Obviously, this owes a great deal (understatement of the century candidate) to George Lucas, and to Michael Stackpole's "X-Wings" and Kevin J. Anderson's "Jedi Academy" series of novels. The kids are mine. So's Stardog... in fact, you can read the whole story here (Stardog's Journey)
No copyright infringement is intended.

Vignette 13: Bedtime Story


Wedge looked up to see his youngest standing in the doorway. He took a quick glance at his wristchrono and was surprised; it wasn’t as late as he’d thought. He smiled at Raq and asked, “So, scout; what do you want?”

“Read me a story.” It was mostly a request, but Wedge smothered a grin at the tone anyhow. Raq was already bossing his sisters, or they were spoiling him. Either way, he got his own way a lot.

“Sure, scout.” Wedge punched save and off on his datapad, stood up, and followed his son. Raq had already gone into the living room and was standing by the big chair. Wedge sat down and smiled at the earnest little boy. “Read you what?” As if I don’t know...

Stardog Journey,” said Raq, proffering the large book just as if he hadn’t asked for the same story for months now. “Please, Daddy?”

“Okay. C’mon,” Wedge took the book and Raq climbed up into his lap, settling into the crook of his arm and touching the raised letters of the title on the front of the book. Wedge opened it to the first page and began reading.

Way far away, long and far beyond the Hinterlands that lie long and far beyond the Outliers, where the galaxy flings the great spiral edge of its trailing Rim into the deep, dark, cold, stark, black emptiness of the interstellar Void, that’s where the Stardogs live.

“Deep dark cold stark,” said Raq, running his finger along the pictured galaxy.

Of course, they aren’t exactly dogs, and they certainly aren’t stars, and they don’t quite live, but Stardogs they’re called and Stardogs they are, and that’s where you can find them, if they want to be found. Now some of them are blue, and some are white, and some are yellow, and some, those who are very very old, are a deep dark hot sullen fiery red.

Now this particular Stardog had a great-grandfather who was almost older than Time, and very dark and glowing red. But she herself was blue, so bright she was almost white, and like all bright, fierce, shining things, she was very lambently flickeringly alive, always dancing in ever-changing circles around her slow, sullen great-grandfather and making him dizzy.

“There he’s dizzy,” said Raq, pointing at the picture.

“Yes,” said Wedge, “very dizzy.” He turned the page.

One fine day ... well, it wasn’t exactly a day, of course, because there aren’t any days in the place where the Stardogs dance, the place where the stars spray out against the emptiness just so and the galaxy leans just there, but it was once in the starry night that never ends, oh, one time this Stardog danced so quickly and so brightly that her great-grandfather said to her:

Raq joined in, “Go away; you are making me so tired I shall go out of the dance altogether if you bother me any more. Go away, silly Stardog, and leave me alone.” He put his finger on the pale blue picture and added, “Silly Stardog is going all pale.” He turned the page himself, tucking its corner under Wedge’s thumb.

Now this wasn’t the first or even the hundredth and first time that her great-grandfather had said that to her. Usually she went and hid herself in the blue and white and black dust of the nebular cloud that was on the other side of the comets’ running place. All the dust hid her brightness and her old, dark great-grandfather couldn’t see her, and soon, oh usually very soon, he’d be calling her name until she sprang out of the nebula and laughed and laughed.

But this time, Wedge turned the page, oh, this time, Stardog decided to do just what her great-grandfather had said and go away. ‘I’ll go far away,’ she said, ‘and I’ll see all the Galaxy, all the way to the leading edge, and I won’t come back till I choose. And then he’ll be sorry.’

“Stardog be sorry,” said Raq.

“You know the end?” Wedge said. “I guess we don’t have to finish...”

“Read it, Daddy!”

Wedge smiled and turned the page.

So Stardog turned her back on the great empty Void and danced towards the hot, bright, star-filled galactic Core. She danced here and she danced there, and she danced wherever she felt like dancing, because that’s what Stardogs do. And they never, never, never dance in a straight line, because the stars curve space and Stardogs like to slide on the curves. So Stardog danced and danced and danced some more, and she didn’t think about her great-great-grandfather, oh, not for a long, long time. And she didn’t pay much attention to where she was going, because, after all, Stardogs can always find their way back home, back to where the stars spray out against the emptiness just so and the galaxy leans just there.

Wedge turned the page again, and Raq made a little happy sound at his favorite picture in the whole book. But Stardog had never ever in all her young but so-long life been away from the spinning galaxy’s great spattery scattery Rim. And she didn’t realize that Coreward the stars were smeary and bleary, thick in the sky, filling all the six directions at once. Stars were over her head and under her feet, and stars were before her and behind her, and stars were to her left and to her right. In fact, there were stars everywhere she looked; nowhere was there the slashy splashy black of the Void beyond the Rim. Only stars, and although they were very, very beautiful.....

Stardog was lost.

“Lost,” echoed Raq a little sleepily

Oh yes, for certain Stardog was lost in the stars and she didn’t know how to get back to the place on the sweet scattery Rim where the other Stardogs were dancing without her. And so she sat down on a great planet's little moon and cried.

Usually Raq said ‘poor Stardog’ at this point in the story, but he was quiet. Wedge glanced at him; he wasn’t asleep, but he was almost there. Wedge knew better than to stop reading, though; that would wake his son up faster than anything else. Raq always insisted on the whole story, you couldn’t even skip words with him, let alone pages. But he lowered his voice and rubbed Raq’s stomach gently as he continued reading.

But even a Stardog can’t cry forever, so in a while she stopped. And then she looked around her, to all six directions, over her head and under her feet, before her and behind her, to her left and to her right. And then she said, ‘Well. I could stay here forever, I guess, but that wouldn’t be any fun. There isn’t anybody to dance with and there isn’t anybody to talk with and there isn’t anybody to play with.’ And after another while she added, ‘And there isn’t my old red great-great-grandfather, either...’

So she looked all around her again, and then she stood up and she said, ‘I must go home.’ And she closed her eyes and spun herself, as only a Stardog can spin, around and around and around, in all six directions and the places in between those directions. And as she spun, she sang the old, oldest Stardog song: ‘Round and round and round she goes and where she stops, oh, oh! nobody knows.’ And when she had sung it six times, once for each of the six galactic directions, for Above and Below, for Coreward and Rimward, for Spinward and Trailing, she stopped. And then she took a deep breath, although it wasn’t exactly a breath because Stardogs don’t exactly breathe, and followed her nose.

Wedge felt Raq slipping to off to sleep against him as he read. Stardog’s journey home took her through many places, all wonderfully illustrated, and he’d have felt sorry for his son if he didn’t know the boy had all the pictures memorized. Booster had brought Stardog’s Journey (actually had brought two copies; “one for the boy to chew on,” he’d said) out of the Sector, Wedge hadn’t asked how, and given them to his own advocatory child at his son’s presentation party. Wedge had immediately flashed back to his own childhood; while he certainly hadn’t asked for it for months in a row, Stardog’s Journey had been one of his favorites. He remembered Grey reading it to him, and naming each and every single item in the elaborate drawings, just as he had for Raq, remembering most of them from Grey.

As he turned the page he felt the chair move a little and then Selessy’s thin arms came around his neck and her sharp little chin pressed against his head for a moment before she turned to rest her cheek there instead. He knew it was Selessy without looking, because although at still-7 she was almost exactly as tall as Betharyn, that one, at 10, had suddenly decided she was too old, if not for embraces then certainly for listening to ‘baby stories’. That was a problem his parents hadn’t had, children who were too far apart in age to like the same things, he reflected. It wasn’t a problem he’d had, for that matter, no reason to think the things he liked were baby things... Wedge, who’d still been reading books with his parents until they died, felt vaguely sorry for Daro and Betha.

Before Selessy could overbalance the chair and wake Raq, Wedge reached back and took a handful of her shirt and pulled her into his lap on the other side from the boy. She nestled against his side and whispered loudly, “Raq’s asleep already, Daddy; start over.”

“Am not,” said Raq affrontedly, and then added in a kind tone, “S’lessy missed start. You can read again, Daddy.”

“I’m sure,” he said. “Selessy’s heard it before, scout. No need to start over.”

“Please, Daddy,” she said, looking at him with melting eyes as green as Varra Gus. Qwi said not to spoil her by giving in all the time, but Wedge couldn’t help it. “Raq doesn’t mind,” she added.

And Raq said, “Way far away, long and far beyond the Hinterlands. Read again, for S’lessy.”

“Why do I get the impression that this is a conspiracy?” Wedge demanded.

Raq shrugged. “Read again,” he said. Selessy was already reaching to turn the pages back to the beginning.

Wedge sighed ruefully. So much for The Conqueror of Coruscant... He started to read: Way far away, long and far beyond the Hinterlands that lie long and far beyond the Outliers, where the galaxy flings the great spiral edge of its trailing Rim into the deep, dark, cold, stark, black emptiness of the interstellar Void, that’s where the Stardogs live...

By the time he reached the last page, where Stardog saw before her the stars spray out against the emptiness just so and the galaxy lean just there, in the wonderful slashy splashy black of the Void beyond the sweet, scattery Rim, and the great grey-white dusty, blue-black musty cloud of her very own nebula, and wild bright hairy comets running ever so fast, and best of all her own great-grandfather, all dark and fiery and glowing and hot and calling her, just as she had known he would be, both children were asleep.

The End


Original Fantasy:
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