I loved her from the moment I saw her. Peering over the rooftop’s edge down at her in the market’s courtyard, her small figure facing off determinedly against a pair of attackers. Their loud voices interrupting my clandestine studying, the boys’ jeering and angry shouts pulling me from my arcane world on the roof of the abandoned shop.
I stowed my recently liberated book in it’s hiding place with the others; quite a collection I’d amassed over the last year, stolen from various stalls and schools around the spaceport. I reasoned I wouldn’t have to steal them if my worthless father would pay for tuition instead of drinking his meager wages away, chasing the memory of my once beautiful but long dead mother.
I hadn’t seen her around before, she was Zabrak, like me, but from her clothing and weapon I assumed she was one of the wealthy youths that came to the port to shop or cause trouble. There was a large Zabrak community here for such a small port city, but rarely did I encounter them. Most of them worked in some official capacity for the government and lived in their walled, secure enclave. My father and his low status ensured we never rubbed elbows with the well connected. The private Academies were filled with Zabrak students, but I’d never even been to the grounds. All of my knowledge and fighting skills (meager as they were) came from the dusty streets.
She wasn’t much older than I, but her skill with a sword was light years beyond mine. Deftly blocking the charging knife wielded by the first boy, before spinning to strike the wrist of the second, the blow making a satisfying crack of training sword on bone. The second boy cried out. Dropping his sword he bolted aside, cowering behind empty crates. I could feel her energy, her rage and satisfaction at having caused his pain. Whirling back to face off with the first boy, she advanced on him quickly, slashing her sword with determined fury. He was stronger than his friend, and although every blow she landed stung, he knew she wasn’t strong enough to break bone. He need only tire her out. So the blows came; parried, then countered and within minutes her heavy sword wavered slightly in her hands, her steps came a little slower, his blade slicing the air closer and closer to her as he lunged.
I recall several things of the next moments, some likely tricks of memory, others closer to reality, but the certain thing, was that Apocryphant and I became aware of each other; we were connected through the Force. She was pressing her attack on the first boy, he was moving around, making her chase him with her heavy training sword. She was holding it with both hands now, her blows losing the grace they’d had at the outset. I was riveted, watching her from my perched vantage point, admiring her tenacity nearly as much as her raw skill. I was close enough to hear the growls and insults thrown back and forth, but far enough removed that I was unseen and afforded an excellent view of the field of combat. It was a flicker of light that drew my eye from her face and to a point some meters behind her; the second boy. He had found his feet and a knife; all he needed now was an opportunity.
Her next three steps brought her almost to him and he rushed out from his hiding spot among the empty stacked crates, blade at the ready. The moment seemed to stretch out, as they often do with the Force. Time slows to see a single moment in all it’s complexity and dimensions. The boys’ intent clear, the purity of their blood lust, the anger and passion as bright as the gleaming blades they carried; and then I felt her. Like a whip-crack inside my skull, Apocryphant there in that moment, I knew her mind and she mine. In that brief heartbeat the entire exercise, this fight was slowed, analyzed, sped up and the tumult of emotions… coalesced into a single point that seemed to fill me. I understood that whatever it was I felt she could feel it too.
Sensing the emotions and intent of others was nothing new, it’s how I was such an accomplished thief, and how, despite being small for my age and a female I kept from being a target for the violence of others. I always knew when to be invisible when my father was looking for an outlet for his drunken anger or when a stranger thought to harm me. I had never though, found another with this ability, let alone one who seemed open to share her mind with me. She was tenacious and unafraid and everything I’d ever aspired to be.
She knew the second boy had a knife, her flagging sword, her sloppy stance… a ruse. She faltered a step, went to one knee and when the boys converged on her I heard her in her/my/our mind. “Push”. A simple word; a command. Somehow I understood. I wasn’t aware I’d been holding my breath, but I felt it leave my lungs as I felt the wave of energy leave me, an electric sensation tearing across my skin. I pushed. The boys flew backward, flailing and cursing, away from her, crashing into rusted metal drums and crates loudly. Their anger morphing into confusion and pain. Scrambling to their feet they fled as quickly as they could, abandoning their possessions.
The tie of our connection lessened but still almost palpable, she turned and looked up to the spot on the roof where I was now standing upright, met my gaze and grinned.
“You should come down here little sister” she called.
Her face split into a wide toothy grin as she held up a pouched belt, taken from her attacker, “because now we have lunch!”