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Saga - Legends The Dancer and the Thief (Summer 2017 OC Revolution Challenge) | Complete | Replies 07 Sept 2017

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Chyntuck, Aug 15, 2017.

  1. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Saviours

    Title: Saviours
    Timeframe: Clone Wars
    Continuity: Legends
    Length: Series of one-shots and short stories
    Genre: Drama
    Characters: Ayesha Eskari (OC), Khaleen Hentz, Quinlan Vos, Anakin Skywalker, other established characters and OCs
    Notes: This thread is a collection of one-shots and multi-chapter short stories that expand upon elements of my OC Ayesha Eskari’s childhood that are mentioned directly or indirectly in Ἀνάγκη – Necessity beyond Sway. In addition to the timeframe continuity, the fics in this thread are connected to each other by their theme.

    Table of contents:


    Links to out-of-thread Ayesha Eskari stories behind the spoiler tag

     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2018
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  2. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Title: The Dancer and the Thief
    Timeframe: Six months after the
    Slaves of the Republic comics
    Length: Multi-post short story
    Characters: OC,
    Khaleen Hentz
    Summary: The first encounter between a street urchin and a galactic pickpocket
    Challenge response: Written in response to the Summer 2017 OC Revolution Challenge. The prompt is: ‘Your OC loses something or someone important and needs to get it back’.
    Notes: Tie-in to Part I, Chapter 15: The colour of sunshine of Ἀνάγκη – Necessity beyond Sway
    Jump to:


    -------------------------------------------------

    The Dancer and the Thief

    Chapter I: Kadavo Alley

    Night was coming to the Uscru Entertainment District. Not that the area would become any darker – if anything the gaudy neon signs of the neighbourhood’s bars and nightclubs would illuminate the main alleys of Coruscant’s urban canyons whose depths the sun never reached – but the child knew that the presence of the evening’s first party-goers heralded the arrival of the spice dealers, the illegal weapons traders, the flesh-peddlers and every other breed of the gangmen who fought for dominance over the sector’s criminal activities. Down under, in the bowels of the city where she was headed for the night, all manners of monsters would soon be crawling out of their dens for their nocturnal hunt. She shuddered at the thought. Thankfully her little hideout was well-protected and she would be safe until morning.

    She was bone-weary after so many hours of dancing on the dirty pavement of Kadavo Alley, but she didn’t fail to notice the look that the Zygerrian shopkeeper gave her as he stepped out of his store and brought down the durasteel shutters. As much as she hated everything Zygerrian, she had chosen Kadavo Alley out of necessity. Zygerrian shops played Zygerrian music, and Zygerrian music was music she could dance to. But she had heard the rumours. The Slave Empire had spent a few months licking its wounds after its defeat at the hand of the Jedi and their clone troops during the Auction of a Million Souls and it was now on the counter-offensive. Its agents across the galaxy were on the lookout for escapees that they could recapture and bring back to their area of space. She pretended to ignore the shopkeeper and went about her business, but her mind was racing as she pulled off her dress over her head, careful not to disturb the rag that covered the slave brand on her shoulder. She would have to find a different spot to dance tomorrow.

    She took a deep breath to quell the rising tide of panic that was threatening to overwhelm her, and she tried to focus as she inspected the dress. It was her most valuable possession – her only material possession worth of note, as a matter of fact; the only other thing she truly owned was the poems that Papa had composed for her to memorise, and those were safely tucked away in the back of her mind where no one could take them away. The dress was important and fragile. Without it, she couldn’t really dance, and without dancing she couldn’t get credits. She would have to steal and she didn’t want to do that – she had been caught and hurt too many times, and Papa wouldn’t want her to be a thief anyway – or she would have to scavenge for food in the rotting heaps down in the Underlevels, and the mere thought of the stench made her sick to her heart. But zoosha fabric was the only type of silk she could afford, and she had to be cautious not to damage it. It was a lesson she had learned the hard way on Zygerria. Her owner had flogged her when she’d let her outfit come in contact with her perspiration, causing the translucent material to melt away. She wouldn’t make that mistake again. There was no one to beat her now, but she would have to cut down on her meals to buy a new dress, and she was always hungry.

    The shopkeeper was gone. She folded the dress carefully and collected her earnings of the day from the plastoid cup on the pavement. She didn’t know how to read or count, but she could tell that there was enough there for three days, four if she was careful. She had been planning to buy food only for tonight and save the rest to complete her dance costume – she still needed a sash, a stole, and wrist and ankle flutters if she wanted to be able to attract the attention of passers-by in the upper levels where she would be able to earn more credits in less time, not to mention an adequate undertunic to replace the filthy rags that covered her – but what she had so far wasn't enough to cover such a cost and she was beginning to fear that she was running out of luck. The Zygerrians were onto her and she couldn’t rely on the Jedi to save her a second time if they took her away. Maybe she could stretch her credits to last for five days and spend that time learning different dance styles, so as to be able to dance in other neighbourhoods. She had gone without food before, back on Zygerria when her owner punished her, or here on Coruscant when she had been saving up to buy the dress. She could do it again. Observing Twi’lek or Togruta street performers wouldn’t be too taxing anyway. Maybe they would teach her, if they were nice. At any rate, she needed to get out of Kadavo Alley and never return. She would rather go hungry than be taken back to Zygerria.

    She wrapped her collection of coins in the rolled-up dress and tucked the bundle under her rags, keeping only the smallest, flimsiest tin chip in her hand. There was a stall one level down that sold taamia wraps for one of those at this time of day – the old man gave them away for cheap to get rid of his leftover merchandise and go home before the chaos of the night descended on Uscru. Old Shawk was a Kiffar like Mama and he was always kind to her. She would have liked to buy two wraps tonight – her stomach was grumbling after so many hours of dancing – but that wasn’t possible now. Maybe Old Shawk would simply give her a second one, he did that sometimes. If not, one would have to be enough to keep her going until tomorrow.

    She wove her way through the evening crowd, trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible, and skipped down the rickety spiral staircase that would take her to the stall. The elderly Kiffar seller was already cleaning up as he chatted with two customers, but she could see that there were still a few balls of taamia on the corner of the table. The aroma of the oil and spices made her dizzy. She hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday and she was beginning to feel faint.

    A warning glance from the old man stopped her dead in her tracks. She retreated to the safety of a side street and watched him continue his conversation with the two strangers. They were tall and heavyset, and she could tell that Old Shawk wasn’t too happy about having to talk to them, but they weren’t going away. She was so disappointed that she wanted to cry when he brought down the lid on his stall – he had the cheapest taamia, she would have to spend at least two of the tin chips to get food from anywhere else – but her discouragement morphed into dread when the two men turned around and she saw the bony spurs protruding from their chins. Zygerrians. She made herself as tiny as she could in the shadows of the alley, praying to the Force that they wouldn’t notice her as they walked past.

    She waited a little after they were gone, and she was about to go digging for a second chip in the bundle under her rags when Old Shawk peered around the corner. He threw what looked like a ball of crumpled flimsi at her, mouthed “stay away from Kadavo Alley” and disappeared so fast that she would’ve thought it all a dream if it weren’t for the warm, fragrant package in her hands.

    She unwrapped the parcel eagerly. Old Shawk had given her several of the fried balls, perhaps as many as he normally put in three or four wraps. There was no ‘aish, qawta or simsim sauce, but he couldn’t have prepared the wraps without signalling to the slavers that he was intending to give them to someone – and at any rate, this was enough food for tonight and even for tomorrow morning. She would eat a few now and save the rest for breakfast, and then she would go to a different neighbourhood and start over.

    But she had to hurry. It was getting late and what few stores were on the way to her hideout would be closing for the night, leaving her to find her way in the dark. She bunched up the flimsi again and tucked it under her torn tunic, next to the dress. Soon, she told herself. Her stomach would stop hurting soon, as soon as she was in the safety of her alcove. She ran along the deserted side street, climbed down a ladder and took off again through the staircases and gangways, trying to keep the patter of her bare feet to a minimum so as not to attract attention. Only three levels to go and she would be home.

    That was when she heard the growl.

    -------------------------------------------------------


    Endnotes and Wookieepedia links:
    The food items described in this story are all fanon. Taamia is inspired from Egyptian ta’amiya (falafel), and ‘aish, qawta and simsim are the Egyptian Arabic words for bread, tomato (in the Cairene dialect) and sesame.
    Old Shawk is an OC, as is (of course) the protagonist and the various Zygerrians who appear in this chapter.

    The Zygerrian Slave Empire is Legends canon; however it is not mentioned again after the events of the Auction of a Million Souls in the Slaves of the Republic comics. The idea that the Zygerrians went hunting for their former slaves is my headcanon. Kadavo is a planet in Zygerrian space; Kadavo Alley however is my fanon.
    Zoosha fabric
    Coruscant underworld
    Uscru Entertainment District and POTU (periphery of the Uscru)
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2018
  3. DARTH_MU

    DARTH_MU Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 9, 2005
    This is heart breaking.

    The She in the fic is Khaleen? Anyway, Khaleen escaped from slavery with the Jedi's help, only to be only able to dance to her slave master's music. Then she's doing exactly what her slave master's would probably order her to do all the time just to survive.
    It's a vicious cycle. The evil of slavery.

    [:D] Khaleen. Hang in there. There's still hope for a better life. I hope. Right, Chyntuck?
     
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  4. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Oh this is great! :D

    Thank you for the link to that particular chapter of Ἀνάγκη; the story is so detailed and creative that I had forgotten this part. Ayesha has always had to struggle, but thankfully people like Old Shawk have a heart and take pity on a hungry child. (It seems such an obvious, simple thing to do, but it's amazing how often people make excuses or simply fail to see the pain of others around them.)

    I love the details - the delicate dress, the idea of saving up for ankle flutters, the smell and misery of the alleyways. You really create such a vivid environment here. Even at such a young age and under such terrible circumstances, Ayesha is resourceful and smart.

    I'm looking forward to the continuation of this story. We have already met the dancer; it won't be long before we meet the Thief, I would bet!
     
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_dancing] [face_dancing] [face_dancing]

    I am one blessed! cup-running-over happy reader! First the amazing Ceillean returns and gives me great Kyp-fic, then Chyn gives me more of Ayesha's back story. =D= =D= Vivid and compelling start. You can feel the grittiness of the underworld setting, and whew, I kept thinking, don't stay there, don't linger in the shadows :eek: Sense of total relief at working the dance routines in the upper levels -- more credits for sure and safer [face_thinking]

    You can tell she is a true survivor and I am happy there are compassionate souls who surreptitiously give tangible help.

    @};-
     
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  6. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    I am completely unfamiliar with this character, but I am riveted! Her plight, her thoughts, and yet even with her life whittled to the bare essentials, she still has aspirations. Not grand ones... stay away from slavers, learn more dances, buy a new dress... humble dreams but a reason to keep going. How nice that the shopkeeper is willing to share; he must know those men were looking for her and those like her. And even if he doesn't owe her anything, there is something in him, too, that rebels.

    And a growl... hungry dog? The thief? The slavers? Eat fast, nameless one! Lovely start, Chyntuck!
     
  7. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing! Some quick replies before I post chapter 2.
    Thank you! I wasn't too sure about how I was handling this story, but since this was the first comment I must have done something right [face_devil]
    To clarify on your first point, Khaleen Hentz is a Legends character who is an associate and lover of Quinlan Vos. The little girl in this chapter is my "main" OC (i.e. the OC that I wrote most about; I listed the other fics where she appears in the OP of this thread). She doesn't have a name just yet, but as divapilot said she will be called Ayesha Eskari later in her life.

    Re: your second point of slaves and former slaves being caught in a vicious circle, this is something that I drew from my experience working with migrants and refugees who found themselves in one of the modern (or less modern) forms of slavery at some point of their life. It's a sad fact that people who were enslaved often find themselves trapped doing for a pittance what they used to do as slaves after they recover their freedom :(
    Yes! There is definitely hope for a better life. This is, for once, a happy end story :D

    Thank you :)
    This is a story I've been meaning to write for a long time. As you said I have Ayesha's life mapped out in great detail, but I did want to write about how a child so small could survive on her own in the streets of Coruscant, or of any big metropolis for that matter. I did quite a bit of research about street children, both through books and interviews with people who had lived on the street as youngsters, and I have to say that it was quite harrowing. The fear of regressing to something less than what little they have achieved, the constant learning process, the loss of childhood from having to handle practical issues far beyond their age and the kind, almost God-like figures who lend a helping hand were themes that I found everywhere, and I really wanted to include them here. I'm glad they came through.
    Hehe. The thief is coming right up :)

    Thanks :) You'll also get more of Ayesha's after-story (if that's a word) soon, I just need to get around to writing it!
    This was another theme that often came up with street children – not ony how to get to a better place, but how to get to a better place where you will be accepted. AS counter-intuitive as it may seem, homeless people tend to congregate in areas that aren't particularly rich, and more often than not in areas that are dirt poor, even though these are areas where getting help from passers-by is less likely. This is, again, a vicious circle: if you're homeless you can't seek out the help of people who have the means to help you, because you're not welcome in the places where they can be found; so you have to stick with people who are just a tiny bit better off than you but who won't be able to help.
    Indeed! And now she's going to meet the person who will pull her out of there eventually.

    Thanks! As I said above, this OC is the one I developed in most detail so far (including a 400K-word epic :p entirely dedicated to her) but you certainly don't need to have read all of that to follow this story. I realised when I added the list of fics related to this one at the top of the page that this story is, in-universe, the first one chronologically, so you're meeting her at the right time :)
    Old Shawq is a brand new OC that I created for this story, but I did come up with a vague background for him so as to explain his presence in this area and his attitude. A quiet old man like him wouldn't be working in that neighbourhood just for kicks; he's there because he can't figure out a way to be anywhere else and he's aware that there are others who are more disadvantaged than him. He's also a Kiffar in a Zygerrian neighbourhood, and as such it doesn't sit well with him that the Zygerrians would be discussing how to take a Kiffar child in slavery.
    Mwahaha! *evil laugh* (Yes, I'm a sadist.) The nature of the growl was actually hinted at in the very first paragraph, but you don't need to go looking for that now. The answer is just below, as soon as "below" is posted!

    Thanks again for the lovely reviews, and thanks to everyone who stopped by to read! Next chapter up straight away.
     
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  8. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Chapter II: Scar

    The urban canyons between the buildings of the Underlevels were so deep and narrow that they distorted sounds into an endless stream of echoes, making it nearly impossible to ascertain where they came from. The girl paused briefly on the footbridge above the gaping chasm of Miraj Street and scrutinised the darkness. There was nothing that she could discern among the shadowy masses lurking in every corner this far under the city. She steeled herself to check the levels underneath. She was afraid of heights and avoided as much as she could to even glance at the bottomless pits, and she knew that today her vertigo would be compounded by the lightheadedness brought on by hunger, but she also knew that she had to do it before she went her way, lest the threat were below. To her relief, there didn’t seem to be anything there. She was about to resume her journey when a bout of dizziness hit her, so acute that it threatened to make her collapse to the ground. She grabbed the slimy handrail to steady herself and took a deep breath. It wasn’t safe to do so here in the open, but she would have to eat now. She doubted that her legs could carry her home, she was simply feeling too weak.

    She extracted the little package of taamia from under her rags and was about to unwrap it when she heard the growl again. She held the bunch of flimsi as firmly as she could in her trembling hands and tiptoed to the other end of the gangway. There was a crack in the wall there where she could hide for a few hours. It wasn’t a good place to spend the night – it was so narrow that she couldn’t even crouch inside, let alone lie down – but it was deep enough that she would be out of the reach of whatever creature had made the area its hunting grounds for the evening. She had almost reached safety when the growl came once more, louder this time. Before she could react, a writhing, snarling mass was standing in her way.

    She froze in terror.

    Hive rats normally roamed in packs, but the most unnatural things were known to happen in the Coruscant underworld and Scar was one of them. The vagrants, street younglings and criminals that hid in the constant twilight told so many tales about this three-metre long, hairless lone hunter that many doubted his very existence, but the girl had been around long enough to know better. She recognised him immediately at the deep slash that ran from the top of his head to the tip of his snout and she knew that her time had come. No one ever escaped Scar’s jaws unless there was a larger victim in sight – and she was alone.

    She took a few panicked steps back on the footbridge, hoping against all odds that the giant rat wouldn’t follow her on the narrow platform – but the beast leapt forward and sent her flying with a flick of his paw. She found herself sprawled on the metal grating at the beginning of the gangway, near the junk store that she passed every day on her way home. She looked around frantically for something, anything – a way out, or something she could use as a weapon, or jumping to her death rather than letting herself be crushed in Scar’s maw – when her hand found a ball of flimsi. It dimly registered with her that this was her food for the day and that she shouldn’t surrender it, but Scar was upon her. She felt so very tiny and fragile at the sight of his vicious fangs, illuminated and magnified as they were by the shop’s sole functioning lumapanel. She tore the flimsi open, letting the sweet scent of oil and spices waft through the stench of the dark alley, and she pushed the crumpled package towards the rat.

    The beast was distracted for a fraction of a second. She scrambled to her feet and fled. She tripped over the steps at the end of the footbridge and landed face first in a puddle of foul-smelling goo, but she got up again and kept running without even bothering to wipe the slime from her eyes. She could hear the rat lapping and slobbering as he ate her dinner, but she knew that a handful of taamia wouldn’t be enough to satisfy his voracious appetite. Soon he would be coming for her, and she didn’t have anywhere to hide.

    Her fear of Scar was such that it overcame her fear of heights for a moment, and she grabbed a cable that hung over the guardrail and let herself slide one level down. It gained her mere seconds – there was a ramp a few tens of metres ahead, a distance the hive rat could cover in just a few leaps – but she clung on to the desperate hope that her little trick would throw him off her track. She retraced her steps below him in the opposite direction, aiming for another footbridge that would take her to her hideout. She pressed her hands to her chest, willing her heart to stop thumping, her stomach to stop growling so that he wouldn’t hear them – and suddenly she realised that something was missing.

    The bundle with her dress and her credits was gone.

    She sank to her knees and cried. It didn’t matter anymore if Scar found her, if he ate her. She just couldn’t go on. She didn’t have any food for tonight and she was so hungry, she wouldn’t have food for days to come – she couldn’t even go to Old Shawk and beg him for more taamia tomorrow because she couldn’t risk going near Kadavo Alley – she wouldn’t be able to dance, she wouldn’t be able to start over. She just sat there crying and waiting for the end to come.

    She could hear Scar prowling the platform above as he sought to catch her scent again. She merely recoiled against the wall, hoping that it would all be over quickly when he found her. Suddenly the sound of much lighter footfalls caused her to peek over her shoulder. There was someone else there – she could make out the silhouette of a woman walking towards her in the direction of the ramp.

    She thought for a few seconds that, if the rat went for the woman instead of her, he might go away and she would be able to go looking for her dress. If she was lucky she’d find it on the gangway or near the puddle of slime where she had tripped and fallen, and she would get her credits back and she would be able to buy food and dance again and earn more. But the sound of bones cracking and snapping, of Scar’s teeth and tongue chewing and licking while she sneaked away immediately popped up in her mind. Maybe the woman had something to live for. Maybe the woman had a Mama and a Papa, or maybe she had younglings of her own, or someone who loved her and cared for her, someone who would miss her. She could remember how Papa would look at her and all the pain and sorrow was gone from his face and how she would forget about everything that was bad on Zygerria when he hugged her. Papa wouldn’t want her to let the woman die, he wouldn’t want her to let herself die.

    She stood up and turned around. The woman was almost level with her and Scar’s heavy paws were still pouncing overhead. She hesitated again for the briefest of moments and called out to her.

    “You don’t want to go over there, lady,” she whispered as quietly as she could. “There’s a monster up there.”

    The woman gave a start at the sound of her voice and peered through the darkness to find her. The girl took a step forward to a spot where the lumapanel of the junk shop one level up broke ever so slightly through the penumbra and waved for the woman to come to her. “Don’t go,” she whispered again. “We have to hide. He’s coming for us.”

    The woman looked at her carefully and tilted her head to better listen to the echoes of the alley. “Are you sure?” she whispered back.

    The girl nodded emphatically and took her hand. “Over here,” she mouthed. She placed a finger over her lips to emphasise the need for discretion, and she started pulling the woman towards the footbridge that could be found on this level.

    They tiptoed through the darkness for a few metres until they reached another pool of faint light and the girl was able to take a better look at the stranger. She was tall and lanky, with long hair that was red or maybe purple, and she was wearing skimpy shorts with net stockings and a cropped top that clinged to her slim body. A star-shaped tattoo adorned the skin of her belly and a pouch hung from the belt around her waist -- and there, in the front pocket, there was the oblong bulge of a credit chip.

    Without thinking she let go of the woman and bounced her shoulder into her, as if she had tripped, while her small fingers sought to extract the chip from her belt pouch…

    … And her wrist was caught in a vice-like grip. The woman yanked her forward none too gently and pried the chip from her hand.

    “You tried to steal from the wrong person, honey,” she said coldly. “You’re talking to the best pickpocket in the galaxy.”

    She was speaking aloud instead of whispering. The girl shushed her urgently. “Don’t give me this poodoo about a monster,” the woman said even louder. “There’s no monster, is there? You just made that up to get me to come with you.”

    She shoved the girl away. The child sought to suppress a whimper as she fell on the floor of the alley. “Don’t you try to follow me,” the woman said. “I won’t –”

    The end of her sentence was drowned by the girl’s terrified scream.

    ---------------------------

    Endnotes and Wookieepedia links:
    Miraj Scintel is the Zygerrian queen in the Slaves of the Republic comics. The street named after her and more generally the Zygerrian character of this neighbourhood of Coruscant are my fanon.
    Hive rats are Legends creatures that roam in the lower levels of Coruscant. Scar, however, is a rat I made up for this story.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2018
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  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Noooo, [face_nail_biting] you can't end it there! [face_worried] :eek: =D= Scar definitely qualifies as a monster. Even in the midst of her own travails, she has the compassion to warn the lady that they have to get out of there!
     
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  10. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you for the review and thanks to everyone who stopped by to read!

    -----------------------------------------------------

    Chapter III: The Lost Friend

    The purple-haired woman spun around. She saw the dark mass bouncing down the ramp at the end of the alley, she heard the hive rat’s laboured breathing. Without hesitation, she pulled out the sharp zenji needle that held a section of her hair into a bun and hurled it at the hive rat. There was a howl of pain and suddenly the child’s small hand was in hers again and they were fleeing, running for their lives as the pummeling of heavy paws behind them became louder and louder.

    The girl stopped abruptly in front of a durasteel beam that had fallen from somewhere above, creating a bridge no wider than a human foot over the chasm of Miraj Street. The woman didn’t slow her pace for more than a fraction of a second. She lifted the child in her arms and engaged on the beam with the steady step of a tightrope walker. Within seconds they were across and she set down the girl to take a better look at the beast that was snarling at them from the other side.

    There was a soft but urgent tug to her arm. “Don’t stop,” the child said imploringly. “He’ll jump, or he’ll go for the gangway over there. He’s on my track, he smelled me, he smelled my dress.”

    They started running again as fast as they could, and they heard a heavy crash behind them as the hive rat leapt over the abyss and landed on their side of the alley. The little girl was flying now, her bare feet hardly touching the ground as she led the woman down a flight of stairs and across a small platform. She pointed at a tiny opening in a wall. “In there,” she stammered. “Hurry! Hurry!”

    The woman lay flat on her belly and crawled through the hole into a small alcove. The child was following on all fours when she let out a yelp of pain, and the woman had to pull her inside. There was more hissing and snarling outside and a clawed paw came through. The girl groped in the penumbra to find a long, sharp object that looked like a shard of transparisteel and stabbed it into the rat’s limb. Scar howled again as his paw disappeared. The girl then staggered to her feet and started heaving a circular block of duracrete to roll it over to the entrance. The woman manoeuvred to her side to help her – the stone was awfully large and heavy for a child so small to move on her own – and as the hole in the wall was sealed they found themselves in pitch blackness.

    For a moment the only sounds to be heard through the darkness were the hive rat’s muffled growling and grunting and the child’s whimpers. The woman gave herself a few seconds to catch her breath before extracting a comlink from her hip pouch and activating the screen. The little handheld device projected just enough light to enable her to take in her surroundings. The space they were trapped in was one of the old ventilation shafts that plunged deep into the city. It had visibly caved in several levels above, and the woman shuddered at the thought that the assortment of boulders that plugged the passage a mere metre and a half above their heads could fall out of their state of precarious equilibrium and collapse on them. On one side of the entrance she could make out two torn blankets neatly laid out on the floor, with two smooth blocks of duracrete positioned where pillows would normally stand in a bed. On the other side, there was an old basin and a plastoid bucket that collected water from a leaking pipe. And facing her, huddled against the wall, was a sobbing bundle of rags.

    She pulled herself to a crouching position – what the alcove had for a ceiling was far too low for her to be able to stand – and took a tentative step towards the child. The hunched form recoiled in fear. “Don’t be afraid, kiddo,” she said soothingly. “I’m not going to hurt you. You just saved my life, remember?”

    The little girl looked up. The tears running down her cheeks were tracing gulleys in the grime covering her face. The woman held out a tentative hand. “Can I come and sit with you?”

    The child nodded uncertainly. The woman plodded forward on her knees and settled at her side. She wedged her comlink in one of the cracks in the wall and wrapped an arm around the tiny shoulders to hold the little one tightly. “We’re safe now,” she said after a moment when she felt that the girl’s tension was draining away. “You’re a brave little kid, you know that?” She chuckled. “You’re just not a very good thief.”

    The child bowed her head in shame. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “I shouldn’t have tried to steal your credits. It’s just –”

    The woman chuckled again. “There’s nothing wrong with stealing, kiddo. I do it all the time. The trick is not to get caught.” She rubbed the girl’s back reassuringly. “I’m Khaleen,” she said after a pause. “What’s your name?”

    The dim glow of the comlink’s screen barely sliced through the darkness, but the child blushed so intensely that Khaleen could see it. “I don’t have one.”

    Khaleen gave her a puzzled look, then shrugged. “It’s okay. It doesn’t matter. You okay now? Did the rat hurt you?”

    The girl stretched out her leg, revealing a deep gash near her ankle. “Nasty cut, that,” Khaleen said. “You’re going to need bacta.” The girl shook her head vehemently. “I didn’t mean to go looking for bacta now, silly! We’re going to wait until our rat buddy outside is gone, and we’ll get you bacta patches in the morning.”

    “I can’t buy bacta patches,” the girl said miserably. “I lost my dress, I lost my credits. I can’t buy anything.”

    “That’s okay. I’ll steal them for you.” The child’s startled look made her chortle. “I told you, you just saved my life. It’s the least I can do.” She shifted to her knees and pointed at the basin. “Come on now, take off your clothes. We’re going to clean you up and then I’ll wash your tunic. You smell like you fell in a pit full of bantha dung.” She crinkled her nose in mock disgust and stuck out her tongue.

    It made the girl laugh. She tried to lift herself to her feet, but before she could reach an upright position her eyes rolled over in their sockets and she crumpled to a heap on the ground. Khaleen plunged her hand in the bucket and sprayed water over her face. “Hey, kiddo!” she shouted as the child came to. “Are you okay?”

    “I’m hungry,” the child stammered, so weakly that Khaleen could barely hear her. “I’m so, so hungry.”

    Khaleen rummaged a little in her belt pouch and extracted a palm-sized sachet of nutritional paste. “Slowly!” she intimated as the girl tore off a corner and began to suck the paste greedily. “Slowly! You’re going to make yourself sick.”

    The girl wasn’t listening, swallowing as fast as she could. Khaleen pried the packet from her hands and fed it to her one gulp at a time. “Don’t swallow it whole. Chew a bit. That’s right,” she added encouragingly as the child slowed down. “Each mouthful separately. You want to make this last, I don’t have anything else.”

    The child stopped eating abruptly. “You should have some too.”

    The woman stared at her in disbelief. “Don’t be stupid, kiddo. You need this more than me right now.”

    The girl shook her head stubbornly. “Eat.”

    Khaleen paused for a moment. “No,” she said finally. “You’re going to listen to me now.” The girl shook her head again. “Oh yes you are. I had breakfast, lunch and a snack today. When did you eat last time?”

    “Last night.”

    “See? I’m right. You need this more than me.” She held the packet to the child’s mouth.

    The girl shook her head once more. “Please,” she whispered. “I want to share.”

    Khaleen sighed and crawled to sit at the child’s side again. “You’re sharing a lot already, kiddo. You’re sharing your home with me – and I’m a thief. You’re giving me your trust. Food I can get anytime I want, but trust is in short supply for people like me.” She placed the sachet in the girl’s hands and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “You eat this. It’s my gift to you. You think it’s a lot, but it really isn’t much compared to what you already gave me.” The girl hesitated. “Come on, eat. And make it fast. We still need to wash you. Just not too fast,” she added with a wink when the child looked up at her. “We don’t want the smell of vomit on top of bantha dung.”

    The girl finally relented and brought the packet to her mouth. Khaleen watched her finish her meal, then helped her stand up and untangle herself from the rags that covered her, revealing her painfully thin body. They crawled together to the washing corner. There was a scrap of fabric hanging from a nail in the wall that seemed clean enough to be a washcloth and a piece of soap on the ground. Khaleen held the child’s hand as she stepped gingerly into the basin, wet the cloth in the bucket and began to bathe her as softly as she could.

    The water was freezing cold – Khaleen was fairly certain that it came from the condensation generated by the climate control systems that regulated Coruscant’s weather. She worked as fast as possible to wipe the mud and dust off the little body. She only lingered a little on the wound caused by the rat’s claws, rubbing it with the soap bar to prevent, or at least delay, a possible infection. She was about to start rinsing the child when a trick of the light made her notice the brand scar on her shoulder. “This is why you don’t have a name, isn’t it?” she asked. “You’re a slave.”

    The little girl spun around to face her, her head held high and proud. “Not anymore.”

    The woman was taken aback by this small show of defiance, but her face soon cracked into a smile. “You’re really a tough little thing. I like that. Brace yourself now, I’m going to rinse you. This is going to be cold.”

    By the time she was done, the girl was shivering. Khaleen wriggled back to the other end of the alcove and pulled one of the blankets. “Don’t take that,” the girl said through chattering teeth. “It’s my friend’s.”

    “Where’s your friend?”

    “I don’t know.”

    There was something undefinable in the child’s voice that made Khaleen look at her more carefully. “You haven’t seen your friend in a long time, have you?”

    “No. But he’ll come back. He’s my friend. He won’t leave me all alone.”

    Khaleen couldn’t keep the pity out of her eyes. She wasn’t too sure what to say. “Your friend is a real friend, right?” she asked finally. “A good friend, a friend who shares?” The girl nodded. “He wouldn’t want you to be cold and sleep on a wet blanket, would he?” The girl nodded again. “Then I say that we use his blanket. I’ll wash it later, so that it’s all clean for him when he comes back.”

    She wrapped the child in the ragged fabric and rubbed her down. She felt the little body huddle against her and soon she was holding the girl who was sobbing uncontrollably in her embrace. “I know he won’t come back,” the girl admitted, forcing the words out of her mouth. “I think he was eaten. But I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to be alone.”

    “No, he probably won’t come back,” Khaleen whispered as quietly as she could, as if saying it softly would make it less real. “But you’re not alone, kiddo. You’re not alone. I’m here with you.”
     
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  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh wonderful. I love the stark details of their hidey-hole, and the beginnings of rapport and respect, and trust. Khaleen has probably seen a lot and done even more, but even underneath it all, she hasn't become callous but is still a compassionate soul. [face_shhh] @};-
     
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  12. DARTH_MU

    DARTH_MU Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 9, 2005
    Whoa.
    I somehow missed Chapter 2 when it went up.
    SCAR POWER!
    further comments:
    I have never been so hungry as being malnuourished like the girl. So dizzy.... I will say however, hypoglycemia is no joke.
    Oh man, I hope her friend come back.
     
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  13. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Oh! I go away for one weekend, and two posts! And so, so, so, SOOOO good!!!!! Poor Nameless... And yet, even when she has nothing and is so desperately hungry, she will not be greedy enough to keep it all, she wants to share with Khaleen. This is an odd pair, and yet I am intrigued by the dynamic. Nameless trying to maintain things, sharing what she has, waiting for her friend even if she doesn't think she'll see him. She still has hope, she still has dreams...there is a lot of courage and nobility in that little girl. Can't wait to see what Khaleen does with this!

    I did actually forget to eat one day. And started getting dizzy and having tunnel vision and spots in front of my eyes. Worse, I was in the doctor's office having a physical at the time... boy, did I get chewed out!
     
  14. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    I love how you create an whole environment with such deft strokes here. I can really see (and smell - ewww) the underworld of Coruscant. Such a horrible place! and those rats! So terrible and so vicious! I'm glad that she ran into Khaleen, and that Khaleen has taken such a nurturing interest in her.


    She's already showing that spirit and determination that we see in her later. She may be living in utter squalor and on the brink of starvation, but she is her own person.
     
  15. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016

    Like somebody else we know. Do y'all know the line I'm thinking of, or do I have to post it?
     
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  16. DARTH_MU

    DARTH_MU Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 9, 2005
    Well, Nameless seem to be all fleshed out in "future" fanfics (which I have not read), but does she ultimately become a servant of the Dark Side?
    Do not spoil. I'm just thinking aloud here.
     
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  17. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Fine, I'll post that line anyway.

    "I'm not a slave, I'm a person! And my name is Anakin!"
     
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  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Awesome =D= Great to find the parallel/quote :cool:
     
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  19. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you for the reviews and thanks to everyone who stopped by to read :)
    Thanks! Khaleen is depicted as a rather good person in the Republic comics, or, I should say, a good person who made many bad choices. There isn't much about her background there, but chances are that she was a street kid herself at some point, not unlike [hl=black]Ayesha[/hl] or rather Nameless, since that's how we're calling her now :p Plus, Khaleen can put up with [hl=black]Quin[/hl], so she can't be all bad in the first place!

    Thank you! It looks like you found Scar an adequately scary monster for this story, I'm glad it worked.

    Thank you :) I haven't written (yet) about the little girl's parents except in flashbacks in the main story to which this one is connected, but it was obviously they who taught her to be the person she has become – especially her father, who was a poet and who lived for longer than the mother. The thing though about her isn't only that she's not greedy and that she thinks she should share; it's that she's desperate for someone to share things with, whether it's Khaleen or the other child who went missing a while ago.

    Thanks :) You've read Ἀνάγκη so you know that I wrote a few scenes taking place in the Underlevels already, but it always was a place I wanted to revisit – also because it's a place we hear about rather than see in Legends material and I wanted to flesh it out a little. In the Legacy comics there's a scene where Cade walks in a street of the lower levels that's populated with vagrants who were Vongformed, and that was supremely creepy, plus there's all this talk here and there in Legends about mutant creatures that evolved in the constant darkness in addition to all the criminals that hide there. I was thinking as I wrote Ἀνάγκη that I should include more about Ayesha's life in that environment and how it played a role in her life, but there wasn't "space" in that story to do it.

    Okay, I'm not going to spoil, but I am going to tease :p Cowgirl obviously guessed the right quote here – it's one of those quotes that many people find cheesy in TPM but I actually like it (and I think that the cheesiness criticism stems from a "first world problems" vision of life, but that's a story for another day) – and the reason I chose to relate "nameless" to Vader through that quote was absolutely deliberate. There's a connection here, they're kindred spirits in a way.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful reviews! Next chapter coming up straight away, and I'll be posting the final chapter in the next couple of days so as to complete the story before the challenge deadline.
     
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  20. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Chapter IV: The Parting of the Ways

    She was tucked snugly under a blanket and there was a warm presence at her side. For a brief moment she thought that Papa had come back for her, that he would be taking care of her again and that she wouldn’t be alone anymore. But even in her slumber she knew that this wasn’t possible. Papa and Mama were gone forever and they would never be back. Then the last mists of the night dissipated and she remembered it all: Kadavo Alley, Old Shawk, Scar, the loss of her dress – and how Khaleen had brought her home, how she had helped her and given her food despite her lame attempt at theft, how she had been kind and held her while she cried…

    But it was morning now, and soon Khaleen would be gone and she would be alone again.

    She lifted herself to a sitting position and groped for her clothes. She didn’t know what time it was, but she wanted to move fast. She had to go looking for her dress, and it would take her a long time to walk to another neighbourhood and find a new shelter for the night. She didn’t want to come back here. Scar’s den was too close for comfort, wherever it was, and she knew deep down that her friend was with Papa and Mama now and that he couldn’t return. She found her torn tunic and slipped it over her head – it was still a little humid; Khaleen had been true to her word and washed it while she was asleep – and she was trying to identify the next rag that her hands had found when a dim light pierced the darkness behind her. She turned around to see that the woman was awake; she was looking for a crack in the wall to wedge her comlink as they got ready for the day.

    “Hey, kiddo,” she whispered. “How are you feeling?”

    The girl shrugged. “I’m good. I have to leave, I need to find my dress.”

    “Don’t worry, we’re leaving together,” Khaleen said cheerfully. “Show me your leg. Does it hurt?”

    The girl shrugged again. She could feel that her ankle was swollen and sore, but there was no point in saying so – there was nothing Khaleen could do about it anyway. She was surprised when Khaleen pulled herself closer to examine her. “Doesn’t look infected, but we’d better clean it up again before we go. I’ll get you bacta patches on the way up.”

    She stared at the woman in incomprehension, but Khaleen simply led her to the basin and washed her leg carefully with the last of the soap. She then helped her slip on the rest of her rags and looked around. “Is there anything you want to take from here?”

    “Just my blanket,” the girl said stiffly. “I don’t have anything else anyway.”

    She ignored Khaleen’s perplexed look and rolled up her blanket, tying it up with an old piece of monofilament that was stored behind her stone pillow. She stared for a moment at her friend’s blanket that was hanging to dry from a nail on the wall, then decided against taking it too and laid it neatly on the floor where Khaleen had spent the night. It puzzled her to no end that the woman had chosen to sleep on the bare ground while she was wrapped in a blanket – only Papa had ever done such a thing for her before – but she was shy to ask for an explanation. She slung the roll of fabric over her shoulder like a bandolier and saw that Khaleen has already pushed aside the block of duracrete that sealed the entrance to the alcove.

    “All clear,” Khaleen said happily after peering outside. She tucked her comlink in her hip pouch and crawled out of the alcove.

    The child followed her and sniffed the air carefully. “We should hurry,” she whispered. “Scar sprayed here so he’ll be able to find the place again. He normally only hunts at night, but… anyway, let’s go.”

    She led Khaleen through the familiar maze of alleys to a spiral staircase. A few shops were open now on the levels above, and as they walked past an illuminated window she saw that the woman was staring at her. “What?” she asked.

    Khaleen tucked two fingers under her chin to have a better look at her and brushed her thumb on the pale yellow marking on her cheekbone. “What’s this?”

    “It’s a Qukuuf,” the child said proudly. “My Mama gave it to me when I was a baby. She was a Guardian, you know.”

    Khaleen gave her a curious look. “Your Mama was a Kiffu Guardian? How come you became a slave then?”

    The girl’s shoulders sagged in defeat. “My Papa explained it to me but I didn’t understand it all. It’s a long story, it’s complicated.”

    She tugged the woman’s hand and they continued to walk. Khaleen was pensive now. “You know, my friend is a Kiffar too,” she said as they climbed up another staircase. “I think he’ll be able to help you more than me.” She suddenly perked up as they arrived in front of a neighbourhood shop that was part-grocery, part-pharmacy, with more than a few lucrative underworld trades going on as side activities. “Here we are,” she began. “Let’s –”

    The girl shook her head. “I can’t go in there.”

    “Why not? Don’t tell me that you tried to steal from him and got caught. The barve is always so high on glitteryll that he never even recognises me.”

    The child blushed. “He’s a Zygerrian,” she whispered. “If he warns the others they’ll come and take me.”

    “Oh. All right then.” Khaleen rubbed her hand on the girl’s shoulder where the slave brand was, carefully concealed under her rags, and pointed at a recess in the shadows. “You hide there. I’ll be right back.”

    The child was so baffled by her behaviour that she hadn’t moved a millimetre by the time the woman came back. “Come on, kiddo,” Khaleen said impatiently. “I just stole your bacta patches, do you want me to apply them in the middle of the street too? Let’s go hide over there now, and then we’d better make ourselves scarce.”

    She pulled the girl to the dark corner and knelt to reach her ankle. “Miss Khaleen,” the girl finally summoned the courage to ask, “why are you doing this?”

    The woman laughed. “It’s just Khaleen, not ‘Miss Khaleen’. And I told you that I’d steal bacta patches for you. You didn’t believe me?”

    The girl blushed again. “No, I meant… why are you being so kind?”

    Khaleen’s face softened. The girl could see the pity in her eyes. “You’ll get used to it with time.” She smoothed the flexible strip on the child’s leg. “We’re done. I have to hurry now, I’m already late. Where’s the closest turbolift?”

    So this is it, the child thought. She stifled a sigh and pointed to an alley on the right. “There’s a terminal right over there. I think they go all the way up to the surface.”

    She watched Khaleen rise to her feet and take off at a brisk pace in the direction she had indicated. Tears welled up in her eyes. She knew that Khaleen would leave – everyone always left in the end – but she didn’t expect her to not even say goodbye.

    -----------------------------------------------------

    Endnotes and Wookieepedia links
    The Qukuuf are traditional Kiffar facial markings in Legends, whose meaning I further developed in my fanon to denote clan and sub-clan affiliation. Similarly, the Kiffu Guardians are a Legends law enforcement organisation for which I developed an arcane set of rules that can be found in the same fanon post.
    Glitteryll is a type of recreational drug from the Legends-verse.
    And, in case someone isn’t familiar with Khaleen Hentz’s story arc, the Kiffar friend she is referring to is
    Quinlan Vos.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2018
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  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    =D= I like Khaleen's blend of brisk efficiency and compassion :cool: Yes, this particular youngling will get used to kindness because she stirs the hearts and souls of all she encounters. @};- @};- Definitely Quin will be a great help. :D :cool:
     
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  22. DARTH_MU

    DARTH_MU Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 9, 2005
    It warms my heart that someone is always there to help in tough times, when you least expect them.

    Oh, and I didn't realize this was a challenge fic. So now I'm sad the fic will end soon.
     
  23. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you for the reviews and thanks to everyone who stopped by to read! I'm in a bit of a rush tonight because I'm travelling home tomorrow, so I'm posting the last chapter straight away and I'll be back over the weekend to answer your comments.

    ---------------------------------------

    Chapter V: Daylight

    She stared at Khaleen in dismay for a moment. The woman was walking away, she didn’t turn around once. The child took a deep breath and fled, trying hard not to cry. There was no reason things should be differently, after all. Khaleen was a thief, she’d said so herself. All she needed was shelter for the night, and she’d already been nicer than most. Now she was on her way, and the girl was on hers. My dress, she repeated inwardly over and over as she ran away. I need to find my dress, and I’ll be fine. All I need to do is find my dress.

    She reached the gangway where she had encountered Scar the previous night and grabbed the handrail firmly. Her dress could have dropped overboard when the hive rat had tossed her away with his paw, and she needed to keep an eye on the levels below. It was still quite dark down here, but the lights from the shops would be enough to reveal the bright colours of the zoosha fabric if it hadn’t fallen too low – yet she was almost across and she hadn’t spotted anything. She was reaching the puddle where she had tripped in her mad dash to escape Scar when she glimpsed a flash of red in the corner of her eye. As she took the last few steps towards it, her worst fear came true.

    The little bundle with her dress and her credits had fallen out of her tunic and straight into the puddle. The only bit that was still recognisable was a thin layer of silk that jutted out over the edge of the slimy liquid, and as she prodded it with her finger it dissolved into oblivion, revealing one of the flimsy tin chips underneath. She fished it out and was about to plunge her hand in the foul-smelling goo to recover the rest of her coins when a shadow fell over her and long, flexible fingers grabbed her wrist.

    “What the kriff are you doing?” Khaleen shouted. She pried the chip from the girl’s fingers and started rummaging in her belt pouch.

    The child was stunned. “You came back to steal my credits?”

    What?” There was genuine pain in Khaleen’s voice. “Of course not! What kind of talk is that? I thought you were right behind me, and when I reached the lifts I saw I’d lost you. Why didn’t you come with me?” She extracted a wipe from the pouch and started rubbing the girl’s fingertips. “Come on, clean up and let’s go. I told you, I have to hurry.”

    “But I need to get my credits!” the girl moaned.

    “Just leave them here for someone else to find.”

    “But I need them!” the girl said again. “I don’t have food, I don’t have anything. I lost my dress, I can’t even dance now. What am I going to do?”

    Khaleen sighed and kneeled to face her. “Listen to me, kiddo. You haven’t been paying attention. You don’t need to find your dress, or to find credits, or to find food anymore. You don’t need to dance either. I told you last night, you’re not alone now. I’m here. I’m with you. You can come and stay in my room, I’ll get you a bed, you’ll wash in my ‘fresher. I’ll get you real clothes and all the food you want. I’m offering to take care of you. Do you understand?”

    The girl stared at her, dumbstruck. She wasn’t sure what to answer. “You don’t believe me, do you?” Khaleen asked bitterly. “Okay then.” She dug into her pouch again, pulled out a small object and placed it on the child’s palm. “You keep this. That way, you can be sure that I won’t run away and leave you behind.”

    The girl glanced at the oblong shape in her hand. It was a personalised electronic credit chip, the very same chip she had tried to steal from Khaleen in her moment of despair last night. “But I can’t use it,” she mumbled. “I don’t know the code, I –”

    “Precisely. You can’t use it unless I’m there to give you the code, and I can’t use it unless you’re there to give me the chip. We’re together now. We’re going to stay together.”

    There was a long pause as the girl tried to understand what Khaleen was saying. She finally looked up. “You mean I can stay with you – forever?”

    Khaleen chuckled. “Well, maybe not forever. I’m not the best person in the galaxy for a nice little kid like you. But you can stay with me until we find a family to take you in.”

    The girl shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other and bowed her head. “What if you can’t find a family for me?” she whispered in a voice so low that Khaleen could barely hear her. “What if nobody wants me?”

    Khaleen cupped her face in her hands and forced her to look up once more. “Kiddo, I’m not sending you back to that hole under the ground, if that’s what you’re worried about. Here’s what we’ll do. I told you about my friend, the one who’s a Kiffar. He’s a nice man, a good man. He’s a Jedi, you know about the Jedi, right? He’ll help us find your relatives on Kiffu. If that doesn’t work, we’ll find a family to adopt you – you know, a normal family with a mother and father, and maybe brothers and sisters too. And if that doesn’t work either, you’ll stay with me. I’m not the best family there is, but I’ll be your family if you want me. Would you like that?”

    The child blinked away her tears and smiled. Maybe this was a dream, but it was a good dream. “Yes,” she breathed. “I’d like that. Please.”

    “Good. Now let’s get moving. I’m supposed to meet up with my friend and he doesn’t like to wait. Is there another turbolift nearby, or do we have to go all the way back?”

    Khaleen stood up and offered her hand to the child. The girl grabbed it tightly. The corners of the credit chip dug into their palms. “There are turbolifts over there,” she said hesitantly. “But they’re near Kadavo Alley.”

    The woman squeezed her hand. “Don’t worry. They can’t touch you now. You’re with me.”

    The girl led her a few levels up, then took a few twists and turns until they arrived in front of a bank of turbolifts. A fairly large throng of morning commuters was assembled on the platform and they had to wait for two overcrowded cars to leave before they could board one. Their transport was crammed with humans and aliens of dozens of species who all bore the glum expression of casual workers heading out for the day’s wages, but the child didn’t even notice the morosity of their faces. There was sunshine in her heart. She was going to stay with Khaleen, she was going to have a family, maybe she would even go to school and then she’d be able to write down Papa’s poems, she…

    Her smile was wiped off her face when a familiar silhouette entered the car. The owner of the shop where she had been dancing for the past several weeks came to to stand near her and gave her a pointed look. She moved imperceptibly closer to Khaleen. The woman’s eyes followed hers, and she let go of her hand to wrap an arm protectively around the girl’s skinny shoulders as she stared back at the Zygerrian.

    The turbolift rose among the buildings, stopping every now and then to disembark some passengers and embark new ones, and Khaleen was still holding the Zygerrian’s gaze steadily. “You should start thinking of what you’d like to eat, kiddo,” she said a little louder than necessary as the car reached the upper levels and daylight replaced the cold glow of neons and lumapanels. “Quin and I are going for lunch today. You know, Quin – my Jedi friend.”

    She was glaring laser bolts at the Zygerrian. He finally acknowledged defeat at the mention of the word ‘Jedi’ and elbowed his way to the doors. The girl waited until he got off when the turbolift stopped once more. She stepped away from Khaleen, slipped the credit chip in its place in the woman’s hip pouch and grabbed her hand again. There was a last question she needed to ask.

    “Miss Khaleen?” she said timidly. “Will you also give me a name?”

    Khaleen’s eyes travelled from the child to the back of the retreating Zygerrian. She grinned. “Yes. Of course I will.”
     
  24. DARTH_MU

    DARTH_MU Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 9, 2005
    Here's to new beginnings.
    *sips virtual drink*

    Also, someone will be along to adopt Scar, right? [face_batting]
     
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  25. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh I adored this wonderful very gratifying end. The sense of belonging and relief. A superb response to the challenge and a great read altogether. @};- =D=

    [:D]

    !!!!!
     
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