The Next Morning

Shura jumped out of her bed and rushed to the bathroom. Her stomach lurched and emptied its contents into the bowl of the toilet. Shit. Not again. The sour smell of her vomit filled her nose. Again a spasm of nausea swept over her, her fingers gripped the seat of the toilet, as everything in her stomach found its way back out of her body. Bitter tasting gastric acid filled her mouth. With a feeling of desperation she squeezed her eyes shut. This was it, there was nothing more to throw up. Stop it, dammit, stop it, she ordered her stomach, there is nothing there to get rid of. But her stomach did not quite believe it, cramping together again. This was unbearable. She was going to get rid of this obnoxious thing inside her that seemed to be so delighted to torment her. Today she would have it removed. Retching she leaned over the toilet, then, finally, the cramps ceased.
With a sigh she dropped on the floor in front of the toilet. She was shivering from exhaustion and cold. This was horrible. Unbidden tears filled her eyes and ran over her face. Why did she have to be pregnant, she did not want to be. The morning sickness was just too much. She checked the time on the small display next to the mirror. 05: 37. Damn, she could really set a watch by her daily vomiting. Her head hurt as if her brain had swollen and pressed against her skull. Sinking against the bathtub, she buried her head in her hands. Once more she had drunk too much the night before. It had been late, when she finally had made her way to her bed, well after midnight. She knew she should not do this, her body needed rest.
A picture of darkness and fire emerged from her memories. She had had a nightmare, she could not remember what it had been about, something horrible and she had died. The feeling of terror and desperation was still lingering in the corners of her mind. Somebody, Sorina, had once told her that it was impossible to dream of actually dying.
Shura remembered that she had not believed her then, and obviously she had just proved it wrong. She remembered clearly that in her dream she had died and had been dead for quite some time. Being dead had not frightened her though, it was something different. Something or somebody was threatening her. She could not remember, it just added to her feeling of despair.
The morning sickness would go on for months yet, every single day she would run to the bathroom to puke her guts out. She knew that morning sickness usually lasted only a couple of weeks, but she had heard from women who never stopped throwing up till they gave birth. She just could not cope with this. But neither could she bear the thought of having an abortion, not today at least. The look of the doctor and the medics when she told them … No. If she just could somehow be not pregnant, think herself un-pregnant again.
“Shit.” Perhaps she should go back to bed, try to catch a bit of sleep before she had to go to work. But there the nightmare loomed, threatening to overcome her again. She should eat but the thought of food was repellent enough to make her nearly sick again.
A bath. Shivering she got up from the cold tiles and started to run herself a bath. Her neighbours would think she was completely daft to have a bath at this time of the morning but frankly she did not give a shit.
She spent more than an hour in the hot water, dozing a bit, while her muscles untensed. Perhaps it was dangerous to bathe when she was so drowsy but she could not bring herself to really care. She still felt awful when she dragged herself out of the water. There was something wrong with her, it could not be normal that everything she did was so exhausting. She should see a doctor, but then she would have to tell him that she was pregnant and this was also something she could not bear. People staring at her belly, trying to see whether she was already getting big, congratulating her sincerely or just pretending to be delighted.
It was nearly nine by the time she had dressed and eaten a few chunks of dry bread, more she just could not force down. She tried not to think of her confrontation with Anakin the evening before.
But the memory of it was constantly creeping back into her thoughts. What a completely stupid idea it had been to talk to him. She had thought, they could behave as if they just knew each other vaguely. All the anger and frustration that had been building up in her and, she thought, in Anakin as well had been released now. Damn. And with a very attentive audience. She wanted to hide in a corner and not to have to face the meaningful glances of her colleagues. Just let them dare to look at her!
As usual the stupid shuttle train had just left the station when she got there. She sat down on the uncomfortable bench and waited. Last night, Anakin had stopped the frigging train so she could get off. He had been so shocked by her revealing that she had talked to Obi Wan. Hell, he had been Anakin’s master for so long, and for some time, at the beginning of his training, Obi Wan had been Anakin’s friend as well.
Damn, she did not want to think about this. She had to think about her work.
There had been rumours of a uprising on Larida. There was the defense system to be re-designed. It was still organized as it had been during the recent war. They were not at war any more.
During her shuttle ride she tried to think about the requirements of a defense system in times of peace but the surroundings of the shuttle just reminded her of their argument. There seemed to be no one on the train who had heard about the public display she and Anakin had made of their domestic differences, nobody seemed to notice her but she was still relieved when she finally reached her office. The people there knew her and even if they had heard they would be not staring at her as if she had grown a third eye.
Denford looked up from his computer as she entered and his mouth dropped open.
What the hell was that? Was she supposed to stay at home just because she had made a fool of herself?
Tarika Sutiki rushed out of her office staring as if Shura was an apparition.
“My god, Shura.”
“Yes?” Tarika and Denford exchanged a startled look.
“I mean, we all know that you take your job very seriously,” Denford slowly got up. “but isn’t this taking it a bit far?”
Commodore Prestwich poked his head out of his office and his aide Caseto emerged from another office.
The door behind her opened and Mai Lerok entered, worry written all over her face. “Oh, Shura, I am so sorry.”
Everybody stared at her. “Your husband, haven’t you…” Mai stopped in mid sentence.
“We separated. – Eleven days ago.”
They were staring at her with even greater eyes. Caseto’s crest inflated like a hot air balloon. What the hell were they talking about. Or not talking about. They were all staring at her.
“Haven’t I what?”
“Watched the news?” Denford looked frightened all of a sudden.
The news? What had Anakin to do with the news? Their argument had not been that horrible to be on the news.
“My god. You haven’t heard.”
Shura pushed past Denford and entered her office, flicking on the holoplate and accessing the news items. What had happened? She could feel her face tensing into a scowl. Uprising on Larida. Border Skirmishes with the Tekena Confederacy continue. All Party talks on Rukis. Presidential Address to Senate. Dammit what were they talking about? Jedi Grandmaster demands higher funds. Gas Explosion kills thousands. Accident on Chardri. New development in robotics threaten work places. …
Denford pointed over her shoulder. Accident on Chardri? A cold fear spread through her. She called up the report on the accident, vaguely aware that they were all watching her.
The holoplate filled with the picture of a ruined house, the upper floors completely destroyed and blackened by fire. From the light she would say this must have been recorded very early in the morning. Rescue teams could be seen working in and around the building. The wreck of some kind of ship was visible amongst the rubble.
Tonight at 2: 17 the city wing of Field Marshall Anakin Skywalker crashed into the apartment building seen here. So far it has been impossible to determine the cause of the accident. The c-wing hit the building at full speed, destroying the upper two stories completely. Apparently the engine of the c-wing exploded, and the fire destroyed most of the building. It seems that most of the apartments were unoccupied at the time of the crash, though rescue does not yet confirm that no casualties were caused by the crash. Did this mean that Anakin was still alive? Or was the announcer just talking about the people who lived in the apartments. The picture still did not change.
It took rescue only half an hour to bring the fire under control. At the centre of the blaze the wreck of Field Marshall Skywalker’s c-wing was discovered. The Field Marshall survived the crash and is now being treated at the local hospital. So far no official statement about his condition was released, though inofficial sources state that the injuries he received in the accident are extremely serious and it is expected that Field Marshal Skywalker will not survive the day. An inquiry into the cause of the accident has been started. We will release more information as it becomes available to us. News of the Galaxy…
Shura switched the holoplate off. Anakin had crashed. Somehow her mind just did not want to accept this. And she knew the place, it was the building behind Obi Wan’s flat. Gods. Anakin had gone to Obi Wan after their argument.
“Shura.” Somebody took her arm. It was Denford looking pale with worry. “Do you want to sit down? – Can I bring you something.” Behind him she could see the others and more of her colleagues staring at her.
She grimaced at Denford, trying to smile. “No. Thanks. I think I go home.”
Denford let go of her arm.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Tarika stepped into her way. “Do you want me to come with you.”
“No. I want to be alone.” And if this woman didn’t go out of her way now she would regret it. Tarika hesitated then she stepped aside and let Shura pass.
Shura walked along the corridors of the office like an automaton.
Her brain just kept repeating: Anakin had crashed. Anakin would die. This must be wrong. Some kind of a weird hoax. It could not be true. But she had seen the pictures, the ruined building, the c-wing. It was a mistake. This is all wrong. It just could not be.
Somehow she reached her flat. She could not remember how she got there. It was only after she entered and put her key-card down on the little table next to the door that the facts broke through the defenses of disbelief and she knew that it was true. Anakin had crashed into the apartment building, and he was going to die, today.
She managed to reach the sofa before she lost complete control. Throwing herself on the sofa’s seat she broke down, screaming with rage and grief. It was like real physical pain, a dull pain spreading out from her stomach. She curled up, wrapping her arms around her middle, as if to squeeze out the pain. But, of course, it did not help, did not make her forget the fact that Anakin, her husband, was at this moment dying. She still loved him. And he would be dead soon.
Shura lost track of time but after some time she calmed down, her throat burnt with every sob. She was able to think more coherently, but this was not helping. Now she could remember exactly what had happened, the argument in the shuttle train, his shocked face when she told him about asking Obi Wan. He had, drunk as he was, taken their c-wing to confront Obi Wan, and somehow he had lost control of the ship and crashed. Why had she had to talk to him, to pretend they could address their difficulties like grown up people, distanced and calm. How completely idiotic.
Why had she told him about Obi Wan? Why had she talked to Obi Wan in the first place? Why had she not talked with her husband? She had still loved him, she still did. Now she knew again, felt the loss with every fibre of her body. She had been so stupid. And Anakin would pay with his life for her folly. If she could only take his place, make the accident happen to her. She would not mind if she died now. She would happily die now, make it stop. Just be not there anymore.
It did not stop. And she knew it would not. If only she could force herself to move. Should she go to the hospital and … What? Give the news something they could broadcast next? Stand around looking out of her wits with grief? Wait till they told her he was dead? Have a look at his body? No. Never. There was nothing she could do. And after their encounter last night, even when he had not had the accident, even if somehow he should miraculously survive, their marriage had died on the shuttle train. There was no way back, it was just too late. There was just nothing she could do now.
Shura rolled around on the sofa, pulling her knees up to her chin, and pushing her face into one of the pillows. Tears were still streaming over her face. What idiot had said that there were just so many tears one could cry? There seemed to be no end to hers. Anakin was dying. And it was her fault.
It was noon by the time she could find the will to move again. It felt all so completely useless, but she had to go to the loo and even now she did not want to befoul herself. Her reflection in the mirror frightened her. She looked as if she was going to die any minute, pale, only her eyes were red and swollen, her nose was dripping.
She remembered standing in front of another mirror, thinking how sick she looked, when she discovered that she was pregnant. She was pregnant with a child whose father was perhaps dead already. It was Anakin’s child and part of him would be living in it.
This was sick. She did not want to have a stupid, awful clump of cells with bits of Anakin’s genes. She wanted him back. This intruding thing was after all one reason why she had left Anakin. It was not wanted.
Suddenly she remembered her mother saying in her dry tone: ‘No use crying over broken toys.’ Particularly when they had broken them themselves. But it was no use. The toy was broken and not only was it gone but there was nobody else to blame but herself. Obi Wan, but he had only tried to help her. Anakin? Now, she could not try to put the blame on him.
She had to get on with life, hadn’t she? But why and what for. Shura found herself in the kitchen, a bottle of rum in her hand, but no, she would not start drinking now. She had to know, had to hear whether Anakin was dead. What had happened. Had he crashed on his way to Obi Wan or had they met. With some effort she made herself a cup of tea and returned to the sofa, switching on the holoplate.
The news were basically the same she had watched in the morning, they had by now removed the wreck of Anakin’s city wing. They were looking for witnesses to the crash, particularly people living in the flats overlooking the precipice as it seemed that the ship had come from that direction as it crashed. The cause for the accident was still a complete mystery. There was still no official statement about his condition.
Shura flicked through the other news items but her brain refused to concentrate on anything except the accident. After staring for some time at the flickering images of the news she returned to the accident report.
By now they had found somebody, a middle aged man, who had seen Anakin in a pub at midnight, drinking heavily with another man. It took the reporters not even half an hour to track the man down, and to Shura’s surprise it turned out to be the quick mouthed man from the shuttle train.
He was obviously on the verge of a nervous breakdown, explaining that they had not been drinking heavily, thay’d had just a couple of pints and talked. About what was none of the reporter’s concern. He had taken Anakin home, made sure he was alright. No, he did not know the Field Marshall, they just had met that evening in the shuttle train. He was in tears by that time and slammed the door into the reporter’s faces.
From this information it was of course no problem to find other people who had been on the shuttle train, and they were far less restrained than the young man, retelling quite happily the fight between Anakin and his wife. Most of them had only understood bits of their argument, it was frightening how much of the things they claimed to have heard was complete nonsense, but they all remembered that Shura had told Anakin that he was drunk and how Anakin had shouted that she had left him because of a person called Obi Wan.
The reporters immediately discovered that this person was in fact General Kenobi who was just living next to the site of the crash. His apartment was found to have been destroyed by a fire during the night and the General had disappeared.
Shura stared with fascination and anger. The reporters were so obviously not in the least interested in the fact that Anakin was dying, was perhaps already dead. They were only interested in the gossip and speculations about the accident and what caused it.
Some of them were nearly euphoric about the twists and turns the story made. Not only had the hero of the last war piloted his ship drunk, the story also included his equally famous wife and best of all, there was the implication of an affair between his wife and a famous general, who moreover was a Jedi. They made Anakin look like a complete loser, a drunk whose wife had ditched him for somebody else.
It was Lee they caught up with next. It took them some time to track her down as she was not at home but in the temple of her goddess. Shura felt a pang of envy, she wished she could believe in something she could pray to.
Lee looked even more of a mess than the young man, she left the temple when a dozen reporters and camera-people accosted her. Shura was sorry for her. Lee at first tried to ignore the reporters but in the end she had to explain, that yes she had been accompanying Field Marshal Skywalker last night, she left when his wife came to talk with him. Yes, she had known that they had separated. She had just taken the Field Marshall out for dinner. What was the nature of their relationship? That made Lee angry enough to go into confrontation. If they really wanted to know, no she had not slept with Field Marshall Skywalker. So sorry to disappoint them. And if they would please excuse her now.
The ring of reporters opened in front of Lee, who stormed away. A few of the reporters looked befuddled enough to have noticed that Lee had used the force to get away. Next, the reporters descended on the flat Shura and Anakin had shared.
Shura did not even want to know how the reporters managed to get in. The flat was a minor mess. Two chairs and the table were sliced through by something, presumably a light-saber. Contents of some drawers were strewn over the carpet. In the kitchen, the window had been smashed from the inside and there was blood on the floor and in the sink. Well, they finally discovered that Field Marshall Skywalker’s wife was not there. Surprise! Of course, it would only be a question of time till they found her. Somebody in her office was bound to talk, though fortunately most did not know where she lived. She should leave now, before somebody found her out.
The news cut suddenly to a different picture, the steps of an official looking building; the hospital. Shura nearly dropped the cup she was holding. Now. Now would they say he was dead?
There was some commotion at the door and then a tired looking woman appeared at the door. She was disheveled as everybody seemed to be today, blinking confusedly and stopping at the door. The reporters shouted questions at her but she ignored them, wrinkling her brows she finally started to speak:
“As you know, last night Field Marshall Skywalker crashed with his city wing. He was given first aid at the site of the crash and admitted to this hospital at 02:56. We have been in emergency surgery since then.” Hell, this was more than twelve hours ago. No surprise the women, Dr Hadasht as the caption read, looked tired. “We were able to stabilize his condition but the injuries he received were …” The woman rubbed her eyes with the back of her forearm, seeking for the right word. “… massive. At the moment we don’t know whether he will survive the next couple of hours.”
Shura slowly set the cup down on the arm of the sofa. Her hands were shaking. He was not dead – yet. Twelve hours emergeny surgery!
The reporters burst into a storm of questions. What kind of injuries? Could she give a prognosis about the probability of him surviving?
“No.” Dr Hadasht shook her head. Then she sighed. “I don’t know. Scrap that. I would say, there is no chance in hell that he’ll survive. But then, I would have said he could not possibly survive the accident, I would say he should have died then and there, he should not have survived until we arrived on the scene, he should not have survived long enough to reach the hospital and go into surgery. He should have died during the operations, but he did not. I do not think he has a chance but then… he should be dead now.”
“What is going to happen now?”
Another medic standing next to Dr Hadasht answered this question. “He will be transferred to Alma Serena Military Hospital as soon as this is possible.”
Dr Hadasht seemed to be surprised by this, Shura could see her mouth something to a person standing next to her that looked a lot like ‘What the hell…’.
Shura wondered whether Dr Hadasht had been on the site of the crash, whether she had administered first aid. She looked as if she was to keel over any minute. Her blond hair was standing in tufts from her head, her voice was shaking and her eyes bloodshot. She rubbed them again, using once more the back of her fore-arm, as if her hands were dirty, stained with something.
Shura’s stomach cramped together as her mind produced the obvious answer to the question of just what had been on the doctor’s hands. She had been in surgery for twelve hours, her hands were covered with Anakin’s blood.
The reporters once more demanded to know what kind of injuries the Field Marshall had sustained.
The doctor pushed herself back into the foreground, her face displaying a vague expression of disgust. “Field Marshall Skywalker suffered severe burns when his city wing’s engine exploded. The explosion also caused his body to be thrown against the console of his ship, causing multiple bone fractures which again caused severe damage to his internal organs, particularly his lungs, heart, liver and kidneys. His spine has been fractured at several separate points, the amount of damage caused to his nervous system by this and the damage caused by the severe fractures of his skull cannot be estimated at the moment.” She glowered at the reporters, daring them to ask for more details but nobody dared to ask. After a brief pause she concluded, “And if you would please excuse me, I have to reurn to my patient.” Turning around she walked back into the hospital.
The station cut back to the progress of the reconstruction of last nights event, recapitulating when Anakin had been seen where and with particular glee recount the amount of alcohol he had consumed. Shura was now disgusted enough to switch the holoplate off.
Anakin was not dead yet. But then, the doctor had said, he had no chance in hell to survive. The injuries listed by the doctor were frightening. Was there any part of his body that had not been broken or burnt?
Shura drained the cold contents of her cup and got up. She should leave, now. It was only a matter of time before the blood-hounds of reporters found her new address, and they would if necessary knock her door down to get to her.
As if in answer to this, somebody knocked at her door. Involuntarily Shura froze. Perhaps pretending to be not there would make them search her somewhere else long enough for her to get away. The knock was repeated, a soft knock as if the person outside knew she was there and that he or she had not had to summon her from another room. Holding her breath and trying to be completely noiseless she sneaked over to the door and switched on the view-screen.
Hell! In front of her door, smiling amicably at the camera was Obi Wan Kenobi, as usual dressed in his drab robe. How dare this man come here now? The entire pack of reporters were on his heels, well that part that was not searching for her now. But he would probably not go away if she did not answer the door. He would know that she was there. Reluctantly Shura opened the door.
Kenobi’s smile became even more benign. “Shura.” He nodded, then a surprised look flitted over his face. “You’re pregnant.”
Shura slammed the door into his face. Unfortunately it missed him. Damn the man. What did he think he was doing? What gave him the right to snoop into her privacy? And her belly was as private as one could get after all. She had not been thinking about being pregnant. Stupid bastard. Anakin had not done this, not even in the midst of their argument, or any time before. He would have been as incapable of not mentioning it as Kenobi was.
Something touched her mind and she could hear Kenobi, hear him in her thoughts, saying. “We have to talk.” That was too much. Grabbing the blaster lying on the little table next to her keys she opened the door, holding the nozzle right into his face. That was a move he had not expected, the startled look was very satisfying.
“We don’t have to talk.”
Kenobi stared at her, then back, cross-eyed, at the blaster only a few inches from his face. “We…”
“And if you try any other kind of Jedi shit, and if you do not immediately vacate my doorstep and leave, you will be quite a mess that maintenance will have to scrub off the floor.”
Something, like a cold mist, touched her mind, and she released the safety.
“Go away. Now.”
Kenobi hesitated briefly but perhaps he could ‘hear’ her count to three in her head, he turned and walked hurriedly down the corridor. She kept her blaster pointed at his back until he had left the building, filling her mind deliberately with images of his body being pierced by blaster fire.
Then she shut the door again, put the blaster back on his place and sat down heavily on the floor. Hell. How dare he turn up here, and today! How dare he invade her thoughts and body with his freak powers.
Anakin had been right, how could she ever have gone to this stupid man and asked him for advice? If only she could plead temporary insanity or pretend that her hormones had confused her, but she knew it was not true. She had been as clear as she could be when she had taken the decisions, and after all, Kenobi’s advice had given her only the last push to leave, she had been thinking about it earlier. Oh, sweet heaven. Why had she done it?
The thought of Anakin dying in hospital came back to her with full force and she started to cry again. This was such a mess. And it would not get any better. The news were on her heels and if stupid Kenobi could get the information he wanted so would the reporters. Perhaps they were not able to mind-read the information from her colleagues, but a couple of credits would do the trick just as nicely if applied to the right person. She had to leave.
She got up and forced herself to concentrate on what she had to do now. Packing her bags, collecting money from the bank … Damn, if the reporters were really after her they would keep an eye on her bank account and descend on wherever she would make the withdrawal. So first she would pack her bags, then she would take her ship to a place a bit distant from here, just in case those bastards were already on her heels, then she would clear out her account and get the hell out of here.
Passing the computer she noticed for the first time that the indicator for kept messages was at the ridiculous number of 87.
Automatically she switched the computer on, calling up the new messages. Her mother appeared on the screen. After a moment hesitation, so typical of her when she had to deal with machines not people, she said: “Shura? We just heard…”
Shura slammed her fist on the stop button. No, she did not want to hear this. She did not want to get the consolation of her family or anybody. With shaking fingers she deleted all the messages. Her family would send somebody to check on her, to make sure she was alright. Just another good reason to not be here any longer when this person came.
She started packing, throwing things into bags as they came into her hands. She knew she should do this more slowly, think about what she needed, put it into the bags neatly so more would fit in, but she just wanted to be out of here now.
If the reporters or her family – Solan, they would send Solan – caught up with her now, she would not be able to deal with it. Clothes, as many of her collection of holo pictures of her family as she could find, toiletries, food, two bottles of rum, her note pad, wallet, key-card… no she would leave the key-card inside and the door open. She would never come back so it would not matter if somebody burgled her flat. The keys for her ship, blaster, additional energy cells.
Whatever she left behind, it did not matter. What she needed she could buy. Her past was dead, as her husband would be soon.
Throwing the bags over the small repulsor unit she pushed them out of the flat, closing the door but not locking it and ran out of the building to her ship.

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