(Irsin is sitting at his workstation, going over some data gathered from the planet. At the same time, on a second screen, he glances at the progress of the next program that’s running to break the security on Doone’s personal files. In the back of his head, though, he is trying to avoid being frustrated that he’d, by necessity, had to leave the experience Q’aleane was about to attempt. He was more than curious what had caused her strange episode… and if the planet was somehow trying to get its claws into her… well… Suddenly into the midst of his musings—)
My sister needs you.
(Q’aleane’s voice says in his mind. He has no sense of inflection. She could be saying it casually as though discussing the weather… or she could be screaming it at the top of her lungs, he couldn’t tell. The words just sounded…dead. The split second it takes him to think this through is barely a heartbeat, and he is bounding out of his chair, drawing his lightsabers and dashing out his door. He is halfway out of the ship when he realizes the door to the ship is closed… they must have already come back. He whirls, and heads for Q’ayla’s room instead. Unfortunately, he was so quick to react that he did not notice the email show up on his personal account with the explanatory audio file.)
(“Let me not be too late,” he says in his own mind)
Q’AYLA! Q’AYLA LET ME IN!
(Irsin stands at the door, sabers both drawn and ignited, shouting… hoping she can still answer)
(There’s nothing but silence from the other side of the door for several moments. Finally, after almost a minute, he hears her voice; it’s quiet and… dead in a way)
Please, go away, Irsin…
(Irsin, drawing back in the act of trying to slice through the door, stops dead)
Q’ayla? Q’ayla please let me in… I can’t help you from out here… please…
(His voice is quiet and almost pleading)
Did… Q’aleane send you?
Q’aleane doesn’t send me anywhere… ever. She said you needed me… I thought… I thought you might have been under attack… or dying or … I don’t even know.
(His voice is harder than he means it to be while his mind flashes on what might make Q’ayla this angry with her sister. As soon as he says the words he feels he might have gone too far, but he presses on)
Q’ayla just let me in. Please. I’m here for my own reasons, whatever might have happened between you and your sister.
(Several more moments pass, then finally the door opens without another word. Q’ayla isn’t standing at the door, and in the pitch black of the room, he can only barely make her out – kneeling in front of her bed, with her hands in front of her)
…She never asks, does she?
I didn’t want you to see this, Irsin.
…it’s all too much.
I have to go now.
(There’s nothing in her voice. No anger, no sadness, no emotion. She has never sounded more like her sister before)
(Irsin’s arms fall to his sides in relief when the door opens and he sees her, at least physically alright. Then, shaking his head as her words sink in a bit more, he disengages his lightsabers and opens himself to the Force so that he can navigate her room. He walks in slowly letting the door close behind him)
What are you talking about? What happened? What do you mean “you have to go”?
(She doesn’t move from the floor nor turn to meet him. Though standing behind her he can make out that she is holding something aloft in front of her, it isn’t until he moves to the side that he sees the saber hilt – pointed squarely at her chest)
I have to go away, Irsin.
I’m not right. All I do is wrong… all I do is hurt. I—
I just can’t handle all of this… I’m not strong enough.
I’m no Jedi.
I’m just a broken girl breaking everything around her.
(Irsin’s eyes widen when he sees the saber in its position and he drops his own saber hilts, raising his hands at first as though meaning to lunge across the intervening distance to try and stop her. He seems to think better of this action after a moment, realizing his sudden movement might spook her enough to press the switch, and he would never be fast enough – not even with the Force – if she saw it coming)
Q’ayla… you don’t want to do this.
I know you don’t.
It wasn’t even a day ago you were telling me how much you needed to be here; how much you needed to be around to protect me, to protect Yevra…
(He trails off, omitting the name of her sister so obviously he might as well have shouted it)
How can you do that if you… “go away”?
You told me I was stuck with you. Don’t break your word… not so soon.
Please… give me the lightsaber…
(As he speaks, Irsin inches his way closer, as quiet as if his life depended on silence, and as he says the last he stands just behind her, within reach of her blade if she ignited it, with one hand coming to softly rest on her right shoulder, while the left reaches around with an open palm to receive the hilt if she proffered it)
(When his hand touches her shoulder, Q’ayla slouches slightly – and just for a moment – before straightening herself again)
Please, Irsin… don’t…
You won’t be able to stop me – it’ll be too quick.
This is why I didn’t want you to be here… damn Q’aleane… She can’t even let me have this last moment of privacy…
It is nice to have you here. You’ve made me so happy these past few weeks. Happier than I’ve ever been.
You talk about “want,” Irsin… no, I don’t want this. I don’t think anyone ever really wants to die.
But see, that’s the thing: What I want isn’t the same thing as what I need. Ashla has been trying to help me; trying to keep me on the right path. But I wouldn’t listen. I kept going after what I wanted instead.
And now I’ve caused unimaginable pain.
(Irsin speaks from just behind her left ear, positioned deliberately so that she would hear him close enough to know that she could not ignite the saber without catching them both)
I think you misunderstand me Q’ayla. I want you to live yes, but stopping you is only one outcome here. The other is letting you succeed, as long as you don’t go alone… you see I’m done with living in this galaxy as it is. I intend to change it, make it a different place. But I don’t know how to do that without you. I have found a self in me that I thought long dead, and he is stronger than I ever imagined, and it’s all because of you. I have felt such pride, joy, and excitement at all the possibility stretching out in front of me the past few weeks as I’ve truly gotten to know you, Q’ayla. Your strength, your resolve, your innocence. It’s invigorating.
Ashla be damned for her “right path.” It can go to the sarlacc for all I care. I care about a galaxy with you in it, and building a place where we can both be happy, with both our pasts and passions.
No I only see two outcomes from this Q’ayla. Either I will change the world, or I will leave it – with you.
(Throughout his speech, his outstretched hand waiting for her saber hilt never waivers)
(Her head turns slightly, enough to see that he’s right behind her)
(Her breathing starts to come harder now, and he can see a noticeable trembling in her arms)
But you don’t know what we’ve done, Irsin.
What I’ve done…
You don’t understand…
Please just go… I’m sorry… I’ve led you on with emotions I should have never tapped into.
I’m no better than she was.
And you deserve better than that.
(Irsin’s expression looks as if she slapped him for a split second before he regains his composure, and his even tone)
I don’t care what you think you’ve done. It doesn’t matter. Not even a little. But I’m more than happy to talk about it, if that’s what you want. Perhaps we can understand it better together. Regardless, though, I’m not going anywhere.
(She bows her head, and her breathing slows down a bit)
I can’t kill you, Irsin.
…I can’t not love you, either.
(One of her hands lets go of the saber and falls to her side, and the other, still holding the hilt, follows suit only moments later. With her defenses down, it takes only an instant for her to slump down to the ground – the anticipation of the act seems to be all that was keeping her up. Her voice, however, maintains its emotionless pitch)
I guess you really are stuck with me.
(As soon as the saber is out of position Irsin smoothly snatches it from her hand and tosses it on the table out of reach, then he catches her as she slumps, carrying himself to the ground with her)
Okay. On the off-chance my words didn’t register the first time… that’s what I’m after. Being stuck with you, that is.
Now… what under the shadow happened back there?
(She seems to have lost much of her energy, and her voice comes out quietly – just above a whisper)
I… I’m afraid to say it, Irsin. I’m afraid that if I start, my whole mind will spill out. It’s… it’s war in there.
Q’aleane… Barukka assisted her in re-living her experience from the night at the camp. In a trance, she recounted everything she felt, said, and did. She wanted to know if Barukka felt that she had interacted with the spirit world. At the start, I opened my mind to her— you know, to better understand what she was saying. But…
We… I did it. I caused my sister to have a psychotic break… she was listening in on our conversation at the fire. She heard everything and saw everything… she saw us kiss. She heard our words. And after I fell asleep, and you carried me off… she cried.
My sister cried.
She has never cried before. Ever.
And then when you fell asleep, she stole off into the jungle and…
I had to close myself off from her then… I barely remember the rest of the story. I’m sure it’ll come back to me— but I just couldn’t…
Oh gods… oh Ashla…
(She’s starting to come apart)
(Irsin doesn’t need empathy to see how deeply affected she is. He simply holds her and rocks her gently as he talks)
Q’ayla… I know it’s hard to see past the pain right now, but try to listen. I don’t believe your sister suffered a psychotic break, whatever you might have seen. I think this planet is messing with us. Messing with her, and you, all of us. And I think it took advantage of an intense moment of emotion in your sister, something that rarely happens for her. We don’t know what that emotion was, though. It could have been loss, jealousy, who knows… it could have been anything.
But at the core of it, while I consider Q’aleane a friend, I won’t apologize for what we are, and who we’ve become. Nor should you.
Of all the emotions in the world, guilt seems to be the only one the Jedi permit, and it is by far the most insidious. It will eat you from the inside out, for things you didn’t even do wrong, and bring even the most mighty low in their efforts to make up for actions that make no sense to anyone but themselves.
There is no shame in what we did, and whatever happened to your sister is not your fault, my fault, or anyone’s fault. She got sucker punched, and it hurt all of us, but we aren’t about to take it lying down. That’s why we have to stay together and not let this divide us.
Do you understand? This is what the planet, or whoever is messing with the Force here, this is what it wants. They’re trying to destroy us from the inside before they even have to face us. And I, for one, have no intention to make myself, or anyone I care about, easy meat.
I… I think it was loss. I can’t be completely sure, but I think it was loss. Q’aleane feels like she’s lost me. That you’ve somehow taken me away from her… And I—
(She lets out a sob, one mixed with frustration)
I don’t even know what to believe anymore!
Part of me wants to kill myself for hurting her – my twin sister, the one person who has always accepted me, nourished me, and loved me no matter what the Masters said or did – while at the same time, I feel… betrayed by her…
There’s chaos in my mind, and I can’t quiet it – never mind understand it. And then there’s my nightmares…
(She brings her hands up against her head, gripping whole chunks of hair somewhat painfully in exasperation)
Couldn’t you… you know… just knock me out or something?
I’m sure the Sith teach all sorts of fun tricks…
I don’t want to be awake, because my mind is a maelstrom. And I don’t want to sleep, because the truth hidden in plain sight during my nightmares terrifies me…
(Irsin almost smiles)
Trade secrets, my dear. I don’t think I could in good conscience reveal them to you in such a way…
No I think this is something we’ll have to face together, preferably awake…
I’m no expert at managing a maelstrom as you describe. Generally when I have been in a place that clouds my head like that I am already venting my – ah – frustrations on whatever put me in that state. In this case perhaps my ways are not the most helpful. Do the Jedi teach no techniques for ordering thoughts and thinking through difficult things?
(When Irsin mentions Jedi techniques, she begins to smooth her hair down again – unconsciously twirling one of her braids between her fingers)
Oh, there are absolutely Jedi meditation techniques I could use. The only problem is that I’m not very good at them. No, I’m more like you; back on Taris I’d find a nice quiet practice room and vent my frustrations on a remote or thin air.
The warring emotions make it hard to focus on anything, because of how opposed they are… Your sister is, without a doubt, your closest and best ally. She is a part of you, and you of her. Perhaps what hurts so much about having hurt her is that you didn’t realize it would hurt her? As for being betrayed by her…
How exactly did she betray you by losing control of her emotions in a place like this?
(He gestures about them to the environment on Dathomir)
If she really believed I’d taken you away from her, don’t you think I’d be paste on the hull by now? Maybe you don’t know the whole story.
(Once he finishes, she shakes her head a little, then rolls herself over so that she faces him)
No… no… not betrayed that way.
You see, I talked with Q’aleane the next day after we got out of the jungle. And I told her about what happened – about us. She was fine with it. She was happy that I was happy. There wasn’t any hint of this in her voice, or in her mind. Perhaps she truly didn’t remember what she felt that night, but I had to tell her about it in case it did jog any memories… in case my nightmare was to be believed.
I should have held onto that feeling I had… once I saw the rancor and the bloody tears…
(She goes quiet for a while, the pallor of her face waning)
But it’s not just that, either.
Also betrayed because I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that she might be listening in – looking in – on what I was doing at the time. Ever since we developed this new bond in the Force, I feel like I don’t have any privacy anymore. It’s like she’s checking in on me routinely – like I was her ship or something! For all I know she’s doing it right now… though hopefully she’ll know better right at this moment. I must have spooked her enough back at Barukka’s hut if her first instinct was to call you in…
Hmm… Well, as you seem to indicate yourself, if she needed Barukka’s help to expose this, it’s entirely possible she didn’t know how she felt the night before, and wasn’t concealing anything or lying to you. She is also… very ordered. Perhaps by then she was fine with it. Maybe that’s all the time she needed to sort out her own feelings. As to the other…
(Irsin heaves a sigh)
I can’t begin to tell you how uncomfortable it makes me that she might be listening to us anytime we’re together. It makes virtually every hair on my body want to stand on end, so I can’t claim to understand what it might be like to have her all but spying on your thoughts in that way. Perhaps in her own way this is how she is trying to look out for you? If it makes you uncomfortable, well…
Challenging her to a duel seems counterproductive, at least while you’re on the ship… but maybe she doesn’t realize it bothers you like this? She does occasionally seem to have blind spots about things like this…
Talking seems a little… straight forward. But sometimes it’s the best method with the least risk.
It’s just that I’ve never needed to think about this before. I’ve never felt uncomfortable around Q’aleane. We’re sisters, and we share everything. Even before our bond deepened, we had this instinctual connection to each other – I’m sure you noticed it when we first met. But this… this is different. I was never really comfortable with it; initially because of the sensory overload, and then what happened in the Taris Undercity, and now this…
(She stops somewhat suddenly, as if pondering something)
I wonder… maybe with some meditation, and some practice, I can close my mind off from her. And then open it when it’s necessary?
I’d need Master Tahl’s help to even begin to train that kind of discipline. And I can’t exactly do that once I walk into the Academy and resign as a Jedi, can I?
(She seems to be breaking down again, almost to the point of rambling)
How do I know that what we’re doing is right? I’ve never felt before the way I feel about you… and I’ve spent my entire life being told that “A Jedi shall not know anger. A Jedi shall not know hatred. A Jedi shall not know love.” I even remember getting into arguments with Master Carrick over that particular gem of wisdom. See, I had never felt love before, but I had my own idea of what it was like. And it was never wrong. Always good, right, and perfect. I likened it to the Crystal Code instead of the Jedi Code, and my philosophy never wavered – though I had to keep it a secret, obviously. But… what do I know? I’m going to be twenty-six this year, but when it comes to things like romance and relationships, I might as well be half that. Gods… it’s everything I dreamed it would be… and yet…
And not just us. What about everything we’ve done, and everything we plan on doing? Leaving the Jedi Order, going off on some quest to… I don’t know, change the galaxy… I’ve always been the most resistant to Vergere’s ideas, but even I’ve been swayed recently. And then there’s Dathomir, trying to twist us and undo us before our waking eyes.
(She reaches out, extremely tentatively, and grazes a hand against Irsin’s cheek)
Irsin – how do I know what’s real, and what’s right?
I thought I knew, thought I was in control. And happy. And with a plan.
But tonight I feel so lost… and I almost threw it all away. Threw you away.
(Irsin’s brow furrows when she says she couldn’t possibly do this without Master Tahl’s help, but by the end he’s smiling, this time without concealing it)
We all get scared, Q’ayla.
That’s not new, and this place certainly makes it all seem worse.
Worrying about what you might have done, what you almost thought, these do no one any favors.
In this moment what matters is you didn’t, and you are here, with me, and safe.
Love is good, and right, and perfect. When it’s real, and I truly believe this is.
As to whether it’s “right?” That’s a question I have a hard time answering. To my way of thinking, the very act of asking that question means you are defining what is right based on someone else’s definition, instead of your own. And that way is madness to me. We all have to live life the way we each need to live it. No one else can understand the moment of decision that makes a person do what they do, except the person themselves, and so they cannot possibly pass judgement with true understanding. Don’t let yourself get mired in the definitions of right and wrong from an organization that is already demonstrably out of touch with your perception of the galaxy. As to your sense of privacy…
It seems to me that you have a resident expert in mental discipline – mixed feelings or no – who might be able to help you learn how to wall off your mind, and perhaps would be happy to help you through this maelstrom in some way.
You want to know what I think? She didn’t reach out to me because it was her instinct. She reached out to me because she was afraid – afraid she had broken something between you irrevocably and didn’t want to make it worse.
I’m sorry… I know you must get sick of hearing me talk about the Jedi…
It’s just all I know, Irsin.
I always felt that somehow, I’d find a way to make it all work. Even now, even though I know what they did to Alema, and what they would likely do to me in the same situation… I still feel like I need to make it work.
Even though I’ve never felt truly a part of the Order… in some ways it’s all I’ve ever wanted. Walking away from it feels like giving up – failing – and there are times I can’t stand the thought. But I am sorry… you’ve walked away from the Sith and haven’t looked back, at least as far as I can tell.
I must seem so weak— and weak-willed, especially after what I just did… almost did…
And for you, growing up with the Sith, weakness was never tolerated I’m sure. How I don’t disgust you, and how you can lie here with me…
(She shakes her head meekly, a small, warm smile creeping across her face for the first time since he entered)
As for Q’aleane…
…maybe she’s right. Maybe something has changed irrevocably.
Honestly, I don’t know. I’m still trying to sort out all of this. And I’m beginning to lose the ability to feel where Dathomir’s influence ends. Once we’re off this planet – if we ever get off this planet – I’ll need to process further. For now, I may just have to be up front with her about it – tell her I need my space for a while. Later, at a better time, maybe she can help me to learn how to close off my mind.
But not now.
I don’t get tired of hearing about the Jedi… it’s important to you. I have often looked back at the Sith, but it’s different. The Sith were a way to survive, to grow strong enough to accomplish what I wanted. They were never a dream the way the Jedi are for you.
You aren’t weak anything Q’ayla, understand that. I only wish you could see it the way the rest of us do. I think for you, being conflicted about the Order is part of that strength. It was an ideal, and in some ways, the individuals in it don’t live up to the image it projects. And that’s the greatest crime of it all.
For your sister… maybe being up front is best for now, but I think the two of you will come out of this stronger than before, not weaker.
I truly do hope you’re right. Q’aleane is more than just a sister to me, and the thought of losing her in any capacity is just… unimaginable.
(Q’ayla sighs deeply and slowly moves herself into a sitting position)
…this… this whole thing… I just need some time. To collect myself. To process all of it some more. Would it trouble you greatly if I was alone for a while?
(Irsin shoots a worried look at the lightsaber on the table)
Don’t worry, love. The moment has passed. Whatever hold Dathomir had over me, what you’ve done has broken it. I don’t feel that desperate despair anymore.
Not only that, but I do want to talk with Q’aleane – in case she really is scared, she doesn’t need that, and I can reassure her.
(She takes his hand warmly, rubbing her thumb over the top of his hand)
Tell you what – once I’ve got myself sorted out, and I’ve spoken with my sister, I’ll get some food and bring it down to your room and we can have a late dinner.
Maybe… I can even help with your hacking project…
(She smiles nervously)
(Irsin smiles back, finally relaxing as she talks)
That would be nice.
I’m not far if you need anything though.
(He squeezes her hand, then touches her cheek before getting up and walking towards the door, picking up his lightsabers from where they’d fallen)
I love you.
(He walks out. As the doors close, Q’ayla stares after him)
I love you too…
…and thank you.