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Tucked aboard The Defiant, a child slept. In the vacuum of space, set against the backdrop of millions of stars, there was no true sense of night or day. The crew imposes a schedule of their own, mimicking Coruscant time down to the dimmed lights in late evening hours. It was just enough to convince a tired child to lie to bed and dreams to take her.

 

—-

 

Vanessa walked alone. The ground beneath her was flat, featureless. Like a ship deck but without lights to guide the way. The child navigated it with uncertainty, reaching out her hands to find a wall somewhere in the darkness. The longer she wandered, the closer her fear drew to her.

 

"Mom?" she called out, her voice echoing. "Lydia?"

 

She felt compelled to walk forward. Like all dreams, she didn't question the notion at first, but as her tiny feet marched forward, the more apprehensive she became. Where was she? What was this place? Where was Mom? Lydia? She fought to still her feet yet they still walked forward. Her feet felt almost repelled from the floor, bid to lift and step forward over and over. Again the child felt the cold pang of fear and she called out again.

 

"Mom! Lydia!" Her cries went unanswered. Trying her best to concentrate as she walked, she reached out with her senses, hoping to feel familiar, calming presences. Nothing. The child could always locate her non-Force sensitive mother and Lydia now more than ever was a presence nearby. But she felt nothing. No one was there.

 

In their absence, fear finally snatched its hold. Tears streaked down the child's cheeks as she continued her forced march to a place unknown. She wept, repeating the names of earlier saviors. "Mom, Lydia, Halo… Daddy…"

 

Footsteps sounded behind her. Unable to turn around, Vanessa strained to look over her shoulder. A tall, broad man dressed in red walked toward her. His hair was white, his body fit, and posture of a man twenty years his junior. 

 

"Dad?" Vanessa gaped, at first unable to grasp what she saw. Then, "Dad! Daddy! Help me! I can't get away!"

 

Brembal brushed past her. His eyes never left a fixated point on the unseen horizon. His warmth, his smell, the comforting sense of his presence faded as quickly as he eclipsed her and walked further away.

 

"Dad? Dad, no! Stop! Daddy, don't go! Don't leave! Don't go away! DAD!" She screamed, she cried, tears poured down her cheeks. As grieved as she was, the child didn't realize she finally regained control of her own feet. But now they were heavier than lead, too heavy to chase the father she lost. When she finally tried to move and found herself anchored, her screams grew louder, tears fell thicker. Still, Brembal walked, deaf to her cries, now only a distant figure in red.

 

Curling her knees to her chest, Vanessa set her head upon them and wept. Her tiny arms hugged herself close in the darkness. A sudden glare of light blinded her, even with her eyes clenched and gaze at her feet. Looking up with an outstretched hand to shield her face, Vanessa saw Brembal finally turn around. As his eyes fell upon her, she felt her heart swell. His heroic figure was perfectly backlit against the intense light that shone behind him. A sudden sense of warmth and comfort enveloped her, dried her tears. She basked in his gaze. But it was quickly snatched away as his eyes drew elsewhere, on a woman who approached him from behind. Her identity was shrouded by the light before she finally came into view: Lydia. Yet she wasn't pregnant. So used to seeing her with child, Vanessa did not recognize her at first. But when she saw her embrace Brembal, she realized who it was.

 

"Lydia! Lydia, tell Dad to come back! Daddy can't leave, tell him he's not allowed to go! He can't go away again! He can't go away like last time!"

 

Lydia did not turn her head toward her. Instead she took Brembal's hand and they turned, walking away together. The light pulled them in.

 

"No, stop! Lydia, Dad, stop! Please…" the child begged, falling to the floor. "Mommy," she wept, trying again to feel for Jacqueline's presence. It was gone. It was as if her mother had simply vanished. No presence, no emotion, no trace of her left behind. She was motherless again. Like it was before. All of it was like it was before… left behind. Forgotten. The warmth and nest built around her in the last year suddenly gone. Ripped from her, and those who built then abandoned it deaf to her cries.

 

Footsteps behind her again. Vanessa's head snapped up with a gasp. Another man walked towards her, his build similar to the last. But he was a far younger man, a man whose posture matched his age, yet his walk bore only half the confidence of his predecessor.

 

"…Halo?" Vanessa could hardly see him through her tears. She could not feel him with the Force. She only saw his flesh and blood figure. It unsettled her, to feel so blind. Still, she tried to rise, go to him. Again, she found her feet like lead. "Halo, help me! Dad, Lydia, Mom… they're gone. I'm scared, I want to go home!"

 

Like with the others, Halonan kept walking. He brushed passed her, his eyes never leaving the light where his parents departed. 

 

"Halo? HALO!" The child screamed. Something within her tore open, like a dam letting lose an ocean of water. It let her wrench her heavy feet from the floor, propel towards him. Grasping Halonan at the waist, she buried her face into his shirt. 

 

"Halo, don't leave, please don't leave! Don't leave, don't…" she gasped for breath between sobs. "Halo, they're gone, they're all gone… Halo, they left me, they left me behind…" Halonan did not have the same smell Brembal had. Sometimes, Brembal felt far taller than his son. But Halonan had his own smell, his own deep voice, and his body felt solid in her embrace. It was him, for sure. It had to be Halonan. She had to keep him there. She had to keep him from moving toward the light, from disappearing like her mother. Where was her mother? Why was she gone? "Please Halo," she whispered against him. "Halo, please don't leave. Please don't leave like they did."

 

Halonan didn't move, not to the light in the distance, not to the weeping child that hugged at his waist. But he stood still, a pillar in the darkness. Vanessa clung to it till her fingers felt like breaking. Her sobs softened to tears then hiccups. Finally, he touched her. She flinched at first, not expecting a companion's touch. Then she leaned into his embrace as Halonan wrapped his arms around her. It felt warm, safe. She grasped onto him as he lifted her and turned around, walking away from the light that took the others away.

 

Looping her arms around his neck, Vanessa buried her face against Halonan's collarbone. "I love you, Halo," she murmured against him. He didn't reply. But he was there, holding her, walking away from this terrible place. That was enough. If only…

 

Again, she tried to reach out for her mother. Jacqueline was gone. She hiccuped against the threat of another sob. Why? Why was her mother gone? Where did she go? Why did she leave her here? But she felt… she felt Halonan. He was more than just holding her. She felt him there, embracing her through the Force. He was there. He felt real. And she also felt something else. Someone else. Someone who… Someone who had…

 

—-

 

She woke with a start, her dark hair plastered against her forehead from a sweat. Confused, rattled, she called out into the darkness: "Bedisa…?"

 

Arms were around her. Smaller than Halonan's, but just as warm. The voice was familiar. Lydia's. She was here, she wasn't gone. She was still here. Right? "No," Lydia replied. Since Brembal's death, her voice had become much firmer. "Why did you say that name?"

 

Vanessa's brows knitted in confusion. Already the dream was starting to leave her, its parts difficult to recollect. But the emotions of it remained, knotting in the pit of her stomach. Curling against Lydia, she clung to the woman and with several stops and starts, babbled out what pieces she could remember.

Author Ari
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