Authors notes: A huge thank you to Cariel for beta reading this for me! Also a big thank you to Shann1 for their advice! =D
Maris couldn't say if it was luck or a curse that ensured her ship would not only breakdown, but be boarded by the Chimaera. She didn't expect to encounter its notorious admiral. In fact, the Corellian smuggler wasn't even aware that Thrawn was aboard the destroyer. It had been years since her encounter with the chiss commander. Back then, he had been a Crahsystor and she had been a novice pilot to a greedy smuggler. Now Mitth'raw'nuruodo was a famous admiral who was as notorious for his nobility and tactical genius, as he was for his callous cruelty. Maris was a full time runner, part time ship mechanic, makeshift nurse, and mercenary, whatever kept her amongst the stars. Since her arrival, the elder pilot had yet to encounter the chiss commander. Maris didn't expect to see him; a part of her even dreaded the possibility. Some memories were just better left to the past.
As she peered out the vast windows that decorated the long hallway, Maris found she couldn't remember the last time she watched the stars. Due to the late hour, the hall was barely lit, leaving Maris to feel as though she were literally amongst the stars. Only the hint of stale air, a common problem of all ships, reminded her that she wasn't home. With folded arms, she breathed in deeply before closing her eyes as she allowed her thoughts to wander.
Tell me about your world. What is it like?
Maris could almost hear the sophisticated accent of his voice and see a hint of his smile. When they first spoke alone, the intent was to practice language skills, to understand the differences of their cultures. It had been his idea to keep their discussion private. It had been hers to speak entirely in Cheunh, the dialect of his people. From this, they continued the unspoken game where one would describe an image, a place, or a person in Cheunh, while the other figured out what it was they were describing. It was a childish game, but one that taught Maris so much about Mitth'raw'nuruodo and about herself. Now, years later, she wondered if any of what she had learned about Thrawn had been real or if it had all been part of a bigger game.
The offer is open if you should ever decide you want it, Maris.
Jorj's words echoed in her thoughts causing Maris to knit her brows in concern. The Empire was far from the perfect utopia, that had been promised to the public. However, the rebel factions were hardly innocent either. Car'das had chosen his path, as did Thrawn. Maris knew the two options all too well and desperately wished there had been a third.
It was hard to forget the blank stares and the hollow faces of the many victims who had perished at the hands of the imperial armies. These acts of purification and purging had been meant to end rebel movement and instill fear in those who dared to question the regime. However, when Maris found herself in the midst of a series of small towns that were bombed by imperial mass driver cannons, it was hard to imagine what anyone could have done to deserve such a violent and horrific demise. Her job, at the time, had been to deliver medical supplies to a local field hospital that was trying to help the few who had managed to survive. Maris had arrived within a day of the attack and would never forget the horrific sights that greeted her upon arrival.
The air had been heavy with the stench of decay, while the smoke and ash of the many massive funeral pyres burned her eyes. All around, moans for help and the sobs of mourning survivors filled her ears. Despite her lack of knowledge and experience, Maris came to their aid. It was there that she learned the hard way why no one was ever allowed to remain neutral when it came to matters of the Empire or the Resistance. The rebels had initially ravaged the local towns taking what supplies and food they needed. When they had left, the imperial army soon after arrived, with Lord Vader no less, to finish off what the rebels had started.
Instincts alerted her to the fact she was no longer alone and immediately, Maris's thoughts jumped forward as her body stiffened. Her senses were now on full alert to the presence that quietly approached from behind. The footsteps were barely audible, but were heavy enough to inform her that her companion was a man. He stopped next to her and, for a moment, Maris didn't move. If he had something to say, she was certain they would have said it already.
She continued to watch the stars, taking in the constellations that had helped her locate their position. Maris could almost feel the man's patient gaze studying her intently. She didn't need to look to know who stood by her side. A hint of smile crept into her features while her stomach tightened into a knot. It was hard to forget the harsh discovery of Outbound Flights demise or the fact Thrawn had requested Car'das to keep it hidden from her.
It also made her wonder if all the other rumours were true. At the same time, it was equally hard to forget their brief time together before they parted ways. The silence between them was a comfortable one and after a few minutes, Maris risked a glance.
Peaceful, crimson eyes immediately held her amber gaze. He wasn't the same person she once knew and Maris knew he saw this in her eyes as well. A smile was shared between them and in it held all the words that would never be spoken.
"You still enjoy watching the stars?" she asked breaking the silence with ease.
Holding her gaze, his expression softened as he gently replied, "When the time permits."
Falling silent, Maris turned her attentions back to the stars.
Mitth'raw'nuruodo's eyes remained on her for a moment longer before returning to vast windows ahead.
She didn't know how long they stood side by side with no words exchanged; it didn't matter. Their silence held an emotional weight Maris had only known with him. Not a single word was spoken, yet so much was said. However, as much as she wanted to forget the rumours, the evidence, and the truth, she knew it could not be possible. There were decisions to make, promises to keep, and plans to set in motion. She had many questions that required answers and explanations. Now was not the time and so, with great reluctance, she gave her companion a polite, but apologetic smile before parting ways with the chiss admiral.
As Maris departed down the darkened corridor, she could almost feel the chiss admiral's watchful crimson gaze studying her. Some things between them hadn't completely changed and, for the first time since she could last remember, Maris felt hope for the future.