Our departure from Shaymore was in mixed spirits. Victory tempered with loss, exultation with the vertiginous sense of stepping off a cliff- that we had started something huge and would never be able to go back to the lives we once knew. As we took off even the usually stoic Valin finally betrayed his emotions. Relief was evident in every fiber of his being, but after we hit hyperspace I did something I’d never attempted before.
Valin sat alone in the mess hall, poking distractedly at a half eaten meal in front of him. He didn’t even look up as I quietly sat down at the other end of the table with my own food. I watched him for a while, studying his features and trying to read something, anything, from his body language. But, as ever, he remained a mystery. For a few short seconds I gave up and returned to my food, momentarily content to leave him be. But the curiosity was too much: I had been travelling with the Ghost for more than a month now and Valin remained the greatest mystery on the ship. Besides, I wasn’t even sure if this would work. I took a deep breath and leaned forward, resting my forearms on the table with my hands clasped. Pushing all other thoughts aside I focused solely on Valin, trying to direct my senses towards him, to read his feelings the way I seemed to be able to do with so many random people. Surely our close proximity over the recent weeks would have attuned me in some way to him? I had no idea how this was supposed to work, but ever since finding out the truth about Quan I was certain that my mind wasn’t just playing tricks on me, that I really had some connection to the mysterious force that the Jedi could tune in to.
The stillness of the room was palpable. Normally Valin would have spoken up by now, acknowledged my presence at least, but he was clearly miles away from the dimly lit mess hall. I closed my eyes, imagining an invisible stream of energy flowing between us, a oneness of consciousness, his feelings swirling and dancing towards me, like drops of blood in a river. And then…
Nothing. No sense of unease, no discomfort, none of the strangeness I had come to associate with feelings that weren’t my own. My head was still mine: a single, lonely mind, thinking it’s own thoughts and dreaming it’s own dreams. How was it supposed to work then? Clearly I didn’t understand what I was dealing with. I was stuck here, chasing the folly of some young dreamer, taking sides in a war that I had successfully stayed clear of for years and putting myself and Kari in more danger than I’d ever dared expose us to before. I had little doubt that my beloved Ghost had been placed on a Imperial database somewhere after our recent escapades. Were we going to be stuck running jobs in the outer rim for the rest of our lives, hiding from the Empire? What right did I have to drag Kari away from her quiet life into another one of my ill fated adventures in the first place?
But then, maybe this was right? I’d brought this crew together, even bringing the kid aboard had been my call, and they trusted me to keep us flying. Maybe it was time to stop running. Maybe the safe place I had been searching for was right where we were. The work seemed like it was going to be steady enough and there wasn’t much chance we were going to be stabbed in the back for a few credits. I still wasn’t too keen on fighting the Galactic Empire, but if we stuck to small jobs maybe we could cut and run if things went…
…Woah. I snapped back to myself and stood up, nearly tripping over the bench in my haste. I felt light headed, maybe it was just from standing up too fast, but I doubted it.
“That was new” I muttered under my breath as I scurried back to my cabin, looking furtively back at Valin as I went. He glanced up briefly, but paid little attention to my retreat. I managed to avoid the rest of the crew as I headed to my bunk to figure out what had happened. What the hell was that? Up until now the worst thing about picking up on peoples emotions had been that it all felt so real that I believed they were my own. The only way I could ever tell that something was amiss was the turmoil that came from the unfocused nature of the curse: I would never just lock on to one person at a time. Spinning back and forth between many minds at once I learned to take comfort in the turbulence, at least when it was happening I knew I was not my own. But this had been different, terrifyingly so. I’d had no idea that I was channelling Valin’s thoughts until the wrongness of them was too glaring to miss. How often had this happened before? What if I’d been hitching on board people’s feelings like this all my life and only realising it when I was stuck between several minds? How many of my thoughts, my feelings, my hopes and my fears were really my own? How much of my life?
I was way out of my depth. The cold, dark waters of uncertainty were closing around me, and panic was setting in. I couldn’t handle this alone, and by some miraculous fluke I had possibly the only person alive who could help me sat not two rooms away. I had been putting this off for weeks. I knew Quan disapproved of me, and I had been fully intending to stay out of his way until he came around, as I knew he eventually would, but this wouldn’t wait.
I found him sat in the cockpit, his feet up on the console, watching the dilated blur of passing stars as we burned through hyperspace. He held a bottle up to his lips for a few seconds, tipped his head back to catch the last few drops of the precious liquid, then placed it down carefully next to another, also empty.
“Quan, I… I haven’t really talked to you about this before now, but i need somebody to train me.” I blurted out, desperate to just get this out in the open. “You’re probably the only person in the galaxy who can help me get rid of the voices in my head. Please…”
Quan spun the chair to face me, another bottle in his hand. I hadn’t even seen him pick it up. He broke the seal on the bottle, the hiss of escaping air filling the silence of the cockpit, and raised it to his lips. He studied me as he drank a long, slow gulp of beer, then nodded.
“Oh..” I replied, shocked. As easy as that? “Okay, where do we start?”
“I saw an empty hangar bay back at the fleet. We can start there”
And just like that, it began.