taxi and get to the spaceport before her absence was noted.

Without looking back, she sped off into the night.

When she reached town, she located a line of automated aircar taxis parked outside an open-air eatery filled with young people. A Rodian chef manned the central grill, his arms a whirl of cleavers and knives. The smell of roasted meat, smoke, and a spice she could not place filled the air. Music blared from speakers, the bass causing the ground to vibrate. She kept her hood drawn over her face and hopped into the first taxi in line. The anthropomorphic droid driver put an elbow on the seat and turned to face her. It wore a ridiculous cloth hat designed to make it look more human. Given her own fragile emotions, Aryn was pleased to have a droid driver. Droids were voids to her empathic sense.

Destination, please.

The Eeseen spaceport, she answered.

Very good, mistress, it said.

The door of the taxi closed, the engine started, and the car climbed into the air. The town fell away underneath them.

The droids social programming kicked in, and it tried to make small talk designed to put a passenger at ease. Are you from Alderaan, mistress?

No, Aryn said.

Ah, then may I recommend that you try

I have no need for conversation, she said. Please drive in silence.

Yes, mistress.

Once the taxi took position at commercial altitude and fell into a lane, the droid accelerated the taxi to a few hundred kilometers per hour. Theyd make the spaceport in half an hour. She considered powering on the in-car vidscreen but decided against it. Instead, she looked out the window at other traffic, at the dark Alderaanian terrain.

Spaceport ahead, mistress, said the droid.

Below and ahead, the Eeseen spaceportone of many on Alderaancame

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