Monday, April 16, 2007

Compassion Revisited





"What are you?"

Jeht could feel nothing. See nothing. Hear nothing. Even the 'voice' was more a thought, a sensation surrounding him in this midnight dreamland. There was nothing but him here. Him... and the presence of another.

'Who are you?"

The shadows were infinite but as he drifted, Darrus could feel a current running through this ephemeral sea. The void was immense, perhaps infinite, but it seemed to be traveling to some distant point. Instead of fighting the current, Darrus let the stream take him along with it. There was nothing else here; perhaps the current would carry him to whatever was speaking.

"Why are you here?"

Jeht had tried to answer the words already but in this place, there was no sound. Nothing escaped his lips. He'd even tried to use the Force to speak. Still nothing. The voice seemed almost desperate to speak but struggle as he might, Jeht could offer no reply.

"What are you?"

The farther he drifted, the more substance there seemed to be in the void around him. He could feel eddies in the darkness, emotions and memories half realized. There was a mind here; something terribly alien and distant. There was no sense of physical self, just an awareness as vast as an ocean and as nebulous as space itself.

Each time he passed through a ripple of emotion, he tried to make contact with it. He envied Maya for her empathic gifts right now, wondering if she was having a similar experience. Similar perhaps, but not the same if what he'd suspected in the hanger was true.

Whatever these droids were, they were not just robots. Somewhere inside them, just like he'd seen in the Jedi Hunter months ago, there was something alive. In fact, the strange droids were a lot like the Jedi Hunter. Similar presence in the Force, similar mechanisms. In some way, they were related. These huge machines were built, or at least modified, by the same hand that had constructed that vile, murdering....

Jeht tried to center himself. Such fury was unbecoming to a Jedi. That, and as his own emotions became turbulent, so too did this sea of shadows around him. He could sense similar anger, similar pain and loss in the mind at the heart of this dream. If he wasn't calm, the mental landscape he was trapped in could get very, very uncomfortable.

Stilling his emotions made the current flow both faster and easier. He moved past whirlpools of anguish and through tides of rage. The dream mind was surrounded by dark emotions that easily matched the worst within himself.

It was only when he tried to calm the pain and fear around him that Jeht managed to make any contact at all. Reaching out to ease the ragged agony in this teeming void, he was suddenly confronted by a rushing wave of awareness, a relentless assault of questions and focus and boundless fear.

"Who are you? Where are you? Where am I? What am I?!?"

Darrus took a moment to relax, forgetting his own anxiety long enough to try and offer what answers he could. His response manifested as telepathic force, louder and stronger than ever before. Wherever he was, physical limits did not apply. The power of the mind was paramount here - a sort of shadow space where only Will had any true existence or impact on reality.

"I am Darrus. I do not know you, but I know what you are."

"What? What am I?"

"You are within a machine, part of a droid."

As he expected, the darkness around him shuddered in confusion and fear.

"Cold. So cold."

Again, Darrus envied Maya. She would know what to say. She would be able to help this mind, this disembodied soul. He was no good at this; his world was violence. Healing, while not an unknown concept, had never exactly been a focus. Nor had diplomacy. Still, the heart of this dreaming horror needed help and though he didn't know what to say, he knew he had to say it.

"I... I'm sorry."

It was weak, a very weak attempt to help. Like putting a small bandage on a blaster wound, it felt like too little too late. To the presence around him however, his three words seemed to make all the difference.

"Help me?"

"I will if I can."

Though he had no idea how to fulfill such a vow, he meant every word. There was a lot he did not know about the droid but he was more certain than ever that it was actually some kind of cyborg. How much was left of the original creature? No way to know while he was here. But once he returned to his own body, he would try to find out. And if there was a way to restore the being, he would... or at least see to it that it found peace.

"I don't want to die."

Jeht sighed. He should have expected the mind to be able to read his. especially now that he was apparently so close to its heart. The shadows and darkness were parting around him; there was some kind of light ahead. The current was stronger too; even if he hadn't wanted to enter the radiant core of the dream, he might not have been able to break away.

"I know. But if I can't free you..."

"I just don't want to be alone."

As the light opened and took him inside, he could finally see the mind's self image. He was surrounded by a sphere of metal, its core a smaller ball of crystal with radiance pulsing in and out of it along ghostly lines like hovering circuits. Within the clear orb, a floating figure was suspended in what appeared to be a contained gale of wind and glittering snow.

It was a woman, human and sleeping. Her long pale hair was whipping madly around her unclad body, caught in the hurricane of her crystal prison. Though her eyes were closed, he instinctively knew the voice was hers. This was the presence inside the droid.

And he knew something else, something he'd suspected the moment he felt her through the silver curtain covering her mobile tomb.

She was Jedi.

He drifted closer, the current bringing him right up to where she slept in her glowing sphere. Lines of white and red and shadow arced from the walls and passed through him, connecting Jeht to her thoughts in a web of power.

"Please. Don't kill me. I don't want to die... again."

Before he could respond, his vision was overwhelmed by a memory of pain. Of running across a rooftop on Cularin, of his/her boots catching on loose gravel as Death itself stalked behind. As her, he watched helplessly as a metal murderer brought her down within sight of the city lights below. There was pain. And blood. And then darkness.

Darrus knew who she was now and the realization stunned him. When the Jedi Hunter first started stalking the Cularin system, his first kills had been a Jedi Master and three young padawans. The master and two of the trainees had later been found as part of dark Sith devices in the industrial factory lair of the Jedi Killer. The missing padawan's body had never been recovered.

Until now. He searched his thoughts, trying to remember her name. The figure in the crystal globe stirred as her attention focused ravenously.

"Please... yes... who am I?"

He paused, unsure if he should tell her. The shock of self-identity might be a terrible blow to her, another link to how much she'd already lost. His doubt did not last long, however. For better or worse, she deserved to know. It was such a small thing, really - just a name. But to her, it was everything. He didn't have to be very empathic to know that.

"Vykara Zaa."

He felt the ripples of awareness as the mind accepted her name, the tremors of shock as it settled into her psyche and dredged up thousands of memories that hurtled past him like solar flares. His dreaming existence seemed to fade as the world became trouble and reverie and raw, quaking emotion.

Vykara, at some level, seemed to sense his distress. Clumsily, the current that brought him here sent him away, back into into the darkness outside her core.

"Go. Be safe. Forgive me."

He shook his head. Or rather, thought about shaking it. The gesture seemed to translate mentally. He knew this was not her fault, that she was pushing him out of harm's way.

"No need. Thank you."

The waves of telepathic motion were swiftly carrying him to the edge of her dream. He knew without knowing how that when he reached it, he would return to himself. He would wake up and return to the physical world. Somehow, he also knew he wouldn't completely leave this place. A pain in his mind, in his forehead that did not exist here, stretched thin as he traveled away - a tether that bound him to this place.

"Please... don't leave me."

He felt her voice getting softer as he neared the border of the dream world. As gently as he could, compassion still a difficult thing for him to understand or offer, he shook his head again.

"Do not worry. I do not think I could, even if I wanted to."

A trembling thought followed him out.

"Do you want to?"

In the last instant of his presence within the darkness, he answered honestly.


And with that, Darrus woke up.


Tarek said...

Sooo... yeah, thank you, Palpatine.

I figured that was the case, but I didn't expect the "entechment" process thingy or that it would be the Jedi Hunter's first victim in there...

Erisraven said...

Wow. Poor Jedi girl. What a horrible thing as a Jedi to be that cut off from anything alive.

Tarek said...

It may have been only months in Darrus' reckoning, but in 'reality', twenty years in a droid shell... that's just wrong.