This is a nice little short story, written by my wife, that picks up soon after the end of Stefan's Seven. It's told from the point of view of two characters: Sun Runner Rycard Ryjerd (a character with a doomed future, since he died in the final session of the campaign we played on Sunday) and Stefan Cassadine. It's more a character study than a plot-heavy story, and does a nice job of bridging the gap between Stefan's Seven and the beginning of the next session.
The Ka’ja’les Dar dropped out of lightspeed and scant moments later began the procedure to dock with the Knife’s Edge. Once word came that the airlock was secure, Stefan Cassadine moved immediately to exit the cockpit and Rycard Ryjerd breathed a sigh of relief. The man had been like a stone wall every since they’d left Aargau behind and he was willing to bet that it had nothing to do with the botched heist, Kronos succumbing to his injuries, or even Stefan’s own brush with death.
When the ship had shuddered back into normal space, he’d glanced over at Stefan, impeccably dressed as always, to see what, if any reaction, the sight of his own ship might bring. He had ordered Rycard to push her hard, pouring every ounce of speed into the engines and they had roared towards the Knife’s Edge as though they had a whole fleet in pursuit behind them.
He’d cleared his throat. “There she is – right where you said she’d be.”
Stefan had nodded and said “Apparently so.” That hadn’t made much sense, but with a man like Cassadine, explanations weren’t likely to be forthcoming. Rycard had half expected him to pace down by the airlock until it was ready for him to pass through, but Stefan remained in his seat, staring out the window, face inscrutable.
Cassadine was almost unnaturally still. For Rycard, who seldom did anything quietly if he could help it (where was the fun in that?), the silence was unnerving. Finally, Stefan had risen to his feet, with the barest flicker of discomfort in his eyes. He’d glanced over at Rycard and stated simply “Tell Jocasta that delivery will be made on Etti IV.” Then he was out the door and gone.
A short time later, once Stefan had transferred over to the yacht, Rycard brought her back into lightspeed and set co-ordinates for Etti IV. With everything under control, he meandered back to the lounge, where the remaining Sun Runners, excluding Korg who remained in the cargo bay, were enjoying a few moments of respite. The mood was far from jocular – despite his odd ways, they’d all liked Kronos – and the attitude towards the room’s other occupant was on the chilly side.
Sunset Cassandra sat at a table and fiddled with a datapad that she’d snatched up the moment she’d come on board. She hadn’t strayed too far – which wasn’t surprising given Stefan’s rather strict orders. “Sit. Stay.”
Rycard felt a bit bad for her. She didn’t seem to be a bad kid, and he could see something of himself in her cocky attitude. He also wanted to erase the impression that she’d had of him back on Aargau. Sitting down at the table next to her, he offered a friendly smile. “You can relax, kid. Cassadine has gone home to his missus. Looks like he decided to let the Boss deal with you. That’s a good sign – the fact that he left you alive might carry some weight for her.”
Sunset Cassandra bristled. He wondered what had happened down there in the vaults. Greesh knew, but thus far, he wasn’t telling.
She looked up and he could see speculation behind her eyes. Seizing an opening, he began a yarn that he figured would help her relax and maybe, give him more insight into their newest crew member – assuming Jocasta didn’t just kill her on sight, of course. “Why don’t I tell you about the time that I tangled with a dark Jedi in a bar on Nar Shadda . . . a female dark Jedi and her gang of Duro pirates . . . .”
All was peaceful and quiet as Stefan walked back onto the Knife’s Edge – the ship’s engines hummed quietly and the attractive, though frightfully expensive recessed corridor lights cast a soothing glow in the middle of the ship’s artificial night. All appeared well, and yet Stefan could not erase the tension that had gripped him since Kronos had spoken those damnable words.
The one you love – if she chooses, she will not choose you.
He had plans in mind to see that the final future the strange lumpy man had prophesied never came to pass, but all throughout the journey back to his family – his and no one else’s – a dull fear had gripped him, that it was already too late.
He had tossed the few personal items he had taken with him on the journey to the servant waiting at the airlock and strode off down the hall to the family quarters. He had intended to go directly to Arresta, but he hesitated, then moved one door further down, to the nursery he’d had installed for his daughter.
At last, some of the knots relaxed as he heard her soft breathing as he quietly entered the room. At his entrance, the glowing eyes of the Nanny lit up, but, recognizing him as a “friendly”, quietly powered back down. Lying on her stomach, Allegra was nestled in her crib, sleeping peacefully. He bent to pick her up, but the pain from his wounds surged and he settled for laying a gentle hand against her warm back. He stood there quietly for a few moments until he sensed a presence behind him in the open doorway. Xam.
Running a gentle finger against the baby’s cheek, he padded softly to the door and joined his aide in the corridor. Xam was smiling, but shuffled his feet back and forth slightly. He may as well have been screaming that something was afoot. As quickly as his muscles had relaxed, Stefan felt them tense again.
He turned his most piercing gaze on Xam, who instantly quailed. “Mr. C . . . uh . . . welcome back . . . I . . . how did it go?”
“What is happening here Xam?”
“Sorry Boss, but Mrs. C, she made me promise not to tell!”
“Whatever she may think, my wife has no secrets from me.”
Xam looked pained. “Mrs. C will get really mad at me!”
Stefan said nothing, merely let Xam follow his train of thought to its natural conclusion. Finally, reluctantly, the Aqualesh spoke.
“Mrs. C wanted you to know that she didn’t forget, so we went shopping and we talked to the cooks and she even had me help her make a card from the baby . . . that finger paint was a mess to clean up . . . but she wanted you to be surprised!”
Stefan, having years of experience dealing with Xam, allowed himself a moment to filter this information. When he did, a pleased expression appeared on his face. “Arresta has planned some kind of surprise celebration for me?”
Xam nodded, eagerly. “For your birthday!”
He went on, but Stefan was no longer listening. For a few seconds, he felt almost giddy with relief. He was still in time. He could still protect his family from those who would tear them apart.
Waving Xam away he made his way at last to the bedroom he shared with Arresta. Feeling inside his suit pocket, he retrieved the jewellery box he’d picked up on Aargau before the mission began. A quick glance at the blue and silver gems and he closed the box with satisfaction. He knew how much the gift would please her.
Very well. Tonight would be about family. Tonight and perhaps tomorrow, since she’d gone to so much trouble. Then, they would both have journeys to make and tasks to perform that would secure the future of the Cassadines. That future, which he had waited so long for and which had been thwarted so many times, was now within reach. And woe betide anyone who tried to stand in his way.
Smiling to himself and thinking eagerly of all he had to look forward to tonight, tomorrow, and in the long-awaited task that would follow after, Stefan Cassadine opened the door and went to reunite with his wife.
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