Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
|| Read Part I ||
Klaos awoke in the hold of a Corellian blockade runner, his eyes still cloudy, his head still throbbing. There was a dim red glow across the room from the door’s access panel and the mottled blue blur he could see through the small ceiling porthole indicated that they had entered hyperspace. The magnetic manacles remained on his wrists and ankles. He was sore, and starving, and his connection to the Force felt like a piece of cloth in ragged tatters.
It had been several years since a bounty hunter had given him any trouble. It was the first time one had defeated him. But he was older now, slower and out of practice, and the ruse his captor had executed — he was willing to admit — had been both fiendish and impressive. As his vision adjusted to the low light, he could see that the room was filled with metal limbs and torsos, facsimiles of those that had comprised the decoy droid. It seemed that this was a common stratagem.
The door whooshed open and the shadow he’d seen before he’d fallen unconscious reappeared. She walked closer to him with a tablet in her hand, his lightsaber still hooked to her belt. She wore light leather armor, sparse and undecorated, in faded shades of green and blue. Her boots were caked in several competing layers of dust, held together by some strange form of friction. Her blonde hair had been twisted into a tight braid and was draped over her left shoulder. She was young — much younger than he’d expected for the professionalism she’d shown in taking him. Her eyes were gray and trying their hardest to appear cold.
He saw past them. There was a sense of reason somewhere behind those eyes. Good. He attempted to drive the conversation.
“You took me alive,” he said.
“Your bounty is double if you’re alive on delivery,” she said. “For what it’s worth, I don’t believe you remain that way.”
“And what did I do to warrant such value?”
“You’re a Jedi, Master Klaos. As few of you as there are, the price on you is expected.”
As few of you as there are. The words stung him. He had suspected that something devastating had happened to the Order and here, in a simple phrase, was confirmation. He wondered who else remained on the bounty list. Kenobi, certainly; possibly Masters Windu and Unduli as well. Yoda was ancient yet spry, but if Jedi were being hunted he would surely have been targeted with particular zeal. Skywalker? Tough to guess, with Skywalker. A strong warrior, but reckless. If the Order were in mortal danger Skywalker would likely have charged to its defense before understanding the nature of the assault. Of course, in such situations he tended to emerge victorious.
“Who’s setting this price?” Klaos asked.
“The Empire. Obviously.”
“The Galactic Empire of Palpatine.”
“You don’t know…”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I suppose that makes sense,” she said, the expression on her face softening to a mixture of confusion and pity. “Do you have any idea how far beyond the Outer Rim I had to travel in order to track you? We’ll be in hyperspace for at least a single standard day.”
“Hm,” Klaos said. The answer had surprised him. He’d never known how much distance he’d covered that day.
“I might never have found you,” she continued. “There were only a few atoms left of your hyperdrive trail. You’ve been gone for some time, Master Klaos. How did you travel so far? Jumping into uncharted space is suicide.”
“From what you’re telling me, staying in Republic space wouldn’t have gone much better for me.”
“Imperial space,” she corrected him.
“Exactly,” he replied.
“How did you end up on that planet?” she asked again.
“Are you asking for yourself, or because you have to tell the Emperor when you deliver me?”
“I won’t be taking you to the Emperor. Nobody sees the Emperor. You’re being handed over to his right hand, Darth Vader.”
Darth. He’d never heard of this person but he understood the lore well enough to know what it meant. The Empire was the dominion of the Sith. Klaos pieced together what must have occurred — the rise of Palpatine, the horror of the Clone Wars — and he felt rage well up within him. Fools. They had all been made fools. He forced himself to calm. His immediate task was to remain calm, to maintain his captor’s attention and curiosity.
“You said we have a day in hyperspace?” he asked her.
“Nearly,” she said. “One of my droids is at the helm.”
“Very well,” Klaos said. “Let me tell you about the last day I saw the Republic.”
End of Part II