Obviously, this owes a great deal (understatement of the century candidate) to George Lucas, and to Michael Stackpole's "X-Wings" and Kevin J. Anderson's "Jedi Academy" series of novels.
No copyright infringement is intended.

Vignette 10: Malina

Tycho glanced up when the guard rapped on the transparasteel of the hallway wall. Briefly he wondered what was up; it wasn’t mealtime, and Nawara was out with the rest of the squadron chasing whatever it was Wedge hadn’t been able to tell him about. Wedge, too, obviously, but the guard hadn’t that look they got when Wedge came around. Most of them couldn’t quite figure what he’d done to Wedge, and they hated him for that as much as anything else. Desultorily he wondered when they’d figure that Wedge was just maybe smarter than they were, not more gullible. Brief and desultory were all the deeper he let any of his emotions go nowadays.

He shut the book and carefully laid it down on the ledge next to the bunk. Then he just as slowly put his hands, palms down, on the ledge, too, and waited.

After a moment, the door was opened and three guards entered. “You’ve got a visitor,” one of them said. Wedge always made them say ‘captain’ but Tycho didn’t bother. Not annoying guards had gotten to be second nature. But now he found himself curious. Who could possibly be visiting him? The prosecutor’s staff, including Diric Wessiri, weren’t ‘visitors’, and no one he could think of who might want to visit him had the pull to get in. Of those who had the pull, none came. Princess Leia was, or so Wedge said, worried that their shared Alderaanian background would look like tampering. Tycho was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt; it was easier, and made Wedge feel better. If Fey’lya had been human he might have come to gloat, but that was the only good thing Tycho had ever found about Bothans. So who could possibly be here?

He stood up and held patiently still while two of the guards covered him and the third shackled him. Then he followed one of them down the hall, the others trailing him. He stared at the back of the guard walking before him and concentrated on the man’s uniform and the hitch the binders gave to his own stride. There was no point in asking, he’d find out soon enough and the guards didn’t like him. They were fairly civilized about it, but they had convicted him already. Most of them had executed him already, in fact. He didn’t mind; they didn’t waste their time talking to dead men. It kept things quiet. He liked things quiet.

But he was wondering. Especially when he saw the young woman in the hallway, a fleet lieutenant who was clearly in wait-mode. She very carefully didn’t look at him, just at the floor.

The guard opened the door and stepped aside. Tycho walked into the room and stopped dead, staring. His visitor was wearing flag-officer white. The black hair, still cut severely short, was shot through with grey, and the scar on her face was a little more noticeable, but the purple eyes were still keen, the back was still straight, and the attitude hadn’t improved one whit, as was evidenced by the curl of her lip as she looked at him. And the growl in her voice was exactly as he remembered. “If those things are meant to convince me that he’s dangerous, sergeant, they failed. You can remove yourselves now.”

“Commodore,” the sergeant began.

Malina Afrit snorted. “Out, sergeant.”

They went, shutting the door behind them to stand in the hall, watching.

“Commodore?” said Tycho. It was the only thing he could think of to say.

“Lucky, too,” she said. “I don’t think I could have muscled my way in here otherwise. You’re locked down tight, Tycho Celchu.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” he agreed. “Ma’am,” he added. “Sorry.”

“Phht,” she waved a hand at him. “Sit down.” She did so, and he did too, clasping his hands together on the table. She rested her chin on hers and said, “Red is not your color.”

“I’ll bear that in mind, in case it ever matters,” he said, amused and surprised at it.

“Hah,” she said, leaning back in her chair. “I used to call you an ex-Imperial,” she said. “I can’t see changing my mind at this late date. Even though most people around here have you buried already. Where’s Wedge Antilles?”

“They don’t tell me.”

She snorted again. It was amazing how it carried him back, that sound. “He taking this lying down?”

Tycho heard himself laugh. He shook his head. “When has he ever? Afrit, he could ruin his career over this. Don’t let him.”

Now she laughed, that short angry sound she almost never made. He didn’t think he’d ever made her laugh before. “Your sense of humor may be intact, but your mind is going. I not let him do something. I may outrank Wedge Antilles, but I’m not standing in his way. A lot of people have, and, you may recall, they’re all dead.”

“True,” conceded Tycho. “What are you doing here?”

“My battle group is moving from Spinward past Coruscant-nice piece of work, taking this place, by the way. We got in yesterday, we’re just restocking and refueling, picking up a few bodies, and we leave tomorrow.” She shrugged. “Sorry I can’t stick around. My guess is, you don’t get much company.”

“Enough. I get enough,” he said. It was unsettling to think she might be sorry for him; he was used to her not quite scorning and not quite accepting him. “When he’s onworld, Wedge is around. And my lawyer is a friend.”

“He any good?”

“Yes. Yes, he is. He was qualified to plead in Imperial Courts, and, as he’s Twi’lek, that says something right there.”

“It does at that. Who’s the tribunal?”

“Ackbar, Crix Madine, and Salm.” He heard his voice flatten on the last name.

“Ackbar’s honest but political. Madine was at Endor. Salm I don’t know; wasn’t he Wedge’s commander before Coruscant?”

“Yes. Well, sort of. Wedge was a squadron leader under Salm but detached to independent action more or less directly under Ackbar.”

“And you don’t like him?”

“I don’t know him,” Tycho demurred. No point in raking all that up.

But, as usual, Malina was quick to scent any weakness. “So, it’s he hates you.”

He said, carefully, “I don’t think it’s personal.”

She snorted. “Great. Then he can fry you with a clear conscience.”

“You’re very comforting. Thanks.”

“You’re a grown man, Celchu.” She paused, and then added, “Do you need anything?”

“No, thank you,” he said, touched by the offer. It was bad enough the current Rogues were in this; no need for Malina to mess up what was obviously a fast-moving career, and less need for the Alliance to lose an officer like her. Besides, there really wasn’t anything she could do. He hadn’t seen her since before the mission that had taken him to Coruscant. She didn’t know anything to help, or hurt for that matter, and that made it a lot easier to tell her no. He smiled wryly at her. “I mean, I take it you’re not offering to break me out.”

“If you get convicted,” she muttered.


“Don’t get conceited,” she growled at him.

“I know who you’d do it for.”

“Ishard is nearly as bad as Vader,” she stated, daring him to contradict her. “The Empire is as abominable now as it ever was; just because it’s falling apart doesn’t make it less worthy of destruction. And if they want you dead, you must be on the side of glory. That’s a rather simple syllogism.”

“Of course,” he said solemnly. There was a rule against physical contact, but he had a feeling if she broke his arm no one would stop her. Least of all him, even without binders. Anyway, this mood was more familiar, and therefore more comforting. He leaned back in his chair. “So. A commodore, a battle group... you’re clearly the most successful Rogue.”

“Depends on how you define success,” she said conversationally. “Some might say Skywalker...”

“He was never really a Rogue,” said Tycho. “And flag rank is success, by anyone’s definition. How do you like it?”

Retribution is a fine ship,” she said, smiling with a cat’s satisfaction. “She’s no X-Wing, but she packs a much, much larger punch.”

“I’ll bet she does,” he said. The name startled him; Alliance ships were named things like Liberty, Renewal, or Independence; occasionally they were named after planets or battles. Retribution sounded Imperial, like Devastator or Executioner. Trust Malina Afrit to get her way over that, too. And trust her to measure her pleasure in her rank by the destruction she could wreak. “Slaying Imperials in gross lots, then?”

“When possible,” she nodded. “And as often as possible.”

“Good,” he said. “Keep it up.”

“No fear,” she purred.

A rap on the transparasteel startled Tycho. The young lieutenant was looking in, her hand raised. When Malina turned, the young woman tapped her wrist chrono, eyebrows lifted. Malina blew out a breath and rose to her feet in a lithe movement. “Sorry, Tycho. I have a lot of things to do today. These bastards tied me up for almost an hour getting in here.”

He had risen as well. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “Thank you for coming. I mean that. I never expected it... but I certainly don’t want to hold up the war effort,” he retreated from the emotion a little, just to be on the safe side.

“I’ll kill some for you,” she said as the guards opened the door.

“Do that,” he said, his throat gone suddenly tight.

“Promise,” she said, reaching for his face. At the last moment, she turned her hand into a fist and pushed it gently against his chin; he couldn’t remember her ever touching him before. “I’ll see you around, Captain.” And she strode past the scandalized guards, leaving Tycho with several conflicting emotions.

The one that won out was, to his surprise, affection.

The End


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