We arrived on Naboo some time after sundown. I watched quietly as Lianna left the ship. Her only acknowledgment of the conversation we had had earlier was a nod of her head. I watched her walk down the ramp and head towards the retreat complex before I closed the up the door half way. It would do the ship good to have fresh air exchanged for the re-circulated air but I didn’t want the ship wide open. If anyone wanted to visit they would have to knock.
Even after such a short trip I was always careful to run a thorough check on all the ship’s systems. This meant computer run diagnostics and a personal look at the mechanics. While the on board computer ran self diagnostics I was in the engine room going over everything with a fine tooth comb. Some pilots I had known in my life found this procedure to be either a waste of time or utterly boring but I found it to be neither. It was always good to have the comp run self diagnostics and I liked being in the engine room. It was warm and the smell of hydraulic fuel and grease was always a comfort to me.
With a flashlight in hand I began my inspection. I loved crawling underneath the main engine assembly, looking at everything that made this ship go. Usually people had astromech droids do this sort of work but since I had learned most of my mech skills from Jyrki and he had hated astromech droids, I had never learned to rely on them.
This engine was a beauty. The Ahnkeli’Su’udelma had been highly modified. Her engine was top of the line and new. Even so, that being said, it didn’t hurt to check it over. I tweaked it and made sure the parts that needed to be lubricated were lubed and the bits that needed fluids were topped up and generally looked to make sure that wear and tear wouldn’t suddenly break something mid flight. Mostly, I just loved to look at it.
Once I had finished with the engine I started the general clean up. It was my father who had instilled this need for order on board a ship in me. He had made the mass cleanups after each trip fun. So I never minded the process of cleaning the ‘fresher, the galley or the common areas. This trip had been short and sweet and there was no real mess to deal with. Lianna had left nothing on board and no trace that she had ever really been here. Yet, I felt the residue of her presence keenly. The echoes of our conversation lingered. It wasn’t so much about what we had said to each other but rather more about the things left unspoken.
She had woken up about two hours after leaving Kerest, groggy and suspicious. She had made her way up to the cockpit and without sitting had demanded answers.
“How do you feel” I had asked, ignoring her question, a trick I had learned from Thrawn. Instead I got up and lead her to the common area, motioned for her sit at the table.
“What happened?” she pressed as I had made tea.
“You were shot with a blaster.” I told her. “How do you feel?”
“My head hurts, my back hurts and my mouth feels like a desert.” She told me curtly
I handed her a cup of tea and sat across from her. “Drink, the honey will help. The headache and the dry mouth come from the sedative. Your back will heal and if you want there are pain killers in the medkit.” She shook her head, sipping the tea. We sat in silence for a long time and only after two cups of sweetened tea did she begin to look better.
“I suppose I owe you my life?” she asked.
“Just doing my job.” I told her.
She gave me a look.
“The Emperor asked to me make sure that you were safe.” I said cagily. “He was concerned for his favourite dancer.” I added a little more tartly than I had meant to.
She narrowed her eyes at me. “What happened?”
I shook my head. Time see how well I could lie and whether or not she could sense it.
“I heard the commotion while I was doing an external ship check. By the time I got to the cantina all madness had broken out.” I said. “It was just a big mess and someone decided to up the ante by pulling out a blaster and shooting at you.”
“How did you get me out?”
“Sheer force of will. You aren’t light.” I told her.
She buried her head in her hands and sighed.
“What?” I asked her not expecting an answer.
“You should have left me there.” She said wearily.
I just stared at her the without a word got up and fetched her satchel. I tossed it on the table and sat back down.
“You dropped this.” I told her.
She grabbed it and gave me a nasty look. She checked the satchel over and then without opening it tucked it down by her feet.
“I didn’t look inside if that’s what you are thinking.” I told her. “I don’t want to know what is inside.”
She looked up at me. There were many questions in her eyes but she didn’t want to start the conversation.
I sighed. “Look, I was asked to do a job, I did it. I am pretty certain that while you can dance, probably far better than I can, you are not just a dancer. It’s tiny, little things that give you away, most people wouldn’t see them but I do.”
She opened her mouth to say something but I held up my hand to shut her up.
“I don’t know what you are and I don’t want to know.”
She drew a deep breath and sat back gingerly in her chair. “You are not what you appear to be.” She said after a long weighted silence.
I gave her an even stare. “None of us are.”
She regarded me carefully for a moment. “I start to see why Lord Vader keeps you around. Tell me something, is Merlyn your real name?”
I laughed. “Yes, but I am betting Lianna isn’t yours.”
She went to speak but I shook my head. “Look, I don’t care what your real name is, who you are or even what you really do. I was asked by the Emperor to deliver you to Rothana and to make sure you got back safely. I did that so everything else is none of my concern. In fact, the less I know about you and whatever it is your job is, the better.” I told her. “I work for Lord Vader, I keep his schedule up to date and run errands for him and everything else that a personal assistant does. That the Emperor thinks I can be occasionally useful out side of that is flattering but it is not my main job and I have no intention and no desire to be more than I am right now. I am not a threat to you.” I said. “I am not your enemy.”
She stared me in the eyes for a long time and I held her gaze until we both looked away at the same time. “You are not my friend, either.”
With a smile I nodded. “I can live with that.” I said getting up.
We passed the rest of the journey back to Naboo in silence. I suppose we were both sorting out our own thoughts. She had retired to the sleeping quarters and I had stayed in the cockpit. I had managed to doze a little before we hit Naboo space and had landed.
I was lost in these thoughts when I heard a banging on the side of the ship. Someone wanted to visit. I looked at my chrono, it was later than I had realized. Time seemed to slip away without me noticing it. I made my way to the entrance door and opened it up again. I didn’t smile when glowing red eyes met mine.