Zeva finally let go of her seat’s armrests once it became clear that Silent Destiny wasn’t about to be destroyed – not yet, anyway.
Kaylani Seren sat next to her in the pilot’s seat, talking to the ship in a low, soothing tone. “Aww, my poor girl. Knew you could do it. Don’t worry, Captain and I’ll get you all better soon, I promise.” Leaning back with a sigh, she added, “That was so not the fun times. You all right over there?”
Kaylani caught Zeva staring – and not just because she’d been talking to her ship. The Jedi had seen spacers doing that all her life. No, Kaylani was the first thing she’d been able to see at all since she’d been freed from the carbonite. And she was a welcome sight, a bit smaller than Zeva, with long black hair and rich golden skin. Captain Fann would have found her pretty… But not me, Zeva told herself. I’m just glad to see anything.
But she was still staring. Zeva broke it off and turned her attention to the shining blue tunnel of hyperspace outside the ship. “I think so, yes. That was… impressive flying back there. The last ship I was on couldn’t get away from three fighters.”
“Thanks. We try not to go boom. One of our big goals in life. Cause, otherwise, you know, no life. Usually the Captain’s a bit more help with that goal than she was today. Hope she’s all right…”
“I’m fine, Kay,” Captain Varn announced over the headset communicators. “Sort of. I’m gonna go and clean up.”
“Okay, Captain, " Kaylani said. “You feel better. New bandages. Happy drugs.” Kaylani slid her headset off and turned her attention back to Zeva, who was doing the same. “Speaking of, do you need anything? I mean, we did just wake you up from carbonite and all…”
Zeva’s brow wrinkled as she shrugged her right shoulder, where the Twi’lek pirate had shot her. “I should see to this at some point.”
“You got shot too?” Kaylani leaned forward, apparently seeing the wound for the first time. “Oh, dear. Oh, boy. I am so not good with the patching up of people. Let me grab something or other…” As Zeva drew breath to object, Kaylani stood up and started to root around the cockpit. “Not that I’m that good at the patching up of anything, really; I just tell the tech people what my girl says…” She paused to pat a bulkhead absent-mindedly. “Ah, here we go.” She pulled a medikit out and turned back to Zeva. “Let’s see what we can figure out here…”
The Jedi started to slide her jacket off, wincing, but Kay stopped her. “Wait. Let me do that; you’re gonna make it worse. Bad as the Captain, you are.” Zeva stopped struggling, but wasn’t happy about it. “Get you patched up, make you and the Captain some soup, tuck you both into bed…” Kaylani paused once she’d eased Zeva out of the jacket, eyes widening as she studied the scars on Zeva’s arm. The Jedi saw a hint of blushing on her golden skin.
“A reminder,” Zeva said, a little embarrassed herself, “of the last time a ship got shot out from under me.”
“Wow,” Kay said. “You’ve had that happen more than once? No wonder you were surprised when we didn’t go boom.” Now she was the one staring. Finally, she opened up the medikit and got to work: “Um. Yeah. Patching up.”
Zeva’s mind wandered back to Erawlon, back to the dead hostages. She’d managed to push thoughts of them aside when there was work to be done, but in quiet times like these… “You know,” she said, “before I was frozen, I could have taken those pirates out by myself. But now, something’s wrong with me.”
“You just woke up from nine years in carbonite. Give yourself a break.”
“Right,” she sighed. “I just feel so…” She fumbled for the word. Diminished came closest, but that wasn’t quite it.
‘Silly chit." Kaylani touched Zeva’s chin and tilted her face up toward hers. “We’re not dead. That is generally considered a good day.”
Kaylani had warm, dark brown eyes. Zeva got lost in them for a moment, until she remember the last time that had happened – staring into the crystal in the cave on Kira IV. “Right,” Zeva said, with more conviction this time. “At least I can almost see now.”
“Really?” Kay grinned with delight and took her hand away from Zeva’s face. “And your first sight is yours truly. That makes things even better. Well, for me, anyways.” Catching Zeva’s puzzled reaction, her smile faltered, and she quickly added “Sorry, don’t take me too seriously. You are simply adorable, however.” The grin returned to her face. “And I think that’s the best I can do with your shoulder…” She started packing up the remains of the medipak. “How’s it feel?”
Adorable? Zeva thought. Me? What is it with me and spacers? “Much better,” she said, eager for the change of subject. “Thanks.” She thought about putting the jacket back on, but the bandage would have made it awkward.
“No problem. Shall we get you some food?”
Zeva realized that she was hungry. Strange that she hadn’t noticed until asked… but the sensation was somehow comforting. Normal. “Yes. I believe so.”
“Well, Uncle Savit would disown me if I didn’t get you fed then. This way, pretty lady.”
Kaylani led Zeva to the crew lounge, where she made the Jedi comfortable with a bowl of hot soup.
“This is delicious,” Zeva said between spoonfuls. She fought off the urge to simply drink it down in one gulp.
“Thank you!” Kay whistled happily as she procured a snack for herself. “I learned from the best.”
“And you learned well. Listen: when we get to Velcor’s Cross, I’d like to contact the Jedi Council, if it’s all right with the Captain. I expect my mission parameters have been… altered.”
Kaylani froze in place and dropped a dish. “Oh. Um.” She sat down across from Zeva. “Oh. Well. This is awkward.”
“While you were, well, frozen, the Jedi sorta, all, well…”
Zeva leaned forward. “We didn’t lose the Clone Wars, did we?”
“Um… no. But the winner, sorta, well, declared the Jedi the bad guys too? And as far as I know, they’re mostly all dead. The um, Empire declared a bounty on Jedi, so the few that survived get turned into the Imps for the reward.”
“Imps?” Zeva’s head swam; she was barely aware that she’d said anything.
“Um, Imperials. The stormtroopers. We have an Empire, not a Republic, any more. I am doing this really badly; sorry. I am so sorry, Zeva. But the Chancellor is now the Emperor. And things are very different than they were when you were last awake.”
Zeva set her spoon down and brushed her hair out of her eyes. “Let me see if I understand you. Chancellor Palpatine. Emperor Palpatine. Declared the Jedi enemies of this new… Empire?”
“Um. Yes.” Kay seemed frustrated with herself – but also anxious. “Sorry. I didn’t really know how to, I mean, I can’t imagine, everyone you knew is probably…”
Zeva laughed, causing Kaylani’s eyes to go wide. The Jedi was at least as surprised by this reaction as the spacer had been. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. The Jedi Order has existed for a thousand generations. Palpatine’s a very good politician, certainly, and a lot of us thought he enjoyed his emergency powers a little too much, but…”
“Damn. Knew I shoulda had the Captain back me up here. I swear, I’m not making any of it up. Who would make up something as awful as the Empire? I mean, they’ve got it in for everyone…” She snapped her fingers. “Holovision! Imperial Holovision. They send out messages, reminding all us peons to behave. Maybe we’ve still got something saved, somewhere.”
She started pushing buttons on the crew lounge’s tiny holoprojector, until a scene appeared above it in flickering, ghostly blue.
“IHV presents: News… on the March!” a voice announced exuberantly, as marching music blared to life, triumphant and ominous all at once. “A major ceremony took place in Coruscant’s Imperial City, as Emperor Palpatine honors the 501st Legion for their heroic actions on Kamino, suppressing the Clone Rebellion!”
Zeva saw a familiar square in the city she knew as Galactic City. The Emperor – barely recognizable as Palpatine with his hunched posture, sagging face, and burning yellow eyes – stood upon a marble dais, hanging a golden medal around the neck of a kneeling masked figure dressed all in black. A line of stormtroopers, all wearing medals of their own, stood between the pair and the cheering crowd.
The scene cut to poorly-captured battle footage, probably shot with a hand-held camera, in which the stormtroopers moved through a gleaming white facility, locked in a blazing firefight with dozens of clone troopers.
“Yes,” the announcer said, “the Kamino cloners thought they could cook up their own army to overthrow the Emperor and drag our galaxy into anarchy. But thanks to the boys in the Five Oh One, and bounty hunter Boba Fett, the anti-Imperial clones and Kaminoan terrorists have all been wiped out!”
She saw an armored figure – was that a Mandalorian design? – flying around outside the facility with a jetpack, felling clones with a blaster carbine. A pair of gunships crashed into the sea, brought down by missile fire.
The scene returned to Coruscant. The man in black stood and faced the crowd, towering over the Emperor, even though Palpatine stood on a dais. The people cheered again as the announcer continued: “Yes, Vader’s Fist strikes another blow for order!”
The hologram cut to the man in black, facing the camera, standing before a vast map of the galaxy. “We found no Jedi on Kamino,” the man in black said, his voice deep, commanding. Frightening. “But we must always be vigilant, for enemies of our Empire may be hiding anywhere, poised to strike at any time.”
The map dissolved, replaced by a grid of faces – Yoda, Luminara Unduli, Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Shaak Ti, and others… all with “SLAIN” stamped across them. And there, in the center, was Anakin Skywalker, “SLAIN.”
“Remember!” shouted the announcer. “Jedi could be anywhere! COMPNOR pays handsomely for any and all information relating to treasonous or suspicious activities! If you encounter a Jedi, do your duty and report it!” As the image cut back to the man in black, the announcer said, “HE CAN’T DO IT ALONE!”
The holoprojector faded. Zeva became aware of Kay watching her. “That was even worse than I remembered,” Kay muttered.
“By the Force…” Zeva found that breathing had suddenly become more difficult. “It’s true, isn’t it? It’s all true. The Jedi are dead. The Order’s dead. The Chosen One…” It was all too much. “What if I’m the last? They’ll come after me. He’ll come after me.”
‘Who? Darth Vader?" Kay suppressed a shudder. "That’s trouble you don’t want. Seriously scary. Even if I was telling him something he wanted to hear, I think he’d squish me."
“Darth Vader? That’s a Sith title…!" Zeva looked down into her bowl, found her appetite had left her. Was this Vader the “phantom menace” that the Council had feared? Had he turned Palpatine, somehow?
Kaylani moved a little closer, responding to Zeva’s confusion. “Don’t suppose Jedi drink? Cause we’ve got a small stash of good stuff if you need a shot or two after that…”
Zeva studied her, glad that her vision seemed normal now. Was Kay trying to get her drunk? Did she intend to collect a Jedi bounty of her own? Don’t be stupid, she thought. She wouldn’t have shown you the film if that was the case. Still… “Would you turn me in for a reward?”
“What? No! Of course not!” To Zeva’s relief, Kay seemed genuinely shocked by the suggestion. She sat back down and looked right at the Jedi.“We’re not… we wouldn’t. See, we’re kinda smugglers, actually. ‘Cause it’s hard to make an honest living if you’re not human.” She jerked a thumb over one shoulder, referring to the Captain.
“Making a living,” Zeva said absently. “Right. Money… survival.” That was Zeva’s world, now, too. What am I going to do? What can I do?
Hide. Hide until you can come up with a plan. These spacers seem like decent women, and they might not care for the Empire, either… “Then you prefer to avoid Imperial attention,” Zeva half-asked.
Kay nodded. “Them and their laws haven’t done us all that much good, no.”
“I see. You know, I owe you and your Captain my life.”
“Oh. Well.” Kaylani blushed again, more visibly this time. “We couldn’t just leave some poor frozen lady in the market. I mean, that’s just. Not. Right.”
“Not everyone would say so.” Was Silent Destiny Zeva’s destiny, as well?
Kaylani winked. “Like we care what anyone else says. Besides, those pirates probably would’ve gotten us without you, and then we’d all be squished by asteroids. At best! Asteroids,” she said, softly. “I can’t believe those pirates were… are going to destroy that whole planet. Where’s the profit in it? All those people… and there’s nothing there, nothing to gain…”
The thought bothered Zeva, too but she masked it. “I wondered the same thing. It’s not very… piratical. Maybe someone else is pulling their strings. And maybe we can get them some help before it’s too late.”
“I doubt it.” Kaylani sniffed loudly. “It’ll probably be too late by the time we get to Velcor’s Cross.”
“You can’t be sure of that. Either way, it’s hardly worth worrying about. I expect things will reveal themselves soon enough.”
Kaylani snorted with laughter. “That is so what I always imagined a Jedi would say.”
“Then you’ve never met a Jedi before?”
“Me?” She snorted again. “Course not! Why in all the galaxy would a Jedi have bothered with me? I’m just a spacer brat from Ord Mantell.”
“Who can say? I’m bothering with you.”
Kaylani’s blush deepened. "Um. Well, you didn’t have much choice, after all. Carbonite, pirates, not going boom… "
“Sure, but I’ve had dealings with spacers before. I hired a spacer to take me to Velcor’s Cross. Sometimes the Jedi need discreet help.” Needed, she thought. There were nearly ten thousand Jedi when I left Coruscant…
“Right. Spacer. Velcor’s Cross.” Kay shook her head, as if to clear it. “We can do discreet. Why were you going there, originally? If you don’t mind my asking?”
“It hardly seems to matter now, no. I was sent to investigate rumors of a Separatist base in the Sidori Cluster, and our intelligence suggested that was the best place to start. But if there aren’t any Separatists any more…” How long had the War been over? How did it end? She would have to do some reading before they arrived.
“Oh.” Kay almost sounded disappointed. “Well, yes, not likely to be of much concern anymore. Though, obviously, the Cluster’s got some other problems going on now, what with planet-bombarding pirates and all.”
“Obviously. I suppose my best course of action is to earn passage on your ship by making myself useful.”
“Earn. Um. Sorry.” Kay seemed to be having trouble with the things Zeva said… “Well, you obviously have useful combat skills. You know anything about ships?”
“Only a little. I don’t have much talent for flying, or for fixing things… I can clean as well as anyone, though.” The ship needed it, too, but that hardly needed to be said.
Kaylani laugh-snorted again. "Well, the Captain and I certainly aren’t winning any prizes on that end. We always argue over the dishes. I cook more, so I think she should do them… " She trailed off with a chuckle.
“I don’t mind dishes. I’m no stranger to hard work.”
“Obviously, it’s up to the Captain, but I can’t imagine she’d turn you away. Saved our hides with that fancy lightsaber of yours, after all.”
Zeva smiled. “Thanks. I made it myself. It doesn’t seem to be working as well as it should, either.”
Kay’s eyes sparked with interest. “You made? And it’s not? It seemed quite impressive from where I was standing… If you can make something like that, you’ve gotta be at least somewhat mechanically inclined, I’d think.”
The Jedi shrugged. “It feels different in my hands, believe me.”
Kaylani cleared her throat. “Oh. Well, can’t argue with that, I guess.” Again, Kaylani looked uncomfortable. Maybe she needed a break from the conversation.
“All right,” Zeva said, standing. “I suppose I should discuss the situation with the Captain. I’ll be back in a bit.”
“Okay. Good idea. The cabin is…” She gestured vaguely toward the crew quarters.
“Thank you, Kay.” Wait. “May I call you Kay?”
“Course, anything you want. Just fine.”
“All right. I’m Zeva.” She headed off to find Kes.
- – - – -
Kay smacked her head against the table. “Stupid, gorgeous, clueless Jedi,” she sighed. “Bad Kaylani. I am a bad, bad woman.”