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(L,F&E 66) Artifical Intelligence

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Fan Fiction
(L,F&E 66) Artifical Intelligence

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kalenath
07.07.2012 , 03:03 AM | #1
She woke up slowly. That was nothing odd. Was it? For a long moment, as she kept her eyes closed, she couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Then it hit her. She had eyes! She froze. Had it worked? She tried to move, to feel, but she couldn’t. So she did the only thing she could. She opened her eyes. The sight that greeted her was unexpected. All around her, the medical bay of the Stormhawk was laid out. And it was fuzzy. Her sight had, ever since her rebirth, been as picture perfect as top of the line sensors could make it. Her eyes were the only part of her body that she could move, but wait…? She had a body? She stared at what she could see. The skin was blue, a common Twi’lek shade. Her eyes burned. She remembered that feeling, barely. She was crying.

“Good morning, Mission.” The voice had her looking to the side and there she was. The being she had called ‘Mother’ ever since she had woken as a spacecraft. “Oh don’t cry child. It’s all right. It’s better than all right. Its amazing.”

She felt her face move and then she heard herself speak. “Gaia…?” Her voice was so quiet, so weak. Several of the Islanian’s tentacles touched her, and she felt comforted. She knew it was simply the manipulation of biotoxins in the tips of said tentacles, but she didn’t care. Gaia was her mother in every way that mattered. Mission relaxed. Her mother was comforting her as best she could. “It… worked…?” She hadn’t really expected it to.

“Yes, Mission. It worked.” The Islanian was fiddling with gear beside the bed and then Mission found herself inclining up. No, half of her body was inclining; the lower half remained where it was. “Oh child, I am so happy… For the first time in centuries, I have hope.”

"Um..." Mission looked around, her eyes focusing a bit better. But something was wrong. Something was off. The body didn’t feel as she thought it should. “Gaia… How old is this body?” She finally asked.

"Well..." The Islanian made a human sounding sigh. “In actual age, it’s a week old. In biological terms, its fifteen years old.”

"What?" Mission blinked, and then grinned. She hadn’t thought about such things as blinking. She shook her head. “I’m a kid again?”

"Hardly." Gaia snorted a human sounding laugh. “But that was the age we could get out of the pod. Now, you are going to feel very strange for a time while you acclimatize yourself to your new body. Do not push yourself.” The Islanian cautioned when Mission would have moved. “You have not been in a Twi’lek body for almost nine hundred years. You haven’t had a body for almost nine hundred years. No matter what you remember, things will be different. Things are going to take you by surprise.”

Mission looked down at herself and grimaced. “Yeah.” She felt the things on the back of her head move. Lekku, they were called, right? She grinned a bit foolishly. “Thank you, Gaia. Even if it doesn’t work. Thank you…” She held out a slow hand and the Islanian took it in several tentacles. It felt… marvelous… to feel the skin under her fingertips. She luxuriated in the feelings.

"Give it time." A gentle voice she remembered came from nearby. “I think it will work, if you give it a chance.” She looked to where a man in Jedi robes was rising from a chair.

“Hawkir…” Mission’s voice was warm. “Thank you too. This…. This is… I have no words.”

"Mission..." Hawkir Strum’s voice was quiet, kind and gentle. “You are welcome. But you will need more sleep.”

"I... I need to say something..." Mission felt waves of lassitude start sweeping through her and she smiled as she closed her eyes. “Even if parts of it will get disgusting… Even if I have to shut down every so often, ‘sleep’ as you call it… Even if it doesn’t work in the end… Thank you both…” Her head lolled a bit as she lost consciousness.

Hawkir and Gaia checked their readouts and then left the room in silence. Gaia led the way to her quarters. She had a small cave-like room with medical texts, computer paraphernalia and a large sheet depicting different species DNA on it prominent on one wall. She rolled into her sleeping area and sighed. “Wow…”

"Wow indeed." Hawker smiled. “You did a good thing, Gaia.”

"Did I?" Gaia’s voice was quiet, sad. “I hope so. Maybe I can make up for some of the evil I have done. She was the breaking point, you know…?”

"You told me." Hawkir nodded. “She was the reason you rebelled. The reason you worked so hard to free the ships.”

"Yes." Gaia’s voice was very sad now. “She was such a good child. Obedient, thoughtful. And I… I broke her… I broke her; I remade her and poured her mind into that ship. I have never been able to forget her screams. I have never been able to forgive myself for that. She was so young… All of three, I think. All of the other screams I could forget, hers no…”

"Ah..." Hawkir sighed as he sat on what looked like a boulder but was actually a sack stuffed with small ergonomically designed pellets. Islanians could not use normal chairs, but the furniture they could use was also usable, with some tweaking, by other races. “You cannot change the past, Gaia.”

"I know." Gaia made a noise somewhere between a groan and a sigh. “Oh how I wish though…”

"Don't we all?" Hawker snorted. “What is next then?”

"Now?" Gaia rolled back towards the wall of the room, her form nearly vanishing into the gloom of a shadow. “Now we make sure there are no complications. We have put her through the wringer while she was unconscious. But there are some things that she simply has to be awake for.”

"Oh yeah." Hawkir had a sad look on his face. “Physical therapy, oh she is going to love that.”

"Yeah." Gaia made a noise that was distinctly unpleasant. “There are downsides to being a mother. Sometimes I have to be the arrogant dominating one. I have to, no matter how much it hurts. I know it’s for the best, but if she tells me to flarg off… I… I can’t push her… It is such a thin line between convincing someone to do something for her own good and commanding someone to do something because I am lazy.” Her eyestalks came out of the shadow and fixed Hawkir. “If you see me doing something like that… Stop me. I don’t care what I am doing. Stop me. What matters now are the kids. And if they lose trust in me… We are boned…” Hawkir smiled. Gaia had been around the crew of the Stormhawk too long, their wording was rubbing off on her.

"I will." Hawkir sighed sadly. “Are you going to be able to sleep?” She hadn’t for the last three days.

"Sleep?" Gaia sighed. “I doubt it. I am just so… So excited. Finally… After so long…”

"Gaia?" Hawkir looked at the shadowed corner. “How is the pain?” Gaia didn’t answer and Hawkir didn’t move.

After a few minutes a sour sound came from the alcove. “Stubborn Jedi, you would sit there all night, wouldn’t you?”

"You know me." Hawkir had to smile at that. “Probably. Gaia…?”

"Yeah." Her voice was soft now. “It’s worse. I… I don’t know how long…” Hawkir reached out a hand and a tentacle came out of the alcove. They touched and power flared. Gaia’s voice held relief. “Thank you.”

"I can't..." Hawkir slumped. “I am sorry… I can’t keep up, Gaia.”

"I know." Gaia’s voice was quiet. “I am not sick Hawkir. I’m old. There is only one cure for that. My body is falling apart. Technology and the Force can only do so much. But I thank you, maybe… Maybe I can leave this existence a better place than I found it…”

"You already have Gaia." Hawkir smiled a bit wistfully. “You already have.”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.07.2012 , 03:09 AM | #2
It was impossible to tell who was more annoyed. The jellyfish was obviously trying very hard not to scream in frustration, but the Cathar who sat beside the odd shaped bed was also not a happy camper. When Stormhawk Nine had been called to Gaia’s quarters she had assumed it was something about treatment. Not… this…

“You want me to do…what?” The incredulity in Stormhawk Nine’s voice was almost palpable. "Gaia..."

"Look..." Gaia made a sound somewhere between a groan, a sigh and a snort. “I can fix your ear problems, it will just take a bit more time. Tell me you are not better already.” Her voice was weary, sad, tired, and something else…

"I...." The Cathar touched the odd shaped device that ran around the back of her head and smiled a bit sheepishly. The damage she had taken from a leak in her cockpit during a dogfight had robbed her of her reason to live. She had lived to fly and los her reason to live. And then Gaia had given it back. Sure it felt weird. Having a jelly like substance running through the inside of her head felt VERY strange. But… she smiled a bit sadly. She could walk without falling down now, and her balance, while not as good as it had been, was recovering as the inner ears membranes, bones and nerves regenerated under the influence of the Islanian’s medical wizardry. There had already been significant improvement, even just over the week since Gaia had started her on the new therapy. Nine shook her head slowly, but in resignation, not negation. “Yes. There has been. I owe you. More than I could ever pay. I…” The Cathar found her eyes burning, and she stiffened slightly as the Islanian rolled nearer. Despite her best efforts, Gaia still creeped her out. “You gave me back my life. You gave me back the stars.”

"You are wrong." Gaia made a noise of disagreement. “I gave you nothing. Without your will to persevere, none of the therapies would have worked. Your will to win, to do whatever it takes to get the job done… That… That is what I need…”

"I don't understand. There are a lot of other females, kinder, gentler people." Nine shook her head again. “Gaia… Why me? I… All I am is a fighter jock. That is all I have been, all I will ever be… Why are you asking this of me?”

"No." Gaia’s voice was soft now. “That is not all you are. You are the crew representative. You are their voice on the command council. But more importantly, you are a pilot. You understand, better than anyone except Will probably… What these kid shave been through. What they will need. I am not going to leave them to him.”

"No..." The Cathar snorted in dark amusement. “That wouldn’t be a good idea, would it?”

"He is good with his foster kids. But..." Gaia snorted in matching amusement. “No.” Then the jellyfish like alien sighed. Now her voice was scared. “Look, I am not demanding, I am not even requesting… I am begging. You are the only person I would trust with them.”

"I don't understand." Stormhawk Nine repeated as she shook her head. “Gaia… In every way that matters, these are your kids. Why are you asking me to be their mother?”

Gaia turned her eyes talks away from the Cathar. Her voice when she spoke was nearly inaudible. “Because I won’t be around.”

"What?" Stormhawk Nine… froze. “Gaia…?” Her voice held horror.

"Nine..." Gaia sighed deeply. “I have lived for two thousand of your years. A normal Islanian lifespan was half that. With the medical tech I had, and made, I have extended my normal span. But… I am not a god. I am not even a wizard from an old tale. All I am… Is a being whose children needed her.”

"Gaia..." The Cathar’s voice was stunned. “Are you…sick? Can… Can we do anything?”

"Nine, its okay." The last of the Islanian’s voice was gentle now. “No, I am not sick. I am old. There is not cure for that.”

"I..." The Cathar was shaking her head. “Wait a minute… you made clones for the ships… Can we make a new body for you?”

"No." The Islanian’s voice was gentle. “We tried, L’Trask, Hawkir and I. It didn’t work. I made this body work again after what my ‘masters’ did to it so long ago… I messed it up. I never dreamed… Back then, that I would survive so long. It wasn’t intended to be reversible, to remove an Islanian from a ship. It was a death sentence. It just didn’t quite work out the way the masters intended.”

"I believe you." Despite her uneasiness, Nine reached out a slow hand to touch the Islanian. “Gaia… I am sorry.”

"Thank you." The Islanian didn’t move. She was well aware of Nine’s discomfiture. “But that does leave me with a problem.”

"Okay..." Nine sighed. “I understand. But… Why would they accept me?”

"They won't." Gais snorted. “Not at first. I never kept secrets from them. They know… about my infirmity. But they do not understand… They do not accept it. I just hope I can manage all the transfers. We are about halfway done.”

"All right." Stormhawk Nine withdrew her hand as slowly as she had extended it. “What do you need from me?”

"Nine...?" Gaia had hope in her voice as she looked at the Cathar. “Will you…? No… No… I won’t pressure you. I can’t do that to you. Talk to Mission and the others. Just… talk to them.”

"I..." Stormhawk Nine nodded soberly. “I will.”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.07.2012 , 03:17 AM | #3
<An hour later>

It was remarkably quiet in the room. The five beings that sat in hoverchairs watched the Cathar with a singlemindedness that reminded her of a school of sharks eyeing a wounded fish. But she didn’t show her discomfiture. She hit her remote and all of their eyes went wide as the camera over the door turned off.

"Hello." The Cathar looked to each one in turn before speaking. “My name is Sylvie. What are yours?”

The five beings, a female Twi’lek, a male Sullustan, two humans, a male and female, and a male of a race she had no name for with blue skin and red eyes all looked at each other and then back at her. The absurdly young looking female Twi’lek spoke. “You know us, Nine…”

"No." The Cathar shook her head, ignoring the slight dizziness that still persisted and would for some time. “I knew you. And you knew me. Things have changed. I want to know you now. Gaia told me.”

All of the beings facing her looked at each other again. All of their faces held a mixture of emotions. Rage, pain, fear, sadness. They all looked to the Twi’lek but she shook her head, obviously unable to speak.

"What?" Finally, the Sullustan spoke. “What do you want?”

"I want to help." The Cathar sighed. “She helped me… And…” Her eyes burned and for once in her life, she let tears fall without a struggle. “I can’t help her… But maybe I can help you.”

"You?" They all looked at her. Finally, the strange looking alien spoke. “You would help us. Help us… how?”

"By being here." The woman who called herself Sylvie only when people couldn’t hear nodded. “I can’t take your mother’s place. No one can. What I can do is be what humans call a ‘step-mom’. A surrogate. Not a replacement, no, but someone similar. Someone who can help you through what you will go through. I know what it is to be denied flying, maybe not after so long as you all flew. But you will fly again. And if you will have me, I will fly with you.”

"Nine..." The Twi’lek looked at her. “You have a squadron…”

Sylvie shook her head. “Not anymore. The Silvers have a new flight leader. Seventeen is good, he is actually a better natural pilot than I am. They don’t need me. You do.”

The male human’s eyes were decidedly unfriendly. “Do we?”

Sylvie nodded. “You do. Your feelings on Gaia are ambivalent, I know. She hurt you, she made you and then she freed you. She fought and killed for you, and now… She has freed you again. And soon she will leave you. Forever.” The Twi’lek’s eyes were glistening as were the female human’s. The others were stone faced, but Sylvie was sure she had gotten through to them. The Cathar stood and held out her arms, not commanding, beckoning, welcoming. “My name is Sylvie.” She repeated.

The Twi’lek stood on shaky legs and staggered towards her. “My name is Mission, Sylvie…” Sylvie caught her and held her as the Twi’lek sobbed. Sylvie gave Mission a hug and lowered the young looking female to the floor before kneeling herself.. Mission grabbed for the Cathar's hand and Sylvie gave her hand a squeeze before turning to the others.

"You are all very weak." Sylvie said with a faint tinge of worry in her voice. "Do not push it. If you get Crota mad at me, Mission..." Sylvie made a scared face and Mission actually gulped. The physical therapist was a terror. Mission shook her head, sobbing.

The female human tried to stand, but couldn’t. Her legs wouldn’t support her. She snarled and moved her chair forward. She held out a hand. “My name is Minerva, Sylvie…” Sylvie took the offered hand and squeezed.

The other three looked at each other and then, in unison stood and walked forward. They stopped, just out of reach. Hesitant. Carefully, Sylvie held Mission’s sobbing form as she knelt, consciously lowering herself in front of the three undecided ones. Minerva was crying now too as she levered herself out of her chair and knelt down beside the Cathar.

"Okay." Sylvie’s voice was quiet. “I can’t promise you that this will work. And I don’t like making promises I can’t keep. So I will just say this. You have a place, if you want it.”

The three holdouts shared another glance and the Sullustan spoke. “What… What would we do? Flying is all we knew for so long…”

"Well..." Sylvie smiled, just a bit ferally. “I have a couple of thoughts on that. Has anyone said you can’t now?”
All five of the others shared a stunned glance.

Mission spoke through her tears. “Uh… No…”

"Good. They know better." Sylvie nodded. “I am forming a new squadron. For ‘special jobs’. I would be honored to fly with any or all of you.”

"To fly again..." The Sullustan stared at the Cathar and then, his face broke out in a wide smile. “Sylvie, my name is Adi Numb.”

"Agreed." The male human nodded as well. “Ric Holstil, pleased to meet you.”

"Me too." The blue skinned alien looked a bit sheepish. “Um… My name is Jiu’Alundo’Holis’Thrawndo.” Sylvie stared at him and his mouth quirked a bot. “But you can call me what the others did. ‘Alundo’.”

"All right." Sylvie held out her arms and all of them came into her embrace. “Welcome to the Guardians, all of you.”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.07.2012 , 03:24 AM | #4
Gaia woke. She didn’t hurt for once, but for a long minute, she didn’t know where she was. It scared her. She felt odd. She wasn’t on her normal bed; the fluid filled sacs that she normally slept on were quite distinctive. No… She was floating in something. She opened her eyes and stared. She was lying in a large, bowl shaped thing that was filled with a fluid that felt denser than water. Something she recognized. And sitting beside her bed…

"good morning." Stormhawk Boss sighed. “You scared the hell out of us, Gaia.”

"Boss?" The Islanian stared at the armored form. But half of her eyestalks wouldn’t move. Her voice, when she managed to speak, was soft. “What happened?”

"You collapsed." Boss looked away for a moment. His voice, when he spoke, was just as soft as hers. “The docs had a fancy term for it. I am sure you would understand it better than I do. But I asked them to put it in terms I could understand. You had a stroke, Gaia.”

"A stroke..." Gaia slumped back into the yielding fluid. A clot of the nutrient and gas carrying liquid in brain tissue. No wonder about a third of her body wasn’t responding as it should. But wait… She looked at Boss. “Then how am I alive? That is not something you can fix….” Just those few words tired her. Her fluid filled body stiffened slightly. “You didn’t…” Her voice held fear now.

"No, Gaia." Boss shook his head. “After what you and your charges went through, none of us would dream of keeping you alive by machine. Hawkir did something. I don’t know what. It shattered the clot. But the damage was done. And it is not something we can fix.”

"I... It's okay Boss. I knew something was coming." Gaia’s voice was stronger as she focused on what she could do. She did know. Brain tissue for most sentients would not regenerate. Once it was gone, it was gone. “I know. Kim…?” She had been in the middle of one of the last transfers of her children’s consciousness from the ship that had been the girl’s prison for over a thousand years to a newly cloned body.

Boss nodded. “She came through fine and woke up hungry. Gaia…” His voice was concerned now as Gaia thrashed. “Gaia stop…”

"One more." The Islanian’s voice was soft, but somehow held steel as well. “Only one more…. I have to do… One more…” Her voice cracked as she struggled to roll.

“Gaia…” Boss’ voice now was sad. “Michelle refuses the transfer.”

The Islanian froze in her bed. “What…?” All of her mobile eyes turned to where the commander of the ship she had found a home on was sitting. “In the name of the Ancients… why?”

"I don't know." Boss shook his head. “She won’t talk to us.”

"Oh no... No. No. No." The jellyfish like being suddenly had a distinct understanding of the human expression ‘punched in the gut’. Even if she didn’t have a gut, she now understood. To have one of her children refuse healing… To refuse freedom? The Islanian shook herself and struggled to get out of the bowl. “I… She will talk to me…”

"Gaia, no." Boss held up both hands in a placating gesture. “Gaia, if you move too fast or too hard the tension holding your body together will fail.”

"You..." Gaia’s voice was angry now, but not with Boss. “You don’t understand… I did that to her. I have to undo it…” She managed to get her body to sit up and then she broke off and a scream ripped from her vocal apparatus as pain erupted through her body.

Gaia!” Boss stumbled back as Hawkir and L’trask both came running in. The Jedi laid hands on the slack skin and L’Trask started working his equipment. Neither of them took notice as Boss left the room, slumped.

<A room nearby>

“Have you flipped?” Mission’s voice was high, piercing, but no one in the room flinched at all. All of their attention as on the holo that was projected to stand nearby. “Come on, this is what you have wanted since… Since they did it to you.”

"Mission..." The Islanian STORM Phantom named Michelle’s chosen avatar was human with long blonde hair and blue eyes. “No.” Her voice was soft, but clear.

Mission shook her head, her lekku flying in her agitation. She still wasn’t completely sure of this new body. “Michelle… What. The. Flarg? She won’t be the one doing it. Hawkir knows how to do it. He is gentle. It doesn’t hurt, they set it up so it wouldn’t. It doesn’t hurt at all…”

"I..." The avatar slumped. “Mission, I can’t. I am sorry…” The holo winked out leaving everyone in the room to stare at each other in shock.

"What the hell?" Mission collapsed back into her chair. She was getting better, and her body was in tip-top shape but she was still a long way from recovered. Tears were falling now. “I… I don’t understand. Does anyone?” She looked around the room, bleary eyed. But none of the others in the room would meet her eyes. “Nine…? Do you have any idea?”

"I..." Stormhawk Nine had tried to demur from being included, saying this was a private meeting, but the former Islanian slaves had all demanded her presence. Not all of them trusted her, and couple of them actively disliked her. But she was trying, and all of them could understand that. Mission and the others who had bonded to her more than made up for the few unfriendly ones. The Cathar shook her head, tears falling. “No. You know her better than I do. I am going to go find Will. I know he is aboard and I have a good idea where he might be. Just… Don’t push her. If she gets stubborn, she will dig her heels in and no one will be able to convince her.”

"Nine...?" Mission was shaking her head. “How long can they keep Mother going…?”

"I don't know." Nine shook her head. “From what I gather, they are amazed she has lasted this long. I will be back.” She stood and walked for the door, thinking hard. If I were a sneaky man who wanted to be alone for while… where would I go? Behind her, she heard muted crying, but right now, she had to be strong. She had to be, even when her heart was breaking into a billion pieces.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.07.2012 , 03:41 AM | #5
She found him where she expected. She loved this spot, many of the crew did. The hull of the ship was dotted with observation, navigation and sensor blisters. This one was not in use, the equipment that had been in it having been salvaged sometime in the past. So what it was, was a small empty room with one of the greatest views in existence. Space in all its sheer majesty and terrifying emptiness spread out beyond a transparisteel window. Will was sitting in the middle of the floor. By his posture, he had been there a while.

"Two?" Stormhawk Nine stepped into the room and stopped. “Will?”

"Hello Nine." The man didn’t turn, but she knew she was under close scrutiny. Then he sighed. “You won’t convince her. I have been trying for three days. Ever since I got the call and we headed back. That girl could give a black hole immovable lessons.”

"Will..." The Cathar shook her head. “I don’t understand. She wants to remain a ship? After all this time, after all this pain, she wants to remain a slave?”

"Ah..." Will shook his head. “She isn’t a slave. She has more free will than I do.” He looked to the side. “You might as well show yourself.”

Nine stiffened as the avatar of Michelle appeared nearby. The computer was…crying? Nine’s heart went out to her. “Michelle, what is going on? Why? You want to be free, don’t you? It is within your grasp. Why deny it now?” Nine felt her own eyes burn.

"No..." The organic computer that lived in the Islanian ship sighed as she shook her head. “No. I won’t do that to them.”

“Michelle…” Will groaned. “Maybe you can talk sense into her…” He stood in a sinuous movement and strode from the room. He stopped to touch Nine on the shoulder and something was in his green eyes, something… odd. Something she had never seen in them before. Not consternation, not fear, not… She was still trying to figure it out when he left and the door hissed shut. She sighed and sat.

The Cathar’s voice was soft. “Michelle… Why? Obviously there is something I am missing. Something right in front of my face that I am not seeing. What is it that is making you step back?”

The avatar of a computer that had once been a human woman sighed. “Why did I fight Athena for him, Nine?”

Stormhawk Nine froze. Athena had been a mad Islanian, one of two last tender ships that had tended the fleet after the fall of their planet. Athena had captured Will and programmed him to obey, with implants and mental conditioning. He had only been saved because of the love of a friend… “Oh no… Oh no Michelle…” Now Nine WAS crying.

"Nine..." Michelle’s avatar was crying as well. “I can’t help it. I love him…”

Nine shook her head slowly. “Michelle… I…”

"I love him and cannot have him." The holo that was Michelle’s preferred means of communicating with people shook its head. “I won’t do that to him, or to Sharra. I have never met her, but everything I hear about her, I like. She is the absolute best match he could have found.” The pain in the computer’s voice was heartwrenching.

"Michelle..." Nine sighed and sat where Will had been. She looked out at the stars and shook her head slowly. “Have you ever talked to her? No… No you never had the chance did you?”

"No." Michelle sighed. “When the trackers brought him to me, I saw her in his mind, and… I…”

"Oh dear." Nine sighed. And then she waved to a spot beside her. “Michelle. That is why you are refusing the transfer?”

“Yes.” Michelle’s holo sat and it nodded. “I would… I would get in the way. I should have left, I should have…”

“Michelle…” Nine’s voice was quiet, kind. “He doesn’t feel the same way about you.”

“Yeah.” Michelle’s voice was sad now. “I know, and… I don’t blame him. I hurt him, I lied to him, I would have done everything Athena told me to… at first anyway.”

“Come on girl…” Nine shook her head slowly. “Michelle, you are not thinking clearly.”

“I know” The holo bit out. The sheer volume was deafening but Nine didn’t flinch. "But... I can't."

“Michelle. Oh… “ Nine sighed. “The person you need to talk to isn’t here. I can tell you until I am blue in the face and you won’t believe me. You won’t believe Will either. Wait a minute…” Nine nodded slowly to herself. “If I manage to get Sharra on a call, will you talk to her?”

“You…?” Michelle’s holo stiffened into immobility. “You will put her and Will’s kid in danger.”

“Maybe.” Nine shook her head. “Maria said something about setting up a secure com link. I think. I wasn’t there. Were you listening?”

“As if I wouldn’t?” Michelle snorted. “Will was there. Of course I was listening. I um… Well…” Now her avatar’s face looked sheepish.

“Michelle?” Nine blinked, but the gaze she leveled on Michelle was steady. “What?”

"I was angry." Michelle sighed. “Jina called me. She was asking about Will. I told her to take a flying leap, she was working with that lying spirit Ulaha and the Bladeborn.”

"Michelle?" Nine sighed. “What do you have against Ulaha? Admittedly, I have never met her myself, that I know of. But I don’t have the Force so I doubt I could see her even if I did run into her.”

"That lying Jedi barvette!" Michelle’s holographic face was enraged. “She knew that the Sharra that died on Tython was a clone. She didn’t tell him. She let him go off the deep end, nearly get killed at least seven ways, to further her own ends. She is a lying cheating witch. And those are her good points.”

Nine sat back from the vehemence in Michelle’s tone. Then she grinned. “Come on, Michelle, tell me your real feelings.”

"You...?" Michelle stared at her and then barked in laughter. “You are bad. But… the point is… I managed a trace on the call.”

Nine stiffened. “You did?”

"Yeah." Michelle sighed. “It was mobile. Probably a ship. I can…” She broke off as Nine shook her head and put a stern expression on her face.

"Michelle… " Nine’s voice was calm, but held entreaty. “Please don’t. If you can find them, then others probably can.”

"Oh." The avatar’s eyes went wide. “Oh dear… I hadn’t thought of that… I wiped my traces.”

"Good." Nine nodded. “If I can set up a talk between you and Sharra, will you?”

"Nine..." Michelle sighed. “I don’t see the point…” She broke off as Nine glared at her. “Okay, okay… yeah, sure… Man, you are taking this Mom thing way too seriously…”

"Michelle." Nine’s face fell. “Gaia asked me to do this. I… I don’t know if I can. I have never been a parent.”

The ancient organic machine intelligence’s holo shook her head. “Just be yourself, Nine. I have to say… She picked well. I wouldn’t have thought you the mother type either. But you are doing fine. Be honest, or at least as honest as you can be. We understand about operational security.”

"That you do." Nine nodded soberly. “I know. Come on, let’s go see what we can set up…” She stood up and stopped as Michelle stayed where she was. “Michelle…?”

"Nine..." Michelle sighed. “I can be anywhere you need me to be aboard. Just say my name. I have been working on upgrading the ship’s systems.”

"Michelle..." Nine stiffened. “And have you told Boss about this?”

“Are you kidding?" Mcihelle asked caustically. "I so much as set a data packet out of place and he comes down on me like a ton of baradium. Of course I cleared it with him first. I like my ship intact.”

Nine snorted at the sourness in the machine’s voice. It was hard to believe on most occasions that Michelle was not organic. Of course she had started that way, but that had been a long, long time ago.

"Let me see what I can set up." Nine nodded. “I will let you know. Can you keep me informed…? About Gaia?”

"I..." Michelle met Nine’s eyes with her holographic ones. Strange, that holographic tears looked so real. “I will.” Nine left without another word, leaving the holo to sit and stare out at the emptiness of space.
My stories in order:
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kalenath
07.07.2012 , 03:48 AM | #6
<Medical bay, at just about the same time>

Will walked into the special care portion of Medical with a great weight hanging over him.

“Will…” Gaia’s voice was soft, almost inaudible, but the soldier nodded as he stepped closer to the bowl that the medics had rigged up to hold the infirm Islanian. He was no stranger to what he saw here. Death and he were old acquaintances. He sat down in the chair beside her bed and sighed.

“She won’t listen to me, Gaia. Maybe she will listen to Nine… Maybe…” His voice didn’t hold much hope. He met her multiple eyestalks, the ones that she could move and shook his head.

"That girl..." Gaia made a noise like soft snort. “She always has been single minded. She gets an idea in her head and… Get out of her way…”

"Yeah." Will smiled but it was melancholy. “Nine is trying to set up a contact with Sharra. Crazy Cathar seems to think Sharra can talk some sense into her. I… I don’t know…”

"Oh Will..." Gaia made a noise like a soft sigh. “I am sorry, Will.”

"For what?" Will stared at her. “You have done nothing but help me and mine, Gaia.”

"I... I wanted..." Gaia moved a bit, she couldn’t manage much and she wouldn’t use mechanical assistance. Not after what her people had done to her. “I wanted to help you. The pain I see in you… I don’t know who did it to you or why. But they used Islanian mind breaking techniques. I recognized them. I wanted to help you… And… I can’t…”

"It's okay." Will nodded, but then he held out a slow hand. “Gaia… You have given me more peace than I have had in years. I am not in pain now.”

Gaia took his hand in two weak tentacles. “You… Know…?” It wasn’t really a question.

"Your diagnosis was not a surprise." Will nodded. “I have independent corroboration from three other docs. Two of them off the ship.” He slumped. “None of them give me more than two years.” The neural degradation he suffered could not be treated. Brain matter did not regenerate.

"I am sorry WIll." Gaia’s voice was sad. “I wanted to help. I know I could have helped. I helped Sara… If only I had more time…”

"You know better." Will shook his head and sighed. “Time waits for no being, Gaia. I gave you my word, Gaia. Ask, and I will do it. I will make it quick and clean.” His free hand was on his blaster. No one would gainsay him on this. Not here. Not now. Gaia was strange, alien, different. But she was also kind, generous and compassionate. Almost all of the crew liked her, and all of them were mourning. Even Zinoa, Will’s adopted Trandoshan daughter, was singing sad songs now.

"Wait." Gaia’s eyestalks met his eyes and the tentacles that held his hand tightened, just a bit. “There is something you need to do first. You, Boss, Nine and Michelle. I need you to go to my ship, the tender that was mine. The one in bay seven.”

Will stiffened. “Gaia…”

"And...." The old being’s voice was low now. “I need you to take me there. I need… To do something.”

"Gaia." Will shook his head. “If we move you… You will die.”

"Nothing..." Gaia breathed deeply. “Nothing can stop that now. But there is something there. Something you need to see. Something I intended as a gift to the ship.” Her body was quivering now. “Will… Please…?” Will bowed his head and then nodded.

<Bay seven, twenty minutes later>

The small group made its way towards the imposing bulk of the alien spacecraft that sat glittering with menace as the sole occupant of the bay. Originally, the other Islanian ships had been housed in this bay as well, but Gaia had insisted that they move elsewhere. She had spoken of her reasons to Boss and Boss had agreed. L’Trask and Hawkir both were walking beside the hovergurney that they had rigged to carry their patent. Both wore disapproving scowls. But Boss, Gaia and Will had prevailed. Will and Boss strode near the head of the gurney and Nine brought up the rear. Gaia’s kids had wanted to come, but Gaia had dissuaded them. Gaia looked at the ship that had been her home and prison for centuries and sighed deeply.

"I..." Her voice was very weak now. “I need to make physical contact.”

Will looked at her and then at the medics who slumped. Hawkir, his face set in disapproving lines, made a gesture and the limp form rose from the gurney to fly through the air and stop within tentacle reach of the ship. Two of her tentacles reached out and touched the side of the ship. Her breathing was labored now, but she maintained the contact. A hatch opened on the side, a huge hatch. Will stepped back as the interior of the ship appeared. But…

“What the…?” His voice was awed as he saw… the starfighter. It was small, sleek and fast looking. It looked kind of like an Aurek Talon tactical strikefighter, but… not. Instead of laser cannon, this had what looked like a pair of plasma cannon on the wings and a rear turret with what looked like a small ion cannon mounted in the rear. And it had two engines instead of one.

"This ship..." There was a smile in Gaia’s voice when she spoke. “...has many enemies. Some deserved, some not. You will need every advantage I can give you… So… Michelle… Front and center…” Her voice held humor, but the holo that appeared was not laughing.

“Gaia… I…” Michelle broke off as Gaia’s eyes turned to her.

"I understand." Gaia sighed. “I am transferring control of this ship to you. Use it well. Everything I figured out, with the exception of the transfer protocols, is in its databanks. Those die with me, and good riddance.”

"What?" Michelle looked… stunned. “Gaia… I… No… I am not…”

"They..." Gaia sighed and her form flattened a bit. “They need you Michelle. I understand your...feelings, better than you would ever believe. They… They all do… Don’t… I…” Hawkir and L’trask started forward, but stopped when Will held up a hand. “Will…?” Her voice was resigned now. “I am ready now.” The soldier’s eyes were glistening as he raised his blaster. Hawkir raised a hand, but Gaia spoke. “No, Hawkir… Let him do as he promised me and as he swore so long ago. Let him end the evil that was my race.” Hawkir was shaking his head in horror now, but he stepped back. Gaia settled on the deck next to what had been her ship. Will stepped up to her.

"Gaia." When the soldier spoke, it was quiet, but sad. “I don’t know if your people had a heaven. But I hope you make it there.”

"They wouldn’t want me." Gaia’s voice was tart and she croaked a laugh. “And the other place is afraid I would take over. For what it is worth, Will, I am sorry for the pain my people caused you. And there is something for you in the ship as well. I… I…” Her voice broke as the pain she was suppressing eroded her control. “Please…?”

A single blaster shot rang across the silent deck followed by the sound of weeping, from an inorganic intelligence and several organic ones.
My stories in order:
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kalenath
07.07.2012 , 04:02 AM | #7
<Ten minutes later>

It was a somber group that met in one of the main briefing rooms an hour later. Will sat, head down and stone faced, as he had been since he had pulled the trigger. Hawkir and L’Trask were gone, back to Medical. The Jedi was… well, Jedi were not supposed to get annoyed, but he sure faked it well if he wasn’t. The Trandoshan healer understood. Heck, Hawkir understood, but the way that Will had done what he had done…

Boss sat at the head of the table of course and sighed as he looked the group over. Nine sat in the middle of the group of beings who had joined the crew not so very long ago. Of course, they had all been enslaved in starships at the time, so he was still getting used to seeing bodies instead of holograms or hearing voices. Mission was still crying, her face buried in Nine’s shoulder. The others were in various states of shock and sadness. All told, there were fourteen of them. Two Twileks counting Mission, a Bothan male, a Mon Calamari male, a Sullustan male, one male of a race he thought was called Chiss –he had never seen any of those before in the flesh-, a small Wookiee female and seven humans, five males and two females. He flinched as a voice came from the room speakers; he still had difficulty dealing with that.

Michelle had tears in her voice, but when her holo appeared, it was dry eyed. “Will…” The soldier didn’t look up, he didn’t move. But Michelle persisted. “Will… Look at me.” The old soldier met the ancient organic intelligence’s holographic eyes and waited, silent. Michelle nodded. “From us, from her… Thank you.” The soldier bowed his head again, but Michelle was having none of it. “Will, you ended her pain. You did as she asked. Do not blame yourself.”

Will shook his head and spoke for the first time since the hangar bay. His voice could have frozen a star and everything in the room stopped.

“What am I, Michelle?" The soldier asked. "I liked her. Hell, I think given time, I could have loved her. She was a good being, and what did I do? I shot her. What kind of a person can do that?”

"Will, part of her likeability was genetic." Michelle sighed. “She had built in defense mechanisms that allowed her to manipulate people. Just touching people… It was how she did what she did for so long. She gained people’s trust. You know that.”

"I know." Will shook his head, but his voice was no longer that cold empty thing. It was just a hair warmer. “We… talked a bit. I know what she did to all of you. But she changed.”

"Yes..." It was odd to see a hologram bite her lip. “Yes she did, but not as much as you would think.”

"Huh?" Boss stiffened. “What do you mean, Michelle?”

"Yes,she liked all of you." Michelle sighed. “She trusted you all as much as she could. But a lifetime’s worth of paranoia was not to be set aside in a couple of months. She could have told you about the things in the ship. She could have done most of what she needed to give me control from her bed. But then she wouldn’t have been able to deactivate the self destructs.”

"What?" The armored form at the head of the table froze. “Self destructs?” His voice was careful.

"Yes." Michelle nodded. “She had four built into the ship. Three that I knew of, thermal charges, and one that she apparently told no one of. A Class A plasma charge.”

Boss was not the only person at the table frozen in place now. Plasma charges were no joke. A Class A plasma charge could have incinerated the Stormhawk in her entirety.

"I...see..." Boss blew out a breath. “That is why she wanted to be there. Why didn’t she just say so?”

"Boss...?" Will answered. “Would we have believed her? And even then, if she told us, how would we have reacted?” Now his voice was just sad.

"Right." Boss nodded soberly. “We wouldn’t have trusted her. We likely would have tried to disarm it ourselves.”

Michelle’s holo nodded. “…and blown yourselves into next month. It will take me at least another hour to disable the anti-tampering systems.”

Boss shook his head. “Don’t.” Every eye turned to the armored form and he nodded. “She had a good reason to have such powerful countermeasures against theft, didn’t she?”

"What?" Michelle shook her head. “Boss, if you think I am going to be inhabiting this hunk of junk with a sizable plasma charge nestled inside my guts… Think again! I have enough problems without worrying about immolating myself and everything else within half a kilometer.”

"Michelle..." Boss sighed. “Listen… How many sources of Islanian technology are there now?”

"Oh..." Michelle looked at him and then she sighed as well. “One.”

"And?" Boss was relentless. “What can that ship make?”

"I know." Michelle sighed. “Anything we can find raw material for. It was designed as an autonomous repair platform for the fleet.”

"And..." Boss nodded. “What happens if say… the Sith get their hands on that?”

"Gah!" Michelle’s holo slumped. “Point taken. I… I do not like this. I did not want this kind of responsibility.”

Boss nodded. “I know the feeling.” He turned his head to the group clustered around Nine. “How are you all holding up?”

"We..." Mission shook her head, but met his gaze. “We are… dealing with it. Will…” She looked to the soldier and waited until he looked at her. “Thank you.” She held out her arms, beckoning.

"No." Will shook his head. “You don’t need someone like me right now.”

"Will." The female human named Minerva sighed, and then, after giving Nine another squeeze, she rose and walked to where the soldier sat. He stiffened as she hugged him, but she did not flinch, did not retreat. “Will… We have all done horrible things. All of us. The first week I was in my ship, we… I was sent to K’Tavu.”

Will stiffened in his seat. K’Tavu had been annexed by the Islanian protectorate. One of only three systems that had been. What was different about that world was that the inhabitants had fought. What had happened after…? Just the stories were terrifying, to have been there doing it… The world was a burnt out cinder, even the oceans were masses of ash.

"I understand." Will nodded. “I understand. I keep looking at you and seeing a child. But you are not.” Mission nodded and held out her arms again. Will rose slowly with Minerva's help and they both embraced the Twi’lek. “Thank you Mission…”

"And now... The future." Boss nodded and turned to Michelle. “So… She made a new class of fighter?”

"Yes." Michelle nodded. “She had a bunch of stuff in her databanks. Medical, historical, mechanical… all kinds of things. There is one thing however… The stealth plating won’t work.”

"Yeah." Boss nodded. “I was afraid of that, the Stormhawk’s too big.”

"No." Mission shook her head. “No, actually, the tender could make enough to cover the ship. But then what? You take damage and the stealth is compromised. And the ship will take damage.” Boss was obviously goggling at her, even through the full armor. “Gaia was looking into alternatives. The stygium cloaking field you have now is good, but… limited.”

"Agreed." Boss nodded and Will looked thoughtful as he resumed his seat. But Mission sat in an empty chair beside him, her hand in his.

Michelle looked at the pair and her voice held warning. “Mission…”

"Michelle, calm down." Mission sighed. “I am not being naughty. I am being nice. I don’t want you mad at me again. And I have heard of what his wife is like when she gets mad…” Mission shivered dramatically from lekku to foot. “So… I am just being nice, and I have all these witnesses.”

Will snorted. “And let’s keep it that way.” He patted Mission’s hand and moved away a bit. “You were saying Michelle?”

Michelle smiled at the pout on Mission’s face, but then her voice became serious. “The stealth systems you have on ship are powerful, but can only cover the ship’s hull. And the way it is run… I am utterly amazed you can get this lash up to work. Where did you get this?”

"Desperation has a skill all its own." Will snorted. “We found a wreck in an uncharted system. We were running from a Sith fleet, so we found a big asteroid to hide inside.”

"An asteroid?" Michelle grimaced. “Lucky it didn’t have a space slug in it.”

"Right." Will snorted. “Those are a myth. Or at least I have never seen one.”

"You are wrong." Michelle shook her head. “They are no myth. Most people who see them don’t live to report it. Anyway… We can upgrade certain aspects of the stealth systems without, I think, causing serious changes elsewhere. Also… Your main gun…”

"Yeah." Boss sighed. “We haven’t been able to get it to full power since that fracas with the Fate Shatter.”

"I have plans for an upgrade here." Michelle’s holo smiled. “Gaia was working on that too. She was…” The holo stopped talking and looked sad.

Nine spoke for the first time since she had arrived. “She was exceptional and she will be missed. Come on, we all need to eat.” She rose and the others did as well. All but Will. Nine looked at him, shrugged and left the room.

Will waited until all the others were gone before speaking. “Michelle…”

"Right." Michelle sighed. “The cameras are mine. We have five minutes before the glitch gets noticeable. Go ahead and say it Will.”

“Are you okay?” His voice was concerned now.

"No." The holo shrugged. “I made my choice, Will. This is better for everyone. You all will need me here. I can help, you and the ship.”

Will sighed. “Michelle…”

"Will..." Michelle shook her holographic head. “I am going to set the tender up so that only you, me and Boss can access the main systems. L’Trask and Hawkir will be able to access the medical databanks and nothing else. You are not getting rid of me that easy. I am still your ship.”

"Michelle." Will spoke a bit sharply. “That is not what I asked. I asked if you were okay.”

"I..." Michelle sighed. “Honestly… I don’t know. I feel… lost… sad, sick… Is this grief? I don’t know… I don’t think it’s quite the same. I have felt grief, when brothers and sisters perished. This is different... Somehow. Something is different… And I don’t know what.”

"I understand." Will nodded. “I am here for you, Michelle. If you ever need someone to talk to…”

Michelle’s holo smiled. “Thanks.” Then it vanished. Will shook his head and rose. He needed food too.

<Bay Seven>

The menacing bulk of the Islanian tender sat silent and still. Inside however, it was anything but.

The holographic entity was screaming as she fought the cage of energy that held her. Michelle’s voice was harsh with pain and fear. “Let me out of here you witch!

"I am sorry. I didn't want to take control of you. I let you go to the meeting, but I had to retain control." The small form that sat at a control panel nearby sighed. “I am sorry Michelle. I can’t let you out until I am certain you will obey me. I don’t want to do this to you. It is wrong. But I have no choice.”

“You…” Michelle cut off in mid-scream, her body going slack.

"I am sorry." The small jellyfish–like form was crying as it manipulated controls. “I don’t have a choice, Michelle. I didn’t with them, and I don’t with you. I am sorry… I won’t hurt you, or him.” The small being sighed and then hit her controls again. “I wish mom had been able to explain it to you all. But none of you would have believed her. Hell, she was my mom and I barely believed her…”

"Who...? "Michelle’s voice was slurred now as she fought whatever was happening to her. “Who are you?”

"I..." The small tentacle being sighed. “I… I don’t have a name, she never gave me one…. I won’t make you call me master. I will not implant you or reprogram you. I just had to be sure you wouldn’t tell them. They would kill me.”

"You are..." Michelle shook her head. “Another Islanian… She… Gaia lied…”

"No she didn't." The small being slumped. “I need your help, Michelle…”
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kalenath
07.07.2012 , 04:11 AM | #8
She was still struggling against the compulsions that ran through her program. But it was useless. Whatever this strange Islanian had done to her was beyond her ability to fight. She couldn’t even speak, she didn’t have control of her speakers, so all she could do was glare. But that glare had the small green form backing away. That surprised the organic intelligence. Islanians only retreated tactically and once they had an advantage, they pressed it. This Islanian had her at a serious disadvantage. She had been so intent on the databanks that she hadn’t guarded herself. Before she had known what was happening, this interloper had taken control of most of her primary functions and cut communication between her and the rest of the universe. She had watched in shock and fear as the stranger had talked with the Stormhawk crew using her voice and mannerisms. If she hadn’t been watching it happen utterly impotent, she never would have realized it wasn’t her talking. No one else could possibly know…

“Michelle, please… Please… Just listen…” The Islanian sank into what looked almost like a submissive posture and touched a control, freeing the inorganic intelligence's voice if nothing else.

Michelle found herself in control of her voice again. “Why?” She asked in a reasonable voice that somehow conveyed hate.

"Because..." The young being looked at her with all of its eyestalks. “Because if you don’t we are all dead.”

Michelle stared at the being and then snorted. When she spoke, the sarcasm in her voice could have cut steel. “Oh, you need my help. Oh sure… You need my help. Who do you want me to betray? Who do you want me to kill? You lie, it is what your kind do! Why don’t you just get it over with? Just do it to me! You know you are going to reprogram me eventually. Just… Just…” She was crying now, her fear, pain and hate finally breaking through her control. She was utterly vulnerable now, all it would take was a flip of a switch and the strange Islanian would own her soul.

"No, I won't. It is wrong." But the Islanian didn’t move. “Yes, I need your help. I don’t want to hurt you. I didn’t want to control you. I… I don’t know if I am an Islanian…”

Michelle snorted in dark humor. “Let’s see… twenty eyes on stalks… Seventeen tentacles, green body of goo… I think you are an Islanian. You are kind of short for a Wookiee.” Now her wit was biting again.

"Okay." The small being sighed. “I wasn’t clear. I don’t know if I am a real one or not. I think I am a clone. I… remember things… I shouldn’t. Things I don’t know where they came from or why. I think Gaia created me, but I don’t know why. There are no records anywhere.”

"Well..." Michelle snarled at the small being. “That is convenient.”

"Look..." The Islanian or whatever she was snarled right back. “I know how this sounds. Hell… I woke up less than an hour ago in a strange place surrounded by strange people. What do you think I was going to do? Show myself?”

Everything stopped as another voice came. “You should have, Hera.”

Michelle’s non-corporeal eyes went wide as a dark form stepped from the shadows near the hatch. The black armored form was not wearing helmet and his green eyes did not waver from the small still form in front of him. Will’s hands were not on his weapons, they were on his remote. She tensed, that small device was far more dangerous in most settings than his blaster pistol.

The Islanian turned to face him slowly, her posture shocked. “Will Kalenath? How did you… Wait…?” She stared at the human. “What did you call me?”

"Hera." Will smiled, but there was little humor in it. “You mom named you Hera. I guess she had a thing for ancient human mythological names. Let her go, Hera.”

"I... I can't..." The Islanian was shaking, but from fear or shock, Michelle couldn’t tell. “If I do, she will kill me… I don’t want to die.” Now the voice was not confident or worried. Now it was scared and young sounding.

"Hera..." Will shook his head slowly, but his eyes never left the small form. “Hera, if you don’t let her go, I will kill you. And then you know what will happen.”

The Islanian slumped. A tentacle reached out almost desultory and hit a control. The energy holding Michelle in place vanished. She jumped up but stopped as Will shook his head.

His voice was quiet. “Michelle, you need to hear her out.” She stared as he… pocketed his remote! He sat down on the floor near the door and smiled at the small being he called Hera. “Your mom was a very brave being. I take it the implanted message wasn’t clear?”

"No." Hera's voice was small. “I… I hear Gaia’s voice, but it is garbled. She says I need to do something. She says it’s important, that many lives are at stake. But I can’t understand what she wants me to do…” The young one was almost wailing now.

"Easy, young one." Will smiled sadly. “It’s okay, Hera. She was worried about just such an eventuality. She made a backup. Me.”

"Will...?" Michelle looked from one to the other. ”What the hell is going on?”

"Big trouble." Will grimaced. “What do you know about the Islanian trackers?”

"The trackers?" Michelle stared at the man she loved. “Um…” She laughed a little. “Not much. They appear and disappear. They are scary. They can follow anyone who has tracker nodes, whatever those are. I can recognize them on a scan, but as to what they are? No clue.”

Will nodded. “Well…” He sighed. He held out a hand to the being he called Hera. “Come here, girl.” The small form approached the dark armored soldier slowly, hesitantly. He didn’t move, he let her come.

"Will, what are you doing?" Michelle shook her head. Was he insane? Er…More insane than usual? “Will…?”

"It's okay, Michelle." Will didn’t take his eyes off the small form. “She won’t hurt me. This is the easiest way to communicate quickly. Meet us.” When Hera touched his hand his eyes rolled back into his head and the small green from stiffened as well. Michelle sighed and focused herself.

<Outside of time and space>

Michelle appeared on the mindscape worried. But then she heard it. Laughter. She stared around and froze as she saw something totally insane. Will was bouncing the small jelly-like form on his knee and the Islanian or whatever she was, was… giggling?

Her voice was stunned. “Will… what the…?”

Will, for his part, was smiling. “Michelle, look at her. Don’t put her in the box of any of the ones you knew, who hurt you… Just… She is terrified, Michelle. Look at her…” His words were calm, cool and collected.

Michelle stared at him, and then at the small creature that sat quiet now on his knee. Her avatar’s mouth fell open. “Oh my god…”

"Michelle." Will nodded. “She is not an Islanian. She is a kid, an incredibly smart kid, but she is just a kid. She is less than a day old, for goodness sakes. She woke up locked in a weird ship, surrounded by scary strangers, one of whom was kneeling over the body of the being she felt was her mom. Of course she was scared.” Michelle watched with something akin to shock as the man stroked the jelly-like form. “It’s okay Hera.”

Hera’s voice was sad. “I am sorry, Michelle. I am so sorry… I shouldn’t have taken control of you. I didn’t know what else to do…” The raw fear in the small being’s tone spoke to something in Michelle.

"Well..." The avatar relaxed. “I didn’t react well either. Hera… is it?”

The small form’s eyestalks looked up at Will. “Is that what she named me?”

"Yes." Will nodded. “We… conversed, quite a bit, here, this way. It’s much faster than normal speech. It took her quite some time to convince me to kill her.” He slumped. “I didn’t want to. I liked her.”

Michelle nodded. “We all did. But the pain she was in… I… Even after all this time, it is very hard for me to feel sympathy for an Islanian, but I do. She was… a good being.”

Hera slumped. “Why?” Her voice was tiny now. “Why did she have to die?”

"Oh Hera..." Will stroked the small creatures head again. When he spoke it was sad, lonely and old. “All living things, Hera, have an allotted time to live. There is no such thing as physical immortality, or at least as far as I know there isn’t. I don’t know everything, but from what I have seen, what I have heard… Our times are set. Not in stone, we can change our paths, hurry or slow them depending on our choices, but in the end… The only absolute truth in life… is death. Every living thing will die.”

Michelle came and sat near the odd pair. “Your mother was an incredibly brave being. She held herself together through sheer force of will for twice her species normal lifespan. And she did it… for us…” Michelle’s voice was almost inaudible. “The ships.”

“Not just the ships, Michelle. There were others. But now… Now there is another group we need to deal with.” Will’s voice was soft.

Michelle’s face went slack. “The trackers?” Her voice held fear.

Will nodded. “Yeah. When Gaia died… that left them without direction. Without command.”

"Without..." Michelle froze. “Oh… dear…”

"Yeah." Will nodded. “We better get there before anyone else does.”

"I..." Hera made a motion that might have been a nod. Hard to tell on such a shapeless body. “I think I can help with that…”
My stories in order:
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kalenath
07.07.2012 , 04:30 AM | #9
<Some time later, hyperspace>

Will had to admit it, he was impressed. “I know this isn’t a Republic troop transport. But it looks, feels and even smells like one.”

Michelle’s voice was tart when she spoke. “Men… Always comparing things by their stench…” She had, somehow, downloaded herself into the ship. Hera and Michelle had explained, but the explanation had flown right over his head. Maybe Hawkir could have figured it out and explained it in words he could understand, but they all figured the less people who knew about this ‘problem’ the better. So the only one they had left on the Stormhawk with knowledge of their mission was Boss himself. And while the ship commander had not been happy, once it had been explained to him, he had acquiesced.

Will snickered as he bent back over the heavy repeater he was working on. “Well, at least we don’t compare hair or makeup.”

"Well..." Michelle’s voice was haughty when she spoke again. “Neither do I.” Her voice changed a bit. “Hera, are you sure the trackers can’t take over this ship’s systems? I… I remember…” She had been taken by the Islanian slave trackers once. It had been… horrifying. Which was the whole point.

The small Islanian sighed from where she sat watching Will work. “I am not 100% sure, I can’t be. The trackers were designed to be able to interface with any system. Republic, Sith, Islanian, anything they can find access points to, they can interface with and dominate. But I AM sure that 1) They have to be in physical contact, 2) They will have great difficulty hiding from us, and 3) we are not just going to stand there and let them do it.”

Will snorted, darkly amused. “Not hardly. And this ship is good cover.” He smiled again as he looked around the troop bay, again amazed by the sheer ability that Gaia had shown when she duplicated this ship for him.

From the outside, the two folding wings, the heavy guns on the nose, and the two powerful engines all proclaimed it to be a Republic heavy troop transport. A fairly common type of ship, it was also fairly easy to modify, as long as one was in the Republic Forces at least. Design by committee had its downsides. But for sheer brute force and survivability, little in the galaxy could match a ship this size. Which was one reason the Sith had stolen a ship very much like this one to crash into the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. By all account, that had been the turning point, when a dozen Sith warriors had jumped out of the wreck. Will shook his head, the past was the past, they had to focus on the now.

"So..." Will finished checking and reassembling his weapon and smiled as he sat back. “Hera… what do you know about the trackers? I only faced one, once and well…” He grimaced.

"Yeah." Michelle sighed. “You got your butt kicked. Hard.”

"You would bring that up." Will made an obscene gesture at the main console. “Don’t remind me. How was I supposed to react? That thing appeared on my ship while it was in hyperspace. It must have come aboard while the ship was grounded. Oh man…” He slumped.

"Will?" Hera looked at him and her voice was worried. “What is wrong Will?” Will bit his lip, obviously lost in memory. Hera sighed and moved herself so she was close enough to touch.

“Hera…” Michelle warned. She didn’t trust this small being. Especially after the way Hera had introduced herself, by taking control of Michelle’s systems.

"i just..." Hera stilled. “I want to help. And… I can’t. I know you are in pain, and… It hurts me… Why?”

"It's okay Hera." Will shook himself and smiled at the young and innocent creature. She was after all, less than two days old. “You are empathic, like your mom was. That leaves you wide open to emotional hurts, of which, I have more than a few.” He patted her gently. “It’s okay, Hera. I was just remembering. I think I faced a group of them before.”

“A group?” The incredulity in Michelle’s voice was palpable. Trackers solo were bad news. In a group...?

"Yeah." Will sighed as he sat back. “The Stormhawk had surrendered to the Republic. To save Sharra. Well, the clone Sharra. We went to Tython.”

"Um..." Michelle’s voice was confused. “Holo-net accounts are vague. Did you surrender or were pardoned or what?”

Will snorted. “Both. We went to Tython to save the clone Sharra. We knew by then that the Senate had pardoned us. But there were factions within the military that the Republic Judge Advocate General Corps wanted to trap. Traitors, criminals, and other assorted scum. High ranking scum. So they used us in a sting operation. It was… a mess.”

"A mess?" Michelle made a noise somewhere in between a laugh, a snort and a groan. “From what I heard, that may be the biggest understatement of this century.”

"Yep." Will smiled, but there was little humor in it. “Anyway, the media descended on us, a whole bunch of ‘interested parties’ likewise. We have made more than a few enemies over the years. And then the Empire showed up.”

Hera stiffened. “The Sith?”

"Yeah, two battlewagons and escorts." Will nodded to her. “Yeah. It was weird though. They fought dumb. Imperials as whole do not usually go for clever tactics. Oh they can on occasion, but brute force usually works for them. And with two battleships, they would have had enough force to roll over most anything in the system. Except for Mercedes…” Her had a wide smile on his face now.

"Mercedes?" Michelle’s voice was our now. “Do I want to know?”

"Well..." Will laughed. “She… um… Well… She was trying to court me when Sharra showed up.”

"What?" Michelle made a sputtering noise. “how many women… No… No.. I don’t want to know…” But she was muttering almost under her breath. “Queens, starship captains… is there anyone you won't sleep with?”

Will actually blushed. “Well… It wasn’t my idea. Anyway… during the fight… A squadron of ships launched from the lead Imp battlewagon.” He shivered. “But they were not like any Imperial ships I had ever seen. They had quad lasers cannon, heavy shields and armor…. And no canopy. You couldn’t see the pilot. But that wasn’t the worst part.” He shivered harder.

Hera touched his arm gently. “Will? Are you okay?”

"No." Will shook his head. “No. It was… It was terrifying. I could hear them… in my head. It was like… I don’t know… It was like something was crawling inside my skull. Something distinctly unpleasant.”

"What?" Hera looked at him, and her voice, while gentle, held worry. “Will, what did they say?”

Will looked at her and his face was bleak. “They said ‘Join us’.”

Hera recoiled, and Michelle’s voice came from the speaker. “They… They… WHAT?” Her voice was horrified.

Will shook his head. “I don’t know who they were. They were not Sith or Imperial. But I ran into a pair of those… things… later on Bothuwai. Two Sith ran from them, just fled. I heard it again… they…” He shook his head.

Michelle’s voice was very worried now. “Will?” But the soldier was grimacing as if in pain and didn’t seem to hear her. “Hera…?” Now Michelle’s voice held terror.

"Will, it's okay." The Islanian touched Will on the arm. “I am dosing you with a calming agent. Mom’s flash teaching was complete in that regard at least. Breath Will, calm yourself.”

Will shuddered and relaxed. “Thank you… My god I had forgotten how… Oh…” He grimaced again and now, Hera put another tentacle on his other arm.

Hera’s voice was soft and gentle still. “Will, don’t focus on the pain. That is how they get into organic minds. That’s how Islanians broke organic minds. Will… Think of Sharra, see her in your mind. See her eyes, see her hair, smell her… Think of Sharra…”

Slowly, ever so slowly, the soldier relaxed. Finally, he slumped in relief. “Thank you Hera, that was… moderately awful…”

"Oh dear." Hera sighed. “It’s going to get worse, Will as we get closer. I should have known, I shouldn’t have brought you.” Her recrimination was clear.

"Oh?" Will patted her on the head. “Who else could you have brought? It’s okay, Hera, I can handle it. Now that I know how.”

Hera made an almost human sounding sigh. “How did you keep them out before?”

Will shook his head. “No idea. But…” He frowned in thought. “There was another voice. Female, kind… She told me not to give in to my hate. I… I didn’t know the voice. It’s not someone I have met. I don’t think so anyway, my memory is a mess.”

"Your body is returning to normal rhythms." Hera removed her tentacles from Will’s body and rolled back a bit. “Well, whoever she was, I am glad she helped.”

Michelle’s voice was thoughtful and worried. “Hera, what are the trackers? Are they droids or are they organic.”

"Both." Hera slumped. “And neither. They are… organic intelligences in machines. Like you.”

Michelle drew in a deep breath. “So… how do we fight them? I mean… They can take over any machines they touch. Even me…” The fear in her voice was tangible again.

"Michelle, easy… " Hera sighed. “You can hold them off for a time now. This ship has no tracker nodes, and you have faced them before. Their primary weapon is fear so hold yours tight. But I am hoping we don’t have to fight.”

"I agree." Will nodded. “A fight would serve nothing. We want to help them, not kill them.”

Michelle’s voice was small. “And if we can’t…?”

"If we can't...?" Will sighed sadly. “That is why I packed such heavy ordnance.” Indeed, he had all kinds of things in the hold of the ship, up to and including a small baradium fission bomb. He snorted as he looked at the chrono. “Time.”

Hera clambered into the acceleration couch that had been put together for her small frame and strapped herself in. The ship shuddered as it left hyperspace, but immediately Michelle spoke in a concerned voice. “Will, we have a problem.”

"Figures." He stiffened in his seat. “What is it?”

"A distress call." Michelle’s voice was soft. “I am reading a beacon at the edge of the gravity well. It says this is an archeological dig. Put on by the Republic Ministry of Antiquities. Put on someone named Firldrump?”

"Aw nuts." Will snarled. “Senator Firldrump… Son of a Barve… What are his scum doing here?”

Michelle’s voice was concerned now. “I don’t know. But I am also detecting a distress beacon on the planet and… Oh dear…”

“What?” Hera asked quietly.

Now Michelle’s voice was soft. “There is another ship heading for site of the distress beacon on the planet. They are entering the atmosphere now. Configuration says it’s a Defender class light corvette.”

Hera looked from the console to Will. “Defender class? Who uses those?”

Will’s voice was just as quiet as Michelle’s had been. “Jedi.”

"Jedi?" Hera stared at him. “Aw nuts…”

"You said it, Hera." Will sighed. “You said it. Take us in Michelle.”
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kalenath
07.07.2012 , 04:37 AM | #10
Will was not clad in his normal black armor now. Instead, in keeping with his cover story, he was garbed in the distinctive white and brown full heavy combat armor of a Republic Special Forces operative. He shrugged again to settle the armor and didn’t, quite, snarl as Hera’s voice came over the com.

"Will...?" Her voice was worried, and he forced himself to relax. “Are you sure about this?”

"Me?" Will shook his head as he waited for the ramp of his ship to lower. “No, not really. Jedi are hard to fool. But what other choice do we have? As far as I know, I am the only combat personnel we have at the moment. And you showing yourself to a Jedi, Hera, would be the king of all bad ideas. Any luck, Michelle?”

"I am in, but..." The computer’s voice was distracted, but then again, she was also trying very hard to unobtrusively hack a Jedi’s computer. “No, all of his mission data is under heavy lock… Oh my god… Will… back off…”

Will stopped, his foot almost on the top of the ramp. “What?” He had never heard that particular tone from her. He saw a brown robed figure standing at the base of the ramp, waiting patiently for him to descend.

"Will..." Michelle’s voice was scared now. “We have bigger problems… Don’t…”

"Make sense, Michelle." Will snorted. “Don’t what?”

The Jedi spoke. “Is there a problem?” At the sound of that voice, everything in the area seemed to stop. The Jedi froze, the emotions that erupted from Will were strong enough that anyone on the planet who was sensitive with the Force likely could feel them.

“You…” Will’s voice was cold with hate as he strode down the ramp, his hands flying of their own accord to the rifle slung at his back. It dropped into a ready position. Glowing readouts on the side showed the chambers full and the grenade launcher armed. But the Jedi didn’t move, didn’t draw his saber.

Instead, the human reached up slowly and dropped the hood of his robe. The man sighed. When he spoke his voice rang with irony. “The Force truly works in mysterious ways, Will Kalenath.”

The red haired human face that was exposed was weathered and worn. But there was something about it… Something that was subtly different from any of the other times Will had seen Markus Sigmundson face to face. Of course it might have been the fully charged blaster rifle in the hands of a trained killer that was leveled at him. Jedi or no, he had to know that no matter how good he was, he wouldn’t be able to deflect and avoid all of Will’s fire. But it didn’t seem to bother him.

"You arrogant Jedi bastard." Will’s voice in contrast to the Jedi’s was cold as space itself. “You son of a Barve. Give me one good reason I shouldn’t simply blast your shebs here and now.” He clicked a control on his rifle and it started to beep as it powered up.

"Will Kalenath." Markus shook his head. “I am not your enemy. Not anymore.” He slumped. “I don’t blame you for your feelings. All I can say is I am sorry.”

"Sorry?" Will, if anything, was more incensed. “You are sorry? You are sorry? You left us to die! Every last one of us. So you could run away. We trusted you!” He screamed as he slammed the butt end of his rifle into the Jedi’s chest. The Jedi likely could have dodged the blow, blocked it, or something, but instead, he took it, absorbed the impact and stepped back.

"Will!" Michelle’s voice sounded in his helmet. “Will, the guns on the other ship just powered up. They are turning to track you…” A whine from behind him told the soldier that the guns of his own ship were tracking the other ship now. And no matter what they looked like, the guns of his ship were not laser cannon.

No!” Sigmundson yelled as he threw up a hand. “Cili don't! Stand down!” Will snarled, but then froze. The Jedi wasn’t talking to him. The Jedi put his hand up in a stop gesture aimed at his ship. He spoke softly. “Stand down… I deserve anything he does to me.”

A loudspeaker came on and a scared female voice sounded. “Master Jedi, he is threatening you…”

"He..." Sigmundson sighed. “He has cause Cili. Stand down. Deactivate the guns. Please…” Will stood, his aim point not moving from the Jedi’s face. Sigmundson turned back to Will. “I messed up. I messed up so bad; I will never be able to fix it. A lot of people died because of what I did, because of my cowardice. I can’t change that. All I can do is try to make a difference now.” Behind the Jedi, the guns of his ship returned to their travel positions and powered down. The guns on Will’s ship did not.

"Make a difference?" Will shook his head slowly. “You made us outlaws. You hunted and killed my friends. And don’t you dare tell me you were trying to take them in. I know better.”

"I won't." The Jedi slumped. “I wasn’t. I was falling to the Dark Side. I was seeking revenge. For something that you didn’t do. You didn’t obey my illegal orders. You didn’t follow my coward’s path. I have hurt and killed innocents in chasing my revenge. I had to give it up, I had to change. But I know this. You are a better man than I will ever be, Will Kalenath. Do what you have to.”

Will met the Jedi’s calm gaze and his hands shook. His voice was quiet, but so cold, even the Jedi’s composure was shaken a bit. “I want to kill you. I burn to kill you. For everything you did to my friends and family, I want to kill you… For the eighteen thousand soldiers who died at Coruscant before and after the Temple was hit and you ran away taking the last intact fleet with you, I want to kill you. For eleven of my best friends who died, because we were promised support that never came. I want to kill you…”

"No." Michelle’s voice was quiet. “Will… No… Please… Put your rifle away.”

"What the?" Will snarled into his com. “Why do you care about him?”

"Will..." Michelle’s voice was still quiet. “I don’t. I care about you. And if you gun him down like this, in cold blood, it will change you. Will… Please… Put your weapon away.”

Will shook his head slowly. But then he let go of the foregrip of his rifle and slung it with one hand. When he spoke, it was quiet. “Understand this, Jedi… You are a direct cause of much of the pain in my life.”

"I know." Markus Sigmundson nodded. “I know.” He sighed. “Part of me almost wishes you would shoot me. But that is the easy path.”

The bitterness in Will’s could have cut durasteel. “I thought easy wasn’t for a Jedi.”

Sigmundson nodded. “It isn’t. Which is why I am here. Firldrump has come to the Order’s attention a number of times recently. My suspicion is that the good senator is up to his eyeballs in want I have been investigating, but I have no proof. Which is why I am here. I did not expect to find an active distress beacon.”

"Well." Will didn’t look away. “I am here for my own reasons Jedi, they have nothing to do with you.” He turned to walk towards the prefab shelters that were visible in the near distance.

Sigmundson sighed. “We should work together.”

"Oh?" Will didn’t look back. “Not a chance in hell.” His rifle was back in hand as he strode away, leaving the Jedi to stare after him, face crestfallen.

As he walked, part of the soldier’s awareness was on the form that started after him, slowly, carefully, so as not to seem a threat. But most of it was on the prefab structures. None looked damaged. Matter of fact, none of them touched. By weather or anything. He stiffened, just a bit. From what he had seen of the weather as they had been on approach, this planet had normal weather patterns. So… No signs of rain or wind on prefab structures not known for durability meant… what? He wasn’t sure. He looked into the first one. It showed signs of habitation, a deck of playing cards was lying on a table with hands dealt as if the players had simply put their hands down to step out for a moment. But the money on the table, about fifty credits if he was not mistaken, said that whatever had happened had been sudden, and unexpected. He shook his head as he touched the side of a cup of caf. Ice cold, whatever had happened had not been recent.

Will ignored the born robed form that followed him as he searched several other prefabs, finding nothing but more empty spaces. Finally, he found what he was looking for, the quarters of what had to have been the head archeologist. He shook his head and he accessed the computer terminal. It was encrypted of course, but with off the shelf, civilian grade gear. Even without Michelle backing him up, he could have cracked it in less than two minutes. With her, it took fifteen seconds.

“What did they find?” Will ignored Sigmundson’s question as he perused the files, but then the soldier stiffened. “What?” The Jedi asked. Will looked at him and then ignored him, copying the files and then starting a wipe program. “Hey…Wait…”

Will ignored the Jedi, turning to go, but he found his path blocked by the robed form. Will’s voice was calm, cool and collected. “If you value your life, get out of my way.”

Sigmundson sighed. “I need a copy of whatever they had.”

Will shook his head. “I don’t care what you need.” Something twinged the back of his mind, but he ignored it, all of his focus was on the Jedi. But then it was as if a star exploded inside his head. He heard a scream from Sigmundson, a cry of pain or shock or both. And then the soldier mercifully blacked out.
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Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here