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Renegade Wing Life Day 21-22 Celebration

By: Bulldog, Angel, Syntax, Gremlin, Damak, Gnoizic, Jalb, Knight, Wildcard, Rainman, Wolf, Foo, Zippy, Guardian, Battledog, Lock, Frosty, Silence, Shadow

Bulldog stepped off the shuttle onto the familiar hangar deck of the CRS Vigilant and rubbed his eyes, blinking them rapidly as he adjusted to the light.. He'd spent most of the shuttle flight up from Toseng locked in a small storage closet after he'd insulted his jailer one too many times. It wasn't his fault that the man stunk of body odor so foul that his eyes physically watered every time he looked in the unkempt man's direction.

He rolled his shoulders and rotated his wrists, but the stun-cuffs dug into his skin no matter which way he tried to shift things, drawing a wince. He cursed inwardly as he mentally smacked himself in the face for displaying any displeasure in front of his jailor, and he hoped it wasn't noticed.

His wish was not granted. A low chuckle sounded from behind him at the top of the ramp. Plodding footsteps made the Lambda Shuttle's ramp bounce. "Cuffs a little tight there, Trouble?"

Bulldog wiped the pained expression off his face and replaced it with one of pleasant serenity as he turned around to face his petty tormentor of the last few weeks. "Sergeant, you know nothing is too tight on me."

"Aside from your uniform from the looks of it."

Bulldog chuckled at the obvious dig, and smiled genuinely. To his "companion", it would look like he enjoyed the joke. The real reason for the smile was the complete and utter predictability of that line. He'd learned how to push and prod his almost constant company to take the path of torment Bulldog wanted him to take, and the tight comment he'd made put the exact joke he'd expected into the guard's mind.

The whine of four X-wings on repulsors cut off his chance at another set-up rebuttal, as both men looked at the new ships. Two ships had Rogue markings, and two had Corsair markings, drawing up an interesting feeling of confusion from the detained Buccaneer. "Huh, been a while since I've seen a rocket jockey willingly fly something slower than their A-wing," he said under his breath.

He wanted to linger a while and see which of his friends were in the cockpits, but a less than gentle elbow jabbed him in the sensitive area of his back where his kidneys resided. This time he was prepared for the pain, however, and his wince and hiss of pain were all internal, with no show of displeasure on his face.

As the two shuffled toward the main hangar exit, a familiar Zeltronian Captain stepped out of the hallway and met the two of them with a pleasant smile and casual wave. "I'll take the prisoner from here, Sergeant Rych Aard. You may remove the cuffs now."

Rych Aard eyed Gremlin dubiously. "You realize that you are taking full custody of the prisoner, yes? Anything that he does during the next standard day will fall squarely on your head, Captain Gemilan. You understand, yes?"

"Of course," Gremlin trilled pleasantly.

The guard was unconvinced. "This one has been in and out of our... supervision repeatedly over the last month," he said as he clapped a rough hand on Bulldog's shoulder. "He just can't seem to keep it on the straight and narrow, no matter. How. Hard. He. Tried," he said as he punctuated each word with another less than gentle clap to the same spot.

Gremlin's congenial smile tightened considerably, losing a lot of its warmth. "I understand the terms of his release for the day," she said as she stepped closer, continuing more quietly. "And you would do well to remember what happens to guards that abuse their wards, Sergeant Fud," she whispered icily, as she snatched the key to the cuffs roughly. In one smooth motion, she unclasped the stun cuffs and let them clatter to the floor, giving them an intentional kick back into the hangar. "Oops," she said with a warm smile in a sing-songy tone. "Fumble fingers today I reckon," she added, tossing the key up in the air.

Sergeant Fud Rych Aard snatched the key deftly in the air, fixing an angry glare at Gremlin before grumbling under his breath as he turned and walked after the cuffs. Flatulence burst from his pants as he bent over, causing the guard to rise quickly and look around to see if anybody noticed.

Gremlin opened her mouth to ridicule the man, but Bulldog subtly gripped her arm and warned her off with a curt head shake. For the first time since their initial interaction, Gremlin really regarded her fellow executive officer with increased scrutiny, noting the faint yellowing of the skin just below his right eye. Her visage hardened, and she again began to move to speak up, and was again warned off by Bulldog.

"It's fine. He'll slip up in front of the wrong person eventually," Bulldog whispered as they both watched the abusive guard make his way back to the shuttle.

"You shouldn't put up with it at all," Gremlin snapped back.

Bulldog smiled, genuinely for the first time in weeks. "What? I've got a fresh mouth."

Gremlin barked out a laugh and put her arm around his shoulders and pulled him into the hallway. "Well, I've got it on good authority that one of the mechanics made a fairly good version of mint schnapps that'll strip your tastebuds and make that fresh mouth of yours even fresher!"

Bulldog blanched visibly at the thought and stopped walking. He motioned back over his shoulder toward the hangar they'd just left. "On second thought, perhaps I'll go back with Sergeant Fud..."

Gremlin reacquired her target with another firm arm around his shoulder and drew him deeper within the ship. "Oh no, you won't get away that easily. Party's in the SSD, and the gifts you ordered were delivered and are wrapped and waiting to be handed out." She gave him a quick shove as she stopped walking. "Off you go, captain."

Bulldog turned and arched an eyebrow. "You're not coming?"

"Quick detour. Then a meeting, but I'll be along presently."

***

Bulldog walked into the Simmons Schock Deck and felt a cool wave of comfort wash all over him. He hadn't been on the ship for a month, but the bar still felt as close to home as he'd had since he left Rendilli. The familiar smell of the place wafted through his nose, and he smiled.

The crowd already in attendance cheered loudly as they noticed him.

Bulldog smiled and clapped his hands and rubbed them together. "All right, let's get this party started!"

Jalb stepped forward and waved a hand to quiet everybody down. "Hold on there, captain. Before we're all too sloshed to see straight, I'd like to get the gifts exchanged! They are still anonymous from the gift exchange unless your giver opted to reveal themselves!"

Stryker stepped forward, Ion Sucker in hand. "And fear not, those of you that did not sign up! We made sure to include even the grumpiest Gammoreans that didn't want to join the Wily Wookiee exchange!" He paused as he let the cheers die down a bit. "Now, let the Renegade Wing Life Day Celebration officially begin!"

(Editor's note on the format. Bold text is the break between one gift and the next. Regular text is the gift giving blurb written by a participant. Italicized text is the reaction written by another participant. There are only italicized responses for gifts given to other participants.)

Jalb handed the first present to Bearcat. He chuckled as the hulking Cathar looked at it quizzically as he regarded it at arm's length. "You open it, Lieutenant."

The gift was wrapped in an elegant Wroshyr wood box with a simple hinge that opened it right through the middle. When opened, it revealed a fancy and rare bottle of Merenzanane Gold. An attached note read: "Forget that swill from the SSD that Iggy is putting into your Green Milk Coolers- this will step that drink up a notch. Enjoy, furball."

Bearcat opened the box and was unsure exactly what he was holding. The box reminded him of the wood of his ancestral tree back on Cathar. He ran a claw gently across the grain of the wood and found himself returned to his younger days with his clan and littermates.

"This box is exquisite," he purred. The alcohol was a mystery to him, but he was sure to try what the note suggested next time he found himself wanting a spiked green milk. "Thank you verrry much, whoeverrr you arrre!" he said loudly to those in attendance.

Jalb smiled, happy to see that the event got off on the right foot. While he didn't quite know who had given the first gift, he had a good idea. He rummaged through the gift pile and pulled the one addressed to the member he figured for the first offering. "Captain Clark, how about you take the next?"

A hastily wrapped bottle-shaped object was thrust into his hands. There wasn't much mystery about what was underneath the wrapping paper. As he pulled away the decorative stormtrooper paper, he saw a squat bottle of Boga Noga staring him in the face. A note read: "I was told this Hutt ale was strong enough to knock out an entire platoon of stormtroopers. If anybody here could put that claim to the test, it would be you!"

Bulldog gingerly ripped away the paper and saw the reddish fluid in a green-rimmed squat bottle. At once he recognized the alcohol within and his stomach roiled with memories of his youth, filled with regret for days afterward. He'd once attempted to drink this with his father's employees in a port on Nal Hutta in the downtime after a run, and had woken up two days later with a hangover the size of a Death Star.

Putting on a brave face, he opened the bottle and took a swig, feeling the sharp burn on his tongue scouring his mouth and insides as it traveled down into his gullet, where it set off an explosive the size of a thermal detonator. He did his best to suppress the regret on his face and smiled. "Thanks!"

Jalb barked out a laugh as he sussed out the massive amounts of regret Bulldog was feeling after that drink. "Brave, brave man," he said with a smile as his hand fished into the pile of presents to find a new one to hand out. However, before he could find one, he was interrupted by a sharp look from Bulldog, who was quickly recovering from his large gulp.

Bulldog pulled out another gift bag and handed it to Talon. The bag had a large Imperial symbol with a red circle and a line through it framing the symbol. The decorative tissue paper did a poor job of hiding the fact that the gift within the bag was a bottle of alcohol. "Here kid, this will put some hair on your chest while still tasting as sweet as those root beers you seem to enjoy so much. Take it slow, though!"

"Every present can't be of the alcoholic variety, can it?" Jalb asked, as he began reaching for another gift to hand out.

"Actually, sirrr, ve might as vell get my gift out of the vay..." Bearcat said as he handed another poorly wrapped gift to McSmell. The shape was very clearly a bottle of some kind. The Cathar shuffled sheepishly as he seemed embarrassed by the poor job he'd done wrapping his gifts compared to others in the celebration. "I vas told this vas the best liquorrr from yourrr homevorrrld."

McSmell opened the wrapping paper and saw the bottle of T'ssolok staring him in the face. A smile crept across his face, as it was a taste of home he hadn't seen in ages. "Hey, thanks man. This really means a lot."

Jalb took a moment before reaching into the pile and looked around. "Any other bottles of booze being given out, or can I pick something out of the pile again?"

***

Clearing his throat and rapping quietly on the open door frame, Brennan "Rainman" Roth spoke into the room, "Sir? May I have a moment?"

Bill "Jedi" Morrison looked up from the datapad he was reading and raised his eyebrows, responding, "Sure Lieutenant, what can I do for you?"

Rainman entered the room, standing squarely at attention in front of the Lieutenant Colonel's desk, holding a rectangular box under his left arm. Saluting, he waited for the Wing's XO to return the salute before continuing.

"Thank you, sir," he said. "The Rogue boys and I pitched in and bought you a little something for Life Day. I volunteered to bring it by since I hadn't gotten a chance to pay my respects since my return to the Squadron. I just wanted to say it's nice to be working with you again. I've always admired your leadership and...well you helped lay the foundations of Rogue Squadron...Sir."

Stepping forward, Rainman handed the wooden presentation box he was carrying to Jedi.

"At ease, son," Jedi smiled as he slowly worked the front off of the box. Inside he found a green bottle of Whyren's Reserve 24 year old whiskey. Nestled next to the whiskey were two heavy lead crystal glasses laser engraved with the Rogue Squadron logo...his old outfit.

Jedi whistled low in appreciation. "Thank you son. I can tell you this will be very much enjoyed. Tell the boys I appreciate the gift. And welcome back to you! Now get yourself back to the real party while I finish up my work. I'll be along presently!"

***

Jalb handed Wolf the gift that was assigned to him. "Your gift person isn't here, but I've ensured that it will be waiting in his quarters after he finishes his current errand. In the meantime, here is your gift to open, Major."

It was a small, square box, no larger than the average commlink, wrapped in paper the teal color of Spectre squadron's patch. Hanging from the box was a silver tag. Flipping over the tag, he saw it read, "Wolf - May this bring you luck."

Sitting down on his chair and opening the paper, he found a brown leather box with a hinged lid. Opening the lid, he found a small sheet of flimsiplast on top, covering its contents. Written on the flimsiplast were the words, "Crafted with metal salvaged from the Second Death Star." Underneath the flimsiplast, set into felt cut to fit them, he found a pair of metal dice.

Wolf read the card with a small smile on his face, expecting some kind of joke. Yet as he pulled out the dice, he sat, moved and covered his mouth with a hand. Rolling the dice between his fingers, he closed his eyes, remembering the sight of that Death Star from the cockpit of his tiny A-wing. Luck... he was leading a squadron now. His squadron. He never told anyone how nervous he was getting this job, but he'd keep these dice in his pocket from now on.

Jalb noticed the emotion on Wolf's face and decided to step in to save the generally shy man from having to say anything. He stepped forward and patted Wolf on the shoulder. "A fine gift indeed," he said aloud. Leaning in closer, he continued in a lower voice. "I've made sure your three gifts made it to the quarters of the recipients."

***

Raptor arrived in his quarters after running his assigned patrol to find a gift on his bed! Opening the meticulously wrapped package, he found a pin with the Green Squadron logo on it.

"Man, I lost mine years ago," he said as he sat on his bunk heavily, thinking about the days of yore. While not normally a sentimental man, the fact that he'd just received a piece of his past hit him harder than he'd expected.

He affixed the pin to his ugly Life Day tunic and stepped out into the hallway to join the festivities.

***

Bone had a package waiting for him in his quarters after his sprint shift, wrapped in Corsair Orange. Inside is an old Corsair patch that was once worn by the Squadron before Endor. It's not that bright or very definitive, and had some terrible images of skulls that look like they should move in a very janky fashion but don't. The images also look pixelated.

"Very nostalgic...er, retro."

***

Upon returning to his still new quarters, Rainman found a small box within his duty locker. It wasn't wrapped, but within lay a small piece of metal with black and gold paint on it. A description read: "Found among X-wings due to be scrapped for parts were the remains of U-2591-A. This belonged to a starboard wing and was listed as Number 5 once assigned to Rogue Squadron. Parts were returned to the Vigilant as part of the on-ramping for a new X-wing squadron supply. It, like it's owner, has found its way home."

Rainman picked up the piece of nondescript scrap metal. Squeezing it in his palm he thought of countless previous missions. Boring escort missions, chatting with his wingman about nothing and everything. Furballs where he thought his ticket was going to be punched. The lives he saved, the lives he couldn't, and those in the Wing who had saved his own life more times than he could count. He opened his hand and looked again, and what he saw resting there...was a piece of home. He slipped the piece of metal in his pocket, not wanting to let it go. There would be time to figure out what he wanted to do with it later. He thought he might mount it and display it in his quarters. Or maybe place at least part of it on a cord to wear around his neck. For now, he decided to just carry it with him.

He found himself at the SSD, lost in thought. Sitting down at the bar, he asked Iggy a question he had asked many times before, "Hey Ig, have you found out how to make a Donovian Sunshine?"

"I'm sorry," the droid responded, "I don't know how to make a Donovian Sunshine. Something else perhaps?"

Rainman smiled to himself, "No one ever does." he answered, "I'll just have a beer." He sat and thought about his old fighter, and he was glad they were both back. Not exactly the same as before...but back.

Jalb patted his newest "old" pilot on the back as he sat at the bar drinking his beverage. "Welcome back to the festivities, Rainman. I trust you found your gift in your quarters?"

Rainman nodded, his mouth too full of drink to respond. He attempted to gulp it down fully so he could respond verbally, but the sudden maneuver resulted in that annoyingly painful swallow that robbed him of the ability to form words.

"Easy, Eight," Jalb laughed. He pulled out the next gift and tossed it to Syntax, who caught it deftly.

Syntax found himself in possession of a shiny package, but it was cobbled together with mechanical parts instead of wrapping paper. To open it, he had to work at undoing the hinges, screws, and latches. It appeared to be pieces of a scrapped A-wing that built the 'package'. Within was some of the very finest oil used for droid baths, coming all the way from Mon Cala.

"Huh," Syntax said, a reaction not often seen from a droid. "This is incredibly thoughtful, I didn't even know Mon Cal exported luxury oils." He picked up the container of oil and eyed it, tipping it slowly back and forth and watching it slosh around smoothly. "This stuff is remarkably refined, it will be wonderful! Wily Wookiee, whoever you are, thank you!"

Jalb arched an eyebrow as he too was surprised that Mon Cala exported oil, but then caught himself about to fall into the rabbit hole of thinking about the different types of animals that could have been the source. He shook his head quickly to clear his mind and grabbed the first gift he could reach out of the pile. Examining the recipient's name, he nodded in her direction and tossed it to her. Angel opened her gift and what appeared at first glance to be a balloon lifted out of the

box. Angel caught the balloon and brought it close - however, upon closer inspection, she noticed that inside the balloon were a multitude of smaller balloons floating around, and within those were yet smaller balloons, and within those were tiny multicolored spheres that glinted in the light. The spheres-within-balloons-within-balloons slowly bobbed and danced around inside the larger balloon as if weightless.

Angel was absolutely delighted by the balloon. It made her feel like a young kid again, at least in private. She found the balloons-within-balloons to be a lovely dance of light and color and left immediately to set it carefully next to her bunk so she could admire when the ship entered hyperspace and the blue light reflected within.

***

Thanatos stepped into his quarters and set his datapad down gently in the usual spot on his desk. As he continued with his routine to sit on the bed to take off his boots, he felt something touch his backside. Whirling around with his hands raised to strike, he calmed quickly as he assessed the situation with his usual lightning-fast acuity.

He found a gift on his bed after a meeting that ran long! It was a piece of a flight recorder, wrapped in a bow. The recorder was old and beat up. It'd been cleaned, but obviously torn from an old X-wing. Investigating it, Thanatos discovered that it bore recordings from X-wing B-2468-C, one of those X-wings that made it off Hoth during the evacuation.

It had been damaged beyond repair during the Battle of Taanab and scrapped. It was listed as a Rogue Squadron fighter during the Hoth Evacuation.

***

Rogue was tired, but he wanted to rush back to his quarters to change and catch the rest of the Life Day celebration after his patrol shift. As he walked briskly down the halls, he stopped as he saw something at the foot of his door.

A disc of music was laid at his door, wrapped in a simple silver ribbon. It has a written card: "To my old friend: I know that there were times you felt overwhelmed and sought a moment of peace. This music always helped me during my recovery to put my mind at ease and reach a sense of relaxation. I hope it does the same for you. -Angel."

***

Barraken stopped at his temporary quarters and puzzled at what looked like a present in front of his door. He opened his gift, which was labeled 'CAUTION: THIS BOX CONTAINS SPIDERS. THERE ARE SPIDERS INSIDE, AND THEY ARE SPIDERS' and wrapped in spider webs, to find spiders.

"Nothing but spiders. Truth in advertising," Barraken chuckled, as he set about collecting the various species before they could scurry off and make a home in the bowels of the ship. Some of them looked like they may even be a tasty source of protein.

***

Wolvinator stepped out of the fresher, toweling himself off after his patrol. He fully intended to join in with the festivities, and felt bad for not signing up to participate in the gift exchange. As he walked briskly down the hall between the showers and the Buccaneer billets, he almost tripped over his gift as he walked into his room. Stooping over, he picked up the hard object and examined it closely.

A rock that had been carved into the shape of a proton torpedo, inscribed with the words "Because you bomber jocks only think about blowing stuff up! Happy Life Day!"

***

Jalb pulled out a small, solid package and looked at it quizzically in his hand. The wrapping was some fairly flimsy and translucent tissue paper, but the name of the recipient was clear enough. Still, rather than throw this solid object to its destination and risk an injury, he walked over to Knight and handed it to the pilot gingerly. "You're up, Captain."

A rock the size of a fist that had been chiseled into the shape of an A-Wing, with a string attached to allow for it to be displayed in quarters or the cockpit. Inscribed on the right side are the words: "Corsair 7 - Catch Me If You Can", and on the left side is a small: "Happy Life Day!"

Knight took the present and immediately started to peel the wrapping paper off. With the box exposed, Knight turned it over to find the box's opening. He found where the flap for the lid slotted into place and pried it open. Inside was some tissue that Knight removed to reveal a stone in a familiar shape.

He pulled the model out of the box and examined it. Someone had taken a stone and very carefully carved it into an A-wing, string already attached. Knight beamed. He took a closer look at the delicate fins, and details. There were words carved into the right side.

He read them out loud, "Corsair Seven - Catch me if you can!" Knight laughed loudly. It was a wonderful gift. Others around him looked to see what he laughed about and smiled at the pilot holding up his gift.

"Oh this is going up with the model corvette I have hung up." Knight scanned the room and shouted, "Thank you!"

Jalb was glad he hadn't sent that projectile sailing through the air, as it likely could have brained somebody had it not reached Knight's hands. He took a moment to read the inscription and look at the craftsmanship before grabbing another gift to pass out.

Among the pile of gifts that had grown in the pilot's lounge, was a thin rectangular box. It was not terribly well wrapped. It was a mishmash of different wrapping papers with far too much tape. Hopefully it is more important that the gift inside was thoughtful.

The poorly wrapped box caught Tlatren "T.P." Pristolaque's eye. He snagged the box and held it up to head ear, shaking it gently. Nothing rattled, just a soft thup. Clearly nothing heavy or breakable. Could be something to wear. Tlatren thought.

He brought the package away from his ear to see who it was for. T.P. turned it over looking for a label. He looked a bit embarrassed when he realized it was on the top, staring him in the face. He read the name and looked disappointed for a moment but looked up and smiled. "Wildcard! Here's one for you!"

T.P. at least waited until Wildcard looked at him before T.P. tossed the present at the unsuspecting Wildcard. He did not, however, wait to see if Wildcard caught the package before he went back to sifting through the presents.

Wildcard opened the gift quickly and saw a very fancy-looking pair of pilot's gloves that put his current NR issued pair to shame.

Wildcard removed his battered old gloves and slipped on his new pair. They felt so comfortable! He had never been given a gift before, but the very idea that someone had been considerate enough to get him something was a shock. His eyes welled with tears, which he quickly wiped away.

"I love them." He said shakily.

Jalb put a gentle hand on the rookie Spectre's shoulder and squeezed gently. "A mighty fine gift indeed," he said aloud as he admired the material and craftsmanship of the gift. As he reached for another gift to pass out, he was stopped by a wave from Knight.

Hellcat's present was held behind Knight's back. This did nothing to actually hide the gift. Not that anyone in the lounge really paid him any attention. The Corsair pilot sauntered across the lounge to the pile of gifts for the Life Day exchange.

Knight brought the gift from behind his back. He grimaced a little at the wrapping. There were a lot of things that Knight considered himself good at. Wrapping presents was not one of them. In hindsight, it was clear that he'd used far too much wrapping paper. The ends didn't fold in correctly and bulged from the extra paper. To compensate, he had added three too many bows.

It all gets torn apart anyway, Knight thought as he set the present on the table in front of Hellcat. Getting the present meant that Knight now owed a favor or two to some friends in logistics. It was worth it though. He had been told by his friends that while not strictly contraband, New Republic Intelligence might not completely approve of Knight's gift. They may even consider it a 'security risk'. Knight brushed off the concern as he trusted Hellcat. This was the kinda thing he hoped Hellcat would have some fun with. Jalb eyed the gift warily, trying to divine what it was based on Hellcat's reaction, but he couldn't quite suss it out. Shaking it off for now and making a mental note to keep a close eye on the mischievous Renegade in the coming days, he grabbed another gift and handed it to Lock.

Hastily wrapped, in plain paper that made it look like an illicit item, was a book. A relatively thick book, although clearly it was a cheaper re-release as the cover was made from a highly flexible card, the author's name was the most prominent wording on the cover. "Dr Zeras Du'qail." What was more interesting was the title; "How to make friends when you're an asshole!" Turning over the book revealed a short blurb, "Do you have trouble making friends because you simply can't tolerate idiots? Do you find yourself pushing people away, even when they're being nice? Never fear, with this book by social expert Dr Zeras Du'qail, you will be well equipped to learning how to reach out and tolerate those around you!"

Still in the paper wrapping was a short note, handwritten in messy characters. It read simply, "It helped me, it can help you too you asshole. Lots of love."

Lock opened it up and flipped quickly through the pages, not particularly stopping at any though there seemed to be some expression of interest on his face. Once he got to the end he nodded thoughtfully.

"This is perfect," he mused. "Exactly what I needed."

He walked out of the SSD, down the hall, up the lift, into his quarters, and finally over to the table in his room. A touch revealed the annoying wobble--one of the legs was damaged or too short but, as luck would have it, the book was the exact thickness needed to stabilize the entire piece of furniture. Taking a step back, the white-haired pilot put his hand on his hips as he admired his handiwork.

Jalb nodded to himself as he hoped Lock's departure wasn't one of anger, but gratitude or mirth. He shuffled his hands through the rapidly diminishing pile of gifts to find another to pass out.

***

A literal shoebox showed up at the recently appointed Corsair XO's door as he finally managed to make it back after being chewed out by the flight controller on duty upon the return of his patrol..

It had no markings other than "FROSTY" scribbled in black marker over the top, giving no indication who it might be from. Upon inspection, inside the box, was a simple datapad. It looked old and worn, and there were some small cracks on the top corner, showing that it had been dropped a few times. If it had just been the datapad--a used datapad at that--it would have been a terrible gift. As soon as it was picked up, though, it immediately started playing a clip.

"Welcome to Red Squadron Training vid 101," said Frosty, his voice somewhat mechanical because of the quality of the recording. A much, much younger, very, very drunk Jack McCauley swayed on camera. He held up a black marker, similar in nature to the one that had written his name on the box. The recording zoomed out and revealed him to be crouched down next to a softly snoring Rev. "Lesson one, messing with your XO..."

With a villainous grin that revealed he was enjoying this way too much, Frosty proceeded to try and stealthily draw on the older man's face. It wasn't the only recording. Flipping through the memory files on the datapad revealed an entire library of videos. Stupid hijinks that Frosty and other members of Red Squadron had gotten into, back on the CRS Morning Star.

Jack took the datapad out of the box, staring at it with curiosity. In so many ways he barely recognised the man on screen, his drunken mind failing to have committed the event to memory. But somewhere, deeper inside, the recordings made him feel warm.

He sat down at his new desk slowly, going through the videos slowly one by one. Picking up his whisky glass, a smile growing on his face, he relaxed as the memories slowly washed over him. He didn't know who had sent this gift but it felt good to know that at least one of the ex-Reds remembered him for something beyond his failures.

***

Somewhere extremely far off the grid...

The gift was clearly extremely cheap. A small plastic toy lightsaber; it lit up for a brief second before the light inside it failed, the embedded speaker making an awful screeching noise before it too stopped working. What Krayt was now left with was a pointless blue and white plastic toy no bigger than his hand that could no more slice through butter than it could a full door. In fact when he did try to poke the nearest hard surface with it the light part of the lightsaber snapped off and all he was left with was a handle. A note was rolled up inside the handle and he pulled it out, reading carefully.

"Congratulations on your new purchase! A weapon from a more civilized age, this exact model replica was based on the weaponry of legendary Master Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi. Please note: Manufacturer is not responsible for deaths by Imperial Inquisitor, or from Lord Vader. Please do not actually use the force, it is intended as a display model only."

Krayt couldn't help but laugh, breaking his training concentration. "How did that courier droid find me all the way out here?"

***

Jalb hand delivered the next package to the newest Rogue qualifying pilot in the Wing with a large smile on his face. He hoped that it was a pleasant gift, however, as the man was known for his temper at times.

Dragon ripped into his present with glee. Inside he found a strange stuffed bird-like creature. About the size of his hand; he picked it up and squeezed. Instantly the eyes popped out of the holder in the head, on rubbery strings. Letting go they bounced back into place. He squeezed it again and gave a little chuckle at the sight of the Porg's little eyes popping out. He had to admit, it felt kind of good. Kind of relaxing. There was another item inside the package, a small datacard. Scribbled on it in messy handwriting were the words, "Chill-hop mix, for the angry man." Placing the datacard into his datapad it immediately started playing a relaxed little beat in his earbud, which combined with the stress ball porg had to, he admitted, calm him a little. It didn't last long however, when he found the note leftover from the wrapping paper.

"You need to chill out man, you're an angry guy. I admit it's partly my fault, sorry about all the Darlene stuff, but she was getting close and she seemed to have a real hatred for you so you were an easy target. If it makes you feel any better, I made a lot of credits whilst she was busy with you. You should buy her a drink sometime, I think she has a thing for you."

Jalb blew a sigh of relief as he realized the gift was a gag, but a welcome one that didn't set Dragon off. Quickly moving on with the proceedings, he found yet another familiar shaped gift sticking out of the pile. Sighing at the amount of bottles having been gifted, he grabbed it and moved quickly to FLATTOP and placed it on the table in front of the socializing Spectre pilot.

Whoever had wrapped it clearly had not gone through the effort of trying to conceal what it really was. As layers of paper disappeared, finally the bottle's label was revealed: "Whyren's Reserve '87." Scribbled underneath that, directly on the label, said, "A little bit of home. This one is from a good year. Enjoy it!"

"I think that was the last of the unoriginal gifts judging by the shape of the rest that I can see," Jalb said jovially, keeping his tone light. "Let's see who is next!"

***

Left in the machine shop where the U-Wing techs usually kept their tools, was a small, neatly wrapped yellow box with a neon pink bow. Tied to it was a little tag that had "Snorp" written on it.

Upon opening it, a small microchip was visible, accompanied by a note. "I had no idea what a droid might want for Life Day, but I hope you enjoy this compilation of artists from over 1000 different worlds that I found."

A sound that came across like a contented sigh escaped the droid, along with a different sounding "Snorp" than the droid usually emitted.

***

Two identical plasteel ammo crates, which until recently held fuses for proton torpedoes, sat side by side, clearly both gifts have been prepared by the same person, or persons.. Both had been scrubbed clean, their tops painted blue and the names "Guardian" and "Tattoo" stenciled in red, surrounded by a blue border. Opening one of the crates revealed an interior divided into four compartments, with a card made of real wood-pulp paper on top. Inside each compartment was a two-part tether and a spool of braided durasteel cable, designed to be attached to a safety harness at one end and a ship's anchor point at the other. The tethers have emergency release buttons and triggers to retract the cable at both ends, they look to be finely made.

The front of both cards depict a forest at sunset. Inside, both contain the same short message written in the same small, neat, almost childlike handwriting: "You keep us safe, these tethers should help to keep you and your crew safe. They should be more reliable than standard-issued ones."

Tattoo opened her crate right next to Guardian's, and both pilots chuckled at the identical gifts. "A plus for effort, F minus for originality," Tattoo said with a shrug.

"Well," Guardian nodded, the hint of a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth, "...we'll find a frame for you, and somewhere in the cockpit to show you off." He gently slipped the card into a pocket of his flight suit, then leaned into the crate to examine the assemblage. His artificial hand trailed lightly over the cable, impervious to any splinters, but still needing to feel it, to touch the spooled line like he could judge the quality from his tactile senses alone. His eyes took in the tethers, and his grin grew wider. "And gonna save a lot of lives with these. Happy Life Day, indeed."

A deep breath and he straightened, keying his wrist comlink. "Snorp. This is Guardian. Bring a hover-sled to the bridge-side of the hangar, would you? We've got some...additions to my U-wing I'd like to get installed soonest."

***

Battledog opened his locker, having left the festivities momentarily to check his datapad for shipping notifications for his gifts. As he opened the locker door, he noticed a gift that hadn't been there the last time he was there.

The simply-wrapped box was long and thin. Upon removing the wrapping, the box reveals a cylinder slightly longer than a closed fist with a thumb activation stud and a small trigger on opposite sides. The thumb stud triggers a catch that telescopes a rod out of the cylinder to a length of about 40 centimeters with a pair of small prongs at the end. Once extended, the trigger kicks off a small electrical charge at the end.

The note inside the box reads: "For use on unruly trainees."

BattleDog eyed the stun-stick as though it were a venomous lizard. Gingerly, he depressed the thumb stud to retract the rod back inside the handle. A quick examination revealed that the stick had an integral power supply, rather than a removable power pack. BattleDog grimaced with distaste and briefly considered completely disassembling the unit for spare parts. I suppose it is a gift, he mused, before throwing it in a day sack and heading towards the turbolift. Later, as he was filling out the necessary paperwork to have the stun stick secured in the armoury, he was struck by a conflicted sense of relief and disappointment. So much for making real friends, at least it wasn't something thoughtful and heartfelt.

***

Jalb almost grabbed a familiar package, but opted to delay that until Stryker returned from dealing with the angry flight controller complaining about one of the latest patrol flights' antics. His hands grasped a smaller package and he was shocked by its heft. Using both hands, he carried it across the room and set it down in front of Hyl with an involuntary thud.

The package was hefty, about the size of a datapad if a little thicker. The plain paper tore easily, and once the box was opened, the packing paper inside was peeled back to reveal the new SoroSuub RT-77 Rescue Multitool. The hand-held gadget had a central grip that spiraled out into a number of different devices to assist in clearing trapped individuals from whatever dire situation they may find themselves trapped in – a hand servo to manually open airlocks; a vibroblade that can be used in a protected hook or extended out to cut away straps or clothing; a small plasma cutter to eat through metal or transparisteel; and a glow rod with multiple color options to make sure the user can see what they are doing.

The second item was the multitool's holster, with the webbing gear to attach it to a flight suit or wear it off of a belt.

Jalb was resting his back after the surprising heft of the last one, and opted to pull Rev over to the pile and pointed out the gift that was addressed to him. "Go ahead and grab that one, Captain. It's got your name on it."

The tall box was wrapped efficiently in plain paper. Removing the paper caused the sides of the box to collapse out gently, revealing a small cup and the plant contained inside. The scent was immediate and sweet, tickling the nose, although the flower looked...strange, a curled cup of orange fading into red. The cup was gunmetal gray, and magnetized on the bottom to help keep it upright onboard a military ship.

The note, printed in a standard font, read: "To remind you of home, this is a Corsin krayt pitcher plant. Its scent and color are nice, but that's to attract the insects it feeds on. You'll need to water it, make sure it sits somewhere it'll get light, and probably slip it some protein from your meals at the mess."

Jalb eyed the exotic plant with unease. He could only hope it wouldn't grow too quickly and it wouldn't grow to such a size that it could become a hazard. Looking back at the dwindling pile of gifts, he grabbed the familiar one and hand delivered it to its recipient.

Gnoizic looked down at the gift that had been placed in his hands. A reasonably large, lidded box that was not overly heavy but had 'presence'. It was wrapped in bright green paper and tied with a red ribbon. He looked around and noticed Stryker had an identically sized and wrapped gift. Looking back at his he also noted the present giver had made the effort to wrap the lid and box separately.

He moved over to an unoccupied piece of bar, placed the present atop it, undid the bow and removed the lid to find another box, wrapped in opaque silver plasfilm... seamless silver plasfilm. He worked the box around in his hands to find a way in but eventually had to pull out a utility knife to cut into the wrapping. Once entry was made the film parted quite easily to reveal another simple box, inside of which was another. This one was printed with Banthas trudging through snow and, once removed, opened quite easily to reveal another... package?

This one was a little larger than his two clenched fists but seemed to be wrapped in a sparkly gold ribbon around an inch and a half wide. At least there was an obvious 'end' that he was able to start unraveling with but quickly found the ribbon was more like tape with an adhesive that was just strong enough to be annoying. As he slowly unwound what seemed like an unending golden strip, and it started coiling at his feet, he started to feel less than grateful towards his gift giver, however, the crowd that had started to take interest in the process were full of mirth.

Finally, after several minutes the ribbon finished to reveal another small box. It was around 2"x 3" and half inch high, made of real wood with a beautiful, varnished finish that highlighted the red golden grain of the material. It was well crafted and appeared seamless less an obvious highlight atop one large face, which he touched.

There was a click and the box separated, one half flipping open like a book to reveal a small ingot, silver with Damascus like patterning nestled in a padded bed... Beskar, Mandalorian Iron with an ancestral forge mark, not Imperial. Gnoizic looked up quickly to try and pick the gift giver but there were too many people trying to see what his unwrapping ordeal had presented...

The annoyance Gnoizic had felt working through varying layers of gift-wrapping material washed away, replaced with a flood of emotions and curiosity at the thoughtful gift. Who the hell has the kind of connections to score beskar? he thought as he flipped the ingot over in his hand. Not even stolen from the Empire! Even his own Mandalorian armor was mostly forged out of durasteel alloys, not the prized Mandalorian metal. This was a gift beyond compare, making him briefly rethink the two gifts he had procured for his fellow wingmates.

He snapped out of his brief trance, suddenly aware again of the prying eyes around him ogling the precious metal and awaiting his reaction. A quick scan of the nearby crowd didn't reveal anything short of genuine surprise, so either the gift-giver had a good sabacc face or they weren't in the immediate vicinity.

Torn between starting a casual hunt around the crowd or making a minor scene, Gnoizic opted for the hopefully quicker results of the latter, pulling himself up onto the bar behind him.

He immediately regretted it, as more eyes turned his way. Public speaking, especially unscripted, was never his forte, and here he was volunteering himself for it for little good reason.

Well, frak, he thought. Mandalorian, what's going to sound Mandalorian? "Su cuy'gar and Happy Life Day! One of you has gifted me a great honor, and I intend to pay that honor back in kind." He lifted the small ingot in his hand, showing it to the nearby crowd. "Wherever this beskar fits to my armor-helmet, chestplate, gauntlets-I'm getting your name, sigil, or other identifying mark engraved on it. You are forever and always clan to me. And, of course, your next round's on me! So who do I have to thank for this?"

As Jalb looked up from delivering Gnoizic's gift, he noticed Stryker walking back through the door and smiled, grabbing another gift and delivering that one to the CO of Renegade Wing.

Stryker looked down at the gift that had been placed in his hands. A reasonably large, lidded box that was not overly heavy but had 'presence'. It was wrapped in bright green paper and tied with a red ribbon. He looked around and noticed Gnoizic had an identically sized and wrapped gift. Looking back at his he also noted the present giver had made the effort to wrap the lid and box separately.

He moved over to an unoccupied piece of bar, placed the present atop it, undid the bow and removed the lid to find another box, wrapped in opaque silver plasfilm... seamless silver plasfilm. He worked the box around in his hands to find a way in but eventually had to pull out a utility knife to cut into the wrapping. Once entry was made the film parted quite easily to reveal another simple box, inside of which was another. This one was printed with Banthas trudging through snow and, once removed, opened quite easily to reveal another... package?

This one was a little larger than his two clenched fists but seemed to be wrapped in a sparkly gold ribbon around an inch and a half wide. At least there was an obvious 'end' that he was able to start unraveling with but quickly found the ribbon was more like tape with an adhesive that was just strong enough to be annoying. As he slowly unwound what seemed like an unending golden strip, and it started coiling at his feet, he started to feel less than grateful towards his gift giver, however, the crowd that had started to take interest in the process were full of mirth.

Finally, after several minutes the ribbon finished to reveal another small box. It was around 2"x 3" and half inch high, made of real wood with a beautiful, varnished finish that highlighted the red golden grain of the material. It was well crafted and appeared seamless less an obvious highlight atop one large face, which he touched.

There was a click and the box separated, one half flipping open like a book to reveal a small ingot, silver with Damascus like patterning nestled in a padded bed... Beskar, Mandalorian Iron with an ancestral forge mark, not Imperial. Stryker looked up quickly to try and pick the gift giver but there were too many people trying to see what his unwrapping ordeal had presented...

Jalb stood watching both Mandalorians regarding their gifts, feeling a good sense of satisfaction as they seemed to be accepted with open arms. Before he could reach into the pile for another, Bulldog thrust one into his hands.

"It's got your name on it, Boss. How about you take a break from giving them out and open yours?"

Jalb_k politely accepted his gift and gave it a quick once-over. The wrapping work was shoddy, lumped together in odd places with additional patchwork wrapping paper taped over gaps in coverage left behind by mismeasurement. It was hard to tell if it was the work of a child, someone who had never given a Life Day gift before, or some procrastinator rushing to slap something together at the last possible second. He shrugged and tore into the gift, only to be presented with a metal box some cheeky pilot had etched hazardous materials warnings onto. Jalb inspected the box further and found the latch to unlock and open it.

The lid popped open with a suspicious click, revealing a tangle of colorful wires rigged between a thermal detonator and a rapidly counting down timer. Without time to react, let alone think, the timer spun to zero and the thermal detonator's shell exploded open, spraying Jalb in the face with red and gold glitter. Jalb could hear the nervous chuckles of onlookers nearby who had clearly expected more fireworks. As the dust cleared, Jalb could see that the detonator's shell had split open to reveal a crashball, and he could just make out the shape of a crashball mitt beneath the tangle of wires beside it. Junior's voice-though slightly off in a way he couldn't quite place-emanated from a speaker at the bottom of the box as a holo-image of Jalb and his son sitting together on Mon Cala sprung to life from a small projector. "This gift is only half the fun. To see what's the catch, just turn to your son."

Jalb angled his mouth awkwardly trying to blow glitter from his face and eyes as his hands were occupied with the box. He looked in and around the crowd of smirking faces slowly turning, to find his son behind him.

He was about to ask 'well?' when dawn alit on the marble head and the meaning of the rhyme that had stirred his subconscious kicked him full in the face.

He placed the box down and extricated the crashball mitt and ball then looked at his young doppelganger, now in front of him with a bemused expression on his face.

"Throw or catch?" Jalb asked Junior with a look of real affection. "I think someone onboard feels we should be having some proper 'father/son' time... while it may not be catch, I agree we should hang out more."

Bulldog reached down to grab another gift, but Gnoizic had already picked one up and thrust it into his hands. Bulldog looked at the offered gift with an arched eyebrow, but all he received in response from the fellow Buccaneer was an urgent wave toward the gift's recipient. Shrugging, he trudged to a nearby table and placed the gift in front of Junior.

Junior took the long box with eager curiosity. Its patchwork wrapping paper job was easily torn through to reveal a light metal container, which he flipped around, searching for an opening mechanism. He located a small button along its length and pressed it.

The left end of the box popped open as a flash of metal and leather sprung out. It appeared to be some sort of hilt. A vibroblade? A lightsaber?! Carefully, Junior placed his hand on the cylindrical object, only to be met with a warm yellow light splashing out from the box, accompanied by a symphonic variation of a popular song about estranged fathers and sons. He pulled the hilt out of the box, slowly recognizing it as a crashball bat with a mitt attached to its end.

As he looked at his gift, the symphonic music faded while his father's voice-at least, it sounded like his father's voice-greeted him.

"Happy Life Day, mate! Grab your old man and take a swing at the plate."

Junior and Jalb finally put the pieces of the puzzle together, and with a great rush of hands pushing them, stumbled out the door of the SSD and disappeared down one of the hallways to put their gifts to good use.

Bulldog felt a twinge of longing at the sight, but realized he'd made himself the defacto master of ceremonies after he took over for Jalb. He shook off the feeling and rummaged through the last few gifts, grabbing one directed toward one of his fellow Buccaneers and tossing the light package through the air to its intended recipient.

Zippy caught the very big, but light, box. Shaking it gently, he heard quite a bit of movement within. Opening the lid, he found another, smaller box. And again, and again, and again until he was surrounded by discarded boxes. Sighing, he prepared for yet another box to go along with this Matryoshka box gift, but upon opening this last lid he saw a fuzzy Murder Hornet plushie with a squeaker inside.

Zippy held up the plushie and gave it a few squeezes. Listening to the resulting squeaks, he mused aloud with a chuckle, "Sounds like it's saying 'Fox One, Fox One, Fox One!'". He continued, " Glad this thing is a plushiel can't say I'd care to tangle with the real thing. Looks dangerous and I bet there'd be more than one of 'em too."

He pantomimed slapping his arms and chest as if being attacked by a swarm of insects.

Bulldog was confused by the gift, but he assumed it was one of the many inside jokes he'd likely missed out on during his multiple tenures in the brig on Toseng. He saw Foo edging his way out of the room, but also knew he saw one of the presents with the Buccaneer's name on it, so he quickly found it and shoved it into Foo's hands before he could effect his escape.

The present was neatly wrapped in matte brown parcel paper tied with twine and of moderate size and weight. A handwritten message near one corner read: "To Foo, for those long flights." Underneath the wrapping he found a plain brown box labeled in faded black block stencil letters: OEM, INCOM BT-45D, OPT CMFT PKG, QTY 1. Inside the box he saw an adjustable beaded seat cover that appeared to be made of two different polished hardwoods, one darker than the other, arranged in a checkered pattern.

As Foo received his gift he looked over it. An unassuming brown package with thin twine criss crossing it and a letter attached on top. His name, labeled in fine basic writing. He slipped his thumb under the fold and popped the envelope open and slid the letter from its sheath. A single sheet of paper presented itself with a similarly simple note written upon it.

"To Foo, for those long flights."

Curiosity got the better of him and he impatiently tore open a section of the wrapping. Within its confines Foo could see the glint of finely carved wooden beads; closer inspection revealed the intricacy that they had been laced together. Foo's eyes widened as he realized what they may be. An item he had seen not so long ago in Incom's monthly catalog.

Foo grabbed his drink and tucked it under his jacket as he set off out the entrance of the SSD. He snaked his way through various corridors before being dumped out into the hangar, his destination. There, he quickly located his U-wing and quietly slipped aboard, closing the boarding door behind him. Quickly, he unwrapped the gift and let the cascade of beads unfurl. He gave them a once over to ensure there were no knots and then made his way up to the pilot's seat. He draped them over the seat, fastening the clasps at the back before taking a seat.

He sunk into it, feeling the wooden beads work into his back and sighed in relief. Beyond the canopy he could see the hangar deck, quieter than usual. Beyond that, stars twinkled in the distance and the mag field shimmered. Leaving Foo with the realization that an impossibly small barrier separated him from the stars. After a moment he remembered his stash and pulled out the bottle that he had sequestered away. Taking a drink, he continued to watch the stars beyond....

Until he remembered why he was in such a rush in the first place to leave before receiving his gift.

***

Foo grunted and strained as he made his way down the hallway. The gift dragged on the ground behind him. More than one passerby slowed as they passed Foo and gawked, some whispering to their compatriots as they did so. He only returned their stares with an exhausted but devious grin, causing them to hurry away, not wanting to be any part of what was about to transpire.

Finally reaching his destination. Foo tried to lean the gift against Animal's office door but with the weight and the sweat on his hands, it slipped and insead slammed into it with a resounding thud.

From within he could hear Animal yelp, as he had clearly been taken by surprise by the sudden noise. The door slowly slid open under the weight, the gift lost it's perch and fell inward. It slammed onto the ground narrowly missing the recipient's toes, causing Animal to jump and dance away. A series of curses rapidly followed.

Animal's head poked out of the door and scanned the area, finding Foo slumped against the wall trying to catch his breath and covered in sweat. "Cap? What the hell is this?"

"Your gift boss!" Foo exclaimed, giving a shaky thumbs up.

Animal looked down and then back at Foo. "What in Corellia's nine hells am I supposed to do with an anchor?"

Foo looked dejected. "Well you could have at least unwrapped it before guessing what it is."

"It's for the next Top gun tourney. Place it on your ship of choice so I can catch your ass next time."

Animal stifled a laugh before responding "Um, thanks? But I don't think I'll be doing that."

Foo rolled over onto his hands and knees before using the wall to slide himself into an upright position. "Well...." he grunted "Was worth a shot."

"You uh....you good Cap?" Animal asked as he watched Foo's struggle.

"Yeah, yeah. I'm just gonna go die in my bed now."

Animal watched as Foo left, continuing to use the wall as support and he made his way down the hall, shaking his head. He turned back to the anchor, now firmly situated in the middle of the door frame and sighed.

***

Bulldog picked up an envelope from the gift pile, realizing that it was likely lost in the shuffle of the larger gifts. Reading the recipient's name, he sauntered over and handed it to his friend, Ant.

He received a slightly bulging envelope with "Ant" written on it. Inside was a flat credit stick and a commercially printed holiday card. A drawing on the front of the card depicted the Rebel Alliance starbird with a wire hook through the top as if it were a Life Day tree ornament. Centered below the image were large friendly looking letters that read, "Happy Life Day!". Opening the card he found these words printed in a column down the center of the card in a large font:

Hope

Freedom

Life

Along the bottom of the card was a handwritten message, "Have a few drinks on me at the SSD. I put 10 creds on the stick, don't let Iggy tell you otherwise. Happy Life Day! -Zippy"

Bulldog smirked at the gift and card as Ant opened it before going back and grabbing another. The name on the gift bag confused him, as it was not someone he was familiar with.

"Who is Sidda?"

"Here!" A female Twi'lek responded with a raised hand from near the bar. She had some sort of camera rig attached to her shoulder and it was filming the festivities.

Bulldog shrugged and passed the gift along the throng of Renegade personnel and watched it crowd surf to the unfamiliar woman.

She received a large, somewhat heavy commercially printed blue and silver gift bag with sparkling gauzy tissue paper crumpled into the top of the bag concealing the contents. A bit of string with a tag attached held the bag handles together. The tag read: "To: Sidda, Happy Life Day!" She cut the string and pulled the handles apart; removing the tissue paper to find the dried cone of a Wroshyr tree filling the bag almost completely. There was nothing else inside the bag.

Bulldog saw the gift from afar, and he realized he was just as stumped as the rest of the party goers. Scratching his head, he looked back at the last few gifts and went to grab another, only to realize that everything was gone aside from a hastily written note.

Reading the note quickly, he found Damak in the throng of bodies and handed it to the Spectre pilot, who also read it and immediately left the SSD in a hurry.

"I guess that's everything. Happy Life Day!" Bulldog shouted, receiving a few polite claps in response. Frowning, he looked down at the double pour of bourbon in his hand. "All that's left to do is drink the bar dry! Next round is on me!" This received an adequate roar of appreciation from those still in attendance and still upright.

***

Damak walked into the locker room holding up the note with uncertainty.

Inside his locker was a small, brightly-coloured cloth bag with a label saying, "Happy Life Day! Hope this brightens up your off-duty wardrobe!" When he opened the bag and unfolded the garment inside, he found a shirt in his favourite colour. It's not like the collared shirts he typically wore off-duty: this one didn't have buttons and its collar stood straight up, stiff with embroidery. The same embroidery pattern ran down both open sides of the shirt and around the bottom hem, while it was repeated at the end of the elbow-length sleeves. Four patch pockets hinted at practicality, but the overall effect was one of colour and style. There was a simple silver pin to hold the shirt closed at the throat, but he had the feeling that he could use a different type of closure if he wanted.

"How did...?"

He sighed and looked at the garment which reminded him of the place he grew up. Someone took the trouble to actually find or make a copy of this shirt that they only saw in a photo. The embroidery was wonderfully done. Looked to be hand-made. Whoever that person was, he was thankful.

A few minutes later, he planned to make his entrance into the SSD wearing the shirt. He wanted to replace the silver pin with a gold brooch belonging to his late fiance, which necessitated a quick trip to his quarters before he could go order another Iced-Kaf-Latte in the bar with his friends.

Just before he entered his quarters, he saw a package addressed to him at the side of the door. There was a stamp from the security team, confirming that there was nothing dangerous in it.

He opened it up and saw two smaller packages inside. He took out the bigger of the two and placed it on his small desk. Using a knife, he cut open the packaging to reveal a selection of alien fruits within a hermetically sealed clear package. There were fruits with hairs. Some with pimples. Some with thorns. They were colourful too. He missed these great tasting fruits.

"Hmm... they must be in season."

He looked at the fruits and thought about the Lifeday celebration in full swing and realized that he didn't see his intended target, nor the gift he'd ordered for the celebration in the pile at the SSD. "Maybe I should share these with her just in case my gift got lost."

He rummaged around his quarters and found a portable cooler. He placed half of the fruits into the cooler box and sealed it. He placed the cooler out of the room and arranged a bot to deliver it.

***

It had been a long day, culminating in a meeting with some of the wing Command staff, and Gremlin was tired when she returned to her quarters. As the door slid open, she was wondering if Angel would be free to grab some dinner together; then she realised that something was sitting on her bed. Quite a large something, wrapped in one of the tie-dyed blankets from the Ready Room and bearing a note (in handwriting she didn't recognise) which said, "Happy Life Day!" There was no signature.

Gremlin jumped onto her bed to sit cross-legged in front of her surprise Life Day gift. Her really quite large Life Day gift. Untying the blanket, she found .... a cooler. That's a strange present! Cautiously, she reached out to open it.

Inside the cooler was a colourful selection of alien fruits within a hermetically-sealed clear package. Some had hairs. Some had pimples. Some had thorns. They were all alien to Gremlin, which made her frown. I guess they're for eating - hopefully they're not poisonous to Zeltrons! Memories of the unfortunate incident where a lovesick crewmember had poisoned the food were still fresh; Angel had been one of the victims and her description of the symptoms had been vivid. Gremlin picked up the sealed package and hopped off her bed. There was only one place she was going with this!

In sickbay, the Emdee droid was at first surprised by her request, but complied. On opening the sealed package, though, the smell made Gremlin recoil. "Augh! That's disgusting!" She fanned the air in front of her face.

The droid, dialling down its olfactory receptors, extended a probe to pierce the skin of the thorniest fruit. It looked a bit like a meiloorun, but with a purple rind. It took a few seconds to run the sample through the tests before it pronounced, "This fruit is safe for you to eat."

"But it stinks!"

"According to my database, it should taste sweet." The droid used a scalpel to carve off a slice of prickly fruit, holding it out to Gremlin in pincer-like claws. She took it with a grimace of distrust, then gave a cautious nibble.

"It's ......"

The droid cocked its head. "It's ...?"

"Its texture is ... strange. It smells savoury, but ... you're right, it is sweet!" Gremlin devoured the rest of the slice, licking sticky fingers clean. "What about the other fruits?"

They all tested safe for near-human consumption - and for human consumption, too. Gremlin returned to her quarters with a sealed tray of weird fruit, neatly dissected by the obliging EmDee, although a lingering odour in the air after she passed through the corridors had crewmembers sniffing suspiciously for some time. She laid the tray on the table before activating her commlink.

"Ange? D'you want to help me eat my Life Day gift?" She paused before adding, "And then, maybe, I can give you your present too?"

***

Just before Damak left his quarters to rejoin the party, he saw another package addressed to him at the side of the door that he'd missed due to the presence of the first package. There was a stamp from the security team, confirming that there was nothing dangerous in it.

He opened it up and saw two smaller packages inside. He took out the smaller of the two and placed it on his small desk. Using a knife, he cut open the packaging to reveal colourful socks and scarves.

"Ugh... Need to get rid of this." He looked at the clothing and shuddered. As with Gremlin's gift not being at the party, he realized Freak's was missing as well.

He remembered a multicolored flight suit he had to steal and destroy from a squadmate with a strange attachment to colors. He was traumatized. He rummaged around his quarters and found a nondescript box.

He threw the whole thing into the box, quickly sealed it and put it outside his room.

Then, he arranged for a bot to deliver it to Freak at the party, and then set out himself to return to the party. He didn't want to be associated with this black bantha gift.

***

TP left the party a little downtrodden after not receiving a gift. It seemed once again that everybody had forgotten he existed. He sighed sadly as he climbed the ladder of his X-wing for his patrol, but was stunned after he crested the top of the ladder with the new addition to his cockpit.

TP found a decoration stuck to the control panel of his X-wing as he got ready for his swing shift. It was a toy windmill with very small blades which rotate faster when the engine power increases. It wasn't intended as a fan, but it did have a similar effect inside a sweaty cockpit.

"They didn't forget," he squeaked happily.

***

Loth-Cat likewise was a little saddened by the lack of a gift. To be fair, they had received a great gift from Bulldog earlier in the month and many other great gifts from their friends in that celebration.

They reached the top of the ladder as they prepared for their patrol and stopped before climbing in. On the seat of their Y-wing, Loth-Cat found a bag containing a double-walled mug and a magnetic cup holder to stick to the side of their cockpit. The label on the gift read, "Enjoy your blue milk while it's still cool!"

Loth-Cat looked down at their hand, suddenly remembering the mug of blue milk they had in their hand. Sitting in the cockpit, they had Casper do the fighter's startup procedures while they started the process of setting up the gift.

***

Dobber exited the holobooth after his conversation with Charity, noting the time was nigh to make it to the party before midnight. Starfire waited nearby, ready to finally attend the party as well. They both were sure to avoid the mistletoe that Gremlin had ambushed them with before.

As they prepared to walk to the SSD, a MSE series droid rolled up to them with two parcels stuck to it's top. It banged into Dobber's toe rather painfully, causing the Rogue to lift up his foot and hold it in both hands out of reflex. "Blasted droid!"

The force of the impact jarred the packages off the top of the droid, and they slid forward under their own inertia and skidded to a stop on the deck near Starfire's feet. Once the droid realized it was free of its burden, it executed a tight three point turn and peeled off in the direction it had come from.

Starfire stooped down and picked up the packages that were relatively similar aside from one being addressed to her, and the other to Dobber. Her eyes widened, and she snatched up her present and tore into the festive wrapping greedily. After a moment of effort, it was apparent that her gift was a very fine set of socket spanners of all sizes that would work on all manner of fighter craft systems.

Dobber finally recovered himself and opened up his own present, which was a similar set to the one Starfire received, but it was all of a much smaller scale with more specialized attachments to fill up the extra space in the package. After a moment, he realized that this was a top of the line personal droid repair kit.

"Nice," both pilots said at the same time.

***

Shadow rolled his neck and toweled his hair off one more time. Having skipped the celebration to grab some extra gym time, he was just returning to his quarters after a luxuriously long shower.

Taped to the door of his quarters, where he couldn't miss it, he found a small bundle of red fabric. It was sloppily tied with a blue ribbon bow.

He unstuck it from the door and threw away the stick wad of tape before suspiciously unrolling the cloth, expecting some sort of prank after the unceremonious presentation.

It dumped confetti all over the floor, confirming his suspicions. But wait. Something else fell out of the roll, landing in the pile of glittering confetti. It was an 'aKraB clip-point vibrodagger, designed by fellow Toprawans on his homeworld. It looked very dangerous, just as it should be.

Shadow picked up the dagger and carefully examined the blade and grip before checking the power cell. Switching between traditional and reverse grip styles he went through a series of thrusts, slashes and parries before tossing it end over end into the air and catching it by the tip of the blade and moving as if to throw the dagger stopping at the last moment. Chuckling contentedly, he moved over to his weapon locker and placed the dagger in an appropriately sized sheath stitched into his bow quiver.

Then he remembered the glitter with a heavy sigh and began searching for a dustpan and brush, and realized he'd need another shower..

***

Outside of Silence's quarters was a large box wrapped in silver paper.

Removing the paper and lifting the lid of the box reveals, nestled in amongst crumpled flimsi, is a scale replica of a A-wing. The carved markings indicated that it was the 12th ship in Corsair Squadron.

Examining the model she learned it was made of wood and likely hand carved, the tail fins had been crafted with the ability to tilt between cruise and maneuverability configurations.

Underneath the cockpit the words "2nd Lt. Rosk Vikeron" with "Silence" just below were painted in a steady hand. There were also several kill silhouettes along the hull.

At the bottom of the box was a stand designed to hold the model.

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Silence squeaked in excitement, holding the model aloft. Bursting into her quarters, she ran a few circles before finally spotting the perfect place to set up the stand and display it.

Twisting it and turning it to the perfect angle, she patted it affectionately and finally stepped back, satisfied.

***

"A package for you, ladies and gentlemen." An ugnaught from Shipping and Receiving said as it handed Captain Fess "Nails" Astrada a pink, cardboard box, tied up with green ribbons and covered with festive stickers.

She tucked it carefully under one arm and headed back to the Skull Squadron lounge to open it.

One by one, she untied the ribbons and opened the box. The scent of Corellian whiskey and sugar wafted out. An entire box of ryshcate waits before her and the rest of the Skulls, waiting for them to dig in.

"This is a nice surprise," 2nd Lt. Mia "Crossbones" Desik said, nodding in approval. "Smells better than my recipe with easy to find ingredients."

Major Alexander "Scythe" Tane shrugged. "If Four says it smells good, it's got to taste good. Dig in."

Zander "Poker" Pokri smiled as he examined the box. "Pink box and effeminate wrappings? Certainly seems like something she would do."

The End

***

Below is the list of assignments based on who received which person for their gifts in case some of the blurbs weren't clear (intentional or not). We hope you enjoyed celebrating the holiday with us, and here's to many more great years together!

Bulldog: Bearcat, Talon, Dobber, Starfire
Bearcat: Bulldog, McSmell
Angel: Syntax, Rogue, Thanatos
Syntax: Angel, Barraken
Gremlin: Damak, TP, Loth-Cat
Damak: Gremlin, Freak
Gnoizic: Jalb, Junior
Jalb: Gnoizic, Stryker
Knight: Wildcard, Hellcat
Wildcard: Knight, Wolvinator
Rainman: Wolf, Jedi
Wolf: Rainman, Raptor, Bone
Foo: Zippy, Animal
Zippy: Foo, Ant, Sidda
Guardian: Battledog, Hyl, Rev
Battledog: Guardian, Tattoo
Lock: Frosty, Snorp, FLATTOP
Frosty: Lock, Krayt, Dragon
Silence: Shadow, Skull Squadron
Shadow: Silence