We have left Tephrike behind us. Its orb grows more and more distant. In terms of space, at least. The scars remain. They are etched inside my flesh. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to leave this planet behind me. Maybe one day I shall return.
To set things right? With blood and fire. Or to fail disastrously? Someone has to try. Someone has to be the cleansing flame. In the meantime, there is a promise I have made. I'm not a natural teacher. Probably not a good one either. But it helps me focus on something other than...what happened. I am not weak. I've sent all the people away who could not stop going on about how sorry they are about me being tortured and how happy they are to see me again. Or applauding me for being 'heroic' and stuff.
Rhea is at my side. I cannot see the expression on her face, but if her aura is any indication, I can imagine it. I can feel the wide-eyed wonder as we break through the cloud layer to reveal bright, endless blue sky. I'm leaving. I'm actually leaving. That is what her thoughts bleat out. The blue of the sky peels away to reveal the endless void and myriad stars. "I'm in...space. This is real," she mutters. She turns to me. "There are no abominations in the void?"
"No. Space travel can be dangerous...but normally there are no fiends." Now is not the time to tell her about Otherspace and my run-in with Charon. I watch her as she stares at her homeworld as it grows distant with each passing moment.
"It looks so small from here. Like an island in a big ocean." I smile smightly at that remark of hers. It does not reach my eyes though. The Tygaran natives have a habit of calling space the sky-ocean.
"Every planet is a small part of a larger whole, just like all beings. The Lifeweb connects us all. You cannot see your home from here...but you can feel the life on it from here." I pause for a moment. "And the pain, anger and suffering. Did that monster teach you anything about meditation?"
She shakes her head. I can feel the revulsion rolling off her in waves at the mere mention of that bastard. I was too merciful. "No. He wanted a weapon. Someone he could control. Not someone who could ever threaten him," her tone is laced with bitterness. "He did teach me to track and sense others though."
"That's a start. Up here, you can feel Tephrike around you - and the Force. The ebb and flow of life. The cycle of pain. The scream of despair from the camps and the killing fields, the greed and lies of the Jedi and the Sith. I want you to focus on that."
"Close your eyes. Remember what you felt when we thrashed the camp guards - anyone who hurt us. The fires we lit when the cowards who had enjoyed torturing and brainwashing begged for mercy...and we burnt them. The flame burning inside you. Hold on to that feeling and don't let go. Look at Tephrike. Imagine the people who hurt you. Those who suffered with you and still do."
At first she does not quite understand. But then I can feel her reaching out. With her mental walls down, I can catch a glimpse of what she sees. Of the images flashing through her mind. Jumping into a rayon a moment before Sith Stormtroopers open fire on her and other civilians. Of an older woman's body collapsing on her, shielding her from the salvoes. They look so alike. Her mother? I thought there were no families in the Dominion. Of her hiding beneath bodies with bated breath, forcing herself not to cry or make a sound while butchers trample on her. She was only a child.
Of the Grand Inquisitor using her as a tool while feeding her lies about him being a servant of Light. Liars all of them. Of the poverty in the collective farms. Of the absurd monuments and shard towers that dot Nexus City, built upon the backs of brainwashed drones. Of the camps. I can feel the rage coursing through her. It feeds mine. My fingernails dig into my palms.
"I can feel it...this planet. I can feel everything. It hurts. All the pain, despair and lies. All the people. It's too much." She is shaking. Her body trembles. She clutched her head.
"What do you hear?"
Sweat drips down her face. "It's so loud. Like an echo. An echo of the minds of all those who suffered and those who enslaved them."
"Don't turn away from it. You can drown or swim."
"I will not drown. I will not drown. I will ride the wave. I am not weak. Not anymore." She repeats the words again and again, like a mantra. The rage intensifies. The room starts to reveberate under the strain of the power she is drawing upon. Then a blood-curdling shriek emanates from her. Her anger echoes across the room, causing trembles.
But it does not stop at tremours. Lightning courses across her hands and shrieks from her fingertips. Thankfully, there is nothing too important in the viewing port. Bolts of lightning strike the ceiling and the walls. The lights go out, engulfing the room in darkness. Some computers give up the ghost.
"Rhea, come back to me." She does not respond right away. I wince a bit when a bolt slashes me. By now I have a working relationship with pain. I do not feel much of it. "Rhea!" It hurts my throat when I raise my voice.
The lightning ceases after a moment. The trembles take a bit longer. "I'm sorry...I did not mean. I was just so angry," she struggles for words. After having ridden the wave, she looks lost. "Did I hurt you?"
"Don't," I cut her off. "Don't apologise. Don't feel bad. It's natural to feel anger. It's natural to hate injustice. Stoke the fire inside you...but you gotta learn to control it. I can show you how to silence the echo."
"I want to become like you. I want to be strong, and I don't want to be afraid or at someone's mercy anymore. I don't want to be lost anymore. When the Jedi, Sith or anyone else takes something from me, I want to have the power to take it back...and hurt them. They must pay. I want justice. For my parents, for all who died because of the lies of hypocrites and slavers."
I nod curtly. "We will have justice. They think they're all-powerful because of their armies, palaces, and slaves. But the Force - the Lifeweb - is greater than any one person. We're all so small before it." Mother does not understand that. She cannot accept that we are all just part of the web. "When things are at their darkest, draw upon the fire inside you. A simple spark can become a firestorm."
"I'm free, but there are so many people on the planet who are still slaves. We must do something to help them - whatever it takes."
"We will. But if you just charge in right now guns blazing you'll die for nothing."
"But Firemane's leaving, aren't they?" There is a note of challenge in her tone - and disgust. "They can pat themselves on the back and say mission accomplished. They won't bother. And you know what the Guard does to people like us? Lock them up like wild animals."
"No, Firemane won't stay. They won't continue the war." No point in beating around the bush. Or in letting her entertain comfortable delusions masked as hope. "But who said anything about Firemane? It won't be today or tomorrow," I caution her. "But one day."
"One day," she repeats, a bit incredulous. "I want to know how to use a lightsabre and pilot a void ship," she adds after a moment.
"Then l'll show you how." Tephrike vanishes as the blue tunnel of hyperspace swallows the ship.