Disclaimer: Thrawn and the Chiss belong to Timothy Zahn, while Star Wars belongs to George Lucas. I am merely playing with their creation and make no money whatever while doing so.
A/N: Thrawve (Mitth'raw'verian) is what Thrawn's name might have been before he was adopted into House Nuruodo.
Thrawve craned his neck as he waited to get into the art museum with the rest of his class. There was an exhibition of Csillan landscape paintings on, which should be very interesting. Chavik's head was blocking most of his view of a really interesting painting. The line was moving, but terribly slowly, or so it seemed to Thrawve. He turned his attention back to the painting. It was hard to get any idea what the painter was trying to express when you could only see half of it. But it could be worse - at least there was an interesting painting to look at. Meanwhile, the line crept onwards.
Finally, Thrawve was through the turnstile and he was free! Or so he thought... but they called him back and announced that they were going to go in groups of ten with an adult. How annoying. Obediently, Thrawve joined a group and they began to walk around looking at the artwork. Whenever he found anything especially interesting they invariably hauled him away before he had time to so much as finish reading the accompanying information. Then Sseril started whining that she had to go to the bathroom, so they all had to go with her and wait.
Back to the artwork. They seemed to be going even faster now, and some of the kids were barely glancing at each painting before rushing off to the next. Thrawve sighed and gave up on the idea of actually getting time to appreciate each painting. He should have known better than to expect the other kids to do things like his mother did. After all, she was an artist and an adult, and they were kids. Sculptures, portraits, and landscapes rushed past as they made their noisy way through the museum. Some of the adults turned to glare at them when Chavik and Teran began making rude gestures at a painting of a woman rising from a bath. Thrawve snickered as the teacher yelled at them before dragging them away to look at more landscape paintings. Thrawve went with them, and then stopped, catching a glimpse of something utterly fascinating from the corner of his eye. He sidled past the teacher and wandered over.
This was not Csillan, nor was it made by any Chiss. None of the shorter wavelength colours were used, and some of the colours that were used seemed - odd. Thrawve had a suspicion he wasn't seeing what the artist had seen when he made it. Could it be that the artist was an alien and could not see ultraviolet? And perhaps was using red? He fumbled in his backpack for the special viewer his mother had lent him which made red visible. Granted, it wouldn't look like red looked to someone who could see red, but at least it made the colour visible and let you know that it was there. He trained the viewer on the mask that leapt out from the painting's center. It was covered in vertical red stripes!
A hand gripped his shoulder and shook him slightly. "Thrawve, it's time to move on."
"But this is fascinating!" Thrawve protested. "It's made by aliens who can see longer wavelengths than we do. Please let me stay just five more minutes?"
"We've got to move on, and we are supposed to be looking at the landscape exhibits, not masks made by uncouth aliens. Come on."
Thrawve followed, but inside he was bitterly furious. He'd never been to this museum before in a city several hours from home, and the main exhibits would be gone in another two weeks. He'd never get to see them again. And he hadn't seen them, not properly. It was cruel to open new vistas onto wonderful things and then slam the door shut before he had a proper look. Couldn't they see what they were missing?
He couldn't go. They had to be a way for him to stay. He looked up at the face of their teacher. Kress'sil'vren would never allow it. But perhaps there was another way... they always counted children on field trips just before they left. If he wasn't with them when they did the count, they would stay and search for him and he would get in a lot of trouble, but if he slipped away after they counted he might be able to get away with it.
They probably wouldn't figure out he was missing until they got back to school. He had money with him, and the shuttlecar station was only two blocks from the art museum. It would take him back to his own city, and it wouldn't be too hard to get home from there. The school would be upset but his mother would forgive him. 'Tis easier to get forgiveness, than to gain permission, he thought. Dr. Chaf'frils'abosen was a very wise lady sometimes.
Thrawve followed obediently as they made their way over to the exit and the frazzled adults started counting children. Thrawve made sure they counted him as he stayed near the edge of the group. When the adults turned their faces towards the exit by the turnstile he slipped between two strange adults and then behind one of the columns. He waited until the sound of chattering children's voices had gone. He walked out and back into the museum, where treasure awaited those who bothered to look.
He found the mask again without too much trouble and had a good, long look at it. Then he went and wondered around the exhibits, taking as long as he wanted. About half an hour later, he spotted something interesting.
There was a series of several related pieces of artwork that the written information said were luminous and ought to be viewed in low light conditions. The trouble was, it was sitting out in the brightly lit main corridor. No luminosity whatsoever could be seen. Now if I could only stay here after the lights are turned out I bet that would look amazing, thought Thrawve. Why can't I do that? I'd have to hide somewhere, but I'm in trouble already so I might as well get as much out of it as possible.
Now where can I hide? I am small enough I can fit in places an adult would never get into. If I want to stay that long, I will need to hide well because the school will call the museum and they will be looking for me. I'll get hungry, so I'd better go to the cafeteria and get something now.
Thrawve lined up to pay for a drink and sandwich in the cafeteria. The cashier looked a little startled and amused to see him all by himself, but stopped worrying when he produced the required money. Thrawve put the plastic wrapped sandwich and juice into his backpack. Then he went back to exploring the museum. This time, however, he was also looking for hiding spots.
There were several possibilities that that looked good, but the best was behind an air duct cover that had come loose. It was under a table too, so it was easy to get into and out of for him while being out of sight of adults. But he didn't want to get into it yet. There was still so much to see that would be better seen with the lights on. Thrawve hadn't brought a flashlight except the little one on his keychain and it wouldn't show the artwork off properly. He lingered almost too long.
The loudspeaker spoke "would Thrave please come to the front desk immediately; your school is looking for you."
Thrawve was three corridors away from the air duct by that point. He needed to get back there and into the duct and without arousing suspicion. Thrawve began to stroll in that direction looking as unconcerned as he could manage. No one more than glanced at him incuriously before looking back at the artwork until he was just outside the room. "Hello" said a voice behind him. Thrawve turned.
"Yes?" Thrawve replied.
"Are you that Theeve kid they're looking for?" The adult asked.
"Never heard of him," said Thrawve. "Sorry," and walked on past. Thanks be for loudspeaker systems that garble instead of communicate... I didn't even have to lie. That is good. My mom gets really mad when I do that.
Into the room, under the table, and into the duct. He closed the cover loosely behind him. Thrawve crawled back a little ways until he couldn't be seen from the entrance.
The loudspeaker repeated its request twice more with increasing emphasis. Then it went silent. Someone walked through the room calling "Thrawve", but Thrawve didn't answer and didn't come out. Instead, he ate a sandwich and drank his juice. The museum emptied, and people went home. The lights went out.
Thrawve waited some minutes and then crawled out. He held the red viewer to his eyes and looked around. Just as he had expected, there were lines of red laser light crossing the room at three heights at various points in the room. The top two were too high for him to care about, but the lower one was going to be awkward. He'd have to crawl underneath. He walked across the room, crawling under the lower light beams as necessary.
Thrawve walked through the darkened galleries until he came to the luminous sculptures. They were indeed luminous; shining in multiple patterns that had been completely invisible in the daylight. Carefully, he crawled under the last set of lasers, which was sited inconveniently close to one of the main sculptures.
They was so much more interesting in the dark. The colored lights made patterns of lines around the largest sculpture. The lights were embedded in the sculpture very carefully; Thrawve remembered that their location had been completely invisible while the building had been lit. They looked like writing, but it wasn't any writing he had ever seen before. Intrigued, he stepped closer. Could it be an alien script? But the inscription had not said the sculpture was alien. He went around to the other side to look for the information on the plaque beneath.
The plaque said it was Chiss, but the script was not Cheunh standard, which had been the standard from before the founding of the Ascendancy! He read the inscription again. It was a completely different writing system from any he had ever run across before. It didn't look like an ancestor of the current script for Cheunh. The sculpture was not of low technology. It depicted ships and what looked like a space station but they were of such an odd design Thrawve hadn't recognized them as being Chiss. The luminosity of the sculpture - for it to have lasted many thousands of years suggested whoever made it knew their technology.
Something else occurred to him: could the Chiss have been space faring before and then lost it - perhaps they came to Csilla from somewhere else? But if they had come from somewhere else, where have they come from? And were there other Chiss out there beyond the Ascendancy? And if any of this were true, why had no one told him?