I could not possibly BE more bored. I stood there, leaning against the cupboards that hugged the back wall of the shop. No customers, no video on, nothing. Bo-ring. I felt my eyes glaze over, vaguely fixing on some poster and everything around it went all blurry while my brain hopped off down on its favourite diversion… Star Wars, of course.
So there I am, off in my own little world, when I’m rudely interrupted by a customer. The voice is hesitant, almost embarrassed, and I have to admit I wasn’t really paying that much attention. I mean, what do you expect for $8 an hour?
"Um excuse me?" Strange accent, speaking English, understandable, but not a Kiwi.
"How can I help you?" I answer automatically, still half-heartedly staring at a Dogma poster. After this long, it IS a reflex. The videoshop version of "You want fries with that?"
"You wouldn’t happen to know how to" Embarrassment even more evident now. "uh, get to Coruscant from here, would you?"
Well, that got my attention. In fact, I damn near fell off the bench that I was sitting on. (Lets not mention that bit to my boss, please.)
"You’ve got to be kiddin-. Which one of my friends put you up to-. Oh." I gulped. So, yes, obviously, my first thought was that he was joking. And then my eyes focused properly, and there he was. Wes Janson. In the flesh, and if not, near as never-mind. Oh, shit. Rational thought re-asserted itself. This was obviously a practical joke. A very well thought out joke. And gods, did this guy look like Wes. But it couldn’t be. Could it? I mean, there’s always been this bit of me that just knew Star Wars was real. So I had to ask. It took a few attempts though. For some reason I was having trouble speaking.
"You wouldn’t, by any chance have an X Wing parked out in the lot there, would you?"
The look he shot me was one of pure relief. Like someone who’s just found water on Tatooine. Who’s found someone who might just actually know what the hell’s going on. Now there was an expression I’d never expected to see on this flyboy’s face. My rational thoughts were going rapidly out the door. He looked so happy to see someone who understood. Without conscious decision I found myself walking across, out the door and looking into the parking lot. At an Incom T-65 X Wing fighter. Oh, my, gods. He proved he had good reflexes, too. Made a neat catch about a second before I hit the deck. I mean, I’ve never fainted before in my life, but that was one hell of a shock.
"What?" I opened my eyes, then sat up so fast I almost knocked myself out again. Wes Janson was leaning over me, concern on his face. I sneaked a quick look outside. The X Wing was still there. As was a gathering crowd. Finally, my brain kicked back into gear. Conveniently ignoring the complete idiot I’d just made of myself, I sat up and turned back to the confused-looking pilot.
"We have to get you out of here. And the X Wing. And then I need to spend at least an hour having a strong dose of hysterics." Maybe I wasn’t as recovered as I thought.
Nice for once, to not have people questioning everything I say. "Um." Good point. I stopped. I thought. Lightbulb did its flashy thing.
"Right. You, wait there." I dashed over to the phone, rang Karla, announced I had to go home, it was an emergency, the shop was locked, could she get there as soon as possible and re-open, and hung up over the top of her protests.
"You got any fuel left in that thing?" I didn’t think the gas station’d be much help if he didn’t.
"Right, we’re gonna go outside, do some very fast talking, and then get into the X wing. I’ll give you directions from there. To somewhere where we can sort this out."
He gave me a dubious look
"I don’t know…"
"I’m not that big," I snapped, stress getting to me as part of my brain screamed ‘hurry, hurry!’ "and neither are you. We’ll fit." I think he heard the ‘or else’. I do know that the accompanying mental picture made me blush, and elicited only a familiar suggestive look from him. Pilots.
Then outside, fumbling with the keys. Still no cops, thank the gods, really, it’d probably only been about 5 minutes since his arrival. Doors locked, then brushing through the crowd. Muttering explanations about promotions, stunts, getting media attention. Wes caught on pretty quick, not that that was unexpected, him being the master of practical jokes and all. Then we were right by it, and I didn’t have time to stop and look, to be as properly awed as I might have wanted. Wes scrambled up into the pilot’s couch easily, then leant down and hauled me up to join him. I’d forgotten how strong he was, so I managed to get up there with a bare minimum of undignified scrabbling. He slid easily into the space, leaving me to try and settle in his lap. He pulled the canopy shut, and we did fit, just barely. The, another few seconds squirming as he wrestled the restraints around, strapping us both in. Then he was flipping switches and buttons, his arms curving around my waist as he reached for the controls. I hissed in a breath as one hand brushed my breast.
"Sorry, sweetheart." I could feel him grin against my back, totally unrepentant, and suppressed the shiver it evoked. Uncomfortably aware of him, I replied more sharply than I’d meant to.
"Jeez, Lieutenant, stop flirting with me and get this bird in the air!"
We rose up on repulsorlifts, and I could see the crowd backing off. Good, cos when he lit the engines in a moment, standing anywhere near us was not gonna be a healthy life-decision. He was checking as well, obviously judging when they’d cleared a sufficient room.
"Alright, Claire, direct. And its Major, not Lieutenant." I sneered elegantly at his reflection in the canopy, his head just behind my shoulder, and pointed slightly to the west. The fighter took off. Ooh. Whoa. It was a lot faster than I’d expected, and while I wasn’t about to lose my lunch or anything, I definitely spent a few quiet moments freaking out. Then calmly managed to direct a man I was only three-quarters convinced wasn’t a figment of my imagination down to a deserted field behind the family beach house.
I scrambled out of the cockpit the second the canopy opened, standing on the firm ground, gulping salt air with relief, shaking something chronic. I think, I know I jumped at the soft thump as Wes vaulted onto the ground behind me.
"First time flying, huh?" He sounded just a tad bewildered. "But how’d you know about X wings if you’ve never been in one? All those other people outside looked at me like I was an alien, and they didn’t seem to have a clue what I was asking."
I gave a helpless laugh. He didn’t know how right he was.
"Look, lets go inside. Then we can sit down and figure out what’s happening. Do you have some sort of camo-net thing that you can put the X Wing under?"
Wes nodded, and pulled a silvery sheet out of the storage compartment. He covered the X Wing with in, then tacked it to the ground. It sort of, shimmered, and the colour flooded across it, and it darkened in an approximation of the grass below.
"Well, that’s rather handy," I said as I led the way back to the house. I found the spare key, hidden under a rock in the pond, let us both in then made a dash for the kitchen. For some reason, I found myself in dire need of a coffee. I gulped down about half a cup in the privacy of the kitchen, then walked out with two more full cups, to the lounge where Wes was making himself comfortable on the couch. I handed him a cup and sat down on the chair opposite him.
"Right. Now we talk."
"Just talk?" His grin was pure mischief, the tone suggestive as usual, but I got the feeling his heart wasn’t really in it.
"I think you should go first, Claire. Who are you, how is it that you seem to know what’s going on and where the hells of the Sith am I?"
I made a sudden, unwelcome realisation.
"How do you know my name?"
"It’s written on the badge." He pointed. I looked down stupidly, oh, yeah, right, name badge. Ooops. Score one for paranoia-girl.
"OK, well. Firstly, you’re on Earth, in the Sol system." He still looked blank.
"And I’m sorry, but I have no idea how to get to Coruscant, because until about half an hour ago, I thought it wasn’t real. Here, we have these movies, right. They’re called "Star Wars", and they’re about the rebellion. And then there’s a series of books, set after the movies as well, about how you guys captured Coruscant, and so on. I’m just a really big fan. So Coruscant is a name I know, and I" my turn to blush, now. "sort of recognised you. You’re Major Wes Janson, right?"
He nodded guardedly.
"You’re saying someone invented me." He didn’t look too happy at the idea. Couldn’t blame him, either.
"Well, at any rate, how did you end up here?"
"We were coming back from a patrol, we’d run into a couple of squints and one of them got a lucky shot, clipped my astromech. I thought it was alright, but what I think happened, what must have happened, is that he made a small error in the hyperspace nav equations, put us a few degrees off from the others, and then your star dropped us out of hyperspace early. And my astromech has since completely crashed, so I have no star maps whatsoever."
"So the others will probably come looking for you. They can calculate your most likely course if they go back over sensor readings, can’t they? Then they’ll end up here in a few days anyway."
He had the grace to look embarrassed.
"Oh yeah. Good point."
"Did you even try to raise them on the comlink?"
The dirty look I got was enough of an answer.
"Maybe you should."
He pulled out the comlink from his pocket, checked the frequency setting, then spoke into it.
"Major Janson to Rogue Squad, does anyone read me?"
There was a faint, tinny reply. Unmistakably Wedge Antilles.
"Wes? Thank the gods. Where ARE you?"
"Some little backwater planet where they haven’t even heard of the Empire. My astromech is down, and I have no star maps. I don’t think it’s on them, anyway. They’ve never had any interstellar contact, and we’re just fiction here. But if you trace my route from Adumar" I half-gasped at that, but the orange suited pilot didn’t notice "you should run into it. Got pulled outta hyp early by their star. Maybe you should bring some New Republic reps as well, they might want to join up."
"Great, we’ll probably be there in three or four days. You set for that long?"
"Yeah, I’ve got one of the locals watching out for me. She seems to have more of a handle on the situation than the others I met."
I was unreasonably pleased by the compliment.
Wes switched off the comlink, turned to me and asked
"So, what do you do for fun around here?"
Continued in Part Two