Note: Contains some fruity language.
Tobin enters the bar on the Mon Remonda after receiving a comm from Jacen asking to meet him there. Tobin notes that despite the requests from Alliance personal to maintain sobriety that more than a handful have chosen to ignore it. It takes a while, but he spots Jacen in the corner of the room, he doesn’t seem to be looking at him or anyone in particular. Almost as if he’s scanning.
“Howdy there partner! Long time no see; I understand Ghost took you on a long vacation! Irradiated beasts and a lovely petting zoo”
Tobin pulled up, it had taken him a minute to get to the table, partly because of the merry people, partly because the need for a good drink. He looked a touch cut up, though the fresh scent of bacta patches seemed to dull the worst of it.
Jacen seems distracted, or disinterested, possibly a mix of the two. “It didn’t have a good variety, it was monster this, monster that, plus the scenery is much to be desired.” He waves a hand towards the crowd, “Tell me what do you see when you see this?”
“I can imagine so. Never went there myself. That was the time when I was first making my way to the Smuggler’s Moon. Tis a pity what happened there, but given Ghost’s fabulous leadership skills it’s good as it’s gonna be.”
The Rodian shrugged off Jacen’s lack of interest in his banter, the conflict in his own soul was getting greater so maintaining that optimisms helped ease it off. To the question Tobin turned and glanced over his shoulder and watched the crowds of happy gowers, some celebratory, some veterans having more somber drinks, Bothans blending in the crowd.
“A load of people having a merry time, some keeping their hopes up, for other’s its their first assignment. Most of them here can’t wait to rip the empire’s hearts out and start up the new republic.”
“You’re half right. Most of these people maybe drinking, but when you sense… it,” Jacen nudges Tobin, “Hint, hint, they’re all panicking inside. This isn’t a celebratory moment, they’re all here because in 2 days time they’ll be in the thick of it, and most aren’t expecting to come back.”
“But that isn’t why I’ve brought you here. Truth of the matter, this is a farewell moment. Alive or dead, my place isn’t here I’ll be leaving the Alliance right after this mess.”
Tobin replied, “Well of course, who can not worry about it? How we deal with death is what defines heroes like us; I’ve always considered it something to planned for and by being prepared I’ve dodged it for years. We might all be afraid but we are here because we want things to get better. That’s why all these people are here, whether we actually will or won’t is immaterial.”
Tobin didn’t respond to Jacen’s admission immediately. He took another drag of the spirits and kept talking; talking was his way of coping with all of this.
“Yesterday, I saw Gand being dissected like lab rats, computer panels to brains, ready to load into the cockpit of the Raptors. I was disguised as a technician at the time so I needed to get the information so I tweaked the scientists mind in just the right way. He started talking about how he enjoyed his research, at how Gand didn’t feel pain. I’ll tell you right now, I felt no guilt when I plunged my blade into his black heart and watched him fall with all of 12 seconds to think about who staved his mind of oxygen.”
Tobin took another draft, his demeanor changing rapidly; talking about exploits was one thing, but he rarely talked about it like this.
“On the way out I saw a photo of him with his family; he lived a full life outside his routine torture of Gand, all being piped from the home world. That same life he deprived of the others. Isn’t it sad?”
Tobin went on, again glancing at the crowd. This wasn’t the activity while he had been irritable lately, but in the common’s room he had seemed so jovial, even to Lando he didn’t bat an eyelid as 4000 credits was gone. Yet he was grim right now as he checked the bubbled within the spirits with a distant gaze. That, and he seemed oblivious to Jacen’s statement.
“Your dodging the issue,” Jacen said, “I’m telling you this now, because I’m not a fan of long goodbyes. Plus I’m pretty sure you’ll try to talk me out of it. So, questions? I know you’ve probably got a few.”
Tobin’s glare flickered over and for a moment a thought seemed preoccupied. “Right, I keep on forgetting there’s one common denominator that I keep observing. A hypothesis that I’ve had 4 years and enough people I know to link it all together.”
He trailed off as he took another drag and set his glass down on the table, tapping it with his metallic right finger to the simplest question.
Jacen sighs “Because now I’ve gained perspective. I’ve been in this war for what, a year? And now I’m starting to realise why the Jedi fell in the first place. They got themselves in a war that fractured them apart. Rumour’s aside, I don’t think Force sensitives have any place on the battlefield, we’re too tightly connected to the Force, not only does that give us a significant advantage we’ve also got the added baggage of balancing over a trip wire. Since I’ve been in this war, we’ve had to make difficult decisions. One of my difficult decisions was making a choice back on Ogoth, there were over 70 people, we just had the one ship and I practically tore comforts aside just to get the kids in. And I saved them, but those people back there? The parents. Left in that hellhole for about a week because they’re not a priority for Alliance standards.”
Tobin takes a sip having listened to that and gives a simple, yet direct response.
“And how many would have survived if you weren’t there to make that decision Jacen? Right there you have saved; 10, 20? 30 lives? Think about it, how badly do you think it would have gone had you not been there? It’s because of you those kids have a future. Think about that a moment because you are only seeing it from one perspective.”
“I mean, I doubt Ghost would have done anything about it; she keeps her mind clear by minimising her interaction with the galaxy and I wager she probably preferred everyone to die; it would mean no one would know Kaida Valentine, and that she could continue living as a shadow.” Tobin chuckled, the irony that the same Bothans that were monitoring had also proven a good source of information. His mind drifted on one such mind focused intensely on them, he would do nothing about it for now, he lacked that sense of urgency to deal with it. “Just like at Xorrn when I alone had to recruit the army because she refused to see the galaxy as it actually is, just like the Jedi. Do you really want enlightenment by ignorance like her? Burrowing back into the Smugglers Moon and just waiting for the rain to fall?”
He never let his eyes lift from the table, though his immediate supply of intoxicant beverage had run out. The Rodian seemed in no rush to get another.
“Enlightenment by ignorance?” Jacen replied, “Don’t be daft. I’m hardly Jedi material. I make the tough choices because that what life is, tough. But war? It’s a life stealer. So I can kill an average Imperial stormtrooper, so can anyone if they tried. But at the end of the day, they’re people. Granted, most of them can be xenophobic, arrogance arseholes but that’s what the Emperor made. He’s probably got a propaganda engine going all over the core systems, and the generation… my generation have no choice but to suck it up. The Empire will pressure them if they don’t, I imagine the ISB has documents on everyone core world, and hell they may have engineered the system so that the only option is Empire or bust. Let’s get it clear, the Empire is evil and corrupt. But not everyone has to die because we Force users think, ‘hey we know best, sit down and shut up, because we’ll take it away if you don’t.’”
He leans into his chair “There’s only so long we can call something just, and then we end up falling. I fell for that exact reason, I can say it’s what I was taught all day, but it wouldn’t have got that bad if I wasn’t so frustrated in being the Empire’s bitch everyday. Fact is, it’s going to twist us the longer we stay in, and if we win at Endor not only have we just destroyed a Death Star but we’ll destroy their spirit. Imperial morale will drop through the floor, we don’t have to be there to sort it out. The Council got here before us, it’s up to them to see this through.”
The Rodian’s skin darkened as listened on, the Rodian rubbed his ear lobes as he drew a deep sigh and waved his hand dismissively, twisting the unsuspecting mind to do his bidding.
“You don’t want to listen to this, in fact, drop your listening device right in the drink.”
Curses erupted from a distant table as sparks erupted from the table, the Rodian didn’t laugh as the Bothan raced out of the hall to “dry the device”, instead he lowered his head and spoke softly in a growl, all a sudden, sober.
“So you are perfectly alright with a culture that not only discriminates against aliens, but is willing to experiment on them? To use them as a keffing resource, to allow people to be selectively removed from society and crushed? Hell, they are building a virus that only kills non-humans, of course being a human means that you never, have to worry. You, would never understand what that feels like because as long as it doesn’t affect you it’s never your fucking problem until the sky turns red with hellfire. It won’t be your fucking family on the line because I’m covering for you, no the Bothans will likely target everyone I love and it would be your fucking fault.”
The last sentence dripped like venom as he held Jacen with a sharp stare, before he sighed.
“This is the problem with you whom only ever lived on a lawless shit hole of a planet, you only ever took that shit stick of an example and smothered it across the entire galaxy. I know, I came from a similar background, I had to prop up my family with money stolen from rich imperial families, but I believed things would be better, they could only get better.”
“I hoped you would have felt the same, but I was wrong. You and I will never see from the same page, mark my words, one day several worlds will disappear and you will wish you stayed to end this tyranny once and for all.”
Then, seemingly drained of all his energy Tobin leaned back, a burden draining from his shoulders as he glanced at the ceiling lights, his voice a whisper.
“I’ll pull some strings with Reiikan and Lando to have the HWK ready for launch. I need to go to Nar Shaddaa myself, since apparently my brother is out there trying to become me so I need to sort that out. I’ll let you know about the hanger as soon as I know. We will grab some things, the Crest and go. I’ll drop you off and from there you will be on your own.”
Jacen watches the bothan leave “I guess it’s already started…”
Jacen cocks an eyebrow “Don’t you dare put me in the same label as those in the core! You think I don’t care about the virus?! It’s a stupid idea from a egotistical moron who can’t even consider the fact that if that virus gets released, then the whole galaxy is fucked. We’ll have dead planets, possibility dead races…” His voice trails as he composes himself “And that’s something you should sort out. But then that’s what you’ll always do, you won’t stop because you think we’re bound by destiny or fate. Believe it or not, but all things die, planets are no exception.”
“As for your offer, no. I have no plans for Nar Shaddaa, in fact there’s something I’ve gotta do. A debt that has to be paid.” His face is impassive, its hard to tell who he’s referring to. “And that’s something I can’t pull off with Predator Squadron, and it has to be the moment the Empire is at its weakest otherwise it won’t work.”
“You certainly don’t care enough to fight for it. All you care about is returning to your normal life and going back to Mara Jade. I’m not stupid Jacen; I know you much better then you think, just even I don’t know her agenda so be careful.”
Boom, the truth again, he taps the side of his head knowingly, given that the emperor being a Sith Lord was knowledge that came from her.
“Besides you owe me, a favour for a favour, you get your life back from the terrible thing you stole, you save my brother from the stupid decision’s he’s about to make. I can solve every problem, but I can only solve one problem at any time you see.”
Tobin stares back unflinching with eyes of cold gold, “Because Cassie bore witness to the meeting. You don’t need me to say anymore. Just sorting that toe rag out will take a day or two, tops. Then you will be free.”
Jacen holds his gaze “No. I don’t think I will.”
He stands there unfazed not even threatened in the first place. “After all, I’m not his blood. He won’t listen to me, an outsider. You think I can just drop the name Tobin Styrder sent me, and he’ll do whatever I say? He might even do the complete opposite, perhaps he’ll take it the wrong way, or worse he’ll go to more extremes because that’s what the Legendary Tobin Stryder would do.”
Tobin held the stare as his face darkened, until a crackle of glass drew his attention back to his hand, he grunted as he flicked the shards away and rose.
“I’ve got important prep to carry out, I’ll see you on the shuttle when it’s time to move out. "
He momentarily lingered as he went to say something else, but thought against it as he turned and left swiftly, passing through the crowd of drinkers that barely noticed the confrontation that took place.
“Keffing hell. I’m going to need another plan now. Selfish little prick, always disagreeing right up to the end. Come on Tobin, you always had the answer to every problem you faced, unless I want my entire family to die, I must thi-.”
He muttered to himself as he started to make his way back to the Honey Badger, chewing on the ridge of his free hand; Jacen keeping the crystal a close secret for this long had meant the Rodian wouldn’t have time to employ any other measures; the Bothans would know he had it and while they wouldn’t act before, they knew where his mother lived and any half baked genius would figure out he alone went there.
Unless I get nasty…
Then his eyes flickered as he swiftly came to a halt and glanced around; satisfied no one was here, he opened his bag and drew a slender belt from his pocket that he clicked under his tunic. The stygium stealth belt was the most advanced piece of kit at his disposal, further more no one but he knew he had it. It was good for rainy days like this…
“Alright, it’s a bit rough around the edges, but plan V will do.”
With a twist Tobin vanished from sight, a literal ghost within the shell.
Tobin and Jacen gained 5XP for good roleplaying.