Posted by Darth Krzysztof
Kenzi woke up with a start, shivering in his bunk. Errant Venture’s heating system was temperamental, even on a good day, and “cold” was one of the first three words that always came to mind when describing space.
It’s more than the cold, he thought, and you know it.
“Couldn’t sleep?” came a voice in the dark, familiar and impossible all at once. Kenzi grabbed a nearby lamp and clicked it to life, spilling light on the handsome, weary face of Talan Vigil. “Hey there, Kenny.”
Kenzi hated to be called that – by anyone else. “What… what? Uncle Talan?”
“Who else? Isn’t this my ship?” Talan spread his arms and leaned back against the bunk opposite Kenzi’s. “What’s the matter? Aren’t you glad to see me?”
“Of course I am.” Kenzi pushed himself up on his elbows. “I just, um… didn’t expect to see you again.”
“Because I’m dead,” Talan said. Kenzi nodded. “Don’t worry, Kenny. It’s not like one of those stories where the ghosts go away when they find out they’re ghosts. Stupid, really.”
If this is really Uncle Talan… “Um… where have you been?”
“Wrong question, Kenny.”
If it wasn’t Uncle Talan, whoever he was, he’d certainly done his homework. Talan told Kenzi that all the time. “Right. Sorry. Why are you here now?”
“Because you needed to talk to me,” Talan said. “Because nobody else would understand.”
“I’m not sure I understand, Uncle Talan.”
Talan patted his nephew’s knee. “Come on, then. I’ll show you.” He got up and walked out the door; Kenzi hauled himself from his bunk, taking a moment to wonder where everyone else had gone before following.
But the door slid open to reveal the bunker he’d found on Ord Ibanna, instead of the Errant Venture’s ring corridor. He turned to go back, but Talan blocked his path. “How did you do that?” Kenzi asked.
Talan smiled. “For all I know, you did it.”
“Dream. It has to be a dream.” Kenzi stumbled toward the hatch which led out to the landing platform.
“Could be. That’s one way of looking at it, anyway.”
Kenzi stopped, turned to face his uncle. “Well, how else can you explain what I’m doing with my dead uncle on a planet I left hours ago?”
Talan caught up with Kenzi, placing a hand on his shoulder. “What makes you so sure it needs to be explained?” He keyed the hatch’s release, and it slid open, revealing the same scene of carnage Kenzi had seen here before. But there was no sign of the Errant Venture.
Kenzi walked out to the landing platform, a horror show of blast points and wreckage. A sudden gust of wind brought the buried stink of burning to his nose. “This… this all seems more real than it was when I was actually here.”
“Just because you aren’t here doesn’t mean you can’t be here, Kenny.”
Kenzi felt his eyes roll. “Even in a dream, it’s all wordplay and jokes with you.”
“Let’s say it is a dream.” Talan picked his way through the rubble to stand beside his nephew. “Does that make it any less real?”
“Of course it does!” Kenzi said, laughing.
“If you say so. But does it make it any less important?”
Kenzi’s answer died in his throat.
“All right, then. Tell me what happened, here.”
Kenzi closed his eyes. “There weren’t any bodies when we arrived… but I knew where they’d fallen. Like I saw it happen.” When he opened his eyes, he realized that he’d balled his hands into fists. “All these people died, Uncle Talan. They were murdered, really. And it’s not just that I feel like I was there… I could feel their deaths.” And now he was feeling it all over again.
Talan turned a small cargo pod right-side up, then sat on it with a satisfied sigh. “Pain leaves scars,” he said. “Some of them, anybody can see, everyone can touch. Others… only affect those who are different.”
“Is that what I am?” Kenzi wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand. “Different?”
“This isn’t the first time you’ve had odd feelings, Kenny.”
“No! It was like that with Errant Venture’s smuggling hold. I knew exactly where to find the secret data port. How did I know that, Uncle Talan? What’s… what’s happening to me?”
“You’re becoming who you are.”
“What the hell does that mean? Becoming who I am? Even for you, that doesn’t make any damn sense!”
“Maybe you’d better have a seat, Kenny.” Talan nudged another cargo pod toward his nephew with one steel-toed boot.
“No, sir,” Kenzi managed. “I am not in a sitting mood.”
“Suit yourself. Remember when you were little, and you sometimes saw things that no one else saw? Things in other places? Things that hadn’t happened yet?”
“Yeah… yeah, I do.” Kenzi closed the distance with his uncle and sat down after all. “But how… how did you—?”
“But you stopped talking about it when you realized that nobody else saw those things. When your wet blanket father told you it was just foolish kid stuff. When Zon said that the Jedi would come and take you in the middle of the night.”
Kenzi hadn’t really believed his brother – everyone said that the Empire exterminated the Order, down to the last Jedi – but why take chances? “Are you saying that it wasn’t just my imagination?”
“I’m not saying anything,” Talan said with a shrug. “But what you felt here on Ord Ibanna isn’t your imagination, and it certainly isn’t foolish kid stuff. And if you need your Uncle Talan to tell you what you’ve already worked out for yourself, then here I am.”
“No,” Kenzi said, shaking his head. “I don’t need you to tell me. I’m… different.” He wasn’t ready to call it what it was, not yet. “Were… are you? Different?”
“Wrong question, Kenny.”
“Right. Sorry. What am I going to do about it?”
“That’s better. There are a few things you can do. You can call it coincidence, or luck, or chalk it up to indigestion, and crawl back under your father’s wet blanket.”
“No. I can’t do that. Not again.”
“All right. Then what?”
Kenzi looked down at his hands. “Practice. Get a… a feel for it, I guess. Try to pay more attention to what the galaxy’s trying to tell me.”
Talan nodded. “And?”
“And what? I’m gonna explore this… this difference. What else do you want me to say?”
“What else are you planning to do with it?” Talan remained calm in the face of Kenzi’s rising annoyance.
“Nothing! I’m going to – oh. Secret.” The wind left Kenzi’s sails. “I’m going to keep it a secret.”
“Good lad. In our line of work, there’s too many folks who’d try and take advantage of a gift like yours. And you definitely don’t want the Empire finding out.”
“No, sir.” They still ran the old HoloNet messages from time to time, promising fabulous rewards for any information that led to the capture or execution of any surviving Jedi. The hologram of Darth Vader’s fearsome visage had given him more than one sleepless night in his youth; the thought of actually encountering the Supreme Commander froze his blood. “Nobody has to know.”
“Not even Tondra Has.”
“How did you…? All right, fine. Not even Dra.” Kenzi didn’t exactly trust her to begin with, yet he’d wanted to tell her, for some reason…
“Look at that.” Talan pointed at a distant, shining dot crossing the sky, headed in their direction.
Kenzi peered at it. “It’s the Errant Venture.”
“She!” Talan popped the back of his nephew’s head. “Show some damn respect, lad.”
“She! She! Sorry. Sheesh… Looks like she’s coming this way.”
“Still, you knew it was her, even that far away. I must’ve done the right thing, leavin’ her to you.”
Kenzi turned to look at his uncle, who was grinning from ear to ear. “Why did you leave her to me, anyway?”
“Three reasons. One: you’re a good kid, Kenny. You were always my favorite. Big things are gonna happen to you, and I wanted to make sure you got there in style.”
He had to laugh. “Style? The Venture is older than Great-Aunt Lucilla.”
“Better looking, though.”
Kenzi had to concede that point. “Every day your ship’s got a new surprise for us.”
”Would be boring otherwise. And she’s your ship now. Second reason is that it was high time you got out from under the wet blanket.”
It really was, Kenzi thought. “You never got along with my dad, did you?”
“Not so much. Better than you might think, though. You’ve got Zon and Genna; you know how siblings are. I don’t want to sit at a table with Kell for more’n an hour, but I’d blast any man who spoke ill of him.”
“Speaking ill of him was your job.”
“You’re damn right!” The ship slowed as she approached the landing pad. “And the last reason is that I just don’t need her. Not anymore.”
Kenzi looked from his uncle to the ship, then back again. “How did you die, Uncle Talan? Nobody would talk about it.”
The look on Talan’s face said that he was about to say “Wrong question, Kenny,” but instead, he said, “What difference does it make? I’m just as dead.”
“I’m…” Tears suddenly stung Kenzi’s eyes, and his words spilled out like water from a broken jug. “It makes a lot of difference! I miss you, Uncle. I know we didn’t see each other all that much, but it meant everything to me when we did, and there was always gonna be the next time… and then suddenly you were gone, and I still don’t know how, or why.”
“I tell you, it doesn’t matter. There’s less difference between the living and the dead than you might think. It’s just one breath, in the end. One single breath.”
Kenzi sniffed, hard. “Fine. It doesn’t matter why you’re gone. That doesn’t make it hurt any less. And with everything that’s been happening, I just… I haven’t had time to mourn for you. And now you’re just gonna leave again, before I can say goodbye.”
“Don’t be stupid, Kenny.” Talan’s hand came to rest over Kenzi’s heart. “I’m in here. I’ll always be with you, lad; don’t think I won’t. So get out there and live. You know that’s what I want you to do.”
“This sucks.” The Venture had landed, her loading ramp down, but Kenzi had scarcely noticed.
“More than a little, sure. I’d rather be flyin’ that ship myself, but it is what it is. Now go on.”
Kenzi threw his arms around Talan in a crushing hug. “I love you,” he said.
“All right, all right. I love you too, Kenzi.” Talan returned the hug, clapping Kenzi on the back. “But your crew needs you, now. So get going, before I change my mind and leave this ship to your sister instead.”
Kenzi cast a backward glance over his shoulder when he got halfway up the ramp, but Talan was gone. Not gone, he thought, his hand hovering over his chest. Not really.
- – - – -
He did feel different when he awoke the next morning. He couldn’t explain it… but he no longer felt the need to.