Title: Cinders Author: Ewok Poet Genre: Drama Characters: Anjie Mencuri, Aldo Mencuri, Sooja Brie Mencuri, Agne Mencuri, Toora Mencuri - all OCs. Mentions of Queen Soruna. Timeframe: 4 ABY, right after the Battle of Endor, during Operation: Cinder Rating: PG-13 (disturbing description of psychosis) Length: One-shot Summary: A/N: This is one of my responses to the Representing the Underrepresented Mod!Challenge. People say that we should write what we know, which is the approach I utilised for both of my mod!challenge stories. I never experienced psychosis myself, but I run a mental health community and I have read some pretty, pretty disturbing things. ... Queen Soruna had ordered evacuation of both Theed and Keren a couple of hours prior. The threat level was ten and the danger was, as yet, of an unspecified kind. However, there had long been rumours that Palpatine, Darth Sidious, depends on who spoke of him – and some still spoke of him kindly – wanted to obliterate his homeworld and, eventually, countless of others that supported him, in case he perishes. And he perished on the second Death Star. The remaining loyal Imperials were not there to ask any questions. Their master was set to revenge his homeworld from behind his grave in the vacuum above the Forest Moon of Endor. And they had to go for it. Days later, Naboo, the once indestructible fortress world the Emperor himself hailed from was and where he hoarded art that was pleasing to him, yet anti-Empire and a reminder of the Old Republic in a way, was nearing its very last hours. Every single moment, the All sensors were jammed. The planet-wide blackout got all of the Naboo to panic, Humans, Gungans and refugees alike. Mellcrawler II with the yet-to-be-famed Nien Nunb was said to be coming to help the Naboo. But this was clearly going to be a race against time. … Aldo Mencuri rushed his semi-conscious oldest son, Anjie to the orbital bombardment basement, followed by his parents Agne and Sooja and, shortly after, his second wife Toora and the three younglings, the youngest a baby joined them. He never thought that they would have been needing this, but his father knew a thing or two about tables turning at the end of wars. They sat down at the wooden table, while the still-psychotic half-Hapan was laid on the edge of the old conversation circle. “Buildings…collapsing…floods…” the voice echoed from the primitive radiophonic device. Aldo recognised the announcer as quite an iconic HoloNet personality of the days gone by, Pollo Dorks. That Gungan used to speak in all caps, or so the spacer legends said, but this time, he was almost whispering, terrified. “This is our end.” Toora said. “Even if we make it alive, there is a good chance that the torrential lightnings will consume all the gas we need to live. And we have no breath masks, this is atmosphere level one! We’re doomed.” Her mother-in-law was optimistic “Physicist, pfft. Of course that you always think the worst. In my days…” “Ah, I don’t care.” The woman cut the senior short. She had heard enough of the handmaidens in the past. This was neither the time nor place for klikking and klakking like a Force-damned buggy. Where did that expression come from, anyway? Meanwhile, Aldo was trying to stop his eldest son from whatever he had been doing. His and Toora’s younglings were too scared of Anjie to help. He was almost emaciated, but when he had his…what they were, seizures, attacks or something else…there was no way of calming him, as if he had suddenly gained the strength of a Sith Lord. And only he knew his pain, the price he was paying for the years of spice and alcohol abuse. There had not been a thing that didn’t get into his mouth, nostrils or veins. He loved them all and they cost him his sanity, as well as much of his arm flesh. And his cybernetic grafts made him even stronger when something would trigger his episodes. But yes, only he knew his pain. “Anjie…” the voice echoed in his head. Tosh Correl, his not-really-an-idiol, whom he had to worship more than he wanted, because people from IdleChord had said so. “Anjie…” there was another. Neb. The one whose death he blamed himself for. His best friend. No, that was not true. His spice-buddy. The others were to come along. Many, many of them. The voices multiplied faster than a Gungan could say “boopjak”. And he could no longer keep them for himself. He spoke and the tone and colour of his voice ranged from quiet to loud, from deep to falsetto. “Yes, I considered that.” “No, I would never do such a thing!” “Please, turn off the light, my eye hurts.” “Robas become poodoo toka nuts and they need to die.” “I am the Universe and I order you to submit to me.” “Stab your Inquisitors with a lightsaber through his or her eye.” Aldo swallowed a lump. He had to do something. The things his son “Anjie, is it them again? The voices?” “There are 400 of them, father and they’re all in my head. It’s a choir. A glorious choir, but threatening…” “Tell them to go away.” Anjie’s legs moved, as if he had been running. Then he started flapping his arms. “Did they leave?” Aldo asked, with traces of hear in his voice. “No, I left! There I am, on the orbital bombardment shelter ceiling, father! Travelling to the moons of Iego, to meet the Angels.” “No, Anjie…you are right here, with me.” “They’re called Datharim.” Toora threw in, with a pout. “No such thing as an Angel.” Just as Aldo was about to tell his wife not to be so cruel, there was a powerful groundquake somewhere nearby. Or a lightning. Or something else. Everybody fell down, the father managing to catch his son before he could even get hurt. Toora screamed. “The planet is crumbling! The Gods, help us. Help!” “Ha!” Sooja clapped her hands, as she got up from cold the duracrete floor of the shelter. “There is no such thing as non-believers in copek-holes. You are about as smart as a clodhopper!” “Shut up, you drooling blarth-mouth of a Dathomir witch, will you!” “I kriffin’ won’t, I can assure you.” “I always knew you preferred that Hapan…prostitute, Gwynda, who didn’t even have a last name of her own, but get off my starship, you old batha cow, will you? Do me a kriffin’ favour.” Sooja got up and hurled an empty bioplast container at her daughter-in-law. Agne then slapped her upside her face, albeit not with full force. That never happened before. Was the shelter and the fear of immediate doom bringing out the best of them. One of the younglings spat at the other, too. “Ha-ha, grandma said blarth. I am now drooling on you!” “Eat Gungan mud and die, you poor maternal unit kriffer!” “Go become a protocol droid for the ANGRY MACE syndrome, you…canine.” Aldo had no way of stopping these six angry beings. This was a disaster waiting to happen and he found himself wishing for all of them to be obliterated and for their death to be quick and painless. “Stop, stop now!” Nobody listened. “Hey, what’s going on here?” a timid voice came from the other end of the shelter. Anjie got up and spoke in his normal voice. “I can see, daddy. I can see. I can finally see.” “W…what are you talking about, Anjie?” “We will be all right. Queen Soruna got in a spaceship with some woman who just got pregnant and a couple of others, one of them will die in a couple of years and leave a plucky dark-haired boy with his father. He-he, he is going to be arrogant and a manly man, unlike…I don’t know, me. Or grandma.” Sooja was about to ask where the latter had come from, but Agne put a hand on her mouth. Anjie took a deep breath, wheezing from too many cigars, then coughed, spat out and continued. “An ugly ship came and helped, too.” “Ugly ship?” One of two girls was trying hard not to laugh. “UGLY SHIP?” “Yes, ugly ship. You don’t have to believe me. But I just know.” “He did this before, Aldo.” Agne crossed his arms. “He did this back when Gwynda and you were too busy with work. I kept some of his drawings. They are disturbing. But it was childhood imagination…or so I thought. Perhaps somebody should have a look at him again.” Toora made a dismissive gesture. “No. These are the leftovers of his spice withdrawal and they’re triggered by outside events, since his thinking patterns are still disrupted by psychotic elements of his damaged grey matter.” “Do you have to talk about our grandson that way?” Sooja was clearly irritated. “It’s science, grandma Handmaiden. Science. The only truth there has ever been. No hookey religions involved. I can assure you that Darth Vader had psychosis, too. And the Jedi Knights.” “That was not what you claimed when the ground shoke a couple of minutes ago.” The old woman tried hard not to giggle. Not what you claimed at all.” She then proceeded to kick her husband. “And you, you’re never going to hit me again, droid-brain. I have been trained to restrain you.” Agne was baffled. He had no recollection of hitting anybody. “And don’t tell me to shut up, ever. I’ll show you your place, man.” She crossed her arms and then walked over to Anjie, who was now sitting upright. “Are you all right, Angel?” Tooja wanted to say that nobody should be using nicknames that were reminiscent of alleged beings and spacer tales, that would’ve clearly fed Anjie’s psychosis. Or schizophrenia. Or schizo-unbalance disorder. Whatever! Sooja was clearly somewhat demented. Poor woman. … Three days later, Anjie sat at the bank of Lake Varum, at the very edge of Keren. A couple of craters dotted around the city’s suburbs did not seem to be catching his attention. He was determined to, according to his grandmother’s advice, reset his life – whatever his non-believer father may have thought of such a “hookey” tradition. The fact that he was right about everything that happened only further motivated him to do it. Wearing his father’s old coat and trousers two sizes too large, he lit a pyre. “I might never fully adjust. But I want to live, regardless of how ugly the world is.” He threw a Sabbac card on the pyre. “Neb, this is for you. I will never forget you.” The card burned down last, oddly enough. But Nebula Fawkes did not burn with it. And Anjie was aware of that, despite how fragile his mind had been. Oh, and Soruna, Soluna, whatever…was a nice name. He liked it!