Hours after the Jakku Jedi Enclave raid
Ishani used to dream about her teeth falling out. It was a common type of dream plenty of people had, probably some subconscious residue of the childhood experience of losing one’s baby teeth. Interpreters divined that it was a foretelling of changes to come.
A medical droid arrived with Ishani’s new teeth. It sowed the implants in the bloody, empty cavities in her gums where her real teeth had been knocked out in battle. She was mercifully unconscious throughout, giving into exhaustion and the lull of drugs that carried her off in a dreamless sleep.
The damage done to her mouth was nothing compared to the burns that littered most of her body. Acid had corroded through layers of skin, seared off patches of hair, and ate into her muscles. All of it would have to be replaced with synthetic tissues, and she could only pray her body accepted the new additions.
At last the droids went away, their work finished. Ishani lay in a hospital bed aboard an Alliance ship, a bubble traversing through hyperspace. Her consciousness floated as if suspended in liquid, cold and numb and untouched, until the brush of a familiar presence drifted across her senses.
"Ishani? Ishani Sibwarra?"
She opened her eyes to blinding white light.
“Hey, fancy seeing you here,” Starlin Rand said. “You were on Jakku too? I’m surprised we never ran into each other.”
“I wasn’t at the Enclave,” she rasped, her throat painfully dry. Though her body refused to obey her, she tried to sit up.
She heard shuffling feet and the sound of running water, then a cup was pressed to her lips. Cool water dribbled from the corners of her mouth, but she swallowed most of it without too much difficulty. Starlin’s face finally came into focus, smiling brightly. As though he were pleased to see her again, even like this.
“How are you?” she asked.
“I’m doin’ okay.” He lowered the empty cup and sank into a nearby chair. “Got electrocuted by a Sith and had to retreat. It’s what I get for initiating a duel in my PJs. Helped with the evacuation through the tunnels, though. How ‘bout you?”
“I lost my teeth,” she said, running her tongue over the unfamiliar shape of the implants. “I got beat up pretty bad trying to help you Jedi down there.”
“So you were there to help.” He gazed at her expectantly with his good eye. “Were you following in Thesh’s footsteps and saving the enemy, or…?”
“I’m not a Sith anymore,” she admitted with a sigh. “Things have changed.”
Taking a deep breath, she tried to explain. But that required her to backtrack more than a year, starting with the disappearance of the Sith remnants and the attempted annihilation of Korriban. Then she spoke of her brief apprenticeship to Caedyn Arenais, the birth of the twins, and finally her trip to Jakku to look for Arlo Renard, which happened to coincide with a Sith raid on the nearby Jedi Enclave. Organizing the most recent events of her life into a structured narrative, a story that could be easily digested by the uninitiated, forced her to confront the reality of her situation. It was as if she was seeing herself through a stranger’s eyes, and she didn’t like what she saw.
“I see,” Starlin said softly once she had concluded the tale. “Well… do you need any help?”
“With what?” she asked.
“With anything.” He shrugged. “Whatever you need help with."
"Thanks, but you don't have to do that.” She crossed her arms over her stomach. “I’m going home after this.”
“Uh, to Chaldea? That’s cutting it awfully close to the warfront, especially after all this. If I were you, I’d try to get someplace safer.”
“Nowhere is safe.” She reached up to scratch an itch, her fingernails catching on the edge of freshly sutured flesh.
“Sure, but you could at least move away from all the fighting. I’m planning on taking my folks out of the Core.” He shrugged again. “I’m just offering general help, really. Whatever you need.”
She stared at him. "Okay, don't get pushy."
"I'm not. I just... want to help you."
“Why?" she demanded. "Because Arcturus Thesh was your friend for a month or two, and I'm the girl he knocked up before he left? Do you feel obligated to help me because of that?”
“No no, I was just trying to—”
“Practice Jedi altruism? Disinterested compassion and kindness just for the sake of it?”
Exhaling sharply, Starlin held his hands up as if in surrender and leaned back in his chair, putting some distance between them. "Okay. Forget I said anything."
She instantly felt guilty. “I’m sorry. I feel like chit. Nothing is going right."
"I do too," he muttered. "I'm giving up."
"I'm done. I'm either going on a very long vacation, or I'm retiring early. I'm tired of 'Jedi altruism'. It's not my fething job to save the entire galaxy." He stood up. "Clearly most of 'em don't want my help, anyway."
She didn't know what to say. He walked out of the hospital room, leaving her alone.