Insanity is a minority of one. ~ George Orwell
He had no wisecracks to offer now. He could only offer one of his other skills, one that might make him unfit for a normal life when this war was finally done. The skill that made him proficient at killing people...Janson didn't sight in—he aimed by instinct, by the natural point of his weapon, and fired again. The second stormtrooper took the shot in the dark visor material over his right eye. ~ X-Wing: Solo Command, Aaron Allston
He sat at the bar, slowly nursing a lomin ale. It was his third this evening, the two before nursed just as slowly, the end result being that the original clientele of the bar had cleared out, and the rough and tumble crowd of Trandoshans, Rodians and stupid humans had come in.
He supposed staying made him a stupid human, but he really had no intention of moving from his seat in the corner. His eyes tracked the serving girls as they skillfully warded off unwelcome advances and handed out drinks to the late night crowd here in the lower levels of Coruscant, but without much interest. One observer watching from a booth would have said the man at the bar was looking for trouble—but not in the traditional sense. The man sitting at the bar was watching for trouble, and there was a difference.
He minded his own business, and people left him alone. Whether that was because he was minding his own business or because he had a BlasTech DL-44 blaster strapped to both hips and looked like he knew how to use them, only the observer from the booth would have been able to say.
One of the girls squealed as a Trandoshan grabbed her arm. The bartender reached under the counter for his rifle, but the man at the bar put a hand out and set down his drink. “Let the lady go,” he said, just loudly enough for everyone to hear. Someone thumped the musicbox, and the music abruptly quit, and the observer in the booth stirred. The bartender left his rifle where it was under the bar, because if a well-meaning patron wanted to get himself shot instead, he was welcome to do so.
The Trandoshan snarled something, rising, his two friends standing behind him. “You will do something about it, human?”
The man's left blaster was out and fired before anyone could do anything, the blue stun blast engulfing the Trandoshan. The reptilian stumbled backwards, falling into a chair, unconscious. His friends snarled, and the man's blaster turned towards them. “I wouldn't. I'm faster with my other hand, and my other blaster isn't set to stun. Get out and take your friend with you.”
The two Trandoshans looked at one another, and a low rumble from another corner made them realize that they were now not only facing down the human from the bar, but were outnumbered by the Wookiees they'd tracked in here in the first place. Without another word, they picked up their comrade and dragged him out the door.
Someone hit the musicbox again, and the annoyingly loud Ishi Tib tune began playing where it had stopped. Righting the chair, the man from the bar helped the waitress up and pressed a coin into her hand before resuming his position at the bar.
He sat back down at the bar and returned to his lomin ale. The other patrons gave him a wide berth as they ordered their drinks, except for the observer from the booth, who stood and wound her way through the crowd to sit next to him. “Lum. Wes.”
He looked sideways at her. “Shalla. I thought that was you over there.”
“So you've taken to rescuing bargirls in your retirement?” she asked, as the mug of lum was set before her with a splash. “I never knew you to pack quite so much firepower.”
He took a long drink of his ale and didn't answer her question. “Any reason one of Wraith Squadron's finest came to track me down in a low level Coruscant bar?”
“Any reason a Hero of the New Republic is drinking himself into oblivion down here in the first place?” she answered mildly.
“Did you want something?” he asked quietly.
“Major Wes Janson,” she said in a lowered voice, pulling a datapad out of her jacket, “you are hereby requested by General Cracken to join Wraith Squadron for a limited duration.”
Janson snorted. “Requested?”
“You're retired. Can't order you. It was a rather emphatic request from Cracken, the way Face tells it.”
“Should have known Cracken was still running things,” Janson said under his breath. “What does he want me to do?”
“Help us break into stuff. Help us steal stuff. Help us blow stuff up. Deal one high-ranking Bothan of our acquaintance a quiet message from the military before the elections,” she said, a small wicked smile gracing her face.
“And breaking into his house?” Janson asked. Normally he would have been incredulous. At this point, he was inebriated enough to merely sit and listen.
“Actually, you've been invited,” Shalla said. “He's hosting a party in a few days. A good portion of the Rogue Squadron alumni will be there.”
Janson looked back down at his reflection in his ale. “I haven't gotten any invitation.”
“Yes, you did,” she said gently. “Three days ago. How long has it been since you've been home, Wes?” He didn't answer. “It's been a week, hasn't it? You haven't been home since the divorce papers came.”
“Leave Inyri out of this,” Janson said, his voice very low.
“It's been a week, hasn't it?” Shalla pressed. “Look, we could use your help.” She downed the rest of her lum in one drink. “But it you want to sit here and convince yourself that you're not worth a damn, be my guest.”
Her coin clattered on the bar as she walked away from him. He watched her take three steps before he spoke. “Shalla.”
She turned back around to look at him, and it took him a moment to gather the breath to gather the breath to say what he meant. “What do you need me to do?”
Shalla moved back to the bar. Taking the lomin ale out of his hand, she set it down on the bar. “Go home.”
A flicker of pain crossed his face, but without another word, he turned and walked out the door.
Blowing out her breath in relief, Shalla disappeared into the darkness to make sure Janson actually made it home.
The empty apartment smelled of recycled air when Janson entered it, blurry-eyed and tired. The bright lights blinked into existence upon his entrance and he winced, having spent the last week in darker locales. Dimming the lights, he continued into the flat, pulling off his gunbelt and dumping it into the chair by the door.
Looking around, most of Inyri's knickknacks were still decorating the shelves separating the kitchen off the entrance from the living area. She hadn't come back to get them, although he supposed she didn't really have room where she was staying with her trainee squadron.
Grabbing a glass of water, he sat down at his comm screen. It was stopped at the official message from the Coruscant Registrar, appended with the divorce papers Inyri had authorized. Swallowing the bitter taste in his mouth, he skipped down the list of messages—advertisements, a message from the Antilles household he ignored, a few transaction authorizations from his week out, a message from Hobbie—finally, the message from Fey'lya, labeled Official Mail.
Selecting it, he sat back, taking a sip of water to help his parched throat. Fey'lya's face appeared. “Greetings. Please do me the pleasure of joining me at a party at my home in honor of our armed forces. Simply reply to this message with your acceptance. I look forward to seeing you there.” The Bothan's face disappeared and a text message with the time and date lit up the screen.
Janson ran a hand over the stubble on his face and replied in text. Ignoring the rest of his backed up messages, he shut his comm screen down. He stopped at the door to their bedroom, contemplating sleep. His bedroom, with the double bed, still rumpled from his attempt to sleep. He shut the door and the hydraulics slammed shut. He'd never quite managed to fix that.
Lying down on the sofa, he turned on the holo. Coruscant Hourly immediately appeared, and he scowled a habit he'd been unable to break—turning it back to Coruscant Hourly, which he hated and Inyri lived on, whenever he turned the holo off so it would be on when she came wandering out of the bedroom in the morning.
Switching it to a comedy channel, he leaned back and drifted off to sleep.
He woke to the smell of burning caf. Scorching caf, actually, a smell he considered one of the worst in the galaxy. Opening his eyes to find himself in his apartment, Janson realized there was in fact a pot of caf in the kitchen overflowing.
Jumping up off the sofa cursing, Janson emptied the drawer of towels, sopping up the overflowing caf and turning off the caf maker. Glaring at the carafe, he realized it had been pouring out caf the entire week he'd been gone and scorching the bottom as it boiled away.
Sighing, he emptied out the carafe and looked at it in misery. The buzzer to his door rang, and he wiped his hands off on a dry spot of a towel. “Just a second!”
Slapping the open switch, he was suddenly met with the smiling face of Shalla Nelprin. “Good morning, Wes.”
“That's debatable,” he answered. “Come in.”
She did, her eyes taking in the mess in the kitchen. “Having a problem?”
He snatched up the towels with undue ferocity. “No. No problem. Not like my caf machine hasn't been running for a week straight.”
“Ah, that's what that smell is,” she said. “Here.” Moving to the shelf, she pulled down the fragrancer Inyri had bought—because she'd never realized men just smelled. “This ought to help.”
He gritted his teeth as the fragrancer pulled the burned caf smell out of the air and started to return it to the typical fresh smell. “What did you what, Shalla?”
“Squadron briefing this afternoon. Thought I ought to roust you from your slumber, although I can see the caf already did that,” she said, flopping down on the sofa with the remote and changing it to Coruscant Hourly. Looking over the top of the sofa at him, she remarked, “You might want to get cleaned up. You're covered in caf, you need a shave, and Wes?”
“What?” he growled.
She turned back towards the news, and frustrated, he realized she was right. Gathering up the caf-soaked towels, he went into the bedroom and dumped them in the laundry along with the clothes on his back. Jumping in the sonic shower, he could hear Shalla moving about in the other room. By the time he emerged, fully dressed and leaning against the door frame shaving, he'd found she'd started a new pot of what smelled like squadron strength caf and there was something resembling breakfast on the table.
After two bites of it, he remembered why he did all the cooking. Inyri couldn't—
Choking down about half of Shalla's well-meaning meal, he begged off the rest, and just hoped there was something better to eat at the squadron briefing.
“Out of luck,” he muttered, only faced with a pot of caf.
“Out of luck what?” Kell asked aside.
“I had to eat Shalla's cooking this morning,” Janson answered.
Kell winced and dropped a hand on Janson's back in sympathy. “I'll get Tyria to fix you up something. The woman is a wonder. Jedi Knight, ranger, mother of my child and an excellent cook.”
“You are a lucky man,” Janson said, a shadow of a smile crossing his face, and he saw Kell realize how he'd just gone on about Tyria. “How's your boy?”
Kell's face brightened. “Growing like a Wookiee. If this keeps up, he'll hit two meters in no time.”
An ear-splitting whistle stopped most of the shatter in the room, and what the whistle didn't stop, Face's glares did. “Settle down. We've got work to do.”
“Must we?” A Twi'lek Janson didn't recognize said.
“Yes, we must,” Face said. “Now, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce our temporarily assigned help, Major Wes Janson.”
A rowdy roar of cheers and rude noises erupted form the pilots. Janson raised a hand. “Thank you, thank you. I'm pleased to again be in such disreputable company.”
Face raised a hand to quiet the jeers and laughter. “Knock it off. I'd like us to actually get out of here without too many interruptions today.”
“That'll happen,” Kell spoke up from the back with a laugh.
“Enough out of you, Demolitions Boy,” Face said, running a hand through his hair.
“We're waiting for an opportunity to shave his head,” Shalla whispered. “That gesture is really starting to irritate people.”
“For once,” Face said, activating the hologram generator, “we're not hitting anything that involves long travel time—at least not the first part. We are staying right here and going after a member of the New Republic High Council.”
“Kill Pwoe?” Elassar said hopefully. “Can we please kill Pwoe?”
Face glared. “We are going after New Republic citizens. We aren't killing anyone.”
“But Pwoe called me Pointy-Head,” Elassar protested.
“And you called him Tentacle-Face and earned me a lecture on disciplining my pilots,” Face said sternly. “We're not killing anyone.” He waited half a beat for any objections to this before continuing. “We are, however, going to cause some rather lovely damage to Fey'lya's pocketbook and his politics.”
The room was divided between those stunned into silence and those attempting not to laugh in a gesture of near-triumph.
“Fey'lya,” a human in the front said. “Face, if we get caught hitting Fey'lya we'll roast. In a very special level of the nine hells. He'll see to it.”
“Well, I'm not keen on the idea of getting all crispy myself. Hence, Major Janson,” Face said, gesturing to Janson.
Janson held up his hands. “Oh, no. I'm not getting crispified again for you people.”
Shalla barked out a laugh before she could stop herself. “It's not funny,” Janson protested. “I ate bacta for days after that adventure.”
“Fortunately, Fey'lya's flat isn't rigged to burn people to a crisp,” Face said. “Just his rhetoric.”
The image floating in midair changed from that of the Wraith Squadron crest to a picture of a large estate. “This is Fey’lya’s estate on Kothlis,” he said. “He’s got a rather large security force built up—one large enough to outfit some small worlds as an army. This is the army he’s been effectively using to keep a quiet chokehold on Bothan politics. His rivals on Bothawui end up caving or meeting mysterious accidents. What’s stumped us has been where he’s been getting the weapons to outfit them.”
“So now we know who it is?” the same human from the front asked.
The holoimage flipped again to Fey’lya’s large apartments in the Imperial Palace, a suite rivaling only the Solos. “Fey’lya has a safe in his study where he keeps all his important information backed up on datacards. Normally, we’d try to slice it, but—well, Asher, explain.”
Asher, the human from the front, spoke up again. “Basically, Ghent invented the encryption Fey’lya’s using. To get in without being caught is nigh impossible and could take months—maybe years because of the remote connections and firewalls. Give me a datacard encrypted with it, and I don’t have to worry about finesse. I’ll have it cracked in twelve hours—mostly because I have access to the algorithms Ghent uses.”
“Which is where Major Janson comes in,” Face said. “Fey’lya is hosting a party celebrating our legendary heroes of the New Republic military. None of us were invited, but Major Janson was.” He gave the wickedest smile seen in or out of the holos. “He’s going to steal our datacard for us.”
“And then we get to blow stuff up?” Kell asked hopefully.
“Then you get to blow stuff up,” Face said. “Start thinking about what we’re going to need. I’ve uploaded schematics of Fey’lya’s private security measures to your datapads. Dismissed.”
The pilots began filing out of the auditorium, leaving Face, Janson and Shalla in the room with the still present hologram of the floorplan of Fey’lya’s suite. “Get into his study,” Janson said. “I’ll need a good excuse to be in there.”
“Actually, we have one ready for you,” Face said. He looked sideways at Shalla. “Your wife is going to be there.”
It almost seemed to take a moment for those words to sink into Janson’s consciousness. “What?”
Shalla moved between Janson and Face. “Wes—“
“You wouldn’t have liked it if I’d suddenly surprised you with Dia,” Janson said, venom present in his voice.
Face’s expression grew dark, and he turned his back to Janson, striding out of the amphitheatre. “Be back tomorrow morning,” he said harshly.
Janson’s jaw tightened as the door shut behind Face, and Shalla turned. “Please don’t be angry.”
“I’m going home,” he said, gritting his teeth.
“I’ll go with you,” she said, reaching for her jacket. A hand stopped her, a hand that she could have broken seven different ways if she’d chosen.
“I don’t need a baby-sitter,” he growled. Dropping her arm, he walked out the door, leaving Shalla standing alone in the briefing room, a worried frown on her face.
He opened his closet, where he kept most of his dress clothing, and was confronted with the intermingled scents of his cologne and Inyri’s perfume wafting out of the closet along with memories of parties and good times. Despite the fact that Inyri was gone, she remained in every way; her clothes had disappeared, but her perfume had permeated the wood veneer of the closet walls.
He considered for a moment his choices in attire—his dress uniform, or the stylishly cut suit Inyri had picked out for his lifeday. Leaning towards his dress uniform, he reluctantly took down the suit instead. Brushing off the shoulders, he closed his eyes.
The door buzzer rang as he finished buttoning his jacket. Letting Shalla in, he silently returned to his preparations.
Shalla stood in the doorway to his bedroom watching him. “Unbutton your jacket.”
“I look more professional with it buttoned,” he said as he shaved.
She came into the bedroom and unbuttoned the jacket for him. “You’re going to a party, not a job interview. So you need to look relaxed.”
“Don’t imagine that’s happening without so much lum I’d need Hobbie to bring me home,” he said.
“You rethinking your part in this mission?” Shalla said, and he saw her reflection in the mirror, stiff and worried.
“Not the mission, no,” Janson replied. “Just the party. He put down the razor and turned around to face her.
“You need to talk about this sometime, Wes,” she said.
“The one thing I don’t want to do is talk about it,” Janson said, straightening the jacket over the vest underneath. Shalla was right about unbuttoning it, but he still would have preferred the extra layer between himself and everyone else.
He sat down on the edge of the bed to pull on his shoes and Shalla leaned back against the dresser. He glanced up to see her still watching him and sighed. “What?”
“I’m wondering if you’re ready to do this,” she said. “It’s not to late to back out.”
He stood up, facing her. “I’m not about to abort this mission,” he said. “Get on station. I’m leaving.”
Her hand yanked him around to look at her before he could leave. “Then get your mind off your wife and on what you have to do.”
Janson stared at her a moment before she dropped her hand. “Get on station,” he said quietly.
He sat at the bar in the golden yellow room that comprised most of Fey’lya’s suite in the Imperial Palace. This had once been known as the Golden Room, and for this evening, the furniture had been cleverly arranged to the sides of the room to allow space for dancing. Out of the corner of his eye, Janson could see the hallway where Fey’lya’s study was.
Two hands suddenly clapped on his shoulders, interrupting Janson’s surveillance of the dance floor. “Wes, you have got to start answering your messages. I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for three days now.”
Janson turned around at the sound of his friend’s voice. “Hello, Bugbite. I’ve been busy.”
Hobbie snorted, his normally somewhat serious expression artificially cheerful for his friend's benefit. “Busy. Like I believe that. You’ve been out playing shockball someplace fabulous, I know it.”
Janson shrugged. “Like I told you—busy.”
Hobbie tried not to laugh, before turning back towards the dance floor. “Can you believe this. Fey’lya’s working hard for the military support, isn’t he?”
“He needs it too badly not to try,” Janson replied, taking a sip of his lomin ale. “Where’s Wedge?”
“He and Iella had the sitter cancel on them. Corran and Mirax are leaving their kids with Booster, so they’re probably trying to convince Booster to take the girls too,” Hobbie said. “Tycho and Winter are here, though, talking to Captain Kre’fey.”
Janson looked over towards the Bothan. “Wasn’t he captaining the Reliant?”
Hobbie shook his head. “He’s moved up in the galaxy. Fey’lya’s cousin is now the proud captain of—“
Janson never actually heard what Kre’fey was captaining, as the herald at the door raised his voice over the murmur of the crowd. “Major Inyri Forge.”
He felt a minor string at the lack of his name next to hers, but she came into view and that was lost.
She was beautiful; of that there was no doubt. Her yellow gown showed off every one of her attributes. He’d always hated that dress. Inyri had two fancy dresses, this yellow one and a red one. He’d always preferred the jewel-toned red, the way it fit about her waist and hips and showed off the expanse of her back. The yellow one showed off other portions of her anatomy in ways that caused men’s eyes to pause and made Janson territorial. She was beautiful in either dress, but the red one with its mystery was Inyri in her glory. The yellow one was Inyri from years and years ago—the yellow one was Inyri with Zekka Thyne.
“Wes?” Hobbie’s voice snapped him back to reality. “You all right?”
Ripping his eyes away from Inyri and reminding himself that it was no longer his job to protect her from the leers of other men, Janson turned away. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.”
Hobbie’s eyes drifted from Janson to Inyri and back. “I was kind of surprised to see you here. Didn’t expect you to come.”
Janson took a longer drink of his lomin ale, glancing back over towards Inyri. Their gazes met for a few uncomfortable seconds before he turned back. “Well, you can’t play shockball forever.”
“Here comes trouble,” Hobbie said, breaking off the subject, his expression turning dour. “Bothan off your port bow.”
Affixing a fake smile to his face—because he’d at least mustered up a semblance of a real one for Hobbie’s sake—Janson faced Fey’lya straight on. “Councilor. This is quite a party you’ve thrown.”
“Thank you, Major,” Fey’lya said, with one of the polite toothy smiles he showed for the holos. “You haven’t been dancing, I notice.”
“The evening is young,” Janson said, gritting his teeth.
“True. Perhaps you should ask the lady in yellow to dance,” Fey’lya said smoothly. “There is some tension in the room since her arrival, and it would relieve it somewhat.”
“Actually,” Hobbie spoke up, intending to rescue his friend from the situation and the Bothan, but Janson jumped in and interrupted him.
“Of course, Councilor. Whatever I can do to make the evening go more smoothly.”
Straightening his suit jacket, Janson left his lomin ale on the bar, resisting the temptation to take another drink for courage. Hobbie glowered at Fey’lya, then left to join the newly arrived Wedge and Iella.
Inyri was standing speaking with Pash Cracken and smiling, while Pash’s eyes, through no fault of his own except the misfortune of being born male, kept being drawn down towards the bodice of the dress. The band struck up a new tune and Janson interrupted more smoothly than he’d interrupted Hobbie. “Pardon me. Might I have a dance?”
Suspicion flared in Inyri’s eyes, and Pash raised his eyebrows in an expression somewhere between an offer an assistance and a wish to stay clear of the impending explosion. Inyri tossed her hair behind her shoulders, throwing off any assistance she might have requested. “Of course.”
Too many eyes were on them as they stepped on the dance floor. Their breakup hadn’t exactly been private, and Fey’lya had merely wanted more gossip to keep the party going.
“Any particular reason you chose to repeat the incident of our first date?” she asked as they moved into the swirling couples.
“No ‘Hello, Wes?’ ‘It’s good to see you, Wes?’ ‘Where the hell have you been, Wes?’” he said lightly.
“Wes,” she growled.
“Our gracious host suggested that I relieve the tension in the room. If you doubt me, Hobbie was there and properly horrified. The getting between you and Pash was a coincidence.” He swung her out of his arms and then back into them. “You look lovely.”
“Don’t lie. You hate this dress.”
“Is that why you wore it?”
The tempo of the music picked up. “Maybe I wanted other men to look at me, Wes. Did you think about that?”
“In that dress, you’re going after the wrong kind of men,” he said, feeling his voice turn territorial. It wasn't good, and he knew it, because now, she was only going to become angrier.
“Don’t lecture me,” she hissed. “Especially with the kind of women you’ve been known to associate with.”
He spun her out again and pulled her in closer than before. “Fine,” he said. “If you want people like Pash Cracken looking at you like you’re nothing more than a Twi’lek dancing girl, go right ahead. But you’re better than that, and you know it.”
He spun her out for the last time as the music ended, too late for her to make a rebuttal. Her face flushed with anger and exertion, and he bowed to her before escaping off the dance floor.
Pushing it out of his mind, he retrieved his lomin ale in a hurry and put a hand to his head as if it ached, which wasn’t far from the truth. With that, he walked straight for the hallway.
“On station,” he murmured. The microphone was hidden in his suit lapel, which mean a few of the Wraiths had just heard everything that had gone on.
“Hold there,” the answer came in his ear. Asher and Shalla had “filled in” for the security on staff this night. The multi-layered security in the palace relied on secondary stations relaying information to the main stations. Asher and Shalla were clearing the cameras here and then would act as the repair crew to fix it.
“Wes,” the voice was behind him and not in his ear. Inyri stood at this head of the hallway. “We need to talk about this.”
“Now is not the time,” he said.
“Proceed,” said the voice in his ear. “And hurry. I don’t know how long this patch will last.”
“Wes, we need to talk now. It’s not going to get better by waiting,” she said, walking and standing next to him.
“Come on, we don’t have a lot of time.”
Grabbing Inyri’s wrist, he yanked her into the study. “Watch that door.”
Standing there, she cracked it slightly and looked out as he emptied his pockets. “I don’t think we need a lookout to discuss our marital problems.”
“Shut up,” he said brusquely. “Wraith Thirteen proceeding.”
“The portrait on the wall,” Face said. “Of himself. The safe is back there.”
Finishing pulling on his gloves, Janson took down the portrait. “Looks like what we were told.”
“Hook up the datapad and run it through your transmitter,” Asher said.
Digging the tiny microphone out of his lapel, Janson opened it up and plugged it into the datapad. Numbers flashed across the screen as Asher ran through the code-breaking program.
“Are you with Intelligence?” Inyri hissed.
He just raised an eyebrow. “Watch that door.”
“Shavit,” Inyri said. “Fey’lya’s coming. Someone must have seen us come in here.”
“Ten,” Janson said, warning in his voice.
“Got it!” Asher crowed.
The safe clicked open and Janson ripped the datapad loose. Shuffling through the stacks of datacards, there was probably enough information to put Fey’lya away for years, but for now he was only after one.
“Wes, hurry!” Inyri urged.
Grasping the datacard, he put in it in his teeth, pushing the safe closed and rehanging the portrait. Stuffing the equipment back into his pockets, he ripped off his gloves.
Inyri shut the door as he stuffed the gloves into his pockets and jammed the datacard into her purse, shutting the clasp as Janson pulled out a device Shalla had pressed into his hand to burn out any listening devices. “We need to be arguing,” Inyri said in a stage whisper.
“So yell at me,” he said, sticking it back in his pocket.
She looked around anxiously for inspiration. “You have no right to comment on what I wear. We aren’t married anymore.”
At least she’d picked something easy for him to argue with her about. It was something he had feelings about. “I haven’t signed our divorce papers yet,” he said. “And excuse me if I still haven’t gotten out of the habit of not liking men leering at you.”
“Well, excuse me for wanting to feel wanted for once,” Inyri said, raising her voice. Footsteps at the door paused.
“Well, excuse me for still loving you!” Janson shouted back. He reached out and pulled her to him, capturing her mouth in a kiss that should have left no doubt about exactly how much he did want her.
The heavy wooden door opened as Inyri’s hand came up and made contact with Janson’s face. Stunned, he stepped back, staring at her for a moment, oblivious to the presence of the Bothan in the doorway. “I’m sorry,” Fey’lya said. “I didn’t realize I was interrupting a private conversation.”
Janson didn’t even mind the lie from the Bothan. “That’s quite all right, Councilor. We were done talking.” His attention turned back to Inyri. “I’ll bring the finished papers to you tomorrow so we can check them.”
“I’d appreciate that,” she said, her voice somewhere between indignant and breathless.
“If you’ll excuse me, Councilor,” Janson said. “Great party, but I should leave.”
“I understand,” Fey’lya said. Nodding to Inyri uncomfortably, then to Fey’lya, Janson made his escape.
His flat was dark except for the light of the holo, and a voice out of the darkness spoke up. “I hope you know Face is out for your head.”
“Because Inyri has the datacard?” Janson said, turning on the lights. Shalla didn’t even squint from her place on the sofa.
“He got it in one guess,” she said sarcastically. “Care to explain why?”
“Too many items, not enough hands, pockets or time,” he said, pulling his tie from around his neck. Unbuttoning the vest to his suit, he hung the tie around the neck of a vase before sitting down on the sofa next to her and putting his feet on the table. He sighed into the darkness before speaking again. “I think I need to get away from here.”
She turned off the broadcast of Coruscant Hourly and leaned her head against her hand. “Not back down to the underground, I hope.”
He shook his head. “Away from Coruscant. Away from all the reminders. Just away. Long enough to figure out what’s wrong with my life.”
Shalla sighed. “Maybe there’s nothing wrong. Or maybe there’s everything wrong.”
He turned his head against the cushion to look at her. “What do you mean?”
She looked away. “Do you ever wonder if we weren’t cut out for this? People like you and I weren’t meant for a domestic life. We were meant to go out in a blaze of glory or something like that.”
“No one is meant to go out in a blaze of glory,” Janson said.
Shalla shook her head. “All I’ve ever known is combat. All I’ve ever studied is combat. Tell me that I wasn’t meant to fight and die.”
“Shalla,” he said quietly. “You weren’t.” But even as he said it, he wasn’t sure he believed it, and he kept his request to himself for the evening.
Shalla rose, regretfully. “Bring that card by as soon as you can.”
“I will,” he promised, his eyes straying towards the comm unit and what he’d been avoiding for too long. Shalla had heard all of that, though, through the microphone in his lapel and he didn’t feel like bringing it up again. “Goodnight, Shalla.”
The door closed behind her, and Wes Janson sat down to work on the process of dissolving his marriage.
Inyri answered the door the next morning with the composure of someone who had been out far too late. Her hair, mussed, still curled at the ends, and her face faintly glowed with unremoved makeup. Wrapping her robe around herself, she admitted Janson into her spartan quarters.
“Here,” he offered quietly. The datacard in his hand hung in midair between them. “I promised I’d bring it.”
She took it and laid it down on the desk. “Thanks.”
“Do you want to go over it?” Janson said.
She waved a hand. “Haven’t had that much caf yet.”
“You shouldn’t drink so much caf. It’s not good for you,” he chided gently. “But, if all goes well, I’ll be off-planet for a while, so this is our last chance to double-check everything.”
“Right,” she said, taking a deep drink from her caf. “You’re with Intelligence now. Or have you been for a while?”
“Only a few days,” he said. He didn’t have any reason to lie, and despite the rift between them, he trusted her with his life.
She retrieved her purse from her table and handed him the datacard. “Here. I’m not going to ask what it is or why you wanted it.”
“I appreciate that,” he said, putting it in his pocket.
“If I hadn’t worn that yellow dress, my purse wouldn’t have been big enough to carry your datacard,” she said, and he saw something like mischief in her eyes—the mischief that sometimes would wake him up in the morning when she pounced on him right out of the sonic shower.
“If you’d worn the red dress, I’d never have had the courage to come over to you,” he said, shoving the thoughts out of his mind.
“You bought me that dress,” she said.
He looked down at his feet, the awkward silence growing between them. “I should go. Thanks for your help.”
She shook her head. “It’s nothing.”
Opening the door, he moved to step through, still seeing Inyri, wrapped up in her over-sized robe with her caf in hand out of the corner of his eye. “I meant what I said last night,” he said.
“Which part?” she asked, more than slightly bitter.
“The still loving you part,” he said, looking over his shoulder at her.
She met his gaze for a moment, as if considering what to say. “Goodbye, Wes.”
The door shut behind him, and with a single purpose, Janson walked away.
“Asher has the datacard,” Janson said, sticking his head in Face’s office. “He’s started analyzing it.”
“About damn time,” Face grumbled. “I do appreciate your help, though.”
Janson took a seat and put his foot up on the edge of Face’s desk. “How would you like to keep my help?”
Face leaned forward, putting his elbows on his desk. “What do you mean?”
“I mean attaching me to the Wraiths,” Janson said. “Indefinitely.”
Face ran his hand through his hair and leaned back. “You thinking about coming out of retirement?”
“For a while,” Janson said. “Long enough to figure out what to do. And I’m good enough to be on this team, Face. You know I am.”
“I’ll put you in,” Face said, scrunching up his expression in thought. “Indefinite remote attachment. It’ll keep Cracken off my back for a while.”
“Good,” Janson said.
“You moving in here, or you staying at your apartment?” Face asked.
“Too much stuff to move in here,” Janson said easily. “Where’s our base of operations for the next mission?”
“With the Corporate Sector being our likely target, a small ship. Lambda-class shuttle—informally known as the Kettch, believe it or not.”
Janson paused. “You’re kidding.”
Face grinned. “Yub, yub, Major. Welcome back to the Wraiths.”
The Kettch, for that was truly the shuttle’s name, was possibly the ugliest specimen of a Lambda shuttle that Janson had ever seen. From its scarred hull to the thread-bare Ewok doll sitting in the cockpit, it was a piece of junk at first sight.
Like everything else about the Wraiths, looks were deceptive. Weapons were cleverly hidden inside and out; Janson immediately liked it. Stowing his bag, he stuck his head into the kitchen, “Are we taking off anytime soon?”
Face looked up from the table and Shalla’s head snapped up unexpectedly, simply at the sound of his voice. Face leaned back in his chair to let Elassar and Runt know they were ready to leave.
“What are you doing here?” Shalla asked.
Janson offered her a smile. “Haven’t you heard? I’m a Wraith again.”
She almost looked like she might be furious, but Face interceded, whether knowingly or unknowingly, Janson wasn’t sure. “Janson, come over here and take a look at this schematic.”
Janson did as he was asked, leaning over Shalla’s shoulder to view the base plans. “Where’d we get this?”
“Cracken,” Face said absently. “It’s recent. It was figuring out who was supplying that was the hard part.”
“Who are we dealing with?” Janson asked.
“Heatech Industries, actually,” Face said, “Private shipments are their specialty. We’re looking at two stages of attacks. First, we break into the president’s house and scare him a good bit. Then we make him watch while part of his factory explodes.”
“Explosions?” Kell spoke up as engines rumbled underneath their feet. “Any plan with explosions is a good plan.”
Janson ignored him and ignored the furtive looks from Shalla’s direction that he couldn’t decipher so he could study the plan. “Breaking into a weapons factory. That’s going to be interesting.”
“Dangerous,” Face said. “It’s got incredible defenses.”
“To be expected,” Janson said.
“Lots of exploding things inside,” Kell said, holding onto the doorframe as the shuttle broke the atmosphere.
Face glared at Kell again. “Do you have anything constructive to add to this discussion?”
“Destructive, actually,” Kell said. “Flash bang grenades with flak at the same time. It’ll take timing, but it’ll take out cameras and guns on the outsides.”
“Still leaves the inside,” Face said. “I’ll have a talk with Asher.” He stood up a moment too soon, nearly falling backwards as Elassar jumped them to hyperspace with the strangely stomach wrenching sensation. The Wraith leader swore, pushing his hand through his hair. “Who put him in the cockpit?”
“You did,” Kell said, trying not to grin as he followed Face from the galley to see the spectacle about to ensue.
Shalla watched Janson for a moment. “Why are you here?”
“Something to do,” he said with a shrug. He was feeling more like his old self than he had in ages.
“No, it’s not,” Shalla said quietly. “You’re here because you don’t know anything else.” She stood up and leaned into him, her face centimeters from his own. “You’re looking for your blaze of glory, Wes.”
“I tried something else,” he said quietly. “I might as well help people by doing what I’m good at. But just because I couldn’t cut it out in the real world doesn’t mean that you can’t, Shalla.”
“You’re such a kriffing liar,” she said, pushing past him.
They landed on Jandi, a Corporate Sector world. Droids were lining the street in various states of motion and disrepair. The Corporate Sector, the remnants of the technological corporations that had ruled a great portion of the galaxy before the Clone Wars, was still populated by the shells of some of those Clone Wars era droids and weaponry.
The air smelled like two things—the musty smell of buildings airing out in the breeze and the smell of new transparisteel, clean and sharp. A mix of smells that at once made one want to breathe deeply and not breathe at all, it permeated everything.
“Rodder, this place is depressing,” Shalla muttered.
“Just slightly,” Janson said. The fake beard Face had attacked to his chin was itching and he resisted the urge to scratch at it. “Come on.”
They were all posing as shuttle passengers, coming to Jandi for business reasons, with the exceptions of Elassar and Runt, the shuttle pilots, and Piggy, their security.
Janson and Shalla checked into the hotel as a husband and wife team. Throwing his bag in the chair, he sat down on the edge of bed and flopped backwards. The two day journey in close quarters had been stressful and tiring, and he just closed his eyes.
“Wes,” Shalla said, her voice stern. He looked up enough to see her standing with her hands on her hips.
She shook her head, biting her lower lip to keep from speaking. “Never mind.”
He sat up. “No, what is it? Shalla, we’re friends. We can talk.”
She shook her head again. “It’s nothing.” Unzipping her bag, she pulled out clothing appropriate for a businesswoman and hung it up, ignoring him. But Wes Janson had been married long enough to know that when a woman said nothing, it was rarely ever nothing.
“Listen,” he said quietly. “If you decide you want to talk about it, I’m here for you.” He looked around. “I’m going to go check out the downstairs.”
She nodded an acknowledgement, and he patted her shoulder encouragingly before leaving for downstairs.
“Okay,” Face said. Asher had hijacked the hotel’s security system they could gather unobserved. “Here’s how this is going to work. Everyone, repeat the plan. Kell?”
“Team One moves into position at dusk. Guard shift change will be thirteen minutes later. We’ll flash-bang the guards and take over their position. I join Team Two for the assault.”
Asher spoke up. “Team Three’s turn.”
“Shalla, Face, Asher and I surprise D.C. Marsin at midnight, local time, right out of bed,” Janson said. “Face does his scary man routine—“
“—including threatening to reveal his mistress to everyone,” Face said with a grin.
“And Asher breaks into the factory’s security settings and disables the weaponry and security substations,” Janson finished.
“Which leaves Team Three,” Piggy said, his soft grunts underlying his computer translator.
“We go in, take out the bad guys and blow up the east wing,” Kell said. “Then we get out.”
“After which we get out,” Asher said, “leaving my little computer virus in their banks. In gives Team One twenty minutes to get out before everything in their computers go blank and all their security shuts down.”
“Then we wait around another day and go home,” Face said, “barring any emergencies.”
“And if we have any emergencies?” Elassar asked.
“Mon Remonda is taking up station outside the Corporate Sector on a routine patrol. She’ll be available for anything we need. Plus, we’ve stolen enough things that we can steal some ships and get out of here if we need to,” Face said. “Team captains can go over their own tasks if they think it’s necessary.”
No one moved. The Wraiths were professional and they all knew the plan inside and out. “Okay,” Face said. “Go to bed. Get some sleep. Stay close tomorrow and be back here two hours before we move out.”
They split up then, and Janson and Shalla returned to their room with little talking—just minor chit-chat about the city and the restaurant they’d eaten dinner at, a few blocks from the hotel. It had been good, and quiet, and on the New Republic’s tab, so they’d enjoyed themselves, despite their disguises.
Shalla kicked her boots off and threw them in the corner before sitting on the edge of the bed. Janson sat down next to her, pulling off his own boots and peeling away the beard with some relief. “You okay?”
She leaned back, propping herself upon one elbow to look at him. “Tired.”
“You sure?” he asked, scooting back on the bed. “You were awful quiet in the meeting.”
She didn’t say anything, and he mirrored her posture. “You want to talk?”
“Why did you come back?” she asked. “The real reason.”
He looked down at the geometric pattern on the bedspread and picked at it. “Military is what I am, Shalla. I’ve made my identity by my rank and what I do. It’s been that way since I was a kid. Ever since I was in the Rebellion. And suddenly, I wasn’t in the military anymore.” He looked up at her. “I never expected to survive the Rebellion. I never made plans for retirement. And then after Isard came back, and I nearly died, that changed. I thought I could get away from it. But I’ve been part of it too long. I’m one of those that are just irredeemable. It just took me this long to realize it.”
Her head dropped to look down at the same patch of bedspread he’d been studying. “I think I’m the same way, Wes,” she said softly. “I don’t know anything else but this life. But I don’t know this is what I want anymore. And I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t do this.”
Her voice cracked slightly, and he reached out to brush hair from her face. “Shalla,” he said, his voice low, “you are not me. You are not trapped in this life.”
“You aren’t trapped here either,” she said, some kind of urgency in her voice now. “Wes, you don’t have to do this. Please don’t do this.”
He smiled. “I wish I could.”
Her hand touched his face, cupping his cheek. “Don’t go out in a blaze of glory on me, Wes.”
He met her gaze. “I’m not going anywhere, Shalla.”
The worry in her eyes barely cleared, and she gently smoothed down his hair. “Shalla,” he said quietly. “Promise you won’t go out in the blaze of glory.”
She didn’t say anything, but leaned forward. Her lips met his, and he closed his eyes. Memories of her kisses from years and years ago, before Inyri, flooded his mind, but he couldn’t return her kiss, despite the bitter thought going through his head. You’re not married anymore.
He pulled away slightly. “Shalla, I—“
“I’m sorry,” she said automatically, sitting up.
“No, Shalla—“ he said, trying to make her understand that it wasn’t a rejection of her. Trying to make her understand that it was himself that was the problem.
“You still love her,” she said quietly, smiling at him so he would know she wasn’t offended. “I’m getting in the shower.”
With a sigh, Janson laid down on top of the comforter and closed his eyes. He pretended to be asleep when Shalla emerged from the refresher. He heard her pad around the room in her bare feet for a moment, heard the click of the light and felt the press of her lips against his forehead. She climbed into the bed and under the covers with her back to him, and Janson tried to sleep, keeping his distance from her.
They tried to ignore it the next morning when despite the comforter between them, they woke up holding on to one another.
“We’re on station,” Face muttered. “Stand by.”
“Teams Two and Three, roger,” Kell’s voice said back.
“Eight,” Face said, gesturing to Shalla. She picked up a vase off the dresser. Marsin was along in the other room—his wife and his mistress were both off-world at the moment.
“Too bad,” Shalla said softly. “It’s pretty.” Hefting the vase in her hand, she threw it. It smashed against the wall.
Janson winced as the glass fell to the floor, even as he took his position by the door. Shalla stood across the room, deep in the shadows, and Face stood barely out of the light coming through the window. Asher hid behind Shalla, holding onto his datapads with one hand and his blaster with the other.
The door opened, and Marsin carefully stepped forward, some kind of a blunt instrument in his hand. “Who’s there?”
“Don’t move,” Janson said, placing the tip of his blaster against Marsin’s temple. “Drop it. Now.”
The antique sword Marsin was holding dropped to the floor immediately. “Who are you? What do you want?”
Shalla stepped forward menacingly. Face stayed in the shadows, his voice deep and sinister. “Mr. Marsin. You have been supplying weapons to certain individuals in the New Republic.”
Marsin looked shaken as Asher swung around Shalla and began plugging his datapad into the computer station in the bedroom. “I supply weapons to a lot of people. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“There is when you’re supplying mass quantities of illegal weapons to the private armies of certain influential politicians in the New Republic,” Face continued. “I don’t think I need to continue to spell it out for you. You were in contact with the individual in question only ten days ago.”
“I’m ready for him,” Asher popped up.
“Input your access codes,” Janson said.
“And I wouldn’t try anything funny,” Face continued. “We happen to have contacts at the same conference your wife and your mistress are attending, and we can see that your wife receives certain information you’d rather she didn’t have.”
Marsin quickly input the codes. Asher looked it over for a moment. “Looks good.”
“Team Three, begin your assault,” Face said.
“Assault?” Marsin said.
“That’s right. Assault,” Face said. “Don’t worry. You’re perfectly safe. Your factory on the other hand is going to suffer some severe damage to the droid operated sections.” He gave a slight laugh. “We’re activists, not murderers. Unless we have to be, of course.”
“Sit down,” Janson ordered, and Marsin sat down on the edge of his bed.
“Now, Mr. Marsin,” Face said, coming far enough into the room that only his silhouette was visible. “You and I are going to have a discussion about to whom you are supplying. First of all, you’re going to institute a new business policy. You’re not going to sell weapons in mass shipments except to the New Republic military. Secondly, you know your nice pretty new assault rifles? You’re not going to be selling them to private citizens anymore either. Anything that’s classified as assault, you’re not selling to private citizens. You can call it a renewed initiative to the public safety.”
“I’m not going to make any money,” Marsin said weakly.
Face approached Marsin, and leaned down very close, his black mask nearly touching Marsin’s greasy nose. “Third, you’re going to learn one very important lesson. Money isn’t everything. Get up.”
Janson heard Kell’s voice in his ear. “Three minutes. Team evacuating to staging point.” This was good—it meant the operation was proceeding smoothly, which meant it was nearly time for something to inevitably go wrong as it always did with the Wraiths, but neither Shalla nor Face looked worried.
Shalla tied Marsin to a chair by the window in silence, using undue force to secure him. Face circled the man like a predator, and Janson stood there, leaning against the wall. It was a casual stance, one shoulder against the wall, with the same arm bent at the elbow and his hand holding the blaster out, lazily pointed towards Marsin. Marsin might have though Janson wasn’t aiming.
He would have been wrong. If Janson had a weapon in his hand, he was aiming at something. It was habit. It wasn’t even habit. It was nature.
Face was speaking ominously, his actor’s voice intoning exactly what Marsin was going to do and what was going to happen to him if he failed to do what he was instructed. Kell’s voice spoke up again, jerking Janson out of his dangerous reverie. “Thirty seconds.”
“Look out this window,” Face said, and even Janson felt the thrill of what was coming go down his spine. He knew at times why Kell had chosen demolitions as a career. “See that wing of yours, the wing manned by the droid workers? I want you to watch it. Very, very carefully.”
For a split second, there was almost no sound, just the breathing in the room, and the ambient sounds of outside, the clicks and clatters of vehicles clamoring down the street, the occasional loud voice shouting above another. Then the silence was complete and deafening.
The wing of the building, nearly a klick out, exploded. The sound shook the transparisteel windows and rattled the fragments of the vase Shalla had broken as a fireball rose high into the air and thousands of droids met their deaths among the ruins of the firearms factory.
That damage was very little compared to that which Asher wreaked two seconds later by pressing a button on his datapad. His virus downloaded into the computer system, wiping files and backups. Financial records, orders, invoices—it all disappeared as his bit of programming genius ate data like a hungry rancor after anything in sight.
“Sit here and think about everything I’ve said,” Face said. “Let’s go.”
Janson and Shalla took point, putting Asher between them and Face as they escaped down the hallway. They had twenty minutes before Asher’s bug hit the security subsystems and locked down Marsin’s entire estate, which was more than enough time to get out the way they’d come—up through the kitchen service corridor and the exterior delivery door.
Unfortunately, Marsin’s personal security were using that as a shortcut to Marsin’s living quarters as they bellowed into comlinks, attempting to get their employer to answer them.
“Shavit!” Shalla hissed, yanking Janson out of the way. Her blaster whined as it fired.
“Move,” he said gruffly as she ducked her head out of returning fire. Face and Asher were back behind another corner, both coming around to pop off shots at their attackers, Face somewhat more quickly than Asher was.
A blaster in each hand, he set his teeth, and Janson moved. It was nothing. Point, fire. Point, fire. Point, fire. Three men. Three shots, two from his right hand and one from his left. They fell to the ground, unmoving. “Come on,” he urged, hauling Shalla out. She didn’t hesitate, moving around the corner to keep going. Face came next, resuming his position, nudging Asher to move. The kid’s gaze swept along the dead men in the hallway long enough to see their faces before he too, stepped over them and continued on.
“This way,” Shalla said, moving through the kitchen. She moved quietly, her boots barely making any noise against the tile.
“I hear something,” he said, halting her in her tracks. They ducked down for a moment behind the counter, and Janson held his hand up. The sound continued, footsteps growing closer. A lot of footsteps.
Gripping his blasters, he tried not to breathe as the guards came rushing through. Asher had his eyes closed and looked like he was trying not to hyperventilate.
The stacks of plates in the cabinets burst apart as the blaster fire hit them. Instinctively covering their heads, ceramic and china rained down upon them, and Janson and Shalla pivoted around, their blasters pointing over the counters to fire.
The guards already had cover. “We’re going to have to run for it!” Janson yelled.
The door was barely twenty meters away, and once they got outside, separating into pairs would be the best option. They would be more difficult to catch, and would have more mobility. Face motioned to Asher to move to the next counter. “Lay down covering fire.”
“Got it!” Janson said. “Go!”
He set his blaster to repeating fire. It cycled as fast as it could, spraying the kitchen with blaster bolts. Pans pinged the deadly light back off and shots ran into tile and men as Face and Asher ran for the counter that would provide protection, nearly three meters away. “Your turn!”
“You go first,” Janson said to Shalla, ducking back behind his counter and wincing as the transparisteel countertop began to superheat and spray metal fragments over them. “I’ll cover for you, then you do the same.”
“We should go together,” she said, firing around the corner.
“Face can’t shoot,” he said. “Go.”
She didn’t argue, dashing as he came up higher over the counter this time, his shots no longer rapidly firing, but more accurate, more precise. If he didn’t hit flesh, he hit something that would break and make noise, or splatter them with something painful. Shalla slid behind the other counter, fabric ripping as her knees ran across broken glass. “Now!”
Janson didn’t duck and run. Crossing the gap between the counters gave him the advantage and a clear shot, and it gave Shalla and the others the chance to escape. He stood, firing. One step, one shot. Another step, another shot. One after another, with three meters of territory to go. Four steps would have covered it.
He put his foot down to complete his third step, and felt fire. Looking down at his stomach, he saw blood.
And then he saw nothing at all.
He opened his eyes, the blur of a dimly-lighted room taking a moment to clear. He was lying in a military sickbay room, and the pain was almost gone.
Turning his head, Wes saw a woman dozing in the chair beside the bed, her head propped up on her fist. Her orange X-wing jumpsuit clashed terribly with the green of the chair. Her hair, plaited into a messy braid, was greasy and there were dark circles under her eyes.
She was possibly the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. It took him a moment to gather enough moisture into his mouth to speak. “Inyri.”
Her eyes opened and she leaned over his bed. “Wes. You’re awake.”
His forehead creased in confusion. “What are—“ he coughed.
“Here,” she said, pouring him a glass of water and putting a straw in it. “Just sip it.”
He did as she said, and she put the cup back down on the nightstand. “You’re here,” he marveled.
“I’ve been here since yesterday,” she said softly. “I’m still listed as your emergency contact.”
“What happened?” he asked as she perched on the edge of the bed.
“You took a shot in the stomach,” she said. “Commander Loran and Captain Nelprin pulled you out and brought you to the Mon Remonda. That’s where we are now.”
He only had one question left now, one to which he still feared the answer. “Why are you here?”
She looked down, clasping his hand connected to the lines keeping him hydrated. “Because I couldn’t stay there.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but she leaned closer, touching her forehead to his. “I threw out the divorce papers,” she said quietly.
Wes lifted his hand to touch her face, and with her protective presence over him, drifted back into a peaceful sleep.
Outside the room, Shalla Nelprin watched through the darkened window as Inyri gently brushed Wes’ hair away from his face. Other than Inyri’s harried demands to Wes’ whereabouts when she’d arrived after a day and a half in an X-wing to get there and then her quiet, earnest thank you, Shalla hadn’t spoken to the woman she knew only as Wes’ wife.
She kept watch for a few moments more, staring past her own reflection in the window until her comlinks beeped, wanting her attention. “Nelprin.”
“Briefing, ten minutes,” Face said.
Her pause in answering caused the comlinks to crackle back to life. “Shalla, you coming?”
“Yeah,” she said absently. “Yeah, I’m coming.”
Flipping her comlink off, Shalla took one last look at Wes and Inyri before turning her back on them and walking down the empty hall.