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Re: The Tatooine Redemption
Old 02-23-2015, 07:41 PM   #45
Byron Duval
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Default Re: The Tatooine Redemption

While pod racing wasn't the most familiar subject to Byron, it beat the hell out of trying to make political small talk with Governor Rourke. And he got to observe Captain Dunn in a slightly less formal setting than a debriefing or a training session. Not that he wanted to make the man feel observed, but Agent Drake had forced that unwanted task on his shoulders, and Byron knew better than to cross the ISB. But if he could make it feel less like observing and more like the camaraderie they'd almost shared on board the shuttle, then so much the better.

His mind wandered briefly when he noticed Agent Drake step away from them and pick up a glass of champagne, half-wishing she'd pick one up for him, too. But, as they headed for the track, he found one himself anyway. Captain Dunn ignored the tray as it came by; Byron couldn't blame the man for avoiding alcohol at an event like this.

Any other thought in his mind disappeared when the distinctive noise of twin ion engines blasted overhead. Byron's head snapped upward, and an unabashed grin stole over his face as he watched none other than Onyx Squadron -- what other squad would have four Interceptors and eight standard TIEs? -- perform feats he'd never seen them practice. Well, not together. Some of the pilots had practiced certain moves in various simulations, but to his knowledge the entire squadron hadn't actually tried this before as a group.

Pride for his best friend's command surged through his chest.

Alas, the distraction was short-lived, and eventually Byron had to return to his assigned duties. He kept his shoulders straight and his expression relaxed as he responded to a comment on the vehicles and their pilots from a nearby guest. Out the corner of his eye he spotted Agent Drake step awkwardly away from Captain Dunn. He didn't see what had happened, but the atmosphere between those two had somehow changed.

Byron remained silent as he followed the captain, the ISB agent, and the governor back up the stairs. He could hear Governor Rourke and Agent Drake talking, though he couldn't make out the words, and he mentally prepared himself for more diplomatic chitchat.

It was easier than he'd expected. He was able to speak to the skills of his commanding officer as well as those of the TIE squadrons protecting these citizens simply by following up on a comment on Onyx's recent performance. And, when it was on the relatively friendly subject of piloting, Captain Dunn added his own feedback, though the man clearly knew how to work a room and didn't spend all his time in the same group as Byron.

Eventually, the commander realized it'd been some time since he last spotted Agent Drake. She was impossible to miss despite the number of guests in the suite; not only was she one of the very few women, but the governor had latched onto her, and she'd been conspicuously absent from his side.

I should look for her before he does. Byron gently excused himself from the conversation and, after another glance around, decided to head down the corridor leading to the 'freshers. It would be an easily-explained move if he didn't find the agent, and if he did...

He'd deal with that if he needed to.

Just past the 'fresher reserved for women, at the end of the hallway, Byron spotted Agent Drake. Her back facing him, she couldn't see the surprise on his face at seeing her in a corner, her shoulders slumped and slightly trembling. A second later he regained his own composure and cleared his throat to announce his presence. "Agent Drake?" The second question felt more dangerous, but he spoke it anyway. "Are you... all right?"

Agent Drake instantly assumed a more formal posture and turned to face him. Her eyes narrowed, and a hint of a sneer played on her lips. "I'm fine, Commander. How are you?"

Byron steeled himself for his response. Her hands are clenched. I wonder why. Rather than directly answer her question, he said, "I noticed you hadn't returned to the party. I wanted to find you before Governor Rourke noticed the same thing."

Her shoulders straightened further, but a heartbeat later, her expression... well, it didn't soften, yet it didn't feel as hostile as before, either. "I... yes. Thank you, Commander. I need a moment..." She paused slightly. "... to freshen up."

Some of Byron's surprise made it onto his face. She hasn't freshened up already? "Would you like me to wait for you so we return at the same time?" he replied aloud. I doubt she'll take me up on that, but it might keep some questions from being asked if we're in a conversation when we both get back to the party.

Agent Drake's hands clenched further. "No, thank you. You can go."

Surprised again, this time by her polite response -- it was a far cry from her authoritarian attitude in her office the other day -- Byron nodded. "Yes, ma'am," he acknowledged before he crisply spun on one heel and headed back to his duties. He heard the door to the 'fresher slide open and shut behind him, but no one was behind him when he glanced over his shoulder. Thankfully no one else had come in or out of the 'fresher during their brief conversation; he wasn't sure how he'd explain that to an onlooker.

Less than five standard minutes after he returned, Agent Drake reappeared in the party suite, fully composed and every centimeter the suave conversationalist she intended to be. He couldn't help but watch her for a moment as she spoke with a pair of men and laughed at something one of them said, picking up a fresh glass of champagne as a waiter walked past.

Her right palm had unmistakable traces of blood on it.

Is that why she had to freshen up? he wondered. But wouldn't she have taken care of that before coming back out here?

"I believe you said you were stationed on the same ship as that squadron that flew by earlier?" a man to whom Byron had been introduced but for the life of him couldn't remember his name -- Glidak? something like that -- noted, breaking the commander out of his thoughts.

Byron pulled out his most diplomatic smile. "That's correct." Though he was glad to explain to the man that the defense of this system was in capable hands, part of his mind couldn't help but wonder about the ISB agent's behavior earlier... and the incident that may have ignited it. He wouldn't get that out of his head until he heard the blaring horn that announced the imminent start of the pod race.
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