Seems like yesterday was just a dream.

The Miralukas fingers strummed on the mandovial strings with a practiced ease in the darkened room. The notes were clear, each brush of finger along the metal strings ringing clear and true. Raiyden had at one time a few years ago had the Mandovial made especially for her for a birthday present; the gift had delighted his sister to the point of being moved to emotion close to crying.  While most Jedi would have frowned on such a display and the thought of the attachment the item brought, Caer had kept it close to her, leaving it on her ship and letting very few people see it.

It was engraved with little birds around the edging of it, interlaced with a complex design, that strung several knots together with the little winged creatures taking flight.  The neck itself was of one continuous carving of a group of vines that intertwined among themselves, the end of the instrument ending in one large vine that allowed the tuners to be laid into it.

If there was one true talent Caer ever possessed that didn’t require a use of a light saber or combat tactics (or sarcasm), it was with the mandovial and her voice. Both of them combined she’d been told several times before that she had a voice that could make men weep.  One of those times had been from a man who had been well into his cups and was, in fact, weeping; but it had embarrassed the Miraluka greatly; so much so that she’d stopped singing in front of troopers or in front of anyone other than Raiyden. Not even Neirov had heard her sing or play and with any luck nobody would.

The exercise she ran through now was more to strengthen the damage done to her wrist that it had suffered when it’d been broken. She ran her fingers up and down the fret board pleased that there seemed to be no extra strain or any sort of discomfort.  Once she was content that her wrist would not fail, she played a piece she’d learned ages ago.

The song that accompanied it was in their native language. A song about a brother in sister lost in a strange place who seek out the light through the unending darkness.  The song had many interpretations from the literal sense of a pair of siblings lost in the dark, to the more metaphoric sense of a brother and sister of the Miraluka definition seeking redemption from the darkness of the force. It was even argued in some circles that the darkness was symbolic of the Miralukas life on Alpheridies. Making most of the darkness, finding the light through the Force.

Anyone who heard it though agreed that it was just a really good song.

Caers fingers finished the final notes of the song just seconds after her voice trailed off. She sat in the perfect silence of her ship.  Getting up, she replaced the mandovial in it’s special case and locked it away in her closet, she was always careful never to let anything get to it and with her Orokete on the ship now, she didn’t need a curious and always hungry bird getting to the instrument.

As Caer turned, she just realized how quiet the ship was, how unnaturally quiet it felt. Her brows furrowed in confusion and she tried to shake off the ill at ease feeling.  It was not like she hadn’t been on her ship alone; Raiyden was always off by himself now and Neirov was trapped on Tython with Master furball.  Tom had needed to go off to perform some task that Caer did not ask about- it wasn’t her business where he went.

She could sense him in her head though and that gave her an amount of comfort.

Things had been so strained lately with everyone it seemed like she was walking on glass now days- no, more like weeks. She had to tread lightly unless she wanted to shred her feet.

It was worse between her brother and her. No matter how innocent either of them tried to make a conversation, something always made them argue. It didn’t matter if it was their opinion on some of the denizens of Nar Shaddaa, or if it was Caer asking where he’d been.  Something always seemed to come between them.  Drayviakki, the Voss incident, their differing opinions on beliefs, her threatening Hudgaar,  or Niatara or what to even have for dinner (though to be fair, Caer really did not want an Ithorian Dish for dinner, it had what looked like slimy grass in it. That was a valid argument.)

Raiyden didn’t like how she was; she was not as friendly, easier to snap at people and Caer had to admit, she was. But she had reason to be.  Caer was tired of Raiyden constantly being on her about her attitude towards people. Raiyden was tired of Caer always finding a reason to dislike everyone. Caer was tired of Raiyden constantly blindly trusting people for no reason other than that they hadn’t gutted him yet.   He trusted too much, she didn’t trust at all.

Yes, the woman could admit openly she didn’t trust people. Less so now than before and with good reason, but apparently those reasons were not good enough. Being taken and tortured wasn’t a good enough reason for looking at people with suspicion.  Being told the very people she -had- trusted had been behind all of that had happened. Of course that was just ridiculous thinking.  She didn’t know what was true or what wasn’t and after the past couple weeks, she didn’t really care. Caer did not trust easily before, it usually took an act of Ashla herself to get the woman to trust people- took her years to fully trust Neirov.

Yes, she had trusted Tom blindly. She hadn’t lied to the man at all when she’d told him that she had felt like she’d been nudged by the Force to speak with him all those months ago on Carrick Station.  Maybe it was his easy smile or perhaps the fact his aura was so clear and clean that had spurred her. Maybe it was the fact he was talking to a group of other people and she had a moment of weakness and wanted to be in on a conversation too, but she had approached. She had started talking and from there that friendship had grown.  Grown to the point that she felt him in her mind constantly, trusted him enough to go all the way to Dantooine with him and meet his friends.  It’d been one of the most fun and unique times of her life.  It was also the farthest she had ever been away from her brother.

The work had been hard, the days spent helping Toms friends work on their farm.  The evenings spent exploring with Tom and talking for hours about anything and everything. Caer had even tolerated some of the children who didn’t understand what Miraluka were and had attempted to assist her in everything (Raiy would have been impressed) and even tried to help her out by walking along with her and pointing out things she could trip over. Caer had done a very good job with assisting the workers in planting and had been very well behaved.  She’d been almost reluctant to return back home when the time had come.  Tom and her had gotten closer in their friendship and bond, no nightmares to speak of the entire time she was there.

No, the nightmares had returned when she’d come back to her ship; though she did well to keep them under wraps. That wasn’t necessarily an easy thing to do. Some nights she woke up drenched in sweat and shaking from the dreams that plagued her. Other nights she was unable to move, feeling like she couldn’t breathe and it took sheer will to rouse herself out of the night terrors, gasping for air as if invisible hands had tried to strangle her in her sleep.  Dreams of losing her brother, dreams of Neirov falling to the Dark Side, the recurring dreams of her ordeal with Kruvens sister. Or a combination of all those. It left her feeling unbalanced and shaken.  None felt like premonitions though, so she was at least grateful for that much.

Caer made it back to her room and crawled up onto the bed. She sighed heavily and then sat up as she heard a little scrabbling sound and then a dismayed peeping sound at the floor next to her. Leaning over she arched her brows and ‘stared’ at the orokeet with a bemused smile. “Okay you can sleep in here tonight, but you poop in the bed? I’m breaking off the relationship and you’re tomorrows dinner. Got me?”

The bird cocked its head to one side, staring at her with one giant eyeball and then made a meep sound s if it agreed to the terms. She chuckled and patted the bird on the head.  “I mean it.”

Curling up, she felt the bird wander in circles on the extra pillow for a few moments before nestling down and tucking his beak under his wing. Caer let herself fall into the lull of sleep. Silently hoping for a nightmare free sleep tonight.

Not Broken.

All I waited for
Was a chance to make you understand;
And tell you these forgotten truths you never thought were real,
And if the world should turn its back, you know that I’m still here

Caer pushed her way through the exercises, the still healing muscles groaning in protest, her mind whirled along with her body, each kick, punch and jab sending jolts through her as they connected with the practice dummy.  The sound of her fists or feet hitting the target reverberated through her body and sent a loud cracking sound through the air. Her body slick with sweat, soaking her training top and the shorts she liked to wear.

She had been working out for goddess knew how long. She didn’t stop to watch the chrono as it ticked by. Each punch, each kick was a fraction of a second, but to her time had no meaning. She’d stopped feeling her hands and feet some time ago and in a way it helped numb a few things deep down inside her as well.

So many things had been forced into the light the past week. Since her abduction Caer had come to realize just how bad her brothers addiction had become. Her jaw clenched as she slammed her fist repeatedly into the training dummy forcing it back inches at a time. She didn’t feel the blows connect, she ‘saw’ them connect, sending out ripples along the force.  Her breath came in harsh gasps, each exhalation punctuated by a crack of the fist against the targets surface.

Time won’t ever steal my soul.
We’re not broken, so please come home.

Morning comes, and life moves on,
And when it changed, you didn’t know you belong.
And I’ll still catch you when you fall through a past that steals your sleep,
And scrawl these words upon your wall remind you to believe.

Each blow eased the ache in her heart as she thought about them all. Raiydens addiction to the life stealing spice was probably the worst of it. Her brother, her souls mirror to everything she was. The quiet studious and ever so particular brother of hers who shared not only the womb with her, not only just blood, but their very identities. His life slowly being siphoned away from the mind altering drug.

It had hit her hard  as to how close she’d come to losing her souls mirror. Shattering into a million little pieces to not only save her, but to make himself feel better. He honestly believed he needed the drug to boost his abilities when he matched her nearly ounce for ounce in the force. Just in a different direction. Caer had been talking to Tomuraan, Neirov and Raiyden, sparring with her brother.  It had been in the moment of pure enjoyment it had hit her just how easily she could not be there right then. How easily it could have been that he would be laying cold in a grave, all because of her; because of that damn drug she had turned  a blind eye to.

Caer had known he’d used casually. But it wasn’t until then, until she was there with all of them that it had hit her. How damn close she’d come to losing that moment with him. She’d excused herself to collect emotions and spend time alone, shaken and feeling shocked.  She had spent the better part of an hour alone, collecting her thoughts before returning to find Raiyden had already left for the evening and Neirov and Tomuraan waiting for her on the ship.

I won’t let them break you down
And I won’t hear the empty sounds
I’m hopelessly pretending that I know the answer
Angel’s light and neon fires that burn so cold through your desires
And all you are is all I need to know

There Caer had listened as Neirov pointedly told her and Tom that he was turning himself in for war crimes. For falling into the darkness.  Their conversation ran through her head as she moved back, letting the little combat droid reset itself so she could begin the repetitions again. She jogged in place, her lungs burning which each breath, her chin dripping sweat. The muscles on her stomach were tight as she took on a different stance.

Caer had listened with Tom as he sat next to her, the Mirialan telling Neirov he’d do what he could to help him but he’d need to take accountability for his actions- which Neirov had asked for. He wanted to help fix the messes he’d made. Make reparations. Neirov had left the two alone to speak for a bit before Tom too, went to sleep- but not before Caer and him had spoken about a few things.

Caer knew now. Where she stood with him and while she was not disappointed, she did not hold out much in the way of hope for things between them.

With that in mind and Tom asleep,she’d gotten up, changed into her clothes and had gone to speak with Neirov. The conversation still rang in her head as she began a new set of exercises, this time more on the defensive than offensive, blocking and pushing away the droids attacks.

Time won’t ever steal my soul
We’re not broken, so please come home
And if the world has worn you down
I’ll be waiting, so please come home

“Why Neirov?” Caer had asked.

“The intensity of my study soon became reflecting in my style. I emulated you then I added even more. Driving more aggression into it. To the point where I sacrificed my well being to destroy my opponents. I believe that obsession is where the first domino fell.” His voice was soft, Neirov had been watching her intently with those eyes of his. Those eyes that didn’t’ seem to miss a damn thing. It was something Caer had come to appreciate in him, that hawkish look, always searching for a weakness, observant of everything.

“Why though? Why fall to that temptation?” Caer’s face had a pinched expression, trying to understand.

“I wanted to catch up.” Was the Mirialans simple answer.

“Catch…up?” She frowned.

“It was when I was still a young, masterless padawan. You took me on a simple mission with your brother. The sewer rats. I saw how you worked with your brother. It was unlike anything I had seen. I couldn’t keep up.”

Caer gave a faint smile, she had forgotten all about that mission. It had been a very simple anybody could do mission. “Raiyden and I… we always had eachother.”

“I know. I didn’t though. I saw that connection and I wanted to be a part of it. It was going to be impossible though. You were going for your Knighthood in a few years and I still needed more time. That’s what they tried to tell me at least.”

Caer had argued with him about that.

Then he had spoken the words when discussing the dark side that had struck a chord deep within her. One that had rang through her very being like someone who rang a large bell next to her.

“It’s an addiction, Caer…The dark side doesn’t have to be a direct source acting on you. It can come from within you too.”

“Why didn’t you ask for help?” Caer had gotten to her feet, paced and stared at him through the force, a feeling of emotions swelling through her before she’d gained control over them. Staring at the Mirialan who knelt there, miserably as Caer’s words hit him.

“Shame, embarrassment, self-assurance that nothing was wrong. Please see what it was, Caer. Everything came from that side of me. All emotions let wild by trying to grasp at something I never felt I could have…”

It was then Caer had realized. It was then Caer had realized her own failure. Not only to herself, not only to the Republic, the Jedi Order, or even the Miraluka.

She had failed the two people she had cared about the most. She had left Neirov at the wayside to fall into his own addiction to darkness, to wallow in it and feed off of it like a drug. Worst of all, Caer had allowed her brother to wallow in another addiction of another sort.

When the world is insane
You get used to the pain
And you don’t even know what you feel
And I am like you, all alone and confused
But you know it’s not forever

Her answer that had come from between parted lips had been simple. “We fix this.”

It was then she had found her resolve. Her passion and her drive, she had pointed at him and had drawn herself up to her height in the physical world as well as through the force. She stared down at Neirov and had offered her hand to him. Just as she would when she saw her brother next, offer the other to him.

It was not with hubris she saw herself as their rock. It was simple and generally accepted that she was the cornerstone in which they both drew upon.  She was the warrior, the shield, Neirov was the sword and Raiyden was the gentle touch and reminder that every weapon needed.

The sword had buckled, the shield had cracked and the gentle touch had been twisted away, wounded and broken.

She had lost sight of her truths and what was important for her drive to do what was right for the Republic and for the Order. She had allowed herself to be drawn away with sweet words and promises by people who’d had no intention of keeping them; and she had been tempted by the darkness that had surrounded those people.

She had turned her back on what had mattered most.

Caer hit the droid, her body reaching and exceeding the limits. With a cry she force pushed the combat droid, hitting it hard enough to embed it into the shelf behind it. The droid gave a little whine of protest and was forever silent.  Panting heavily she flexed her fingers and felt the heat emanating off of her in waves, sweat dripping off her chin and nose, the eye covering just as drenched as if she’d been in the shower.

The Miraluka took a few deep breaths and kneeled slowly to the floor. She attuned to herself to the Force; she failed once. She would not do so again.

And I’ll still catch you when you fall through a past that steals your sleep,
And scrawl these words upon your wall remind you to believe.

Time won’t ever steal my soul
We’re not broken, so please come home
And if the world has worn you down
I’ll be waiting, so please come home

A test of faith and heart.

The Miraluka slowly flexed her fingers and wrist, the medical droid having said she was clear to remove the immobilizer from her arm. She listened to the sounds of Tython around her and sighed softly. She’d not yet reported in to the Jedi, Tomuraan said he’d assist with that. For now she wandered the game trails and came to rest near a small brook that babbled cheerfully as she exercised her hand.

Her mind was a whirlwind of jumbled thoughts. Her conversation with Kyic, the conversation with Tomuraan and her comm call with Niatara. All of it seemed a bit overwhelming, but even here she could sort it out a piece at a time.

First her conversation with Kyic. It had gone as she had expected but Caer believed it did not go as he expected. Caer was sure that the man hadn’t expected her to not flinch from him and Caer was pretty sure that he had expected supplicating gestures. That wasn’t what he’d gotten. Caer was civil, but she did not let him walk over her as he had attempted to do. Essentially his hands were tied when it came to their conversation as she made no overt threat and they were in the middle of Nar Shaddaa. Even as she recalled the conversation she had not been surprised to watch him try to prod and nettle her. It hadn’t worked in her opinion. It was just a Sith being a Sith.

She had thanked him for his part in her rescue. Even if it left a bitter taste in her mouth. She had no idea what part he’d played, that was information people seemed reluctant to tell her.  If truth be told, it seemed as if Tom, Raiy and Neirov were hesitant at best and walking on pins and needles at worst when it came to discussing her abduction.  It irritated her on some level to think that they were afraid of how she might react. But the logical side of her had realized that they were likely waiting for an opening, a cue from her.

Caer had thanked Kyic. She recalled that much; what he had expected in thanks was likely quite different from what she gave. Caer was sure the man probably expected grovelling and probably professions of devotion to the dark side or something. She didn’t particularly care, she had been sincere in her original thanking of his aid. That was all that mattered. He could take it as he will.

Caer wasn’t sure what he’d expected but the conversation …didn’t exactly deteriorate, but it became a bit less civil and they had parted ways. It hadn’t helped her brother had shown up, his presence likely sensed by the Sith and it likely marked her as weak to him. She had been angry at her brother for that. The man had no concept of the posturing the Sith went through. Tom had shown up mid-argument between them and had soothed ruffled feathers between them.

Tomuraan. Caer sighed as she knelt next to the brook and fell into meditations. The man confused her, intrigued her and gave her a feeling deep in the pit of her stomach she’d not gotten with anybody else. The sense of attraction to the man was very much there, but even she knew that it was more an intellectual attraction than a physical one. Caer had spent the past week with him in her mind since her return and he had been a constant presence inside her mind. They shared a place inside the force, sharing a little place between them. His aid to heal her, to make her come back to herself had led to a more stable mental state and she had welcomed him wholly. They sat for hours just talking, he reassured her when she felt insecure or started to delve into her own self loathing.  Tom spoke to her patiently and with the tone of a person who cared.

It was difficult to describe or put into words. It was difficult for her to even really truly understand. His actions and his behaviors coming and going like a strange tide. He would show affection, hugging, wrapping his arm around her, he would ensure she felt safe and cared for. But Caer had noticed over the past few days that any time she reciprocated, he would draw away.  Her feelings were not hurt per-say, she didn’t think he meant anything by it, but she did wonder what it was that she was perhaps doing wrong.

Was she being too affectionate? No, she didn’t think so. She wasn’t really the affectionate types as Raiyden had reminded her a few times in their life. Caer wasn’t the huggy and clingy type to hang off of someone. If anything she had been told she could appear too formal, too cold.  But that wasn’t it either.

He was afraid. The realization dawned on her and she almost groaned audibly with how idiotic she felt. It wasn’t her, it was the fact that they had gotten so close, intimate on a mental level and he still had another who had not contacted him or spoken to him in weeks, possibly a standard month or more. He was afraid! Not of her, but of starting something, forming something and having it dissipate with the arrival of someone else. Caer couldn’t help but slump her shoulders at the thought of that, realizing that she was possibly hurting him by her return of affection. It made him feel torn and he drew away because he didn’t want to feel torn.

Caer exhaled slowly and rubbed her face, rousing form the meditations. She understood and she realized his talk about attachments last night had been as much for himself as it had been for  the sake of having a chat. He was reminding her that attachments could lead to things anyone may not like, but he was also reminding himself. Neirov too likely took a lesson from that, but what he took only Neirov would know.

Getting to her feet she brushed off dead leaves that clung to her skirt and sighed heavily. Caer turned and headed towards the temple, rubbing her shoulder, hand sliding down her arm and to her newly healed wrist.  She would sort this out, wait and see what happened. She would remain steadfast in her like for Tomuraan, but she would wait for his cues.  She would wait patiently for him to make his decisions; whatever they may be.

 

Iron- Epilogue.

The Miraluka woman stood before the holo terminal, a member of the Jedi Council and two members of the Republic Senate sitting in high back chairs, their demeanor stiff and formal even though the blue glowing holograms. Grand Master Shan along with the two Senators, reclined in their chairs, Caer could see the female Senator looking something over on a datapad.

“We have received reports of your abduction and return.” Grand Master Shan spoke up first, her pinchy faced features looking even more pinchy as she seemed to scrutinize Caer from light years away. “It’s most unfortunate that you had to go through this ordeal, and the Order offers it’s sincerest apologies and wish you a speedy recovery.”

“Yes, of course.” The snub nosed Senator, Caer vaguely recalled her name being something like Senator Kruellen or something similar, waved off Grand Master Shans words, Sateles expression looking unflappable as if used to dealing with the woman; but Caer knew the woman was not so easily dismissed. “However, with that said, we have some very serious issues to discuss and unfortunately a small amount of time in which to speak of them.”

Caer stiffened, her hands clasped behind her back to hide the brace that kept her broken wrist immobilized and partially as a stance of attentiveness. Her shoulders squared and she lifted her head slightly, the Miraluka waiting for it and bracing herself for the worst.

Senator Kruellen narrowed her eyes at the datapad and then at Caer. “It says here in a full inquiry and report that you were abducted by the Sith- excuse me a Darth Tormentia, Zaydia- the sister to Darth Kruven the former Imperial Ambassador to Voss. Your opposite in political terms Miss Estherian.”

Caer nodded, trying not to bristle at the woman’s accusatory tone. She kept her face perfectly pointed just to where it looked as if she were looking at all of them. “Yes Senator. That is correct.”

The male leaned forward and Caer could not recall his name at all. This was the first she’d seen of him and her mind tried to grasp for some sort of recognition but it failed. He seemed to realize this and offered a faint if not distant smile. “I’m Senator Pashan, Miss Estherian. I was placed here on intermediary terms in case things got out of hand, not that we expected them to mind you, but we wanted to make sure you were properly represented here. Just know I am on your side Miss Estherian and all of this is mere formality.”

Caer nodded politely her stomach starting to clench up with nerves, she allowed herself to shift her weight a bit, the only indication that she was actively listening. Master Shan would know, but the two Senators seemed a bit disconcerted she lacked eyes to look into.  “Of course, Senator Pashan. Lets please proceed as it seems senator Kruellen is in a hurry.”

Grand Master Shan suppressed a bit of a smile at Caers brashness, the Grand Master used to the Miraluka’s penchant for stating the obvious, usually to the point of rudeness. Senator Kruellen leaned back looking a bit surprised that Caer would speak in such a manner.

“Yes. Very well. The point is, Miss Estherian is that we believe you have been compromised. This looks extremely bad for both sides, but we only care about our side. The Republics image looks pretty tarnished to the Voss and this fiasco has set us back quite a bit in any progress with the Voss people.  This is a political disaster and a logistics nightmare at its worst.  You allowed yourself to be kidnapped and taken by the enemy, and worse yet, by the Imperial Ambassadors sister? This sort of news gets out and it could look like you may have been possibly consorting with the enemy!”

Caer listened to the womans tirade, her stomach clenching further and further, the anger of the womans words causing her own temper to flare, she opened her mouth to speak but was cut off by the Grand Master of the Jedi. “That’s hardly fair Senator. Caer did not ask to be taken and I’m sure her ordeal was not a pleasant one. If you had read the medical files we received from one of our own Jedi, you’d see that as fact. To place the blame squarely on this womans shoulders is unfair and rather callous of you Senator. We understand that Voss was a very important aspect to the Republic and to the Empire, but we have heard that the Imperial Ambassador too is missing now and has not been heard from in some time. If they were both still missing, we could speculate what you have suggested, but it’s clear that is not the case.”

Senator Pashan nodded and cleared his throat looking slightly awkward. “Yes, of course. Grand Master Satele is right. But so is the Senator. This look very poor and I’m sorry to say- ”

Kruellen waved off the man and leaned forward. “What we mean to say is that you have been stripped of your ranking as Ambassador and will be placed under a full investigation by the Jedi Order and by the Senate. You are currently considered compromised and will from this point until we feel you are not a threat to the Republic placed on watch. What the Order decides is not up to me, but to Grand Master Satele Shan.”

The female Senator leaned back in her seat looking like she just delivered a killing blow.  Grand Master Shan merely sat there, with pursed lips (Caer was convinced they were permanently stuck that way) and tapped a nail on the table in front of her. Pashan, hemmed and shifted in his seat as if someone had just poked him in the butt.

Caer kept her expression neutral and slowly turned her head towards the Grand Master of the Jedi Order. She bowed her head. “Grand Master, am I to believe this womans words that I am under watch of the Order?”

“This is true, Caer. I’m sorry but it’s standard and you know this from your time with us at the Order.” Satele Shan gave only the briefest of apologetic smiles. “We wish for you to come to Tython just to ensure you have not received any sustaining force damage or may possibly be carrying a passenger. We expect you on Tython in four days time. That should give you plenty of time to get your affairs in order. While on Tython you will not be allowed to speak with the others and kept away from the Padawans and other open areas.”

Caer turned to Pashan and the balding man offered her a polite smile. “Is it true I am to be observed by I can only assume the SIS?”

Senator Pashan nodded, his fingers tapping the table in a rapid nervous pattern. “Yes, you’ll be watched, as long as you’re not flagged for speaking with the enemy outside neutral territory and your conversations are open, we will cease watching you at our discretion. You agree to these terms?”

Caer drew herself up fully and met all three of their gazes; her heart hammering in her chest, the anger churning in her stomach.  Sateles expression was somewhat impassive, Kruellens predatory and Pashans a little apprehensive.  “I Caer Estherian Ex-Jedi Master of the Order do understand these terms and accept them. Four days time I will be on Tython to be questioned and tested. During that time I will have minimal to no contact with those who currently reside on Tython unless under escort or cleared of these worries the Order has.”

Caer then turned to Pashan and bowed her head. “I too accept your terms on one condition.”

The man swallowed and nodded, Caer noting that Kruellen opened her mouth to speak, but Satele shaking her head, silencing the woman. Caer licked her cracked lips, her hand nervously coming up to brush the healing claw marks on her face and then spoke in a clear tone that clearly stated she wasn’t going to take anymore crap. “Promise me that this Senator Kruellen does not ever get near Voss or any other planet with Sentients. She’s a rabid old Nexu,  all growl no teeth. I also pray to Ashla she never breeds and if she already has make sure she hasn’t eaten any of them. Keep her away from me and out of the investigation on me and my life will be an open book. I will see you in four days time, Grand Master.”

Satele pursed her lips so tightly they looked to disappear, and it was with supreme effort that the woman didn’t groan out loud at Caer’s commentary.  Pashans eyes bulged out of his head and he made little noises of dismay. Kruellen however opened her mouth gaping like a mud fish, her cheeks darkening.

“How dare-” The feed cut as Caer clicked the button.

“Oops.” Caer said to empty air.

Turning away, she took a moment to collect herself. Crossing the room she sat down at a little work table. Her hands touching over the various items laying on the table. She brushed her hand against the diatium power cell, the item sitting on it’s side, rolled slightly under her fingers. The focus and power crystals laid out in a row, as well as several other components. Not quite ready, no. Nowhere near. She still needed a few more things, but the items she got were some of the most difficult.

Let them investigate her. Let them poke around in her head. There was nothing for her to hide. Nothing for her to fear. They had nothing to worry about and she would pass their little investigation with flying colors.  She would bring Kruvens sister to justice and if necessary, Kruven himself it it turned out that he was a part of this truly.

Screw politics. She was a warrior anyways.

Raised in this madness, you’re on your own
It made you fearless, nothing to lose
Dreams are a drug here, they get in your way
That’s what you need to fight day by day

Oh Damn, the war is coming!
Oh Damn, you feel you want it!
Oh Damn, just bring it on today!

Catch me my wings have broken.

Caer shivered as if cold, yet the sunburned skin feeling like it was on fire. The salve that someone had placed on her body helped, but even still, it was agonizing to lay in one position for so long. The skin felt tight, and touching it was enough to make her gasp.  She couldn’t see her own body, but she knew that blisters had formed on her face and arms, the areas where the skin had been exposed dotted with white water blisters. She could feel where a few had broken, trickling along the heat kissed skin.

Someone had come in and cleaned her up, she had recalled that much. It might have been Nia, the only woman on the ship other than herself. They had taken her out of the outfit she’d been found in and replaced it with a light wrap over the modest bits of hers. Whoever had done it had been careful and mindful of her injuries and her modesty. That was something she appreciated.

Thinking back on it, Caer realized it had to have been Nia, she vaguely remembered a soft voice with that accent telling her to try and lift her arms, felt the cool cloth on her skin, the Zabrak woman exhibiting a gentleness Caer would likely not have suspected her of.  The woman had taken care of the mess that had been left behind, the days of grime and nastiness that came naturally. It had embarrassed Caer on some level to know someone had to see her like that. She felt unclean and sickened by it, but even still the sedation drugs coursing through her veins had prevented that emotion from surfacing.

Caer was grateful to Niatara and she had tried to verbalize it, but the woman had silenced her, told her to hush that she could talk later before she’d lain the woman back down in clean clothes and pulled a very light sheet over the Miralukas slender form. Caer had fallen back into the oblivion of her mind to sleep a healing sleep.

Caer couldn’t see, she had tried to touch on the force that had been born with her. It felt raw and wounded, retreating from her like an wounded animal that blamed her for its injuries.  She grasped for it, but the more she grasped the more it felt like it withdrew from her. The frustration she felt at that mounted and she eventually gave up on it, opting to come back later and try to figure out what was wrong.

She felt her brother still asleep next to her; his breathing a bit ragged but at least he was breathing. That was more than she’d hoped for when she’d woken up. It terrified her to realize that she could have woken to her brother dead from the spice and trauma of withdrawal.  Not to mention the stress and exhaustion of the lengths he went through to find his sister- to find her.  Caers heart ached at the thought of the torment she had put her family and friends through, that if  she had possessed the ability to cry, she would have wept at the thought of hurting them like she had.

Even Tomuraan who didn’t have to be there, had and still was. Some part of him anyways. He had delved deep into her mind and he had stayed with her inside that little place she had not allowed anyone but her brother to go. She saw him as he was and he saw her as she viewed herself and he’d been there for her. He spoke to her, soothed her anxiety and held her as she tried to grapple with what had happened.  He spoke with her for hours, endless hours inside her mind, his arms wrapped around her form and he’d comforted her. Assured her and gave her whatever she needed to cope. He distracted her from the physical and mental pain and when she had her momentary set backs of fear and doubt- she still had trouble convincing herself that they were real at times- he patiently waited for her to come back to herself and pardoned her when she apologized.  He was so patient it almost unnerved her, but at the same time she reveled in it; the steadfastness of the Mirialan was exactly what she needed to help her with her focus.

All these things combined helped her in deep healing ways. Even now, she felt Toms presence in her mind, even while he was off the ship doing other things. It reassured her and the link between them made her feel okay in some way, as if she had the opportunity to feel like an outside world did exist.

She heard a rustle of cloth and realized that it was Neirov. Caer felt another sort of reassurance in knowing that Neirov was there watching over her, being her eyes so to speak while she was blinded in every sense of the word. She could seek comfort and relief in knowing that he was there as well, the ever watchful Mirialan and friend to her for many years. She worried he blamed himself for what happened to her.

Caer would speak with him later, assure him this was not his fault. She knew he would want to go and seek the one who did this to her. To seek out this Darth Tormentia.

A darker side of Caer stirred, the one that she kept away, the part of her she refused to acknowledge. It stirred sluggishly and seemed to taste the emotions that threatened to rear it’s own head. The thought of that woman getting away with what she’d done to Caer- no. What hell she’d put her friends through angered Caer.

Revenge is not the Jedi way.

(You’re not a Jedi anymore.)

But I still follow so many of those beliefs.

(No, you follow the fear of what will happen if you stop following those beliefs. Man up.)

It’s not right.

(Neither was what was done to you- done to them.)

Caer turned away from those dark thoughts. She would do this her way. Darth Tormentia would pay for what she did, but it’d be done the right way.

(Keep telling yourself that…)

Caer fell into a restless sleep.

Where is the edge- Where is the light- Part 3.

Where is the edge
Of your darkest emotions?
Why does it all survive?
Where is the light
Of your deepest devotions?
I pray that it’s still alive.

You can’t stop yourself
Don’t want to feel
Don’t want to see what you’ve become.

You can’t walk away
From who you are
Never give in.

Where is the edge
Of your darkest emotions?
Why does it all survive?
Where is the light
Of your deepest devotions?
I pray that it’s still alive.

The desert suns baked her skin, making it feel dried and like a husk that was about to blow away in the non-existant wind. She couldn’t remember how she got there or who had placed her in the sand to fend for herself. She had been given only minimal water, no saber to protect herself and she was blind.

Literally blind. The repeated abuse had disrupted the force sight she relied so heavily upon.  She prayed that it would return to her eventually- if she survived this ordeal. The heat was unbearable, and she wore only the minimal of clothing, a simple leg wrap and some type of top that she’d been dressed in. All her armor, her saber, everything she’d had on her at the time of her abduction- all gone.

Days, she had been gone days a week nearly and she could barely recall any of it. No, that was a lie. (Peace is a lie) – no.  That was what she had been told to believe.  The Darth had messed with her mind in numerous ways, Caer couldn’t even recall all the things she’d been told or led to believe. The woman had done her job of breaking down Caer’s defenses, confusing her, convincing her of things that would or would not happen. Hallucinations, ideas, emotions that weren’t hers. They tormented her more than the shock collar ever could.

The Darth had dredged up memories within the Miraluka that she had tried hard to forget. Things she’d done in her past that she was not proud of.  Things she’d done to get a job done or on orders of the Council.  This had gone on for days. Intermittent depending on the womans mood or her boredom level.

Then one day it’d stopped. Caer’s belly was the only sound in that room, the demand for food and water making her dry mouth water.  Nothing came or went into the room for hours, the Miraluka falling in and out of consciousness. She hadn’t heard the door open or the sound of her cuffs being released.  Caer had been utterly unaware of someone releasing her, leaving her to be found.

No, she had woken up, blind and laying in the sand. The heat of the suns beating down on her like angry fists. Her skin had quickly turned a livid red color, the canteen of water that had been left behind for her had been quickly drained.

She slept. It was dangerous to sleep in the Tatooine desert, but her body and mind demanded it.

It was how the group of rescuers had found her. Face down in the sand under the ribs of a giant beasts bones near the Sarlaac pit did the group find her.  Neirov and Raiyden had been the first ones to her, with Tomuraan a close second behind and Amaare.  Caer had been unaware of the fact that a Sith Lord being held by the leash of someone she wasn’t sure she trusted had come in last with another Imperial.

Caer had not known Kyic and Nia had shown up. It had been a good thing perhaps if she’d not known that until she’d been taken to a safer and more controlled location.  Caer knew she would not have approved of Kyic being there, would not have approved of Nia being there either.

But they were there, Raiyden had nearly over dosed himself on spice trying to boost his abilities to finding her. Neirov had been there at both their sides. Supporting them, watching over them as they were both taken to the local medical center where Hudgaar had done his best to keep them both alive, giving them the things they needed to survive. Amaare had been emotional support.

But even then Tomuraan had proven to be far more supportive in the emotional aspect than Caer had even now thought she’d been prepared for. He had gone into her mind, had sought permission to enter into that sanctuary that was up until then, been only for her brother to enter and he had helped her understand the fact from the fiction. He had done his best to help her understand that the things she heard and the sensations she experienced- the kindness, the help and the positive thoughts that were sent her way were genuine.

These people cared about her. He cared about her.

Never in her life had she experienced such a thing by sharing her thoughts, her inner most thoughts…her soul self with anyone but Raiyden. To be steeped in the force with another living being? It was something she would likely spend the next few days trying to understand as she and her brother recuperated.

Which even now as she lay in her bed, Caer tried to figure out though, what Kyics and Niatara’s angle had been in the rescue. What was it they wanted? Caer badly wanted to believe that Nia had gone on some sort of good faith act and not some ulterior motive. But if what she’d heard been true, why would Kyic have been there? And the other Imperial?  What stake did they have ensuring her survival? Kyic would never have agreed to go on such a thing unless he was compensated in some fashion. No. That wasn’t even true. He wouldn’t have gone at all unless it was to be rid of her himself.  It didn’t make sense.

Nia she quietly puzzled over. The woman was on her ship, she heard that much from Neirov.  But why? What was it she gained? Again a piece that made no sense. Caer recalled their last meeting; it had been cruel on Caer’s part and even now she couldn’t figure out what had possessed her to be so vicious to the woman.    Caer recalling the last moments she saw Nia before her abduction filled her with mixed feelings. Some part of her wanted to believe her gut instinct that Nia wasn’t involved, some part of her wanted to believe that she was trying to be a friend. But that tiny voice in her head, the years of training told her no. That the aura that she saw that night was a glimpse of the truth. A deep dark truth that Caer should leave alone. The kind of truth that should be left alone, sever the ties and walk away while she had a chance.

It didn’t matter. She was grateful to them all for their own risk. Their own personal sacrifices and it would reflect upon them in her opinion for some time to come. She owed the people on her ship her life.

She heard Neirov shifting on his mat on the floor and felt uncertain. She cared for him, she had cared for him since they were young. It was with mixed feelings she thought on him, the emotions so complicated that she felt her frustrations and anxiety rise as she did.

No, Caer would not think on Neirov. Not right now. It was too much to think about and one of the weapons the devilish woman had used against her. Caer’s own downfall had been uttering Neirovs name in the womans presence. He cheeks flushed with shame at that and she would die before she would ever speak of what she had spoken of.  Pain and manipulation could make even the most sealed lips part with the right  amount of time and patience.

Raiydens arm tightened around her and she gave a little stifled grunt of pain as he clung to his sister.

Raiyden. Her sole reason for existing. It was because of him that she was alive at great personal sacrifice to himself. He had thrown it all away to save her and for that she felt a mixture of both immense shame and pride. Shame for herself, pride for her brother.  The spice he had consumed could have killed him; the quality of it had been only of the best, but he had done it to find her.  She would forgive him for it. Of course she would… she also knew that he would have a deeper addiction- but that was something to dwell on at a later time. When wounds had healed, scars had settled and life progressed.  Her good hand reached out for his and they clasped together, her smaller hand fitting perfectly in his.

Tomuraan rested on the other side of her, the man in deep meditation on the bed next to her. He had promised he wouldn’t leave her. He had kept his promise and Caer kept the faith that he would keep the promise. The Mirialan had been honest with her since they’d first met.

Caer felt the exhaustion grip her again and she yawned, her head drooping against the pillow. The steady breathing of all her guardians around her made her feel secure, safe and at peace.

She would have to wait and see what the future brought her. It would either bring her renewed friendships, new relationships and a stronger bond with her brother; or it would bring about a new enemy. She thought about that and decided to deal with it later. Much like she would deal with the news Sethias had delivered, of another being who sought her death.  When Caer had asked her companions why people wanted to kill her, wanted to hurt her, they said she stood for things that most people hated.  Neirov had said hope, Nia had said change and Tomuraan had brought up the end with compassion.

The three things Caer had always thought was normal, and even as her mind fell into that deep and hopefully dreamless slumber, Caer wondered if she had any fight left in her.

Interlude- Pull Me Under.

This world is spinning around me
This world is spinning without me
Every day sends future to past
Every breath leaves one less to my last

Caer slept.

It wasn’t a comfortable sleep, the sleep of a being who had no fight left in them, their mind and body so exhausted that it simply gave up and succumbed to the darkness that demanded to be recognized. The body was hurting, the mind a mirror of the body that housed it. Both feeling as if they’d been shredded and left for the carrion birds to pick over. Caer’s body didn’t even care that it could expire at any moment, so utterly spent by the torment it had endured.

Why hadn’t she expired yet?

It wasn’t a question the mind dwelled on.  The question left unspoken in the wounded mind; it was not something that was important now, no. Quiet, blissful pain-free silence was what it welcomed. A few hours respite from the electrical and verbal barrage it and the body had endured.

In the exhausted slumber, she dreamed- or perhaps it was visions. Her friends Tomuraan and Neirov’s auras were somewhere out there, seeking her; and importantly her brothers aura the strongest, held up by the placid river blue of Tomuraans aura, which was boosted by the turbulent under current of Neirov’s more darker aura.

Raiyden was hurting. She knew it and it shattered her heart to know she was the cause of his suffering.  It was her fault for his pain, his use of the spice- oh yes, she could ‘see’ that he was boosted by the spice that helped him. It made her stomach flip flop lazily the urge to throw up again (she’d thrown up once already) at the thought of her brother relying on spice to get him through this ordeal.

They spoke to her, told her to be strong; but she didn’t quite believe the voices. Didn’t quite believe what her minds eye saw. It could be another trick by her tormentor.  She’d played so many on Caer in the three days she’d been there that she’d lost count.  The woman was a master at mind games, mental torture more so than physical.  Not that the woman was above physical pain either; she seemed to enjoy torturing Caer with the shock collar, adjusting the intensity randomly, or using her nails to dig into Caers skin.

Even unconscious Caer shuddered involuntarily, her legs jerking against the table as if trying to draw up and curl into a fetal position to protect herself.  Caer had to consider herself lucky, she was tame by some Sith standards. Many Sith would have gotten far more brutal with their victims. She’d seen enough of her fellow Jedi tortured by such brutes.  No, the woman was refined and civilized compared to some of her Sith compatriots.

Her mind switched to the previous vision she’d had, the one previous to her capture.

She should have listened to it, meditated upon it and acted before it’d happened.  She wished she had now, but as her old Master used to say, if wishes were fishes Nautolans would never step foot on land every again.  Caer never did understand that analogy.

The vision had told her of betrayal, it had been fleeting and full of portent, but visions were like that. They were only a possible future, not a definite one.  Caer would have snorted if she’d been awake. This one had come true. She’d never been good at visions anyways, that was more her brothers thing and he was better at interpreting them than she ever was.

The faces had been of Kruven, his pureblood features looking smug and intelligent. Gloating. He had spoken words in a language she couldn’t understand. The face had melted into that of Niatara peering over Caers own face and smirking. Again words spoken she couldn’t understand but the expression on the womans face even Caer could see. The look of self satisfaction and then the face of possibly the one person Caer considered an enemy behind Nia’s.

Kyic.  The Zabrak grinning like he’d just found his greatest prize sitting out for him, his hands resting on Nia’s shoulders, gripping tightly.

Caer’s fingers twitched involuntarily as if imagining her fingers around that Zabraks thick neck. All their auras had pulsated as one, like a living heart beat that was being deprived of oxygen and blood. A steady pulsing that soon stilled into a bloody darkness.

That vision had come to her days ago, the night before she had run into Kruven and Niatara in the Diner on Voss. It had set her on edge even then and it set her on edge now.

Had they all played a part in this? Had they all played some sort of game with her, lulling her into some sense of security and friendship and if not that civility on Kruvens part? All of these things had come to her in her vision and it left her feeling confused and scared.

Was Kruvens sister right? Had he set all this up for her? To be rid of her? It seemed so fantastical, so not right that she doubted it and her mind shrank away from that doubt. Doubting meant pain to her addled brain and she didn’t want anymore pain. So she went with what she’d been told.

Pull me under Pull me under
Pull me under I’m not afraid
All that I feel is honor and spite
All I can do is to set it right.

Her body slept.  She had counted her injuries in her head, a possible broken wrist from her trying to jerk her arm free of the bindings. Potentially wrenched knee from her bodies reaction to being electrocuted. A definite bruised and wrenched back from the same treatment, scratches on her face from the womans claws digging into her cheeks to force her to focus. A bitten tongue, shredded lips and Brogan and Ashla knew what internal injuries from the currents of electricity.

Her mind was active, her brain conferring with her heart about it’s desires and she wanted revenge. She’d see someone pay for this, see someone pay for making her brother suffer; making her friends seek her out at great danger to them. Whether it would be Darth Tormentia or Kruven…or possibly those in her vision, that would remain to be seen. But they would pay for the suffering her brother endured.

Nobody messed with her brother.

Where is the edge? -Torment – Part2

Caer gasped, bloody spittle flying form her lips as she felt consciousness return to her. The woman jerked her head upwards and tried to open her senses to the area around her. She couldn’t. Momentary panic gripped her as she fought to figure out just what had happened. The fluttering in her stomach that threatened to turn into claws to climb up her throat hovered there and it took sheer will not to scream.

Don’t panic, she told herself; stay calm and figure this out. Try to remember the last thing that happened and proceed from there.  

                The Diner, Caer could recall eating at the diner after a night of paperwork she had cake and wine, she could remember that much. She spoke with a man… yes, Caer remembered now. She had spoken with a man about a trip off Voss. Caer could remember that he had smelled sweet like some sort of fruit or… or candy. Yes, that’s right; she recalled he smelled like candy. Shaking her head she gave a grunt as her ears rang and bile rose up in her throat, threatening to make her vomit. It was a concussion and Caer knew that she was possibly in a very bad position.

Thinking of, she noticed that her hands were shackled to either side of her, her fingers and hands numb from being forced into one position for long. Her upper arms shuddered under the strain of being held in one place. Caer felt the bindings around her ankles, noting that someone had taken her armor and left her only clad in the mesh suit that was standard for the type of armor she wore Sweat dripped off her face as she struggled to remain conscious and sort things out.

Okay, I’m unable to see where I’m at, Caer thought to herself, trying to go through this logically. I am captured, but by who? It doesn’t matter. Let’s figure out what to do. I’m on a table, feels like possibly a ship or something similar. I’m stuck on a table, likely an interrogation table.

                The sound of footsteps drew her attention and she waited in the darkened room to find out who entered. Was it someone she knew or was this some new entity?  She would find out in a moment. Caer didn’t even hear the door open, but suddenly there was a voice coming from the darkness.

“Are you not enjoying your accommodations, Master Jedi, or may I call you Caer?” The voice  spoke from the darkness, it wasn’t from an intercom or any sort of device. It was there in the darkness.

Caer lifted her head and scowled, or at least she hoped it was a scowl, wincing a bit at the pain in her face. She didn’t recognize the voice and swallowed a bit, saying, “I’ve had better.”

The jolt of the shock collar around her neck surprised her, causing her to gasp loudly and twitch, writing on the interrogation table uncontrollably, grateful when the woman ceased pressing on the mechanism that controlled the shock. Caer slumped against the table and breathed heavily as she fought the urge to shudder.

The voice purred from the darkness, the  voice conjured up the image of a clawed hand in a velvet glove. Whoever the woman was, Caer realized she was dangerous. “How are they now?”

Caer grimaced and tried to ‘look’ at the woman. He aura seemed familiar, but she couldn’t place it. Lifting her head again she asked, “Who are you?” The shock that she receive for her questioning was blazing hot through her veins was enough to make her gasp again, but this time she kept from yelping like the first time.

“That wasn’t the question, Caer.” The woman’s voice murmured softly as she left up on the button that controlled the voltage of the collar.  Caer could hear her walking around the room, her boots or whatever she wore

“F… fine, g… great, just peachy.” Caer spoke through clenched teeth, she’d realized she’d bitten her tongue and it hurt. Least she hadn’t bit through it. She’d heard of interrogations where the one being interrogated bitten their tongue clear through when faced with force lightning or something similar.

“Oh I’m so very glad to be accommodating.” The woman fairly gloated at Caer’s response.  She walked around the room, the only thing Caer could see of her was her aura, a swirling darkness. Labeling her as Sith and a powerful one. Again that aura seemed vaguely familiar.

“What is it you want?” Caer rested her head against the table, finding that no matter how she lay it was uncomfortable.

“That’s no way to treat a host, now is it?” The female rested her hip against the table, Caer feeling the table shift ever so slightly.

“Lady, I have no idea who you are, but whatever it is you want, you’re not getting it from me.” Caer spoke with a slightly cautious tone.

“It’s funny every Jedi says that.  Especially the one that lead me to you, my dear.  Why is it that you Jedi always act so tough on the outside but on the inside you nothing but twisted bags of emotions crying to come out?” The woman stepped forward a bit, tapping her nails on the side of the table, a staccato pattern that grated on her prisoners nerves.

Caer said nothing, trying not to curl her lip into a sneer.  The woman spent the next few moments baiting her, alternating between shocking her and taunting her. The torment  both physical and mental wore away at Caers defenses and it was only by sheer will and determination that she kept her wits about her. The woman questioned Caer for hours about her associations on Voss, how she ended up there, what she was doing there and who she knew; punctuated by laughter or the sound of boot heels clicking against the floor as she circled the table. Most if any questions Caer did not answer, each resistance was met with more shocks, more slaps, more comments.

What seemed like days later Caer slumped against the table, the tingle of the electricity still fresh in her mind and body, her muscles cramping and spazzing involuntarily that the sat atop of her and slapped her.  “Now. Do you have that answer now my dear?”

Caer felt blood dribble from between her lips, somewhere along the questioning she’d bitten her tongue. The woman, to Caer surprise and revulsion bent and licked the blood from her lower lip. Caer shuddered and tried to squirm away from the woman, much to the Darths amusement and pleasure.

“Mmm, tasty, tasty.” The woman looked down at her with an expression akin to a cat toying with a mouse. It made Caer want to throw up. After a moment the Darth slid off Caer and the table, landing on the floor lightly.  She began circling the table again.

“I’m not tellng you anything.” Caer said softly after a long and heavy silence.

“No?  You have told me alot.”  The Darth ran a finger along the side of the prisoner as she walked around.  “I think you tell more then you want to tell. I wonder what will happen if they find you dead.”

Caer swallowed thickly at the idea. It wasn’t one she particularly relished. However she clenched her jaw and tried to pull free of her bindings again. “how about you let me out of here and we make this a fair fight.”

“Not right now.  I’m feeling chatty.” The button to the collar was pressed again and the Darths voice was nearly drowned out by Caers scream of pain.  “Besides you don’t make demands to me, woman.”

“You… who are you?” Caer groaned and tried to curl up. All she wanted to do was curl up into a ball, the muscles in her arms and legs feeling like they were made of liquid fire.

“That is a good question.  But since I know your name Master Caer, it is only fair I share mine.  I am Tormentia, Darth Tormentia”

“Original.” Caer responded dryly. Caer was rewarded for her comment with another brief shock of the collar.

“You know I made sure your republc lackeies find evidence that the Sith Ambassador is responsble for this.”  The Darth leaned against the table again, smiling widely at her prisoner.

“What…why? Why Kruven?” Caer spoke in a winded and bewildered tone.

“I hate the republic, I hate the empire, most importantly dear, I hate him.”

Caer shook her head, trying to keep from passing out, her mind swirling, her heart hammering from all the abuse of the shock collar. She gave a low moan. “You’re Sith…  you rule the Empire, they’re just our lapdogs.”

“For now I wish Kruvens death.” The woman simply stated.

“I’m not killing him if that’s what you want.” Caer retorted through clenched teeth. Again, she was rewarded for her commentary with another round of electricity, this one seeming to go on for long moments. When it finally let up, her chest heaved and her body was drenched in sweat.

“Not that you care, he’s just one less Sith to deal with right?” Darth Tormentia seemed to speak off to the right. Caer couldn’t see her aura, her ‘vision’ disrupted.

“Better sith than you.” She spat at the woman. It was clear she was caught between angry and struggling to keep those emotions in check. Even Caer realized that she was having trouble keeping her emotions in check- a fatal mistake.

A long pause as if the woman regarded her in the same way a person regarded a caged animal. Or a creature to be dissected. “Why do you think that?  He is your sworn enemy.”

Caer spoke softly, her voice hoarse from the screaming and clenching with each electrocution session.  “Because… smart enemies know when the proper time for battle comes. He’s a smart enemy.”

“Funny words coming from a Jedi.  To tell you the truth he set this up.”

“What?” She swallowed, not quite daring to believe it, but really no matter how one painted Kruven, he was still a sith. “Who are you to him?”

A soft giggle issued from another side of the room. “Can’t you see the resemblance? Of course not, I’m his sister dear. So now it is time to kill you, that’s his orders.”

She fell silent, not sure what to say to that, it was plain that she was pretty well convinced that she was either good as dead or was never seeing her brother again. She had no time to respond to anything, before the waves of electricity went through her neck down her spine and up through her skull, sending her body thrashing violently against the table, the only thing stopping her from falling off were the clasps around her ankles and wrists.  The last thing she heard was from her captors mouth, “Just remember….the name.  Tormentia..”

The darkness encased her, some part of her praying she’d not wake up again.

 

 

I still remember the smile when you tore me apart- Part 1- Taken.

The hour was late, she’d sent her guards off some time ago assuring them that the paperwork would pose no threat to her. The trooper had nodded, though he’d seemed unsure. She’d sent him off with a wave of her hand, the stylus poised between her fingers telling him to have a good night.  The paperwork might not be a threat to her, but the words on them could be. The people responsible for keeping things funded and afloat for the Republic to continue to function on Voss had wanted reports on everything from the supplies she ordered to the  food they ate to even how many fuel cells were used.

Everything was to be accounted for down to the last man or woman who fought or worked under the Republics banner. Caer had not realized this when she’d taken the massive task of being the Ambassador to the Republic for Voss, and worse it felt like she had been given no preparation on how to deal with all the paperwork as well as the meetings and the other little things that added up quickly. That wasn’t even to speak about having to deal with Kruven or Kyic; both of who she had opposing opinions on. Kruven was smooth, charming and every bit the diplomat and politician as to in Caer’s opinion, Kyic was only useful in terms of being a giant Sith meat shield for the Empire. She saw little in terms of redeeming qualities in the brute.

Sighing, she signed off on yet another order for medical supplies, staunchly refusing to allow a bunch of stuffy shirted idiots who probably never knew what it was like to see a man bleed out in a field let alone never had more than a cut on their finger tell her how many bacta patches she could or should have there. Besides, Caer didn’t particularly give a damn one way or another when it came to what the Senate particularly wanted. Her troopers came first, her people came first. Damn what some bureaucrat wanted. Tucking the data pads away into a safe, she shut the mag-seal door and slumped against her seat. Her senses told her it was well past dark; she considered coming up one of the troopers for that escort they usually insisted on then realized they were likely bunked for the night and that anyone sane on Voss would be in bed or supremely drunk by now. Well, no help for that now. Besides it wasn’t as if there was anything going on that would cause her any issue she couldn’t handle herself.  That and she could really use a drink, and who knew maybe someone might be in the Diner to chat with before she turned in.

Making sure the office was locked up, Caer headed down the lit pathway, where a few Voss guards nodded in curt greeting to the woman, Caer nodding back before turning down the path that would end at the Diner.  The Port Nesh Diner was always open, night and day and Caer was grateful for that due to her odd hours and the company she tended to keep.

This night there were only a few patrons, a couple Voss who were having a quiet discussion in one corner and two other humanoids speaking  to one another, pausing when Caer entered the room. They regarded her with a cool expression before turning back to their drinks. Caer regarded their auras for a moment, noting that they didn’t seem out of the ordinary from anyone else.  The two Voss chatting in the corner nodded in greeting to Caer, she recognized them as students of some sort and was likely discussing Voss philosophies in preparation for some sort of test or whatever it was they did. Their unique vocalizations carried over the near silence of the Diner.

Approaching the bar she smiled to Saligon who greeted her somewhat gruffly- though she knew that it wasn’t anything personal. He greeted most gruffly. “What’ll it be tonight, Ambassador.”
“Just a small slice of cake and my usual wine, Saligon.” She responded warmly. Despite his gruff sounding voice, he was normally a pretty decent guy, for a Bith anyways.

While waiting for the server to return with her ordered items she removed herself to the couch she favored when visiting.  Saligon had the droid send the drink and food and she slid her credit voucher for it to be charged to her account before settling in to attempt to relax before the long walk back to her quarters so she could sleep.

“Excuse me.” A man of indeterminable age approached her. Caer couldn’t tell exactly what species he was other than humanoid and he spoke refined basic. He could have easily been Corellian or something else, not that it mattered. Caer spoke to anyone when they approached her at the Diner, whether it was Ambassador Kruven himself or one of the Voss workers.

Caer nodded to the man and offered them a tired and genuine smile. “Greetings, how can I help you?”

“I heard that bartender there say you are the Ambassador?” The man gestured to Saligon who’d gone into deep clean mode, obsessively cleaning the bar counter as if he could possibly purge all evil from the galaxy by rubbing the bar counter down to nothing.  Caer suppressed a smile and nodded.

“Yes, I am Ambassador Caer Estherian.”  The Miraluka sat up a bit more, trying to at least look somewhat more professional than her slouching position would indicate.  Caer immediately noticed the man had a light scent about him, as if he did his best to mask how he smelled to others, lacking most people’s smells of heavy sweat, armor oils, weapon oils or the other assorted types of scents most sentient beings possessed. She did notice however, he seemed to have a light scent of something sweet on him, as if he carried possible  hard candies that were sometimes favored by the troopers she knew.

The man regarded her with silence for a moment before taking a seat across from her in one of the other chairs without her saying anything. When he spoke, his voice was cultured and somewhat soft; It was clear he was educated and came from a rich background. “Greetings, just the person I was looking for. I have been seeking someone here who would be willing to possibly assist me. You see, I have been stuck here on Voss for weeks with no way to contact my people.”

Caer regarded the man, watching his aura through the force, and she nodded as she listened, noting that his aura only fluctuated slightly. He wasn’t telling the entire truth, she realized. He obviously wanted something and she started to come up with a dozen of the standard responses she’d been told to give when these sorts of things came up.  Before she even opened her mouth the man spoke again.

“I know as an Ambassador that you cannot do much other than direct me to the port master and perhaps submit certain forms, but you have to understand, I have someone very near and dear to me on Coruscant that I need to see immediately. I fear she is dying and I want to at least have a chance to say goodbye before she goes.”  He spoke quickly, his tone full of sorrow and desperation, the man’s voice wavering only slightly as he fought to keep the control he seemed to barely have over his emotions. Caer instantly felt bad for the man and sighed inwardly.  She hated this part of her job and she wished that she could just say that she was sorry but she wasn’t on the clock. Unfortunately, being an Ambassador meant that she had to be there for the people no matter the time of day or night.

“I’m sorry, but I cannot do anything. I hope you understand, but the most I can do is try and see about getting you onto the next passenger shuttle but that is days away yet.” Caer took on as much of a sympathetic expression as she could yet remain neutral.

The man nodded and tried not to look taken aback but Caer could tell through the way the force shifted around him, he was annoyed, upset and generally the standard emotions of a man who had just been told no. He got to his feet awkwardly and bowed to Caer. “Forgive me I had hoped, but I understand.”

Caer bowed her head and murmured an apology; she did feel bad and frustrated that her hands were tied. She watched him shuffle off out the door without any other commentary before she took a final swallow of her wine and got to her own feet. She nodded to Saligon, who was now the only person in the Diner besides herself. The other patrons had left at some point during the rather brief conversation with the man who Caer now realized she had never learned the name of.

Waving to Saligon, she made her way outside, where the cool night air hit her. It felt good and she smiled to herself as she made her way down the path and towards the bridge that would lead her to the area where her quarters were. It seemed like a pretty good night to enjoy a walk to her quarters in the warm night air.  Taking her time, she thought about the day and how much she’d accomplished and the conversation with Neirov and Raiyden she’d had. They’d even gotten a meditation session in.

Punching in the code that would allow her access to her quarters she paused as she sensed another presence. Frowning slightly, her fingers brushing against the hilt of her saber as the door slid open to allow her into her darkened quarters.

Caer had no time to react or cry out as a body flung itself at her, a fist connecting with the side of her head, jarring her ‘vision’. She grunted and opened her mouth to call for help, when another blow to her face silenced her. Caer only hoped that the noise this person was making trying to take her down would draw the curiosity of the Voss guards.

As Caer fumbled for her saber, willing it to her hands through the force a second aura entered her field of vision. The man from the Diner! She snarled as she wrestled with her first attacker for her saber, the being sitting atop of her and aiming well placed blows to her head, disrupting her ‘vision’.  The second man- Candy man as she called him leaned down and plucked the saber from her grasp.  Effectively disarming her yes, but that didn’t mean she was without her own tricks.

Summoning up the force, she placed her palms against the first man’s chest and used the force to push. Caught off guard, he grunted and flew backwards, slamming into the door. The second man was on her in a second, something sharp and painful jabbing into her neck as he inserted a needled into her neck. Caer froze, her fear of needles momentarily overriding her fight or flight instincts.

It was enough for the first man to come back, shaking his head dazedly side to side and grab her ankles while Candy man tossed the injector into the grass nearby and grasp her arms.

“She’ll be out in three minutes.”  She heard Candy man say. The other man nodded, saying nothing at all.

Caer tried to speak, but was quickly gagged  by a cloth pulled from the Candy man’s pocket that smelled of the same candy like smell. She counted the seconds which turned into minutes as they hauled her back towards a rocky outcropping behind the place she was staying at. One minute turned into two, two turned into three and eventually six minutes passed before Caer even started feeling the effects of the stuff they gave her.

In the interim, Caer heard no conversation pass between them, she could not figure out what direction they were going in. The last thing Caer remembered was being loaded onto a ship that smelled distinctly sanitized before the drug he gave her took hold of her.

Her last coherent thought was of Neirov and Raiyden, knowing they’d be waiting for her to return.

Caer fell into darkness, succumbing to unconsciousness and into the hands of someone who had just taken the Ambassador off of Voss undetected.

If happy ever after did exist.

Caer’s hand pressed against the window of the ship, the cold of space seeping into her palm little by little making her fingers feel cold and tingly, making her wrist ache a little. It was a isolated sensation as opposed to the warmth her ship provided; if anything it felt too warm. Her reflection stared back at her, a somber face that was exhausted beyond comprehension, the somewhat drawn features of someone who worked too hard and didn’t quite eat enough.  The lips pursed slightly, the expression of one under great stress.

Not that she could see her reflection. If she could even she would admit she looked tired beyond comprehension.  Her body ached and her mind was numb from all the things that ran through it at light speed.  The jumble of thoughts seeming to have no organization, not pattern to them. It was like hearing a room full of hyperactive padawans chattering all at once, and all the noise was funneled in her direction.

Caer’s hand slid down the window to eventually drop at her side. The scent of the ships air recycler seemed so sterile after the sweet smell of Voss. She loved how Voss smelled, the planet having such unique plants that made her feel as if she was someplace exotic. The local flowers, trees and grasses always making her feel like she was in some imaginary land. It smelled too good to be true.

The Miraluka wandered through her ship, restless despite the exhaustion she did feel. Her bare feet padding over the cold metal floor that was broken up with little throw rugs she’d picked up from her various travels to distant planets. The ships air system kicked on, cycling in cooler air causing her flesh to ripple into goose flesh, eliciting a small shudder form her slight form. One hand reached up to rub the opposite arm, the motion causing friction against her palm and the skin of her arm.

Her thoughts turned to the couple of things that were foremost on her mind; no matter how reluctant she was to think about it, the Miraluka found herself feeling discomfited by the emotions she felt. It was difficult to try and sort out the emotions she felt and locking them away seemed so pointless. The emotions were there and it seemed like they weren’t going away anytime soon.

Caer hadn’t realized she’d entered Neirovs room until she felt the stinging pain of her toe stubbing the base of the bed. Stifling back a swear word she hissed and sat down on the empty bed to massage her foot. She could still smell his unique smell in the room despite the fact he’d not been there in what felt like months. Maybe it had been that long, Caer just wasn’t sure anymore.  How had she ended up in here? Had her mind subconsciously led her feet to take the path to his room?  Why did her heart pound and ache?

He’d walked away from her. That was the truth of it; she had extended her hand to him and he had once again walked away from her, leaving her feeling stunned and hurt. The ache in her chest had almost been overwhelming as she stood there next to Tomuraan, with the smile fading from her face as his back faced her, slowly retreating to in the opposite direction.

She had hoped…

“You turned your back on tomorrow

Cause you forgot yesterday

I gave you my love to borrow

But you just gave it away.

You can’t expect me to be fine

I don’t expect you to care

I know I’ve said it before

But all of your bridges burned down.

I’ve wasted my nights you turned out the lights

now I’m paralyzed still stuck in that time when I 

called it love. But even the sun sets in paradise.”

“Hope what? You stupid stupid girl.” She spoke to herself as she sat there on the edge of the bed, her hands folding in her lap and even as they curled into fists there was no strength left in them to make a proper fist.  She felt so…defeated.

Caer had tried. So many times to reach out to him, to give him every opportunity to reach back. Even back in the days when they had traveled as a trio, she had reached out to him, encouraged him and had tried to instill a sense of good in him. She and her brother both had tried and even more recently she had thought…

“Swish, what a shame could have got picked

had a really good game but you missed your last shot.”

“Thought… that I was finally getting through to him.” Caers voice sounded so small and flat. It hurt her to realize that she had been no closer to reaching him now than she had been months or even years ago.  That was the gut punch of the evening was realizing that he didn’t care to be helped. Didn’t want it as much as Raiyden had said.

Was that why she’d gone with Amaare? Why she’d stayed with him?  Amaare spoke to her, not at her. He laughed with her and not at her. Amaare could speak to her and leave enough silence for her to respond, hanging onto her words until she was done. It didn’t matter what she spoke of, his attention was always there. He teased her of course, he flirted with her endlessly; but there was more than that. Much more. He could make her smile with a few words, give her a sense of purpose.

Amaare told her he loved her.

It had been a mistake on his part and he’d begged her to forget it. Perhaps the heat of the conversation that they’d shared and Caer wasn’t so much of an innocent to realize that emotions made people say some pretty interesting things. She had smiled sadly at the large Soccorroan man and told him that she couldn’t forget it. Her heart and mind wouldn’t let her.  He knew that she didn’t  feel the same way, but he was willing to wait, willing to help her.

She had asked Amaare what he expected, he hadn’t quite answered, but he had held her.  She’d never been held by anyone like that. The mans larger body curled up around her protectively as he slept. It had felt nice to be protected for once and not the one protecting. She had heard of his reputation, she had heard of how he had used his body, his charisma and his connections to get what he wanted; she had heard it from him directly.

Shoving herself to her feet she moved to the door and stood there, her shadow falling over the long empty bed, her head down, hair falling into her face. The woman’s powerful shoulders slumped as she moved a couple steps forward, then with a wave of her hand, she summoned the force to flow through her, using it to shut the door to Neirovs room.

“I’m sorry Neirov. I can’t keep trying and getting pushed away. I’m sorry for failing you, I’m sorry for not being what you wanted. But I have others to think about; so many who need me more, so many more who won’t turn me away. I hope that you find what you want on whatever road you travel.” Her voice echoed through the empty hallway of her ship.

She had failed him and it crushed her spirit more than anything a Sith could ever do.

Straightening up she squared her shoulders and inhaled through her nose deeply. She swallowed down the emotions that threatened to overwhelm her, using those decades long training to help her. That emotional mask in place, she made her way back to her room, crawling into her bed and laying deep into the night, trying not to think about what she might have just lost.