A Safe Place
The day after Panda’s visit, Anakin showed up with his two sisters.
Pops said, “Son. I think some of your folks are here.”
I knew they were coming. I just didn’t know when.
Anakin had sung to me.
ti, pi, ki, EAa Mokogotu
E paya, E Zimi, E Yo Aspi Aa Golan
He and his sisters were in trouble, and he didn’t know where to go. I sang back immediately, telling him to come here. It was safe. We’d take care of them.
I didn’t even have to ask Pops. When Xirra left us the money to build the second floor on the house, she told us that others would come. The extra rooms were for sanctuary, as much as any other purpose.
“This is so beyond me,” Pops had said to me as we painted the spare bedroom. “But I trust you, son. I trust Xirra. If there are folks in need, and if we can help, then that’s what we’ll do. You don’t have to ask. Just let them in.”
He was the first to welcome Anakin, Aayla, and Amadala.
“Our home is yours,” he said.
First thing they did was make themselves useful. Anakin took out the trash, Aayla did the dishes, and Amadala played with Octy.
“You don’t have to!” I said. “Relax. Take it easy!”
“No, we do,” said Anakin. I remembered how Xirra and Shésti, too, cleaned house, first thing. Maybe I should have cleaned Panda and Harmony’s house when I came to visit… but then Panda didn’t clean when she was here, either, so maybe, if you know the host really well, you don’t have to clean? I’ll have to ask Xirra next time I see her.
Finally I convinced Anakin to take a break and have a snack. Amadala was washing dishes then.
“I miss Daddy,” she said to her bagoto. “When can we go home?”
Worry crashed down from Anakin. I understood: It’s not custom that drives them to clean. It’s the need to keep busy, to find distraction.
By nightfall, after everyone had finished two bowls of ice cream, with rainbow sprinkles and cinnamon sticks, and Anakin, Amadala, and Aayla had washed every dish in the house, the kids finally started to get settled.
Octy and I changed into our PJs.
“Ready for bed, Grapeling?” I asked Octy.
“I’m ready for bed!” said Aayla.
“I’m not,” said Amadala. She was emptying the trash.
Eventually, we got everyone tucked in. It was a restless night, with tossing and turning and the girls crying out, and Anakin rushing to comfort them. After midnight, in the still hours, I finally fell asleep in a silent house.
In the morning, the girls were playing. I took that as a sign that they woke feeling comfortable and rested.
Anakin seemed to agree.
“Everything’s going to be OK, sis,” he said. “It’s safe here.”
I still didn’t know what was going on. We focused on keeping Anakin and his sisters feeling safe. And I waited for Anakin to reveal more.
In the evening, when he still hadn’t asked anything, I asked him if it was the Kfvico’kyastorr. Had they done something to endanger the family?
“No. I.. I don’t know, ” he said. “I just… I want my dad back, but I don’t want to put him or anyone else in any more danger. I’m sorry maybe I shouldn’t have told you or even come here. I just didn’t know what else to do.”
“Who are Kf…vico ky.. Kyastorr?” Aayla asked. “Did they take Daddy? Are coming to take us away, too?”
I swore before I could stop myself. The Kfvico’kyastorr have that effect on me.
“No, you definitely did the right thing, Anakin,” I said, inside. “We’ll help you figure it out.”
Aloud, I said to Aayla, “The Kfvico’kyastorr are Backwards-Leaders. They’re everything we’re against. Don’t worry, though. The two strongest women I know are fighting them. They’ll keep us safe.”
“Cookie store?” said Octy.
After the kids went to bed, Anakin and I had a chance to talk more. He wanted to find Sapphire and Amber, their former neighbors. I knew about them. He’d told me about them the first time we met at the pool party. Amber came on the ship with us. She wasn’t exactly like us. It sounded like she was one of the refugees. Sapphire was her gotojo.
“I know my dad used to talk to Sapphire about a special forum all the time,” Anakin said.
I felt sure it was the same forum Pops joined to get in touch with the other gotojoto.
“Pops is an admin at that forum,” I said.
“Do you think my dad contacted her before he was taken?” Anakin asked.
“I know one way to find out,” I said. I know Pops’ login, and with that, I can access all the data. I mean, even if it’s not readily available, the admin account gives me a backdoor into the database.
“Do you think the shirjotu is using his account?” Anakin asked. “If he is, we might be able to find out what he’s up to and where they took him.”
It was worth trying. Any information would help.
Anakin and I were pretty well synced internally by now. We’d established a strong connection the first time it met, and now, here in my own house, it just grew stronger.
I could feel his worry. I knew, too, that it wasn’t hopeless. I don’t know how I knew that. Maybe it’s because, deep in my cells, hope abides. Maybe it’s because I was in a position to help.
Before bed, I logged into Pops’ account. I could trace the users’ login activity easily. Sapphire had logged in recently. It would take some digging to find out more, but I was pretty sure, with a little persistence, I’d be able to.
I couldn’t sleep. I gave up on tossing and turning and headed outside to play the keyboard for a while. Music settles my mind, especially when I’m working on puzzles, like how to retrieve encrypted data.
While I was playing, Aayla came out.
“Can’t sleep either, munchkin?” I asked her.
“I heard the music,” she said. “Anakin told me that you sang happy songs to him when he was smaller. Can you sing a song just for me? I want to sing for my daddy when he comes home. Can you teach me how?”
“Think you can hear it if I sing inside?” I asked.
I sang, first inside:
What is home?
Where is home?
An ice cream cone!
“I like to sing like that, inside myself,” I said. “But I can also sing this way!”
And I continued, out loud, a little off-key.
“In your hearts,
In your mind
There you find
“I love that song,” she said, and she continued in a beautiful soprano.
“If you’re here
And I’m here
We don’t fear.
We bring cheer.
When Daddy’s here.
When Daddy’s here.”
Pops was up by now, making breakfast. We went up to see if he needed a hand.
“I love staying here!” Aayla told him. “I want to have a long sleep over with Amadala, Octy, and can we bring Amber? We can read stories and eat ice cream. Like the other children from my school. Can we come visit again? Can we please…?”
“You’d better!” said Pops. “Octy, Sept, and I will be waiting! And I’ll even make brownies.”
Anakin pulled Pops aside as soon as he cleared his plate.
“I couldn’t help but notice you have a rocket,” Anakin whispered, loud enough for me to hear.
“Indeed we do! It’s a gift from the rebels, though Sept and I had to build it. Would you like to see it?”
While they went down to inspect it, I took advantage of the spare moment and hopped back onto the computer to continue my digging.
Pops told me later that Anakin was full of questions: Where did it come from? How did we know how to build it? How long did it take? Does it work? Do we know how to use it? And, if so, how?
Pops said he answered best he could. He told him he’d check with Xirra next time she visited and that maybe should could share an instruction book.
By then, I cracked the encryption, and I rushed out to tell what I’d learned.
Pops was talking about Xirra being a fighter pilot.
“Sorry to interrupt?” I said. “Not sorry!”
They both looked at me.
I dropped the happy bomb. I’d broken into Sapphire’s account. I had her IP address, the time stamp of her last login, which had been yesterday at 5:20 p.m., and her updated street address.
“Oh, wow!” Anakin yelled. For the first time, he smiled a real smile. “Could it really be her? I have to go and make sure they are safe. Or should we send a message? No, no. We’ve got to go now, I need to see them!”
“What’s this?” Pops asked.
“I’ll fill you in later,” I replied, wondering exactly how I should cast my role as a hacker. Honesty, I reminded myself. I don’t like keeping anything from Pops.
“Thank you! Thank you!” Anakin said. “I can’t believe you managed to find them.”
He gathered the girls. We gave them hurried hugs, and then we watched them run off down the road.
“Son,” said Pops, as they turned the corner. “Can you promise me you’ll never leave home?”
Of course, Pops knows that’s a promise I can’t make.
Author’s notes: Thank you to Charliimai for sending Anakin, Aayla, and Amadala our way. They are in the middle of a frightening adventure, and we were so happy to be able to provide a bit of sanctuary. Hop on over to Charliimai’s Sapphire and Amber to read more! Charliimai and I wrote this chapter together, with Charliimai providing the plot and the dialogue for Anakin, Aayla, and Amadala. These Sims were so delightful–even in the midst of danger! Thanks again, Charliimai! This was loads of fun!
Props to For_Eorzea/SMNerd/Vreliskriri for the phrase “Cookie Store!” (This won’t be the last time you hear it!)