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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! My home internet has been down since yesterday and I'm posting this during the afternoon coffee break at work, so I apologise if the replies are a little short.
    I'm pretty sure Thrawn is completely baffled [face_laugh] As for Quin... well, you beta-read the next chapter already, so you know what will happen ;)

    Was it really the painting though? Or even a vision? Or was it simply things that Ayesha knows, but that she won't admit to herself? Or a little bit of everything? [face_devil]
    Well, as you guessed, the answer is indeed [face_whistling] but you won't have to wait long for an explanation since the story is entering is final stretch, there are only a few chapters left :) What I will clarify though is that no, no New Canon here. Leia isn't pregnant yet, so we simply don't know if she'll have one or two children or more.
    As I said above, Leia will be having twins when the time comes :) I mostly agree with the rest though -- although I don't regret the existence of dorky-Vader-wannabe Kylo Ren, he was one of my favourite characters in TFA :p

    Thanks again, everyone! Next chapter up straight away.
     
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  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.

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

    Chapter 43: Betrayal

    The first thing Ayesha glimpsed when she woke up was Killik Twilight on the wall facing her bed. The idea that the precious moss painting was now in her possession helped her keep her temper in check – she couldn’t remember going to sleep and the bitterness in her mouth told her that she had been sedated. There was a glass of wroshyr sap syrup on the bedside table and an exhausted-looking Thrawn was dozing off in an armchair nearby, his datapad on his lap. His eyes snapped open as soon as she shifted under the covers, and the mingle of concern and relief on his face drained away the last of her anger. He came to sit on the edge of the bed.

    “How are you feeling, Ayoo’sha’nek?”

    She smiled sleepily. “I’m fine. You worry too much.”

    “In my defence, I will argue that you constantly give me new causes for concern.” He leaned closer to kiss her forehead. “I apologise for forcing you to sleep. You were somewhat... incoherent, and I was certain that you needed to rest despite your assurances to the contrary.”

    “I wasn’t incoherent, Qubshi be-khadeeb. I had a vision. I was only trying to understand it.”

    He sighed. “Ayoo’sha, how could it be a vision when Lord Vader has been dead and gone –”

    “It’s not Lord Vader, it’s Anakin,” she interrupted with a glance at the holocube. “He grew up in Mos Espa, you know. I remembered all his childhood while I was there. And” – she gestured towards the Olbio tree – “the vision stopped the moment Rukh brought me here. That’s not a coincidence.”

    Thrawn stared at her for a moment. “What is it that you saw, precisely?”

    She shook her head. “It was complicated... confusing. It started with Killik Twilight.”

    His eyes shot towards the moss painting. “Should I remove it?”

    She shrugged. “It wasn’t the cause of the vision. By the way, how did you get your hands on it?”

    Her attempt at changing the subject was blatant, but Thrawn let it slide. “We purchased it from a Squib on Tatooine.”

    “A Squib?”

    His eyes twinkled, mirroring her own amusement. “It is a rather long story, the abbreviated version of which is that Leia Organa Solo recovered it from Kitster Banai, and once she had collected whatever it was she required from it, she passed it on to the Squib who sold it to us.”

    “What was she after, if not the painting itself?”

    “There is a secret compartment in the watering mechanism, probably designed to contain a datachip. Had it not been for my troops’ incompetence, it would be in my hands now.”

    There was a brief silence. “You had to give up on leading your men on Tatooine to look after me, didn’t you?” she asked guiltily.

    “And I do not regret it in the least, Ayoo’sha. Your well-being matters infinitely more than any machinations of the Rebellion. As for my men... I have very nearly reached the conclusion that they are a lost cause. I am afraid that we will spend the coming months doing combat drills, if we are to conquer the Galaxy in the not-too-distant future.” He stifled a yawn. “In the meantime, we have Killik Twilight. Consider it an early present for our eighth anniversary at the end of this year.”

    She pulled him close and held him tightly. His lips began playing in her neck, and despite the fact that she could see plainly that he needed to sleep, she gave in to the temptation and nibbled his ear. His eyes had taken the familiar phosphorescent glow when he pulled back to look at her. “So, Ayoo’sha’nek... would it be conceited of me to hope for an early expression of gratitude to my present?”

    * * *​

    In the following weeks Thrawn dedicated his efforts to improving the performance of the crew of the Star Destroyers that constituted his fleet. A combination of talent, intimidation, arm-twisting and, not least of all, Pellaeon’s diplomacy, had enabled him to secure the loyalty and obedience of the ship captains, but the rank-and-file were in dire need of additional training. The elite of the Imperial Fleet had been lost when the Executor crashed into the Death Star at Endor, and replacing experienced military personnel was a time-consuming task. The battle station alarms rang aboard the Chimaera at the oddest hours, regularly jolting Ayesha out of her sleep. The first few times, the sound brought back memories of the battle against the Far Outsiders, and she was terrified – but she soon understood that, unless Thrawn was reaching for his uniform in the middle of the night, it was merely a drill, and she went back to bed.

    Thrawn maintained his cool facade when talking about his work, but she could see his impatience. With a little prodding he admitted that he found the crew’s progress excruciatingly slow. “At this pace, it will take years to obtain a fighting force that can take on the Rebellion,” he explained. “One wonders how the Empire could last as long as it did, with such poorly trained troops.”

    Ayesha gave him a curious look. “I’m sure you have an explanation for that.”

    He nodded. “I have been reviewing my tactical recordings of Endor – as you know I arrived there too late to execute my plans, but I was able to watch the battle unfold – and it is clear that pugnacity faltered at the precise moment when the Emperor died, some ten minutes before the Death Star’s communication routers were lost. He must have been performing Battle Meditation to coordinate the fleet. Without his power, our ships were... aimless.”

    She pondered his words a little. “He could perform Battle Meditation while doing everything he did to Anakin? That’s a scary thought.”

    “Indeed. However, it is the only rational explanation – provided that there is anything rational about this mysterious energy field you call the Force.”

    Thrawn’s commitment to the fleet left Ayesha very much to her own devices. Her contacts with Vermel were limited because of the size of the crew that was installing the computers, monitors and repeater displays in the Admiral’s secondary bridge, and she spent hours on end alone in her quarters. Her attempts at meditation were often disrupted by Killik Twilight. The painting attracted her eyes like a magnet, and sometimes an entire day passed as she simply stared at it. The positive, however, was that it became an endless source of inspiration. She filled page after page of her sketchpad with doodles of a Killik sculpt she was planning to create when she would have access to a workshop, and, despite her reluctance to further reflect on the vision she had had, she also pencilled several drawings of the things she had seen, as well as other, random images from her past. She rarely had the opportunity to show her work to Thrawn and, even though she understood the importance of what he was doing, she missed their conversations terribly. When he told her that he had made arrangements with Captain Pellaeon to be able to spend the first day of the Festival of Stars in her company, she was beyond herself with joy.

    Thrawn even managed to return from the bridge earlier than usual on the Festival’s eve, and for the first time in weeks they shared the dinner supplied by the Chimaera’s kitchens. Ayesha wore her skimpiest outfit for the occasion – one of the backless tops and short skirts she had favoured for sunbathing on Coruscant had somehow found their way into her luggage – and their stargazing session in front of the viewport didn’t last long. The next morning, she got up and slipped on one of her floor-length nightgowns to prepare breakfast for him. The caf became cold when he pulled her back to bed as she went to wake him up, and it was already late when they finally sat to eat the spice buns she had baked in the tiny kitchenette, but she didn’t mind that her effort had gone to waste. For a few hours, she felt like she was reliving the lazy mornings on Coruscant when Thrawn didn’t need to go any further than his study and when she spent her days in her workshop, oblivious to all the ills that were about to befall her – and the rest of the Galaxy.

    They then moved to the little sofa in their lounge and she brought her sketchpad for Thrawn to see. He looked at her incomprehensible doodles with his usual puzzlement – “it is a testament to the complexity of your soul that, after all these years, I can still not decipher these,” he said – but what truly caught his attention was the multitude of portraits she had produced. Some were people he recognised – Daric LaRone, Anakin Skywalker, Leia Organa Solo and a young, bearded man whom he knew from the old wanted posters to be Obi-Wan Kenobi – and some he asked her to identify. He finally laid the pad on the armrest. “Ayoo’sha, I understand that this is not something you wish to discuss. However, it has been two months since the auction, and you have still not told me what you saw in your vision.”

    She shrugged. “I don’t know how to describe it. I tried to draw it, but...” Her voice trailed off.

    He pointed at the sketchpad that was open on a portrait of a dark-skinned man with yellow eyes. “Were these individuals all in this vision?”

    “Not this one. This... he was waiting for the Emperor on Wayland.”

    He arched an eyebrow. “Why did you depict him together with those you saw on Tatooine?”

    “I don’t know. I must have connected him with Paraseel Malki.”

    His eyes narrowed. “Do you believe that this is a Sith Acolyte who is guarding the Emperor’s secret base?”

    She shrugged once more. “It could be. I’m sure he’s a Dark Side user, look at his eyes.”

    Thrawn looked at her carefully. “Ayoo’sha, I would like you to do something – if not for yourself, at least for my peace of mind. Please contact your Jedi uncle. We have exhausted the possibilities that modern medicine has to offer with regards to healing you, but Reis Azada was able to help you” – she went to object – “to some extent at least,” he added. “Perhaps a fully trained Jedi could do more.”

    She sighed. “I don’t think Uncle Quin can do anything he hasn’t already done. But I’d love to see him anyway, so yes, let’s talk to him.”

    He wrapped an arm around her and pressed his lips to the top of her head. “Please. I would not want to leave out that possibility, however small.”

    * * *​

    Getting in touch with Quinlan Vos proved more difficult than Ayesha had anticipated. The contact details she had only allowed her to leave a message, and it took some back-and-forth to persuade him to communicate with an Imperial Star Destroyer. Once they were finally able to talk face-to-face on a highly encrypted channel, it took even longer to iron out the details of their encounter. Thrawn was adamant that Ayesha would not leave the Chimaera, and Vos was equally stubborn in his demand that they meet on neutral ground. It took all of Ayesha’s patience, and a few moments of marked impatience, to come to an agreement. Vos would bring his ship into one of the smaller hangar bays of the Chimaera and Ayesha and Thrawn would come on board. Furthermore, Thrawn would be unarmed, whereas the Jedi would be allowed to carry his lightsaber and any other weapons he saw fit.

    “Your uncle does not trust me at all,” Thrawn told Ayesha as he switched off the holocomm.

    She sighed. “He doesn’t trust the Empire. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, really. But I’m sure everything will be okay.”

    The Chimaera left the fleet to proceed to the rendezvous point in a remote corner of the Outer Rim, and one month after the Festival of Stars, the morning when Ayesha would see her uncle again finally came. She donned her cloak and veil and headed with Thrawn to the turbolifts. It was the middle of the graveyard shift, but she could tell that the hallways had been emptied even of night guards to allow for her passage to go unnoticed. They arrived in the hangar bay to see a custom-built craft on the spot that was normally occupied by Rukh’s ship.

    The boarding ramp came down with a hiss and Ayesha and Thrawn climbed aboard. Vos was waiting for them in the small lounge. Ayesha pulled back her veil and her hood, and she was about to launch herself at him, when a rasping voice croaked, “You didn’t tell Villie you were coming here for a yum-yum.”

    A red-skinned Devaronian stood in the doorframe, his two rows of teeth uncovered in a leery smile. Thrawn was opening his mouth to snap at him, but Vos answered first. “Don’t even think of it, Vilmarh.”

    The Devaronian seemed for a moment to want to challenge the Jedi’s authority, but Vos lifted himself to his full height, fingering his lightsaber conspicuously. “Villie will go and sit in the cockpit,” the alien finally said.

    The Kiffar grinned. “Good idea.” He waited for the door to slide shut behind Villie and turned to Ayesha, pulling her in a bear hug. “Don’t mind Vilmarh, kiddo. He’s just the pilot I hired for this trip.”

    Ayesha hugged him back. “Is he the one who helped you escape from Nar Shaddaa?”

    “Yup. The one and only.” He sat back on his chair and gestured towards the passenger bench along the wall. “What’s our business?”

    Ayesha glanced at Thrawn. “I wanted to see you, Uncle Quin. It’s been a long time and –”

    The Kiffar raised a hand. “Cut to the chase, will you? You didn’t invite me on a Star Destroyer just to say hi, and I don’t want to stay here any longer than I have to.” At this Ayesha was taken aback. “I don’t mean that I’m not happy seeing you, kid. But I’d like it a lot better if I could see you somewhere else” – he looked at Thrawn pointedly – “and with someone else.”

    “Someone else isn’t going to happen, Uncle Quin,” she said quietly. “Somewhere else... I can only hope that it will happen more than once. I missed you.”

    Vos’s face softened. “I missed you too, Ayesha. Now tell me what I can do for you.”

    Ayesha looked at Thrawn again, as if inviting him to speak. He cleared his throat. “Ayesha has had a vision. She believes that it was a Force vision, and I believe that this is causing further damage to her mind, or at the very least –”

    “Whoa, start from the beginning, will you? I haven’t seen you in six years. All the news I got was that Ayesha needed a healing trance, and then Rumpy left a rather cryptic message. I need the whole story.”

    Ayesha collected her thoughts and gave her uncle a quick rundown of what had happened from the day she had been kidnapped by the Royal Guards to her recent trip to Tatooine. Her story had Vos seething. “Didn’t I tell you that you have to protect her?” he asked Thrawn. “And you brought Vader to heal her instead?”

    “Lord Vader was my only recourse once you refused to help,” the Chiss answered glacially. “I assure you that he would never have come anywhere near Ayesha had I –”

    The two men were glaring laser bolts at each other. Ayesha intervened. “Would you like me to keep Villie company in the cockpit?” she snapped. “Because if you insist on blaming each other, I’ll probably be better off over there.”

    The Kiffar studied her for a moment. “Can you tell me more about that vision?”

    He didn’t miss the embarrassed glance she threw at Thrawn. “I don’t know how to describe it, Uncle Quin. If it’s okay with you, maybe you can come in my head and see it instead?” Thrawn went to protest. “It’s okay,” she said reassuringly. “Uncle Quin put me in many healing trances before. It won’t hurt me.”

    Quinlan Vos surrendered his chair to Ayesha and stood in front of her. The flow of images began as soon as his hand made contact with her hair. The Killiks charged towards the Far Outsiders, the Daric LaRones rescued the Jedi from the arena, she was held prisoner with Leia Organa... Thrawn morphed into Paraseel Malki, but the vision didn’t stop there. Her captor gave her a malevolent smile and went to take her child. A red spot spread over his heart and he crumpled to the ground, revealing Rukh, who was extracting his assassin blade from his back. The scene shifted abruptly, and she saw a devastated landscape where an army of Noghri bowed in submission before the towering silhouette of Darth Vader.

    She heard voices somewhere very far away, and she came to her senses in the freighter’s common room. Thrawn was fussing over her, wiping sweat from her cheeks and neck, but the scowl on her uncle’s face terrified her. He was staring at the Chiss with an expression of utter loathing. “So,” he said very slowly and ominously. “It wasn’t bad enough that Sidious poisoned Honoghr, you had to enslave the Noghri too?”

    Thrawn immediately reverted to his perfectly impassive expression. “I do not know what you are talking about.”

    “Don’t lie to me,” Vos snorted. “I can feel it through the Force.” His gaze intensified. “What else is there that you’re hiding?”

    “I am hiding a great many things, Jedi Vos. I am a military man. However –”

    “However, you are hiding things from Ayesha. You’re lying to her.” He turned to his niece. “He’s lying to you, kid. You think that he’s a good man, but he’s not what he seems. Just watch.”

    His hand reached for Thrawn’s brow and the Chiss suddenly clutched his head in pain as images from his mind began flooding Ayesha’s. She saw space battles and death commandos and prison cells. She saw pain and lies and treachery, she saw children torn away from their parents, she saw hundreds of deformed bodies in transparent tubes. She saw the devastated planet again, where the Noghri were now bowing to Thrawn. She heard the Emperor’s laughter, and she experienced a surge of panic, because the darkness was winning again.

    She found herself standing between her uncle and her lifemate, the Kiffar’s cheek a bright red where she had slapped him. “You’re just like him,” she whispered in dismay. “You’re just like Paraseel Malki. You talk about being a Jedi and everything, but when push comes to shove... you go in others’ minds and steal whatever you want.”

    Vos took a step back. “You have to know, Ayesha. You can’t spend your life with this monster. He’s –”

    “Shut up!” she shouted. “Shut up. There’s only one monster in here, and it’s you. You’re a mind thief – like Paraseel Malki.” She let out a sob. “Like Paraseel Malki.”

    There was a silence. She finally turned to Thrawn and helped him to his feet. “We’re done here. Let’s go.”

    They had barely taken a step towards the boarding ramp when they heard a snap-hiss, and the room took a faint green hue in the light of the glowing blade. “I can’t allow you to stay here, Ayesha,” the Jedi said calmly. “He can leave, but you’re going to have to come with me.”

    She spun around to face him, letting out a string of curses that would have made a spacer blush, but Thrawn placed a hand on her arm. “Perhaps we can make an exchange,” he said sardonically. “You can take away Ayesha, and I will keep your wife.”

    The Jedi snorted. “You don’t have my wife.”

    Thrawn’s lips curved into a smile. “You could say that. Or you could concede that my Noghri agent watching your apartment in Coronet City, on the twenty-fifth floor of the residential building facing Treasure Ship Row, can be described as ‘having’ her. If you need confirmation, I invite you to read my mind.”

    The two men stared at each other in a contest of wills, until Vos relented and deactivated his lightsaber. “Excellent. You will remain here until Flight Control gives you permission to leave.”

    He pulled Ayesha’s veil over her face and led her to the turbolift. Her head was twitching under her hood as they rode back to their quarters. “He’s talking to me,” she whispered. “He’s still talking to me.” She tapped her forehead for emphasis.

    She ran to the ‘fresher as soon as they reached their bedroom and retched violently. By the time Thrawn joined her, she had torn off her clothes and was sobbing above the sink. Without hesitating, he pulled a hypospray from the med pack and pressed it to her neck. He carried her to bed and covered her with a blanket, then planted himself firmly under the Olbio tree and flicked on his comlink. “Authorisation granted for the freighter Inferno to leave hangar bay number forty-two. Ensure that she follows her designated flight path. She could be hostile.”

    He kept his attention on the viewport until the Devaronian’s ship materialised against the blackness of space. He gave the briefest of glances at Ayesha, checked that he was standing under the ysalamir and activated his comlink again. “This is the Admiral. The Inferno is in possession of stolen military secrets. Shoot her down.”

    The sky outside erupted into an aurora of turbolasers. The freighter jerked left and right to avoid the beams that were splattering against its shields, but it was obviously not equipped to sustain the full onslaught of an Imperial Star Destroyer. Within seconds, it exploded into a cloud of luminous dust that quickly faded away, and the blackness returned.

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

    Notes:

    Vilmarh Grahrk is a rather colourful character borrowed from the Star Wars: Republic comics. The Inferno is his private ship.

    The poisoning of Honoghr is first mentioned in TTT, but the background story is told from Commander Bly's perspective in Star Wars: Republic 68 -- Armor. Technically, Honoghr was poisoned by the Trade Federation, but Quin knows that Sidious was behind it.
     
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  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Squeelicious early scenes followed by wow! A true contest of wills and stunning revelations! Multifaceted levels of meaning to the chapter title. I always knew Vader and of course Palpatine knew of the poisoning of Honoghr, but I do not think Thrawn was privy to that unless it came out through the stuff from the "Listening Post."

    The fact that Thrawn claims and probably did think to have Quin's wife as a hostage - certainly draws the reader up short. Talk about a contingency! [face_thinking]
     
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  4. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Good heavens! :eek: Wow, much to process here. I almost wonder who is "right" in this matter—Thrawn or Quin? One could say that a Jedi mind-read doesn't lie—or does it? If it doesn't, then Thrawn has much, much to answer for, both to the Noghri and to Ayesha. But then there's the ethics of the thing: is Quin really overstepping the bounds of what's right for a Jedi? Is the single mind-grab he performs on Thrawn enough to put him in the same category as Paraseel Malki, or is that Ayesha's denial speaking? I don't know the answer to any of those things.

    As if that wasn't enough, there's Thrawn's actions at the end, which in a way confirm that what Vos found out about him is true (and though I'm not very conversant in this branch of the EU, I seem to remember that [hl=black]Thrawn does enslave the Noghri, which eventually is what leads Rukh to stab him[/hl]. The way he makes sure to sit right under the ysalamir (I almost feel sorry for that poor beastie being wrapped up in all this) so that Quin can't sense what he's doing just compounds it somehow—makes it extra sneaky, an act of subterfuge. But "murder will out, certain it will not fail," n'est-ce pas? There too, though, I'm not really sure. But whatever the case may be, things are certainly ramping up to quite a conclusion for the epic as a whole!

    And of course it's always a treat to see the inimitable Vilmarh "Villie" Grahrk just about anywhere, even for a moment. :D (I do hope he's all right, though! [face_nail_biting])
     
  5. CheckSix

    CheckSix Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 15, 2015
    Here are my reviews of 5 and 6. I hope they are helpful.
    Chapter 5

    At first, I couldn’t figure out why Ayesha’s hands were shaking and she was nervous. I think that’s due to the short chapters that I’m reading several days apart, and not a reflection on your writing. Normally, in a novel, several of the shorter chapters would be combined, and I would read them in one sitting, thus keeping my memory fresh. But even so, you did a good job of reminding the reader of why Ayesha would be nervous when you later bring up the raid in chapter 6.

    This chapter is very nicely written stylistically, as always. And the backstory regarding the book and Thrawn’s exile (which, to a new reader like me, is a mystery and whets my appetite to know more about it) is inserted in a natural, unforced way. Sometimes, when a writer tries in reveal backstory in bits and pieces, it can feel coerced and break the rhythm of a story; so I definitely commend you on how you’ve fed us little morsels, not only in this chapter but the others as well.

    I have one observation and one critique.

    My observation is that Ayesha seemed somewhat of a different character in this chapter. I admit I was surprised to read her “hugging her knees and tearing up.” She’s been a very cool and collected customer up to this point. I take it your intention was to reveal her more vulnerable side when faced with adversity or fear. And yes, I think you showed that; however, from what I've read so far, I would have expected her reaction to still be a bit more stoic. That is purely subjective on my part, and does nothing to lessen my enjoyment of the story.

    My critique is a minor one: the scene with Mahk. I think he’s very quickly become a foil and jealous archtype (and not knowing future chapters, perhaps that is your intention for him). The line about “Stay away from her, freak” did strike me as a bit out-of-the-blue, even for a jealous about-to-be-jilted ex-lover. It just seemed that the scene was a bit heavy-handed. Perhaps a more subtle exposition of his hatred??



    Chapter 6

    I’ll start with my critique in this chapter, since it’s the same from the last one: Ayesha’s severing the ties with Mahk could benefit from a bit more soul-searching – or even a delay. The premise of “he can’t tell me who to talk to” is a bit thin, especially considering the devil-may-care attitude she has about parting ways with him. I understand this must be to make room for Thrawn as a romantic interest, and girl power is a nice thing – but in the previous chapter, Ayesha was the polar opposite of girl power. So, I think there’s a slight bit of “who is the real Ayesha?” Again, that may be what you’re going for; and if so, well done.

    That being said, I will be happy to see whatever becomes of Mahk . . .

    Technical: “I’d never heard about them before” she added questioningly. >>I’m not sure where the question is.
     
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  6. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you for reading and reviewing! A few quick replies, starting as usual with CheckSix.
    They most definitely are!
    Thanks for pointing that out! That's one of those things I'll need to fix when I go back and do some edits for the boards version, at least. This is the first story I posted on the boards and I realised over time that this sort of serialised storytelling comes with its own set of rules. When you write a novel for print, the need to recap what happened in the previous chapter just isn't the same, because as you said the reader is reading in a more linear fashion. I've been looking back through previous chapters now that I'm finishing this story, and I'm realising that I planted a very important clue, say, 80 chapters earlier -- since that was posted one year ago, I'll be amazed if anyone still remembers it.
    I tried to avoid information dumps, but as you'll see later in this story, I wasn't always successful. But if I'm making you want to read the Thrawn books, I'll count this as a win :)
    I'll get back to the Ayesha bit of my reply below, but I'll say this about Makh straight away. I did want Makh to be a moron in every possible sense of the word (chauvinistic, prejudiced, possessive, etc). When the story starts, Ayesha is dating a bully -- a smart, cultured bully, but a bully nevertheless. So the whole scene with Makh is meant to say something not so much about him, but about her. Of course, once I had created that moron character, I had to bring him back later in the story, because he's just too much fun to torture :p (Also, sadly, he's based off a real person I know, to whom my best friend happens to be married -- I never figured that one out.)
    Well, "who is the real Ayesha?" is indeed one of the central questions of this story :) But there again, the fact that she ditches Makh so easily was intended to show that she's in some aspects a normal twenty-seven year old (she dates a guy without any strings attached) and in other aspects she's very childlike, clinging to her family as if her life depends on it. There are of course reasons for all that that will come through later in the story, but I'll see how I can revise these chapters to keep the mood swings without going over the top.
    The implication was that she's prompting Thrawn to say where he knows them from. One-and-a-half years on, I realise that this sort of ellipsis is a very Greek way of using an adverb (which also adds "checking the adverbs" to my to-do list, because as you probably noticed I'm very fond of them!)
    Once more, since you've beta-read the next chapter, you know the answers (if you still believe what Thrawn says ;) ) so I'll just skip this bit :)

    I have known you for nearly two years, and I never knew you're a Villie fan! (Come to think of it, we can probably fit him in the Eliskandro-Bonvika story when we finally get around to writing it.)

    As for the rest of your questions, as I said for Ny's comments, they're answered in the upcoming chapter. But yes, what you remember of the EU is absolutely correct. This story stops well before the battle of Bilbringi, which is the moment when things unravel on the Noghri side -- but things have already started unraveling on the Ayesha side.

    Thanks again! Next chapter up illico presto.
     
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  7. 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.

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

    Chapter 44: A second chance

    Ayesha vomited again when she woke up the following day after a full twenty-four hours of sleep. She dismissed Thrawn’s concern with a mumbled “I’m fine” and a wave of her hand and went back to bed. She hadn’t moved a millimetre when he came to check on her around mid-morning, but she was wide awake, staring blankly at the ceiling. The heady aroma of the mug of caf that he brought for her was enough to send her retching above the sink once more. “Don’t,” she croaked when she looked up to see her haggard reflection in the mirror and, behind her, Thrawn digging into the med kit. “Don’t sedate me again. I can’t sleep this away.”

    She declined his offer to help her bathe and locked herself in the ‘fresher for a long, steaming shower. She scrubbed herself furiously, as if it would somehow wash away her sorrow, dried herself with a towel and slipped on a clean nightdress. Thrawn was sitting at the dining table when she went to the lounge. She helped herself to a glass of wroshyr sap syrup, sat facing him and took a cautious sip.

    “How are you feeling, Ayoo’sha?”

    “Terrible.”

    They studied each other for a moment. “I did not expect that an encounter with your uncle would be so devastating,” Thrawn said.

    “Me neither.” Her eyes were unusually hard as she stared at him. “Is there anything else you don’t want me to find out?” she asked. “Anyone else you’ve been tricking or exploiting that I shouldn’t know about? Or is it just the Noghri?”

    “I am not exploiting the Noghri,” he protested. “Your uncle –”

    “Don’t lie to me, Thrawn,” she said harshly. “I saw it right here” – she tapped her forehead – “and Uncle Quin saw it too. It’s all in Anakin’s memories. How Honoghr was poisoned, how he vanquished the Noghri, how he claimed he’d heal their world, how he handed them over to you... But you’re not healing their world, are you? You’re giving them just enough so they’ll believe you’re helping, but for all practical purposes you’re enslaving them.”

    “I am not enslaving the Noghri, Ayoo’sha. They consider themselves in the Empire’s debt –”

    She snorted. “I stand corrected. The Empire pushed them into poverty, the Empire gave them the loan and the Empire made sure they’ll never be able to repay. It’s not enslavement, it’s usury and fraud.” He finally bowed his head in shame under her unrelenting gaze. Her face softened. “Please tell me the truth. Tell me why you did it.”

    He looked up. “I did it because I needed them, Ayoo’sha. When you were brought aboard the Admonitor... I wanted healing for you, but I also wanted vengeance. I knew that they were skilled assassins, the best there are, and I wanted their loyalty against Zaarin. That is when I discovered how they had found themselves in the service of the Empire.”

    “That was six years ago, Thrawn. Why didn’t you change anything since?”

    He bowed his head again. “Because it was easy. And convenient.”

    There was a long silence. “Do you regret not following your uncle?” he asked.

    “Never!” She slammed her fist on the table so hard that it made him jump with fright. “Never. You know, that thing he did... You felt what it was like when he invaded your mind. The pain, the anguish... as if a swarm of insects were chewing on your brain. I felt it twice as much. First because he forced your thoughts into my head... and second because I felt your pain too. I can never, ever...”

    Her voice trailed off. She seemed utterly distraught. “Is that what Paraseel Malki did to you when you were a child, Ayoo’sha?” Thrawn whispered.

    She shuddered. “It was worse.”

    There was another silence. “What are you going to do about the Noghri?” she asked.

    “I will look into it at the earliest opportunity. I do not believe that their planet can be saved. The only real solution for them is relocation, but it will take time to find a suitable world.”

    “Please do that. I’ll never be able to look Rukh in the eye again.”

    She took her glass of wroshyr sap syrup from the table and downed what was left. “Are you feeling somewhat better now?” he asked timidly.

    “I guess so. Still a bit queasy though. I think I’d better lie down.”

    She stood up. Thrawn followed her to the bedroom door. “There’s one more thing,” she said. “If there’s anything else you’re hiding from me because I wouldn’t like it, because it would make me angry... I’d rather find out from you than from delving into Anakin’s memories.”

    He looked at her impassively. “There is nothing else, Ayoo’sha.”

    “Don’t answer now,” she retorted. “Think of it, and when you’re sure... tell me that again.”

    * * *​

    Ayesha managed to calm herself somewhat during the following week, but her condition didn’t improve and despite her protestations that it was just an upset stomach, Thrawn insisted that she see the Chimaera’s chief physician. “Major Mikla is competent, he is discreet and he is a military officer, Ayoo’sha. He will not reveal your existence to anyone. Moreover” – he gestured towards the Emdee that was hovering on standby in a corner of the bedroom – “he has no doubt already guessed that this droid is not here for my personal use, as I have a private cubicle in the sick bay of this ship, courtesy of my predecessor. He will take good care of you.”

    The trial of strength between them went on for a few more days, until her inability to keep down any food at all caused her to give in. Thrawn brought Major Mikla to their quarters and sat in a corner of the bedroom while the doctor examined Ayesha. Tadros Mikla was an elderly man, probably past the age of retirement in the Imperial military – not that such regulations were being followed since the Emperor’s death and the subsequent decline in the Fleet’s resources – and he was somewhat old-fashioned in his approach to medicine. He took her vitals and did a general check-up before palpating her belly, then he pulled a handheld scanner out of his kit and waved it above her. He read carefully the results that scrolled down the little monitor and turned to Thrawn.

    “Sir, may I ask you to leave me alone with Miss Eskari for a moment? An old physician’s habit,” he added with a smile. “I like to talk to my patients privately.”

    Thrawn left the bedroom to wait in the lounge, and Mikla turned to Ayesha. “Your reproductive organs are in rather poor shape, Miss Eskari.”

    She nodded. “Yes. I had an accident a few years ago.”

    The doctor snorted. “A direct stab wound to the abdomen is usually described as an assault, not ‘an accident’.”

    She nodded again. “You’re right. It was assault. Is what I have now some long-term effect of it?”

    “Could you please tell me first who did this to you?”

    “I... I don’t think that I should answer that, Doctor.”

    Mikla placed a hand on her arm. “I will keep it secret, Miss Eskari. Patient confidentiality. But I must know.”

    She shook her head. “Trust me on this, Doctor. If you knew you’d say it’s above your pay grade.”

    He sighed. “I am afraid that you leave me no choice but to file a report with the Council of Moffs for abuse and cruelty. Slavery is legal in the Empire, and so is prostitution, but gratuitous abuse and torture of a sentient being, of a woman, and what is more on the Imperial flagship –”

    The credit finally dropped. “It’s not Thrawn who did it to me, if that’s what you were getting at. Also, I’m not a prostitute and certainly not a slave.”

    Mikla didn’t even try to hide his doubts. “Will you please explain why you are a prisoner here?”

    “I’m not a prisoner,” she protested. “I’m just keeping out of the way. Thrawn doesn’t need the rumour mill to run wild on his ship, and I think it’s safer for me to stay hidden anyway, since I’m the only woman on board. I just came here to be with him. We’re lifemates.”

    “Why would you do such a thing, Miss Eskari? Surely you have friends or family you could stay with while he’s running this campaign.”

    “I don’t,” she said sadly. “I’ve lost everyone, almost everyone. If I’m going to lose Thrawn, I want to be with him when it happens. And then I want to die, because I won’t have a reason to live.”

    There was such sorrow in her tone that the doctor came to sit on the edge of her bed and rubbed her shoulder reassuringly. “You will not lose the Admiral, Miss Eskari. If his skill and tactics are any indication, the only thing that could ever kill him is old age. I have never seen anyone quite like him in my three decades with the Navy.” He smiled. “And now, you have something else to live for. You are not sick, Miss Eskari. You’re pregnant.”

    All blood drained from her face. “Pregnant?”

    It was visibly the last reaction the doctor was expecting. “Is this news unwelcome?”

    “I don’t know,” she mumbled. “I was so sure it wouldn’t happen... I was told I’d never be pregnant again.”

    “Actually, it’s quite a feat,” Mikla said with a chuckle. He reactivated his handheld scanner and pointed at the monitor. “The little critter went and found one of the few spots of healthy tissue where he or she could attach. This kid really wants to be born.”

    Ayesha stared at the holo in wonder. “This is my baby?”

    The doctor smiled again. “It is. It’s about one month into the process, from the looks of it. I’ll be able to tell you more when I perform a more thorough examination.”

    “It won’t be harmed by the fact that my insides are completely screwed up?”

    He glanced at the scanner again. “So far, so good, as far as I can tell. However, I recommend complete, or nearly complete, bed rest – since you’re staying in here you wouldn’t be able to exert yourself anyway. The embryo seems to be attached steadily, but you don’t want to take any chances. And, coming to the reason you brought me here today, I recommend that you eliminate any sources of unwanted odours in your immediate environment. That would include this plant” – he pointed at the Olbio tree – “and the two lovely wooden sculpts I saw in your lounge.”

    “They didn’t affect me last time,” she said dubiously.

    The doctor shrugged. “Each pregnancy is different. Also, were you on a starship breathing recycled air? You may not have noticed it so far, but it does make a difference.” He paused. “So you have been pregnant before.”

    “I have. I lost the baby when...” She gestured towards the scar on her belly. “It was... difficult.”

    He patted her shoulder again. “I understand. But now you have a second chance. My daughter is about your age and she has been my greatest joy in life. And now, I am a grandfather, although I haven’t had a chance to meet my grandchildren yet.” He stood up. “Should I call the Admiral?”

    “I’d rather you give me a moment, if that’s okay.” He gave her a curious look. “I just want to collect my thoughts a bit. This was unexpected news,” she said with a forced smile. “I’ll go and take a shower, and I’ll talk to him after that.”

    The doctor studied her for a moment. “All right then. I will come back tomorrow with more sophisticated equipment for a complete examination.”

    Thrawn was waiting for her in the bedroom when she exited the ‘fresher, his face contorted into an angry frown. “Will you tell me what this is about?” he asked. “Mikla insists to talk to you in private and leaves without answering a single question, and –”

    She raised a hand to stop him and lay back in bed. “Can we try to have a rational conversation about this?”

    “It is difficult for me to be rational when I do not know what we are talking about.”

    “Can we at least agree that whatever decision we end up taking, we’ll take it together?”

    He gave her a puzzled look and nodded. She took a deep breath. “Doctor Mikla says I’m pregnant.”

    Thrawn’s face went from concern to stupefaction to overwhelming joy in the space of a second. “Pregnant?” he said when he found his voice.

    “Pregnant. And I don’t know if –”

    Before she could say anything more, Thrawn was by her side, lifting her off the bed in a bone-crushing embrace. “So much for rationality,” she muttered when he let her go.

    It made him laugh. “Ayoo’sha, I believe that you have found the single issue for which rationality is not within the realm of possibility.”

    He was beaming at her, oblivious to the troubled expression she made no effort to hide. “You really want to have children, don’t you?” she asked.

    “I have always wished for us to have a family, Ayoo’sha. You know this. Even after our last conversation about this aboard the Admonitor, I did not give up hope.”

    “What if something bad happens?”

    The inflection she gave to the word ‘bad’ brought Thrawn out of his ecstasy. “What are you referring to, Ayoo’sha? You have not had an episode or a blackout for months, you even sustained a Force vision and a brutal mental intrusion without so much as a headache – if I understand correctly, this nausea you had was only morning sickness, was it not? You are currently sitting in the safest room in the Galaxy, my enemies are not even aware of your existence... These are not the same circumstances as when we were heading to the edge of the Galaxy, not by a long shot.” He eyed her carefully. “Unless there is something else that you are not telling me.”

    She hesitated. “I’ve been having premonitions, Thrawn. I don’t know what they mean, but –”

    “Is this from your vision?”

    She nodded. “One of the things I saw was Paraseel Malki stealing our child,” she said very fast. “I know what you’re going to say, he’s dead and gone, and he can’t come back. But it felt real. It will be real.”

    Thrawn’s eyes narrowed. “And you asked for a rational conversation. Tell me, Ayoo’sha, how are you being rational right now?”

    There was such bitterness in his voice that she recoiled against the pillows. “I’m not,” she mumbled. “But I’m scared. And you being angry won’t make my fear less real.”

    There was an uneasy silence. “I apologise,” he said finally. “I had no right to speak to you in such a way. I know that I have failed you too many times to count in the past, and I realise that more recently I also disappointed you. All I can do is promise that I will try my best to make things right, to protect you and our child. However, I understand if you tell me that this promise is not enough.” He stood up. “This is not a decision we can take together, Ayoo’sha. It is yours and yours alone. I know that whatever you elect to do, it will not be an easy choice, and I will support you as best I can either way.”

    Ayesha caught his hand. “Do you really have to go back to the bridge right now?”

    “No, I do not. But I do need a moment to process my grief, my pain and my guilt. You told me on the Admonitor that being pregnant again would be nothing short of a miracle. Now the miracle has happened, and...” His voice trailed off. “I need to be alone.”

    * * *​

    New Year Fete came and went. Ayesha’s bouts of morning sickness became few and far between as soon as the Olbio tree was moved out of the bedroom and into their study, but she now had hectic dreams that caused her to wake up panting, as if she had run a marathon during the night. She couldn’t quite remember them, but they constantly troubled her. “This is nothing unusual for a pregnant woman,” Doctor Mikla told her. “Particularly not for a woman who has lost a child. You have much to think about, and it shows in your dreams.”

    Thrawn didn’t discuss her intentions about her pregnancy again, and he actually avoided the subject whenever she tried to raise it, but she could see that he was trying to attend to her every need. He had fresh supplies of wroshyr sap syrup, wasaka berry jam and chyntuck chutney brought to their kitchenette, he had their quarters soundproofed so that she wouldn’t be disturbed by the drill alerts, he provided her with databooks from the Chimaera’s library and, whenever possible, he sat in the lounge instead of the study or his meditation chamber so as to be close by. This was not often, as he stood firm in his resolve to maintain a strict separation between his military and personal lives, but he made an exception for Major Vermel, and Ayesha sometimes overheard snatches of their conversations. “What is it that Meizh is so worried about?” she asked him one night when he finally joined her in bed. “I heard bits and pieces of what you were saying, and he sounded definitely uncomfortable about it all.”

    If Thrawn was upset that she had been listening in, he didn’t show it. “We have been discussing how to take possession of the Emperor’s secret base on Wayland. If my information is correct, there are a number of technologies stored there that would be of great use to us, most notably the complete schematics of a cloaking shield. However, Vermel is concerned about the presence of this Dark Jedi that you have mentioned. This is no doubt be a formidable foe that we will have to defeat.”

    Ayesha gave him a curious look. “How are you going to do that?”

    Thrawn sighed. “I was hoping to secure your uncle’s assistance in this matter, but that did not go as planned. Our ysalamir will have to suffice. I expect that it will provide adequate protection, given the effect it had on your Force vision.”

    She pondered his words for a moment. “Is that why you sent Rukh to spy on Khaleen in Coronet City?” she asked. “To strong-arm Uncle Quin into helping you?”

    There was a flash of anger in his eyes. “I am not a kidnapper, Ayoo’sha. I was intending to bring her on board, together with her son, if your uncle had agreed to join me. Having a Jedi to counsel me would be tremendous help – not only to take possession of Wayland, but also to better coordinate my fleet through Battle Meditation. This would enable me to end the upcoming war with the Rebellion swiftly and efficiently while minimising casualties on both sides, so as to be able to turn our forces against the Far Outsiders.” He sighed again. “Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to make my case to your uncle. Now let me rest. Tomorrow will be a long day.” And without another word, he turned away from her and pretended to sleep.

    The tension between them ebbed and flowed over the following days. Ayesha could see that, despite his efforts to be kind and caring, he was constantly on tenterhooks around her, but an element of trust had been broken between them and she couldn’t fathom how it could be mended. She tried to put up a brave face, but she knew that the flushness of her cheeks, the redness of her eyes told him how often she was crying. A morning came when he woke up to find her in tears again, and he gave her a sad look before pushing away the covers and lifting himself to a sitting position. To his great surprise she pulled him back to her.

    “Please stay a little longer,” she whispered in his neck. “Reis Azada died tonight, and I need you to hold me a bit. Please.”

    He entwined himself around her and hugged her tightly. “How do you know that he passed away, Ayoo’sha?”

    She tapped her forehead. “I saw him in my dream.”

    “Perhaps it was only a dream, Ayoo’sha,” Thrawn said after a pause. “We have established that you cannot have visions while near the Olbio tree and –”

    “I don’t think the Olbio tree reaches this far. It’s in our study now, and... anyway, I saw him. He came to say goodbye.”

    “Did he say anything else?”

    She shrugged. “He just said he knew I’d do the right thing for you. And then he left. He’ll be waiting for us on the other side.”

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

    Notes: nothing. It almost feels weird [face_worried]
     
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  8. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    You know how very, very much I like Dr. Cottle. LOL But I also like Dr. Mikla. He's worlds apart in bedside manner but exactly what Ayesha needs atm. :)

    I suspected, felt it in my bones that some vital element of trust had been lost :( :(
    You can tell it in the subtle and nonverbal things as much if not more than what is spoken.
    What a grand and poignant irony that it is at this juncture that she discovers she's pregnant. A miracle indeed, one Thrawn wishes to celebrate. But her definite mixed feelings - understandable of course - are part of what is pushing a wedge between them. That, and the entire Noghri thing -- I am happy that he promises to do something about that eventually. I believed, and this was borne out, that he found out about the Noghri situation after the fact, i.e., that he didn't set it in motion. However, like Ayesha said, he let it stand and exploited it. *yikes!*
    The undercurrent of "what else is there that you don't want me to know". :eek: Even his assertions that there is nothing - that is not enough to rectify and restore her faith as related to motives, etc .

    On top of that, her automatic supposition that his plan was to kidnap Quinlan's wife for nefarious ends whereas it was merely meant to be an overt gesture of what one would do for an ally. But like he said, he never got the chance to explain.
    Ayesha's decision about the pregnancy is definitely hers to make - and yet it involves Thrawn as well. [face_thinking] And even while he is trying to give her the space she needs, it also feels like a pulling away. :(

    There is the losing of Reis Azada and his "message". How this will help them I do not know. [face_thinking]

    An emotion-packed and pivotal chapter. You amaze me every time you juxtapose such widely contrasting things, all without a bit of melodrama or tropism. =D=

    [:D]
     
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  9. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you for reading and reviewing!

    Unfortunately, I have no new chapter for today, because I had a very busy weekend [face_blush] But I'll be back on Thursday with an update, promise!
     
  10. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Memory eternal, Reis Azada. @};- Heartbreaking to see Ayesha lose yet another person close to her, and one who did so much to help her mind heal. But he would not want us to be too sorrowful, because he really is just over on the other side—I'm thinking of that archway with the curtain at the Ministry of Magic. :cool:

    Now this pregnancy... quite a development! Of course, I should have guessed that something like this might happen, given that (a) Ayesha's chance of conceiving again was stated only as being improbable, not impossible; ;) and (b) the appearance of a baby in some of her visions, even after the Emperor injured her. The biology of the situation sounds very intriguing (and that would have to be one very persistent embryo); I only worry that once the baby gets bigger there might be some real risks, especially if the organ that's supposed to be protecting it and giving it nutrients is in such ravaged shape. [face_nail_biting] But if the little 'un really is so persistent, there may be no trouble there after all!

    I like Dr. Mikla. Friendly, personable, bedside manner in spades—that's how I like my doctors to be, and it's nice to see Ayesha getting medical help from someone like that after all she's been through. I bet he'll make a fantastic grandfather! :D

    Of course, like Nyota's Heart says, there is kind of a damper hanging over even this wonderful news, and that's the loss of trust between Ayesha and Thrawn. And a very serious one, too, between tailing Khaleen (on the less serious end) and the business of Ho'noghr (on the much more serious end). Even in his plan to get Khaleen and her son on board so that he can have them do Battle Meditation, we see very much that old Thrawn who only values people insofar as they are useful to him—that potential "use" seems to mean more to him than the fact that these are Ayesha's aunt and kid (?) cousin. As to what will come of that, we'll just have to see—but at least with baby on the way we know the outcome won't be unmitigatedly bad! ;)
     
  11. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    It pleases me very much to read/ hear about the pregnancy. So there is hope after all, a light in the dark. [face_love]
     
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  12. divapilot

    divapilot Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Sorry to be so late with replies. I got behind. Things have been stressful. But here you go!


    Ch. 39: Ghosts Ghosts, indeed! The ghosts of the people who haunted her mind, of the loved ones she’s lost. The empty echoing shell of the ship.
    I do believe I know where Thrawn plans to cook up acquire a couple million soldiers. Azada’s right; this is a moral road best left untraveled. But I can see Thrawn’s point of view too – there will be a horrible bloodbath when the Far Outsiders come and this would minimize the pain that will fall.

    Ch 40: The Chimaera:
    “You are her anchor to the light. Do not give in to the darkness.” Ooh, I hope that’s not foreshadowing. But it was so artfully written…
    I very much liked the Or’kos vow. Nice world-building there. Happy that Quinlan popped up again too! Not all is lost.
    Damn that Parasite Paraseel Malki. He just won’t go away, will he.

    Ch 41. Killik Twilight! (The only Twilight worth looking into, imho.) I love how you wove Ayesha into the scene from Tattooine Ghost. (Is this Ghost thing a recurring theme, I wonder?) I don’t remember the story much – it’s been years since I read it – but you really got a great sense of place with this scene.
    I wonder why Thrawn is so anxious to get the painting. I am guessing it’s kind of a first-person account of a culture’s encounter with the Far Outsiders (right before they all die a horrible death…).

    Ch 42. Gorgeous writing here, lady! The flow and rhythm of the vision, all the component parts – I love it. It’s a glorious puzzle to figure out. Was there a time when the Killik vision morphed into Geonosis? It sure looked like it.
    The scene with Leia weeping on the floor, trying to protect her baby, was so vivid.
    And all the soldiers who look like Daric…what’s he up to these days again?

    Ch 43 Betrayal. Did… Thrawn just shoot and kill….????
    Oh man, Thrawn, what have you gone and done? What is the price you pay for your necessary sins?

    CH 44. Second chance.
    hey, that sounds kinda familiar, but I bet you’re onto something different.
    So strange for her to be pregnant again, and at such a difficult time! But when is it ever a good time for them? And their relationship is so strained now.
     
  13. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing!
    There goes another promise I didn't keep [face_blush] I'm only two weeks late though, last time I said this it took me a month and a half to update. I'm a lost cause.

    But today, I do have a chapter for you! Just a few quick replies, and I'm posting it.
    First of all, thank you for the nice, long-multi-chapter review! It's always a treat to get one of these :)

    Yes, the "ghosts" Reis Azada sees around Ayesha are the manifestation in the Force of what Simon diagnosed a few chapters back. Her mind is simply overcrowded, and she can't handle it anymore.

    As for what Thrawn is up to... if you read TTT, you already know (and "cook up" was the right choice of words!) If you haven't, just read the upcoming chapter ;)
    Again, "parasite" was the right word here! Paraseel Malki definitely has a parasitic relationship to Ayesha's mind, he somehow implanted himself in there together with the fears he caused in her. And he's not going away.
    Tatooine Ghost is essentially the story of how Leia finds out about Anakin's early years, through encounters with his childhood friends, the discovery of Shmi's old diary and a visit to the camp where he massacred the Tuskens. Throughout the book you have the feeling that these things don't happen by chance -- fate or necessity meant for them to happen, and it's not so different for Ayesha.

    As for why Thrawn wants the painting... it could be any number of reasons, couldn't it? He wants a valuable piece of art, he wants the last trace of Killik civilisation... or maybe he just wants it because the New Republic want it, and he knows that this means there's more to it than meets the eye.
    Thank you! Yes, the second part of the vision was Geonosis. Anakin -- or the Force -- are warning Ayesha of what Thrawn is up to, but they're not making it easy for her to understand.

    As for Daric, he's somewhere in the Unknown Regions, but a little piece of him... just scroll down, it's in the next chapter :p
    Um, yes, he did ;) And with Quin gone, pretty much everyone who knew of Thrawn's existence in the known Galaxy is dead, except Simon.
    Hehehe. I thought very hard of your story when I chose that title, but it's not quite the same in this one!
    Oh yes, Doctor Mikla is very different from Doctor Cottle. Both are good doctors of course, but I think Ayesha appreciates not being barked at, for a change!
    You are both such incurable optimists, each one in your own way [:D] If I were you, I wouldn't completely trust Thrawn's motives for tailing Khaleen and Korto, or his claiming that "I'm not a kidnapper". We're reaching the beginning of HTTE, remember? This is where the really ugly stuff begins.

    On the other hand, Ayesha is indeed truly attached to Thrawn, so something has to give...
    The moment when Ayesha said she was hesitating to keep the baby is the moment when Thrawn realised how badly he messed up. Now he knows that he needs to atone in her eyes, but he's also ever more caught in his tangle of lies. What if she finds out about what he did to Quin?
    I was thinking of that archway too when I wrote this chapter -- it's an image I found deeply moving in OotP. Now Ayesha needs to decide how she will interpret Reis Azada's message, and that will be decisive for the end of this story.
    Oh, the baby is definitely very persistent! It took after both of its parents, I guess :D And that persistence is also decisive for the end of this story, so just read on.

    You just guessed something from the last chapter of this fic. I'm not telling you what yet, but you'll be surprised!

    Thanks again, everyone! Next chapter coming up straight away.
     
  14. 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.

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

    Chapter 45: Roads not taken

    In the wake of Reis Azada’s passing, Ayesha took to huddling next to Thrawn whenever he was in their quarters. The first time, she simply got out of bed when she heard him arrive from the bridge and curled up at his side on the couch. He immediately wrapped an arm around her and pressed his lips to the top of her head, but it was clear that she had come for solace and company, not for conversation, and he returned his eyes to his datapad without saying a word as she made herself comfortable in his embrace. As the days went by, he brought work to their quarters increasingly often, and they spent their evenings quietly together, reading side-by-side or merely holding hands as they meditated, Ayesha on everything that life – or the Force – had been throwing at her, Thrawn on his plans to conquer the Galaxy.

    It was during one such evening, when Ayesha was half-asleep on Thrawn’s shoulder while he read Delta Source’s latest transmission from the Imperial Palace, that an unexpected snippet of news caused him to jerk and jolt her awake. She gave him a curious look, and he laid his datapad on the armrest to eye her carefully.

    “You were right after all, Ayoo’sha. It seems that Leia Organa Solo is pregnant and that Anakin Skywalker will indeed have a grandchild.”

    She nodded. “I know. We conceived on the same day. She’s expecting twins.”

    Both eyebrows shot up at once. “Is this something that you saw in a vision or a dream again?”

    “Yes. Anakin told me. He came to visit last night. He was very happy.”

    There was a pause. “Ayoo’sha, you do realise that you are speaking of a dead man that you saw in your sleep as if he were real.”

    “He is real. He’s real in the Force. I can’t explain it, but it’s true.”

    Thrawn studied her for a moment. “Did he tell you anything else?”

    She shrugged. “Same as Reis Azada. He said that the time for me to make important choices was drawing near, and that he knew I’d do the right thing.”

    “He did not mention what those choices would be, did he?”

    “No. But I could ask him next time, if you want. He comes every other night or so.”

    At this Thrawn turned onto his side to face her. “You are having these dreams – or visions – every other night.”

    “Yes. I think he’s trying to prepare me for what will happen. After that, he’ll be gone.”

    “Have you been seeing anyone else in these visions?” Thrawn asked after a pause. “Reis Azada... or your uncle?”

    “I don’t think Uncle Quin can project that far. I mean, he’s probably back on Corellia with Khaleen now, right?” Thrawn nodded impassively. “Reis Azada and Anakin are ghosts and they don’t have this sort of limitation. But Reis Azada said goodbye already, so now it’s just Anakin. He wants to warn me, but I think he also just likes chatting – his daughter won’t talk to him and he didn’t have anyone to share his joy when he found out about his grandchildren. ”

    Thrawn shook his head in dismay. “Ayoo’sha, I do not like this. However important these choices that you will have to make, however happy the events you are discussing with Anakin Skywalker, more Force interference with your mind cannot be a good thing. Let alone the distinctly awkward atmosphere of the conversations we have every time it happens.”

    “There’s nothing we can do about it, Qubshi be-khadeeb,” she said softly. “I can’t be sick all the time and not eat properly. It could harm the baby, because of... you know, what happened before. Apparently the baby’s not attached quite well enough yet, and we don’t want to lose it.”

    There was a stunned silence. “You have decided to keep the baby,” Thrawn murmured.

    She placed her hand on his cheek to make sure that they were looking at each other straight in the eyes. “Yes, I have. I know that it’s not reasonable, but I want us to have a family too. And... both Reis Azada and Anakin said I’d do the right thing. The right thing can’t be to cause you this sort of sorrow. But I want you to promise me something.”

    “Anything.”

    “If something happens to me – if I become like Uumana – you will abandon your military campaigns and you will look after our child. Someone else can take care of the Galaxy. But only a parent can look after their child.”

    Thrawn stood up very solemnly and placed his palm over hers. “You have my word, now and forever, until the end of my days.” He then knelt at her feet and buried his face in her lap, but despite the fact that he remained perfectly still Ayesha could feel that he was crying.

    That night was unlike any other night they had spent together. Thrawn took her to bed and lay at her side, propping himself up on one elbow to better look at her, his fingertips mapping her body as if he were trying to memorise every line, every curve and every scar before the Cycle of Life could transform it. He remained there for hours, bowing only once to kiss her, and shortly before the end of ship’s night, when he apparently decided that his exploration was complete, he laid his head on her chest, resting his ear on her heart, and he remained immobile until duty would call him to the bridge, whispering secrets of what was to come to their unborn child.

    * * *​

    A few more weeks passed, and Doctor Mikla finally announced that Ayesha had successfully cleared the hurdle of her pregnancy’s first stage, where the risk of losing the baby was greater. “This isn’t a blanket permission to do whatever you want, Miss Eskari,” he said sternly at the sight of her radiant smile. “Given your personal history, you should still be extremely cautious. But your baby is now officially a foetus, and I am happy to say that it is attached as well as a foetus can be. Given the environment in which it managed to settle, I’ll even venture a guess that this will grow to be an exceedingly stubborn child.”

    As soon as the doctor had left, Thrawn proposed that they move the ysalamir back to their bedroom. “You do not need any more Force visions,” he insisted. “I promised that I would look after our child if something were to happen to you, but I would very much prefer that nothing ever happens to you. Let me move the Olbio tree back here.”

    Ayesha was hesitant. “I’m not too sure, Qubshi be-khadeeb. I don’t think that my dreams are causing me any harm, and I’m still trying to understand them. Maybe we should –”

    Thrawn’s eyes narrowed. “Ayoo’sha, please, please tell me that you are not actually seeking out these visions in your quest to fathom a wider meaning to all this absurdity.”

    “I’m not,” she protested. “But I know that something important is coming, and I want to know what. Don’t you understand?”

    Thrawn shook his head in dismay again, and it was only the joy of the day’s news that prevented their conversation from evolving into a full-blown argument. They finally came to a temporary agreement that Ayesha would experiment with sitting in the study to verify if the presence of the plant and the animal it carried still gave her bouts of nausea, and the subject was set aside for a while.

    Being still under house arrest for all practical purposes, Ayesha didn’t have much to do, and she was elated when the refitting of Thrawn’s private command-room-cum-meditation-chamber was finally completed. The Chimaera’s technicians and engineers had done an outstanding job, and the room was equipped with tiny holoprojectors embedded in the floor and ceiling, as well as a double ring of repeater displays in the centre and a complete set of monitors to transform it into a secondary bridge at the flip of a switch. The main entrance led to an antechamber where Rukh stood guard, while a door hidden in the back wall opened directly to Thrawn and Ayesha’s private study.

    As soon as the last cleaning droids left, Thrawn transferred his holographic art databank to the central computer and made a work plan to analyse its contents, matching the cultures of the sectors of space that he was intending to tackle over the next few months. Despite her lingering doubts about the wisdom of conquering the New Republic rather than seeking out an alliance with them, Ayesha joined him enthusiastically in his study of alien art. They spent hours on end in the meditation chamber with the lights dimmed, selecting a few major works from each culture to project on the walls and pedestals while more pieces scrolled around the two repeater rings, and their discussions about the various species’ psychology, needs and blind spots often kept them up until late into the night. The room was equipped with a sole chair, an exact replica of the admiral’s command chair on the Chimaera’s bridge, and Thrawn always insisted to cede it to Ayesha.

    “Someday, we will reveal to the Galaxy who was truly in command of this fleet, Ayoo’sha’nek,” he told her humorously. “But until that can happen, you should already begin to enjoy the perks of being the most senior officer in the Imperial Navy.”

    It was during one of these quiet evenings where Ayesha was sitting in the middle of the repeater displays, her eyes half-closed as she scanned the holos rotating above her head, that she stifled a yelp and brought her hand to her belly. She was now just over a hundred and twenty days after conception and, while she hadn’t quite begun to show, her cheeks had become fuller and her curves more generous, reminding Thrawn of the slight chubbiness that had charmed him upon first meeting her in the Northern Lights room. When he heard her gasp, he leapt at her side and gave her a look of concern that caused her to burst out laughing.

    “Don’t look at me like that, Qubshi be-khadeeb,” she hiccupped. “It’s nothing bad. It’s just that –” she beamed at him – “I feel the baby. It’s moving.”

    Thrawn frowned. “Is it not a little early for that?”

    She swatted his arm. “Stop worrying. Doctor Mikla said it could happen anytime now. And remember Simon and the Chiss parameter. This baby is growing fast.”

    She caressed the little bump that was just a little too firm to be plain tummy fat. “It’s the first time I’m sure, you know. I felt it before, it was like a little butterfly fluttering around – but it was so fleeting I couldn’t be certain. But now... now I know. It’s the baby.”

    Thrawn stared at her belly longingly. “I would not be able to feel it, would I?”

    “I don’t think so. But you could try.” She switched off the holoprojectors and stood up. “I don’t think we’ll be analysing any more art tonight, so let’s go to bed. If nothing else, you can tell the baby all your secrets while I’m asleep, and who knows – maybe it will answer in kind.”

    * * *​

    It was only another twenty days until Thrawn could feel their child’s movements as well, and Ayesha began to fill out. Her breasts swelled noticeably and her belly jutted out in front of her, and soon she could not fit in her jumpsuits anymore. She put them away in the bedroom closet, and she wore her old baggy trousers and tank tops when she went to Thrawn’s command room, or her thin nightdresses when she stayed in their quarters. She shrugged when Thrawn asked if she would not be cold, but at his insistence she took to carrying a small blanket with her and wrapping it around her shoulders, and she laughed when he pulled it down to cover the band of taut skin that showed between her overstretched clothes. “This baby is half-Chiss, Qubshi be-khadeeb,” she told him every time. “How will it resist the climate of Csilla if you pamper it this way from such a young age?”

    Thrawn invariably answered with a smug smile. “This baby – our baby – will take after its mother, Ayoo’sha. It has told me as much during the conversations we have while you are asleep. Unless you have been playing an act for the past ten years, you are not particularly fond of the cold – and neither is our child.”

    Doctor Mikla came to visit her twice a week. He was adamant that the pregnancy was progressing smoothly, but he insisted on keeping her under close supervision until the baby’s sex could be determined. “In a Human pregnancy, you would already know if your child is a boy or a girl,” he explained. “But in your case, there are some peculiarities. Your baby is growing faster than a Human child would, yet I cannot detect its sex organs. According to the Admiral, this is normal for sentients of his kind – but I would rather keep an eye on you until we clear it up, all right?”

    She smiled. “I’m happy if you keep an eye on me even after that, Doctor. It’s always a pleasure to see you and” – she lowered her voice conspiratorially – “it gives Thrawn some peace of mind. He thinks I’m not careful enough.”

    It was Mikla’s turn to smile. “Expectant fathers often have that reaction. I had it myself. Although I will admit that there is something comical in seeing it in the Admiral. It’s very unlike him.”

    The Imperial fleet was now in the Expansion Region, raiding the star systems it crossed for information as it headed towards the Inner Rim. Thrawn was increasingly focused on his work and he had to spend more time on the bridge, but he made sure that he had time for studying alien art with Ayesha every day. “It is a constant game of hide-and-seek with the Rebellion,” he told her once when they met in his private command room. “We will soon be arriving in the Paonidd/Obroa-skai region, and we must do so undetected.”

    She chuckled. “That’s not so easy when you have a fleet of Star Destroyers, is it?”

    “No, it is not. However, it is not impossible either.” He gestured towards the command chair. “Will you please have a seat? I would like to hear your final thoughts about Obroan art before we reach the system.”

    It was already the fourth time he was formulating this request, and she gave him a curious look. “What’s so special about Obroan art?”

    “Obroa-skai could hold the key to our next steps,” he answered evasively. “I merely wish to be certain that I am not taking the fleet on a wild bantha chase when we could be doing something more useful.”

    It was clear that he wouldn’t say more, and Ayesha sat in the middle of the display to examine the holograms before coming to the same conclusion she had reached every time. The Obroans were an exceedingly intellectual people, they had the highest regard for all things cultural and their mindset was characterised by comprehensiveness – which indicated, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that every bit of public Galactic knowledge, however insignificant, would be catalogued in their planetary library. Thrawn merely gave a satisfied nod when she was done exposing her findings, and as she stood up and walked to the door to their quarters, she heard him activate the comm and order Captain Pellaeon to set a course for the Obroa-skai system.

    Thrawn didn’t bring up the subject of Obroan art again in the following weeks, and it was nearly a month later that her curiosity was finally satisfied. They were sitting together in the command room, looking at samples of Paonidd extrassa art and Saffa paintings, when Rukh buzzed the intercom twice, indicating that the Admiral had a visitor. She heard Captain Pellaeon’s voice as she retreated hastily towards the study, and she sat at Thrawn’s desk while he conferred with his subordinate.

    The two men’s discussion went on for longer than she expected, and a few flashes of light outside the viewport told her that the Chimaera had engaged in battle a small fleet of ships – she couldn’t distinguish their insignia at this distance, but she assumed it was a New Republic task force. She sighed. Thrawn wouldn’t be back for hours. She was about to stand up and return to her bedroom when she noticed that his desk’s drawer was ajar, revealing a small tag with Daric LaRone’s name.

    She hesitated for a moment, but her inquisitive nature got the better of her, and she pulled the drawer open to examine its contents. It only held three small packages wrapped in transparent flimsiplast, each one consisting of an indefinable sample in a test tube and a datacard. They were labelled Daric LaRone, Meizh Vermel and Soontir Fel, and the datacards bore the words ‘flash memory’ in Thrawn’s stern handwriting. She stared at the packages with increasing puzzlement for a moment, then let her gaze wander around the room as she tried to unravel his intentions. Her eyes fell on the ysalamir that was nibbling on one of the Olbio tree’s leaves, a few long-forgotten memories – and some more recent ones – flashed through her mind, and suddenly she understood what Thrawn was up to.

    It was late at night when he came back to their quarters and slipped under the covers at her side, but she woke up immediately. She hopped to the ‘fresher to wash her face, and when she returned to bed she straddled his thighs to look at him in the eyes.

    “I know that I did something I shouldn’t have done, and I apologise,” she began. “I have no business going through your things. But there’s something I need to tell you.” She took his hand and placed it on her belly. “This is how life should be made, Thrawn. This is the only way life should be made. Real people are unique. They don’t come in multiple copies off an assembly line.”

    His eyes narrowed to red slits. “How did you find out?”

    “I saw the DNA samples and the memory cards in your drawers. And then I remembered your interest in the Spaarti cylinder we found in the Listening Post, and the moment I told you about clone madness because their connection to the Force was all messed up... and the installation you have in the basements on Nirauan with our other ysalamir, the one we didn't bring here. I thought it was a dream, a hallucination, but now I know it was real. You experimented with cloning yourself in a Force void. Now you’re counting on the Obroa-skai library to give you the location of Wayland, and when you find the Emperor’s secret base, you’re going to clone your best men to form the army you need. And I understand, I really do. I even understand why you’re doing it. You want an army of men without lives, that’s what you told me once. But please listen to me.” She pressed his hand to their child. “This – this – is how life is made. Don’t play with life itself.”

    There was a long silence. “I do not like this either, Ayoo’sha,” Thrawn said finally. “But I cannot ignore the factor of necessity in this situation. Vermel wants to return to his children on Nirauan, but he must also be here. The Galaxy will need ace pilots like Soontir Fel if we fail to stop the Far Outsiders in the Unknown Regions, and the stormtroopers I have for this campaign are nowhere near as skilled as Daric LaRone. I consulted with all three of them, and they agreed to this procedure. Your friend Daric even noted that this would enable him to fulfil his duties under Ork’os.”

    She shook her head. “Now I wish I hadn’t agreed to that oath. I wish I hadn’t told you anything about Wayland at all.” She let herself slide off him and huddled under the covers. “Please think it over one more time. There must be another way. It’s like the Noghri. There always is another way. A better way.”

    Thrawn settled at her side and entwined himself around her, caressing her hair until she dozed off. “There is no other way, Ayoo’sha,” he whispered when she was sound asleep. “I am terribly, terribly sorry. Sometimes – far too often – there is simply no other way. I can only hope that you will never find out exactly how often this has already been the case.”

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

    Note: The end of this chapter takes place concurrently with chapter 1 of Heir to the Empire.
     
  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_dancing] I love the team work between Ayesha and Thrawn with the artwork. His continued concern and the mutual joy they feel about the young one. :D Wow, her discovery!!! :eek: I am heartened that Thrawn did ask the parties involved - Daric, Vermel, and Fel. [face_thinking] It is a very, very high price he's asking but we've seen already how shockingly formidable the Far Outsiders are. [face_nail_biting]

    One thing you can never ever question ^:)^ (SQUEEEEEEE!) is how he does genuinely love and cherish her. :) [face_sigh] :)
     
    Findswoman and Chyntuck like this.
  16. divapilot

    divapilot Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Thrawn is playing god. That type of presumption often seems to lead to believing you are in fact infallible. Ayesha is right, of course, but he has been doing this for so long and getting away with it (so far) that he thinks this is a viable and acceptable way of accommodating his needs. His motives are justified, in his way of thinking.
     
  17. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you for reading and reviewing, and sorry for the hiatus again. Between the awards and RL, I've got a lot going on right now and it annoys me to no end that my updates are getting all choppy just when I'm about to reach the grand finale I've been planning for a year and a half! But I do have a chapter today, and with a bit of luck at least another one next week.

    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 46: The mad Jedi

    The nightmare was so vivid that, when Ayesha was jolted awake, it took all of her self-control not to break down into a full-fledged episode. She sat up in her bed and tried to meditate, to chase the traumatic images from her mind, but they came back insistently to haunt her. She had seen herself in Paraseel Malki’s fortress on Kiffu, at the top of the highest tower where he had held her prisoner – but this time, Leia Organa Solo was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Ayesha was a child, like she had been all those years ago, and the Sith Acolyte was bringing to her the infant whose soul he would steal a few days later.

    She shuddered at the memory and, when her attempt at meditation failed, she stood up and wandered around her quarters, seeking something to do to assuage the turmoil in her mind. It was ship’s morning and Thrawn had been away all night. She saw through the viewport that the Chimaera was orbiting a forested world. A Lambda-class shuttle was leaving the hangar bay and heading towards the planet, while another two had just broken free of the atmosphere and rose towards the Star Destroyer. “I don’t even know where we are,” she said to her belly. “I hope your Ada’ is telling you things, because you’re going to be a very ignorant baby if he leaves it to me.”

    She went to the study, but the noise coming from Thrawn’s command room caused her to pull back, lest he opened the door for one reason or another and she was seen by the officers he was conferring with – officers, or perhaps technicians, given the nature of the sounds that filtered through the durasteel partition. She returned to the lounge and stared out of the viewport some more. The shuttles were continuing their back-and-forth, they must have been ferrying some sort of supplies. She finally lay down on the couch and dozed on and off again until Thrawn came back.

    “Lazy day, Ayoo’sha?” he asked with a smile when he saw her still in her nightdress so late in the afternoon.

    She yawned as she sat up. “I guess so. I slept until late this morning, but then I had a nightmare and I woke up in bad shape. And then the baby was kicking all day, so here I am.”

    He arched an eyebrow. “Did you have a vision again?”

    His tone was a mingle of perplexity and concern, but she didn’t pay attention. “No, it was just a dream. I remembered the time when I was a hostage to Paraseel Malki, and, you know... I don’t like remembering that.” She patted the sofa at her side for him to come and sit. “What’s this planet?” she asked, pointing at the green globe that stood out against the pinpricked blackness of space.

    “It is a third-rate world called Myrkr. We will be leaving soon, the shuttles are on their last trip.”

    There were deep black circles under his eyes. “You look exhausted,” she said after a while. “You didn’t get any sleep at all yesterday, did you?”

    It was his turn to yawn. “No, I did not. However, I have retired for the night and I am not expected on the bridge again before tomorrow morning. I am hoping to go to bed early, but not before we bathe and have dinner together.” He pulled her in a tight hug. “My campaign is now beginning in earnest, and I want to make the most of what little time we have.”

    They took a long, steaming shower, and with Thrawn’s soothing presence Ayesha finally felt the stress of the nightmare drain away. “Would you mind if I meditate a bit?” she asked as they pulled clean nightclothes on. “I wasn’t able to focus this morning, but I think I could manage now.”

    Thrawn came to sit behind her as she settled cross-legged on the bed, his knees on either side of her body. “I will try to do for you what Reis Azada used to do,” he murmured in her ear.

    She chuckled. “You don’t have the Force, Qubshi be-khadeeb. That’s what Reis Azada was doing.”

    “I do not have the Force, but I am your lifemate,” he countered. “I should be able to help a little.” He rested his hands flat on her belly. “Even our daughter can sense how tense you are.”

    She chuckled again. “How do you know it’s a girl?”

    “Because she told me so. Now meditate, we will both be here with you.”

    She gave a last look at Killik Twilight before closing her eyes and attempting to clear her thoughts. A jumble of images immediately started rushing through her mind – her childhood, her imprisonment by the Emperor, the Lusankya escaping from Coruscant, flashes of the vision she had had on Tatooine – but she pushed them firmly aside, focusing instead on the warmth of Thrawn’s chest against her back, on the softness of his touch as he rubbed her skin, on the sensation of the child tumbling within her. Little by little the tension faded away and even the baby’s kicks and punches evolved into gentle prods and nudges, but she still couldn’t reach the peace of mind that she had been able to attain with the Talz shaman and sometimes on her own. She tried not to show her disappointment when she finally stood up.

    “Did it work?” Thrawn asked.

    “Almost. I feel much, much better now, that’s for sure, and the baby liked it... but there’s this special place I like to go to when I meditate, and I wasn’t able to find it.”

    The eyebrow travelled up. “Special place?”

    She nodded. “It’s a place Anakin showed me when he came back to the Light. It’s white and soft, like fluffy cotton wool, and there’s this glow... I don’t know how to describe it. It’s a good place, it’s safe. I think it’s where good people go after they die, but I never saw anyone there – except Anakin, of course. He helped me go there again a few times when I was meditating or when I was asleep, but he’s not around right now. Maybe he’ll be back tonight or tomorrow.”

    At this Thrawn shook his head in dismay once more. “What?” she asked. “Why do you always have that look every time I mention Anakin?”

    “Ayoo’sha, it is apparently not enough that you are having conversations with a dead man,” he retorted with clear undertones of exasperation. “You are telling me now that he is showing you the way to the world of the dead, and that you are actually enjoying it. How did you expect me to react to this news, precisely?”

    “I don’t have a death wish, if that’s what you’re getting at,” she said defensively. “I just –”

    “If you do not have a death wish, you certainly have a strange way of showing it.”

    There was an uneasy silence. “Thrawn, you know that there’s nothing we can do about this. Anakin is part and parcel of me and he will be for the rest of my life, whether we like it or not. He never harmed me willingly, even when he was Darth Vader, and when he’s around I don’t have nightmares like the one I had this morning. So can we at least try not to have an argument every time we talk about something over which we have no control?”

    Thrawn stared at her for a moment. “Actually, we do have control over this, and it will not happen again. My men harvested one thousand ysalamiri from Myrkr between yesterday and today, and they have lined all the walls that surround our quarters with them, including the interior of my command room. I believe that we are in a Force void now, and I would be grateful if you could be honest with me in the future and tell me if you still have Force visions, whether in your sleep or during your waking hours.”

    Tears welled up in Ayesha’s eyes. “Why did you do that? You didn’t even warn me. Anakin will think I shut him out, I won’t be able to say goodbye.”

    “I did it because I do not want my lifemate, the mother of my child, to continue on her path to insanity, Ayoo’sha. I want you safe and healthy, and the conversations we have had about these visions are ample evidence that you are allowing them to hold much sway over your mind. Furthermore, the Chimaera is now heading to Wayland, and –”

    “– and you decided to go ahead with your cloning project,” she interrupted bitterly.

    He hesitated. “That is still under discussion. I did take your opinion under advisement, and I am hoping to find on Wayland alternatives that would enable me to relinquish this idea. However, I am quite certain that we will find a Dark Jedi guarding the Emperor’s base – this is something that you mentioned yourself. I need the means, not only to take him prisoner, but also to keep him prisoner. And to keep him prisoner, I need, among other things, to be certain that he will not befuddle or otherwise influence the minds of my crew.”

    She paled. “You’re going to bring the Dark Jedi from Mount Tantiss on board?”

    “He will be powerless here, Ayoo’sha. Would you rather I leave him on Wayland with access to the Emperor’s secrets? Or perhaps that I kill him outright?”

    She bowed her head. “I never thought I’d say this, but killing him outright might not be a bad idea.”

    “If that is truly your wish, I will do it, Ayoo’sha,” Thrawn said after a brief pause.

    She took a deep breath. “No. No, don’t. It would be murder. You don’t need another stain on your soul.”

    * * *​

    Ayesha’s nightmares became more virulent in the five days it took for the Chimaera to travel from Myrkr to Wayland, to the point where Thrawn began to wonder if the ysalamiri were somehow affecting her. “I don’t think so,” she said when he put the question to her on the third morning when she woke up so disoriented that he thought she was blanking out. “It’s this idea of a Dark Jedi on the ship... I just need to get a grip. Let’s just have our family time, okay?”

    ‘Family time’ was the name they had given to their meditation sessions where Ayesha sought to clear her mind while Thrawn sat behind her and caressed her belly. He was constantly in meetings with Pellaeon that lasted well into the night, and Ayesha was already asleep when he returned to their quarters. She sorely missed feeling him lie at her side and rest his head on her heart to whisper to the baby, and the family time had become her favourite moment of the day. She was still not able to reach the luminous netherworld where Anakin had found peace, but she didn’t mention it again – the mere thought of removing the ysalamiri with a Dark Side adept on board sent a shiver down her spine, and more than once she wondered why Thrawn couldn’t imprison him somewhere else. The answer was obvious – he could not trust anyone but himself to act as the gaoler for this type of prisoner – but she kept turning the issue around in her head. Somehow she felt that there was another, better solution just beyond her reach, but it was fleeting and elusive and she could never put her finger on it.

    On the morning when the Chimaera finally settled in orbit above Wayland, Ayesha was shaking with such anguish that no amount of meditation or family time could calm her down. “He will not be able to touch you, Ayoo’sha,” Thrawn said soothingly as he slipped on his boots. “You have nothing to fear.”

    “I’m not afraid for myself,” she replied. “I’m afraid for you. You’re going to confront him all alone.”

    “I will not be alone. Rukh will be with me, and” – he smiled – “my engineers have devised a portable nutrient frame for the ysalamiri. He will not be able to touch me either. I will lure him to the Chimaera, and that will be it.”

    She took a deep, calming breath, to no effect whatsoever. “Okay,” she said in a small voice. “Just be safe, okay? I’ll wait for you in your command room. I won’t move until you’re back.”

    It was a long wait. Thrawn didn’t return until the evening, and she spent several hours sitting in his command chair, talking to her unborn child about the paintings and sculpts that were displayed on the holographic pedestals and the repeater rings. Thrawn had been studying Sluissi art recently, a culture she was unfamiliar with. The novelty of the sight enabled her, to some extent, to focus on what she was doing rather than fret all day and fidget with the hem of her tank top, which was nevertheless torn and frayed by the time she finally heard movement in the antechamber. She leapt to her feet as Thrawn walked in and hugged him tightly.

    “Thank the stars,” she whispered.

    There was an amused smile on his face as he hugged her back. “I have told you this many times over the past ten years, Ayoo’sha, but you will never know how pleased I am to think that I was missed.”

    She swatted his chest playfully before hugging him again. “Well, don’t make yourself scarce too often, especially for this sort of thing. I don’t like it at all.”

    Thrawn pressed his lips to the top of her head. She finally allowed him to disentangle himself from her embrace and took a step back. “How did it go?”

    “Very well, Ayoo’sha, very well. Better than I expected, in fact. We were able to find the schematics of a cloaking shield in the Emperor’s archive, as well as various other bits of technology, and it turned out that our Dark Jedi Guardian –”

    He was interrupted by the triple buzz that was Rukh’s way of announcing a visitor. Ayesha retreated hastily to the study, but the glowpanels were switched off and she couldn’t find the door’s activation pad in the dark. She groped her way to her desk and sat down, hoping that Thrawn’s conversation wouldn’t last too long.

    “A word with you, Admiral?” she heard Pellaeon’s voice say.

    “Certainly, Captain. Come in. Has there been any update from the Imperial Palace?”

    “No, sir, not since yesterday’s. I can request one, if you’d like.”

    “Probably unnecessary. It looks like the details of the Bimmisaari trip have been more or less settled. All we have to do is alert one of the commando groups – Team Eight, I think – and we’ll have our Jedi.”

    Ayesha frowned. What Jedi was Thrawn talking about?

    “Admiral . . . I have to tell you that I’m not convinced dealing with C’baoth is a good idea. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think he’s entirely sane.”

    The name nudged a distant memory to the forefront of Ayesha’s mind. Thrawn had mentioned Jorus C’baoth before – he had said he was a Jedi who turned to the Dark Side and sought to choke him with the Force when he was still a commander in the Chiss Expansionary Defence Fleet.

    “Of course he is not sane,” Thrawn said, and she could feel the irony in his tone. “But then, he is not Jorus C’baoth, either.”

    Pellaeon gasped. “What?”

    “Jorus C’baoth is dead,” Thrawn said. “He was one of the six Jedi Masters aboard the Old Republic’s Outbound Flight project. I do not know if you were highly enough placed back then to have known about it.”

    “I heard rumours. Some sort of grand effort to extend the Old Republic’s authority outside the galaxy, as I recall, launched just before the Clone Wars broke out. I never heard anything more about it.”

    “There was nothing more to be heard. It was intercepted by a task force outside Old Republic space and destroyed.”

    Pellaeon asked the question that was burning Ayesha’s lips. “How do you know?”

    “Because I was the force’s commander. Even at that early date the Emperor recognized that the Jedi had to be exterminated. Six Jedi Masters aboard the same ship was too good an opportunity to pass up.”

    He went on to explain that the man they had brought on board was a clone of the dead Jedi Master, but Ayesha wasn’t listening anymore. Her eyes were used to the penumbra by now, and she tiptoed her way to the lounge, and from there to her bedroom where she finally activated the lights. She sat on the edge of the bed and stared blankly at Killik Twilight. She was visibly distraught.

    “Did he really do that?” she finally asked her belly. “Did your Ada’ participate in the extermination of the Jedi?”

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

    Notes: This chapter takes place concurrently with chapters 3 and 4 of Heir to the Empire. The dialogue in italics between Thrawn and Pellaeon is borrowed from chapter 4 of HTTE. The events surrounding Thrawn's earlier encounter with the real Jorus C'baoth are narrated in Outbound Flight.
     
  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_dancing] Love the family time then that is juxtaposed to all the conflict over the plans on Wayland :eek: & C'baoth, with his creepy self. :p Superb! =D= I am heartened that Thrawn is at least trying to more or less find a backup plan out of consideration for Ayesha's warnings/feelings. [face_thinking] And it's actually in line with his level of thoroughness. :)
     
  19. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    I always wondered about Thrawn´s attitude about cloning, when a certain mad jedi master showed up in Timothy Zahn´s books. Thanks for giving me a deeper insight into his thoughts & deeds. Now I hope so much that somehow a blue skinned, red eyed humanoid can see his baby growing up...

    Perhaps it is even meant to be that Anakin shows our heroine the Path of the Dead. Wait that sounds too much LotR like, but you of all people know what I mean. Because there is this famous Greek legend of two lovers that are separated by the bite of a snake. I hope your story has a happy end compared to Orpheus & Eurydike. Even if it might be something like the end of "Cold Mountain" or the BBC episode "The Shadow in the North", based on the "Sally Lockhart Mysteries" by Philip Pullmann.
     
    Chyntuck likes this.
  20. divapilot

    divapilot Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    :eek:
    ok, that was a little creepy. Where's your happy place, Ayesha? Why, in the realm of the dead, of course.

    And the reveal at the end, where she learns that [HL=black]Thrawn was responsible for killing Jedi [/HL] - that cannot sit well with her.
     
  21. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    *cough* "next week" *cough* [face_blush]

    Well, it's been two and a half months instead, but I'm finally back for the last three chapters and the epilogue... Sorry for the hiatus; as usual blame DRL.

    But before I post chapter 47, thanks for your very kind reviews! Here are a few quick replies:
    ... or maybe Thrawn is [hl=black]lying[/hl], which would also be in line with his compulsive need for scheming... :p

    He he. A lot is meant to be in this fic, just look at the title... [face_devil]

    Thanks for mentioning Orpheus and Eurydice, it's definitely one of the myths I looked into for this story (although if you want to see that myth masterfully transposed to the SW universe, what you really want to read is Eurydice by JadeLotus -- it's one of the first fics I commented on after I joined the boards, and it's still incredibly vivid in my mind). I can tell you that this fic here will have a happier end than the myth, but not by much.

    We're reaching the part of the story where everything begins to unravel. Thrawn is about to find out that even he cannot hide things from his lifemate forever. He already managed to cover up some elements of his past for ten years, which is quite a feat -- but there's a moment when Ayesha will catch up, whether he likes it or not ;)

    Thanks again for the reviews and to everyone who stopped by to read! Next chapter up straight away.
     
  22. 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 WarmNyota_SweetAyesha for beta-reading [:D]

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

    Chapter 47: Ultimatum

    After overhearing Thrawn’s discussion with Pellaeon, Ayesha was left wondering if and how she should take up the issue of Outbound Flight and the Jedi killings with him. This was the third time that she came across information that he had been withholding from her – her discovery of his enslavement of the Noghri and his plans to create a clone army were still fresh in her mind – but she was also fully aware that she had been, for all practical purposes, eavesdropping on a conversation that she was not invited to and she couldn’t think of a way to broach the topic without putting further strain on her already strained relationship with her lifemate. The dilemma began eating away at her soul and poisoning every moment of her days, and her nightmares of Paraseel Malki became more vivid and intense. She was now waking up drenched in sweat every morning, no amount of family time could calm her down, and when Thrawn asked her why she was so tense, all she could do was to chalk it up once more to the presence of a Dark Jedi on board.

    “I have already explained to you that you are in no danger, Ayoo’sha,” Thrawn countered. “Our quarters are deep within the Force void on this ship, and Master C’baoth is not a Dark Jedi. He is merely slightly unbalanced, and, quite frankly, how could he not after all those years he spent alone on Wayland? Please stop jumping at ghosts.”

    His reply gave her the opening she had been looking for. “I thought Jorus C’baoth was a Jedi who turned to the Dark Side and sought to Force-choke you, many years before we met.”

    “He was,” Thrawn said cautiously. “However, this happened in the midst of a very complex situation, and he has made amends since that time. It was he who defeated the Dark Force user who was guarding the Emperor’s storehouse, and he agreed to put the facility but also his Force skills in my service. The company of the crew is doing him a world of good, and he will soon be back to his normal self, a Jedi dedicated to serving the Galaxy.” He didn’t miss her sceptical expression. “I like to think of myself as a sound judge of character, Ayoo’sha,” he added sternly. “I must go to the bridge now, but please show a little trust. Do not doubt that I know what I am doing.”

    “I don’t,” she called after him as he exited their quarters towards his meditation chamber. “But I also know you’re lying,” she added under her breath after he was gone. “The question is, are you lying to Captain Pellaeon or to me?”

    Not only did the conversation fail to assuage her concerns, it actually enhanced her suspicions that something was amiss, and she couldn’t help but sift through every memory she had of Thrawn’s references to his work to see if there were other topics about which he might have deliberately deceived her. Cudgel her brain as she might, she couldn’t think of anything before they had come to the Chimaera, and she kept admonishing herself that she was unfair to the man with whom she had spent nearly ten years of her life and who had fathered her child. At the same time, she knew by now that Thrawn’s plans were schemes within schemes within schemes, and the fact that he was joining forces with a mysterious Force user whose commitment to the Light was dubious at best troubled her deeply, as did his offhand comment about participating in the extermination of the Jedi. She didn’t doubt Thrawn’s motives at this stage of his life – she felt deep in her heart that the disastrous battle against the Far Outsiders on the edge of the Galaxy had left him a changed man, and she understood that preparations to confront them anew would require no small amount of unpleasantness – but she wondered if there were elements of his past that she would rather not know, and she could sense that he was willing to cross any number of red lines to achieve his goals. A kick from her unborn baby reminded her that she could not allow him to lose his soul in the process.

    Her hope was that Meizh Vermel would drop by for caf one afternoon and that she would be able to worm some information out of him. The Major’s visits had become few and far between after the refitting of Thrawn’s meditation chamber was completed, but he was now nowhere to be seen. “Could Meizh keep me company from time to time?” she asked Thrawn on an evening when he came home to find her sitting in the lounge in front of a single hand of sabacc. “I’m going around in circles here. The only person I ever see is Doctor Mikla, and you’re working all the time. It would be nice to have someone to talk to.”

    “Unfortunately, Meizh is not on board any longer, Ayoo’sha. I have entrusted him with cataloguing the items stored in the Emperor’s base on Wayland, and it is likely that, when this task is accomplished, he will return to Nirauan. I could release Rukh from his duties every now and then, but I believe that you are not fit to pursue any activities he would have to propose.”

    He smiled and rubbed his palm on her belly. She tried to smile back, but she couldn’t hide her disappointment. “It’s nothing,” she said in response to his raised eyebrow. “I just never got used to these separations where you don’t even say goodbye.”

    Thrawn sat at her side and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “This is not a permanent separation, Ayoo’sha. When this campaign is over, either we will go back to Nirauan or your friends will return to the known Galaxy. You will meet with them again, all of them – and under much more pleasant circumstances than you were able to see them so far.”

    She huddled in his warmth. “I hope so,” she whispered. “I hope so.”

    * * *​

    The scene was eerily similar every time she closed her eyes, a mash-up of the memories from Kiffu that she had buried in the deepest recesses of her mind and of the Force vision she had experienced on Tatooine. She was alone in the circular room at the top of the tallest tower, or maybe Leia Organa Solo was there with her; she was a child, or maybe she was an adult. But there were always other children there, children that she had to protect, because Paraseel Malki was coming to steal their soul – and she couldn’t keep them safe, because she was weak, because her mind was broken. Sometimes she saw the children who had been held hostage together with her, sometimes there were baby twins, a boy and a girl, sometimes it was her own newborn child – a black-haired, silver-skinned infant with glowing red eyes who screamed and screamed and screamed when the Sith Acolyte walked in, and there was nothing she could do to calm it down. And Leia Organa stepped forward to assist her in her final stand, but the Kiffar swooped them casually aside with a wave of his hand, and the light was snuffed out of her baby’s eyes. She was left holding a limp, expressionless body – and she saw Paraseel Malki morph into Thrawn, and she wondered what had gone wrong, how things could have gone so terribly wrong...

    She woke up with a start – or maybe she hadn’t been sleeping; she was all dressed up, sitting on the sofa where Thrawn had left her when an urgent report from Captain Pellaeon called him to his meditation chamber. She stood up and tried to focus, to fight back against the wave of anguish and nausea that was threatening to overcome her. The baby was kicking angrily inside her belly, but there was nothing she could do to soothe the erratic thumps of her heart. She needed Thrawn, she wanted to talk to him, she had to tell him that he should remove the ysalamiri, to bring back Anakin, because only Anakin’s netherworld could help her now...

    She made her way towards the door of the meditation chamber, leaning against the walls and furniture to steady her pace. She heard voices inside, and she pressed her ear to the durasteel panel. If it was only Captain Pellaeon, she would walk in. Thrawn would be upset of course, but she couldn’t wait. This couldn’t wait. She was losing what was left of her sanity, she needed his help now.

    “All died but the coordinator, then?” she heard Thrawn ask.

    “Yes, sir,” Pellaeon replied. He then whispered something she couldn’t make out, and she was about to press her hand to the activation panel when Thrawn spoke again.

    “Instruct Central to give the coordinator a thorough debriefing. What report from Wayland?”

    The sound of a shrill, aggressive voice she wasn’t familiar with stopped her dead in her tracks. “Is that it, then?” the voice boomed. “Your Noghri have failed; so too bad, and on to more pressing business? You promised me Jedi, Grand Admiral Thrawn.”

    “I promised you Jedi,” Thrawn acknowledged. “And I will deliver them.”

    The coldness of his tone made her skin crawl. She straightened herself and suppressed a shudder, but a new wave of dizziness threw her back against the partition. “One other thing, sir,” Pellaeon said. “The engineers also report that nearly eighty percent of the Spaarti cylinders we’ll need are functional or can be restored to working order with relative ease.”

    Bile rose in her throat. She closed her eyes and she was bombarded with images of hundreds of Daric LaRones fighting off battle droids in a sandy arena. “Instruct them to begin bringing the cylinders to full operational status,” Thrawn was saying. “The Death’s Head should arrive within two or three days with the extra specialists and two hundred ysalamiri they need to get things started. At that point, we will be ready to begin the operation in earnest.”

    “Yes, sir. And about Skywalker and his sister?”

    It took all of her strength to push herself away from the door, but her legs wouldn’t carry her anymore, they wouldn’t carry her child. The Daric LaRones were hunting her, were hunting Anakin’s children – the clones had turned on their masters, and they wouldn’t rest until they had killed them all...

    She woke up in her bed to see a devastated Thrawn who was being comforted by Doctor Mikla. She felt the coolness of a brain scanner’s metal band around her head, but that couldn’t be the cause of the throbbing pain on her temple. She raised a hand to her brow and rubbed her fingertips on the bacta patch that covered congealed blood – she must have had an accident, but she had no recollection of it. All she could remember was sitting on the sofa with Thrawn when his comlink buzzed, calling him to his military duties.

    “What happened?” she asked.

    The two men turned sharply towards her, their stunned expressions a clear indication of the fact that they had not expected her to speak. “What happened?” she asked again.

    Mikla threw a sideways glance at Thrawn, but the Grand Admiral was visibly in no condition to answer. “You tripped and fell over, Miss Eskari,” he began. “Fortunately no harm came to your child,” he added hastily. “But you hit your head on the corner of your desk and there seems to have been some damage to your brain. However, I am hopeful that...”

    She stopped listening as her eyes wandered to Killik Twilight and to the wall chronometer that indicated two hundred hours, the middle of ship’s night. She returned her gaze to Thrawn, whose anguish had clearly not dissipated, and it suddenly dawned on her. “How long have I been out of it?”

    The two men exchanged a worried look. “How long?” she insisted. “Tell me. I understand what happened now, even if I can’t remember it. I know that my memory loss doesn’t come from hitting my head. How long?”

    “Four days, Ayoo’sha,” Thrawn finally croaked. “It has been four and a half days, and I had nearly given up hope that you would come back. I –”

    She swallowed back tears and turned to the doctor. “It’s happening, isn’t it?” she asked as calmly as she could. “My mind is failing. Right?”

    Mikla examined the monitor that had been set up near the bed. “As of this moment, your mind is not failing, Miss Eskari,” he said. “As far as I can tell from the holos the Admiral showed me of your previous brain scans, you are in what qualifies as a normal state for you. However” – he took a deep breath – “it is clear that your ability to cope with this... overload of memories that I can see here is diminishing, or, I should say, has diminished already to a point that is cause for extreme concern. I deeply regret that you did not trust me with information about your condition when you came on board. There is nothing I can do for you at this stage, other than to warn you that your next episode will also be the last. There is only so much strain the human mind can take, and yours is already stretched well past what most people would consider the limit.”

    She nodded. “I see. Do I still need this scanner?”

    The doctor sighed. “Not really, no. Give me a moment to change your bacta patch, and I’ll be gone.”

    There was a long silence while Doctor Mikla removed the metal band from Ayesha’s head and fussed over her head wound. He finally wheeled the medical table away, and Ayesha and Thrawn found themselves alone, staring at each other in the bedroom. The Chiss came to her side and rearranged her pillows as she sat up in the bed.

    “Do you remember anything, Ayoo’sha?” he asked once she was comfortable. “Do you remember what triggered you?”

    She shook her head. “Not really. I remember that we were sitting over there when Rukh commed you, and I remember that we needed to talk about something... but I can’t remember what.” She rubbed her belly. “I want to meet our child, Qubshi be-khadeeb. I want our baby to remember, however fleetingly, a mother who cared. I don’t want him to grow up alone.”

    “Our child is a ‘she’, Ayoo’sha. And she will not be alone. You will be there for her. And I am her father. I will be there for her, always.”

    She gave him a puzzled look. “Will you?” she asked. Her mind was visibly elsewhere, as if she were trying to get hold of a fading memory. “Will you?”

    Pain and hurt flashed briefly across Thrawn’s face, but his expression soon reverted to concern. “I gave you a life-oath, Ayoo’sha. Of course I will.”

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

    Note: The second half of this chapter takes place concurrently with chapter 8 of HttE, from which the dialogue in italics is borrowed.
     
  23. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    “I have already explained to you that you are in no danger, Ayoo’sha,” Thrawn countered. “Our quarters are deep within the Force void on this ship, and Master C’baoth is not a Dark Jedi. He is merely slightly unbalanced, and, quite frankly, how could he not after all those years he spent alone on Wayland? Please stop jumping at ghosts.”

    His reply gave her the opening she had been looking for. “I thought Jorus C’baoth was a Jedi who turned to the Dark Side and sought to Force-choke you, many years before we met.”

    “He was,” Thrawn said cautiously. “However, this happened in the midst of a very complex situation, and he has made amends since that time. It was he who defeated the Dark Force user who was guarding the Emperor’s storehouse, and he agreed to put the facility but also his Force skills in my service. The company of the crew is doing him a world of good, and he will soon be back to his normal self, a Jedi dedicated to serving the Galaxy.” He didn’t miss her sceptical expression. “I like to think of myself as a sound judge of character, Ayoo’sha,” he added sternly. “I must go to the bridge now, but please show a little trust. Do not doubt that I know what I am doing.”

    I fear Thrawn and I have read a different SW book on Jorus C´baoth. ;):p The Personal Point of View about a person can differ a lot. Or Thrawn tries to be optimistic about the "cooperation" of a certain jedi master.

    But the really bad news is that Ayesh´s mind has time outs again! [face_nail_biting]
     
  24. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh my. The title already gets you on edge, and then the emotional undercurrents and the actual alterations in Ayesha's mental state [face_nail_biting] And that is just accentuated by the things she inadvertently learns.
     
    AzureAngel2 and Chyntuck like this.
  25. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    It's back! :D The story, that is, which is good to see after so long—but unfortunately it looks like Ayesha's mental "time outs" (as AzureAngel2 aptly put it) are back as well, and at a particularly fraught time for her as the birth of the child approaches. The totally strained trust between her and Thrawn certainly can't be making things easier—but now I wonder if that, too, is directly contributing to Ayesha's mental state and the resurgence of all those bad memories and the four-and-half-day blackout. As in, would that not be happening if there were more trust between them? If so, then could one solution to many of Ayesha's problems (namely, just coming clean about everything to her) be right in front of Thrawn's face and he doesn't see it? Or is more to it than that? Probably so. But I do earnestly hope things will reach some stability soon, for the baby's sake!

    Glad to see this back. :) Will you be on the same Monday and Thursday schedule as before?