I almost wish I could say that I don’t remember the crash, like some glit-biter losing their poodoo in a crisis who says it was all just a blur and their life flashed before their eyes. Long before the Remerel broke up, my mind had already gone to work cataloguing the details of our demise, a last log entry which my Bothan arrogance figured would be of value to someone. I had lashed myself down in the service corridor with some cargo netting in a futile attempt to steady my position as I tried to get the engines back online. Who or what could have pulled us out of hyperspace? The cold bottomlessness that punched my groin told me more than the warning klaxons. That empty, non-sound left behind when something vital is scooped out of the world was the engines going cold at the worst time. In retrospect, part of me was howling in despair and terror, but thankfully I locked that part in a metal box while my hands started pulling away panels and rerouting conduits. You get a real intimacy with a ship in these service corridors, like you’re climbing through the veins and arteries of a giant heart. I remember noting a cable that could do with another coat of insulation and I’d get to it after the ship was done being torn apart by this unscheduled atmospheric re-entry. It’s the stupid details that keep you from jumping out the airlock. My spine sang when the engines spooled up.
In the end it didn’t matter. A new set of klaxons went off and I was smashed against the ceiling. I imagined Jad riding the sticks hard, slapping at buttons on the con, but none of them were labelled “miracle.” My shoulder snapped as I was torn from my makeshift harness and plastered across the wall. The disassociated Bothan information collector in my head noted that this was the worst I’d ever been hurt. Back on Kothlis, years ago, I’d been on a gantry that collapsed. I had the same feeling of being betrayed by gravity, a solid world, all the things I took for granted. The corridor shook violently as the Remerel carved a new landing strip into the planet’s surface. My head beat in time with the vibrations and I bit through my tongue and cheek. I thought the lights were dimming. Well, some of them actually were, but I was also starting to black out.
I didn’t realize how much of the world had been so full of noise and terror until it stopped. An ocean of silence rushed in. I blinked and tried to roll over. I was lying next to the edge of a cliff, dropping off into an unknowable darkness. I couldn’t recall Jad mentioning that he had a cargo compartment large enough to hide a Star Destroyer. Then I realized that every time I moved, the chasm of darkness expanded and I was just perpetually on the verge of blacking out. I sent an encrypted message to my fingers which seemed engaged in a deep undercover mission on the far side of the planet. They eventually got the message and proceeded to activate my commlink.
“As you may have noticed, many of the ship’s systems are offline, including your technician. Some help would be appreciated.” Maybe that’s not exactly what I said. Maybe I just gurgled and spit out some teeth. It didn’t matter because Rip found me anyway. He surveyed me as one would a piece of Ithorian sculpture, not sure if someone had knocked it over or if it was just supposed to look that way. His expression never clued me in to how badly I was banged up. He was a professional. Rip took a nip from a flask and then poured some down my throat. Then he joked around, saying, “Well, I guess my job here is done.” Then he winked and brought out the stims and got to work.
The crew emerged from the slanted corridors bathed in emergency lights, dreamers waking from the same bad glitterstim trip. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing, so we just kept moving forward, grasping for something familiar. Ti’mouth’ca was carrying a miraculously unbroken burial urn she discovered on one of our last expeditions. She cradled it like a baby before coming to her senses, setting it down, and gathering more practical supplies.
I found Jad outside, surveying the damage. I wanted to put it off as long as possible, let the denial linger warm and sweet. What I had first mistook for rock outcropping in the distance were actually bits of the Sad Remerel’s landing gear. The ship looked as though a giant child, bored with its toy, had methodically smashed it on the ground so beyond repair that the child’s parents would have to buy a new one. I guess, had I been objective, I knew I’d seen worse. I was still shaking. I had been inside it. I was looking at my trauma rendered in twisted chunks across the landscape. But I was walking now, so that meant maybe the Remerel could fly again. Either that or give it a new name.
Look at me, already fixing the ship in my head. Flying away. Continuing the journey. As if I knew where we were. As if this planet had promised us another sunrise. The world was flat as a Dejarik table, a bleak plain of nothing that the universe had neglected to detail with any sort of hope. We gathered what we could and set off, little Dejarik pieces moving away from their busted toy, toward the edge of the board.