Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
The bounty hunter’s face had maintained its controlled stoicism throughout the tale, but Klaos had gained a much broader understanding of empathy in the years he had lived among the people of his adopted homeworld. Things he had said during his story had pained her, had pressed on nerves she rarely used. He had seen the subtle shifts in the edges of her mouth, in the advance or retreat of the distance behind her eyes. There was a great deal Klaos understood about his captor, now, and he considered his next move based on this information.
“One of the difficulties about hunting you Jedi,” she said, “is that so little information still exists about you individually. The archives at the Jedi temple were destroyed the day your Order fell.”
“Tragic,” Klaos said, “but not surprising.”
“You, however…” She pulled out the small holocron her decoy droid had tossed at his feet during their encounter. The image of his leaner self, all grim expression and war footing, projected upwards from it, and she cycled past it to the extensive biography that Madame Jocasta or one of her apprentices had been charged with maintaining on all Jedi Knights. “A few of these survived somehow. They end up traded on the black market, or passed around from bounty hunter to bounty hunter. I won yours in a game of sabacc against a Trandoshan, and he seemed only too happy to be rid of it. Nobody knew how to find you and as far as this holocron indicated you’d be likely to make short work of anybody who did.”
“I had a reputation, yes,” Klaos said.
“You had a legend,” the bounty hunter corrected him. “And now you say to me that you’ve spent all this time marooned on an alien world making toys for the village children. That’s what I’m expected to explain to Vader?”
“What you tell your Sith lord is of no concern to me.”
“He’ll think I’m hiding something. Or that I’ve brought him the wrong man. I’ve heard what he does to people he’s displeased with.”
“If this Vader truly is Sith, he’ll know it’s me before your ship sets foot in the docking bay. He’ll feel it’s me. Of course, if he truly is Sith he may kill you anyway once you’ve delivered me. Such is the nature of the Dark Side.”
Her face showed a flash of doubt. Klaos continued.
“He’ll also want to know the coordinates of the planet where you found me, and how you reached it, because a Sith wants always that which is beyond their reach. You said you followed my hyperdrive trail. I didn’t know that was possible.”
“Barely. It takes very fine recalibration of the sensors and you have to know what you’re looking for, and even then it only works in a fraction of cases. It’s not dependable and the risks are lethal.”
“Then perhaps this Vader will keep you alive after all, while he forces you to perfect your technology,” Klaos said. “And he’ll push his soldiers through it, again and again, until enough of them are dead or it works well enough to justify finishing you. By all means. Take me to him.”
She frowned, and her eyes moved away from him as she ruminated on his words.
“But then…” Klaos continued, “you used a risky technique of your own devising to fly into uncharted space in search of a man who you expected to kill you. You don’t particularly care if you live or die.” Her eyes shot back to him with knife edges. “You haven’t cared at all since your own children died.”
She took a step back and drew her blaster on him. Her hand trembled.
“You know nothing,” she said, her voice raspy and furious.
“I know what I saw pass across your face when I told you what happened to those younglings,” he said. “You disappeared into yourself. You were only half-attentive to the rest of my tale after they were killed.”
“How do you…?”
“Because somebody with your technological talents would have been more curious when I told them that I spent a day patiently tearing an engine off of a ship moving through hyperspace, fastener by fastener, without even looking at it. And they would have realized that a set of magnetic manacles right in front of my eyes would be relatively easier.”
The manacles crumbled to the floor as their basic components and the bounty hunter’s blaster flew to the wall before she could squeeze the trigger. His other hand pulled the lightsaber off of her belt and ignited it as it landed in his hand. He rose to his feet and approached her. She backed away and sat on the nearest crate, her hands in full view. There was no defiance on her face; it was all resignation.
“Take us out of hyperspace,” Klaos said. The bounty hunter pressed a series of buttons on a small wrist bracelet and the ship slowed to an amble, the stars once again distant pinpoints outside of the hold windows. “Does that control all of your droids?” he asked. She nodded, then removed the bracelet and handed it to him before he could ask. Klaos pulled another crate closer and sat upon it, facing her at her level, and then he extinguished the blade. She eyed him with curiosity.
“What’s your name?” he asked her.
“Anywyn,” she said.
“Anywyn,” Klaos said, more gently, “what were their names?”
The stone in her face had now eroded entirely, and he could see the storm of emotions that roiled within her, seeping out over every muscle. She was confused at the question, in despair at the answer. Anywyn had thought of their names every second of her life but she had not spoken them aloud in an eternity. The tugging on her throat felt like they were climbing out of a chasm inside of her, one tenuous handhold at a time.
“Tylux and Tash,” she said. “They were twins.”
“What happened to them?” Klaos asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “They were cadets at the Imperial Academy. The message told me they had served the Empire well. No other details. No matter how often I asked.”
“You weren’t always a bounty hunter.”
“No. But who is?”
“What were you, then?”
“I was the chief engineer for Gormac Groon’s Traveling Spectacular.”
“I remember Gormac Groon,” Klaos said. “That show of his was ages old when I was a child.”
“Yes,” Anywyn said. “He was tenacious, was Gormac. He was told he needed to restructure his performances to include more praise of the glorious Empire. He refused. That was the end of the Traveling Spectacular.”
“And this is the galaxy you wish to return to.”
“It’s the only one I know, Master Klaos.”
“That’s no longer true, is it.”
She absorbed what he had implied, then leaned forward with a suspicious glint in her eyes.
“When I was a girl,” Anywyn said, “my parents told me that the Jedi were the fiercest warriors the galaxy had ever seen. That even one of you was worth a thousand ordinary soldiers.”
“Is that right.”
“You’ve commandeered my ship, but you’re suggesting we return to the planet where I found you.”
“I don’t understand. You’re not going back to avenge the Order?”
“It was many a parent who told their children what you were told,” Klaos said, after a moment. “That the Jedi were warriors, to be treated with fear and respect. Those Jedi who took such perceptions to heart succumbed to their worst impulses. They chose dark paths. The Force binds all living things. It is not meant to make war, for all wars diminish it. So no…I will not return seeking vengeance on Palpatine or his Darth Vader. I would fail, and no good would come of my failure. My duty was to the Order, but my oaths were to the Force, and I have found new ways to serve as its steward.”
“You make toys.”
“I make children forget that childhood ends. I make adults remember what it was to be children. That is all I do now.”
The tension in her body was gone. He took a leap of faith.
“Your Empire has nothing left to fear from me,” he said. He handed his lightsaber and her control bracelet back to Anywyn. “And only this left to take from me. If the bounty on me is worth everything else it costs, then hand me over.”
Anywyn took the lightsaber from him and stood. Without another word, she walked out of the hold. Klaos watched the door shut behind her, and kept his focus there. He thought of his adopted world visited by the same devastation that had scarred his home galaxy. He wondered if he had misread both the damage done to his captor’s psyche and the fear that Palpatine had grown to inspire.
After a few long moments he felt the ship list to the side and turn on a reverse course. The hyperdrive engaged again. He watched the stars outside the hold window blur. Anywyn’s voice came through the internal comms.
“Please join me in the cockpit, Master Klaos,” she said. The door to the hold opened. Klaos made his way to the cockpit. The halls were in similar shape as the hold, littered with parts of droids both large and small. As he entered the cockpit he saw a tall droid, similar to the one she’d sent after him, delicately scrubbing grime off of a console with a small brush. Anywyn flipped a handful of switches and set the ship on auto-pilot. He sat in the co-pilot’s seat and waited.
“Why don’t you let them see you?” she finally said.
“I watched you for a few days before I made my move. You were in and out of their houses in seconds. I’d never seen a Jedi use their powers before. It was breathtaking.”
“Speed was always –”
“Your talent, yes, I remember you saying that. So the children don’t know where the toys come from. They never know it was you.”
“I don’t do this for glory,” Klaos said.
“You still don’t understand children,” she said, sounding slightly amused. “They always want answers. You give them just the tiniest understanding of what you might be and they’ll be in awe of what they think you are. They’ll want to do things to deserve your attention instead of expecting they get it for nothing. Children want to be inspired, Master Klaos.”
“Niclo,” he said. “My name is Niclo. What I was master of is gone now.”
“Niclo, then,” she said. “When we get back to your planet, I’ll show you what Gormac Groon taught me about how one captures a child’s imagination.”
“You’ll stay, then.”
“I will. I’d like your purpose instead of this one I’ve pretended to have.”
She smiled at him. He smiled back. It felt familiar and unfamiliar to both of them.
“I’m able to handle a few villages in a matter of minutes, now,” he said. “But it’s a very large world, and growing all the time.”
“I noticed that,” she said.
“I’ve often wondered, though, what I might be able to accomplish with a working hyperdrive.”
“The only problem,” he said, “is that I can only make so many toys on my own.”
“You may have noticed, Niclo,” she said, “that I build droids.”
The former Jedi and the former bounty hunter continued to speak in this manner, planning and revising plans, reminiscing and predicting, for the remainder of the trip back. And when they landed, back near the ruins of the shelter where they had first met, they felt ready to create a new legend, together.