The Short Fic Weekly Challenge Thread!
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02.22.2013 , 06:45 AM |
With Master Ashari, Master Istier and a young Broan.
Talan swept his feet up, slamming the heels onto the top of the chair in front of him. He slipped down in his own chair, making the most of the cushions, and started to hum. Ashari sat next to him, straight-backed and serene. She would appear the picture-perfect Jedi, were it not for the company she kept.
"Talan, really, put your feet down."
"Don't see the point, Shar-shar," He winked, enjoying her returned scowl. "We've got ten minutes till landing and, unlike yourself," He shuffled in the seat a bit more, in such way as to show off his voluminous great coat. "I at least don't stick out like a sore thumb."
"We are Jedi," Ashari sniffed and smoothed her robes. "We are to be known where ever we go - it is our way."
"That may be so, Shar-shar, but those we're looking to protect can't afford such luxuries."
"The Empire has no hold here."
"You know it's not the Empire we're worried about, out here."
Talan looked up. The shuttle they travelled in had a transparent ceiling and it was easy to see why. They had barely breached the atmosphere and already the smog was rolling in, thick and heavy. The stars started to wink out, one by one, as they descended into darkness.
The boy slipped out of bed and strode, quietly but confidently, through the half-light. There was a film of grime on every surface. He opened the door of the cold-cupboard with his foot and wiped his hands with a rag. The rag disappeared into a shadowed corner and picked up a large bottle, nearly as big as his chest, and took two quick mouthfuls of the liquid inside.
Mom would be home soon. Mom would not stay long, she would be gone soon again, but the idea of Mom being near made the child happy.
He wiped the bottle down as grime began to take hold and quickly shut the cold-cupboard. He sat on the floor and began to practise his sums.
Ashari dusted her robes off for the umpteenth time. Blaster burns had ripped holes into the fabric and she briefly considered doing away with the thing entirely. Talan gave her a brief nod as shook out his coat. It was holding up better than her robes, not that that made her feel better about either choice of attire.
"And if, Shar-shar, one of us had not looked like a Jedi, none of this would have happened." Talan surveyed the wreckage. Boxes and general store-front debris littered the walkway where their fight had taken place. No bystanders had been injured, to their knowledge, but a few of the local gang enforcers lay dead. The rest had fled, no doubt with news that the Jedi had arrived.
"We are Jedi. We do not hide in shadows or lurk in alleyways."
"I realise what you are saying, Ashari, and I do not like what you are insinuating," Talan began to arrange the nearest body into a more dignified pose. The individual's hands were crossed across their chest and Talan pulled them into place, following the length of the road. Under the tonnes of metal and concrete, miles from the sky, he could not tell where south or north were, or even whether up was still up. "We cannot fulfil our purpose here if our every step is dogged by these thugs," He drew a small symbol in the air above the body and finally stood. "I do not care whether you think we act like Sith. We are not. That's final."
Ashari said nothing and nodded in agreement. She joined him on the speeder, which was blackened but otherwise undamaged, and they started to pull away from the carnage. Their goal was deeper still, closer to what once might have been the planet's surface. She wondered for a moment, as the engine popped and juddered to life, if there actually was a planet under all this, or if it was just buildings from end to end.
A gaggle of children, all skinny and pale, appeared as if from nowhere and began to strip the bodies of the fallen. The one that Talan had tended to was left until the Jedi were well out of sight.
Mom came in as the boy was finishing the last of his sums. A little bit of smoke rolled in through the door before it closed. She leant against the door and then slid slowly to the floor. The boy put down his sums and pottered over to Mom. She always sat on the floor, against the door, but today she seemed... quiet. She was holding her tummy like it hurt.
Her head jerked up, as if she had just woken. She smiled and the boy smiled back.
"Little Broan, mommy's feeling tired. Could you fetch one of her stories?"
He nodded eagerly and fetched one of the slides. There were only a few and they were all old and clunky, but Mom loved them and so did Broan. He sat down next to her and put the slide in his lap. It was too big for him to hold easily.
"Can you read me the one about the Prince and the Dancing Girl?"
"But Mom, that one always makes you cry."
"I know, darling, I know."
Broan opened the simple text file and started to read aloud. Mom sat next to him and fell asleep.
"Are we here?" Ashari looked down the row of doors. The footpath dwindled into the distance, small orbs of yellow light piercing the fog along the length of the rails. There was a great gap that fell away below them, but just a few floors above the great weight of the city crushed against them.
"Looks it. Now we just need to find out which door." Talan pulled out a dataslide and checked the details. There was not a lot in the message, but they had come this far.
"Did she not provide you with her apartment number?"
Talan gestured to one of the doors and shrugged.
"Wouldn't have done her any good. None of the doors are numbered."
Ashari sighed and pointed toward the lights.
"I shall start over there; you start where we came up," Talan nodded and copied the details to her dataslide. "Perhaps we can find this child before the thugs do."
Broan finished the story and the dancer girl was left alone, again. The dancer girl was always alone at the end. She left her family, her friends and her home to be with her Prince. And then her Prince was gone. Broan sat for a moment before he started on another story.
Mom was very still and very quiet, but Broan kept reading. Maybe she'd wake up if he read a nice story?
Something wet splashed against his hand. He licked the droplet. It was very salty. Another drop hit the dataslide and Broan gave way to crying. He shoulders shook and he could no longer read the words.
Ashari stood outside a door; it was as nondescript and as slimy as all the rest. The one thing that set it apart from the rest was the sadness that washed over her. Talan joined her and checked the door.
"Locked," He ran one hand down the seam of the door and looked around. There were no windows and the walls were flat and featureless. "We're late but... Force helps us if the boy is still there." He pushed against the door. The lock was cheap and weak and gave way easily. The door shuddered and shook, it moved, but caught on something. They heard the crying now. The boy was stressed and notes of fear were starting to replace the sadness. Talan reached around the door and touched the fallen woman's shoulder. Gently, he moved her away from the door, finally able to wedge his shoulders into the gap and push the door fully open.
The boy recoiled and sniffed, hugging a large slide to his chest. He look from Talan, crouched next to his mother, to Ashari, who was stood just outside the room, looking imposing and strangely uncomfortable.
Talan moved the woman back into a sitting position and set her against the wall. The boy scampered to be next to his mother.
"Hello there, are you Broan?" Talan reached out a hand and smiled, as comforting and as friendly as he could manage. The little boy nodded and moved closer to his mother. "I'm Talan and this is my friend Ashari, we're Jedi. We're here to look after you now."
Mom was cold and still and would not hug him. She was missing something but he could not tell what. Out of desperation and sadness, Broan leapt forward to Talan and buried himself under the coat, folding into layers of warmth. Talan stroked his hair and soothed his crying. And for the first time, Broan saw the outside of his house.