Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away

The Road to Rediscovery
Part 26 - A Friendly Favor

“Viridan, this is the Sojourn docking control. You are clear to dock in bay number two. We are lowering the ray shields now.”

“Thank you Sojourn,” Kionee replied into the comm and took her ship in slowly to the underbelly of the hammerhead cruiser in orbit over Telos. Citadel Station sprawled out beneath both ships. These days there seemed to be a new module added almost every week. The quiet sphere of Telos looked red and barren beneath the station, but Kionee knew it not to be as lifeless as it seemed from space. In growing patches here and there across the planet, life was beginning to thrive again. Kionee had the pleasure of watching it progress with each trip she took to the surface with more plants and animals.

The rectangular window's ray shields on the hull of the ship before her flickered and ceased. Kionee eased the Viridian and into the docking bay of the Sojourn. She cut her main engines and powered up her repulsor coils, landing lightly on the deck.

“I do wonder what Admiral Onasi wants you for all of a sudden,” MT-412 asked as Kionee ran through the shut down procedures of her ship.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Kionee admitted. “Probably some special shipping job or something like that. But he does have plenty of his own pilots and a shuttle or two. Why knows?” Finishing the last of her checks with mechanical efficiency, Kionee stood up and stretched. “Would you watch the ship Emtee?” she asked, “I don't think I'll be needing you when I visit Carth.”

“Of course Mistress Kionee,” Emtee nodded his metal head, “You need not even ask.”

“Thanks Emtee,” Kionee replied smiling, “I'll be back in a while.”

She straightened her khaki vest and the knotted cotton scarf around her neck, then strode down into the cargo hold and out of the ship onto the Sojourn. A Sullustan in a crisp green navy uniform was already waiting at the foot of her loading ramp. Seeing him, she greeted in clumsy Sullustese, “Tasbota. Agasibayo?”

“Agaraileyo,” he chortled in return, both pleased and surprised by her use of the language. He then addressed her in Basic, “Admiral Onasi is waiting for you, Kionee Rinnh.”

“Thank you,” she nodded, “Show the way.”

“Right this way,” he replied and started towards the doors in the back of the hangars at a brisk pace. Kionee had no trouble keeping up with him, having at least a quarter of a meter of height on him. He led her to a lift. As they waited for it to arrive, he asked, “How do you know my language? It is not common in a human.”

“I make a point of knowing at least basic greetings in as many languages as I can,” she replied honestly, “It seems like the polite thing to do.”

He chortled a laugh. “I like the way you think,” he replied, “You must be an interesting human, Kionee Rinnh.”

The lift arrived and they stepped inside with the two other soldiers who were also on their way up. Two levels later, Kionee's Sullustan guide led her off and down a long corridor towards the head of the ship. Before they reached the bridge area, however, he stopped short at a door on the left wall. A plaque beside it denoted, 'Carth Onasi, Admiral.' He pressed the comm button outside the door and announced, “Kionee Rinnh is here to see you, Admiral.”

“Thank you Lieutenant Snubb,” Carth's voice answered, “Send her in please.”

“Yes sir,” Snubb replied sharply. He pressed the door command button and it slid upward abruptly. He nodded at Kionee to proceed.

“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Kionee said and walked inside. Snubb closed the door behind her. Carth's quarters were small, bordering on cramped. A messy desk surrounded by a few chairs took up the front section while a narrow bunk, a foot locker, and a small set of shelves filled the back. She assumed that the door in the back led to a private refresher. These were the luxuries afforded to an Admiral on his ship. Privacy, it seemed, was luxury enough in and of itself.

Carth himself sat behind the desk piled high with a mess of datapads and other articles. Another man in civilian clothes sat in one of the chairs before the desk, one leg crossed over his lap. He stood up respectfully as Kionee entered. He was nearly as tall as Kionee but much more solidly built, with thick blond hair and pleasant blue eyes.

“Kionee,” Carth began, “Thank you for coming on such short notice.”

“Any time Carth,” Kionee replied. I still owe him a hundred times over for saving my life twice.

Carth straightened up behind his desk and extended a hand towards the other man. “Kionee, this is Mical Tarwellen,” he introduced, “Mical, this is Kionee Rinnh.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you,” Mical said and closed the space between himself and Kionee with two swift steps. His voice was mellow and almost musical. He extended his hand.

Kionee took it and shook it firmly. “It's good to meet you too,” she replied, smiling. She felt her heart beating a little more quickly in her chest. Mical waited for Kionee to sit down before he resumed his place in his own chair again.

“Kionee, I have a favor to ask of you,” Carth began, “If it's not too much.”

“I'm sure it's not,” Kionee waved it off. “What do you need from me?”

“Can you take Mical with you when you next go back to Onderon?” Carth asked.

“That's it?” Kionee laughed, “That isn't a problem at all. Going that direction I won't even have any krasna or maalraas to bother him. It's just me, Emtee, and an empty ship. We have plenty of oxygen to spare.”

“Thanks Kionee,” Carth replied.

“Yes, thank you,” Mical added.

“You're really saving me a mess of paperwork by taking care of his transportation outside of of the navy,” Carth said.

“It looks like you have enough of that already,” Kionee laughed, eying the piles on his desk.

“When will you take your next trip to Onderon?” Mical asked her.

“I was planning on leaving tomorrow morning at around nine, Citadel time,” Kionee replied. She quickly added, “Is that too soon for you?”

“No,” Mical reassured her, “I am ready to leave whenever you are. Carth did say that you tended to run back and forth between Onderon and Telos very quickly.”

“Oh good,” Kionee nodded. “Did you want me to pick you up here in the morning then?”

“No, that's alright,” Mical shook his head. “I have arranged for a room on Citadel Station tonight. I will meet you at your ship in the morning. Where do you usually have it docked?”

“Docking Module thirty six, bay three,” Kionee answered, “The Viridian is a Nubian Javan-class freighter.”

“Excellent,” Mical nodded.

“Thank you Kionee,” Carth added, “You really are doing us a big favor. I might have to ask you to bring Mical back here when he is done on Onderon too.”

“That won't be a problem at all,” Kionee replied quickly, “I am back there often enough, he can just catch me at the front end of one of my pick-ups.”

“I would appreciate that,” Mical commented.

“Well,” Carth started again, “I won't hold you any longer, Kionee. Have a good evening.”

Taking that as her dismissal, Kionee stood up. Mical rose with her again. “You know you can ask me to carry anyone or anything at any time,” Kionee told Carth. “And it was good to meet you, Mical. I'll see you tomorrow morning.”

“Until tomorrow then,” Mical replied with a polite smile.

Kionee smiled shyly back and turned to go. She pressed the door release and hurried outside where Lieutenant Snubb was waiting to lead her back to her ship. Kionee's head felt fuzzy inside. She giddily looked forward to tomorrow's journey.

Mical was already waiting for her, staring admiringly up at her ship, when Kionee arrived at her docking bay in the morning. Hands clasped thoughtfully behind his back, Mical wore a simple cream tunic and brown vest with only a small travel satchel slung across his shoulder. Kionee stood in the hangar's entrance, looking at Mical with the same thoughtfulness that he gazed at the Viridian.

Even before she reached her room on Citadel Station last night, Kionee realized that she had totally forgotten to ask what Mical did or why he needed to go to Onderon in the first place. He looked fit and strong, but did not have the bearing of a soldier. He was too calm, almost gentle. If he needed Kionee's help to get to Onderon, he was obviously not a pilot. He was not aggressive enough to be a businessman. Maybe he was an ecologist like Laylien—but then again, why would Carth, an Admiral in the Republic Navy, need to send an ecologist to Onderon. TRP already had a small army of ecologists stationed there, studying the ecosystem in action. Kionee shrugged and shook her head. I won't learn anything more by just looking at him.

She took a deep breath and started into the hangar again. Almost immediately, Mical turned to the sound of her boots against the pavement. “Good morning Kionee,” he hailed her with a smile and a small wave.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Kionee apologized.

“No, don't apologize,” he argued gently, “I arrived early.”

“All the same...” Kionee started, but found she did not have the words to finish her argument as she drew nearer to Mical.

“I want to thank you again for agreeing to take me to Onderon,” Mical started.

“No, it's nothing,” Kionee replied, “I am going that way anyway. And it is nice to have a passenger now and then. You can only watch the same holovids so many times, or chat with a droid for so long.”

Mical chuckled. A small whine came from the underbelly of the ship as the loading ramp began to descend.

“You have a personalized proximity sensor on it?” Mical asked, impressed, as they started towards it.

“No,” Kionee answered, “That was probably just Emtee noticing that I was here.”

“Emtee?” Mical questioned.

“MT-412, the family protocol droid,” Kionee answered, felling a little ashamed that she had not explained that before. “He's my co-pilot too.”

“A protocol droid that flies,” Mical nodded, “Now that isn't something one hears of often.”

“Cash, my brother, added that to Emtee's protocols when I needed a new co-pilot and it's worked out ever since,” Kionee explained. Reaching the foot of the ramp, she gestured upward, “Well, let's head aboard.”

They entered through the cargo hold and Mical looked around appreciatively, taking it all in. “So this is where you keep your shipments from Onderon?” he observed.

“Yup,” Kionee affirmed, “It was fitted out for produce shipments, so it only need a few modifications to be ready to haul growing plants and livestock.” Her dry crate storage had been converted into pens for the animals, and oxygen vents had been added to the coolers and freezers, along with a spray irrigation system. “Would you like a tour?”

“Please,” Mical responded warmly, “If you would.”

“Alright,” Kionee nodded, “The hold here takes up most of the ship, but up this way...” they climbed the half set of steps up to the living area of the ship. At the top of the stairs two narrow corridors branched out from the larger one, which led straight into the cockpit. “There are two bunk rooms, one on each side. On the port side here is the galley. It's really not much. And on the starboard side is the 'fresher and supplies cabinet. The starboard bunk room is all yours for our trip.”

“Thank you,” Mical said again.

“And this is the cockpit,” Kionee said, leading him forward. Wide transparisteel windows arched across the front of the ovular cockpit.

“Hello there. You must be Kionee's passenger,” Emtee said suddenly, sitting in the copilot's chair already. “I am MT-412, manager of the Viridian.”

Mical raised an eyebrow and suppressed a smile at that comment. “My name is Mical Tarwellen, a historian and scientist for the Republic,” he introduced himself, putting a hand to his chest.

“It is a pleasure to meet you Mical Tarwellen,” Emtee responded, “I hope you find the Viridian comfortable during our flight.”

“I am certain I will,” Mical replied, smiling.

“Well, we should be on our way,” Kionee started, “Everything is ready, Emtee?”

“Sealing the hold now,” Emtee reported.

“You can ride through take-off in your bunk if you'd like,” Kionee told Mical.

“If you don't mind,” Mical started, pointing to one of the passenger seats at the back of the cockpit, “I would rather stay here and enjoy the view of Telos' rebirth.”

“Sure,” Kionee quipped, her heart beating faster at the thought of Mical watching her fly. “Of course.” What's wrong with me? He's not a pilot. He's not grading me on my flying or anything. I don't have to be nervous. “Strap in then while we get the Viridian going,” she advised and swung around the pilot's seat. As Kionee prepared the ship's start-up processes and reviewed the hyperspace calculations that MT-412 had prepared, she felt overly self-conscious of her movements. She could hear Mical fiddling with the straps and buckle of his seat harness behind her.

“If everyone is ready, let's go,” Kionee announced. She engaged the repulsorlifts and fired up the sublight engines. Emtee triggered the airlock and opened the ray shields to space. The Viridian lifted off the floor of the hangar and glided out. Kionee wove her way through the floating city of Citadel Station and away from the atmosphere. Checking her flight path twice, Kionee swung the Viridian the planet and away from the sun in an Onderon-ward arc. In minutes, the ship was free of Telos' gravity well and in the appropriate jump zone.

She eased off the sublight engines and instructed, “Engage the hyperdrive.”

Emtee's mechanical hand drew the lever back and the Viridian launched forward, stars drawing out long white lines across the front viewports.

Kionee let out a sigh and released the control yoke. It was an easy jump she could practically execute in her sleep, but somehow, Kionee felt relieved to have it over with.

“It's a beautiful ship,” Mical complimented, loosening his straps, “And it flies well too.”

“My dad designed it,” Kionee answered reflexively.

“Then you are the daughter of Gad Rinnh of Rinnh Imports, are you not?” Mical asked.

Unbuckling herself from her own seat, Kionee threw her legs around the side and leaned on the back, answering, “Yeah. But he was a ship designer with the Nubian Shipyard before he decided to go sell fruit.”

“That is an interesting career switch,” Mical said, his blue eyes dancing with excitement at the new bit of information. “Then you must be the Kionee Rinnh that was listed as one of the heroes of the Star Forge.”

“Ah, that,” Kionee blushed, “Right. I was just kind of in the wrong place at the right time and I managed to live through it all.”

“What do you mean by that?” Mical asked, “The Republic was rather selective on the details it released to the media on your mission. If you don't mind, that is.”

“I, uh, well, I thought I could smuggle some kolto off Manaan under the noses of the Selkath and the Sith,” Kionee admitted, embarrassed, “It was a stupid idea, but there was an outpost on Erai that I knew was almost totally out of kolto and couldn't get any more because of the dead-lock between the Sith and the Republic on Manaan.”

Mical nodded, uninterrupting.

“The Sith caught me and locked me up on the Leviathan,” Kionee continued, “I only got out alive because they also caught the Ebon Hawk that day, and those guys went in with a plan of escape. Ev happened to see me in my holding cell and broke me out, because that's the kind of woman she is.”

“By Ev you mean Revan?” Mical inquired.

“Yeah,” Kionee answered, “I was with them when Malak appeared and told Ev that she really was Revan and didn't remember it.”

“Then it is true that Revan's redemption was not a choice of her free will,” Mical marveled.

Kionee nodded. “From the sound of it, I'm pretty sure the Jedi did it to her, hoping that she would turn around and save the Republic, not knowing her own past,” Kionee replied, “But I was a bit of an outsider with that group. After I got the Viridian back and we all got off the Leviathan, I followed them to Korriban. I didn't know what to make of the whole Revan thing, but I knew I couldn't just let it slip by. And then I got caught spying on them, just as the Sith realized that they were there and I wound up on their ship for the rest of their mission.

“Carth likes to make a big deal out of how I flew during that last battle. I was his co-pilot after Ev left with Bastila and I didn't freeze up under Bastila's battle meditation,” Kionee admitted, “That was the most I did for them. I really didn't deserve the Cross of Glory that they gave me.”

“Still, in that you kept the crew alive,” Mical argued, “and that alone is worthy of recognition. Heroes are worth little once they are dead.”

“But I'm no hero,” Kionee replied.

“I suspect that is only because you don't want to be,” Mical pointed out.

Kionee flushed. It might be true. “You said you were a historian?” Kionee asked, flustered, turning the conversation away from herself.

“Yes,” Mical nodded, “and a scientist, though my peers would call me more of a historian than a scientist. Recently, I have been studying the Jedi Civil war and the Jedi's part in it. I would love to ask you more questions about your travels with Revan and Bastila later, if that is alright with you.”

“Of course,” Kionee agreed, “Though I don't have that much to tell. I only joined them at the end.”

“Anything you can say to help illuminate the true course of events during the end of the Jedi Civil war would be greatly appreciated,” Mical said.

“So that brought you to Onderon?” Kionee asked. “I thought Onderon was pretty much untouched during the Jedi Civil War. That's why we have had such luck getting the ecosystem out of there now. One reason, anyway.”

Mical nodded. “But all history affects the events that come after it,” he explained, “Onderon has held an important place in several previous wars where the Sith were present.”

“Right,” Kionee nodded, searching her brain for the history she studied as a child, “Duxn was a major battleground during the Mandalorian wars, but that was just Mandalorians, not Sith. Though, Onderon was the site of some battles with the Krath, right?”

“Related to the Krath and Exar Kun,” Mical nodded, “It was in that war that the galaxy lost Arca Jeth and his students had their first encounter with the Dark Side. One went on to become a Sith Lord while another is now the Grandmaster of the Jedi order. But Onderon has had ties to the Sith much older than that.” He paused, then asked, “About how long does it take to get to Onderon from Telos?”

“About twenty nine standard hours,” Kionee replied. “A pretty short jump.”

“You must be accustomed to plenty of long space travel,” Mical said, turning the conversation away from himself.

“Yeah,” Kionee agreed, “I grew up doing it. The Viridian my home. Or at least it was until I got my apartment on Citadel Station. Still, it feels like home to me. Where are you from, Mical?”

“These days I have been traveling around considerably as well, though I was educated on Alderaan,” Mical did not answer the question directly.

“You're not with the navy, so how did you meet Carth?” Kionee asked.

“I came to him hoping to further my research on the quest of the Ebon Hawk and her crew,” Mical explained, “and we found that we had similar interests, as far as research is concerned. We decided to collaborate, his resources and my mobility.”

Kionee nodded, wondering what Carth was interested in researching now that he would need Mical's help with. Carth had the Telos Restoration Project to worry about already.

“How about your family?” Kionee asked.

“I have not been in contact with them lately, regrettably,” Mical answered, clearly not wanting to say more.

“Sorry,” Kionee murmured.

“No, it is alright,” Mical reassured her. He stood up and stretched. “Now that we are safely in hyperspace, would you mind showing me how to use your food synthesizer?”

“I can whip up something really quick,” Kionee said, standing up out of her own seat quickly, “The Viridian's is a bit complicated, so don't worry about it. What kind of food do you like?”

“Whatever you come up with is fine with me,” Mical assured her.

“Great,” Kionee replied nervously and headed for the galley, “Feel free to make yourself comfortable in the meanwhile, or pick Emtee's brain about Onderon if you want.”

Kionee shuffled into the galley feeling light-headed and nervous all at once. If she had not been so practiced at creating meals from the synthesizer, she probably would have botched it in her absent-mindedness. It had to be over a year since she took a passenger on the Viridian with her, probably longer. After all that time, her ship felt like a very private space to her while in space. Kionee hardly felt like Mical was invading that privacy, however. He was engaging, polite, and obliging. She really did enjoy having someone new to talk to and to learn from. Mical piqued her curiosity. She could tell, just by the way he talked, that he knew a lot and had a lot to say, but left much left unsaid.

Kionee suddenly had the urge to offer her services to other passengers for the TRP back and forth between Telos and Onderon, if only because she hoped Mical would take her up on it again. She itched to know him better.

Mical sauntered down the narrow corridor and tried to look around her at the food synthesizer as she worked. “These machines have always fascinated me,” he admitted, “How they can take elemental building blocks and turn them into synthesized food.”

“It usually doesn't taste too far from the real thing either,” Kionee said, “Even if the texture is often a bit off. I'm trying to do this Tetan satay and rice dish that my brother had at his wedding. It usually turns out pretty good synthesized.” She tapped away at the key pad, balancing out the ingredients. A few more clicks and she was finished. “It will be about another fifteen minutes,” she said.

“You have my thanks again, Kionee,” Mical said.

Kionee felt a shiver tickle up her spine as he mentioned her name and turned back to the synthesizer to hide her blush.

The rest of the trip passed pleasantly. After their meal, Mical retired to his bunk to do some reading, but later appeared again to ask Kionee about her adventures on the Ebon Hawk. He was particularly interested in Ev, every aspect of her that Kionee could remember. Kionee herself had not seen Ev since after the awards ceremony on Coruscant, but she heard it from rumor even before Carth admitted it himself that Ev had left on another quest of her own with Juhani. No one, not even Carth, seemed to know where she had gone or what she was seeking, but the fact was, that she had gone. Mical seemed troubled by this, more than anything. Nothing Kionee said about Ev's generous character seemed to reassure him completely.

The next afternoon, they came out of hyperspace in Onderon's system. Although she did not have to, Kionee approached the planet over the back of its moon Duxn. The vibrant green planet rose dramatically up over Duxn's misty horizon. She hoped Mical would appreciate the view. As she flew, Kionee narrated about how many of the plants and animals used on Telos were also found on Duxn, and were actually from Duxn, carried over when the moon's ovular orbit took it close enough for the two atmospheres to touch. From the way Mical responded, he seemed to already know all of this, but he listened politely to Kionee anyway.

They broke through Onderon's atmosphere and landed in the outer west quarter of Iziz, where Kionee's contacts were stationed. Once landed, Kionee walked Mical off of the ship as he took only his satchel with him.

“Thank you for the ride, Kionee,” he said as their feet touched down on the stony ground of Iziz. “And for your company. It has been a pleasure.”

“Any time,” Kionee replied welcomingly, “If you want a ride back to Telos once you are finished here, you are more than welcome to catch a ride on the Viridian when I am on my way back from a run, as long as you don't mind the cannoks.”

Mical chuckled and smiled. “I would not mind them at all,” he insisted.

“Just get a hold of Rajan when you want to return,” Kionee explained, “He is the head of the Beast Riders in this area, so if you ask any of the western Beast Riders around here, they can put you in touch with him. He is my contact here, so he can let me know when you are ready to leave.”

“Thank you,” Mical nodded.

“Good luck with your research,” Kionee said. “I hope it goes well.”

“I hope so too,” Mical replied and turned to go, “I will see you again, Kionee.”

“Bye Mical,” she said with a small wave and watched him go. He strode off quickly, out of the landing bay without stopping to ask the guard at the door for directions. Kionee marveled at Mical's confidence. He admitted never having been to Iziz before, but he walked off as if he had.

Kionee caught her breath and sighed. She really did hope that Mical's research went well and that he finished soon, so that she could give him a ride back to Telos again and hear all about it. She smiled to herself just thinking about it.

- Next Part -

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