Chronicles of the Red Qek: A Qyreia Biographical Run-On


(Qyreia Arronen) #1

Orian System
Planet Sepros

There was something to be said for the ambient sound of engines. A healthy one would hum and purr with an almost sterile smoothness, while the old and beaten models would sputter and hack their noise through the air, making it clear that something was wrong. While not a salty old spacer, Qyreia had spent enough time on freighters to know the difference, and it was this confidence that allowed her to so carelessly sleep as her borrowed shuttle took her from one forested corner of Sepros to another.

Recent events had been taxing on the Zeltron, to say the least, and she was ready for a little normalcy - as much as she could get with the odd assortment of people in her Clan. The merc was the assigned Master for the recently-arrived Pantoran and Gray Jedi, Leeadra Halcyon, but not given much wherewithal in how to train a Force user. It was a challenge that she openly accepted, but inwardly dreaded. Aside from the obvious dichotomy between their relative Force sensitivities, Qyreia was supposed to be some sort of role model and teacher - a task that she had always avoided, relying more on herself throughout the years than on interpersonal cohesion.

The thought entered her dreams and she snorted aside the displeasure, tossing over and repositioning the thin blanket as her mind resettled into the steady imaginary beat, only to be rudely woken by the ship’s auto-pilot transit alarm. A well-stuffed pillow careened from the bunk, landing with a soft thump on the controls at the fore of the ship.

“Frack,” she muttered, heaving herself up as the bedding slumped about her.

The merc’s stereotypical white shirt barely clung to one shoulder, while the remainder fell loosely around her upper arm. Smacking her lips as her senses came to, she slid out of bed and sauntered, pantsless, toward the cockpit. She paused only to adjust her underpants before sitting down in the worn leather, bare red legs set lazily on a framework panel as she checked the readings. Lessee… approach vector is good, no animals sucked into the air intake; also good. A deft hand tapped the headset resting in its mount on the wall, the swaying motion sending it over the edge to fall into the red woman’s waiting palm.

“Sadow Palace,” she yawned as she donned the headset, “this is Qek-Aurek one-four-three-six-niner, requesting clearance to land. Incoming bearing of two-nine-five. Over.”

A response came through the headphones moments later. “Qek-Aurek, we read you. Sending approach trajectories to your nav computer. Welcome home. Over.”

“Roger Sadow Palace. Out.”

The Zeltron set the new directions into the auto-pilot system and, as she stood, a faint tugging sensation went up her leg as the ship shifted its course. Still coming fully out of sleep, Qyreia took a moment to scratch an errant itch just above her leg, under her right cheek. That’s better, she thought, sifting through the scattered bedding for the rest of her clothes.

Her khaki pants she found on the floor, snapping the wrinkles out with a flourish before gracelessly putting them on one leg at a time. Then came her reddish-brown leather boots, clasps cinched to just the right length, before grabbing her well-worn, brown leather half-coat hanging off a magnetic clamp that was intended for anything but use as a coat rack. She ran her fingers through her hair for good measure as she made her way back to the pilot seat. Need to be presentable to the boss, after all.

Thoughts of her Quaestor, Keira Viru, wafted through her imagination, many of which were not suitable for younger audiences. Fully half of the Zeltron’s term as the House leader’s Black Guard was already up, and the whole ordeal seemed about as fulfilling as a grain of rice in one’s hungering stomach. Qyreia had expected adventure, maybe even romance, but the most that had happened between them less than positive: a tearful, sexually-frustrating trip to Zeltros wherein the merc had kissed her boss in an emotional fit; and an equally awkward Life Day celebration gift-giving.

“I must be kriffed in the head,” she murmured, soberly staring at her reflection in the transparisteel of the cockpit canopy. “I mean, look at me! I’m cute, funny… usually, and I might not be a genius, but I’m doing good in the Shadow Academy. Sure, I swear more than an drunken Bothan saboteur, but that’s never been off-putting to anyone before.”

Treetops swayed aside as the shuttle’s altitude dropped in preparation for the landing approach. Does she not trust me or something? she thought absentmindedly as her fingers clasped the controls, ready to take over for the final touchdown maneuvers. While friendly, the Quaestor was not particularly known for her amiability, always managing to keep people at arm’s reach, never letting them into an inner circle that the Zeltron was almost certain didn’t even exist. That she seemed wholly ignorant of some things - such as what a Zeltron was when they first met - also incited more questions than it answered.

The shuttle approached the familiar structure of the Sadow Palace, better known to some as the Temple of Sorrow, and Qyreia’s hands took control from the autopilot, guiding the small vessel around the other traffic as she made for her designated parking space. As soon as she heard the tell-tale hiss of the hydraulics in the landing struts, she spun out of the pilot seat and walked out, down the hatch that touched ground as soon as she did.

Oh yeah, I am one bad-choobie mutha-fracker, she thought, grinning as she signed off with the ground control and maintenance staff. As she walked away, her thought turned back to her duties. I’ve gotta figure out a training regimen for that kid-Jedi. Something to really get her blood flowing. Qyreia’s fingers slid over the short hair on her head. Speaking of… That’s it! Enough playing around! I’m asking that Viru on a date, even if I have to explain it step-by-step!

Her only worry at that point was how to go about it.


(Qyreia Arronen) #2

Sepros, Orian System
Temple of Sorrow Interior

Okay, just relax, the mercenary thought as she walked through the Archives, Keira’s office and quarters devoid of their owner. She might be your boss, but she’s also human… well, near-human, and… and I can’t come up with anything. Thanks a whole kriffing lot, self-confidence. Great pep talk. Steely eyes scanned the shelves and terminals, but there was no sign of the half-breed anywhere in the more populated areas. It wasn’t until she reached the private terminals, largely removed from the handful of other patrons, that she saw the telltale long, raven ponytail poking out from a cubicle. Here goes nothing.

“Hey Boss,” she said quietly as she approached, sure that the Jedi sensed her coming anyway.

“Qyreia?” The Quaestor’s tone seemed almost surprised, if not somewhat wary of the mercenary. “Is something wrong? You don’t usually seek me out like this.”

Especially recently, the Zeltron thought, completing in her mind what looked to be written on the woman’s face. “N-nothing wrong. I just wanted to talk to you about… something.”

“Is this something going to cost me, the House, or the Clan money?” A wry grin crossed the Jedi’s face, implying her intended humor, which Qyreia was still getting the hang of.

“No no, I don’t need any money. I just… Mind if I sit down for this?”

“You don’t seem to be going anywhere fast, so why not.”

A quick sneer crossed the red woman’s face before grabbing the chair from the cubicle next to the Quaestor’s and planted herself as casually as she could muster in the seat. Her eyes only briefly darted toward the terminal screen that Keira had been using, but the Jedi’s expression on doing so didn’t seem very pleased with her Guard nosing into her business. Despite that it was only a matter of seconds, the anticipation that had been built up inside the mercenary’s head made it seem like her superior was staring at her for whole minutes at a time. This is going swell already, she thought sarcastically.

“So what did you want to talk about?” Viru’s mind was on her research - that was plain enough to see - and having Qyreia present not only interrupted that, but their recent fluctuations in amiability had strained much of her patience in trying to understand the mercenary.

“Um… I was wondering if… when you’re not busy… we could go out. Get a drink or something.” Real smooth, Arronen.

“Why? We could do that here.”

“No! I mean like a… a date.”

“Date? A social or romantic engagement,” she defined, almost as though not sure what to think of the request.

“Yeah, that… whatever you said.”

“What would I be expected to do? How does it work?”

“Er… usually folks talk to each other about themselves?” Is she serious? She’s gotta be pulling my leg. “Likes, dislikes, family, work… whatever comes to mind. It’s supposed to be fun, not that I know what you like to do.”

The Quaestor thought for a moment. “I could do for some parkour practice.”

“Let’s try something a little less demanding for the first date, 'kay?” Qyreia absentmindedly patted the Jedi’s hand patronizingly, only to jerk her hand away once she realized it.

“And what about once it’s over? Is there expectation of some sort of reward?”

“The end goal is usually physical intimacy in some form or another,” the Zeltron said into her hands, not sure if she could take any more of this. “How do you not know any of this? I’m less surprised you didn’t know anything about Zeltrons when we met.” Keira’s expression dropped, and it became acutely obvious that a nerve had been touched. “Okay, forget I said that.”

“What about my question? You expect intimacy in repayment?”

“I want it, sure,” she said, not including the voracity with which she desired it, “but it’s not expected.”

“Because last time, you were rather angry.”

Understatement of the century. Qyreia sighed. “Listen, I know a place on Aeotheran - a winery - that’s opening a conjoined restaurant. I know you like wines, so I thought that might be a good start.” She looked at Keira nervously, “So, whaddya say?”

“I… am not opposed. It could be interesting, at least.”

“Good enough for me,” the merc said, shaking her head in amusement. “I’m not sure this could get any weirder anyways.”

“Don’t be too sure. I might surprise you,” Keira said, smiling as the Zeltron stood to leave. “Is this sort of thing always this difficult for you? Why do you put yourself through it?”

“Force-knows why,” she sighed. “We can go over it more at dinner. Let me know what night’d be good for you, and I’ll prep a shuttle.”

They parted ways far more amiably than in recent days, Keira returning to her mysterious studies while the merc went off to select some sort of wardrobe and maybe track down her blue-tinted student. Deep inside, she felt like crying from happiness. For anyone else, this might have been a proverbial drop in the bucket, but for the wayward Zeltron it meant a great deal more. If nothing else, she was finally getting some closure, whether things went well or not.


(Atra Ventus) #3

Aeotheran, Orian System
Oasis Winery, Patio

Keira’s eyes were firmly fixed on the clear liquid sitting calmly in the thin stemmed glass that had been placed in front of her. The trip from Sepros to Aeotheran had been a quiet one, more from nerves than anything. Nerves for both of them in fact. The Quaestor was constantly worried her secret would get out — that she had no knowledge of the world at large or memories to speak of — and the more time she spent with others, the more uncertain she appeared, the closer to discovery it became.

Still, her need to experience new things had overwhelmed her initial opposition, and Keira wasn’t completely immune to the emotions ceaselessly radiating from her Black Guard. The raven-haired woman cast a glance across the table at her companion — or rather her date — and mustered a half-grin. “Not a bad choice,” Keira stated quietly with her familiar accented lilt.

Either through luck or planning, the patio was empty save for the pair of them. It was a saving grace for the entire experience, in fact, as Keira was likely to bolt if it had been too crowded. A mischievous glint appeared in Qyreia’s eyes as the red-skinned woman glanced towards the menu. “Thanks… so, um… what’re you havin’?” the Zeltron asked with what had become a recognizable awkwardness around her Quaestor.

Keira froze at the question and glared down at the menu. There were so many options… too many options. “I, er, uh,” the woman stammered as she chewed on her bottom lip, resisting the urge to just order everything.

It was an urge she couldn’t resist in the end.

“Everything,” she stated evenly.

Qyreia’s eyebrows raised as she stared across at Viru, who was in the process of busying herself by sipping her glass of wine. A big sip of wine. Okay, all the wine. “Really?” the merc asked.

Keira’s face was flush with embarrassment and liquor as she waved to the server. “Would it be at all possible to get a sampler of everything on the menu please?” she asked, not without a sliver of suggestion through the Force.

“But of course, and for your guest?” the server responded.

“We’ll share.”

The Quaestor’s reply was so quick and final that Qyreia barely had time to open her mouth before she was shutting it again. Instead, she merely sat back and watched the excited expression on Keira’s face as the woman all but squirmed in her seat with anticipation as the warm breeze washed over them. After a few moments of silence, the half-breed calmed and tilted her head, glancing at Qyreia. “So, we’re supposed to exchange dialogue during these things, yes?” she queried.

Again, the Zeltron had to stop her jaw from dropping at the sheer cluelessness demonstrated by the other woman. “Yeah, definitely. Ask questions, learn more about each other, ya know?” Qyreia responded.

The pale woman nodded several times and glanced at the table, then back to her Black Guard. “Why are you so uncomfortable around your parents?” she asked.

Qyreia winced, mentally and visibly. “You don’t normally go straight for the jugular on these things…” the merc murmured. Keira’s eyes widened and her expression turned sour, raising a hand to her mouth as it formed an ‘oh’ shape.

“Sorry,” the Quaestor murmured.

“S’ok… Man, you’re really no good at this, are ya?”

Keira sighed, folding her arms across her stomach as she centered her thoughts. “That’s 'cause, well… I’ve never done this before,” Viru muttered.

“Never had a date? That was obvious enough,” came Qyreia’s reply.

“No, I mean… any of this… anything really.” The Quaestor made an expansive gesture to punctuate her remark. “I can’t remember anything about my life before the L’eonhearts took me in, taught me everything I know.”

The Zeltron who was so famous for her colorful language found herself stunned silent, at least for several breaths. One moment she was at arm’s length from the object of her affections and now here she was standing on the inner circle, the very inner circle she had suspected didn’t exist for anyone at all. Before she could say anything, the first platter of food was brought out by the server — with either perfect or agonizing timing depending on your perspective.

Excitement returned to Keira’s features as she glanced over the variety of dishes arrayed upon the table, like a child given free reign over a candy vendor. “What’s this?” she asked quickly, pointing to the closest dish.

“Some sort of fish… I think,” Qyreia responded with a bemused expression.

“And this…?”

“Nerf steak.”

“Oh, oh, and THAT!?”

The Quaestor’s excitement was infectious as Qyreia found herself chuckling. “Let’s just try them and find out together, okay?” the Zeltron stated as she watched the other woman preparing her plate.

The evening went off from there, more or less, without a hitch. Keira was so excited about the entire experience that time seemed to fly by for the pair. They sat in silence as Viru finished the last of her desert, putting away an astonishing quantity of food considering her size, but not wanting to waste a single bit of the offerings. She sighed contently as she placed the spoon in the dish and glanced out across the patio, closing her eyes and enjoying the breeze. Suddenly, without a word, she hopped to her feet and turned to stare at her Black Guard. “Professional Qyreia Arronen,” she stated firmly, marching around the table towards the other woman. “Thank you. This was… really great.”

The Quaestor’s face was flush, a clear sign of the many bottles of wine that had been consumed, but she remained remarkably steady all things considered. Without waiting for a response she leaned in to kiss the merc on the cheek, but lost her balance and missed the mark — the result being a meeting of the lips. “I’ll go settle the bill,” the woman stated quickly as she hopped back, bringing a hand protectively to her own lips as she rushed off.


(Qyreia Arronen) #4

Surprise would hardly have been a fitting word to describe Qyreia’s reaction to the kiss, accidental or not, that had just been given to her. Would that the half-breed had not so swiftly walked away, she would have seen an amalgam expression of joy, shock, and worry splay itself across the Zeltron’s face all at once. What the flying frack-sticks… did that actually happen? A fingtertip brushed the surface of her lip gently, testing the residual sensation and confirming that she had not hallucinated the event.

“Hooh boy,” she whispered as the moment sunk in.

She brushed aside a lock of hair and looked into the restaurant through the window, seeing Keira standing calmly at the counter. The mercenary wondered how the Jedi could do that, while outside Qyreia was fidgeting nervously. When the Seer angled her head around and met the Zeltron’s gaze, the latter could only manage a sheepish wave which was somewhat awkwardly returned.

“It was just a fluke,” she said as the Quaestor’s attention seamlessly returned to the counter. “She’s just drunk, and I’m just a kriffing idiot.” Her steely eyes glanced back up at the raven-haired woman. “After what she told me, probably means she thought a kiss was the natural order for a date.”

A small tinkle of the door’s bell signalled Keira’s return from the building’s interior, prompting some quick thinking from the merc. Alright Q, happy face. Don’t let her see ya like this. When the Zeltron’s gaze lifted to meet the Jedi’s, it was as though nothing had been on her mind at all.

“You’re an expensive date,” she joked. “Ready to go?”

“Might I remind you,” Qyreia said, hooking her arm with Keira’s, “that you are the one that ordered every kriffing thing on the menu. I don’t wanna hear any mercenary jokes either!”

The half-breed just laughed, stumbling somewhat into the Zeltron’s arm. “Sorry. Whew, good thing you’ve got hold of me.” The red woman managed a grin mixed with a worried expression that caught the Jedi’s eye. “What’s that look for?”

“Huh? N-nothing!”

“You are acting very strange; like something’s bothering you.”

For someone who didn’t know what a date was, she sure is sharp, the mercenary thought, trying to stay positive. “N-no, just… thinking.”

“What about?” Keira’s expression of pure curiosity made the pathetic smile cross the Zeltron’s face all over again. “What?!”

“You… you’re just really cute, and you don’t even know it.”

The comment seemed to throw the Quaestor for a loop, eliciting a laugh from her arm-in-arm Guard. Their ship was not far away, so there was at least some respite from any awkward silence. Aeotheran was beautiful, but they had come for drinks - not a romantic walk along the beach; Qyreia would save that for another date, if such an event were to occur. While the Jedi settled into the copilot seat of the tiny shuttle, her mercenary companion busied herself with the startup procedures, getting clearance to take off, and set a course back to Sepros.

Once in space, the pilot rhythmically tapped her fingers on the throttle lever, the goings-on from the surface still weighing heavily on her mind. A casual glance showed Keira levitating a datapad stylus in apparent boredom, pausing the aerial spin without hesitation to return the gaze.

Much to Qyreia’s relief, the indicator for complete traffic clearance sounded, turning her attention with a purpose only to have her hand hover over the lever, unmoving. Thoughts cascaded through her mind, unsure of what to do. Gently, she slid the lever forward, letting the ship settle into a good clip across the Orian System. The Zeltron sat, unmoving, staring out of the canopy for some time before Keira cleared her throat to get the pilot’s attention.

“I’m not an expert at flying, Professional, but I’m pretty certain that we can go at least four times faster than this.” Her head cocked to one side, “What’s wrong? I thought it went well, all things considered.”

“I need to tell you something,” Qyreia said flatly, taking the Quaestor’s silence that followed as invitation to speak. “You asked me about my family and… After you told me about your memory and all, I think I owe it to you to answer your question.” She turned her gaze from the transparisteel to meet Keria’s gaze evenly, her expression anxious while subtly wringing her fingers. “I already told you back at that dinner with Sildrin that I don’t really espouse the stereotypical Zeltron lifestyle, right?”

“Yes, though you do seem to have an affinity for Corellian beers and rum.”

“I lived there for about two years - worked at a couple cantinas, too - so it just kinda stuck. That’s not the point.” She sighed, trying to prepare herself mentally. “When you came to Zeltros… my parents didn’t know the whole story about why I left. I’d told them it was wanderlust - that I wanted to see the galaxy and meet new people - when really all I wanted was to get away from Zeltros and the whole Zeltron culture.”

“Why didn’t you tell them?”

Qyreia let a small chuckle slip through. “Because I didn’t want to upset them and make them think that I hated them. Thing is, all of the folks back home - not just my parents, but the whole town - just wanted me to be happy, and not just because of the emotional telepathy, though that does play a part sometimes. So… it’s not that I’m uncomfortable around my parents, so much as you… kinda dropping a bomb on them, metaphorically speaking.”

“Ah,” the half-breed said, sitting back in a sense of realization. “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t even realize.”

“I don’t really talk about it with anyone. The whole ‘Zeltron thing’ is really tough for me to talk about, and I’m… I’m kinda scared that I’m telling you all of this, and I don’t know if it’s because I trust you or because I’m so infatuated that I feel like if I don’t, you wouldn’t…” She hovered on the sentence, afraid to say what was on her mind, and Keira could see that it was almost physically painful for her bodyguard.

“…be interested in someone who is broken in their own way?” Keira asked quietly. “When I’m such a mess myself?”

You’re broken? I’m the one that keeps everything suppressed because I don’t want my being a Zeltron to decide what people think of me.”

“You mean your pheromones and emotion telepathy?” Qyreia nodded. “Then show me.”

The soft, gentle way that Keira said those three words calmed, even somewhat surprised the mercenary, as until that point the Jedi had been friendly and even feigned romance, but the request - so simply put - carried with it an additional weight. Beneath her white shirt and red skin, the Zeltron’s heart beat fast and heavy as she took one last nervous upward glance at the pale woman before closing her eyes and concentrating. Piece by piece, she broke away the seals that kept her racial abilities in check - seals that she only ever opened on Zeltros for her parents’ sake - until only the final mental gateway remained.

The Seer saw a twitch in her Guard’s temple before her mind was suddenly overcome by a surge of emotions. Nervousness, amorousness, anxiety, desire, and especially fear all washed over her like a tidal wave.

For a brief moment, it scared her. If not because of the intensity, then the urge it gave her to curl into a ball and seek solitude surpassed her expectations.

When the initial shock wore off though, and she looked at the emotionally-wracked girl in front of her, it was as though she could feel every shift and swing of her feelings. Subtle though it was, she could also sense that Qyreia could feel hers too, though perhaps not nearly so acutely. Just as well, as Keira’s placidity as she reached out to touch the Zeltron’s hands seemed to calm at least some of the storm that was raging in her Guard’s heart.

Her heart beat much faster, however, when Keira leaned in and firmly pressed her lips to the Zeltron’s. Unlike at the restaurant, this was no mistake and Qyreia knew it. The red woman returned the gesture in kind, winding her fingers through the Seer’s hair with one hand while entwining their fingers with the other, pulling her closer to relish each moment of it.

It seemed too sudden, too little time embraced for Qyreia when they finally parted, yet to stare so closely into Keira’s pale blue eyes while she stared back into gray and blue brought a feeling she had not felt for far too long. Their breath shuddered and the half-breed let out a slow sigh through pursed lips, bringing a smile to the merc’s face. She was about to go in for a second round when the navicomputer’s alarm went off, telling them that they would be arriving shortly; the date was over.

The Jedi nuzzled the palm of the red hand at her cheek before the pilot had to slip it away to take control of the vessel and begin landing preparations. She watched with an intrigued smile as Qyreia seamlessly switched to business mode, seemingly in her natural habitat at the ship’s helm. So it was with some surprise that the mercenary slipped a hand into hers without a word, squeezing gently as she offered a sideward glance and nervous smile. Keira could already feel the emotional radiation subsiding as the Zeltron put the lid back on her heritage’s talents, and while it was disappointing, she understood the second-nature need that her Guard felt.

It was also heartening, as they made final approach to the Temple of Sorrow, holding hands, that happiness and hope were the predominant emotions coming from Qyreia.


(Qyreia Arronen) #5

Sepros, Orian System
Qyreia’s Quarters, Temple of Sorrow

It had been over a week since the first, fateful date. Publicly, the Zeltron maintained the same nonchalance as always, joking with some while threatening a furious groin-kicking to others. Internally however, she had felt equal parts giddy and nervous about the revelation on the shuttle with Keira. Not that Keira likely understood, but that was a huge step for just a first date.

Since then, however, the Jedi had been elusive as always, if less averse to sharing some quality time even when perusing the archives. It was too early to be kissing openly - much to Qyreia’s chagrin, despite self-instating the rule - but Keira seemed overtly opposed to public displays of affection. Hugs were a no-go, she wouldn’t hold hands, and even a hand on her shoulder would be looked at with derision if it lingered too long. It was maddening for the first couple days after their excursion, until the mercenary happened upon the Seer in her natural habitat: nose-deep in research.

No matter where she was, Keira was always looking for some new source of information to absorb; likely a side effect of the lack of memory she mentioned. This had become an accepted matter in the Zeltron’s mind. What she had not expected to see one day, in checking up on the Force user, was a holonet page on relationships.

To see her so enamored, so engrossed, was so endearing that the Black Guard couldn’t help but hug the half-Umbaran.

“What’re you doing? Stop that!” Keira tried to push her away, but the Zeltron held tightly.

“Nuh uh. Besides, there’s no one around.”

The Jedi relented somewhat at that, though her back was still somewhat rigid from the unfamiliar situation. “Fair enough.”

“So, what’cha reading?”

“As I said several days ago, I am unfamiliar with this… this field.” Her gold-tinged eyes glanced down at the Zeltron’s arms wrapped around her shoulders that crossed over her chest. Hesitantly, she took one of the hands in her own, gently running her thumb along the red fingers. “Am I doing this right?”

It was so cute that Qyreia wanted to cry, but settled with nuzzling Keira’s cheek. “I’d say so. It just comes down to what feels good; what feels right.”

“But I don’t know what ‘right’ is,” she said, her eyes returning to the screen while her hand continued to massage the mercenary’s.

The Zeltron sighed and kissed the Jedi on the cheek. “How did that feel?”

“…Good,” she responded quietly after some hesitation. “But that is also not appropriate for subordinates and superiors.”

“Says who?” Keira nodded toward the screen. “Oh, kriff that Sithspit.”

“You just don’t want to follow the rules,” the half-breed chided jokingly.

It would be another two days of awkward attempts by Qyreia to get the Quaestor to “loosen up” on the rules, or at least find more opportunities to get some alone time. To her relief, Keira had relented at the mercenary’s request to eat together more regularly, which proved a prime source for answers to the Seer’s seemingly endless number of questions. The subject matter was usually innocuous and innocent, but it gave them time to be together in a normal setting and act a little less formal. Qyreia even managed to hold Keira’s hand for a brief moment, until someone passed nearby and the Jedi quickly withdrew.

After their evening meal, the mercenary made a quick stop at her apprentice, Leeadra’s, quarters to try to schedule some training time, before escorting the Quaestor back to her accommodations. Not far from their goal, the Zeltron grabbed Keira’s hand and pulled her into a darkened gap in the wall, their presence hidden and bodies pressed together in the close confines.

“What are you doing, Qyr-mph!” The kiss was unexpected, but as soon as she realized what was happening, the Jedi relented and returned the fervor - at least until she remembered where they were. “S-stop!” she hissed, keeping her voice low as she broke away. “What do you think you’re doing?!”

For a half a heartbeat, she could sense the hurt in Qyreia’s eyes, only to be replaced by determination. “Quit fracking panicking. There’s no one around, and they wouldn’t see us anyway if they weren’t looking for us.”

“Still…”

“‘Still’ nothing!” The Zeltron paused when the sound of footsteps came near, only to dissipate down some unseen corridor. “I know you’re not used to the whole ‘relationship’ thing, but you’re not going to get better at it by reading a kriffing holonet advice site! You need to try it. Besides,” she said, taking a pale hand in her red ones, “you’re not allowed to kiss me like you did back then, and then keep me at arm’s length for a week.”

“I’ve not kept you away; you yourself have helped me practice these… displays of affection.”

“I know… but sometimes I wonder what you see this as; what’s going on between us.”

“What do you mean?”

Qyreia suppressed a snort of amusement. “I think the next thing you need to look up is relationship statuses.” She brought Keira’s hand to her lips and lightly kissed it, rubbing the smooth skin with her thumbs much as the Jedi had done several days prior. “Just… don’t let me be one of your learning experiments.”

“As you would say it: I’m clueless, not cruel,” the Quaestor said with a grimace. “You’ve no need to worry on that account.” A soft sigh escaped her lips and her gaze dropped. “I will work on it. Just give me time.”

“I can do that.”

An awkward silence followed where the pair just looked at their hands, fumbling around with the other’s palms and fingers. The half-breed checked the opening that led to the hall, then planted a rushed kiss on Qyreia’s lips before walking back out into the open, leaving the Zeltron behind with an expression that reinforced her request. Black Guard as she was, Qyreia could only assent, even if only quietly in her mind.

That was all in the past, and the Zeltron had plans. Her initial training with Leeadra had proven a flop, as the Force user tended to shirk her “saber practice” - a euphemism for the mercenary shooting at her while the Pantoran frantically tried to dodge or block the incoming fire - in favor of more academic pursuits. Sheesh, I can only practice on dummy targets for so long before I get bored. It left her more time, however, to make arrangements for more dates, and plan for the coming time when Keira would no longer be Quaestor, or when her time as Black Guard was up - whichever came first.

That was a prospect that she was not looking forward to.

Laying in her bed, coming back from her memories to stare at the ceiling, Qyreia lifted her arm from the sheets, flexing her fingers to watch the movements of the muscles beneath her skin. I wonder how much it’d hurt, she thought. In her studies about her position as a Black Guard, she had noticed several discrepancies between the old Guard and the new. She had never gone through any special training, and had little more than her trial of entry to test her mettle as Keira’s guard, save for a fight the Quaestor had with her Team Leader, Bentre.

The mercenary had never gotten so much as her ears pierced. Now, she was contemplating asking Keira to brand her with the mark of the Black Guard. The Zeltron had done her research: Sith alchemy meets tattoo artistry, all applied based on the preferences and abilities of the one applying it. Lightning seemed the best approach, and Qyreia knew from her dossier that Viru was a skilled practitioner.

Red features soured into a grimace as she rolled onto her side, cradling her arm as though it had already been seared. “How do you ask someone to do that,” she murmured even as a choking lump formed in her throat.

Normally, it would fall to Marcus Kiriyu, the de facto Captain of the Guard by grace of being the Clan’s Rollmaster, to apply the tattoo. Much of the old ways seemed to be dwindling and, for that at least, Qyreia was grateful. The pain she had endured in joining had not been for the Guard corps; hardly a thought went toward the Clan when she had dragged herself, half-drowned and bleeding, from the pool on Aeotheran. It had been for the half-breed Umbaran as much as for her own sense of pride. Cracked bones and blaster wounds had not even stopped her from trying to besiege the woman, who could live comfortably for a year in the subterranean panic room, while the mercenary had the remains of a water-logged sandwich half.

Her tenacity had carried her this far, but suddenly the foul-mouthed merc was scared she was diving too quickly, too deeply into the rabbit hole.

And tats like that don’t exactly come off easy, she thought, looking again at her forearm, red and bare. She trusts me, though, and I owe it to her. I’m her kriffing Black Guard. The Zeltron sighed, clenching her arm close. “I’ll sleep on it, then ask what she thinks.”


(Qyreia Arronen) #6

Temple of Sorrow
Dueling Chamber

‘Relentless’ was the best way that Leeadra could describe her master’s fusilade. They had only been paired a short time before, but it was evident that the mercenary intended on taking her job seriously. When Qyreia wasn’t bugging her over her progress in the Shadow Academy or some other inane task, they were in the sparring chambers working up a sweat. More often than not, however, the Pantoran was the one most slick with perspiration, and it was all because of her master’s favored training regimen.

Qyreia liked to shoot at her.

She was a blur of blue and yellow, skin catching the glow of her lightsaber as she juked left and right to avoid the incoming red bolts, blocking those she couldn’t dodge with skill only such practice could evoke. Each step the Pantoran made closed the distance infinitesimally closer, as her eyes searched for the safest avenue of approach to her target. Her trainer was relentless however, and every opportunity was just as likely to bring a burning sting when the marksman’s fire touched home on one of her extremities.

Yet the shots, normally so accurate, seemed to miss more often than they usually did; the patterns more predictable, and it was evident that this wasn’t simply the training paying off. “What’s wrong, red bean?” Leeadra said as she dodged an incoming bolt and blocked another.

“What d’you mean?” As if to make up for her lapse, Qyreia’s fire redoubled, only to peter off just as quickly.

“You seem distracted.” The Gray Jedi blocked two more shots and sidestepped a third, making three full strides toward her master before meeting the next batch of resistance. “This is almost easy,” she said through breaths labored by the long practice session.

“I could always turn up the power setting,” Qyreia warned, her tone amiably terse as she sent a burst of fire at her apprentice that even the Pantoran had a hard time halting completely, taking one stinging shot to the thigh in the process.

“Noted,” Leeadra growled as she regained her footing and resumed her advance.

With every movement closer, the allowed reaction time decreased, and the fight intensified. I just need to get in close, she thought, arcing her saber around in a flurry of shallow sweeps that sent more than a couple shots dangerously close to her opponent. Qyreia reacted in kind, stepping steadily backward, all the while maintaining steady control of her blaster as she continued her fusilade.

This was how the end of many of their practice sessions began. The deciding factor came down to the last five or so meters, where Leeadra’s martial arts training came to a head against the mercenary’s rougher combat experience. Were their weapons’ power not reduced for training, her saber would have cut through her master’s blaster carbine with ease every time they came into melee. As it was, however, the Black Guard’s ability to wield the weapon like a club or staff often resulted in the Jedi’s defeat. Only on a few occasions did Leeadra’s training in Dulon manage to get through Qyreia’s defenses and send the red woman tumbling onto her backside. Even then, the merc could always pull one of her secondary weapons, and that would only resume their battle.

Today seemed to be in Leeadra’s favor, as she spun inside of her opponent’s line of fire, swatting the barrel aside and bringing an elbow up to bruise the merc’s arm on the counterattack. Judging by her sluggish reaction, Qyreia’s heart just wasn’t in the fight, and the Pantoran stopped the next attempt at a strike with the grip of her hand.

“What’s going on, cherry pie?”

“Just… a lot on my mind.”

“Like?”

“Like the whole thing going on with the Grand Master, for starters. On top of that, I’m trying to manage a bunch of misfits that the Clan calls a Battle Team…”

“Misfits, huh?”

“You know what I mean.” Her steely eyes glanced sheepishly at the Pantoran. “Besides…”

“Hm?”

In a flourish, Qyreia kicked the smaller woman’s legs out from under her, sending Leeadra sprawling supine onto the ground. She didn’t even have time to bring her lightsaber to bear before she felt the cool metal of Qyreia’s pistol against the blue skin of her forehead.

“Never let your guard down, blueberry. First rule of fighting.”

“But…”

“When you’re fighting, every break in the action is time for you to make an opening for yourself.”

“You’re a jerk.”

“I’m your master, and I’m gonna make sure you stay alive, kiddo.” She offered a hand up. “Fight’s over. I’m not gonna kick you again.”

There was slight hesitation in Leeadra’s movements, but she eventually took Qyreia’s hand and hauled herself up. “You ever gonna tell me anything that’s going on with you? Maybe at least train me like a real Jedi?”

“Maybe the first one. The second… not a Wookie’s chance at the barber. Besides, you know I’m not a Force user.”

“I know.” Despite the apparent disappointment in lack of improving her grasp of the Force, Leeadra’s voice seemed almost satisfied with the prospect of being stuck with the mercenary. “You better up your game though. I’m catching up to you awful quick.”

“‘Up the power setting,’ you say?” A devious grin crossed the Zeltron’s lips. “Alright tiny, you asked for it.”

No one calls me tiny.”

“Then show me what you’ve got.”


(Atra Ventus) #7

Training Hall
Temple of Sorrow, Sepros
Orian System

A series of quick concussive slaps rang out as Keira circled the training dummy with her arms lashing out in a familiar pattern. She continued to circle, foot crossing over foot while weaving left and right with her body. Droplets of perspiration splashed into the air at the point of contact as a testament to the level of exertion she had devoted to her routine. How many mornings had she spent focused on this mindless pursuit? Far too many, and she knew that Qyreia was most likely becoming worried.

The half-breed Umbaran was worried too, for that matter. It seemed like such an innocuous thing; it was just a tattoo after all. Yet, it was by Keira’s hand that it would be applied, and she knew the method to be… less than enjoyable. Inflicting pain on the Zeltron wasn’t something Keira even wanted to consider. There was enough risk of pain already as the Black Guard to Keira’s role as Quaestor, why add to it?

And yet, Qyreia had asked. Not just that, she had done it sincerely while exposing vulnerability. It really wasn’t a decision at all and Keira knew she would comply. That, and exactly that, was what had brought her to the training halls over and over. There, devoted to conditioning and the redundancy of repetitious forms, she could run from the inevitable answer. Time would not allow for her to escape forever, and it was time that had run out.

“Keira,” the familiar voice intoned from behind her.

The Quaestor of Shar Dakhan allowed herself a sigh before falling forward to press her forehead against the training dummy. Her whole body seemed to rise and fall with her panting breaths. She wasn’t surprised by her Black Guard’s arrival, having sensed her long before she spoke. “What is it, Q?” Keira managed between her breaths.

“I think I’ve waited long enough for an answer, don’t you?” Qyreia replied.

“Yes… you’re right.” The half-breed gripped the top of the dummy and pushed herself off it, strands of sweaty hair clinging to it for a moment before following her path. She swivelled around to face the Zeltron while a sheepish expression formed on her face. “I’m sorry about that, I should’ve… I just… yeah, sorry,” her voice stumbled over the words as her recognizable lilt caused them to dance on her tongue.

The mercenary stood not far from her Quaestor with her arms folded across her chest. Her short blue hair was slightly disheveled, as if she had just come in from a jog, while her brown jacket hugged her features. Qyreia shifted her weight to the side, causing her hip to jut out ever so slightly, while affixing Keira with a stare and a raised eyebrow. “Kriff off with that ‘sorry’ nonsense and just—”

“Yes!” Keira interjected, interrupting the other woman. “I’ll do it.”

A mixture of emotions washed over Qyreia’s face and Keira fought to name them all. Relief, apprehension… excitement? It was tough to catch, but the final expression resting on the Zeltron’s features told Keira all she needed. It was trust.

“So um,” the Quaestor began while running her hand through her hair, “when… where?”

“I don’t think so, honey,” Qyreia replied. “Hit the refresher and get changed, then we’ll figure it out.”

The pale half-breed’s pale blue eyes glanced down at her fitness gear, spotting the gleaming sweat along the faint swell of her abs even in the dim lighting. “Yeah, refresher sounds good.”


Qyreia’s hands were clasped in her lap with her thumbs performing an intricate dance as she waited for Keira to return from the shower. She had been so thrown off by Keira’s initial reaction to her request of the Black Guard tattoo, but that was already in the past. The important thing to focus on was that it was finally happening… and her feet had turned ice cold. It wasn’t so much the pain, but the permanence of it that worried her. It was the source of her second thoughts. A mental curse brought Qyreia’s focus back around as she bit down on her own lip.

She had asked for this, and she wouldn’t be the one to back out… not after Keira’s consent.

A heavy sigh brought the Zeltron’s focus back to locker room she had been sitting in, turning to see Keira back in her more usual attire. A towel hung over her shoulders as the half-breed’s fingers worked on securing her pony tail. A slight smile tugged at the corner of her pale lips before a more dire expression took over. The towel was flung unceremoniously into a nearby bin before Keira adopted a wide stance and met Qyreia’s gaze. “So, how you want to do this?” she asked.

“Right now, here!” Qyreia knew she had to seize the opportunity in that moment or they both might flee from it once more. The mercenary reached over to her right forearm and let her fingers dance across the red skin. “Here… if you would, please.”

Keira’s eyes drifted along the Zeltron’s arms, hesitating for the briefest of moments before approaching the woman. Her hand gripped Qyreia’s shoulder reassuringly as she settled in beside her. “This is going—”

“—to hurt, I know. Just… do it,” the mercenary murmured as she refused to look up from her arm.

“Right.”

The Quaestor took a deep breath through her nose before reaching deep into the core of her power. She forged a sliver of a pathway through her body towards her fingers, feeling the energy sparking between her index and middle fingers before her eyes registered it. Reaching down, she aimed those fingers towards Qyreia’s forearm and unleashed a torrent of power into the tender skin.

The Zeltron couldn’t help but turn away and close her eyes tightly, having had every intention of watching the process but unable to cope with the sudden agony. Her teeth ground together and it almost felt like her head was going to explode as pain coursed fiery and hot through her body. Keira closed her senses off from the other woman, focusing completely on the task at hand as she traced the pattern of the Black Guard into the flesh of the Zeltron’s forearm.

It seemed to take days, even though the process was more akin to minutes, but so great was the pain and focus that time itself became more malleable. By the end of it, both women were panting and exhausted, but it was at last done.

Qyreia was permanently marked—by Keira herself—and that was something that couldn’t be changed.


(Qyreia Arronen) #8

The Gilded Archipelago
Aeotheran, Orian System

No matter how often she had come here, Qyreia could never manage to get used to the heat and humidity of the resort island chain. Yet that is where Keira had held her headquarters so often, when she wasn’t elbow-deep in documents or datapads. For such a short time to have passed, it seemed an eternity since the Black Guard trials and their haphazard relationship had begun. The Pantoran that Qyreia called apprentice was well on her way to Knighthood, and would likewise be leaving the proverbial nest soon. Everything was changing - too quickly for the Zeltron caught in the midst of it.

The Anzat, Darkblade, had taken up residence as the Quaestor of Shar Dakhan, removing Keira from her office at the thermal plant as well as the mercenary from her duty as Black Guard. This left the pair with ample time together, but the fire of conflict and duty dwindled; the only remnant being Qyreia’s lonely visits to the lush tropic scene.

With her jacket thrown lazily over a shoulder, she walked down the sunny streets among the throng of humanoid vacationers, her mind absent to anything they said or did. All of her thoughts were occupied in questions that seemed to have no real answer. Even the expected cat-calls were casually ignored without so much as a sneer in response. In situations like this, the desire for a strong drink always seemed to surface, so the red woman let her feet carry her to one of the nicer clubs on the strip. Inside was a three-storied den of quiet seating in the upper levels, hotels rooms in the mid, and a dance floor at the bottom of the central atrium that almost carried a life of its own amid the thumping music. If the drinks didn’t settle Qyreia’s nerves, then at least the music might drown out the thoughts.

“Double of Corellian Rum on the rocks,” she said to the bartender as she lay her jacket across the stool before taking a seat.

“ID please.”

“Are you fracking kidding me?” I come in here all the mother-kriffing time, she thought, handing over her identichip. The gesture exposed the tattoo on her forearm, eliciting an odd stare from the man behind the counter and causing Qyreia to withdraw her limb quicker than she otherwise might have. Once she had her chip and drink in hand, the Zeltron moved over to a friendlier part of the establishment, inwardly ashamed of her reaction to the barman’s stare, as though the mark were something to be embarrassed of.

The mercenary was a Battle Team Leader to Devil’s Shroud, and yet she had just retreated from a glorified waiter. What is wrong with me?! A long drink of the amber liquor was the only response she could muster.

Everything was happening too quickly, she thought as her feet carried her around the atrium, steely eyes absently watching the writhing dancers below. Naga Sadow had fought and defeated the Dominion on its own turf - planets Cobalt and Agua’tah - for which the Zeltron had been key in several instances, least of which for her being a rather messy ordeal with a certain traffic controller. Atra Ventus had also been returned to the realm of the living, so to speak, only to disappear amid the ether of the office of the Voice. At least he didn’t kill me over the whole Keira thing, she mused, taking another long pull from her drink. On top of it all, the Battle Team seemed ill-fated thanks to the independent nature of its members, making Qyreia’s position seem all that more tenuous, if not useless and hollow.

And through it all, Qyreia couldn’t bring herself to talk about it with anyone. There were passing comments to Leeadra, and the odd hint toward her Gray Jedi girlfriend, but too often she found herself in the same position she was now: alone in some bar, nursing a drink that would offer only the solace of the apathy that came with drunkenness.

Even in such a state, the Zeltron still couldn’t at least bring herself to enjoy the hedonistic pleasures of the dance floor below. No amount of confidence could bring her to fall into that image that she viewed as inherently Zeltron.

“Am I really this big of a stoopa?” she muttered into her fresh glass of rum. Again her eyes met the dark outlines of the tattoo, the light from the dance floor below flashing a medley of colors across its surface.

Those black shapes meant more to her than even she could articulate. It was a promise to defend her former Quaestor - to the death if need be - beyond what anyone expected of a simple mercenary. Even now, she still garnered the occasional derisive comment for her path within the Brotherhood. It meant so much more of late though, as Qyreia had dragged herself into the fight against Pravus’ dictates against the Undesirables and the Jedi, part of which was through a misguided attempt to keep Keira safe. Sometimes, it was hard to tell what she did out of affection, or what she did out of some cockeyed sense of duty.

At the very least, she had a reputation to uphold. The Zeltron had shed too much blood and too many tears to quit so easily. Somehow, calling for her fourth drink, it still felt empty.


(Qyreia Arronen) #9

Qyreia’s house
Myrmidon, Aeotheran

Open the door. A finger hovered over the button to the home’s entryway, but Qyreia could only stare at it angrily. You have to go in there. You have to go home eventually. Every fiber in her wanted to just go back to the Archipelago – despite that her vision wobbled so hard that her sluggish reflexes could hardly control her little craft on the way back to Myrmidon – and sink away into another glass of liquor. She didn’t want to have to face what might be waiting for her within. A soft “Damn” passed her lips as she wobbled forward, momentarily losing her balance and opening the door when her hand caught on the button panel.

Within the walls, the living room adjacent to the front door was cool and dim, unlike the hot and humid atmosphere without. The house seemed empty – something that Qyreia both coveted and wallowed in. It meant that she could hide her current condition, but at the same time there was no one that she could lean on. Par for the course, I guess.

The mercenary was almost done slipping out of her boots when she saw Keira silently walk into the room from the opposite corner.

“You’re home! I was starting to think I was hallucinating. I could sense you, but didn’t hear anything.”

“Well, I’m here,” she responded, her tone somewhat more hostile than she had intended.

“Are you okay?” Keira said, noticing the Zeltron’s sloppy, exaggerated movements.

Qyreia righted herself, boots finally removed, and looked at her with half-lidded eyes. “Peachy.” Using the wall to keep balance, she shuffled along toward where the stairs were. “I’m goin’ to bed.”

The Gray Jedi watched the spectacle for a moment, only to speedily step forward when the red woman stumbled and fell to the hardwood floor. “Q! Are you okay?”

Keira had hardly reached for the Zeltron’s arm when her hand was swatted away. “I can get myself back up.”

“What’s wrong with you?” With the distance closed, the half-Umbaran could smell the alcohol radiating from the mercenary. “How much did you have to drink?”

“A lot,” she responded, standing on legs that looked as unstable as their owner sounded. “Now leave me alone.”

The Force user stepped back, unbelieving of what was before her eyes, speaking just as the Zeltron was about to walk off. “Leeadra told me you’d been drinking more, but…” She hesitated to say more, but it only gave Qyreia an opening.

“But what? I’m a big girl. I can drink if I wanna. Don’ need your stupid choobs telling me what I can and can’t do.”

“I never said you couldn’t… What the hell is going on, Qyreia?”

“I said leave me alone!”

To Keira’s surprise, the red woman lurched to the side with surprising speed and swung her fist at the Seer’s face. It was clumsy enough that she easily backpedaled to avoid it, but the action itself so surprised the half-breed that it nearly connected. This was not sparring match. For that instant, Qyreia had genuinely wanted to hurt her. As they stared at each other after the failed attempt, she could see a sort of hurt already in the Zeltron’s eyes, though she could not fathom the cause.

Where the mercenary had expected fear, she saw placidity mixed with worry. Yet within her mind, every thought told her that the relationship was a lie. Keira didn’t care; didn’t understand what she said when they lay abed each night. The woman had no memories – nothing to measure against what was happening – so how could she comprehend it? It was all bound to fail anyway; just like it always did. Qyreia would frack it up somehow. You always do. Even outwardly, Keira could see the Zeltron’s mind working frantically, her seemingly steady gaze betrayed by subtle, rapid eye twitches.

“I know you didn’t mean to do that.” Before she could get another word in, the mercenary tried for another swing, which the Force user easily side-stepped. “Qyreia, stop trying to hit me and tell me what’s wrong!”

“Everything!” she screamed, her breath labored from the vain attempts to strike. “Everything is wrong, but everyone just keeps walking around like it’s all alright, and it’s not!”

“Pravus?”

“Ohhh, tip of the kriffing iceberg! Him an’ his whole Inquisi… Inq… those Hutt-humpers! An’ here I am, running my choobs off to try an’ fight the whole thing, an’ it’s just not enough!”

“I know. I know what you’ve been through…”

Do you? Really? What do you know about that pair that got at me on Sepros? Hm?!” The memory of what the Zeltron had looked like after that ordeal was still fresh in Keira’s mind, but her drunken companion wasn’t done. “All the folks I’ve killed… that tried to kill me… to kill you… and worse.” The Gray Jedi’s expression questioned that last part, and Qyreia had just enough clarity to notice. “I never told you those parts of the stories.”

“I can tell when you’re hiding from me, but I respect your desires; assume you only have good intent.”

“As good intent as those chuff-suckers that put their hands on me? But sure, ‘all for the mission,’ as they say. And you never say one damn word of it.”

“I am failing to see why you’re angry at me.”

“Because you see it all and don’t do a damn thing!” Tears welled up in the corners of Qyreia’s eyes, though neither of them could tell if it was out of sadness or anger. “It’s all hugs and kisses when I show up broken and bleeding, but what about everything else, huh? What is going on between us?! …Tell me!” she screamed when Keira balked, unsure of how to answer such a question.

“I… I don’t know what you mean by that. I know that I love you…”

“No you don’t!” Qyreia made to try and take another swing, but stopped short when she saw the Seer’s expression. “You… you don’t even know what love is.”

Keira didn’t know whether to bristle with anger or stay calm, but the steady way that the red woman spoke meant this wasn’t just some off-the-cuff remark. “How could you say that?”

“You had to look up half of our relationship in a book.”

“Which you had said before that you were willing to deal with.” The jab of truth made Qyreia turn her head. “You’re right: I don’t have much to measure against what I feel for you, but it’s the most I’ve ever felt for anyone. You’re the only one that’s made me feel safe and natural, and to me that’s love.”

“Well at least one of us feels safe.”

“I… What?”

“Where were you when I needed you? When… when your fracking dad’s goons were busy breaking me, where were you?!”

“M-my father had nothing to do with this!”

“Come on, Keira, open your eyes! The man is second to the Voice himself! And who do you think sends these Inquisitors on their little kriffing errands?!”

“That doesn’t mean he’s the one trying to assassinate you.”

“Because you and him are just so connected, right? That’s how you know this?”

“Don’t…”

“Because you’re not even his real daughter. You’re his daughter’s mother-fracking clone!”

There was no hate in her voice for the moniker or the truth of the matter, yet to hear her former Black Guard say it made Keira’s chest ache with a smoldering fire. Her intent gaze took on a shade of anger that was only barely visible, but the Zeltron could see it well enough.

“Shut. Up.”

“Make me,” she challenged, going so far as to toss her pistol holster aside mockingly.

“Do you want me to be angry with you? Is that why you’re doing this? To get some sort of satisfaction from your pain?”

“You’re damn straight I want you to be angry!”

“Why?!” Keira searched her lover’s face for some sort of answer. “Tell me, damn it! I can’t think of any reason you would want this, save to get rid of me. Is that it?”

“No, I…”

“Because Qyreia, I can’t think of any other logical reason than that,” she continued, hardly skipping a beat. “So… What am I to you then? Just some toy to be used and tossed aside when you get bored?!”

“No!”

“Liar!”

With tears flowing freely over her cheeks, Keira’s hand burst forth in what the Zeltron thought was going to be a strike, only to feel a sudden pressure against her chest that launched her against the back wall. The force, rather than letting her drop to the floor, pinned her there, effectively unable to move below the shoulder. For a moment, at least.

“So,” the Gray Jedi said, releasing the invisible hold and letting Qyreia drop to the floor, “no more games. No more screaming. You’ve got one chance to answer. Do you still want me here, with you?”

The Zeltron looked up with saddened eyes then, wordlessly, dropped her gaze. Yes was the answer, balancing on the tip of her tongue, but too proud to say it; too scared that she had already gone too far. But Keira wasn’t inside the Zeltron’s mind, so she never heard the fateful word – only the silence that followed. So she waited. In her own abject silence, the Seer stood by and waited for an answer that never came, each instant a nail on the coffin that was slowly encasing her heart.

It had to end eventually.

With a breath that was far too steady for the occasion, Keira turned and walked away. She was halfway across the room when she heard a whimper. Keep walking, she told herself, only to hear the words again, louder than before.

“Wait!” The half-breed stopped, fighting the urge to turn around. “D-don’t go.”

The former Quaestor turned and was met with the same sight as before - Qyreia, slumped against the wall, barely able to hold herself upright - only the expression had changed. It was as though there was no more fight left in her entire body, leaving a mere shell of remorse and a fatigue that went beyond that of just the mind or body. The fire was burnt out.

“I’m not.” For now.

The mercenary shuffled vainly to stand, eventually relenting and keeping her seat, eliciting a pitying smile from Keira. “Ahm not saying you should… I feel like the exit-port of a herpetical bantha, and…” Qyreia’s legs contracted as she pulled them to her chest, trying to hide her face. “I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t feel safe like you do. Even when we’re alone, I’m not ‘natural.’”

“Why would you not feel safe with me?”

“Because I’m too busy keeping my own choobies in one piece? …too busy protecting you?” In any other tone, Keira might have thought the question patronizing, but she could feel her Black Guard’s sincerity. “S’my job after all; not that I mind.”

“Apparently you do.” The Umbaran closed the distance between them, squatting before the Zeltron so that they were eye-level with each other.

“I just… I still feel like I’m on my own most of the time.” Her gray-blue eyes looked up to meet Keira’s. “Well, aside from… y’know,” she said, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively, eliciting a soft chuckle from her companion. She reached out a red hand to gently take one of the pale ones. “Please don’t leave.”

Keira looked soberly at the manual embrace. “Do you love me?”

Qyreia had feared this question. “No,” she said nervously. “I like you… I like you a lot, but… Just give me time to cross that bridge.”

The raven-haired woman’s face took on an air of disappointment, but nodded acceptance. “Alright. I can do that.”


(Qyreia Arronen) #10

Undisclosed Location
Several weeks later…

After what had happened on the Matron, it was a mercy that Odan Urr had provided medical treatment before the Zeltron’s ride arrived. No sooner had the covert news reached Keira’s ears than she hijacked a shuttle - and pilot to fly it - and taken it to the mercenary’s otherwise undisclosed location. This necessitated several changes of craft and driver along the way, as well as some rather heated transmissions to the Jedi’s liaison that had contacted her in the first place. Qyreia had used the time wisely, removing all of the scrapes and bruises with the magic of modern medicine, so that when the Seer arrived on the scene, she looked none the worse for wear.

That didn’t make the reunion any less exuberant… or loud.

“What the hell happened?!” Keira’s voice carried through the short distance between them sharply, made all the more percussive when she ran right into the Zeltron, clasping her arms tightly about the red woman’s shoulders. “I only heard bits and pieces from the Jedi,” she said in a worried fusillade of speech. “Something about you and pirates and you were injured but you don’t look injured…”

“I’m okay, Keira, really. I’ve been in worse scraps before.”

“Who did this to you?” The mercenary’s silent expression did not engender a calming effect on the former Quaestor. “Who?!”

“It was Morgan,” Turel said, stepping forward into the conversation. “As far as I can tell, she didn’t know that Miss Arronen was onboard, but spared her the instant that she did know.”

“Then her death will be mercifully swift,” she half-growled, fingers pressing uncomfortably into her lover’s skin.

“If you say so,” the Jedi said with an amused grin and flirtatious wink.

“What was that?”

“Oh, nothing. Nothing at all.” He sauntered away with a wave. “It was good meeting you, Qyreia. Let me know when you’re in the neighborhood. We’ll get some drinks.”

“Sounds good,” she called after him, only to be reminded of Keira’s presence by the pressure on her arms. “Ow! What’d I do?”

“You had me worried, and here you are talking about getting druk-faced with some random choobhole!”

All too quickly, Qyreia’s joviality was brought to heel when she was reminded of their argument, even though it had almost been two months since then. “Sorry.”

Seeing the forlorn look on the Zeltron’s face, the half-Umbaran dropped her hostility. “It’s… It’s alright. Let’s just get home. We’re still in danger out here.”

With the experienced ex-smuggler at the helm, the return trip to Aeotheran was much faster than the Force user’s frantic search for the Zeltron. It was also far quieter. After the nerve-touching comments made at the Urrian drop site, both women kept largely to themselves for the duration of the flight. Even when her questions were deflected, Keira didn’t press the issue, noting how Qyreia would recoil at every prying query. Just let it be. She’ll tell you when she’s ready. As much as the Seer told herself that, the wait was no less torturous on her already worry-wracked mind.

What she would not let settle was her burning desire to see the Herald’s head on a platter. Despite all of the reassurance that the female Sorenn had effected no physical harm on Qyreia, the Zeltron’s refusal to talk about what had happened was not just a hurt reaction to Keira’s tone. Something had happened. The Gray Jedi just didn’t know what, and that mystery did nothing to stem her internal rage.

“Coming out of hyperspace,” the mercenary said in flat monotone. “Getting clearance for landing… now.”

“Q… Can we talk for a sec?”

“Sure. Let’s talk.”

“You don’t exactly sound excited by the prospect.”

“Didja want to talk, or get excitement? ‘Cause I’m kinda busy with not making us crash.” The craft hit the atmosphere with a shudder before the inertial dampeners kicked in. No matter how apt the timing, the Seer remained unperturbed.

“What happened with Morgan?”

“I already said that she didn’t do anything to me, and that I didn’t want to talk about it.”

“Well I do want to talk about it. After your little outburst, I’d think you’d want to repair things.”

“Oh yes, because talking like our relationship is your frackin’ hostage is going to make me want to talk so much more.”

“That’s not how I meant it…”

“Well that’s how it sounded.” Breaking through the lower cloud cover and into clear skies, she guided the ship to dock at Myrmidon, the last rays of the sun seeping over the horizon. “You wanna know what happened?” Qyreia said as the landing gear hydraulics locked with a thud. “Everyone on the ship I was guarding was either enslaved or killed. Everyone. Same goes for the other captured ships. I didn’t even manage to kill more’n a half dozen or so before they got a lucky stun shot on me.”

“…So, you’re mad that you didn’t die with the others?” Some sort of survivor’s guilt?

“I’m pissed, okay?! I’m pissed off because I didn’t kill more of the Hutt-humping druk-eaters!” she yelled, slamming her fists on the console. “I couldn’t protect a single kriffing person, and I didn’t even make those damn pirate bastards bleed for it!”

“And Morgan?”

Qyreia’s tone subsided somewhat, taking on a more sober flavor. “I don’t like her. She’s still a karkin’ pirate, but she’s got ulterior motives. That’s part of what pisses me off so damn much. She kills and enslaves by the thousands without batting an eyelash, but then arranges my escape to help her brother and the other Jedi.”

She almost took you from me. That’s reason enough for me to end her. “It may not be much consolation, but I’m glad you’re home and in one piece.”

“I don’t suppose you’d let me wallow away with a bottle of liquor, would you?”

Keira smiled, even chuckled a little, at the request. “How about we start with a carton or two of ice cream and some holovids?”

“I’m feeling like tonight might be a two-carton night,” she said, slumping into the half-breed’s chest. “Maybe three.”

I wish I had your metabolism, Keira thought with a grin. Only a handful of people were milling about the spaceport, it’s vast gray platforms colored a pinkish hue in the twilight that faded out from the horizon, allowing them a quiet and almost romantic walk home. A short stop at a small convenience store brought them their frozen treasures - all some form of chocolate flavor - before continuing on into the quiet dark. It was interesting to look at the city, so sparse of buildings despite the burgeoning population, quietly buzzing within the towering apartments as they passed, lights and sounds from the ground floor shops accentuating the light show from on high. The sun had set by the time they reached their abode, leaving only streetlamps and the bulb over the front door to light their way; a hollow comparison to what they left behind them.

Still, it was home. They couldn’t ask for much more than that.

“I’m gonna put these into the freezer,” Keira said with an amiable peck on her lover’s cheek.

“But I want ice cream nooow.”

“At least let me get the spoons. Sheesh.” She laughed as she made her way to the kitchen, depositing two of the three containers and grabbing a spoon on her way out to the living room.

“Holy fracking Hutt-humping hell!” came Qyreia’s voice, piercing the otherwise quiet night’s silence.

In an instant Keira burst into a sprint, ice cream still in hand while the other menacingly brandished the spoon. “What is it?!”

When the pale woman entered the living room, she saw the Zeltron fallen to the floor, propping herself up on one arm while the other hesitantly hovered over her holstered pistol. Following her lover’s intense gaze, her pale blue eyes met the shadowy figure seated in one of their armchairs. Keira froze, dropping the dessert while the silverware went limp in her hand. The heavy thud did nothing to separate her gaze from the large man whose face remained in shadow, while light from the porch seeped through the window just enough to reveal his arm and torso.

“F… father?”

“Wait.” Qyreia looked at her girlfriend, then back at the intruder. “…Atra?!”

The Dark Jedi eyed the nearby lamp and flipped it one with a quirk of his eyebrow. “There. Now that we can all see each other, you might want to pick up your ice cream before it melts all over the carpet.” Keira’s trance was suddenly broken as she glanced down at the carton, swiftly picking it up and setting it aside on a nearby end table. “I must say, getting through Locke’s ‘blockade’ made getting into the system a downright inquisition.”

The couple looked at each other warily before Qyreia finally spoke. “What blockade?”

“My point exactly,” Atra said, leaning forward to size up the Zeltron. “So you’re the girl that my daughter has been talking so much about. Can’t say I’m impressed, but it’s her choice; not mine.” Despite his comment, his gray eyes looked at the mercenary with a smouldering, almost feral hunger.

“Father,” Keira chimed in, breaking his stare, “might I ask what you’re doing here?”

“Just making an unannounced visit. I felt the urge to get out of the house, so to speak, and see what my daughter and her… companion have been up to.”

“That’s ‘girlfriend,’ thank you very much,” Qyreia chided. “I had to do a lot of crazy druk to get this title; I deserve to be called as such.”

“Oh, don’t be so melodramatic,” Keira said, trying her best to hide the excitement she felt at Atra’s visit. “Would you like something to drink, father? Blockade or not, I’m sure you must be thirsty.”

“Corellian ale, if you have any.”

“‘If we have any.’ Qyreia here is a regular aficionado.”

“Is that so?”

“Lived there a few years. Worked the cantinas as a bartender, among other jobs.” Qyreia watched as her lover left the room toward the kitchen, seemingly unaware of the expression on the Zeltron’s face. Hellooo, Coruscant to Keira. Your Praetor-to-the-Voice dad is in our House! You know, the one where I’m part of the Resistance?! Her gaze turned back to the newfound guest. “Alright Atra, what do you want?”

“Why so hostile? I thought Zeltrons were all about hospitality.” His hungry stare returned, somewhat more muted than before, despite the mercenary’s apparent derision toward his comment. “I am here for Keira’s sake, as much as my own. I want to know your intentions with her.”

“My… what? We’re dating. My ‘intent’ is to do so until such time as I fall in love, produce a bunch of crotch-fruit until I hate myself, then wallow away my golden years in sweet bliss and a fair touch of liquor.”

“I heard about your argument with my daughter, merc.” As he spoke, the light seemed to flicker. “While Keira may be a forgiving person, you will find me far less patient with your sarcasm and foul language.”

“And you will find I don’t like intruders in my house acting like they were some honored fracking guest.” She shuffled warily to a seat across from him, hand ever-hovering near her pistol. “So, I’ll ask again: why are you here?”

“I’ve already told you, you foolish whelp. For someone who claims to want to protect Keira, you seem to enjoy swimming through dangerous waters.”

“Listen choob-hole…”

In a flash, Atra’s hand shot forth from the armrest to send an invisible pressure around the Zeltron’s throat, closing off all but a sliver of airflow. “I am getting tired of your disrespect.” His eyes darted down and applied similar restraint to Qyreia’s hand, hardly a twitch away from discharging her pistol. “Look at you. Not even the strength to fight this” he said, watching her trigger finger shaking rigidly against his control. “This is almost sad.”

“Father,” Keira’s voice called from the kitchen, “we seem to be out of Corellian Ale. I’m going to go down the road and pick some up. Anything else you’d like?”

“No thank you, I’ll be quite alright.”

“Okay! I’ll be back in a bit, Q! Love you!”

They both heard the back door slide open, then shut almost as quickly, and Atra’s glare became all the colder. All the more intense. I could let loose with the pheromones and whatnot, and Keira would come running. No… that’d just give Atra more ammunition; more satisfaction for this sick frackin’ game. The lack of air traveling down her windpipe, however, said that if she played this game much longer, it wouldn’t matter much anyway. It was becoming difficult to concentrate, and panic was starting to set in, but she couldn’t even claw at her throat because of his invisible hold on her hands.

“I wonder how long you can hold your breath. Keep fighting and you’ll burn through that oxygen pretty quick.” He listened as Qyreia’s tongue chokingly clicked against the roof of her mouth. “She said she loves you. Do you reciprocate?”

I don’t feel too good. The Zeltron felt nauseous, which only compounded the sickening feeling of impending asphyxiation. Her vision was just beginning to spin, when she felt something soft hit her face. Or did she hit the soft thing? Who cares? …Wait, soft thing?! Coming back to reality, Qyreia realized, in a fit of violent coughing and gasping, that Atra’s hold on her neck had ceased. Trying to move her hands was still impossible, and a glance upward revealed that the Dark Jedi hadn’t moved an inch.

“I was hoping Keira had come back and thrashed you.”

“No such luck, I’m afraid. Now, about my question…”

“Frack your question!”

“You just don’t learn, do you?”

“Shut up and listen,” she yelled just as he was about to reapply the telekinetic hold. “You want me to talk? Then start actin’ like a normal sentient being! You break into my house, start interrogating me, and expect me to be grateful for not killing me?! Frack you! I don’t care if you’re some powerful space-wizard, that doesn’t excuse you from being an egotistical, self-righteous Hutt-humper who wants to displace his family dysfunctions on his cloned-daughter’s girlfriend!”

“Are you done?” he said, sounding almost bored.

“Hardly, schutta. No, I don’t love Keira, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think dearly of her. That doesn’t mean that there is no value I attribute to her. And that sure and fracking kriff doesn’t mean I’m gonna let you bring your insecurities down on my head!”

“You should spend less time looking in the mirror. You’re starting to see yourself in others.”

“Clever. Did you think that up yourself? I guess you have plenty of time, since you keep Keira at arm’s length so much.”

“What?”

Qyreia looked at her captor with a little more confidence. “Did you think she only talked to you? I’ve seen this woman nekkid. See, what I don’t get is why. She’s always trying to get closer and closer to you and her past, but you always push her away. What is it? It’s not lust - dear god I hope it’s not lust. Fear? Hm… fear of what though? Rejection? Nah, you seem gloomy enough already that rejection wouldn’t affect you.” An expression of realization entered her eyes. “Oooh, you’re scared of losing another daughter, aren’t you?”

“Stop it.”

“That’s it! That’s why you’re always refusing her invitations!”

“I said enough!” His hand jerked out again, and Qyreia could feel the grip on her throat, but it didn’t choke her as before - only held her in place.

“You know,” she said, taking on a quieter, more serious tone, “if you keep doing this, you both will miss out on the things you want.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Dude, I left my planet. That means friends, family, and even some folks that I loved as much as Keira does me. I may not be a mom - not yet anyway - and I may not be some fancy scholar, but I’m not stupid.”

“Could have fooled me.”

“Listen, druk-licker, we can go back and forth all day with this, and as much as I just love not being able to move my damn neck at all, I would really like to be able to relax. My day has been bad enough without this to compound things.”

“Are you capable of keeping yourself from shooting me?”

“Are you capable of not being a pocket-rocket?” The grip tightened, and she could feel her airway slowly constricting. “Go ahead,” she half-coughed, “see how much I’m willing to talk if you keep doing the same stupid crap.” The Force user at least seemed to be listening. “You play nice, and I’ll play nice. Deal?”

The half-breed, despite Qyreia thinking it impossible, looked less amused than before. As if wonders and miracles were falling from the sky, the telekinetic hold also seemed to vanish before the Zeltron could even register that there had been a change. Holy frack, I can finally use my hands again. In a measured gesture, she slowly drew her hands away from her blast pistol; even unbelting it from her leg and tossing it to the other end of the couch.

“I have more questions.”

“Of course you do,” she said, leaning back into the sofa. “Alright, let’s get it over with.”

“You could take this a little more seriously.” The Zeltron’s unamused expression was cue enough for him to carry on. “Why are you rebelling against the Brotherhood?”

“I’m not fighting the whole damn Brotherhood. Just Pravus and his ilk.”

“Is there a difference?”

“There’s plenty of folks in the organization that don’t slaughter innocent civilians wholesale.”

“And that’s how you justify killing the people that are merely following orders, whether they wish to or not?”

“No one is forcing them to be worthless Sithspit. No matter how you look at it, there is always a choice, and they chose to side with the bad guys. So yeah, that is how I justify it.”

“Some would call you the ‘bad guy’ thanks to this insurrection.”

“Including you?” Atra only glared at her silently. “I’ll take that as a ‘yes.’”

“You know that I could kill you right now. It would solve at least a few problems for myself and Pravus.”

“Not that you like him any better than I do, if I’m getting the right vibe here.”

“Only I do it without enacting full-scale rebellion.”

“So why not do it? Get it over with, right here and now.” The words caught in Qyreia’s throat as she spoke them. It was her way of trying to act brave when she was already at her limit, and even Atra’s hardened visage broke some of its stony quality on seeing and hearing the faint quiver.

“Because you mean the world to Keira,” he half-lied. Inwardly, they were still going after the same objective, and he recognized that. It didn’t mean he had to divulge that to the Zeltron. “I am not willing to take that away from her so casually.”

Qyreia chuckled. “You know, if things keep going well between us, you’ll be my dad too.” She wiggled her ring finger for emphasis to her meaning.

“Don’t make me reconsider sparing your life.”

“Fiiine. Be a sourpuss.” A silence fell over them for a time before the mercenary looked warily at him again. “You know, while we’re on full disclosure, I still remember you from before the whole fiasco with the Dominion, back when you were Quaestor. Not to sound weird or anything, but I kind of had the hots for you at the time. Kind of ironic that I end up dating your daughter. That Ventus bloodline must be magnetic for me.”

That seemed to elicit enough interest that Atra quirked an eyebrow, only to be quickly replaced to his usual stoic expression. Probably was just wondering when I’d shut up, she thought, accepting the ensuing silence before she heard the faintest hint of a chuckle.

“You’re welcome to sample the more aged wine anytime.”

The grin on the Force user’s face curdled Qyreia’s blood, even if the comment made her face turn a slightly deeper shade of red. “Dude, really?! Do you have any boundaries you won’t cross?” Atra was about to speak, but the Zeltron threw up a warning hand. “Stop. Forget I asked. Don’t wanna know.” But really dude?! I am dating your daughter! Holy kriffin’ fracksticks!

Thankfully for the both of them, the remaining quietude was short-lived when Keira finally returned some minutes later, laden with wine for her, ale for her father, and a bottle of rum for the Zeltron. The look on the Seer’s face said that she was hesitant to even do so, but Qyreia understood the implied trust, saying as much with her own expression. And later, I’m going to keep you awake telling you about how your dad was going to choke me to death in our living room.

Despite the preceding events however, the remainder of the evening passed relatively well. After several drinks, the Zeltron became oddly aware that Atra was downing two drinks to every one of hers. Really? Trying to out-drink a Zeltron? Her gray-blue eyes looked at her lover who, thoroughly flushed in the face, was well beyond noticing such small nuances after so much wine. At least one person here needs to stay sober, she thought, chuckling to herself. For once, she let the challenge, unspoken though it was, go unanswered. Not that she didn’t keep drinking: two livers and a Zeltron’s metabolism offered quite a few rounds before she was more than buzzed.

The male Umbaran was holding his liquor remarkably well too. Better than his daughter who, after several more glasses of wine, passed out on the armchair between the couch and Atra’s seat. Qyreia stood to go get her a blanket, but on returning saw nothing of the woman in the chair. The hell?

A soft, barely audible footfall brought her eyes to the stairwell where she saw the trailing edge of the Inquisitor’s foot. Following like a cat to a mouse, the Zeltron went up the stairs and looked through the doorways until she came upon their shared bedroom, where she found the Juggernaut laying his daughter down and tenderly laying the covers on her. Rather than interrupt, she quietly hugged the wall, lingering in the shadows and watching the display unfold. The pale half-breed’s gold-tinged gray eyes watched his sleeping daughter, absentmindedly noting the rise and fall of her chest as she peacefully dreamt. A look of longing for things long past came over his eyes and, ever so gently, he leaned over to kiss Keira’s forehead.

“Sleep well, Special K,” he murmured softly, lingering for several long moments more before finally rising to leave. He instantly saw Qyreia standing outside, just barely peeking out from behind the door frame. “Did you see what you came for?” he said as he passed by.

A red hand on his arm stopped him. When he turned his head, he could see the Zeltron still looking through the door, a sad, tender expression on her face. “Listen Atra… I know things between us are far from done…”

“I can’t turn a blind eye forever, Privateer Arronen.”

“I know.” He could see the faintest hint of mist in the corner of the woman’s eyes, and she suddenly seemed even smaller than when she was being defiant. “Just… Whatever happens to me, don’t let her be alone. Mercs like me are a dime a dozen. Expendable. You Force users really don’t tend to look at us with any real sense of value, so I have no doubts about my chances of surviving here in the Brotherhood. I can’t turn a blind eye to what’s happening, and I refuse to kowtow to that bastard of a Grandmaster, so if we end up fighting each other, so be it. But no matter what… p-promise me you’ll take care of her.”

“You need to keep that promise yourself.”

Qyreia grabbed at the taller man’s shoulder and shoved him into the wall. “Listen kriffer, I’ve got self-worth. I don’t need you trying to play Philosophopotamus with me to have some sort of personal revelation. Now you promise me right now, or you can start your job of consoling your daughter early.”

“I was trying to be reassuring…”

Promise me…”

“There is nothing to promise you that I haven’t already promised myself. Which do you think holds more weight?”

“God dammit Atra,” she hissed so as not to wake Keira, “just say it!”

He let out a sigh that seemed almost annoyed. “No.” He brushed the surprised Zeltron’s hand aside with hardly a change in his expression. “I will see myself out.”

Without another word, he turned and walked silently down the stairs, the only sign of his departure signalled by the soft hiss of the door as it opened and then shut behind him. Qyreia’s eyes stared downcast at the floor, her fists shuddering at her sides as she fought the torrent raging just behind her eyes, unsure what hurt more: her fatalism or her pride. Damn you, Atra. Turning her gaze toward the sleeping girl, she looked on for several moments before silently stepping over the carpet to kneel at the bedside.

“Why’d you have to fall in love with me?” she whispered, taking a pale hand in hers. She gently rubbed the knuckles, thinking of all the other times they had held each other’s hands in the same exact way when tensions were high. “Why’d I have to fall for you too?”

The tears flowed freely. The anguish, Qyreia muted by biting on the mattress.

I love you, Keira.


(Qyreia Arronen) #11

Myrmidon, Aeotheran
Arronen-Viru household

When Keira woke to an empty house, she smiled slightly. She had sent her Qyreia off with her father to a party, much to the Zeltron’s chagrin, in hopes that the two of them would not only have a bit of fun, but that they might get along better. Must’ve partied hard, she thought as she prepared some caf in the kitchen. The merc’s dress might be a bit wrinkled without the niceties of her hangers and garment case, but the Force user was sure that someone in Arcona probably had a set of pajamas she could borrow; maybe even a spare bed, or at the very least an empty couch.

“Looks like I get the house all to myself!”

Her day passed as many of them did when Qyreia wasn’t around: perusing holonet pages, learning more about the universe that Keira still felt she knew so little about. More than once, her former Black Guard had come home to find a browser history rife with random – and sometimes risqué – site visits. Even in the worst cases, no matter how often the Zeltron was disappointed or secretly angry, she never yelled at or chastised the Seer. An amused grin and a light chiding was the worst treatment she had ever received for such activities. It was one of the things that had tempered her frustrations after their grand argument some months prior.

Sometimes in thinking about it, Keira still felt hurt. It seemed only natural. But then the Zeltron had changed everything for her. Aside from the occasional glass of wine or beer with dinner, the mercenary had completely quit drinking. She became more open about sharing her issues with the half-Umbaran. Qyreia had even allowed – though not without some argument – the former Quaestor to fight alongside her when hostile agents threatened Naga Sadow.

No matter how much she had hurt after that argument with the woman she loved, she couldn’t help but appreciate how much her Red Qek had sacrificed for her. The fire in the Zeltron had dwindled somewhat, but Keira could see it returning, slowly but surely.

Time passed by easily and without cares. Before she knew it, the sun had begun to set and she was still in her pajamas, having moved from the computer terminal to reading a book on the couch. It wasn’t until she felt the need to turn on a light that Keira realized the time, and that Qyreia wasn’t back yet. What is taking her so long? Knowing how easily the Zeltron got into trouble lately, she called her father to find out what might have happened.

“Hello? Keira?” Atra’s voice on the other end gave the half-breed some relief.

“Yes father, it’s me. I was wondering when you were going to bring my lovely Qyreia back home.”

There was a pause. “She’s not with you?”

“What do you mean ‘she’s not with me?’ Did something happen?” More silence followed. “Father, where is she?!”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?!” She stood there, listening intently for some explanation. “…Father, what the hell happened last night?”

Bosun Waystation, Hydian Way
Four days after the the events on Selen

“Oh god… Oh dear god, what have I done?”

No matter how many times she played the scenario over and over in her head, no amount of rationale could explain what had happened. I’ll tell you what happened, she thought as she stared blankly at the wall. You kriffed Atra.

It had all felt bad enough that the act had occurred in the first place, but the Umbaran had felt no remorse afterward. Somehow he had felt so comfortable with the act that he had offered to accompany her on the shuttle trip home. Even after Qyreia had slapped him. She’d expected him to strike back – maybe retort with one of his signature sarcastic quips – but he had only stood there silent, mild confusion evident in his features. Why shouldn’t he be? You went right along with him. Her departure from the Arconan party had been swift and quiet. Somewhere in the background of her mental periphery, she could feel eyes watching her. Not judging; just watching.

The trip back to Aeotheran and Myrmidon felt far longer than the trip to the Citadel had been, and it was well into the night when the shuttle landed. That, at least, she was thankful for. It meant that Keira would be asleep.

As much as she wanted to shower and change, the mercenary wanted to get as far away from her sleeping girlfriend and lover far more. She wanted to get away from everyone. Grabbing a change of clothes and her pistol was as far as she cared to hazard, leaving without so much as a note. She felt like she should have cried – should be crying now – but all she felt was empty. Empty and dirty. Everything was done on a mental autopilot that kept her from curling up into a ball from the utter pain and nausea that pervaded her gut.

The shuttle had thankfully waited as instructed, and the pilot was kind enough to take her vague destination instruction liberally. “Get me out of this system. First decent outpost you can find on the Hydian.” Bosun’s was a modest affair, but it was large enough to boast a small, thriving population of about a thousand sentients. While her entrance to the place was rather pronounced, still dressed as she was from the party, finding a room to stay in was not difficult, and she made quick work of locking herself away.

There was no telling how long she had stayed in the refresher’s shower. The water was nigh scalding, several small blisters developing on her chemically-paled skin, but the constant dull pain of her shame clouded out any external sensation. When she finally got out, her skin was a dark pink that almost could have made her pass for a Zeltron again. As yet, the only thing that had returned to normal was her hair color, and the feeling of being physically soiled was somewhat reduced.

It did little to make her feel any better.

Days passed slowly, eating little and sleeping less. By the second day of her stay, the blisters had subsided along with the altered skin pigmentation, returning the mercenary to her normal shade of vibrant red. It turned a few heads when she passed by the front desk of the lodging office on her way to get something to eat, but they said nothing to her. Her credits were good, and they weren’t about to make trouble over it. When she could get sleep, it was fitful and unpleasant, only adding to her discomfort. At least she knew she wasn’t pregnant when the monthly cycle started up, right on time. Small comfort.

Now she sat at the small table in her room, staring blankly at the wall, eyes occasionally falling to the blaster pistol laid neatly before her.

You don’t deserve what you’ve got, the voice in her head told her. You had so many chances to do the right thing. You knew what you were doing. You knew that it was wrong, and you still frackin’ did it. Her stomach churned and she had to swallow hard to suppress the urge to throw up. Keira gave you another chance, and you blew it by kriffing her dad!

As much as she wanted to tell the internal voice to stop, she couldn’t. She couldn’t because it was right. “Just another Zeltron,” she muttered, her voice croaking from disuse and the knot of depression in her throat. Her fingers graced the grip of her pistol, only to retreat fearfully.

You don’t even have the guts to disappear.

So many times, Qyreia had come a mere press of a button away from calling the half-breed. She wanted to confess her sin; beg forgiveness; hear the rage in Keira’s voice as she set the death knell on their relationship. But every time she tried, her hand fell away limp. Atra’s probably told her by now. She’s probably happy you’re gone. No one to hold her back from experiencing life anymore. The thought brought a renewed twist to her nausea. You couldn’t even tell her you loved her.

The mercenary’s hand slowly reached out and grabbed the pistol, knuckles dragging on the table’s surface under the weight of the heavy weapon. Do it. Get it over with you worthless schutta; you Zeltron whore.

Her hand trembled slightly as her face contorted, trying to stifle a sniff and the vestiges of tears hanging blurry on the edge of her eyelids. No matter how much she wanted to lift it up and press it to her head though, something deep inside kept her fingers grounded to the furniture.

“I’m so tired of this,” she sputtered. “I’m tired of hurting all the time… I just want it to be over.” Her chest ached and her muscles felt sore. There was not an inch of her that didn’t feel the sharp sting of her desperation. When she managed to lift the pistol, the first of many tears streaming hot over her cheeks, it felt almost impossibly heavy. She let the muzzle fall on the crown of her head, dragging it through her scalp to rest roughly against her temple.

“I love you Keira,” she sobbed, clenching her eyes shut and sliding her finger into the trigger well. “I’m sorry.”

Then she squeezed the trigger.

…but the trigger wouldn’t move.

No. Opening her eyes, thinking it was some sort of malfunction, she looked up to see Keira Viru in the open doorway, panting and with an outstretched hand, eyes wide with terror.

Suddenly she realized why not just the trigger, but the whole pistol would not move. Her lip, mouth partly agape, trembled as a renewed river of tears filled her eyes. No! She lowered her head, closing her eyes as she tried to force the gun to fire, hand shaking against the Force user’s invisible restraint. The attempt was answered when the weapon wrenched itself out of her grip, violently twisting her wrist in the process and drawing out a short, pained scream.

“Why won’t you fracking let me do it?! Why?!” she shouted, phlegm breaking her words as she clutched at her arms, burying her chin in her chest.

Viru stared at her, the Gray Jedi’s own eyes thinly lined with tears. Without warning, she bolted across the room. Qyreia braced herself for the strike, only to feel the pale woman’s arms wrap suddenly and tightly around her. Keira’s breath shuddered, eyes staring ahead in a vain attempt to hide her crying. For several long moments, her mouth moved, but her throat could not form the sound needed to articulate the words she wanted to say.

“I didn’t know where you were,” she stammered as she found her voice, head shaking as she tried to control herself. “I…” She looked down at the Zeltron, pale blue eyes frantically searching for the red woman’s face. “Why?”

The mercenary looked up, just enough to stay mostly curled up in her ball. “Why do you care?” she asked through her stifled sobs.

Keira’s hand squeezed hard on the mercenary’s shoulder. She wanted to slap her – to knock some sense into the woman – but seeing her as she was stayed her hand. Qyreia was already hurting enough. “Because I love you, you karking idiot! Goddammit Qyreia, why didn’t you come to me?!”

“Because I fracked up! You said I had one more chance, and then…” The mere thought of what happened on Selen wrenched her insides, clenching her back into her fetal ball. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! P-please…”

Oh no, the Force user thought, remembering what she’d said months before. “Q… That’s not what I meant.” Pressing herself tightly to the Zeltron, she buried her face in Qyreia’s matted hair. “I don’t know what I’d be without you. If you had… I don’t know if I could’ve handled it.” Keira struggled against the tears, but the dam was burst. “Dammit, don’t you ever try to leave me again!”

Even though she was sure that the Seer could feel it, Qyreia was thankful that the Force user couldn’t see her face or the flood pouring from it. You don’t deserve her, the voice said from the back of her mind, only serving to redouble her pain. “I’m-m sor-ry…”

Keira pulled away slightly. “Look at me, Q.” The Zeltron, still buried in her arms, shook her head. “Dammit Qyreia, look at me!” When she finally looked up, her whole body shuddering, she looked genuinely afraid; like a child of a looming, angry parent. Don’t look at me like that. Don’t be scared of me. “Did… did you mean what you said? When you were about to… you know…”

Qyreia bit her lip and nodded, eyes lowered in shame.

“Say it to me now,” she said quietly, a light pleading tone clear on her lilting accent.

Now it was the Zeltron who could not speak even as her mouth moved, her lips forming the words soundlessly. I love you, she mouthed. I love you. “I… -ve you. I love you. I love you!” Unfurling from her protective posture, Qyreia lurched forward, clutching at the raven-haired woman as though she were the only thing left in the galaxy. Over and over she repeated the phrase, fleeting kisses exchanged between her sobbed declarations, until her voice was hoarse and her body exhausted from the strain of the ordeal.

It was with some difficulty that Keira managed to coax the Zeltron into standing and walking around. She collected the weakened creature’s effects – dress and blaster both – before leading the mercenary to the shuttle that would take them home. After a little persuasion, she was even able to get her lover to eat a few bites of food before she utterly fell asleep in the half-Umbaran’s lap. As worried as she still was, the Force user couldn’t help but be a little contented that she had her Qyreia back. It would be a long recovery for both of them, but at least they had each other.


[CNS] Transmogrification Run On
(Qyreia Arronen) #12

Myrmidon, Aeotheran
Arronen-Viru household
Two days later…

“Yes, Mrs. Arronen, she’s alright. Just a little out of it,” Keira said over the house-comm’s handset, the Zeltron mother’s words unheard to the other occupant of the home. “She… hasn’t really been moving around much. I wanted to give her a little space. Time to recover, y’know? …Alright, I’ll let you know if anything changes. Mhm. Bye.”

It seemed a mercy to not give Qyreia’s parents the full story of what happened. If she could help it, the only ones that would know the full details would be the two of them alone.

Still, this was territory for which even the resourceful Keira couldn’t find a solid source of information. Since they had come home, the Zeltron mercenary had done little more than sit on the couch and stare blankly out the window at the sunny landscape outside. She didn’t eat, and the only indicator that she drank the glass of water that the Seer had set out was the slowly dwindling volume of fluid in the vessel, and the occasional glimpse of her cradling it in both hands.

When it had come time for bed, the former Black Guard remained emplaced. No amount of coaxing would budge the Zeltron. She even seemed somewhat scared at first, still fearful of the reproach that she’d expected back on the station where Keira had found her. The Seer didn’t know what to do until Qyreia shifted into her pale arms. I guess we’re sleeping on the couch, she’d thought, grabbing a blanket from under the sofa and wrapping it over their shoulders.

If Keira’s sleep was poor, then the mercenary’s was haunted. At several intervals throughout the night, she woke to the Zeltron shivering violently in her arms, drenched in sweat and mumbling incoherently at the demons in her dreamscape. Sometimes a soothing voice would be enough to calm the storm; sometimes she had to wake the red woman. In such instances, Qyreia would open her eyes for a moment, look bleakly at the half-Umbaran, then bury her face out of sight once more. Keira knew that she cried herself to sleep, quiet though it was, by the warm dampness that developed on her pajamas’ sleeve.

Before she realized, the rays of early morning were peering through the window. Qyreia was gone, but the sound of the refresher told the Force user that her lover was in the shower. Sneaky devil. The reprieve proved ample opportunity to make the call to the mercenary’s parents back on Zeltros.

Keira took advantage of the time to prepare a small bowl of fruit and some hot water for tea. She’ll be hungry when she gets out, the Seer thought, hand shakily cutting wedges of melon, berries, and pomaceous produce. As much as she was happy that Qyreia was home, she had been doing everything possible to suppress her own torrent of thoughts and emotions. She knew what had happened between the Zeltron and her father, but whatever trauma that might have caused was wiped away after seeing the red woman’s desperation and hearing her say the words that she had been longing to hear for some time. What bothered her more was that the mercenary had been willing, and had tried, to kill herself. Merely thinking about it made her livid, only to be tempered by the alternative had she not found her lover in time.

In her short life, Keira had not known loss the way that most people experienced it. The possibility of losing someone she cared so much about – the finality of it all – was beyond her comprehension; like looking up at the stars and realizing just how small one is by comparison. Just trying to imagine it staggered her.

Despite her shaking hands, Keira completed the fruity assemblage and brought it out to the living room. She was just setting down the steaming mugs of tea when Qyreia appeared from the stairway, the sounds of the shower having disappeared during the half-breed’s musings. At least she’s dressed in some fresh clothes, the Force user thought, noting the shorts and oversized shirt. The mercenary looked at her, the barely-stifled expression of fear mingled with the much stronger visage of shame. What’s more, Kiera could feel these emotions from the red woman. Even at home, it was rare for the Zeltron to bring out her preternatural abilities; it was more natural for them to be suppressed.

“I made some breakfast,” Keira said gently as she set the hot cups on the low table and sat on the soft cushions of the sofa. “Come have some. You’ve gotta be hungry by now.”

It was hard to read Qyreia’s reaction, save for the palpable emotions drifting on the air. Wordlessly, she walked over and sat, hand hovering by the fruit bowl for a moment before taking up the tea instead. Up close and in the light of the gathering day, Keira could see the early signs of her lover’s emaciation – a clear side effect of the Zeltron’s high metabolism clashing with her lack of nourishment over the past six days.

She picked up the bowl and plucked a small berry, holding it out gingerly. “Come on. Open up and say ‘ahh.’” There was a fleeting sense of anger before it was replaced by the previous combination, the red woman’s eyes barely so much as glancing at the food. “Q, you can’t keep doing this.”

“I suppose you wanna talk?” Her voice was hoarse from disuse as much as from her screaming at Keira the other day. The deadpan way that she brushed aside the half-breed’s concern did not help matters.

“Have something to eat first.”

The Zeltron gave a tired sigh through her nostrils before sipping at her tea. As relaxed as she tried to appear, her trembling hands displayed her fear as much as her telepathically broadcast emotions. Her every movement seemed calculated; showing an air of calm while ready to recoil at any given moment. What made it all the harder to bear was that Keira knew Qyreia was scared of her. What’s more, the Gray Jedi was getting tired of the silent treatment.

Dammit Qyreia,” she yelled as she slammed the bowl down on the table and making the Zeltron jump in her seat, “I don’t know if I should be pissed off or worried right now! I want to frackin’ scream at you so much! You almost took away the one thing I care about more than anything else!” The mercenary’s gaze turned sullen, tears welling up in her eyes but refusing to fall as she stared into her mug. “Then I look at you and… and I just want to hold you and not let go. I want to watch holoflicks and go to bed with you and be together like we used to. I want my old Qyreia.”

To her surprise, the Zeltron moved, shaking her head slowly. “I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“The old Qyreia is dead.”

Perhaps it was the merc’s choice of words, but a fuse went off in Keira that brought a surge of anger forth that she hadn’t felt in a long time; if ever. Before the Zeltron even had time to register her lover’s emotional broadcast, the half-breed had smacked the mug of tea to the floor, grabbed the red woman by her shoulders, and slapped her hard across the face.

“Then you bring her back!” Tears welled up and out of the Force user’s eyes, and for a moment, the merc seemed attentive. “Goddammit, you bring back my Qyreia! You do it right the hell now!”

It felt like an eternity that the Zeltron simply watched Keira cry, a fire of half a dozen emotions burning in her eyes and in the telepathic ether. Then her eyes turned downcast again. Slipping from the surprised Seer’s grasp, she picked up the now-empty mug and looked at it tearfully. For half a heartbeat, Keira thought that the trembling lip and silent tears were for the lost drink, only to realize that she had only served to make at least one of the mercenary’s fears a reality.

“I don’t know what to d-do anymore,” Qyreia said, barely holding back her sobs as she ran her fingers along the smooth surface of the cup. “I hate myself almost as much as… as much as I love you.”

“Why?! Why would you hate yourself?”

“Because I’m nothing more than a self-righteous schutta that couldn’t even keep it in her pants for one karkin’ night! Living proof that a Zeltron can’t fight it’s baser fracking nature!” She choked back the tide that seemed ready to burst her damn any moment. “You deserve b-better than m-me.”

I’m about ready to slap you again, you beautiful fool. “Q, listen. About what happened… You aren’t entirely to blame. In fact, I don’t really blame you at all. You and my father drank from those bottles that your parents sent us. Those bottles contained what your mother called an ‘elixir of infatuation.’”

Qyreia’s broken breaths subsided momentarily, her attention clearly caught on this new information. “That… would exp-plain a lot.” She looked back at the mug, her sad, pensive look resuming as before. “I know what those are though. They don’t take over your mind. I… I made a choice. I knew what I was doing.”

“They may not take over your mind, but from what I’ve learned they sure as hell make it next to impossible to say no.”

The Zeltron’s grip on the mug tightened as her frustration grew. Dammit, why aren’t you mad about this? You’re pissed at me for all the wrong things! As much as she feared it, she wanted the sting of reprisal. It was the natural order of things: a person commits a wrong, and they’re punished for it; not that such tenets were often followed in the Brotherhood, but Qyreia was hardly the norm of the organization when it came to morals, to say nothing for her own race’s cultural norms. Talk such a big game, but then I go and do the exact opposite. What kind of moron does that make me?

“I can’t…” she stammered, fingers strangling the cup so hard that her lover feared it might shatter in her hands.

“Hey,” Keira said, soothingly laying a hand on the red woman’s shaking ones. That caught the mercenary’s attention long enough for the former Quaestor to wrap a hand behind Qyreia’s head and pull her into the half-breed’s waiting lips.

The Zeltron’s resolve finally broke, tears streaming down her face as she tried to separate in a futile effort, only to feel Keira’s efforts redouble. Unlike on the station, this wasn’t an embrace of desperation or lament. There was a deep, inherent passion to it that the mercenary had feared lost. Any doubts toward the Force user’s intent was cast aside when she felt her lover’s overpowering emotions pierce the dilapidated shroud of her mind. After all of the yelling, self-inflicted torture, and the tears seemingly unending, she finally understood: the half-breed didn’t care about what happened before. She wanted the mercenary, and only her, no matter what.

Keira smiled when she felt the fearful tremble subside and give way to an equal return from the Zeltron. That’s my Q, she mused as her lover’s vivacity steadily grew. “I’m glad you’re back,” she said during a brief separation of their lips.

“Stop talking,” Qyreia breathed, her voice thick and heady as her embrace resumed with vigor, going so far as to push the Seer down onto the cushions. I need this. I need you. Right now.

“Could we at least take this to the bedroom?” Keira giggled as the red woman nipped at her ear.

The request was met by a reluctant nuzzle. “So long as you’re with me,” she whispered. “I’m yours… my love.”

The next morning…

Dawn was a gentle affair in the confines of their boudoir. The light snaked in softly, muted by the shadow of the rest of the house that blocked the direct rays. It offered a gentle awakening for Keira, her ice-blue eyes fluttering open lazily as she took in the scent of lavender touched with starship fuel – Qyreia’s scent. Beneath the covers, her pale hand brushed gently over the bare red skin, pressing her own body to her lover’s and relishing the warmth that radiated from it.

“Good morning,” she whispered when she felt the snuggling brush of the Zeltron’s nose on her neck. “How are you feeling?”

“I could go for some breakfast,” she responded quietly, seeming to be equally content with remaining in bed as they were.

“And besides being hungry?” the Force user chuckled.

Qyreia pulled herself closer. “Better. Still not a hundred percent… but definitely better.”

“Good,” she said as she kissed the merc’s scalp, running a hand through the shimmering blue hair. It was strange to feel the subtle ebb and flow of the Zeltron’s telepathy perfuming the air with her emotions alongside the pheromones that she always kept locked up; but it was a good sort of strange. “I missed this.”

“Hm?”

“Just… laying here. Not really worrying about anything.” She looked down into Qyreia’s steely blue-and-gray eyes. “When you’re here, I’m not scared of anything.”

The mercenary hid her face in the pale woman’s arms, conflicted on how she felt about the compliment, but no less happy to hear it. After everything that had happened, Keira wasn’t the only one who felt reassured. She was the first one to stick around; the first not to run away or lose her nerve; the first that had accepted wholly for who she was, complete with insecurities and flaws. The Force user had protected the Zeltron from herself. “I love you,” she whispered. If anything, Keira knew now how much those words meant to her lover. They were not given lightly.

She had earned them, for better or for worse.


(Qyreia Arronen) #13

Myrmidon Outskirts
Aeotheran, Orian System

Dead leaves rustled violently underfoot while branches and leaves snapped and swayed as the red woman surged through the foliage. Her pursuer’s footsteps were not far behind, navigating the same trail and facing much of the same natural resistance. It was definitely more maddening for the latter than the former.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Keira half-yelped as a bent branch thrashed back at her face. “I thought we were supposed to be training!”

“This is training,” Qyreia called back, catching a mouthful of leaves for her effort. “You still have to catch me!”

Where the Force user had her in agility and speed, the Zeltron held an advantage in survival skills. Anyone could hike a trail. Not everyone could make one; or follow one. What had begun as a bit of hand-to-hand skills exercise in the fields outside of Myrmidon had transitioned into the woods, becoming a game of cat and mouse. The cat just happened to be a Force user.

Both of the women were pushing their limits, having been running at high speed through the thick underbrush for quite some time. Keira’s new favored attire was form-fitting and flexible, but it was not very protective from the harsher branches. The light fabric at least provided some respite from the heat, which felt particularly strong that day. The mercenary had likewise foregone her signature jacket, leaving the slightly heavier fabric of her clothes to darken and grow heavy with sweat.

They had someplace specific to be though, and Qyreia was bound and determined to draw the half-Umbaran into the trap. She half-crossed a stream, making sure that the pale woman heard the splash of her boots in the shallow water before tossing a heavy piece of deadwood into the foliage ahead to imitate the sound of her carrying on in that direction before cutting left along the defile and back into the woods further down.

Ooh, I’ve got you now, Keira thought as she surged through the greenery, lithely catching the sudden drop in the terrain when she reached the stream, before bounding forward to follow the sounds of the mercenary’s stampeding movements. It wasn’t until a few dozen meters of rough terrain later that she paused to listen, realizing that the telltale sounds were gone. Sweat beaded heavily on her brow and her breaths were labored from the continuous running, making it all the harder to concentrate on the details she was trying to attend. Concentrate. She can’t be too far away.

The mental picture that the Force provided her was far from ideal, but it served its purpose in pointing out the general distance and direction of her target. Sneaky little devil. Maintaining her concentration through the renewed pursuit was difficult, given her already fatigued state, and while she was closing the distance, the Zeltron was still moving at a fast clip through the jungle. Eventually Keira had to refocus her energies, though by then she could once again hear the sounds of her prey.

She could hear limbs snapping just ahead, where a break in the trees afforded a view of the pale blue sky beyond the foliage. “Gotcha!” she yelled as she burst forth into the clearing. Instead of seeing the mercenary, though, her vision was filled by the presence of a rather large looking ship. “Where did this come from?”

Her musings were cut short when a shrill cry pierced the quiet atmosphere, right before Qyreia landed on her in a giggling heap.

“How the hell did you manage to sneak up on me?”

“Your future-sensey-thing…”

“Precognition?”

“Yeah, that. It really only alerts you to immediate threats.” The red woman smooched her nose. “And I’m not a threat.”

“That’s not how the Force works.”

“And yet I have some rather fond memories of another way the Force ‘doesn’t work.’” Qyreia wiggled her eyebrows for good measure.

“You are incorrigible.”

“Love you too.”

Keira tilted her head back to look at the upside-down ship that had so distracted her before. “I don’t suppose you planned this? Borrowed a ship for a romantic excursion?”

“Nope,” she said, rising and pulling the pale woman to her feet. “This baby,” she motioned toward the ship as she wrapped her arms around her lover, “is mine.”

“Wha… When… How much did you spend on this thing?”

“A lot.”

“Did you get this after your mission with father?”

“What do you think flew me out there?” Keira’s eyes panned over to the Zeltron’s warily. “Come on. There’s more I wanna show you.”

“Is this some sort of mid-life crisis thing?” she asked as Qyreia led the way up the boarding ramp.

“Hey! I am not in ‘mid-life’!”

The half-breed chuckled as they made their way into the ship proper. It wasn’t her first time in a YT-1300; Qyreia had borrowed several before for transport or trading purposes. The interior layout seemed a bit odd though, mixing transport and freighter specifications in equal measure, with the result that everything seemed to be very snugly, if comfortably, squished together. Where it seemed to shine was in its creature comforts: the lounge was not particularly large, but it came with a neatly organized kitchenette and clean holochess table. If anything, the most surprising thing was that everything seemed so well-kempt and tidy. Qyreia explained that this was because, while the ship was an older model, it was purchased practically new. Atra had also provided some refurbishment, the reasons or means for which Keira decided to not inquire over.

She nearly jumped when she heard the whirr of a droid that suddenly appeared from the rear cargo hold. “What’s this?”

“This is R3-M3,” Qyreia said, patting the droid’s polished-steel dome. The dark red accents seemed to fit nicely with the Zeltron’s skin tone. It looked almost cute next to the merc. “I’m thinking of calling ‘im Remee.”

When the droid bleeped enthusiastically, the Force user giggled happily. “Alright, I don’t care how much he cost. He’s adorable!” R3 whirred happily, becoming part of the tour from that point on.

Keira inspected everything from the gun turrets to the bunkroom, capable of housing four cramped passengers. Her attention caught on the starboard airlock, which appeared particularly new and freshly painted. “Atra” was Qyreia’s only response, signifying that he was the contributor of the new parts; though it made the pale woman wonder what exactly had gone on during that mysterious mission. The cockpit she was most familiar with, having sat in several during her tenure with the former smuggler.

“So, what’s she called?” Keira asked as she watched her lover tenderly run her fingers over the smooth surface of the control panel.

Qyreia grinned, sheepish and devious in equal measure. “Katurno.”

The former Quaestor’s blush was nothing compared to her wide-eyed expression. “Well…” she half-coughed, “that’s… nice.”

“I figured that a word that was meaningful to me would be a good choice.” She rose and slid her hand tenderly over Keira’s shoulder. “Speaking of which, I think now’s a good time to show you the captain’s quarters. R3, make yourself scarce.”

Brrt beep do beep it intoned inquisitively.

“Adult things,” Qyreia answered as she felt Keira’s hand slip into hers.


(Qyreia Arronen) #14

Galeres Quaestor Quarters
Arcona Citadel, Estle City, Selen

It wasn’t a house, but it was home; or at least it was now. One way or another, the Zeltron had heard about and applied for the Quaestor job in Arcona’s House Galeres. Despite her best efforts, and likely because Atyiru had a few special words in her favor, Qyreia found herself once again packing all of her worldly possessions onto a ship — her own ship for the first time — and moving to some strange place. At least she wouldn’t be going alone.

No sooner had the reply come in than Keira was packing her things. While Qyreia was walking the halls of the first house she had ever owned, however briefly, her half-Umbaran lover was in high spirits thinking about how she would not only have the Zeltron to herself, but likewise be in closer proximity to her father, Atra. It was a chance to see new things and meet new people. It was an opportunity for her Red Qek to grow and, as mercenaries do, make a little more money. They were leaving behind a good handful of friends — Qyreia’s first and only apprentice, Leeadra, chief among them — and the Force user did her best to put the positives into her lover’s mind over the negatives.

She would miss Aeotheran and Myrmidon; she would miss Leeadra; but Qyreia had a job to do now, and it was rude to keep people waiting. Goodbyes were short and the flight to Selen long, but it was done.

“No kitchen,” she grumbled flatly as they carried in the multitude of boxes. Much like their previous home, this one came pre-furnished, but it was hardly the apartment that Qyreia had expected. There was a full refresher, a bedroom, and a small living room, but the kitchenette left a lot to be desired. We’ll just have to make do, she thought, setting down the final box and looking around. For it’s size, it was very nice, and the Citadel was the heart of Arcona’s operations. The commute to work would be short at least.

“Are you alright?” Keira asked as she finished organizing her pile, sauntering up to the beleaguered-looking Zeltron and wrapping her arms behind her lover’s back.

“Just nervous. Lot on my mind.”

“I know, but you’ll be fine. I was in your shoes once, in case you forgot.”

“Kinda hard to,” Qyreia grinned, holding up her tattooed arm that denoted her status as her lover’s former Blackguard.

“What I mean is that I know how this stuff works. If anything, this just means you’ll have one more person to go to if you have questions.”

The new Quaestor took a moment to enjoy her lover’s embrace before rising and resuming the homemaking process. There was a lot to do, and she wanted to get as much of it done in as short a time as possible. Good impressions are important, after all. They hadn’t opened more than a few boxes when the door chimed.

“Frackin’ hell,” Qyreia huffed, “we just got here.” The door chimed again. “Yeah yeah, I’m coming already! Hold your hyperdrive!”

When she opened the door, she was met with the image of a tanned, tall woman with white hair and no visible eyes. “Heya new Quaestor!”

“H-hey Atty… I don’t suppose you heard what-”

“Every word,” she beamed. “Can I borrow you for a moment?”

“S-sure. Keira, I’ll be back in a bit.” The pale woman among the boxes nodded and waved her off with a loving smile.

Following Atyiru’s lead, they walked down the winding halls of the Citadel for a time in silence, the Consul nearly skipping with each step while Qyreia walked just behind. Gray-and-blue eyes watched the Force user warily, wondering what business she could have for the mercenary already. As a result, she was unaware of their destination until they arrived in the quiet greenery of the courtyard, overhung as it was by the giant tree therein.

“So, friend Qyreia, I had some things I wanted to discuss with you.”

“I’m not in trouble already am I? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure I parked my ship in the right spot and everything.”

The Force user’s head tilted quizzically. “Trouble? No silly! It is about your ship though. As I recall, there was a bit of a misstep on my part during your recent activities with Uji, Atra, and Adem. Namely calling your ship a ‘flying pile of garbage.’”

“Ah,” the Zeltron intoned, the irksome title drawing a little bite into her tone. “Yeah, I remember that.”

“I wanted to apologize for that remark. I was caught up in the discussion and hearing that we’d had a prison break did not settle my nerves at all. So I’m sorry for what I called you ship. I know it’s important to you and, from what I heard, it served you very well.”

That took Qyreia aback, if only a little, but it did settle her nerves to amiable levels. “I… Yeah, apology accepted. Thanks.”

“Excellent! Now, dear Qybbles — do you mind if I call you that?” Qyreia shook her head. “Gooood. Qybbles, I want to know your plans for Galeres. We’re in a tight spot with the Fleet right now, and…”

The conversation trailed off into the light breeze that rustled the leaves of the sentinel tree. For how brief their conversation felt, nearly an hour passed between the pair as the mercenary was briefed in spurts and sputters on the the inner workings of Arcona, interspersed with the occasional friendly tangent. If the Consul knew that Qyreia was ill at ease with her new post, she did a good job of alleviating those worries. She also pointed out where the mess hall was and how to call for food

When she finally returned to the apartment, she found Keira napping on the couch, their effects largely unpacked save for a few small boxes of Qyreia’s more sensitive items. Looks like someone was busy while I was gone. With a pleasant grin, she resumed her unpacking, limited though it was: hanging up her tiny selection of clothes, setting out picture frames, and storing her more prized accoutrements at the back of the closet. She’d even managed to cover Keira in a blanket and start a kettle going for tea when the door chimed once more. What is this, the three ghosts of Life Day? Her eyes darted to the couch where the Force user remained unmoving and asleep, clearly recovering from her earlier excitements. Still knocked out.

In a quick and silent stride, Qyreia moved to the door and pressed the button to open it. “Yello?” When she looked down, she noticed a particularly blue and fuzzy individual standing at her threshold. “Bleu?”

“You? You…” Kordath clearly fumbled for the Zeltron’s name before remembering who he was looking for. “You’re… tha new Quaestor?”

“So I’m told.” The bags under the Ryn’s eyes had subsided greatly since last she saw him, but they were still present. “How’s the baby treating you?”

“Oh Shay? Wee one is doin’ fine. Tha info ye gave me an’ Zuj helped a lot.” He leaned close to whisper. “I don’ suppose you’d want ta babysit, seein’ as how you’re not too far away anymore?”

“My my, only just meeting your boss and already asking favors.”

“If I’da known ye were gonna be like that, I would nae have kept sober for the encounter.”

“I’m joking Bleu!” She clapped him on the shoulder and jostled him amiably. “Sheesh, you must still be having sleep troubles.”

“A bit,” he sighed, patting his jacket and wishing he’d brought his flask.

She chuckled, stepping outside the doorway and letting it close behind her. “How about this? You and me go and grab a few drinks, talk a little shop before things get too hectic.”

“You buyin’?”

“I’ll buy my drinks.”

Where Atyiru had shown her the hotspots of the Citadel, the Aedile took her through the three rings of Estle City, all the way down to the Capac ring where the spacer bars were. As Bleu described it, it was the best way to have a good time away from the bureaucrats and chicanery of the upper tiers. The dim cantina that the Ryn led them to brought back a whole plethora of fond and not-so-fond memories. Being a spacer and former smuggler though, these were definitely her people.

The business part of the conversation was done by the time they moved onto the second round of drinks. Kordath was keeping good pace with the Zeltron, but his penchant for straight liquor was starting to wear on him by the fourth set of drinks. His companion, who had two livers and was more selective about her drinks, was far more steady in her seat.

“Sho I have a question for ye, boss,” the Ryn slurred as another set of filled glasses were put in front of them.

“Don’t call me boss. Please. Qyreia’s fine. I’ll even take Arronen if you wanna be formal ‘bout it.”

“Fair enough. Anywhatsits, I been thinking… you don’ mess with me head like Shay’lra does, an’ she’s only half Zeltron.”

“Ugh, I forgot that you don’ know too much ‘bout me. I don’t do pheromones. Where most Zeltrons figure out how to control and augment their stuff, I turn mine off. Same with that emotional telepathy that had you an’ Zuji fightin’.”

That seemed to take a load off of the Ryn’s mind. “Oh good. I don’ hafta worry about ye gettin’ all up in me head then.”

“I believe another of my people played with your head already,” she said into her glass, eyes averted in mock innocence.

“Tha… Okay, ye got me there.” He peered ponderously into his glass. “So, aside from becoming one of Atty’s thralls—” Qyreia interrupted with a laugh, “why’d ye come over tae us? Not exactly a short trip, and it’s nae like the Sadowans perk up much with Arcona; no offense.”

“No, I get what you’re saying, and that’s just it: they’re still sitting on the fence with the Undesirables business. I’ve been a declared member of the resistance basically since it was a thing; whether or not they acknowledged it, I dunno.”

“Just don’t be startin’ any fights we cannae win, alright?”

“I prefer a good ambush from behind solid cover.”

“You,” he said, tipping his glass with a grin, “I like you.”

“Feelin’s mutual, Mister Kord. Here’s to me not fracking that up.”


(Qyreia Arronen) #15

Several weeks ago…
Galeres Quaestor’s Apartment
Selen, Dajorra System

“What’re ye doin’ with Shay?!” Kordath yelped when he saw her bouncing happily atop his Aedile’s blue-haired head.

The taller Zeltron sidestepped the Ryn gaily, continuing the playful ride. “She likes it! Quit being such a sourpuss!”

“I find that rather odd coming from you, lass.”

“Whassat supposed to mean?” Qyreia asked, letting the well-grown baby roll over her face and into her waiting arms.

“Ye were always the serious one in tha office.”

“Maybe if you kept your tail to your_self_,” she chided as she swatted the grayish blue appendage instinctually, “then I wouldn’t need to be. Besides, you’re the Quaestor now.”

As well as she hid it, Kordath could still hear the acid in Qyreia’s voice whenever her demotion came up in conversation. It was a sore spot that he’d hoped would be soothed by watching Shay’lra. It didn’t hurt that, as a full-blooded Zeltron, she was very good with the Ryntron baby. Today had been a bit of a surprise appearance, and he had been at the receiving end of the biggest look of curiosity ever when his second-in-command had spotted the black-haired child playing unintelligibly alongside his own daughter. It took several intricate assurances that the human child wasn’t his — by adoption or otherwise.

“That’s Samantha. She’s eh… a friend o’ mine’s kid.”

“A friend, or a ‘friend?’” she said with heavy air-quotes.

“I can neither confirm nae deny what…” A chime rang from another room, calling the Ryn’s attention to his personal computer terminal. Qyreia could hear excited mutterings, but couldn’t make out the words. Then the Ryn reappeared, dashing across the living space with voracity as he threw on a jacket and made his way to the door.

“What’s wrong?”

“Zuji’s got some trouble at Ol’Val. Can ye watch Shay and Sammy?”

“Sure, I gue-…”

“Great. Thanks Red.”

With that, Kordath was gone, hurriedly disappearing out the door before the mercenary could even finish her sentence. Indignantly, she looked at Shay’lra and Sammy in turn. “Someday I’m gonna kick him in the ‘nads so bloody hard… Bah! We don’t need him anyway, right girls?” The two children babbled happily, rather oblivious to what was happening, which seemed to appease their babysitter sufficiently enough.

With the Ryn gone, Qyreia took up the tasks she was so accustomed to whenever she was watching over Shay: organizing the toys scattered across the floor, playing some Bleu-approved music, singing along when the kids attempted to mimic the lyrics, and changing diapers as necessary. It gave the Zeltron a sort of peace to fulfill what seemed so simple a task as childcare. It didn’t hurt that the children were so easy to please and, with Kordath gone, she opened up the pheromones and emotional telepathy preternatural to her heritage, which only made things easier. She was in the middle of making lunch for herself and her two charges when she heard the door open and close.

“Hey Kord! That was awful quick…” When she walked out to meet the Ryn in the living room, she was met instead by a human woman with almond eyes and chin-length red hair that was clearly growing into its natural black coloration. “Who the frackwaffles are you?” she asked as one hand went from the saucepan she was holding to her hip where her pistol so often hung. The lack of weight reminded her that, with a glance, her blaster was hanging high on the opposite wall, out of reach of either of the children.

“Take a guess, sugah,” the woman said somewhat mockingly.

“I don’t owe the Hutts any money; honest.”

The woman chuckled, lifting her shirt to reveal a plethora of scars — including a brand marking her as a member of the Black Sun syndicate — as well as a helping of what Kord and Qyreia collectively called “tasteful underboob.” The merc quickly covered Shay’s eyes, who only laughed, thinking this was a game of peekaboo.

“I think she’s waitin’ for the big reveal.”

“She’s not getting any reveal!”

“Really? Really? She sucks on them every time I’m here. What the hell are you hiding, kiddo?”

Qyreia’s teeth ground in frustration. “Who the hell are you?! Why are you in Kord’s house?!”

“Name’s Satsi. I’m here to pick up my kid.” When the Zeltron very clearly hesitated, she pointed to the black-haired child. “That’d be Sammy, the one that don’t look like one of your kind… and doesn’t have a tail.”

“Whaddya mean my ‘kind?’”

Satsi scooped up her child who had so casually crawled away from her short-time babysitter, looking the blue-haired woman up and down. “You pinkskins, redskins, or whatever you prefer.” A cold smirk etched across her lips. “Your pheromone bantha druk. Mess with people just by existing. It’s what you do.”

If the human didn’t see the jaw tightening, the eyes narrowing, or any of the other telltale signs of Qyreia’s ire at the comment, then it took only a moment before she felt it entering her mind like a dark cloud. Shay, keenly attuned to the racial quirk by grace of her own lineage, started crying angrily as her babysitter’s emotions bled into her own infantile psyche.

“Cool your thrusters,” Satsi continued, bouncing Sammy on her hip, “before that stick up your choobs ruptures something, sugah. I don’t like Faleen either; or the sparkies. At least you’re half normal.”

“Are you leaving?” she asked coldly. “Because if you’re not, then I am. I don’t have to put up with your druk.”

“What, and take lil’ ol’ Shay with you? She ain’t your kid.”

“Not yours either, schutta; and guess which one of us is the designated babysitter right now.”

The Ryntron was still crying as Qyreia made her way past the reclining human who watched her with as much amusement as apparent distrust. A pale hand shot out to grab the merc’s wrist, but she slipped through the grasp before Satsi could close the vice.

“‘Fore ya leave: you do anything with Sammy? Kark with her head and all that?”

“Oh my god,” Qyreia groaned in annoyance, ignoring Satsi as she turned back toward her gunbelt and the door.

“You better not have done anything to mess with her.” The human’s voice was growing less mocking and more threatening with each passing syllable. Satsi might have made to grab the Zeltron again if the latter hadn’t already picked up the belt with the heavy blaster pistol off the wall.

“That’s not how pheromones work! Bloody fracking kriffballs, what is it with you idiots and your pseudoscience bantha druk?!” Despite her haphazard waving of the blaster, Satsi was pretty sure this wasn’t the time to test the red woman’s reflexes. “Even if I threw every little Zeltron ability at you, it would still only help to change your attitude toward me — which needs some serious work, by the way.”

“Says the psychocheeka with the baby and a gun.”

Qyreia glanced at her hand, shook her head, and holstered the pistol. “If you’re still here when Kord gets back, let ‘im know I’m taking Shay back to my place.”

Satsi was only halfway through another remark before the door closed behind the Zeltron, leaving her and Sammy alone in Kordath’s Quaestorial apartment. I don’t know who that sleemo thinks she is, but Imma make sure Kordy fires her choobs. She took a seat on the sofa and kicked up her feet, turning on the holoscreen and she fiddled with her wriggling child. As the drama that was playing splayed light across the room, her eyes caught the glint of the saucepan that had the food the Zeltron had been cooking for herself. “Your loss,” she laughed, picking up the cookware and a spoon lying nearby. “Hm… not bad.”

The Ryn arrived only an hour later, seeming more ragged than usual, but otherwise unharmed. He was, however, rather surprised to see the two Zeltrons gone and replaced by Satsi.

“What happen’d here?”

“Heya trash panda!”

“Hey Red. What… where’s the other red one? …er, two I s’pose.”

Satsi half grumbled, half laughed. “Said she was takin’ Shay to her place. I knew ya had crappy taste in women, Fluffy, but you need to fire that one.”

Deep down, Kordath was thankful that nothing had gotten broken in his absence; just another piece of good news to add to the false alarm that had pulled him away in the first place. No blaster scoring. That’s a good sign. He sat down in a heap at Satsi’s feet.

“Hey, you listening to me?”

This isn’t going to end pretty.


(Qyreia Arronen) #16

Fort Blindshot
Selen, Dajorra System

Even though the breeze was cool, the yellowing grasses crunched softly underfoot on the island that, after acquisition by Arcona, had become Fort Blindshot — named post-mortem for their Consul that had fallen during the fight against the Collective. A few weeks without rain had dried out the majority of the foliage, leaving green in only the trees and hardiest of scrub on the lower plains. The thicker forest towards the dead caldera that made up the post’s tactical training area had enough spring water to keep its deep emerald coloration. The dichotomy was almost pretty.

It made actual training rather difficult. As it turns out, blaster fire does a good job of starting prairie fires on the range. It left the Galerian Quaestor with little to do.

While she still formally lived at the Citadel, Qyreia had moved and centralized the House’s headquarters at the new island base. The past weeks had been spent setting up administrative infrastructure and poking the scant Arconan forces stationed there to get back into a training rhythm. The brief incursion by the Collective into Arconan space had hardly even phased them, given how handily they’d been defeated. Regular aerial patrols to look for pockets of insurgents were the only interruptions to the otherwise normal day-to-day activities.

So soon after the fight on Nancora, getting a message from Lucine Vasano wasn’t too out of the ordinary. Together with Uji and Kordath, the two women had worked briefly on combating the breakers of the already tenuous peace within the Brotherhood. The subject matter of her communication was, on the other hand, much more strange.

“Who the hell is Rrogon Skar Agrona?” Qyreia had asked herself when the human’s holomail had reached her.

Lucine offered only a few details. A Kaleesh with a deep history with Arcona, he was making a return that would likely bring a good deal of drama with it. That’s fine. Plenty of drama going around these days anyway. Given so few people were available within the House to help her manage things solo, the addition would make for a welcome reprieve. She was expecting a casual meeting, but her communicator beeping seemed an ominous signal when it suddenly started going off.

“Y’ello.”

“Hey Qyreia? It’s Lucine.”

“Yo. Where are ya? Where’s my new guy?”

“We are at the hospital.”

Well frackballs. The human roughly explained what happened — something about explosions and, she was pretty sure, something about Satsi — while the Zeltron made her way to the base’s sizeable medical center. Somehow such random interruptions to her personal peace seemed so much more commonplace than they used to be. When she finally found the room, she found the redheaded human hovering over what she could only assume was the Kaleesh in question. Or at least, what was left of him.

“What the hell happened to him?” she asked more out of curiosity than worry.

The human hesitated. “He has many enemies. They got to him first before I could bring him here. I am sworn to say no more so that no vengeance is sought.”

“You say that like the one I’d shoot is in Arcona or Gal.” Lucine averted her eyes tellingly, eliciting a long grumble from the mercenary Quaestor. “God fracking dammit, why can’t these daddy-issue Hutt lickers get a grip? Is he at least going to live?”

“Yes. I have already arranged for prostheses to be applied.”

Qyreia looked at the stumps of limbs on the Kaleesh who, she noticed, was watching her from beneath eyes lidded with pain and anesthetics. “You’re gonna be one helluva cyborg.”

“I will be alive,” the mauled creature returned roughly.

She shot a glance at Lucine, who took several steps back in understanding, before returning her attention to the patient. “Don’t suppose you’ll tell me who did this to you?”

“No,” he returned flatly.

“You used to be in Arcona though?”

“Yes.”

Qyreia was getting tired of the one-syllable answers. “Lucine tells me you’re looking for a job. I happen to be in the market for an Aedile. Judging by your choice of interview attire,” she joked, motioning at the life support equipment, “I’d say you’re not scared of a fight.”

“I will execute your will and that of the Serpentine Throne.”

“Don’t sound so excited,” she quipped sarcastically.

“If you want excitement, perhaps you should be speaking with someone else.”

“Fair.” The Zeltron looked at Rrogon, pensively chewing her lip. “I don’t know who you are or where you come from, so I’m taking a risk here. I need to know, Mister Agrona: can I trust you?”

He thought about that question for a long time before he responded. Before now, he would have never been in this position, but with his change of heart and mind he knew what to say. “In the past I have been both protector and traitor to this Clan, but I seek forgiveness, not hate. So for the time being, you can trust me.”

She watched his face, broken though it was, trying to parse out more from his expression. “You ever been an Aedile before?”

“I have not.”

Qyreia chuckled. “Well congratulations. You’re hired.” She stood to leave and motioned Lucine back toward the bed. “I’ll leave you two together for now. I’m going to set up some temporary accommodations for you ‘til you get permanently settled. Also a security detail, in case anyone else decides to get stupid in the meantime.”

“Thanks Q,” Lucine offered as the merc turned for the door.

“Yeah yeah,” she waved dismissively amiably as she walked away. “Force be with you, blah blah. Just don’t let my new underling get any new karkin’ boo-boos.”

As the hospital room door closed, the Kaleesh looked up at the other Force user. “Is she always like that?”

“Yep,” Lucine said with an exasperated chuckle.

He grumbled as he shifted in the bed. “Women will never cease to confuse me.”


(Qyreia Arronen) #17

Estle City
Selen, Dajorra System

Not everything was doom and gloom. Despite the tumult and upheaval, Estle City still seemed to find time to be at peace, depending on where you were. It was still early in the morning, the rays of the sun only just beaming rays of ruddy orange through the alleys and breaks between the buildings, the air pregnant with the cool humidity of the morning dew. Those grocers not totally brought down by the riots were just opening their doors for the day’s business, while the smell of caf and baked goods wound its way from scattered cafes, including one hand-pulled stand that Qyreia frequented.

Coming down to see Jacques, the stand owner, with his weird sense of optimism during the latest batch of trying times, was one of the few things that could get the tea-drinking Zeltron to stoop to the bitter brown drink. The human, his hair heavily grayed with age, somehow made the concoction bearable. He also stooped to adding cream and sugar in abundance, though he thought anything but straight caf was an abomination.

“You don’ look too good zis morning, Miz Qek,” he said as she walked down a nearby ramp; part of her route to the lower rings from the Citadel. “Something wrong?”

“Been a rough week. Rough month truth be told.”

His hands were already working on her favorite blend, never missing a beat as he spoke. “I ‘ope it’s nothing wrong with Keira.” The old man knew her name from the handful of stories that Qyreia had regaled him with. It was kind of cute that he remembered such little details from random customers.

“No, she’s fine. Not at home as often as I’d like, but that’s no different than usual.”

“Ah you must let ze bird fly on ‘er own, or she’ll never return to ze coop, eh?”

“Too true,” she said as he gingerly handed her the steaming cup. “Zanki.”

Nokeezx, zanki,” he replied back in Bocce. Whereas Qyreia only knew a few words and phrases from her smuggling days, Jacques was fluent in the trade tongue. “I put in a little extra for you. Your eyes do not lie.”

She snorted mild amusement before taking a sip. Oh frack yes, I needed this. “I’m worried, Jacques. That’s all.” She put down her usual payment — about twice as much in tip as the caf itself cost. “Thanks for the drink. Might see ya on the way back up.”

“Don’t try to be ze ‘ero all ze time,” he said quietly after her. “Kazz ma kazz, Qyreia. You can’t fix everything yourself.”

I know. With her grandiose plans to oust the Collective from Selen nominally dashed, Qyreia was trying to look on the bright side. She and the planet were still intact; their enemy was stalled; and she still had her friends, even if it really only consisted of her girlfriend, her former apprentice, and a Ryn who needed to get off the sauce more than she ever did. When was the last time she’d seen Shay’lra? Zujenia kept her away from the Zeltron as much as she did Kordath these days, citing some personal differences with her choice in Aedile. Such bantha poodoo, she thought dejectedly as she rounded the corner and entered her usual grocer.

On the otherwise secluded planets of Dajorra, a Zeltron was quite the anomaly, so the regular morning staff knew who she was the instant she walked through the doors. She caught an annoyingly pleasant old woman, Juib, restocking the vegetable stands that were looking more and more scarce. Unlike Jacques though, she blamed the Citadel for the current predicament on Selen, and knew things would get worse before they got better.

“Pleasant” didn’t necessarily mean “optimistic,” after all.

“Are you alright, dear?” the old lady asked as they meandered toward the front; Qyreia with a basket of goods and Juib with an empty repulsor cart. “I can almost feel how down in the dumps you are.”

“F-fine.” That’s twice in less than an hour. The merc sipped at her caf, but the weird aura seemed to follow her all the way to the front counters where she was met with similar expressions of worry and gloom. “Frack, Jacques said my eyes looked bad, but I didn’t think I looked that ragged when I left the apartment.”

“It’s not how you look, dear,” Juib said, pausing to put the back of her hand to Qyreia’s forehead. “No fever. Hm.”

If I don’t look that bad, then what… Oh.

An awkward cough passed her lips as she remembered that, in so casually slipping into the early morning air, she’d forgotten to button up her pheromones and other racial nuances that she only really let loose at home or around Shay. Even as she was putting her items on the counter, she started her mental process to suppress everything all over again.

“Sorry guys. Zeltron thing.”

“Do you want…?”

“C-can you just ring me up so I can go?” The words came out in a flash, a burst of frustration that was aimed at herself but was let loose on the workers. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

Juib helped the other worker — some new kid with whom Qyreia wasn’t so well acquainted — in order to alleviate some of the tension. Despite that, trying to rapidly shift her physiology was visibly altering the perceptions of the shop workers who could feel the change just as they could feel her earlier melancholy. The growing headache wasn’t helping. Once her groceries were paid for, the merc grabbed her bag and left as quickly and politely as she could.

The headache only got worse.

All she wanted to do now was get home. Her headache spiked and she dropped what was left of her caf; a dash of salt in her growing wound. The further she went and the more she fought to get control of herself, the worse the headache became, until her steps were unsteady and criss-crossed. It took so much energy just to stay upright that Qyreia, her eyes half-lidded from pain, didn’t even see the light post until she bumped her face into it. While the impact itself was mild, it rocked her cranium just enough to spike her migraine again.

Qyreia’s hand grasped at the post, felt her grip slacken, and watched the world go dark before she even hit the pavement.


When her eyes opened again, it was to the sight of an austere ceiling. Off to one side, she could hear the recognizable sound of a heart rate monitor, along with the soft hum of the life support machine she was intricately hooked into. That’s it, she thought, her head pounding. Satsi finally went off the deep end with her osmophobia and got Rhylance to take me to his secret lab. As the room came more and more into focus though, she recognized the place as part of the Citadel’s internal hospital wing. Huh… don’t recall coming here.

She felt like she had just woken up from a particularly hard nap. So hard that her normal congested feeling came along with a massive headache. Headache… She remembered having a headache and vaguely collapsing in the street, but it felt like such a distant thing. Feeling around in the dim lighting, she could feel out the IV line stuck in her arm and all the little sensor nodes on different parts of exposed skin. The thought of the fluids bag brought forth the sensation to relieve herself, but just as she tried to get up, her headache redoubled, along with a sharp pinch in a place she would not have expected. She felt around underneath her gown and sighed upon finding the other tube.

“Frack,” she said weakly, hardly a whisper and raspy at that for apparent disuse. They cathed me.

Before she had time to muse any further, the door across the room slid open with a quiet hiss to allow in a pair of orderlies. Even in the dim light, Qyreia could tell they were tired, physically and emotionally. I don’t blame them. Laying back as she was, she could hear them checking on other patients; some two or three others that, judging by the banter, were neural trauma victims that may or may not have been totally unresponsive. When they got to the Zeltron, they pressed a button that turned on a soft overhead lamp.

With her eyes so used to the dark, it felt like a hammer hitting her retinas. “Ashlafrackin’Bogan!” she hissed in her crackly hoarse voice. “A little warning?!”

“Go get the doctor,” one of the staffers told the other before turning his attention back to Qyreia. “How are you feeling?”

“Well,” she croaked as he mercifully dimmed the lights, “I now know what it feels like to piss through a hose. Not fun, by the way.”

“Oh! I can remove that for you if you…”

“Nope!” she half-yelped, swiftly planting her hands on the sheets. “I’m good. I’ll wait for the doc.”

The man seemed almost insulted, but merely shrugged and went about checking all her vitals. Just as Qyreia’s pupils were adjusting to the overhead lights, the door opened again and in walked the previous orderly along with a Chiss in a lab coat that seemed excessively clean by its whiteness. Maybe it was just her eyes still adjusting. His face was familiar enough from the Clan Summit briefings that were held on occasion.

“Doctor Rhylance, I presume.”

“You presume correctly.” Without any ceremony, he began his analysis, absorbing the data from the scanners as fluidly as he went through the motions of checking pupil dilation, reaction time, et cetera.

“Give it to me straight, doc. Am I gonna live?”

The joke seemed to fall flat. “You had something resembling a stroke, exacerbated by physioneural shock that put you into a mild coma. You have been asleep for four days and eighteen hours.”

Qyreia’s eyes blinked several times as the diagnosis processed in her still muddled brain. “Aaand… am I gonna die horribly or something?”

Rhylance sighed, already tired of having to explain such rudimentary things. “You will live, though the quality of that life is suspect.”

Not speaking toward the blue man’s bedside manner, hearing that was a great load off of the mercenary’s mind. Hearing the words “stroke” and “physioneural shock” were not things that were good under any circumstances. She still felt strange, though in a familiar way; something that she often only experienced in the privacy of her own apartment.

“How versed are you in Zeltron biology, doc?”

“Well enough. I have read your file and taken considerations in reference to several documented theories concerning your physiology, as well as what appeared to be chronic complications in your medical history. More specifically, your pheromone usage. You may find that you no longer have your previous control over it.” He paused, noting her narrowing eyes. “The same can clearly be said for your peoples’ empathic telepathy.”

Qyreia turned her head away, lingering somewhere in a homogenous miasma of frustration, embarrassment, and confusion. All she managed to say was, “Well frack.”

“Indeed,” the Chiss replied coolly. “I recommend not attempting to return to your previous modus operandi lest you aggravate your still-healing gray matter.” He made to leave but paused at the door. “And before Miss Vasano can say anything about neural implants, I will assure you that I made no such alterations to your physiology.”

“Um… thanks?”

With a nod, Rhylance was gone, leaving the orderly to begin the long procedure of disconnecting the poor Zeltron from all the tubes and sensor nodes stuck to various parts of her body. Qyreia obliged with removing the catheter herself, though in hindsight, she felt that she’d rather be as unconscious for the removal as she was for the application. That’s gonna sting for a few days. They returned her clothing, laundered and clean, which she changed into rather than walk out in a hospital gown and what passed for pajama bottoms in that place. Despite being fully clothed as she followed the orderly toward the front desk to be discharged, she felt a little naked without the ability to mask her preternatural abilities as before.

When she saw Keira standing by the countertop patiently waiting, her anxiety nearly melted away to nothing. Watching the half-Umbaran’s expression shift, she clearly felt the same. It was visible how difficult it was for them not to run at one another for their eventual embrace. Once their arms were wrapped around one another, they were nigh inseparable, much to the chagrin of the staff who just wanted to get the paperwork done.

“I was so worried,” Keira whispered into her lover’s ear.

“I was unconscious.” The joke elicited a few struggled chuckles from them both, and it was only the brain damage that likely saved the Zeltron from a head-slap.

“Do you know how hard it is to watch something like that and not be able to do anything about it?”

“And being a space wizard, m’sure it was especially hard.”

To anyone else, that might have been an insult. For Keira, it was merely a reference to her Force affinity, and to some degree it was true: for all its merits and usefulness, some situations were immune to its many wiles, and so made the Force user feel impotent. Some things just couldn’t be solved by “space magic,” as the merc liked to jokingly call it.

“C’mon,” Keira said, waving her hand to invisibly move the stylus that was just finishing up the discharge documents. “Let’s go home.”

As they left, Qyreia could feel the atmosphere changing in the subtle way that Zeltrons were so familiar with; ones that hadn’t suppressed their abilities for over a third of their life, at least. It was strange, but not as bad as she thought it would be. “You didn’t put together a surprise party or anything, did you?”

She shook her head. “No, but I did tell Leeadra. She’ll be coming by tomorrow around midday.”

The merc eyed her lover carefully. “You weren’t by my bedside the whole time, were you?” Her voice was flat enough that it could have been an accusation or a plea. Keira wasn’t falling for it.

“No. There were still duties to perform, so I left once I was sure you were in a stable condition.”

Qyreia quirked an eyebrow. “Aaand?”

Her lover rolled her eyes, “And I might have made some terse demands that they contact me the instant your condition changed.”

She chuckled and squeezed her arms tighter around the Force user. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”


(Qyreia Arronen) #18

Quaestor’s Apartment
The Citadel, Estle City, Selen

It was good to be home.

After leaving Meridian Station with a few more holes than she was used to, Qyreia was happy to have some time to recuperate. Some bacta treatments brought her back from resembling Byss cheese, but it wasn’t until she had crossed her own threshold that she felt the weight finally fall off her shoulders.

Between the pleas of the Zeltron and Kordath, Zujenia relented to letting the merc watch Shay on the condition that Galeres’ Kaleesh Aedile not be anywhere near the child during her stay. It was a small price to pay given that Qyreia was on vacation anyway, so the only communication she had with her subordinates “had better involve someone being dead, dying, or giving birth.” With her lover frequently in and out of their shared apartment, running cleanup errands for the Combat Master, there was plenty of play time with the tiny half-Ryn-half-Zeltron baby.

When the two Ryn parents finally forced her to stop doting the baby and return her, it was hard to let the babbling child go.

“Say ‘bye bye’ Shay,” Kordath said as he took the little red meatball in his arms.

“Bye bye.” The words were half-babbled, but it made all of them melt just a little. “Bay bai, an’i-Kyu.”

Zujenia went wide-eyed. “D-did she just call you ‘Auntie Q’?”

The Zeltron barely held in her squeals of joy, fidgeting as she planted a final kiss on the baby’s head. “Bye bye Shay! I’ll see you later.”

Kordath grumbled. “Best get her home and never speak of this to Sats.”

“Bai an’i-Kyu,” the baby slurred as the Ryn family left the apartment, eliciting another high pitched noise from Qyreia’s throat and prompting Kordath to walk faster, his estranged finacée following close behind.

“Oh my god she’s precious,” the Zeltron said to herself as she closed the door, humming thoughtfully.

Once back on the sofa, she rolled her shoulders and tried to work out the still-healing kinks from the bruises and blaster hits that were visibly gone, but that her body seemed to want to pretend were still present. Thoughts that she had time again put toward the back of her mind wafted up once again as she massaged the sore spots.

What if she wanted to start her own family?

What if the next time away was her last?

What if. What if. What if…

What if Keira isn’t interested?

She grimaced at the thought just as the door opened, revealing the very subject of her thoughts. They’d seen each other briefly during a transfer aboard the Arconan fleet where, of course, the half-Umbaran had worried over the wounded Qyreia. It seemed almost routine to the latter at this point, but no less heart-wrenching every time they both did their share of proverbial and literal damage control for each other.

“Hey.”

Qyreia’s voice was soft but amiable. “Welcome home.”

Keira’s eyebrow quirked, setting her bag aside on the kitchen counter sitting on the seat kitty-corner to the small sofa. “How was Shay?”

“Good,” she said, happy but with some hesitation. “How’d you know?”

“I saw Kord and Zuji in the hall on my way here.” She took the red woman’s hand in hers and gently kissed her fingers. “What’s wrong?”

“Hm? Nothing’s wrong.”

“I know your voices, and since your accident you can’t hide your business from me quite so easily.”

Qyreia’s lips pursed. “Nothing’s wrong, but…”

“But…?”

“Just… nervous; a lot on my mind.”

“Like what?”

Holy frackballs, could you lay off for one moment so I can think? She chewed her lip, wondering how best to broach the topic. There was neither speech nor material goods prepared for this moment, so Qyreia felt very much at a loss.

“Ha-ahem… Have you ever thought… long term about us?”

“Of course I have,” she said, leaning forward in her seat, a touch of trepidation in her voice. “But, no thanks to our duties, I’m always worried about how long ‘long term’ will actually be.” She smirked a little, amused at her own reasoning. “We don’t exactly have the safest professions.”

Qyreia slid her free hand away from the sore spot in her arm; a vain attempt to deflect any indication that she had been in any such danger of late.

“Why do you ask?”

The mercenary took a long, deep breath and exhaled slowly. “Um… Okay, so I was kinda hoping to do this better, maybe at a restaurant or something, but…” She turned her hand in Keira’s, taking it tightly in her grip. “I want to get married. …to you.”

The Force user’s face was that of equal parts hesitation and confusion.

“W-what I mean to say is, I love you, and I don’t want to worry about when we’re going to be safe before we live how we want. And… no one has ever stuck by me quite like you, and I want that to be more than just calling you my girlfriend, or lover, or whatever else there is to call us.” She squeezed Keira’s hand. “So… will you marry me?”