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(L,F&E 85) Changes


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kalenath
08.14.2012 , 03:31 AM | #1
((Ah GREAT... I mucked up the numbers... AGAIN... *sigh* It was SO much easier when I had this all planned out as a 10 chapter story. Ah well, only 15 more to go...))

<The Stormhawk>

At first it was dark, it was cold. She was floating. Things she could not see were moving around in the darkness around her. But she wasn’t afraid. On some level, she knew she should be afraid, but she wasn’t. Was she dreaming? Was this a vision of some kind? What was going on? What had happened? Where was she? Those questions should have bothered her, should have frightened her. But they didn’t. Then… something changed. She felt movement around her, odd movement. Nothing hurt, but… Was she moving or was whatever she seemed to be in moving? Everything faded and then…she woke.

Sarai Kalenath lay in her bunk for a long moment, scared out of her mind. She glanced at the chrono and sighed. She had slept for three hours this time, the last time it had been two since her previous nightmare. Always the same thing. But she never remembered them. It was driving her nuts. She shook her head slowly and rose carefully from her bunk, careful not to disturb the other sleepers. The guard at the door looked at her. She had to admit, it made her feel safer to have a regular guard at the door, even if it was just traditional for Bladeborn dormitories. Of course this dormitory was set up for initiate Bladeborn as well as people who were simply studying with them, so… She came up to the guard and spoke softly.

“Is Mama available?” She smoothed her sleeping robe and checked her sword out of reflex. Bladeborn slept with their weapons, they went everywhere with them. While she was not Force sensitive, she considered herself a trainee Bladeborn. “I need to talk to someone…”

“Mama retired an hour ago.” Zana said gently. She was very young and still an initiate but top of her class hence her posting to guard duty. “Is it an emergency? I can get her up. If not, I think Kicota is available.”

“No… Not an emergency. Kicota…? Is she…?” Sarai had to think about that for a moment. “I never talked to her. She is the Sitolon queen, right?” She wasn’t sure she had met that one. She had met Ecien and Nana and Majistrona. But not Kicota she didn’t think. She had dealt with a bunch of them while being trained as a copy of Sara Kalenath, but not Kicota she didn't think.

“She is nice.” Zana said quietly. “I heard you thrashing. Your nightmares are not going away? I thought Ona gave you something for them.” She sounded worried as she looked Sarai over and other girl sighed.

“No. The pills Ona gave me worked for a little while, but now…I dunno.” Sarai did not like showing weakness. She gave a small squeak as Zana embraced her. “Hey…”

“My relief is here…” Zana said softly as a shadowed form stepped into the room and nodded to her. “Come on.” She led Sarai from the room into a brightly lit corridor, girl’s eyes blinking rapidly to adjust.

“It should wait until morning.” Sarai said quietly, but knew better than to fight. Zana might be small, but the young Bladeborn could pick her up and carry her easily, the girl was that strong. “It’s not that important. I know Ona is asleep, and Mama…”

“I can feel your distress, Sarai. You know neither of them would mind.” Zana said quietly. “But we can talk to Kicota. I know she is up.”

“But…” Sarai paused, her hands going to her sleeping robe. She wasn’t dressed for walking about. Zana was not dissuaded.

“No ‘buts’ trainee. Come on.” Zana took the young looking girl by the arm and led her through the bowels of the ship they called home now. “You need help.”

It was not a far walk. Ever as large as the Stormhawk was, it was still a starship. Most of its internal space was given over to engines, weapons, life support, repair facilities and the like. They did have a great deal of latitude on how they set up the areas however. The actual crew of the ship was miniscule compared to the space aboard, which was good, considering that so many refuges had been crammed in almost with no warning at all. Sarai was not sure what had happened on the Sitolon homeship and she was not about to ask. She knew that Istara was involved somehow, but why or what had happened, she had no clue. Zana led her through the seemingly endless corridors until they came to a hatch with two huge black forms standing beside it. Sarai could not repress a shiver. Her first clear memories were of large black bugs doing things to her. But they had never hurt her that she could remember. A crazy female Force user had hurt her, the bugs had not. She was sure they had done horrible things before she remembered, but she couldn’t actually remember what. She was glad of that. Zana saluted as was proper, a moment after, Sarai did likewise, kicking herself for being too petrified to be polite. Zana smiled and put an arm around her shoulders.

“Is the queen available?” Zana asked softly. “This young one needs to talk to an elder female.” She gave Sarai’s shoulders a squeeze.

“Yes, she is available.” Sarai tried not to wince as she recognized the voice. Grun’Das’ voice was literally the first thing she remembered. He had wiped her mind and when she had woken the first time, he had been there. He had soothed her back to sleep with gentle words, and then she had woken in Samuel’s care. It hadn’t taken her long to figure out that she had been in deep, deep trouble. It had worked out in the end, but… Grun’das made a human sounding sigh and spoke to Sarai. “Be at peace, young one. No one here will harm you. You have my oath on that.”

Sarai knew that. She knew that Will and his family would kill anyone who hurt her, let alone what the Bladeborn would do. It just… She nodded to Grun’Das and followed Zana into the queen’s chamber. Inside it was dark, but both could see a bit. It was gloomy, but not oppressive. Somehow the gloom was…gentle? That made no sense. Maybe it was the feelings of peace that swept over them as they entered. Maybe it was the fact that both knew they were in no danger in a room that any horror holo-vid director would have had things jumping out at people from the shadows in. The floor was covered, as were the walls and ceiling, with a substance that felt more organic that deck plating, but was hard enough to be secure footing. Small ridges and hollows showed all over, some of the hollows filled with white sacks of Sitolon young in larva stage.

“Zana…Sarai…” A melodious voice came to them from a near distance. “Be with you in…a moment.” A grunt of effort came from the gloom and both women stared as a silver form appeared, hoisting something the wriggled. “If I had possessed half a clue about what was involved with being fertile…” She placed the bundle she was carrying in an alcove that had apparently been built expressly for it as tightly as it fit. “…I would have told Grun’das and this whole flarging swarm to shove it.” Sarai had to bite back a laugh at the queen’s sour tone. From Zana’s expression, the Bladeborn was feeling the humor as well. An absolutely gorgeous silver skinned form strode from the partial darkness into the dim light of the doorway to look at the both of them. “Well, initiates? What can I do for you?”

“I…” Sarai bit her lip. Her problems were not bad. “I think I should go…” She broke off as Zana clouted her on the arm and not gently. “Hey!”

“Jina asked me to ward this yougn one." Sarai blinekd. The Jedi had? Why? "My sister is still having nightmares.” Zana said, ignoring the sharp look Sarai gave her. “Despite the medications, despite everything we have done. I… I fear for her…” The Bladeborn’s worried tone had Sarai pause the rebuke that was forming on her lips. Jina and Zana were afraid? For her? “Can you help?” Zana asked softly.

“I don’t know, Zana.” Kicota leaned down close to scrutinize Sarai who tried not to flinch as six eyes looked her over. “We hurt you.” The pain in Kicota’s voice was palpable. “If we can do anything to help, we will.”

“It wasn’t you…” Sarai met the gaze of the insect and was falling, slowly, so slowly into that jeweled regard. It felt safe and warm and comforting. “You were under orders…”

“It does not matter, child. For child you are. You are an innocent who was used, by us at our master’s command.” Kicota’s smaller manipulators came down slowly and took Sarai’s hands in gentle grips. “His ends may have been just, and for the best… But his means were ruthless. You are not the only innocent we hurt on his orders.” There was rage and sorrow in the queen’s voice now and Sarai was moved to speak. "But we hurt you."

“You never hurt me.” Sarai protested, her eyes still drawn to the glittering silver eyes of the huge insect that held her gently. “You could have, you didn’t. Grun’Das could have hurt me, heck, he could have eaten me. He didn’t. I don’t blame you.” Was she falling? Or floating now? She wasn’t afraid. She wasn’t.

“Rest, child. No nightmares will disturb you now.” KIcota’s voice came from far, far away as the soft darkness took her in, enfolding her in gentle arms and held her tight against the horrors that dwelt inside her mind. Zana’s voice sounded, close by, singing a lullaby. It was so pretty, she barely could muster the strength to listen. Then she knew no more.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.14.2012 , 03:35 AM | #2
She didn’t want to wake up, but someone was insisting. Whoever it was wouldn’t stop shaking her. Someone whose voice and gentle hands she knew she recognized even if it was so hard to think. She grimaced as feelings started pouring through the haze of sleep that still clouded her mind. Her head was pounding, her mouth was dry, and she felt generally lousy. Sarai groaned softly as she came to full consciousness.

“Sarai?” Sharra Kalenath’s worried voice pulled at her as she tried to huddle in on herself, tried to keep the warm feelings that had suffused her from leaving her. “Come on girl, you need to eat and drink something. Here is something for you to drink.” A straw found her mouth and she drank carefully and slowly. This was hardly the first time she had woken after long periods in bed. She drank her fill and the straw withdrew.

“Was comfy…” Sarai complained as she stretched and opened her eyes. What met them had her freezing. She wasn’t in her room with her fellow initiates into sword training. She wasn’t even in Medical. She was lying on a bed that moved beneath her as if alive. The room around her was not a standard shipboard room. She was… “What the…?” Her face flushed as she tried to cover herself and Sharra smiled gently as she covered the girl with a blanket. “Where…?” She looked around but did not recognize the room. It seemed almost alive, the walls, the floor, the ceiling all pulsed with life and the light that suffused it came from something less harsh than normal glow panels. “What the heck…?” Where was her robe? Her sword? What the hell had happened?

“Easy, Sarai. Easy.” Sharra’s voice was gentle as she eased the girl into a sitting position. “You scared us.” The Kalenath matriarch sat down beside the girl and held her close. Sarai stared at her. Was Sharra about to cry? “How do you feel?”

“Hungry…” Sarai said after a minute of moving her fingers and toes. “Nothing hurts. I just feel strange.”

“We will get you something to eat in a moment, Sarai.” Sharra gave her adopted daughter a hug. “Can you define how you feel?”

“Little pins and needles all over my body.” Sarai said softly. “It kind of feels like…” She broke off, her face going ashen. “No…” The last time she had such feelings, her body had been finishing the change into a genetic duplicate of Sara Kalenath! “No…!” She shook her head trying to deny it, but the feelings were exactly the same.

“Sarai…” Sharra hugged the girl tighter. “Relax. I am here. I won’t let anything happen to you. Easy. girl… Easy…”

“I can’t go through that again, Sharra. I can’t!” Sara cried as she tried to retreat; only to be stymied by Sharra’s strong arms which held her tight enough that she could feel the woman’s heart beating. “Please… No…”

“It is okay, Sarai.” Sharra said into the girl’s ear softly. “It’s okay to be scared. I am too. I don’t want anything to happen to you, daughter.” She started a gentle massage, trying to keep the girl calm.

“Why…?” Sarai asked in a dazed voice. “Why do this to me again? What have I done to them to deserve this? Why did she…? I trusted Kicota…”

“Kicota did not do this to you, Sarai.” Sharra said softly. “As soon as she realized what was happening, she reported it to the medics. She has been working around the chrono with them to find a way to stop it.”

“It doesn’t make sense.” Sarai said softly. “The docs on the homeship said I was fine… They said I was not going to change any more…” Sharra did not answer her and Sarai stared at the older woman. “Sharra?”

“What do you remember of what they did?” Sharra asked in a tone that Sarai did not quite understand. Was it rage or pain? Or both? “Or were you asleep through the tests?”

“I slept through a lot of what they did.” Sarai admitted a bit sheepishly. “I was so afraid, they said my fear was throwing their instruments off. They were gentle though.” She laughed a little self consciously. “They called me ‘little larva’.” She smiled in memory but she stiffened as Sharra did. “What?”

“We think they did this to you, Sarai.” Sharra said finally. “We think… that they set you up to change again after a certain period of time. Kicota is…incensed. I have never seen her so angry.” Sharra’s face went far away, and Sarai was suddenly glad for it. She felt fear but knew somehow that Sharra was not angry with her. Sharra only looked like that when she was inches from a killing rage. “She considers you family, as we do. For someone to do this to you without your knowledge or consent…”

“Do what? The feelings are fading.” Sarai asked with a bit of heat in her tone. “Sharra… I feel fine now that my headache has gone. I had no nightmares for the first time in days. I slept fine last night.” Sharra looked at her and sighed.

“Sarai… You talked to Kicota three nights ago.” The girl stared at the older woman and Sharra continued. “You have been unconscious in Medical and in here, since she could not wake you up the next morning. We only figured out exactly what was happening last night. Kicota and Grun’das figured it out, and… I thought I knew how angry that big black bug could get. I was wrong. He put a hole clean through a durasteel bulkhead and Kicota is not much better. Any and all of us are going to kill the ones who did this to you. I swear it.” Her voice went toneless as she spoke and Sarai shivered in her grip. This woman could be terrifying, just like her husband.

“Sharra…” Sarai said in a tiny voice. “You are scaring me…”

“I am sorry, daughter.” Sharra rubbed her hand along Sarai’s scalp and petted her gently. It felt…odd, but not wrong. Sarai watched open mouthed as Sharra, the tough as nails warrior woman, started to cry. “We have been so scared for you. We didn’t know if you would wake, or when. Or if you would remember us. We can’t stop it, Sarai.”

“Where is Kicota?” Sarai asked through the gray haze that filled her vision after Sharra’s confession. “I need…”

“I am here, Sarai.” The Sitolon queen’s soft voice came from the side and Sarai’s eyes went wide as she saw one wall bulge and then retract as if alive. The silver skinned bug walked in, her posture bent, old and tired. “I am sorry. We tried to stop it. It’s not what we did to you. I swear it. What we did to you was a retrovirus. It did its work and ended. It was designed that way.” The bug sounded almost desperate. “We did not do this…”

“I believe you.” Sarai said in the silence that followed the queen’s heartfelt declaration. “But if you didn’t…Who did?”

“Sarai, there is only one race I know of who can do this kind of thing. Make rapid sweeping genetic changes without killing a subject. Mine.” Kicota’s voice held measureless anger now. “I swear to you, I will have the truth out of Majistrona if I have to go to that ship and beat it out of her.” The huge insect knelt at the end of Sarai’s bed. “But for now, we have to help you. And we will, my daughter.”

“What…?” Sarai felt faint. “What am I changing into?” Neither answered her and she snarled at them. ”What am I changing into?” She struggled free of Sharra’s arms, Sharra let her go. She staggered forward, seeing a dim reflection of herself in Kicota’s glossy hide. Then it became clear and she screamed.

Her hair was gone. On top of her head two knobby protrusions moved faintly. Her skull had changed shape, into a triangular form she recognized and her eyes… Four small hollows showed where two eyes had been. Her nose was gone; in its place were two smaller eyes. Her chin was receding and two mandible like objects were starting to emerge from the sides of her face. To her horrified eyes, she could see tiny protrusions on her body above the shoulders and at the hips. New arms and legs probably. And her skin… It looked more chitin than human flesh! She was becoming a Sitolon!

No!” She screamed and screamed and screamed. She barely felt the hiss of a hypo. She never felt the hands that laid her gently back on the bed. She never heard the soft comforting words that Sharra and Kicota said to her as she finally drifted off, still screaming.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.14.2012 , 03:39 AM | #3
“Damn them.” Kicota’s voice held hate now. “Damn them all.” She watched as Sharra laid the unconscious girl back out on the soft bed that had been prepared for her and stood. The woman’s sense in the Force was a solid mass of rage and hate as well. “They had no right to do this.”

“Have they responded to your contacts?” Sharra asked in a quiet tone that promised that someone was going to die in a messy fashion. “We have heard from Will and the others, somewhat.”

“No.” Kicota said flatly. “I don’t think they want to talk to me for some reason. Bets on what it is?” A gentle claw ran the length of the girl’s shuddering body without actually touching her. Even in sleep, her body was morphing, changing. The rage in her voice gave Sharra’s a run for its money. “She is an innocent. To do this… To an innocent…” The queen’s voice held sorrow now. “This poor girl…After what we did to her, for them to do this to her…We won’t be able to undo this. Once it’s done, it’s done. It may wipe her mind as what we did. Even if not, it will be permanent. Just like we couldn’t change her back to her previous form… This is going to drive her mad, Sharra. This is my responsibility… I…”She paused in mid rant as Sharra laid a hand on her thorax carapace, where a shoulder would be on a human.

“No, it’s not.” Sharra said quietly. “You have been punishing yourself too much. You did everything you possibly could for her. You are the only chance she has now. You heard the medics. They can’t stop it, and trying to will hurt or kill her.”

“I can’t trust myself, Sharra.” Kicota said sadly. “I see her, suffering. And all I can do is watch. I want to hold her tight, I want to soothe her pain, I want to undo what those scum on the homeship did. And I can’t. I can’t…” The sorrowful queen repeated. “Nothing can stop it without killing her, and they knew it.”

“Kicota…” Sharra said quietly. “Can you help her at all? Or would it be more merciful to end her suffering now?” Ordinarily, she would never suggest such a thing. But this was no ordinary situation.

“I don’t know.” The Sitolon queen admitted in a tired voice. “I just don’t know. Ordinarily, I would press to help her no matter what. But… this…This obscenity…It may be more merciful to keep her asleep until she drifts away peacefully.” The two females exited the room and stopped as they saw what awaited them. A long row of black skinned bugs, at least twenty of them, stood at attention before them both. One stepped forward and bowed to them both. The insect queen and the human female shared a glance and then Kicota shut the door behind them.

“My queen… Matriarch Kalenath.” Grun’Das voice was level, perfectly controlled. “We stand ready to obey your orders. What do you wish?”

“What I wish, I cannot have.” Kicota said quietly in a voice of steel. “No matter the provocation –and there was provocation- we cannot have civil war between the swarms at this time. For now, your orders are this: No one, and I repeat, no one besides myself or matriarch Kalenath enters that room. We may clear others, but for now, we alone are to enter.” She waved behind her. “She will sleep for some time again, until she is ready for…” Kicota stumbled a bit over her words, showing just how upset she was. “…larvahood. Your orders are to protect her. If it comes down to me or her, you will protect her.” Sharra stared at the huge bug and Grun’das started to speak.

“My queen… I...” He shook his head slowly. “You cannot…” He broke off as Kicota made a sound that Sharra did not recognize. But the human did not need to recognize it to understand that the queen had just growled an obscenity at her chief guard.

“You will protect her.” The queen’s voice was soft and menacing now. “Am I understood?” All of the black skinned bugs saluted and she moved off, Sharra following, stunned. After a few steps, Sharra spoek.

“Kicota… I…” The human woman wasn’t sure what to say or do. This was totally outside her knowledge base. She sighed and took refuge in what she did know. “What do you need from me?”

“I need you to merge you mind with mine when I try to contact Majistrona again.” Kicota said without pausing. “I will need your help to convey exactly what I think of that shutta and her brainless scum. I thank you for accepting me and mine into your extended family. That miserable excuse for a queen hurt our daughter. I want to tell her exactly what we think of her.” Her tone now could have cut through steel.

“Kicota…” Sharra was not sure she liked this change in the normally upbeat and kindly queen. “Be careful…”

“I am not going to start a war, Sharra. Much as I want to.” The silver skinned queen replied as she stopped in her nesting chamber and sat heavily. Now her tone held bottomless sorrow. “For the first time in my life…. I wish I could cry… I truly do…”

“Can I…?” Sharra asked and then hesitated as she shook her head. “I don’t know how to ask this.”

“Ask what you will, Sharra.” Kicota replied unenthusiastically. “We have been through hell in the last three days. Your daughter is becoming my daughter and neither of us can help her. I feel so helpless, so useless.”

“Can I hug you?” Sharra asked delicately. “Maybe you can’t cry. But I can cry for us both.” Kicota opened her arms, leaving the large manipulators down so Sharra could step up and then when Sharra embraced her, hugged the woman lightly with her top arms. “I don’t want to lose her. You said it may wipe her memory. I don’t want to lose her…”

“Even if it does wipe her mind, Sharra.” Kicota promised. “I will not let her forget you, ever. Sister of pain, sister of home and hearth. Sisters.” Sharra stared the bug in the eyes and Kicota had a sad smile in her voice when she spoke again. “We didn’t have a lot in common before you accepted us into your family, Sharra Kalenath, but this we will always share. She is our adopted daughter –yours and mine-, and anyone else who tries to hurt her will die.”

“I can live with that.” Sharrra said as tears started falling.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.14.2012 , 03:48 AM | #4
We expected your contact. The mind voice of Majistrona, the hive queen of the Sitolon on the homeship was pensive. We had no choice. We will take care of her.

Right… Kicota replied in a sarcastic tone. You lying shutta. How many other lies will you tell us today?

Sharra did not move from her spot under Kicota’s head, where the queen’s antennae rested on her skull, but her face creased in a sad smile as Kicota gave voice to the anger, pain and fear that both felt. Both had taken some time to recover from the emotional upheavals they had suffered. Both agreed that neither really wanted to start a war, although both desired vengeance deeply. Majistrona and her swarm had hurt a member of their family and they wanted blood. Sharra had not been sure at all about it when Kicota had pledged her swarm to the Kalenath family in recognition of the massive service that Samuel had done for them, but now, she liked Kicota and knew that the huge bug would die for her or any of the family if need be. Sharra understood, she felt the same way. Maybe it was a mother thing…

We never lied to you. Majistrona said quietly. We would have told you.

Before or after she became a larva? This came from Sharra and the bitterness in her voice was conspicuous. Istara was right, you are a lying witch.

Have you heard from Istara? Majistrona’s voice was cautious now. She needs help.

Flarg you witch. Not yours. Sharra said caustically as she went back to her previous subject. What did you do to Sarai?

Sharra, it’s very important that I speak with Istara as soon as possible. Majistrona’s voice was sad now, sad and tired. She needs more information.

More lies? This was from Kicota. How many people must you lie to, Majistrona? How many lives must you destroy?

It was needed. Majistrona said softly, obviously distressed. If Istara had not pushed the issue, if Sharlina had not gone berserk, if they hadn’t run…

If they had let you lock them up? If we had simply done was we are told? Sharra asked hotly. Like good little slaves or drones?

It is not like that, Sharra… Majistrona’s voice was sharp now. You do not know how this has hurt us, how we debated, how we tried for months to find another way. We will take Sarai in and take care of her.

Over my dead body. Kicota replied softly but firmly. And the bodies of all my swarm, Sharra’s family, the Bladeborn and probably Cranna’s people and the Stormhawk crew as well. Steel rang in her mental voice now. Go ahead, make our day, you witch with a capital ‘B’!

Kicota… You cannot mean that… The shock in Majistrona’s voice was clear. You would pit the swarms against each other? A civil war?

You have hurt a child I hurt before. You have altered a child we love without her permission. There was no give in Kicota’s mental voice. You will have driven her mad. The only information we need from you is this: Will the change wipe her mind?

No! It was hard to believe that Majistrona could more shocked than she had been, but she managed. We would not do that to her. Her mind is her own; we would not simply wipe it.

No. Sharra replied savagely. That would have been merciful, wouldn’t it?

Sharra… Majistrona’s voice was just tired now. It is not like that. We need her. She is our only chance to end this without the Seven sacrificing themselves.

So instead, you sacrifice her? Kicota’s voice held disbelief. Did you even bother to ask for her help? Then Kicota made a human sounding sigh. No, of course not. It is ‘for the greater good’. Isn’t it? Do you have any idea how Will is going to react to this? Or Istara? Or Michelle, Mira, Jina? Nia and Idjit will likely feel the exact same way! Any and all of them! You are flarging dead, do you know that?

Yes, we know. The ancient Sitolon’s mental voice was flat now. She will need help you cannot give. We will rendezvous…

Ah, so you can steal her or take this ship? Sharra snarled. I don’t think so!

Calm down, Sharra! Majistrona barked at her. I know how this looks to you, but you do not have all the information. If you will let me explain…

Kriff you. Sharra sent back just as angrily. You lying sack of osik. You better stay away from us. Pray Will doesn’t find you. Unless you like nukes going off in your face.

Sharra! The old Sitolon queen cried, but both of them cut the connection.

“Ow…” Sharra winced as her head started to hurt but relaxed as cooling, soothing energy flowed through her from Kicota. “Thanks.” She felt worry from the bug’s mind, transferred through the mental touch that was fading rapidly. She smirked. “It was a bluff. He wouldn’t. He doesn’t use nukes anymore. Unless he has no choice.”

“No problem. I liked feeling her scared.” Kicota replied nastily as she eased her friend into a standing position. Sitolon arms were not comfortable seats, but Sharra had not complained. “Well, now we know.”

“Yeah. If she wasn’t lying about that.” Sharra agreed sourly. “I will take this watch. What foods do you think we should have ready in case she wakes?”

“I don’t think she was lying. She seemed honestly upset. But I can’t really tell.” Kicota made a soft noise of discouragement. “As for food… Soft things. Porridge, soup, that kind of thing. Easy to swallow, easy to digest, but with plenty of protein and nutrients. She will need a straw since her jaw has been absorbed. Her internal organs are changing as well. She won’t be up to solid foods for quite a while. Once she finishes the change, we can see how to feed her. If she is like my larvae, I can feed her. If not, we will find a way.” The medical matters seemed to help Kicota settle a bit. She had been a healer before a queen. “I can’t believe Majistrona just did that to Sarai. I just can’t believe it...That is the kind of evil thing my people would have done. They were supposed to have ethics.”

Sharra grimaced, reminded again that Kicota was the last queen of an offshoot of the Sitolon race. They were an offshoot that had all been driven mad by experiments to make them into living weapons and destroyed by Will. Saved by the efforts of Will’s father, the remnants of the ‘Dark Cousins’, as the Sitolon called them, had sworn allegiance to Will’s family. To say they were incensed by this would be massively understating the case. They were not the only ones talking about war, the Stormhawk crew and Istara’s Bladeborn were also furious.

“Nobody is perfect.”Sharra said unhappily. “But you are right. I never would have expected this of her.” An alarm klaxon sounded and she snarled. “Oh, what now?”

“We need a Sitolon in hangar bay three.” Came an automated voice over the loudspeaker. “As soon as possible.”

“Stay with Sarai!” Kicota said as she started off. “I will find out what is going on and contact you.” The guards had already formed up to protect the girl’s room as Sharra started for it. As Kicota ran, her mind was heavy.

I truly wish this day would end. Is there no limit to the horrors we must face from my own kind?
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.14.2012 , 03:57 AM | #5
<Hangar bay three>

“I know how this looks.” A scared young voice was saying as Kicota ran onto the hangar bay. “But I can explain…”

“You move, you die.” Came a snarling tone from what had to be a Stormhawk marine. “On the floor, now and keep your claws still.”

Kicota came to a sudden stop as she saw a ring of Bladeborn surrounded by a ring of Stormhawk Marines. All had weapons out and ready and all were staring with barely disguised malice at the form that lay within the ring. A Sitolon! A very young one if Kicota was not mistaken. The larva’s skin had barely hardened, and it was hard to say what color…she…? Yes, it was female. It was hard to say what color the skin actually was, considering that the entire body was covered in muck. Kicota was sure she did not want to know where the muck had come from. The young one was barely the size of a human adult and it was easy to see she was terrified.

“What the hell?” Kicota asked in the sudden silence that greeted her arrival. The small Sitolon looked at her, her posture frightened.

“Queen!” The barely mature Sitolon called without moving. “I beg you! Please hear me out. I know not why these are angry, what I have done. But I bear a message from my mother, Holianahyatoujikaimnana.”

What did you say?” Kicota suddenly felt faint. Nana was dead, and Nana had not been fertile. Had she been? The young queen shook her head and took two steps forward. “What is your name, young one?”

“I am Ji.” The extremely young Sitolon said in a scared tone. “I do not know what has happened. I do not know why all of these are angry with me. What have I done?”

One syllable in her name? She had just turned from Larva to fully fledged Sitolon and had not molted, so she was less than fifty standard years old. Larva hatched at forty years or so, then molted at fifty years. IF she was telling the truth. It had come to this, Kicota thought sadly. She couldn’t trust her own people. Kicota had not gone through the same thing, her own gestation and upbringing had been accelerated, but with Samuel Kalenath’s help, she had managed to survive and thrive.

“What has she done?” Kicota asked then nearest soldier, whose weapon did not move from the small Sitolon. “Marine?”

“It was hiding in a cargo pod.” The Marine said, her voice taut. “When it opened the hatch, the life sensors tripped and alerted us.” Kicota shook her head slowly. This ship was a maze of traps, sensors and hidden weapons. No one sane tried to sneak aboard it. They had paranoia down to an art after so long on the run.

“’She’, Marine…” Kicota replied softly but with command in her voice. “…not ‘it’.” The silver skinned bug made a human sounding sigh. “Child… Ji…You chose a very bad time to come here.”

“I don’t know what is going on!” Ji protested. “I was warm, then… I was cold. I came to awareness in the pod. It was dark. There was a recording in there, along with food and water. She said she was likely dead. She said that I had to stop something awful from happening. Or help if I could. But I have no idea what she was talking about.” The young bug was babbling now. “What have I done?”

“You, yourself have done nothing.” Kicota said heavily. “But beings of your swarm have changed a young human female genetically. Into one of us. Without her consent.” Any one of those would have earned Kicota’s ire. All of them together? There were times when she missed being evil.

What?” The recently hatched larva could not have faked that burst of indignation, anger and fear, there was simply no way. “Oh no… They did it…” Her voice was stunned now. “They really did it. She said they were going to do something awful, but that… That goes against everything I was taught as a larva, everything. It breaks every single medical ethic we have. We don’t do things like that… I…” She broke off and her head slumped to the deck and her voice held sorrow now. “My life is yours…” She bared her neck in silence and waited.

The Marines and Bladeborn looked at Kicota who looked at the young one and shook her head. She stepped forward, the armed beings making way for her. She moved to where the young one lay and knelt down beside the prostrate child.

“Easy, young one. Have you checked the pod?” Kicota asked the marines softly. The marines shook their heads. The Bladeborn did not move, but a sense of negative came through the Force, all of them were focused on the young Sitolon to the exclusion of all else.

“No, Ma’am.” The one she had spoke to replied evenly. “We were trying to figure out what to do with it-her…When you arrived.”

“I will take responsibility for this young one.” Kicota replied as she looked the young insect over and tried not to wince. Ji was a serious mess. “Check the pod, carefully. My people’s tech does not always look like it should. On second thought... Ji… Do not move…” She commanded. The younger insect did not move as Kicota rose and started for the open cargo pod she could now see nearby. “My people can be insidious about traps.” She reached the pod’s hatch and paused as an irate voice sounded.

“What do you think you are doing, Kicota?” Stormhawk Boss entered the bay and started towards her. “Your people need you. Checking odd places for traps is what soldiers are for.”

“I have no mature drones yet, and my soldiers are all busy. I am not going to put any of your people in danger. And anyone else entering here may be in danger, Boss.” Kicota replied evenly as she looked into the pod. “Yuck…” She exclaimed as she saw what was inside. “Well… It’s clear there was a larva living in here…Nothing else could make such a mess.” Boss came up beside her and a low whistle came from the helmet of the armored form. Nothing else in the galaxy could make quite as much of a mess as a Sitolon larva unattended.

“I…” Ji started to speak, but froze in place as several weapons moved to cover her. “I didn’t know what to do. She said to hide, to stay hidden. But I ran out of food and water…”

“How long were you in there, Ji?” Kicota asked softly, her head swiveling from the cargo pod to the prostrate bug. “Do you know?”

“I don’t.” The bug admitted softly. “She didn’t include a chrono. I think that was intentional. She told me that I would sleep a lot, use less air, food and water that way.”

“Ji…” Kicota’s voice was soft now. “What is this odd lining inside…?” The queen touched it and did not react as Boss hissed.

“Kicota…” Boss strode to where she stood and pushed her claw out of the way, she did not resist. “You are too valuable to risk. Your people need you.”

“I am not about to make one of my swarm take a risk I… am…unwilli-” She paused as she touched the fleshy substance on the inside of the open hatch again in disbelief. “Oh my god…” She looked from the pod to the young Sitolon. “Ji…Is this lining what I think it is?” It felt like a lining that was used to line Sitolon nurseries, to keep larva from feeling any minds from outside. It cut Sitolon mental communication off completely. It was intended to shelter the young, to protect them from stray thoughts until they could control the access to their minds. But in this case…

“She said… I had to be brave... I had to hide…” Ji replied softly. “I had to stay hidden from everyone. She… I…” The bug sounded nearly in tears. Kicota looked fully at the small bug. “Once the door closed, I was cut off. I couldn’t hear anything. In my mind…” She was shivering in place with remembered fear and pain.

“Ji…” Her voice was soft, gentle, kind and worried now. “How long has it been since you connected to any of our people?” A very good question. Sitolon were a social species, they relied on each other to keep themselves sane. If this one had been cut off for any significant length of time…

“I don’t know.” Ji admitted, her voice scared. “I couldn’t tell how long I was in there. A long time. An eternity, it felt like.” Kicota looked at the Marine who had spoken, who looked baffled at this turn of events.

“How long has this pod been here?” Kicota asked softly as she looked it over. “Can you tell?” The marines wall looked at Boss who nodded slightly.

“It came over with the other contents that were transferred from the homeship in the last shipment. Five days.” Boss said after a moment, obviously he had queried the ship’s stores lists. “It was to be moved to long term storage shortly. Good thing she got out now, she might have spent years in there before anyone found it and opened it.” Kicota shuddered a little at that. A horrid fate, entombed alive.

“You said Holianahyatoujikaimnana sent a message with you?” Kicota said quietly, her hearts racing. To place a larva in what was, in effect, a sensory deprivation chamber for Sitolon spoke of either total disregard for the larva’s safety and sanity or total desperation. “May I see it?”

“It’s inside my head, queen. She implanted it.” Ji’s voice was soft now. “I don’t know if I am able to give it to you. I have been…so…so…” She was shuddering and Kicota moved through the ring of troops to the young one’s side, a gentle claw stroking, soothing. “I… I am sorry…”

“Not your fault, youngling.” Kicota said softly as she continued her soft stroking. It soothed the young one, a rhythmic motion that stimulated nerve clusters and blood vessels just under the carapace even through the muck. It was something the queen had learned to help tend her own larva, none of whom would be ready to come out of their larva sacks for at least three decades. “It’s okay. Sleep…”

“I…” Ji relaxed as her body slowly did as instructed. “I am sorry I made such a mess…”

“It is okay, Ji.” Kicota replied, her voice soothing. “Sleep. It will be okay.”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.14.2012 , 04:02 AM | #6
“What the fu-…” Sharra’s soft exclamation cut off abruptly as Kicota carried the still form of Ji into the heart of her nesting chamber. “Kicota…?” Sharra’s voice was cautious as she approached slowly.

“How is Sarai?” Kicota asked as she walked carefully, focusing to keep her burden from dragging. “Has she woken at all?”

“No.” Sharra said as she stared from the huge silver skinned bug to the one covered in muck. “What is going on?”

“Oh Sharra…” Kicota sounded virtually in tears. “I need your help. This young one was put in a cargo pod, hidden from my people, apparently by Nana. Istara’s mentor. She said she had a message for me, but she is quite a bit of a mess, distraught and needs a lot of care.”

“Nana?” Sharra said dubiously. “Didn’t Nana die when the Imperials attacked the homeship?”

“Yes, she did.” Kicota set the still form down at her feet and started a massage of the younger insect’s thorax. “But she was not killed by the Imperials.”

“Oh no…” Sharra’s voice was horrified as she started connecting the dots. “So this one…is a refugee?” She knelt down beside the disparate pair and sighed. “How can I help?”

“She is having trouble breathing.” Kicota said gratefully. “I am stimulating her lungs, but we need to clean the muck off of her. She was lying in her own filth inside a cargo pod for at least a week. Some of it has caked around her airholes. I need you to help clean her. Can you?”

“What kind of a question is that, Kicota?” Sharra asked kindly as she started for where the queen kept cleaning supplies. “I have a kid and help out in the nursery. I know all about messy children.”

“How is James?” Kicota asked as she eased Ji into what would be a more comfortable position. “I know he is with the other kids, but…”

“He is fine. I checked on him while you were gone. Vid cams are wonderful thing. He is, at the moment, building a huge castle from blocks with the help of his peers.” Sharra said with a slightly sappy smile on her face as she returned with a bucket fill of water and several cloths. “I assume this is going to be a hand’s on cleaning?”

“Yeah.” Kicota said dubiously as she examined the sleeping young one. “She made a right mess of herself. And who knows how thick some of the muck is? I will hold her; you try and be as gentle as you can. The carapace around the airholes in particular is sensitive at that age.”

“Okay…” Sharra said dubiously, but then dipped a rag in the bucket and started scrubbing. “What is her name?”

“My name is Ji!” The young Sitolon said, coming awake suddenly. “Hey! Ow! That hurts!” She cried as she tried to get away from Sharra’s scrubbing touch. But Kicota had her pinned in place, her arms and legs immobile.

“Ji, don’t move.” Kicota commanded and the smaller insect stiffened in place. “We have to clean you off, get the muck away from your airholes at the very least.” Her antennae came down and caressed the younger one’s head. “This will not be pleasant. I hoped you would remain asleep for it.” She spoke softly, lovingly now. “That’s a larva, good larva… Easy…” She crooned as Sharra carefully scrubbed away at the soft belly scales.

“Hurts…” Ji’s voice was strangled, pain filled. “It hurts… Please…”

“Ji…” Sharra’s hands were gentle as she cleaned the caked filth off the small insect, “We have to get the muck off. We don’t want you suffocating.” Her voice held sorrow now. Nana had died of suffocation. She had liked Nana.“Just little more.” Ji screamed as Sharra’s hands pulled at a rough patch and then Sharra’s hands were soothing. “I’m sorry… I’m sorry Ji, that was the worst part of this patch…It should be easier now. For this piece anyway.”

“Promise…?” Jia asked in a dazed, scared voice. She was so young.

“I promise, Ji.” Sharra replied as her hands soothed the patch where the facing of the carapace had been pulled away from the insect’s skin. It had been thoroughly caked by the filth. “There now, is that better?” Ji relaxed slowly as the pain ebbed.

“Y… Yes…” Ji said quietly. “Are… Am I a mess like that everywhere?”She asked in a scared voice. “It was dark in the pod. I couldn’t see myself.”

“I am afraid so, Ji. At least your antennae are not covered. They are dirty but not covered. I will clean then gently when you sleep.” Kicota replied, her voice steady. “We will be as gentle as we can.” Ji tensed as Sharra’s gentle hands found another sore spot.”Easy, Ji, easy…”

“Am I going to survive this?” Ji asked softly as Sharra worked another nasty patch from her body. “Ow!” The bug groaned softly, trying to be brave.

“Yes.” Kicota’s voice was as soft and gentle as her grip, but Ji relaxed. “We won’t let anything happen to you, Ji.”

“Do what you have to do…” Ji replied and then bit back another scream as Sharra carefully pried up another patch. “Just… hurry…”

<A nasty time later>

It took almost thirty minutes for the two females to clean the youngling’s carapace of filth. By the time the cleaning was done, Ji was shivering in Kicota’s claws, trying to stay awake. Once the cleaning was done and the mess deposited in a convenient disposal bin, then the two women started bandaging the wounds with organic bandages that Kicota provided and the young one relaxed as the pain ebbed. She sighed as she started to lose the battle to stay conscious.

“I…” Ji’s voice was low and sleepy now. “I have to tell you…”

“Rest, Ji.” Kicota’s voice was kind as she carefully salved the wounds that showed on the young one’s body. “You can tell me in the morning…”

“I need… to… ohhh…” Ji relaxed into sleep and her tenseness faded as she lost consciousness.

“Will you be okay?” Sharra asked softly as Kicota laid Ji down at her feet and sat beside the slumbering young one. “If so, I need to check on James.”

“If anything changes, Sharra, I have your com.” Kicota replied in a quiet tone so as not to disturb the slumbering insect at her feet. “Go, my friend. Take care of your child. This one, I think is my problem now.” Sharra patted the silver skinned queen on the arm and left without another word. Kicota waited a moment after her friend had left and then eased the young insect into a more comfortable position. “It will be a long night, Ji. But I promise you, we will take care of you. And the answers you have can wait until morning.” She slowly and carefully started wiping muck from the slumbering bug's antennae.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.14.2012 , 04:11 AM | #7
“I… What…?” Ji’s scared voice had Kicota waking from her semi doze. The queen had spent most of the night ready to move, trying to rest while maintaining her vigilance. Luckily she could go for long periods without true rest. “Queen…I…”

“Good morning.” Kicota said gently as she turned to face the young one who had stiffened in shock and surprise. Ji tried to move from her sleeping position in Kicota’s arms and then stopped, unsure what to do. “How do you feel?” The queen bug asked as she laid the young insect down on her own four feet. She looked the young one over and Ji assumed a submissive pose. Her carapace was bronze, marred by the gray of the bandages, but it looked to be in much better shape now that she had slept. Her antennae were perky too, but then they flipped down, showing her distress.

“Uh… Sore and stiff… Queen…I…” Ji was obviously not sure what to do or how. This had likely never been covered in Larva protocol training. Queens did not do this for adult Sitolon, even very young ones. “What did I do?” She asked in a daze.

“Aside from being one heck of a mess, and then falling asleep, you did nothing.” Kicota replied with gentle humor. “Are you hungry?”

“I…” Ji relaxed slightly, there was certainly no way she was going to fight the huge being that held her. Kicota did not have to be gentle. “Yes, I am hungry. But I am not sure I can keep it down.”

“Okay. I will feed you and then I need to check on our other problem larva.” Kicota started working her smaller manipulators to the sides, to places she had put food for Ji. She hadn’t wanted to move the hurt one too much. “Let me know if you feel bad.” She took a long sip of the water and, with a graceful move, extended the tube that was her tongue to the smaller insect. Ji took the drink gratefully and then stiffened.

“You…” Her voice was stunned. “You would feed me…? As one of yours…? I… I am not yours… Am I?”

“You are now, Ji.” Kicota replied as she retracted her tongue to take a bite to pass to the young one. “You are my responsibility. Your swarm queen has proven to me that she is incapable of being trusted, or taking care of her own.” She passed the bite to Ji, who ate slowly and then swallowed carefully. Kicota nodded. The young one was not stupid. “I will take care of you.”

“What do I say?” Ji asked in a daze. “What do I do? They never talked about anything like this when they taught me etiquette…”

“This is a unique situation, Ji. “ Kicota replied as she stroked the young one’s carapace again. Ji relaxed as the massage soothed her. “You can choose to accept, or not. I recommend you accept.” There was no menace in her words, but no mercy either. If Ji didn’t accept, Kicota would have no choice but to kill her. The queen would make it quick and merciful, but still… Ji was silent for along moment before replying in a formal voice.

“I accept.” Ji ate what was provided and then drank what Kicota gave her. The queen did it in slow, careful pieces, small enough to be easy to swallow, large enough to nourish. Ji finally nodded and sat down to digest it. After a few moments she spoke again. “Did they kill my mother? She… She thought they would.”

“We think so, Ji.” Kicota said gently. “Nana is dead, that we know. Istara believes they did. But why would they do that? Unless they were fighting… well… us…” Kicota made a soft noise of remembered pain. Thousands of years of hive mind linked madness was not forgotten in a few months of sanity. “The non-mad members of our race don’t kill each other.”

“She said they were going to do something awful.” Ji replied, her voice strengthening. “She said it wouldn’t likely work anyway, all it would do is cost a young human her self and sanity. She disagreed vehemently with their decision. She… She…” Ji was shuddering now and Kicota held her as the younger insect tried to regain control of herself. “She told me it was wrong, what they were planning. That the Seven would never forgive it.”

“They won’t.” A new voice came from nearby and both insects turned to see Sharra Kalenath enter the nesting chamber. “Good morning Ji. Is Sarai awake, Kicota?”

“Not yet, but soon, Sharra.” Kicota replied as Ji tried to make herself very small. “I ordered some porridge and soup, it’s on the tray by the door.” Kicota shook her head as the young bug in her grip tried to shy away as Sharra came closer. “Easy Ji, she won’t hurt you.”

“Not unless you deserve it.” Sharra agreed quietly as she laid a gentle hand on Ji’s carapace. “Or you roll in filth again. Don’t do that.” This last was a command, but in a humorous tone.

“I…” Ji shook herself and calmed slightly. “I won’t… matriarch Kalenath.”

“Call me Sharra, Ji.” Sharra said gently as she came close and the bug gave a squeak as Sharra hugged her gently. “You are part of the family now. I…” Whatever she was going to say was cut off by the shriek of fear that came from nearby. “Sarai!” Sharra ran towards the room, followed by Kicota, Ji trailed along behind, but stopped when the guards by the door blocked her path. Their weapons were pointed at her.

“I’ll just…” Ji said slowly as she took a careful step back. “Wait here…” She sank onto her haunches only to stiffen as Kicota came back to the door.

“No, let her through. She needs to see what her former swarm has done.” Kicota’s voice was sad and somber now. “Come Ji.”

Ji stepped forward, her posture frightened as the huge guards made way for her. They were even larger than Kicota, so they dwarfed her. Kicota took Ji’s manipulators in hers and pulled her into the room. Ji went rigid in shock as she saw Sharra sitting on the bed, holding…

“Oh my god… I am sorry, sister.” Ji’s voice was soft, and then her fear was replaced by rage. “What can I do? Tell me what I can do…”

The form that looked up at her was barely recognizable as having been human. The girls face was much more insect-like now, triangular with the mandibles under the six eyes that made up a Sitolon’s vision apparatus. Antennae had sprouted fully from her head and she bowed her head again. She was making sobbing noises into Sharra’s shoulder. Not that she could cry anymore. The rest of her body was covered in chitin now, and various bumps and protrusions proclaimed her change accelerating.

“There has to be something we can do…” Ji cried as she took a step forward, wanting to help, to console. “Please…”

“There is a tray just outside, Ji.” Kicota said quietly. “Can you get it and bring it in?”

“As you command…My queen…” Ji replied with one final despairing look at what had been a young human girl. “Anything I can do to help.” As she stepped outside, she heard the girl speak in an odd tone, halfway between human and Sitolon speech patterns.

“Who is that?” The hybrid being asked in a dazed and scared voice. “I don’t recognize her.”

“My queen?” Ji looked at Kicota who nodded. “My name is Ji.” The young insect said as she brought the tray in and carried it towards the bed. “I am a sister of yours now. I am sorry… Sarai…is it?”

“That… was my name…” Sarai said in a tone of fear and shock. “Now? I…don’t know…”

“That is still your name.” Ji replied as she set the tray down. “No one will dare to take your name from you, sister. Not while I live.” She did not expect the hybrid being to hiss.

“Why do you call me sister?” Sarai said in a tone of disbelief. “I had no family until Maria adopted me, until Sharra and Will took me in when she died. And now I am a monster.” Sharra hugged her but Sarai was not mollified.

“No, you are not.” Ji replied tautly before Sharra or Kicota could. “You have had something monstrous done to you. You are not a monster. You need to eat, sister. Come… eat…”

“I… I can’t eat like this…” Sarai said as she crumbled into Sharra’s embrace. Both older females looked at Ji who snarled at Sarai. Sarai for her part jumped. “What?”

“So you are just going to give up? Let the scum who did this unforgiveable thing to you win? What kind of fighter are you?” Ji asked in an acid etched tone. The she relaxed and her tone eased a little. “Eat, sister.” Sarai looked at Ji and then sighed. She sat still while Ji filled a straw and held it out to her, then sipped it gingerly. Ji did this again, and again, until Sarai pushed the straw away.

“I can’t eat anymore.” Sarai said in a dazed tone. She nodded to Ji who put the straw aback in the bowl she had gotten it from and covered it up. “Thank you.”

“You are welcome.” Ji replied as she came back to the bed. “You need your strength for what is coming.”

“What…” Sarai looked from Kicota to Sharra and back to Ji. “What is coming?”

“Sarai…” Kicota said softly.

“No.” Sarai said quietly, hugging Sharra again but then moving away for her. “What is coming?”

“You haven’t told her?” Ji’s voice was horrified now. “Why not?”

“We haven’t had time.” Sharra said in mild reproof. “Things have been a little crazy.” Between Sarai’s collapsing, her starting to change and Ji’s own abrupt arrival… yes things had been nuts.

“Ah…” Ji flinched as she realized both the matriarchs were looking at her. “Good point. I apologize if I have transgressed, matriarchs…”

“If you had…” Kicota said gently as she moved to stand beside Ji. “…you would know.” A human sounding sigh came from the large bug and she spoke to Sarai. “I know you are scared Sarai, and you have reason. But now, you are awake and aware. We have time to explain. What you are going through is not natural but it follows certain natural paths. Your body is changing into one of us. In the near future, your body will excrete a cocoon and you will sleep for some time while the larger changes take place.”

“Like… Like when you molt?” Sarai had been so curious about the Sitolon, Kicota remembered with a pang. Her voice quavered a little. “What am I going to be?”

“You will be yourself…” Ji replied before either of the others could. “I…” She shook her head slowly, something was wrong.

“Ji?” Kicota asked softly as she moved to take the tray from the younger insect. “What is wrong?”

I…” Ji seemed to stiffen and when she spoke again, it was not in her voice. Sharra and Kicota moved between Ji and Sarai but Ji did not move, and the voice… Both knew it!

“Greetings to Sarai Kalenath in this time of woe. I am Holianahyatoujikaimnana. I do not know if you remember me or not, but we met once while the doctors were working on you. Before my queen decided on this madness.” The voice sounded both sad and angry now. “I have left another message for your family in the mind of this larva, I hope to get her free, get her clear before they realize what I have done. But this message is for you, Sarai Kalenath. I am so sorry child.” Ji’s posture slumped as if the one who had imprinted the message had. “What they have done to you is unforgiveable. WHY they did it is worse. They seek to control the machines that are the curse of our race through you.” Gasps came from Sarai, Kicota and Sharra. Sharra hugged Sarai tighter. “They speak in platitudes now ‘for the greater good’ and ‘the end justifies the means’. They have forgotten why this whole mess happened in the first place. I have spent many weeks speaking to Agnosa and I understand what they do not. What they have done is awful, what is worse is that it will not work. They have hurt you, with no way to undo what they did, for no gain.” The sheer pain the recorded message was almost palpable.

“You must tell your family. They must stay away from Majistrona and her swarm. For so long, they were my swarm, but no longer. If they can do this to an innocent, then they are no kin of mine. I ask for asylum for the larva who bears this message. She is also an innocent. To get her free, I have had to hurt her, to cut her off from our people. She will understand, and likely she will forgive me. But I can never forgive myself. Ji, I know you can hear my words. I am sorry. Protect Sarai, Ji. She will need all the help she can get.” Now the voice turned pensive. “I… My life is forfeit now, for disobeying the queen’s express commands.” Now sorrow was heard in the recorded voice. “Live long and fruitful lives, Ji and Sarai. Stay away from Majistrona and her followers. I am sorry… My daughter… I am sorry I will not see you grow to be an adult, to see you excel the way you will.”

“Daughter…?” Kicota’s voice was hushed, awed. But the voice of the dead Sitolon was continuing.

“I have left such information as I could acquire in my daughter’s mind. I had to get her away, they threatened her, to keep me in line.” Sharra hissed at that, but remained silent. “They will not keep me in line. What they have done to Sarai is wrong. Why they did it is wrong. I will not remain silent now that my daughter is safe. Please… Matriarch Kalenath, Queen Kicota, if you hear this, keep her safe. They did something to her, something I have been unable to determine the nature of. They cannot track her, or control her against her will, that at least I was able to do. And please… Tell Istara I am sorry and give her my love. My daughter, live well and free. Protect Sarai, she did not deserve this. I am Holianahyatoujikaimnana, former subordinate queen of the homeship hive. But no longer. My mother shall hear my opinion if I have to beat down her door and explain it to her at swordpoint.” With that, Ji fell to the floor, her limbs askew. She shuddered as her air holes were blocked, but did not move.

“Ji!” Kicota darted to where the young insect was lying and pulled her up so she could breathe. “Nana was your mother?” She asked as muted sobs came from the bronze skinned bug.

“They killed her…” Ji’s voice was soft, scared, young and so alone sounding. “Why did they have to kill her?”

“Ji, it’s important. Nana was your mother?” Kicota pressed. “There is only one queen in a swarm.”

“Majistrona made me from Nana’s genetic material.” Ji replied in a monotone. “I heard the doctors and caregivers in the nursery talking to her occasionally. She said… She said my mother was too independent. That they needed to control her… That is all I am… a control device!” Now she was wailing in anger and fear. “She taught me, she raised me from the beginning. From the moment I could think, she was there, teaching me, instructing me, answering my questions. And they killed her! I am just a thing to them…”

“Maybe to them, Ji.” Kicota soothed the younger bug with gentle massages. “But not to her. And not to us.” Ji stiffened and then, she nodded slowly. She looked at the huge bug that held her gently and then slowly extricated herself from Kicota’s grip. She walked to where Sarai and Sharra were watching her and slowly, stiffly knelt before Sarai.

“My sword, my service, my life, my death. I am yours, Sarai Kalenath.” Kicota gasped, but did not move as Ji swore her life to Sarai. “Sword and soul, blood and bone. May my own blade end me if I transgress.”

“You are…” Sarai’s voice was awed, scared almost. “Bladeborn…?”

“I am. My mother taught me much while I was a larva.” Ji’s voice was hard now. “And I am your sister, sworn to serve, to guard and protect you. Even if my mother had not demanded it of me, what they did to you is unforgivable. By our people’s laws, you are a victim and must be protected until our people can render judgment on the actions of those who hurt you. But no matter what, this will remain. Now and always, I am yours, Sarai.”

“I…” Sarai stiffened and her voice turned shrill. “Oh my god… Sharra! Where are you?”

“I am right here, Sarai…” Sharra said as she hugged the girl who was her daughter. “What is wrong?”

“I can’t see!” Sarai said in a terrified tone. “I could, and now I can’t…I just went blind!” Her hands went to Sharra’s and grasped them tightly, terrified.

“Then let me be your eyes.” Ji said in a quiet tone as her antennae came down and touched the girl on the forehead. Sarai gasped and then relaxed. “Better?”

“Is… Is that what I look like?” Sarai asked dubiously. She reached up and touched her face and then shivered a little. “You cannot stand that way forever, Ji.”

“Watch me.” Ji’s voice brooked no argument. “You are my liege now, Sarai. Anything I can do to help you, to aid you, to comfort you, you have but to ask.”

“Ji…” Kicota shook her head. “I am not going to ask if you are sure or not. I can feel your sincerity. But both of you will need medical attention. I will summon Ona.” She chuckled. “I better give her clearance to enter or I will lose a bunch of guards trying to keep her out…”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.14.2012 , 04:16 AM | #8
“Well, isn’t this interesting.” Another voice sounded and Ji looked with half her eyes. A black furred Bothan in a medical tunic carrying a pack of medical supplies smiled at the odd group as she entered. “Glad you told the guards not to stop me.” Ona of the Bladeborn said as she entered. “I received your summons, Kicota.” She looked at Sarai and the bug who had her antennae on Sarai’s head and paused. “What seems to be the problem?” She asked kindly as she came to the bed.

“I can’t see, Ona.” Sarai’s tone spoke of barely repressed terror. “It just… happened. It all went black. Ji here is letting me borrow her eyes.”

“Handy ability.” Ona said with no trace of sarcasm. “Kicota… Sharra…? I need some privacy.”

“If you need anything at all Ona, feel free to call.” The queen bug rose from where she had been squatting and move dot the door before pausing. “Sharra?”

“It’s not that I don’t trust you.” Sharra said quietly from her seat on the bed. “You saved my life after all, more than once. It’s just…” She broke off as Sarai put her head on the woman’s shoulder.

“Mom, it’s okay…” Sharra froze at Sarai’s words. Sarai had never called her ‘Mom’. Always ‘Sharra’, or ‘Ma’am’, never ‘Mom’. “It will be okay.”

“I will keep you informed.” Ona said quietly as Sharra hugged Sarai and then rose. Without a word the female human left the room and the door irised shut behind her. “Okay, Sarai, Ji… Let’s see what I can do to help.” Her fingers were gentle as she ran them over the non-human skull that Sarai now possessed. She made a humming noise as she worked.

“Ona…” Sarai said in a low tone, so as not to distract the healer.

“Yes, Sarai?” The healer said as she nodded and started pulling medical gear from her satchel. “What is it?”

“Am I going to die?” She could not keep a quaver from her voice. “I mean… I…” She was shaking now, Ona looked at her and would have spoken, but paused as Ji spoke gently.

“Everything mortal dies, Sarai. Galaxies, stars, planets, animals, people… Everything has a finite span. We are born, we live and we die.” But then young Sitolon's voice turned firm. “But you are not going to die any time soon if I have anything to say about it. Let the healer work.”

“Wow.” Ona had a hint of appreciation in her voice as she ran a scanner over Sarai’s head. “I couldn’t have said that better myself. What is your name, young queen?”

“I am not a queen.” Ji replied calmly. “I am sterile. My name is Ji. I have sworn to Kicota and to Sarai.”

“You act like a responsible queen.” Ona replied just as evenly as Ji had spoken. “Responsibility and duty are not empty words around us, and you it seems.” She was careful to avoid the antennae that still touched Sarai’s head as she ran her fingers along it, seeking, scanning, trying to find the problem.

“Indeed.” Ji replied as she kept her place. “I have a request of your order, when you have time. But later.”

“Later then.” Ona sighed as she sat back. “Sarai… I am sorry. I can’t fix this. Your optic nerves have detached from your… eyes…” She growled slightly. “I am assuming that they will branch out, that they will reconnect. Until then… Until you have finished changing, I could do more harm than good if I try to repair anything.”

“Might this be intentional?” Sarai asked delicately. Ji stiffened and Ona looked at her. “After all, what kind of escape would I be able to attempt if I can’t see?’

“I…” Ji started to speak and then broke off. “Before this travesty, I would have said ‘No’… But then again, I would have said that none of my people could have done such an evil thing as what they did to you. Until we know what is happening and if it will stop, I will be your eyes.”

“Ji…” Sarai’s voice was annoyed now. “You cannot sit there for the rest of my life.” Ji didn’t move and Sarai made a noise somewhere between a snort, a sigh and a groan. “Ji…I…” She gasped as she curled up on herself, making small noises of pain.

“Sarai!” Ji cried as she extended her arms to hold the hybrid female up. “Ona? What do I do?”

“Lay her down gently on the bed.” Ona replied as she checked a hypospray. “Sarai… You need to sleep now.” Ji lowered Sarai onto the bed and the girl immediately curled into a ball.

“No…” Sarai gasped as she curled up tighter. “No, please don’t make me sleep…”

“Sarai…” Ona’s voice was gentle and her hands were soothing as they traced the girl’s shuddering form. “You must. Your body is trying to do something it cannot while you are awake.”

“Your body is starting to cocoon itself, Sarai.” Ji replied when Ona turned a sorrowful glance her way. “This is proceeding much faster than one of my people would. I believe you will spend at most a day, perhaps two, in the cocoon. I will ward you. You have my word, my liege.” Ona drew a deep breath at the word ‘liege’, but Ji’s focus was on Sarai. “I will ward you.”

“No, Ji…” Sarai replied sympathetically, her own pain forgotten at Ji’s fierce words. “You need to heal too. I could feel your own pain through the link you gave me to see through.” A hiss came from Ona, but Ji ignored her. “Ji, please… My mother and Kicota will ward me. You need to heal. Please, Ji…”

“I gave you my word.” Ji had no give at all in her voice. “I am not leaving you.”

“And if I order you to go?” Sarai said quietly. Ji retreated a step, her posture defiant. “Ji…”

“Don’t do this, Sarai…” Ji asked in a dazed and scared voice. “Please, don’t send me away…”

“She is not.” Ona replied, her voice gentle and kind. “She is doing what any liege would, a good one anyway. She is taking care of her retainer.” Ji turned an incredulous look at the Bothan, who bowed to her. “She is in no danger, Ji. You are.” Ji retreated a step, holding her claws up in a warding gesture, but Ona did not move.

“Ji? What is wrong?” Sarai’s voice was horror-struck. “Ona? What is happening?”

“Sarai…It’s okay, we caught it in time.” Ona’s voice was kind. “I wish Mama hadn’t been called away, but I can handle this. Can you sleep or do you need help to sleep?” She sat on the bed beside Sarai and her hand was gentle as it traced the girl’s misshapen head.

“I…” Sarai’s voice was tired now. “I can sleep. Ji… Go with her. Heal, my friend. I am not sending you away.”

“Promise?” Ji asked in a very young voice.

“I promise.” Sarai said and then she sighed and fell unconscious. Ona shook her head slowly and laid the girl out straight before covering her with a sheet that writhed as if alive.

“Come Ji.” Ona said as she rose. “Come with me and let us take care of you.” Ji did not move, her face on the girl in the bed, her posture unsure. “Your liege is under close medical scrutiny. No one will dare try and keep you from her. Not now.” Ona laid a gentle hand on the bug’s thorax and winced. “You need help.”

“I…” Ji shook her head and then turned to look at the Bothan. “You…sneaky…healer…” She said plainly and then she collapsed in a heap. Ona put away the hypo she had injected the bug with and made a gesture. The slumbering bug rose from the floor, supported by the Force.

“Only with those I love girl. Only with those I love…”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.14.2012 , 04:22 AM | #9
<Four hours later>

“How bad is she?” Kicota asked quietly as she entered the medical ward of the renegade battlecruiser Stormhawk. “I could feel her pain, but she controlled it well.”

“Bad.” Ona replied as she stripped off the gloves that she had worn while operating. “She didn’t get the chance to mature completely as a larva, did she?”

“I don’t know.” Kicota said, her eyes going to the scans of the slumbering insect who lay upside down on the operating table under the scrutiny of a pair of nurses. Sitolon required a somewhat flexible approach to surgery. Even trying to anesthetize one had issues, since they didn’t breath from mouths. “Oh my…” She inhaled sharply as the scans made sense to her.

“Yes. Her circulatory system is well developed. Now that we have rerouted her aorta, circulation should be unimpeded.” Ona said as she moved to her desk. “Her brain and nervous systems are fully developed. Her lungs are a bit on the immature side, but should grow now that there is space for them to. The rest…” She shrugged and sat. “We will have to see. I did what I could.”

“No one could have done more Ona.” Kicota’s voice was sad now. “No wonder she was such a mess. Her excretory system was incomplete. I could sense there were problems. I intended to call you as soon as we had her stable. But I never dreamed they would be so widespread.”

“Well, she is alive.” Ona replied as she scrutinized the readouts. “And she is going to stay that way. She will likely be uncomfortable for some time; I had to move a number of things around to make them fit. Kicota… I didn’t have a choice…” Ona had a sick look on her face now. “I had to remove her reproductive apparatus. It was starting to go septic. It was causing her a great deal of pain and poisoning her. I hated doing it, but I had to. She would have been fertile. If this hadn’t happened, she would have been a queen.”

“I know, Ona, I know.” Kicota bowed her head. “Removing her from the protected environment of the nursery and placing her in such a nasty environment for so long… It saved her life, got her to us, but at a dreadful cost…” She sighed and changed the subject. “Sarai is cocooned now. Her body is maturing rapidly, far more rapidly than it should. We are having difficulty keeping her fed.”

“At least she doesn’t crave living flesh.” Ona said with a shudder. That was no joke. Kicota’s people had craved living flesh, preferable sentient living flesh, before Samuel Kalenath had cured them of their genetic madness. “Anything I can do to help?”

“She is confused when she is awake, which isn’t often. She is calling out for Ji.” Kicota replied unhappily. “When do you think Ji will wake?” Ona sighed.

“I don’t know.” The Bothan admitted sorrowfully. “From what I know… A normal one of your people, even a youngling, should be awake by now. As messed up as she was and is inside? If she isn’t awake in three hours I am going to wake her as gently as I can.” The Bothan paused and then spoke again. Tears were streaming down her face as the empathic healer tried to control herself. “She said something, in her sleep, before we put her under completely. She was calling out to her mother, begging her to come back, not to leave her. She called for her mother by name, Kicota.” Kicota sighed and Ona nodded slowly. “I…We need to know. Is she Nana’s daughter?”

“Yes.” Kicota replied sympathetically. “Apparently, they cloned her as a control of sorts. Apparently Nana was hard to keep under control.”

“I bet.” Ona had met Holianahyatoujikaimnana and had respected the bug. Hearing that she had died had been a blow. How she had died had infuriated the Bothan, as well as many of Istara’s Bladeborn. Which was nothing on how Istara felt. “She is one of us, isn’t she? Even if she does not wear a brand, or carry a blade, she is one of us. You heard what she said to Sarai.” It wasn’t a question.

“I heard.” Kicota said calmly. “It is her choice. Not ours.”

“Agreed.” Ona replied in an even way. “We will do what we can to aid our new sister and her liege.” She paused as an icon lit on one of the wall screens and she smiled. “She is waking. Come on…”

Ona led the way into the surgical suite and waved the nurses out. They left without protest, everyone knew Ona. It was not long before they heard an odd sound from Ji. It was almost a yawn, almost.

“Good morning, Ji.” Ona said, careful to stay out of reach. “How do you feel?”

“You drugged me…” Ji’s tone said she wasn’t sure how to react. “Why am I upside down?” She asked, trying to right herself.

“Easy, Ji.” Kicopta said as she moved to restrain the younger insect. “You needed surgery to correct some issues inside your body. The best way to get at Sitolon anatomy…” She broke off as Ji nodded slightly.

“…is from the underside. The carapace is thinner. The best way to anesthetize one of us is gas through the air holes on the underside of the abdomen.” Her eyes turned to Ona and she sighed. “How bad was it, healer? I feel… strange…”

“It was bad, Ji.” Ona replied, laying a gentle hand on one of the recumbent bug’s upper arms. “I had to do some major repairs and some serious sleight of hand to get everything to fit right. Good news is you will live. Bad news… You will need quite a bit more corrective surgery eventually.”

“I don’t hurt now.” Ji said in a somewhat surprised tone. “How much of that is the drugs?”

“Some.” Ona said as she stroked the chitin of Ji’s arm. “Part of it… Ji, I am sorry. I had to remove some things. They were putrefying.”

“I understand.” Ji replied. Then she stiffened. “Sarai… I have to…” She tried to get up and stopped as Kicota laid a strong claw on her underside and held her in place almost effortlessly. “Queen… I must…” Her voice broke off in strain as something hurt.

“You must heal.” Kicota’s reply brooked no argument. “If you hurt yourself, how can you help Sarai?”

“But… My duty…” Ji said almost plaintively. “I must be with her…”

“We will move you to her side.” Ona said quietly. “But you must listen to us. Please, Ji.” One’s voice held tears now although she controlled them. She was so empathic it hurt just to listen to her at times. “You nearly died, young one. Do not be stubborn again please. Do not scare us like that.”

“I…” Ji slumped in surrender. “I apologize healer. I knew I hurt, but not the extent. I feel… Strange now. But I must be with Sarai.”

“We know.” Ona replied kindly. “And we will move you now to her side. But you are not to try and walk. If I have to, I will drug you to keep you from moving. If you try and move, try and walk, you can hurt yourself very badly, and never feel it while the drugs are in your system. Until your body has recovered from my ham handed butchery, you are going to be in pain, and feel very odd. Pain will slow your recovery, so tell me when things start to hurt, okay?”

“Okay healer.” Ji said in a small voice. “Sarai called you...Ona? My mother spoke of you. I… I need to talk to one of your masterblades. Whenever it is convenient.”

“Only two are available at the moment.” Ona said as she unhooked the various IV and monitor lines in preparation to moving Ji. “Chari is overall charge and Reekia is supervising training in Istara’s absence. But I know either would have time for you. Do you want me to ask when one of them would be available?”

“I would appreciate it.” Ji said, trying not to move as Ona worked. “Ona… You had to take them out, didn’t you?” Ona froze in place and Ji continued, her voice sad. “I could tell something was wrong, something was off. It was centered on my reproductive system. Now… It’s not.”

“Yes Ji.” Ona said in a sorrowful tone. “I had no choice. They were rotting, killing you.”

“I understand, Ona.” Ji’s voice was sympathetic. “I do not blame you. If anything I am grateful. Being a retainer is no place for a reproducing female.” She started to shift in place but stopped at a cough from Kicota.

“Ji…” Kicota’s voice was hard now. “If you move, you may start to bleed again. Do not waste Ona’s time.”

“Yes, your majesty.” Ji replied in a demure voice. “I will obey the healers, I will do as instructed.”

“For how long, I wonder?” Ona said with a smirk as she moved a gurney into position to take the insect. “I don’t know you but I have known a lot of young Bladeborn.”

“I…” Ji made a human sounding sigh and then spoke formally. “I will obey your instruction, healer. But I must see to my liege.”

“I know.” Ona replied, her face sad but proud. “Okay, let’s get you back to your duty. And remember, if anything hurts or feels wrong, call me at once. You will do Sarai no good if you collapse.”

“Listen to the healer, Ji.” Kicoat said sternly as she moved to help shift the younger bug to the gurney. “She knows what she is talking about.”

“I always listen to healers.” Ji protested without moving. “I may not do as they wish, but I always listen…”

“Well, now you are going listen and to do as I wish. Is that clear, young one?” There was a distinct aura of menace in Ona’s tone now. Ji looked at her before nodding slightly. “Good girl. Let’s get you back to Sarai before she wakes up…”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.14.2012 , 04:26 AM | #10
Sarai woke up with a scream. She had been sleeping peacefully, and then, she had seen a horrifying image of her, what had Kicota and Ona called Ji? Her retainer? Yes. She had seen a horrifying image of her retainer lying on the floor, her throat chitin cut open, her lifeblood pooling around her slumped form and the knife that Ji had used to end her own life falling from a limp claw.

“Ji!” She called, afraid that all she would hear was dead silence. But a soft, gentle voice spoke from nearby.

“I am here, Sarai, my liege. Be at peace.” A gentle touch smoothed the folds of silk that covered her and Sarai subsided. “Are you hungry?”

“I…” Sarai was quivering with reaction, both at her horrifying nightmare and the fact that yes, Ji was there this time. She remembered calling for Ji and being told that her retainer was in surgery before. “I had a dream… It was…”

“Easy…” Ji’s voice was calm and soothing as that same hand soothed her through the silk that surrounded her changing form. “It was just a dream. Just a dream, Sarai. I have bad dreams myself.”

“I saw you kill yourself for me, Ji.” Sarai retorted angrily. “Don’t tell me it was just a dream!” A long silence followed her snarled retort and then Ji spoke again.

“I cannot say that it is impossible for such a thing to come to pass, Sarai, much as I wish to comfort you.” The insect’s voice was sad now. “But I would have to be given a very good reason. Which I do not have at this moment. Tomorrow? Next year? I do not know. But for now, I am here and you are safe.”

“I… I am sorry, Ji.” Sarai felt so weak, so puny now. Everything she was, everything she had wanted to be was gone. Now she was just a misshapen fleshy thing in a pile of silk. “I shouldn’t be angry at you, but it felt so real.”

“Have you ever had visions before, Sarai?” Ji asked softly as someone, probably her, moved a flap of silk away from Sarai’s face in preparation for feeding her. “Do you know the difference between a dream and a vision?”

“The difference between a dream and a vision?” Sarai asked carefully as a straw found her mouth. She sucked slowly, savoring the rich taste of the soup that passed through her mouth and down her throat. It was odd. She could talk while eating, Sitolon had different anatomy from humans after all, but she was ingrained not to. Finally, she had eaten her fill and the straw withdrew. “I thought only Force users could have visions.”

“Actually no.” Ji said softly and that gentle hand or claw was soothing her again. “As I understand it, anyone can have visions. Force user visions are generally clearer however. This may have been your subconscious pulling images out and tweaking them in a dreamscape. Or it may not have been. I do not know. I am… not that well schooled in such things.”

“Don’t let me be the cause of your death, please, Ji…” Sarai was fading, she knew she was. But she had to say this. “I couldn’t live with it. Please…”

“You are strong, Sarai.” The voice was gentle, soothing now and eased her into sleep again. “Sleep, liege. I will be here when you wake.”

Ji felt the being within the cocoon slip into sleep and sighed softly as she pulled away carefully. Ona had allowed her to remain, but she had to stay in a specially made motorized chair that Kicota had asked the Stormhawk crew to fabricate. It supported the young insect’s body gently without blocking any of her airholes and for the moment, she was grateful for the support. She was exhausted. Between the stress of the various things that had happened and Sarai’s infirmity, if it actually was that, Ji was completely drained. She looked up tiredly as the door opened and she paused as Kicota beckoned her out. Instinctively she wanted to obey the queen, but her duty was to Sarai… She slumped, indecisive, until Sharra came in with a smile.

“I assume this duty. No harm will come to your liege while I ward.” Sarai’s adopted human mother said formally as she sat by the bed where her daughter slept. “I will call you when she starts to wake. Answer the queen’s summons.” Ji wanted to bow to Sharra, but the chair wouldn’t allow it. Instead she nodded and directed the chair to carefully exit the room, cursing the stupid machine quietly.

Ji moved the chair carefully through the obstacle course that was Kicota’s nesting chamber, aware that a path had been cleared for it. Kicota was nothing if not thorough. The silver skinned queen was deep in conversation with another form, one that Ji did not recognize. A female Twilek, red skinned and… Ji stared for a moment before continuing. The sword at her waist proclaimed who she was.

“Queen Kicota, Masterblade Chari.” Ji stopped the chair and nodded to them both. “I am honored with this audience.”

“Come off it, Ji.” Kicota said sourly. “You asked to talk to a masterblade. Chari is here, but she does not have a great deal of time.” Ji looked at the Twi’lek who scowled, but her scowl seemed forced somehow, as if she were secretly amused.

“I will make what time I need.” The masterblade said quietly. “What can I do for you, Ji?”

“I have a dilemma, Masterblade Chari.” Ji said as she settled herself in the supports, it did not feel right to be sitting on anything. “My mentor trained me in many things, but it was all mental. I do not know if any of it has transferred to the physical. She taught me many things about the Code. But I have not faced a Trial.” Chari had been smiling as Ji had spoken, but at the end of her sentence, Chari’s face froze.

“Ji…” Kicota’s voice was worried.” You are in no shape to be doing anything for the moment.”

“I know.” Ji replied quietly. “But I must do this, soon. Masterblade…?” She looked at Chari who was scrutinizing her.

“You will need to heal, and then be tested.” Chari said after a few moments of scrutiny. “The Trial is dangerous enough when the seeker is hale. But I see no reason to say no, sister.”

“I thank you, masterblade.” Ji replied in formal tones. “And now… I must speak of a worry I have. You heard what Sarai said?” Both of the females in front of her nodded. “I believe it was a vision, I felt a disturbance in the Force. She has the Force. She did not before this, did she?” The masterblade and queen looked at each other and Ji nodded. “We must help her.”

“We will.” Chari’s voice held no qualms at all. “Ji, hold out your arm.” Ji held out her lower manipulator and Chari took it in gentle hands. A pulse of power was felt and then Chari released it. “Well met, initiate Ji.”

“I am honored.” Ji replied formally as she retracted her arm, now with the markings of the Bladeborn indelibly imprinted on the chitin. “I must return to Sarai but I need to give you the message I have for you as well, Queen Kicota.”

“I ask you to wait until we know that Sarai is out of danger.” Kicota replied with a trace of command in her voice. “One problem at a time, eh, Ji?”

“One problem at a time, queen Kicota.” Ji nodded to both since she still could not bow and turned the chair to go back into the room with her liege and her liege’s mother. One problem at a time…
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here