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Generated: Mar 06, 2021 8:26 AM
Post last updated: Mar 06, 2021 8:26 AM
my chains are broken
Deskyl and DZ in the Chancery
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No. No. No no no no no no no. She's only barely recovered from last time they took her; she can't let them take her again.

If she draws her saber, she'll die. There's no doubt in her mind about that, outnumbered as she is and with her master right there. There's nothing she can do; he knows it, they know it, she knows it. They wouldn't do this any other way.

The flash of inspiration is more like a memory; the floating, disconnected kind that sometimes linger after... whatever it is that they do to her. It's never been quite like this before, but - she reaches into the Force, nudges it just so...

 

The burst of feedback - fear and rage and terror - overwhelms her; she reels, barely keeping her feet, distantly aware of the shouting, of her droid stepping forward to steady her. She ignores it as best she can, and continues nudging at the Force, carefully, carefully...

And then, suddenly, she's elsewhere.

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She appears in what looks like a living room. There are three women with black, starry eyes sitting on a pair of couches; they startle. One of them, wearing a stylish labcoat, raises a hand wreathed in shadow.

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A brown-haired woman wearing a comfortable sweater slaps her arm down. "Who are you and what are you doing here?", she asks.

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A silver-haired girl who can't be much older than fourteen watches from the sidelines, her posture tense.

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Now she goes for her 'saber, drawing it but not lighting it quite yet, her attention mostly on the black-haired woman without neglecting the other two. She hisses to herself in annoyance but doesn't try to speak, instead making a complicated but apparently nonmagical gesture with her free hand.

The metal... woman, probably... behind her shifts to get a better view, still keeping herself mostly hidden behind her larger companion, and tries asking a question in an unfamiliar language.

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The brown-haired woman pulls a ?book? from nowhere. It is like a book but it is not an object or a phenomenon or an illusion or a lie. It un-is a not-book. She reads something from the not-book and tries again. 

"Ċ̶͉͔̌̀à̷̱̃̀̏n̴̩̫̿͘ ̶̻͚̐͆ͅÿ̵̦͉́̊̍̊͜ͅō̶̝͔̼ů̷̬͈̀ u̶n̷d̶e̵r̸s̷t̶a̴n̴d̶ me now?"

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The black-garbed woman tenses; the metal woman puts a hand on her shoulder, though, and answers calmly. "Yes ma'am. I'm sorry, I'm not sure what just happened; is there somewhere we can go to speak privately?"

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"There's a study through that door, you could close the door."

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    "Thank you, ma'am." She taps her companion's arm and points, and they go, the human carefully keeping herself between her companion and the others. The door closes itself untouched behind them.

They aren't in there very long, and the human is only marginally calmer when they come back out, though she seems to be flagging a bit despite her continued wariness. The metal woman seems unruffled - not that it'd necessarily be obvious if she wasn't - but doesn't try to step farther out from behind her friend than is necessary for conversation. "Ma'am?" she addresses the brown-haired woman.

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"Yes?", she says. Her companions behind her pause in the middle of their conversation.

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"I can answer questions now if you have any. I'm afraid I might not know very much, though - Master Deskyl teleported us here from another world, and she's not sure how she did it or where we've landed, just that your physics is slightly different here."

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"More than slightly, I suspect. Apologies for raising the Hand against you, that was... uncouth."

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"Who are you, then? This is a private meeting."

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"I'm sorry, ma'am. This is Sith-apprentice Deskyl, and my designation is DZ-12Q. If there's somewhere nearby that would be more convenient for us to be we'll go there, but Master Deskyl is injured and may not be able to travel very far right now."

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"I can accept her here. We look after each other, we can look after her."

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"With Alasha missing? We know she's off breaking something right now -"

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"We have time to help a stranger."

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Deskyl tracks this exchange with her eyes, scowling slightly, and then signs to DZ, who steps around just enough to let her see her hands as she signs back. Deskyl signs again in reply, and DZ nods and steps back behind her. "Master Deskyl says that if Alasha is like you, she should be able to sense her by meditating, if she's within a few thousand miles, and give you a direction and distance."

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"If she can do that it would be extremely helpful." 

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    "Yes ma'am."

They confer via sign again, and then retreat to the study; this time they're gone a little longer.

    "There are a few hundred people like you within Master Deskyl's range, ma'am, but one significantly closer than the rest -" and DZ gives the direction and distance.

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"That's probably her."

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"We should go pick her up before she does something she regrets."

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"That does seem like the best option."

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"We'll stay here, if that's all right, ma'am."

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"That's perfectly fine. We'll go get Ashara."

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"You can't just leave her in the Chancery, can you?"

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"It's a house. Don't wreck anything please."

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"Yes ma'am."

The pair is sitting on one of the couches when they get back, Deskyl asleep in the middle seat, DZ beyond her looking quickly over when they come in, perhaps startled.

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A woman wearing a massive furry black coat waves as the group comes in.

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" - I swear, that third drunk driver nearly got you, pay more attention to your infection state -"

 

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"It's fine, I have very good reflexes."

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"I saw your coat brush against the side of the car, Alasha, that is not fine -"

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"Give her some breathing room, people."

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DZ stands, quickly moving to where Deskyl will easily see her if she wakes, which she doesn't; after a moment she turns to face the group, though she doesn't address them yet.

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Alasha flops onto the other couch and puts her boots up.

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Clematis sighs.

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"We need to keep her safe for the next few hours until the curse dies down a bit. From herself, too."

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"I can handle it, girls. We're home safe. It's not a big deal, I've been dodging worse than this for years."

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(DZ visibly glances back to Deskyl, but doesn't otherwise react; she'll speak when she's spoken to.)

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"We also need to deal with these two. They... don't seem to really belong here."

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"Since when do any of us belong here?"

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"Hey you two, what's up? Decided to crash the party?"

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"I suppose you could say that, ma'am; Master Deskyl teleported us here from another world."

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"Elysium? Mars? Quinnifer? You're going to have to be a bit more specific about which world you came from."

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"It doesn't have a name that I know of, ma'am. The planet was Oselium Two in the Yan Fea quadrant of the Hom galaxy."

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"Anyone heard of that?"

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There is a chorus of nos.

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"Yeah, fair enough to say you've landed in a different world. Any plans for what you're going to do now?"

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"Not yet, ma'am. I expect Sith-apprentice Deskyl to want to know more about this world when she wakes, so that she can decide what she wants to do here."

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"Shall I get a blanket for her? She seems exhausted, poor thing."

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"I don't think that's a very good idea, ma'am, but thank you anyway. Can you tell me more about this planet? How many people live here, and how do they live?"

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"About six billion. Varyingly from poverty to wealth; It's 2010 in case that means anything to you. Cars, skyscrapers, electricity. And beneath that all is the mythic earth where things run animistically and the Nobles fight the Valde Bellum against the Excrucians. We're... Defectors from the Excrucian side of the war."

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"Thank you, ma'am. Can you tell me more about the war?"

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"The Excrucians - that is us, with the star-eyes - have objections to reality as a whole and want to tear it down. At least, the Excrucian Host does, which is where all the Warmains and most of the Strategists and some of the Decievers ally together. They say the creator of reality stole something from us, something that made reality correct, and we stole it back and broke it because it was a crime against the void and now reality is fundamentally incorrect, it's glitched -"

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"It's a load of bullshit philosophy that hurts people. Fun, but not something you should play at."

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"It's terrible. It kills pieces of reality, things like Dogs or Christmas or Swords. It Excruciates them and then they're gone. Forever."

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"It's a bad habit we're all struggling to kick, because reality is so very broken."

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"Thank you. And can you tell me anything about the Nobles and the Valde Bellum?"

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"The Valde Bellum is the name of the war between the Nobles and us. The Nobilis are responsible for maintaining reality against us; each of them is given responsibility over an Estate, like Clocks or Fire or Kidnapping, and told to protect it from being erased from reality. They're the tools of the Imperators, which are like the deep deities of reality and mostly work in the Deep Mythic to keep reality mostly hanging together."

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"Thank you, ma'am. And you have electricity but not spaceships, is that correct?"

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"There are interstellar spaceships but they're a Noble thing. Earth is a center in the Valde Bellum so there's a lack of travel elsewhere, though transit is always notionally possible."

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"Thank you, ma'am. And is there anything else you think she might want to know about?"

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"Well, we're still keeping an eye on Alasha. Other than that no."

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"I'm not sure I understand what you mean by that, ma'am."

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"My curse is acting up because I did some reckless things, so now I need to be careful or I could be killed by some unlikely coincidence. I'd come back, but... less of me."

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"-yes ma'am. I expect Master Deskyl will want to ask about that, when she wakes up."

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"Alright."

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"We just have to be on our guard for the next day or so. It's not a big deal, we've done it before."

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"Yes ma'am. Do any of you have any questions for me?"

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"Not at the moment we're quite busy. Perhaps in the morning."

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"Yes ma'am." She turns back to Deskyl and goes still.

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They confer quietly and don't disturb her for some hours. 

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Deskyl sleeps without stirring for two and a half hours, and then comes awake all at once, giving the other occupants of the room a wary once-over and then signing to DZ. What?

    You teleported us to a different world, ma'am. These women have a curse of some sort but they don't seem dangerous. You meditated to help them find the one in the black coat and then fell asleep, you haven't made any decisions about what to do here yet.

Okay. She glances back over at the group.

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The one in the black coat bounces over. "Hello," she says, "I'm Alasha, who are you?"

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"Give her space for pity's sake -"

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Deskyl's on her feet before Alasha covers half the distance; she doesn't draw her 'saber this time but she's clearly prepared to. She narrows her eyes when the woman speaks, and shakes her head minutely at DZ when the droid starts to translate, then gestures for her to answer.

    "This is Sith-apprentice Deskyl, ma'am."

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"What's your deal? Clearly you've been fighting a war, same as the rest of us. What's it been like for you?"

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    "She hasn't been to war exactly, ma'am, she's a weapons designer and was well back from the front lines; Sith are all expected to be able to defend themselves."

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Alasha looks behind her at Clematis.

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"Just from the body language I can tell you've been through something bad. And you carry a weapon. I think that's 'soldier' enough for us. We won't push for you to tell us more, and you can have the couch for now. Even though some of us need it sometimes too, but - that's just life in a broken world, isn't it?" 

She sighs. "Sorry, I do go on."

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Deskyl doesn't seem to know what to make of that. After a long moment, DZ signs to her again, and she nods in reply.

    "It's not very safe for Master Deskyl to sleep in a common room, ma'am; Sith can be violent when startled, especially if they're woken unexpectedly."

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"We can probably pull the couch into the study and then Deskyl will have a proper place to sleep."

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"That seems smart. Deskyl, would that be better for you?"

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She glances at DZ, but nods without waiting for her to comment.

(She's watching Clematis, fairly openly, obviously trying to figure something out about her.)

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Alasha and December each take an end of one of the couches and start moving it off into the house.

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Clematis smiles. "Is there something you want to know?"

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She tenses up again, going wary at the attention, her hand drifting back to her weapon.

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Clematis sighs and turns away. She's not interested in scaring Deskyl more. 

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Aurica keeps an eye on her just in case she does something stupid.

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She doesn't; she follows the couch into the back room as soon as Alasha and December come back out, with DZ trailing behind.

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They seem content to leave her alone beyond leaving a plate of food at the door to the room. 

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The plate disappears promptly, and the pair is otherwise quiet until the next morning, when DZ comes out to look for someone to speak to.

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She finds Alasha draped over the couch with her boots kicked up.

"Sup."

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"Hello, ma'am. Is this a good time to talk?"

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"Sure, works for me." Alasha takes her feet off the couch and steps around so she can actually see DZ.

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"Thank you, ma'am. I have a few questions - we expect Deskyl's recovery to take at least a few weeks; will you want us to leave sooner than that?"

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"I bet Clematis will keep you on that long especially if you help out a bit, a lot of us aren't very good at doing the chores."

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"I can certainly do that, ma'am, my next question was whether you wanted me to do anything in exchange. Do you know what needs to be done?"

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"I'm not sure, I've been crashing, but if you find Clematis she'll almost certainly be doing chores."

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"Yes ma'am. I'll go look for her now, if that's all right."

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"That's perfectly fine, no idea why you're asking me."

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Clematis is standing at a sink in the nearby kitchen doing the dishes by hand because there is no dishwasher.

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DZ stands quietly aside and watches her wash a dish, and then: "would you like me to do that for you, ma'am?"

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"I didn't expect you to, but if you'd like to feel free. I'm trying not to put pressure on you two..."

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"It's no trouble, ma'am, I expect Master Deskyl to sleep for the next few hours."

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"Alright then." 

Clematis steps away from the sink and dries her hands. 

"So, what was your world like?"

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DZ takes over, working efficiently through the dishes. "Do you want to know about a particular part of it, ma'am?"

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"I... I apologize if this is rude, but where did Deskyl get her combat reflexes from if not in battle?"

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"It's cultural, ma'am, she's a Sith - in the world we came from, some individuals have an unusual ability to sense and manipulate certain parts of our physics, called the Force; Sith are people with that ability and certain training to use it. Sith culture is very violent; laws don't apply to them, and generally the only thing that stops a Sith from doing whatever they want is another, stronger Sith, and often only via the stronger Sith killing them."

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"I... see..." 

Clematis sighs. "Well, she's safe here. So long as we don't attract attention from some overzealous Noble."

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"I appreciate that, ma'am. I'm not sure Master Deskyl will believe it very easily, though. Is there anything we might be able to do to help protect you from Nobles?"

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"Probably not, I'm afraid, save not venturing outside where you can be spotted. Either of you would attract attention."

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"I'll let Master Deskyl know, thank you. We expect that she'll spend most of her time asleep for the next few weeks, at least."

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"I see," says Clematis. "I'll plan for that. Is there anything you'd like me to buy in the way of food?"

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"Your food hasn't been familiar to us so far, but I can let you know when Master Deskyl likes what you serve, if you'd like. I don't eat; Master Deskyl will be able to make the charging cord I need if you can get her some parts for it. She says that a box of old electronics should be fine, or she can write a list for you."

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"I can get items on a list. Thank you for mentioning it."

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"Yes ma'am. Is there anything else I can do to help you, here, if we're going to be staying?"

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"The place could do with some tidying up a bit, nobody really pays attention to the clutter. I'm run off my feet doing all the other chores and the others are variously indisposed."

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"Yes ma'am. Do you have time to show me around, when I'm done with these?" It won't be much longer, the discussion isn't slowing her down at all.

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"Certainly. There's a few rooms to show you. You already know the study, the living room and the kitchen. There's mine and Aurica's bedrooms upstairs. And then there's December's studio."

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"Yes ma'am. Is it only the four of you living here?"

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"Three, technically, Alasha is crashing like you are. And we've only two beds, December has a camprest. But yes, we all live here more or less."

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"Yes ma'am."

"There were six where Master Deskyl was living before - her master, Lord Pritruth, and his apprentices Lord Grauzatis, Lord Valyr, Apprentice Deskyl, and Apprentice Tenin, and Lord Valyr's apprentice Rin."

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"I see," she says. "That must have been a very cramped environment. Very high-stress. I can see how those reflexes of hers would be... fast to develop."

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"I suppose you could say that, ma'am. They each had their own suite in Lord Pritruth's compound, but it can be difficult to have Sith in any kind of proximity to each other. Lord Pritruth was good at it, though, he's only lost two apprentices to infighting out of a few dozen over the years - he likes to train young Force-sensitives for other Sith to take as apprentices, he hasn't kept most of those."

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"Ah." Clematis nods. "That is, I suppose, better than the alternative."

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"Yes ma'am."

She's down to the last handful of silverware, now. "Lord Pritruth is responsible for Master Deskyl's injury - we don't know what was done to her, but he repeatedly cooperated with her being taken for it. It's reasonable to conclude that he intended to kill her, eventually."

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"I see," says Clematis. "Reminds me of some Darklords I could name. - the Nobilis are divided into songs, Heaven, Hell, Dark, Light and Wild. Darklords want everyone to be free to destroy themselves."

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"That sounds a bit like Sith, yes ma'am." And she's done with the dishes; she puts the last fork in the drying rack and turns back to Clematis.

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"Thank you very much for the dishes, ah... Sorry, I've completely forgotten your name in the rush of things I've been doing." 

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"DZ-twelve-Q, ma'am. DZ for short, if you'd like."

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"Thank you for the dishes, DZ. Is there anything you'd like to keep yourself entertained while Deskyl rests?"

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"Droids don't get bored, ma'am, but I'd like to learn more about this world, if you have books or a holonet connection."

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"We have internet, which I suspect is similar to your holonet. I'll see if I can arrange for you to borrow December's computer when she's not using it."

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"Thank you, ma'am."

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"And now I was about to show you around."

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"Yes ma'am." She follows politely.

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Clematis shows her the stairs up to the second floor. There are three rooms up here and a bathroom. Clematis gestures broadly to the bathroom in passing - there are books stacked up on the counter - and then shows her own room. It's clean though cluttered with a small bed, two dressers and a desk. A detailed coloring-book lies open on the desk, along with a collection of bracelet-making supplies. A collection of woodburned portraits of animals hangs on the walls. 

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Aurica's room is next. She has a small bookshelf stuffed with fantasy novels. Little tokens sit atop it - a figurine of a dragon, a large quartz crystal, a black potion-vial stoppered by a marble painted to look like the earth. Aurica herself lies in bed beneath black covers, a phone hugged close to her. She looks up as they open the door and gives a little wave. "Next time knock," she says. 

The room on the whole gives the impression that every single individual object has been put in its precise place... except for the clothes on the floor, and the plates by the bed. Aurica has gone back to her phone.

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Last is December's studio. It's covered in clutter and crap, with a mess of pop cans gathered in against the side of a large computer December is using, apparently to model something. There's an inflatable mattress covered with a foam mattress on the floor, and a tangle of blankets next to it. A cardboard box filled with books jams up against a set of filing cabinets. The large desk that december sits at is mostly taken up by computer, scanner and printer, and then there's the soldering iron and the breadboards and some of Clematis' beading supplies and a spool of copper wire and so on and so forth. Discarded projects fill most of the closet, leaving not much room for December's actual clothes including the labcoat she wears persistently. 

"Hey," she says. "I see you're showing them around."

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"And I'd like it if DZ could borrow your computer while you're not using it."

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"Sure, twist my arm. Is there anything else? I'm kind of busy here."

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"No, nothing. Glad to see you doing well." 

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"The same for you."

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Clematis closes the door. 

"So," she says. "What do you think?'

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DZ is carrying the books from the bathroom, having not yet figured out where they belong. "Thank you, ma'am. Should I clean your and the others' rooms, or leave them alone?"

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"You should probably ask their owners. I don't need my room cleaned - I was mostly hoping you'd pick up after December and Alasha."

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"Yes ma'am. Is there anything else?"

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"No, nothing. I should start cooking some actual food for everyone." 

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"Thank you, ma'am," DZ nods, and takes a closer look at the books she's carrying - she doesn't read the language yet but she might be able to guess who they belong to anyway, now that she's seen their rooms.

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There are two paperbacks that look like they'd belong in Aurica's room, a technical manual that looks like it's probably December's, and a faux-leatherbound journal of indeterminate ownership.

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She leaves the paperbacks outside Aurica's door and brings the manual and journal to December's room: how busy does she seem to be?

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She seems a bit preoccupied with her modelling, but looks up as DZ approaches. "Back already?" she asks.

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"Yes ma'am, I think this is yours, and do you know who this belongs to, please?"

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"Oh thank you, I knew I'd put that somewhere. The journal is Alasha's and she should really stop leaving it lying around. Can you take a few pop cans while you're here?"

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"Of course, ma'am. Is there anything else you'd like me to clean or straighten?"

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"If you could get my bedsheets that would be great, but - I feel like you expect to be treated like a servant and it makes me not want to, if you understand what I'm saying? We're all equals here, even if Clematis does end up being more or less our mom sometimes."

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"-ma'am?"

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She sighs. "Go ahead."

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"Yes ma'am." She straightens the bed, then loads herself up with cans, as many as she can carry, and brings them to the kitchen.

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Clematis is making sandwiches for everyone. "Thank you very much, DZ, just set the cans on the counter and I'll take care of them." she says. "Could you take this plate up to Aurica and make sure to bring any dirty dishes she has down here? Sometimes she has trouble getting out of bed."

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See, this is much better. "Yes ma'am." Cans go on the counter, in neat rows, and then she goes back upstairs with the plate. Tap tap, "I have your lunch, ma'am."

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"Mm, come in."

Aurica is still lying in bed in the same position she was before. Her leftover plates are obvious. She beckons to get the plate from DZ. "Just set that on the bed." 

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"Yes ma'am. Can I get you anything else?" She sets her plate down and begins gathering the others.

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"M-mn." Aurica curls up in the blankets a little more, but a hand snakes out and picks up a sandwich from the plate. She holds it as if considering it. 

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"-are you all right, ma'am?"

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She sighs and sets the sandwich down. "As alright as I am usually, I suppose. I have better and worse days."

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"Yes ma'am, I understand. Is there anything I can do to help?"

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"You already are, thank you. If you could scoop the dirty clothes into a basket and bring it downstairs for Clematis to launder...?"

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"Yes ma'am, I'll come back for them when I'm done with these."

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"Thank you very much."

She curls up closer in her bed.

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And she heads back down with the dishes, depositing them carefully in the sink, and goes back up for the laundry, which she leaves by the door to the kitchen where Clematis will easily find it, and then it's time to go wash the dishes she collected.

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Aurica is still lying on the bed in the same position when DZ comes back up. She's taken one bite out of her sandwich.

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Clematis scoops up the laundry and goes into a laundry room she hadn't shown DZ and tosses it in the washer. Then she comes back and thanks DZ for washing the plates when no-one even asked her to. There is an undertone of "unlike some people here." 

She takes December's plate upstairs herself and leaves Deskyl's behind for DZ to attend to. (She has completely forgotten to make herself lunch.)

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Maybe she eats on a different schedule, who knows. DZ finishes up the dishes, wakes Deskyl to eat, sits with her until she falls asleep again, and then goes looking for a dictionary or, failing that, more work to do.

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December is willing to lend her a dictionary and after a few more hours her computer. She sits cross-legged on her floor mats and reads a book on electronics design herself.

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DZ has finished the dictionary by then, and gone around looking at the various appliances and the instructions printed on them. Her first priority when she gets on the computer, after a few minutes figuring out the interface, is to look for an overview of the world; she quickly finds wikipedia, and even more quickly reads through a few dozen articles to that effect.

With that done, she goes looking for work that she can do from the Chancery.

"Excuse me, ma'am? Do you have an idea of how much I'll be able to use the computer without inconveniencing you?"

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"Well, I don't know if you need to sleep or not, but it's available to you whenever I'm not actually using it. I'd say I'm on about four hours a day?"

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"Thank you, ma'am. I don't need to sleep, will it bother you for me to be here overnight?"

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"The screen is kind of bright, but I can just sleep out in the hallway, my bed's easy enough to move."

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"That's all right, ma'am, I can plan to only use it during the day."

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"No, that would be senselessly wasteful. Help me pull my bed out into the hall."

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"Yes ma'am." She's fairly strong for her size, it turns out.

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The bed is just bulky anyway, not actually heavy. It's all foam and air. 

"Thank you," says December. "Feel free to use the computer, I'm going to go talk to Clematis about preparedness after this. I'm expecting the Noble of Robots to show up any day now."

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"-can you tell me more about that, please, ma'am?"

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"There's someone who's responsible for all robots everywhere, and they probably sensed an extremely unusual robot pop into existence about a day ago. Perhaps a threat to all of Robotics. The Noble is likely to come have a look personally just to make sure everything is on the up-and-up, and when she finds what looks like a group of Strategists..."

She smiles crookedly. "We may have to do some fast talking."

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"Yes ma'am. Do you think it would help for Master Deskyl to be available to speak to them?"

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"I think they're going to want to talk to you specifically. Determine whether you're a threat or not. Having Deskyl awake to corroborate your story might help reassure them though."

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She nods, "thank you, ma'am," and heads for the stairs.

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December follows, not because she's following DZ but because it's important she talk to Clematis about this.

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DZ heads for the study, and not too long after that she and Deskyl come out to look for Clematis as well.

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They all meet up in the kitchen. 

"Ah, I see everyone's here," says Clematis. "Has Deskyl been brought up-to-date on the situation?"

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    "Not to her satisfaction, ma'am."

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"What does she want to know?"

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Signing ensues.

    "She'd like to know what to expect, ma'am - what you think they're going to ask and why, and what will happen if they're satisfied or unsatisfied with the answer, and how she can expect them to react to you or to her."

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"I think they're going to ask what's up with DZ because they aren't accustomed to robots of her type or the fact that she suddenly started existing here a couple days ago. If they meet one of us and see our eyes that will be bad because they're likely to assume we're the bad kind of Strategist that's still fighting reality. There is, however, something of an informal cease-fire, and the four of us could more than fight off a single Power if they tried something stupid. It would just cost all of us. So it really depends a lot on how reasonable the Power of Robotics is. They might even not investigate at all. Worst-case we lose the house and have to find someplace else in a hurry; best case they don't investigate or are turned aside easily."

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    "Thank you, ma'am."

 

    "Master Deskyl would like to know more about what will happen if you need to fight them."

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"Then it will be a mess. The World-Breaker's Hand will likely become involved. The house wouldn't survive most likely, but we'd protect you and DZ. Don't try to fight the Power yourself, you are not that strong. We'd outnumber them four-to-one but they might get their Familia involved - other Powers that they're bonded to by the same Imperator. In that case it could be anyone's game, so our plan is to negotiate and if necessary hold a fighting retreat."

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Deskyl makes a face when Clematis says she's not strong enough, but doesn't push the issue.

    "Is there anything else we would need to know during or afterward in that case, ma'am? Logistical or strategic considerations?"

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"Stay close to me or Aurica if it comes to blows. We're the ones who will be coordinating. But... I have an understanding with one of the local Nobles, so I'm going to work on getting them to intercede."

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"Yes ma'am."

Deskyl gestures encouragingly rather than sign, this time.

"Can you tell me anything else about what they might ask, or what Nobles are like in general, please?"

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"Where you came from, what you're doing, whether you're knowingly working with Excrucians, that sort of thing. Nobles are... a mixed bag. I prefer Hell and the Dark's Nobles, they're more likely to compromise, but we're most likely to be looking at a Light Noble who's all about human survival, given the Estate in question. They could compromise to avoid bloodshed or they could see us as an unacceptable risk, there's no way to tell which."

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    "Is there anything in particular that I could point to as evidence that you aren't a threat, ma'am?"

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"It has been three years two months since I last used the Hand on anything and I'm living in peace managing my condition with others like me who need to. You could mention that we're a Chancery chapter, that might mean something to them - it's the name of the unofficial organization of retired Strategists. But the truth of it is - we all were grave threats to Creation, and we stopped by choice, not because our power was broken. So our winning strategy is 'don't make us start shit, we would both regret it.' Does that make sense?"

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"Yes ma'am." DZ glances at Deskyl, who shrugs, then signs briefly. "If they aren't comfortable with the situation, and I have a chance to suggest something to avoid a fight, is there anything that it would be useful to suggest?"

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"Nothing comes to mind. All we can really do is hope the Power of Robots is either lazy or reasonable."

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"Yes ma'am. Thank you."

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She sits down in a nearby chair at the kitchen table. "While I have you - are you two doing alright?"

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    "Yes ma'am. Thank you for your hospitality."

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"Glad to hear it. You aren't safe here but you're lost like us and that makes you ours, worth defending. Ask any of us and you'll get the same reply. So try not to worry. It'll be alright."

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Deskyl's 'saber is out and she's standing, at 'ours', and DZ is retreating.

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"Not ours like property, you brilliant traumatized idiot. You're free to leave whenever you want to. It might be a bad idea to do so but you are allowed to have bad ideas. I mean that we are here to defend you, we're in this together, and thus we're something a little like family. Comrades, maybe. So put that thing away before you hurt something."

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Deskyl narrows her eyes in response, and doesn't back down.

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She sighs. "What I get for trying, I suppose. I'm not going to throw you out, but I'm not interested in continuing this conversation. It seems likely to end up with me dead again."

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Deskyl holds her stance for a long moment, but then nods and stands down, not putting her 'saber away but not holding it threateningly, either.

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"Thank you." 

She waits for Deskyl to move and doesn't make any sudden movements herself.

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She gives Clematis another beat to say anything else, then turns and goes, signing once to DZ as she passes her in the doorway.

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DZ stays, though she doesn't move back into the room right away. "Are you all right, ma'am?"

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"Frustrated, but fine. I would let her put the plasma thing through me before I'd raise the Hand to her."

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"Yes ma'am. It might help in the future if I can explain to her more of what you're thinking?"

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"Mostly I wish she'd accept my help and experience, but... That's something she's got to come to on her own."

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"Yes ma'am."

"It might help you to know that Sith are very cautious about family and other bonds of that type? They're seen as a vulnerability, because of the risk of betrayal and of outsiders attacking from an otherwise secure direction. It's not surprising that she isn't open to that."

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"I see. I'll keep my feelings to myself on that, I can take a hint. Thank you."

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"Yes ma'am. And - Sith are extremely protective of their lightsabers, the swords they carry. A Sith will only allow their lightsaber to be touched in conditions of absolute defeat, and most would rather fight to the death than allow it. Ordering a Sith to holster their lightsaber is essentially never done; it's not just a mortal threat but an extremely degrading one, under most circumstances."

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"Oh," she says. "Well that was stupid of me."

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"Master Deskyl seems to have understood that that wasn't your intention, but that could have gone very badly, yes ma'am. Did you have any other questions for me?"

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"Do you think this is recoverable?"

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"Master Deskyl is obviously making an effort not to escalate, ma'am; it's surprising that she didn't attack you just now, even taking into account that she's calm for a Sith. She may be planning on leaving, though - it's unclear why you seem to want us to stay here, and she's not very comfortable with that."

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"... As I said, she's free to leave if she wishes. She just... reminds me of us, in certain ways."

She sighs. "It's up to her."

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"Yes ma'am." She pauses, thoughtfully - "can you tell me more about how she reminds you of your group, please?"

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"She's... clearly been through a lot, and forced herself into smaller and smaller boxes in order to be safe. She has destructive power but she doesn't like using it. It's hard for her to keep herself together but she's functioning anyway. I've been like that. We all have. Some of us are still like that sometimes."

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"It seems unlikely that she'll be willing to think of herself that way, ma'am."

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She nods. She looks down at her hands. She sighs.

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"She does appreciate the help you've given her, ma'am."

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"I hope she'll be alright."

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"Yes ma'am. I'll go see if she needs me for anything." And she goes.

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Clematis sighs and goes back to what she was doing.

Well, she thinks. That was a major ballsup.

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And after a little while there's a knock on the door.

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Clematis answers the door. "Oh! Hello! I was expecting someone different. I take it word's gotten around?"

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"Yes, it's been a bit messy and I got sent to investigate because I knew the situation better. So what's gone on?"

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"We've had accidental extradimensional visitors. Come in, come in, you're welcome here."

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"Thank you!" says Pink, and steps into the house.

"It's clean," she says. "Help from your visitors?"

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"They've been very obliging."

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DZ comes just far enough down the stairs to watch the exchange, with Deskyl lurking grumpily behind her.

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Pink spots them and waves. 

"So," she says to Clematis. "Are they dangerous?"

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"One of them has a quite impressive plasma sword, but most Powers are more than immortal enough to deal with that. She could hurt somebody. I don't know about kill. And while she's extremely tense and on edge, she has so far refrained from putting the sword through me. Despite being very provoked by accident."

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"I see! Well, that's probably safe enough for the Nobilis."

She looks back at DZ. "And if you two don't want to hang out with the Excrucians, there's space for you in my Chancel. Letters addressed to Pink will find me." 

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"Thank you, ma'am."

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"It's no problem!"

And she takes her leave.

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"Well, that went better than expected."

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"Yes ma'am."

Deskyl signs briefly to her and goes back upstairs, and she makes her way down.

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Clematis goes into the kitchen and starts preparing a late supper for herself. She looks at DZ, but doesn't initiate conversation.

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DZ putters around for a bit, straightening things and putting the stray out-of-place object back where it goes, and then heads back up to December's room to see if the computer is available.

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December is willing to cede the computer to them if they'll take this new batch of pop cans downstairs when they're done. And how did the negotiations go?

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"They went fine, ma'am; a different Noble came in the Noble of Robots' place, and she was more interested in Master Deskyl than in me, but she only stayed for a few minutes in any case."

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"Pink hair? Cheery disposition?"

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"Yes ma'am."

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"That'll be Pink. She's... more or less our parole officer. Friendly, but not a friend exactly. She's still on Creation's side, you see."

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"Yes ma'am. ...can you tell me anything else about her, please?"

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"She's responsible for Pink, the color. She's cheery and bubbly. She's a bit of a techie like me - it helps that her powers as a Power lets her cheat. She did an enchantment for me once to make a labcoat more feminine, but the result wasn't to my taste so we gave it away."

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"Yes ma'am. Thank you."

She uses the computer for a few hours and then goes back to sit with Deskyl, and in the morning when she goes to help Clematis with breakfast she asks about sending a letter to Pink.

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"You mean a physical letter? December has her e-mail. I'm not sure she can be simply addressed - Aurica!"

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Aurica comes down the stairs, still wrapped in a bedsheet. "What?"

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"DZ was asking about sending a letter to Pink. How does Noble mail work?"

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"Er. Just address it to Pink at Number One Incarnadine Chancel. The Power of Mail will see that it gets to its recipient."

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"There." 

She beckons Aurica. "And now that you're up you should eat breakfast."

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Aurica settles in to eat with a mild grumble.

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"Thank you, ma'am."

She gets some paper and begins composing a letter in precise handwriting.

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Aurica finishes eating and heads back upstairs trailing her blanket.

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Clematis looks over at DZ composing her letter, but refrains from asking.

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"-Master Deskyl wants to know what would involved in moving to Master Pink's compound, ma'am, since she's been having trouble resting properly while she can see your curse nearby."

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"Oh. I suppose that could be... troublesome, yes. And we haven't exactly given her a reason to stay." 

She considers to herself, nods. 

"I'll be happy to help arrange that."

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"Thank you, ma'am."

She continues writing, and reads out the letter when she's done; it explains that, and that she expects to be recovered from her injuries (sustained in an attack by another Sith before she arrived; she doesn't expect to be followed about it) in a month or two, at least enough to begin figuring out more permanent accommodations, and asks what assurances and compensation Pink would want in return for allowing her to move to her compound for that time.

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"Seems sensible. I expect she'll just put you up for free, she's good people like that, but you might have to do some errands for her like, well, picking up her mail. Overall she's one of the better Powers I've met."

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"Yes ma'am."

And the letter can be addressed and mailed, and DZ will go look for more chores to do. Perhaps some laundry.

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Laundry and picking up after Aurica's breakfast.

Clematis is content to leave DZ alone to do her share of the work around the house and doesn't make conversation.

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DZ seems content enough with that, too; when she runs out of things to do she goes to sit with Deskyl again.

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The reply letter arrives in the morning. 

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Dear DZ and Deskyl,

I'd be entirely willing to put you two up until Deskyl's injuries heal. I'm a Power, I can afford it. 

I can come on the 26th and pick you two up. Or you can email me for a different time, I check my email daily. You'll be sorted out of the Nobiliser fanmail pretty easily.

Hoping to see you safe and sound tomorrow,

Pink

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Deskyl comes down the next morning with DZ and settles in the living room to wait, with DZ's charger - their only luggage - tucked in beside her. She seems to intend to spend the time meditating, while she's waiting.

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Pink shows! She's carrying a tablet and a roll of pink wallpaper and smiling. 

"Deskyl, DZ. We're headed to Incarnadine Chancel; it could be somewhat disconcerting, it's my private world. Mostly dedicated to all the forms of Pink. You'll be staying in my palace and I'll give the order to not disturb you, so the strangeness should be kept to a minimum."

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Nod.

    "Yes ma'am, thank you."

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Pink unrolls the pink wallpaper against a nearby wall, high above her head, and holds the bottom of it in with her foot. A pink door appears. 

"You two can just walk directly into your rooms through this door; I'll arrive a little later via a slower route."

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Deskyl peers suspiciously at the door when it appears, but nods and gestures for DZ to go through, and follows right behind.

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Pink rolls up the wallpaper behind them.

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They step out into a large pink bedroom. Some investigation will discover that they have an entire spacious suite, entirely in various shades of pink. Even the coffee machine and the toaster are pink. (A fetching shade of rose gold in the toaster's case.) 

No-one disturbs them. There's enough food in the suite to last two weeks if you stretched it a bit.

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Deskyl does not quite collapse immediately into bed, but it's a near thing.

DZ explores the suite, checks on Deskyl - still asleep, and likely to be that way for a while - and then opens the door to the suite to see what it connects to.

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An internal hallway in a pink palace with pink stained-glass in the windows which look out onto a rose garden. There's a pink and ruby and rose chandelier hanging in the hall. Overall the entire place is both extremely opulent and pink. 

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None of this is very surprising.

She goes exploring, sticking to the hallways and any obviously-public rooms she comes to.

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The hallways continue in like fashion for a while. There are little pink heart-like creatures that bop around and occasionally whistle at her in a friendly tone when she passes. 

Eventually she emerges into the kitchens. A red-haired woman is sitting there against a counter, sipping a glass of red liqueur in the center of a crowd of the little hearts. She whistles at them lowly, and they whistle back. She laughs. She halfturns and waves as she notices DZ come in.

"One of my sister's guests?"

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"Yes ma'am. Master Pink invited my owner to stay here while she's recovering from an injury."

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"Well, welcome. I'm Ruby, by the way. Steer clear of Scarlet, she's a bitch. I say this in all affection, but." She shrugs. "She has been getting better recently..." 

She taps her finger on the rim of her glass. "Anyway, I have a meeting as you can see. I won't keep you."

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"Yes ma'am. Thank you for the advice." And she continues on her way, quietly whistling Binary back to the hearts she passes.

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She can hear what sounds like an argument between one of the whistle-hearts and a human down this hall. Something about guest preparations. She doesn't recognize the other voice.

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She heads that way, at a slightly less hesitant pace.

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A woman with blood-red hair comes into view, red sunglasses shading her eyes. She wears a leather jacket, a crop top and black jeans. "Seriously, can't you arrange one simple thing?" she asks. 

The heart whistles lowly, seeming chastened.

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DZ puts her back to the wall and comes to attention; she won't speak unless she's addressed.

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The woman stalks off right past DZ, not even bothering to interact with her ostensible guest.

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Well, yes, that's what that reaction is for, really.

<Do you need any help?> she whistles to the heart, once the woman is safely past.

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The heart whistles back cheerfully. It doesn't seem like it understands her, but that's probably meant to be reassuring. And now it's wandering away.

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Fair enough.

She heads back to the suite.

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No-one disturbs them.

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She goes out again after two days, again not looking for anything in particular but trying to get a sense of the place. She'll try again to talk to one of the hearts, if she sees one when no humans are nearby, in the local language this time.

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Before she finds one of the hearts, she stumbles into Pink!

"Oh hello there!" she says. "Sorry for not stopping in with you, I've been extremely busy. I hope you're settling in alright?"

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"Yes ma'am, thank you. Master Deskyl has been much more comfortable here."

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"That's good to hear. I heard from one of the hearts that you had a close run-in with Scarlet. I apologize for her behaviour; she's my elder sister and while I do try to keep her from being... horrible... I don't always succeed. I'm always quick to countermand any ridiculous punishments she assigns, so it's been... manageable."

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"It was fine, ma'am, I'm not sure she even noticed me. And Master Deskyl has ordered me to consider any orders from other people invalid if they would be harmful."

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"Seems an appropriate precaution," Pink observes neutrally. "Is there anything I can help you find?"

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"Not especially, ma'am; Master Deskyl doesn't need me for very much right now and might have questions about the facility later, so I've been exploring. If you have other things that need to be done I'm available."

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"If you'd like to volunteer to work then you may but don't think you need to at all. There's kitchen and maid jobs available."

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DZ pauses, oddly, while Pink speaks and for a moment afterward - her body language is always subtle but here it seems entirely gone. "Yes ma'am."

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"... are you alright? See to Deskyl first, obviously."

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"Yes ma'am. I'm fine, ma'am."

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"Alright, I won't press. Enjoy your stay."

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"Thank you, ma'am."

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"Um, goodbye?"

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"- yes ma'am."

She waits for another brief moment and then heads back the way she came.

That evening, she finds Pink again, to deliver a note from Deskyl:

Sorry about DZ's awkwardness. Let one of us know if you'd like her to stay in the suite. I can explain the situation in more detail in person if want.

-Xari Deskyl

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"I wouldn't want to interrupt Deskyl's recovery for this. You can continue to have free reign of the palace. Just stay out of Scarlet's way and everything should be fine."

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"Yes ma'am." She waits another beat before leaving.

Things are quiet for the next few weeks. Deskyl eventually starts making appearances, too, avoiding people in the hallways but occasionally turning up in the gardens practicing kata, openhanded at first and then with her 'saber.

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She acquires a small audience of those few hearts brave enough to risk disturbing her against Scarlet's orders.

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Deskyl doesn't seem to mind, and will occasionally pat one of the braver ones on her way back to her room.

Eventually, she sends DZ to let Pink know that she's ready to start thinking about moving out - not that she's ready to consider doing it yet, but she'll need to know how to support herself and handle things relating to their masquerade.

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"Alright. We can give you a stipend to start with and put you in contact with the local mortal magicians to get you work in the longer term. Do you mind if I ask what precisely Deskyl can do?"

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"Sith can do a variety of things with the Force, ma'am, but Master Deskyl in particular specializes in sensory and sustained effects and effect development; she's also an engineer and artist."

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"I'm sure she can find some profitable line of work, then; wether engineering or magecraft, it doesn't matter extensively. It's up to her wether to live on Prosaic or Mythic Earth, either would accept her though she'd have to conceal her magic on the Prosaic. And I'll look into contacts for engineering and artwork - artwork will be easy for me, given my domain."

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"Thank you, ma'am. Master Deskyl does expect that she'll find it unpleasant to hide her abilities."

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"More likely then she'd prefer a post in a Chancel doing the Powers' work. I'll see about a reference letter to the Power of Art."

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"Thank you, ma'am. Is there anything I can tell her about that now?"

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"She wouldn't have to hide her magic. Payment would be in Noble currencies like Buddhitanka, so she'd be restricted in her contact with the mortal world. Expect a vibrant artist's community and a lot of devotional art. I could even employ her here, but... I think Art would be a better boss than Scarlet."

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She nods. "Devotional art, ma'am?"

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"Art intended to further the cause of Art's domain. It's - a complex topic. For me it would be simply doing a lot of art in pink."

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"I expect Master Deskyl will want to know more about Master Art before she agrees, but I don't see any obvious problem with that plan, ma'am."

She's back the next day to report that Deskyl does want to meet (or at least hear more about) Art, but does think that sounds like the best of the available options to start with.

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Pink replies that she'll organize a meeting between the two of them and the Power of Art at Art's earliest convenience, which will likely be in a week or two.

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That's fine by Deskyl.

She's out practicing with her 'saber most days, now.