"Thought I'd find you in here…"
The Exile opened her eyes and peered over her shoulder, eyeing her pilot who was leaning casually against the doorframe. Since her successful test of the Communications array she had been sitting in meditation, facing the open slash in the concrete. The brilliant sunset was quickly falling away to night and the soft orange light bathed both him and the room in a strange glow. Soon there would be nothing left but stars. The way the light played upon Atton was amusing to her, it blurred his outline slightly. It was almost as if he'd become a painted figure instead of the man he was. His hair flashed glowing auburn strands among the black and his eyes sparked a bright green.
"That took a while," she said, "Did Visas get everything she needed?"
"And then some," he replied, "I figured that they'll be here a while so I gave them everything. We can restock easily enough when we get back to Dantooine. They were really fired up about the extra medpacs and blankets though. It's supposed to get pretty cold here at night."
"I heard," she said, "Did you hear anything else about night time in this place?"
"Yeah. Actually that's what I came here to talk to you about…" he began.
The Exile raised an eyebrow, silently encouraging him to continue.
"Well, you know me. That sort of stuff doesn't bother me…I mean especially since that old witch ate it on Malachor. But I want you to remember what I taught you. Close off, protect yourself and get some good sleep tonight. Also, would you be alright here for a couple of days…I mean without me?" he asked.
"I suppose so…why?"
"Well, Visas is on a water purification kick." he said, "She's got some big plans and needs a couple of parts that can be kind of tricky to get a hold of if you don't know where to look. Fortunately, I know where to look. I'll be two days, in and out, what do you say?"
The Jedi Master paused for a moment, mulled it over and replied, "I think that I would be more useful here than in whatever underbelly you are choosing to crawl through…go, use any credits you need and don't lose my ship!"
Atton slung his hands out to the side, tossing his head slightly and grinning devilishly, "YOUR ship? Lady, I am the best and last hope that bucket of bolts has. If it's gone then that means I'm gone…and all that's better than having you at the helm…"
The pilot ducked sharply, laughing as a medpac flew past his head.
"Alright," the Exile replied, chuckling, "Get the hell out of here…and Atton?"
He stopped, mid-turn and looked at his Master quizzically.
"Be safe." she said, her voice a firm but gentle command.
His smile softened, he held her gaze for a moment and he was gone.
The Exile stood, stretching out the kinks in her legs and listening to the satisfying crack her knees made. The open concrete slash at the end appeared to be protected by some sort of field and the rest of the room was secure. Making her way out, she closed the door tightly behind her and headed back down the stairs into the common area. It was brightly lit with a lantern on the table and the blankets from the Hawk were folded up in a neat pile on the chair next to it. Bao Dur was already sleeping heavily on one of the two bare mattresses on the east wall and she shivered slightly. The temperature was already beginning to drop.
Crossing to the table, the young master pulled a blanket from the top of the pile and shook it out gently. The Hawk always had a ready supply of military style blankets. They were lightweight and silky, easy to pack and incredibly warm even when wet. Moving back towards the sleeping tech she covered him and his disconnected prosthetic carefully, holding her breath so as not to disturb him. He was very different when he slept. In waking life, Bao Dur was very intense, continually focused on whatever he set his attentions too and it reflected in his face. But in sleep he was the embodiment of peace. She traced the outline of his jaw with her eyes, feeling her cheeks burn slightly as she realized she was staring.
The sound of approaching footsteps jarred her attention and she released the blanket, standing quickly and turning away from him. A moment later Visas entered the room followed by her two Miralukan technicians.
"Good evening Master," Visas said cordially, opening one of the food lockers and removing some rations, "Will you join us for a meal before bed?"
"Bed?" she replied, "Already?"
"We've found that the earlier you sleep, the better it is. Attempting to sleep later at night is a wasted effort." Visas began, as the technicians dressed the table and sat, "Forgive me, I have been meditating since my arrival, trying to pinpoint the dark source that bubbles up at night and I have been unsuccessful. It is an odd sensation of despair, loneliness, anxiety and anger that just…grows as the night wears on. It makes it impossible to sleep in the hours before dawn."
"Well..." the Exile said, dropping into a chair and grabbing a packet, "If it's impossible to sleep, why not work at night and sleep during the day?"
Visas lowered her head slightly and slid into a chair, "We tried that once after we arrived and it was worse. No one could concentrate, everyone was on edge and our tempers worsened because it seemed impossible to do even the simplest things correctly."
The Exile paused for a moment, chewing slowly and eyeing the top of the lockers as she thought. The dark side certainly worked in a myriad of mysterious ways. Nothing surprised her anymore, but when she probed the room the results were…odd. The sun had set, but she couldn't feel the slightest negative sensation coming from the planet itself. No depression, no fear, no anxiety, nothing at all. In fact, something about the surface felt familiar, almost comfortable. What was surprising is that she could feel the stress level in her dinner companions rising. It was unmistakable. But there seemed to be no cause.
They ate in silence as the young Master mulled the problem over in her mind. The sound of the others clearing away the empty packs brought her attention back to the present. "I'm sorry, but I've been thinking over everything you said," she began, "As it's my first night I'm afraid I don't have a solution just yet, but I'd like for you all to go to bed and I'll stay up for a bit. I hope that I'll know more in the morning."
"As you wish, master," Visas replied cordially, "And, good night."
With that, the Miralukans took a blanket each and retired to the South wall, the technicians in the bunk bed and Visas on the mattress behind them. For her part, the Exile sat at the table and updated her journal. The thoughts came easily and the entry was well organized and satisfying for the first time in weeks.
"I think it's because I know where everyone is" she wrote, "I know that they're all safe and I can reach them in an instant if I need too. There's something to be said for the clarity and productivity that peace of mind can bring."
Saving the entry, she checked her chronometer. It was still early but the temperature had dropped further and her companions were beginning to thrash in their sleep.
"Strange that you can all feel this and I can't…" she whispered.
Reaching for the chair on her right, she grabbed a blanket and stood, crossing the floor to the only remaining mattress north of Bao Dur's head. Sitting she crossed her legs, pulled off her boots and took down her hair, ruffling it out like a warm mane around the edge of her face. Drawing the silky cover around her shoulders, she covered everything from the neck down and tucked the ends in under her feet. From that point onwards and well into the night she dropped into a meditative state. Through the Force, she reached out, searching for any clue or sign as to what was disturbing the others. When her efforts turned up nothing, she refocused on trying to soothe them as they slept. Eventually they all seemed to settle, relaxing into a deep and solid sleep.
The Exile's head bobbed sharply and she shook her head to clear the cobwebs. Her chronometer read 3:00am and she had been meditating for a little over seven hours.
"That has to be a decent sleep for you all," she thought hazily, "I think I'm done for the night. It's officially before dawn now and I can't feel a thing. There's nothing…"
With that, she wriggled to the right slightly and slumped down gently on her left side. She felt strands of her hair fall over Bao's head but she was too tired to care. Within moments she was out.