It took almost three hours to find the way back to Kai's starfighter.
Mostly because Kai was still too weak from her fever to travel far enough without getting winded. But when she spotted the familiar cave, Kaia felt her energy peak as she ran forward, excited.
"Oh, yeah! There it is!" she exclaimed. Acting more like a youngling, she turned and gestured for the two men to follow behind her. "Come on slowpokes!"
Doctor Hynek and Captain Quinn moved much slower as she leapt over a fallen log easily and ran the rest of the way to her starfighter. There were signs of rust starting to show on the blackened metal, but otherwise the ship looked unchanged and untouched.
"My baby!" Kai embraced the ship overdramatically. She kissed the front. "I'm so sorry I left you! Mama promises never to do that again."
"This is your ship?" She heard Quinn ask in disbelief. The teen straightened, shrugging in defense.
"It's like I said. It's not much since it went through so much scrud upon reentry but it is mine." She gently rubbed the metal, reminiscing. "We've been through a lot together."
"What's this?" Doctor Hynek was hunched over the remnants of her astromech that still remained in its position.
Kai frowned sadly. "It was my astromech, L-15. I guess the Seppies got a lucky hit and I only noticed when I landed. And the shot hit his CPU, so without a mechanic, there's nothing I can do. Such a shame too. I could use a servo in fine-tuning some of the bits I can't reach."
Doctor Hynek was all over her starfighter, examining the ins and outs that he could see without getting his suit dirty. Captain Quinn just sat there, looking on with hidden curiosity but otherwise just looked disinterested. Kai leaned against the wall of the cave, watching the good doctor examine the remains of her fighter and astromech. She only became worried when he picked up her deactivated lightsaber from where she placed it.
"Uh, you don't want to touch that."
Both froze before Quinn asked cautiously, "Why? Will it explode or something?"
"You might impale yourself on a plasma blade if you keep pointing it at your face like that." Kai warned. Honestly, it was almost like talking to a youngling about how to properly handle a lightsaber.
But even younglings knew not to point it towards their face like that, Kai thought with a worried wince. When it appeared that the professor wasn't listening, all too invested in peering down the weapon, Kai took the initiative and called her weapon to her. The weapon was yanked out of the professor's hand and flew into her own.
Now that it wasn't in the hand of someone that could accidentally but permanently do damage to himself, Kai relaxed. But she froze when she saw the shocked faces of the two men.
"What?" she asked, clueless. "You guys haven't seen a Jedi before?"
Then she remembered how primitive these people were.
"Oh. Right. Uh, disregard that statement."
"What…. was…. that?" Quinn demanded slowly, looking as pale as a spooked bantha. In fact, he looked one twitch away from drawing the weapon at his side.
"Easy." She ordered. The teen slowly placed her weapon on the ground, holding her hands up in surrender. "I'm not going to hurt you guys. I think we've already established that. I was just trying to keep the good doctor from hurting himself."
"What was that?" Quinn demanded again.
Kai sighed. She brandished her weapon, "This is a lightsaber. It's what my kind…. uh Jedi use as a weapon."
"But…. it's just a hilt."
Kai rolled her eyes as she held the weapon the right way before igniting it. The electric blue blade snapped into existence, humming with heat and plasma as she swung it in demonstration. She demonstrated a few maneuvers, much to the men's delight.
Well, Hynek's delight anyway. Quinn just looked on with unease.
As soon as she finished her last display, Kai switched the blade off with a snap. She hooked the lightsaber to her belt for assurance as she looked on with a smile.
Finally, Hynek spoke with a breathy quality, almost like a youngling, "Where'd you get that?"
"I made it when I officially became a Padawan. It's something of a rite of passage among the older youngling when they're ready for a teacher."
"You keep talking as though we're supposed to know what these terms mean." Quinn suddenly snapped. Kai bit her lip, realizing the man was right.
Kai nodded solemnly as she sat at the opening of the cave with her legs crossed in a meditative position. The two looked at her curiously. She stared right back.
"Well?" Kai prompted. "You want to talk about my world, right? We can do a question session right now if you two don't mind. I'm curious about your planet as well and it's not like I can walk into a bookstore to read about it."
The two men dutifully sat down across from her and Kai straightened.
"Alright. So, who wants to start?"
Hynek and Quinn glanced at each other, as though having a silent discussion.
"I guess we'll go first." Hynek said. "How did you get here? On Earth, in this forest, I mean?"
"Right out the gates, huh?" Kai chuckled, though in reality she had been expecting this question. Just not it being the first question asked in their little Q&A session. She picked at the loose pebbles for a bit, before sighing and meeting the men's gaze. "Truth be told, even I don't know what happened. My Master and I were heading to another planet on a diplomatic mission. Something about a dispute between the Seppie loyalists and the main government. We were almost there when we were ambushed."
The memory of that moment when they pulled out of hyperspace, that brief moment of peace and calm before all Hell broke loose, flashed into her mind. Her fingers gripped the stones and dirt.
"The troops mobilized immediately, to meet the enemy in their starfighters. Master Genno tasked me with leading the charge while he tried to help get the ship stable enough to continue. The enemy had knocked out one of the engines and we were almost dead in space. The battle went great at first. The troops and I managed to turn the tide rather quickly but reinforcements arrived sooner than expected. Master Genno…...we managed to buy enough time for the engineers to stabilize the damaged engine enough for us to retreat safely to an allied port where we might find refuge. I was about to follow, when I guess a shot hit something on my ship. But I didn't notice and neither did L-15, though I suppose he had been destroyed by that point.
"When I did notice, I tried to get out of hyperspace before I was torn to pieces and my body scattered to the cosmic winds." Kai sighed. "I was just outside your planet's gravitational pull when I managed to pull out of hyperspace. It took all my skills to keep my starfighter from falling to pieces during reentry."
The two men were silent throughout the tale, and it took everything in Kai not to wilt from their gaping stares.
She became uncomfortable as the stares continued. She shifted where she sat. "So…..yeah that's, ahem, my story. Right. My turn. What are two very different men doing snooping around the forest looking for a 'weird creature'?'
"We're a part of a governmental organization that looks into the, uh, strange and unnatural." Doctor Hynek informed with over-the-top hand motions.
"It's called Project Blue Book." Quinn added.
"Hmmm. Sounds really interesting."
"Most of the time, people mistake rare, but natural phenomenon. You…. well, you're the first extraterrestrial we've ever encountered."
"It's my pleasure!" Kai giggled. "Alright, your turn!"
Quinn was quick to speak up, "What's a Jedi? You've mentioned it several times."
"Someone who can manipulate the Force. Kind of like…. mmmm like an invisible field of energy. It's said to bind all living beings together and the Jedi are people who are connected enough that they can manipulate it."
She demonstrated by allowing her saber to float in mid-air, followed by a few small pebbles.
"It's said that those who have a deeper understanding of the Force can use it to….to extend their life span and other abilities. But the council says that those abilities are unnatural." Her saber returned to her lap. "So! What can you tell me about this planet?"
Back and forth they went for over two hours. Kai asked one question, the men asked one, so on and so forth.
How are you able to fly?
What's the governmental system like on this planet?
What type of extraterrestrial are you?
How have you guys never been past your own moon?
How does your weapon work?
How many seasons does this planet have?
What are 'seppies'?
Two hours was spent getting to know each other and the others civilization. Doctor Hynek, Kai noticed was very interested in the governmental system of her planet, of the Galactic Republic, the Jedi and how the currency worked while Quinn was more worried (she knew because she could feel it through the Force, despite him saying it was just being curious) about how advanced their weapons were, what species were warlike and which ones were looking for trouble. The three answered their questions to the best to their ability.
By the time the Q&A devolved into silence, the sun was just starting towards the horizon. Dark clouds were starting to gather, a distant rumble of thunder that announced an approaching thunderstorm.
Quinn didn't look too happy about that. "Looks like we're going to have to spend one more night in the great outdoors."
"Oh joy." Doctor Hynek announced, just as excitedly. Kai just shook her head, a small smile on her face as she watched the clouds gather.
"If you guys don't mind, I'm going to work a bit on my ship." She stood, dusting off her robes before walking over to her ship.
"I thought you said you needed a robot to help you fix it." Quinn said as he lit up his third death stick in as many hours. He took a long drawl as Kai grabbed her tools.
"I said I won't be able to fix most of the things on my ship without a droid. I think I'm gonna switch gears, so to speak, and work on my communications. If I can get the short-range transmissions working, maybe there's a fleet or something near the Unexplored Region that'll be able to pick up on my S.O.S."
Kai had jumped into the cockpit, taking the panel out. "Yeah. Any part of the galaxy that has been explored minimally. Like your part of the universe, codenamed 'Milky Way'. Granted that's just what the scientists named it but, eh. What're you gonna do."
She fiddled with some wires as she tried to remember which of the partially fried wires was the connected to the transmission.
"I'd thought you'd been all over the galaxy?"
"I said I'd been all over the known galaxy and sometimes, I've just been passing through some places." Kai said. Her eyes glanced up before going back down to her task. "They're not the same."
"What's outer-space like?"
Kai thought for a moment. "Indescribable. It's like…. it's like when you're a kid and you take a piece of black paper, and cut a lot of little holes in it and shine a flashlight through it. It's…. it's very humbling when you get past the atmosphere and past the gravitational pull and you just sit there. Looking at the vast emptiness, with all those stars."
"Do you know if anyone's been to all of them?" Hynek asked as the rain started to come down.
Kai let out a laugh. "I don't think anyone's been to all of them. That would take lifetimes. Lifetimes upon lifetimes upon lifetimes. I don't even think Master Yoda's been to all of them."
"He's the oldest member on the Jedi Council. Almost nine-hundred, if I remember correctly."
The two men gaped at her words but Kai was too busy with the transmission to notice.
She worked well into the evening, listening to the rain as it came and went over the course of several hours. One of the men, she suspected Captain Quinn, lit a fire when it got too dark and too cold for them. Kai was especially cold, her fingers becoming stiff.
"You okay?" Doctor Hynek asked as she climbed out of the cockpit with a groan and sitting by the fire.
"Yeah." Kai shivered. She drew her cloak tighter around herself. "It's just the cold. Nautolans generally don't take to the cold too well."
She shook herself as she removed herself from her starfighter and sat as close to the fire as she could without getting burned.
"How…. how brutal are the winters here?" Kai asked.
"Depends where you are in the world." Doctor Hynek stated as he shifted inwards towards the group. "South Carolina, which is where you are right now, doesn't have too bad of winters."
"Ugh. I guess I need to move further down south, huh?" Kai glanced towards the outside of the cave where the rain was starting to slow down a bit. "I wonder if I'll be home soon."
Quinn winced. "Bet you don't miss the fighting."
"No not really. But I do miss the soldiers. We used to joke a lot, especially this one. His name was Jokester and-"
Quinn laughed hard. "What kind of name is 'Jokester'?"
"Oh! His real 'name'" Kai made air quotes, "was CT-5938. But that's a mouthful and he was always joking around so the troops nicknamed him Jokester."
The two men looked confused. Doctor Hynek glanced up. "His name was CT-5938?"
"Yeah. He was a Clone Trooper. One of thousands upon thousands upon thousands. All with the same faces. Same DNA. And in an army where everybody looks like you, you've got to have something that makes you unique."
"Wait…. what? Clones?"
Kai waved off the question. "I dunno how it works. It all goes over my head if I'm being honest with myself. Maybe I'll ask the Kaminoans, but they're a very secretive bunch. Very tight-lipped."
"But Clones." Doctor Hynek muttered.
Drowsiness taking over, Kai leaned back against the wall of the cave. "As long as I can trust you guys not to take me in while I'm out, I'm gonna get some shut eye. Wake me at first light."
She didn't hear their grumbled reply as she snuggled up against the wall of the cave. A moment later, Kai slid into a bone deep sleep.