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  1. This was agonizing work. If Genesis and Draygo slowed the heart too quickly, the periphery would die. Vice versa, she would either bleed out or the bloodstream would become so toxified with carbon dioxide and metabolic waste that she would drift into a hepatic coma that even bacta might not recover their patients from. And even if the trance was successful, her life was now in the hands of a surgical team that might have never operated on a cadaver since university. But the trance took, and the ooze of blood slowed to the barely-perceptible trickle of capillary action from their patient’s wounds.. Armiena reflexively took a step back as she withdrew from the Force presence of her apprentice. "Sorry, didn't give you much of a chance to refuse. I thought that under the circumstances…" She sighed. The veteran Jedi preferred to believe that she possessed sufficient control to not wander about in Genesis' mind like a psychic wrecking ball, but whether her fellow half-Miraluka had developed such discipline… Armiena was too busy attempting to not murder a patient to notice any such intrusions. She tapped in a brief note on the patient’s chart and summoned the medtechs. "I think she'll live. At least long enough to be stabilized, but… no telling after that.” Draygo led her Padawan out of the hospital and towards the refugee camp’s landing pads. “I’d prefer to look after her, but I’ve been sitting on orders from the Grandmaster to join the fleet. Something is brewing, and judging from the handwritten notes it’s going to get ugly.” A munitions freighter had been diverted from the Jedi Dojo on its way to Justice’s Mandate, and the two Jedi hitched a ride on it towards the orbiting Star Destroyer. From the wholly unfamiliar hangar of the Nebula-class Star Destroyer, Armiena found a yeoman to guide them towards the bridge and their briefing.
  2. ((Neural handshake much?)) Another day. Draygo would be roused from her nap four hours later, jolted to wakefulness by a heavy hand that slammed on the door of the landspeeder. She groggily stumbled out of the vehicle and blearily blinked that the waxing hints of sunlight that heralded the beginning of a new day. She staggered towards the perimeter of the camp, ignoring the shouts of the loaders who had awoken her. Draygo hated her emaciated body, hated the way that her robes seemed to hang from her frame and the tendency of her gunbelt to exhaust her over hours. She had been in peak physical condition during the war, but the indignities that she had suffered at the hands of CreoVive had caused all of that muscle mass to waste away. That needed to change. Physical training began anew. The refugee camp on the peninsula grew accustomed to witnessing her runs along the perimeter of the prefabricated city at daybreak, beginning with a brisk jog under the sweltering forest canopy. As her strength returned over the weeks, she would escalate to merciless sprints in plastoid armor, burdened by a soldier’s rucksack. If, over the course of the weeks, the veteran Jedi had managed to rally a number of sapients who emulated her habit of beginning their days with a punishing sprint, she gave no indication that she had noticed her followers. Another day. The days Still having not secured a berth, the Survivor’s Foundation had become accustomed to the sight of a dozing Jedi Master curled up in the copilot’s seat of their landspeeders, the cloak-enshrouded pile of robes snoring enthusiastically as supplies were delivered throughout the camp. Again, she was roused by a powerful fist hammering beside her head, but as Draygo pulled back the hood of her robe and blinked away the few precious hours of sleep, the wrinkled face of a similarly-dressed Gotal came into focus. The grayed sapient passed a sheet of flimsy into her hands. “Master Draygo,” Her healer nodded. “You haven’t been answering comms. Orders from Alluyen.”Not awaiting a response or her protestations, the Master Healer turned and left her to read the sheet of flimsi. You are required to depart and deploy with Nebula-class Star Destroyer Justice’s Mandate. Detailed briefing will be delivered by Commodore Lendran Neldis. Draygo crumbled up the piece of flimsi and ate it. Another day. Draygo had finally managed to secure permanent lodgings in the camp, a tiny-pressured sealed hut situated far from its landing strips and the constant stream of sublight traffic. Her face ruddy from physical-exertion and blood rushing to her head, she balanced upside-down on her hands and methodically repeated sets of push-ups. Her arms shook with every repetition and a puddle of sweat had pooled below her head, but she endured the burning of her limbs with a wolfish grin—this kind of pain was an old friend to the veteran Jedi. Her lips silently counting off the repetitions, Armiena glanced upwards as a familiar presence approached. Master Gloth opened the seal of her tent and the Gotal Healer stared disapprovingly at her. Armiena spat out a strand of hair from the beginnings of a short ponytail. “What… is… it?” “You had orders.” "I made a commitment to these people. I was going to help them, be whatever they needed me to be. Even if I would have preferred to be out on the front lines." "How much has this camp grown since you've took residence here? The influx of refugees hasn't abated--even if Borleias' government has refused to allow additional settlement, it hasn't been able to prevent it. Master Darkfire--hush a moment--these people need you a great deal more than they require a single mediocre Healer and her Padawan. They need the fighter.” Fighting to keep her voice steady despite the trembling of her arms, the veteran Jedi glared at the Gotal Healer. "My name is Draygo." "Tell that to your son." Her arms collapsed under her body. Somehow turning the motion into a languid forward roll, the veteran Jedi rose to her feet, grabbed the grim-faced Gotal by a fistful of robes and pressed the greypelt against the wall of the hut. Threats, justifications, and curses all competed for her exhausted breath, which was only capable of managing a strangled gasp that sounded vaguely like "you… you…" Then the screaming started. Suddenly aware of an explosion of pain that burst from the perimeter of the camp, Armiena set down the Healer and left the older Jedi behind. Not bothering to don her robes, she ran through the camp towards the hospital. Now a familiar figure to the staff, she was immediately led towards the surgical wards “Bring the worst to a private room.” She muttered towards the shift supervisor, negotiating her prosthetic hand into the gloves. “I need to be alone for this.” Completing the sterilization protocols, Draygo made her way into a private room with a gurney, blood dripping from the side. What she saw in this sapient was little more than a breathing corpse: a three-limbed body of blisters, burns, and abrasions, only recognizable as a Zabrak from the forehead horns. Perhaps the crash victim had a face, but it was obscured by swollen welts and bruises and implanted pieces of vegetation. Having been impaled through the cheek and shoulder with long shards of green plasteel, he was already fading. Draygo approached and laid a hand on the Zabrak’s chest just in time to feel his chest fall for the last time. She sighed. The veteran Jedi left the suite and made for her apprentice. Seeing him hesitating before a similarly wounded woman, Armiena approached and tapped him on the shoulder. “Bacta tanks are occupied. She won’t make it long enough without… assistance. Sync?” She asked, extending her Force presence in a teasing, hesitating manner. Remembering her mother’s rituals on Coruscant, Draygo shut her eyes and allowed her mental defenses to slip, permitting Genesis to potentially invade the most privately-held recesses of her mind. It was an amateurish emulation of her mother’s Force-meld, but it would between two closely-linked individuals. She spoke, but words were not quite necessary through the meld. “Morichro is a dangerous technique and has the potential to be abused, but it may save this woman. We’ll put her into a hibernation and slow her bodily functions to the point of near-death. Foundation is going to think that we’ve killed her, but we’ll implant a code-phrase so they can wake her the moment she comes out of treatment.” Draygo moved slowly, not quite trusting her abilities with this dangerous technique. Her senses permeating the crash victim’s flesh, she began the work of shutting down the woman’s body and deliberately killing her… so that she could live again.
  3. I will be out of the country from April 26th to May 5th. I'll do my best to check in as WiFi is available, but international data on my plan is somewhat expensive and I'll be attempting to use it sparingly.
  4. As focused as she was on the half-awake, half-competent medtech, Draygo never took register of the sly tip of the scalpel that slipped into her mind. She just quietly yawned and fought the temptation to count the hours. However, the veteran Jedi knew that she would be more useful after a few hours of sleep--actual shut-eye, rather than a Jedi rejuvenation trance that would restore the body without providing respite to the soul. And her healers had warned her of something--osteocalcititis or something like that--a potentially chronic condition that could result from her stint on Coruscant. She would be more useful after a few hours of sleep. In her present condition, she was likely to bumble into a medtech’s private neuroses and trigger a panic attack during a surgical operation. “Point. Been… eighteen? Nineteen hours since coming out of that bacta tank? Oh, finally she gets it.” Draygo pushed herself away from the window separating her from the surgical suite and grasped her Padawan by the shoulder. “I’ll leave this situation in… your…” She blinked slowly. “Hands. Make sure that you’re always on the move. And… you’re likely to lose someone at some point. Try not to blame yourself. I know that you will, but try not to and learn as much as you can.” And then she was gone. ___ Ten minutes later, Draygo reemerged from the Foundation’s hospital, having abandoned her scrubs for a freshly laundered set of robes. Feeling something wet splash against her face, she glanced upwards--again, Borleias’ tropics were gracing the refugee camp with one of the planet’s ten-minute showers. It only just occurred to Armiena that she had yet to secure berthing in the camp. No matter. Spying an unoccupied landspeeder that was unloading near the prefab buildings that comprised the Foundation’s hospital, she drew her cloak over her face and clambered into the vehicle’s cockpit. Glancing over her shoulder to find that none of the teamsters at the flatbed had taken notice of her trespass, Draygo then rummaged through the internal compartment for a piece of stikflimsi to scrawl a note to place on her forehead. It was only fair, that when one of the teamsters inevitably climbed aboard to find the snoring form of a woman with two lightsabers curled up in the copilot’s seat, that they were at least briefed: Yes its me. Wake if you need me. Loud noises--NO POKING.
  5. Weariness, physical exertion, mental exhaustion. Draygo took a deep breath and talked herself through one of the rejuvenation forms that she had been taught as a Padawan. The exercise was to little benefit, however; she was having difficulty focusing on the routine. There was simply too much to accomplish. Draygo brushed away weariness from her eyes and turned away, pausing only to glance at the Twi’lek’s medical charts. The identity code on the Twi’lek's chart suggested a past in the military, and while his middling age hinted towards at least several years in experience, his medical history was unusual only in its ordinariness: vaccinations, a few prophylactics that the Rebellion sometimes administered as insurance against biological attacks, but there was nothing left other than minor injuries that had probably been patched up by a platoon medic. He was, for all intents and purposes, a nobody. The veteran Jedi glanced at the sedate figure in the gurney and shrugged. She had already consigned this patient’s name to unimportant miscellany and would completely forget it by the end of this day. Whatever the Force needed from her, however, its demands had been met and she was free to pursue her own objectives. Unrecognizable save for the lightsabers at her waist, Draygo silently wove through the low-hanging corridors of the prefabricated structure, hands clasped and eyes focused on a point only a few centimeters before her nose. As a healer, her technique was crude--best described as “meatball medicine”--and she could only save one person at a time. As a Jedi, however, her talents laid elsewhere. Her consciousness expanded outwards, and she hunted down a cluster of sapients so dulled with exhaustion that they verged on unconsciousness… An hour later, a team of surgeons and an ancient 2-1B medical droid were closing up a patient after laboriously removing several pieces of shrapnel that had penetrated dangerously close to a major artery. It had been a delicate, dangerous operation, the sort of work that a surgical droid was better suited for than the fatigue-prone limbs of a sapient made of flesh. A millimeter of false movement could have sliced an artery or nerve bundle or muscle, necessitating a prolonged dunk in a bacta tank in order to save the Devaronian’s life; however, even after having labored for twenty-nine hours without more than a brief nap, the team of surgeons had performed flawlessly, having caught something of a second wind the moment that the first incision had been made into the patient’s leg. Chirrut Yen hummed an obnoxiously cheerful pop tune from his home planet as the final adhesions were applied, turning the gory mess of a leg into a neatly-sealed limb that only needed a few bacta bandages for a speedy recovery. Yen turned away from the operating table, pulled away his heads-up display and started upon seeing a figure with two lightsabers just within the sterilization field, casually leaning against a set of durasteel cabinets. Master Draygo had wandered into the operating suite without a sound and quietly stood by while the operation continued. “Who let you in here?” He attempted to demand, though the surgeon couldn’t quite muster the energy or outrage at the trespass. Her voice answered with a queer inflection, as though she was focusing on a rather enthralling daydream. “I… Hm. Good question. Well done, I’ll be going elsewhere if you don’t need me.” And then she was gone. Lacking an immediate objective, Draygo wandered throughout the emergency ward of the hospital, wordlessly passing from room to room and finding clusters of exhausted medicians to assist. Most of them were so focused on their tasks that it was simple for her Force-presence to sidle up to their honed consciousnesses--and so she offered a modicum of her power to them, giving herself to others who were far better qualified for this crisis. She never spoke a word unless required to justify her presence--and she wouldn’t quite meet the eyes of any medtech who demanded her to explain her intrusion into a private medical suite. However, few among the staff challenged her presence; even though the Jedi Master simply found a convenient corner and blankly at a wall, the rumple of teal scrubs was somehow a vaguely reassuring presence--even a slightly motivating one. So passed the next hour. Genesis would eventually find his teacher staring through the window of one of the operating rooms, frowning in exasperation at having to guide an exhausted surgeon through a routine operation. “No, you silly fool; she has a bacta allergy--check your charts… oh? Next thing I can teach you before I--don’t make me go over there. Sorry. It’s a little easy to… lose yourself in the battle-meld. Yes, there you have it. You have this now, yes?” Her mind withdrew from the alien’s presence and she finally devoted her full attention to her student. “I think we should start with something that doesn’t involve willfully inflicting Mern-Peth-Dorn on yourself.” She glanced back towards the operating suite, for the moment quite concerned. “I have no idea how mother does it… Anyway, Jedi Persuasion. Slew of techniques, all quite useful, whether you need to convince an obstinate individual to do something for their own good, or just prevent someone from recognizing you. Very versatile. “Easiest to…” She blinked slowly. “Easiest to read your target’s surface impressions, just quietly sidle along and figure out their motivations, then align your own presence alongside theirs. Contrary to what some very stupid and pessimistic and… um… dour philosophers have claimed, most people don’t want to be malicious or harmful--at worst, most people are just scared or greedy. it’s actually best to just impress upon them that what you’re suggesting is the most reasonable and beneficial course of action.” “There is a medtech unconscious in a storage room; I think Aurek Eleven-Two Besh. Would you please convince the poor guy to clock out and get some real sleep in an actual bed? At least three people have asked him to give it up--he’s done everything he can.” ((Mern-Peth-Dorn: MPD, or Multiple Personality Disorder.))
  6. The Foundation medtech had served with their mercy fleets for nearly a decade, and at this point, he had learned to recognize the signs that a surgeon had overexerted themselves and were about to collapse. The moment that the shivers came and the color faded from Genesis’ face, the teal-clad figure redeployed from its vigil at the Twi’lek’s face and stood patiently behind the half-Miraluka, waiting for the moment that his knees gave out… And the teenager fell into the hands of their more experienced assistant. It was a familiar routine at this point; the medtech caught him under the armpits and wordlessly dragged the Jedi Padawan away from the gurney, to be unceremoniously and delicately laid to rest in the middle of the burn ward. Draygo was so focused on their patient that she didn’t even look up until the medtech started slamming cabinets in search of stims--or smelling salts--or even a bottle of peppermint extract--anything that might be useful to rouse him. Having just added six hours to a day that had already lasted twenty-seven, the medtech’s frustration began to boil over and the search grew louder with a metallic clatter and mumbled curses. Draygo finally glanced up from the Twi’lek’s chest and blinked rapidly to clear the dryness from her eyes. “Hm? Oh, nuts.” A final cursory glance at their patient’s sensor readouts confirmed that he wasn’t actively attempting to die--but more importantly, Draygo’s feet didn’t seem to be rooted to a square meter of sterilized linoleum. She knelt beside her Padawan and cradled his head in her left hand. There was a trick that she had learned long ago: in most humanoid species there was a minute region of the brain, if gently stimulated with the Force, would abruptly jolt the subject to wakefulness. Draygo carefully probed about her Padawan’s brain and and gave a tiny portion of grey matter a metaphorical prod through the Force… Even if the nervous prodding roused its subject to full wakefulness, it was not exactly a wholesome method to maintain consciousness. It would never provide the refreshment and mental clarity of rest or even meditation. But it would awaken Genesis. “Try to lock your knees next time.” Armiena began when his eyelids began to flicker. “I think he’ll live. The Force isn’t poking me in the eye whenever I look away from him. “I’ll be going to Emergency next, see where I can lend a hand… if you can move?”
  7. Draygo knew little about Twi’lek anatomy, at least nothing more specialized than what she needed to know to be more efficient at taking it apart; but there were certain immutable laws of anatomy that all mammalian species obeyed. No track developed over millions of years of evolution would ever alter the mathematics of gas exchange or fluid dynamics. Ironically, Draygo never would have trusted herself to set the broken bone of a Twi’lek, but she was able to patiently regrow shrivelled alveoli and gently pluck away rigid scar tissue from his diaphragm to make way for flexible muscle. She looked up at her Padawan and smiled. Her lips couldn’t be seen under the breath mask, but the pale green of her eyes shone with satisfaction. “Steady. We have a long day ahead of us.” A probe of what Draygo surmised was probably the Twi’lek’s liver suggested that the organ was largely intact, and she diverted Genesis’ attention to the humanoid’s kidneys. They were utterly ruined by dehydration, so common in severe burn injuries--the Twi’lek was slowly dying of renal failure as waste products that would have normally been filtered were allowed to build up to toxic levels. A breath of a breeze stirred the air as one of the Foundation’s medtech’s, having realized that the two Jedi were determined to save a patient that was considered a waste of resources, came to offer assistance. “Severely dehydrated. Can’t very well create water out of vaccuum. I’m a Jedi, not a miracle worker-oh, motherfffff…” Armiena glanced upward. Only two seconds later, the sensor readout of the Twi’lek’s vital signs crashed across all outputs. “Must have thrown a clot, or we missed a bleed… or…” There were a dozen things that Armiena supposed that could have caused their patient to suddenly stand on death’s doorstep. She glared at her Padawan. “I’ll keep his heart going. You find whatever we missed… and unmiss it.” The veteran Jedi formed a loose fist around the Twi’lek’s heart with the Force and took a moment to study the faltering pattern of motion, even as the muscle gradually began to die. Conveniently enough, the heart appeared to be four-chambered, even if the orientation of the chambers was significantly different from a human’s and the pattern of the primary blood vessels were completely dissimilar. Still, it was a simple enough motion to replicate with a gentle application of the Force, to gingerly clench and relax the chambers with repetitive motions. However, even with Armiena forcing the tissue to contract and the medtech beginning to draw an oxygen tube down the humanoid’s throat, it was only inevitable that the Twi'lek would die without intervention. ((I’m going to leave this one up to you.))
  8. “Felucia, actually.” Armiena’s left eye twitched out of a mixture of anxiety and exhaustion. she cupped the mug of caf to shake the blonde Jedi Knight’s hand. With her metal right hand--her grip came with a surge of heat, it having been clasped around the walls of the scalding beverage. A mimicry of a smile made an attempt at appearing on her face. “It’s been a year of a… month? I think? I interrogated you about my son there.” No news had come from the Imperial Remnant concerning her son’s fate--though the silence was probably confirmation that Aidan had made it through Kuat unharmed, or at least intact enough that bacta immersion was unnecessary. His capture or death would have been trumpeted endlessly by the Sith. “I don’t suppose you’ve heard anything from him?”
  9. Just another hour. Another hour. Just keep moving. She blinked hard and shook off the eerie sense of having donned her own body upon withdrawing from one of the passing medtechs. Draygo couldn’t blame the Senth-Forn for consigning the Twi’lek to palliative care and simply affording him a comfortable death. The Foundation was contending with one of the largest mass-casualty events in galactic history, and even with the shoulders of the entire galaxy to bear the weight of billions of refugees, many of the wounded of Coruscant were going to need to be triaged and allowed to die without intervention. It was the cold calculations of medical care, and none of the variables were working in their favor--too many patients, too few bacta tanks, not enough time. “I’ve clinically dead when I was brought to a Jedi Healer, and they brought me back. Twice.” Draygo stretched out fingers and resisted the urge to tear off the gloves when they snagged on her prosthetic. “This may take some time, but we’ll have to suffice.” Armiena reached out and placed her metal hand on the dying Twi’lek’s breastbone. A pair of pale green eyes flickered upwards at her apprentice. “It’s not necessary, but the physicality of touch helps.” Armiena took a deep breath, then slowly five more and closed her eyes. This was the kind of work that the veteran Jedi had never taken to; she could ward off blaster fire, make a lightsaber dance, even calm the eye of a tempest, but the self-abnegation that Jedi Healing required never came naturally to her. “Deep breaths, focus on his vitals. Lungs and cardiac first. Compare the damaged tissue to the healthy.” The right lung was burned through, roasted in a flash by an inopportune gasp of superheated air. The odd patch of healthy tissue was barely sustaining the Twi’lek, but the few intact branches of alveoli were insufficient to fuel his heart for much longer. There were millions of these branches to repair. “It’s a very… small task, isn’t it? And yet enormous. Remember the delicate pattern of the tissue and piece it together. Reach out and let the Force flow through his flesh. Remember the delicate pattern of the tissue and we will begin piecing it together.”
  10. After one hundred and sixty-two hours of sleepless work, and breaks taken only for rejuvenative trances and to devour ration bars, Armiena’s physiology had bowed to the inevitable. She had fallen asleep. Fortunately, reality had ensued not during a fraught conversation with a stubborn representative of Industrial Automaton or during an attempt at blackmailing the board of directors of Creovive Biotechnology, but in the midst of sketching notes for a side project. The veteran Jedi woke with drool smearing the screen of the datapad. Awareness gradually returned to her and she pushed away the device, blinking blearily at an alteration she must have made in her half-conscious state. She frowned. A sphere had been sketched on the side of the diagrams of what was intended to her her next lightsaber--she had even notated its kilometers-long radius and outer shell. Hollow? Unimportant, she decided, and the result of a half-mad brainstorming session after a deliriously long day. Week. ____ Several minutes later, Draygo finally arrived at the Hall of a Thousand Lights, the exhausted Jedi Master having been guided by a Gand clerical. Clad in the same simple, somewhat loosely-fitting set of brown robes that she had been wearing the entire last week, Draygo looked and smelled as though she had been working throughout the week without rest. Her metal right hand clutched at an excessively hot mug of caf, and she alternated between long gulps of the steaming beverage and greedy bites of a ration bar. Tremors of activity around her Force-presence suggested that she was absorbing the heat of the near-boiling liquid to avoid being burned. This was a desperate hour. “‘pologies.” Another long gulp of caf. Draygo’s pale-green eyes blinked over the rim of the mug towards Tobias Vos. She took in two long breaths of the steam from the beverage and slowly, as though the motion was unfamiliar to her, rose to her full height. “I’m… ready. Yes. When Alluyen arrives, we can begin.” The veteran Jedi wasn’t entirely certain whether she had missed Alluyen upon arrival to the hall. Admittedly, her eyes were not functioning terribly well in her sleep-deprived state.
  11. “Padawan, I’ve lost count of the number of lives I’ve had to take, but the most dangerous thing that I’ve ever done was to convince ordinary people that they were capable of accomplishing extraordinary things.” The whine of a poorly-tuned set of sublight engines shrieked overhead. Draygo winced and glanced towards the sealed flap of the habitat. “The most important thing that we can accomplish right now is to convince these people that they have not lost--and that the Jedi’ll be there to help them. Come with me.” Armiena led Genesis out of the tent and into the steamy streets of the refugee camp. A brief shower having drizzled over the camp only an hour ago, she was shortly soaked in sweat and was forced to draw back the hood of her robe just to breathe. Even after years of relative peace, hers was still a face that was recognized and drew stares. Draygo ignored the following eyes, however, and pointed out the destination of most of the camp’s aerospace traffic: a block of prefabricated plasteel buildings at the edge of the camp that housed the medical facilities. Unadorned save for a crimson sigil on their sides, the spartan constructions--more like shipping containers that had been assembled to form a single structure--might have been airdropped by the Survivor’s Foundation. Immediately after entering the prefabs and attempting to make their way into the hospital, they were accosted by a harried-looking Bothan in a teal robe who physically blocked their further egress. "Not like that! Not like that! Look, we’re happy for the help, but..." The Bothan's voice lowered and she physically shoved Draygo from passing through the decontamination field. "We are overwhelmed. We have too many patients from Coruscant and so many of them are immunocompromised. Our overcrowding is growing in severity and if anyone enters without decontamination protocols….” "I understand." Armiena whispered somewhat breathlessly. This close to an overexhausted Bothan, the smell of wet fur was almost overwhelming. “It’s her world, Genesis.” The two Jedi were drawn to a side room to change out of their ash-stained, sweat-soaked robes. Armiena had been forced to don a pale teal gown of paper-thin, sterilized cloth, and most of her face was concealed by a breath mask over her mouth and nose. She had even been forced to wear gloves over both her organic and metal prosthetic hands, but she had at least managed to convince the Foundation's techs to sterilize her lightsabers and allow her to carry them beyond the decontamination field. Even if her face was obscured, at least it would have been impossible for anyone to identify her as anything other than a Jedi. Upon passing through the decontamination field and entering the hospital, Draygo saw that the overcrowding was worse than she could have imagined. This close to Coruscant, Borleias had taken many of the city-planet’s refugees, including a disproportionate share of those wounded in the Mandalorian raids. The wards were housed to overflowing with patients and many were forced to convalesce in the hallways of the prefabricated building. She reached for the Force and nearly flinched; the medical staff radiated with exhaustion, and the days of nonstop labor were edged on their bodies in shadowed eyes, weary faces, and shaking hands. “Behold the glory of war.” She spat out as she followed the symbols lining the low ceiling towards the burn ward. This sector of the hospital was unnervingly silent--many of the patients had drawers pulled around their beds to hide the disfigurements of their wounds. Draygo silently passed through the rooms, glancing that medical charts and checking triage statuses. Many of these sapients were anesthetized and encased within portable bacta units--essentially glassine, coffin-like boxes through which minute amounts of bacta were pumped through. Occasionally, however, she read a chart that indicated that the patient was not expected to survive without drastic intervention--more than the Survivor’s Foundation could expend while overwhelmed with patients. It was there that the Jedi should begin their work. Eventually, she passed a patient whose chart suggested that the Twi’lek was not expected to survive under any circumstances. Draygo’s lips thinned and she began to move away, but found her legs unable to move, as though they were encased in duracrete. Her pale green eyes glanced towards the patient and then towards the fourth wall. An eyebrow arched, questioning the wisdom of the force that placed her here. She approached the curtain and drew it away. The being that rested there was barely recognizable as a Twi’lek: both lekku had nearly been burned away and ended in shrivelled vestiges. Portions of his ash-dark skin were blackened; most of the rest was red and inflamed. His left arm ended in a stump at the wrist. Draygo recited the medical chart with a dull tone in her voice. “Burns to seventy percent of body. Vacuum exposure. Laceration from shrapnel half a centimeter from nicking the femoral arteries. Patient is… expectant? Palliative care only. All nonsense, of course.” She carelessly tossed away the datapad. “Jedi Healing is… draining, but it’s as effective as a bacta tank in some circumstances. I really wish Skye was here.” She added under her breath. “Reach out to the Force and take some time to explore his… uh… Ousrem’s injuries. Vitals first--lungs, heart, kidneys and liver.” For the moment, Armiena’s Force-presence drew away from the Twi’lek and towards the staff of the hospital. Exhaustion dulled their presences and their minds like the overuse of a knife; mistakes were being made, reactions were slowing and tempers were beginning to rise. She took a deep breath and began to relax her own mental defenses; her presence began to draw near to a weary Mon Calamari who had spent her last thirty-six in the burn ward. Draygo’s Force-presence sidled along with a coy, almost teasing invitation...
  12. “I was in a poor state the first time I killed. Sick for hours.” Like most first attempts at extremely difficult tasks, Armiena’s first kill had been a messy, emotional ordeal, filled with angst and uncertainty. Like most difficult tasks, however, her proficiency was improved with practice--and she had had a lot of practice over the course of the civil war. What an irony it was, that after the failure of the lessons of her training to take root, that she would be tasked with training an apprentice who had made the solemn decision to avoid taking life after losing his home and parents. Somewhere in the galaxy or in the abyssal mysts of the Force, there was surely an old Caamasi smiling at this irony. “You lost your parents and you wanted to hurt something. Trust me, I understand.” An edge of experience in her voice suggested that it was than just empathy that Armiena drew upon. “It’s human nature, not exactly something to be ashamed of. Giving in to these urges, on the other hand… “These base impulses--bloodlust, greed, fear, pride… these are the things in which your dark side can infiltrate, and they can be quite addictive. But serving these impulses is a miserable existence and they’re inevitably self-destructive. And just plain destructive.” ____ ((From the perspective of Bruce Slaughter.)) The ravaging of Coruscant had left the galactic Holonet array in a frayed state, between the loss of so many planetary relay stations and an extraordinary strain placed on the hyperspace transceivers by the hundreds of billions of sapients who were frantically searching for updates on the lives of their loved ones. Military communications, however, always enjoyed a priority status and a transmission from Anaxes made it through. From a minor communications installation on the planet surface, the transmission would be forwarded to the Adi-wan and would make its way to a briefing room, where, if Jedi Knight Alluyen and Admiral Beck Pilon chose to receive it, it would manifest itself in a live holographic communication of Admiral Bruce Slaughter.
  13. “Genesis…” For the moment, Armiena was at a loss for words. She had imagined that the young man’s hesitance to wield a blade was inspired from some religious conviction or personal idealogy, but surely the boy couldn’t have been old enough to commit the kind of moral failures that his teacher had made. Then again, the veteran Jedi had barely been more than a girl when Tarkin had visited her homeworld and ended her childhood with a plunge into civil war. She approached her apprentice and hugged him. She didn’t care if his tears were soaking into the shoulder of her robes, or if physical contact like of this nature was disapproved of by the Jedi Order; Genesis needed someone more than a Master or a teacher. He needed an empathetic human being. “It’s not alright.” Odd words for comfort, but Armiena would have given much to hear a fellow Jedi acknowledge how deeply she had been wounded. “But I understand.” She drew away and stared her apprentice in the eyes. The intensity of her gaze was such that she resembled an overgrown, battle-worn bird of prey as much as she did a fellow sapient. “Look me in the eye. I can’t say that I condone what you did, but I can understand how it might have happened.” Armiena began, not unkindly. “Anger comes easily in the middle of a fight, especially when blood is in the air, especially when you’ve lost people who are so important to you. That anger you felt when you killed that hound, it felt… right, didn’t it?”
  14. The two veteran operatives sat down heavily on the grass. Clinking the ceramic mugs together, Draygo took a sip of the warm beverage and scowled. “The Sith is this?” She peered into the mug with accusing eyes. “Caf. So the Senth-Forn claims.” Draygo considered the mug and pressed it between her palms. It seemed a constant in her galaxy that every freely offered caffeinated beverage was either burned, bitter, cold, or all three of those descriptors at the same time. Granted, this was synth-caf, engineered to be cheaply produced by the tonne to keep an army of medicians on their feet, not to be particularly flavorful or even palatable. Flakes of undissolved creamer swirled limply in the coffee-like liquid and occasionally bobbed just beneath the surface. “I know that this has been a raw week.” Her friend gave another sip. “Talk to me.” It took nearly an hour for Armiena to say another word. Hamis didn’t pry any further; the Corellian didn’t even probe her presence with the Force, his thoughts and senses focusing elsewhere in the refugee camp. Once or twice in this hour the heavily-built man gave a full-body twitch, as though an invisible stranger had poked him in a pressure point. Draygo just continued drinking her not-quite-caf and continued to plot. Alluyen might be able to summon a conclave and rally the Jedi Order, she mused, but there was too much work to get done on the ground to simply wait for the Order rouse from its sedation and mobilize for war. A few hundred Jedi and their support staff would never be able to mount an effective resistance against the Sith. However, if the outrage at the scouring of Coruscant could be turned to a more productive purpose… Her next sip came up dry. She sighed. It was time to return to her own skin. “Aryian is dead. Don’t know how, don’t know where he was. I’ll find the filth that killed him… has to wait, though.” Her voice began to take on a hysterical pitch. “Mother should have gotten here hours before me--something happened and I don’t know where she is. And Aidan--Kuat got hit and I haven’t heard anything--I don’t even know if I would feel it if something had happened.” Draygo forced herself to take a deep breath. “Everything has changed since I got stuck in that prison. Most of my friends are missing or gone. I went to Kashyyyk believing that I had won--that whatever Faust did, the galaxy finally had a stable government and Aidan wouldn’t have to go through what I have. Now I’m looking at all of… this.” She indicated the overgrown tent city. “And I have to ask myself ‘what was it all for?’” There was a trickle of liquid spilling beside her as Hamis poured the remnants of his caffeinated caricature on the ground. “I think I can help. “I have some friends in Imperial space. I can ask them to make inquiries, find out whether he made it through. They won’t be able to get eyes on your kid, but… well, better than wondering. And Misal is alive, I can tell you that much.” The certainty in the spy’s voice made her gaze rise from its study of the powdery sludge that persisted in her cup. The middle-aged Corellian’s forehead shone like glass in the sultry tropical heat. “We have a protocol for when we’re in the field and need to go comms-silent for a while. We periodically send out a… ping over our bonds--it feels a lot like a persistent hiccup, actually. It just reassures us that we’re all still alive. Space-mom’s been reporting in on a regular basis, ‘bout every thirty minutes.” “You can tell that over interstellar distances?” “We place a much higher priority on developing Force bonds than you Jedi. I mean, it’s nothing clear--it’s a bit like a hiccup that won’t go away. But all I know is that she’s alive, she’s coherent, and she’s working. Now, Borleias.” The spy launched into a summation of the strategic situation around Borleias. Senator Modell of Zeltros had managed to escape Coruscant before its moon fell and she was somewhere in orbit around the planet, where the Zeltron could monitor the situation without exposing her psyche to the turbulence of millions of desperate refugees. In the more immediate term, a small number of the refugees from Coruscant were combat veterans of the civil war, forced into civilian life by the reductions in the Galactic Alliance’s military. With Coruscant overrun by the Mandalorians, there might be very little time to act if their fleet followed through on their conquests. “Something that your mother likes to tell new squaddies: Our mission began long before you were born and you will die before it’s complete. Forget about the future, forget about everything that might happen and all the possibilities that might arise. Forget about hope. Forget about despair. None of these will help. Solve one problem at a time and move onto the next one until you run out of problems… or you run out of time.” “That’s a bit grim.” “Your mother has been operating for a very long time. Get to work, Draygo.” ____ The veteran Jedi eventually made her way back to the tent that she and her Padawan had occupied. There was no need for her to confirm the success of her pupil; Armiena could sense the flare of triumph that came from the tent… as well as the starburst of awe that followed shortly thereafter. Turning down the tidy lane of tents, her eyes caught a glimpse of a miniature witness who was peering into the tent flap to investigate the flight path of an levitating caf mug. The child’s nose turned upwards as Draygo approached and she sniffed. She turned to see the veteran Jedi, but her eyes were initially focused on the two lightsabers at her belt. One of them was the source of the acrid scent of smoke, its internals having been reduced to slag by her lightning rod stunt on Coruscant. Her brown eyes next focused on Armiena’s face, and her jaw fell open. The girl seemed to be trying to communicate, or at least her lips and jaw were attempting to form syllables. However, her voice hadn’t yet caught up with her thoughts and the best that she managed was a vague, strangled noise that sounded like y… y… you?. “Yes, me.” Armiena forced herself to smile. She crouched down to the child’s level. “I need to speak to my Padawan for a moment. May we borrow your tent for a few more minutes?” There was a possibility that this child and her parents weren’t dwelling in this shelter, judging from the girl’s continued stammers--that, or she hadn’t expected to meet a former Jedi Grandmaster and was still slightly dumbstruck. Draygo patted the Devaronian on the shoulder and stepped into the shelter. “I felt it a mile away. Well done. “There’s been something that I’ve been meaning to ask since Coruscant. I offered you a lightsaber on the landing platform, but you refused. I need to know why.”
  15. Draygo just stared at her apprentice. There was a raw intensity behind her eyes that would have made a Jedi shiver, or a Sith to question the wisdom of having inflicted such a wound on a former Grandmaster. “Genesis…” The older Jedi began, but failed to find words appropriate for the moment. She needed to step out. It was too warm in that tent, the humidity of the forest’s edge too stifling. She crouched under the tent’s flap and disappeared into the rows of the refugee camp. The refugee camp, a conglomeration of hastily erected tents and prefabricated shelters, was an exercise in organized chaos. The tents were arranged into tidy, efficiently-ordered columns to allow speedy passage of groundspeeders and heavy lifters--there was even signage to guide refugees to medical facilities, commisaries, and to stations where they could inquire about the fate of their loved ones, but the camp was already in danger of exceeding its intended capacity. As she made her way through the camp, Armiena was buffeted by crowds of refugees. She lifted her hood over her face, but concealing her identity as a Jedi was an impossibility thanks to the lightsabers on her waist. She was forced to occasionally turn her face and evade down one of the tidy rows of cream-colored tents to avoid the eyes of any refugee who grew curious of her presence. Obeying the whims of some cursed compulsion, the veteran Jedi darted towards the sides of one of the innumerable tents when a starship with twin ion engines shrieked above. When the scream of the engines passed, the brown-clad Jedi withdrew from the shelter of the low wall and glanced upwards, an unspoken curse on her lips. Armiena surveyed the ships transiting towards the camp through the mist of of the tropical clearing. The familiar, dagger-like hull of a Victory-class Star Destroyer hung many kilometers above the planet, for once a reassuring sight. A stream of freighters and shuttles rushed between the Star Destroyer and the planet in a constant ferry of supplies and patients. The smaller vessels, mostly small-crew shuttles and atmosphere-bound airspeeders, were congregating towards a point a few kilometers away, just shy of the edge of the refugee camp. Red and blue spotlights flickered on their hulls, demarking them as emergency medical vehicles. That was where the camp’s hospital would be located. She felt a pang of loneliness when she realized that she had no idea where Master Organa was currently operating. Draygo was perfectly aware of her deficiencies as a healer but had personally experienced Skye’s abilities on numerous occasions. An emergency of this scale required the services of the Master Healer. Unfortunately, all that was available was a neophyte Padawan, a mediocre healer, and the few Jedi that the Dojo could spare. Draygo would have given multiple limbs to have her present. Or Darex, for that matter. Or even just information on where her mother or Aidan were located. She had never felt so alone. Armiena lowered her face. There was no time for this, she told herself. Fretting and grieving had to wait for a time when hours weren’t worth millions of lives. But the tears came nonetheless. Her shoulders shaking with with silent sobs, the dam broke and she covered her face with her hands. As she quietly cried, Armiena gradually became aware of an alert presence focusing its attention on her and approaching. He could barely hear his voice over the murmur of the camp’s throngs, a clipped Corellian accent that kept repeating the same words. She knew that voice, had spoken to the man only a week ago. “Hello, caf? Caf? Draygo--you look like you could use a caf.” She glanced up, the strain of the last two days evident in the falling tears from her eyes. The man was bald, middle-aged, almost pudgy--though the man was too broadly built for the weight to be the fault of sloth. Even the dust that had been purposefully smudged over his lined face and the filthy crimson tunic couldn’t completely disguise the purpose in his posture and the presence of military training that a practiced eye could discern. This Corellian was one of her mother’s spies. More importantly, he bore two steaming mugs of caf, one of which had spilled over the cuff of the dusty tunic. “Hey, Mister Hamis.” Even if her mother’s organization couldn’t take direct action, it could provide information--or at least, a friendly shoulder that shared the same grief.
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