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ObliviousKnight

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  1. “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?”
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. “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...
  5. “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.
  6. “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?”
  7. 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.”
  8. 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.
  9. "Alluyen, if it's all the same to you, we'll head to the planet surface. I'm not much use up here. Refugees to comfort, wounded to treat, apprentice to train. If you need anything, I have some old backchannels that might still be operational. Genesis?" Draygo's eyes flickered towards the portal of the medical suite. A set of brown robes and a pair of synthleather boots had just been delivered for her benefit--they would be a little bit large for her frame, but a few weeks of training would correct that miscalculation. Clenching the straps of the boots between her teeth, Draygo led the half-Miraluka teenager out of the medical suite and back towards the hangar. The veteran Jedi had never served aboard a VicStar, but these old Imperial ships all had a standardized layout--she would have been able to find her way around even with her eyes closed. "'oo muff 'oo geh uhn. Go'a conack uhm ol' frehns..." On the way, Draygo clumsily changed into the robes, first wrapping herself into the brown garments against the brisk air of the hospital ship, then hopping one leg at a time into her trousers. "Gotta contact some old friends from the Rebellion days--some industry and diplomatic contacts that I owe about five favors to. Hopefully we can find a shuttle to the surface--ah." As it so happened, several shuttles and freighters were departing from the hospital ship every minute, and Draygo's half-cinched robe was blasted open by the backwash of an old Corellian freighter's sublights mere seconds after the two Jedi arrived at the bustling hangar. The veteran Jedi pointed towards a Lambda-class shuttle that was being loaded for deployment to Borleias--an official Survivor's Foundation ship, with a white hull and red markings to designate it as a medical vessel. Hopping on one foot at a time in an attempt to don her boots amidst the organized chaos of the hangar, the two Jedi managed to squeeze onto the shuttle despite an overcrowding load of medical personnel and droids. Sandwiched between an old Gonk battery droid and a surgical droid with an unnervingly insectoid appearance, Draygo called out into the overloaded shuttle for a comlink and one eventually was passed through the crowd in the shuttle's boarding ramp. She sighed as she contacted a frequency that was rarely used by the veteran Jedi--she would have preferred not making this call, but she needed to know about the fate of her ex-husband. "Yeah, it's Draygo." Evidently, the cloning facility on Borleias had been expecting a communication from her for several days. “I wanted to ask if there was any sign that Aryian… was…” A long string of apologetic technobabble cut her off. Armiena didn’t understand a word of it; her specialties were in artificial intelligence and mechanics and she had no grasp of the finer details of transdimensional metacommunication and Force Ghost transcience. Nor did she want to. She preferred to pretend that this particular department of the Jedi Order didn’t exist, despite having paid visits to those sterile rooms on several occasions. Armiena swallowed. Something warm fell from her face and she blinked rapidly. A few well-meaning words of comfort followed the thesis on the limitations of the communications system and the theories governing the flash-learning program used by the Jedi Order. Draygo cut it off. “Yes, thank you. I understand. I know how the system works. I… just keep me informed if anything changes? Thank you.” She spent the remainder of the brief journey to the surface of Borleias in silence, her eyes closed and her thoughts kept to herself. Upon feeling the shuttle rock forwards on its landing struts with their arrival to the refugee camp on the Juanthir Peninsula, Draygo managed to find an unoccupied tent where the two could remove themselves from the throngs of refugees searching for food, shelter, and loved ones. Situated in a rainforest clearing that had recently been clear-cut, the unconditioned air in the tent quickly became oppressively humid and she began to sweat profusely. “Go ahead and take a seat on the ground. I need to find… something we can use.” Armiena rifled through the scarce belongings of the sapients who had previously occupied this tent for anything that could be damaged without inflicting further emotional turmoil. These sapients--a family of Twi’leks, she discovered from a holoframe--had obviously left Coruscant in a hurry, having no possessions aside from a pieces of old, elaborately-worked jewelry and a cheap, civilian-model datapad. There was, however, a plastoid mug of some dark liquid that had been abandoned. Armiena seized it with her right hand and gave it a cautious sip: insta-caf, prepared by the liter in the refugee camp’s mess tents. It was cold, however, and she cringed as she forced herself to swallow the vile beverage--but it was caffeinated. She downed the remainder without hesitation. She sat cross-legged before her apprentice and placed the mug between them. “The Force is present in all object and living creatures, no matter how small or insignificant. To my knowledge, the Jedi Order has yet to find an exception to this rule--and we’ve tried. By sensing and manipulating the Force within objects or sapient beings, we can accomplish a number of highly useful techniques--telekinesis and some basic empathy, for one. And TK can be quite useful. With your mind alone, you can manipulate objects just out of reach, strip opponents of their weapons, or use the kinetic energy to generate heat. Mass and volume are irrelevant, but we’ll start with this coffee mug.” Draygo rolled her shoulders back and settled herself for a potentially long session of meditation. “Begin by focusing your attention on the mug. Everything out there is irrelevant. Get a grasp of its presence in the Force, its dimensions, its texture, its temperature.” Or lack thereof, she had just discovered. “Once you’ve a sense of its presence, focus your thoughts and envision where you would move it… and make it so.”
  10. Draygo’s pale eyes flickered towards her apprentice. She considered the age of the young man--it was possible that Genesis hadn’t been politically aware during her time as Grandmaster and didn’t quite appreciate the carnage that she had unleashed upon the galaxy. “Thank you, but this is for the best. I might be passable at leading soldiers into combat, but I’m a mediocre Jedi at best. I made some critical errors in judgment that got a lot of innocent people killed and I didn’t take it very well. Just point me in the direction that you need me, boss. “We will need to summon a… ah…” Draygo searched for the words but found herself coming up short. “Summon the Jedi to Borleias. Share the news that Trevelian has stepped down, confirm your succession, and launch our counterattack. Some advice, if you don’t mind--when you are confirmed as Grandmaster, ask people that you trust implicitly to serve on the Council. You’ll need to be able to send them anywhere in the galaxy and simply expect that they’ll do what they think is best without any input.”
  11. Armiena couldn’t help herself and thought back to when she had accepted the responsibilities of the Grandmaster more than a decade ago. There hadn’t been much ceremony to her ascendency either--only minutes prior to her nomination, she had rudely interrupted a brief meeting of several of the Order’s Masters to announce her betrothal to Aryian, and she had practically been tackled by Ara-Lai in her glee. That had been a happy day. Today, two Jedi and a Padawan were discussing the fate of the Jedi Order in an understaffed medical suite within the bowels of a Star Destroyer, and the veteran had practically foisted the office upon a Alluyen simply because the younger Jedi showed promise and the will to leadership. Shock was to be expected. The testing of her prosthetic hand completed, her wrist was released and the 2-1B droid silently dismissed itself from the medical suite to attend to one of the hundreds of patients aboard the Sanare. Draygo stared at the younger Jedi over her fingertips, the tip of her chin resting upon one of the steel fingers. Cold and unyielding, it was utterly unlike flesh. Her expression hardened and the Jedi Master regarded her younger peer with a steady gaze, giving the impression of an overgrown bird of prey. “But you… are here. You are moving. And you won’t be alone. The galaxy needs a quick response to the Sith and someone who has the will to effect this response. Do you deny that you are already coordinating a counter?”
  12. Draygo paused before speaking again. She turned to the side and fixed a unattending gaze on her right wrist, seeming to watch the medical droid as it began to test the digits of the prosthetic hand. Without consciously giving the command, the veteran Jedi felt the bronze-and-steel lift, ball into a loose fist, and the wrist to idly stretch along its full range of motion. It was a peculiar feeling, feeling her hand move and flex without conscious effort and for her limb to be under the control of software commands, but it also teased at intriguing ideas that Armiena forced herself to dismiss. Armiena had borne the title of Jedi Grandmaster nearly a decade ago, but returning to that office simply was not a possibility--not even in the current emergency. It wasn’t that Armiena was ashamed of her record in leading the Jedi. She had fought the Sith and the Empire almost to a standstill, but the cost to the galaxy had been catastrophic. An inestimable number of lives had been lost over many campaigns, including billions on a horrific attack on Coruscant by a butcher who should have never been allowed near the reins of command. It had taken the sight of watching a crippled Super Star Destroyer plunging like a spear into Coruscant’s cityscape to awaken her conscience to the blood-price of her war. Armiena would have set the galaxy ablaze and still thought herself in the right. Perhaps Alluyen thought that she was somewhat shy. The younger woman could think whatever she pleased, but the galaxy needed a Jedi at the head of the Order, not a Rebellion-trained killer--not even one as efficient as her. The veteran Jedi returned her gaze to the younger Jedi, her pale green eyes searching Alluyen’s expression. Alluyen was young, but if the Jedi Knight had encountered Geki and survived, there had to be some mental scarring that was belied by her youthful appearance. Draygo didn’t know any of the other Jedi on Borleias, had never even met Master Vos, and only knew of Cadan by reputation. As critical as the latter’s relationship with the Empress might be to regaining control of the crisis, the veteran Jedi had no idea if Cadan had any ambition to lead the Jedi. In the current emergency, rank mattered less than the will to assume command and give coherent leadership. “When I was in Rebellion, we were taught that if we were ever separated from our unit and the chain of command wasn’t clear, we were to assume command and continue our mission until it was completed or we managed to link up with another unit. It didn’t matter who you linked up with; you got the job done.” Her eyes flickered between Alluyen’s. “From what I’ve observed, you seem to be making an excellent effort at filling the role yourself.”
  13. “I’ve been to one of these places before. It was not pleasant.” Armiena glanced away from the glowing crystal and something slammed shut within, allowing only the barest hint of profound regret to escape before a suit of armorweave rose around her emotions. There was a long hesitation before Armiena continued. “How these places continue to interact with the Force is an utter mystery to me. If these dreams that you’re experiencing are premonitions, I can only advise you to be cautious with how you interpret them. You do have people that care about you, and misinterpreting one of these visions can be a painful mistake. “As for me… everything below the neck appears to be working. It’s an arm. I can do without that more easily than other parts of the anatomy.” A silver, skeletal medical droid entered the medical suite shortly after that statement, bearing a framework prosthetic hand that was placed upon a bed of sterilized gauze. Draygo gave the limb a passing glance--the mechanical skeleton didn’t enjoy the cushioning of synthflesh and its bronze and steel mechanisms lay exposed. The droid took a position beside a visitor’s seat and waited with the still patience of a mechanical sapient. Draygo helped Genesis up to his feet and followed the droid to its post. “I apologize, Master Draygo. We are experiencing a critical exposure of synthflesh. We can replace the--” The veteran Jedi waved off the droid’s apology, only to have the truncated wrist seized and gently restrained to the gauze. As the mechanical medic continued its work of attaching the assembly’s gossamer fibers to the remaining nerve endings in her severed limb, Armiena’s attention shifted towards the entrance to the medical suite. “Sorry, Genesis--I promise you, we will continue this conversation later,” Armiena muttered to her Padawan. Projecting her voice, she turned towards the entrance of the sterile chamber. “Enter, Alluyen.” Armiena’s right hand--the prosthetic--balled into a fist as the Jedi Knight entered. She shot the droid a glance as the bronze fist relaxed. In testing the responses of the limb, the droid had triggered a reflex in her wrist. “You’ve probably anticipated the crisis that we are facing. What’s left of Coruscant that isn’t in ruins is being abandoned by the Galactic Alliance. I just received a comm from Darex. He’s stepping down as Grandmaster. I haven’t heard from any member of the Jedi Council. Where they are and what they’re doing is a mystery to me. “The Jedi Order needs new leadership, someone that can rally the Order and turn it into a useful force in this war.” Again, her prosthetic limb twitched involuntarily under the ministrations of the medical droid. Armiena glanced away, and when her gaze returned, she looked back at the young Alluyen with eyes that were as old as war itself. Decades of warfare were etched indelibly upon her presence, in the form of a lost limbs, numerous scars, and the memories of the lives that she had taken and the knowledge that she would soon have to take life again. Then she just nodded. “That person is not me.”
  14. Relaxing one’s senses and allowing them to drift towards their surroundings was one of the first techniques that every Jedi learned, and also one of the most counterintuitive. A sapient being couldn’t “reach out” with their feelings any more than could they will their skin to split and their bones to fuse into their surroundings. It required a surrender to the present that ran contrary to nature of virtually every sapient species, to relinquish the ever-present internal monologue and thoughts of the past and future that jabbered incessantly within the mind, and to simply… exist and appreciate the turning of the galaxy. Beyond their medical suite and the Gotal Healer and the accompanying medical droid lay the ship. Draygo was initially perplexed; the purposeful heartbeat of the ship suggested a hospital ship with an experienced crew, but the heads-up display within the bacta tank was strictly a military innovation--perhaps they were aboard a Survivor’s Foundation ship? Several other Jedi were nearby, including the prematurely-aged Alluyen. Armiena spent a moment to touch upon her mind with a light graze and was pleased with what she found--there was no idleness in this critical moment. When the chain of command was unclear, the young woman had simply assumed that she was in command until relieved. Then her mind drifted towards the planet and she was both transfixed and horrified by what she found. Anger. True, there was shock and horror and confusion at the ravaging of Coruscant, but an undercurrent of seething, striving anger ran beneat those surface impressions. Draygo knew that rage well enough--it was the dangerous, wrathful resentment that many refugees carried with them. When properly harnessed, genuine, righteous outrage was one of the most productive emotions imaginable--and it was also one of the most destructive. That simmering outrage must have been perceived by her apprentice, for he swooned and fell to the floor in shock. Draygo glanced upward towards the mouth of the bacta tank. Concentric with the top of the man-sized cylinder was a ring of handholds from which patients who had completed their therapy could keep their balance while the tank was drained. She pushed off of the grating floor and grasped the handholds, gesturing forcibly with her stump of a right arm towards the Gotal Healer. “Let me out or I'm breaking out.” Her voice rasped through the speakers. The veteran Jedi had had enough of bobbing in the slurry while the galaxy continued to turn. Whatever wounds she had suffered, her instincts informed her that the bacta regimen was no longer necessary; what was necessary was her presence outside. As though to put promise to her threat, a transpariplast glass on the tank’s controls crumpled and twisted under the will of the stir-crazy Jedi, spilling water onto the control panel. That was too much for the Healer to tolerate; the bacta drained around her body and she was permitted to leave the tank within a minute. When Genesis came to, he would find his teacher kneeling before him, her brow riven with concern. Armiena paid no mind to the fact that she and the plain tunic were completely soaked, nor to the medtech that was painstakenly suctioning away every drop of the precious bacta with a hose--not even when the hose passed over her scalp and tugged painfully at a shock of black hair. Her stump of a right limb of little concern, and she had yet to see the half-healed fractal pattern of scars that began at her wrist and coursed down her back like the currents of a river delta. Scars could be useful and limbs could be replaced--but every day, it seemed that there were fewer people important to her that still lived. “Katarr was a Miraluka colony.” Her lips twitched when the suction snagged on a tangle of black hair. “Thousands of years ago. You’ll have to ask my mother for a precise date. It's nothing now, just barren rock. What happened to that world wasn't natural--even the Force is muted there… no, drowned out by white noise. “There are other places like that in the galaxy. Invariably, terrible things happened there--massacres, battles--and they left imprints on the Force. Craters is a better way to describe it, I suppose. I don't know if you've ever been to the site of an old battlefield, but it can take a very long time for the grounds to truly heal. Long after the vegetation returns, there are often unspent munitions left behind. Chemical spills. Hazardous waste. It can take decades or centuries before they become safe again. So is the same with the Force.”
  15. Sanare was no longer a warship, and there was no need for any of the bustle and organized mayhem that was the constant status of any military vessel. There were no public announcements directing personnel to their divisions or summoning officers to compartments. As the VicStar was primarily a medical vessel, Armiena supposed that the crew of the ship primarily used datapads or some other form of communication. What this meant for her was that, aside from the occasional murmured word from the Gotal Healer beside her and admonishment in a soothing tone to rest, the wounded Jedi was left in almost complete silence when the Healer sank into his healing trances. The lack of stimulus was the worst. Wearing a helmet that obscured most of her face with a steel and plastoid frame, Draygo was able to see through the Sanare’s sensors and observe the procession of the refugee ships that continually arrived above Borleias. She was able to converse with the Jedi Dojo on the planet’s surface and was reinducted, at least administratively, back into the Jedi Order. Somehow, Armiena had expected that this event would have involved a great deal more solemnity--perhaps even a ceremony. The helmet’s display even lit up with messages that scrolled up the holographic display, only one of which she actually cared to respond to. One of her few friends--perhaps her only surviving friend--was suffering horribly on the ruins of Coruscant, and she had not been able to offer any comfort in this moment of emergency. A pit opening in her stomach, Draygo attempted to route a message to Coruscant even though there was no way to determine what the destruction of Hesperidium had wrought upon the Holonet. “You are the best Jedi that I have ever served with, and one of the best human beings that I have ever met. Don’t let anyone take that from you.” The defiant tone of her voice softened. “Please, take care of yourself. We’ll keep the fires burning, but… this isn’t going to be easy without you.” Her mouth hung open for a second. What she wanted to say--what she needed to admit to herself--was on the tip of her tongue, but it would have been profoundly selfish of her to force her private tragedy on the Darex in a moment of personal anguish. She closed the connection. Armiena busied herself as best she could in the silence. There were still a number of hidden stockpiles of supplies that could be drawn upon--there were a few Jedi outposts and Rebel bases that had never been exploited, even if their stocks were dwarfed by the magnitude of the emergency. A number of corporations and industrialists were still in her debt--or could be blackmailed or intimidated into an uncharacteristic act of charity. A mechanical roar reverberated from the bacta tank when she contacted the droids of Phu to mobilize their reserves ("WE SHALL ENGAGE IN GLORIOUS BATTLE AGAINST THE RIDERS OF PESTILENCE!" was the only sensible phrase in the multitude of war cries). The Gotal Healer beside her occasionally mumbled an incoherent phrase through the fugue of a healer's trance, but none of the ramblings were of use to her. Draygo was about to contact a certain unethical biotechnology firm and inform an unfortunate intern of her survival when an unknown Jedi Knight entered the clinic. She stared. Alluyen was shockingly young to her eyes--she couldn't possibly be past her twenties--but that was immaterial. Armiena hadn't been any older when she joined the Jedi. She nodded her consent to her plan, the helmet tugging uncomfortably on her scalp. "I'm familiar with the technology. Go ahead." An edge of nervousness entered Draygo's voice that even the buzz of the speakers couldn't diminish. "I ran into Geki a couple of times, once at Csilla. For a man without a heart, he certainly had a lot of blood. Never had a chance to engineer out the metastasis. Gave me a some good ideas on a new application for the tech--and there it is." She sensed a prickling on her scalp and a faint humming in the background. Psychosomatic or not, a dull headache accompanied the sensation. At least she didn't need to be anesthetized for this implantation. Silence came again, but for only a few minutes. Her apprentice soon arrived--mercifully unharmed, though clearly shaken. Draygo tried to smile, but a scar tissue pulled painfully across the com link mask. "Then we train. Genesis, take a seat." A vague shape within the pink slurry waved to indicate the medtech's station beside her. "Meditate with me.""Genesis, take a seat." A vague shape within the pink slurry waved to indicate the medtech's station beside her. "Meditate with me." Floating idly in a man-sized vial of warm, viscous liquid, Draygo found that an unexpected benefit of being confined to a bacta tank was that it was actually easier to enter a meditative state and open up to the Force. The lukewarm slurry provided little physical stimulus; the only sensations were that of the suction of the airtight around her face and the occasional touch of her toes on the steel floor of the transparisteel prison. The lack of sensation contributed to a maddening sense of disembodiment that eliminated the distractions of the conscious world. "The Force is connected to all physical phenomena." The speakers issued with a buzz, but the harsh, mechanical accent couldn't completely obliterate the warmth in her voice. "Action, reaction; kinetics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism... she plays a role in all of these and they can be influenced with the right techniques or a bit of... inspiration." Her voice trailed off. There was no better way to describe what she had pulled off at Coruscant. All Armiena remembered was howling something into the storm and offering herself up as a lightning rod. Her capabilities with tutaminis[/] were average at best, and she had certainly never influenced a continental weather formation. "More importantly, she reflects the emotional context of sapient beings. Kindness, camaraderie, cruelty... all of these are reflected in the Force and form and break connections between sapients. If you are very still and quiet your own conscious thoughts, you can sometimes sense the years imprinted upon places and people, like a tangible object. "Now turn your attention to the ship and the planet below us. What do you feel?" _______ At the bridge of the Sanare, a Mon Calamari officer explained the tactical situation to Alluyen, one eye focused on the Jedi Knight and other on a sensor readout from the crew pits. Dark circles hung around her eyes and her left eye lazily closed from time to time--it had been nearly a month since Captain Cilghal had enjoyed a full night's sleep. "Master Jedi, Borleias is currently host to fifteen million refugees and we expect another two million, if more are able to escape those Mandalorian butchers. Best estimates are that Eight billion are scattered throughout this sector alone and... galaxy-wide? Anywhere from one hundred to five hundred billion. We'll never know. We've never seen anything like it." Her salmon-hued face snapped to the sensor readouts, as though expecting a new arrival any second. "We're Senth-Forn, not a warship. The we saw of the Galactic Alliance was that their entire fleet was scattered to help as many ships flee from Coruscant as possible. Steadfast was on a vector to Anaxes." Alarms blared and activity buzzed in the crew pits as a formation of ships reverted from hyperspace. A kilometer-long MC90 cruiser raced out of hyperspace, its hull bearing myriad scorch markings from the catastrophe above Coruscant. Esperanza, the flagship of the Survivor's Foundation and the nerve center of its operations, had arrived to render assistance. A slew of smaller vessels, their sizes ranging from single-compartment shuttles to tramp freighters and even a pair of cargo barges, clung to the shelter of her hull like a school of remoras.
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