Whenever Daala entered the communal areas of the prison, she was followed by a guard droid that monitored her constantly. It was an irritating presence, but it meant she had no fears for her safety. If anything were to happen to her while she was in custody, it would instantly throw suspicion on the new Jedi-led government. Even if she were to insult the leader of some prison gang and get beaten up through her own stupidity, it would be an embarrassment to the administration.
The former chief of state entered the common room. She approached the machine to grab a drink, but noticed a human inmate sat by the drinks machine. Like Daala, she was dressed in a yellow prison jumpsuit and sandals. She had her head buried in her hands and was sobbing.
Years of military life had taught Daala to keep her emotions in check and to always present a stiff upper lip. Yet going into politics had taught her the need to be approachable and to present a human face. The admiral supposed she ought to say something to the young woman.
Daala tapped her shoulder.
"Are you alright?" she asked, feeling a little awkward.
The young woman looked up at Daala. Despite her red eyes and washed out look, she was a pretty girl, in her early twenties. Her long blonde hair fell about her face in tangles.
Caught up in her grief, she registered no surprise at being addressed by the former chief of state.
"I just called my sister," said the girl. "She told me my boyfriend just moved in with another girl!" The inmate then burst into another round of sobs and fell into Daala's arms.
Daala held the girl in her arms, gently caressing her. The poor thing was only a year or so older than her own daughter, a student at the Imperial University.
The former chief of state had never been in the habit of hugging and cuddling people, but in the recent flood on Ragoon IV she had spent time comforting distressed victims. All of the holonews channels had broadcast a vid of Daala hugging a woman who had lost her husband and children. That image had worked wonders for her poll ratings.
"Men can be bastards unfortunately," said Daala.
The girl seemed to calm down. After she had stopped sobbing, it dawned on her who she was with.
"You're Daala- the chief of state!" she exclaimed.
"Yes, I am Admiral Daala," replied the former chief of state. "And what is your name?"
"I'm Selmia," said the girl.
Daala poured Selmia an hot drink and took one for herself. The two women then sat down.
"Had you been with your boyfriend for a long time?" asked Daala.
"About three years. It's been sort of on and off. He can be really mean, but he's a death stick dealer and into dodgy stuff, so that's no surprise. But he does give me my gear for free."
Daala raised her eyebrow at the mention of drugs.
"By the sound of it, you are probably better off without him," suggested the admiral.
"I don't know. I'll miss him though. I can't believe I ended up in here and he didn't," said Selmia.
"Are you in here for possession?" asked Daala.
"No. I stole a credit card and bought a load of stuff," replied Selmia. "I'm sure Jarvin will go down eventually."
"No doubt," said Daala. "Did you not have a job?"
"I was working at a waitress about a year ago, but I got fired. I was using quite a lot then and I kept turning up late," said the younger woman.
No doubt this woman was from the lower depths of the Coruscant overcity. The lower levels were rife with crime, disorder and social breakdown. So much for all the money Daala had invested in policing.
"I'm sure you won't be in here for long," said Daala. "When you get out you can always try to get another job."
"Who's going to give me a job with a criminal record?" exclaimed Selmia. "It's hard enough getting one without it!"
The girl really needed a more positive attitude, Daala thought to herself.
"My grandfather was unemployed when my planet got hit by a great depression. He didn't moan and complain; he got on his hovercycle and rode it until he found a job," said Daala proudly.
"I haven't got a hovercyle. My sister had one, but she sold it to pay off some debts," replied Selmia.
This really wasn't helping. Daala was vaguely aware that the government spent some money on helping people like Selmia. She was not quite sure exactly how; it was hardly one of her main concerns.
"Aren't there places you can go for help, for your drug problems, that is?" asked Daala.
"Yeah, there was this place I went last year. They got me to come to some group for users. I found it a bit depressing, hearing about other people's problems. I only went for a couple of weeks," said Selmia.
"It doesn't sound like you gave it much of a chance. Sometimes you need to stick with things," suggested the former chief of state.
"I wanted them to get me a detox. But they said it could be months before I could have one," said Selmia. "I couldn't wait that long."
Daala made a mental note to review her policies on drugs once she seized back control of the Galactic Alliance. That would have to wait, however.
"It seems to me that you need a more positive outlook. You need to recognise your strengths and assets," said Daala. She wondered exactly what assets the young woman had, but supposed she must be good at something. "You have to believe in yourself. We need to work on getting you some confidence."
"Believe in myself? I was rubbish at school. I used death sticks for years. I can't get a job. Social services took my baby away and now I'm in jail! How am I supposed to believe in myself?"
Daala was really not sure what to say. She was not a counsellor. If it had been a question about her politics, she could have given a quick-witted answer, but confronted with the magnitude of this woman's problems, she could think of little to say.
"It's alright for you, you're chief of state. You're rich and people respect you. It's a lot harder when you have nothing!" wailed Selmia, bursting into tears as she spoke.
Daala laid a hand softly on the woman's shoulder.
"I haven't had it as easy as you might think, Selmia," said Daala softly. "I've fought in wars and I've lost a lot of people close to me. But I know I'll never understand the things you've gone through. But there is something to feel positive about."
"What's that?" asked Selmia glumly.
"You can always sell your story to the news people once you get out of jail. I'm sure they would pay to hear about your half hour with the chief of state in jail."
"You wouldn't mind me doing that?" asked Selmia, her eyes widening.
"I'm sure you would report me fairly," said Daala with a smile.
No doubt the media would twist the story. Selmia would probably be pressured into making up stuff. But Daala did not care. Enough people had told lies about her. What did it matter if some petty thief and drug addict told a lurid story about her? The girl would probably spend the money on death sticks, but that was her choice. She couldn't claim she didn't have a chance.