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Beyond - Legends Saga - Legends Ἀνάγκη – Necessity beyond Sway | Thrawn, OC, drama/tragedy, pre-ANH to TTT | Epic, e-book available

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Chyntuck, Oct 6, 2014.

  1. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing! And yes, there is a chapter today, thanks to Nyota's Heart always amazing efficiency. I had a senior moment yesterday and prepared the PM and everything, but I forgot to click "send" :rolleyes: Luckily she was able (as usual) to beta-read it on the spot this morning [:D]
    Thank you! I was very much looking forward to the moment when I would introduce Fel in this story -- he came on board as a prisoner, like Ayesha, but with an entirely different reaction.
    [face_rofl]

    Ayesha is still nursing her wounded pride here, even though her focus has shifted, whereas Fel doesn't have such qualms, he just thinks of himself as a prisoner of war. He's extremely rational, as opposed to her :p and, well, he sees how much she's invested in the art analysis department to understand that it's not a mere pastime. What they do have in common is that they both need to have a cause to fight for. Fel is already admitting that he found one, and Ayesha might be getting there. Two years ago, she would have flipped the table at his 'like you' comment.
    Rumpy is going to end up playing therapist if I keep this up [face_laugh] Well, after today's chapter, the Admonitor will be on its way to Nirauan, so Ayesha will have to make decisions -- for realz this time. And as Csillan_girl said, if they stopped talking past each other, it would help...

    Welcome back!
    Like Ny said you nailed it here. Did they ever really understand each other?
    I guess it's lucky that Fel doesn't know Thrawn all that well yet... ;)

    Thanks again! Next chapter up in 5, 4, 3...

    PS: I know that I need to catch up on endnotes, I'll take care of it at some point in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future.
     
  2. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Tags: AzureAngel2 Findswoman Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Mando-Man Mira_Jade Raissa Baiard
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.
    And as usual, a big thanks to Nyota's Heart for beta-reading [:D]

    -----------------------------------------------------

    Chapter 12: Seeds

    “Are you sure?” Valeria asked.

    “I’m certain,” Ayesha replied. “This isn’t just another world they conquered. It’s the Vagaari homeworld.”

    Major Lasall keyed his comlink and moments later, Thrawn joined them in the analysts’ room. He listened carefully to Ayesha’s explanations – “there’s a whole series of the pyramid-like structures they build after subjugating a species and the pattern suggests that they made this as a monument to themselves” – and stared at the whirling nebula outside the viewport before asking for the sensor data that the probe droids who had reached the surface of the planet had fed to the Admonitor. The charts indicated that it was almost entirely deserted.

    “All the settlements we have imagery for are uninhabited, Sir,” Lasall said. “Our preliminary estimate is that they have been abandoned for some forty standard years. This could be the time when the Vagaari became fully nomadic. However, if Miss Eskari is correct, it seems that they kept ties to their homeworld after all. We can’t date the pyramids themselves without taking a closer look, but some of the paths interlinking them appear to have been established recently.”

    He pulled up a few aerial views of the area for Thrawn to examine. “Did you detect any lifeforms?” the Grand Admiral asked.

    Lasall produced a three-dimensional holo of the planet and pointed at a spot near the equator. “Only one cluster, over here – about two days travel by speeder from the pyramids. But this is a scan from orbit, our probes didn’t reach the area yet. For all we know, it could be a herd of Hoojibs.”

    Thrawn looked outside the viewport again. “Can the Star Destroyers cross this nebula?”

    “It looks like it, Sir. I’ll transmit the droids’ data to navigation so that they can confirm.”

    The Grand Admiral nodded and turned to Ayesha. “Thank you, Miss Eskari. You may have done the Empire of the Hand a great service.”

    * * *​

    The Admonitor’s central hangar bay was bustling with activity as stormtroopers, analysts and officers boarded the landing craft that would take them to the surface of the planet, and Thrawn was chatting with Soontir Fel at the foot of the Baratta’s lowered ramp when an irate Ayesha turned up. “Why am I not going?” she asked.

    There was the faintest twinkle of amusement in Thrawn’s eyes. “We are headed straight into the enemy’s den, Miss Eskari. This may be a reconnaissance mission but it will be anything but safe. It is not a place for artists.”

    She gave him an angry look. “It’s an abandoned planet. Was Besron II safe?”

    The twinkle vanished. “Besron II was a necessary risk, Miss Eskari. Our friends and colleagues’ lives were at stake. Here, however –”

    “I found this world,” she snapped. “No one would have paid attention if it weren’t for me. I deserve to go.”

    “Miss Eskari –” Thrawn began.

    “Besides, who’s going to analyse those pyramids?” she interrupted, raising her voice a notch. “You? You always miss half of what there is to see in a piece of art – Admiral.”

    She spun on her heel and stormed away, followed by Rumpy who was visibly trying to talk some sense into her. Fel whispered a few words to Thrawn and ran after them. “Come back, you little roogak,” he said as he caught up with her near the turbolifts. “You’re going, but there are conditions and you’d better stick to them. Okay?”

    Minutes later, Ayesha was sitting in the Baratta with an analysis kit on her lap and Thrawn was addressing her sternly. “You will not leave this transport unless you are told to. You will follow all orders to the letter. When on planet, you will remain with Baron Fel and your brother at all times. Scout Brightwater will escort you to the pyramids and you will get on his speeder bike to evacuate at the first sign of trouble. You will not challenge my, or any officer’s authority, and you will not take any initiatives without consulting with us. Am I making myself clear?” She nodded shyly, but there was a gleam of triumph in her eyes. Thrawn had to suppress a chuckle. “I am looking forward to hearing your description of the subtle half that only you will see in those pieces of art – Miss Eskari.”

    Quiller manoeuvred the Suwantek to land among the dropships on a barren plain outside a settlement. Ayesha saw the stormtroopers disembark and march towards the town, led by Thrawn and his officers. By the time Fel returned for her, she had examined the contents of her analysis kit. “I have no idea what they expect me to do with all this stuff,” she said as she climbed into the speeder. “I actually don’t even know what most of these gadgets are for. All I need is the gloves.”

    The city was entirely deserted, the only sign of life being the troopers who were deployed across its streets. The walls were badly eroded by the sweeping desert wind and many buildings seemed to be on the verge of collapse. “This place has been abandoned for decades,” Lasall told her as he led her to one of the most steady-looking dwellings. “The Grand Admiral believes you could help us put a date on it.”

    Thrawn was waiting for them inside and pointed his glowrod towards a spot above the door, illuminating the crumbling remnants of a carving. She immediately pulled her flimsipad from her pocket and started sketching it. “Do you remember the holos you showed me on Coruscant?” she asked as she worked. “On the day Captain Parck and Major Vermel came for dinner?” He nodded. “This is the basis for all of them. This is Vagaari art in its purest form. It dates back to before they discovered interstellar travel.”

    They found the same carving in every house they visited. Sometimes there was only a shadow of it left on the wall, sometimes it was in relatively good condition and Lasall took several snapshots. “There’s nothing else to see here,” Ayesha said after a while. “Major Lasall can just cut out one of these and take it back to the ship. We should go to the pyramids.”

    Thrawn looked at Lasall, who consulted his datapad. “My team are done mapping this area, Sir. Not a single lifeform. I suggest we follow Miss Eskari’s advice. I’ll send some drones out to the other settlements, we can explore them tomorrow. Perhaps we will find a more recent one.”

    Thrawn keyed a few commands on his wrist comm, and soon the little contingent of stormtroopers and analysts had gathered again near the dropships, leaving a cloud of dust in its wake. “I wonder where they found water for those dwellings,” Ayesha said as she let a handful of the pure white sand run through her fingers. “They’re made of mud bricks. Maybe the Vagaari had to migrate when their world became a desert.”

    Lasall looked at his datapad again. “Indeed. There are no traces of surface water, not around here at least. We’ll scan the surface for deep wells when we return to the Admonitor.” He gestured towards the boarding ramp. “Shall we?”

    It was a short flight to the pyramids. The stormtroopers deployed once more, and Ayesha had to wait again until they declared that the area was clear. This time Thrawn and Lasall were sitting in the landspeeder with Fel, who was piloting, while Brightwater’s bike hovered at their side. “There’s something wrong here,” she said as soon as she stepped out of the Baratta.

    Thrawn arched an eyebrow. “Meaning?”

    She cast around a worried look. The landscape was different from the plain outside the settlement. The sand had given place to a rocky surface with thorny shrubs growing through the cracks. She pushed a few small black stones around with the toe of her boot. “I don’t know,” she said finally. “There’s something wrong. Something unnatural.”

    “Would you rather stay in the ship, Ayesha?” Fel asked.

    She looked around again. “No. Let’s go. We can start with that one.” She pointed at a pyramid in the distance. “It must be one of the oldest, the tip has fallen off.”

    She squeezed between Rumpy and Rukh in the back seat and they sped towards the structure she had indicated. “Isn’t this a dune?” Fel asked as they got closer. “It just looks like a pile of sand to me.”

    Ayesha shook her head. “The winds brought sand here to cover it. It’s an artificial structure.”

    Something crunched under her foot as she stepped out of the speeder, and she bent down to pick up what looked like an antler. The sand shifted to reveal that it was attached to the skull of what appeared to be an equine being. She looked up at the pyramid and let out an interjection of dismay.

    “What is it?” Fel asked.

    She took a step forward and delicately wiped off some of the caked sand off the structure, revealing more bone underneath. “The pyramid... it’s made of skulls.” She borrowed the binoculars hanging from his belt and swept the area. “All of them. They’re made of skulls. This is a mass graveyard. It’s the graveyard of all the beings the Vagaari killed.”

    Lasall took a small chip of bone from the skull she had unearthed and inserted it in a portable analysis unit. “This creature has been dead for more than five standard centuries,” he said when the results came up. “But our projection based on the state of erosion indicates that the settlement has been abandoned for fifty years at most. Perhaps the Vagaari have been a spacefaring species for longer than we initially thought.”

    Ayesha stared glumly at the skull. “I don’t think so. The carvings we saw don’t indicate any outside influence. These beings –” she gestured towards the pyramid – “were native to this planet. The Vagaari exterminated them.”

    There was a heavy silence. “It would confirm your previous hypothesis,” Lasall said finally. “They exhausted all the resources of their homeworld, and they became nomadic out of necessity.” He took a step towards the pile of skulls. “Should we dig out a few?” he asked Thrawn.

    The Grand Admiral’s glittering eyes were going from one pyramid to the next. “There is no need, Major,” he said. “If this is their final resting place, we should disturb it as little as possible. Let us continue over there,” he added, pointing at another structure to their left. “Unless I am mistaken, this will be the next oldest one.”

    As they made their way through the pyramid field they understood that the piles of skulls had been built chronologically in a hexagonal pattern. The planet had once been teeming with life – there were tens of species represented here, a far cry from the desolate landscape they were now seeing. Lasall performed a rapid analysis on a fragment of bone every time while Ayesha sketched the skulls they found and commented on the type of species they had belonged to. It was a long, tedious process, but they could see that the paths linking the pyramids were now in better condition, and that the sand crust covering them was thinner, proving that they were making progress through Vagaari history. After several hours, they reached a series of structures where the skulls were visible above waist height. “These haven’t been here for more than forty years,” Lasall stated when his analysis unit beeped. “Perhaps even less. Miss Eskari?”

    Ayesha was scribbling away furiously on her flimsipad. She was clearly distraught at the sight of so much death. “Look at the jaw and the forehead. It’s a simian species. I think they might have looked a little like Wookiees.” She held up her drawing. “Something like this.”

    Thrawn took a brisk step towards her. “Thirty-two years, Major Lasall,” he said after a moment’s meditation. “These have been here for thirty-two years. This species is the Geroon.”


    Fel gave him a curious look. “Have you encountered them, Sir?”

    “I have,” Thrawn said curtly. “It was not my brightest success, but they are not extinct.” He flipped a little through Ayesha’s pad. “Major Lasall, take the speeder and return to pyramid 65-besh. Please run advanced diagnostics on the bone. If my assumption is correct, it is the first offworld species that had the misfortune to fall prey to the Vagaari. We will continue on foot.”

    Ayesha expected that their progress would slow down even further, but the paths leading from one pyramid to the next were nearly intact, and, as they marched on, the stone slabs were replaced by a granular, red-black surface. The sun was sinking under the horizon when Lasall caught up with them. She was staring in horror at a head skewered on a pike planted in the ground in front of the latest pyramid they’d reached. “This is odd,” she said finally. “We didn’t see anything like this before. I don’t think this was done by the Vagaari.” She pushed the sand around a little with her feet, revealing several skulls that had rolled off the pile to the ground. “And it’s not built so artfully,” she added. “It’s sloppy work. It’s as if they were doing it under pressure.”

    Lasall took the analysis unit back from Fel, who had been handling it in his absence. “This is very recent. Perhaps ten years or so.”

    Ayesha picked a skull from the ground and shook it to remove the sand that was stuck in the cracks. “There are anomalies here,” she said as she ran her fingertips over the smooth surface. “Something was encrusted in the bone.” She looked at her feet to see that a few tiny black stones had fallen out. Lasall’s comm chirped as she crouched for a closer look.

    “The probe droids reached the area where we detected lifeforms, Sir,” he told Thrawn. “They are beaming the holos now.” Another beep signalled that his datapad was receiving the transmission. “It looks like one of those landscape incidents we mapped elsewhere. You can see this series of craters that –”

    Ayesha suddenly sprang to her feet, her face twisted with concern. She walked to the surfaced path and laid the small black pebbles over it. “They’re here,” she said to no one in particular.

    “The Vagaari?” Thrawn asked.

    “No, the sentients you call the Far Outsiders.” She held out the small stone for him to see. “This is the same material as the painting you showed me. And it’s the same material as this path. They’re here. They were also on Matta Thryne, but I didn’t pay attention.” She paused and looked around, visibly terrified. “We should leave.”

    “Calm down, Miss Eskari,” Lasall said soothingly. “There are no signs of life in the vicinity. Even if we admit that they are on planet –” A flash of light from his datapad stopped him mid-sentence. “The transmission stopped, Sir,” he said perplexedly. “One of our probe droids was destroyed.” He keyed to switch to another feed, which petered out as well. “And another. And –”

    There was an ominous rumble as the ground started shaking, throwing them all off-balance. Rumpy unsheathed his ryyk blades and Fel pulled out his blaster. “Get off the path,” Ayesha screamed. “Get off the path, it’s cracking open.”

    Skulls began to roll off the pyramid. “Baron Fel, get the speeder,” Thrawn said with deadly calm. He keyed the override code in his wrist comm. “All men, activate your location beacons. Your transports are coming for you. We are evacuating.”

    The rumble was now deafening and the fissure in the black path was expanding, with sand pouring into its depths. Rumpy got hold of Lasall in the nick of time before the landslide could carry him away. Fel was struggling to stabilise the landspeeder over the shifting ground, and the Wookiee had to throw his companions into it unceremoniously as they couldn’t recover their balance for long enough to climb on board. The Baratta was now visible in the air among the dropships that flew to collect the troops. “Faster,” Brightwater muttered as Thrawn and Rukh struggled to pull Rumpy up. His speeder bike jerked violently, threatening to throw him off. “Faster.”

    The dropships flew low over the valley and stormtroopers could be seen leaping on board, trying desperately to grab their friends and colleagues who were still on the ground. “Go!” the scout trooper shouted when he saw that Fel was distracted by the cries of those left behind. “Go, now!”

    The Baratta swooped over them, its cargo ramp lowered. The landspeeder shot in, followed by the speeder bike, and both collided against the back wall. Thrawn jumped out and dragged Ayesha to the cockpit. “Stay here,” he ordered as he tied her restraint harness. “You will not move until we are off-planet, is it understood?”

    Fel slipped in the co-pilot’s seat. “There,” he told Quiller, pointing at a group of troopers who were stranded between open fissures. The pilot lowered the craft again, and after a few agonising minutes, a grunt over the intercom indicated that they had been brought on board. “Now there.”

    They repeated the operation a few times. “The temperature is rising dangerously,” Stent piped up from the sensor console. He was covered in sweat and grime. “We cannot continue this for long.”

    Fumes were rising from the open chasms, and soon the smouldering red light in their depths surfaced in the form of molten lava. Thrawn looked at two troopers who were perched precariously on the top of a crumbling pyramid. He let out a deep sigh. “Leave them,” he said reluctantly. “We cannot reach them anymore.”

    Quiller hesitated ever so briefly and turned the ship around. He suddenly propelled it backwards, sending Thrawn tumbling to the floor. There was an angry Wookiee howl on the intercom, followed by a series of somewhat more articulate groans. “Rumpy says we got them,” Ayesha translated. “He says we should take off now, because the atmosphere is becoming unbreathable.”

    Thrawn scrambled to his feet and looked at his pilot with a raised brow. “That was LaRone and Grave, Sir,” Quiller said defiantly. “There’s no way I was leaving them down there. Put me in the brig for as long as it takes. It was worth it.” And with that, he pointed the Baratta’s nose towards the sky.

    There was a heavy silence as the transport climbed towards the outer atmosphere. The planet seemed to be collapsing upon itself, with magma spilling over the surface. “Incoming communication from the Discipline, Sir,” Fel announced.

    “Admiral, do you copy?” Matt’s voice was asking nervously. “There’s something abnormal happening down there.”

    A wry smile touched Thrawn’s lips. “If you are referring to the generalised volcanic eruption, yes, Captain. That does qualify as abnormal.”

    The comm conveyed a chuckle of relief. “Good to know, Sir. But that wasn’t what I was talking about. What I’m seeing from here defies every law of physics. The planet is blowing rocks into orbit with such strength that they seem to be propelled into hyperspace.”

    Every Human and Chiss jaw in the Baratta’s cockpit dropped. “Collect all the data you can, Captain,” Thrawn said curtly. “We will analyse it as soon as we arrive on board.”

    LaRone stumbled into the cockpit, took off his blackened helmet and went into a coughing fit. “What the blue blazes is going on?” he asked when he managed to catch his breath. “How did we trigger this?”

    “I assume we did,” Lasall answered after a perplexed silence. “We must have –”

    “It wasn’t us,” Ayesha interrupted. “It was them. The Far Outsiders. They didn’t want to be found, so they destroyed the probe droids, and then they destroyed the planet altogether.” She opened her palm to reveal the red-black pebble that had been clutching tightly. “This is what we should be looking for. They seeded the planet with this. Apparently they even seed living beings with this. It’s how they transform nature. They think of it as something that can be shaped at will.”

    Thrawn took the fragment from her hand and examined it with visible distaste as Quiller manoeuvred the Baratta among the dropships that were heading for the Admonitor’s docking bay. Fel took a last look at the planet below. The northern hemisphere was now engulfed in flames. “Grand Admiral, if I may speak at an inappropriate moment,” he said quietly. “I am officially requesting to join the Navy of the Empire of the Hand. This threat cannot pass. I want to fight it.”

    -----------------------

    Notes: Vagar Praxut, the Vagaari homeworld, is mentioned in Legends, but the details of the world, the idea that the Vagaari abandoned it once they exhausted its resources and the way it met its end are my personal fanon.
     
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    =D= =D=

    Yuppers, totally rockin' suspensefulness. And it is confirmed, the nasty YV are absolutely bringing down the neighborhood. :eek: [face_nail_biting]

    Loved Ayesha's drawers being in a wad over not coming along and the way she finagled her way onto the team. [face_laugh] [face_love]

    Hmm, maybe it's just my romantic mush-loving bias ;) but the two of them aren't as ho-hum indifferent to the other as they would like to believe/persuade themselves of. [face_mischief]
     
  4. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Oooh, this is sceery sceery sceery! And the destruction of the planet, the evacuation, the rocks shooting into space from the very face of the planet, and the YV threat in general are only part of it. For some reason what jumps out as scariest for me is the fact that Ayesha has brought a piece of their strange black-red terraforming stuff back on board the ship with her. I can't help but fear that very terrible, perhaps gruesome implications may result, especially if, as she says, it can be seeded into living beings. :eek:

    I was worried there for a moment with LaRone and Grave, but Quiller came through most heroically. Bravo to him! =D=

    Good on Thrawn and Fel to stretch a point and let Ayesha join them in coming down to the surface, because she did after all discover the place, and I'm sure they could not have found out anywhere near what they ended up finding out without her on the team—no one else, I'm sure, would have recognized that Vagaari "ur-carving" as the prototype of the art in the holos they saw with Parck and Vermel much earlier in the story. Nor would anyone else have made the connection between the strange seed-stones and the uncanny "living painting." I can't wait till the chapter where Ayesha actually confronts one or more of these Far Outsiders (and we know who they are...) face-to-face—because I'm guessing that will come eventually. Nor can I wait to see what decisions await her in the next chapter on Nirauan. :cool:
     
  5. Csillan_girl

    Csillan_girl Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 6, 2003
    Whoa!!! :eek:
    Now that's the Vong in all their nasty-ness!

    And I agree with Nyota. "You always miss half of what there is to see in a piece of art – Admiral.” Not only in a piece of art, it seems, haha - but that was almost friendly banter again! And Thrawn having to suppress a chuckle at her stubbornness... :D
    Yep, I'd say they're getting along better, almost without noticing. Wonderful. :)

    Now I hope she will stay... [face_worried]
     
  6. divapilot

    divapilot Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Vong are just the nastiest pieces of work out there. I hate that she's holding that seed in her hand. Don't even touch it!

    The pyramids of skulls are ridiculously creepy. Very vivid imagery there.

    A close call for our friends! So glad they made it out okay. Phew!
     
  7. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing! It's reply & post time [:D]
    Heh. She's stubborn, and, well, even though she won't admit it, [hl=black]she's kinda joined Thrawn's force, hasn't she?[/hl]
    Don't panic! Imperial technology is coming to the rescue ;)
    That one's still a bit further down the line (several of them, actually), but they're already written [face_devil]
    You two think so? :p
    Too bad the Vagaari weren't on planet, eh? At least the Vong would have been useful

    Thanks again, everyone! Next post up, like, now...
     
    AzureAngel2 and Findswoman like this.
  8. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Tags: AzureAngel2 Findswoman Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Mando-Man Mira_Jade Raissa Baiard
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.
    And as usual, a big thanks to Nyota's Heart for beta-reading [:D]

    -------------------------

    Chapter 13: Nirauan

    Nirauan was an arboreal world circling a red dwarf, and as a result daylight on the planet had a particular feel – or texture, as Ayesha took to calling it a few days after the Admonitor arrived and settled in orbit around the planet. She and Rumpy had been allocated a small suite in the first tower, the one residents of the fortress called the ‘thumb’ of the Hand of Thrawn, where Navy officers’ residential quarters were located. Matt and Valeria were staying one floor up, while Vermel and his children, as well as Soontir Fel, were just down the hallway. She often looked after Vermel’s children while their father was in meetings and she taught them to draw. Sometimes Rumpy would join them, to the little ones’ great delight, and they all went out to the gardens that had been established on the main building’s terrace, where they played Imperial and Rebels until Fel arrived after the day’s work and complained that they would damage the flowers and shrubs that he was cultivating so carefully. He did not regret his decision to join Thrawn in the least, but he was living in the hope that his family would soon be found and join him on the base.

    The last few weeks aboard the Admonitor had been a time of intense discussions and reflection for Ayesha. On the one hand, there was the data collected from the Vagaari homeworld, both on the ground and from orbit, that needed to be analysed, and she, Valeria and every member of Lasall’s team spent their days, and a substantial part of their nights, going over it again and again to understand what precisely had happened before the planet collapsed upon itself. The black seed-stone she had brought along was suspended in a magnetic capsule in the middle of the lab, and the scientists were examining it constantly for any signs of growth or change, but there was no indication that it was evolving one way or another. “I don’t see how it could develop in there,” Ayesha told Lasall after a few days. “It’s a living thing, it can’t develop without sustenance and you’re not feeding it.”

    The major smiled and patted her shoulder. “We’ll conduct experiments in due time, but we’re not quite there yet. We need to be sure first that this thing won’t grow behind our backs and take over the ship.” Ayesha shuddered at the thought. “Not to worry, though,” Lasall added with a mirthless laugh. “We’ve had those seeds you found on Matta Thryne for months in a simple sterilised jar, and as far as I can tell we still have control of the Admonitor. The moment when they’ll blast the hull apart hasn’t come yet.”

    Another mystery they had yet to solve was the rocks that the planet seemed to have propelled into hyperspace. The Discipline’s sensor data showed clearly a pack of asteroids shooting off the surface and disappearing with a flicker of pseudomotion as soon as they reached the edge of the planet’s gravity well, but the ballistics simply didn’t add up. “This is mathematically impossible,” one of the scientists said with absolute finality after going over his calculations one more time. “It’s not a natural phenomenon, nor is it a cannon sending the rocks into space or any other contraption of the sort. Cumulative acceleration will not, repeat not, ever get anyone or anything past lightspeed. The only possible explanation is that the rocks were equipped with a hyperdrive.”

    Valeria shook her head. “Our sensors didn’t pick up any sort of technology, the scans are positive. Besides, why would anyone put a hyperdrive on a piece of rock in the first place?”

    “For the same reason they destroyed the planet,” Ayesha said. “In order not to be found.”

    Lasall gave a slightly impatient sigh. “Miss Eskari, I fully understand the value of this hypothesis, but –”

    “Fine, I won’t say it again,” she interrupted. “Find a better explanation as to why, first, your probe droids were destroyed, second, the eruption started moments later, and third, rocks without a hyperspace capability took off a few kilometres away from the only place where you had located lifeforms. Oh, and tell me why the Far Outsiders would have destroyed those two Vagaari ships we found if not for revenge when the Vagaari overplayed their hand and went after Matt’s ship. I’ll look at my sketches while you cogitate.”

    The one aspect of their trip that had been relatively fruitful was that they had gained a better understanding of the Vagaari. Ayesha had run her drawings from the planet through the xenobiology database to identify the species the skulls could have belonged to, and she then went through every single sample of Vagaari art they had on board. She thus painstakingly retraced the Vagaari’s itinerary across the Unknown Regions, deducting the missing steps from a star chart and signalling a few possible hyperlanes in the process. Her final presentation to the team left everyone open-mouthed. “This is remarkable work, Miss Eskari,” Thrawn said several minutes after she was done speaking. “Thank you.”

    On the other hand, her free time outside the analysts’ room was no less busy – if nothing else, because she engaged as much as she could in activities that prevented her friends from questioning her about her plans once the Star Destroyer would reach its destination. Only Valeria and Rumpy refrained from giving her unsolicited advice – Valeria even told her once, “you know how much I’d like you to stay with us, sweetie, but it’s a decision you need to process for yourself” – but there was no such luck to be had with Matt, LaRone or Soontir Fel. Matt was his usual blundering self, and only a sharp rebuke from his wife had managed to interrupt a series of insensitive questions about her feelings for Thrawn. Soontir Fel never sought to meddle in her private affairs – as a matter of fact, she wasn’t sure how much he knew of her personal history – but he was adamant that she was needed in the Empire of the Hand, and that duty dictated that she stay.

    “I’m not in the military,” she snapped when he exposed his argument for the umpteenth time. “Yes, I know, I could be useful here. But if you heard what Rumpy says about the state of my homeworld, I could be useful there too. And you know what? Maybe I want to have a life.”

    LaRone was torn. “Of course it would be much nicer for me if you stayed,” he kept repeating. “The guys and I were always close friends, but with you here it’s like we became a family. On the other hand, I understand that you don’t want to spend the rest of your life in the middle of nowhere with only a bunch of dudes for company and all these threats around us. But I’m also worried that wherever you go won’t be safe either, it’s a big mess out there. I want you to do what’s best for you, but I’m not sure what that would be, you know?”

    “I can’t stay here, Daric,” she answered softly. “I’m pretty sure Thrawn doesn’t want me around.”

    “Nonsense,” he countered. “He’d pin the rank bars to your uniform himself if you said that you wanted to join for real. But that’s not what you’re talking about, is it?” She blushed intensely. “You need to talk to him, Ayesha. Either way, whatever you decide, you need to talk to him. You can’t go away and leave all these things unsaid. You –”

    “I will, I will,” she interrupted. “Let’s go now. I spent too much time sitting on a chair in the lab and my back hurts.”

    The stormtrooper gave her a look that clearly meant he didn’t buy a single word of it, but he kept his counsel and followed her to the training room, where he watched her vent for two hours against a punching bag.

    But the Hand of Judgement had remained on the Admonitor after they arrived to Nirauan, and Ayesha was far less busy now. The analysts rarely required her assistance as there was no new information to process, and the Chiss pilots she used to teach Basic to only came on-planet for a few days at a time before returning to their stations. Rumpy spent most of his time with Rukh, and the two set out on expeditions to explore the wilderness around the fortress – but she was told in no uncertain terms that she would not be allowed to accompany them, as the garrison hadn’t identified every possible predator on the planet. There was a morning when she caught a glimpse of Vaantaar and of a Talz commander she had met on New Alzoc, but she found out that the senior leadership of Thrawn’s fleet was to engage in a week-long exercise to re-organise the task force around the three Star Destroyers, and they disappeared to the meeting room, together with Parck, Niriz, Matt and Thrawn. Other than looking after Vermel’s children, and occasionally gardening with Soontir Fel in the afternoons, the only company she had was Valeria, but even Valeria had a job. They met as often as they could for lunch or caf, and there were a few Bendudays when they spent the day together, talking about music and art and their friends on Coruscant – Valeria even untangled her hair to braid it again after the snow crystal beads started falling off – but all in all Ayesha was awfully bored and she found herself longing for her time aboard the Admonitor when she didn’t have time to think. When LaRone finally came down for a few days of shore leave, it was a welcome relief and she greeted him with a squeal of delight.

    They ordered some food from the kitchens and Ayesha collected a blanket from her room, and they went for an afternoon picnic on the rooftop gardens. She led him to her favourite patch of grass, a small square where Fel had cleared the overgrown vegetation and trimmed the surrounding bushes into tall hedges. “He’s so... Imperial,” she said with a laugh as they settled down. “He wants everything to be neat and tidy. I like the fact that these gardens are kind of messy, but then he has a point. We wouldn’t even be able to sit here if it weren’t for him.”

    They had barely tucked into their meal when her comm rang, and Ensign Washeeya informed her that she was asked to attend a meeting at eighteen hundred hours. “I never have anything to do, and they had to choose the day you’re here,” she said crossly when the call was over. “I should have made sure I forgot this in my room.” She dropped the little device on the blanket.

    LaRone smiled. “I’m here for two more days. I’m sure you can survive an evening without me. Now eat before it gets cold. You lost weight since I last saw you.”

    She grinned. “Yes, Dad. Anything you say, Dad.”

    Time flew as they chatted about this and that – he gave her news of his four colleagues and spoke about their plans to conduct further training for stormtroopers on some worlds affiliated with the Empire of the Hand; she explained to him that, had it not been for Vermel’s children, she would have been bored out of her wits – and the moment when she would have to leave drew close before they could understand it. “I need to help you clean up,” she said as she moved to stand up.

    He pulled her back on the blanket, throwing her flat on her back. “Your reflexes are getting rusty, Miss Eskari,” he said playfully. “I thought I’d taught you better than that. Don’t worry, I’ll clean up, it’s not like I have anything else to do for the next couple of hours. Stay a bit longer. What’s your meeting about?”

    She shrugged. “I don’t really know. Ensign Washeeya said there would be Fel, Valeria, Lasall and Thrawn, so I guess we’ll be talking about the Vagaari and the Far Outsiders again.”

    There was a silence. “Did you talk to Thrawn since you got here?” he asked cautiously.

    She shrugged again. “Nope. I haven’t even seen him. All I know is that the supply convoy is leaving to Bilbringi in eight days, and I have a bunk booked on the passenger shuttle.”

    LaRone lifted himself on his elbow and looked at her. “So you made your decision.”

    “You could say that,” she said with forced indifference. “Or you could say that it was made for me. I received a comm message telling me I’m leaving in eight days, on the Lambda-class T-4a shuttle Viper, destination Bilbringi, and we apologise if it’s not as comfortable as your private suite.”

    There was a pause. “Are you complaining that you’re being kicked out?” LaRone asked with the faintest trace of irony in his voice. She blushed and looked away. “You have to stop behaving stupid, Ayesha, you and that Grand Admiral of yours. You repeated quite adamantly that you wanted to leave for the first year you spent out here, and now that he’s keeping his distance and giving you space, you –”

    She glanced at her chronometer and jumped to her feet. “I really have to go,” she said lamely. “I’m late, I –”

    She had barely taken a few steps down the alley when LaRone caught up with her. “Don’t you run away from me,” he said. “I’m your friend, remember? Either you talk to me, or you tell me to bugger off and that it’s none of my business. I’m not stupid, I can see it when you just avoid the conversation, and to be honest I find it a bit insulting for me.” She stared at him as if dumbstruck, suddenly looking very vulnerable. He pulled her in a tight hug. “You listen to me now, little sister,” he whispered in her ear. “You need to talk. You need to get this thing off your chest, it’s been troubling you for months already, since the day Thrawn came back. And for that you need to talk to him. Maybe he really wants you to leave, or maybe you do and you’re only hesitating now because you remember what you used to have. Maybe it’s better for you two to move on, I don’t know. But you need to talk this through. If you finally decide to leave, it shouldn’t be out of silly pride. It should be to start a new life, and you won’t get a new life if you keep wondering what might have been. You survived having Vader in your head for more than a year. You can survive a conversation with someone you used to love, even if it’s just to say goodbye.” He pulled back a little to look at her. “Okay?”

    She wiped a tear that was rolling on her cheek and smiled bravely. “Okay.”

    He grinned. “That’s my girl. Now go and wash your face, and go to your meeting. I’ll come for you tomorrow morning at nine hundred hours, we’ll go to the gym. I want to kick your butt at least one more time if you’re going to leave next week.”

    He hugged her again and watched her walk away. Once she was back inside the building, he spun around to collect the food leftovers from the lawn and found himself face-to-face with Thrawn. He nearly lost his balance as he scrambled for a salute.

    The Grand Admiral gave the stormtrooper a long, hard stare, then let his eyes wander to the picnic. He suddenly stepped aside, collected Ayesha’s forgotten comlink from the blanket, and left without saying a word.

    -------------------------------

    Note: The Hand of Thrawn fortress is described at great length in Vision of the Future. I only added the roof gardens, because I needed a garden and Soontir Fel's love for gardening is repeatedly mentioned in Legends material.
     
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Love how the mystery is still being delved into about the Vagaari etc. :cool: Whew, total relief that that seed thingy isn't growing. Sounds like all known/necessary precautions are being taken care of. [face_thinking]

    ~!

    Daric is right :p [face_laugh] - Ayesha is nothing if not one big contradiction--at first she was all I wanna be out of here! Now that it looks imminent, right around the corner literally, she's all I'm not wanted here. Daric knows differently and says as much. I am so chuffed he insisted she talk to Thrawn. :) :) !!!

    Then, Thrawn's conclusion at seeing them have a picnic - I shudder to think. :eek:


    ~!

    On a purely character-presenting note, Ayesha's lovableness is not diminished one bit by her confusing attitude. @};- The main frustration comes from wanting her to settle things and be happy, truly serene. [face_love] [face_love]
     
  10. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    What? 4 updates while I was off-line due to RL stuff happening? And such brilliant updates! Another female arrived on-board, Soontir Fel is around as well, the Vong creep in the shadows & LaRone pushes the Thrawn issue of our heroine:

    She had barely taken a few steps down the alley when LaRone caught up with her. “Don’t you run away from me,” he said. “I’m your friend, remember? Either you talk to me, or you tell me to bugger off and that it’s none of my business. I’m not stupid, I can see it when you just avoid the conversation, and to be honest I find it a bit insulting for me.” She stared at him as if dumbstruck, suddenly looking very vulnerable. He pulled her in a tight hug. “You listen to me now, little sister,” he whispered in her ear. “You need to talk. You need to get this thing off your chest, it’s been troubling you for months already, since the day Thrawn came back. And for that you need to talk to him. Maybe he really wants you to leave, or maybe you do and you’re only hesitating now because you remember what you used to have. Maybe it’s better for you two to move on, I don’t know. But you need to talk this through. If you finally decide to leave, it shouldn’t be out of silly pride. It should be to start a new life, and you won’t get a new life if you keep wondering what might have been. You survived having Vader in your head for more than a year. You can survive a conversation with someone you used to love, even if it’s just to say goodbye.” He pulled back a little to look at her. “Okay?”

    You give us, your loyal reader more sense & sensibility than the Prequels ever did. In your fic you add more fun than in any comedy and certainly there are snippets of a great Greek drama going on. And you mix all those different styles so well! @};-
     
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  11. divapilot

    divapilot Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    So Soontir Fel is hoping his family will join him? I'd love to see Ayesha babysitting little Jagged! But that's another day. It's interesting how the family side of things interweaves with the military side.

    Ayesha has been told over and over that she has to talk to Thrawn. Now she has given Trawn a very, very wrong impression. Either she talks to him now, before her flight, and clears the air, or everything goes to pieces over a misunderstanding.

    But then again:

    “You could say that,” she said with forced indifference. “Or you could say that it was made for me. I received a comm message telling me I’m leaving in eight days, on the Lambda-class T-4a shuttle Viper, destination Bilbringi, and we apologise if it’s not as comfortable as your private suite.”

    ... Has Thrawn learned what he did to mess this up on the first place?
     
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  12. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing!
    Ayesha is indeed full of contradictions -- in no small part due to the fact that her mind has been messed around with often enough that she's not too well in her head -- but she's also been on the Admonitor for two and a half years, and a lot of stuff happened during that time, especially while Thrawn wasn't around. At this stage she isn't too sure what the starting point for a conversation with him would be, and, well, given his preconceived notions his idea of a starting point might be different from hers, even though she doesn't know that either... [face_devil]
    Updates while offline due to DRL is the story of my life... :( I hope he's giving you a break now. Thanks for the review!
    Yes, Fel's family will join him, since this fic is canon. Jag isn't born yet (we're only in 5 ABY by now) but the two elder sons are already around.
    Hehe. No, neither of them has the slightest clue what's going on with the other, or even in their own head. Of course it's all going to be very dramatic :p

    Thanks again! Next chapter up straight away.
     
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  13. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Tags: AzureAngel2 Findswoman Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Mando-Man Mira_Jade Raissa Baiard
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.
    And as usual, a big thanks to Nyota's Heart for beta-reading [:D]

    ----------------------------------------

    Chapter 14: Reunion

    When Ayesha walked into the meeting room where Valeria, Fel and Lasall were waiting for her, there was a newfound spring in her step that her friend didn’t miss. “Did something happen?” she asked as Ayesha pulled up a chair and settled down. “You seem to be in a rather cheerful mood.”

    Ayesha smiled. “I’m having a good day. Or at least I think it’s turning out to be a good day.” She looked at the men on the other side of the table. “What’s our meeting about?”

    “We would like to discuss how to take advantage of your last week with us, Miss Eskari,” the chief scientist began. “We have decided that –”

    He was interrupted by Thrawn’s entrance, who came into the room from a back door leading to his private office. The two officers stood up to give him a formal salute; he waved his hand distractedly for them to return to their chairs. He was his usual impassive self but his red eyes were shining with a dark red glow. He took his place at the end of the table and pushed Ayesha’s comlink across the table to her.

    She blushed a little. “Err, thanks. I must have forgotten it somewhere.”

    Thrawn stared at her a moment longer before gesturing for Lasall to resume speaking. “As I was telling you, Miss Eskari, we have decided to form a working group to continue investigating the Far Outsiders’ infiltration of our Galaxy. This group will be chaired by the Grand Admiral and will consist of myself as a focal point for our science teams, of Miss Dalissis as a liaison with the various worlds that are affiliated with the Empire of the Hand, and of Colonel Fel, who will direct our pilots to conduct exploration missions where appropriate.”

    She looked at Fel with a radiant smile. “You’ve been promoted? Congratulations are in order.”

    He smiled back. “I only got my old rank back, but I’ll accept the congratulations anyway. I do have some really good news though. The Grand Admiral’s agents in the known Galaxy managed to contact my wife. I’m hopeful that she’ll be joining me here soon.”

    Ayesha clapped her hands. “That’s wonderful news, Soontir! I’m so happy for you –”

    A discreet cough from Thrawn brought their attention back to the meeting. “Apologies, Sir,” Fel said, reverting to seriousness. “Major, please continue. You were saying –”

    Ayesha’s comm beeped before he could finish his sentence, attracting an irate look from Thrawn. “Sorry for that,” she mumbled as she picked it up. “It’s Daric, I must have forgotten something else –”

    “You will return his call later, Miss Eskari,” Thrawn said with unexpected harshness, causing all eyes to turn to him. “I have no doubt that you will be catching up with him – again – when this meeting is over.”

    She blushed once more and switched the small device off. “Where were we?” Lasall said. “Yes. Our working group has been formally established, although it may expand at a later date depending on our needs. And this is where you come into the holo, Miss Eskari. As I told you repeatedly already, your insights so far have been invaluable, and the work you did on mapping the Vagaari’s presence in the Unknown Regions proved that you are capable of much more than simply analysing art – which is a talent I will never have, I may add, but that’s a conversation for another day. I can give up on ever learning it anyway now, since you’ll be leaving us on the first of next month. What I wanted to ask of you therefore is –”

    Ayesha raised a hand to interrupt him. “Actually, I’ll be staying a bit longer – if the Grand Admiral is okay with it,” she added with a glance at Thrawn, who remained perfectly impassive.

    Valeria gasped and Fel grinned. “So you finally decided to take my advice and join?” he asked.

    “Um, not quite,” she said evasively. “It’s just that I was talking to Daric earlier, and I realised that I have some personal issues that I don’t think I can deal with in only eight days. So I thought I could stick around a bit longer and see how things sort themselves out.”

    She looked at Thrawn expectantly. “That is out of the question,” he snapped. “My crew have made preparations for your departure and I have gone out of my way to facilitate your return to Imperial space. I would expect that you took all necessary measures to close this chapter as well. You will be leaving on the Viper on the first of the month.”

    There was a stunned silence. “Admiral, if I may,” Valeria said, “Ayesha has been a great help to us so far, although she was under no obligation to do so. She has –”

    “Miss Eskari may be a great help, but she is also a great distraction,” Thrawn said glacially. “Her presence is a distraction for the men on this base and her presence is a distraction for Commander LaRone in particular, whose comm logs show that he is constantly in contact with her while he should be focusing on his job. This cannot be tolerated. The sooner she leaves, the sooner this operation can resume at its normal pace, without constant rumours and gossip among our personnel regarding her personal... interests.” He paused and added scornfully, “And if our pilots are to be believed, her interests are many.”

    Ayesha was now beet red. Anger flared in Valeria’s eyes. “But –”

    “There is no ‘but’. Miss Eskari will leave at the earliest opportunity.”

    He stood up abruptly and stormed out of the room, while a tearful Ayesha ran away through the other door. Valeria hesitated between the two for a fraction of a second and followed him to his office. “What do you think you’re doing?” she could be heard shouting before the door slid shut.

    A baffled Fel found himself alone with Lasall in the meeting room. The two men exchanged a puzzled look. “What was that about?”

    * * *​

    Thrawn’s knock on the door went unanswered, but the security staff had notified him that they’d had to physically restrain Ayesha to prevent her from leaving the fortress and that they had escorted her back to her quarters. He knocked a second time, and, when he received no answer again, he took a deep breath and keyed the override code to let himself in.

    The small lounge was dark. Something crunched under his feet as he stepped inside, and, when he finally found the activation switch for the glowpanel, he saw that he had stepped on one of the snow crystal beads that littered the floor. The low table had been overthrown, the contents of a cup had spilled over, and Ayesha was nowhere to be seen. He took a few more steps and finally found her under the transparisteel window, sitting on the floor with her back to the wall. Her hair was a dishevelled mop and her eyes were red and swollen; it was obvious that she had been crying.

    She wiped her cheeks angrily. “What are you doing here?” she asked. “Did you come to give me more details of how you organised my trip? Or to explain to me that I should be grateful? Or maybe just to ask me to analyse some art for you, so then you can call me a whore?”

    He lowered himself on one knee so as not to tower above her, but his eyes remained fixed on the floor. “I have come to apologise,” he said in a trembling voice. “I do not expect my apology to be accepted or even to be heard. I do not actually believe that it deserves to be heard. But I shall deliver it regardless.” He paused for a moment and collected his thoughts. “From the moment you were brought aboard the Admonitor I convinced myself that I was doing what was best for you. That I was not keeping you hostage but that I was keeping you safe, that I was not seeking revenge but justice on your behalf, that I was not aspiring to glory but defending your family. That I was not taking advantage of your presence on my ship but giving you an opportunity to reconnect with your art.” He paused again. “I was fooling myself. All I ever did was not for you, but for me, and it all boiled down to a single reason, to a single, obsessive thought: I wanted you to stay, I wanted to return to the life we had before the Emperor took you and used you as a tool to torment Lord Vader, to set me up against Zaarin, and most importantly to destroy the light you were carrying. I knew that this would be his intention, your uncle had warned me of it, you had warned me yourself, to the extent that you were aware of it – yet not only did I fail to protect you, to protect the child you were carrying, but I failed to see it when it finally happened. All I thought about were means to keep you by my side. And then...” His voice trailed off and he took a deep breath before he could continue. “Once I understood that there was no redeeming myself, that you were ready to start anew, that you had already started anew with another man, with Daric LaRone, I failed again. I tried to step aside, I tried to keep a distance, I tried to be detached and composed and dispassionate, but when reality caught up with me and slammed me to the wall, all I could do was lash out and insult you – knowing full well that I was being unfair, that I was only trying to hurt you and that there was no hope to be had that you would see me in a better light. Quite the opposite, I knew that you would despise me, as much as I despise myself. And while I am here apologising, I know that I do not deserve your forgiveness.” He stood up. “You are welcome to remain on this base for as long as you wish. I will no longer harass you. I will inform Commander LaRone that he is free to leave his service whenever he chooses, and you can make a decision together as to your future. Again, all I can do is apologise for my unacceptable behaviour. Thank you.”

    He nodded and walked to the door. Ayesha sprang to her feet. “Wait!”

    He spun on his heel to look at her, his hand still on the door’s activation panel. “I would like to stay here,” she said firmly.

    Thrawn arched an eyebrow. “Has Commander LaRone –”

    “Forget Daric,” she interrupted. “I don’t know where you got this idea that I had something going on with him. He’s my friend – he’s more than my friend, he’s my brother. But he was never my lover or anything of the sort. He never even thought of it, and neither did I. You got it all wrong.” She looked at him straight in the eye. “I want to stay here – with you.”

    There was a long silence, with Thrawn staring at her, his face as impassive as ever but his gaze so intense that she had to refrain from taking a step back. “Please,” she whispered. “I want to stay with you.”

    He suddenly flung his arms around her and pulled her in a bone-crushing embrace. His mouth came crashing down on hers and his hands stroked her back fervently, as if to verify that she was real. He was so absorbed in the kiss that the world ceased to exist for a moment, and only when she let out a sob did he realise that she was pushing him away. He stepped back to see that she had become deathly pale.

    “Please don’t hurt me,” she said in a small, pleading voice. Her eyes were darting in all directions, as if she were losing control.

    It took him a fraction of a second to understand what was happening. He cupped her face in his hands to focus her gaze on him. “Why would I hurt you, Ayoo’sha?”

    Now she seemed decidedly confused. “I don’t know,” she breathed. “Other people did. Zaarin did. The Emperor did.” The flash of fury in Thrawn’s eyes made her shudder in terror, and she tried to escape his grip. “Please let me go,” she begged. “I haven’t done anything to you. Please.”

    Thrawn held her head steadily. “Ayoo’sha, look at me. Look at me,” he repeated forcefully. “Do you know who I am?”

    Her eyebrows knit in concentration as if she were trying to remember him. “You’re Qubshi be-khadeeb,” she said finally.

    He nodded slowly. “Yes, I am Thrawn. I am not the Emperor.”

    “You’re not the Emperor,” she repeated. She suddenly smiled but her eyes remained glassy and unfocused. “Of course you’re not the Emperor,” she said distractedly. “You’re Qubshi be-khadeeb and I love you. And I’m going to stay with you.”

    She was trembling all over and lurched violently. A distraught Thrawn carried her to the sofa. She pulled herself up to huddle on his lap, and all he could do was to rock her back and forth and murmur words of comfort in Cheunh until she fell asleep.

    * * *​

    They hadn't moved an inch when Rumpy returned to the suite an hour later. The Wookiee’s surprise at the sight gave way to relief but soon shifted to concern, and he took a step closer to look at his sister.

    [Did something happen, Kker-Bashha?]

    Thrawn sighed. “I very nearly triggered one of her episodes. The Emperor somehow programmed her to fear even a kiss.” He let out a bitter snort. “The Sith are reaching out to her from beyond the grave, still seeking vengeance for harm she did not cause.”

    Rumpy crouched and caressed Ayesha’s hair. [But you did not. Trigger an episode, I mean,] he added in response to Thrawn’s raised eyebrow. [Did you?]

    The Chiss sighed again. “No, I did not. She was able to recognise me before it happened.”

    Ayesha stirred. [I will step aside to give you some privacy,] Rumpy said. [You must take her to your quarters now.] He stood up. [I will tell you one thing, Kker-Bashha, and this is the only thing I will tell you. Ayesha is your lifemate. She needs your love but she also needs help. Do not try to substitute for her father, her family or her healer. It will only cause her harm in the end.]

    And with this cryptic statement he disappeared to his bedroom, ignoring Thrawn’s puzzled look. Moments later Ayesha’s eyes opened and she let her gaze wander around the room before returning to Thrawn. He relaxed his hold on her. “Do you remember why we are sitting like this, Ayoo’sha?” he asked softly.

    She nodded. “Yes. I do.”

    “Do you... dislike it when I am holding you?” She shook her head. “Do you still want to stay?”

    She nodded again and looked at him hesitantly. “Are you sure about this?” she asked. “That you want me to stay? Even... even like this?”

    He pressed his lips to her forehead. “Yes,” he said firmly. “Now and forever.” He helped her to her feet. “Come. I will show you your home. It has been waiting for you for years.”

    He half-carried her across the deserted hallways and ramps to the lone door on the highest level of the residential tower. He took her hand in his to press her palm to the activation panel. The sensors recognised her fingerprints, causing the door to slide open. She took a step inside and froze.

    The unfamiliar room was made of the heavy black stone the Fortress of the Hand was built of, but it was furnished with an Alderaanian conversation circle and a carved dinner table similar to those she’d had in her apartment on Coruscant. She could see a kitchen behind the high counter to the left and the large empty space between the sitting area and the door was visibly meant to host the statue of the Twi’lek dancer. She noticed a small alcove in the stone wall that held her Fijisi wood self-portrait and a few holos of her, but before she could comment the double doors to the right opened and Thrawn steered her into an exact replica of her workshop. “These are copies, of course,” he explained as he pointed at her works in the storage area. “I left the originals in your home, but we could bring them here if you would prefer to have them at hand.” He gestured towards the bookcase. “Similarly, these are only electronic versions of your books, but we could have the originals shipped over.”

    She stumbled to the potter’s wheel and brushed her fingertips on the carefully catalogued tools that were displayed on the shelf. She was still speechless when she turned around to look at him, but there were tears in her eyes. Thrawn wrapped an arm around her shoulders before she could find anything to say. She was trembling again. “There is no need to talk now, Ayoo’sha,” he said soothingly. “Come now. You need to bathe and to rest. We can talk tomorrow.”

    Her step was still unsteady when he showed her to the ‘fresher. He hesitated and took off his boots and uniform jacket before helping her remove her clothes. “I will not hurt you, Ayoo’sha,” he whispered when he felt her shudder in fear. “I do not want to scare you. I will only stay here to make sure that you do not hurt yourself, all right?”

    He stayed outside the shower cubicle and held her by the shoulders as she staggered inside. Hot water began to pour over her, soaking the sleeves of his undershirt, but he didn’t pay attention. His gaze was fixed on the Zygerrian brand on her shoulder blade. She raised her arms to wash her hair and he noticed that the wrinkled patch of skin on her wrist was much bigger now – she must have bitten it again and again when she was in the Emperor’s captivity. She finally turned around to reach for the towel, and he saw the deep scar on her abdomen where Palpatine had stabbed her to murder their child.

    Tears welled up in Thrawn’s eyes. He fell to his knees and held out a hand, and when she didn’t shy away from his touch he wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her belly. The missing piece of their puzzle fell in its place, and they were finally able to break down and cry as they began to mourn together the life they had lost.
     
  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    My typical effusiveness has returned LOL after being totally floored yesterday! @};-
    Let me start off by saying - the scene in the meeting was quite superbly handled. =D= From the commlink going off and Thrawn's reaction ... yay for Valeria stepping in there.

    ~

    The scene in her quarters - their rapprochement is starting. LOL Glad she finally set things aright about Daric's status. Finally. It is wonderful that she said specifically she wanted to stay with Thrawn in particular.

    His apology - each and every point is correct. He wanted her to be safe, to pursue her art, and to have her in his life. Why in the name of all that is holy shouldn't he? Shouldn't they be happy?
    It's just when someone else without conscience or a soul of any kind knows that and uses that as a weapon ...
    Never in my wildest dreams did I think to expect that there was a psychologically conditioned automatic reaction to something as non-threatening as a kiss from someone who cherishes her! :mad: That is beyond do you hear me beyond despiccable!

    ~

    Rumpy's words of caution are well-put.
    Ayesha needs a full circle of healing influences. No one person can do that for another, no matter the situation. [face_thinking] Her art and feeling validated and purposeful is in a vibrant way a form of therapy, but the automatic reflexive reaction is troubling. [face_worried] Somehow, that needs to be addressed and disentangled from the traumatic associations it holds now.

    ~

    Awwwww! My heart just literally melted at the way Thrawn did up his quarters!!!!! [face_dancing] His ineffable gentleness ... And the way they are mourning together. That is an excellent first step! @};- @};-

    ~

    An overall comment: This is beautifully poignant. I love the process you have for Thrawn and Ayesha moving closer together - it is so right for the situation and the characters!
    Bravo!

    =D= =D= Not rushed nor draggy either. ;)

    ^:)^
     
  15. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Ooh gosh, I'm behind again! [face_blush]

    The misunderstanding at the picnic scene at the end of ch. 13 is the stuff operas are made of, comic and otherwise. Of course in this case the misunderstanding gets cleared up a lot more quickly than in most operas, but at a pretty big cost. As weird as it sounds to say, I guess jealousy in some ways can be a huge motivator to shape up, especially when a personality like Thrawn's is involved.

    What I like about how you've done the reconciliation so far is that there's still a believable "two steps forward, one step back" aspect to it. Things have improved between them, but it's not going to suddenly be all perfect roses right away. We most clearly see that in Ayesha's reaction to Thrawn's kiss: I suspect it's not just kissing in particular but physical closeness in general that's the issue here, and it makes perfect sense considering what she endured at the hands of the Emperor (and Sheev would set things up that way). And when Thrawn's emotional dam breaks at the end at the sight of Ayesha's abdominal scar, we see that they both have some mourning and weeping to do. It's not a 100% happy reunion, and it came at a huge price. (Especially given that there always seemed to be something slightly Stockholm-ish in her insistence tostay with Thrawn and Co.—well, she is a bundle of contradictions, as we well know. :p)

    Rumpy's advice to Thrawn not to try to substitute for others in Ayesha's circle isn't just good advice in general: it seems very apt for Thrawn in particular. Rumpy's essentially cautioning Thrawn not to bite off more than he can chew and wear multiple hats at once, which as we know has been, well, an issue of his in the past in both his personal and professional life. At the same time, Rumpy seems to have something specific in mind with his rather puzzling way of expressing that advice—as if he's speaking from some very particular experience from the past of his Rryi-Bashhi—which adds an intriguing dimension to the whole thing. How that will pan out is one of the things I'm most curious to see. [face_thinking]
     
  16. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    He lowered himself on one knee so as not to tower above her, but his eyes remained fixed on the floor. “I have come to apologise,” he said in a trembling voice. “I do not expect my apology to be accepted or even to be heard. I do not actually believe that it deserves to be heard. But I shall deliver it regardless.” He paused for a moment and collected his thoughts. “From the moment you were brought aboard the Admonitor I convinced myself that I was doing what was best for you. That I was not keeping you hostage but that I was keeping you safe, that I was not seeking revenge but justice on your behalf, that I was not aspiring to glory but defending your family. That I was not taking advantage of your presence on my ship but giving you an opportunity to reconnect with your art.” He paused again. “I was fooling myself. All I ever did was not for you, but for me, and it all boiled down to a single reason, to a single, obsessive thought: I wanted you to stay, I wanted to return to the life we had before the Emperor took you and used you as a tool to torment Lord Vader, to set me up against Zaarin, and most importantly to destroy the light you were carrying. I knew that this would be his intention, your uncle had warned me of it, you had warned me yourself, to the extent that you were aware of it – yet not only did I fail to protect you, to protect the child you were carrying, but I failed to see it when it finally happened. All I thought about were means to keep you by my side. And then...” His voice trailed off and he took a deep breath before he could continue. “Once I understood that there was no redeeming myself, that you were ready to start anew, that you had already started anew with another man, with Daric LaRone, I failed again. I tried to step aside, I tried to keep a distance, I tried to be detached and composed and dispassionate, but when reality caught up with me and slammed me to the wall, all I could do was lash out and insult you – knowing full well that I was being unfair, that I was only trying to hurt you and that there was no hope to be had that you would see me in a better light. Quite the opposite, I knew that you would despise me, as much as I despise myself. And while I am here apologising, I know that I do not deserve your forgiveness.” He stood up. “You are welcome to remain on this base for as long as you wish. I will no longer harass you. I will inform Commander LaRone that he is free to leave his service whenever he chooses, and you can make a decision together as to your future. Again, all I can do is apologise for my unacceptable behaviour. Thank you.”

    Best apology ever since Mr. Darcy´s bad marriage proposal to Elisabeth Bennett! I felt entire mountains lift off my chest here!

    He suddenly flung his arms around her and pulled her in a bone-crushing embrace. His mouth came crashing down on hers and his hands stroked her back fervently, as if to verify that she was real. He was so absorbed in the kiss that the world ceased to exist for a moment, and only when she let out a sob did he realise that she was pushing him away. He stepped back to see that she had become deathly pale.

    “Please don’t hurt me,” she said in a small, pleading voice. Her eyes were darting in all directions, as if she were losing control.

    It took him a fraction of a second to understand what was happening. He cupped her face in his hands to focus her gaze on him. “Why would I hurt you, Ayoo’sha?”

    *sits in front of her computer crying her eyes out

    With joy! With relief! I don´t know. You really know about building up a climax in a plot!

    Tears welled up in Thrawn’s eyes. He fell to his knees and held out a hand, and when she didn’t shy away from his touch he wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her belly. The missing piece of their puzzle fell in its place, and they were finally able to break down and cry as they began to mourn together the life they had lost.
     
    Nyota's Heart and Chyntuck like this.
  17. Csillan_girl

    Csillan_girl Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 6, 2003
    Awww... finally!
    This is so beautiful, it hurts.

    I wonder if there is a way to heal Ayesha's mind? :(
     
  18. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thanks all for reading and reviewing! It's one of those days where nothing goes as planned, so back to the old post-now-reply-later solution, but I will catch up soon :)

    Tags: AzureAngel2 Findswoman Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Mando-Man Mira_Jade Raissa Baiard
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.
    And as usual, a big thanks to Nyota's Heart for beta-reading [:D]

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Chapter 15: The Fortress of the Hand

    Settling down in day-to-day life in the Fortress of the Hand proved difficult for both of them. They didn’t speak a lot – there was simply too much they needed to talk about, and they didn’t seem to know how and where to start – and their time together was limited. Ayesha spent most of her days in her new workshop. She had been brought an abundant supply of her favourite varieties of wood, but she didn’t produce anything of value. Her carvings were hesitant and the result was often clumsy. Thrawn, meanwhile, was exceedingly busy with running and expanding the base now that he was de facto the highest-ranking military official in the Empire. He was attending meeting after meeting, planning session after planning session, but he escaped to their quarters whenever possible during the day. He pulled her to her feet and hugged her tightly, one hand warm on her back, the other cradling her head, and he pressed his lips to her brow without saying a word. Those were moments of extraordinary intimacy and more often than not she had to fight back tears when he let her go. When he came home in the evenings, he stripped his uniform as if shedding a skin, removed her clothes and pulled her to the ‘fresher. He bathed her gently under the steaming water until her fear of physical contact washed away, then he took her to bed. He entwined himself around her like he used to do in their happier days and he simply held her, caressing her hair and relishing the warmth of her skin. They often lay there for hours without speaking, as if the mere act of being together could somehow make up for the time they had spent apart.

    The kitchen staff got used to their midnight calls for dinner. They ate slowly, chatting casually, almost indifferently, about their day before going back to bed, and Thrawn let her huddle against him again and murmured words of love in Cheunh until she was fast asleep. She always found him staring at her when she woke up in the morning. “You look tired,” she told him after a few weeks when the circles under his eyes had become so dark that she couldn’t pretend not to see them anymore. “Do you sleep at all?”

    Thrawn smiled. “I might not be sleeping enough, Ayoo’sha, but I am getting rest for the first time in years. You have no idea how soothing your presence can be.”

    She blushed intensely and looked away. He was still trying to find something to say in order to ease the awkwardness of the situation when she spoke up. “I’m sorry. I was horrible to you. I was trying to hurt you – I was feeling so bad and I thought that hurting you was a way to share the pain. I –”

    He interrupted her. “You have nothing to apologise for, Ayoo’sha. There is still so much that I must apologise for myself that –”

    “But I need to say this,” she blurted. “I need to explain to you. I wasn’t okay in my head, you know? I needed to be nasty, I needed to lash out. I couldn’t control myself, and I’d like to think that it wasn’t really me, that it was the darkness the Emperor put in my head speaking, but it wasn’t. I was selfish, I thought it was only me hurting, that everything he did to me didn’t really change anything for you, and –”

    Thrawn placed a finger over her lips before she could continue. “Ayoo’sha, please.” She stared at him in silence, but she was visibly on tenterhooks, as if the words were jostling in her mouth, trying to burst out. “I do not want to have this conversation,” he finally admitted. “Please.”

    She sat back in her chair and sighed. “We need to have this conversation, Thrawn. I said all these terrible things to you. I have to take them back, even if I don’t know how.”

    There was another silence. “Perhaps I am simply not willing to be reminded of them,” he said. “Perhaps I am being self-centred. Perhaps I do not want to appear as weak. But I am asking you, please, not to speak of this now. I am simply not ready.”

    They put the plates away for the housekeeping droid to wash and returned to their bedroom. He went to entwine himself around her, like he did every night, but she pulled him to rest his head on her shoulder and stroked the japor wood snippet he was still wearing around his neck. “You sleep now,” she whispered. “I want you to sleep. I’ll watch over you tonight.”

    In the days that followed, Ayesha pottered around her workshop without actually doing anything. She left their quarters a few times for meetings with Major Lasall and for the occasional cup of caf with Valeria when her friend was on planet, but she spent most of her time sitting on her stool and shuffling objects about, as if trying to figure out what she was meant to do. She tried placing a chunk of wood on the workbench to sculpt it, but, as she told Rumpy, it wasn’t talking to her and she substituted it for another one without success. [Perhaps you can carve some toys, Rryi-Bashhi,] the Wookiee suggested one afternoon when he found her staring at yet another piece. [The Vermel younglings would be grateful, the day care centre is far too...] – he huffed – [... Chiss for their taste.]

    She shook her head. “I will. But I need to find an entry point first. Part of me is still missing and I don’t know where to start.”

    She grew increasingly frustrated as another week went by. She was even more taciturn now, she hardly noticed Thrawn’s presence when he arrived in the afternoons, but she hugged him tightly at night as if she feared that he might go away. There was an evening when he came home late to find her surrounded by wood shavings – she had apparently trimmed an entire log to a piece the size of her fist, without however giving it a shape. “I don’t know what you see in me,” she mumbled when he walked in. “I’m nothing. I’m not even an artist anymore.”

    Thrawn pulled up his stool to sit behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “You are Ayesha Eskari of clan Vos, of the tribe of the Green Vines of Rwookrrorro,” he said firmly. “You are a creature of light. You are gracious and beautiful, you are generous and compassionate, you are brave and strong. You are my lifemate.” He planted a long, warm kiss just under her ear and added in a whisper, “You are the woman I love, now and forever.”

    She sighed. “I’m not that woman anymore, Thrawn. You’re fooling yourself if you believe that.”

    * * *​

    The Troukree patrol ships were reporting multiple raids on star systems on the edge of Wild Space, and there came a moment when the Empire of the Hand’s central command couldn’t ignore them anymore. “This bears the hallmark of Nuso Esva’s strategy,” Thrawn told Ayesha as he packed his bag. “I cannot lead a full assault on him now, not after such a long exploration mission – our supplies have barely been replenished as we speak – but I cannot allow him to gain a foothold so close to Nirauan.”

    Ayesha waved her hand, as if the strategic details were of no importance to her. “Am I coming with you?” she asked.

    He arched an eyebrow. “Do you want to come with me?” She hesitated. “This will not be some endless expedition, Ayoo’sha. I do not expect it to last more than a few weeks, at most a month. I will come back to you before you know that I was gone.” He pointed at the Fijisi wood carving she had given to him all those years ago on Coruscant and smiled sheepishly. “May I take this?”

    With Thrawn gone, Ayesha felt that her days were empty. She found it even more difficult to focus on her work – or the work she was failing to do, as she kept repeating to herself – and she took to exploring the Fortress of the Hand in the afternoons, around the time when he would normally have been returning from his meetings, to fill the gap that his absence left. Only part of the immense edifice was occupied by the base, and despite the security staff’s repeated warnings she went deeper and deeper into the basements, discovering new galleries and halls so huge that they must have been intended for ceremonial purposes by the original builders. She often wondered how a civilisation with the skill and technology to erect such a behemoth could have disappeared from the face of the universe, and she drew sketches of the areas she surveyed, with the vague intention of comparing her notes with similar architectural feats in the known Galaxy. There were a few times when the eerie atmosphere of the deserted corridors made her uneasy, and even a few times when she was outright scared – she thought for a moment that the flock of leathery avians she disturbed in a smooth rock tunnel in the depths of the fortress were going to attack her, but they merely flew over her head and left – but she greatly enjoyed her escapades and she was looking forward to telling Thrawn about the rooms she had discovered and the map she had outlined. Rumpy became very upset when he found out that she had been wandering off on her own, and he argued that there could be hidden dangers in the remotest places of the fortress, but she simply ignored him and went on with her little excursions – if nothing else, because they gave her something to do while she waited for his next message to arrive.

    Communications within the Empire of the Hand remained limited despite the Imperial engineers’ best efforts, but Thrawn made sure to send a holorecording for her every time it was possible. His missives were short and evasive – he couldn’t say much for fear that Nuso Esva would hack the broadcasting system and find out more about his private life than he cared to disclose to an enemy – but she relished every word and she often played them in a loop at night, to sleep to the sound of his voice. Her voice messages to him were equally brief – the security analysts forbade her from broadcasting her likeness on the HoloNet – and she found it so frustrating to be able to say so little that she often considered not sending them at all. “Why don’t you just write to him?” a female technician asked on a morning when she stepped out of the communications pod after several attempts to record a message that kept getting censored. “He can read your letters when he comes back. It won’t be as good as being in touch, but it’ll make you feel like he’s close by, you know what I mean?”

    Ayesha stopped dead in her tracks and stared at the other woman so intently that she blushed. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be meddling in your – and the Admiral’s – private life. It’s just –”

    “It’s okay,” Ayesha said absent-mindedly. “I think you just gave me the solution. Thank you.” And without another word she left the room to return to her quarters.

    * * *​

    Rumpy’s relief at the fact that she stopped disappearing into the basements of the fortress was short-lived, because he could see that she was now intensely preoccupied with something she wouldn’t discuss. He sometimes found her sitting in her workshop, staring apprehensively at a box stored on the bottom shelf of the bookcase, but she was usually in a frenzy of activity, sanding pieces of wood or extracting fibres from their bark, and processing it all in a basin of repugnant, gooey mush. She forgot to collect Thrawn’s messages or to reply to them, and one morning the friendly technician turned up on her doorstep with a datacard to find her covered in grime. “When I said to write to him, I didn’t mean that you should give up on recording messages,” she chided gently. Her gaze fell on the workshop table, where Ayesha had just spread the viscous paste into a flimsi-thin layer. “What the blazes are you doing?” she asked.

    Ayesha gave her a look that clearly meant she thought the woman was dim-witted. “I’m making paper,” she said as if it were obvious. “What am I going to write on?”

    The technician’s eyes went from Ayesha to the table and back, and her face broke into a smile. “That’s lovely. I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.” She patted her on the shoulder. “But do come for a recording this afternoon, will you? I wouldn’t want him to think that I kicked you out of the comms room, he is my superior officer, after all.”

    The next afternoon, Rumpy dropped by to find that the workshop had been completely tidied up. The table was sparkling clean, the silky grey paper had been cut in neat, page-size sheets and was piled up in a corner, there were three small jars filled with ink of different colours – all visibly distilled from the varieties of wood that were stored in the back of the room – and Ayesha was sitting by her potter’s wheel, putting the final touches to the nib of a dip pen. She greeted him distractedly, extracted the box she had been staring at from its compartment and opened it, then paused for a moment to gaze at its contents.

    The bottom of the box was occupied by the thin burgundy veils she had worn on Besron II. The Troukree knives, the Alzoc pearl, the Wookiee wooden cup and the Gree carving tool were piled up haphazardly on top, together with some other bits and pieces Rumpy couldn’t identify, but what drew his attention was the thick envelopes that were wedged in a corner. Understanding dawned on him and he took a step back to leave. She nodded her thanks without looking back when the door swooshed open. “Yes, please,” she whispered. “This is private. This is only between Thrawn and me.”

    She remained immobile for a long moment after her brother was gone, still gazing at Thrawn’s letters, and she finally extracted them and put the box aside. She sorted them chronologically, took a deep breath and opened the first envelope.

    A thick batch of flimsi fell out, lined with rows of Thrawn’s square, stern handwriting, together with another sheet covered in colourful scribbles and a datachip. She picked up the drawing to look at it. Tears welled up in her eyes at the sight of the word ‘Tam’ that was scrawled clumsily in a corner. After a moment’s hesitation, she went ahead and opened the other envelopes.

    They all contained a long letter from Thrawn, but also news from her friends, illustrated cards, printed images and datachips with recorded or electronic messages. There were sketches of Onion’s and Tashi’s latest productions, holovids of Lamtee’s and Dacco’s live event at the Plebeian Exhibition and newsflimsi clippings of reviews of her own works; there were notes from Kal and Mira and pictures of Tam – how he had grown up while she was away, she thought bitterly, he had become a little man now – and there was a dried wroshyr leaf pasted to a thin, circular sheet of wood whose edge was carved with the twisted vines that represented her tribe. It was a complete record of her life in her absence, and before she could read the letters she burst into sobs.

    She hardly moved at all from her table in the days that followed, despite Rumpy’s nagging that she should rest and the comms technician’s repeated calls for her to reply to Thrawn’s latest message. She read his old letters again and again, noting how his tone became increasingly distant and formal as the months went by, and she soon set aside her friends’ missives to focus on him and only him. Words were failing her now, and she spent days on end staring at a blank piece of her homemade paper, wondering what she could say, more than two years later, in response to such an expression of pure, unrequited love and respect. But she knew that there were things that needed to be said, even if they would never be heard, and when Vermel, who had stayed behind to run the base during Thrawn’s campaign, notified her that the Admonitor would be back the next evening, she picked up her pen, dipped it in the darkest ink and wrote.

    Her hand ran over the silky paper and she filled pages and pages, pouring her heart out, spelling out every detail she could remember of her time aboard the Star Destroyer and trying, as much as she could, to retrace the long journey that had led her to the moment when she would be able to say again that her life was with Thrawn. It was a painful process, for she did herself no favours – she analysed every emotion, every thought, every moment of self-indulgence and pettiness that had kept her away from him – but it was also cathartic, despite her frequent outbursts of tears. By the time she saw the Grand Admiral’s shuttle manoeuvre towards the landing pads through the transparisteel window, she was almost done. She didn’t re-read what she had written – there was no point in seeking to embellish a piece of introspection into the darker corners of her soul. She simply signed with her complete name, wrote underneath, ‘your lifemate, now and forever’ and sealed the pile of sheets in an envelope on which she wrote Thrawn’s name in Cheunh. She then put away his letters, keeping only the messages from her friends on the table, and waited for him to come home.

    Thrawn was visibly tired when he arrived and there was a tension in him that she didn’t quite understand, but she chalked it up to the fact that the campaign against Nuso Esva had been more difficult than anticipated. She followed him to the ‘fresher for their shower ritual and hesitated for a moment to lie down at his side after they were done, but impatience got the better of her and she brought the thick envelope to the bedroom. “I wrote to you,” she explained as she handed it to him. “But you don’t have to read it. Or at least, I’m not expecting you to read it now. It’s for when you’ll be ready.” The worried look that crossed his face puzzled her, but he didn’t speak and she continued. “And there’s something I wanted to ask you. I need to go to Coruscant. Is that possible?”

    He stared at the letter in his hand. “So this is a farewell,” he said. It was a statement, not a question.

    Ayesha was utterly baffled. “Why would it be a farewell?”

    He arched an eyebrow. “You did not respond to my messages for two weeks, you greet me with a letter and you are speaking of leaving to Coruscant. I find it difficult to interpret it otherwise.”

    The sternness of his tone made her turn crimson. “That’s not what I meant at all,” she mumbled. “I just needed time to focus on replying to your letters – you know, the ones you sent to me when I was on the Admonitor. But as I said, you don’t have to read it now. It’s for later, for when you’ll want to talk about... about everything I did wrong.” She paused and bowed her head in shame. “And I see that I just added another item to that very long list. I’m so sorry.”

    There was another pause. Thrawn suddenly burst out in an uncharacteristic bout of laughter and went to pull her to rest on his chest, but he caught himself in time and merely held out a hand, letting her come closer on her own. “After all this time, the greatest strategist of the Imperial Navy is yet to understand how that peculiar mind of yours works, Ayoo’sha,” he murmured in her ear. “I should probably get used to the idea that I never will.” He planted a kiss on the top of her head. “Now that my moment of foolishness is over, tell me. What is it that you need to do on Coruscant?”
     
  19. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_dancing] [face_dancing]

    I love how they're settling into a routine of sorts. There is such a soothing and nurturing quality to the things they share in their daily routines and how careful Thrawn is with her - like a horse whisperer. [face_thinking]

    Ayesha's apology was marvelous.

    She is still everything Thrawn said she was, it's just dormant. [face_love] [face_love]

    Her art is stifled atm but [face_dancing] reading the letters that were backlogged and then writing her own.

    Cathartic is just the right and perfect word for that!! That will unlock stuff I am so sure.

    In recovery from any trauma or hard thing to break free of, like addiction, letter writing is such a wonderful part of the healing! :cool:

    Chuffed about the keepsakes she got from Tam and his family. Awww.

    I too am mystified by her needing anything on Coruscant except to see friends, natch.

    Eagerly awaiting more!

    [face_batting]
     
  20. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    The reconciliation continues, which is good to see, even if there are some fits and starts—"I do not want to have this conversation now" only too often connotes "I don't want to have it ever." And of course he has to disappear on more Mooie Top-Secret Business again. But I'm not sure that Ayesha's intense self-doubt is helping matters either. Of course, it's an interesting question for us readers as to whether or not she really is still "that woman" anymore. (I tend to be optimistic on the point: I still see a lot of the same qualities in her that she had in parts 1 and 2 of the story...

    ...Including that she's A CONTRADICTION! :D If I'm not mistaken, we've gone from "get me off this ship!" to "let me stay with you!" and now to "I have to go to Coruscant"! I'm wondering the same things Thrawn is (both what she's up to and whether it really is a farewell). This undoubtedly isn't just a weird whim on her part (though I see where it comes off that way).

    Force bless that technician. A real pal out of the blue, or at least a real helper. With kid!Anakin I ask, "are you an angel?"

    Love how Ayesha approaches the letter as an artwork by starting with making the paper, for Pete's sake—things like that show me that she hasn't stopped being the woman she was. The "writing the letter without words" scene reminds me of a similar scene in a Czech opera of the 1910s, where the heroine sits down to write a letter to her fiancé, and gives no indication of what it says, though the whole scene is accompanied by a very complex and dissonant orchestral fugue. I could see setting this scene similarly if this were an opera. :cool:
     
  21. divapilot

    divapilot Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    So lovely to see them finally reconnecting. As with everything she does, even writing a letter becomes a work of art. She is such a complicated woman, and Thrawn has incredible commitment and patience to see this through. He believes in her completely.
     
  22. Kahara

    Kahara Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    Wow. @};- These last chapters definitely live up to the long, difficult years behind them while still showing that things aren't all fixed. Life is complicated and there's going to be a lot of difficulty and misunderstandings still, but at least we are -- for the first time in a long time -- in a place where Ayesha and Thrawn both seem to be communicating with each other. They just don't necessarily know how to get there or work around the roadblocks. The scene of them mourning is beautiful if sad, and I suspect the "lost life" is not only their child but the relationship they had before. What they have now will have to be constructed anew, though they can certainly use a lot of the original materials.
     
  23. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing! It's the Monday morning replies before chapter 16...
    Thank you! I actually started writing the scene where Valeria was giving him an earful, but then I stopped because it was too repetitive with the rest of the chapter. I may post it as a deleted scene at some point though :)
    Well, that's Palps for you, isn't it? All this is obviously very Mara-inspired, he just made sure that she couldn't have a normal life even if he were gone.
    Thrawn did up his quarters that way to return the present she had given him when she made him a study on Coruscant -- but that was something he started well before all this mess with her kidnapping started. If I ever write an AU of my own story :p I'll have her leave and let him wander around an empty apartment for the rest of his life [face_devil]
    Now that you said that, if I knew Italian I'd be writing a very melodramatic opera version of this scene [face_laugh] It kind of made sense to me, given the "private" personality I gave Thrawn in previous chapters, that there would be a moment when he can't bottle things up anymore -- not unlike when he blew up about Matt in part I, or how he told her off about Zaarin and Tigellinus. I believe we mentioned this earlier in this thread, he is a bit old-fashioned and patriarchal after all.
    Thanks! No, it's not a happy reunion, far from it. Besides the fact that it's booby-trapped, no thanks to Sheev, they have a lot to process in order to rebuild a relationship. I always thought that grieving over something together with someone was more difficult than grieving on one's own, but after nearly three years have passed means that they have to go over it again, but it's impossible to let go of what each one did for himself in the meantime.
    Rumpy knows that Ayesha tends to latch onto people and make them the centre of her world in a way that can be unhealthy, and he knows that there's a fine balance there. He took the time to set some boundaries for himself after he came aboard the Admonitor, with all the talk about brother/guardian/life-debt and by keeping a distance from her decision-making process, but it's a fair guess that Thrawn isn't likely to seek that sort of balance, if his relationship with Ayesha so far is any indication.
    Thank you [:D] (And, um, I know that you said you were leaving the boards, but I'll keep tagging you until you return. We want you back!)
    Mush lovers unite! [face_love]
    Well, that will be discussed in the next few chapters, as you probably guessed :p
    Horse whisperer is a good comparison -- but it's also an indication that he didn't really listen to Rumpy's advice in the previous chapter, isn't it? He's already positioning himself as a healer, and that may not really be his role in a healthy relationship. But then, I guess that their relationship isn't really healthy in the first place...
    :) Ayesha still has a long way to go, but reading Thrawn's letters and writing her own was definitely a first step. The question now is, when will he take the next step and read hers?
    Mooie Top-Secret Business is where Thrawn lives :D although in this case, I didn't really decide if he left on his own because he wants to keep is secret from Ayesha, or if he just didn't think that being back on the Admonitor is something she'd like. I'll leave it open for interpretation.
    She is totally a contradiction [face_laugh] even more so now that she's trying to piece her life back together. She has reasons to want to go back to Coruscant, for which you just need to scroll down...
    An opera again, uh? I can see this fic taking proportions I never imagined before :D Out of curiosity, which opera were you thinking about?

    As for the contents of her letter, it's no big mystery -- it would just be a rewrite of how she tried to blame her predicament on Thrawn throughout her time on the Admonitor. But of course we won't really know until he reads it, which may or may not happen in the future ;)
    Thrawn has the patience of a saint, but he's also a piece of work himself. Can you imagine being with a man who rarely expresses emotions unless he's blowing up in your face? Urgh. 8-}
    Thanks! I am really very predictable, because this is obviously where this story is going :) It's going to take them time to fix themselves, and they're starting from very different places, as you will see in the next chapter. Again, there will be a fine balance there, and they might or might not find it...

    Thanks again, everyone! Next chapter up in a few minutes :)
     
    AzureAngel2, Kahara and Findswoman like this.
  24. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    A question before I start. My goal was to finish this fic before we all go in TFA mode after 18 December, and having done some math I see that it's still technically feasible, but it entails posting a new chapter every other day or even 4 times a week. I feel that this would be a bit rushed and I'd rather extend this story for a few weeks into 2016, but I'd like to hear your opinions :)

    Tags: AzureAngel2 Findswoman Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Mando-Man Mira_Jade Raissa Baiard
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.
    And as usual, a big thanks to Nyota's Heart for beta-reading [:D]

    --------------------------------------------

    Chapter 16: Coruscant

    In the small hours of the morning of New Year Fete on the forty-first year of the Great Resynchronisation, a tired, disgruntled and passably drunk Coruscant Space Traffic controller received a request for a landing permit from a ship registered in the Mandalorian sector. The paunchy, middle-aged man was barely recovering from the festivities of the night and his scan of the newcomer’s identification was cursory at best – the transponder code didn’t raise any flags in the security system, and he was in no condition to go into details right now. He opened a twenty-second slot in the planetary shield, directed the ship to landing pad 19-73 after the pilot told him that he required long-term storage facilities, and stood up clumsily when the hiss of repulsorlifts indicated that the new arrival was about to land.

    The innocent-looking craft bore much heavier armour and weaponry than its appearance would let one presume, which was arguably not unusual for Mandalorian ships, but the traffic controller was so captivated by the unlikely trio that exited the boarding ramp that he didn’t pay attention. A tall warrior in full beskar’gam stepped out first, followed by a woman wearing a heavy cloak whose hood expanded into an opaque veil covering her forehead, eyes and cheekbones, indicating that she was blind. Behind her came a fierce-looking Wookiee who was dragging a travel chest. The furry alien trod forward and towered above the employee as he flung the cover open to reveal the chest’s contents.

    Had the controller been less intimidated, and had he indulged in somewhat smaller quantities of bootleg Whyren’s Reserve with his colleagues during the night, he might have noticed that a small, child-sized figure was sitting in the airspeeder that slid out of the cargo bay. He might have insisted to read the complete manifest of the ship’s cargo, he might have double-checked the records of her flight path and he might have demanded that the Mandalorian warrior remove his helmet and that the woman lift her veil for identity verification. But it was still before daybreak, a vicious headache was creeping on him, the warrior was holding a nasty-looking blaster rifle across his chest and the Wookiee was baring his fangs at every opportunity, which was more than enough to dissuade him from asking too many questions. He looked perfunctorily through the luggage chest, he inserted the datacards supplied by the travellers in the right slots to record the relevant information, he collected the docking fees and he watched the Mandalorian direct the maintenance droids to refuel the ship and inspect the engines before pulling down the durasteel shutter and locking the landing pad for the foreseeable future. The trio climbed into their speeder and took off in the Coruscant skylanes as he hauled himself back to his post. A large passenger liner would be arriving from Corellia in a few minutes, and he had work to do.

    The airspeeder flew away from the Spaceport Authority’s catchment area, then circled around the vast hub to return within eyesight of the docking bay where the liner was now disgorging its passengers. The Mandalorian raised a hand to his helmet to adjust the night vision settings while the Wookiee pulled a datapad out of his satchel and keyed a few commands. The handheld device whirred and beeped. [It is done, Kker-Bashha,] the shaggy primate rumbled. [Ayesha has now officially arrived on Coruscant on her own.]

    The airspeeder resumed its course away from the spaceport and Ayesha lifted her veil. “Well, that was easier than I thought,” she said. “I never expected that traffic control would be so sloppy after everything you told me about Isard.”

    “It was the definite advantage of arriving this morning,” Thrawn answered, his voice slightly distorted by the helmet’s vocoder. “However, appearances can be deceiving. Ysanne Isard has established a complete parallel surveillance system to mine data from the Spaceport Authority. But I am confident that we provided sufficiently credible information so as not to warrant an investigation.”

    * * *​

    It had taken them nearly four months to plan their trip. Thrawn was initially reluctant to let Ayesha travel to Coruscant at all – he had no trust in Isard whatsoever and was concerned about any entanglements for Ayesha when she arrived on planet, and he was equally worried about the dangers she might encounter during the journey as more and more systems declared their allegiance to the self-styled New Republic – but she had been adamant that returning to their old home, seeing their friends and reconnecting with their past was a process they needed to undergo, and they needed to undergo it together. “That part of our lives won’t be over unless we end it,” she argued stubbornly every time he presented his objections. “And to end it, we have to go there and pick up the pieces. We can’t just leave it behind and pretend it’s gone.”

    “You speak of us as if we have become different people,” Thrawn said. “As if we are dying and resurrecting.”

    “We did die,” she answered invariably. “Part of us did, at any rate. Our child died. And we are different. I changed, you changed. We’re not picking up where we left off, we’re starting something new, and we have to do what it takes to make it work.”

    The conversation always ended in a stalemate and Thrawn usually excused himself to return to his work. The Grey Wolf and its task force were conducting a war of attrition against Nuso Esva and the Discipline patrolled the sectors of the Empire of the Hand that were closest to the areas where the Far Outsiders were presumed to be gathering their forces, while the Admonitor remained in orbit above Nirauan to protect the base from unforeseen attacks. Ayesha was happy that Thrawn remained on planet most of the time to coordinate his fleet and monitor developments in the known Galaxy, but reports from the three Star Destroyers often came at odd hours and she didn’t get to spend as much time with him as she was hoping to. “I know that you are lonely, Ayoo’sha,” Thrawn would murmur to her as he slipped back under the covers after receiving a late-night transmission from Parck or Matt. “Be certain that this will not last forever. Once we have pacified the sectors affiliated with the Empire, there will be far more time for the two of us.”

    There were a few times when he woke up in the middle of the night to find that the bed was empty and Ayesha was nowhere to be seen. He very nearly panicked the first time it happened, but then he remembered that Rukh was standing guard outside the door and that she could not have gone far. He found her crouching in a corner of the kitchen, her back to the wall, her glassy eyes staring blankly ahead of her as she chewed the wrinkled scar on her wrist. However, these were not full-fledged episodes, and the sound of his voice was usually enough to bring her back to her senses. They discussed them at great length to determine if there was a particular trigger, but they weren’t able to come to a conclusion. Thrawn finally suggested that he sleep on the couch, on the assumption that physical proximity was the underlying cause.

    She shook her head vehemently. “That’s out of the question. If you do that, the Emperor won, and I’m not going to let him win. Not this time. Not after he’s dead and we’re still alive.” She paused and looked at him. “We should go to Coruscant. That’s where it started for me and that’s where the solution is.”

    Thrawn sighed. “Ayoo’sha, as I told you repeatedly, Coruscant is not safe. Ysanne Isard is –”

    “Yes, I know,” she interrupted. “She’s a monster, you don’t trust her and you think she may try to hurt me. But she also signed my liberation papers and we saw the art she collects. So I’m telling you that all she’ll do is ask me a few questions and let me go. I don’t have anything she wants anyway.”

    “She will want to know everything you can tell her about my operation, Ayoo’sha,” he said impatiently. “She is one of the select few who are aware of the fact that I was promoted to Grand Admiral, and she is intelligent enough to understand that I am not leading a mere mapping expedition in the Unknown Regions. I have no doubt that she thinks of me as a potential threat, and she will ask you much more than ‘a few questions’.”

    “Then I’ll give her all the wrong answers,” Ayesha retorted. “You’ll help me prepare them. I can hold my own in a conversation, you know. I may be insane, but I’m not a child. Don’t treat me like one.”

    There was a silence. “Why do you say that you are insane, Ayoo’sha?” he asked cautiously.

    She snorted. “I hide in the kitchen cupboard at night. Sane people don’t do that.” She paused and looked at him. “You think that the threat to me is that horrible woman, but I’m telling you that it’s inside my head. I can’t rid myself of Paraseel Malki, but I can rid myself of the Emperor. I know I can. And I need your help for that.”

    The breakthrough came in the unexpected form of HoloNet star Wynssa Starflare, who was now going by her married name Syal Antilles Fel and who arrived on Nirauan shortly before the Festival of Stars to join her husband, together with their sons Davin and Chak. Ayesha did everything she could to help them settle in, and a few days after their arrival, she entrusted the children’s care to Rumpy in order to prepare a proper welcome dinner. It was a small affair – most of Thrawn’s senior officers were on the Star Destroyers anyway – but she did manage to invite General Tasse, Colonel Sbatkh and Major Vermel in addition to the Fels. The conversation rolled over a number of casual subjects, and Syal entertained them with many stories of her time as an actress, until the topic shifted to the Galactic Civil War. Thrawn listened carefully as Syal explained how the Empire’s strategy of regrouping around fortress worlds had backfired, allowing the New Republic to sweep through unprotected systems while encouraging local Imperial officials to act as warlords and carve up a territory of their own. “Is this information you gathered during your time with the Rebellion?” he asked finally.

    Syal nodded. “It’s my brother’s analysis of the situation. He thinks that Isard’s grip on the Empire is faltering, and that they’ll be able to take Coruscant within a year or so.”

    Thrawn sank into meditative silence. “This doesn’t match what we’re told, Sir,” Tasse said. “Either the Rebels are overestimating their capabilities, or the reports we are receiving from Imperial Centre are plain wrong.”

    “Indeed,” Thrawn said, his eyes glittering with concentration. “It seems that we need a more reliable source of information. There are files about our operation in Imperial Centre. They are well-hidden, but it is essential that they do not fall into the hands of the Rebellion.”

    In the weeks that followed, Ayesha noticed an increase in movement on the base. Several mid-level officers left to return to the known Galaxy, and Syal told her that she had been asked to look after the Vermel children, as their father was due to rejoin the Imperial fleet. “He’ll be under the command of Captain Pellaeon,” she explained. “Apparently the Grand Admiral thinks of him as the most reliable officer in the Navy. I accepted of course, how could I not? I can’t imagine those poor kids being raised by a Chiss family. Their upbringing would just be too austere.”

    A few more weeks went by, and Thrawn remained evasive when talking to Ayesha, until an evening came when she simply decided to confront him head-on. “Syal is telling me that you’re considering to go to Coruscant yourself,” she told him over dinner. “I kind of made a fool of myself, because I had no idea.”

    He waved a dismissive hand. “It is only a vague project at this point. We –”

    “Don’t lie to me,” she snapped. “Syal said she overheard you discussing with Soontir how to bypass Isard’s surveillance systems when you get there. It doesn’t sound like a vague project to me.” He opened his mouth to speak, but she went on. “There are two options. The first one is that you tell me about your plan. I’ll come with you and who knows, maybe I’ll even make myself useful. The second one is that I ask Traffic to book me a bunk on the next supply convoy to Bilbringi, and I’ll go there on my own. Either way, I’m going with you. So stop scheming about how you’ll protect me from myself, will you? I’d be far safer if you told me what I can do to be safe while living my life. And staying here while you’re away, going around in circles in a workshop where I can’t do anything... that’s just not a life.”

    Thrawn stared at her for a long moment. “That is a lesson I ought to have learned already,” he muttered. “Very well, Ayoo’sha, we will go to Coruscant together. However, for my own safety as well as yours, I will lay down a few ground rules.”

    They planned their trip in great detail over the next month. Thrawn intended to travel incognito, whereas Ayesha would arrive on Coruscant under her real name. However, in order to avoid the skirmishes that were multiplying in the Core, where pirates were taking advantage of the generalised chaos to raid passenger liners, they would land together under fake identities and slice into the immigration database to register her arrival on a commercial ship. One of Thrawn’s agents in Imperial Centre would rent a studio on a lower level of her skyscraper for Rumpy and Rukh, and Thrawn himself would move in with her only after she had upgraded the security systems in their apartment. Only her closest friends would be informed of his presence, and only in person – she would never mention him in HoloNet communications, and she would make sure that they were fully aware of the risks it entailed. The base’s intelligence unit made her rehearse at length the answers she would give to Isard’s services if she were brought in for questioning, and on New Year Fete, three years to the day after the Emperor’s Royal Guards had taken her away from everything she held dear, she arrived back on Coruscant, posing as the blind companion of a Mandalorian bounty hunter, until Rumpy told her that his little conjuring trick had worked and that she could now walk around the Imperial capital as Ayesha Eskari.

    * * *​

    Thrawn angled the speeder downwards and took a turn into a narrow alley between two rows of buildings, and, once the navigator confirmed that they had reached the designated blind spot between surveillance cameras, Rumpy handed her a travel bag and shooed her away. She walked to the nearby public transportation hub while the speeder disappeared into the night and, half an hour later, she took a deep breath as the turbolift doors slid open to allow her into her apartment.

    She dropped her satchel on the floor and took her bag to the bedroom. She patted the head of the ysalamir that was chewing on the leaves of its Olbio tree, went to the ‘fresher to wash her hands and face, and set about rediscovering her flat. Everything was impeccably tidy, as if she had left only yesterday. Her clothes were in the closet, the blinds were lowered in the guest room and a faint scent of Fijisi wood wafted out of Thrawn’s study when she opened the doors. Nazmat Koch’s painting hung on the wall, shining softly in the morning light, as if to greet her home. She stepped out on the back balcony to look at the cityscape. The sun had just risen above the horizon and traffic on the skylanes was denser now, albeit nowhere near what it would have been three years ago. She sighed. She had been told that Coruscant was a different city now, a city that lived in fear, but she didn’t expect the signs to be so obvious and she wondered how her friends were coping. It was too early to call anyone, especially on a public holiday, but she could send them a text message to announce that she had arrived.

    She collected her satchel from the hallway floor and dug into it for the handheld comlink she was supposed to click twice to tell Thrawn that she had arrived home safely. The little device had sunk somewhere into its depths, and she shuffled things around as she walked into the atrium. She finally looked up when she tripped on the low table in the middle of the lounge.

    The memories came flooding back at the sight of the transparisteel door and the landing pad. The Royal Guards. The Imperial shuttle. The journey to a faraway planet. The dark room where the Emperor kept her. The –

    When Thrawn came up a few hours later – she had failed to report that she reached the apartment, and he had thrown caution to the winds to check on her – he found her cowering by the Alderaanian conversation circle. Her clothes were torn, her eyes were blank and blood was streaming down her chin. The contents of her satchel had spilled on the floor where she dropped it. She started screaming frantically in Old Kiffar when he came closer, and he had to step away, remove his helmet and perform what he had come to view as a healing rite, speaking to her slowly, melodiously, to get her attention and restore her awareness of her surroundings. It took him a long time – she was visibly in terrible pain – but her eyes finally focused on him when he came to sit right in front of her. He held out a hand to caress her cheek. “Ayoo’sha, you think that you are in this deep, dark place that your mind keeps visiting. But it is not real. You are here, in our home on Coruscant, with me. Come back. Please come back.” He reached for her wrist and removed it from her mouth. “Please come back to me.”

    Her gaze wandered around the room before returning to him, and she stared at him haggardly. “He’s here,” she whispered, tapping a finger to her temple. “He’s still here. I need to get him out.”

    -----------------------------

    Note: As of this chapter, we are in 6 ABY.
     
  25. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderful details on their sneaking onto Coruscant and how cool is it that Syal set things in motion by her comments and what she figured was just chatting. [face_thinking]

    Intense and heart-tugging scene there at the end. =D= =D=

    Ayesha's place of starting over is definitely and understandably different from Thrawn's - based on the fact that her traumatization was profound and also cumulative from all the prior ones not being quite healed yet/completely.

    One sees the necessity and rightness of overturning the past if one is ever going to forge a new present and future - and all this :eek: factor is going to have to be ridden through. @};-

    I absolutely adore how each installment makes me think and ponder psychological stuff, as well as the other reviews do. :cool:

    ~!

    Personally, I am of two minds LOL I never want this fic to end [face_love] so I could live with stretching into 2016, but I also have can't wait to read-itis. [:D] Basically whatever's easiest for the author. [face_laugh]