Fandom: Star Wars: X-Wing Series
Characters: Hobbie Klivian, Wes Janson, Karoly D'ulin
Disclaimer: Not mine. Non-profit organization.
Summary: Hobbie and Wes are on vacation. The bad guys aren't.
Author Note: Set one year after the Hand of Thrawn duology. Originally completed and posted in May, 2008.
They split up the next afternoon, Hobbie to the New Republic Embassy, Karoly to Seline’s apartment. It was necessary, but Karoly still felt relieved they wouldn’t have to spend the day together, fighting the new awkwardness in order to pose as tourists.
They’d hardly spoken that morning, using the minimum amount of words needed to outline the day’s plan, and danced around each other in the kitchen. Over the last week, the space between them had slowly lessened—Hobbie reached around her for a piece of fruit or a glass, or offered to wrestle her for the last spoon. He’d throw himself onto the sofa next to her at the end of the day, not seeming to notice that various limbs—which suddenly became gangly, a word that could rarely be applied to his compact pilot’s build—kept bumping her.
She hadn’t realized how often they came in contact with one another until it stopped. This morning, he’d sat in the living room until she was done in the refresher instead of squeezing in next to her like usual to brush his teeth.
Karoly frowned and consciously relaxed the muscles of her jaw. Even thinking like this was ridiculous. They’d only known each other a handful of days. It was an attraction borne of heightened danger and extended proximity—that was all. Once this was over and they went their separate ways, the longing would fade as quickly as it had built.
She didn’t know where she would go next, or for how long. Hobbie’s life, though, could finally have some stability. His life could be a life. She was exactly the wrong person for him to start something with, and she always would be. She couldn’t give up her duties as a Mistryl anymore than he could have stopped fighting while the Empire was still an enemy. The difference was that Emberlene might never be whole again. She might never get to rest.
Karoly adjusted her position, stretching out her legs and turning her datapad slightly to negate a glare. She’d been in this caf shop for over four hours, pretending to work on her datapad while actually watching the small apartment building across the street. The windows of Seline’s third floor apartment had been transparent enough when Karoly first arrived for her to see the young woman staring out the window, chin in her hand. She’d since moved on to other activities, dimming the windows, but she hadn’t left.
Karoly finished off her cup of caf, the dregs cold and thick, and made a decision. She packed up her datapad, left a tip on the table, and walked outside to hail a cab.
Fifteen minutes later she stood at the edge of the main city plaza, embassies towering on either side of her. She studied the placement of the souvenir stalls and the way the crowd moved, judging where Hobbie would have positioned himself today. She pulled her comlink from her pocket and buzzed him.
He answered immediately. “Hi.”
“Where are you?”
“Near the sandwich stand on the northeast corner.” He paused. “Are you here?”
“I will be. Stay put.” She set off across the plaza, scanning faces while she pretended to scan menus and merchandise.
He found her before she found him.
“Don’t get the seasoned chakburger. It tastes like sand.”
Karoly turned and promptly forgot her retort. She stared at Hobbie.
He looked up and smiled at the ridiculous hat sitting on his head. “Do you like it?”
It was a lurid shade of orange, so bright it hurt her eyes to look at in direct sunlight. The wide brim had sun-shaped holes punched in it, spotting Hobbie’s body with little glowing suns that danced whenever he moved his head. On the hat’s holographic band, the word “SOLER” flashed over a scrolling background of scenic landscapes.
“It’s horrible,” Karoly said, shielding her eyes from it with her hands. “Why would you ever buy that?”
“The salesman was very persistent. It was either hand over a few credits or shoot him. I thought the hat would attract less attention.”
“I’m not sure about that.”
Hobbie grinned, and something inside Karoly relaxed. “What are you doing here?” he asked, amusement fading. “Did something happen?”
“No. Absolutely nothing happened, and I don’t think it’s going to.” She started walking, and Hobbie followed. “As far as I can tell, Seline’s under some sort of house arrest, either self-imposed or Remembrance-imposed.” She looked at Hobbie and stopped. “Please take that off. I can’t take you seriously.”
“Aw. I was going to give it to Wes as a sorry-I-let-you-get-kidnapped present.”
“You can buy him another one. Please?”
He made a show of thinking, then plucked the hat from his head, rolled it up, and shoved it in a back pocket. “Better?”
“Much.” She resumed walking. “Any sign of Markin?”
Hobbie shook his head. “Never showed up. I got reckless a couple hours ago and went inside. The new receptionist said poor Mr. Markin had called in that morning with the Verga flu. It usually takes three or four days to run its course, so he wouldn’t be back until next week.”
“Three or four days,” Karoly muttered. “How convenient.”
“We scared them last night. I think the whole group has gone to ground.” They left the busy plaza behind, turning down a quiet side street. “So why the change in plans?” Hobbie asked. “Get bored?”
“Not at all. I enjoy drinking cheap caf for hours and staring at buildings.”
“So you just missed me, then?”
As soon as the words left his mouth, Hobbie clamped his jaw shut and looked at his feet, his face falling into that somber expression he wore so often. Karoly reminded herself that this was good, this was necessary, this was better for both of them in the end.
“I thought I’d ask Seline if she knows where Remembrance keeps their base,” she said into the silence. “I figured you’d want to come along.”
“Absolutely. It’s been a while since I did any breaking and entering.”
They didn’t speak again until they reached the apartment.
Hobbie leaned against the wall of the corridor outside Seline’s flat, keeping an eye on the stairwell while Karoly picked the lock. Through the door, he could hear a holovid. Seline had the volume loud enough to cover the sound of Karoly’s work and probably their entrance.
His fingers twitched against the butt of his blaster, and he couldn’t seem to relax his jaw enough to keep his teeth from grinding together. The evening had been one of the most excruciating in Hobbie’s memory. For a few moments in the plaza, things had seemed all right between him and Karoly, and then he’d ruined it. As soon as they’d reached her apartment, she’d fled to the bedroom, hurriedly suggesting he get some sleep while he could before she shut the door. He hadn’t seen her again until an hour before midnight. He’d slept a little, enough to get him through whatever happened tonight, and had spent the rest of the evening trying to figure her out.
He hadn’t made much progress.
A final click, and the door opened a couple centimeters. Karoly stood, and Hobbie moved in close behind her, pulling his blaster from his waistband. She pushed the door open and stepped inside, her own blaster out and level. Hobbie followed.
Seline lay sprawled across a sofa in the next room, a romance holo coming to its emotional climax on the screen hanging on the wall. Hobbie and Karoly moved around opposite ends of the sofa and into Seline’s line of sight. She sat up and started to scream, but Karoly lunged forward, slapping a hand across the girl’s mouth and pressing her back into the cushions.
Seline thrashed, her screams muffled, and Karoly lifted her blaster and pointed the barrel directly between Seline’s eyes.
“Quiet,” Karoly said.
Seline obeyed, panting but still.
“Do what we ask, and we’ll be out of here in three minutes without hurting you. Think you can behave for three minutes?”
Seline nodded, and tears slipped from her eyes and ran down her face, pooling against Karoly’s fingers. Hobbie remembered Wes falling over the side of a building and took a small step forward, steadying his aim. Seline’s eyes flicked toward him and then returned to Karoly, who eased her hand away from the girl’s mouth.
“Where’s Janson?” Hobbie demanded.
“At the warehouse,” Seline whispered. “On the north side of the city.”
“Where exactly?” Karoly asked.
“By the old riverbed. Langhur Street. It used to be the Pyhr Sol Wine warehouse before they went out of business.”
“What else is there?”
Seline sniffed. “Everything. Everyone.”
“Markin? The bomb?”
Seline twitched. “How did you—“
“We’re good guessers,” Hobbie said. “Here’s another: you think your pain legitimizes murder.”
Seline came off the sofa with her hands raised, reaching for Hobbie’s throat, but Karoly shoved her back down and wrapped a hand around the girl’s neck.
“That’s not behaving,” she said. Her fingers tightened until Seline nodded. Karoly loosened her grip.
“He has no right—“ the girl started.
“Neither do you,” Hobbie snapped.
Karoly shot him a look—half worry, half glare—then turned back to Seline. “Who’d you lose?” she asked.
“My brother,” Seline whispered. “It was me and him for so long, and now it’s just me.”
Karoly looked at Hobbie, then slipped her blaster inside her jacket. He stepped forward to cover Seline, who glared up at him, her eyes cold.
“They wanted you, too,” she said. “Two is more convincing than one. One might be crazy. Two are a movement.”
“The war’s over.” He shifted his grip on his blaster. His fingers ached from the tension. “That’s a good thing. It means the dying stops. If Remembrance does this, if they set off this bomb, more brothers die. If they get what they want and restart the war, more brothers die.”
Karoly pulled a syringe from her pocket.
“What’s that?” Seline asked, sounding resigned.
“It’ll make you sleep. That’s all.”
“Will I wake up?”
Karoly paused, the needle just above Seline’s arm. “Yes.”
Seline laid her head on the back of the sofa, and Karoly injected the drugs into her arm. A few seconds later, she was unconscious.
Karoly stood and moved toward Hobbie. He looked at her, vaguely aware he was shaking. The rage from the night Wes had been taken, carefully buried beneath actions and plans and the mission, had slipped free and flooded him. Anger at girl on the couch, at Remembrance for using her. Anger at Karoly for touching him in a way that could only be called a caress and then, moments later, closing the door on a possibility he’d only just started to realize. Anger at himself for letting her.
“I hate this,” he said, his eyes slipping away from hers. “All of it.”
Karoly took the blaster from his hand and slipped it into an inner pocket of his jacket. “I know.”
They locked the door behind them as they left.
Two hours later, Hobbie slipped another power pack into a pocket of the combat vest he wore over his t-shirt. He tugged at the bottom of the thick material, nodded when it barely budged, and wondered if he could fit anything else in the large pockets on the outside of either leg.
“I still don’t like this plan,” Karoly said. She leaned against the wall, arms crossed, looking sleek and deadly in a black jumpsuit. She had a blaster on each hip, a knife on each thigh, and Hobbie had seen her slip a stiletto into her right boot. He figured she had a whole other set of weaponry stashed on her person, but he resembled a walking armory himself, so they made a good pair.
Walking into a warehouse full of burgeoning terrorists and leaving with an injured man in tow would take two walking armories.
“I didn’t like your plan last night, but we went through with it anyway. Same rules apply to mine.” He shoved a blaster into the holsters on either hip.
“What if they just shoot you?”
“Then you won’t have to worry about me getting in your way.”
She pushed herself off the wall. “Don’t say that.”
He shrugged. “Why not? Once Seline wakes up tomorrow, she’ll tell everyone she knows that we know where Remembrance lives. We’ve got one shot at this, and my plan is our only plan.”
“I still don’t like it.”
She lifted the small satchel she’d stuffed with compact explosives and medical equipment. “Yeah.”
They moved toward the door, but as Karoly reached for the control panel, Hobbie blocked it with his hand.
“Wait. Before we go, I just—I wanted to say—um.”
She looked at him, a touch of expectancy in her eyes.
What the hell? he thought, and kissed her.
She rocked back on her heels in surprise, and he slipped a hand behind her neck. He heard a thud as she dropped her satchel, and then her fingers were in his hair.
And then she was everywhere.
A door slammed out in the corridor, and they sprang a meter apart. Hobbie felt like he’d just sprinted a kilometer, and his hands twitched at the loss of contact. They stared at each other.
“Well,” he said, trying to breathe normally.
“Well.” Karoly smoothed her hair where his fingers had mussed it. “We should…”
“Right.” Neither of them moved. “Here’s hoping we don’t die.”
“Yes,” she agreed softly.
He looked at her, at the openness of her face, her eyes, and nearly kissed her again. But as he watched, she rebuilt her walls, shoved herself down behind a mask, and he followed her lead without conscious thought.
They faced each other, expressionless and ready for battle.
“Let’s go,” he said.
They moved out.
They crouched in the shadows at the base of a warehouse, peering through the night at the Pyhr Sol Wine building fifty meters away.
“Give me twenty minutes,” Karoly breathed, adjusting the strap of her satchel so it lay snug against her back.
Hobbie nodded. “See you when it’s over.”
She didn’t respond, just brushed her fingers against his jaw and slipped silently away.
Hobbie settled in to wait, a timer ticking down in his head. Sitting in his cockpit, the swirl of hyperspace around him and battle waiting on the other side, he’d taught himself how to relax—to find a few moments of rest before everything became adrenaline and instinct and living from second to second. This was no different.
He put his forced idleness to use, watching for movement. Remembrance weren’t much for security. He and Karoly hadn’t seen any sort of patrol in the half hour they’d spent circling the warehouse, marking the locations of doors and windows, but that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be one. Hobbie faced the main street entrance now. In the back of the warehouse, four large loading doors sat atop a wide ramp that spanned the width of the building. One of them had been open, exposing half a dozen speeders parked in haphazard formation.
When he judged that less than five minutes remained of his promised twenty, he stood and spent a minute flexing his legs until the last of the stiffness was banished, then eased around the corner of the building. He stopped and waited another minute for some sign that his appearance had been noted, but nothing moved.
He already held a blaster in his right hand, but he pulled the other from the holster on his hip with his left and started slowly across the street, eyes looking everywhere at once. He reached the warehouse door and beat against it with his fist.
“Hey! Hey! Open the door! Open it!” He hammered and shouted, making as much noise as he could, but the door remained closed. He hadn’t expected anything else.
He took a step back and lifted his arms, one blaster pointed squarely at the door, the other aimed toward the control panel. A single shot melted the circuitry, and the fire safety programming kicked in. The door sprang open.
Before the door had disappeared into the wall, Hobbie fired through the opening, the concentric blue circles of the stun setting spreading through the interior space. He saw its light strike two men, sending them to the floor. He brought his other blaster to bear, his thumb flicking the laser setting, and fired again.
He heard shouts, the crash of something falling to the floor. He paused and let them get a good look at him, then moved inside. Men ducked behind stacks of crates that flanked the doorway, and he fired again, both arms sweeping to the side toward them.
Two steps, three, then blue flashed in his peripheral vision and the world went dark.