JT continues through the hallways, looking for a place to eat dinner. Next to a lower tier casino, she comes across an eatery called the Trash Compactor advertising large portions of greasy food. She pays the rate for the all-you-can-eat buffet and grabs a dish. As she loads up her plate, she hears familiar rumbling voices, but the speakers are initially concealed by the sneeze-guards over the food.
“Abner, you gotta take some greens, too.”
“Agnes, I’ll come back for seconds— Well, look, this is green… what is this, gelatin stuff? It’s green, it counts!”
“Abner! Abner, you’re—”
“You’re right, and you said greens, plural, and there’s two of ‘em. There we go! One for each mouth.”
“Your health, Abner! The doctor said you gotta—”
“My tastebuds, Agnes, my tastebuds!”
“All right, well, see if you can find a table with some nice young people. None of those old stodgy folks.”
Shuffling around the end of the buffet, JT sees two familiar octogenarian Ithorians, one missing an arm. She steps over to them with a smile. “Agnes and Abner Floggingham! I haven’t seen you guys in months. I didn’t think I’d run into you here.” Agnes exclaims in surprise at being recognized, and JT prompts her memory. “You were at Blue Spring Lodge that unfortunate week.”
“Unfortunate?” Abner exclaims. He plops his plate down and gestures with his one hand at some humans of varied hues passing by. “Sit at the table! Sit at the table! I’ll tell you a story.”
Agnes swats him. “Abner, those young people don’t want to hear your stories!”
The humans, a family of four, pause, unsure of whether to join the table. JT encourages them, “It’s totally fine.” She pauses, taking in the age of the children. “If it’s okay for your kids to hear… there’s some violence in this story.”
“Oh!” The little girl, no older than JT was when she had her first oil bath, puts her plate on the table and sits down. “What’s this story?”
“It’s an adventure,” JT tells her.
The husband and wife exchange looks. “We’re on a cruise,” the woman says, her tone indicating that she is resuming a previous conversation. “We want to experience the whole thing, meet the galaxy. We’re not going to stay in our room the whole time, or else we should have just stayed on Corellia.” The man still looks uncertain.
“Did you see the most recent movie from Helio Starburst?” JT asks.
That catches the husband’s attention. “Helio Starburst, you say? Slippery Slope? Well, that wasn’t too violent. If this story is on that level, okay. Sit down, kids.” The Opana family settles around the table, and everyone makes introductions. The tan-skinned woman is named Mariah, and her darker-complected husband is Gabon. Adventure-seeking Zinny is their daughter, and her reserved older brother is called Matthieu.
JT lets Abner tell the story, interjecting as necessary to keep it moving along and prevent him from meandering too much. Some details are irrelevant, like Abner trying to go skiing. And my girlfriend finding out about my lightsaber… no need to mention that.
Abner tells the Opanas about the power going out in the lounge and how a body was found in one of the hot springs. “But that was only the first body!” he says dramatically.
“Yeah,” Gabon agrees, far more engaged now that he realizes this was Helio Starburst’s source material, “because there were like five people who died there, right?”
“Um, I think there were two,” JT politely corrects him. “But they had to take some artistic liberties when making the film. They consolidated some people… you know, don’t worry about the characters,” she says. Some of her friends are rather private people and would not like to be connected to those events. “It’s the story that matters.”
“Wait, were you there, too?!”
“Yeah,” JT confirms, “I was there with my girlfriend on a corporate retreat. We went skiing, we tried to ride a tauntaun—she’s way better than me at that.” JT remembers clinging for dear life to Renci’s waist as they rode along on the snow safari just before the poacher attack.
Gabon gets even more excited. “Now, I read in the Imperial Movie Database that Helio was actually there…?”
“He was. I even got him to sign a medkit.” She fishes around in the backpack that she by habit always carries with her and pulls out a box, showing it off. “He was on a break from playing the doctor in his series As the Empire Turns.” Gabon gawks at it. “It was a rough week for all of us… but it’s still a nice lodge. You should check it out if you get a chance.”
“So, was a politician actually killed?” Mariah asks. “In the movie, a former senator was murdered.”
The fiance of a planetary senator’s daughter was strangled by the senator’s daughter using the necktie of one of JT’s friends, Renn. JT does not go into all those details, just says, “Uh, there was some extended family of a politician. Nothing on the galactic level, just local. But still, that’s… Well, it’s still terrible.”
“And somebody was blinded by a rabid panther attack?” pipes in little Zinny.
Oof… The screenwriter, Helio himself, made the main love-interest a mash up of Kash and Eloii. The former really was attacked by a snow panther while out with Renn, and the latter has been blind her whole life, just like every other Miraluka. But these are details JT has no intention of sharing. “Pretty much, yeah. A couple folks got stuck out in the cold. It was a harrowing week, but a good movie came out of it, I guess…” No residuals came to us for that, JT thinks a little grumpily, despite DRS being the primary subject matter. Wonder how that happened. She herself did not answer any of Helio’s questions while he was working on the screenplay, but she knows her friends Caldovan and Chando did. JT makes a note to see whether Helio would consider making a donation; he is certainly wealthy enough.
With that thought, JT brings the topic up to the table. “I’ve been staying busy since then. Now I manage a charity, the War Orphans Fund. I don’t know if you guys have heard of it. What about you, Abner and Agnes?”
“You manage a charity, do you?” Agnes asks.
“I do. I’m actually here on this cruise throwing a gala. Now, it is five hundred credits a plate, so I understand—believe me, I totally understand—if that’s out of your reach. The goal is to get ten million credits raised. It will help us open a few new orphanages on some Outer Rim worlds that have been hard hit the last few decades. But every credit counts. I’m not at dinner here to plug, but if you wanted… if you felt a need to give…” From her wallet, she pulls out a picture of a young girl with messy blue hair sitting on the shoulders of a B1 battle droid. “This little girl, she lost her whole family to war back during the Clone Wars. She was very lucky. She was adopted very quickly, so she got to have a—” JT pauses. ‘Normal’ might be too strong a word. “She got to grow up with a family, a support network. That little girl was me.” She puts the picture away, muttering, “I mean, the hair, you probably figured that out.”
The Flogginghams, for all their cheapness, are really quite wealthy. They set aside their penny-pinching ways momentarily and buy tickets to the gala. The Opanas are a lower class family, with both parents working in the shipyards for the Corellian Engineering Corporation. They have been saving up for this trip over the past several years and were finally able to afford it thanks to a recent bonus. They donate a small amount, and JT promises to enter them in the raffle for free gala tickets. Right now, she is thinking that one seat at each table at the gala will go to a raffle winner. Pleased with how things are turning out so far, JT enjoys the rest of the dinner and then retires to her room for the night.