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(L,F&E 97) Grief is Pain Leaving the Mind

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Fan Fiction
(L,F&E 97) Grief is Pain Leaving the Mind

kalenath's Avatar

08.18.2012 , 06:49 AM | #1
She didn't want to wake up. She was comfortable as she was. But whoever was poking her was relentless. She was lying on something comfortable, but she hurt. She was warm, but she felt cold. She was clean and dry, but felt dirty and grimy. The same tormenter prodded hear again.

"G'way..." Istara Sharlina Andal slurred. "Leave'm alone..."

"Shar...?" The voice of Ona, the healer of the Bladeborn, was worried. "Come on Shar, come, wake up... I know you feel weird but you have to wake up. Please, Shar, you have to wake up."

"No." Istara said flatly as she rolled over, er, she tried to. "What the...?" She demanded as she came awake. She found herself in medical ward. One she recognized. The Stormhawk hadn't been her home for long, but she had seen the inside if it's medical bays far too often. She was strapped to the bed! "What the hell? Ona?" Istara snapped.

"Istara..." The healer sat nearby, her face a mask of tears. "Oh Istara... You are finally lucid. Do you know where you are?"

"A bed. What the, Ona?" Istara paused and shook her head. "Dammit Firdlump, not again. Get out of my head!" She snapped.

"Istara...Shar..." Ona said slowly. "You were rescued. It isn't a trick, although I don't expect you to believe me after what you went through. Just the residue is horrifying enough. The scarring..." The Bothan was crying now. "I am sorry Shar, I have done what I can..."

"You put a Sitolon egg in me, you son of a barve!" Istara snapped, trying the restraints again. Odd. They were not the same kind as she had been under the last time she had woke in a medical ward, more gentle, more to keep her from moving than to keep her from escaping. Not that they didn't work for that... She paused, something was different. She could feel Ashla again and Ona's sense in the pervading energy field was grief stricken. "I... What?" She asked, confused. "This is..."

"This is real, Shar." Ona said sadly. Her hand coming down to stroke Istara's. "I don't blame you for doubting. But, did you really think we would just leave you in his clutches?" Ona chided, her face still a mask of pain and grief. "We set up a rescue."

"I..." Istara felt her own eyes start to burn. This WAS real. No matter how good Firdlump's illusions had been, they had been illusions. "Ona...I..."

"It's okay, Shar." Ona said gently. "It's okay. It is going to be okay. Your child lives. They put it in Nia of all people. Will is... somewhat upset." The healer said dubiously.

"I bet." Istara said slowly, confused. "He... Firdlump said they did that. Why? They couldn't have cared less about any life, let alone an unborn one. Why?" She asked again.

"We have been interrogating Nia. She has been cooperating. Her dad did something, something that shocked her right out of that collective. Probably only temporary, but who knows. According to her, apparently, the enslaved Sitolon queen demanded it." Ona said with a frown. "Why? I have no idea."

"Ecmin. She was..." Istara shook her head slowly. "She tried to be gentle. She acted kind. She was scared, so..." Istara broke off and her eyes went wide. "Oh my god! Jina!" She screamed and was crying now. "I killed Jina! That was Jina in the armor, whose gun I took... I killed her..."

"Istara, it is not your fault." Ona hurried to say, her hand rubbing Istara's as it balled up into a fist. "Please relax. Please?" Warmth spread from Ona's fingers and soothed Istara's tight nerves. Against her will she found herself relaxing. "Easy battle sister...Don't leave us."

"Ona..." Istara gasped. "I... I can't... I have to...atone..."

"You are not thinking clearly, Istara." Ona said gently. "What you killed wasn't Jina. It was what was left of her. You heard what they did to her. Istara, it is not your fault."

"Fate of the Third..." Istara said sadly. "Nana was right. And that means I am going to suicide."

"No you are not." Ona said sternly. "Until and unless you can prove to me that you are thinking clearly, I am not going to let you out of that bed. I put catheters in, and I will not let you starve yourself." She said, her gaze turning harsh. "We need you, now more than ever." Istara paused in her struggles, her expression wary.

"Who did we lose? You said 'a rescue'." Istara said slowly. "I expected Mama to be here... to tell the truth... You shouldn't be. Your empathy will hurt you... And... I could break these Ona, I could hurt you..."

"I know." Ona said sadly. "But it is my duty now. Mama didn't make it."

"What?" Istara felt faint. "No..." She shook herself and tears were falling in sheets. "No... No... No... First Sharlina, now Mama...? No... I can't take it... Ona, I can't..."

"What?" Ona asked as she soothed the restrained woman as best she could. "Istara, you are drugged still. You have residue of Sitolon nectar in your system. It's one of the strongest naturally occurring narcotics that we know of. You are going to be loopy for a while until it excretes from your system." The healer smiled a bit sadly. "I wouldn't blame the crazy part of your personality if she decided to step back." Istara had very few secrets from Ona.

"You don't understand." Istara said flatly. "I woke up, in that place... Implanted..." She paused, her eyes scared. Ona hastened to reassure her.

"We are taking you to Nolikas, Shar." The Bothan said gently. "That Jedi healer is good, she can get them out. We have disabled them. Lohas wanted to try and remove them, but we don't dare. Your system is so messed up, if we introduce any new nanites into it..."

"I might explode." Istara said flatly. She shook her head. "I never did understand why that might happen, but it's enough to know that it might."

"A severe antagonistic reaction. "Ona said softly. "They really don't like what is going on in your body."

"Whatever." Istara said sadly. "I just... Ona... I can't sense her at all. Always before she was there, if muted in the back of my mind. Now she isn't. They took Sharlina way from me. They killed her!"
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

08.18.2012 , 07:01 AM | #2
Nia didn't move. Not that she could. Not content to strip her of the Force, blindfold and gag her, her captors had strapped her body thoroughly, suspended her in midair in some kind of anti-gravity harness, and she could hear the hum of energy nearby. Probably a force cage if she wasn't mistaken. She was not going anywhere. That gave her plenty of time to think. To rail, to scream at herself.

You idiot girl! Nia berated herself. Of all the stupid... Mom was right. Sharra was right. You are just stupid Nia... Couldn't see past the haze in your mind long enough to see what you were doing. Couldn't see the consequences... You deserve whatever Sharra and Will do to you...

Nia. The voice was calm, gentle and in her head! It's not your fault.

No! Nia screamed in her head and tried to scream aloud, but couldn't through her bindings. No! She begged. Not again!

I won't hurt you Nia. The female voice said gently. You are free.

No I am not. Nia said sadly. I will never be free. I can feel him scrabbling at the edges of my mind, trying to get in. I can't hold him out forever. Just take Istara's kid out of me and kill me! The implants are bad enough! She had been so proud when Menglan had implanted her again, much more gently than the first time. Looking back now, she could feel nothing but revulsion. She had given up her free will gladly, happily even.

Nia... The voice soothed. It's okay. Easy... He is busy and will be for a while. Will really did a number on that collective of his. Remind me not to tick him off anytime soon.

It... Nia hissed in memory. It hurt...I was unconscious and it still hurt like hell.

I know, Nia. The voice consoled her. I am sorry for what you endured. I am so sorry for what has happened, what you were forced to do.

I... Nia stammered in her mind. I killed Hawkir. He saved my life and I killed him... How many others died when I let the nanites that were in me loose? How many?

Nia, it wasn't you. The female voice said softly. It was Firdlump, he was controlling your mind, your senses, your perceptions, everything. He used you, Nia. Just like he has used everything he has. Mercilessly.

I just want this to end. Nia said plaintively. I am sick of this. I am so sick of this. I never wanted to be a warrior. I never wanted to be powerful. I wanted to be a healer. Like my mom...

I know, Nia. The female voice was sad now. I know the feeling. But it is never about what we want. It is always about what is needed. You told the Bladeborn everything.

I... What? Nia asked, confused. Her recent memory was all hazy, confused. Painful at times, and loud at times, but never clear. Pain? Oh my god! Istara's child!

Be at ease, Nia. The voice continued. They took great care not to harm the fetus.

I... Nia slumped a bit. I am glad. After so many horrors, so much stupidity on my part... I couldn't handle causing the death of an unborn child. I don't want to fight any more!

I am sorry Nia. The voice sighed and then turned stern. You do not have a choice. Not now. Events are proceeding.

How many more innocents must I kill? Nia screamed in her mind. How many?

One. The voice said gently. Only one Nia. And then, this will be done.

No. Nia said flatly. I won't kill again. Not for Firdlump, not for anyone! I won't!

You won't have a choice Nia. The voice was very sad now. She is not going to leave you any choice. But she will thank you for it.

I won't hurt Istara again! Nia somehow managed to scream even louder A muffled grunt came from her lips as well as she fought her restraints. I won't

"What the...?" A startled voice sounded nearby.

"Dose her! NOW!" A sharp command came and Nia felt the world start to slip away.

It won't be Istara, Nia. The voice said sadly. You will wish it was. We will talk again. Then Nia was asleep.


Nia awoke to a heated argument. She was strapped to a table, she could feel things her mind said were medical in nature around, on and in her. When she opened her eyes, she saw only blackness. She couldn't feel the Force. But the irate voice nearby stopped her musing.

"Okay, why are you saying I can't have her after you are done?" Sharra Kalenath's voice was cool, but clear. It was also clear that she was mad.

"Matriarch Sharra..." A voice Nia halfway remembered. "You are angry, we do not blame you. But she is needed. The prophecy..." A snarl had the voice pausing.

"The prophecy doesn't say anything about her being whole." Sharra snapped. "Get out of my way, Grun'das."

"Please..." The voice Nia recognized now as the black sitolon who had accosted her in the hangar bay was pleading. "Please, Mistress Sharra, do not do this."

"No." Nia was surprised that she could talk and that she could speak clearly. She spoke quickly into the sudden silence her word had created. "I deserve anything she can do. Anything she can and will do and more. I betrayed you all. I took Istara... I hurt Istara... I killed Hawkir and others. I hurt...Da- Will..." She cut herself off, her dad cast her out. "Hurt me as you will, I deserve it and more. Just don't hurt the child, Sharra." She begged.

A resounding silence fell. Nia waited. And waited. Then something touched her and she screamed before she realized it was a gentle touch.

"Easy, girl. I won't hurt you." Nia wasn't sure if she knew the voice or not. " Sharra is gone, Nia."

"Ah..." Nia complained. "I just want this to end... I am sick of this..."

"Oh, not you too?" The voice snapped. "Sheesh! Yeah right, like I am going to let you or Shar suicide? Both you are idiots!"

"I have acted it." Nia said sadly. "So... Where do I know you from?" She asked quietly.

"We only met once in the last few years, Nia. You travelled and wound up in my care." A gentle hand traced her brow. "Ah girl... So far from Kuria and the simple life, huh?" Nia stiffened, she did know this being.

"Ona?" Nia asked, not sure at all. "Is that really you?" She remembered the gentle Bothan from Kuria. She had arrived and Nia's mother had worked hard to heal her after something horrible had happened to the young Bladeborn. Nia had spent time helping out in the clinic, sat with the hurt Bothan a few times. Nia wasn't sure what had happened to the black furred female, her mom sort of defined closemouthed. But she did know that the Bothan had received mechanical legs. "We... I... That was you I met on the ship? Whenever it was?"

"You were very out of it, Nia." The gentle hand traced her brow again. "You just appeared in the middle of our assembly hall and collapsed. You scared me. I thought you were dead when I got to you."

"Part of me wishes I had been." Nia said sadly. "So... What now?"

"Now... We have to find out some things." Ona said sadly. "We have to experiment." Nia tensed but then relaxed. "We need to know how Firdlump got the nanites into you. It shouldn't have worked."

"Ona... At least take the baby out." She could feel the oddness in her belly. It was still there. "Give Istara her kid back."

"We can't." Was Ona crying?

"What?" Nia demanded, then paused. Who was she to complain about anything? "Why? Ona?" She asked, dazed.

"Istara is actively suicidal." Ona said sadly. "I can't put a child in her, not knowing that she is going to keep trying. We have an idea and we are on our way to try it, but... Until then..."

"Ona no..." Nia breathed horrified. "Don't..."

"I will not harm you or Istara's child, Nia Korr." A new voice sounded nearby. It sounded young, female and confident. "But we need to know. I am Lohas. My children will be gentle. We need to find out how he subverted you to prevent it from happening again."

"I hope something good can come of this." Nia paused. "Wait... What about another surrogate?"

"It took us five months to find a surrogate who matched all the criteria last time. Kirina is busy now. She offered, but we are nowhere near her location." Ona said sadly. "And we did not find Kirina. I wish... I wish I could talk to Sarai. She would know what to do."

"You are doing fine, Ona. Or should I say, Mama Dog?" Lohas said with humor in her voice. "It was a joke!" The other female said quickly.

"Do not ever repeat that around any of my kin, Lohas." Ona said sternly. "We only had one Mama. I am not kidding. Okay, Nia...Here we go. Lohas?" Nia felt something hard touch her on the arm and then... She was floating away on a haze of bliss. Familiar bliss. Nia stiffened. It felt like...

"No!" Nia screamed and writhed, trying to get away from the touch. The feeling faded and Ona's voice was harsh with shock.

"Nia?" Ona asked as a furred hand touched her. "What?"

"The collective..." Nia babbled out. "That felt like the collective! Oh god no... No not again... Please... No..." She was struggling in her bonds and barely felt the sting that sent her into slumber.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

08.18.2012 , 07:05 AM | #3
<Two days later>

A knock came on the door, almost a hesitant one. A black furred form in a green cloak was seen outside the door, shifting from foot to foot as if uncomfortable. The sense in the Force was... scared?

"Yes?" a voice asked in the mind though the door stayed shut and no one was around.

"I..." The female Bothan shook herself and spoke slowly. "I need to speak to a man named Delmon. It is... important. It has to do with a girl named Issy..." She hoped that would get through. Shar had been SO closemouthed about things. At least the other Bladeborn involved had made full reports.

The door opened some showing an older gentleman with a worried look. "Problems with Istara?"

"Yes." The Bothan nodded. "Yes, you could say that..." The Bothan said as she lowered her hood. Her face fur showed tracks of tears. "May I come in? I don’t want to draw too much attention to you... and… anyone who may be with you..."

Riordan frowned, giving a nod and gesturing for the bothan to come in. "Interesting for you to seek me out of all the folks in the galaxy."

"I came because I have to." Ona nodded her thanks as she entered and took off her cloak.. "Of all the people in the galaxy, you may be the only one who can help. Well, you or Setsuna... if she is..." Ona's eyes glistened. "No one would tell me. Is she...?" Ona hesitated, worried.

Riordan's eyes widened in surprise before giving a comforting smile. "She is alright. We're not entirely sure what happened but we theorize that survival instincts kicked in at the last second and temporarily disconnected Setie from the Force. She just needs time to recover from everything and she'll be fine. Though we don't know if she'll be as strong in the Force as she was before. That might be a blessing to her though..."

"Thank the Maker..." Ona said, her posture easing from pure worry. "No one would tell me..." She complained half whimsically. “How are you?"

"Still adjusting to the whole concept of having a daughter...much less a fully grown one that has been through much. The physically wounds of mine are mostly mended but I think I'll leave the adventuring and combat to younger sprigs than me from now on."

"I know the feeling..." Ona said with a wince. "I got... Well... It wasn’t my idea to get new legs... And I have three children now... Adopted, but still..." She patted her closest flesh and blood leg. "I had forgotten how much cramps hurt when you haven't used the muscles in a while... Anyway..." Ona sighed. "Istara's in trouble. I need your help, if you can."

"I'm assuming by trouble you don't mean just a medical condition or a nasty gash."

"I wish it were that simple." Ona said as she hung her cloak. "She was captured by our enemies... Eh... I don't know how much you saw while you and she were out and about, looking for the cure, but... You know she had...basically two women inside her head?"

"That's debatable but something along those lines yes."

"The people who captured her..." Ona could not keep the hate out of her voice but she managed to dampen it a bit and then she smoothed her features again. "They excel at brainwashing people. They did it to her, but... It didn't quite work..."

"Most brainwashing only suppresses the real personality of a person and puts it under another one that fits the washer's desires

"Most, yeah..." Ona said with a sigh. "What they did to her...was more..." She shook her head and her face was sick. "She is an emotional wreck right now, and what is worse... She tried to escape while she was a prisoner -not that I expect her to go quietly- And in doing so, she killed a friend. A woman who the bad guys had brainwashed into serving them. It is tearing her apart."

"Rough times all around. She's not handling it well I take it?"

"She has attempted suicide four times in the last week." Ona said softly, her face working. "No, she is not taking it well. I have tried everything I know, everyone else has tried... By the Maker, I wish Mama Lizard were here... She would know what to do..."

Riordan rose a brow, looking puzzled for a moment before shaking his head and deciding not to ask exactly who said Mama was. "What do you need then?"

"I think she will listen to you or Setsuna." Ona said softly. "I don't want to lose my sword sister, my friend. And I am. Unless you can help, I fear she will find a way to end her life despite our caution and care." Tears were glistening in her eyes, but none were falling. "I have no right to ask this of you or Setsuna. Especially Setsuna after what the Bladeborn did to her... But I... I beg you to help my battle sister... To help Istara..."

"Of course we'll...or at least I, will help," someone piped up verbally behind Ona. "Just because one particular member of your Order was being an idiot doesn't mean you're all stupid after all." Setie grinned from behind Ona before sticking her tongue out a bit. While it was easy to see scars and bandages here and there the younger woman looked better than she had in a long time.

"Sestuna..." Ona's eyes went wide. "I..." Suddenly she was crying. "I am sorry... I am so sorry... I wanted to help. I just wanted to help... And everything turned out bad..."

"Oh hush now, it wasn't your fault Ona. I know you tried, I'm not angry over it. Consider it just a pot hole I had to get over to keep trucking down the road."

"You are still the strongest person I have ever met, Setsuna Andal." Ona said as she scrubbed her face. "Bar none."

Riordan grinned a bit as Setie shook her head. "She still doesn't do compliments."

"Some things don't change." Ona said with a sad smile. "But you do look better, Setsuna... I am glad. I wish I could have helped."

"Regrets will just eat you alive until there's nothing left Ona," Setie pointed out as she took a nearby seat.

"True." Ona said with a smile. "You do look good. You have been eating better for one thing." She sighed. "I think Istara will listen to you. She uses that name now, just that one. We are beating our heads against the wall of her stubbornness. But you have a way of finding ways around walls. I think you can help her."

Riordan chuckled in their minds as he grinned. "That seems to be a family trait..."

"And one that I think can help Istara." Ona said quietly. "Can you come? Your safety is guaranteed. We can get you to her and back and no one will bother you."

Setie looked at Riordan who looked back. The pair silent but Rio moved on occasion, making one think he was saying something. Setie frowned then and seemed to think before looking at Ona. "As long as my father can come to I'll do what I can to help."

Ona nodded slowly. "Jedi Delmon, you are welcome as well. Perhaps you can help get through to Istara. But if not, we owe you a great debt. In helping stop the plague, you helped our sister Trisskar and many, many others. Almost as great as the one we owe Setsuna. The Bladeborn pay our debts."
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

08.18.2012 , 07:09 AM | #4
Istara lay as she had for some time. They didn't drug her, but they wouldn't undo the restraints that held her either. This wasn't right. She wanted to die. It was right that she die. They wouldn't let her. Istara paused in her musings as the door opened and she smiled as Ona came in. Her smile was wan though.

"You can't hold me Ona. Not forever." She said in a tired voice. "You know that."

"I don't have to, Shar." Ona said with a nod. "Someone else wants to talk to you." Ona nodded to the door and Istara looked, her expression blank. So many people had talked to her recently, some she had wanted to see, some she had not. Zinoa in particular had seemed... hurt by Istara's choice. She was not expecting...

Setie poked her head in curiously, looking about before giving Shar a small smile. "One of these days we'll have to try avoiding clinics there Shar. We always seem to end up in them."

"Ah..." Istara froze in place. "Setie? I..." Suddenly she started crying. "No... I didn't want it to be like this!"

"Well, what did you think it would end up like?" Setie asked as she stepped in fully. "From what I've heard you've been very trying and stubborn. That usually ends up with you in the clinic."

"I wanted to apologize... I had to... I " Istara shook her head, the only part of her she could move. "I wanted to make it better for you and I made things worse. I tried, Setie... I tried..."

"Setsuna..." Ona leaned close to Setie and spoke quietly. "She is still a little loopy, the drug they gave her was incredibly strong. It's taken this long for her to be this clear." Ona sighed. "You want me to leave? This is your time, not mine."

"Yes please. Thank you Ona," Setie said with another smile and a friendly squeeze to the Bothan's shoulder. She stepped over with a sigh then and sat in a chair looking at Istara. "If you tried your best why are you apologizing for it Shar?" Ona smiled, nodded and left.

"So stupid." Istara just hung her head and tears were falling. "I should have known better. Sure, take you to insanely loyal servants of the Empire, when the empire wanted you as a guinea nerf? How stupid could I have been?" Istara shook her head. "I am sorry, Setie...I am so sorry..."

"I accept your apology, even though it isn't needed," Setie said calmly as she reached out to hold Shar's hand. "You did what you thought was right and what you could considering the circumstances. We always kick ourselves for the past."

Istara didn't seem as if she heard Setie. "I... I just wanted to make something good, you know." She slumped in her bonds. "All my life... I wanted to be the best. The best warrior, the best Bladeborn. Then I wanted to be the best big sister... And I hurt you..." She was sobbing now. "I hurt you so bad. I betrayed you... I do not deserve..."

"Don't even go there Shar. I've been in that black pit if you'll recall," Setie pointed out. "Now...let's look at this situation shall we? Just hush a moment and let me see if I remember everything correctly."

"I..." Istara started to speak and then wisely shut up.

Setie eyed her sister clinically, doing her best to track how focused Shar was. If to drugged she might not even remember the conversation and that certainly would not do. She seemed mostly lucid but people varied on matters. "How's the head? Going to be able to stay here for story time or will you be floating away?"

"It's... fading." Istara said slowly. "Been a few days since I lost track completely. I may go a bit distant, but I won't make you slap me. And I can't take you to the floor you while I am restrained like this." She actually grinned at that. The memory of the last time Setie has slapped her coming to the fore.

Setie kept her smile though her eyes turned sad at the reminder of Marek. "Well, I certainly hope I don't have to slap you anymore. I've actually managed to get some muscle on me so that does not seem a good idea, I might actually bruise you or something this time," she commented though she certainly knew better. "I suppose regular meals and work outs can put weight on a person, who knew!"

"Yeah." Istara said with a smile. "Regular diet and exercise helps. You look good, Setie."

Setie looked down at her plain brown robes, just like any other Jedi's. "Well...all things considered I have to agree. You however look terrible. I doubt just my leaving in a fit did this to you. That's what it was to stop," Setie said as she held up a hand. "Yes you bringing me here set things off, but in hindsight what could you have done? We were both outcasts of the Empire with prices on our heads because of things with Zelkin. Would you have taken me to the Republic Shar? To the Jedi? You cared for neither yourself and trusted them less. You took me to those that you knew of that could help me and that you trusted. It was you that was wronged far more than myself."

"I saw Mom." Istara said sadly. "She and I... We talked... I... I forgave her, Setie. It wasn't her fault, what happened between me and her. It wasn't mine either, although it took awhile for me to realize that. I should have taken you to the Jedi. But as you say, hindsight is clearer." She slumped a bit and then shrugged.

"Honestly, I am not sure I would have gone if you had told me you wanted to do that. I was a very scared person Shar. I did not know Jedi and the unknown always brings fear. I am not sure taking me right to them would have been a good thing," Setie seemed to ponder her words as she spoke, looking back on things with clearer eyes and more wisdom then she had possessed before. "But yes you are right. You and Mom were stuck in a nasty spiral that I don't think either of you could have crawled out of...but she loved you. It's why she came back to the Empire rather than stay with my father. She loved us both and did what she could, even at the detriment of herself."

"Yes she did." Istara agreed sadly. "Oh, by the way... You will be happy to know that Michael Jonal, the Jedi who helped you on Correllia is fine. He was hurt, but we helped him and he made a full recovery. He is back on Correllia, hopefully with a bit less stress." Istara smiled a little. "Knowing him though, I doubt it."

Setie chuckled, " I know, I actually live on Correllia with my Master. He's a Correllian jedi because the Order thought I would adapt to his teachings better. He might be a little miffed at me for leaving for a little bit but that's alright. His son has done far worse. Master Schayll wouldn't like an Imperial popping up on his doorstep frankly. Darmuk nearly killed his family and they are still scarred so please refrain from that Shar."

"You do?" Istara said incredulously. "No one would tell me. I wanted to come by, make sure you were okay, but... I always had problems, emergencies, issues, enemies..." Istara shook her head. "That is no excuse, but...Just as well if your host has issues with Imperials or former Imperials..."

Setie gave Shar a stern look then, though still gentle before she poked the woman's shoulder. "And we are getting off the subject. We agree that you did the best you could for me in bringing me to the Bladeborn yes?"

"I know... I am still a bit fuddled." Istara said slowly. "I am so glad to see you.. Sister..." Tears were falling now. "I... I am a mess..."

"And why is that?" Setie asked in a calm but curious tone. "You have friends and family around you that are worried and wanting to help. Why are you not talking and seeking help from them?"

"They want me to live." Istara said slowly. "And I can't. So... This..." She nodded to the bed she was strapped to. "Not that this would stop me, but it would escalate things. I don't want to hurt anyone else...Just me."

"Why do you want to die?" Setie asked then, expression and tone not changing from it's calm, curious, and caring notes

"I don't want to." Istara said sadly. "I have to. I used the Dark Side, Setie, I fell, hard. I tortured a doc who hurt me... Before that, I killed one of my battle kin who had been corrupted, then I killed a friend... I killed Jina... And Sharlina is gone..." She was sobbing again. "I feel... so..."

Setie blinked and looked confused then, trying to piece things together. "I'm sorry Shar but I'm a bit behind in the times. How about you start from the beginning...which would be after I was locked up. I haven't seen you since then after all so it might help me understand if you tell me everything from there. And don't leave anything out there, I want to know everything."

"I..." Istara shook her head and sighed. "Okay... I followed you once I could. I cut my brand off, that is, I cast myself out of the Bladeborn to follow you. You were..." Istara actually smiled through her tears. "Hard to follow. But... everything... Okay..." Istara said soberly. "I started on Tattooine and followed your traces in the Force through the mark I put on you..."
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

08.18.2012 , 07:16 AM | #5
<Two fairly soggy hours later>

" then I wound up as grandmaster..." Istara said with a sigh. "And I kept looking. I swear I kept looking for you, sister. Anyway...About Sharlina..." Istara said sadly. "I managed somehow, during that ancient Trial, to lock part of my mind away from myself. She was... unhappy with me, but we worked out some compromises. I called myself Istara, and she called herself Sharlina. Light half and dark half, opposites. I woke up in my enemy's custody and she was gone." Istara was fighting tears again. "I don't know how he killed her, but he did."

Setie wrinkled her nose and snorted. "Nonsense. You're still here."

"Part of me is gone, Setie." Istara said with a sigh. "The best part, the strong part, the brave part...What am I without her?"

"And you are none of those things?" Setie asked with a raised brow.

"No." Istara said and turned her head to the side on her pillow. "No I am not." Her voice, while muffled, was audible.

Setie sat quietly for a moment before smiling a little. "I knew this girl once when I was younger. She did her best to help a friend of hers that was going into a very dark place. Followed her where ever she needed, even though she knew her friend was doing dangerous things that she did not agree with. She stayed by her side though, faithful as ever. In spite of how mean and nasty her friend was. A friend had even left her to die once, but still she followed to help. Is that person weak and cowardly because she kept after her friend in spite of her own troubles?"

"Weak and cowardly?" Istara said slowly. "No. Stupid, maybe. Who was it?"

"I want a direct answer please. Is that person weak and cowardly?"

"No." Istara said in a small voice. "But people change."

"I'm sitting here aren't I?" Setie said. "The bad friend with the ever faithful good one that kept following."

"I failed you!" Istara screamed. "I... I did... I was so close, so many times, and I just kept failing you... How can you stand me?" Tears were falling again. "I can't stand myself."

"There are many kinds of bravery and many kinds of strength, not just on the battlefield but in life," Setie pointed out. "And you never failed me, you were always there. You have not failed anyone and the only one that can't seem to see that is you. Why do you hate yourself so Issy?"

"I..." Istara just sat there for a moment. "I am bad... I am a bad person... I have always been a bad person... I was good at being bad, but... always bad..." Now she was shuddering as long buried emotions came to the fore.

"Bad? No...broken maybe but still good." Setie made it a point to look over her sister as if searching for flaws. "Yeah...still good."

"What?" Istara asked through her tears. "Where? I am nowhere even close to good, Setie. I am a monster. A killer. A bloodthirsty witch."

Setie just gave her censorious look not unlike a mother did a child that was being stubborn. "Shar, as someone who has been around such people...which does not include you, I can say you are not. Not in the context you are applying. You know what I think of when I look at you? A guard dog defending against intruders. You are good to those you love and terrible to people that would hurt them or others you defend. How is that a monster?"

"I..." Istara looked at her sister and her face fell. "Mom said the same thing... I don't know, Setie... I just don't know... And now... My Code demands my death. The Code has been my life, Setie, ever since I... Ever since I hurt Mom...What kind of a defender hurts their own mother, Setie? What kind?"

"A scared, hurt, and confused child that has been brain washed into hating by a twisted bastard I would think. Mom never held you attacking her against you, why should you?" Setie asked as she shook her head. "As for your code, what parts did you break that it demands this?"

"Lets see..." Istara said slowly. "I used the Dark Side to hurt someone -a doc- who wasn't actually hurting me. I thought she was, but it turned out she wasn't. I hurt her, I would have killed her without a thought, but I was enjoying myself to much." Istara's voice was sick now. "I killed a friend while trying to escape from captivity. She wasn't trying to hurt me, just stop me and I killed her... I killed Jina..." Istara cried. "I killed Zana, one of our newest members. They took her and Jina. They brainwashed them both. They were both trying to stop me, but I was angry... I was so... so angry...Tired... I am so tired..." The Bladeborn said sadly. "They killed Sharlina and they took my kid..." Shar was sobbing again. "I wanna die... Please... Just let me die..."

"I didn't know you had another child," Setie said with sympathy. "Congratulations. Though I suppose that should wait."

"They say... Ona said it's alive.. But..." Shar shook her head. "Doesn't make sense... I have to die, Seite, I have to... Stupid prophecy..." Istara said sadly. "Never make sense, any of them. But... It is. It does. I have to die. By my own hand..."

Setie blinked in puzzlement before frowning. "Didn't you already do that though?"

"Wha-...?" Istara said slowly, confused. "What do you mean? I am not dead. Yet." She slumped a bit.

"You said Sharlina is dead. She is a part of you, so technically you died," Setie pointed out calmly. "Prophecies are never very clear on things because of human choice factors."

"But..." Istara tried to wrap her mind around that. "But... No... She was part of me... I..." She slumped. "I don't know. I am so confused... Oh Setie, what do I do?" Istara asked plaintively.

"Well...pulling yourself together seems a good start. Who's going to get your baby back if not the mom here? Very little in the universe more powerful than an angry mom going to her child. You should know that."

"Just like that?" Istara asked incredulously. "Just like that?" She asked, her tone altering from heartbroken to musing.

"Some things don't need to be complicated messes Sister."

"I..." Istara said slowly. "I don't know, Setie. If I can hurt people like that, kill a sister and a friend like that... I am a danger. To everyone."

"You said it yourself that people were threatening you, even the doctor you thought was hurting you. No one reacts well to that. Besides, you've never been a threat to me."

"Setie..." Istara was almost begging now. "You know the darkness that lurks in my heart better than anyone else. I am a threat." Oh yes, Setsuna knew.

"Oh really?" Setie asked with a raised brow. She looked about a moment before releasing Istara's restraints. "Ok...come on then." Setie said then waving her fingers in invitation.

"No!" Istara screamed as her restraints fell loose. "Setie no!" She curled up on herself and tears were falling again. 'No..."

"Well come on, you said you were a threat to everyone," Setie point out. "Hit me then. Creation knows I've inflicted as much pain on you as anyone else here."

"No." Istara was rocking as she hugged her knees. "No, no no no... I have hurt you enough..."

"You just said you are a threat to everyone though. You are not making a good case of this right now to being a threat to me."

"I won't hurt you." Istara snapped. "I could, but... I won't!" Now a smile crept over Setie's face as she crossed her arms. Just waiting for the lesson to sink into Istara's skull here.

"Oh you rat..." Istara said as she slowly thought through what she had just said. "You sneaky little rat." Against her will, she smiled a little. "You planned that." She slowly uncoiled herself and stared at her sister. "You... You..." Words failed her and she just sat there.

"Caring sister?" Setie offered. "Family member? Boot to your head?"

"Boot to the...?" Istara couldn't help it. She giggled. "I was going to say: 'You Andal'. Come here, sis" She held out her arms.

Setie didn't hesitate to give her sister a hug. "You know I'm not your only family right?"

"I know." Istara said as she returned the hug. "I have... expanded my family recently actually. But you are the only other birth daughter of the strongest woman I will ever likely meet. Our mother. That is a bond that cannot be broken, no matter what anyone tries. Thank you for being who you are, Setie." Istara said soberly. "Thank you for not hating me."

"I could say something cheesy about hate being of the dark side, but I'll settle for a I love you too." Setie said with a smile and a squeeze.

"No, we couldn't do cheezy, could we?" Istara said with a grin as she hugged her sister again. "I hope your life is... calmer than it was. I hope you find a way. But if you ever need me, you call." Tears were falling again, but these were tears of joy. "I love you Setsuna Andal, my sister. My name is Istara Sharlina Andal, and I am now and will always be your sister."

Setie gave a smile to her sister. "Good, now go be like Mom and get your little one out of trouble there. She'd be proud of you."

"I know." Istara said, tears falling freely. "She would be proud of you too, sister." Istara shook herself and nodded. "Thank you." She said formally. "I know my way now." She smiled. "And it does not involve me eviscerating myself. I hope to see you again someday, Setie. But if not... Know that I do love you. I do know the path you walk now. I trained with Jedi for a while. Be safe and true to the light, Setsuna." She hugged her sister again.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

08.18.2012 , 07:23 AM | #6
<An hour later>

"You should not be up." Ona's voice was stern and disapproving as she came into the room. "Tell me I lie, Shar."

"You don't." Istara said soberly as she pulled the last of her robes on. "But there are some things I have to do, and now. Oh Ona..." She moved quickly and embraced the startled healer. "Thank you...For everything."

"Hey..." Ona said as she returned the embrace. "It's okay." She hugged her sister again. "It's my job, now...Clan matriarch." Her face fell. "I didn't want it."

"Who does?" Istara asked sadly. "But no one better to be clan mother to this group of miscreants. Have you had a service yet?"

"Yes." Ona replied sadly. "We didn't know when you would recover." The always optimistic healer said 'when' not 'if. "For all the ones who went, none of them made it back to the ship. Mama didn't want anything extra. She was part of the clan, no more, in her estimation. If so much more in ours."

"Thirty kin including Mama..." Istara's eyes glistened. "I will go to Barab when this is done, plant a memorial where her clan used to live. And if anyone on planet has a problem with it... tough."

"We will go."Ona said fiercely. "So... Are you ready to be pregnant again?"

"Uh, about that..." Istara said slowly. "I need to talk to Nia first."

"Istara..." Ona said with a scowl.

"Yes, I know my kid is still in her." Istara said with a sigh. "But this is important too. She is suicidal, isn't she?"

"How do you...?" Ona started, then she paused. "Never mind. I don't want know."

"No, you don't." Istara agreed. "How is Morey?" Istara had begged for more information on who had died saving her. They had refused, but had finally told her that Morey had been involved and hurt.

"A mess." Ona said with a sigh. "He is still in Kolto. Idjit has been haunting the halls between your room and the Kolto ward."

"How bad?" Istara asked softly.

"Bad." Ona replied sadly. "Between losing his legs and whatever Firdlump did to him..." Istara looked at her and Ona shrugged. "He was discovered as a double agent on the way out." Istara hissed in shock and Ona nodded, "There was brain damage, more that is... I don't know if he is going to wake up, Istara." Istara looked away for a moment and Ona hugged her again, desperate. "Istara..."

"Setsuna cured me, sister. I am not suicidal now, Ona. Just sad." Istara said as she gently extricated herself from the Bothan's embrace. "Think positive, sister. He will wake up, Ona. Sooner or later, he will wake up and be the same insufferably smug hilarious slimeball he was."

"I hope so." Ona said quietly. "I was starting to like him again, but his 'apprentice' gives me the creeps."

"I only met her the once, but... Me too." Istara admitted. "About Nia...? What have you learned?"

"Quite a bit about the collective as it was." Ona said soberly as the mismatched friends started off. "Of course after what Will did to it..."

"...things have likely changed." Istara finished the sentence. She shook her head and continued. "And Nia? How is she?"

"Shar...?" Ona said slowly. "What are you planning? Will was angry enough at her before she trashed his dragon ship, And I am not even going to go into what Sharra wants to do to her, or Sara..." Ona shuddered a bit.

"Well, 'I' am angry with her." Istara said coldly. "But... Was she in control of herself, Ona?"

"She thinks she was." Ona replied uneasily. "Me? I don't know. Shar..." She asked as the grandmaster shook her head.

"We will need her." Istara said sadly. "But before that, I need to talk to her. Where is she?"

"She is in secure detention. Shar..." Ona groaned. "I know that tone. What are you going to do?"

"Who me?" Shar asked, casting an innocent look at Ona who glared at her suspiciously. "Well..." She sighed. "First I need to talk to Will, Idjit, Michelle and Mira. Then, I need to talk to Sharra, Lohas and KIcota. Then and only then will I talk to Nia."

"Will and Idjit are waiting." Ona said with a sigh. "The others are available I think. It's too soon, you should still be on bed rest. But I know you." The Bothan said with a shrug. "We are in hyperspace at the moment, and all of the non-combatants have been off loaded."

"Good." Istara said flatly. "Because unless I severely miss my guess, we are flying into an osik storm." She said as she left the room that had been her refuge and prison, only to pause at the door. "What...?" The hall was lined with Bladenorn, all of whom had their blades out and saluting. Stormhawk Boss stood impassive as always with two marines, who also were saluting. They were saluting Istara! "What the frell?" She demanded.

"Where you lead..." Will's soft voice sounded from nearby. She turned and he was saluting her. A first in her experience. "We will follow."

"Stop that!" She snapped. "I am no leader!"

"Yes you are." Idjit said from Will's side. His blade was out and saluting her as well. "That is why Firdlump took you, tried to corrupt you. Heck that is likely why Amirg did what he did so long ago. People will follow you. You inspire people to follow you. You inspire people to be the best they can be. You are a leader Istara."

"I..." Istara felt her eyes burn. "No... I... I can't... I can't Idjit. I can't lead... us..."

"Then we are doomed Istara." Idjit said sadly. "Will you consign us, everyone you know and love, to oblivion because of your insecurity?"

"Idjit..." Istara growled.

"Do I need to go get Setsuna back to kick sense into you?" Idjit asked slyly. "I can." He grinned at her expression.

"You would, wouldn't you?" Istara asked, her facade crumbling. No one commented on the tears that were falling. "You... All of you... are crazy."

"Emotion is what separates us from machines, Istara." Stormhawk Boss said gently."And for what it is worth, you are doing fine."

"Well at least you are not saluting me." Istara said with a scowl as she drew her blade and returned the salutes. "I am glad. Leading is bad enough, I am no ship commander."

"Actually..." Boss said with an obvious smirk. "Welcome aboard, Commodore Istara." He started to raise his hand but froze as Istara actually snarled at him.

"If that hand reaches your head, I will cut it off." The Bladeborn snapped. Boss was clearly amused as he lowered his hand and Istara continued in that same iron tone. "Okay... First rule, and this includes Bladeborn. I am not perfect. If anyone sees me making a mistake, tell me! If you all say I am leader... I guess I am stuck. But that means I lead. Responsibility is mine. Is everyone okay with that?" She looked at Will who nodded. "Then Nia is mine to handle."

"We don't like it." Will admitted. "But we are all emotionally involved in this."

"Will, I am angry too." Istara said softly as she started off. "But I do know what needs to be done now. And no, Sharra is not going to like it."

"We cast her out." Will said sadly. "What you do to her is up to you."

"It wasn't her fault." Istara said with a shrug. "But I don't expect you all to believe me. I sensed part of the collective through the implants when I was conscious and even I was tempted, Will. It was..." She sighed. "For a lie,... It was an amazing lie."

"Yeah." Will said soberly. "I touched the edges when I corrupted it. Orders?" He asked.

"You and I, as well as this madman..." She slapped Idjit's shoulder where he was following silently. "Have to take care of something that has been waiting a long, long time. You know Jainine was Bladeborn." Will nodded. "The reason Nia was so open to suggestions from Darmuk and Firdlump's attacks? She never completed her Trial."

"Wait a sec..." Will paused. "You want to make her Bladeborn?"

"No." Istara said sadly. "I don't want to do this. But what I want is immaterial. I am going to give her what she wants so badly right now. A chance at an end. Have Sharra and Lohas meet us in detention, and have them bring Jainine's crystal. We will be joined by another."

"Oh?" Idjit asked, but Istara did not answer. "Istara?" She did not reply. "Eh..." He looked at Will and the two men shred a mystified expression. "A hint?" The seer asked.

"No." Istara said sadly. "But I think you will like it. Will... I do need you and Sharra both there and Lohas as well. Kicota can come if she is free."

"Okay..." Will said soberly. "So, we are going to give her this Trial, and then kill her?"

"Odds are she won't survive the Trial in her condition, Will." Istara said sadly. "Which is why... Ona..." She turned to where Ona had been unobtrusively shadowing her. The healer jerked and Istara smiled gently. "Get ready to do some surgery. We may need to do it fast."

"If she is going to face the Trial..." Ona said dubiously. "We should do it first."

"No." Istara said sadly. "Will, I ask you and Sharra to observe. To be ready to 'explain' to the rest of your kin."

"Explain?" Will asked slowly. "Explain what?" He went stiff as Idjit stopped in mid stride.

"Oh no..." Idjit said slowly. "Istara... You can't... Not now."

"Idjit..." Istara said sadly. "Was I any better? Were you? And what gave you or Trugoy the right to shut down her powers? You knew what she was going to face. You of all people knew." Idjit slumped in place and Istara pressed, "I know he ordered you, but sheesh..."

"Shut...down...?" Will said slowly, confused. "What the heck?"

"You will see." Istara said sadly. "You and Sharra both."
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

kalenath's Avatar

08.18.2012 , 07:31 AM | #7
Nia had a lot of time to think. Her captors kept her sedated, but she did not sleep a great deal. She couldn't. There were just too many things to worry about. She had done so much so many wrong things, she had hoped...

"Nia." The voice was gentle and she smiled in her bonds as she recognized it. Lohas was, well, not a friend, but a compatriot of sorts. "How are you?"

"All tied up." Nia replied with a rueful smile. Her bonds were never removed, Having people give her sponge baths was downright humiliating, but the mechanical plumbing that she was connected to was worse. "Is it time for more experiments?"

"I wish." Lohas said in a tone that Nia hadn't heard from her before. Fear. For Nia! "I have to remove your implants."

"Uh..." Nia paused, unsure. "I thought you said you couldn't without me exploding?"

"I was wrong." Lohas said sadly. "I didn't have all the information. Now I have more. Oh Nia..." Something soft caressed Nia's skull. "I am so sorry..."

"For what?" Nia asked caustically. "It was what I did. I messed up. My fault. My responsibility. I just hope and pray that if I do explode I don't hurt you."

"Okay, Nia..." Lohas said slowly. "My children are working. You should not feel any change for a bit, but you didn't explode, so that is good. There... All done."

"Just like that?" Nia asked, amazed. "Um..."

"Just like that." A gentle caress touched her head again. "The implants that they put in this time were smaller, less invasive than before. I hope it helps."

"It has to." Nia said soberly. "But... You and Ona have been far kinder than you should have been.

"There is a reason." A new voice sounded. One that Nia knew. Istara! "One you will not like."

"Istara." Nia was amazed her voice sounded so calm. She was terrified. "Take your child back and do what you will to me, I deserve it and more."

"Oh Nia..." Was that compassion that colored Istara's voice now? "No you don't. You were a pawn in a game being played by people far older and sneakier than either of us. Vandar never talked to you, in the collective or in person, while you were there. Did he?" It wasn't really a question.

"I..." Nia paused. When she spoke, her voice was confused. "He... No, he didn't. That is odd. I talked to him a bunch at the Enclave," Then she thought about that. "One thing... Why didn't he try to turn me or infect me then?"

"You were under tight surveillance." Istara said with certainty. "And from what we can gather, it was only recently, in the last few years, that Firdlump felt secure infecting people with nanites away from his base."

"Take your child, please, Istara." Nia said sadly. "I just want this to end. I hurt everyone I loved, I killed Hawkir..." A gentle hand stroked her forehead while two brushy things traced her ears.

"If I don't get off that easy, Nia, then there is no way you do." Istara said sadly. "Lohas? The implants are gone. Is it what I thought?"

"It is." Horror etched the Sitolon's words. "My god... How could we miss this?"

"Easily." Istara said sadly. "A Sith named Harron had you, before your Dad rescued you on Tralus, Nia. When you met him the first time." It wasn't a question.

"Yes." Nia said slowly. "A Darth Harron... Dad killed him. Why?"

"Darth? He was no Darth... He was one of Firdlump's people." Istara said sadly. "One of Firdlump's agents. Bob attacked your colony to try and rescue you after Harron's people attacked it. Well, that and Bob wanted Jainine. Firdlump captured you on Tattoine. His people programmed you not to resist him, way back then."

"What?" Nia asked, incredulous. "That is not possible."

"Lohas?" Istara asked quietly. "What do your children say?"

"Now that the interference from the implants is gone... The rewrites that Firdlump did recently have a distinct... 'taste' is probably the best translation." Lohas said, musing. "There is another, older... Oh Nia... It was buried. I didn't see it! Even before, I didn't see it with the interference from the plague and collective and all." The bug sounded nearly in tears.

"What do you mean?" Nia asked, confused.

"She means that there was no way you could have possibly refused Firdlump's commands, Nia." Istara said gently. "His 'suggestions, his 'nudges'. His orders. His wishes. He commanded you, you obeyed without even thinking. I doubt you even recognized them as commands. Lohas..."

"But..." Nia shook her head as something changed in her body. The plumbing withdrew. "It felt so good..."

"It was a control mechanism, Nia." Istara said sadly. "Of course it felt good. Pleasure works better for most people to get them to keep doing things than pain."

"Then he can take me over again." Nia said, one step removed from terror. "Istara take your kid and kill me!"

"No." Istara said sadly. "You are coming with me, Nia. She helped me, she can help you." Nia tried not to stiffen as the bonds that held her to the bed unsnapped and she rose into the air supported by the Force. She didn't struggle.

"Who?" Nia asked after a moment of transport. But there was no answer. "Istara?" Nia asked hesitantly.

"Easy girl." Another voice that Nia remembered sounded nearby. She had never learned the blind Sith's name. "I have to undo what I did."

"What?" Nia asked, her voice scared. "What are you going to do?"

"Save you or damn you, girl." A gentle hand touched her brow and Nia screamed as power flooded into her. Then, it all stopped. Her restraints fell away, and she was set on shaky feet. She waited, but nothing happened. After a few moments, she reached up a slow hand and pulled the blindfold off her eyes. She kept her eyes closed, but again, nothing happened. Nia opened her eyes to wonder. She stood alone in a huge cavern, surrounded by bas relief icons of ancient writing. Writing she knew... <Loyalty. Duty. Honor. Respect. Vigilance. Prowess. Humility. Courtesy. Valor. Service. Sacrifice. > She started. She had only known six of these. She had grown up surrounded by the ancient icons of Loyalty, Duty, Honor, Respect, Vigilance and Prowess. How did she know the others? This made no sense.

"This can't be...The cavern on Kuria..." Nia breathed. "This blew up... Advisor... Mission blew it up..."

"That was a copy, Nia Korr." A voice sounded from nearby. Nia spun in place to find a older woman in archaic armor sitting on a throne nearby. "A poor copy." Nia stared at her, then conscious that she was being rude, lowered her eyes and knelt formally. She marveled that she was wearing armor, brown armor. It was not familiar, but at the same time it was. It was almost Bladeborn armor. Almost.

"I apologize for discourtesy, Ma'am." Nia said politely. "You have the advantage of me."

"I am Lania Potaras, Nia Korr." The woman said sadly. "You come along a road that is fraught with pain and sorrow, child. It is one I know well." The woman shook her head. "Ah, Nia... So young and lost. But now found. What do you wish?"

"Me?" Nia asked incredulous. "I want Istara's child back where it belongs..." She rubbed her stomach gently. "Then I want an end."

"Why?" Lania asked gently. "Have you seen everything there is to see? Done everything there is to do? Learned it all in your twenty two short years?"

"No." Nia felt her eyes burn but she shook her head. "No, but I have dishonored myself, my family, my friends, all of them... I let -nay helped- my enemy take Istara, a woman who strove to help me. I killed a man who saved my life! I..." Nia broke off, unable to continue.

"There is something you must do first, Nia." Lania said when Nia's ramblings stopped. "You know what you have to do."

"What?" Nia asked slowly. "No. No I don't. I don't..." She paused. What the...? The woman's form had suddenly started to glow! "Are... are you a ghost?" She asked, her fear suddenly gone. She knew somehow that Lania would not hurt her.

"I am." Lania said soberly. "I waited for millennia for Istara to come, to learn the truth. But she asked me to remain when all the others took their leave. Now I understand why, even if she did not at the time. Ashla works in mysterious ways indeed."

"Ashla?" Something sparked in Nia's memory, an old song or poem? "Wait... You are Bladeborn?" The ghost showed her left forearm and a tattoo blazed brighter than the rest of the energy she was composed of. A stylize sword.

"I am." Lania agreed. "And you have a Trial to complete, young one."

"The Trial? I... I didn't finish it on Kuria, but... No!" Nia was shaking her head. "No. I can't... Please... Istara's child, I can't endanger her child..."

"You are not." Lania said sadly. "This is all in your mind, Nia. The Trial always was and is. Istara's healer friend is even now preparing. If, come the worst you die or go mad in the Trial, they WILL save the child."

"All in the mind..." Nia said slowly. "My mind?"

"Yes, Nia." Lania said gently. "Your mind. Not Firdlump's, not Darmuk's, Yours You have to choose now, Nia. Freedom or slavery. The choice -and consequences- are yours." The ghost waved towards a door that opened on it's own nearby.

<M...> Nia tried to speak and garbled what she was going to say. She snarled and spoke slowly and carefully in ancient Tythonese. <Matriarch I am unworthy.>

<If you trust me in nothing else, Nia Korr...>" Lania said gently in the same tongue. <Trust me in this. You must do this.>

Nia looked at the ghost, folded her hands into the proper positions, bowed as was proper and started for the door. As she reached it she paused.

"My mother disowned me for what I did." Nia said without turning. "My father hates me for what I did."

"I know, Nia." Lania said sadly.

"If you can, tell Istara I faced my fate with dignity, tell her to tell them...'I am sorry'. " Nia turned and bowed deeply to the ghost. <Fare thee well Lania Potaras, Elder, matriarch.> Then she stepped into the doorway and vanished.

<Fare thee well, Nia Korr> Lania said sadly as she turned to the side. "You can show yourselves." Istara and Idjit appeared standing against the wall. Ona stood as well, festooned with medical gear. Will and Sharra as well, both with mouths hanging open. The ghost of Istara's mother, Jainine stood there too, crying. "It is done."

The cavern around them disappeared, an unused hangar on the Stormhawk taking it's place. Nia lay crumpled where she had stepped through the doorway. Ona ran to her and sighed in relief on seeing that she breathed.

"Thank you, Lania." Istara said soberly. "Will you... pass on now?"

"I don't know." Lania said with a smile. "I find hanging around Bladeborn again to be... enlightening."

"Enlightening?" Istara asked incredulous. "You are just as crazy as the rest of us."

"Well, duh." Lania said with a smile, one that faltered as she looked at the others. "Will Kalenath, Jainine Korr... It was not her fault."

"Where did she go?" Sharra finally asked. "I mean... If you can tell us..."

"I don't know. It is all in here mind, the Trial." Lania said sadly. "I also don't know when or IF she will return. But on this, have no doubt. She did love you. All of you."

"I... I know." Sharra replied sadly. "Jainine...?"

"If..." Jainine's spirit said slowly, able to be seen due to Istara and Idjit's power in this place. "If she does come back, she will be Bladeborn. No longer my daughter. I held her back too long, but I feared for her. The Trial is hard enough for those of hale mind and body and she was... so... So much my daughter."

"Yes. She was your daughter." Sharra said sadly. "Of course you feared for her. We were wrong, to say what we did, to do what we did. I say this now, before witnesses... Nia made mistakes. So have we all. When she returns, she will be Bladeborn, not our family any more. But no matter what... If the Bladeborn need us, -all of us- at any time, at any price... call." Will nodded his agreement, his arm going around his wife.

"No, Sharra." Istara said sadly as she went to stand by Nia. "The price has already been too dear. I want your family to live full and happy lives, far away from us. They will be safer and happier if they stay far away from us." She sighed and spoke to Ona. "Healer?" She asked formally.

"She has started the Trial." Ona said slowly. "Other than that, she is in perfect health. You know it could be days."

"Make her comfortable then." Istara said slowly. The non-force using people stared at her and she shrugged. "We have never known it to hurt people being moved during the Trial, but... It could take days for her to pass... or not. If it does, we will have to move her to Medical, put her on support."

"I'll stay." Ona said quietly. "I have everything I need... In case..." Istara nodded and Ona sat beside Nia's still form.

"With your permission, Istara..." Sharra said slowly. "May I?"

"Why?" Istara asked softly.

"I was wrong about her." Sharra said sadly. "My last words to her were angry. I regret that. Would I hinder?" Istara looked at her and then at Ona who frowned.

"I don't think so." The healer said slowly. "In the past it was Mama alone who stayed with the initiates. Hmm... She paused and made a face. "Actually I wouldn't mind. Has anyone told Sara about this yet?"

"Ah..." Istara blanched. "Oops..."
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08.18.2012 , 07:35 AM | #8
<Outside of time and space>

Nia hadn't been sure what to expect. Sure she had heard stories, mostly exaggerated, told by children about the Trial. Those who passed it were remarkably tightlipped about it. But one thing she did know. It wasn't just one test, it was several. Oh, and it was very dangerous. She had known three people in her colony who had just vanished after their Trial. Died or gone mad, the result was the same in the wilds of Kuria. She dredged up what little she could remember of the preparations her mother had given her before her aborted Trial that had set her on the road to the present. It seemed like three decades instead of three years. She shook her head and looked at herself. She was wearing brown armor. Bladeborn armor. From what little she could remember, she would face her temptations, her fears and herself. But...

She paused as the world around her changed. One moment, she was standing in a featureless white place and then she was standing in a small, comfortable room. A long couch dominate done wall and a comfortable looking chair sat next to a window, poised for easy reading when there was natural light. A small table was the only other furniture. Rugs on the floor and paintings on the walls were all homey, comforting. A door was in the middle of one wall. A hallway seemed to lead further into the house. She looked around. It wasn't like any house she had ever been in. It didn't have any holo devices. It didn't seem to have any glow lamps! It certainly didn't have a computer. She shook her head and stiffened as a voice sounded nearby.

"Make yourself comfortable, Nia." The voice was older and female. "I will be a moment." It wasn't anyone she knew.

"Ah..." Nia shrugged and sat on the couch. It was just as comfortable as it looked. "Okay..." She said dubiously.

"What do you like in your tea?" The voice called.

"Tea?" Nia asked, incredulous. "Um... I don't usually drink tea." Was this the temptation she was supposed to avoid? That seemed... awfully mundane somehow.

"Oh..." An older woman stepped into the room from another, a tray in her hands. On it sat two cups. She had black hair and... Her eyesockets were filled by cybernetics but she moved with grace as she set the tray down. The Force was strong with her, that was clear to anyone with the Force who even looked at her. "Hmmm... I only stock tea. I can get you water if you like."

"Tea would be fine." Nia said hesitantly. "I don't usually drink it though." She licked her lips, unsure.

"And you do not know if I would poison you or not." The woman said with a frown. "I didn't even think about that. Hang on, I'll get you some water." Ignoring Nia's half formed protest, the woman vanished and was back in moments, a cup in hand. "Here, you look parched." She held out the cup to Nia.

"Ah..." Nia took the cup slowly. "Thanks...?" The water in it was clear and after a cautious sniff, Nia sipped carefully. It tasted heavenly. She swallowed a gulp and then paused as the woman sat. "I apologize for being rude." Nia said slowly as she set the cup down on the table.

"Oh you were not rude, Nia." The woman said with a grin. "You are exactly as described." She picked up her cup and sighed. "You don't know me. My name is Raven. Raven Markar."

"No, I don't know you." Nia said slowly. "No offense, but..."

"None taken. You are wondering how I fit in your Trial." It wasn't a question. Nia nodded slowly and Raven sighed. "I was selected for this, due to my skill set and temperament. I wasn't sure about this at all. I mean, the Trial is usually fairly straightforward. You face temptation, you face your fears and then you face yourself. That is what I did anyway." She held out an arm and indeed, the tattoo of a Bladeborn marked her forearm. "You however..." She broke off and shrugged.

"I am a mess." Nia said after taking a another sip. "I am amazed I am as sane as I am."

"You are not." Raven said sadly. Nia froze, her cup halfway back to her lips as Raven continued. "No one sane would have survived what you did. Oh Nia..." Compassion flooded the Force around her. "I am sorry."

"For?" Nia asked softly. "I mean... I am not locked in a loony bin somewhere. If I am insane..." She shrugged. "I have known a lot of insane people in my life. My dad..." She broke off, pain coloring her features.

"I have met him." Raven actually flinched a bit. "Your dad is insane, but he channels it. He hurt me, very badly, to break me free from the monster who held my leash. It hurt him, to do what he did, but he did it, to save me. It was.. I have no words. It was the most selfless act I can imagine, and he did it to save me. When they asked if I would help you, I jumped at the chance. To repay him."

"I..." Nia shook her head. Something about the way the woman said that... "I am in my future, aren't I? I traveled again. Didn't I?"

"I can't answer that, Nia." Raven said sadly. "You know that."

"Yeah." Nia said sadly. "Being the daughter of a seer really, really sucked on occasion."

"I bet. Nia... I have to ask this." Raven said slowly. "We have the Trial ready for you. Do you want to attempt it?"

"This..." Nia stiffened. "This isn't my Trial?"

"No." Raven said gently. "You have to be calm, at peace, ready to face what comes. You are not." The older woman said with a frown. "Tell me I lie."

"You..." Nia slumped in place, cup forgotten. "You don't."

"You can face it now, Nia." Raven said slowly, a frown on her face. "But it will kill you as surely as a blaster or blade will."

"I..." Nia shook her head. "I have to do this. Soon."

"I know." Raven said gently. "But you do not have to do it right now. You can wait. Rest a bit, be..." She paused as Nia stared at her. "Nia?"

"Sneaky." Nia said slowly, admiration dawning. "So very sneaky. I am tempted to be lazy. To take the safer path. Not always the easier or the quicker paths that lead to the Dark Side, but I prefer to be safe. Bladeborn do not do safe." She closed her eyes and smiled sadly. "Thank you for the water Raven, but I have to face my path now." She opened her eyes and was not surprised to find the house gone. She stood in the featureless whiteness she had seen before. But then she paused in shock. A very different Raven stood nearby, her form was clad in brown Bladeborn armor and the cybernetics were gone now. She looked about Nia's age now and her blue eyes were glistening with unshed tears. She was smiling widely.

"You are welcome Nia. Good luck." The woman said gently. Then she vanished.

Well, doesn't that just beat all... Nia thought with a smile of her own, but froze as a form appeared nearby. Black hair, green eyes, brown armor, sword in hand, just like her's was now... She stared at the face that she saw in the mirror every time she looked and a groan escaped her. One that was mirrored by her double.

"Oh flarg..." They said at the same time.
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08.18.2012 , 07:45 AM | #9
Nia stared at herself and tried not to panic. This was not something she had never been trained about, in any of the training she had encountered. For her part, her double seemed to be doing the same thing.

"Umm..." Nia said slowly. "Hi?"

"Hi?" The other her asked angrily, obviously afraid "You just caused a temporal paradox and you say 'Hi'?"

"Hey!" Nia snapped. "I didn't cause a thing! You popped in here."

"Oh?" The other Nia said caustically. "And what have you been doing? Hmm? Um..." She paused. "Aw flarg... You are facing your Trial..." She grimaced and shut her mouth with a click.

"You are from the future..." Nia said slowly. The other her did not respond. "My future." She slumped a little. "I guess I survive this then."

"Maybe." The other Nia snapped, obviously irritated. "Then again, I might be from a possible future, in which case you just screwed it."

"Come on!" Nia snapped right back. "I have made some big mistakes, but I am not responsible for this."

"No?" The other her asked, her tone moderating a bit. "Then who is? As far as I know...Well... As far as I have been able to determine anyway..." She shrugged. "I am the only one with this ability. So... You did something." Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. ""What did you do?"

"What did I do?" Nia asked incredulous. "I was kidnapped! I was brainwashed, twice! What was I supposed to do?"

"Not give in maybe? You slept with a Sith Lord." The other Nia said nastily. "And you enjoyed it."

"Shut your mouth." Nia said, quivering with rage. "He had me... I had no choice..."

"No?" The other her asked quietly. "Tell me you did not enjoy it. Tell me truly... That you did not enjoy it. That you did not revel in the limited freedom Darmuk gave you. That within the limits Darmuk gave you, you were free to do whatever you wanted. Kill, torture, molest..."

"I..." Nia shook her head. "No... I wasn't... I didn't..."

"You enjoyed sleeping with him." The other Nia said relentlessly. "Just as you enjoyed the fake love that the collective gave you. You belonged."

"No!" Nia screamed. "That is not true!" She was shaking, struggling to keep from lashing out with the sword that was still in her hand.

"Isn't it?" The other Nia asked, her voice turning sad. "I know who you are, Nia. I am you. I remember how it felt. I remember the yearning... The wanting... The needs..." He face was sick now.

"No..." Nia screamed again. "No!" She shook her head savagely. "I... Will... Not..." She threw her sword to the ground and knelt slowly. When she spoke tears were falling. "I... You are right...I wanted to belong. I wanted... I so wanted to belong... Dad made me feel like I belonged, his adopted kids made me feel like I belonged. And then it was gone...I..." She slumped in place, her neck bared. "Make it quick..."

"Oh Nia..." The other her said sadly. "I can't kill you. I hate you. I know I hate myself for what I did and likely always will. Killing Hawkir was unforgivable. He was a kind, gentle man and I killed him. I just waved my hand and the nanites ate him." Nia gagged a bit and the other her shook her head. "But I can't kill you. If I kill you, I will likely cease to be."

"I don't want to fight anymore." Nia said sadly. "I am sick of fighting."

"You are going to have to." The other her said slowly. "I... I am feeling my way through what I can tell you."

"Don't..." Nia said slowly. "You may have already messed things up, er, I might have, er... I don't know..."

"Well..." The other Nia said soberly. "Since we did not vanish out of existence the moment we were both in the same place and time.,. We may have created an alternate timeline..."

"The many world theory?" Nia asked her curiosity piqued. "I mean... Obviously there is a timeline of sorts..."

"I don't know." The other Nia said slowly. "What I do know is that if we do go backwards, we can mess things up. I know that I have changed things, small things. Things I pray will not cause harm, but I couldn't just stand by."

"Such as?" Nia asked cautiously. "Changing the past could cause all kinds of issues."

"You, I... didn't change the past." The other Nia said soberly. "I changed the present. You changed the present."

"I..." Nia froze in place, dumbstruck. "That wasn't a dream? I was sedated after the surgery for the implants. Ecmin and I... talked... She had an idea... But... I thought... I thought it was a dream... I... Oh my god what have I done?" She cried, upset again.

"Someone else is coming." The other Nia said gently and vanished. " Ask her."

"What did I do?" Nia screamed.

"You saved lives, Nia." A new voice, an impossible voice, said gently. "You saved me."

"Wha-...?" Nia said slowly. Her eyes went very wide as a recognizable brown haired woman in silver armor took the place of the Bladeborn. "Jina?"

"Hello Nia..." Jina Darkstorm said with a smile. "You look good."

"I..." Nia was crying hard now. "I shot Istara too late... I let her kill you..."

"Oh Nia, let go of your hurt, your anger. No, you didn't." Jina corrected her gently. "Istara killed my body. But I was already dead. Except..." She smirked. "Except that a certain sneaky girl, with the help of a very sneaky bug, imprinted my mind on a crystal an hour before I was scanned by Menglan and hurt by my mother. It wasn't supposed to be possible, Idjit blocked your power. except at one other person's direction. Ecmin's. That seer is stang scary sometimes." Jina said with a shudder.

"I..." Nia was shaking now. "You screamed... I am sorry... I hurt you...Then Menglan came and..." She shook her head. "I had to run, I wasn't sure it took."

"Nia..." Jina said gently. "I was dead when my mom hit me through Ecmin. But it was the only way to keep my body from exploding during the scans. And now, thanks to you, I have a chance at life again. A small one, mind you, but a chance."

"I don't know what to do, Jina." Nia admitted. "I don't. I was so scared I had broken time. That I had messed everything up. That I..."

"Time is time, Nia." Jina said in a soft, consoling voice. "One girl, no matter how powerful, is unlikely to break time. However, it possible to cause all kinds of problems. So... What must you do?"

"I must never use this ability again. Or not unless directed by... Ecmin or Istara...." Nia said soberly. "I must ask Idjit to restrain it, make it so that I cannot use the ability without orders. Like when Ecmin ordered me to save you. Neither of us thought it would work, but we had to try. I should have asked the Jedi to do it. I never... I never thought about it. Wait..." She paused, unsure. "You were not the only one I touched in that dream, that... jump..." Her eyes went wide.

"Ecmin could give sneakiness lessons to anyone I have ever met, Nia. Even Will would have trouble out-sneaking that queen." Jina said with a smile. "No, she had you make copies of a lot of people. Even poor Cili."

"Cili..." Nia said slowly. "The little girl who blew herself up... So... Will you..." Nia shook her head. "No. Ecmin cannot clone you new bodies without Firdlump realizing."

"No she can't. Not with Firdlump on the alert now. She has said that she may send the crystals to the planet's surface. They will be safe there." Jina said sadly. "She has said that she will, once this is over, make new bodies for all of us. She is a good queen. A couple of the others, including Olandas by the way -and that was well done, Nia...- They have asked to live new lives as Sitolon. Clean slates."

"I did what I could." Nia said sadly. "Wasn't enough."

"No." Jina said sadly. "It wouldn't be. But now, you have to finish the Trial."

"What?" Nia asked, unsure. "I faced temptation, I know that. I faced myself, and my fears..."

"No." Jina said, her face a grimace now. "You faced yourself in this part. You face your fears next."

"But..." Nia shook herself and nodded. "I am glad to have helped you, Master Jina."

"I am glad you saved Zana. She and I have... talked a bit in this limbo we are in. Once I am out, I will talk to Istara some. I think... I think it will be good for me." Jina said with a smile. "Be well, Nia Korr. May the Force be with you."

"Thank you, Master Jina." Nia said slowly. Then she shook herself and rotated her neck, easing sore muscles as she rose, picked up her sword and spoke slowly. "So... What next..."

Without sense of transition, she was lying on a table. Her armor and sword were gone, she was clad in a patient gown and she was strapped down. She could feel air on her scalp, her head been shaved.

"No..." She breathed as a black robed form appeared nearby.

"You woke up." The insane Sith know to Nia as Ravishaw said with a leer. "Finally. Time for phase two."
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08.18.2012 , 07:51 AM | #10
"No..." Nia said with a snarl as she tried her bonds. "I won't let you..."

"You can't stop me." Ravishaw said with a maniacal laugh as he reached for her. But then, Nia watched in amazement as he stopped in mid-motion. When he spoke, it was rueful. "Aw crap...I... Aw nuts, I can't..."

"What kind of a trick...?" Nia asked incredulously as the bonds that held her released. "What the-...?"

"Nia, I am sorry." Ravishaw said in a totally different voice as he stepped back. His robes changed from black Sith attire to Bladeborn armor in mid motion. "I can't do this to you. I thought I could. I have done it to so many others over the years, some I remember and some I don't. But... I can't do it anymore. I am not who I was..."

"What?" Nia slowly swung her legs off the table, ready for some kind of trick. Ravishaw for his part, just retreated another slow step. "What are you talking about?" She started as her gown was replaced by Bladeborn armor. "What the hell is going on?"

"Ah..." Ravishaw shrugged as he retreated another step. "I was supposed to frighten you. I am good at that. I was supposed to pretend I was going to take control of you. But I can't."

"Take... control..." Nia said slowly. "Yes..." She mused. "Losing control of myself would be my greatest fear. After what I did on Centurion, what I did with Darmuk, and in the collective." All three had been times when she had lost control. On the Centurion space station, she had gone berserk. Darmuk of course, had sapped her will and taken control of her mind and body to suit his needs. And the collective... She tilted her head at Ravishaw. "This isn't part of the test?"

"It could be." Ravishaw said with a shrug. "I could be lying to you. I am not, but as confused as you are, you have no way of knowing it. Oh Nia... I am sorry. I thought I could give you a Trial that would help. That is the idea." Nia looked at him and Ravishaw shrugged. "The Trial is not supposed to hurt you although it does. It is intended to show you where your strengths and weaknesses lie." He sighed. "Well, I don't know what to do now."

"You were going to torture me?" Nia asked slowly. Ravishaw shook his head.

"Not physically." The man said soberly. "I was going to take control from you, maybe make you do some minor things. Eventually, you would have realized that no matter what I do, I cannot maintain control unless you let me. But I can't do it. Not now, not to you."

"Why?" Nia asked slowly, confused. "The entire collective was terrified of you. Even my... Even Will didn't scare them as bad as you did."

"He is still your dad, Nia. Even if he is the scariest being I have ever met." Ravishaw said gently. "Come on..." The room suddenly changed, from a lab of horrors to a comfortable sitting room. two chairs, not in reach of each other, sat near the middle and a log fire burned in the fireplace. He smiled as he looked around. "What do you know...? I got the fire right... That is a first..." He sat and stretched a bit. "First, an apology. For snatching you from that Trandoshan bounty hunter and sending you to Darmuk, I am sorry Nia. Firdlump was watching me too closely. I had no choice." There was honest sorrow in his words. Nia could sense that. And more.

"I..." Nia shook her head. "I don't understand."

"I had a rough idea at the time..." Ravishaw said slowly. "Take you in, clean you up, let you escape... Maybe get you to Emily. Something like that." He sighed deeply. "Didn't work out. I had pests following me, and my 'apprentices'..." He made invisible quote marks in the air. "...were keeping tabs on me too. It was what Sith do, after all, spy on each other, and they all thought they were Sith." He laughed sourly. "I fooled everybody. Everybody. Lonely as hell, but worth it. I had to send you off. I really expected Will to find you en route. Shult was a genius though. Evil genius, but a genius."

"I don't understand." Nia said as she sat slowly, her body slowly relaxing. He wasn't going to hurt her. But wasn't that what he did?

"I know, and I really don't have time to tell you everything that has happened." Nia nodded at the man's words. "But I can give you the highlights."

"Please." Nia said with feeling.

"All right." The man said slowly. "My name is not Ravishaw now, it is Morey. That is the name I had before I passed my own Trial to become Bladeborn. Shortly after that, I was taken by Special Branch, and they injected me with nanites." Nia stared at the man in horror and Ravi- er Morey nodded. "I lost a lot of time in fits of madness, Nia. I don't remember everything I did and I pray I never remember. What I do remember I don't want to. So I know about being out of control, Nia. I was." He made a face and sighed.

"What happened?" Nia asked, fascinated despite herself. "I mean... You are sane now."

"Am I?" Morey asked sourly. "I don't know. Maybe I am, maybe I am not. But to answer your question, Emily happened..." He said with a sad smile.

"You mentioned Emily before." Nia said in a bemused voice that turned to shock as the scene around them changed. "What the...?"

The room was obviously a child's. The bed, the desk and two chair were all sized for a small boy. And everywhere Nia looked, stuffed animals lay strewn.

"No..." Morey's horrified voice pulled Nia's gaze back to him, but it wasn't the man she had just seen. No, this was a small boy, wearing a blue sleep suit and a horrified expression. "No!" Morey screamed. "Not now!"

"Morey, what...?" Nia asked, startled.

"Nia, don't move, don't speak. Don't interfere." Morey babbled. "Don't do anything! My memory, I have to... I have to control..." His face twisted in a grimace as he fought, but then he blanched as a new voice sounded from just outside the door that Nia could see now. It was female, older… Terrifying in the sweetness that barely masked its lust.

"Morey..." The voice said. "Mommy has something special for you today…" The human female who entered the room was stunningly normal looking. Nia stared at her, but the woman did not seem to see her. She had red hair and blue eyes. The smile on her face though... "We are going to have fun, boy." Morey ran for the corner of the room, but the woman was faster. Nia's face went slack as she saw the woman scoop the struggling boy. "Now, now. None of that, Morey."

"You are not real." Morey bit out as she laid him on the bed and pulled a length of line from a pocket. "This isn't real! This is a memory!" He snapped as she bound his hands together, wrapped a shirt around his head as a crude blindfold and gag and then reached for his sleep suit. Nia froze. The woman was going to... The woman's face was almost familiar. It blurred for a moment and Nia knew.

"No." Nia's soft voice stopped everything. "You will not. You are not his mother. Show yourself Menglan!"

"Nia...?" The awful woman vanished and an even more awful woman took her place. "Where have you been girl? We have missed you. Come here, dear. The doctor will make it all better." A hypo that blurred ominously appeared in the doctor's hand. "A little stick and everything will be better."

"I am warning you, Menglan." Nia said slowly, not moving from her spot. "And I will only give this warning once. Leave. Now."

"Don't be like that girl." Menglan said with a frown. "You can't fight me here."

"I am not going to fight you." Nia said slowly. "You will wish I had." She opened herself to the Force and she felt something change. Something inside her answered her call and she was suddenly looking at Menglan from every angle. She could see every imperfection in the illusion Menglan wore here, every stain, every...everything. She could see it all in the clarity that she now possessed.

"No..." Menglan retreated, her face suddenly horrified.

"How does it feel, doctor?" Nia asked softly, but with menace. "To see yourself, in a mirror to the soul?" She screamed.

"No!" Menglan screamed loud and long and then she vanished.

Nia sighed and released the Force. It flowed from her easily, far more easily than it had in recent memory. She shook her head and walked to the bed. She quickly undid the crude restraints. The little boy that was Morey was staring at her, raw fear in his eyes. It morphed suddenly and it was the man she had met before. He stared at her warily.

"I was wrong..." Morey said slowly. "You are scarier than your dad."

"I..." Nia suddenly collapsed to her knees, keening. "I..." Tears were falling in sheet. "What am I, Morey? What am I?" Warms arms, full size ones, suddenly circled her.

"I don't know." Morey said sadly as he embraced her. "I don't know. Istara...?"

"Neither do we." Istara's voice seemed to come from far away now. "But we will help you find out. Rest now, battle sister."

"But..." Nia fell asleep trying to articulate her concerns.
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