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Beginnings and Endings 5

I ran through my pre flight check and tried to ignore the tiny flutter of sand jiggers that danced in the pit of my belly. I had done this many times before and today was not going to be any different except this time I wasn’t coming back when I was supposed to, but it would take them a while to figure that out and by then it would be too late to track me.

Ahnkeli Su’udelma, you are cleared for go.” The voice of the young man on duty said.

“Roger that Flight.” I smiled as I answered. Taking my ship out for a burn had become a common enough thing that no one raised any eyebrows about it any more. I liked to keep my ship in perfect running order and everyone knew that but the first time I had requested flight clearance there had been a discussion over it. In fact there had been a rather loud argument on the flight deck about it until finally Thrawn, who had been on the base at the time had been called in to intervene. The silence in the hanger had been almost eerie as he had stood between the deck officer, whose very stance said he was not budging an inch and me, who had been about to bring some violence into the fight.

While being Thrawn’s bond mate and bed partner had some advantages he was not about to show me any favouritism when it came to the rules and the safety of the base and I had to not only ask nicely to get what I wanted but explain why I wanted it in a clear and concise manner.

“The ship’s engines need to be run and that won’t happen in the hanger. I need to keep her calibrated and for that I need to be in space, and sometimes I need to open a hyperspace window and jump in a lane. It takes time but in the end it will save time.” I had said trying to keep my temper in check.

“I can have one of my more qualified pilots do that for you Miss Gabriel.” The deck officer had said.

The air must have sparked because before I could hurl any insult or answer back Thrawn had held up his white gloved hand. “Mister Rhastlen, I assure you that Miss Gabriel is a very qualified pilot. Both the Ahnkeli Su’udelma and the Sigiri are her ships and she may take them out when ever she sees fit…,” He had glanced sharply at me stopping my smirk of victory, “However there are some rules and restrictions.” He had continued, his words directed at me, “You will be allowed to leave the base when we are on stand down with no alerts, you will produce a flight plan prior to leaving the base, and you will give a time of return, if you do not comply you will be grounded. If you fail to return by the time stated and have not radioed in a good reason for this failure to return and I have to send someone out to find you, the consequences will not be pleasant, do I make myself clear?”

I had felt as though I were in my teens again asking my father for the codes to the family shuttle but I had backed down and nodded because in the end Thrawn’s demands were reasonable. The deck officer, Jonas Rhastlen had been a new addition to Nirauan and he wasn’t finding it easy to settle in. He did not like the Chiss all that much and he especially disliked having females around. Women, according to him, belonged in the home with the kids not up in space. I could see in his face that he did not agree with Thrawn at all but he would not argue with the Grand Admiral in front of everyone in the hanger bay. He had done that later, in private and it had been the reason he was be transferred to one of Thrawn’s ISDs. Even though I had asked, Thrawn would never tell me what Rhastlen had said to him, but I knew it had not been good because when ever the man’s name had been mentioned Thrawn’s mouth tightened just a little. However, since that particular day there had not been any further incidents about me not being allowed to leave the base and I had followed Thrawn’s conditions to the letter. The replacement deck officer knew his stuff and had no issues with woman at the helm, especially since his wife was an exceptional TIE pilot.

I throttled the engines up as the hanger bay doors opened and styled my ship upwards towards the blue of the sky, which was crystal clear.

Ahnkeli Su’udelma what is your ETR?”

I smiled at the voice coming over the comm. Just because they were used to me coming and going did not mean they stopped following the rules. “I thought I would head out over to Iridonia. I want to test the hyperdrive upgrade. I submitted my flight plan this morning and it was approved. My estimated time of return will be this time tomorrow, approximately, over.”

“Roger that Ahnkeli Su’udelma, watch your tail and keep in touch.”

“Copy that Flight, Ahnkeli Su’udelma out.” I let the sensation of riding through waves on an ocean wash through me as the ship kicked its way free of the planet’s gravity, the silence that followed the noise let me know when we were in space and flew in the direction of Iridonia. Flight would track me until I opened a hyperspace window and jumped, just as they did all departing ships. I had picked the Zabraki home world as my destination for registering a flight plan because it was on my way.

I set the coordinates into the nav computer and let it sort out the details while I looked at the rout map. I was going to cut clear across the known galaxy which meant some rather inventive route planning to avoid some of the more heavily populated areas and New Republic held territory which would require papers and travel documents to be shown. Even though I had valid documents which stated I was a cargo pilot out of Mos Eisley, I didn’t want to run the risk anyway. As had been pointed out to me many times, I knew enough about Thrawn’s operations to be a real problem should the New Republic or worse, one of the War lords currently vying for galactic domination catch me and figure this out. Luckily, where I was headed, Nar Shadda, did not require such things, it was owned by the Hutts and I knew my way around it well enough.

I would have to plan a series of hyperspace jumps because I was not using a standard trade route and that meant avoiding gravity wells formed by some of the major planetary system in my way but by skirting the edge of the Mid Rim territories I could do it in four days, if all went well. I certainly had enough fuel and supplies for that amount of time with enough to cover a few days more. It was funny what one could sneak aboard one’s ship without anyone actually noticing.

Once the hyperdrive engaged I unstrapped and went back aft to the galley to make some tea. The first jump would take me near Agamar, from there I would turn towards the Roche Asteroid belt which lay on the Perlemian Trade Route but because I was crossing it and not travelling along it I wasn’t worried about patrols. From the Roche Asteroid belt to Nar Shadda would be a straight jump, hopefully without any complications. If all went well I would be on The Vertical City with enough time to scout out the area.

It had been a long time since I had visited Nar Shadda, a planet that was often dubbed Little Coruscant because of its vast infrastructure and city sprawl which covered most of the surface. It glittered just as Coruscant did from a distance but travellers who knew better never let that deceptive twinkle fool them. Nar Shadda was probably one of the worst places to be in the entire galaxy and that was saying something. The entire planet made Coruscant’s under belly look tame by comparison. It was a great place to hide and an even better place to set up an ambush.

I sighed as I sat at the small galley table, one hand curled around the hot cup of tea the other hand holding the data reader. I had known instantly who it had come from the moment Thrawn had handed it to me. The memory it had given up had been violent and full of fury. Unravelling the encryption had simply given me more information.

Come or they die, Mouse.” The message had said. The single line, which spoke volumes, had been hidden under layers of an encryption which Uncle Vahlek had taught me as child to amuse me. As well as the threat, there had also been set of coordinates, a meeting place and a date. That was it and it was enough. Jyrki had not needed to sign his note because he was the only person who had ever called me Mouse. I sat and stared at the words bewildered by their significance. He had broken that last taboo between us and gone after my family, what I didn’t understand was why?

Thrawn had once called Jyrki mad and while at the time I had not wholly believed him, I did now. My uncle’s theory was that Jyrki loved me to the point of obsession and I wasn’t sure what to make of that. I didn’t have a theory, I just had questions.

It had been over a year since my path and Jyrki’s had crossed on Coruscant at the medical facility where Cati had died. He could have killed me then, the opportunity had been there but instead he had chosen to leave quietly, although not without a warning but that had been directed at Uncle Vahlek, not me.

I stared at the small screen on the data card reader without really seeing it any more. Something had made Jyrki cross that line because he had wanted to draw me out, wanted to see me again or wanted something from me. By going after my family he was making certain that I not only come to the rendezvous point but that I come alone.

I closed my eyes, bringing up the memory I had gotten off the data card. Jyrki backhanding my father across his face while yelling “Where is she?” The closed fist which has struck my father violently had held the data card at the time; it had been a deliberate move on Jyrki’s part and my stomach churned at the thought of it. No matter how hard I tried to make it do so, the data card would not give up any more of its secrets or divulge any more information leaving me angry and frustrated.

He had given me two weeks to meet him at a cantina on Nar Shadda called The Burning Deck, in the Corellian sector. It was a favoured hang for bounty hunters and other members of the under world. Jyrki liked it because it was dimly lit, easy to get an over-view of and most people rarely wanted to start any trouble in it because trouble makers were dealt with swiftly and usually permanently. He had chosen it because it a place we both knew.

When I had been learning the pilot and mechanic trade, Jyrki had once taken me to Nar Shadda on a run. It had been a huge thing for me and my father had not been easy to convince, I wasn’t much more than fifteen at the time but Jyrki had reassured papa nothing would go wrong. It was a routine drag and drop run, delivering a small shipment of parts for one of the suppliers my father sometimes worked with. The deciding factor in the reasons for letting me go was me learning to fly different ships to different places with different pilots. Jyrki didn’t pilot runs often, he was the head mech not the Bay’s pilot but everyone else was out on a run and this was an emergency with good money being paid out. I had been delighted and the trip, to my young eyes, flying under the tutelage of the man I had fallen madly in love with was an utter wonder.

Jyrki had been a good, patient teacher who had never once spoken down to me or made me feel as though I were wasting his time. I had learned a lot on that particular run about things my father would never have taught me because they were underworld skills. I had not known then that my father had been and probably still was a smuggler and Jyrki never gave that particular tidbit of information away, instead he had gone about teaching me some rather interesting ship manoeuvres as part of the let’s do something fun because this run is dull as hell excuse. When we reached Nar Shadda I was a lot more confident at the helm of a larger transport ship than I had been before leaving Tatooine.

Once the cargo had been delivered and payment sent, Jyrki had taken me out for a drink at The Burning Deck and while it had not been the first time I had ever been in a cantina it was certainly an eye opener to be in one that was not the Mos Eisley Cantina. I had never felt quite so grown up as when we sat at the bar and he ordered two ales so we could to the trip.

“Yer’ll make a good pilot, Mouse.” He had said. “Yer got skills and instincts that most of the pilots in here would kill for.”

I had beamed under his praise and blushed so hard I thought that the whole bar could see my skin glow form the heat of it. Jyrki had pretended not to notice. He had thought I was a cute kid with some talent, to me the entire galaxy revolved around him. The moment had been made all the more sweet when one of the locals had come up to us.

“Hey, Andando robbing the cradle now are we?”

Jyrki had simply smiled. “Boss’s daughter, Keiggs, learning the ropes.”

The man who was scruffy around the edges but whose eyes told me he had more sense and brains than was apparent looked me up and down. “You want to be a pilot, missy?”

I had nodded, glancing cautiously from one man to the other.

“Well, I dunno, a woman in the cockpit is usually a bad combination in my books.” Keiggs had said, half teasing half serious. “And you look a bit young to be tossing around in a runner.”

Jyrki had shaken his head. “Yer too old fashioned, Keiggs, little Mouse here just did a Reynolds’ manoeuvre without even batting an eyelash. I’d sooner have her as my co’ than yer any day of the year.”

“No kidding? A Reynolds?”

Jyrki had shaken his head, his long, black hair rippling like obsidian water around his pale face. “No kidding, and it was nicely done. The girl has a gift, yer’d do well to learn a thing or two from her. Last I heard yer’d smashed up the Kayty II trying to dodge imps.”

Keiggs had managed to look sheepish and annoyed all at the same time. “Yeah well,” He shrugged, “You know how it goes sometimes. Managed to deliver the cargo tho, not like some chumps who dump and run at the first sign of trouble. Like I said, you know how it goes.”

Jyrki had smirked, his pale blue eyes twinkling in the cantina’s lights. “Yeah, I do which is why I’d take my Mouse here as co pilot any day.”

Keiggs had grunted something about Jyrki having all the luck and then sauntered off to bother a bored looking female pilot who was sitting at the other end of the cantina bar. I had just been beside myself with joy and aside from not being able to finish the ale which I secretly thought was awful, it had been a perfect day. The run home was more of the same and even after we had landed back on Tatooine my feet had not quite touched the ground.

As I sat now in the galley of the ship I owned I wondered what either of us would have done if we could have seen what the future held in store for us. After all the terrible, terrible things Jyrki had done to me some small part of me still loved him, still felt as though I owed him something and I couldn’t seem to let any of that go. For the very first time since leaving Nirauan I wished for Thrawn’s guidance in this matter because in my heart I knew the outcome would not be a good one.

It made me unbelievably sad to think about how things had ended up with Jyrki. I did not understand obsession and I certainly didn’t understand his. It also surprised me that he had not joined Luke Skywalker’s crusade to rebuild the jedi order. Jyrki had been trained as a child in the Jedi Temple, I was certain that Luke would have welcomed him with open arms because force users were far and few between. Then again, maybe that was exactly the reason Jyrki had not joined Luke. The night Anakin Skywalker had come through the Jedi Temple and annihilated the children was about the worst moment in time I could ever imagine and for Jyrki as a small boy during that time the nightmares must still have haunted him. I wondered if Jyrki would ever trust another jedi ever again, especially the son of the man who had hunted him down like an animal. The visions I had seen of that time still haunted me. There were still nights when I woke from reliving that nightmare, a scream on my lips, bathed in a cold sweat calling Anakin’s name, begging him to stop. Thrawn who had shared this memory with me understood and on nights such as these he would simply hold me while I wept for the lives of small children I had never met and the soul of a man I wondered if I had ever truly known. I could understand if Jyrki was hesitant to serve with and learn under the son of Anakin Skywalker, in his shoes I would be as well.

I had searched often through the holocron diary my mother had made, looking for answers to questions I didn’t even know I had. Being a jedi was part of my heritage but it was a thing I did not understand. This strange power had not brought me much in the way of happiness and, had he lived, Palpatine would have found a way to twist my gifts to his advantage, turning me into a creature of his design or killing me in the process. This was the thing Jyrki had feared, the reason he had come charging back into my life to save me but I had not believed him. In the end he had been right but I could not forgive him for how he had tried to enforce his point of view. I still had bad nightmares from my time as his captive. He had accomplished nothing with his brutal methods of trying to get me out of the Empire’s clutches except to make me hate and fear him almost as much as I had feared Palpatine.

It was a strange galaxy sometimes, I thought.


  1. Isn't it a wonder how unfinished bussiness catches up with you. May The Force Be With You.
    (from Londontown)