Outside the ship, at the base of the ramp, the bearsloth rests her head on crossed paws. Renn reclines against her, idly scratching her behind the ears, as he looks over the person that Renci has just left him with. Mira circles above, keeping watch.
Pile-of-Leaves, still draped in his camo netting, sits cross-legged nearby, eyeing him back. “Your bearsloth proved pretty handy up there,” he says.
“She isna my bearsloth.”
“You’re petting it!” the Mirialan exclaims.
“I’m scratchin’ her,” Renn counters.
“I’ve been living in this wilderness for ten years, trying to stay alive in this miserable place,” Pile-of-Leaves growls, gesturing up towards the mountainside. “Those creatures are incredibly dangerous. Sure, maybe one can scare them away or something when they attack, but you… you’ve domesticated it!”
“She isna domesticated.”
“She’s happy. That isna the same thing. Wild creatures can be happy.” More quietly, he adds, “Maybe they’re the only ones who really are.”
The Mirialan eyes Renn and the bearsloth, thinking back over his time at the Temple and out in the field, back before… before. He has seen things like this. “Has the Empire stopped hunting people like us?” he asks.
Renn’s hand stills on the bearsloth. He slowly shakes his head. “No. And it isna just the Empire who hunts them… us.”
“There’s at least one other group. Some sorta cult… revenge, betrayal… I don’ really understand it all.” With his sister now dead, perhaps he will never need to.
“Maybe I’m safer on this planet,” Pile-of-Leaves mutters.
“You were no’ soundin’ very happy about yer environment here.”
“I went from living in the center of the galaxy, learning about all the great things I could do, to… to Order 66.”
“Order 66? What’s that?”
“You’ve never heard of Order 66?!” Pile-of-Leaves is incredulous. “They’ve suppressed a lot.”
Renn looks off, thinking. “That isna in the Army manual…”
“Slaughter of the Jedi!” Pile-of-Leaves shouts angrily. “All the clonetroopers, everyone you knew and who were fighting alongside you, they turned on you. I was lucky I was away. They killed all the Jedi. Shot them down. Don’t you know anything about this?!”
Renn shakes his head. “I only knew of the Jedi as another political group, traitors during the Clone Wars.” Seeing Pile-of-Leaves prickle at that, he elaborates, “It’s what they taught us at the Academy.”
The Mirialan narrows his eyes. “You an Imp?” he demands. He concentrates on the man in front of him, trying to Foresee his own fate. Will he be safe with this man? He gets vague hints of going back in the facility, but there is also a sense of potential sanctuary. And heat and dryness.
“I’m tryin’ ta figure out who I am now,” Renn replies slowly, “and that isna it.”
Pile-of-Leaves grows more agitated. “It’s a simple question. Yes or no? Are you or are you not? So you’re saying you’re not an Imperial? You’re not going to turn me in?” His hand moves down to the electrostaff. “‘Cause you’re in no condition to do so,” he growls.
Renn is tired. He is hurt and feeling the edges of a migraine coming on. He is still emotionally frayed from being in that compound, and this antagonistic attitude finally trips his self-control. He sits up straight and snaps back, “No, I’m no’ goin’ ta turn ya in ta th’Imperials. I’m wanted as a Rebel spy. I deserted from the Army twice. I spent months in a facility based on all the best research that came outta yers. And now, I suppose, they’d want me fer this bloody Force stuff. Ya are no’ happy here in yer wilderness? I would love to be able to stay in a place like this, far away from people and all the troubles they cause.”
“Look, I don’t care about all your problems,” the Mirialan replies. “I just want a hot meal and a shower and a lift to the nearest spaceport. You want to live in a place like this, you’re welcome to my estate.” He sweeps his arms out. “There’s some great trails going up into the mountains. I’d say watch out for the bearsloths, but…” He gestures at the creature behind Renn. “You were imprisoned for months? I was in there for years! Do you know how many times I escaped from that facility? Three! Three times!”
Whatever energy Renn had found dissipates just as quickly. “I’m no’ tryin’ ta compare who had a worse life with ya.”
“I just want to find a safe place.”
Renn shakes his head sadly, “There are no safe places out there. But I can take ya t’a place where people like ya… like us can at least find some help, where ya can talk with someone who will understand what yu’ve been through…. And I don’ mean me. Or, I can drop ya anywhere ya want. Yer welcome t’a lift.”
“Fine. Then I just have one question… do you have any whiskey?”
“No…” Renn says quietly, “there’s no alcohol on the ship.” The Mirialan looks a little disappointed at that. With a sigh, Renn elaborates, “Ya didna want ta hear about all m’ problems, but that’s one of them.”
Renci descends the ramp of the ship to find the two men silently looking at each other. Renn gets up carefully and roots around in his backpack for the vet kit. He asks Renci to show Pile-of-Leaves to the shower and tells the Mirialan he can make himself comfortable on the couch in the common area. The flight to Ryloth should not take very long, and they can depart as soon as Renn has treated the bearsloth’s injuries and sent her back off to her den.
* * *
A little later, in the cockpit of the Resolve, Renci tells Renn she will fly the ship out so he can get some rest.
“That’s not necessary,” he protests. “I can fly her.”
“You look like you can barely stand,” she points out.
“Well, fortunately, there’s a seat in the cockpit.”
“Look, I’ll make ya a deal. I’ll let ya help me with this, if you let me help you. Otherwise, what did ya bring me along fer?”
“Well, you have a ship. And, honestly, you seemed like you could catch a break. And… even if you don’t want it, you’re still Amulet, and Amulet is a very capable person.”
His voice softens. “Renci, lass, if there’s anything I’ve learned in the past nine months, it’s that there’s no reason ta go it alone, not when there’s people what can help ya. It doesna take anything away from your capabilities t’accept help from those who want ta give it. I’m no’ tryin’ ta take over yer mission, and I’m no’ lookin’ fer any credit. Just… let’s work together.”
“Okay, it’s a deal,” Renci says, and she offers her hand.
They shake, and he relinquishes the pilot chair to her, heading back through the ship, past Pile-of-Leaves on the couch and into the cargo hold. Mira, perched near the ceiling on the raised bed, looks down at him as he hits the control on the wall and then rubs his temples. She takes flight when the bed starts to move. Once it is done lowering, Renn lets himself collapse across it. He reaches a hand over to the empty space next to him in the large bed and closes his eyes, mumbling into the blanket, “Mira, the door and lights, please.” She flies over and hits the panels with her tail, then lands on a ficus plant to preen.
* * *
When the ship is in hyperspace, Renci calls Fortune, saying that she heard Vault is heading back into the field, so there should be a Lt. Commander position opening soon. Fortune tells her that a ship or other boon might be in the works for Renci in the future, but command will need to see how things pan out with the facility Renci just found. And there are still a couple more planets they need her to check because a new base location remains one of the top priorities.
“But what about Hoth?!” Renci demands.
“That is pretty far down on a lot of people’s lists.”
“You didn’t see the size of the caves!”
“We still need more options.”
Renci agrees that after a few days recovering on Ryloth she can look at the next couple of planets and begins reading off a requisition wish list of all the equipment she will need to get it done….