|Father||Thakem Jaylade (deceased)|
|Siblings|| Kateri Nascosto|
Meredith Jaylade (deceased)
|Children|| Jonathan Grey|
|Born||Year -7 Day 221|
|Hair Color||Dark Red|
|Rank||Director of Member Resources, Jedi Coalition|
|Positions||Board of Directors, Arkanian Royal Engineers|
The grimy streets were tinged with a slight pinkish hue from the rising sun. There was no one on the streets yet, but I still checked carefully around the corners. The heavily graphitized walls had only one door leading off the alley. As I approached this peeling gray door, I pulled the heavy brown hood further forward, making certain that my face was fully hidden. The keypad next to the faded door blinked with a bright red light. I moved so that no one looking in my direction would be able to see as I entered the code. With a beep, the red light turned green and the door’s lock clicked. I glanced back a final time; no one seemed to be following me so I slipped through the door and shut it behind me. A click told me that the lock had set back into place; it would have to be broken down if anyone wished to follow me now.
The room was large and quickly filling with dawn’s first light. There was no graffiti on these walls (I kept the door locked at all times so that no one could get in) and the only item in here was a small and shabby ship. I glanced upward to look through the roofless room, the sun was rising rapidly. We really needed to be on our way.
“Ana.” A tall Falleen woman dressed in a similar brown cloak stepped forward. “He’s waiting.” She nodded toward the ship with a sour tone to her voice.
I sighed and rubbed my temples. “I’m sure he is. Are you doing okay, Kateri?” “Me? Yes I’m fine. It’s you not me who has to spend the next week alone with him.” Kateri shook her head and pulled a face at the thought. “Try not to kill him during the trip.” After a moment’s thought however she said, “Of course if you do kill him that means I won’t have to be alone with after you drop him off with me.”
I laughed a bit at that. “Oh no, no, no! If I have to take him for half the trip, you get him for the other half.” Suddenly serious I said, “What about the others? I know that Thom will be okay, he is staying with mom. But what about Julia and Amber?” It was painful for me to leave out one other name, but there was no point bringing up Meredith…
Kateri shrugged. “Of course Thom will be fine with mom. No one would dare go after them. I guess our sisters are in a bit of danger though. I’ll try to convince Julia and Amber to leave before I come to meet you. And we don’t need to worry about Meredith anymore…” We both fell silent for a moment’s respect for our sister Meredith.
“Thanks, Kay. Hopefully Julia and Amber will listen to you. I’ll meet you…where am I meeting you?” It had suddenly occurred to me that Kateri and I had never decided on a meeting place.
With a nod, she pulled out a galaxy map. “We better get him far away.” Pointing, Kateri indicated a small system in the unknown regions. “Sarvchi. It’s a small planet on the other side of the galaxy. It’s controlled by the New Republic so the Falleen Federation should have very little reach there, Thakem will be safe.”
I raised my eyebrow, “You call him Thakem now?”
She shrugged, rolling up her map and handing it to me. “Why not? I won’t call a traitor ‘dad’ anymore.” I took the map from her. “I’ll meet you in Coruscant so he can switch ships.”
“Coruscant? That’s controlled by…?”
“The Empire. It has a huge population so no one will notice us I assume.”
I leaned forward to hug my older sister. “Be careful, Kay, they’ll be watching you.” She returned my hug fiercely.
“Bye, Ana. Be careful yourself.”
With a final nod to my sister, I hurried to the Y-Tie that was my beloved ship. I unlocked the door and stepped inside.
There was no light in here and it took a minute for my eyes to adjust.
“You’re late.” It is amazing the feelings of rage that two simple words can install in a person.
“Yes.” I couldn’t help the curt reply. The man that stood before me now had wounded me too deeply. He had been my hero, I had idolized him, and he let me down.
“Ana…” He stepped forward now so that I could see him for the first time. If his voice had made me angry, it was nothing to what seeing his face did. I had to grind my teeth together to avoid shouting obscenities at him. My father and I did not look very similar, though we shared the same light-green skin that was common to all Falleens. His eyes were an almost black-brown, where as mine were my mother’s light hazel. I also had my mother’s reddish brown hair and her slight frame. In contrast, Thakem Jaylade was tall with thick arms and broad shoulders.
“Whatever.” I stepped around him heading toward the cockpit.
“Ana, talk to me, please.” Thakem followed after me, squeezing his way into the tiny cockpit to stand behind my chair.
“No passengers in the cockpit.” I didn’t look back. Flashing lights winked all around the room as I pressed the buttons and turned on the old ship.
“Analisa Rhea Jaylade.” That tone was a clear warning. I closed my eyes for a moment, praying to anyone that was listening for patience, and turned to face him.
Thakem didn’t speak at first. “Well?” I asked.
He sighed. “Ana, just talk to me. I know you’re mad, but you need to get past this.”
I cracked. “Get past this? Get past this! And how do you suggest I do that? You’re wanted for treason, mom not only kicked you out, she testified against you to the authorities! Who can really blame her? And you want me to help you run from the government! So if you have a way to make this right, please share it cause I would love to know!” I paused for moment, waiting to see if he would speak. “Oh, nothing to say to that? No quick fix? Nothing?” I turned back to the controls and brought my ship, ‘Old Faithful’, to a hover a couple feet above the ground. I glanced behind me to see why Thakem hadn’t spoken in the last fifteen minutes. He had left the cockpit though and returned to the main sitting area where he stretched out along the bed there.
I sighed and leaned forward, rubbing my temples. Nothing I had said was wrong, but I still felt horrible for saying it, he was after all the man who raised me. But he had it coming to him, I reasoned with myself. He betrayed me, mom, my siblings, and our whole people. A year and half ago my younger sister, Meredith, developed a rare disease that slowly destroyed her respiratory system. There was no cure for the disease but there were treatments to slow the progress and make it more bearable. However the treatments were very pricey and quickly ran through my parents reserves of money.
Both Thakem and my mother, Hrodwyn, had taken up second jobs but it wasn’t enough. So Kateri and I had started a smuggling ring to help pay for Meredith’s treatments. We made quite a lot of money with our business too, but still it was not enough. It was at this point when Thakem decided to scam the Falleen government out of almost a billion credits. Exactly how he managed to do this, I did not know, it wasn’t until a month ago that I even found out. My father had never told me or the rest of my family about this theft, instead I found out what happened on one of my rounds from a client.
I looked back at Thakem again to see him watching with slightly narrowed eyes. Turning around quickly I set the ship to automatically ascend and stood.
“You know what I don’t get?” The moment that I had entered the room, he turned away and started addressing the wall.
“That stealing is wrong?”
Thakem turned to face me; his expression showed that he was moments away from truly becoming angry. “Analisa, behave. No, what I was going to say is: I don’t understand how you can smuggle criminals, wanted criminals, away from their punishment everyday and still feel like you’re better than me.” Ouch. “You are just as guilty as I am, albeit in a different way, but still. I directly committed one single crime by stealing money; you however have helped dozens and dozens of criminals much worse than me to escape. You break the laws for a living. Why is it okay for you to be an illegal smuggler but wrong for me to break one rule?”
“I’m a kid, I’m only fifteen.” I wasn’t really paying attention to what was coming out of my mouth. Instead I was thinking hard, why was it so different to me? Because it felt very different, it felt as though Thakem’s crime was worse somehow then the dozens of times that I had broken the law. “Because…” I spoke slowly trying to put my thoughts into words. “Because you hid what you did. I never pretended that I was innocent but you did for over a year.”
“Is that your only reason? Ana, that is not good enough.”
“Hold on, I’m thinking.” I slid down the wall to sit cross-legged on the floor, my fingers rubbing my temple. “Well…you’re a role-model also. You’re my dad. I always looked at you and thought: that’s what I want someday. I wanted to grow up, have a family, and come home from work each day knowing that I had done my very hardest work to provide for those that I loved.” I didn’t look at Thakem as I talked. “You had more responsibility than me, more people counting on you. If I had people that idolized me than I would never do illegal activity. I don’t intend to do this all my life either. My only goal was to save Meredith; I’ll get a real job someday.”
There was silence for awhile and I couldn’t bring myself to look up. “I’m sorry, Ana.” I couldn’t remember him ever apologizing. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“How did you think I would feel?” I still examined the edge of my cloak to avoid looking up.
“My hope was that you, Hrodwyn, and your sisters and Thom wouldn’t ever find out. I did it to help us, to help Meredith. Your mother and I were running out of money, I had no choice. I didn’t tell your mother what I was planning; instead I just went out and took care of it. No one put out a warrant for me so I figured it was over and done with. How do you know that that they’re coming after me now anyway?”
“One of my clients, he used to work in police service. They have been watching you since this happened, just keeping their distance. They were hoping to catch you committing another crime.”
More silence, then the question I had been asking myself all week. “Why did you tell me though? If you are so angry, why help me?”
“I don’t really know.” With that I stood up and returned to the cockpit, shutting the door behind myself.
I spend the whole day in there, reading a battered ship catalog for the umpteenth time. The pictures were still glossy and I traced my finger over the picture of the YT-2000 freighter. That was my ship. One day I would earn enough money and buy a new ship to replace Old Faithful, which was falling apart as I sat there. After growing bored with my catalog I pulled out my sketching pad to pass the time.
I ended up sleeping in my chair in the cockpit. When I woke up again, I stretched and unlocked the door. Thakem was still asleep on the bed so I walked quietly over to the food crate and grabbed a bag of some breakfast, bringing it back to the cockpit with me.
We passed several days in this manner, barely speaking and avoiding each other at all costs. On the final day of our journey, just after we came out of hyperspace in the Coruscant system, I left the cockpit to talk to him.
“We’re here. Kay will be taking you the rest of the way.”
Thakem nodded. “Alright. How much further is the rest of the way? Neither you or Kay have told me where you were taking me.”
“I know that. We decided it was better not to tell you. All you need to know is that we are going far away, Kay will tell you more when we get there.”
He turned towards me and glared. “Do not treat me like a child, girl! I raised you and I will not have you talk down to me! Tell me right now where we are going.”
I could feel my eyes narrow in anger. “You lost the right for my respect when you became a thief! And I’ll talk down to you because you acted like more of a child then your children!”
“Analisa!” Thakem jumped up in rage and took a step toward me. “I did it to save my child! I did it to save Mer! How can you talk that way to me right now when my daughter is dying! I’ll never see my family again and even as we speak Meredith is getting slowly closer to death!”
“You think I don’t know that? Mer is my sister! I’m never going to see my little sister again! At this moment I could be at home, holding my sister’s hand while she fades, if she hasn’t faded away already.” I wiped a tear angrily from my cheek. “Mere only had a week’s worth of medicine left and it has been five days.”
Both of us were quiet for a minute as we thought about Meredith’s medicine dwindling. “Ana, I get where you are coming from, I really do, but you need to let it go. I’ve already lost most of my family. Mer is as good as gone. Hrodwyn, Thom, and Julia all turned against me. Only you, Amber, and Kay stuck by me, please don’t let me lose you too.”
I looked and him, tilting my head to the side. “You’ve already lost Kay, just so you know. She is only helping because I said this would expand our business far past where it is now.”
“And what about you? Have I lost you as well?”
I turned away and walked back to the cockpit without answering. I had nothing to say to him, because I didn’t know myself. Most of me wanted to tell him yes, he had lost me forever. But there was another part too, a part that remembered how he used to sing to me when I couldn’t sleep, how he would take me everywhere he went, how he taught me how to pilot, and most of all how he encouraged me to do my very best.
I spent the next several hours locked in the cockpit waiting until we got to the capital planet. When it was time to descend to the planet, I typed in the coordinates for a scarcely populated region on the outskirts of a city.
I had nodded off when I felt the ship lightly hit the ground and a loud beep informed me that we had finally arrived. I walked out to the other room to see Thakem gathering his bag together. “We’re here. Come on, we’ll wait for Kay outside.”
I didn’t wait for an answer; instead I just walked around him and opened the door to wait outside. “Ah, wind, grass!” I fell forward on the grass and pressed my cheek to the ground. It had been almost twenty-four hours since I last slept and I fell asleep right there as I was waiting for Kay to come.
“Rise and shine, little Annie! Time to hit the road.” A foot kicked me in the ribs, not very hard but it would still leave a bruise.
“Ow!” I rolled over to glare up at Kay. “Was that necessary?”
She shrugged. I took a closer look at her, there was something wrong. Her eyes were red rimmed and there was a slight tremble to her lower lip. I scrambled to my feet and grabbed her arm.
“Kateri, what happened? What’s wrong?” I couldn’t help the panic in my voice. Oh god, knowing that Mer was dying and then having it confirmed were so different. If she…I couldn’t even finish the thought.
“It’s not Mer, Analisa. It’s…it’s…oh god, Ana, it’s Amber! When I got back to our place Julia and Amber were there and I said we needed to leave that minute. Julia said okay and went to wait at the ship. Amber insisted on saying goodbye to Mer and Thom and mom.” She paused for a moment to wipe her eyes which had started to tear up again. “Ana, they were waiting for us! They tried to grab both of us but I managed to get away. I know I shouldn’t have left her, I know that, but…but…”
I threw my arms around her. “Kay, it’s not your fault. It is what anyone would have done in your place. All they have on her is that she sold some information to us to use in our smuggling ring. They won’t hold her for long.”
Kateri was shaking her head as I was talking. “It is so much worse than that, Ana. They have her aiding Thakem on his scam. Apparently Amber helped him to pull off the entire operation. And since Thakem fled…”
“There are going to punish Amber even harder,” I finished. We stared at each other in horror. “She’s only eleven, oh god, Kay, she’s just a kid.”
“I know, believe me, I know. But they are mad, they will be pushing for the maximum sentence.”
“But, the maximum sentence is…Kay, it isn’t…?”
“Execution.” We both whispered together.
“Where is Julia?” I whispered, wiping my eyes. There was nothing I could do for Amber and we needed to leave.
Kateri nodded toward the ships. Julia was sitting cross-legged on the grass with her head in her hands. Thakem was leaning against my ship; his body was shaking as he sobbed. I looked back at Kay. Neither of us was crying anymore. People had always told me that Kay and I were very much alike, and neither of us were able to show emotion in front of other people.
“He’s yours for the rest of the trip. I’ll see you in six days.” I was rushing. I needed to get away and be alone so I could grieve for all that I had lost.
“Yes. Julia is going with you though. Take care of her.” Kateri leaned forward to hug me tightly. “I love you, Ana. I didn’t tell Amber that before she was taken.”
“I love you too, Kay.” I hugged her back. “Come on, Julia, we’re leaving.”
“I’m ready,” Julia sniffled. She stood up and walked onto the ship. I followed her on and shut the door behind me.
“Strap yourself in, I’ll get us underway.” I walked into the cockpit and locked the door behind me. As soon as I collapsed into the chair I set the ship to ascend and then leaned forward to rub my temples. How was it fair? We had all known that we were going to loss Mer, but Amber? Amber wasn’t supposed to die, especially not for someone else’s crime.
I had not realized how much time passed until there was a knock on the cockpit door. “Ana? Are you okay? You’ve been in there for at least four hours.”
I stood and unlocked the door. Julia was standing there, eyes red. I leaned forward and hugged her. “It will all be okay, Julia. Don’t worry.”
“No it won’t be, Ana. Both Meredith and Amber are going to die. I’m never going to see mom or Thom or dad again. It’s just you, me, and Kateri.” She was holding me so tightly that I could hardly breathe. “Ana, please don’t leave me too. Please don’t make me be alone. I can’t do it.”
“Julia…” What could I say to her? Julia was seven years old and she had lost much of her family already. “Come on.” The ship was already on auto pilot so I pulled Julia with me into the other room. Sitting down on the bed, Julia sat down next to me and put her head on my shoulder, crying softly. “Shh, shh, honey. To and fro/So soft and slow/Rocks my wee baby's cradle O! /Still she lies/With laughing eyes/And will not into Dreamland go./Lullaby!/The crickets cry/The stars are a-twinkling in the sky. /Soft dews fall/While bluebirds call/And swiftly homeward the swallows fly. /Sleep, baby, sleep/In slumber so deep/While sweet dreams across your eyes do creep/And all the night/The soft moonlight/Within your little cradle will peep. /Hush! She sighs/The laughter flies/So swiftly from her drowsy eyes. /To and fro/More soft, more slow/And fast asleep, my baby lies.” By the time I finished the song Julia was sleeping softly still leaning against me. I laid her down on the bed and kissed her forehead.
I had stood to walk out when Julia grabbed my hand. “Don’t leave me.” The words were slurred and groggy.
“Okay, I’m staying.” I laid down next to Julia on the bed and put my arm around her. “I’m here, go to sleep.”
“Thanks.” She curled closer and fell asleep again. I sighed, closing my eyes and falling to sleep also.
The six day journey with Julia was much more enjoyable then the trip with Thakem. I taught her some of the controls in the cockpit and even let her steer when we came out hyperspace.
“Okay, Julia, land right over there, next to Kateri’s ship.” I pointed down on the ground where a ship was waiting, Kateri and Thakem standing next to the ship. Julia steered us into a gentle slope and hit the ground with only a slight bump. “Nice job, kid!” I gave her a high-five.
As soon as I stepped on the ground I could tell something was wrong, it didn’t feel right. “Julia…” I said slowly, “Go wait for us on Kay’s ship.”
“But…” she started to say.
“Don’t argue, we’ll be there in a few minutes, honey.” Julia trudged sadly to wait on the ship. Kay approached, her eyes narrowed slightly as she looked around. “You feel it too?”
“Someone is watching us. Let’s get out of here.” I nodded and we started to walk toward Kay’s ship where Thakem was still waiting.
“Thank you for all you did for me, girls. I hope I’ll see you again someday.” Thakem leaned forward as if to hug us but Kay took a step back. I let him hug me but didn’t return the pressure.
“Goodbye, dad. Maybe someday we’ll see each other again.” He then walked quickly toward Old Faithful. It caused a painful twinge to watch him get into my trusted ship and fly away. “Bye, my lovely ship. I’ll miss you.” I waved to the ship as it rose into the air.
“Come on, Ana. We don’t have time for nostalgia, we have to leave.”
“Okay.” I didn’t turn just yet, simply continued watching my ship.
“Now, Analisa.” Kay grabbed my arm and dragged me to the ship.
“Hold it right there! Kateri and Analisa Jaylade, put your hands slowly into the air and turn around!” The words were spoken in Galactic Basic and it took me a while to comprehend what was said. I didn’t know who it was but the voice was commanding and sounded serious. I glanced sideways at Kay who nodded and raised her own arms. I took a breath and raised my arms, turning around slowly. The sight that met my eyes made panic fill my whole body. Six grim looking humans were surrounding us pointing blasters at us. The one who spoke before spoke once again, talking so fast so I had no idea what he was saying.
I looked at Kay. She looked just as confused as I felt, maybe we should have learned Basic better. “I don’t understand…” I spoke slowly to form all the words. This was the first time I had ever spoken Basic in a real world situation.
“Step away from the ship and come towards us so we can take you both into custody.” I looked back at the ship and saw Julia watching with her mouth open in horror.
“Kay, Julia.” I whispered, nodding toward the ship. Kateri looked back toward the ship with worried eyes.
“On your count.” I nodded.
We both took a step toward the men who lower their weapons slightly when they saw we were listening. I walked close enough for one the men to holster his blaster and take out a set of handcuffs. “Stand still.” He said in a gravelly voice. I nodded waiting for my moment. He clasped one of the cuffs on my left wrist when I made my move
“Now!” I yelled, grabbing his blaster as turned away sharply. I felt my left wrist break and my vision went white for a millisecond. I heard a battle cry from Kateri and saw that she had managed to get a blaster also. I pointed the blaster at the guy who had put a handcuff on my wrist. “Give me the key.” I spoke just as carefully as before. He glared at me and threw a small key to me which I caught easily. “Kateri’s too.” The other guard tossed Kay her key. Kay and I started backing up toward the ship, pointing our stolen blasters at the guards. As soon as we reached the ship I typed in the code without turning around.
“Get in, Kateri, and start her up.” She entered without argument and within a half minute I felt the ship start to shake before rising.
“Ana! Close the damn door!”
“Not yet! Get us airborne!” I shouted back. I heard her curse again but felt the ship begin the rise anyway.
“Shoot them! Fire!” The leader shouted. The four who still had blasters opened fire. They were good shots too.
“Get higher!” I shouted to Kay, ducking from the attacks. As soon as we were out of blaster range I pressed the button next to the door and felt it close. With a sigh I collapsed on the ground holding my broken left wrist.
“You idiot! Analisa Rhea Jaylade, you could have been killed!” Kateri’s voice was furious but under that was thick worry. “Are you hurt at all?”
“Just my wrist,” I gasped. “I broke it when I fought for the blaster.” She gently took my wrist and nodded.
“I’ll wrap it. Try not to move it too much.” With that she also handed me a small pill for pain which I took without comment.
I passed in and out of consciousness for the next couple days, Kateri kept me loopy on pain pills the whole time. When we finally landed again I could almost walk a straight line.
“Up you get, Ana, come on.” Kateri put arm an around and pulled me out of bed.
“I don’t wanna get up,” I said groggily. She didn’t listen to me though and instead pulled me toward the door. I shuffled my feet without really trying to walk, instead allowing Kay to drag me along.
Julia, Kateri, and I left the ship and headed into a small town. “What planet are we even on?” The fresh air was clearing my head a bit and I managed to pull myself off Kay to walk on my own.
“Angamenien in the Sluis sector.”
I stared at Kateri in shock, “Sluis? That is pretty close to Falleen. Are you sure that they won’t find us here?”
“I can never be sure, but this territory is controlled by the New Republic so no one should be actively hunting us.”
“Those people from Sarvchi though, they were humans who were hunting us. Why?” I saw a city in the far distance.
“I’ve been tuning into the radio channel. Apparently there is a warrant out for the three of us and for Thakem too. They were obvious tracking us so I traded ships on our way here at Coruscant. No one could follow us here, I made sure of it.”
I was shaking my head even as Kay spoke. “Even if they didn’t follow us, they will still be searching for us. We are going to need new identities.”
“I know.” Kateri pointed to the town ahead. “I have a contact in there who will give us new identities so we can get a new life.”
“We will need to split up, Kay. We are too ostentatious as a group.”
“No!” Julia burst out, speaking for the first time. Kateri and I looked down at her. “No, we can’t split up.” Tears started to fill her eyes and she grabbed both of our hands.
“Julia, honey,” I tried to speak calmly but she interrupted again.
“No! No, we stay together!”
“Julia, Analisa is right. We will have to separate, at least for a little while.”
I stroked her hair, “It’s okay, honey, you and Kay will stay together, and someday I’ll find you two again. Once everything calms down we will be able to be a family again.”
Tears were still running down her cheeks, Kay leaned down and picked her up cradling Julia against her body. “See, honey? You and I will have a fun time and Ana will meet up with us later. Nothing to worry about.”
“Let’s keep moving; our new life awaits us!” I took the lead this time, heading toward the distance city. I could see the city getting closer slowly. After two hours we walked into the outskirts of the city.
“Hold Julia,” Kay said quietly passing me my little sister. She had fallen asleep on Kay’s shoulder. I took her gingerly and let her lean her exhausted head on my shoulder instead. “I’ll be back in a half an hour, be careful.”
I nodded, “You too.” Kay walked away and left me to look after Julia. She stirred sleepily so I sang her favorite lullaby to keep her sleeping. I heard Kateri approaching before she rounded the corner to enter my line of sight. I stood up and walked toward her.
“Everything is set. Say goodbye to Analisa Jaylade, you are now Analisa Grey, still fifteen years old.” She handed me a thick stack of legal looking papers. “You are an only child whose parents died when you were 10. You lived in foster care since then but now you are going to meet a benefactor who has promised you a job. There is no record of your birth with the New Republic or Falleen Federation because you were born as a Galactic Empire citizen. Missing anything?”
“I don’t think so. Who are you and Julia becoming?”
“I am now Kateri Nascosto and that is my little sister Julia Nascosto. I am twenty-two years old and I am her legal guardian. Both of us were adopted and our papers were lost during the adoption which is why there is no record.” Kateri looked me straight in the eye. “Ana, can you do this? Will you be okay on your own?”
A big part of me wanted to say hell no! I couldn’t do this! That part had my clinging to Julia who was still asleep in my arms. “Of course I can do this. How difficult could it be?” I didn’t stop clinging to Julia though. “You take the ship, and make sure Julia is safe, Miss Nascosto.” I tried to grin at Kay. She smiled back.
“I will protect her with my life, Miss Grey. Take care of yourself though.” She leaned forward to take Julia out of my arms. “It’s probably best that Julia is asleep for this.”
I nodded. “Bye, Kay. I love you. Tell Julia that I love her too.” I hugged her around Julia and kissed her cheek. “Bye, honey, be good for Kay.” I kissed Julia on her forehead and she stirred without waking up.
“Goodbye, Ana. I love you too, and so does Julia. I hope someday we’ll see each other again.” She left then carrying Julia. They were heading back to Kay’s ship to leave the planet. At that instant I felt so alone that I simply sat down in the middle of the road and rubbed my temples.
There were very few people around and no one bothered me as I sat in the street for several long minutes. With a sigh however I stood up and looked around. I needed to do something to take my mind off of my loneliness. I spent the next hour wandering the streets aimlessly, looking for anything to do. When the sun started to set however, I decided to find somewhere to sleep.
“Excuse me, miss? Are you lost?” A kind looking human approached me smiling.
“Yes, I think that I am.”
The man smiled again. “There is a hotel not far from here. You can get a room there for the night. I’m Marcus Lazli.” He held out his hand. I tentatively took it and shook his hand.
“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Lazli. Err, I have no money, so I’ll just go and sleep in the park over there.”
Marcus’s eyebrows pulled together in confusion. “Are you alright? What is a young girl doing wandering the streets alone? How old are you anyway?”
It took me a minute to sort through the different questions, spoken in such a foreign tongue. “I’m fine. I’m fifteen and I’m looking for a job. Know anywhere that is looking to hire?”
The man’s eyebrows were still knitted together, but he didn’t seem the type to press to hard for information. “There is an organization that’s main base is in this sector, they may be hiring.”
“Great! What organization? Where can I find them?”
Marcus took out a piece of paper and wrote a name at the top then several lines of words after that. “Here, you can find them here.”
I took the paper from him and squinted at the words. “I can’t read Galactic Basic. Speaking it is hard enough.”
“You can’t? Well you better learn fast. It says: Arkanian Trade Syndicate and this is an address for their base in the next city over. They are usually pretty good about hiring people.”
“Thanks. How far a walk is it to the next town?”
“Walk? That would take you probably three full days! Your best bet is to find a pilot heading that way who will give you a ride.”
“Thanks for the advice but I think I’ll walk. You were very helpful, Mr. Lazli.” I bowed slightly. “Take care.” I said in my native language before walking away. I broke into a slight jog in the general direction Marcus had indicated, heading out of the city so that I could sleep under the stars.
My trip to the next city over took less time than I thought it would. I arrived at dawn two days later and looked down at the city from a cliff. I had never seen so many building! Or people! It was overwhelming as I watched the crowds milling around on the streets around packed factories and offices. There were skyscrapers and a starport. I had never been in a city like this before and just the thought of walking down into it terrified me.
I took a deep breath and tried to calm my racing heart as I looked for a path down the cliff.
The city was even more packed and frightening up close. People shouted to each other in languages I had never heard. They pushed their way through the crowds and seemed intent on knocking me over. I spotted a few groups of pickpockets nearby but that didn’t worry me, I had nothing to steal.
Searching the faces of the crowd, I tried to find someone who looked friendly enough to give a girl a hand. No one caught my eye but there was a group of workers who were shouting for me to come over. I picked up my pace and ducked into an office building off the street.
“Can I help you?” An elderly sentinel woman smiled at me from behind a desk in the reception area.
“Yes!” I said in relief. “I am desperately lost. Can you please tell where this is?” I pulled the now wrinkled scrap of paper from my pocket and handed it to her.
“Ah, Arkanian Trade Syndicate. They operate most of the buildings in this city, you can go meet with them a few offices over.” She paused for a moment then spoke into a headset microphone. “George, come to the front desk, please. One moment, miss.”
I waited, looking at all the certificates on the wall and wishing I was able to read them. Within a minute a young boy came running down the hall and slid to a stop in front of the counter.
“Here I am, Grammy!” He didn’t hesitate to jump into the woman’s lap.
“George, I need you to show this nice lady where Arkanian’s base is.”
The boy made a face, “What’s in it for me?”
“I’ll give you a candy bar when you get back.”
“Okay! Come on, Ma’am.” I had to rush to keep up with the boy as he flew out of the lobby.
“Thank you!” I shouted to the woman as I hurried after her grandson. The streets were crowded and noisy still and panic set in when I didn’t see George right away.
“Come on! You’re slow!” He was suddenly at my side and grabbed my sleeve to pull me down the street with him.
“You can’t move very fast through this crowd anyway.”
“Sure you can, you’re just too big to fit under their arms. You’re pretty though so I forgive you.”
I chuckled. “Well thank you, George. How far is it to Arkanian’s base?”
“There.” He was pointing to a large building not too far down the street. Without letting go of my sleeve, George dragged me down the rest of the road and through a pair of sliding doors.
“Miss Livvy! Someone wants to join ATS!” George sprinted away to throw his arms around the receptionist. “Can I have candy for bringing her?”
The elderly lady laughed and handed him a piece of candy. “Tell your Grammy that I’ll see her tonight. Be safe, Georgy.” She planted a kiss on his forehead and sent him out the door.
“Bye, George, thank you.”
“So you are interested in a job, Miss? I’ll need to know your age.” I raised my eyebrow so she went on. “We don’t allow anyone under the age of eighteen to leave the planet without parent permission. We also don’t hire anyone under sixteen; we like to encourage children to remain focused on education as opposed to working. I’ll need to see birth records as proof that you are old enough to join our work force.”
“Oh, well…” I cleared my throat. “I don’t exactly have birth records. I’m eighteen though, I assure you.”
“It’s not that I don’t trust you, dear, it’s just that I would judge you to be only sixteen at the oldest and without records…” She trailed off and shrugged.
“Well, then…What kind of work can I do for this company without my birth records?”
“I’m afraid there is no work that Arkanian can offer you without the proper records. I’m sorry, Miss, have a good day.”
“Thanks, you too,” I mumbled as I walked out. I didn’t bother fighting the crowds on the street; I let them sweep me away. The sun was setting when I realized how hungry I was and I decided to find a pub. The one I chose was dimly lit and smelled appetizing. I found a seat in a lonely corner watching a loud and obnoxious crowd.
“What can I get you, darling?” A handsome waiter smiled at me crookedly.
“I don’t have money, sorry. Can I still sit here though?”
“Of course.” He sauntered away arrogantly. I went back to staring at the large crowd trying to get a glimpse of whoever was seated at the center of the ring. A shift in the people caused me a brief opportunity to see a Zabrak man sitting in the middle talking to several people at once. The waiter was walking back in my direction carrying a heavy platter.
“Excuse me, sir!” He turned toward me and walked to stand by my table.
“Who is over there that is so important?” I nodded toward the ring.
The waiter turned to look for a moment. “A New Republic Senator. He comes here pretty frequently but everyone still makes a big deal out of it. It is sort of difficult to see him but he is the Zabrak man sitting in the middle, Mr. Nat Dues. He also is a board member of Arkanian Trade Syndicate, a very nice man.”
“He works for ATS? Does he have the authority to hire people?”
The waiter raised an eyebrow “Yes, I believe so.”
I smiled. “Thank you kindly.”
“And here is some dinner, on the house.” I opened my mouth to decline. “Don’t worry about it, looked like you needed a good meal.”
“Thank you, sir. That is…very kind.” He smiled and put the plate on my table before walking away. I chewed the food carefully all the while watching the crowd for any sign that the Senator was leaving. I had finished the delicious food, I had no idea what it was, and the crowd was still large with no sign of thinning. After an hour of watching the Senator without break I nodded off against the wall behind me.
“We are closing up, lovely.” The waiter was back and shook my shoulder to wake me up. “Come on, up you go.” He put his arm around me to help me stand but I shook it off though.
“Stop calling me those kinds of names.” I brushed my hair out of my eyes and blinked the sleep from them.
“It makes me uncomfortable.” He just laughed so I looked around to see who was still there. The Senator I had been watching was gone though. I cursed. “When did Mr. Dues leave?”
“Just a minute ago, gorgeous.”
“Stop!” He shrugged. I shook my head in exasperation and nearly ran to the door. I couldn’t let the man I had been watching for hours get away before I could talk to him. The streets were nearly empty by this time, the sun was fully set and the only light came from street lamps. In the distance I saw a Zabrak walking away from me with no one around him.
I sprinted toward him. When I was close enough I yelled out, “Mr. Dues! Mr. Dues!” The man turned and waited for me to draw level with him.
“Was there something you needed, Miss?”
“Yes. I need to speak with you. I want to work for Arkanian Trade Syndicate.”
“Certainly. Our hiring office is right on this street. It is not open at this time, but if you head there tomorrow morning they will help you.” He started to turn away.
“I tried that already, they said I couldn’t work without birth records.”
“That’s true.” He sighed. “I’m looking at you now and I doubt you are even out of school yet, go back home and finish your education.” Once again he started to turn.
“My name is Analisa Grey.”
He turned back and raised an eyebrow. “Nice to meet you, Analisa. My name is Nat Dues as I believe you already know.”
“Do you know why I want you to know my name?”
“I have no idea.”
“It’s because there is not a single person on this planet who knows my name. Not one. There is no one person on this planet who gives a damn if I live or die. Mr. Dues, I don’t have a home to return to. Not anymore. I don’t just want to work, I need to work. I need to have a job so that I can continue to live. Mr. Dues, I need someone to help me.” It was the most words I had even spoken in Galactic Basic.
He was silent for a moment as he stared closely at me. “Okay.” He said at long last. “I’ll give you a chance. Meet me at the office tomorrow morning so we can work out specifics.
“Thank you, Mr. Dues! Thank you!” I wanted to hug him but instead I bowed and walked quickly away, nearly skipping in happiness.
I could hardly sleep that night and the next morning I got to the office before it even opened. Nat kept to his word and offered me a job as a pilot for Arkanian Trade Syndicate. I worked for them for years in many different departments and positions. When ATS reformed into Arkanian Royal Engineers, I accompanied them to this new name.
It was about eighteen months after I joined ATS that I got word from Kateri that all charges against her, Julia, and me had been dropped as they claimed Thakem had been eliminated. And still better, Amber had been released from prison. I was ecstatic at the idea of returning home. Of course it would be different, Thakem was gone and Mer was dead. But mom, Kay, Julia, Amber, and Thom were all there and well. They were my family and it was home. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that I may already be home. Not a place as much as a feeling. I felt like I belonged with the organization I had joined and that they were now family.
I did not return to Falleen in the end, nor did I change my name back to Jaylade. I was Analisa Grey now and I had found my place.