Girls' Night Out
Diana and Csillag

Twi'lek Dia Passik awoke in her quarters feeling emotionally adrift. Her sleep had been dreamless and unrestful. She dared to open an eye to make sure she was in familiar surroundings, then closed it again. Why was she feeling so wretched? Oh, that's right ...

She was not the same person she had been yesterday. Last night, she murdered a man - no, not just any man, he was a trusted colleague - in front of dozens of witnesses, for the sole sake of keeping herself alive. She and her fellow Wraith Squadron members, Face Loran and Kell Tainer, had entered the enemy's territory as honored guests, disguised as the leaders of a pirate gang called the Hawkbats. Warlord Admiral Zsinj had invited them aboard his Destroyer, Iron Fist, to test their mettle and to recruit them as mercenaries.

Wraith Squadron's headstrong code slicer, young Castin Donn, disguised himself as a stormtrooper, had stowed away on their shuttle, and managed to get captured. To test their ruthlessness, Zsinj asked - no, demanded - that they execute the man. Backed into a corner, Dia took the blaster and shot Castin in the throat, severing his head from his body, obliterating his face, and she did so with apparent glee.

She knew then, with absolute certainty, that there was nothing they could do to save him. He was dead before they carried him in, despite the up and down breathing motion of this chest plate. She knew it was a trick.

What have I done? Who am I???

It was all supposed to be a dangerous game of "Let's Pretend." She had no choice. If she didn't keep her cool and look like she enjoyed the work, Zsinj would have seen through their cover and ruined all the careful plans the Wraiths had set into motion. He would have tortured and executed them. They had to survive, to claw their way out of this Sarlaac pit. Castin's choice of actions put him in a particular place and time, forcing this sacrifice to be made.

But she was shocked at how easily - and willingly - she had slipped into that Hawkbat persona.

Dia had been sold into slavery at a young age, and for as long as she could remember, she had been careful. She had built an impermeable shell around herself to protect her from the unsavory elements surrounding her. She learned not to care, to hide what was in her heart. She did as ordered, but she didn't have to like it.

But I wasn't faking that part. Oh, help me, I really did enjoy it ...

She remembered telling Face last night, trying to explain, that she had once been a young girl named Diap'assik, who would have killed herself before desecrating the body of a brave man who was doing what he knew was right and necessary.

She knew Diap'assik was dead. It was the most disturbing thought ...

Dia heard the door open, and her self-doubting reverie stopped abruptly. She tried to look still asleep, hoping the intruder would see her immobile and leave her alone. But she twitched when the person sat on the edge of her bed and touched her shoulder.

"Dia, you're awake, girl," a dark skinned woman said, stating the obvious, "you don't fool me. Get up!"

Dia sat up abruptly, then swayed slightly at the sudden movement. She blinked at Shalla Nelprin, her roommate, and was both comforted and frightened to see her. "What are you doing here?" asked Dia, "Weren't you with the Commander on Coruscant?"

Shalla, still in her flight suit, rubbed the Twi'lek's back, "A few of us got sick of the bright lights of the city and got permission to come home early. So, how are you feeling this fine morning?"

Dia recognized that although she was rested enough, she was still feeling drained from the events of the previous day. She could not summon the energy to hide her feelings and so opted to answer honestly, "I don't know."

Shalla put her arms around her roommate in a reassuring and protective manner. "Hey, so you can stop wondering, Face and Kell told us what happened. Lieutenant Janson requested that Tyria and I come back immediately, so we did. You had no choice, Dia. If you hadn't done it, the mission would have been compromised and all of you would be dead now. So might the rest of us. Who knows what Zsinj would have found out?"

Dia started to shake.

Shalla reached for the Twi'lek's hand, "You had no choice. Hell, if it helps, I hope I have the guts to do the same if I'm ever in your situation. What you did was incredibly brave." Then she patted Dia on the knee. "Come on. Let's go get some breakfast."

"No, I need to be alone. I need to think a bi--"

"No, you don't," Shalla interrupted. "If you stay here, you'll just stew and I'll get to watch you toss and turn all night again. Come on. Up and at 'em."

Again, Dia could not summon the strength to argue and obediently got up. She didn't even bother to change her clothes before following Shalla out of their quarters, and shuffled behind the shorter, stockier human woman, still in her pyjamas.

* * * * *

Shalla helped Dia into a seat toward the back of the mess hall and performed a deep bow with hand flourishes, "Milady will be served today, what is her desire? Or would you rather the chef and server decide for you? Being that Donos and Janson seem to have pulled mess duty last night and have laid out breakfast for this morning, this may not be advisable ..." As hoped for, this comment brought a quick smile to Dia's face, and she at last spoke, "Just sweetrolls and caf, Shalla, thanks." To Dia's relief, the dark-skinned woman didn't persist in offering a heavier meal, and Dia was left alone for a few moments.

She stared at a spot on the table, wondering if Face and Kell had told everyone. Apparently so, for suddenly, Tyria Sarkin - who was also supposed to have been with Commander Antilles on Coruscant - was sitting opposite her.

"Hey, Dia," smiled the pretty blonde, her tightly-tied ponytail flipping becomingly as she sat, "rough night out with the boys, I hear."

Much to her own surprise, Dia snorted with laughter, "Yeah, you can say that. Smack me the next time I consent to go to dinner with the boys, will you?"

"More trouble than they're worth, I knew the moment I laid eyes on them," piped in Lara Notsil, the newest member of the squadron, carrying a full tray of hot food, "Mind if I join you?" Despite the human woman's apparently cheery demeanor, Dia saw dark circles under Lara's eyes, tinted dark pink from crying. Looks like her mission went as well as mine ...

They grabbed extra seats from other tables. When Shalla arrived, they all shuffled objects around the table to make room for her tray of cafpot, mugs, and rolls.

As bad as she knew the brew could be, Dia was grateful to close her eyes and inhale the familiar, acrid-smelling caf. She appreciated what the women were doing for her. Her old self would have been embittered and resentful to accept help. This morning was different. She knew she was no longer the same, but perhaps that wouldn't be so bad, after all. She had placed her head into the rancor's maw and pulled it out again, and she was starting to feel grateful to be alive.

Even if she had enjoyed killing Castin, she knew it was because there was a dark piece of her that was capable of doing what she did. It made her strong, it didn't define who she was, nor would it consume her.

When Dia opened her eyes, she saw Lara was shoveling large amounts of food into her own mouth with both hands and rapidly talking about an amusing dating incident during her pilot training on Coruscant, "And he had the nerve to ask me if I wanted to dance! Can you imagine?" It was a wonder she didn't choke on the sheer quantity of what she was eating.

Tyria was trying hard to look stern, but she failed miserably and she let out a sudden bark of laughter, "I'm surprised you didn't break his arm! Stupid boy! Roomie, if a man treated me like that, he'd be charred dust in a second!" Tyria reached over to help Lara clean up the mess from when the smaller woman suddenly knocked the whole tray over by reaching for something too quickly. Looking very vulnerable and young, Lara looked like she wanted to cry. Tyria pat her gently on the back and that comforting gesture managed to stem the new girl's tears.

Dia wondered what had happened to make Lara behave like this, and Shalla whispered directly into her ear while the other women were occupied, "Her brother tried to kidnap her, and Myn was forced to kill him in the Notsil homestead on Aldivy."

Dia was shocked. It could always be worse ... She felt guilty for suddenly feeling better about her own crisis of faith.

Lara suddenly burst out with great force, almost hysterically, "Hey! I just thought of something! Do you realize there are four women on this base and seven males? Among the pilots I mean." She had been careful not to count Castin and Ton Phanan, the two just-killed men. Dia nearly corrected her to say there were nine men, and tears dripped down her face.

Shalla reached over with a serviette and wiped Dia's cheeks dry as they continued to talk. Dia smiled at her and hid behind an enormous sweet roll. Shalla sighed, "I really miss dancing. I used to cut the rug something fierce back at home!"

"Speaking of things to miss," Lara prattled on, her mind jumping from topic to topic, "I miss long, hot, steamy bubble baths!"

"What're they?" asked Tyria.

Lara gasped, "You have never had the pleasure of a bubble bath? Why, it's only the most decadent pleasure known to woman, that's all!"

"Oooh, I know what those are," squealed Shalla, "I used to have them as a little girl! My Dad would bathe me and my sister, and he'd make sculptures on our heads of the soapy foam. I remember how it smelled, so fragrant and clean," Shalla was caught in the memory of her beloved father, "you had them, right Dia?"

Dia furrowed her brow, trying to remember, "I know I gave a bubble bath to my former mistress once and few times to some of the children. You're right, it did smell nice. But I never had the time to soak in a tub of bubbles myself."

"What I do miss," admitted Tyria, "is starwhite beetles ... I know you might think this is gross, but if you found a live nest of them, they were considered a huge treat! Back when Toprawa was first fired on, there was nothing to eat, and I mean nothing! We were so destitute that the Empire could force us to do anything to get food. But eventually, people started foraging and the hardy starwhites were found to be edible. Eating them had nothing to do with flavor, but more to do with thumbing our noses at the Empire. They supplied all the food we ate, all the clothes, everything, at a cost to our pride and independence. Sneaking out and eating a nest of crunchy beetles was a big step toward not feeling helpless, if you know what I mean?"

Dia nodded, "Yeah, I get it! Like, it was a huge thing if any of the dancing girls managed to squirrel away any money or possessions of her own. Buying something for yourself - not provided by your master or mistress - was an exhilarating feeling, full of control. I still have a stash of stuff that I use as currency from those days. I know it's mine."

Lara's eyes grew bright with tears, "Did you steal the stuff? I used to hide some of the glitterstim and needles they would make me take onboard the Implacable. I could trade even a grain of it for food or to be let out, as long as they didn't inject me with the whole vial ..." The tears poured out now, and she started to hiccup violently. Tyria rubbed her arm. Dia handed her a serviette and Lara wiped her nose.

Shalla had gotten up to get Lara a glass of water, and sang on her way back to the table, "Raindrops on broses and whiskers on pittens ..."

Dia giggled, "Bright copper kettles and warm nerfen mittens ..." She sang the song in a little above a whisper.

Tyria joined in, tunelessly but enthusiastically, "Brown flimsi packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things!"

The girls sang the remainder of the popular song, until Lara joined in, smiling, "I simply remember by favorite things, and then I don't feeeeeel sooo baaaaaaad!" They laughed and giggled at their rather terrible performance.

The men of the base had stumbled into breakfast before the little songfest had started. Normally, they would have sat with those already there, but they gave the women a wide berth this morning. Some even got up and placed themselves further away.

Noticing the men sitting well away from them, yet casting surreptitious glances, Lara whispered, "Hey, girls! Do you know what we need? What we really need? Right now?"

Shalla looked up at the huddled mass of males and sighed, "Real men ..."

They all laughed and snorted, choking out, "Yeah, tell me about it!"

"No, really," Lara said leaning forward earnestly. "We need a Girls' Night. I mean, we're fighting a war, a guy thing! We need to feel powdered and primped and frilly, if only just for a few hours!"

The ever practical one, Tyria wrinkled her nose, "With what? Dancing boys and servants to peel our pallies for us?"

Shalla laughed, "As if our boys would even know how! But that's a good point. What could we do?"

Dia had a dreamy look in her eyes, "Bubble baths! And sing-alongs!"

"Hate to be a party pooper," frowned Tyria, "but we're in a rock fitted with showers only ..."

"Hey!" exclaimed Lara, "We're the real brains behind Wraith Squadron! We'll figure it out! And we each have some talent or background on getting materials for a night of pampering, no boys allowed! Let's put our heads together on this one! Commander won't be back for a couple of more days, we can do it all today! No special stuff on the schedule or roster, I checked!"

The discussions and lists of things to do and get started were developing. Shalla and Tyria glanced at one another and smiled. Get the girls' minds off their previous missions, were Wedge's final words to them before they left Coruscant. A girls' night was the very thing they needed!

* * * * *

Kell and Myn were feeling hard done by. Lara had asked if they had a few moments to help her lift something. She was so small, you see, and they so big. Would they mind?

And being gentlemen, they went along with it, and now found themselves in hard vacuum disassembling a concave shaped old metal-mesh and ferrocrete radar dish from a wrecked ship. It was a gift from smuggler Booster Terrik, who had dropped it off for Wedge Antilles to do with as he pleased. Initially, Booster thought it would be good for target practice or for stripping parts, but second-in-command Wes Janson had devised a flying exercise that taught the Wraiths control in tight spaces. Ships would fly through the wreck, collecting salvage for points. So it remained in a large, abandoned mine shaft, adding to the piratical decor on their base of operations.

Shalla and Lara had inspected the dish and deemed it seaworthy, minus some holes for bolts. They got to work coating it with a waterproof lacquer, so they could sit in it without abrading their skin. Dia did the glazing and patching needed. Tyria had gotten Kell to mount electrical coils on the radar bowl, to heat the water.

When she was living on Coruscant and working for a shipping company, Lara filed and tracked manifests and payments. She also possessed a trick memory, which allowed her to remember odd bits of minute detail. She recalled that a Halmad-based company called Ories Ceuticals made non-prescription pharmacy products. More importantly, she remembered that shipments outbound from them were made every 37 days, and one delivery was due that afternoon.

Deeming such a mission within their specs, and thinking it might even be therapeutic for the mourning crew, Face donned his General Kargin makeup and lead the Hawkbats into space. They easily evaded the Zsinj patrols by knowing their pattern of timing, and hit the last ship of the Ories convoy just within a radio-blind zone outside the system. Announcing that they sought revenge on Halmad for calling on Warlord Zsinj to protect them, the Hawkbats took medicines, synthetic alcohols, cosmetics, and therapeutic soaps and bath salts. The last few items were not within their mission specs, but Face let it go when Dia, in her guise as Captain Seku, gave the command to load the additional cargo lots onto the Sungrass.

* * * * *

Base commander in absentia Wes Janson was surrounded by females promising him incredible things if he'd let them raid the stores room. "No, and that's an order! No one near there without authorization. Who knows when restocking will occur, or if things will get worse and we're stranded here? Those stores represent, surviv-- ... um, don't do that, Notsil ..."

Lara, being careful not to actually touch the Wraith second-in-command, had grown wide-eyed and fat tears were beginning to form. "But sir, we won't take anything key to primary survival. We just need to play for a few hours. I mean, you big, strong -"

"- manly, hunks of manhood ..." breathed Dia, leaning forward into Janson's personal space, forcing him to lean backward, "... you're all so big and tough and virile ... we're just girls, you know ... we need to feel pretty and special sometimes ...." He admitted to himself her lekku dangled over her shoulder becomingly ...

"... and we know there isn't any real makeup in there, but we just want an eensy, weensy bit to play with," Lara had taken up the argument, having doubled back behind Janson, making him almost jump into Dia when she whispered into his ear, "and if you let us, we promise to be very nice to you ..."

"... very, very nice, Lieutenant ..."

Wes covered his ears and stomped hard, up and down, on the ground, "NO!"

Both women fell onto the floor on their knees and clutched at Janson's ankles and calves, "Please! Pleeeease??? Pleeeeeeeeease!!!!" Lara, utilizing a rarely used talent, started to spontaneously sob and weep, tears gushing out of her eyelids in torrents, "You're so unfair! So mean! Waaaah!" She was lying on the floor throwing a tantrum, pounding and kicking the tiles in her frustration.

Two figures showed up at the end of the corridor.

"Drat," muttered the hapless Lieutenant. Down the hallway were Face Loran and Myn Donos, men whom he suspected had affection for the women groveling at his feet.

Myn ran over and squatted down by Lara, "You okay, Lara? What's wrong? Did Janson hurt you?" Lara, not really wanting to get Wes into trouble, hiccuped and sobbed and opted for holding on tightly to Donos. Overcome, he scooped her up in his arms and carried her back to her quarters, making comforting "shhhh" noises.

Dia sniffed, then smiled gamely. She timidly saluted Loran, then scurried down the hall. She secretly pocketed the keycard to the stores she'd managed to pick from Janson's pocket. She ran straight to the storage rooms.

* * * * *

Tyria was talking to Cubber Daine, the squadron mechanic, to let her commandeer fresh water supplies. He wanted to know why she needed in excess of a thousand gallons of fresh water? The commander had warned him of the Wraiths' nature when Cubber was put in charge of the physical plant.

"It's for a preparedness exercise, Cubber," Tyria still hadn't really thought of how to justify this enormous diversion of necessary resources.

He gave her a look that said, Give me a break ...

She sighed, "Cubber, if I tell you why, you won't tell the Commander, will you? It's just a bit of harmless fun."

"Try me," the mechanic sat down, knowing this might take a long while.

"We - the girls and I - well, we were noticing that this war is wrinkling us prematurely. And Dia is taking Castin's death really hard, Lara's doing better about her brother's death. So we thought we need to feel female again, and were hoping for some pampering. And the most luxurious thing we could afford on this base is a hot bath ..." Tyria realized how lame she was sounding.

But to her surprise, a smile cracked across Cubber's normally gruff visage. "Is that all?? Heck, I know about that! When I'm at home, my wife and our girls - my daughters - like to powder and preen a bit. They call it a "girls only club" and good ol' dad is not allowed to peek in. They told me I'd appreciate the results best if I didn't know how they were done! They come from the spa looking and smelling beautiful, melts my heart. Gee, the last time they did that, we went to take a family portrait, let's see, I have the holo somewhere ..." Cubber fished out a polished disk from his pocket. With a tiny screwdriver, he hit a sequence of buttons and a picture of a happy family popped up and hovered over its surface.

"See? Aren't they beautiful?" Cubber held the holo up proudly. Tyria admired the family portrait. With a start, she realized she resembled the middle daughter. Is that why Cubber was always so nice to her?

"I envy you, Cubber," Tyria stared at the holo, "you have a family - a beautiful one!"

"Yeah," Cubber gave a final look at his family before turning it off and replacing it into his coveralls pocket, "I miss 'em a lot. Hey, I tell you what ... you help me drag one of those icebergs on the surface of one of the other rocks for water, and you can have it. We'll keep this as a little secret between ourselves, eh?"

Tyria threw her arms around him, "Thank you, Cubber! Yes, I'll help you tow as many as you want! You're an angel!"

The shorter man laughed, "Be careful who you tell that to! Can't let my reputation tarnish and have people think I've gone all soft!" Still, he hugged her back, and was genuinely pleased. "Get suited up, we'll go when you're ready."

* * * * *

Shalla followed Dia down the aisles of the storeroom. Lara was standing by the door as watch.

"I can't find any!" Shalla stared down at her datapad, "There are no towels here! How can there be no towels?"

"Me neither," said Dia, "It's weird what's in here. Look, there's a box of fabric dyes here, and every color of a rainbow is here but red! Did we do a mission before I got here that required red dye? And look, tons of datapads and no batteries!"

Shalla looked over the shelves, "Okay, so if there's no towels, let's use this stuff." She put her hand on some thick gauze that looked to be soft and water-absorbent.

Dia inspected the bolt of fabric, "I don't know. We promised Janson we wouldn't take anything critical to survival. This looks like bandages. Wonder if there's any other fabric we might be able to use-"

"I found some!" Shalla called out quietly. Dia was surprised that her roommate had climbed to the top of the storage shelf unit and had moved some boxes. Several cases of towels had been hidden high up. She opened a box and took a dozen towels, three for each girl, and tossed them down to Dia.

"Ooh, there's a shiny tray up here, too," Shalla was moving boxes off the metal item. She lifted the large tray up to show to Dia, whose eyes were dazzled by the reflection of the torchlight she played on it.

"Woah, that's certainly reflective enough," exclaimed Dia.

They saw a light play on the ceiling in a double-loop movement. That was Lara's silent signal to them that someone was in the corridor nearby. Shalla and Dia looked at one another, and the Twi'lek hopped into a shelf, pushing behind the boxes stored there. Shalla lay down on top of the shelf unit and placed boxes and the tray in front of her.

Tyria laughed at them later, hearing how they had all fallen asleep in the shelves of the storeroom, waiting for the people in the hallway to go away.

* * * * *

Kell looked perplexed, "You think so?"

The other man nodded, "They are certainly up to something. They have been making strange requests all day. Beyond housekeeping, like you thought when you were wiring that satellite with battery-run infrared coils."

Myn rubbed his chin, "Lara was hysterical because Janson wouldn't let her in the storeroom. Said she wanted to make a surprise birthday gift for someone and needed a few things. I'm worried about her."

Face's eyebrows shot up, "That's suspicious. None of us have a birthday coming up, do we?"

They looked at one another, wondering what the girls might be up to, and if they needed to watch after themselves.

The door hydraulics hissed open and Janson walked in, carrying a now-cold mug of caf. He tossed it into the dirty dish bin and grabbed another mug. He dispensed some fresh caf and stared at it intently. Everyone noticed how haggard he was beginning to look.

Face gestured to him, "Lieutenant! Come join us ... you look in the proper condition to help us solve a little mystery!"

Janson rolled his eyes, but he walked over and sat down at the table. "I am in enough trouble, thank you. I have my own little mysteries to solve." He leaned back, and put his feet up on the table, tipping his chair.

Myn spoke up, "Sir, when Loran and I found those women groveling at your feet, what had you said to them?"

Janson rolled his eyes again, "They wanted the keycard to the storerooms ... something about promising to be nice to me if I let them in." He put his hand in a pocket and stood up, "Hey! The key! Where is it?? I had it when they were trying to get it from me -- damn! They must've picked my pocket!!"

The other men tried hard not to laugh, and settled for loud guffaws and smirks.

"Perhaps we need to discuss individual requests the ladies have made of us," Kell was looking thoughtful, "There must be a pattern to this mystery. Let's piece it together, surmise what it means, and exact revenge. Face, since you brought it up, this is starting to make sense ... Okay, I'll tell you what I know about women. I have sisters ..."

* * * * *

The women stopped giggling and splashing in their makeshift hot tub when they thought they heard noise outside the hangar doors. They knew that it was only a matter of time before the locked door attracted attention. Cubber had mysteriously declared the hangar "off-limits" for a few hours - he did it as a favor to the women. To thank him, they had arranged to decorate his quarters, even making curtains and hanging them around a scene on canvas they had painted and mounted to his wall, as if looking out a window. The normally gruff mechanic was surprisingly touched.

The girls had managed to avail themselves of the soaps and lotions the Hawkbats had procured, and had taken turns scrubbing and massaging one another. Having cleaned themselves thoroughly, they were sitting soaking in the tub, full of steaming hot water and soapy bubbles, feeling more relaxed than ever. The cosmetics were laid out next to a large polished mirror, to try next, along with pedicure tools and colors.

Lara turned toward the door, "Think we should put something on?"

"Nah," sighed Dia, "they can watch us simmer ..." She didn't bother opening her eyes, enjoying the sensation of floating in a warm, soapy pool.

Tyria adjusted the towel turban soaking the water from her hair, "You girls were right ... this is definitely civilization's greatest invention." The tub was so large that they could just about swim across it.

"Anyway," said Shalla, as she stretched her whole body, "we knew they'd catch on. They're a bit ahead of schedule, though. They're smarter than we give them credit for."

As the girls giggled, the lights went out suddenly and startled them. They grabbed the big yellow sponges collected for this purpose and soaked them quickly in water. They knew they might need weapons to lob at the boys, depending on what and how the men chose to disrupt their pool party.

They heard the hangar doors open, but no light illuminated the hangar. The lights in the corridor were darkened, so nothing could be seen, just heard. A tenor voice started to sing a pleasant, lilting melody. Then a spotlight focussed on Face Loran standing in the bright pool of light. He wore a long, deep-green hooded robe with the hood up and over his face. What showed of his visage didn't look quite right - there was an odd whitish sheen to it.

Face's face was quickly forgotten as the hangar lights came up to a dim glow and the other Wraiths sashayed into the hangar in time to the tune Face sang. They too wore robes like Face's, but in other colors. The hoods were up over their heads, but what showed of their faces also had the same odd whitish sheen.

The girls had laughed as they watched the boys parade in, but when they heard the words to the song Face sang, they dropped the sponges they'd armed themselves with and collapsed against the sides of their tub laughing so hard tears rolled down their faces. Shalla even fell down and sunk below water level, bubbles of laughter rising to the surface.

Kell, Myn and Wes, walking in on their toes, as if wearing high heeled boots, swished and vamped into a line behind Face, who continued the tune in an exaggerated and very girlish voice. The boys acted out every line, in synchronization.

I'm a girl and by me that's only great!
I am proud that my silhouette is curvy,
That I walk with a sweet and girlish gait,
With my hips kind of swively and swervy.
I adore being dressed in something frilly
When my date comes to get me at my place.
Out I go with my Kell or Myn or Wessie,
Like a filly who is ready for the race!

The boys threw back the hoods of their robes. Using a stripper's sweeping arm motion, pelvises rocking, they swung the robes to the floor at their feet, revealing their bodies and heads wrapped, turban-style, in pink towels. On their faces was a thick layer of shiny, white cold cream, decorated with red dots at the cheeks and outrageously long fake eyelashes and exaggerated red lipstick. The girls could not help themselves and collapsed in tears of mirth again.

"So that's what happened to the red dye ..." Dia said when she spotted the pink towels and red makeup, before being caught up in giggles again. The male pilots primped and posed their way through the popular musical number.

When I have a brand new hair-do,
With my eyelashes all in curl,
I float as the clouds on air do -
I enjoy being a girl!
When men say I'm cute and funny,
And my teeth aren't teeth, but pearl,
I just lap it up like honey -
I enjoy being a girl!

I flip when a fellow sends me flowers,
I drool over dresses made of lace,
I talk on the telephone for hours
With a pound and a half of cream upon my face!
I'm strictly a female female,
And my future, I hope, will be,
In the home of a brave and free male
Who'll enjoy being a guy,
Having a girl like me!

Striking exaggerated and stereotypically cheesy, campy, seductive, girly-poster poses, the pilots threw kisses to the girls, who hooted and applauded loudly as they laughed and whistled their appreciation.

At that moment, three X-Wing starfighters broke through the Magcon shield and landed on the far side of the hangar. The men and women, realizing that their commander had returned earlier than anticipated, all jumped into the tub and got underwater quickly as the engine wash from the fighters blew over them, ripping towels and blowing foam off of bodies.

Wedge did not believe his eyes when he looked through the transparisteel of his canopy. He and his wingmen had trouble rousing anyone on their coms as they approached Hawkbat base, and they had feared the worst. Instead, they came home to find the girls naked and the boys wearing pink towels! Wait, everything is blown off, now everyone is naked ...!

* * * * *

The next morning, Wedge called a drill. All pilots scrambled in a line in the hangar, fully suited up, ready for take-off. He was impressed. According to his chrono, they all got there faster than usual.

As he walked up the line, he noted that they all smelled the same, rather floral and mildly perfumed. He also noted that the ships had been returned to the hangar, which had been cleaned and polished, looking tidier than it ever had. The bowl-shaped tub was nowhere to be seen.

He got to Janson and looked him in the face. Light circles beneath his eyes betrayed his level of sleepiness. He had a terrible case of bed-hair, signifying he's fallen asleep on his pillow with his hair wet. "Strip," commanded Antilles.

"W-wha? Wedge?"

"Soldier, you heard me. Strip!" There was an edge to Wedge's voice.

Closing his eyes, Wes undid the fastening on his suit and pulled it off his shoulders. He dropped it down, his webbing and boots still on. "Stop," ordered Wedge.

Wes was wearing nothing under his suit. His body hair appeared to have been shaved off. Even Wedge, who suspected the Wraiths' speed to report this morning was the result of not suiting up fully or properly, had not expected this. Wes avoided his commanding officer's eyes.

"As you were," ordered Wedge, wanting the vision of a hairless, naked Wes to go away.

"All of you, I suspect, are attired similarly to the Lieutenant. You are all on report until your drills are performed to my satisfaction. Board your sims now, as you are. Your R2s have their orders, and you will be flying blind with random wing assignments. Janson, a moment of your time, please."

After the squadron quick-marched out of the hangar, Wedge looked intently at his second-in-command, "Have a good time last night?"

Wes tried hard not to smile, "Looked bad, eh, Wedge? Nothing happened - well, nothing like what you're afraid happened. We played a few touchy-feely games, sure, but nothing non-consentual, I swear! Heehee, sensual and consentual, get it, Wedge?" Antilles rolled his eyes ceilingward, as Janson continued, "Finally settled down after an hour or so, then we all soaked in the tub, fell asleep and woke up when the heating coils lost power. I went straight to bed, without even toweling off. It was so cold running to my bunk, I was afraid that the 'shrinkage' would never g-"

The commander's shoulders tensed a bit as he interrupted, "You're asking me to believe that you were there and there weren't any indiscretions? What happened to the tub? Is anyone sick?"

Janson ignored Wedge's apprehension and leaned against the X-Wing they were standing beneath, "Shalla and Dia woke us all up a few hours ago and had us help clean up. All had been returned from whence it came, except for the towels, which are going through the laundry bleach now. Seems the girls wanted a little time to de-stress from some of the gnarlier events of the past few days. It was actually quite relaxing at the time, not a bad way to refresh and revitalize. Might even be a good idea to let the kiddies take responsibility for their own vacations from reality."

"Nothing, huh?" Wedge continued to question him, not believing it, "So what happened to the body hair?"

"Actually," Wes's face blushed, "that was Kell's fault. He accidentally burned me while we were welding some stuff the other day, needed a few hours in bacta, nothing serious. But the scorched stubble looked so bad that he and I-"

"Thanks, Wes," sighed Wedge, not really wanting to hear any more. It was hopeless, he wasn't getting a millimeter on this pool thing he saw last night. "Guess the trick's on me. Good to hear all's been well. What about Passik and Notsil? How are they?"

"Wedge, Face rehearsed his report to you over and over with me. The least you could do is listen to it. I told you about Castin and Dia, but Face will fill in the details. She'll be okay, you'll understand why after you talk to Face. He's been beating himself up over this, so hear him out. As for Lara, Myn told me that she told him that her brother molested her when she was younger, and she's almost happy that he's dead. She's been tense and hysterical, but is a lot better now."

Janson stretched as he yawned, "Wow, last night was relaxing, but you know what I noticed? Everyone still seems sick to their stomachs, we're all too tightly wound. Ton and Castin dying within the space of a couple of days, that's not going away any time soon. And I noticed Runt and Piggy were completely confused by the whole group bath thing. What went on in Coruscant that they're so jumpy?"

"They didn't get much R&R, I'm afraid, certainly less than you people did last night," Wedge's brow creased, "Get to the sims. We'll run the Delta-3 course, the long version. Assign the pairs, blind, switch and chop as necessary. Tell Face to see me after mid-day."

Wes saluted and ran out of the hangar to fulfill his commander's orders.

Wedge was relieved to know the two women were going to be okay. Still, last night he thought he'd left the saner version of the galaxy when he landed his ship amongst skimpily and oddly clad pilots. What was up with those pink towels? Shocked and exhausted, he had beaten a hasty retreat back to his quarters. He was unsure whether Piggy and Runt had done likewise, or if they'd stayed behind to join their colleagues.

He walked to the media control room and took a tape out of the machine near the door. Should he believe Janson? Nothing had happened? We'll see about that ... good thing the security holocam was installed ...

But as he strode purposefully toward his office, he thought, Then again, why not believe Janson? Wedge's head ached as he realized there was no reason to suppose he had lied. Wes was a good man, although a lascivious one. And he did say it was all consentual. Bah, I'm not watching a tape of my squadron playing grab-ass and enjoying it!

I need a Wedge's Night Out, was his final thought on the matter, as Wedge headed for a short nap in his quarters. He'd have to find that hot tub ... and no interruptions or songs or dancers or anything ...

* * * * *

The authors hope that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II are not spinning in their graves because we borrowed (and slightly altered) some of the lyrics to a couple of their more memorable songs without permission. But they fit so perfectly ... ;) The songs were: "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music and "I Enjoy Being a Girl" from The Flower Drum Song.

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