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Guardian's Tale

The dim light in the lounge of the Rebel Alliance Cruiser Liberty was standard fare for the pilots on board--they were used to the quiet depths of space. However, that the lounge was this quiet at this time of the standard day was unusual. Captain Chris "Electro" Schock and Lieutenant Jim "Raven" Lee picked up on the tomb-like state of the lounge immediately upon entering, and the silence caused them both to pause for a moment and look around.

The place was near empty. There was one lone figure slumped over a drink at the bar, a pair of Mon Cal crewers in a booth in the far wall, and two other non-coms, an Arcona and a human woman conversing in hushed tones at a table.

Raven shook his head. "Wonder what's up?" he asked halfheartedly.

Electro snorted. "C'mon, Raven, don't give me that. You know full well what's up. Everyone's gearing up to get out of here."

Lee nodded. Corsair Squardon's first mission had revealed the Liberty's general location to the ever-watchful eye of the Empire. Intel had seen supply lines shift as a higher concentration of Imperials set to move themselves into the sector. Without the ability to establish and secure their own lines, the High Command had decided to evac the elite unit, to a less-likely-to-be-compromised area. Most of the crew was running around the supply docks, offloading the Liberty's newly acquired supplies, courtesy of Rogue, Buccaneer, and Corsair squadrons.

Electro and Raven had just returned from debriefing Admiral Ra'kaat on the combined op, and had decided, for the purposes of celebration, to share a drink and a rest in the lounge. They hadn't expected it to be this dead, however.

The pair quickly headed to the bar, sliding deftly into two seats near the middle of the counter. Electro pounded on the bartop, feigning impatience. "What's it take to get a drink around here?" he growled with a grin on his face.

Mixer responded to Schock's call quickly. Two of his arms set on what would be his waist, waiting; the free hand used a rag to wipe the counter down. "What'll you two gentlemen have today?"

Raven grinned. "The usual, Mixer--make it a double."

The droid shook his head. "I'm afraid I can't do that, sir."

Raven's grin faded, and Electro's brow furrowed. "What was that, Mixer?" the senior of the pair queried.

"I said, 'I'm afraid I can't do that, sir.' Did you misunderstand? Perhaps I need to say it in Wookiee..."

Raven's face dropped into a scowl. Electro was simply too dumbfounded to speak. Mixer had never spoken like this before. True, the droid had an attitude...

"On what grounds?" Raven growled.

"Alliance Medical Ordinance 37-2b."

"Which is?"

"Any member of the medical staff may, with proper authentication and documentation, bar the consumption of alcoholic beverages by any member of the crew as the medical staff member sees necessary, until such time as the medical team deems the crew member in question as fit to be reinstated to consume any kind of alcohol, even if the aformentioned subject outranks the medical personnel."

"And who gave this order?"

For his reply, Mixer calmly nodded down the length of the bar. The two officers turned, squinting in the dim light, and made out a vaguely familiar face in the shadows.

"Guardian..." Raven trailed off as he marched down to the younger man's side. The Corsair pilot gave no sign that he noticed Raven's approach; he simply continued to stare into the green liquid steaming in the cup in front of him.

Raven stood there for a moment, still fighting the inital shock. Electro moved up behind his friend, his thirst forgotten for the moment. Raven composed himself, then inhaled to speak, but was cut off by the voice of Adam "Guardian" Burns.

"I did it, sir, and no, I will not revoke it."

Again caught off guard, Raven spat a few incoherant syllables, then raised himself to speak. Again Guardian beat him to it.

"Sir, I have seen your medical record--it has not been updated in more that ten months. You have skipped your last two physical examinations and sir, I have seen your bar tab. Half, more than half, of your monthly pay gets spent in the lounge, and that does not include what money you spend from your winnings at the sabacc table as well as the recent flood of new recruits that you have conned into buying you free drinks. Until I have concrete proof that all this alcohol is not affecting your system, I will not revoke my order."

Raven finally got a word in. "On who's authority?"

"The Admiral's. He and I spoke before the mission briefing, but I didn't have time to stop by the lounge and give the order to Mixer."

Electro recovered from his initial shock and voiced the question on Raven's mind, although he was surpressing a grin. "Why?"

Guardian still didn't look up from his tea. "Because, sir, even as a pilot, I am a medic. And as a medic I cannot, I will not allow any member of my flight team to continue in a behavior that might be detrimental to the safety of the group or that person."

"So what do you want me to drink?" coughed Raven, the realization that he'd have to go to a higher authority to win setting in.

"Mixer," Guardian called, "two more Ithorian Greens down here. Make 'em hot."

The two senior officers slid into the seats on either side of Guardian as the droid appeared with the tea. Electro looked at the green concotion in his cup, then sniffed at it, and then sipped.

He almost lost his mouthful as well as his cup. The tea was hotter than he had expected, and it burnt his tounge both from temperature and flavor. "What's in this?" he sputtered, gingerly putting the cup back down on the bar.

"It's made from water, of course, and several forms of plant life native to Ithor. It's not really all that hard to make, and the ingredients are commonplace, but it's...special."

"What d'ya mean, special?" Raven asked, giving the tea a nasty look.

"Well, for starters, it's an all-natural muscle relaxant. It'll keep you loose, ease your tension, make you more alert. Second, it's used in a majority of the Ithorians' religious ceremonies, from marriages to Choosings."

"Choosings?" Electro asked.

"Yeah. When the Mother Jungle chooses a priest, he or she feels the call, makes a special blend of this, shares it with those closest to him or her, then dissappears into the jungle. It's a sort of...communion. It is consumed to remember."

"So why do you drink it all the time, if it's so special?" Electro continued, interested in the young man's enthusiasm.

"To remember."

"Remember what?" Electro asked gently.

Guardian inhaled, slowly, then spoke quietly. "To remember my parents, the reason I'm fighting. To remember Kol'tar, my herdbrother and adopted father. To remember what he taught me, the Ithorian healing ways, the sancitity of life, the making of the tea. To remember my days as a medic.

"You see, as a relaxant, I'd make the stuff a lot to help with patients who where excited or tense, to ease their pain. I became notorious for it. Then, when I got pressed into the fighter corps, we'd drink it before missions. The elements would share a cup between them, for luck and blessing. We'd remember all the past sorties we'd flown, all the victories we'd won, all the friends we'd lost. But never, in my entire year in Defender Squadron, did we ever lose a pilot. Until the day we ran out of the stuff and couldn't hold to the tradition."

"What happened?" Raven asked, drawn in by the story.

Guardian blanched. "Uh...excuse me, sirs, I'm late for my shift." With that, the young pilot stood, tossed a quick salute, and left the lounge in a hurry.

Raven turned to Electro. "What'd I say?"

Chris nodded, finally putting the whole picture together. "You read his bio, right?"

"I glanced at it. His scores are good, so...?"

Corsair's CO raised the cup to his lips, and took a longer drink than his first, enjoying the spicy flavor of the tea as it warmed its way down his throat. He finished swallowing and set his cup back down, then continued. "It must've been the mission that Defender got schooled. They lost 75% of their pilots and craft, all in one sortie. After that, Captain Salm got his hands on the group and is retooling it as an assault squadron named Grey Squadron, but none of the survivors of that fiasco are on the roster to return."

"He lost a lot of friends."

Electro nodded. "Yeah. And his fiancee."

Raven's eyes snapped up to meet Electro's. "What?"

"Um-hm. I thought you read it. It seems that Mister Burns was engaged to a young lady who also was in Defender. After the ambush was sprung, the Y-wings made well on their namesake and achieved their goals, but one fighter was crippled in the unit's escape. Guardian didn't hyper out with the others, and S&R found him, twenty hours later, still protecting the crippled Y. He listened to her die of asphyxiation as her emergency tank bled out."

"Oh, God. That's tough."

"Yeah. The guy flies for a year under the name 'Guardian,' then loses his fiancee as well as a majority of his other friends in one day. I think it got to him. You saw how he went after Kallysto. That and this stunt of his with you...I think he's going to try to make keeping us alive his job."

Raven shook his head. "He's gonna get himself killed."

Electro finished the tea. "Yeah. But he's gonna be damn sure that he's the first one to go. And I saw his hand. He has a very long life line."

"So," Raven started, pushing the tea away from him, "are you gonna talk to the admiral? Revoke this little misunderstanding?"

Electro smiled. "Hey, who am I to argue with the medical staff?"

Raven's jaw dropped. "You have got to be kidding."

"Better drink that tea, buddy. That's about as strong as you're going to get it for a while."

Raven shrugged and sniffed the tea in front of him. He pulled a small dented silver flask from inside his flight suit and poured some amber liquid from the flask into the tea cup. He then tentatively took a sip of the Ithorian Green tea. "S'not too bad," he said. Winking at his squad leader he poured more of the amber liquid into the tea and drank some more. "Maybe I could get used to it."