(( Related:. The following is on my SWTOR smuggler, Captain Jacqueline “Jackie” Rees. ))
Present Day, Shadowstar’s Training Chamber
“All right, now try this one. Ready?”
The two sat on the pristine dark floor of the Shadowstar training chamber. Jacqueline rested with her bandaged leg stretched out, her sturdy leg curled underneath. Vanessa, a tiny image of her mother, sat cross-legged with a scrunched expression, a child’s outward show of concentration that was as endearing as it was overemphasized. In the captain�s hand was a toy ship constructed of plastics and paint. She held it aloft, pointing to the twin pod engines nestled against its belly along with a quad set of vertical thrusters framing them.
�See these?� She instructed, pointing at the open vents of the thrusters. �This makes the ship stop quick on a dive. Then the engine,� she pointed to it. �Lets her accelerate. That means go really fast, really quick. Now, I�m going to drop her and you have to catch it, just like she�d do if she was flying. Ready?�
The child nodded, the concentration doubling on her face. In spite her best efforts to remain still, her knees bounced in anticipation.
�Go!� Jacqueline dropped the toy and though Vanessa focused intently upon it, it abruptly clattered to the ground.
�That�s fine, let�s do it again. And�� Again she released the toy, this time it minutely slowed before nose diving into the ground. �Better! Let�s do it again�� Again and again, they repeated the exercise until the child successfully stopped the toy midair. So excited about her accomplishment, Vanessa burst into a celebratory grin and accidentally broke her concentration, and again the toy clattered to the ground.
�Hey, nice job. Now, let�s do it again, longer this time. And then we�ll do the acceleration bit. These ships aren�t going to fly themselves.� Jacqueline winked, prompting a giggle from her daughter. They resumed and with the captain�s encouragement, the ship eventually performed a vertical halt and sped across the room in a semi-flawless motion. Semi-flawless, because the moment Vanessa successfully accelerated the ship across the room, it hit and bounced off the window that overlooked the hanger. And so another lesson began.
For all the tense moments and glances between them the day before, the play session momentarily released the stress between them. Fleeting but welcome, a stolen moment among days split between long shifts in the Dreadnaught engine room and brief nights on Tatooine.
Close by, a set of eyes watched mother and child, its gaze never far during their brief moments they thought were alone.
Present Day, Shadowstar Engineering Deck
�All right, let her run.� And with that, the engine boomed to life.
Jacqueline stood with a greased set of mechanics on the Dreadnaught engineering deck, watching a newly-upgraded engine hum then roar to life. Data and numbers whirled on a holo display, grading the engine�s performance. As the numbers climbed, Jacqueline�s grin grew.
�Beautiful. Well done, assholes. Engine Two is as pretty as Engine One. Now cut the power and get your asses on Four. Shit�s going to stay ahead of schedule. We�re putting her online tomorrow, then it�s all hands on deck on Three.�
Clearly used to her abrasive manner, the mechanics clapped one another on the backs in celebration and returned Jacqueline�s words in gusto. They took up their tools and turned all attention to the partially upgraded Engine Four. Between them lay Engine Three, its sides split open and insides dissected. The captain drew towards Engine Three, her limp only slight and not as pronounced as the days before. Staring upwards, a hand on her hip, Jacqueline pressed a hand against Three�s sides.
�Talk to me, girl. What�s still up with you?�
Engine Three proved an unexpected challenge. Preliminary scoping found that Engine Three was repaired during the Dreadnaught�s lifetime after extensive damages, likely as a result of a run in with the Republic; however, the repairs were clearly shoddily done and in a hurry. Then years of use led to unnecessary wear and tear on parts of the engine that, if repaired properly, could easily have withstood the test of time. It was a mechanic�s nightmare, but one Jacqueline had seen countless times. To see it in an Imperial Dreadnaught felt oddly comforting, given the Empire�s obsession with perfection and its naval superiority. Guess they can mess up as much as the rest of us, she chuckled to herself.
It was a scramble to scope the extent of the damage and redo the incompetent repairs that doomed the engine in the first place. Left on its own, the engine ran adequately, but coupling the shaky repairs with an Isotope-5 upgrade drew too close to potential disaster for the captain�s comfort. Eventually, Jacqueline opted to rebuild her from the ground up. A dedicated crew was assigned to it, working rotating night and day shifts, and the captain could most often be found there, immersing herself in its innards and coaxing it back from the scrapheap. She grew an odd obsession with it, often spending long hours touring or working its insides, long before the shift had ended.
Grasping a steel cable and latching up her harness, Jacqueline grinned and lifted herself up to access one of Three�s top panels. Getting off her feet was welcome and she seemed as at home suspended in air than she did on the ground.
�Don�t give up on me yet, girl. You�re gonna be fine,� Jacqueline patted the engine�s side and set to work. It kept her mind away from the fragile truce this moment was built upon.
Present Day, Tatooine Hanger Bay
�I love you.�
Halonan�s words hung in the air, swept up by Tatooine’s hot wind. He stood before her, almost waiting for a reply. When the captain missed her cue, his quirked brow was quick to make her laugh. The laughter was nervous, partly forced, and her gaze found anywhere to look but his face. Being Tatooine, there were few things that stood out worthy enough for a stare.
�Jackie.� How easily he could recreate her tone now. The single word caused a wince.
�I must have been high on meds when I said that the other day,� Jacqueline joked. She flashed a grin at Halonan, shrugging a shoulder. �I mean, we�ve barely spent any time together and we�re — �
�Jackie,� he stepped forward and took her hand. This quieted her, save a single muttered �damn it� that marked the end to her sentence. �We�re what?� he questioned her.
�I… don�t fucking know. Girlfriend, boyfriend, friends, lovers. Something.�
�Pretty sure you can say �I love you� if we�re some of those things.�
�Yeah well, not if you�re being a jackass.�
�How am I being a jackass?� Halonan asked. Again, Jacqueline was impressed with how quickly he learned. He was calm but stood plainly before her, refusing to budge. Before, it was common to see him crumple, cave, retreat. Her rough exterior wasn�t as intimidating to him as before. It inspired a smile from her, but outwardly it must have seemed out of place.
�You�re� shit. I don�t know, Halo. You�re leaving and this sucks. This isn�t over. Once those engines are done, there isn�t anything else. What, do I just work as a mechanic for your father forever? Wait until Vanessa makes a choice or the old Sith lets his guard down just fucking long enough to�� She trailed off, running a hand through her hair. �No, I�m being a shit. This isn�t what I should send you off with. You�re about to head off to get shot at. Not exactly decent of me to dump this on your goodbye.�
A conflict of emotions crossed Halonan�s face as Jacqueline spoke. She could see him force them down and settle with a chuckle: �Yeah, and here I was just hoping for an �I love you�.�
They both nervously laughed together, the air heavy between them. Like before, the hanger crew prepared for an approaching takeoff, clearing the area before it would be filled with a hot engine�s wake. The two came together in a kiss, feeling a renewed confidence that words stumbled over when making the same attempt. Finally he withdrew, a longing goodbye spoken between them. He disappeared into his ship and then into the waning day sky.