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Thread: The Falcon's Cage

  1. #1

    The Falcon's Cage

    ...Thus I write to you. It is time for you to wed, or at least affiance if you are still married to your career in the Fleet. Many are interested, as the memory of your good appearance, disposition, and rigorous discipline and prospects within Starfleet (the term ‘Navy’ has been bandied about, as if starships sailed on watery waves of starlight, it alternately amuses and infuriates me), and I have spoken to a handful of young women of good breeding and disposition themselves, whom I believe would suit you well and are willing to meet you. I have made plans to meet with them again, and will give those who survive meeting your sisters permission to send you correspondence. Should you be unable to visit, I do hope you will at least answer them and treat them respectfully.

    As ever and always,
    Your Mother


    Vance Felline, Captain of Fearless, a Corvette in Her Imperial Majesty's Starfleet, ran his hand through his hair and let out a sigh of tremendous volume and emotion after reading the entirety of his mother's message.

    'I wonder,' he thought to himself, looking out the view port of his quarters, 'whether there is another Captain of some kind out there who must also dread the sight of his mother's name in his message list.'

    Outside the view port, Kuat Drive Yards, that monstrous ring of production around the equatorial belt of Kuat itself, shined with the reflective light from the star. Fearless was but a speck on the gargantuan testament of and to engineering that were the Drive Yards. Fifteen kilometers away a Star Destroyer was also being refitted, and it was itself almost dwarfed by the structure, which still overshadowed it by an order of magnitude.

    Despite the grandeur and spectacle of the view in front of him, he viewed it absently, without the usual awe and respect for the effort and resources that it represented he usually felt. His mind was rather completely taken up by thoughts of his mother, family, and the truthfully terrifying thought of leaving a wife and possibly children bereft due to his frankly high chances of being killed in the line of duty.

    He was at an impasse. This was not something he could speak of with his staff officers; despite his tolerance for less than professional banter and friendly relations outside of duty, he was still their captain, and they were not his confidantes, for all that he was sure they would be able to understand. Certainly not Knight Iscandar, either. The very thought of speaking to her about his trepidations about marriage were laughable at best. And what woman would—

    His mental image of her flashed across his eyes and made him cough on his own breath. He attempted to brush the moment off, but that sight of her in his mind's eye was now firmly entrenched despite the brief amount of time he had granted it. He knew she would be able to understand, commiserate, and sympathise with him. He turned away from the view port in an almost violent fashion, pacing as his thoughts began to race.

    While he was no innocent, his career, his station, and his upbringing had very much lodged in him a reticence and what one might call an aversion to beginning or embracing a proposition for a romantic entanglement; one indiscretion might leave him completely ruined: financial, career, and personal, all rolled up into a bow, neatly severed and snipped before he could tie and neaten it to his satisfaction. There were other reasons as well, some which he considered only common sense, and some which he admitted to himself were childishly idealistic. His few liaisons were quiet and well kept secrets; save one perhaps, which was a loud and confusing well kept secret.

    He laughed to himself, wondering if perhaps the good Captain and his crew had infected him with some sort of curse of 'interesting times'. Farcically he entertained the thought of patenting an inoculation against such a disease and retiring a wealthy man, until he brought himself back to the topic at hand. He was surely being rash, and further thought would probably give him another avenue, but he knew when his own mind was resolved, even against his own better judgement.

    He was dressed in fairly short order, in clothing not unlike his uniform but without insignia or brand. His code cylinder, kept in his jacket breast pocket, would suffice to keep any ambitious security personnel well satisfied. He left the berthed Fearless, and made his way to a communications suite, one which allowed slightly more secure transmissions, though 'secure' was a vague term considering the sheer immanence of the Imperial Intelligence apparatus. For good reason, as well, though it did not suit him at this very moment. Thankfully, he and most other officers knew a slew of codes and commands that would further privatise any transmissions, and further, were used mostly to facilitate intelligence sharing and reports. All he had to do was use a particular code phrase in the initial request after enabling the scrambler, and any intelligence agent or algorithm would think he was in fact making a report to another, far more secretive and opaque, governmental institution.

    'I do believe this is the first time I've ever been thankful for COMPNOR,' he thought to himself in amusement. The signal solidified and resolved, and the frequency returned as connected. He waited a moment for the image to project, and he smiled wanly.

    "Miss Moreau," he said, bowing slightly. "I do apologize, but I have something I believe I could use your help with, and something you may find amusing as well. I shall bear your mockery if it means I can count on your help."

  2. #2
    It was midnight in the cockpit of Alderaan. Or, well, whatever passed as midnight on a ship. The only way to tell really, was that Ben and Shuvin were fast asleep in their own quarters. Just as she had been. In fact, she'd been happily ensconced under the myriad of blankets that she'd been collecting. Soft fluffy blankets, fake fur blankets, velvet-rimmed blankets, and even a weighted blanket. She'd been so comfortable. Nestled like some cherubic Gamorrean hoglet, Cerie had been in the middle of a lovely dream about Chandrillan goats eating jellied pancakes on a beach. At least, that was what she could remember when she'd woken up for no reason whatsoever.

    What was worse, she'd not been able to fall back asleep. The blonde had continuously tossed and turned, trying to drift back into slumber, but the fact that she was dismally unable to do so was enough to make her throw her blanket layers off and literally roll from the bed.

    A grumble, and she'd snagged the latest copy of Heavy Bionics from her nightstand on her way out of her quarters.

    An hour later found her in the cockpit, leaned back in her normal seat with bare feet propped up. It was just her, the quiet, and her reading. A story about a lucky ship that always brought its crew home except for the last mission, where it seemed to become fully sentient and sacrificed itself for the soldiers it was tasked with protecting. It was heartwarming and tragic, and currently the last flimsi-page was stuck on Cerie's cheek where it had fallen when she dozed off.

    The half-second long ping of an incoming transmission was certainly not enough warning, and when the holo of one Vance Felline materialized into the air, his initial greeting was met with a particularly sharp and forceful snort, and as his voice continued, Cerie rumbled awake in the same way that earthquake aftershocks rumbled their way along. Whach was to say, without any grace whatsoever.

    Heavy Bionics was torn away, and she rocketed forward - still most certainly half asleep - to sit up straight in her chair.

    She blinked the sleep away. It was a monumental task if one was to go by the sight of her addled expression.

    "I... wha... "

    The voice held a very familiar lilt, and as her squinting eyes panned over to the projected image of the man on the other side, recognition dawned. Slowly, but it did register after a few moments.

    "... Vance?"

    She angled herself in her chair to better view him, one hand reaching up to wipe the sleep from her eyes.

    "Do you know what time it is?!"

  3. #3
    Of all the responses one may have anticipated, asking the time was definitely not what he had expected.

    "I... uh, I don't, no. I mean, I know what time it is here, definitely, but I don't know where you are, so..." He trailed off awkwardly, and the silence stretched on, which he attributed to a bad ping on the frequency.

    "Is... this a bad time?"

  4. #4
    He didn't know where she was now... it made sense. A few more moments of silence, and she banished the last residuals of sleep-addled confusion from her thoughts.

    "It's a time, that's for sure," she half-grumbled out. Though, there was no real dissatisfaction to her tone.

    In fact, she couldn't help but feel a strange sense of... relief? Happy expectance? She liked Vance, and she couldn't deny that he'd been able scratch that one itch she had, and he was charming and lovely and sweet and... gods above Imperial. There had been a moment of awkwardness, when she found out, but it passed soon enough - owing to the fact that he seemed to have the perfect key to her lock.

    "Do I call you Captain?"

    Captain.

    Just saying the word pulled her further from her sluggish and sleep-addled thoughts. Brought her to that one peak moment that they had shared, and once more now. And in the next breath she brushed away her own query.

    "Vance."

    If this was some sort of booty call, she was not impressed. She swallowed, letting her flimsimag fall fully into her lap.

    " ... "

    She had nothing, really. And her confusion was more than evident.

    And with nothing else to truly offer, she stared at the holo of him.

    "Does mocking you include sex?"

  5. #5
    "Excus— no. No, mocking me does not include sex," he said, gaining his breath back after a brief moment of choking on nothing. "I need help, and you were one of the few I'd trust with this sort of circumstance."

    He paused for a moment, feeling an odd mix of loneliness and amusement that it was in fact true that he had remarkably few people to turn to in this case. Cerie Moreau, an itinerant smuggler and crew aboard a tramp freighter was one of the few people in the galaxy he had formed a personal relationship with, if one could call a night of alcohol fueled sexual intercourse followed by a ridiculous conversation with her Captain and a high ranking Alliance military commander. Thinking of that night still gave him very odd feelings of amusement and mortification and incredulity.

    "Now that it's come to it, I'm at a loss for words. It's nothing dangerous or dramatic, I assure you," he said, possibly misinterpreting the expression on her face. "My family is one of some wealth and influence on a planet in the Teyr sector. I am the eldest son of the family, and my continued bachelorhood is not necessarily hurting my family, but it is proving to be an obstacle for my sisters and parents to make good connections and secure good terms for both business and my sisters' marriages. So I have been 'asked' to return home to at least provide the illusion of seeking an end to my time as an unmarried man. As you can probably tell, such a subject would be... awkward... to bring up with my subordinates. It's awkward enough with you, but at least I know that you either will not or cannot use this against me either personally or professionally."

  6. #6
    His explanation was... well, it was certainly something. Not what she was expecting for sure, and for a few quiet moments she stared back at him as her thoughts connected the dots of exactly what he was asking for. It was a sweet thing, she finally concluded, and she let her posture soften in her chair. Slowly, the blonde took her mag and gently leaned forward to toss it atop the upper dash of the forward control console.

    "Good to know that there's no danger or drama, though I wouldn't count them completely out when it comes to family."

    One leg came up then, tucking up under the rest of her bulk. There was a sizable hole in the knee of her trousers, and a pale kneecap poked out. He was right though - she had no interest in leveraging this predicament against him. There just didn't seem to be anything of value in such a thing. Not to mention she did like him. And despite everything, he looked positively exasperated, flummoxed, irritated, and absolutely at a point that begged for a sympathetic shoulder. Or at least an ear to listen to his top-shelf woes.

    "And it doesn't have to be awkward, you know," she continued, "... we crossed the awkward bridge already."

    A deep breath, and she leaned back in her seat, eyes on his as she tried to suss out her poor silver spoon and what exactly he wanted from her.

    "What would like me to do?"

  7. #7
    TheHolo.Net Poster

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    it's not my turn yet. sorry!

  8. #8
    "It doesn't have to be awkward..." she said, and he smiled. It was a genuine expression, full of wry amusement and good will for the woman he was speaking with. "What would you like me to do?"

    He shrugged.

    "I don't know, honestly. I used to have conversations with my younger sisters when I had problems that weren't easily solved. I've become used to solving my problems and obstacles through other means now, but I don't think the big blasters on my ship can solve this one. While I don't mind the idea of marriage, the practicalities of it are something that leads me to remain a bachelor. My career, my place in the galaxy, and the people I've surrounded myself with, are not conducive to a family of the kind I'd like to have."

    He paused, collected his thoughts, and continued.

    "I received a message from my mother, and put simply she told me that I had to come home and put forth a show of either stability, or the pursuit of it. That for some reason my continued lack of a spouse has been harming my sisters' prospects. And despite my misgivings, I do not wish them any difficulty in the their lives whatsoever, much less one that I may make smoother by some effort or sacrifice of mine. So, I obviously plan to return home, but from there I am at a loss."

  9. #9
    She was picking up what what he was putting down, and Cerie couldn't help the slight grin that slowly began to turn up the corners of her mouth. Even through the holo, he seemed to radiate dread at having to go home, or maybe it was more the thought of what was waiting for him there? Either way, he didn't look particularly enthusiastic about the notion at all. It was in that moment that she stepped into the sort of role that could only be described as... the anti-wingman? The blocker? She'd passively watched enough smashball games in enough cantina holos that she was at least partially aware of the mechanics of most player positions.

    Idle fingers picked at the worn fringe of the hole in her trousers, and she pulled in a long breath before letting it back out.

    Her brow furrowed in a show of thought, as her eyes continued to stare at him.

    And then her head tilted slightly to the side.

    "Would you like me to go with you?"

  10. #10
    "I didn't think we were in that sort of relationship that you'd ask to meet my family, Cerie," he quipped. She rolled her eyes. "I don't know what bringing you along would do, aside from moral support, I suppose. I wouldn't begrudge your company—in fact, I'd welcome it—I am simply worried that a woman from a tramp freighter may not be the ideal guest for my mother or father. Not for an event of the kind that is planned."

    He became more thoughtful after a moment.

    "My father would probably approve of the connection to a tramp freighter though, if the captain were a trustworthy sort. He's a landed businessman through and through, though probably more aristocratic than most businessmen you'll ever meet. I suppose if I frame it as I have hired Alderaan to take me there and back, they would have far less negative opinion. I'd hate to get into an argument with my mother over your merits."

  11. #11
    The look she gave him was a strange, wincing thing. A mix of cringing and cautious thoughtfulness as she digested his words.

    "Yeeeaahhh... " it was a drawn out word that she let go on for longer than she normally would have.

    He was trying to be accommodating in his own way, she could understand that.

    Her fingers shifted up from the fringe of the hole in her trousers, and Cerie scratched at an itch on the underside of her jaw with her pinky.

    "Merits were never my strong suite, I suppose."

    She blew out a long breath, then, choosing to push ahead before he could say anything in response.

    "But I know how to act a lady, if you're worried about that."

  12. #12
    "You know," he said, his smile widening, "I can believe that. I don't have misgivings because of you, Cerie. Please don't assume that for a moment."

    He firmed himself visibly, and spoke again.

    "No matter the method by which I enjoy your support, Cerie, I do wish to have it. Do I need to speak with Captain Merasska personally about your location and destination, or is that something you can do yourself? I fear his reaction to seeing me and hearing my request. I don't need to hear him moan about how it's bad enough how often he and his crew get—ahem, fucked over—by Imperials without Imperials literally screwing him and them again."

    He managed to deliver this line with a suitably straight face; the number of reports he'd needed to deliver to Knight Iscandar, Knight Vissica, or his direct superiors in Sector operations, that he could pull off some of the blandest and driest humor in the galaxy.

  13. #13
    She couldn't help but crack the smallest of grins at that.

    "I'll talk to Ben. I'm sure the prospect of a paying job will be enough to outweigh the... " Cerie let her grin turn into a smirk then, "... fucking."

    A silence fell between them then, and the blonde satisfied herself with simply staring for a short minute.

    Finally.

    "If you send along what you want and need, I'll package it up and we can get you along to not being married as soon as possible."

    That last part she delivered with a wink while unfurling herself, reaching back out to take hold of her reading that had been waiting patiently for her from atop the dash where she'd tossed it.

  14. #14
    "Just forward along my request to the Captain," he replied. "I sincerely doubt he'll agree to come to Kuat, but a system inside the Empire would be easier for me to rendezvous with you. Don't send anything back to this frequency. At best, you'll get no response. Use this one instead. Less secure, but a personal address."

    He nodded in that peculiar Imperial manner, which was more than a nod and less than an outright bow.

    "I'm looking forward to seeing you again, Miss Moreau."

  15. #15
    * * *





    Cerie stepped into the cockpit just as the drop from hyperspace pulled those hypnotic starlines back into glittering pinpricks. It was always so pretty to watch, bursting from the hyperlane to splash into realspace.

    "It'll be fun," she grinned to Ben as she took her seat. It had taken a bit of convincing, but she'd been successful in winning him over. It was a job, after all, and credits were credits. Shuvin had taken to the notion easily enough - beaches, good food, men... the blonde suspected that the prospect of a good time was the highest on that list of temptations.

    "We've had enough weirdness lately, so an easy blue milk run to a nice planet while getting paid to do so will be a lovely change of pace."

    Reaching over, she gave a poke to the soft white skin of his upper arm.

    "Besides. You'll get the chance to even out that spacer's tan you've got going on."

  16. #16
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    "Spacer's tan. Spacer's tan, she says," Ben mumbled to himself while he piloted Alderaan through Ailon's lagrange point. "We're going to meet that Imperial guy again, and she's talking about spacer's tans!"

    He silenced himself for a few moments.

    "Spacer's don't get tans, Cerie!" he finally shouted, and then went limp.

    He'd been like this ever since Cerie had asked him to do this job, and to be honest, most of it was him over-exaggerating things and it showed. It was almost a hard and fast rule on the ship: Don't take jobs from Alliance or Imperials.

    A hard and fast rule that had been broken stars knew how many times now, but that wasn't the point! The point was that it was a rule. Rules weren't meant to be broken. Sometimes they did end up getting broken, but that just meant you needed to get vent-tape and a welder and fix it back up good as new (maybe sometimes hitting it with a hammer to make the dents look normal next to other ones), because by the black void of space it was a forsaken rule. You had to have standards, or else you'd end up working for the Hutts or some other low-life and end up getting frozen in carbonite and killed in a gigantic battle, like Han Solo.

    A bit overly specific of an example, you say? Ben himself had lived through two of those events. Just forget that Han Solo also lived through two of them and died on the third. There was no way that was applicable to Ben's situation, thank you very much. No more adventures! No more quests! Just quiet, humdrum, regular living; back and forth from job to job, just the way spacers like him had lived for hundreds—no, thousands—of years. Okay, he still had to find Esther, but that was the only thing he'd cave on.

    Now, what was he doing? Oh, right. A job for a forsaken Imperial.

    He'd say his family were rolling in their graves, but considering their entire planet and them too were just an asteroid belt and ash particles in space now, it'd probably be more fitting to conceptualize them as wailing ghosts.

    "If this doesn't end up as easy as you're painting it, I'm... I'm going to..." he glanced over to Cerie, who was just giving him an unimpressed look. "I'm going to be very disappointed. You don't want that, do you? I'll mope. You hate it when I mope."

    He frowned and hunched in his seat and fake cried for a brief moment.

    "Just like that."

  17. #17
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    "Oh, come off it, Ben," Shuvin scoffed, scampering up the ladder of the cockpit to slam herself into a seat with a sigh of relief. "You heard her! Blue milk, she said! I know she's said that before, with the Kafrene job, the Bantha Steak Scheme, and we can't forget the Blue Milk Run."

    "We swore to never speak of the Blue Milk Run ever again!" Ben spat. He wrinkled his nose, as if smelling something rancid.

    "The Steak Scheme was Ben's idea!" Cerie hissed.

    "It wasn't a scheme!" Ben retorted. "At least, I didn't know! How was I supposed to know they weren't selling real bantha steaks!"

    "You're missing the point!" Shuvin said over them. "Which is, not everything is super complicated! People make them complicated! So just calm down, everyone. We're going to help out Cerie's friend here, and make some real good credits doing nothing but sitting down! I mean, I did a bit of searching and we can do a bit of shopping and work on Alderaan, but the planet's not a hotspot for industry and the parts we need. It's more of a touristy farmy place. It's where red nectar, or a variant of it, comes from you know? Sugar, wood, and fishing. And that's about it."

    She smiled. "Momma could do with a little sweetness and wood too, if you catch my drift."

    She waggled her brows and bit her lip, sniggering a bit under her breath.

  18. #18
    Shuvin was always good for helping to put the press to Ben, and Cerie met the Togruta's waggling brows with a rather lewd and suggestive stare from blue eyes that soon enough lazily tracked their way back to Ben.

    Another poke to his arm.

    "The problem is that spacers don't have tans, and I bet that some sun would be good for your skin."

    She gave him a concerned once-over, letting two fingers finally give the barest pinch to his ribs.

    "Soft and tender like a mynock's underbelly," she finally assessed while pulling back to lean once more into the confines of her seat, supremely satisfied with herself.

    Ailon was only growing larger in the viewport, and it wasn't long before they were passing through the atmospheric barriers, buffeted only slightly before Alderaan's inertial dampeners kicked in to smooth the ride.

  19. #19
    TheHolo.Net Poster

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    "I don't know how to respond to this," Ben slapped away Cerie's poking finger absently, and pressed the comm when they were hailed.

    "Freighter Alderaan, you are cleared. Follow the transmitted flight path, or you will be shot down."

    The connection cleared and went silent. All three of the crew of Alderaan looked at the speaker with vary looks of bemusement.

    "Great place your booty call chose, Cerie," Ben mumbled, hurriedly adjusting the ship's flight path. "A fortress planet? Do they know they're not Imperial any more? Wait, maybe that's why they're so hard for the fortress thing now. They're pretty much neutral in name only."

  20. #20
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    "I'm guessing that's why Mister Imperial Captain Man chose this place for the pick up," Shuvin hummed softly, watching as the spires of a city made themselves known through what she'd thought was just cloud cover; now she saw that it was in fact a thick fog.

    At least, she hoped it was a thick fog.

    "Real careful guy you got there, Cerie," she said, standing and leaning forward a bit as if doing so would allow her to see through the blanket of mist. Ben simply pressed a button and the canopy shimmered, before outlines of the buildings and sky-traffic were displayed on the transparisteel glass like ghosts.

    "Suppose it makes sense though, him bein' so careful-like," she continued, most of her attention set on the fog and the outlines that silently swam along their fields' of view. She turned and grinned at the blonde. "He is a Cap'n. An Imperial one. Can't be too careful with a job like that, I'm guessin'."

    They smoothly flew through the fog to the end of the flight path: a tall skyscraper, or rather three skyscrapers arranged in a neat triangle. Despite their height, the scrapers all seemed somehow squat, with thick defining lines and jutting platforms and shuttered landing bays, and very little to differentiate one from another. Ben glanced down at the transmitted flight plan, and deftly skirted the scrapers and the myriad ships that flew to and from them. Not just ships, but sky cars, speeder buses, and haulers too.

    "Busy place," Ben hummed, calmly setting the ship down in a large and well apportioned landing bay and looking quite cool (though she'd only tell him that when she was sure he wouldn't be sure that she was genuinely complimenting him) while doing so.

    "Let me land her one of these days," Shuvin said, poking the man in the shoulder. Ben glanced back at her and shrugged.

    "Maybe not in places like this, but sure," he said, putting the ship on standby and stretching in his seat.

    "Kwe!" the Togruta cheered. "Now, you excited to see your man, Cerie? Where is he? Where is he? Is he here?"

    She stepped forward and nearly pressed her face to the glass to see if the man was anywhere about.

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