The lighting was harshly bright. Altheeda woke up to find herself lying on a cold, steel floor. The side of her face was numb from the contact. Once she clambered onto her feet, she shuddered; the entire atmosphere felt cold to her. She squinted her eyes through what she deciphered to be fog surrounding her. She was in some sort of corridor but it was unfamiliar to her. The white noise was uncomfortable and all she wanted to do was find a way out. The fog began to fade and the corridor stretched onwards. She decided to turn back to see what was behind her.
She found herself face to face with a man and his presence was jarring to her. He watched her through the wisps of his dark hair that hovered over his vision. His wrinkles were emphasised due to the intense expression he conveyed. She could recognise those cold, grey eyes anywhere; they belonged to none other than her father. Altheeda felt sick with dread, remaining perfectly still at where she stood.
“It’s been a very long time.” He spoke, sinisterly calm.
“It was always going to come to an end, Altheeda.”
She shook her head defiantly; her entire body shook and her legs felt heavy when she went to run away. She wasn’t quite sure where she was running to but all she wanted to do was to be free from the situation. She spared a look over her shoulder and found him still standing a close distance to her. Her head did a double-take and it sunk in that she hadn’t moved at all, yet her limbs were working at full capacity to sprint away.
As she furiously tried to dash forwards, she turned her head back another time. To her dismay, she was still rooted to the same spot. Her legs were burning with the effort and her energy was rapidly declining. She couldn’t comprehend what forces were disallowing her to move forwards. This panicked her as her father watched her struggle with a twisted expression. It then all became too much for her; she cried out for help only for it to echo into the void. Altheeda turned back a final time to see her father walk effortlessly towards her; the distance beginning to close between them whilst she was moving nowhere. Her voice quickly became hoarse at the intensity she was screaming at, as she worked to get away from his clutches to no avail. He reached out to her and one last scream ripped through her own eardrums after she squeezed her eyes shut and braced herself for her capture.
The crew were heading back to Bogano once again, in order to allow Cal the time to prepare for his mission on Dathomir. The journey took no time at all in hyperspace and they were currently making their landing on their usual spot that surveyed the plains. Once the descent had been successful, Altheeda followed Cal out of the Mantis to see him off.
“Are you going to be okay?” He asked her.
“You don’t need to worry about me, I’ll be fixing the ship; keeping my mind occupied.”
“Did you manage to get back to sleep in the end?”
She shook her head in dismay.
“A nightmare will do that to you.”
He nodded solemnly; her experience resonated with him deeply. This time around, she didn’t disclose the details of her bad dream which he fully respected. Sometimes, the hardest part was explaining the topic than having the dream itself. He just wanted to support her in any way he could; he spent the remainder of the evening cradling her and humming tunes he made up on the spot, which eventually had sent himself to sleep. He felt bad when he woke up in the morning but she reassured him that there was no need and his efforts were greatly received.
“I can’t wait to see your progress on the ship.” Cal spoke enthusiastically.
“You know I’ll do my best. Be careful out there.”
“I’ll just be practicing; I won’t cause any trouble.”
“Got everything you need?”
“I think so… Oh, wait there’s one more thing.”
“And what’s that?”
“A kiss goodbye.” He gave her a dorky smile.
She folded her arms as she failed to conceal the smirk on her lips.
“You thought that was smooth?” She giggled.
“Not really.” He admitted with a shrug.
This playful side of Cal had her infatuated. She stepped closer to him, admiring his facial features. The way the sunlight had captured the different tones in his hair and eyes was captivating and she couldn’t help but ponder on how handsome he was to her. She placed a chaste kiss on his lips that they both savoured before he broke away, giving her one last smile that radiated affection.
BD-1 then scuttled down the ramp of the Mantis to climb upon Cal’s shoulder and they were both on their way. She watched them depart momentarily before re-entering the ship. Her toolbox was waiting for her on the sofa where she had placed it previously. As she went to collect it, Greez walked out of the cockpit and greeted her.
“How’s it going, kid?”
“I’m just about to get started.”
“That’s good to hear.” He gave a brief nod.
Cere shortly followed Greez out and wished Altheeda a good morning, which she returned. Before she could make her exit towards the ship’s engine, Cere’s voice stopped her in her tracks.
“Altheeda, can we talk?”
She braced herself, having a good idea of what they were about to discuss and knowing it was going to be an uncomfortable conversation, yet it was bound to happen. She sat next to Cere on the sofa and forced a smile on her face.
“The nature of your relationship with Cal…”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Greez butted in.
“Yes, thank you, Greez.” She spoke dismissively. “Can you tell me how long has this been going on for?”
Altheeda swallowed, she wasn’t sure where to begin. She was hesitant, the feelings she had for him were precious and she didn’t want them used against her vulnerability.
“Uh…well… it’s hard to explain…”
“They can’t get enough of each other; since the day we found them-“
“Greez.” Cere shook her head.
“That’s not how it happened, at all. I didn’t even know Cal had feelings for me until much later.”
“Are you kidding me? Anyone could see that the kid was in love with you from a parsec away.”
Cere and Altheeda both looked up at the latero with intense expressions. He could feel the coldness from them and he sheepishly walked towards the kitchen area.
“So how did it end up happening, then?” She asked her curiously.
“For me it started on Kashyyyk; the first trip. Though Cal said for him it was our last years on Bracca.”
“I don’t mean to pry, but do you mind telling me who initiated the relationship?”
“I suppose it was Cal.” She replied timidly.
“Interesting…” The captain brooded.
There was a small pause as Greez began to make a slow walk towards the front of the ship.
“I’m surprised he decided to pursue this, despite the Jedi code.”
“The Jedi code?”
Cere froze, staring at her with a grave expression. Greez immediately sped up and made a swift exit to the cockpit, not wanting to witness the sour turn the conversation was going to take. Altheeda became wary, fidgeting with her hands in anticipation.
“You really don’t know?” She asked her with a small frown.
“No.” Altheeda replied, her voice barely a whisper.
She drew in a deep breath, knowing that whatever way she chose to phrase her words, no matter how calculated and kind they could be, they would shatter the young woman with the same, harsh impact. Nevertheless, it had to be done.
“Altheeda… the Jedi are taught a code at the start of their training. It’s like a way of life; they’re to follow it, no matter what.”
She gave a slow nod, listening to her words carefully.
“A part of the code is that… romantic relationships… they’re forbidden.”
Her breath hitched, a wave of disbelief and denial flowed through her entire body. She was unsure of how to react or respond verbally. It felt as if what she shared with Cal was slipping away from her grip and it already made her heart hurt with just the simple thought of losing it. Cere became sympathetic and put a motherly hand on her shoulder.
“Is that really true?”
“You know that I was a Jedi once, I have no reason to lie.”
Altheeda sighed and rubbed her arms, giving herself a kind of soothing hug. Cere could tell how conflicted she felt about this new information.
“You said he told you he had these feelings for you since your time on Bracca?
“Yeah, that’s what he said.” She spoke meekly.
“It’s beginning to make sense to me now. He would have still been in hiding.” Cere pointed out.
“But why didn’t he tell me when I found out?” She asked with a confused frown on her face.
“That would have meant confessing to you first.”
Altheeda paused as she continued to process what was being said. She now had a heavy dilemma that was causing a stir in her moral compass. She had so many questions that she knew wouldn’t be answered until Cal returned. There was one dominant question that toyed with her mind and she turned to Cere for advice.
“What do you think I should do?”
“I can’t make that decision for you.”
“I just want to know why…”
“You and I can only speculate, I suggest you talk to him when he gets back.”
The redheaded girl nodded in agreement. Her mind was in turmoil and she needed to prevent it from becoming irrational. Cere gave her shoulder a squeeze of reassurance.
“I think what you and Cal have is special, I really mean that. I’m just sorry you had to find this out from me.”
“Thank you.” She had a meek smile on her face. “I appreciate you telling me.”
Altheeda rose to her feet, gripping her toolbox and strutting towards the engines. She turned to Cere before she made her exit and inhaled sharply.
“I have some thinking to do.”