Special Delivery

Part Five

There was no bracing for the impact. There was no outsmarting the bad guys. There was no talking her way out of it, and there wasn’t even any when-all-else-fails-shoot-someone-with-their-own-gun.

There wasn’t anything.

When she woke up, she found herself lying on the floor of her ship. She must have been alive, because that was the only way to find things, including yourself. And she had to work hard to remember what had happened.

Stay down.

No, before that.

Screaming, there was that. And heat, and the baby was crying, howling, in pain, in fear. And Bar Belaas was shouting obscenities and yelling at her to do something. And she obeyed even though she couldn’t hear anything. Lights were gone. Emergency illumination flickered. But then even that went out as another shudder went through her ship, shaking them both to the ground once more. She could tell by the groan of the hull that shields were down. The unsteady hum from the rear of the ship tattled on propulsion. Someone was moving through her ship, she could sense that too, feel in that peculiar way her siblings didn’t understand, that something else was with them. She tracked it in a daze, through each of the cargo bays and back out, past them toward the locked cockpit and back.

The figure she could sense in her mind’s eye bent. The baby cried. Bar Belaas shouted and there was a scuffle, and a crunch.

“Stay down,” the stranger’s voice said. Sal tried to burn the sound of it into her memory: gravel, a slight accent, no fear, no resignation.

“Stop it,” Sal remembered saying. “Please. Don’t do this.” In the muddled picture her mind was showing her, the figure had the child. He was heading for the door. She still had her blaster. She might hit the child. But it would only be stun. It was better than losing him altogether. She reached for her hip when the figure stepped again toward the docking ring.

But her mind must have been seeing things. Whoever it was wasn’t as far away as she’d hoped. He was suddenly right up into her space, had her by the throat, lifted right into the air; her feet kicked feebly. She couldn’t tell if she was passing out, because her vision was already black. “Stay down,” the visitor said again, and threw her away.

Sal stirred. Her shoulder hurt. She tried to pick herself back up, but winced when she put a hand down to lever herself to sitting. Instead she slumped back to the floor, screwing up her eyes in pain and defeat. The baby was gone. Dammit.

“Mister Belaas,” she whispered.

There was no answer.

“Mister Belaas,” she half-sobbed, and knew that the crunch she remembered meant he was probably dead. “I don’t know what to do,” she whispered. She was cold, tired. She thought she was bleeding and she hurt everywhere and her head rang and she couldn’t see. “Mister Belaas… Snarf? What should I do?” She sniffled. “Mom… Momma…”

“Oh honey. Oh where are you?”

A light came on. Sal blinked into it, hastily swiping at her face with the arm she could still move. “Mom?”

“Oh dear. I think you banged your head.”

When the figure came close, the light from her torch reflected off the bulkhead into her face. Sal nearly burst into tears. It wasn’t her mother. Of course it wasn’t. Her mother was dead. Both of them. She’d been such a silly girl to think otherwise. “Yes, I think I must have,” she said dully. She caught her breath when the old woman helped her to sit up. She scrubbed her face with a hand to get the tears out of her eyes, feeling stupid. “Missus Belaas,” she said.

“Yes, dear,” the old woman said back. “Call me Novi. Come on, let’s get you up.”

Sal let the old woman pull her to her feet. It was hard to stay on top of them, because the ship was rolling and shaking - except that it wasn’t, if Novi Belaas was anything to judge by. Sal blundered sideways and almost bowled both of them over, but the old lady was sturdy and managed to keep them both on their feet. Oh, her head.

“Wait. Where are we going.”

“Med bay,” Novi replied, shining her light that way.

“No.” With a grunt, she pulled away, because lights were still out and emergency illumination hadn’t come back on, and it was very cold, which meant environmental was hanging on by a thread and that needed fixing or it wouldn’t matter how much her arm hurt or her head wanted to fall off. She surged toward life support without the benefit of light and before she’d even got halfway to the lounge door, she stumbled head first over - oh, the late Mister Belaas.

The beam of light swung over. “Wait-!” Sal cried, but then it was too late. The light had caught him. For a moment, she thought maybe it would be fine. Maybe Novi Belaas could fix whatever was wrong with him, but then the light that shined on him started to shake. Sal closed her eyes against the nausea it induced. The shaking light, the rolling of the ship that wasn’t actually moving, the pain - she thought, but it wasn’t that. It was the incredible sadness.

Bar Belaas had had a family, a wife who loved him, at least one child, a potential daughter-in-law and a grandchild he’d only held in his arms once before he’d been stolen away. Bar Belaas had made a life, found happiness, was grumpy in a way that was obviously full of love and now he was dead. Now he was dead and his wife was alone and his son was fatherless.

“I’m sorry,” Sal whispered into the dark.

“Hush now,” Novi whispered back. The beam of light swept away from Novi’s dead husband and dutifully arced onward toward the lounge, showing Sal her path so she didn’t fall again. Ten minutes later, Sal had fixed as much of the life support systems as she could with one working arm and waning concentration and a nearly overwhelming sense of guilt. Novi was quiet the whole while, and Sal didn’t want to disturb her, but when the lights came back on, she clicked off her torch and took Sal by the arm to drag her back to the tiny med bay.

“What happened?” she said, tending to the wincing Togruta.

“I don’t know,” Sal replied honestly. “I was meeting with Mister Belaas, and then the ship shook and there was smoke and heat and… I can’t remember that much. He took Soewn.”


“Your grandson. I’m sorry. I’m … I’m really sorry. I couldn’t do anything. I tried, but I- ow!”

“Sh. You’re a little young to be out here, aren’t you?”

“This is my ship,” Sal defended uncertainly.

“I can see that,” Novi chuckled.

Sal frowned. How could she laugh? How could she even go on? It felt like Sal’s heart would burst in her chest from the sadness, but Missus Belaas… “Missus Belaas. Aren’t you… sad?” she whispered. “I feel so sad I could cry for days.”

Novi Belaas patted Sal on the shoulder she’d applied a heat patch to and and took Sal’s hand into both of hers, making a show of checking her wrist for injury. Her hands were warm and dry and rough with work. “I’m sad. I’m sad, and I could cry for days. Maybe I will. But first I need to make sure you’re all right.”

“I’m all right,” Sal replied dutifully.

“Sure. That’s why you can’t walk in a straight line and called me Miss Bulbous three times in the last five minutes.”

Sal’s eyes went wide. “I did? I don’t remember that!”

Missus Belaas smiled gently. “I know. That’s why, if I’m going to cry for days, I’ll do it later. There’s nothing I can do for Mister— him.” She caught her breath, but went on a moment later. “But I can help you. And I can get my grandson back.”

“How are we going to do that?” Sal asked. “We don’t know who took him, or where they went, and my ship is barely functional, and - how did you even get on my ship?”

Missus Belaas grinned. “My ship. And I’m not going to lose another member of my family.”

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