Aminta Jae furrowed her brow slightly as her piece of charcoal slid across the crisp white paper of her sketchbook. She looked up briefly at her subject of interest, and then quickly turned her attention back to her sketch. Her caffa lay on a side table, forgotten for the moment as her artist's senses crowded away all coherent thought. Sometimes she hated loving art so much. Her subject was a handsome man, most likely in his late thirties. Normally, she wouldn't have paid him a second glance, but tonight his profile was rigid, his face taught. He was a man in pain, and that appealed to her. All of her drawings over the past few years had been of similar subjects.
So absorbed was she in her work that she didn't notice her friend, Leoma, until the woman laid a hand on her shoulder. Aminta jumped, and then glared at the dark-skinned woman standing behind her. "Busy. Go away," she mumbled, and turned her attention back towards her sketch.
Leoma laughed, and sat down next to Aminta instead of complying with her friend's wishes. "What are you drawing this time?" she asked as she drew her knees up to her chest and peeked over her friend's shoulder.
Aminta grunted something incoherent, but didn't look up from her work. She set her charcoal aside, and began smudging the marks the pencil left behind to shade the work. Remarkably, Leoma stayed relatively quiet for the next few minutes as she waited for her friend to finish, knowing that Aminta would be awful company until the sketch was complete. Aminta pulled her hand away, and studied the piece with a critical eye before smiling and giving a slight sigh of satisfaction. "You want to look?" she asked as she held the book out for her friend, careful not to smudge the clean area of the paper with the lead on her index and middle fingers.
Leoma grinned as she took the book from Aminta, waving off her friend's warning to "keep her grimy fingers off the masterpiece." She studied it for a few moments before handing it back to Aminta. "It's good…"
Aminta raised a brow as she took her sketchpad back from Leoma. "But…" the woman prompted, looking over the drawing for a mistake. She couldn't find one; it was a perfect likeness. Not that she was conceited; she thought that only just because she simply knew.
"It's depressing. Scratch that; it's very depressing. Honestly, how do you always seem to find a dark side to everything?" Leoma teased her friend, nudging Aminta's arm.
Aminta rolled her eyes, and put her sketchbook back into the large orange bag that lay at her feet. "You just don't know true art when you see it," she said with a smile, nudging Leoma back.
Leoma chuckled and shook her head before directing her gaze to the subjects of Aminta's drawing. "He's handsome," she said simply as she took a sip of her drink.
"So is he," Aminta said, nodding to a tall, well built, fair haired man. He looked far less intellectually stimulating than the man that Leoma had pointed out earlier. In fact, he looked as though he were fresh from the fields of Dantooine.
Leoma grinned as she took another sip of her drink. "He's not you're type," she stated firmly as she gazed over at him.
"How would you know?" Aminta asked with a slight frown as she reached for her mug of caffa.
"He's blonde," Leoma said simply, and turned her attention away from the man, and looked back to the subject of Aminta's drawing. "Now he, on the other hand, is your type."
"Oh really? And what, pray tell, makes you think that?" Aminta asked, feigning indignation. Her expression made Leoma laugh.
"Well, for one thing you've spent a good ten minutes staring at him," she began.
"He was the subject of my drawing!" Aminta protested, but Leoma continued as though she hadn't heard her.
"And he looks a great deal like your husband," she finished with a smile of triumph.
Aminta furrowed her brow as she looked at the man, comparing him with her mental image of Kael. Leoma was right; they did look similar. "Argh," Aminta grunted in defeat and glared over at her friend. "Fine, he's attractive," she muttered darkly as put the mug of her caffa to her lips. She winced and had to force it down when she realized that her drink was stone cold. "Lovely," she muttered under her breath as she rolled her eyes and set the cup back down.
Leoma laughed and shook her head; the action making the Telonisian ruby earrings s she wore bounce against the slim, dark column of her neck. Suddenly, the smile disappeared from her face as she looked past Aminta, and she cleared her throat. "I'll go get you another one. You're not good company if you don't have yourself a nice cup of caffa," she said lightly, trying to cover for her previous discomfort. However, Aminta did notice the red that stained her friend's brown cheeks.
Aminta frowned at her friend's strange behavior, but said nothing. After a moment's indecision, she reached for her mug of cold caffa again, ignoring the especially bitter taste as she sipped at it. They really have to invent caffa that tastes good cold, she though grumpily as she took another sip and absently glanced around the mess hall. It was the one place where soldiers of all ranks came together and acted like friends. All of the ranks except for the Jedi, of course. The elite force-sensitives had their own mess hall on the upper floors of the Endar Spire, so that they wouldn't have to deal with the chaos of the soldiers. Out of the corner of her eye, Aminta caught sight of one of the soldiers heading over to her, and groaned when she saw his hair color…blonde. This one was going to be chock full of interesting conversation. 'Or maybe it's because of that damned Jedi code of theirs. They're not allowed to form relationships, and I doubt they'd start hitting on their own kind, but there are plenty of soldiers on this ship who are quite eager to pick up anything female that walks," she mused, catching another glimpse of the soldier that ambled over to her.
"Can I buy you a drink?" he asked, coming to stand directly behind her. The ex smuggler groaned inwardly, but allowed the corners of her mouth to turn up in a polite smile. "No thanks, I don't…"
"Drink." The soldier finished for her. Aminta could hear the amusement in his voice, and wondered whether or not he had approached her before. "At least, not alcoholic beverages," he continued when she glanced down at her cup of caffa.
"That's right," Aminta said, still refusing to turn around. She kept her smile though, informing him that she wasn't interested, but should he want to discuss something boring that she could block out, like politics, she was all ears.
"As I remember correctly, Jae, you drink an awful lot, and can do so without getting drunk either."
Aminta frowned, and whirled around to see who it was. A huge smile broke out on her face when she saw her old friend, Trask Ulgo, standing in front of her. "Trask!" she exclaimed, and threw her arms about his neck.
Trask laughed and returned her embrace. "It's good to see you too Ami. What's it been six, seven months?" he asked with a smile.
Aminta pulled away. "It has been a long time," she said quietly. "But when you're in my line of work, and several bounties have been placed on your head, you can't exactly stay in one space for too long," she said brightly.
"But here you are on a respectable mission, with the Republic no less. How many strings did you have to pull to get this job?"
"Actually, I didn't have to pull any strings at all. They recruited me," she paused at Trask's raised eyebrow, "Well I don't know why!" she said in response to his unspoken question, "and they even offered to have the bounties taken off my head if I complied. Heck, that sure got my attention. Having the Exchange tailing you is not exactly the most fun thing in the galaxy. So, here I am."
"That's quite a tale. Were it anyone else, I don't think I'd believe it, but strange things always did seem to happen around you."
"Yeah, well, that's why you like me so much," she said with an impish grin. "So, what got you landed on this miserable hunk of junk?" she asked, taking another sip of her Caffa, ignoring the bitter taste. It's better cold than not having a cup at all, she thought absently. Where is Leoma anyway? She should have gotten a cup by now.
"Well, not to brag or anything," Trask said with a twinkle in his eye that made Aminta certain that he was doing just that, "I came out a great victor in the last battle I was in, and they deemed me worthy to help protect the Jedi's bratty poster child." Trask had no love for the Jedi, something that both he and Aminta shared. They had both been far too hurt by the war that the Jedi had allowed them to suffer through to feel anything but animosity towards the order.
Aminta grinned broadly at him, and had to restrain her laughter. "The Jedi would be very offended if they heard you say that about Bastila, Ulgo. You definitely don't want to get on a Jedi's bad side."
"They're harmless enough. They're not allowed to put a saber in my gut simply from revenge. That goes against their code," he said mockingly.
"Don't get too close to one when you say that either. You might be challenged to spar with one of them."
"Like they could beat me?" he asked with a grin, and flexed. Aminta rolled her eyes and shook her head with a smile. So like a man, she thought.
Trask sobered suddenly. "So, how have you been Ami?" he asked, genuine concern alight in his eyes.
Aminta shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "Well, I've smuggled a few slaves out of captivity over the past few months, one of which being Vogga's favorite joy-girl. He put a pretty big bounty on my head after that, and I think that I had nearly every bounty hunter in the galaxy chasing after my little ship. That's one of the reasons that this mission was so appealing to me," she said with a light laugh to mask her discomfort.
Trask saw directly through her façade. "So, business has taken a turn for the worse, but that's not what I'm asking. I'm asking you how you are doing."
Aminta took another sip of caffa. "As well as can be expected, I suppose," she murmured, staring down into her drink. No tears choked her voice, just emptiness. She had cried out her reserve of tears years ago.
"You miss him a lot, don't you?" Trask asked her, putting a gentle hand on her forearm.
Aminta nodded and took another sip of her caffa, blinking back tears. "More than I can say," she said quietly. She set her cup down, and looked him straight in the eye. "How do you do it Trask? Your wife died the same day that my husband did, and it seems so easy for you just to move on. It's a constant struggle for me," she said quietly, her voice devoid of emotion. Trask had noticed that early on in their friendship; when she got emotional, she spoke in a dead, flat voice. It was more than just a little unnerving.
Trask sighed softly, and gently cupped her chin in his hand. "It's a struggle for me too, but I'm nearly as good as hiding it as you are," he said with a soft chuckle. What he said was true. When Aminta wanted to hide an emotion from a person, it was as though she erected a wall around her heart and features. No one would ever see what she didn't want them to. He smiled softly at her, and continued in a more sober tone of voice. "People told me that I'd never get over it, but that the pain would eventually go away. It doesn't. She's been gone three years, and the pain is still as hard to bear as it was when I put her in the grave."
"Feels about the same on this end," she said quietly, in the same dead voice as before. Then, suddenly, she laughed. "But at least you weren't holding a blaster to your head while you were dead drunk," she told him with a smile, mocking herself. Her gun had been on safety, and she couldn't figure out why she couldn't get the gun to shoot. Luckily, Trask had been there to pry the gun from her hands before she figured out what the problem was.
"Nah, I tried to overdose on stims, and found out how it feels after you lick a gizka. I'm not sure which is worse," he answered in an equally light tone.
"They're probably equally bad," she said, flashing him a smile. "So, how's Diera?" she asked, quickly changing the subject to Trask's nine year old daughter. Trask grinned.
"She's a handful that one, the spitting image of her mother, Gods rest her soul," he told Aminta. Trask's wife had been vacationing with a group of close friends on Telos when the planet had been destroyed, but had left their daughter in the care of her mother-in law. She was one of the thousands of the lives who were lost, leaving behind a grieving husband and a motherless daughter. That was one of the reasons that Aminta and Trask got along so well, despite their thirteen-year age difference. Trask had been through the same thing that she had, and Aminta drew solace from his experience and advice.
"She's staying with my mother right now. Here, I have a holo of her," Trask said, pulling a datapad from his pocket, and handed it to her. Aminta glanced down at the image of a little girl with copper hair, a face covered with freckles, and a quirky smile. She was adorable.
"She's grown up a lot since I saw her last. Amazing what a year can do to a child, isn't it?" she asked the man with a smile. "My sister has a daughter about her age. Niesha must grow a foot every time I see her. She looks just like I did when I was her age. My sister's upset about that," Aminta said with a wry grin.
Trask's grin grew broader. "I'll bet she is. She shouldn't be too upset though. After all, you were the one who got all of the looks in your family."
"Trask!" Aminta exclaimed. "My sister is gorgeous, and my brothers must be the most handsome men in the entire galaxy," she protested, quick to come to her sibling's defense. Although she had been exiled from her family when she was nineteen, and had rarely seen her siblings since, she was incredibly over-protective of them. They had defied her father's powerful influence in order to speak with her, and for that she was eternally grateful. "Good breeding you know," she said softly, mocking the words of her parents. "Father nearly had a heart attack when he learned that I had married someone from a different planet. The only thing that kept him from having a stroke was that since he had disowned me, I could not tarnish his great family name," she said, her voice gone flat again. "Mother disapproved, of course. She said that it would weaken my bloodline, as if I gave a hoot about my aristocratic ancestry. I do believe I would have been happier as a child if I would have been born into a family of nerf herders," she said, forcing a laugh.
"Well, from the holos that I've seen, I do believe that Kael certainly had enough looks and muscle to keep your line from thinning any. I'm sure that he wouldn't have made your children become nerf herders at any rate" he laughed. Her saw her crestfallen look, and immediately realized his mistake. "I'm sorry."
Aminta waved his apology away. "It's alright. Could you picture me as a mother? Why, I'd be the only smuggler that nursed while in a cockpit!" she told him with a grin, while she felt her heart tear within her. If I would have had a child, I would have stayed with my mother in law, and I'd still have a piece of him here with me. If only Tasya…No! I will not think of her!
Trask didn't see her inner struggle; her face betrayed none of her thoughts. He laughed heartily at the mental image that she had drawn him. He could see her with one hand on the controls, and the other cradling her child to her breast, while barking out orders over the comm. unit.
Trask checked his wrist chronometer. "My shift is starting now," he told her reluctantly as he stood up. When's yours start?"
"I have the night shift. As if you can tell when it's night or day while you're in space," Aminta looked down at her wrist chronometer as well. "If I head off to bed now, I'll make a good eight hour's sleep." She told him.
"Well then off with you, or else you'll need a gigantic thermos of that caffa of yours in order to keep from snapping at your comrades," he said with a pointed glance at her drink. "Save you a seat for the next meal?" he asked.
"Sure. See you later Trask," she told him with a smile as he headed off to his post. The moment he was out of sight, Leoma returned with Aminta's mug of caffa. Aminta frowned at her friend as she accepted the mug. "What took you so long?" she asked as she set aside the mug of cold caffa.
"I didn't want to interrupt," she said, flushing slightly as she looked to where Trask had made his exit.
Aminta smirked as she saw the woman's cheeks darken a few shades. "Coward," she said simply as she took a sip of the caffa, and sputtered as the liquid hit her tongue. "It's lukewarm!" she exclaimed indignantly, sneering down at the offensive liquid.
Leoma smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, you took longer than I expected you to," she said with a slight shrug of her shoulders, and laughed when she saw Aminta peering at the caffa in distaste. "Just don't drink it. It's not like you need that much caffeine anyway," she said as she whisked the mug from Aminta's hands.
"Obviously you haven't seen me before I get to the mess hall for my caffa in the morning. Just ask Trask how I look. Even he'll tell you that I look like hell," Aminta said with a little laugh.
"I think I'll pass," Leoma said dryly as she set the mug down on the table and wiped her hands off on her uniform.
Aminta laughed at her friend. "Look, just because he hit on you…"
"Ami! You should have heard half of the things he said to me. You know, I don't think he looked at my face the entire time we spoke!" she exclaimed indignantly.
"Trust me, I've heard things that will burn your ears off, and something tells me that Trask doesn't even know what half the things that I've been told mean," she snickered, and then looked back at her friend. "Anyways, Trask is usually a real good guy…at least when he's sober. I've only been around him when he was drunk once, and that definitely isn't an experience I want to repeat. But, you have to get to know him while he has full control of himself. He might surprise you," she told her friend with a knowing grin.
"He's blonde," Leoma said simply as she rose from her chair.
Aminta rolled her eyes and choked back laughter. "So, now you're using my prejudices against me? That is so unkind!" she exclaimed with mock indignation. "But seriously, he's an exception to the widely accepted stereotype. You should give him a chance."
"I'll sleep on it," Leoma said, and then turned to Aminta. "That reminds me. We should probably be heading off to our bunks now shouldn't we? Otherwise not even a ton of your precious caffa will ever be able to keep you awake," she giggled.
"Must you be so juvenile?" Aminta asked as she rolled her eyes and pushed herself to her feet, slinging her large orange bag over her shoulder.
"What? You do it too."
"I most certainly do not giggle. Why do you think I don't date blondes? I can't stand the sound," she said and shivered dramatically.
Leoma shook her head with a bemused smile. "You are so prejudiced. Let's turn the tables the other way, shall we? Do you agree that those with dark hair, like us, are really good for nothing but intellectual stimulation?"
"That is not our stereotype. Our stereotype is that we are capable of having fun, but are very intelligent, thank you very much. So yes, I do agree that the brunette stereotype fits very nicely."
Leoma suddenly burst into a fit of laughter. "I can't believe this! You refuse to judge an alien by its species, but you judge humans by the color of their hair! You're so…so…"
"Hypocritical?" Aminta offered.
"Exactly!" Leoma exclaimed, her laughter increased.
"Wow. Thanks, dearest," Aminta said dryly, heading towards the bar.
"Ami, Our rooms are the other way," Leoma pointed out with a raised eyebrow.
Aminta shook her head. "I'm not daft you know, just responsible. I'm putting this absolutely disgusting mug of lukewarm caffa at the bar so that the druids will have less work to do," she said over her shoulder as she did just that.
"I'm sure that they'll be very thankful," Leoma muttered sarcastically when Aminta rejoined her.
"Droids have feelings to you know," Aminta exclaimed with a toss of her head as she readjusted the strap of her bag.
"Droids do and blondes don't. Hmm, let's see what the problem is here…"
"Will you get off the subject of me and blondes?"
"Someone will change your mind one day."
"I don't think so," Aminta replied dryly. The girls continued on in such a manner until they split up to go to their separate rooms.
"Hello?" the small girl asked as she wandered down the hallway. She poked her head into several rooms, but found no one there. "Hello?" she called out again, whimpering in fear. There was no response. She continued walking, putting one small foot in front of the other, holding her doll close against her chest. Suddenly, a bright light shone out from the darkness of the never-ending hall, and the child hurried towards it. "Mummy?" she called, her small steps quickening to a run. "Is that you?" she called out, desperate for some sort of answer, to a break in the silence. She stood in the doorway of blinding light, squinting to see. She took a cautious step in, and fell.
The scene shifted, and she was able to see the world around her. No longer a child, but a teenager, falling farther and farther, screaming loudly, begging for help, but no one could hear her cries. Suddenly, she was an adult, and a black chasm opened up before her. She fell faster now, screaming louder, her body being torn to pieces from the enormity of her anguish. She saw the floor of the ravine, and she thrashed about in the air, desperate to grab onto something before she hit the bottom. But there was nothing to grab, and the bottom of the gorge was directly before her, and then, there was a sickening, painful impact.
Bright light invaded her senses again, and she could hear voices. They were familiar, but she couldn't place them. There was an argument going on, of that much she was sure. Their words were fuzzy, and she struggled to make them out. She concentrated harder, desperate for some clue as to what was happening. Finally, a string of words became clear. "…Cannot be saved," it said. Tears filled her eyes. She was doomed, then, to a fate she did not know, but what must have been as horrible as the fall. "…Create a new one…" another voice interrupted into her thoughts. That voice filled her with hope.
'Please, please save me!' she begged, but her words rang only in her mind. The others could not hear. "We will do what must be done," the first voice said, and she could hear the resignation. She tried to open her mouth to speak, to open her eyes to see, but couldn't. She wanted to beg for mercy, but her silent cries fell on deaf ears. Then, a gigantic flash came before her eyes, and she was falling, falling…
Aminta woke with a start, and quickly realized that she had fallen to the floor in the midst of her nightmare. "Ugh," she exclaimed as she attempted to untangle herself from the sheets. Suddenly, a flash of bright light, followed by a large crash invaded her senses. She threw off the blanket and stood up, swaying slightly. She put a hand to her head where she had hit it and winced. "That'll leave a bump!" she muttered darkly, and then attempted to take in her surroundings beyond the buzz in her head.
The doors leading into her room flew open, and she grasped the edge of her bed in order not to fall over in surprise. "Aminta!" Trask cried, his voice filled with relief.
"Trask?" Aminta murmured past her haze. "What's going on?" she asked, swaying slightly. Trask hurried over and grabbed her by her upper arms. "Don't you hear that?" he demanded as another crash sounded. At her nod he continued, "Well that's the sound of the Spire being took over by a sith fleet. We've got to run!" he exclaimed, dropping her arms and heading towards the door.
The mention of a Sith fleet got Aminta's full attention, and finally dispelled her dizziness. "Let's go." She told him, and headed towards the door. She stopped at Trask's low whistle.
"Now I really know what Kael saw in you," he joked, his eyes scanning her body. "Maybe it would be a good idea for you to head out like that. It just might distract the Sith enough for us to get to the bridge," he said with a utterly male, wolfish grin.
Aminta looked down and was mortified to see that she was standing in her underwear. Her cheeks reddened to the point where she felt that she was glowing, and she quickly crossed her arms over her chest and turned her back to him. "Men are such pigs," she grumbled under her breath while she hastily threw her clothes on.
"What was that sugar? I don't believe I heard you," he mocked.
"Yes, you did." She muttered as she grabbed her vibroblades from her footlocker, and put two blasters into their holsters at each hip, before adding miscellanies weapons to hidden pockets all over her clothing. Why she brought the blasters she hadn't the faintest idea. If she attempted to shoot an enemy with one of those, she was certain that she would end up injuring herself in the process.
"I see you haven't had your caffa yet." Trask said, genuinely amused, forgetting for a brief moment the battle that raged around them.
"Any so you get to deal with the beast," she retorted.
"Lucky me," he told her sarcastically.
An explosion that rocked the ship brought them both back to attention. "We've got to get out of here!" Trask exclaimed, taking off down the corridor in a sprint, Aminta a few steps behind. They reached a sealed door. "Damn! It's locked, and I don't have the override codes!" he exclaimed, running his fingers through his short blonde hair.
"Hey, Blondie, you forget that you have a class A scoundrel with you," Aminta told him with a smirk as she sliced the terminal to get the override codes. Once she obtained those, she quickly punched them into a keypad, and the doors slid open.
"Much as I disapprove of your previous occupation, those skills really do come in handy."
"Who ever said that I left that occupation? After this mess, having the exchange tailing you seems like a dream come true."
They ran down the hallway, and were intercepted by a group of Sith. Aminta attacked with her vibroblades, Trask with his blasters. "You really should consider becoming a smuggler," Aminta told him as she thrust her sword through her opponent's heart.
"Nah, that line of work doesn't really interest me," he replied as he shot an assailant between the eyes.
"Nice shot," Aminta told him, though her eyes remained locked on the sith she was fighting with, landing a mortal blow in his torso.
"Thanks. You're not doing so bad yourself, for a rookie," Trask replied with a wink as he shot the remaining sith clean through the heart. Aminta sheathed her blades without bothering to clean them off, and sprinted down the hallway, Trask quickly catching up to her.
"Jae, Ulgo? Do you read me?" a voice asked from their wrist comm Units. Trask and Aminta looked at each other briefly, and then Aminta responded. "We're here."
"This is Commander Carth Onasi. Get to the escape pods now. You are the last remaining members of the party, and there is a battalion of sith on their way in to the craft. I repeat, get to the escape pods now!"
"Yeah, you know, that's a brilliant idea! Why didn't we think of that?" Aminta exclaimed through the comm, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
Trask glared at her and wrenched the unit from her hands. "I apologize for Jae's behavior, sir. She is a rookie and under a lot of stress right now; she isn't thinking very clearly. We'll be at the escape pods as soon as we can manage. Over and out," he finished, and shoved her unit back into her hands. "Never talk to a commanding officer that way," he scolded her mildly as he continued to sprint.
"Officer, shmofficer," she muttered under her breath, and then stumbled. Trask grabbed her arm to steady her as he continued to run, slowing his pace only slightly. "We're the last two people alive on this ship that aren't Sith," she said softly, the implications hitting her with tremendous force.
"You know what this means?" Trask asked as he turned to look at Aminta. "We are in a heap of shavit!" he exclaimed, running just a bit faster, the hand on Aminta's arm forcing her to keep up with him.
"Look on the positive side Ulgo, there's two of us," she told him with a slight shrug as she pushed herself to keep up with his quick, long legged pace. Being short definitely had its disadvantages.
"Against a regiment of sith troopers?"
"Would you rather be by yourself?" she challenged.
"Of course not!"
"See, its good that there's two of us." She told him with a grim smile. She began to sweat, and she brushed a hand over her brow. "You think Leoma made it out?" she asked softly, her somber mood restored.
"I hope so, honey," he told her softly, gently squeezing the arm that he held. . Out of nowhere, a blaster fired, and grazed Aminta's back. The woman stifled a scream of pain, and purely out of instinct, Trask shot back to the place where the offending bullet had come from. The stealth field surrounding the Sith disappeared as he fell to the ground.
"That's what you get for letting your guard down," Aminta ground out through the pain as she pulled her vibroblades from their sheaths.
The corner of Trask's mouth curved upwards slightly at her remark, and he readied his blasters, shooting a flurry of bullets at the area where the Sith had been. The stealth fields of their attackers fell off, and both he and Aminta moved in for the kill.
Aminta gritted her teeth as she fought, blood from the wound in her back seeping through her clothing. It'll clot. Just keep going! She counseled herself, and though the pain was intense, she heeded her own advice.
Trask felled several more Sith, and winced when a bullet grazed his temple. "Bastard," he muttered under his breath, and shot the sniper. He pressed a hand to his pounding temple once he was certain that the remaining attackers were dead, and he spared a glance at Aminta. He did a double take when he saw her clothing, and he hurried over to her side. "How much damage did that blaster do to you?" he asked as he went to touch the wound.
Aminta jerked away. "It's fine," she managed, but her teeth were clenched, and her jaw was set in a manner that could only be described as pain.
Trask frowned at her, and reached out for her more forcefully. "Ami, we need to heal it," he informed her, his voice hard as steel.
"No kolto, no time," Aminta responded with an equal amount of hardness to her tone. Knowing that neither of them had wills that easily bent, Aminta dashed off in what she thought was the direction of the escape pods. Trask had no choice but to follow her, which he did with much muttering.
"Ami, you're going the way!" Trask exclaimed, and was relieved when she finally stopped. "Insufferable…stubborn," he grumbled under his breath. He froze suddenly when he saw what had attracted Aminta's attention. Two Jedi battled, though it was clear that the one on the light path had the upper hand. With one quick stroke, the dark Jedi was cut down. The brunette woman turned towards the pair quickly, her lightsaber raised high in defense.
Upon seeing their uniforms, the woman practically sagged with relief. Another explosion sounded, and the control panel erupted, filling the room with a brilliant flare. Aminta stifled a scream with her hand, and Trask covered her fragile form with his body to deflect the debris. When the light receded, the Jedi lay dead on the floor, but the pair of soldiers was relatively unharmed. When Trask pulled away from Aminta, his arms from where he had held her were drenched with blood from her would. "Ami," he said hoarsely as he showed her.
The woman paled visibly at the sight of her blood, but instead of stopping, she hastily bent down to retrieve items from the dead Jedi's packs. "No kolto, no time," she repeated grimly as she added their things to her bag, and hurried from the room.
"The escape pods are through these rooms," Trask said, gesturing to a doorway once he had caught up with her. Grateful that he said no more about her wound, Aminta merely nodded.
Just as they ran through the first set of doors, another explosion went off, causing the terminal in the room to erupt. "They really need to find a way to make those damn things less flammable," Aminta choked out through the smoke that filled the room. She was rewarded on her effort of levity be Trask's wheezing chuckle. Through the smoke, Aminta could make out a red light. She squinted her eyes against the burning sensation, and pointed out the light to Trask.
Trask's own eyes were streaming with tears as a result from the smoke, but from the way his breathing changed, Aminta knew that he saw what she had pointed out to hum. "Go," he rasped, and shoved her towards the door. The light was coming closer to them now; a figure beginning to emerge from the veil of smoke.
Aminta tilted her chin defiantly. "If you're planning on staying here, then so am I!" she crossed her arms over her chest and set her jaw, preparing for an argument.
Trask's hands clenched, but he said nothing other than "Go," and pushed her harder towards the door.
"Trask, you've got a kid. If there's danger, you just can't stay here!" Aminta exclaimed indignantly, stamping her foot. She pointedly ignored the feeling of childishness that the act brought with it. The figure came closer, and Aminta saw Trask begin to panic.
Without further adieu, Trask swept the woman up in his arms, and tossed her out the door. "Go!" It was a shout this time, and Aminta was jolted from the daze that falling had put her into. Trask's eyes were hard, his stance determined. It scared her.
"But…" she began her eyes wide and filled with worry.
Trask looked from the approaching figure to the woman at his feet, and then back again. When his eyes rested on hers once more, his features softened. "I'll hold him off, for a while at least," he said gently, and then his face was set into a stony mask again. "Now go!" he shouted as he drew his blasters and hurried back into the room, shutting and jamming the doors behind him. But the doors weren't shut fast enough to keep Aminta from seeing the scarred, withered face of the dark Jedi that would kill her friend.
Aminta quickly scrambled from her position on the floor, the pain in her pack forgotten, and pounded the sealed door with her fists. "Trask, you moron! What in the galaxies were you thinking? You complete and total idiot!" she screamed, pounding on the door harder, hoping by some miracle that he would open it and allow her to help him. Slowly, her constant pounding began to soften, until she was left with her hands splayed out on the cool metal surface, her forehead pressed against the wall. There were no screams beyond the door. Just…silence. "Trask," she whispered softly past the lump in her throat, before steeling herself against the pain that had begun to blossom in her chest. Never let them see you cry, she reminded herself, before pushing herself away from the door. She didn't look back.
Aminta activated her stealth unit, and crept through the next few rooms, easily dispatching the few within them that she had taken by surprise. She stopped and pilfered credits and a few med-pacs from the dead Sith before continuing down the corridors. Just as she was nearing the last few rooms before the escape pods, her comm unit burst into life.
"Jae? Jae do you read me?" Commander Carth Onasi's voice cut through the silence, and Aminta winced. It didn't matter that the Sith couldn't see her if they could hear her. Just like a man. You're doing something that needs silence, and he goes and opens his big mouth.
"Yeah, I read you, and very loudly I might add. Do all those years of boot camp make you think that you need to shout all the time?" she muttered into the comm, attempting to keep her voice quiet, hoping that he'd take the hint.
The line was silent for several minutes, and Aminta could have sworn that the man was counting to ten. Apparently, he didn't understand the need for stillness, because he spoke as loud as he had the first time. "I'm tracking your position on me terminal. You've got one room left to go through. Be careful though, there's a lot of them in there. You're going to have to find a way to sneak by them."
Aminta groaned, and by the sharp exhale that rasped through the comm, she knew that the commander had heard the sound. "That was my plan until you opened your big mouth and gave away my position!" she hissed.
"Well, one the gods close a window, they open a door," the commander's voice came through, blessedly quieter this time.
Aminta saw a terminal nearby, and quickly pulled several security spikes from her bag. "What, are you saying that you're a god now?" she grumbled as she sliced the terminal and accessed camera feed into the next room over. The Sith most definitely had heard Onasi's voice. There were seven of them, blades drawn standing directly behind the door.
"I don't have time for this, soldier," Onasi's voice came through again. "Just get through here alive. Over and out."
Aminta rolled her eyes, and typed a few commands into the keypad, turning her head as the camera feed depicted the gruesome deaths of the Sith due to electrocution. She wasn't a coward, but she was still female. "Pure pazaak," she mumbled under her breath as she used a security spike to pick the lock of the door.
Aminta entered the room, steeling herself against the nausea that rose to her throat at the sight of the charred bodies. Hurriedly, she scavenged their remains, careful to keep her eyes averted from the burned flesh. I am really going to need a trip to the refresher when this is all over, she thought before opening the door to the escape pods.
Commander Onasi stood before her in all of his orange glory, a blaster pointed at her head. "Woa there. Down boy," she exclaimed as she raised her hands. "We're on the same side here, remember?"
Carth lowered his blaster, and examined the woman's face. "Jae?" he asked with trepidation.
I knew it! He was hoping that I'd get killed! Aminta cleared her throat, and stuck out her hand. "In the flesh. And you must be Onasi." He glanced down at her hand, but didn't make a move to take it. "What? Afraid of cooties?" she asked with a raised brow.
Carth frowned, and Aminta dropped her hand. "I think we've had enough with the pleasantries. Let's just get out of here," he muttered, and climbed into the escape pod. Aminta shrugged, but followed him.
An explosion rocked the ship, and Aminta sucked in her breath, her eyes gone wide with fear. "Let's hurry," she whispered, pressing a hand against her thudding heart.
Carth nodded brusquely, noting that her sarcasm slipped when she got too overcome by emotion. It's just a mask, the thought startled him, and Carth looked up at the girl with newfound compassion. She must have gone through hell getting here, he thought, and held out hand to her. "There's only one safety harness in here, so I'm going to have to hold you," he told her, purposefully gentling his words. Her blue eyes turned to ice. Okay, so she gets defensive when someone goes out of their way to be kind. Note to self: don't try that again.
"Who says that you get the harness?" Aminta asked, her fear quickly replaced by her trademark sarcasm.
Carth grinned, despite the tense situation. "Do you think that you could hold me?" he asked, scanning her small, slender frame. She was a good foot shorter and seventy pounds lighter than he was. He watched her furrow her brow. "I didn't think so," he said, and strapped himself in. He then spread his legs, and held out his hand to her. "Get in here before we get blown up with this ship!" he exclaimed. The woman slid inside, closing the door behind her quickly. While she arranged herself on the floor so that he could lock both his knees and arms around her, Carth slammed his hand on the button that detached the escape pod from the ship.
No matter how many times that they had gone through simulations in training, Carth never could quite get used to the queasy feeling that filled his stomach when an escape pod was hurtling down to a planet below. And judging from the way that the woman's nails were cutting into the flesh on his arms, Carth figured that she couldn't either.