Blood Harvest means many things when it comes to the title of the second part of the Bloodlines Anthology. For one, "Blood" in the overall story refers to the theme of family. As you know, from reading "Of Blood and Honor", this story is very family driven. The "Harvest" part... Well, I don't want to give too much away with that just yet. But there are dual meanings galore with this title. I hope you enjoy the next step in this story!
Blood Harvest Part 1
Following the Galactic War, they had hidden away. They had known that the Republic would hunt them, much the same way the Republic and Jedi had done after the Great Hyperspace War. So they hid.
On the remote world that she had called Nwûl, Vi’kaa had known only peace for most of her life. She was educated as best as she could be, but was content living on the modest farm outside the small settlement of Taral. It was the family farm, one that had been in the possession of her family for over fifteen hundred years. She had been born there. It was far from elaborate, but she had liked it that way. Her mother, father, and five siblings had made it their own, just as the generations before them had. It was a peaceful way of life.
But Vi’kaa knew the price that was paid to get her that way of life. She eventually found out the truth. The grim and ugly truth. Her grandmother had passed on the stories of how her people had fled to the world they called “Peace” in the old language, after a great war in the stars. Her grandmother had spoken of the men and women that called themselves Jedi and how those people had wanted to track down and destroy Vi’kaa’s ancestors. Her ancestors and the ones that came before everyone else had come here to escape genocide. The stories spoke about the genocide that the Jedi had committed against the ancestors of the ancestors long before the days of them going into hiding. They fled there so it didn’t happen again.
There on Nwûl, Vi’kaa thought that those old stories were only stories meant to scare the young children of the Sith. No one really believed that there were monsters out there, amongst the stars, called Jedi. There, they had an existence that was sustaining and comfortable. There was no war. There was life and peace. Or at least there had been.
On her sixteenth name day, Vi’kaa was persuaded by her friends to go adventuring into the hills for the day. Her mother had smiled and told her to go on, have fun. Work could wait until the next day. With Keatalis, Ceran, and Trasa leading the way, Vi’kaa followed deep into the wooded hills of Nwûl. For as long as she lived, she would have nightmares of that day. It was the day that started it all.
Ceran had always been the boy that pushed the limits to see what he could get away with, especially with the elder council in Taral. His father was prominent in Taral, selling seed and other supplies to the outlying farms. Because of this, Ceran was well known and arrogant for his age. He had reason to be. Of all the people that she knew, Vi’kaa considered Ceran the luckiest and intuitive person she had known. He always seemed to know when to duck out of sight to avoid being caught and getting into trouble. He seemed to be able to feel how people were going to react to him. He was strong and he was fast. Best of all, he was handsome. Ceran was smitten with her too, but hadn’t dared to ask her father for permission to make her his wife. That was something that she was glad of now.
On her sixteenth name day, Ceran took over their little adventure into the wooded hills. Even with the protests of Trasa and Keatalis, Ceran had dared to go to the one place that was strictly forbidden that they ever go: The Black Fields. They were called Dzwol Jen’Siqsa in the old language. The Den of Shadow Demons. But in reality, the Black fields were merely meadows in the hills where Orukami Orchids grew. Vi’kaa had always been told that the orchids that grew there were poisonous. It was also possible that the last of the Tukata hounds still survived there. But the Tukata hounds hadn’t been seen since before her grandmother’s grandmother was alive. The black orchids weren’t native to Nwûl, so it had been told. It was one of the few things that her ancestors had brought to the world.
She had often wondered how they arrived on Nwûl. No one would really talk about that story ever. The elders always said that the ancestors just arrived on Nwûl. Her name day would finally provide the answer.
Under protest, the other three had followed Ceran into the deep hills where they finally came to the first overlook that gave them a view of the Black Fields. Below them, a vast meadow in the bowl of the hills glinted in the sunlight, almost sparkling in it’s obsidian color. Matched with the usual greens, tans, and browns of the growing season, the meadow looked far from deadly or treacherous.
Ceran had bragged that he knew that there was nothing to fear here. He could feel that the elders still believed that the Tukatas lived here, even though hunters had killed the supposed last one over one hundred years before. Ceran said that the old ones in Taral were superstitious and fools. He felt that there was only life and beauty there, in the meadow. Ceran went as far as to say that someday he would build a home on the hill, so that he could overlook the meadow all the time.
Vi’kaa heard his words, almost ready to laugh at him for his boastfulness. But she didn’t she couldn’t. Instead, she looked at her friend, Trasa. The blonde girl who was mere days younger than Vi’kaa, stared off towards one of the sides of the meadow where the hills began to rise up again. Vi’kaa had followed the line of Trasa’s sight to that hillside. The early rains must have been heavy earlier in the cycle, causing a landslide on the hill. But instead of the usual upturned dirt, rocks, and trees, there was the glint of metal exposed. Not the rough metal that was sometimes found in a field, a discarded farm tool that had been exposed to the elements for years. This was different. The metal was the work of a master metal-maker that went beyond any skill she had seen before that day. It was huge too. Vi’kaa had never seen that much metal used to build something before then.
Ceran and Keatalis had finally stopped their male boasting back and forth, realizing that the girls were focused on something else besides them. The exposed metal immediately caught their eyes when they looked in the direction that the girls were staring towards. Ceran was the first to run towards it. The rest were curious and fearful at the same time, but followed him. The metal could prove to be too important to let the lucky Ceran take all the credit of finding it, alone. Vi’kaa realized that the meadow had been their first mistake. The next one came when they went to examine the metal.
They had found an almost sheer cliff of metal, hidden from their original vantage point by trees, raising almost forty kilbos above them. They had been astounded by this discovery. But the discovery of the cave was even more astounding.
The second mistake was going into the cave. It wasn’t a cave, but a doorway made out of metal, partially unburied in the landslide. Ceran had been the brave one to slide his way into the opening first. From where Vi’kaa looked over Keatalis’ shoulder, she could see that the metal cave didn’t look that deep. She watched Ceran with a sense of pure trepidation as he crawled in and then stood up, looking around slowly at everything. It was big enough for two of them to stand inside, with room to spare. The walls of the cave looked smooth, just like the metal hillside. On the back wall, there were grooves that must have been worn into the metal somehow. There was also what looked like an mephite and kathracite crystals in the back wall. At least two of them.
Keatalis had also seen the crystals, telling his friend to try and pry them free. Ceran turned and touched the green one first. That was where the second mistake had become unavoidable. The green crystal, which wasn’t a crystal at all, lit up and started a noise that Vi’kaa, Ceran, Trasa, or Keatalis had never heard before. It was… Mechanical.
The back wall of the cave was just another door, this one led into the hill. It wasn’t a hill. It was a hangar facility that had been built by the Sith that first came to Nwûl over three thousand years before. Vi’kaa didn’t know that then. The metal hill was built inside the actual hill to hide it from any possible pursuing eyes of the Republic or the Jedi. What was inside was the doom of her people.
There had been light inside, on the other side of the newly found door. Not at first, but it came after the door opened. Vi’kaa had never been around technology before, so she had been more sensitive to the humming that she felt more than heard that began from somewhere in the hill. She was frozen with fear at their discovery. It had been a bad dream that she couldn’t wake up from. It didn’t really start bad, but it would only continue to get worse as time passed. Ceran had lit up with excitement. He wanted to examine everything he could about their discovery.
The young man that Vi’kaa had been attracted to for so long disappeared through the doorway. The other three had watched, unable to move, unable to call out to him because they were frozen with fear. It seemed like forever before Ceran eventually peaked his head around the corner of the door, beckoning them to follow him. Their paralysis had broke then. Trasa cried. Keatalis begged him to come out of the cave. They needed to get away from whatever this was and alert the elders in Taral. Vi’kaa was the only one who regained her calm quickly and then blindly followed Ceran. She regretted having done that. Eventually the other two followed her, very cautiously.
Inside, there were huge frames of metal, along with great shapes made of different colored metals. Artificial lights burned all over, having been reawakened by these foolish explorers. It was as bright inside as it had been outside, in the daylight. Vi’kaa remembered that the air had smelled old, but she didn’t get sick from it. She slowly turned, trying to examine everything all at once. Ceran walked about the massive room of metal, curious about the hulking shapes that lived inside this cave.
On a wall, a glow had caught Vi’kaa’s attention. A box of sorts had light on the smooth side of it. She walked towards it, slowly and cautiously. As she neared it, she saw that it had words on the smooth side of it that glowed.
Restart sequence initiated. Facility systems will be online after runtime checklist complete.
She could read the words. The words that were somehow written there were written in the language of the Sith. She had stood there, staring at the words, trying to wrap her mind around what she saw. That was when Trasa had screamed. It snapped her out of her thoughts.
Trasa stood frozen once again, pointing at the shape of a metal man, standing near a doorway. The metal man would turn out to be the droid, 2V-X3. Twovee was the only one that could help her at the end of her nightmare.
The words and the metal man were enough for now. The other three had convinced Ceran that they needed to leave. There was something there, something not right. And so they had left.
On the walk back, most were silent. They were in a state of shock over their discovery and three of the four had convinced themselves that they needed to alert the elders. Ceran was the only one that didn’t feel that way initially. By the time they were nearing Taral, Ceran had birthed conspiracy and suspicion in each of them.
The words. There were more words in other places than just Vi’kaa’s glowing box. They could read those words. If they could read those words, it meant that the Sith had made that place. Perhaps the ancestors had made it and the elders chose to keep it a secret from everyone. Perhaps they would be in trouble for finding it. Not only had they gone to a place that was considered forbidden, but they had found something that had been buried, hidden away. Why was it kept from them? What else did the elders keep secret from everyone else? Were the elders afraid of something? Did the elders even know about the big metal hill under the hill?
By the time they reached Taral, the four had agreed to keep everything a secret for the time being. They needed to think before they did anything more.
Vi’kaa tried to maintain a sense of normalcy over the next few days, but the discovery had changed her. During the day, helping on the farm, she was often chastised by her father for daydreaming. At night, she awoke in cold sweats, having dreamt of child story monsters that lurked in the shadows in the metal hill. Sometimes she dreamt of the metal man, walking down from the hills to hurt everyone she knew. She didn’t eat well during that time.
Finally, after seven days, Vi’kaa walked to Taral to find Ceran. She had needed to talk to him. She had needed to talk to someone about that heavy secret. Before she reached the edge of Taral, though, she spotted Ceran crossing the open field that led to the path they had initially used on her name day to go into the hills. He walked quickly, with a hurried purpose. Vi’kaa had called to him, but he had either not heard her or ignored her. She ran after him.
Vi’kaa caught up with him just as the path into the hills started. He looked different to her. Ceran hadn’t slept well and wasn’t eating. He almost looked sick. He told her he had to go back. There was something there, calling to him. Whatever the feeling was, he was certain beyond doubt that he could find the answers about everything there. Vi’kaa had begged him not to go back. Oh how she had begged him. But Ceran wouldn’t relent. She wouldn’t follow on that day, so instead she ran back home. She wished that she had followed. Maybe she could have stopped everything before it began. No. It had been too late already.
Two weeks went by then, before she sought him out again. Vi’kaa had to make the journey into the hills to find him. Ceran’s own father worried about him because the young man was disappearing for two or three days at a time before coming home. Ceran’s father had started asking around if Ceran was working for one of the outlying farms. The truth was that Ceran had delved into the secrets of the metal hill. He had uncovered truths. He knew about the secrets that even the elders no longer knew then.
The metal man had frightened her when she returned to the inside of the cave. Her scream had scared him too, though. It turned out that the metal man was not scary at all. He, 2V-X3, was friendly and polite. He was more skittish than anyone else she knew. He wasn’t a metal man. He was a droid. Twovee had been built to serve his Sith masters in any way he could.
Ceran was there too. Twovee called him Master Ceran now. He looked healthier than he had ever looked before. To Vi’kaa, he almost looked powerful. There was a new air to him. A seducing confidence that she had never seen in him before that day. Most of all, he was willing to show her all of the secrets he had uncovered with the help of his new friend, Twovee.
The hulking metal shapes were starships, capable of flying among the stars. Their ancestors, the people of the Sith Empire, had flown those starships all over the galaxy. There were machines that did the jobs that the Sith had to do for themselves on Nwûl. There were other droids that did other jobs too. When a person got sick, there was a droid that could make them better. If there was something heavy that needed moved, there was a droid that could move it. There were machines called speeders that could transport a person across great distances faster than she could have ever believed.
Most of all, there was the pyramid box. Black and red with what looked like ancient Sith writing on the sides. The pyramid box told the truth about why the Sith had come to Nwûl. The Sith had declared war on the Republic and the Jedi. They were both weak and the Sith were strong. But somehow, some of the Sith became misguided and turned on each other. It ruined the chance of the Sith achieving victory. The Republic and the Jedi won. The Sith were imprisoned or destroyed. Some of the Sith fled to this world. A world among countless other worlds in a huge galaxy. The stars she saw at night were the suns of other worlds, great distances away. There were others living on those worlds too. Others like Vi’kaa and Ceran.
There was the Force. Ceran said that the pyramid box told him about it and that he could use this magical energy. It had shown him how. To prove it, he pointed at a metal box and made it float in the air.
The elders in Taral knew about this. They had hidden it away from everyone so they could be in charge. The decisions they made had held back the Sith. It had trapped them and kept them away from others, just like them, on other worlds. The elders didn’t want peace. They wanted control!
Vi’kaa was floored by these revelations. These wonders that had been revealed to her were beyond belief, yet part of her desperately wanted it to all be true. Her imagination had soared at the thoughts of flying through the stars, seeing another world like Nwûl. But why would this all be kept away from her people?
Vi’kaa had to leave that day. She didn’t want to worry her parents. She promised Ceran and Twovee that she would be back though.
From that day, the real life nightmare only got worse. The pyramid box was called a holocron and it taught Ceran a great many things. Ceran told Vi’kaa that she could learn to use this Force too, if she so desired. The holocron could teach her. He could teach her. She slowly began learning things from the other boxes, called computers, where she learned to use some of the technology found inside the hill, the secret Sith base facility. While she was excited to begin training, something in the back of her mind kept nagging at her to run away. Some doubt kept her from fully embracing all of the new things.
By the time the cold season started, the four friends who had initially found the secrets under the hill had grown their circle of trusted friends to ten. Of those ten, three others could use the Force besides Ceran and Vi’kaa. By the end of the cold season, the numbers had grown to almost thirty. Keatalis and Trasa had come around and embraced all of the new information. They were thirsty for knowledge. They blindly followed Ceran, along with the other youth that had come to find out about the secrets.
The revolt came just before her seventeenth naming day. Ceran confronted the elders about everything. They would only confirm that the Sith had originally come from another world, fleeing the tyranny of the Jedi and the Republic. Ceran called them all liars. He showed them the true power of the Force. He lifted first one, then another, and then another, with the Force. He then used the Force to make examples out of them. He killed the elders using the Force. It was the first time that Vi’kaa truly felt the darkness within him.
The Dark side of the Force.
Regardless, there was a regime change, with Ceran and his group taking over control. They allowed knowledge to be spread, but at a price. It was a method of control. Ceran set himself up as the true leader of the Sith. Vi’kaa was to be his wife.
She read everything she could on the computers. It was on the Fury-class Interceptor, while being assisted by Twovee, that Vi’kaa learned the dark truth to it all. The Sith had come to Nwûl to hide and defend themselves, but almost as soon as they were established, the old ways of questing for power and dominance came back. It was agreed upon by a council that those that would not leave behind the old ways and forsake technology, the Force, and the Sith ideology would have to die. So those that did not conform were killed. Everything was buried. That was supposed to be forever. Now they had awakened that which was supposed to remain hidden.
The Sith of the Sith Empire had started the war because of power and control. They had lost because of power hungry mad men. The Republic chose retribution. That is why Vi’kaa’s Sith ancestors had run and hid. Ceran was now stepping in to become one of his ancestors.
Darth Evidian. The Dark Lord of the Sith.
Ceran spend more and more time away. He isolated from Vi’kaa. He totally transformed from the young man she once knew. He worked on things called Sith Alchemy. After four years, suffering, darkness and evil were all that the once proud people of Nwûl knew. Evidian brought it upon them. Even those that served him willingly. Vi’kaa was the only one that seemed to be spared.
He eventually brought the Death Plague to Nwûl. It wasn’t really death, but it should have been. Evidian knew that eventually he would die. It was the way of the Sith. Someone would secretly rise in power, plot against him and replace him. He chose to find immortality. Using Sith Alchemy, he experimented and experimented, until he found the Death Plague. The plague didn’t truly kill. It turned it’s victims into violent, mindless husks that only knew pain and hunger. They craved to bite the living. The bite infected the next person and so on and so forth. Evidian said all he needed was a different type of orchid, rather than the ones in the Black Fields. He could then achieve immortality.
Vi’kaa could see what was happening. That’s why she took Twovee and left Nwûl forever.
On board the Fury Interceptor, Vi’kaa fled. Not to one of the former Sith worlds but to a chance world away from Ceran. What she didn’t count on was Evidian being threatened by her leaving. He felt that her leaving meant that she was going in search of new allies. She would be the one to usurp him before he could find immortality. He loaded a portion of his undying husks up and pursued her using the Force to track her, following in the other Fury Interceptor. Thankfully, the husks couldn’t use the transports that were left behind on Nwûl.
They both found the refugee ship before they found the station. Darth Evidian used the ship as a recruiting vessel, turning everyone into more mindless husks. He then followed her to the old space station. She had landed and barely left the station again. She thought she was safe, even though she had to leave Twovee behind. No. The husks somehow got on board. They were going to get through the doors eventually or she would die from dehydration and starvation. Even her powers in the Force couldn’t help her survive forever. If only she’d been able to finish her Lightsaber that she was building.
At least she knew how to work the weapons on the Fury. When Evidian left the station to pursue her, she fired. He didn’t even know they could do that, she thought to herself. She had to destroy the refugee ship too, considering it a mercy kill for those still aboard, turned into husks themselves.
Leaning back, she felt the serenity of the Force. She keyed a button on one of the arm rests of her seat.
- “To whomever might find this, please stay away from Nwûl. It’s a planet of death. There is a plague that... that will kill all. Everyone and anyone. No one is safe there. My story is in the memory banks of the ship’s main computer. I hope someone will learn from it and perhaps be put on the right path. We were the descendents of the Sith. Our destruction was in our blood all along. At last the Light side has seen justice paid.”
Phantom Station had seen better days. Following the battle with the Black Bloods, the combined forces of the Nova Wolves and those that had answered the call to flock to Graydon Strykia’s banner, the newly christened Shadow Wolves, along with the forces of Phantom Station had began repairs in earnest. Ships and station alike had suffered damage, ranging from minor to major, in the engagement. But overall, the Wolves and their allies had prevailed.
The combined fleet of the Wolves had stayed put in defense of Phantom Station for the time being. The station was too battered to make any jumps to hyperspace in order to find a new hiding spot. With the ships there, it appeared that a Sector group of military ships had congregated on the station. Long range patrols were sent out, along with freighters to retrieve supplies from non-Imperial ports. While things were going smoothly, it was a timely endeavor on the part of the allies. Rough and early estimates said that it would be close to a month before everything was ready to go and things could begin to return to normal, at least from an operational standpoint.
One can only imagine the surprise of an unsuspecting ship coming to the pre-determined coordinates, finding a strange battle group of ships surrounding the station. This is precisely what happened when Jev Cray and Ulic Rossini arrived back at Phantom Station with the Lightning’s Ride. Having borrowed the ship with Graydon Strykia’s permission, Jev and Ulic were banking on returning to the station before the real owner, CJ Morgan, had returned from Corellia. Unfortunately, they were going to be doubly disappointed.
As the Lightning’s Ride reverted to realspace from the swirls of Hyperspace, the first thing they saw were the perimeter patrol fighters heading their way, followed by the shape of the Sol’voc Star Destroyer barring their approach to the station.
“Holy frak!” Jev shouted as they reverted back to realspace, quickly operating the sensors to determine what mess they had just landed in.
“Hold on buddy, this could get interesting!” Ulic said as he began banking the freighter away from the station. “Better tell our passengers to belt in!”
“Unidentified freighter: This is the Freedom. Identify yourself.” Came a hail over the open comm. channel. Jev was surprised that the hailing ship was operating on the same channel that Phantom Station normally operated on.
“Sorry, Freedom. This is the Charmed Life. We must have made a wrong turn at Llanic.” Jev keyed the comm. to respond back, using the Ride’s false transponder ID. “We’re leaving. We didn’t see anything.”
“Negative Charmed Life. Stand down and come about.”
“Sorry Freedom, but I’m over-riding that. Jev, Ulic… You dock that ship right now!” Came the voice of CJ Morgan over the comm., cutting off the communication operator of the Antrixian cruiser.
“Captain Morgan! What a surprise! I’m glad you’re back from Corellia. How was your trip?”
“Cut the crap, Cray.” CJ responded. “Dock my ship… NOW!”
“10-4, CJ.” Jev responded back before cutting off communications. “I think we better do as she says.”
“We could still make a jump and get out of here.” Ulic said with a smile, looking over at Jev.
“Do you really want her coming after us?” Jev asked. “Besides, I’m curious as to what’s going on here.”
“Right you are, my man.” Ulic said. He quietly banked the ship towards Phantom Station, wondering what fate might be awaiting them.
The ship slowly rounded a group of battle ships before coming into view of the station. Ulic let out a long, low whistle as he took in the damage that had been done to Phantom Station. One of the lower docking pylons was completely gone and was now a mess of exposed girders and jagged plates. Entire parts of the outer ring showed hull breaches and pitted carbon scoring. There were jagged rents in the hull all along one arc of the station’s rings. It was obvious that that side had taken the brunt of an attack. Still, there were signs of repairs going on everywhere. Flashes from fusion wielders and numerous individuals in space suits could be seen crawling all over the hulls.
“So did the Imperials find the station while we were gone?” Ulic asked absently. “If they did, who are these others that are here now?”
“I’m not sure.” Jev responded. “They seem to be protecting the station, though. Maybe another part of Nihtrad we didn’t know about?”
“I doubt that.” Ulic answered. “Five of the ships are uniform in design. I’m betting these are from some military outfit.”
“We’re going to find out soon.” Jev commented as the docking tractor beam took hold of the ship and brought it in to dock with the section of the outer ring that was still overall intact.
Once the hard seal was complete and the airlock had cycled, Jev and Ulic made ready to lead the way onto the station. Their passengers stood behind them, quiet and patient, awaiting the new chapter that waited for them beyond the airlock doors. As the doors opened, Jev and Ulic stepped through, coming face-to-face with CJ Morgan and her tall, Wookiee companion, Shalranna.
“Well gentlemen, I’m glad to see you.” CJ said with a smug smile.
“Hiya, CJ.” Jev responded casually, trying to avoid a confrontation.
“Don’t ‘Hiya’ me, Jev. What’s the big idea?”
“Captain Morgan, Lord Strykia told us it was safe to take the ship to Trudaa to survey a possible refugee camp…” Ulic began.
“Rossini, I don’t care if Blade told you to take a Star Destroyer. You were supposed to be back a week and a half ago. That ship is a large part of my life! If there’s one new dent, ding, or scratch… What’s this?”
CJ noticed the glowing blue eyes that were peaking from behind Ulic’s leg as she was dressing the two men down. She knelt down to try and peer around Ulic, coming to almost eye level with the youngest of the Antrixian refugees, Arya Belerayne. The little brunette girl cautiously peaked around again, meeting CJ’s eyes before ducking back behind Ulic.
“Hey, hey.” CJ said with as much compassion as she could muster, forgetting about Ulic and his fellow troublemaker. “It’s okay. Don’t mind me. You’re safe now. You’re under the High Lord’s protection now.”
As soon as she had finished her statement, the little girl shot out from behind Ulic and jumped into CJ’s arms, giving her barely enough time to catch the child and maintain her balance. CJ wrapped her arms around the child, unsure of what she should done.
“Are you the High Lady?” Young Arya asked.
“Um, no. I’m just a very close friend to the High Lord.” CJ said as she patted the girl on the back.
“This isn’t a dream, right?”
“No. No sweetie. This isn’t a dream.” CJ responded, giving Ulic and Jev a questioning look.
“After Trudaa, Lady Strykia had us go to a planet out near the Hataar Sector to pick up a group of Antrixian refugees.” Ulic said as he stepped aside, giving CJ a view of the nine remaining refugees that he and Jev had brought to the station.
“Lady Strykia? As in the ‘High Lady Strykia’? Well… Everyone’s full of surprises.” CJ said as she handed little Arya to Shalranna. Surprisingly, the little girl made no qualms about being picked up by the Wookiee. “We’ve still got a little time before the party starts. We can go get Blade and introduce him to our new arrivals.”
“Party?” Jev asked. “Okay… What the frak is going on around here?”
“Are you a Lutrin?” Arya asked as she examined Shalranna, interrupting the others. Shalranna simply gave a shake of his head.
“He’s a Wookiee, sweetie.” CJ answered for her new companion.
“What’s a ‘Walkie’?” Arya asked, quickly looking from CJ, back to Shalranna.
“We’ll get to that.” CJ replied. “Now then, I suppose you guys are wondering what you missed?”
“Yes.” Both Ulic and Jev said in unison.
“Not in front of the newcomers. I’ll fill you in and get you caught up.” CJ gave them her brash smile. “Come on, everyone. There’s a very important person I want you to meet.”
CJ led the group across the station to a cargo hold not far from the quarters that Sebastian had claimed for the couple. It was relatively close to the quarters that housed the population of other Antrixian refugees that had come to the station. There were quiet conversations back and forth between the group as they walked, but for the most part, everyone was quiet, taking in the activity that swarmed around them.
As the doors opened to the cargo bay, the group was met by the sounds of whirs and crackles as three of the five occupants of the hold swung their Lightsabers around, practicing with the energy blades. Almost all of the newcomers were awestruck by the sight. Graydon, the tallest of the three, noticed the newcomers immediately and called for a halt in the pactice. Rahsara Damodred and Anna Verkaik responded right away and deactivated their blades as Graydon did the same. Graydon wiped his brow with the sleeve of his tunic as he approached CJ and the others.
“Hey Blade.” CJ casually said as Graydon approached.
“CJ.” Graydon acknowledged his friend. “What do we have here?”
“It would seem that Ulic and Jev brought back more than we bargained for.” CJ answered.
Graydon examined the group standing between and behind his friends. At the front and center of the group stood Kane Darklyn, his dark brown curls now gone in favor of a nearly shaven hairstyle. His eyes only gave off a slight red glow, indicating that he was in control of his emotions, whatever they might be. He stood casually, but Graydon could tell that the young man had trained under a Jinsai master for some time, just by his stance. Kane rested with loose knees and on the balls of his feet, rather than flat-footed. The other tell-tale sign was the battered hilt of a Warblade rising over the young Antrixian’s shoulder. After examining the lead male of the group, Graydon looked over the rest, noticing that a majority of the group were younger than even Rashara. This meant that the whole group, except for maybe three or four were born outside of the Commonwealth, after the Purge. There was only one among the group that appeared older than Graydon himself, standing slightly behind the lead male.
“I’m Graydon Strykia, also known by my honor name, Blade.” Graydon spoke. “I welcome you to Phantom Station.”
“I am Fenis Marbrand.” The oldest of the group said as he stepped forward. “Are you the man we’ve heard about? The new High Lord?”
“I’m not sure what exactly you’ve heard.” Graydon said, giving a suspicious look to Jev, Ulic, and CJ.
“Your companions” Fenis said, motioning towards Ulic and Jev. “told us that the Lady Strykia had sent them to bring us to her son, the new High Lord of the Commonwealth. We graciously accepted the offer to come here and serve in any way we might.”
Graydon raised an eyebrow, looking at Fenis and the group, then at Ulic and Jev. “I think I need an explanation here.”
“Yes, you do.” Jev said. “We had a very interesting trip. Apparently there were three visitors to Trudaa that we didn’t anticipate.”
“First, Mister Bishop was holding up there for a while, near the ruins. Second, your mother and cousin were there also.” Jev said, trying to be very matter-of-factly. “And last, your favorite girlfriend paid them a visit… Danara.”
“I’m…” Graydon was very surprised, mostly by how casual Jev was with the news. “I’m surprised, to say the least. Danara didn’t bother you?”
“She was high-tailing it off-world when we got there.” Ulic added in. “Apparently your mother had quite the talk with her.”
“We need to talk more about everything that’s occurring.” Graydon said, becoming very serious. “Anlace? Can you and Saber take our guests and find them something to eat? I’m betting they’re hungry.”
“Yes, Blade.” Anna answered.
“I want to talk to Fenis and our two scouts in a bit more privacy.”
“My Lord, if I may… Could I remain behind also?” Kane finally stepped forward, standing next to Fenis.
“You are?” Graydon asked.
“Kane Darklyn, my Lord. My father gave me the honor name Vanguard. I have been the protector of this group since we were stranded. I now offer my blade to you.”
“Is this so?” Graydon asked, looking from Fenis back to Kane.
“Yes, my Lord.” Fenis answered. “Young Vanguard here has been our sole inspiration and protection since we were stranded on that remote world some years ago. After his father perished in an attack by slavers, the lad stepped up to defend what was left of our group. I did what I could to assist, but my leg was injured in one of the attacks on us. I’m afraid I’m not much use as a combatant.”
“Very well. Fenis and Vanguard, please come with me and my friends. We have much to talk about.”
Moments later, Graydon was leading the small procession down another hallway towards the room he typically used for meetings with the other Antrixians. Flanking him on either side were his usual shadows, Heathyr “Quickstep” Knysho and Selene S’tal. The middle of the group consisted of Fenis and Kane, followed by CJ, Shalranna, Jev and Ulic. Graydon noted that Fenis walked with a very pronounced limp as he followed.
Once the group was in the room, the doors shut, and everyone seated, Graydon took a moment to gather himself. The appearance of ten Antrixian refugees was enough of a surprise to last a week. But there was also news of his mother having a confrontation with Danara. That was enough of a shock to last years.
“Okay. I would first like to hear your story, Fenis.” Graydon began. “Tell me of your group and how you eventually ended up here.”
“It’s a simple tale, my Lord.” Fenis responded. “At the end of the Clone Wars, when the Republic became the Empire, a group of forty three individuals, counting myself, fled from Odia to attempt to escape the assault against the Commonwealth. Among our numbers were Kane’s father, Mathin Darklyn, a Jinsai known as Graymark. For many years, we were able to hide on Ukio, passing as a small community of farmers. But eventually, two of the more bold of our group took one of the small shuttles we had brought with us to search for news from the Commonwealth.”
“As it went, their return brought the Imperials on to our trail. However, this didn’t occur for another three years after we had found out that the Commonwealth was now occupied by the Imperials. We fled when the Imperials sent slavers and their mercenaries to capture us and essentially sell us into servitude among the Hutts. That is where we lost the largest part of our group. Resisting the slavers cost many of us our lives, including my wife and most of the adults. We fled and found a remote world near the Koradin and Hataar Sectors. Unfortunately, our ship was severely damaged in our escape and any chance of leaving that world ended when we landed. Of course, we were safe for a time, but the slavers did track us to the planet. Mathin and four other adults counter-attacked the slavers while the children and crippled fled. In the end, Kane and I were left to look out for the group that you’ve seen today.”
“So how is it that my mother came to know of you?”
“Apparently our ship was set to broadcast a low-powered distress beacon on former Antrixian Defense channels. That beacon remained active for over two years. She tracked the signal and eventually came to the planet, searching for us. Lady Strykia and her young companion could not take us with them, but she promised to find us a way off of that world. Your friends arrived about seven months later. Now we are here.”
“Exactly how many are left of your group?” Graydon asked. He was surprised by the man’s tale, but didn’t doubt it. The whole affair of Marissa Strykia finding the group and then dispatching Graydon’s friends to retrieve them seemed to fit her style to the letter. It was one more part of a grand plan that Marissa had worked since before the twins were born.
“There are ten of us, my Lord.” Fenis answered. “Myself and my daughter, Margaery, along with Kane and his sister Pherra. There are the young ones, Arya, Varen, and Tann, followed by the older ones, Shad, Sansa, and Jarryn. Jarryn and the younger ones were all born on Ukio, while everyone older than those four were infants that escaped the Commonwealth with us.”
“I see.” Graydon said, looking somewhat introspective. “I wish I had great news for you, but the situation isn’t great. We’ve recently had a confrontation with the renegade Antrixian known as Reaper, which as you can see, resulted in some extensive damage to this station.”
“Reaper?” Kane asked, breaking his silence.
“Yes. Reaper is the man that betrayed the Commonwealth and the Jinsai to the Imperials in hopes of gaining favor and power with the Empire at the close of the Clone Wars. He essentially began the Antrixian Purge with his scheme to gain power. Now, he blames every other member of the Commonwealth that wouldn’t ally with him, along with the Imperials for twenty years of exile. He’s focused on the power that he thinks he deserves and the revenge he feels is justified.”
“So he’s to blame for our lot in life?” Kane asked, looking from Graydon to Fenis.
Fenis bowed his head, knowing exactly the story that Graydon had just reiterated. Graydon read the man’s body language, guessing that he knew the story all too well. That said volumes of the man, keeping the information from his group for all these years. Graydon was sure that Fenis meant well, protecting his “flock” from the truth of the past. Graydon knew that the truth would have to come out to these people eventually.
“Yes.” Graydon finally answered Kane.
“I will fight by your side, my Lord. None of us asked for this plight, but it falls on us to attempt to right this wrong.” Kane stated. His eyes took on a fierce glow, but he was managing to maintain his composure.
“I appreciate the offer, young Vanguard.” Graydon responded to Kane. “In time, your service may be called upon. Right now, I need you and your group to be stable and find their place in this growing group here on Phantom Station. I never planned to have this many young individuals here, involved in this. We have many things to work out.”
“This is a new time, my Lord.” Fenis interjected. “These young ones are the future of our people. I hope you mean to include them in making that future.”
“You’re right, master Marbrand.” Graydon nodded to Fenis. “They are our future… One I hope to preserve.”
Anna and Rashara were joined by Willa as they guided to group of young Antrixians to the promenade of the station. Anna was in what Rashara referred to as her “Jinsai Mode” as she walked with the others. Anna was quiet and introspective, yet she didn’t hesitate to talk with any of the newcomers. Mostly, this was answering questions about who she was and where this station was located.
As Willa fell in with her training companions, she immediately noticed one thing with Anna: Her young companion kept looking towards one of the newcomers. The young male Antrixian that Anna stole glances at registered to be approximately two years older than Anna. Running the appropriate algorithms, Willa came to the conclusion that Anna may be experiencing her first attraction towards a member of the opposite sex. Willa chose to wait before approaching Anna with this. After all, she was programmed to be Anna’s best friend and she didn’t want to embarrass her if she was correct.
The small café area across from Quark’s was empty and Rashara saw to it that food was brought to the small group. As they began to eat, Rashara politely stepped away and joined Anna and Willa. As the oldest among the group, Rashara felt she had the most responsibility in watching over everyone. So, while she was trying to keep an eye on the new ones, she also opened her ears, walking into the quiet conversation Willa and Anna were just starting.
“So, Mistress Anna, can I ask a question?” Willa started.
“Is there something about the new boy from this group of Antrixians that’s caught your eye?”
“Willa!” Anna’s calm guard immediately dropped, replaced by pure embarrassment. “Be quiet!”
“I want to state that it’s perfectly acceptable and normal, given your age and level of social development.” Willa casually stated. Anna’s face was totally scarlet with embarrassment.
“Whoa!” Rashara said as she stepped in between the two. “Hold on, Willa. You’re embarrassing her. I think you might have picked up too much of Tee-three with that memory transfer.”
“That was not my intent and I assure you that I merely possess T-3R1’s data, not his personality matrix.” Willa responded, looking to Rashara. “I was just preparing the situation to discuss the social and cultural dynamics of relationships with Anna.”
“By doing it out of a text file?” Rashara laced a lot of sarcasm into her question. “You’re lacking certain… tact.”
“Lady Damodred, do you think you are more facilitated to do this?” Willa cocked her head to the side as she asked.
“Umm… Maybe.” Rashara had to admit that she didn’t have a lot of experience in relationships, but she remembered what it was like to be a girl Anna’s age.
“I have noticed the way you have looked after Jev Cray when he isn’t aware of your eyes watching him. It’s almost like you are attempting a scan of his person.” Willa casually said.
It was Rashara’s turn to be embarrassed. Scarlet bloomed in her cheeks quickly and her eyes flashed with a bright blue glow. Quickly, Rashara brought herself back under control as best she could.
“That’s a little different…” Rashara responded.
“I see. I believe that you are referring to the social appropriateness of you and Jev being of what is considered mating age and-”
Rashara quickly covered Willa’s mouth with her hand, cutting her statement off. That was when she noticed Anna, watching their exchange with a smile across her face. There was a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. When Anna saw that Rashara had noticed her watching the “show”, she began to smile even wider.
“Is it true?” Anna asked.
“Is what true?” Rashara asked back.
“Do you like Jev?”
“What’s that got to do with this?” Rashara tried to deflect the question.
“Plenty!” Anna shot back, still grinning. “If I like a boy, then it would be better to know that I could talk to someone about it that was experiencing the same things.”
“Anna… It’s a little different. I’m older and… Well… Okay. You’re right.” Rashara had to admit to herself that there were a lot of similarities to her and Anna, in regards to social development. Since coming to stay with her cousins and then Phantom Station, she felt more at home around people other than just Jinsai. Aleisha Sandoval, her shirt-tail cousin, had helped with that.
“So you do like him?”
“Yeah… I think he’s cute.” Rashara said with a bashful smile. “But he’s too cocky sometimes.”
“Jev has horrible manners most of the time.” Anna responded, sounding a little too grown up. “But I can see why you like him. He can be cute and honorable when he wants to be.”
“You’re getting to be a little too grown up, sometimes. Wait a minute! This all started with you.” Rashara turned the tables. “What about you?”
“I think his name is Jarryn.”
After the meeting was complete, Graydon went to seek out Anna, finding her quietly talking with Willa as they overlooked the small group of newcomers as they ate. Gathering Anna, Graydon asked her to follow him to find Rena. It was nearing time to get ready for the announcement party that CJ was insisting that they have.
Graydon noticed that his young ward was being even more quiet than usual. He had almost counted on some conversation flowing from the almost ten year old concerning the new arrivals, but Anna was very quiet. She seemed fine, otherwise, but there was something just under the surface. It was a combination of giddiness and nervousness. Perhaps it had something to do with the new Antrixians. Graydon made a mental note to ask about everything later. Right now, he was focused on making sure everything went off without a hook tonight.
As Graydon and Anna walked past their quarters on the way to Rena’s apartment, they stopped when the door across from theirs suddenly opened. A smiling Allyson Strykia emerged quickly into the hall, a wide smile on her face.
“Hello sister.” Graydon immediately said as Allyson appeared.
“I did it!” Allyson exclaimed, looking excitedly at Anna and Graydon.
“Did what?” Graydon asked his sister.
“I moved the sphere with the Force!” Allyson said, the exuberance still evident in her voice.
“You keep that up and you’re going to be caught up with us soon.” Graydon referred to the training that Allyson was currently undergoing with the Verkaik family holocron. Since Allyson’s arrival at Phantom Station, she had been diligently training with the holocron.
“I think the time for us competing in our training has past, Graydon.” Allyson said, suddenly serious. “After that little encounter with Reaper, I know this is the time when we have to get serious. We have to be two parts of the same whole, now.”
Graydon went silent for a moment, looking deeply into his sister’s eyes. “I think we’ve grown up, finally.” He responded.
“Yeah.” Allyson replied. “And now we know what lies ahead of us. It’s time we follow mom’s plan.”
“We have been following mom’s plan.”
“No, that’s not what I mean.” Allyson said. “Our days of gallivanting across the galaxy and playing rebel are over. We need to step up, be serious, and be the leaders everyone needs.”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“Do you see the way everyone looks at you and me when we pass by?” Allyson asked. “They almost have a reverence towards us because of the legend that’s been built up behind our names. They’re waiting for us to act, so they can follow us to whatever may lie next.”
“I know what they’re expecting, Allie.” Graydon answered. “But what if we fail? What if we’re not the ones that this whole prophecy is about?”
“Then at least we tried and honored everyone and everything that came before us.” Allyson responded back. “You know that as long as we try, mom and dad will be smiling down on us.”
“You’re right.” Graydon answered. “I still feel like we have a long way to go and that we’re lacking support.”
“You have my support.” Allyson said, very serious, yet calm. She dropped to one knee in front of Graydon. “I pledge my blade to the High Lord, my dear brother.”
“Allyson!” Graydon said, slightly embarrassed. “Get up. You don’t have to do this.”
“I’m serious.” Allyson responded, her head still bowed. “All that I have and all that may yet come to me will be at your service.”
“Blade… She’s serious.” Anna finally spoke up, smiling up at her foster father.
“Alright you two. I accept your pledge, my dearest sister. I think I better before you two go and recruit more people to jump in on this ‘cause’ you’re angling at. You’re right and I accept your help.”
“Good.” Both Allyson and Anna responded in unison.
“You two are worse than pirates.” Graydon responded with a smile.
“So, where are you two off to?” Allyson asked as she stood.
“The party at Quark’s.” Graydon said. “We’re getting ready for it, I mean.”
“Right. What’s this party for?”
“It’s something that CJ insists that we have. Something about an announcement or something…”
“Once again, right… Come on Graydon! I know when you’re hiding something.” Allyson scrutinized her brother with a suspicious look. “Are you and Rena announcing your engagement?”
“What? No…” Graydon trailed off.
“I must have been pretty close to the mark on that one.” Allyson narrowed her eyes as she looked at her brother, trying to determine what it was that Graydon was hiding. “I should have known! Rena’s pregnant!”
“I’m right! You just couldn’t handle that the Imperials were touting out a scheme where your clone was having a kid! You had to get your own scandal started! ‘The High Lord is going to have an heir!’ is what the holonet headlines will say.” Allyson chuckled as she gently punched her brother in the arm.
“Will you stop? Okay, yes! Rena is pregnant. No, this wasn’t planned. But I’m in a huge dilemma here. Danara is on Antrixies with the son and potential heir to the Commonwealth right now. Rena’s here with another baby waiting to be born, which will be touted as the true heir by every one of my supporters. To top that all off, the woman that I was supposed to marry from before the Commonwealth was occupied is now back in to my life! So, yes, there is a huge scandal here!”
“I shouldn’t tell you that there’s another old flame from your past that’s due to arrive here tomorrow then, should I?” Allyson averted her eyes from her brother.
“Another old flame? Who?”
“What?” Graydon was stunned yet again, the second time of the day.
For more than three years, Graydon had kept Corana Kord locked away in his heart, remembering the sacrifice she had made on Coruscant to allow Bri Hamin and him to escape from the clutches Imperial Jedi hunters. He had become entwined with Corana shortly before they journeyed to the Core to rescue her sister from a low-ranking Imperial. On Coruscant, things had gotten messy after they rescued Brianna Kord and found a little girl named Bri with latent Force potential. As far as he knew, Corana had given her life so that he could live his and fulfill a destiny that she said was larger, more important, than her future. He had mourned her as the first person that he had encountered in the galaxy that took him for who he was, not what he was or would be. Their relationship had been like a meteorite: short-lived, burning hot and bright.
“Corana signed on with the Ryshue Star just after we met with you on Jubilar.” Allyson calmly said, seeing some of the emotion that flashed across her brother’s face. “Once we met and talked, she found out who I was and who you were. I don’t think you need to worry, though.”
“Don’t worry… Easier said than done.”
“Focus on the present. Be mindful of your actions and the consequences for future events.” Allyson said, trying to reassure Graydon.
Graydon paused, looking at Allyson first, then at Anna, who was watching from the side, seeming to take everything in with calm, non-judgmental patience. Graydon knew that he was on the right course with his life. Things seemed to be falling into place, despite hardships that occurred along the way. Allyson spoke of the Living Force, the same philosophy that their mother had espoused, yet more and more, Graydon found himself dealing with the Unified Force. He felt, in his heart, that the Force was working through him and around him to achieve a specific destiny. With Anna by his side and the fact that Rena was expecting their first child meant that his vision of a woman with blue eyes and the three other children in his life wasn’t defined yet. His interpretation of the vision was off, he was almost sure of that.
For the first time in several months, Graydon thought of the vision he had received through the Force. A woman with blue eyes handed him one of four children. The child with blonde hair that stood beside him had to be Anna. The infant girl, the one he interpreted as the next Wynd was yet to be born. That was the one that was being handed to him. The other two children, however, were undefined. The woman with the blue eyes could be anyone. Rena had blue eyes, but so did Danara. Both women now had connections to him through his offspring. But whether he was meant to be with one or the other, he didn’t know.
The fact that his first child was now born on Antrixies, the child of a lust-filled night, one in which both he and Danara had deceived each other as to what their true identities were. He knew there was passion between them, but they were on opposite sides of the war. They were on opposite sides of their beliefs. How they would or could form a relationship was beyond him. They were now pawns in a large game that encompassed the galaxy in a bitter conflict. Graydon knew that they would eventually face each other. At that time, right there, he was adding her to the growing list of hurdles to overcome.
Rena, on the other hand, had captured his heart. Regardless of her career, Rena had shown a level of compassion that surpassed most. She was warm, caring, strong and courageous. More than once, Graydon had thought that Rena had all the trappings to make a fine Lady of House Strykia. She would and could make a strong High Lady too. When he examined everything, he knew that his mother would approve. Did Graydon love her? At this moment, inspecting his feelings closely, Graydon found that his love for her had blossomed and grown past just pure attractions. The focus of the Jinsai in preserving their honor centered on their families. Graydon felt that his true path involved strengthening his family, avoiding the mistake of his brother by turning away from their family. Rena had become a focal point, along with Anna, in his life. He did love her.
“Allie… you’re right.” Graydon finally responded. “Let’s focus on the here and now. We have a family to strengthen. You, K’Ehleyr, Anna, Aunt Moraine, Aleisha, Uncle Deshawn, Rashara, and Taless are currently our family. Hopefully Rena will have me too.”
“She better!” Allyson responded with a smile. “Nobody’s going to stiff my brother and live to talk about it.”
As Marissa Strykia had said many times before, when the Strykia twins were together, they were stronger than when they were apart.
This party wasn’t solely for the announcement of the child that Rena and Graydon were expecting. CJ had felt that there had been an incredible amount of stress over the past three months on a lot of people. A celebration for no reason was needed, primarily just to blow off steam. The party could also be in celebration that Dontaine Strykia had been driven back by the combined forces of Graydon, Allyson, and their friends. This was to be a celebration of a new chapter in so many of the lives that had come together on Phantom Station.
The scene was unusual for the station. There was a mix of individuals that would normally never be mixed together. Nobles from the Houses of the Antrixian Commonwealth and the members of the Jinsai were side by side with smugglers, pirates, and mercenaries. The crowd was larger than anyone could have anticipated. Quark’s modest bar couldn’t accommodate everyone, causing the party to spill over into the promenade. Somewhere, somehow, a stage had been erected right across from Quark’s. It wasn’t big, but it was obvious. Nessa and Romena had hastily jury-rigged a sound system up to the stage after it was set up.
CJ had made the rounds, brushing elbows with almost everyone, suffering through introductions to the new Antrixian nobles and commanders, and sharing a couple drinks with her own crew and friends. She was constantly on the watch for both Rena and Graydon, trying to ensure that their announcement was completed, even though she had promised both of them that she wouldn’t push either of them any more about the subject. She didn’t know why she was so determined to make sure they announced the pregnancy. It wasn’t like it was her baby, but she still felt like it was partially her responsibility. Maybe it was because she was so close to both Rena and Graydon. Rena was like a sister to her and had been for many years. Graydon had become a dear friend and companion, even after her brief attraction to the man. As far as she was concerned, Rena and Graydon had come together at a critical time and now she saw how they both looked at each other from across the room. There was something there that some people were never fortunate enough to find in their lifetimes.
CJ had excused herself from the crowd and made her way over to the side. She’d even managed to give Shalranna the slip for the time being. It wasn’t that the Wookiee bothered her. Her new friend and companion was enough like her that they actually made a pretty good tandem. But it was tough having the big alien almost constantly with her, especially when there were moments when she wanted to grieve over the recent death of her father. For the most part, CJ had moved on, following Marcus’ funeral on Corellia. But there were times when she was reminded of him and still felt the heavy loss. Today was not one of those days though. Today was more about those that she loved and the prospect of growing families. Standing against a girder, CJ simply took in all the sights before her.
“I get invited to a party and I have to come over and find the lonely girl, all by herself, once again.” Said Sebastian Synklair as he approached CJ. He had a new swagger to him, CJ noticed, rather than the old, militaristic rigidness that he had possessed when he had first come to Phantom Station.
“Sweetie, you know I will always need rescuing when it comes to you.” CJ gave her boyfriend a very warm smile as he stopped beside her and snaked his arm around her shoulders.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah.” CJ responded. “I’m just taking a break away from the crowd.”
“Good. You had me worried for a minute.” Bas said, giving her a light kiss on the forehead. “Great party.”
“I’m a little disappointed that our entertainment isn’t here, though.” CJ said, frowning.
“I think you might be pleasantly surprised very soon.”
“Tyr just told me there was a freighter docking at hatch 17. He said it might be from the Manchi Cell.” Bas, of course, was referring to the Manchi Sector Rebel cell. If it was indeed a ship from the Manchi Rebels, there was a good chance that CJ’s mother, Cassi LaRue was on that ship.
Cassi wasn’t just a member of the Alliance to restore the Republic though. That was her undercover, secret life. On the surface, Cassi was galactic known singer and actress. CJ had put out the call to her a few days ago, asking if she’d come to the party and sing a couple songs. Cassi had made no promises, but did say she would try to make it. CJ also knew that her boyfriend, Bas, was a fan of her mother. It was, what she considered, one of his character flaws.
“You seem just a little too happy by that news.” CJ said to Bas with a mocking scowl.
“Remember: A man must look at the mother to know what his wife will look like some day.” Bas said with a false Core accent.
“Maybe you want to marry my mother?”
“Maybe I’d rather marry you.” Bas gave CJ a huge smile, locking eyes with her.
CJ paused, being caught off guard by Bas’ statement. Her mind quickly replayed his words, making sure she’d heard him correctly. She searched his expression, trying to determine if what he said was serious or playful. Right then and there, she found that she wanted him to be very serious. Unfortunately, CJ’s thoughts were interrupted.
“Gentle beings, Miss Rena wants to thank everyone for coming tonight.” Quark, the Rygelan, had taken the stage and was using the sound equipment to get everyone’s attention. “While we’ve got a long road ahead of us, we are all thankful for the help that our friends, the Nova Wolves and the Shadow Wolves provided to us.”
A raucous cheer went up through the crowd. Quark waited for everyone to quiet down again before continuing.
“As I understand it, someone pulled some strings and was able to provide us with some entertainment for tonight. So, without further ado, I present… CASSI LARUE!”
Almost on cue, the lights in the promenade dimmed and a center light illuminated the stage. Quark had deftly disappeared from the stage and in his place was the woman that CJ had seen on holovids many times throughout her life, scorning them almost every time. Her mother, Cassi, commanded everyone’s focus on her, right then and there. Accompanying music came from the sound system Nessa and Ro had set up, meaning that Ambrosia was probably assisting in this. For the first time in many, many years, CJ found herself watching Cassi perform with a feeling of pride, rather than anger or spite. It gave her chills, almost as if watching her mother sing beautifully for the first time in her life. CJ glanced at Bas, finding that he was watching her, rather than watching Cassi perform.
After two songs, Cassi paused to take a drink and address the crowd.
“At this time, I want to invite a very special person up here with me.” Cassi said as she looked out across the crowd. “Cassandra, would you please come up here?”
Cassi spotted CJ. CJ shook her head.
“Now, young lady!” Cassi said with a chuckle.
CJ begrudgingly made her way to the stage under a hail of whistles, cheers, and clapping.
“Now, CJ invited me to come out here and party with all of you. In order to do that, I need to unwind a bit.” Cassi said as she put her arm around CJ. “You see, I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time. I never wanted to push my daughter into show business, but tonight, for one night, she’s going to help me out.”
“No, no, my dear daughter… I know you know the words to my next song. We use to sing it together when you were little.” Cassi smiled, knowing that she was embarrassing CJ to no end. “I need your help.”
“Mom… I can’t!”
“Do it for Blade and Rena.” Cassi whispered.
That seemed to seal the deal. CJ looked deep inside and steadied her resolve. “It can’t be any worse than facing down a squad of TIE fighters.” She told herself. Somehow, it felt like it was going to be far worse.
As the music started and Cassi started to sing, CJ found herself frozen in place. She closed her eyes tightly, trying to take a deep breath and open her mouth to allow the words to come out, accompanying her mother. Taking that step felt like she was stepping off the edge of a cliff.
Bas stood back where he and CJ had been standing when Cassi appeared. He was just as nervous for CJ as she was herself. As he watched, he saw her begin to open up and unfold like blooming flower. At the start, CJ’s vocals were wavering and almost whispered. But as she relaxed, Bas saw her begin to use a voice he didn’t know that she had. Cassandra Morgan could sing. Bas began to wonder… Who he was a bigger fan of now? His future wife or his future mother-in-law?