Iokath, Post Confrontation with Acina and Tyth
Days went by before Psawl showed any signs of life. Captain Dorne proved her worth yet again as she applied her considerable medical knowledge to nursing the Commander back to health. Her former commanding officer, Colonel Siwala Ward, set up a 24 hour guard around the control center where he was being housed, and often took shifts herself, using the time to catch up with her associate. For Otienoh's part, when he wasn't out fragging droids or beating back Imperial incursions, he stalked the halls moodily, berating himself for failing to protect his frie… charge.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Otienoh received word that the alliance commander was stirring. He rushed to the control center as quickly as he could while maintaining his dignity. He tried not to lose his temper when Siwala's troops stopped him at the door to check his clearance, but in a surprising lapse of her usual attitude towards Sith, Siwala herself ordered for him to be let through. He met Lana and Theron at the commander's bedside just as the pureblood Jedi was blinking awake.
"Lana…" Psawl murmured, his eyes glassy and unfocused from his long sleep. Lana smiled with relief.
"Don't worry, Commander. You're safe."
Psawl looked around the room, still rather dazed. "I… found the super-weapon. It… was a giant droid…"
"I know." Lana said. "You've been talking in your sleep."
Theron approached the bed. "I almost had to stuff a sock in your mouth," he added dryly. Psawl chuckled weakly, and then glanced to where Otienoh was hanging back.
"I offered one of Pierce's," he said, "but Captain Dorne vetoed me. She insisted that the droid had done enough damage already." Psawl barked out a laugh, but it quickly turned into a cough. Captain Dorne started toward the bed, concern and disapproval etched on her face, but Psawl held up one hand to stop her. He coughed a few more times, and then cleared his throat.
"The… droid. What happened to it?" he asked, once he caught his breath.
"Whatever it is, you knocked it out of commission with the Eternal Fleet," Theron answered. Psawl started to smile with relief, but Theron continued: "Now it's recharging – and gearing up for a counter-attack."
"Which is why we must strike soon," Lana added. "Hesitate too long, and the titan may destroy us all."
Psawl forced himself into a sitting position on the edge of the bed. He nodded thoughtfully, but his mind seemed far off. Finally, he shook his head and sighed.
"Someone betrayed me," he said. The room fell dead silent. "They lured me into that death trap and sabotaged the throne – just like they tricked all of us into fighting a war on Iokath."
Otienoh slammed his fist into the nearest piece of machinery, his blood boiling with rage. "I knew there was something rotten about all this," he seethed.
Lana and Theron seemed troubled too, but they handled their emotions much more sedately. "The conspiracy cuts deeper than we imagined," Lana said softly.
"Sounds like an inside job, alright," Theron agreed. "Only a handful of people could get close enough to sabotage the throne."
"Who could have done such a thing?" Lana wondered.
Psawl rose shakily to his feet. "I don't know. Malcom, Arcann, Senya, it could be almost anyone."
"If we're tallying suspects, we have to consider Aygo, Vizla, Satele, and the entire Alliance army…" Lana added.
"Not to mention Lana, Otienoh," Otienoh glared, but Theron ignored him. "Hell, even me."
"Whoever it is," Psawl said, "I want them rooted out. Quickly."
"With pleasure," Otienoh said, reaching for his lightsaber.
"Whoa. Slow down," Theron said. "We need to go about this smart, not charge in like a concussed rancor."
"And what does that mean?" Otienoh asked coldly.
"Quiet, both of you." Lana said, looking thoughtful. "There's only one solution. You must monitor everyone." All three listeners stiffened.
"Hold on minister of paranoia," Theron interjected, holding up his hands as if trying to physically stave off her idea. "You can't invade everyone's privacy to sniff out a single rat."
"I can't, but the commander can." She faced Psawl squarely. "Give the order, and I'll begin surveillance of everyone, even Theron, Otienoh and myself. It's the only way to flush out the traitor."
Psawl stepped a few paces away, considering, then turned to Otienoh.
"You have a strong opinion on this," he stated.
"No I don't," Otienoh denied and turned away, but Psawl wasn't fooled.
The other man had his back to them, speaking so that he didn't have to look any of them in the eye. He twisted his lightsaber in his off hand while he talked. "As much as I hate to agree with Theron…"
"Gee, thanks big guy."
"…When I was still Vitiate's Wrath, on Rishi… it came to my attention that the emperor had hidden droids on my ship, to spy on my every action. It was hardly the only reason, but it certainly contributed to my turning against him. I don't think it prudent to risk alienating everyone in pursuit of a single spy. Not when other tactics are available."
Psawl nodded in agreement. "I won't let one traitor turn me against my followers. They've earned my trust."
"I'm glad someone hasn't lost their mind," Theron said, relieved. Lana did not share the sentiment.
"Trust is a risk, now more than ever," she said.
"Commander!" Malcom's enthusiastic voice drifted across the room. All eyes turned to him as he came striding towards the group. Psawl went to meet him, the others following.
"I knew you'd pull through," Malcom grinned, "and back in fighting shape, no less! I hope you're ready to return to the front lines." Otienoh frowned at Malcom, making a mental note to keep an eye on Psawl's condition, since apparently Force-blinds couldn't tell when Force-sensitives were masking their weariness.
Psawl, of course, maintained his façade and responded in kind. "We took down Acina and stopped the Apocalypse. I'd say we've earned a breather."
"I'll drink to that!" Malcom agreed. "But don't celebrate too hard. We need you back on the battlefield." The group started walking back to the front of the command center. "You won a major victory by neutralizing Acina," Malcom continued, "but the Empire refuses to surrender. They're still fighting tooth and nail for control of Iokath."
"They're still desperate to claim the super-weapon," Psawl observed. "If we take it first, they'll have no choice but to surrender."
"Then that's where we set our sights! But we can't stop there… We need to keep hammering the Empire. Day by day. Hour by hour. Only then will we win this war."
Otienoh felt bile rise in his throat as he recalled all of the good people he'd known in the Empire. For all its sanctimoniousness, the Republic was far too eager to ignore the innocents and heroes who suffered in their attacks. He started tapping his fingers in rhythm, looking at the floor opposite Malcom. He was so caught up in his own feelings that he didn't notice Colonel Siwala approaching until she'd cleared her throat.
"Commander?" She asked, causing Otienoh to start and the rest of the group to turn their attention towards her. She was leading two of her troops – one Republic and one Alliance- and escorting a very familiar, shackled prisoner.
"Quinn?" Otienoh asked, surprised out of his stupor at the sight of his old captain standing before him in chains. "What do you think you're doing here?" Quinn opened his mouth to reply, but the colonel interrupted.
"Sir," she addressed Psawl, saluting briefly. "This Imp surrendered to us on the condition that he be allowed a word with 'The Wrath.' What are your orders?"
"That would be up to him," Psawl said, nodding at Otienoh. Otienoh examined Quinn, standing straight and tall as ever despite the binders. When Otienoh caught Quinn's eye, though, the man lowered his gaze, bowed his head, and kept it there.
"I'll speak with him. Remove his restraints." Quinn glanced up in surprise, and Siwala started to protest, but Otienoh cut her off. "I'm sure I can handle one unarmed man should he decide to attack. Besides, the major will behave himself while I'm here, won't you Quinn?"
"Of course, my lord," Quinn said, bowing his head again. Siwala cast a dubious glance at Psawl, but the commander nodded, and Siwala motioned for the guards to un-cuff him. Quinn rubbed his wrists, getting the circulation going properly again.
"We'll give you two a moment alone," Psawl offered, and the knot of people dispersed, leaving Quinn and Otienoh as alone as two people could be in the command center.
Otienoh slowly approached his former subordinate, bits of old memories, good and bad, flitting through his mind. "It's been a long time, Quinn."
His neutral tone must have encouraged Quinn, because the major visibly relaxed before returning to his customary, proud posture. "Too long," he agreed. "After you disappeared, I spent months on the hunt. Minister Lorman even heard about my crusade and ordered me to call off the search. He wanted the Emperor's Wrath to 'stay missing.'"
Otienoh snorted. "Why doesn't that surprise me? Weasel of a man." He and Quinn began to walk together past the holo-viewer that dominated the front of the room.
"Indeed, my lord. Naturally, I refused… and found myself in Imperial prison." Quinn drew a shaky breath. "I was locked away for years until Empress Acina pardoned me shortly before the commander retired the poor minister."
"Yet still you stayed in hiding."
Quinn paused and studied his shoes. "I actually tried to approach you, once. When you escorted the commander on his visit with Acina on Dromund Kaas. But I lost my nerve."
"And now that you have another chance to speak with me, it's off to prison again."
There was a moment of silence, and then Quinn turned to face his former master, a desperate plea in his eyes. "Before they lock me away, I have to tell you how much I valued our time together." Otienoh jerked his head away, glaring at the floor, jaw tensed as suppressed emotions started eating at the edge of his awareness, but Quinn barreled on. "If you would care to ask the commander to pardon my crimes, I would gladly return as your humble and dutiful servant."
Quinn bowed again, but Otienoh's mind was elsewhere. Visions flitted before his eyes one after another. Quinn kneeling to first swear his loyalty. Quinn's derisive sneer when he revealed his betrayal. Quinn's broken body trembling after his trap failed to kill his lord. Psawl's broken body lying for days on a cot, barely clinging to life. Psawl's haunted eyes as he revealed he had been set up. Darth Vowran commending Quinn's bravery. Quinn throwing a flash-bang and escaping when the Alliance chose to side with the Republic. Quinn's last desperate attempt to stop Acina when Otienoh had appealed to his loyalty to the Empire over its Empress…
Otienoh forcibly pushed the memories aside and returned his gaze to Quinn. The man was shaking, his usually immaculate uniform drenched with sweat, terror and shame rolling off of him in waves. Otienoh got the impression that his pride was the only thing preventing him from falling to his knees to beg forgiveness.
Otienoh put a hand on Quinn's shoulder. The man stiffened and nervously met his gaze. "We've had our ups and downs, Quinn. But you've served me well," Otienoh said. Surprised hope began to dawn in Quinn's eyes. "I will speak with the commander on your behalf. I'm confident you won't be stuck in a cell for long."
Quinn sagged with relief. "Thank you, my lord. You're too kind."
"But Quinn," he added, and Quinn turned his attention to Otienoh once more. "I'm trusting you." He got a hard gleam in his eye. "Don't disappoint my faith in you again, or nobody, not even the most skilled of Malcom's spies, will be able to find you."
Quinn visibly paled. "I… won't tempt fate, my lord."
Otienoh slumped, suddenly feeling drained. He motioned for Siwala's guards, and they came, replaced Quinn's binders, and led him away to a holding cell. Psawl and Malcom were a ways off discussing tactics, but Lana and Theron sidled up to Otienoh as soon as Quinn was out of sight.
"How much did you hear?" Otienoh asked, not glancing at either of them, but walking toward the window to gaze out over Iokath.
"Pretty much all of it," Theron admitted. He gestured back and forth between himself and Lana. "Spies." He cleared his throat. "I know you two have a lot of history, but he could be our traitor."
"The question is," Lana said, "do you trust Major Quinn?"
Otienoh took a moment to think, massaging his temples against a tension headache that was creeping up on him. "Quinn and I have endured a great deal together. He's a good man. But he did betray me once already. I can't be completely certain he wouldn't target the commander. And nobody can be above suspicion. If and when he is released from prison, we should keep a close eye on him."
"I'll see to it," Theron assured him.
"If he's hiding anything, we'll find it," Lana agreed.
"I'll promise you right now," Theron said, looking out over Iokath himself. "Whoever this traitor is, we'll find them."
"And we'll make them pay," Lana added, her voice soft and dangerous.
Otienoh made a fist and pressed it against the window pane. "We certainly will." He glanced at his two companions, all of them united in their determination to protect their commander. "Now let's go win the war they started."
Theron nodded. "For the Eternal Alliance."
Lana stared off over the horizon. "May the Force Serve us well.