A/N: Seriously ... only three stories for this category? Are you people insane? Anywho, I have lots of plot bunnies bouncing around in my head for this game, but for now here is a oneshot, an alternate take post the Eden puzzle labyrinth because Kisala was pissing me off.
They weren't standing very far away. He could hear what they were saying, though to them he wasn't doing anything more than staring into the softly glowing heart of the many-facted deep azure jewel Raul had given him on his dying breath. Had it belonged to his father, his mother perhaps? Even if it had, what good did it do? It wouldn't help him find either of them. Besides, to him, his biological parents were faceless ghosts, no more real to him than an utter fantasy. Raul was his true father. Raul was the man who raised him from childhood.
Sitting on the steps to an empty Salgin residence, Jaster clenched the jewel pendant tightly in his hand, his eyes welling up.
Raul ... why did you have to die?
The church father was full of surprises. Jaster hadn't even known that Raul had a means of producing an electromagnetic field capable of scrambling the instruments of a battleship of top Daytron caliber. It prevented Valkog and his minions from destroying the city, but it didn't stop them from opening fire on Raul. Such precision from a battleship that large! Plain as day, Jaster saw replaying before his eyes the spray of hot golden sand dotted with dark red, the electromagnetic staff hitting the ground, only seconds before Raul's body joined it. He remembered how weakly Raul's hand gripped his own, how his aged frame shook as he struggled to talk. It was as if his hand were imprinted, burned with the feeling of Raul's fingers.
The two that were talking just a ways away from him, Lilika and Kisala, were watching him as they spoke. Jaster heard their hushed whispers. As a Burkaquan warrior, he was sure that Lilika had experienced losses of loved ones other than her mother. In rural tribes like that, everyone was family.
"True warriors must overcome the pain of saying goodbye to the ones they love. Let him be ..."
From the corner of his eye, he saw Lilika leave, perhaps back to the Dorgenark. Silently, he agreed with what she said. He wasn't sure about "love," but if anyone on the Dorgenark had died as a result of what they were trying to do ... it would be tough, but he could accept it. But Raul had nothing whatever to do with Daytron or Eden! He was just a kindly man who'd taken him under his wing when his father abandoned him!
Jaster inwardly agreed with Lilika; he felt like he needed some alone time. Just some time to think. What's been happening since he left Rosa the first time was as sudden and confusing as a vicious sandstorm. Raul ... he regretted that the last time they saw one another was under such circumstances. But what Jaster regretted the most--he didn't get to tell Raul about the other planets, the other people he'd seen. He didn't get to tell Raul about the Rose Nebula, how beautiful it was. He didn't get to tell Raul ...
He heard soft footsteps in the cool sand. Kisala approached--right after Lilika advised her not to--and seated herself beside him. She looked at him, then began trying to make conversation--something about the stars. Jaster wasn't paying attention. He was beginning to think that perhaps Kisala only meant well when her next words cut into him, as palpable as a sword's stab.
"It's sad, what happened to Raul ... but this isn't like you, Jaster."
He paused, giving her an incredulous look. Indignantly, he said,
"Of course it isn't like me! How many people do you know haven't changed at least a little right after their family dies right before their eyes?! Raul's the only family I've ever known! The least you could do, Kisala, is follow Lilika's advice and leave me alone!"
It wasn't as if he disliked Kisala. No, he found her quite likable. She was the one who saved him from the giant sand worms of the desert when Simon, the one who wanted him to come aboard the Dorgenark, would have left him to the beasts. But right now, she was intruding, and he wanted her to go away. Didn't she know that people had boundaries, or did Dorgengoa spoil her?
Jaster stood up, beginning to walk away. He'd go to the church, where he and Raul had lived. Maybe that was where the funeral would be held. He and the others racked up quite a lot of zehn hunting down beasts. With their permission, maybe he could have a crypt built for Raul there. None of the other Salgin residents ever paid much attention to the church. How very empty it would seem now. He paused, surprised. Kisala had grabbed his hand, and for an instant he felt guilty for shouting at her. But he still resented being intruded upon. He pulled his hand away.
He saw Kisala frown, then the next thing he knew, there was a flaring pain on his cheek. Kisala had mustered up her strength and slapped him. The star pendant fell from his numb fingers, nestling in the sand.
"What's with you!?" Kisala demanded. "Snap out of it, Jaster! Is it really that awful, being all by yourself?"
She opened her mouth to continue talking, but he cut her off.
"If you must know, yes it is! Even if my parents never wanted me, that doesn't bother me. If my father hadn't abandoned me, I'd never had known Raul! Even when the other people had broken hearts and dreams, he made sure I never lost my dream of going to outer space!"
Lilika was tough as nails, both physically and emotionally. Kisala was strong as a fighter, but ... to his surprise, she began to cry. Jaster never meant to make her cry, just to make her understand that all he needed was some alone time. Closure over death didn't happen overnight.
"I'm just as alone as you are! We're both the same!"
Jaster clenched his fists, sea grey eyes narrowed. "No, we're not. You still have your father, and the crew is like a big family to you, isn't it?"
She wiped away her tears, and defiantly looked up to meet his eyes.
"Yes, I do ... but so do you! Aren't we family to you, Jaster? Isn't that why you were so angry that Zegram stole the Key Pieces and ran off by himself?"
Jaster frowned. He didn't know exactly why he had been so angry. Maybe he just didn't like being made a fool of, that he didn't notice that Zegram had had plans of his own. Probably as far back as Juraika. That must have been the reason Zegram had been disappearing so often.
"I don't know why I was so angry then ... and I don't know if I consider you and the crew family. Sure, we help each other out, but ..."
And he really didn't know if he should consider people like Jupis, Simon, Zegram, or Deego as family. Simon would have left him to be devoured by beasts, Zegram betrayed the whole crew, Jupis was likely quite insane, and Deego was a drunkard looking for a sense of purpose. Not quite his idea of family.
Kisala straightened up, standing tall, even though she was a head shorter than Jaster.
"Well, like it or not, the Dorgenark crew considers you family. I know Raul's death is painful, but we're here. You've still got us! So when you get your act together, go back to the ship!"
With that, Kisala marched away, her steps so furious they stirred up sand as she went. Jaster stood there, next to the fallen pendant. He didn't know what to think. Maybe Kisala really had meant well, but it just hadn't turned out like she thought. It was hard to imagine Dorgengoa or his feline first mate missing him if he left the crew, but there might have been some grain of truth behind Kisala's words. He turned to pick up the pendant, and stopped. A holographic globe emitted from the jewel in the sand, with a golden point shining on the blue grid.
"The Kuje desert ..." Jaster said softly. He picked up the pendant, and the holograph disappeared. He stared at the glowing heart of the sapphire jewel.
"What were you trying to tell me, Raul?"