Chandra’s second genocide was far less dramatic than the first.
Gren was dead, his brain liquified by his own lightsaber and the fear that had washed over him like desert winds. Quinn had tried to save him, but his power had knocked sand across the scoundrels vision, and in the end, he had been too late to shock him silent with stun fire.
Staci hadn’t even gotten close; Quinn had her down in seconds, and Madine wasn’t far behind. The committee that had joined them took the most trauma, but they hadn’t even made it to the waterline before it was over.
Quinn had to hear it all second hand; he had enough time to see the plasma blade of the lightsaber with its mysterious crystalline power ignite and explode inside the black column that was anything but a tomb.
A few other’s hadn’t made it, some technician put a knife in his eye, and a few illegal scavengers on the other side of the planet dunked their heads in antimatter sludge, incinerating them.
Less than 7 people were believed to have died.
The inquiry was a fiasco if there ever was one. They flew Quinn and the rest to Coruscant to stand before the new council in their shiny new chambers; the old edifice of the Imperial past had been ripped down like peeled paint, and the new sheen on the city world was reminiscent of some patriotic holo film where the young rebel finds the old alliance still alive in some forgotten heavenly corner of the galaxy.
They asked every question but the right ones; what was it? Who built it? How did it work, and the inevitable could we fix it.
Quinn just rolled his eyes and told them all that if he weren’t already an alcoholic, they would have driven him to it.
Madine was amazing. The general threw interference snow and metallic tinsel over everyones receptors; he buried the pieces, brainwashed those who knew anything; even hypnotized members of the committee so that the truth about Chandra would liquify like meting ice and fall into the wet grate of history like new polymer down a Nar Shaddaa span.
The pieces of the device they scooped up with Quinn and the rest of them, and even Staci was amazed at how quickly the General had ordered the salvage thrown into the sun. Madine wasn’t a god fearing man, and the words took on a strange sort of power when he said them;
“This is not meant for us.”
When it all came crashing down; the inquiry, the official investigation, the detainment and the answers to just what had happened on Chandra both times; the Alliance must have known it was all a cover up.
Quinn and Madine hadn’t really tried all that hard to make their story believable; after all with nearly a billion sapients dead, there were bound to be some gaps in the story, loose ends and frayed threads where the lie had bitten off at the truth. But those in power also probably felt the same power that the two men felt; that everyone who had sailed off of Chandra that second time. A cold, this isn’t a question that needs asking, let alone answering, and besides, there was certainly zero evidence left to stitch the fragments of atrocity together.
So they gave up. File closed, a few billion lines of code among building sized data cores; effectively lost forever.
When Quinn woke up, he was under arrest. Fourteen days later, he accepted a medal in a private room at intelligence headquarters, a large bonus, and a congratulations from the New Republic; a thank you from a bunch of suits who had no idea why they were thanking these men and women.
Quinn didn’t mind, the cred chip was real enough.
“Well well; if it isn’t the man of the hour.” Staci said as she walked up to the railing Quinn was leaning on.
“I guess that makes you what,the women of the hour?” He pulled the flask from his pocket and offered it to her. She shook her head no, then caught Quinn’s seriously? look in his eyes and took it, smiling.
It tasted good.
“So,” Staci winched at the alcoholic burn, “what’s next for a hero of the republic?”
He grinned. “What? You chose to stay, didn’t you? Might as well get the name right.” It came out sadder than he had intended.
“Yeah.” She said, looking down at the threaded lines of traffic crossing the steel jungle of Coruscant. “By the way, I don’t think I got to thank you for…”
“Shooting you?” He smirked, still looking away at the blazing sun cresting the horizon.
“Well, this is the first time, I think, that we’ve been alone since-”
“Don’t,” she stopped him. “Don’t um. Don’t say it.”
Quinn looked at her and pressed his eyebrows together. “It get’s better, Stace.”
“I know I didn’t even… It wasn’t, you know for very long at all so…”
“Hey,” Quinn touched her shoulder, “It’s okay.”
Staci trembled, the memory of the terror and sadness that had gripped her, welling up from the graveyard she had seen; the vengeful spirits of the lost and the wronged shambling down towards her to. To…
“I hear some of the eggheads are still in the psych ward.” Quinn cut through the memory and she was back.
“Yeah, they should be okay, or so says Madine.”
“How is old Crix?” Quinn took another short pull at the flask, and passed it to Staci without looking at her. “Any idea what he saw?”
“Who knows? You know Madine,” she took the flask, “always flat and close to the chest. He drinks more now, doesn’t think I know.”
“Well,” said Quinn lightly, “you have had to see though the best of disguises.”
Staci laughed, short and sharp; a laugh that wanted more humor than it had been given. They both lapsed into silence, and the drink passed back between them twice before Staci spoke.
“What. What was. It.”
Quinn drew in a deep sigh. Honestly, they didn’t know, not for sure; it had mechanical parts, Quinn had seen that much, but there was also some ancient sort of magic to it. A kind of mechanical symbiosis between living tissue and human achievement; like bad skin graft. When they had all gathered around it on The Reliances deck, cordoned off an in absolute secret, ready to launch it into the local star, they hadn’t even said anything; like no one wanted to accidentally find out what it was. But they were all of them, every single one soldiers, killers, and some even murderers. They didn’t need to ask, didn’t need to voice it; the knowledge was sloshing through them all like bad blood, infected puss that they needed to purge before the wound could heal.
It was a weapon.
If it was modern, it was secret tech, top of the line. If it was ancient, then it was dark side magic or something worse. There were ancient ruins on Chandra, and top secret Imperial basses. Maybe Tryn has stumbled across some new kind of weapon the Empire was developing, or even restoring. Maybe it was already there from a war fought so long ago nothing else remained.
Didn’t matter; the lightsaber had barely been able to turn it to slag, and lightsaber cores were second only to star fire.
Quinn shut his eyes, and shuddered at the vision of the black as night pieces drifting slowly through the dark to a fate he hoped they would find.
“Yeah.” Staci pulled him back. “Yeah, I don’t want to know either.”
“New topic,” he said, turning to face her. “I’m uh, I’m leaving; surprise surprise.”
She matched his position, and the setting star took its place between them, soft orange pools of light washing over the clean metallic surfaces of the balcony and gathering in tiny motes in their eyes.
“I figured.” She smiled. “Are you taking the Grave? ”
“Na,” Quinn waved an errant hand, “I gave it to Sammy.”
Stacy cocked an eyebrow at him.
“Okay okay,” he laughed, if not a little bitterly, “I stopped claiming ownership; same thing, right?”
“For you? That’s about as good as anyone can hope.” A shadow seemed to cross her face. “Are you, er. Are you going back? To the life, I mean.”
Quinn softened his features and raised his eyebrows. He hadn’t known the answer to that question. Madine had ensured that Quinn left the order with something of a medium sized fortune on his hands, but a quiet easy life was something that Quinn assumed he could never have. He had made a few mental calculations, a few old contacts and some investments that could roll the mint into something massive; all of which was almost completely illegal.
“No.” He said, and meant it.
Staci smiled, in her eyes as much as on her face. He couldn’t go back. Maybe it was the auto doc on Hellhaven, or maybe it was the years; everything he had been though since Staci had justifiably left him on that floating coffin of a space station all those lifetimes ago had taken him farther and farther from who he was. He had thought at the time, with absolute certainty, that he was becoming himself; an inevitable correction from the falsified human being he had tried to maintain with her while his true self rotted in apathy and self loathing.
But that wasn’t it. He was just running, like Mav had said. Running from something that had already got him.
Life is hard, simple as that.
The words rattled in his mind like broken bones.
“No.” He said again. “I mean, not yet.” A smile. “I think I’m going to go to Hellhaven. I mean, your dad has always had a place for me there.”
“I thought you said a quiet life was going to be the death of you? I thought Hellhaven was a prison?” Staci inched closer.
“It is it… I don’t know.” Quinn let his head fall as he leaned on the railing. “It’s just; I’m tired, Staci. I’m tired of the games and the whole thing. Maybe Hellhaven is a prison, maybe it’s a grave, maybe it’s just a stop along the way; I don’t know. But I think. I think it’s time for me to take a break.”
They were already close, and Quinn felt the moment building. “What about you?” he asked. “Are you going to stay here?”
She shrugged and closed her lips. “I guess. It’s good work. It’s. It’s what I know.”
“And Crash?” The tremble in his voice was not well masked.
“Ah, well, Crash and I have run our course, I think. He didn’t take to kindly to me leaving him out of Ch- of the last mission so. Yeah. He moved out two days ago.”
“No you’re not.” She grinned.
“No,” a laugh. “No I’m not at all. I could have had him killed, you know; I am a very rich man.”
“So I hear!”
They moved ccloser still. The moment was there, it was tumbling out of control.
Quinn didn’t do anything.
“You know, the old Quinn Corvin would have leaned in and kissed me by now…” They were inches apart.
“I know.” Quinn leaned in slightly, and then pulled back. “That’s because the old Quinn Corvin didn’t really respect what he had. I’m. I’m sorry, Staci. I’m really sorry.”
The surprise was smeared over her face like blood. Quinn leaned in again and kissed her on the cheek.
“You going to come visit me?” He said, hefting his bags, “before I get bored and starts subverting all the people who I just helped put into place?”
Staci turned to watch him go and leaned against the rail, silhouetting against the dying light.
“I might,” she smiled.
“It’s a great house, right on the lake, rivers and trees and all kinds of shit.” He was backing up, voice being lost in the high altitude winds.
“Quinn!” she was suddenly standing rigid. “I-“
“I know, Stace” he called out. “I know.”
Quinn turned and quickened his pace, and Staci lost him among the hulking ships that mounted the platform, like beats on a duracrte plain.
“Come in, lieutenant Willaims.” Madine said, not looking up from the small holodisplay. Williams moved in front of his desk rigidly, waiting the Generals pleasure.
“Have a seat.” Madine gestured to a chair, and then picked up his drink, sipping it and wincing.
“I have called you here,” he said, bringing his weary eyes to meed Williams, “to inform you that you are now in command of Squad 8.”
Crash’s eyes flickered. “But – I. Sir I thought Commander Garott-”
“Commander Garott is no longer apart of this outfit, commander Williams. She has transferred to – well, to another station.”
“But sir she would have, that is she-”
“ – Is no longer your concern, Crash. Do I have to mention how big of a step this is for you?” Madine sipped at his drink.
“No, no sir apologies sir.”
“Good. You can move into former commander Garott’s quarters as soon as possible. Do me a favor and make sure that all the things she has packed up in there go to her new adress; there is a transport docking at Lantana in a few days, the Lynx07 that will be going to her new location.”
“Yes sir, and what location would that be?”
Madine sighed and leaned back in his seat, the years wearing heavy on his tired frame. “Not that it matters. I was in love once, commander.”
“No sir I just-”
“My wife I abandon because I valued freedom of this galaxy above my own personal happiness. I made a sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice so that a higher cause could be served. Do you feel the same way?”
“I do, yes sir.”
“Good. Then see to it that Ms. Garott’s things are taken to Lantana tomorrow, placed on the Lynx07 and taken to her new home on Hellhaven.
“He- Hellhaven, sir?”
“Yes, commander. Hellhaven.”