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The Alliance

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As she made her way to the Commander's quarters on Odessen, Captain Fa'laan Mindelan (she was holding onto that name with every last fibre of consciousness she had left) was reeling. She still felt dizzy and sick as the last of the carbonite poisoning was clearing from her system, and this was her first chance for down time since she had returned to the realm of the living. It had been a whirlwind, and she didn't even know where to begin processing it.

She hadn't been expecting a rescue. Far from it. She had been fairly sure she was dead - after all, how was she supposed to know? Given the circumstances of how she'd ended up in the carbonite, death had hardly seemed an unrealistic scenario, and Valkorion had been a thorn in her side for long enough that eternity with him to needle wouldn't have been a surprise either. Hearing Lana's voice... well that had only been another tally in the going crazy column. Then suddenly there was cool air, real air, on her skin and in her lungs and she was on ground that she could feel and... puking her guts out. The more visceral bodily sensations had never really come into play when she had been in that fever dream on an isolated rock with the ex-Sith Emperor as company.

Now here she was, the galaxy's last hope, supposedly, at the head of an alliance of some of the greatest talents the stars had ever seen who were all looking to her. She didn't know where to begin explaining that she wasn't all they wanted her to be, she didn't have the expertise they wanted, she didn't even know where to start. The only person with this kind of leadership experience she could ask about it was Valkorion, and she was sure as hell never taking any advice from him.

Her stomach turned again and her head span. She retched, half bent over as she made her way towards the bed. At least that looked appealing. It was empty, though, and even before all of this mess she couldn't remember the last time she'd spent a night without Corso. Lana had said they were still looking, that her crew were scattered. She'd picked up that damn message from him, the one he'd sent practically into the void, the one telling her to come to Port Nowhere. She didn't know if Port Nowhere was even still flying. It seemed more than likely that Arcann and his forces would have hit such a rebellious site as that.

The weight of the entire fucking galaxy was on her shoulders again, and none of the people whose wisdom she might have trusted were still around. Marr was dead (though in her life before all of this she would never have imagined taking advice from the de facto leader of the Dark Council), and Satele Shan had disappeared. She still had Lana, and Theron, and Koth, and Senya, and this whole council of experts who were all specialists. She trusted them. But how was she supposed to project that kind of confidence that would bring people in and bring them together? There was no room for cracks in the facade, she didn't have her crew, she didn't have her husband, she didn't have... anything but her blaster and her wits. That blaster was not leaving her damn side. Corso had made her that blaster, and not even Arcann or Valkorion with all their clever tricks had taken it from her.

There was a tray of food on the side, waiting for her with a note from Lana.

"I asked Theron what your favourites were, but it seems your old protocol droid has found himself here. It wasn't easy to source everything, but I thought it might be nice to find a little piece of familiarity. Eat it slowly, and drink all the tea. It should help settle your senses after everything that's happened these last few days. I know it's been hard on you. We know. We do appreciate it. Get some rest. Theron and I can manage things for a little while, until you're able to give some thought to how you want to move forward. Let me know if there's anything you need.

Lana"

She resisted the urge to shove the tray onto the floor. It was petulant, and it wouldn't help anything. The food did smell good, but the time she'd spent with the Jedi over the years meant she started by pouring some tea. Even the scent of that helped settle her stomach and did something to fight against the way the room kept spinning. Feeling as bad as she did now the battles it had taken them to get here felt like a bad dream. She could scarcely believe she'd been fit to fire a blaster straight let alone fight. Maybe it was everything catching up with her. Adrenaline could be a hell of a drug.

She hadn't asked for this, she hadn't asked for ANY of this. She'd been an ordinary low-rent smuggler who'd somehow ended up at the vanguard of the galaxy's oldest war, fighting with Jedi, taking on Sith Lords and Darths solo, clearing her name... and now she was supposed to lead this threadbare alliance against a power so immense it had practically wiped both Republic and Empire off the map without breaking a sweat. Honestly at this point death by carbonite poisoning was more appealing. A broken sob escaped her lips. She'd be willing to handle all of this, if only she could have Corso back by her side again. Lana and Theron... they had faith. Lana had had faith enough to break into the heart of the Eternal Empire's vault to get her out, but Corso had believed in her all along. His faith had been unshakeable in her from the very beginning, and she missed that now, more than anything else.

She ate the food, grateful that it at least seemed to be staying down even if it didn't taste of anything, and laid her head on the pillow. She didn't even care about changing out of the damn sweaty, grimy armour. It wouldn't be the first night she'd spent in her gear, and her dreams were haunted enough that she didn't want to be more defenceless than necessary.

The first night was mercifully dreamless, and when she woke in the morning with a clearer head than she'd had since her rescue, Fa'laan could feel the resignation and the weight of it all settling back onto her shoulders. It wasn't so heavy she couldn't move, though, and that was an improvement. She didn't feel strong enough to go far, but she needed to at least meet with Theron and Lana, talk to each of the advisors to see what they needed, and put in some kind of appearance at the cantina. Then she could go back to bed with a clear conscience, and everything else could wait. Arcann would know she had escaped, but their journey to Odessen had passed unnoticed, and mounting any kind of organised resistance to the Eternal Empire would require careful thought and planning. A day wouldn't make or break the alliance. Not at this point.

She levered herself out of bed and limped to the fresher. The prospect of being clean again... well, that might help clear her mind even further. It was funny, but even running missions on Hutta and Nar Shaddaa and Ord Mantell... she'd been able to handle any level of discomfort as long as she knew she'd be able to get clean afterwards. It had been a running joke with Corso, but he hadn't minded because more often than not she'd let him share the fresher.

Her mind turned to all the people she'd known in her old life. Her crew, and more than that. She'd made all kinds of interesting contacts and friends over the years, and surely some of them had been able to evade the interest of Arcann and Valkorion over the last five years. They wouldn't be as good as her crew to have around, but they'd be able to contribute a lot to the alliance. Aloomma, for example, the Barsen'thor of the Jedi Order, or Elo, Major and leader of Havoc Squad, the Republic's elite special forces unit. She'd met a couple on the other side of the fence too. Asklako had been a candidate for Mandalore, as had Shae Vizla. Both of them were good in a fight. Darth Nox had been the only other member of the Dark Council apart from Marr whom Fa'laan had ever held any respect for, and the former slave was far too smart to have gotten embroiled in the Empire's politics to such a degree that she would have caught the Eternal Empire's attention. She had had an impressive power base too. They'd need Darths on side as much as Jedi if they were really going to take the war back to Zakuul.

With those names in mind, she dried off and pulled on some clean, comfortable clothes which had been left in a chest for her. She suspected that was probably also Lana's doing, but she was grateful. It was a lot easier to feel human after healing tea, a good night's sleep, and a proper shower. Not having to pull the same dirty armour back on helped too. If Seetoo was actually in the cantina, she could stop by, say hi, and ask him if he'd mind cleaning it up for her. If the droid hadn't changed at all, it would probably make his year.

Fa'laan made her way out to the war room, and Theron and Lana were waiting with Koth and Senya around the main table.

"Good morning, Commander. How are you feeling this morning?"

"Much better, thank you. Who do I have to thank for the clothes?"

"I thought you might like a change." Lana replied with a smile, and Fa'laan inclined her head in thanks.

"So I had the chance to do a bit of thinking... I don't know who you've been looking for, or how many people you've managed to track down, but I have a couple of people I want you to look for. They'll be real assets to the Alliance if we can find them and bring them in. I'm not being partisan about this, either. They might be able to make contact with other people we need, too. I know we've got some good foundations here, but I made some interesting contacts in my old life it would be stupid to ignore."

"If you've got names, we can get some people on to tracing them. You know they may not still be alive?"

"I know, but it gives us somewhere to start. While we're on the subject I want to make it very clear that I want news of my crew. I know... they might not be an Alliance priority, but they're a personal priority."

"Entirely understandable, Commander. I assure you we are very much still looking."

"Good. So what's our status?"

"It could be a lot stronger than we are. We have bipartisan support, particularly from troops you may remember from Yavin-4. People who've worked with you before trust and respect you. They believe in you. I know it's not what you signed up for, but you're the best talisman we have here. You faced down Revan, and Valkorion, even Arcann couldn't kill you. People believe in that sort of symbolism."

"What about you?" Fa'laan asked wryly, surprised by the enthusiasm Lana was showing. That kind of thinking didn't tally with the practical Sith she knew.

"What I think doesn't matter."

"On the contrary, what you think matters a lot."

"I came to find you in the Spire. You were important enough to our cause in my opinion for me to venture into the very heart of enemy territory. I didn't do that just so our cause could have a figurehead. You have achieved things which are unparalleled, even by most of the greatest Force users of our age and in history. You might not think you're anything special, but even in the darkest moments I've found something to admire about your spirit, your courage, and your humour. You are a fierce fighter, and a brilliant tactician. Right now, we need both."

"I don't know if I can live up to everything you're asking of me."

Lana smiled serenely but there was sincerity in those golden eyes.

"Just do your best. Nobody can ask more of you than that. Not even us."

"Do you have those names for me? I can see whether there's anything flagged up in our channels and get people on to hunting them down." Theron joined the conversation with his usual professionalism, and the Captain was grateful for it. He was more familiar, even than Lana, because his was a voice she knew, a voice that had been in her ear long before all of this had started, and having him here... well. It wasn't Corso, but it was something.

"You'll know a couple of them, some others might not be so familiar to you. Or even for the wrong reasons. I can't guarantee they'll support our cause but if they're around... we stand a good chance. Let's start with some of our more recent allies. Have we managed to track down Shae Vizla?"

"We've got feelers out, but I'll step up the search. Especially since last we heard she'd taken the title of Mandalore. If we can make contact and she's willing to come on board she'll bring all the Mandalorian clans with her."

"I'd like to think after the last scrap we had with her she'd feel like we were people she could fight with with honour."

"I think it's more than likely. Who else do you want us to track down?"

"Major Elorskati and Havoc Squad."

"We've actually got a lead on them already. I was waiting to tell you, but I managed to send some intelligence back to SIS which was enough to persuade Havoc to switch sides. Saresh these days is... not someone any right thinking member of the Republic wants to associate with. The Republic's lost its soul. Saresh is a dictator now in all but name. I wanted to wait till you were feeling more yourself before we mounted a mission back into the swamps of Zakuul, but there are a few other leads we need you on first."

"Keep them sweet. Is Jorgan still with her?"

"He is. Second in command now."

"That's good to hear. It's nice to know some old friends are still with us. Speaking of old friends, how about Master Aloomma?"

"The Barsen'thor? She disappeared but there was no news of her being killed and that's the sort of thing Arcann would have trumpeted to demoralise the Republic. We've managed to track down Qyzen Fess."

"That's a start. I think this is worthy enough prey to hold his interest. If she's still around though, she was one of the strongest Force users I ever knew even next to your mother."

"Agreed. I'll look into her myself."

"On the subject of strong Force users... maybe it's time we talked about the other side of the coin. Darth Marr wasn't the only Dark Council member I had a couple of run-ins with over the years. Most of them were a waste of space, with one exception."

Lana was starting to look interested now.

"We know the location of most Dark Council members, those who are left. There was a bit of a purge when Empress Acina came to power, there was a necessity to remove the old order. Sith transitions are always bloody. Who did you have in mind?"

"Darth Nox."

"Now there's a name I'm surprised to hear from you. I can see certain parallels actually. I'm not surprised you... found certain things in common. How on earth did you meet?"

"My early antics introduced me to all sorts of people. But I always did hold her in a kind of grudging respect."

"I'm sure she had the same opinion on you. Has your respect for Sith always been grudging?"

Fa'laan offered her a grin in response to the teasing tone.

"With some exceptions."

"Since you mention Darth Nox, she is one of the Dark Council members who wasn't caught up in Acina's wrath, but she did disappear."

"She always did have more of a survival instinct than most Sith I've met. Present company excepted."

"Thank you, I think."

The Captain winked, and Lana laughed.

A young man in Imperial uniform came running into the War Room.

"Commander! Uh... Lord Beniko, Agent Shan... Commander, there's someone in the cantina asking for you!"

"Thank you for the heads up. This person give a name?"

"She didn't give a name. She was very insistent. Looks like a Mando."

Fa'laan shared a look with Theron and Lana. Could it be Shae? But if this young Imperial had been on Yavin with them, he would know Shae and he hadn't mentioned her.

"...Theron, Lana, you're with me."

Chapter Text

She headed up to the cantina, taking advantage of the opportunity to admire the base during the day, nodding in passing at the troops she saw. It would be better to make a good impression, and she had to know who she had on side and what they were capable of. Most of the faces were familiar even if she couldn't put names to all of them. It was a start.

Fa'laan laughed as she saw the cantina lights reflecting off a familiar bald eggshell head.

"Theron, Lana, meet another name off my list... Asklako what the hell are you doing all the way out here?"

The young woman, slender, so slight she looked like she shouldn't be able to handle the weight of the heavy Mandalorian armour she was wearing laughed as she clasped Fa'laan's arm in greeting. Her black tattoos were heavy, stark against her skin, piercings harsh in the light.

"I heard there was some kind of trouble out here, had a feeling that you might be mixed up in it somehow. Never knew someone who could get into trouble like you."

"Theron, Lana, this is Asklako. Bounty Hunter extraordinare, Champion of the Great Hunt, one time candidate as Mandalore."

"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance...?"

"Just Asklako is fine. With one exception Mandalorians don't hold with titles so much. Great to be here."

"I see you brought your crew with you?"

"Most of them, anyway. Brought Mako and Blizz and Torian." She glanced around "I'm not so sure where Blizz is actually... I mean if you had anything on the base that needed fixing he's probably working on that. Or trying to sell things to people. Really it could go either way. We lost Skadge, and Gault ran off to do his own thing."

"Well we've got Hylo Visz with us here so two to one he'll show up before long."

"He never could stay away from her for too long. She's far too sensible to take him back though. I'd love to meet the Captain who broke the Mandalorian blockade."

"Come on down later, I'll introduce you. How are you and Torian these days?"

"Shacked up, but I'm refusing to let him make an honest woman of me just yet. Figure I'll wait till this war is over. They stay sweet if you make 'em wait. How about you and Corso?"

Fa'laan's face fell a little but she tried to smile. Asklako noticed, though, and she winced.

"Sorry. Insensitive, I guess. I didn't know."

"No news on my crew. They're looking. Don't suppose you have any leads?"

"I might have. Don't want to get your hopes up though. I'll give my information to your people. I think they're all still going though. I heard from Corso and Risha a few times. They'd teamed up."

"That's good to hear."

It was. Fa'laan wasn't stupid enough to think even for a second that they might have gotten mixed up with each other. Corso wasn't Risha's type by a long shot, and if he was attracted to her he'd had enough chances to act on it. Corso was all heart, and Risha was all brains. Knowing that, for a while at least, they'd been running together put her mind at rest a little.

"Mako's a great slicer though, as you know."

"Her implant's almost as good as Theron's."

The younger woman grinned over Asklako's shoulder.

"Better. Oh yeah, I know who you are, Technoplague."

Theron grimaced, and Lana laughed.

Mako folded her arms, but she didn't look angry about it.

"Oh yeah, I know who you are. I spent enough time in SIS files to know that."

"You did, huh? And just how did you-"

"Theron, maybe now's not the time or place?" Fa'laan interrupted, redirecting the conversation, though it was pretty funny watching Theron have the implant equivalent of a 'my dog's bigger than your dog' fight with a woman who was about ten years his junior. And lose. Also the losing was pretty funny. "Mako if you'd be willing to help us out, we'd be really grateful to have you."

"Sure thing, Captain. Or is it Commander now?"

"I think I prefer Captain, given the choice." Fa'laan replied with a wince.

Lana stepped up to put a hand gently on her shoulder.

"You may, but do try to get into the habit of answering to Commander where possible. You are in charge here, and although I understand that will take some getting used to, the faster you can acclimatise to it, the easier this will be."

Fa'laan pulled a face, and Asklako managed to hide a smile. Mako missed that particular mark and laughed outright.

The grudging Commander sighed.

"I know Lana. And you make a good point and a strong case as always. When it comes to negotiating - or not - with people who we need respect from then I know how to pull rank. It's a little more unnatural with old friends."

"I'd offer to call you Fal but I get the feeling that wouldn't help the whole seniority thing we've got going on here?"

Fa'laan mock-glared at Mako, who only gave a sunny smile in response.

"No. It wouldn't."

"Good thing Mandos don't hold much with titles because I don't think I'll be calling you anything else!" Asklako replied gleefully, and clapped Fa'laan on the shoulder. "Assuming you're okay with us joining up here, we'll go find our quarters and get settled in."

Fa'laan briefly considered flipping off her back as she went, but she resisted the urge. Really she was just happy to have someone familiar by her side again. Asklako had been on her list for certain, and knowing that someone was alive... plus, Mako had not only her implant, but years of underworld connections which were likely to help her track down her crew, even if it was just finding out they were dead so she could give them a proper burial. The not knowing was the worst of it, and her stomach twisted a little from guilt as she realised that was what she'd been putting them through over the last five years.

Five years. Five fucking years. She still couldn't wrap her head around it being that long, and how much the galaxy had changed in that time. The war between the Empire and the Republic had seemed endless, sure, with both sides constantly striving for an advantage which never lasted long enough to convert to concrete gains. It seemed impossible that five years was long enough to rewrite galactic history and change the face of it forever.

"Asklako. When you have a second go down to the hangar in the base to say hi to Hylo. She might be able to put you to work. Mako can you report to the War Room when you have a second?"

"Sure thing, boss. I'll be there."

Fa'laan flashed a brief smile again.

"You sound like Blizz. But I can handle answering to boss. Thanks Mako."

"Any time."

That reunion seemingly over now, Fa'laan turned back to Theron and Lana. Theron was still staring after Mako, but he seemed to have mostly gotten over his rivalry for the moment.

"So... that was one on your list?" Lana confirmed with a smile, trying to put a positive spin on things, "I suppose that bodes well for finding the others. And I remember her. She was a very effective bounty hunter."

"She had no love for the Republic, but she had the opportunity to destroy it and she didn't. She doesn't always like Jedi that much either, but none of the ones we're dealing with are particularly up themselves. Asklako can handle herself. I'm glad to see her again. I'm glad she's here."

"And you're hoping she might be able to help you find Corso."

Fa'laan sighed, shoulders slumping a little.

"...And I'm hoping she might be able to help me find Corso."

The meeting with the new arrival concluded, Fa'laan trudged back to the Alliance War Room with Theron and Lana close behind.

"So... what needs to happen now?"

"Honestly... I wouldn't worry about doing too much today. You're still exhausted, and that's not surprising. You've given us some names we can start looking into, especially with Mako's help. If you've got enough strength left, go talk to the specialists we've got around the base and see what they need. They might have a few more names for us, or they might just sign off on the ones you've already given us. Either way you're sure as hell not fit to leave the base today."

Theron was as bluntly honest as ever, and Fa'laan narrowed her eyes at him a little.

"...Thank you for your expert assessment, Agent Shan."

"Might I add as the expert healer currently in the vicinity that I completely agree with all of Agent Shan's points and would strongly encourage you to take it easy today?"

Lana replied with a sunny smile, and Fa'laan rolled her eyes. She knew when she was beaten.

"You are far too cheerful for a Sith. Far too cheerful."

"I don't know, I always thought it was well known that Sith had better senses of humour than Jedi."

"I don't think most people find Sith humour funny. Either way I can't handle you two teaming up on me. Now... I know I met the specialists yesterday but just... remind me?"

"Hylo Visz, she's someone you probably met professionally."

"Everyone knows Hylo. Breaking the Mandalorian Blockade would send anyone's name down in history. Who else?"

"Oggurobb you may remember too."

The name was familiar, and Fa'laan thought all the way back to Makeb, saving a planet threatened by complete disintegration of its core solely as a result of mercantile greed and the determination of a few maniac fantasists to rebuild a lost empire.

"...Yes. Him I remember. Who are the other two?"

"You're less likely to have met them. Sana-Rae-"

"A Voss mystic?"

"The very same. Not one you've met, though. She's quite young, but her vision guided her here. I suppose we should be grateful to get any kind of acknowledgement from Voss. I don't know how much more we're likely to get - they didn't have the support of the Empire or the Republic when Zakuul arrived, and although the Voss and the Gormak have made peace enough to fight alongside each other against a common foe... they're struggling."

Lana's golden eyes flicked to the captain again.

"I hear you had a hand in that?"

Fa'laan shrugged, making a non-committal gesture.

"I might have done? I'll tell you the story some time. Goes well with a drink."

Lana laughed.

"Indeed... well, maybe another time. I look forward to hearing it. You really have achieved some amazing things, Commander."

"I still prefer Captain."

"I know."

Fa'laan glared at her again, but received only a sunny smile in response.

"Last one's a name you might know but I don't think even you at the heights of your illustrious career encountered him. Admiral Bey'wan Aygo."

"Admiral of the First Fleet?"

"Technically not anymore. He kept coming up with strategies to fight the Eternal Empire and Saresh got tired of it and had him discharged."

"Honourably, I hope?"

"Not even Saresh could have done anything less than that."

Fa'laan sighed.

"Okay. And everyone's based here?"

"Everyone's based here. You'll hardly have to walk anywhere at all. And we promise when you're resting we'll make sure any urgent business can keep."

Narrowed eyes glanced between her advisors again, but with a sigh, Fa'laan acquiesced.

"Okay. Well at least none of them should be blatantly out for my blood. Not so sure an Imperial Admiral would be too happy to have me around."

"A sensible soldier, or member of any military, respects their enemies and recognises when they can learn from them. I'm sure if any of our top flight personnel were here they would be more than happy to listen to someone who has the ability and experience to lead us through this."

Lana's reply was almost censorious, and the Sith Lord rolled her eyes when the smuggler captain only grinned at her.

"Yeah, but when I pissed them off it tended to be a lot more personal. And you know me, I'm an artist when it comes to that kind of thing."

"You've certainly tried my patience enough over the last few days..." Lana muttered, and that made Fa'laan laugh.

"Well, I don't think you'll be able to put me back where you found me. I doubt that Emperor Arcann takes returns."

"Hush and away with you..." Lana was laughing now as she shooed the other woman away from the command table "We have quite enough work to be getting on with without this level of 'assistance' from our Commander."

"That almost qualifies as insubordination, Lord Beniko."

"Oh yes? And what's the punishment for that?"

"Keep your fingers crossed and it might be spanking." Fa'laan winked as she headed out the door. Lana rolled her eyes.

"We need to find that husband of yours sooner rather than later. You always have been incorrigible."

Humming softly to herself, Fa'laan made her way through the base. She decided to start with Oggurobb, then pay a visit to Sana-Rae and Aygo. Hylo she could leave till last, not out of disrespect, but because Hylo was the one for whom she would be least likely to need to be on her toes.

Chapter Text

Asklako made her way back through the base until she found the quarters Torian seemed to have laid claim to. It was certainly an impressive set up, though it wasn't going to be enough for what they were facing. Mandalorians didn't back down from a fight though, not ever, and this seemed like a battle that would be full of honour, even when they lost.

Torian looked up as she came in and smiled.

"Su cuy'gar cyar'ika. Nice set up here."

"It's certainly not as bad as I was expecting. Fal's people work fast."

"Certainly seems that way. You sure this is where we need to be?"

She stepped into his personal space, closing the distance between them with a smile playing on her lips as she gazed steadily into his eyes.

"You doubting me, cabur'ner?"

"I'm not really your protector, now am I. And no, it's not you I doubt. You've led us well through a lot of things. You have my allegiance, and my heart. Ni kar'tayli gar darasuum. I don't know the others, though. They're new to me, and they're not Mando. Is there a reason you didn't want to go to Mandalore?"

Asklako sighed, running a hand over her bald head.

"I thought about it. I did. But honestly... I don't think it's going to be long before Mandalore herself winds up here. There will never be a last stand for the fate of this galaxy without Mandalorians, and that's what we're facing. They might not be here yet, but they will come. We just got here a bit early, that's all. Mandalore and the Commander have a history actually, you know that? And she had a Mandalorian in her crew for a long time. She's not Mando, but she's good."

Torian smiled, his eyes crinkling a little as he regarded her, still strangely at ease with this warrior so close in his space. It wasn't arousal or fear, it was simply comfort. Existing together was comfortable.

"Jatnese be te jatnese?"

Asklako smiled and kissed him, savouring it. It was lazy, she'd long stopped caring whether anyone walked in on them. Their relationship was based on love and honour, nothing could take away from that, and those who were outsiders couldn't understand what Mando bonds really meant.

"Jatnese be te jatnese."

"Okay. If you say so. I trust you."

She grinned and he could feel it against his lips.

"When have I ever steered you wrong?"

Asklako finally stepped back out of his space to start unpacking her own gear, and Torian tilted his head, considering.

"Well, there was that time-"

She threw a shirt at him, laughing, and he caught it, laughing along with her and stowing it in the chest.

The normality of this ached a little in Asklako's chest, because she couldn't imagine what she would do without Torian. She didn't really know what she would do without any of her crew. A bounty hunter is only ever as good as their support network, and although she'd had a motley crew, they'd together been one of the best. Nobody could beat Mako as a slicer, and Asklako was privately looking forward to seeing how that spat with the SIS agent would shake out. Maybe she could persuade Fal to put some credits down on it. Asklako would back Mako in a tech battle any day. Blizz could find and fix anything, though he wasn't so particular about where his materials came from, and the little Jawa had a way of keeping her spirits up. Plus he was fantastic when persistent offenders needed to be annoyed into going away. She missed Gault, a little, but Skadge not at all. She didn't exactly lack confidence that they'd both fall on their feet either way. If Gault's made it this far unscathed, nothing will stop him now, and if Hylo Visz is here, he'll turn up sooner or later.

Torian is hers, though, her riduur, and he's a lot of what keeps her going. Sometimes, before, she'd found herself spotting similarities between Torian and Corso. Sure, Torian was obviously the better option, but what Fal had had with Corso... he'd been the ultimate support. There hadn't been any competition to it, any nastiness, he had loved her with his whole heart, open and shameless and joyful about it, ready to support her and watch her back and fight at her side as she stepped into bigger and bigger shoes. Men like that were rare, and Asklako found herself wanting to hold Torian just a little tighter, imagining what it had to be like for Fa'laan to be going through all of this without Corso by her side. They'd always been friends, but it seems like right now, the ex-smuggler captain needs friends more than ever, and Asklako made a mental note to get the whole story down at the cantina later. For one thing, it's the kind of material that makes the best kind of Mando drinking songs, and for another, it can't be doing her any good to keep it all inside. Asklako's happy to recognise her as Commander of the Alliance, but she's not exactly looking to her for leadership. Not yet. And what that woman needs, if she can't have her husband, is a friend and an equal she can talk to without fear. That, at least, Asklako could give her.

The cantina was pretty big. That wasn't exactly a surprise, after all, the makeup of the base was mostly ex-military and criminal, and both fraternities were known for their drinking habits. On top of that it had to encompass two factions who, while now technically on the same side, had been at each other's throats for time immemorial. That kind of history was hard to just forget, especially when the drink started flowing.

Asklako had taken the chance to get clean and change her gear before heading down. Blizz had offered to stay behind and fix up her armour - it had a few dents and scratches, and the Jawa said he'd found some interesting new mods. Asklako had decided to leave him to it and not enquire too closely about where these mods had come from. When it came to Blizz it was usually safer not to ask.

Torian was getting to know the others around the place, and Asklako had sent him down to speak to Hylo and see if there was anything they could do to help the war effort. At some point she wanted to meet the famous captain herself, but right now Fal was the priority, and Asklako felt it wouldn't exactly be fair to take her partner along to a conversation about what Fal had lost.

The bounty hunter grabbed a drink at the bar and looked around for a quiet spot. She spotted the Commander as she was now, half-hidden in a corner booth at the back, nursing a drink that looked strong. Asklako made her way over and slid in opposite her.

"This seat taken?" Fal's eyes flicked up briefly with a flash of old, familiar humour, but the smile soon fell off her lips. "You got my message then. Wasn't sure if you'd be too busy for a drink with an old friend." Asklako continued, filling the space between them, keeping things casual.

"Not too busy. Not really busy at all to behonest. I live in this kind of purgatory where there's so much that needs to be done but there are actually people doing it all already who are much better at it than me and there's not actually that much for me to do. I can stride around and look busy, be a figurehead, but I've always been much better at doing and now... we can't show our hand just yet, we're not strong enough for open war, so we have to pick our battles and it's all very... political. Plus I'm not exactly fit. Carbonite poisoning can do that to a person, to say nothing of five years in stasis. What all that means in practice is that I've got way too much time in my own head, too much time to think, and that doesn't do anyone any favours."

"Especially not with some of the stuff you've got to think about."

"Especially that." Fa'laan took a deep drink and Asklako watched her, letting the silence stretch this time, "I miss him. I miss all of them. And I hate that I let them down. Because I did. I was their captain, I was responsible for them, and then..."

"You couldn't have helped it."

"Bullshit."

"It is not and you know it."

"...Yeah. Maybe I do. But that doesn't make it better."

"It doesn't. But it's a start."

"It is..." Fa'laan sighed, "Truth be told, I don't actually know where to start. I'm not... cut out for command Ko. I was a lone wolf, for a long long time, just trying to make my name, and I know you know how that goes. Managed to get a ship, was getting by just running the occasional job, nothing too big nothing too small, you know how that goes. Accidentally wound up with first one companion, then another, on the Republic payroll... I was just trying to get my damn ship back. Then after that... well, clearing my name seemed appealing, and with war being what it is there were credits enough running work for the Republic so I kept doing it. I was never exactly an idealist, but the Empire made me sick. Now I feel like they're not exactly the worst option. Somehow I ended up a big damn hero which was never my intention. That's without getting mixed up in the Revan business. Being able to move freely was a real advantage, sure, and Theron and Lana... well. Someone who wasn't too much of an idealist had to clear up the mess, so that was a natural progression, gave me a chance to move a little bit away from being too aligned with Republic values.

When the twins started striking and Marr invited me to his flagship to talk about old times and try to tie up the last loose thread... well. I always did like the guy. Not many Sith I'm a fan of but he was one of the good ones. I had a lot of respect for him. All we went there for was to kill Vitiate, and he ended up dead but not because of us. Vitiate killed Marr, Arcann killed his daddy, and Arcann took the Eternal Throne and had me imprisoned in carbonite. Badly. Honestly would have preferred death, at least that's an end. Instead I had five years of being unaware of everything around me, slowly going mad, being tortured by visions and nightmares not even alone in my own head. I've seen enough for several lifetimes, just like you. Next thing I know I'm puking my guts out at the feet of a very attractive blonde, running for my life through unfamiliar cities on a more unfamiliar world, landing in a swamp... and eventually we end up here. On another strange new world, with none of my family and few of my friends, and I'm magically supposed to be some kind of token who can lead a resistance to Arcann? Knowing that if we fuck that up, Vaylin will take the throne instead and that will be a thousand times worse? I'm a star jockey who moves things around, mostly above board and usually with help. This isn't my life, this isn't the life I remember, the galaxy I know, and I'm just holding on, hoping that maybe if I make it through this I might get that galaxy and that life back. I know it doesn't work that way, it never does, but what else have I got to hold onto?

I'm tired, Ko. I didn't sign up for this galactic hero business, and it weighs a whole lot heavier without people I trust to have my back. Not that I don't trust Theron and Lana, I do, obviously. Trust you too, and some of the other names I gave Theron when we were talking about people like you. But I swear if my crew were here right now, I would jump in my ship and fly off and never look back, hoping I could die a real death before Arcann caught up with us."

Asklako listened in silence, eyes not leaving Fa'laan's. She'd felt a weight like that before, not as heavy as this one, no, but enough to have some idea of how heavy a burden it could be. People who lived on the fringes of the law, like Bounty Hunters and Smugglers had a very different sense of what was normal. They chafed if things were too ordered for too long, rules were more like guidelines, and the family you chose was more importat than blood, with betrayal being the greatest crime. They had a lot in common down in the bone, and without Corso, Asklako knew that Fal had to be aching for someone who would listen to all the ugly doubts and shadows inside. The Sith and Technoplague both had a history too, sure, they were advisors now, not exactly subordinates but not exactly equals either, and when people had unshakeable faith in you they weren't the best audience for freak outs about how unworthy of that faith you were.

"I get it. And I'm not going to sit here and tell you that it's all going to be fine, because I don't know that. Nobody knows that. There aren't any mysterious forces governing the fate of the galaxy except the people living in it, and that includes you and me. Sure, maybe we're not the level of Revan or Vitiate or Arcann or those Force-using fuckers who change the face of the galaxy on a whim. The thing with Revan, even with Vitiate... somehow the galaxy returned to a kind of equilibrium after both of them. It just takes time. Everything takes time but it's eons far out of proportion to our lifetimes. So... we do what we gotta do, sure. We stand, we fight. We lose... maybe there's a little comfort in thinking that a couple millenia from now the galaxy might not look all that different."

Fa'laan sat back, considering for a long moment before she took another deep draught of her drink.

"...Y'know, I think that's the most comforting thing anyone's said to me since I woke up, because you're not making any empty promises and you're not trying to bullshit me. Because honestly, the way I feel right now, everything I've missed, everything that's going on, losing my crew, losing Corso... I don't feel like anything's ever going to be okay again but somehow it feels like that's all anyone can tell me. And when they tell me everything's gonna be okay what they really mean is that they're expecting me to make it all okay. What you're saying instead is that even if I fuck this up it doesn't mean the end of... everything. It doesn't mean the end of the galaxy, it doesn't mean the end of life as we know it, and in a couple thousand years none of this is going to matter anyway."

Asklako shrugged, offering a half smile.

"Glad I could help. I'm here to fight alongside you. I'm not expecting you to magically make everything okay, but Arcann's the biggest threat right now, we all know that. Biggest threat, biggest honour. That's why we're here. Honour doesn't mean doing it alone. But we want to be part of this, and we'll go down in the songs and stories people tell in the shadows under the Eternal Throne until it all collapses."

"I like that..." Fa'laan smiled, lifting her glass in a toast, and taking another deep drink, "...You really think the galaxy will return to equilibrium after this? He's all but wiped out the Jedi, and the Sith too from what I hear..."

"Well, that means both sides are pretty evenly matched, doesn't it? And... even if he wipes out the Jedi and the Sith, there will always be Force-sensitives. The Force has its light and dark sides, so they say, I'm not sure how much I buy it. But the Jedi and the Sith have been all but wiped out before and come back. The Force will always be there, they'll evolve again in their own ways, I'm sure of that much."

"...I like that way of thinking of things. You talk a lot of sense for a callow youth."

"Less with the callow, but I'll take the young." Asklako grinned. "You feel any better?"

Fa'laan drained her cup.

"Yeah, I do actually, as it happens. You're pretty good at this."

"Yeah, well. I'm happy to talk any time you need. I have the advantage of not really having a horse in this race as such. I'm not in the power structure. I'm the closest you've got to an equal, and I like to think that maybe I count as a friend. You may be in a lonely place, but that doesn't mean you've got to do it ALL alone."

"Thanks Ko. I'll bear that in mind."

Asklako drained her own cup, feeling a little ache in her chest. She wanted to get back to Torian, get back to settling into this place. But friendship was important, and right now that had to come first.

"You're looking pretty exhausted, Fal. You gonna get some sleep?"

"I spent five years sleeping, and feel like I've spent a lot of the time since I woke up sleeping too, but you're right. I'm exhausted, and I don't know if it's the wastage or the poisoning."

"Who says it can't be both?"

Fa'laan flipped her off, smiling to herself again as she headed back towards her quarters. It was, at the very least, time for a nap, and the combination of the talk and the booze meant there was a good chance she might actually pass out.

Asklako watched her go before she followed more sedately behind. Odessen was busy and raw and it would take a lot of getting used to, but there was hope in the air whether or not she believed in it. Maybe they'd be able to make something of this after all.

Chapter Text

Although the search had been long, once she had identified Odessen, it had been relatively simple - if time-consuming - to get there. She was rather gratified to be signalled on her approach to the planet - her shuttle was cloaked, but it was still limited only to Imperial capabilities rather than those of the infamous Eternal Fleet. Her shuttle was one of the finest the Empire had produced, and if her own people had made some improvements to it that wasn't something she particularly felt the need to broadcast.

She answered the call over the radio and identified herself, gratified to hear the respect in the operator's tone as they cleared her to land and directed her to the pad. Admittedly she usually had others to pilot her ship, but she was more than capable of doing it herself, and given that the last member of her crew to stand by her was Khem Val, there wasn't much alternative. The Dashade had many uses, but he was not built for piloting.

Darth Nox was pleased to see that what amounted to an honour guard had been assembled as she walked down the ramp, Khem on her heels, hulking and monstrous as ever. She was still fond of him, despite herself. The guard seemed to consist of both Republic and Imperial troops, though their expressions of terror were not entirely different. She privately smiled to herself, wondering what the Republic troopers in particular might make of her. Her name had not been widespread outside the Empire, because she had not wished to broadcast it, but she had been one of Darth Marr's staunchest allies, and, if not on the frontlines, then pulling the strings behind many of the galaxy's battles. She had been part of his war against Vitiate, and some of the troopers looked familiar from those days. Undoubtedly those who had not seen her before would be struggling to marry the slight figure in front of them with the reputation she assumed still went ahead of her. Covert operations had always been more her strength, but she had not been above compromise when necessary. It had struck her that this was very much one of those times, and Darth Marr had spoken fondly of the Outlander, as had Lana Beniko.

Jashahi had met her once, briefly, in the aftermath of Yavin. She had been one of those Darth Marr had called upon for support, and the final battle had been fierce indeed. She was not a follower, but she was willing to accept allies where she found them, and this fledgling resistance had the best chance against the remnants of Vitiate's poisoned bloodline. The man had destroyed everything he touched, and Jashahi had no respect for him whatsoever, even grudgingly.

Events had separated her from her crew, and more importantly from her lover. That was what she was looking to rectify as a matter of urgency. Her crew, if they were still alive, could be gathered in time. She had had a grand power base once, but her deepest affection and loyalty had been reserved for those who had shown loyalty to her in turn, even at the very beginnings of her rise when she had been nothing but a lowly alien ex-slave apprentice. If they still lived, she would find them. She guarded her people fiercely.

Undoubtedly the word was now going out through the base, messengers searching for the Commander to inform her of the new ally's arrival. A slight smile played on her lips, the points of her cat like teeth gleaming. Surely not only the Commander but her Chief Advisor would need to be informed of this. Oh, she was looking forward to seeing Lana again. Jashahi strode into the base and the hive of activity, waiting.

Lana arrived first, eyes wide, hair gleaming in the sunlight which shone in from outside, and at the sight of Darth Nox she stopped dead, a flush slowly rising on her pale cheeks.

The troops looked on, the world seeming to pause, as Jashahi's smile grew, still predatory but widening as she crossed the gulf between them like a hunter stalking prey. Lana was frozen in place, and Jashahi could see her breathing quickening, could almost hear her heartbeat, and oh she had somehow grown even more delectable in the intervening years. It had been too long, and this time, if Lana was willing, Darth Nox planned to claim her and never let her go again.

"...My Lord..."

Her voice was shaking, and Jashahi felt her own heart skip a little. For all that Sith relationships were so often based on power and domination, they had always been much more egalitarian. Lana had had talents and skills which went unrecognised and underused, and Darth Nox had been determined to change that. Of course her main response to seeing her lover again was hunger and need and concern driven by all she knew that Lana must have been through, but there was joy too, and love, for all that she could not risk expressing those in public. In private, though, things would be different, and this was a rare demonstration of affection, giving Lana the chance to deny their relationship if she wanted to.

Every line of her screamed that she didn't, and she offered no resistance as Darth Nox cupped her jaw and drew her into a searing kiss.

She had enough self-control (just about) not to moan in response though every fibre of her body tingled with adrenaline and relief and need. Instead she allowed herself - just this once - to crumple, to melt against Jashahi's slight form as the Zabrak's arms went around her waist and drew her close.

They paused for several beats, just to breathe, to take each other in, and then stepped away, giving each other space and once more assuming their ice public demeanors.

The troops looking on shifted back into movement as time resumed, glancing respectfully away. Lord Beniko had much of their admiration, and it could not be doubted even by those who had served the Republic, that she was a brilliant tactician, brave, loyal, and the heart of the alliance alongside the Commander. It was good to see her happy, and cared for. All those who had lost loved ones or been parted from them understood the relief of that reunion. Privately there was a sentiment, however, that if Darth Nox caused her harm, despite being a Darth of the Dark Council and one of the most powerful Sith alongside Darth Marr, the troops would still find some way to make her pay.

"...My Lord. How wonderful it is to see you again. I hope your journey here was uneventful?"

"It was, mercifully so. Long, but hardly arduous. I am pleased to be here, and to lend my power to your Alliance. Understand that I will hardly be subservient to this Outlander, but I am willing to consult and join the effort against Arcann and his sister."

"We are pleased to have you, I am sure. Undoubtedly the Outlander will remember you from Yavin. Perhaps you would like to come along to the War Room and refresh your introductions? We can brief you better on the situation there."

"Of course, how sensible. I assume I will be given accomodation here?"

"Of course, my Lord. I will... set things in motion immediately."

"I see you have not lost any of your natural efficiency."

Jashahi smiled a little as a light flush dusted high on Lana's cheekbones, and the blonde glanced away.

"...My thanks, my Lord. I do hope I have not. Perhaps after your briefing and meeting with the Commander we might... catch up?"

Darth Nox paused in the corrior, Lana falling out of step with her perfectly naturally, and took the other woman's hands in hers, earnest to communicate her sincerity since there was no one around to witness it.

"...I would like that, very much. I have missed you sorely, Lana."

The barest tip of a pink tongue darted out to trace her lips and Jashahi bit back a noise of want.

"...As I have missed you, my Lord. I hope we shall make up for lost time."

"Oh, believe me. We will."

Lana's blush intensified and Jashahi smiled to herself, satisfied as they resumed their way along the corridor towards the war room.

What met her eyes was a well appointed room carved from the planet's stone. There was a platform in the middle where computer banks were mounted, reading out data from all over the galaxy. Darth Nox recognised the Outlander, and Theron Shan, the SIS Agent who was the son of the leader of the Jedi Order and had been with them on Yavin. The others were less familiar.

"...Commander, may I present Darth Nox."

Fa'laan turned from where she had been deep in conversation, and smiled in welcome. She crossed the room to clasp Jashahi's hand in a show of affection the Sith was unprepared for.

"...Darth Nox, it is wonderful to see you again. Welcome to Odessen, and The Alliance. We are glad to have you. It's quite fortunate that you arrived, actually. I was thinking on allies we might be able to bring to our cause and your name did come up. I've always held you in high esteem, and I am relieved to have you on board. May I also offer my condolences on Darth Marr's passing."

"...You may. I understand you were with him. But it was how he might have wished to die, had he wished to die at all, but unlike many of our number and our rank, death held no fear for him. He was noble till the end."

"Indeed, he was. I apologise, you find us very much in a state of some disorganisation. This is a work in progress, I'm sure you understand. Lord Beniko is more than capable of briefing you, we will be sure to include you in any council negotiations and discussions we have of how to proceed. Allow me to introduce you, this is Senya Tirall, Knight of Zakuul and widow of Valkorion. Theron Shan you know. Please make yourself comfortable and get to know the base. I don't know if you met Asklako before?"

"I have indeed. Bounty Hunter, your reputation goes before you. I am glad to see that you are here also. Are there others who might join our number?"

"We are investigating a few possibilities including Major Elorskati of Havoc Squad and the Barsen'thor of the Jedi Order. If you have any other contacts who might be assets to our Alliance, feel free to bring them in. We would appreciate any and all assistance."

"Of course. I can think of one or two who might answer the call. Now, Lord Beniko, if you would be so kind..."

"Of course, my Lord..."

Lana blushed again, and Fa'laan wasn't oblivious to the look which passed between them. She smiled softly, heart aching a little, but she was glad that Lana once more had a lover at her side. She'd taken the loss of Marr hard. They all had.

The blonde Sith bowed and began escorting Darth Nox to her quarters. When they finally reached the relatively well-appointed room, she closed the door and leaned back against it for a moment, breathing fast as she regarded the Zabrak now standing by the bed.

Jashahi smiled, soft and warm and uncharacteristically gentle to those outside this room.

"...Come here, love. It's been too long."

And with a shudder of sheer relief, Lana went.

Chapter Text

With the arrival of Darth Nox, the fledgling alliance seemed to strengthen a little. She was well-known to the troops of both sides, and the Imperial troopers in particular had a great deal of respect for her. Even the Republic soldiers knew she had a reputation for fairness which most Sith did not possess. More importantly, they trusted Lana and her judgement, and if she felt Darth Nox was a worthy partner then they were, for the moment, willing to put their trust in her. She was certainly quite the addition to the command room, and Fa'laan was grateful.

Despite the improvement in their outlook, Fa'laan found that sleep was still proving elusive. When she dragged herself into the war room the next morning it was to find the rest of them assembled and waiting for her, diplomatically not commenting on the way her complexion was ashen under the surface. Even an attempt at some cosmetics to cover up the worst of it had proved in vain.

The room was silent as she made her way to the head of the table, and although she fought to keep the weariness out of her voice, she wasn't oblivious to the power being channelled into her from the quiet Sith to her right. Lana always had been kind about that kind of thing.

"Well, with Darth Nox joining us, perhaps it's worth having a full briefing this morning. Theron, would you like to start us off? What's our status?"

"I've got an overview, and some reports from the Specialists. Bey'wan is probably best off in terms of personnel at the moment, but nobody's particularly resource-rich. Hylo is trying to make contacts and call in favours but it's complicated by being even further under the radar than usual. Oggurobb is... being his usual self and I've always found the Voss to be... what's the word..."

"Gnomic," Lana supplied, and Theron nodded.

"That's the one. Given that you're in charge here and you've probably had more interaction with Voss and Voss Mystics in particular than the rest of us, it might pay off to stop around and check in with them individually. I know Oggurobb had a lead on a Gand he wanted you to look into who he thought could be valuable. Lana's got some leads on Republic and Imperial war heroes who could probably be talked over..."

"Any of my crew pop up yet?"

Fa'laan was doing her best to keep the hope out of her voice, but it wasn't as effective as she'd hoped.

"Well... nothing definite yet, but there is some chatter that seems promising. I don't think it's Corso though. We might have a few other leads to pursue, Darth Nox do you have anything to add?"

Jashahi pursed her lips in consideration.

"There are certainly some old friends I might be able to make contact with... I parted ways with my companions a long time ago too, though not quite under such circumstances as you did. They were all talented, though, and perhaps they might be willing to be found again. Either way, the burden of chasing down these leads should not fall only on your shoulders, Captain. I understand that recruitment might require the personal touch in many cases, particularly for something like this, but I like to think my name carries some cachet too."

"Oh, it certainly does. I... would appreciate any assistance you might be willing to offer, particularly when it comes to old Imperial contacts or Force users. You're better placed to evaluate those than I am."

Jashahi nodded, and Fa'laan sighed, rubbing her temples in an attempt to dismiss the headache that seemed to be her perpetual companion.

"...Alright. So. Where are we on old friends?"

"We have a lead on Major Elorskati and Havoc Squad, tip from Koth and some groups he knows out in the Endless Swamp, and we have a lead on the Barsen'thor."

"If Elo's got her squad, they're probably doing good work on Zakuul. Where's Aloomma?"

"She was on Tython for a long time, she was on the frontline of a lot of the battles the Jedi fought against the Eternal Empire. She disappeared around the same time my mother did, we've got reasonably solid information that she's on Yavin-4 now."

"...Alright. I'll start there then. I'll head out..."

"Tomorrow."

Fa'laan looked at Lana, but the Sith's jaw was set, eyes firm, the fire in them burning low and warm, but burning all the same.

"You will go tomorrow."

"...I'll go tomorrow, apparently."

Asklako chuckled a little.

"I've got Mako working alongside Technoplague here to see if she can get anything more out of the holonet. Torian's reaching out to Mandalore, who might be a familiar face these days, but I'm not willing to say more than that. As a Mandalorian, he's also keeping an ear out for any news of Akaavi. Hopefully she's joined up with another clan for this fight, if she hasn't stuck close to the others."

Fa'laan took a deep breath and let it out slowly, flexing her fingers.

"...Yeah. Thanks Ko. That makes a lot of sense. You got anyone you can find for us?"

"Nah, I brought the ones I know and trust with me, but I think Darth Nox and I might have a few contacts in common still on the outside we can look for."

Jashahi inclined her head.

"Imperial Intelligence for example always did find the most interesting people to work with."

Asklako grinned, toothy and feral.

"Yeah, that's a fact. A few names spring to mind. There's another Rattataki on Zakuul who's appeared a few times in clandestine holofeeds associated with terrorist attacks. I'm pretty sure I know who that is, and if it's who I think it is, she'll have embedded herself deeply into Zakuul's underworld. Could be a valuable contact, but it's not somebody I think I should go after, or you for that matter, Commander, though you'd probably have a decent chance. If we can bring in another old friend, who I know for a fact is someone Darth Nox and I both have links too... she'd be the best one to go talk to Kaliyo."

Fa'laan watched the bounty hunter for a long moment.

"...You're talking about Cipher Nine, aren't you."

"Yes I am."

"But she's a ghost. Most people don't even believe she's real at all, I only know she is because I met her once in passing."

Asklako looked across the display table at the slight Zabrak wrapped in elegant robes.

"You got someone you could go after, Jash?"

"...Darth Nox, even in company, Mandalore. I will do you that honour, even though I know the title is held by another. Most Mandalores don't live long enough to step down or pass it on, what an interesting conundrum you must have presented to the clans. But yes. If we're not being too precious about the company we keep, there's a warrior I could reach out to. Most in the Empire believe her to be a ghost as well, but certain high-ranking individuals know that's not the case. She might have played a role which now seems distasteful, but she had some knowledge of the Emperor before the events of seven years ago, and she is an honourable Sith rather than a deranged sadist."

Lana's expression was awestruck in a way that took even Fa'laan by surprise as she said:

"...You're talking about The Wrath."

Jashahi's smile was small, secret, enigmatic and smug, and her cat-like teeth were pointy, glinting in the light as they peeked over her lips.

"Yes. I am."

Fa'laan sighed, her whole body aching still, though she felt considerably more positive now than she had on the first day she'd woken up here.

"...Alright, do we have a plan? I'm going to Yavin tomorrow to see if I can find the Barsen'thor. Ko-"

"I'm going to see what I can do to find Cipher Nine. Mako's got a few tricks in her implant that might pique her interest if she's out there."

"Right, and Darth Nox?"

"I will see if I can find another Imperial ghost to rally to our banner."

"Thank you. Koth?"

"I'm going to keep in touch with the groups I know in the Swamp and keep tabs on the Major and Havoc Squad that way. I'll let you know if anything changes but at the moment they seem to hit and run a lot, and then disappear into the bog. I'm sure if they need us to speed up extraction, I'll hear about it."

"Thank you. Theron?"

"I'll keep monitoring the chatter and doing what I can to follow up leads and find your crew, as well as keeping tabs on Arcann and what he's doing."

"Great," Fa'laan's shoulders slumped a little as she offered a small smile around the table, "Well, at least we've got a plan?"

The others all smiled back, and Senya nodded.

"It is a good plan, Commander. If you need back up in the field I would be pleased to offer my services."

"Thanks Senya, I'll probably take you up on that."

She'd miss Lana at her back, but with her lover returned, Fa'laan knew it was likely Lana would be working more with Darth Nox. Still. She was the best advisor and one of the best friends the smuggler captain had ever had, and she hoped this wouldn't mean losing her. She'd lost too much already to be able to take that, as petty as it felt to admit it.

"Certainly Commander."

"Since my departure for Yavin is apparently delayed until tomorrow I'll adjourn the Council for now and go speak to the specialists, see what they need. If any of you need me for anything, send a runner. It's early days yet, but we'll figure this out."

For the most part, the others all inclined their heads and left. When they dispersed, Asklako was the only one remaining and Force but Fal was glad the slender Rattataki was here.

"You know, I think you're right. We'll figure this out. You got this, Fal, and we got your back. Hell, if we fail, it'll be a glorious death to sing about in the afterlife."

Fa'laan laughed tiredly, but it was real all the same as she swiped a hand back through her hair.

"Thanks Ko. Means a lot from you. Just out of curiousity, you ever run across a Trandoshan?"

"Not long enough to speak to, why?"

"Because if Aloomma's still running with Qyzen, or knows where to find him, you're going to have a lot of conversations about Jagganath in your future. Trandoshans and Mandos have a lot in common."

"In that case, I look forward to finding out."