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Fandom Liars and Spies


Sergeant Finn, newly of the Resistance, adjusted his jacket, which didn’t need to be adjusted. It had been perfectly tailored to fit him, by an Ishi Tib tailor with more fingers than Finn had ever seen on a sentient before. His pants had been tailored, too, and his shirt, all of it made out of some sort of fantastically soft and light purple material that glittered in the light. His shoes were the right amount of broken in, and an irritable Bespinian man had done something to his hair called a high fade, and just generally he looked like the well-educated and politically-minded son of a middlingly wealthy family. Finn knew that was what he looked like, because the tailor and the irritable Bespinian had told him explicitly that was who they were making him look like, and because he’d had a briefing, and because the ID chip in his bracelet and the carefully forged and collected pocket litter scattered on his person indicated that he was Dakson Hartscol, an aide to Senator Lannith of the neutral planet Malachor III.

Finn wasn’t a senatorial aide. He was a spy, as of a week ago. He’d always thought that spying was the sort of thing that would happen in dark alleyways and smoky bars, but The Brightest Star was almost alarmingly well-lit, and a discreet sign by the door announced that there would be no smoking of any substances whatsoever on the first floor. Warm, golden lamps flickered from discreet alcoves in the wall and in the center of each table; Finn guessed that they were supposed to look like candlelight, but they just reminded him of the aftermath of a battle, with fire from flamethrowers guttering out in former gardens. Shadows danced against the walls. It made him uneasy. The whole thing made him uneasy--he was wearing better clothes than he'd ever worn in his life, he had a legal identity for the first time, and he had a name and a rank and a clear purpose and people waiting to welcome him back when he'd accomplished it. None of it was bad, but all of it was new, and nerve-wracking.

Senator Kasimira Tarkin was seated at the bar, which was good news for Finn. If she’d been at a table, it would have been harder for him to casually bump into her. He wove through the crowd, dodged a waiter carrying five stacked trays of something hot and steaming, and shored up against the bar. It was mirrored, not just shiny metal but actual glass reflecting everyone’s nostrils back up at him, and he resigned himself to the night being incredibly weird.

The bartender had stalk eyes and a neck longer than Finn’s leg, and asked him what he’d have to drink in the poshest Core accent he’d ever heard. His briefing on Dakson Hartscol’s likely political opinions, religious beliefs, education, and hobbies hadn’t included a drink order. “Whiskey, neat,” Finn said, since the arrogant oil tycoon in Love in the Time of Empires had ordered whiskey. Right before having a threesome and being tragically killed by the protagonist. In retrospect, he should have figured out that was fiction sooner.

He drank half his glass, managed not to cough, and scanned the room casually before letting himself take a second look at Kasimira Tarkin. Two seconds, three—he let recognition dawn on his face. “Senator Tarkin,” he said, loud and cheerful, leaning towards her, already extending a hand before she’d even fully turned towards him. Confidence, that was the thing. Trusting that people were generally friendly and good and wanted to meet you, because people were, who didn’t want to meet a well-educated and charming young senatorial aide? “Congratulations on your election. Dakson Hartscol, I work for Senator Lannith.”


Coruscant was as Coruscant ever was—chaotic, and noisy, and brutally cold. Jaumet stepped off the ship and immediately headed for the vendors that crowded the northwest dockyards. You could buy anything there—clothes, guns, food from half a thousand planets, probably some less important organs. Jaumet limited herself to a hat and matching gloves, and another set for Rey: The Last Jedi, who she figured had probably also lost her warm weather gear when the Raddus had been destroyed. She turned to hand them to Rey, and found the other woman standing in the dead center of the corridor, head craned back to look up at the skyscrapers vanishing into the grey clouds above them.

“Pretty, right?” Jaumet said. Which it wasn’t, not her idea of pretty, but the skyscrapers glittered even in the absence of sun, advertisements dancing across the paneled walls. Above them, fifty-story tall man transformed into a bright red Krayt dragon and flew across several apartment blocks before exploding into the logo for an energy drink. Ships wove across the sky, directed by a hoard of glittering traffic drones and hindered by bursts of multicolored smoke that exploded from the side of a factory with alarming irregularity. Too crazy for her tastes, too cold, not enough green, but maybe Rey would like it. And it would be good to figure out what Rey liked, if they were going to work together.

At the very least, Coruscant was a place where two human women could blend in, even with one of them dressed like an Outer Rim bumpkin and gawking up at the sky. “Come on,” Jaumet said, nudging Rey’s elbow to get her to start walking. “Let’s go find our hotel, and then we can meet everyone at the restaurant.” Which was, of course, code for finding Kon, their contact. He’d be able to get them in with anybody in the city who might have even the slightest interest in helping—or joining—the Resistance.

Lucyfer Lucyfer


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Kasimira Tarkin never blended in, no matter where she went. The pro, and the con, of making sure she was an apex predator in a sea of lessers. Bantha, vipers, and peacocks roamed the Brightest Star, and all the red haired woman wanted was to be back home, in the joke of a bar called the Carrion Spiked, reminiscing of days lost.

Instead she was here, on Canto Bight, a blight to the galaxy, meeting senators and criminals alike to build a group to take down the First Order, while Admiral Motti and General Tagge kept watch of the Seswenna sector, all with heavy hearts. Tagge lost his wife, his children. His legacy ended.

Motti lost her mother and sister.

None of them had time to grieve. Kasimira wasn't sure any of them knew how, either, as she swirled the red liquid when it was passed to her. It looked like a deep red wine, though it wasn't. They called it Greedo's Shot after the infamous bounty hunter, and it was made of rodian blood - a juri juice common ingredient - in his honor and mockery. Right then, she just wanted anything but wine, but she had appearances to maintain.

Most would assume it was wine. The bartender heeded her request to put it in a wine glass.

The moment to herself was broken before she could dig out her datapad from her purse to check messages and the time. She had other meetings, other places to be, that day. She was fairly certain one was ending with a blaster if she'd picked the right First Order spy. The senator of Arkanis, Carise Sindian, seemed a likely candidate. She ran in all the Centrist worlds and capitulated to General Hux immediately. Not to mention her grudge against Leia.

No, she wasn't allowed to check that because a dark man approached. 'Governor Tarkin.' A mental strike was made. Her father was always governor first, senator second, a mindset inherited by her, though many may not know that, yet. She didn't allow the benefit of the doubt, though.

Politics was all about knowledge and semantics, so although she didn't recognize the aide, she recognized the name of who he served and knew their general stances.

Still, she did smile, and she did accept his hand as if she was charmed. He was handsome, he was enthusiastic, and so long as he didn't become an endless asskisser, he might even be a pleasant break. Plus, last she knew, Senator Lannith hadn't made a stance. "Thank you, Hartscol." Her grip was firm enough, and her nails pressed into the back of his hand, before she let him go, painted in the colors of the Grand Moff bars.

It was almost the only bit of real color about her appearance, which otherwise consisted of a sleek black dress with a slit far to high to be modest, and a dagger that would make most eyes reconsider staring too long. Her hair was down, lips red enough to match, and the Imperial symbol hung over her chest - another not so subtle advertisement of danger.

"I have heard little of Senator Lannith since Hosnian Prime. I trust he is well if he has time to do business here." Not even a question, not really. She took note of the drink briefly, a liquor, no mixer. That did earn a bit of approval. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your company - if it is pleasure and not business, of course." Kasimira could mince words, but she didn't feel like it then.

If he wanted something, she wanted to know.


Coruscant was alive.

Rey had always heard about Coruscant, even on Jakku, but despite all the stories she was woefully unprepared for just how alive it truly was. There were so many people there, of all different races and languages, some she knew, others she didn't. She knew the galaxy was vast, but she truly had never dreamed of how vast or how diverse. Were it not for her new companion, Jaumet, Rey most certainly would have gotten lost and pulled towards anything else but her destination.

Thankfully, she had Jaumet, and Rey made a point to keep her in her field of vision, even as she continued to stop to examine things more closely, or just pause to watch others as they went about haggling. A smile played on her lips as she listened to the melody of languages and the mechanical translators that were necessary in such an environment.

She didn't even notice the fact that she was shivering in the brisk air when she finally came to a spot where the sky opened up. She paused and stared up, the silver buildings reflecting on her hazel eyes as she craned her head back to see it. An advertisement went by, beautiful colored smoke spewing out of it, but Rey wasn't sure anyone saw as she was taken from her reverie by Jaumet. She blinked a few times and realized she was the only person staring.

Everyone else continued to mill about and haggle.

Suddenly, it felt like Jakku...and not the parts of Jakku that she enjoyed.

Her smile faltered as she looked to meet Jaumet's dark gaze. She tried to steel herself again and focus. She had to be the Jedi they wanted her to be, not some gawking and star struck girl from the Outer Rim who had never seen so many people in one place before. "It's...I've just never seen so much!" Rey didn't know how else to put it as she followed Jaumet after the nudge. "I've always heard about Coruscant, but I never could have imagined this! It's so alive, and yet...."

She couldn't find the word, as she pressed her lips together into a thin line. It wasn't alive like Takodana. That was alive with nature. This place was all constructs. So was Starkiller base, but Starkiller had felt dead. This place was teeming.

"It's no wonder the Jedi set up here." She couldn't place what it was, but she had the sense that it impacted the Jedi decision. They could have been on any natural world, but instead, they chose this world of chaotic noises and busy energy. "You've been here before, right? Is it always like this?" Rey assumed Jaumet had, why would they send her with a guide that didn't know their area?

As they entered into a junction of turns to other areas of the bustling city, Rey shivered again as a cold breeze blew through. "I didn't think it would be so cold." Her thoughts left her easily. In the midst of a crowd, it almost seemed safe. There was too much cover noise to worry about a silly comment about the weather.

She wouldn't talk so casually about their contact, though. So she hadn't even continued with that conversation, simply letting Jaumet's lead through the chaos.


Finn allowed his smile to fall, just momentarily, at the mention of Hosnian Prime. He didn’t have to fake it—he’d been able to see the nova of the system’s destruction ten minutes after it happened, from the surface of Takodana ten light-minutes away. It had been white and terrible, an explosion of soundless light in the sky, and even while everybody else had been muttering about exploding ships and freak solar flares and trying to find news on the net, Finn had known in his gut that the First Order had been responsible. That kind of silent death didn’t happen naturally, and it didn’t happen by accident. It had to be orchestrated, by the kinds of people who idolized planet-killers and built soldiers without names.

“Fortunately, Senator Lannith wasn’t on Hosnian Prime at the time of the…explosion,” Finn said, carefully, searching for phrasing that would sound disapproving without being openly seditious. Dakson wasn’t a seditionist; he thought that the First Order were power-mad and potentially dangerous, and vaguely loathsome in their ideals, but was ultimately too personally conservative to call for open war, and too comfortable to see the need for it. “People in the southlands have been concerned, as of late, about potential occupation. The senator’s been on a tour, reassuring everybody that his first priority is to protect Malachor III’s people.”

That was good, wasn’t it? Not the First Order party line—they would have happily absorbed a backwater little mining world like Malachor III, chewed up their children and their resources and spat out the rest to rot, in the name of some greater hegemony. They didn’t care about peoples. But it was safely Republican sounding, not all that radical.

“Now he feels the need to ensure that he can keep that promise, by drumming up allies and financial support.” Finn dragged his smile back up and laughed, briefly. “But he’s kind enough to have given his aides the night off, and I’ve always wanted to see Canto Bight for myself. This bar had good reviews in last month’s Traveler.” Which was actually true—Chewbacca had a subscription, because apparently what middle-aged political radicals and career criminals loved were luxury lifestyle magazines. “This is pleasure, not business, I swear.”

Did that sound too dismissive? “Uh, not that I’m not happy to see you, I am. Just for—non-business reasons.” That definitely sounded bad. “In a very, non, uh—I’m a big fan?” He was fucking this up, and it would have been funny if so much hadn’t been riding on it. He took another drink of whiskey, and cleared his throat. “Running into you here was coincidence, but I happen to personally admire your recent policy work as a governor.” There, that was direct, and played on one of the few things they knew for a fact about Tarkin. Her loyalty, like her father’s before her, was to Eriadu before any wider government.


“It’s always this crowded, but it’s not always this cold. It’s winter in this hemisphere, is all. You might want to wear these.” Jaumet pressed the gloves and hat into Rey’s hands as they crossed a high, narrow bridge between two spiraling towers. “It’ll be better once we get indoors, I managed to book us a place with actual heating. Though there’s a neighborhood not too far from here where it snows year-round, ‘cause it’s under one of those mini-biomes that produces its own weather. I don’t know if we’ll have time to go there, but it’s worth a look, especially if you haven’t seen snow before. Have you seen snow before?” All the gossip said that she was from Jakku, which Jaumet vaguely recalled as being a desert planet. There were cold deserts, though, weren’t there?

They turned three corners and took a massive, transparent elevator down eighteen city levels through a haze of smog and twinkling lights. The level they got out on had smaller advertisements, most no bigger than a human torso, the animation jerky and vaguely off-color with age. The level below them was the water-train, and steam hissed up through gaps in the streets. Jaumet wondered what it must look like, to a girl from the desert.

Their hotel was a three-story metal box welded onto the side of a shopping mall and painted bright red. A flickering holo projection on the side announced its name as The Hollow, which won points for accuracy and none for charm. The sullen teenaged desk clerk looked up their aliases (Maegin and Evekayl Bisshid) and gave them a passcard and a muttered “Enjoy your stay or whatever.” They meandered upstairs to their room.

When she opened the door, there was a green-skinned Twi’lek man sitting on the bed. Jaumet almost shot him.

Fortunately, Kon hadn’t gotten to be a Resistance contact by being slow on the uptake. He threw his hands in the air as soon as he saw the blaster and yelled “It’s me, it’s me, for Force’s sake!”

Kon." Jaumet shoved the blaster back under her coat, and shut the door before they attracted any unwanted attention. Not likely, in a place like this, but better safe than captured. "A la fuérsa, I almost shot you!”

“I noticed!” His lekku twitched anxiously. "A fine way to greet a friend, I might add."

Jaumet rolled her eyes. "Rey, this is Kon, our contact, who apparently breaks into people's hotel rooms--"

"I work here, by the Sisters, I have a badge--"

"And Kon, this is Rey."

"The Jedi." He stood, dark eyes bright with interest. "You are the Jedi, aren't you?"


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
At first, Dakson’s words sounded like he was another ally of the First Order. After all, the best way to protect one’s peoples at this time was to bend the knee to the First Order. So many other worlds had jumped on that bandwagon, so she presumed Lannith was doing a tour to start hinting at that future occupation, and reassuring his people that it would not be so bad as, say, the Empire occupation of Lothal.

Until he added the bit about finances and allies. ‘Really now?’ Lannith would likely be having one hell of a time with that, especially if he wasn’t here to speak business with her. Apparently, it was all personal, and as Dakson stumbled over his words, she had to make sure her smile didn’t grow into a mocking, feline grin.

That mockery glinted in her eyes, even if her smile didn’t curve to meet it.

“You admire me so much and yet you still used the wrong title. Every Tarkin is a Governor before a Senator, or anything else,” she clicked her tongue, but her tone had a tease in it, a play, because she didn’t often get to deal with those who lost their bearings, and certainly not in this way. They usually tensed up and threw up guards, because image was everything.

Even Wilhuff had been Governor Tarkin before Grand Moff Tarkin. “Though if this is not for business, then there’s no harm in dismissing those titles, is there, Dakson?”

She sipped her drink, turning her head a bit so her attention wasn’t fully on him – give him a moment to recover and breathe. “And what policy work would you be speaking of? I’ve only been governor for a little while now.” Policy work wasn’t what she’d call it, though she supposed the certain isolationism she’d thrown Eriadu and the Seswenna Sector into could be called a policy.

She called it Martial Law. She’d left her General in charge, after all, while she did the same thing as Lannith – drummed up allies and finances, and started her work on making the First Order’s life hell until she could get a shot at General Hux. That’s where it would end. Kylo Ren, what she’d heard, what she’d seen, would not be able to hold it together. It would have been like leaving Vader in charge of the Empire.

Hux was that special kind of military leader who could hold it all together, but when he fell, it was over. The First Order was a pack of akk wolves, and Hux was their alpha, but Kylo was a mere akk dog. The confusion would be beautiful and chaotic to watch from the outside as the First Order imploded with Kylo Ren at the helm. Force Sensitives always thought that all they ever needed was the Force. So long as it was on their side, they couldn’t lose.

That sort of view needed to die along with their organizations. That hubris, that elitism, would be crushed underfoot once the First Order was gone and the Senate seized by those who hadn’t given in.


Rey took the gloves and hat as they were thrust at her, and slipped the hat on first before starting to pull the gloves over her hands, listening as Jaumet continued to speak of Winter and a place that was eternally winter. Why would anyone want that? She shook her head at the query – she’d never seen snow before. It could get cold during Jakku’s nights, sometimes, but she’d never seen snow before. She really didn’t even know what it was. White. That was about as far as her mental image went. White.

She imagined something like Crait, without the red.

She stepped onto the elevator almost without realizing what it was, and was jolted back to the awareness of her surroundings when it started down. She lurched forward, then caught herself, and looked up, looked at everything that zoomed past. “I can’t believe there’s a lift outside….” She murmured, caught up in all that was Coruscant. Did anyone ever truly get used to it?

She made sure not to step off the lift until Jaumet did, and was led on to something that seemed more like home to Rey – a metal box. It was non-descript and plain enough, but Rey found herself frowning at it all the same. She had expected something…more, after all she’d been witness to, not this simple box of rooms. Still, she couldn’t complain, heat would be more than welcome, and so she walked on after Jaumet and went on to the room with her after they got their key from the front.

When they entered, there was someone already there, and Rey had pulled her quarterstaff the second she saw him, just as Jaumet pulled her blaster.

Their contact was there before them, and Rey let out a breath when he introduced himself, putting the quarterstaff into its place on her back once more and stepping into the room, glancing around it as Kon and Jaumet spoke. ‘Well this is nicer than my home.’ Though she still missed her AT-AT in the desert.

When she was addressed, she answered, “That’s what everyone tells me,” hardly an answer as she went over to the window of the metal box. She could feel the scrutiny on her back, and she turned around to face them again, “Yes, I’m the Jedi,” she said, much more firmly. She didn’t like the thought of being the last, though. Luke’s absence was still felt deeply, like Han’s. Sure, he was another disappointment in her life, but she had wanted to know him so much more.

He saved them all, in the end. He was the legend, again. The myth that she’d known when Finn showed up in her life. It felt like years ago, but she knew not even a single year had passed. The First Order did not allow them the luxury of time, even now, they were breathing down Coruscant’s back. They should have finished taking the Outer Rim, but….

‘That’s what Finn is figuring out.’ Rey reminded herself.

“Good, good,” his lekku seemed to fall more slack down his back, and Kon turned back to Jaumet, “I have reservations already set, so we’ll need to get moving as soon as possible to make sure we’re not late,” he stated, using the agreed upon terminology.

“Don’t you work here?” Rey asked, as she opened the window to peer outside, hands going onto the windowsill as she leaned out.

“I clocked out fifteen minutes ago,” Kon said, not that anyone was really going to notice if he was absent in this place. So long as they had guests checked in, and rooms without bugs, there wasn’t much to do. This place wasn’t some luxury resort that cared about the stay of their clients, just that they didn’t get sued and turned a profit.


Finn leaned towards her, just a little, and tried to remember how Poe’s face looked when he talked about things like democracy and due process and equal rights. Like he loved an idea so much he was willing to die for it, and it scared him and made him happy at the same time. Scared, at least, he didn't have to fake. “The efforts you’ve taken to protect Eriadu,” he said in a low voice. The General had told him that rich people talked in euphemisms; Tarkin wouldn’t appreciate it if he came right out and said the guns around your planet could wipe out a Star Destroyer. “You’re taking direct action to protect your people. That’s what the Senate should be doing. Not—debating each other in circles, fundraising and filibustering and sitting on their hands, waiting for it to get ‘bad enough’ to take action. The moment to act is now.

He made eye contact briefly, then dropped it and leaned back, ducking his head. “That is—I don’t mean to sound like a political radical.” He laughed shakily, and hoped it sounded like he was embarrassed. Right now, he was pretty sure that she thought he was harmless, which was good. He was supposed to be harmless, Finn reminded himself. Dakson Hartscol was a rich political aide who’d never wanted or worried a day in his life, and as long as Tarkin stayed interested in the conversation, it didn’t matter what she thought of him on a personal level. Better for her to think him harmless than dangerous. From everything he’d heard about the Tarkin family, and Eriadu in general, she’d shoot him first and ask questions later.

She was a Governor before a Senator. The General hadn’t included that in her briefing packet. It was a good sign, though, wasn’t it? Her allegiance was to her planet before the Senate. You had to be a little bit selfish to be a rebel, Poe said; you had to believe that what you had was so precious that it was worth fighting for, even when that fight seemed hopeless.

Finn didn’t know what democracy would look like, if it ever happened, but he had people worth fighting for. He held onto that thought with both hands, and met her gaze again. “But I think you’re one of the few government officials who recognizes the situation we find ourselves in. And that makes you worth knowing. Personally and professionally.”


“The Liberators,” Jaumet told Rey, as they followed Kon through a tangled warren of blind alleys and switch-backs, “Are the baddest group of grandmas you will ever meet.”

The Liberators--Jaumet explaiend--were mostly Twi’lek, mostly female, a far-reaching gang of the formerly enslaved who made it their business to free others, by any means necessary. They were by and large pirates, unaffiliated with any government or political party, but they had all kinds of contacts that made it possible for them to track and pillage slaver’s ships. Dockyard workers, slicers, various organizations of disaffected radicals—the sort of people that the Resistance could use, if they were amenable.

Jaumet had met Yaana Setu, the leader of the Coruscanti cell of the Liberators, several times, and still wasn’t sure what to make of her. She was a hard-bitten woman with a missing lekku and tattoos running up her arms, and her people trusted her as much as they mistrusted any and all outsiders. She could kill a man with a malfunctioning bowcaster at fifty yards, owned a fleet of stolen and repainted ships, and counted cards.

She also owned a teahouse. Where the teahouse fit into the piracy had never been adequately explained to Jaumet. It was currently closed, the brocade curtains drawn over the windows and a delicate sign in the door announcing a holiday in five different languages. Kon pressed his finger tip to the biolock, and it opened with a soft chime.

They entered into a room that was almost stiflingly warm. Space heaters droned softly in the corners, and the curtains muffled the noise from the street and tinted the air red. Yaana Setu herself sat across from them in a plush-looking chair, tattooed hands laced atop a delicate-looking glass table. She was missing three fingers; Jaumet knew they’d been taken by force. A ragtag band of humanoids stood around her—human and Twi’lek and Rhodian and Wookiee and various others, all of them heavily armed with blaster rifles that could take a limb off.

The table had snacks on it.

“Honored mother,” Jaumet said, and thanked all applicable gods that the last Jedi was a girl. There were male Liberators—Kon being the most obvious example—but on the whole, they were much more receptive to women than men, particularly human men. “You do us a great service by meeting us here. May I present my companion, Rey of Jakku?”

“Cut the shit, Anaiira, you look like rehydrated death.” Yaana gestured to the table in front of her. “Sit. Have a cookie. You too, Jedi.”

Jaumet dropped onto a ruffled loveseat. “You are my actual, literal hero, do you know that? None of my other illicit contacts bake me things.”

“None of your other illicit contacts have your mother’s secret reshíka recipe.”

“And it will remain that way, she still doesn’t know you have it and I’m frankly terrified of what will happen if she finds out.” Jaumet took a cookie, then nudged the plate towards Rey. “Eat, seriously, they’re incredible. This is an actual, legitimate teahouse, not just a front for money-laundering.” She didn’t time wondering how Yaana had known Rey was a Jedi; she’d told Kon she was bringing the last Jedi to Coruscant when she’d first contacted him about coming, and he’d spread the information accordingly. The intrigue of having a mystical psychic warrior on their side was worth the risk of the information falling into the wrong hands. Kon was trustworthy, and reasonably intelligent; he wouldn’t tell anyone who’d blab to the First Order. "Rey, this is Yaana Setu, leader of the Coruscanti cell of the Liberators. She's been an ally of the Resistance since the Empire--"

"Which doesn't mean we're giving you shit now," Yaana interrupted. "I've heard your patter too many times to fall for it, Anaiira. I've also heard that the Resistance is down to fifty-odd people and a ship that's older than I am. Why should we throw our lot in with the losing side?"


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Dog was not an incorrect assessment, although Kasimira began to wonder to what he was loyal as he leaned in like a conspirator and spoke of her protection of her planet. Of her actions. He was just as quick to laugh it off and suggest he wasn't a radical, but she didn't believe him. Her suspicions were heightening by the second as she tried to see through what little she knew of Dakson, what more she knew of Malachor III, and how much could be lies used for their own protection.

Only a little of her front broke in the slight narrowing of her gaze. Kasimira loved a good intrigue, but the stakes of being wrong, of late, were getting dangerously high. "You do sound like a radical, Dakson. Not that I disapprove." Not by any means. She was making her own stance clear by amassing her forces and trying in vain to get the Senate - or what remained of it - to meet.

They needed unity. They needed to declare war on the First Order, but they were all bickering over when to meet, where to meet, and other stupid things.

"Senator Lannith could use someone who doesn't simply toe the party line." Every senator needed that. She had a devil's advocate who spoke occasionally of conceding to the First Order. "It helps to keep the mind aware of the many choices available." She tipped back the rest of her drink and set the empty glass down, before turning more fully on Dakson. "So, Dakson, what is your actual opinion on the situation at hand. How do you see the First Order?" The bartender came back over, and she noted, "Just water, please." She wasn't worried about the room itself any longer.

A glass was put up for her, "Thank you," her focus returned to Dakson. "If you're not a radical, I'm curious as to what good you could possibly think of them. Senator Sindian of Arkanis is certainly going to try to make me see the good later. I may as well hear a more neutral view as well."


Rey of Jakku was not sure what she expected when she was told she was going to be meeting a group of badass grandmothers, though what she encountered was pretty close. Rey may not have had a grandmother herself - at least not one that she remembered - but she still knew to associate baked goods with them. That, and tattoos fit the image of being badass. She could not help the grin that bubbled easily onto her lips at the sight of this ragtag group of humanoids, though she tried not to look too excited as she cast her eyes around the reddened room.

It was easy to tell who the leader was, even before she spoke. Rey could recognize the hard life she must lived and felt a pang of sympathy as she recognized the missing lekku from her head. She made a mental note not to ask about brain damage. She had no idea if the twi'lek anatomy had any bit of their brain in their lekku and she didn't want to appear as if she'd be questioning Yaana's capabilities with her curiosity.

She wasn't. Especially not with food offered, even if Rey thought it was a bit too humid to actually relax. She still plopped down on the loveseat by Jaumet and reached for a cookie, nodding along about this being legitimate. She didn't care if it was or wasn't, especially after her first bite. She hummed out her appreciation before reaching for another cookie and biting into it as well, as Jaumet offered a deeper introduction.

Yaana cut it short, surprising Rey with her words.

Now the scavenger may have challenged Yaana's capabilities.

"Sowm your must - mole on." Talking through a mouthful of cookie was not making her words come out clearly. She swallowed hard, "Sorry," she managed, working her jaw as if it would help her throat feel better after the rough treatment of swallowing such a large lump all at once. "You're already against what the First Order is doing, aren't you?" Rey protested Yaana's declaration that she may not assist. "They are enslaving people. Stealing infants and brainwashing and they're still as humancentric as the Empire!" Rey pointed out. "If you just sit here in your tea house and let the Resistance die, you're dooming billions - trillions - to horrors worse than what the Empire did!"

They couldn't keep running away or laying low. They couldn't keep relying on others to bear the weight of the actual open warfare. That much, Rey knew. That much, Finn had learned, too, and she kept her friend at the forefront of her mind, and the horrors he had to endure, that he broke free from. "It will only get worse if you don't help."

Kon, who took his own seat apart from the women, just worried and waited. This wasn't truly his bit to sell, and he knew Yaana must have tossed the thought over in her head of how things may end up if the First Order truly overcame. There wasn't another Leia in the wings, no unknown Jedi. Resistances would always rise...but it may be another few decades before another was so unified and organized. Before they stood a chance.


What good did he see in the First Order? “Well,” Finn muttered into his drink, “You have to admire their commitment to an aesthetic.”

He sipped the drink, which was warm and sweet and probably not something he should have too much of, if he wanted to keep his head. “They’re not as powerful as they think they are. They’ve got a lot of firepower, but their control over their occupied territories—and their troops—isn’t as absolute as they’d have people believe. Their need for order above all else is their driving force, but it’s also their greatest weakness. You keep that tight a grip on something, and cracks are bound to appear.”

Cracks like Finn, and the sloppy guards on board the Finalizer that had let him and Rose get so close, and Kylo Ren, who Rey had described less like a Sith Lord and more like a malfunctioning blaster, firing at random and hitting friend and foe alike. Finn’s first thought had been, How can we use this? It was his first thought a lot, these days. General Organa said it would make him a good spy. Finn wondered if it would make him a good person.

“I think they’re powerful, but not unbeatable. If that makes me a radical, Kasimira, are you one as well?” A thrill of terror ran through him at using her personal name. Finn was free now, but he hadn’t been for twenty-three years, and Kasimira was exactly the sort of person who could have had FN-2187 decommissioned for such a breech of protocol.


"She's telling the truth," Jaumet broke in. “One of the First Order’s Stormtroopers defected to our side. He said that all of them are kidnapped as babies and brainwashed to turn them into perfect soldiers. He doesn’t know who his family is, or whether they’re alive or dead. But judging by his age, they’ve been doing this for at least two decades.”

Someone in the room made a pained sound. Out of the corner of her eye, Jaumet caught sight of a woman lifting her hand to her stomach, an unconscious gesture that she couldn’t help but clock. She pressed on, relentless. “And they’re not going to stop. Not unless we stop them. You can come to the fight, or the fight can come to you, but the fight will come.”

“No one said we weren’t fighting,” Yaana corrected her tartly. “I said we weren’t fighting with you. The Rebels were our allies, but come peacetime, the New Republic hung us out to dry. And in your present state, you have very little to offer us.”

“Am I wearing a New Republic uniform? They didn’t do enough to enforce the anti-slavery laws; you know General Organa shares your opinion on that. But fighting the First Order is fighting slavery. The Resistance can offer you more intelligence and more allies to do it with. We have contacts you’ve no way of making, people who wouldn’t usually give a damn about your fight. Use them.”

Yaana gestured wryly with her lekku. “Help you help us?”

Jaumet shrugged guilelessly. “If you like. I prefer to think of it as a mutual aid. Our goals are the same.”

A Wookie woman in the back barked out a harsh laugh. “But our position is much better than yours. We’ve been outnumbered and outgunned before, and we’ve always survived by playing the odds and choosing when and where to strike. Not throwing ourselves into open war.”

“Open war is here. The odds won’t get any better, not for any of us.”

We can run,” she growled.

“For how long, and to what end?” Jaumet spread her arms, open and entreating. “The galaxy’s not limitless, Honored Mother, and you can’t protect everyone. The First Order will buy and kill and silence your contacts until you find yourself with no one to turn to and no other option but to fight. They’ve burned a solar system to prove a point. They are not stopping.”

The Wookiee huffed. “Your spirit honors your people,” she said.

It was the last thing Jaumet expected to hear, and she blinked up at the woman, startled into silence. Yaana scrutinized her, and then Rey, for several long moments. “We will confer,” she said, finally. “And send Kon with word of our decision by tomorrow.”

It was the best they could hope for at this point. Yaana may have been the leader, but the Liberators made all major decisions by committee. Jaumet stood and bowed, gesturing to Rey to do the same, and then let Kon lead them out of the shop.

In the murky, cold daylight, Jaumet sighed and made a show of relaxing her shoulders. “Well, I think that went well. We’ll make a diplomat of you yet, Jedi. Kon, I hope we have time for lunch before our next appointment?”


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Kasimira held back an open laugh at the man's assessment of the only good quality of the First Order being their commitment to an aesthetic. From someone else, it would have been a well planned joke, but he held his eyes down, indicating he didn't realize that so far as fashion was concerned, the woman besides him was a fan of the First Order aesthetic. After all, she still showed up to most meetings in the garb of an Imperial officer.

There wasn't much of a difference between the designs. Just enough.

"Dakson you insult me," not really, she was playing, recognizing the excitement and terror in his eyes after calling her name and trying to explain how the First Order wasn't immortal. " I'm a Tarkin, if course I'm a radical." Half-assing things wasn't in her blood, and every instinct said she didn't need to avoid it. Perhaps he'd fret she was a radical for the other side, but...she doubted it.

"I do pay attention, and I heard what happened to Starkiller. I know what happened to the Death Star. Nothing is ever undefeatable." She had learned the lessons from others about weapons like that, built her armies accordingly. As Thrawn had once believed, star destroyers, TIEs, and soldiers would win the day, not Death Stars and the like.

It only proved one wasn't fit to rule, as they couldn't control things. They had to destroy.

"I have a duty to my people to protect them, and I know what can happen under occupation." Lothal was another chapter in the book of things her cousin fucked up. Tarkintown. She had learned much of what not to do.


Rey found a growing admiration for Jaumet's fire as she made their case, carrying on from the thread of slavery and enhancing Rey's argument more. Rey almost felt silly even being there, amidst all of this. It didn't seem the Liberators had much use for a single Jedi. What they needed was so much more, and their history with slavery and the New Republic was likely much more difficult than Rey could fathom. To see the New Republic so negatively...it astonished Rey, even, to hear that General Organa hadn't been able to do more. She was such a force of nature!

Then again, maybe that was why she left the Senate behind. Rey never thought to ask what turned her to being a Resistance General.

Yaana called to an end, and Rey rose, flushed with embarrassment and a sense that she really hadn't been necessary at all. She followed Jaumet's lead and hastily bowed, a clumsy gesture, "Thank you, Honored Mothers," turned plural without realizing it may be incorrect. She righted herself just as hastily and strode out after Kon and Jaumet, back into the light that filtered down between the buildings.

She looked up for the sun, catching it behind clouds, before she heard Jaumet speaking. "Huh?" She hadn't done anything. Not really. Still Jaumet didn't sound mocking or insincere. Rey pressed her lips into a tight line before, "Thank you," slipped out, followed by, "I don't really think I could do it, though." As a Jedi she was someone and could learn to have sway, but Jedi and diplomat seemed vastly different. Of course, all the stories she knew were of lightsaber battles and Clone War generals. Not the peaceful ambassadors.

Who was going to listen to a diplomat from Jakku, anyway? A no one sold by her own parents...her sell had nothing to do with the First Order.

Kon gave a single nod of his head. "We do, and I was thinking we could even head up to old Dex's Diner? It will put us closer to our next group." He added as incentive. Dex's Diner wasn't operated by Dex any longer, but his family retained the name. It still operated in CoCo town, though it had expanded and saw more than just blue collar workers nowadays.

"Who are we meeting for our, um, dinner appointment?" Rey didn't know if it would actually be that late, but she hag to disguise the question somehow, right?

"The Galactic News Radio team." Kon answered, before elaborating a bit on how it was a group of journalists, more or less, who had been operating since the time of the Galactic Empire, and a little before, without any real license to do so, spreading information about what was really going on. One of their contacts was Suralinda, a friend of Poe Dameron. Despite that friendship, the radio liked to seem neutral, liked to play devil's advocate and point out the flaws of all systems.

They provided the information. What others did, was their business.

Kon spoke of Suralinda as one of their leaders, but also of their president, Roxanna, a biituian who had endured the hostile takeover of her planet by the Empire, and a human who only let himself be known as Wolf - apparently a slicer in their ranks.


She was on their side. She wasn’t actually a member of the Resistance, but she was on their side, or she could be. Finn could feel it.

He finished his drink and slid the glass away, then leaned towards her again, lowering his voice. “I spoke to a woman recently, from Hays Minor. It was an ice planet, peaceful, rich in precious metals. People used to hang silver bells in the streets for the new year.” Rose had told him about it in the Falcon’s makeshift recovery ward, with the Rey and the surviving members of Black Squadron snoring peacefully around them. Neither of them had been able to sleep.

“The First Order occupied them a decade ago. They deposed the local government, and put their own figureheads in place. Seized control of the mines and the ports, placed the entire planet under martial law, and slaughtered local resistance in the streets.” Rose hadn’t told him that, but she hadn’t had to. The efficient occupation of resource-rich planets had been covered in Finn’s seventh year of training. “She remembers seeing the library burn.”

Finn had never seen a library. He had only the vaguest of notions why it would be important have a building full of books when the entire datanet existed. But Rose’s voice had shaken when she told him about it. Libraries had to mean something, to people who hadn’t been raised to burn them.

“Ten years later, the entire system’s a wasteland. Nobody leaves. There’s a generation of missing children no one can account for.” The idea that the First Order abducted children en masse was still a controversial one in most of the galaxy. Everyone in the Resistance believed it, of course, but Tarkin might not. Maybe she’d think Dakson Hartscol was a conspiracy theorist, and politely dismiss him. But he couldn’t not say it. “That’s the fate I want to avoid for my people.

“I’d imagine you feel the same way. It’s just a question of how far you’re willing to go to prove it.”


“Why not? I mean, I know I did most of the talking back there. But Yaana and I have a history, which is how I know that she doesn’t care about the Republic or the Jedi. I’m pretty sure all she wants is to liberate every slave in the galaxy and then start a giant baking commune on some unoccupied moon somewhere.” Jaumet reviewed what she had just said. “Which I realize is kind of at odds with the woman you just met, but I promise, she has hidden depths. Just. Very deep down.”

“Tea commune,” said Kon.


“Tea commune.” He swiped his pass to get on the upwards lift. Jaumet and Rey followed him. “She wants a collective tea farming commune, and then we could have a bakery on the side. Knitting circles on Wednesdays.”

“There is no way that Yaana attends knitting circles,” Jaumet said, turning to stare at Kon fully. “There is no way that you would attend a knitting circle—Kon, I saw her kill a guy with a harpoon once. And the reason she did that was because you were yelling ‘Use the harpoon!’.”

“Hidden depths,” he said solemnly.

Jaumet decided to ignore him, and turned back to Rey. “My point being that you did a pretty good job convincing her without the benefit of having known her for seven years. And while I’m guessing that Jedi don’t seem as cool when you are one, you are—you know—a mythical warrior of righteousness and truth with a laser sword. That’s gonna go a long way towards convincing people. Everyone wants to be on the side with the laser swords.”


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Hays Minor was no place Kasimira had ever visited, but what was described to her was nothing that came as a surprise. She only needed to think of Lothal or Scarif. In war, her own family had wreaked havoc on things otherwise precious. They'd destroyed libraries and the like. The Empire had done its own kidnapping. Accidental deaths were the norm around Brendol Hux. It was horrible, but her reaction was muted, expression passive, as if he painted a picture of a rainy day instead of war crimes.

She was more interested in how he'd spoken it, than what he said, anyway. His passion was there, a fervor she would have associated with a rebel, not a conservative politician trying to pretend he wasn't looking for an ally.

It was time to shatter the game and see how he dealt with it.

Not just because her suspicions were heightening, but because of a different senator in a white dress who just entered with a bounty hunter that Kasimira knew was in General Hux's pocket, Mercurial Swift. He may be old, but not old enough to think lightly of. 50s. He hadn't let time calm him.

"I suppose telling General Sux to get fucked with something covered in sandpaper, isn't enough?" Calmly said, though her eyes were burning with the anger she'd felt. Of course no correspondence was public, nor had she said precisely that, but she thought it. Her response had been diplomatic enough to buy time. "Nor is the fact the First Order has avoided my sector entirely proof enough, either, I suppose. They turned right towards the Core." Right when her ships came out, and they could have grabbed the Outer Rim, he chose to avoid the drawn out fight.

Win, or lose, she had made it clear that it would be a time consuming and resource wasting fight, so he chose to go after the Core first. Smart move. Didn't mean she liked him any better for not being an idiot.

Her words were coldly blunt as she watched his expression while she pushed herself up from the counter of the bar, from her stool, "Unfortunately, Dakson, business calls, and I've a date with senator Sindian of Arkanis." Hopefully her own Pride wasn't far. She hadn't expected Sindian with a visible guard. It complicated plans if Sindian was being open. She was afraid...and a frightened snake was never an easy opponent.


Rey listened as the point that Jaumet was trying to make was briefly derailed by Kon, informing them of Yaana's dream of having a tea commune with knitting circles. The image wasn't so farfetched to Rey of Jakku. After all, she came from a planet where most had to become tough to survive, but that didn't mean they didn't have softer dreams in their heads of better days when life wouldn't be so hard and they could laze around.

It still brought up a bubble of giggles, which came spilling from between her lips. She quickly stifled it when the conversation turned back to her and how she'd done well in spite of how she didn't have the benefit of knowing Yaana. "You know, the other side has laser swords, too, Jaumet." Rey pointed out. She was lucky to have had time to make a new one, but it didn't change the fact that selling point didn't work. The other side had red laser swords with a cooler design.

"Yes, but red, and everyone knows what red laser swords mean." Kon waved it off as if Kylo's laser sword meant nothing of note.

Rey couldn't argue. Even she knew red lightsabers were bad.

The lift came to a stop at last and Kon was the first off, with the others following him into CoCo town and on towards Dex's Diner. "How have you met all these people?" Rey asked, then, as the little bell rang over the diner door, a callback to long forgotten times, she added, "Do you know anyone in the next group we're meeting?" Probably Suralinda if Poe knew her. He hadn't mentioned her before Rey set off though it probably hadn't occurred to him with both her and Finn heading off to new missions while he had to try and recruit new people to their ridiculously small fleet.

So many had died trying to escape.


Kasimira was at the bar, with an unfamiliar man about ten years her junior wearing a brand-new suit. It was unlike her, but not particularly surprising, when Carise thought about it. The woman was infamously off-putting. No doubt she had given up on attracting a man of equal status to herself and settled for young, handsome, and gullible. Carise gestured to her with one bejeweled finger. The man next to her, who called himself ‘Mercurial Swift’—like some sort of masquerade performer, honestly, it was so gauche—nodded minutely.

Kasimira said something sharp to her young man, then rose from her stool and swept towards Carise in a ripple of black silk and barely leashed rage. This was exactly why Carise had brought a bodyguard to Canto Bite. There were all sorts of people here, from the degenerate to the dangerous, and even at a Senate meeting you never knew who you might encounter. Even the Tarkins, a wealthy family with a distinguished history of military service and loyalty to the government, were to a one savages. Nobody considered breeding or etiquette when appointing Senators anymore.

It would be nice to have some Order in place for a change.

As Kasimira approached, Carise smiled. Or at least, she bared her teeth. “Governor Tarkin, how lovely to see you. Exiting your barricades at last to interact with the common folk?” She swept her hand towards Swift. “I believe you’re already acquainted with my companion.”


“I’ve met Suralinda a couple times. She’s decent enough. Really committed to freedom of the press, making sure everyone has all the information and gets to make their own decisions. She’s not officially a Resistance operative because, and I quote, ‘I don’t want you turning my radio station into a propaganda factory’.” Jaumet grimaced comically as she took a seat at the counter. The menu blinked to life on the little screen in front of her. There were pictures of cheap, hot meals from a few dozen different planets, some of which would have been fatal to humans. “Which is fair enough. It’s not like we don’t have an agenda.”

Jaumet had helped write a couple of pieces of propaganda. It was sort of like what she and Rey were doing now, but on a much larger scale, courting thousands of people at once. She wasn’t half-bad at it, but she couldn’t make words sit up and dance the way the best writers could.

She tapped dancing images of toast with yellowberry jam and blue cheese and a cup of tea, then pushed the screen towards Rey. “And to answer your earlier question, I know all of these people because it’s literally my entire job. I go places, I meet people, I make them like me so that they’ll tell me everything I want to know.” She grinned. “Which is everything they know, ‘cause I’m nosey like that. It’s an easy job. I like you already, and I’ve probably told you more than I realize.” It wasn’t an easy job, but Rey didn’t need to hear that, and Jaumet was happy to play the fool to boost someone else’s confidence. That was probably a more accurate description of her job.

“Like…” she gestured towards Rey. “What have you learned about me?” Though there was something uncomfortable, about those bright eyes fixed on her and picking out all her secrets. Rey had unusually light eyes, and it made her gaze seem more intense than usual. Or maybe that was the Force. Jaumet broke eye contact to look at Kon over Rey’s shoulder. “Or about Kon, he’s fair game.”

“He is not,” Kon objected, a bit prickly.


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Kasimira could practically taste the blood on her lips when she looked at Carise Sindian and heard her little introduction about common folk. Her smile was more sincere, if only because she was amused with the little flair, “Oh, you’ve finally accepted what you are?” She had to say, as if truly moved by Carise’s change, “I am glad, the last I heard you were still crying in your ivory tower over the loss of your status. I had hoped you were adjusting well – you are a strong woman,” all false praise, “I would hate to find you still bitter over something so petty as losing your royal status and claim to Birren.”

Her eyes moved easily to Mercurial, noting the weapons at either hip. She knew the story of them, knew what they were capable of, but still imagined he would stand no chance against her training. She wasn’t hiding her own weapons so well, one at least flagrantly obvious in the slit of her dress. “Mercurial Swift, Grand Admiral Sloane’s favorite little mercenary, of course I know him. I hope you’re prepared for a rather boring shift, Swift,” she gave him a nod, acknowledging him and what he was.

Mercurial gave a cheerful grin, apparently pleased with still being recognized, and still deep in the persona he made for himself, “A boring job is still a well-paying one, Governor Tarkin, and the way I’ve heard it, nothing with you is ever boring,” he wasn’t one for politics, though he always leaned heavily towards the Empire, and the First Order, after saving the future General Hux from Arkanis.

Kasimira let her attention return to Carise, and she gestured out, “Do you wish to remain among your own, Senator Sindian, or shall we retire somewhere more private?”

She wasn’t going to let go of that ‘common folk’ reference now. She would beat it into the ground until Carise snapped over it, because of course Kasimira was going to embrace being ‘better’ than all the rest. She could lord it over Sindian and enjoy it far too much.


Rey stared in fascination at the menu when it blinked to life. This level of technology was not familiar to her, something so…advanced in a setting that seemed so casual. She had to lean forward to examine the device as Jaumet looked through the options of it, speaking still of the new group they were to meet.

Rey leaned back when it was pushed towards her, as if it was something that would explode, before curiously leaning back in, reading over every available option with a growing smile and a glitter in her eyes, as she started to narrow down what she wanted. Thanks to her upbringing from Jakku, she usually went for fresh greens and vegetables, relishing in the crisp crunch of them beneath her teeth and the way the juices exploded in her mouth.

She barely heard what Jaumet was saying as she started to click on a colorful salad and a bright, fizzy-looking drink, before letting the menu move towards Kon, just as Jaumet invited Rey to state what she had learned of her. Rey did look right at her when asked, hazel-green eyes trying to discern what to say for a moment. Her brows knit together as if in concentration, before it broke when Jaumet told her she could also speak of Kon – who disagreed.

A smile came to her lips easily then, “You’re nosy,” as she had just said, “You’re passionate, and you’re driven, and you’re talkative in a way that seems open but isn’t at all open,” Rey had used a tactic like that with Kylo, when he asked about the droid. She hadn’t lied to him, she just started rambling information off on the make-up of the droid. An openness, that wasn’t open. “You’ve done lots of hard labor in your life, I think,” from her build.

Rey knew how to read bodies in that way, coming from Jakku. Her own was built from that life, but she saw all the people who loaded things up for Unkar, and learned to recognize them apart from the Scavengers because they were bulkier, sturdier. “But your hair….” Her eyes lingered there, then, as if there was an entire story in her hair, in the braids. It reminded her of Leia in a way she couldn’t place. Rey’s buns were easy to do, hardly an elaborate thing, but what she’d seen of Jaumet suggested something there.

Something Rey didn’t understand, but felt, all the same. A story woven in each place strand. “I don’t know,” she finished lamely, “but it’s important, isn’t it? It reminds me of General Organa.” She offered a little smile, then pulled back, realizing how much she’d leaned forward, “Is that something? Is that good?” Had she read her well, or had she utterly failed?


Carise's lip curled. Of course Kasimira would immediately resort to petty personal attacks. Rightfully, she ought to have been on Carise's side; Leia bloody Organa would have had the entire Tarkin family executed on live holovision if it had been politically viable. But the woman insisted on playing neutral in every galactic disagreement, seemingly just for the joy of being unpleasant. "You and I both know exactly what Senatorial decrees are worth, darling," she said, trying for an airy tone and sensing that she was failing. "Try though they might, they can't smother the undeniable fact of our heritage. Blood bears true."

Carise would rule her planet again. And Tarkin would either fall in line with the new order of things, or be revealed for the violent savage she was.

"As it so happens, I have booked a private room at the Red Lantern across the street." It was a quieter restaurant, designed for under the table deals and secret trysts between those in power. "If you'd care to join me, I'm sure we could find a topic of conversation more to both our liking."

Unpleasant though Kasimira may have been, the name Tarkin still meant something to those who remained loyal to the Empire. Having her public support could mean tipping the remains of the Senate in the First Order's favor. And though the Tarkins had managed to survive the New Republic's purges largely unscathed, they'd lost much of their prestige and material wealth. A return to tradition would benefit Kasimira as well. Carise was confident that she could make her see that.

As they made their way to the door of The Brightest Star, neither noticed the young man at the bar watching them. He paid for his drink in cash, scratched his head as he turned in a way that hid his face from the roving security droid's camera, and slipped out the door behind them.


A small, charmed smile had spread across Jaumet's face as she'd watched Rey scrutinize the menu. Now the smile broadened, and she leaned back against the counter, propping her chin up in her hand. "That's good. You're right about the physical labor. I haven't done much of it lately, but I was a mechanic before I was a professional busy-body. Carrying around cranky astromechs and engine blocks takes muscle." She flexed an arm jokingly. There was muscle there. It just happened to be under a lot of fat.

"And the hair is an Alderaanian thing." Jaumet flipped her braid over her shoulder so that Rey could see it more easily. It was deceptively simple-looking, until you got close and realized that each section was its own small braid, that coiled around her head before meeting in a long tail down her back. She liked it for that, the hidden complexity. "We do all kinds of fancy things with our hair, it's kind of our jam. The General's hair looks different from mine because she's married--well. Widowed now, I guess." Han Solo had only been dead for two months. "Anyway. There are different hairstyles for married and unmarried women, and for girls too young to be married, and for people in mourning, or who've taken certain vows. But not all of them are symbolic. This one's just for fun."


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Red Lantern. Kasimira nodded at the idea, accepting it easily enough, though she didn’t think her sniper would like it. No matter. She could handle herself. It was a mantra that was constantly repeated, one known to every Tarkin. They made it on their own, no matter what. They were the only thing they could control, for certain. “Lead the way, Senator Sindian,” Kasimira gestured grandly out, and would indeed let her lead.

She did toss a look back, though. Dakson was gone. It wasn’t a surprise to her, she would have expected him to move on to others, and yet a lingering thought remained and nagged at her, that she hadn’t lost him yet. The direction of the conversation and the way it ended – she hoped she hadn’t lost him yet.

“Where did you get that scar?”

Out in the streets, she glanced back ahead to see that the mercenary had been doing a good job assessing her. He gestured at her neck, and she laughed a bit, then, “Former agent of the First Order, Terex.” She had been trying to steal the Carrion Spike back from him. Hadn’t ended so well for either of them. Terex was only ‘former’ because he rage-quit the First Order. Kasimira wished she could recruit him, but he’d determined he wanted to stop caring about the fate of the galaxy.

Still, she definitely had Wolf trying to find him. She liked Terex, in spite of it all. She was fairly certain he had a relationship with Wilhuff – per the journals left behind, Wilhuff was definitely seeing some Stormtrooper, though he was never named. It would explain how Terex would have known so much about the Carrion Spike. One day, she was determined to at least meet Terex before age caught up with him, for drinks.

To reminiscence about an Empire she never knew, and all that the galaxy could have been. “He’s fun,” Kasimira added as they slipped into the Red Lantern, and Carise spoke to the hostess to have them taken to the private room. ‘Nope, no windows.’ Kasimira noted as she stepped in. The entire building was cast in a red light, playing on the aesthetic of the name, with little paper lights on the table.

Naturally, they were asked if they wanted anything to get them started, “Just some lum.” Swift said,

“Water,” Kasimira wasn’t going to drink anymore in the presence of Sindian. Even if Sindian read it as a slight victory from the twitch of her lips, and turned her own head to order.

“I would like some Coruscant Black, please,” the please just came from years of training in the formalities, the wine was one of her preferences, a good vintage from the Crown World. The waiter left them, and returned not long after, but didn’t ask of appetizers. Kasimira took the water to her lips then, and asked, “So, what topic did you have in mind, Carise?” She slipped into informal in the privacy of the room, as if there were no titles or anything else between them.


Rey did laugh a bit at Jaumet’s elaboration on her previous occupation. She had a way of reading that much about people by their body. It had saved her on more than one occasion to know who could hold their own in a fight, and what kind of violence they may choose to dish out. She’d learned a lot about reading the body’s posture and what it was used to, from Jakku, and the scavengers and traders that came to the planet.

The hair was also notable, and for a reason that did tie to Leia. Rey couldn’t help but lean in a bit as Jaumet expanded upon a culture now long-lost, and how their hair had meant so much to them. They told their story with their hair, although Jaumet admitted that hers was just for fun, “It’s still beautiful,” Rey indicated, and she forced herself to lean back then, before looking at Kon. “Are you sure you don’t want to be read?” She said in an amused, almost chidingly so, tone.

“No, no, I’m quite good,” the twi’lek indicated, waving it off carelessly.

“Why don’t you try a stranger?” A man in his 30s asked, voice piping up, and Rey glanced over as he approached, datapad under his arm. He stopped at Jaumet’s side of the booth and leaned against it, though carefully leaning back and a bit away, too, trying to offer some space. “Sorry, I couldn’t help but overhear – reading people you don’t know is the best way to get good at it.” The phrase ‘get good’ slipped so easily from a hobby that he didn’t even think of it.

HoloGames would be the death of him.

Kon opened his mouth, recognizing the stranger as ‘Wolf’ by his name, but he’d asked for either Rey or Jaumet to read him, and Kon was morbidly curious what either could tell about him, either by his lazy posture, the attire of neutral hues, black slacks and an off-white top, with black fingerless gloves, an earpiece, and glasses that Kon knew served no use for his green eyes – well, he thought they didn’t since they were usually flickering with information and the HoloNet.

He wore a lazy grin, and his hair looked a mess of black atop his head. Though most knew him as Wolf, he had a name – Jahan Isard. Few were allowed to know it, though Suralinda definitely did, and had agreed that Wolf was better for the populations lest certain unsavory ideas be drawn about him.


“I’d like to discuss the future.” Carise sipped her wine, savoring the rich, smoky flavor. “In the wake of Hosnia, the balance of power in the Senate has shifted considerably. It is no longer viable to play the neutral party, as you—and others—have for so long. The weak-willed majority who fear losing the popular vote too much to ever take a stance on any issue have been…eliminated.” And good riddance to bad rubbish. Surely Kasimira felt the same way. Monstrous though the Tarkins may have been, they had never abided uselessness.

“I have been speaking with several of our fellow Senators who believe that now is the opportune time to take back control of the galaxy from those who would see destroyed what our fathers worked so hard to build. With their leaders dead and their planetary governments in chaos, I believe that we could get some real work done. I want to know that we can count on your vote, when the time comes.”

And if not, well. There was always some third-born son somewhere who would be perfectly willing to be a puppet if he got a title and a manor. Swift could kill Kasimira, now or later, and Carise would have her replacement in position before the sun rose on Eriadu. It would be a shame to lose Kasimira’s mind, but better to have it out of the game entirely than on the opposing side, and they would at least keep her resources.


“Well, you’re an eavesdropper, I can tell you that much,” Jaumet drawled, swiveling to face the man. He was leaning against the booth like he hadn’t a care in the world, but not actually encroaching on her personal space enough to set off any alarms. Older than her, but not by much. Well-made clothing too unfashionable for it not to be deliberate, and fingerless gloves without the wear and tear they’d have if he’d actually needed them for work. Artfully messy hair. Datapad, earpiece, hologlasses—he needed to be tapped into information constantly. A reporter of some kind, or maybe an analyst? A slicer? An Holonet addict, that was for certain.

“You trade in information,” she said, because that was a given. “You’re doing pretty well for yourself, too, or maybe you just come from money—nice glasses, by the way.” She tapped her chin in mock thoughtfulness. “You care about your appearance, but not about whats on the fashion sites. An individualist.” More likely he was just following the trends of whatever subculture he belonged to, but a little flattery had never hurt anyone. “Haven’t done much physical labor recently. I’m guessing you’re a slicer, but don’t hold me to that. But you’re comfortable approaching strangers and asking them to cold-read you, so whatever your job is, it requires you to interact with other people.” Her brow furrowed. Information trade and chatting up strangers—it was starting to sound a lot like her job.

“Also, you think we have some reason to be interested in you,” she said slowly, the pieces coming together in her head. “I don’t know you, and she doesn’t know you—“ she gestured to Rey “—but you haven’t introduced yourself, which you would have if you were trying to win the trust of strangers. So you know Kon?” She glanced over at Kon, who nodded, clearly entertained. Way back when they’d first met, when Jaumet had been a baby spy and Kon had been a teenaged message runner who shivered near-constantly, she’d entertained him by analyzing people in the tea shop.

“You know Kon,” she said, turning back to the man. “And Kon doesn’t know anybody who hasn’t committed at least one crime. So you’re a slicer, a proud non-conformist, and you want to talk to the strange human tourists. You’re one of our contacts.”

Kon had mentioned a human male who worked for Suralinda. What was his alias again?

“Don’t tell me,” she said, snapping her fingers, “Don’t tell me, it’s some kind of animal, something that lives in a forest. Walluga? Wulkarsk?”


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
‘Hosnia? Who calls it Hosnia?’ Kasimira didn’t scoff at it, just sipped at her water and didn’t correct Carise. ‘Hosnian Prime.’ The planet. The Hosnian System, gone. Carise should care more, but no doubt all of her allies made it off, or were forewarned not to go. She spoke of these allies, and others, but no names.

Kasimira debated if she cared about the names. She could ask Carise what others she was speaking to, play as if she were someone who wanted to be protected by good names, but it wasn’t a game she wanted to play. No – she didn’t care. The cowards were soon to reveal themselves, especially after she made her move.

Carise was meant to be an opening move. The problem was, Carise was still a senator, through and through. Her vague words were meant to inspire trust, but they also allowed her to backpedal on anything, and Kasimira had no time for it. Especially after enduring it just moments earlier with Dakson.

Her lips quirked into something more coy, and far more dangerous, before she leaned forward, set the water between herself and Carise, “I could say yes,” she told Carise, “and vote against you, thinking I understood what you wanted. We all want change, Senator Sindian. I have always wanted to see real work done in the Senate, and intended to see it done when I arose to its ranks.” In her proper time.

Pity they had to go and kill her father and get her there before she learned the man’s patience. “I’m not so accustomed to these games of vague words and hiding your intentions so you can backpedal if it all goes wrong, and make claims that you never actually meant what others interpreted. State it bluntly, Senator, or not at all – what are you wanting from me?” She needed the confession, in a way.

If it was going to be her first move, she needed to make sure it was an accurate move, that Carise was of the First Order, far beyond a mere sympathizer.


The Wolf kept that grin on his lips as Jaumet read over him, nodding along at things he agreed with, though it was at the fashion she got a chuckle from him. He was more or less following a trend. His natural attire would have earned him a beating – people didn’t like Imperial attire, for the most part, and if he tried to step in certain groups wearing it, he’d probably be shot. Another reason he didn’t use his name in many of those groups.

“I’m not one of your contacts,” he told her, “right place, right time,” and not accidental, admittedly. He didn’t add that part, “I’m not quite as cool as a wulkarsk, wasn’t good enough for the Pride,” not the Nexu Pride, but he was good in other ways, “I’m just Wolf.” The Alpha of his pack, which wasn’t Suralinda’s. That was just another of his many groups.

The Wolf Pack itself worked alongside the Nexu Pride that Kasimira Tarkin headed, but enough edgy people had names, or used names, based on animals – especially in his line of business – so he doubted it would ever click together. Besides, the Wolf Pack wasn’t known, or they made a point of trying not to be known. Otherwise their gig as slicers and the like would be up.

“You’re with Suralinda, though,” Rey remembered the name drop earlier. A slicer, Kon had mentioned, “Are you here to meet us?”

He shook his head again, repeated, “Right time, right place. I saw Kon and figured you were the people I would be seeing earlier, so I wanted to swing on by and see what I was looking at before I had to deal with the ground. So you’re Rey, the Jedi, and you’re Jaumet, the Alderaanian,” both were given the same weight, Jedi and Alderaanian, as if they both had the same rarity and special powers.

“And where are you from, Wolf?” Rey asked.

“Guess and I’ll say,” he smirked. He gave very little for free and he pushed away from the booth he was leaning on. “Can you use the Force?”

“Of cou—”

“Prove it.”

Rey furrowed her brows, letting them knit together. She didn’t want to, especially not when he hadn’t told her where he was from. She was about to say as much, but he seemed to read the frustration on her face – not that she was hiding it, “I’ll tell you where I’m from.”

“Fine,” it came out like a puff of air, and Rey lifted one hand up, and looked at the silverware left on the table. With a deep inhale, she twitched her fingers, and brought up first the fork, then the knife, and then the spoon, to hover above the table.

Wolf arched a single brow, and then gave a nod of satisfaction, “I’m from here – the Crown World.” A term rarely used by rebels, but he didn’t care for the drop of Imperial Lingo. He was testing them in his ways, after all.


Some thought honestly and boldness a virtue, but Carise knew better. The comfort of discretion—of plausible deniability, if she was being honest with herself—was always preferable in the long run to speaking the truth brashly. But the warmth and quiet of the Red Lantern promised that nothing she said would travel further than its doors. And crass though Kasimira might have been, she was far from a gossip. Carise made her move.

“Arkanis is siding with the First Order. It’s the only way to keep the galaxy from falling into ruin. We’re hardly the only ones. Bishmoun, Gormill, Cose—they’ve all agreed to work together towards a common goal.” The senators of Athulla, Kerroc, and Vardos, respectively. None of them surprising allies, but powerful, and perhaps hearing their names would make Kasimira realize how serious this was.

“We’ll support each others’ bills, trade only with First Order-allied planets. And when the time comes, we’ll vote to eliminate the restrictions that have kept us from spreading our ideals.”


Jaumet squashed a childish irritation at being wrong. It wasn’t important—she’d been mostly right, and in any case, Rey was clearly the main attraction. Which was the whole point of this expedition, after all. Show off the Jedi, drum up support for what was a rapidly dwindling party of do-gooders. And Rey was doing a damn good job of it.

Jaumet had never seen somebody use the Force before, obviously. She’d heard stories, but in the stories, it was some mighty power that changed the future and moved mountains. The cutlery hovering above the countertop was more awe-inspiring for how small and real it was. Jaumet felt her breath catch in her throat. She reached out to touch one tine of the fork, feeling it solid and cool under her finger.

Focus. There was no time for her to get distracted. The familiarity of Dex’s and of Kon’s company, and her relatively secure position with the Liberators, had lulled her into a false sense of comfort. But there was danger on Coruscant. Wolf’s next words proved that much. The Crown World was an old name for Coruscant, and one that held certain connotations of Imperial sympathies. Wolf could have been with them, or he could have been baiting her to see if she noticed the turn of phrase. She had to stay sharp.

“You just couldn’t wait to meet us when everybody else on your team did? Looking to get an exclusive interview with the first of the new Jedi?” That sounded a damn sight better than the last of the Jedi. Less final. Less like the Resistance was dying out, and more like they were growing stronger.


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Kasimira was nearly stunned to silence when Carise Sindian dropped the names of her allies. The names did not surprise her, merely the fact Carise offered it so easily. Kasimira’s poker face didn’t drop, she maintained her expression blunted interest, while her mind raced over a thousand actions.

Most of her wanted to lift the blaster she had and wordlessly shoot Carise. It was a blind rage, a blind instinct, that better thought told her was stupid. Killing Carise was the priority, but acting against Carise before Mercurial was dead would be too high a gamble, which meant she had to get Carise to order him to act, or get out of the room and alert the Nexu Pride of what she needed.

Both possibilities lied in one act: saying no.

Kasimira sipped at the water when Carise was finished as if taking it all in, as if she had to think about it – to make a hard decision. She swallowed slow, tasting it, savoring it. It may very well be the last thing she ever tasted before she choked on blood. “I appreciate your honesty, truly,” in more words than she’d ever use to express it. “So I shall be honest with you as well, Sindian. Armitage Hux,” she wasn’t calling him General, a petty show of disrespect, but one Carise would understand, “called me to forfeit the Seswenna Sector to him. I did not refuse him, nor did I consent.” No, she filled it with ships and all but dared him to come.

He didn’t, and that told her enough. “While I may have been interested in an alliance once, Armitage has already shown he is not interested in an alliance, and I’ve no interested in surrendering Seswenna to the First Order, so I am afraid I have to decline your invitation to side with the First Order. I must instead side against them.” Her smile was apologetic and mocking, “I apologize for wasting your time, Senator Sindian.” She started to rise, and though she held Carise’s gaze as she did so, she was waiting for a flash of movement from the other, more than anything.

She doubted she was going to be allowed out of that room with the names of allies.


Rey was intrigued by the reaction of Jaumet, face twisting up a bit in amusement and confusion. While it was true she hadn’t explicitly shown her the Force, she was surprised by the awe that Jaumet was exhibiting, so unhindered and unhidden when she reached out to simply touch a fork. Rey canted her head, as Wolf’s brows raised only slightly, not half as impressed, before Rey released the fork.

It fell to the table with a clatter.

She wasn’t as good with putting things down, yet.

Wolf shook his head at the query, “I don’t interview,” not in the standard fashion of those Suralinda ran with, anyways. This was an interview of sort, though – making sure the Jedi was up to the job title. She had the Force. He confirmed that. “Don’t think I’m on board yet – I don’t like the Jedi.” He stated it bluntly, which caused Rey only more confusion, her earlier amusement and surprise by Jaumet forgotten.

She found herself going to the defensive immediately, “Why not?” It showed in her tone, and the posture. “The Jedi were the peacekeepers – they protected this galaxy and had a solid Order that—” He didn’t have to say anything to interrupt her, it was the placating, almost infuriatingly cocky, smile. It was strange how it could be both, as if she was a child.

“I’m sure we can talk about it another time, assuming you pass the other trials before you. I’m something of a final boss,” he smirked, then, “well, maybe more like…reoccurring villain who gets progressively more difficult.” He played way too many games. “Think about what you just said though. Think about those lightsabers, and peace, and ask any person from Gatalenta what they think – sans the late Amilyn Holdo.”

“May the Goddess guide her,” Kon found himself murmuring without truly thinking about it. Amilyn had been a firebrand, an early leader her separated herself from the norms of her people to join the Rebel Alliance.

Rey knit her brows together. To her, it made sense – peacekeepers had to fight to maintain peace. She’d always fought on Jakku – she would fight now, too. What was the problem?

Wolf didn’t wait for her to lash out again, just tipped a couple of fingers at them in a salute, “I’ll see you soon,” and with that, he did turn to leave.


Finn had always had a sixth sense for when things were about to go sideways. Sometimes he could say what it was that had tipped him off—a strange noise, a poorly-concealed weapon, an expression flickering across an officer’s face—but sometimes it was nothing but the sudden awareness that A Thing was coming, and that it probably wasn’t good.

He followed Tarkin and Sindian and the man with a blaster out of the Bright Star and across the street to another restaurant, this one with a burly-looking bouncer who glowered at Finn forbodingly when he lingered outside the door. The back entrance was similarly guarded by a security droid, but the fresher window wasn’t. Finn climbed inside, straightened out his suit, and walked out into the restaurant.

Tarkin’s bright red hair wasn’t visible at any of the tables. Finn saw a waiter—an actual human waiter, this place was classy—guide a group of men down a hall and into their own room. Private dining. He followed them at a distance. A crisply educated Core-world accent echoed from behind one of the doors.

“—no interest in surrendering Seswenna to the First Order,” Tarkin was saying. “So I am afraid I have to decline your invitation to side with the First Order.” She sounded proud and smug and not apologetic in the least, and underneath his anxiety, Finn felt sharply satisfied. He’d been right. Tarkin hadn’t gone over to the Order just yet.

Now he just had to stop her from getting shot. There was an irritated hiss of breath from somebody, the scrape of a chair moving back from the table. Finn reached under his jacket and drew out the his blaster. “I apologize for wasting your time, Senator Sindian,” Tarkin said.

Someone else shoved their chair back. Finn wrenched the door open and strode into the room with his blaster already pointed at the armed man.

“Well, that was a weird human being,” Jaumet said, as Wolf exited the diner.

“All human beings are weird.”

“That one was weirder.” If he was with Suralinda, there was no way that he was also with the First Order, but he certainly talked like a sympathizer. Didn’t like the Jedi, but curious enough to seek one out—which, again, had been the whole point of bringing Rey along, and the whole danger as well. Jaumet thought they were okay to stay in the diner, though. Coruscant was a crowded world, and while information traveled fast, nothing else did. They’d be able to eat their meals and be gone before anyone with ill intentions could mobilize.

“I mean, who calls themselves a final boss, right?” Jaumet turned to Rey as their food arrived, her tone light. “That guy was a side quest at best.”


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
There was a flash of movement from Mercurial Swift. That much, Kasimira expected.

There was a flash of movement from her other side, she had no time to truly register who it was, not in any depth, but she understood they were an ally as he came in with a blaster and his face registered.

Mercurial already had his batons in his hand, but the arrival threw him. There was a moment’s hesitation as he registered it, a moment that was all Kasimira needed to grab the dagger at her leg, before Mercurial regained his senses and moved forward.

‘Hope you’re a fast shot.’ Kasimira thought as she stepped back when Mercurial chose to move forward quickly, still keeping her as the target rather than the stranger who barged in. Kasimira kept him in her peripheral, but her eyes locked back on Carise, and she threw the dagger at her, rather than Mercurial.

She was hoping Carise was overwhelmed by the scene, hoping she wouldn’t expect Kasimira to sacrifice her safety to get a shot in at her. Carise wasn’t known for being battle-ready or combat trained, but considering her life as a spy, she could be and Kasimira could have just given over a weapon to her.

Or Carise could get lucky and dodge, but Kas was hoping not. She was hoping to get that dagger in, and put an end to her reign then and there.

And avoid Mercurial, who had gotten way too close – he was as swift as his name implied, and Kasimira was already looking away from where she’d thrown the dagger to find a place to lunge towards to get out of the way of his baton in case the stranger was not that fast on the draw.


Rey really didn’t understand much of the video game talk – except that she knew it was video game talk. She glanced between Kon and Jaumet, the confusion knitting her brows, before she just shrugged, “I guess someone full of themselves,” that was the only answer, wasn’t it? The question was really, did he have reason to be full of himself, or not? Rey imagined he may, but perhaps, it wasn’t all from himself.

He was a slicer – and while it was a lonely gig, or so Rey heard, he was also a part of Suralinda’s group. He was someone connected. He must have connections in high places. “Why wouldn’t someone like the Jedi?” She had heard Luke, of course, but Luke was suffering from bad decisions.

Kon hissed in a breath, “Some parts of the Jedi history…aren’t rosy.” He admitted, “It’s all stories now, so I don’t know what’s true, but let’s just say the First Order wasn’t the only one stealing babies for power. And there are a lot of people who think the Jedi used more than just the Force to keep peace...and power and influence."

Rey’s eyes widened at that. “The Jedi wouldn—”

Kon raised his hands up at her defensive tone, “I do not know. I know some believe that,” he said, “Maybe Wolf is one of them?” Rey frowned, “You’ll just have to convince them that what you intend to do with the Jedi, is good and wholesome.”

She felt herself sink back into her seat. She never imagined that would actually be a challenge, but if there were people who thought that, what else did they think? The Empire must have said a lot of bad things about the Jedi, though Rey never heard any of that on Jakku. She only heard about Luke…but it was naïve to think Luke’s story was the only one, when the Jedi were a large organization before that.

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