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Without the Force, Ubik wouldn’t have been alive, she was sure of that. The only thing about her that wasn’t battered was the clothes she wore, stolen from where they’d been drying. They were damp, ill-fitting and coarse. On the plus side, the clothes were only damp with water and by the smell of it, cheap detergent and maybe some kind of juice. It was better than her own clothes, which were soaked with blood, most of which was hers.
Now, she needed… “Mom.” She smacked a hand against the side of her head, shocking herself back into the moment. No, no. Her mother was gone. She needed… she couldn’t concentrate. She wasn’t used to being alone. She’d always had someone to tell her what to do. For the first time, she was on her own, left to her own devices.
Think. Think. Okay, she could do this. Step one was easy. She needed to put space between herself and Michaud. If he realised she was alive, he wasn’t going to want her to stay that way. He was going to send everyone he could for her. She wasn’t ready for that. She was too weak, too injured. She needed to get off-planet. She hauled herself to her feet and leaned against a wall. She had to find a dock. She could work out how to deal with the fact that she had no credits when she got there. She’d find a way.
A ship roared overhead and Ubik looked up. How had she got to the dock? When had she? Her memory was unclear. There were blank periods, periods when she might have blacked out. It didn’t matter. She was there. All she needed was to find passage on a ship, get a bunk, lie down, rest. Nearby, crew were loading cargo onto a YV-929 armed freighter. She knew the ship type. Her mother’s company… what had been her mother’s company had owned a couple of them for particularly dangerous routes. She crossed the platform and approached a Trandoshan. “Speak to captain?” She blinked. She needed to do better, to talk properly. “Can I speak to your captain?” He just laughed. Her camouflage, her normal, demure appearance was a weapon in her arsenal, but apparently, it was working against her. She caught the Trandoshan’s eyes in an unblinking stare. “You will take me to your captain.” She focused. She kept her voice low, calm and even. He laughed and shoved her backwards. She fell to the floor. With a snarl, she reached for the weapon secreted in her jacket, the one thing she’d managed to hold onto, the only thing she needed to hold onto. She stopped short. She couldn’t afford to pick fights. That wasn’t who she was now.
Ubik rose to her feet with laughter in her ears. She dug her fingernails into the palms of her hands to distract herself as she looked for another ship. Another ship caught her eye, a Suwantek freighter unless she was very much mistaken. She smiled as she crossed the platform: she had a good feeling about this one. A woman, maybe ten years or so her senior sat on one of the loading ramps, with a drink that smelled like it was almost as certainly toxic as it was alcoholic. With her best sweet smile, Ubik approached the woman. “Might I speak with your captain?”
Seated with her pie and ‘cocktail’, Quill watched as some local kid approached the crew of another ship. The Dream of Alderaan: a pretty name for a ship run by a crew that the kid would have been well-advised to keep away from. With a frown, she put her pie down and started to rise to her feet. Before she could intervene, the kid had been shoved over. Quill grimaced and shrugged. Unfortunate, but if the Dream’s crew were happy to leave it there, she wasn’t going to worry about it too much. Plus she had pie to worry about. She was about to pick her pie back up when she realised that the kid was heading her way.
Quill returned the kid’s smile. “Might be you already are. I mean, I am my captain.” She grimaced. Almost all of those words could have been better. She reached down to gather up her pie. “You looking for passage?”
She stopped short of trying to use the Force to influence the captain. It hadn’t worked well, so far. “I don’t have much money,” she said. She dug deep, focused on the memory of her mother and her fear of the very real fact that if she didn’t get off world, she would be in real danger. She held onto that fear tightly, cherishing and nurturing it, trying not to let it blossom into anger and the desire to fight back. That way of thinking wouldn’t help her. A tear rolled down her cheek, and another. “I don’t have any money, but I can work.”
Juggling her load so that her drink was resting on her plate, she reached for the kid’s shoulder but stopped short. “Let’s get you inside, yeah?” She caught the kid’s eye and gave her a reassuring nod. “Tell me your name, what’s going on and we’ll sort something out, yeah?”
Across the platform, the Trandoshan barked something in Dosh to his crewmate and the pair laughed. Quill didn’t know enough of the language to know what they were saying, but she had little doubt that it was an insult to her. “Jetar madle!” It was the only Dosh she knew and she was pretty sure it was an insult. Then she gave them a hand gesture that was understandable in any language, before leading the kid up into the ship.
“I’m Aquilla Farron. My friends call me Quill, hopefully we’ll be friends, yeah? This ship is The Ash Star. We do freight and sometimes passengers like you.” She led the kid to an empty cabin. “You weight in here. I’ll get you some dry clothes, yeah? Bit taller than you, but I’ll be able to sort something out.”
Quill made her way to her own cabin and frowned as she realised the kid had followed her. Well, she did seem needy. She forced a smile. “Yeah, it’s nicer than yours, but being captain has to have some privileges, right?” She didn’t have much of a wardrobe, but she opened it up, letting the kid pick some clothes out for herself. “Right. I’m going to let you get changed in here. I’ll wait in the lounge. Down the corridor to the right. You come find me when you’re ready, yeah?” Gathering up her pie and drink, she headed down the corridor to the ship’s lounge. She seated herself at a table with her pie in front of her. She didn’t know what Saryn would make of all of this. She was the captain though. The decision was hers.
“Quill,” she echoed. She blinked at the sight of her cabin. Now that was more familiar. Michaud had left her quarters on his ship more spartan: to hone her warrior spirit so he’d said. Quill told her to wait, but she followed silently behind her, like a lost child. The captain’s cabin wasn’t much better. Maybe a little larger, but most of that space was lost to cheap, tasteless decoration fighting to brighten the place up. From the look of the ship, it had taken a real beating at some point. She picked out some clothes from the captain’s collection and looked to the older woman for approval. The captain seemed happy enough to depart and leave her to get changed. “Ubik,” she said softly. “My name’s Ubik.” Once the captain had gone, she shed her stolen clothes and pulled the captain’s clothes on. They weren’t a great fit, but they’d do. She tossed her stolen clothes into ‘her’ cabin before following the captain to the lounge.
Ubik didn’t take a seat, she just stood by the table, head down, looking at the pie, then quickly glancing away. So sorry, lady captain, little meek me didn’t me to stare at your food. She raised her eyes towards the pie again, then glanced away.
“Sit down already.” From the way that the girl kept looking at her pie, it seemed like maybe her second instinct hadn’t been quite as far off as she’d thought. She made sure to retrieve her drink before sliding the plate across the table. “Help yourself. Way more than I could eat there, anyway.” As anyone who knew her would know, that meant that there was exactly enough for her to have some now, maybe give only the most modest amount to Saryn if he played his cards right and save the rest for another time.
She reached across the table for Ubik’s hand. “I need you to tell me what you’re running from, sweetheart. I can do this stuff on a no information, no questions basis, but it costs and I don’t think you can afford it, so I need to know what trouble I might be getting my crew into. And look at it this way, the more I know about what the danger is, the better I can help you.”
She sat quickly, still looking wide eyed and startled. Slowly, cautiously, as if she was afraid that the offer would be rescinded, she reached across the table to pull the pie towards her. She eschewed the frankly rather large spoon that Quill had been using, in favour of taking large handfuls from the pie, wolfing down pastry and fruit. She gagged and coughed slightly, but it was the first thing she’d eaten in far too long for her to do anything other than push on. She flinched away from Quill’s
Questions. She’d been asked things, hadn’t she? Right. “Rich guy. Killed my parents.” She didn’t know for sure that her dad was dead. He probably didn’t need to die. He was an ineffectual man. Was that true? She engaged a largely dormant, inquisitive part of her mind, taking the time to compare what Michaud had taught her with what she could verify. His version of her mother bore virtually no resemblance to the truth. Her father was exactly what he said though. “Wants to kill me, make sure he keeps my mom’s company.”
“Hey, hey. Slow down, kid. You’ll make yourself sick.” She reached for the pie to try to move it out of Ubik’s reach a little, to force her to slow down. “If this guy’s after you, couldn’t you just try going to the authorities, maybe?” It didn’t sound like Ubik’s problems were anything she couldn’t help with. She just wasn’t sure if there weren’t better ways of dealing with it.
When Saryn emerged, Quill arched her eyebrows and smiled. “He stirs. Rough night?” she suggested. For all she knew he’d been up for a while, but where was the fun in acknowledging that?
A stray? She caught Ubik’s eye. “You’re not using this, right?” She barely waited for an acknowledgement before grabbing the spoon that she’d been using to eat the pie. Her pie. She winked and lowered her voice to whisper conspiratorially. “Five points if I hit him, ten if the pie filling makes it stick to his fur.”
Quill tossed the spoon across the room at Saryn. “Be nice, Saryn. She needs our help and in return, she’s going to help out around here.” She hadn’t worked out quite what form that help would take, but they’d get there. “And you can ask her your name herself. I don’t think she bites.”
Something was coming, though and Ubik made herself as small as possible, looking scared as she watched a Bothan come into the lounge. Ubik laughed sarcastically in response to Quill’s ‘quip’ about running the ship on her own. How condescending. She reached behind her and drew the weapon she had stashed in her jacket. Before the weapon was free of her clothes, she thumbed the activation stud and a crimson blade leapt out, spearing Quill through the chest and making a hole in the seat behind her.
It would have been so easy.
“Seems lonely anyway,” Ubik said to the captain. “Two people, all this ship.” The Bothan carried his lightsaber openly, but she forced herself not to focus on it. A stray? She gritted her teeth. She’d show him. No. No. She couldn’t be that. Quill tossed a spoon at Saryn and apparently thought she was funny for it, so Ubik humoured her with a smile. She rose to her feet with poise. “My name’s Ubik. Thank you for allowing me onto your ship.”
She caught the look he threw her way and fixed him with a wide-eyed look of her own. She didn’t like secrets, not on this ship. Saryn’s secrets had gotten an awful lot of people killed before, people that she cared about. He was going to tell her sooner, rather than later. If he didn’t, she wasn’t going to be the only person on board who had a painful reminder about her friend Rhysa, today.
For now, she was willing to play his game, though. She trusted him that far. The only question that left though was whether that meant that she wasn’t supposed to trust Ubik. And if Saryn was being this cautious, just what the hell were they dealing with?
With a thoughtful frown, she glanced at the weapon the non-Jedi was carrying. He’d recognised her quicker than she'd hoped. Some more time would have been helpful, so he could get to know her. Right now, she didn't know if he was just going to try to kill her. She shouldn’t have been surprised. She could feel that he wasn’t like her, so it only followed that he could feel the same about her. “Isn't that dangerous? You know what I hear also makes a good glowrod? Glowrods.”