Chapter 1: yellow things with beady eyes
There were many perks of his dual-positions aboard the ISD Chimera. When Commander Eli Vanto wasn’t doing what was required of him as aide to Grand Admiral Thrawn, he could be found in the deeper recesses of the Star Destroyer with inventory lists and a datapad running raw code. Eli wasn’t paid any more for helping out at supply, but he enjoyed doing it, and Thrawn allowed him to do it. Furthermore, the staff of the Chimera’s supply branch were glad to have him. They’d even asked if he could make his hobby his permanent job, and while Eli had certainly pretended to give the request due consideration, he’d never felt like taking it up to Thrawn. He was happy to serve by Thrawn’s side. This way, he could have the best of both worlds.
Eli was forced out of his leisurely pace down the stark white corridor when he heard the sound of something hitting metal, followed by a yelp that sounded like one of the ensigns at supply.
He rushed into the arrivals room just in time to see another ensign stumble to his feet, tripping over something unseen, and—
“Commander Vanto!” exclaimed Ensign Devos, scrambling to his feet. His uniform was dishevelled down the front, his eyes wide with what could only be alarm. “Sir, I think we have a breach!”
Eli swore under his breath. “What kind of breach, Ensign?”
The Ensign swallowed nervously, even as his partner pushed himself off the floor and the two of them darted their eyes around the room. For something unseen. For something, Eli had spotted before, that was bright yellow.
“Foreign...foreign object, sir. Unidentified fauna. We don’t know how it got here. It was in one of the crates, and…”
“There it is!” shouted the other ensign, and Eli swivelled around to look. A large lizard, around half a meter long, with scales down its back that moved fast . It wiggles into the space between two rations crates, toppling several boxes over in its haste.
“Alright, we know where it is,” said Eli, trying to project total calmness into his disposition. The Ensigns were clearly distressed, but this wasn’t that big of a problem. He had to communicate that to them. “Let’s contain it in this room and notify Chief Vistas. From there we can implement the proper protocols.”
“The won’t be necessary, Commander.”
Eli startled, and the younger officers jumped, all turning simultaneously to face the source of the soft, cool voice that had become something of a fascination to the Chimera’s crew. It was unfair. Not only did Admiral Thrawn look good, he also sounded like the mysterious anti-hero of a semi-erotic audio holobook. Which nobody would ever admit to reading. But they all knew it, and on the anonymous messaging server of the Chimera’s internal network, they all agreed.
Eli came back to himself before his mind wandered down that path.
“What do you mean, sir?”
Thrawn’s perpetually unaffected gaze traveled from his, to the ensigns’, and finally to the crates behind which the lizard was hiding.
“The Ysalamir were brought onboard by my request,” he said smoothly. His expression turned slightly pensive. Eli didn’t think anyone less familiar with Thrawn’s mannerisms would spot it. “Although I did not expect my contact to handle them in such a hazardous manner. My apologies; Ensigns, Commander.”
Eli’s mind was reeling, attempting to process the bucketload of information that had so unexpectedly been dropped on them.
“There’s… more than one? ”
And, to add even more confusion to the already spiralling situation, Thrawn walked forward, past them, and carefully peered into the space between the crates. Eli tensed, a hand dropping to his blaster on his belt. He wasn’t required to carry it while on-board, and it wasn’t even allowed on the bridge, but he did it anyway, for exactly situations like this. Thrawn had a knack for attracting trouble.
“Stand back, Commander. The Ysalamir must not feel threatened.”
Eli stayed right where he was, but dropped the hand from his blaster. That did nothing to put his mind at ease.
Then Eli and the two junior officers watched, transfixed and disbelieving, as Thrawn crouched to the floor and started to slowly coax the the giant lizard out of its hiding place. This involved making friendly clicking noises with his tongue, and quiet words in a language they couldn’t understand, until, to the absolute amazement of everyone present, the lizard curiously sought him out, creeping out from the safety of its sanctuary and into the Admiral’s waiting offered hands.
Thrawn all but scooped the creature into his arms, rising to his feet far more elegantly than a man who’d just been on his knees talking to an animal should’ve been able to, and turned back to them with his usual neutral expression.
“I presume the other Ysalamir’s crate has been offloaded in another arrival room. Commander Vanto, I am assigning you the task of locating it. You may enlist as many supply officers as you wish. Have it delivered to my quarters.”
Eli blinked, still not over the shock of what he’d just witnessed. And everything else that was happening today, really. “Your quarters, sir?”
Thrawn misinterpreted his confusion. The giant lizard was now curled up in his arms as snugly as if it belonged there. “Have no worries, Commander. They were tested for infectious disease before being loaded onto the shuttle that brought them here.”
“I see.” Eli frowned. “Uh, yeah. Of course.” Forcing himself to look away from the most unusual sight before him, he turned to the officers, who were still gaping.
“Inform Chief Vistas of this task. I want every spare hand in supply doing cursory checks of the arrival rooms. If anyone finds the crate, they’re not to open it until I get there.”
Eli snuck another glance at Thrawn and what appeared to be his new pet. Four beady black eyes observed him with interest.
He was going to have some words with Thrawn.
“Thank you, Commander Vanto. I knew you would prove capable of delivering the Ysalamir unharmed.”
Eli snorted. He stood in Thrawn’s quarters, the part of it he’d grown accustomed to, thanks to the numerous art and history lessons Thrawn liked to give him in off-duty hours. A couple of times, they’d popped some wine in here. During all those times they didn’t refer to each other by rank, and Thrawn treated him half like a pupil, half like a friend. He was familiar with this place. The only thing disturbing the well-constructed image in his head was the glass incubation chamber by the wall, an enclosure of generous proportions, with an artificial habit of greens and wood precisely arrayed within. The two sleeping Ysalamir notwithstanding.
“Permission to speak freely, sir?”
Eli couldn‘t spare the time or effort for tact anymore. “ Why did you get them? What are they?”
“Reasonable inquiries.” Thrawn’s gaze drifted over to the yellow lizards. “They are Ysalamir, Eli, native creatures of the planet Myrkr. They are rumoured to be attuned to the Force. I have studied the mythology surrounding them to extensive details, and I can almost assuredly draw the conclusion that these rumours have some basis in truth. They will be most helpful in my study of the Force.”
“Uh.” Eli pursed his lips. He really shouldn’t be surprised. That was exactly the kind of thing Thrawn would do. “And may I ask why exactly you’re interested in the Force? Do you...believe in it?”
Thrawn tilted his head at him. “Personally, I have no faith in the Force. But the Emperor is most interested in learning its ways. And I have reason to believe that we will soon be facing an enemy that is well-versed in the ways of the Force. I plan on being prepared.”
Eli cleared his throat. Damn, who’s going to tell him?
I’m going to. Of course it has to be me.
“Thrawn. You know that...uh, you know that the Jedi aren’t real, right?”
“You believed that the Chiss were a myth, yet here I am,” said Thrawn, with a slight undercurrent of humour to his tone. Only Eli would’ve picked it up. “It is true that the existence of Jedi is a disputed matter. But it may not be as insignificant a dispute if the Emperor is personally invested.”
Eli squinted at him, trying to read in his expression if this was a joke. Thrawn’s reasoning made sense, of course, it always did, but lizards? Hosting lizards on board the Chimera , and in his personal quarters, no less? Was that even allowed?
Actually, it didn’t matter. Even if Thrawn wasn’t a Grand Admiral, he was long past the point of caring about protocol, anyway.
“Alright then.” Eli shrugged. He really shouldn’t be surprised. “So, do they have names?”
A delicate frown crossed the Chiss’s brow. “Do you mean to ask if I have named them?”
Eli did everything in his power to refrain from rolling his eyes. “Yes, Thrawn. I mean...they’re technically your pets now. People usually give their pets names.”
“So? You going to name them, or shall I?”
“I was unable to ask my contact if the Ysalamir would learn to respond to given names. He only told me that they respond to clicking and sibilant sounds.”
Ah. So that’s where he learnt that from. Small wonder.
Eli straightened. “It doesn’t really matter. Even if they don’t, it’s a way for you to distinguish them. Say, if you’re talking about the one on the left, you can’t always specify which side he’s on, because that is subject to change. Now, if he had a name, you wouldn’t have to find a new variable every time.”
Thrawn frowned, giving this idea seriously consideration. “I understand the point you make. It would be productive to name them.”
“Yeah, ‘course.” Eli looked back down at the Ysalamir. Once you got past the shock of seeing two sets of eyes on one face, he thought, they were kind of endearing to look at. “So what would you name the one on the left?”
Thrawn spent a moment pondering his question. When he finally had an answer, Eli noticed the slight uptick of his lips that would’ve been a full-blown smirk for anyone else.
“Thrass,” he said, and didn’t elaborate.
“Um, okay.” Eli would ask later. He was definitely going to, at the right time. Thrawn looked way too pleased with himself for the name to mean nothing. “And the guy on the right?”
“The one on the right is female. Notice the distinctly darker hide. They are siblings. You may name her, Eli.”
“Oh.” Eli paused. “You sure?”
“I am positive.”
Eli racked his brain for ideas. This moment felt way more significant than it had any right to. He was just naming Thrawn’s pet, after all. It wasn’t a big deal.
“I don’t think I’m any good at naming things. What about, um. What about Kahaa? ”
Thrawn nodded. “Very well.”
Eli couldn’t help explaining. “It’s a word. In my language. It means yellow. Not very creative, I know.”
“That is of little consequence. The Ysalamir now have given names; whether or not those names are particularly interesting is immaterial, as long as they serve their purpose.”
Eli bit his lip to keep from pointing out that he was totally missing the non-practical point in naming pets. “If you say so.”
Thrawn’s gaze traveled over his shoulder, to the living space behind them. The furniture was stylish but utilitarian, black and white like everything else on board the Star Destroyer. The only element adding a pop of colour was a red rug, smooth except for intricate stitchings along the borders, a housewarming present from Eli when they’d first been assigned here.
“You have had an eventful day,” said Thrawn at last, looking back at him. “Searching for Kahaa was no easy task. Would you care to join me for a refreshing beverage?”
Eli grinned. “Yeah. Make that your strongest refreshing beverage.”
Thrawn’s eyes sparked with amusement. “You are prepared to try another vintage from Csilla, Eli?”
Eli took a sharp breath, his cheeks flushing lightly. Thrawn had saved a couple of bottles from before his exile, and he couldn’t imagine breaking one open for anything short of a momentous occasion. The only time so far had been after his long-awaited promotion to Lieutenant Commander. The brew had been so strong Eli had coughed the whole night. It had been totally worth it, though.
“I thought those were for special occasions.”
Thrawn was definitely amused now. “You gave me the impression that naming a pet was something of a special occasion.”
Eli threw his hands up. “Oh, what the hell. Live and let die, yeah?”
Thrawn raised an eyebrow. “I am unfamiliar with that expression.”
Eli punched him weakly in the arm. “I’ll explain over drinks. Come on. We just named two Ysalamir. Let’s toast to naming many more Ysalmir to come.”
“I do not intend on acquiring any more—”
Chapter 2: recreation server - 1
Eli finds the Thirst chat. It’s downhill from there.
0030 HRS GALACTIC STANDARD
/INTERNAL MESSAGING SERVER/
Enter User ID:
[ livenletdie3.1415 ]
[ ************** ]
Filter: Currently Active Chats
OPEN MIC NIGHT PLANS by @lightsaberzoom (started: 1 week ago | status: active | online: 2)
The Roast of Senior Lieutenant Gimm by @freezemfs (started: 1 month ago | status: active | online: 3)
BITCHIN’ (only for girls and cool dudes) by @glitterryder (started: 2 months ago | status: active | online: 4)
Contemplate the Meaning of Life with Peaceful Meditation by @highflyer11 (started: 1 month ago | status: active | online: 2)
I Really Hope the Admiral Doesn’t Find this Server by @2fast2furious (started: 2 weeks ago | status: active | online: 10)
...granting you access to chat: I Really Hope the Admiral Doesn’t Find this Server.
[ @livenletdie3.1415 ] has joined the chat!
@s3ndbl4st3rs: its kinda cute tho
@imissshoreleave: no its freaky
@imissshoreleave: he shouldnt be doing that
@spymaster22: he was cute today
@s3ndbl4st3rs: dont be dumb hes smokin hot always
@livenletdie3.1415: who are we talking about?
@imissshoreleave: dude where tf have you been??
@death-eater12: you are missing out A LOT
@death-eater12: this is the most trending chat since it was made
@2fast2furious: They’re right, you know.
@2fast2furious: I can’t believe no one thought of it before.
@imissshoreleave: yes buddy you’re smart we get it
@livenletdie3.1415: is this chat about Thrawn??
@s3ndbl4st3rs: took u long enough
@livenletdie3.1415: what do you normally talk about on here?
@death-eater12: this is a forum for pure thirst
@livenletdie3.1415: are you...joking
@death-eater12: hey you don’t have to be here if you don’t want
@livenletdie3.1415: no sorry I’m just surprised
@imissshoreleave: whats surprising? the admiral is a whole ass meal
@s3ndbl4st3rs: and speaking of ASSES
@2fast2furious: Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
@2fast2furious: Before you came in we were talking about how he stares at the viewports when nothing’s going on.
@livenletdie3.1415: that would be him appreciating the star specked void of space and how much character it can surprisingly have
@livenletdie3.1415: I think
@death-eater12: someone’s done their research it seems
@livenletdie3.1415: look he likes art, it’s no secret
@spymaster22: thrawn: looks at space
@spymaster22: entire bridge: looks at thrawn
@s3ndbl4st3rs: once I shed this hideous physical form and my really attractive true form manifests its over for u bitches
@imissshoreleave: I’ll be sure to get there before you do, hon
@livenletdie3.1415: some kind of competition?
@livenletdie3.1415: i see
@livenletdie3.1415: so does anyone have a real chance?
@imissshoreleave: duhh, ME
@spymaster22: haha dream on
@spymaster22: he smiled at me today bitches
@death-eater12: no he didn’t. he looked at you 0.1 seconds longer because you were blocking his view of the sensors
@spymaster22: well he didnt look at you AT ALL so eat that
@livenletdie3.1415: let’s not fight about this shall we?
@imissshoreleave: ugh you know who I wish I was?
@imissshoreleave: thrawn smiles at him ALL THE TIME. and sometimes FOR NO REASON.
@s3ndbl4st3rs: my theory is he owes him a life debt
@2fast2furious: What for, translating for him?
@s3ndbl4st3rs: who knows with alien cultures
@livenletdie3.1415: that’s far fetched
@livenletdie3.1415: I don’t think vanto is special or anything
@spymaster22: dude have you seen the way he looks at him
@spymaster22: like he’s the most perfect man in the galaxy
@spymaster22: wish someone looked at me like that
@livenletdie3.1415: I don’t see it
@livenletdie3.1415: they’re probably friends because they’ve known each other a while
@s3ndbl4st3rs: no one looks at their friends like that
@2fast2furious: @livenletdie3.1415, if you’re so sure, you should bet against it in the betting pool.
@livenletdie3.1415: there’s a betting pool????
@imissshoreleave: dude, do you live on this ship at all? it’s the biggest one
@spymaster22: yeah I put in 30 credits but I know people who put 100s.
@livenletdie3.1415: for or against?
@spymaster22: FOR, OBVIOUSLY ! no one wants to lose their money
@livenletdie3.1415: I would bet against
@s3ndbl4st3rs: if you’re gonna do that better keep the money small
@livenletdie3.1415: I’m quite sure
@s3ndbl4st3rs: best of luck on your losing kiddo
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