[written in 2012, “Meanwhile, on Coruscant” is a collection of short vingettes that take place on Coruscant during the timeline of the Star Wars movies, and beyond. They do not hold to existing Star Wars canon past the first trilogy, but I found it a very interesting exercise to explore things from the perspective of the common man. This is Part One.]
Zizzy Starseed was shoplifting again. Dana Stryder cast the teenager a sideways look, the blue skinned Twi’leki lurking by the candy aisle wearing a canvas jacket three sizes too big for her skinny frame. Their eyes met briefly, and the thirteen year old alien girl quickly averted her gaze and walked briskly out of the store.
Dana rubbed a hand gently over her bulging stomach, shuffling forward in line as the checker seemed to have fallen asleep while counting up change at the register. The shopping basket on her arm was beginning to drag her down toward the ground and she looked up with relief as it was lifted from her arm. “Oh, thahnk you Corrahn.”
Her husband leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Anything for the mother of my child,” he teased, sorting through the contents of the basket before adding in a pack of stims.
Dana frowned. “You sahd you were going to quit. The smoke…” She tapped her pregnant belly and added, “I know, you’re going to smoke outside.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m going to,” Corran agreed, as they finally got to the checkstand. He started unloading the items onto the conveyer belt as the check-droid scanned and put them into bags. “And then I’m going to quit. I promise. Before our baby comes.” He kissed her on the tip of her nose and gathered up the bags as she fumbled with a credit chit. The droid waited patiently for her to program the correct amount onto the chit, and then accepted it from her, pressing it into a slot on it’s barrel-like body.
“Have a good day, gentle beings,” it said haltingly, and then turned to the next customer.
Dana hurried out into the afternoon twilight of Coco district, the manufacturing zone where she and Corran both worked. He was waiting outside, a stim already between his lips. She felt like scolding him, but sighed instead and took one of the thin plastic bags from him. “C’mon, let’s go home.”
Corran grinned at her, that grin that made her weak in the knees and her heart skip a beat, and she found herself grinning back, despite the humidity of the day and her exhaustion. They were lucky to have each other, and luckier still to have jobs in Coco. Thankfully she looked human enough, but it was a matter of record that she was a quarter Balosarian. Having to live in Invisec, or, as the Empire liked to call it, the Alien Protection Zone, would be a nightmare. Here in Coco Town different species lived together in relative harmony, as long as everyone kept their heads down and no one rocked the boat.
The Stryders did not rock the boat. She hooked her arm through her husband’s, and they walked to the turbolift that would take them down to their small apartment.
Dinner was a quiet affair, though she could hear the Starseed’s yelling at each other in Twi’leki or whatever their language was called through the wall. They were the only Twi’lek’s in the area that Dana knew of, and so they stood out like a sore thumb amongst the more human-like aliens of Coco Town. It was hard not to think of the Starseed’s as former sex workers, but they probably were. Dana pulled the bread pockets out of the oven and set them on the stove to cool while she finished the meat filling and Corran flipped through the channels on the holonet.
He switched past the news, and then went back, sitting forward on the chair he called “comfortable” and she called “old and stinky.”
“Ahre uou going to help me cut the lettuce?” she asked, only to be shushed. “Whaht? You wahnt me to be quiet?” she raised her voice to be funny as she walked around the penninsula to their tiny living room, knife still in hand.
“…Alderaan, a long supporter of the Rebel Alliance, was destroyed yesterday by the Empire’s newest space station, the Death Star. Causualties are measured in the billions.”
Dana blinked, the surge of emotion coming from her twenty-five year old husband causing her to start shaking. “Whaht… whaht does it mean ‘destroyed’? Your fahmily, Corrahn.”
He was shaking his head, flipping to another news channel only to find the same story running. Alderaan. Gone.
“They ahre cahlling tomorrow, just like every week. It cahn’t be true.” Dana looked down with mild surprise to find the knife still in her hand, and she shakily placed it on the counter behind her. “Corrahn -”
“Shut up!” His face was ashen and he was picking up his commlink. They couldn’t afford the call, that was why they waited for his parents to call them every week. Dana bit the words back before she could say them, and sank to her knees beside his chair, using the overstuffed arm for support. “It’s not connecting,” he said. “It’s not fucking connecting.” Corran punched in the string of numbers again and waited. “Connect, dammit!” There were tears in his eyes.
Dana just stared blankly at the holoscreen, her blood rushing through her ears like a roaring waterfall. How could an entire planet just be gone? How could the Galactic Empire justify such a thing? She clutched at her Alderaanian husband’s arm as a pain grew in her lower abdomen until it was all she could think about. After a moment it receded. He was still using the commlink, calling up his cousin Dorn Tillisk who lived a block or two away. He was trying to be calm, but to her Balosar sensitivity he might as well have been screaming, his throat ragged and hoarse. She was crying, and the pain came on her again and suddenly she was kneeling in a puddle of water, her legs drenched.
“The bahby,” she said, pulling at his arm. “Corrahn! The bahby!”
He stared at her blankly, his face shell shocked, and then he looked down and registered what she’d been saying. “I have to go Dorn. Dana’s in labor.” He hung up and grasped her hands. “What do I do?”
Dana pulled him in for a hug, clutching him tightly as another contraction came over her.
He buried his head in her neck and she could feel the wetness of his tears. “What do I do?” He sounded so lost.
“She’s beautiful,” Corran said, kissing his wife and then the fuzzy haired head of their new daughter. Kasari. His mother’s name. He swallowed the lump in his throat, and unlocked their front door. “It is so good to be home.”
“Yes,” agreed Dana, walking slowly over the threshold with Kasari in her arms. “I did not think they were going to let us leave. I hahve hahd enough of the hospitahl for a lifetime, I think.” She smiled at him, but the smile faltered after a moment. He just closed the door behind them after he pulled their bags inside. Dana bit her lip and turned away, taking the baby to their room where a cradle was set up.
He felt awful. She didn’t know how to deal with his loss. How could she? He didn’t even know how to deal with it. He had two more days of fraternity leave from his job, and then he had to be back on the line. Things were supposed to go back to normal.
But Corran knew that things were never going to be the same again. He scrubbed a hand through his hair and then over his face, walking to the refresher. He hadn’t had a shower in a few days, what with all the excitement over the birth and the hospital stay. He hadn’t wanted to leave Dana’s side even for a moment. Her sensitivity to the emotions of others meant that he was probably burdening her with his raw feelings while she was also trying to deal with the hormonal surge and shift after giving birth. Corran turned on the sonic shower and stripped off his clothes, stuffing them into the clothes compartment in the wall before stepping into the shower.
The ion bombardment tickled a little, his hair standing off from his body a bit as the shower did it’s work, and he used a scrubby brush to loosen dead skin cells and leave his skin shining and smooth in the aftermath. In the mirror he poked at the bags under his eyes, and then pulled on a pair of clean shorts and his robe, walking to the bedroom.
Dana was lying on the bed on top of the covers, sound asleep. Kasari was in her cradle, looking around with her big dark eyes. He was afraid to touch the baby or even look at her too much, not wanting her to be startled into crying suddenly, so he gave Dana a kiss on the forehead as he retrieved a shirt from the closet and then he tip-toed out of the room.
Someone was already knocking on the door. Corran pulled the shirt on over his head and kicked the bags out of the entryway before checking the security cam. He opened the door. “Dorn.”
His thirty year old cousin walked inside. “I hope I’m not disturbing Dana and the baby. I would have come by the hospital but I couldn’t …” he trailed off. Corran popped open the refridgerator and pulled out a couple bottles of Corellian ale. He handed one to Dorn and they sat down in the living room.
“It’s okay. She’s sleeping -” Corran looked over his shoulder as he heard the halting cry of his baby daughter. “Hold on a minute.”
When he came back he had Kasari cradled in his arms, a blanket bundled haphazardly around her. How women knew instinctively how to wrap a newborn up he’d never figure out. Kasari screwed up her face for another cry, and then stopped, her hand poking out of the top of the blankets and clawing at her face. “Stop that,” Corran chuckled, pulling the errant limb away from her eyes and trying to tuck it back down into the blanket. “Here, it’s your cousin Dorn, Kasari.”
Dorn held up his hands, “Don’t hand her to me. I might drop her.” He peered at the baby as she settled down and closed her eyes, content to be held by her father. “You named her after Aunt Kasari.”
“Yeah,” Corran started, but his voice cracked. “It seemed. Appropriate.” He took in a deep breath. “I just can’t believe that the Senate would be -”
“They aren’t,” said Dorn. “No, just stop. We can’t talk about it here.” He looked around the small apartment with a meaningful glance that Corran couldn’t interpet at all. Dorn sighed. “Palpatine dissolved the Imperial Senate. Two weeks ago.”
“Two weeks?!” Corran settled down into his chair, his body moving slowly and carefully even as his mind reeled. “How did that happen and no one know?”
“Oh, people knew. It takes forever for news to trickle down to us here though. You know that.” His cousin looked around again. “We can’t talk here. Your walls are too thin, Corran.”
“Oh, okay.” Corran looked at his baby daughter’s face, still not really understanding. He reached for the remote and turned on the holonet.
“The Empire suffered a terrible loss today after the Rebels destroyed the enormous space station called the Death Star. Thousands of loyal naval officers and enlisted men were killed in the explosion in the Yavin system…”
Corran felt tears coming up again, and he rubbed his face. When he closed his eyes he could see the faces of his parents and his sister. They were listed as missing among millions of others from Alderaan. There was a process he had to go through to get them listed as legally deceased, but he had tossed the datapad with the information into the bag at the hospital and was trying not to think about it. “That’s a huge victory for the Rebels,” he said, numbly.
Dorn looked at him, and nodded. He reached over and turned up the volume while the newscaster went on to talk about the life and accomplishments of Grand Moff Tarkin. “A huge success,” he said, his eyes glistening. He looked almost feverish. Corran felt Kasari move in his arms, and he realized he was holding her a little too tightly. It took a little effort to relax.
“What are you talking about?” He looked over at Dorn.
“Our victory,” his cousin practically whispered. “Don’t you see, you can’t just live here like this anymore, Corran. We have to take a stand. All Alderaanians are going to be suspect anyway, now that the Empire has singled us out as the most seditious planet.”
“What, so I should just – no. Just no.” Corran looked at Kasari and then at Dorn. “I have a family. I can’t just join some cause. I just… can’t.”
“What life are you and your family going to have here, on Imperial Center?” asked Dorn. “Just think about it. We can take a transport -”
“With what credits? The hospital bill alone is going to eat our savings and more,” said Corran. “Stop talking like this. I feel helpless too, but that doesn’t mean we need to start making decisions like that right now.”
Dorn shook his head. “I’m meeting with an Alliance agent tonight. Getting off planet with a group of others and joining the fight.” He sighed. “I understand if you don’t come now. But you can’t live here forever.”
Corran steeled his face, staring unseeingly at the holoscreen as the news reel kept playing. “I hate this Empire as much as you do, cousin. But I have others that I have to think about.”
“What about your parents?”
He surged to his feet. “Don’t you talk about them! Just get out. Go run around the galaxy, as if you’re going to make a difference. My family – my only family,” he croaked, “Is here. In this apartment.”
Dorn opened his mouth as if to say something, but then just shook his head and saw himself out.
Corran winced as the door closed, and then he realized that Kasari was crying again. He held her close and tried to tell her it was going to be all right.