I mean come on in.
(Doors slide open – revealing Q’ayla)
Hey, do you have a minute? I mean, I know you’re busy still…
(Irsin hastily tries to cleanup his work station which is covered in various circuits and small technical equipment. Wiping his hands he waves Q’ayla to the nearest chair)
Yes of course.
I’m likely to be at this awhile.
Breaks are always welcome distractions.
(Q’ayla walks into the room, looking around a little as she heads for the chair and sits down)
How’s it going with that thing – making any progress?
Yes, although slower than I’d hoped. I have been…poor at patience when it comes to this and that hasn’t helped.
(Irsin seems on the point of saying more but decides against it)
Well, I know you’ll get it. No matter how long it takes. You’re the best slicer I’ve ever seen, and you’re only getting better. Doone, on the other hand, is dead – so you’ve got a leg up on him now.
(Q’ayla smiles briefly before becoming pensive)
What do you think you’ll find in there anyways? Is this just a means of getting control of his ship… or do you think Doone knows where Grale is?
I…I’m not sure. I hope Doone knows something. Knew. He had to, otherwise Grale wouldn’t have worked so hard to remove him from the equation.
(Irsin grimaces at this, clearly remembering how they were all manipulated)
If he doesn’t know where Grale is, maybe he had some information about my mother, where Grale keeps her, something I can hold over Grale to get him to come out of hiding…oh I don’t know, but there has to be something I can use in there. You don’t go to this much trouble to secure information if it isn’t valuable. And I mean to have it!
(Irsin says the last piece with a bit more fire in his voice than is strictly necessary. He seems to realize it and grows quiet again afterward)
(Almost looking embarrassed he falls silent)
(Q’ayla’s face remains blank for a moment, and then she makes a slight, warm smile)
It’s… it’s okay, Irsin.
I know you’re still upset about what happened. You don’t have to hide it from me. I’m upset too. I should have been stronger – I should have been able to stand up to Grale… but it’s too late for that now. All we can do is keep looking for him, and we will find him.
Even if cracking this thing doesn’t lead to him, we won’t give up. I promise you.
(She adjusts herself in the chair, getting more comfortable, as though she means to stay)
(A small smile seems to creep out from the corner of Irsin’s mouth, almost without his awareness, then abruptly he looks at Q’ayla as though considering something)
Why do you care? About me, about finding my mother, about getting back at Grale beyond your own sense of betrayal at not getting him when you had the chance…why do you want to help me?
I keep looking for the way you gain something from it…what you’re achieving for your own goals, how it helps you or your sister.
And every time I come up with the fact that if you had kicked me to the curb by now your life would be a good deal simpler.
So why do it?
(Irsin stares at her intently…the answer clearly is very important to him, but there’s a note, a quality to the question. Not only is he truly confused and baffled, but almost a sense of….hope?)
(Q’ayla shifts a little in the chair, running one hand’s fingers through her hair – she seems surprised at the abruptness of the question)
At first, you wouldn’t have been far off. When we met on Taris, and circumstances seemed to ally us, my thoughts were on Grale, and Wayland, and completing my first mission as a Jedi.
Then, when I found out you are… were… (there’s a hint of questioning in her voice)… a Sith, I was furious. Partly, I felt betrayed, but even then… I … I mean…
Once you told us your story – about your parents, and the Imperial Knights, and then Grale’s first betrayal… well, I – my anger washed away.
I realized that maybe you weren’t really a Sith after all. Simply a victim of cruel manipulation. And I couldn’t let that stand. So I fought against Grale – err, Doone – for that betrayal.
Then when we had Grale aboard the ship, and you wanted to let him go, I couldn’t believe it – I know that he said he was your father, but my mandate was clear. I was frustrated then, but… even then, and I don’t know why… I felt that I could trust you.
Nar Shaddaa… we fought together against Doone, and we suffered together under Grale’s grip. After that – I can’t turn away now. You’ve been hurt so badly, Irsin, and…
I don’t want anything from this except to help you find peace… and trust… and, maybe even happiness again. I’ll freely admit that life as a Jedi Knight would be much simpler if I wasn’t traveling with a Sith Saber (slight nervous laugh)…
But … I feel a kind of connection to you, Irsin. (Her voice is trembling a little bit; she’s clearly nervous and perhaps a little shocked at what she’s saying) Nothing happens by chance in the Force. You came into our lives for a reason, and until this has all played out, I won’t leave your side. Not until Grale is gone and Laena is back in your life.
(She sighs after it’s all out, running her hand through her hair again and tilting her head down towards the floor as if embarrassed)
(Irsin feels through empathy that Q’ayla is telling the truth, though she is unaware of his intrusion)
(As Q’ayla speaks Irsin’s face seems unreadable except for spikes. When she mentions how badly he’s been hurt he seems to stiffen, as though offended by her pity, before schooling his face again. And yet, underneath it all, Q’ayla feels an emotion that seems entirely out of place, and strong enough that she notices it even if she isn’t reaching out to sense it: Relief.)
(Irsin seems to sit there for a long time. He looks ready to speak a couple of times, looking like he is attempting to work moisture into his mouth. Finally he manages to speak)
…The last time I genuinely believed someone had my own interests at heart, where I thought I mattered to them irrespective of my value to them or their goals…I…
…it’s been a long time.
I want you to know that in case you’re wondering why I asked…why I seemed to press you so hard. I needed to know.
If I’m going to keep on with you…and I’m somewhat surprised to discover how much I want to do so…I needed to know where I fit in.
How closely I needed to watch myself.
Now that I have my answer…it’s exhilarating…
To find out that not everyone sees the world how I’ve learned to see it.
That there’s a perspective outside what I thought was fact.
I guess it’s just a lot to take in…
(Q’ayla keeps her head down while he speaks, then slowly raises it as he becomes quiet again)
How do you see the world? Are you really so different from me? Even despite being a Sith for so long, you still dug that hole for me in the Promised Land… you were kind, Irsin – you understand that feeling of selflessness, or you wouldn’t have helped me then, and you wouldn’t have dueled me when I asked you to.
(Irsin seems to chuckle half-heartedly)
I used to see the world differently. I felt that it was revealed to me a long time ago. Being around you…working with you…
It’s made me remember things I’d thought I’d given up on.
I struggle with it even now.
I thought it was safer to be within myself by now…
…Now I’m not so sure…
(She’s nodding at him with the words “within myself”)
As strange as it might seem, I know what you mean about finding solace closing off from others.
I do it all the time when I’m at the academy. Unless I’m with Q’aleane, I don’t act like myself.
I act like the Jedi I should be.
Only inside – in here (she places her hand on her chest) – is the real me in those moments.
It’s safer that way.
Safety is a falsehood I’m coming to understand may not be as comfortable as I once thought.
Safety used to mean simply survival.
Now safety feels more like hiding, and I’m tired of hiding.
I’m tired of pretending to be someone I’m not.
I’m tired of staying alive at the cost of what used to make me who I am.
(He seems to get angry as he speaks and stands up to pace across the room. With his back to Q’ayla he puts his head in his hand)
(Tentatively, she stands up and walks to him. In his periphery he can feel her hand reaching out for him, but she stops before it would touch his back, then pulls away – the thought of Nar Shaddaa apprehends her. When she speaks, it’s softly)
And what about the rage? Is there safety in that too – something comforting and reassuring? Is it just keeping you alive… because I don’t think it’s really you, Irsin.
(Slowly she retreats back to the chair and sits down again, watching and waiting as she tucks her legs up against her.)
(Very softly without turning he says, barely loud enough for her to hear) Have you ever sat in your darkest moment and made the wrong choice? Have you ever been faced with the biggest decision of your life and done the thing you could never have fathomed before that moment? And then in the months and years that followed, have you discovered that the thing you grasped onto in that moment, was all you had left? It’s easy to say that the rage is something that isn’t my own. It’s harder to believe, when you don’t know anymore where you end and it begins.
(Q’ayla’s head inches forward as she strains to hear, then she lowers it before responding)
…yes I have.
I mean, not exactly what you’ve described.
But in a moment of great despair, when all was lost – or seemingly so – I made the wrong choice.
Thankfully, it hasn’t defined me… (this more to herself than him) … or has it? … but I do understand how overwhelming something like that can be.
Once, on Bespin, I killed a defenseless person in an utter rage because I thought he had killed my master and sister.
Then, on Wayland, when the Sith archway presented me with another chance – the same man, the same explosion that killed Q’aleane, my master was able to stop me before I could commit the deed. But I was filled with so much hatred and despair that I couldn’t bring myself out of the dark and…I…
I killed them both. The terrorist. And my master.
…That was just a simulation and yet – the thought of it still haunts me.
(Her hands rise to her face and she removes her visor, placing it on her lap before she runs her hands up her bare face)
(Irsin turns then, studying her)
That’s because it is not just a thought, it’s a real memory. That archway wasn’t simply a simulation. But don’t despair to discover that you have the potential for great mistakes. I promise you I have made many more. All people have this potential, and everyone has a breaking point. I believe that despite their codes, and rules, and talks of the inner calm and eternal peace, even the most vaunted Jedi Master has a screw that could be turned at the right moment in the right circumstance that could push them to make such a choice.
And that’s the biggest difference between the Jedi and….whatever it is Vergere wants us to do here.
The Jedi would have you believe that you can be trained to be immune from the emotion of those moments – that you can deny their very existence if you can maintain enough calm.
The truth I’m beginning to understand is that it’s not the denial of those emotions that’s the most important, it’s the understanding and acceptance of them, and then trying to make the best decision you can using those emotions.
I don’t know if that helps you but…it helps me.
(Q’ayla lets out a sigh – almost a laugh – from beneath her hands)
It’s funny you say that about what happened on Wayland.
Everyone else I’ve talked to kept reminding me over and over again that what I experienced wasn’t real – that it was a simulation designed to test me and nothing more.
Hearing you say differently – so matter-of-fact – I… actually find it more comforting.
It means I’m not completely nuts!
(Now she manages a laugh, though her hands remain over her face)
You mentioned earlier that my motivations – or lack thereof – are exhilarating for you, because I represent someone outside your worldview.
You should know that I feel the same way, Irsin.
(Now she raises her head and lets one hand, then the other fall away from her bare face. She’s trembling a little – being without her visor around others is not something she does, and yet here she is)
Whenever I listen to you talk about living with your emotions, and how you’ve struggled with them, and how you’ve discovered new truths about them, I get a sense of real hope.
I don’t know what it means for me as a Jedi, but what you’ve just described… the “understanding and acceptance of them, then trying to make the best decision you can using those emotions”… That’s what I try to do every day of my life. But it’s hard. It’s hard to be a Jedi like that—but being a Jedi is all I’ve ever wanted.
To see them falter… like they did with Alema… it breaks my heart.
Maybe it’s different with the Sith because trust appears to be in short supply, but…
I trust the Council, and I trust the Order.
Their ways are supposed to guide me through my life. A life of compassion and selflessness and sacrifice.
What Vergere has said to us… what Bastila has said to me… it throws it all up in the air.
And yet, here you are, Irsin.
Coming at this same point from opposite quarters.
A Sith meeting a Jedi in the middle.
If that can happen…
(She goes quiet, forgetting about the visor in her lap)
(Irsin crosses the room as he comes to her. His hand is shaking as he reaches towards her…and slowly…tentatively…puts it over her own)
But how can you have compassion when you aren’t supposed to make emotional choices?
How can you care for those around you and remain detached and logical?
(There seems to be a real question in his tone as he asks this. As if trying to find the answer himself)
(She looks at his hand, then up at his face, and then back again, but doesn’t move her hand. Just staring now)
If this had been a few days ago, I would have said, “Ask Q’aleane.”
She’s always been able to do it. Not me, but her certainly.
She’s been my rock.
Shown me the way to be a great Jedi.
Now, though… I’ve seen how she experiences emotion, and it… it scares me a little. Another piece of my sister I never knew about. I know that she cares about me, yet she remains as logical and detached towards just about everything else. When that changes in her… she changes.
That’s what I would have said to you, Irsin.
Now… I can’t answer that. Greater Jedi than Q’ayla Ren, perhaps. But not me.
(Irsin looks down at that and almost seems startled to find his hand on hers. He withdraws it then, if a little slower than he might need to)
Perhaps the Jedi simply cannot encompass your greatness. (Irsin mutters, almost as though he did not intend to speak aloud)
(Then, more loudly, he says) I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to keep asking you impossible questions…
I’m sure after the stress of the past couple of days this isn’t helping.
(He stands up and goes to sit back in his chair, hanging his head a little as he sits down)
(Her hand rises a little as his moves away; to hide the reaction she brings it up and brushes her hair back behind her ear. She can’t help but blush at his first comment, and then finds herself shaking her head at his second)
No, no, no, Irsin. Don’t apologize. You don’t know how much it means to me to be having this conversation right now – especially after all that’s happened, and the work you’ve been doing, and what we’re heading into on Dathomir.
This is helping – you’re helping.
And these questions aren’t impossible. They just remain safely out of reach right now.
We have a lot more grey holocrons to find, and with them, more answers.
In the meantime, we just have to sort them out the best we can—together.
(Irsin nods slowly at the end)
I still don’t know why you feel connected to me. But…I’m glad you do. Just…ah…don’t tell Q’aleane I’m going soft, okay? I need to keep up appearances… (He smiles a bit at the end)
(Q’ayla grins at him – then, remembering her visor—)
Speaking of keeping up appearances…
(She hastily picks up the visor and re-attaches it, adjusting it into place)
Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me!
(Her mouths hangs open a little as she ponders something)
Unless…well, unless she’s been listening in to this entire conversation. And, by listening, I mean she experiences all of my senses and thoughts.
(Her head turns slightly)
…Oh well. Not like I can tell or anything. (She sighs a little)
(Irsin gives a start)
I….ah…I see. Well…Let’s hope she’s still….counting raindrops or something… (He clears his throat)
Well I…ah….I guess I should get back to work.
(Q’ayla gets the impression that Irsin would be blushing furiously if his skin wasn’t already red)
(Q’ayla laughs a little)
You worry too much, Irsin – don’t be so afraid of Q’aleane!
(She tilts her head and, smiling, keeps looking at him)
I… I guess I can go if you want to get back to work.
Heh, I still haven’t actually told you why I came down here, though. I wanted to thank you for what you did for me – the duel, that is. I know next time I’ll need to warn Q’aleane before we do that, but…
…it did work.
(Irsin grows very clearly indignant)
I’m not afraid of her. I just…she just…we don’t really seem to have much in common.
At any rate, I’m glad it helped…truly.
I think you have spent so much time hiding your emotions…you don’t know really how to let them out anymore. For what it’s worth…your sister has a bit of the same problem, only more dramatic.
She has spent so much time living without emotion, she has no idea what to do when they do break free.
Anyway…I should get back to work but…ah…thanks for coming down. It was really nice to talk…for real.
(She untucks her legs and briefly stretches them before standing up)
Alright, I’ll let you get back to it.
(She crosses the room and waits as the doors slide open; turning to him—)
And don’t be a stranger down here – my door’s always open.
(In spite of himself, Irsin smiles)
Have a good night, Irsin – and don’t forget about sleep.
(She smiles, then walks out. The doors slide closed behind her.)