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Old Stars, Burning Bright

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The soldering iron slipped, bridging to a circuit Rellian had been sure she'd closed off, and sending half an hour's work up in smoke.

"Son of a gundark!" Rellian spat, or tried to past the coughing. She fell back on her heels so that she could pull her gloves off and rub the sooty safety goggles against her coveralls. It didn't make them notably cleaner, which was about the least of her problems right now. She was never going to get the power coils rewired, let alone this bird airworthy by the next afternoon, like Commander Dameron expected.

He wasn't exactly hovering, but apparently any new pilots on the squadron always got more attention, and Rellian was very new, and possibly more than a little nervous. Like most girls her age, she'd grown up on stories of Shara Bey's exploits during the Rebellion, and here her son was, just as dashing and even better in the air than the stories said.

"Need a hand?" someone asked, and Rellian started, falling back onto her butt and dropping the googles. "Sorry," the stranger apologised, a human woman's voice, soft but with an edge of gravel in it.

When Rellian looked up–discreetly blinking her eyes clear first–she saw a stranger dressed battered coveralls like ground crew, her long hair braided up and wrapped in a scarf, and a smear of grease across her cheek. She looked like she belonged in the hanger, but Rellian was sure she hadn't seen her here before. No matter how new Rellian was, this woman had a face to remember. There was something familiar about it too, perhaps in the shape of the eyes.

"No, I got it," Rellian said, brain kicking back into gear. "Thanks."

"Sure?" the woman asked. "I know a shortcut."

That was too much temptation for Rellian to resist. Commander Dameron had told them all that they had to be able to fix their birds, and the faster the better, that the Resistance counted on them to be ready to be in the air at all times, and sometimes the ground crew wouldn't be there. She was trying to learn it all, but it was damn overwhelming sometimes. None of her academy scores had prepared her for this kind of fight.

Grabbing the edge of the open hatch, Rellian dragged herself to her feet. "Show me."

The woman did, bypassing the secondary coupling, and showing how Rellian could hotwire them on the fly, then going back and doing it properly. Her hands moved nimbly through the circuits, grease-stained and nicked, but unburned by solder or sparks. What she was doing was so obvious once she'd started that she barely had to pause to explain anything, and Rellian watched avidly, taking in every move. It wasn't ten minutes before she stepped back and said, "You try the next one."

"Thanks," Rellian said, like it was no big deal and hadn't saved her four hours, because she wouldn't be the gushing new girl, she wouldn't. "I'm Rellian, by the way, Rellian Chun."

"Nice to meet you, Rellian," the woman said, but then her comm beeped, and she didn't have time to introduce herself before she hurried off, talking into her link in a hushed voice.

Oh well, Rellian would probably see her later, and right now she needed to finish her repairs.

She handed in her report in record time–record for her, at least–and Commander Dameron seemed pleased, or at least mostly annoyed at the readouts on his desk and not at her.

"I had help," Rellian admitted.

"I saw that," he said not looking up, and she had a feeling he was only focusing on the terminal in front of him in order to hide a smile.

"Who was that, anyway?" she asked. "I haven't seen her around, but she sure knows her stuff."

Commander Dameron rubbed his hand over his mouth. "She, uh, she's in a different division, but her brother was an X-Wing pilot, among other things, back in the day."

That meant the Rebellion, which made Rellian think about where she'd be in thirty years. Would the war still be on? Some war probably would be, at least. Would she still be shoulder-deep in the guts of an X-Wing, or would she more like Commander Dameron, with her own office and two squadrons under her command? Or would she be long since dead?

The thoughts carried Rellian back to the barrack showers, and almost carried her right past the Heroes of the Rebellion poster Tathy had just put up above her bunk, but she caught something out of the corner her eye that made her stop, towel in hand, and look at the poster more closely than she ever had before.

"Son of a gundark," Rellian muttered, and then started to laugh.