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Fear No Darkness

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Fire!

The flames leapt higher into the sky as the Two Trees burned in the distance… and Father rushed forward, red-orange lightsaber in his hands, to attack Darth Vader for the crime of murdering Grandfather Finwë.

Maglor woke with a gasp before the duel came to its inevitable conclusion. Too hot, he flung the covers off and sat up to put his bare feet on the metal deck, warm from the radiant heating that ran through the starliner. He took several deep breaths, falling into a near-meditative rhythm, trying to calm his racing heart.

Aman had fallen three years ago and his life with it. The Quendi had been lucky to survive the Clone Wars unscathed, even though they were nominally a Republic system, but the Empire no longer cared how out of the way the Arda system was; they only cared about control. Add in a species that was mildly Force sensitive, well, at least the Quendi weren’t Jedi. That was the only reason they hadn’t all been killed in the swift, brutal takeover.

At least, the vast majority of the Quendi hadn’t been Jedi-trained. Maglor rubbed the scar on his right hand that his broken lightsaber had given him in the last, desperate fight to drive back the Empire at the Havens. He jerked his left hand away when he realized what he was doing. It was a habit he could not afford to indulge due to the risk of someone asking one question too many about the scar.

Maglor looked at the chronometer on the wall and sighed. Still far too early to be awake, especially after the farewell party the other entertainers had thrown for him after his final concert for the starliner’s passengers. But he would be unable to sleep for the rest of the night cycle. The memories-- of Aman’s fall, of Arda’s takeover, of his family dying-- would haunt him. Sometimes, he wanted to curse Quendian memory.

He scooted back on the bed until he could lean against the cabin wall, thankful yet again his position as main entertainer on the cruise guaranteed him a tiny but private stateroom. He draped his blanket over his folded legs and breathed slowly in and out, falling into a light meditation trance until his alarm beeped.

He wasn’t refreshed after what should have been a good night’s sleep, but rested was good enough. All he had to do today was leave the ship, finish the paperwork at the starliner’s corporate office, and then he was free… to become an independent cargo pilot. He was now just a little too well known in the starliner cruise entertainment industry for his peace of mind.

After using the refresher unit, he went to breakfast in the crew cafeteria. He scanned the room, full of Humans, near-humans, and a scattering of other humanoid species. “Hey Malda,” Raderick said, waving him over to a table near the center of the room. “Looking forward to retirement?”

The people around the table laughed and Maglor smiled as he sat down with his tray of some sort of yogurt, a bowl of fruit from the last planet the starliner had stopped at, and a slice of dark brown bread. “I wouldn’t call a change of careers retirement.”

“Yeah, well, it beats cleaning cabins,” a new-to-the-crew Rodian said. “Do this, do that, and not even a thank you.”

Maglor pulled out his datapad, ignoring the conversations as they drifted around him. Raderick suddenly shoved his datapad around so the holograph emitter faced the center of the table and said, “Hey, everyone, look! They found another Jedi!”

“Found?” Lariesh said, her blue hair rippling as she turned her head from her conversation with the Rodian.

“Executed.”

Maglor watched the shaky holovid as a middle-aged Ithorian fought with a lightsaber against stormtroopers and then fell. Maglor kept his anger and his fear off his face from long practice-- he couldn’t afford to show anything other than indifference. So he turned back to his own datapad to read the news and resumed eating his breakfast.

“I think it sucks,” Lariesh said.

“The Jedi tried to kill Palpatine and overthrow the Senate!” Raderick said. “Should they escape justice for that?”

“I don’t buy it,” she said. “They fought for the Republic for thousands of years; why would they have tried to stage a coup?” She snorted and stirred her bowl of hot cereal. “It’s not like the Republic stayed a democracy. The Empire--”

“Shut up!” Everyone looked at the Rodian. “I don’t want to hear this. I don’t want to be arrested simply for sitting at the wrong table. Keep your opinions to yourself and the rest of us will be safer.”

Lariesh opened her mouth and Maglor quietly said, “She’s right.”

She glared at him. “Malda, you need to stop pretending everything’s fine and actually look at the galaxy.”

He couldn’t tell her he had… and that his life literally depended on keeping his head down and out of view of the Empire. His world had ended and everything was not fine. But he had to pretend it was. “The Empire is what is. I just want to do my job.”

She growled, “Fine. Be cowards.”

She spent the rest of breakfast silently glaring at everyone and no one. Maglor left as soon as he politely could, not wanting to draw attention. But throughout the morning until the starliner settled into orbit around its home planet, people stopped by his cabin to wish him farewell and good luck.

It was with a sigh of relief when he stepped off the ship-to-ground shuttle and smelled open air for the first time in three weeks. He shifted his luggage strap on his shoulder and made his way through customs and to the corporate office to finish his paperwork.