Rhya was standing on her small balcony, looking at the cityscape. The massive, tightly-packed buildings had blocked the horizon and imposed upon the viewers their megalomaniac structure. Dark clouds had obscured the small portion of the sky perceivable from Rhya’s balcony, but they made no huge impact on the view of the night sky whatsoever – the stars were generally dimmed by the bright city lights of Nar Shaddaa. It was hot and the pressure had brought the smog down, making the otherwise acrid air even harder to breathe. A breeze would seldom fly by, sweeping through Rhya’s thin hair. She’d move it away from her face, but only until another breeze decided to play with it again.
Rhya’s thoughts were as dark as the sky – seeing her former team-mate again had reminded her of events she had strived to forget for such a long time. She had not been on many field missions as some had, she thought; but nevertheless, what she had experienced was painful enough to leave a permanent scar on her peaceful spirit. The Great Galactic War had been raging on ever since she was born. Her entire childhood and adolescence had been filled with fear; she never knew what peace meant before the signing of the treaty. She and her mother had moved from planet to planet, fearing that each subsequent one would fall into the hands of the Empire. Her father she barely remembered – he was recruited when she was only three years old – and no word came from him ever since. They assumed him to be dead like the millions of brave soldiers who went missing in action. She never made any real friends, considering she had always moved just when she would start to really bond with somebody. The scars were much deeper than she actually thought. Their whole generation had been scarred for life. “The entire universe has been scarred,” she thought. The air traffic was as dense as always – ships flying from orbit and landing on any one of many spaceports. It was never silent on Nar Shaddaa. The closest thing to silence was getting accustomed to the everyday noise so that you no longer even notice it. Rhya never managed to do that – she would always hear the ships flying by and above her building block. Even now she has trouble sleeping. She was not on Nar Shaddaa nearly long enough to become a part of its rapid tempo of life. It is definitely not a place for someone as quiet as Rhya. She came here three years ago; after she’d heard about the terrible condition the refugees lived in. She came here to try to help them, but the Hutt lords never allowed that – it was in their interest to keep the refugees sick, poor and unhappy – this made them the perfect slaves – slaves to their own misery.
The automatic door slid open behind her and Kaster came out. His face was pale and eyes red from the sleepless hours he’d endured.
“Hey!” he said as he approached Rhya.
“Hello. Where’s Evelyn?”
“Sleeping. She had a hard night – she’s not used to staying up this late as we are, I guess,” he smiled. “How are you? Having trouble sleeping again?”
“Yes. I thought I’d get used to the noise by now. I guess some people never do.”
“Nobody I knew that came to Nar Shaddaa ever did. Only those who grew up here never had trouble with that,” he shrugged. “Why don’t you use ear-plugs.”
“I’ve tried that. They make me uncomfortable, so it comes down to the same thing.”
“How about meds?” Kaster remembered.
“Only when I’m really desperate.” she looked down. “After not being able to sleep for two or more days. But not more often than that – they can become quite a nuisance.”
“I know. I use them at work. It can get rough working with Gnossa’s goons,” he folded up his sleeve revealing a huge scar on his right arm. “And dangerous. And quite unnerving.”
“Did you try looking for work somewhere else?” she asked.
“Yes, but the only other option is working as a hired gun. Or a bounty hunter. And I am not good for any of those things,” he smiled.
“And did you try getting off this rock,” she sounded maternal.
“No. Actually I never thought about it,” his eyebrows lifted in confusion. “Huh, I guess I’m too used to this planet to even consider something like that.”
“Well you should. There’s a whole universe out there,” she took his hand. “There are so many opportunities for a young man like you. So much too see and learn. You shouldn’t waste your life here. I’m telling you as a friend. And as someone who cares about you.” She held his hand even tighter. He squeezed her hand back with the same affection. In a moment, he was kissing her softly on her lips, grabbing her waist with his other hand. She kissed him back, grabbing his hand as strong as she could.
The gentle breeze caressed them as they stood close out on the balcony. For the first time in her life, Rhya noticed, she didn’t notice the noise anymore. The only sound she heard was Kaster’s rapid breathing, his heart beating and the wind whistling in her ear. She put her head on his shoulder and started dreaming. Her mind wondered off and she fell asleep there. Kaster took her in his arms and brought her inside. He carried her to her bed and covered her with a thin, silky sheet. Making sure she’s asleep, he sat in a chair next to her bed, and in just a few moments dozed off himself.
“Wake up,” a gentle voice whispered in Rhya’s ear. “Wake up. The hospitals are probably open. I’m going to take the man to the nearest one. Just wanted to say thanks.”
“W…Wait,” she said, half-asleep. “I’ll come too. I could help.” She barely opened her heavy eyelids, and gazed upon Kaster. “I just need a few minutes to get ready.”
“Okay. I’ll go find an air-taxi. You get ready, and we’ll go.”
The streets of Nar Shaddaa were slowly coming back to life. The walkways empty just a few hours ago were now swarmed by all sorts of sentients, street merchants and the Hutts’ personal militia. The air-taxi was waiting for the small group coming out of a building. It hovered just above the duracrete pavement as Kaster and Rhya put the man on the backseat. Rhya took a seat next to the unconscious man, who was swathed in a thin white blanket. Kaster sat on the seat across the two. It was surprisingly spacious considering that it seemed relatively small from the outside.
“I’ll be leaving you.” Evelyn said, still holding the vehicle door. “I have to go back to work soon, and I could really use some rest in my own bed,” she smiled. “Thank you for your hospitality Rhya, and I hope that he’ll be all right. See you at the cantina, Kaster.”
“Bye,” Rhya waved.
“See you. Take care.” Kaster replied and Evelyn closed the door.
“Good day. Where to?” asked the droid pilot, mimicking a casual tone of a common, organic, air-taxi driver.
“The nearest hospital in this area. And make it fast.” Kaster replied, turning his head to see the pilot.
“You gots it!” the droid replied cheerfully, doing as well as he could to synthetize the emotion. The vehicle flew off, joining hundreds of others in the endless stream of air-speeders.