|Image Credit: TylerEdlinArt|
-Master Rom Koda's lightsaber
The loud blast of a giant whistle jerks you from slumber. You bolt upright, rubbing your thick brown hair in an effort to stimulate your head to wakefulness. You blink heavily, rubbing the last bits of sleep from your eyes.
"Kayjax!" yells a harsh voice from below. "Hurry up, you are going to be late!" The door bangs shut behind your sister, Ryulin, as she heads off to her job as a laundress for the upper-class.
You stumble out of bed, more ready to complete the morning routine and arrive at work on time than wait for full wakefulness. You fumble around for the clothes you wore yesterday; your eyes remain half-closed as you put them on. By the time you tumble down the ladder leading to your loft and into the kitchen to grab a bun from the box, you have at least roused yourself to coherent levels. You glance at the clock in the corner. Ten minutes to clock-in; no problem, you've made the trip in seven.
Sliding out the door of your small housing unit, you bypass the pubic transportation docks and head straight up the walls and across the roofs of your neighbors. Old Nobby always said that the straightest route to anywhere was a straight line, and just now, you're testing the maxim to it's farthest extent. You pay no heed to the hustle and bustle of merchants and vendors and customers around you; the roofs of the closely-packed buildings are your roads, and you climb walls, ladders, and use every available hand-hold to work your way between them. You know the area of Bespin like the back of your hand; from the housing units to the Marketplace, to the factory district and at last to the machine shop directly behind that.
At least, that's what Dev Moler calls it.
To everyone else in Bespin, the place is technically regarded as the city dump—the place where machines and appliances go when they break to the point of uselessness. Then Moler came along, and with his skills as an aircraft and robotics engineer, he gave these broken mechanisms a second chance. Of course, his creations had more function than any sense of fashion, but they were good enough for his clientele.
You slide through the door of the shop. The interior stood dark and silent. You wonder if perhaps Dev might be in the back room—
Then a flurry of sparks erupts near your head. Dev Mojer had been standing right next to you! He laughs as you stumble backward.
"You wouldn't'a lasted very long in the Broken Years, little cog!" He grunts as you slink back into the belly of the shop to cool your embarrassment.
"I'm on time, aren't I?" You grunt back at him.
Dev nods, heaving his portly bulk from his position in the shadows. Seeing him now, you wonder how you could have missed him before—a testament to his stealth and his years in the army, before the Ascension. Ever since the Broken Years, the world had no need for armies.
"Get on back there," Dev grunts. "I'm lookin' for pieces with a motor on them."
You nod and plunge into the salvage area, the wide and gated pit at the back.
The Broken Years... The years between the last great battle utilizing the ultimate in chemical warfare that decimated the world population—and then the fallout contaminated the soil and polluted the immediate vicinity so that the entire world was declared "broken", and since humanity had yet to confirm any habitable planet outside of Earth, the only option was to build platforms and environments that floated in the air, high above all the pollution, tethered to the ground and equipped with powerful enough filtration that none of the toxins from below could ever make it to these new colonies.
Nearly two hundred years after the Broken Years (or ABY, as people called it) humanity lived comfortably on these floating cities. You often wonder what it might be like to leave a city and walk on the ground. A dirigible with a huge bladder groans overhead. The thing is striped in yellow and green--difficult to miss as it temporarily blots out the light of the sun, casting a large shadow beneath it. Some part of you imagines scrambling up the side of the pit and grabbing onto a passing tether--but the ship moves on, and the moment passes.
The metal and plastic crunches underfoot as you sort through the pile of cast-offs. Huge chutes line the sides, not labeled but you know which leads where. This one for devices small enough to carry in your hand; that one for scraps from bigger machines; this small hole for pieces small enough to fit several in your hand.
It's fascinating work, sometimes. The things people regard as "junk" seem to you as opportunities to make something new, or fix something. The mechanical puppy dog toy with no eyes, the kitchen mixer with the bent stirring attachment that rotated more like a fan than a stirring implement, and the shattered timepiece with cogs and wheels sticking out everywhere—these might be worthless to some, but to you, they are bursting with potential. All they need is to be given the chance to be something nobody expects....
Kind of like how you feel.
After about an hour of sorting, a movement in the icy breeze catches your attention. Something new at the edge of the pit: a small flag on a long shaft. You scramble over the mounds of garbage to reach it.It's a flag, all right... One with the official insignia of the Founders on it. You follow the flimsy staff down to the machine it's attached to. Wrestling it out, you discover an old hover board. With its narrow design and shiny appearance, you recognize it as the variety called a "saber"—but all the saber-boards you've seen were propelled with a diesel motor, which this one doesn't seem to have. The hexagonal panels etched into its surface mean that it probably ran on solar power—but it wasn't unusable, just a little banged up. So what was it doing here? You haul the hover board clear of the junk. A few panels are cracked, but most of them still work. Why would somebody—particularly somebody on the High Council of Bespin—throw away a perfectly good hovercraft?
You decide to take a break and bring the board down to your little corner of the workshop; maybe if you fixed it up, Dev would let you keep it.
He's working on a huge robotic multi-tasker when you wrestle the vehicle through the door. He turns when he hears it scrape along the floor.
"What the Earth is that?" He frowns sternly, crossing beefy arms over his sweating barrel of a chest.
You draw yourself up defensively, gripping the handlebar of the saber, as if that would keep him from taking it.
"It's mine! I found it!" You declaim.
Dev laughs, a rumble of derision. "And what would the likes of you want with a light-saber?" He scorns. The scrounger can't keep his distance for long; he edges closer, examining the expert craftsmanship of the body.
"I thought I might fix it up," you admit. "If it's in the dump, I can keep it, right?" You hope he might not notice, but his eyes immediately fall on the insignia and he glares.
"Put it back, Kayjax," Dev growls.
He only ever uses your name when you are in danger. The sound of his voice when he does never fails to set you on edge.
But you still want to keep the light-saber; the idea of being able to coast over the clouds and fly between the colonies at will is a compelling one.
"Why should I?" You challenge your employer.
Dev's expression grows even darker, a deep-seated fear motivating the anger he displays. "Because I said so!" He barked. Pointing to the flag, he asks, "Do you know what this means?"
You shrug. "It belonged to someone on the Central Council?" You voice your guess from earlier.
Dev Moler’s eyes widen as big as your fist, and he splutters something unintelligible before whirling around to the holographic news broadcaster behind him. Pulling up a report from several years ago, he points to the screen.
“Not just somebody,” he mutters. “See if you don’t recognize this image!”
You peer closely. The red streak whipping through the sky is definitely the light-saber that now sits in a heap beside you. The blond-haired young man driving it—why, it can be none other than Ram Koda, the son of Councillor Froi Koda, the second most powerful man on Bespin. The voice-over was lamenting how young Master Ram Koda had been robbed of life so early, as he was last seen leaving the boundaries of the Bespin colony—headed, it was presumed, for the Yavin colony, floating over what once had been the Western United States, nearly half a millennia ago—on his light-saber, and the two of them were never seen again.
“Experts speculate that the storm immediately following the young Master’s departure must have depleted the craft’s energy and caused him to fall to his death on the toxic surface below,” says the reporter. “But since the body was never found, we may never know what happened.”
You and Dev look from the screen back at the banged-up light-saber. Your brain is spinning like a centrifuge trying to understand the difference between your discovery and the official report.
“But… if Ram Koda went missing on the surface,” you finally manage, “then what is his light-saber doing buried in a junk pile?”
Dev nods. “Why indeed?” he muses, stroking his chin.
#1 "Red of Morning"