(Q’ayla exits her room, heading for the lift down to the lower level. She seems so inwardly focused that she doesn’t notice her sister sitting in the center of the bridge until she’s almost reached the lift. She stops just before heading down, pausing to look at Q’aleane for a long moment. After a few seconds, she opens up her mind to her sister, tentatively looking in on what’s going on inside but prepared to leave if it’s something personal or private)
(In Q’aleane’s mind: Q’aleane appears to be pacing on top of the lake in her mind, in the distance, three and four targets pop up suddenly and she throws something at them and they crash and disperse… In their place more pop up in odd places and sizes and in random intervals. She appears to be up to six or so independent targets. Q’ayla gets an overwhelming sense of “Bored Now” reverberating through the mindscape. Despite that feeling of boredom Q’aleane appears to be engrossed enough for right now not to notice her sister)
(Q’ayla suppresses a small laugh when she sees her sister apathetically destroying targets over the lake. She looks from Q’aleane to the lift, then back again, then again; finally, she steps aside and, leaning against the wall, she slides to the floor, settling herself. With some effort, she allows herself the calm and concentration necessary to enter her sister’s mind. Once she feels comfortable and stable in there, she stands on the periphery, watching again for a moment as she adjusts before speaking)
Why do I get the sense that you’re… what’s the word I’m looking for… bored?
(For a brief moment it is as if eight Q’aleane’s all notice Q’ayla at the same time… some of them feel like the mental equivalent of a kitten… one of them feels like her sister is normally, and one of them feels like… nothing Q’ayla has ever felt before… Q’ayla doesn’t sense any hostility from any of them, just intense driving curiosity. After a moment the feeling passes and it feels as if all of them have merged into one, the feeling of Q’aleane dominates, the kittens all but disappear, and the final one appears to acquiesce. At the same time she notices that the lake calms and the tension seems to drain off of Q’aleane into the lake. She turns to Q’ayla)
Hey sis, don’t normally talk to you like this… what is up?
(A fragment of Q’aleane appears to worry for a second and check the ship to see if something is going wrong, then re-integrates. Q’ayla moves as though to speak, but hesitates then pauses until things feel right again)
Don’t worry, everything’s fine. I was on my way down to the lower level and thought I’d check in on you. I can’t believe you’re bored after all this, Q’aleane. Wasn’t piloting the ship for almost six hours exciting enough for you?
(She makes a sly smile. Q’aleane sighs and seems to… well, ‘plop’ is the best word… down. For a moment it seems like she’s going to dunk in the water, but she doesn’t)
No, not really. Hell when we are flying it is almost too normal. Sort of like running after you have caught your second wind… you are kind of aware of what is going on around you, enough to know where you are going and how to avoid things but not really enough to keep me occupied. It might be different if I were piloting normally, but the mental link makes it… different.
(Q’ayla walks to the edge of the lake, leaning over to peer into the water. The phrase “When you gaze into the void, the void gazes back” springs to mind. She gets a momentary feeling like earlier, of a deep, deep pool of Q’aleane… but not Q’aleane. For a moment it seems to act as a dark mirror showing back to Q’ayla what Q’aleane sees when she sees her. She gets the overwhelming feelings of affection, worry, and amusement that she can sometimes feel coming from Q’aleane, but quite a bit… stronger than normal. Q’ayla nods slightly at this before sitting cross-legged on the edge of the shore, just to be safe)
Alright, so dangerous piloting doesn’t excite you. And we’re far from the Clanmeet now…
So what do you want to do? We’ve got one more night before… well… before we get where we’re going. Let me guess? You want to try something that’s never been done with the Force before, right?
(She leans her chin against one of her hands, but the smile she wears is not mocking but warm. At the mention of playing with the Force, Q’aleane’s eyes almost light up— in the corner of her mind she can almost see an image of a prism and the beginnings of an idea… after a moment, though, it kind of drains away)
No… not really, that would be a bit dangerous and I know you are worried about that. Besides, playing with those energies is probably not on the table for a while… I just don’t know what I should be doing right now.
(Then, almost wistfully)
In the academy it was all so easy… always something to think about.
(Q’ayla nods with a similar sense of nostalgia)
You’ve got that right…
If we weren’t going on assignment, we were in class, in training, doing homework, meditating…
(She seems like she could go on and on, but trails off)
You miss it.
You’re going to miss it, aren’t you?
(Q’aleane seems to ponder that for a while… absently tracing patterns in the water with her finger… the ripples go out but eventually calm)
Yes and no. To an extent it is like remembering something that was good at the time… But I was already starting to ask questions that made some of the masters distinctly uncomfortable. I imagine that is, in part, why they sent me off to Zonama Sekot… kind of a way of channeling me along the path they thought was most healthy. And they were right in a way… but I don’t think going back now, even if I could explain away the changes in us, that it would be the same. Chances are the questions I would ask now would only get me in more trouble.
Never mind the fact that I’d have to tell them about everything that’s happened here, right?
I’ve been really struggling with the idea of not going back— of deserting the Order after we leave Dathomir. In the past few days, though… I don’t know, it’s like it’s not so bad anymore. It might even be better for everyone that way, you know?
(She gently glides a finger over the edge of the water, keeping her eyes on her hand and not on her sister. Tracing the water, several things seem odd about the experience. At first, Q’ayla has trouble even detecting that there is water there at all… kind of like floating in water that is body temperature… The density of the medium is at the same time lighter than she would normally expect water to be… almost smoke like, but it reacts more like a much denser liquid would, like oil. Perhaps the most puzzling is there appears to be an odd echo effect through the link as she does it. It is ill-defined and hard to pin down but it is almost like what Q’ayla is tracing is echoing back to her through Q’aleane. When she looks at her sister, if she is aware of it she isn’t letting on. Q’ayla pauses her tracing briefly as she takes in the strange new sensations; she looks at Q’aleane but doesn’t read anything on her face. She decides that the feeling is sort of nice in its own way, and then continues to traipse her finger into the lake.)
(Q’aleane giggles slightly)
Can you imagine the debriefing? “Oh, by the way, everything you know about the Force is wrong and I can prove it…” “Oh and sorry about that, but we kind of had to talk to the embodiment of the Dark Side as the other two were being kind of dickish and we needed to figure out a way to save them from themselves… well themselves and that fourth weird one…” “No I am not insane…”
(Q’ayla lets out a laugh)
They would never believe you on that, sis!
If they didn’t kill me— us outright, they’d definitely lock us up, that’s for sure. And imagine Master Tahl’s reaction…
(Through the link, Q’aleane can sense something in Q’ayla’s mind, underneath the mirth that she seems to be putting up as a front. Talking about the Jedi seems to be eroding her confidence, however, so she changes the subject again)
But anyways, back to what I was asking before— I mean it, if you want to try one of your experiments tonight… as long as it’s relatively safe at least… I’ll try it with you. I won’t be mad, I promise. We don’t know what’s going to happen out there tomorrow, and I want to do this with you, Q’aleane. It’s your passion, and I’ve been wrong to keep you from it.
(Q’aleane seems somewhat taken aback at first…)
Well in a strange way I am not sure I can right now. The only thing I have been able to come up with involves… well you know how color can be two different things? Like when you paint on a piece of white paper and add more and more colors, it never gets back to white… but if you combine a bunch of different colored lights you end up with white… I am wondering which that green power is more like? I am suspecting it is more like the latter as we were only able to get through the barrier to help Barruka with all of us and our different energy signatures. But if I start playing with that line of thinking, chances are good I may end up unconscious… which would be a bit detrimental to our current plans to say the least…
(The last part is said with more than a little self-depreciating humor)
Other than that I got nothing… and I am not even sure why.
Well that doesn’t seem like you at all— you’ve always got a lot of things going on all at once. Are you not feeling well? Maybe all this flying about is tiring you out more than you realize?
(Q’aleane seems to ponder that for a bit)
No not tired, just frustrated. It’s like we have set these things in motion and yes, we have accomplished a lot with very little, but right now… I am still not sure it is enough. And I don’t like the options available to us to deal with things if they go bad.
(She seems to want to say something but is reluctant. Q’ayla looks a bit uncomfortable, and shifts a little; she untucks her legs and comes up onto her knees, sitting back on the backs of her legs)
Well, we’re definitely better off with Allya’s help, that’s for sure. If not for that, we’d probably still be arguing with the clanmothers. And don’t forget… we’re not out of options yet. No matter what comes.
Okay… I need you to promise me something.
I have been making an effort to avoid doing these experiments because it may end up hurting you. I need you to promise me something for the same reason. Do not give into him. He may be a god to our people, but even they warn of him. And all the legends across all the worlds I know of all say the same thing:
“Do Not Trust.”
We are stuck working with him for a time. We have all accepted that in our own way and we will all have to help each other out of those pits when we are done. But if you… with our connection… I am not sure …
(Q’aleane can feel whatever her sister is trying to hold down inside of her tremors once, then again)
I’ve made up my mind about this, sis. You’re not the only one who’s tried to talk me away from this. You’d be surprised how insistent Irsin can be…
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, dealing with this for days. After the past two nights I— I just…
(She sighs again, her head hangs)
…I’ve accepted this Q’aleane. I’ll do what I have to do to get us out of here safely. And I’m trying to hold it together tonight, not just for me…
(At once, Q’ayla realizes that the underlying awareness of the place has become focused on her again… there is no emotion attached to it, just awareness of attention being paid)
I need you to listen to what I have to say.
Do you realize how much it is taking me to keep from attempting to summon that energy again? I have never been that reckless. But here it is. And I am resisting it because of the damage it could do to you.
You haven’t thought this all the way through. Remember what happened when I tried to enter the Spirit Realm alone? This isn’t a case of if you go down, you go down and I am there to pick up the pieces. I am not saying don’t accept some of the power, I am saying don’t dive into the hole head-first. Because if you do, you will drag Irsin and I down with you. And neither of us will be able to help you through to the other side.
If you need to accept some of his power, fine. We all have… but don’t dive in head-first and think you can do it all yourself with his help. We are all in this together and if we all take a portion of the burden than maybe, just maybe, we will be enough ourselves on the flip side that we can help each other…
…But if you try to shoulder it all yourself… well you saw what it almost did to me until I realized I was hurting you.
(Q’ayla recoils a little from those words, almost like a child being scolded. It would be a reaction familiar to Q’aleane from their days with the Jedi)
I… I wouldn’t hurt you, Q’aleane. At least, I wouldn’t hurt you intentionally. And I don’t want to hurt Irsin, either. I just—
(That feeling inside Q’ayla is starting to spike)
I just don’t know what’s going to happen! I have no idea what we’re going to face down there, and what I’m going to need to give in order to keep us safe! I don’t want to hurt anybody, Q’aleane, but I will not stand by and let us all die just because there’s risks involved! You didn’t hear Bogan— you didn’t hear those words!
“You are not strong enough to stop them.”
“You are not strong enough to stop them!”
And then I’ll be all alone! And there’s screaming and death and panic and pleading! And I’m all alone! All… alone…
(She’s having a hard time staying connected to this space; her concentration is starting to falter. Q’aelene reaches out with her mind and stablaizes the link… Q’ayla feels a sense of power coming from the lake… not power like the kind that would burn or kill or maim, power that gets unleashed, but the kind of deep-rooted power that is content with being right where it is like a tree by a river… it is clear that Q’aelane doesn’t even know that it is there. She just reacts instinctually)
You… are… not…. alone.
And that is my point.
The only way either of us will ever be alone is if we give into the fear that we will be alone. Oh I heard Bogan’s call…
“You are not powerful enough, you don’t know enough… Give in and be a conduit for power you can’t even possibly imagine… You want to know how the universe works, I will tell you. It is all there just reach out and grab it.”
But he lies. Remember that… every time he says, “Do this thing or something bad will happen.” The one thing throughout history, across cultures, across eons… he lies. If he is telling you that you need to be strong enough to stop them all by yourself or you will be all alone… think about it… think why you would need to stop them by yourself to avoid being alone…
We are here to help each other. If either of us gives in completely, we all fall. We need to be strong enough to know when to stop.
(Q’aleane can see her sister taking deep breaths, trying to hold herself to this space. Q’ayla is visibly trembling, and her sister isn’t exactly sure if she’s comprehending properly)
Q’aleane… you don’t know…
You haven’t seen…
You haven’t seen the things I’ve seen…
It’s all going to come true…
(She words come much slower, more deliberately)
It already has once…
(Almost as if on cue, the space around the two sisters begins to shine and distort, and the scene of the lake seems… replaced, perhaps, with a very different scene… A massive, familiar looking rancor is holding Q’ayla, squeezing her, breaking her body down. Q’ayla coughs blood and gasps, at the edge of death. In front of her is Q’aleane, standing quietly, staring at her dying sister, tears of blood streaming down her face)
These aren’t just nightmares, Q’aleane…
I know that now…
And if I don’t do what Bogan has asked of me…
(The scene changes once again, this time to a clearing in the jungle. The sounds all around the two seated sisters is almost deafening— screams, the clangs and buzzes of weapons, battle cries, death cries. All around them death is being dealt, and Q’aleane can see Q’ayla dying over and over and over again, each time dispatching one more assailant before being killed again; sometimes, Q’aleane sees herself dying, sees Irsin dying. Finally, in the end, Q’ayla stands alone, screaming impotently and railing against a horde of Nightsisters. Her companions are dead, and soon so is she— the scene snaps and flashes back to the lake, but Q’ayla is reeling on the shore. These scenes are as real as anything else Q’aleane has ever experienced, even as she knows that this is a subconscious, mental place)
(Echoes of the scenes continue to play out, fragments of shadows playing a macabre play above the lake. Q’aleane appears to concentrate for a moment… instead of the normal drain into the lake the lake seems to take form, the form of a familiar giant rancor rises through Q’aleane, merging with her and swallowing the images whole. In a blink the rancor, the images, all of it dissipates and falls like water into the lake. In but a moment the lake stills… there is nothing left in the clearing but peace… Quietly, Q’aleane speaks)
You don’t understand.
I almost lost myself because I listened to him. Not in the Spirit Realm, but before that. In the end only my connection to you let me survive. And you have to remember: The rancor didn’t kill you. I subsumed the rancor.
(There is meaning behind that word that Q’ayla feels but doesn’t fully understand)
If we hadn’t been connected, I would have been lost. These images he has been showing you are lies. Is there going to be a battle? Sure… just like there was a rancor. But he twists things to make his way the way you embrace. This is not me saying this, this is taught in every culture that has a name for him. He is the deceiver… he twists words to his favor. Unlike the Jedi, I do not think he needs to be avoided at all cost. But like the Dathomiri I too believe that to give in wholly to him is to destroy everything. Even our connection.
(Q’ayla is quiet for a long time; she seems to be trying to regain herself after the outburst. In the link, Q’aleane can sense her sister again pushing those feelings and thoughts down, deep down. After some time, she speaks again)
I don’t know, Q’aleane…
I just don’t know.
I don’t know what to believe anymore.
I’ve been trying so hard to hold myself together with this. For myself, for Irsin…
I need to just keep it together for a few more days…
I won’t do anything reckless, sis. Or at least I’ll try not to. But I don’t know what’s out there waiting for us. I want to promise you, I really do.
But I can’t.
All I can promise is that I’ll try to be my best. And hopefully that will be enough, you know?
(Q’aleane walks off the lake and embraces her sister)
That is all I can ask… that is all you asked of me. Just remember we are in this together, whatever you decide.
(She looks at her sister meaningfully with those last words… her eyes betray her true meaning… communicating more than words what she means… She truly thinks that if Q’ayla were to go down that hole, she would axiomatically have to go with her and she is trusting Q’ayla to make the right decision)
(Q’ayla embraces Q’aleane and listens to her words. She nods at what her sister is trying to convey, and something else seems to come back to her)
Wait… what do you mean about the rancor? Bogan came to you before the Spirit Realm?
Who do you think it was in that nexus of darkness during that night out? He evaded the question when I asked him but were it the other, he would no doubt have used that fact to his advantage and pointed out it was the other, not him. I can think of no other it could have been.
That… hadn’t occurred to me. In my nightmare, the rancor was a very different thing…
(She shakes her head roughly to get the thought out)
I’ll think about what you said tonight, Q’aleane. You know you mean the world to me, right? It’s a fine line I have to walk between saving and hurting you, I know that. Promise me that you won’t hate me if I falter, okay? Promise me…
(Q’aleane cocks a mischievous smile)
All I can promise is that I’ll try to be my best… and hopefully that will be enough, you know?
(There is a sense of affection in the phrase, not maliciousness. She sits back down with obvious fatigue)
Dealing with those emotions was draining you know… not used to it… to be honest I am not even sure what that rancor was. But I do know I’m not bored anymore…. just tired.
(Q’ayla lets out a breathless laugh)
Well, at least you’re not bored anymore… I guess I’m good for something!
Oh, by the way… You don’t happen to have any fancy dress clothes or makeup, do you? I never really asked since you got back from Zonama Sekot…
(Q’aleane looks up with an odd tilt to her head)
You were headed to spend time with Irsin when you ran into me, weren’t you? I’m sorry for detaining you with my broken brain… literally.
(She chuckles at that)
Let’s see what we can piece together, I can at least do your hair… not sure what I have in the way of clothing that doesn’t just scream Jedi… But who knows, between the two of us we might be able to piece something together. We should probably switch back to physical form— chances are you probably have one hell of a charlie horse.
(Q’aleane sits back down in the middle of the lake in a mirror of the form she is in in the physical world and begins to drift back; Q’ayla senses she is doing it slowly to give her time to transition back less abruptly than she normally does. Q’ayla concentrates hard, bringing herself out of the mental space and back into the physical. As Q’aleane comes out of her mind, she’ll find Q’ayla seated up against the wall near the lift; she’s wearing her strapless dress from Ansion and the matching veil, and her hair is let out long like her sister’s, and seems to be shining and smooth. She picks herself up and stretches a little, getting her bearings)
Don’t apologize, sis…
…I came into your broken brain, you didn’t force me…
(She smiles warmly)
Yeah, I don’t really have anything other than this, and honestly, I wouldn’t know where to begin… but I feel like I need to be with him tonight. You know, before…
(She trails off, but keeps her head up all the same)
Well I am not sure what I can do to add to that… it looks like you have the outfit covered. I didn’t know you had a dress like that— where did you get it? … Wait… you can tell me some other time, go… spend time with him.
I will go get some sleep…
(Q’ayla smiles, crosses the room, and gives her sister a big hug)
…Thanks Q’aleane. I love you. Sleep well, we’ve got a big day tomorrow.
(Letting her go, Q’ayla heads for the lift, continuing to adjust her hair and clothes nervously as she goes)