Mesick opened his eyes and checked the time, it was still early. He tried to engage his brain and remember what day of the week it was; did he need to get up for work? After a few moments of contemplation, he remembered that he didn't and allowed himself to relax again. His wife lay in the bed beside him, still sleeping peacefully and the shuffling gurgles down the open telechannel to the baby's room told him Katya was still sleeping too. He lazily flicked open the channels to the other two children's rooms. The channel to Haan's room was silent but Mesick could hear his eldest son Tavian was already awake and playing in his room. He struggled with the desire to stay in bed and the need for food and eventually the latter won. He stepped out of bed and wandered sleepily down the hall and into the main room.
It was a glorious day outside and sunlight poured in through the large windows. Mesick busied himself making some food, not noticing anything outside until he eventually glanced at the horizon as he waited for some water to boil. He froze, staring at the distant point where a thick black cloud of smoke was rising up in coils. The water had boiled but Mesick had forgotten about eating as he crossed the room and switched on the videchannel, looking for news. He found it almost instantly; it seemed every channel was covering the main story of the day. A strange looking man was giving a speech it what appeared to be the ruined remains of the senate; the senators who were present were cheering and applauding wildly.
". . . and the Jedi Rebellion has been foiled. The remaining Jedi will be hunted down and defeated. Any collaborators will suffer the same fate. These have been trying times, but we have passed the test. The attempt on my life has left me scarred and deformed, but I assure you my resolve has never been stronger. The war is over. The Separatists have been defeated, and the Jedi rebellion has been foiled. We stand on the threshold of a new beginning."
Mesick held out a hand to steady himself on the back of a nearby chair, the man on the news was Chancellor Palpetine, what on Earth could have happened to disfigure him so awfully overnight? Mesick struggled to comprehend the content of the speech, "Jedi rebellion", "attempt on my life", "the war is over". It was all just too much to take it and yet the speech continued.
"In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society which I assure you will last for ten thousand years. An empire that will continue to be ruled by this august body, and a sovereign ruler chosen for life. An empire ruled by the majority . . . Ruled by a new constitution"
At this Mesick's resolve gave way and he stumbled into the chair. The republic he had been born and raised in was gone forever, replaced with something he did not trust. As he sat, staring at the news report, he heard his wife Laika enter the room behind him.
"Are you ok?" she asked, a hint of concern in her voice "you never finished making your drink and the children's breakfasts aren't on the table. Tav's already awake."
"I know" Mesick replied "come and watch the news."
"After I finish making breakfast…" she began but Mesick cut her off, "no, come and watch now, it's important."
The tone of his voice must have told her that this really was vital and in a moment she had crossed the room and sat on another chair beside him. The news channel was constantly repeating the Chancellor, no, the new Emperor's speech and Mesick sat in silence as he heard the man's words again, punctuated only by the quick intakes of breath coming from Laika at the same phrases he himself had reacted to.
"It can't be true…" she whispered.
"It is" he replied, "look out of the windows."
Laika turned in her seat and gasped.
"Where's that smoke coming from?"
"The Jedi Temple, you heard what he said. The Jedi are the enemies of this new Empire we're a part of and any collaborators will be hunted down too."
Laika's worries now turned to outright terror as she stared at her husband.
"We can't stay here" she stated simply, "you worked at the Temple. They'll go after anyone from the Masters right down to the janitors. You're an assistant librarian Mes, you have too much knowledge for them to ignore you and I'm amazed they're not knocking down the door already."
"They have bigger things to concentrate on for now. The news made no mention of Master Yoda or Master Obi-Wan being killed so I can hope they're still alive. Capturing them will be the number one priority of everyone who swears allegiance to this new rule so that buys us some time, but not much. I have an idea, you go and make the children some breakfast and get them ready to leave. Pack some bags; tell them we're taking a trip off Coruscant for a while and I'll try and do something."
"Ok" Laika replied but the tension in her voice was obvious. As she busied herself in the kitchen and disappeared sporadically into the various bedrooms and bathroom supervising the children, Mesick dialled a number he knew well. A male voice answered sounding tense.
"Jorr? It's Mesick."
"Oh thank the stars; I was terrified you were one of the Empire's cronies using your number signature to try and find me out. Are you and the family ok?"
"We are for now but that's not going to last, the Empire's going to be knocking down my door as soon as they can spare the resources. We need to get off this hunk of rock."
"I hear you buddy; listen I know why you called and I think I can help you. That friend of mine I've mentioned, the one that does a few dodgy spice deals to the clubs, his ship's been in for maintenance a few days and is ready to go. I already spoke to him about getting me and Jen out and he says he's got space to hide a large number of people in his hidden cargo compartments and he wants to help people escape if he can. He doubts the Empire will be too bothered about his ship right now – marked as a possible spice carrier or not, they have more important business than a bit of illegal spice going in or out and no official has ever found those compartments before."
"I was praying as much Jorr. You sure he'll take us, or at least the children?"
"He's a good friend, you are too and he owes me a favour. Listen the ship's down at Hangar 32, you know where. Meet us there at midday, I'll do my best to get you onboard, just don't pack too much, he wants to help as many as possible."
"I'll see you there buddy, keep safe."
Just before midday, Mesick, Laika and their three children, complete with five bags, arrived at Hangar 32. A small gaggle of people were stood around in clusters, many with small children and even a few small animals. Mesick searched the faces until he spotted Jorr and walked over to him.
"You're here" said Jorr, looking relieved, "we're just waiting on one family, Roan's about to start boarding everyone."
He looked over and waved at Laika and the children. Kayta was asleep in her mother's arms but three year old Haan waved back excitedly, he'd believed the story about a trip to another planet. Tav raised his arm in a brief wave but stopped quickly, at almost eleven years he hadn't been so easily fooled and had been told a watered down version of what was happening on Coruscant and why they had to leave so quickly. A friendly looking man approached Mesick and Jorr, he was introduced as Roan, Captain of the ship they stood beside.
"Ready to start boarding, I've opened up the compartments. Can you send up the families' one at a time Jorr? Leave the youngest kids until last; it could be a bit scary for them down there so I want to minimise the time they have to spend in the compartment."
Mesick went back to his family as Jorr began sending groups up into the ship; their bags were hidden amongst the legitimate cargo Roan was transporting off world. The last family arrived hurriedly, carrying two young babies and slowed down by a toddler. Mesick smiled at them but was soon distracted by Haan asking questions about where they were going. Mesick tried his best to answer but as he didn't know, this was difficult. As they talked, Tav looked worried and Mesick reached out to him.
"It'll be alright kiddo," he smiled, "we'll find a nice home on a better planet. One where's there's space for us to have a garden so you boys can play outside rather than on a simulator. We might even find a planet with oceans, you've never seen one have you?"
Tav shook his head slowly and smiled a bit at this exciting prospect as his younger brother squealed with delight at the thought. Soon it was their turn to board, one of the last families to do so as they had such young children. Their bags were taken after Mesick had pulled out some food and toys, and Jorr lead them down into a dark and cramped compartment in the lower portion of the ship which was already almost full. Haan began to cry that it was too dark and scary but soon they found a spot near the centre of the room where many of the children were playing together by a few weak lights as their parents sat huddled together watching.
Soon the last family entered the compartment and Jorr followed them in, hurrying across to sit beside his wife. Mesick gave him the thumbs up. Captain Roan stuck his head down into the compartment.
"We're ready to go folks," he smiled, "Sorry it's a bit cramped down there but I wanted to get as many people out of here as I could. Soon as we're out of the danger zone I'll reopen this hatch and we can all breathe a bit easier. It'll be a few minutes before takeoff, gotta make sure this hatch is sealed and register the official cargo with the authorities for approval. Don't want any reason for them to get suspicious and do stop checks so need it all above board. We'll be in hyperspace before you know it."
With that he closed the hatch and Mesick heard the sound of the fake flooring being dragged overhead. Soon the rumble of engines could be heard warming up nearby and Mesick eventually felt movement as the ship lifted off.
Outside the compartment Captain Roan submitted his flight plan for leaving Coruscant and the roster of his cargo. He held his breath as the authorities read over it and let a huge sigh of relief escape him as the message "APROVED" appeared in front of him. He steered the ship into the plotted course and joined a line of traffic heading for one of the designated leaving zones. As he headed across the planet he saw the smoke rising still from the ruins of the Temple and could even see a battalion of storm troopers gathered near the Senate building. He steered the ship up into its escape trajectory and fired the engines to leave the planet. Once clear of the near-planet zone he typed in the coordinates for a remote point in space and the ship lurched into hyperspace. Roan unbuckled himself and headed into the back of the ship. He rolled back the fake floor covering and opened the hatch to the secret compartment.
"We did it, we're in hyperspace and heading away from the Empire" he called down. There were happy remarks and many thanks returned to him as the families exited through the hatch and spread out across the ship. Mesick and his family exited and thanked Roan for helping them before settling down in a corner near some other families who had children for Haan and Tav to play with. Mesick was relieved to be out of immediate danger but scared as he had no idea where they would end up or what he would do for money. As he watched his children playing with these young strangers he tried to relax. His life had changed completely within hours but somehow, he felt it would all turn out ok.