generous to be calling the Sith human."

This again? Okay, so Onasi hated the Sith with the burning passion of a thousand suns. She. Got. It. "Ona–Davin, these guys don't give a shit about the real Sith or their ideals; they just got bored playing with daddy's money and jumped at the chance to bully others around just for kicks. A pathetic excuse for the terror of the galaxy."

"They still made a choice. Just like Revan and Malak did."

"Do you want a little cyanide to go with your piping hot cup of cynicism?"

He grumbled something under his breath; she decided it was better that she hadn't been able to make it out. Things were veering dangerously close to getting physical, and not in the illegal-on-fifteen-planets way.

In a huff, Rinna made a beeline for the couch, the sullen commander trailing behind. Maybe it'd be easier to fit in than she thought. It seemed that being awkward was the only real requirement, and Onasi was nailing it. "It's been a while since you've been on the market, hasn't it?"

"I'm not on the market."

She motioned with her eyes towards the small indentations on his ring finger. "The lack of a wedding band indicates otherwise."

As soon as the words slipped out, Onasi blanched, casting her an icy glare. She didn't have to read that look twice. Back. Off.

Rinna had yet to witness the alleged pilot's combat skills in action, but when an earlier altercation with a group of belligerent drunks showed signs of turning ugly, she'd seen the snap of his wrist as he whipped out his blaster before anyone could blink. She wasn't about to test his aim. 'Course, that didn't discourage her from sneaking in one last comeback, plastering on a tight-lipped smile. "You know what? I think I'll take my chances with getting poisoned at the bar."

However, she hadn't made it three feet before she recognized the cantina patron who had extended the party invitation: Yun Genda. He almost fit the tall, dark, and handsome type, except for the fact that his out-of-date hairstyle and leering, slightly bug-eyed gaze put a damper on the "handsome" part. Still, she bet he wouldn't have any objections to her having a decent drink, and that already made him a better companion than Onasi. "Well, well," he said, baring his teeth as he smiled. "Look who finally showed up. I was worried we'd have to start the fun without you."

Sure. They were the ones holding the "festivities" back. "Sorry, we ran into a bit of a speed bump. Davin here had some trouble with his rash acting up again." Rinna had to press her lips together to keep from breaking out into a smirk when she saw how wide Onasi's eyes had grown.

Yun squinted. "That sounds…unpleasant."

"Very. It's nothing serious, though–just requires rubbing some ointment on his ass."


"He usually needs my help getting into those harder-to-reach places, if you know what I mean. And since his clothes were already off, I figured why waste the oppor–"

"All right, dear, I think he's heard enough." Onasi seized her by the arm, clenching his jaw as he growled, "I'm going to get you for this."

"I'm the one squirting cream on your ass; would you rather switch places?"

He dropped her quicker than a syphilitic hooker. "I'm…not even going to touch that one. But if that's the way we're going to play it, Beautiful, I can dish it out with the best of them."

An actual threat? Her lips pursed in amusement. Interesting. The man did have some fight in him. "Honey, please don't start this now. You're embarrassing me in front of our wonderful host!"

"I'm embarrassing–"

"Maybe we should just cut to the introductions," Rinna said. "Yun, this is my boyfriend, Davin. Davin, this is–"

"Yeah, yeah, Yun. The gangly-looking guy from the cantina. Got it."

The younger man sized the pilot up, unsure of whether to be tickled pink or utterly repulsed. "I didn't realize there were men of your maturity that had such stamina. Good for you."

"Oh, this guy's just begging for a knuckle sand–"

"You'll have to excuse him." Rinna put a hand to Onasi's chest to hold him back, pretending to nuzzle up against him. It probably only irritated him further, but hey, she was suffering for appearance's sake, too. "He's a bit on edge today, what with the quarantine and all. Our vacation here on Taris hasn't gone exactly as planned."

"Is that so? Well, it's pleasure to finally meet you, Davin. "

Yun stuck out a hand, but Onasi just crossed his arms. "Charmed. Where's the 'fresher?"

"Down that hall and to your left." Yun wrinkled his nose. "I'm sure I wouldn't want to shake your hand, anyway. I don't know where it's been."

After the commander made a swift exit, Yun nodded at Rinna. "So what's the deal with him?"

"The rash?"

"No, the blaster bolts his eyes shot at me when I offered him a handshake."

"Oh, that." She shrugged, leaning back against the bar. "I doubt he appreciated the crack about him being old. And…I guess you could say he gets a bit over-protective."

"I see. And how do you feel about him being so possessive?"

Rinna glanced down as Yun's hand found her knee. The boy didn't waste any time, did he? "I don't know if I would go so far as to say–"

"Wouldn't you like a little more…freedom?"

Hmm. Subject herself to yet another tiresome game of who could come up with the most double entendres, or drill a corkscrew through her head? Tough choice, though the corkscrew sounded marginally more appealing. Forget what Onasi had said–only way this night was going to move along any faster was if she forced copious amounts of alcohol into the mix. She grabbed a bottle of Twi'lek liquor she'd been eyeing and set it down in front of Yun. "Maybe after we have a few more drinks, I could be further convinced."

He mirrored her grin. "You drive a hard bargain, Catia." He poured the liquor into a couple of tumblers, the liquid a strange tint of green she didn't recognize, gesturing towards her. "Bottom's up."

As Yun raised his drink, she stared into her glass, a little itch creeping into the back of her mind: "You don't know what's in that." Damn it. Since when did Onasi start making sense? She groaned, gazing longingly at her drink, then proceeded to dump it into the nearby trash receptacle when Yun wasn't looking.

"Now that's what I call potent. Won't take much of this to knock someone off their feet." He stifled a cough as he slammed the tumbler down on the bar, then planted himself onto the stool next to her. "Though that is the plan, isn't it?"

His teeth glinted as he bore a pleasant smile. Almost saccharine, Rinna thought. She caught a whiff of the strong stench of ethanol on his breath as he inched closer, and she began to wonder if the shadows cast by the overhead lights were playing tricks on her eyes. Something…something in his face seemed to be changing–warping, even–distorting his face into jagged contours.

Then she saw them: the black wisps that oozed from his mouth and out his nostrils, shaping into spindly little talons…

She blinked.

And it was back to the sickly sweet smile.

Rinna ignored the ever so slight quiver of her hand as she reached for the liquor bottle once more. "I take it that means you're ready for a second."

"You read my mind."

As she went to pour another drink, her breath hitched in her throat when a hand grazed her shoulder, only allowing herself to exhale once she registered Onasi's face in the dimly-lit room. "Can we talk?" he whispered.

She nodded as he dragged her aside. Any excuse to get away from that freak.

"I don't like this guy, Rinna. There's something…off about him. Not to mention he's the rudest host I've ever met. I hate these condescending, hoity-toity types."

Wait, he had noticed it, too? She hesitated, her eyebrows knitting together, contemplating whether she should comment further. "Maybe if you had listened to me and bought that Tarisian ale like I suggested…"

Or she could just deflect the issue entirely.

"Fine, if you're going to make jokes again, forget it." He pinched the bridge of his nose, rubbing his eyes before continuing. "I did some poking around. No sign of any armor down here. Must be upstairs; I'm guessing that's where the bedrooms are."

A small commotion brewed over by the apartment entrance, Yun shouting out to the few stragglers filtering in as he pumped his fist in the air. "Who's up for a round of shots?"

"Already working on it," she said out of the corner of her mouth.

Onasi palmed his forehead. "That's what I'm afraid of."

Chapter Index