Home OC one-shot. Set during the Cold War, just before the third War. Characters: Aeris, Thoth, Kiisa, Erdon, Mattei, and Vyn. --- Aeris threw down the toolkit and looked to the suns. They hadn't even made it halfway across the sky, though it felt like she had been working for hours. She exhaled roughly, ignoring the crackle deep in her lungs. The heat shimmered off the crags of sandy rock around her. The occasional spire caught her eye with a glimmer, a hint of a blazejewel...or maybe even cardinium. Finding cardinium on your property was like winning the jackpot in pazaak. It only happened to someone else, and they somehow always made it off planet. She scanned the property for Thoth, her husband. A cloud of dust had begun to pick up near him, despite their hovel being surrounded by walls of rock. He had been trying to clear the path to their small hovel after yet another landslide. The constant changes between acidic rain and dry heat had made most of the spires of rock unsteady. Just one wind storm could send them toppling down. "Thoth!" she called, waving simultaneously. He was facing away from her, eliminating any possibility he'd see the dust storm. Perhaps he would feel the tug of the wind...but she didn't want to risk it. The fine particles had the potential to cut even tough flesh if the winds were strong enough. She jogged forwards, her leatheris boots kicking up red clouds as she approached him. The distance was short but it felt like kilometres in the suffocating heat. She stopped a metre from him. Sweat prickled on the back of her neck. It ran down in beads into her tunic and onto her already damp violet braid. "Thoth," she said again. He dropped a small boulder and stood up, dusting his hands on his black legwraps. His torso and face shimmered, the black and red patterns dotted with sweat. Aeris stared for a moment before remembering the incoming storm. "There's a dust storm on its way. It's looking like a bad one," she said. Thoth nodded and picked up his tools from the ground. He smirked at her. "I'll be glad to be indoors. I'm surprised I haven't been toasted yet - horns and all. Zabrak steaks for supper – pre-cooked." She chuckled at him. It had been much hotter than they were used to, which was saying something for a desolate wasteland of heat and red sand. Yet they had to work through the worst conditions. On such a remote planet, there was no opportunity for a break. No work meant no product, no product meant no money, and no money meant the colony suffered. Thoth always had a good humour about him, though. It was part of the reason Aeris had fallen so deeply in love with him. He soothed her anxious soul. Thoth started heading back towards the hovel with his arms full. Aeris knelt and grabbed a single vibro-chisel he had left behind before following him. --- The hovel was somehow cool, even in the midday heat. Thoth had begun preparing pryddos – a cold root vegetable stew that had become a staple in the droughts and poor harvest. It was refreshing, but with only the herbs that grew in the small windowsill hydroponic garden, it was bland. Aeris pulled out a datapad and flimsiplast, trying to make record of the dust storm before working on repairing one of the droids they had managed to rent. She glanced up and looked at its dust-caked form in the corner. The astromech wouldn’t be much use; it had many of its more helpful functions disabled. Most of its components were missing. But the Xi’dec shop owner had promised to let her rent it for free the entire season if she could get its basic functions back up and running. Making one last adjustment to the flimsi, she shut off the datapad. The odour of boiled toprata wafted throughout the room now. “How soon until its finished?” she called, leaning back in her chair so she could see Thoth. “20 standard minutes, give or take,” he said, not looking up from the sauce he was preparing. “Alright,” Aeris replied, “I’ll be in the other room, I’ve got to fix up this thing.” She saw Thoth nod and she stood. The small window just above the droid was almost blackened with dust now. Outside it was like dusk had fallen. They were going to be in for a long storm this time. Only a couple of dust storms managed to block out the sun entirely. She knelt down beside the droid, careful to avoid the shelf of holopics beside it. One by one she began clicking off the magnetic locks on the wheels of the astromech. A loud bang resonated from the foyer – as though someone had collided with the door. Aeris stood quickly, hitting her shoulder on the shelf she had tried to avoid. Pain stabbed through it and she instinctively grabbed it, which only served to make it hurt even worse. Sithspit, she hissed, rubbing her shoulder and walking towards the kitchen. “Did you hear that?” “Probably another mudlurker.” “That sounded like more than a mudlurker. It sounded like someone trying to get in.” She was worried now. Mudlurkers often skittered into the hovels during the blinding dust storms, but they weren’t that loud. The way the noise had resonated against the door, it sounded…different. She began to fret. They couldn’t afford a new carbine for the rifle they owned, and if it was an intruder, they would have no protection. She wrung her hands and cast a glance over her shoulder towards the foyer. “Aer,” Thoth said, quietly. He had set down the utensils and was focussing on her entirely. “It’s nothing. There’s nothing that can get past a magnetically sealed door.” He was right as usual. Aeris felt only semi-reassured by his words, but that’s usually how it went. Nothing ever satisfied her nervous nature entirely. She exhaled and tapped the toe of her boot on the floor. “If anything happens, I’m here.” Thoth smiled at her and turned back to the dish. The blue milk had almost boiled over, the iridescent bubbles crackling as he stirred it back down. Her shoulder still smarted. There was a medpac in the ‘fresher, perhaps they still had some nullicane. She would have to pass the front door, though. She started making her way through the living area, towards the refresher. As she passed the foyer, she stopped. She heard the loud bang again and jumped, before realizing it was just in her mind. Her teeth absentmindedly gnawed on her lip as she stared towards it. After looking back to the kitchen, she approached it. One quick check wouldn’t hurt anything, she thought to herself, still fighting the anxiety in her stomach. She leaned forward and pressed an ear to it. Through the magnetic seal she couldn’t hear much more than the wind rushing by outside. Each second she listened, the anxiety lessened. There really wasn’t anything out there after all. She cursed her overactive imagination. Suddenly another bang came through the door. She jumped back, her ear ringing from the noise. Another one followed, this time a gloved hand splayed on the small window beside the door. She yelled out in shock. “Thoth! I told you! They’re trying to get in!” Thoth ran in, his hands covered in vegetable slime and a knife still in one hand. “What do you mean?” “I heard another noise,” her voice shook with the shock of the ordeal, “And then another. Then a hand slammed against the window.” Thoth reached out for her hand and she took it. He guided her shaking frame beside him. “They’re not getting inside, Aeris,” he said, approaching the window. He looked out the small window. The dust storm still obscured any view more than 15 centimetres away. He saw nothing. He tried to make out any footsteps, but the tempest of sand outside would have hidden them instantly. He sighed as he stepped back. Whoever had been trying to get in was gone now…or was trying the other doors and windows. He thought about the situation for a second, wiping his slippery hands on his woven pants. “Stay in the living area,” he said, only briefly looking at Aeris before heading towards the rear door. It hadn’t been used in years, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t work. Plus, the back room had a larger window. Perhaps he could see who was attempting to break in. Just as he had expected, the sound of someone hitting the rear door echoed through the hovel as he made it to the back room. They weren’t just hitting the door, though. They were pounding on it. “Who are you?” He demanded, waiting a few feet back from the door. The hammering stopped. He gripped the knife and leaned to one side, trying to get a better view of the door. An accented shout came from outside. “Please!” He furrowed his brow. Please? Criminals didn’t usually have manners, especially not the burglars who were rampant on Aravis III. They didn’t usually speak Basic either. “Come to the window,” he instructed, hoping they could hear through the wind and thick walls. He did not want to open the door until he knew exactly who was outside. From the cloud of dust emerged a young Twi’lek woman, two Selonians, and an Ithorian. Children, as well, he realized with a shock. The small Selonians and Ithorian had buried their faces into the adults’ cloaks, trying to block out the violent dust storm. The woman carried a bundle in her arms, dust trapped in every fold. He hurried to the door and tried to open it using the controls. It creaked for a moment but failed to open. He tried it again. A loud crack echoed before it finally began to open. He set down the knife on a sill and covered his face with his hand, trying to block the abrasive sand as it began to whip into the room. He coughed as the granules caught in his throat. They pinged as they hit the door and white plastered alusteel walls. “Come in!” he yelled to the group as they huddled near the entrance, “Come in!” The Twi’lek and the Ithorian looked to each other before ushering the children inside. They hurried past Thoth and into the narrow hall behind them. The others followed behind. The Twi’lek woman was last, her dirt-caked green face filled with gratitude as she crossed the threshold. Thoth re-entered the code to the door, hoping it would close again. It creaked shut as it protracted, shutting with a heavy clang. He exhaled. He knew his wife would be in the room shortly, he was surprised she hadn’t appeared around the corner already. “Thoth!” Aeris exclaimed as she walked into the scene, “What’s going on?” Her eyes examined every individual that stood before her. She was confused. Their hovel was only near the spaceport. It wasn’t close enough to any city for them to have walked. Yet…they were wearing city dweller’s clothing. She noticed the Aravis Plasteel badge on the Ithorian’s shoulder. Thoth shook his head at her, as clueless as her. Aeris noticed a burning smell, different from the usual acidic air. “Do you smell that?” Thoth inhaled deeply and coughed. A haze of dust surged from his mouth. He wiped sand-streaked tears from his face and tried to breathe again. Aeris looked at him nervously. His respiratory tract was sensitive, as most Zabraks’ were. He shouldn’t have opened the door. Not when there was such a storm outside. She sighed. The damage was already done. “Oh!” He exclaimed abruptly, grabbing the knife and running to the kitchen. The stew, Aeris realized. In all the commotion they had left it on the hotplate. No doubt it had overflowed and scalded. She looked back to the motley group. Their faces were abraded from the biting wind, their eyes tired. “What happened?” She asked, hesitant to approach them. She knew nothing of them, besides what their clothing had told her. If they were running from something or someone, she didn’t want to be involved. It was unlikely they’d be so far away from Sanctuary if they weren’t trying to get away from something. Sanctuary certainly wasn’t what its name implied, but they were much safer there than all the way out here. They must have been there at some point to have the Aravis Plasteel badges. “The Empire,” the emerald-skinned Twi’lek replied, holding the bundle in her arms more tightly, “They’ve taken Sanctuary.” Aeris recoiled at the words. For years, their government had been fighting off the Empire and Republic. Both wanted the planet for its resources but neither had been offering a fair deal. If the government would have allied with them, the citizens would have suffered. They had gotten threats of occupation from both sides every time the proposed deals had been turned down, but this was the first time one of the factions had actually done anything. She bit her lip and crossed her arms. Suddenly she felt cold, despite the blazing heat outside. If the Empire was here, nobody would be safe. But she couldn’t help but wonder why they had left. The Empire usually just occupied the factories of other planets – they didn’t cause much trouble other than that. “Why did you leave?” The Ithorian clicked a dust caked translator, but it refused to respond. He mumbled something to the Twi’lek. “Well, I am Vyn. My husband worked at Aravis Plasteel,” she started, shaking as she recalled the details, “The Empire took that side of the city first. They were saying we were all citizens of the Empire now. Erdon,” she pointed to the Ithorian with her free arm, “He tried to save as many as he could, but the Imperials locked down the factory before he could free more than 40 of them. The Selonians – Kiisa and Mattei, came with us.” They nodded at their names. Kiisa wore a brown robe and a turquoise pendant. Mattei wore a black dust-stained cloak. “When he came to the residential building, the Empire had already shut down most of the sector. We had to escape through a connecting tunnel. We did not want to leave, but citizens were fighting back. There were riots.” “Who wants to be a Galactic citizen,” Aeris said, under her breath. The Ithorian spoke again, his sharp words somehow echoing in the small room. “Nobody,” the Twi’lek replied softly. Aeris felt badly for them. She had welcomed them with skepticism, yet they had lost their homes, work, and hope in a single day. Her voice echoed inside her head, chastising herself for being so wary and cold to them. After uncrossing her arms, she motioned to the living area. She rubbed her brow. “Come in and have a seat, I’m sure we have some drinks and food,” she started towards it herself, hoping to make it somewhat homely. The group followed behind her, their feet hitting the metal floors unmelodiously. She tried to clear the chairs of their work supplies and dusted off the stray sand that caked the seats. It stuck fast for the most part. Even the sleeve of her tunic failed to remove the mess of red. They had only had a handful of guests in the last 3 years, and the dust always got back in anyways. There was no need to clean thoroughly. She wouldn’t have been surprised if the dust had been there since day one. She started walking the short distance to the kitchen. “Thoth, should I get-“ The Zabrak emerged with a tray of water and blue milk before she could finish her sentence. Aeris reached out for the tray and took it from him. He hesitated a moment before letting her have it. “I can get it,” she said, “I have arms.” “And I have eyes. I can see that.” He smiled and shook his head. She rolled her green eyes jokingly at him. “The stew’s unsalvageable, though,” he said, grimacing slightly. She could only wonder how much of a mess it had left. Gripping the tray cautiously, she walked back to where the group was now sitting. The Selonian children hid beneath the couch. Their beady eyes watched her as she set down the tray on the makeshift table. “This is all we have for now,” she smiled at them, hoping to ease the unmistakable tension in the air. “It’s more than enough,” the Twi’lek replied, leaning forward for a glass of the blue milk, “We are very gracious. Just shelter from the storm would have been enough.” “It’s nothing,” she said, taking a seat herself. Hopefully Thoth would be coming soon. “What brings you all the way out here, though?” Aeris said, wiping dust from her cheeks and eyes. “You said you were in Sanctuary – how did you possibly get this far?” “A group of Bith traders took us to East Colony,” Mattei spoke up. East Colony was the closest town, but it was still a ways from the spaceport and the trading post. At least 8 standard hours of walking. The desert was frigid at night and scorching during the day. To make that trip would have been nearly impossible. She couldn’t believe they could have made it that far on their own. “Did you walk the rest of the way?” “We had shelter and water,” Kiisa said, looking to Mattei and then Vyn, “We had made it halfway and set up camp for the night when another group of troops came through. Except this time, they weren’t Empire. They were some criminal gang. They told us if we left then, without the supplies, they’d spare us.” “With the children, we had no choice,” Vyn added. The Ithorian spoke. Vyn interpreted it, his translator still not working. “He says that the supplies were probably worth a lot of money. The colonists had given them to us for almost nothing, though.” Aeris nodded. Thoth had entered the room now. He sat beside her, crossing his legs and dusting off each pant leg. He picked out a piece of reddish dust that had cocooned itself around a single strand of Aeris’ violet hair. She winced as he plucked it from her scalp. “Thanks,” she said half-heartedly. Now her shoulder and her head both stung. She sighed and turned back to the group. “So why are you here then? We’re off the path from the spaceport,” Thoth asked. Though he had been in the kitchen, he must have heard everything. “The Empire has the spaceport as well,” Vyn replied. Her face fell as she spoke, “They told us they couldn’t let us leave. The Republic is trying to overtake the other side of the planet, where the Empire hasn’t advanced yet.” “Wonderful,” Aeris replied, losing more hope by the second. They were going to be trapped on this desolate rock by yet another act of war. The Republic ignored the Treaty that had been signed, and the Empire antagonized them. The Hyperspace War had never really ended. Now the Aravis system, already lacking in good qualities, was part of their Galactic game. “What are any of us supposed to do on a planet that’s been locked down?” “Well, we are trying to contact Aratech in Sanctuary. Erdon knows some workers there,” Kiisa stated, looking at Erdon. He pulled out a small, portable datapad from his cloak and chattered at the Selonian. “The others are on their way in the meantime. They couldn’t leave when we did; they chose to wait to get a transport.” “He does say they won’t give in to the Empire or Republic. Aratech has been in the Aravis system for years. Even though their headquarters is on Carida, they are very loyal to the citizens of Aravis I through III. He also knows West Colony – along with Aratech there - will stand behind them, and perhaps Sanctuary will too.” Aeris nodded. West Colony and Sanctuary together had populations of over 300,000. They were the largest cities on the planet. She wasn’t sure what they were suggesting, though. Aratech made weapons, droids, and vehicles. They weren’t going to be able to get anyone off planet. Loyalty was a good thing for them to have, but the Empire and Republic were going to try to conquer the planet no matter what. Thoth seemed to have put two and two together. He uncrossed his legs and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his legs. “Are you suggesting a rebellion?” “No,” Vyn replied, “There is no rebellion. This is our home. It is defense.” Aeris pursed her lips. There was no way she’d be participating or aiding something like that. She didn’t want either faction to take over the planet, that much was true. But defending it themselves? They had trained soldiers, experts in their fields. Jedi and Sith. Generals. Ships. They wouldn’t stand a chance. “You should all leave. They are well trained forces. I do not think you can win,” she said, sipping from her glass of water. The enormous amount of dust in the room was desiccating against her throat. “With both spaceports controlled by opposing forces, it is not likely we can leave,” Mattei replied. Aeris could tell he was growing frustrated. “We need help,” Vyn interjected, trying to steer the conversation away from an argument. Thoth placed a hand on Aeris’ shoulder. “I don’t think we can help you in your endeavour, as much as it pains me to say so.” “You would not defend your own planet?” “I cannot, my wife cannot,” he sighed, “Not as you seek to. We will perhaps help, but not with force.” Aeris looked at him, her eyes glinting with derision. She did not want to be a part of something that could prove so dangerous, no matter what the price. Vyn nodded, as did the others. “That is…unfortunate.” “Vyn, Erdon, Kiisa, Mattei,” Aeris named them, trying to apologize, “We understand your struggles. The struggle all of us here have endured.” Vyn shook her head, “I do not think you do.” “We do,” Thoth replied, crossing his legs again, “I was born here, a child of the sands. I watched my parents work, day in and day out. On days I feared the sand-ridden winds would cause them to stop breathing. Or nights when the air was so cold, the jagged rocks became coated with frost. I started the same life as them when I was young. We worked in the mines near this very hovel, trying to make ends meet. There came the day when the mine was exhausted and we almost lost our hovel. Despite their work, they nearly lost it all. Yet this planet is my home, as cruel as it may be.” “Then why will you not defend it?” Kiisa demanded, rising from the couch. “I did not say we would not defend our home,” Thoth replied matter-of-factly, “I simply said we would not defend it with force. We are not warriors.” “What are you thinking, Thoth?” Aeris whispered, trying to figure out what he meant. She was getting more and more nervous by the second. He was obviously planning something, but there was no way it was anything she would approve of. They lived in a far corner of the planet, far away from the cities. She did not have to defend her home; she would not have to defend her home. Even the mines were stripped bare. They had nothing anyone could want. “We can help,” he responded, “But not very much.” “Thoth!” she hissed, wringing her hands. He took her hand in his, trying to soothe her without saying anything. She sighed. “There is a mine nearby, with a command center. It is mostly defunct, but perhaps it would fit with your cause.” Vyn nodded. “It might, thank you.” Aeris felt the load lift from her shoulders and leaned back into the chair. She put her other hand on top of Thoth’s, a silent gesture of gratefulness. He had to know she wouldn’t approve of them being heavily involved. As much as she would hate to see Aravis crumble, her disposition would not be able to handle herself or Thoth in danger. “We can take you there this evening. It’s not too far by foot. It’s only an hour from the spaceport, but well hidden in the mountains,” he said, drawing numbers in the air to calculate the time it would take to get there, “we have an extra heater and some supplies you can borrow. Perhaps the landspeeder would work to take you.” “The speeder should work,” Aeris replied softly. She had spent the last 2 standard weeks repairing it, cleaning the engine filters so that Thoth and her could use it to travel faster. It would cut the 4 hour trip by foot to under an hour. The astromech would have provided a better diagnostic on it, though, if she would have had the chance to fix that as well. “The sonic is also working fine, if you wish,” Thoth offered, rubbing the dust from his own face and coughing. No doubt they were feeling grimy after trekking such a distance, let alone in a dust storm. They all nodded graciously. Aeris rose, collecting the empty cups from the table. She made her way to the kitchen and set the tray on the counter. The sky outside was still nearly black. The kitchen was only lit by a small glowpanel. She surveyed the room. Noticing the huge spill of burnt blue milk still on the counter and floor, she grabbed a rag and started wiping it up. The smell of scalded stew still hung in the air along with the biting dust. She coughed and threw the now dirty rag into the small sink. Thoth entered behind her and pulled her into an embrace. “Thank you,” he whispered. She looked up and searched his expression. “For what?” “For letting me help them,” he replied, wrapping his arms around her more tightly. Aeris inhaled and let her shoulders relax. “I only hope it will be safe. If the Empire or Republic are already at the spaceports, there is the chance they will be nearby….” She trailed off. She absentmindedly stared at a streak of black that curled around his bicep. He broke the embrace and took both her hands. “Aeris…There is that chance, but they are right. This is our planet. We do not need to fight for them – I know you will not let me. But they deserve our help. They have tried to tame this planet the same as we have.” Aeris smiled slightly and met his eyes. He smiled back. “Your fears are valid, they always are. But that doesn’t mean you can hide from them every time. It’s not always the right thing to do.” He was right. For once, she was going to have to face her fears. The thought of them struggling in the desert alone was even worse than the thought of being captured by either faction. Especially the children, who did not choose to be a part of this Cold War. “Thank you,” she said. He wasn’t the one who should be thanking her. He had never once approached her with impatience or disdain. If Thoth hadn’t been there, she would have not been able to make the decision herself. He made her stronger – whether he realized it or not. --- The speeder approached the mountains, wobbling as it started up the first of many inclines. The dust storm had finally cleared an hour after they had spoken. It smelled like rain, which would be a good thing for them all. The sand would stop blowing until the binary suns baked it back into fine powder. With night approaching, that could be an entire 12 standard hours. They had packed as many supplies as they could for the journey, lanterns, mining equipment, extra clothing, heaters, coolers, water collectors. It was almost all Aeris and Thoth had, but they weren’t using it themselves anyways. Much of what they had packed had belonged to Thoth’s parents. It was making it difficult for the repulsors to work properly, however. They weren’t used to such a load. Quite a few times they had nearly capsized. She looked back behind them, the wind whipping her hair out of its messy braid. Maybe she was paranoid, but she wanted to make sure no-one was following them. The last thing they needed was to be pursued or taken prisoner. She leaned back on the pile of supplies and looked up towards the sky, streaked with gold and mauve. The stars were beginning to peek through the colors. As the suns continued to approach the horizon, she started to breathe easier. With the creatures that lurked in the night and the temperatures reaching sub-zero, any soldiers would be foolish to stray from their bases. They would be able to stay overnight in the mine should they not make it back in time. The supplies had all been tested, so they would be as safe as they could get. Thoth pulled back on the throttle as they approached a small fork in the path. He gently guided it into a rugged path that was hidden from the main road. They continued onward. The natural rock formations were growing steeper with every metre, making it seem as though they were descending. After just a few minutes, it was nearly impossible to see the horizon. Aeris tried to follow the path ahead. Each turn brought another one. It felt much straighter than it looked, though. But each curve was familiar to her. This was a road she had been down many times before. “What is this?” Vyn asked loudly. Her slender green hand was pointing ahead to a formation of black rock laced with glowing reds and oranges. The darkened sky made them even more vivid than usual. It was quite beautiful, the deep purple sky contrasting the molten rock. “Volcanic rock,” Thoth replied, his voice almost non-existent in the wind. “Is that safe?” She questioned. Aeris had the same questions when she had first started working in the mines. They were often situated in fissures of the thick black rock. Mere metres away lava would flow in a fissure of its own. If anyone thought the heat was unbearable on the rest of the planet – they hadn’t experienced the lava rivers. Fortunately for those who worked to extract the precious volcanic minerals, the lava often flowed from sources separate from the mines. The only time it was truly dangerous was during an eruption. The lava would erupt from small, invisible fissures due to the pressure, spraying out in a deadly show of crimson. Sanctuary was far enough from a volcanic field that their passengers probably would never have seen such a sight. There was a lake of lava about 40 kilometres west of where they were, eating through the black rock a little more each year. The lake spawned tendrils that grew wide enough to swallow entire citizens…or even ships. Nobody ventured nearby anymore unless they had a death wish. That was the exception, though, not the rule. She had never seen anything even close to that. “It’s where most of the mines are,” Aeris replied, “And we rarely have problems.” Vyn nodded. She pulled the bundle with the infant Twi’lek closer to her, its teal skin disappearing beneath the wraps. The Selonians followed suit and kept their younglings in the centre of the speeder’s seat, hoping to shield them from the heat and lava. “Don’t worry.” Aeris tried to console them through the howling wind. She wanted to reassure them that it was safe. Despite her own anxieties, this was something she knew well. These mines had been her home for 4 standard years. She felt more at home here than she did in her own home at times. Thoth hugged the wall with the speeder, another set of curves up ahead. They were almost there. Aeris recognized the sulfurous air, the stench of melted baradium oxide mixed in. It stung her eyes for a moment before the gas’ faint anaesthetic properties kicked in. After a few more curves, Thoth brought the speeder to a crawl. A ledge of obsidian was just ahead, to the right was a thinner path marked by spires of the same onyx rock. The speeder stopped. Aeris jumped down off the back and looked down the thin trail. Piles of black sand swirled with red had covered most of the once-stone path. She smiled as she realized it kind of looked like Thoth. She turned around and grabbed the heater and cooler, setting them on the ground with a grunt. Her gaze went towards the ledge. It was much higher up than one would expect. The others were all staring across the open plains of lava and sand. Just below them, lattices of flowing rock curled around the obsidian. Far in the distance, nestled between mountains and sand, gleamed the spaceport. It was just barely visible. Something caught her attention as her eyes traced the fissured terrain. Only about 2 kilometres away there were bright red shapes, rippling in the wind. Beside them were two glowing crimson lights. A camp? She queried silently, trying to get a better view. There were figures walking about, and what looked to be a transport. It seemed obvious now. It was an Imperial camp. Her mind flashed back to the Twi’lek’s story. Before that moment, she had avoided thinking about the Empire being on their planet. But now, there they were. She bit her lip and looked at her feet. Fear gripped her throat. Her planet really was in danger. Seeing it with her own eyes made her realize just how much trouble they were in. “Aeris, let’s get these inside before nightfall,” Thoth said, his voice quiet. She nodded and picked up the heater. Its leatheris carrying strap was rough and dry from the harsh climate, biting into her skin as she carried it to the mine’s entrance. The once silver doors were dinged and starting to rust, years of neglect now taking its toll. Thoth pulled out a small piece of flimsi with a code scratched on it. The numbers were fading on the keypad, which would have made it difficult to enter – had they both not entered it a thousand times before. Aeris set down the heater and waited for Thoth to type in the access code. The rest of the group stood back, each of the adults carrying something from the speeder. They would still have to make two more trips, though. Aeris still could not believe they had fit so much on the speeder. It was an old Aratech V-57-82, almost 15 standard years old. On a desert planet, that was well beyond its lifespan. It was a wonder the repulsors still worked so well. The door creaked open. Thoth went inside first, a glow-rod in his hand. It cast the metal walls within in a deep yellow glow. The mine was remarkably well preserved. The entranceway still had the benches intact. The office doors on either side were also fully preserved. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a bad place after all. Excep for the heavy, stale air and the lack of light, there seemed to be no change from what Aeris remembered. She exhaled with relief. Thoth walked towards the centre desk, setting the cooler beside it. Aeris followed suit and placed the heater next to it. Thoth waited until every piece of equipment had been set down before looking about with the glow-rod. “I’m going to try the lights,” he said, still inspecting the dark corridors. Aeris nodded, her tan face shining in the glow of the ‘rod. Thoth caught her eyes for a brief second, hanging on them as they glittered captivatingly in the light. “You should get on it,” Aeris teased. The fact he got lost in her eyes helped quell some of the uneasiness she felt. Most things about him did. She spun as he did and headed back towards the entrance. Vyn stayed behind with the children. The Selonians chattered something to them before they left with Aeris. They took another two trips, just as she had predicted. With the supplies all organized, she went to find Thoth. She clicked on her glow-lantern and walked down one of the corridors. It was even dustier than she had expected. A cough lodged itself in her throat, but she suppressed it. Breathing such a large amount of the fusty air would just make it worse. Thoth shouldn’t have even been so far in, either. Once again he acted as though he was invincible, despite being well aware of his species’ weaknesses and the consequences. “Thoth!” She called, trying to see past the lamp’s flame-coloured rays. “Here!” He replied, his voice echoing down the corridor’s alusteel walls. “That doesn’t help much, Thoth,” Aeris remarked, not having any way to locate him. Footsteps pounded on the ground in the distance, quickly getting closer. Before she could get even a half metre further, she saw the golden glow of his glow-rod. “The power should be on in a minute,” he panted. A violent cough escaped his lungs. He rubbed his sternum and tried to take a ragged breath. “It’s…booting.” Aeris shook her head disapprovingly. She warned him so many times. “Go get some fresh air,” she said, watching his chest rise and fall irregularly. He obliged and started back towards the entrance. She peered around the corner, checking to make sure the generator was glowing and active. Its cerulean screens were indeed alight. She waited a moment to make sure there were no errors. It continued to glow the soothing azure, whirring loudly for a few seconds before the power clicked on. The lights hurt her eyes for a moment. She blinked, waiting for the bright white to stop assaulting her retinas before starting back towards the group. Something was stirring in her soul, though. She kept thinking about the Imperial flags and the soldiers who were inevitably serving below. All the work she had done to contribute to Aravis III seemed like it was about to go to waste. She had spent her life serving her fellow citizens in the mines and factories, working so that none of them would go hungry or suffer sickness. They had volunteered to teach the children despite the lack of schools and to raise money for those in need. They had banded together to fight crime, to keep everyone safe. In the towns many of them held events to keep morale high. They had thrown their heads back, singing with passion and joy. Living on the planet could be harsh and unforgiving, but they had spent years building a community. Their spirits burned brighter than the twin suns. Who were the Republic and Empire to take that from them? How could they effectively enslave them beneath their governments? Anger was rising in her heart. She had seen people give their entire lives to the community, she had seen them band together in times good and bad. What the factions were doing wasn’t right. And suddenly, she had forgotten her fears. Before she had seen those red flags waving, she had feared for her life. What good was her life if she was struggling, with no community to help her? What good were any of them if they were living in poverty, ruled by some governor in a comfortable Coruscanti office? Or worse, a Sith living in luxury in some palace? Fighting for their freedom was worth more than living her life oppressed. Her fists were curled into tight fists by the time she made it back to the room. The group was sitting now, sharing some of the rations that Thoth had brought. They were smiling in the glow of the lights. “What’s wrong?” Thoth asked. He was sitting cross legged on the floor, a Selonian pup sitting in his lap. “We are going to help,” she replied. Her tone was sharper than she had wished it to be. She recoiled at her own words as they resounded in the room. Everyone looked at her. She took a deep breath and lowered her voice before continuing, “They aren’t going to take this planet from us, not when we have given so much. Not when we have built a community.” Thoth set the pup on Kiisa’s lap and stood. He closed the gap between himself and Aeris in a few strides, pulling her in close to him. The others sat in shock, still confused by her sudden outburst. “Let’s go outside,” he said quietly, “The suns are just setting.” He linked his arm with hers and led her outside. They sat on the hood of the landspeeder. Thoth put one hand around her waist as she gazed outside at the camp. Its lights were even more visible as night fell. “I don’t understand how they can do this,” she whispered. The thought of facing them still terrified her, but she was even more afraid of losing her home. “I don’t either, Aer, I wish I did.” “This planet means nothing to any of them. They just want the mines and the factories, they want the upper hand. All we are to them is a pawn.” “In an endless game of Galactic chess,” he said, shaking his head. She gazed across the horizon. He was right. One side always won the war, but soon enough the next challenger approached. There had only been 2,000 years of peace in the last 10,000 years. Thoth looked at her and lifted a crimson and black hand to her cheek. He traced her cheekbones and jaw where the violet, pink, and gold rays of sunset rest. He could see the fear in her green eyes. He could feel the hesitation. Part of him wished he could protect her from it. As foolish as that was, he had promised to keep her safe. The time had come for her to make a difficult decision though, and it was one that nobody could protect her from. It gave him a bittersweet feeling to see her being so strong. Not a tear escaped her glittering eyes, not a word of doubt left her lips. He was proud of her. She was stronger than he had ever known and it made her even more beautiful. The light from the old-fashioned lantern Thoth had lit shone against his skin. She smiled at him. He was probably nervous as well, but she didn't think any less of him for it. It wasn't an easy choice for her, either. It would have been easier for them both to go home and live life the same way. But they would be turning a blind eye to families like the ones they just met. Families who were once strong, torn apart by a claim to land. She sighed. Tomorrow they could retrieve more of the refugees and begin with some plan. Tomorrow would be a new day. She leaned her head against his shoulder soundlessly and looked ahead. The suns had set now; the final streaks of daylight were fading. In just hours they would have to face the future, as frightening as it could be. Thoth took her hand and gripped it tightly. She savoured the sensation of his calloused palm against her own. It was reassuring. She knew in her heart that she would never be alone. They were all a family, a community. No one – faction, Sith, Jedi, soldier, man, woman – could take that from them. This was their home. Footnotes: Poem - Chicago by Carl Sandberg Spoiler Hog Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler; Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders: They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys. And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again. And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger. And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them: Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning. Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities; Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness, Bareheaded, Shoveling, Wrecking, Planning, Building, breaking, rebuilding, Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth, Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs, Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle, Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people, Laughing! Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation. Aravis III and the Aravis system are my own creation, as are the mudlurkers, pryddos, cardinium, and blazejewels. Yay, fanon! This is also in its own thread because it's 7000+ words. I will be linking it in my one-shot thread, though. For future reference.