“Sidney, we’re living at the moment in history when it all comes together. You see it, don’t you?”
“White, I see a lot of things,” the President of Pan-Empyrean replied as he looked out from the visage his personal space station presented. There were glasses of the darkest wine in front of them. “Some of them aren’t even for you to know.”
The woman looked pensive for a moment, though not frustrated. “And what does that neurotic monster in the Fracture know, scrying for souls across time and space as she is wont to do?”
“Would it be trite of me to say ‘everything and nothing’?”
“Very, Sidney. Very.” A droll sigh, and she looked down at the table.
“Well, let me cheer you up. She can’t know this. It’s beyond even her. Or rather, it’s outside of her core competencies to figure out the easy way; eventually she’ll find out the hard way, of course, and then I’ll deal with that. But a Time Lord…”
White sucked in her breath. “So I’m right.”
Sidney cut her off without confirming or denying that. “It’s not your place, White. Not your’s, and not Black’s, and not Blue’s, and not Red’s.” A dry chuckle. “And certainly not Yellow’s.”
The woman reached for her glass, her eyes flashing up. “I haven’t run from a fight yet. Let me…”
“It’s not your place. I…” His lips flashed into a grin. “Here. They do need a lot of help. A shaping operation, to use the military term. I’ll tell you what you can do. Do we have a deal?”
The woman tossed back her glass. “I’ll settle for it. Deal me in.”
1 … The Doctor with Everything to Prove
Nah’dur was taller than her mother, the only one of her daughters who was, which sometimes irritated Shai’jhur, but of course she knew where the woman got it from, right along with her brash auburn hair--and she was still much shorter than her other mother had been. Nonetheless, today she was wearing a white t-shirt with a barcode on it which her ample bosom strained at. Her mother knew from pointing her new omnitool at it that the barcode read “I have Tall Dilgar genes, and I’m a successful Surgeon-Commander in the military! It’s okay for Dilgar to be diverse. Get tested today and share your story of Dilgar biodiversity!”
She’d have been shot when I was a girl, Shai’jhur thought. The sigh was mental, as she glanced back to her wife. “Kaveri, I think this is about…”
“Yes, it absolutely is,” Nah’dur raised a hand urgently. “It is absolutely about Zhen’var!”
“Don’t interrupt your mother, girl,” Shai’jhur growled.
Sometimes, Nah’dur was even a handful for Kaveri, and she shook her head. “Peace, both of you. Nah’dur, please offer more respect to your mother?” There was the unspoken; And she is an adult, Shai’jhur, it’s too late to try and instill discipline now!
Nah’dur sighed. “Yes, Mother-Kaveri. I’m sorry, Mother-Shai. I just feel very excited about this because it’s a matter of principle. Moral principle! You understand those certainly, Kaveri’Varma. We are Dilgar and we should not bow on a matter of hearts to fear of what humans will think of us!”
“Nah’dur…” Kaveri’s voice had a vaguely warning tone in it. “While I do understand them, it is, perhaps, not the correct emotional tug to attempt in the circumstance. What moral principle do you believe at stake?”
“I believe in an absolute right of bodily autonomy. Yes, I know there isn’t a biological reason to be a Dilgar specifically, but to Zhen’var belonging is very important, Mother-Kaveri,” she said, addressing the Indian woman -- and the longer she did, the more serious her voice got. “We all accept her. People will accept her in the streets -- they’re not going to see her as anything different than a normal Dilgar. I’ve got a plan. We’ll go to the United Solarian Sovereignty. It won’t backfire because by the time we’re done, neurochemically, it will be who she is. I can make it happen.”
Shai’jhur looked like she wanted to badly interject, swiveling her chair, but she held her tongue out of respect for her wife even as her daughter spoke what seemed half-baked lunacy. Inside, Shai’jhur, who had spent so long waiting to get to this place of safety and security, knew that even if it was unwise, she should certainly not underestimate one of her daughters at the biological execution.
“You have discussed this with my daughter, then? I know she has…” She glanced to Shai’jhur. “Zhengli has expressed… interest in something similar to this. I encouraged her to seek therapy, at the time. There have been some people who cruelly mutilated themselves trying to make themselves into Minbari after that war.”
“She doesn’t need to be a Dilgar to be part of our society,” Shai’jhur said curtly, looking at her daughter. “It’s a disaster. ‘Dilgar start turning aliens into Dilgar’, just the headline I want to hear about on Zhabar and Brakos. Daughter, you know that I have spent most of the past three decades choking down human culture in an effort to make them accept us, you would blow it up in a single afternoon, and how do you even know this is actually what she really wants, as opposed to part of her emotional crisis after the Huáscar mutiny?”
“Mother, this is about what’s right, and anyway, hardly anyone will know, it’s not like I’d publish this in Medical Journals … Well, except for Dilgar language ones. Mother-Kaveri, she’s really insistent. And it’s all just so brutal to go around trying to change the consciousness, change the psyche, when we can just make the biology fit. Mother-Shai, you know that yourself. You walked a human road precisely to save the rest of us from doing it, you know it hurts the mind. But we can unchain the body to follow the mind, now! Change your race, change your eye colour, your skin colour, hair colour… Add a few extra arms! Change your sex, your height… All of this is possible with the right biological science, and I shall allow her to change her species completely.”
Nah’dur actually spun a little in excitement. “Oh, but then she shall know all that we are -- I will make everything perfect. I can do it; the technology is available, and I understand the cells well enough for it to work! During the War, we said we fought the Gods, but now we may say we will steal the powers of creation from them!”
“Nah’dur, don’t go off praising that half-baked propaganda from the War,” Shai’jhur snarled. “It’s downright blasphemous.”
Kaveri raised a hand to forestall an argument between the two. “Word will eventually get out, Nah’dur, you do know that. I have to ask… and forgive me for doing so; how much of this is earnestly helping her, and how much is your unconscious desire to prove yourself equal to your clan name?” By her tone, Kaveri knew it was both, just not the balance between the two.
“Well… It is something worthy of being a Dur, I would hardly deny it. But I’d never do this to someone who didn’t want it, truly, and she truly does, mothers..” Nah’dur almost stuttered with the built-up energy. “She is miserable, and she wants to belong. She has a path forward which demonstrates acceptance to her. Look, with all due respect, we’re Dilgar, and we want to see, be friends, and make love to other Dilgar. I see and respect you as my mother, Kaveri-mother, but both the Jhur and Dur are much higher in intelligence and reflection than the average person in either Dilgar or human society. You are my mother’s wife, and you are happy being the honoured human who married the Warmaster. She is not, she wants to belong, and that does mean being physically congruent, down to biochemical response, with the existence of a Dilgar!”
Kaveri listened, with a growing respect for the youngest daughter of Dur. She actually understood very well the dangerous course her mother had walked for so long, in fear and silence, and also the complicated position that Kaveri herself occupied in DIlgar society. She spoke eloquently, and she wasn’t lying about Zhengli. “I will be frank. My daughter has been insistent, Shai’jhur. I fear that she will push for this. It is partially my fault, having to leave her alone at boarding schools during my deployments… but she has always been uncomfortable. The promise of belonging will… beckon strongly. Of finally ending the disassociation and difference that has always gnawed at her.”
Shai’jhur bowed her head, allowing for, at least, the rightness of the conversation occurring between her daughter and her mate. Her attempt to put a human face on the reforms of her society had driven much the same wedge between herself and her own children.
“Mother-Kaveri,” Nah’dur continued, “she’s told us about how you taught her Dilgar when she was just a child, and you’d always speak in it to keep it from going dead. She’s like you in tremendous ways, she looks up to you. For all you were apart in how you see yourselves, she has a ferocious sense of her trueness as a member of the Clan of Var. She wants to honour that name, just with our ways and customs of honouring our clans.”
“I’m not sure we can really stop them, Shai’jhur, if we even should, though you must bear the weight of the decision for what is best for our people. I… think we should let it happen, quietly.” Kaveri looked to her wife.
“You support your kit following this course?” Shai’jhur’s eyes flitted to Kaveri. “Even with our wedding, my love, her fate… It is not mine to judge.”
“She is a woman grown. If she thinks it necessary and desirable in her heart, and has thought and meditated deeply upon it… nor is it mine. Nah’dur, if Zhengli truly desires this, you have my permission to proceed, but… mind your sister.”
“She is my sister, Mother-Kaveri. If I harm she of my heart’s blood…” She gripped her own hands behind her back. “I could not even think about it. You know I will be there with her the whole time.”
“I do, but the Solarians have a quite… interesting polity, Nah’dur. She has never seen the like. Nor have you, and it is a major medical procedure. Mind your sister, that is your charge.”
Nah’dur snapped to attention. “The Charge is Taken, as long as I still have blood.” Those words had tremendous power in her society, it was no small oath.
“Then you two may go, Nah’dur. Bring back my daughter, Zhen’var.” Kaveri glanced to her wife. “It should be well enough, Shai’jhur.”
Shai’jhur raised her hand. “Fei’nur is going with you, and let her take that Charge as well, girl.”
“Yes, Mother,” Nah’dur bowed, but there was a triumphant flare to the grin she had as she departed.
Afterwards, Shai’jhur heaved a sigh. “Kaveri, sometimes I just see too much Jha’dur in her. I’m thankful she responds so well to you.”
“I think she is what Jha’dur could have been, in… a different world. One where she was not shaped by the pressure of… what was coming. I like to think that is a good thing.”
As Nah’dur left the room, she had an utterly triumphant look. “Fei’nur, Fei’nur!” She exclaimed to the empty air around her, thoroughly like a madwoman. “They agreed! They agreed to my plan to let Zhen’var have her wish and become a Dilgar! It shall be the greatest achievement of science! The Vorlons and their Triluminary shall pale compared to this perfection!”
Seeming to ghost out of the air came a soft rebuke; “Don’t get too carried away, Nah’dur. This is not without risk, though… it is quite the advance. The Warmaster would have found the details most interesting.”
“Well, of course I’m not getting carried away…. I’m helping people. This is the sovereign right of people to demand, that the right to determine their own bodies, to follow their own hearts… My sister will be my sister! I am doing nothing but freeing souls from the prisons of their bodies, re-shaping flesh and genes. It’s completely congruent with the Alliance constitution as well as many interuniversal systems of philosophical morality.” She folded her hands behind her back, and grinned. “Also it’s really cool that someone already wants to be a Dilgar.”
“I do not understand why… but I honor that she wishes to, when she has already stood with us so readily.” Fei’nur’s voice was less enthused, more contemplative in tone. “You have found another cause, haven’t you, Nah’dur?”
“I don’t think I can have enough causes, Fei’nur! But my sister would be cause enough, even if I had no other... Yes, Fei’nur, I believe in standing for principles. I think they’ll show us the victors in the end. A brave stand saved us once, it can do it again.” She shook, and her voice dropped an octave into a husky, intent whisper, as she gazed up into a future only she could see. “I might be able to save as many people as she ended, Fei’nur. Wouldn’t that be incredible?”
“It would be. It was not what she wanted to do… but none will care about that but you and your family.”
Nah’dur sighed and turned toward Fei’nur with a wry smile, and reached out for a hug into the thin air. “I know, but part of it is in making our people strong enough. I want to be a biologist without shame. I -- I won’t let them make me ashamed.”
Shimmering into view, the arms of the commando wrapped around her. “They will try, but you will not let them. She will be proud of you, Nah’dur.” Emotion filled Fei’nur’s voice as she pulled the young scientist tightly against her.
“I wish I could save her,” Nah’dur answered quietly. “But that is too much even for me. Gods, Fei’nur, help me with my sister, because everything I do in medicine is to honour Her.”
“I know, young woman of Dur,” Fei’nur whispered.
“...Oh, don’t be so glum, this is tremendous, we’re going to Solaris for the procedure since they have the best tech for it, aaaand... the Warmaster is going to have you come with me!”
Fei’nur’s expression at once became studiously blank in horror.
2 … The Unstable Captain
“Oh my God… Are … Are you actually … Zhengli?” Sharon Farallon’s face had drained of all colour as she stared at the woman she had once respected as her Captain.
“Sharon! I understand your need to ask, but yes, I am!” There was a hint of shock and affront in her voice as the woman before her replied.
“Zhengli…” She patted at the sides of her Alliance uniform, like she was looking for something, and knew she wouldn’t find it. And then, very hesitantly, she reached her hand out. “Didn’t … They have therapists here, Zhengli, Mother of God… Why?”
Reaching out her hand to meet Sharon’s, the other woman’s face shifted into a melancholy sort of look. “They do, but I’m happy, Sharon. For the first time in my life, I really belong, nobody sees me as… apart from everyone else at the very first glance.”
“Humanity has failed you that badly?” She held Zhengli’s hand, thinking to herself I will be brave, I respect this woman, I will be brave… Even when I don’t understand. “Did we all just leave you to your hell?”
“I… think it more that none of you, really, saw it, Sharon. I don’t hold it against you, a Captain is always isolated on her ship, I know that, but since I was a girl, I never fit in, and in EarthForce, almost everyone whispered and gave me second glances.”
“What’s happened to your mother, Zhengli?” Her voice fell, holding her former Captain’s hand, tears welling at her eyes.
“My… mother? She’s… fine, I more than fine, I would say. The happiest I’ve ever seen her, I think. She just… was never there when I was growing up, she couldn’t be, with being an officer… why are you asking, Sharon…?” There was puzzlement in the woman’s voice.
“I know she loves Dilgar, but…” Sharon shrugged helplessly. “What… I mean, what’s different for you?” She half-stuttered. “Do you still feel like yourself?”
“I do! It… feels right, somehow, and my new sisters have been helping as best they can. Nah’dur especially so.”
“....Sisters. Nah’dur.” She opened her mouth, and her expression ceased to be nearly so kind. “Zhengli, what about your shipmates? Us Huáscareños? You’re worthy of being compared to Grau and Prat, and you … Followed these Dilgar, listened to them, trusted them, and…” She swallowed like she didn’t want to say the words, but finally, in a hoarse whisper, did. “Turned yourself into one.”
Her eyes widened, and Zhengli’s face twisted into one of pained shock. “I’m still me, Sharon! I’m still Zhengli’Varma! Nothing I can do will ever change my soul or my spirit, I…” Much softer, she went on. “... I am sorry, Sharon, but I am happier this way.” Her black-tipped nose twitched, and feline eyes furiously blinked back tears. “I didn’t think I’d have to ask you for forgiveness,” she finished with a bitterly hurt tone to her voice.
“Oh God I didn’t mean that, if this is your peace, if this is your peace, Zhengli, I’m glad you have it. I’m just afraid that … Zhengli, you know what I’m afraid of. Is… Is this Minbari War Syndrome? You’d just be the first person to get surgical alterations into a Dilgar...”
“I know, Sharon, that that’s what you’ve been raised, indoctrinated to think. But this is my decision. I’m… still with you, still a Huáscareño, if you will have me. I wanted… to invite you to sail with us on the new cruiser that shall bear her name, but I’ll… understand if you say no. My mother and I are… happy of our own free will, please believe that.”
“Zhengli, you’re … They’re giving you another command? I was just about to offer to send you things, I’d have figured you’d move to Tira, after all… It seems like a nice enough world. Beaches, sun.” Her face was still pale. “They’re giving you another command?” She looked positively ashamed, and half-stricken.
“I… might, once I actually retire, actually… but… yes. One of the big new cruisers, a joint crew between Dilgar and the rest of the UAS, and… she’ll bear our Huáscar’s name in honour of what she did.”
“I appreciate the faith you have in me, Zhengli, and it doesn’t matter what you look like or what your species is now. You’re always welcome in my home, we’ve shared together more than most can survive. But I’m sorry. That… I don’t think I’m the right woman for the job.” She coughed uncomfortably, looking down.
“I understand, Sharon, really, I do.” She smiled, showing a bit of teeth, though there was a hinted flash of disappointment in her expression. “Just as you understand why I had to ask.”
“We’ll always have to meet in some dingy dockside bar when our ships fall in together,” Sharon offered, hesitantly daring to look at her former Captain again. “I hope this works out for you, Zhengli.”
“We will, as long as there aren’t any Drazi… and I hope it does too. The same for you, Sharon.” Zhengli made namaste, and her face formed a real smile. “Your people had better learn quick how lucky they are to have you.”
“They’d better,” she agreed with a wry smile. “Take… Take care of yourself, Zhengli.”
“I will. You too, I want to have those dockside meetings, Sharon! I’ll hold you to it, I swear!”
“You know I’m as good as my word… Zhengli’Varma. If the part of you that’s a Captain is unbowed and unbroken, the new Huáscar will be fine without me. Keep it strong, my friend.”
“Well, Admiral Maran, it is a psychiatric issue. I won’t deny it. But based on the assessment of my own people it won’t prevent her from taking command of the cruiser Ghatarn. She is still fully capable of the responsibilities. And Alliance law is fairly explicit about this sort of thing, unlike, say, that of the UFP.” Shai’jhur looked levelly across the screen at the Alliance military officer whose human countenance belied his race. So much like a Centauri, in that regard.
“I am not the commander of the Dilgar Navy, Warmaster. I will not question your personnel decisions, even with the War Emergency Cruisers.”
“Thank you. It is my intention to appoint another commander to the Pentacon, both Varmas shall only be commanders of ships in it, assuming I don’t give Kaveri a ship in a different Pentacon outright,” she answered. “I believe, absolutely, her condition and her decisions do not impact her ability to command a ship; I am willing to stake the lives of Dilgar on it to get an experienced officer to command the ship. And, quite frankly, it shouldn’t matter. Much less than alcoholism, for instance, which directly impacts one’s ability to make decisions. It’s a matter of trust--and a Dilgar crew will still trust her.”
“But,” Maran replied, “I recall you had also intended to give her command of the mixed-crew Alliance-Dilgar ship you had proposed. The new heavy exploration cruiser of the Enterprise class.” He frowned. “That will be an entirely different matter. The best case scenario is to call it Minbari War Syndrome.”
“Let her command the Ghatarn before cancelling the plan, Admiral,” Shai’jhur replied, a bit hastily. “I think it is important, a very important opportunity for my people. And if anything she is a great statement of our unity and concord. Zhengli Varma -- Zhen’var, now -- could be like Delenn, a symbol of the literal, physical unification of peoples. Let her prove to your officers she can still fight and command a ship in battle. As for what it was that drove her, what does it matter? If she’s capable of making stable decisions in command, and I have no indication that she is not, how does it matter the path by which you came to your skin, Admiral? Isn’t that part of what we’re supposed to believe?”
“I… Yes. Delenn became the commander of significant fleets in the Army of Light after walking a similar path. Perhaps it’s just in the water on Babylon 5,” Maran smiled wryly. “So, if all goes well on the Ghatarn, give her the Explorer?”
“Yes, Admiral. If it doesn’t…” Shai’jhur smiled wryly. “Well, it’s going to. So we’ll stay the course.”
“I am not so sure, Warmaster… But I will give you, and Captain Zhen’var, the benefit of the doubt. You trust her in your fleet. If she performs well to that trust, she will have her ship.”
“Thank you, Admiral.”
As the screen blanked out, Shai’jhur hissed softly. “He is not a bad man, but now I really do want Zhen’var in command of that ship. The Multiverse is going to respect my children. All of them!”
Commander Abebech Imra was most assuredly not in her uniform, back here in her home universe, on leave. The Alliance penetration was small, and the enemies here were rather more sophisticated than elsewhere, as she knew intimately. In the United Solarian Sovereignty she looked as plain as a child, some neobarb from a distant world, except for the absolutely opaque shades that she wore.
Nobody knew what was under them, and that was rather the point. The most sophisticated sensors in the multiverse would still just see sunglasses. The same way when they looked at her gloves, and saw only gloves. Serving in the military of the Alliance this had been hard to arrange, but now on the Huáscar her doctor… Was an amenable sort of woman to overlooking some things in exchange for the slow drip of information which kept the young Dilgar fascinated.
It was good, because her privacy was valuable to her. She was a woman who could attract attention, and she knew it. Here, in fact, she rather expected she was being hunted. But what had been offered to her was too much to pass up, a chance to make a connection which could, for the people she fought for, radically change the next phase of the game.
And the hunter might have bitten off more than they could chew.
The woman who Abebech had come to meet in that dingy bar was planning zero gravity pinball in a machine with a microgravity generator, knocking the ball in three directions with the paddles set on a dozen dozen contrivances. Many Solarians had been astonished that the game had originated from a 2-dimensional version also popular in dingy bars in other universes; to them, the origins had been lost in the mists of time. Theirs was cooler, anyway.
That made Abebech quirk a bit of a smile onto her lips. “Ghada, are you enjoying yourself?”
“Always, old friend,” she said, finally losing her ball into a gravity trap with a wry shake of her head, and turning slowly toward Abebech. A brown hooded cloak covered her, shadowing her own sunglass-covered eyes. The sunglasses were just like Abebech’s. “I like to get away from home sometimes.”
“I imagine it can be unpleasant,” Abebech kept her voice cool. “Keeping…”
“Just because you didn’t want to be Her’s doesn’t mean you need to insult her, Abebech,” the slight Arab woman cut her off, her voice low and sharp. “She is what she is. Can’t we meet once without the subject going back to her?”
“‘I am what I am’, said God; she is not God,” Abebech replied, leading them to a table and sitting. Both drank, in part because they could shake inebriation off so easily.
“Sometimes she might as well be,” the woman in the hood shifted uncomfortably. “I’ll take that as a ‘no’ to my question, by the way… I suppose it’s not important, I have another, more important question for you. My friend… You walk with the Bearers of the Dawn. She’s figured it out. Is it a choice?”
“Yes,” Abebech replied levelly.
“They will bring more death than you can imagine, old friend,” she said softly. “My Mistress, for all your hatred of her tactics, seeks to avert it. She seeks to uphold stability and guarantee a universe never again dies.”
“Just like she did during the Earthreign, Ghada? She ended up destabilising everything… And then the killing began.”
“Merciful One, but aren’t you bitter? Her squadrons were all that stood between sanity and utter ruin, let alone life, let alone civilisation. When the situation was at its most hopeless, who was always ready for another bold feat to turn it around? She fought without fear, leading our forces to redemption and ultimate victory. Anyway, it’s not like...”
Abebech closed her eyes under her glasses and shook her head. “I won’t get into it, Ghada. I came back, and spent so long working out the details of this meeting, for a reason. And that reason wasn’t to bait you, but to help us all.” And then Abebech froze, a familiar tingling passing over her senses.
“What’s the reason?” Ghada asked, but as she did, her face turned, for a brief moment, inscrutable. And then she lunged. Her lunge caught the igniting red lightsabre blade behind Abebech with her own, of equal colour.
As Abebech had seen the expression on her face, she had dropped in a blur of motion to the left. The gray-robed assassin beyond her had a face which lost all expression as one lightsabre met another, as if the magnitude of her error had only just then been realised, as the contact of the woman she had been hunting was revealed.
Ghada paused for a moment, and a smile curled on black-stained lips. “Do you know who you have presumed to attack, whelp?”
The bar had gone quiet around them. Ghada’s sunglassed eyes were as inscrutable as those of her friend. She let her blade hum across that of her attacker. “Leave us!” She barked in a strange tenor.
Obedient to the voice, as if it were indeed the command of her Mistress, but wrought on a different principle, the people in the bar began to file out.
“How dare you carry a lightsabre of darkness if your only concern is the lives of others?” The woman before her laughed, and spun and struck.
Holding her ground with her legs firmly planted, the table flung up into the woman and knocked her back as the blades again clashed. “The ways of the Sith are deeper than to merely provide the stupidity to transform yourself into a petty supervillain, child.” She brought her blade up to guard.
The woman rushed her, and the blades struck, and struck again. Every table and chair in the bar became alive with a rushing intensity of power, flung into the battle for diversions and distractions as Ghada attacked low and her friend’s prospective assassin was driven back, finally leaping onto the bar to better cover her legs.
The tiny Arab woman considered it no serious obstacle; she leapt, spinning into the air, and struck from above, sending her flying across the counter with an arcing of energy and a spraying of beer from severed, pressurized dispensers.
“Oh my, did you get yourself wet?” She asked, laughing, as the woman raced to her feet from amidst shattered and melted glass on the floor, and she hung from her boots intentionally tangled into the glass rack above, upside down, and easily parrying the up-sweeps of her rival’s lightsabre.
“Why were you trying to kill Abebech, girl?”
“She fights for the dawn!” the assassin roared, and leapt up.
Ghada kicked off and tumbled over her again, knocking her blade back as she fell smoothly to her black booted feet, cloak falling into place around her again. “Oh, is that so. Yes, I believe I rather already knew that.”
“And why would you fight for the dawn, dark one?”
“Because my mistress has depths you do not understand, child.” The assassin lunged forward again, spinning her blade in utter confidence. She struck, and parried, and parried, and Ghada parried her own blows in turn.
Finally the woman leapt in a motion abruptly halted, and keened in triumph as her return to her original position left Ghada with her blade humming, facing to the rear of her body. She swung in for the kill.
One of Ghada’s fingers shifted on her lightsabre, and a second red blade appeared, neatly through the middle of the assassin’s chest. The woman’s eyes widened in surprised horror as she staggered back.
Ghada pulled the blade free, and reached out with her offhand to sweep the woman’s into her own. The sigil on it left no doubt. “Kobol,” she whispered softly, as she let the woman before her die. The lightsabre hadn’t done that much damage, so it would take a while. Oh well.
She looked around for Abebech, but the woman was already gone. Still, she had left enough of a message for an old friend. A very unique message indeed. It was obvious what it was, and she wanted to applaud the cleverness, as she raised her commlink to her lips. “A3P2, send a priority message for our Mistress. The Conspiracy of Kobol is targeting the Aurora.”
As the woman before her finished dying, she fished into her clothes and pulled out a chain hanging low around her neck, with a battered insignia. She held it up to the woman’s eyes before the light of life left them, her own still invisible behind her shades. “Give my comrades the regards of Ghada bint Aliya el-Esfazy. In whatever hell we are all going to, they will know my name.”
It was the burned and twisted rank tab of the Terran Imperial Naval Service in the rank of Post Captain. Most people in this far-future age knew it only as the Earthreign.
She closed her palm as the eyes went blank, pushed the tab and chain back into her clothes, pinned her lightsabres below her robes, and moved quickly. Abebech, old friend, I will not fight you, but you are making a terrible mistake. The prophecy means they will bring the whirlwind.
… And the woman with Everything to Hide.