The Blue Streak soars away from the Dame, headed out into open space, searching for someone to rescue. Her glitterbombs and stimpacks are not going to help her with this mission. JT considers maybe upgrading the helmet again, this time with some sort of sensor suite, but then she yanks her attention back to the task at hand. As she looks for Tcho, she concentrates on the Pantoran and brings to mind the impression she got of him through the Force when they first met. This whole sensing thing is really not something she has studied much. That was more Cal’s area; he has had way more visions than she has. But she has heard that if you have a strong connection with someone, that can help you reach them. She only met Tcho a few days ago, and even though they are friends, that might not be enough time for the necessary sort of Force connection. It is one of those things she will have to remember to ask Elaiza about at their next session.
Finally JT spots Tcho much farther from the ship than she expected him to be. She jets in that direction but soon realizes the way is not actually clear. Those meteoroids that provided a show when she was safely inside the enormous Dame Metropolis pose a much bigger threat to the small JT. She augmented her jetpack—one of her first projects with her sweet Cupcake—to improve its handling, but getting around all these small rocks is still proving too difficult. JT pauses, considering. She sees Tcho, but does he see her? She is not sure, but she considers the risk worth taking. It is her responsibility to bring him safely back in, and if the Force is the only way to do that, then she will have to trust him with her secret. JT closes her eyes and concentrates, feeling the presence of each small rock between her and the Pantoran. She stretches out her hands just like she did when she ripped Romar Kek’s spaceship out of the sky. But this time, she pulls from a pool of calm certainty, wrapping each stone in the Force and harmoniously moving it farther along its path. A clear corridor opens before her, and JT speeds over to Tcho, who is still spinning end over end.
* * *
Is this taking too long, or does it only feel like too long? Tcho wonders. And just how much oxygen is in this suit? He awkwardly moves a wrist before his faceplate, trying to make sense of the readings on it while his inner ears tell him unhelpful things about his equilibrium. This whole experience is so unsettling that he reaches for what he does know to try to calm himself down, or at least provide a distraction. He goes through a few biofeedback routines, attempting to slow his breathing a bit, but he cannot even steady it. This is not how I thought I was going to die. Where is she?
And then suddenly the Blue Streak is before him, catching him and halting his spinning. “Stay safe, citizen!” crackles over the near-field radio, and he cannot help but smile. Maybe it is just relief or maybe it is tinged with a bit of hysteria. There is so much adrenaline pumping through his system now that he cannot be sure.
JT flies him back to the Dame, and they enter through an airlock into one of the upper first class berths. Tcho steadies himself as welcome gravity kicks back in. JT reminds him that they have to return the spacesuit, and he is only too happy to get out of it. He undoes the helmet and takes a deep breath, sucking in a lungful of air, relieved to be surrounded by it again. Then he strips off the rest of the suit, trembling a bit as he does so. His mind continues to catalog symptoms and diagnose, but that does nothing to change his physical reactions to the whole crazy experience. When he looks back up, JT is clad in her utility jumpsuit holding out a duffel bag in one hand and a stim in the other.
“Gosh, when did you get shot?” she asks.
“Entering the observation deck,” he replies as he administers the hypospray to himself. “Fortunately before there were any bystanders around.” Then he lets out another long breath of relief, amazed and grateful that their plan actually worked. “Thank you. Thank you very much.” He starts stuffing the spacesuit into the duffel bag.
“Okay, we don’t have a lot of time in here,” JT says, trying to rush him along. “I know this place looks ransacked. That’s… by design.” Tcho is not sure if she wants to convince him of that or herself. He evaluates the room’s condition. It looks rather staged, in his opinion, like someone just threw everything around. “Do you need to fix your hair?” the human asks him. Tcho snaps himself back to attention and quickly smears his cheeks with blue eyeshadow and throws on a cap. “You look good,” JT confirms. “Now let’s get out of here.” But she takes another look about herself and sighs. “I feel really bad about this. It’s one of my friend’s rooms.”
“She’ll understand,” Tcho tells her.
“It looks like she’s been burgled!”
Tcho laughs. “I can steal something if you need it to—”
“No!” JT cuts him off, but not with the same offended morals Gomarr exhibited. “There’s no need to steal anything. She’s going to sing at the gala!”
“If you think this is convincing enough…” Tcho starts, but he quickly decides it really is not.
As JT watches, Tcho sets about making adjustments to the overturned furniture and piles of debris she created. Okay, this guy has definitely done work as a professional thief, JT concludes, not just some street-urchin stuff. He never did tell me what his area of expertise was. She is not judging; it is just good to know what people are capable of.
Satisfied, Tcho slings the duffel with the spacesuit over one shoulder and picks up a few of the bags from Aquamarine. He turns to JT with a grin. “Again, thank you.” She smiles back, and they leave the scene of the fake crime.
* * *
Scuffed helmet tucked under one arm, Renault stands at attention before his superiors. “Now we won’t know what the plot was,” Moff Panaka growls. Ms. Diol is there watching him, too, a step back and to the side, holding a datapad.
“Sir, he was clearly a Rebel spy,” Renault declares. “He was poking around among your things, right? He was inciting violence, even attacked an Imperial—non-commissioned—officer. I’ve heard other officers say, ‘What do we do with Rebels? We have to put them down.’ They’ve had more than enough opportunities to try to redeem themselves. They always throw them aside.”
Moff Panaka frowns, and Renault continues, picking up the pace a bit, more insistent. “He was going to get away, and I couldn’t let that happen. The Stormtrooper squad, they helped out, but they couldn’t keep up. So I did what I had to do. I chased him over land and sea and when he tried to take to space, I was able to destroy his escape pod. With one thrown knife, I triggered the self-destruct mechanism.”
Before Ms. Diol can bring up the stir he caused, Renault presses on, trying to look as humble as he can. “As for all the people on the observation deck, they’ll know that the Empire is keeping them safe. Or they’ll just think it was a show. It’s all the same to me; I don’t seek glory.”
Moff Panaka nods sharply, and Renault dares to ask a boon. “I’d like to request a few days of leave, sir. It’s been very stressful.” He glances down at his helmet briefly, then returns his eyes to the appropriate spot on the far wall. “I didn’t have the proper equipment for the shoretrooping action I had to do. And I’d like to put in a request for some training, sir.”
“We’ve lost a source of information, but at least the problem is dealt with,” Moff Panaka grants. “That’s not why we’re here anyway, and now it can stop distracting us from what matters.”
Ms. Diol steps up, also accepting Renault’s version of events. “Indeed, sir, now if we could—” The moff turns to his chief-of-staff, waving away the sergeant with a muttered dismissal. Renault turns sharply and leaves.