The music echoed through the stone hall as she slowly walked to the front of the room, echoing over the soft rustle of her dress and the faint noises of people shifting in their seats. Slow and sonorous yet hopeful, the song had been specially chosen for the occasion. As she walked, every eye in the room was fixed on her, but she only had eyes for one man, standing at the altar next to Olno Mada, the Zabrak elder who would marry her in just a few short minutes. Breaking tradition, she was unescorted, because there was no one in the galaxy who could answer to the name of “father of the bride” for her-anyone who could have claimed that title was dead-and she had elected to walk down the aisle alone. It was how she had lived much of her life. Of course, that was about to change.
It seemed like those next few moments could last forever, but pass they did, even as time slowly plodded forward. The bride, gorgeous in her snow white dress and veil, made her way to the altar. While a modest wedding dress by Core World standards, the gown had been tailored for her on Bespin and was delicately textured to give a lacy appearance while leaving her shoulders bare. She didn’t wear much jewelry aside from a necklace her fiancé had bought her, jade earrings, and a matching anklet. She had spent far longer than usual on her appearance-every detail had been attended to by he bridesmaids, from coverup to her nails to curling and arranging her hair. As she stepped up onto the dais by the altar, the bride turned to face her would-be husband, himself resplendent in a dress uniform of the Yanibar Guard, a freshly pressed dark gray jacket decorated with the trappings of his rank and trousers marked with a single silver stripe on the outside of each leg over a white waist-length tunic. His tanned face was beaming with joy as he took her slender hand in his and she knew her own expression was a mirror of his. She knew it was cliché even as the thought came to her, but it did truly feel like the happiest day of her life. Years of waiting, of hoping beyond hope that she would some day find the right person for her, had finally paid off and she was less than an hour from being married, from adding the Kraen to her last name.
Between and behind them stood a tall Zabrak elder named Olno Mada. Wearing an embroidered robe over a formal version of the tunic he wore everyday around the colony, he prepared to once again perform a ritual he had done for his people, the Zeison Sha, for at least ten years. He always felt honored and joyful at the opportunity to perform the marriage ceremony, to officiate the joining of two people into one united spirit. To be presiding over a marriage of such important people in the Yanibar refuge was an added honor, to be sure, but Olno Mada knew both the bride and groom more as personal friends. The music crescendoed, sending every heart in the room soaring with happiness for the couple’s bliss, and then it slowed and ended ritardando, the drawn out notes prolonging the emotion of the flowing melody.
As the last note faded away, Olno Mada opened an old book to a previously marked location, one that had the service and the names of the couple written on the indicated page, along with the service and names for every other wedding he had ever performed. It was an old Zeison Sha record, but it had endured through the years, borne out of the value placed on families in that culture. On the harsh world of Yanibar, one’s family was all that one had to cling to, Olno Mada reflected. Looking at the bride, the groom, and the group of witnesses in turn, he began the ceremony.
- “Friends and family, we are here today to witness the joining of two people in the union of matrimony, to celebrate the union of two spirits into one, to cherish their happiness, and to share their joy. Let us always remember this day, that we may remind ourselves of the bonds we all share as family and as community.”
Even as Mada spoke, the bride gazed at her beloved, but her hands were shaking from excitement.
- “Nervous?” he asked her, his voice barely audible and lips scarcely moving.
- “Ecstatic,” she reassured him. “You?”
- “Same,” he answered.
Olno Mada continued his address, reminding the assembled of the sanctity of marriage and the importance of the vows the couple would take. He spoke of the enduring love that bound them together and the need to nurture and provide for it. Changing tacks, he reminded them of their duty to one another and to the light side of the Force. The Yanibar community was a refuge for Force exiles of many different groups, but the light side of the Force bound them all together, just as it would bind the couple standing before him together. That was not a Jedi precept, the idea of loyalty to one’s family, but a Zeison Sha one, but when Olno Mada had asked the groom about it, he had said to leave it in. Apparently time among other Force traditions had eased his adherence to Jedi traditions, or else he had already decided to forgo the ban on familial bonds practiced by the Jedi Order for a thousand years. For his part, Olno Mada was glad it had remained. The idea of allowing marriage without sanctioning the bonds between the two on their nuptials was utterly foreign to him. His voice, while lacking the eloquence of an Alderaanian orator, was rich and warm, its deep vibrant tones resonating through the hall as he spoke. After the address was complete, he focused his full attention once more to the bride and groom, who had thus far just stood there, hand in hand, waiting for this very moment.
- “'I vow to love and protect this woman, my wife, to cherish her and provide for her, to remain faithful to her in all things as long as we shall both live,’” read Olno Mada from his book where the groom’s vows had been written. “Are these your vows?”
- “They are. This ring is a sign of my commitment to those vows,” affirmed the groom solemnly as he slid a golden band onto the finger of his bride.
- “'I vow to love and support this man, my husband, to cherish him and guide him, to remain faithful to him in all things as long as we both shall live’” recited Olno Mada again, this time to the bride from her own pre-written vows. “Are these your vows?”
- “They are,” she said, a tear of joy glistening in the corner of one eye as she somewhat shakily placed a ring onto the finger of her soon-to-be husband.
- “Does anyone have good cause to object to the joining of these two in marriage?” Olno Mada addressed the audience.
There were no objections, so the Zabrak laid his large, gnarled hands on those of the bridge and groom, clasping them together.
- “It’s time,” he said. “Selusda Kraen, do you take Milya Tayrce to be your wife, to love and cherish as you have vowed?”
- “I do,” he said.
- “Milya Tayrce, do you take Selusda Kraen to be your husband, to love and cherish as you have vowed?”
- “I do,” she answered.
- “Then, by power of the Force and the love that is between each of you, I pronounce you man and wife,” Olno Mada said exuberantly. “Selu, you may kiss your bride.”
Selu had remained fairly calm through most of the wedding-a fair cry from the almost frantic pace he had taken during the final week of preparations. Now, though, he couldn’t contain himself as Olno Mada pronounced them man and wife. He supposed that even though he had been smiling broadly earlier, his grin probably stretched from ear to ear now.
- Leaning in close to Milya, he softly breathed the words, “I love you.”
Then all opportunity for a reply was cut off as he drew her to him and kissed her. Their lips met as they embraced one another in a prolonged expression and celebration of their love to the thunderous applause of the audience. Selu and Milya prolonged the kiss as long as possible, savoring the moment and delight they both felt. The groomsmen, Sarth and a now-adopted Spectre Kraen cheered on as the bridesmaids, Cassi Trealus Kraen and Hasla Almani, tried unsuccessfully to not cry.
Then it was time for the procession and Selu and Milya walked down the aisle arm in arm, both of them now grinning stupidly and waving to loved ones as they passed. As they neared the exit of the hall, eight young uniformed officers who had filed in after Milya as the bride’s escort came to attention, four to either side of the aisle.
- “Sabres . . . up!” intoned their leader in cadence.
Four metal blades and four lightsabers were raised over the newlyweds as they made their way through the arch, a new military formality afforded officers of the Yanibar Guard. The fact that the officers involved in the honor guard received invitations to the wedding reception and its bounty of food was additional motivation; the honor guard always had plenty of volunteers bidding to join its ranks.
There was a brief pause by the newlyweds for the perfunctory holograph just outside the doorway, and then they walked out into the morning sun and made their way down a sidewalk lined with shady trees and flower gardens towards a side building near the ceremonial hall where a lavish reception had been planned by Cassi and Lena Kraen, Selu’s mother. The rest of the guests followed them, and it was sure to be an evening A sumptuous regalia of food was arranged on a pair of groaning tables, some of it imported, but mostly local in nature. While the Yanibar colony was prosperous, it couldn’t yet afford nor was it expected that credits be spent on costly luxury foods, even for the head of defense.
That wasn’t to say that the food wasn’t delicious, though. Walking into the reception hall was like walking into a kitchen where food has been cooking all day and everyone was immediately assaulted with a plethora of wonderful aromas rising from the food. The main courses were a type of local fowl, roasted whole and basted with a citrusy broth and plump braised nerf medallions garnished with local herbs. Samtel Kraen, Selu’s father, stood ready with serving utensils by the meat, but that was hardly the only fare served. Seafood-stuffed mushrooms were popular with the guests and trays loaded with local fruit and vegetables-some cold and some fire-grilled- quickly diminished thanks to the efforts of hungry partygoers. Tangy cebola vegetables had been chopped, sautéed, seasoned, and arranged next to dipping sauces for those who preferred more flair in their cuisine-Spectre devoured them by the plateload, while those with larger appetites tackled the meat, herb, cheese, and tuber pie topped with a cream sauce. Fried nerfmilk cheese strips, several soups, breads, and a Commenorian stringpasta bake rounded out the evening’s fare-at least until the various candies, fudges, and pastries were brought for dessert.
Selu and Milya managed to catch a few bites in between greeting guests and well-wishers and chatting with their friends. Though there were less than fifty attendees, they still found they had little time for food and Selu and Milya were too excited to eat much at any rate. The drinks flowed freely and the wine was one of the few things that was almost entirely imported-while a few vineyards on Yanibar had been planted and showed promise, it was far too soon for local wines to really be aged well enough to compliment the offworld varieties. At any rate, the drinks had been shipped in by Jorgesoll Knrr, a Bespin freight company owner, former spacer, and a good friend of Selu’s whom Selu had known could be counted on as an excellent connoisseur of liquid refreshment. The bride and groom found themselves toasted many times, and Jorge had predictably been the first to do so.
- “To the bride and groom!” he said affably. “May the groom eventually look half as good as his bride! Don’t count on it though.”
Selu simply shook his head and took the good-natured ribbing as his glass clinked with several others. It was all part of the event.
With much ceremony, the married couple cut the multilayered tower of a cake together and helped distribute the pieces of the sweet confection to the guests. To their amusement, Selu at one point sent a dozen plates of cake flying across the room to various tables with a display of telekinesis to help speed up the process, proclaiming that he wanted to have an opportunity to enjoy his cake before the dancing began.
After everyone had relaxed and was well at ease, a subtle cue from Milya sent a Falleen named Xlora starting a series of synthed music playing from speakers set up near the ground. Local musical talent wasn’t entirely absent, but Selu and Milya had seen some of their performances and had quickly decided they weren’t up to the challenge of playing new pieces of music for hours on end. Instead, a fairly decent setup had been arranged, again courtesy of Jorge, to allow Xlora to play the appropriate pieces that Selu and Milya had chosen.
The first on the carefully cleared off space dubbed the dance floor were Selu and Milya, by Milya’s choice. For Sarth and Cassi’s wedding, Samtel Kraen had first danced with Cassi and then Annita as the father of the bride before releasing them to their new husbands, but Milya was lacking in that department and didn’t really see a need for the tradition. Selu had agreed and so the two simply led the rests of the guests in the steps of the first song, a livelier tune from Corellia with an accompanying dance known as the Corellian reel. Soon, Selu and Milya were whirling and twisting with the other guests through the choreography of the reel, caught up in the music as they swapped partners over and over again. Several other equally fast-paced numbers followed, and though Selu later reflected that might not have been the smartest idea in light of the large meal recently consumed, everyone was in high spirits. On one song, the honor guard, apparently having a little more wine than was good for them, linked arms at one end of the dance floor and began kicking their legs high in an attempt at synchronization that could only have been a mockery of a popular dance group out of Coruscant. Everyone had laughed at that.
Gradually, Xlora slowed the pace of the music and the fast-paced tunes had been replaced with more romantic, mellow pieces. Some of the dancers, having had enough for one day, had departed the dancing floor, leaving a smaller group on the dancing floor instead of the crowded bustle that had characterized Corellian reel. Selu danced with several of the other women he knew-his mother first, then Cassi, Daara, and Annita, while Milya had done rounds with Sarth, a Twi’lek Matukai named Kacheen, and Spectre.
As the notes of the song faded away, Selu smiled at Annita, but his eyes had darted over to Milya, whom he had yet to dance alone with.
- “Saving the last dance?” Annita asked him.
- “That’s right,” he said. “If you’ll excuse me.”
- “Certainly,” she said.
She hugged him briefly and then they went their separate ways. Sneaking a glance over to where Spectre and Milya were, Selu walked over smoothly and tapped Spectre on the shoulder.
- “Yes?” the former ARC asked.
- “If you don’t mind,” Selu said with exaggerated politeness. “I’d like to dance with my wife at least once.”
- “If you insist,” Spectre said, releasing Milya with mock reluctance. “It’s only your wedding.”
Selu placed his right hand around Milya’s back, resting his palm just under shoulder blade, while he took her left hand in his. The music began again-a slow Commenorian song from Selu’s homeworld-and gently he drew her into the dance. The melody was played by a string arrangement and their unified notes soon separated into multiple parts, but each instrument’s sounds complimented each other, weaving together the fabric of the song as a whole. For the first few moments of the dance, he could do little but stare into her dark eyes, her irises sparkling faintly from reflections of the lights hanging from the ceiling and she was content to return his gaze. The only sounds they heard were the swish and rustle of dresses and coats as dancers moved across the floor, the sweeping notes of the song, and the murmur of conversation, broken by the occasional chink of dishes. Selu wanted nothing more than to soak in the moment, to make it last forever, and he and Milya had deliberately chosen a long song to mark the finale of the reception.
- “Are you enjoying yourself?” he asked her.
- “More than I have a right to be,” she said. “You?”
- “Couldn’t be better,” he said. “I’m in the arms of one that I love. What more do I need?”
- “How very un-Jedi of you,” she remarked teasingly.
- “At least for today, I’m not going to worry about that. I have a feeling that you won’t let me go to the dark side in that time.”
- “Not on my watch, dear,” she said with mock severity.
- “How am I doing?” Selu said, indicating the dance.
- “Just fine.”
- “As good as some of your other partners?”
- “Well, Spectre was pretty good, and Kacheen had natural talent. I think the biggest surprise was actually Sarth, though. He’s a good dancer.”
Selu smiled as a memory of years past popped into his mind unbidden.
- “You know I taught him how to dance?”
- “It was not long after Sarth and I first met-on Bespin-and he was trying so hard to find a way to get Cassi’s attention without knowing how to dance.”
She chuckled at the thought.
- “Look at him now, happily married and with a two-year-old son.”
Selu looked over his shoulder to see his older brother dancing with his wife, Cassi, and he winked. Sarth caught the motion and winked in return even as he led Cassi through a complicated-looking turn.
- “Not to mention the head of a booming arms business.”
- “Big market for his products,” she said. “How about you? How were your dances?”
- “Cassi was as polished as always. Annita likewise; nice of her and Jorge to come in for the wedding.”
- “Everyone loves it when they stop by. Jorge has a talent for entertaining people.”
Milya looked to see Annita and Jorge dancing happily. Jorge took Milya’s glance as an opportunity to lower his hand twenty centimeters down Annita’s back, eliciting rolled eyes from Milya as the Corellian grinned roguishly at her and Annita gave her mischievous husband a warning look.
- “That he does.”
- “I noticed you and Daara seemed to be flailing a little bit. Almost came over to help you out.”
- “She seemed preoccupied in addition to being unsteady.”
- “Probably too busy making faces or waving lekku at Kacheen.”
- “She’s sweet on him. See, they’re over there dancing now.”
Selu looked over to see the two Twi’leks dancing, albeit a bit stiffly, their two brain-tails, or lekku, intertwined with each other’s.
- “Well, he’s coming up for his officer’s examination soon. Spectre’ll be hard as usual, so he’d better have his wits about him by then.”
- “I’m sure he will.”
- “But enough about them,” Selu said, lowering his voice into a tone of effected suavity. “Let’s talk about you.”
- “What about me?” Milya replied, nonplussed.
- “Well, how about I start with how much I love you?”
- “Go on.”
- “I-I,” Selu said, losing the smooth register he had modulated his voice into and returning to his typical tones. “I love you more than anything else in the universe.”
- “I love you too and I always will,” she said. “Keep whispering sweet things to me, though. I kind of like it.”
- “Mmm, how about I start on how gorgeous you are?”
- “Did you think that from the first moment you met me?” Milya asked, a wry smile breaking out on her face.
- “Now that you mention it, not really. I think I was preoccupied with some small matter-like throwing you off my ship.”
- “How very ungentlemanly of you.”
- “Well, you did stow away.”
- “I’m sure you remember it well.”
Selu remembered it well indeed. He had technically been just the pilot of the Hawk-bat at the time, though he was acting captain when he first met Milya. On the run from the Empire on New Holstice, he had gone ahead to scout out the ship’s status but had found it overrun by ship thieves. The first person he had spotted was Milya and the two had briefly tussled before realizing they both had a common enemy in the ship thieves. Milya was a runaway Echani mercenary at the time and she had stowed away to seek passage offworld. The two had defeated the ship thieves, and in the process had saved each others’ lives. Milya had shoved Selu out of the way of a poisoned knife, but had been injured by it instead. Selu had drawn the poison out and she had kissed him afterward.
- He shrugged. “It’s not every day I have to throw beautiful women off my ship.”
- “I remember that it wasn’t exactly love at first sight.”
- “That only happens in the storybooks anyway.”
- “At least you got one of these,” she said, leaning in close to kiss him.
Their lips met again and Selu again savored the warm softness of her mouth as they kissed. The cloying smell of her perfume filled his nostrils and he brushed his hand against the soft curls lying at the nape of her neck. Every nerve in his body was on fire as he held her to him and the Force told him she felt the same way. Even though she wasn’t that much smaller than he, she felt tiny in his arms, like a fragile glassine sculpture and he wrapped his arms around her with the appropriate delicateness.
- “Reminds me of the first thing I said to you,” he said after they came apart for air.
- “What was that?”
- “It was ‘Let’s try that again.’”
- “Not a bad idea,” she replied and they kissed again, long and passionately.
Spectre had just launched his own girlfriend, Sheeka Tull, into a turn and was in perfect position to see the two newlyweds kissing. Whereas he once would have been jealous of Selu-and indeed the two had come to blows over Milya once, to both of their detriment-Milya had made her attraction to Selu clear and Spectre had stayed out of the way. Now, he looked on with happiness for his friends-no, they were more than friends now. Since that mission a year ago where he, Selu, Sarth, Milya, and Sheeka Tull had gone to recruit the Freedoms Sons paramilitary group into the Yanibar Guard, Spectre had changed some. At the successful conclusion, he had spoken to Selu on the way back about how serious he was about Sheeka Tull since meeting her a year before on Ord Cestus. Selu had congratulated him and had told him that he couldn’t well get married without a surname to pass on to his children. With that, Selu and Sarth had offered to make Spectre part of the Kraen family and, although he had been shocked at first, he gladly agreed once he recovered from the surprise.
- “You’ll even fit in with the family naming tradition,” Sarth had joked, referring to the Commenorian naming tradition of having an entire generation of a family have the same initial letter for their first name.
Now Spectre Kraen, he had already planned on asking Sheeka Tull for her hand in marriage when Selu and Milya returned from their honeymoon. He suspected that she would be happy to agree-despite Selu’s comments about love at first sight, they had hit it off fairly well shortly after meeting. The fact that Sheeka had had relationships with both Jango Fett and another ARC possibly had influenced the speed of their relationship, but there was no doubt that they thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and Spectre could certainly see himself living out the rest of his days with Sheeka. Ever since finding his new post-military identity during a space battle in Hoth, onboard an Imperial transport, he could envision a future for himself beyond service and death in combat, which was all he had known as part of the Grand Army of the Republic as a cloned soldier with the same genome as Fett.
All too soon, the last song came to an end and, as planned, Selu and Milya were the last ones on the dance floor when it did, holding each other close, Milya’s head resting on Selu’s shoulder. As they parted, Selu kissed Milya’s hand and then turned and bowed to the guests, who had been watching them intently for the last few minutes of the dance, while she curtsied.
- “My friends and family,” he said. “Thank you so very much for coming and celebrating this joyous occasion with Milya and I. We’re glad all of you came and hope you had a good time-we couldn’t have enjoyed ourselves more. In fact, we hope to spend many more fond years in this most excellent company, but for now, we travel plans to attend to. We’re heading off now, but please enjoy the rest of the afternoon in our absence. If you leave here hungry or thirsty, the blame most decidedly lies with you, because there is plenty of food here! May the Force be with you all.”
That wasn’t to say that their departure was immediate. There was still one last round of hugging and waving and well-wishing to be done, but eventually they managed to exit the building and boarded a landspeeder left there for that purpose, freshly repainted for the wedding. A last goodbye to Samtel and Lena from Selu, and then they were off, heading from ceremonial hall to the docking bay carved out of the cliffs, where the Hawk-bat was waiting for them, fuelled and ready to take them to their honeymoon on Bespin.
They boarded the ship without delay; their luggage had already been packed into the hold, and Jorge had promised to convey all the wedding gifts to their hotel on Bespin. Aside from Selu’s immediate family, few knew where they were staying as a security measure. Jorge and Annita were privy to it because they were both old friends of the Kraen family and Jorge had recommended the hotel, after all.
Selu brought the Hawk-bat up into a smooth ascent and they cleared orbit without incident. Both Selu and Milya knew the systems of the Hawk-bat like the back of their own hands and the ship had been carefully inspected before it was cleared to launch; a full maintenance check had been meticulously performed until the light freighter met even Sarth’s exacting specifications. Selu kept a firm hand on the controls as they approached the point where the ship would jump to hyperspace for the trip to Bespin. About ten minutes before they made the jump to lightspeed, Milya got up from her chair and walked over to Selu, who was sitting at the pilot’s station.
- “Meet you in the back,” she said softly. “Just need to get a few things ready.”
- “Sounds good,” he said, his mind reading through the subtext and sending visions of desire dancing around in his head.
She kissed him on the cheek and walked aft while Selu supervised the jump to lightspeed. The navicomputer had taken a little longer than he would have preferred to calculate a course, but Sarth had no doubt made sure that all the safety precautions were enabled-something Selu typically was not in the habit of doing, as he could rely on the Force to determine the hazard of a jump when need be. Once the ship had attained superluminal velocities, Selu shrugged off his jacket, leaving it on the back of his chair, and walked aft. There was a dim glow coming from the captain’s cabin and Selu slowly walked in.
To his surprise, he found Milya lying on the bed there-newly replaced with one that could accommodate two people-sound asleep, still in her wedding dress. The lighting was muted, obviously intended to be romantic, but Selu could easily see she was exhausted. The wedding preparations had taken their toll on everyone involved, but he knew that Milya had been at the forefront of most of them. Now that he thought about it, he was tired too-although he could go for several days on end without sleep thanks to the Force, it was by no means pleasant. He decided to let his wife sleep; he had waited for this pleasure four years since they had started seriously dating as a sign of respect for the commitment that marriage involved, on his father’s advice; he could wait a little while longer.
Stooping down, he pulled a blanket over Milya and kissed her lightly on the forehead.
- “Sweet dreams.”
Walking back to the fore of the ship, he retrieved his jacket and found one of the other cabins, not wanting to disturb Milya by crawling into the same bed. It took him some time to fall asleep, but when he did, he slept soundly-after making sure to set an alarm to wake him twenty minutes before they reverted from hyperspace. The trip to Bespin had been cut down to less than a day thanks to a hyperroute that Selu’s father, Samtel Kraen, had known but never reported, but it gave Selu plenty of time to rest.
Milya awoke with a start, unsure of where exactly she was at first. Her eyes darted from point to point as she scanned her surroundings. She still heard the faint rumble of the ship’s engines through the deck plating and she soon realized that she was still on the Hawk-bat, lying in the bed of the captain’s cabin. Looking down, she realized she was still in her wedding dress, but someone-no doubt Selu-had thrown a blanket over her. How long had she been asleep? She stared aghast at the chrono, having thought at first that she had just dozed off. There was no way she could have been asleep that long. Her face burned with embarrassment as she realized she had just slept through her wedding night and she quickly sat up. Where was Selu? It was pointless to try and sneak around to find him-no doubt his all too keen Force senses had detected her awakening. Well, she figured she might as well change out of the rumpled wedding dress. After exchanging the formal gown for a more serviceable shirt and pants, she walked forward to Selu sitting at the captain’s chair, glancing at a chrono and fiddling with a datapad.
- “You’re awake,” he said pleasantly enough.
- “So are you,” she said. “Why didn’t you wake me?”
- “You looked tired,” he answered simply, his eyes still focused on the screen in front of him.
- “'Fess up, Selu,” she said. “You’re not the least bit annoyed about me falling asleep like that?”
- “Of course not,” Selu said.
- “Spare me,” she said. “I’m sure watching me snore wasn’t in your ideas for the evening.”
Selu put down the datapad and turned the chair to face her.
- “Not exactly, no,” he said. “But if you’re asking if I’m mad about it, the answer is no. We both needed the rest and I, well-after four years, what’s a few hours?”
- “That’s very sweet of you,” Milya said, walking over to sit on his lap, her now tousled hair cascading messily down her back.
- “Just trying to avoid starting our first fight the day we got married,” Selu said wryly.
- “It’s not like it’d be the first time we ever had a fight.”
- “True, but it’d be the first one as husband and wife-and I’d rather have that later than sooner.”
- “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry, Selu. It wasn’t what I had in mind either . . . I don’t know what came over me.”
- “Probably your eyelids,” Selu joked and she elbowed him in the ribs for the witticism.
- “Whatever. I promise I’ll make it up to you for sleeping through our wedding night.”
- “Oof. Do tell? I don’t recall you doing that.”
- “I was just asleep . . .”
- “If you count Yanibar time, it’s only evening,” Selu said, putting his arms. “Call it a prolonged afternoon nap.”
An alarm chimed from the ship’s computer and Milya quickly got stood up so Selu could attend to bringing the ship out of hyperspace. He clambered into the pilot’s chair and carefully eased back on the appropriate levers. The twisting tunnel of light resolved itself into starlines, which in turn transformed themselves into points of light as the Hawk-bat reverted to realspace. The gas giant Bespin floated through space like a giant golden ball and the Hawk-bat made its way towards the orb on a trail of blue ion exhaust. A fairly remote mining world, Bespin would have been only marginally of interest to colonists had it not been for the Tibanna gas found in its clouds. The substance was of great value for powering blaster weaponry and so mining colonies had been established on floating cities in the clouds. Eventually, such a lucrative operation attracted the wealthy and hotels and casinos sprang up for the benefit of the mine owners, garnering the world as both a profitable mining venture and something of a resort planet. Selu had been there years ago on one of his first cruises with the Hawk-bat and more recently on a visit to Jorge-though that had been incognito. Bespin was small enough to still remain independent of the Empire or the mining guilds, but the main settlement, a floating disk known as Cloud City, had seen better days than under its current administrator, Dominic Raynor. Selu had no desire to attract unwanted attention to himself and his bride, but Jorge had assured him that everything would be taken care of well in advance. As a backup plan, though, Selu and Milya had prepared the contents of the single black suitcase amidst the three other gray bags.
Milya caught Selu’s meaningful glance at the black bag as she brought the luggage forward.
- “What are you thinking about?” she asked.
- “Just . . . precautions,” he answered absently.
- “Don’t worry; I’m sure this won’t be nearly as hazardous as the last wedding you were at. Any rate, we’re already married, so nothing can possibly go wrong now.”
She said the words lightly, but Selu was indeed recalling the last wedding he had been at, back on Commenor four years earlier. Jorge and Annita had arranged a lavish ceremony only to have it interrupted midway by the Empire. Selu had been forced to duel an Imperial Dark Jedi while his friends covered the escape of the wedding party. He had defeated the Dark Jedi, but before he and Milya could reach Spectre and the waiting Hawk-bat, the darksider had sprung up and stabbed Milya through the heart with a knife, mortally wounding her. Only by a tremendous exertion through the Force had Selu saved her life, instinctively healing the damage thanks to the mental bond they had shared for some time. It was not something he had thought himself capable of at the time, nor did he think he could repeat the feat.
- “What if it is?” Selu asked seriously.
- “Then we’ll face it together,” she said. “Why? What’s wrong?”
- “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t have any worries ninety-nine percent of the time.”
- “And the other one percent?”
- “That’s the tricky part. There’s something that’s . . . making me uneasy.”
- “It could just be a little anxiety,” Milya suggested. “Don’t make a Star Destroyer out of a starfighter.”
- “I won’t, but I’ve lived as long as I have by being cautious. I don’t-I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
- “Somehow,” she said, fingering the scar on her ribs left by the Dark Jedi’s blade, “I’m not concerned anything as long as you’re there with me.”
Still, there were no complications as the Hawk-bat soared into Bespin’s atmosphere. It was nearing sunset local time here, a fortunate coincidence for Selu and Milya, and the golden rays of the sun tinged the billowing clouds with ochre hues. As they approached Cloud City, the smoothed disk of the city, its underside pointed into a spire, grew larger and larger. Soon they could distinguish one smooth-sided building from another as the Hawk-bat flew towards the upper-class landing pads on the topside of the floating city. The top side of the city was reserved for the casinos, resorts, and hotels and the polished exteriors were a stark contrast to the darker industrial structures that dotted the lower parts of the city. The ship cruised in for a smooth landing on a previously designated landing pad after a brief conversation with the local space traffic controllers. The pad was stark white, a popular texture in Bespin architecture, but the setting sun made everything seem to be the color of burnished bronze.
Jorge and Annita met them at the landing pad, with Jorge pumping Selu’s arm enthusiastically.
- “Glad to see you made it in,” Jorge said. “We just got in ourselves-and don’t worry-all your stuff has been forwarded to the hotel. I didn’t even charge you for the freight. There’s a hovercar here to take you to your hotel as well.”
- “Thanks, Jorge,” Selu said.
- “Is there anything else you need?” Jorge asked.
- “No, I don’t think so,” said Milya.
- “I’m fine,” put in Selu.
- “Well, we’ll be out of your hair then,” Annita said. “I imagine you two aren’t quite tired of each other’s company just yet.”
With that, the two departed, leaving Selu and Milya grateful for the privacy and thoughtfulness of their friends. As much as they enjoyed Jorge’s and Annita’s company, they still wanted to spend time alone together, reveling in the newness of their marriage. A droid porter took two of their bags and Selu carried the other two over to a waiting hovercar which conducted them through the towering buildings of upscale Bespin to their hotel. As Jorge had predicted, the hotel was opulent and luxurious, the very epitome of Bespin’s upper-class experience. Checking in at the front desk, Selu and Milya were escorted up to their room by a pair of uniformed Humans who handled the luggage for them. They felt a little out of place; both were wearing clothing more appropriate for everyday wear around the Hawk-bat in place of their formal wear, in contrast to the generally formal garb that the staff and other patrons were sporting. Selu resolved to adjust his attire accordingly when he reached his room.
As one of the porters swiped a card to open the door, Selu entered the hotel room and was awed by its size. A magnificent suite, it had a sizable main room, complete with two sizable conform loungers, form chairs, a deluxe holoprojector and a stunning balcony. The porters set their luggage down, left the swipecards that would gain them access to the room, and departed, but Selu and Milya continued to explore the suite. There was a sizable balcony that ran from the bedroom to the main room, and the curved exterior wall was entirely glassine, with floor to ceiling windows comprising significant portions of both rooms. From their color, Selu observed that they were privacy-tinted to allow people inside to look out, but onlookers outside would only see a mirrored finish. The result was a stunning vista overlooking Bespin’s atmosphere and part of Cloud City’s luxury district. There were fresh flowers in a vase on the desk, along with a datacard with a brief message from a much too cheery hotel staff member explaining the various complimentary amenities. For its own part, the bedroom was equally large, and although a sizable bed dominated the layout, there was also plenty of room for trappings and furnitures.
- “I think,” Selu said slowly. “I just might enjoy this.”
- "No kidding,” Milya replied. “The Imperial Palace couldn’t be better.”
- “I suppose we should unpack,” Selu said.
- “We could, unless you want to show me the hotel restaurant,” Milya replied.
Selu considered it.
- “Sure, I could eat again. Let me get something a little more formal on, though. Wouldn’t do to have all the other guests staring at us.”
Fifteen minutes later, looking far more presentable, Selu and Milya made their way out of their suite and across a wide promenade to the hotel’s restaurant. Once again, heads were turned their way, but this time more out of envy than disdain. Milya’s floor length black gown, once again shoulderless, sparkled from sequins sewn into it and Selu had donned a formal-looking civilian suit-the dress uniform would draw far too much unwanted attention-that while nowhere as eye-catching as Milya’s dress, was more than appropriate for the situation. Selu and Milya were largely aware of the reactions, but maintained a casual exterior as they were seated by the restaurant’s hostess. Picking up the menus, they glanced through them, eyeing the different exotic dishes.
- “I’m not sure what to order,” Selu said. “It either looks really great or really suspicious.”
- “It can’t be nearly as bad as the first place you took me to,” Milya said with a teasing smile.
- “Ah, you remember Selch’s Seafood,” Selu said.
- “Even though I’d prefer not to.”
Milya shuddered at the memory. It hadn’t really been Selu’s fault. For the first several weeks of life on Yanibar, they had both been kept extremely busy with helping set up the new government. She had been delighted when he had taken time out of his schedule to take her to the local spaceport, a decently sized town of about twenty thousand, for a nice meal. He had heard from a friend of his that Selch’s Seafood, a local dive, was a “pretty classy place” and decided to take Milya there. Unfortunately, Selu had forgotten to figure into his choice the fact that he had heard this report from a Twi’lek, and as a result, it had been more than a little disappointing. The restaurant was seedy, crowded and dirty, filled with boisterous customers and the food-Milya recalled with some shock at seeing a sizable fish, roasted whole without any scales removed, being plopped down in front of her on a bed of tough, overcooked tubers and limp vegetables. Selu’s meal had been equally unappetizing and the two picked at it before they decided to find somewhere else to go for dinner.
- “Hey, I made it up to you afterward,” Selu said.
- “That you did,” she said. “Ithorian fruit ice cream from a pier vendor, walking along the beach listening to the waves lap against the shore. The moon was shining down on us. It was wonderful.”
- “Don’t forget the speeder bike ride.”
- “How could I forget? We were only going a couple hundred kilometers an hour and my hair was absolutely ruined.”
- “More like rearranged, but you were the one who wanted to race.”
- “I won, didn’t I?”
- “Yes, you did,” Selu admitted. “I was so worried after the restaurant incident that I didn’t have the will to compete.”
- “Sure,” Milya said disbelievingly. “Just like you meant for that thunderstorm to show up during your outdoor holodrama idea.”
- “Hey, I had to protect that projector. It was borrowed,” Selu protested.
- “We were both soaked,” Milya said. “Our evening picnic had quite the damper put on it, and I didn’t get to finish watching Minions of Xendor.”
- “No, that wasn’t one of our better dates, but there were plenty of others that worked out better,” Selu said. “I mean, we’re here, aren’t we?”
- “You know, they say love is blind though,” Milya replied.
- “Good thing for me,” Selu said with self-deprecating humor, and Milya laughed at his remark.
As the first course of their dinner arrived, Selu and Milya dug in with hearty appetite, but without haste, chatting long and pleasantly about fond memories as they ate. For once, there was no hurry, no schedule, no pressing demands on their time and they could just relax and enjoy each other’s company and the gourmet cuisine of the restaurant. They weren’t even carrying a comlink, in order to maximize their irresponsibility-that had been left in the hotel room.
Two hours had passed by the time they finished their meal and the sun had set, causing the gold-tinged sky to slowly darken into a deep blue night sky with thousands of stars sparkling like diamonds in the void. Rather than walk directly back to their room, Selu and Milya decided to take a leisurely walk along a sizable viewing balcony that wrapped all the way around the hotel restaurant. The balcony had two layers, a wider one with tables where guests could sit outside and enjoy the atmosphere and another one, protruding out even further and a few meters lower than the main balcony. Narrower and more secluded, it was known among the hotel staff as the Lovers’ Gallery, and there the staff tried to be particularly unobtrusive. On a whim, Selu and Milya walked down there, and though a few other couples were scattered here and there, it was largely deserted. They made their way to the far end, arms around each other and engrossed in their own world, unsurprising conduct for blissful newlyweds. A balmy breeze was blowing in off the clouds, tugging at their hair, but otherwise the weather was about perfect-a far cry from Yanibar, at least until Selu and the Yanibar colony had arranged to have weather control centers installed to protect the refuge from the world’s unpredictable storms. That had been one of their first major investments; previously, Selu and other talented Zeison Sha were required to use the Force to help dissipate the most violent of the storms-no easy feat considering the energy required to noticeably depreciate the effects of a powerful thunderstorm.
Standing at the railing, Selu and Milya looked out over the sea of clouds, basking in the starlight. They were silent for some time, content to simply gaze at the natural beauty that lay before them.
- “Seems strange, doesn’t it?” Milya said. “To think how far we’ve come to be here. Against all the odds.”
Selu turned to regard his wife, locks of dark auburn hair gently streaming in the breeze, and thought about her statement.
- “It certainly is. It’s not something I ever would have imagined ten years ago,” he said. “I mean, I was a Jedi at the time, and marriage was the farthest thing from my mind. I was more concerned with becoming a Jedi Knight and serving the Republic than in any sort of . . . future outside the Order.”
- “I wouldn’t have thought it possible either,” she said. “When you live hand-to-mouth, barely struggling to get food for each day, hopping from one world to another-well, you don’t think a lot about the future beyond the next day, or the past for that matter.”
- “Some times not thinking about the past is a good thing,” Selu said. “There are a lot of things I’d rather not recall.”
Milya looked at his eyes, seeing deep into his mind. She saw the pained look and knew that memories of the Jedi Temple, of Emberlene, had flashed before him again, that a child’s scream, that the smell of blaster-charred flesh were as fresh to him as if he reliving the moment again. A Force bond had been formed between them at Revan’s tower, as with the rest of the crew, but even before then, Milya and Selu had always seemed to understand each other better than others did; Milya found she could talk to Selu even better than his own brother, Sarth, who hadn’t really known Selu most of his life anyway. That bond had been made even stronger when Selu had healed her on Commenor and their relationship had deepened the connection between them to the point where they could almost read the other’s mind or finish their sentences.
- “I know,” she said. “You told me about them, how they still haunt you.”
- “From time to time. It’s been easier to let some of them go more recently,” Selu answered distantly.
- “Is that why you named that first ship what you did?” Milya asked.
Selu’s mind whipped back to earlier that year, shortly before he had proposed to Milya, to the launch of the first decently sized ship of the Yanibar Guard. While Kraechar Arms had produced starfighters and converted some old Trade Federation landing craft into cargo vessels, the sleek gunship had been the first truly indigenous design. Sarth, nearly bursting with pride, had dubbed the design the Ataru-class in homage to Selu’s preferred lightsaber form, but as head of the entire Yanibar Guard, it had been Selu’s prerogative to name the ship. He recalled standing on the podium, again in full dress uniform, addressing the handful of naval officers before him. He remembered congratulating the ship’s new captain, a Duros, on her command. Once again, he stood beside the cloth covering the ship’s name plaque, swallowing hard and fidgeting ever so slightly as he hesitantly drew off the cloth to reveal the name: Serra Keto. With a bit of a catch in his voice, he had told the officers about the ship’s namesake, about how the girl he had grown up with had been a true Jedi Knight and had died in the name of freedom. Milya had stood beside him the entire time, supporting him silently even as he spoke just by being there. With trembling hands, he had taken a bottle of wine and telekinetically launched into space, where it turned end over end before smashing into the bow of the ship, marking the official launch of the Serra Keto. A small tear had traced down his face as the officers had cheered and the ship prepared to clear spacedock for the first time, and he had turned away so that others couldn’t see him-except Milya, of course. She had just put her arm around him, and that simple gesture had meant more to him than anything else could have.
- “Serra’s among the stars now,” he had said. “I don’t have to carry her inside of me anymore.”
It had been a release for Selu, a final release of those fallen dreams and might-have-beens, and it had paved the way for him to finally propose to Milya two weeks later. Until that point, he had experienced a niggling feeling that the closer he grew to Milya, the more he was betraying Serra’s memory, but that catharsis had allowed him to finally admit to himself how he felt about the woman he had gone on to marry.
Milya didn’t press the issue, simply keeping silent until Selu chose to speak again. She knew from experience that there wasn’t anything better he could do except wait and be there for him.
- “You know,” Selu said. “It gets easier every day, putting it behind me.”
- “I think it’s because of you,” he said flirtatiously, making a welcome change in the mood of the conversation. “I think the more I’m around you, the easier it is to forget unpleasant things. That means I need to be around you constantly.”
- “Oooh, I find myself flattered,” Milya said, her mouth curving up in a bemused smile. “Why weren’t you this smooth when you proposed to me?”
- “I wasn’t nearly as sure of myself,” Selu replied. “I didn’t know how you’d respond, but you weren’t nearly as surprised as I’d thought you’d be.”
- “Selu, I saw it coming a kilometer away,” Milya said. “When you took me, Sarth and Cassi to Bakura on a “fact-finding mission to meet Cassi’s parents”, you might have bothered to disguise your handiwork a little better.”
- “I did,” Selu protested. “Sarth and Cassi were there to visit her parents. We were there to explore the natural splendor of Bakuran waterfalls at that retreat we visited. The intelligence part of the mission was me determining how you would react to a marriage proposal. As far as I’m concerned, I accomplished that mission.”
Milya fondly recalled the mock protests she had given Selu as he had led her through a Bakuran wilderness preserve, which was a popular vacation spot, while Sarth and Cassi had remained at Cassi’s parents’ house. Selu had insisted that they journey by speeder through several dozen kilometers of idyllic grasslands to get to the reserve. The weather had been perfect, with not a cloud in the sky, and Milya had felt like she could see forever across the grasslands. She had gone along with his plan, but although he had claimed it was an intelligence mission, she had already spied the picnic basket he had placed in the cargo bay of the speeder, and his request that she wear some kind of dress had seemed out of character for an intelligence mission. She had chosen a sky blue one that fell to her knees, suitable for a variety of situations without being overly formal, that she had been given her a year earlier for her birthday. As the grasslands became intermingled with scrubby trees and eventually gave way to forest altogether, Selu had driven the speeder through an isolated path that wound through the woods. Although it was a natural reserve, the Bakurans kept it well-managed, with paths cut through the forest for sight-seeing and plants kept trimmed and pruned to enhance the beauty of the forest. It had been spring on Bakura when they visited and it seemed every tree, bush, vine, and plant was in flower, adding the full spectrum of colors to compliment the verdant foliage of the flora.
Eventually, Selu had parked the landspeeder nearby a roaring river and the two had eaten lunch perched on rocks overlooking the churning whitewater, ignoring the spray that the water sometimes threw at them. Selu had taken her for a walk afterwards, and they had wandered through various trails, drinking in the natural beauty that surrounded them. They had talked of various things, but Selu had gradually turned the conversation to future plans and dreams. They had talked about the subject for awhile, walking past any number of waterfalls as tributaries ran through the forest to feed into the river. The sounds of the birds in the trees, the bubbling streams and springs of water they passed by, the wind gently rustling the leaves of the trees, had been soothing, relaxing. The whole forest seemed alive in the Force, and since the ground was soft enough, they had left their shoes in the speeder, walking barefoot through the forest. It was tranquil, almost too perfect, Milya remembered and she had wondered how Selu had heard of this place-only later did she learn that Cassi had recommended it.
Finally, Selu led her to where a small pool of water was fed by a low waterfall less than a meter in height, surrounded by fragrant white-flowered bushes of some kind. The path had led between the waterfall and the pool and he had told her to stop, her feet submerged in the cool water flowing over the ledge, across the path, and into the pool, while he took a holograph. She had relented, standing there while he captured the image.
Selu’s heart had almost stopped as he looked through the eyepiece of the holocam at Milya, how beautiful she was standing by the ledge in her blue dress. It had been hammering loudly inside his chest all throughout their walk, but now, he almost couldn’t contain his nervousness. The greens and grays of the forest framed the scene perfectly, adding an earthy background to Milya standing there beside the water. Sunbeams shone through the trees to glint off the water and her auburn tresses, and she smiled expectantly, waiting for him. With fumbling hands, he had taken the holograph, but after he had finished, had left the holocam on a rock and walked over where she was standing expectantly, digging in his pocket. Clearing his throat, he gathered his nerve, took a deep breath, and clasped her hands in his. Flying in deadly space combat seemed far less nerve-wracking than what he was doing now. Sinking to one knee, he had kissed the back of her left hand while placing the ring on her finger telekinetically. Looking up into her eyes, he had asked her the question that he had been dying to ask.
- “Milya Tayrce, will you marry me?”
She had stood there, in shock, for several minutes, as if frozen in time. It had been just like she had foreseen in her visions, but she still hadn’t expected this outcome based on the turn of events. The Force had given her a talent for seeing the future and she had worked hard to hone that gift, but she wasn’t to the point where she could see all possible futures yet. Some of her visions had shown that Selu would propose to her, but she hadn’t been sure of the place or time; as often happened, while she could see some things, other details remained fuzzy and incoherent. Now that she stood here with Selu on one knee in front of her, all the missing pieces of the scene came together, like a strong sense of déjà vu. A thousand things raced through her mind as she tried to comprehend Selu’s request, but that was simply from the initial surprise. A second passed, then another, and her mind quieted. She had seen this scene played out before and she had already asked herself what she would do when this moment came-her visions had shown her increasingly that it was inevitable. Every fiber of her being was in agreement, and she knew what her answer was.
- “Yes,” she said. “I will join with you.”
Selu’s eyes had lit up at her response and he had leapt to his feet once her response sank in. They had kissed then, long and passionately, celebrating the union that was to come, not wanting to let the other go. The realization hit both of them what they had just agreed to, and they had raced back through the woods to their speeder, eager to get back and tell Sarth, Cassi, her parents, anyone about the happiness they had found, the love between them, and the promise they had made to each other. Selu saw the event as if he was there again, and Milya was with him, her mind sharing in the experience, adding her own perceptions in a way that far surpassed a holograph. A holograph couldn’t capture the musky sweetness of the fragrant flowers, nor replicate the swelling of emotion they both had felt, nor could it replace the feelings they felt as they held each other close. By comparison, such an attempt at recreating the moment would have been stale and empty, devoid of sensation.
- “You know,” Milya said, finally returning to the present. “I actually was surprised.”
- “Yes,” she said. “I knew you were going to propose, but I wasn’t quite sure if you were ready to yet.”
- “I suppose I should be proud of myself for having surprised someone with foresight of your caliber. It gets harder every year.”
- “Mmm, is that a compliment for you, or for me?”
Selu thought about it a little, but his attention was undoubtedly on Milya rather than the question.
- “Both of us,” he said, stroking her cheek affectionately. “We’re inseparable.”
- “Always?” she asked, her voice light and breathy.
- “Forever,” he said huskily.
Selu wrapped his arms around his wife, holding her quietly as they stood at the balcony, looking out over the sea of clouds, looking away into their future and how bright it seemed. However, though they both were temporarily filled with nothing but optimism, they both knew that trials would challenge them in the future. Even amidst a sky filled with innocent white clouds, a black thunderhead could arise seemingly out of nowhere. For now, though, they reveled in the innocence and bliss of their nuptials.
After a long while, Milya and Selu turned and walked back to their hotel room. Twilight had long since passed and it was getting on into late evening, though neither of them were that tired thanks to the rest they had enjoyed while on the Hawk-bat. Selu did a quick sweep of their room with the Force before he entered, but sensed nothing. Their suite was utterly undisturbed and he exhaled the breath he had unconsciously been holding. They didn’t feel so safe that he and Milya were ready to completely throw caution to the wind.
- “Let me see if I can’t make up for falling asleep earlier,” Milya said once Selu had closed the door behind her. “I’ll just be a minute.”
- “Okay,” Selu said agreeably. “I’ll sit here and pretend to look at the wedding gifts. Let me know when you’re ready.”
- “Oh, I will,” Milya said, sauntering off into the bedroom.
Selu watched her go and his imagination ran wild again. He inhaled her perfume again, intoxicating and heady as any drink, lost in its rich smell. Despite his distraction, though, he settled in on one of the conform loungers and idly looked through the small pile of gifts that had been delivered, waiting for Milya.
Milya breezed into the bedroom and quickly dimmed the lights to what she deemed was the appropriate level. Removing the jewelry she was wearing, she left the various pieces on the sinktop situated across the room from the bed. Moving to her luggage, she quickly sought out the piece she had in mind. Opening it up, she removed a package whose contents she and Cassi had picked out on a shopping trip in Bakura’s capital, Salis D’aar. Opening up the wrapper, she withdrew the lingerie she had picked out. Stripping out of her dress and leaving it on a heap on the floor, she donned the revealing shimmersilk garments, which intentionally left little to the imagination. She brushed her hair down until it lay in soft tresses dangling down over her shoulders, humming idly to herself. Pouring a few more drops of her perfume onto her hands, she kicked off her shoes and walked over to the mirror that was situated facing the bed, its frame mounted on the wall that separated the bedroom from the main area. She peeked around the doorway, conveniently next to the mirror, at Selu, but he was still seemingly engrossed in the gifts, or at least playing along by waiting until called.
As she looked at her image in the mirror, a wave of emotion swept over her and she was suddenly unsure of herself, a last case of wedding night jitters. Suddenly self-conscious, she cast a critical eye over herself. Once, years ago, Selu had rejected her offer to sleep with him, and some self-scathing part of her personality had wickedly suggested that he found her unattractive in some way. She knew it was untrue, but she couldn’t help but deny that the lying whisper existed. She had already failed Selu once by falling asleep on the Hawk-bat and a second mental whisper of doubt joined the first, insinuating that Selu was somehow angry with her. She shook her head, trying to clear her mind of such thoughts. Where had all this negativity come from? She was in love, wasn’t she? Dipping her fingers in the perfume, she lightly ran her hands through her hair, along the tanned skin of her neck, then down her body, dabbing the perfume onto her skin. The fragrance freed her mind of doubt and she felt freshly exuberant. Looking at the mirror again, she smiled and, now that her mind was clear, she felt desirable again and burned to be with her love. It was time to call-and then she saw it.
Milya froze, her eyes widening in silent horror as she stared at the nightmare vision that lay before her in the mirror.
There was someone standing behind her, clad in a tight jumpsuit of muted reds and blacks, sinuous as a cat. She was humanoid and muscular, rendered all but androgynous by her muscle tone. The woman was completely hairless, but wedge-shaped tattoos were etched along the sides of her head. Her face, already menacing of visage from the tattoos and baldness, was twisted into a grimace of cruel pleasure, utter ruthlessness apparent in her hardened dark eyes, which burned with hatred. Worst of all, around her trim waist, hanging from her belt, were two lightsaber hilts, both of them curved in a fashion similar to the ones used by Count Dooku during the Clone Wars. Milya recognized the woman; her name was Asajj Ventress, a Dark Jedi who had somehow survived the Clone Wars. Milya had seen her before years ago, on Emberlene, dueling Selu, and she, Sarth, and Spectre and a pair of reprogrammed droidekas that had stopped Ventress from killing Selu. He had told her later that Ventress was ruled by an unquenchable thirst for rage and vengeance, but they had believed her dead in the calamity that had befallen Emberlene. Milya certainly couldn’t have anticipated seeing Ventress her; none of her visions had even remotely hinted at danger. Ventress smiled, a wicked smile, devoid of humor, and walked up to Milya, invisibly silent.
- “How sweet,” hissed the dark woman softly in Milya’s ear, her voice dripping with venom. “The young bride on her wedding night, getting ready for her love.”
Ventress circled around to Milya’s right, drawing the fingernails of her right hand over her back, raising gooseflesh on the largely bare skin. Milya gasped as Ventress touched her, drawing back reflexively. Jolts of adrenaline surged through her blood as she fought to escape the paralysis that fear had thrown over her. Breathing heavily and trying to control her racing heart, she stared in horror as Ventress’s right hand lazily dipped into her belt to grasp the silvery hilt of a lightsaber. Suddenly, Selu filled the doorway. He had sensed Milya’s spike of fear and had decided to investigate, even after his Force senses had detected nothing. Walking into the doorway, he was in no way prepared for what he saw. A nearly naked Milya was standing less than a few meters from the doorway, but standing in between him and his wife was Asajj Ventress, a horrifying creature to encounter on most occasions, but even more terrible here. The dark side of the Force that tinged her presence, previously hidden by some technique Ventress had employed, now was revealed and Selu sensed its palpable evil. He stood aghast, unarmed, and helpless to do anything to save his own life, much less that of his wife. The Force crackled as light faced dark once more, the energy almost tangible between them.
- “Remember me?” asked Ventress, grinding the last words out. “You left me for dead on Emberlene, wasn’t that right?”
- “It’s not worth it, Asajj,” Selu said slowly, stalling for time to try and recover.
- “Not worth it?” Ventress spat. “You tried to kill me.”
- “It was a misunderstanding,” Selu said, forcing some level of calmness into his shaky voice. “You can let go of the dark side, let go of your hate.”
- “Let go of it?” Asajj said, as if amused by such a ridiculous notion. “My hate, young Jedi, has kept me alive this long so far. As has my thirst for revenge, but I am most certainly about to satisfy that, starting with your beautiful little wife.”
The prudent thing to do would have been to stab Milya right there and then, burning through her torso, and then kill Selu before he could react. Milya even expected, was anticipating the red hot light lancing through her abdomen in a fatal wound or simply slicing her in half. However, Ventress was far from willing to end this so quickly, hoping to prolong the sweet agony as she breathed in the waves of fear emanating from both of them.
- “No,” Selu breathed, horrified.
- “Oh yes,” Ventress said, the spiteful words like honey to her lips. “I thought about crippling you first and then killing her slowly in front of you, glorying in your anguish as you listened to the screams of your wife and stared at her suffering.”
Milya whimpered softly and began shrinking with fear before the dark specter of Ventress, her knees buckling beneath her. Ventress regarded her briefly and smiled that cruel smile again before continuing. Selu caught something though, a trace of action, and he knew something was up. She wasn’t just acting involuntarily; he saw her leg muscles tense out of the corner of his eye, but he betrayed none of this on his face. Instead, he mentally prepared himself to act, to stop Ventress if nothing else.
- “Instead, though, I’ll cripple her first and kill you quickly. Faster, but that’s the best way, don’t you think? Mind you, she’ll be hurt, too. Maybe an arm or an eye, or one of those long, luscious legs. But you, you will die first-screaming for mercy, Jedi. Not slowly enough to my liking-this place is far from isolated-but it will be enough,” Ventress said, the words dripping off her lips with almost tangible hatred.
Her hand withdrew the lightsaber in a flash, igniting it and bringing the crimson blade across her body in a stroke aimed to slash across Milya’s thigh and severe the leg entirely. However, her blade sliced through thin air. As soon as Ventress had gone for the lightsaber, Milya was already in motion, having seen her action before it occurred with Force-bestowed precognition. She threw her entire body backwards in a desperate twisting motion with a blazing speed harnessed from desperation, adrenaline, and raw Force energy. Ventress’s lightsaber passed between her legs, its tip narrowly missing her left knee, but Milya managed to escape more than the faintest hint of a scorch mark on her skin. She landed heavily on the floor, vulnerable to a follow-up strike, but this had been her only option to survive the first blow; she trusted in Selu to save her beyond that.
Ventress howled with rage, but Selu gave her no time for a more lethal follow-up strike. Through the bond between them, he had known the desperate gamble that Milya was about to take and he knew that his actions would mean the difference between life and death. As soon as Ventress had struck, he had reached out with the Force to haul on the Dark Jedi’s saber arm, slowing its motion somewhat and buying crucial milliseconds for Milya to get out of her reach. His other action was far more forceful and a nanosecond after Ventress’s blade cleared Milya’s leg, Selu channeled as much Force energy as he could pour through his body into his arms and into telekinesis. Grabbing Ventress in a whirlwind of power, he lifted her from the ground, eyes blazing with pure power. She struggled in his grip with all her might and Selu knew she would escape him in another second and cut them both down, but he was not about to give her that chance. Selu violently brought his two arms, hands outstretched towards as a focusing gesture for the vortex of telekinetic power wrapped around Ventress, across his body, symbolizing his intent.
Carried away by a power even her own mastery of the dark side could not sweep away, power that Ventress had not sensed in Selu the first time they had dueled, Ventress was swept away in the currents of the maelstrom. Selu hurled her through the floor-to-ceiling exterior wall of the bedroom, shattering the glassine panels, and completely throwing her out of the hotel into thin air. She spared him a vicious look of furious surprise, then plummeted out of sight, too off guard and too far away to even stretch for the balcony.
- “Is she gone?” Milya asked, rising from the floor.
- “For now,” Selu said, iron evident in his voice. “She’s not dead.”
- “What are you going to do?”
- “End this,” Selu said through gritted teeth as he stared out through the shattered glass Ventress had flown through. “She won’t stop until we’re dead, trust me.”
- “You’re not going without me, Selu,” Milya said, and though she had been terrified by the ordeal she had just experienced, she was not about to back down.
Turning back to his wife, he was viscerally aware of her scanty clothing and while that on any other circumstance would have immediately distracted him, nothing short of seeing her dying could soften his resolve at the moment.
- “You might want to find something more appropriate to wear,” he said, easing his tone somewhat. “Stay here. I’ll get the case.”
Striding into the next room, Selu grabbed the lone black suitcase they had packed and swiftly brought into the bedroom. Tossing it on the bed, he opened it up to reveal its neatly packaged contents. Two black jumpsuits, one for each of them. Their lightsabers, including Selu’s shoto. Two highly illegal thermal detonators. Milya’s vibroblade. A sizable medpack. Encrypted comlinks. Utility belts. Grappling cable. Glowrods. A pair of computer spikes for slicing into security systems. Selu and Spectre had packed this bag themselves as a last minute contingency plan in case of unexpected trouble on Bespin. It was appearing to be a better and better idea by the microsecond. Selu grabbed his lightsabers out of the bag and lit them, standing ready in case of another surprise attack.
- “You get changed first,” he said.
Milya complied first, slipping into the jumpsuit and fastening its closures. Hefting her lightsaber, she stood guard while Selu traded his dressy pants and shirt for the utilitarian Kraechar Arms combat jumpsuit, which allowed flexibility while providing some level of padding against falls or physical blows. Both of them now clad in the form-fitting black outfits, they rapidly grabbed the rest of their equipment and stuffed it into pockets or clipped into their belts, unsure of how long they had before Ventress returned. Once outfitted, Selu and Milya swept the area with their Force senses, but they were unable to pick up the dark aura of Asajj Ventress.
- “She’s good at hiding herself,” Milya noted.
- “Lots of practice,” Selu replied. “We have that too.”
- “What’s that strapped to your back?” Milya asked, referring to an unusual shaped bladed weapon that Selu had strapped to his back.
The hilt was shaped like a hollow disk, curved prongs linked by a single crossbar and turning into a razor sharp blade of considerable width and a sizable notch slicing through the main blade.
- “A wedding gift from Olno Mada, an old Zeison Sha relic,” Selu said. “It’s called a blade-breaker-made of cortosis.”
Milya nodded in comprehension, knowing the value of the weapon. A rare metal, cortosis-reinforced blades could block lightsaber blows while purer alloys were capable of shutting down a lightsaber altogether for a few seconds.
- “Shall we?” she asked and Selu gave her a curt signal in the affirmative.
Breathing in deeply, the two Jedi camouflaged their own Force presences, making their light-side auras as small as possible, shielding them with layers of Force energy to help diffuse the impression on the Force their presences made. While this would limit their own usage of Force powers, if they couldn’t track Ventress, it was vital that Ventress not be able to track them. It was a hunt-or-be-hunted game, and often the one who struck first won. They stepped out onto the balcony and Selu peered over the edge, looking down into the depths of cityscape yawning below him for any trace of Ventress.
This time, Milya reacted first.
- “Look out!” she shouted to Selu as Ventress dropped down like a thunderbolt from her perch on the overhang above the balcony, blades ready for the kill.
Selu whipped around impossibly fast, his green lightsaber parrying her first strike out wide while his shoto, held back-handed, narrowly deflected her second blow from his ribs. As Ventress’s first leg landed on the balcony, Milya swung her lightsaber, only one of its blades lit for control, to attack. Ventress blocked the silvery-white blade with own of her own sabers, only to have a Force-empowered side kick delivered to her midsection by Selu, plowing her clean off the balcony for the second time.
This time, however, she slowed her fall with the Force, landing atop a passing airspeeder. Throwing the shrieking driver out of the sizable cockpit to his death, she manipulated the controls with the Force while standing astride the vehicle, heading back towards Selu and Milya with clear intentions-Ventress planned on ramming the speeder through them.
Realizing Ventress’s plans just in time, Selu and Milya leapt clear off the balcony as the fast-moving airspeeder plowed into the balcony and tore into their hotel room in a cloud of dust and duracrete fragments, accompanied by the screech of rending metal. Ventress had leapt clear also and the three dueled in mid-air, with Ventress in between Selu and Milya. The red, green, and silver blades flashed back and forth through the air as lunge met parry, counter-attack met riposte. Without a floor beneath them, they were free to move as they pleased and Ventress managed to slow her descent enough to rise above Selu and drive both her legs into his stomach as she plunged down on him. This left her open to Milya’s counterattack though and while Ventress managed to stop Milya’s saberstaff, of which both blades were now engaged, the former Echani mercenary clipped Ventress’s head with an elbow strike, which only served to enrage the Dark Jedi.
All three of them landed heavily on the deck of a lumbering cargo skimmer after falling nearly half a kilometer from their original position. Selu’s eyes widened as he realized they were standing on a craft carrying a cargo of volatile Tibanna gas. Asajj knew it, too, he saw from the look of her eyes and a quick jerk of his head was enough to clue in Milya as well. That said, Asajj immediately leapt in the air towards him, seeking again to attack him from above. This time, Selu leapt to meet her and their two blades clashed dangerously close to each other’s neck in the collision. As they passed by, Asajj hooked her near leg behind Selu’s leg and jerked it, ruining his trajectory and dropping him to land on his back on the metal top of the cargo skimmer. She descended and pivoted, a crimson lightsaber already seeking for his throat, but a spear of silver light met it. Selu saw the two blades cross centimeters above him in a flash of light and he brought his own lightsaber and shoto together as he sprang up from his prone position, calling on the Force. The two green shafts of light knocked both of Ventress’s blades back and he lunged out at Ventress with his lightsaber. She vaulted back, head over heels, but her lightsaber intentionally scorched through the deck into a pressurized Tibanna containment cylinder. Selu and Milya saw the explosion just before it happened and threw themselves backwards while fashioning as strong of Force shields as they could manage to help deflect the blast. Emerging slightly singed, they once again snapped to guard as Ventress leapt above the column of flame to the attack once more, striking with relentless hatred. As they fought, the Tibanna fire spread through the vessel, igniting more chambers beneath them. The deck plating groaned and parts of it began turning red hot and buckling.
By now, the crew of the skimmer was aware of something wrong with gas transport; the hull of the skimmer had obscured the fight from their view and the explosion was the first hint of trouble they received. However, the initial explosion had already torched through the control lines and the skimmer began plummeting, falling through the air towards an industrial complex, specifically a Tibanna refinery. The frantic crewman screamed for help over the comlink; as the cockpit was at the bow and partially beneath the pod-shaped skimmer, he was going to be simultaneously crushed and incinerated upon impact. Glancing at his side rear cams, he saw the huge plume of flame trailing from his skimmer and he knew he was doomed.
Ventress whirled and spun, her blades flashing back and forth against Selu’s and Milya’s, first high, then low, but she couldn’t seem to land a hit on either opponent, other than the occasional graze. Their feet shuffled back and forth in a lethal dance as they battled. Milya’s saberstaff had gone into the steady spinning rhythm of Form III, an impenetrable wall against her strikes, while Selu was everywhere at once, his lightsaber and shoto seeking out her vital areas in constant counterattack, the embodiment of the aggressive kinetic philosophy of Form IV. Asajj rocked Selu back with a high kick to the jaw, sending him stumbling back and she pressed the attack, pushing him dangerously close to the spreading inferno. Selu felt the heat on his back, felt his skin beginning to cook, and knew he had to do something or be burned alive. Planting his right foot back and ignoring the heat that began crawling up his leg, he lowered his body and turned his torso along Asajj’s next leaping attack. She slid right along him, screaming with hate as her left hand blade was blocked out wide by his lightsaber and his shoto parried her right blade high. Selu twisted his body and arms and Ventress went flying to land on her back on the searing deck. She screeched in pain, and though she leapt up instantly to continue the fight, Selu could smell burned flesh intermingled with the stench of flaming Tibanna and saw the smoke rising from her back. Ventress looked over her shoulder for an instant and saw how close the skimmer was to crashing. Turning, she ran along the edge of the burning skimmer, picking her way lightly through the spreading fires, and leapt off the skimmer. Selu and Milya raced after her as the blaze began exploding through the deck plating as more Tibanna cylinders were breached. Jumping to the bow of the skimmer, Ventress leapt off easily to land on a high Tibanna refining tower. Selu raced after her, augmenting his flight with the Force to land a few stories below her, but Milya stopped short for a second. Carving through the roof of the cockpit with her lightsaber, she bodily hauled the hysterical pilot out and jumped into thin air with him in tow. Landing first, she managed to arrest the pilot’s descent enough so that, although he slid across the metal floor of the refinery floor upon release, Milya doubted the man had suffered any permanent physical harm.
- “Run while you can!” she shouted at the man.
Knowing that Ventress could either jump down after them or simply hold the high ground atop her tower, Milya decided to remove one of her options. The longer the duel went on, the greater chance that one of them would tire and sustain a fatal wound through a careless mistake.
- “Selu, gimme a boost!” she shouted.
Gathering the Force to her, she switched off her lightsaber, but kept it in her hand, and jumped as high into the air as she could. She felt Selu’s mental grip, strong and steady, take hold of her and catapult her even higher until she was as high as the top of Asajj’s tower, though well out of lightsaber reach unless Ventress was willing to part with one of her weapons and expose herself to an attack from below by Selu. Clutching her arms to her chest and drawing her legs up, Milya summoned all the Force energy she could manage into her body and then released it in an almost visible shockwave of power with limbs splayed out, to Ventress’s great surprise. The disk of destruction tore through the top of the tower, sending Ventress flying back in a bruising hail of debris to land on the vast flat roof of a Tibanna processing facility.
Vaulting upward, Selu caught Milya once more in his mental grip as she barely caught a hold of a maintenance walkway lower on the ruined talent. He quickly hauled her up and noted that they were both breathing heavily, sweat and grime coating their faces, muscles heaving from the exertion. However, one look at Ventress staring balefully at them from the roof twenty meters away was enough to stiffen his resolve once more. Gritting his teeth, he once more leapt through the air from the walkway to the roof, slashing his lightsaber in a horizontal arc to deflect any attacks Ventress might throw at him while was in mid-air, Milya not far behind him. To his surprise though, as he and Milya dashed forward to attack the ever-elusive Ventress, the Dark Jedi fell back, yielding ground to them until they were near the middle of the roof. It was an odd landscape, largely flat rusty-looking metal sheets marked at regular intervals with boxy cooling vents but otherwise featureless. Selu, Milya, and Asajj wove their deadly tale through this locale, blades flashing in swirls of light as their Force-enhanced strength and reflexes were brought into play.
- “How did you find us?” Selu demanded, his green lightsaber sizzling against a red one.
- “I strode through the Force, Jedi. I saw you coming here.”
- “What do you mean, ‘saw?’” Selu insisted.
- “You were in my visions,” she said. “I knew we had to meet again and I saw you die.”
- “The future is in motion, Ventress,” Milya countered, blocking a low sweep of Ventress’s other lightsaber.
- “So you say,” Ventress replied offhandedly.
Suddenly, Ventress threw up her right hand, knocking both of them back with a blast of telekinesis. Then, she viciously stabbed the point of her right elbow below, detonating a surge of dark side energy that disintegrated the roof they were fighting on. Entire ten meter sheets of metal were torn into flying shreds and cooling vents were turned into plummeting chunks of wreckage as all three of them fell ten meters to the interior below. Ventress was graceful, fully in control of her drop, while Selu and Milya threw up hasty Force shields to deflect the deadly shrapnel raining down around them. To add to matters, Ventress telekinetically grabbed still-volatile cylinders of Tibanna gas that had yet to be frozen and stabilized inside carbonite from the floor of the facility and hurled them at the two Jedi, detonating them nearby. It was like falling into a room filled with exploding fragmentation grenades. Selu, with his mastery of telekinesis, was able to avoid any injury from the flying metal and exploding gas cylinders, but he landed hard on his back, sending stars flashing through his vision and his lightsabers flying from his hands. Milya took several lacerations and burns from the metal shards and Tibanna explosions, but she landed on her feet.
Milya took one swing at Asajj, had it blocked, and was about to follow it up when the Dark Jedi flipped backwards to attack the suddenly vulnerable Selu. Milya raced after Ventress, moving faster than a blink of an eye, but there was no way she would reach Ventress first before the dark one could deliver a fatal blow. It was futile and yet Milya stretched beyond hope to reach Selu first.
She failed. Ventress landed catlike next to Selu. Smiling down at the unarmed Jedi, she slashed her left blade in a decapitating arc, only to have it parried away by Selu, who had not only recovered but was armed with a broad two-pointed metal sword with a deep central notch running down the blade that resisted her lightsaber’s edge. Snarling, she half-turned and drove her right-hand blade down at Selu to stab him, but this time, he caught her blade in the notch of his sword and he twisted the sword as hard as he could. To her extreme amazement and disbelief, her red lightsaber disappeared in front of the Dark Jedi.
Milya wasted no time in exploiting Ventress’s surprise. Dipping her right hand into her boot even while on the run, she came up with her vibroblade and hurled the ten-centimeter blade at Ventress. The blade caught her high on the left pectoral just below the shoulder, severing the nerves leading to that arm, a crippling move. Amazingly, Ventress screamed out and kicked the metal sword from Selu’s grip; ignoring the cut on her calf the effort cost her, only intent on destroying Selu. Her right hand grabbed the lightsaber out of her nerveless left hand before it fell and she raised it high in a last killing strike. Selu’s eyes hardened though, and, though he had been avoiding this final strike, he knew Ventress, blackened by bitterness and vengeance, would never yield. There was only one thing he could do. Closing his eyes, he called his lightsaber and shoto from their places on the ground and, igniting them mentally, hurled them as fast he could like green arrows into Ventress’s body. He opened his eyes in time to see the lightsaber hit first, stabbing through her stomach and burning through her spine. Ventress staggered, looked down at the green shaft of light impaling her body, then gasped in surprise. A nanosecond later, the shoto slammed straight into her heart with bone-crunching force; the trauma alone was probably enough to rupture her pericardial sac and break ribs, but the shoto was lit and its searing heat vaporized three quarters of her heart on impact. The lightsaber dropped from Ventress’s fingers to clatter on the medal deck. She stared at Selu, transfixed by the three blades plunged deep into her body, then dropped lifelessly, first to her knees, then onto her side, gazing into the distance. The bloody reign of Asajj Ventress, feared throughout the Clone Wars for her ruthlessness and cunning, was over. A wave of dark side energy surged from her body, washing over Selu and Milya like a foul stink, as her spirit passed into chaos.
Milya raced forward and quickly kicked the lightsabers away from Ventress, just in case the Dark Jedi had somehow survived two lethal wounds.
- “No,” Selu said, hauling himself up wearily. “She’s dead.”
Slowly, he plucked each weapon from the corpse, deactivating the lightsabers and, after wiping it on the Dark Jedi’s body, returning the vibroblade to Milya.
- “Are you okay?” Milya asked with obvious concern.
- “She-she,” Selu stammered, clasping his hand over his midsection.
- “She what?” Milya demanded, hoping that Selu hadn’t been grievously wounded.
- “She wouldn’t stop. I had to kill her,” Selu said in disbelief, queasy from the dark side energy and worn out from the prolonged fight.
- “She left you no choice, Selu. I saw the look in her eyes-she wasn’t going to surrender until we were dead.”
- “I just don’t understand it,” Selu said. “How someone could be that dark.”
- “Maybe it’s better that we don’t understand it. Maybe it’s not possible to know what that’s like without experiencing the dark side.”
- “You could be right, but that makes it that much harder to try and bring someone turned to the dark side back to the light.”
- “It was the right thing to do,” Milya said firmly. “I wish it were otherwise, but Ventress was so . . . so steeped in evil that she couldn’t come back. Killing her was a mercy, Selu, a mercy to all the other people she would have gone on to kill.”
- “You’re right,” Selu said after a moment.
- “Let’s get out of here,” Milya said gently.
Helping her husband fully stand to his feet-that last fall had cost Selu a twisted ankle that was rapidly swelling-Milya stood there, letting him gingerly apply pressure on the leg. Selu winced.
- “Not pleasant, but I’ll make it. You?”
- “Nothing permanent,” she replied.
- “Good,” Selu said as he began limping towards the exit for the packing facility. “But I’m not looking forward to the walk back to the hotel.”
- “Me neither,” Milya said. “Fortunately for us, we don’t have to. I just commed Jorge and Annita. They’re on their way over here now in a private speeder.”
- “You always know the right thing to say,” said Selu, leaning heavily against the doorway.
Stopping, he pulled his thermal detonator from its belt pouch and, arming it, rolled the glossy sphere over to where to Asajj’s body lay. The resulting explosion consumed her final remains and lightsabers, leaving no incriminating evidence behind.
- “She’s gone forever,” Selu said. “Let’s hope her bloody legacy dies with her.”
Thankfully, Jorge and Annita arrived before the Bespin Wing Guard and Emergency Services convoy determined their location, having been otherwise occupied with the burning Tibanna skimmer. Jorge brought his airspeeder down and Annita helped Milya and Selu into the passenger compartment. After opaquing the viewports, Jorge sped off, slipping right past the Wing Guard and official notice. He took them to his and Annita’s house after swinging back by the hotel so Milya could retrieve the black suitcase, slipping through the ruined balcony. By the time they got there, they had already concocted an appropriate story to the hotel staff: when the speeder had crashed into the balcony, they had been scared and had called Jorge, who had picked them up and taken them to his place.
After seeing their condition, Annita had insisted on checking them both for injuries, though, and Selu and Milya had somewhat reluctantly submitted to her ministrations as Annita led them into the refresher and brought out a medpac; Selu was sure it was nothing a Jedi healing trance couldn’t heal in a few hours, but for Annita’s sake, he allowed her to patch up the various cuts, bruises, and burns from the duel, as well as bind up his ankle. Grousing internally, he applied a Force technique to still the pain that was evoked as Annita applied some kind of burn ointment to his scorched back.
- “You know,” Milya said from the chair where she was applying salve to a burn on her arm. “You look pretty good with your shirt off, even all beat up.”
Annita chuckled and Selu gave her a sarcastic glance.
- “Thanks so much,” he said. “You looked pretty good in the hotel, too.”
She started to come back with a retort, but before she could say it, Jorge walked through the door of the refresher.
- “Good news,” he said. “The Wing Guard and the hotel staff have apologized profusely for the incident at the hotel. They’re investigating and while they’ll want to interview you, it’s just a formality. Give them your ‘frightened newlywed’ story and they’ll be out of your hair.”
- “Just keep the lightsabers packed away,” said Milya. “That would complicate things.”
- “I’ll repack the case while you talk to the Wing Guard,” Jorge said. “At any rate, the hotel will reimburse you for any damages and they’ve given you another suite, free of charge, if you’re still interested.”
Selu and Milya exchanged glances.
- “Definitely,” Milya said.
- “Definitely,” Selu agreed. “I mean, we can’t let our honeymoon be interrupted by a little matter like a prolonged chase and lightsaber fight against a ruthless Dark Jedi.”
Jorge grinned and shook his head.
- “I figured you would say that. C’mon, let’s go talk to the Wing Guard detective waiting outside and then I’ll take you back to that hotel. And for the record, you’re both impossible.”
Following a mercifully brief and altogether easy interview with the local law, Selu and Milya were taken back to the hotel by Jorge, and the concierge directed them to their new suite, showering them with apologies. The hotel staff had already moved the rest of their belongings to the new suite with no questions asked and Selu and Milya gratefully accepted the key to their new room, as the exhaustion from the duel was rapidly settling in. Selu took the second sanisteam, washing away the grime and dried sweat from the battle, wishing he could wash away the memories of Asajj’s hate-filled face from his mind with the same ease. Toweling himself off, he pulled on a comfortable set of clothes and walked out to see Milya, who had cleaned up first, already lying on the bed in a pink bathrobe, having slipped into the peace of the hibernation trance. Grunting from the pain his ankle caused him, he pulled himself next to her and closed his eyes, the slowed rhythm of her breathing lulling him into not just unconsciousness, but a Force-tinged hibernation trance that would heal his wounds and rejuvenate his mind from the horrors he had experienced.
Hours later, he emerged from the trance, feeling completely refreshed and revitalized. Opening his eyes, he was surprised to find Milya had risen already. Looking out the ubiquitous window, he saw that it was evening local time. He blinked in surprise. He had been in the trance for almost a full day? Apparently the duel had taken more of him than he thought. He flexed his ankle and found that it moved painlessly, no trace of the injury remaining. Similarly, his back no longer felt tender to the touch. Satisfied that he was once again in full physical condition, he sat up to see Milya once again sporting her lingerie, sitting in a form chair, looking expectantly at him.
- “Glad to see you up,” she said, smiling brightly as she rose from her chair and leaned in to kiss him.
- “So am I,” Selu replied.