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.
The door opened, and Wes dragged his eyes open. Two Remembrance members, followed by two more with blasters, hauled a black-clad form into the room. They propped the unconscious man into the chair Markin used during his chats.
“Get the stimulator,” the first man, Thurne, snapped. The second complied, fetching a hypodermic from the table against the wall and injecting its contents into the unconscious man’s neck.
Into Hobbie’s neck, Wes realized, finally recognizing the face beneath the unfamiliar hair. His muscles strained against the restraints and injuries keeping him immobile.
Hobbie jerked and lifted his head. His feet pushed against the floor, searching for enough purchase to keep him in his chair. The two men with guns lifted them, made a show of aiming. Hobbie didn’t seem to notice.
“Hobbs,” Wes croaked.
The other pilot’s head bobbed his direction. “Hey, Wes,” he said groggily. “Thought I’d rescue you.”
“Try harder next time.”
Hobbie looked around the room. “Yeah.”
“See? It is him,” Thurne said.
Another man appeared in the doorway. “Markin’s on his way.”
Thurne lifted Hobbie’s chin off his chest, his fingers digging into the pilot’s jaw. “Where’s the woman?” he asked.
Hobbie mumbled something.
Thurne shook him. “Speak up. Where is she?”
“Major Derek Klivian, New Republic Starfighter Command,” Hobbie slurred, his hands gripping the back legs of the chair. “Serial number 924-alpha-gamma-347.”
Wes growled, teeth bared, but no one paid him any attention. He’d have given almost anything for a blaster and the free movement of his right arm.
Thurne straightened, his hand still gripping Hobbie’s face, and addressed one of the men aiming a blaster at their prisoner’s chest. “Grint, take some men, go look for the woman. She’s probably out there somewhere.”
Grint nodded, but before he could move toward the door, the ceiling above his head exploded.
Wes flinched, blinking against the plaster dust that filled the room. A figure dropped out of the ceiling, landing next to Grint. A quick movement of the figure’s hand, and Grint went limp.
Hobbie jerked his head out of the surprised Thurne’s hand, brought his knees to his chest, and kicked. Thurne took both feet to his stomach, and the force pushed Hobbie over backward. He rolled and came up with the chair in his hands, which he swung into the face of another attacker. By that time, Thurne had regained his feet.
Wes yelled a warning that was lost amidst the chaos of the room, but Hobbie was already turning. He dropped the chair in favor of his fists, stepped into Thurne’s charge, and punched him. Thurne staggered, and Hobbie grabbed him by the arm and the back of the neck and slammed his head against the wall.
Wes winced at the impact. Thurne slid to the floor.
Movement drew Wes’s gaze to the other side of the room, where the mysterious figure from the ceiling—it could only be Karoly—rose to her feet from a roll in a single fluid motion that placed her directly in front of the only Remembrance member still standing. She’d already dispatched the fourth.
The man tried to bring his blaster, which had been tracking toward Hobbie, to bear on Karoly, but she soundlessly slid a stiletto into the side of his neck. His eyes widened, and for a moment they looked at each other. Then she pulled the knife from his throat and he collapsed.
She turned, her eyes sweeping across Wes from his feet to his face, then continuing on until they found Hobbie. “Are you okay?” she asked.
Hobbie nodded. “I told you it’d work. Though you handled your end a little more dramatically then I intended. The ceiling?”
She shrugged. “I couldn’t resist.”
Hobbie smiled, and even though they stood three meters apart, Wes suddenly felt like he was intruding. It only lasted a moment, and then Hobbie moved toward him, fishing through a pocket.
“Hey, Wes.” He flicked open a knife and started sawing through the thick canvas straps tying Wes to the table. While he worked, his eyes took in Wes’s injuries. “You look terrible.”
“So do you. What’d you do to your head?”
“It’s my clever disguise.” One of the straps came loose, and Hobbie moved to the next. “Sorry it took me so long.”
“You’re lucky I’m a patient man.” Wes squinted up at the not at all groggy Hobbie. “Faker.”
Hobbie grinned with one corner of his mouth. “Did I have you worried?”
Wes scoffed, then winced as he tested limbs that had been immobile for over a week. Karoly moved to his other side and pulled a hypodermic from a small bag she’d had on her back. Hobbie pulled the IV from his arm and headed for the stretcher propped in the corner of the room.
“Field cocktail,” Karoly said, lifting the syringe. “Pain killers and adrenaline.”
Wes nodded. “I’m familiar with it.” He tilted his head, giving her access to his neck. “Hi, Karoly. Nice to see you again.”
“Hi, Janson. Sorry I got you into this.” With a quick prick and a whoosh of compressed air, the drugs entered his system.
“Don’t worry about it.” He swallowed and closed his eyes, waiting for the dizziness caused by the rush of adrenaline to fade. “It’ll make a great story. I’ll get dates off this for months.”
“He’s not kidding, unfortunately,” Hobbie said. Wes heard the whine of repulsorlifts and opened his eyes. Hobbie looked at him apologetically. “There’s no way to do this without it hurting like hell.”
“Then let’s just do it.” He gritted his teeth while Karoly and Hobbie transferred him from the desk to the floating stretcher. It wasn’t nearly as bad as he thought it was going to be. “That’s good stuff, Karoly.”
“Try this.” Hobbie pressed a blaster into the hand of his uninjured arm.
Wes lifted it and smiled. “That’s even better.”
Hobbie pushed the stretcher toward the door, Karoly in the lead. She checked the hall, then turned and faced Hobbie from Wes’s feet.
“Speeders are to the right,” she said.
The stretcher shifted. “But you’re going left,” Hobbie said in a flat, careful voice.
“You need to get Janson out of here and to a hospital. I’m going to find that bomb and make sure it doesn’t fulfill its purpose.”
The adrenaline currently making up a significant percentage of his blood made Wes hyper-aware of his surroundings—an awareness that, when mixed with the pain killer, could morph into paranoia. But he didn’t think he was imagining the weird, unspoken conversation happening above him, even if he could only see Karoly’s side of it.
“Be careful,” Hobbie said.
Karoly nodded and placed a light hand on Wes’s ankle. “Take care of yourself, Janson.”
“You, too, Karoly. I owe you a drink or fifty.”
She checked the hallway again, and with a last look at Hobbie, moved quickly to the left. Hobbie moved to the opposite end of the stretcher and pulled it behind him as they set off down the right-hand corridor. Wes twisted his head around to see Karoly slip around a corner.
“What was that all about?” he asked.
“What was what?” Hobbie asked, one hand between Wes’s feet, the other holding a blaster.
“You and Karoly.”
Hobbie paused at a junction, looked both directions, then continued. Wes stared at the back of his head and waited for an answer.
“You’re a rotten liar.”
“You can give me lessons when we get off this planet.”
“I’ve been trying to teach you how to lie for years. If you haven’t picked it up yet, you never will.”
“And yet I’ve survived this long.”
“Only because I was around.”
Hobbie stopped and turned, giving Wes one of his looks. “And who managed to fall off a building and get himself kidnapped?”
Wes frowned. “They wouldn’t have got me if I hadn’t fallen off the building first, and that wasn’t my fault.”
A door opened a few meters down the hall, and Markin stepped into the corridor. Hobbie whipped back around, but he wasn’t fast enough. His blaster pointed toward the floor; Markin’s was leveled at his chest.
“Dammit, Wes,” Hobbie said, taking a step backward so that he stood next to Wes’s knees¬—and blocked Wes’s blaster from Markin’s sight. “See what happens when you distract me? For a minute there, I thought I might actually get through this night without getting shot.”
Wes shifted his grip on the blaster and checked its setting with his thumb. “Sorry.”
“Set the blaster down, Major Klivian,” Markin said. Hobbie laid it between Wes’s ankles. “I have two offers for you.”
“I don’t suppose I have any choice but to listen,” Hobbie said.
Markin smiled, but it wasn’t an amused smile. “First option, you join Remembrance, record a message we can broadcast to the galaxy, and live. Second option, I shoot you now, we place both your bodies near our present to the Imperial Embassy, and you go down in history as martyrs for justice.”
“And if your ‘present’ just disintegrates us?”
“Oh, we’ll make sure to place you far enough from the detonation point that the blast would have killed you while leaving you whole enough for positive identification.”
Hobbie shifted his weight slightly, and Wes lined up his aim. “You’re not worried about blaster wounds in our chests looking suspicious?”
Markin took a step forward. “Have you ever seen bombing victims, Major Klivian?”
“Me, too. When I was a boy, most of my city was razed to the ground because we didn’t want an Imperial garrison built a kilometer away. Bodies littered the streets, including most of my family. No one will notice something as small as a blaster wound.”
“How tragic. You must be the only person in the whole galaxy who lost someone to the war. I know Wes and I sure didn’t.”
Markin nodded slightly, then tilted his head. “Perhaps, but your sarcasm doesn’t change the fact that you’re—“
“Not listening to this anymore, thanks.” Hobbie shifted again, and Wes got ready. “I don’t like either of your options. I think I’ll pass. Wes?”
“Go,” he said.
Hobbie spun and propelled himself away from the stretcher, slamming his back against the wall of the corridor. Markin’s blaster tracked him, half an instant behind.
Wes fired. The blast hit Markin in the stomach, and he staggered backward two steps. He tried to bring his blaster back toward Wes, but Wes lifted the barrel, changing his aim, and squeezed the trigger twice more. The shots burned through Markin’s chest, and he dropped.
“The service in this hotel sucks,” Wes said. “I’m checking out.”
Hobbie pushed off the wall and checked the body, then started pulling the stretcher down the hallway at a jog. “Wes? Don’t attempt witty one-liners when you’ve got that many drugs in your system.”
They bumped into half a dozen more people on their way to the speeder bay, but all of them got out of their way when they saw blasters and grim expressions bearing down on them. Hobbie maneuvered Wes’s stretcher through the bay toward a blue model with a sizable backseat. Most of the speeders had disappeared, and Hobbie assumed a lot of Remembrance members had already fled. Karoly must have been causing a lot of havoc.
Getting Wes off the stretcher and into the speeder took more time than Hobbie liked, and it was impossible not to jar Wes’s many injuries.
“Do you mind if I pass out now?” Wes asked once they got him settled against the seat. He groaned.
“Sure. I think I can handle it from here.”
Wes closed his eyes and blindly groped for Hobbie’s arm with a hand. “Thanks.”
“You think I’m going to let some amateurs with a grudge blow you up two days before you retire?”
Wes’s hand slipped into the speeder and he seemed to droop. “Wake me if something interesting happens.”
Hobbie grinned. Shoving the stretcher aside, he jumped over the side of the speeder and into the driver’s seat, ripping the wiring from the console and twisting it together as quickly as he could. The engine started, and he eased the speeder out of the warehouse. Keeping the ride as smooth as he could, he accelerated down the street, turning corners that would take him toward the center of the city.
He’d checked their tail for the sixth time when his comlink, the cheap one Karoly had bought that first day, vibrated. He yanked it from his vest pocket and flicked it on. “Karoly.”
“Are you out?” she asked.
“Yeah. About a klick and a half away.”
“Good.” There was a pause long enough for her to take a breath. “Derek?”
Hobbie swallowed, something like dread blossoming in his chest. “Don’t you dare, Karoly.”
“Don’t you dare blow yourself up,” he said fiercely, checking to make sure Wes was still unconscious. “They’re not worth it.”
“What are you talking about? I’m not going to blow myself up. At least, not if I can help it.”
“Oh.” He turned another corner and saw the lights of Soler’s main tourist district ahead. He slowed the speeder. “Right.”
“Where did you get that idea?” He heard something on her end bang, a metallic clatter.
“Nothing. Never mind.” He could feel his ears burning.
“You can’t just wildly accuse me of killing myself and then claim it was nothing.” Another bang, a shout, and the distinctive whine of blaster fire.
“Karoly?” Hobbie felt his voice tighten and hoped she hadn’t noticed the rise in pitch.
“Hang on.” A few more shots, another shout, and silence. “Okay. Tell me.”
He pulled the speeder to the edge of the small side street and stopped. Half a block ahead, one of the main avenues glowed in the night. “It’s just…”
“Now, Klivian. I’ve got thirty seconds before things get very interesting here.”
He took a breath and let the words out in a rush. “It’s just that, historically speaking, when you call me ‘Derek,’ bad things are about to happen.”
He counted seven seconds before she said, “Oh.” Then another three before she said, “I was just going to say that this week, with you, was…” She grunted, swore under her breath, and something screeched.
“It was nice, Hobbie. Which I know sounds—shassa. Here goes.” The signal cut off.
Two kilometers behind him, the warehouse exploded. The sky turned orange.