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Comfy Chairs and Conversation

Posted on Wed May 26th, 2021 @ 10:36pm by Flight Officer Tawshiikkyrr & Lieutenant Melvyn Kosta

Mission: Scoundrels, Cuttthroats and Rogues
Location: Nar Shaddaa
Timeline: Day 2 at 1830

Haro hated interrogations. Sure, he'd seen his fair share of the dark side of the universe, but he'd also been born into an Imperial family and he'd loved his parents very much. Every uniform from what he had learned to regard (at least mostly) as 'the wrong side' reminded him of his father and that untimely death by 'the right side'. It messed with his head and his heart, hence the avoidance.

With Tawshii looming large just out of what would be their prisoner's reach if the guy wasn't bound to a chair and the others talking to the Rebel, Haro knew he had no choice right now. He had to convey the questions if this man was to have a fair 'trial'.

The wookiee's melodic voice followed a familiar track and Haro kept his gaze on the unknown pilot as he adlibbed the questions. In his hand, the cuff that had been around the twi'lek's wrist. Just in case.

"What's your name?" Haro asked, no malice in his tone. No, there was no need for 'menacing voice' - the warning and promise of pain currently came from the seven foot furry figure right beside him. "And why should we let you live?"

The young man's face jolted Melvyn's memory ; he had seen him before. After a second it clicked ; this was the same man who'd served them the drinks in the bar. Melvyn was not wholly surprised to find he was more deeply involved than he'd pretended to be at the time. He wished he'd had the presence of mind of checking the bar's name, but he'd been otherwise occupied at the time.

"Haven't you seen the news ?" Melvyn asked, tired enough to allow himself this little bit of snark despite the rather bleak circumstances. "I should think my name is known to everyone by now. The Empire is thorough." The latter he said in a resigned though still sort-of proud manner. It would take a while to get used to not being the Empire anymore. Not the genocides and prejudice but the order, the lawfulness, the forceful peace it tried to build. All of that a bitter illusion now. "I'm already dead, so if you're giving me a choice I'll take the quick painless one."

"We've seen the news," said Haro, maintaining a level pitch to his words. "Just state your name. Please." He threw that in there, though the wookiee hadn't used any such pleasantry. "Clearly if we wanted you to be dead, we wouldn't still be asking you questions," he pointed out with zero sarcasm to the statement. Just don't push it. He added, in the privacy of his head. "Name? Reason."

The pitch and yaw of the wookiee's growling - albeit unintelligible to Melvyn - made him realize that he should probably be a little more careful when talking about his former allegiance when talking to people who had suffered at its hands. And with that, all the small clues he'd picked up crystallized into an obvious realization.

"You're not really bounty hunters." The wookiee's face was unreadable. The human looked... worried? "Bounty hunters would have sold me already. They wouldn't bother with the interrogation."

Tawshii lurched forward with the lazy and comfortable grace of an individual who knew exactly where the line was between bullying and broken bones. The wookie lifted human and chair up before him with a consummate ease, met the pilot's eyes with a dark foreboding that promised more of the latter and then bounced them. Up towards the ceiling, and back down into those strong hands again, shaken not stirred and bearing the bruises on both upper arms from the firm 'hold, lob and catch' routine.

"He doesn't like you," Haro said, matter of factly. "Be nice," he added, with no hint of sarcasm or smile. That mask of simple civility kept his fear and distaste for the whole affair locked down inside. "Just answer the question."

They were rebels. And for them to free Hera so readily could only mean she was one of them... well, her fake name had sort of hinted at it already, but Melvyn hadn't been sure. So he'd found them after all ; or rather, they'd found him. Except it looked like Elo hadn't given them the memo about him being on their side.

And, judging by the wookiee's irritable demeanor, convincing them wasn't going to be easy.

Tawshii squeezed the man's arms, hard enough to imply he might just keep going, break a few ribs perhaps. He lowered the chair again and thumped it down against the ground, jarring the human tied to it. Then he nodded to Haro and stepped back.

"Melvyn Kosta?" Haro asked for confirmation one last time. "So, I guess we just hand you back and take the reward money then."

"Yes. I'm Melvyn Kosta. Flight lieutenant. Acting commander of the 311th squadron." He shrugged, affecting a calmness that he did not feel. "Formerly, anyway." He met the young man's eyes then glanced at the wookiee, aware that his life was hanging on a very thin thread, and he felt the same rush of adrenalin he usually did in a cockpit. "Look. If you are what I think you are, then we're on the same side. Hell, I've lost everything to be on your side. To try and do the right thing. I can prove it - I've been feeding your people with information for a while now. My code name was Asset 72."

Maybe tipping his hand so openly was a mistake, but... the Empire already knew all of this, so it wasn't much of a secret anymore.

Haro looked to Tawshii who returned an upward nod and some swiftly rendered Shyriiwook. The human looked uncomfortable for the hundredth time since this whole scene had begun, but mustered up a stalwart and confident bearing from somewhere deep inside. This man before them really was a spy, a traitor to the Empire and a risk to many lives on that side of the struggle. Good men and woman remained among their ranks, of that Haro remained sure, but who was this one to lie and cheat about those he left behind. Had he betrayed family and friends? Did he come to do the right thing now? What even was the right thing in his point of view?

"A code name doesn't prove your true loyalty," Haro pointed out. "It only proves that you're a liar to at least one side in all of this. You also shot down an X-wing. What exactly have you lost, besides your job and your honour?"

Harsh, but not entirely unfair, Haro thought. Beside him, the wookiee's laugh rocked his shoulders as Tawshii waited for the pilot's reaction.

Unexpected anger surged through Melvyn. He hadn't expected the rebels to welcome him with open arms - no one liked a traitor - but for his defection to be treated so dismissively made his blood boil. Did they think it had been easy to turn his back on everything he'd once believed in ? Did that wookie think it was funny ?

"Obviously honour means little to you," he growled, "if you think it's so easy to cast it aside. Do you think it's funny ?" He glared at the wookiee, hands clenching tighter. "Maybe you think it's just hilarious that I had to shoot at my friends, people I shared everything with for years. That I had to kill at least three men to escape with my life. And for the record, that bloody X-wing crashed into me, not the other way around !"

That reaction stilled Tawshii's mock humour and drew the big furry guy's attention. He regarded their bound captive with a stern and level gaze, crouching down in order to look Kosta in the eyes as the man ranted and reacted to the criticism and mockery. Tension in those shoulders, fury in both his expression and tone - these things told the wookiee far more than the angry words or the previous uncertain truth might.

Haro meanwhile remained silent, face stoic and as neutral as the young man could muster.

Melvyn forced himself to inhale before he said more, before he angered his captors beyond repair. The wookiee's handprints were beginning to appear on his upper arms already in a rainbow of sickly-looking blue and purple. Only a little more composed he continued, "I've put my own family in danger. I've not just lost my job, now I'll be on the run for the rest of my life. But none of that matters, does it. Because nothing I say can convince you."

At the time betrayal and defection had seemed like the right choice. Images of Otta V flashed through his mind. He didn't think he could ever forget. The bombing, the whole planet swept in fire, the people... he blinked the images away, willing the acrid smell of smoke to leave his nostrils. No, he couldn't have stayed. Even knowing where his damned chivalry had got him in the end.

"It matters," Haro responded simply, well aware of the meaning of this man's reaction before Tawshii needed to point it out. He could read the sincerity in those defiant, emotional words, the truth wrapped about Melvyn's tone as well as caught up in his speech. The boy looked to the wookiee and gave an imperceptible nod. Tawshii's next words were perhaps just a little softer, rising and falling with questions.

"You shot at your friends?" Asked Haro, picking up the prompts and translating for his friend. "Killed other Tie pilots?" He paused to allow Melvyn to respond, then added. "Where are you from, Asset 72?"

Melvyn had been a little bit too busy trying to survive to keep a tally. Thinking back on it, he wasn't sure any of the erratic bursts of fire he'd occasionally shot had really hit anything, or anyone.

"I don't know if I killed any of them. I definitely killed several storm troopers. I know to you they're just expandable bucketheads, but I trained with them. I lived with them." He exhaled a breath and swallowed back his bitterness. The events of the past day were catching up with him ; he was exhausted, hurting, off guard. Prime fodder for interrogation. But he couldn't see any point in refusing to talk at this point, as irrelevant as the last question seemed to be.

"No one's truly expendable," said Haro, his voice trailing just enough to imply a personal situation that might very well have proved the depth of emotion behind those words. Tawshii rumbled a melodic series of sounds that picked up the young man's spirits just enough to steel his resolve. They needed information here, and their subject seemed tired and talkative. Don't waste this chance.

"I'm from Onderon, if the accent didn't give that away. Inner Rim. Beautiful place. What about you ?" He didn't really expect an answer but something irked him about this quiet young man, only a few years younger than himself.

"I know of it," Haro noted, his gaze direct now as he studied their prisoner's face. "What made you do it?" He asked, tone defiant and frustrated. "What made you betray your friends and family?"

Interesting. Melvyn's perception may be dimmed but he got the impression that there was something... personal about this. He tried to remember if he'd ever seen this face before but his brain pulsated with pain and exhaustion, and he came up with nothing.

"You want to know why ?" he asked, and let out a pained laugh without waiting for an answer. It didn't even matter whether these people were truly rebels, or posing as such ; nothing he was about to say was confidential. "I'll tell you why. You ever hear of Otta V ?" Unfiltered bitterness seeped through his laugh. "Fifth moon around a barren world. Nice little place on the outer rim. Except they didn't like paying tax to the Empire, so their newly elected head of state decided they wouldn't. As far as campaign promises go that one was pretty dumb."

He looked at the human and wookie through bloodshot eyes, waiting for a flash of recognition. He wasn't sure how much about Otta V had been broadcast in the news. He hadn't had the stomach to watch again the images already seared in his brain.

Haro didn't look to Tawshii, and the wookiee kept his bright gaze on the human tied to the chair. Neither of them revealed the answer to Kosta's question, but both recalled the moon of which he spoke. Its fate was recent - 8 months ago? - and that news had reached their eyes and ears. They said nothing. but their prisoner piped up with more information.

"The official party line is that they were siphoning the tax money off to the rebellion. I don't know if that's true, it doesn't really matter anymore."

The explosions had spread like blooming flowers, in swirling petals of fire across the surface, leaving only ashes and ruin behind. And the people... the remains. Melvyn had flown low enough to see what was left, in aghast powerlessness. He'd been sick in his own cockpit, had had to unfasten precipitously his breathing mask and heave between his legs while his radio crackled and his wingman asked him why he'd gone off course.

"It was..." words failed him. "It..." The ghostly taste of his own bile permeated his mouth again. "I am a soldier. Not a murderer, not... genocidal. I believe in order, but order must come with benevolence. I never believed rebel propaganda, but this... It was just undiscriminated killing. The whole moon was turned into ash. The orders were, no survivors, no building left standing. I saw it happen, I was there. Except I was on the wrong side." He shivered, tense, waiting for the condemnation that couldn't not follow. If these people were rebels, by admitting he'd had a hand in Otta V, he may well have signed his own death warrant.

And he wasn't sure that he didn't deserve it.

"Soldiers are different," said Haro, confirming their prisoner's view to be similar to his own in that regard. "None of us are murderers."

The wookiee beside him grizzled in agreement as he'd seen many moons succumb to violent deaths, removed of any life whatsoever for no reason he could truly understand or agree with. Memories of his own home rose up within his mind and taunted him. The men in the black uniforms had caused so much death - what made this one worth saving? I was on the wrong side. That. That did. Realisation.

Tawshii stamped down on the floor hard enough to make the chair stagger a little, then leant in close to Melvyn from the left hand side. Hot breath coasted through that short space and ruffled the bound man's hair for a moment, before the wookiee growled gently.

"Who's your contact here?" Haro repeated in words Kosta would understand.

Of course they were circling back to this question, it was the point of the whole interrogation after all. Melvyn shook his head with what little defiance he had left, his fire gone but his stubbornness still strong.

"No. I got caught, so be it. Go ahead and kill me if you want. Maybe I deserve it. But my contact risked their life for me. I'm not selling them out when I don't even know for sure whose side you're really on. So go on, big fella." He looked the wookiee straight in the eyes and braced himself. "Do your worst. Because I've said as much as I'm going to."

He wasn't sure if he could hold out until the end but he was ready to make a jolly good attempt at it.

"None of us are murderers," Haro repeated for Melvyn's benefit. "So, you turned against your own because of Otta Five?" That was a rhetorical question. "You woke up, realised you were on the wrong side? But there is no wrong side, is there? There's only wrong people, wrong action. There is good and evil in everything, especially humans," he added with discomfort in those words.

They were back on less slippery terrain now. Melvyn wondered how much stock he should put in the young man's words. They may not be murderers, but that didn't mean they weren't going to execute him. That decision, however, was likely to be above his interrogator's paygrade. The man looked oddly uncomfortable. There was definitely something going on there, but nothing that Melvyn would make any sense of.

"No one is entirely good or evil," he acknowledged, a bit baffled by the sudden philosophical slant of the conversation. "But the sum of all your actions usually lands on one side or the other. Staying loyal after Otta V would be condoning war crimes. I'm not... that's not the Empire I wanted to serve."

That reaction told Haro more about their prisoner than Kosta's previous rants. The look in his gaze, that shift in tone and perhaps a little confusion wrapped up in the mix - these were all interesting little details that Haro filed away to pass on to the others.

Tawshii meanwhile watched impassively, feeling no immediate need to beat this man for information. War crimes were certainly not something the wookiee condoned either, but that didn't need to be voiced. Instead the big guy took note of the nuances in their prisoner's mannerisms, scent and heart rate. Subtle signs picked up by keen ears. A low rumble then suggested the next direction for his young friend to take.

"Otta Five was only what - 8 months ago?" tested Haro. "Were you a loyal soldier up until then? Did anyone else in your family help you make the decision to switch sides?"

Melvyn hesitated. He knew that the more he spoke, the more at risk he was of letting slip something he hadn't meant to. He didn't have much to hide regarding himself ; his beliefs, his betrayal, his service records, all of it had been exposed already. But he wasn't dragging his family into this. They were loyal to the Empire out of necessity and political opportunism more than anything, but he'd already harmed them enough by defecting. And Elo... mentioning him was too risky. Who knew what had happened to him. Arrested ? On the run ? Had he told the local rebel cells about Melvyn ? It certainly didn't look like it. How many different cells were there, anyway ? These people might have nothing at all to do with Elo's faction.

"I have nothing else to add," he said stonily, staring at the young human in the eyes, and wondering how far they'd go to make him talk. So far the interrogation had been surprisingly cordial, with only vague threats of physical violence and a few bruises.

Haro looked to Tawshii, who shook his head. They had enough detail to go back to Keskis and check some facts - the code name, the attitude - and see whether that led them to bullshit and lies, pain and hurt or simple conversation. "I'll be right back," Haro stated, for his friend's benefit rather than Kosta's, and he slipped out of the room.

Left alone with the Imp pilot, Tawshii picked up the empty chair that had previously held the Twi'lek and systematically began destroying it one piece at a time. A hard smack against one side wall broke two of the legs which the wookiee then punted at the opposite wall one at a time with his free hand. They bounced off the brickwork milliseconds after barely clearing Melvyn's head and were abandoned as Tawshii turned his attention to more destruction, piece by piece reducing the empty chair to firewood with a systematic and happy abandon.

With the remnants of the chair's back in his hand, jagged splintered edges of the uprights wickedly obvious, the wookiee then closed the distance between him and his captive, snarling roar offering up bared teeth for Melvyn to see. He effortlessly lifted the bound man, chair and all, off the floor with his left hand, pinning him against the back wall, then pressed the broken piece of wood against the curve of Melvyn's left knee. It felt, and looked suspiciously like the man was about to have said limb snapped as easily as the furniture had been, and Tawshii roared, loudly furious, directly into that stony face.

Out in the corridor, Haro picked up the pace.

Melvyn felt his feet dangle into the air and the pressure of the makeshift wooden stake against his knee, positioned just right to dislocate his kneecap. There we go... Melvyn's heart beat hard and fast and he braced himself for the pain to come. Panic swelled inside but pride and defiance was all he had left, and he refused to be intimidated. He bared his teeth and snarled right back into the wookie's face.

That was all the reason Tawshii needed to push back hard, to vent pent-up frustration on a deserved target. Kosta represented every smug Imperial he'd previously encountered, all their arrogance and self-righteousness and violent responses. Every fighter, every death, every loss. Emotions were raw, patience thin and opportunity present.

There was no broken leg, at least not in those following and fleeting seconds where Melvyn remained conscious. There was just the solid delivery of wookiee skull against human and the red-blackness of temporary oblivion.



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