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(( The following is on my SWTOR smuggler, Captain Jacqueline “Jackie” Rees. ))


Seven Days Ago, Nar Shadda Underground

Rusted water sloshed up to her shins. Leaning heavily against the curved concrete wall, Jacqueline breathed in deeply, closed her eyes, then yanked the cloth tourniquet around her thigh. A red, jagged piece of rebar jutted from its center, the field bandages circling it stained dark brown and fresh red. The immediate pain made her head swim. Gritting her teeth, her nails clenching the pitted stone that made up the dark tunnels around her, the captain slowly recuperated. Using the wall for support, she moved on, walking slowly not only to reduce the pain but also any trickle of water splashing between steps. It was agonizing, languid, and other than the thudding in her ears, eerily silent. She was left alone in the dark, freezing at the slightest foreign sound that came to her ears, real, imagined, or otherwise.

When the intruder finally came, the slowness stopped. Jacqueline swerved into action, her right hand finally releasing its vice grip on the durasteel impaling her thigh. She twisted, pivoting fast and kneeling low, raising a blaster and leveling her sight, a fluid motion so easily done with two working legs. But her wounded leg gave out midway, causing her kneel to occur faster, too fast, and her good knee collided into the slippery floor. She felt the tell-tale, hot-poker pain of bone fracturing on collision. Still her blaster fired, releasing a flurry of gold shots towards her target. Her aim desperate, messy, and thrown from her injuries, it was a collection of hits and misses. 

Her enemy grunted and retreated, rounding a dark corner. Though only an utterance, she recognized the voice: Her rival.

�Figures, you cowardly fucker,� she swore aloud. �Get back here!� Yet she didn�t move. Her former good leg felt paralyzed, nailed to the floor after she rammed her knee into the concrete. Easing herself up from the ground, she braced her swelling knee, again gritting her teeth against the pain. Again she leaned against the concrete wall, barely able to move, her hunters and adversary too close for comfort, and darkness smothering her.

Shit,� she whispered hoarsely to herself, looking upwards at an unseen ceiling hidden by the darkness. �What the hell am I doing here?�

—-

Five Days Ago, Tatooine Med Bay

Jacqueline�s eyes snapped open. It took several moments before her gaze came into focus: Kolto tanks, blinking consoles, smooth sandstone walls. Taking in the sight of a familiar med bay on Tatooine, she groaned and leaned her head back on the sterile pillow. Recent events replayed in her mind, playing outwardly on her face as a growing grimace. 

Her left leg was bandaged and absorbing its latest Kolto injection. Her right knee was completely painless. Lying in the med bay, listening to the melodic beeps of its computers, Jacqueline forded the jarring difference the last twelves hours made. Soft light, harmless sounds, cordial voices just outside the bay door. A hand fumbled to her belt, hungering for a blaster. Finding herself disarmed, the captain eased herself off the bed, feeling a sudden urge to flee. The overly sterile room felt stifling, her skin suddenly flushed and prickling with the sensation of a flurry of needles. Her breath hitched and the thudding in her ears started again. It took several moments to reclaim herself, forcing the uninvited anxiety downward, even grinding a fist into her tender thigh until she salvaged her senses. 

Returning to the present, she felt the distinct thirst for a drink. Not just any drink, but the bitter but welcome taste of liquor. She smirked in spite herself, slowly easing back onto the med cot.

�Heh,� she grunted to no one. �So it starts.� She gritted her teeth, grinding her palms into her eyes and growled at herself: �Fucking get over it, girl.�

—-

Three Days Ago, Tatooine Surface

Tatooine days were altogether sweltering, having no concept of comfort or even moisture. Jacqueline avoided them, keeping her adventurous moments to evening when the planet�s twin suns cast long shadows across the compound. Limping but accepting help from no one, she retreated from the med bay into the open air, feeling the cut of sand against her skin each time the wind touched her face. She grinned. It was a welcomed sensation.

Rising above the recessed pits of the stronghold, she sat on the soft sand in the shade, easing her wounded leg out in a welcome stretch, and watched the wavering red band of the first setting sun slip beneath the horizon. Planetside sunsets were so different from their space counterparts. Tatooine lacked clouds, or they were at best miniscule or rare, making its red and yellow suns the main attraction of its twilight hours. So taken in by the planet-side sight that the captain did not hear the soft, tiny footfalls of a young girl coming up behind her.

�Mom?�

The single word spoken by a tiny voice made Jacqueline go rigid. She turned, quick to flash a disarming smile. �Hey there, kiddo.�

A young girl, Vanessa, smiled back at her, an expression so much like her own. She was flanked by armored guards though they kept a respectable distance from the pair. The girl leaned from side to side, her small hands fidgeting with her white coat, showing a nervousness toward Jacqueline that clenched deeply at her chest. �What�re you doing?� 

�Watching the sunset. Figured I see some stars, too. Come join me?� Jacqueline patted the sand beside her. Vanessa hesitated for only a moment before smiling and hopping onto her mother�s still-tender lap. Jacqueline gasped but twisted her outright grimace into a pained smile. �Whoa, kiddo,� she managed to chuckle, but in truth her hand balled into a fist against the pain, tightly clenching sand. �Careful. Mom�s still getting better.�

�Sorry,� the girl sounded genuinely apologetic, overly so. The anxiety on her young face was clear. Vanessa perched atop her mother like a flighty bird, looking every bit as nervous and ready to flee as Jacqueline was. The gap of years stood between them, stretching such terms as �daughter� and �mother� thin. But seeing the anxiety on the child�s face, the fear in brown eyes so much like her own, Jacqueline breathed in slowly and smiled.

�S�ok, kiddo. I�m scared too,� she told her. Her eyes wide at first, Vanessa bit her lip and smiled back. The admission opened something within the captain, the knot that wrenched in her chest moments earlier slightly easing. Just as she felt her chest grow lighter, Vanessa leaned back, replacing the weight with her head on her mother�s breast. Such a tiny weight, it struck Jacqueline suddenly. Yet so

�Can I watch with you?� Vanessa asked.

�Yeah,� Jacqueline breathed, exiting her thoughts. Tatooine evenings were starkly cooler, tonight’s moistened by the tears that threatened to spill from a mother�s eyes. �Till dark, then it�s bed, kiddo.�

“I don’t like the dark,” Vanessa whispered into her mother’s chest. Jacqueline’s lips were already pressed to the top of the child’s head before her thoughts caught up to her. Me, too.

“S’alright, I’m here, and even with this leg, pretty sure I can scare anything off that’d come by,” Jacqueline reassured her with a small smile.

“Okay,” the child giggled, leaning against Jacqueline. “I’m glad you’re here, Mom.”

Words spoken alone in the dark echoed in the captain’s mind. Before she could reply, Vanessa continued: “I missed you.”

Fucking say something already, Jacqueline kicked herself. “Day at a time,” she murmured, the child looked up at her in confusion.

“What, Mom?”

Looking down, Jacqueline exhaled and smiled slowly. “One day at a time, kiddo. We’ll get there. We’ll get there.” 

Together, the two watched the dual suns lower below the horizon, a twilight sky giving way to darker hues. They sat together till the sands were overtaken by the desert’s dark night, then longer as bright stars blinked awake in its clear sky. A swirling arm of the galaxy dotted with countless stars filled the air above them, the night’s treat to those who wade through its first lonely moments. They sat until two of Tatooine’s moons appeared, lighting the land in their incandescent glow. The night unfolded around them, mother and child sitting in the night’s dark that slowly filled with new sources of light.

Author Ari
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