I'll admit, I'm not good with sums. Maths was never one of my strong points. But I'm quite certain that all the food being served at the banquet could feed a ton of starving people. I reckon there will be many leftovers. Hopefully they won't go to waste. I'm not holding my breath with a crowd like this though. The grand hall is packed with diplomats, nobles and hangers-on. If I was not blind already, I'd probably be blinded by all the gems and lights. Everyone is dressed to the nines. Coiffed and perfumed. I'm surprised I'm not suffocating. My mothers have no trouble mingling, shaking hands with Countess This and Duchess That. I'm already fed up.
"What you went through is truly dreadful," Duchess That is saying. "Words do not suffice to express my revulsion." Yet she does it anyway.
"I appreciate your words," I say stiffly. What I want to say is: I can do without your false sympathy. Mother told me to be nice. "But it's behind me. It doesn't define me."
"You were so brave to free yourself from the grip of these barbarians. Hopefully it will teach them a lesson. This is what happens when the wrong sort of people are given authority. People from the gutter..."
"I am from the gutter, as a matter of fact. So are my mothers," I cut her off. Mother may get mad. Or not. Sometimes she hates aristos. Sometimes she does her best to out-aristo them.
"Oh," I can vaguely perceive her hand going to her mouth, "I was not speaking about you of course, dear. Or about your dear mothers. Just the..."
"Wrong sort of people."
She seems taken aback, but regains her composure. "Yes, precisely. No matter, your example is an inspiration, truly. You will convey my offer to Lady Kerrigan, will you not? In such trying times, it would be wise to strengthen the bonds between our houses."
"Sure I will," I mutter. What was her offer again? Who cares. I cannot get away from her quickly enough. I run into Natalie along the way. She seems to be doing better.

"Mingling?" she asks. "Nice dress. Green suits you."
"Don't you start. Haven't seen such a collection of shallowness and stupidity in a long time. How many of these people have ever done an honest day's work? Or even made their own bed?"
"Careful. Some of them may be petitioning your mothers this very moment to marry you to one of their daughters."
It feels like something vile is on my tongue. "And then I tell them to frak off. Fortunately, I'm not the heiress anymore. Good luck to whoever gets that 'honour'."
"I could think of many who'd kill for it. And get killed by it," she remarks. A servant passes by and refills her glass. I take the chance to help myself to some liquor. It makes this ridiculous event a bit more bearable. I look at the parade of nobles, business moghuls and generals.
"One bigwig after another. All strutting around like they own the world. All stuck in one place. Imagine if someone smuggled in a bomb. Think of the fallout."

Natalie seems to shake her head. "Every rebel's wet dream. Smuggle in some Detonite to a gathering of whichever grandees you think are the oppressors you want to topple. Boom. They're dead. Only nine times out of ten, it never works that way. Too well-protected, too big a fish. So you go after the targets you can. Sometimes you can take out their top minions. Security chiefs, officers, scientists and so on. Sometimes you abduct their loved ones and hold them for ransom. Most of the time, it's low-level administrators, security cops, common soldiers. Or completely innocent people who just happened to step on the roadside bomb you laid. People who toil in a factory that churns out their war machines are put on the street when you blow the place sky-high or close it down by airing their boss' dirty laundry. You want those in power to crack down so hard that people run into your arms even as you're wrecking their livelihood."
It is dark and grim...but the truth. She does not surgarcoat. The cold truth is refreshing. I would rather have it than comfortable lies. "It's what you did," I say. My voice is low. There is no judgement. "They leave that out of the holodramas and newsreels."

"Find me a rebel whose hands are clean and I'll tell you they're pure as white snow because someone else did the dirty work so that they could get a medal and smile at holocameras. The underground is a world of sleepless nights, numbed by liquor, filled with backstabbers and four-faced liars. Half the time, your enemy is not 'the Man', but the rebel who's not wearing your colours. You lie to friends, lovers, yourself. Story of my life," she sips her drink. "Does this bother you?" she looks me straight in the eye.
"I guess it should," I admit. "Once upon a time...it would have. But that me died a long time ago. War's not a song. People say rebellions are built on hope. That's true...but they're fought with ferocity and resolve, not empty words. And you came for me when I needed you. I'd rather have someone like that at my back than some fools who want to play hero and drop me the moment I need them because their halo might be in danger."
"When I was a kid, the Jedi filled my head with stories about how the noble heroes take down or redeem the villains like it's a leisurely stroll through the park. Then when I needed help they dropped me because I didn't fit into their neat box. Hell, every Jedi I've known has disappointed me. I know two types: fools with their head in the clouds who wanna hug Sith, and fanatics who are Sith in all but name." I'm ranting, but it feels good let to loose. I shake my head. "The world would be better off without Jedi and Sith."
"It would be," Natalie agrees. "But that would take more slugs and more Detonite than we could possibly acquire in both of our lifetimes," our glasses clink together. I down most of mine in one go. There's a big commotion up ahead. Judging by the noise, Mother is being called upon to give a speech or something. She loves doing that. I love missing them. My vacant eyes meet Natalie's. Gently she takes my hand hand and leads me away. "Let's go." Somewhere private.