Prauf waved Kor toward the larger cabin on the top deck. “I guess that’s the Captain’s cabin so this one over here is the pilot’s cabin.” He tossed his seabag through the door onto the bunk.
Kor dumped his backpack in his room and turned to regard Prauf. “You’re planning on coming with me, aren’t you?”
Prauf bite his lip and nodded. “If you’ll have me. I know how to pilot a starship and I can teach you how to do it. In exchange, perhaps you can drop me off on my homeworld.”
Kor nodded eagerly, glad to have some company. “That’d be great. But why?”
“Nearly getting killed today opened my eyes. I’ve been living on borrowed time here and if it hadn’t been for you I’d have been a goner.” He spread his hands. “It’s time for a change of pace.” He snapped his fingers. “That reminds me, you need a change of pace too. I’ve got something for you.” He turned and rummaged through his seabag. “My father recovered it during the war. I don’t know if it works or not but if it doesn’t, maybe you can fix it.” He finally found what he was looking for and turned around.
In his hand was a lightsaber.
Kor stared at it for a moment. A lightsaber was the weapon of the Jedi, the emblem and symbol of their power. There were very few things in the galaxy that screamed Jedi like a lightsaber. Even the Jedi emblem was composed of a stylized lightsaber raised between two upswept wings.
He took it with trembling hands. Instantly he felt the power in it.
He flicked the switch and turned it on.
A blue-white blade sprang into existence with its customary Schvrmmmmmmm! sound. Prauf nearly fell over backward in surprise. “Whoa! That thing works?”
“He’s a Jedi?”
Kor turned around quickly. The lightsaber in his hand ripped through the air. Drafa was standing behind him, his eyes wide at what he was seeing. His hands shot into the air as the lightsaber pointed at him. “I give! I give!” He dropped something. “Don’t kill me!”
Kor realized what he must look like and turned it off. He straightened up. “I’m not going to hurt you. You just surprised me, but if you tell anyone . . .” he trailed off.
Drafa shook his head frantically. “No, no, no! Nothing like that. I just came back to give this to you.” He picked up a small key card off the deck. He held it out. “The skimmer was built separately from the Whimsy and has separate control codes.” There was a small two-man skimmer housed in a compartment on the underside of the ship so the crew would have transportation on whatever planet they landed on. It was one of the features that moved Prauf to recommend buying the Whimsy instead of one of the larger ships.
Kor’s suspicions had been aroused by Drafa’s sudden reappearance and for the first time, he tried to use the Force to discern if Drafa was telling him the truth or not. Instantly he felt Drafa’s emotions through the Force. The frightened man was being honest.
He took the card. “Thank you, Drafa. I can feel you’re telling the truth.”
Drafa’s eyes widened at his words. So did Prauf’s.
Drafa turned accusingly to Prauf. “Is that why you need a starship? Because he’s a Jedi?”
“I’m not a Jedi,” Kor countered. Quickly, he gave Drafa the same abbreviated story he’d given Prauf about his background.
“He’s been secretly saving people from getting hurt on our work crew,” Prauf added when he was done. “Our safety record is starting to draw attention and we need to get out before it gets serious.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Drafa nodded absently. “A Jedi,” he mused slowly.
“Padawan,” Kor corrected him quickly. He didn’t deserve even that much, but it was better than being called a Jedi when he knew he wasn’t one.
“Yeah, yeah. Look, how’d you like to earn some money and help me out of a jam at the same time?” he said eagerly, addressing Kor exclusively for the first time.
Kor restrained himself from looking to Prauf for guidance. “How?”
“I built a customized racing skimmer for a customer on Castilon. It’s supposed to be delivered next week but the shipping guilds have all increased their rates lately. Now the freight on it is twice what I quoted him. Castilon is a racing world, kind of a mob set up in a way. If I try to increase the freight charges, he’ll put a contract on me,” Drafa explained in a rapid-fire manner. “He agreed to pay me half upfront and half on delivery. If you could deliver it to him, you can take the original freight charge out of it for yourself and I get the rest.” He looked at him hopefully. “What do you say?”
It sounded like a good deal but Kor still had some questions. “Why didn’t you offer me this deal before?”
Drafa shrugged apologetically. “I didn’t know you were a Jedi. They’re supposed to be honest to a fault aren’t they?”
“Jedi is an acronym,” Kor told him, “Justice Eternally Divinely Inspired – JEDI, so yeah, we have to be honest.”
Drafa and Prauf blinked. “Is that what it stands for?”
His parents had told him it was a padawan joke at the Temple, even from day one, because the Jedi weren’t nearly as sanctimonious and pure as they’d led everyone to believe. Still, if Drafa and Prauf didn’t know that, maybe no one else did either. Maybe it was time to start a new legend, he thought. “That’s what I was told,” he said truthfully.
“From your parents,” Prauf reminded him.
Kor waved him off. “Whatever.” He stuck out his hand to Drafa. “You’ve got a deal.”
Drafa shook. “Imagine this,” he chuckled. “Me, shaking hands with a Jedi. Who’d have ever thought it?” He spun away. “Drop the port loading ramp and we’ll get the skimmer.” He hurried out.
Kor and Prauf lowered the port ramp and opened the port cargo hold. Then, while they were waiting for Drafa, they changed all the command codes for the Whimsy and their skimmer, committing them to memory. They also added their fingerprints and retinal scans to the system as backup codes. By the time he and his men returned with the boxed and crated skimmer, the Whimsy was under their full command.
A forklift carried the crate up the ramp and maneuvered it into the cargo bay. As soon as the forklift backed out of the way, Drafa’s men jumped in and strapped it down tight.
“The customer’s name is Oleander. He owns the Castilon Arms Hotel,” Drafa told them. He handed Kor a data disk. “Everything you need is on here. He pays in cash, in a special lockbox. I have the only key to open it.” He displayed an emblazoned key card. “Once you get it back here, I’ll open it and pay you the shipping charges.”
That was a little different than what he’d originally said, but Kor was still probing with the Force and found that Drafa was on the up and up.
There were a few more instructions, mainly on where to land, and Drafa let them go.
Kor closed up the ship and he and Prauf headed for the cockpit. Prauf took the left-hand chair normally reserved for the captain or pilot and gestured for Kor to take the co-pilot’s seat on the right. “Alright, the controls are the same for both of us but mine can override yours. I’ll tell you what to do and if you get in trouble, I’ll take over. Alright?”
Kor nodded, suddenly nervous at taking control of a starship. Prauf was right, starships were different than airships and skimmers. He was glad he hadn’t tried this on his own. “What do I do?”
Prauf walked him through starting the engines and powering up all the displays. “The first few times we take off we’re going to do it by the book. We’ll lift off, hover while the landing gear retracts, then ascend vertically 1000 meters before we start applying forward thrust or angling the ship up, understand?”
Kor nodded mutely.
“Alright, let’s go.”
Prauf took him through it a step at a time. It was pretty straight forward, not that much different than an airship, except this was the biggest thing he’d ever flown. Prauf was impressed. “Not bad, kid. Before we start applying thrust, find the shipping lanes.” He gestured at the 3D holo. Tiny lines in different colors indicated the various lanes in the air. “Green is for freighters but I don’t want anyone knowing we’re carrying, so we’ll use the yellow all-purpose lanes for private ships. Find them.”
“Good.” Prauf coached him through accelerating to normal atmospheric speeds then taking the off-ramp to the orbital lanes.
The whistling outside the hull gradually died away as they left the atmosphere. “Not bad for a greenie,” Prauf admitted. He took the data disk Drafa had given them and inserted it into the console. The navigation screen filled with data and flight path information. “Alright, here’s where it gets tricky.”
Ten minutes later, after a couple of bobbles, Kor had the Whimsy in position and their flight path calculated. Prauf examined everything one last time then leaned back in his chair. “Alright, Captain. Punch it.”
Kor took a deep breath then hit the controls.
The stars elongated and suddenly the Whimsy was gone.