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(L,F&E 63) Memories of Darkness


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kalenath
07.04.2012 , 07:20 AM | #1
<Coruscant undercity>

Istara Sharlina Andal, warrior of the Bladeborn stood in the rain alone with her head bowed. She had missed Setsuna yet again, probably by no more than an hour. By the time she had reached this area, the excitement had settled down a bit. The swath of destruction left by a rampaging droid was easy to follow. The comments of several of the onlookers had also been easy to parse. They had been sure that a girl who had a scarf across her face most of the time had been an integral part of what had happened. Istara had listened to some of the talk about how the girl had saved lives in the middle of a fight.

Ah Setie… always the brave one… I have to find you before it is too late…

She walked along the path of destruction and stiffened as she saw something. A building in the distance. A shattered building. She shook her head slowly as she recognized it. The Jedi temple, fallen down and left to rot. Before she knew what she was doing she was walking towards it. Then she stiffened further as she saw something else, something half hidden by a building.

A monument. It was covered in names, all with the same date. She knew that date, it was burned into her brain. She stared at it for a long moment. And then, in a graceful move, she knelt before it, her head bowed. Some of the names on it doubtless were her doing. It had been… a bad day… For a moment, she was lost in memory.


<The past, Coruscant, during the Sacking>


Sharlina walked. She was sickened by this. It was just… She didn’t mind the fighting, the screaming, the utter carnage… but… Something about this just was not her. When the Sith High Command had declared Coruscant the next target, she had rejoiced. Finally a chance to attack; to hurt the Republic. But… She had landed in the third wave of troops and had immediately been drawn into fights. The residents of the planet’s overwhelming cities fought hard, and in some cases well, but… They were overwhelmed. The few troops that were stationed on the planet put up a heck of a fight, but she was nowhere near any of those. And now, she could hear the screaming, the laughter, the… She shook her head. The conscripts had taken the sector, now they were…indulging themselves. This was no place for her.

She could see their faces, the dead that haunted her. She could see their eyes, all staring at her. Judging her. She could...



<The present>


Istara came back to herself and sighed deeply. Regret was a powerful thing. A very powerful thing. She couldn’t undo what she had done so long ago, but she could learn from it, and hopefully… A warning rang out through Ashla and she dove to the side. The shot that would have taken her head off, instead plowed a hole in the ground near the memorial. She dodged into cover and snarled silently as a set of shadows detached from a building nearby. None carried ranged weapons, so the sniper was still hiding out there somewhere. The group carried a motley assortment of clubs, swords and shocksticks. Probably an undercity gang from the looks of them, several humans, a Rodian, an Aqualish…. She shook her head and spoke loudly enough to be heard.

"Idiots..." Istara’s voice boomed though the area that had suddenly become devoid of other sentient life with the shot. “This is a mistake.”

A voice answered her from far away. “You are worth a lot, Sharlina, drop the sword.”

Istara shook her head, trying to pinpoint the source of the voice. The group of gangers had stopped when she had spoken, but now they were converging on where she was concealed. She grinned and threw her voice. The Force was great for such things.

“You idiots really think you can take me? Go home before you get hurt fools.” She snapped. Sure enough, the gang started moving towards where the new sounds had come from. Maybe…

"No!" Another voice spoke sharply from closer than the first but still hidden. “She is using a mind trick, she hasn’t moved! Get her!” It sounded male and young.

"Okay. The hard way." Istara sighed and then stood up out of her cover as the gang converged on her again. They all froze in place as she appeared. When she spoke it was sour. “I see gangs haven’t changed. The peons get slaughtered and the leaders get the riches. Oh well…” She danced to the side again as another shot came in, and then the gang was on her.

It was a very unfair fight. There were twelve gang members, seven humans, the Rodian, a Bothan with sad eyes, a scrawny Trandoshan and the Aqualish. Istara didn’t bother to draw her sword. She didn’t want to kill any of these. The Aqualish went down first to a fist strike that only looked gentle and she appropriated his shockstick. One of them connected to her side with a club and then she was dancing though their midst. Ashla flowed in her and she was moving at full speed while they all seemed to move with glacial slowness. She reached out with great precision to tap each form in the middle of their chests with the shock stick, and then danced away as they fell. It could have been an hour later, but was probably less than a minute, she caught the last unconscious form and tears were falling as she laid the Bothan gently onto the pavement. She threw the shockstick away as if disgusted by it and turned to go.

She stopped as she saw another being standing nearby. The boy held an old blaster carbine, but the aim point didn’t waver from Istara’s head. He couldn’t have been more than fifteen. Istara sighed from what she sensed in the boy, a rage as deep as hers had been, once.

“Revenge is a poison, child." She said slowly. "Do not let it cloud your mind completely.” The boy snarled at her and opened fire. Istara deflected some of the shots, careful to keep the deflected fire from harming any of the unconscious forms that littered the ground. Then she was on him. He cried out as his weapon was torn from his grasp, but her hands were gentle as she held him at arm’s reach. He struck out wildly, but couldn’t reach her; his arms were not long enough. Istara sighed. “Who did you lose boy?”

"You!" He snarled at her. “I didn’t lose them, you killed them!”

"Did I?" Istara shook her head. “When?”

"You...!" The boy spit at her and missed. “You know when! You killed them! You were here! A Sith!”

"Maybe I did and maybe I didn't." Istara slumped. She had thought as much. A survivor… “No, I don't think I did. A Sith killed them? How did you survive?” Istara’s voice was gentle and the boy stared at her.

"You did it!" He snarled at her again and a small crowd was gathering. “You killed them, you knocked me out. She was one of them! She is a Sith.” He called to the crowd. A mutter went through the crowd. But it remained silent. A bad sign. Istara kept one eye on it.

Istara shook her head slowly. “Your family was here?” He snarled but nodded. Istara sighed. “I was here, but… not here.” She let go with her left hand and pointed at the ground. “The closest I got to the Temple was fifty kilometers from here. I was tasked to hit a Republic base on the other side of the planet. Someone told you I was here? Who?”

Another voice came from the shadows nearby. “That would be me.”

Istara stiffened as a form exited the shadows and approached slowly, an armored form. Bounty hunter by the look of him and good, she hadn’t had any idea the guy was there. She sighed as the boy tried to strike her again. She hit him with a careful nerve strike that would keep him out of the way for a while. He went down in a boneless heap, but Istara’s focus was on the hunter.

"Bounty hunter." Her voice turned cold. “You use children as bait. That is despicable.”

"So?" The hunter chuckled evilly. “What better way to catch a Bladeborn? You people are so predictable.”

"Maybe." Istara sighed. “Being predictable does not equate to being easy to take down. I did not kill this boy’s family. Were you going to tell him that?” She asked quietly as she moved slowly, both to shift away from where the boy lay moaning and to see how the hunter reacted.

The hunter turned smoothly in place, his blaster rifle tracking her. “Why would I? He served his purpose, flushing you out.”

"I see." Istara nodded slowly again. She had reached a clear spot, her hand was on her sword hilt now. “Now you try and kill me I assume.”

The hunter snorted. “Try…?” He was in motion and so was Istara. Her sword was out now and his rifle spat death at her as she charged.

This fight was far more even than the last. While the bounty hunter was likely no match for her in close combat, he obviously knew it. Every time Istara managed to get close, he would use his jetpack to gain distance. It was annoying. So she focused on deflecting what he threw, shot and hurled at her. Eventually, he would have to run out of projectiles or get…

She missed something and convulsed as the dart hit her, temporarily scrambling her nervous system. She ducked away from a blast that would have taken her in the head. This guy liked head shots. Then she was flying as something grabbed her around the upper arm and pulled her into the air. She called upon Ashla, but before she could use any powers, something else slammed into her and darkness claimed her.

<An indeterminate time later>

Istara hurt when she woke, and couldn’t move. She cracked her eyes open and sighed quietly as she found herself trussed up in some kind of sticky cocoon. Her blade was in it with her, but she had no leverage to move it at all. An angry voice came to her ears.

“You said I could kill her!” The boy’s voice pulled Istara’s eyes to where he stood. He looked a bit shaky still from her punch, so she couldn’t have been out long.

“I lied.” Came the cold voice of the bounty hunter. “Take you money and go, brat. You were good bait, no more than that.” Istara tried to talk, but something was in her mouth. She tried to summon Ashla, but it wouldn’t answer her. She could only watch in horror as the boy’s face turned red.

“You…!” The boy raised his blaster, but then stopped. The sound of a blaster rang out across the area and the boy looked first at the hunter and then down at the smoking hole in his chest. Istara could only watch as the boy fell, a dumbfounded expression on his face. An expression that faded in a way Istara knew only too well. Death.

"Well..." The hunter chuckled sourly and bent down to the corpse. “Guess I didn’t need to pay you after all.”

A shout came from beyond Istara’s range of vision. “He shot Kuil, get him!

The hunter snarled, but then ducked as fire came seeking him. Blaster fire, slugthrower fire, lots of fire. The hunter ducked behind cover and started firing back. Istara struggled with her bonds, but whatever was holding her was too strong. Then something grabbed her ankles and started pulling. She shrieked into whatever was in her mouth, and could do nothing as whatever was pulling her dragged her into a broken storm drain and darkness.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.04.2012 , 07:26 AM | #2
<In a sewer>

At least she wasn’t in the muck. But being carried with her face bare inches from it was not pleasant either. Istara was trying to struggle out of whatever was holding her when a light, feathery touch brushed her face and she relaxed.

The mind voice was gentle. Easy, sister. I need to get you somewhere open so I can get you out of that. The mind voice conveyed disgust now. Yuck… I thought the sewers on the homeship smelled bad…

Istara grinned around whatever as in her mouth and focused her mind. Fewer people for one thing. Join the Bladeborn, see the universe. From the underside. Thanks for the rescue Nana. She projected gratitude.

A sense of resignation came though the link from the being Istara called Nana but also a sense of relief. When words came again they were sour, but tinged with worry. Do you have any idea what Ecien or Majistrona would do to me if I let you get shot by a bounty hunter?

Istara chuckled deep in her throat. The mind boggles. I can take care of myself. A sense of disbelief came across the link. Most of the time… She corrected herself sheepishly.

The other voice sighed in Istara’s head. Should be a chamber coming up soon. What did he use, do you know?

Istara would have shaken her head, but to wouldn’t move. No idea. It’s sticky, but doesn’t seem to be sticking to you.

Thank goodness Nana’s mind voice was tart again. I just got myself cleaned off before I heard you in trouble. You have a loud voice sister. Thank Ashla. Even if I DO have to clean myself again, thanks to you. The relief in the one far outweighed the outrage.

Thank Ashla you were close enough. He was prepared for me. Not Sharlina of the Bladeborn. Me. I don’t fight like she did, and he laid the trap for me. Istara’s voice was thoughtful. As if he knew me, or knew more about me than he should have.

Nana sighed. Later, let’s get you out of that mess…

Istara remained still as she was rotated a bit. She could see some more now, she was in a large circular chamber, it looked to be about ten meters in diameter and perhaps twenty meters high. Istara could turn her head finally and looked up into a vision of horror, but she smiled at the insect face that was bare centimeters from her own. She remained very still as the insect sliced carefully with razor sharp claws. In moments, her limbs fell free and her sword likewise. A claw moved by her head and she felt pressure, then whatever was holding her mouth open fell out as well. She worked her jaw and smiled widely at the insect as Nana set her gently on her feet.

“Thank you.” Istara said quietly as she shook her self a bit, feeling a number of small aches and pains, but nothing major. “We better move, he is sure to have a tracker on me.”

"Let me look..." Nana nodded her small head and then looked Istara over slowly. “Dart, left upper arm.”

"Right." Istara nodded and plucked the small device out of her body. She looked at it for a moment. It was recognizable, a tracking device, similar to ones Istara herself had used before. “This looks like Imperial tech…”

"Indeed?" Nana looked at it. “Can you deactivate it?”

"No." Istara shook her head. “If its anything like Imperial tech, it can’t be deactivated once activated, besides by destroying it. It’s designed that way to keep prey from hiding. But…” She looked around and grinned slightly. A quick flip of the wrist and a small thing that had popped out of the muck vanished back into the nasty water. An appendage with a muck covered eyeball that now had a small blinking object stuck on one side of the appendage. “Let him follow a dianoga for a while.”

"I like it." Nana laughed as she led the way towards a panel that had been moved just enough for her bulk to pass through. “You are evil Istara…”

Istara sighed as she replaced the cover and started replacing the fasteners that held it in place as Nana held it in place. “Sometimes…” Her voice was sad.

"Sister..." Nana’s was quiet. “What happened to the boy wasn’t your fault, Istara.”

Istara finished replacing the fasteners and started off, her head down as she watched for creatures that liked small dark, smelly places. “I am the reason he is dead. I didn’t kill his family, Nana, at least, I don’t remember killing any civilians. But I don’t remember everything. It was a bad day.”

"Sister..." Nana sighed, a remarkably human sound from such a hideous form. “You need to face this Istara.”

"Yeah..." Istara sighed just as deeply. “I know.” Behind them came the sound of an explosion. The two unlikely sisters looked at each other and moved faster.

<An hour later>

They didn’t have any encounters along the rest of their way. Istara had seen more of sewers in her time with the Bladeborn than she ever wanted to remember, but this time, she was glad for it. No people, no possibility of collateral damage. Time to think, to reflect, to parse through her memories. Nana let her think, sometimes leading the way, sometimes following, but always there, a steadying influence. A rock of stability in Istara’s often shaky world. When Majistrona had assigned Nana to be Istara’s companion, Istara had expressed some reservations at having an insect along. Nana kind of stuck out.

Istara smiled a bit as she looked her sister over in the dim light that came from the grates and downspouts above, along with the detritus of millions of people. Nana was small for her race. But she had all the strength, both physical and mental, of any of her people. Holianahyatoujikaimnana was an enigma to Istara at times. Sometimes the bug was incredibly wise, other times she seemed so dense as to be almost a complete innocent. But her heart was in the right place and no one who talked to her could ever think she was stupid. The insect WAS given to overimpulsiveness at times, but hey, Istara had that problem too. Nana’s carapace was darker than Ecien’s, more a bronzeish than a silverish. Istara wasn’t sure if that meant Nana was younger or older than Ecien, and it didn’t really matter. Nana was a friend, a confidant, a very good listener or a swift kick in the tail, whatever the situation called for. Istara tensed as Nana stopped under a grate that had been moved the same way as the one back in the circular chamber several klicks back.

“Up there is the spaceport. I caught Setsuna’s scent and traces in Ashla there, but too many people for me to be unobtrusive. I think she was catching a ship.” Nana’s voice was regretful.

"Yeah." Istara sighed. “That is the gist I get as well, she isn’t on planet anymore.” Istara shook here had and tears fell. “I…”

"Oh sister..." Nana sighed and held out both of her lower arms, the ones intended for fine manipulation. “Hey, come here…” The two unlikely siblings embraced and Nana spoke gain, softly, but with conviction. “We will find her. We were not that far behind her here. And if Gute has had any luck whatsoever…”

"Oh that fills me with such joy..." Istara shook her head. “Yeah, I get to pin my hopes on a crazy Iridonian?”

"Istara, that is not nice." Nana snorted and gave Istara’s shoulder a gentle thump with one of her heavy manipulators. “Hey, Gute isn’t crazy, he is just… well… um…”

"Crazy." Istara shook her head and sighed. “Gute is crazy…”

"he is not crazy." Nana replied with dignity. “Eccentric. He is eccentric.”

"Yeah..." Istara sighed, but there was an undercurrent of laughter to it. “Right…”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.04.2012 , 07:38 AM | #3
<A bit later>

Istara had finally finished cleaning the muck off of herself and was dressing when Nana came into the common room of the transport they had been given by the Sitolon and the insect’s manner was agitated.

“Istara…” The insect’s voice was… off.

Istara looked at her friend and stiffened. “Nana? What is wrong?”

Nana shook herself. “Gute has found some things and we have a guest at the ramp.”

"Nana?" Istara blinked, and then she groaned. “Vorren?”

"Yeah." Nana nodded. Her tone was sour. “Vorren.”

"Gah... Oh well..." Istara sighed. “Took him long enough. Well, At least I can ask a few things, let him in.”

Nana hit a set of controls on a wall panel with her more dexterous manipulator digits, they were too big to be called fingers, and a few moments later a nondescript human male entered the common room. He nodded to Istara and Nana.

Vorren, as always, didn’t waste time with pleasantries. “We missed her again.” Istara just looked at him and he sighed. “Look, Istara, we are not at cross purposes here.”

"Oh?" Istara just glared at him. “Could have fooled me. You want to take my blood sister and give her to that piece of garbage Darmuk. I want to find my blood sister and keep her safe. I would say that we are at cross purposes.”

Vorren sighed. “Istara… Are you going to disobey an express order from the Emperor… again?” His voice was somewhere between wonder, resigned, amused and worried.

"For the right reason? Certainly." Istara sighed as well. “Have you ever met Lord Darmuk, Vorren?”

At the question, Vorren actually looked nonplussed for a moment. Istara smiled slightly at having shaken the imperturbable agent, but then he stilled back into his habitual mask of indifference. “Only in passing. Does it matter?”

"It does." Istara looked at Nana, whose posture was resigned and the insect nodded. Istara’s voice was careful and controlled. “I haven’t met him except in passing as well, and he has always given me the absolute creeps. More than almost any other Sith. We don’t know what is coming, the strange plague that we have been getting reports on is only the beginning however. We don’t know what it is, why it is, but we do know he is up to his squinty eyeballs in it. And you ask me to turn a girl with incredible power over to him? Even if she wasn’t my sister, Vorren… Would that be wise?”

"Istara..." Vorren shook his head. “Wise or not… The Emperor commanded it. I don’t have a choice.”

“I don’t want to fight you Vorren." Istara said slowly. "I don’t. We are not enemies, but if you try and hand her over to that schutta, we will fight.”

"I know." Vorren nodded slowly. He looked away for a moment and then sighed. “Your concerns are noted. I have… issues as well. So many things just don’t add up. He acts like a loyal servant, but there are so many discrepancies. Small ones, tiny even. No proof. But in the end, Istara…” The agent held up his empty hands in a gesture of helplessness.

"No." Istara slumped again. “I know. The Emperor commanded it. You cannot disobey, even if it is for the good of the Empire. If it comes down to it… I am not a subject of the Emperor anymore, I am an ally. If I act in cross purposes to his decree, I can be censured and disciplined, but not killed out of hand.” Nana nodded at that.

"Istara..." Vorren stared at them both. “You went through that once, Istara, would you do it again?” She had undergone six months of torture, violations both physical and mental, Imperial justice was not pretty.

"Agent..." Istara’s face was sad. “What would you do if she were your sister, Vorren?”

For a moment, the facade that the agent showed the universe cracked and pain showed from his eyes. Then he stiffened and grimaced. His face became cold and remote. “I would obey my orders.” He set a datapad on the table and walked out.

Istara and Nana exchanged a glance and Istara pointed to the wall near where Vorren had been standing. Nana nodded and walked to it. She sat next to the wall. Something tiny went crack under her weight. Nana snorted. “He must be getting desperate, trying to monitor us.”

"No." Istara shook her head. “That won’t be the only one. I wish I had asked him about the tracker the bounty hunter had.”

Nana sighed. “Gute wanted to…”

Whatever she was going to say was cut off by an apparition appearing through one of the other entries to the common room. The form was bent over, scrutinizing the floor and then cackled a bit as it picked something up from the floor. “Gotcha!” The being stood up and it was a male Iridonian, in a filthy shipsuit. His face was covered by the oddest assortment of magnifiers and other visual enhancers that Istara had ever seen. He had several of them down to look at what was in his hand.

Nana shook her head. “Gute?”

The Iridonian looked at the insect and then at Istara before returning his gaze to what was in his hand. “Hiya Nana, Istara. I just found something cool!” The excitement in his voice was intense, as was his gaze.

"I should have known he wouldn't lay just one." Istara shook her head slowly. “A camera?” Her face was a mix of bafflement and resignation. Gute had that effect on her.

"Nah!" Gute shook his head. “Not just a camera. A microphone, camera, seismic senor, atmo-sensor… oh man this thing will do everything except laundry!” He chortled as he looked it over.

"Oh?" Nana’s voice was soft. “And when was the last time you did laundry, Gute?”

"Laundry?" Gute looked at the insect, baffled. “Uh…” he looked at his shipsuit and shrugged. “Yesterday… I think…”

"Gah..." Istara just shook her head. Her voice was resigned. “Try last week and you might be closer. I would put that down, they usually have a self destruct.”

"Huh?" Gute looked at her as if she were mad. “Oh I disabled that before I picked it up. Sheesh, silly Bladeborn…” Istara blinked but Gute was off and running. “I disabled the transmitter too, and the recorder, and the distress beacon and…”

"Gute?" Nana spoke slowly, but strongly. “Gute… what did you find earlier?”

Gute tore his gaze from the object in his hand for a moment. “Oh…” He said distractedly. “I found out who put the bounty on Istara.” His gaze went back to the camera in his hand.

Istara was in no mood now. “Who?” Her cold, clear voice had the tech specialist flinching.

"Ah..." Gute looked up and it was as if he saw her for the first time. He sobered for a moment. “Someone named Anold Vimas. An Imperial…” He broke off as Istara groaned.

The woman’s voice was low and angry. “He is a Moff. Anold Vimas. I might have known.” Gute looked at Istara and then his attention as drawn back to the object in his hand. He walked out of the bay muttering to himself. Istara shook her head, he was a a good pilot, but...

"Does this change things?" Nana looked at Istara. “I take it you know this Moff?”

"Yeah." Istara sighed. “You might say that. I have killed two of his protégés and I very nearly killed him once. Here actually.”

"Oh?" Nana looked at her. “He was here, with you?”

"Yeah." Istara sighed. “I was posted under his overall command. He… did not appreciate me being here… We met for the first time on an assault ship bound for here and immediately detested each other.”

"Istara?" Nana’s voice was gentle now. “What happened?”

"I have tried to forget." Istara sighed. “Like I have said, it was a bad day…”


<Coruscant, the past>


“…And I don’t care if you were the Emperor’s mistress, you will obey my commands!” The man in gray shouted at the woman in black and she just looked at him.

The two of them stood in a cavernous hangar bay, surrounded by bustling troops, all of whom knew better than to pay any attention at all to the scene being played out in their midst. Sharlina of the Bladeborn knew her posture was insolent, but she couldn’t have cared less. This toad was taking up time when she could be fighting. The battle had already begun, and apparently it was glorious. The Dark Side sang in her veins and she smiled, ever so slightly. More than one of the troops around the area shivered at the sheer maliciousness of her smile.

“Did you just insult the Emperor in front of one of his loyal subjects, Moff Vimas?” Her voice was cold and dead. She had practiced that tone, trying to get just the right aspect of utter carelessness in it. Nothing scared people more than a being who used the Force who didn’t care whether they lived or died. Not that Sharlina really did. In most ways, she was dead already. Her Code was all she had left now. No cause, no purpose. Her lightsabers were in hand now, but she didn’t ignite them. She wanted to see what this moron would do. At her words, everything around her…stopped. “You do know what the penalty for that is. Don’t you?”

“You wouldn’t dare!” The red haired man sneered at her, confident in his rank. But then he choked as she raised a hand in front of her.

“You obviously don’t know much about Bladeborn, Moff Vimas. Do you?” She raised her hand and the Dark Side sang though her and her eyes took on a reddish tint, but impossibly, her voice became calm. No, not calm… emotionless. Totally unemotional. A brown stain appeared on the front of the Moff’s black pants.

"Moff Vimas..." Sharlina continued in that same, quiet calm voice. “If the Emperor has a mistress, I don’t think it is any business of yours. Insult me as you wish. Insult him in my presence at your peril.” The arrogant Moff was suspended now in midair, his hands scrabbling at his throat fruitlessly trying to grasp the icy insubstantial fingers of the Force that held it tight. Another voice interjected.

“Bladeborn.” The calm voice came from an armored soldier. From the rank pips on his armor, he was a sergeant.

Sharlina turned her head to look the armored form in the eye holes of his helmet. “Yes, Sergeant?”

"Ma'am." The sergeant saluted her. “Shuttles are ready, ma’am.”

Sharlina nodded and the red in her eyes vanished. Her face ceased its stillness and joy suffused her features. “A good day, Sergeant! For the Empire!” She shouted.

For the Empire!” Came the resounding cry from around the area. Sharlina made a quick gesture and Moff Vimas went flying to land in a heap near a wall. No one looked at him as the troops started boarding the shuttles in orderly rows. Someone near Sharlina started singing a battle hymn, Sharlina joined in and suddenly everyone was singing it. It would be a good day, a day of vengeance, finally, against the hated Republic.

<Coruscant, the present>

Nana’s voice was quiet. “It wasn’t a good day though, was it?”

"Not for me." Istara’s voice wasn’t much louder, and it held pain, regret and infinite sadness now. “Maybe for some. Not for me.” Nana came over to where Istara was standing and embraced the human lightly.

“What happened to Vimas?” Nana asked after a moment.

Istara snorted as she returned the insect’s embrace. It was odd, she reflected. One wouldn’t think of chitin as soft, but Sitolon epidermal tissue was not as hard as it looked. Nowhere near as hard as Mama Lizard’s scales. “I filed a report on his insult. It cost him. He swore vengeance against me, and I laughed at him. He supported several attempts against my life, and apparently he was a patron so certain individuals who made my life interesting. Admiral Horn for one.” Istara’s voice held hate now.

Nana gave her a gentle shake. “Istara… easy… You need to face this.”

"Yeah." Istara sighed. “I know, I will, I just…”

"Now." Nana’s voice was soft, but commanding. “You need to face it now. Come, sister…” Istara slumped further, but allowed herself to be led out of the room.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.04.2012 , 08:00 AM | #4
<A few minutes later>

The room was small to begin with. Having a six foot tall insect sitting in the middle of it made the room almost unbearably claustrophobic. Istara sat where Nana had indicated and then leaned her body against Nana’s as directed. Her back lay against the insect’s thorax and she felt a hum deep inside the massive body.

"Relax, sister." Nana’s voice was gentle. “This will not be fun, Istara. Nor pleasant. But you must do it.”

"I know." Istara nodded a bit sluggishly. There was something about being here that felt… tiring. Not bad, just lethargic. “What do I do?”

"Just relax." Nana laid her arms around Istara, but instead of feeling confining, the human felt nothing but comfort. “I need you to remember Coruscant. The Sacking. See it in your eyes, hear it in your ears, smell it in your nose, feel it in your fingers, taste it…”

"No..." Istara shivered. “Nana… No… I… No…”

Nana’s voice was gentle, but was it her audible voice or her mind voice? “You have blocked her out far too long, she is part of you. Let her out." Let her out…

Suddenly Istara was catapulted somewhere else. She landed painfully on her hands and knees. She shook here had to clear it and froze. She was kneeling on pavement. She looked up and all around her were the megascrapers of Coruscant. But they were burning. She stood up and swallowed. She was standing outside a small Republic military depot that she and her troops had attacked and destroyed. It had been an awful fight, many of her troops had died in a crossfire from multiple heavy weapon emplacements. She had gone bonkers, losing herself in her rage, lashing out at everything that came in reach, droid, soldier, wall, child… She stared at the small, still corpse at her feet. Cut in half by a lightsaber. Her lightsaber?

“No…” Istara’s voice held horror. “Not again… please…”

A whisper came on the wind that shipped between the buildings, funneled by heat and Coruscant’s weird weather patterns. Face your past, Istara…

Istara stood and shook herself. Instead of the customary gray robes she wore, now she wore dark red armor. She remembered she had painted it in honor of the attack. Instead of her sword, two lightsabers hung at her side. She didn’t need to ignite them to know both had red blades. Around her, she heard screams, pleas, whimpers. But all that stopped when the voice came to her ears.

“You.” The cold clear voice had Istara flinching. “You coward. Of all the lousy, stupid, good for nothing shuttas…”

Istara tensed as a form walked out of the smoke that hovered nearby. This form also wore red armor. And carried two red lightsabers. But hers were ignited. The woman wore a full helmet but Istara didn’t have to see to know that the woman had her face.

“Istara Andal… And here I thought you had forgotten about me.” The cold words were unemotional and Istara bit back a shiver.

“How can I? You are part of me… Sharlina…” Istara shook herself. “I didn’t… mean to… Have I… I did bind you didn’t I? I didn’t… I wouldn’t… It wouldn’t work…” She broke off, appalled at her inability to make a coherent sentence.

The other woman sighed deeply. Sharlina’s voice became less menacing, more sad. “I know. I shouldn’t be angry with you. You are just trying to find your way. This is…”

They chorused. “…Weird.” Then they both laughed sadly.

Istara sighed and opened her arms. After a moment, the other figure doused her lightsabers and came into them and they embraced. Istara finally spoke. “We are two halves of the same whole, I will try not to keep you chained so much. It’s not good for either of us.”

"Come on." Sharlina stepped back and shook her head. “Istara, I am a monster. I know this, I accept it. It is all I am, all I ever will be. Ever since Amirg’s tortures when we were a child. You needed me so I came into being. I am part of you, but not. And it is better for everyone.”

"No it isn't." Istara shook her head. “Not for you.”

"Doesn’t matter." There was a sad smile in Sharlina’s voice. “I am here to help you.”

Istara shook her head savagely and embraced her other half again. “It does matter, you matter.”

"No I don't." Sharlina sighed. “Istara, the only reason I exist is because you needed me. You needed to be stronger, to be better, to have a way to beat Amrig. I didn’t mean to take over completely, but you…”

"I hid." Istara sighed. “I am always running from things, I am a coward like you said.” Her cheek stung suddenly and she stared as Sharlina pulled her hand back.

“Stop that.” Sharlina’s voice was still sad, but hard now. “If you were a coward, we would be dead. Amrig would have killed us in his experiments or his ‘training’. If you hadn’t hidden, Amirg would have succeeded. And then our mother would have died. Look, I need you and you need me. A mutually beneficial cooperative, right?”

"Sharlina..." Istara shook her head. “We need to be more than that. If we are to save Setsuna, we need to be whole again. We were once. We can be again.”

"Ah sister..." Sharlina shook her head. “You don’t know what you are saying Istara…”

Instead of answering Istara looked around.”What happened here? This was… This was where I left the troops, where I went down… Before I… found the lab…”

"No." Sharlina shook her head. “You don’t want to know, Istara. Leave off… please…”

"I need to know." Istara stared at the small form that lay crumbed near the wall and shuddered. “Did I kill this child?”

"Don't ask." Sharlina’s voice was soft and sad now. “Istara…”

"This cannot be allowed to fester." Istara shook her head. “I need to know. I need… We need to face this…”

Sharlina sighed and then held out a hand to her other self. “Then see… See what I saw…” Istara took the hand of the other her and…
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.04.2012 , 08:14 AM | #5
<the past>

Sharlina cursed as fire drove her to cover. At least three of the troops, her troops went down in the murderous crossfire before they could reach cover. The sergeant, her sergeant, was lying in the open. She darted out of cover, grabbed him and pulled him to safety just as another torrent of fire scoured the area. The sergeant looked at her.

"Why did you do that?" His voice was… awed. “You should have left me… Most Sith would have…”

Sharlian snarled as she checked his wounds. Disabling but not life threatening. “I am not a Sith and I don’t leave my people with their shorts hanging in the breeze. Did you get a look?” She hit her com and snarled as her request came back red, denied.

The sergeant nodded. “Four heavy repeaters, two heavy droids, set up in a crossfire. At least forty troops, bunkers, left, right and center. Air support?’

"I just asked." Sharlina cursed again. “Unavailable. The Rep fighters are making one hell of a mess of our air cover." She tried another frequency and it came back negative as well. "And fire support in on standby for something else. Give me your grenades.”

"What?" The sergeant stiffened. “Ma’am…”

Sharlina was in no mood to argue. This day had started bad and gotten worse. From the moment they had landed they had been under fire from Rep snipers, armor and artillery. The Reps just would not give up. What had started as a battalion of highly trained Sith assault troops, now was maybe a company of weary, sick and sore survivors. Many of whom were wounded in some way. She grabbed for his equipment belt. “We don’t have time to argue, sergeant. I can take that position, but I need backup.”

“You have it , Ma’am.” He handed her his explosives pouch. “Three frag, two concussion and a thermal left. What do you need from us?”

"Noise." Sharlina smiled evilly. “A lot of noise.” She moved forward but the sergeant held up a hand. He had been working on his computer and suddenly she felt something from him she hadn’t before in the Force. Resignation.

"Ma'am." His helmet face turned to her and his voice was sick when he spoke. “On the com, Ma’am… HQ just ordered us forward.”

"What?" Sharlina snarled. “We can’t go forward. I’ll…” She broke off as the sergeant shook his head.

"Orders are orders ma'am." The sergeant sighed and pulled himself up to look over the cover before slumping back down as fire came his way. “I flagged it as a dangerous enemy strongpoint on the system and they have ordered us to clear it.”

"But..." Sharlina shook her head. “Sergeant… I can do this. Two minutes, I need two minutes…”

"Can't." The sergeant shook his head. “No time, ma’am… We go in twenty…”

"You can't do it." Sharlina shook her head. “Sergeant, you go out of cover and none of you will make twenty meters! They have heavy weapons, high ground, concealment and cover.”

"I know, ma'am." The sergeant sighed. “Bladeborn... Sharlina... It… it was an honor…”

"Sergeant!" Sharlina shook her head in horror. “No… I…”

The sergeant rolled himself into a prone position and started firing steadily at the Republic positions. “For the Empire!!”

He shouted and the call was taken up all around the ring as gray armored forms struggled out of their holes and charged. Sharlina could only watch in horror as the people she had commanded threw themselves into the maw of death. Death came for her people.

No!” Sharlina shouted as she too darted out of cover.

Her lightsabers whirred, deflecting fire, some of it went back to where it came from, but there was so much of it. She felt impacts on her armor, one, two, three, and then she was in cover and close enough. She threw the frag grenades one way, the thermal detonator another and the concussion grenades a third. When the thermal went off, she was charging, right on the heels of the concussion blasts. The droids whirred at they tried to target her, but she was below the arcs of their guns. Sporadic fire came for behind her, but she ignored it and opened herself to the Dark Side as never before.

A timeless moment later, she stood, surrounded by bodies and wreckage. She panted, pain came and she looked at herself. She was covered in wounds, wounds that were healing quickly as tendrils of dark side energy drank in the pitiful remnants of life energy in the cooling bodies around her. She slumped as she released the energy, shuddering as she tried to ignore the call, the rush to use it again. To feel it again. She fought it back with the skill born of long practice. She shook her head and started into the Republic encampment. It was no depot. She froze as she saw the twisted, blasted remnants of a droid. That kind of droid was only used in one place. A hospital.

“What… the…?” She asked the empty air, stunned.

She looked around her at the bodies. Only half of them wore Republic armor. Many of them bore bandaged wounds. Some of them wore medical garb. No wonder the Reps had defended this place so strongly. It wasn’t an ammo depot. This was a field hospital, she had destroyed a field hospital. She shuddered as she looked at the blasted tents. It looked as if something had landed in the midst of the tents and exploded. From the small pieces scattered about, probably a fuel tank. Then she saw him. He was lying near the wall, curled up on himself. The human boy couldn’t have been more than four or five. His legs lay a good meter from his body, but the cut was clean. Cauterized, as if by a lightsaber.

"No..." Sharlina’s voice was horrified. “No…

She knelt down beside the boy and stiffened as he moved. He lived! She turned him over gently and he stiffened in her hands. His wide, pain filled eyes stared up at her. His voice was scared, and filled with pain.

“Please don’t hurt me no more…” He begged.

"I..." Sharlina shook her head, horrified at what she had done. “I won’t.” There was nothing she could do, she was no healer. She held him until she felt the life flee his body. Then she laid him out straight and walked to the entrance of the facility.

As she passed the entrance, she saw the burnt and blasted bodies of her men. She didn’t need the Force to tell her than none had survived the Republic fire to come to her aid. As she walked she felt a presence and a dark cloaked figure stepped out of an alleyway. The Sith smiled.

“It seems you did manage to take that strong point. Well done, Bladeborn.” Sharlina ignored him and walked past. “Bladeborn…?” His voice now held an edge of menace. Sharlina stopped but didn’t turn. Something in his Force sense…

“You knew they had a hospital here.” Her words were not a question. “That it wasn’t a depot.”

"Yes." The Sith smiled. “We knew. Your assault would have weakened them for my men to take. And the glory would be mine.”

“You can take your glory and shove it where the sun doesn't shine." Sharlina said softly. "You kept the air and artillery from helping us.” She turned and walked towards him. he shifted his position, but she didn't attack, waiting for his answer. He relaxed slightly. Bladeborn were strange, but there was nothing aggressive in her posture. More a resignation.

The Sith smiled again. “Ah Bladeborn… This is a good thing. It will break their morale. To see their women and children die so ignobly… URK!” His voice cut off as Sharlina grabbed him. She could have used the Force, she could have walked away. But she was too angry to see anything except this man who had cost her people their lives. And all for his self advancement. She dropped him and before he could stand, she drove both blades deep into his body. She met his stunned expression with her angry one. She grabbed him with a solid fist of the Force and hauled his dying form off the ground then slammed it down with enough power to send a nearby wrecked speeder sliding away. The Dark Side sang in her veins and the sheer power she was radiating had the troops that were watching step back.

“You made me break my Code. You made me kill children. You watched and waited to see if I would succeed, you let all my people die for nothing so you could make a grand showy Sith entrance, achieving victory. Well… Enjoy it… Enjoy your victory, scum.” She threw her arm up and the still breathing body flew upwards. It impacted a protruding piece of metal that stuck out from a wrecked building and hung there. His eyes, still open, met hers. His mouth worked but Sharlina just smiled grimly and with a wave of her hand, the whole side of the building caved in, taking the Sith and burying him under a huge pile of debris.

The troops that had stood behind the Sith a respectful distance, stared at her, fear radiating. “Bladeborn? What do we do now?”

"Do I look like I care?" Sharlina snarled at the speaker. “You are not my people, not my problem.” With that, she walked away ignoring the confused stammers behind her. This was no place for her.


Istara was crying hard, and she felt gentle arms around her. A gentle voice so like hers came to her ears. She looked up into her own face. Sharlina had undone her face mask and the darker aspect of her personality was crying as well. “It’s okay, Istara." Sharlina said sadly. "It was me, not you.”

"No." Istara shook her head. “It was both of us. We did that. Did we kill that boy’s family?”

"I don’t know." Sharlina sighed. “Maybe. But if so… What could we do now to fix it?”

"Now?" Istara shook her head. “Nothing, but…still…”

"Yeah." Sharlina sighed deeply. “Someone said this a long time ago, Istara. ‘War is Hell.’ We know that better than any.”

"I was..." Istara shook her head slowly. “We were…”

“Foresworn, yeah." Sharlina admitted. "That Sith manipulated us into breaking the Code. He paid for it. But we are still paying for what happened.”

“It was not your fault, and not my fault." Istara said stolidly. "I think we all died a bit in that damned battle. I need you, and you need me. Two halves of one whole.”

"Yes." Sharlina nodded. “Two sides of one coin.” She took off her helmet and laid her head next to Istara’s. Something passed between then and…

<Reality>

Istara coughed. Her throat was raw and her eyes were burning as she lay against a yielding bulk. “You saw.” It wasn’t a question.

Nana’s voice was sad. “I saw.”

“What is the penalty for Bladeborn who do things like that?” Istara asked quietly when she could speak again.

“Istara… It was not your fault. You were obeying orders. You were manipulated. Anyone can be.” Nana’s voice was gentle and something brushed Istara’s hair.

“How many children did I kill, Nana?" Istara begged. "How many?” Istara had dry eyes now, her tears spent. But she still heaved with sobs.

“Istara…" Nana's voice was soothing. "You forgave Trugoy his betrayals. You forgave Idjit his. I think maybe it is time you forgave yourself.” Nana’s arms tightened around Istara as the woman shivered.

“I don’t know if I can, Nana. I don’t know if I can…”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.04.2012 , 08:34 AM | #6
<A day later>

Istara liked this place, it was quiet, cool, and she was making a difference. If only a small one, then at least she WAS making a difference. She smiled as she folded clothes to pack into the boxes. With donations coming in from people all over the galaxy, the charities on Coruscant needed help organizing, documenting and packaging shipments of material for those in need. It wasn’t difficult work and she was making a difference. She couldn’t stay long, she knew that, but since she hadn’t given her real name, and had donned a fairly good disguise for this, she hoped to keep the good people who ran the place out of danger while Gute and Nana ran down leads on Setsuna. Brown hair dye and contact lenses were not difficult to maintain. She just hoped it would keep these folks out of danger.

She had arrived this morning ready to do whatever the people asked, and when they realized she was fit and capable, they had her lifting and carrying things for the elderly volunteers. Any Sith would probably be horrified to be caught anywhere near such a place, But Istara was not a Sith and while Nana felt she did not need absolution for her actions during the Sacking, because she wasn’t really the same person anymore, Istara did. It wasn’t difficult work. Her hands literally flew as they packaged boxes for shipment, boxes of food, clothing and medical supplies for people in need around the planet. One of the beings who ran the place, an elderly Bothan with a limp, smiled as she walked by.

“You do that very well, Istara. Thank you for your help.” The Bothan had been a bit surprised to find a human woman in gray robes asking to help out, but had not been willing to turn away any assistance.

"Thank you Miralia." Istara smiled back. “I won't be able to stay long, but... I… I wanted to make a difference.”

"We do what we can." The gray furred Bothan sighed. “We try, Istara. We try. It’s so hard though. There simply isn’t enough money available for such things. So people go hungry and unclothed. I just wish we could do more.”

"I as well." Istara nodded. “My past… I have done horrible things.” She looked at her hands. “For a little while at least, I can do simple things. Things that help. We can’t help everybody, but we can help.”

"Indeed we can." Miralia smiled. “Ah, child, you have such pain in your eyes. I don’t know your past and I won’t ask. But all we can do is deal with the present.”

Istara smiled sadly. “Everyone keeps telling me that. But I…” She slumped. “I have done terrible things, Miralia. I thought I was on the right side, doing the right thing, and I wasn’t. I don’t know what is worse, the fact that I was lied to, or the fact that I did those things without hesitation.”

The Bothan looked at her and perched on a countertop for a moment. “The question, Istara, is if you had them to do over again, would you do the same things?” Istara shook her head, mute and Mirialia smiled. “See. You learn from mistakes. It is all you can do. You are not a bad person, Istara.” The kindly Bothan patted Istara on the shoulder and went to check on the fresh food shipment.

Istara shook her head and returned to working. If only you knew…

<A couple of hours later>

Istara had expected to work all day, so when Miralia had called out for a lunch break, she had been a bit bewildered. She hadn’t expected that, and had no idea what to do. So when the group massed and went outside, she followed a bit bewildered. Whatever she might have expected, a picnic lunch provided by Miralia was not it. The food was good, and the company also was good. They didn’t press her, but included her in their conversations. Some things she could talk about and did. And she relaxed for the first time in a long, long time. Alas, it was not to last.

When it happened, it happened fast. One moment, Istara was laughing at a joke one of the humans had told when she felt a warning inside her skull. She threw up a hand and the missile that had been heading towards the group spun in midair, flying back the way it had come. Then it exploded. All of the others stared up at the blast, but Istara looked at Miralia.

"Miralia." Istara’s voice was quiet. “You all should get back inside.” Her voice and face were pensive as she saw a small form rocketing them in the distance, growing larger.

"What the?" Miralia looked at her, but there was no fear in the elderly Bothan. None at all. “What is it Istara?”

Istara shook her head slowly. “My past.” Her voice was quiet. “Please Miralia, I… I don’t want to be responsible for more deaths.”

The group all stared at her, but Miralia nodded slowly. “As you wish Istara. Should I call the cops?”

“No need.” Istara shrugged. “Please… get inside…”

The group hurried in and Istara watched as the door sealed and locked. It wouldn’t keep out a determined hunter, but it would give the group some protection. She watched as the dot in the distance grew larger and wished she had her sword. But it wouldn’t have been in keeping for a penitent to be carrying such a weapon. Of course she wasn’t defenseless, but…

The armored form of the bounty hunter swooped in and landed twenty meters from where Istara stood. His voice was smug as always. “You are hard woman to find, Sharlina.”

"You are an idiot, using heavy weapons near civilians is a bad idea." Istara sighed. “And... My name is Istara. If you do not want spent a great deal of time in rehab, turn around and fly away. Now.”

The hunter snorted. “You are worth a lot of money, and you have cost me a lot of time. No way am I leaving you now.”

“Then you have some problems.” Istara said with a shrug. “Three in fact. First and foremost is that the guy who posted the bounty, Moff Anold Vimas, is soon going to be in no position to pay you as he is currently disobeying a direct order from the Emperor to leave me alone. A direct order to him actually, after his last attempt on my life five years ago. There is only one penalty for that and I think you know what it is.” She felt shock emanate from the bounty hunter, but she didn’t move, didn’t react.

"I don;t believe you." Finally, he spoke. “You are just another mark. You would say anything to get away.”

“Whatever.” Istara smiled sadly. “Second, a cop named Detective Sosan wants to talk to you. Something about ‘excessive damage and bodily harm while attempting an apprehension’. You really shouldn’t have shot that kid… He was a fool, but he was no threat to you.”

"Right." The hunter shrugged. “I let people point guns at me and I get shot. No thank you. The third thing? Not that I really care.”

“You really should have left.” Istara sighed. “The third thing is that in about twenty seconds, every piece of high tech equipment you have will cease to function.”

"Huh?" The hunter stared at her, his posture wary. “What are you going to try now?”

“Me?” Istara shook her head. “Not a thing.”

The hunter stared at her and raised his rifle. But when he pulled the trigger, nothing happened. He stared at it, and Istara sighed. “Tech is a crutch, sir. If you pull that crutch out from under someone, often they have no idea at all how to react.”

He snarled at her and moved, but a shot rang out from nearby and he fell, clutching his arm. A large hole smoked on his armor. Another form, this one wearing the uniform of the Coruscant Security Police, strode out from concealment nearby. The heavy blaster that the cop held was steady on his target, the hunter’s head. When male human spoke it was cold and precise.

“Kunda Gev, you are under arrest for murder. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney…”

Istara watched impassive as more police appeared nearby. They converged on the hunter who was staring at her in shock. His voice was amazed. “What kind of Sith calls the cops?”

“How many times must I say it?” Istara sighed. “I am not a Sith, I am Bladeborn.”

The hunters hand blurred and suddenly about four of the cops piled on him. The hunter was shouting. “You won’t get away! I never lose a mark! I will…” His voice broke off as one of the cops wrestled his helmet off. The human face that showed was significantly younger than Istara, but no less hard. He met her gaze and snarled. “You won’t get away. You are a murderer too. You killed hundreds! Women, children…”

“Yes I have, yes I am.” Istara slumped. “I kill, in battle or when I have no choice. I don’t kill for credits, and I do not kill children when I have any choice at all. I certainly don’t kill them because it’s expedient.” Her final words were hard, cold and merciless and the hunter stopped struggling as he stared at her. “Get him out of here before I forget that I don’t kill the helpless… Please…?”

The cop who had fired holstered his blaster and came up to her. His voice was professional now. “Thanks for the tip, Miss Istara. We have been looking for this one for a while.” Istara just shook her head as Gev was stripped of his equipment before being manacled hand and foot and loaded into a police airspeeder. After the speeder had flown off and another officer was cleaning up the scattered bits of armor, the cop spoke again. The voice was non-committal. “Was what he said true?”

“Yeah.” Istara nodded sadly. “I was here. Not ‘here’ mind you…” She pointed at the ground. “The other side of the planet. But I was here during the Sacking. Am I under arrest, Detective Sosan?” She wouldn’t fight, not here, not now. She was too tired and sad now to fight.

“Well…” Sosan sighed. “I guess I could arrest you, but what would be the point? There are likely no witnesses.” Istara shook her head. “What happened? You don’t seem the kind for mindless slaughter.”

“I…” Istara shook her head. “I was, but… not quite the way you think. I lived for the fight, but only against opponents that pushed me to my limits. Opponents who could fight back. I was a soldier, not a terrorist.” She sighed. “As for what happened? Have you ever dealt with a glory seeker, Detective?”

The detective stiffened. “Oh no…” his voice held sympathy now. “You ran afoul of one of them.” It wasn’t a question.

Istara shook herself. “Yeah. He manipulated my company into attacking a Republic position head on so he could gain the glory of victory. I… I lost it. Lost my temper, lost my sanity. I killed everything within reach. Then I realized it wasn't a military facility, it was a hospital. He knew, he wanted an easy victory to speed his advancement. So he got my company killed. He paid for it, after, but all my people, the people who had followed me into that firestorm… I…” She bowed her head. She tensed as a hand patted her on the shoulder.

“Ms. Istara…” Sosan’s voice was quiet. “None of us came out of there unscathed Ma’am.” She looked him in the eyes and saw something in them that she saw in the mirror every time she looked at herself. She nodded to him. “For what it is worth… I deal with assorted scum every day. It makes me a pretty good judge of character. Either you are the best actress I have ever seen, or the woman who attacked this planet doesn’t exist anymore.”

“Uh…” Istara looked away across the swaths of destruction visible still in the area. “I don’t know sometimes, Detective.”

“Well…” Detective Sosan nodded. “That… That tells me that you are not a mindless murderer. I need to get back to the station, start processing that scum. Thank you.”

Istara smiled wanly. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope you never see me again. I am not safe to be around.”

“Really?” Sosan asked sarcastically. “Anyone who can stand there under a bounty hunter’s gun while we get an EMP projector in place is not safe to be around, Ma’am. But come to think of it… Neither am I…” He grinned.

Istara smiled and extended her hand. The cop took it and they shook. She watched as Sosan turned and walked to another car that had landed. Then she turned towards the entrance and froze solid. The people she had worked with stood there looking at her. The looks on their faces were… odd. Anger, hate, fear, she would have expected. Shock and sadness? Pity?

“I…” Istara slumped and turned to go.

“Wait…” Miralia pushed her way to the front. “Istara, wait…”

“No.” Istara shook her head twice in rapid succession. “I shouldn’t…stay… I…”

“Istara… Come here, girl…” The Bothan’s voice was gentle now and against her will, Istara turned back and Miralia opened her arms. “You are not the only survivor here, girl. I was evacuated from Bothawui, against my will.”

“I am sorry. It sounds so trite, so silly, but…” Istara didn’t move as Miralia came closer. Then the Bothan embraced her. Istara’s voice was soft. “I am sorry…”

“You could have killed that fool." Miralia said softly. "I saw you turn that missile around. You could have let it blow. It would have killed several of us, but you could have escaped. Why didn’t you?” The Bothan held Istara while she cried.

“It would have been wrong.” Istara’s voice was soft but fierce. “I don’t kill when I can help it. I am not Sith, I am Bladeborn. We don’t fight those who cannot fight back. And we don’t make war on children.” She tensed as she felt Miralia stiffen.

“Bladeborn?” Miralia’s voice was quiet. “What is your real name?”

“Istara Sharlina Andal is my full name. I went by…” Istara broke off, stunned as Miralia hugged her tighter.

“What?” Miralia was crying hard now. “Sharlina, oh my god, you were the Dark Woman…”

"Wha?" Istara blinked, stunned.

People!" Miralia turned he head. “People, this is Sharlina, the woman who saved the kids from Special Branch…”

“Miralia…?” Istara was dumbfounded now as people crowded around her. But not in anger. They all wore smiles. “But…I…”

"You are Bladeborn." Miralia smiled widely, still crying. “My grand nephew was in the facility your people took on Ord Mantel. The scum had snatched him on the way home from school. The things that were done to him…”

"Miralia..." Istara shook her head. “I wasn’t there…”

"I know." Miralia shook her head. “But we didn’t know anything about it until we saw Maria Kalenath on the holo tell what happened to her and the woman who had saved her. The Dark Woman… The woman from nowhere who came out of nowhere to wreak havoc on the evil scum. The Bladeborn named Sharlina.”

"I..." Istara was crying again. “I am not a good woman, Miralia. I am not.”

“Neither am I.” Miralia hugged her tight again. “I don’t care. People like you saved my grand nephew; that is all that matters to me. Come on, let’s go back to work, and… if you don’t mind… We can talk a bit.” Istara allowed herself to be led back into the building. Maybe… this day wouldn’t be so bad… maybe…
My stories in order:
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kalenath
07.04.2012 , 08:39 AM | #7
<The end of that day>

Istara bade Miralia and the other workers at the shelter farewell with mixed feelings. It felt… odd, not to be reviled, not to be hated. What Miralia felt was right up with hero worship. Istara had never felt anything like that from anyone. Awe, sure, respect, sure, fear, definitely. Hero worship? Not hardly. Istara for her part was in awe. Miralia had been badly injured during the Republic defense of Bothuwai. So badly injured in fact that many doctors had said she would not survive to reach proper medical care. But she had. And while the blast that had hurt her did a lot of damage and left her with the limp she showed, the Bothan had no hate in her. Not now. The Bothan had taken Istara aside after the work shift had ended and hugged her tight.

“I hope you don’t mind. I… I was full of rage, pain and self loathing after Bothuwai. I found a better way, in the arms of a being who cared for me, for who I was. Not what I was, or what had happened to me. I hope you find the same.” Miralia had embraced Istara again then and Istara had embraced her right back.

The group had wanted her autoprint of all things. Like some kind of celebrity. Maybe… Maybe to them she was. She didn’t feel very much like a celebrity. She felt… tired. But it was a good tired. She had worked all day, and when she no longer needed to hide her powers, the work had really picked up, she could move far more than the others, but they could pack things better than she could. A fair distribution of labor. She had left a sizable credit chip in the donations box, and hoped it would help. One good thing of working with the Sitolon was that they did not lack for money. The proceeds from raiding slaver and pirate dens were sizable to say the least. But now… Now she had to go back to looking for Setie. She was halfway back to the ship when she felt a disturbance in the Force and stopped. The area around her was a rundown section of the block, it still showed the scars of battle. Wreckage was still piled in some places, and one of the megascrapers that sided the street had been gutted. But the road was clear, and there were no civilians around, so Istara sighed, turned to face an alleyway and stared into the shadows.

She sighed as a human figure left an alley and stepped into her path. Kunda Gev looked like hell. He wore a tattered jumpsuit and boots that were too big for him. But the blaster he held was steady. His face wore a smile. “Did you think you were going to get away so easily?”

“No.” Istara met his smile with one of her own. His faltered a bit. Her voice was cold and clear. “No innocents for you to threaten this time, bounty hunter. She tensed as several other shadows separated from buildings, but instead of moving towards her, they moved towards Kunda. Istara spoke evenly. “Wait…” The gang stopped, and Istara made a gesture. Despite his desperate grab, the hunter’s blaster flew out of his hand to land in Istara’s. He blanched. Istara looked at the gang who looked at her. “We have a problem?”

The Bothan who was leading the group, the same one Istara had knocked out at the memorial, shook her head. Now her eyes were not sad, they held rage.

“No. Grandmama Miralia explained. Kuil…” The Bothan sighed. “He was poisoned by his hate. We are not. We got no do with you, Dark Woman.”

“Good.” Istara bowed her head slightly. “And him?” She arced her head at where Kunda stood, frozen.

“Well, now…” The Bothan smiled. It was not a nice smile. “I think we might make a citizen’s arrest. I hear the cops are looking for him.”

"Right." Istara smiled right back. “You might need this then.” She threw the blaster and it arced smoothly into the Bothan’s hands.

“Thank you, Istara Sharlina Andal.” The young Bothan smiled at Istara and then turned to Kunda. “You gonna be stupid about this? Please say yes. Kuil was a jerk, but he was our friend.” The Trandoshan cracked his knuckles as the gang started closing in on the hunter again.

“You won’t get away!” Kunda snarled. “There is nowhere you can run, Sharlina of the Bladeborn, where I cannot find you!”

“Idiot.” Istara sighed. “My name is Istara Sharlina Andal and you are welcome to come after me. The guy who gave you the bounty is dead by now. You want to seek vengeance, you go right ahead. If I catch you endangering children again however, I will blind you, maim you and leave you alive to beg on the streets of Nar Shaddaa.”

It was hard to tell what was worse, the threat or the cold matter of fact tone. More than one of the gang members shied away from Istara’s hard voice. The Bothan nodded, Istara bowed to her, turned and left the scene. Behind her, she heard sirens approaching, but didn’t hurry her steps.

<A bit later>

Istara sat in her quarters and tried to focus herself. It was hard. It had been such an eventful day. Then she tensed. Something was wrong. She opened her eyes but nothing was there. She opened herself fully to Ashla and froze as something appeared in front of her. The apparition of a girl, a girl in pain, one she knew. The girl had black hair and when she looked at Istara, the Bladeborn hissed as she saw the green eyes.

"Nia...?" Istara’s voice was soft, scared. “Nia Korr…?”

"Who...?" The girl looked around as if blind, but then seemed to focus on Istara. “Sh…Sharlina…? No… No…!”

"Nia." Istara shook her head. She tried to move closer, to help, but she couldn’t. A vision then. “Nia, what? What is wrong? Can I help?”

"No." The daughter of Will Kalenath convulsed, but seemed to be held by something. Or in something. Istara couldn’t make it out. After a moment, Nia slumped back onto whatever she was on. “Shar…lina… Stay…Away… find Setsuna… save her… Stay away… from… me… You have got to… stay… away…”

"Nia!" Istara fought, but couldn’t move. “I need to know. This is a vision. Is it the present or the future? Nia… please… your dad is going nuts! You helped me once, let me help you!”

"No." Nia probably would have shaken her head, but it wouldn’t move. “Stay… away…from… me… Sharlina… I don’t want to kill you…” Nia slumped in whatever was holding her and Istara blanched, but then something had a hold of her and was drawing her away.

No!” Istara screamed as she came back to herself.

"Sister?" Nana recoiled from where she had been holding Istara close. “Istara, what…?”

“Did you see?” Istara asked, almost begging.

Nana shook her head, “No, I heard you start screaming, I came in and you were out of your body. I pulled you back. Istara…What…?”

Istara focused on what she had felt. “I think I just had a vision. Dang it… Where is Idjit when I need him? It felt… Not present… future... then. She was older, not younger… But not much older.”

“What are you talking about?” Nana projected confusion. “Who, Istara?”

“Oh Nana…” Istara sighed. “Nia Korr. Will Kalenath and Jainine Korr’s daughter. I need to talk to Jainine and Majistrona. Now or as soon as possible.”

"Ah..." Nana shook her head. “Istara, it will take some time to rendezvous. We can probably communicate mind to mind, but over such distance… It might be difficult. What is wrong?”

"I don't know, but..." Istara shook her head. “I think she was dying. She told me to stay away, to find Setsuna and stay away from her, stay away from Nia that is.” Nana stared at her. “I know… that makes no sense. I don’t know where she is. If I did, I would pick her up, get her healed and hand her over to her father healthy and whole. Better for everyone if he isn’t running around blowing things up. Republic and Empire.”

"So true, Istara." Nana sighed. “More than you know. Okay, I will contact Majistrona, see if we can meet… if not, we may be able to communicate a bit. You need to eat and rest.”

Istara stiffened in rebellion, but the set of the insects shoulders told her that no, she wasn’t going to be able to push this. “Yes mother…” She said sourly.

Nana didn’t move. “Now Istara.”

“Okay, Okay…” Istara sighed, went to her chiller and pulled out a ration pack. She put it in the heaters and shook her head. “I don’t get it, why appear to me, now?”

“Well…” Nana shook her head. “From what I understand, she has little to no control over her more powerful abilities and Idjit shut many of them down on Trugoy’s orders.”

“Huh?” Istara froze from where she had been reaching for the heated ration. “He what? Why?” She pulled it out and sat down at her small desk to eat.

“Dunno.” Nana made a humming noise. “You would have to ask them. I have no idea, not even intelligent guesses.”

“Fair enough, I will when I see them again.” Istara sighed. “I will. She is one of us, isn’t she? One of the Seven?” Nana stared at her and made a waving gesture. Istara shrugged and started eating slowly.

“Will Kalenath’s daughter?” Nana shrugged. “I don’t know. None of my people have met her. But… Since all of the others we have found are either connected to you or Will Kalenath…”

“Hmmm…” Istara ate the bite she had in hand and then nodded. “Technically, she is connected to both of us, since Will is her dad and Jainine is her mom. Yeah. It stands to reason, I know she is powerful. But I have no idea how powerful.” She finished the ration pack quickly and disposed of the container. “There, happy, Mother?”

Nan just looked at her and Istara gave along sigh before lying on the bed. Nana touched her arm and Istara tensed as she felt a small sting on her arm. When she looked, Nana was withdrawing a hypo. . “Wha…?’

Nana sighed. “You need the sleep Istara. Doctor’s orders. Too many emotional shocks over the last several days. Rest in the arms of Ashla, warrior.” Istara couldn’t summon the energy to be outraged and sleep came for her quickly, buoyed on the refrain that Nana was singing softly.
My stories in order:
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kalenath
07.04.2012 , 08:48 AM | #8
<The next day>

Istara lay one her bed as directed and tried to relax as Nana touched her head with two antennae. As always it felt good when she joined the insect mind to mind. She wasn’t sure if it was something in the bug or something in her. Truth be told, she didn’t care. She felt Nana’s amusement.

I am glad you feel that way. Come Istara, come with me… Istara felt the world fall away and then… She was standing on the gray plain that she had seen a bit of, both before leaving Trugoy’s Bladeborn and since. Nana’s voice sounded in her head. We must be cautious.

Istara nodded slowly I remember She had been in this place before, with Idjit. There were predators here, as well as beings of great power, beings who would not hesitate to obliterate intruders into what they considered their domain. What do I do?

We wait Nana’s voice came and the insect’s form appeared on the plain standing beside Istara.

How long? Came Istara’s sardonic thought. But right on the heels of that thought, two other forms appeared nearby. Istara smiled on seeing Ecien and Majistrona appear.

Nana’s thought was sarcastic Oh it might be a while…

Istara snorted, but then bowed deeply to Majistrona Elder

"Istara." Majistrona made a sound suspiciously like a chuckle. “I see Nana has been teaching you our protocol in her spare time.”

"Majistrona." Nana shrugged with two of her shoulders. “I have been trying to.” Istara stuck her tongue out at the insect and Nana preened dramatically. Ecien snorted.

Majistrona sounded resigned. “Children…” The queen became serious. “Nana said it was important.”

Istara bit her lip. “You know my mother was a seer.” All three insects nodded. “I have never honed my divination powers. I never thought they were important.”

Ecien spoke up. “Istara…” Her voice was resigned, but Istara just shook her head.

Istara’s voice was soft now, scared. “I saw Nia Korr, hurting. In pain, restrained to something. She told me to save Setie. And then Nia said to stay away from her, Nia that is. She seemed more afraid for me than for herself. She said not to come after her, whatever that means. I have no idea where she is.”

Majistrona made a humming noise. “And if you did?” Istara just looked at her and Majistrona nodded. “I know, sister, I know.”

"I owe her." Istara sighed. “I did something dumb a while back. I didn’t understand something that Setie was involved in. My… mother was involved. I thought she was going to kill Setie, I was desperate.”

"Istara..." Majistrona stared at the human Bladeborn she called daughter and battle sister. “What did you do?”

"Like I said..." Istara slumped. “It was stupid. I could sense some of what was happening to Setie, even from far away. She had called for help, but I was too far away. So… I tried to go to her.”

"You...?" For the first time since Istara had met her, Majistrona seemed stunned speechless.

Ecien finally spoke. “What did you do Istara?”

"I know it was dumb." Istara sighed, and then spoke slowly and carefully. “I had placed a protection mark on Setsuna. She called for assistance, so I tried to help her. I… forced my mind back along the link we shared. It… It didn’t work.”

All three of the insects were staring at her now. Finally, Majistrona spoke. “What happened? From what I understand about your marks, it shouldn’t have worked at all.”

"I don’t know what happened." Istara shook her head. “One moment, I was sitting on the Fate Shatter, the next I was somewhere else. It was a planet and not one I know. There were a bunch of people there, they looked and acted like Jedi. But none that I have ever seen. The leader… His power was incredible, Majistrona. Almost as much power in the Light side as the Emperor has in the Dark side I think. He blazed, no other word comes close. Nia was there.”

Ecien spoke carefully now. “What happened?”

"I didn;t understand what had happened." Istara shook her head. “I wasn’t thinking. I was afraid for Setsuna. I attacked her, and we fought. We were evenly matched, which isn’t… I don’t understand how she could fight so well. She hadn't finished her training, and she knew things… Techniques I haven’t seen anywhere else. But I have heard of them. You probably know them. Crissold, Julioniana, Horned Tiger, Gulkun. She used a Crissold’s pirouette to break a double bladed vibroblade that I was using at the time of our first fight. It took me a week of research to figure out what technique she had used.”

"You are kidding...?" Ecien recoiled. “Nia knew those?”

"Yeah." Istara nodded. “I have no idea how. I mean, I had heard of them of course, in my training, but to face them? We were evenly matched. Which made no sense at all, the Force sense I got from her was odd. As if…” Istara broke off in thought.

After a moment Majistrona prompted her. “As if…?”

"As if it wasn’t really her in control." Istara frowned in thought. “Now that I think about it, it was very odd. She was... Well, incredible is probably the only word that does her justice. Her eyes were glowing, but not red as mine did in battle. More a silver.” All three insects stilled into immobility and Istara nodded slowly. “You think she is one of the Seven?”

Nana and Ecien looked to Majistrona who nodded slowly. Her voice was thoughtful. “From the description, she must be. Probably the Second. But… if that is the case…” She shook her head slowly. “If that is the case, then we must be very cautious, Istara. Second, mirror to the soul, power temporal. We don’t know what that means for certain, but…”

"Mirror?" Istara’s eyes went wide. “Wait a moment… She was copying me…? If she was using such techniques against me… How could she? I don’t know them.”

Ecien shivered a bit. That was the only word for it. Her voice was quiet. “Yet.”

"What?" Istara stared at the silver carapace bug and then shivered herself as Ecien's meaning became clear. Her voice was hushed. “Kark me…”

"Indeed." Majistrona nodded slowly. “Nana, you will instruct Istara in our techniques. Including those ones she has named. Istara, be very careful using those. They were designed for beings with four arms, not two. And they were designed for swords, not lightsabers. With them, you will likely be able to defeat any common sword or saber wielder, but…”

"Against blasters and other weapons?" Istara nodded slowly. “There has to be a downside.”

"Yes." Ecien responded. “There is. You will be fast, and almost unstoppable up close. But at range, you will be very vulnerable. And you will find it much harder to focus on Ashla. You can either focus on fighting or on Ashla. Not both.”

"I see." Istara blinked. “Ouch. I can see that would have… problems. What of abilities that I use before I go into battle?”

"It is not really an issue." Ecien sighed. “You will have access to Ashla, even while using those techniques, but your access will be more limited. The problem is that if you face a Jedi or a Sith, you have a distinct disadvantage. You will have more power available to you, but…”

"I understand." Istara nodded slowly when Ecien broke off. “They can use the Force without a great deal of hindrance while fighting. Well, better to have the options. I am willing to learn.” She bowed to Majistrona.

"Good." Majistrona nodded. But when she spoke, it was quiet. “You need to know this as well. Jina went to warn Will Kalenath that our enemies are starting to move on him. She ran into a powerful Force user. A human male who wore Samuel Kalenath’s face.”

"Samuel?" Istara stiffened. “That is…Wait…” She shook her head. “No… No it’s not impossible. I burned a body, but it could have been a clone.”

"Indeed." Majistrona sighed. “We don’t know if the one Jina encountered was a clone, or if the one you burned was. We do know he is exceptionally powerful. Chari and Blondie ran him off after disabling his companion, the one who wears Jainine’s body. We don’t know if they managed to kill her or not, the man with Samuel’s face took the woman’s body and fled. Any leads on Setsuna?”

"I don't know." Istara snarled in mock outrage at Nana. “She wouldn’t tell me. She even knocked me out.”

"Istara..." Ecien snorted. “If she did, you deserved it.” Istara bristled a little.

Majistrona sighed. Her tone when she spoke was a well known one. The ‘Mama is trying to be patient’ tone. ’‘Children…”

"Yes." Nana spoke up now. “My queen, we have determined that Setsuna has gone to Clak’Dor. We will follow.”

Istara nodded to her… what was Nana? Her keeper? Her mentor? Her protector? Nana was all of these things, but… She focused on the insect queen. Majistrona nodded and spoke again.

“This goes without saying." The queen said soberly. "Be cautious. They know we are moving as well, but neither of our groups apparently can ‘see’ the other. So we are fumbling around in the dark, and blundering into each other. I don’t want to lose either of you, clear?”

Nana bowed, and so did Istara. The human spoke softly. “Understood, Majistrona. I need to talk to Idjit or Jainine, maybe both, at some point. If I am having visions, I will need to know what to do, or more importantly, what not to do.”

"Agreed." Majistrona nodded. “I will see about a rendezvous with you at some point, although probably not at Clak’Dor. If you do find Setsuna there, we will contact you and tell you where to meet us.”

"What? No..." Istara flinched. “Majistrona, I… We would put your people in danger.”

"Istara... Your sister is ours as well." Majistrona shook her head. “Your sister is in grave danger now. That is worth the risk. Until we meet again, Istara, Nana.” The forms of Ecien and Majistrona winked out.

Istara stared at where Majistrona had been “I…”

Nana shook her head. “Come on Istara, let’s go home.” She touched Istara’s form on the arm and both forms vanished. Behind them on the empty plain all was silent, but only for a moment. Then a human form appeared. He chuckled in a maniacal fashion before vanishing again.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.04.2012 , 08:52 AM | #9
<Somewhere>

The small room rang with echoes as the man on the table screamed again but Samuel was not placated. If anything, he was more enraged. It was hard to tell from his face as still as it was, and his voice was cold and clear. “What instructions were you given?”

The man tried to look away, but there was nothing in the interrogation room to focus on except Samuel’s cold face. He screamed again as Samuel manipulated the controls again. When he spoke it was gasping, quick. “I… I was told… to leave… Sharlina of the Bladeborn… alone.” He gasped out between cries.

Samule nodded. “Yes, you were. Your thirst for vengeance nearly undid all the work we have put into keeping her alive and in the dark. You moron! Be glad I am the one ‘talking’ to you. The master wanted to. But I personally think that you will be useful to us still and not just as recycled body parts. You are an idiot. How does someone like you get to such a high rank?” The man on the table opened his mouth but Samuel shook his head. “No, don’t answer that. We have a use for you, just not where you were, especially since there is a kill order out for you now. What were you thinking?” Samuel asked incredulous.

The man on the table snarled. “She is mine! I want her dead!”Then he screamed as Samuel, stone faced, hit controls again.

Samuel shook his head slowly. When he spoke it was in an almost friendly tone. “Well, then we have a problem. You were given an order, and you disobeyed it. The penalty for doing that in the Empire is death, which is why Imperial Intelligence is after you now.” Samuel sighed. “Oh well, you will be happy to know that in a few days, II will stop hunting you. They will find a badly burned body in a speeder, DNA matching will show it to be you.”

The man’s eyes went wide and he smiled. “Thank you.”

Samuel shook his head. “Oh don’t thank me. Your usefulness as a Moff is at an end, Vimas. So… We will have to find something else to do with you. We will. A few changes to your face and DNA and you should be totally unrecognizable. But that does leave us with an unusable agent. One who cannot obey orders. We can’t have deadweight.” His voice was sad now.

Moff Anold Vimas stared at the man who was now manipulating controls on another console. He blanched as the door to the small room opened and a vision of horror walked in. His voice was stricken as he stared first at the insect and then at the large red crystal that was clenched in the insect’s manipulator digits. “No…”

Samuel shook his head. “Vimas… If you had obeyed your orders, you would still be a valued deep cover agent, but your personal vengeance was more important to you. So be it. It won’t hurt. I promise you that. And even if it does, you will not remember it. Grun’das…?”

Samuel watched as Grun’das prepared. It was horrifying in its simplicity. Basically, the bug filled a cup with something. Samuel was actually glad he couldn’t see where the thick, syrupy liquid came from. He wasn’t squeamish by a long shot, but this… Vimas tried to fight, tried to struggle, but his bonds held him fast. Grun’das held the large cup to Vimas’ mouth, but the human refused to drink. He clenched his mouth shut to keep from swallowing. Grun’das just shrugged and quick as a whip, an appendage flipped up and a small stinger touched Vimas on the arm. It injected the calming agent -what he called ‘nectar’- directly into Vimas’ bloodstream. The human went limp instantly. Samuel watched with clinical dispassion as the Insect checked Vimas’ vital signs before proceeding.

Samuel had always found the bug to be a dichotomy. Grun’das was a consummate professional at what he did. He was kind, gentle, and careful with his patients. But at the same time, he was savage and merciless to anyone he considered enemies. He could be gracious one moment and utterly vicious the next. Samuel could feel the terror that Vimas was going through and sighed. “If only you had listened Vimas…” He looked at Grun’das. “How long?”

Grun’das checked Vimas’ pulse and then looked the bound man in the eyes. Then he spoke. “He is ready now. Your wish?”

Samuel sighed again, deeper. “Wipe him completely. Remove all of his memory of self. We can find a use for him, as long as he doesn’t keep disobeying orders. The master is very displeased with him at the moment. He was our highest ranking agent.”

Grun’das nodded and carefully lowered the red crystal until it touched Vimas on the left side of his head. He seemed to wilt a bit as the crystal glowed bright red. Samuel laid a hand on a back leg and poured energy into the form. It didn’t take long. Maybe two minutes after the crystal had touched Vimas on the head, Grun’das withdrew it. His voice was weary. “Thank you… I…”

Samuel looked the still form on the table over before turning to the bug. “You need another treatment my friend.” Grun’das nodded, and Samuel shook his head. “They are not taking, are they?” Grun’das shook his head and Samuel sighed sadly. “I am sorry.”

"Ah well." Grun’das had resignation in his voice when he spoke. “We knew it was a slim chance when we asked. Thank you for trying.”

"Grun'das..." Samuel shook his head. “Don’t give up. We can still find a host.”

Grun’das slumped. “And how likely is that? The Raven girl was probably the closest we have come since your son destroyed our queen. And even she would have lasted only two or three layings. Even if that idiot Ge’Bush hadn’t gotten himself and his whole swarm slaughtered by the Bladeborn.”

Samuel gave the insect a small shove. “Come my friend. Let the future worry about the future. Let us worry about the present. You need another treatment.” Grun’das led the way out of the interrogation room and Samuel nodded to a woman in nurse’s attire. “The subject will awake in thirty minutes or so. Jen, is the donor prepped? Grun’das needs another dose.”

Jen’s dark hair shone in the bright light and her brown eyes never left Samuel’s. She nodded. “Yes, Master healer. She is ready and willing even. I will tend the newly Cleansed one. Name?”

Samuel frowned for a moment. Then he snorted. “He always was a jerk. Call him ‘Jerr’. I will be tending Grun’das and then our newest recruit.”

The nurse nodded and went through the door behind them. Samuel led the way now into another room. This one was very different. Cheery colors abounded. Light greens and light blues colored the walls and ceiling in abstract patterns. The room was filled with medical gear, most arrayed around the form that lay in the bed in the middle of the room. The woman looked up from her book and set it aside. Her brown eyes twinkled as she smiled.

“Hello, master healer.” The woman might have tried to nod, but her head was secured in place. Instead, she waved. She looked at Grun’das and her eyes took on a sorrowful cast. “Oh, its time for another? Already? I am sorry Grun’das. Maybe this time it will work.”

Grun’das settled himself by the bed and Samuel busied himself with working on the equipment hooked up to the woman. He looked at Grun’das and the bug nodded. Samuel took a deep breath before taking a long glistening needle and plunging it into the joint between two pieces of chitin on the insect’s right front leg. If Grun’das noticed it wasn’t apparent. Samuel checked the injection site and then nodded.

Samuel laid a gentle hand on the woman’s cheek. “Naptime, Jainine.” The woman sighed as power flowed into her, dragging her quickly to unconsciousness. Then he checked the IV tubing that ran from the girl’s neck into the machinery that sat around her. He nodded. “We are ready to go. Are you okay, Grun’das?”

The bug nodded, careful not to move the needle that jutted up from his leg. “I am. I can deactivate it, and unhook it when we are done.”

Samuel nodded. “If anything strange happens, let me know immediately.” He indicated the buzzer beside the bed.

Grun’das snorted in laughter. “You are trying to give the Force to a being without it. What is not strange about that?” Samuel smiled as he activated the machinery. He checked the flow from Jainine’s arteries into the machine and then he waited until a different flow went into Grun’das’ leg. Two different species, two different types of blood, same microscopic organisms that allowed beings to sense and use the Force.

Samuel scrutinized the readouts before nodding. “Counts are good. I will be back in an hour.”

Grun’das snorted again. “Take your time, I am not going anywhere.”

Samuel was chuckling as he closed the door behind him. He walked into another room and sighed. “Why do I always get the idiot patients?”

The female Togruta who sat in the middle of the floor smiled at him, but didn’t move and that was a good thing. Her red skin showed a number of minor injuries and the white stripes on her lekku and montrals didn't cover the bruising that was just now starting to fade. Ashla Ti had flexicasts on her right arm, her left leg and one of her lekku was in a splint as well. Samuel just shook his head. “I know you don’t like the bed, sister, but…”

Ashla Ti’s voice was quiet. “I can’t get comfortable. I feel… odd…” She shook her head slowly, and grimaced as her splinted lekku bounced a bit. Samuel was beside her in an instant.

“Easy…” He cautioned. “Let me see…” She didn’t move as he gently manipulated the head tail. She hissed at one point, but didn’t move and then he sighed. “You have been moving it.” He secured it gently with his hands. “Ashla Ti, if you keep bumping it into things, it won’t ever heal.”

Ashla Ti slumped. “I don’t mean to. It just…”

Samuel patted her shoulder gently. “It’s okay. I have been doing some research on your race, I never dealt with any of your kind before. I may have an alternative, but if so, it won’t be for a few days. I need to check the rest of your injuries. I hit you hard, sister. I apologize.”

Ashla Ti smiled sadly as he helped her stand. “Not your fault. They told me... I attacked you....” She hissed slightly as she bent to get up and Samuel sighed again. He eased her gently to her feet and helped her to the bed. She was weaving by the time he lifted her into it.

He started a set of machinery and then perused the scanners as she lay in the bed, obviously in discomfort. Then he shook his head. “Ashla Ti… The therapy didn’t work. You need more surgery.” He started working his controls. “I am going to put you out and hopefully, we can get you in without delay.”

"I..." Ashla Ti sighed and tried to relax. “I am sorry…”

Samuel sighed before touching her gently on the shoulder. As he did, he reconnected the IV lines she had disconnected to get out of the bed and and adjusted the flow of medication. “It was not your fault. If it was anyone’s it was mine. I had no idea you had been injured previously. Rest sister, when you wake, hopefully the pain will be gone.” Ashla Ti smiled as she lost consciousness. Samuel brushed her forehead before turning to the middle of the room.

“I know you have been moving her, keeping her from healing while she sleeps. You leave her alone.” His cold words rang through the air and then an apparition appeared in midair. A Togruta in Jedi robes who had the same face as the being in the bed.

“Why?” The Jedi’s voice was quiet. “She is not a real person.”

"You dare ask that?" Samuel’s voice was cold. “She has as much right to exist as you do.”

Jedi Master Ashla Ti looked at the being in the bed and then back at Samuel. “Does she? Could have fooled me, whatever you are. You don’t really care about anything do you, except vengeance against the Republic and Jedi.”

Samuel shook his head. “Of all the… I explained it to you in exquisite detail, what happened and why. You refuse to listen. Fine, we do it the hard way.” He waved a hand and a crystal flew from his belt pouch into his hand. “You. Leave. Her. Alone.” With each old word, he jerked the crystal and the spirit in front of him winced with each jerk until the last word when he jerked it hard and she fell to her insubstantial knees. She opened her mouth but no sound came out. “You won’t listen to me? That is fine, you will listen to someone else…” She was shaking her head and screaming now, but no sound was head. “You like pain? Fine, Ravishaw likes giving people like you pain. And he just woke up. I bet he is hungry after so long asleep. Let’s go give him a meal, huh?”

Ashla Ti’s spirit was crying now, But Samuel as unmoved. “You hurt someone I care about. It is what you Jedi do, for the greater good. Always for the greater good. Well, not today. You will NOT hurt her again. Get in here!” Her form vanished and he snarled as he walked towards the door. He opened it, went through and closed it quietly. Then he walked to another room where a form was lying on a bed. Ravishaw looked up at Samuel and smiled.

Samuel sighed. “Hello, brother. I brought you a meal. Don’t drain her dry. We will need her.” He placed the crystal on the bed and left trying to ignore the maniacal chuckling behind him. And the screams that cut off as the door closed behind him. He sighed and went to prepare for surgery. So much for this being a good day…
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kalenath
07.04.2012 , 09:01 AM | #10
<A bit later>


Samuel stepped back from the operating table with a satisfied smile under his surgical mask. They had managed to fix the damage. It had taken most of his skill and several texts on Togruta biology, but the internal injuries that Ashla Ti had sustained from being slammed into multiple bulkheads had finally been repaired. He wished he could touch heal his sister, but his ability with that was strictly limited. A broken bone was pretty much the limit of his ability, and even that drained him a great deal. He sighed and ordered a droid to move the slumbering Togruta to a recovery room. He leaned against the wall, spent. It had been a long day. First Vimas and his stupidity, then Grun’das who was showing signs of improvement, and now Ashla Ti’s surgery had taken a great deal out of him. Sometimes he really hated being the only trained medic for this group. But he was needed. He sighed as he started pulling off his scrubs, starting with his mask. He dropped them in the cleanser and started washing up.

Samuel shook his head. “A long way from Averum, huh?” He asked himself quietly.

He spun as a voice answered him. “Indeed Samuel, a long way from your beginnings.” Samuel’s eyes went wide as he saw the cloaked form of his master in the door. He knelt instinctively, but his master sighed and waved him to his feet. “Can it, Samuel. Not here… Here we are just two brothers whose sister was sick. How is she?’

"Truthfully?" Samuel shook his head. “I don’t know. I fixed all the damage I could find. With care and a bit of help from the Force, she should be able to make a full recovery. But…I just don’t know.”

The cloaked form blew out a deep breath. “You are tired Samuel. It has been a long day. Go get some rest.” Samuel shook his head and looked to where Ashla Ti’s gurney had gone now. His master sighed. “Go Samuel, I will have them wake you if anything happens. You trained Jen well. She can handle just about anything until you can get up. Actually… Come, I will see you to bed.”

"I..." Samuels stiffened. “There is no need for that, master. I will sleep.”

The man, or what appeared as a man, shook his head. “You haven’t been sleeping enough. If you fall ill, who will take care of you?”

"I..." Samuel shook his head. “You are right, but then again, you are always right.”

"Of course I am." The cloaked form snorted. “I am all knowing, all seeing, all…”

Samuel snorted in matching amusement. “...All full of it.” Both of them laughed. Odd that a master and his servant would share a humorous moment, but these two were not your ordinary master and servant.

The cloaked form laughed again. “I should have something terrible done to you for such an awful insult. Oh I know, I will make you tend patients for a week.” Samuel snorted, that was his normal job. The cloaked form sighed. “You fear for Maria, don’t you?”

Samuel nodded. He knew better than to try and hide anything from this being. “Yes. She has never handled failure well. And she… She is not as young as she used to be. None of us are, but…She is alone, master.”

The cloaked form shook his head. “If you try and help her, she will kill you Samuel. She thinks you are working for the Sith.”

"I know." Samuel nodded against his will. “If Maria could be convinced…”

The man in the cloak sighed deeper. “Maybe you could, but if not, what then? Kill her? Could you put her in one of those crystals Samuel? Knowing what you do?” Samuel bowed his head and then shook it. “I know this is hard, my servant. But it will come out right.” He laid a gentle hand on Samuel’s shoulder. “Now sleep…” Samuel crumbled, a look of fear on his face, but the cloaked form caught him and carried him easily from the room. “It will be okay my brother.” For just a moment, the cloaked figure’s arm was visible. On it was a burn, in the shape of a stylized sword. It matched the one on Samuel's arm.

<Somewhere>

Samuel came awake suddenly. Something was wrong. He heard… He stood up swiftly. He was standing in a small room, a fire blazing in a fireplace, two chairs facing it and a sofa. He had been here before, with Sara, but Sara had been inches from death. His heart seemed to freeze as he heard a voice he recognized.

“Gonna kill me now… Sith scum…?” Maria sat in one of the chairs, her head weaving. He could smell…

Samuel’s voice was horrified. “No… Oh no, Maria… No… talk to me, please…?” It always amazed him how powerful a mind could be. He could smell the alcohol on Maria’s breath even before he got close to her. He shook his head, horrified by this turn of events. Maria hadn’t been drunk since ten years before the two of them had been taken by Republic Intelligence. And by the looks of it, she wasn’t just drunk, she was hammered.

Maria snarled at him. “Don’t talk to Sith, liars all. Lie as easy as breathing… All of you… You ain’t my Samuel.”

Samuel forced himself to relax. If she was here, there was a chance. Not a great one, but a chance. “Maria… I don’t know. I woke up on a ship, surrounded by people in black. They… I don’t if I am a clone or not.” He looked at her and blanched. “Maria, you are dying.”

Maria just sighed. “About bloody time… Maybe… Maybe whatever hell I go to will be warm… Tired of being cold. Tired of being evil…”

Samuel sat in the other chair and looked at the woman who he remembered as his wife. “I know the feeling. The people I work for now, who own me body and soul now, are not nice. I have had to be that way. To act that way. But that doesn’t change my memories. Or my feelings.”

Maria shook her head but she was slumping now and Samuel took a chance. He stood up from his chair and moved to hers. She didn’t move as he embraced her. She met his eyes, and her were dull, listless. “No…”

Samuel shook his head and laid it gently on her shoulder. “I won’t hurt you Maria. I can’t.” The woman’s body shuddered and then he was holding her tight as he remembered doing so often before. After her nights out. After she had made a fool of herself. After she had tried to drown her sorrow and pain in synthale. “It’s okay, Maria… It’s okay…” He brushed her hair gently as she sobbed.

Maria choked out words between sobs. “So… Tired…”

Samuel felt his own eyes fill. “I know, Maria. I do.” Then he jerked and stiffened. “They are pulling me back… Maria… I… I don’t know if I am your Samuel or not. But… I love you. Don’t… Please don’t let yourself go.” Maria stared at the face of the man she had loved and watched as he phased out from wherever the flarg she was. Then she sat in the chair and cried.

<Medical bay>

“Samuel?” The worried voice was the first thing he heard when he came back to his body. He blinked, he was strapped down on his bed again, and the drugs were flowing through his system. He tried to talk, but the paralytic agent was still in his bloodstream. Which was likely a good thing; because what he wanted to do right then was tear the face off of the being who sat nearby. The cloaked form of his master sat beside his bed and shook his head. “You know better than to journey so far when you are that weak Samuel. We almost lost you.”

Samuel felt hate swelling inside him, but there was nothing he could do. His body wouldn’t react and his mind, well, it was fogged by fatigue and drugs. The cloaked form sighed. “Samuel, I know you are angry with me. I know I lied to you, misled you. We needed a medical person, a healer, and I needed someone I could trust implicitly. So…” he sighed again. “You won’t remember this when you wake up.”

The cloaked form reached out a hand that seemed to blur as it moved towards Samuel’s head. He was screaming inside as it touched him. As always, it felt cool instead of warm like skin. And then the pain began. The cloaked for stayed where he was for a long moment, until Samuel’s eyes rolled back into his head and his sense in the Force showed he was unconscious. Then he sighed and sat back. “Rest well, my friend. When you wake, we hunt.” 

<Somewhere else>

Maria woke scared. That was nothing new, fear was a constant companion. She had been talking to Sara and Sarai, hadn’t she? They had been discussing what face Saria wanted, the girl hadn’t liked the picture that Maria had procured. And then… Nothing. She listened and tensed as she heard sounds that filled her with dread. Medical equipment. Once that hadn’t been such a problem, on many occasions she had awoken in a Republic medical facility after missions gone bad. But now after spending more than a decade as an unwilling guinea pig in Republic laboratories, experimented on by doctors and Jedi, she was very leery of allowing herself to be in any medical type’s clutches. She was easing her hands and feet around, checking for restraints, when a soft voice came to her ears.

“Maria…?”

Maria’s eyes shot open and she looked to the side where a young woman sat whose face was so like her daughters, and yet, so unlike. “Sarai…? What happened?”

The girl who had been brainwashed and altered to be a copy of Maria’s daughter before being rescued took Maria’s hand in a gentle grip. “You collapsed. Oh Maria… You scared me…” The girl was crying softly. “And Sara… I thought she was going to go through the ceiling. Why didn’t you tell us you were feeling bad?”

Maria stared at Sariai. “I… I wasn’t…” She stared at Sarai and then around. She was lying on a bed, and from the vibrations she could feel, she was on a ship. She relaxed slightly as she recognized the Stormhawk’s medical bay. She had spent a great deal of time in it, and they took pains to keep it as un-laboratory like for her sake as possible. The blanket that covered her was one Nia had made for her when Maria had first come aboard and the pillow by her head was one Sara had made for her. She saw medical monitors attached to her and an IV run into her wrist, but they didn’t bother her nearly as much as they should have. She was so weak… “What… What happened?”

"I..." Sarai sighed. “I don’t know. I didn’t understand half of what they told me and Sara. I think Sara did, but we just got her to sleep about thirty minutes ago. They said something about blood alcohol toxicity levels. Whatever that means.”

"Oh boy..." Maria sighed. “It means I messed up, girl. I got drunk. Oh…” She groaned as she shifted her place on the bed carefully. “It has been a long time.”

"What?" Sarai stared at Maria, and then held the woman while she shifted, giving what leverage she could. “Why? I mean… I know people get drunk. But Sara didn’t say anything. Was it something I did?”

"No girl." Maria smiled gently as she settled again. “As with every time I have gotten drunk it was something I did. I… really messed up with a girl I was trying to help. I took advice I shouldn’t have. She thought we were manipulating her and technically, I think we were.” Maria put the hand that wasn’t festooned with IVs and monitors to her head. “Ow… Frell, it has been twenty two years since I was drunk last… At least I am not sick now. Might come later. This is going to be messy.”

"I don't care." Sarai smiled as she leaned closer to the bed. “I am not going anywhere, Maria. Sara saved me, you gave me a place and… your love… I… I am not going to leave you alone.”

"Sarai..." Maria sighed. “Aw, girl. I’m not dying.” She froze as the door opened and the Stormhawk’s medical personnel came in, L’trask and Hawkir both looked grim.

"Not for lack of trying Maria." L’trask snorted. “Silly woman.”

Hawkir didn’t speak, just come close to the bed and looked at Maria before sighing. Maria looked at him. “What?” she asked quietly.

Hawker shook his head. “Maria if you had collapsed anywhere else, if we had been two minutes slower in getting you into medical, you would never have woken up.” Maria stared at him, and his voice became sad. “Was that what you were trying to do? Maria, you are not twenty anymore, heck you are not forty anymore. You cannot drink like that. Your blood alcohol level was beyond the toxic range. You were…” Hawkir was shaking his head.

"I was dead." Maria shook her head. “I owe you my life again?”

"No." Hawkir shook his head again. “We have a new medical person aboard. She saved you and she is rather steamed with you walking out in the middle of detox.”

"Huh?" Maria shook her head. “I… I what?” She wracked her brain, trying to remember, but nothing came to mind. Just walking and then talking to Sara and Sarai.

"You were very out of it." L’trask sighed. “I don’t doubt that you have missing time. But Gaia… well, she is very unhappy with you at the moment.”

"Who?" Maria blinked. “What kind of a name is Gaia?”

“Mine.” Came an irate voice from the door. Maria went stiff as she saw what came through the door in a hover chair. The mass of jelly body, the tentacles, it could only be one thing. She cowered away on the bed, but the Islanian just sighed. “Relax, woman. I have spent way too much time putting you back together to hurt you now. Much as I might want to.”

Maria stared at the inhuman form and then at Hawkir and L’trask. “She is the new doc?”

"She is." L’trask smiled. “And you are going to listen to her. Clear?” The Trandoshan’s final word was cold.

"Okay..." Maria stared at the Trandoshan and then her face fell. “What have I missed?” Her voice was awestruck.

Hawkir snorted in mild laughter. “Not much, just your run of the mill alliance with an anti-slavery force. Run by the last of her race. She is good at what she does, and she is a good being. Listen to her.” Maria stared at the Jedi, who more than any other had shown her that not all Jedi were like the scum who had experimented on her.

The hover chair came close to Maria’s bed and Maria watched in awe as Sarai didn’t move while two tentacles came and brushed the girl on the arm. She didn’t even seem to flinch. Gaia’s voice was kind. “Sarai… You need rest now.”

Sarai nodded and stood up. She staggered a bit and Hawkir caught her carefully. The girl smiled bit sheepishly. “I… Yeah… Sleep would be good.” The Jedi and the Trandoshan doctor led Sarai out of the room, leaving Maria with the jellyfish like being, whose many eyestalks looked at her.

"Oops doesn't really cover it, I think." Maria licked her lips. “I messed up.”

"Yes you did." Several of the eyestalks bobbed in what had to be an Islanian nod. “I don’t know what drove you to drink, but you very nearly killed yourself with that stunt. And then to run out in the middle of detox therapy…”

"I..." The human woman slumped. “I didn’t mean to. They… They needed me.” She broke off and Gaia sighed.

"I know. I have kids of my own, sort of anyway." The Islanain’s voice was sad now. “This will not be fun for you. I understand you have gone through it before.”

"Detox?" Maria shivered a bit. “Yes.”

Gaia sighed, a remarkably human sound from a huge jellyfish. “Ok, then. I have filtered your blood. Your liver and kidneys seem to have taken no lasting damage. But you are going to go through withdrawal.”

Maria shivered harder. “I already am… I remember…” She bit out her words. “Take… care of my kids?”

Gaia sighed. “I will, while you are laid up. I am going to put you out and you will wake up in the Enclave Medical facility. I can’t go there. The gravity is too high for my form. But I will be consulting and if you mess up again… I… I will send Sara to hurt you.” The final words were sardonic and Maria was chuckling as the Islanian touched her. It was a gentle touch, but darkness came for her swiftly.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here