Tale Out of Time (I.E. Version)

This is an updated version of “Tale Out of Time“, to bring it into Imperial Equinox canon.

Author’s note

“Mother! Mother! Look who it is! It’s Dad!”

“Oh, Kellaro. Not again…”

“I mean it this time! I really saw him! He was on the holo!”

The young teenager excitedly shoved the holocom into her hands, his fingers still pressing buttons as he passed the disc to her. It was an Eternal Empire broadcast; the Zakuul Knights were hunting for the pictured man, nicknamed the Assassin: a bounty hunter wanted for aiding the Alliance with hit-and-run tactics along the Outer Rim.

Dinui eyed it, then looked at the exuberant face of her son. “Kellaro… that’s not him. It’s just a Mandalorian helmet. There’s any number of helmets that look like that.”

Kellaro immediately scowled. “This one belongs to Dad. I just know it!”

Dinui offered the holocom back. “No, Kellaro. That’s not your father’s helmet. Your father is… he’s dead. He couldn’t possibly be in a Zakuulian news holo.”

“He’s alive!”

“He’s not! Oh, Kellaro, don’t make me have this argument with you again–”

“He’s not dead! He’s not! You just don’t want to believe me! You never did! Not me, and not Brant!”

He must have known those words would sting her, as the boy abruptly straightened and then dashed out of the room with an ashamed face. Dinui sank onto the couch with the holocom, still replaying the news clip, flashing blue between her fingers. She cupped it gingerly, almost as if that might cause the image to disappear.

She frowned. The Mandalorian did look an awful lot like Kyolath. She cued in the news clip’s code and repeated it through her own implants. There, in her mind’s eye, she could get a better look…

Minutes of the same flashing of Mandalorian armor turned into hours, as her resolve slipped and she found herself delving into the recordings of the past, also stored upon the implant. Sometime later Kellaro had snuck back in, his expression defiant but his shoulders still curled in shame. When Dinui wordlessly opened an arm to him, he crept over to hug her, propped against her on the couch.

“Mom?” Kellaro finally queried, after a long silence.

“Mmh?” Dinui asked.

Kellaro pressed his face to her ribs — still somewhere between man and boy, he was. “I miss Dad.”

“Oh, cyare. I miss him, too.” Dinui rearranged him into a hug. “…do you want to watch the old recordings again?”

“I guess so.”

Dinui adjusted him against her, tapping her implants to key in a different, older code. The implant grew warm and hummed faintly in her forehead as it cast a holo across the room, flickering between different scenes: Kyolath standing there looking out across some unseen planet’s surface, then a side view of him shooting a blaster at something spiny and toothy that barely passed into the camera’s view. There was one of her and Kyolath embracing, of Kyolath and the twins playing at holochess, then of Kyolath alone, looking pensive as he held a silvered birch leaf in his hands.

The recordings were very familiar by now, like ruts in the road of one’s memory, though they had never lost the sting of grief. Kellaro watched them, entranced, but Dinui closed her eyes, focusing on holding the camera in her head steady for him. She listened to his breathing deepen as he relaxed more fully against her, and then he was asleep.

Still not opening her eyes, she reached up to shut the holo off. She wished they held the same comfort for her as they did for her son, but the loss only climbed up in her throat, and instead of focusing on keeping the holo steady for Kellaro’s benefit, she focused on keeping her sobs silent so he wouldn’t wake.

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