Veiled Shadows

April 17, 2017
By hollyflower1, Green Cove Springs, Florida
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hollyflower1, Green Cove Springs, Florida
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Author's note:

This piece takes place in the Star Wars universe. Star Wars has inspired me to dream big and to never stop creating stories.

(I did not create the Star Wars universe, and all major characters are my own.)

The author's comments:

This is the equivalent of an open crawl.

Over 3000 years before Order 66, the Old Republic and Empire are near the end of yet another war, with both sides intent on winning every last battle. The Jedi and Sith scour the galaxy for Force-sensitive children.

The mysterious Sith Emperor has sent out an order: to reclaim every Sith who has escaped the clutches of his Empire. Meanwhile the whole Empire prepares for an ultimate goal, right past the distance of the Republic’s gaze.

On Dromund Kaas, the capital of the Empire, the plot to find the last missing Child of the Emperor is about to swing into motion…

I, Captain Carter, stand at attention without movement, eyes gazing at the desk in front of me. My usually tough nerves are on steroids, buzzing and waiting for pain from a certain individual to lash out at me.
I have been called to the office of Lord Scar, a Sith who has a notorious reputation for severely injuring--to put it nicely-- the Imperial Officers he calls to his office.
Fortunately for me, that time doesn’t come. When Scar emerges out of the dark hallway that is directly behind his desk, there is no evil, hungry look.
“Good,” Scar says with a mild tone. He hides any emotion with a neutral expression. “You’re still here. Most would have run away by now. Take a seat.” We both sit.
I am relieved, my heart no longer pounding, my nerves no longer tense. I quickly realize that this meeting will be a great opportunity for me when the Sith pulls out a datapad. It is going to be a task then.
Scar speaks again. “Captain, I have been tasked with retrieving a very important person.” He hands me the datapad. “She calls herself Caistina Shiar. The Emperor’s contacts have informed us that she is in hiding on Cathar.”
“If I may ask, sir, what’s so special about her?” I ask, intrigued. “Is she some kind of spy or informant for the Republic? A smuggler responsible for stopping shipments?” I look down at the file on the girl. She is a Togruta, around 28 standard years old, currently a hunter on Cathar. Her homeworld is unknown. But the last thing gives me a surprised look, which is rare given my experiences. The aurebesh words say, ‘Affiliation: Child of the Emperor.’
“Yes, Captain. A Child of the Emperor. There are more details on this data file,” he says as he hands me one, “But the gist of it is this: the first reappearance of her was three years ago on Balmorra when she tried to steal a speeder. The officer on duty had just logged her into when the Balmorran Resistance broke through the surrounding wall, allowing her to escape through the fray. We received news of her being on Cathar only yesterday.”
“So, are we going to land a ship, grab her, and go?” I say, not exactly certain on my part in this operation.
“Unfortunately, no.” Scar shakes his head. “Just an hour ago, our intelligence said that a few Jedi have been tasked on searching the same sector. One will end up there eventually and notice the disturbance. We need a more subtle coverup.”
I ponder for a moment. An attack on her by the Empire would definitely be suspicious, but with just a few independent delivery services…
“What about a bounty on her head?” I suggest. “It will attract the attention of bounty hunters, and they'll do all the work for us.”
“It’s your mission, Captain. I trust you will plan well. You will lead this mission, and have full responsibility for the outcome.”
My confidence grows measurably. “Sir, why choose me for this mission?”
Scar stays expressionless. “You have exceptional training and follow orders well. Besides, of course, that one mishap on Hutta...” I grimace. That had not been needed to be brought up. “And, of course, you have your various contacts who have proven very useful in previous operations.”
“One more question, sir.”
“Go on.”
“Why is a mere alien a Child of the Emperor?” It is an honest question, though most others would never word it aloud. A scowl flashes on Scar’s face, but only for a moment.
“Oh, it happens about once every year. Most don't last long. He made an exception for her because of the warlike ways of her people on Shili.” I’m not surprised about the middle part. In the Empire, respect is harder to find if you are an alien. Especially in the Sith area of profession.
“Anything else, Captain?”
“No, sir.”
“You are dismissed, Captain.” I salute, then leave the office of the most feared Sith on Dromund Kaas without a single bead of sweat.
Kaas City is a massive, beautiful place. Towering gray skyscrapers full of apartments and business offices are cluttered in the center of the city. To the north is the headquarters of Imperial Intelligence, the Sith Sanctum, and Mandalorian Enclave.  All three entrances are connected by a long walkway in front of the giant building that contains the three centers. In fact, it is the tallest building on Dromund Kaas. To the south of the apartments are a rather small marketplace containing--not surprisingly--a market and a cantina. And outside the city, there contains the deadly wilderness, containing a Sith’s personal estate, and the Unfinished Colossus, a giant statue of a particularly egotistical Sith who is tried to get slaves to build the monument. The whole endeavour had ultimately failed. The area now harbors the rebellious slaves, while the people who are charged with dealing with them stumble around with their eyes shut. The rest of the wilderness remains either unexplored or undeveloped by the Empire; rumors of cults and deserter camps littering it go unheeded.
Plotting and thinking all the way back to my little apartment in the city center, I go over the contacts in my mind. I settle on two black market dealers on Coruscant. They know plenty of people who can help.
A day later, I lean back into my chair, a satisfied smile upon my face. My contacts have agreed, and almost no persuasion was required, even though I told them they must work together to find four candidates. They know the Empire pays well. Now all I have to do is wait.

The author's comments:

I rewrote Caistina's dream three times.

The peaceful sound of chirping insects and rustling grass calms my tired, wary mind. Having just been through one of the most stressful hunting trips of the year, I really need a break. It is the short time where the worst predators on the planet came out to hunt, and those predators are worth a whole lot on the market.
I am standing in my crude half-dirt, half-metal hut I have called home for around five years. It’s small, only about 20 meters in diameter. There is a metal table and two chairs on the right, and on the left is the most expensive thing I own: a comfortable-ish bed. I mean, it’s nothing compared to others on other planets, but it is luxurious on Cathar.
After one more glance, I go back outside my hut. It is a cloudy day, but that makes the sunset even more beautiful. The clouds are a beautiful mix of pinks, purples and oranges, making the sky seem like a kaleidoscope of colors. The sight catches my breath. It relaxes me even more, and opens my mind up to other things, like how hungry I suddenly feel.
I still have some leftover game after selling, which is common, so I start my fire and put the extras onto it. It smells delicious, like it is spiced with exotic things from Alderaan, even though it isn’t. After the cooking is done, I climb up to my hut roof--with the food in hand-- and eat up there. I inhale it all, and finish before night has walked through the door.
Going back down, and then cleaning up, I think about the difficult day I will have tomorrow.
Little did I realize how difficult it will be.
I dream when I fall asleep. The dream is nice at first, about plenty of food and living on Alderaan, and then it changes to something darker..

I am a little girl, in a big place. It is a beautiful area, like something the travelers would describe Alderaan having. It is like a palace garden, pillars and statues and shrubbery in a large courtyard. But the sky is dark, and thousands of ships and speeders are zooming above me. I can see huge skyscrapers in the distance, and there is a reddish glow coming off them. At the edge of the pillars and statues is a railing. And past that railing, there is a drop. A ginormous drop. It goes down for miles.
Standing on either side of me are two humans, a man and a woman. I already know I don’t like these people. They have black robes on, and they are grabbing me by the arms and leading me toward the railing. I fight them with screaming and crying, my head-tails flying everywhere. I try to kick them, but they easily dodge my attacks. Sometimes my head-tails hit one of them, and the two glare at me.
They get me to the railing, and lift me up. I am still protesting and kicking when a sudden wave of anger woes through me. I just want them to let me go.
Using all my will, I push off the railing and fall down into the miles deep abyss, turning around and around. I can see the people staring down at me. They do not look distressed in any way. In fact, they are smiling.
I am falling, and then I suddenly stop. I look down. I am not touching anything, just hovering there. And there is a speeder below to my right. A twi’lek sits in it. She has her arms raised, palms out, in my direction. She is very focused, eyes closed and expression tight. She is clothed in brown robes, tunic, and leggings--all in slightly different shades--and has bluish skin.
I make the connection: somehow she is holding me up with some invisible force. I begin to float toward her, still crying and screaming and kicking. I am gently put down onto the back seat of the speeder, and then the twi’lek lowers her hands and opens her eyes. She only says one phrase: “Hang on!” Her voice is commanding, and I automatically try to put my seatbelt on. She grabs the controls and we speed off.
Zooming around skyscrapers and barely missing speeders coming at us. I have stopped fighting, but am still crying my poor little heart out. Then abruptly, there are no tall buildings anymore, just really small blocky ones that seem to be miles below.
There is one big building. It is domed, with skinny little towers shooting up in various places. It’s a light gold and beige, standing out compared to the other buildings. It has a welcoming effect, a warm glow that washes over me. I really want to go there. Lucky for me, we are headed right for it. It will only take a few minutes.
But I will never reach it. Partly because I still haven’t gotten my seatbelt on.
A speeder turns out of one of the traffic lines. The twi’lek curses and tries to swerve out of its path. It follows our maneuvers, blocking our path. We take a steep dive, pushing me back into the chair.
Well, more like pushing me out of the chair. I shoot into the air while the speeder keeps going down, screaming so loud that it hurts my hearing. I eventually begin to fall back down.
Abruptly, I land on something hard. I look down, comprehending that I am on another speeder. Fortunately, it isn’t the cloaked figures’. It is someone I don’t know, a Cathar. He stares at me in surprise, and after a second, he turns back around and keeps flying. We land at a docking bay, where a small crew of various species are loading cargo onto an old ship. It’s a conductor-class short-haul landing craft, back from the Mandalorian Wars, meaning it is around 300 years old. The people watch me with puzzled looks on their faces, then ask the Cathar something. He gestures to me like, “Oh yeah, she’s with me.”
Then I am in the same old, worn-down supply ship. Someone is asking me what my name is. I tell them, “Caistina,” in my tiny voice. Then I am on a planet, with the cargo ship behind me.
And the planet is very familiar. An endless field, with an endless cloudless sky. My rescuer takes me by the shoulders and guides me to a very familiar village, with a very large tree in its center. He crouches down and tells me, “This is your new home now, Caistina. They will be your family, if you wish.” He sweeps  an arm out in the direction of the village. There are other Cathar there, running toward the supplies in glee. They open the cargo up and take out supplies; there is food, clothing, water, and other basic necessities. Some of them look at me strangely, as if they have never seen someone like me before. Others smile and wave.
Then the dream ends. I open my eyes and sit up slowly, thinking about what I have just dreamt. The first question that enters my head is immediately answered by memory. The dream is real.
But among all the other questions I have, one keeps coming up. Why was I thrown off that balcony?
Abruptly, a loud sound makes my ears ring. I sit up entirely straight, completely still. That sound is definitely the shot of a sniper rifle, that is used for hunting particularly difficult creatures. No creature like that lives anywhere near this village, unless some idiot let one escape.
But sometimes, used only by the wealthier bounty hunters in the galaxy, it is used for manhunt. And that is much more likely than escaped animals.
I get a sinking feeling. No one famous enough would come to this dump of a planet, still recovering from the slaughter of the Cathar for no reason.
That feeling ignites my senses, and it tells me I am in massive danger. That I have to leave my hut. I realize that in about two seconds, my life has changed.

The author's comments:

I knew I needed an obstacle before Caistina gets to her destination, so I created this.

I tell myself to calm down. I am overreacting, my senses just nervous from the nightmare. But the suspicious part of my mind takes control.
Silently creeping to my table, I run my hand on the side and push the button that opens the small compartment inside the table. It opens up, barely making a sound. Then I grab the weapon that is hidden inside and activate it.
It is a vibroblade, capable of somewhat matching a lightsaber. Most kinds have some kind of low droning noise, but mine is silent. I personally modified it so the sound will never drive me crazy.
I then creep out the door, and into the night, which is unusually quiet. I can’t see anything, as it is a new moon tonight. There are no kinds of insect or animal noises. It is like the night is poised, holding its breath for something. It only makes me more alert and nervous. My heart is thumping in my chest, and it seems ready to burst through my skin.
Another shot rings out through the air, and I jump. It is much louder this time. Whoever is shooting is getting nearer to me. And that is definitely not good.
There is a scuffle behind me. I turn on the light that I have in my tunic as I simultaneously bring it out of its pocket.
There are four of them, surrounding me in a relaxed circle. The one to my left is a Trandoshan, green-skinned and reptile-like face. The two directly in front and behind me are human, one male and the other female. The female looks younger than I am, maybe 15, just a kid. They both are extremely tanned and have dusty brown hair, most likely related. The last one is probably the worst. She is a Mandalorian. Her hair is a bright blue, and her tanned skin have a few scars here  and there. She is definitely experienced.
They all are rich, decked out in top-of-the-line armor (that is probably illegal) and weapons (definitely illegal) that make them look like they could take on an entire battalion of Republic troops.
The girl did not expect any light, and put her hand over her eyes for a second, startled.
“Ya think it’s her, boss?” the human male asks, directing the question at the Mandalorian.
“Of course it’s her, Antaron,” she growls. “Unless you’ve failed to mention seeing any other Togrutas. She is the first alien I’ve seen on this planet.”
The Trandoshan, in his own language, says, “He’s still a child, Shao. He has much to learn. Don’t be so harsh.”
The girl spits, “What did he say? Another insult about my brother?” She glares at the Trandoshan. “Maybe I should just kill you now.”
The Trandoshan seems to chuckle. Then he says in extremely accented Basic, “Jeezaq would shoot you before you could blink.” I assume that he is Jeezaq.
Before they can bicker any further, I use my best Catharese. “Who are you people? And why would the Mandalorian dare show her face here?” I shoot daggers at the Mandalorian. You see, a long time ago, the Mandalorians came and destroyed about ninety percent of the Cathar population. Still, after a few hundred years, Cathar do not like the Mandalorians. I guess the hatred had just settled into me as well.
All the bounty hunters look at me, confused, obviously not knowing  Catharese. Shao, surprisingly, doesn’t know either, but she does recognize my mention of her people. She promptly draws her blaster, as do the others.
“I don’t think she speaks Basic,” the girl says cautiously. I can say whatever I want to at this point. I decide to spit a few curses.
Being outnumbered four to one, there seems no point in fighting back. I let them herd me through the dark night, back to what I assume will be their ship. I can hear beasts growling and other night-time noises as we approach the edge of the village.
But what I see is extremely weird and unexpected: Imperial speeders. I know (from experience) how hard it is to steal those. The thought conjures up a memory.
I had been on a supply run for the village when I was thirteen. Sources (which I now know to be questionable) brought me to Balmorra, which happened to be a warzone (it still is). There were Imperials everywhere, with only a few resistance outposts scattered around the planet. At one point I got so desperate, I hopped into the middle of a battle and snuck inside the Imperial outpost that was being attacked. Only managing to get a few days’ worth of supplies before getting spotted, I happened to run straight to the vehicle hangar. There were a few speeders there, but they were locked away.
I had been caught. But when they scanned me for an ID, the officer’s eyes had widened, and then she had smiled. “I’m gonna get promoted,” she had said. Just then, an explosion blew out the wall to my left, snapping the datapad the officer had in half. By the time the Balmorran Resistance emerged, blasters drawn, I had escaped.
The Mandalorian, Shao, pushes me forward, shaking me out of my memory. I glare at her. “Don’t touch me, Mandalorian scum,” I spit. She can’t understand me, of course, so she just points to one of the speeders. Sitting upon it is Jeezaq. This will be fun, I think to myself sarcastically. I really hope he won’t kill me. I would prefer being put with one of the humans, but that is not going to happen, given the fact that they seem to have limited experience.
Apparently, Shao is thinking the same thing about Jeezaq. “Don’t kill her, even if she fights back. Worst comes to worst, knock her out.” Before I get on, Jeezaq cuffs me. Even better.
When everyone is on their speeders, Shao takes the lead at a surprisingly fast pace. Jeezaq and I go second, the others following behind.
I look out in the dark fields with extreme interest. I’ve been off-planet many times, but I rarely go this far from the village, even to hunt. This is partly because I don’t want to involve myself with other villages that much. I sometimes go as an emissary for Caathan Maaks, just to ask for spare supplies when we need them and can’t find any. The other villages are pretty nice and  usually offer to share.
I find myself wondering how I ended up with these bounty hunters. I have no clue as of why they would want me. As far as I know, there is no bounty on my head. I have definitely never met these people.
I evaluate all of my captors. The girl is reckless, and seems ready to shoot anyone if they say anything about her older brother. The brother, Antaron, is still a mystery.
The Trandoshan, Jeezaq, is calm, collected, and probably quick. But he also has the most sense out of the four.
Shao, the Mandalorian, is definitely the leader. She is the bossiest, smartest, and angriest. She is also the most dangerous.
Suddenly, the speeder isn’t moving anymore. I am thrown against the Trandoshan, Jeezaq, causing him to almost tumble over the front of the speeder. Strangely, the speeder’s noise still goes, as if something is blocking its path. I lift my head up and look around. The others are beside us, as confused as I am. My eyes, which aren't yet fully adjusted to the dark, search ahead of the speeders. Before I find them, they speak:
“That was way too close.”
“Well, if you had decided to help--”
“Whatever,” says the first voice. “Now is not the time.”
“Show yourself!” Show growls. The second voice chuckles.
“They’re certainly impatient.”
I can’t take it anymore. I reach around Jeezaq with both hands, since I am still cuffed, and somehow turn on the speeder lights without seeing the controls, just before Jeezaq pushes me back down. I promptly glare at him.
Turning back to the figures, now that I can see them, I narrow my eyes. The one on the left is a rather young Nautolan, who many would consider beautiful, her purple tentacle-like hair--which is the same color as the rest of her--pulled back into a neat pony tail. To her right is an older Cerean. Both are wearing dark brown cloaks, their hoods pulled back, with their right arms held forward.
Jedi. Well, at least, I think they’re Jedi. I can't see their blades, so for all I know they can be random force-users.
I’ve dealt with a Jedi before, a chance encounter during a deal gone bad. Let’s just say there had been a shootout before the Jedi came along. I speak up immediately.
“What in the stars do you want?” I yell over the drone of the speeders. “This isn’t Republic territory--you can’t stop us.”
The Nautolan responds with: “What makes you assume we're with the Republic?”
“You’re obviously some sort of Jedi,” I say.
The Cerean laughs. “Ha! I almost feel honored.” He lowers his arm. “But it is only my tech that holds your speeder.”
“Just get to the point already,” Shao hisses before he can say another word, while I subtly make sure my cuffs aren't visible to the two strangers.
“Ah, right, the point.” The Nautolan folds her hands, smiles knowingly. “Well, the point is, is that unless you pay us this…” She seems to search for the right word. “...toll, you won’t leave here alive.”

The author's comments:

The act where Caistina helps her captors and does not get set free helps her subconciously learn a lesson.

I curse under my breath. I had seriously thought they were Jedi, so now I'm in the mess. Just great.
I know these type of people. They demand something, and then kill you as soon as you turn your back. Shaoo already has her blaster pulled, just as a sudden realization comes in. I know this technology. Rumors of tech that can hold almost any vehicle in place even while it’s at full speed.   And I can notice the slight haze…
“Wait, don’t--” but I am too late. She shoots, and the red laser bounces off the strange shield, right in my direction. Fortunately, Jeezaq is in the way, and he manages to not get hit.
The Cerean laughs. “I must say, Cathar is not where I was expecting to test my prototype.”
“What’s your toll?” Shao asks, defeated.
“That girl over there.” He points, not at me, but at the girl behind us who had accused Jeezaq of throwing insults at her brother.
“What do you want with her?” Shao asks, looking slightly amused. I, meanwhile, get a spurr-of-the-moment idea.
“Hey,” I whisper to Jeezaq in front of me. “You know they’ll try to kill us even after we give her up. So, offer me instead. You get what I’m saying?” I hope he understands the point I’m trying to insinuate. “I’ll fare better than she does at least,” I insist.
Jeezaq nods. I internally breathe a sigh of relief. “My cuffs, first.” I hold up my cuffed hands, but all he does is press a button on his arm, and they release. I flex my wrists.
I turn my attention back to the escalating argument between the strangers and Shao.
“That “toll” is outrageous!” Shao is exclaiming. I wait for Jeezaq to say something. When he doesn’t, I nudge him, signalling to get started already.
“Wait,” he mutters. Then, after another retort from the Nautolan, he speaks up. “We will offer her.” Jeezaq points at me.
I feign outrage. “What? You wouldn’t!” Shao gives Jeezaq a look, but then nods and agrees. I’m not sure if she catches on, or if she just trusts Jeezaq enough to go along.
Jeezaq promptly pushes me off the speeder, pulls out his gun, and points it at me. All an act, but it still scares the heck out of me. “B-b-but, you--you said you loved me!” I whimper like a lost child. “P-please--” The heartbreak act is a little old, but it usually works.
“Go,” Jeezaq says.
“Fine,” I pout, making my voice break. I stomp away from my original captors, feeling the shield’s energy as I exit its dome, and I keep walking until I am standing directly in front of the Nautolan. I look at the two, and smile. Not a kind, friendly smile, but a dark, almost cruel smile.
That’s when I strike.
I take a long step forward while simultaneously making a fist, and then catch the Nautolan in her stomach. She flies backwards and let's out an “oof!” I immediately turn to the Cerean, who has his eyes opened wide in alarm. He gets ready for another attack to the stomach, but I just kick his legs out from under him. He collapses.
Just as the Nautolan, who had somehow gotten back up, went to charge at me, I am picked up by my arm and hauled back onto one of the speeders, which are suddenly moving again. I look up, seeing that Shao has picked me up.
And then the fight is over. We peace the jerks behind, and continue zooming along.
Even at full speed, it takes another five minutes to get to their ship. It looks like it has seen plenty of action. It is a GC11 cargo and passenger transport, plenty to hold four speeders--and five people. From memory, I recall that the spacecraft has two levels. The bottom is generally used for cargo, and the top is where people stay. It’s used for transporting diplomats and the like; occasionally, important gang leaders like the Hutts use them. It also has a pretty good weapons system, and the shields are as good as you can get of a ship that size. The starship, overall, is pretty impressive, in my eyes. The supply ships I borrow from other Cathar are usually older, or in worse shape.
“You two, load the speeders,” Shao points at the siblings. They immediately go do as they’re told.
Shao and Jeezaq escort me into the ship. I look around at the room we stepped into. It is bigger than I thought, and nicely decorated. A giant blue carpet covered the metal floor. Plush white sofas lined the walls; there were six of them. On the opposite wall is a window looking out on the long grassland. To the right was a corridor probably leading to the bridge. And to the left was a door, that led to bedrooms and other living accommodations.
Abruptly, Shao pushes me down onto the nearest and pulls out her blaster. She points it at me. My eyes go wide and I curse in Catharese. She begins to speak, “Why did you help us?” She says it strangely calm, but that calm has an aggressive edge to it.
I sigh. I knew the question would come, so obvious as it is.
I’m not sure that I believe my own answer myself. “I try to avoid those kinds of people. Even if I had taken my chances with them, they wouldn’t be any nicer to me then you have been. And I would have run, except for the fact that you grabbed me off the ground.
“Anyway, I would like to know who put the bounty on my head. Was it a Hutt? Or Black Sun? I owe those two. Maybe they got tired of waiting.”
Shao smiles--it isn’t a kind one--and lowers her blaster. She even laughs a little. “Honestly, I don’t know what you did to displease the Empire, but I’m almost impressed.”
“Wait,” I stop her. “You’re telling me that the Empire put a bounty on me? That doesn't make any sense.” I am bewildered. That can’t be right. “I mean, I’ve only broken Imperial law like, twice. Compared to almost every other corporation: the Hutts, the Republic, even independent systems, I should receive a bounty from them. Not the Empire.”
“Well,” Shao says. “They must have something against you. By the way,” she leans in closer and whispers into my ear, “I know who you are, Sith.”
I jump in surprise. She sounds deadly serious. Wait, Sith? I think, completely bewildered. “Me, Sith? You’re kidding.” I stare at her, completely bemused. “You do know that they have… guidelines, right?”
Shao doesn’t seem to understand. “You mean Force ability. Of course there's that. I'm not an idiot.”
“I mean the ‘alien sanctions.’ You, know, the fact that they prefer humans and pureblood Sith over anyone else. And also, now that you mentioned it, you haven’t noticed any supernatural abilities, have you? Because I am not Sith.”
Shao narrows her eyes. A light bulb seems to go off in her head, but she doesn’t say anything. “Don't even think about leaving. You’re lucky enough not to be in carbonite right now.” I stay silent.
And just like that, Shao is gone, up the stairs. I am left alone.
I am suddenly really exhausted. I lay down on the couch, which feels amazing. It is softer than my own bed. Sleep comes easily.
My last thought is how it strikes me that I haven’t ever panicked. I’ve just been abducted by bounty hunters taking me to the Empire.
Sleep takes me, and I fortunately don’t fall into another dream.


A loud boom wakes me, and the spacecraft shudders violently. I raise myself  upright, my eyes wide. That sound is very familiar.
I struggle to stand as a series of bangs sound near the cargo door below me. A sinking feeling runs down my spine as realization came:
We are being boarded.

The author's comments:

This chapter does double-duty: it explains Arali's connection to Caistina and it describes some of the occasionally tense relationship the Republic has with the Jedi.

I saunter through the library, passing various Jedi of different ranks conducting their studies. I’m searching for one youngling in particular: Rassa Nashi. She is a cute little Togruta, only seven years old, one with much potential. Little Rassa could become one of our best one day, I hope. No, she will. She is already excelling at controlling and immersing herself in the Force, and she can speak nine different languages. Rassa is a bright mind, who will be crucial in the coming years.
Finally, I find her. Rassa has buried herself in a corner, watching a training holocron. She senses me approach, and looks up.
“Oh! Hello, Master Arali. I am just studying the basic forms.”
But I’m not listening. I have stopped in my tracks, a painful memory coming to me.
I have just finished another session of research with Master Krem, a clever and wise Zabrak, and my master. We are both entering a two-person speeder when we sense it. Darkness and terror. I lock eyes with Krem, and he says, “Find and stop the source, Padawan. Contact me if you find something you can’t handle. I will contact the Council. I haven’t felt this much darkness since...” He trails off, expression grim. “Go.”
I quickly search for another speeder. I sprint to one, a dark gray thing that looks like it flew into a rancor’s mouth.  Leaping into it, I realize the engine has already started,  meaning it belongs to someone here. Great, I think, deciding to use it anyway. I angle the speeder up and away from the platform, letting the Force guide me.
The source of this darkness is about 20 skyscrapers away, at a beautiful plaza, although the scene is ruined by two figures in black cloaks dragging someone between them, toward the edge of the roof of a particularly tall building. A Togruta child, only about five, fights their grip fiercely.
Sith.
I cannot defeat them both.
I don’t waste any time. I get in position close to the side of the building and wait. When the child comes falling down, I sharply extend my arms and stretch out with the Force, stopping the child in midair. Setting her on the seat behind me, I speed off again, making a beeline to the temple.
I am almost there. Just a few more minutes. But then, I sense the same darkness enter the space directly in my path. A bright orange speeder, with both of the cloaked figures. I make a steep dive, going a few hundred meters under them.
The child flies out of the seat. I sense her go down, and then disappear into the sea of life forms. I continue to try to sense the child, but she is lost. A thousand voices seem to always speak at once, some whispers, others shouts, but they all drown out my hold on the girl’s mind. Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised. This is Coruscant.
“Master Arali? Is everything okay?” Rassa’s voice interrupts the memory. She is looking at me in worry.
I feel a deep sense of trouble in my mind. And it has something to do with that child I lost years ago. But I needn't worry Rassa with these things.
“Yes, Rassa. I think everything is just fine.” Then I focus on her fully and say, “Master Krem has summoned us. Come, come.” I beckon her to follow me, and she reluctantly switches off the training hologram. “I think he is finally starting to realize that you need a master,” I say, chatting if only to distract myself from the unease, as we we walk through the library.
“Really?” she says, perking up at the mention of having a master. “I thought I was too young to become a Padawan.” Wonder lights up her eyes.
“Well, if Master Krem can convince the council, then in a couple of months, you will get a new master. No promises, though.” I smile down at her.
We find Master Krem at a beautiful part of the Jedi Temple’s garden, meditating under a Christophsis tree. I take a calming breath, trying to shuttle my unease to the back of my mind.
I do as he had taught me so many years ago. He had told me once, after I was rather impatiently waiting for him to finish meditating, to do the same beside him, but to also keep part of my awareness in the physical world, so that when he stopped, I could also stop. It had turned out to be a great exercise, and become a habit of mine.
I motion Rassa to sit and I say quietly, “Meditate with us.” She looks a little confused, but does so. I clear my mind of all worrying thoughts. The other Masters had taught me to meditate on pressing decisions and, if you were lucky enough to have any, visions. I decide not to meditate on the vision now; more pressing matters are upon me because of this war.
Instead, I focus on the trial I must testify at tomorrow, because Rassa’s parents, who Rassa had run away from five years ago, have decided that they want their child back. They had brought documents of guardianship, and in turn, the Jedi brought records showing she is part of our Order. When the Senate had announced a trial to be held, I had gladly offered to testify, as she had opened up to me first. She had told me everything about how her parents had treated her; some of it involved neglect, other times abuse. They had barely let her go to school when they realized she could use the Force, nearly ruining any future she might have.  She has a mind that can understand things that many people her age don't, including what they did to her. They let her know how different she was, and so, using her brilliant mind, decided to run away.
It is a sad story, but one I cannot dwell on. I must figure out how to testify without threatening the relationship of the Order and the Republic. It must be done well, too. Rassa’s family is rich, and the Repulic’s Senators are prone to corruption.
I sense Master Krem leave meditation, and I follow suit. Though Rassa is slower to react, she leaves faster than I expect.
“Master,” I say, offering a brief smile. Krem returns it, and greets Rassa, who has the widest smile combined, as well. “You summoned the both of us?”
“Yes. I need to speak to you about tomorrow.” I nod, expecting this. Rassa’s face falls a little. “We hope you will be able to stay with us, Rassa. But, you must understand, we cannot guarantee it.”
“But you can make them let me stay here!” Rassa protests, arms flailing about.
“We cannot jeopardize our standing with the Republic, Rassa,” Krem says calmly.
“But if they win,” I counter, “Many Senators will be willing to cross lines, and do things they previously had not dared to do. Because frankly, Master, many of them are afraid of us. So if we do not win this case, there are many lives that could be at risk. We will win this trial, Master.” My voice steadily rises, attracting the attention of other masters in the garden. “Sorry,” I say, lowering my voice.
Krem considers my words. “You are correct, Arali, but I cannot guarantee a win. So, if you notice the trial going down hill tomorrow, I suggest you propose conditions.” I nod, understanding. Rassa seems to understand, too, unsurprisingly. She has always excelled at studies in government and politics. She likes politics too much, I think.
Krem turns to Rassa. “Rassa, you can go back to your studies now.” Rassa leaves without a word, bounding inside.
“Master?” I say, allowing worry to enter my voice.
He gives me a questioning look, and then responds with, “Go on.”
“Sixteen years ago, when we sensed the darkness; has it ever returned?” His expression turns grim.
“What happened?” he asks.
“I had just found Rassa in regards library to bring her here, when I was hit with the memory. I don't think it was a coincidence. I have always known the child is still alive, but something’s changed.”
Karen nods. “I know. It is not the darkness that has returned, it is her. Her name is Caistina Shiar. She was rescued on her way as a prisoner of the Empire, and is now coming here. I believe that the Jedi will try to speak with her sometime after the trial tomorrow.”
I fail to hide my shock. “Am I permitted to be there?” Keen hesitates.
“Some of the Masters do not think it would be wise,” he answers quietly. I barely succeed to contain my anger. “They will probably decide based on your performance tomorrow.” I nod.
I’ll just have to succeed with the trial, then.

Alarms are going off in my head, telling me to get out of here. I am not keen on meeting the uninvited visitors. Being tied up here would be catastrophic for my dignity, and I have no interest in getting shot.
For the second time in a row, I figure I have better chances with my original captors than with whoever else is boarding. Unless, as unlikely as it is, some Cathar neighbors decided they will come rescue me.
I’m not close with the Cathar people anymore. Once I got to be about seven, I realized how different I am from them, and stopped taking part in their rituals and other religious activities. It plays in my mind like this: I learned survival among other things from them, and I built my home right at the edge of their village. Then, I distanced myself from them and their culture, though I still always make sure to treat them with proper respect.
As a young girl, the old travellers who came told me many stories of the galaxy beyond, doing their very best not to scare the stars out of me, because the war going on is hurting--and killing--many people. One of them actually taught me how to fly when I was nine so that I could explore the galaxy myself when I got old enough. And I did at 13, exploring the outer rim for a month. It was electrifying every time I went to a new place, discovering so many different people. I even managed to earn a few credits, doing small smuggling runs for random people.
Shao enters the hangar, shaking me out of my thoughts. I immediately turn to her and start talking. “You gonna let me sit here? I can tell this arrival isn’t expected. I have a feeling they wouldn’t want to see a bunch of bounty hunters holding a prisoner in the open, while you have your discussion.” She glares at me, reluctantly sighing as she realizes how correct I am. Coming over, she undoes the cuffs from the bench, and then, surprisingly, takes off the cuffs altogether. I flex my wrists.
“Listen up, girl,” Shao growls.
“Call me Caistina,” I interject, trying to be only a little annoying.
“Listen up, Caistina. You, for the time being, are going to be part of this job.  That means listening to me.”
“Who’s boarding?” I ask.
“The Empire,” Shao answers. “routine searches’ have been required in the last few months.”
“Then why don't you hand me over, get paid, and get on with your life?” I ask, curious, and also deadly serious.
“I was told to exchange at a specific location, not out in the open. So that is what I'm going to do. Also, the other Empire has a bounty on you. The Sith.”
I nod, finally understanding. The Sith, for some reason, are interested in me. But why did she call me Sith? The thought terrifies me. Am I supposed to be? Pieces are starting to come together, and the image is potentially malignant.
Pushing those thoughts to the back of my mind, I turn my attention to the other Empire waiting behind those doors.
Shao goes up to the door controls and reluctantly presses them. An Imperial officer surrounded by five soldiers enters.
The officer glares at the two of us. I shoot a glance over at Shao next to me. She has clenched fists and is staring daggers at the man. I, meanwhile, am relatively relaxed with my arms crossed.
“I am Captain Carter of the Imperial Navy,” the man says. “This is a regular contraband search.”
“This isn't even Imperial territory,” Shao seethes, voice dripping with hate. “You have no right!” I am surprised at her hostility towards the Empire. Or maybe she's just jumpy about her privacy.
“Maybe I should just shoot you instead,” Carter growls. “The Navy will overlook a few deaths aboard a small, insignificant vessel.” When Shao says nothing, he smiles.
“Now, where were we? Ah, right. First, gather any other crew members here so we can ID them.” ID? I bristle, but say nothing. Being shot is not my plan either. Plus, they already have my name in the system. Maybe they will overlook it. Then again, I have no clue on to how those databases work.
Shao is the one to leave, leaving me with the Imperials. Great.
“You,” Carter says, talking to me, “What is your name?”
“You'll read it when you ID me,” I keep my expression as neutral as possible. “I'm already on that thing.” I gesture to the scanner he is holding.
“I’ll ask again: what is your name?”
“Shazaq,” I sigh. “I really don't like to use my last name.”
“And your last name,” he continues.  “I don't care if you don't like to use it.” His eyes are narrowed and he seems to suspect something. What it is, I have no clue.
Not Shiar, my head says. Not my real last name. “Tishaak.” The name of a fellow coworker who loves to break every Imperial law that exists.
“You're lying,” comes a voice from behind the Captain. The woman steps out of the shadows and introduces herself. “Loyalty Officer Prodence. Like I said, you are lying, about your first and last name.”
“You get to hear it when you ID me,” I growl. I’ve heard about Imperial Loyalty officers. They are trained to be lie detectors, and exploit the weaknesses of other officers to find the one who broke some rule. With her being here, which is kind of odd, is not good for lying low.
Just then, Shao comes back, with everyone else trailing behind her. They all see my hostility toward the Loyalty officer. As Jeezaq passes behind me, he presses something into my hand, which is behind me. Through the corner of my eye, I see him do the same with everyone else. A small blaster. The odds now are 5-7. Not good.
“You three, go search the ship.” Three soldiers leave the group, disappearing up the stairs. 5-4. That’s better.
Carter steps forward with the scanner. He goes to me first. The two remaining soldiers march behind me, making sure I don’t try to run.
They see the blaster too late. I whip around and shoot one of them right in the chest. He collapses on the ground without a sound. I turn to the second one and pull the trigger. Nothing happens. Curses run through my head. The blaster is good for one shot, like the kind Senators tend to have for defense.
I punch the soldier instead, knocking him out cold.
I look around. The Loyalty officer is dead, and the Captain is on his knees, with Shao’s blaster pointed at his head. Then she shoots him. He falls, clutching his shoulder. For some reason, Shao didn’t kill him. Mandalorians are not known for sparing lives.
“What kind of Mandalorian are you?” I ask, raising one eyebrow. Shao scowls at me.
“Not everyone follows the Mandalorian ways.” She lowers her gaze. Something is troubling her, and I am curious, but I don't press for more information.
We need to get out of here fast, and dispose of the other three soldiers scattered around the ship before they can contact the rest of the Empire.
A dark, warning, sensation runs through me. It seems to urge me to turn around, so I do. I am facing the door to the Imperial ship. It is weirdly dark back there.
Suddenly, a faintly familiar sound rings out through the silence. A red glow emanates from the darkness. It is a perfectly straight line, and it bounces up and down, as if it is moving closer.
I glance at the others. They are silent, watching the figure, who has a bright red lightsaber held up and forward, slowly emerge. A human male, dark skin and dark, cold eyes, probably in his late twenties. He is cloaked in black, like those people in my dream.
A Sith.
It is impossible, but there he stands, right in front of me. My eyes are widened in terror, locked onto the blade. The blade that can cut through me like paper.
The Sith is staring hard at me, smiling cruelly, with a mysterious sense of satisfaction. Something is entering my mind, or at least it feels like it. Going through my memories, thoughts, feelings. Is the Sith… reading my mind? It feels wrong, like someone is stuffing an object down my throat forcefully. I want to resist. I try to resist. But my efforts are not fruitful, no matter how hard I try. It is like trying to break down durasteel walls.
“Get. Out. Of. My. Head,” I growl. The man sneers. We glare at each other for a moment. There would probably be so much confusion radiating off of the bounty hunters if they weren’t staring at a Sith.
I am wondering how long it will take for the man to get tired of this when a piercing, blinding pain filled my all my senses. I grit my teeth and drop to my knees, hands pressing on the side of my head. I vaguely hear a voice say, “Yes, girl. Bow down to your master.”
I feel myself losing consciousness, no matter how hard I fight it. The last thing I remember is the Sith sneering, “You will be welcomed back to your true home, sister. If you survive first impressions.”

I do my best to look up. That Sith is standing there, glaring down at me. No, not glaring at me, but he’s…laughing at me! Suddenly I feel humiliated for passing out in front of everybody.
“Get up,” he says. “You can’t stay here on the journey to Korriban. You wouldn’t want to be found by the guards.”
“Wait,” I interject, utterly confused. “I’m not going to Dromund Kaas?” The word Korriban repeats in my head. Isn’t Dromund Kaas where the Sith are, along with the rest of the Empire?
“No,” the Sith answers. “Korriban is where you’re going.”
“But why?”
“You’re becoming an Acolyte.”
I stop short, blood running cold. “What?” He tells me to keep walking.
“You’ll see.”
“But I can’t--” The Sith cuts me off.
“That is not for you to decide, girl.” I lapse into silence, beaten. I take to observing the various halls and rooms we pass, trying to find a way to the hangar, but there are so many halls that I soon lose track. Since I was a prisoner on the bounty hunter's ship, I never got to see what kind of Imperial spacecraft it actually is. There are random inventory droids, Imperial officers, some more important-looking people, and troopers carrying blasters; though they look like they’re there for showing off than actually having a purpose there. The few rooms I have managed to glance into are seemingly unimportant: a mess hall, a few storage rooms, and a conference room; none will put me in any position to escape from this place.
I speak again. “Why do you fight this war?”
He barely spares me a glance. “For control of the galaxy, of course.”
“But can’t you have equal parts of the galaxy in peace?”
I receive an incredulous look. “Well, they don’t like our slavery, and there is a need for resources in the galaxy.”
“You can still trade resources.”
He smiles. “The Jedi can’t wage a personal war with the Sith.” That answers it. The Emperor rules the Sith and the Empire. The Sith alone is something the Jedi can handle, but not an entire army with it.
“You want to win this war?”
“Of course.”
“Then why do you not attack Coruscant?” I ask. He is silent for a moment, a knowing smile playing on his face, then answers.
“Because the Emperor has not deemed us prepared yet.” That shuts me up.
Eventually, we enter a long hall, with several doorways on each side. I peer into the first room. It is small, only about five meters wide; metal gray walls, floor and ceiling. The only piece of furniture is a bench jutting out of the far wall. A panel is next to the entrance. The whole doorway is blocked by a red screen that would slice anything in half. In it, someone occupies the space, a human. I glance at the others. They are all exactly the same, and they all contain a diverse manner of species. A horrible realization washes over me.
I am in an Imperial dreadnought. And those people are… A sudden urge to speak overpowers the growing fear. “Why am I here?” The Sith stops and regards me cautiously.
“Answer my question,” I insist. “Why?”
“Because you are the last missing Child of the Emperor.” Then, I am thrown into one of the cells.


I run right up to the red screen and pound my fist against the adjacent wall, shouting, “Hey! Someone, get over here!” There is no answer, and nobody comes. I probably try 20 times each hour, to no avail. I sigh in defeat, completely exasperated, and sit back down on the uncomfortable bench, cursing in Catharese.
            My thoughts are the only thing left, but they don’t help me cope with the absolute silence, instead tormenting me with horrifying scenarios and predicaments, involving death--or worse. To distract myself, I try exercising, to no avail; I end up sitting there, staring out into space, lost in thought. The fact that I am so affected by isolation marvels me, because I was always a loner, only interacting with others for trading, and other actions involving socializing for very short periods of time; I occasionally went for days without speaking on extended trips away from the village and my home. But then, I didn’t feel hopeless because I had had a purpose there; here, I have nothing to do, no purpose at all. Purpose was one of the few values that the Cathar had imprinted into my soul, teaching me that everything and everyone has a purpose in the universe, and that if it does not, it is unnatural and should be cast out of this world. I feel like someone without purpose, waiting to be cast out from life.
      Hours later, I do something stupid. At this point, I am getting delirious from boredom, even loneliness, because isolation does terrible things to you. That's why I run straight into the red laser screen. It hit it shoulder first, the screen almost touching my head-tails. I let out a very large growl that is very close to a scream, as hot pain flares across my entire right arm, and the smell of burnt flesh enters my nostrils. I collapse to the floor, trying not to look at my arm as hot tears fall down my face, and take ragged breaths, trying not to cry out. For the longest time I lay there, swallowed up in my physical pain.
I eventually lie down and cross my arms over my chest, letting sleep take me.
When I finally wake up again, I can see an entire canteen of water on the floor, along with a tray of food. Food. My stomach hurts bad, and my mouth waters, not caring that it looks and tastes terrible.
I scoot off the bench, painfully crawl to the sustenance, and eat like an animal. I never thought the protein mush could be so good. My arm has stopped bleeding, but it does not look any better than it did before. I reach into a hidden pocket, on the inside of my tunic, with my good arm and find cloth there, pulling it out gently. The cloth is barely enough to cover my wounds.
With the tray, canteen, and utensils I had received with my food, I am trying to build something. What it is, I do not know, but the image keeps appearing in my mind’s eye, urging me to see it in the real world. The distraction works, filling me with a very small sense of purpose. I work furiously, trying to bend the cast-plast tray from its original form. Amazingly, I do bend it into the shape I want, a cylindrical form. Sometimes, I think I see the plastic bend itself a little even without my touching it, but I dismiss it as a trick of the mind.
I never get to finish, though, because some time later the Sith appears on the other side of the red laser screen. He looks at me, surprised, clearly noticing my injuries, and letting out a chortled laugh. “You ran into the laser screen, didn’t you? People are crazy when they're desperate.” He snorts. “Anyway,” he continues, “We’ve almost arrived at Korriban, and there are some rules needed to be told.” I roll my eyes, despite how serious the Sith sunds. Of course there are rules.
“Your first priority is showing respect to your superiors. I am, unsurprisingly, considered mellow in the eyes of other Sith. Sarcasm will not do you any good. Second, there is a competition for rank, privileges, everything. In many of these, failure results in death.
“Okay, now that that is done--” He is cut off by a beep from a personal holoprojector. He sighs and, almost reluctantly, takes one out of a pocket in his robes and activates it as he moves so that he is just out of sight.
I am tempted to get closer and eavesdrop.
So, I do. I silently crawl up to the wall and strain my hearing.
“Darth Malgus? No,” the Sith is saying. “If he finds out about the girl, he’ll start a personal war against her future master.” I almost wince at the words ‘future master.’ Stars, I still can’t believe I’m important to these ‘all powerful’ beings. “You know how much he wants another apprentice, and I doubt the Emperor will do anything about it.”
“Are you afraid, Sith?” A masculine voice sneers. “Sith Lords are never afraid.” That guy is childish on a thousand levels.
“No, Kalost. I am angry.”
“Then Lord Angral will have to do. But I cannot guarantee he won’t call Malgus once you’re there. So toughen up, Sith.” The amount of Imperial accents I’ve heard lately is starting to make my head hurt, but I keep listening anyway.
“Fine,” the Sith sighs. “I suppose I’ll have to do it myself.” Whoever Darth Malgus is, he does not sound friendly, even when dealing with his own kind. It is probably part of the big competitiveness going on in the Sith throughout its ranks. Whatever it is, me being important in their eyes will not help me leave the planet in one piece, which is the ultimate reason for eavesdropping. So, the only way to get out of this mess is to escape before I get on the planet.
First, I need to leave the boring, uncomfortable, and claustrophobic, cell I am currently living in. I would prefer escaping from it instead of the Sith escorting me off the ship, but if it goes down that way, I can manage.
I refocus on the conversation going on outside the cell. The person on the holo has changed, and the conversation is easier to hear now, mainly because the Sith is yelling. “What do you mean, I can’t land? I have the missing girl I was sent out to find last month, and now you won’t let me land the ship! You are an incompetent, terrible example of an officer.”
The officer on the other side seems to be in the same mood. “Sir,” the female voice begins heatedly. “I am on orders from Darth Malgus himself. He said that the prison ship cannot land.” I can clearly pick up a sense of frustration in her voice. “I am sending a shuttle up to get her down here. Orbital security out.”
Given the argument the Sith just had with that officer, I immediately see the pieces fall into place. I will have to be transported from this cell to the hangar bay. During the escort, I must find an opportunity-- and then, well, I will need to find the bridge.
I don’t have to wait long. When the Sith arrives at the cell door again, he has two troopers at his side, who cuff me and basically drag me out of my cell. My claustrophobic feelings disappear, the Sith’s watchful gaze making sure I don’t try anything funny.
As I am escorted through the prison ship, I desperately search for an opening, a chance to escape. But as we get closer and closer to our destination, the chance of finding one disappears. Soon, we start to pass other Imperial officers, their regal gaze glaring down at me in disgust. Probably because, in all honesty, I am filthy. I look like I have just left a fighting pit on Tatooine.
But all my doubts disappear as we enter the hangar. Because I find my way out.

The author's comments:

I had to cut the story short for a dealine, but I will put out a sequel soon.

The hangar is smaller than what I expected. I have always assumed that the hangars in prison ships were big to accommodate transfers and new arrivals. But it is only about half the size of an Imperial dreadnought. There are only a few shuttles, all unused, except for one. This one is out in the open, not tucked away in a row like the others. This ship is what I’m going to escape in. Its ramp is down, and protected by two guards.
Well, I think with lots of melancholy, this is as ideal as it’ll get. I just hope the Sith isn’t coming along. He’ll make my escape much more difficult. I take a closer look at the shuttle. It is standard Imperial design. The whole thing is made of some dark gray metal. The shuttle has a point at the top, like a roof, and the wings come down at the same angle as the roof.
Then, down the landing ramp, comes an Imperial officer. She’s a human, no older than 35, and has pale skin, bordering on the edge of having never been outside in the sunlight. Her hair is curly and dark red, put up in a neat bun. She glances at me, then smiles at the Sith. “Lord Sith.” She is the same woman who was on the holoprojector with Sith. The way she says those words have a sarcastic air to them. She continues, “A true pleasure, but you will not be accompanying us, according to Darth Malgus.” I glance at the Sith, who is probably already in a disputatious mood.
“I will go, whether you like it or not.” He stops walking, so I do too.
“Childish,” I mutter before I can stop myself. He glares at me.
“What did you just say?”
“I said you’re childish.”
The officer speaks again before he can retort, talking as if she is threatening a child. “Do you want me to call Darth Malgus? I don’t think he wants to hear you complain.”
“I’ll call him myself.” Scar grabs his holoprojector. I sigh and roll my eyes, all the while mouthing the word childish.
The officer turns to me. “Follow me, please.” She tucks a stray strand of scarlet hair behind her ear. Then she turns around and walks back up the ramp. I have no choice but to follow her, because the two guards protecting the shuttle suddenly decide to flank me. I get moving.
By the time I enter the shuttle, the officer is sitting in the pilot seat. She glances at the guards in mild surprise, as if she didn’t expect them to be there. She stands up fully.
Then everything changes. As the officer turns around, she pulls out a small blaster, and fires two shots, one at each of the guards standing behind me. They don’t even realize what’s happening before they collapse on the floor, dead. I am frozen, staring at the two guards with wide eyes. Is she going to shoot me too?
But she just lowers her blaster and sits back in the pilot seat. She presses a few buttons, and the door closes. Her Imperial accent disappears. “Okay, explanations are for later, but I’m rescuing you. Stars, SIS will kill me.” That last thing, she mutters to herself.
She glances back. “Oh, right.” She stands up and uncuffs me. “By the way, I’m Raelie.” She sits back down and invites me to sit in the co-pilot seat. I do as she says.
“Can you fly?” I nod in response. I rest my hands on the controls as Raelie powers up the engines. I focus on flying instead of the past events whirling about my head. Amazingly, no one stops or fires at us. We jump to lightspeed without any problems.
“This thing has lightspeed?” I marvel, finding my voice. “What kind of shuttle is this?”
“Let’s just say it was not made by the Imperials.” She chuckles. “It’s a beauty, though.”
Doubt and worry whirls in my mind. That was way too easy. “I don’t like this,” I say, suspicious. “They let us go to lightspeed. They don’t just let you. You have to give clearance codes and stuff like that.” I narrow my eyes. Something is off about all of this.
Raelie shrugs indifferently. “I already prepared everything before you got here.” Interesting. This seems almost
“Okay, now that we have time, explain to me why you rescued me,” I demand.
“Well,” Raelie begins. “When I heard that you were some Child of the Emperor, I knew that I had to get you out, before they started to turn you into one. Now, I don’t know what a Child of the Emperor is, but I have heard rumors of them. I also know the Jedi will be interested in that Sith, Sith, or you in general. You’re Caistina Shiar, right?”
I don’t want to get involved with the Jedi, but I keep that thought to myself, since Raeli rescued me. I don’t want to let her down. “ Yes.”
“But who are you?” I ask instead. “You said something about the SIS.”
“I…work for the Republic,” she confirms reluctantly. “The Strategic Information Service. I was working undercover when I discovered you.”
“And you just abandoned your post?” I find myself wanting to trust her, even though I’ve just met her. “I want proof.”
“That, I unfortunately don’t have. We don’t carry around our ID’s.” Just great. I hate that I’m stuck here. I suppose I can kill her, but if she is telling the truth…
If I am an enemy of the Empire, does that make me an ally of the Republic? That question echoes throughout my mind.
“Well, I suppose that for now, I’m an ally to the Republic.” I say.
Raelie smiles. “Good. But this all better be worth my cover being blown.” Am I really worth it? I wonder.
“Well then,” I say. “Are you going to be kind enough to tell me where I’m going?”
She thinks for a moment, as if she is deciding something. “I set us on a course that takes us into the Core Worlds. But, I don’t know where to--” A light on the console flashed on and off, making a beeping noise.
Raelie stops talking and answers a button on her hollow communicator. A man appears. He looks human, but something is off about him, something I can’t decipher. Raelie does not seem to be very surprised.
“Sir-” she begins to say, but the man cuts her off.
“Why have you left your post?” the man says angrily. “You just ruined our whole operation! Now, we don't have any agents to monitor transmissions on Korriban.” He glances at me, and adds, “And it looks like you brought a passenger with you. That is not Republic Protocol.”
“Sir,” Raelie begins again. “Well, I was monitoring transmissions, when I picked up one that two Sith were using. They were talking about some girl, this Child of the Emperor. I know we've already heard about these people, so I had to rescue her before they took her to Korriban. I've also gotten the impression that once you go down to Korriban, you never come back the same.” She finishes with frustration in her voice.
The SIS agent, from what I've gathered, considers what she said for a moment. Then he directs question to me, “Is this true, what she said, about you being a Child of the Emperor?” I just stare, all of it finally overwhelming me.
The agent makes a decision. “I have orders to direct any transmissions to the ‘political’ representative that asks about the Children of the Emperor. I will transfer you over there. Good luck.” He nods, and disappears, replaced by the form of a Mirialan. She wears long robes, and her grown-out bangs are braided on either side, the rest of her hair left down.
Raelie’s gaze turns from frustration to a scowl. She completely ignores Raelie, and turns directly to me. “Tell me everything, from the very beginning.”



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