The Blood Raiders’ territory was in the middle of a nearby sector. Aiden and Shorcuk spent the majority of the day gathering information and attempting to pinpoint their location, while Dak and I rummaged through supplies on our ship, taking anything we thought that would be of use in our search for the artifact. I noisily sifted through a crate of blaster parts in the cargo hold, as Dak entered into the room.
“I think I found some stuff we may need. Why is it that you are not certain what is on this hunk of junk? I thought it belonged to you.”
I placed my findings into a small satchel. “Well, my ship was taken by the twi’lek we are looking for, Aiden’s ship got blown to bits and this one was a recent gift to me from Shorcuk’s father. I haven’t actually had much of an opportunity to take inventory.”
Dak laughed, shaking his head. “Seems to me that trouble must be your middle name.”
“Lately, I would have to agree with you on that one.” I stood, slinging the satchel over my shoulder. “Let’s get this back to your shop and sort it all out before Aiden and Shorcuk return. I hope they are having good luck in their investigation.”
Back at Dak’s shop, we placed the supplies in the work room and began sorting. I sat cross-legged on the floor with my satchel at my feet, pulling out one piece at a time. I listened to the stillness of the room. It dawned on me that by helping us, Dak was keeping his shop closed and losing business. I watched him for a moment, as he dug through crates and sacks.
“Dak, why are you still helping us? I know you need to be working in your shop.”
“Are you saying that you don’t want my help anymore?”
“No, of course not! I just don’t want your business to suffer because of it.”
“Na’sha, don’t get me wrong, I like this shop and it is my lively hood, but since you and your friends came along, I don’t know; I guess I feel needed, more alive. I feel like I finally have something worthwhile to do with my life.” Dak looked at me and rubbed a hand across the back of his neck, seemingly embarrassed. “I guess you think that sounds silly.”
“Actually, no. I am just surprised that you feel that way.”
Dak stopped working and walked over to me, joining me on the floor.
“What happens when you find this artifact and rescue the girl?”
“We will keep looking for clues to find Sinka and my ship.”
“What if she isn’t here?”
“Well, she probably isn’t by now, but maybe we can find a clue as to what she has been up to and where she is headed next. Why do you ask?”
Dak seemed deep in thought for a moment. He sighed as he answered. “I want to go with you.”
I set the blaster part I had been holding down on the floor and wiped a stray strand of hair from my eyes leaving a large greasy streak down my nose and cheek.
“Somehow, I knew that you would.”
“You don’t sound pleased.”
“Oh Dak, you are a joy to be around and you have been a tremendous help to us, but I can’t ask you to follow us. I can’t uproot you from your home and your business. You have seen the way we have to live, never knowing what is around the corner or what planet we will be on next. It isn’t glamorous or fun, it is hard and tiresome. You can’t possibly want to trade what you have here for a life like that! I can’t let you….. I won’t let you!”
Dak stared at me for a moment before speaking.
“Well, Na’sha, you don’t get to tell me what I need to do or where I need to stay. I know you think of me as a friend, just as I think of you, but that doesn’t give you the right to make my decisions for me. There is nothing for me here. I spend day after day in this small shop, trying to stay alive and out of the swoop gangs’ way. I have no family, no friends and no love interest. It is a lonely existence. Being with you is the first time I have ever felt worth something. I love everything you and Aiden stand for. I know that you don’t want anyone to live like you do, but it isn’t your choice, it is mine. I choose to go with you. You can give me a reason that you don’t want me to tag along and I will understand, but it better be a more important reason than my safety!”
Dak finally stopped to take a breath and I sat there, not knowing what to say. I knew he would be a great help and that I didn’t want to leave him here, but I also didn’t want him hurt because of me. I sighed.
“I apologize. You are right. I don’t have the right to tell you how to live. It is just that I don’t want you to be killed or hurt because of being with me. I don’t even know what we are truly getting into yet, but I know it is dangerous. I do not have a problem with you coming with me, other than my fear of getting you killed. I don’t have a lot of friends, Dak and I don’t want to lose the ones I have.”
“You, my crazy Mando, are unlike any of your kind that I have ever met. First; you travel with a Jedi and second; you have the absolute kindest heart I have ever encountered. There is something about you that draws people in, makes them want to help you, makes me want to help you. Please let me come.” Dak reached over and rubbed at the grease smear on my face. “You are definitely worth getting killed over.”
I reached for his arm, pushing it away slightly. “ Fine. I can see that there is no talking you out of it. You are welcome on my ship. Just don’t say that I didn’t warn you.”
Dak grinned. “Thanks sweetheart, you won’t regret it, I promise!”
He leaned in and kissed me on the forehead, just as I heard a slight rustle in the doorway. I turned toward the sound. Aiden stood there, a strange expression on his face.
“Am I interrupting something?”
I scooted away from Dak and stood up. “No, not really. Dak was just thanking me. I made him an official member of our crew.”
Aiden’s hands were laden with what appeared to be our dinner. He walked into the room fully, giving Shorcuk room to pass. Dak stood up and reached for the packages.
“Here Aiden, let me get that for you.”
Dak motioned to Shorcuk. “Come on big fella, lets get some chairs and a table set up.”
They traipsed out of the workroom, leaving me alone with Aiden.
“So, any luck with finding their exact location?”
“Close enough. I will give you all the details later. First, what is this about Dak joining the crew? You two seemed really cozy when I walked in.”
“Aiden, stop being so jealous! It was nothing. He just wiped some dirt off of my face and kissed my forehead. No big deal. Besides, we don’t own one another.”
“You know, Na’sha, he only wants to follow us to be close to you. He is waiting for his chance to get closer to you.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “ He is not! He truly wants to help. He said he believes in everything that you and I stand for. I thought you liked him!”
“I do like him, cyar’ika. I just don’t like him sniffing around you all of the time. Just be certain that he is sincere in his purpose for joining us.”
I shook my head, more than a little miffed at his behavior. “I am certain. He will be a great asset to our group. We can use all the help we can get. Besides, he is our friend.”
Dak chose that moment to walk in, carrying chairs; followed by Shorcuk dragging in a small round table. They began setting up the table for dinner. I leaned in toward Aiden, speaking in a whisper.
“Now behave! Start acting more like a Jedi and less like a jealous beau.”
As I walked off toward the others, I heard his reply from behind me.
“Why can’t I be both?”