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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. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    How utterly fascinating. The clandestineness and the discoveries of two shuttles and secret and mysterious places -- troves of info which I know Thrawn is very eager to peruse and put to use. I have a very strong supposition as to the place they discovered at the end. What has me tied to EU legends even more snugly than I was before is all the stuff you write that streamlines so well with the OT and afterwards. =D= =D= I was relieved! to find out what Ayesha's I guess you could call it a threat or surveill rating was. :)
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  2. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 11, 2014
    Just to say that I have to go on an unscheduled work trip tomorrow morning very early, so there won't be an update on Thursday. But on Monday it's back to our regular programming!
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  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    :eek: I will be even more ready for spongification in that case. [face_laugh] [face_love]
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  4. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Loved these last two chapters with their amazing descriptions of the museum, the shuttle, the stops along the way (each of which no doubt has its own story—I'm really curious about that one senator's office), and the extra-secret lair connecting directly to what must be [hl=black]Darth Vader's operation room[/hl]. There's just something about that combination of cool, detailed, and abandoned, especially when combined with both the Empire's revisionism and the Emperor's petty fits, which adds a darker dimension (though it also goes to show, once again, how pathetic he really is). Love that there were real-life bases for this as well, and what cool ones. :cool:

    Have to say that I love how Ayesha's first instinct is of course to pull out her sketch pad and sketch it all down—because she filters everything through art, and she pretty much is art. [face_love] It was fun too to meet yet another one of Ayesha's old teachers, who seems a clever and resourceful sort who by now is well versed in circumventing Isardian surveillance (as the "I am being watched" paper shows).

    I was riveted by the further investigation of the shuttle network in chapter 20—felt almost as though I were in some sort of intricately detailed adventure game exploring it myself, and that's a big compliment coming from me, as someone who cut her gaming teeth on things like Myst and Rhem. :D That opening moment where they notice that it's gone from the museum... shivers! That's one of those moments I'll keep in the back of my mind. The fact that whoever called it away sent it back seems very significant, too, and I hope it was one of those hypothetical Jedi tracking Isard rather than Isard herself.

    And this network of hidey-holes: Lusankya—museum—Atanna's office at the Senate (hmmm...)—and who knows where, with the second, hidden shuttle bay hidden beneath the floor leading to even more secrets and building premonitions. And at last we end up in the operating room, which we see is the source of those premonitions—she was indeed meant to see it and bear witness, and I hope she will be able to retrieve her artwork and bring it back to this spot (without Isard catching her somewhere along the way!).
  5. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Nov 30, 2005
    Very cool entries! I love the secrety secret passages. Of course Palpatine would have redundant systems. And of course Isard, as unimaginative as she is, wouldn't anticipate that. Two things that made me go :confused:
    1. those rooms where the spartan housing was for the people the emperor trained - I wonder if someone we know once lived there as a Hand?
    2. I agree with Findswoman - we've seen that destroyed room before.

    Now where will this strange ride wind up? And why does it stop at a senator's office? So intriguing!

    It's wonderful to see the team of Ayesha and Thrawn (Thrayesha?) working so seamlessly together again.
  6. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Now that belongs in the OED under a cool marvy combo expression Thrayesha ^:)^ :cool:
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  7. Csillan_girl

    Csillan_girl Jedi Master star 5

    May 6, 2003
    Haha, I caught up, I caught up! :)

    Fascinating how you tie your story into canon! (okay, EU, but it will always be my canon...)
  8. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 11, 2014
    Reply time!
    Thank you! My perception of Palpatine is that he would share as little information as possible with those around him and compartmentalise everything, so I always thought that there should be a reason Thrawn knew everything about his secrets. Then when I started writing this, I decided that I could make up my own version of it :)

    Thanks! The network of hidey-holes, as you called it, is actually Legends-canon, I just elaborated on it a bit. I combined the description from X-Wing: Wedge's Gamble where the shuttle is said to stop in the museum, a sub-committee room in the Senate, and a 43rd floor foyer in the Imperial Palace, with bits and pieces from the chase at the end of Labyrinth of Evil. I could actually have done without the Senate stop, but then I realised that I would need it later ;)

    Just to clarify, the shuttle wasn't sent back to the museum by whoever called it (which would be Isard) but by Thrawn when he waved his hand in front of the spotting lasers. It's a fully automated system :p

    And Master Jayo being well-versed to circumvent surveillance... a lot of smart people would, in that sort of situation. This is actually also based on RL situations -- my parents told me that during the Junta here, people very quickly became experts at doing things in plain sight without being noticed by the undercover police. They went once to an art exhibition to find out that one of the artists was the guy who brought them messages from the anti-Junta group they were involved with (and whose name they didn't know until then). They hung out there just long enough to pretend that they had seen the art, and they left very quickly, taking along a friend who was there to go to dinner, saying that my mother, who was pregnant with me at the time, was suddenly feeling very hungry. She had to endure almost two years of teasing about her pregnancy cravings before she could explain to the friend why they were in such a hurry to leave [face_laugh]

    Hehe. I hadn't thought of point 1, but now that you mention it... [face_devil] And as for point 2... well, yes, you've seen it.

    Thanks, and thanks in particular for "Thrayesha". That's quite a find ;)

    Welcome back [:D] You know, I'm not particularly hung up on the Legends stuff, because there were entire story arcs in there that I was happy to see relegated to the dustbin of history, but these particular bits about the Thrawn books and X-Wing... I'm going to miss this stuff.

    Thanks again for reading and reviewing, everyone! Next chapter up straight away!
  9. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    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 21: Healing

    Ayesha was far more shaken by their visit to Palpatine’s lair than she was willing to admit. She retreated inside her shell and became taciturn and absent-minded, as was her custom in such situations, but the way she huddled in Thrawn’s warmth for comfort and protection every night was a dead giveaway. She ignored her brother’s and her lifemate’s gentle attempts at prying answers from her, and after a few days, in her own time, she finally opened up and began to speak.

    The first reference she made to Palpatine’s facility had to do with her violent outburst against Makh Vrill on the opening night of the Plebeian Exhibition. They had discovered upon leaving the secret compound that it was located in the Works, only a stone’s throw from the venue where the exhibition had been held. “That’s how he found me, you know,” she told Thrawn entirely out of the blue on an evening when they were sitting quietly at home. “He could actually see the exhibition venue from his hideout. He was close enough to detect me among the hundreds of millions of sentients on Coruscant. And he just waited until you were gone to invade my mind.”

    It took Thrawn a moment to understand what she was talking about, but once the pieces fell in place he nodded slowly. “I came to a similar conclusion, Ayoo’sha. Your Jedi uncle mentioned how difficult it would be, even for one so powerful in the Force, to identify a single mind on a planet as crowded as this one. That the Emperor was nearby seems a plausible explanation.”

    Ayesha sank into a meditative silence. “You know, I’ve been wondering if he somehow manipulated us into choosing that venue, so that he could keep an eye on me. I mean, he manipulated so many people, planting the right prompts at the right time so that they would do what he wanted without ever knowing why that was... but maybe I’m giving him more credit than he deserves. Maybe it was simply the will of the Force that all this had to happen.”

    Thrawn arched an eyebrow in question, but she didn’t elaborate, and the conversation stopped there for that night.

    He had returned to the facility, which he had dubbed ‘the Listening Post’, every day since they had discovered it to sift through the mountains of information that were now available to him. The possibilities it opened went beyond his wildest dreams. He could monitor every one of Isard’s movements, he could modify security data at will – an option he took shameless advantage of to insert more of his agents in the Imperial administration, or to improve their cover by introducing or deleting carefully chosen items in their personal files – and most importantly, he found out that the small receiver that was placed on the Emperor’s desk received transmissions from a recording device hidden somewhere in the Palace. “This is truly an aurodium mine,” he said one afternoon as he came home. “Given the nature of the recordings, I am fairly certain that the transmitter is located in a public area of the Palace, but how it can go undetected I have no idea. Not that it really matters. What matters is that I have access to a source Isard knows nothing about. Were she aware of the amount of information that leaks out through Delta Source, she would ban speaking in the Palace altogether.”

    A few weeks later, Ayesha expressed the wish to return to the Listening Post with him. Rumpy huffed his disapproval, but Thrawn merely looked at her hesitantly. “Are you certain that this is a good idea, Ayoo’sha?”

    She shrugged. “Didn’t you say that you could reorient the surveillance cameras at will? If you can go there in broad daylight, why couldn’t I do the same?”

    “That was not my concern,” Thrawn said stiffly.

    She gave him a curious look. [My Kker-Bashha worries that a second visit to that dark place will perturb you even further, Rryi-Bashhi,] Rumpy explained. [You haven’t been quite yourself these past few weeks.]

    She shrugged again. “I’ll be fine. I just need to go there.”

    The blue-black eyebrow travelled up. “Is this another one of your premonitions?”

    Ayesha shook her head. “They’re not premonitions, Thrawn. They’re memories.” The second eyebrow joined the first. “Anakin was there – Anakin Skywalker.”

    The Chiss and the Wookiee stared at her in stunned silence. [Is Darth Vader still in your mind, Rryi-Bashhi?] Rumpy asked in an ominous rumble.

    “Darth Vader doesn’t exist anymore,” she snapped. “It’s Anakin. And no, he’s not in my mind anymore, he’s dead. But I still carry his memories.” She took a deep breath to steady her voice. “The Emperor did terrible things to him. That destroyed operating theatre we saw? It was the place where the Emperor turned him into Darth Vader. He had the droids perform surgery on him without an anaesthetic to put him in the armour. I just want to clean up the place. The Emperor maimed him, but he was able to heal in the end. I think that the room should reflect that.”

    There was a long pause. “Ayoo’sha, you are speaking of something I do not and will likely never understand, and I will trust your judgement on this. I will only ask you one last time: are you certain that exposing yourself deliberately to these foreign memories will cause you no harm?”

    She sighed. “The harm is already done, Thrawn. I can’t forget what I saw. But if Anakin could heal, maybe I can heal too.”

    * * *​

    Thrawn had programmed what few surveillance cameras were in the Works to look away from his preferred approach to the Listening Post at a specific time of the day, and he timed carefully their trip so that they would arrive completely undetected. They dropped off Rukh before entering the hangar bay. The Noghri swiftly vanished into the shadows to the corner where he would stand guard, and Thrawn parked the speeder inside, orienting it towards the gate in case they needed to make a swift exit. Rumpy helped him offload the crates of equipment they’d brought – Thrawn couldn’t transfer the entire bank of monitors to their apartment for obvious reasons, but he was copying as many files as he could to data storage devices for future perusal – and they followed Ayesha to the medical ward. She moved along the corridors with uncanny ease, as if she were thoroughly familiar with the place. “I told you, I remember this place,” she said. “It’s as if I’ve been here before, and in a way, I have.”

    “Did Lord Vader – Anakin – know of the shuttle, Ayoo’sha?”

    She paused for a moment and frowned. “I don’t think so,” she said finally. “I don’t remember that. Maybe the tunnel was added after he walked out of here. Or maybe the Emperor just didn’t tell him.”

    They arrived in the antechamber of the operating theatre, and she paused again to take a deep breath. “This room has been fixed,” she explained. “When Anakin went in a fury after his operation, he destroyed it too. He even blew up the door and stuff spilled over into the hallway.”

    Thrawn looked around carefully. “Therefore what we are seeing here are medical supplies that the Emperor stockpiled for himself, if the assumption that no one knew of this facility is correct. But why would he need them?”

    She snorted. “He wasn’t immortal, you know. He could become sick like anyone else.”

    Thrawn gave her the faintest of smiles – her scorn for the Emperor amused him greatly. “I was referring to his ability to put himself in a healing trance. Is that not a skill that comes with the Force?”

    She shook her head. “Healing trances are a Light Side ability. Uncle Quin explained that to me after he rescued me from Paraseel Malki. He wanted me to understand that I needn’t be afraid of what he was going to do.” Thrawn’s head jerked towards her. “What?”

    “I brought Lord Vader to put you in a healing trance aboard the Admonitor,” he said slowly.

    There was an uneasy silence. [And he botched it,] Rumpy growled. [He put his mind in my Rryi-Bashhi instead and he caused her pain to no end. He –]

    “Stop that,” Ayesha snapped angrily. “He didn’t mean me any harm.” She looked at her brother straight in the eye. “That he could put me in a healing trance proves that he could touch the Light. There was still good in him, and his son was able to bring it out. Stop saying that he was all evil. He wasn’t.”

    [Then how do you explain the connection between your minds?]

    “I don’t know. But I know that he didn’t do it on purpose. It was the will of the Force. If that’s good enough for me, it should be good enough for you.”

    She was glaring laser bolts at him. Thrawn coughed discreetly to interrupt them before the discussion could evolve into a full-blown argument. Once he had their attention, he pointed at the empty transparisteel cylinder that was standing against the wall. “I had assumed this to be an unusual type of bacta tank, given the presence of bacta vats over there, but my preliminary research indicates that this is called a Spaarti cylinder.”

    Ayesha frowned again, as if seeking to recall a long-forgotten memory. “It’s a cloning tank,” she said finally. “The Emperor had a secret facility established somewhere to create a second clone army. But it didn’t work. The clones were grown too fast and their connection to the Force was all messed up. They usually went mad after a while, and the Empire stopped using them. That’s when they started recruiting normal stormtroopers.”

    Rumpy gave her a look that was part awe, part concern. [Rryi-Bashhi... are you privy to every military secret in the Empire?]

    She shrugged. “I know what Anakin knew – some of what he knew. If I go looking for it, I can find it.” She gestured towards the operating theatre. “But today should be about Anakin, the person, not the Empire’s military commander. Let’s get to work.”

    * * *​

    Cleaning up the ravaged room was a harrowing experience, not only for Ayesha but also for Rumpy and Thrawn. She insisted to describe to them every moment of Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into the black-armoured cyborg they had known as Darth Vader while they swept broken glass from the floor and discarded twisted tools, and she didn’t spare them any details of his physical pain as the med droids picked off his burnt flesh, replaced his charred organs and fitted him with prosthetic limbs. By the time she was done, Thrawn’s pale blue complexion had turned a delicate shade of green. “And then, when it was over,” she concluded in a trembling voice, “when Anakin had become the monster that the Emperor made of him... the Emperor lied to finish his work. He told Anakin that his wife was dead, that he had killed her. And Anakin... he had done everything for her. Even turning to the Dark Side, he thought he was doing it for her. So that’s when he snapped and smashed the room apart. He thought he had lost everything – he didn’t even know that he had a son.” She smiled wistfully. “But he fulfilled the prophecy in the end. He killed the Emperor. He was the Chosen One, you see.”

    Thrawn had been putting away a bag of detritus, but at these words he stopped dead in his tracks. “Ayoo’sha, how long have you known of this prophecy?”

    She shrugged. “Just a few days. It was in here” – she tapped her forehead – “but I was trying not to delve in his memories. Now, however... it looks like his memories are coming to me.”

    This time Rumpy roared in concern. “I don’t know, Rumpy,” she said impatiently. “I don’t know why it’s happening, and I don’t know what it will do to me. But it’s happening, and I can’t stop it.” She looked from her brother to Thrawn and back. “We all know that my mind is broken. We all know that there are things in my head that don’t belong to me – not only Anakin’s memories, but what Paraseel Malki put in there too.” She took a deep breath. “And I know that some day, I might become like Uumana,” she added, speaking very fast. “There, I said it. Get used to the idea now, because it could happen anytime.”

    There was a long silence. Thrawn finally spoke up. “Ayoo’sha, there is something you do not know. I had a long conversation with Doctor Simon when we visited the Centre after...” He hesitated to name Paraseel Malki, but she nodded to signal that she understood. “He told me then that his wife was not merely catatonic. She was...”

    Ayesha blanched. “Her mind was gone,” she said when he didn’t complete his sentence. “That’s what he told you, didn’t he? That her mind had been siphoned away?”

    She was shivering. Thrawn wrapped an arm around her shoulders to steady her. “Yes,” he murmured, as if saying it inaudibly would make it somewhat less real. “That is what he said. He knew that she would never come back.”

    Ayesha closed her eyes and breathed deeply, but she was clutching her head, as if in unspeakable pain. She was visibly distressed when she looked up again. “We should leave,” she said. “Maybe this is where it happened. Anakin’s memories I can deal with, but the thought that Palpatine could have... We should leave. I need to get away from him.”

    She was now shaking so badly that Rumpy had to lift her in his arms. “We’ll never talk about this again, do you understand?” she shouted at Thrawn as her brother carried her to the speeder. “We’ll never mention Paraseel Malki again. We’ll never discuss Soul Drain again.” She grabbed his hand and clung to it so hard that he could feel her fingers through the thick Mandalorian glove. “Please understand this. I can tell you everything you want to know about Anakin, or the Emperor, or the secrets of the Empire. But I can’t tell you about Malki.”

    Thrawn helped her settle in the back seat and covered her with a blanket Rumpy extracted from the luggage compartment. “I understand, Ayoo’sha,” he said soothingly. “I understand.”

    She didn’t appear to hear him. “Please,” she whispered. “Never again. The Emperor broke my mental barriers. I can barely control my thoughts now, and if those memories surface, I’ll be gone. I can’t heal from them. Never again.”


    Notes: The facility in the Works is the one that is seen at the end of AotC when Dooku arrives on Coruscant. Darth Vader's surgery took place in a different location in Legends, but I merged the two to simplify the plot. Delta Source will come in useful later in this story (and in the TTT too :p) and if you've read Dark Empire, you already know why Palps needed a Spaarti cylinder.
  10. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Wow, just wow. =D= =D= =D= Captivating discussion about Anakin/Vader - as to his intent and return to Lightside and fulfillment of the prophecy. Cool stuff cleaning up the operating chamber and yup, what Ayesha said about the whole reveal surrounding Padme - that was totally the worst! thing for Anakin.... the realization that he'd been hoodwinked in the most horrific kinds of ways but was stuck behind the path he'd already taken. :(

    That last bit there about mental barriers and Uumana etc. gave me the heebi-geebies. :eek: The less said about Malki from now on, literally, the better for everyone!
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  11. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Nov 30, 2005
    The "cleansing" of the place of Anakin's torture has special significance to her; as each item is catalogued and replaced, she is stashing it away in her memory, too. That Sheeving sheevster. What a monster. Interesting to think that Palpatine might have manipulted the entire art project to get to Ayesha! Wouldn't put it past him.

    And poor Uumana. She wasn't even there at all, just a shell of the vibrant woman she once was. How horrible for Simon, to see his beloved living and breathing and carrying on all the appearances of life but being hollow and empty inside.

    Ayesha is still close to the edge. Her boys need to keep a close eye on her.[face_nail_biting]
  12. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    I'm so glad to see Ayesha so close to achieving some sort of closure—if not full healing, then at least closure—to her long years of harboring Vader's memories and grief. She was indeed meant to find this place, which is just the right place for the closure process to begin—and, in true Ayesha fashion, she approaches it as an artistic (and thus perfectly sincere) act.

    Anakin's operating room was definitely the most important find on this excursion, but the Listening Post is definitely a close second. If it really is what it is (and I wonder if it's from the official literature too?), then Isard's days are numbered. Says so much about the Emperor's petty insecurity that he even felt the need to have such a place!

    There's a bit of that "so close, yet so far away" feeling at the moment when she finds out what really happened to her dear friend Uumana, which also clues her in—rightly or wrongly—to the reality of just how precarious her situation is. Soul Drain can be gradual and can go on happening long after the death of the person who initiated it, it seems, and I hope to goodness the trigger that Thrawn activated by mentioningUumana's fate isn't going to undo all the progress and closure that Ayesha has made so far, by coming to the operating room and getting it in order...

    ...but at least for now I'm going to hold out hope. :D I've always loved the Vader-mind-bond aspect of this story, as you know, and I am curious to see what form the actual closure will take. I have a feeling I might be surprised!
  13. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Chyntuck I think the date & title thing in the title bar needs to be Chapter 21 on 07/12.
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  14. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Why July 12, just out of curiosity?
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  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh, I was putting the day before the month. 7 Dec 2015
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  16. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 11, 2014
    Thanks for that Nyota's Heart! Fixing it straight away, and I'll add the next chapter asap.
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  17. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 11, 2014
    And the next chapter is already here, thanks to the amazing Nyota's Heart who managed once again to beta-read it on the spot ^:)^

    Unfortunately I won't be able to do replies today, or for quite a while, because I'm going through one of those INSANE periods at work, but your reviews are very much appreciated [:D] Also, due to said insanity, I may have to skip an update or even two next week, but staring 20 December I'll be back on the boards with updates, replies and a vengeance.

    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.


    Chapter 22: Rejection

    Thrawn and Rumpy grew increasingly concerned with Ayesha’s mood swings over the following weeks. There were mornings when she was all cheer and joy; she chattered happily throughout breakfast and she usually met up with Tashi and Onion for lunch, or she arranged to collect Tam from school and took him on an afternoon expedition to playgrounds, zoos and museums. But there were also mornings when the mere sight of the Twi’lek Dancer in the atrium caused her to burst into tears or to shudder in terror, and during the nights that followed Thrawn would wake up to find her crouching in a foetal position in a corner of the bedroom with the characteristic absent, glassy texture to her eyes. As time went by she started talking to herself at the most awkward moments, as if the world around her had ceased to exist. Rumpy came upstairs one afternoon to find her standing in front of the black statue, caressing the smooth stone with her fingertips and whispering, “Why didn’t I give you a face?” Or she interrupted once a conversation with Thrawn about her projects after they returned to Nirauan to say, “But it’s not love. To fear, it’s not love.” When Thrawn arched an eyebrow in question and asked her what she meant, she gave him a puzzled look and, when he insisted that she provide an explanation, she confessed that she couldn’t remember uttering the sentence at all.

    And then there were those few moments when she completely dropped out. Her face would become lifeless, as if her personality had been wiped out, and she remained immobile in the exact position where she was sitting or standing until she snapped out of it. These blanks lasted only for a few seconds, a minute at most, and again she had no recollection of them whatsoever, but the sheer panic in Thrawn’s expression was enough for her to know that something had happened, even though she felt perfectly at peace afterwards. The third time he witnessed one of her absences, some eight weeks after her second visit to the Listening Post, he suggested that they see a doctor.

    Ayesha snorted. “And tell him what? That a few Dark Siders messed around with my head, so that Isard takes more interest in me? No way. Besides, there’s nothing a doctor can do. Not even a Jedi healer could help me.”

    Thrawn argued that they could cook up a plausible cover story, but she remained adamant that she wouldn’t go. “I should tell you instead everything I know of Anakin’s memories,” she retorted. “Maybe speaking them out will help me rid myself of all the stuff that clutters my mind.”

    It was Thrawn’s turn to shake his head vehemently. “It could also have the opposite effect, Ayoo’sha. As much as I would like to know every military secret in the Empire, this is not a risk that I am willing to take.”

    The conversation ended in a stalemate, but Thrawn wouldn’t be put off so easily. He sent Rumpy to Kashyyyk to track down Quinlan Vos, but the young Wookiee returned empty-handed. [Quinlan is an expert at covering his trail, Kker-Bashha,] he rumbled. [Our Ada’ sought to find him already when he went on the run. All I could do was to leave a comlink encrypted with his personal code for him to contact us if he ever comes back.]

    A semblance of a breakthrough came when Thrawn’s research in the Emperor’s databases enabled him to get hold of Simon. The doctor had spent his years of captivity in a penal colony of the Outer Rim. He had been freed when the Rebel Alliance took control of the Gesaril system shortly after the Battle of Endor, but Isard’s intelligence files indicated that he had apparently chosen to remain there and look after those of the former prisoners who, like him, had nowhere to go. Rumpy stayed with Ayesha while Thrawn travelled to Gesaril to persuade Simon to return to Coruscant, and on the morning of her thirty-fourth birthday, the turbolift door slid open to allow him into her apartment.

    It was only three years since Ayesha had last seen Simon, but he appeared to have aged by twenty. His hair had gone white, his face sagged in tired lines, he now walked with a cane and the wrinkles around his eyes enhanced the air of constant sorrow that cloaked him since the day Uumana had gone missing to return an empty shell. He didn’t reciprocate Ayesha’s hug, and he remained sad and taciturn as he sat on the couch while she made him breakfast.

    He ate his food in silence down to the very last crumb and placed his empty plate on the table with a curt nod of thanks. Ayesha looked at him cautiously, as if unsure where to start. “They didn’t feed you very well in that place, did they?”

    “No. No, they did not.”

    There was an uneasy silence. “Are you going to stay with us now?”

    “I am going to stay with my wife,” he said forcefully. “At least for a while. Then I will leave this wretched planet forever and start over somewhere else.” He pointed at the Twi’lek Dancer. “And I’ll take this statue. Eighty-Seven said I could have it.”

    Ayesha’s gaze went from Simon to Thrawn and back. “Didn’t he tell you his name?”

    “I don’t want to know it,” Simon replied with unexpected harshness. “To me, he’s a number – and an enemy.”

    Her eyes widened. “Am I still your friend, Simon?” she asked when she found her voice.

    Simon’s expression hardened. “The Empire took my wife from me twice. The first time they stole her mind, the second time they took her life. No sentient who is associated with them, however remotely, can be my friend.”

    The temperature in the room seemed to drop to a deep freeze. “So to you, I am merely an associate of the Empire.”

    “You share your life with a senior Imperial officer,” Simon countered. “With a man who, despite all that the Empire has done to you, deludes himself into thinking that he can change things from within. That is, if he is truly deluding himself, and if he really wants things to change.”

    [You are speaking of the man who came to rescue you from the penal colony where you were stuck for years,] Rumpy growled. [You should –]

    “I am speaking of the man who came to fetch me when he needed me,” the doctor corrected. “He didn’t come three years ago when I was arrested. He didn’t even ask after Dex.”

    There was another long silence. “Why are you here?” Ayesha asked finally.

    “I am here because I have an opportunity to visit my wife’s final resting place. I am here because I want that statue, and I am here because your mind needs to be looked after, and it seems that I am the only doctor in the Galaxy who can do that.”

    She gazed at him for a moment. “You can have the statue, if that will help you heal. But you don’t have to look at my head. You made it clear that you don’t want to see me.”

    The doctor snorted. “I will look at your head. That was my deal with Eighty-Seven.” She went to object. “That’s what Uumana would want and you know it,” he added before she could speak. “I am a doctor. She would want me to be a doctor. I should respect her will, and if you were her friend so should you.” He stood up. “Get some wrapping for that statue. I’d like to leave now, if that’s okay. I didn’t come for the small talk.”

    * * *​

    Thrawn, Rumpy, and Simon took the speeder to go to the Centre, but the itinerary they followed in order to avoid detection was so convoluted that they arrived mere moments before Ayesha and Rukh, who had come by public transportation. The doctor stood on the small platform, leaning heavily on his cane, as he watched Ayesha step forward to deactivate the force shield and open the door. He hobbled in wearily and took a deep breath to steady himself. “Nice show of caring you put up here,” he muttered to no one in particular. “The place is all cleaned up and tidy, as if you were waiting for me.”

    “Simon, that’s enough,” Ayesha snapped. “You sound like a small-minded paranoid bigot now.”

    He spun on his heel to give her a scathing look. “Who do you think you are, exactly, to speak to me like this?”

    She held his gaze steadily. “I’m someone who has been where you are. I was angry, and bitter, and in pain, and I needed everyone else to be in pain with me. And I can tell you one thing. It didn’t help.” Before he could answer, she directed Rumpy to set the statue next to Uumana’s coffin in what had been the lounge, then turned back to him. “That’s where you want to be, so go in and stay as long as you need to. Thrawn, Rumpy and Rukh will go home, and I’ll wait for you in the ward. We brought books and food. I have enough to keep myself busy for several days if I need to.”

    Simon stared at the door to the lounge for a moment and relented. “I’ll set you up first,” he said finally. “But yes, I would like your friends to leave.”

    Thrawn went to object but Ayesha lifted herself on the tips of her toes to kiss him. “I’ll be fine,” she whispered. “Simon needs his space. If I’m not back home in a week, come and check on me, okay?” She gave Rumpy a hug, nodded to Rukh’s Noghri salute and ushered them out.

    Simon led her to his old lab and helped her lie the bed before wheeling over the computer and hooking her up to the monitors. He extracted an old-fashioned brain scanner from a cabinet and plugged it in. It was a full helmet with a batch of electrodes, a far older model than the state-of-the-art headband Doctor Cottle had used aboard the Admonitor, but she didn’t comment and slipped it over her head. He gave a cursory glance to the screen to verify that everything was working properly, then pulled out a pouch and a bunch of tubes. “I’m going to insert a catheter,” he said gruffly. “I don’t know how long this will take, but I’d rather you not go to the loo with all this equipment.”

    Moments later, he left without saying a word. Ayesha settled back against her pillows and waited for him to return.

    * * *​

    Simon lost track of time. He must have spent two days, maybe more, sitting by Uumana’s coffin and speaking to her as if she could hear him – but then, he had spent five years speaking to her knowing that she could not hear him, and three years in that penal colony still speaking to her when not even her ashes were there, and it didn’t make much of a difference. It was only when he stood up to unwrap the statue that he remembered Ayesha. He washed his hands hurriedly and gobbled up a ration bar –he suddenly realised that he was starving – and went back to the lab.

    Ayesha was sitting upright on her bed, staring at the computer monitor with a hand on the keyboard. “Who told you to –” he began.

    Something about her posture caused him to stop mid-sentence. She remained frozen in that position, without reacting to the sound of his voice. Her face was entirely blank and her eyes were fixed on a point that only she could see. He hobbled closer to look at her. The last file accessed on the computer was the scan of her unborn child, three minutes ago. He took her hand from the keyboard and pushed her back against the bed, but before he could complete the gesture, her gaze focused on him and she asked, “Are you okay?”

    He wondered a little about her change of behaviour, but he also knew that he was most likely a mess and that he badly needed a shower. “I’m fine,” he said curtly. He angled his chin towards the computer. “Where’s your kid?”

    Ayesha gave a start. “I don’t have a kid, Simon. The Emperor killed him – or her, we never found out if it was a boy or a girl. Didn’t Thrawn tell you?”

    The doctor turned beet red. “No, he didn’t. But then, I didn’t let him say much, and most of what he said I didn’t listen to.”

    She held out her hand to lay it over his. “It’s okay, Simon. I understand. I –”

    The barriers came back up at once. “I don’t need your pity,” he snapped.

    She gazed at him for a moment. “Okay.” She gestured towards the monitor. “Shall we have a look?”

    Simon flicked through the holos captured by the brain scanner. “All right, I’ll unplug you. Then I’ll take a shower, and then we can look at these in detail.”

    The analysis of the brain scans was a slow and painful process, even more so because Ayesha was reluctant to speak of what had happened to her while she was in the Emperor’s custody, and she refused outright to discuss the matter of her childhood trauma. “I’m not going to talk about that,” she said firmly. “All I can tell you is that I saw someone do to people what was done to Uumana. Now please change the subject.”

    The doctor gave her an ironic look. “You realise that I can’t do much of a diagnosis if you don’t talk to me, right?”

    She shrugged. “Yes, I do, but I also need to protect myself from my own mind. Every time I delve into those memories, they threaten to take over and to destroy me. I know that they will succeed in the end, but I’d rather the end not come too soon.”

    Simon sat back in his chair and sighed. “Apparently I won’t be telling you anything that you don’t already know.” He pointed at the holo. “This is the area of your brain that stores memories. The brightness is an indication of the level of activity. In your case, it is is simply off the charts, whether you’re awake or asleep. It’s like a festering wound. And here” – he fast-forwarded the holo to a specific point in time – “is the moment when you looked at your pregnancy scan.” The little pinpricks of light seemed to expand into a supernova before imploding upon themselves and going off. “See? The memories were about to take over, and that’s when you blanked out. And there’s more.” He keyed for the holo to move further along the timeline. “You were a perfectly happy person during those three minutes. Your brain indicates nothing that comes across as pain. And then” – he clicked once more, and the pinpricks of light reappeared – “you snapped out of it. The memories are back, and the pain with them.”

    He switched off the monitor and waited for Ayesha to speak. “Blanking out is your coping strategy,” he went on when she said nothing. “I had a look at your brain scan from seven years ago, from when we found Uumana after she went missing, and it was hysterical. You were trying to process those emotions, and you were failing. Now you’re doing the opposite. You’re shutting them out. It makes sense though, because there are more of them.”

    “Yes,” she whispered. “And not all of them are mine.” He gave her a curious look, but she ignored him. “Is it a good thing?” she asked. “That I’m shutting them out?”

    “Not really. It saves you from having an episode of course, but the risk is that you blank out for good. What you need to do is to actually confront these thoughts, to process them. You can’t eliminate them, but you must find a way to live with them.”

    She shuddered. “I can’t live with that thing present in my conscious mind. Nobody can.”

    The doctor shrugged. “I’m going to be blunt here, but I’ll say it as it is. If you’re not willing to find a way to live with your trauma, there’s nothing modern medicine can do for you – until you become either a raving lunatic or permanently catatonic. For your sake, I hope it will be the latter.”

    She nodded. “I understand.”

    There was a long silence. Simon stood up. “Well, I guess that’s it then.”

    “I guess it is,” she answered, following suit. “Let me pack up my stuff. We also need to add your fingerprints to the lock system before I go.”

    Minutes later, they were in the small entrance, placing their hands one after the other on the sensor panel to transfer ownership of the Centre to Simon. “I don’t know how to remove my access, but I won’t be coming back here anyway,” she said. “What are you going to do now?”

    “I’m going to stay here with Uumana and meditate,” he said curtly. “Hopefully I’ll think of a world where she would like to be buried, and I’ll take her there. I’ll contact Eighty-Seven when I need a ship to take her off planet.”

    Ayesha bristled at the numeral. “His name is Thrawn. Syndic Mitth’raw’nuruodo of the Eighth Ruling Family. When you’re done dealing with your grief, his name will help you find us.”

    Simon shrugged indifferently. She took a few steps towards the door and turned back to look at him. “Why did you never tell me that Uumana’s mind was gone?”

    “How did you even find out?” he countered.

    “Thrawn told me a few weeks ago.” She looked at him questioningly but he didn’t answer. “You know, Thrawn hadn’t even told me that she was dead. I found out when I came here in the beginning of this year, when we returned to Coruscant. When I saw the force shield I thought the Centre had been taken over by someone else, but then I saw the Cheunh script on the platform. He had come here to give Uumana a decent place to rest, and he didn’t even tell me.” She palmed the panel and stepped outside. “He kept it from me, thinking that he was sparing me the pain. Like you kept it from me to spare me the pain. You’re more alike than what you think.”


    Note: The Gesaril penal colony is borrowed from Galaxy Guide 6: Tramp Freighters.
  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Simon - he is totally understandably bitter but has no business taking it out on Thrawn and especially Ayesha. And she certainly knows where he is coming from, as she told him point blank about lashing out when in pain. But the [face_nail_biting] [face_nail_biting] of this entire update was the psychological facets that she experienced and Simon helped elucidate.

    Ow! Scary stuff!


    Seeing Simon here and in Second Chances, it would do my heart a world of good if Ayesha could see Simon and how he's acclimated by the time Blue and Bree know him. He's the gentle giving person she knew at the outset of their friendship. [face_batting]
  19. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Nov 30, 2005
    I can completely see why Simon is furious at Thrawn. The way that Thrawn handled this whole thing was very, well, Thrawny. It Reminds me of the whole fiasco of how Thrawn botched his reunion with Ayesha after she was brought on board.

    So bitterly true. Had Ayesha not been struggling, Thrawn would have left Simon there to rot. As it is, he left Dex there to rot. Both men took a gamble on Thrawn and allowed him into the center. And since Simon had a chance to leave after his release and didn't, it seems that Thrawn probably dragged him away from his numerous patients who, like him, suffered greatly and must continue to need Simon's care so that Thrawn can have Simon for his own unique need. He only cared about Simon in as much as it benefitted him. Ayesha's defense of Thrawn tells us she sees what she wants to.

    The other thing that kind of gets to me is the memorial/tomb of Uumana. When they first get to the center and Simon comments "Nice show of caring you put up here," Ayesha is offended. But I don't think Simon was talking to her, his comment was toward Thrawn. I'm not surprised if Simon feels that Thrawn overstepped his bounds. I mean, Thrawn went so far as to write an inscription in Cheunh on her grave, which only Ayesha and Thrawn can read. Simon can't read it. Uumana couldn't read it. It would be like someone burying my loved one and then writing an inscription on it in Mandarin. For all I know, it could say "good riddance." Writing it in Cheunh merely sends the message Thrawn was here. Since Simon (understandably) hates the Empire, to see the words written by an Imperial admiral on his beloved wife's grave is desecration. Another insult.

    Ayesha's "get over it" comment to him is incredibly insensitive. She of all people should know how badly he is hurt. It took her three years to get where she is. His journey is just starting.

    He is still the kind Simon he was before, we see that in his determination to help Ayesha because it's what his wife would have wanted him to do. He even asks Ayesha about her child. He is just so angry and hurt and grief-stricken that he doesn't have the strength to be happy.

    Meanwhile: The blanking out that she is doing, kind of like her mind "crashing" like a computer, is very alarming. It's as if she has to learn to live with some parasitic psyche inside her mind, and sometimes it is stronger than she is and threatens to devour her entirely.

    PS - either you had to retcon the cane or I am brilliant at deduction! Thanks for adding the continuity.

    PPS. I know a nice planet where Simon can resettle. :)
  20. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 14, 2005
    Meanwhile: The blanking out that she is doing, kind of like her mind "crashing" like a computer, is very alarming. It's as if she has to learn to live with some parasitic psyche inside her mind, and sometimes it is stronger than she is and threatens to devour her entirely.

    I agree with divapilot here. Something bad lives in the core of her being, acting like a parasite. [face_nail_biting]
    Ewok Poet and Chyntuck like this.
  21. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Wow, Ayesha and Thrawn's findings on Coruscant are just fascinating! I enjoyed reading about their adventures and discoveries more than words can say (just when you think the Emperor cannot possibly get any more deranged or creepier, there he goes [face_sick]), and I was especially on the edge of my seat when they found both the cloning tanks (I have to wonder when the Thrawn clone will come in to play :p) and Anakin's operating room. Once again, Ayesha's bond with Vader/Anakin has to be one of my favourite parts of this story, and her defense of and homage to were both beautiful to read. Such as:

    “Darth Vader doesn’t exist anymore,” she snapped. “It’s Anakin. And no, he’s not in my mind anymore, he’s dead. But I still carry his memories.” She took a deep breath to steady her voice. “The Emperor did terrible things to him. That destroyed operating theatre we saw? It was the place where the Emperor turned him into Darth Vader. He had the droids perform surgery on him without an anaesthetic to put him in the armour. I just want to clean up the place. The Emperor maimed him, but he was able to heal in the end. I think that the room should reflect that.”

    This. [face_love][face_love]

    She is a kindred spirit to Anakin in so many ways, and I adore how cleansing restoring the operating room was for her. If Anakin could heal, so can she - but that brings us back to the more puzzling and troubling aspects of these few updates: Ayesha's black-outs and lingering affects of the soul drain. Those broke my heart to read, especially when reading more about Uumana's mental state and seeing just where Ayesha can end up if she doesn't find a way to live with what she's endured.

    Which leads us to Simon, Simon. My heart just broke for him here. This line in particular struck me:

    Simon lost track of time. He must have spent two days, maybe more, sitting by Uumana’s coffin and speaking to her as if she could hear him – but then, he had spent five years speaking to her knowing that she could not hear him, and three years in that penal colony still speaking to her when not even her ashes were there, and it didn’t make much of a difference.

    :( :(

    Simon's truly lost so much, and I could completely understand why he was so bitter. Thrawn, as much as I love the man, was very Thrawn about this whole situation: Simon was summoned to his wife's final resting place just when his presence was convenient to help Ayesha. Even so, Simon was still amazingly willing to do so because it was what his wife would have wanted; he still cares about Ayesha in spite of her Imperial connections; he still has that beautiful, caring heart inside of him, even after everything he's been through - that's shown just by him staying on that Outer Rim world and helping the other former prisoners that needed his help. Of course he did. [face_love] And that did lead to my frustration with Ayesha - as divapilot so eloquently expounded on above. Simon's grief is still fresh, and he's trying to deal with that grief in the only way he knows how. If that includes a well founded bitterness and distrust of Imperials - and thus, her bondmate by extension - then I'm surprised that she was not more understanding than she was here, especially after everything she's been through. Saying 'I understand, I was exactly where you are now' and then expecting him to snap out of it was not a good friend move on her part, especially when he was still there in spite of his pain and his anger to help Ayesha with her predicament. I do, however, understand the state of Ayesha's mind not allowing her to emotionally be there for someone else since she's so absorbed in healing herself. I honestly don't think that she was capable of being the friend Simon needed in this scene - because I do not normally think that would be Ayesha's reaction when confronted by the shape his grief took. But, if Ayesha's vast support group treated her like she treated Simon, she would most certainly not be where she is now - which just leads me to hope that when they both recover and find themselves again, they'll be able to meet again under better circumstances, with better attitudes, than they did here.

    - because I do so very dearly hope for further closure and healing for both of them. Ayesha more than deserves a chance to be at peace with her own mind instead of losing it completely, and, as always, you have me eagerly looking forward to more. I am always disappointed when I am done playing catch-up. ;)

  22. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing! As I said, I'm back today with replies and a new chapter, and it's back to our regular Monday-Thursday programming for the foreseeable future.

    Chapter 21
    Thank you! Ayesha is the only person who truly understands how Anakin became Vader and then became Anakin again, because she experienced it as if it were her. Thrawn should be able to do something with that piece of knowledge, but... [face_devil]
    I'm pretty sure that Palps was pulling the strings all along -- the same way he manipulated Thrawn into going in exile and leaving Ayesha vulnerable -- but his true intent was to get to Vader. Ayesha was just an expendable parameter along the way.
    I actually expanded quite a bit on the official literature for this. The facility in the Works is the one we see in the PT (for instance, when Dooku arrives on Coruscant at the end of AotC) but I developed it into something bigger for two reasons: 1) I always thought that Palps would have a place to conduct secret activities and experiments, and 2) I needed a reason for Thrawn to have access to all the information he knows in TTT. I couldn't fathom Palps sharing so much information with anyone of his lieutenants in the first place, and given how I wanted the relationship between him and Thrawn to be antagonistic, with each one trying to manipulate the other, it couldn't be that Palps had given access to everything, including Delta Source, to Thrawn.
    This was partly answered in chapter 22, but I thought I'd clarify anyway -- Ayesha wasn't subjected to Soul Drain herself, as her mind is still there. She was made to witness other people being subjected to Soul Drain (which was also Quinlan Vos's assumption in Part II, chapter 4). The precise way in which it happened is the key to her mental instability.
    First of all, thanks so much for the extensive review -- it's always a treat for me when you catch up on the thread and comment in so much detail ^:)^ To answer your question above, there will be much more about cloning later in this story, but I can tell you straight away that the cloning tank we see here is a cloning tank you already know from somewhere else ;) So far though, it was used for the cloning experiments Palps conducted on himself -- but Thrawn and even Ayesha don't know that yet, and they'll probably never find out.

    Chapter 22

    I'll answer Ny's, divapilot's and Mira's comments on Simon's reaction in one go, because it's basically the same answer for all of you -- and I have to say that I love seeing such varied reactions to the same event in my stories. Simon has known for a while that Uumana is dead (I didn't say it explicitly, but he actually saw her die) and the fact that he hasn't overcome his grief (for entirely understandable reasons) is proof of his love for her. Also, he is absolutely right about Thrawn having acted incredibly selfishly, and his anger and hatred for the Empire are certainly not misplaced. On the other hand, I wanted him to go over the top with Ayesha, because he's not very well in his head at this point. He made a deal with Thrawn that Thrawn would take him back to Uumana's grave in exchange for helping Ayesha, but a doctor who is openly hostile to his patient isn't a very good doctor IMO. And he criticises Thrawn for things he is guilty of himself -- e.g. Thrawn would drop everything he's doing for Ayesha, and similarly Simon abandons his patients for Uumana. Simon is obviously the better man here, but he's far from being perfect.
    Oh, totally. She's always willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, even in situations where, well, maybe she shouldn't. She hasn't realised yet that there are no lines he isn't willing to cross if needed.
    Thank *you* for the idea! My plan initially was for Simon to have a gash across the face, as a callback to Ayesha's many scars, but the cane worked better.
    :) That's another bit I'm going to have to retcon, and I'm exceedingly happy about it.
    *bellows* Welcome back! And yes, 'parasite' is the appropriate term. [face_whistling]
    I'd say that Ayesha had a support group, period. A support group of people who didn't come with any emotional baggage, which also made their stop-the-nonsense comments easier to digest. I doubt that in a penal colony Simon had anyone who was willing to listen to his grief, and he buried himself in his work. But they will be meeting again, very soon :)

    Thanks again, everyone! Next chapter coming up straight away.
  23. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    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.


    Chapter 23: Dilemma

    Simon’s prognosis did little to assuage Thrawn’s fears, and the fact that Ayesha continued having night time terrors and blanking out from time to time became a constant cause for worry to him, but he could see that she was doing her best to discipline the stray thoughts in her mind. She systematically started her day with a long meditation session to practice the Wookiee self-control techniques that her adoptive mother had taught her, and he often woke up to find her sitting cross-legged on the bed with an expression of deep serenity on her face. She kept a regular schedule for all her activities and her voracious appetite had returned, to the point that she had regained her soft curves and her little bump of tummy fat was growing again. There were a few glitches of course, and there were outright difficult moments – he came out of the ‘fresher once to see her standing in front of the mirror with tears in her eyes as she stared at the deep scar the Emperor had left on her abdomen – but all in all they were able to settle into a routine, and a few weeks after her birthday he resumed his daily trips to the Listening Post.

    He did not speak much of the data that his mining in the Emperor’s files yielded, but the fragments that escaped him when Ayesha questioned him, combined with news from Onion and Tashi about the areas on Coruscant that were inhabited mostly by aliens, kept her in a state of constant alert. Disappearances of non-Humans were now a regular occurrence, and they didn’t happen only in the seedy neighbourhoods where crime was rife and missing sentient reports had always gone unanswered. Meanwhile, the self-styled New Republic was scoring victory after victory against Imperial forces in the Inner Rim and the Colonies, and it was obvious that they would soon have a foothold in the Core. “Perhaps we should all leave,” Ayesha suggested to her friends. “We should all go somewhere else. I don’t believe this bantha poodoo that the HoloNet channels are spewing about the Rebels being barbarians, but Coruscant won’t go down without a fight, and I’m not sure I want to be around for it.”

    It was the evening of Life Day and, despite Ayesha’s eagerness to celebrate it with the Wookiee community, they had collectively decided to have a quiet dinner at home instead. Alien kidnappings had multiplied over the past month, leading Ayesha to fear for her brother’s, Rukh’s, Onion’s and Tashi’s safety. Furthermore, a motley group of Humans and aliens wouldn’t escape Isard’s surveillance, and Thrawn was adamant that she had informants everywhere. They were sitting in the dining area, polishing off what crumbs were left of Ayesha’s cooking – she had outdone herself, and Tam was working his way through his fourth helping of stuffed chyntuck with Kashyyyk citru sauce – when the conversation turned to the political situation.

    Onion set his goblet on the table heavily. “I’m not going anywhere, cheeka,” he growled in his usual mangled Basic. “I want to see Isard crash and burn. When the New Republic comes here, I’ll be greeting them with open arms.”

    Tashi giggled. “You mean legs, right?”

    The Dug lifted himself on his rear limbs on the edge of the chair and spread his feet above the table. “I mean arms. I might even practice standing on a single hand for the occasion. I’ve always hated the Empire, and I hope that soon, it will be nothing but a distant memory – a happy one, because all the Imperials will be dead.”

    Mira gave Thrawn an embarrassed look. “I didn’t mean the Capt’, of course,” Onion added, but something indefinable in his feral grin made Ayesha think that he wasn’t entirely sincere. “We’re keeping him, even if he wants to remain an Imperial. But I’d rather you turn coat and join the Republic. I have a hard time understanding what you’re still doing with a bunch of people who kidnap my kind off the streets.”

    Ayesha went to protest, but Thrawn raised a hand to silence her. “All I can say is that I appreciate you giving me the benefit of the doubt, Mabalsa. A time will come when you will have your explanation, be certain of it.”

    There was an uneasy silence. “Do you know what they’re doing with the sentients who disappear, Capt’?” Tashi asked.

    Thrawn sighed. “Unfortunately, I know very little. It seems that this information is stored in a filing system to which I have no access. However, I can assure you that the fall of Imperial Centre is drawing closer with every day that passes. It is obvious that Ysanne Isard is doing next to nothing to defend this planet. Given her record, there must be some sinister scheme behind it, one that I still need to elucidate. But the sooner the New Republic takes Coruscant, the more likely it is that the sentients who went missing can be found alive.”

    “Isn’t she just shipping them off to prison camps?” Kal asked.

    Thrawn sighed again. “Not as far as I know, and I doubt that she would bother setting up a parallel record-keeping system for something so simple. I am also confident that they are not in Lusankya, yet they are still on this planet. I have not even been able to determine where they are being held, and I will not hide from you that such secrecy is cause for concern.”

    There was another, heavy silence. “Can’t you do something about it?” Onion barked. His tone was harsh and scornful, displaying far more than his typical aggressiveness.

    Thrawn’s expression hardened imperceptibly. “If I had an army at hand, I would storm the Imperial Palace to gather information from the source itself, Mabalsa. As things are, I am a rogue officer hiding on Coruscant with a small team of agents under my command. There is little I can do, but I will do what I can.”

    Rumpy saw that Tam was looking at them worriedly – the tension around the table had not gone unnoticed. He quickly changed the subject, and the rest of the evening went by without further incident.

    * * *​

    Two months passed. It wasn’t clear to Ayesha how much longer they would be able to stay on Coruscant, as the New Republic’s military campaign was edging ever closer to the Core, and she spent as much time as she could with her friends, who all agreed that they would rather stay put than move to another Imperial-held world, or to the uncertainty of a planet held by the Rebellion. What upset her to no end was that Onion was now obviously keeping his distance, and, on the rare occasions where he joined them, he came very close to calling Thrawn a traitor. [He’ll come around, Rryi-Bashhi,] Rumpy told her after an evening when the Dug had been particularly unpleasant. [He is having a difficult time, and he copes with it the only way he knows. He’ll come around.]

    “I know he will,” she said sadly. “I’m just worried that he might say something stupid and then there’s no taking it back. Or that he might do something stupid and get himself in trouble, like joining the Alien Combine.”

    Rumpy shrugged. [Only someone with poodoo for a brain would do such a thing. Onion is rash and rude, but he’s smart enough to know what’s good for him.]

    “I don’t know,” she muttered. “He’s been saying a lot of nonsense lately. I really feel like he blames Humans, all Humans, for this situation. Even Kal and Mira. Even Tam. Did you hear what he said in Huttese today about him being a child of privilege?”

    Thrawn carried the last of the plates to the kitchen and activated the housekeeping droid before coming back to sit at her side. “Your friend is venting,” he said in his even voice. “Given the circumstances, it is entirely understandable. However, you may want to have a word with Tashi about him. He is spending far more time in the Underlevels than is sensible. It is evidence of his good heart, of course – he is seeking to help those who are in a worse predicament than his own. But in days such as these, it is not reasonable. At best, he will merely draw unwanted attention to himself by associating with the various shady characters that populate those neighbourhoods. At worst, he will join the ranks of the disappeared. I was told of nearly three dozen kidnappings in Invisec in the past week alone.”

    Ayesha looked at him curiously. “How do you know that he goes down there?”

    “Rukh has been investigating the disappearances. He saw Onion in Invisec once and decided to monitor him for a few days.”

    “Did he find out where these poor people are being taken?”

    Thrawn sighed – she had noticed that he sighed a lot these days. “As far as we can tell, to the Imperial Palace, which perplexes me to no end. I find it difficult to believe that Ysanne Isard has turned an entire level into a detention area without it appearing anywhere in the databases. Yet given the numbers she has abducted, it is impossible that they are kept in a mere few rooms.” He sighed again. “I did not wish to share my assumption with you, Ayoo’sha, and I would rather you do not discuss it with your friends. But I believe that those people who disappeared will never be seen again.”

    Ayesha gasped. “You think she’s killing them?”

    “I think that she is doing something far worse. The files show that an inordinate amount of medical equipment and supplies was purchased for the Palace over the past year. Scientists and experts are being transferred to Coruscant from the furthest reaches of the Empire. Every few days, a number of new test subjects is entered in the records – a number that is disturbingly close to the number of abductions. I believe that she is conducting experiments on non-Humans, for what purpose I do not know.”

    Rumpy let out an angry growl. [She must be stopped.]

    Thrawn sighed once more. “How I wish that were possible.”

    There was a silence. “But there must be something we can do,” Ayesha blurted. “We can spread the word, we –”

    “There is nothing we can do at this stage,” Thrawn interrupted. “This is merely an assumption on my behalf, and there is only circumstantial evidence that I may be correct.” He laid his hand on her shoulder. “Believe me when I told you that I examined all possibilities, Ayoo’sha. I even tried to consult with Doctor Simon to determine what type of experiment she may be conducting, but the data I have gathered so far is insufficient for such an analysis. All we can do is bide our time, and when we have adequate information and proof, I will do what can be done. Meanwhile, you should speak with Tashi. Ensure that your friends are safe. That is the only thing we can do now.”

    There was another silence. “How is Simon?” she asked timidly.

    Thrawn’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “Not better. He would not allow me into the Centre, we spoke on the platform. He is still holed up there and made it abundantly clear that he does not want our company. Rukh has been delivering supplies to his door. I left him a note last week, telling him that I recommend he leaves Coruscant as soon as possible. I received no answer.”

    “I should go there,” Ayesha said after a pause. “It’s been four months. He can’t spend that much time all alone, with a coffin for company.”

    Thrawn’s face hardened. “You should not. He went into a fit of rage when he saw me. He is not done grieving yet. I do not know if he ever will.” He stood up to pull her to her feet, and sighed again. “It seems that there is very little we can do for those we love these days,” he said sadly. “Come now. You need to rest.”

    Ayesha hugged Rumpy goodnight, and to the Noghri’s great surprise she stepped forward and hugged Rukh too. “Be careful,” she whispered. “Please be careful. And thank you.”

    * * *​

    The New Republic’s victorious march across the Galaxy came to an abrupt halt at Borleias shortly before the Festival of Stars, and it appeared for a moment that the fall of Coruscant would be delayed, but the Rebel Navy returned four weeks later to take the planet, and as the year entered its final month they resumed their campaign with what seemed to be unstoppable momentum. Thrawn now disappeared to the Listening Post for days at a time, and Ayesha hardly saw him anymore, but when he came home he was visibly torn between his need to gather more information, which required his presence on Coruscant, and his concern for Ayesha’s safety if – and when – the war were to come to Imperial Centre. He repeated several times the suggestion that she and her friends leave the planet temporarily, an offer that they systematically declined, and on New Year’s Eve, after they had put Tam to bed and were sitting with drinks in the atrium, he asked for a pause in the conversation and began speaking very formally.

    “We all understand that the coming months will lead to changes in the Galaxy that we can only begin to fathom. This new year will bring about the end of the Empire as we know it, and I expect this to happen sooner rather than later. The Rebellion will take Coruscant within a couple of months, three at most.”

    “About time too,” Onion growled. “The situation in the Underlevels is unbearable. Sentients are disappearing every day. They’ve made it clear that alien problems aren’t their problem.”

    “The Rebellion are caught in a conundrum,” Thrawn replied evenly. “They want Coruscant to fall, but they want to do it in a way that protects the civilian population and that does not damage essential facilities irreparably. I do not know what plan they will devise, but I have no doubt that it will be creative.”

    “How do you know that, Capt’?” Tashi asked.

    A faint smile touched Thrawn’s lips. “I am a strategist, Tashi. I have studied the Rebels’ methods. They have managed to take the Galaxy with forces that are far inferior in numbers, poorly equipped and poorly trained. This type of achievement requires quite a level of skill.”

    Kal chuckled. “What the Capt’ isn’t telling us is that he has spies within the Rebellion.” The Chiss went to speak, but he raised a hand. “You don’t need to tell us, Capt’. But we can guess that you have devious ways of collecting information. Anyway, carry on. We don’t get to speak about these things often, and I’m very interested in what you have to say.”

    Thrawn paused for a moment to collect his thoughts. “My concern is, of course, that you all remain safe through the difficult times that are to come, and my recommendations are twofold. The first aspect, which is rather obvious, is that you prepare adequate supplies in your homes for a situation where the battle for Coruscant lasts several days. As I said, the Rebellion will seek to avoid civilian casualties. Ysanne Isard will not.”

    “Didn’t you tell us that Isard isn’t doing much to defend Coruscant, Capt’?” Tashi asked.

    “She is doing very little. Hardly anything, actually, but Coruscant is well-defended by a double planetary shield, and she will put up a fight for the sake of verisimilitude. My understanding is that she is luring the Rebellion into a trap by handing them over a world in a situation that they cannot handle.”

    “As in...?”

    “She may damage the power supply, or the water supply, making daily life impossible for a population of trillions. She may ensure that the Rebellion have to destroy the planetary shield, leaving Coruscant indefensible and at the mercy of warlords such as Zsinj. She may seek to stir such civil unrest and tensions between species” – he gave Onion a pointed look – “that the new government will be bogged down in endless negotiations and remain unable to actually govern. She also has more sinister schemes, which, I hope, will never come to fruition because they would spell a disaster of galactic proportions. However, the identity and background of a certain individual who was transferred to Coruscant recently is an indication that she is extremely serious about achieving her goal. Which brings me to my second recommendation.” He paused briefly and let his eyes wander from one member of the little assembly to another. “Isolate yourselves. Do not leave your residences unless you have to, avoid close contact with strangers, maintain the highest possible standards of hygiene. And particularly for those of us who are obviously not Human, keep a low profile. If my assumption regarding Ysanne Isard’s intentions is remotely correct, the abductions will multiply in the coming weeks.”

    Onion snorted. “The abductions have already multiplied. The way things are going, there won’t be a single Gamorrean or Quarren left on Coruscant by the time the New Republic comes. They’re disappearing in droves.”

    Thrawn’s expression became sombre. “Believe me when I tell you that it could be worse, Mabalsa. It could be worse.”


    Note: The end of this chapter (first and second battle of Borleias) takes place concurrently with the novel X-Wing: Rogue Squadron. The "individual who was transferred to Coruscant" is Evir Derricote.
  24. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    =D= Wonderfully fascinating stuff about the disappearances of non-Humans and the resulting dichotomies and conflicts between friends :( Dividing themselves along political lines.

    This dovetails snugly and very well with Legendsverse of the fall of Coruscant - and I love the sense of urgency - we have to get out of here while it's still safe. Although I do understand why Ayesha's friends feel compelled to stay, regardless and take their chances.
    AzureAngel2 and Kahara like this.
  25. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Oops! RL has caused me to fall behind on commenting once again. Good to see this resuming a regular schedule, though. Please remind me: does part 3 have 30 chapters in all? 40? (You said once, but now I can't recall, and search is down.)

    22: Part of me was thrilled to see good ol' Simon again, but another part of me was so sad to see him laid so low, in such a wretched state! He's certainly got a very valid point about Thrawn's treatment of him—Thrawn left him in the lurch in a BIG WAY at a very critical juncture and is approaching him now only as a tool to suit his needs. (Which seems very Thrawn-ish way of interacting with people, because heck, he's even taken that approach with his own lifemate.) He's even got somewhat of a valid point about Ayesha's association with Thrawn: how much thought has she really given to the difficult position this relationship of hers places her in, socially and politically? (That of course resurfaces in chapter 23, where Onion makes a similar point—and with that point coming at Ayesha from those two very different places, I hope she'll give it some serious further thought.)

    divapilot 's point about the Cheunh inscription is very well taken: it shows that Thrawn's "proper burial" of Uumana was done more for Ayesha than for Uumana herself or for anyone else associated with her. And sure, in some ways respect shown for the dead really is ultimately more done for the living, but there is more than a hint of selfishness in this particular instance. I know this will probably sound fatalistic and pessimistic and just plain miserable, but part of me just can't help but think it was done with the main intent of wooing Ayesha back rather than for showing any real respect for the Kerevićs and all they've been through. But, alas, oh so in character for Thrawn... you've really nailed his character 100% here, and this episode cinches it.

    I do understand better what you are saying about Soul Drain now: even though Ayesha wasn't a victim of it herself, she saw it happen enough times that it can't help but affect her. And at least one good thing coming out of this tense interaction with Simon is that Ayesha knows a little bit better about what's happening inside her mind, and what to do about it. I've noticed throughout the course of this story that there are so many things from her past that she doesn't want to talk about, that she doesn't want to confront, that she doesn't want anyone to know, etc.: the shutting-outof the negative memories of which Simon speaks seems to be part of a long-term pattern for her, and one that never seemed quite healthy. I am curious to see how she will end up confronting them when the critical moment comes, because I sense that it's not too far off. It seems like it could very much be one of those "darkest hour is just before dawn" situations.

    The notion of the parasitic intelligence still lurking inside Ayesha is intriguing, partly because [hl=black]unborn babies are sometimes spoken of that way, since they one-sidedly feed off the mother's nutrients and resources. The baby's body is gone, but is its noncorporeal consciousness still lurking somehow?[/hl] [face_thinking]

    23: Again, one of the most interesting things to me about this chapter for me is that Onion is sending the same message to Thrawn and Ayesha that Simon did, or at least a similar message, though of course in a different and much more Onion-ish way. And, in the true spirit of the polar-opposite characterization those two characters have had from the start, their conversation on the subject leads only to the situation known in German as "die Ochsen stehen am Berge": "the oxen stand at the mountain"—namely, neither convinces the other, neither budge in their views, and no progress is made. I doubt that "it could be worse" is going to cut much ice for Onion.

    And now I'm rather worried for him and Tashi and Rumpy and Ayesha's other non-Human friends, as well as concerned about Thrawn's nonchalance about the whole situation. Indeed, the fact that Ysanne is doing so little—or seems to be—is very worrying, because it no doubt means she has something up her sleeve (which we know she does from the disappearances of the non-Humans). I hope Thrawn's advice about self-isolation and not leaving the house and keeping low profiles will help; it's kind of nebulous advice, really, but it's a place to start.

    Looking forward to seeing what will happen next, and hoping wholeheartedly that Tashi, Onion, and co. will be all right! [face_nail_biting]