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 6: Pheremones

"True," said Hobbie to Sainer as they sat at the table where Rom and Harl were waiting for them. "He's obviously loaded with them."

"Obviously," said Sainer, sounding like he'd won.

Tycho joined them, with the drinks it was his turn to buy.

"But," insisted Hobbie, "it doesn't do him any good. They're... fraternal pheromones."

"No," said Sainer. "That's his mind. His pheromones attract them, but he doesn't do anything about it. I mean, I grant you that, but he could. If he wanted to."

"No, I've been watching him. They don't want to. They're sisterly. Aren't they, Tyke?"

"Some of them... no. No," Tycho reconsidered, "I'm not getting involved in this. I don't know."

"Okay, Rom. What do you think?" Hobbie turned around.

"I'll tell you what I think," said Rom, "when you tell me who you're talking about and what in hell pheromes are."

"Pheromones. It's chemistry," said Tycho.


"Everybody has 'em," said Sainer. "They send subliminal messages, about sex. Like, 'I'd make great babies,' or 'I'm really really good.'"

"Huh," said Rom.

"Yeah," said Sainer, "I'll say it for you, so you don't have to: you're loaded... What Hobbie's saying is, Wedge is loaded, too, except his say something like, 'I'd make a really good brother.'"

Rom snickered.

"Except," Sainer said, "that doesn't explain what's her name, from Yavin. That gorgeous comtech that was all over him."

"D'Treyvan," said Rom.

"Right. She wasn't reading anything about brothers, unless wherever she comes from they have very strange families."

Tycho made a small, disgusted noise. Rom, on the other hand, laughed. "She was from Coruscant. But it doesn't matter. There weren't any pheromes involved in that. No chemstry."

"What do you mean?" Tycho asked.

"It was ambition, pure and ... well, simple enough, but not pure. I kicked myself a couple of times over promoting that, believe me. Only thing that kept me from borrowing a sword and falling on it was certainty that even if he'd not gotten three words in a row out, she'd've jumped him anyway."

"That sounds like chemistry to me," said Sainer.

"Nah," said Rom.

"He was smitten," protested Sainer. "You know he was."

"Sure, he was. Not her. She was seeing clearly whole time, and I really thought about finding somebody like Tyke here, nice clean-cut career soldier, and pushing him in her way, 'cause she'd have gone for him."

"Not very friendly of you," said Tycho, trying to decide if he had just been flattered or insulted, and then finding it amusing that he could think of "clean-cut" as an insult. The Rebellion was not good for him.

"He didn't need her," Rom said firmly. "I knew her, you didn't. He'd've gone mad trying to cope with her demands; she'd've been pushing him from here to the Core to make general, and you can't get far with a twelve-ton weight chained to your neck."

"That's what you think of women?" asked Tycho. That struck him as weird, considering how much of his time Rom put in chasing.

"That's not what I think of women," said Rom, "that's what I think of that woman. All claw and ambition and nothing else. For a night, sure, jump. For a couple of weeks' r&r, okay, though how you get rid of her after is a puzzlement. But for life? Oh, man; meltdown in the making. We're talking total destruction. Free hydrogen in space."

"Then why-"

Rom didn't wait for Sainer to finish. "That woman wanted to be a general's lady. And there aren't any generals available, so she figured to grow her own. She wanted a war hero on the fast track; she was half right, anyway, but she'd have destroyed him. Best thing that ever happened to him, her dying."

Tycho shook his head in amazement. "Whatever happened to love at first sight? Romance?"

Rom snorted. "Please. Love at first sight is a polite word for lack of control. And romance in war is your genes' way of perpetuating themselves before you crash and burn and take them with you."

"You are awfully young to be so cynical," said Tycho.

"I get that a lot," said Rom. "Let me tell you, where I'm from, ain't no such thing as young. No 'old' or 'young', just 'dead' or 'still alive'. 'Predator' or 'prey', or 'prey doing their damnedest to turn into predator'." He laughed without real humor. "Or 'got the hell out', if you're lucky. You don't know... you guys have had it real easy, which ain't your fault, and you don't deserve to swap, but sometimes I wish we had been."

Tycho stared at him, thinking of his lost world and family, of Nyiestra. "I doubt that, Rom," he said, "I doubt that very much."

"Oh, yes, he does," said the heretofore silent Harl. "You're a helluva nice guy, Tycho, but you don't know what you're talking about. Rom's always been a baa-lamb whose fangs don't fit right no matter how well he learned to use 'em. You just don't know."

Rom leveled a pale gaze at Harl, who looked back. Something impenetrable moved between them, something Tycho couldn't begin to decipher but which sent a chill up his spine. Harl shrugged and finished his whiskey. Rom hunched one shoulder and said, "Anyway, the lady was bad news and Wedge's better off without her. Not that I'm saying so to him, mind. And maybe it'll turn into a nice memory for him in his autumn years, if you're right about this brotherly chemstry pheromy thing."

Tycho didn't say anything.

Hobbie said, "Better to have loved and lost? That's pretty hackneyed."

"I didn't say that, though I bet Marcan would have been annoyed to hear you sum up the entire oeuvre," Rom made that two distinct syllables, "of the genial Naradan poet Voomahn as 'hackneyed'." Hobbie blinked, clearly unacquainted with any Naradan poets, geniuses or not. Tycho, who was familiar with Voomahn, blinked too, but in shock that Rom knew anything about him. "What I said was, better to have lost than have been eaten alive."

"Can't quite quarrel with that," said Sainer.

"Who buys next?" said Harl, efficiently derailing the entire conversation.

Which was just as well, because just as soon as they got that settled, Wedge walked in.

The End


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