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(L,F&E 89) Who Says the Bad Guys Never Win?

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Fan Fiction
(L,F&E 89) Who Says the Bad Guys Never Win?

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kalenath
08.16.2012 , 12:22 PM | #1
<Aboard a starship, somewhere>

“What…” The voice of the dark mass of microscopic machines that called itself master of many beings was cold and severe. His hands were touching his subject who was grimacing, trying not to scream. “…Happened?” Firdlump was not happy.

“I don’t know.” Vandar Tokare said slowly, his face a study of worry. Of course, he had reason to worry. Being strapped to a table while a mass of insane nano machines toyed with him might disconcert anyone. “We had her. It cost us, but we had her. Menglan was working on her, everything was going as planned. Everything was on track. And then… Ravishaw dropped Min off and everything seemed to go to hell.”

“Ravishaw…” Firdlump moved his hand and Vandar screamed as energy played across his form. “Min did not have the ability to resist, to do what you say she did.” He withdrew his hand and let Vandar recover for a moment. “What did Ravishaw do to her? His feelings for the Bothan healer are strong. Did he know about her?”

“I don’t think Ravishaw did. I think it was Bob.” Vandar said after a moment of panting. “If Ravishaw had known, he would have boarded. I might have been able to stop him if he was in a rage, none of the others could. You know how he feels about Menglan. If he knew that Menglan had Ona, he would have left nothing but bodies in his wake, you know this.” He screamed again as Firdlump pressed the control again.

“You left the girl for him to find.” Firdlump’s voice was neutral now. “Melan tried to keep the truth from me, pity about Melan, but we can make another copy.” Vandar carefully did not look at the other table in the room, one that had a dark furred form strapped to it. A still in death dark furred form. Melan had lasted a long time under the Master’s wrath, but eventually, he had succumbed and died. “You wanted him to do something.”

“What you were doing was stupid.” Vandar said testily. “Blatant, and stupid. You would not have been able to hide what you did to her. The Seven would have come after you, us. It is too soon. The fleet you have assembled is mighty indeed, but against the Seven?”

“Six, Vandar.” Firdlump said absently, toying with his prisoner. Power hissed on and off, then on and off again. Each time energy sang around the captive Jedi, searing, burning. “One of them is dead now.”

“Dead but not gone.” Vandar said slowly, trying to keep from screaming as energy flowed through his body. “The Seventh is not gone.”

“I know.” Firdlump said with an evil smile. “I am working on that. It must have been that meddling thing called Bob then. Again! They just will not leave well enough alone. We need to figure out how to do something about them.” He sighed. “The Sitolon have subverted all our agents among the nanites. Their encryption is… interesting and complex. It will take quite some time to get through their firewalls, to get to the main processors. Without Agnosa’s interference though, it should simply be a matter of time.”

“Should.” Vandar smirked. “Just like it should have been easy to subvert Ona. You are slipping, ‘master’.”

“Yes…” Firdlump said slowly, making Vandar freeze in place. “Yes, I have been. I have been slipping, letting my good nature get away from me. No more.” He laid a hand on Vandar’s head, despite the Jedi’s now desperate struggles. “Sleep, Vandar. When you wake, you will be a new being. A dutiful servant as opposed to a rebellious one.”

No!” Vandar screamed as power pulled him under. Firdlump concentrated on him for a moment and then smiled before turning to another table nearby. The female form stretched out on it stared at him, her form listless.

“Ah, my poor Menglan.” The mass of machines said sadly. “Those bugs hurt you. Pity.” Now his voice was noncommittal.

“I…” Doctor Menglan was crying. “I have always been a dutiful subject… Master… No…”

“Yes, you have, doctor.” Firdlump said quietly. “But you have been subverted. It was hard to find, hard to trace, but I saw you talk to her last night, even if I could not hear what you said. Not your fault. Anyone can walk into a trap. But I cannot afford a servant who is not 100% loyal now.” His hand was gentle as it touched her head, but she screamed as power flared. “Sleep, doctor. I will make them pay.”

“No!” Menglan cried, but her scream of denial turned into a rasping gurgle as her body melted. In seconds all that was left was a pile of gray goo, and even that vanished as Firdlump put his hand over it, sucking the residue and its power into himself.

Firdlump shook his head and started for the door. At the door, he paused and frowned. “Ki Lom.” His voice was flat and a small shadow stepped into view and bowed silently. “Clean up the mess, take Vandar to the lab. Tell them, stage six. They will know what to do.”

“Yes, Master.” The boy in Jedi robes bowed deeply and stepped back.

“All right…” Firdlump mused as he made his way through the silent halls of his flagship. “What assets do I still have? Vandar will be useful for some things after the brainburn, but not for much. The clone of Menglan will be ready tomorrow… So… Hmmm…” He moved into his main chamber and started flipping through screens far faster than human could follow. “Wait a moment…” he paused, his eyes flicking back to a previous report. “What is this…?”

He pulled up the small screen into a larger one and started reading. As he did he smiled, an evil smile that grew wider and wider.

“Pity about Jaken, he was such a good agent.” Firdlump said quietly as he finished reading. “Well… Let’s see if we can find the Stormhawk… How do they remain supplied? The Mandos they associate with wouldn’t do it. Couldn’t do it…” The humanoid form vanished as the machines that made it up seeped into the data conduits of the starship that Firdlump called ‘base’. It was much faster to peruse that data that way. After a few moments, the form of the man reappeared.

“Well, well, well… Cranna the Hutt…” His laugh was sour. “Right out in the open and no one bothered to look. Time to let the Senate hear of some of her real dealings and to deal with that slug with a personal touch.” He keyed his com, not that he needed to, but it helped to stay in practice for anytime he needed to fool people, he was good at acting human. “Captain, set course for Tattooine, full available speed. We have an appointment at a med clinic.”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.16.2012 , 12:24 PM | #2
Now this was more like it. Kunda Gev was now a happy man. With everything else that had happened recently, his life had seemed to be taking nothing but turns for the worse. Between attempting to take a bounty on someone that he hadn’t known was way beyond d his abilities and getting ARRESTED by police of all things, being captured, brainwashed and turned into a pseudo agent by Imperial Intelligence, being caught by REPUBLIC intelligence and nearly turned into a puppet by them, and THEN being caught by a Sith who wasn’t a Sith, and working with Jedi who were not Jedi… It was just too confusing. He was happy to be back on solid ground again. Sort of.

“Eyes on.” He said as the ship he had been watching for landed in the docking bay. He was concealed amongst the myriad sensor antennae that served the Mos Espa docking area. It was a precarious perch, but fear of heights or falling never entered his mind. Some of that was likely due, as his current partner claimed, to lack of brains. But part was the rush. “Olandas, you getting this?”

His partner was ensconced in a hover van more than a klick away, working the gear that was her life.

“Yes.” Her sour voice was quiet. “Who…” Now her voice held fear. “Is that who I think it is?” Gev hit his magnifiers and nearly fell from his perch as he recognized the human form that was striding towards the exit now as if he owned the place. Senator Donal Firdlump, Republic Representative from Raltiir. Also known as Firdlump, mass of microscopic machines and one of the most dangerous beings in existence at the moment.

“Firdlump…” Gev’s voice held horror. “Olandas, warn everyone!” If HE was here in person… Gev suddenly felt seriously exposed on his high perch, even though no one was supposed to be able to see him. He had seen so many horrors done by the thing that looked human’s minions… “Stay where you are!” His eyes flicked here and there, then paused as he saw another armored form step out of the ship, then launch towards him. ”Belay that! Olandas, Code red! Go dark and stay that way. Good luck.”

The armored form landed nearby and stayed where it had landed. It did not need visual enhancement such as were on Gev’s armor, or even to look hard to see him, and Gev sighed as he stepped out of the shadows. He sized up his opponent, human, male, heavy armor and jetpack. Another bounty hunter.

“What is it going to be, pal?” Gev asked sourly when the armored form didn’t move. “I don’t have all day.”

“No, you don’t.” The human said offhandedly as he stepped forward, his weapon hand free and ready. Gev stiffened. Did he know that voice? “Bad idea, siding with the Senator’s enemies, but profitable for me.”

“Who are you?” Gev asked as he cleared his own gun hand. Something was very familiar here. Very WRONG and familiar.

“Wouldn’t you love to know?” The other hunter said with a smirk in his voice. “Go ahead if you think you can, boy.” Gev stiffened. What the frack? Something was VERY wrong here. This… He looked at the armor and his guts went cold. This man was wearing a suit similar to his own armor! And not the same kind he had worn before being captured by Imperial Intelligence! The one he was wearing. That was impossible, The suit he was wearing was a prototype, one of a kind. Even the markings were the same. Kunda Gev shook his head slowly.

“Let me guess.” He said sourly. “You gonna take my place?” The other armored form did not move. “Minor problem with that, pal…”

“No problem at all.” The other man said quietly. “You see… Imperial Intelligence is good, Special Branch is better. Much, much better.” Gev went for his gun but then he froze. He couldn’t move! He grunted as the other armored form approached slowly. “Don’t worry, Gev, you won’t feel a thing.” Gev was struggling as the man or whatever he was produced a needle and stabbed him in the neck with it. “Nitey nite, scumbag…”

Gev was still fighting as darkness pulled him under.

***

Senior Technical Lieutenant Olandas was scared. She was no fighter, she was a tech. She was no slouch with a blaster or vibroblade mind you, but she was also not anywhere near her partner’s ability in combat. So when he told her to run, she took him at his word. She put the hover van into gear and started it off careful to obey the traffic signs. The last thing she wanted to do was draw official attention. She was minding her way through the city when an errant landspeeder came careening out of an alleyway and slammed nose first into the side of her van. One look at the armored forms in it had her gunning the accelerator. Not drunk drivers. A snatch team! She snarled and hit a warning to her allies as she weaved the van away from the landspeeder that was following now, through the traffic that had stalled on sight of the collision. A quick glance at her com had her snarling, Jammed. She was on her own. She hoped the warning had gone through, but she couldn’t worry about that. She made sure her straps were tight and focused on driving.

It was quickly apparent that the driver of the landspeeder behind her was a better driver than her, and the speeder was souped up to the max to boot. It pulled even with her, only to take a broadside hit from her and slam into a roadside cart. That bought her a little time. She skidded, nearly losing control as she flew through the small settlement, trying to find somewhere to hide. But there wasn’t anywhere. Then something flashed in front of her. She screamed as she saw the bright plume of a rocket moments before it impacted the side of her speeder, slamming it at full speed into a wall nearby and driving her into instant unconsciousness. She never felt it flip end over end, coming to rest upside down. She never felt it when armored hands pulled her roughly from the wreckage before tossing a thermal detonator into it. She certainly never felt the hands strap her to a gurney and put her into the battered landspeeder before driving off.

***

“I am afraid I don’t know what you are talking about Senator.” The image of the facility’s chief administrator said respectfully. “We are under quarantine. No one in or out. If you want to come in, you are welcome to. But then… If you try to leave, the guards will gun you down.”

“Look, Miss Katherine…” Senator Donal Firdlump said with exaggerated patience. “I know that this place is a staging area for the Stormhawk. You know it. I have been directed by the Senate to find out where they are, and apprehend them.”

“I see.” Katherine said softly. “And no matter what I say to you, you are not going to believe me, so… Whatever.” She sat back with a shrug.

“Just like that?” Firdlump said, surprised. ‘You will help me then?”

“No.” Katherine said, her face impassive.
“Miss Katherine.” Firdlump sighed. “That ship is a threat. I am directed to neutralize the threat. One way or another.”

“Can the crap, senator.” Katherine said sourly. “You want the Stormhawk as a flagship for Special Branch and your own plans for galactic domination.”

“What have you been reading?” Firdlump laughed heartily. “I am a servant of the people…” He paused as Katherine laughed. What?”

“You are good, Senator.” Katherine said with a smile that was only slightly forced. “Very, very good. But I have been lied to by professionals most of my career. You want the Stormhawk? You won’t find her here. And Cranna ceased all operations through here a more than year ago. So go right ahead, threaten me, her, everyone here. Are you going to put implants in our heads? Why not use those machines of yours?” Now her voice was vicious.

“Doctor…” Firdlump said, placating, but Katherine was just getting started.

“I know your people are loose in the city, making a mess.” Katherine said with a snarl. “I can’t send medevac teams until you are gone. I know that you are trying to get your machines past our defenses and eventually you will succeed. Go right ahead.” Katherine said with an acid edge to her voice. “I don’t know where Cranna is. I don’t know where the Stormhawk is. They are very careful to keep me from knowing. We are under quarantine. So… Come on in. Maybe our weapons can’t kill you. But I am willing to bet they can hurt your pawns.”

“Okay, doctor.” Firdlump said with a smile. “If you are so worried about these people…I think I know what to do.”

“Go away?” Katherine asked sourly.

“No.” Firdlump said as he keyed his comlink. “Look up, doctor.” She looked up from her monitor and blanched as the sky turned green. The laser blast from the ship in orbit hit less than hundred meters from the clinic, melting the sand of the desert in that location to glass. “Since we understand each other so well…” He said as she turned an ashen face back to the camera. “I don’t want the other people inside. I want you. Alone and unarmed. Now. Or I start ordering them to take pieces off the building. We can do that, we are far more precise than regular Republic navy fire control.”

“There are children in here, you son of a barve!” Katherine screamed.

“I know.” Firdlump said with a smirk. “You have five minutes, doctor.” He cut the com.

Firdlump was smiling widely three minutes later as Katherine came out of the main facility, her hands in plain sight. The short medical tunic she wore wouldn’t conceal a hold out blaster, let alone anything that could hurt him.

“Well, doctor. All that defiance wasted.” Firdlump said as he took her hand. She shuddered, but did not resist as he led her away. “It’s okay, doctor. All I wanted was you.”

“Bastard…” Katherine grated out, but did not resist as she led her to a waiting speeder.

“Technically true.” Firdlump said as he eased her in and then followed her. She shied away from the armored form that sat nearby but Firdlump shook his head. “Don’t worry, doctor. You won’t feel a thing…” She did not flinch as the armored form produced a needle and injected her. “There, doctor. That will make you feel better.” He turned to the front of the cab. “Tell the Courageous to open fire. Obliterate the clinic.”

“What…” Katherine said, fuzzily trying to struggle now in the armored hands. “You said…” A loud rumbling was heard and she shrieked weakly. “No…”

“I never said I would leave them alive, doctor.” Firdlumps aid with a grin, “I wanted you and I got you. Now I am sending a message to Cranna and the Seven. One they will have no- What the…?” He exclaimed as the landspeeder rocked.

“Sir…” the armored form said deferentially. “The clinic erected an energy field over the town. It is military grade. It is deflecting the Courageous’ bombardment away, towards the open dunes. We are getting caught in the splatter.”

“Very well. Discontinue the barrage. We got what we wanted. I am sure both the Republic and the Empire will be interested in how Cranna got top of the line hardware anyway. We can count on them to snoop around and make messes.” Firdlump sighed as he patted Katherine’s leg. “Cranna always did have surprises on top of surprises. Did we get the other?”

“Yes sir.” The armored form said. “She will be waiting for us when we get back to the ship.”

“Good.” Firdlump smiled as Katherine’s eyes drooped shut. “Pleasant dreams doctor. When you wake you will be a new, better person.” He patted her head in a possessive way. “You are mine now.”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.16.2012 , 12:24 PM | #3
Firdlump was smiling widely as he entered the medical bay of the battleship Courageous. The newest clone of Doctor Menglan did not look up from what she was doing. He did not interrupt her. Rewiring a brain was tricky, even for someone who could manipulate nanomachines. Finally, she stepped back and he nodded to her. The only sounded were the beep of machinery and the occasional sedated groan from one of the many patients around the bay.

“Report.” His word was the first spoken in the eerie silence that clouded the medical bay.

“The implantation of neural controls in the Cathar doctor is complete.” Menglan said deferentially. “The newest clones are available for your inspection…” She broke off as Firdlump waved impatiently.

“Yes, yes…” He said quietly. “Vandar? The new doctor?”

“The Cathar implantation was a success.” Menglan nodded to a table nearby where a female form lay strapped down. “We will have to see how she reacts when she wakes. Vandar…” She winced. “He is apparently using the nanites against the implants. Whether it is conscious or unconscious, I cannot say.”

“I want him docile, doctor.” Firdlump said in a mild voice that was somehow menacing as well. “Not excuses. The Imperials?”

“The tech was badly hurt in the crash.” Menglan said quietly. “Multiple broken bones. She should exit the tank in an hour or so and we can start her own reprogramming. The bounty hunter is resisting, but he is starting to break so we should be able to implant him within the hour.”

“And the Bothan agent that Cranna captured?” Firdlump asked as he looked around “Where is she?”

“We had to lock her in a closet in a straitjacket.” Menglan said with a wince. “She kept trying to fondle the orderlies. Whatever Cranna did to her to break her, really broke her. There is nothing left in her mind but lust.” Firdlump looked at her oddly and Menglan nodded. “You could clone her, but…” She shrugged. “She would still be a nymphomaniac. We are not getting anything from her.”

“Very well.” Firdlump said, dismissing the problem. “Dispose of her. Use her parts if you can, if not, no problem, just get rid of her before she causes any trouble.” He paused as Menglan shook her head slowly. “What?”

“Apparently…” Menglan was musing. “Cranna used her for somewhat gentle interrogations. Might she be useful for that?”

“Mercy, doctor?” Firdlump said with a scowl. “If she is no use to the collective then she is no use. Why waste time with her?”

“Efficiency, master.” Menglan said quietly. “We have her, we may be able to use her. If nothing else, she will be useful for breaking wills faster. Pleasure apparently works faster than pain. Odd, but apparently true.”

“Hmmm… Interesting. Very well doctor, you may have a point.” Firdlump said quietly. “Fine, she is your problem. If she gets out of hand, put her down.” A low groan sounded from nearby and he smiled as Menglan turned to where the Cathar lay restrained to the bed. “Katherine, good morning.”

“What have you done to me…? Monster…?” She asked groggily.

“Doctor…” Firdlump said with disappointment in his tone. Menglan nodded and hit a control. The Cathar shrieked and then slumped in her straps. “Let’s try this again. Good morning Katherine.” The Cathar turned dull, uncurious eyes at him.

“What is your command? Master…” Katherine replied in a monotone.

“Much better.” Firdlump said with a smirk. “I expect you to tweak that. I want her bright eyed and bushy tailed. I want her excited to be helping us usher in a new world. She will be your assistant, doctor.”Menglan nodded and returned to her controls. “Even without Ona of the Bladeborn, I think this will work. We needed more skilled medics. Ona would have been perfect bait for our true quarry, but with you and our newest catch, the birth of our new order should go off without a hitch. Carry on doctors.” He was whistling a jaunty air as he strode from the bay.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.16.2012 , 12:25 PM | #4
“Twisting a mind is an art, not a science.” Menglan said quietly as she worked controls. “It is as much trial and error as it is planning. Each mind is different, each person is different. Do you understand?”

“Yes, doctor.” Katherine was a far cry from the kindly medic she had been in Cranna’s employ. Now she wore the same uniform as Menglan and her face was stern as she watched the human doctor work. The metal headgear that she wore was connected directly to parts of her brain, allowing for direct connection and control. The implants inside her skull guaranteed obedience, but Menglan was working on efficiency now.

“We have time.” Menglan said quietly as she finished the connections to her latest ‘acquisition’. “She will make an excellent member of the collective we are forming when we are finished molding her.” Tech Lieutenant Olandas stared up at her, eyes wide, but she couldn’t do anything, even speak. A tube down her throat was breathing for her, and coincidentally was blocking her speech. “This one is yours, dear Katherine. Her injuries were severe, but she has made a full recovery. She is fully cognizant now, and the drugs have made her quite pliable, despite her Imperial Intelligence training.”

“Thank you doctor.” Katherine said as she stepped forward, hands going to the controls of the mind warping apparatus. She swung the hood down over Olandas’ head, ignoring the pleading look that came over her features. “Level One?” Katherine asked quietly, and then she paused. She grimaced, her face working. “I… No…” She winced, her head shaking.

“Silly girl…” Menglan said sadly as she reached up behind the healer and touched a control on the back of the head. The Cathar froze in place and her face became stern again. “I see we need to up your dosage again. No problem. Eventually, the episodes will become fewer and fewer. Then they will disappear altogether. You are ours, Katherine. Now and forever. Come on, chop, chop…” She waved at the machine.

Katherine nodded to her superior and started working controls. A sound that might have been a scream through a tube came from under the hood, but both females ignored it. The Cathar focused on the readouts and spoke evenly.

“She is resisting at points seven, twelve and fifteen.” Katherine might have been discussing the price of ice on Hoth for all the emotion she showed. “Her body temperature and heart rate are elevating. Her body is reacting with…” She blinked and looked at Menglan. “She is reacting with extreme pleasure…?” She looked confused. “Is that normal?”

“Hmmm.” Menglan said as she leaned over to peruse the controls. “No.” She said after a moment. “What…? She enjoys pain? That is odd…” She looked disturbed for a moment and then shook her head. “We can work with that though. Counter with pleasure at points eighteen, twenty seven and fifty six.” Katherine nodded and did as instructed. “That got it, her brain is settling into the new patterns. It won’t take long for her brain to be rewritten to our specifications. How do you feel?” Menglan asked when the other doctor had finished.

“Cerebral connection has now been completed. Physical discomfort is minimal.” Katherine replied slowly. “The dreams continue despite the higher dosages you prescribed.”

“They will for some time.” Menglan said kindly. “They are a remnant of your old life. You have been reborn into a new and better one, but nothing is done without pain or regret. Your implants have taken root, you are free. Free to be one of us. Free of doubt, pain and fear.” A light flashed and Menglan smiled. “And now, we have a new sister.” She undid the hood and the face that was revealed was calm, almost completely devoid of anything human. “Good morning, young one. This is your first day in your new life.” Senior Tech Olandas stared at her, eyes wide. Tears started falling from the bound human’s eyes and Menglan’s tone turned gentle. “There, there, child, don’t cry. It’s okay. You resisted. It hurt you, I know, but you will not have to worry about anything now. We will take care of you. Sleep.” She keyed a control and a sedative had Olandas drifting off quickly. “She is ready for implantation of the neural linkages. Come, let’s move her.” The two women lifted the backboard that Olandas was strapped to easily and shifted her to a droid motivated gurney.

Katherine followed the other doctor into another room. The gurney that Olandas was on followed. Menglan waved at a large machine in the corner and the gurney moved there, sliding the board that Olandas was on into a slot designed for it. The machine closed about her head and shoulders with a click.

“This is the easy part.” Menglan said proudly. “It is all automated and won’t take long. Until they are programmed on the basic level, they can struggle in the machine, cause irreparable brain damage. The master…dislikes when that happens. After the implants are done, we continue as we have with you. So, Katherine, what questions do you have?” Katherine shook her head and Menglan sighed. “Come on, girl. You are brighter than that. What questions do you have?”

“Why?” Katherine asked, her tone wooden. “Why do this? This is inefficient. Slaves do not perform as efficiently as free workers, this is a known and proven fact.”

“True.” Menglan said quietly. “But you are not a slave, Katherine. Well… You were when you arrived. You fought the programming. But now… Now you are free and we can finish your in-processing.” Menglan smiled at the machine and nodded. “She will be a half an hour and come out ready to go to work. We will want to keep an eye on her for a day before inducting her completely, just in case of implant rejection or infection. But YOU are ready.” She took a gentle hold of Katherine’s arm and eased her towards the door. “Come…”

Katherine was silent as Menglan led her through the silent ship until they reached a dark room. Katherine did not resist as Menglan led her to a chair, sat her down in it and strapped her in. She did not even blink as Menglan lowered a hood around her head and connected an IV line to her arm.

“Wouldn’t want you getting dehydrated.” Menglan said with a smile as she finished up. “There we go.” She stood back and surveyed her work. “You are really going to enjoy this.” Something changed and the room suddenly came alive with patterns of light and power. A gasp came from Katherine but then she was weeping. Not from pain, but from overwhelming joy.

“It’s all right.” Menglan said quietly as Katherine cried. “Your life WAS pain, but now that is over. Now you serve a greater purpose. We will bring order to the galaxy. We will bring peace.” Menglan’s voice was suddenly coming from many places at once. “Welcome to our new collective mind, sister. You will be great asset to us.”

“I… serve...” Katherine’s voice was quiet. “I serve the collective.” She said as the light played across her body.

“Yes.” Menglan smiled evilly. “Yes, you do.”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.16.2012 , 12:25 PM | #5
“How are you Katherine?” The soft voice had the doctor pausing in her work. She jumped as she realized her ultimate boss was standing right behind her.

“Master, I am sorry, I didn’t see you!” She exclaimed as she jumped to a pose of attention.

“Katherine…” Firdlump said with mild exasperation. “It’s okay. I wanted to check on you. You have been… well… busy.” She had been working around the chrono to optimize the ways to induct new ‘recruits’ into the collective.

“There has to be a way to improve the reception, master.” Katherine said quietly. “What we do now is inefficient, and it hurts the recruits. Programming, implantation then more programming… It just… There HAS to be a better way. There has to. If we can improve the reception, then you can spread the collective faster, maybe to a whole planet at once.”

“I know, I have looked for a better way. I have tried that, Katherine.” Firdlump said sadly. “It didn’t work.”

“May I ask what happened?” Katherine asked softly. She was far cry from the beaten down, broken wreck she had been in the week after she had been ‘acquired’. She no longer wore headgear, her implants took care of all of that now. Her head fur was growing back and her face was almost always smiling now. Her doubt and fear was gone, replaced by drive and purpose. “If I am not being forward or anything…” She stammered slightly, unnerved by his sudden look of interest.

“You are not.” Firdlump sighed. “It just didn’t work. To put it simply, I do not have the processing power.”

“But…” Katherine put her hand to her head.”‘The sheer power that you, we…share… It’s amazing…” Her smile was wide. “I was so afraid. I didn’t understand. We could do so much good, if we could spread the collective faster…”

“I am glad you think so.” Firdlump said with a smile. “But as in all things, there are limits.” He smiled as the Cathar bit her lip and shook his head. “Yes, I do understand your thoughts. We share our thoughts now, Katherine, at lightspeed. No secrets, no hidden lies. No deception, no conflict.”

“No war, no fear, no hate. All the same, one in the collective.” Katherine said with a shiver. “I…I was so stupid…” She was crying now and Firdlump took her hands in his.

“Dear Katherine.” The mass of intelligent machines said kindly. “We are doing what we can. Olandas is working on the ancient Sitolon encryptions. That girl can give me a run for my money in sheer thought power… If she can break the encryptions, then we will have access to the main processors on the Sitolon homeworld. If not… Then we need your work to succeed. How is it going?”

“Well…” Katherine sighed. “It is going.” She said dubiously. “If the subject hadn’t been so badly hurt…” She shook her head. “I understand that she is a copy of a traitor and should not be coddled, but… Breaking a test subject before we can use her is inefficient.”

“Agreed doctor.” Firdlumps aid quietly as he looked through a viewport at a writhing mass on a nearby chamber. “So… How is our newest subject?” Katherine sighed.

“She is not responding to the treatments now. The reprogramming is not taking.” The doctor shook her head. “Nothing I do seems to break her connection to the hivemind. She is receiving help from them somehow. I have no idea how.”

“Cut off her antennae.” Firdlump said softly. “Even if she terminates, we can use her for raw material, as we have the others.”

“Yes master.” She nodded as she strode form the work room, entering the other room. “Min… It’s okay, girl… Easy…”

“Please don’t hurt me no more…” A terrified young female voice called from the mass of silk in the middle of the room. “I can’t help you…”

“Yes you can, Min.” Katherine said with a sad look as she pulled a laser scalpel out of her pouch. “Just relax girl…” A quick slice and she pulled a flap of silk away from a wet silver head with two waving protuberances. Katherine took gentle hold of one of them. Min screamed.

“OW! No…!” Min cried. “No… I will do anything… Anything!” She screamed louder as Katherine sliced the antennae off at the base, her howl of agony becoming a shriek of pain and loss. Katherine calmly cut the other one off and replaced the flap of cocoon. She froze, the cocoon was not moving any more. She shook her head as she looked at the readings. Life signs had terminated.

“It is too traumatic.” Katherine sighed as she called a droid to remove the dead cocoon. “We need to find another way to cut the connection.”

“Agnosa managed it, somehow…” Firdlump’s voice held hate and Katherine’s link to the group mind she was part of now supplied the cause. Another traitor. “If she hadn’t been unclonable, we would not have this problem.” He paused as he realized Katherine was not looking at him. She was studying the screen. “What?”

“I don’t think she died naturally. This is… almost as if she suicided.” Katherine said slowly. “I think the hivemind killed her, to keep us from freeing her.”

“So they will keep doing it.” Firdlump sighed. “That does not help us.”

“Actually…” Katherine’s voice was thoughtful. “Hmmm…” She looked at her readings and her face was creased in thought. “It might…”

“How so?” Fiedlump asked carefully.

“If the subject were isolated from the hivemind somehow, the subject would be pulled to whatever they felt first, correct? Similar to a baby animal imprinting on whatever they see first if their mother is killed or flees.” Katherine was shaking her head slowly as she read the displays. “But I know of nothing that can block telepathic signals.”

“I do.” Firdlump said with a smile. “What do you need, doctor?”

“Time.” Katherine said with a sigh. “This is not going to be quick, or easy. But if you give me the next clone, before anyone hurts her, I can change her and make her think I am her mother.” Firdlump’s eyes went wide at that and Katherine smiled. “And what is the one thing Sitolon respond to better than anything else?”

“Matriarchal influence.” Firdlump said, a slow smile creeping across his face. “I like it, doctor. “

“But…” Katherine shook her head. “For this to work, she has to BELIEVE that I am her mother…” She looked at Firdlump and grimaced. “For THAT to work…”

“Menglan will stay away.” Firdlump said with a nod. “She is busy adding new subjects to the collective anyway.” Katherine blinked and her gaze turned inwards. Then she smiled tenderly. Firdlump nodded with a matching smile. “Indeed, doctor. You have been a bit distracted. I was worried about you.”

“I can do this, master.” Katherine said quietly. “But it will not be easy or quick.”

“We have time, if not an unlimited amount.” Firdlump replied. “I will get teams started building you a nursery. You need to brush up on Sitolon mannerisms. If you are going to play a mama bug, you better do it right.” There was no mistaking the menace in his tone.

“I won’t fail you, master.” Katherine said as she pulled up texts to start studying.
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kalenath
08.16.2012 , 12:26 PM | #6
“Why am I tied up?” The terrified girl asked for the third or fourth time. “What have I done?” The droids that had carried her in and strapped her to the table did not acknowledge her and she was steadily growing more frightened as the droid departed.

“Easy young one.” A soft, kind female voice spoke from nearby. “You have done nothing, The straps are for your safety. You are in no danger, young one. We will not allow you to be in danger.”

“Who are you?” The girl exclaimed. “I can’t see!” She had no way of knowing that a gas was being fed across her face, a soporific and mild analgesic. Or that her memories were being filtered and twisted through a machine that surrounded her head now. All that she knew was that she was drowsy, confused and very frightened.

“That is normal for this stage, Min.” The kind voice continued. “Your optic nerves have detached from your eyes. You are starting your change. Easy…” The soothing voice calmed her slightly.

“Change?” Min asked, even more scared.

“It’s okay, Min.” The temperate voice was calming. “Your body is changing. This is nothing to fear. You will remember…” The voice paused and was cautious now. “What do you remember?”

“I was in tank…” Min said slowly, obviously this female was not going to hurt her. She hoped so anyway. “I feel odd.” The female voice sighed.

“Min, someone has genetically changed your body.” Min stiffened, but the voice soothed her again. “I will not leave you alone. You are not alone. You will not BE alone, Easy, girl. It’s okay. I told my master that you are mine now.”

“Yours?” Min asked, her sightless eyes wandering around. “I wish I could see you…”

“I wish you could see me, Min.” The voice sighed. “Until we know what exactly is happening, you could be hurt by the most innocuous of things. So we both are in quarantine until we are sure you have no ill effects.”

“I am scared…” Min said, tears falling from her sightless eyes. She had woken in a tank. Everything had been hazy. Memories had floated to the surface, she had been a Jedi? Or something. She remembered training, learning, laughing, crying… It was hazy and faded as she focused on it. But then it all cut off. She couldn’t remember how she had gotten here, or even where ‘here’ was. She had woken on a table with someone bending over her. Something had stung her and she had slept again, then the droids had come and carried her here. She relaxed a bit and her uneasiness faded along with her memories of pain and fear.

“I know you are scared, Min.” The gentle voice soothed her and something touched her, a hand? Or… a claw? It felt odd, but it soothed her. “I am here, young one. It is all right. You are not alone.” It stroked her head and then vanished.

“Don’t leave!” Min cried as she strained to hear or see where the presence was. “Please…”

“I won’t leave you to face this alone, Min.” The gentle touch was back. “If I did, you would likely be driven mad. Listen, my daughter…” The voice broke off as Min hissed.

“Your…” Min wasn’t sure she had heard correctly. “...daughter…? But… I remember…No… I don’t remember. I am your daughter?” She shook her head, it was so hazy now. Her memories, if they were that, had faded. Everything was hazy now. “I feel so weird.”

“You are my daughter, Min.” The gentle voice said with a sigh. “Your memories have been tampered with. Someone has been playing with your mind. When I find out who, I will hurt them.” Rage underlaid the voice now.

“What is happening to me?” Min asked, her tone barely one step removed from panic. “What is happening to me?” She demanded.

“Easy Min.” The same gentle voice and touch soothed her. “You are molting, going through your first change. It is scary, being out of control of your body. But I am here. I won’t let anything happen to you. This is going to sting, young one.” A pinch in her arm barely pulled a flinch from the exhausted girl btiu no more and Min was falling now, or floating.

“Promise?” She asked in a scared tone.

“I promise.” The voice said gently. “Sleep daughter. When you wake, everything will be better. You will see.” Min took that gentle voice with her into comforting darkness.

***

When Min woke again she was lying on her side. When she opened her eyes, again, she saw nothing but blackness. Something was around her, constricting her. But it didn’t feel confining. It felt safe. She was very hungry. Hungrier than she had ever remembered being in fact. She was so ravenous that she barely heard her mother’s voice at first. But then another feeling started to dominate. Nausea.

“Min…” Her mother’s voice was kind, but commanding. “You need to eat.”

“I don’t know if I can.” Min replied sadly. “Feel… sick…”

“Easy, daughter.” Something touched her and Min relaxed as the nausea faded. “I will feed you.” The voice said gently. “It will be a bit messy, but you will be all right.” Something moved near her mouth and a tube found her throat. “Swallow.” Her mother commanded.

Min did, ignoring the taste of the material, whatever it was. It tasted kind of like meat, but… odd. As if it was uncooked and still bloody. The tube returned and this time it held water. Cool and clean, she drank gratefully. After a few more times of both food and water, she sighed, she was full.

“I think that is all I can stomach for now.” Min felt faint, but kept herself awake. “Thank you, mother.”

“It is what mothers are for, Min.” A gentle touch soothed her again as the flap over her mouth was replaced. “How do you feel?”

“Sleepy. Odd.” Min said slowly. “Is this how it supposed to be? My head is too small. It doesn’t hurt, but I feel… Weird…”

“You are going to feel weird, Min.” The voice said kindly. “You need to sleep to finish the molting. Go on, child. No one will hurt you.” Min took that kind voice into slumber with her.
My stories in order:
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kalenath
08.16.2012 , 12:27 PM | #7
Katherine watched the readouts as Min slowly fell asleep and then nodded to her companion.

“She will be ready tomorrow morning, master.” Katherine said as she carefully bandaged the wound on the body that lay on the table nearby. The older human woman on the table did not move, as motionless as she had been from the moment she had been carted in. “That was a good idea. She was very hungry and living flesh sated her much faster than the broth did. It is disgusting, but Lohas preferred it that way. It seems our new queen does as well.”

“We will need to be careful.” Firdlump replied evenly. “We don’t want her going mad. While we can duplicate this experiment, our stores of uncorrupted Sitolon DNA are not infinite.”

“The programming seems to be taking.” Katherine said as she scrutinized the readouts again. “She hasn’t asked once why I sound different from her memories. She hasn’t asked why she can’t hear anyone else. And she never realized the claw that touched her was not alive.” She picked up the large puppet claw and smiled. “Ah well… I will keep this subject ready in case ‘my poor daughter’ needs more food.” She wore a self satisfied grin now as she looked at the cocoon.

“She trusts you.” Firdlump replied with a smile. “Good job. But…” He made a face and Katherine nodded.

“Menglan is better at the warping part than I am. She has far more experience and she has done it to Sitolon before.” Katherine nodded again. “I will get Min, or Eqmin, as we will call her from now on, ready. Hard to believe it has been less than a week.”

“Not for her, doctor.” Firdlump said with a shrug. “As far as she is concerned, she has been in that cocoon for half a year. The test subjects are ready whenever you are.”

“Tomorrow.” Katherine said with a wince. “This part cannot be rushed. If we do… She will go mad. Useful for DNA, but nothing more.”

“Fair enough.” Firdlump said as he left the room.

Katherine sighed and started moving equipment into position. She had the gear set up around the head of the cocoon when Menglan entered.

“Are we ready?” Katherine nodded to Menglan’s words and the other doctor started up the machinery. Menglan looked at the readout and smiled. “You have done a good job, Katherine. She is quite pliable like this.”

“She will wake hungry again, sleep again, and then exit the cocoon.” Katherine said, consulting her notes. “We will need to be very careful from this point on, until we can get her into the communion chamber and into the collective. The Sitolon will do everything they can to stop us.”

“Agreed.” Menglan said absently. “We can access her mind fairly easily through the antennae… Were you going to amputate those?” She asked clinically.

“Not if I can help it.” Katherine said, looking at the cocoon with worry on her face. “It is incredibly traumatizing for a Sitolon. I am amazed that Lohas survived it.”

“I don’t know that she did, to tell the truth.” Menglan said sadly. “Poor bug was never quite the same. And now she is lost to us.”

“We won’t lose this one.” Katherine said with a snarl. “We won’t.”

“There.” Menglan said with a smile as she finished her work. “All done. She is ready for implants, but… You want to wait?”

“Yes.” Katherine said with a frown. “If we can get her into the collective as is, she may be able to access the nanite swarm like that.” Menglan’s eyes went wide.

“I never thought of that.” The other doctor scratched her chin in thought. “Can you do that?”

“I THINK so.” Katherine said slightly dubiously. “If not, we can always fall back on the original plan, implant her, pull her into the collective and have her make babies for us. One of them will have the proper DNA and mind for the nanites to accept.”

“Larva, doctor…” Menglan corrected her somewhat absentmindedly. “Not babies. I will tell the master. She will wake hungry shortly.” She looked to the still form on the table and winced slightly. “What a waste.”

“How so?” Katherine said quietly as she picked up a knife, ready to cut chunks for her daughter. At least the woman didn’t scream. Katherine paused and looked at the chart by the woman’s head. Then she shuddered. “Brain dead?”

“Yeah.” Menglan said sourly. “This one threw herself against a bulkhead before we could get her secured. Massive concussive trauma to her head. No point in cloning a vegetable or trying to make her part of us.”

“Well, yeah.” Katherine said sadly. “A waste. But she can still be of use.” She flinched as the cocoon moved. She waved to Menglan and the doctor left without a word. Her voice changed to tender worry. “Eqmin…?” She asked as she cut a quivering lump of flesh off the woman’s arm. “Are you hungry?”

“Starving…” Came the voice from the larva.

“Good.” Katherine smiled as she rolled the bloody lump down the tube towards the larva’s mouth. “It’s mealtime.”

“How long is this going to last?” Eqmin asked after a few rounds of food and water. “This is awful…”

“Not much longer daughter.” Katherine smiled at the displays as Eqmins’s readings edged slowly towards where they wanted them. “Not much longer at all.”
My stories in order:
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kalenath
08.16.2012 , 12:32 PM | #8
It was time. Ecmin was struggling to get out of her cocoon even before she was fully awake. It ripped easily and she stopped, perplexed.

“Mother…” She called, unsure. “Is it supposed to be like this? I thought it was supposed to be harder.”

“It’s okay, Ecmin.” The voice of her mother called encouragingly. “I cannot get back, I have a critical patient I am tending, but I can talk to you over the com.”

“I kind of hoped to see you.” Ecmin said sadly, but continued her struggles. After a few minutes, she was few of most of it and snarled as she forced her body all the way out of its silken prison. “Blast you… Get off!

“That is it, Ecmin. Good job.” Her mother’s voice came from nearby and when she turned, she could see a speaker. “I am sorry, but this girl needs me…”

“It’s okay, mother…Save your patient.. I am not critical, I don’t think…” Ecmin said, breathing heavily. Her exertions had tired her more than she had thought they would. “I feel… odd…”

“Are you feeling bad?” Her mother asked sharply. “Ecmin.” Worry now colored the female’s voice.

“No.” Ecmin said as she focused herself. “Just odd. Weird… like I am not all here…” She staggered a bit and caught herself, checking her carapace for damage. ”I am intact, but… I feel… so strange…”

“Okay…” Her mother’s voice held relief for the moment and Ecmin relaxed. This female wouldn’t let anything happen to her. “I need you to go into the next room and let the doctor there do a full exam. She is human and a bit eccentric, but she is good at what she does. So listen to her, okay?”

“Okay.” Ecmin said as she started for the door that she could see. It hissed open as she came close and, as her mother’s voice had said, a human female was standing beside an odd apparatus. The human smiled at her.

“Ecmin, good to see you. I am doctor Menglan.” The human waited while Eqmin staggered close. “Are you all right? Your mother was worried about you.”

“I feel…strange…” Ecmin said as she staggered to a stop. “I feel… alone…” She shook her head, her antennae waving. “Why can’t I sense my mother?” Fear darkened her voice now. “I can’t sense anything…”

“Well, let’s see what we can do about that, shall we?” Menglan indicated the apparatus and when Ecmin looked, she could see an indentation that seemed to be just her size. “Just sit here and put your head… here…” She indicated a flat portion. “It shouldn’t hurt.”

“Shouldn’t?” Ecmin asked cautiously, but she did as instructed. As she did, the slabs came up, supporting her mass and she relaxed as she sat on them and was able to breathe easily. “What do I do?” She asked when she was ensconced.

“Just sit, young one.” Menglan said with a gentle smile. “Let me see… Hmmm…” She bit her lip in concentration as she looked at her readouts.. Eqmin stared at her, and then froze. The woman’s lip was bit through, but she wasn’t bleeding. Instead, tiny nearly invisible things were moving, repairing the damage. “Eqmin?” Menglan asked kindly.

“What are you?” Ecmin asked, her posture going rigid. “Humans don’t heal that fast…” She was about to jump off the machine when part of it slid down, trapping her in place. “Hey!” She struggled, but she couldn’t move. “What are you doing?” She demanded.

“Opening your eyes.” Menglan said quietly. “This is going to hurt and I am sorry, child.” The human touched something and fire seemed to flow through Ecmin’s entire body. She screamed and screamed as power flowed into her. “Stop fighting child, it will hurt less if you don’t fight.”

Let me go you crazy witch!” Ecmin screamed as she writhed in her bonds. “No!” she screamed as Menglan gently pulled her antennae down and hooked them into places prepared for them. “No…” She was begging now.

“It’s okay.” Menglan said calming, “I am not going to hurt them. I just need a direct line to your brain.”

“No…” Ecmin was crying now. “Don’t… Please…”

“It’s okay, child.” A familiar voice had Eqmin freezing as Katherine stepped into her view. “It’s okay, it will be okay.”

“You are not my mother…” Ecmin sounded so lost and alone. She started to struggle harder, despite the pain it caused her.

“In every way that matters, I am Ecmin.” Katherine sighed sadly as she stepped forward and put a hand on the Sitolon’s immobile lower left arm. “I created you, I bore you and now I am going to birth you into a new life.”

“No…” Ecmin stared at the two females and then her gaze went internal. “You won’t succeed.” Her tone changed, many angry voices suddenly sounding through hers. “You evil witches will not succeed.”

“Menglan! Dose her!” Katherine yelled as she hit controls to seal the room to telepathy, to cut Eqmin off from the hivemind. Eqmin jerked in place as Menglan hit a weak spot in her chitin with a hypo. Then she shuddered and went limp. Katherine shook herself and took a deep breath. “Too close…We have to implant her now.”

“We have the information we need.” Menglan smiled as she nodded at her readouts. “We are ready for the final phase. Ready to accept your daughter into the collective.”

“Let’s do it.” Katherine said with a smiled as she started pulling on surgical gear. A droid brought tools over and the two doctors made to implant the controls into their newest ‘recruit’. “Another sister for us, another life freed.”

***

What can I do…? Ecmin’s mental voice echoed sad and alone. I am all alone… I am lost… They are going to make me do something horrible, I know it. I... am... alone... Suddenly, though, she wasn’t. She was surrounded by concerned minds, worried minds, scared minds. All scared for her. She recoiled, but they pulled her in gently. They eased her pain and fear, taking it into themselves and making it lesser.

You are not alone, Ecmin. A gentle touch had her relaxing. You will never be alone, even if they do make you part of their awfulness, you will never be alone again. You will not face this awfulness alone. We will not let you.

Can you kill me? The young bug begged. I can’t live like this. I don’t want to cause harm, I never did… Ever…

No. The voice was melancholy but the mental touch that held her was gentle and soothing. This one was fully Sitolon, not faked. She could tell now. There was no comparison. I am sorry. There are limits to what we can do. They will be watching you carefully for suicide. I am sorry; we will help as we can.

Who are you? Ecmin asked after a moment of basking in the kindness the others sent her.

My name is Sarai.
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kalenath
08.16.2012 , 12:35 PM | #9
“She is not reacting as expected.” Menglan’s soft voice was neutral. “She is…” She paused as Katherine grimaced.

“Unhappy.” Katherine shook her head. “She shouldn’t be. She has a place among us, a purpose. She is not alone and she is free. We can see her every thought, feel her every feeling, but…” Katherine’s face was sad now. “Is it…? She cannot see and feel us properly. Did I miss something? Mess something up?”

“Not that I can find.” Menglan said just as sadly. “Every scan is in normal ranges. We have had people who joined us who were continually sad no matter our attempts. They…” She shook her head with a frown. “They generally did not last long.”

“We can’t lose her.” Katherine said hastily. “She is far too important. More than that, she is just a child. Scared and feeling alone, even among us.”

“I know. The antidepressants we have prescribed HAVE worked, but she is still…” Menglan shrugged and sighed. “Will you talk to her? Maybe she will talk to you if you try harder.”

“Maybe.” Katherine said dubiously. “I don’t think so. She just sits there, every time I talk to her, she just sits there unless I order her to do something. I… I don’t like doing that, Menglan, I don’t. She feels betrayed. She knows why we did what we did, but she still feels betrayed.” Menglan shook her head and Katherine grimaced again. “I know, we freed her the only way we could, but…” She stared at the display, as if trying to see through the readouts to something behind them.

“But?” Menglan prompted gently. “But what, Katherine?”

“I don’t know.” Katherine admitted. “Her first eggs will be ready to be delivered tomorrow. She should be ecstatic. But she is just sad. I am missing something… I know I am missing something…” She shook her head. “Something important.”

“Is it something we can help with?” Menglan asked kindly. “We can parse your memories faster that you can.”

“Yeah.” Katherine said slowly. “I am afraid that if we do not figure this out we will lose her. I don’t want to lose our sister. Not now.”

“Okay, take a seat.” Menglan smiled as she and Katherine sat next to one another. “Look at the wall, focus on one rivet, just that one rivet…” Her hands found Katherine’s and the two women sat for several minutes in silence. Finally Menglan gave a small cry. “Oh my god!” Menglan exclaimed as she came out of the trance. “She is acting like that Bladeborn you met, what was her name? The one who was going to suicide?”

“Atara… They got to Ecmin somehow!” Katherine’s face her horror. “Somehow they got to her, despite our precautions. They must have…She is passive now. So passive she will just sit there and die! Can you…?”

“I don’t know…” Menglan admitted. “That deep… We never felt them at all. We need to take this to the master. He will know what to do.” She rose and helped Katherine rise. Then both women left the room, worried.

***

“You think she is suicidal?” Firdlump asked slowly, his eyes flicking form Menglan to Katherine. “We have detected no signs. Just depression, and the drugs are helping with that.” Menglan nodded to Katherine and the Cathar spoke evenly.

“They are helping her, they are not curing her.” Katherine took a deep breath and then spoke carefully. “She is not getting any better. Someone outside of us may be interfering. Can you access her mind, block them out?”

“If you two can’t detect their access point, then no.” Firdlump said with a sigh. “Wipe her mind, sure. I taught Ravishaw how to do that. But that would cause all kinds of problems in the long term. We need her cognizant and capable to tend her young. You ask if I can block part of her mind from external influences?” He paused and thought hard before sighing. “No. What if we amputate her sensory organs?” Katherine bit her lip and Menglan shook her head.

“We don’t know if that is how they contacted her or not. If we do that, she will be alone in her mind, we won’t be able to help her if they DO attack.” Menglan shrugged helplessly. “And there is no guarantee that she would survive having her antennae removed. It is incredibly traumatic for them.”

“Master…” Another voce spoke up from nearby and all three turned to see a small human female come out from under a panel. Her face was streaked with soot and worry. “The junction is fixed, master. I couldn’t help but overhear...”

“This concerns us all, Olandas.” Firdlump said, dismissing her worries. “If we lose Ecmin, we will be set back quite a bit, possibly years. But even more important, she is one of us. We lose her and we are all diminished.”

“I don’t know her except through the collective,…” The young and currently strawberry haired tech said with a frown. “But this sounds almost like a technical problem. Hostile transmissions. Can we use some kind of telepathic electronic counter measures? Can we jam their transmissions?” Katherine and Menglan looked at Firdlump who pursed his lips in thought.

“Maybe.” He admitted. “But we need to know HOW they are talking to her. She won’t talk to you or Katherine, will she, Doctor Menglan?”

“She is compliant, obeys all instructions.” Menglan admitted. “But she never talks. Every time we try and start a conversation, she ignores us. Mind to mind or verbal, she ignores us.”

“Maybe she will talk to me.” Olandas said slowly. All three others looked at her and she flushed. “Look, I know I was a pain. I know I fought. But… I was scared until you showed me the truth. So is she, she just needs another viewpoint. Maybe a shoulder to cry on?”

“We all are afraid of change, Olandas.” Firdlump said quietly, thinking. “Every one of us rails against it. Would you be willing? You know how strong she is. We could not guarantee your safety.”

“My sister is in pain.” Olandas said sadly. “How can I not help?”
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kalenath
08.16.2012 , 12:55 PM | #10
She was scared out of her mind. Brave words to the contrary, she knew exactly how large and strong Ecmin was. Add to that the fact that Olandas was a tech, not a combat specialist, and she was well entitled to bit of fear. A feeling of comfort came to her from the collective as she opened the hatch to Ecmin’s quarters. The large bug did not move from her spot. According to Katherine, she had not moved from that spot since yesterday. Ecmin looked at her and then looked away. Somehow, Olandas could tell the bug was tired and sad. Compassion flooded through Olandas as she stepped forward.

“Ecmin?” The tech said gently. “My name is Olandas. I would like to talk to you, if you don’t mind.” The bug ignored her. She came fully into the chamber and the door clicked shut behind her. “Why are you so sad?” Olandas asked gently. The bug turned her head away from the slight human, ignoring her. Olandas shook her head. “Hey, I am here and I am not leaving until you talk to me.”

A sound like a sniff came from the bug, but nothing more. Olandas sat down on a clean piece of floor and settled in to wait.

It was a long and boring day. The only excitement that Olandas had was when the food shaft opened and a small caged animal appeared. It started gibbering in fear. But Ecmin ignored that as well. Olandas sighed deeply. If she didn’t eat…

“Look, Ecmin, I know you are distressed.” The tech said gently. “But you have to eat. You are eating for many now, remember?” The bug ignored her again. “Hey I am talking to you!” Olandas said, starting to get upset. “At least do me the courtesy of paying attention!” The bug ignored her and Olandas started to get angry.

“I am here, trying to help.” Olandas said, jumping to her feet and putting her hands on her hips. “Show me some courtesy for that at least!” She froze in place as Ecmin’s head turned to face her. The bug’s regard was cold and so was her voice when she spoke.

“No, slave.” Ecmin’s voice was harsh. “You are trying to make me a monster.”

“What?” Olandas was dumbfounded. Part of her was elated that the bug had finally spoken to her, but what she had said… “That doesn’t make any sense. Come on, talk to me!” Olandas said with snarl.

“Why?” Ecmin asked sadly. “What is the point? Anything I tell you, you will tell those lying witches and they will use it to warp me and my children. Turn us into the Dark Cousins. So no. Go away.” She sank onto her haunches again and ignored the tech’s sputters.

“Why would we turn you into them…?” Olandas was totally baffled. The Dark Cousins had been an offshoot of the Sitolon race that had been driven mad by a vengeance crazed Jedi many centuries before. Now all of them were gone, and good riddance. “Why the hell would we do that? Ecmin, you are important to us. You are part of us. You are sad, I want to help.”

“No.” Ecmin’s voice could have peeled paint from ten meters away now. “You want to use my children for whatever horrid fate you scum have planned. Fine, I can’t stop you. Go ahead, order me to do whatever the hell you want. I know you want to. I can’t disobey. Every time they order me to eat, I cannot disobey.” Revulsion colored her words now.

“Whoa… Wait a moment.” Olandas held both hands up in a warding gesture. “You don’t want to eat? Ecmin, you HAVE to eat or you and your children will DIE. You children need the sustenance.” She froze as Ecmin’s face turned to her and sheer rage poured from the bug. “Ecmin…?”

“How would you feel?” Ecmin asked angrily. “If they force fed you live human? Hmmm? How would you feel?” The bug screamed at her, and took a step. Olandas retreated until she was backed up against the wall.

“What…?” Olandas stammered, unsure. “What do you mean?”

“You think I don’t know?” The bug’s voice held bottomless rage and horror now. “You think I couldn’t taste it? Remember it? You fed live human to me in my cocoon!” Olandas’ eyes went wide in horror at that. “How am I supposed to react? I was human” She made a retching sound now. “I… I was…” The bug slumped and curled up on the floor, making sobbing noises. “Sitolon do not eat live meat! And human at that… You monsters… You evil, evil monsters…”

“I didn’t know…” Olandas felt her own horror echo through her into the collective. Everyone was horrified now. “Oh Ecmin…. We didn’t know…We thought…”

“I don’t care.” Ecmin said harshly. “I Will. Not. Eat. Live. Meat. Tell your master and his pet witches that. I am sure they have all kinds of other tortures planned for me. All kinds of horrors for me and my children. I can’t stop them, but someone will. May it be soon. Get out!” Her voice could have etched stone now.

“Ecmin…” Olandas’ felt tears start to fall. “We didn’t know.”

“Get… Out.” Ecmin snarled at her. “I want to rend you into very small pieces. I want to give you to the doctors all chopped up nicely, maybe with a good salad on the side. Get out.”

“No.” Olandas said, scrubbing her face with her hands. “I am sorry. Oh my god, I am sorry… We don’t know… We are sorry. Oh my god, we are sorry…” She didn’t need to check, the collective had checked and found out that yes, Katherine had served the bug pieces of a live human. Katherine was also horrified at finding out that her information was wrong. Her horror and concern were easy to sense. Olandas shook her head. “Katherine is sorry. She made a mistake.”

“Did she?” Ecmin asked nastily. “Or was it an experiment to see if raw human tastes like nerf? It doesn't!” The harsh words almost covered up the pain in her voice. Almost.

“She didn’t know, Ecmin.” Olandas said quietly, calming herself. “She acted on inaccurate information. Lohas preferred her meat live.”

“I am not Lohas.” Ecmin snarled. “And if you do not leave, right now, I am going to kill you and leave you for them to try and resurrect. Might be hard to do in as many pieces as I want to leave you.” She rose and stalked towards the tech.

“If you have to kill me…” Olandas said, holding her ground. “…to understand that we messed up and are sorry…” She looked up into the six eyes of the bug and did not flinch as Ecmin’s claw went back to strike. “Then do it.” She did not flinch as the claw came down, but... It didn’t hit her. It missed her by less than ten centimeters and hit the floor beside her with a crash. Ecmin collapsed in a keening heap. “I am sorry. Ecmin…” Olandas said, greatly daring to reach out and touch the sobbing bug. “We are sorry…” The apology echoed through the collective from Firdlump on down.

“Don’t touch me…” Ecmin asked in a dazed voice, jerking away, recoiling slightly. “I…”

“No.” Olandas threw her arms around the bug and sobbed with her. “You are my sister…” She buried her head in the oddly soft chitin and cried. “I don’t know if we can make this okay or not, but let us try… Please…”

“Get away from me.” Ecmin said slowly, her tone hardening. “Now.”

“Ecmin… please…” Olandas said slowly, not moving. “I want to help.”

“You can help by getting away from me.” Ecmin’s voice was soft but not less fervent. Olandas did not move as the bug rose and backed off. “I don’t have choice but to serve you scum after what you did to me, but I don’t have to like it.”

“Ecmin, I am not your enemy…” Olandas pleaded. She had been so close to making a breakthrough. A warning came through the collective and she shook her head. “Ecmin, please…”

“No.” Ecmin said harshly. “You are a slave and so am I. Unwilling, unwanting, and very upset.” She snarled quietly. “I can’t kill you, even though I so want to.” Olandas froze. What the…? Had the bug missed on purpose? If that blow had connected, she would have been cut in half.

“Look…” Olandas said slowly. “I understand your feelings, your fear. I was scared myself. But it isn’t bad. It isn’t awful. We are part of something wonderful, something greater than ourselves.”

“My fear?” Ecmin asked sourly. “I am not afraid, you poor slave. Your so benevolent master is a lousy lying scum. And that is all I am saying to you.” She sat back down in the middle of the room and ignored every attempt that Olandas made to restart the conversation. Eventually, the tech walked to the door and hit it three times, it opened and she left the room dejected.
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