4 BBY – Chandrila – With the close call on Coruscant behind them, Qardin, Arya and Tuk Tuk make their way to Chandrila aboard the Kestrel. Upon arriving in system, the ship is cleared to dock at the massive Hanna City Spaceport. Qardin takes care of immediate business and leaves Arya to tend to the ship. A while later, Qardin returns and together they venture out to explore the gleaming spires and districts of Hanna City, Chandrila’s capitol.
Arya needs some supplies to practice her craft, so they wander over to one of the major markets near the spaceport. Given the scale of trade associated with the port, she finds a wide range of materials that rarely surface on Eshan and, with a bit of financial assistance from Garden, stocks up on fabrics and armor-making supplies. They return to the Kestrel with their market finds and pack everything away. Arya finds the whole experience quite relaxing after the meat run.
With items stowed, she finds Qardin in the cockpit and engages in idle chit-chat. Tuk Tuk wanders in and tries to grab Qardin’s attention. He’s distant and clearly thinking about other things. Arya finds that he is more serious — maybe even concerned — than usual. He eventually shares with her that in his line of work, he never arrives in port without another destination planned. She learns that there isn’t something “next” — finding another paying trip is at the top of his mind. Seeing that Qardin needs some space to think, she returns to her cabin to rest. A while later, Qardin calls out from the cockpit that they have somewhere to be.
The two of them step out once again into Hanna City and he leads her to a different district that’s much older, but just as diverse as the spaceport and market. Eventually they find a very old building that appears to be made of many layers. “What is this place?” asks Arya.
“The Gather-House,” replies Qardin. He leads her through a narrow entrance and navigates the maze of passages. Eventually, they arrive at a guarded blast door that is deep within the complex. He presents what appears to be an invitation to the doorkeeper, who turns to Arya. Without missing a beat, Qardin interjects “Arya is my compeer.”
The doorkeeper turns to Qardin and says nothing. Arya readies herself for the worst but Qardin seems calm. His subtle movements don’t project any kind of defense being readied. Curious.
The doorkeeper glances toward something in the passage behind them and gives a nod. Beneath her cloak, Arya slips her fingers into the vibroknucklers. Then, quite abruptly, the old blast door unlatches with a distinctive hiss and slides open. Qardin gives a knowing nod to the doorkeeper and the duo proceed into a hazy, dimly lit antechamber. On the wall opposite from the blast door is wide archway that leads into a much larger and brightly lit space. The light from the archway and stillness of the antechamber are interrupted by shadows of people moving about the room beyond and the sound of many conversations from within.
Qardin isn’t into small talk. He leads Arya through the clustered crowd and offers a distant acknowledgement here and there to people who clearly recognize him. The venue is arranged in a round with seats facing a central circular platform. Unsurprisingly, he finds a place to sit fairly far back from the middle of the room. Minutes later, a person steps onto the platform and asks that everyone take their seats. The crowd disperses into the rings as the meeting formally convenes. Arya scans the space and notes that those who are assembled appear to be persons of status — most likely diplomats and commanders. This is very different from where Qardin took me before — these people are leaders, not merely fighters or smugglers, she thinks to herself.
From the frontmost row immediately ahead of Arya, a woman with short hair and a long white robe stands and steps onto the platform. She greets the assembled people, turning to scan the entire space with the smooth grace of a seasoned negotiator and diplomat. When her face comes into view, Arya immediately recognizes her as none other than Senator Mon Mothma of Chandrila.
Mon Mothma begins the session by expressing her concerns about the rise of Imperial rule through the galaxy. Debate quickly begins as the assembled introduce and challenge ideas on what to do about the ongoing suppression of rights and oppression of the galaxy’s citizens, the rule of one law verses the will of the people, and exploitation of worlds for Imperial gain. Since she’s not a scholar of the political arts, Arya intently studies the speakers to read their subtle movements to reveal the physical tells behind expressed meaning and intent. Here I am in the middle of an Alliance gathering. If there were blades, this would be an interesting battle, she silently muses.
While nothing was set in motion by the end of the night, Arya recognizes that cells of tinder have been scattered across many worlds and it is only a matter of time before a spark ignites each and every one. Under her breath as the capstone speaker ends his plea and polite applause fills the room, Arya whispers to herself, “Am I in this now?”
“Come. I need to find work and you need to meet some people,” says Qardin as if on cue, standing immediately after formalities end. After hopping from one cluster of people to another, Qardin introduces Arya to a group of Alliance quartermasters who take a keen interest in her skills as an armorer. As she did before, Arya shows them the finer aspects of her craft stitched into her own attire. Qardin begins to distance himself from the conversation, spots a small group of people who might be need of this assistance, and takes his leave.
With Qardin gone, the group focuses on the finer points of quality armor design and the deficiencies found in mass-produced Imperial wares. The conversation slowly shifts and it becomes clear to her that they’re gauging her interest in becoming an educator of armorsmiths rather than becoming a craftsperson for the Alliance. Intrigued but a little out of her depth (I am no teacher), she collects some information, thanks the group, and catches up with Qardin, who seems to have made a deal.