The trials and travails of our intrepid pilot in the hours, or perhaps days leading up to the Rogue One crew's rescue from a dying planet.
I'm shocked it took until now for a Bodhi chapter. Bodhi is awesome and deserves more! But with such a large ensemble, I suppose everyone has to wait their turn.
It was just another flight. He kept telling himself that. Over and over again, like a mantra.
It was just another flight; just another intelligence run. Just like the countless he'd been ordered to run over the past... he couldn't remember how many years.
Only this one? This one he hadn't been ordered to. And that was most of what had him so worried. The rest of his worries had materialized behind him some while back, almost immediately after he'd entered Jedha's airspace, in the form of two small desert hover pods. Both trained on him, matching every move he made, like shadows on a wall.
Worse still was the fact that he'd made his approach from far enough away from the city and low enough so as not to be picked up on Imperial scanners. He was even pretty sure he'd been too low for old fashioned radar. So how he'd picked up a pair of tails was a mystery he wasn't looking forward to unraveling. But, nearing his destination, he was pretty sure that he was going to be forced to rather sooner than his far preferred 'never'.
He landed his plane and watched as the pod came to a stop directly across from him, on the other end of the predetermined meeting spot.
"Well, that answers that," he mumbled to himself as the top popped open to reveal the two humanoids within, dressed appropriately for the desert's brutal conditions.
"You are the pilot? The pilot with the message for Saw Gerrera?" The unnaturally tall one rasped as the two climbed out of the cockpit, expressions sharp, suspicious, and unforgiving as they walked closer.
"Uh, yes- that is: Yes. I am the pilot. With the message. From Galen Erso. For Saw Gerrera," he affirmed as he hopped from his chair and met them halfway.
"How did you find this place?" Asked the shorter, eyes narrowing more the longer the introductions stretched.
"I was given coordinates a-and clear instructions. By Erso," he tacked on when the disbelief didn't dissipate from his inquisitors faces.
"We'll see about that," said the taller as he shot a glance somewhere just over the pilot's shoulder.
At the same time, there came a rustle from close behind but before he could turn to see what had caused the disturbance, a sack was pulled down around his head, turning the world dark.
Before he could reach up and fight the musty thing off, a pair of three fingered hands caught his and wound a length of rope deftly and securely around his wrists. Leaving slack enough only for the barest of wiggles.
He'd forgotten about the second pod. And now he was paying the price. Being marched through the sand and stone of an endless desert, bound and blindfolded and at the mercies of mercenaries and wanted criminals.
Mercenaries and criminals that it turned out, didn't care that he'd risked life and limb to bring them this message. Who in fact had absolutely no intention of treating him with a shred of decency nor hospitality.
Thugs who kept guests in comfortless, barren cages.
He was trapped. It seemed that that dark, cold cave would be the last place he ever called home. With nothing but rough, mannerless inmates and disease infested rodents for company.
Somehow though, against all odds and even his wildest dreams, fate had other plans and he soon found his hopelessness proven wrong.
Instead, with the help of a ragtag collection of misfits and rebels, he'd escaped Saw Gerrera's brutish clutches, escaped the crushing force of a dying planet, and gotten free and clear for what might have been the first time in his life.
Once escaped from that horrible prison, riding along on a ship that didn't bear the Imperial standard, it finally set in that he was no longer under the employ of the Empire. No longer beholden to a regime who'd done nothing for him but push him farther and farther down a path that led only to a pair of hands soaked in blood and a soul stained with the darkest type of evil.
For the first time in his life, he was well and truly free.
That is, until his ride touched down on the surface of the Rebel Alliance's base. The moment his boots scuffed that new planet's crust, he'd known he'd just traded old and cruel masters for a new and more desperate set.
He was forced to make peace with it there and then. Because for one with his specific set of skills and knowledge, there could be no true freedom. Not in a galaxy as war-torn and untrusting as this one.
Not in a galaxy where one could be forced to witness the destruction of two planets in as many days. Where one would be thrown from one near death experience to the next simply for trying to do the right thing. Trying to stand up against a galactic alliance gone mad with power and angry with the disquiet its own tyranny had inspired.
But it was worth it. Worth it because it was all finally paying off. It was working.
He could hear it over the air raid speakers and in the harried shouts of Imperial troopers outside his ship's open loading hatch.
They were winning.
They were winning and the proof lay in the fact that they'd somehow scared the Empire badly enough that it had ordered its own information depository destroyed. This place that was a wealth of one of a kind knowledge; of secrets and scandals and proof of foul, duplicitous coups and schemes... was about to go the same way Jedha had. And everyone on the surface was going with it.
Only, he was going first. On account of that grenade someone had just tossed in the open hatch.
Instinct had him diving for the blast shield of his cockpit, knowing that that wasn't going to do any good because the grenade was going off inside his ship. Not a dozen feet behind him.
The force of the explosion sent him straight into the pilot's console, hard enough that he was certain that impossibly loud crack hadn't been the reinforced flight casing.
Then, before he'd even hit the floor, sliding down the lever peppered surface in an uncoordinated heap, he'd begun to feel the heat.
It was all around him; licking up his back and tickling the back of his head as it gnawed at his flight suit; as it chewed at his gloves, trying to get to the sensitive digits within; as it tried to sink its teeth into his legs.
It was when that strange, all encompassing warmth finally made its way through his practically space proof outer layer that he at long last realized the truth of his predicament:
He was on fire.
And then he realized he couldn't breathe. That the wind had been knocked from him when he'd hit the flight panel. That his chest was seized, muscles and bones cramped so tight that there wasn't a hope or a prayer of him refilling his screaming lungs.
That —the instinctual fear of not being able to breathe— was the last nudge- the last shove his addled and abused hindbrain needed to send him into a full blown panic.
A panic suddenly interrupted by a flash of brilliant white light. A panic which redoubled as the light faded to reveal he was no longer in the destroyed cockpit of his ship. He was someplace entirely different. Someplace dark and dank.
A place he'd been before.
A place where things of worrying size and incomprehensible shape squirmed just out of sight. Where a beast lurked, rumbling and threatening as it loomed closer and closer; tentacles raised and coming straight for him. Suckers sticking fast and hard to those soft spots at the center of his temples, leaving red, angry marks as they shuffled and reshuffled thoughts and memories like a gambler cutting a deck of cards. Shifting through an entire lifetime worth of information, trying to extrude from the shambling mess it was making but one simple truth.
"Yes, I am the pilot."
He'd said that, hadn't he? It had become his new mantra. Because it was the one thing he'd been able to catch hold of in the maelstrom of his buzzing mind. The one card that monster hadn't gotten its greedy, slimy feelers on. Tucked too far up his sleeve. His ace in the hole.
"I'm the pilot." He felt himself mumble, certain to his core that it was true. Even when everything else was seething and swirling, poised to swallow him up and smother him.
"-...are you alright?" Came an unexpected question, echoing in as if from somewhere distant. Somewhere far, far removed from his inhospitable bear trap of a prison.
"He's gone too far down the rabbit hole: I'm pulling rank." Informed a new voice. Angry and insistent.
"No, the-the strain on his mind! You cannae break the connection!" Another voice, frightened and quick, argued.
A hand closed around his arm- around his wrist, yanking hard enough to pull his hand from where it'd been stuck firm. Hard enough to spin him completely around. Forcing him to open his eyes and confront the owners of the three voices, all looking at him with their all too human faces. Faces that, in some distant, uncomfortable way, he felt he should know.
"Alright, ya self-righteous lawn ornament, tell me you're 'functioning nominally'," demanded the human attached to the sturdy hand only then unclamping its hold from around his wrist.
"I'm the pilot." The only truth he had to share.
"What the devil are you goin' on about? You know darn well you're not the-"
"I'm the pilot." The only card left in his deck.
"Uh, Cap'n, I'm afraid Mr. Spock may have bitten off more than he can chew with this one," the third voice said, almost tremulous with concern.
"Spock, what're you trying to say?" The one in gold and black prompted. Well formed facial features pulling down when the response was yet another iteration of his new mantra:
"I'm the pilot."
"Damn it, Spock, you're starting to freak me out. And this is you we're talking about," he watched the blue clad one scold as the angry human began running a small machine in the air between them.
The human dressed in gold though caught his attention with a determined step forward.
"Spock, wherever you are- wherever that mind meld took you, it's not real. Just concentrate on my voice, and get back out here. That's an order."
There was something strikingly familiar about that speech pattern. A cadence he had heard countless times. This time failing to imbue itself with the authority it so often carried so effortlessly.
"Spock, I'm not kidding, you better get your Vulcan ass back out here before- Aw hell-" The one in gold bit off, stepping even closer. "Here goes nothing."
He felt his body flinch, for the pressure at the sides of his head was back. But this time was different from the last. This time there were no suckers. Instead, warm, insistent, human fingers pressed their pads to not the center of his temples, but towards those sensitive psi points whose location, to all but one species, were not common knowledge.
"C'mon, Spock, it's me, Kirk. Jim. You know me," insisted the human, but a foot from his face. Readjusting the finger's positions with a noise of frustration when there was no-
And suddenly he could think again. The darkness of that cold, barren prison receding to the far flung edges of his mind as images, memories, and emotions flooded in to fill the void.
A school full of young humans in a familiar gray uniform, scrambling to take up positions on ships ready to make an unprecedented jump through space.
A planet whose death had crushed more than just his home as it disappeared into the depths of a black, gaping maw.
A race against time to save another planet's unjustifiable end.
His friend dying, alone and unreachable behind radiation proof glass.
His knees threatened to buckle as that same face, the face of his friend, healthy and lacking any trace of death, came into focus. Right in front of his.
"Jim?" His voice sounded strained.
"That's me," assured the man breaking into a warm, relieved smile. "Now, how 'bout you?" The captain asked, hands falling to his sides as he took a respectful step back.
"I'm the... I'm the first officer of the Starship Enterprise; head of science division; member of the endangered Vulcan species; son of Sarek and... Amanda. And I require privacy," he- Spock informed as he regained the feeling in his legs and attempted to sidestep the two close impediments to his retreat.
"Oh no you don't," McCoy insisted as he grabbed ahold of Spock's closer arm. "You nearly gave yourself a darn lobotomy! I'm escorting you to the nearest biobed. Directly."
Breathing in through his nose in an attempt to stave off the rush of anger he could feel swarming up his arm from the other side of the inconsiderate contact, Spock leveled the doctor with his most serious micro expression and began anew.
"I require privacy, Doctor. Now remove your hand from my person."
"I'm the physician around here and I say you need a full evaluation, stat," McCoy insisted. Doing nothing to loosen his grip around the Vulcan's arm.
"I am not damaged in any way that your medical technology could help. My mental defenses though require urgent maintenance, so if you would: remove your hand from my person." The slight growl accompanying the latter words seeming to go wholly unnoticed by the physician, who, if anything, did the both of them the disservice of gripping tighter.
"Listen here you green blooded menace, I'm chief medical officer on this ship and everyone, including our pigheaded captain, is required by Starfleet regulation to defer to my authority on matters of health," the doctor paraphrased, growing more incensed as he spoke. Unwittingly forcing more and more of his disquiet through where he refused to remove his hand from-
"Hey, hey, hey, Bones- Bones," the captain called, breaking the doctor from his challenging stare with a hand to the man's arm. The arm now connecting two officers to a Vulcan whose mind was not currently prepared to protect itself from the added intensity of Jim's... concern?
As McCoy's affronted rankle quelled some at the touch, so too did Spock's own agitation. An unexpected development indeed.
"C'mon, Bones, look at him," Jim insisted with a nod of indication. "He's shook up; not dying. Give the guy a few minutes and then insist on running every test in the known universe on him."
After an extended pause, the doctor glaring at his captain and his first officer in turn, the man removed his hand from Spock's bicep and took a step back.
"I expect to see you in medical, soon as you've got your Vulcan mind back in order," he informed with an affected straightening of his uniform shirt.
"There, was that so hard? Spock's gonna meditate, he's gonna be fine, and then we're all gonna have ourselves a big laugh. Right, Spock?"
"Vulcans do not laugh, Captain," the first officer managed, a nod of thanks the last thing he offered as he moved to remove himself from the room. Quite nearly walking straight into a Scott who he hadn't noticed had been watching the taught exchange.
"Feel better!" The engineer called as the medical ward's doors opened for a Spock who didn't have the mental energy to acknowledge the well wish.
Too busy keeping those writhing, slinking, seething shadows at bay.
Thanks to everyone for being so patient again for the long hiatus! I swear I'm not doing it on purpose!
Thanks for reading and I hope everyone had a chance to watch the new Star Wars movie! It was one wild ride!