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(L,F&E 80) To Teach a Terror

kalenath's Avatar

08.12.2012 , 03:36 AM | #1
((Grief is not fun. When the person grieving has mental issues it is less fun. Sara has a right to her mental instability. Sara... Well, she handles things her way. It doesn't always work as she intends. This fanfic is not for the faint of heart.))

For just a moment, when she woke, Sara Kalenath had no idea at all where she was. She was warm and surrounded by warmth. Memory flooded back and she bit back a sob as she remembered the funeral pyre that her mother, father and grandmother had been placed on. The bombs that she and her brother had carefully placed inside the pyre would have left little but microscopic ash of the woman who had born them both into the world. She would not let her grief destroy her, she would not! She rolled on her front and bit down on her tongue to keep from crying out. Then she froze as a touch came in the darkened room.

Hands that were toughened by years of fighting and hard work were gentle as they turned her on her side and caressed her scalp and shoulders, soothing, calming. “Sara…?” Istara Sharlina Andal’s voice was soft and concerned as she looked at the girl she had essentially adopted. Well, sort of. It was complicated. "It's okay."

“Should know better than to try and keep things from a Force user…” Sara grumbled quietly so as not to disturb the other sleepers in the room. Everyone had flatly refused to leave her alone. Probably wise of them. She was on hair trigger now, so many emotions, so many wheels within wheels. It made her brain spin. She swallowed a squeak of surprise as warm arms enveloped her and Istara pulled her close.

“It’s okay Sara. You can be yourself here. You won’t hurt us. We won’t let you. You can let it out.” Istara’s voice was calm and gentle as she massaged the taut muscles of Sara’s neck. "Easy..."

"Istara..." Sara tried to recoil, but the arms that held her were tight. The grip was breakable, but she found she didn’t want to. “I… No… I can’t… I will hurt someone…Kill them…” She was babbling and the bodies around her moved just a little. The hands that held her wouldn’t let go and moved her so she looked Istara in the face. Istara grinned slightly.

“No you won’t, Sara. Come on. Let it out. Keeping such rage inside hurts you. It hurts you badly. Believe me… I know about anger, rage and hate.” Sara stared at the dark Force user, or whatever Istara was now. Sara really didn’t have a clue what Istara Sharlina Andal was, except odd. Istara smiled fondly at the girl. “We have exercise scheduled in an hour. Warm ups and then drill. Are you up for some sparring after that?”

"I..." Sara did not know what to make of all this. These people were kindly, but at the same time harder than Corusca gems. “I… I don’t know… Istara... I just don’t know what to do…” Gentle hands held her as she sobbed softly and a soft, moist something scrubbed the tears from her face.

"Oh Sara..." Istara pulled Sara up into a sitting position and sat beside the younger girl. “Sara. Do you trust me?” Absurd that. Sara could no more trust a Sith that… Sara froze in place. Istara was not a Sith was she? And Maria had said that Istara could be trusted…. Hadn’t she?

“I… I shouldn’t… But I do…” Sara admitted with a bit of chagrin in her voice. “No offense, to you, Istara, but I shouldn’t… I shouldn’t trust anyone. But Mom said I could trust you.” The tears were falling freely now. “So… I guess I do…”

“Then come with me.” Istara rose slowly, allowing Sara to stand on her own. Sara could feel the other bodies that had surrounded her moving to let her out.

What happened next was downright amazing. Sara had seen the Bladeborn Grandmaster practice, she knew how deadly the woman was. So having Istara do this was… disconcerting. Istara peeled the soiled and nasty clothing off of Sara, led the girl to the refresher, stood her there in the middle of it, and ran the water full blast. It felt…good, if odd to be pampered by Istara. Then, with gentle hands that were consummately professional, helped the girl clean herself of the assorted muck that Sara had accumulated in helping build the pyre that they had burned her mother’s body on. Istara cleaned Sara gently, and then dried her. Sara allowed herself to be led from the refresher. Truth be told, she wasn’t sure she could fight now. Istara helped Sara dress in a clean gray ship suit and then placed soft fuzzy things on her feet. All the while, Istara’s voice was soothing murmur of nonsense words, calming, soothing and her hands were gently massaging where they touched.

What was even more odd was that Istara wasn’t alone. Other Bladeborn were in and out. Sara’s dirty clothes vanished, a tray of food appeared and then the room was empty except for Sarai who was still asleep, and Ona who lay beside Sarai, her furred arms around the teen looking woman. The Bothan had been crying, tears still fell occasionally, but she smiled tenderly at Sara when Sara looked at her.

Sara was baffled by all this, but allowed herself to be led around, she was numb. So many hurts so quickly had taken their toll. Istara sat her down at a table and started filling a bowl with what looked and smelled like cereal. “Here, Sara. You need nourishment.”

"I..." Sara stared at the bowl and then at Istara, whose face was determined. Not angry, not upset, just determined. Sara shook her head slowly, bemused. “You have done this before. This is well practiced.”

“Trugoy’s normal method of recruiting was to find Force users who were broken, hurting, in pain.” Istara’s voice had an odd catch to it. Sara remembered that Trugoy had recruited and trained Istara. Then something had happened, and Istara had left. But then Istara spoke again. “So yes, we have experience in dealing with people who have had traumatic experiences. Then we ease them into training. Slowly, carefully, and very gently, we mold them into strong beings. You are already strong, maybe too strong. You are not alone, Sara. But you need to eat. You will be working out a lot today. You need to eat.” She repeated slowly when Sara would have pushed the bowl away.

“If I refused… You would spoon feed me, wouldn’t you?” Sara asked with a halfway grin as she reached for the bowl.

"Of course." A snicker came from where Ona lay beside Sarai who still hadn’t woken. “If we didn't, Mama Lizard would.” Sara stared at the Bothan and then at Istara. “Would you argue with her?”

Sara hastily started eating. She was absolutely terrified of the Barabel, not that she would say so. Istara shook her head and patted one of Sara’s hands where it lay on the table for a moment. “Slow and easy, Sara. We don’t want you to… Aw crap…”

But Sara had eaten too much, too quickly. She gagged and then lost what she had eaten. Amazingly, there was a bin right there, held aloft by something she couldn’t see. She retched into it, and gentle hands held her as she sobbed and retched, sobbed and retched. Eventually, she had expelled everything in her stomach and warm arms held her, rocking her as she sobbed. Istara’s gentle voice came to her ears as something soft and moist wiped her face.

“Easy, Sara, easy. You are going through stages of grief. This is nothing to be ashamed of. You are strong, girl. But as in everything, there are limits. Open your mouth.” Sara froze for a moment, but then relaxed and did as instructed. A spoon filled with cereal found her mouth and she dutifully cleaned it off. “I can never take the place of your mother, Sara. But I gave Maria my word. I will take care of you. Both of you.” Istara’s voice was pitched beyond Sara now as the spoon came again and she cleaned it off before looking.

"Good morning Sarai." Sara looked up and Sarai was awake, staring at Sara and Istara with wide eyes from Ona’s arms. “Time for your shower. Ona, if you would, please?” Sara couldn’t help it, she giggled as Sarai was led to the refresher, the look on her sister’s face… Istara thumped Sara’s nose with a finger. “That is not nice, Sara. She is just as lost as you are. Come on, eat, we have drill in thirty minutes.”

Sara smiled a bit forlornly as she started spooning food into her mouth, slower this time. She was not looking forward to facing this day.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

08.12.2012 , 03:42 AM | #2
Much to Sara’s surprise, the start of the day was not bad at all. After Sarai had her shower with Ona’s help, the two girls had been fitted with training armor, given what had to be training swords and led to a room where it seemed the entire Order of Bladeborn was drawn up in ranks. Sara had expected to stand out, but the training armor she wore was absolutely the same as everyone else's. Even Istara was wearing the same drab colors. And they were all doing the same things. Not all were perfect, but all were trying, just like Sara. It was weird, how good it felt to be a cog in a faceless machine. She didn’t know all of the moves, but she was a quick study, and while she had never done more with a sword than basic drills, she caught on fast. No one talked in ranks, but she caught a few speculative glances her way now and again.

They began with basic warm ups. Well, basic that included holding a piece of sharp steel in hand. Bladeborn apparently did not believe in coddling their trainees. She had done jumping jacks, punch ups, and then run at least two kilometers. It was a good thing that she was in very good shape. It felt…good. It made her think of something other than her grief and pain. Then the swords had been sheathed and the group had progressed to more advanced drill, with smaller groups forming. Sara was unsure of where to go, but then Istara beckoned to her and she joined a large group of younger looking beings. Istara smiled at her, and then became businesslike.

“Students, we have two new trainees this morning.” The grandmaster nodded to Sara and Sarai who looked a bit embarrassed, but then Istara focused on the rest of the group. “Who is ready to demonstrate kata sixteen?” All of the other hands in the group shot up and Istara nodded soberly to one of the others, a young man who looked to be about nine standard years old. “Garth, you are up.”

The young man bowed to Istara and stepped a few steps away, getting room to maneuver. The group formed a circled around him, well out of reach. He bowed to Istara again and the Grandmaster nodded again. Sara’s eyes went wide under her helmet as the boy seemed to dance. His blade left it’s sheath in a whistling move that would have taken the head clean off anyone of standard height. Then he was in motion, each move calculated, precise and deadly. Sara was lost in wonder as she watched the deadly dance, then she started as she heard a clap and the boy froze in place. Istara had an intent look on her face as she stalked to where the boy stood, sword outstretched. She walked around the still form and shook her head slowly.

“Your weight is on the wrong foot, Garth. How many times have we told you that?” The boy stared at Istara and then slumped in place, his sword vanished back into the sheath. Istara’s face was impassive, but Sara bit back a cry of alarm as her right foot lashed out and slammed the boy in the leg. “Mass on the left foot. Balance, Garth. Always in balance. Without balance, you have no power for your strike and are easily countered. And if that happens... You are dead.” Sara winced in sympathy. That had to hurt, Istara did not pull her strike at all, but the boy did not react. His stance changed and Istara nodded, a slight grimace on her face now. “Better. Okay, start it again, this time slow.”

The Grandmaster stood back and the young man started his kata again. This time, each move was executed in slow motion. Every move was precise again; every attack and parry was timed to perfection. Almost. It was as if… Sara blanched as a sword came whistling in from the side and met Garth’s blade with resounding clang. The boy’s blade flew from his hand and out of the ring of onlookers, none of whom so much as ducked. The boy froze in place and Istara sighed as her sword vanished. His sword found its way to her hand, buoyed by the Force. She looked at it and then shook her head.

“Your leg still won’t hold your weight, will it?” At Istara’s words, Garth went white and then his face turned inward. Sara hadn’t seen that particular look on anyone’s face before. It was as if he were lost. The boy looked utterly devastated. Istara shook her head and strode towards the boy. “Come here.”

The boy took a step and then knelt as Istara indicated. She was poetry in motion as she grabbed his leg, pulled it up and gave a yank. A strangled sound came from the boy before he could clamp his lips together. The Sara stared as Istara seemed to wilt. “Garth…” Istara’s voice was sad as she released his leg. “I am sorry I hurt you…Go to Ona.” His sword hovered to hang in midair in front of him.

“Grandmaster…Please…” The boy seemed to wilt a bit himself. He grasped his sword and sheathed it. Then he knelt in formal pose in the middle of the floor. Istara shook her head in resignation.

“Garth, you keep hurting yourself." The elder Bladeborn said gently. "Small wonder she is annoyed with you. Yes, she is going to punish you. Yes, she has reason. Go, before you make her any madder than she will be.” Istara helped the boy to his feet and he hobbled from the room, face down, his whole posture one of resignation and worry.

Sara had so many questions, they were bubbling all through her mind, but she kept her mouth shut. Istara smiled at her and nodded to another student. “Zana, you are up. Sixteen, by the numbers.”

The absurdly young looking girl in Bladeborn armor nodded to Istara and started the same kata. She couldn;t have been over ten years old. Her kata though, was slow from the beginning. And even Sara could see that everything in it was precise. The girl finished her kata, sheathed her sword, and bowed to the Grandmaster. Istara nodded and then smiled at Sara. “Sara, you are up.”

Sara jerked in place. Istara had to be kidding, right? This was her first day and she was supposed to do an advanced kata? One look at Istara’s face however, said that the grandmaster was anything but joking. Sara nodded to her, tried to bow as the others had done, and stepped forward. She focused her mind, trying to remember the moves she had seen the others do. Her training sword left its sheath and slowly, far too slowly for Sara’s peace of mind, followed the regime. A clap came and she froze in place as Istara stepped up. The grandmaster’s hands were gentle, but strong as they moved her arm slightly, and then pressed one shoulder down.

Istara pressed close and her voice was almost inaudible. “Relax, Sara. You are doing well.”

Sara focused on the steel she held, willing herself to become part of it as Istara stepped back. Another clap and she continued the kata. Maybe she could do this. Maybe. She finished the kata with the same flourish as Zana had shown, and then she cleaned of imaginary blood, sheathed her sword and waited. She didn’t move, didn’t look anywhere except in front of her.

“Class? What critiques do you have?” Came Istara’s soft voice. “Hoss?”

One of the other students spoke softly, but clearly. “Sara, you under extended the lunge at point twenty eight. Not far, just enough to be out of balance.” Istara made a ’hmmm’ noise. Apparently that was a wish for the boy to continue because he did. “That form at the end, what was that?”

Sara jerked and found herself in the center of all the eyes on the group. She froze, fear starting to pull at her. “I…”

Istara smiled sadly and came to her rescue. “If I am not mistaken, that is a Mandalorian gesture designed to clean blood off a blade before it is sheathed. Efficient, and not showy. Nice, we will have to remember that one.” The Grandmaster sighed a bit. “Unfortunately, for now, that is all the drill time we have. Tomorrow morning, Sara, we would like to see that cleaning gesture. For today, sparring partners as indicated by the schedule. Hoss, since Garth is unavailable, you are with me.” The boy looked distinctly nervous. Sara felt butterflies start in her stomach as Istara’s gaze turned to her. “Sara and Sarai, both of you have an appointment as well.” Istara jerked her head to the side and Sara felt faint as she saw the huge form of Mama Lizard waiting at the door.

Sara slumped, but then nodded to Istara. “As you wish, Grandmaster.”

Istara smiled. “She won’t eat you, Sara. Go.”

As the two girls walked to where Mama was waiting patiently, Sarai spoke softly and admiringly. “That was way cool, Sara. Where did you learn to do that? Nothing in my memories speak of sword training.”

"I..." Sara shrugged. Her fear was making it hard to focus. “The Mandos showed me some, but... That? I have no idea.”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

08.12.2012 , 03:48 AM | #3
To say Sara was intimidated would have been the understatement of the century. She simply was not used to this feeling, this fear. She had always been brave, being brave was easy when you didn’t care whether you lived or died. Now, though, she did care. She had things to live for. She had family left who cared for her. But one of those family members scared the hell out of her. She tried to calm her racing heart as she sipped the tea that Mama Lizard had made for her, and thought hard about why she was reacting as she was. Mama remained where she was sitting, obviously aware of Sara’s discomfiture and working hard to keep it from getting out of hand. But finally, Sara spoke softly.

“This isn’t going to work…” Her voice was sad, and sick as she tried to focus beyond her fear and failed.

The huge Barabel warrior female sighed and nodded slowly. “I agree, Sssara… I underztand that my appearance frightensss you. Would you like me to put zomething elssse on? Zomething less…martial…?” She asked in a soft and kind tone as she sipped her tea, maintaining a quiet demeanor that was totally at odds with her appearance.

“This doesn’t make sense.” Sara complained as she tried to fight her feelings. “I should not be afraid of you. You have never hurt me. You have never done anything to me. Why am I scared of you?” A soft laugh came from the Barabel and Sara glared at her, but Mama just smiled thinly.

“Zara, I am a carnivore. On my homeworld, beingsss your zize are sssnackz. No wonder you feel fear at my appearance. Most do.” There was something in the Barabel’s tone, a wistfulness, no… a loneliness, a sadness, a longing.

Sara stared at the Barabel for a moment before she rose slowly and faced her fear the same way she faced everything else in her life. Head on. She laid her tea down carefully and slowly, so slowly, walked towards the Barabel, who froze in place. “Sssara…” Mama Lizard’s voice was cautious. “Do not pusssh too hard… You are hurting. You have time, child. There is no russsh.”

“If I don’t face this now, I never will be able to.” Sara said quietly as she walked to where Mama Lizard was sitting with Sarai beside her. Sarai had taken to the huge lizard woman quickly, Sara on the other hand had been unable to get too close. Sara was shaking hard as she took another two steps.

“Sssara… ztop.” Mama Lizard spoke softly, but commanding. “You are in no emotional ssshape to be puzhing yourssself zo hard. Easssy, Zara… Calm… Sssit if you will.” The Barabel indicated a couch nearby, but well out of reach.

Sara shook her head savagely. “I have to do this!” She declared and took another step, sweat pouring down her face now as she forced her body to take another step. “I have to. I will not…” She broke off as Mama Lizard moved.

One moment, the huge lizard was sitting beside Sarai who was staring at Sara with worry on her face, the next the Barabel was across the room. “No, Sssara. You are broken, child. We know about being broken. We all are.” Sara stared, was the Barabel crying? Sara took another cautious step and Mama raised both clawed hands in a warding gesture. “Pleassse ztay where you are, Sssara. You can and will hurt yourzelf if you continue. Pleassse…Zara… Trussst me. I know of what I zpeak.” Now the Barabel’s voice held worry.

“It’s not you I don’t trust… Mama Lizard… It’s me…” Sara said quietly as she took another slow step. “If I react like this to you, who have done nothing to me… What is to say I will not react badly if I meet someone else who scares me?” But she stopped as Mama shook her head.

“Sssara… You cannot heal if you continue to harm yourzelf emotionally.” The Barabel was at the door now. “Will you wait for a few minutesss? I know zomeone who can talk to you, sssomeone who you will like.”

“Istara is busy.” Sara protested as Mama moved to the door, but she remained where she was. She wasn’t stupid. She did not want Mama Lizard mad at her. Mama Lizard made a face that should have been even more terrifying, but somehow, it was funny.

“Did I zay Issstara? No, I did not. Zit down, finisssh your tea. Zomeone will be in ssshortly. It is not your fault Zara.” Those kind words reverberated in Sara’s head as Mama left the room.

Sara stared at after her for a moment and then sat on the floor, holding her head in her hands. “What is wrong with me? I have been afraid before… But never like this… This feels so wrong…” She froze as Sarai sat down beside her, her genetic twin put her arms around Sara and gave a squeeze.

“We have been hammered, Sara. Small wonder you are feeling out of sorts. Come on, let’s finish our tea.” Sarai helped her sister to her feet and led Sara back to the seat Sara had so recently vacated. Sara sat heavily and then smiled ruefully as Sarai picked up her glass and handed it to the other girl silently.

“You like her.” Sara said as she sipped the tea.

“Yes I do.” Saria admitted. “Odd that. She scared the crap out of me at first, but she is not scary now.” the girl laughed a bit sourly. “Well, she is, but.. Aw hell, you know what I mean… Odd that you feel such fear still. She is kind. She doesn’t have to be.”

“No she doesn’t.” Sara agreed as she finished the cup of tea, allowing the herbs to settle her stomach and calm her slightly. “What the…?” She perked up as she heard singing.

“You have got to be kidding me…” Sarai said as the voice came closer and the words became clear. The singer was male and from the words, stark raving mad…

Put down the chainsaw and listen to me. It’s time for us to join in the fight. It’s time to let your babies grow up to be cowboys. It’s time to let the bedbugs bite…” The door hissed open and a man walked in. He stopped just inside the door way and continued to sing. “You better put all your eggs in one basket…”

Sara couldn’t believe that 1) The man was singing what he was, or 2) he was singing it with a straight face! And then Sarai started singing along! Sara shook her head and found herself humming the tune with both of the others. Then she was singing. They finally reached the refrain and ended the song laughing.

Sara was shaking her head utterly amazed by the change in herself. This man looked scary, but she wasn’t afraid of him. She should be afraid of him, but she wasn’t. She had met him before, but he had always been a bit more aloof. “Idjit, you are a nut.”

“Takes one to know one, huh, Sara?” The resident seer of the Bladeborn smiled as he sat on the floor near the chair Sara Sat in. His bandaged eyes sockets met her eyes and his face was solemn as he met her gaze with his. “It’s good to see you again, Sara. So to speak anyway. I wish it were under better circumstances.” Now his voice was sad.

Sara stared at him and then her lip started to quiver. “I… Oh Idjit… I…” She felt her eyes start to burn and then he was there, holding her as she sobbed. Somehow, she was on the floor, and her head was pillowed in his lap. Sarai was holding her hands in a death grip as Sara wept. Idjit’s voice was gentle as his hands as he stroked her hair.

“That’s it, Sara. That’s it. Let it out. Such a brave girl, so strong.” His hands were gentle as he held her shuddering form. “So much pain held in so tight. You are so tight you almost seem like one of us. That’s it, girl, let it out…” Sara could do nothing but sob as she lay there, her head pillowed on the seer’s lap, crying out her fear, rage and pain at an uncaring universe, held by a worried sister and a caring Bladeborn.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

08.12.2012 , 03:55 AM | #4
Something was wrong. Sara had spent the last several hours talking with Idjit. The seer could be the most abrasive, hash and brutal opinioned person in the galaxy. And in the next moment, he could be kind, gentle and caring. It was downright odd, Sara mused, but that actually relaxed her more than a little. There was no sense of deception about him. She knew for a fact that he was not telling her everything, and she applauded that. What she did know was enough to give her nightmares before she had lost her mom. Finally, however, she was calm enough to sigh and look around. When she did, she froze.

“Where is Sarai?” Sara asked quietly. The other girl had been there when Sara had last looked. It was kind of weird, Sara had come to rely on Sarai being there. Sarai’s experiences, while not as horrific as Sara’s own, had been no walk in the park. The girl had been brainwashed and turned into a genetic copy of Sara. Neither of them had any idea why, but Sara didn’t care. She had a sister now and that was all that mattered. Sarai was tough, whoever she had been before she had been captured and turned into a copy of Sara had been tough as nails. Sarai was dealing with Maria’s death much better than Sara herself was. Idjit smiled softly and stroked Sara’s shoulders , relaxing her again.

“She wanted some time alone, Mama took her to…” He broke off as Sara blanched. “What?”

“Something is wrong, Idjit. Do you ‘see’ anything?” It was odd. Sara had no use for Force users in general, but Idjit was a different kind of beast. He didn’t care. Well, he did. He couldn’t have cared less about appearances or decorum or protocol or reputation. He cared about his family, the Bladeborn, and he cared about his friends. Sara was absolutely sure that Will and Idjit had hit it right off. They had the same wickedly dark sense of humor. Sometimes, Sara worried, deep in the recesses of her mind, that the Bladeborn were playing some kind of deep game. But then again, the Bladeborn kind of sucked at being sneaky for the most part. They could sneak, but lying was basically against their temperament. And their Code.

"Hm? Oh." Idjit focused his empty eye sockets on Sara for a moment and then his face went far away. Then he blanched and was in motion. Sara was one step behind him as he ran to the hatch. As he ran, he hit his comlink. “Medical emergency, training bay 12!” Sara barely noticed the halls that the two ran through. Idjti led her to a door and opened it. Inside…

Sarai!” Sara screamed as the training drone raised its sword to cleave the girl who lay in a pool of her own blood, a broken sword beside her. Her blaster came up, but Idjit was faster. The drone went flying to hit the far wall of the training room. It hit and exploded, propelled strongly by Idjit’s rage and fear. Sara went to her knees beside her sister, trying to staunch the flow of blood from the terrible wound on the girl’s chest.

“S….S…Sara…” Sarai’s voice was barely audible.

“No… Don’t try and talk, sister.” Sara flinched as Idjit came up but then took the heavy bandage that he had pulled from the first aid kit nearby. She nodded to him and held it in place. It was immediately sodden. Not a good sign. “You will be okay. I swear you will be okay. Where the hell was Mama Lizard?”

“Not… Not her fault…” Sarai grunted as Sara pressed down on the bandage, trying to at least slow the flow of vital fluids. “Wanted… Wanted to test myself…Face my fear…” Her eyes were glazing. Her voice was fading with her life. “I am sorry Sara. I…”

"No!" Sara shook her head savagely and pulled Sarai into a careful embrace. “I am not going to lose you too. I am not!” She screamed as her sister faded from life in her hands.

“No you won’t.” A brusque voice had Sara staring as a green scaled form entered the room and immediately knelt down beside the stricken girl. “Let her down, Sara. I can’t work if you are in the way.”

Sara stared at the newcomer, shocked. “L’trask?”

The Trandoshan healer who had put her back together after she had been injured on Kuat gave her a small smile before pushing her gently. “Move, Sara.” Sara did as instructed, in a daze. L’trask was back on the Stormhawk, she knew he was. Will had not forgiven the Stormhawk crew for the deaths of two of his adopted children, but there had been fences mended.

Gentle hands pulled Sara from the gory scene as the Trandoshan set to work. She was shuddering as reaction set in. L’Trask would not let her sister die. If it was even remotely possible to save the girl. L’Trask would. Then Sara had another shock as a brown robed from knelt down beside L’trask and silently started assisting the doctor. Nolikas had not talked to Sara since the funeral. The one and only time the Jedi had tried, Will and the Bladeborn had driven her away. And then Sara reeled even further as a black furred form trundled a gurney in. Ona? Here? With L’Trask and Nolikas? What the hell was going on? In moments, the stricken girl was eased onto the gurney and moved from the room, which Sara now recognized. A training room on the Stormhawk! She had been so out of it, she had never noticed where she was. She was on the Stormhawk. The Bladeborn were on the Stormhawk…! What the hell?

“What did I miss?” Sara asked in a daze. The hands that held her gave her a hug. Then she stared at them. Clawed hands. She looked up into the worried eyes of Mama Lizard, who sighed.

“We all have sssomething in common now, Zara… You.” The kind words finally pierced through the unreasoning fear that Sara always felt around the huge Barabel. Tears stared falling and would not stop. She felt herself falling and then she was floating, no, she was being carried in strong scaled arms. The kind voice of the mother of the Bladeborn came to Sara’s ears as if from far away. “Easssy, girl, eazy… Your sssizter livesss, hold to that. I did not think I would be zo long, I did not intend to leave her alone. ssshe is hurting az much asss you are. It iz my responsibility and I will sssee it made right, Zara.”

“Not… Your fault…” Sara didn’t want to move, it was so comforting to held, to be carried like this. To be held in the arms of someone who cared for her. It felt… like… She was crying hard now as she remembered her mom. The arms gave her a squeeze and then laid her on a yielding surface. But then a scared voice came from nearby.

“Holy hell! What happened?” Istara’s face swam into Sara’s view. The grandmaster’s face was drawn with worry.

"Sssarai wizhed to work off some ssstrezz. I brought here here. But I wasss called away." When Mama Lizard spoke, it was quiet and matter of fact. “I waz delayed in getting back. Ssshe found and activated a drone. It was zet for high level sssparring…”A gasp came from Istara. “Zhe had no chance againssst it. Idjit and Zara realized there wasss a problem just before it could kill her.”

Istara’s face was back in Sara’s view now and gentle hands were caressing her scalp now. “It’s okay Sara. You can sleep now. Your sister lives, and I will find out what happened and why.” It should have been scary, the implacable tone that came into Istara’s voice, but it wasn’t. Sara was smiling softly as she drifted off. Istara was acting like Maria had.
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08.12.2012 , 04:02 AM | #5
When Sara woke, she was not surprised to find Istara there. “Is it morning?” The girl asked with a yawn.

“Close enough.” Istara replied with grin as she pulled a tray table closer to Sara’s bed. A bed that Sara realized was a berth in a medical ward. One she recognized. She had been in it often enough, she had woken in it the very first time she had been aboard. Istara smiled as she saw Sara looking around. “I wondered when you would notice.” She sounded, happy.

"Uh..." Sara had seen Istara in a lot of moods. Happy was not one of them. “Istara…” The girl said cautiously. “What are the Bladeborn doing on the Stormhawk…? I mean… The last time you were aboard…You got shot.” Istara pushed the tray closer to Sara and sat back with her arms crossed. The bedridden girl sighed. The Bladeborn would likely not answer anything until Sara ate. Sara started opening the dishes in front of her but then froze as memory flooded back. “Sarai…?” She asked quietly but sighed as Istara pointedly looked at the dishes. Sara picked up a fork. Man, that Bladeborn was stubborn. Istara smiled as Sara started to eat cautiously.

“She is alive, and in surgery. The blade missed her heart.” Istara patted Sara’s still hand gently. “I apologize, Sara. That droid… was one of mine…” Sara froze with her fork halfway to her mouth. “I set it up, way back when I was aboard the Stormhawk the first time with Setsuna, for my own sparring use. I think someone reset some of the functions. Probably that jerk Jaken, but why…? I have no idea.”

“To cause problems. To foment discord. To get someone killed probably. It’s the kind of thing they have been finding all over the ship, everywhere he had access and some places he shouldn’t have had access. That man was diabolical, both in what he did and how.” A voice Sara recognized came from the door and she turned to look as Will stepped in. “Don’t let me interrupt your breakfast, Sara.” He looked awful, haggard, red eyed, sick and sad.

"Morning." Sara took the bite she had and shook her head slowly. “When was the last time you ate, Will?”

The soldier stared at his sister and then laughed sourly. “A while…” He admitted sheepishly. “Sharra has been… Um… a bit busy mending fences. I… well… “ He slumped. “Things have been… nuts…”

“Yeah, that they have. Istara… can you …?” Sara’s voice trailed off as she realized she was about to ask the Grandmaster of the Bladeborn to get a meal for her brother. How was that for disrespect? But Istara just grinned wider.

“We thought he would wind up here sooner or later.” She smirked as she pulled another tray from a covered table nearby. “Come here, Will. Sit down before you collapse.”

"Istara..." Will stared at Istara and then at Sara. Then with a long suffering sigh, he moved and sat at a small table nearby. “I know better than to argue with both of you. Either of you yes, both of you, no.” Istara smirked as she carried the tray to the table and set it down. “No need to rub it in, Istara. I am too fracking tired for gloating.”

“I am not going to gloat, Will.” Istara said quietly as she patted his hands before returning to her seat beside Sara’s bed. “But I did promise your mom I would look after you.”

Will paused with his hand halfway to his fork. “You… what?” Sara stared at Istara as well, her meal forgotten at the Bladeborn’s words.

“All of you.” Istara said quietly. “And yes, I know how many that is. Your mother…” The armored woman bowed her head and when it came up, her eyes were glistening. “Your mother was one of the most exceptional women I have ever met. I admired her from the moment I met her. I will do my damndest to help you. To protect you, to do whatever it takes to keep you, and our, family safe.”

Will stared at Istara, his meal utterly forgotten. “Our…?” He asked weakly. Istara smiled as she nodded. “You cannot be serious… Istara…”

“Uh... Care to clue in the sole non-comprehending person here?” Sara asked in a sour tone as she dug into her food again.

Istara smiled as she looked at Sara. Will shook his head slowly, and started to eat as well, but his eating was slow, and his eyes never left Istara. Istara for her part seemed almost happy. “You asked how we wound up on the Stormhawk? Well, it was all Maria’s idea actually.” Sara felt as if she had been punched in the gut and Istara laid a gentle hand on Sara’s arm. “Your mom was a very bright person. She left a letter for me, to be opened after she died. I bet she left one for Will too.” Will nodded slowly. “In that letter, she laid out a number of things, things that surprised me a great deal. She explained a number of things that had happened, and why they had. She asked me to look after you.” Istara nodded to Sara and Will. “Both of you. Not that I wouldn’t have anyway. I kind of like you.” She grinned.

“That doesn’t explain why we are here.” Sara said as she finished her meal.

"No. it doesn't. I had no intention of returning. As to why...?" Istara sighed softly and pulled the empty tray away from the bed. “Well, that is all Boss’ fault.” She put the empty tray back where she had found it and sat back down. “Boss asked to speak to me when we returned to the Dia’s Gift. You were out of it, Sara. You needed the sleep. No one was going to wake you. Boss came to me, and he didn’t come alone…” The Bladeborn looked oddly pensive for a moment.

Sara felt the air on her neck start to stand on end. “What happened?” She asked when Istara didn’t continue.

Will shook his head slowly and then he laughed sourly. “She didn’t…” Sara stared at him and then at Istara who shrugged.

“Yep. Brianna came to me and begged my forgiveness.” Sara’s eyes went very wide. Brianna Makarian had shot Istara when the Bladeborn had been aboard the Stormhawk before. “What was I going to say? No? She had been brainwashed. I knew something was wrong with her, but I put it down to her mental state. Her hate. I had no idea at all that she had been programmed to feel that way. I had no idea she had been infected with those nanites. I know about being programmed.” The Bladeborn looked as if she wanted to spit. “Poor kid…” Istara said quietly, her face a mask of sorrow.

“You know what she is now, Istara.” Will said quietly, but with conviction.

“I know.” Istara said quietly. “And I don’t care. More importantly, we as an Order do not care. She was hurt, she is on her way to recovery. She asked my forgiveness, she offered me her life, Will.” Istara looked away as both Will and Sara stared at her. “I couldn’t take it. She was so… so angry with what had been done to her, and at the same time, she was so bent on doing the right thing.” Will shook his head slowly and when he spoke it was almost scared.

“Istara… do you have any idea how bad an idea this is…?” He shook his head and slumped in place. “The Bladeborn and the Dragons on the same ship at the same time… the mind boggles.” Sara stared at her brother and felt her blood freeze. Um, yeah… Fanatic soldiers of the Republic on the same ship as former hatchetmen of the Sith Emperor… Oh yeah, that sounded like fun, didn’t it?

“Yeah.” Istara said quietly. “But our duty now…” She nodded to Sara who froze even further in place. “Is to Sara. Everything else takes a backseat.”

“Do I get a say in this?” Sara asked just as quietly as Istara had spoken. Both Will and Istara looked at her and Sara had her answer. Aw flarg
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08.12.2012 , 04:07 AM | #6
It was strange, stranger than anything else Sara had ever encountered. She was part of the group. She had never really been ‘part’ of anything. Even the clone kids that had essentially demanded that she command them had excluded her on some levels. The Bladeborn did not. She was a part of them. She wasn’t entirely sure how it made her feel, except sore.

Sara rolled to her feet and her blade was in ready position as her sparring opponent moved in. She had tried to pierce the Bladeborn’s defenses, not really expecting to be able to, and had somehow managed to get dropped onto her rump. Luckily, the room was designed for such activities and the floor was slightly padded. Enough to keep her from breaking bones, but not enough to keep her rear end from stinging badly. The female Twilek was small and slight, but fast as hell and the way she moved… Sara had watched the red skinned being work out in the morning drill, apparently she had just returned from something and Istara had posted Sara as a sparring partner. What had Istara called her? Chari? Sara snarled soundlessly and was ready when her partner moved in. Their blades met with a clang and then, the Twi’lek stepped back, her sword at her side. What the…?

“No.” The Twi’lek’s voice was calm and gentle. “Trainee, you must be calm. It is hard. You know better than many how hard it is to stay calm when things are going crazy around you.” The sword came up, into a guard position, but the Twi’lek did not approach. It was weird being called trainee, but it worked. Sara was not a Bladeborn initiate, and they would not call her by name. Not in sparring.

“I…” Sara wasn’t sure what her partner meant. “What am I doing wrong?” She asked in a quiet tone. She wasn’t sure what she was feeling at the moment. She did not lower her blade or her guard. She kicked herself, she wasn’t supposed to talk!

“You are not doing anything wrong, Trainee.” The Twi’lek shook her head and her soft laughter tinkled around Sara. “You are not going to learn the sword in three days. You are pushing yourself too hard.” Chari sighed and her sword vanished back into its sheathe. “End match.” She knelt down in formal position and waited.

“I…” Sara shook herself and bowed to the master. Then she bowed to the grandmaster who sat in a chair at the front of the hall. Istara nodded back and Sara was sure Istara’s eyes twinkled despite the distance. She knelt down in front of Chari, slower, clumsier. Her face flushed red as she tried to emulate the Twi’lek’s posture and failed. Chari shook her head.

“Trainee, you are not going to be at my level for a long, long time, if ever. Yes, you learn fast, but so do I and I have been studying the sword most of my life. Since I was six, and I am still learning. I am going to be better than you. This is no reflection on you.” The Twi’lek’s voice was gentle. “We want to give you some stability, not more emotional upheavals.” Sara stared at her and opened her mouth, but just in time, remembered that trainees were not allowed to speak unless permitted. Punishments were swift and uncompromising. She had seen one trainee clouted so hard Ona had come to take the boy to Medical. Chari smiled, no, it was grin. “You may speak.”

“I don’t understand… um… Is Masterblade the proper honorific?” Sara flushed again. There was so much she didn’t know. Chari folded her hands in her lap and nodded. “I offer apology, then, Masterblade. For any disrespect.” She did not expect Chari to laugh, and in amusement, not sarcasm.

“Trust me, Trainee, if you had disrespected me, you would know it.” Charis’s voice was kind, but held an undercurrent that Sara recognized easily. Barely repressed violence was a fact of life for Sara Kalenath. “I am not the best instructor among our kin. That would be Istara, Idjit or Reekia. What I am is empathic. I am good at feeling other people, reading them, and then using that reading to find weaknesses in their defenses. Your defenses are quite good seeing as how you started with a sword, what, two days ago?” Now her smile was kind.

Sara bit back a gulp. It had been a momentous two days. So many things that she had taken for granted had suddenly been turned on their heads. The Stormhawk was not just allowing the Bladeborn aboard, but the crew was actively working with the Bladeborn to find out who had set them up. Brainna Makarian had come into the mess hall during evening meal to talk to Sara, to offer apology, not that the girl had actually done anything to Sara. Seeing the girl with a silver mask over her features had been disconcerting, but underneath that frightening visage was a keen mind. And kin, Sara reminded herself. Will and Sharra had adopted Brianna. The girl shook her head slowly.

“You are not usually this nice, are you?” Sara wasn’t sure why that came out. She quailed a bit, was that disrespectful? She wasn’t sure.

“No, I am not. I have a reputation as a cold hearted shutta. And it is deserved.” Charia shrugged slightly, her lekku falling in red motions that were oddly meaningful. The motions made Sara feel odd, as if she were not totally in control of her body. She didn’t like those feelings. “But Istara asked me to look at you, and I am glad she did. You have potential. Give you… oh, ten years or so, and you would make a first rate swordswoman.”

“T…Ten…? Years…?” Sara gulped at that thought and then snarled softly and beat her body back into submission. She stiffened in place as a red skinned hand touched her, drawing her chin up so she looked into the worried eyes of the Twi’lek.

“I give apology, Sara.” Sara stiffened at the tone and the fact that Chari used her name. The Twi’lek sighed softly. “It’s unconscious for me. I do those kinds of things to distract male opponents. Did the motions make you feel bad?” The voice was gentle, kind and soft.

“Odd… not bad…” Sara said quietly. “I don’t know what is happening. Is this normal?”

Chari made an odd noise. Somewhere between a soft snort and a ‘hmmm’. “I don’t know if anything about you can ever be ‘normal’, Sara. But yes, what you are feeling right now is standard for a young woman your age. That is one reason Istara asked me to spar with you. I know more than a bit about the differences between males and females, of many species.” There was something underneath the Twi’lek’s voice, a rage and pain as deep as space itself. Sara froze as she realized what Chari had not said. The Twi’lek hadn’t been willing, she hadn’t had a choice.

Sara stared at Chari for a moment and then, with a small cry, embraced the Twi’lek. “I am sorry.” She froze. Had she transgressed? Soft hands and other things touched her shoulders, gently soothing and calming.

“Ancient history, Sara. But thank you.” Chari gave her a squeeze and then gently disengaged from the girl’s grip. “Your sister will be out of kolto in an hour. Do you want to spar some more, or would you like to talk some?”

“Can we talk?” Sara asked as she resumed her pace. “There is so much going on, with my body and otherwise, I don’t have any idea at all what to do or why.” Chari nodded slowly.

“I know now why Istara pulled me in. Yes, we can talk. And we should…” Then the Twi’lek froze. Her voice changed, from kind and gentle to cold, and hard. “Trainee, don’t move.”

A voice sounded behind Sara and her blood ran cold as she recognized it. She had never heard the voice in person, but she had heard the voice in recordings. Bob, the not human master of the other sect of Bladeborn. “I need to speak with you, Grandmaster Istara.”

Istara’s voice was calm, cool and matter of fact. “What?”

Sara had to bite back a smile at that. Istara could be as cold hearted as anyone when she got a head of steam up. Sara was sure Chari’s mouth quirked a little as well.

“I need you to take over my sect.” A pin dropping would have sounded like a grenade in the silence that followed that declaration.

“Clear the room. Chari, take over. Sparring and then classes.” Istara’s voice was hard now, and Sara dearly wanted to turn to see what she was going to do, but Chari rose and bowed to where the Grandmaster sat. When the Masterblade gestured, Sara joined the ranks of Bladeborn who were filing from the room, all of whom had identical non expressions on their faces and likely had the exact same thought running through their heads. The same though that was running though Sara’s.

He cannot be serious…
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08.12.2012 , 04:12 AM | #7
Classes. Oh how Sara hated classes. That dated back to a time she could barely remember. From her earliest memories, she had been sat down in a chair, instructed in things by living beings and droids, and then tested on what she had supposedly learned. If she got any answers wrong, she was punished in ways that could only be described as torture. Sometimes they shocked her, sometimes they beat her, a few times she had been dropped into vats of icy water and left to nearly drown. It had left her with a healthy disregard for teaching and teachers.

But the Bladeborn understood this and their classes… Well… These classes were nothing like she had encountered during the hell that had been her childhood, or the education that her mother had gotten her after both had been rescued… Sara bit her lip to keep it from quivering and sat up straighter to listen to what the instructor was saying. She hadn’t been wool gathering long, but she was certain the teacher had seen her discomfiture. She froze as the teacher called her name.

“I need a volunteer. Sara, you are volunteered. Come.” The female Cathar spoke in a harsh tone, but was there a twinkle in her eyes? Sara clambered to her feet and walked as protocol allowed to where the teacher stood in front of the class. At a small gesture form the teacher, Sara stopped and turned to face the class. “This is a very special lesson, Trainee. Usually Mama does this lesson, but she is unavailable.” Sara winced a little. Mama was with Sarai, waiting essentially in vigil until the girl woke from the surgery that had been done to repair the damage Sarai had taken from the training drone’s sword. But the teacher was talking again. “Today we cover what Mama calls ‘The birds and the bees’.”

Sara froze in place. The teacher hadn’t just said that, had she? She looked at the teacher and the teacher nodded. “Social relations are a matter of great concern in small communities such as ours. So we will discuss reproduction today. We need to cover male and female anatomy for all the species here and reproduction for the same. I know you are not body shy like some of our trainees. We could use projections, but this is more…real. And real is good when we are dealing with such a sensitive topic.” Sara saw several faces turn red at that in the group of trainees. Sara raised a hand and the teacher nodded. “Go ahead.”

“Do you wish me to strip?” Sara could have been discussing sand on Tattooine for all the emotion she showed. Of course, anything the Bladeborn did was barely a candle on what had happened to her before. She wasn’t expecting the teacher to laugh.

“Do you have any idea at all what Istara, Chari or Mama would do to me if I ordered you to do that?” The Cathar sighed and then continued in a somber voice. “Here is a rule I don’t think they have told you yet. If something bothers you, really bothers you, say so. We are not here to cause you, or any of our trainees, emotional pain. We are here to teach you how to survive. If you don’t want to…” The teacher paused as Sara undid the front of her jacket and started to remove it. More than one face among the trainees went slack as Sara started to undress. "Sara, stop." The teacher commanded. Sara froze in place, her hand on her jumpsuit zipper. "No. We don't need to see it all. Just to see proportions and where the parts of the body are. Put your jacket back on." Sara did as instructed and remained still as the teacher came close.

"Female human." The Cathar said slowly. "Mammalian reproduction..."

<Ten minutes later>

Sara was shivering slightly as she sat back down. The teacher was putting away various things she had used in the demonstration. It had been so hard, standing there while the teacher, consummately professional, had shown the class exactly what parts of the human female anatomy were used for reproduction. It hadn’t hurt in any way, she had been clothed, and the teacher had never touched her. But it had felt… She shook her head slowly and then tensed as a voice spoke from nearby.

“You have guts, girl. I couldn’t do that.” Sara glanced out of the corner of her eye at another human girl. Zana, Sara remembered her name. Zana was young but very good. Sara had heard people say that Zana might face her trial soon. Odd, she was only ten.

"Well..." Sara barely recognized her voice when she spoke. “If you put your mind to it, you can do almost anything.” The girl looked sharply at her and then raised a hand.

The teacher finished what she was doing, looked at Zana and nodded. “Yes, Zana?”

“Teacher Atara,.." Zana said in a worried tone. "Sara needs help.” Sara froze in place as the teacher stared at her and then things happened very quickly. Before Sara knew what was happening, a warm blanket was around her and she was crying on someone’s lap as they held her, rocking her slowly. Furred arms held her tight as she sobbed quietly.

“I am sorry Sara. I didn’t know what that would do to you. You could have said ‘No’.” Atara’s voice came from far away. “You are dealing so well, we forget how hurt you were and are. Hoss, get Mama!” Quick steps hurried away.

“No…” Sara protested weakly. “Sarai needs her.” Mama was the best thing for Sarai right now. Sarai had lost a the only stable factor in her life when Maria had died. The other girl was mess, even though she hid it well.

“So do you.” Atara’s voice brooked no argument. “What did that remind you of? Did those Special Branch scum do this to you?”

“They… They did things to me… They would strip me... I had to stand there and let them, or get shocked… Or worse…” A horrified gasp came from several voices nearby and the arms that held her embraced her tighter.

"Oh my god..." Atara’s voice was fierce when the Cathar spoke again. “I am sorry Sara. I didn’t know.”

“How could you?” Sara asked in a faint echo of her normal sarcasm. “I don’t…exactly…” She was shivering harder now. The door hissed and Sara was too drained to look, but the body under her tensed. A voice Sara recognized spoke.

“Mama Lizard is unavailable. I was close. Ah, Sara…” Sara felt movement as if Atara had picked her up. Then she was sitting on some else’s lap. “I think she will do better without an audience.”

“I messed up. I will explain to Istara…” Atara’s voice broke off as Sara squirmed in the hands that held her to look at the Cathar. Atara looked ashamed, tired and sad. Sara reached out to take one of the Cathar’s hands in deathgrip. Atara did not resist.

“Not… Your… Fault…” Sara said in a fierce tone that echoed the Cathar’s own. She held the cat woman’s eyes with her own. “Responsibility, yes… Fault, no… My fault for not saying ‘No’. If she punishes you, she punishes me as well.”

"Idiot girl..." The woman holding her snorted in sour amusement. “You never choose the easy way, do you, Sara?”

“No, Jina I don’t…” Sara relaxed back in the lap of the wheelchair bound woman as the Cathar gave her hand a squeeze. Jina Darkstom’s hands were gentle as she soothed Sara’s taut muscles.

“Okay, class dismissed for now.” Atara said in a quiet tone. “And what happened in here, as always for this class, stays in here. Clear?” More than one student gulped at the sheer menace in the Cathar’s tone. “Go.” Atara knelt down so her head on the same level as Sara’s. “I am sorry, Sara.”

“So am I.” Sara replied as she started crying again. “I want this emotional crap to end! I want my life back!”

The former Jedi who had Sara in her lap sighed and pulled her closer. “We can and will deal with this Sara. It won’t be easy or quick. I can’t wave my hands and make your pain go away. Much as I want to.”

“We never get easy. Good thing too…” Suddenly Sara was laughing, tears still streaming down her face. “We wouldn’t know what to do with easy…” A soft chuckle came from both Jina and Atara as they embraced the tormented girl again.
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08.12.2012 , 04:18 AM | #8
Sara stared for a long moment at the two lines of Bladeborn who stood silently with wooden swords in hand. For a moment she quailed.

How the hell did I get myself into this? Then she sighed. Well, this is what I wanted, right? To fit in? Silly me…

Istara had been much less than enthused when she heard about what had happened. Actually, she had been pretty ticked off.

<Thirty minutes earlier>

“You did what?” Sara winced at the sheer intensity of the grandmaster’s voice. It wasn’t loud, but it still shook her where she stood. Sara opened her mouth to speak, but Atara beat her to it.

“She was about to disrobe in the middle of class. I was doing the planned lesson and selected Sara as a volunteer, to get the class to see her. To recognize her. She isn’t shy, just quiet.” Atara kept her eyes on the floor. Not hard to do while kneeling. Sara was not kneeling, she stood at a reasonable mimicry of attention beside the kneeling Cathar. The cat woman’s voice was calm, cool and matter of fact. “I did not know about her past. I did not understand about her past. What happened is my responsibility.”

“Are you okay?” Istara asked in a worried voice as she turned her eyes to Sara.

“Getting there.” Sara shrugged. It had taken most of the hour that had expired before they could see Istara for Sara to stop crying. “It’s not her fault.”

“It’s not about fault, Sara." The grandmaster said with a scowl. "Atara was in charge of the class. Everything that went on in the class is her responsibility. It should have been me or Mama who did that class with you. Atara is good, but she…well…” Istara broke off as Sara made a face. “What?” She asked kindly. Sara stood for a moment, marshalling her thoughts. When she spoke it was thoughtful and careful.

“No one is a perfect teacher at first, are they?" Sara asked softly. "Everyone makes mistakes.” Atara raised her head to stare incredulously at Sara and Istara had an inscrutable expression on her face. “It got out of hand. I let it get out of hand. You did not know what to do, did you Atara?” The Cathar shook her head and sighed before responding.

“You shocked me, Sara." Atara said sadly. "I was so surprised I never felt what was going on with you. I fell back on my routine. I should have…” She broke off, overcome bowing her head again and tears were falling now. “I accept whatever punishment the Grandmaster dictates. For the harm done to you.”

“Hey, wait a minute!” Sara protested as Istara sat back heavily in her chair. “I am as much to blame as you are. I could have said ‘No’. I should have said ‘No’. I should have told you it was making me uncomfortable. But as always… My own stubborn pride got in the way. I knew I could do it. I knew I would survive it. I…” She bit her lip to keep it from quivering. “I should have said… something…” She shook herself and then met the Grandmaster’s gaze calmly. “If you punish her, you punish me as well.”

Something very much like a strangled gasp came from nearby as Will stepped into Sara’s line of sight.

“Sara… You don’t know what you are saying.” Her brother’s face was odd, a mix of sick, tired and worried. Istara and Atara’s were the same shade of gray. “Please… Sara…” Sara shook her head and kept her gaze on Istara.

“This is not just her responsibility." Sara said coldly. "This is mine as well. Am I part of this group or not?” Her words were not demanding, or arrogant, or even scared now. Now they were calm and matter of fact.

“Sara…” Istara’s voice was almost inaudible. “Don’t do this… Please…”

“Responsibility bites.” The fifteen year old could have been carved from stone for all the emotion she was showing now. “And. I. Am. Partially. Responsible.” She shook her head and looked at Atara who looked as if she wanted to cry. “I need to do this, please. <Honor>” The last word she spoke in flawless ancient Tythonese, a language commonly thought extinct. And it was, everywhere except among the Bladeborn.

Istara cast helpless eyes at Will who shrugged. But was that pride on his face? Yes. Yes, it was.

“Sara. This is going to hurt like nothing you have ever encountered. I have seen Bladeborn punishments since I started hanging around with them.” Her brother’s voice was soft, almost scared, but also held pride. He sighed. “I can see that you need to do this, that you feel responsible for what happened. They won’t kill you.” Istara stared at him and he nodded slightly. “She sets her mind, get out of her way. Typical female Kalenath.”

A strangled snorted laugh came from Istara and then she made a face and sat up straight. “Atara, you have fifteen minutes to present yourself and Sara in the main hall. Full armor. The Gauntlet.” Then she rose and strode from the room, Will following.

“The Gauntlet?” Sara asked carefully when Atara sighed and seemed to wilt a bit in place. “I expected to be shocked or burned or something.”

Atara sighed and stood slowly. “I will explain while we get our armor.” After all, for a class in what they had been covering, they didn’t need armor, now did they? She motioned towards the door. “We don’t have a lot of time, come on…”

“Why full armor?” Sara asked as she followed the Cathar to the door.

“You will see.”

<The Present>

And indeed she did. She stood, just for a moment, looking at all fifty of the Bladeborn who were drawn up, twenty five to a side. Atara had explained the rules. They were simple. She had to get from end of the rows to the other. And each and every Bladeborn would be doing his, her or its best to nail her with those wooden training swords. She didn’t see Atara, the Cathar had gone in first. She did see a lump at the end with a black furred form kneeling beside it. So Atara must have made it all the way. If a Bladeborn did not make it all the way before being knocked unconscious, he or she was woken, with icy water, until they did manage to get across the final line. Simple, elegant and brutal as hell. She moved to the first pair of Bladeborn and was a bit startled by the speed at which the two beings attacked. They were not pulling their strikes. Any that got through her guard would break bones at the very least. She dodged the first pair and then the second. The pairs could only attack while she was in easy reach, the rules said that they only had a short distance to attack her, but…

She bit back a scream as one wooden sword hit her shin with enough force to stagger her momentarily. The pain she shunted aside as always, but the momentum she acquired as she rolled from the blow put her into the reach of two new Bladeborn. Then she was fighting to keep moving forward. Every instinct was telling her to defend herself, to grab one of the swords and kill the people who were hurting her. She ignored her instincts and fought to keep moving one foot in front of another. A snap and her arm was hanging loose, broken.

It got… hazy after that. Pain flared on all of her extremities. Legs, arms, wrists, ankles, shoulders… Never the head. They didn’t want to kill her. The pain was all she could feel, but she kept her eyes on the black furred from that had risen now and was staring at her as she staggered forward. Finally, her legs would not hold her up and she collapsed, but she managed to keep moving, guarding her body with her broken arm and crawling towards where Ona stood, tears falling down her face.

Finally, she could move no further and collapsed completely. She expected more blows, but none came. Instead, a soft touch spread warmth through her body.

“Oh Sara... You crazy heroic idiot.” Ona’s sour voice broke through the humming in Sara’s ears. The healer’s hands were gentle as they rolled Sara onto her back.

“I need… to get… to the end…” Sara protested as she tried to roll back to crawl more.

“You are at the end, Sara. You made it.” Sara stared up at the Bothan and Ona smiled tenderly. “Sleep now, brave girl. <Honor> is satisfied.” A hypo hissed and Sara took Ona’s kind words into slumber with her.

On the edge of consciousness, she heard a soft, scared voice from nearby. “Is she going to hate me?” Sarai? What was Sarai doing here?

"No." Istara’s voice answered the girl. “No, you did what you had to, Sarai, just as she did. Come on, let’s get you both to Medical.”
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08.12.2012 , 04:25 AM | #9
Sara woke up slow and lazy. She was in a bed. She was warm, dry and clean. Something was wrong. She couldn’t imagine what it was though. Everything was hazy, fuzzy. She didn’t feel bad. Some parts of her body were sore when she tried them. Her fingers and toes were sore, but moved when she commanded them to. Then she tried to move her shoulder and came fully awake as searing pain flew through her. A startled voice sounded nearby.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, easy Sara…” Sara bit her lip to hold back the pain as she tried to sit up and couldn’t. Suddenly it was as if every nerve ending in her body was protesting. Despite her ironclad control, tears started falling. That same voice spoke soothingly. “Easy, Sara… easy…” Something touched her over the excruciating pain and the pain vanished as if it had never been. Sara gasped in relief and sank back into the bed. “Don’t try and move just yet. You have only been out of kolto for thirty minutes. You were not supposed to wake any time soon.”

Kolto? Sara tried to get her fuzzy mind around that. What had happened to her? She thought back and stiffened in place as memory started flowing. The Gauntlet! She had fallen. Ona had said she had made it all the way. Had she? She wasn’t sure. “Atara… I… What happened to Atara…?”

Something soft and moist wiped her face and that same gentle voice spoke soothingly. Sara did not know the speaker, did she? It was female, young and kind. But there was an undercurrent to the voice. Fear?

“The Cathar made it through the Gauntlet with four broken bones, fairly normal for that kind of thing.” Now the voice was disapproving. “You on the other hand… Are a mess.”

Sara opened her eyes and immediately closed them again, groaning at the pain that shot through her skull from the bright lights. “Who…? Who are you…?” She asked quietly, trying to take stock of her body. It wasn’t responding as it should. Parts of it were hot and parts were cold. All of it hurt.

“My name is Jen, and I am new medic. Sara you need to sleep again. I know how you feel about doctors and I understand. Better than you would ever believe. When you wake again, you won’t hurt as much.” The same moist cloth was wiping the seat off her forehead now and darkness was pulling her under again.

“No… Gotta… fight…” Sara was trying to struggle against the gathering gloom that was seeping around her mind now. She couldn’t let the docs win. She couldn't.

“Sara… please… Relax, we won’t let anything happen to you. I swear it." The voice changed from worried to relieved. "Oh, Grandmaster…I am glad you made it. She is fighting the painkillers and sedative.” The voice moved away and a gentle touch had Sara relaxing almost against her will.

“Well duh! Of course she is fighting. She doesn’t know anything else to do.” Sara had to smile at the ironic humor in Istara’s tone. “You are a mess girl. You need to sleep again. I will be here.”

“Promise?” Sara hated the whining tone that entered her voice but she couldn’t keep it out no matter how hard she tried.

“I promise.” Something brushed Sara’s forehead. A kiss. Then she was falling into the darkness again, but this time she wasn’t afraid.


When Sara woke again, she didn’t hurt, which was a massive relief. But when she opened her eyes, she sighed. She was back in the Stormhawk medical berth that she had spent so much time in. And sitting beside her bed…

Sara blinked and spoke softly. “Have you spent the whole time, sitting there…?” She asked the Bladeborn grandmaster who sat in chair, a soft smile on her face.

“Didn’t have anything better to do.” Istara smiled and tenderly brushed a lock of Sara’s hair out of her face. “You are mess girl.”

“You said that before… How bad…?” Sara looked at herself, but she was wearing a patient gown and… Her right arm was bound across her chest and when she flexed it experimentally, it hurt, deep, deep down. “I remember the arm…”

Istara blew out a long breath before speaking. When she did, it was clear, calm and matter of fact. “You had fourteen fractures, Sara. The worst were the upper right arm, right collar bone and left femur. All of them are well on their way to healing. The level of medical skill on this ship at the moment is unreal. Sara… don’t do that to me again…”

"WHa-?" Sara stared at the Bladeborn and yes, the older woman was crying. “Istara…?”

“Don’t do that to me again. You don't have the Force...” Istara repeated quietly as slow tears fell. “I had to watch you get beaten to within an inch of your life. It would have been easier to take the punishment myself. I know why you thought you needed punishment, I do not agree. But saying that in public, where anyone else could hear, left me no choice.” Now the Bladeborn’s voice was stern. “You need help, young lady. Help I can’t give. I am not good with emotional hurts. Giving them, I can do. Fixing them? Not so much.”

“Not your fault, Istara. Mine. I didn’t think… I just… I just did it.” Sara tried to sit up, winced and sat back again. “I… I don’t know what possessed me to start to disrobe in class. It wasn’t… It wasn’t what I was supposed to do, was it?” Now the tough as nails solider girl sounded lost and alone. Istara sighed and laid a gentle hand on Sara’s unrestrained one.

“No it wasn’t. It was random, strange and… Well…” Istara grimaced, but it was comical rather than scary. “It was the kind of thing I would expect from a regular fifteen year old, random and somewhat crazy. I can’t help you Sara, but I know someone who can. Do you trust me?”

“What kind of a question is that, Istara? Of course I trust you.” Sara’s voice held genuine indignation now. Of all the silly questions. She had just put her life in the Bladeborn’s hands. And while it did hurt, and would for a while, she knew without a doubt now, that yes, she could trust the Bladeborn.

"Right." Istara smiled and patted Sara’s hand. “I will be here. No one, and I mean no one, is going to do anything to you without your permission, clear?”

“What are you setting me up for, Istara? Just say it.” Sara said ina quiet tone as she tried to summon energy to glare at the Grandmaster. But all she could do was sink back into the bed, she was seriously weak.

“Who better to deal with emotional hurts.?” Istara asked quietly as she hit the call button that rested near Sara’s unbound hand. Sara froze in place as the door opened and line of brown robed forms filed in.


Well, three forms in brown robes walked in, one wheeled herself in. Jina Darkstorm’s face was impassive, but here eyes were twinkling as she met Sara’s incredulous stare. Istara smiled at the Jedi and then spoke to Sara. “Sara Kalenath, meet Ashla Ti and Michael Jonal. You know Hawkir and Jina.”

Three humans and a Togruta all bowed slowly to the bedridden girl. For her part, Sara was fighting back rage, pain and fear. Finally she spoke. “I… I cannot…” She gasped in memory. Jedi had been involved in her life from the moment she ahd been born. Many of the experiments that had been done on her had been performed by Jedi. And then she had been taken from her mom at age six, by a Jedi. None of the four moved from their places. Istara though, was soothing her taut muscles with a gentle massage.

“I am here, Sara. I won’t let anything happen to you.” Istara promised as she stroked Sara’s hand, soothing calming. “But we need to figure this out. We need to understand why you are acting the way you are. Nothing about you is normal, Your sense in Ashla is all messed up. So I need help. I asked theirs. I trust them, but I won’t leave your side.”

“This is… This is going to be…” Sara shook her head, unable to continue.

“It is going to be bad, Sara. But I give you my word…” Hawkir Strum, as always, looked the picture of calm Jedi composure. A mask, Sara knew. He was almost as hurt as she was. Hawkir’s brother had done many horrible things, to Sara among others. “We will help.” Sara slammed her head back into her pillow and sighed.

“Pushy Jedi.” The girl said, but it was humorous rather than angry. Then she looked the group over. “Why four of you?” She asked in a somewhat dubious tone. She was not expecting Hawkir to laugh.

"Well..." The other three Jedi deferred to him and he smiled gently at Sara. “We were going to have three, a good way to have various points of view looked at. Then Jina…What was the term you used? Oh yes, ‘included herself’.” To Sara’s amazement, the wheelchair bound Jedi actually flushed a bit at Hawkir’s gentle teasing. “Pushy women, what can I say?”

Sara made a sound she didn’t recognize. Then she realized she was laughing. It hurt, but it was good pain. “Okay… Let’s try this. I want this emotional crap gone.”

"Its not that easy." The Togruta, Ashla Ti, had a sorrowful look on her face when she spoke. “It is never going to go away completely Sara. But we can and will help you deal with it.” She sat in a chair that Sara hadn’t noticed. The two male Jedi sat as well. When the Togruta spoke again, it was almost harsh. “What were you thinking? Did you plan to make a spectacle of yourself?”Sara blinked and then grimaced. This would be a very long day…
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08.12.2012 , 04:31 AM | #10
Enough was enough. Sara was steadily losing her temper. Hawkir hadn’t said a word since the grilling had begun and Jina and Michael had yielded the floor to the Togruta. The best that could be said for Ashla Ti’s demeanor was…difficult.

“Come on, girl. You had to know what you were feeling at the time. You admit that what you did was wrong. What we want to know is why.” The Togruta’s voice was as sharp as the light of the medical bay.

Sara grimaced as she tried to sit up, but focused her best glare on the Togruta Jedi. It seemed to slide off and Sara was steadily getting angrier. The fact that whatever they had dosed her with for painkillers was wearing off didn’t help. Istara reached out and took Sara’s hand in a gentle grip. The Bladeborn didn’t speak, but just the touch of a sympathetic being helped Sara calm down a bit. The fact that her head was pounding like two Aqualish were using it for punching practice didn’t help matters.

“Look, Jedi… I don’t know why I reacted like that. I have no idea why I did what I did. It doesn’t make sense to me! How the heck am I supposed to make it make sense to you?” Sara was panting from effort now as she tried, yet again, to sit up. The broken collarbone was a hindrance. The broken arm and wrist as well. But it was the femur that really, really hurt even through the drugs.

“Sara…” Hawkir shook his head and slowly stood up. The other three looked at him and then sat back, silent. “I know you don’t trust me, and I know why. But your pain is calling to me. Will you let me help you?” Sara stared at him for a moment before looking at Istara who nodded imperceptibly.

“You… Alone…” Sara managed to croak out before the pain from her fractures overwhelmed her and she was forced to lie back. Hawkir came up slowly and took her broken wrist in a gentle grip. It hurt, but nowhere near as badly as everything else. Then the pain vanished. Sara recoiled in sheer relief as the pain that she had been fighting all though the interview vanished. “Thank you.” She said quietly as Hawkir laid her hand back on her chest. Hawkir smiled at her.

“Least I could do. Sara, can you continue? I know how rough this is for you.” The Jedi seemed honestly concerned and for Sara instead of about her. A subtle difference, but all of the Jedi Sara had dealt with while a guinea pig had been concerned about her. She had just been a thing to them, a subject, a non-person. Hawkir was concerned for her. She smiled at him.

“I need to get this done, Hawkir. But thanks.” For once, her voice was not grudging. He patted her non hurt hand and then sighed.

“You still hurt, but I can block it for a while. You will need a lot of sleep, uninterrupted rest.” Hawkir looked at Istara who nodded soberly. “But for now, I can hold your pain at bay. Just remember, you are still hurt. If you move to fast or too suddenly, you will harm yourself further. Don’t please. We don’t want Ona any angrier than she is already.” Was it Sara’s imagination that the Jedi shuddered just a little?

“This is going to take a lot of getting used to.” Sara said in a quiet and reflective tone. “I mean… Bladeborn working with Jedi, on the Stormhawk… What are the odds?”

“Never tell me the odds.” Hawkir smiled wickedly as he returned to his seat. Sara sputtered a laugh and then focused back on the Togruta who still had that same, slightly supercilious expression on her face. But then everything froze as Hawkir spoke in a quiet but admonishing tone. “Ashla Ti… watch your feelings. Sara is a victim, not a cause.”

“I…” To Sara’s amazement, the Togruta flushed. The Togruta looked away for a moment and when she looked back her face was sad. “I apologize, Sara. Being a Seer is bad enough, seeing what you went through…” Now the Togruta looked sick.

“You used the Force to see what happened to me?” Sara asked incredulously.

“Yes.” Ashla Ti said simply. “I wanted perspective. I got it. To put it mildly, everyone aboard this ship, with the exception of the Dragons, who don’t know you, is very worried about you at the moment. To do what you did… You have been under incredible strain most of your life. All of your life actually.” The Togruta corrected herself. “I always prided myself on my dispassion, my ability to see beyond the visible, to find the hidden things. But just the thought of what members of our order did to you makes my blood boil.” Now the female Jedi sighed and when she spoke again, it was kind. “Do you think it was programming?”

“Give me a moment, I need to think…” All the other nodded as Sara bit her lip for a moment and then shook her head. “No. No, it didn’t ‘feel’ like programming. It felt…weird. I was in control, not like when I was programmed to obey. The Mandos worked hard to get that programming undone, and I hurt a few of them before they managed it.” All of the others were staring at her and now Sara flushed. “It’s not something we talk about, kind of like reproduction.” A snort came from Istara and the woman gave Sara’s hand a squeeze but the Bladeborn remained silent, a comforting presence. Odd that such a dangerous woman‘s presence was comforting, but hey, that was Sara’s life. Odd.

“If I may…” The sole person in the room who had not spoken up finally did. Sara turned to face Jedi Knight Michael Jonal. The other waited for him to speak and he nodded to Sara. “We may be over-thinking this.” His tone was calm and controlled. “I am going to ask you a question, Sara and it is going to sound a little odd.” Sara actually laughed at that.

“And the rest of this isn’t?” She asked incredulously as she waved her free hand around the room.

Of all things, Michael snickered a little. “Point taken. Basically, I have learned, through painful experience, not to assume anything. You think it wasn’t the programming. But the doctors who had you for most of your life did those kinds of things to you, made you undress so they could do things to you, yes?” Sara nodded, her lips tightly together. “Yet you are, for all your experience and training, a teenage girl. How any boys were in the classroom?”

“What?” Sara stared at the Jedi, shocked. Of all the things she might have expected him to say… But as she looked around, she saw comprehension dawning on everyone else’s face. “What am I missing?”

“Sara, how many?” Michael pressed gently.

“Garth, Hoss, Junal, Saun, Kilu, and Frankie… So six, why?” Sara asked in a tone of total non-comprehension.

“Do you like any of them?” Michael’s voice was as soft as a baby nerf’s fur now.

“What has that got to do with anything? I barely know any of them.” Sara protested. She tried to sit up but rethought that at a warning cough from Istara. “They are good. Yes, I guess I do like them.”

“Are any of them your age?” Michael’s tone, impossibly, got even gentler.

“Yes…” Sara said dubiously. “Why? What the…? Wait second…” She froze in place as pieces started to fall into place. "No.” She said flatly. “There is no way…”

"Sara..." Now Jina chimed in. “Think about it. Think about it rationally. Forget that it was you. Forget the embarrassment factor. Forget the sheer oddness. If a teenage girl does something weird in the presence of boys, what is she usually trying to do?”

There is no way I did that just to get attention!” Sara shouted, but her face was falling. “I mean… I… No… I can’t…” She paused as Istara’s hand came down and stroked her cheek. ”Istara... help…?”

“We will, Sara. But, for what it is worth… I think it is more than time you finally started acting out. Being a grown up is not all bad, Sara.” Istara’s voice was as gentle as Michael’s had been.

“But I don’t want to… I want to be the way I was…” Sara protested but then she winced. “I…”

“Enough.” Hawkir’s voice was calm, but held command. “Sara, you need to sleep again.” He came to the bed and adjusted something. Sara immediately felt waves of lassitude start flowing through her.

“Tell me I didn’t do that to get a boy's attention…” Sara begged at the edge of sleep but she was asleep before she could hear any answer.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here