,()()()!


crying carried through the hall. Moans of pain sounded from other rooms. A team of surgeons hurried past, their faces hidden behind masks spattered with blood.

The nurse did not look at Malgus when she spoke.

The Twilek woman was dropped at the doors by an unmarked transport. We did not realize she was Imperial.

Malgus grunted. You would not have treated her had you known?

The nurse stopped, turned on her heel, and stared Malgus in his scarred face.

Of course we would have treated her. We are not savages.

Malgus did not miss the womans subtle emphasis on we.

He decided to allow the nurse her moment of defiance. Her spirit impressed him. Just take me to her.

Eleena lay in a bed in a small treatment room with three other patients. One of them, an elderly man, was curled up in a fetal position on the bed, moaning, his sheets bloody. Another, a middle-aged woman with a lacerated face, watched Malgus and the nurse enter, her expression vacant. The third appeared to be asleep.

A fluid line was hooked to Eleenas unwounded arm and several cablescables!connected her to monitoring equipment. The facility must have been stretched to use such dated technology. Her blaster wounds, at least, had been treated and bandaged. The arm with the wounded shoulder had been stabilized in a sling.

Eleena saw him, sat up, and smiled.

He realized that she was the only person in the galaxy who smiled when she saw him.

Veradun, she said.

Seeing her face and hearing her voice affected him more than he liked. The anger drained out of him as if he had a hole in his heel. Relief took its place and he did not fight it, though he realized that he had let his feelings for her grow dangerously strong.

When he looked at Eleena, he was looking at his
  






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