Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Lost Stars
A SHIP SLICED THROUGH the shale-gray sky overhead, so quickly it was no more than a line of light and a distant screech almost lost in the wind.
â€œThatâ€™s a Lambda-class shuttle!â€ Thane Kyrell pointed upward, jumping with excitement. â€œDid you hear it? Did you, Dalven?â€
His older brother cuffed him and sneered. â€œYou donâ€™t know what the ships look like. Youâ€™re too little to know.â€
â€œAm not. It was a Lambda-class shuttle. You can tell by the sound of the enginesâ€”â€
â€œChildren, hush.â€ Thaneâ€™s mother never glanced back at them. She concentrated on holding up the hem of her saffron-colored robe so it wouldnâ€™t trail in the dust. â€œI told you we ought to have brought the hovercraft. Instead weâ€™re wandering down to Valentia on foot like valley trash.â€
â€œThe hangars will be a madhouse,â€ insisted Thaneâ€™s father, Oris Kyrell, with a contemptuous sniff. â€œThousands of people trying to land whether or not theyâ€™ve got a reservation. Do you want to spend our whole day fighting over docking rights? Better to do it this way. The boys can keep up well enough.â€
Dalven could; he was twelve years old, long-limbed and proud to tower over his younger brother. For Thane, the downhill trek through the uneven mountain paths was harder going. So far he was shorter than most boys his age; the large feet and hands that hinted at his future height were, for now, merely awkward. His reddish-blond hair stuck to his sweaty forehead, and he wished his parents had let him wear his favorite boots instead of these shiny new ones, which pinched his toes at every step. But he would have made a more difficult trip than that to finally see TIE fighters and shuttlesâ€”real spacecraft, not like some clunky old V-171.
â€œIt was a Lambda-class shuttle,â€ he muttered, hoping Dalven wouldnâ€™t overhear.
But he did. His older brother stiffened, and Thane prepared himself. Dalven never hit him very hard when their parents were nearby, but those lesser shoves or punches were often a warning of worse to come later. This time, however, Dalven did nothing. Maybe he was distracted by the promise of the spectacle they would see that dayâ€”the display of flying power and fighting techniques by vessels of the Imperial fleet.
Or maybe Dalven was embarrassed because heâ€™d realized Thane had identified the ship when he couldnâ€™t.
He says heâ€™s going to the Imperial Academy, Thane thought, but thatâ€™s just because he thinks it will make him important. Dalven doesnâ€™t know every single ship like I do. He doesnâ€™t study the manuals or practice with a glider. Dalven will never be a real pilot.
But I will.
â€œWe shouldâ€™ve left Thane at home with the housekeeper droid.â€ Dalvenâ€™s voice had become sulky. â€œHeâ€™s too little for any of this. In another hour heâ€™ll be whining to go home.â€
â€œI wonâ€™t,â€ Thane insisted. â€œIâ€™m old enough. Arenâ€™t I, Mama?â€
Ganaire Kyrell nodded absently. â€œOf course youâ€™re old enough. You were born in the same year as the Empire itself, Thane. Never forget that.â€
How could he forget when sheâ€™d reminded him at least five times already that day? He wanted to say so, but that would only earn him another cuff from Dalvenâ€”or, worse, a new barrage of insults from his father, whose words could cut deeper than any blade. Already he could sense them staring at him, waiting for any show of defiance or weakness. Thane turned as if he were looking down toward their destination, the city of Valentia, so neither his father nor Dalven would see his expression. It was always better when they didnâ€™t know what Thane was thinking.
He wasnâ€™t worried about his mother. She rarely noticed him at all.
The wind tugged at his blue-and-gold-embroidered cloak, and Thane shivered. Other worlds had to be warmer. Brighter, busier, more fun in every way. He believed this despite never having visited another planet in his life; it was impossible to think that the vastness of the galaxy didnâ€™t contain someplace better to be than here.
Jelucan had been settled late in galactic history, probably because nobody else had been desperate enough to want a nearly uninhabitable rock at the very edge of the Outer Rim. Nearly five hundred years before, an initial group of settlers had been exiled here from another world, equally obscure. Theyâ€™d fought on the wrong side of some civil war or other. Thane didnâ€™t know the details. His parents had told him only that those first settlers had gotten themselves mired in the valleys, in nearly total poverty, and had barely been able to keep themselves alive.
True civilization had only come later, a hundred and fifty years ago, with the second wave of settlers, who had come here voluntarily in hopes of building their fortunes. Theyâ€™d managed to establish mining, engage with galactic commerce, and lead modern livesâ€”unlike the people from the valleys, who behaved more like pre-technological nomads than modern people. Of course they were Jelucani, too, but they were unfriendly, isolated, and proud.
Or maybe it was only that the valley kindred were still mad about being dumped on this icy rugged rock of a world. If so, Thane didnâ€™t blame them.
â€œA pity the Emperor himself wonâ€™t be able to attend,â€ his mother said. â€œWouldnâ€™t it have been something to see him for ourselves?â€
Like the Emperor would ever come here. Thane knew better than to say that out loud.
Everyone was supposed to love Emperor Palpatine. Everyone said he was the bravest, most intelligent person in the galaxy, that he was the one who had brought order after the chaos of the Clone Wars. Thane wondered if that was all true. Certainly Palpatine had made the Empire strong, and made himself the most powerful man within it.
Thane didnâ€™t really care if the Emperor was nice or not. The Empireâ€™s coming was a good thing, because it brought its ships with it. All he wanted was to see those ships. Then, later, to learn to fly them.
And, finally, to fly far away from here, never to return.
â€œCiena! Your eyes on the path or youâ€™ll fall.â€
Ciena Ree couldnâ€™t stop staring into the gray sky. She couldâ€™ve sworn sheâ€™d heard a Lambda-class shuttle, and she wanted more than anything to see one, too. â€œBut, Mummaâ€”I know I heard a ship.â€
â€œItâ€™s always ships and flying, with you.â€ Her mother, Verine, chuckled softly and picked up her daughter, then placed her on the wide furry back of the muunyak they were leading uphill toward Valentia. â€œThere. Save your strength for the big parade.â€
Ciena buried her hands in the muunyakâ€™s shaggy hair. It smelled agreeably of musk and hay. Of home.
As she peered upward, she saw a thin line in the cloudsâ€”already disappearing but evidence that the shuttle had been there. She shivered with excitement, then remembered to take hold of the braided leather bracelet around her wrist. Pressing the leather between her fingers, Ciena whispered, â€œLook through my eyes.â€
Now her sister, Wynnet, could see it, too. Ciena lived her life for them both and never forgot that.
Her father must have heard her, because he wore the sad smile that meant he was thinking of Wynnet, too. But he only patted his daughterâ€™s head and tucked one wayward black curl behind her ear.
Finally, after two hoursâ€™ trek upward, they reached Valentia. Ciena had never seen a real city before, except in holos; her parents rarely left their home valley and certainly had never taken her with them when they did, until today. Her eyes widened as she took in the buildings carved into the pale white stone of the cliffsâ€”some of them ten or fifteen stories high. They stretched along the side of the mountain as far as Ciena could see. All around the carved dwellings stood tents and awnings, dyed in a dozen brilliant colors and draped with fringe or beads. Imperial flags fluttered from poles newly jabbed into the ground or mounted in stone.
Thronging the streets were more people than sheâ€™d ever seen together in her eight years. Some were hawking food or souvenirs for the great occasionâ€”Imperial banners or small holos of the Emperor smiling benevolently, translucently, above a small iridescent disc. Most, however, walked along the same crowded roads as she and her family, all headed toward the ceremony. Even a few droids rolled, hovered, or shuffled through the crowd, each of them shinier and obviously far more modern than the one battered cutter droid in her village.
Those people and droids would have been far more fascinating if they hadnâ€™t all been in her way.
â€œAre we going to be late?â€ Ciena said. â€œI donâ€™t want to miss the ships.â€
â€œWe wonâ€™t be late.â€ Her mother sighed. Sheâ€™d said so many times that day, and Ciena knew she needed to be quiet. But then Verine Ree put her hands on her young daughterâ€™s shoulders; as soft as the gesture was, the muunyak knew to stop walking forward. Mummaâ€™s faded black cloak blew around her too-thin body as she said, â€œI know youâ€™re excited, my heart. This is the biggest day of your life so far. Why shouldnâ€™t you be thrilled? But have faith. The Empire will be waiting for us when we finish traveling up the mountain, whenever that may be. All right?â€
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