Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Nestled amongst a vast junkyard, packed with droids, Stormtroopers and Galactic Empire personnel was a communal area. It had row of lockers, a bench or two and the odd tool or screw sprawled across the floor. It was the hub for the employees that worked there and was currently occupied by two that were in conversation before their shift was about to start.
“Altheeda, how was line 3-Q looking yesterday?” Prauf asked, peering over his cup.
“It’s got the all-clear.”
A young woman approaching her mid-teens sat on the ground with her legs outstretched and her back leaning against the metal of a bench. A worn, yet well-loved tool box with the name ‘Reeve’ etched onto it, sat beside her. Her dark, auburn hair fell in waves past her shoulders as she tinkered with a spanner, twisting it around with her fingertips as her grey eyes fixated on it. Facing her was a male of the Abednedo species, significantly taller and stockier than the human girl, yet radiated a friendly aura from him that would welcome almost anyone.
“Have you seen much of your family, lately? He asked, changing the subject after taking a gulp from his cup.
“You know how it is, Prauf.” She mumbled, the spanner catching the light at times as it flipped around her fingers.
“I just wanted to know if anything had changed.”
“No.” Her face remained emotionless for a while until she decided to reflect the question back onto him. “Are you going to visit Abednedo any time soon?”
“The last time I went was a few months ago.”
“When that woman made a move on you?” She smirked, looking over her spanner.
“She didn’t make a move on me!” Prauf protested, nearly spluttering on his drink.
“She was interested in you, Prauf!”
“She was!” Altheeda cooed.
Prauf became quite flustered which entertained her and she pointed the spanner at him as she laughed.
“You’re quite the ladies’ man.”
“I’m nothing like that.” He blushed.
“You should have gone for it, mate.”
“Nah.” He shook his head, taking one final swig to finish his drink, then setting his cup aside. “If you’re done with your giggling, I have some news to tell you.”
“We have a new kid starting today. He’s a similar age to you, so you have a new person to tease.”
“You’ll still get some of banter aimed at you, Prauf; don’t you worry about that.” She flashed him a cheeky grin as she wiped the dust off her from where she sat and tossed her spanner into her box, causing a loud clang.
“Lucky me.” He chuckled.
“So, when’s this new guy arriving?” She asked, tossing her thick coat in her locker and slamming it shut.
“Any time now; he had to sort out some lodging first. We’re the ones looking after him, helping him settle in.”
Altheeda crouched to make sure her laces were properly tied as Prauf clipped on his belt. She then leant against her locker, waiting for Prauf to finish getting ready until she watched a human boy follow a foreman droid down the steps towards them. The Abednedo man approached them with a welcoming smile.
“This is our newbie! I’m Prauf.” He spoke warmly, offering his hand.
“I’m Cal; Cal Kestis.” He replied in a reserved manner, shaking Prauf’s hand firmly.
“Come on over here and introduce yourself.” Prauf prompted, tilting his head slightly at Altheeda.
She approached Cal with a spring in her step and a pleasant smile, instantly giving out her hand for the boy to shake.
“Cal Kestis.” He nodded. “Nice name.”
“It’s not, I was named after the city, Theed. Not very original.” She shrugged.
He let out a small chuckle under his breath and the foreman droid intervened, its robotic drone filling the air.
“Please familiarise the new member of the Scrapper’s Guild with the layout of the vicinity. Your duties for today are to report to line 10-C, line 7-R and line 4-W to carry out an inspection and disassembling.”
“No problem at all.” Prauf nodded.
The droid went about its business, leaving the three of them to their devices.
“I swear 7-R was given the all-clear last week?” Altheeda paced around as she put her hands on her hips.
“It may have been but I need the pay so we’re still going to check it.” Prauf replied. “I need to go to storage to get the new kid’s uniform and tools. Look after him, will you?”
“I’m sure I’ll be-“ Cal began.
“You gotta look out for that one.” Prauf gestured to Altheeda jokingly. “She’s mischievous.”
“Only because nobody stops me.” She grinned as they boy looked at her curiously.
“Get out the site map from my locker, help him find his bearings. Look over it whilst I’m gone.”
“Yes, sir.” Altheeda replied mockingly.
Prauf gave a hearty laugh and exited through the doors. Altheeda continued to pace as an unsure Cal watched her, rooted to his spot. Eventually, she wondered over to Prauf’s locker and turned the knob to open it, filing through his belongings until Cal mustered the courage to speak.
“You’re from Naboo I take it? Because of your name?”
“Yup. Good deduction skills.” She muttered, pulling out a disc and kicking the locker shut. “Where are you from?”
He fell silent, his lips pursed and his eyes darted around the place.
“Oh, are you one of those people?” She asked, placing the disk on a nearby bench.
“What do you mean?” He questioned.
“Those people that like to keep their private life separate from work?”
“I guess so.” He stammered.
Altheeda nodded and got to the level of the disc, pushing on various buttons to get it working.
“That’s a bit of a travel you have to get here.” Cal stated, trying to make conversation.
“Why don’t you stay here like most people do?”
“I already have a place in Naboo.”
“Then why haven’t you looked for work there?”
“Do you like asking questions?” She retorted and he pursed his lips together, avoiding eye contact. “It’s not the type I’m looking for. Even if there was work in Naboo I wouldn’t take it.”
His eyes quickly widened and she gave him another look, followed by a small smile.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“But it’s beautiful there.”
“I’d love to visit someday.”
“You’ve never been?”
“Only once or twice when I was younger - I don’t really remember.”
Altheeda blinked at him as a projection of a map unfolded in the air and she gestured for him to come closer. He took a couple of small steps and frowned at all the dots and sections on the map.
“The yard is huge.” She lectured. “I’ve been here over a year and I still haven’t been to every single line, so don’t worry if you get lost, just try stick with us and you should be okay.”
“I don’t really know how to explain the layout, there isn’t really one, but each ship is tagged so there is some sort of system.”
“Interesting.” He replied with a nervous smile.
“You’ll be fine. Prauf and I will teach you everything.”
On cue, Prauf strode back into the room with a uniform draped over his arm and a scanner in his hand. Both of the teens turned their heads to his direction as he smiled at them.
“I couldn’t find a complete tool set anywhere, they were all missing a tool or two. I brought a scanner though.”
“Cal can use the one that was issued to me.”
“You still have it, Altheeda?”
“Yeah, it’s in my locker.”
“Don’t you need it?” Cal piped in.
“I have my own.” She explained, pointing at the tool box on the floor outside her locker.
She swiftly opened it and took out the standard tool box to give to him. He looked perplexed at the vast number of tools, but gave them both an enthusiastic smile.
“Come on kid, you’re in safe hands.” Prauf gestured for him to follow.
The young boy nodded and strode next to him. Altheeda walked on the other side of Prauf with a firm grip on her toolbox.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
The next day, Altheeda sat alone in the headquarters, in the same spot she always sat in. Her box was nestled beside her and spanner rested on her thigh. It was quiet for a moment until she heard footsteps descend down the stairs. Cal gave her a small wave as he proceeded to his locker.
“You came back.” She stated, almost surprised.
“Of course, it’s a job. I work here now.” He replied slowly.
“No, I know that – it’s just a lot of people don’t come back after their first day.”
“Yeah, so you’re really committed to this, huh?”
Cal shrugged and gave her a shy smile which she returned. He opened the locker and took out the lone tool box that was inside.
“Do you know what we’re doing today?” Cal asked to break the silence.
“One of the droids told me that we’re cleaning ships at line 5-S and somewhere else, but I’ve forgotten. Prauf will get told on the way in so we’ll find out anyway.”
“Yup, it’s really easy – I find it kind of boring; it has to be done I guess.”
“Should we put our tools back?”
“You can if you want.” She spoke, emphasising the word ‘you.’
“And you won’t?”
“I just like them with me.”
She went to stand, forgetting about the spanner and it fell from her leg with a loud clatter, skidding across the floor. She tutted at herself and Cal sped over to pick it up only for Altheeda to cry out in protest.
“Don’t touch that!”
He froze suddenly and lifted his hands defensively. She swiped it and held it tightly in her fist. Cal had an apprehensive expression on his face as she retreated back to her locker. At that moment, Prauf had walked down the stairs and frowned at the awkward silence, glancing between the two of them.
“Is everything alright?”
“Fine.” Altheeda muttered. “I’ll see you at line 5-S.”
She briskly took the tool box and herself out of the room, eager to get to work and forget about the situation. Prauf’s eyebrows narrowed at her and Cal had become withdrawn.
“You sure everything’s fine?” Prauf questioned.
“Did you use one of her tools?”
Cal went quiet and looked away from the Abednedo native.
“It’s okay, you can tell me, Cal. I won’t be mad.”
“I didn’t use them; she just dropped one and I wanted to pick it up for her.”
“I don’t blame you, it’s a kind thing to do.” Prauf complimented. “Altheeda just doesn’t like people touching that tool box. It’s the same with the tools that come with it. Don’t take it personally, kid.”
Cal nodded sheepishly.
“She was the same with me until she got to know me better. You don’t need to feel bad about it.” Prauf reassured, putting a hand on his shoulder, guiding the boy to walk with him. “I’ll have a word with her.”
“Don’t do that.”
“She shouldn’t have behaved the way she did over it. She can be too overly-protective over that box.”
“It’s fine, Prauf.”
Prauf nodded as they arrived at the line. Altheeda could be seen at the end, scrubbing the side of a ship. They walked over to her but she did not acknowledge them at first, she was too engrossed in her work. The sound of soapy water sloshing inside the rusting bucket in front of her after being disturbed by a dirty sponge that she tossed in there.
“How much have you done so far?”
“Take a guess, Prauf.” She smirked.
“You can’t have done one already?!”
“Are you doubting me?” She turned to face him with a fake offended look on her face.
“It’d be impossible, you only just started, Altheeda.” He chuckled. “What have you done, though?”
“I just started the wing.” She gestured to the one directly in front of them. “All of the front is done.”
“Well, keep it up young lady! I’ll grab more buckets.” He nodded and smiled at the teens.
He trudged into the distance and turned to look over his shoulder and call out to Altheeda.
She folded her arms and smiled to herself. Cal sat himself at a distance from her, avoiding the side where her tool box was placed. She gave him a guilty look and sighed.
“You don’t have to sit so far away from me.”
Cal nodded and wiggled slightly closer to her. Putting her chin in the palm of her hand, she held eye contact with him.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude earlier. I should have been nicer about it.”
“It’s not. I was a jerk.” Altheeda admitted.
“Thank you for apologising.”
“I won’t do it, again.”
She then extended her arm out to him, her hand open and smiled kindly at him.
“I’ll be nicer from now on – friends?”
Cal’s eyes widened and he looked at the hand for a short while. He hadn’t had someone to call a friend for ages; he beamed at her and shook her hand firmly.
Many months flew by, both Prauf and Altheeda taught Cal and he was eager to learn the ins and outs of the Scrapper’s Guild at Bracca. A routine had been established between the three of them, they would wait for each other to all arrive at the headquarters, work at their various stations as instructed by the foreman droids, have lunch together and resume work until it was time to clock out.
On this particular day, the trio were halfway through the day, taking a lunch break in the headquarters. Altheeda was sat at her usual place, on the floor under her locker adjacent to her tool box. Cal and Prauf sat together on the bench opposite from her, both with a cup in their hand, they had all finished eating and were deep in conversation.
“It’s the exact same!” Prauf said.
“We both have red hair.” Cal nodded. “But it’s different shades.”
“No, it’s not, you can’t tell the difference.” Prauf laughed.
“Cal’s is more orange.” Altheeda chimed in.
“Orange?” Cal raised an eyebrow.
“You know what I mean. I’m trying to say that mine is darker.”
“Suit yourselves. I still think it’s the same.” The Abednedo male shrugged.
There was a brief pause, Altheeda resumed toying with the spanner from her box and Cal had a drink from his cup. Prauf looked around the room then lowered his voice so it was just about audible.
“What do you think about all this Galactic Empire business?”
“That’s a bit of a sudden topic change.” Altheeda noted.
Cal tensed up and kept his eyes focused on the ground. He began thinking of all the worst possible outcomes, where he could move to next, whether to change his name, what job to get next. He simply couldn’t risk his Jedi status getting exposed.
“I know, but the news is everywhere. I can’t go a day without hearing about the Jedi Purge, this new Galactic Empire that is being formed by the chancellor. It’s endless!”
“They keep saying they’ve eliminated the entirety of the Jedi.” She replied, her eyes frantically searching for any lurking stormtroopers.
“Exactly, but then why are there bounties for more of them?”
“Maybe they mean the future ones?”
“Maybe, but they won’t know themselves if they have that kind of power, and they won’t have any knowledge of how to use it.”
“What if there’s still some Jedi out there?”
Everyone in the room went into complete silence. Cal’s breathing had become faster and he began to writhe his hands uncomfortably. He did not want to speak at all, he wanted the conversation to change topic or stop for good.
“Altheeda, keep your voice down.” Prauf warned.
“You were the one that brought it up.”
“Some of them could have survived the purge; how incredibly luckily they would be.”
“But they’d have to spend the rest of their life in hiding. I couldn’t imagine anything worse.”
“I’m sure that it wouldn’t be forever.” Prauf shook his head before giving Cal a light nudge, making the boy jolt abruptly. “What do you think, Cal?”
“W-what?” He stammered.
“The Jedi; do you think they’ll come back – that there’s still some out there?” Altheeda asked in a soft voice but with wide, twinkling eyes.
His mouth was dry, his fear was almost choking him. His brain couldn’t even conjure a sentence to say. Both Prauf and Altheeda watched him eagerly but all he could do was shrug and open and shut his mouth until words came out.
“I… don’t… know…”
“I don’t understand why there was a purge in the first place.” The girl continued in a whisper.
“Because they were treacherous, supposedly.” Prauf whispered back.
“Really? But I don’t understand what reason they would have.”
“There’s not much information. It’s like they’re being selective on what they want the public to know. They just want the public to turn on the Jedi like they did and bring them in.”
Altheeda hummed and put the spanner in her trouser pocket.
“The reward money is huge – if you found a Jedi; would you turn them in for that kind of money?” Prauf asked in a low tone.
“Why are you asking me that question?” Altheeda retorted.
“I’m just curious.”
“I can’t answer it. I think there’s more to each side of the story than we all know; why are we tearing ships apart instead of fixing them? What’s going on with the bloody government? Where are the remaining Jedi? We don’t have that information.” She spoke as she got on her feet and paced around. “On that note, I’m going to go to the bathroom quickly.” She added in a louder voice.
Cal and Prauf both watched her stride off and he turned to the human boy with a warm smile, only to then frown at how wary he looked.
“You alright, kid? You look a bit pale.”
“Do I?” He laughed nervously and finished the drink inside his cup. “I think I may have taken a funny turn.”
“Don’t be getting ill on us.” Prauf teased. “We need as many hands as we can get to fill this quota today.”
“I’ll be okay.”
“Good, that’s what I like to hear.” Prauf smiled and gave him his cup. “Here, you need it more than I do.”
He made a beeline to his locker and took out his tools. Before leaving the room, he stopped to quickly address Cal.
“We’re at line 8-Y this afternoon. Do me a favour and just wait for Altheeda before setting off, I don’t think she remembers the brief from this morning.”
With a quick nod, the Abednedo man strode out of the room back to work. Cal sat, collecting himself and his thoughts to calm himself down. It was way too close for comfort and was relieved that they didn’t press him anymore than they did. He pondered on whether he should leave or whether that would make him suspicious and attract more unwanted attention. Altheeda bounced back into the room and stood in front of him with her hands on her hips.
“Are you ready?”
“Y-yeah.” He replied after gulping the rest of the drink.
“You up for it? You don’t look well.”
“I’m alright, Prauf said the same thing but I just had a funny turn earlier – it’s nothing to worry about.”
“Take it easy, Cal.” She spoke as she collected her tool box.
He gave a small nod and took a slow walk to his locker, opening it to place both cups inside and take out his tool box. He swiftly sorted through it then frowned in dismay.
“My screwdriver is missing.”
“Oh?” She walked over to him and searched through the toolbox. “You’re right – do you need it today?”
“Prauf said we’re at 8-Y and that I was in charge of unscrewing the bolts.”
“I don’t remember that.”
“He said it this morning when he briefed us.”
“Oh, I wasn’t paying much attention.” She admitted with a cheeky smile. “I was very tired.”
“He said you were going to split the parts, I’d remove the screws and that he would scan everything.” Cal explained.
“So, you could really use a screwdriver then.”
He nodded and she became thoughtful for a moment, she then focused on the boy and gave him a smile before crouching down and putting a hand in her tool box. She pulled out her screwdriver and put it in his tool box.
“Give it back to me at the end of the day.”
He was taken aback by this gesture and gave her an earnest look.
“You don’t have to –“
“I know you’ll look after it – I don’t mind.” She spoke with a sparkling eyes from her empathetic expression.
“Thank you, that’s really kind, Altheeda.”
“Anything for a mate.”
They both exchanged a friendly grin with each other before picking up their respective tool boxes and walking side by side back to work for the rest of the day.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Just over three years had passed since Cal joined the Scrapper’s Guild. He had established close knit relationships with both Prauf and Altheeda. They rarely worked apart from each other, either working as a trio or various duos. The group spent their breaks together laughing and chatting, looking after one another.
A more mature Cal and Altheeda were sat together on the train to the scrap yard. They both had grown by a few inches, their voices adjusted with puberty and their hair had grown. The young man’s hair was still short but slicked back so it was out of his face, whilst the young woman’s hair had grown to a length that passed her upper back and nowadays kept her hair in a half-up do ponytail. As they sat together, he was listening to his headphones, watching her analyse a projection that was emitted from the disc on her lap, depicting various parts, devices and ships. Occasionally, he would chime in and ask her about them.
When the train reached its last stop, they gathered their belongings and walked to the headquarters. To their surprise, they were not greeted by Prauf, but a handful of foreman droids. Cal became rather tense, earning him a concerned glance from Altheeda as she squeezed the handle of her toolbox.
“Where’s Prauf?” She asked in a low tone.
“There is an urgent matter to attend to, please report immediately to line 6-B to perform a foreign object disposal.” One of the foreman droids announced.
“Foreign object disposal?” Cal repeated.
“There is an urgent mat-“
“Yes, we’ll sort it!” Altheeda shot back.
She took his wrist and lead him away from the foreman droids, beginning to climb up the various levels of scrap to get to 6-B.
“Sorry about that, I didn’t want to hear the whole spiel again.” She looked down upon him as he climbed behind her.
“I didn’t want to hear it either.” He chuckled, relaxing after the droid encounter. “But, why is this foreign object disposal so important?’”
“I have no idea.”
“It’s not like Prauf to not meet us.”
“Yeah.” She agreed. “I wonder if he’s alright.”
“I’m sure he’s fine.”
Altheeda looked up at the platform they needed to reach, knowing she was too small to reach it without a boost.
“I need a hand.” She asked, her head still tilted upwards, examining the height.
“Don’t worry, just run towards me, jump and I’ll lift you so you can grab the edge. I’ll take the box.”
She placed her toolbox next to him, took a few steps back to get a running start and sped towards him, bending her knees and springing herself into the air. His arms caught her hips and his upper body strength propelled her to the edge of the platform. She dangled for a while, adjusting her grip to hoist herself up. Lying on her front, she had one hand on the platform and the other for Cal to reach as she leant off the metal. With the toolbox in one hand, he used the other to clasp her hand as he jumped up. Altheeda grunted at the effort of pulling him up and watched him use his feet to walk against the metal up to the edge.
Once they had both gotten up and neatened themselves, he handed her the toolbox and in return she gave him her thanks. They looked at the end of the platform and noticed Prauf gesturing to a wrecked ship in deep conversation with two foreman droids.
“Prauf!” He called over to him.
Altheeda joined in and strode towards the Abednedo male, in suit with her fellow red-head companion. Prauf began to jog towards them with a solemn expression and quickly addressed the young woman approaching him.
“I told them not to send you here!”
“But they said to report here.” Cal explained.
“I was talking to Altheeda.” Prauf spoke back quietly. “You’re fine where you are, Cal.”
“What’s going on?” She asked, putting her tool box down and folding her arms.
“Nothing you need to see.” Prauf insisted.
“This foreign object disposal, what’s with the urgency?” Cal quizzed.
“Well, er…” Prauf stuttered. “This is quite an unusual case, not one I haven’t seen before but-“
Altheeda made a sprint to the ship wreckage, ignoring the cries from Prauf and the footsteps that chased her. She pushed past the foreman droids and a twang of fear filled her tummy.
Sitting in what remained of the pilot’s chair was the skeleton of what could have only been the pilot themselves. Shreds of clothing still clung onto various bones and they had discoloured due to the amount of time they had stayed there. Her hands became clammy, her breathing shortened, the skeleton became warped through her teary-eyed vision. She sharply turned away, clenching her fists and keeping her eyes on the ground.
“Leave her for a moment.” Prauf spoke softly, putting an arm on Cal’s shoulder.
“I-Is she alright?”
“She will be…” He let out a breath as the two men watched her pick up her tool box and walk further into the distance towards the platform edge. “This is why I told them not to send her.”
“Why, what’s in there?”
“Remains – human remains.”
“Was it someone she knew?”
“No, they’re unidentifiable, they’re just bones.”
“That must have been a shock.” Cal spoke sympathetically.
Prauf sighed, opening his mouth for a split second before closing it. After a small amount of silence, he resumed what he was about to say.
“It’s more about what it reminded her of; she’s seen things like this before – that isn’t why she’s upset. The same thing happened shortly after she started working here.”
“Did she have the same reaction?”
“It was worse. She became quite distressed, and I was the one that took her aside and calmed her down. That was when she told me about her brother.”
“Her brother!?” Cal repeated in a shocked but hushed tone.
“I’ve said too much already.” Prauf admitted, guilt riddled in his eyes. “It’s not my place to say.”
“You might as well tell me, I want to help in any way I can.”
He paused, looking out at the distance at Altheeda, who sat with her back to them and her legs hanging off the platform. The toolbox at her side bounced the sunlight off of it, almost blinding the two men until Prauf turned back to face Cal, ready to speak.
“Her brother was drafted as pilot for what’s now the Galactic Empire. He died in a crash when she was a lot younger; says it could have been easily prevented. Her parents took it pretty bad – that’s all I know.”
Cal said nothing, his eyes explained his utter sorrow for her. He bowed his head for a moment and Prauf turned back to the wreckage.
“I’ll sort the disposal.” He muttered, giving him a meek smile before doing so.
Cal ran his hand through his hair, it began to fall out of place slightly but he didn’t seem to mind. Tentatively, he walked over to the platform edge where his friend had been sat in silence for quite some time. The nearer he got, he noticed the sniffling and the shaky breaths she drew in. He stopped when he was stood directly behind her, and she appeared to cease her sniffling. He knew that Altheeda knew he was there, it was just down to whether who was willing to speak first.
“I take it Prauf told you.” She said with a quiver to her voice.
“Don’t be angry with him. I made him tell me because I wanted to help.”
“What did he tell you?”
He was uncertain of how to put it into words that wouldn’t hurt her. It was already clear that it was a sensitive subject. He walked forwards and took a seat on the edge next to her. He was able to see her blotchy face, her eyes had become bluer after crying, she had the spanner in her hands and she kicked her legs in the air idly. After examining her with caring eyes, he turned his head to the view in front of them, he decided he would allow her to speak if she wanted to, or keep the silence, he wanted to pass the choice onto her. For a long while, she had chosen the quiet, then spoke in a mousey voice, almost as if she was talking to herself.
“He didn’t deserve that; what happened to him. He deserved so much more.”
Cal lifted his head slightly, hearing her voice and tried to make eye contact with her but she still was looking forwards.
“Tell me about him; your brother.” He asked gently.
Her thumb smoothed over the handle of the spanner as she spoke.
“Turner was the oldest. He looked after me. We’d go exploring around the meadows, build things using the nearest materials to us, run around, sometimes we’d go fishing by Solleu river. He was a lot of fun.”
Altheeda paused for a moment, soaking in the memories that flooded back. Her grip tightened on the spanner and she held it to her chest.
“The day he was drafted… he always wanted to be a mechanic, work on creating the ships, not flying them. He had no interest in being part of an army. He hated hearing it about it – he just wanted peace. Saying goodbye to him was hard as it was when he left; I never knew it meant I had to say goodbye to him once again for a final time.”
More tears dripped down her cheeks and she patted them away with the back of her sleeve. He put his hand carefully on her back, attempting to soothe her emotional pain.
“I don’t remember much of the day he died. I remember his last words to me, though. We were able to see him in the medical vicinity. He told me he knew the ship he had to fly was faulty. The mechanics cleared it as safe to operate but Turner; he was adamant there was something wrong – he’d checked it. Because he wasn’t an official mechanic, he was ignored. They made him fly that ship, and apparently within minutes it came crashing down. He told me he loved me, to do something with my life that I wanted to do and to polish his tools regularly for him – he didn’t want them to go to waste.”
Her fingers held the spanner up to her eye level momentarily, a smile disappeared just as quick as it appeared on her face. She then placed it back in the toolbox beside her with great care and wiped away incoming tears.
“And that was it.” She wept. “He passed moments later.”
“My parents; now that I think about it, they got into this catatonic state. I was too young to understand at the time. I thought they were dead too, but only on the inside. I had to go and fend for them and myself for a while. I don’t know how but one day, just like that, it was like they woke up – but they resented me, they scolded me for carrying on like normal when Turner was no longer here. They acted like I was betraying them, betraying him.”
Cal listened with much concern, not once taking his eyes off of her. He rubbed her back to provide a sense of comfort during her pause. He didn’t care about the pay they could potentially be losing at this time, all he wanted to do was give her the time she needed.
“I moved out into a new house on Naboo, got this job here at the Guild and I make sure my brother’s tools are being put to good use.” She added with a small smile, gesturing to the toolbox.
“Do you speak with your parents much?”
“No, sometimes, I see them from across the street, at times I walk directly past them… but it’s like they see through me.”
“They don’t recognise you?” Cal asked with a frown.
“They do… they just want nothing more to do with me I guess, yet they still watch me. I see the recognition in their eyes; the curiosity of what their daughter has become, and it fades rapidly then they carry on with their own lives.”
“That’s truly awful, I am so, so sorry, Altheeda.”
He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her towards him with great care. She froze for a moment, and eventually accepted it. Her hands rested behind his back loosely whilst her chin pressed on his shoulder with more droplets trickled from her eyes onto the material of his clothing.
“My tears are falling onto your uniform.” She muttered in embarrassment.
“Don’t worry about it. I don’t care about that. Do you feel any better?”
“I think so…”
“What you are doing now is exactly what your brother would have wanted. You are doing him proud, please know that.”
“I don’t entirely understand what goes on in politics but since the Galactic Empire has risen, I feel almost guilty that I’m repairing these ships for them to go and slaughter people, even children for something they can’t control… yet I don’t want the same thing to happen to them like what he went through. No one deserves to die, no matter if they’re in the Empire, a Jedi, or part of… what I should now say; the Old Republic.”
“Don’t feel like you have to be concerned about things like that.” Cal spoke, looking directly into her eyes.
“I wish.” She gave a half-hearted chuckle.
“Nobody has a clue with what is going on with politics nowadays. There’s a lot of uncertainty and it’s difficult to understand. Your intentions are good and that’s what should matter.”
Altheeda’s arms slipped from him, pulling away from him to give him an appreciative smile.
“Are you happy with your life right now?”
“That’s what he wanted - you’re already doing him proud.”
“Thank you, Cal. I needed to hear that.”
He nodded, standing up to help Altheeda up. Noticing that she forgot to pick up her box first, he knelt down and grabbed it to hand it over to her. She flashed him a thankful smile and watched him stride back to Prauf. Her eyes moved their attention to her tool box, she ran her thumbs over the corners and then held it close to her chest. As she shut her eyes, her brother occupied her mind and she allowed the memories to stay temporarily, remembering the joy and strength he brought her from a young age.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
“Cal, Altheeda; proceed to line 5-D and report anything significant you find.” A foreman droid instructed.
Another year had passed at the Guild and nothing really had changed, the trio would work together and perform their duties as instructed. On this particular day, Cal and Altheeda were working together and both of them nodded at their tasks. Cal lead the way as Altheeda swiftly swiped her tool box off the ground and followed shortly behind. They leapt across gaps between the junk of starships and climbed up various wires to reach their destination. When they finally arrived, they leaned against the metal scrap and gathered their breath.
“Is it just a check this time?” Altheeda asked.
“I think so.” Cal shrugged.
“I thought we did this one recently?” She frowned as she picked up a wrench and fiddled with it.
“Well, we just have to do what we’re told.” He sighed with a small grin.
He stood back on his feet and took the headphones that wrapped around his neck and placed them over his ears. Altheeda could faintly hear the music that played and she smiled at it before getting to work. She first picked up her scanner from her tool box and began scanning the west side, as Cal had chosen the east end to work on. The cold, blue light emitting from it illuminated the areas of the metal as it made a dull beeping noise to signify nothing of importance.
They both continued to work for a large amount of time until a high pitch continuous beeping noise on Altheeda’s scanner along with the blue light from it began to flash. She tutted under her breath and shut it off, lightly tossing it into her box. She knew exactly what was wrong and what was needed to rectify it. As she crouched and scrambled through her tools, she noticed her small welder was missing and her other welders would be too large to use. Altheeda let out a sharp breath and straightened up, looking over at Cal’s direction.
He was continuing to scan his section, nodding to the beat of the music from his headphones and she gave a brief chuckle before approaching him.
He was too focused to notice her presence next to him, simply analysing what was under his blue light from his scanner.
“Cal?” She repeated, slightly louder and dragged out.
No response, just a slight hum escaping his lips.
Nothing. She shook her head before tapping his shoulder, to which he jolted at slightly, quickly turning his head to face her and took off his headphones, allowing them to rest on his neck once again.
“Is everything alright, Theeda?”
“Do you have a small welder? I need it for a quick break.”
“It’s not like you to not have all your tools.”
“I know, I must have just misplaced it somewhere.”
That’s not like you, either.”
Altheeda raised a playful eyebrow at him and folded her arms. He smiled at her response then gestured over to her box.
“I didn’t bring my tool box with me because you brought yours.” Cal explained.
“Dammit. I’ll have to go back and grab one wont I?”
“Are you sure it’s not in your tool box?” He asked as he walked over to her box and knelt down with her to have a look.
“Absolutely. Wait, didn’t you borrow it off me the other day?” She asked thoughtfully.
“I did. I’m sure I gave it back to you.”
“Really? Huh, maybe I just didn’t remember you giving it back.”
“I’ll check my belt and my pockets.” Cal offered. “Ask Prauf if he’s seen it lying around anywhere – just don’t get spotted.”
“That’s a good idea; don’t worry I won’t.”
Altheeda turned on her heels and swiftly turned a corner behind the scrap they worked on. Cal dug his hands in his pockets that were empty then moved onto his belt. He lifted a small section of the cloth of his shirt to reveal the gleam of his lightsaber that was tucked away carefully. He quickly pulled it out and held it in his hand so he could fully check his belt, intending to put it back in an instant.
“Where is Prauf stationed agai-“
Cal once again jumped at Altheeda’s appearance, this time with much more fright. He froze and his panicked eyes locked with hers until they focused on what Cal held in his hand.
“What’s that?” She asked as she came to a halt.
The fear had gripped him so hard that he was unable to move or speak. He simply took deep breaths in a desperate attempt to calm himself.
“What is it?” Altheeda spoke in a curious tone and she got closer to him, only for him to hide it behind his back.
“I, er, i-it’s um-“
“Cal don’t be silly – let me see!”
The colour from his face had drained as he sighed; he had to accept his fate from his simple yet, dangerous mistake. Slowly, he moved his hand from behind his back and revealed the weapon that was in his hand.
Altheeda took the lightsaber before falling silent as she examined it. Once she realised what it was, she too became very pale with dread and looked into Cal’s eyes.
“Please tell me this isn’t yours.” She spoke, her voice barely audible.
“Theeda… please give it back to me.” He slowly stretched out a shaky hand to her.
“What are you doing with this?”
“I need you to give it back to me quickly.” Cal spoke in a hushed but urgent tone.
“Is it yours?” She pressed.
The young man fell silent and bowed his head slightly as he lowered his eyes. Altheeda looked down at the lightsaber then back up at Cal and she felt her stomach lurch as she accepted the truth of who he was. She wasn’t terrified for herself but terrified for him.
“A Jedi?” She questioned, her voice ever so quiet.
All Cal could do was nod in response. She gave him a slow nod and glanced at the lightsaber in her hand, giving it a slight squeeze.
“Altheeda… don’t turn me in, please!” He whispered.
“Why would you think I’d do that?”
“Of course not. What kind of person do you take me for?”
“N-No! I didn’t mean it that way – I just- You can’t trust anyone in these times.”
“I understand.” Altheeda said solemnly.
“I’m sorry, that sounded-“
“No I understand.”
Cal fell silent, he raised his hand once again, hoping to retrieve his lightsaber. Altheeda lifted it up to her side and stared down at it for a final time, then offered it to him. He exhaled with relief and gently took it from her hand, concealing it under his belt securely. Altheeda sat down against the metal scrap and looked out thoughtfully at the sea of out of commission starships, now considered junk. He looked upon her with a careful gaze, gently sitting himself next to her, their shoulders almost touching. Words failed him for a while until Cal mustered the courage to speak.
“The lightsaber isn’t mine.”
“So then you’re actually not..?” Altheeda gave a confused frown.
“No, I am… This lightsaber belonged my Master.”
“What happened to your Master?”
“He, um –“ Cal stammered, the sadness evident in his eyes.
“The Jedi purge?”
Cal could only nod. Altheeda watched him sorrowfully, she was unsure of what words she could offer for solace; nevertheless, she knew she had to support him in any way she could, even if it was with her respectful silence.
“I was there when it began. He knew something went terribly wrong… He told me to get to the escape pods through the maintenance halls while he fought off the clones. When we got there… we were ambushed… and he… he sacrificed himself to ensure that I could escape unharmed.”
“Cal, I am so sorry.”
“The last thing he did was give me his lightsaber. I fled and I’ve been making a living here ever since.”
Altheeda was speechless for a while then cleared her throat briefly before addressing him.
“I honestly don’t know what to say. I didn’t realise that you’ve had to deal with so much.”
“You have to keep this a secret, Altheeda; alright?” He spoke sternly, holding her gaze.
“I will I promise – you’re a good person, Cal.” She reassured.
He gave her a warm smile that she reflected back to him.
“I appreciate you confiding in me.”
“Well you didn’t give me much of a choice.”
“Hey – it’s okay.” The red-headed male replied, placing a gentle hand on her upper arm. “I need to be more careful.”
“That you do.” She quipped, standing up and stretching briefly.
“I hid it well until now.” He retorted, rising up with her.
“I’m not referring to that anymore, remember yesterday?”
“That was an accident, I just lost my balance!”
“Walking up the stairs?” She giggled.
“Enough about me, you need to find a welder.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” She sighed as she placed both hands in her pockets and pausing in her steps. “You’re not going to like this.”
She gripped what was inside her pocket and drew out the missing small welder with an embarrassed look on her face. Cal shook his head and began to laugh at it.
“What can I say? I’m always creating a fuss.” She gestured dramatically with the welder.
“Come on.” He spoke, putting his hand on the back of her shoulder that guided her back to the west end of the scrap. “Do what you need to do, then we can get our things and go home.”
“Right.” She nodded.
Within a few short minutes, she effortlessly made a clean cut and made sure to place the small welder back in her toolbox. Once she was packed up the two climbed their way down back to the entrance to the scrap yard – treating the shift as if it was just another normal day on Bracca.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Prauf and Cal were tasked with scaling the taller pieces of scrap in the yard for the day and had just completed a check on a wing. They both abseiled down to the ground and got to work separating themselves from the ropes.
“You happy to give that one the all-clear?” Cal turned to his friend as he took off his headphones.
“Yeah, it’s good.” Prauf agreed. “Not long left to go.”
“Is it nearly time already?”
“You’ve been working hard, kid; so, the time is going to fly.”
Cal gave him a smile of thanks and began gathering their tools together.
“Where to next?”
“That sounds like a plan.”
Once he had sorted their belongings they took a leisurely trek to their next location. The faint clang of metal echoed all around the air, making it difficult to track their sources. He blocked most of it out, focusing on following Prauf and climbing various parts to proceed forward. Many foreman droids whizzed around and were ignored by the two men until one particular droid passed by.
“Scrapper needs medical attention at line 6-F”
Cal paused momentarily. He quickly pieced the information he just heard and his eyes widened in realisation.
“What’s wrong, Cal?”
“That’s where Altheeda’s stationed.” Prauf nodded, slightly confused at what Cal was trying to get at.
“Did you not hear what the droid said?”
“One of them said a scrapper needed medical attention at 6-F.” He explained with a fretful expression.
“You don’t think…”
“We need to check.”
“But what do we say when they catch us off duty?”
“I’ll come up with something, Prauf. Come on.”
Another droid had passed them, announcing that the scrapper at line 6-F had been transferred back to the headquarters. They knew exactly where to go. Together, they rushed across the scrap yard; taking great care in not injuring themselves but still moving with a strong sense of urgency. When they reached the headquarters, their items were tossed aside as they sped through the door.
Their fears were confirmed to be true. Altheeda was sat, cradling her arm and wincing in pain as a medical droid examined it. Her eyes were watery but she refused to let a single drop fall, she wanted to be brave for herself, then noticing that the two men had ran in, she was definitely not going to show any sign of pain in front of them.
“Theeda!” Cal cried as he knelt to her side.
“What happened?!” Prauf asked both her and the medical droid.
“It was nothing.” She spoke through gritted teeth. “Don’t worry about me, go back to work.”
“It doesn’t look like nothing.” The fellow redhead retorted.
“I just fell and landed funny that’s all.”
“Was it from a height?” Prauf asked, lowering himself to her level.
“No, I was on the ground.”
“Your arm looks like it’s in bad shape.” He spoke firmly, with Cal nodding in agreement.
“It was just me being clumsy, there’s nothing more to – Ow!” She cried out in pain as the medical droid has prodded on a tender part of her arm and tried to wriggle away from it.
“Behave yourself, young lady. The droid’s trying to help you.” Prauf reassured.
She huffed and puffed, becoming still for the droid to apply a cast onto her lower arm.
“What happened, doc?” Cal questioned the droid.
“The patient fell and took impact on the right arm. Her injury is a bone fracture in the right arm. Full recovery is estimated to be a maximum of 2 months. She is deemed unfit to work until recovery is complete.”
“No way!” Altheeda objected.
“A resting period is obligatory for the nature of this injury.” The droid spoke and began to make an exit from the room.
“I have another arm!” She yelled, watching the droid go.
“Calm down.” Prauf spoke, putting a hand on her shoulder.
“I need the credits, Prauf! I need to work!”
“I will sort something for you, Altheeda. Take my word for it.”
“I can still work with one hand – I can prove it!”
‘Altheeda, no.” Prauf shook his head.
She stood up and picked up her screwdriver from the box. She approached a random locker and used her left hand to put the screwdriver one of the screw heads. She had difficulty aligning the screwdriver but once it slotted in, she attempted to unscrew it. It was a slow effort as her left hand was much weaker and not her dominant. Because of this, she lost her grip on the screwdriver and it fell out onto the floor. Her fist tightened and she began to furiously pace around, kicking a locker with an angry grunt.
“I don’t think you want a foot out of action too.” Prauf stated.
She gave him a look then walked over to pick up her screwdriver and marched back to where she sat, tossing the tool back in the box. Prauf stood up and opened out his arms for her, she stood for a moment, then gave him a hug and he patted her back gently.
“Us three have each other’s backs.” The Abednedo male stated proudly.
“He’s right.” Cal chimed in. “Don’t feel like you’re alone, we can help you.”
Prauf released Altheeda and she gave both of them a small smile.
“Thank you, you know I’d do the same for you both.”
“Get yourself home, kid.” Prauf said. “I’ll speak to the chief and see if there’s anything that can be done. If not, I’ll work some overtime for you.”
“You don’t have to do that.” She insisted.
“But I want to.”
She paused for a moment, feeling almost guilty for all the support she was getting but nevertheless, she welcomed it.
“You’ve always been alright, Prauf.”
He chuckled, picking up her tool box and putting it in her working hand.
“You’re a good, kid. So are you.” He added, glancing at Cal. “I’m going to finish off the quota.”
“Do you need a hand?” Cal offered, earning him a glare from Altheeda. “Sorry.” He mumbled to her.
“No need, Cal. Just make sure she doesn’t get up to mischief.” He grinned, before leaving the room.
Altheeda walked over to her locker to check if she had everything she needed. Her coat was in her locker and she had managed to hook it onto her bad arm after a minor struggle, until it slipped off on her walk back to Cal. She tutted at herself and he happily picked it up for her and held it.
“Are you going to be alright getting home?”
“I’m sure I will be.”
Cal looked at her uncertainly, then looked at her arm. He appeared thoughtful for small amount of time then cleared his throat.
“May I take you back home? If that’s not something you want; I respect that.”
“What about the rest of your shift?” She replied with a frown.
“I’m only going to miss out on a few credits it’s not a huge deal. I would feel a lot better if I knew you got home alright.”
“Really?” Altheeda asked with a guilty look.
“As long as you want me to, then I don’t mind at all.” He spoke earnestly.
She fell into a brooding state, swinging her tool box idly back and forth, the tools rustled against each other, filling the room with a metallic jingle. It eventually stopped when she reached a decision.
“So, is that a yes?”
Altheeda gave him a playful smile and began to walk ahead.
“Come on – let’s hope we don’t miss the train.”
After a journey on the train and a short duration on a shuttle, Altheeda and Cal arrived in Naboo. The sun had just set, casting darkness over the city; however, the warm glow of occupied homes and streetlights paved the way across the streets, helping the two navigate their way to Altheeda’s house.
“I’m telling you, you’re so lucky you live here; it’s wonderful.”
“How can you tell? It’s dark, Cal.” She giggled.
“I mean, the architecture, the streets… I can just tell.” He chuckled in return.
“Well, we’re not far now.” She announced.
Leading the way, Altheeda took a turn into a quiet street with lines of houses stretching down it on either side. They walked down it until a quarter of the way through and she turned to a door on the east side of the street. There were small steps that lead up to the front door and she climbed them, with Cal stood a step below her. It made her taller than him and it amused her as she glanced down at him. Next to the door was a hand scanner, granting access to the house; Cal noticed it and stretched out a hand.
“May I?” He asked, gesturing to her tool box.
She absent-mindedly handed over the box to him and used her unharmed hand to open the sliding door to her home. Once they parted, she stepped in and spun to face Cal, leaning her shoulder against the door frame.
“Cheers, for that.”
“No problem.” Cal gave her a warm smile, handing her back the tool box.
“Do you want a cup of tea?” She offered, tilting her head towards the indoors.
“You need to rest, Theeda; besides, I should get back to the camp.”
“Are you going to be alright getting back?”
“Yeah, it’s fine.”
She eyed him dubiously and folded her arms.
“I’ll take you back.”
“Then that just defeats the whole point of me taking you home!” Cal laughed, shaking his head.
“Then why don’t you stay the night? It will save you a whole lot of trouble.” She shrugged casually.
“I couldn’t possibly intrude-“
“Or I’ll just take you back to the camp.” She argued.
“Then I’ll take you straight back here again.” He argued back, trying to stifle the grin on his face.
“Then I’d just keep taking you back for each time you’d escort me back to my door.” She retorted with a cocky expression. “I can do this all night, Cal.”
He sighed in defeat, putting his hands on his hips. She smirked triumphantly and straightened her posture, moving off the door frame.
“You’re going to get cold.” She stated.
“I owe you one.” He said thankfully, stepping up the rest of the stairs and entered through the door.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
The house itself was rather cramped and small, the ground floor consisted of two small, worn out sofas and a kitchen area behind them with a counter and two cupboards above it. The sofas faced a small fireplace that had a kettle placed over it. A small stairwell could be seen, leading up to what Cal assumed to be her bedroom.
“It’ll be nice for you to sleep in some peace and quiet.” She stated, popping her toolbox on one of the sofas.
“Prauf’s going to be wondering when I’m getting back.”
“He’ll figure it out.”
She picked up the kettle and wandered over to the kitchen area, filling it with water a bucket that was perched on the counter. With tea leaves already inside the kettle, she moved to hook it back onto the fireplace. Grabbing two flint stones next to it, she held one in each hand and frowned, knowing if she put any pressure in her bad arm by rubbing the stones together, it was going to strain it. Cal wanted to use the force to help her; the fire would be lit in a second, but he knew it would spark too much attention. Of course, she knew of his Jedi status, he smiled at the year old memory of the moment she found out, but he couldn’t take the risk of the wrong people finding out. He stepped over to her, leaned over her shoulder and unravelled her hands, lifting the stones from her palms.
“I’ve got it.”
She nodded and went over to her cupboard to fetch two cups. He began to scrape the two stones together and made flames appear fairly quickly. After bringing them next to the fireplace, she sat in front of it and watched the fire intertwine with itself. Cal adjusted his legs from kneeling to sitting cross-legged with his fellow red-headed friend.
“Hope it tastes alright for you.” She spoke, the glow of the flames reflected off her eyes.
“I’m sure it will be nice.” He replied enthusiastically.
“Good.” She smiled as she cradled her injured arm.
“How’s the arm?”
“It’s still sore.” She mumbled. “I’m such an idiot.”
“You’re bound to get injured at some point, it’s part of the job.”
She paused, letting the fire have a moment to be heard. Her focus was on the kettle, waiting for steam to appear to show that the tea was ready to drink. She looked at him and gave him a sincere smile.
“I’m glad you’re here actually. You were right, I probably would have struggled.”
“I’m happy I could help.”
“I’m just worried about the pay you’ll be missing, that’s all.”
“Like I told you, Altheeda; I don’t care about that.” He spoke gently. “It’s really not anything to be concerned about.”
“Is there something I can do to thank you?”
“You’re saving me a trip back, so you’re already thanking me. But you didn’t have to do that, so far that, I thank you.”
She giggled once again, pulling her knees towards her chest.
“At this rate, we’ll be thanking each other all night.”
He laughed along with her.
“It’s nice to know someone’s grateful for what you do for them.”
Cal began to laugh once again and it became contagious to her, as she began to chuckle with him once again.
“Why are you laughing?” She spoke in between her laughter.
“Because we just keep thanking each other back and forth.”
“Well the tea looks like it’s ready so that will put an end to it.” She grinned.
“I’ll pour it.”
“Let me grab you a cloth for you to use, the handle will be hot.”
She clambered onto her feet and collected a dish cloth from the worktop.
She threw it over to him and he caught it effortlessly, wrapping it around the handle of the kettle and cautiously lifting it away from the fire. He poured the contents into both cups and set the kettle to one side. As she sat down, he picked up the two, steaming cups and brought them over. He handed her a cup towards her good hand and she took it with thanks as he sat as close as space could allow due to the tool box being in the middle.
“You can pop it down on the floor.” She gestured to it.
With his free hand, he moved it away and shuffled slightly closer to her. Altheeda blew into her cup and took a careful sip.
“Let me know what you think.” She asked, peering over the rim of her cup.
He took a small taste of it and smiled contently.
“It’s good, I like it.”
She gave him a warm smile and took another drink from her cup. Cal smoothed his thumb over the rim of his, deep in his thoughts for a while.
“You must pay out a lot for this place.” He thought aloud.
“How are you managing; if you don’t mind me asking?” He asked slowly.
“You’re right to ask, a person of our age can’t afford a place to live that’s for sure. The Guild doesn’t pay enough and it’s all beginning to catch up.”
“How did you find a place like this in the first place?
She took a long drink and lowered her eyes. She looked almost guilty and Cal grew solemn at her sudden drop in mood.
“I haven’t told you everything about my family, Cal.” She began then took a small gulp from her cup. “My father’s a senator. They’re quite well off and they obviously shared some of that with me before things turned bitter between us. The day I left I took the rest of my allowance and that’s how I bought this place.”
“And now your allowance is running out?”
“You know the camps at Bracca aren’t that bad, right? Prauf was just messing with you. If you ever felt unsafe we’d protect you.”
“Believe me, I would move to the camps if I could.”
“Then what’s stopping you?”
Cal sipped away at his tea as she sighed and rubbed her forehead.
“I told you my family don’t speak to me anymore, well that doesn’t mean they don’t want me out of sight or out of reach. It’s like they want to make things harder for me. My father doesn’t want me to leave the planet permanently. I actually tried applying for lodging when I first accepted the job at the Guild but the request got denied, they told me it was under instruction from the Senate.”
“I’m sorry I never told you until now. I don’t like speaking about it to people.”
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have pried.”
“You’re not just anyone, Cal. If I didn’t trust you I wouldn’t have told you.”
“I appreciate that.”
He then moved his glass to her and he beamed at her.
“For… a happy life?”
“I already have that.” She replied. “Part of the thanks goes to you for that.”
“Then what else?”
“Let’s cheers to the fact that we met and have known each other for all these years.” She suggested.
“I can do that, and here’s to many more.”
Their cups made a clink as they lightly collided into each other and the two polished off the rest of their tea. She took his cup and hers back into the kitchen to clear away.
“You can take my room. I’ll sleep down here.” She called out to him.
“No, you don’t need to do that! I’m happy with the sofa.”
“You’re the guest, so you need to be comfortable.”
“You have an injured arm – you’re the one that needs to be comfortable.”
“Fair point.” She sighed in defeat. “I’ll go grab you some blankets and pillows from my room.”
He watched her stride up the stairs, her wavy locks of hair disappearing behind the corner. He paced around idly, studying her house in more detail. Despite knowing she was making do with her situation, he wanted to help her; free her from the family that didn’t want her. He truly cared for her, he always had done; but it was only recently he began to care for her in a different way. How could he show it in a way that wouldn’t ruin the friendship they had strongly established? He couldn’t tell how she felt about him, unsure whether there were any signs she displayed that suggested there was something more.
His trail of thought was broken by the thuds of her steps coming down into the living room area. He looked up to see her almost buried by a pillow and blanket in her arm. She placed them neatly on the sofa.
“I hope those are alright for you.”
“It’s perfect.” He reassured.
“I’m sorry to be a bit of a drainer but I’m going to head off bed.” She confessed.
“Get some rest.”
“I’ll try my best.”
They both stared at each other, picking up on a new aura between them. Altheeda couldn’t quite place what it was, but she knew it was nothing to fear. After a while, Cal lightly took her good hand into his hands, her breath stopped briefly at the touch, nevertheless, she welcomed it.
“I can’t thank you enough for being so kind and letting me stay.”
“It’s a pleasure.” She replied, the corners of her mouth ever so slightly raised.
“Sleep well, Theeda.” He spoke softly.
She gave his hand a quick squeeze before proceeding back up to her room. The fire continued to crackle and keep him company. It warmed his spirits as he mulled over the feeling of her hand in his. He smiled and ran a hand through his hair before laying out the pillow and blanket on the sofa and making himself comfortable, the last thing he remembered was slipping out of consciousness to the flicker and light popping from the fire burning.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Altheeda returned to work within her estimated time of recovery and everything instantly fell back into routine and normality; although Prauf would occasionally tease the pair after Cal’s stay at Altheeda’s home. Prauf had managed to convince the Guild to give her a small sum of credits in compensation to help contribute to her living costs at Naboo.
As long as they were together, it was what the trio all needed, they thrived off the bland activities they were tasked of doing during the day. Sadly, this would all change within one fateful day.
Prauf and Cal paired up together to work on a line and Altheeda had been stationed elsewhere, deconstruction a section of a wing. She was completely sucked into her work, blocking out the environment around her the best she could.
A low rumble caused her to break away from her deep concentration. Her head automatically turned to the direction it came from; it was nearby the line that Prauf and Cal were positioned at. It wasn’t directly at the line, but it still caused her concern. She couldn’t ignore it. She picked up her tools and made a beeline for the source; climbing over various parts of ships and cranes. The faint cries from various Stormtroopers didn’t bother her as she moved onwards. Altheeda wasn’t sure what or who to look for, the rumble could have been an explosion, perhaps part of a wreckage collapsed? She listed all the possibilities in her mind as she neared the line.
A voice echoed from a short distance away; she recognised it to be Prauf’s. This time she couldn’t work out where it was coming from. She spun round, looking to and fro until he called for her again in closer range. She turned again and spotted Prauf limping over to her with Cal aiding him as a support. Her eyes widened and she sprinted over to them, as she reached a few steps away from them, she dropped her tool box to one side and rushed over.
“What the hell happened?!” She wheezed. “I heard something and I-“
“You need to get back to your line.” Prauf warned.
“I don’t care about that – your leg; how did it happen?”
“It got trapped under some debris – I got him out of it.” Cal quickly replied.
She gave Cal a look and stepped over to him.
“Are you hurt?”
“No, I’m okay.”
“Yeah, something like that.” Cal nodded.
“Cal saved my life, you know!” Prauf interjected, only for Cal to shush him.
“What?” She gasped.
“Prauf, please.” Cal spoke with fear in his eyes.
“What’s going on?” She frowned.
“Not here, Theeda.”
“Cal, he did something incredible! He-“
“She knows, Prauf.” Cal spoke quietly, trying to hush him.
They all paused for various different reasons. Prauf looked at Altheeda in shock and Altheeda looked at Cal in disbelief – he was the only one to not be looking at somebody, his eyes were lowered to the ground as he rubbed the back of his neck.
“You didn’t…” She shook her head.
“Hold on, you knew about this already?” Prauf asked.
She fell silent, hearing the upcoming group of Stormtroopers and droids on the approach. She drew in a sharp breath and put a hand on his arm.
“You need to stop talking, Prauf.”
“But how could you possibly know about his-“
“Prauf!” Her voice strained with urgency as the group were growing nearer.
“Altheeda, you need to go – you’ll get sanctioned.” Cal spoke in a low tone.
“When did he tell you that he was a-“ Prauf whispered.
“Prauf!” She yelled, instantly regretting the attention she brought to herself as the Stormtroopers and droids watched.
She didn’t turn to look at them, she already knew they were there. Her mind was scattered, trying to think of a quick cover-up.
“You were supposed to give me back my drill this morning!” She lied convincingly.
Cal sighed, thankful that she managed to think of a story in such little time. It instantly deflected the situation from himself. The party turned to her and Prauf and watched them with an unimpressed gaze.
“Reeve, why have you left your station?” The senior of the Stormstroopers pressed her.
“Did you not hear me, Sir?” She replied, agitated. “I’m here to get my drill back.”
“That is not a valid reason to abandon your post.” The trooper lectured.
“Okay.” Altheeda shrugged.
In the corner of her eye, she spotted another Stormtrooper staring down at her tool box, she instantly panicked and scrambled towards it, snatching it up in her arms.
“Don’t touch that.”
All eyes were on her and she began to drum her nails onto the tool box, hoping the mess of a situation they had landed themselves in would be over in a flash.
“See to it that, Altheeda Reeve gets a warning.” The higher-ranking trooper commanded to a foreman droid.
She knew what to expect from her actions, yet it didn’t soften the blow of the consequence that was delivered to her. She gritted her teeth and stared into the distance, growing increasingly angry by the presence of the droids and Stormtroopers. Cal and Prauf were speechless, trying to process the situation themselves.
“Updating the records, Altheeda Reeve to receive her first warning for unauthorised leave from assigned station. Sanction to be decided at a later date.” The foreman droid spoke in monotone.
“There will be no repeats of this in the future, is that understood?” The Stormtrooper stated with a threatening energy to him.
“Sir.” She spat.
No one needed to ask the trooper to remove his helmet in order to see just how seething he was at the young woman. He simply turned away and decided to put pressure on Cal and Prauf.
“What did you do to your leg?”
“I wasn’t talking to you, Kestis.”
Prauf drew in a breath and sighed.
“I tripped and got it wedged in a gap.” He spoke slowly.
“So, would you two know anything about the collapse earlier?”
The two men both shook their heads, refusing to speak. The commanding Stormtrooper continued to stare them down for what felt like an agonisingly long time, until he decided to stand down and look down at Prauf’s leg.
“Report to the medic if you need to. He can escort you.” He added, pointing a stern finger at Cal. “Reeve, get back to work.”
The party of droids and Stormtroopers began to disperse from the scene, with the commanding trooper in the lead. The trio watched them go, rooted to their spots. Once they were out of sight, she groaned and sat herself down on top of a pile of scrap with the tool box in her lap. Everyone was deep in their own thoughts until Prauf decided to put his out in the open.
“How long have you known for, Altheeda?”
“A while.” She replied softly.
“But how long ago are we talking? From the beginning?”
“No of course not! I only found out a few months ago. Cal never gave any indication about it until then, so it wasn’t as if I made him tell me.”
“You kind of did.” Cal shrugged.
“The lightsaber was in your hand of course I was going to ask questions!” She retaliated in a hushed voice.
“I was trying to make light out of a messy situation!” He raised his hands. “We all need to calm down right now.”
There was silence momentarily as Prauf stared at him and Altheeda gave Cal an understanding nod.
“You have a lightsaber?” He whispered, his eyes twinkling with fascination.
Cal only nodded, looking rather sheepish. Altheeda decided to bring the attention away from him once again and addressed her Abednedo friend.
“I’m really sorry for being harsh on you. I shouldn’t treat you like that.”
“I’m sorry too, I shouldn’t be pushing about all of this in the open.”
“I hope you can find it in yourself to forgive me – you’ve done so much for me, for Cal. There was no excuse for it.”
Prauf gave her a meek smile and gestured for her to go to him.
“Come on over here, kid.”
She slid down the scrap and walked over to him with open arms, she hugged him tightly and Prauf stretched out his other arm for Cal to join and they were together in one big embrace.
“What a day, huh.” The Abednedo lamented.
“Not a word of this to anyone else.” Cal instructed to Prauf. “You know how dangerous this is.”
“Of course, Cal. I wouldn’t tell a soul. I’ve always thought you were special.” Prauf spoke, to which the young man smiled in response.
“Now let’s not speak about it anymore, alright? It’s all said and done - move on like nothing ever happened.” Altheeda suggested.
Everyone nodded and she held them tighter before letting go. She once again went back to the scrap pile to collect her tool box and re-joined the conversation.
“Do you need me to take you to a medic droid?” Cal offered.
“I’ll be fine, kid. I can walk it off.”
“Try taking a few steps.” He instructed.
The two redheads watched as Prauf took small steps forward, limping slightly on bad leg, at first his face would scrunch up at the pain of putting pressure on it, but eventually he became used to it and walked carefully.
“This is fine. I just need to keep going.” Prauf confirmed.
“Where are you guys heading to next?” Altheeda spoke as she walked slowly with Prauf.
“We might as well go for a break.” Cal replied.
“I’ll join you on that if that’s alright.” She asked politely.
“Sure.” He smiled.
“No need to ask.” Prauf added. “Are you going to be alright?”
“What do you mean?” She asked, frowning at him in confusion.
“Your warning – we never thought we’d see the day. You out of all people.”
“I know you didn’t want your record tarnished.” Cal also spoke, giving her a glance.
“Ah, I’m not that upset over it. It was worth it to know you both were okay.”
“You didn’t have to do that.” Prauf pointed out.
“But I did.” She grinned.
“I can’t stop you from mischief, huh.” He laughed and Cal joined him.
“No, you cannot.” She giggled. “It’s no use, Prauf.”
They all chuckled together as they walked contently across the vast, scrap yard – bouncing off each other’s energy, the event that had just unfolded began to dissolve in the back of their minds as they focused on the present.
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
The day was coming to a close, the trio sat exhausted on the train. Cal was sat in the middle with Altheeda and Prauf sat on each side. He had a fretful expression on his face whilst she stared down at her toolbox, studying each tool. Prauf was the one that noticed Cal’s expression and addressed him.
“Are you holding up okay?”
“Good, yeah.” He mumbled. “You?”
“Yeah.” He gave a small chuckle before giving the other redhead a glance. “Altheeda?”
“Hmm?” She raised her head.
A melancholy silence hovered around them. They all knew they were pretending to be fine, that they didn’t have the day they had, but it was proving to be the elephant in the room. After a while, Prauf just couldn’t ignore it, even after promising them all that he would.
“Cal… We’ve been working together for quite some time now. I’ve never seen you do anything like that before.”
As expected, Cal began to fidget around uncomfortably and Altheeda watched Prauf carefully and bit her tongue, knowing if she made a fuss it would garner unwanted attention.
“We’ve been through hell together, we all have.” He added moving his gaze to Altheeda. “So, I want you to realise I know the risk that you took for me, Cal. I don’t know how to repay you.”
“Don’t mention it, I mean it.”
“Like we agreed, Prauf.” She spoke softly, more of a reminder than a scolding.
“O-oh, don’t worry about me. But this place... isn’t safe. Maybe it’s best if you… disappeared?”
“I did think about it, when it happened for the first time.” He spoke in a low voice and a guilty look formed on Altheeda’s face. “But despite everything, I’ve become attached to this place; attached to you both.”
“Don’t put your life in danger for us.” Altheeda whispered. “If you feel like now is the time to go, we’d understand.”
It would deeply wound her if she had to say goodbye to Cal at this moment in time. Her heart was already aching at the prospect of it. He was truly a good, kind person to her. A real friend she could count on in comparison to the other workers. They all had their own agendas that she didn’t trust. Cal and Prauf were everything to her, although Cal was a late addition, it never meant she valued him less. She definitely understood his wishes though, if he needed to go to save himself, she would fully encourage it. More than anything, she wanted him to be safe and well, even if she couldn’t see him again.
During her time of reflection, Cal was also brooding over the best solution to his situation. He should have left as soon as Altheeda found out, it would have saved so much trouble, yet something had stopped him, at the time, he had no clue as to what is was but now he was piecing it together. After developing feelings for her, it was making it harder for him to walk away, but now with her blessing, it gave him reassurance. Perhaps it was for the best, the Jedi were forbidden to have those sorts of attachments, he knew fully well what he had gotten himself into. He needed a new start; maybe the events of that day were his tool to stop it, make it easier for him and for her. She didn’t have any clue about his true feelings though, and it started to become apparent that it should be kept that way.
“I’ll head back to my place, grab my bag – Tabbers owes me a favour.” He stated after confirming his decision in his mind.
“I’ve heard he’s now on Nar Shaddaa.” Prauf stated.
“Yeah.” Cal nodded. “You two won’t be seeing me for a while.” He continued in a woeful tone.
“Can we at least say goodbye?” She pitched in, trying to keep her voice level.
“Of course.” Cal replied with the faintest of smiles.
They smiled and watched as the redheaded male slumped down in his seat, his eyelids threatening to close over his eyes. Eventually he slipped away into a deep sleep. Prauf and Altheeda kept to themselves for a while, until she spoke her thoughts aloud.
“I’m really going to miss him.”
“Me too, kid.”
“He has to do what’s best for him. It wouldn’t be right to get in the way of that.”
“It’ll just be you and me again. It hasn’t been like that for a while.”
“You worked with me the other day, remember?” She laughed softly. “Doing the breakages?”
“I know I know, I meant just us, like it was years ago.” Prauf spoke broodingly.
“I can’t believe it’s been years now. I remember when he first started.”
They both smiled at the memories that flooded back into their minds. She remembered back on how possessive she was over the tool box, that hadn’t changed very much, but she allowed both Cal and Prauf to use it. She remembered the memories of how she got the scars on her hands and the tiny one to the side of her right eyebrow that wasn’t noticeable unless you were looking for it - they were painful to get but not painful to remember; they were silly mistakes. The moments when Cal got his scars popped up in her mind and she smiled; again, those could have easily been avoided. They went through so many positives and negatives together, they grew up together. She couldn’t believe they were now twenty. The time had just gone so quick.
Cal in his sleep slanted over to Altheeda’s side due to the movement of the train. He wasn’t quite touching her but she noticed him move in the corner of her eye. Prauf appeared to had noticed too, giving her a look and she began to giggle.
“Just let him sleep, he’s probably exhausted after the stress of today.” She spoke quietly.
“It had been quite a day; but they’ll be better ones.”
She gave an enthusiastic nod and her eyes lowered back to her toolbox. She held it tighter in her grip as it rested on her lap and continued to mull over Prauf’s words before the train came to a jarring halt.
Cal instantly shot up, wide awake and rather startled considering the train only stopped. It was likely it had broken down, it wasn’t a regular occurrence but it had happened before. A soft frown appeared on her face as she watched him look side to side.
“Is everything alright, Cal?” She questioned.
“The train stopped.”
“Something’s going on.” Prauf spoke in a low voice.
“You don’t know that; it could have just broken down.”
As soon as those words left her mouth, the doors to their carriage parted to reveal two Stormtroopers walking in. Her heart instantly sank, she knew now she had to be worried.
“Everybody up. Identification ready.” One of them instructed.
This wasn’t good – at all. She couldn’t bring herself to look at Cal. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to, she didn’t want to make things obvious even though it seemed like the wrong people had picked up on it. The cold waves of fear worked their way through her body, her hands felt cold as they clung onto the box. Her legs felt like the strength was being drained out of them, her heartbeat rang in her ears as it thumped hard in her chest. It simply wasn’t going to end well.
One of the Stormtroopers walked to the other end of the carriage and the other instructed everybody on board to move out and line up.
“It’s probably just another contraband inspection.” Prauf suggested.
They all knew that it most likely wasn’t the case and that he was trying to calm everyone down. Cal kept his head lowered and followed Altheeda out of the carriage, who had her box tucked under her over-shirt. Prauf walked behind Cal and everyone was greeted outside by thick clouds, heavy rain and purge troopers. Their visors on their helmets emitted an unsettling red glow in the darkness. A TIE Interceptor flew above them, landing just across from the line of workers that began to form.
Cal was sandwiched in between Prauf and Altheeda, which gave him slight comfort. Everyone looked forward, frightened to look at one another or glance upon the purge troopers. Altheeda felt every drop of rain dampen her hair, some of the droplets ran down her temples and her nose. The sensation was a bit annoying, but it was a distraction for the time being.
An armoured woman, that had a similar helmet to the purge troopers but more stylised; walked into their view. The redheaded female noted that she must have been of high importance, she seemed to have been orchestrating the whole thing. It was impossible to tell where the woman’s eyes were looking through the helmet but judging by the pause, it seemed she was surveying everyone in line.
“Is this all of them?” Her voice was slightly robotic, speaking through the helmet.
“Yes, Second Sister.” A purge trooper confirmed.
A Dowutin paced behind the woman. Altheeda watched her with caution until the voice of Second Sister caught her attention.
“We seek a dangerous fugitive.”
“This is no common anarchist, but a devotee to the treacherous Jedi order.”
The trio all began to tense up. Altheeda couldn’t even begin to imagine how Cal was feeling at that point. It certainly would have been a hell of a lot worse than what she was feeling. They all watched the Dowutin woman pace sinisterly in front of the line towards them and the three of them continued to stare ahead and not make eye contact.
“Failure to turn over this traitor will result in a charge of sedition.” The Second Sister added, menacingly strolling over to their side. “Turn yourself in, or everyone here shall face summary execution.”
It was then the purge troopers aimed their guns at them and everyone stepped back in shock and fear. Altheeda rapidly blinked in disbelief. This was it – there was no way they were going to get out of this alive. The last words of her brother echoed in her mind. She took solace that she was going to die alongside the two closest people in her life and would reunite with her brother in the afterlife; if there was one.
“I think it’s about time someone came forward.” Prauf spoke solemnly and stepped forward.
Cal put an arm on him in a silent attempt to stop his actions. Altheeda was about to yell but it came out as a squeak and covered her gaping mouth with her free hand that wasn’t holding her tool box. As he walked away from the two redheads, Cal lowered his arm hopelessly and briefly turned to Altheeda, who had turned to him. They eventually took their focus back to Prauf and watched him carefully.
“I-I’ve been working on this heap for a long time now. Way before the war. We refit and rebuilt ships – best in the galaxy.”
In her peripheral, Altheeda noticed Cal shift his hands behind his back, but nevertheless, kept her focus on her other friend.
“Then came the Empire.” The Abednedo continued on, walking in front of the line until he began addressing the Second Sister. “And engineers became scrappers. The workers just started getting worked-“
“Prauf.” Cal warned.
Each sentence of his resonated deep within Altheeda, yet she couldn’t show it. She shook her head at him.
“But we all know the truth…”
“Prauf please.” She whispered in fright.
“We’re all just too afraid to say it.” He still spoke, with all eyes on him. “To the empire, we’re all just expendable.”
“Yes…” Second Sister snarled, instantly gripping for her weapon.
Altheeda knew - she couldn’t watch, yet her eyes were fixed on Prauf. She couldn’t even intervene, she felt helpless. Her hands began to shake and she held in her breath and incoming sobs the shook her chest.
“You are.” She ignited her saber and it sunk into Prauf’s chest.
He instantly froze, a sharp exhale of air leaving him.
All she heard was Cal scream out. She thought she did too, all she could register was the warm tears that slid down her face and the wailing that had been bottling up inside her being unleashed from her throat. Cal instantly drew out his lightsaber and ignited it to swing for Second Sister. This was the first time she had seen it since she accidentally laid eyes upon it; and it was the first time she had ever seen it activated. The blue glow contrasted with the red as Second Sister blocked it, igniting the other side of her saber, revealing it to be a dual blade.
Prauf sunk down to the ground, lifeless. She watched him, her watery eyes clouding her vision and she wheezed for air as she sobbed at what she had just witnessed.
“Look at this, a lightsaber.” Second Sister taunted, delivering a hit on Cal and lifting him with the force, tossing him like he was some sort of ragdoll over to the Dowutin female.
A surge of energy took over her, causing her to bolt from the line. She wasn’t thinking properly, she knew she would get fired at, but all she knew was she had to go after Cal and try and save him, or just try dying. She ran in a zig zag towards the Dowutin, doing a roll to throw them off. The tool box dug under her arm but she gritted her teeth through the pain, refusing to let that hinder her. A hot, stinging sensation grazed along her ankle and once again, she screamed out; but this time in pain. They manage to fire one successful shot at her; she knew they were bound to hit on target; they were trained in this sort of thing. She continued to sprint on it – the pain was agony, it was making her feel queasy; but determination spurred her on.
Before she could even act, she was lifted from the ground by use of the force from the woman and she too along with Cal was in her grip. He appeared dazed and disorientated but came to when she dangled them over the cliff edge she stood by. He realised that Altheeda was now with him, but also in danger. He angled his lightsaber and ignited it to make a cut on her shoulder, causing her to instantly drop them due to the pain.
So, they fell, hurtling to what Altheeda thought would be onto the tracks in the path of an incoming train and die that way. To her surprise, a train sped underneath them and together they crashed through the roof of the train into the carriage. The toolbox slammed into her ribs as she made contact on her stomach with the floor. Cal took the brunt of it on his shoulder and they both yelped at the pain they had to endure.
To their dismay, another pair of Stormtroopers occupied the carriage. They asked for who it was to show themselves and went over to their direction to investigate. Altheeda could barely move to help or defend both herself or Cal, she turned onto her back and winced, a tear she didn’t realise had built up rolled down her cheek as she twisted around. He crawled over to her stiffly and put a hand on her shoulder, signalling for her not to move; that he would deal with it.
“Ah, that hurts.” He grunted as he slowly straightened up and the Stormtroopers approached him.
“Hold it! Don’t move.” One of them ordered as they raised their guns at Cal and Altheeda.
He stood in front of her on the defence and she slowly turned onto her side, propping herself up with an arm to watch what was happening. He raised a cautious hand towards them.
He froze for a brief second then in one swift movement, switched on his lightsaber and killed them both. Finally, they were out of danger; or at least momentarily. He didn’t know how much time they had to make a move or whether it would be on their side, but he shut off his weapon, put it back under his belt and went back, kneeling beside Altheeda. Words failed them both; they were both numbed by the adrenaline that pumped within their bodies.
All he thought to do, was gently lift the upper part of her body towards him, pulling her into a hug, they did nothing but quietly weep into each other’s shoulders and hold onto each other tightly, afraid to lose each other after losing someone they both held dearly in their hearts.
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
The sound of their faint crying filled the carriage and mingled with the clunky noises coming from the train itself. They were both shaking with adrenaline and from the cold of their rain-soaked clothing, yet they still embraced each other. She eventually broke the silence with a wavering voice.
“I should be dead.”
“Me too.” He replied bleakly, letting out a shaky breath.
She looked down at her ankle, a huge gash spread across it, the blood trickling down and mingling into the frazzled remains of her boot. The pain hit her once again and she gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut.
“You went after me…”
“I couldn’t lose you after losing Prauf.” She cried and Cal wiped away her tears with his thumb.
“But look at you, Theeda…” He lamented, glancing at her ankle.
“If it’s the price I pay for trying to save you then so be it.” She spoke shakily. “I don’t know why I ran - what I was going to do. I just had to try something, anything to help you. I’m not sure what good it did. If it did do any.”
He sighed and hugged her even tighter, to which she grimaced in pain as one side of her ribs was still tender from where she fell on her tool box. He noticed and immediately pulled away from her, giving her an apologetic look.
“Do you think he did that as a sacrifice? To try to protect you?” She sniffled.
“I-I think so, possibly.” His voice cracked as he tried to cease his crying. “Let’s not make it in vain.”
She nodded, wiped her tears and dragged her tool box back towards her, this time gripping the handle rather than having it under her arm now she no longer had to hide it from the Stormtroopers. She then ripped a long strip off the bottom of her over-shirt and used it as a bandage on her ankle to cover the wound and soak up the blood, tying it tightly to secure it. Once she was ready, Cal helped her on her feet and rubbed his shoulder.
“Did you land on your shoulder?”
“Yeah.” He grumbled. “I’ll be fine though. Can you walk?”
“I’m going to have to aren’t I?” Altheeda shrugged.
She then spotted one of the blasters that the Stormtroopers had and hobbled over to pick it up. Every small movement for her was extra effort that she had to upkeep until they reached long term safety. She tightened her grip on the blaster, looking at it uncertainly.
“I haven’t fired one of these for a while.”
“Do what you can. Stay close, lean on the closest thing to you if you feel your ankle giving way. If there’s nothing else, just lean on me.”
“I got you.” She nodded. “Let’s get out of here.”
With Cal armed with his lightsaber and Altheeda with her trusty tool box and newly claimed blaster, they proceeded towards the end of the carriage and the doors parted and a strong wind threatened to sweep them away. She clung onto the door frame to stop herself from teetering over on her bad ankle. The ice-cold raindrops peppered their faces once again and he gritted his teeth to stop them from chattering. When he stepped forward into the outside, she followed suit.
Their surroundings whizzed by incredibly fast due to the speed of the train. It felt as if they were trapped in a distorted world of blurriness. Over the roar of the wind and machinery, they managed to pick up more voices, meaning more Stormtroopers. Altheeda spotted a crate towards the center of the coupling and crawled clumsily on the slippery floor towards it to take cover. He began to deflect the oncoming fire from the Stormtroopers when they spotted him and she began to fire shots at them. The first couple she missed but she managed to hit one of them on their arm and Cal did the rest. Once the troopers were eliminated, the pair of them proceeded forward with caution.
They continued to progress through each carriage on the train, wiping out the Stormtroopers that intended to bring them harm. She began to get the hang of using a blaster and her aim improved, on occasion, she would pause to rest her ankle but most of the time, she managed to keep up the pace. She was fascinated by Cal’s skill with his lightsaber, granted he had trained in the Jedi arts for years, yet he had kept that side of himself buried for so long, it was a different side of him to witness. She mulled over it as they squeezed through a particularly tight spot in the train. Afterwards they both paused to collect themselves.
“We need to get to the front. We need to stop the train.” Cal thought aloud.
“There’s going to be more of them.” She warned.
“Leave that to me, just keep going, and when we get to the front you can do what you need to do with the train’s controls to bring it to a halt.”
“You are so lucky I brought this damn thing.” She jiggled her tool box.
“I knew you would somehow. You managing with your ankle?”
“I’m trying my best.” She tried to smile.
Cal nodded and stepped forward to make the doors part open to another set of coupling outside. They both took a few strides onto it to be ambushed by a ship that hovered in front of them and ruthlessly opened fire. His eyes widened with fright and she yelped due to the shock and the pain in her ankle. He was fully aware that she was in no state to sprint across the carriage on her own, she wouldn’t be fast enough with one foot injured. He immediately grabbed her wrist and guided her across the carriage at full speed, feeling her limp behind him and cry out in pain each time pressure was applied on her ankle.
They reached another carriage and the ship continued to fire shots through it, the Jedi guided his companion around them swiftly and they reached another set of coupling. This time, the ship fired at it, causing it to explode to prevent them access across it. The remaining carriages behind them had broken, hanging by a thread as they were suspended downwards. He almost panicked but he kept composed, noticing a beam to cross. Cal gave Altheeda a reassuring squeeze on her wrist, put his lightsaber back under his belt and lead her onto the beam with him, carefully crossing it to reach part of the destroyed coupling that was dangling downwards.
Altheeda put the blaster in her pocket then she wriggled her hand and lower arm through the gap between the handle and the box itself, it was tight around her arm but the use of her hands was beneficial. She gripped onto the debris and climbed down along with Cal. Her ankle throbbed, almost with relief with no stress being applied to it, but the pain was still relentless. Just as they descended, the carriage behind broke apart and all they could do was clutch onto the remains of the train coupling as tight as humanly possible. She watched as the back half of the train they had once boarded fall away and she turned to Cal with an expression of disbelief.
“This is no ordinary bad day, huh.” She spoke, just about audible over all the commotion.
“This is… bad.” He replied with a grave tone to his voice.
With the intense motivation to stay alive, they both manoeuvred down and around the dangling carriage they were on to ascend back onto a carriage ahead that was still on the track. She really appreciated the rest it enabled for her ankle, it was doable to climb up the dangling carriages with one leg, as long she used both arms and relied on her upper body strength. They both grunted at the effort it took to make the climb, they reached about halfway when they stood on what would have been the side of one of the carriages, that was now upright after being dangled downwards.
They could barely have a moment before the ship once again appeared to take them down. Cal began to lose his balance and she took hold of him to pull him back towards the indoors of the carriage as she used another hand to cling onto the frame. The toolbox handle dug into her skin but it was something she could ignore, currently experiencing a much greater pain. The two redheads cowered, expecting to get shot at by the ship, only to have it blow up before their very eyes. Another ship had shot it down; it was longer, sleeker – they didn’t know what to make of it and they stared in wonder.
On the side, the door opened to reveal a woman with short hair grip carefully onto the door frame of the ship. They couldn’t make out anything else due to the oncoming rain and high speed the train was going at.
“We’re here to help!” The woman called out.
“Who are you?!” Cal shot back.
“There’s no time!” The woman yelled. “Keep moving – we’ll pick you up as soon as we can!”
With that, mysterious woman and the ship sped forward into the distance; the pair watched it go in wonder. Following behind the ship was another enemy ship that had been chasing after it. It seemed like all of the chasing would never end; nevertheless, they continued to climb up the fallen carriages with great difficulty and care. Altheeda began to brood over the woman and how she could possibly know where to find them - was she just passing by? Did she intentionally go to the area to help?
At this point, they had reached a level part of carriage they could walk through. It had been caught in the crossfire and various sections of it were in flames. The smoke quickly filled their lungs and she began to splutter as she tried to string out her sentence.
“Do you know if we can trust that woman?”
“Well her ship is the only one that hasn’t shot at us so far.” He replied, emphasising the word ‘hasn’t.’
“You have a point.” She coughed as she followed his footsteps.
Eventually they climbed out of the burning carriage, the relief evident in their deep breaths as they collected as much fresh air as they could into their lungs. Altheeda felt her fingers ache with the cold and the harsh grip she had on the carriage to prevent herself from falling. The wind whipped their hair into their faces, hindering their vision. They didn’t let anything deter them from getting back to safety.
To their relief, they had finally found an unbroken piece of coupling to climb onto, getting away from the dangling carriages in one piece. Altheeda leaned against a stack of crates, panting for air and Cal straightened his posture, knowing it wasn’t over yet. Her ankle was becoming unbearable, not only was the pain sending waves of nausea through her system, but the fear was now contributing. Still, she knew she had to continue on.
More Stormtroopers had locked onto them, Cal swiftly began eliminating them and she armed herself with the blaster in her pocket and began shooting. In the corner of her eye, she spotted another train running alongside theirs, the carriage nearest to them was open at the side and had more troopers firing at them. She turned her attention to them and began taking them down from afar. Once they had all been defeated, they made a beeline to the carriage ahead, entering it.
Suddenly, they lurched forward, Cal grabbed Altheeda’s arm to stop her falling onto her bad foot. Her tools rattled inside the box dangling off her arm. Everything, went quiet temporarily and they noticed the train had once again gone to a standstill.
“What now?” He grumbled.
“I guess I don’t need to stop the train anymore.” She shrugged.
They continued to run through the carriages until they found an emergency exit door on the roof was open. Making a mutual decision, they prepared themselves to climb up to it. She once again stowed the blaster in her pocket of her trousers and climbed after Cal up and out onto the roof of the train. The high-speed winds once again battered their faces and the squinted at the ship that whizzed past. They had trouble getting to grips with their surroundings, and they were not given much opportunity.
A ship flew towards them, firing shots below. It continued at an alarming rate towards them and they both ducked, narrowly avoiding the ship. It sped away into the distance which baffled them; surely, they would turn back to finish them off. The answer then became clear to them rather quick. The ship had taken out the tracks and they felt the train plummet into the unknown.
“Grab my hand!” She yelled.
Cal didn’t need telling twice, they needed to make sure they stuck together. Separation was not an option they wanted to experience. He held onto it in an iron grip just before they toppled onto the ground and began sliding down with the train. Together, they leaned side to side to avoid the rolling crates that threatened to block their way and they prevented themselves from crashing into the walls of the train. It seemed that once again, death was going to be the end result for them when they reached the end of the train; but to their surprise, the sleek ship came back for them. The door opened along with its ramp to reveal the ominous woman.
“Jump now!” She cried out to them.
Altheeda panicked, she wasn’t sure if she had that kind of strength to jump that high up the ramp. Cal picked up on her uncertainty and used all the strength he had to propel them up. It proved to be enough and he had one hand latched onto the ramp and the other clutched onto her hand as she dangled below him. Altheeda was in awe at the feat he had just achieved, then quickly realised she was suspended in the air to what appeared to be an endless drop. She told herself to keep her head up and focus on the woman above them.
“Hold on!” She attempted to step with great care towards them.
Their escape was almost a success, painfully close, but once again a spanner had been thrown in the works through the actions of an enemy ship. It shot at the ramp, causing Cal to lose his grip and send them both tumbling to the ground. Altheeda heard the woman scream and she was convinced their fate was sealed, they had been far too lucky in this situation. All she could do was grip onto his hand and expect the worst.
He noticed a small flying droid about to pass them and by the skin of his teeth, he managed to grab it, sending it and them spinning around before steering it to a nearby platform. Once they were above the platform, she let go of him and dropped into a clumsy roll, her toolbox rattling violently whilst he fell into a more natural looking tumble. She ended up rolling onto her back and groaned in agony. They both gulped in as much air as they could take and when he was ready he rushed over to help her onto her feet. She looked very pale, her skin was naturally pale, but her face looked grey; he could tell the pain was becoming too much for her.
“Cal, I am so sorry.” She breathed.
“Why are you apologising?”
“I’m slowing us down.”
“You made it this far, Altheeda.”
“Thanks to you.”
He fell silent and looked at her gaunt face. He smoothed his thumb over the top of her hand to give her some form of comfort.
“You don’t look well…”
“Cheers for that.” She replied sarcastically.
“I’ll make sure you’re safe, I promise.”
To that, she gave a faint, grateful smile. The infamous TIE Interceptor flew above them and they both grew wary. She drew out the blaster from her pocket and glanced at her toolbox perched on her arm. She decided to take it off her arm, it left red marks from where it had dug into her skin. She placed it behind a post to keep it concealed then rejoined with Cal, who gripped his lightsaber and stepped forward confidently to face the danger ahead. She limped along, but still put up a brave front. To their disappointment, the Second Sister descended down from a great height, almost floating down to land gracefully. It left Altheeda almost in awe. Second Sister walked towards her prey, angling her lightsaber to switch it on at any moment.
“Are you two going somewhere?” Second Sister sneered.
Cal without any hesitation put his lightsaber to use and she did the same. Altheeda watched the different colours and their glow. She watched him walk backwards in a certain stance whilst hobbled backwards in a clumsy fashion, gripping the blaster in her hand.
“I recognise that stance.” She spoke directly to Cal. “Perhaps you’ve done some training after all. Who was your master, Padawan? Someone I killed, possibly?”
“Ignore her, just block it out.” Altheeda coaxed her companion.
“Tell me, what Jedi died so that you could live?”
He gritted his teeth, his knuckles white with his grip on his weapon. She grew impatient and went to deliver the first attack. He started the fight in a defensive position, blocking attack after attack. Altheeda moved away from the conflict, knowing she would be of no use, but pondered whether shooting at her from afar would be a good tactic. She began to climb up the support beams that were under the platform above them to try get high up. Her climbing was slow, but she grunted through the pain to ascend.
All she could do was fire one shot at Second Sister that she deflected without a single thought. Cal looked up to see her hanging from the beam and became rather concerned. Without looking at Altheeda, Second Sister raised her hand using the force to pry her from the beams and threw her towards the ground. She tumbled at high speed towards the platform edge and Cal raised his hand to attempt to use the force to halt her, yet Second Sister went for another swing at him, leaving him preoccupied. Altheeda took matters into her own hands and put herself into a plank position, ignoring the pressure and pain on her ankle. She looked over her shoulder and saw how she narrowly missed falling off the edge. It made her legs and arms shake more and she exhaled sharply.
She straightened up sluggishly to see Cal and Second Sister still deep in combat. She noticed that she had lost grip on her blaster and it had been unintentionally discarded nearby the fight. With great care, she stumbled over to the blaster; the redheaded Jedi noticed what she was after and kicked it over towards her before going into a parry with the Second Sister. She bent down to pick it up and took her aim; however, she got distracted due to the return of the ship. It fired a shot at Second Sister, but the impact also sent Cal flying backwards and she rushed to him, lifting him up under his arms to get him back on his feet.
“Get on board!” The mysterious woman shouted, gesturing inside the ship.
This was now or never, she had move fast, or it would probably be a long while until safety would arrive. She prepared herself mentally to ignore the pain that would ensue. She sprinted at high speed to the post, swiping her tool box into her grip and sped to the ship and made a small leap onto the ramp, running up it and she gave the woman rescuing them a nod of thanks, unable to speak from the feeling of nausea that built up in her throat. Altheeda turned back and saw Cal limping onto the ramp, giving a concerned frown knowing he too had hurt his foot.
Through the smoke from the aftermath the cannon-fire had created, Second Sister strode through, the red lightsaber eerily glowing through the thick cloud. The redheads looked at each other and the woman pushed them further into the ship. The first thing they spotted was a sofa towards the center. She limped over to it and sat herself down, propping her bad foot onto it and hissed in pain, clenching her fists as she attempted to fight back tears and cries of pain trying to escape her body. She dropped her box and blaster to the ground and buried her head into her knee. He shut off his weapon and knelt beside her, putting a hand on her arm as shots from the woman’s blaster went off behind them.
The woman then turned back into the ship and cried out for the door to be closed. The two redheads watched with fear as she continued to fire at what they suspected to be Second Sister charging towards the ship. They caught a glimpse of red until the door shut and a mark ran across the door from where she attempted to hit the woman. She stepped back with relief and the two sighed; finally, they could say they were out of danger.
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
A loud bang suddenly occurred from the outside of the ship, grabbing everyone’s attention.
“Don’t worry, just rest.” Cal reassured Altheeda before running into the cockpit.
He was greeted by a man of the latero species in the pilot’s seat and none other than Second Sister grappling onto the front windows. They all stared in disbelief and the pilot tried to shake her off, but she used the force to manipulate the steering wheel. This sent the ship into a violent spin. Everyone on board held on for dear life, until the woman that had rescued them made a sudden steer on the wheel and sent Second Sister flying off the ship. The pilot was able to recover and began to steer the ship normally once again, sending it into hyperspace.
Cal let out a long sigh and then figuring that he had just landed funny on his foot and that the pain was wearing off, he ran back to Altheeda, who looked rather startled by what had happened.
“Why were we spinning?” She asked with a frown.
“It was her. She was on the window.” He spoke, becoming rather weary.
Worry appeared to have possessed him and she gave him a soft, understanding look.
“Hey, Cal. It’s alright, come sit down.” She straightened up with a soft groan, reaching for his hands.
“N-no it’s okay, don’t move for me.” He stammered as he sat beside her, trying to calm himself down.
“You should be proud of yourself.” Altheeda spoke gently, moving once again, wincing as she put a hand on his shoulder. “You got us out of there alive.”
“If they hadn’t found us, we wouldn’t have.” He argued in a soft tone.
“They found us after you protected us from all those Stormtroopers and saved us from falling in those carriages, Cal. We could have died much earlier on if it wasn’t for you.” She pointed out. “Give yourself some credit.” She added rubbing his arm soothingly.
He smiled, instantly feeling a lot better from her words and from her touch. If only she knew just how much strength it brought him. The woman then walked in and gave them both a brief smile.
“Thank you for your help.” Cal spoke.
“What is your name?” She asked the woman.
“My name is Cere Junda, and this is my captain, Greez Dritus.” She gestured to the latero man, who had just entered the room.
Altheeda positioned herself, letting out a hiss after moving her ankle, but wanted to take a look at the captain. She gave him a wave as a silent form of a greeting.
“How ya doing?” He asked.
“Hanging in there.” She replied with a forced smile.
“Now, I may be the captain of this ship, but it’s this lady here that you should listen to.” He spoke, gesturing over to Cere.
So, who are the both of you?” Cere questioned.
“Cal. Kestis.” He stood onto his feet.
“I’m Altheeda.” She gave another wave to Cere.
“What happened your foot?” She asked, walking towards her.
“She got a shot to the ankle.” Cal explained.
“How bad is it?”
“Not that bad.”
Cal and Altheeda both spoke at the same time and looked at each other.
“Really, it’s not as bad as it could be.” She played it down.
Cere’s attention moved to her ankle and she furrowed her eyebrows at the wound.
“I need to take off your boot so I can get a better look.”
The young redheaded woman nodded slowly and Cal watched as Cere gently took off the bloodied rag around her ankle, then her boot and sock. The sock had too soaked up a lot of the blood as it was now red and damp. Greez winced at it slightly when Cere lightly threw it to one side. She moved herself closer to her foot and Altheeda watched her warily.
“Greez, grab me some medical supplies.” She instructed and he gave a small grunt as he walked away.
“Is everything alright?” Altheeda asked with a fretful expression.
“The wound is slightly deep but not as deep as it should be, you have your boot to thank for taking most of the damage.” Cere explained. “It does have minor burns from the heat but I’ll clean it and stitch it up. I’ll even put a bandage on it for good measure.”
“Thank you.” She gave a small smile, appreciative of the help she was receiving but dreading the pain of the stitches.
“So, who was that back there?” Cal changed the subject in an attempt to make conversation.
“An imperial inquisitor.” Cere replied, giving a nod of thanks to Greez after he placed a box by her side. “A force user hunting down Jedi survivors.”
She took out a small bottle from the box and unscrewed the cap, pouring it carefully on her open wound and she reacted with a hiss of pain and put a hand to her mouth, biting down on her finger to stop herself from crying out.
“Now that she knows who you are… she’ll stop at nothing to destroy you.” She spoke as she patted the wound with a cloth.
“How come you know so much? And why’d you help us?” Cal stammered, watching Altheeda’s facial expressions contort.
“We track all the imperial communications.” She then put the cloth back in the box and took out a thin needle and thread, preparing them both. “We heard some inquisitors were heading to Bracca and we made our move.”
She turned to address Altheeda, who stared nervously at the needle before making eye contact with Cere.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s going to hurt.”
“I figured, sharp objects piercing your skin isn’t exactly a nice feeling.” She gave an anxious laugh.
Cere began to suture the wound and once again, Altheeda bit down on her finger to stop herself making a scene. Cal looked away and paced around, wishing not to see her in any more pain. He wanted to kneel beside her again and support her, but he knew the last thing she wanted was more fuss over her. Cere was very swift in her work and finished off by tying one last knot at the end of the wound.
“I’ve gotta hand it to ‘em, these kids have guts.” Greez acknowledged sparing glances at Cal and Altheeda.
They both smiled and Altheeda once again expressed her gratitude to Cere. She then began to take out a roll of clean cloth and wrap it around the ankle. Once that was in place, she packed up the box and Cal continued with his questions.
“What is the bounty on Jedi nowadays?”
“That’s gratitude for ya.” Greez quipped.
“You’ve been surviving for so long on your own and it seems impossible to trust anyone.”
“He had me.” Altheeda piped up.
“Are you not one of them?” Greez asked her, looking rather puzzled.
“No. I’m not anything special.” She shrugged.
“Did you already know about him?” Cere quizzed with surprise evident in her voice.
“Yeah, for years.”
“And you’ve kept it secret for all that time?”
“Of course.” She shot back, sitting up once again and holding her gaze with the woman.
There was a very brief pause, Cal and Greez turned to each other until Altheeda spoke again, grabbing their attention.
“Do you not believe me?” She spoke with an uncertain glint in her eye.
“No, I believe you.” Cere gave her a firm nod. “Cal, you are lucky that her secrecy and your way of living kept you alive. Although you don’t need to do all of that anymore, this is about something bigger.”
“Like what?” Cal replied, intrigued by what she had to say.
“Rebuilding the Jedi Order.”
Cal blinked a couple of times. It was certainly a bold statement from Cere, but from what he could gather in just meeting her, he could tell she was the bold type. Still he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Rebuilding the Jedi Order was incredibly risky, especially at this time. Was there really any Jedi left to rebuild the order, or were they deeply rooted into their hiding? He mulled over so many incoming questions in his mind and he kept coming back to Cere and Greez, why did them two in particular want to restore the Jedi Order?
“You two? Is there anybody else?”
“Oh, are we not good enough for you?” Greez opened out his arms.
Altheeda sat on the edge of the sofa and had her arms folded in silence, she had nothing to contribute to this conversation and decided to listen and gather the information being presented in front of her. She watched on with a thoughtful eyebrow raised. Her eyes, fleeting to and fro each person that spoke.
“The Jedi Council?” Cal asked curiously.
Cere lowered her eyes.
“Oh… so I’m all you have then.” He replied looking around at everyone in the room, he almost posed it as a question but it seemed to be the case that he was the only existing Jedi available to them.
“Captain, set a course for Bogano.” Cere instructed.
“Aye aye.” He turned away, heading back to the cockpit.
Cere began to look at Altheeda curiously, yet she didn’t notice being deep in thought. Cal observed the scene before him and gave a tiny smile, wondering when she would notice.
“What do you do, Altheeda?” Cere spoke with furrowed brows.
“Oh! Well, I’m – er, was a scrapper.” She explained, emphasising the word ‘was.’
“You worked on those giant starships?” Greez interrupted, walking back into the room.
“Kind of… it was kind of the opposite actually.”
“Do you know how to fix ships?” He asked, a glimmer of hope in his expression.
“It depends… why do you ask?”
“Greez has been going on about getting someone to take a look at the Mantis.” Cere explained.
“Let’s give ya a test run, kid.” He suggested.
“Yeah, take a quick look at the panel in the corridor. Walk with me.”
Greez lead the way, followed by a hesitant Altheeda after she collected her tool box. Cal and Cere were behind, noticing that she still had a limp to her walk. They entered the corridor and she spotted the panel towards the left-hand side. She settled the box on the ground next to her and equipped a screwdriver in her hand, beginning to take the screws out in each corner. Everyone watched her in silence as she worked and she put each one in her pocket to make sure it was safe. Altheeda smoothly removed the panel and stared at the dust and oil covered wires and parts before her and a look of disbelief formed on her face.
“This is in pretty bad shape.”
“That Second Sister got us good.” Greez tutted.
“This is nowhere near where she did the damage.”
“Really?” Greez played dumb.
“It was all on the outside of the ship for starters!” She argued. “This is all internal!”
“Have you done anything to keep it in good condition?”
“And you think a Scrapper such as yourself can do better?! Ha! Don’t make me laugh.”
“You asked for an opinion and you’re getting one.” Cere interjected. “What needs to be done?”
“I reckon it needs a deep clean and a rewire.” She thought out loud. “The mark on the door needs to be fixed as well…”
“Can you do that, Altheeda?” Cere asked.
All heads turned to her and the pressure drastically rose inside her. She knew logistically it was a lot of work yet definitely possible. She just felt everyone’s expectations were so high for her that she would disappoint them and it made her doubt her own abilities. She looked down at her wrench, that lay in the tool box, it gave her strength and reassurance.
“I’ll have a look and see what can be done.”
“Great, you can start tomorrow.” Cere gave a small smile. “If you work for us, you’ll be in charge of the upkeep of the ship and you can stay here as long as you like. Is that a deal?”
“You have a deal.” She smiled, offering out her hand for Cere to shake.
She gave a firm handshake and Altheeda gave her hand out to Greez, he started at it momentarily then smirked at the redheaded female. He gave her a quick handshake.
“You’ll do great, Theeda.” Cal reassured her.
“Take it easy these couple of days.” Cere warned. “Don’t do anything too drastic until your ankle properly heals – it’s still going to take a while for the pain to go.”
“Duly noted. I’ll just put the panel back, you don’t need to wait for me.”
As she aligned the panel back onto the wall, they left her to the job and walked back to the lounge area.
“Thank you, you both are very kind for letting us stay on this ship.” Cal said.
“It’s no problem. You both would be doing us a huge favour.” She said with folded arms.
“I’m rather interested to see what your friend can do to this ship.” Greez added.
“We have a job for you too, Cal.” Cere spoke solemnly. “You’ll know more details soon, in the meantime; try to relax. Go, you’re safe here; for now.”
Cal awkwardly walked away from the two through the lounge area and he approached the corridor, finding Altheeda finishing her work on putting the screws back in place. She had just put the screwdriver back on the box with a loud clunk and looked up to see Cal walking towards her.
“Where you off to?”
“I’m going to try lie down.” He mumbled.
“It’s been a long day.” She acknowledged with an exhausted expression.
“Try get some rest yourself.” Cal spoke, putting a hand on her shoulder as he passed by.
“Yeah, I’ll try.” Altheeda replied quietly, watching him enter a cabin and the doors shut behind him.
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
It was late. Cal couldn’t even settle and he knew everyone else was in their cabins. His mind was thinking far too much and too fast for his liking. He decided to get up and go for a quiet wander around the ship. He proceeded into the main area of the Mantis and learned that Altheeda too had the same idea. She sat on the sofa with her legs tucked towards her, she had taken off her over-shirt, wearing only her long sleeve shirt; her hair out of its half up-do, flowing in dishevelled waves. He rarely saw her with her hair completely down, but as untamed as it appeared – he found it quite charming.
“Mind if I join you?” He spoke softly.
The pair didn’t want to disturb the rest of the ship, so in response Altheeda turned to him with a small smile and patted the empty space on the sofa next to her. He walked quietly to the sofa and sat by her side. He had no clue what to say to her, what they could talk about; then he remembered back to the Jedi Fighter at the scrap yard.
“You know what’s ironic?”
“What?” She entertained him.
“Prauf and I – we found a Jedi Fighter today, moments before he found out about me.”
“Really? That’s so…”
“Yeah, a little bit.”
“Do you think it was a sign?” She spoke thoughtfully.
“A sign of what?”
“Doing what you’re actually meant to be doing?” She proposed. “You being a Jedi?”
Cal fell silent, it was quite possible, a freaky coincidence; but he didn’t know how to respond. He sighed and rubbed his forehead.
“I haven’t processed it all.” Altheeda said softly, her grey eyes glistening in the dim light. “I’m half expecting to wake up tomorrow on Naboo, getting ready to go to work and meet Prauf in the morning.”
“Except… we’ll never get to see Prauf again. We never got to say goodbye to him.”
“I feel like it’s my fault.”
Altheeda turned to him and shook his head at him.
“Don’t you ever say that.” She spoke sternly. “None of this is your fault. Please look at me.”
He timidly looked into her eyes, they were filled with reassurance.
“Feel what you need to feel, but please just remember that what happened to Prauf was not your fault. You know I would be completely honest if it was.”
He gave a small smile and looked down to the ground.
“… Do you think I can do it?”
“What they want me to do; rebuild the order?”
She sighed and gave him a look, she could tell he was run down, lacking confidence in himself; the events that had just unfolded were definitely the cause of his timid demeanour. She remembered how he started off that way when he first joined the Scrapper’s Guild and over time, he came out of his shell, volunteering himself to do all the risky work. She admired him for that but in present time, he needed something to get him back to that frame of mind.
“I think your confidence has been knocked.” She stated truthfully. “It’s not something to be ashamed of, it’s understandable. To me, I think what they’re possibly asking of you is a lot for one person.”
He listened with intrigue at her words. They were rational and fair, which was what he needed at that moment.
“But there’s one thing you need to remember.”
“And what’s that?” His voice was mousey and soft.
She put a comforting hand over his hand that rested on the sofa and he looked at her hand on his with a content expression.
“There’s people who want to help you, Cal. Let them. Cere and Greez; we haven’t known them for long but they want to help you, or they wouldn’t have saved you. You know I’ll always help in any way I can. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, figure out what they are and put them to good use.”
“I’ll try to remember that.”
“If all else fails, no matter how bad things could possibly become; I’ll always be rooting for you.”
The twinkle in his eyes had returned, her words fuelling him with determination. Without a second thought, he wrapped his arms around her shoulders and pulled her into a hug. Automatically, she held him close and they stayed in that moment together, they were frozen in time as they fed off each other’s comforting energy. Eventually she let go of him and smiled warmly at him.
“Thank you.” He breathed.
“You don’t need to thank me.”
She paused, her face becoming hardened with seriousness.
“If today’s events hadn’t of happened, we would be saying goodbye to each other right now.” She spoke solemnly.
She was right, if Second Sister had not intervened on Bracca, Cal would have been completely on his own. The more he dwelled on it, the more he realised how dire that would have been.
“It would have been difficult saying goodbye to you.”
“But now you’re not getting rid of me that easy.” She smirked.
“Trust me, I wouldn’t want to.” He lightly chuckled.
She looked down at her bandaged foot and scrunched her nose up at it.
“Does your ankle feel any better?”
“A little bit. I’m not going to do anything too strenuous on it for now.” She stifled a yawn and rubbed her eyes.
The corners of his lips turned, his heart fluttering for just a moment. All he wanted to do was hold her, allow her to fall asleep in the safety of his arms. It’d make him feel better too, but to him, the thought of that was selfish. He also didn’t want to push the boat out too far, deciding that for now, hugs and hand holding that were open to interpretation were safe for now. He was certain that she was comfortable with those things, and that was all he wanted – for her to be comfortable.
“You need to get some sleep.” He said in a soothing tone.
“I’ll try again.” She nodded. “Will you?”
“Yeah, maybe later.”
She gave him a soft frown as she stood up from the sofa, folding her arms.
“Come on now, you need to sleep too.”
“I will, I’m just going to sit here for a little bit longer – have some time to myself.”
“Alright then. Just promise me you will at least try to go to sleep.” She lectured.
He let out an airy chuckle as she grinned at him playfully. Altheeda then sent both herself and Cal into giggles when she lifted her little finger up.
“I’m being serious!” She laughed.
He decided to entertain her and offered her his little finger, to which she briefly wrapped hers around it.
“Pinky promise.” He murmured.
She bid him goodnight and walked carefully into the corridor to the cabin she claimed as hers. He watched her go and then began surveying the lounge area properly to familiarise himself with it. He then looked at the windows, observing the different shades of blue and white as they whizzed past the stars in hyperspace. His eyes then landed on a little guitar that was perched nearby, giving it a look of intrigue. He never noticed it there before.
Cal walked over to it and picked it up, he felt some sort of energy rush through him at the touch. It was familiar to him, it was the force, but he wondered why it was coming from this certain instrument. He sat back down on the sofa with it and suddenly, his fingers began playing a song he never even knew he could play. He shut his eyes, listening to the melody, trying to capture that feeling of the force and not let it go. It was like the force was telling him what notes to play, guiding his fingers. Although it didn’t show, he was completely stunned by this ability.
He then stopped, feeling somebody’s stare on his skin. He opened his eyes and looked up to find Cere with a look of awe on her face.
“That song… I wrote it… many years ago.”
He remained silent, wondering how he would have known to play it – then almost in response to his thoughts, she spoke again.
“You can touch an object and witness events that are connected to it. You feel its history”
“It’s an… echo in the Force.” Cal explained, finally figuring out what the strange sensation was.
“You know, not many Jedi have that skill.” She remarked, sitting by his side on the sofa.
“How do you know that?”
“Because I was once a Jedi.”
He had an inkling that she was. The fact she saved him, wanted to rebuild the order, the knowledge she had – he knew she had some sort of tie to the Jedi.
“But I’m not anymore.” She added.
“Do I know you?” Cal asked.
It was possible that he ran into her at some point during his time as a Padawan. As bad as he felt about it, he was rather young and his memories of it were going rather sketchy.
“No, but I knew your Master; Jaro Tapal. He really was a true guardian of the Republic.” She reminisced.
“He was a hero…” He agreed, but his face grew rather sad thinking about him.
He lowered his eyes briefly to collect himself. He thought about the Purge and that one weird part of it that gnawed on his brain from time to time. He pondered on whether Cere had any advice for him.
“Listen… something happened to me during the purge. I think my connection to the Force is damaged somehow. When I meditate if let my guard down, I lose control… It’s like I’m back in that moment when-“
“You survived it, Cal.” Cere interrupted, putting a reassuring hold on his upper arm. “As a Jedi, you’re not alone, not anymore.”
He nodded, maybe for now, he should be happy that he survived the Jedi Purge. He didn’t fully realise how important that was.
“Now get some sleep before we arrive at Bogano. We’re nearly there.”
“I’ll see you in a bit.” Cal rose from the sofa, giving her a thankful nod before departing the room.
As he quietly strode through the corridor, his mind was still spinning. He had more questions and more worries, he knew it was highly unlikely that he would get some sleep, but he did promise Altheeda he would try, he pinky promised actually. It made him smile as he passed her room and he wondered whether she was managing to sleep. It seemed like she was the only thing that would slow his mind down, admittedly nothing could stop his mind from whirring away, but the thought of her was the closest thing.
He walked into his cabin and the doors silently shut behind him, he laid himself down and stared up at the ceiling. He found that his brain was still fixated on multiple things, the Force, Cere, the Jedi Order; it was relentless. He remembered back to Altheeda’s words and everything seemed to slow down.
He could thank her as much as he wanted but she still wouldn’t understand just how much she helped him. He thought that she did know to some extent, but not the full amount. He thanked his lucky stars that he didn’t end up leaving her and retreating elsewhere, the thought of losing her now was far too much. He was adamant he was going to be by her side, support her the way she was supporting him. One day he would show her the gratitude he truly felt, one day he would pluck up the courage to court her, but one thing was for certain; he was not going to lose her.
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Darkness. A voice echoed in the pitch black. Prauf’s voice. Where was he? Could he find him in the dark? He wanted to call out. He couldn’t. Prauf’s voice echoed again. Where was it coming from?
Cal gasped, his eyes fluttering open to find Greez standing before him, his presence alarmed the redheaded Jedi.
“I heard you talkin’ in your sleep.” Greez explained.
All Cal could do was give a weak grunt in reply.
“We’re arriving at Bogano, we need you at the lounge.”
Greez then began to make an exit from his cabin.
“Weirdo.” He grumbled.
Cal watched him leave, he was in a stunned state after being woken up so abruptly. The redhead then rubbed his forehead before sitting up on the edge of the bed to stretch. Once he felt ready, he stood up and began the walk to the lounge. As he was about to pass the cabin, Altheeda occupied, he paused, thinking to give her a knock. He raised a slow fist to the door and gave it a timid knock and waited. It only took a few seconds for her to answer the door.
“Morning, I think.” She greeted with a shrug.
“Did you manage some sleep?”
“Here and there, did you?”
“Probably the same.” He nodded. “We’re at Bogano now, so I thought I’d come get you.”
“Thanks. Give me one sec.”
She darted to the side and picked up her box of tools and exited the cabin with a smile.
“You’re supposed to be resting, remember?” He spoke, walking alongside her.
“You know I can’t resist the opportunity to fix stuff. Like I said before, I won’t do anything too ambitious until it’s fully healed.” She pouted.
“I’m not going to stop you.” He reassured, smiling at her pout. “I’m wise enough not to.”
She gave an airy laugh as they entered the lounge. Cere and Greez were waiting for them both and they all greeted one another with brief smiles.
“I trust you’re both well rested?”
They both nodded and Cere gestured to Cal.
“Cal, I have a task for you. Come with me.”
“I’ll see you later.” He spoke, discreetly brushing his fingertips against her lower arm.
“Good luck.” She smiled as she watched him leave with Cere.
It was just Greez and Altheeda left on board. They were silent for a moment until she cleared her throat awkwardly.
“What would you like me to do today?”
“I’m gonna give you a simple job since I gotta be nice to you and ya ankle.”
She gave him a nod.
“You can do what you said yesterday and do the rewire in the corridor panel. Then just do a quick clean of the ship.”
Cere strolled back onto the ship without Cal. She put her hands on her hips as she addressed Altheeda.
“I’ve sent him off to on a quest, he should be back by the end of the day. Have you figured out what you’re doing?”
“Yeah, Greez has given me a job.”
“Good.” She flashed a smile. “When you have a moment, I’d like you to come with me to help gather some food.”
“I can do that. I’ll let you know when I’m ready.” She replied swinging her toolbox idly.
With that, she got to work with no delay, making her way to the panel she had previously acquainted herself with. It didn’t take her long at all with the experience she had gathered, although it was disassembling things, she figured all she had to do was reverse that process and it would become the process of fixing things. She found it fascinating, she even made an effort throughout the years to learn outside of what was expected from her in the Scrapper’s Guild. She never knew that one day it would all come in handy.
Once she had finished reattaching the panel back onto the wall, she went over to the lounge area and noticed the lights were a lot brighter, all due to her handiwork. Her limp was becoming less severe as the pain was far less but she still knew she had to be sensible. She approached the kitchen area, setting her box on the counter and peered into the draws to see if she could find any cleaning supplies. As she scavenged, Cere entered the lounge area quietly and squinted, noticing the difference in the lighting.
“Did it get a lot brighter in here?” She pondered, looking up at the lights and making Altheeda jump.
“Gosh, don’t do that! I didn’t hear you come in!” She clutched her chest.
“Was this you?” Cere asked, pointing up at the lights.
“Yeah, I finished working on the panel in the corridor. The wiring in that panel is connected all the lighting in the ship. It was all loose.” Altheeda explained.
Cere simply nodded and gave a quick smile at the lights before addressing her once again.
“What are you looking for?”
“Oh, just some cleaning supplies. I wanted to give the ship a quick clean.”
“You can do that later. Let’s go out and find some food.” She spoke, gesturing to the door. “You can leave that here.” She added, glancing at the box Altheeda had picked up.
She stared down at it for a moment, not wanting to leave it out in the open in the lounge area.
“I’ll put it back in my cabin…” She replied reluctantly.
“No you can just-“
“I won’t be long.” She insisted as walked to her cabin.
Cere gave her an odd look, finding her behaviour rather strange, yet she simply waited for her patiently to return empty handed. Greez walked out from the cockpit and noticed Cere’s expression.
“The girl… she won’t let any of us go near that box.”
“Not even the other kid?”
“No… she seems to be fine with him. I need to get her guard down.”
“And you think a little scavenging’s gonna solve her trust issues?”
“No don’t be ridiculous, it’s about getting to know her. You should make the effort too. I think she has a lot of interesting things to say.”
“Eh, we’ll see.” Greez shrugged.
Altheeda re-entered the room with nothing but herself. She noticed the addition of Greez and greeted him.
“You coming with us, Greez?”
“Nah, I gotta look after this baby.” He replied. “I ain’t leaving this ship alone.”
“I see. Well, I’ll see you around.”
She bid him goodbye and jogged slightly to catch up with Cere.
“Careful. Just walk a slow pace, I won’t leave you.”
The redhead nodded and looked around at her surroundings, she never had the chance to glance outside. It was mainly muddy but patches of green grass were scattered across the vast marshy land. It felt good for her to get some fresh air in her lungs.
“Do you think we’ll get spotted?” She asked Cere.
“This planet isn’t on any maps, so that won’t happen.”
They fell silent once again, Altheeda had become completely engrossed in the nature around her whilst Cere tried to come up with various ways to start a conversation with her, wanting to figure her out, understand her perspective without sounding too invasive. She knew she had to be, but it was going the right way about it.
“What was Cal like when you first met him?” She asked with the friendliest expression she could pull.
She gave her a dubious look but then smiled as the memory crossed her mind. She was silent and Cere became less hopeful until she began to speak.
“It was just over five years ago. He was very quiet, not very sure in himself…” She paused and giggled at another thought. “He was a bit startled by me at first, I was quite full on.”
“In what way?”
“Well, I liked to mess about sometimes but Prauf would always make sure I didn’t get into too much trouble.”
“He looked after me pretty much from the moment I joined the Scrapper’s Guild… and he did the same with Cal. He cared for both of us.” She remembered with a solemn expression on her face.
“Where’s Prauf now?”
“He’s… dead. It happened shortly before you found us.”
“How did he…” Cere asked uncertainly.
“That inquisitor – whatever you called her. The Second Sister. She killed him.”
The woman winced, more of a reaction than they were both expecting. Altheeda noted that she almost looked guilty but she couldn’t figure out why she would feel that way or if she was completely misreading her – she found Cere hard to understand.
“Cal’s definitely opened up to you.” She stated, trying to change the subject.
“Yeah, well, he didn’t have much of a choice.” The redhead chuckled again.
“What do you mean?”
“Over the years we naturally grew closer, he was the only person my age that I trusted on Bracca. I wasn’t keen on the rest of them. He just seemed to gradually become more comfortable and more… himself. He likes a good laugh too – the pranks we used to play on poor Prauf – I did feel bad that he put up with us. It wasn’t until the day I found out he truly opened up.”
“So, how did you find out?” Cere asked curiously.
“A complete accident. He had his lightsaber on him. He hid it very well up until that point. It wasn’t entirely his fault, he genuinely thought I had gone to ask Prauf about my welder. It wasn’t in my toolbox.”
“You seem very attached to that box.” She noted.
Altheeda simply nodded, keeping tight lipped. Cere knew she wasn’t willing to give any more information about it and decided to leave that topic for now. She stopped in her tracks, noticing a pond in the corner of her eye and the young woman stopped with her.
“Do you eat fish?”
“Come with me.”
They walked over to the pond and peered over it, seeing lots of fish swimming around under the clear surface. Cere had a satisfied expression and turned to Altheeda.
“There’s our dinner. Can you find the sharpest stick you can?”
She walked around the area, trying not to stray too far from the woman in charge. She used her foot to push apart the long grass to peer into it, then looked ahead of her to spot a nearby tree. She strode over to it and tugged at a loose branch, managing to snap it in a way that made the breakage sharp. After walking back to the pond, she offered it to Cere and she took it, deeming it worthy to use.
“I haven’t done this for a while.”
Cere stabbed the stick through the water and lifted it back up again to reveal nothing.
“I’ve lost my touch.”
Altheeda looked over at the pond again, frowning at the fish that wriggled across the water.
“I’ve never seen this species of fish before.”
“Para fish only live on Bogano.” She explained.
She nodded at this information then offered her hand out to Cere, hoping for a chance in helping her with the fishing. She looked at her momentarily before offering the stick to Altheeda and she took it with a determined expression. Her eyes narrowed at the school of fish and focused on one at random, following its route with her eyes. She steadied her hand, ready to make her move and slammed the edge of the stick into the water. Once the disturbance in the water settled, it revealed her success and she smiled to herself and Cere appeared to be impressed at this.
“I’ve still got it.” Altheeda thought aloud.
“You’ve done this before?”
“I went fishing a lot at Solleu river.” She reminisced.
“That’s in Naboo.”
“That’s where you’re from?” Cere raised an eyebrow.
Altheeda put the dead fish to one side and successfully caught another, placing it next to the other fish she had recently captured.
“Who taught you?”
A sombre look formed on her freckled face. Her eyes lowered back onto the pond and she managed to skewer another fish and put it to one side.
“Well then.” Cere mumbled. “Let’s finish up here.”
She nodded, gathering two more fish to make it one fish per person on the Stinger Mantis.
“Thank you for coming with me, Altheeda.”
“Not a problem.”
Together, they took the fish and walked back to the ship in silence as Cere mulled over the little information she had gathered about Altheeda’s life. She knew the young woman would be tough to crack.
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
Waiting for Cal’s return was what occupied Altheeda for the rest of the day. It wasn’t as if she could do much more. She gutted the fish to make sure it was ready for cooking and cleared the mess that came along with it. There was nothing else to do after that task. Cere had gone outside to wait for him and she lay on the sofa, resting her foot and Greez had kept to himself in the cockpit.
Cere eventually boarded the ship with Cal in tow and she beamed at him, the relief evident on her face as she stood up. She didn’t even notice the small droid on his back until it jumped off and began scuttling around the Stinger Mantis in an excited manner. This startled Greez, he took a few steps back as he eyed it suspiciously when it beeped away and Cere stood by and watched.
“What is that?”
The droid hopped onto the sofa and began to run across it. Greez became annoyed by this and tried chasing after it, sending Altheeda into hysterics.
“Get off my sofa! Get off my sofa, go! Outta here!”
The young redheaded woman then crouched down and stretched out a hand to the droid, patiently waiting and it waddled over to her at lightning speed.
“Hey mate! What’s your name?”
“That’s BD-1.” The fellow redhead chimed in with the droid making noises of agreement.
“Hi there, BD-1!” She greeted chirpily. “I’m Altheeda.”
“He’ll be joining us from now on.” He stated with a smile that she returned.
“I don’t care who he’s with. Do any of you know how hard it is to get oil stains out of potolli-weave fabric?” Greez groaned.
“Not really.” Cal replied nonchalantly.
“I’ve got you covered.” Altheeda reassured Greez, earning her an impressed beep from BD-1.
“How can you manage that?” The latero quizzed.
“I’ve had to get tougher stains out of all sorts of fabrics when I was at Bracca. Potolli-weave fabric’s not the worst one to work with, believe me.”
She straightened up and walked over to sit next to Cal, with BD-1 sprinting over to the Jedi’s side.
“Well, I hope you found something better out there than this droid.” Greez turned his focus back onto Cal.
“Oh, calm down, Greez. He did.” Cere piped up with a commanding aura to her. “Tell us, Cal.”
“That vault was built by an ancient civilisation called the Zeffo.” He explained, everyone becoming engrossed by his words. “A Jedi named Eno Cordova hid something inside of it.”
“What did he hide?” Cere asked, stepping forward to him.
“A holocron from the Archives. It contains a list of Force-sensitive children.”
“The next generation of Jedi, I knew it.” Cere smiled to herself. “Ah, Cordova, you old fool.”
“You knew him?”
“Yes. I was his apprentice, this was a long time ago. Cordova was very private. That little droid and I are probably the only ones that know of Bogano.”
“Wait a minute, wait a minute. A holo-what?” Greez asked his boss with a puzzled expression.
“A holocron – it stores information but only accessible to Jedi.”
“So, a lot of it was top secret then.” Altheeda spoke, her statement was like a half-question.
“Exactly. Hang on, I think I have one around here.”
She then strode away in search for the item and followed in tow. She led them to the dining area and had a cube shaped object in her hand that was blue and had different sized squares on various angles to form an interesting pattern.
“Use the force.” She instructed, offering her holocron to Cal.
He took it graciously in the palm of his hand and shut his eyes. Altheeda watched curiously for a moment, she had no idea how the Force would work on it and wanted to see it for herself. The holocron suddenly began to fold out by itself, but she knew it was the work of the Force that was coming from Cal. She gasped quietly at it, completely awestruck as it revealed a hologram of a man that began to speak.
“This is Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. I regret to report that both our Jedi Order and the Republic have fallen…”
The holocron then folded into itself to from its original cubed state and the hologram inside it disappeared from sight. Cal held it tight in his hand and lowered his eyes.
“With that list of force-sensitives, we could rebuild the Order and defeat the Empire.” Cere stated.
“Okay no problem, let’s get it.” Greez urged.
“Except the holocron is hidden deep in the vault and we need to follow Cordova’s path to get it.” Cal pointed out. “He mentioned something about the planet Dathomir and a Zeffo homeworld.
“Do you know what he could have possibly meant by that?” Altheeda said.
“I’ll have to find out.” Cal spoke thoughtfully.
“Right well, where are we going exactly?” The latero interjected once again. “I’m asking ‘cause I was thinking of making some food.”
“Yeah, I must admit I’m quite hungry… sorry.” The female redhead mumbled as BD-1 beeped at her.
“Look before we do anything, I need to know something.” Cal explained sternly, making Altheeda become serious and refocus on important issues.
“How come you’re no longer a Jedi?” Cal pressed, approaching Cere slowly.
She narrowed her eyes at the Jedi and ex- Jedi staring at each other. She wondered if it was important for him to know for any particular reason. The tension heightened slightly and both her and Greez could feel it.
“I had an experience that… changed my perspective. So, I cut myself off from the Force.” She explained carefully.
“But you still want to rebuild it?” He retorted.
“I believe that the best chance we have against the Empire is to rebuild the Order. What do you believe?” She shot back with narrowed eyes.
“I believe I can’t keep hiding from the Empire, so I don’t really have a choice.”
“Cal, as long as you’re alive, you will always have a choice.” Cere replied. “Are you with us?”
He paused, his mind working overtime, he remembered back to his Jedi days, then the words that Altheeda told him the night before echoed in the background. He looked at BD-1, then looked at his companion that stood next to Greez. She had her arms folded and a small, supportive smile on her face as she looked upon him. She didn’t need to say anything.
BD-1 jumped around and did some celebratory noises. They all smiled at the droid and Greez once again posed his previous question.
“Dathomir or Zeffo? It’s your choice.”
“Set a course for Zeffo.” Cal instructed.
“Alright everyone, let’s get into position.” Cere nodded.
They all walked into the cockpit and Greez, rightfully so, took the pilot chair. Cere sat at a section of the control panel, leaving a seat next to Greez and a seat on the other side of the room from Cere. Altheeda took that seat and Cal took the one adjacent from the pilot chair. BD-1, meanwhile, perched himself nearby the redheaded Jedi, looking out at the stars before them as they launched into space.
“Ya know, my piloting hasn’t been this good since I graduated first in my class at the Lateron Space Academy.” Greez bragged as he steered.
“I wasn’t aware of an academy.” Cere replied.
“Me neither.” Altheeda added.
“Yeah, it was new, well back in the day. You guys probably don’t get around that area much.” The latero explained.
“So, what did you train on?” The woman asked curiously.
“You name it: fighters, freighters, short and long range, whatever. I flew circles around everybody.”
“Was that all you could do?” Altheeda smirked.
“This one has a sense of humour. Very funny… but yeah, it’s all they really allowed me to do.”
Everyone gave a light chuckle to this before Greez continued.
“I was so good though, you should have seen me!”
“How far are we now?” Cal thought aloud.
“We’re about to exit hyperspace.” Greez replied.
As they began approaching the planet that presented itself before them, they noticed a violent looking storm below. An uncertain energy filled the room and everyone looked at the pilot chair.
“There’s a heck of a storm brewing down there. Might not be a good time to land.”
“That’s strange…” Cere commented. “The winds are interfering with our comms.”
“Hey, Cordova did mention something about peace in the eye of the storm…” Cal spoke as he operated a part of the control panel. “I can just make out a settlement in the middle of it.”
“Then we have to get to it.” The former Jedi instructed.
“Copy that.” Greez acknowledged.
The Stinger Mantis began its decent into the planet, heading directly to the storm and the vessel began to shake with great force. Altheeda clung onto the arms of her chair and gave Greez a dubious look.
“You sure this is safe?”
“A couple of bumps ain’t gonna kill ya, kid.”
“I-I’m just thinking of how much the ship can take with the damage.” She stammered.
BD-1 began to make various sounds at Greez, causing him to shake his head.
“Can you tell the bucket of bolts over there to keep his opinion to himself?!” He addressed Cal.
“I’m sure everything is under control.” Cere reassured.
“Of course it is, it’s just a little tricky – hold on everyone!”
The ship began to make its wobbly landing to the ground. Altheeda’s hands had become rather sweaty in the tight grip they had on her seat. Everyone seemed to have been mentally bracing themselves for the rocky landing. The impact caused a massive thud and for the ship to bounce slightly as it touched down.
“Perfect landing. Heh.” Greez announced. “Greezy money, baby!”
Cal and Altheeda looked rather rattled by the entire ordeal and they both exhaled sharply.
“I’m still getting interference on the comms.” Cere spoke as she held her headpiece against her ear. “It’s gonna take a minute to get them back up.”
“Let me help.” Altheeda rose from her seat, rubbing her hands to dry them from the clamminess on her palms.
“I’d appreciate that.” She smiled.
“Is there anything I can do?” Cal offered.
“You can help Greez make dinner.” Cere instructed.
“What? I cooked last night.” Greez grumbled.
“And you’ll do it again.”
The latero huffed and puffed then gestured for the redheaded boy to follow. The both strolled into the lounge area with the little droid waddling behind them. The two women worked on getting back the signal of the communications together whilst the two men began to cook the fish in the kitchen area. Once both tasks had been completed, they gathered together and sat for a meal in the lounge area. Cal made sure to sit next to Altheeda and the other duo sat opposite them. As they tucked into their meals, they ate in silence for the most part; it wasn’t until half way during the meal that Cere once again made the effort to start conversation.
“When are you going to head out there, Cal?”
“Tomorrow, I think it’s best to save my energy first.”
“The comms should be good as new now.” Altheeda announced, after finishing a mouthful.
“Did that storm get them good?” Greez asked.
“It was nothing I couldn’t handle.” She shrugged. “The wires got shaken a bit too much.”
“You seem to know far much more than the average scrapper.” Cere noted. “You know things beyond your area of expertise.”
“I just have an interest in this type of stuff.” She lowered her eyes, beginning to play with her food.
“Who taught you?” Greez questioned with a curious gleam in his eye.
She fell silent once again and Cal looked at her, feeling her uncomfortable energy.
“I taught myself really, looking at holographic diagrams and just by actually doing it.” She took another bite to avoid answering more questions.
“Did they teach you that stuff at the Scrapper’s Guild?” Greez turned to Cal.
“No, they just expect you to do it. If it weren’t for Theeda or Prauf I wouldn’t have had much clue.” He smiled before finishing his food.
She smiled to herself before neatly putting her cutlery on her dish.
“Cere, I don’t feel like I’ve properly thanked you for the new pair of boots.” She spoke, changing the subject.
“You don’t need to thank me, do they fit you?”
“Yeah they’re fine.” Altheeda gave a small nod.
Everyone at this point had finished their food. The latero glanced at everybody at the table with a small smirk on his face.
“I don’t remember the last time I’ve sat on a full table”
Cere smiled. Greez was good company for her and she valued him, but having Cal and Altheeda was a breath of fresh air to her. Her past was rocky and she had lost many loved ones, partly through her own negligence, but she was determined that this time, things would be different. She had learned the hard way and was certain she would not make the same mistake again. Altheeda then stood from her seat, collected the dirty dishes on the table.
“Thank you for the lovely dinner.”
Altheeda had washed her hair, creating wet patches on her shirt. It felt a bit uncomfortable as she sat alone on her bed after retiring to her cabin, of course she kept her ankle elevated to rest it in every opportunity that she got. It had been feeling a lot better since it had been dressed by Cere; she wanted to have a peek and see if the actual wound was healing but she was told not to touch it under any circumstance for the time being. As she sat there, her thoughts were rather mundane, ranging from her appearance, the healing progress on her ankle, the crumpled over-shirt that was once her uniform that was tossed in the corner and the day that had just unfolded.
A knock jostled her from her brooding. She looked up at the door and straightened her posture.
“Who is it?”
“Can I come in, Theeda?”
The doors slid apart to reveal Cal; he gave her a warm smile as he stepped inside the cabin. She patted the free space next to her that she made dangling her legs off it and he happily obliged in sitting beside her. Their shoulders brushed past each other as he wriggled around to make himself comfortable.
“What have you been up to then?” Altheeda spoke after a sigh.
“I’ve just been chatting with Cere and Greez. Then I thought I’d come check on you.”
“I was actually talking about your little quest.” She smiled. “But that’s good to know.”
“Oh, well I told you about what Cordova had in the vault.” Cal explained.
“No, tell me about what you experienced, what you saw out there; you’ve seen a lot more than I have.” She asked curiously, resting her chin in her hand.
“Where do I start… I found BD-1 not long after I left. He was just there in the long grass, it was like he wanted me to find him. He led me to the vault, but I’m telling you it wasn’t easy.”
“It involved a lot of climbing. I started to remember some of the skills I had forgotten I’d learnt during my Jedi training. It was like being there caused me to remember flashbacks to those moments.”
“Oh wow…” She murmured.
“And some of the creatures we came across we’re nothing like I’ve seen before. One of them gave a bit of damage to BD-1 so I had to briefly stop and give him a fix-up.” His eyes lit up as he told the story of his quest.
“Really? That sounds eventful.”
“Yeah, he wasn’t too badly beaten. He’s a very curious droid, he was asking me questions about everything, including the people in my life; so I told him about all about you.”
“What did you tell him?” She raised an eyebrow.
Cal began to stammer momentarily before recovering.
“Um, well, I told him how great of a mechanic you are. I told him all about Bracca and all the funny stories.”
“Like the time you burnt yourself?” She giggled.
“No, I skipped that one, for obvious reasons.” He smiled goofily as he sub-conciously rubbed the scar on his neck and nose from that incident.
“Did you tell him about the time when we hid a scrap rat inside Prauf’s toolbox?”
Cal let out a loud laugh and shook his head.
“I totally forgot about that.”
Altheeda gave him a smile and leaned closer to him.
“Anyways, you did great today. It’s nice to hear about what you’ve accomplished.”
“Thank you, that means a lot.” He spoke gratefully.
“I don’t know about you, but I’d love some tea right now, you want some?” She offered.
“I’d love some.” He nodded.
“I’ll be back in a moment.”
She rose from the bed and walked slowly out of the cabin. He watched her waves of red hair disappear whilst the door let out a mechanical hiss as it closed.
He studied the room for a while, there was not much to indicate that it was her cabin. He did notice her old boots, they were dirtied and charred and the gaping hole in one of the boots made him wince. His attention then turned to her old uniform shirt, he was glad in a sense that she had chosen to no longer wear it, it would only remind her of the fresh and painful memories they had recently collected. The toolbox was the next thing to catch his eye, it was put to one side against one of the walls. He then thought about the guitar and how it linked to a part of Cere’s life and pondered if he would see anything if he was to interact with the box and whether it would actually work. He knew there was only one way to find out.
He walked over to it and crouched down, he wasn’t sure what he would see, if he would see anything, but he needed to learn more about this power he possessed. He stretched out a tentative hand towards the box and his fingertips grazed the cold metal and a montage of events rapidly flashed before him:
Solleu river. A young Altheeda, no older than ten, giggled with a fishing rod in her hand. Her tight ringlets trailed down her shoulders. It shone in the sunlight. She stood alongside a shaggy, raven-haired boy. Despite the stark contrast in hair, it was their facial features that linked them together. Button noses, identical eye shape, freckles sprawled across their faces. It was Turner in his early teens. The boy also held a fishing rod. It was dunked into the waters of the river. He yanked it to reveal a fish. Dangling it in his younger sister’s face, it brought our more laughter and squealing. Those squeals of delight suddenly changed into sadder cries.
The scene changed to a Turner in his mid-teens, bed-ridden on a medical bed. He looked to be worse for wear, in his final moments in life. Altheeda, in her early teens at this stage, wept by his side. The devastation in her wailing should have not been so intense; not for a girl at her tender age. Two officers came in the room. They clutched her arms, ripped her away from her older brother as she reached for him. All she wanted to do was hold his hand for one last time.
Suddenly, the scene had changed to dim-lit house. A couple sat together on a table, looking away from the girl that screamed at them. The man had shaggy, raven hair similar to the likes of Turner and blue, grey eyes that Altheeda had inherited. The woman had flaming red hair, freckles dotted across her face, but had dark brown eyes. They remained motionless and speechless. Altheeda seemed to be yelling out of frustration, sadness, confusion – tears streamed from the corners of her eyes. No matter how loud or how much she pleaded for them to come back to her, she was ignored. She had lost everyone.
Rain poured heavily in the streets of Naboo. Everything was tainted grey from the awful weather. A drenched Altheeda, now in her mid-teens wondered the streets alone. She had something concealed under her coat. It was tucked under her arm as she kept her head down, plodding to a destination that was unknown to her. She didn’t know where to go, but she was free. She turned into an alleyway. She leaned against the wall of a building, slid herself down to the ground. She was emotionally exhausted. She then lifted up the fabric of her coat and smiled at what was underneath it. It brought her strength and courage.
Cal jolted back in shock, his hand shaking from what he had just witnessed. He took a shaky breath, eyeing the box with a sad look in his eyes.
He rapidly turned his head to see his fellow redhead companion with a concerned expression on her face. She had two steaming cups in each hand and she took great care as she walked with them.
“Is everything alright?”
“I’m so sorry.” He spoke softly, feeling rather guilty. “I saw too much.”
“W-what do you mean?” She asked, lowering herself onto her knees beside him as she set the two cups aside on the floor.
“I saw you and your brother. I saw the moment you watched your brother die, how your parents treated you…”
She lowered her eyes, unsure of how to take in what he was saying.
“Turner, he didn’t have red hair like you do. His hair was dark - he got it from your father.”
Once he stated this, she met his eyes. They were filled with shock and tears that threatened to fall. Her lip began to tremble.
“How did you…”
“Last night, when you went to bed, I discovered this power I never knew I had. I could touch an item and it would reveal its history to me.” Cal explained.
She nodded, struggling to process what he had just told her, as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
“I didn’t know whether it would work on your toolbox and I didn’t know that I would see the things I saw. I’m really sorry.”
“You don’t need to apologise.” She spoke quietly. “I’m not angry at you, it’s not as if you didn’t know already.”
Cal nodded, putting a calming hand on top of hers.
“I also saw you both fishing together by Solleu river. I could tell just in that moment that you brought your brother so much joy. He really adored having you as a younger sister.”
Her eyes twinkled as a meek smile formed on her face.
“Turner taught me a lot of things, he was such a fun-loving adventurous brother. He definitely would have liked you. I wish you could have met him.”
Cal ran a soothing thumb over the top of her hand. She then picked up a cup with her other hand and handed it to him. He accepted it with a thankful nod and she then picked up the remaining cup, bringing it to her lips and giving the liquid a soft blow before drinking it. They sat together for a while, just enjoying each other’s company until loud beeping made the pair jump, with Cal quickly letting go of her hand. She proceeded to clamber onto her feet, only for him to put a hand on her arm to signal for her to stay where she was. With his other hand, he used the force to effortlessly slide the door open to reveal the tiny droid stood there.
The two smiled at BD-1 as he stared back at them for a while, before he decided to gallop into the room with high energy.
“What brings you here BD-1?” Cal asked with a small smile.
The droid beeped at them chirply and Altheeda held in a chuckle.
“Well it’s nice to have visitors.”
The little robot then decided to climb onto her shoulder and she looked down at him with an entertained grin on her face. He then beeped at her, looking up at her face.
“We…were just talking about you, actually. Cal was telling me about how he found you.”
The trio continued to chat together for a long while. The conversation still flowed, even a while after Cal and Altheeda had finished their tea. She learned very quickly that Cal was indeed right about the droid’s strong curiosity after being asked many questions about herself. Cal also received his fair share, even after spending the most time with BD-1. Eventually, Cal became rather tired and wished to go to bed. Altheeda was enjoying the time they spent talking, but she knew rest would be extremely important to him in this moment.
She stood up with him and BD-1 hopped off her back as she moved. They bid each other goodnight and Cal pulled her in for one last hug for the day before he exited her room with the droid in tow.
I'm so sorry this took slightly longer than usual to post. I have my chapters written ahead so I can usually post them regularly. Unfortunately, my laptop decided to delete half of this entire fic so I lost so many chapters and content I had written and spent ages perfecting. I was so angry and upset and its been taking me a while to rewrite it. Obviously I remember the narrative and events that happened but its been really difficult rewriting it in the exact way I did it first time round and thats been frustrating me a lot, hence why its taken me a while to post and also my hours at work got changed to full time so I've had less opportunities to sit down and write.
On the bright side, I've almost fully rewritten what I have lost so hopefully I should be able to post regularly again soon! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this note, read this fanfic and give it kudos and comments - its so valuable to me and they really motivated me to persist with the rewriting!
Finally, I just want to say, its scary and strange with what is going on out there at the moment so please stay safe and as healthy as you can be - look after yourselves :)
Chapter 15: Chapter 15
The redheaded Jedi awoke from his mediocre sleep. He still felt the tiredness weighing him down, but nevertheless, he knew he had to continue on. BD-1 had noticed him stir and sit up so he beeped a ‘good morning’ greeting at him.
“Morning.” He spoke groggily.
The little bot clambered onto his shoulder and he smiled down at it. Deciding to make his way to the lounge area, he went at a leisurely pace down the corridor and the doors parted to reveal if someone had woken up before him and he instantly spotted Cere and Greez in conversation. Their heads turned to Cal’s direction and they smiled at him.
“Cal, how are you doing?”
“Alright.” He shrugged. “And you?”
“Is the other kid still asleep?” Greez questioned.
“I assume she is if she’s not here.” Cal replied.
“Are you heading out soon?” Cere asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I guess so.”
“Before you go I just want to talk with you for a sec.”
“I just wanted to commend you on the good work you did on Bogano.” Cere began.
He quickly flashed a smile at this, enjoying the feeling of being praised for his efforts.
“The more information we collect on Cordova and the Zeffo, the closer we’ll become to stopping the Empire.”
“I’ve heard of ancient cultures but I don’t know much about them.” Cal shared his thoughts with the former Jedi woman.
“I only know that Cordova was obsessed with the Zeffo and that he believed that their teachings were important. There’s a lot to learn here.”
The redhead nodded, he glanced at Cere and her latero friend; thinking about their ties together. They never really spoke about how they came to befriend each other and become the duo they were today, but he could imagine the struggles they helped each other overcome.
“I can see it’s not been easy for you both… I bet you’ve gone through a lot.”
Greez had a solemn look on his face whilst Cere took it upon herself to give a reply.
“It hasn’t been easy; but I just think of the people who believed in me at one point. If I give up on myself then I’d be giving up on them. I’m sure you’ve had people like that; take Altheeda for instance.”
“She’s always been looking out for me.” He smiled, his eyes shining at the thought of her. “We also had Prauf… a friend on Bracca.” He then grew sad at the memory of his old friend.
“She told me about him yesterday. From what I heard he seemed like a kind man.” Cere sympathised. “He’s greatly missed by you both.”
He lowered his head, dwelling on the times they had together.
“Prauf believed in you. Altheeda believes in you. A lot of people depend on you, even if they don’t know it yet. Keep going, Cal, for them; for everyone.”
Cal gave her a grateful smile. He began to feel quite secure around Cere and Greez yet he found it surprising that all this encouragement was coming from them after spending two days with each other. The lounge doors opened and Altheeda stepped forward, toolbox in hand as expected.
“Oh, morning everyone.” She chirped.
“Good morning, Altheeda.” Cere responded kindly.
“Did you sleep well?” Cal asked with a smile.
“She’s the last one to get out of bed, that’s gotta mean something.” Greez smirked.
“So, what’s the plan for today?” She asked, walking closer to the group and then putting her hand on her hip.
“Cal’s going to be heading out soon – we’re going to be taking in turns to monitor the comms and work on any other tasks in between. Did you have anything you wanted to do?” Cere asked.
“There was something small but I can work it around everything else.”
Altheeda turned to Cal and they both exchanged a smile with each other.
“I need your help with something quick, then I’ll get going.” He requested, glancing at Cere during the last part of the sentence, to which she nodded at.
“Sure, how can I help?”
He gestured for her to walk with him and BD-1 turned his head to say goodbye to the others, keeping rooted onto the Jedi’s back. She followed him outside of the Stinger Mantis studying her surroundings with great intrigue. Zeffo seemed to be a lot more exotic in comparison to the mellow, but swampy fields of Bogano, yet she remembered from Cal’s description of it that there was more to it than that.
“I just wanted to talk with it being just us two.” He explained, turning to her.
“Why; what did you want to talk about?”
“Oh, er – no particular reason, I just-“ He stammered, looking around awkwardly.
“Is everything alright?” She asked with a concerned frown, swinging the box idly along her side.
“Yeah… I just wanted to say goodbye.”
“You’re not going to be gone that long – are you?”
“Well I hope not, but I just… wanted to say goodbye.” He repeated, slowly and awkwardly.
“You have your comlink on you, right? Do you realise we’ll probably be speaking a lot on there?”
BD-1 gave a taunting noise at Cal and Altheeda smirked, trying not to giggle at what BD-1 said, whilst he lowered his head and rubbed the back of his neck. She instantly began to feel guilty, noticing Cal’s sheepish demeanour and put a hand on his upper arm.
“It’s okay. We’re all new to this. You’re going to be fine. If you need guidance just use the comms to contact Cere. If she’s busy, you have Greez. And, if they’re both busy, I’m also here for help… and a chat.” She winked.
He looked at her with a glad expression on his face, far more relaxed to how he was from when he woke up. His mouth parted to say words that never formed on his lips. She rubbed his upper arm in a soothing fashion then stepped back, her touch had left tingles on his arm.
“You need to get going.”
Cal nodded and smiled at her. BD-1 gave Altheeda a goodbye in form of a robotic whistling sound.
“I’ll check in with you guys when I can.” Cal called out as he began to walk away.
“Bye, Cal! You’ve got this!”
She watched him go, stood on the ramp of the ship as he proceeded onwards and became one with the horizon. She trudged up the ramp back into the Stinger Mantis, all eyes fell on her as the two remaining crew members heard her footsteps re-enter the room.
“He’s set off now”
“And may he be successful.” Cere smiled.
Altheeda walked over to the kitchen area and set her box on the counter, opening the fridge to get a drink.
“You’re walking a lot better on that ankle, kid.” Greez noted.
“I noticed that too, we’ll take the bandaging off in a few more days to check on the progress.” Cere nodded.
“I’ll just keep following the doctor’s orders.” She joked after finishing her beverage.
“So, what was it you were talking about doing?” The latero asked curiously.
“I’m going to make some slight adjustments to the box.” Altheeda explained, patting the box and causing the tools inside it to jostle around. “Attach some straps and a hook so I’m not carrying this thing by hand all the time.”
“That’s not a bad idea, huh. Why do you take it everywhere?”
“…I’ve had it for a long time.”
Altheeda then picked up the box and began to walk to the other side of the lounge area, settling herself on the ground as the two watched her open the lid and organise her materials and tools that she needed for her job.
“Let me know when it’s my turn to take charge of the comms.” She spoke as she measured out leather straps.
Cere and Greez gave each other a look and he lifted his arms exasperatedly.
“You’re right.” He grumbled.
“We’ll just have to give it time.” Cere shrugged and spoke in a hushed tone. “At least we know she’s reliable, it’s good enough for now.”
He gave a sigh and walked towards the cockpit.
“You know where I’ll be if you need me.” He called out to the women.
“Not yet, Greez. You and I need to gather food for tonight’s meal.” Cere instructed.
“Greez.” She folded her arms.
“Fine, make it quick. That means you better take great damn care of this ship, Altheeda. You hear me?”
“You’re gonna make sure this baby is still in one piece when we get back.” Greez frowned.
“I’m looking after the ship?” She asked in disbelief.
“It’s only fair.” Cere explained. “We all take in turns to do different jobs.”
“I understand that; my main concern is danger.” Altheeda stood back onto her feet.
“I’ll give you one of my spare blasters if it makes you feel better.” She offered with a small smile.
“That’s kind of you.” The redhead girl spoke slowly.
“Think nothing of it.”
Cere brushed past her to walk down the corridor, disappearing out of sight. Greez paced around with folded arms and Altheeda watched awkwardly.
“You’re overthinking it. Nothing’s gonna get ya. It’s only for a little while.”
“We’ll see.” Altheeda mumbled.
Cere reappeared swiftly and handed the spare blaster over to her with a nod and the redheaded young woman took it graciously.
“You know how to use it?”
“Good. Now, just don’t come out the ship unless it’s for us and keep a lookout through the windscreen from time to time. You’ve got this Altheeda. I know you do.”
“See you later, kid.” Greez smirked, gathering a bag before exiting with Cere.
Altheeda stood wordlessly, blaster in hand as the sound of footsteps grew fainter. She found it odd to be trusted by somebody that wasn’t Cal or Prauf. For a split second, she wanted to welcome it with an open mind but being on the defensive, she set it aside. She stared down at the blaster, studying it with intrigue before setting on the sofa and resuming work on her box.
Time seemed to pass by significantly according to Altheeda, but she wasn’t sure whether realistically they had been gone for as long as she thought. She finally finished the job on her toolbox and tested it out, deciding to try the straps first and wearing the box like a backpack. She was surprised by how comfortable it was and the straps were the right size for her arms and shoulders. She smiled to herself, but it quickly faded due to the sound of gunfire in the distance.
She swallowed, then took a breath before swiping the blaster off the sofa and slowly stepping towards the cockpit. Her eyes narrowed, focusing on different parts of the area but couldn’t see anything that posed a threat. Shots rang in the air once again and she turned her head towards the door. She crept towards it and kept the blaster lowered temporarily then leant against the metal of the ship wall, positioned on the edge of the door in order to peek around it covertly. Voices and noises seemed to be edging closer to the ship and her breath hitched. The seemed to grow louder rather quickly and she decided to rapidly gather her courage and swing around the corner and aim.
“Greez! Cere!” She jumped, managing to clench her muscles in time to stop herself from firing.
“We got attacked.” Cere explained, slightly breathless.
As Cere was explaining her theories, Altheeda spotted something in her peripheral, she placed her full attention onto it and noticed a Stormtrooper a few metres behind them. Without any hesitation, she stretched out her arm in between Cere and Greez and fired twice, the last shot hitting her target. They fell silent and watched Altheeda stride over to the deceased trooper, looking away as she shot the helmet with a grimace on her face.
“S-Sorry… I just had to make sure… didn’t want them to pick up the coordinates.”
“For a moment there, I thought you were turning on us.” Greez spoke with a bewildered expression.
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Altheeda grew defensive. “I have no reason to!”
She then sighed and walked with her head lowered back into the Stinger Mantis, looking rather unsure of herself. She sat herself on the sofa and lightly tossed the blaster to one side. Greez and Cere followed behind shortly, setting aside the bag that was now filled with food.
“You sure gave that trooper some hell.” Greez noted.
“She was making sure the comms in the helmet were destroyed.” Cere explained.
“Ah, well that makes sense. I didn’t think you had that brutality in you.”
“I knew they had them built into their helmets, I just wasn’t sure whether they were trackable; I didn’t want to take that risk.”
Cere suddenly became wide eyed and quickly jogged towards their own comms system.
“We better warn Cal.” She called over to them as she put her headset on.
She rushed over to the comms and stood beside a seated Cere, anxiety swimming around in her stomach.
“Cal, can you hear me?” She asked as she pushed various different buttons.
“The Empire, they found the Zeffo.” Cal’s crackly voice was just about audible from the headset.
Altheeda drew in a hushed breath, concentrating with intense effort.
“If they were following the Mantis, we would have already been swamped by now.”
She had a point, with the exception of one Stormtrooper following them, they didn’t seem too bothered by them.
“Could they be looking for the tombs?” The Jedi suggested.
“Let’s hope not.” Cere replied gravely.
“I’ll try cracking into their comms, see what we find. Take care of yourself out there, Cal. Keep us updated.”
With a crackle, Cal’s voice seemed to disappear and left the room in complete silence as everyone dwelled on their thoughts.
Chapter 16: Chapter 16
As the trio rotated on managing the comms, Altheeda always seemed to miss the opportunity to talk to Cal. She didn’t mind too much, knowing that Cere and Greez would have been more helpful to speak with. When off comms duty, she spent her time organising the food they had brought back from their scavenge. She began pondering with her ideas on how to make it a meal for them all. After a while, she decided to pull up a stool to the kitchen counter and tinker with the drinks machine.
In the corner of her eye, she noticed Greez enter the lounge area from the cockpit and swivelled on the chair to face him. He made eye contact with her and she smiled at him before speaking.
“This ship; the Stinger Mantis, it’s a leisure ship, right?”
“Yeah.” Greez spoke casually.
“Do you struggle a lot in combat situations with it?” She quizzed curiously.
“Nah, I’m a good pilot.” He bragged.
“It wasn’t a question about your piloting abilities, you told us all about those.”
“Well, I guess we can use upgrades.” Greez spoke thoughtfully.
“Do you know the type of guns that are attached to the ship?”
“Why would I?”
“It’s your ship isn’t it?”
“No need to be judgey, kid.” Greez raised his hands. “I ain’t like you with your expert knowledge.”
“I’ll put it in simple terms for you then; do you want the Stinger Mantis to be more durable than leisurely?”
“Yeah, of course!”
“Then as well as performing inner maintenance in the ship, let me do some on the outside.”
“You can do that?”
“Well, I would need to get a look in when we’re not so busy. Then I’d need to assess what I could do for the ship.” Altheeda explain as she idly swung her wrench. “Do you have any spare materials or parts?”
“Eh, I don’t know.” Greez scratched his head.
“At some point, we should pay a visit to a shop – if it’s convenient of course. Obviously protecting people is more important.”
Greez appeared thoughtful for a moment then folded his arms.
“I’ll take it up with Cere, see what she says, you do have a point, kid. We need better equipment.”
Cere, meanwhile, perked up and put the headset on and pushed various buttons on the comms system. It had to have been Cal on the other side. Altheeda began to half-heartedly unscrew the bolts on the machine, pretending that she was not listening in to Cere’s replies in order to decipher the conversation topic. Greez decided to fully eavesdrop, turning to her direction.
“Follow it. Allow the Force to sharpen your instincts.” She instructed.
For a while, she was silent and that was when Altheeda decided to give a glance in her direction. She found she had lowered her headset, that the short-lived conversation was over.
“How’s he doing?” She asked, sliding herself off the stool.
“He’s approaching the eye of the storm.” Cere explained. “He’s doing well.”
“Do you have any idea what he might find?”
“We won’t know until he returns.”
“If he returns.” The latero added.
“Greez.” Cere scolded. “Don’t think like that.”
“What? It’s a possibility.”
She carried on reprimanding Greez as Altheeda stood with folded arms, mentally arguing with her own thoughts. She couldn’t help but think that Greez was right, that Cal may not make it back, the storm looked extremely dangerous. He may as well had been taking the path to his own demise. She knew what Cal was capable of; she knew he would be extra careful dealing with something so chaotic. She had to remain positive for her own sake. She would not let her turmoil show on her face.
“The boss just got me to make a rare apology and all I get is ‘huh?!’” Greez frowned.
“Well, um… okay.” She shrugged.
He grumbled under his breath and Cere shook her head at him.
“We all need to keep up a positive attitude around here.” She spoke, giving Altheeda a look.
“I’m fine. I had no issue in the first place.” The young girl replied, keeping a poker face.
“You can’t fool me, Altheeda.” She spoke, more of a statement than a reprimand.
“What do you mean?”
“I can read you more than you think.”
She paused, unsure of how to respond to Cere’s statement. She knew it was a method of wanting her to open up and trust. It must have been coming from a place of vulnerability on Cere’s part but knew an argument would ensue with she were to use that on her. They were all vulnerable, looking for people to trust; that was why on this occasion, Altheeda decided to hold back and become silent.
“When you gonna reassemble our drink machine?” Greez asked with folded arms.
“Now is not the time.”
“What did I do now?”
Amongst the conversation that took place, a crackle from the headset pried Altheeda out of her internal panic and she immediately swiped for the headset and put it over her ears. It didn’t muffle their voices too much but she was able to hear the voice on the line clearly.
“Cal – is that you?”
“Theeda – is that you?”
They both laughed at the same time and Altheeda; feeling eyes on the back of her head and hearing the voices behind her fall silent, stopped quickly and cleared her throat.
“Are you alright? Did you make it to the eye of the storm?”
“I’m fine, I made it. I’m now in the tomb – it’s massive!”
“Ask him about the Empire.” Cere leaned towards her and spoke in a low tone.
“What about the Empire, Cal?”
“There’s no sign of them down here.”
“That’s good. Just keep safe, ok?”
“You know I’ll try my best.”
“What about Cordova?” Cere hissed.
“And what about Cordova?” She repeated, rolling her eyes.
“I’m still unsure about what I’m supposed to find here. He can be a little…”
“Yeah, that’s a word for it.”
“Don’t give up, Cal. There has to be something down there. You got this far.”
“I’ll let you know if I find anything else. It was good to hear your voice, Theeda.”
She felt the connection cut off, knowing he left the conversation to proceed on. She sat there for a moment with the headset on, collecting herself and the tidbits of information Cal had given her.
“Is he still there?” Cere asked leaning over her.
“He ended the conversation.” She took the headset off and turned to face them on the chair.
“What did he say?”
“It’s alright Cere, let the kid talk.” Greez reassured.
“He made it into the tomb, he said there’s currently no sign of the Empire in that area but he’s unsure about what Cordova’s wanting from him – that he wasn’t being very direct.”
“Cordova was always quite eccentric.”
“Was that all?” Greez questioned.
“Yup, or do you both still want to press me with an endless amount of questions?”
The pair both fell silent and watched as Altheeda stood up and stared them down for a moment before turning away, proceeding to the drinks machine. They let her get on with putting it back together as they sat in the cockpit, trying to keep themselves occupied on something to do, not even noticing her silent exit to her cabin after she had finished with the machine.
Altheeda spent the rest of the time calming herself down, sat in the middle of her cabin with her tools placed in front of her, giving each one an individual clean with a cloth. She began to elaborate on her earlier thoughts about their vulnerability and doubt towards her. In the bigger scale of things, they were all in the same position, they all had equal ground to question each other’s intentions, yet she could figure out why Cere was especially fixated on her. According to her words, she wasn’t hard to figure out, yet she wanted to know more. She couldn’t help but think her behaviour was linked to something her past, perhaps her experience of being a Jedi?
She seemed to trust Greez but time had allowed her to do so. She said much on how and why they met and teamed up. That also intrigued Altheeda. Greez seemed the most laid-back of them all; therefore, she was more eager to interact with the latero male, yet what was his past? Altheeda had so many questions piling that she decided she could use as her own ammunition if they tried to push her too hard once again. She didn’t necessarily want to, but if pushed, then needs must.
Knocking echoed in her cabin, coming from the outside of the door. She sighed and swivelled around to the direction.
“Yes?” She asked, with a hint of animosity to her voice.
The doors parted to reveal, to her surprise; a glad, but exhausted looking Cal on the other side. Her face instantly lit up and she beamed from ear to ear.
“Well, ‘hello’ to you too.” He smirked.
“You’re back!” She exclaimed, as she rose to her feet.
He strode towards her and they both open their arms out for each other. He drew her closer and she squeezed him tight, enjoying the sudden rush of happiness in her chest.
“Wait, where’s BD-1?” Her voice was muffled.
“I left him with Cere and Greez while I went to go get you. How was your day?” He asked as he let go, raising his eyebrow.
“Well, tensions were high. Not always from my part.”
“I guessed so.”
“Did Greez and Cere tell you?”
“I know nothing. I walked in, greeted them and asked where you were and I noticed they seemed a little unsettled, especially when I mentioned you.”
“That’ll do it.” She folded her arms. “Look, enough about me, there’s more important things. What did you find?”
“I wanted to get everybody together to talk about it. Are you going to be able to manage that?”
“I can push it to one side as long as they don’t resurface it.”
“I’m sure they won’t on this occasion.” Cal spoke in a reassuring tone and gently took her wrist in his hand. “You gonna come with me?”
“Alright.” She smiled, following his lead.
Chapter 17: Chapter 17
When the pair of redheads entered the lounge area, side by side, BD-1 scuttled off the dashboard in the cockpit, where Cere and Greez sat, beginning to approach them. Awkward eye contact was exchanged between Altheeda, Cere and Greez until the redheaded girl diverted her attention to BD-1. The bot greeted Altheeda after not seeing her for the entire day. She knelt down to him and noticed something slightly different about the little robot.
“Someone’s freshened up your scomp link, BD-1.”
He did a happy twirl and Cal let out a soft chuckle as he walked ahead.
“That would be me.”
“Did you have fun out there, mate?” She asked as she took her seat in the cockpit.
BD-1 robotically chirped in a content manner and Altheeda laughed at the answer. When everyone was sat in their seats, Greez decided to open the conversation;
“You did some nice work out there, kid. Tell me that this visit wasn’t for nothin’”
“I found the tomb of a Zeffo Sage.” Cal announced as he swivelled playfully on his chair. “They definitely used the Force.”
Altheeda listened to their words, propping her head up with her hand and her elbow resting on the arm of the chair.
“An advanced civilisation of Force users who mysteriously vanished… It’s no wonder Master Cordova became so obsessed. Did you find anything else?” Cere asked aloud.
“Before their disappearance, the Zeffo journeyed to the planet Kashyyyk.”
“Oh…” Greez sighed.
“Cordova knew a Wookiee named Tarfful, maybe we can go and find him?” He proposed to the latero male.
“L-look, things are real bad down in Kashyyyk. T-The Empire’s muscling in on those Wookiees big time.”
“Then we’ve got to put up a good fight.” Cal smirked, giving Greez a light fist bump on his upper arm.
“It must be done, Greez.” Cere explained. “We know the risks.”
“What Cal is asking is too high of a risk. I aint sure about it.”
“So, what do you suppose we do? If you’re that worried why don’t you go with him?” Cere smirked as Cal stifled a laugh.
“I’m not leaving this pilot’s seat you hear me?” Greez then looked over to Altheeda, who had just begun to zone out. “If you want someone to go with the kid then take the other; take Altheeda.”
Altheeda, Cere and Cal all spoke at once; their eyes darting from one person to the other.
“She’s not going, Greez.” Cere argued.
“Going where?” Altheeda asked with a puzzled expression.
“To Kashyyyk; with me.” Cal replied, going quiet during the last section of the sentence.
“Uh, I don’t know…”
“C’mon – it’s a great idea! It’s my idea!” He gestured to Altheeda, growing enthusiastic about his sudden thought. “You even said, Altheeda, that you needed parts to upgrade the Stinger Mantis.”
“Is this your idea of getting back at me for earlier?” Altheeda scowled.
“This is your chance. Whilst Cal is doing his Jedi stuff you can scavenge for parts. It’s perfect, don’t ya think, Cere?”
Everyone turned to Cere, awaiting her final verdict on the proposal. Her eyes were lowered as she mulled on her thoughts. The tension was thick in the air, they all stared at Cere in a pleading manner but for different reasons. She then looked up and smirked at them all.
“You should go Altheeda.”
“Yes, an idea of mine is being used!” Greez cheered. “No need to thank me.”
“I’m not going.” She stated flatly.
“Let me have a word with you for a moment.” Cere stood from her chair and gestured for Altheeda to follow.
“It’s okay, Theeda.” Cal coaxed.
She gave Cal a confused look before awkwardly rising from her seat and walking sheepishly behind Cere. She led her to the counter so they were out of earshot. Altheeda stood firmly, her whole demeanour was annoyed and negative and Cere tried to soften it with a small smile.
“Tell me; why don’t you want to go?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“It’s just strange to me that you’ve spent a large majority of your time with Cal and now you’re presented with the opportunity again – you don’t want to go.”
“It’s not Cal.”
“I know it isn’t.”
Altheeda pursed her lips, reluctant to speak or even look at Cere.
“Are you going to tell me?” Cere pressed. “Just humour me for one second.”
She tutted, her arms folded, her finger tapping against the opposite upper arm. To Cere’s surprise, her expression softened slightly and she drew in a breath.
“I know what I’m capable of. I’m not capable of what you want me to do. It’s as simple as that.”
Cere cocked her head watching as Altheeda had her head lowered in shame.
“You know why I push you, ask you all those questions? It’s because I see potential in you, but I don’t know where it comes from. With Cal, it’s easy – I know what motivates him and what he’s endured in his life that’s made him the person he is today.”
The redhead eyed Cere carefully, she gave her another smile in an attempt to break her defensive body language down.
“You need start thinking of what positive things you can offer. You seem to be an excellent mechanic, you have fishing skills…”
“There’s no ships to fix or tear apart out there.”
“Altheeda, you’re not on Bracca anymore. You can fix other things; I’ve seen you do it. Your knowledge with Cal’s powers would make a great combination. You know each other, you can work well together, so you can do it again.”
“Do you think I could bring something useful to all of this?” Altheeda spoke uncertainly.
“I wouldn’t have said so if I didn’t believe it. Sometimes, it is good to recognise your weaknesses, but that shouldn’t take away focus from your strengths.”
The young woman nodded slowly, her shoulders slumping after becoming less tense.
“You find it hard to trust people.” Cere said with a soft tone to her voice.
“So do you.” Altheeda replied, releasing her thoughts out in the open, almost in an accusing manner.
To her surprise, Cere let out a brief chuckle at her retort.
“You’re absolutely right. Just remember we are all in the same situation. If you don’t feel like trusting my belief in you just yet, trust the belief in yourself.”
Altheeda wondered if she had any belief in herself. She knew that she had talents in mechanics, was that enough to believe in? She was doubtful about whether that would be enough to keep her alive out there or benefit Cal in any way. She figured that maybe she did have to start focusing on their current situation and let go of the old normality at Bracca. It had been taken from her too quickly to properly process; she was only just getting used to her environment aboard the Stinger Mantis. She then made eye contact with Cere and gave her the faintest of smiles.
“I’m sorry for earlier.”
“It’s alright, there’s no hard feelings.”
“I’ll think about it…I’m not saying ‘yes’… It’s a maybe for now.”
“You can think about it when we’re in hyperspace.” Cere smirked and began to walk over back to the cockpit. “Ready to take your seat?”
“Give me a second.” She smiled as she jogged to the door leading to the corridor, making a hurried pace to her cabin, her tools were just as she had left them, placed across the ground.
She took her time placing each one back neatly into the box before closing it up and holding it by the handle. Next, she wandered into Cal’s cabin and examined it out of curiosity. There was not much in there, but in the corner of her eye, she spotted something that pleasantly surprised her. His headphones and music player were left on his bed, she was relieved to see it, she smiled at it warmly and decided to take it, stowing it away in her box before she decided to wear it like a backpack, using the leather straps she had modified onto it. When she felt ready, she made a brisk walk back into the lounge area, stopping abruptly after seeing Cal with the bot perched on his back and Cere having just finished a conversation and feeling a sense of melancholy in the air. BD-1 made some noises to bring their attention to her.
“Sorry, did I interrupt?”
“No, not at all.” Cere reassured, returning to the cockpit to take her seat.
Altheeda glanced awkwardly over to Cal, who gave her a forced smile until his eyes registered what was on her back.
“Are you wearing your toolbox on your back?” He asked curiously.
“Yeah, while you were gone I gave it some tweaks.”
“Does this mean you’re coming to Kashyyyk?” He asked with a cheeky grin.
“I said I would think about it on the way there.”
“That’s not a lot of time.” He teased.
“If you keep talking to me then I won’t be thinking about it all.” She smirked as she passed him to sit down in the cockpit.
A crackle filled the air and a broadcast from the Empire was being played out loud, boasting of their military propaganda. Altheeda clenched her fists and Greez rolled his eyes.
“You hear that garbage?”
“Where’s it coming from?” Altheeda grumbled.
“Please turn it off, Greez.” Cere instructed.
“Those lying Imps! Do you think anyone believes this crap?”
“Many do on the Core Worlds. Their lives wouldn’t have changed much since the Empire took over.” Cere replied, giving a nod of thanks when the broadcast stopped.
With all this political talk, the redheaded girl couldn’t help but think of her family on Naboo. It suddenly dawned on her that after all the years of trying to get away from them, she got her wish, in a twisted way. She had already become estranged to them but the events on Bracca was the final divider. Altheeda pondered on what their current lives would entail, she heard rumours, during the remainder of her time on Naboo, that her father was grovelling in his role as a senator to the Empire; would he have known about her escape from Bracca? She wasn’t sure if he would have cared and she was at peace with that.
Once everyone was seated, Greez began the take-off procedure for the Stinger Mantis and navigated it into space. When he propelled the ship into hyperspace; he resumed the conversation.
“Some of them are even richer than before! Not like the expendable worlds, not like Lateron.”
“As long as the Emperor keeps the right kinds of people happy, it will never stop.” Cere lamented.
“That’s why we need the Jedi.” Cal pitched in.
“Then we better get this holo-thing fast.” Greez replied.
BD-1 scuttled around the dashboard, bringing amusement to the group. After a while, Greez changed the subject to create lighter conversation.
“This has put a lot of wear and tear on the Mantis.”
“Like it was perfect before?” Cere responded.
“It was a masterpiece but now… well, at least we have an in-house mechanic now, eh?”
He then turned to address Altheeda with a smirk, breaking her away from her deep thinking.
“You gonna go and get some parts for us, kid?”
She only gave a hum as a reply. Luckily, the exit of hyperspace drove the attention away from her, finding themselves approaching Kashyyyk’s atmosphere and a threatening assembly of Empire ships.
“Woah, please, tell me we’re not going to run that blockade.” Cal asked warily.
“Only as a last resort. I’ve managed to rig the Mantis’ transponder to transmit Imperial signals. Hey, Greez.”
“Keep the power signature low and act like we belong.”
“Just like Bracca, no sweat.”
Greez and Cal went to reach for an overhead switch at the same time, brushing hands, which made Altheeda giggle quietly to herself watching it unfold.
“I don’t need another set of hands, kid. Just keep eyes on the scanner, please?” Greez lightly scolded.
Altheeda stared out at the vast amount of stars and ships before them, her eyes squinting with great focus.
“I don’t see anything threatening just yet.”
“I’m not picking anything up on here either.” Cal announced.
“They seemed to be preoccupied with something on ground – we’re clear.” Cere spoke to Greez.
As they lowered into their decent, stretches of forests laid underneath them, yet they couldn’t help but notice the brash presence of the Empire rooted in the planet like a form of sickness.
“The Empire is devouring Kashyyyk for its natural resources.” Cere spoke as she operated the comms. “Wookiees have been enslaved… or displaced.”
The ship suddenly jolted as two ships whizzed past them. Altheeda clung onto her seat and watched them entangle with each other into the horizon of the sky.
“That was close, kid!” Greez grumbled to Cal. “You’re supposed to be watching the monitors.”
“Guerrilla fighters! Wookiees and off-worlders ambushing an Imperial convoy.”
“Walkers approaching their position.”
“Tarfull could be with them.” The Jedi exclaimed.
“Tarfull could be anywhere! Like deep in the ground, do we wanna get caught up in that battle down there?”
“We don’t have any more options… and they’ll die without out help.” Cal spoke solemnly.
“So, what’s your plan?” Cere asked, looking at him warily.
Cal locked eyes with Altheeda. She could tell his gaze was desperate and begging. She instantly knew that he wanted her with him. Her features on her face softened, coming to terms that she had to prove herself and put herself at risk. It wasn’t as if she didn’t want to do it, she still had strong doubts about whether she could do it.
“Sabotage. We used to scrap walkers on Bracca. I can jack one, but you can jack one in quicker time. I’ve seen you do it many times.”
Altheeda sighed, knowing he had a point. She was rather familiar with the walkers, almost too familiar.
“I need you to do this with me, Altheeda.” Cal spoke softly. “I know you can do this, better than anyone can.”
There was no way that she could deny somebody in need, especially him. It meant a lot to her that he had strong faith in her. Despite the pressure building up in her chest, she gave him a nod accompanied with a smile.
“I’ll give it my best shot.”
“Ha! Get a load of this, he thinks we’re back in the Clone Wars.” Greez chuckled, dissolving the moment between the two.
“Greez, get us close to those walkers.” Cere commanded.
“Got everything?” Cal asked his fellow redheaded companion.
“Yeah.” She replied, straightening herself as she stood up.
Cal smirked and flounced into the lounge area. BD-1 beeped excitedly, leaping off the dashboard and taking his place on Cal’s back. Altheeda was following in suit in a rather mousey form. Cere had joined them to see them off.
“Those walkers double as troop transports so once you get inside… be careful.” She warned.
The door to the Mantis opened to reveal endless clouds and sky before them. The wind whipped up Altheeda’s waves, her half up-do a tangled heap obscuring her vision slightly. She couldn’t bear to think what the next step for them to do would be. She mentally pleaded that there would be another way down.
“Time for ‘no freeze Greez’ to work his magic!” Greez called to them.
“Hey do me a favour you two?” Cere spoke. “Stay alive down there?”
“Sounds good.” Altheeda joked nervously.
“I’ll add it to the plan.” Cal spoke with a goofy smile.
He noticed how fretful Altheeda had become. He took his hand in hers and squeezed it firmly.
“Don’t over think it, you’re fine, you’re with me.”
“Uh huh.” She replied after gulping.
She winced and took a loud, sharp breath inwards.
“Just do it.”
“Don’t hate me after this!” Cal shouted over the wind and guided them both gently out onto the shaky ramp.
The wind was making her already watery eyes stream down her face. She could just about hear BD-1 whirring away along with the howls of the breeze. They teetered over the edge, looking down at the ominous grey clouds below.
“Alright, if you’re jumpin’ you better do it now!” Greez yelled to them.
“You ready for a swim you two?” Cal asked in jest.
BD-1 gave a positive response and Altheeda just nodded, fear gripping her throat and leaving her speechless. Cal once again gave her hand a reassuring squeeze, then he threw themselves off the ramp. She felt herself freefall and Cal’s cheering and enthusiasm echoed in her eardrums. The next thing she knew, the coldness of the air was replaced with the sharp coldness of water and she was submerged in a muffled darkness.
Chapter 18: Chapter 18
To her it felt like forever, but realistically, it didn’t take long for her survival and swimming skills to kick in and Altheeda clawed her way up to the water’s surface. Instantly, she took a gulp of air to replenish her deprived lungs and kept herself afloat in an expert fashion. Her head whipped around, she noticed smoke coming from a nearby source, but was unable to locate Cal or BD-1. Despite her panic, she kept her breathing calm and peered into the water, trying to spot any dark shadows that could have been them. She was close to diving back down in the water to go grab them but before she could, the little droid popped its head above the water, making her jolt back and lower into the water slightly.
“BD-1! I’m so glad you’re alright – where’s Cal?””
BD-1 beeped a reply and Altheeda frowned.
“B-But I don’t see-“
Water shot outwards and upwards as Cal emerged from the depths below. He too drew in a gulp of air and adjusted to his surroundings. Altheeda exhaled sharply, releasing breath she didn’t even realise she had held in. She swam closer to him, studying the water droplets that were hanging off his eyelashes and strands of hair. He moved them away from his vision, scraping his hair back whilst staring into Altheeda’s blue-eyed concerned gaze. He too, couldn’t help but notice the water droplets on her face, in particular the ones that were balancing on the tip of her button nose.
“Wasn’t that fun?” He said in between breaths.
“Well if that’s your idea of fun.” Altheeda replied, trying not to smile but letting a small one slip into view.
“Are you alright?” He asked taking his enthusiasm down a notch.
“I’m still alive, you’re still alive and BD-1 is still alive so that’s all that matters.”
“Good, let’s do this.” Cal spoke with an air of confidence about him.
He waited for BD-1 to climb onto his back and began to swim ahead. Altheeda caught up to him rather quickly and swam alongside him, trying to avoid the brambles and weeds in their path. They headed to the direction of the walkers until one was hit by a ship that had been badly damaged and on fire. BD-1 made warning sounds at this as it wobbled from the impact but managed not to collapse onto its side. More smoke contributed to the atmosphere. Pieces of debris erratically flew towards them and Altheeda tapped Cal’s shoulder frantically.
“Take a breath and grab my hand.” She instructed.
They both drew in a breath and Altheeda spread the water in front of her with her free hand and propelled them down into the water’s depths once again. Cal obeyed and allowed her to lead them deeper, noticing the debris that was hurtling at a dangerous speed towards them, had slowed down as it entered the water and float downwards to the bottom. It was then he realised what her plan was. When it was safe to do so, she brought them back up to the surface, panting for air. Cal smiled at her, impressed by her tactic.
“I wouldn’t have thought of that if you weren’t here.”
“Really now.” Altheeda spoke dubiously.
“Where did you learn to swim like that?”
“I grew up by Solleu River, it’s pretty much a given that I’ve learned to swim from a young age.”
“That was a close one, you saved us, Theeda.”
“Thank me later, let’s get to the walker.”
They both swam neck and neck towards the slightly damaged walker that had been hit.
“How do we get inside?” Cal breathed, pausing when they got underneath it.
BD-1 beeped an informative answer and Cal nodded.
“Right, let’s try the leg.”
The Jedi began the treacherous climb first, with his companion going after him. Together they ascended the structure of the walker, using the entangled vines to navigate across each section. The ships above began to take notice and sent a rain of gunfire down upon them as the duo raced to get to safety. They stood on top of the AT-AT and opened the panel on top of the walker’s ‘head’ area. They jumped into it, narrowly missing more incoming fire and shutting the panel behind them. Altheeda blew into her hands and rubbed them as Cal caught his breath.
“How is everyone?”
BD-1 gave a chirpy response and Altheeda nodded.
“Glad to be out of the cold.”
He looked around for a moment and raised a finger pointing upwards.
“Imagine the amount of Stormtroopers above or below us right now.” He spoke gravely.
“Damnit, I didn’t even think to bring a blaster. That was silly.” Altheeda tutted at herself.
“I’ll cover you, you can take one of theirs if we come across one.”
“Can we also grab a medical kit? I know Cere told me not to, but I want to check on my ankle now the bandage is wet.”
“A wet bandage won’t do you any good.”
BD-1 made an impatient sounding noise and Altheeda lightly chuckled at him.
“Alright, BD-1 we’ll get a move on.”
Cal laughed at the droid on his back and then they began to squeeze their way through towards the head of the AT-AT. They managed to reach another hatch that appeared to lead towards the centre. Faint voices of Stormtroopers spoke above them, pronouncing a comrade of theirs dead after attempting to treat them. Cal put a finger to his lips and Altheeda nodded in response. He lightly pressed his palm against the door of the hatch and waited for a brief moment. When he felt ready, he opened it up and activated his lightsaber, blocking the incoming fire and slaying all the troopers present. Altheeda watched on curiously, she had never seen him so sure of himself and confident, not even on Bracca. She was being treated to a new side of Cal and she wanted to learn more about it. Once it was all clear, he turned to see her peering from the hatch and gestured for her to climb out.
She gave him a nod of thanks and surveyed the room, noticing a medical kit next to the body of the ill-fated Stormtrooper that was spoken about and she made a beeline to it.
“I’ll take that.” She muttered as she picked it up.
Afterwards they crouched down and made their way to its cockpit entrance through the tube. The doors opened, sensing movement and the two Stormtroopers in control had not picked up on their presence. They all crept in a hunched position towards them and were directly behind their chairs. Altheeda gave Cal a look, symbolising that she wanted some sort of signal for when to strike. He then turned to BD-1 and gave him a nod and the droid instantly sprang into action.
He leapt onto the dashboard, leaving the two troopers perplexed by his sudden appearance. Altheeda watched on as Cal stood up from behind them and bumped their heads together with great strength and they slumped off their chairs into a heap on the floor.
“Wow, I can’t believe that actually worked!” He exclaimed.
“We actually have control of a walker.” Altheeda spoke with a shocked expression on her face.
She took a seat into the vacant chair next to the one Cal had taken and she gave him a look of disbelief. He giggled at her expression and raised his hand for a high five. She grinned back at him and gave him an enthusiastic high five. He held it there for a moment, locking his fingers with hers briefly and letting go gently. She didn’t seem to mind or take much notice of the action. BD-1 beeped as he walked across the dashboard, obscuring the view.
“BD, you’re kind of in the way, mate.”
The bot gave a playful response and jumped into her lap causing the pair of redheads to laugh.
“Well okay, make yourself comfortable, I guess.” She shrugged.
Cal began to fiddle with the controls, becoming rather unsure.
“Leave it to the expert, Cal.” She winked as she quickly activated various controls and gently moved the walker forward.
A hologram of a Stormtrooper appeared on the dashboard and diverted their attention to it. Altheeda rolled her eyes and looked back at the windscreen as she activated more controls.
“Can you shut that guy up?” Cal jabbed his thumb at the hologram.
BD-1 made quick work of it, beeping away at his task and jolted back onto his place on Altheeda’s lap once he was finished.
“Better.” He spoke, relief evident on his face.
“You didn’t tell me that babysitting was part of my job description on this mission.” She joked as she casually operated the giant structure.
“It’s part of mine too, believe me.”
BD-1 objected with loud, shrill boops and whistling. Cal then turned to Altheeda and gave her a reassuring, determined grin.
“Let’s do this.”
“Let’s do this.” She repeated with some enthusiasm.
Altheeda pushed a level forward, sending the heavy structure lumbering at a slow pace, she was trying to position the walker in the best position to fire at the one in front of them. Cal started pressing buttons, sending gunfire that hit the AT-AT before them. She turned to him and he gave her a goofy smile.
“So, that’s the blasters.”
“You can handle those, then.” She raised her eyebrows in a playful manner.
The two worked harmoniously to take down the walker in their way. They didn’t have to be inside the vessel to tell how confused the Stormtroopers were inside. Cal continued to put more pressure as he fired the guns rapidly and Altheeda continued to push the level forward, trying to move the walker as fast as it could allow. BD-1 hopped around and they worked around the droid, both deep in concentration. As they grew closer to the opposing walker, the Jedi scored a devastating hit on it and smoke began to brew from it. He then delivered on final strike and the AT-AT became engulfed in flames and fell beside theirs.
Altheeda cheered and clenched her fists in a triumphant manner. BD-1 jumped and span in the air, doing a happy dance of sorts. Cal smiled at them waiting for them to finish their small celebrations. She then regained control and began plodding their walker onwards, it was then she noticed the minor cracks in their windscreen that were an indicator of the kind of damage they took during their attack. Electricity fizzled above them and the steam from above blew their hair in and out of their faces.
“What’s that over there?’ She frowned, pointing below them.
“Let’s get a closer look.” Cal instructed and Altheeda gave him a nod.
She manoeuvred the walker towards the commotion before them and noticed Stormtroopers attacking various people. Cal tried his best to aim at the Stormtroopers and they followed suit to their previous victims and appeared rather confused at what they thought was friendly fire. As they proceeded, a man leapt onto their walker and caused a loud bang – making Altheeda jump in her seat and let go of the controls. He looked confused by their appearance, obviously expecting Stormtroopers to be inside.
“Who are you?”
“A team that’s just brought an AT-AT to the table. Who are you?” Cal retorted.
“Someone’s who making the Empire angry. We’re advancing on an Imp landing pad ahead, we wouldn’t mind some fire support.”
With that, the mysterious man leapt off the walker and allowed them to move forwards and they resumed their open fire on the Stormtroopers attempting to thwart them.
“That scared me.” She breathed.
“Keep moving, let’s make ‘em even angrier.”
“I like the sound of that.” She laughed.
Then she began to refocus and with some element of smoothness, she steered the AT-AT towards the landing pad as he continued to blast at the Empire’s troops. BD-1 continued to climb around the dashboard occasionally stomping on sparks that would fly out of it. Cal took no time in collapsing a bridge to allow them to pass through.
“Nice one, Cal!”
“They won’t be using that anytime soon.”
They closed in on the landing pad and Altheeda followed Cal’s firing direction to allow him to kill the advancing troopers.
“We need to protect the guerrilla fighters.” He spoke with a fixated expression.
“Got it, I’ll divert the focus onto us.”
Altheeda navigated the AT-AT towards a ship that was about to take off, he began to rapidly fire at it and with the same aggression, the ship fired at them, causing the pair to violent rock and slam their backs into their seats. He was slowly giving damage to the enemy ship but it wasn’t quick enough, they were taking an increased amount of hits and time was becoming scarce.
“There must be a heavier weapon.” She thought aloud. “This isn’t doing much.”
Cal looked down at the controls, his eyes frantically scanning the buttons and levers. He then pushed on one and it sent a heavy fire towards the ship, causing it to explode and make its fall from the sky, unfortunately it was descending towards them.
“It’s headed for us, can you do anything?” He asked worriedly.
“It’s far too slow, we don’t have time to move out the way!” She shook her head gravely.
BD-1 beeped wildly and Altheeda immediately got herself into the bracing position.
“Hold on!” Cal shouted.
Altheeda shut her eyes tightly, hearing the crunch of the glass and the grinding of metal ring in her ears. She felt herself teeter with the walker and her body slam against the dashboard, knowing that if she was lucky she would leave alive and with various bruises on her body. She could just about hear Cal call out for her and BD-1 and felt something shield her from the impact, but the sequence of events happened too quickly for her to fully register what happened.
There was silence, aside from the light crackle of flames. Altheeda became aware that she was still conscious and fluttered her eyes open in shock. Her eyes darted everywhere, trying to figure out where she had been tossed to in the cockpit by the rough crash they endured. She noted that they were no longer in the chairs as they were now empty and she still felt something resting across her back. She shifted her body to get a full look on what it was and found it to be Cal’s upper body. She noted that he must have launched himself towards her in an attempt to shield her. She then felt the cold, metal legs of BD-1 kicking her hip and she moved once again to give him room. She looked back at Cal and noticed that he was not moving, but before she spoke, he grunted and stiffly pushed himself off from Altheeda’s back.
“Cal… are you okay?” She coughed, taking notice of the smoke entering her body.
“I’ll be fine.” He croaked.
BD-1 scuttled towards Cal and dispensed a glowing green liquid in a small canister. Altheeda parted her mouth, trying to find the words to say but was too intrigued by the bot.
“Did you just...?”
BD-1 beeped and ran over to her dispensing another of the same canisters next to her hand. She picked it up gently and looked away from her arm where she injected it, wincing slightly before feeling her body heal and ease of pain. She looked down at the object in the palm of her hand and let out a breath before scrunching it in her hand. She clambered onto her feet and helped Cal to stand. His eyes seemed to twinkle when they met hers and she felt the same sensation she experienced when he stayed with her on Naboo. She dwelled on it briefly before realising she was becoming side-tracked and turned her attention to BD-1. He looked up at the two redheads curiously and Altheeda showed him the empty canister in her hand.
“Since when can you dispense stim canisters?”
He gave her a proud sequence of beeps and she smiled at him and gave him some pats on the head.
She then straightened up and smiled back at the Jedi.
“And thank you, Cal. You did great back there.”
“Thank you for all your help.” He replied softly.
“Let’s get out of here.” She gestured after giving a nod of thanks, picking up the medical kit before proceeding out of the cockpit.
Cal quickly became focused and went after her as BD-1 raced ahead of them. They reached the panel they entered from and he overtook them to open it up. The two redheads and the droid clambered out of the AT-AT wreckage, small fires surrounded them as they climbed down to an unaffected patch. For a moment, they stopped to catch their breath, relieved that it was fresher in contrast to the stuffiness of the confined space that was the cockpit. BD-1 made a short beep in form a question and Cal was quick to answer.
“No, we are not doing that again.”
“Why not? It was all a bit of fun.” She teased as she walked alongside him.
“I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not.”
Altheeda simply gave him a playful smirk in reply and then focused on what was ahead of them, noticing a figure approach them from the smoke.
Chapter 19: Chapter 19
“You just wrecked a perfectly good walker. You got names?”
The man they had very briefly become acquainted with on the AT-AT marched closer towards them, examining the pair of them with great intrigue. His cape danced with the wind and his armour reflected the sunlight.
“Cal Kestis.” They shook hands with each other in firm grips.
The man stood in his tracks with a brooding expression forming on his face. Cal picked up on the strange energy and gave her a concerned glance. The man eventually offered out his hand.
She tucked the medical kit under her arm and shook his hand with as much confidence as she could muster up, admittedly it was not much.
“What are you both doing on Kashyyyk?” He asked as he gestured for them to walk with him.
“Looking for somebody.” Cal explained.
Saw turned to Altheeda’s direction as she walked in silence, not realising at first, she was being stared at until she looked up narrowed her eyes in confusion.
“I’m helping him…” She stuttered.
“What are you doing here?” Cal tried to steer the attention from her.
“My companions and I travelled to Kashyyyk to disrupt Imperial supply lines.”
Something shiny glinted in the sky, catching the attention of the redheaded duo. The Stinger Mantis had flown towards them and Cal shouted at it and they both waved their hands in the air. They all proceeded towards it as it made its landing.
“Can you tell me who you’re looking for?” Saw inquired to Cal.
“A Wookiee Chieftain named Tarfful.”
Saw stopped in his tracks, causing the pair to stop and look at him uncertainly.
“Tarfful is impossible to find. There’s a reason he’s evaded the Empire for this long.”
“He’s a freedom fighter?” Cal questioned as Altheeda walked in silence.
“He’s the freedom fighter. A symbol of the Wookiee resistance, striking at the Empire from the Shadowlands.”
Cere and Greez strode out of the Mantis and Altheeda gave them glad smiles. She was actually relieved to see them again, which surprised her slightly – she didn’t make attachments easily but she guessed that in these desperate times, she was grateful to gain them. She was still reluctant to call them friends just yet, but she was warming up to them and enjoyed their company. Cere and Greez smiled back at her awkwardly, picking up on her change of attitude towards them.
“Cere, Greez – this is Saw.” The Jedi introduced his friends to his new acquaintance.
“How you doin’?” Greez spoke as Cal gave him a pat on the back as a form of ‘hello.’
“What do you want with Tarfull?” Saw continued giving a brief nod to Greez and Cere.
“The Jedi are dead.”
“Not all of them.” Cere piped up.
Cal then lifted his lightsaber into plain sight. Saw placed his hands on his hips and examined the weapon suspiciously.
“Did you get that off a corpse?”
“My master gave it to me.”
BD-1 gave a beep in agreement and everyone glanced at the droid for a moment before Saw addressed Cal once again.
“This pad supports an Imperial Refinery that runs on Wookiee slave labour. My intel suggests that some of the captives being held there are guerrilla fighters.”
“I should help them.” Cal thought aloud. “One of them might know how to reach Tarfful.”
“It’s possible.” Saw acknowledged.
“Woah, wait a minute, hold on, wait a minute.” Greez interrupted, to which Altheeda smirked at. “The Mantis works wonders, I mean it’s a great ship, excellent pilot, but… it’s not built for close support.”
“We’ll stay here and monitor any Imperial transmissions.” Cere added. “With some luck we’ll intercept any distress calls.”
“I appreciate it.” He then turned to Altheeda, who held his gaze when she realised he wanted her attention. “You a mechanic of some sorts?”
“Did the toolbox give it away?” She spoke sarcastically.
“Can we have a talk?”
“She works for us.” Cere said flatly.
“I don’t want to employ her. I just wish to talk to her for a few moments. It’s that simple.”
“Well, can I give an answer as I am the one it concerns?” She asked, glancing at Cere and she gave her a nod.
“Go on.” Saw folded his arms.
“We can talk.” She nodded.
Saw began to walk ahead and she stared at the medical kit in her hands then offloaded it to Greez, who looked at it with a confused frown on his face.
“Can you hold this for me? Thanks.”
Cal looked conflicted and stood with folded arms, he wanted to prevent her from being alone with the man they had only just met moments ago, but he wanted to let her make her own decisions and give her the chance to look out for herself. He remained still as he watched her go.
“I’ll catch up with you all later.” She called out to them as she gave them a wave and jogged to catch up with Saw.
They walked towards the centre of the landing site, settling next to a cliff to be out of earshot from everyone. Altheeda had her arms folded as the man stood in silence for a while.
“You interest me.” He began.
“You don’t know?”
“No…” She replied, growing more perplexed by the topic of the conversation.
“You’re nothing like what I thought a senator’s daughter would be.” He spoke with intrigue.
Her eyes widened and she slowly backed away so she was stood directly against the cliff, feeling the rough texture against her spine. Her breathing had quickened and words were unable to form on her lips for what felt like the longest time.
“There’s a warrant out with your name on it.” He stated as he paced around.
“Someone didn’t appreciate you helping out that Jedi.”
“So, are you just going to turn me in, then?” She asked in a low voice, clenching her fists tightly, feeling the skin on her knuckles stretch.
“Nope.” He replied nonchalantly.
She gave him a bewildered look as he paused, waiting for her to say something but then he carried on once he realised she wasn’t going to talk easily.
“Senator Reeve – who is he to you?”
“No one.” She spat.
“Should I be asking who he was to you, instead?” He rephrased the question, putting strong emphasis on the word ‘was.’
“He’s my father…” Altheeda spoke sourly.
Saw gave a hum to her statement and continued to walk in front of her with a brooding expression.
“That’s very interesting… You know why I won’t turn you in?”
“A father wouldn’t sell out his own daughter unless he had very strong motives to.”
“He issued it?”
Her eyes were blank and her arms remained folded. She felt nothing, she should have seen it coming, but her mind was too occupied in the present to think of the past. She has moved on from her family; she didn’t even give a second thought to them wanting her dead. She was more concerned at how it would affect her on missions. She would have to be careful, even more careful than she already was. Yet, would it truly change anything? She was already being chased by the Empire.
“I don’t know what exactly you did to make your father this angry, but it’s clearly for the right reasons; I can tell that much. You’re on a different side to him – you’re on the side for freedom.”
“Of course, I am.”
“That was all I wanted to find out.” He nodded.
“Why did you tell me this?” She spoke curiously rather than angry.
“To see how you would react – what your true intentions were. The Empire has spies everywhere.”
“And you thought I was a spy?” She narrowed her eyes.
“I never said that.” He spoke calmly, still in control of the situation. “But can you blame me for wanting to take precautions?”
She went to speak but was silenced by Saw raising his hand to stop her.
“You don’t need to defend yourself - just consider this a warning.”
Her heartbeat was rapid and her chest was tight with nervousness. A strand of hair fell in her face and she moved a shaky hand to brush it away. Saw then changed the subject and gestured to her toolbox.
“How long have you been a mechanic for?”
“I was actually a scrapper, I did that for many years – I taught myself a lot of things.”
“I know Cere said you were a part of her crew, but if you ever have time – I’d like to challenge you on that.” He smiled, determination evident in his eyes.
“I’ll think about it.” She gave an awkward smile. “What supplies do you have? Any ship parts at all?”
“We’re struggling for supplies ourselves.” Saw admitted as he began to walk back towards the Mantis. “I’ll make a deal with you, though.” He added, gesturing for her to follow.
“Go on.” She jogged to catch up.
“We’re planning an attack tomorrow to free those Wookiees I mentioned earlier. If you give us a hand alongside your friend, I’ll let you look through what we have and you can see if it’s any use to you.”
“Sounds good.” She nodded enthusiastically.
Just as they concluded their conversation, they had rejoined the trio that had stood outside the Mantis having a discussion of their own. They smiled for a greeting and Saw once again lead the conversation.
“The Wookiees being held hostage; we’re executing a rescue operation tomorrow at sunrise.” Saw explained to Cal. “I appreciate the help you and your friend are offering to us. I’ll see you both tomorrow just outside the refinery.” He gave a nod before walking off into the distance to give out more instructions.
Cere and Greez watched him leave, appearing puzzled by his words.
“Did he just say that you were joining in too?” Greez asked Altheeda.
“What exactly did you discuss?” Cere asked sternly.
“I asked him if he had any parts for the ship and he said if I wanted to have a look at what they had, I needed to help him in return.” Altheeda explained with a shrug.
“You should have consulted me first.”
“You weren’t there to consult with. Besides, I can make decisions for myself.”
“Cere, it will be okay.” Cal reassured. “She’s very capable, surely she’s just proven that.”
“I guess she successfully hijacked an AT-AT.” Greez gestured to her. “That’s pretty damn impressive.”
“What Saw is asking of you is far different than what you just did.”
“Didn’t you want me to get more ship parts? I’m doing my job aren’t I?”
This statement made Cere lower her eyes and she sighed in defeat.
“I suppose so, I just want you to be careful – both of you. You really want to follow Saw?”
“You don’t like that idea?” Cal asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I’m a bit concerned that you could be jumping from one risk to the next.”
“The why haven’t you stopped me, or us?” He asked curiously.
“My job is to guide you on your path, not choose it for you.” Cere replied calmly. “Here’s my advice; the Empire’s forces have overtaken hundreds of worlds. I think there’s a reason Saw chose Kashyyyk. His goals may not be the same as ours; we should be careful.”
“I think you have a good point, Cere.” Altheeda admitted. “But at the moment he seems to be cooperating.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Cal gave Cere an understanding glance.
“Sorry to interrupt this conversation.” Greez spoke, clearly wanting to change the subject. “But can you tell me why you gave me a medical kit, Altheeda?”
“Oh, it’s for my ankle – we landed in some sort of river and the bandage is damp.”
“We have supplies on the Mantis.” Greez huffed.
“I didn’t want to use them all up.”
“Well I guess there’s no harm in having extra.” He chuckled.
“Was it hurting at all?” Cere asked the redheaded girl.
“Not enough for me to notice.”
“I’ll tell you what; Greez and I will prepare a meal for us all and afterwards I’ll take another look at it before you go tomorrow. I’ll leave you both to prepare your things.”
“Great, I’m starving – let’s get cookin’!”
They all grinned at what Greez had just said then him and Cere turned to walk up the ramp of the ship, leaving Cal and Altheeda (with BD-1 in tow on the Jedi's back) to themselves as they turned to walk together, occasionally weaving out of the way of Saw’s fighters.
Chapter 20: Chapter 20
As quickly as they had begun walking, Altheeda paused in her tracks and turned back briefly before addressing Cal.
“Where are we going?”
“I spotted something whilst we were walking with Saw.” He explained.
“What was it?”
“I’m going to show you.” He grinned, taking her hand and leading them into a jog as BD-1 beeped with glee.
She allowed him to lead her to where he wanted to go, her hair tangling itself with the wind. He slowed to a corner in the cliff that surrounded them and were presented with a chest that had been left unattended, but it was unknown to her for how long.
“We shouldn’t mess with things that aren’t ours.” She lightly reprimanded.
“I don’t think it belongs to anybody - it’d be closer to their supplies.” He explained. “I’ve found similar boxes on Zeffo and Bogano. They’re just abandoned.”
She gave a light hum to his statement and studied the chest with great care.
“How do we open it then?” Altheeda eyed it curiously.
“BD-1?” Cal moved his attention to his shoulder. “You know what to do, buddy.”
The droid gave a whistle and hopped off of Cal, scuttling towards the box and using his scomp link to make the lid pop upwards. He then jumped inside and rattled the box, Altheeda stepped back and gave a chuckle at the scene. Bd-1 then poked his head out the box and sprung out, allowing them access to what was inside. It was revealed to be what looked to be a pile of fabric at first, but under close inspection carried out by Cal, it folded out into a dark green poncho.
“That’s pretty handy.” She commented.
“It’s all yours.” Cal smiled, gesturing it to her.
“No, you found it.”
“There’s more I can pick up – I’ve just left them in the boxes.”
“How come you never took them then?”
“I was preoccupied with the whole Jedi order thing I’ve got going on right now.” He quipped.
The corners of her lips turned and she gave a light snort at his sentence. She then stretched out a hand to take it.
“Thank you, Cal.” She spoke kindly.
He watched and she folded it neatly and draped it over her arm to prevent it getting dirty. The silence amplified what he had been sensing off Altheeda after her talk with Saw. He could tell she thought she was hiding it well, she could fool Cere and Greez, but not a Jedi. She was concerned, which therefore; concerned him.
“Now, are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” He asked softly, taking a step towards her.
“There’s nothing wrong.” She responded too quickly.
“You can’t hide it from me, Theeda. Saw told you something that’s thrown you off. When I connect with the Force it can make me aware of these things.” Cal explained with great sensitivity towards the subject.
“Have you always been able to do that?”
“Yeah, since I was a child.”
“I just always thought you were a good guesser.” She spoke quietly.
“What did Saw tell you?” He gently pressed, reverting back from her attempted change of subject.
“I’m surprised the Force hasn’t told you.” She retorted with her arms across her chest.
“There’s more to it than that.”
She pursed her lips, avoiding eye contact with Cal. He wasn’t going to let it slide easily and he calmly stood before her, waiting for her to say anything. BD-1; witnessing the conversation from the ground, waddled over to Altheeda and pulled on her leg. She sighed as the droid beeped at her and she gave a sheepish smile.
“You’re very good at getting into chests.”
BD-1 gave her some low beeps in response.
“I wasn’t changing the subject!”
The droid gave her a series of whistles and beeps as he continued to tug on her leg.
“I know, but I just…”
BD-1 then stepped back and peered up at the redheaded girl. The Force wasn’t needed to figure out just how fretful she had become. He gave some sad beeping noises as she lowered her head. Cal’s gaze softened at her, watching her hide behind the hair that slid down to her face.
“I shouldn’t be thinking about it so much.”
“About what?” Cal asked coaxingly.
“… Saw told me… that… my father has put out a warrant for me.”
Cal took a sharp breath in. She finally met his eyes again and tried to examine what his reaction was. All she could gather was he did not like what he heard, which was to be expected.
“It’s fine, I don’t care. I’m not sad or angry that he did it.”
“This isn’t good, Altheeda.”
“Of course, it’s not good. I’m just going to be an inconvenience to you and to Cere and Greez.”
“You know what? It wouldn’t make a difference anyway.” Cal thought aloud. “We’re all wanted by the Empire for different reasons.”
“I don’t want to be an inconvenience to your mission, Cal.”
“You couldn’t be.”
“What would you do if I was captured?” She argued.
“Don’t say that.”
“You’d have no choice to but to leave me. You can’t put yourself in jeopardy.” She shook her head adamantly.
“I wouldn’t let that happen.” He shot back.
“We have to think about this, now it’s a real threat. You can’t go after me if I get taken, you’d have to let me go.” She spoke meekly as she stepped closer to him.
“I wouldn’t let that happen.” He repeated, this time it was gentle and he put his hands lightly on her upper arms.
Altheeda could see a strong determination in his eyes. Her mouth was parted in awe and she remained speechless as ‘what if’ scenarios spun circles in her mind.
“The past always seems to catch up with you, doesn’t it?” She sighed.
“And it’s always the things you want to leave behind.” He nodded.
“Promise me you won’t tell them?”
“You have to tell them at some point.”
“Either way they’ll find out regardless if I tell them or not.”
“Cere clearly doesn’t like secrets.” Cal pointed out. “She won’t take it lightly when she realises you knew and chose not to tell her.”
“Just leave it with me, I’ll tell them when I’m ready.” She insisted, earning her a definitive nod from him.
She paused, uncertainty was plastered on her face. Cal moved his hands up to her shoulders to soothe her and she felt the strong urge to throw her arms around him, with the poncho draping from her arm down his back. The action took them both by surprise; because of the suddenness to it rather by the action itself. They both felt comfortable in each other’s arms, and in that moment, it was what Altheeda needed - Cal knew this. Without any hesitation, he welcomed her into his arms, allowing her to rest her chin on his shoulders.
“Sorry.” She mumbled.
“You don’t need to be sorry.” He spoke collectedly.
“I couldn’t have imagined such a messy situation.” She gave half-hearted chuckle.
“We’ve got this.” Cal affirmed. “Trust me.”
As they held each other, time seemed to fade into obscurity; that was until BD-1 piped up with his beeping and they looked down at him.
“We should probably get going.” Altheeda agreed.
“Do you feel ready to go back?”
“Yeah I’ll be okay.” She gave a confident nod.
Cal gestured with his head for the droid to follow them back to the Stinger Mantis. The two redheads walked side by side, brushing arms. As they neared it, a delicious smell wafted into their noses. When they reached the top of the ramp, they spotted Cere preparing to dish up the food she had cooked and Greez fetching the right amount of crockery to serve it in. Greez lifted his head to glance at them before moving to lay the table.
“Altheeda, you gonna fix the drinks machine before dinner?”
“I’ll do it now.” She nodded, setting the poncho on the sofa before making a beeline to the screws and parts she left behind with it.
“What did you find?” Cere asked curiously as she set out equal portions of food on each plate.
“Just a poncho.” Cal spoke nonchalantly, taking his seat at the table.
Altheeda had set out her toolbox on the table and opened it up, taking out the relevant tools to rebuild the drinks machine, executing the task at a quick pace.
“Give me a sec, Cere.” She responded, finishing the last two screws she had to put in place.
Cere and Greez joined the Jedi at the table whilst the other redhead sped to fully assemble the machine.
“And… done!” She announced, striding towards the table to take the vacant seat.
A whistle startled her as she attempted to sit down and she found none other than BD-1 perched on the cushion of the seat.
“BD! I almost squished you.” She reprimanded light-heartedly.
Everyone smiled at the scene as the droid beeped at her wildly and she jabbed her thumb in the opposite direction of the table.
“Go on, scoot. I need to sit.” She smirked.
BD-1 obeyed her and hopped off the chair and she finally took her seat and began eating the food in front of her. She didn’t know what the dish was exactly, nor did she care. She was grateful for the food and approved of the taste. She quietly observed the conversation Greez and Cere were engaging in; from what she could gather it was about the latero male’s gambling habits. At one point, Cal contributed and Greez began to enthusiastically break down the rules for Sabaac. Altheeda listened in after she finished her meal but found herself losing focus after failing to understand a large majority of the rules.
Cere, growing bored of the conversation, noticed that Altheeda had finished her food and gave her a small smile.
“Do you want me to help me clear up and we can check on your ankle?”
The two women shook their heads at the two men that were rather animated in their chat. The topic had shifted slightly, with Cal debating whether gambling was a healthy hobby to take up, with Greez obviously disputing. Altheeda discreetly took hers and Cal’s plate whilst Cere took hers and Greez’s. They carried it to the counter and took in turns to load an item into the compact dishwasher that was built into it. Once they had completed that job, Cere instructed Altheeda to sit and prop her ankle on the sofa whilst she grabbed the necessary supplies.
As the redheaded girl moved to the sofa and sat down, BD-1 clambered onto her lap, which brought a glad smile to her face. She was growing quite the attachment to the droid. She went a step ahead and took off her shoe and sock, leaving behind the bandage that was drooping off her foot, it was only kept in place by her sock. The droid made a boop sound at it, looking almost sad at her injured foot.
“It’s on the mend, don’t worry.”
Cere re-entered the room with the medical supplies and spread them out on the remaining space of the sofa. She wordlessly began to take the worn material off her foot to reveal the ankle. The stitches had almost dissolved and the skin was on the mend. Cere examined it carefully, lifting Altheeda’s foot towards the light to get a good look.
“Thanks for the nice dinner.” She spoke, trying to make conversation.
“What’s the verdict?”
“Thankfully, it still isn’t infected.” Cere murmured as she soaked a cloth with the same liquid she did the previous time.
Altheeda drew in a deep breath, expecting the same amount of pain as what she endured. Once the cloth made contact with her skin, she felt the cool liquid spread and it sent a shiver through her body, yet it was not as painful as before. She figured it was because the wound had been closed up. As they waited for her foot to dry, she tried to make more conversation with Cere.
“You make this look easy.” She spoke awkwardly.
“Unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of practice.” Cere replied solemnly.
“I’m sorry.” Altheeda mumbled.
“Don’t be. You have to learn from these things.”
“Do you find it difficult?”
“That’s a vague question.” Cere gave small smile.
“You know what I mean; like, what you’ve gone through.”
“Which part? Living through it or thinking about it?”
“Both I suppose.” The redheaded girl shrugged.
She sighed and paused to reflect on the question posed to her.
“Everyone finds it difficult. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.”
“You don’t seem to show it much.” Altheeda pointed out.
Cere stretched some cloth for a new bandage with a brooding expression on her face.
“It’s a hard lesson to learn; to not show weakness.”
“Does it work for you?”
“It has been so far.” She replied as she began wrapping the cloth around her ankle.
“Fair enough.” Altheeda spoke with furrowed eyebrows.
“Do you not agree?” Cere asked.
“I think it’s good to do that to your enemies.” She thought aloud. “But, I don’t see it as a bad thing to be vulnerable to the people around you.”
The woman silently continued wrapping the bandage as Altheeda’s words resonated with her. She was like that once, unafraid to be weak; except it caused one of the devastating things to occur in her life. Cere wished she could be so vulnerable, earn a friendship in that manner; but she couldn’t let them know of that grave mistake she had made. She began to ponder on what things would have turned out to be if she didn’t break. She wasn’t going to break this time, she wasn’t going to screw things up.
“All done.” Cere announced with a small smile.
Cere nodded and began packing away the medical supplies as Altheeda wriggled her foot to test the flexibility of the bandage. Her mind began to spin with the memories that haunted her and she made a quick escape from the room to put away the supplies. She spent the rest of the evening in her head as Altheeda, Greez, Cal and BD-1 chatted together until they all unanimously decided to retire for the evening.
Chapter 21: Chapter 21
He shot upright, panting for air and looking wide eyed into the dark of the room – another nightmare. He felt an odd sensation of being hot and cold at the same time, figuring he tossed and turned so much that this action and the stress he went through made him sweat profusely. His eyes searched frantically, trying to find something to focus on until he made eye contact with the shine of Altheeda’s eyes. She was knelt by his bedside, her bed-hair the only indicator that she had been woken from her sleep. He sighed when he met her gaze and slumped himself against the cool metal of the wall.
“Did I wake you?” A faint whisper of a voice left his lips.
“I was already awake; I was getting a drink.” She replied softly. “You can have mine.”
She picked it up from the ground and slipped it carefully into his hand, giving him a soothing smile before turning away to stride out the room silently, turning to give him one last glance before she left. He listened to her light footsteps quieten as her distance from the room increased. Anxiety was crushing his chest; his hands were clammy and he could feel the cup in his hand sliding ever so slightly in his palm. BD-1 then waddled into the room, switching on the lights as he entered. White noise began to create a pitchy buzz in his ears and he began to detest it. To his relief, Altheeda returned with another cup in hand and what appeared to be a dampened cloth in the other, then knelt by him once again.
“Drink it – if you want. It might make you feel better.” She suggested.
He wordlessly brought the cold cup to his lips and felt the warm tea seep through the crevices of his lips and down his throat. The sensation drew him away from his worries momentarily and Altheeda noticed this as she drank her tea. She was poised, ready to speak when he was. She didn’t know what he was going to say or what to say in response, but she wanted to try her hardest to help.
“Thank you.” He spoke, gesturing with his hand that held the cup.
He fell silent again, his skin had paled and she could tell that his weariness was taking a toll on his confident demeanour he had displayed earlier in the day and evening. It was obvious he had a nightmare - after finding him mumbling and violently tossing in his sleep. She knew from her experiences that it was hard being asked about the topics of nightmares and wanted to steer away from that unless Cal was willing to share. He continued to drink his tea for a while and BD-1 made some noises at the quiet pair. Altheeda didn’t mind in the silence in the slightest, just wanting to stay with him and make sure he was alright.
“Should I talk about it?” He asked awkwardly.
“Only if you’d like to, I’m just here to help you.”
He rubbed his forehead exhaustedly and his hand fell loosely to his side. He took one final drink and set his cup to one side on the floor.
“You’re not the only one that has a lingering past.” He sighed.
“I know.” She spoke sympathetically.
“I failed Prauf, I failed my Master.”
“Cal, that’s not true.”
“I dream about it, almost every night. I can’t even get away from it during the day because-“
He stopped suddenly to take another breath and released it gradually. She leaned closer to him and gave him a reassuring look.
“I get flashbacks during the day too. I feel… conflicted about them.”
“Can I ask why?” She spoke cautiously.
“The flashbacks are of my Master. The memories are painful, but they help me re-learn what I’ve forgotten about the Force.”
“Do you know what causes them?”
“It always seems to happen when I come across some sort of obstacle.”
She gave a curious hum and fell into a brooding trance.
“Maybe it’s because you’re becoming a Jedi again.”
“I’ve always been a Jedi.”
“You know what I mean – I was talking about when you were in hiding. You had to leave your training for so long you’ve almost had to start all over again.”
“I feel like I should have remembered more, I don’t understand why it’s all so blank right now.” Cal lamented.
“You can’t change that.” She spoke softly. “I know it’s easier said than done, trust me; but what happened to you was out of your control and you have to keep moving forward.”
His facial features became less tense after listening to her speak. He still had a slight concern that seemed to bother him. He couldn’t help but dwell on how Cere became the person she was after what she went through. She too had to hide, instead she was found and endured what no one should have to go through – but she appeared stoic about it all.
“What are you thinking about?” Altheeda asked in a mousey voice.
Cal peered down at her, realising she was still knelt on the floor next to his bed. He then gestured for her to sit with him.
“Come up here.”
She finished the last drops of her tea and placed it next to his empty cup before sitting on the opposite side of the bed facing him. She sat cross-legged and attentive.
“I was just thinking about why Cere is the way she is.”
“What do you mean?” Altheeda furrowed her brows.
“You weren’t there, but she told me about how she went into hiding with her Padawan and some younglings. They were captured by the Empire and she was tortured… the Padawan didn’t make it.”
“She’s so… tough about it. It makes me feel as if I’m doing something wrong.”
Altheeda shook her head and tentatively reached out for his hands, she could tell Cal was hesitating because of how clammy they were, but she wordlessly reassured him through the gleam in her eyes that she didn’t care and he loosened them, allowing her to hold them tenderly.
“There’s no need to compare yourself. Everyone reacts differently to things. You’re doing just fine, Cal.”
“You think so?”
“I know so.” She smiled, smoothing her thumbs across the back of his hands. “I’ve seen how confident you’ve grown to be lately. It’s great to see.”
A smile crept on the Jedi’s lips. He felt flattered by all the comments he had been received in recent times – especially the ones that came from her. He wondered if there was more to them, whether there was any indication of her reciprocating his current unrequited love. All he knew was that she was just simply oblivious to his true feelings, rather than choosing not feeling the same way. He was prepared to wait and take it a little bit at a time – he didn’t want to force anything from her side. He would find out soon enough one day how she felt. As he closed himself in with his thoughts, she began to speak again and he quickly refocused.
“I’m proud of you, Cal.”
BD-1 gave a beep of agreement which earned him smiles from the duo.
“We all are.” She continued. “Prauf would be proud and so would Jaro Tapal.”
“You remember his name?” He spoke, almost surprised by his name coming from her lips.
“Of course.” She shrugged. “I do listen to you.”
They both lowered their eyes down to their intertwined hands and once again Altheeda began to feel the shift in atmosphere she picked up when they were together on her home planet. She couldn’t figure out why, or what exactly it was, but again she felt safe. The way she acted with Cal was so natural, she felt herself and it was all so effortless. Yet, she couldn’t decipher why her heart was beating harder and faster, or why her hands were beginning to go clammy. Nevertheless, she allowed herself to linger on the moment, to figure out answers to the questions in her head and explore this new sensation more.
She locked eyes with him and his eyes widened quickly before he started to stammer.
“I… think you should get some sleep.” He managed to say.
“What would you like me to do?” She asked. “Would you like me to stay or leave?”
“Stay.” He spoke almost too quickly. “Please – if you want of course you don’t have-“
“It’s fine, I’ll stay.” She spoke calmly. “Do you think you can get back to sleep?”
He shook his head defeatedly.
“One of us will have to be the most awake for the mission tomorrow.” He joked half-heartedly.
“If you at least give it a go then you might get just a little bit of rest.”
“To be honest, Theeda, I hardly sleep.”
She gave him a sad gaze until BD-1 jumped in between them and gave a sequence of robotic noises, causing them to let go of each other’s hands.
“How can you force somebody to sleep?” She chuckled at the droid.
He gave a long boop in reply and Cal folded his arms.
“If only it were that easy.”
Altheeda stood up to settle herself down on the floor.
“I’ll sit on the floor, you can have the bed.” He offered.
“I’ll be alright down here.” She replied as she was making herself comfortable.
“It’ll be much better for you on here.”
“I need to get used to sleep on the ground anyway.” She waved a dismissive hand.
He fell silent allowing her to settle and succumb to sleep once again. BD-1 leapt off the bed to switch off the lights, sending the room into darkness. Cal remained sat upright as he continued mulling on his thoughts of his upcoming mission for Saw, his progression as a Jedi, although he admittedly was getting caught up in thinking about Altheeda. He wished there was some way he could tell her just exactly what he felt for her. He had no clue how much time had passed but he wanted to try something.
“Theeda?” He whispered, his voice slicing through the silence.
It was a sleepy response, he could tell she was already slipping into unconsciousness.
“You know… you mean a lot to me. I’m grateful you’re still with me.”
The room was silent again. Cal wasn’t dejected, she was probably rather tired and was too deep in sleep already to respond. Perhaps it was just a random mumble in her sleep but it was worth a shot, he leaned his head back against the cool metal of the wall and a faint, dozy voice made his heart flutter and do a double-take.
Chapter 22: Chapter 22
Many hours had passed and Cal could sense that the sun had just began to rise. Altheeda had successfully fallen back to sleep and he carefully knelt by her side and put a hand on her shoulder, although his touch was feather-light, the waves of her hair were disturbed and shifted position. She stirred slowly, drawing in a deep breath through her nose.
“Theeda, we have to get going now.” He coaxed.
She gave a long exhale, her eyes fluttering open and focusing at Cal as he looked down upon her. A sluggish smile crept on her face and she extended her arms, groaning as she stretched.
“Okay, let me grab my stuff.” Her voice was croaky.
BD-1 wished her a good morning through his robotic manner of communicating.
“Good morning, mate.” She replied, still sleepy.
BD-1 then proceeded to hop on Cal’s back. They followed behind her but politely waited outside her cabin when she stepped inside to fetch her belongings. When she returned, she had her hair styled back into its half up-do, she wore the poncho they had found the previous day and sported her toolbox on her back. They proceeded to walk towards the door; only to be greeted by Cere and Greez in the lounge area.
“I didn’t expect both of you to be up so early.” Cal spoke.
“We wanted to see you off before you got going.” Cere replied. “Got everything you need, Cal?”
BD-1 chirped in response and the Jedi simply nodded, patting his lightsaber that was tucked under his belt.
“You know what you forgot last time, Altheeda?”
“A blaster.” She spoke sheepishly.
“And a comlink.” Cere added, walking over to the kitchen counter to pick up a blaster and a comlink to give to her.
“Consider it yours. Like I told you last time, I always keep my own on me so I don’t need it.”
“Are you sure?” She asked guiltily.
She kindly took the comlink and the blaster from her, adjusting the position of the comlink in her ear until she was satisfied. She then slid the blaster in her pocket and glanced at Cere and Greez.
“Don’t get into too much trouble you too.” Greez said as he pointed to the duo individually. “Make this a smooth operation.”
“We’ve got this.” Cal smirked.
“Use your comlinks if you need anything from us.” Cere reminded.
“Of course.” Altheeda smiled as she followed Cal out of the Mantis, stopping to give Cere and Greez a brief wave goodbye before her exit.
As she caught up with her fellow redhead, she noticed various workers for Saw already bustling around. Snippets of conversation buzzed around her but she was not paying too much attention to them.
“Saw should be on the other side of this trench.” Cal stated as they walked through two sets of doors, revealing the vast trench before them.
“Looks like a bit of a trek.” She added as they jumped off the ledge to proceed onwards.
They approached a gap in their path, on the other side of the ledge they stood on was another ledge that had some sort of panel connected to a mechanism. Altheeda pondered on a way for herself to get across.
“That panel looks like it can give us a way across.” Cal thought aloud.
“You think so?”
“Yeah, if BD-1 could use it I think it lowers this contraption here.” He pointed. “I can run alongside it to cross the gap.
“How can you do that – surely the gravity will just-“ She paused briefly then faced him with a raised eyebrow. “The Force?”
Cal nodded and she gave him a slow nod after her realisation. BD-1 then interjected with his own concerns that were beeped at his Jedi companion.
“A small upgrade should fix that.” Cal replied.
“Looks like I’ll have to come up with my own way across.” Altheeda sighed.
“Do you have anything in mind?”
“I’m sure I could make a grapple to swing across. There’s bound to be materials around I can use. Maybe I could make some climbing picks as well.”
“There’s nothing you can’t solve.” He grinned at her.
“I try.” She shrugged. “Oh, there’s a door over there – wonder where it leads to.”
Together they proceeded to the door and it opened as they neared it. They had found themselves in some sort of small workshop, with a work table tucked away towards the corner.
“That’s lucky.” She commented.
They both jumped to the ground to walk to the work table. Cal then settled BD-1 onto it and he started at the two redheads that stood side by side.
“Time for your upgrade, buddy.” The Jedi smiled.
“Here, use my tools. It’ll be easier for you.” She offered as she shrugged the toolbox off her back. “Oh – I have something to show you.”
“What is it?” Cal asked curiously.
“I hope you don’t mind, I know I should have asked first but…” She explained then opened her toolbox to reveal his music player sat on top of her tools. He gave a smile at it, old but fond memories flooding back the longer he stared at it.
“Like I told you before, you’re always welcome to use my music player. What made you bring it?”
“I needed a little pick me up.” She confessed. “It reminded me of the times when we’d listen to it during our lunch breaks.”
“We should listen to some music sometime.” Cal suggested.
“I’d like that.” She gave him a warm smile.
He began tending to BD-1 as Altheeda strolled around the area in search for materials.
“I’d need to check it first, it might have water-damage after landing in the water.” She admitted.
Cal gave a soft chuckle as he worked and Altheeda scooped up some abandoned rope she found along with some metal chunks, deeming them useful to construct a grapple. She wandered over to the bench to create her item, they both took in turns to use the tools as they worked next to each other. She occasionally glanced to his work on BD-1, watching happily as the droid allowed him to finish his upgrade. Once they had both finished, they admired their handy work.
“Ready to go?” He asked as the droid beeped and spun around.
“Yeah, it’ll do for now.” She nodded as she wrapped the rope around her waist.
As she did this, Cal began packing his tools away in the box for her and she eventually joined him, placing his music player on top and closing the lid. As they walked, BD-1 hopped on the Jedi’s shoulder again and she slung her toolbox onto her back. They had barely walked a few steps until Cal was pinned to the ground within a blink of an eye. She had an almost delayed response, trying to register what had happened until it kicked in that a huge spider-like creature was attacking him as he tried to get out of his grip.
She screamed out and instantly grabbed for her blaster, she tried her best to steady her hand as she fired at the creature but missed all shots. Instead, the gunfire distracted it and the creature got off of Cal and shot webs at her, coating her in a thick layer and trapping her arms and top half of her legs. She grimaced at the webs and attempted to hop away from the beast charging at her, growing frustrated at her helplessness. He managed to scramble back onto his feet and lunged for it, swiping a blow with his now activated lightsaber. The giant creature, becoming rather agitated, pounced for him again but he managed to dodge just in time.
Altheeda frantically wriggled in her cob-webbed trap, desperately trying to break through it. At first, she felt like she wasn’t going anywhere with her efforts but over time, she felt the thick substance break part and she manage to squirm out of the web. She was out of breath from all of the movement and she recovered briefly before returning to help Cal. She sprinted over to the fight and shot at the creature, this time hitting its back and one of its legs. This distracted it enough for Cal to deliver one last attack on it before it sprawled out on the ground, deceased.
She blew out a sharp breath, relieved that their minor ordeal was now over. Sprinting over to him, she glanced down at the creature they wrestled with, becoming repulsed by it and absent-mindedly putting an arm on his shoulder as she stepped back. BD-1 was now on the ground as slowly approached it before proceeding to scan the creature.
“Is there anything else this droid does that I don’t know about?” She asked.
“I’ll give you a full run down later.”
BD-1 made a noise at Altheeda and returned to perching on Cal’s back.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I am now.” He nodded. “Are you?”
“Yeah.” She replied slowly, eyeing the dead creature warily before lightly tugging on Cal’s arm. “Come on, let’s get out of here, that thing creeps me out.”
“It’s not going to hurt you anymore.” He spoke as he walked with her and they climbed back to the entrance.
“I-I know. It just makes my skin crawl.” She shuddered as they reached the top and walked back to the trench.
Cal then did a run up to the wall and ran against it before leaping to clear the gap to the ledge. Altheeda froze, mesmerised by what she witnessed.
“That was impressive.” She remarked.
“It was nothing.” He blushed, though to his relief she was too far away to notice this.
He watched her build up momentum for her grapple whilst BD-1 performed an overcharge on the panel to move the wall down for Cal to run alongside. Altheeda latching her grapple onto the wall he had just run on. She tugged on it firmly for a few times, confirming that it was safe to use then propelled herself forward to swing across the gap and landing successfully.
“I guess it works.” She smirked, tugging the grapple off the wall and reeling it back in.
“Come on, we’re almost there.” Cal spoke encouragingly.
They continued to make their way towards the end of the trench, when they quickly found themselves at the bottom of a tall wall to climb up in order to reach the refinery. They made speedy work of this and were greeted by Wookiees and members of Saw’s group, crouched down in position. The pair approached Saw as he gestured to them and knelt beside him.
“Hey.” Cal greeted.
“The imperial sap refinery lies dead ahead.” Saw explained, getting straight to the point as he offered the Jedi his binoculars.
Cal used them to get a closer look at the scene and Altheeda squinted her eyes, though it didn’t do much.
“Why are they so interested in sap?” She murmured to herself.
“Nothing good.” Saw spoke gravely. “They refine it into a powerful compound and they’re rushing to expand their production.”
“We have to stop them.” Cal replied, handing the binoculars back and shaking his head at what he saw.
“That’s the plan. We don’t know their overall goal but they’ve spread themselves too thin. This map we’ve recovered proves it.” He then handed Cal a small disc and BD-1 did a curious boop at it and leapt to the ground.
“Here you go, bud.” He said gently to the droid as it accepted the disc and projected the map into the air.
“These refineries double as brutal prison camps.” Saw continued as he put a hand on Cal’s shoulder and Altheeda listened intently. “We’ll use those cutters to create a distraction while you take your lightsaber and free the Wookiees inside. We’ll need their help to stop the Empire.”
“Understood.” Cal nodded.
“Watch yourselves in there.” Saw addressed them before firing a grapple from his gun to set off on his own agenda.
Altheeda straightened up and watched them all proceed onwards with their plan.
“I could use one of those guns.” She mumbled to herself.
Cal gave BD-1 a little tap as he climbed back onto him and gave a trill.
“You hear that? He says he needs our help.” Cal smirked, giving both BD-1 and Altheeda a look.
“Well, let’s go free some Wookiees.” Altheeda announced with a look of determination on her face and her hands on her hips.
Chapter 23: Chapter 23
Cal was about to lead the way but suddenly stopped in his tracks, doing a sharp turn back towards the ledge from where the climbed from.
“Is something wrong?” She asked.
“I’ll explain in a second.” He reassured then jumped down onto a lower platform.
She watched eagerly with folded arms as he crouched next to the body of a stormtrooper placing a calm hand above it and becoming rather focused. After a moment of reflection, he stood up straight once again and proceeded to climb up the wall again, taking Altheeda’s helping hand once he reached the top.
“Saw got that one.” Cal spoke in a low voice.
“How can you tell?”
“Force echo; similar to the experience I had with your toolbox.”
“I see.” She nodded.
“He’s much more ruthless than we thought.” He added, his face growing blank.
Cal paused to briefly force push a door open and she followed behind him, they both balanced on a log to cautiously cross to approach the imperial refinery. They descended down a hill, spotting a group of Stormtroopers guarding the entrance. He jumped down, descending on a clueless trooper and eliminating it. Altheeda stayed on the hill and shot at the Stormtroopers from above, successfully taking out a handful of them. Once the threat had been extinguished, she jumped down and re-joined him.
“What’s our plan for when we go through these doors?” She asked as the approached the entrance.
“There’s going to be a lot of Stormtroopers on the other side. I’ll take them, don’t worry about me. If there’s any doors that need your attention I’ll cover you and if you need BD-1 just let me know.”
BD-1 whistled in response. Altheeda gave a nod at the droid then patted Cal’s shoulder with her free hand.
“You got this, Jedi.”
He smirked before pressing buttons. The doors parted and they slowly crept in, peering around a corridor that was riddled with more Imperial troops. They were given away by their footsteps and the troopers raced across to unleash an attack. Altheeda crouched by the corner and opened fire at them as Cal took the front line. She ran to catch up him after the threat of the troopers was no more. She opened the next door with ease, but to their dismay it revealed a haunting enemy.
It was a purge trooper, the same kind they had come across on that fateful day on Bracca. Its sinister red visor on the helmet glowed along with the red warning lights that flashed around them. It turned to face them after slaughtering rebel fighters and Cal and Altheedafaces immediately became weary.
“A Jedi? Now this is what I have been training for.” The Purge trooper spoke menacingly.
Altheeda spotted the door on the other side of the room, knowing that was her obstacle to deal with, but knew she had to somehow get around Cal’s obstacle that was the purge trooper. Cal picked up on her apprehension and ran towards the purge trooper, providing himself as a distraction. She wasted no time in darting past their battle, pushing the buttons on the door frantically but to no avail. She quickly realised the electricity had been cut off and it would take far too long to rectify. As she searched around the area, she noticed grating to a ventilation system and figured that it would have to do.
She kicked at the metal grating to pry it apart for them to squeeze through. She quickly set eyes at Cal, who was struggling against his opponent and the temptation to help him was strong. Thankfully, he managed to recover and delivered the finishing strike onto the purge trooper.
“What have you come up with?” He asked with a raised eyebrow.
“The door is too much work in too little time, so we’re going through the vents.”
She waited for him to catch up and he gestured towards the vent.
“Chivalrous as always.” She joked as she wriggled her way through.
With help from BD-1’s glow from the lights behind his head, they successfully reached a way out and found themselves on a balcony.
“Tight fit, huh BD?” Cal commented.
The droid agreed and Altheeda smiled but their attention was diverted to strange, flying creatures that the Stormtroopers below them called ‘flame beetles’ descended on them, appearing to explode when they made contacts with others. They took the opportunity to attack them, working together to best them. A flametrooper sprayed scorching flames towards their way and they both dodged swiftly and with great care, they managed to thwart another set of Imperial troops.
“Where do we go from here?” She asked slowly as her eyes darted across the area.
“Up there.” Cal pointed and jogged towards a piece of giant machinery.
The two climbed up the metal debris beside it to find a panel on the machine. Cal turned to the droid on his shoulder.
“Can you plug into this?”
BD-1 obeyed and beeped before latching himself onto the panel and firing it up, resulting in the machine sliding across and the droid whistled before leaping back onto Cal.
“He’s right, we need to jump off.” The Jedi instructed.
She gave him a sharp nod before dropping herself off from the machine and landing, somewhat stably, whilst Cal met the ground with a lot more grace. They watched the machine slide to reveal a way forward and they both gave BD-1 grateful looks.
“Thanks for the path, BD.” Altheeda spoke as she climbed with Cal up to the ledge.
He gave a suspicious sounding beep in reply.
“You had no idea that was there, didn’t you?” Cal chuckled.
BD gave a simple boop, earning him laughs from the two redheads. Once they reached the top they strode to the end to find themselves in the outdoors again, but with a lot more troopers on patrol – this time they had two wyyyschokks added to the mix. Altheeda turned her nose up at the sight of them. They descended down into the area and once again, helped each other as they fought their enemies. It required a lot more caution that previous attacks but they managed to clear the way forward. After they caught their breaths, they walked on and stumbled across a spinning contraption that seemed too fast to cross. She turned to him, noticing that he wasn’t fazed by it.
“Watch this, Theeda.” He spoke with a proud look on his face.
He raised a hand and the machine slowed down before her very eyes to make a bridge across to the platform opposite them. He crossed effortlessly and she was in awe by his actions.
“You did that? With the force?”
“Yup.” He shrugged coolly.
She grinned at him and he performed the same action, causing the high-speed spinning mechanism to slow at a snail’s pace within a second.
“Quick!” He called out to her and moved his arms to signal her to cross.
She seemed dubious at first, but she quickly gathered courage to jump on it and run across to leap onto the platform. She laughed in surprise and looked at him, completely fascinated. When they were ready to continue, they began climbing across under a window, hearing the faint conversation that two Stormtroopers were engaging in. Something seemed to shake the entire area and the pair nearly lost their grip but they swiftly recovered and managed. According to the troopers, it was a cutter causing a lot of destruction. When they climbed indoors, they became face to face with the conversing troopers and brought them down.
They walked side by side and found themselves face to face with a giant cog spinning in front of them. This time they were familiar with how to handle such an event and Cal used the force to make it move sluggishly and giving Altheeda time to roll through a gap to cross. Cal did the same for himself then they both proceeded to climb upwards to a walkway. They were in silence until a familiar voice buzzed in both their comlinks.
“You both still alive down there?”
“Cere!” Altheeda exclaimed.
“So far, I think we’re almost at the prison.” Cal answered.
“Good. Be aware, there are Imperial distress calls that are going out across the planet.”
“We’re being extra careful, don’t worry.” She reassured her.
“If you don’t get to those prisoners soon…”
“We can do this. I promise.”
Cere’s connection fizzled out and they recollected themselves together when they finished climbing to the walkway.
“We’re almost there, I can feel it.” Cal spoke. “It’s just across here.”
“Let’s not waste any time.”
Cal jumped on a pipe that bridged the gap to the area they wanted to reach. The redheads walked across it with great balance and scrambled up to the ledge and rolled onto the floor. A purge trooper and Stormtroopers instantly spotted them and they unleashed their attack on them. Cal instantly sprang into action and Altheeda dived towards a pile of crates, firing her blaster from far range. She aimed to take down the Stormtroopers first so he could have no distractions battling with the purge trooper. Her efforts had prevailed and they were finally able to access the prison.
“BD, can you open the door for us, please?” Cal asked.
The droid sprinted to the panel on the other side of the door and powered it to open it. They waited patiently for him to catch up and then stepped inside the room. It was empty, throwing the pair off slightly, aside from the shadows of the Wookiees they could spot behind the cell grating.
“No guards?” The Jedi thought out loud.
“That doesn’t seem right.” She murmured, then spotted the panel that controlled the cell doors. “Guess that’s my cue.”
She ran towards it and rested her hands on it, examining it quickly but efficiently. She then began rapidly pressing a sequence of buttons to see the results. Cal watched her at work, becoming engrossed until a Wookiee in the cell next to them growled at them in greeting. He stepped towards it.
“Hey!” He spoke in a friendly tone as he knelt down. “We’re here to free you. You’re not alone.”
He went back to check on Altheeda, who appeared to be making steady progress. Suddenly, the set of doors hissed open to reveal a towering security droid charging towards them. She stopped, her hands hovering over the next set of buttons she was going to push and her head turned to the direction of the droid.
“Altheeda, keep going, I’ve got you.” Cal spoke with urgency.
“Please be careful.” She replied worriedly, her hands turning shaky with her movements.
“Visitation is not permitted.” The droid spoke as it threw the Jedi across the room.
This made her stop once again, her concern for Cal constantly rising. She gnawed on her lip and carried on with her inputs into the panel. She didn’t need to look to know that the security droid was advancing towards her, she didn’t even want to look. Her nerves were high and she knew this task was crucial, so sticking to it was a must. She almost felt the metal grip of the droid on her shoulder until Cal swung for it with his lightsaber and it began to chase after him instead. As she pressed on, she could hear the fight that surrounded her and she tried to block it out throughout her time with the panel.
It all seemed to happen in a blink of an eye for her, she didn’t realise that she entered what would be her last sequence and that the cell doors would lift open. At the same time, Cal had destroyed the security droid and spun round to watch the trapped Wookiees, clamber to their freedom and the droid fall to the ground in chunks. She exhaled sharply, watching them reunite with each other, not realising that Cal had stowed away his lightsaber and join her side.
“You were amazing.” He complimented.
“I couldn’t have done it without you.” She admitted.
“You don’t give yourself enough credit.”
She smiled shyly and put a gentle hand on his shoulder.
“That security droid threw you pretty far.”
“I’m not hurt.” He replied bravely. “Besides, it’s not over just yet.”
Two Wookiees jogged towards them and enthusiastically roared at them. All they could do was give a friendly chuckle as a reply and found themselves wrapped in a hug with a Wookiee each. This sent them both into more laughter, their fur muffling them until they were placed back onto their feet.
“Glad to help.” Cal nodded.
The Wookiees used their strength to pry open the doors, revealing more rebel fighters waiting for their exit. Cal and Altheeda walked to join them. They rejoiced and proceeded to enter back into the fight.
“Saw must be up ahead.” He noted.
Altheeda kept up a good pace with him and joined him in the climb to ascend up the refinery.
“You know I’ve noticed something different about you, Cal.”
“Really?” He asked with a goofy grin on his face.
“Yeah, I don’t know exactly what it is though.”
“Is it a good thing?”
“Yeah, of course it is.” She reassured.
“Okay, I’m not so worried now.”
“You don’t need to worry!”
“Do you have any sort of idea what it is?”
She paused, dwelling on it as she climbed, trying to come up with a way to explain herself. She craned her neck upwards to find Cal looking down at her with a mesmerised look on his face and there it was. It was the precise thing she had noticed about him, it was the way he looked at her; the way he cared for her. Obviously, he did care for her, but every look he gave her seemed to have some sort of deeper meaning. She knew it had no ill intentions. He was making her feel cared for and she welcomed that – she needed it during these times.
Altheeda realised she had been in her head for too long and there were more pressing matters to attend to. She hoped that she wasn’t in that state for a long while and began climbing once again.
“Never mind – let’s help with the attack. That’s the important thing right now.”
“Yeah, right, sorry.” Cal sheepishly replied and continued the climb with her.
They reached another level of prison cells and he allowed her to operate the panel to open those particular cells. The Wookiees ran from the clutches of their confinement and Saw joined them, turning to Cal and Altheeda that were on the opposite end of the screen.
“You did it!” He exclaimed. “The Wookiees are free! Get to the roof!”
Together, the duo sprinted to a lift that transported them upwards to the roof. They were instantly surrounded by droids and troops but a handful of Saw’s fighters were already carrying out their assault. Cal and Altheeda automatically participated, with her firing furiously at the swarm of Stormtrooper and Cal taking on the droids and an AT-ST that had been deployed by Imperial ships above. It was the last push that they needed to carry out and they fought extra hard as the enemy numbers lessened. Cal, with all his might, took down the AT-ST, the last enemy standing and everyone watched it topple to the ground.
They had done it.
Chapter 24: Chapter 24
Wookiees and fighters cheered with delight as they ran from their positions to celebrate their success. BD-1 even joined in with the cheering through his beeping and whistling; Cal watched in wonder as they all thanked him for his relentless effort. Altheeda enjoyed watching him get the positive attention he deserved, it was a poignant moment for him. He then faced her with cheerful smile and she returned it.
“Cal – that was incredible!” She exclaimed and gave him a tight hug.
He was at a loss for words, but he savoured the hug and shut his eyes briefly, focusing on the moment and his achievements. He hadn’t realised his full potential until this mission he had carried out for Saw. He was stunned by the success and compliments, but it gave him more confidence. They separated when Saw called out for Cal whilst Altheeda took a step back to allow them to speak with each other.
“You’ve seen what the Empire has done to Kashyyyk. My Partisans could use a Jedi on our side.”
Cal distributed sincere looks to Saw, the wookie and the Paritsan that gave him pleading stares.
“I really am honoured but… We have our own mission I can’t walk away from. Not yet.” He spoke solemnly.
“My offers still stand for the both of you. Keep them in mind.” Saw spoke understandingly, nodding at both Cal and Altheeda before walking away.
They watched him stride away until the Partisan stepped forward with the Wookiee and introduced herself.
“I’m Mari Kosan and this is Commander Choyyssyk.”
Commander Choyyssyk gave a roar as a greeting and the pair of them smiled.
“Uh… sorry we’re not quite fluent.” Cal admitted.
“Choyyssyk says that he’ll do what he can to find Tarfful and vouch for you.” Mari explained.
“Have faith, Cal. We’ll be in touch with your ship. Saw also told me that you’re looking for some spare parts, Altheeda. We’ll let you know what we find.”
“Thank you, I’d appreciate anything.” Altheeda nodded.
“We better get back to the ship. Thank you, Mari.” The Jedi gave a wave of thanks before making tracks with Altheeda by his side.
They were on route to a lift and they stepped inside it and Cal pushed various buttons to get it moving.
“How are you feeling?” Altheeda asked.
“Good.” He replied confidently with his hands on his hips. “Great, actually.”
“I’m really happy for you, Cal.”
“It’s a nice feeling, being appreciated as a Jedi. To think there was a time where I thought I’d be hiding it forever.”
They fell briefly silent, the rumble of the lift dominating the atmosphere. His mind mulled over her words; he knew he didn’t need only her approval in his actions but he valued it greatly. He began thinking back to what he said to her during the night, whether she had actually heard his words.
“Do you remember what I said to you last night? Before you went to sleep?” He asked slowly.
“When you told me that you were grateful that I was with you?”
“Why do you ask?” She spoke with a curious gleam in her eye.
“Oh, er, just wanted to make sure you heard me, I thought you were asleep.” He replied with a quirky smile. “I do mean it though; I’m glad you were here with me today.”
“You know I’m always here for you, Cal.” She grinned.
Her words and her grin that lit up her face made him absolutely enthralled by her. Before he even realised it, he was looking into her eyes, then the freckles on her face, her button nose, the little scar on her temple. He was so caught up in his adoration for her. Altheeda instantly noticed the atmosphere and its similarity to the night prior, their first night on the Stinger Mantis and his stay on Naboo.
“You’re doing it again.” She giggled.
“What?” He shook his head, snapping out of his thoughts.
“That thing I was talking about earlier. I figured out what it was. You keep looking at me.”
“I keep looking at you?”
“Yeah but, it’s different somehow.” She replied, the corners of her lips raised as she pondered.
“I have to look at you when I talk to you.” He said playfully.
“I know but, you look at me differently.”
Altheeda decided to entertain this and she took a step closer to him so they were face to face. She was trying not to blink and he picked up on that, so he tried to keep his eyes open as they unintentionally began a staring competition. She ended up being the one who lost as she began giggling into his shoulder.
“What’s so funny?” He chuckled, placing his hands on his shoulders.
“I don’t know.” She shrugged with a content smile on her face.
This time, the pair of them had fallen into fascination with each other. Their facial features softened and instead of questioning the difference in Cal once again, she allowed it to linger. The longer it stayed, the more she grew accustomed to the feeling. It piqued her interest greatly, she was almost addicted to it, yet she still couldn’t decipher the reason why. For now, she decided to enjoy this buzz, not registering that their faces were inches apart from each other. They were both sucked in by each other’s eyes until a crackle in their comlinks made them jump and widened the gap between them.
“Cal, you still there?” Cere’s voice, tinny from the transmission, addressed him.
“Yes, Cere?” He replied awkwardly.
“I’ve been monitoring Imperial communications and I’ve picked up something. Project Auger has been reactivated. The Empire might be close to finding another Zeffo tomb.”
Altheeda meanwhile, paced around the lift, trying to compose herself and figure out what was going on between them.
“Looks like we still have work to do.” He spoke and BD-1 agreed with a beep.
“When do you think you two will make it back?”
“Definitely by sundown.”
“Good, just make sure you return in one piece.”
“Got it, see you soon.”
The connection fizzled out just as the lifts doors opened and the two redheads walked out together.
“Do you think Saw and the others will be alright?”
BD-1 was the first to answer and it was with positivity.
“Always looking on the bright side huh?”
The droid trilled happily and Altheeda gave it a warm smile.
“We’re lucky to have you, buddy.”
“Yeah, thanks for everything that you do, BD.” Cal spoke kindly.
The found themselves back in the jungles of Kashyyyk and began their trek away from the refinery to a quieter section of the area.
“We’re making good progress.” Cal affirmed.
“I’m glad.” She sighed staring up at the trees and the light that peeped through them.
BD-1 made some whooping noises and jumped off of Cal’s shoulder to scan the surrounding area. This amused them both as their eyes followed the little droid for a while.
“Shall we rest here?” He asked as his head turned to study their surroundings.
“Do your Jedi senses tell you it’s safe to do so?” She smirked.
“It’s the Force, Altheeda.”
“I know I was just messing with you.” She chuckled.
He laughed with her and then nodded, answering her question.
“There’s nothing that seems off – I think it’d be the smart thing to do.”
“Then I trust your judgement.”
They fell silent again and sat down next to each other. Cal watched her as she stared up at the sky. The way the sunlight shone into her face, the orange tones in her hair had become more prominent, the waves sprawled across her back and shoulders. He was enchanted by her, for a moment he didn’t even realise she addressed him.
“I was saying, don’t you think it’s beautiful here?”
His eyes darted around the place, he found all the vibrant shades of green and the warm light refreshing to see and was drawn in by it. Yet, it didn’t take long to for his attention to go back to Altheeda; finding he was more drawn to her. He watched her smile at the red Saava flowers that bloomed off one particular tree. She pointed at them enthusiastically.
“Look at that flower over there – it’s so pretty!”
His head aligned with the direction she gestured at and the flower was in plain sight. It was hard to miss; its colours were bright and the petals looked extremely delicate. She was rather mesmerised by it and her wonder warmed him with adoration for her. Her words made Cal yearn for her more, he desperately wanted to tell her but he knew it would be very risky in doing so. However, he felt words of his own forming in his throat, he couldn’t stop them from leaving his lips and he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to; wanting to see the outcome.
“Not as pretty as you.”
“Stop it.” She chuckled, taking it all as a joke.
“Seriously, it’s true.”
Altheeda turned to face Cal, stunned by his words briefly. She wasn’t sure at first if she imagined it and she was surprised at how much she welcomed it. Her cheeks became rosy and she gave him a shy smile, tucking a strand of hair out of her face.
“Aw, that’s really-“
“W-wait, I think I heard something over there.” He stammered.
The Jedi shot up as quickly as he disappeared into the bushes ahead and she watched him with a confused smile on her face. She acknowledged that he had been acting more goofy than normal lately, she couldn’t quite figure out why; nevertheless, it gave her a good giggle. His words had affected her in some way and it was in that moment, she realised what had happened inside her.
She had fallen for him.
Cal Kestis – if her past-self had found out that she had a crush on him, she would have laughed in her face. It was something that had never crossed her mind until now. She had always liked him; he was one of the few good people in her life that didn’t want to hurt her. The rest of the men at the Scrapper’s Guild had rather unsavoury intentions that she did not want to associate herself with. She spent a large of amount of time with Cal, they practically grew up with each other, but she was adamant he couldn’t be in love with her, there were more attractive people out there in the galaxy. She sighed as she stared at the horizon ahead.
Meanwhile, as Cal stared at the ground as he walked, he came to a halt. He sensed a change within Altheeda, a wonderful change. She had begun to reciprocate his feelings. He beamed to himself, the excitement pushing his heart to beat faster. He wished that he had stayed in the situation rather than leaving it out of shame. Nevertheless, he had confirmation; the next hurdle was to now take the next step and tell her to her face rather than dropping visual cues but he didn’t feel prepared, it scared him but thrilled him all at once. He had to be rational about it.
BD-1 noticed Altheeda staring into the distance and insantly understood what had happened between them. He waddled over to her and gave her a playful whistle.
“I, er… how did you know?” She stammered and her eyes widened.
He beeped at her and stared jumping and spinning in the air. She couldn’t help but smirk at this.
“Okay okay, you got me; but if you say one word about this I’ll-“
Suddenly, Cal re-emerged from the bushes, his cheeks still slightly pink but he seemed to have somewhat composed himself. Altheeda instantly turned away from BD-1 and gave him an enthusiastic smile, despite her heart beating wildly in her chest.
“We’re still safe for now, don’t worry.” He sat back down with her. “What were you saying to BD?”
“Oh nothing.” She murmured, feeling the heat rise in her face. “Nothing.”
They sat together in a blissful silence, thriving off of the other's energy. Altheeda was trying to come to terms with her feelings for Cal, trying to keep her heartbeat steady and stop her face from going red. She wondered why her heart had chosen him; what had he possessed that made her go and fall for him. She felt foolish that she hadn't of realised sooner; on the other hand, her mind instantly came up with endless reasons as to why and thinking about them was making her fall deeper.
He was perfect to her.
Chapter 25: Chapter 25
Once their break was over, they continued through the wilderness of Kashyyyk until the Stinger Mantis, along with the landing bay were in sight. A lot of time had elapsed throughout their journey back and the sun was beginning its decent in the sky. As the duo approached the ramp of the ship, Cere and Greez had walked out to greet them, having spotted them in the distance.
“Cal, Altheeda – it’s good to see you back in one piece. Mari Kosan contacted us to explain that you couldn’t find Tarfful.” Cere spoke.
“I love risking our lives for nothing – it’s fantastic.” Greez added dryly.
“It wasn’t for nothing.” Altheeda folded her arms.
“Mari and Choyyssyk will come through for us.” Cal reassured.
“Nice to see the optimism – especially from you Altheeda. It’s a nice change.”
Altheeda hummed at this and the group smirked at each other.
“Hey, I’m a positive guy too. I’m positive that if I die, I’ll be very upset.” The latero commented, sending everyone into giggles.
“I like your thinking, Greez.” The redheaded girl nodded.
“Great minds think alike.” He replied with a thumbs up.
BD-1 chirped at this and Cere smiled at the little droid before continuing to speak.
“You did good, the both of you. We may have not found Tarfful yet, but you saved lives today – don’t forget that.”
“Save the thanks for, Cal.” Altheeda smiled. “He did most of the work.”
“You have a part in this too, Altheeda. No matter how small you think it may be.” Cere noted.
“Anyways, can we celebrate with some dinner?” Greez asked impatiently. “It’s already on the table and it’s getting cold.”
“Let’s not wait any longer.” Altheeda chuckled and sped up the ramp with Greez closely behind her as Cal and Cere leisurely walked in the rear.
The group assembled at the table and ate their meal, conversing as usual. The more they spoke with each other the more comfortable they grew around one another. Their length at the table extended each night they had dinner all together and they didn’t seem to mind at all. After the usual cleanup; Cal, Altheeda and BD-1 had moved to the rear of the ship, they were going to take in turns to use the ship work bench. She was sat on the ladder to the side that led down to the engines, her legs hanging over the rungs and idly swinging. She watched eagerly as Cal tinkered with his lightsaber whilst BD-1 watched up close, standing on the table itself nearby Altheeda’s tool box.
“So, what exactly are you doing to it?”
“Just a bit of maintenance.” He muttered as he concentrated on his actions.
“I never got to ask you, why is it blue?” She spoke, fascinated by the device.
“It’s to do with the kyber crystal.” He spoke casually.
It almost hadn’t crossed his mind that Altheeda would have little knowledge on this topic, he was so used to being surrounded by people who knew or having or having to hide it, with the exception of her catching him red-handed with it. He was ready to share that part of his life with her and let her in to something so personal to him.
“They’re literally one of the most important components to a lightsaber. It’s a key part of Jedi training we learn about.”
He gestured for her to come closer and BD-1 beeped at the redheaded girl. She smiled and stood up on the ladder to swing round to the other side and climb down onto the floor. She stood next to him, slightly behind him to not interrupt his work but he gently guided her forward to stand next to him so she had clear view of the lightsaber.
“Would you like the long explanation or the short one?” Cal asked with a shy chuckle.
“Any is good for me.” She shrugged.
“During Jedi training, you go to Ilum – it’s a planet with this crystal cave full of kyber crystals. You pick one to create your lightsaber, but they don’t actually have any colour when you first get them – the crystal bonds with you before changing colour. There’s blue, green…”
“Why is Second Sister’s lightsaber red?” Altheeda folded her arms.
Cal tensed slightly, pausing from his work and she could tell from his wince that the answer was not a pleasant one.
“If you’re one with the dark side like she is, you can manipulate the crystal to make it bleed and that’s what gives it the red colour.”
“I see.” She gave an understanding nod. “So, I take it you went to Ilum?” She added, quickly changing the subject.
He instantly lit up and began to talk about the moment he went to select his kyber crystal and she was genuinely fascinated by his story, almost too fascinated. She loved the way he smiled as he remembered the memory and how his eyes connected with hers as he unfolded the tale. Her attention was also taken by the alluring colour of them and she felt herself swooning internally. Nevertheless, she tried to concentrate on his words, despite her focus constantly shifting.
“That must have been quite the experience.” She murmured after he concluded.
He continued on completing the tweaks to his lightsaber and stepped back to admire his work. BD-1 surveyed the weapon curiously and gave some noises of approval.
“The jury has spoken.” She joked.
“Nothing is perfect until BD says so.” He laughed along.
The Jedi then picked up his lightsaber, testing the feel of it in his hands momentarily before stashing it back under his belt. He then gestured to the workbench.
She lifted the corners of her mouth and stepped forward, opening up the toolbox to take out the grapple from her toolbox and sprawled it out as she stared at it thoughtfully.
“I wonder if I could create some sort of ascension device onto my blaster…” She drummed her fingers on the table.
“It’s a good idea.” Cal acknowledged as he leaned against the wall and watched her.
“It’s just whether I’d have enough time.”
“Cere said we’re heading back to Bogano tomorrow. You should have the day to yourself.”
“And what will you do?” She asked as fumbled through her tool box and put her blaster on the table.
“I’m going to try find Cordova’s workshop.”
“Are you not going to take a break?”
“I can’t stop until we get that holocron, you know that.”
“I know, but it doesn’t mean you can’t rest for a while.”
“We rested earlier today.”
“Not only do you need to rest mentally but physically too.” She counter-argued as her hands automatically found their way to her tools and she began taking apart the blaster.
“We were sat down for a little while.” He folded his arms and cocked his head slightly.
“Yes, but I’m not just talking about resting.”
“I told you, I can’t sleep.” He sighed.
“I’m sure we can find you other ways to relax.”
BD-1 gave a curious boop at her statement and she quickly looked up from her work to acknowledge it. She then sighed as continued her tinkering, but her movements were slower and uncertain. Cal was sensing that she was growing overwhelmed, which was out of the ordinary for her when it came to these types of tasks.
“Looks like you need to relax too.”
“I’m fine.” She waved a dismissive hand. “I just…”
She placed the tool in her hand on the table, the metallic sound ringing in the air and she rubbed her forehead.
“I don’t know, it’s just not coming to me.”
“That’s okay.” He reassured. “Come back to it tomorrow.”
“You’re using my own advice on me.” She giggled.
“At least I’m using it.” He quipped.
“Not in the way you should.” She turned to him with a playful expression on her face.
He leaned towards her to pick the tool up, his hand brushing past hers that rested on the table and he gently placed it back into her tool box. Her eyes followed his movements and he then used his hand to lean on the table. Footsteps nearing them made them turn to its source, which was revealed to be Cere.
“Yeah, fine.” Altheeda nodded. “Are you alright?”
“I’m going to head in for the night, you both should probably think of doing the same.” She explained.
“I didn’t realise it was so late already.”
“Make sure you’re well-rested.” Cere gave them small smiles before turning away to walk back down the corridor. “Goodnight, you two.”
“Goodnight, Cere.” They both called to her at the same time.
“I guess that solved our issue.” Altheeda turned to Cal with a smirk and walked towards to the corridor.
“What about your stuff?” Cal followed her as BD-1 jumped off the table and followed suit.
“Leave it as it is so I can work on it again in the morning.”
She came to a halt at her cabin door and Cal became awkward and unsure of what to do. He wanted to ask if he could stay with her again but he didn’t know how to phrase it. It made him feel more at ease when he was with her, he knew that; yet he wasn’t brave enough to say out loud to her.
“Cal… why don’t you come in?” She asked forcing a confident smile. “That way you wouldn’t be alone if you had a nightmare.” She added quickly.
“Yeah sure.” He sighed with relief. “That’s a good idea.”
When they entered the room Altheeda offered her bed to Cal to which he persistently denied. She then sat on the bed, against the wall and swung her legs onto it. She gave enough room for him to sit at the end and he happily settled with that compromise. BD-1 remained silent on Cal’s shoulder and felt content to listen to their conversations and be still.
“So, is there anything you can think of that helps you relax – since sleeping isn’t an option for you at the moment?”
“Well, I guess meditating keeps my mind off things. I’m a bit rusty though.”
“How do you do that?” She asked as her posture slumped.
“You wouldn’t be able to do it I’m afraid.”
“Because I’m not special?” She teased.
“No, you’re very special; just in a different way to me.” He spoke sheepishly.
“What does that mean?” She raised an eyebrow.
“I-er-well I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I-I-I meant it – ah, in a…”
“Don’t worry I get what you’re saying.” She spoke comfortingly. “Jedi stuff.”
“I will give try it again some time. I need to keep in tune with the Force.” Cal nodded.
Altheeda stifled a yawn and curled her legs up as she laid completely flat on the bed.
“Well, tomorrow is a new day.” She spoke quietly.
“Another day closer to stopping the Empire.”
“You are well on your way, Cal.”
With that, she shut her eyes and he watched as her shoulders rose and fell in a rhythm. He smiled to himself, his eyes were heavy yet he was afraid to succumb to his need for sleep and he stared at the light in the room. It hurt his eyes to do so but he was desperate to stay awake. He thought about what it was like to sleep so easily – like how Altheeda did. He then began to wonder if she did actually sleep with such ease, she had told him about her nightmares before but she hadn’t spoken of them since what happened at Bracca. If she was alright, that was what mattered to him. His mind then began to drift away to what he thought was too self-indulgent of him to think of, but it calmed him and his heart swelled at the prospect.
He began to imagine what a future would look like with her; what would happen if he spoke his true feelings to her. Once he finished saving lives of others, he craved to establish his own. He knew that he would enjoy a peaceful life by Altheeda’s side and that it may be out of reach for the time being, but each day coming to a close was a day closer to what his heart most desired.
Chapter 26: Chapter 26
Altheeda’s eyes fluttered open and she felt something lightly tugging on her poncho. A soft frown formed on her face and she tilted her head to the direction of the source to see none other than BD-1 pulling on the piece of clothing and he gave her a series of beeps in the form of a ‘good morning.’
“Morning BD.” She replied groggily but with a smile.
The little droid let go once she sat up and scuttled towards Cal, who was still in a sitting position but Altheeda’s eyebrows raised in surprise.
He was actually asleep.
She couldn’t help but notice how peaceful he looked, how unbothered he was by the rogue strands of hair that had fallen over his eyes. It was nice to see him finally resting. She felt guilty about having to wake him but she knew he had tasks to do. She gave him an apologetic look and felt rather torn about what to do until BD-1 beeped a question at her.
“I’ll do it.” She spoke guiltily.
Her hand moved to his shoulder at a snail’s pace and she lightly cleared her throat. Gently, she began shaking his shoulder in an attempt to rouse him.
“Cal.” She spoke sweetly. “Cal?”
His eyes began to flutter open and he straightened his posture as he took a deep breath. His vision adjusted and he made eye contact with her; instantly feeling relaxed at the sight of her.
“You slept.” She stated with a hopeful smile.
“I did.” He nodded, feeling pleased with himself.
“Did you have a nice sleep?”
“Yeah, it was alright.”
BD-1 jumped onto Cal’s lap and beeped enthusiastically at him, earning himself smiles from the duo.
“Yup, we have a busy day ahead of us.” The Jedi nodded.
Cal and Altheeda had freshened themselves up for the day and set off on their separate tasks. All she knew was that Cal was somewhere out in Bogano with BD-1 searching for a hidden workshop of Cordova’s. She was in the zone, calmly using the work bench and creating the mechanism that would work as an ascension tool on her gun, combining her grapple and gun together. She made quick work of it and began testing it out outside of the Stinger Mantis, which gave her the opportunity to have a glimpse of the planet’s atmosphere.
She was stood a short distance from the ramp, mesmerised by how peaceful the area was. Absentmindedly, she aimed and fired her ascension tool and the grapple successfully fired out of the blaster and stretched a considerable distance. Altheeda smiled at her handiwork and used the little switch she had installed to reel it back in and when that worked smoothly she tucked the blaster in her pocket. It was as if she was in her own little world for a moment until a voice quickly pulled her back to reality.
“How’s it going?”
The redhead spun to the source of the voice and saw Cere smiling at her holding two baskets in her hands.
“I’m alright, are you?”
She nodded and gestured towards her blaster.
“I like what you’ve done to it. An ascension piece is going to be incredibly useful.”
“No harm in having one is there?” She shrugged.
“I’m going to pick some fruit for all of us to share, do you want to come join me?”
“Sure, why not?”
The two of them spent a while in search of edible fruits and it allowed Altheeda to explore more of the planet safely. Cere confidently navigated them around and this helped Altheeda to build more of a rapport with her. She liked learning about the different fruit varieties on Bogano and listened to Cere with full interest. It crossed her mind that maybe she would have to start being more truthful about her past to her, but that would wait for another time as she didn’t want to spoil the good time she was having.
Once they gathered the fruit, she helped Cere to carry it back to the ship. A considerable amount of time had passed as they collected their food and chatted with each other and it didn’t register until they had returned to the Mantis to find Cal sat on the ramp with BD-1 by his side.
“Back so soon?” Cere asked the Jedi.
“Just here for a break.”
“You’re in luck, we just got some fruit.’ The woman smiled.
“Great, I’m starving.”
“Here, take this one, Greez and I will share the other basket.” Cere carefully handed the full basket to Altheeda. “I’ll see you both later.”
Altheeda waved her goodbye with her free hand and Cal stood up to allow Cere to pass him on the ramp. BD-1 beeped at her and followed after her. Once she disappeared inside the ship, He went to join Altheeda, his hands on his hips as he approached her.
“What have you got there?” He looked at the fruit eagerly.
“Let’s sit down.” She walked a few steps ahead then made herself comfortable on the grass.
He happily obliged and seated himself next to her and she placed the basket in front of them so they could grab what fruit they wanted. She took a piece for herself and allowed him to make his selection.
“How’s the search for the workshop going?” Altheeda asked as she ate her fruit.
“I think I’m getting somewhere.” He spoke confidently picking a piece of fruit for himself.
“Do you have any idea what could be in there?”
“I’ll probably find more information on Cordova.” He shrugged. “Whether it’ll be useful to our mission I don’t know.” He then took a bite and chewed quickly.
“It’ll be interesting to hear what you find.”
“Any progress on your ascension mod?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, it’s all done actually, now I’m just working on some climbing picks. I need to go search for some materials.
“Sounds promising.” He spoke enthusiastically and lightly elbowed her upper arm after finishing off his fruit. “See I told you that you’d think of something.”
“A lot happened yesterday, I just got distracted by it all.” She confessed.
“What distracted you?”
Altheeda froze, unsure of how to answer and this panicked her but she carried on eating her fruit until it was gone. It wasn’t as if she could flat out tell him that he was her distraction; the possibility of a negative reaction from him made her panic even more. She didn’t show this on the outside though, she made sure not to give anything away. It was something she would have to keep an eye on and gradually reveal her feelings when the time was right.
“I was just thinking about a lot of stuff.” She managed to string a sentence.
“Is everything okay?” He asked, sensing her sudden shift in mood.
“I’m fine for now.” She gave him a nod.
He decided to not pry any further until she wanted to speak her mind. He was quite accustomed to knowing what he could and couldn’t press Altheeda on and he knew this was why she was so open with him; because she would speak to him about what she wanted when she was ready to. He stared out at the view in front of them, the vast fields of Bogano rolled out like a carpet in front of them, the yellow beams of the sun intertwined with the bold green blades of grass and it brought a sense of calm to the atmosphere. Altheeda was drawn in by it too.
“I like this place.” He spoke quietly to himself.
“It’s very peaceful.” She noted.
“Thanks for having lunch with me.” He murmured turning to address her.
“I really missed our lunch breaks together.” She gave a shy smile.
“You’re always great company, Altheeda.”
She felt herself blushing and was unsure of how to conceal it or how to act. Without thinking she rested her head on his shoulder but instantly sprang back up when she realised what she was doing. Cal felt his heart become giddy but grew confused when he felt her lift her head up and straighten her posture.
“S-sorry that was…” She stammered, too embarrassed to make eye contact.
“It’s fine.” He spoke soothingly. “It was actually quite…nice.”
She faced him timidly, still feeling skittish from her impulsive actions. She mentally scolded herself for not keeping her feelings in check, yet her heart was yearning for her to do it again. After all, Cal had said that he didn’t mind. She slowly leaned towards him once again and carefully put her head back on his shoulder. She was still fretting and Cal knew this, but unknown to her – he was elated by it. To soothe her worries, he cautiously moved a tentative arm around her and gently rested it on her upper arm. He felt her unwind at the touch and she turned her head to look up at him with wonder in her eyes. To know that she had relaxed and understood that he was okay with it made him feel glad.
They both grew more comfortable in each other’s arms as time passed. They held each other in a content silence. Altheeda began to think about the motive behind Cal’s response to her, whether he was entertaining her to be a good friend or whether there was something more to it. Her internal debate clouded her mind, almost stopping her from enjoying this little moment with him and she pushed it to one side. It was something that made her feel joy for the first time in a while.
Chapter 27: Chapter 27
The group were once again sat at the table, reunited after a day of completing their separate activities. They had just finished enjoying a meal in each other’s company. The table had been cleared and they were ready to conduct a meeting in order to plan their tasks on their return to Zeffo.
“I think finding the Imperial excavation tomb should be of the utmost importance right now.” Cere began.
Everybody nodded in agreement to this.
“That’s a pity, I heard about a high stakes game from one of Saw’s fighters. We could use the extra credits.”
“Gambling?! Use your head, Greez.” Cere scolded.
“Sounds like you have a bit of a gambling problem.” Altheeda noted.
“It’s not that bad.” Greez shrugged it off. “Cal can vouch for me, can’t ya, kid?”
Cal hummed at this reluctantly and a light snicker left Altheeda’s body.
“Someday the Haxion Brood is going to catch up to you.” The captain of the ship spoke.
“Those slubs? I’ll hear ‘em coming from a parasec away.”
“I don’t need your gambling habits giving us more trouble with murderous criminal syndicates.”
“Let’s worry about Zeffo first.” Cal reminded.
“Right, it’s a given that Cal will go and investigate the excavation. What do we do?” The redheaded girl asked, folding her arms.
“We still need to keep an eye on their communications.” Cere gestured to the comms.
“Supplies need to be gathered too.” The latero added.
“I could finally work on the ship whilst there’s time.”
“Perfect, there was a crash site near where we landed on Zeffo. Altheeda can go and salvage some parts.” Greez became animated at this idea.
“I’m not going to let you go by yourself.” Cere turned to address Altheeda.
“Then one of you will have to go with me.”
“I ain’t going.” Greez shook his head vigorously.
She paused, her posture stiffening which surprised Altheeda and Cal. Her thoughtful silence for the topic was rather strange. Everybody knew the most logical solution would be for Cere to go with her and couldn’t decipher why this would be such an issue. She lowered her eyes as her mind raced and then made eye contact with everybody in her own time.
“You and Cal will go together. Don’t separate from each other.”
“Does that mean I have to go to the site too?”
“Just be safe. You’ve done well so far.” Cere spoke firmly.
The redheads turned to each other, the pair of them had uncertainty in their eyes. Greez shifted in his seat and cleared his throat.
“Well, we all know what we’re doing. Meeting adjourned?”
It was the next day and they had successfully travelled back to Zeffo. Cal with BD-1 on his back and Altheeda swiftly made their way out of the ship shortly after its landing. At first, they were in silence as they walked side by side; although she was trying to follow his lead.
“Reckon we should pick up the parts at the crash site last?” She asked.
“Yeah it would make sense.”
“Is it usually this quiet? I thought the Empire had a huge presence here.”
“There used to be a lot of Stormtroopers on patrol, I guess they’ve been moved to the excavation.”
She hummed at this and absent-mindedly examined her surroundings. She could tell the moments she stepped into the atmosphere that it was a rather cold planet. Snow was dusted on the jagged mountains but the stand-out shade of green that was the grass freshened up the dreary surroundings. She enjoyed being with Cal but her mind was still fixated on Cere’s odd behaviour the previous night. He could tell she was concerned and he cleared his throat.
“Is everything alright?’
“Are you not thinking about it too?”
“The meeting last night?”
“Yeah. Don’t get me wrong I do love spending time with you, Cal; but things would have been a lot easier if Cere went to the crash site with me.”
“Don’t you think she was acting a bit weird?”
“I did think there was something strange going on…” Cal brooded.
“I’ve noticed she’s not really left the Mantis and when she has it’s not very far.”
“You have a point actually.”
The pair had reached an elevator and Cal pushed a button to call it.
“Once it stops at the mine, we need to focus. Last time I was there it was extremely protected.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be right behind you.” She reassured.
“So, do you think she’s afraid of something?” Cal questioned, redirecting the topic of conversation.
“What would she be afraid of? It can’t be the Empire, they’re after all of us.” Her brows furrowed.
“There’s definitely something out there she doesn’t want to encounter.”
“Or maybe someone.” Altheeda suggested.
Before Cal could respond, the elevator doors spread apart, allowing them to enter. The Jedi punched in a set of buttons and the doors quickly pried themselves together and they felt themselves descend underground. Altheeda’s stomach lurched slightly at the jolt but she quickly recovered. He began to pace around and she remained rooted to where she stood. He took out the hilt of his lightsaber and ensnared it in a tight grip. This gave her the urge to draw out her blaster and she had it pointed downwards whilst they waited to reach their destination. The elevator then came to a halt and the doors hissed as they opened. It revealed a slippery space of rock and Cal ignited his lightsaber, the sound catching her attention. His features were illuminated in a blue shade from the weapon and it briefly took her breath away, yet she grounded herself and followed after him.
When they turned the corner, they noticed a handful of Stormtroopers nearby and they took them down within a few minutes. Cal then used his talents with the Force to cross the various obstacles that were in their path and this gave an excuse for Altheeda to use her ascension device. They proceeded with caution until they reached a small section of the cave that was filled with water.
“Great, I thought I was going to stay out of water for this one.” She smirked.
“Ladies first.” He teased.
She raised her shoulders up and down as she prepared for the ice-cold water to shock her system. Bracing herself, she jumped in and she drew in a sharp breath. Cal then leapt in next and BD-1 gave a short boop.
“It’s not for too long, buddy.”
Cal began to propel himself forward and she swam behind him until they reached a ledge and they made no delay in hoisting themselves out of the water. The cave they had found themselves in was getting significantly lighter and they knew they were close to the outside. As they walked, Altheeda rubbed her hands together.
“BD, you got anything that can warm me up?”
The bot gave a guilty trill and she nodded understandingly.
“I guess you can’t do everything, but you do more than enough for us.”
BD-1 gave a slow, happy beep in reply and Cal chuckled at it. Before they knew it, they were out of the cave and were stood on a ledge that overlooked a huge wreckage. To Altheeda, it was very reminiscent of Bracca. It felt like for almost a moment she was back there and she briefly shook her head to shake off the memories.
“Woah.” She murmured.
“You have plenty to choose from.” Cal smiled.
“Do you know what exactly we’re going to find or see at this excavation?”
“Not really, I just feel something in the Force and I’m just following it.” He spoke slowly. “You coming?”
“I’m right with you.”
They both clambered down to cross the vast crash site climbing over various pieces of metal until something from above attempted to shoot at them. Altheeda dived to the side, hiding behind some scrap metal and arming herself with her gun. The Jedi also dived for cover and peered upwards to see a probe droid hanging above them.
“They’re watching us.” Cal spoke gravely.
“Does that mean we’re close to something?”
She rolled once again to dodge an incoming shot and Cal rose to his feet with his lightsaber activated. He started reflecting the laser fire back onto the probe droid and Altheeda stood up and fired back at it. It then began to hover towards them, on the brink of explosion and cal instantly knew what it was designed to do. He took her arm and guided her as he ran for cover and BD-1 squeaked in panic. It reached its breaking point and burst into flames, propelling them both violently forward as they met with the floor. They both groaned in pain but Cal was quick to pick himself up from the ground and helped himself and Altheeda to their feet.
“We’ve got to keep an eye on those.” Altheeda breathed.
As they proceeded towards the excavation, more of the probe droids floated towards their route but as they teamed up together it was easier to destroy them. They continued to do descend towards the excavation, with Cal using BD-1 and his Force skills and Altheeda having to take a detour and using her ascension device to swing to various ledges. Eventually, they were reunited again and found themselves by another elevator.
“Should we go in?” She asked curiously.
“I don’t like the feeling it’s giving me, but I know it’s the right way to go.”
“How can you tell?”
“I just feel… uneasy. I know Greez’s cooking didn’t help anything but I know it’s some sort of warning.”
“I definitely can relate to that first one.” Altheeda let a soft chuckle escape from her throat. “But we have to ready for anything.”
All Cal could do was nod in reply as he pushed the button for the elevator and the doors immediately parted open. They both drew in a long, heavy breath and cautiously moved inside before the doors shut behind them and the lift brought them downwards to an unknown destination.
Chapter 28: Chapter 28
When the elevator doors parted, they exited but dread had halted the beating of their hearts. Second Sister stood before them, the helmet concealing her emotions, adding to her intimidating stance. Altheeda stepped back in fright, a shaky hand lingering by the handle of her blaster. Cal remained rooted to where he stood and his eyes giving the inquisitor a cold stare.
“Cal Kestis, how predictable.” She snarled before turning her head to the redheaded girl.
“How is your ankle, Altheeda Reeve?”
They were both speechless, unsure of what to retort back with.
“Yes, I know both your names, your pasts; but most importantly, I know about Cordova.” She explained as she paced in front of her prey. “Tell me, where did he hide the holocron?”
Altheeda turned her attention to Cal, as if to ask him what to do. He was still focused on Second Sister; he wordlessly shifted into a fighting stance and ignited his lightsaber and the inquisitor paused in her tracks.
“Outstanding.” She taunted, before activating her own weapon.
“Altheeda, you need to move.” He urged her, hints of panic were laced in his voice.
“I’ll try recall the elevator.” She replied quickly.
She made a beeline to the lift’s control panel as Cal ran to Second Sister to engage in combat. Her hands shook as she pressed the button, only to receive no response from the mechanism. She cursed under her breath as she immediately began to slide the tool box off her back and her fingers fumbled to open it up. All she could hear were the two lightsabers colliding together and grunts of pain from Cal taking hits; although she could hear the occasional cries of pain from Second Sister. She dared not to look at the fight, hearing the commotion was off-putting enough.
“Focus Theeda, focus.” She hissed at herself.
She took some rapid deep breaths and examined the panel before her, taking out the appropriate tools to pry the cover off to reveal the wiring below. She fiddled around, trying to access the issue that was deep rooted in the circuitry. She knew what little time she had and tried to keep an efficient work pace. At this point, the duel between Cal and Second Sister had shifted closer to her that she could see it in her peripheral. She felt her heart speed up and so did her handiwork. She made one final adjustment to the wires and she knew she had succeeded. Frantically she began to place the cover back onto the panel so it was ready to use, then began to pack her tools away.
She swiftly hauled her toolbox onto her back and her fingertip barely brushed on the button to recall the elevator when she felt herself become enveloped by some invisible power. Her body was lifted into the air jolted backwards towards the Second Sister. It clicked in her mind that it was her doing and she was at her mercy. The inquisitor then threw her towards Cal, who was already on a heap on the ground, and she landed beside him with a pained groan. The next sequence of events happened in rapid concession. Cal and Altheeda shuffled backwards, wide-eyed in fear. Second Sister stalked towards them raising her lightsaber. At the same moment she went to swipe her blade downwards, a ray shield appeared to sever the gap.
Cal and Altheeda gaped at the hazy red energy before them and on the other side, the inquisitor halted her attack in surprise. A confident beep made everyone turn their heads to find BD-1 latched onto a panel and they all were up to speed with what had happened. The two redheads helped each other to their feet and the little bot hopped off the device to reunite with the duo.
“You’re learning.” Second Sister sneered. “Not as gifted as Cere’s last apprentice but not bad.”
Altheeda eyed her carefully, noting that there was something odd about the way she was speaking about Cere. As she stood brooding, Cal was stood next to her, scowling at the Second Sister.
“You’ve been keeping count?” He shot back bitterly.
“I’m surprised she never said anything. Cere was never good at keeping secrets.”
“And you know her so well, huh?”
Second Sister laughed at the response, which roused Altheeda from her thoughts and she became present once again. She watched the woman pace sinisterly in front of them.
“She was weak. She cracked in an Imperial torture chair.”
“Maybe to you.” Altheeda clenched her fists. “Some people would look at it differently.”
“You didn’t let me finish. Would you change your mind if I told you she surrendered the location of her naïve padawan?” She spat.
Altheeda fell silent, her only response was to fold her arms. Betrayal was a hard thing to accept and forgive, she knew this herself.
“They would never have found me…” Second Sister continued.
Her words piqued the intrigue in both Cal and Altheeda. As soon as the word ‘me’ left the inquisitor’s lips, they both knew. Altheeda’s mouth parted in disbelief and Cal cocked his head ever so slightly, not wanting to reveal more of his vulnerability to his opponent. Second Sister lifted the emotionless helmet from her head to reveal a steely gaze aimed at them both, with strands of hair concealing it ever so slightly. The woman had short, dark hair that was slicked back and she had extreme dark circles around her eyes, the iris an unsettling yellow shade that pierced deep into the two with each glance.
“… if it wasn’t for her. She betrayed me.”
Cal stepped forward warily and Altheeda stayed at her safe distance.
“You’re Trilla.” He stated.
“In the flesh.”
He clenched his fists and turned his back on her, walking away and Altheeda quickly followed suit.
“I won’t let you manipulate me.” He spoke adamantly.
“So sure, are you?”
“You want us to turn against Cere.” She turned back at Trilla. “Why else would you do this?”
“I’m merely stating facts.” Trilla shrugged. “When faced with the choice to defend herself or her padawan, she chose her own self-interest. She’ll sell you out, the both of you.”
Cal, with his back towards Trilla, listened to her words. Altheeda could tell they were messing with his mind but he rolled his eyes at them before addressing her once again.
“Well, we can handle ourselves.” He replied, spreading his arms out.
“Are you willing to take that chance?”
“I’ve taken many chances and they’ve seemed to have paid off for me so far.” Altheeda stepped forward.
“And what will you do when you find yourself in the clutches of Senator Reeve?” Trilla raised her eyebrow.
She paused very briefly hearing her father’s name being mentioned by her but it wasn’t hugely surprising to her that she would know about the warrant.
“I won’t be.” She gritted her teeth.
“What’s guaranteeing that Cere won’t hand you over if she finds out? You know what she did to me. She harbours great darkness.”
Now Altheeda could feel herself becoming negatively swayed by her words. She began shaking her head in denial and Trilla smirked.
“The look on her face when she saw what they did to me. As I am now. She turned, exposing her true nature. She used the dark side.”
“She cut herself off from the Force.” Cal argued.
“Oh? How long before she cracks and betrays you too? Is that who you want beside you when you find the holocron?”
The Jedi watched Trilla walk around as she tried to plant doubt in his mind until her next sentence triggered the anger inside him to reach its boiling point.
“What would Jaro Tapal say?”
“You have no right to mention his name!” He growled as he sped towards her.
“Don’t!” Altheeda shouted, putting an arm in front of him, despite knowing the shield would have stopped him either way. “You’re giving her what she wants!”
“I wonder what he would think if he could see his padawan now?”
Cal grunted and rushed to move closer and she instantly moved her hand gently to his upper arm.
“No…” Altheeda spoke softly to him, her grip on his was light enough but firm to keep him in place.
He turned his head to the side to look at her, his expression instantly softening at her concerned one. He took a breath then gave a glare to Trilla who was amused in her own twisted way by the display.
“Skulking in the shows with a betrayer, granting her access to a legion of impressionable students.”
“No, I won’t let you touch them.”
“You’re giving some cheap shots.” Altheeda scowled at Trilla.
“Let me make something very clear. You and I both know you are not important in all of this. Once I strike Cal down and have the holocron in my possession, you will be dealt with along with Cere and the rest of you. However, if you keep choosing to interfere, I will make sure you get back to your father and you won’t have the choice as to whether you go dead or alive.”
“You will not lay a finger on those children, or Altheeda, or any of my friends.” Cal spoke in a low tone.
Trilla gave a devilish smile and turned away from the pair, using the Force to retrieve her helmet. They watched her strut away in silence before uttering one last sentence.
“I thought similar things once.”
Chapter 29: Chapter 29
The two of them stood in silence. Cal was completely wrapped up by his anger from the encounter, whilst Altheeda wanted to comfort him but just had no clue how to go about it. She rarely saw him riled up, so this was unfamiliar territory to her. Asking whether he was okay was a pointless question and she knew that yet she didn’t want to appear heartless to his emotions. It was then she knew exactly what to do.
She walked over to him slowly, but as confidently as she could, and her fingers intertwined to find his and she held his hand. She didn’t need to say or do anything else, Cal understood instantly. He looked down at his hand and began to feel calmer as time went on. She then gave it a squeeze before gently letting go and walking ahead at a snail’s pace. BD-1, who had watched the interaction curiously, beeped for Cal to join them.
“Thanks for what you did back there.” Cal muttered to the droid. “You saved our lives and got us closer to the tomb.”
A trilling noise from BD-1 helped to erase the silence but it was still persistent as they entered a cave. As they peered into the darkness, the only way through was a sheer drop, but Altheeda knew she could cross using her grapple in her blaster. She gestured for him to go first and he nodded, allowing BD-1 to climb his back before using his skills with the Force to run across the rocky walls to cross. She gave him some leeway before firing at the rocky surface and securing the line before swinging across. When she reached the ledge that Cal stood on, she began reeling in the mechanism and couldn’t help but notice how much their latest encounter with Second Sister had affected him. BD-1 made a series of curious noises at him and he sighed heavily.
“I can’t believe she kept something like that from us.” He lamented.
“She probably had her reasons.” She spoke uncertainly.
“And what exactly do you think those reasons are?” Cal asked with folded arms.
“Well… look, Cal. We’ve only heard one side, we need to give Cere a chance to explain herself.”
“What is there to explain?”
“You don’t even know if it’s true. Right now, you’re only taking into account someone’s word and that someone wants us killed.”
The Jedi paused for a moment, the cloudiness in his mind beginning to clear. She did have a point, as angry as he was, he didn’t have solid proof that what was said had occurred. At the same time, this new information was making him question many things, even questioning whether he was on the right side in the mission.
“She was nearly killed by Cere’s betrayal, what’s to say the same won’t happen to us?” Cal fired back, his eyebrows furrowed.
“It hasn’t happened yet.”
“Yet.” He emphasised.
“Altheeda, we really need to be more careful.”
“Of course, but I just don’t think we should take only one side as the truth.”
Cal was becoming more confused and frustrated with himself and the words Trilla had told him. He resented himself for allowing his mind to become muddled. Altheeda was pained to see him like this. She stepped forward and put soft hands on his shoulders and she felt them unwind.
“Believe me, I’m just as confused as you are, but right now, we need to focus on getting into the tomb. Yes, we need answers from Cere and until then we should be wary, but trying to address everything all at once is not going to work.”
He nodded as he began to see sense again.
“I don’t know what we’re meant to be finding in the tomb, I think you know more than I do on that one.” She added with a small giggle that he joined in with. “But once we find something, then we’ll address this.”
“Okay.” He breathed.
“Please don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s not your responsibility or your fault. We will get some answers.”
With every word that left her lips, he felt himself becoming grounded and he managed to compose himself. He gave her a grateful smile and it filled her with relief.
“You don’t need to thank me.”
They found themselves caught up in the moment together, they were both unintentionally giving each other longing stares and enjoying the closeness. Altheeda had a newly found confidence in her, she wanted to use it to uplift Cal and push them both forwards. It began to mingle with her infatuation for him. This drove her to lift her hands towards his face and he didn’t flinch, his lips parted, anticipating what she was going to do. She suddenly grew nervous and her hands froze momentarily. The more she doubted herself, the lower her hands dropped and he decided to take matters into his own hands, quite literally.
He carefully guided her hands towards his face, allowing them to rest on his temples. Holding them in place, he then looked at her as if to ask whether that was her intention all along. When she gave him a bashful smile and a small nod, he lowered his hands to his sides and treasured the small gesture. The nerves melted away and was replaced with a pleasant buzz in her chest. After a moment longer of holding him tenderly, she lightly stroked his cheeks with her thumbs and let go.
Altheeda walked onwards with a content smile plastered on her face and Cal watched her in awe before snapping out of his trance and catching up with her.
“Do you know where we are?” She asked, trying to act normally.
“We’ll find out once this rubble is out of the way.”
Raising his palm at it, he used the Force to move the rocks from out of their path. What it revealed brought them joy and wonder as they stepped through.
They had finally reached the tomb. Cal was still fascinated by it all but not as much as Altheeda; having never set foot in a tomb before. The architecture and the water dripping down from the icicles had her mesmerised.
“It feels.. different than the other tomb.” He thought aloud.
“In what way?” She asked, her head still craned upwards.
“I don’t know…”
BD-1 beeped and Cal shrugged.
“I just don’t like the feeling.”
“We’re here with you.” Altheeda reassured and BD-1 made an enthusiastic noise.
Cal then lead the way and began to use his comms to update Cere. Altheeda could also hear the buzzing of the signals in her comms.
“Cere, I found it.” He spoke as neutrally as he could as he began to climb a rocky surface. “But, why didn’t you tell us?”
Altheeda also proceeded to climb but blinked rapidly at the voice that answered back.
“Because she’s a liar.” Trilla spoke.
“You! How?!” Cal demanded.
“I rerouted the communications the moment you tried to make contact with her. Slicing encrypted transmissions was always a pastime of hers. There’s no technique Cere has that I haven’t perfected.”
Before the both of them could fire back with a response, the comms disconnected and with it went Trilla’s voice. They both sighed before reaching the top and getting themselves onto their feet. Cal continued to focus on their current task and found a small gap they could squeeze through to advance through the tomb. Once they made it out a beam of blue light was blasted near their direction and he stood in front of her in a defensive position. The beam had hit a Stormtrooper which was now deceased.
A tall, metallic statue figure appeared to be the source of the beam. Altheeda gave it a wide-eyed look and looked down at her blaster handle sticking out of her pocket uncertainly. She was unsure of whether it would enough penetrate the figure but Cal instantly knew what to do. He sprang into action and she watched him take it down with impressive skill.
“What was that?”
“A tomb guardian. They’re everywhere.”
“Great, I don’t think I’m going to be much help on this one. Sorry.” She spoke with regret.
“There were many puzzles and devices in the previous tomb which means there’s bound to be some here. That’s definitely in your area of expertise.” Cal smiled.
“I’m happy to take a look.” She returned the smile and followed the route he took.
They moved into the next segment of the tomb and kept to their thoughts for a while as they climbed vines and navigated through various damp paths and caves. Once again, they paused at a crackle in their comms and braced themselves.
“You’re running out of time.” Trilla taunted.
“For what?” Cal retorted.
“My scouts have located an artefact of interest at the rear of the tomb. Even now I’m studying it… learning his secrets.”
“And why should we believe you?” Altheeda challenged.
“It seems Cordova was rather taken with the Zeffo. Maybe so much, he hid the holocron amongst their bones.”
“Yeah, we’ll see how much you learn.” Cal shot back, earning him an impressed smile from Altheeda.
As he forced pushed another pile of rocks, it revealed a vast room that had a shallow pool of water from the overhead, melting icicles throughout the tomb. It was riddled with more Imperial troops and she immediately grabbed her blaster and took aim. He began deflecting the fire back onto them and it took little time to clear the presence of the Empire.
“Although I never knew the man, I can see why Cordova had a great interest. It’s beautiful.”
“It is fascinating.” Cal agreed as he shut off his lightsaber.
They walked side by side, marvelling at the décor until Second Sister decided to intervene once again and wiped the awe off their faces.
“More of my soldiers are breaching this tomb every minute.” Her voice rang in their ears.
“I wouldn’t have guessed.” Altheeda remarked sarcastically.
“Afraid to face me yourself?” He taunted.
“Had your droid not have stepped in I would have killed you then the girl with ease.”
The droid in question protested with a loud beep which caught the two redheads slightly off-guard.
“It’s okay, buddy.” The Jedi reassured. “Just ignore her.”
“That’s the spirit, Cal.” Altheeda praised.
He held his head high and lead them to various platforms for them to cross, each with more Stormtroopers on guard. They worked together to push through and eventually found themselves on a bridge that they began to cross and found a button for them to push, causing magnets to produce a current and reveal a pathway. She thought about how much time had passed since Trilla had last bugged them and just like that, the comms were brought to life again and she audibly groaned.
“Imagine the artefacts the Empire would have missed if it weren’t for you setting foot on this backwater planet.”
“Sure it’s worth the cost? I heard Project Auger came at a high price.”
“Stormtroopers and workers; expendable resources.”
“You’re a monster.”
With that her voice disappeared once again into thin air and left them to their devices and they hiked through what seemed to be endless pathways into the tomb. Altheeda was keeping herself patient and attempting to shake off Trilla’s interferences. She released a sharp breath and proceeded onwards.
Another lengthy duration of time had passed as they navigated through the tomb and she began to wonder whether the sun had set, whether it was even a new day and they hadn’t realised. Time appeared to be meaningless underground.
“I’ve taken the artefact back to my ship for analysis. Shame you couldn’t make it in time.” Trilla’s voice in her ear dragged her back to reality.
“Doesn’t matter what you steal. You’ll never understand it.”
“Yet you do?”
“You’ll find out soon enough.”
“I’ll take those odds.”
“This is getting ridiculous now.” Altheeda stated when the comms cut off.
“It’s going to be okay. Like you say, she’s trying to get to us. Keep going.” Cal spoke encouragingly.
A few moments later they found themselves climbing up more platforms and vines and Second Sister once again deemed it appropriate to mess with them.
“I noticed something while examining this sarcophagus. It’s a very convenient location to dispose of nuisances.”
“You lured me here.” Cal realised. “Was this your plan all along?”
“You truly have the wits of a scrapper.”
Altheeda grunted as the connection fizzled out. They both scooped themselves onto the top of the platform and she attempted to compose herself. Cal meanwhile, surveyed the platform, assessing which route to take next as the gap from them and other surfaces was too wide. As she stood, she heard the hum of some sort of engine nearing them and Cal already sensed the impeding danger approaching them. They both looked at each other at the same time, the fear they both had evident in their expressions.
“Altheeda, quick!” Cal called out for her.
She sprinted across the platform towards him and a loud bang rang in her ears, causing her to squeal. She leapt in Cal’s direction and managed to grip her arm to keep them together, then he wobbled as he began to lose his balance and his lightsaber slipped out of his other hand as they hurtled downwards. She tucked her head into his shoulder, preparing herself once again to meet her end. The whistling of the wind in her ears stopped abruptly as she felt her and Cal’s body hit a rocky surface and he manoevered them into a roll until they lost momentum and were laid on their backs side by side.
Her chest was working overtime as she was panting for air. Cal had his lightsaber in a firm grip in his hand and he stared at it bewilderedly.
“Why does this keep happening to us?” She wheezed.
Cal let an airy chuckle before standing up stiffly and holding his lightaber up in the air with wonder in his eyes.
“The Force is with me.”
Chapter 30: Chapter 30
She watched him in mesmerisation as the handle of his lightsaber glinted in the gloom of the tomb. It seemed that Cal had been enlightened by the Force in some way and it topped up his confidence. After his awe wore off, he turned to Altheeda and noticed her curiousity at the situation. He wandered over to her and helped her off the ground before explaining.
“I’ve done it, Theeda. I remember everything about my training.”
“That’s great, Cal!” She reacted positively.
“My connection to the Force is finally healed.”
“You’ve needed this.”
He nodded with a smile and took one last look at his lightsaber before tucking it away. He then gestured for her to follow and BD-1 gave a reassuring beep for the both of them as they plodded onwards. There were in a solemn silence until their comms were meddled with once more.
“You survived.” Trilla’s disappointed voice lingered in their ears.
“Was that not part of the plan?” Cal shot back.
“Luckily, I always make room for contingencies.” She snarled before cutting off.
The pair of them quickly shook off the interruption and carried on with their search of the tomb. They were approaching a vast space that had candles mounted in the walls and a huge ball surrounded by what appeared to be ice or some sort of glass. They studied their surroundings, figuring out that the room was some sort of puzzle.
“Any ideas, Theeda?”
The candles stuck out to her and she stared at them with furrowed brows. She noticed all the water dripping down around them and knew it would prove difficult to keep the candles burning.
“Those candles seem important, but it’s so damp it’d be a miracle to keep them lit.” She muttered.
“How can we stop the candles from getting doused?” Cal asked aloud.
Altheeda carefully approached the candles, the warmth of them was welcomed by her body due to her soaked clothing. In the corner of her eye, she spotted a mechanism that had rope wrapped around it, she followed the direction of the rope which she found was connected to the ball trapped in the container.
“Before we think about that, I think we should have a look at that device over there.” She pointed to it.
Cal turned his head and instantly found the device.
“We need to pull the rope somehow.” She glanced at him.
Without hesitation, Cal wordlessly lifted his hand and she watched the rope unravel around the mechanism and glide in mid-air towards his hand and it was in his grip. They heard rocks crumble and peered upwards to see the huge ball lift higher and it seemed to be a positive form of progress.
“That was impressive.” She remarked with a wink and a coy smile.
A satisfied smirk formed on his face and he winked in return. They quickly refocused and she strolled about, the water squelching with each step she took. She had a brooding expression and Cal continued to look around the area for any clues. Altheeda then spied a thin pedestal with a switch on it a level down and she was drawn to it.
“There’s something down there.” She alerted him.
The Jedi watched as she ran across to the ledge and jumped down a level, she landed in a crouched position before getting back on her feet and sprinting to the pedestal. When she got her breath back, she pressed the switch and a magnetic field appeared above her and caught her attention. It was then an idea occurred to him and he used his Force pull ability once again to grab a candle and the push it into the magnetic field. It was held in place and he went to jump down to join his companion and pulled the candle back to him before throwing it at the ropes. As the fibres of the rope fizzled away, the duo braced themselves as the huge sphere fell and its case shattered.
They jumped down to the bottom level and approached the ball that had just settled from rolling around. Cal knew what to do from that point onwards and Force pushed the ball into a slot on the ground and sent the area into a rumble once again; this time due a spire that was pushing out from the ground. Cal and Altheeda watched grow towards the ceiling. An entrance to the spire revealed itself once the bottom section peaked out from the ground and she turned to him. He gave a nod to signal that it was safe for them to enter it and they slowly walked in and found various drawings on the walls. BD-1 leapt off of the Jedi’s back and began projecting a hologram of an elder man and she was instantly intrigued.
“Here it is. I have finally found an intact representation of this sacred Zeffo artefact. My friend, look closely; this is Miktrull at the Vault on Bogano. You can see an object in their hand. Based on this imagery, I believe this object allows a Force wielder to perceive the mysteries of the Vault. This is the key and the guide.” He gestured to the mural. “The Zeffo Astrium. But who would destroy images of it and why? It requires more research, however; our next step’s clear. Find an Astrium, if any still exists.”
“An Astrium.” Cal repeated slowly.
“I hope that made more sense to you than it did to me…” Altheeda murmured with a puzzled expression.
“Have you heard of it?” He asked BD-1.
BD-1 shook the upper half of his robotic body and gave a low beep in reply.
“Me neither… but a key; I understand that. Looks like we know what to find.”
Cal and Altheeda had eventually found themselves out of the tomb and began finding their way back to the Mantis, trying to go via the crash site to get the parts Altheeda needed to start her work on the ship. To do this, they had to go through the underground passages the Empire had created and they were both on high alert as they peered round corners and treaded carefully.
“Cordova seems like a very fascinating man.” She spoke quietly, breaking the silence the both of them held.
“Yeah, he has a strong passion for the Zeffo, you can tell that much.” He agreed.
“Have you given much thought about what he said?”
“I’m hoping that when we find the key the Astrium part will make more sense.”
“I’m sure it will.”
“What did you think about the tomb?”
“It was amazing… the architecture, the culture…”
“I never thought I would see anything like that.” Cal smiled.
She suddenly stopped, peering at something in the distance that made her wary. Cal followed her line of vision and noticed a large droid patrolling the area, he was unfamiliar with droid and wondered how long it had been there. He then raised his hand for her to follow his lead and they side-stepped along the rock, feeling the jagged edges scratch against their backs. Their eyes were constantly on the droid and it seemed to be oblivious until they were nearer and it turned to them sharply.
“Stay where you are!” It yelled at them.
Cal and Altheeda did the exact opposite and armed themselves with their weapons. She began to open fire on it, only to have her blasts bounce off the metal. He dashed over to it and slashed at it, which did minimal damage. The droid then began to fire at them and she narrowly dodged it.
“You’ll regret running!
Small canisters were fired from the droid and they were not anticipated by the pair and they were both struck by them. When they made contact, they burst open and electric bolts clawed at their bodies and they both cried out in agony. Altheeda felt her body writhing as she collapsed onto the ground and so did Cal. The last thing she saw was the Jedi squirming on the ground as he hissed in pain and the shadow of the droid hovering over her, watching the shadow of its arms raise in the air before everything went dark.
Her head was pounding when she came to, the feeling was making her rather nauseous. Despite the panic that kicked in when her eyes refocused, not recognising the location she was at, she remained still, staring up at the ceiling. Not wanting to make herself feel worse, she lay there frozen, shutting her eyes again momentarily to ride out the wooziness. When she felt ready, she opened them again and carefully adjusted herself into a seated position.
It was some sort of prison cell she had found herself in. She felt a pit in her stomach which only added to her ailment. She took steady, deep breaths which seemed to do the trick. As she did this, her eyes studied what was in front of her, slender beams of light slipped through the gaps of the door, there was one thin bar of metal across the middle, which seemed thin enough to snap with her tools and she could dive through the hole in the middle. She reached behind her back only to find that she was no longer carrying anything, her tool box had been taken for her and a concoction of more panic but with increased anger formed inside her.
“Cal?” She groaned, looking to her side, expecting him to be there.
Yet he wasn’t. Her head turned rapidly from side to side as she looked around the cell to find she was the only occupant. She put a hand on her forehead as the throbbing began to worsen and she squeezed her eyes shut.
“BD?” She called out, hoping the little bot was hiding in the shadows.
Silence was the only response given to her and confirmed she was truly on her own. She sighed and slowly clambered onto her feet, beginning to stroll around the room, to regain her strength. She put her hands on her hips and realised her blaster was also taken from her, releasing a sharp breath.
She knew her top priority was to break out and find Cal and BD-1, then go find her tool box. Her brain racked through ideas on how to escape and her first idea was to do with the panels she spotted around the room. Altheeda walked as fast as she could manage to one of them, hoping that the screws on them would be rusty enough to break, but to her disappointment there was no sign of rusting.
She tutted and straighten up once again and began to pace. This time it was faster as her mind worked at a rapid pace. It kept going back to the thin piece of metal on the cell door. She knew she needed something durable that could cause it to break and she idly kicked a piece of rock that had chipped off from the walls. Her eyes lit up and she swiped the same rock she kicked off the ground. Altheeda looked at the rock uncertainly, but it was the only option and she knew she had to try.
Approaching the cell door, she began hammering away at the metal using the bulky rock in her hand. She would stop occasionally to see if it was doing anything, noticing some dents in the material which was a glimmer of hope. She continued hitting the rock on the metal and felt like time was slowing and that her progress was coming to a halt. She grunted in frustration and gripped the rock tightly before nearing footsteps startled her. She froze in that position, ready to hurl the rock if danger was around the corner. All she could do was listen to the steps echo closer to her and watch the silhouette draw near.
“Theeda! Are you alright?”
A panicked Cal had revealed himself from the corner and BD-1 was perched on his back and gave her a happy beep. She dropped the rock and it rolled lazily across the ground and her features softened at the sight of him. He too was relieved to see her, reaching a hand in between the metal and she took it with both hands.
“I’m fine, are you okay?”
He gave a quick nod and glanced at the distorted metal.
“They took my tool box, couldn’t even get past the panels. The rock was the only option.”
He silently raised his other hand to reveal he had her tool box in his possession. She squeezed his hand in thanks.
“They took BD and my lightsaber off me. I found everything with BD in another cell. Now, I need to get you out of here, stand back.”
She let his hand slip out of hers and did as she was told, stepping to the side as Cal force pushed the door open with ease. Shen then rushed over to him, enveloping him in a grateful hug before taking the tool box and putting it the straps through her shoulders to sit it on her back.
“Do you know where we are?” She asked curiously.
“I think it’s some sort of droid jail.” He explained as they walked side by side. “Anyways, I found an elevator that should get us out of here.”
They both jogged across a corridor and found the elevator Cal had mentioned. It didn’t take long for Altheeda to sort the wires so the power would return to it and they began ascending to some sort of exit. The higher they went, the more intense the loud music could be heard blaring in the area and it was instantly recognisable to them both.
“I recognise the band…” Cal spoke aloud.
“I’d usually be glad to hear this, but I can’t help but feel something sinister about it in this situation…” She said uncertainly.
“Here, you might need this.” He said, trying to lighten the mood and drew out her blaster from under his belt.
“Cheers.” She nodded and took it graciously.
When the elevator halted, they spotted an exit that revealed a vast space and the pair of them were beginning to get an idea of what was about to occur. Nevertheless, they proceeded forwards and entered a huge arena and a giant hologram of a man appeared above them.
“Finally, he arrives.” The hologram spoke. “We had action on how long it would take you.”
“And who are you?” Cal challenged.
The hologram laughed as he paced back and forth, surveying his prey.
“Who am I? I’m Sorc Tormo, baby. I run this operation. You have Greezy Four-Arms to thank for bringing us together.”
Altheeda frowned at Sorc and Cal did the same.
“We have a special challenger, an enforcer from a bygone era. We got ourselves a Jedi and a senator’s daughter; aren’t we in for a treat?” He taunted. “Somebody get baby his toy?”
Cal could see the shine of his lightsaber being thrown down to him and the two redheads both peered up at it and the Jedi caught it with ease and activated it with no delay.
“You want a show? I’ll give you a show.” Cal spoke with determination.
“I just want to survive.” Altheeda shrugged.
The crowd that surrounded them from balconies roared when they heared the roar of a creature that was released into the arena. Altheeda had never seen such a horrid creature and she grimaced. She could tell that he had been acquainted with it before and he instantly went to attack it with great confidence. She put her disgust to one side and took aim with her blaster and fired successful shots at it. Throughout their fight Sorc was narrating their actions and it proved irksome for the duo but it didn’t take them long to kill their opposition.
“Why don’t you come down and fight me yourself?” Cal called to Sorc just about making himself heard of the crowd.
“I’m too busy counting my credits.” He chuckled.
BD-1 made a snarky beeping noise that made the two of them smile in amusement.
“I agree, he talks too much.” Cal nodded.
More waves of creatures were being sent into the arena to the pleasure of Sorc and the crowd and the two redheads worked together to stay alive and it was becoming second nature to them. Altheeda’s blaster fire was getting more precise and Cal was swift in his work. When they cleared the area, Sorc addressed them again.
“You’re messing with the odds. Well, you should be familiar with our next challengers… The Haxion Brood is gunning for ya.”
A large droid descended into the space and Altheeda tightened her grip on her weapon.
“It’s the same droid that took us out.”
“We have to be extra careful.” He said as he adjusted his fighting stance.
The droid charged for them both and she dived into a roll to avoid being struck. She decided to use herself as a distraction and fired shots at it to encourage a chase. She ran around the arena as the droid would attempt to go after her, only to be attacked by Cal and try fight him off. Eventually, this ran the droid down and Cal managed to give one last hit and destroy the droid and Altheeda stopped in her tracks. He ran over to her and put an arm around her shoulder as they gathered their energy.
“What do you mean there’s an incoming-“
Sorc was interrupted by a crash of rocks and metal falling apart and Cal and Altheeda craned their heads up to find the Mantis crashing through the arena. The relief on their faces was crystal clear and he tapped her shoulder lightly before letting go to allow them to make a break for the ship.
Before they knew it, they had raced into the lounge area and the door shut behind them before the ship made a rapid escape and shot back into space at high speed.
Chapter 31: Chapter 31
When the two redheads felt ready, they straightened up their posture and proceeded towards the cockpit, Altheeda placed her blaster on the sofa before following Cal into the room. Cere and Greez were sat at their stations and didn’t get the chance to spare them a glance.
“Hey, Greez.” Cal was the first among the group to speak. “You’re famous down there.”
“They’re real big fans of yours.” Altheeda chimed in sarcastically.
Greez looked up at them with a guilty expression and stammered.
“Yeah, they’re an… ugly group, huh? At least you both are okay.”
“Luckily we were able to find you both.” Cere spoke with a straight face.
Cal then grew serious as he addressed the group on what had occurred on their expedition.
“We have an issue, the Empire knows about the holocron…”
“That’s not good; the entire mission is now at risk.” Cere shook her head. “These were complications we could have avoided.” Cere gave the latero a look before addressing the duo with a stern look on her face. “But it did shed some light on something rather interesting.”
Everyone in the room paused and eyed her curiously. Her gaze then shifted to Altheeda and she felt her stomach drop.
“The Haxion Brood were raving about it on their comms – a daughter of a Senator.” She folded her arms.
Altheeda lowered her eyes in shame and Greez turned in his chair to stare at her in shock. She couldn’t look anyone in the eye. Cal noticed her discomfort and his fingers lightly brushed against hers out of Cere and Greez’s eyesight.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Cere narrowed her eyes, her tone was accusatory.
“I don’t think it’s very fair to act this way to Altheeda when you haven’t been entirely honest with us, Cere.” Cal intervened with a steely expression.
Both women looked up at Cal wide-eyed but for different reasons. Cere had shifted in her seat and Altheeda knew what he was about to say and was apprehensive about how it was all going to unfold.
“We had a nice chat with the Second Sister; Trilla.” He spoke slowly, putting emphasis on Trilla’s name.
Cere mirrored Altheeda’s reaction when she was challenged on her lack of honesty and it surprised the redheaded girl. She found herself feeling sorry for Cere because of their similar situations and instead of wanting to call her out, she wanted to listen to her and understand her.
“What did she tell you?” She asked quietly.
“She told me… She told me that you betrayed her to the Empire; is that true?”
Greez glanced over at them, stunned by what he was hearing and like the rest of them, was eager to hear what Cere had to say for herself.
“She’ll say anything to jeopardise this mission.” She quickly shot back.
“Is it true?!” Cal pressed.
The Jedi’s anger troubled her greatly and everyone could feel the tension rising at an alarming rate.
“Cere.” Altheeda spoke softly. “I’ll give you my truth if you give us yours.”
She drew in a breath and stared Cal directly in the eyes as she addressed him.
“She was my apprentice before the Purge.”
“You should have told me.”
“Altheeda.” Cere diverted her attention the redheaded girl.
She sighed and nodded guiltily, feeling as if she had been cut open and had her emotions laid bare for all to see. It was painful for her, but she knew it was probably the same for Cere.
“My father is a Senator of Naboo, but I haven’t spoken to my family for many years.” She explained in a mousey voice.
“We’re getting an encrypted message from Kashyyyk.” Greez announced awkwardly.
Cal immediately darted out of the room and Altheeda followed, wanting to remove herself from the situation. Unfortunately, Cere had followed them, wanting to listen to the message herself. He pressed various buttons on the panel and a hologram of Mari appeared before them.
“Mari.” He greeted.
“Cal, we found Tarfful, he’s willing to meet with you. We also have some parts for Altheeda if she still wants them. Unfortunately, the Empire overran our position at the refinery and Saw has retreated off world.”
Altheeda folded her arms, spotting Greez in the corner of her eye after his recent entrance into the room and they both gave each other a look.
“Some of us have joined the Wookiees in the forests. Be careful.”
“You too.” He nodded before disconnecting.
Cere then stepped towards him and the animosity between them was extremely evident.
“Later.” She insisted.
“Later.” Cal agreed, not wanting allow their argument to get in the way of the bigger picture. “We have a lead.”
She brushed past him and Altheeda couldn’t help but spy the scowl that he gave her. Meanwhile, Greez strolled back to the cockpit and was muttering to himself.
“Okay, it’s fine. Everything’s gonna be fine…”
It was just the two of them left in the room. They both turned to each other, one waiting for the other to say something to break the awkwardness of the silence. She then proceeded to sit on the sofa and put her head in her hands, trying to register what had just happened. Shortly after this, he cautiously sat next to her just to provide her a calming presence. She heaved a sigh then dropped her hands into her lap.
“This was why I didn’t want to tell them…” She spoke quietly.
“You have no reason to be afraid. We now know you weren’t the only one hiding something.” He replied, being just as hushed as she was.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right, Cal.”
“But what did you do wrong? Other than the fact you didn’t tell them. Cere chose to betray somebody, you can’t choose who you’re related to by blood.”
She paused, knowing that he had a strong point. No matter how much she had tried to run from her past and her father’s affiliations, there were still following in her shadow. She knew that she was a completely different person to them and had no want for a relationship with her family but she was beginning to realise that despite this, there was always going to be a bound by blood. She gritted her teeth, the thought being a tough pill to swallow.
“Do you think that maybe we chose the wrong side?” He whispered.
“What do you mean?”
“We were under the impression that we were fighting for the Jedi, and we could potentially be working with somebody that doesn’t believe in that.”
“It’s not as simple as picking a side.” She briefly paused as her brows creased. “I don’t see it that way.”
“Then how do you see it?” Cal asked, becoming more curious than angry.
“People usually see the good or the bad. They hardly question what makes it the good side and what makes it the bad. The truth is, there really isn’t any sides, because the good always think they’re right and the bad also think they’re right. Motivation plays a huge part in people’s choices.”
“What motivates you, then?”
She paused again, really digging deep inside herself for the first time in a while. She spoke slowly as the thoughts tumbled out of her mouth.
“Many things… Turner always has. I want to make him proud of me, honour his wishes. You, of course. I can’t imagine my life without you - you’ve been there for everything, we’ve been through it together and you just seem to bring out the best in me. I want to keep doing my best… Prauf, I keep thinking about him lot. He became my family when my own gave that up. He sacrificed his life for ours and I don’t want to waste that. I keep thinking back to what he said to Trilla; he was right. I don’t want to be expendable to somebody.”
Cal took in everything she was saying. His mind was in turmoil, he knew the thoughts he was having were the very ones he was taught by the Jedi not to think. He was warned that these were the path to the dark side and the situation was terrifying to him. He was also taught that the Jedi were good and to obey all their practices and the concept of not having a side was almost baffling to him.
“What do you think I should do?” He asked her, needing some form of advice.
“I think you’re asking the wrong questions.” She explained.
The Jedi nodded and rubbed his forehead. He knew a lot of reflection was needed and he was willing to do anything to quieten his mind.
“Thank you, Theeda.” He spoke sincerely before getting back on his feet. “I’m going to go meditate. There’s lots of things I need to think about.”
“Sure.” She nodded.
He began to walk across the lounge area towards the door to the corridor and she watched him go yearningly. The question he posed to her made her think again about how much she cared for him and she wanted him feel cared for always. Her heart was thumping solidly as she thought about the chance of him ever loving her the same way she did. He was showing the signs but she was always apprehensive about whether she was reading too much into it. Her courage was beginning to build once again and it drove her to call after him.
“Wait, Cal! There’s something I need to tell you.”
He faced her with an intrigued smile on his face and his gaze alone made her throat cease up.
“… Don’t forget to look after yourself.”
He gave a slow nod and smiled at her gratefully before exiting the room. When he was out of sight, she slumped in her seat and stared up at the ceiling. The quiet loomed in the atmosphere and she didn’t know whether to welcome it or reject it at first, but she made a quick decision once Cere had returned. She watched her stride into the room and Altheeda rapidly turned her head the other way. She heard her approach her and she remained still when she sat on the far end of the sofa. The two women sat for a while without speaking for what seemed like a painfully long time, until Altheeda opened up conversation.
“I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt.” She stated flatly.
All Cere could do was nod.
“Cal is not an angry person, but he was furious when we found out. I told him not to jump to conclusions, that we should listen to your side.”
She looked up at the young woman and her steely expression began to crack.
“Just thought that you should know that.” The redhead added with a slither of bitterness to her voice.
Not another word was said for a while, she wanted to give Cere the opportunity to speak and she grew tired of waiting and decided to move things forward herself.
“Why did you it?”
Guilt was written all over her face; nevertheless, she offered her explanation.
“The Jedi are trained to resist torture. I was holding out for a long while, so much that they brought in this… figure. It was dark, the evil with it was immense. It was hard to fight it, the power it had… I’ve never experienced anything like it. I just felt myself breaking…”
Altheeda listened intently, she was very analytical of her words and growing more intrigued.
“This figure… what was it?”
“I still don’t know…” She confessed. “It was almost like a shadow.”
Cere could see her beginning to understand. She was glad that someone was beginning to.
“I live with that mistake, it’s a burden that I will have to carry for the rest of my life. I may have cut myself off from the Force, but I still want to help the Jedi – I can’t stand the thought of failing anyone else.”
“That’s why I helped you both. I also wanted to finish what Cordova started; honour my Master’s wishes, but I knew I wasn’t the one to do it. Not after what I did. I knew from the very start that Cal had potential. I’m just trying to be a better mentor than I was to Trilla. I can’t change the past but I can improve in the future.”
Cere became quiet momentarily before sighing and thought it was time to quiz Altheeda.
“Why don’t you talk to your family anymore?”
“It’s a long story…”
“I have the time.” She spoke, in a soothing tone rather than forceful.
Altheeda winced, she hated explaining it but she appreciated Cere’s honesty with her despite how difficult it was for her to be. She knew she owed her the honesty in return.
“My brother was drafted to be a pilot and was killed in a crash. It made my parents completely shut down and I had to look after myself and the both of them.”
“How old were you?”
“I just turned thirteen.”
“And you had to look after your parents all by yourself?”
“I didn’t have a choice.” She shrugged sadly. “They barely responded to anything, even when I cried to them there was nothing. But I wanted them to get better and when they did they blamed me. I couldn’t show them how much that hurt. There were so many nights where I’d break down and beg for things to be as they were. It was all behind closed doors, I didn’t want them to see me like that.”
“How did you end up at the Scrapper’s Guild?”
“Turner always wanted to fix ships instead of piloting them.” She then paused and carefully took the toolbox off her back and placed it on her lap, staring at it with mixed emotions. “That was his last wish, he wanted me to look after his tools. I like to think I’m doing a good job at it.”
It was at that moment everything became clear for Cere. Her features softened during her realisation and she made direct eye contact with Altheeda as she continued to listen.
“Things just became unbearable, they kept pushing all the blame onto me and I decided to move out but I couldn’t get very far. My father prevented me from leaving Naboo yet he let me have the job. It was like he was taunting me, like he was enjoying the control he had as a Senator and a father.”
“Did Cal know about your father?”
“Yeah, he’s known for a while. Long before we met you.”
“And how long did you know about the warrant?”
“… Saw told me when we were on Kashyyyk.”
Cere then allowed herself to absorb all the information she was giving her. Before her, there was a girl that had taken extensive emotional battering over a tragic event she had no control of. A girl that threw her childhood to one side to care for a family that had turned their grief into anger towards their child. She couldn’t even begin to imagine the torment Altheeda had been put through by her family and knew not to ask due to the very little detail she gave about it.
“I was going to tell you, I swear. Cal wanted me to. I just didn’t want you to think I was anything like him.”
“Altheeda, anyone can tell that your heart is in the right place. You are far more courageous and stronger than he ever could be.”
“Thank you. I’m truly sorry for not telling you sooner.”
“And I’m sorry for not being as honest as I should have been.”
“From now on I think it’s better if we’re all more open about everything.”
“You’re absolutely right.”
Cere gave her a warm smile that she returned and she cleared her throat before speaking again.
“Greez will want to know what’s going on. You know what he’s like. Would you be alright if I told him?”
“That’s fine. I’ll talk to Cal. I think it will take some time.”
“I completely understand.” Cere replied as she stood to her feet.
Altheeda joined her, swinging the toolbox onto her back. To Cere’s surprise, she gave her a quick hug and she returned it as warmly as she could despite her shock.
“Thank you for listening to me, Cere.”
“You did the same for me.”
Altheeda then let go of her and was on her way to her cabin. She felt light and heavy at the same time, her emotional baggage had been emptied yet exploring that wore her down. As soon as she stepped in, and sprawled herself on the bed, her head barely touched it before she had fallen into a deep sleep.
Chapter 32: Chapter 32
Cal had spent the night meditating to try clear his head but the results were not satisfactory to him and he had laid on his bed until sleep consumed him for the rest of the night. When morning arrived, he had woken up to a hand on his shoulder shaking him awake. He turned onto his side and his eyes fluttered open to see Greez standing before him, startling him just the tiniest bit.
“Hey kid. Hey, wake up. Can we talk?”
“What?” He grumbled.
“I don’t know what’s going on between you and her.” The latero began and perched himself on the edge of the bed before Cal could have the chance to sit up. “I figure it must be some kind of Jedi thing, but this isn’t the right time for it.”
The redhead sat up and rubbed his eyes.
“It’s not any of your business.”
“I think it is.” Greez argued back, his demeanour calm. “I mean, we’re all in this together aren’t we?”
Cal paused, knowing he was right but was becoming stubborn. Trust was hugely important to him and if he couldn’t trust Cere then were they really all in it together? He rolled his eyes at Greez and stared out as he heaved a sigh.
“Hey, Cal… I made a mistake, and that almost got you and Altheeda killed. I’m sorry. We all make mistakes, right?”
He mulled over Greez’s words, his head was lowered.
“Well, maybe not you.”
The Jedi lightly shook his head at this and smirked. He didn’t really consider himself to be perfect in anyway but he appreciated the comment all the same.
“Why don’t you cut her some slack? I’m not saying do it for me, but you all are the best thing that ever happened in my life. Before you came along, all I cared about was a tight hand on a stiff heater – that’s a game term.”
“I know what it is.”
“Cal, life is not a game. All I cared about was myself before you three came into my life. Easy money. Now it’s different.”
He could feel himself becoming less tense as he listened to Greez becoming more open. He let out a breath he had unintentionally been holding in. Before anything else could be said, a knock on the door roused them both and it slid open to reveal Altheeda. She quickly realised that Greez was also present and her eyes lit up after registering this and gave him a smile too.
“Sorry, am I interrupting anything?”
“You missed Greez saying that we’re the best thing that’s happened to him.” Cal smirked.
“Aw, that’s sweet of you.” She addressed Greez who became rather bashful. “I wish I came here earlier so I could hear it for myself.”
“Fix this damn ship and I might say it again.” The latero joked which made everybody chuckle.
“Well, I’ll meet you both in the lounge.” She spoke before giving a quick wave goodbye and walking out of sight.
Cal watched her go with a content expression and Greez noticed it, becoming rather fascinated by his shift in behaviour. He looked back at the door and then back at the Jedi before nudging him gently with a knowing smirk on his face. He blinked rapidly and turned his head to one side as the latero male stood up.
“Please think about what I said, kid.” He spoke once he reached the door, growing solemn again.
Once he left, Cal sat still for a while, registering the conversation he had with Greez. He had never felt so much conflict inside himself before and he was internally begging for it to stop. He decided to put it to one side and reflect on it once again during his travels. During his time of meditating during the night, he decided Dathomir was going to be top priority for the time being. It was the only planet that was mentioned that hadn’t been explored and he needed to see it for himself. He exited his cabin and was on route to the lounge area, finding everyone was present and raring to go. BD-1 was the first to acknowledge him, giving him a friendly beep and leaping onto his place on his back from the counter.
“Morning, Cal.” Cere greeted from the cockpit, only to receive a curt nod in return. “Have you decided where you want to go today?”
“Set a course for Dathomir.”
“Setting a course for - wait you wanna go to Dathomir?!” Greez questioned.
“I’m surprised Cordova went there. There must have been a good reason.”
“What about Mari and Tarrful?” Altheeda pointed out.
“I’ll get in contact with them.” He replied as he sat in the last vacant seat. “There’s something about Dathomir…”
“I’m staying in the Mantis once we arrive. Red sunlight can’t be good for your skin.” Greez stated.
“It used to be home to a powerful group of Force wielders known as the Nightsisters.
“They used the Force, like Jedi?” Greez asked curiously.
“No, these witches only served themselves. Their powers focused on deception, illusion and manipulation.”
“Sounds like someone I used to know.”
“During the Clone Wars the Nighsisters made a deal with a Sith Lord who betrayed their trust. In the end, they were nearly wiped out in a massacre.”
“So, are they considered to be evil people?” Altheeda questioned.
“Like I say, they only look out for themselves. Dathomir is a deadly place. We should be careful.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice.” The latero male scoffed.
Greez guided the Mantis out of hyperspace and began its decent into Dathomir. When they entered the atmosphere, the air was thick with sand and the terrain was immensely dry and scarce. A safe landing was made and Cal immediately made a dash to the door, raring to go. They all watched him go and Cere not long afterwards shot up and went after him. Greez and Altheeda sat in silence for a while, looking out at the cliffs and orange tinted clouds in front of them.
“Has Cal said anything to you?” He asked thoughtfully.
She shook her head.
“He’s not really spoken much about it. I just know that he’s feeling very angry at the moment.”
“I heard you made your peace last night?”
“Yeah, I have to admit I was pretty angry too, but I knew there had to be more to it. Cal knows too, but his trust is a very delicate thing.”
“I can see that.” Greez nodded understandingly.
“He needs some time.”
“So, what are you going to do today?”
“I’ll do some cleaning around the engines to prepare for when I get those parts off Mari. I might as well make a start.”
“I’ll check on ya later, kid.” Greez nodded.
Altheeda then rose from her chair and walked towards the other side of the ship, passing the door, she spotted Cal still talking to Cere and poked her head around the corner, waving her hand to catch his attention.
“See you later, Cal! Keep safe!”
“You know I try my best!” He called back to her with a grin.
She gave him one last smile before walking ahead, ready to start her day.
Cere for a change spent a lot her time outdoors, as if she was awaiting Cal’s return. Altheeda, meanwhile, kept herself occupied, wanting time to pass quicker. Once she received Greez’s positive approval on the results of her clean on the engine, she decided to revisit Cal’s music player and tinkered with it at the workshop bench, working hard to repair it and improve it in any way she could. When she was ready to test it, she picked up the headphones that were plugged in and put them over her ears, pressing play and was delighted when a snippet of ‘Sugaan Essena’ played through clearly. After listening to it for a while she pressed the button to pause the music and began to clear the bench, and put her toolbox back at its rightful place on her back.
She then walked back into her cabin and placed it on her bed before heading back to the lounge area to check on Cere and Greez. As she strolled in, she wanted Cere re-enter from the ramp with Cal following behind looking rather worn out.
“Back so soon?”
“Yeah, I’ll explain in a sec.” He spoke dejectedly.
“We’re going back to Bogano so we can reassess the situation.” Cere instructed.
Greez overheard her words and instructed for everybody to sit down for take-off. Everyone automatically took their seats and helped with the ascent back into space. Cal remained thoughtful as he stared out at the speckled stars before them.
“So, what happened?” Altheeda asked cautiously.
“Everything on that planet wanted to kill me.” He replied, shaking his head.
“There’s a reason why no one wants to visit that desolate planet.” Cere stated.
“I actually ran into this wanderer; called himself a scholar. He said he came to study Dathomir.”
“I’d be very careful, Cal. Be on guard against anyone who’s trying to seek out the darkness of Dathomir.”
“Yeah… he was a pretty strange guy.”
“And this is why I stay inside.” Greez replied.
This earned him a laugh from Altheeda. The latero began pulling various levers and pressing buttons and the Mantis had come out of hyperspace. The green planet of Bogano spread itself across the windscreen as they drew closer to it and they were silent as the ship made its landing. When the engines died down and the ship was at a stand-still, they all engaged in different tasks, with Cal seeking Cordova’s workshop once again, Cere listening to the comms, Altheeda gathering fish for dinner and Greez simply remained seating in his pilot’s chair.
Chapter 33: Chapter 33
“Fish again?” Greez grumbled.
“There’s not a lot of variety on Bogano.” Altheeda shrugged as she took off her toolbox and placed it on the sofa.
“Just be grateful Altheeda went to get them and not me. I would have come back empty handed.” Cere joked.
“Let me help this time.” He offered. “I’ll make it good.”
“Don’t strain yourself, Greez.” The redhead taunted.
As they laid out the ingredients on the counter, they heard quiet scuttling from behind them and all heads turned to find BD-1 stood behind them.
“Hey mate – how’s it going?”
The droid gave a series of happy sounding beeps before springing up onto the counter.
“He found it?!” That’s good news!”
“What did he find there, BD-1?” Cere asked with great interest.
BD-1 chirped back with more noises and Altheeda slowly nodded.
“So, he’s just outside still?”
The little bot replied with a quick boop and perched himself by the food, watching closely as Greez prepped it.
“A little meditation won’t hurt him.” Cere muttered. “What do you need, Greez?”
“Relax, I’ve got this.” He said coolly as he grabbed a pan. “Altheeda, you can set the table.”
She nodded and opened the drawer, grabbing a handful of cutlery and setting it out in formation.
“Are you going to turn the cooker on?” Cere raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah yeah yeah, I’m gettin’ there.”
Greez took out some herbs and spices and switched on the cooker. Everyone watched with anticipation as he sprinkled the seasoning onto the fish. BD-1 did a playful sequence of beeps and Altheeda snorted as she finished laying out the plates.
“You can be quite the mean little droid.” The latero folded his arms.
“Focus, Greez.” Cere reminded. “I reckon this will be ready soon. Altheeda, you can tell Cal it’s nearly done.”
The redhead strode out of the ship with a spring in her step. She stop at the top of the ramp, staring out at the sun that had begun to hide itself behind the various cliffs. The view never became boring to her, she marvelled at it until her eyes found Cal, sat a short distance from the ship.
“Tell them I’ll be there in a second, Altheeda.”
She was surprised at first that he knew it was her that had approached him but she figured the Force gave him an indication. He was sat in a meditative position with his eyes closed. She didn’t really understand it, but knew it was part of his Jedi training. She watched the scene in awe as she descended the ramp of the Stinger Mantis at a leisurely pace.
Once he had slumped and visibly relaxed from the meditation, she strutted over to him and bent down to get closer, catching herself being enchanted by his green coloured eyes. They both froze in the moment, forgetting about everything else around them until Cal refocused.
“Is everything alright, Theeda?”
“Y-yeah, I’m fine.” She rapidly blinked. “Are you alright?”
“I’m good.” He murmured before falling back so he was lying down on the earthy ground.
She moved her head to conceal her face, feeling a warm blush flare up on her cheeks. After a while, Cal cleared his throat dramatically to regain her attention.
“I sure am tired for all this training.” He spoke melodramatically with a playful glint in his eye. “I could use some help getting back on my feet.”
“Do it yourself, Jedi.” She spoke with a smirk and folded arms.
“Please?” He tilted his head to meet her gaze and gave her a pout for good measure.
She couldn’t resist, she allowed herself to giggle then proceeded to reach out for his hands that eagerly took hers. With minimal effort, she managed to pull him into a standing position, yet he had done most of the work.
“You could have done that without me.” She teased.
“I know.” He gave her another one of his goofy smiles and they both burst into laughter.
Once they had ceased, the pair realised they were still joined hand in hand and they paused; unsure of what to do in that moment. They didn’t seem to mind. Cal noticed the faint smile that had formed on her features and he smoothed his thumbs over the tops of her hands. They felt safe with each other and that was what mattered to them. He felt a surge of longing and courage bubble within his chest and it was then; he knew it was the right time.
“C-Can I ask you something?”
“Of course.” She nodded, picking up on the sudden shift in the atmosphere.
She gave his hands a light squeeze and he stared down at them. They both knew what it was he wanted to say but she remained quiet, eager to hear it. His mouth parted but not even a squeak left him; instead he sighed, trying to calm himself down and gather his courage.
“I think it would be easier if I showed you.”
Cal paused once again, this time staring into her eyes, trying to read what they were conveying. His hands slowly slipped up onto her upper arms, holding her gently and the corners of her mouth raised at the touch. Both their heartbeats had sped up, unknown to one another that the other person was experiencing the same. He began to look over her shoulder into the distance, his nervous and excited energy dominating in his mind. She frowned and turned her head towards the direction he was looking at, peering at the bushes.
“What am I supposed to be looking at?”
He tenderly rested his fingertips under her chin, carefully turning her head back to face him. Her puzzled expression made him chuckle quietly until he focused on moving his hand from her chin to the back of her neck. This sent a shiver down her spine, but it wasn’t caused by fear, it was anticipation. Pushing all of his fears aside, he didn’t want them delaying the moment any longer. He brought her face closer to his, his eyes lightly shut and closed the gap; their first kiss. She eagerly reciprocated as her eyes naturally closed – it was clumsy and tender all at the same time but she wouldn’t have changed it for anything. Relief, excitement and nerves combined together to form one unique emotion she had not felt before, yet she loved the energy it gave her. It fell perfectly into place for them both, that it was right; their feelings were true and pure. She pulled away, her arms loosely looped around his neck with a shy smile on her face.
“D-Did that really just happen?” She asked in awe.
“I think it did.” He replied with a bashful smile.
She felt her face becoming flushed and she buried her head into Cal’s shoulder and he giggled as he cradled her in his arms. When she was ready, Altheeda looked up at him again.
“Now what was it you wanted to tell me?” She asked playfully.
“Very funny.” He beamed at her.
“I… just can’t believe it. I thought I was imagining it.”
“The way you felt…”
“You don’t need to imagine anymore.” He spoke earnestly as he was stroking her hair.
She then took a step back as she suddenly remembered what she had come out there to do, but Cere’s voice beat her to it.
“Cal, Altheeda! Come on, it’s getting cold!”
“Yeah, I was meant to tell you that dinner was ready.”
He took her hand confidently and walked with her back towards the Mantis, replaying the moment over and over in his head, filling him with tremendous joy. Altheeda enjoyed walking with him hand in hand, all she could do was stare at their interlocked hands in wonder. When they reached the top of the ramp, he let go to gesture for her to walk in first. She took her seat and Cal did the same shortly after.
“What took you so long?” Cere asked as she began cutting into her meal.
“Nothing.” Altheeda shot back quickly.
This earned her a raised eyebrow and she lowered her eyes to her meal and began to eat, feeling Cere’s stare linger on her momentarily.
“What do you suggest we do about Dathomir?” Cal interjected, changing the subject.
“Clearly it’s something we will have to revisit later on.”
“Should we go back and meet with Tarfful?”
“And go back to Kashyyyk?” Greez sighed.
“Mari has the parts I need.” Altheeda reminded him, and he slumped his shoulders in defeat and took another mouthful of his food.
“Well, that seems like the most logical thing to do then.” Cere concluded.
“The little droid told us that you found the workshop.” The latero commented.
“Yeah that’s right.” The Jedi nodded. “I managed to find some parts to make my lightsaber double-bladed.”
“Well done, Cal.” Cere smiled at him, only to receive a smaller one in return.
Despite this, the meal was generally positive; with everyone sharing stories with each other and reflecting on the day. When Cere and Greez weren’t paying too much attention, Cal and Altheeda would sneak glances at each other and eventually, Greez decided he wanted to leave the table to retire for the evening and everyone helped to tidy the kitchen area. They worked harmoniously together unknown to them all, each person enjoyed their time at the dinner table.
Chapter 34: Chapter 34
After dinner, they both walked down to the corridor towards the cabins holding hands, this time it was more confident than the previous occasions. They strolled into Altheeda’s cabin and sat on her bed, side by side as per usual.
“What a day, huh?” She thought out loud.
“Yeah, a lot has happened.” He smiled.
“Who knew that we would face off with an inquisitor and a whole crime organisation?”
“And live to tell the tale.”
“All thanks to you.” She turned to him with a coy smile.
He gazed upon her softly and he could see her face turning ever so slightly pink.
“Back at the prison, you came back for me.”
“Of course.” Cal shrugged.
“I told you not to go after me.” She looked at him curiously.
“We both got captured. I wasn’t going to leave you.”
She was silent very briefly before she responded.
“I’m glad you didn’t actually.” She admitted sheepishly. “But it can’t happen again.”
She shifted on the bed so she was sat against the wall and her legs were stretched out on the bed, patting for Cal to sit next to her in the empty space. He too swivelled in his place, propping his legs on the bed and rested against the wall, their shoulders touching, she looked at him with a shy expression.
“Come here.” He murmured, opening his arms out.
She allowed herself to lean into his chest, welcoming the warmth of his body and the touch of his arms wrapping around her waist.
“You don’t need to be shy around me.” He said soothingly.
“I know I know, I just… I still can’t believe it…”
She lifted her head to face him getting lost in his facial features, his eyes were twinkling in the light and she felt the joy beating in her heart. The corners of her mouth were raised as she gave him a chaste kiss on the lips that he gratefully received. When they parted, she buried her head into his chest and Cal laughed gently.
“How long have you felt this way?” Her voice was muffled against his shirt.
“Care to take a guess?”
She took a moment to reflect in her mind filtering through all the instances where she noticed his attempts and the earliest moment she could recall was their interactions on Kashyyyk.
“Earlier than that.” He confessed.
“Really?” She gasped. “How early are we talking, like when we were on Bracca?”
“Yeah.” He smiled.
“No way!” Her eyes widened. “I never knew.”
“You were always focused on the work. Other people noticed it though.” He blushed.
“I should have paid more attention.” She sighed.
“I didn’t mind, you were happy so that’s what mattered.”
The joy lit up her face and she allowed herself to enjoy the moment in a content silence. Cal picked up on this and decided to live in that moment also. Holding her brought him peace and tranquillity that he had been seeking out for a while. After a while, she let out a slow sigh and he felt her body unwind as she exhaled.
“Tell me everything about Dathomir.” She hummed, making herself comfortable in his arms.
“It’s not very welcoming at all.” He let out a soft chuckle. “You know about that scholar I saw, but I also saw somebody else.”
“I saw one of those Nightsisters that Cere warned me about. Said I was trespassing and had to leave. I tried to compromise with her; tell her I was there to help but she refused to listen.”
“She’s probably very protective of the place.” She sympathised.
“It makes sense, the scholar said her family perished in the war when she was only a child.”
She fell silent Cal rubbed her upper arm as he continued to unload about his day.
“There’s these ruins. I sense a dark energy from them, but I know I need to get to them somehow.”
“Do you think it’s a good idea to explore it?”
“Something is drawing me to it…” Cal spoke slowly. “That’s all I can understand about it for the time being.”
“It definitely seems like one of the tougher places we’ve been to.”
“Yeah, it’s exhausting.” He groaned.
She straightened her posture as she had a realisation and he let go of her gently allowing her to move.
“I’ve got something that can help.” She announced excitedly.
She stood up and made a beeline to her toolbox and the Jedi watched her curiously. She opened it and retrieved the repaired music player and snapped the lid of the tool box shut again. When she straightened up, she extended her arm and offered it to him, to which he grinned at it gratefully.
“You fixed it!”
“It was about time.” She chuckled placing it in his hand as she sat back by his side.
She stifled a yawn as she stretched out her legs onto the bed once again.
“Did you want to go to sleep?” He asked, preparing to move off the bed.
“You don’t need to leave.” She shook her head. “Rest, Cal.”
He allowed her to fall back carefully into his chest and he hugged her from behind, giving her a loving kiss on top of her head. He then put the headphones over his ears and pressed play a melancholic expression formed on his face when ‘Sugaan Essena’ started from the beginning. He hadn’t thought about how much he had been missing his old life on Bracca until presently. Although he wished for just one last moment back in that life, he began to realise that he was doing far better now; he was being a Jedi, he found new friends and he still had Altheeda.
He sensed that she was succumbing into a sleep and with a feather light touch, he ran his fingers through her hair as he listened to the music player. With this action and hearing the steady thump of his heartbeat in her ears, she drifted off to sleep, feeling the safest she had felt in a long, long while.
Altheeda woke up early to salvage scrap metal from the landing area. Once she collected enough, she went to the work bench in the rear of the ship to fashion a pair of climbing sticks, knowing they would help her a great deal throughout the day. By the time she was finished with this activity, Cal had woken from his sleep and had prepared himself for the day ahead. When Altheeda was also ready to set off, they both bid their goodbyes to Cere and Greez and began their journey to locate Mari.
After a moderate duration of trekking through the forests of Kashyyyk undetected, they were at the base of the Origin Tree and Cal immediately recognised Mari, who was stood with a two Wookiees by her side, one with brown fur and the other greying.
“Cal, Altheeda; glad you could make it. This is Chieftain Tarfful.” Mari introduced.
The greying Wookiee belted out a roar and the two redheads turned their attention to him.
“I’m on a mission from Master Eno Cordova. He was looking for an artefact from the Zeffo. Finding it could mean it would save the Jedi.”
Tarfful gave a series of growls and roars that Mari translated for Cal.
“Cordova found wisdom at the top of the Origin Tree. You should seek answers there.”
“But it’s massive. I don’t even know where to start.”
“You might be able to find a way up through its root system but most of it is under water. I have two breathers for you both.”
Mari handed the devices to him, which he received with thanks and then she addressed Altheeda.
“I’ve also been working to get you some parts. That crate over there was what we could find. Feel free to take a look.”
She gestured to a metal crate and the redheaded young woman gave her an enthusiastic nod before approaching it and prying it open. Her eyes lit up delightedly as they scanned the various pieces of metal in the box and Cal smiled as he watched her examine the various parts.
“I can definitely make use of all of this. Would it be alright to take it?”
“It’s all yours.” Mari smiled. “We’ll get it transported to the Mantis so it’s ready for when you return.”
“We really appreciate all the help.” Cal replied as Altheeda straightened up and re-joined his side. “What will you do now?”
Tarrful roared confidently and his colleague nodded in agreement.
“The only thing we can do is keep fighting.”
“Good luck, hope we meet again.”
“Be safe.” Altheeda added.
The two redheads turned away and he gave a breather for her to wear. She smiled in thanks and placed it over her mouth and checked the secureness of her toolbox on her back and her blaster in her pocket.
“Are we ready?” He asked.
BD-1 beeped determinedly and she smiled at the bot.
“Yeah, we got this.”
Cal gave her a warm smile before standing towards the edge of the platform they were stood on. The water was a murky green and made it impossible to see the bottom. They didn’t know what they were about to leap into but they had to persevere through whatever would await them in the depths of the water. When they were both ready, they both plunged into the water and descended underwater.
It was thick with plants and leaves and it was difficult to see what was ahead, luckily BD-1 had a light that gave them limited vision; nevertheless, it was something for them both to work with. Cal swam ahead with Altheeda closely behind, he was leading them on by instinct, swimming to where he could sense was the right direction. She had no idea on how long they were under for but she was grateful to see natural light when Cal began to propel up to the surface.
They heard the sound of blaster fire and their heads immediately turned to the direction of it. There were a group of Stormtroopers opening fire on something out of their vision. Although it was a route to danger, it was also the right route to their objective. Altheeda began to swim towards the rocks and the Jedi trailed behind her. She had a slippery grip on the vines that were sprouting on the cliff side and used them to heave herself out of the water and Cal repeated her actions.
Once they clambered to the top, they peered over the edge to assess the situation whilst they stashed away their breather devices. They discovered that the Stormtroopers were attacking a giant slug-like creature that was spewing a nasty looking slime. Altheeda pulled a face at it before turning to the Jedi for a plan of action. He was picking up a more positive energy from her, she seemed calmer and her confidence had somewhat returned. Wordlessly, he reached for his lightsaber and held it tightly and that was her cue to reach for the handle of her blaster. Cal then gave her a nod and he lifted himself into a Force jump and began his attack on the Empire troops.
She used the cliff edge as cover and fired over it as she used her free hand to keep hold of the vines. She managed to strike a few of them and it proved to be no trouble for Cal to take down the rest and the creature. When all the enemies were eliminated, Altheeda put her weapon back in her pocket and hoisted herself up. As she strolled over, BD-1 unlatched himself off of the male redhead’s back and sped over to the strange creature and scanned it under a blue light.
“Not even Tarfful could keep the Empire out forever. They won’t stop until everyone’s wiped out.”
BD-1 gave a sad booping noise in response after his scan was complete and Altheeda sighed.
“We’re heading the right direction.” Cal added in a nod. “We just have to keep going up.”
The pair continued to walk onwards until they stumbled across a peculiar plant that would shrink and grow if touched. They watched it function with curious expressions on their faces.
“Any idea of what that is?” Altheeda asked to both Cal and BD-1.
The little robot sped ahead and climbed down towards the plant and gave it a scan. He gave some informative beeping noises as he climbed back to the Jedi to latch onto his back.
“Good to know.” He murmured thoughtfully as he looked up above at the branches of the tree then back at the plant.
She followed his line of vision and quickly caught on with his thought process.
“Do you think it could take our weight, BD?”
BD-1 made a positive sound and she smiled at him in thanks.
“Let’s test it out shall we?” Cal grinned.
He then leapt off of the edge to fall onto the bouncy plant and it boosted him upwards to a great height. Altheeda watched in awe as he managed to stick the landing onto the branch.
“Was that fun?”
“There’s only one way to find out.” He smirked.
She then allowed herself to jump from the ledge and the moment she made contact on the plant she felt herself being propelled back up into the air and her arms flailed as she tried to move towards the branch. She made it successfully, with Cal aiding her as she wobbled on landing.
“Yeah, that was fun.” She laughed.
The more they continued on their journey up the Origin tree, the more the Jedi began brooding. Seeing the toll it took on the environment on the planet saddened him greatly. He knew it would have disturbed the wildlife and the Wookiees that were simply trying to live in peace. He became rather quiet as the thought loomed inside his head and Altheeda eventually picked up on this and her eyes had a soft expression to them as she glanced at him.
“What are you thinking about, Cal?” She asked gently.
“Do you think the Empire would’ve come after Kashyyyk so hard if we hadn’t intervened?” He spoke guiltily.
BD-1 solemnly beeped his reply and Altheeda fell silent.
“I suppose it was inevitable.” She admitted. “They were already here on a mission and our presence gave them another.”
“The Jedi are supposed to be symbols of hope, but… I led the Inquisition here.”
“You’re here for the right reasons. Of course, they were going to be right behind you but you can’t control that.”
“I’m just worried that I put Mari and Tarfful in danger again; they put their trust in me.”
“Cal, they chose to help you, and you want to know why?”
He looked up at her, holding on to her every word.
“I’m willing to bet that they helped you; despite the increase in Empire attacks and the destruction around them, you already gave them the hope.”
He began to see the sense in her argument and he smiled timidly as BD-1 enthusiastically whistled.
“Don’t tell Greez I said that.” She joked.
He began to chuckle and she joined in, he then put a delicate arm around her shoulder as they walked and he turned his head to gaze upon her. They continued to walk like this contently until they approached another giant branch of the tree to climb and they broke apart to do so. They resumed their climb up the tree, with Altheeda having to make use of her newly made climbing picks at certain times, proving themselves to be an asset to her inventory. Eventually, they reached a platform and they decided to use it to determine how far up they had ascended. Altheeda stashed her climbing picks back in her toolbox then jogged briefly to catch up with Cal.
Before they could approach the edge of the platform they stood on, the wind rapidly picked up and rushed into their faces, causing them to brace themselves from its harshness. The cause of this was revealed to be a TIE Reaper ascending before them and Altheeda’s stomach dropped. The doors opened forward to revealed Ninth Sister standing in a menacing manner. Cal and Altheeda backed away warily as she cackled at them.
“Looks like we have two Bracca scrap rats scuttling about.” She mocked. “One playing Jedi and the other skiving away from a Senator. Why don’t you run along back to your father?”
She pursued her lips, refusing to retaliate with the Dowutin; she simply tutted at her and turned her attention back to Cal.
“I told the Grand Inquisitor that you wouldn’t be stupid enough to show your face here again. Especially after we wiped out that feeble resistance.”
Cal gave Ninth Sister the same treatment as Altheeda gave and glared at her as she sighed.
“I love it when I’m wrong.”
She turned away from the pair and the doors to the ship closed as it began to take off once again. Altheeda picked up on a whirring noise from the TIE Reaper she instantly knew what was coming.
Cal held her close, making sure he had a secure grip around her. Green lasers were fired in their direction, causing the platform they stood on to collapse underneath their feet. This gave them both flashbacks to their situation at Bracca and they were trying to supress it from their minds; already panicking enough over their current situation. They felt themselves plummet and slide down the tree. To add to the fear, the ship began shooting at them and following their path. They reached a tiny tunnel that halted their fall and Altheeda used this time to arm herself with her blaster; ready to use the ascension device. Cal ran along the rocks whilst she fired her grapple to swing through the gaps between the rocks.
The pair jumped and slid down another section of the tree, desperately trying to avoid the gunfire from Ninth Sister’s ship, they craned their heads up at the sky and to their surprise, a large, winged creature collided into the ship, causing both to crash land into the distance. Altheeda’s mouth parted in shock.
“What was that thing?” Cal asked breathlessly.
“I don’t know but we’re reaching a dead end.” Altheeda warned as they slid towards the edge.
They both bent their knees and sprung into a dive into the water below them and when they surfaced, they kept themselves afloat in the same spot and tried to gather as much breath as they could, once again feeling extremely lucky to be alive.
I usually don't post notes at the end of chapters but I owe you all an explanation as to why this update took so long and I just want to apologise for the wait!
A lot of personal things happened that I won't go into which contributed to my lack of writing, I also got into a horrible writer's block which didn't;t help things - then to top it off, I got asked to go back to work which I didn't mind at first but then it made me extremely tired and stressed and I wasn't enjoying the job so I had to go through the process of finding a new job and switching from one job to another which was quite overwhelming too.
Now the job I have started I really enjoy and it's a lot less stressful for me so I am in a much better state of mind than I was last month. I'm beginning to get back into writing and the chapters are becoming easier to write again so I'm finally overcoming the writer's block. I promise the next update will be a lot sooner than this one was. Thank you so much for being patient - please let me know what you thought of this chapter and give it some love! I hope you all are well, happy and staying safe <3
Chapter 36: Chapter 36
“We should let them know that the Ninth Sister is searching for us.”
Altheeda nodded in agreement until he suddenly shook his head.
“On second thought, she’ll be listening to their transmissions. She can find out on her own.”
She sighed and gave him a look. His behaviour with Cere was rather off and it was getting slightly out of hand.
“Cal, it would be the right thing to check in with her. Just so she knows we’re alive and can hear our voices.”
“You can talk to her if you want.” He shrugged.
Altheeda paused briefly, wanting to discuss the subject more but knew that she only had so much stamina left in the water and that it wasn’t exactly the right time, yet she didn’t want to let him off the hook either. He wordlessly began to swim ahead and she quickly caught up with him, clambering onto the soil and onto her feet. When she regained her energy, she decided to make contact with Cere and the Jedi turned to her direction when he heard the crackle in his ear from the comms.
“Cere, are you there?”
“Altheeda, how are you doing?”
“I just thought you should know that Ninth Sister is hunting us down.”
“Be on your guard.”
“Trust me, we are.”
“How has Cal been?” She asked, causing him to roll his eyes when she mentioned his name.
“He’s doing great. He always does.”
“Good, you two look after each other.”
“Take care, Cere.”
They both heard the crackle of the line disconnecting then swiftly moved onwards with their journey up the Origin tree. Cal could still sense the confidence she had found within herself and the more he tuned into it, the more fascinated he became.
“It’s nice to see that you’re growing more confident.”
“Well, I had a chat with Cere last night and it took a lot of weight off my shoulders.
“What did you talk about?”
“I made sure she knew how upset I was about how she lied to us. After I got that out of the way, she just opened up.”
He pursed his lips but continued to listen to Altheeda.
“I was quite surprised that she did; it was interesting to see that side of her. Then I found myself opening up to her. I told her about Turner and what happened with my family. I didn’t realise how much it helped to resolve things. Now I feel like I can now be myself around her and Greez.”
“I’m glad you managed to address those issues with her.” He spoke solemnly.
“Don’t you think you should do the same?”
He sighed, expecting the question but still reluctant to answer. He was still extremely disappointed in Cere and it was conflicting with his feelings towards what his purpose was to her. His anxiety and hostility was plaguing his mind and he was fully aware, but his control over it was slowly slipping from his weak grasp.
“She lied, knowing how gullible and vulnerable we were.” Bitterness was thick in his voice.
“I know that.”
“I’m still trying to decide if that’s something I can forgive.”
Altheeda nodded slowly and put her hands on her hips as she replied to him calmly.
“I totally respect how you’re feeling. I do think at some point, you and Cere need to speak about this together. I’m not saying you have to do it straight away, I think you should do it when you feel ready to.”
He paused as he mulled over her suggestion. He was aware that at some point he would have to start a discussion with Cere, yet he was apprehensive about giving her a second chance.
“At least think about it; I won’t say anything more about it from now on.”
More of their climb back up the Origin Tree was done in silence until they reached an uphill section of cliff. As they trudged, they heard loud cries from a source that was rather close by. They froze; their heads darting in different directions to locate the noise and through the gaps in the rock; they spotted the very same creature that made an attack on Ninth Sister’s ship. They gawked at it for a moment before resuming their walk. As they stealthily walked out of sight of the giant creature, BD-1 began to beep nonchalantly, earning panicked looks from the redheads.
“Shhh… we don’t know if it’s friendly.” Cal hushed.
The little bot made more inquisitive noises and Altheeda nodded.
“Yup, that took down the Ninth Sister’s ship.”
BD replied with a slow beep and they approached more of the lung plants. They instantly made the jump onto them, soaring from one to the other and Altheeda was beginning to find some fun in it despite the massive danger to it. Once she had made it onto ground, she turned back to watch Cal and became curious at the flips he was doing after each bounce. He landed smoothly on two feet beside her and stood still, almost in a daze.
“I’ve never seen you do that before.”
“I haven’t done that for a while, it just came back to me.”
“You’ve impressed me again.” She spoke through a coy smile.
“That’s always the plan.” He blushed, rooted to his spot as he watched her.
“Come on, Jedi – you’ve got to keep up the pace.” She winked as she strolled onwards.
To their surprise; the ledge they were walking on was directly overlooking the winged creature they had encountered. It was sprawled across the area, patches of its bright blue blood created a contrast with Kashyyyk’s signature colours of green. BD-1 made a series of concerned beeps.
“It’s hurt…” Cal spoke sympathetically.
BD-1 chirped a question at them both and the Jedi nodded adamantly.
“Yeah, we can help it but we have to be careful. We mustn’t spook it.”
“So, what do we do?” Altheeda turned to him.
“Go towards the front and distract it while I have a closer look. Be calm and slow.”
She began to stroll as slowly as she could manage towards it, her body becoming tense with how controlled her movements were. He matched her pace as they were almost shoulder to shoulder. The large creature began to shift uncomfortably and squawk.
“Hey! It’s okay, we’re not here to hurt you.” He coaxed. ‘We’re friends, understand? Friends.”
BD-1 stealthily broke off Cal’s back and crept towards the rear of the injured creature. The Jedi followed suit and silently gestured for Altheeda to stay in its vision, to which she nodded and carried on inching closer to it.
“Hi there.” She greeted in a lilted voice. “We’ll make sure you’re alright.”
The little bot began to scan it as discreetly as could be managed. Cal watched as Altheeda neared it and stood directly in front of its mouth. The hot air that was being exhaled sharply scathed onto her shins and the sensation was an odd one. She raised both her hands in front of her to show that she was unarmed and unwilling to bring harm, then gradually lowered them onto its skin. Both the creature and Altheeda flinched at the contact but she started to pet it carefully, causing it to unwind once again.
“It’s okay.” She breathed.
Cal smiled at the scene before him and BD-1 beeped to get his attention. When he turned to his robotic companion’s direction he spotted a jutting piece of metal that had pierced the creature.
“It’s a part from Ninth Sister’s ship… we need to remove it.”
Altheeda gave them a reassuring nod as she continued to soothe the creature.
“This is going to hurt, I’m sorry.” He spoke to it with a tone of heavy regret.
He took a few steps backwards, gulping in a breath before raising a hand that shook with the power of the Force. She watched the metal part wobble as Cal strained and she slowly created a distance from the creature, knowing it was going to have a severe reaction to the pain. Suddenly, the metal flew away and it screeched in agony; Altheeda rushed to comfort it once it had settled. BD-1 shot a stim canister to Cal’s direction and he immediately caught it and sunk it into the creature’s skin. The robot beeped with delight at their successful actions and with Altheeda, they re-joined the Jedi. It began to flap its wings and stretch whilst they braced themselves then it lowered its head towards their direction, allowing the two redheads to pat its nuzzle.
“It’s the least we could do.” Cal smiled.
It then adjusted itself into a seated position, exposing its back for them to climb. The pair looked at each other unsurely.
“Are you giving us a lift?” The Jedi asked curiously.
The creature squawked enthusiastically, spreading its wings. Altheeda’s heart sped up, this time with more excitement rather than apprehension. She waited for Cal as he climbed carefully onto it, then sat herself behind him. She caught a quick glimpse of the view below a shot of vertigo and thrills filled her veins. They had risen so high, the Imperial refinery was a mere speck and the forests of Kashyyyk were a blanket of greenery.
The creature pushed itself from the branch and they become one with the sky. Altheeda couldn’t help but latch her arms around his waist to secure herself and he smiled to himself when he felt her hands settle on him.
“There’s so much the Empire hasn’t touched.” Cal remarked, in awe of the sights below them.
As the creature navigated them through the clouds, nature’s beauty took their breath away, the wind being the only source of sound. Despite its icy temperature, the heat of their bodies kept each other warm and their closeness brought comfort. It was a moment the both of them could savour. The concept of time and all their responsibilities were temporarily frozen; Cal felt his tense emotions slip away as Altheeda held him and watched the path of their flight. Both of them knew this would be a memory that would not be forgotten in the many years to come.
Chapter 37: Chapter 37
The winged creature swooped into its descent onto a portion of the tree. It remained still, allowing Cal and Altheeda climb off. Hand in hand, they jumped onto the ground and watched as it took flight out of their sight. The pair were in awe and still intertwined by their fingers that laced with each other.
“How incredible…” She murmured.
BD-1 alerted them with a short beeping sound, turning their attention towards what looked like a work bench. Cal lead her towards it and they ran their hands over the moss that had sprouted on its surface.
“I just need a moment.” He explained as he laid out his weapon on the work bench.
“Is it broken?”
“No, I’m just making sure the double-sided mechanics are still working okay.” He spoke as he tinkered on it. “I’m sensing that Ninth Sister is nearby.”
Altheeda nodded idly running her thumbs along the straps that kept her toolbox on her back. She watched his work curiously until he backed away from the work bench and gave enough space to safely ignite both ends of his lightsaber. They both silently admired his work and he shut off his weapon before beginning to walk ahead.
“I wonder where the creature went.” She thought aloud.
“Over here.” He gestured.
They found the creature perched on a patch of mud and soil below them and together, they jumped down to approach it. It was calm and welcomed their presence this time around, the two of them admired it until loud explosions rattled them all.
Horror was plastered on their faces as they watched the friendly creature fall below as Ninth Sister’s ship shot at them all. BD-1 wailed in terror and Altheeda drew out her blaster with one hand, feeling Cal usher her away from the gunfire with her other hand. Their eyes frantically analysed the area, the smoke from the now burning trees created a flimsy obstacle in their vision. They darted wildly around the area to avoid being hit until the Jedi sensed a sinister presence rapidly approaching them and he spun round to find Ninth Sister descending down to them from a height. His response was to ignite his double lightsaber and she broke away from him to point her blaster at Ninth Sister as she sinisterly stepped towards them with her weapon activated.
“Found you again.” She smirked.
“You’re done hurting this world!” Cal growled.
“I don’t know what’s got Second Sister thinking you’re so important. She likes her souvenirs but I’m not in it for the memories and you’re not worth my time. So, let’s make this quick.”
Altheeda heaved a breath and Cal stepped forward, springing the Ninth Sister into action. He instantly engaged and she darted in the opposite direction from the conflict, making a run towards some shrubbery and knelt down as she racked her brain to come up with any ideas. As her mind raced, she watched the battle warily, especially in the moments when Ninth Sister would drag Cal towards her with the pull of the Force. Eventually, Ninth Sister recoiled back after a block from Cal and she chortled.
“Not bad for trash.”
“What about a Jedi?”
"Is there a difference?”
Craving for more fighting, she ignited the other end of her lightsaber to make it double like Cal’s. Both opponents began to fight furiously than previously and they locked into a parry that he had succeeded in and managed to wind her temporarily. Altheeda looked up at the entanglement of branches above and something clicked inside her thoughts. It was a silly and risky idea, but she wasn’t going to allow Cal to take the brunt of Ninth Sister’s rage. She aimed her blaster up at the branches, firing her ascension device at it to pull herself up to the tree level. This went unnoticed by the Jedi and the inquisitor and she continued to witness the battle as she reeled in the rope back into her blaster.
She scaled the branches as she was waiting for her opportunity to pounce; thankfully, Cal was driving Ninth Sister to her direction. When she was nearing her, Altheeda ran towards the edge of the branch and propelled herself off, firing shots at Ninth Sister in mid-air and securing a hit on her upper arm. The Dotuwin swiped her away as if she merely a fly and she was thrusted over to one side, recovering into a wobbly forward roll. She then shifted into a crouched position, sore from the impact.
Cal kept a close eye as Ninth Sister had paused briefly to acknowledge the injury that had been inflicted on her arm, but a devilish smile formed on her face and she simply shrugged it off. Altheeda exhaled sharply; her annoyance showing through her expression.
“Your luck is running out fast.” Ninth Sister taunted.
“I’ll find more somewhere.” She replied, it was more of a determined instruction for herself than a taunt in return.
Ninth Sister performed a lightsaber throw, sending it twirling around the area on a deadly path. The pair of managed to dart out of its reach. She then went and lunged for Cal once again and they broke out into more fighting. Another parry was initiated but this time, he managed to slide on the mud to get around his opponent and strike that way.
In a defining moment, he took Ninth Sister by surprise and broke her stance, then sliced her hand that held her lightsaber. It immediately disengaged and tumbled away with the dismembered hand. Altheeda neared them cautiously, her blaster aimed at the Dowutin as she fell to her knees and clutched what was left of her injured arm. He lowered his blade to his side but keeping it ignited.
“It’s over.” The Jedi stated.
“Being an Inquisitor taught me that no set-back is too great.” She spoke, beginning to slyly use her power to lift her blade in the air behind the pair of them. “A limb’s easy. I was a Jedi once; it’d be fun to bring you in. Watch you crack like the rest of us!”
The sound of the reactivating of Ninth Sister’s lightsaber startled them. Cal raised his lightsaber to block it, using the double edge to his advantage to shield them both. Altheeda managed to duck in time before the red lightsaber swooped above them in an attempt to deliver a fatal strike. Ninth Sister drew back her weapon and clutched it in her remaining hand.
“Just wait ‘til the isolation, torture, mutilation.” She pressed as every attack towards Cal was fuelled with more hatred. “And your friends-“
“I won’t let you touch them.” He growled.
The Dowutin hummed at him in a taunting manner and turned to address the redheaded girl.
“He’s closer than you think.” She smirked. “He knows where you are.”
She shook her head in disbelief. Ninth Sister didn’t need to mention who it was she was referencing. Cal watched as his companion internally battled with her mind and the inquisitor smiled at her work.
“You can’t save everyone. It’s only a matter of time before the girl will slip through your fingers.”
Altheeda retaliated by firing a shot at Ninth Sister which she knew would be blocked effortlessly. Fury flickered in the Jedi’s eyes as he slashed at his opponent and she smirked at his increasing anger.
“The Empire are unstoppable.” She snarled.
“I can stop you.” Cal spoke through gritted teeth.
He then propelled himself into a flip over the inquisitor before she could react and swiped a gash across her back and propelled her into brittle, burning branches using the Force. It was enough to send her tumbling through them and off the cliff side into a great fall below. Altheeda’s eyes were narrowed and her mouth parted, taking the time to process what had just unfolded and to make sure Ninth Sister was truly gone. Not even BD-1’s hesitant beeping at Cal didn’t catch her attention.
“Yeah… we just took down an inquisitor…” He breathed.
He inched closer towards the edge to confirm his success and BD-1 beeped in response. It was then she grounded herself and turned to face him. She was speechless, she wanted to congratulate him but she couldn’t quite find the words. At first she smiled at him and gave a brief nod of approval then she knew exactly what to say.
“I’ve always believed in you, Cal.”
He wandered over to her and put a gentle arm around her waist, his hand resting on the small of her back. A coy smile slipped through her lips and she turned her body slightly towards his, yet she was still in a brooding state. Together, they stared out at the view of the distant treetops until loud rustling startled them.
To their relief, the creature’s head popped up from below as it charged upwards into the sky before it positioned itself on the ground they stood on. They ran over to it, their faces brimming with joy to be reunited with it once again.
“We thought you were dead!” He exclaimed.
The creature lowered its head down to their level, allowing Cal and Altheeda to pat it caringly. It made a content sound and she grinned at it.
“Glad you’re okay.”
It then shifted to allow them to board it once again and they patted its side to show their gratitude. Cal then took her hand and helped her climb up.
“Let’s head back to the ship. Cere and Greez will be waiting for us.”
Chapter 38: Chapter 38
The sunset was just beginning to set as Cal and Altheeda approached the ramp to the Mantis. They strode in hand in hand to find Cere and Greez in the kitchen area of the lounge and BD-1 made a series of gleeful sounds to announce their arrival, then unmounted from Cal’s back to run freely around the area. The Jedi visibly tensed when he locked eyes with Cere and Altheeda squeezed his hand in reassurance before letting go to take off her toolbox from her back and cast it aside. Greez caught eye of the hand-holding and gave the pair a smirk before turning to Cere to see her reaction, which she chose to conceal.
“Well?” She began awkwardly.
“Cordova believed the key to the vault is on Dathomir.” He explained as he was overtaken by his companion who had taken her seat at the table.
“I take it you found your Wookiee – they dropped off your scrap.” Greez spoke light-heartedly.
“That scrap is going to sort out the state of your ship.” Altheeda bantered with him.
“But you spoke with Tarfful?” Cere pressed as she took her seat next to the latero.
“Yup, but things are real bad down there.” The male redhead muttered as he sat on the remaining seat. “The Empire is everywhere.”
Altheeda nodded as she tucked into her food. She didn’t care what it was and was thankful to have something to eat.
Everyone gave Cal a look for various reasons, nevertheless; he continued with what he was saying.
“Second Sister… she’s gone for now but still chasing us.”
He then took a drink before changing the subject.
“I defeated Ninth Sister.”
BD-1 made a whistle of celebration and Cere lightly gasped. Greez gave Cal an impressed glance as he reached for a container and began shaking seasoning onto his dish as Altheeda watched. The awkwardness reached a peak and was felt by all of them and Greez became distracted by it, neglecting his seasoning and the increasing amount concerned the redheaded girl. Cal fiddled with his food and Cere simply lowered her head as the silence loomed over the table. Eventually, she built up the courage to break it.
“Cal, when I was captured by the Empire… I resisted.”
He froze, he was listening to her, Altheeda could tell that much; but he was already very reluctant and dismissive. Cere was just only beginning to explain herself to him.
“I swore to myself that I’d die before they’d get me to talk.”
He paused on his meal, the clang of his cutlery on the table heightened the tense atmosphere once more. Altheeda turned to him, analysing him with a stern expression before devoting her energy back to Cere.
“But a dark shadow came… and he was worse than anything I could have imagined. Altheeda knows, I’ve told her this before.” She gestured to her and received a vouching nod. “I still put up a fight.”
At this point, the Jedi swivelled on his chair to face away from the table, his arm still resting on the surface. His expression was almost vacant. BD-1 was perched on the other end of the table and studied the conversation with great intrigue. Altheeda was beginning to feel disappointed in Cal’s behaviour and tutted under her breath. Cere lowered her head once again whilst Greez nonchalantly continued to over-season his food and listen to the exchange.
“Cal, please listen to what Cere has to say.” She spoke in a low voice. “Please.”
She placed a hand on his lower arm and his shoulders slowly lowered. This time, Cere raised an eyebrow at this particular interaction and Greez turned his head to and fro to gage his captain’s reaction, and to gawk at the pair. Cal and Altheeda hadn’t realised they were now a spectacle, he was deep in his conflicting thoughts and she was trying to get him to see sense. When he was ready, he faced the group and she slipped her hand back to her lap.
“But in the end, I came apart…” Cere admitted. “And I did give them Trilla… I know there is nothing I can do to make that right. But, Cal, there’s still a chance that we can save the others on the holocron.”
“Okay, look.” Cal began and everyone clung on to his every word. “Ninth Sister said something about becoming an Inquisitor, like… like it’s inevitable. But you went through the same thing that she did and you didn’t join them.”
“It’s okay, Cere.” He stated flatly before moving to vacate his seat. “We’ll find Cordova’s holocron.”
As he made his exit, BD-1 hopped over to Greez’s plate and began to scan it. Altheeda gave a brief smile at the scene as she finished off her meal.
“Hey! Get your lasers off my food!” The latero grumbled, narrowing his eyes at the bright blue light emitting from the droid.
BD-1 gave a short trill at Greez before scuttling off the table to dash around the lounge area. Cere sighed and rubbed her forehead. Altheeda sympathised with her and wanted to make things right. The captain felt her stare and looked up to make eye contact. She left Cere with a comforting smile, to reassure her that she was supported, before she rose from her seat and made a swift exit.
He knew it was a matter of time before she would go to check on him. She was going to bring with her another conversation he wanted no part of, yet he knew it was unavoidable. Even when he was alone, he couldn’t find solace and he knew it had building up over a matter of days. There were no resolutions to what he was currently feeling, the Force could only do so much. As he sat cross-legged on his steel bed in his internal reflection, he heard Altheeda knock on the door.
“Come in.” He sighed.
She instantly stepped inside and stood a distance from him, leaning against the wall, resting a foot against it and her arms were folded. After a while, she tilted her head to the side just a touch and examined him with a solemn expression.
“Talk to me.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose, he didn’t even know what to say for himself. To some extent, he knew he was needlessly hostile to Cere and it didn’t help the situation. A part of him regretted his behaviour and that Altheeda and Greez witnessed it.
“Are you angry?”
“I’m disappointed.” She corrected him.
He nodded at her sheepishly and his eyes were drawn to his feet.
“You’re apologising to the wrong person.”
“No, you deserve an apology too. All of you do.”
She drummed her fingertips against her folded arms and Cal uncrossed his legs.
“I could have handled it better, but I’m still uncertain about my trust with Cere.”
“The least you could have done was given her the courtesy and listened. You couldn’t even give her that?” She asked, the question was genuine rather than out of bitterness.
He fell silent, he looked defeated with himself and she softened her gaze at him.
“She even said herself that she made a terrible mistake and that can’t be erased. She’s not asking you to forgive her, she’s asking for a chance to redeem herself.”
Cal felt his mind almost shift in perspective but his apprehension was still an obstacle. She had made a valid point and he gave her an earnest look, almost thankful for what she had told him.
“Can you forgive me?”
“Of course, I can.” She replied soothingly then took a seat by his side. “I understand why you’re feeling the way you do. I’m sure Cere does as well. I’m just glad that you know the way you acted wasn’t the best response to the situation.”
He gave her a faint smile that she returned. He was thankful for her understanding, yet he was still upset that he allowed himself to let Altheeda, Cere and Greez down with his poor attitude. In his mind, he vowed that he would not let such a thing happen again.
“At some point, you should try talking to her again, with no judgement.”
The conversation came to a natural close. Altheeda put her arms around him tenderly and placed a light peck on his cheek. He drew her in closer with his arms and they held each other for a moment until he shifted slightly.
“I need to lie down.”
They briefly broke apart as they made themselves comfortable, lying side by side. Once again, he carefully brought her close to him and she happily obliged as her head rested on his chest. Her hand was lazily draped over his waist as he held her and she let out a quiet sigh.
“You’ve done a lot today.” She murmured.
“Can we stay like this for a while?” He asked quietly, his eyes shone with innocence.
“I’d love to.”
Cal idly played with her hair tickling his hands that cradled her back. Both of their worries began to fade away, they knew they would return later but for the time being, they wanted to live in the moment and enjoy each other’s company. A content hum escaped her lips and she allowed herself to become lost in his eyes, drawn in by the striking shades of green in them. She noticed a stray strand of his hair fall to his face and it made him more irresistible to her. Every moment she spent alone with him, she felt herself swooning more.
He slowly leaned in and his lips brushed with hers. The kiss started soft but as they both became confident it became smoother. It felt as if their heartbeats were being exchanged through their chests as the space disappeared between them. Her hand trailed through his hair, leaving it tousled. It felt gentle in between her fingers and the touch sent him in a mellow trance.
They reluctantly broke apart, leaving them both almost breathless. She nestled her head back on his chest and he delicately rubbed her back whilst they absorbed the euphoria in the air. The display of affection they had shown each other intrigued them and they craved to learn more about it.
“You know what we really should be worrying about?” Altheeda thought aloud.
“What?” A small frown formed on his features as he craned his head towards her.
“The amount of seasoning Greez put on his food – that can’t be good for him.” She spoke with a mischievous grin.
Cal let out a hearty laugh and Altheeda joined in. She felt delighted to hear him giggling away with her. They spent the rest of the evening in each other’s arms as they joked and reminisced, with Cal occasionally scattering airy kisses across her face and Altheeda cupping his face and caressing it. They both had experiences a lot in their lives but love was something fresh and exciting to them and they had unanimously decided to learn and experience it together.
Chapter 39: Chapter 39
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.”