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Peaking around the corner of the bridge, Vanessa watched her mother work. Whether it was stooped over a console or tinkering on an engine panel, Jacqueline wore the same look of concentration. She was distracted and didn’t see the child enter. Vanessa blinked, finding it a little odd. For not having the Force, her mother was usually very perceptive. But recent days kept her on the bridge, preoccupied for hours at a time. Clearing her throat, the child stepped into sight.

“Mom?”

Looking up, Jacqueline blinked as she emerged from her workflow. Running a hand through her hair, she smirked as she knelt down. “Hey, kiddo. Sorry about that. Didn’t hear you come in. You all right? You tire everybody out and it’s my turn?”

“No, Daddy was playing with me and he was fun,” Vanessa told her. Indeed, the hide-and-seek game with Brembal was the highlight of the day so far. She hoped they could do it again. “Mom, are Daddy and Lydia going to stay this time?”

Jacqueline tucked a strand of hair behind Vanessa’s ear as she answered. “Depends, kiddo. There’s a lot going on right now. But we’re doing all of it to make sure you’re safe.”

“But it’s safest when we’re all together.”

Jacqueline’s hesitation was clear in both her voice and eyes. The emotion itself came off her just enough that the child felt it. Adult emotions were so strange. It felt like a combination of fear, and maybe a little sadness. Her mother spoke carefully, in a tone Vanessa had come to understand is what adults used when they didn’t want to say everything they should. “Brembal and Lydia might have to go for a little while again. But they’ll say goodbye this time. Okay?”

Vanessa shook her head rapidly. Clearly, her mother didn’t understand. It was a frustration roiling within her that the adults couldn’t spend more time together. Why did Mom and Dad not like each other? Why did Dad and Halo fight? The only adult who felt kind all the time was Lydia. She was distant at first but now Lydia was very warm. Maybe it was because of the baby — wait no, babies. There was more than one, now. Maybe this what mothers with little babies are like?

Mom should be like that, too. Warmer. Not sending them away. Especially not Lydia and Brembal.

“No, Mom.” Vanessa said firmly, her feet planted on the bridge, her eyes set forward. “Dad and Lydia and the babies get to stay.”

Jacqueline fell quiet. Vanessa blinked and sucked in her breath for a paralyzing moment, suddenly worried she was in trouble. But when her mother finally spoke, her tone was casual. Almost dismissive. Like nothing had happened at all.

Shrugging a shoulder, Jacqueline replied. “Alrighty. Don’t see why not. Now, let’s go find one of them and figure out why you’re wandering about on your own. S’not something we should be letting you do right about now.”

With that, her mother stood and gently ushered her from the bridge. Vanessa looked up at her, checking her face again. It was normal, her mother already looking for another one of the adults on the ship. And yet she felt… different. Had something changed?

Had it worked?

Author Ari
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