Title: "Something is shining like gold, but better" Genre: Space Western Timeframe: The last few years of the intertrilogy period Characters: Original Characters Summary: A young woman leaves her beautiful, peaceful life on Naboo to teach school in the wilderness of a certain desert rock run by Hutt crime lords. *This takes place (as you have no doubt deduced from the summary) on a familiar planet, but with new locations. I have thought, if mostly vaguely, of writing about "the other side of Tatooine" for years--and this is the story where that finally happens. *Nothing original in here is anything so glorified as my "headcanon." It's just stuff I made up. *The title is from Bruce Cockburn's song "Rumours of Glory." --- "Something is shining like gold, but better" : There is only a week of time, and millions of kilometers of deadcold black space, between the world I came from and the one I have arrived on. Yes, I know—I would have only had to wait through a whirlwind of two days if I had taken a place on that new starline. But instead, I gave in and had one of the five private closet-rooms on the freighter, while nearly everyone else was crammed into the public rooms. There were two Pantorian families crowded into the one next to me. Once, when I was out on the walkway, I ran into one of the women. She was rocking a little sundrop-eyed doll of a child, the one I had just heard giving thin teakettle wails. She didn’t give me a burning hard glare, though it was what I deserved. I think, though I can’t be certain, that she gave me a little shivered smile. I wanted to apologize (as I cringed with a bright wounded flush), but of course, I didn’t. I kept my mouth properly clenched shut. The freighter fell out of hyperspace in the middle of the night. When I looked out the handmirror sized window in my room, I could only just make out the dark planet floating below me. There was only one fingerprint-bruise smudge of light in the lower hemisphere—and, while I have never seen a planet from orbit before, I know this isn’t how it should be. Then: I rode down to the surface, and the spaceport, on the supply shuttle. The landing field must have been nearly five kilometers away from the last edges of town. The office, the only building, was a small chalkwhite house that glowed with faded reflected starlight. I could only see the town itself as sleep-dulled lights out in the dark distance. Oh, and it was, and it still is, cold: the sort of knifesharp winter cold I wouldn’t have thought was possible in the desert. Yes, I had read that the temperatures drop at night, but I must not have known how to imagine what that would mean. The control officer told there would be frost on the sand at dawnlight, and I could only respond with a small numbed-sniff nod. I had to wait there for a long blur of hours, but it was still dark outside when I caught a northbound transport, which made one of its last two stops at this station. I had to sit on one of the silver droid-skinned crates they had just loaded, and I could feel the engine growl through the floor under my feet. I have been here for three hours now, and I still have kilometers, and hours, to go. Its official name is Erewhon Station. When I came in, one of the men at the counter told me, in a crooked sing-song voice: Welcome to nowhere, honey. So far as I can tell, it consists mostly of one main building, a long structure made up of puzzle pieces from other buildings, and even salvaged starship walls. It smells like speeder fuel and old soured metal engine parts and dust, and there is glittery sandgrit stamped into the floor—even though the droid that wanders without aim through the room has swept at it. There is a small portable heater with glaring-sore wires near the counter, but I can still feel the air outside through my cloak. I haven’t much to do here—which is why I have started writing in this file, and watching the words fall in like raindrop pebbles. But I oughtn’t complain. After all, I was supposed to have made my appearance here ten days ago, when their district driver leaves on the northern run that stops at Avalon. Presently, he is only an hour away, traveling towards Mos Entha on some sort of vague business matter, and so I have to wait. An hour ago, I had a cup of dark tea that tasted like tree bark—and I do like tea, proper tea. My stomach feels like a locked-tight fist, and I have made several trips outside to the box they use as a fresher. It is so dark out there behind the station lights, a velvetsoft blackness that I could nearly touch and push away from me, that I can’t see anything. There were only a few pin-pricked stars scattered across the field of the sky. I couldn’t even make out one of the moons. There are several little persons in rusted-brown robes sleeping together in a ragheap near the doorway, in the warm breeze from one of the fan-vents. One of them made a little mouse-pitched mumble when I walked, as carefully tip-toed as I could, past, but they didn’t leave their dreams. It might have been at the same faraway echo-howl of a speeder engine that I had heard. I have only spoken with one of the station workers, the one who has made the calls to arrange a transport for the rest of my journey. He introduced himself as Ciaran. He is scrawny-thin, like a wild tooka, and his rumpled hair is ashgrey. He looks to be in his fifties—but on this sort of world, I know, he might be years younger. His sing-song accent sounds vaguely familiar, and I have wondered if he came to this world, to this desert rock, from somewhere else. When he brought me the tea, I apologized for my inconveniently late arrival date. That was only after I had blinked at him: he looked older than he had from across the room, and he only has several little wooden brown teeth in the black cave of his mouth. He is around my height, or even shorter, so I had to look him directly in the face. But he only shrugged, and: There’s no need for that, he said (and I quote) as he smacked his trouser pocket, checking for his cigarets. We do things on desert time here. You’ll see. Right now, as I type this, he is talking with the station supervisor, the older man wearing a dustbrown coverall, at his perch behind the counter. He nods and listens to Ciaran, and answers with an occasional grunted sentence. Ciaran has a long paperwhite cigaret dangling out of his mouth. They have a shared hahaha. Now the other man (and I have to admit that, unfortunately, all three of them are human men) has come back in from the garage-attachment wrapped up in a thick dirtysnow white jacket. He has black hair and spaceblack eyes, and frozen rosepetal white skin—like, of all the folklore characters I might have thought of, the winter queen Aerena. The resemblance ends there. You know the rules, boys, the supervisor just said, with a shrug, and rattled the screen of his old tincan datapad. They play, and we work. The black haired man has turned his eyes toward me, or in my direction, as he nods: Yeah Rory. I just don’t want to see you work yourself too hard-- He already knows who I am. They all know. My cloak, my plain forest-green wool winter cloak I didn’t think I would wear, must have cost more than he earns in a week. I have more, and too many clothes, similar clothes stuffed inside the luggage they carried in. I have a glossynew datapad, full of bright white filepages to write on. I am the nice offworld lady. Now the black haired man is letting out a sighing breath (in response to the supervisor’s last remark), and tucking a new cigaret between his lips. But I should end here, and walk about for a few minutes, even if it is only outside to that fresher. They are not watching me—and for the historical record, I am not watching, and then writing, about them.