(Q’aleane leaves her room, entering the bridge area. She seems more herself than she’s been lately, confident and calm with just a hint of a smile on her face. When she sees Q’ayla in the mess hall, her smile widens a bit)
How are you feeling?
Did you want to talk about what happened?
(Q’ayla is busying herself removing various foodstuffs from a container in the mess. She looks up from it at the sound of her sister’s voice. Noticing the smile, she returns it, though it’s less warm than normal)
I’ll be alright, don’t worry. It might take some time, but I’ll survive.
I thought you were talking with… well, I assume Vergere?
(At the word “survive” Q’aleane gives something of a quizzical look)
I was talking to Vergere for a while, and meditating for a while more…
What do you mean, “survive?” Did something happen while I was in my room?
(Q’ayla lets out a resigned sigh and bows her head slightly, leaning her arms against the table)
Yes… something happened.
After we got back from Barukka’s, I went to my room. I was going to train or spar or something… just anything to try and clear my mind. But instead, I… well…
I started to feel a crushing despair. It’s only now that I recognize the influence of this planet on my thoughts and feelings. But at the time… it was so real, and felt so right.
(She turns her head to look at Q’aleane)
Thank you for sending Irsin to look in on me. If you hadn’t…
…I might have actually succeeded in killing myself.
(She lets her head bow again, and strains against the table slightly)
(Q’aleane walks over and gives Q’ayla a big hug; through the link she sends a projected sense of peace, acceptance, and a tinge of concern. After a few moments she speaks)
I am sorry, I should have checked on you but I figured you were dealing with some private thoughts and, not being good at the emotional stuff, I sent Irsin in to see if you needed help from someone other than me. I didn’t think to check in because he was going to be there.
(Q’ayla accepts the hug and, after a few moments, reciprocates)
It’s… it’s okay.
It’s over now.
I’m going to be okay.
(Slowly, she moves away from the hug, and tries busying herself at the table as she continues)
But you’ve got to understand, Q’aleane…
…this is hard for me. I mean, it’s been hard for you too, and I don’t want you to think that I don’t care, because I do. You know I do.
But hearing you recount what happened between Irsin and I, and what that did to you…
It hurts. A lot.
(Q’aleane moves away, sitting on one of the meditation cushions as her sister continues, giving Q’ayla her full attention and space)
I thought we were okay about it, and then this…
…it’s just hard to know what to believe. And I know you can’t remember everything about what happened. I don’t blame you, Q’aleane. But I do think there’s something we can do to help mitigate some of these circumstances. If you’re willing to try, that is?
(Q’aleane looks up with a sort of, “Okay, I am a bit confused…” look)
You do realize that, in all likelihood, what happened was grossly exaggerated by the planet and was more to do with our argument involving the emotion deadening – and how differently we think – and not directly about you and Irsin, right?
(Q’ayla stops what she’s doing, pondering for a moment)
Well considering how insidious this place is getting, I’m sure it did take things to an extreme. It sure did with me…
But do you really think it had more to do with the earlier incident? I mean, you cried at the campfire. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you cry before. You felt as though Irsin was taking me away from you.
And I already explained to you about the emotion-deadening stuff— I wasn’t mad at you, I was just shocked, that’s all. We are like two sides of a coin when it comes to emotions, and I’m just not used to living in your space like that.
(Q’ayla is taken aback as Q’aleane actually laughs; not in an ironic way but actually like it’s an unconscious response to a really funny joke. After a second she breathes and continues)
Ok… sorry… but seriously, the two of us make things complicated sometimes. Okay, you explained about the emotion deadening stuff the next day. At the time, all I knew was you both were really mad at me, I was an alien that neither of you could understand, I had no way of knowing how you felt or what you were thinking because you made it clear that it was an intrusion and at the time you felt foreign to me … and you were having an emotional experience I could never hope to even conceive of, let alone participate or be a part of … Of course I felt like you were abandoning me – my brain was twisted in ways that I couldn’t think my way out of. None of that was your fault. Well you could have been a little nicer about the emotion stuff but that’s not anything I could ever hold against you, especially with this chuffing planet sitting on our heads constantly.
(she pauses to catch her breath for a moment)
There is an easy way for you to know for sure, you of all people could look past my mental barriers and see how I feel, not then but right now. I really wouldn’t mind.
(Q’ayla starts to say something – as though to retort – but her mouth simply hangs open for a moment and then closes. After several moments, she puts down what she’s working on and comes over to sit on the bridge floor with her sister)
I’m sorry, Q’aleane.
Gods, I’m not sure I ever said it at the time.
But I’m so sorry.
(She takes her sister’s hand)
You’re not an alien to me. You’re my sister. Yeah, we have very different experiences in life, but Ashla knows I would do anything— take all the time in the world to understand what you’re feeling or going through.
I’m sorry if I ever came across as anything else. Blame it on Dathomir, sure. But Irsin’s right, we need to be better here. And…
I had no idea you looked at relationships like that, sis. I mean, didn’t you say you almost got together with a Jedi Master? How can you say you’ll never conceive of, or be a part of, a relationship with someone?
(Q’aleane rolls her eyes a little and squeezes her sister’s hand a bit)
First, you have nothing to be sorry for. As I said, I was the one that got my mind twisted in a knot, and I was the one that went off and nearly got us all killed… So if anything, I am the one who is sorry. But as for relationships… he was cute. There was nothing deeply emotional about it. Hell, he wouldn’t have allowed himself to admit if there was, even to himself.
As for Dathomir, it caught me by surprise. I am not going to let that happen again, I have set up barriers now against it. I was unprepared because I had just come out of a raw emotional situation where it felt like I had almost lost you, so I didn’t arrive on the planet in the best of mental spaces…. and no that is not your fault so if you plan on going there… stop it.
(Q’ayla gives her a sly smile)
But seriously, don’t you dare think you won’t find someone someday. Ashla knows I didn’t expect Irsin to come into my life, and now look at me.
Well… maybe don’t look at me right now, but you get what I’m saying.
And… I would really like to know how you feel, but I think that would be wrong, considering what I was going to ask you about…
(Q’aleane quirks an eyebrow at her sister)
So… you want to know how I feel, I am okay with you knowing how I feel, you have the power to know how I feel at a whim, I have given you express permission to look. It would help you feel better about everything, and help me to feel like you actually understand and are not going to do something stupid, and you think that it’s wrong?
(She looks at Q’ayla in a defiant way that says, “You know I am right, I dare you to argue”)
(Q’ayla shakes her head slightly, a grin spreading on her face)
Gods alive, do you have any idea how hard it is to be upset with you?
(She opens her mind to her sister)
(Q’ayla gets the feeling she got earlier but a little bit stronger. Not as strong as emotions that she normally feels but definitely there and stronger than normal for Q’aleane. There is a tinge of concern underlying it all. She also catches out of the corner of her mind some of the mental exercises her sister is doing in the background constantly to ward off the effects of the planet, as well as a strong feeling of purpose being held in a specific pattern. She also picks up a sense of amusement and bemusement at how complicated she views all of this)
(Q’ayla’s mouth opens and she lets out an incredulous laugh)
Are you making fun of me in your mind too?
But seriously… what’s the concern that I’m feeling in there?
About you silly, you just told me that you were about to off yourself. Plus I am worried about how this planet is affecting you and trying to figure out the things I need to do to prepare myself and help you and Irsin prepare for whatever we end up encountering if it is indeed a Shaman… It nearly killed me remotely through a tenuous link; at some point we are going to have to be in its presence staring it in the eyes… we need to be prepared. But thats a topic for another time.
Oh. Yeah. Right.
(She shakes her head again)
I’m a big idiot sometimes— you know that.
…But I sure outdid myself tonight.
Please don’t worry anymore, though. I will be okay. I promise. And we have far more pressing matters to address in the coming days. Like how I’m going to turn this food into something nice for my dinner date.
(She smiles warmly)
You had said something about an idea you had? What about?
Oh right… that.
Well, I know that the other night, at the campfire, you didn’t need to use our new link to hear and see what was going on. I understand that, and I’m sorry that we were so public about it— especially considering what had happened earlier. Even so, ever since our bond deepened… I’ve felt like I don’t really have a lot of privacy. I know you’ve said you check in on me regularly— kind of like you do for the ship, and while I know you’re just looking out for me…
(Q’aleane holds up a finger to stop her sister)
What do you envision I do when I check in? Seriously, I am curious, as I think we might have different understandings of what is going on and it would make sense to clear those up before continuing.
Well, I know what I see when I tap into your mind: in a word, any- and everything. I can see, smell, taste, feel, and hear whatever you do. I can know your thoughts and feelings. I know I’m not as good as you are, Q’aleane. You’ve had a lot more practice, and your mental discipline has always been better than mine. But I am trying to get better.
Anyways… that’s what I figure you experience when you check in on me.
(Q’aleane smiles somewhat impishly)
You realize that if I did that more than every once in a while without preparation I would turn into a gibbering forest monkey? I don’t mean to alienate, and any time you wanted me to do so I am happy to and try and understand anything I see… but you are loud in there. It takes some preparation if I am going to spend longer than a few moments, especially if I am seeing everything. And the only times I do that is when we are working together like we were today with Yevra.
It’s not about being better, it’s about having a lot more practice. When I check in I basically touch your mind and sense if it feels right. I am not even directly feeling the emotions, per se, although if they are strong they will bleed through. And I am definitely not seeing through your eyes. You have known every time I have done that, except in the very beginning while we were both learning to control it.
At this point I don’t even do it consciously anymore; it is something that happens unconsciously and the only way I know it is happening is if something is wrong or something bleeds through. For example, if you were being eaten by a monkey.
(Q’ayla can’t help but laugh)
Well, I’ll admit, I did have a very different image of it. And I know Irsin will be glad to hear that. I can’t even imagine how uncomfortable he must feel when he’s with me and thinks that you’re watching us like a Force ghost or something!
Also, if I was ever being eaten by a monkey, trust me that I’d let you know. You wouldn’t need to check in on that.
Well… I was going to ask that you limit how often you check in on me, but if that’s all you’re doing, and it helps you feel better to know that I’m doing alright, who am I to stop you? We’ve been looking out for each other our whole lives, and even though this new bond is much stranger than the old one, we shouldn’t change who we are just because of it. And besides, if I know I’m going to be spending a nice evening with my boyfriend… heh… I can always just tell you. That way there are no surprises.
Oh, by the way: I’m spending a nice evening with my boyfriend tonight.
I gathered. You can let Irsin know that if I were to have the odd desire to look in on that, I have much simpler and less … complicating ways of doing that through the ship.
(There’s a familiar impishness in the quirk of Q’aleane’s lips and eyes; Q’ayla lets her mouth hang open, incredulous)
However, more seriously, I mean it about the only difference in this case being practice. You will never get more comfortable with this bond of ours if you do not utilize it. I challenge you to tap in while we are working together from time to time and get a sense of it more often. If you don’t it could very easily overwhelm you if you aren’t careful, and we are about to go into some overwhelming circumstances.
I understand. I know it’s strange, but you’re right, the only way I’ll ever get used to it is if I use it. Our old bond was so much simpler, though, you know?
Oh, there’s one more thing I wanted to ask you:
When I was just in your mind, it seemed to me that you were in the midst of formulating or acting on a plan of some kind. Care to tell? Because if you’re thinking about running off into the jungle again, you can forget about me and Irsin chasing for six hours to catch up to you!
(She grins and lets out a small laugh)
Though not exactly, closer than you might think.
(She pauses to collect her thoughts)
Have I mentioned about the holocron detection stuff and how wonky it is going?
Yeah, I remember you asking… I think it was Barukka about the diffuse feeling the Force is giving off here. Maybe it was Vergere earlier, I don’t remember…
It would probably be imprudent to try any combination of that sense and our link again given what happened last time, but basically there is this … pattern fragment almost … that seems to be omnipresent—
Oh no, you got that right. I cannot deal with another one of those splitting headaches right now.
I’ve started to wonder if it’s related to the feeling we are getting from whatever Master Darach has become, or whatever is controlling him and its echos … but Vergere pointed out that if it was showing up on his senses it wouldn’t be malicious like we are picking up.
You’re right – if we were detecting Master Darach, the diffuse essence of the Force wouldn’t be “grey,” it would be as dark as Dathomir itself.
So what are you proposing?
Well, assuming for the moment that my … experience … was externally influenced and did actually involve the spirit world, it would seem to me that the Force nexus, my mood, and the dark pattern we have been sensing were proximate to each other, enough to form some sort of link that allowed the experience to happen.
Going off of the premise that I need to know if this was a real experience or, as Vergere hypothesizes, a psychotic break, I need to find a way to test it without causing the same kind of … unfortunate … experience again.
So I plan on attempting to identify whatever grey pattern I am sensing and find a way to tap into it instead, on the premise that it might be a spirit more inclined to help us instead of wanting to well… eat our misery or something.
And you think that this spirit might lead you to a grey holocron? Or are you hoping that it might assist us in dealing with the encroaching darkness?
Well, my theory is that if what we are dealing with is what the witches call a shaman, then the shaman is basically acting as a conduit for something else. Not sure if it is a spirit or Force pattern or what, but something else. Presumably if I am sane, that is what I was interacting with that night, not my own delusions.
If I can tap into, and communicate with, another spirit it will both help reinforce mentally that it wasn’t a psychotic break and, presumably, whatever it is will have more of an idea of what is going on than anyone else we can talk to and it might help us come up with a way to either deal with whatever the shaman is channeling or sever the link safely.
If what I experienced was a psychotic break, I won’t have the mental strength or focus to do anything of note and that will mean I can focus on pushing my brain to find out where the break is and repair it before it gets us all killed.
(Q’ayla’s face seems to turn towards concern now)
Well… please be careful, whatever you do.
And in all seriousness, if you need me, let me know. I don’t care if you use our link. Just don’t let me find laying on a dead rancor again. If it turns out that there was a break somewhere in that beautiful head of yours, we’ll work together to make sure it gets fixed. I’ll take care of you, Q’aleane.
After all, that’s what big sisters are for, am I right?
(She gives another sly smile, one returned by her sister)
Indeed. But in some ways there is little I can do to be careful. No matter what way I slice it, it is going to be a risk. This is a less risky proposition than trying to recreate what I went through to determine if it was a delusion, but I don’t kid myself into thinking this is in any way safe.
If I do it right, the journey will not involve any physical movement. But I am treading on uncharted waters here. So I’m going to instruct the ship to follow me and inform you guys if I ended up going on a walkabout— and have the ship make a record of it all.
Do you want me to stay with you? Seriously, I will. I’m sure Irsin will understand.
No, in some ways it might make it more difficult to concentrate. A lot of what I am going to be doing is in an internally constructed world. But it would help if you checked in from time to time over our link and see if I am… myself.
(Q’aleane actually looks a little concerned by that statement)
I will. I promise.
(This time, Q’ayla goes in for the hug, warmly holding her sister)
Everything is going to be okay. You hear me? You’re not crazy. We are going to beat this thing, whatever it is. And then we’re going to get far away from here and live a new life.
You’re going to be fine. I promise.
(Q’aleane returns the hug)
I appreciate it, but I am not sure what worries me more… the possibility that I am crazy and somehow managed to shock myself out of it… or that I am not crazy and we are dealing with something this powerful that we know nothing about and have no frame of reference to understand it because it is entirely unlike anything we have been taught or is recorded in the holocron.
Either way we need to know before the summit.
I can’t shake the feeling that something big is going to happen there that will require us to be more ourselves than we have been.
We need to be ready – even if we can’t truly be ready for what’s coming.
We’ll need each other, and we’ll have each other’s backs.
I’m scared too, sis.
(Releasing the hug, she smiles again)
But come on, let’s not get down again. You need to be at your best for what you’re about to do.
And I need to go learn how to be a cook.
Good luck with that. There is a reason there is really only mush here. Do have a good time though, and make sure you and he are in a good place. I am not the only one that will have to face their demons before this is over, and for all the troubles we have had lately… I worry about Irsin.
(Q’ayla nods knowingly)
I know. I do too.
He’s been so strong for me lately as Dathomir cracks my armor. And I don’t care what he says – he needs someone looking out for him too. I need to be better for him now.
(She starts to stand)
Well I should take care of this food… somehow.
Good luck tonight— I’ll check in on you every once in a while.
And don’t forget that I’m here for you, Q’aleane. You never have to worry about talking with me, okay?
Okay. Enjoy your evening and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do…
(She chuckles a little)
…Although given my history of ill-advised experimentation… I am not exactly sure what that would be.
(She hugs Q’ayla briefly before making her way to one of the lift pads; Q’ayla laughs after her)
Don’t worry, I won’t…
Love you, sis. Be careful.