He's finally quieted.
We've been quiet for a while now, hoping to escape attention. Lan
is hardly breathing next to me, sitting very still in a tight position with his
eyes squeezed shut. I don't blame him, and I would almost join him, but I can't
keep my eyes off the Jedi. I doubt the Jedi can see Lan or me from where we're
sitting, behind this shattered control panel that he blasted with his Force
powers; but I also have no doubt that he knows we're here, regardless of
whether Lan's eyes are shut or not.
I wonder if the Jedi knows this isn't our idea.
He's standing still, wavering a bit as if he's exhausted.
Did we sign the bill? No, the Senate did. Did we want to hunt
Jedi? No, the Chancellor said it was a 'sad necessity'. I guess it's Emperor
now, which seems a bit odd for a man claiming to love democracy, but no one
really dares to argue with him at this point. Certainly not me. And I know the
Jedi don't have a choice; Palpatine picked their side for them.
The Jedi turns to face in my direction, and I stop breathing.
A young man. Definitely an adult I had been able to tell that
before when the Hunter dragged him half-drugged aboard this picket ship but .
. . young. He's younger than me, with power like that. But those eyes, that
glow in them, that's not normal. He blinks at me, looking almost ordinary for a
moment, then brushes his hand through his brown hair.
He looks puzzled when he finds his hand smeared with blood, and I
He walks over to Lan and me, and I hear something wet hitting the
floor. There's suddenly a smell of urine.
I stand up, while Lan stays still. The Jedi knows I'm here, after
"Are you going to finish the job?" the Jedi asks me with
an odd calm, like he's the one in danger. Very normal, not loud and screaming
I shake my head. No. I have no intention of touching this guy. I'm
a soldier, not a bounty hunter. I'm not going to die for this, and regardless
of whether or not he's a twerp, Lan doesn't deserve to, either. Besides which,
the Hunter already tried that, and he's spread across the ship right now.
I hope the Jedi senses my honesty.
He nods at me, though I have no idea why. "He's dead?"
he asks after a bit, like he's not really sure what's going on.
I stare at him. "What do you think?" I don't gesture at
the bloody clumps that remain of the Hunter.
The Jedi glances around anyway. "I didn't mean to," he
I laugh in disbelief, high and hysterical. "You tore him to
pieces without even touching him!" I look around involuntarily, and wince.
The Jedi's face twists into grief. "I know. I know." He
jerks up from his slump suddenly. "Do you think it's true, then, that we
deserve to be hunted?" he says as he gazes first at what remains of the
Hunter, then continues onward to the bodies of the control crew that had tried
to flee the bridge and are lying in the hallway.
I clear my throat uncomfortably. What kind of question is that?
Why is he asking me? I'm just a communications officer. I serve the Republic. I
don't do this sort of thing.
The Jedi stares at me. "I'm sorry."
Apparently I do this,whatever that is, now. "Would you have done this," I ask shakily,
"if he hadn't hunted you?"
Slowly, the Jedi shakes his head. "I shouldn't have,
still," he says softly, and he begins to play with the tattered edge of
his cloak sleeve. "I'm sorry." He glances at me sharply. "I
won't I won't hurt you." He moves back, eyes flickering around
desperately. "I'll go. I'll . . . go somewhere. I've got to get
I swallow. "I don't think there's anywhere to go, unless you
take this ship."
Lan grabs one of my pant legs and jerks, making me jump and
briefly hyperventilate. Well, it's true.
The Jedi just looks on blankly.
"Um, I think we've got we've got to get to the nearest
inhabited planet," I begin. I cautiously take a step towards the Jedi.
"What about your friends?" the Jedi asks, glancing
furtively at the hallway.
I don't want to throw up. I don't look. Jason who always beat me
at sabacc, Liini who always flirted, Jek who never wanted to argue but always
managed to anyway . . . "They'll keep." I gesture at a control panel.
"Um, I've got to . . . "
The Jedi steps out of my way, and I get almost within a foot of
him as I pass.
"The ship has automated navigation," I explain feebly,
pulling up the program with some clumsiness.
"I'm sorry," the Jedi says over my shoulder.
"Stop saying that!" I yelp, and scramble away from him.
He looks absurdly hurt, but it quickly smoothes from his face,
leaving something of self-loathing instead. He walks over to the console I just
left, and with much more deft movements than mine, programs the navigation in
for some planet. I can't see what and can't remember what's nearby.
"Drop your lightsaber!" Lan suddenly squeaks, and I
jump, looking at him.
Lan has a blaster in hand, and he's pointing it shakily, if with
some determination, at the Jedi. His pants are wet, but his dark eyes are wide
and alert. His face is pale, and he's too young to even have a shadow on his
"You fool," I hiss, helpless.
The Jedi responds to this rather mildly. He looks at the blaster,
then at Lan.
"Lan, drop it," I order, seeing that the Jedi isn't
doing anything for the moment.
Lan shakes his head at me, lower lip trembling. "He killed
killed the Captain, and Liini . . ." Beautiful Liini, who wanted to
introduce Lan to the ways of adulthood.
"And us, too, if you keep this up," I snap. I breathe
heavily. "Listen. Listen. He was defending himself from the Hunter. He,
uh, he won't do that again. He's sorry, you heard him right?"
"I'm sorry," the Jedi says again, obligingly. It appears
heartfelt, and I feel sick, because it probably is.
A tear slips down Lan's cheek, and he wipes it away with his free
"He's got a lightsaber," I say softly. "A blaster
isn't going to work."
The Jedi glances at me emotionlessly. He seems to be falling into
the cool, collected state he was in when killing just . . . killing. I panic.
"Lan, please," I say. Don't end up dead, too.
The Jedi holds out a hand, and I nearly piss myself. But the
blaster is jerked out of Lan's hand and flies to the Jedi's. Lan stumbles back
in shock, not falling but coming close, and I nearly fall over myself when the
Jedi hands the blaster over to me. I grasp it, not sure what to do with it. I'm
not about to use it as a weapon, training be damned.
"Enough people are dead," the Jedi says to me, blue eyes
suddenly calm and full of emotion again.
I nod quickly.
"We'll . . . be there soon. Then I can leave," he says.
"The planet is close."
I nod again, feeling like acknowledgement of some sort is
The Jedi's eyes close. "You can contact your superiors then.
I'll have a head start."
That seems like an odd thing to say, but I ignore it. I look at
Lan, who is leaning against the dented bulkhead. He's shaking, but still seems
aware of his surroundings. I wonder if he's going into shock. I wonder if I am.
Maybe we all are.
Lan sits with a broken sigh. He pulls his knees up and locks his
arms around them, watching the Jedi and I.
I put the blaster on a console table, and abruptly notice little
bits of blood are smeared around my fingernails. It arrests my attention for a
moment, but the Jedi moves, and I stare at him instead.
He turns to face me. "This," and he almost glances at
the hallway, and the blood, but doesn't, "isn't the Jedi way."
"But aren't you a Jedi?" It seems the logical response,
if not the wisest.
"Aren't you a soldier, not an executioner?" he responds
softly, and I flinch, nervous.
He smiles sadly, but it quickly transforms into an expression of
grief and pain. "I am sorry. I am truly sorry." He shakes his head.
"I the Hunter, it was all so fast and I could hardly see . . . There's
no explanation," he finishes uncertainly.
I look at him for a moment, my heartbeat slowing in spite of
myself. "Neither of us wanted to be here," I mutter, not sure what to
"I probably won't get far," the Jedi adds.
I flinch, meeting his even gaze.
"On the planet. It's Imperial now."
I shiver, looking at Lan. "How old are you?" I suddenly
ask the Jedi, because I want to know, how this kid younger than me did this.
Even as I know the answer wont help me understand, not really.
"Twenty-two," the Jedi answers, as if it were a normal
"Not so old," I say.
"Not so wise," he says softly, closing his eyes.
I look away from Lan, shaking my head. "Don't kill
yourself. Run," I tell him.
His mouth drops open. "What?"
"Run," I insist. "Liini . . . the Cap they
weren't supposed to die. But neither were you," I whisper. "This
isn't this isn't sane. Just run."
His mouth opens and closes, as he clearly grasps for an answer.
"I don't deserve forgiveness," he says hoarsely, and I see him cry. I
never thought Jedi cried.
"This isn't," I tell him hoarsely, my throat tightening.
"Understanding is all I can offer."
He nods jerkily.
"I think we're all . . . victims," I say, and the Jedi
"You're wiser than me," he says, and something settles
in his eyes. "Thank you."
I stiffen. "Don't."
"For your wisdom," the Jedi says. "To know a thing
is different than to experience it. We're all victims; you're right," he
says, looking away blankly, eyes filling with tears again, but not spilling
over. "I forgot that. No one . . . no one is my enemy," he whispers,
looking at me like I should meet his eyes.
I finally do. And something inside me stops and breaks. Like
moments do sometimes. Just like that. I want to cry again, for Cap and Jek and
Liini, but at the same time it doesn't seem needed right at this moment.
"The Hunters who come after me, they'll question you and
Lan," the Jedi says. "I'll make him forget. Soothe the
memories." He's looking at Lan.
Lan is shaking, watching us talking. Like civilized beings.
"You won't be tainted by my words in their eyes," the
I nod, finally. I don't say anything more. I don't want to look at
the Jedi. Something about him quietly retreats, I can feel it.
I go to Lan, and he cries into my arms, which should feel strange,
with this kid I hardly know, but it doesn't.
The Jedi waits. We all wait, actually. And let the tears out.
We really are all victims, here.
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