Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away

The Road to Rediscovery
Part 30 - History of the Dead

“You really ought to come down here more often, Kionee, and not just on business,” Leiraya said scoldingly, but the smile on her face was warm and welcoming.

“We hardly get visitors,” Kylan added, “Hardly anyone besides the Ithorians and the tech teams have clearance to come down to the surface, especially for a casual visit. With the farm in such delicate state now, we can't leave here for long ourselves either.”

“I promise, I'll be back every time I get a weekend,” Kionee replied beaming, her arms filled with a brimming basket of all the fruits the Sheffield-Moran farm produced. In the year since this small section of Telos had been 'restored' Kylan and Leiraya were given almost complete autonomy over it for their experimental fruit farm. Granted, an Ithorian from the supervising herd came down to check on them twice a month or so, but that was more to make sure the environmental containment was working and the ecosystem was working like it was supposed to. So far, so good.

The twenty acre plot of land was enclosed in flickering environmental containment fields that stretched up to the sky—transparent red walls that kept the good environment in and the bad environment out. It was eerie, this little patch of life struggling to grow and be fruitful, wrapped in technology, surrounded by atomic wasteland nearly as far as the eye could see. Huge generator towers at each corner of the orchard plot stretched towards the sky like giant spires.

Leiraya and Kylan's house was a small pre-fabricated structure, boxy and rectangular. If it looked like a miniature version of one of Citadel Station's space modules, it was because it actually was. The same technology was used to keep them safe, in the event of a breech in the shields. It could be sealed off against the hostile environment as easily as it could be sealed off against the vacuum of space.

In their boxy home, under the unnerving red glow of the environmental shields, Kylan and Leiraya were happy even still. Like Kionee, they were thrilled to be a part of Telos's rebirth in their own way. Already they had proved that agriculture, especially organic, was successful on Telos. Their orchard sported healthy adult trees that had already begun producing fruit months ago, after they had settled from the trauma of replanting. Tiny saplings grew with only the usual struggles. Bushes and vines of several varieties were already producing berries with merry abundance.

“Send our love to Laylien and all the others up station-side,” Leiraya said. “And let that Bao-Dur know that that connector hasn't sparked at all since he came and replaced it. He found the problem this time that that other tech had missed.”

“That is Bao-Dur for you,” Kylan said, “I would count on him for wiring this whole planet and getting it right the first time.”

“Will do,” Kionee nodded over her bushel. Few people used wicker baskets for anything but expensive decoration these days, but Leiraya seemed to have taken to basket weaving while on the surface of Telos. Kionee suspect that her baskets could be sold for a fortune in the core, but Leiraya chose to use them for more practical purposes, like carrying fruit. Kionee’s basket, however, was beginning to feel heavier and heavier the longer she lingered in front of her ship, saying her goodbyes. “Well, I should probably get this into the hold,” she said, trying not to sound impatient to go. “It is nice to be hauling fruit again instead of critters or jungle monsters. Familiar territory.”

Leiraya laughed, “No, we won't hold you any longer. Go enjoy your weekend. And remind Mrogo Habot to deposit our earnings from this crop into our account Station-side this time. There is absolutely no reason for them to deliver cash to us down here. There's no need for it on the surface.”

“Right, I'll do that,” Kionee replied, making a mental note to the already lengthy list of people she needed to track down for Leiraya and Kylan.

“Enjoy the fruits of our labor, and yours,” Leiraya said with a final smile.

“Take care guys,” Kionee said, waving her fingers on the front of the basket. It was the best she could do with her arms full. “Let me know whenever you've got another crop to bring up.”

“Just assume we want you down here every weekend you've got off, and we'll make a schedule of it,” Kylan replied.

“I can handle that,” Kionee grinned, “I'll see you next weekend then.”

“Take care,” Leiraya said.

“May the Force be with you,” Kylan added. Kylan still always talked like a Jedi. Though, he and Leiraya made it very clear in the previous months that Kionee was not to mention that the two of them had ever been Jedi, even if they belonged to the Corellian order. With the central Jedi Order completely wiped out, it was a dangerous time for anyone with Jedi powers, and Kylan and Leiraya were no exception. Kionee promised to do her part to keep their secret.

“You too,” Kionee replied. She turned and boarded her ship. At the top, she deposited the wicker bushel into the only one of her fruit refrigeration units that had not been converted to live storage. She snagged a handful of mooja berries before closing the door on her load. Shoveling them into her mouth unceremoniously, she savored the sweet-bitter flavor and juicy texture. Organic always tasted better. Far better.

The Viridian glided into docking bay 126-B6. Kionee really did love having her own personal docking bay at the station. It made her feel permanent. Beyond her own apartment, it made her feel like this was her home and that this was her career. She had had a career for some fifteen years already, but somehow this private docking bay, just for her because she did a job that was vital to the Telos Restoration Project, tickled her pride and sense of purpose.

“And what will it be now, Mistress Kionee?” Emtee asked of her.

“I was going to have a relaxing evening and girl time with Laylien,” Kionee replied, “We're going to make cookie dough and eat it raw while watching our favorite Exter Mackler holo drama.”

“Mr. Mackler. I see,” Emtee nodded his mechanical head stiffly. Whenever he attempted human gestures, it always came out looking awkward. “I do not see how one man on the holos can generate so much attention. I do not find his acting particularly outstanding.”

“It's not about the acting, Emtee,” Kionee replied, rolling her eyes and knowing she could never win this argument with a droid, “It's about his excellent facial features, dreamy eyes, nice haircut, and deep voice.”

“Well, I hope you and Laylien enjoy yourselves,” Emtee replied, clearly still unimpressed, “And do not get sick from raw dough. You would be better off cooking it anyway.”

“There are some things that call for raw cookie dough, and girls’ nights with Exter Mackler vids is one of them,” Kionee said with a laugh and stood up. “You'll take care of the cargo, then?”

“As always, Mistress Kionee,” Emtee replied, “Enjoy your evening.”

“I will,” Kionee grinned from ear to ear and headed out of the cockpit. She collected the gift basket of fruit from the Sheffield-Moran farm and descended the loading ramp out of the Viridian. She would store all of that in her refrigeration unit back home in her own apartment for snacking during the weekend. Fresh produce was hard to come by on the station, though that was getting easier thanks to Leiraya and Kylan, and Kionee fully intended to take advantage of her current bounty before any of it went bad.

With those pleasant thoughts in mind, she headed for the hangar exit, humming a song she couldn't remember the words to. Suddenly, she realized she was not alone in the hangar. A tall, broad-shouldered man stood waiting for her in the exit.

“Good evening,” Mical greeted her with a pleasant smile.

“Oh hi, Mical,” Kionee replied quickly, trying to keep the startled blush from her face. She had not expected to see him here at all, but his appearance was far from a bad thing. She suddenly wished that she had not been humming that silly tune, whatever it was, or skipping along to her own music in front of him. She was thirty years old, after all. “So how are you?” she asked, shifting the basket of fruit in her arms to a less awkward posture.

“I am doing quite well, thank you,” Mical answered politely, “And yourself? You are just returned from the surface?”

“Oh, I'm doing great,” Kionee responded, “I was just down visiting the Sheffields' experimental fruit farm down on the surface.”

“Their experiment seems to be succeeding, I see,” Mical observed pleasantly with a nod to the wicker basket in her arms.

“Oh, you can have a piece or two if you'd like,” Kionee offered rapidly as the thought occurred to her. She hoped she had not come across as rude for not offering sooner. “This all was a gift from them. They're both old friends of mine—and this is all way more than I can eat on my own before it all goes bad. And you know that Emtee isn't going to be much help on that front.”

“No, I suppose not,” Mical chuckled. He reached in and took two pieces of fruit; a mrenji and a meilooroon. Transferring them both to one hand, he said, “Thank you.”

“So, what can I do for you?” Kionee asked, feeling awkward at the shift in conversation.

“I hate to ask you to go out of your way,” Mical prefaced, “But I am looking for a ride to Ossus for my research on the Jedi.”

“Ossus?” Kionee asked. Now that was some place she had never been before, and that was saying something.

“I will pay for your services, as always,” Mical added swiftly.

Kionee thought for a moment, trying to recall just what and where Ossus was. An old Jedi world. Her old history lessons with MT-412 were coming back to her. It was not too far off the Corellian Trade Spine, if she remembered correctly. That being true, it would be about a fourteen hour journey, give or take. She could make the run this weekend and be back in time for her next trip to Onderon.

There was her date with Laylien, though.

“If it is too much trouble for you, please don't worry about it,” Mical amended, “I am sure I can find another pilot able to take me.”

“Oh, no, no,” Kionee replied quickly. She and Laylien could have their girls’ night some other time. If she refused Mical now, he might not come back asking for a ride again. “I can take you. No problem. I've got the next two days off before I have to head back to Onderon again, and we should be able to get to Ossus and back by then, no problem at all. I just have to get Leiraya and Kylan's fruit unloaded and into the right hands before I head out.”

“Thank you, I really appreciate it,” Mical replied with a smile, “And please, take your time. I am not in a hurry.”

“It's alright,” Kionee replied earnestly. “Give me two standard hours, and I'll meet you back here, ready to go.”

“I will see you then,” Mical said, and turned to go. She could not guess where he was headed. He already had his traveling satchel strung over his shoulders.

Kionee herself ducked back into the ship and pressed the comm button at the top of the loading ramp. “Emtee, we're going to take a passenger to Ossus in approximately two hours,” she called, “Can you get everything off-loaded and the ship refueled by then?”

“Is this that Republic scholar again?” MT-412 asked.

“Yes,” Kionee replied, “So be on your best behavior. I'll be back in two hours once I've got everything else straightened out.”

“As if I would not be,” Emtee shot back indignantly, but Kionee was already on her way off the ship again.

She fished her comlink out of her pocked and dialed Laylien's office. Her friend picked up immediately, “Hello?”

“Hey Laylien, it's Kionee,” she said.

“Oh hi Kionee,” she replied, “What's going on?”

“I know I sound like a terrible friend, but can we reschedule our girls' night?” she asked, pleading.

“Something has come up?” Laylien asked, sounding concerned.

“Well,” Kionee started slowly, suddenly embarrassed, “I've got a passenger run again. Mical just showed up at my hangar and asked for a lift this weekend.”

“Oh, him,” Laylien cooed deviously, “I understand. And you'll have to tell me all the juicy details of your trip together when you get back.”

“Laylien!” Kionee exclaimed indignantly, “It's not like him and me are...”

“Well, have fun and fly safely,” Laylien interrupted her. “I expect to see you when you get back, understand?”

Kionee laughed, “Sure. Of course. See you then.”

Like the trips to and from Onderon, Mical deigned to sit in one of the passenger seats in the cockpit behind the pilots' chairs as the Viridian took off from Citadel Station.

“The improvements of Telos already are remarkable,” Mical observed appreciatively. From orbit, the long red lines of the shield barriers punctuated by silvery gray towers cut across the surface in irregular grids. The most promising climate zones around the planet's middle half were criss-crossed with the most shields. Even sections of the ocean had begun to be shielded off by the environmental shields for delicate detoxification. Between the shielded zones, the earth was beginning to regain tints of green amid the barren red. It was more than many had even dared to hope for.

“Proves all those nay-sayers wrong,” Kionee replied forcefully, “Telos is recovering.”

“They may yet be able to have their smug victory, though,” Mical cautioned.

“Why's that?” Kionee asked, her spirits dampened. “It looks like everything is progressing as planned, or even better.”

“The budget is still a sore issue with many in the Republic government,” Mical explained, “Telos is succeeding, but at what cost? It is already very near exceeding its budget, and, as you see down there, there is much yet to be done. Restoring an entire planet is a monumental task.”

“But you believe it can be done?” Kionee asked, implying her own beliefs by the sound of her voice.

“Yes, I do,” Mical answered. Kionee saw him nod in the reflection in the front viewport. “But I fear for politics. Politics can kill even the noblest of projects, even Telos.”

“I hope politics can stay out of this as long as possible,” Kionee said, “Even if it probably is a pretty stupid hope, I hope it all the same.”

“I hope so as well,” Mical replied, “But even so, there are some great politicians on the side of this project ready to defend every centimeter of it. Jerol Onasi is a very intelligent and persuasive man himself. Telos is in good hands.”

Kionee nodded in agreement. She looked down at the screen on her controls and observed that they were safely away from Telos IV's gravity shadow. “So Ossus, you said?” Kionee asked to make sure.

“Yes, Ossus,” Mical replied with an affirmative nod.

“You got those coordinates all punched out, Emtee?” Kionee asked her droid.

“Yes, we will have to make a few adjustment jumps through this part of the arm, but it is a clear path,” Emtee replied from the co-pilot's chair. “The Viridian is ready for hyperspace when you are.”

“Let's go,” Kionee urged. MT-412 drew back the activation lever for the hyperdrive and the Viridian lunged forward, gaining speed rapidly until the stars drew out long white-ish blue lines around them.

“We should arrive at Ossus in thirteen hours and forty-two minutes,” Emtee announced crisply.

“Thank you,” Mical said, although it was unclear whether he was thanking the droid or the pilot.

“Well,” Kionee started, unstrapping, “We've got some time on our hands now. Are you hungry? I've got some of that fruit from the surface back in the hold if you want some.”

“That would be lovely,” Mical replied. He met her eyes and smiled. Kionee quickly averted her eyes and repressed a blush. As they both stood up in the cockpit, its close quarters almost felt embarrassingly confining.

“After you, please,” Mical said with a small sweeping gesture to the door.

Kionee shuffled through, again trying not to blush and half-jogged down the stairs into the cargo hold. Mical followed after her. She reached the aft-most cooler and opened it up. On Citadel Station, Kionee had selected about half of her produce to bring along on the trip and froze the rest back in her apartment in the station for later. Still, there was a great variety. She pulled out the plasteel storage crate—she couldn't bear to use such a beautiful basket for just hauling produce—and opened the lid. “Take whatever you like. You're welcome to this as long as you're on board.”

“Thank you,” Mical said and gingerly took a prisht that was on the top of the crate.

Kionee took another of the prisht and bit into it as well. Its sweet juice dripped down her chin. She briskly wiped it off with the back of her sleeve.

“It has been a long while since I had something as fresh as this,” Mical commented. For a moment, he looked almost relaxed, before his mask of formality took over again. “Not rehydrated or frozen.”

“Have you been around Telos all this time?” Kionee asked. I wonder where he lives on Citadel Station, or if he lives there at all.

“Most of it, yes,” Mical replied, “Admiral Onasi has been a most generous patron and supporter of my research, misdirected as it often is.” He paused then asked, “What is the surface like? I have never had cause to go down there myself.”

“It's kind of weird,” Kionee admitted, “Those towers are really strange-looking from the surface. Everything, near the barriers anyway, looks a bit red from them. On one side it's green and starting to grow, and on the other side it's dead and barren. Sometimes it gives me the chills to look at it. Other times, it makes me excited that we've come this far.”

Mical nodded. “Telos will never be the same, but it will be alive again,” he replied, “We cannot bring back the ecosystem that was lost, though Onderon's replacement ecosystem will eventually replace what was in all living memory. Those towers may remain for hundreds of years yet, and people will start to even think of them as normal.”

“You're right,” Kionee nodded, “It's kind of scary how fast time moves, and how fast things become a part of history.”

Mical smiled. “It is because of things like these that I study history as I do,” he explained, “The interweaving present and past make a history that lives, affecting everything that will be in the future.”

“I could take you down there sometime,” Kionee realized suddenly. “I mean, I could get you clearance to go to the surface of Telos if you want. That is, as long as you're willing to help me with my cargo on a surface drop-off.”

“I would love to have an opportunity to visit the surface,” Mical replied, brightening up at her sudden offer, “I would not mind helping you with your work at all. It would be a chance for me to see just how the Ithorians are working the restoration.”

Kionee twittered inwardly at the success of her invitation. And Laylien will make sure he has the right clearance for me. No problem. She repressed an excited grin.

“So, I guess next time you're free, drop me a line and I'll work out my next drop off schedule for you,” Kionee assured him.

“If it's no trouble for you,” Mical replied.

“None at all,” Kionee replied firmly, “Like I said, I like to have company that isn't MT-412 now and then.”

“You really are too generous, Kionee,” he insisted with a gentle smile.

The sound of her own name set a shiver down her spine. “Do you want another?” she asked awkwardly, pointing to the crate on the floor between them.

“No, I'm fine for now,” Mical answered, “Thank you.”

A silence fell between them.

“Well, I should probably be getting out of your way,” Mical started to excuse himself.

Desperate not to let him drift away for the rest of the voyage, Kionee asked quickly, “Mical, can I ask you something?”

“Yes, you can ask,” he turned back to her. His distant tone implied that he might not answer her question, however.

“Well, you seem to know a lot about, well, a lot of things,” Kionee stammered quickly, “About the Jedi, in particular. Do you have any idea what's going on with them now? I keep hearing terrible things like, they're all gone, or that they've abandoned the galaxy.”

With a sigh, Mical cast around him for a place to sit. An empty crate nearby caught his eye. “May I?” he asked, gesturing to it.

“Yeah, of course,” Kionee answered, waiting for his reply.

Mical sat back onto the crate and answered finally, “I wish I knew. It is somewhat of a mystery to all of us. I had thought, or at least hoped, that with the end to war, the violence between the Jedi and the Sith would come to an end.”

“You think the Sith killed them all?” Kionee asked, thinking about Bastila, Ev, Juhani, and Jolee.

“I don't know,” Mical shook his head. “This quiet war is unlike them. If it can be considered a war. The Jedi did not fight back. They allowed themselves to be swallowed up by this darkness, and thereby abandoning the Republic.” He sounded bitter.

“How do you call getting killed off abandoning us?” Kionee asked critically, “Assassination isn't the fault of the victim.”

“It is if they ignored the signs, and chose instead to sit and wait complacently,” Mical continued with bitter disapproval, “Once again, they chose inaction and suffered for it. Once again, the galaxy will suffer for their inaction, only this time, there is no Revanchist to mobilize them, and now, they are gone. The Republic needs the Jedi more than either the Jedi or the Republic know, and neither did a thing to preserve the Jedi Order.”

“You sound like you hate the Jedi,” Kionee observed quietly, sinking down onto the lid of the low fruit crate.

“Hate? No I don't hate the Jedi,” Mical clarified, “I simply believe that the 'wisdom' that they frequently act with, or refrain from acting at all, is hardly wisdom. They would do better to examine the galaxy around them than spend their days locked away in meditation, grasping at the unseen.”

Kionee nodded, not sure if she agreed or disagreed. Mical knew far more about any of this than she did. She stared at the floor, feeling a bit ashamed for arguing with him at all. Who was she, a simple contract freighter pilot, to argue with a historian like him?

As Mical started to get up again, another question occurred to Kionee. Quickly, she braced her hands on her knees and stood. “What about Katarr?” she asked. “Is it true what the HoloNet is saying?”

“That the day the Jedi Order held a conclave there, the entire planet died?” Mical asked.

Kionee nodded.

“No one can say if Katarr's death was the fault of the Jedi directly, but I suspect indirectly it was,” Mical answered, “The Jedi have made many enemies in the past decades, and one enemy caught up with them all at once, it seems. Whatever little proof I have, that is my theory.”

“Thanks,” Kionee replied quietly. There was the bitterness towards the Jedi again. “I was wondering ever since I heard.”

He smiled a slightly forced smile. “You can ask me any time,” he assured her, “Examining events such as these is a hobby of mine.”

As much as Kionee wanted the conversation to keep going, Mical was much less talkative after his little history lesson and particularly reticent about himself, once again. Without any other conversation topics to throw at him, Kionee had to let him go. She put away the fruit and retired to her own bunk. They day had been a long one and it was catching up with her. She would need to be awake and alert for their descent to Ossus and into unfamiliar territory for her. From what she knew of Ossus, there were no organized settlements there, so no traffic control to guide her in. Finding a landing zone would be on her shoulders and hers alone.

Before she knew it, Emtee's mechanical voices was waking her up over the comm, announcing reversion to real-space in five minutes. Kionee rolled off of her bunk with a groan. She threw back on her clothes, fastened a belt around her waist, and pulled on her boots. Often times, she did not even bother with that last step, but she had a guest aboard the Viridian and felt the need to be completely dressed for work. She started out of her bunk room but caught sight of herself in the small mirror by the doorway and thought better of it. She snatched a brush out of the small compartment beside the mirror and roughly brushed at her hair, drawing it back into a ponytail. Then, mostly satisfied, headed back to the cockpit.

Mical was already there waiting for her, strapping into his passenger seat. “Did you rest well?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Kionee replied then added quickly in his own pattern, “Thanks. Did you?”

“Fine, thank you,” he answered.

As she settled into her chair and swept a gaze over all the dials and screens to double check that everything was alright for landing, she asked, “Where exactly on Ossus are we going?”

“To the ruins of the old Great Library of the Jedi,” he answered, “According to my research, it should be right around the coordinates of 15.76 north, 48.03 west.”

“Do you know if there is good, flat landing ground in the area?” she asked.

“Unfortunately, your guess is as good as mine,” he answered with an apologetic shrug.

“Alrighty,” she nodded, “I guess we'll find out when we get there.” She punched Mical's coordinates into the ship's computer and let it calibrate.

“Reverting to real-space,” MT-412 announced.

“Here we go,” Kionee murmured absently under her breath. The ship slowed abruptly, jolting them in their seats. The stars slowed down as they did, resolving into familiar points of light, and the green and brown sphere of Ossus sprang up in front of them. “So this is Ossus,” she observed quietly. Momentarily distracted, Kionee studied the navacomputer readouts. The coordinates gave a location on the day side of the planet, but it would not be day there for much longer. “It looks like your library is on the other side of the planet,” she said, “Let's get on over there and see what we can find.”

Kionee brought the Viridian around the planet in a wide, descending arc, drawing nearer as they rounded to the other side of Ossus. When the angle was right, she pointed the nose of her ship planet-ward and dove down towards the surface.

Ossus was tangled with jungles and devoid of any cities she could see, not unlike Onderon. As they descended, however, Kionee was struck by the tortured angles of the trees and the distinct absence of foliage. The green she had seen from space were mostly vines and ferns, wound around the trunks of dead trees. Ossus was devastated in the war with Exar Kun, wasn’t it? That’s why the Jedi aren’t there any more. Kionee suddenly began to marvel that the jungles were alive at all.

“There it is, on the horizon,” Mical said suddenly, pointing out the forward viewport. “Do you see it?”

Kionee squinted into the orange setting sun. Sure enough, on the horizon was what appeared to be some sort of small stone mountain jutting out of the jungle treetops. As they drew nearer, it resolved into ruined towers and halls; the old stronghold of the Jedi.

Finally they were on top of it. Kionee circled around slowly, looking for a place to land. Jungle crowded in around and even through the library from all sides.

“The Great Library of the Jedi still stands, after all these years of abandonment,” Mical marveled, oblivious to Kionee's dilemma.

“I'm going to have to take the ship down on top of the library,” Kionee warned, “Unless you want to jump from here. The jungle is too thick to put the Viridian down safely anywhere else and expect to actually be able to lift off again. Do you think the roof will hold?”

Kionee's question brought Mical back to the issues of the present moment. “If you select a sturdy section to land on,” he responded slowly, “Or that courtyard down there.”

“Too small,” Kionee shook her head.

“That section of roof over there?” Mical suggested, pointing to another open section, several stories higher up, “The architecture still looks sound from here.”

“We'll give that a try. It looks like our best bet,” Kionee agreed and started to bring the ship down. This was going to have to be one of the gentlest landings she had ever performed. Engaging the repulsor coils at full power from twenty meters up still, she eased off the ship's main engine until the Viridian's vertical descent was hardly more than a crawl. She bit her lip in intense concentration. With her eyes on the ground sensors, Kionee shifted their trajectory just slightly closer to the edge of the platform roof, closer to where the supportive walls would be underneath. She gradually eased off the repulsor lifts and let gravity have more of its hold over the Viridian. Then, with a gentle bump, the Viridian touched down. Kionee held her breath for a moment, waiting for the inevitable creaking and crumbling sounds, but it never came. She let out a relieved sigh and half-laughed, “Well, we're here.”

“Magnificently done, Mistress Kionee,” MT-412 praised.

Mical even clapped his hands twice. “Yes, well done indeed,” Mical applauded.

“Well, do you want to go check it out?” Kionee asked, beaming.

“I'll go get my bag,” Mical replied excitedly. He slipped out of his seat, out the cockpit exit and into his quarters. By the time Kionee finished her routine system checks and shut-downs, Mical was back with his leather satchel strung over his shoulder.

“I'll be right there,” Kionee assured him as she caught sight of his reflection in the window.

“May I remind you, Mistress Kionee,” Emtee put in as she got up and gathered her own things, “That we can remain her for no more than half a standard hour if we are to return to Telos IV in time for your pre-departure meeting with Chodo Habat for our next run to Onderon.”

“Right,” Kionee nodded absently. Mical's light-hearted excitement to see the surface of Ossus was contagious. Now, she too was eagerly curious to see the ruins for herself as well. Turning to Mical, she followed him down to the cargo hold and lowered the ramp for him. Warm evening air greeted them as they descended.

Ossus was far drier and cooler than Onderon, even at this time of day. The trees were smaller and the drone of insects was gentler. Somehow, Ossus felt much less wild than Onderon, even without any living settlements. The setting binary suns Adega Prime and Adega Besh cast a yellowy-orange hue over the forest from the west.

A gentle warm breeze teasing at her ponytail, standing in the soft evening light with a sweet Republic historian on the roof of the ruins of an ancient Jedi library, Kionee could not recall ever feeling so peaceful in her life. All the unknowns, uncertainties, and ungainliness in her life was washed away by a pervasive calm that warmed every corner of her being. She stood there watching the suns set with Mical, feeling neither self-conscious nor a rush to be on her way to her next job.

“No wonder the Jedi established their library here,” Mical breathed.

“It's so peaceful,” Kionee murmured.

Mical met her eyes with a relaxed smile and nodded. “You feel it too, then,” he observed. He began to wander towards the edge of the roof, glancing around for a way down. Kionee followed contentedly, practically forgetting about the schedule she had to keep.

A rectangular gap in the roof opened up to an uneven set of stairs. Mical brushed away a clump of resilient vines and started down with a glance over his shoulder at Kionee. She followed slowly after him into the dim, dusty interior. Golden evening light streamed in through large, arched windows on the western wall and another doorway opened into a much larger room on the other side. Mical continued through without a word.

The hall they entered was massive, easily big enough to fit two whole modules of Citadel Station within it. Though overgrown and crumbling, Kionee could still see the masterful work that went into its creation. Colorful painted murals had not yet flaked away. The remains of tiered fountains blossomed up out of the floor at regular intervals.

“The Jedi's Court,” Mical said with quiet wonder, “It is said that the Jedi trained here for centuries. Everything from saber practice, to meditation, to debate was all practiced here, together in community.”

“It's beautiful,” Kionee commented.

“It is a shame that the Jedi never returned to this place,” Mical said with a sigh, “Now that the land is beginning to recover from the radiation and shockwave of the Cron Cluster. The plants and some of the wildlife seem to be returning to life with veracity. Even if the Jedi had not left us now, they have their grand temple on Coruscant. They are intertwined with the governing of the Republic and their presence is needed on Coruscant more than either they or the senate knows. Even now. Even if the Jedi were to return to the galaxy again, I doubt it would be to this place.”

“Aren't you worried about the lingering effects of radiation here?” Kionee asked.

Mical shook his head. “I will test everything before I ingest it,” he replied firmly, “I have the necessary equipment for such tests with me.”

Kionee felt only slightly comforted.

Mical stiffened and scrutinized the room around them.

“What is it?” Kionee asked at a whisper. She had not seen or heard anything.

“I suddenly felt,” Mical replied slowly, “Like we are being watched.”

“Watched? By who?” Kionee asked. “Would could possibly be here?”

“I don't know,” Mical shook his head, then turned to Kionee and said abruptly, “I should not keep you here any longer. You have your appointment to make.”

“Are you sure it's safe for you here?” Kionee asked, “I could stay here with the Viridian while you do your research, if you want.”

“No, I can't ask you do that,” Mical replied decisively, “The Telos Restoration Project needs you more than I need the shelter of your ship.”

“Then I can stop back on my way to or from Onderon on one of my next runs, if I work it out right,” Kionee offered. “Would four days be enough for your research, or would you rather it be eight or twelve?”

“I don't know,” Mical admitted, “There is probably more material here than I could take in for a lifetime of research. I may need plenty of time to find what I am hoping for. Can I hail you when I am ready to be picked up?”

“Of course,” Kionee replied and dug one of her business cards out of a vest pocket. She pulled out a pen from another pocket and scrawled as long number onto the back. “Here's my card. I can't believe I didn't give you one earlier. That's the Viridian's info on the front, and I wrote my personal comm contact number on the back, in case I don't pick up on the ship. As soon as I hear from you, I'll come by on my way to my next run.”

“Thank you, Kionee,” Mical replied, suspiciously scanning the hall again, “You really are too generous.”

“How long do I wait to hear from you before I assume the worst and bring in a search party?” Kionee asked. She did not like leaving him here without even a tent or a weapon to protect himself. She really hoped he kept a hold-out blaster in that travel satchel of his.

Mical laughed at her. “Don't worry about me Kionee,” he replied nonchalantly, “I will be fine. And even if Ossus claims me, I am not a man that the galaxy will miss; just another hobbyist historian.”

“Don't say that,” Kionee scolded and surprised herself at her own forcefulness, “Every person, no matter what their occupation, has importance to the grand scale of things, to the universe. And besides, you're—you're...” Kionee swallowed, trying not to seem too forward, “I consider you one of my friends, and I'd hate for something to happen to you and for me do nothing about it.”

“I don't know what I have done to earn your friendship, but I appreciate it,” Mical replied, looking a bit surprised but pleased all at once, “It has been a long while since I had someone I could call a friend. Perhaps I have far too many professional acquaintances.”

Kionee suddenly felt very sad for him, but then she thought to her own long list of professional acquaintances and short list of personal friends. Maybe she wasn't so different from him in that sense after all. “If I don't hear from you in a month and a half, I'm coming back,” Kionee promised, “So if you're doing just fine and want more time by then, please drop me a line so I don't have to worry about you.”

“I will,” Mical promised, “And I promise I will be careful.”

“Thanks,” Kionee grinned, then teased, “I'll hold you to that.”

Mical chuckled.

“But I guess I really should get going back to Telos,” she admitted reluctantly, “Take care of yourself, Mical, and good luck with your research.”

“Thank you again, Kionee,” Mical replied, “I will contact you when I am finished here.”

“See you,” Kionee added in one last farewell and turned back to the room they entered through, then headed up the stairs. Again, she looked forward to the next time she would be called up to take him from one planet to another. In the back of her head, she prayed that he would stay safe on this polluted, alien world.

- Next Part -

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