(Author's Note: Part 6 of the "Vremya" series. "Bottoms up", as they say! )
The sun-scorched world of Tatooine seemed to be famous for two things: sand and the Sand People. Revan, as the story goes, spared all of them on his quest for the Star Forge instead of doing what quite a few would have: taken a lightsaber to their goggle-eyed and perpetually-masked faces. Not that I would have advised that
course of action, but the Sand People were still a threat, at least in the eyes of some locals. You never could tell if they were just trying to mind their own business or had their eye on revenge for encroaching upon their land. A desert was a desert, but to the Sand People, it was home. I wondered if Rodion and I would be accosted...
Not to worry. As far as I knew, the Tatooine spaceport of Anchorhead was just as noisy and crowded as it had always been. It was a very easy place in which to get yourself lost. Since we were both looking for Revan, that might not be a bad idea. Of course, he might have been thousands of light-years away, but it never hurt to search, like Force ghosts, around his old haunts. Where to begin? We were famished and parched, so the logical choice would be the nearest cantina. I ran a hand through my hair as we strolled into the hot, blinding maze of people and droids that was Anchorhead.
"Would the two of you care for some juma juice?" asked the bartender droid at the cantina pleasantly. "Or perhaps a glass of our latest cocktail, the 'Twi-lek Twist?'"
"No, thanks," I said, shaking my head and smiling. "I'd rather stay sober."
"Pah! What's the good of that?" asked a nearby woman. She turned toward us, her face red and her eyes shining with a tiny gleam of merriment. "Have a drink on me, both of you. The name's Basta, meaning 'enough', which this bartender droid seems to think I've had already." She held out a soft and leathery hand, and I shook it. Rodion bowed his head, rather taken aback.
"Two vials of juma juice, please, and hyper-distilled spirits for me."
"Are you sure, madam? Shots of those are highly--" With a dismissive flick of her hand, the mysterious 'Basta' sent the droid off, sighing and scurrying.
"Thank you--I think," I told her. "So what brings you here this...morning?"
"Lots of things!" she grinned. "The sights, the sounds, the smell of my felllow cantina rats losing their lunches over there in the corner. This is the life!" Approximately how drunk was Basta? Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Rodion smirking and gave him a nudge in the ribs with my elbow. "You?"
"We're actually looking for someone," I said, and my Mandalorian darling looked alarmed. "The thing is, the last time I saw him, he was wearing a Sith mask." What, are you crazy?!
I chided myself. Still, there was no telling what secrets old barflies held, or middle-aged barflies, as this one appeared to be. "We don't know if he's still alive--where he is, or where he's gone..."
" Basta threw her head back and laughed. "Dearie, if you're looking for a Sith, you'd better hope he's dead. Of course, he might have turned back to the Light Side or taken the next flight to Korriban--I'm sorry. There's so much I've lived through...so much I could never understand. That's why I wound up here. The Sith were a grave threat several years ago, so when you said what you did, it brought back memories I haven't been able to erase. Not even through liquor, which--speaking of, here they are now!" She grabbed her tall glass of spirits with a wild and ravenous glee, tossing the liquid back in three long gulps. I was half-amazed and half-horrified. Even Rodion took a pause before gingerly sipping his shot-glass of juma juice.
"How long have you...been here?" I asked, avoiding the words spent here,
which is what I was really thinking. I looked at this poor woman, her long, almost-white hair piled on top of her head in an elegant twist. Who was she, really, and what demons was she trying to drown in a sea of drink?
"Oh-ho! Seven years at least, maybe ten or twelve. I wasn't always this fond of hard living or hard liquor. There once was a time when I was pretty, when the thoughts of war or having to deal with Sith hardly entered my mind. That time is gone now. I'm all used up, like a credit chip when its tab finally comes due. Who are you, dearie, now that you mention it? You haven't told me your name." The barfly leaned forward. I couldn't escape the sudden sensation that she knew me, or had at least heard of me somewhere before...
"Tysyacha Dvyx." I pronounced my name slowly and carefully: TEE-sih-chah DVUKH,
the last syllable rhyming with fluke,
which our meeting definitely seemed to be. "This is my partner Rodion Beviin, a Mandalorian."
"Handsome, that one." Basta cocked her head and winked at me. "Almost as much so as a Mandalorian I traveled with, years ago, before all this drinking ever happened." She sat up. "Glad to meet the both of you, I dare say."
Rodion touched my arm, and I slowly stood up and turned to him. His eyes appeared darker than usual, even in the blinding sunlight streaming into the cantina. "Come, Dvyx. Let's go. She's a p'yanitsa,
a barfly, clearly drunk. Let's pay the tab anyway and give this poor woman some peace."
"Rodion." I put my hand on his arm in turn. "Do you trust me? I know we haven't known each other for very long, but in your heart--do you trust me?"
"Of course." He was surprised by the question. "I've trusted you ever since the day you started working at Shiptech in the salvage yard. What's on your mind?" He paused. "If it involves our companion, I'd advise caution with her."
"You may not believe it, but she's sensitive to the Force,
after all these years. She still hasn't cut herself off, as some Jedi do when they lose hope."
"Wait--you're saying she's a Jedi?
You're right. I don't believe it."
"I feel it in the currents surrounding Basta that only we
notice. She couldn't have drunk that much liquor at her age, even if she was a seasoned champion, unless something else was at work. Most patrons at this cantina are weak, flabby or else emaciated by years of being on the bottle. Not her. She's a Jedi, I'm telling you, or she's abandoned the path. Please, let's take her with us. She might know where to find Revan, or at least where to look."
Rodion clicked his tongue. "All right. If she vomits, you're cleaning it up."
I gave him a playful shove backwards, and he kissed my brow. I turned to Basta, saying "How would you like to come with us aboard our vessel, the Ebon Hawk?
It might provide a pleasant change of scenery for you as we go on our search. It would definitely be more exciting than staying here at this cantina, I'd wager." I put my hands on my hips. "What do you say?"
Basta sighed and smiled. "As long as there's good drink."
For the first time, I noticed two of her back teeth were missing. Surely something was eating at this Force-sensitive p'yanitsa