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Speak to the Heart

Neri Rashal

6CO2+6H2O->C6H12O6+6O2
Writer
The Netherworld, Then

It was with a certain triumph that, when she looked up again, she could see the top of that mountain. One more shadow waited between her and the summit. But what was one more shadow now, after everything she had forced herself through?

"Irajah?"

She froze.

No. That wasn't possible. Every face, every voice she had encountered was one of the dead. If he was here that meant-

A renewed energy filled her and she pulled herself up beside the spike.

Boo.


Coruscant, Pre-Endgame

The holonews was playing in the background. The twins, asleep across the room. She could hear their soft breathing- or perhaps she only imagined she could hear it. She got up from the desk, padding over to check on them. Just in case. Leaning over, aand soft on their heads, careful not the wake them. Irajah smiled softly, content. She stood up and turned back around-

And froze.

The scene on the news was from Midvinter. A place she cared about not in the least. She hadn't been paying attention, and indeed, if she hadn't looked at the image in that moment, she would have missed it entirely. A familiar face. It was only a flash. An impression.

"Pause!" She said, too loud, a soft noise of protest from a sleeping infant. "Rewind. Play."

The Netherworld, Then

"No, no no nononono-"

She pulled herself up on the spike, hands going gingerly to the child's chest, not touching the spot where the mountain burst through, then to his face. Pale blue, far paler than it ever should be.

"No, no, this isn't right- you're alive, no you can't be here-"

"Why did you send me away?"

His voice was small and plaintive, not accusing, but with that hint of suspicion he'd worn as a mantle, always. After what he'd come through, before she had opened her home to him, she had never been able to blame him- strived to make sure that she didn't take it personally. Sometimes she had failed, but she had always recognized that he'd had it so very hard in such a short life, and that the suspicion even when aimed at her, wasn't about her.

This time, this time she deserved it and a thousand times more.

"I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry," she whispered, hand cupping the boy's face. "I've looked for you. I never stopped looking for you-"

"Why did you send me away?"

Her fingers pulsed, useless and helpless just above where the spike jutted from his pale, too thin chest.

"You're bleeding, I need to get you down from here-"

"Why Mom?"

"I wanted to protect you," she whispered, voice breaking. "I- I didn't know how to get away from them, but I knew- even before I understood it all, I knew they would threaten you, to keep me.... that they'd hurt you, if they thought they could. I couldn't.... I didn't want to send you away. I thought- I thought I was keeping you safe."

Coruscant, Pre-Endgame

Irajah had never attempted to sort out if the visions she had seen in the Netherworld were real or not. They were, in their own way, as real as anything else. She had looked for Boo for months with no leads, no luck. He had simply vanished in the time that she had been recovering after the attack by [member="Darth Carnifex"]. Since every other face she had seen on that mountain was dead, well, after that...

She had given up. Had accepted that Boo was dead. Why see him there, after all, if he wasn't?

Finding herself in a chair, she didn't even remember sitting down.

Boo.

Breathing in shakily, she pulled up her contacts on the console. She had questions that needed answers.

It didn't take long before they came flooding back.

The Sith sat back heavily in her chair. There was a heaviness in her chest, the strange mingling of joy and sorrow she wished there was a word to describe it. Boo was alive. Living with the Silver Jedi as Boo Heavenshield now. Adopted. With a family. He was safe.

So why did it hurt so much?

The Netherwold, Then

She clung to the side of the mountain, the slow breathing of the shrike creature forgotten as her hands fluttered helplessly. She clung to the spike, elbow hooked around it, oh so careful to not put pressure on him where it exited his chest.

"I needed you. And you sent me away."

Somehow, she managed to curl herself around him, trying to find a way to lessen the pressure of the spike through his body.

"I'm not going to leave you again," she whispered fiercely against his hair. "I'm going to get you out of here. I'll figure something out. I don't know how yet. But I will, I swear it."

He nodded weakly, closing those golden eyes.

"I believe in you. You can do anything."

She laughed, unable to help it, but there were tears in her eyes.

"I found you didn't I?"

It had taken going into hell itself, but she had found him.

She looked up at the top of the mountain, so very close, and then back down at his face. A sob welled up in her throat, but she didn't know exactly why. Carefully, as gently as she could, she pulled her attention and actions into figuring out just how she'd keep that promise to him.

Coruscant, Pre-Endgame

It hadn't been real. But the memories were as real as anything else ever could be. She had felt them as surely as this now. But they had been lies, manufactured by the keeper of that mountain. How much else of what she had seen between her death and rebirth had also been false? That was a question for another day.

Irajah sat and mulled. Finally she stood. After another check on the twins, she headed toward the closet. A box, buried at the back. She had not kept everything. What point would there have been to that? But from their apartment on Dosuun she had kept it with her. It had been salvaged from the wreckage of Blackwater Keep after it had burned by [member="Samson"], who knew just how much it had meant to her. The room there, made up for a boy that would never use it. In a away, she was glad he hadn't been there then. That he hadn't been with her when she had been murdered by [member="Samka Derith"], her death covered up by the 'tragic accident' of fire. Would she have let the boy live? Irajah didn't know.

Kneeling, she drew out the box. Opened it, her fingers ghosting over the items there. A t-shirt. A bean bag. A trio of action figures. They hadn't had long together, but it had been happy. A different time.

A different person.

She knew that the last thing she could do now was intrude on his life. He had come from Coruscant, from the Sith. They had damaged him in ways that, at first, she had thought would be impossible to undo. But slowly, so slowly, they had found trust. How could she think even for a moment of bringing him back to that?

Irajah was selfish. She knew that now. Did not deny it. But in this, in the people she loved, she knew what she had to do.

Leave him.

And yet.

She couldn't help but do one thing. She knew she shouldn't. And yet....

Midvinter, Now

The package that arrived, addressed to Boo Heavenshield was small and unassuming. There was no note. Nothing to explain. Only a return address of Coruscant.

But nested inside, oh so carefully, a trio of action figures. Last seen right before they had fallen behind the couch in a particular apartment on Dosuun.

[member="Boo Heavenshield"]
 

Bounce

Well-Known Member
Writer
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THE PLANET
C O R U S C A N T
THE ONE SITH

It was known as Coco Town.

For most, it was as far down as one could go in the ecumenopolis, the city which was the planet. As such, it featured such quaint and archaic things as streets or avenues. There was a sense of this being the ground, something that people would live their entire lives on Coruscant and die without ever experiencing. There were railways here, not sky cabs. It was the last bastion of the working-class man. Home to everything blue collar.

Including labor unions, organized crime, and the ubiquitous red light district that seemed perpetuated by both.

However, it wasn't the bottom. That was the realm of the Undercity, that forsaken realm that now occupied the forgotten mantle of the planet. The last refuge of dying men. Homelessness. Vagrancy. Nothing good came of the Undercity, and so the people seemed content to leave their trash undisturbed. Occasionally a sanitation task force would be dispatched by the government of the One Sith, burning the shanty towns of the impoverished and sending its occupants either to a debtors prison or into hiding. There seemed no other option for any of them other than those possible outcomes.

There was no place for them in the light.

Coruscant was a world where the higher you stood, the more you were worth. As spire inspired only another ziggarut, soon the lattice work of buildings had created a multitude of iron and concrete layers, shutting out the lower levels from being able to view a sky. Because the sky was the sole realm of their betters. And the people of Coruscant demanded that those of lower stratus respect their place. It was how the society worked. It was how civility was structured. Those who had, stood tall. Those without bowed low.

And the Dark Lords of the Sith ruled all.

The boy was barefoot. There were blisters on the soles of his feet. He could barely walk, but he was trying. He was Pantoran, though his skin was an unhealthy pallor of blue from the lack of exposure to light. He was emaciated, skin stretch taunt over bones that seemed to be jutting out from underneath. He was a miserable looking thing, with clothes that were ragged and unwashed.

He might have been all of seven years old.

He held a battered cup in one hand, shuffling among the tourists and visitors to Coco Town as he begged shamelessly. For what? For anything. Food. Credits. Clothes. Shoes. It was all the same to him.

When you had nothing, everything was of equal value.

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THE PLANET
C O R U S C A N T
THE GALACTIC ALLIANCE INVASION OF THE ONE SITH

He was the slave to a Sith Lord. As such, he was used to being roughed up. It usually wasn't quite the same as being manhandled though. Dark Lords of the Sith rarely got their hands dirty, or used them to pick up much of anything. Let alone a dirty, bloodied, thirty kilo kid.

The world spun in a dizzying vision, before the young Pantoran had face-planted in the lobby of the devastated spire. The amphistaff was still encircled around his thin frame, the biot stunned in surprise at the landing. Neither had much time to appreciate the situation they were in, as a hand interjected itself to snatch him up from the ground.

And that was where things got confusing.

First he was picked up, then dragged. Or pulled. Or carried. He was kinda confused on the specifics of what was happening.

Then he was back on the ground, and there was this dark-haired lady kneeling over him. And it kinda sounded like half the building was coming down around them.

...that last part might have been an exaggeration, but this was the mind of a child.

In any case, the blue-skinned child just sat there, his eyes vacant as his mind was still trying to catch up to everything that had just occurred over the last several seconds. His mouth was agape, though no sound was made. Instead, the boy was just breathing through his mouth. His heart rate was accelerated, his skin clammy...

...and then she had to go and say something. Something so simple.

Words he had never heard before.

"It's okay now."

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THE PLANET
D O S S U M
THE FIRST ORDER

"General Chiyo. Permission to come aboard?"

The first time that the Irajah had given him a toy, his response had been: What am I 'sposed to do with this?

For the purpose of the current drama, in which the F.O. Joes were battling the dastardly Rebel Alliance -- who were led by the villainous Princess Oeia Lr'gana and General San Holo, with help from swindling black marketeer Cando Lalrissian and the Wookiee eco-terrorist, Chowbacca -- the Joes were striking at the Rebel base on the planet Sofa IV.

Said rebel base was, in fact, a blanket and pillow fort, which was anchored by the large cardboard box he'd earlier retained possession of after the Irajah had gotten a large package in the mail.

Underneath the covering of a linen sheet, the Pantoran was tucked inside of the box, articulating the battle that was taking place. Azi was there as well, coiled up and wedged between the Pantoran and her beloved plush toy.

Hopefully, the Irajah didn't have other plans for her living room. Which was where this Hollywood studio production of F.O. Joes: The Movie: Episode WTF was taking place. Largely because he'd required the use of some of the sofa cushions for the construction of the pillow-and-blanket fort.

The curtain was drawn back on the theatrical stage, revealing the child playing inside of the cardboard box. Unlike the Irajah, the boy was only half-dressed. A pair of soft, pajama shorts adorned his trunk. There was a matching top for the outfit, but he didn't seem to ever want to wear it.

Yellow eyes peered up from beneath the veil of the sheet. "You hafta ask Azi," the boy remarked in reply. "She's in charge of the base."

It sort of made sense. Azi was kind of the undisputed master of the house anyway.

The diamond-shaped head of the biot just perked upward, most likely curious about the mug in the woman's hands. The amphistaff was usually interested in whatever either of them was holding at any given particular time.

Mew.

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"It is Cadet... Chiyo, isn't it?"

For most younglings his age, independence was a brave new world.

It was true for him as well, albeit from a somewhat different perspective. As a slave, even when he'd been sent on errands for his master, he'd always had a shadow. Someone watching over him, ready to reign in the illusion of freedom. It had kept him in bondage without chains. A prison without walls.

Now, those ethereal chains had been broken. As he'd walked away from [member="Irajah Ven"] at the transport stop, no one had followed him. He was aware of no presence lording over him. For the first time, he was alone.

It should have been liberating. Instead, he found it intimidating. Frightening. He had been alone before. On the streets. In the alleys. In the lightless reaches of Coruscant's forgotten Undercity. Starved. Eating out of rubbish bins and sleeping in flimsiplast boxes along rivers of chit flowing through the planet's sewers.

Like the tasks he'd performed for his master, they had practiced what he would do. The route from the house to the school that he would take. The stops on the transport. His ticket and fare. He had a comlink with limited functionality. It allowed him to call the Irajah and the school, with the option for the Irajah to expand the options for calling select friends when, or if, he made any.

His first day was supposed to involve something called an 'orientation.' The start of which was some kind of test. The Irajah had been going over reading and writing with him in preparation for that, as his scores on the test would determine his placement in the school. He was supposed to go to the library for the test, and then they'd give him his schedule of classes and introduce him to his teachers afterward.

The voice, and subsequent appearance of a Pau'an startled him.

He wasn't accustomed to people sneaking up on him. Whether on the streets, enslaved by the Sith, or even at home with the Irajah... the Pantoran was typically wound tight. Anxious like a nervous feline. Constantly alert. Glancing around, as though always expecting the devil in the dark to be somewhere close. Somewhere watching.

That's what he felt now. The devil in the dark.

He'd jumped, startled. Then shaken, obviously unsettled as his head whipped around to gaze toward the voice that had spoken. He found himself at eye-level to a midriff. Above which was a chest, that gave rise to a ghastly alien visage as the violet-headed child craned his back to peer up at the Goliath now peering down over the proverbial David.

He hadn't expected the devil to appear so... literal.

"I'll be administering a test so we know where to place you as you get started on your education," the librarian intoned in hollow, deliberate tones.

"Now... shall we begin?"

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THE PLANET
B E S P I N
THE FIRST ORDER

"You wanna buy some deathsticks?"

He was a child.

He wasn't one of those Pantorans who could pass for eighteen in middle school, and he was getting solicited by the local drug dealer not even five steps inside of the so-called 'Brown Sector.' A ghost of a smile played across the youngling's face as he breezed past the Duros that was tweaking as he came down from his own supply.

Some people would look out on a place like this and say that these people were the salt of the earth. The dealers. The pick pockets. Con Artists. Merchants, some legitimate and a few who operated outside the law. More and more, it was the legitimate ones who merely had something going under the table. Fixing the books to reduce what they paid in taxes. Working in auriodium ingots so there was no traceable credit transaction. They thought that they were getting by.

And, in a way, that was true.

"...Naboos is crazy baby. Don't forget that Bith told you get, that, dirt off your shoulder..."

As he passed through a bustling market, the boy's eyes were drawn up toward the flash and color of the holographic renderings overhead. A Gungan hip-hop group performing in an advertisement for a concert.

"Gunganlicious: Resurrection. The galactic reunion tour, here at Cloud City!"

Turning his eyes up, the youth admired the holographic advert. Perhaps there would be something interesting for him on this assignment after all. But, for now, there was work to be done. Passing over the threshold into a package store, the blue-skinned 'tween' made his way toward the counter. A Zygerrian gave a low growl in greeting at the sight of the boy approaching the counter. "I'm here to pick up a package," the boy remarked simply.

It was a set phrase, intended for his contact on Cloud City.

"A package for who?" the Zygerrian demanded.

"Plutonia Courier Services."

The Zygerrian gave a grunt rather than a response. Reaching under the counter, the gruff felinoid planted a small package down. It was small, like a jeweler's case. As the boy reached to take it, a large Zygerrian paw slapped down on top of the boy's hand. "For our Leader," the Zygerrian uttered softly, before withdrawing the hand.

"For our Leader," the youth agreed, glancing up at the merchant before sliding the case toward himself. Finally, he picked it up and then simply turned to make his way out of the store.

As he emerged from out of the shop, the boy popped the top on the case, exposing an ear link that was resting inside. A flashing indicator on the side revealed the presence of a stored message on the device. Pulling the link from out of the box, the boy chucked the case into a trash bin as he walked. Fitting the ear link into place on the side of his head, the youngling tapped the play-back feature.

"Good morning, Chiyo Ren."

Just a few months earlier, he had escaped the very life in which he found himself now.

Just a few months earlier, he'd been guided by the hand and walked out of the fires of Coruscant and the atrocities of the One Sith. Come away, O Pantoran child, to the doctor and the wild. With an Irajah, hand in hand, from a world more full of weeping than he could understand.

But the Irajah was gone now.

There had been a fire.

Boo had never come home from school on that fateful day. He had a new family that had been waiting to welcome him with open arms.

The Knights of Ren.

It was refrain that proved familiar. Sith 2.0.

They had even taken his name from him. Gone the form of Boo Ven. He was Chiyo Ren now.

And a boy who had been slave was a slave still.

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THE PLANET
L O R R D
THE HOLY SEE OF THE PRIMEVAL

The more things change, the more they tended to stay the same.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

The boy's boots scraped against the floor of the shop. An elderly, grandmotherly matron - Carlita Letiz Suisse - sitting behind a cash register, cross-stitching with a ball of yarn propped on the counter. The two delivery men were moving from out of the back room. All three clearly startled by the sight of the young Pantoran. He could sense their surprise. And their irritation.

Fumbling with the map in his hands, the boy put on his best smile as he said, "I'm sorry, but I think I'm lost." Taking another step forward, the boy approached one of the men, holding it out as he explained, "Can you tell me how to get to the Crypt of the Martyrs from here?"

The irritation deepened. The atmosphere in the room one now eager to be rid of the intruder as quickly as possible. As the man reached out his hand to take the edge of the map, the boy dropped the act.

Even with their kinetic communication being so acute and innate, it was a couple of seconds before anyone had caught wind that anything had changed. Time in which the Pantoran had slipped a hand under the map to grab the hold-out blaster.

Breathe in.

The temperature in the room seemed to suddenly drop, as the boy reached inside of himself to seize hold of the Dark Side of the Force. His movements accelerated, the boy struck like a mongoose in a single fluid motion that brought the snub-nosed blaster up and leveled it at the man's head nearest him before anyone had even followed the fact that the boy had moved at all.

The two trigger pulls went off in such rapid succession that it seemed only a single shot had been fired. Double-tap to the head. The way that [member="Tyro'din"] had taught him.

He'd already sighted in the second man by the time that the Vianist had realized what was happening. The shot catching him in the head the same moment in which his hand had grabbed hold of the blaster he'd been concealing in his pants.

As the last delivery man toppled over, the boy swept his arm up to level the blaster at the matron. As the echoes of the last shot faded, the shock was just beginning to lift the veil from her reasoning, so that as realization and horror overcame shock and awe, she knew that she was staring down the barrel of a gun.

Blood splattered up against the back wall of the shop, the sound of the blaster shot echoing loudly throughout the store.

The boy let out the breath that he'd been holding, his shoulders sagging slightly as he did. Stepping over the bodies, the young Pantoran reached around the side of the counter to put a second blaster bolt in the grandmotherly corpse on the floor. Then, lowered the pistol in his hands, casually ejected the spent blaster cartridge. Slipping a new cartridge into the hold-out blaster, the boy casually tucked the small weapon away as he did a quick inspection of the bodies.

He took the comlinks, credit cubes, and identicards off all three of the bodies.

Then just walked out of the store, and vanished into plain sight.

It was a routine that he'd been duplicating to one degree or another ever since he'd finally managed to break away from the fanatical grip of the Knights of Ren, vanishing into the far reaches of Wild Space while he grappled with personal demons and lingering doubts about the fire that had, for the briefest, brightest glimmer of time in his life, promised hope for a future that would never be.

He'd encountered a Hutt warlord there. [member="Zambrano the Hutt"]. A crazed sociopath whose one saving grace was the fact that he didn't particular care that the mercenary in his employ was a youngling. So long as Boo killed for the Hutt, the Hutt could care less who or what or how old Boo was.

The Hutt had connected the Boo with a religious cult, a group of similarly lost souls who bonded over personal demons and dark prophesies.

It wasn't home, and it damn sure wasn't The Irajah...

But it was something to believe in.

So when he was offered an opportunity to serve the Bleeding Sun, he didn't think twice about accepting. What he had undertaken as a slave, the bloodletting he had done as a Knight of Ren... he did it all again.

This time because he believed in it.

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Can you hear me? can .. you, hear me?

A voice.

There was someone there, across the hall. In another cell. But it wasn't Ren. And it wasn't the mission commander. It was a young voice. The small boy? As the Pantoran pressed up against the door, his eyes moving furtively while his mind tried to work through the questions gathering in his waking mind. He listened for any other sounds, indications that Ren and the others might yet be out there. But there was naught by a sudden echo, as though something or someone was moving toward them.

But who?

And why?

They couldn't have been targeted for being a Jedi ship. The merger and formation of the Coalition was too new. As a result, the transponder on the Hraesvelgr had been broadcasting a Levantine ID code. "Someone's coming," the boy stated, dropping his voice though he hoped it was still loud enough that the smaller child could hear him. "It'll be all right. For now, stay quiet."

Pushing away from the door, the Pantoran took stock of the room. His eyes trailed along the walls and up to the ceiling. "I'll get us out of here..." the boy promised, stepping on top of the mattress as he stretched to see how far up the ceiling he could reach. "...somehow."

The boy's thoughts brushed against the Pantoran's mind. He might well have felt the anger that the tween was tapping into, crouching in wait as he closed his eyes and let loose the fetters he normally maintained on the turbulent emotions of a scarred childhood. It would have felt cold to Theo.

Cold as ice.

Cold as the grave.

Oblivious to the mystic energies that were gathering, a meaty, green fist banged against the door to young Theo's cell. The small eyes and large head of a Gamorrean appeared through the slits as the guard took note of the prisoner and then stepped across the hall to do likewise in the cell with the older child.

A Dark Rage flowed through the boy, as he extended out a hand and tried to concentrate all of his anger, the whole of his dreams, and the sum of all fears into the palm of his hand. A layer of frost formed over his exposed arm, as an icicle began to take shape -- its rudimentary point extended away from the closed fist like the point of a knife. The boy channeled the Dark Side energies he had wrought there. Trying to grasp the Force. His fist overflowing, as it washed down the icicle like a sheath of energy. Reinforcing the ice.

A series of grunts could be heard, as the Gamorrean peered through the door to the Pantoran's cell. And did not see him. The door opened moments later, the tween standing - braced against the corners of the wall just above, and to the right, of the door. The porcine thug passed beneath him, as it's brutish head was stuck inside to search for signs of the blue-skinned boy.

And he struck.

Like a viper.

Like the amphistaff he kept as a pet.

The fang of ice pierced the creature in the side of the neck, the Gamorrean toppling forward in surprise as eighty pounds of Pantoran suddenly slammed down on his shoulder blades.

From across the hall, Theo would have heard the death throes of a pig as it was slaughtered. The squeals and bleating hoarse and raw as they depicted a living creature having its life ripped violently from its body. The sounds sent shivers through the spine, and set the skin crawling.

And then it was over.

The cold lingered. Colder now. Silence. A stillness of death in the air as seconds ticked by. A sound pierced the stillness. The sound of the door to the Pantoran's cell shutting at long last.

And then a voice spoke in a whisper to say, "Don't be afraid."

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THE PLANET
K A S H Y Y Y K
THE ORDER OF THE SILVER JEDI

“I am sure the healer will arrive soon”

Adults were sadists.

Now, kids usually weren't ones to throw shade, but come on. Spankings? Chores? You know, that whole unpaid, forced child labor by the very same denizens of the free worlds who claimed to oppose slavery...

And then there were school physicals.

Seriously, it was school. It wasn't like he was training for the Knights of Ren. Or the Primeval Bleeding Sun. Or the role of Darth Scorpius' slipper fetcher. Because those whole Sith slave thing had been no joke. The Dark Lord had killed two or three street urchins before Boo had come along, however unwillingly.

But still, it wasn't like school with the Silver Jedi really required a medical exam. Yet, here he was.

Granted, it had been awhile since his last physical. That had been conducted by a Jedi Healer named Teynara Jeralyr, back when the Silver Jedi had pulled the young Pantoran away from the cult of the Primeval. Her notes in his medical file narrated a horrific depiction. Marbled scaring of the soft tissue from repeated Force Lightning strikes. Fine fractures and indications of the bones having mended after being broken through the application of Force Crush.

Those were all mostly invisible. Concealed by the azure, powder blue flesh that dressed over the soft tissue and muscle. The physical scars were, for the most part, on the soles of his feet. The evidence of years spent barefoot and malnourished, crawling over broken bottles and through dumpsters looking for something that might have passed for food.

Then there was the puncture wound on his left hand. That did not appear in the notes left by Doctor Jeralyr, having occurred some time later. When the Silver Jedi had come to the distant, former Sith world of Tash-Taral. [member="Rasu Gan"] had been attacked by a tarentatek and Boo, ever the fool, had jumped to the Jedi Master's defense.

They had slain the tarentatek. Rasu Gan was safe. And all it had cost anyone was the spine that had impaled through Boo's hand.

It was a wound that had never fully healed. All the physical ailments had been tended to, but the spine had introduced a Dark Side poison to the blood. The work of Sith alchemy, severing the child from the Light Side of the Force even as it had twisted his cellular anatomy into the condition known as Sithspawn.

The wound was more metaphysical than it was tangible. It would seem to scab over and return a semblance of normalcy for a respite, however brief, only to break open again whenever there was a disturbance in the Force.

“How about we go for ice cream after this?”

Théo had no idea how long this could take. Doctors were all on their time.

He was kinda used to it. His adoptive mom had been a doctor. Boo was pretty sure that doctors didn't really have things like schedules. People got sick all the time. It was kind of a thankless job in that sense. Even when doctors did everything they could to help someone, people were still just gonna die anyway. So, really, it seemed like a whole lot of effort for not a whole lot of anything.

Slouching back, the young Pantoran put his back against Théo's, so that the youngling was resting with his head against the man's shoulder blade.

He liked when he could reach out and touch Théo. To reassure himself that Ser Scruffy was still there. That this wasn't a dream. That Théo had disappeared or left him.

Sometimes parents and kids didn't come home again. One morning, on Dosuum, Boo and [member="Irajah Ven"] had left for the day. Boo to his school and the Irajah to her hospital. Neither saw each other again.

So it was tempting to believe that this was all a dream. A dream he would wake up from, only to find himself slowly dying in some loub-paper box that he was living out of in Coruscant's Undercity.

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THE PLANET
C O R U S C A N T
CURRENT DAY

He truly hated this place.

It was something about himself that he knew, on some level, in the back of his mind. The memories of Coruscant lingered as an ever present reality. Yet, seeing the planet evoked an instinctive emotional response that still surprised him.

It was a feeling somewhere between nausea and anger. He felt sick. He felt rage. He felt fear.

He shouldn't have come here. [member="Théodred Heavenshield"] would never have allowed it. So, Boo hadn't asked permission. Hadn't told Théo that he was going. The flight plan on file with the Antaran Rangers had the Equinox traveling from Midvinter back to Alaris Prime.

Except he'd navigated away from Silver Jedi space, traveling instead to the Core Worlds. A place where he knew only misery. Poverty. Starvation. Disease.

Coruscant was everything wrong with his life. Everything wrong with the galaxy.

"It's okay now."

Those words were the only good thing to come out of Coruscant, a place that she had taken him away from.

A life that she had tried to take him away from.

It was strange. With Théo, it was easy. Théo knew his demons and, somehow, loved him anyway. Boo didn't pretend around Théo. Boo didn't have to act around Théo. He simply was himself. Sithspawn, mistakes, regrets and all. And none of that mattered, not with Théo.

But the Irajah...

She had tried to make things better. And what had he done? The Knights of Ren. The Hutts. The Primeval. Even among the Silver Jedi, his hands were not clean.

He was a monster.

She had tried to make things better, and he had failed her. There was no right by which he deserved to see her now, except he wanted to see her. Wanted to know the truth. Wanted to believe that she was okay.

One of them needed to be okay.

Every moment Coruscant grew closer. Every moment another struggle to not order the astromech pilot droid to turn the Sith courier around.

The Sith had devastated the planet in the recent battle with the Galactic Alliance, so there was no way to know if the address on the package even still existed or not.

...but he had to try.

No, that wasn't true. This wasn't about The Irajah. It was about him. This was possibly the most selfish thing he had ever done. Which only reinforced the notion of how far he'd fallen and failed the woman who had tried to take him away from all that he had become.

[member="Irajah Ven"]​
 

Neri Rashal

6CO2+6H2O->C6H12O6+6O2
Writer
She had tried to make things better, and she had failed him.

In every way it was possible to fail another person, she had failed Boo. She had become the very essence of that which she had tried to take him out of, to free him from. A Sith Lord on Coruscant. She was different, in her own way yes. Nothing like the man who had owned him-

No, that wasn't true.

Irajah thought of Boo often in the days following the delivery of the package. And compared, carefully and without remorse (much anyway), the then and now. In the end, she confirmed that not contacting him directly was absolutely the right decision. As much as she wanted to, it was a call she could be comfortable in making.

Who was she now? A Sith Lord on Coruscant. One who experimented on people- perhaps without malice but certainly without significant compassion. She did not own slaves, but what could she call people such as [member="Samson"]? He was a charge, someone she was responsible for. But she had created him, and as much as she could encourage his independence, there would always be a part of him bound to her. Desmond? [member="Elian Keyes"]? [member="Icarn Amonta"]? These were people she had taken. Twisted from their original selves and remade into something that benefited her. She did not mistreat them- after the fact. But what she had done to them, well, she had no illusions of that.

And she would do it again in a heartbeat without hesitation or remorse.

That did not mean that she did not love. Deeply and without reservation. [member="Jairus Starvald"] and their children. [member="Matsu Xiangu"]. There were friendships, real and unfettered, with loyalty and affection. [member="Cerbera"] . [member="Jacob Crawford"]. [member="Imogen Daniels"]. [member="Ghorua the Shark"]. [member="Nisha Skaiyr"].

And there were people she sought to bring down to their lowest, without mercy or pity. She did not merely wish to see them fall, but to find them beneath her heel. [member="Darth Carnifex"]. [member="Samka Derith"].

When she had known Boo, Irajah had considered herself a good person.

She knew better now.

No. She had, indeed, made the right choice. That didn't mean she could help being wistful about it, however.

*****

The address the package boasted as a return was, in truth, a false lead. In fact, it was entirely fabricated. There was no such address, no such building. But the district it had been sent from was very real. The Agua District, a lower level of Coruscant. Poor but not wretched, surprisingly safe (in the last year at least) from the local gangs. The address would have been next to a building- The Sou Emergency Medical Center. If it had existed of course.

[member="Boo Heavenshield"]
 

Bounce

Well-Known Member
Writer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaAJze9HM5g​
tumblr_nsn8f0QsMe1tu6tfso2_500.gif
Patience.

Jedi spent their lives in pursuit of it. Teaching it. Learning it.

To be honest, Boo had never thought much about it. When you were a slave, patience was the only thing left to you. Gone was hope, or trust, or charity. Or even decency. Especially decency. When you were a slave, patience was a necessity. Patience meant that you still had a will to go on living. Patience meant that you had purpose. Patience meant that you were biding your time.

Hatred.

That's what Coruscant taught people. Coruscant cast people into social strata. The have's rose to the top, while the have-not's were cast into the Undercity, where there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Boo had been a student here. Learning hatred. Studying hatred. Learning about hatred. Learning the extent to which hate could permeate someone's entire being, until that hatred had replaced their will and all that they were was hate personified.

He didn't have any currency with him. Midvinter ingots and Silver Jedi credits would only bring him attention, so he'd come in with the usual status quo.

The Pantoran was dressed in loose clothing. A hoodie that was open, masking the outline of the amphistaff that was slung like a shoulder holster -- coiled around his arms and stretched across his shoulders. As he'd passed a total stranger on the street, the boy had casually lifted a credit cube. Occupational tendencies of a pickpocket and street urchin that had never entirely left him. It gave him a modicum of credits for getting around Coruscant.

One thing about this planet, it took credits to do anything here.

Two sky cabs and a tram later, he was standing on the block where the address on the package should have been.

It wasn't.

To be honest, that much wasn't really a surprise. He'd almost expected as much.

What was unusual was that there was a medical center across the street.

The youngling looked down to his left. A normal Coruscant street. A glance down to his right revealed a delivery truck. A pair of Aqualish exited out of the back, carrying a large package from out of the cargo sled into a bistro.

Casually passing behind the truck, the boy casually reached out to pick up a small package that was just slightly larger than his hand. A simple pull of the Force brought a clipboard-like datapad to his free hand, as the boy changed direction and made his way back toward the medical center.

All the while, he was making a few alterations to the datapad's delivery manifest.

Stepping inside of the hospital, the Pantoran made his way directly to the nurse's station. Extending the datapad out, the boy said, "Plutonia Courier Services. I have a package for a Doctor Ven."

[member="Irajah Ven"]
 

Neri Rashal

6CO2+6H2O->C6H12O6+6O2
Writer
The nurse looked around, then leaned over to where the voice had come from. Alice Turning was a middle aged woman, blonde hair starting to streak white from stress, but also sporting the crinkled lines of a thousand smiles around her eyes and mouth.

"Oh dear, they sure are hiring people younger and younger these days, or else I'm just getting older and older," she said with a laugh.

"Doctor Ven? There's no one by that name here. Perhaps it's a typo? May I check the address?"

When she had confirmed that it was indeed addressed to the clinic, she chewed on her lower lip for a moment, tilting her head this way and that. She was used to dealing with the sorts of emergencies that came in on a daily basis, but for some reason the simple issue of this moment was harder than a speeder accident or blaster wound from one of the neighboring districts.

"Hmmm, perhaps it was ordered on their behalf from someone else here. Doctor Calais often works with the Doctors up level, consulting at the hospitals. I think she's in her office, second floor, third door on your right. I'd bring it up for you, but we're short staffed today and I can't leave the front desk," she smiled apologetically.

*****

Upstairs, Irajah sat, scanning files. The name on her door? Doctor Calais, the persona she had adopted here on Coruscant.

She frowned, flicking through the ones that had been flagged for her attention. Not by anyone in particular, but by the subroutines of the clinic's system. Subroutines that had been put into place specifically to kick back to her the files where the box next to 'Next of kin' was left blank.

The dark haired woman mulled absently over two such files, weighing which would suit her needs better for the current needs of her research.

[member="Boo Heavenshield"]
 

Bounce

Well-Known Member
Writer
Doctor Calais.

Not much of a lead, but it got him inside of the hospital. The coincidence of the address coinciding with a medical center was too close to home to have not taken advantage of an inside look at the personnel records.

If this Doctor Calais worked with other doctors, then that meant she probably had files on them. Maybe he could get inside the office and take a look through those files for any identifying information on the staff. Even if the Irajah was not here, perhaps one of her co-workers from Dosuum had managed to find their way to Coruscant...

As the Pantoran made his way inside of the lift that would take him up to the level of Doctor Calais' office, the normally docile amphistaff under his clothes was becoming agitated and restless. The boy's shirt seemed to come alive, as the wriggling mass of coils was visible against the outline of the fabric. Grasping at his clothes, in vain, the Pantoran tried to contain the restless biot, before, finally, Azi's head shot out from his left sleeve, pivoting like a pointer dog that was trying to cue on a scent.

Mew.

"No, wait!"

As soon as the door to the lift opened, the amphistaff was off like a rocket, a black streak of lightning moving across the floor in pursuit of whatever had captivated it's attention.

Stumbling out of the lift, the Pantoran looked nervously around the floor, anxious that someone might see the amphistaff... and trying to keep pace as the biot wound its way through the interior as though it knew exactly where it was going.

[member="Irajah Ven"]
 

Neri Rashal

6CO2+6H2O->C6H12O6+6O2
Writer
Mulling over the files, Irajah pushed back from the desk. Her hand ghosted out, fingers curling around a small object before standing up. When she'd chosen the figurines to send in that package, she'd also taken out something else. Originally, she'd meant to send it, but in the end it had ended up in her jacket pocket instead when she'd gone to mail it. A few days later she'd remembered it, and taken it out at work. Holding it up, she'd frowned, then snorted air heavily through her nose.

But she'd kept it on her desk.

Padding over to the couch across the small office, she laid back, looking up at the ceiling.

Fwap.

She tossed the hacky sack up and caught it.

Fwap.

Again.

The couch looked perfectly in place here, at a low cost, bad side of town clinic. Which was good, because it was the first time it had fit in with the decor since she'd taken it out of the apartment on Dosuun. For all of the wealthy circles she moved in these days, that couch had come with her from place to place. After the apartment on Maena it had been relegated to her office- [member="Jairus Starvald"] put his foot down about having it in their shared space. She didn't blame him. The couch was cheap, well worn. But it had been a housewarming gift from another friend she had lost- [member="Cait Falcor"]. Another remnant of a different time.

Better?

No. But different. Irajah would never pretend that she had been better then. Simply blind. Ignorance had been bliss, for a time. And then it had come crashing down.

Simpler, yes. And in its way, it had been good.

Fwap THWIP

Ooph. Irajah blinked as something came zipping beneath the gap of the door, and snatched the hacky sack from her hands. Something heavy and wriggling, squirming on her chest-

"Azi?!?"

Mew.

The biot looked at her with glittering eyes. Its tail thwapped against her. Hard. Again. Again.

"Ow, ow ow! Yes I-"

Irajah froze. One heartbeat. Two. And then she rolled off of the couch, landing on her knees on the floor. The scramble up was indelicate, heels making it difficult for a moment- Azi didn't help. It took longer than it should have to get her feet under her.

Someone else was opening the door by the time she had.

[member="Boo Heavenshield"]
 

Bounce

Well-Known Member
Writer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Inhn2sTkRbk​
tumblr_p5409bdbBL1v15bzho1_500.gif
One second behind.

Every turn, he seemed just one second behind.

Blindly, the blue-skinned youngling stumbled through the interior of the hospital. Chasing the ghost of a shadow that might have been a black serpent-like xenoform. He was attracting attention, ducking to peer under tables and chairs as he tried to maintain a line of sight on a rapidly escaping phantom that darted along the floor and seemed to vanish around every corner.

His shoes squeaked as the purple-haired youth skidded past a T-junction. He stood there, for a moment uncertain of which way he should go. He had lost sight of the amphistaff.

His heartbeat was racing. His stomach was twisting into knots. His breath rolled like thunder in his ears. He tried to feel for the connection to Azi, but his Vongsense was clouded.

All around him, the Dark Side of the Force seemed smother him in a fog-like miasma. He tried to clear his mind, but the thoughts kept running like little reels of tape playing movies in his head that made a horror-vid feel like home. He was scared as he had never been before.

That was, perhaps, the real terror. As a child, Boo had learned early that his life was worthless and so he'd never learned to value it. Without fear for his own life, he had endured homelessness. The callous disregard of man and the brutality of the Undercity. Slavery under the yoke of the Sith. For what could they take from him?

He had only anger. Only hatred. They had been his constant companions. The silent, whispering champions that substituted for his conscience in the fading light of those moments in which his sanity had been breaking. His resolve replaced only by the will to inflict pain and terror on those who deigned to torment the meek and the forgotten.

Then he had learned the answer. He discovered what it was to experience loss. The proverbial knife so artfully done, it had cut out the heart that he had never asked to have. Removed the gift that he had never asked to be given.

He had no idea what a mother was. The Irajah was just a new master. One who spoke strangely, in kind words the likes of which he'd not heard from anyone at any other time in his life.

Then she was gone.

And Boo, now one of the Heartless, passed through the abyss as Chiyo Ren. As soulless and wretched a creature as he had ever been, transformed into a monster by [member="Zambrano the Hutt"] and the warlords of the Primeval. The fires in which the Irajah had burned were brought to bear across dozens of worlds. Wayland. Lorrd. Ord Janon. Ravelin. Mirial. Ziost.

Now, the thought that she was here struck him with a terror that was sharper than the knife. More real than the pain. It robbed him of breath. Staggered, he stumbled around as though suddenly blind. His mind was sluggish, as though it were becoming numb.

What if she wasn't gone?

What if she was here?

Why had she gone away?

...was it him?

He thought that he had wanted this. Now, he only wished to run away. Flee Coruscant. Get as far away from here and these memories. These bullets with butterfly wings. Softly, gently warm memories of her touch. Her home. The way in which she had made him feel like someone.

Boo had never been someone before he'd met the Irajah.

He hit a wall. Pushing himself away, he found himself staring at a door. A half-moon shape had been burned into the base. It was still smoldering. The amphistaff had not entirely fit between the edge of the door and the floor. But then, she didn't need to. Like a lightsaber, the biot had passed straight through the door. A scorch mark on the tile marked the edges of where the amphistaff's body had grazed the tile with it's electrified body.

His hand reached out...

...but he was afraid to open the door.

Would he find her, only to discover that he had lost her all over again?

The boy's blue hand landed, palm flat, on the door. His weight settled against it, as the boy's forehead went to rest against it. Frozen. Unable to go forward. Unable to go back.

Tears slipped down his face, as he feared facing a truth that was more terrifying than the loss of her.

Then, the door clicked open, pushed aside by the child's weight, as the young Pantoran stumbled inside.
 
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