Star Wars Roleplay: Chaos

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Smoking Stones & Proving Grounds (Valik)

Ssi-Ruuvi is one of those planets I avoid. Not for any hugely tangible reason other than the fact that the Fringe's military presence here is handled by capable people who function better with a lazy hand at the top. They trust that I will command them and I trust that they'll continue doing their jobs. So it is that my inspections of the troops of Ssi-Ruuvi comes to most of the military as a surprise.

There's another reason I'm here.

I've brought the remainder of my Smokestone to @Valik. The man's got a hideous reputation and I'm more than a bit aware that to tread lightly is to survive his labs. Bucket's standing at attention, Tyr and Tus are by my sides and I feel a fair bit more hemmed in than I probably ought. It's as if the droids know something that has me unawares.

As we come into the lab, Bucket's got the sealed container of Nihil Smokestone. He announces me and the game is afoot. "High Councillor Anders Sivas, of Military Affairs to see you, Sir."

"Thanks Bucket. Master Valik, it's a pleasure. I brought you a curious ingredient I grabbed from the Nihil Retreat. Tell me, have you any familiarity with Nihil Smokestone?"


Professor of Alchemy
Valik was deep in the catacombs of a Ssi-Ruuvi laboratory, studying the effects and powers of Entechment. A 'terrible' power many thought, to the point where it was restricted to only be performed on criminals and volunteers. Shame such a powerful force had to be regulated like that. In any case their was still knowledge to be gained by observing the midi-chlorians of those whose power were drawn from Entechment, to see if the power flowed through the Force or through some other power. If it flowed through the Force, perhaps he could learn to Entech people through the Force, draw the power into himself or an object, and if not, then perhaps their were still other electronic means of harnessing that power. He had two prisoners undergoing entechment, a Diathim who could not touch the Force, and a H'drach who could. Both traitors from Val'halla, prisoners gifted to Valik by Lucien Cordel. From what Valik understood the Entechment process was a miserably painful affair. Their cries were more than seizing motions, twisted screams, but palpable in the Force for those with the talent to feel it.

He was not expecting any guests today, least of all of High Councillor of Military Affairs and her cybernetic entourage, but they came regardless, the droid introducing the man on ceremony and the man himself asking about the Nihil Smokestone. Curious.

"I must admit I am at a loss. I do not remember reading any files on a 'nihil smokestone'. I'm a quick study though, give me a summary?" The alchemist asked, not bothering with pleasantries. If the High Councillor of Military Affairs was going to straight to business, then so was he.

[member="Anders Sivas"]
To say my empathy is all of the Force is a misnomer. Seized from the Force, the emotions of those around me still curl into my mind. It's an anomaly of my birth - one I have not questioned until now. As Warren [member="Valik"] comes into the room, I feel the wellspring of pain rising up through the space and shunting into my brain with all the grace of a grand and sudden electrocution. My lips turn to thin white lines, my neck muscles twitch as I try to avoid the bubbling curl of disgust and sheer agony of the poor sod somewhere in this compound.

Every muscle in my body tightens and I gulp. My hazel eyes pitch over at Valik and I'm glad I'm in disguise. I'm glad to him I appear male.

I don't want to comprehend what Valik could be capable of doing if he found out what I was, and whose children I carry in my still flat stomach. Bucket's head twitches. The droid looks down at me and I'm glad for the bodyguard's advanced AI. "Ah, yeah Nihil Smokestone! Smokestone, it's made not of smoke like you might believe. It can only be found in the Nihil Retreat, the area of space in the Perenn Nebula, where the Sorcerers of Rhand are the ruling parties. They use it as a focusing point for their mind control and High Councillor Sivas obtained some recently. Here. Take a look. We want more research on it. Heard from Lucien Cordel that you were the one to ask."

Bucket hands Valik the containment box and I let out a gasping, tight breath. Tyr's hand rests on my back, Tus steps forward glancing around the laboratory space. Tyr's action is enough to get me out of the intensely painful trance. "I want to know how it has a mind altering effect, and what could be done with it. How can it be used for one with mentalist gifts. Besides, it's probably been a while since someone gave you an inanimate object that you didn't already have an opinion about."

My tongue is a lot looser than my head thinks it should be, I stay terse, fighting the ungodly headache of the tortured soul. To someone versed in any modicum of mentalist powers of the Force, my mind has begun to wind up and if I keep focusing I should be able to start blocking the screaming, writhing victim out.


Professor of Alchemy
Valik's introduction to the "High Councillor of Military Affairs" left much to desire. The man, not unlike Valik himself, was of smaller frame, yet lacked a commanding presence to compensate, either in the Force or out of it. His age was obviously, perhaps even younger than Valik himself, which showed his position was gained through political favors rather than military expertise and meritocracy. He wasn't sure if it was something in the air or if the man was sick, but he didn't seem comfortable in the lab, offput for some reason or another. So much so that rather than continue the conversation himself his SC-1 droid picked up the bill for him, explaining the Smokestone and it's origins to him.

"Lucien Cordel was correct." Valik assured, as he grabbed at the container of Nihil smokestone. The man let out a gasp, as if clutching for breath, causing the two EMBU's, fine models those, into differing positions. The first took a step forward, analyzing for threats. The second went to his back, attempting to . . . comfort him? Or perhaps the EMBU was adjusting some sort of concealed vong or cybernetic implant. Yes, that must have been it. Some Vong implant went awry that altered the man's ability to speak, because he soon spoke afterwards, revealing his affinity, or perhaps desire, as a mentalist. At the end of his statement Valik put out a small cackle.

"You'd be correct. It's been quite a while." Valik said, pressed to remember the last time he found an object he didn't know the power of before touching it. The Clockwork Crisis perhaps? The Sorcerors of Rhand weren't exactly a familiar name. He'd heard of them, knew they were a Force Cult, but other than that? Precious little, if any. It'd be resolved soon however. Taking the nihil smokestone from it's container he put it in it's hand, and let his mind engage in an old art, passed genetically from his people, the Kiffar. Psychometrically travelling to the past Valik learned much, for example that he was a she, and that she was with child, or children rather. That she was an emotional conduit, probably plagued by the suffering of the enteched H'drach and Diathim in the lab. That she was the lover of a psychopath he'd fought with under Ashin's Sith Empire, and fought against Tyrin Aridk with. He learned that her demeanor and attitude were decidedly not military, definitely not Sithly. He even learned how she came to have the smokestone, and how that molded her emotions. And then, after all of that, he learned of the Sorcerors of Rhand, what they did, what they used the stones for.

"I can all sorts of things with this material Andra. But likely nothing like what you have. Healing is beyond my concerns. The Nihil Smokestone is an instrument of power, of control, a weapon. It will give you power, yes, but it will not erect shields, nor for you, those you carry, or those you love. Even then power itself is meaningless without the strength to use it properly. I will make great things of this stone because you are allied to those I respect, and because my craft demands it, but ask yourself. Are you ready for something of this power?"

[member="Anders Sivas"]
"They're not a Force Cult. They don't believe in the Force. It's about something deeper. The essence of destruction." The words are siphoning through my lips before I can put up the mental stops. I glare at Warren Valik, my breathing cuts out and my lungs hold their oxygen. I feel a whisper. A single, aching truism.

Warren Valik is Kiffar and I gave him my smokestone. The same stone I killed the Darksight Seer for, the same stone I spent the most precious and daunting time of my crafting life into a last-ditch effort to save the father of my unborn kids. My lips tighten, I bite down and firm up my jaw, and in the far off distance, two of Valik's victims stop screaming.

They stop moaning, groaning and shaking in wracks of pain. I pull into their minds and disconnect their waking state and put them in hibernation trances. The thudding pain in my head eases off and I stand a little easier. "I should have been able to sense what your DNA is telling me, Warren. Congrats. What'd they do? Those bastards down there. What did they do?"

I'm standing in front of Warren Valik and a very real twist of fear coats my spinal column. Bucket's picked up on it. Bucket's not far without a gun, and this is no exception. The sword at Tus' side is none other than Viper, a sword of Sith Alchemy inlaid with Zaiden's jewels. Won that fair and square. Still other then the menacing reality that the Kiffar Alchemist now knows the secrets of the stone, I am in no danger and it's that I pull toward my aching mind.

"I might be effected by the ebb and flow of those around me, but I'm not weak. It's time I reminded myself and others of that fact. You can see it, can't you? The potential in the stone? You saw what I did for it, you saw what I could do around it, what wouldn't you do for your very own personal oracle? The future's a bit distant for you, I suspect. I think we can do business, Warren. I'll let the droids handle any shielding."


Professor of Alchemy
Essence of Destruction. Deeper than the Force? Perhaps for some, but Valik understood what the Force was. A tool to be used for one's own end, their own power. Her glare, her tone, they were changed from before. She was an empath alright, and her control over other's emotions? Paltry at best. This High Councillor of Military Affairs was proving to be quite the leaf, elegant, full of life, and utterly at the control of the wind. The sound of screams stopped, undoubtedly by her actions. An end to the pain, or perhaps just a pause. The feel of Entechment would awake them both soon enough, one could only unconscious in that pain for so long.

"Those two? The H'drachi and the Diathim? I honestly have no idea. I assume from conversations with Lord Cordel that they were on the wrong side of a rebellion, and as such they were imprisoned, to die or serve more useful purposes. If they were strong enough to have other values to the Fringe, or the galaxy, they would have succeeded in their uprising, or perhaps escaped by now. It is the place of weak to serve the strong is it not? Your lover knows that. Your father does too." Valik said, as the fear of the woman became more palpable, the droids rising to her defense. As if they were a threat to him.

Andra began spouting off more and more about her strength, her achievements, with the pain of the test subjects gone and her empathic nature focusing on Valik perhaps she would learn something. It was up to him what she would learn.

"You? Strong? You think yourself strong because you could kill a man in the dark? You think owning a trio of droids ensures protection? These droids could be replaced with people, bound to you not by orders or payrolls but your mere force of will. Squads, even legions of men, at your disposal with the power this stone can offer. I know men and women who are strong and they do not walk with escorts, they rely on their own power rather than the crutches of droids for protection. Don't tell me you're strong, show me you're strong. Strong enough to let go of your 'protection'. Strong enough to get rid of the crutches that drag you down."

[member="Anders Sivas"]
"I haven't seen my father in a decade."

Lucien sent them. I let Lucien loose on Lipsec. I did that. The rebellion - had that been it? I can't help the wideness building in my eyes, I push into Valik's brain and try to find out where those saps were from. Don't be Lipsec. "The strong aren't much knick at keeping themselves alive without a person like me kissing it better and giving them arms back. Without the abilities in my skill set the universe would be a bloated, lopsided hole."

"Hey now! We like it here!" Bucket pipes up. He puts his hand on my shoulder and I let him, glaring up at Valik's face. "The Boss is our buddy, right guys?" The EMBU's nod, Tyr crosses his electronic arms over his chest and nods rudely to Valik. It's enough to make me bubble with a timid giggle, a bright and pleasant smile on my face. "I like my droids. They remind me that we're all a part of a machine. One big galactic machine. I see you sticking your fingers in pots, their inner workings blossoming for one flick of your sensuously manicured wrist - dapper by the way - and you have the capacity to be mighty but never quite had the luck. Or the galactic v-no it's not about vision with you, Warren. It's about the science. The discovery. You wonder and you ponder and you create and you love it. I could become some force of nature, I could take you up on that offer and become some crazy mentalist queen that looks Spencer in the eye and says 'sup?' I could become some Rhandite goony.

I think I'm strong because I haven't done it before. Maybe I have but my memory gets a bit fuzzy a year or so ago. I think I'm strong 'cause I spring back. 'Cause my mind will always spring back. Yes, I'd love more power. I'd love to be able to keep myself safe without [member="Mikhail Shorn"] being worried sick or flipping off the reaper every second day to defend me 'cause I'm useless in any situation that wasn't shifting emotions or mending broken bones. I have legions of men at my disposal. I have an army. How much more does a girl need?"

The image of me before him flickers and fades. I'm actually leaning against the side wall of his laboratory, hands crossed over my growing yet still barely formed chest. I kick off from the wall and check my nails, walking slowly up to the man from my vantage point where I had 'mysteriously' appeared. Force Cloaks and Illusions were my paydirt before I became a High Councillor and somehow took a Military Affairs docket.

"You're standing here thinking of all the things you could do with my stone and with me. What you could mould my mind into with the right application of stone and grit. I'm not weak. I lack direction. There's a difference. Once I figure out what my will is, what do you think I'd do with it? Bucket, take Tyr and Tus back to the ship."

The droids doth protest, but they also follow orders. Here I am, alone with Warren Valik. A 5'11 stringbean of a woman wearing combat trousers, a long sleeved olive green shirt and a big fuzzy comfortable sweater. "You couldn't even tell, could you? I'm from Naboo as you no doubt know. We love a good misdirection. What can you make me out of that stone?"


Professor of Alchemy
Hasn't seen her father in a decade she says. She doesn't know.

"If whomever needed your help they weren't strong enough to begin with. The universe we know is a place of war, a place of stagnation, a place of strife. Why would we want it to stay in whatever shape it is now? With this power you could mold the galaxy into a place of order, a place of safety. Freedom is a noble goal, but one that corrupts and weakens the galaxy." Valik said, before the woman started a tirade about what she thought strength was. Her views were, as expected, skewed. Idealistic. Childish. Her imagery though, skill in illusions, it was not bad. Valik knew about it all along of course, through merit of Truth, but deception proved at the least intellect. Her decision to let go of it however? There were better options.

"Don't flatter yourself Andra. I've fought and killed better illusionists than you." He said, his eyes redirecting towards her true position as he walked over towards one of the walls. . "The only illusion you show here is the one you tell yourself, that you can be safe by relying on the strength of others." Valik's hand was placed on the wall, Art of the Small rapidly changing the paint to depict a familiar face. "He protects you now, and may as long as he can, but how long can he hold? He is strong, but all men have their weaknesses." A yellow lizard appeared just to the side of the mural, a ysalamir. Light purple gas began to fill around the face, depicting Ixeltal Cilona. "His reliance on the Force may prove his downfall. or perhaps it is merely his past. His enemies. His bloodlust." Other figures began to appear, encircling the original painting. Six, perhaps seven men. Three of them pulling at his skull, as if to remove a helmet. "Perhaps he can fight all of these enemies, they never figure how to adapt to his strengths, exploit his weaknesses. Maybe he gets the power he needs to protect you, your children, but what if that power takes a toll on him? Turns him into something he isn't, to a man you can't face anymore." His visage became corrupted, pale, bloody, until it was altogether unrecognizeable from it's original form. His hand left the wall. Illusionists weren't the only ones that could paint pictures.

"I won't lie. You, the stone, it produces a lot of possibilities. You could be extremely valuable to me. A powerful mentalist. A Farseer. But honestly, I have no care for servants, nor political machinations, nor binding myself to visions of what may come to pass. I build and craft because it is who I am, and because my art is unlike any the galaxy has ever seen or will see again. I would, if I could, wish it to be used properly. A true Sith does not fight for bloodshed, nor rule as a tyrant because he wishes to be lauded or held above. He does it because through coddling people grow weak and through trials they grow strong." A breath to give Valik some air as his left hand reached out, pulling a beaker towards him telekinetically until he could grab it with his left hand.

"You say holding back provides strength, but when and when not to show force isn't strength, it's wisdom." Valik held the nihil smokestone above the beaker and it melted in his hands, dripping and dropping into the beaker. "Excessive Force may be unwise, but so too is not testing one's strength, demonstrating force, holding one's ground." Valik's thumbnail was alchemized to a razor's edge then run across his middle finger, exposing a hint of blood before it was squeezed out and mixed into the liquid smokestone, the beginning of his alchemical work. "I shall craft, and I shall teach you. Tis not my life this power relies on, but far be it from me to let you come here without learning something all of your other 'friends' would deny you." Valik began to walk towards another section of his lab, filled with all sort of containers, each sealed in differing manners, and holding an assortment of liquids, stones, spices, herbs, and whatever else Valik thought might be necessary. Philosophy 101 was sure to continue, but Valik also had work to do. To begin a test he'd likely never see the results of. And what an interesting subject he had.

[member="Anders Sivas"]
"You have to admit. It's a cool trick." I say, checking my nails. "There is war, yet there are moments of peace. There's confusion yet brilliant strings of knowledge. There is chaos, and there is the capacity for harmony. You're right. There's always strife and war and stagnation, doesn't mean that's all there is.

My greatest weakness has always been the shifting sands of my personality and conscience. No absolute took hold of my childhood, adolescence or this new burgeoning adulthood. A wembling leaf billowing from breeze to breeze am I, tripping through tip toe depressions in sand. Valik wants solidity from me. He wants an indomitable currency to flow in my veins. As the wall by my body pours into Warren's painting, I purse my lips. Is Mikhail a sure thing? Is anything sure?

Is anything Warren Valik says any different from the lessons of Ilias Nytrau, Sargon Vynea and Spencer Jacobs? Wasn't my lack of defence and attack the reason Jared bought Bucket? Valik's words are more dangerous for being undefeatable and bold. Weakness is not a Jedi trait. Neither is defeat. Should I discover which image to mould into the Galaxy I first need to have the abilities to do so.

Nothing he says is counter to my current levels of education. Is this the eternal lesson? To get the Pacifist to fight? To be an active agent in the affairs of the galaxy or simply the Fringe I must expand and pursue the further images of my art. I watch the vision take hold of Valik's painting, see the breath of Ixetal Cilona and the back of the yellow skinned lizard and my shoulders tense. Mikhail is mighty yet defeat-able. He's got weaknesses as any of us do. I have yet to touch on Warren's, but I keep digging. If I wasn't ready to shift my current state, why would I have come to the Mad Scientist in the first place?

"I'm no Sith, but Jedi too believe in trials. I have no problem with hard work, I do have a problem with ending the work of others before it had the chance to meet fruition. . . depending on the work, of course. I have to admit, I've been freakishly lucky in the last few years to have the luxury of being protected. Guess I do need to be capable of protecting myself, and switch it around. I want to protect Mikhail, among others." I ring my fingers over my dark blonde hair and give him a shallow nod. "Thank you, Warren." I walk over to where Valik continues with the work and lean onto a counter. Why am I here? He's right, I do need to be able to protect myself. It's not just me anymore either, if my twins are going to survive gestation, with their father alive and relatively unhaunted I have to begin to actively participate in the coming stream of events. "What can I do to help?" This close to him, I can seep the delicate training of Alchemy from his mind - for the moment. [member="Valik"]


Professor of Alchemy
"You go through all that Jedi training and trials and in the end you attribute your survival to luck? The chance that others are there to help you? Luck runs out Andra, and you need to be prepared for that." Valik's words were again intended as instruction. Minor applications of telekinesis ran wild on his table as various draughts, herbs, and minerals were added into the liquid smokestone, Valik's mind balancing chemical equation after chemical equation as he did so. None of the equations in his mind actually pertained to what he was mixing up. as Valik knew that Andra was reading his mind, revealed to him when she called him out on his thoughts of the Rhandites as a Force Cult. Valik's first teacher, only teacher, was a man named Tirdarius, a mentalist from whom he'd learned a trick or two.

The woman thanked him, something that didn't garner as a reply as, well, Valik didn't really know how to reply to sincere thanks. As he continued mixing his concoction he heard the faint noise of footsteps, Andra walking over and leaning a hip to the counter before asking how she could help. Normally he'd give a response saying she couldn't, but her confidence was building, her demeanor changing from passive to active. Twas best to encourage her if he wished the lesson to stick.

"Mix this solution until it's density is consistent. It's going to be sludgey at first, with solid chunks here and there. Make certain there are no chunks when you're done." He told her, as he began mixing another concoction, presumably to mix with the nihil smokestone solution. His mind would again turn to all sorts of chemical equations, which if Andra had the chemical knowledge of or managed to remember and look up later, would be the formula for a perfect hot chocolate with just a hint of peppermint.

"Any alchemist whose gone past the novice stage can make you a trinket Andra. A ring, an amulet, a sword with a jewel engraved hilt, an earring, or whatever strikes your fashion. But all of these items are tools. To be used by you, or whoever can steal it from you. Or whoever can kill you. You lose a couple of hands and suddenly you can't wear a ring. You lose an ear and you can't wear an earring. A problem of sorts, but not one without a solution. If you think you can handle it I wouldn't have to make you a gem to carry on your person. I would make you the gem, to never be lost."

[member="Anders Sivas"]
"I've had the luxury of great companions. There's a reason Jared Ovmar bought me Bucket. I hadn't needed to be the defender with Bucket around, that droid and his enhanced brain has taken me through a ridiculous amount of stuff, you know? That said, I know Bucket's just a machine coming to it. A faithful and well designed machine, but Bucket has limitations just like anything and anyone. You're right. I do need to be prepared for what happens when luck runs out." I don't mention that Bucket's triangulating from way off where, nor do I mention that the droid has a strand of microfilament built into my clothing to listen in and 'see' around.

Gratitude seems to be a foreign entity in the Master Alchemist's life. I see the breadth of him, the innate knowledge and lost mystery of a glancing touch, the disposition which created a man of few mysteries and master of logical, intrinsic understanding and I pity him. Warren Valik is the sort of man the Goddess of Compassion breathes for. I wonder if he can feel it in the surging air around us, in the sensations he got off that stone. Yes, there were terrors and there were many layers of disaster in each stroke of my fingers (and past fingers) upon it, yet Warren would have felt the grace of the Goddesses, the potent rise of mercy, grace, contentment and solidity within the slender carvings I made of my native planet's stone. In the horrors there are whispers of kindness. I think back to the Darksight Seer and his moment of glee that his time had come, that death was upon him after a fruitful, diligent life. Oh sweet deceiver! You who destroy moth and rust and young and old, you also relieve us of our burdens once the burdens are concluded and the last sight seen is that of a scared girl whose mind changed like winds in winter, who remind us of a beautiful and loving home. Above all I wish my life to become a testament of the calm before and after, the beauty of connection and the life force which repairs what others have broken. A mind like Valik's is easily displeased and readily shut. Yet it is not a mind of closed endings, but of the triumph of later contemplations. He didn't know what to do with my gratitude, but confusion is kin to contemplation - for a small modicum of time. For that small measure of shift, I feel my heart and mind returning to myself. I taste the air around us more clearly and for a split second I'm imagining the smell of peppermint and how delicious it would taste bathed in chocolate.

The aforementioned beaker floats toward me and I let my own telekinetic prowess (not nearly as good as Mikhail's, but sufficient nonetheless) begin mixing it up. The sludge is sticky and hard, sloshing with the solidified bits he mentioned. I keep at it, parting my gaze from the beaker to Warren [member="Valik"] and back again. "Jewel encrusted hilts are pretty, kay? 'Specially when you buy them at an auction." I flash a grin and glance back to the beaker, it's looking far less chunky and I hold up the smooth contents for inspection. "Make a gem of a person, eh?" That'd put the term 'you're a gem' into blatant contrast.

"What are the risks involved for me? Pain I can handle, I heal at an insane rate. What about my babies? If I do this, will they be contaminated or safe? What will I look like or be when you've finished? Will I still be Andra? What will the process change?" Don't lie to me. The idea behind Warren's offer is tempting enough for me to see what he has in mind. If I can handle the physical and mental risks, would it damn me to do it? What would the future consequences become? Thoughts spill across my mind and out into the subconscious of the laboratory. My mind nestles atop the poor sods downstairs, would that be me? If it is, Bucket might have permission to fire at ludicrous speed.


Professor of Alchemy
Aesthetics over functionality. How naive. She quickly began moving to more practical discussion however, trying to figure what effects his formula would have on her. On her children.

"Mostly pain. Your children are already growing, so even if their were DNA alteration it wouldn't affect them. As it stands the operation is more of a surgery or implant than an alteration. I inject the solution into your blood stream and it's changes are made in a matter of minutes. It will strengthen your mentalism, your bonds, give you strength you didn't think you had, remove weaknesses others can exploit. From there what happens is of course your decision, but if you let it it will make stronger than you ever thought possible. And I think you're ready for it." He said as he mixed herb and herb, spice after spice into the beaker he was holding, finally stopping as he spoke the word 'possible'. It was ready to mix with Andra's solution, were she finished stirring of course.

"When you're ready I'll mix the solutions, and we can inject it into your bloodstream. I'd prefer you were strapped down to a table while we performed it, to make sure you do seize and injure yourself, but should you believe your pain tolerance is sufficient a table is not required."

[member="Anders Sivas"]
"Define weaknesses. For all I know, Warren, you might define 'cuddling for hours' and 'laughing at happy bunnies' as weaknesses. Love ain't a weakness, sweet pea. Neither is Light. Remember that? It's not going to turn me into a pawn is it? I'll still be Andra." I can't believe I'm seriously considering taking a bunch of chemicals into my bloodstream from one Warren @Valik. If Viper is a testament to how quickly massive creations of power can switch hands, then that trinket I was thinking of to expand my mentalism and discover the properties of Nihil Smokestone is as faulty as my switch and bend mind.

The idea is tempting. My time in the Fringe has been a span of education and joy. The lows were deadly, the highs were from whatever heaven is left for those of us who cannot make our own minds. "You won't need a table."

Oh Goddesses, I pray this act is not the most foolish one I've had yet. Bucket's voice chatters on my inner-ear comm. "Boss, this don't seem right. What will it do? Don't do it. Take it and get the stuff tested. Don't be an idiot. Walk away. Don't make me pull this trigger, walk away. Talk to Master Nytrau about it. Talk to Mikhail, or Lucien, someone! Don't make this choice by yourself. Andra. This is insane. Do not endanger the twins."

I pull my mind outward and bear it down on Valik. Past the equations and the ridiculous levels of knowledge there's a calmness to the man I find chilling. A security and confidence in the mixture he's prepared. I learn it will expand my mentalism and give me the ability to defend myself and the life inside far better than I had on Lipsec.

I'd failed my son on Lipsec. If I'd been more than a spastic healer I could have driven Jared and Mikhail off each other before Mikhail's then-Garhoun side took. I'd have told Jared I was pregnant and the chips would have fallen where they may. Probably with Jared funding our lives and seeing his son every second Tuesday of the month, for gifts and a day or three of habitual familial congregation. It wouldn't have been ideal, but it would have been nonetheless a happy life. If I think of all those times Jared put me to sleep and I'd wake up in the Penthouse surrounded by armed guards and Bucket, I was upset every time. My first major battle and the reason behind his act of kindness flung itself messily into my brain. Shinju and her/his chainsaw wielding daughter are good for that. Now without Jared, I pull my eyes to my new protector.

Mikhail needs so much looking after. He's loving and bold and he desires all of me. He's exactly the kind of lover I wanted, all consuming and passionate to the point of disregard of the outside worlds. He's powerful as the bedrock of the Force itself, but I cannot lie: Mikhail is a troubled man. There will come a day where my ring is the only reason he comes home. That day will become a grand expanse of days, where the Ring of Iasth-Abhai is his saving grace.

As I pour my eyes forward scenes play upon the quaking, buzzing air, bursting above the soft currents for my and Warren's eyes. They're scenes of future choices yet unmade, divergent paths and a great cloud of witnesses. I pull my finger to one of the strings and it grows taught. Others fall away.

"Andra! I'm calling Mikhail, he wouldn't want you to do this! Stop now. Walk away." Bucket's voice hits my inner ear and Bucket isn't wrong. Maybe I should walk away.

Mikhail and Bucket are the only ones who have seen me use my premonitory gifts, now Valik will see that my ability with illusions and my ability to see through time are paired closer than the twins in my flat belly. I toss threads I don't want away, they vanish and I concentrate on two: Yes or no.

Will I take Warren's mixture, or will I walk away? The path where I refuse this injection is shorter by coiling miles. I see fear, moments of bliss, but the fear is uncanny and my children lay in cradles on Skye. Lucien Cordel moves between them, picks up a crying bundle and soothes the child until she coos and reaches for his face. What grief scores the face of the Duke of Skye? Where's Mikhail? Where am I? The vision jerks backward to a battle. I see my body falling willingly on top of Mikha's. I've still got post-baby weight and the displacement of my hips is enough for me to realize this happens soon after the babies are born. The string of visions playing for our eyes sweeps upward to the waiting arms of the overarching Goddesses, whose visage even now drapes over me in this state.

The path of acceptance spans and coils around the room. It pulses hearty and accomplished as some fat Nexu in a land lacking in splendour. I see Lucien and the twins again, the twins are older and jumping around him laughing and playing. Lucien's got the smallest of smiles on his staunch face. He's hiding two wrapped bundles behind his back. A brunette haired daughter with her father's piercing blue eyes peers up at her parents. Mikha's shaking his head trying desperately not to laugh. At them, no doubt. The strings continue with battles won and defences endured. Far from idyllic, this is a life of substance and gravity. A life not easily brought about and not easily taken. I see the cacophony of raised voices and tense conversations, bathe in the temperament of heated arguments and see the rivers of blood flowing from Mikhail and I to the cleansing river of Shiraya. The children are older when Elias and Kitt put their arms around their shoulders in front of one double grave. Lucien is further back, unleashing his own brand of vengeance over the death of his friends. My eyes shut and the vision of the Goddess of Compassion folds down from her heavenly witness to wrap pale marble-like arms around my shoulders.

She whispers in my ear.

I burst into quiet, sob-less tears, pouring down my cheeks in silent mourning of life-paths yet to be taken. She brushes my hair away from my face and it brushes - proof before the Mad Scientist that other beings exist? No illusion moves matter. The unexplainable connection.

I wave my hands and the visions swirl out of existence as dust on prevailing winds. The Goddesses fade last, as is their want. I hold out my arm for Warren. "I can't lose my babies, Warren. Been through that loss already and I cannot do it again. Assure me my twins will be safe. Mean it and I'll do it."


Professor of Alchemy
Valik looked at the woman straight in the eyes, his gaze unflinching and brutally honest. For there was no other way to be honest.

"All I can assure you is that this compound will not harm your children. I am no seer, nor do I wish to be, but I know the galaxy is a dangerous dangerous place and that as it is no one is safe. That is why you need to take it. Because at the end of the day you don't know if a slicer will take command of your droids. Or if one of the soldiers you command will be bribed by an enemy, or a plant from another nation, or discontent at how you run Military affairs. Or if the people that care for you will be ready to protect you for when danger comes. Or if danger will be prepared to deal with the people you care for when it comes. All you can ever truly know is how you have prepared and what tools you have under your arsenal. I can't tell you that this compound will ensure that seven, eight months from now your children will be born and unharmed. I can't tell you it'll mean their childhoods will be worry free, or lacking danger. I can't tell you it'll mean in thirty years they'll be grown, strong, and giving you grandchildren for them to protect. All I can tell you is that is gives you the best shot I know how to give you at having the strength to protect them."

[member="Anders Sivas"]
Warren had better not run for election. I might lose my seat. Bucket's electronically oscillating voice continues to burble in my ear, the droid is adamant. Normally I tend to trust the SC-1. Why not now? It has become a cyclical process of being beaten down with the knowledge that I cannot protect myself. I couldn't protect the future Lord Ovmar. I have to protect the future Lord and Lady Shorn. My mind touches on Mikha's as I do often since crafting the ring, to check up on him and feel the comfort of his burgeoning familiarity with 'us'. Do I detect a hint of worry? A modicum of concern? Is he as scared as I about the uncanny hereafter?

"Mikhail doesn't know I'm pregnant, yet." Will he stay with me to raise our kids? Or will he prove all others in my life right and Rush off to easier pastures and frothing mugs of mead? I slide the back of my hand into Warren's Palm. My skin is silken and warm, it radiates with a warmth of the glad spring sun, even in such a cave as this. I am a being of Light, a makeshift girl with more lives in my brain than a family clan has members past and present. I am precious and vulnerable. I am most frail, for one who can heal and ply illusions so strong.

Warren Valik is doing for me what he believes is best. Here again I am open and revealed in the lair of another Sith Lord who wants me to protect myself and others. Maybe my mother was right. Maybe I should have sequestered myself in the Monastery of the Brothers of Cognizance in Naboo. But then... Where would be these lifetimes and adventures?

I feel the restful and beloved calm of my most adored Goddess resting at my shoulders. "I'm ready. I think. . . Yeah. Do it before I get scared." [member="Valik"]

Lord Ghoul

An aphotic might surged into the room, fluttering behind insouciant strides. Three presences in the room now. One of sly intelligence, the slow creeping cold that would leech warmth and life. The other a bursting star of light, surpassing in radiance, her rays devoid of the sun's hot judgement, carrying only the cool and refreshing light of grace. Last, the arrival, at times carrying the deceptiveness of a glacier's placid surface, while at others an inferno of emotion, unstable and uncontrollable.

Mikhail Shorn had arrived. A leather jacket and pants didn't seem to suit him this time. Not in this mood. Bucket's message hadn't said much, but it had said enough.

Mikhail Shorn was livid.

Eyes full of anger so hot it burned blue looked on the scene before him. Valik, a man he knew from his Empire days, with a vial or three. And Andra, his Andra, saying those last few chilling words. Johnny-come-lately had never been so angry.

"What are you DOING?!"

Glass shattered. Vials exploded. The room shook.

Mikhail Shorn was unhappy.

The Dark Side must have yawned deeply one day and spat out this man as an afterthought. Full of contradictions and apathy and such a towering rage. Some called it explosive. They meant it literally. From the contents of the vials leaking across the room, it seemed a fair conclusion.

[member="Anders Sivas"] [member="Valik"]
"Oh my Goddess. Mik-no! Stop it Mikhail please!" I jump clear high and swerve around with a frenetic scream as my lover and father of my twins rages into the space. I grab my forehead and bellow, his emotions are more powerful than an iceberg against the hull of a land speeder and all I know to do is yank my hand out of Warren's as objects in the room explode. "Mikhail calm down! Mikha! Look at me, I asked for Warren's help okay? I need this! I'm weak, I can't defend myself, I'm ... I'm ... I need to get stronger! You saw how I got thrown around in Rhand. What if it's worse next time? What if you're not there to rescue us?"

My jaw clamps shut, I hold my wide and frightened eyes on Mikhail's face and see the man who killed my son on Lipsec. I hadn't seen that aspect of Mikhail since, for all intents the monster was gone. My knees shake, my face loses colour. "Warren made me a concoction that will strengthen my Mentalism, I'll be able to control the Rhandite pawns, my illusions will be substantially improved... Whatever Bucket told you he was overreacting, really. H-how much of a history am I missing between you two?" I find the courage to walk over to my lover and hold out my hand. The fingers are shivering, my teeth clank together. "Please... What did you hear?" Does he know? What did Bucket tell him?

Lord Ghoul


Not calm. Seething. He wanted to break someone. Valik looked nice and snappable. Dr. Sith had been there when he ripped out a man's spine. That had left an impression. Maybe he'd like a repeat performance. There would be a lot of blood. Andra might scream.

Rage paused for Andra. Only for her. What kind of manure had Valik been dumping on her. Couldn't defend herself? Had she lost her mind? No. This was that smug looking savant's doing. Shorn's fingers curled and uncurled.

"You're a mentalist who can trap people in their own minds so they'll never find a way out. And you're a healer who can come back from falling off a cliff and having almost every bone in her body broken. Not powerful enough," he snorted with as much derision as he could muster. It was a lot. "Don't feed me that line. This isn't you. Wake up, Andra. Look around. You're about to take a dose from a Sith you barely know."

His features contorted.

"Now get out of the way so I can take care of this."

[member="Anders Sivas"]
"it's not enough, Mikhail! I couldn't save the Seer, I couldnt save my son and I can't fail again! I can't lose these - you think I'm strong?" It had never occurred that Mikhail had more faith in me than I did. Faith in a Goddess of Compassion I can attest. Faith in myself brought me here. As I see Mikhail's anger, I try to wrap my mind around it and find some crude pacifier.

"I fought Spencer." I got out of that duel and discovered I was pregnant. I hold up my palms and put them on Mikhail's chest. "I was woefully horrific in the fight. My mental skills meant nothing and I know it's Spencer Jacobs, I was going to lose. I mean, where do you think I learned my mental and empathetic arts? I did it to see how long I'd last in a fight. I was abysmal. Even with the lessons Lucien is giving me, I sucked. Like, really sucked at anything remotely offensive. Don't hurt Warren. He's done nothing I didn't ask him to do. . . Or he did and I didn't notice. Please." Grace. Abundant for one such as the savant Kiffar. Hands on Mikhail's chest, I let my lover into the panic raging through my mental and emotional net. I let him feel my genuine lack of self-confidence and the contemptible fear.

"If you tell me not to, I won't take it. What are you going to do? How are you going to handle this?" My hands slide as my body moves to Mikhail's side. The laboratory has become a choir chamber of dismal and horrific emotional conflagrations. So close to the solution I sought, the defeat of Mikhail's interruption slices into my spine. "Come with me. Right now. We can walk away." I can come back later, when Mikhail isn't as livid. Why is he livid? I catch glimpses of Mikhail's history with the man in front of me and it drives chills down through my toes. My lips push onto Mikhail's shoulder, 'Please, Mikha calm down. Come with me. It's my doing I wanted to make something of the Smokestone I had left. I'll tell you what this has all been about.'


Professor of Alchemy
Valik sighed as the not-vampire entered the room, beakers exploding in all manner of unnecessary theatrics. He'd be sending a bill to the Office of Military Affairs when this was over. Taking the nihil smokestone syringe and putting it in his jacket pocket he watched as the couple quarreled 3hile he used Art of the Small to change the many glass shards in the room to water. It admittedly wasn't the swiftest of processes, but Andra and Mikhail's conversation had bought him a good bit of time. He'd managed to clear up most of broken glass by this point in the couple's conversation. He considered speaking, but held his tongue. They were both free to go as they pleased. Andra wasn't forced to come to him for aid, he hadn't even expected her presence today. Valik was of no mind to force them into a decision, nor any place to interrupt what was obviously a personal matter. If they left, so be it. The Office of Military Affairs would replace his lost equipment and supplies. If Mikhail allowed Andra to partake of his solution, so be it. He would make the galaxy a stronger place, through making Andra stronger. If Andra could not stay Mikhail's hand and they were forced to battle, then so be it. He would solve the problem, like he had so many others before.

[member="Anders Sivas"] [member="Mikhail Shorn"]

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