Her holocomm was ringing; she’d set the tone to blare that catchy-as-hell finale song from ‘Rise of the Emperor’, which had the sole distinction of being the only Sith opera she’d ever seen (and would remain so, as long as her friends on the Dark Council didn’t see fit to invite her out again).
Tiona lifted her head from her pillow, trying very hard to extricate herself from the bed without waking Jorath, who was snoring lightly, his face pressed against the skin of her bare back. She didn’t need to grope for it in the low-light; her vision was good enough that she found the small disc with ease. Checking its display as she sat up in bed, she found that it was reading an unknown, private frequency.
A small sigh left her. It wasn’t uncommon for clients to get in touch with her through back-channels, though usually they had the decency to do so when it wasn’t the middle of the Galactic Standard night. Whatever this was, it was likely an emergency. Tiona smiled thinly. It meant she could charge her rush-rate for making people dead. Jorath turned slightly in his sleep, his arm still tucked around her waist, and she smiled to herself.
She pulled the sheets up to cover her naked chest and pressed the “answer” button and was a little mystified when no hologram sprang to life. But she could hear the slight static on the other end; hear the caller’s intake of breath, and —
Looking back on it later, she would realise that it was one of the strangest moments of her life; caught between abject fear and elation with her life literally flashing before her eyes: she remembered a cramped apartment on Nar Shaddaa, late nights with overlarge story-books, how she only ever had one person to hug if she was scared or sad as a child. Then Tiona remembered how everything had gone so terribly wrong; how she fled from the institution that had held both herself and this caller hostage, how she’d changed her hair, tattooed her face and gotten a few scars so she was less recognizable.
And most regrettably of all, she remembered how not once, not ever, did she think of going back to help the caller. She knew the score, Intelligence would likely pit them against each other just because they could. They’d done stranger things to Tiona and she didn’t want to know what they might have put the caller through.
The voice was strange; she hadn’t heard it for years — it was a bit more grown up than she remembered, of course, time never really stops — and tears sprang to her eyes. ”Hi, Nori,” she said, her voice a bare whisper.
When she acknowledged the caller, finally the hologram sprang to life, and there she was, the sister Tiona loved deeply but could not go after, the one she’d worried about all this time. Sha’nori looked exactly like Tiona imagined she herself would if she hadn’t gone into the seedy underworld: expertly pressed uniform, not too many cosmetics, a practical hairstyle. She was reasonably sure they were the exact same height and could probably do that stupid silly sister sharing-clothes thing.
“So you really are alive,” Sha’nori said on the other end, her serious demeanour cracking a little as she smiled. ”I knew you weren’t gone.”
Tiona let herself grin. ”You’re not planning to kill me, are you?”
A laugh, and Sha’nori’s eyes went wide. ”No, not at all. And don’t worry about this line — it’s secure.”
“Where are you?”
A pause, and Tiona watched the hologram look around before speaking, its voice sounding incredibly sheepish. ”I’m right outside your ship. I —” and all at once Sha’nori was the little girl afraid of the dark and Tiona was the one looking out for her. ”I want to come home.”
“Yeah,” Tiona said, smiling sadly. ”I need to get dressed but… c’mon up.”