"Time has come to wake up".
As those six, softly spoken words slid through the air like a ribbon of silk caught in a slight breeze, the young Wroonian girl awoke. Stifling a yawn, she sat up and looked up at the speaker of those words. A tall Wroonian male, clad in a simple homespun robe of colourless fabric, looked down upon her. There was no great urgency in his deep violet eyes, no sternness in his thin, finely boned face. The girl frowned sightly, her periwinkle blue eyes narrowed with sleepiness.
"It's morning already?"
A slight smile came to his thin, blue lips. "Almost. Get up and get yourself ready to go".
Deciding not to argue with him, the girl tossed her blanket off and rose from her cot, stretching to wake her stiff muscles from their sleep. The girl, her frame as thin as her benefactor's, was clad in a simple white nightshirt.
"Can I have something to eat first?" she asked politely.
"Breakfast can wait," he replied nonchalantly.
Stepping away from the cot, the girl crossed to the other side of the hut's main room where the refresher door stood. Opening it, she quickly stepped inside and closed it behind her.
"You won't be too long now, will you?" he called out.
"No, no," she replied from the other side of the door. "I'll be ready in about ten minutes".
"You can have fifteen," he called back. "But no more than that".
"No problem, Uncle," she said. "No problem at all".
Satisfied, the girl's uncle turned and walked over to a coat rack standing beside the hut's small hearth. On the coat rack, dangling down, was a belt; hooked to the belt, composed of gleaming chrome and black plasteel, was the hilt of a lightsaber. Reaching out, the Wroonian took the belt down and snapped it into place around his narrow waist, taking care to make certain his lightsaber was aligned properly.
I was nodding off, half asleep with images of lithe male twi'lek dancers frolicking around inside my mind, when the navicomputer began beeping annoyingly, rudely rousing me to full wakefulness.
Reaching forward, I pulled back on a lever, cutting power to the Vynock's Talon's hyperdrive. Instantly, the blue-shifted maelstrom of hyperspace situated beyond the viewport before me retreated, revealing the star-studded fabric of realspace. In the distance, scarcely larger than the stars surrounding it, was the planet Geonosis.
"Ah, Geonosis", I declared with phony enthusiasm, "how happy I am to be seeing you once again. Hope I was able to beat the morning rush hour".
As I drew closer to Geonosis, its features became clearer, more defined. A perfect sphere of mottled brown bearing a system of rings, Geonosis was a complete desert planet; whatever little water could be seen on the world's surface was frozen in the small polar regions. Though I couldn't see them yet, I knew there were large metropolises stretching across the surface of Geonosis.
Instinctively aware of oncoming planetfall, the muscles in my legs began to protest from the hours spent motionless in the pilot's seat, eagre to flex and bend and move again. Deciding to get the blood flowing again, I activated the autopilot then rose from the seat. Placing my hands on my narrow hips, I twisted left then right, loosening the stiffness from my back with a grunt. Sighing as endorphins began pumping, I turned and left the cockpit.
Entering my quarters, I crossed over to the safe beside my bunk. Crouching down beside the safe, I entered the combination -- the foolproof sequence of "1-2-3-4-5" -- and opened it. Reaching inside, I pulled out my single, most precious, possession -- my lightsaber. Of course, I have to admit it's a rather ugly thing; my first and only attempt at building such a weapon, it was crafted from a crudely cut length of black durasteel pipe. Nevertheless, I loved it as dearly as the black angel doll I had as a little girl.
Closing the safe, I rose back up and slipped the saber into the holster strapped to my left thigh. Turning, I then crossed my way back to the door to the cockpit; as I stepped past my full-length mirror, though, I stopped and took a step back. Looking upon myself, I turned to my right then my left, regarding the shape of my body.
Clad in a tight black vinyl jumpsuit, I could make out every inch of my body. My hips narrow and my chest flat, I had a boyish figure. My mother, herself a buxom beauty, had often told me that I was just a late bloomer, that I'd fill out before my nineteenth birthday. That was fifteen years ago, and my gamine physique hadn't changed in the slightest. I'd thought about saving up money to get implants or gene therapy to give myself a more feminine appearance, but my master had chastened me for even thinking the thought; "A Jedi does not dwell on the flesh, Lidya", he had told me over-and-over again for the six years I'd spent under his tutelage.
He was dead now, though, skewered through on his own weapon, so what did he know?
Taking my eyes off my body, I refocused my attention on my own face. Chalk-white save for the dark circles around my eyes, I could tell I wasn't fully human. I'd never known my father and Mom had never told me who he was, so I didn't have any idea what species of near-human he belonged to. I'd sent a sample of my DNA away for analysis, but the results I got back were inconclusive; whatever race my father hailed from, it wasn't a registered one.
Giving myself a final once-over, I left the mirror and returned to the cockpit.
Stepping out of the refresher, the Wroonian girl crossed over to her cot. Bending down beside it, she picked up the brown overalls she'd discarded for the night's sleep. Slipping her thin legs into the sleeves, she pulled the overalls up, slinging the straps over her shoulders and securing them in place. Fully dressed, she turned to regard her uncle, who was waiting beside the hut door.
"Should I get my lightsaber?" the girl asked her uncle.
"No", he declared. "You won't need it for this exercise".
Opening the door, the tall man stretched his arm out, gesturing for his niece to step outside first. Without hesitation, she took him up on his offer and walked outside. Following after her, he closed the door behind them.
I had remembered the cold of Geonosis, but that didn't prepare me for it. Not one bit.
Shivering under my red poncho, I silently cursed myself for not having dressed in warmer clothing as I walked through the streets of the Non-Geonosian Sector of Rakeen province. Geonosis, an incredibly arid world, reminded me of another backwater desert planet I had had the misfortune of visiting named Tatooine. Unlike Tatooine, however, Geonosis was cold -- very cold. On mid-winter nights, the open desert became nearly uninhabitable; anyone caught unprotected out in the open was sure to freeze to death only an hour after sundown. At the moment, though, It was summer on this side of the planet, so the frigid weather was merely unbearable rather than life threatening.
Stopping in my tracks, I reached to the left side of my belt and pulled out my datapad. Activating it, I called up a map of the Non-Geonosian Sector. Zooming in until it focused on this region of the sector, I refreshed my memory on where I was to go. Deactivating the datapad, I continued on my way.
Within twenty minutes, I arrived at my destination. Sitting before me, ugly as sin, was a low cube-shaped junk shop. Composed of sandstone brick plastered with crumbling, dirty adobe, it looked older than the sector it belonged to, and the sector pre-dated the New Sith Wars.
"Lovely", I muttered to myself as I unconsciously cocked an eyebrow.
Stepping forward, I entered through the dark doorway.
If the outside of the shop was ugly, then the inside went beyond that. Cluttered with disorganized pieces of machinery that looked centuries out of date, the walls and floor was a quagmire of congealed grease and thick cobwebs. As I walked through the length of the shop, taking care to avoid the sharper pieces of junk strewn about, I could feel the soles of my boots sticking to the tacky floor.
"What can I do fer ye?"
Hearing the low, gravelly voice, I looked to the far back corner of the shop. Standing there, partially concealed behind a cluttered shelf, was the shopkeeper, an overweight Bothan dressed in ratty brown pants and a white apron stained with oil. Placing a broken flux capacitor on the shelf, the Bothan waddled on over to where I was standing.
"I'm here on a visit", I said casually. "I have a friend living here in this part of the sector, but I'm not sure where, exactly, he's staying." I gave him a big, bright smile. "I was hoping you'd know where he can be found".
"Visitin' a friend, eh?" he muttered as he scratched his rear vigorously. "Shouldn't this friend o' yer's have given ye some directions ta follow before he called ye out here?"
My smile didn't waver. "He must of forgot. It's my fault for not asking him in the first place, though".
"I suppose it t'is", he grumbled. "What's the name o' yer friend, anyway? I can't tell ye where he lives even if I know where he's at if ye don't give me his name".
"Alger", I told him. "His name's Alger Langdon".
"Alger Langdon, eh?" the Bothan intoned, turning his head to the right as he spat a stream of thick, mucousy saliva through the gap in his front teeth. "Sorry, don't know no Alger Langdon".
Turning around, the shopkeeper began waddling back to the shelf with the broken flux capacitor in wait. Stepping forward, I grabbed him by the shoulder.
"Wait a second".
Turning around, he regarded me with a deep frown. "Now look, girl, I told ye I don't know yer friend. Now, if yer not plannin' on buyin' somethin', I'd like ye ta get yer ass gone".
"I don't believe you", I said. "I think you do know Alger Langdon".
Reaching behind me, I pulled out a small sack of credits. Hoisting it up, I dangled it before the fat Bothan's eyes.
"You just need to refresh your memory".
The shopkeeper's eyes focused on the bag of credits. "Ye know", he muttered, "I think ye might be right. The name o' yer friend's comin' back ta me".
"Lovely", I said, my smile as broad as ever.
The tall Wroonian and his young niece ascended a steep hill, each taking care not to slide backward on the gravelly soil underfoot. Though it was only early morning, the pale yellow-white sun sitting low in the electric blue sky promised to yield a scorchingly hot day.
"Uncle Tobais," the Wroonian girl intoned.
"Yes, Talia?" he replied almost absentmindedly.
"Tomak's been gone for five days now. I'm getting worried about him".
Turning to face her, Tobais gave Talia a warm smile. "Why do you think we're out here?"
Talia's eye widened slightly. "You mean we're out here to look for him?"
"Something like that," he responded, still smiling.
"You think we'll find him?"
"Of course", he said, turning back away from her.
Smiling, Talia continued the trek up the hill, new motivation driving her onward.
"You'll be staying here for how long?" the desk clerk asked.
"Shouldn't be more than a day," I replied. "Two at most".
"Okay then", he said. "That'll be seventy-seven credits".
I handed the credits to the clerk. Taking and pocketing them, he turned around and took a mechanical key down off the rack of keys behind him. Turning back to me, he held it out.
"This is for a room on the top floor, facing south, right?" I asked.
"Indeed", he said with a shark-like grin. "You'll be able to see the top of the apartment building right across from us".
"With the money I'm giving you, I'd better", I declared matter-of-factly.
Snatching up the key, I turned and left the hotel lobby. Making my way to a flight of stairs, I began to climb the steps to what was sure to be a glorious penthouse suite.
Reaching my room, I slid my key into the door's lock. Disengaging the lock, I opened the door and stepped inside. Though relatively clean and in order, the room was shabby, its old, discoloured wallpaper peeling in several places. Sighing with dismay at the impure sight, I closed the door and relocked it.
Making my way over to the tall main window of the room, I drew back the curtains, letting some light into the dreary interior. Looking out, I was able to look upon the apartment building standing on the other side of the street, just like the clerk had said. Dark brown and decaying, the apartment building wasn't even half as ugly as the junk shop though it sure was close.
"Lovely," I said, deadpan as ever.
Pulling my poncho up over my shoulders, I tossed it onto the sunken mattress of my bed. Grabbing hold of a chair, I pulled it over to the window, turned it around, and sat down in it. Unclipping a pair of macrobinoculars I had secured to the right side of my belt, I brought them up to my eyes. Bringing them into focus, I looked out upon the apartment building, directly into the window of Alger Langdon's apartment. Though the angle wasn't perfect, I got enough of a view inside to determine that Langdon either wasn't home or was in the 'fresher.
"Oh, Alger, my beautiful Alger", I sang-sung. "Where in the nine hells are you?"
I sat there, waiting and watching, for over an hour. Finally, right when I was ready to give up, take a long-awaited shower in what I hoped was a functioning 'fresher, and call it a night, I saw Langdon enter his apartment. Judging by the look on his squat, hairy face, he was uneasy about something -- really uneasy.
"Ah, Langdon!" I exclaimed, grinning with a grin that put the desk clerk's to shame. "It's about time! I was getting tired of waiting up for your handsome butt".
Lowering the macrobinoculars, I stood up. Walking past the bed, I tossed the macrobinocs onto it on my way to the door.
Having reached the summit of the hill, the two Wroonians found themselves on flat, wide-open ground.
"Do you think Tomak's here, Uncle?" Talia asked. "Do you think he came this way?"
"Yes, Talia", Tobais replied. "I think he did".
The tall man held his hand out to Talia.
"Take my hand. I'll take you to him".
Smiling up at her uncle, Talia took his hand. Smiling back at her, Tobais began guiding Talia to their final destination.
I walked up to the door of Langdon's apartment. Making certain my thigh holster wasn't twisted around so that my lightsaber wouldn't be in easy reach, I rang the doorbell. In under a second the door cracked open, allowing me a slight glimpse of Langdon's heavily bearded face as he peered out at me.
"Yes?" he drawled out in a thick, low, suspicious tone.
"Alger Langdon?" I asked.
"Who's asking?" he asked back.
"Mr. Langdon, I'm Lidya Teedz." I answered. "I'm a Jedi Knight of the Alderaanian Order, dispatched here by request of the Republic Senate."
"Are you now?" Langdon declared, looking me up and down, taking in the sight of my black jumpsuit and chalk-white skin.
"Yes, I am", I said, pointing to my lightsaber. "I know you're in danger from Black Sun".
"Am I now?" he said nonchalantly.
"They know you've been hiding here on Geonosis and they've sent a Dark Jedi assassin after you. I've been sent to take you into protective custody before the assassin tracks you down and finishes the job she was paid to do".
"Well," Langdon drawled, "when you put it like that ..."
Before he completed his final word, the Force stabbed through me like a series of ice-hot knives, warning me of immediate, impending danger. Responding instinctively, I jumped back as a blaster bolt smashed through the door, burning into my stomach. Crying out in agony, I fell back against the side wall and collapsed to the floor, clutching my blistering wound. Crashing through the door, Langdon took off in sprint for the stairs leading outside.
Grimacing, I rose back to my feet, looking down at the wound. It was ugly wound, but it had only grazed me; it wasn't of any immediate concern.
"Langdon, you bastard," I groaned.
Reaching to my side, I unholstered my lightsaber. Then, hesitating no longer, I took off after the wanted man.
Talia and Tobais finally came across Tomak. There, lying on the ground before them, was the young girl's large pet feline. Talia's eyes grew wide as saucers.
"There's Tomak, Talia," her uncle said pleasantly. "Go on over to him".
Though Langdon had a head start on me, I had managed to gain enough ground that he was in my sights. In a full panic, he didn't think to turn back and fire upon me with his blaster, even though the decrepit streets were empty and there was little danger of hitting anyone other than me.
"Langdon!", I yelled out, my voice almost angry. "Listen to me, Langdon! You have to come with me now!"
Refusing to reply, Langdon spun on his heel and ducked down into an alley on his right. Calling on the Force to empower me, I put on an extra burst of speed. In seconds, I joined Langdon in the alley.
Turning this way and that, he looked around for an exit but failed to find one. Slowly, surely, I approached him.
"Langdon, it's over".
Deciding to give up his fruitless search for escape, the beefy man turned his attention back on me. As he brought his blaster up, opening fire, I engaged my lightsaber. With a sharp snap-hiss, the vibrant crimson blade spouted into existence, catching the orange blaster bolts and ricocheting them harmlessly away. Throwing out my hand before Langdon could release a second volley, I reached out with the Force and wrenched the blaster from his hand, pulling it into mine. Now completely unarmed, Langdon couldn't hope to do any harm to me.
"Chaos take your black soul, witch", he declared as he spat in my direction. "Do what it is you came to do and get it over with".
As I walked up to Langdon, the crimson blade of my weapon blazing with fierce intensity, an audible rustle of cloth moved through the air behind me.
"Oh, thank the Infinite!" Langdon declared to someone behind me. "Help me, please! She's going to kill me!"
Turning around, I found myself face-to-face with my ultimate enemy. Standing there, almost regal in her flowing white dress, was an incredibly beautiful Wroonian woman with long, thick, curly blue-black hair, pale blue skin, and intense periwinkle blue eyes. In her right hand, elaborately constructed from gold and platinum, was the jewel-encrusted hilt of a lightsaber.
"You're too late," the Wroonian said, engaging the deep blue blade of her lightsaber. "Far too late".
"Am I?" I said, my lips twisting in a wry grin. "I don't think so".
As the Wroonian attacked, sweeping her blue blade in a wide arc, I brought up my red blade, intercepting her blow with a sharp crackle of highly charged energy.
Talia stood there, looking upon her pet with her mouth agape, no sounds but those of her harsh breathing moving past her lips.
"Well, Talia?" Tobais intoned. "There's Tomak. Go to him".
Wordlessly, Talia dropped her uncle's hand and walked over to Tomak. Reaching his side, she dropped to her knees beside him. Then, tears welling up within her eyes, she began to cry.
Tomak, Talia's beloved pet feline, was dead. After five days out in the open sun, his body was bloated with decay, flying insects and maggots swarming and crawling all about him.
"Tomak, Tomak ..." Talia sobbed, resting a hand on the neck of the carcass that was her pet. Looking across the length of his body, she could see the charred black wound indicative of a lightsaber strike burned into his rotting flesh.
"You did this!" Talia cried out, turning to look upon Tobais. "You killed him! You killed my cat!"
Cocking an eyebrow, the tall Wroonian merely smiled.
"Now, before we left you said that you were hungry", he said lightheartedly. "Eat him".
"Go on, eat him," Tobais declared. "Reach in, pull out his guts, and take a bite."
"You sick, evil --!" Talia screamed, jumping to her feet. "I'll kill you!"
With a cry of rage, Talia pounced upon her uncle. Without even the slightest effort, he backhanded her, causing her to flip over backward onto the hard ground.
"Stupid little girl," Tobais muttered, the first tinge of anger seeping into his soft voice. "Stupid, bad, little girl".
Reaching to his side, he unclipped his lightsaber. Pressing the activation stud, he engaged the indigo blade.
"Now", he said, walking up to Talia, "are you going to eat him?"
"Go to hell!" Talia screamed out, still defiant.
Turning a dial on his lightsaber, Tobais reduced the power level of his blade to its lowest setting.
"Eat Tomak, Talia," he said once again. "Don't make me tell you again".
In one final, angry response, Talia spat up into her uncle's face. Dropping the calm, peaceful facade, Tobais released an insane, bloodcurdling shriek. Rearing back his lightsaber, he struck Talia across the face, marking her forehead with a blistering welt.
"Eat him!", Tobais roared, bringing the indigo blade down across Talia's arm. "Eat him! Eat him! Eat him!"
With his lightsaber, Tobais beat his niece, raining blow upon blow upon her frail young body.
With an almost animalistic roar, the Dark Jedi assassin swung her blue blade down in an underhand arc, trying to eviscerate me through my left side. Sweeping my red blade downward, I barely managed to intercept the blow in time.
"He's mine, Jedi cunt!" she screamed into my face as she struck out at me again. "Give him to me!"
Dropping down into a crouch, she swung her lightsaber, trying to cut me down through the ankles. Calling on the Force, I leapt up just in time, somersaulting over her head to land behind her. Pivoting to my right, I threw up my left leg, kicking her hard in the back. Toppling forward onto the pavement, she landed right in front of the transfixed Langdon.
"Get out of here, Langdon!" I shouted out to him. "Get out of here before she kills you!"
Breaking out of his trance, the heavyset Alger Langdon took off, leaving me alone in the alley with the enraged Dark Jedi.
Pushing herself back up, the darkly beautiful woman in the white dress turned to me. Throwing out her hand, she called the hilt of her lightsaber back to her hand, re-engaging the deep blue blade.
"Enough of this," I said, growing faint from breathlessness. "Please, just give up. Surrender".
"Never," she growled, teeth bared. "No surrender. Never surrender!"
Rearing back her lightsaber, the Wroonian Dark Jedi charged, roaring with fury. Blinded by her rage, she didn't think to keep herself closed to attack as she came at me. Sidestepping her as she swung her blade down, I swung my own, cleaving through her right shoulder blade, through her right lung, and out through her right breast.
With a sharp, hideous gasp she fell forward, dropping her lightsaber as she hit the pavement hard. Disengaging my crimson blade, I slid my lightsaber back into its holster and ran over to her side. As I bent over her still form and turned her over, I could see clearly the long, black line running through the right side of her chest. Wheezing horribly as she struggled to draw breath into her ruined lung, her periwinkle blue eyes locked on mine.
"It's going to be alright," I said, taking her hand in mine and petting it. "I'll call for a medic and --"
"No, no medic," the Wroonian woman wheezed. "Let it end. Let the pain finally end".
Hearing those words, I didn't know what to say. I expected her to beg for help or even curse me, but this? For the first real time in my life, I was at a loss for words.
"Why?" I finally said.
"No more pain," she merely stated. "Please ... no more".
With that, she closed her beautiful eyes. Releasing her final, shuddering breath, she died.
The young Talia sat crossed-leg upon the ground, her body covered in lightsaber burns and her eyes stained dark with tears. Before her, blazing brightly under the dark, star-studded sky, was the funeral pyre of her pet feline Tomak. Her uncle Tobais, having long left the area, was nowhere to be seen.
"Goodbye, Tomak," Talia said, holding herself tightly. "Goodbye".
As Talia sat there, watching the pyre burn, a wind picked up, catching some of the hot ash that was Tomak and sweeping it up, scattering it far across the dark blue night sky.