Chapter 1: The Girl Awakens
If I’m being completely honest, I’m not exactly sure how I ended up here.
It might have been the adrenaline talking, or maybe some strange, masochistic pang of curiosity. Screw curiosity. That cat didn’t deserve to die. Me? I had already learned early on in life that such impulsive urges were a luxury I couldn’t afford…
Yet somehow... There I was.
Stranded on a deteriorating ship in the middle of—well, nowhere I’d ever been before. Stranded, but not alone. Stuck with a homicidal baby and a grumpy(but I would never risk saying that to his face, of course) man in shiny armor.
Maybe being alone in space would have been better. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about being shot or choked to death. Speaking of being choked to death…
My eyes drift over from my “safe spot” on the floor of the ship to the tiny green creature responsible for half of my current fears, lounging carelessly in the co-pilot’s seat diagonal to me. It notices my stare and makes a bubbling noise in my direction. I frown, disturbed. ‘How can such a cute little thing be so… dangerous?’
Leaning my head against the wall behind me, I look between the baby and the ominous-looking figure in the pilot’s seat. ‘I guess it would make sense that danger attracts danger,’ I think. He doesn’t seem to be paying any attention to anyone on board, but I know for a fact he would take less than a second to incapacitate me if I did something he didn’t like. I grimace at the thought of another physical confrontation. ‘Let’s not think about that right now, Lyra.’ I try to wave off any nervous thoughts surfacing in my mind, and instead try to focus on recounting the events that led me here. Stuck. I sigh.
You know how it goes. Earn money to live. Live to earn money. Eat. Fight off the occasional thief. Sleep. Repeat. Typical, am I right?
It seems that society follows the same blueprint no matter where you go.
Especially on Tatooine. What else did you expect from an Outer Rim junkyard?
Lucky for me, I get paid for that stuff. If it’s junk you want, I’m your girl. Scrounging up scraps means I can earn enough to keep my stomach from complaining, but it also means on some days, I come home with nothing but bruises and cuts.
The whole ordeal was made much easier with the help of the bright laser stick I had received from my mother before she passed away. It wasn’t anything special like a family heirloom, but it sure did come in handy when I needed to scare other scavengers off. Turns out, having a weapon that quite literally slices through anything can be a pretty big deterrent to most miscreants. It was also great for cutting up chunks of metal that were too big to handle otherwise.
The morning before my capture, I woke up feeling like shit.
It might have been an instinctual foreshadowing, a desperate plea from my future self to please, please, for the love of God, don’t be stupid and just mind your own business, which I promptly ignored. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, and the days before, I wasn’t able to secure my pay, so I needed to go out and find something, anything, or I would pass out from thirst and hunger. The suns were particularly scorching at that time, I remember.
Really, recounting everything now, it seems like I was going out of my way to make my life miserable.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t long before I was able to find junk scattered across a slope. ‘It must have been a recent drop for no other scavengers to have picked it clean,’ I thought.
Another warning sign.
I gathered the materials and shoved them in the cloth bag I’d dragged with me. Before I could leave and buy myself much-needed food and water, however, I noticed more materials trailing up the incline. More materials equals more food. More water. Stars above, I really needed water.
Ignoring the growing sense of discomfort in my chest, I trudged my way up the slope, collecting all the materials I could find. Wire here, a sheet of metal there. I was practically rich at this point. Drunk off the thoughts of filling my stomach for days, I reached the top of the slope… And stared.
A lone ship. Seemingly abandoned. Wrecked.
Another sign. Except to me back then, it wasn’t a sign of danger. It was a sign that I wasn’t going to have to fight my way through a cluttered mess of Jawas and junk for… At least another waning of the moons.
My legs sprinted me over to the wreckage. The ramp to the ship was lowered. My excitement skyrocketed. Where to even begin? If I wanted to finish before the other scavengers knew what was going on, I had to choose carefully. I stepped onto the layered metal leading up to the ship, the soft echoes of my footsteps against the hard surface making me even giddier.
At the entrance of the ship, I dropped my items. The ship’s interior was better than I could have ever imagined. It was filled with expensive-looking objects, things I had no idea about except for the fact that I knew they would sell for a shit ton of money. Admiring them carefully, I stopped short. They almost looked… New. Beep! Beep! Idiot! Banthabrain! Danger! Something’s not right here! My apprehension quickly rose. It morphed into complete terror after I heard a clatter coming from farther inside the ship.
I ducked behind one of the shallow dips in the wall, desperately trying to hide myself from the intruder. Well, technically, I was the intruder, but fear doesn’t follow a moral code. I held still with bated breath. A shuffling noise came closer and closer to where I was standing. Then it stopped. I almost passed out. Turning my head slowly to the side, I saw…
Nothing. There was nothing there.
My body sagged with relief against the wall I was trembling next to just a moment ago. What had I been so afraid of? It wasn’t like—
A loud ‘buh’ noise right next to me cut off any thoughts and had me screaming like a newborn child. Scrambling backwards and finding nothing but solid ship, I looked down at the source of the noise to find… A child.
The scream died in my throat almost as soon as it began. What was it? I peered down at the little green creature, still somewhat disoriented by the sudden shift in my emotions. ‘Aww. What an adorable, precious little thing.’ I reached out tentatively to hold it up in front of my face. Its big, bright eyes blinked up at me slowly as it tilted its head. I tilted my head back. I had never seen anything like it before.
Clearly, it was some sort of child. It wasn’t my child. Who..? If anything, that should have been the last and most obvious warning sign. But by then, it was too late.
I looked around, significantly more wary than before, and headed deeper into the ship. “Baby, you don’t happen to know where your… Parents are, do you?” The baby ’buh’ed at me again. I sighed.
After snooping carefully around the ship for a while, I was able to find a hovering metal case that seemed to be a crib for the baby. Setting the baby down and patting its small head, I turned to go scavenge for more materials before anyone unexpected decided to grace me with their presence like Baby Bright-Eyes had a moment ago. But the moment I set Baby down, it blinked at me once before quickly reaching out of its crib to press a button that promptly closed the crib’s metal walls over its head.
“Rude,” I gasped at the metal container. “I even patted your head.”
Shaking off how the baby had very clearly insulted me, I headed back to the pile of stuff I was collecting. Grabbing the laser that I had stored in my bag and shoving it in one of my pockets, I continued to try and scrounge up some things to sell later to the scrap merchant in town.
I only had a short moment to myself before my worst fear came true. Someone treads up the ramp into the ship. Judging from their footsteps, it seemed like the person wasn’t the owner of the ship. From a dark corner of the ship, I watched an armored person explore the entrance before venturing in deeper.
A bounty hunter. My day could not get any worse.
My breathing was shallow and shaky as I saw them head straight for my position. I muttered a short apology to my mother inwardly and prepared to jump out and make a run for it. Then, right before my foot shifted to jump, Baby’s crib popped open. The scraping noise of the crib startled the intruder, and they quickly raised their blaster to the source of the noise.
‘Baby,’ I realized.
“No!” I shouted at the bounty hunter. Trying to divert their attention from Baby, I attempted to tackle their legs. I really should have shouted after I tried tackling them. Before I could lay a finger on them, they kicked me straight in the chin and aimed the blaster at my crumpled figure on the ground. Cursing in pain, I looked up to see my laser roll out of my pocket and stop at the feet of the intruder. I went pale.
“Don’t touch that!” I exclaimed weakly.
Ignoring my outburst, they reached down to pick it up. If they knew how to use it, I would have died right then and there. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get the chance to learn. I watched, stunned into silence, as the bounty hunter started coughing and reaching towards their neck. Their struggling body was slightly raised into the air, and the only thing I could do was sit back and watch as their life slowly drained from their many eyes.
It was only after the corpse flopped to the ground and I saw Baby follow suit, that I understood what had happened.
’Did Baby… Do that?’
I stared at Baby’s sleeping form in the crib. ‘What the…?’ My confused and panicked thoughts were interrupted by the sound of an object rolling. ‘The laser!’ I realized with a jolt.
My laser fell out of the bounty hunter’s limp hand and rolled down the ramp. I chased after it and dove, reaching as best as I could, but it just slipped through my fingers.
‘Fuck,’ I barely had time to think, before something heavy smacked onto my back and pinned me down. A metal arm wrapped around my neck from behind, effectively choking me. ...My day did get worse.
“Where is he?” The person strangling me asked. They let up just enough for me to cough out an answer. So much worse.
“Him. Don’t play dumb. The child. What have you done with him?”
They gripped me even tighter. I could feel my consciousness gradually start to slip away and clawed desperately at the metal digging into my throat.
“C— Cr— ib,” I managed to mouth, before my vision goes black and I feel the pressure being released from my neck and back.
And now here we are. Stuck in space with two equally threatening beings, one at least being pleasant to look at and talk to. I glare silently at the man in the pilot’s seat. From the back, all I can see is a part of his shiny metal helmet and shoulder guard over the seat.
Okay, so… Not a metal arm, I notice. Metal armor. And a lot of it too. How much would the entire set get me? Just thinking about it makes my head hurt. Speaking of hurting… My back and neck ache with every move I make, almost as a reminder of the potential danger I could be in at any moment. He could have at least let me answer properly before choking me to almost-death. Talk about overprotective and manic.
I lean against the wall. After waking up on the floor of the ship’s cockpit and taking a panicked minute to survey my surroundings, I had crawled my way over to rest away from the two figures occupying the front and right seats ahead of me. The wall was my no means comfortable, being made of solid metal, but it was marginally better than sitting directly to the left of those guys.
The hunter is flying the ship to some place I don’t know. All I really know is that I’m not on Tatooine anymore. The thought makes me feel calmer than I expected. Then I notice how hungry and parched I am, and remember my lost items, and feel the worry start to set in. Where is he taking me?
“Why didn’t you leave me there?” I blurt out.
He doesn’t turn, leaving no indication that I ever spoke at all. The room is silent. Baby must have fallen asleep. I’m about to repeat my question, when a deep baritone voice responds. “No time. They were getting closer.”
They? My mind flashes back to the other bounty hunter I saw before. The dead one. The one killed by Baby. He must have been in a group. “...Ah.” I respond quietly, my fingers slowly reaching up to cover my neck. His voice is nice. Surprisingly warm, in contrast to the cold and detached words. I never noticed. Probably because I was in a chokehold. I wince.
“Where are we going? Are you gonna take me back to Tatooine? Why does your baby kill people? And why are there people after you? Wh—”
He turns around in his seat and faces me. The sight of his helmet and armor stops me in my tracks.
A Mandalorian. I stare.
I had never seen a Mandalorian before. Only heard of the stories passed around from time to time. How their strange, T-shaped visor allowed them to pinpoint the weaknesses of every kill they made without fail, how their ancestors fought in awful wars against mysterious and god-like beings. How one squadron of them could take down an entire star. Pull it down and crush the light out of it.
“You talk too much,” he says after a pause, and I flinch.
“...Are you going to kill me?” I look up nervously into the black void of his visor.
As if he’s been asked that question too many times before(and he probably has), the Mandalorian sighs deeply. “We’ll see,” he answers shortly. My heart rate picks up. ’What do you mean, “we’ll see”? That’s not an acceptable answer!’ I screech inwardly and purse my lips.
He stands up from the seat and walks past me through the sliding doors of the cockpit. Pushing myself up off the ground, I follow him to the ladder leading down to the main area of the ship. Not seeming to pay me any attention, he climbs down into the darkness. That doesn’t look promising. But I need more answers. So I follow him down.
After he turns on the lights, the ship looks the same as it did before I passed out. No thanks to Grumpy over here. I glance over at him, only to find him picking up parts of the ship that had escaped my bag during the incident. His gaze lands on me. Looking anywhere but at him, I turn slightly away in embarrassment. To be fair, from the outside, his ship looked abandoned. But he probably wouldn’t take well to me saying that. I keep my mouth shut.
I look forlornly at my collection of junk being sorted through by the Mandalorian. Granted, all of the stuff he’s going through was taken from his wreck of a ship in the first place, but… It took me so long to gather… In the hot suns… I shut my eyes at the sight of all that hard work being reduced to nothing but ship repairs. Not like the repairs will even do anything, with the state of his ship. If it was so out of shape that it looked like an abandoned wreck? It’s not like those wires are magical. Just expensive. I’m trying so hard not to stare holes into his back.
On the bright side, I probably won’t live to see a scrap merchant again anyway. Why care about how much everything costs? And would it be too risky to ask for some food before he kills me? I squint my eyes at his back. What’s he gonna do, kill me a second time? Just as I work up the courage to ask, he tosses me two small packages, which I open up gratefully to find food and water. I must’ve looked terrible. He seems to be nicer than I originally thought.
“Thank you,” I tell him, and he nods. “You can pay me back for that by watching the kid and the ship when I leave.” ...I take it back. He’s just as I thought. I waste no time in devouring the contents of the packages as he heads back up into the cockpit.
As much as it seems unfair to me, I’m still thankful for the meal. It’s the most I’ve had in days. The water is especially relieving. I try not to eat everything at once, feeling a little sick from the sudden sustenance. Barely tasting any of the food I shove down my throat, I rest on the floor of the ship. It’s only a matter of time before I finish drinking and eating that my body starts to sag under the stress of my body and mind, and I grab my empty bag to form a makeshift pillow, resting my head against it.
Sleep pulls me under as soon as my head hits the bag, before I realize I didn’t get any of my questions answered. I dream of big, bright eyes and flashing metal.
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