The Dream

“What does that button do?”

“That’s the throttle.”

“And that one?”

“The landing gear.”

“And THAT one?”

The old Mandalorian sighed and rolled his eyes. “That’s the ejector switch, for the seat you’re sitting in right now.”

The little boy’s blue eyes went wide. “Whoa…”

“It is not!” Brant jumped up beside his twin, eliciting a cry of surprise and then a swift tussle before both boys settled in the large pilot chair, attention on their father. “It’s the self-destruct,” he corrected proudly.

“No way!” said Kellaro.

“Way!” said Brant.

“Boys!” came their mother’s voice, followed by her face, as she stepped up into the small Mantis-class bridge. She gave them each a good glare, and they each shut up, though not without matching innocent grins. Then she turned to their father. “The meet is about to start soon. You going?”

“Of course I’m going,” he replied. He pressed a few buttons on the console — including the one the twins had been arguing over — then got up to kiss her. “And you kids–” he began turning towards them.

“Can I go?” said Brant.

“Me too,” said Kellaro.

“I asked first!” countered Brant.

“Be quiet,” said the Mando, and he didn’t even have to raise his voice for both children to snap to attention. “No, you may not go. Neither of you are old enough. Stay here, and mind your mother. I don’t want to deal with any reports of Kellaro floating near the ceiling again, Brant, do you understand?”

Brant sighed. He had just discovered the ability a few weeks ago, during a moment of play, and he had put it to the best use he and his brother could come up with. He had thought it would have been of enormous help, really, to reach the wires and couplings up where his father couldn’t get without turning off the gravity well, but neither of their parents had seen it that way. “Okay, I won’t,” he said glumly.

“And I won’t unplug the power coupling again,” added Kellaro.

“Good man,” said the Mando, and he reached out to ruffle both their hairs, leaving smiles on their faces. Then he was gone, exiting out the back of the ship where it anchored to the main Mandalorian freighter.

“You think they’re going to hunt rancors this time?” asked Kellaro, jumping up onto the pilot seat again.

“Don’t be stupid,” said Brant. “Rancors don’t live in space.”

“Nuh uh. Blasto told me about one that did.”

“Blasto’s dumb.”

“No, he isn’t. He once made that trick shot Tarri couldn’t even hope to make standing on his head!”

“Well, then they’re both dumb.”

Kellaro rolled this one around in his head, then shrugged good-naturedly. “Yeah, I guess.” He leaned forward on the console, staring out the cockpit and to the innumerable stars lighting up the darkness of space. “Which one do you think we’ll go to next, huh?”

“Dunno. Hope it’s a good one.” Brant left the pilot seat and instead climbed up onto the console itself. There was a small ledge where it met the glass of the cockpit that was bereft of buttons, just wide enough for a young boy like him to sit. Only problem was only one of them could sit up there at a time, and soon enough, Kellaro and he were arguing about it.

“You’re in my way!”

“So what?”

“So move your fat shebs!” They had just discovered the Mando’a word for butt the other day, and they had resolved to use as much as they could.

“My shebs isn’t fat.”

“Yes, it is.”

“So is yours, then.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“So how can you say mine is?”

“Hey, what was that?” Kellaro suddenly asked, pointing past Brant’s head out the cockpit. Brant squirmed around to look.

It appeared that several of the stars were moving. Only, they weren’t stars, instead several ships dropping out of hyperspace. Only, it wasn’t just three or four of them, or even five or six. Kellaro and Brant slowly turned to stare at each other as hundreds and hundreds of the same cross-shaped ship appeared across the stars.

Kellaro leaped down and started backing for the door. “I’m going to get — I think — MO-O-O-OM!”

Brant turned back to the cockpit glass, mouth gaping in disbelief. The new fleet measured as many ships as there were stars in the sky.

Their mother rushed in, heading right for the holocom. She didn’t even bother to turn on the camera on their end, only sending her voice crackling its way over to the twins’ father on the freighter.

“Are you seeing this?” she demanded.

“We see it.” His father’s visage flickered into view just inches from Brant’s shoulder. Brant looked at his mother through it and saw something on her face he had never seen before — not even when Kellaro had almost powered down the entire ship by detaching that coupling.

She was afraid.

“Take the ship,” his father was saying. “Jump directly to hyperspace.”

“Not until you’re here!”

“There’s no time.” Like always, his father didn’t even raise his voice, but Brant felt the power of it: the command implicit.

His mother shoved her fingers through her dreadlocks frantically, began to pace. “If you leave now, and I start the launching process, you’ll have five minutes to run–“

“Cyare,” said his father.

She stopped.

“Go,” he said. Then his holo flickered out.

“Mom?” asked Kellaro, tugging at her wrist. “What’s going to happen?”

“Nothing’s going to happen,” she said firmly, and she picked the boy up and set him down in the pilot’s chair. “Your father’s being stubborn, but you know how he is. He’ll be alright.”

“You mean he’s not alright now?” Kellaro asked in alarm.

“Hush,” commanded their mother, and she took the other pilot’s chair. She didn’t even yell at Brant to get out of the way, as she began to hit several buttons in quick succession. Brant recognized them, for he had seem them pressed in that sequence many times before — but never when their father wasn’t sitting in the other pilot’s chair.

“You’re leaving him?” Brant demanded.

“He’ll be fine. Now get down from there.”

“You can’t just–“

“Brant!” Their mother almost never raised her voice either, but when she wanted to be, she could make her tone just as cold and commanding as their father’s. Brant silently slipped down to the floor. Kellaro held out a hand for him, and he took it, leaning against his twin as the view out of the cockpit began to move.

They heard, clear as day, the docking clamps disengage, and the low rumble as the Mantis ship’s engines kicked into gear. They watched as the ship angled away from that massive fleet and slipped over the top of the Mandalorian freighter, putting it between them and the silent ranks.

Then, unexpectedly, their ship stalled. Kellaro looked up at their mother in question as she turned the ship around and just… waited.

“Mom?” he queried.

“Be quiet,” she said.

Brant dared to climb back up to his perch on the console. Their mother didn’t complain. Then, the giant fleet began to fire on the freighter.

“Mom??” Kellaro queried more fearfully.

“Be quiet!”

Other Mantis ships were detaching from the freighter now, some leaping directly to hyperspace, but most of the others were closing with the massive fleet to trade fire. Brant jumped and Kellaro gasped as several of them went up in multi-colored flames.

“Is Dad going to be okay?” Kellaro asked.

Their mother didn’t answer.

The battle continued. Like a tapestry of little cross-shaped patterns, most of the enemy fleet stayed right where they were, but a few detached to do battle with the Mandalorians. Two of these ships exploded as the Mandalorian starfighters hounded them like a swarm of wasps, breaking apart along their long necks as if beheaded by the Mando blasterfire. Kellaro grinned at their mother uneasily at this victory, but Brant wasn’t so sure…

He was searching for his father’s consciousness. It was another ability he had learned, first discovered when he had discovered it, that strange power the others liked to call the Force. It had come upon him all at once, really, as he sat in his mother’s arms and suddenly began to feel her as more than just a loving embrace, but instead a loving presence, that moved through the room as she did. His brother had a similar signature, but his father had been harder to pinpoint. Usually, Brant could only feel him when they were in the same room together.

Frantically Brant reached out for that tiny speck of presence now, but it was hard, especially when he felt all the ricochets of pain and panic coming from the other Mandalorians trapped on the doomed freighter.

“Mom…?” he asked worriedly.

“Just until we’re sure,” she answered him quietly.

Then the Mandalorian freighter began to move, jolting forward as if a new set of hands had taken over. It swept expertly through the sky, the numerous guns on its sides pivoting and firing in unison. Three more of the strange hostile ships broke apart under its attack, and the remaining Mando starfighters formed ranks. Together, they and the freighter advanced on that cross-dotted tapestry.

The holo flickered back on on the control console.

“Cyare?” His father’s words seemed static-y and faint to Brant, even though he was crouched just next to the holocom speaker.

“What are they doing?” his mother demanded. “Can you get to an escape pod?”

“Are you clear of the fight?” his father asked instead.

“I–yes. We’re well clear. Now get over here!”

“Cyare, they’ve come for him.”

“Ridiculous. Those aren’t Imperial ships. They’re Zakuulians!”

“The Sith are masters at manipulation,” answered his father grimly. “Even as they lose the war, they turn their enemies to their whims. Kellaro… Brant. I love you boys.”

“Get back here now,” said their mother sharply.

“I love you–”

The holo cut out. All three were squinting then, as several of the Zakuulian ships fired in unison, and the Mandalorian freighter became a white ball of flame.

They were shocked into silence for all of two seconds, then both Kellaro and his mother were crying out, but Brant could only stare. The Force, usually reading to him as playful and loving, was suddenly filled with screams of agony and terror. Through it all he held on to that one single spark he had found that was familiar, begging it not to go out as the others did.

And he thought, for a moment anyway, that it had stayed steady, but his father’s presence was so hard to detect, that he couldn’t be sure.

“Brant,” said his mother, her voice choked up. “Come away from there.”

Brant rounded on her. “He’s not dead!”

“Brant, come away now. I need to see to jump into hyperspace.”

“But he’s not dead!”

Kellaro was looking back and forth between them, his face tear-streaked, as if he wasn’t sure who to back. Their mother just shook her head angrily, slamming her fist on the hyperspace button. The stars lengthened across the cockpit, and then there was nothing but blue.

“He’s not dead!” Brant started crying. “He’s not dead! He’s not dead!” It was all he could say. When his mother’s arms came around him, he started screaming harder, hitting her. “Go back! He’s not dead!”

She said nothing — when normally she would be scolding him for raising his voice or using his fists on the family — but she instead only held him tighter and tighter. Kellaro jumped up onto the control console with him, and all three ignored as the headlights began flickering wildly as his knee held down the button heedlessly. Soon Brant’s voice gave out, and he just sobbed into his mother’s chest, and she held him, and Kellaro held him.

Yet it wasn’t enough. Whatever the Force told him, he knew the horrible truth. Their father, clan patriarch, had been torn away from them forever.

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