The Exile slumped backwards, closing her eyes and resting her head against the cool wall above the bottom bunk. She was retreating from the annoyance that had been bubbling up inside of her as she attempted to make a personal journal entry on her data pad. At least one failed effort had been made per day for last week and at the moment the device hung limply in her right hand, lazily tapping her side-swept legs.
The words refused to come.
The Starboard Dormitory of the Ebon Hawk had morphed into her own private space since Visas left. After the destruction of Malachor, the Miralukan Jedi had found the urge to visit the ruins of her homeworld impossible to resist. The Force sang to her to return, disrupting even the deepest of her meditations. After some deliberation she turned to her new master, the Exile for advice. While the call of the Force was strong, it was battling equally powerful guilty feelings within her. The crew of the Ebon Hawk had only begun the Enclave rebuild on Dantooine and Visas felt that she was abandoning their monumental task on a whim. The Exile worked with her in soft conversation, explaining that all creatures have a destiny through the Force, something that couldn't be ignored forever. With her full support and blessing, Visas finally departed for home, promising to return to Dantooine as soon as possible.
It seemed that complications arose about a week after her departure. A broken, static-filled message arrived at the Jedi Enclave. Most of the Miralukan's apologies were lost in waves of white noise that buzzed through the recording, but her intent was clear. The damage was unimaginable and far worse than anyone had predicted. Also, they were in desperate need of emergency technical help. They wanted to borrow the services of Bao Dur.
"…not more than…two weeks…promise…so sorry…" the recording hissed before it fizzled out entirely. The Exile had frowned, but sent her head technician on to help. She knew that Visas would never ask unless the situation was truly dire. The powerful Iridonian was well ahead of the game and had planned enough work to keep everyone busy for weeks.
The Enclave was a strange place without him. Everyone worked steadily throughout the day but in spite of the camaraderie, the Exile was surprised at how much she missed him. His quiet presence had become so familiar, so comfortable that she had taken its importance for granted. Bao Dur had always been there to support her, providing her with helpful technology regularly, modestly lending his expertise whenever he felt she needed it or just providing a quiet space for her to unwind. The garage of the Hawk had become a second home to her before the destruction of Malachor. The tension between Atton and Mical had reached a fevered pitch and she often retreated to his space. Sometimes he would lend an ear as she vented her frustrations. He never lost patience, never tired of her and offered solid, simple advice, concern reflecting in his warm, brown eyes. For the most part they worked silently on their own projects, each totally comfortable with the others presence.
"I just don't function when we're all fragmented like this…" the Exile mumbled to herself. Raising her datapad once more, she exhaled slowly and made a final attempt at an entry.
It's been six weeks since Visas left us to return to Katarr and three weeks to the day since Bao Dur left to join her. Communication has been difficult, but never impossible except for the last four days. The morning updates have ceased to arrive and all attempts at contact have been met with silence.
I am aboard the Ebon Hawk, piloted by Atton Rand and am heading to investigate. In spite of the protests of Mical and Mira we are alone. The work on the rebuild can't stop, so I've left them behind to continue on with their tasks until I return. They have the aid of the droids and with Mandalore and his men on our side, our defences are second to none.
That said, I have been filled with a growing disquiet. Over the months I have become closely bonded to the entire team, Bao, Visas, Atton, Mical, Mira, Mandalore and even the droids. This fragmentation of my crew has left me with an anxiety inside that I can't explain but it is always there in the background. Even in meditation I find it distracting but I am working very hard to ease it. The others seem unaffected and in spite of the serious nature of this trip, I am glad that they seem alright.
Saving the entry quickly, the Exile tucked the device back into her pouch and headed for the cockpit. Any re-read would result in a deletion so it was best to just leave things as they were.
"Hey there," Atton called casually. His hair was rumpled and standing up in multiple directions, his legs slung to the right. "You sleep yet?" he asked, cocking one hazel eye in her direction as he raked his long fingers through the black strands.
"Not yet," she replied, "I was trying to make a journal entry."
"Maybe if you tried sleeping, your brain might actually work for that stuff. What has it been now, three days?" The pilot's face showed absolutely no sign of concern whatsoever but the Exile knew better. She had his full attention which was rare in flight and practically unheard of this close to a landing.
"I'll be fine," she said casually, "I've stayed up longer and for stupider reasons. I'll probably nap later."
"Your call," Atton replied, "But strap yourself in, they're holed up in an old bunker close to a mountain slope. I don't have much space so this might get bumpy."
The Exile smiled and bit her tongue. A bumpy landing with Atton Rand at the helm wasn't exactly a new experience but she knew he was a damned good pilot. A lesser man would have destroyed the Hawk and everyone in it. Still she knew better than to tease him while he was concentrating.
Atton dipped below the clouds and they both started in their seats. The surface was completely barren. Brackish water flowed through grey-brown dusty terrain. Shells of former homes peppered the surface, dust clouds formed and dissipated, but she was unable to sense a single living thing. Nihulus had destroyed life on the surface without firing a single shot. Nothing had survived, not the meanest plant, not the tiniest insect. The emptiness made the pit of her stomach grow cold and she sat in silence for the remainder of the landing.