While You Were Gone: Part Nine
Stoned Rose

The cockpit was eerily quiet.

The only noise was the light whisper of panicked breathing coming from behind the main pilot seat. That's where the boy remained frozen to the floor, his knees hugged tightly to his chest. He was too frightened to even move.

It had been over a minute since Bailey had last heard the sound of blaster fire coming from the other room. Even less time had passed since he had heard the sound of shuffling, and the muffled shouts of angry voices. But now ... nothing. The ship was dead silent.

And still, his dad had not yet come back for him.

A soft ticking sounded from somewhere above his head. Coming from one of the pilot controls he was now huddled beneath. It ticked for several seconds, the metallic sound almost comforting with it's rhythm. Then it stopped. And the cockpit was silent again.

Bailey bit down on his bottom lip, trying to ignore the dampness he felt on his cheeks. He didn't want to cry. It was stupid to cry. Babyish. But he was scared, and he couldn't help it. Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry ... he'll be right back, just don't cry ... As much as the child tried to silently reassure himself, he couldn't stop the push of tears from building up behind his eyes. He wished it was this morning again. He wished he was sitting across from his mother, and she was once again lightly scolding him for flicking cereal across the table. Or even better, if it was the night before, when the ship had been filled with light and the boom of several friendly voices. His mom and dad. Uncle Chewie. The four of them all together, and there was not any of this horrible badness in sight.

Bailey felt a coldness wrap around him, and all at once the darkness of the cockpit pushed the warmth of the memory far away. Now it all seemed so distant. Like another life. The child pressed his face against his knees, as if the sudden pressure might hold back the sob he felt building in his throat. He wanted his mom to be here. He wanted his dad to come back.

But most of all, he wanted this whole ugly scene to be over.

* * * * *

The hangar was filled with its usual buzz of machinery, as pilots and mechanics mulled back and forth, caught up with their own individual tasks. The noise level has reached it's daily peak, and the piercing drone of several drills echoed throughout the expansive warehouse. Pilots and mechanics shouted orders at passing droids. The place was so bustling with activity, that it took a moment before anyone even noticed the young man who had sprinted down the boarding ramp of the Millennium Falcon.

An older mechanic was the first to see him. He had been looking up from his task for only a moment, gazing into the distance as if to find inspiration for his latest wiring riddle, when the young pilot stumbled into his line of vision. The young man looked disoriented and wild-eyed, barely acknowledging the mechanic as he staggered past.

The older man put down his tool and turned toward the Millennium Falcon with new curiosity. Something wasn't right. The mechanic glanced around to see if anyone else had noticed the young man fleeing from the spaceship hangar, but if anyone had seen it, very few seemed to care.

The older man sat back for a moment, and considered ignoring it. He really did want to just resume his task and mind his own business, but something stopped him. He remembered how, just this past week, Solo had been so generous, offering out the services of his golden droid to anyone who might need it. And Threepio had certainly come in handy, especially for him. It would be wrong for the mechanic to at least not check on the smuggler and his crew. Especially after all he had done.

His mind made up, the older man slowly climbed down from the ship he had been working on, and tentatively approached the shadow of the Corellian freighter. He took his first step onto the boarding ramp, and called up into the ship, "Captain Solo? Everything all right up there?"

His question was greeted with only silence, and this served only to further unnerve the old mechanic. He took another hesitant step up the ramp, "Captain Solo?"

There was still no response. But suddenly, a single waft of air emerged from the ship, carrying with it the slight stench of burnt wiring and ... something else. Flesh. It filled the mechanic's lungs, and startled, the older man took a step backwards.

[Ren?]

The mechanic turned his head and saw a young Sullustan staring up at him, his eyes filling with questions as he took in the older man's paled expression.

[Somethin' wrong?] A small cluster of curious onlookers was beginning to take form behind him.

Ren shook his head mutely. "I - I dunno ..." he finally stuttered, "I think, I think there might be trouble -- "

[You want me to call someone?]

The mechanic glanced back at the Falcon's entrance, his expression dubious. "I'm not sure ..." The incriminating odor seemed to have passed, and the older man was no longer sure if he had imagined it or not. "Maybe not."

Ren stood there another moment. His thoughts wrestling with what he should do. Finally, he took another step towards the entrance, his breath hitched in his throat. A weird taste coated the surface of his tongue, and the older man could suddenly hear the hum of his blood racing past his ears. It's as if his body already knew, as he edged closer to the entrance, that something horrible awaited him around the bend.

The first thing he saw was a boot. It was black, it's scuffed toe pointed towards the ceiling. It was enough to cause Ren to freeze in his tracks for a moment. Then the significance of what he was seeing awakened a fresh alarm inside of him, and he rushed the last few steps into the main hold.

The older man drew in a sharp breath, the scene before him causing him to stumble a few steps backward. Captain Solo. Sprawled out on the deckplates, his chest moving up and down in an unsteady rhythm. Ever-widening stains of blood marred both his stomach and right shoulder.

Ren swallowed, apprehension quickly overtaking his entire body. His eyes were suddenly pulled to the left of the Corellian smuggler, where he saw another man, also injured, leaning up against a control panel. The other man was still conscious, and he gazed up at Ren with the glazed look of one barely coherent. The mechanic stood there frozen for a moment. He looked at the injured man questioningly, and it took a moment for him to finally find his voice. "What -- what happened? Are you all right??"

The man stared at him blankly for a moment, and Ren fleetingly wondered if he had misread the man's condition; that he was actually dead. But then the man spoke, his voice throaty with exhaustion and pain. "Help me out of here. Please."

"Of course, I mean, but --" Ren threw a startled glance at the smuggler. "But Captain Solo --"

"Bounty Hunters," the injured man let out a pained hiss, and his face contorted in anguish. "Bounty Hunters. And they could come back." His tone became slightly impatient. "So, please, you gotta help me out of here."

Ren gaped at the man in disbelief. "No, you shouldn't move. You're injured --"

"It'll be worse if I get caught here."

The mechanic shook his head, the words of the injured man sliding right off him. He dropped to his knees by the unconscious Corellian. His eyes frantically assessing the pilot's blaster wounds. "Captain Solo," he said, leaning over the smuggler. "Captain Solo, can you hear me?" He pressed a hand against the smuggler's bleeding middle. The warm reality of the blood caused another surge of panic to race through him. His eyes widened. "Help!" He called frantically over his shoulder, "We need some help up here!!"

He heard the other man struggle to his feet. "Oh, Sith ..." the man grumbled, attempting to pull himself up with one hand gripping the control panel.

"Don't move," Ren ordered the injured man, just as the sound of several footfalls could be heard running up the ramp. "Help's here, just don't move."

The other man seemed to pay him no mind, and continued on muttering crossly to himself. His body wavered, and fell against the control panel, as he fought to find his footing. He let out a painful gasp. "Blast it ... stupid knee ... "

Ren stared down at the unconscious smuggler. He was barely aware of the sound of the injured man once again sliding his body to the floor. All he could see was the pasty complexion of the pilot, and all he could feel was the warmth of blood. It now covered his arms past his wrists. The mechanic's mind scrambled as he once again took in the injuries. He was at a loss. He didn't know how to help this man. He fixed ships, not people. They needed a med droid, not a mechanic, for Emperor's sake.

Ren was hardly aware of the people now at his back, until he heard their startled gasps. "My gods ..." he heard one of them exclaim. "Look at this ...!"

A female pilot ran over to the injured man, immediately asking what she could do to help. From behind him, Ren heard someone pull out a comlink, calling for aid. The young Sullustan from earlier, dropped to his knees beside the mechanic. [Wow, what the hell happened?]

Ren shook his head, "I don't know ..." Captain Solo was losing a lot of blood, and it unnerved the older man. He turned to the Sullustan suddenly. "Here, gimme your jacket."

The Sullustan shrugged it off his shoulders without question, and handed it to the mechanic. Ren balled it up slightly, and pushed it against the more offensive wound on Solo's stomach. "Press down on that!" He ordered, and then over his shoulder he yelled, "Someone find the blasted medpack in this place!"

A large blue Duros nodded mutely, and hurried off to find the supplies. "Med personnel should be on the way," the human with the comlink told him briskly. Ren nodded gratefully and turned back to the Sullustan. "Keep pressure on it."

The Sullustan nodded in quick understanding, but his eyes bulged in panic. His breaths came out in sharp gasps. [Gods, Ren,] he said, his voice shaky, [this is that Solo guy, isn't it?] When the mechanic didn't reply, the Sullustan continued, [I mean, it must've been those bounty hunters, right? They say -- they say he had a price on his head. Everyone knew about it. I knew about it. It --]

"Nilo," Ren interrupted, his voice deceptively steady. "Just hold the jacket steady, okay?"

The Sullustan shot him a look. [But that's it, isn't it? Bounty hunters ...] He turned to the smuggler with renewed sympathy, [... Poor bastard.]

"Nilo, listen --" Ren said, but his voice was interrupted by the human standing behind them.

"Is there anyone else on board?" The man asked, his gaze directed down at the old mechanic.

Ren shrugged helplessly, "I don't know, I haven't --" he turned to the injured man leaning against the control panel. "Anyone else aboard?"

The man had been pleading with the woman pilot about something, and he now turned to Ren, his expression blank. He parted his lips slightly, as if he were about to reply, but then he didn't answer.

"Hey, buddy," the man with the comlink was impatient, "Anyone else on board -- yes or no?"

The injured man looked up with a start, having not noticed the other man until now. His eyes widened. But Ren didn't know if it was the sudden appearance of this man, or his directness that had startled him. "I ... I'm not sure ... what you ..."

The man with the comlink bit his words out carefully. "If there is someone else still on board," he said evenly, "it is imperative that you tell us. Understand?"

Malcolm nodded mutely, as if he was slowly digesting the man's words. He then grimaced at some unseen pain, and mumbled something to the female crouching next to him.

Ren turned to that woman now. "What was that?"

"A little boy," she replied, "he says there's a little boy in the cockpit."

The man behind Ren wasted no time. "I'll get him," he replied, clipping the comlink to his belt.

Ren just nodded, already distracted by the Duros who had suddenly returned with an armful of med supplies. "Here," the breathless alien announced, dropping the items on the floor beside him. "That's the best I could do."

"Good," Ren replied, his hands already fumbling through the small pile of med stuff. "How's he look, Nilo?"

[L - L - like crap,] the Sullustan stammered, his voice laced with fear. [Oh, gods ...]

"Hold it together," the mechanic ordered, his steady tone a thin veil for the panic he was also feeling. "Hold it together ..." Empty words, but the best he could do.

Ren's hands searched blindly through the medical provisions, unsure of what he was looking for. He had friends who had fought in the Rebellion. He had heard their stories about soldiers wounded in combat, and how it was imperative to stop them from losing too much blood. Keep them from going into shock. But that was all Ren knew. How to actually do these things was a whole other conversation they never had.

"You think he's going to make it?"

Ren looked up, and was startled to see the man with the comlink still standing over them. He was studying the unconscious Corellian with an almost morbid interest. "I - I don't know ... " the mechanic's voice trailed off. Something about the way the man's cold green eyes seemed to comb over the smuggler's body made him stop. The man seemed too detached. Almost clinical.

Ren immediately turned his attention back to Captain Solo. "I thought you were getting the kid from the cockpit," he finally snapped.

The man with the comlink was silent for a moment, his boots rooted firmly in place. "Of course," he replied smoothly, "I'll get right on that." But he stood there for another beat, seeming to spare the Corellian one last glance, before finally turning and heading toward the cockpit.

Ren's hands continued to fumble frantically through the med supplies. Bandages. Bacta. Ointments. Antiseptic. The mechanic's eyes began to tear over in panic. What was he even looking for??

From beside him, he heard the young Sullustan continue to murmur words of encouragement, his hands faithfully pressed down against the unconscious smuggler's stomach wound. His body rocked slightly with each whispered plea. [Come on now ... come on ...]

The mechanic squeezed his eyes shut tightly for a moment. If only he could think.

"Try the petroleum jelly."

Ren glanced up and saw the tall Duros leaning over him. "What? Where?"

The Duros gestured to a small packet. "That one. You need to prevent air from entering the -" The alien stopped short. "Oh, wait," he said, and his finger traveled to his mouth thoughtfully. "Maybe you need to clean out the wound first."

Ren's jaw clenched. This was a disaster. If the situation wasn't so grave, it might even be comical. "How the hell do we do that?"

The Duros shrugged. "I don't know. I'm not really familiar with the human anatomy."

Ren swore bitterly, and grabbed a large bandage roll off the pile. He tore the plastic seal open with his teeth. "Here," he said, handing it to the alien. "See what you can do about that right shoulder."

"I think the roll needs to be sterilized --"

"Just do it!"

The Duros nodded, and reached for the bandages; the mechanic's tone having finally knocked him into complacency.

Ren spared another glance at the smuggler's face. His skin looked even more sallow and lifeless than before.

He's already worse.

The mechanic swallowed back a bout nausea. The paneled control lights of the Millennium Falcon seemed to momentarily warp all around him, and there was a sudden buzz in his ears. Across the room, the female pilot continued to speak with the injured man. Ren could see her mouth moving, almost as if in slow motion, but the words he heard did not match the movement of her lips.

[Come on now, come on ...]

Ren turned. The Sullustan beside him continued his steady rocking. His wild gaze stubbornly fixed on the wounded Corellian.

Across from him, the blue domed Duros crouched over Solo's bleeding shoulder, already attending the wound.

Their efforts all seemed futile and almost ridiculous. They didn't know what they were doing. None of them did.

Good gods, Ren realized, the horror of the scene suddenly overwhelming him. This man is going to die.

* * * * *

Bailey could hear the voices of the other people as soon as they had come on board. They were loud and urgent. Scared. Even though he couldn't make out exactly what they said, he could hear that much. The severity of the situation was something that even the thick seal of the cockpit could not muffle completely.

If you breathe too loud, they'll hear you ...

Bailey pressed his mouth tightly against his knees, desperately trying to smother any sound that might come out. His body was rigid with tension, and the floor felt cold and unforgiving beneath him.

The boy could not have been sitting there for more than a few minutes, but it felt like forever. His legs were cramped. His pants were warm and wet. And he could already feel a prickly numbness beginning to creep through his entire body.

Despite his discomfort, Bailey curled his body up even tighter. He was intent on making himself invisible.

Maybe if you don't move, they won't see you ...

He tried to force his thoughts onto another good memory. Last year at the Endor celebration. Sitting on Uncle Chewie's shoulders. Playing cards with his dad. But that just seemed to further remind the boy of where he really was. And that he hadn't actually heard his father's voice through that sealed door in what felt like a long time. Too long.

Suddenly, there was the sound of approaching foot steps, and Bailey felt his breath hitch in his throat. He listened as the sound of clicking boots drew closer. They continued, right up to the other side of the cockpit door. Then they stopped.

Bailey sat there for a moment; completely wide-eyed, and frozen. He could hear the fiddling of controls. A muffled curse. Someone was trying to get in.

Bailey swallowed, and felt another rush of warm liquid soak through his pants. His toes clenched instinctively, and he tightened the hold he had around his legs. He clamped his eyes shut.

He can't come in ... he can't come in ... he can't come in ...

He heard a familiar hiss, and the thick door of the cockpit slid open. The boots now echoed more loudly, as they made their way into the small room. Bailey kept his face buried against his knees. He didn't dare move. He didn't even dare to breathe.

The boots approached the pilot controls. Bailey peeked an eye open, and watched as they stopped right in front of him. The man was right there. If the boy reached out his hand, he would be able to touch the spot right above the polished toe. Bailey imagined him standing over the controls. Looking at them. And for some reason, the thought made him mad.

For a moment, the cockpit was completely still. Neither of them moved. Bailey now fixed his gaze onto the polished boots. His eyes bored into them, as if he could mentally will them not to find him here.

Outside the cockpit, the sounds of frantic voices could still be heard. A ship computer hummed.

And then a hushed whisper asked, "You in here, little guy?"

Bailey straightened in his seat, unsure of what he had just heard. The boy sucked in a breath, and he watched as a pair of legs crouched down front of him. He saw bent knees. A pair of hands.

Then the man peeked his head under, and the boy let out a shuddering gasp of relief. "Simon!" He exclaimed, his eyes wide.

His stepfather just smiled, and Bailey immediately leaped forward and threw his arms around the man's neck.

"It's all right, little man," Simon said softly, wrapping his arms comfortingly around the shaking child. "Everything's going to be okay," he murmured. "I've got you now."

To Part Eight | To Part Ten

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