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06.28.2012 , 10:08 AM | #162
98. In which Nalenne and Quinn go to Belsavis (VI/VII)

This entry and seven-part series contains spoilers for the Sith Inquisitor Belsavis line. Overall class arc significance has been omitted.

Rakatans are commonly known
For screwing each ‘slave race’ they ‘own.’
Their old machinations
Doomed species and nations;
Now each struggles onward alone.

Nalenne and Quinn followed Niselle’s directions into the depths of the old Rakatan prison on Belsavis, well beyond where Republic or Empire had ever established operations.

Niselle’s recommended route ran through every possible frenzied riot on the way. That was intentional, Nalenne was sure of it.

But in time they reached a high cliff wall with a narrow fissure in it. Within moments of stepping in, the cave resolved itself into a smooth square stone tunnel. Unfamiliar runes ran along the wall.

“So what are the odds this AI kills us on sight?” said Nalenne.

“Based on previous patterns, a ninety-three per cent chance that it will try, my lord.”

“Well, here’s hoping there’s enough of it left to help you after.”

“Try negotiating first. Please.”

They rounded a corner into a great hall, dimly illuminated by bluish lights here and there. A raised circle of stone stood in the middle. The edges of both the room and the circle were lined with computer terminals.

“My lord. A moment,” said Quinn.

“Hmm? What is it?”

“There remains…a great deal that’s better left unsaid. But...I am not unaware of what you have risked and what you have done for me.”

She turned her attention away from the room’s machinery and fully to Quinn. “It was nothing,” she told him.

“You always think that. It’s what makes you so dangerous when someone you care for is threatened.”

“And, see, that’s the look I would burn half the galaxy to earn.”

“Don’t!” He straightened up a little more. “I never know when you’re being serious.”

“I would grab a torch right now if I thought it would help. But for you, I’ll behave.”

He shook his head. “It’s like turning an earthquake on and off. Every now and then you do listen to me.”

“Of course I listen. You’re one of mine.”

He considered her for a long moment. “Nalenne, there is a great deal that’s better left unsaid. But I do love you. And have, and will.”

That feels…weirder than expected. “Yeah,” she said, once her voice started working again. “Yeah, I figured.”

“I am grateful you didn’t force the issue in front of your sister.”

“Like I would give her the satisfaction. You know she would turn any declaration of love into something horrible just for fun.”

“I agree, but, ah, you declared it anyway.”

Nalenne grinned sheepishly. “Yeah, well. I was excited.” She turned toward the consoles at the great raised circle. “Now let’s fix this.” And with that, she picked a button at random and pressed it.

“…why that one, my lord?”

“You don’t want to know.”

Judging by the sudden wave of disapproval, Nalenne guessed that Quinn understood her reasoning.

“I guess I should say now, just in case this thing goes berserk and kills us both, that I love you, too.”

Other buttons around the circle flickered and lit up. And then a holo image formed above the circle. Heck of an old holoterminal. I gotta get me one of these.

The image that showed up flickered through multiple species before resolving into a Rakata. “Child. I am Ashaa,” it said in a gentle feminine voice.

“Nalenne, sister of Niselle. You remember her?”

“How could we forget? It was Niselle’s kindness that loosed us from our restraining bonds.”

“Did you just put ‘Niselle’ and ‘kindness’ in the same sentence?”

“Something is wrong here,” muttered Quinn.

Ashaa smiled beatifically. “She called to tell me of your coming. You need my help?”

“Yes, uh.” Nalenne dug out her sample case. “You see this guy here, and how noncorporeal he is. I was wondering…if you could take Niselle apart piece by piece and put her back together, and you could generate your own species apparently from scratch or at least just from DNA, can you reassemble him?”

Ashaa considered. “Perhaps. We will require the sample you carry, and to save the pattern for our own research.”

“Save anything you want.”

Quinn shifted ever so slightly. “Is that…wise, my lord?”

“At worse she uses it to construct a super race of genius tacticians for her own inscrutable purposes. What could go wrong?”

“I don’t think I need to answer that.”

Nalenne turned back to the hologram. “Just like that? Take DNA and a ghost nobody can figure out, and you can just…?”

“I am a powerful program, child. And creating life from incomplete beginnings is what I was made to do.” She looked to Quinn. “Please, child. To the chamber at the top of those stairs.”

Nalenne placed her sample case in a recess that had lit up a couple of consoles over, then ordered herself to hold back. Quinn looked to her, nodded once in his best stoic-soldier way, then climbed a steep staircase to a chamber no larger than a stasis cell.

“This will probably work,” said Ashaa, and thrust her hand forward, shooting an impossibly strong arc of lightning to a contact at the top of the chamber.

Nalenne’s stomach dropped. “Probably?”

The storm scorched the air, shook the floor, flashed a blinding white, and lowered a coruscating column to hit Quinn. It actually seemed to hit him, as in interact, as in inflict pain.

“UPON CAREFUL CONSIDERATION, I WANT YOU TO STOP DOING THAT.” Nalenne squeezed her fists, hard, and watched. Quinn fell to his knees, then hands. Still the lightning spat and streamed.

The instant the storm subsided, Nalenne sprinted to his side and knelt. She reached for him and found solid flesh. She hoped it was flesh. Any other material could get really gross, really fast.

Quinn coughed and struggled to breathe. Nalenne resisted the urge to pull him close; disrupting the first few breaths he had taken in a year was probably a bad idea. Instead she looked over to Ashaa’s projection. “I owe you,” she said. “A lot.” Probably, assuming this isn’t one huge mass of cancer or something.

The figure smiled. “A mother gives to her children without thought for reward. There is nothing you have that I need. And really, do I look like I have anything better to do with my time?”

“Wow. I won’t argue.”

“Good. Still, one-time deal. It was a toss-up between helping you and throwing you into the Esh-kha arena for some blood sport, I never did like your species. You’re lucky your sister called ahead.”
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