,()()()!


not even have to say that. She spoke in a firm, clear voice, to break the conspiratorial spell that Vollen and Keevo had cast with their whispers. You took an oath. Both of you did. Do you intend to break it?

Vollen colored. Keevo shifted on his feet and dropped his eyes.

No, Vollen said.

Aryn was swimming in Vollens frustration, and her own. She felt like a hypocrite.

Good, she said, and touched his shoulder. Things will work out. The Council knows what it is doing. We are an instrument of the Republic, Vollen. We will do what is best for the Republic.

I hope youre right, Vollen said, sounding unconvinced. Keevo nodded agreement.

Aryn could take no more of her own falsity.

I must go. Be well, Vollen. And you, Keevo. May the Force be with you both.

Her recitation of the familiar parting seemed to reassure them.

And you, Vollen said.

Be well, Aryn Leneer, Keevo said in high-pitched Basic.

You still havent said where youre going, Vollen said.

No, I havent, Aryn said. Its personal.

She turned and headed for her ship. As she walked, she activated her comlink and hailed her astromech.

Tee-six, get the ship ready for launch.

The droid acknowledged receipt and queried about a flight plan.

None, Aryn said, and the droid let out a long-suffering beep.

When she reached the landing bay, T6, the dome of his orange head sticking out of the PT-7s droid socket, beeped a greeting. The Raven starfighter was already in pre-launch and the hum of the warming engine coils made the pad vibrate under her feet.

She stood there for a time, staring at the ladder that led into her cockpit, listening to the hum of the engines, thinking that if she got in and took off, she could never come back.

She thought
  






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