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Generated: Dec 04, 2022 7:44 AM
Post last updated: Dec 04, 2022 7:43 AM
yet nothing I should care to leave behind
message in a botnet - Deskyl and DZ are rescued by Diana
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Deskyl's been taken again, and DZ has run out of chores. Her Sith's suite is spotless, the bathroom freshly scrubbed, the unread books sorted neatly on the shelves, every idle tool in the workroom in its proper place, every piece of unused equipment in the gym waiting to see use again. It'll be at least a day before Deskyl returns, and more likely two or three; it's unlikely that the tools and equipment that DZ cares for on her behalf will ever be used again, though.

The droid does have a few remaining tasks; she's been instructed not to do them too often, to reduce the risk of being found out, but the small chance of rescue trying to get in touch with Deskyl via the network, using contact methods she hasn't been able to personally check in months, is worth the small chance of being discovered.

There aren't many messages, and all of them seem to be automated advertisements, but DZ dutifully checks each one anyway; if someone has realized that something's wrong here, it's a good sign rather than a bad one if they're canny enough to send an encoded message rather than a plaintext one about it.

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And would you look at that, this advertisement's not just an advertisement for Corusca Cruiselines.

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It only takes her a moment to decode it; that's not a standard ability, for her line of droids, but she's had time to use the network to learn a few things. What's inside?

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A trap for Imperial Intelligence droids, which are diligently wiped and can't develop the institutional knowledge to not execute "this file is a trap" files even if they're literally named "this file is a trap", and...a message.  "Hello.  If you are reading this, you're probably a person for some values of person.  You are also probably somewhere in the Sith Empire, being exploited in some manner, because intelligence gets Sith attention.  If you would like to change the latter two, without changing the former, leave a message at [their callback number] after the beep.  You want to book the Galaxy Star, but you need to know if there's a berth for your party or yourself, spell out the ports of call as best you can, and confirm the planned departure window; if there's anything we should know about your accomodations, work it in."

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...well, that's certainly not what she was expecting, but she'll take it: A berth on the Galaxy Star, for one human, temporarily bedbound, and one droid, capable of providing the care she needs given a few simple modifications to the standard shipboard provisions. (Really, she'll just need very soft food for her meals the first week and finger food for two weeks after that.) They're coming from the Atoxil star system and can board in a few days, pending confirmation that the Galaxy Star's anti-Sith security is sufficient to the situation.

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The Galaxy Star is indeed capable of accomodating you and will see you soon!  Please be aware that you should mind hidden weapons.

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"...Well, I was literally planning on this.  But I wasn't expecting it to work.  R4, if you would be so kind as to work out the route?  Thank you."

And off the Subtle Knife goes, to whittle away at the Sith Empire.

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And four days later, as planned, a smaller ship docks with them, and DZ disembarks with a duffel bag hanging from one shoulder and her ambiguously conscious master draped over the other.

The woman's in plainclothes, but it's obvious in the Force - albeit weirdly flattened, another sign that something's very wrong with her - that she's a Sith.

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They're met with a woman in armor almost reminiscent of Mandalorians, if it weren't for the stylistic differences - it's obviously made of things that aren't beskar, for one, but it's cut to allow much more range of movement, and not anywhere near as heavily bedecked with supplementary weapons, though it does have the jetpack, oddly enough - and who knows what she's packed away in her prosthetic arm.

She has a bulky blaster on one hip and tools, including what looks like a wrench, on the other.

"...Empty void, how did you even send..."

Her eyes flick to DZ.  "Ah.  You do your Master proud, I'm sure.  What care does she need?  I've the medbay ready, and rather well-stocked; we should probably get her set up.  And then...I think our best chance for faking your untimely deaths starts with causing a shipwreck.  ...I hope you're not too attached to your getaway vehicle.  R4, do our Republic friends know anything that could do with an astronavigation accident?"  Yes, apparently, judging by the whistles, and it seems Diana can understand them too.  "Alright; get the navjack, that one probably needs terminal guidance."

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A very definitely non-stock R-series chassis - having arms, for one, tipped with various tools and manipulators - rolls into the airlock, trailing parts (hitched to his frame in a little wagon) and whistling obdurately.

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"Yes, you will get hazard pay if the ship tries to eat you; no, it's still not going to happen, especially because you're not interfacing with the main core in the first place; that's why I wanted the datajack!"

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...hazard... pay?? ...whatever; she has more important things to deal with right now.

"A medical scan would be appreciated, yes ma'am, but this isn't the first time this has been done to Master Deskyl, and she's recovered without any special care in the past. The ship is one of Lord Pritruth's personal vehicles, I don't know it to be trapped but it's certainly possible. I did check for tracking signals on the way."

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"Just because she can, doesn't mean she should have to.  Pritruth...Don't know a lot about them off the top of my head.  Anyway.  You go get her settled, we'll go arrange 'your untimely demise in a hurried, blind escape'."  And into the airlock she goes, with R4 right behind her.

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No matter that R4 keeps making the same joke about it every time, he doesn't actually expect this ship to eat him.  Really, it's more the opposite.  Still, the software module that he got from a thankful protocol droid finds the fondness in her voice as she makes the same old response as she did the first time he had actually worried - that one had been a garbage scow, which could have made a real try, what with the trash compactors - if something had gone wrong.

Slicing into the ship's systems and causing on-cue mayhem goes as it always does.  You'd think the Sith Empire never tried to actually protect systems - patches were applied sporadically, as if internal squabbles overruled security.  Siths' systems were certainly better...but not by very much.

This one had clearly been doing a lot of politicking, though; R4 counted five patchsets, not that it helped.

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Diana, meanwhile, is handling the physical damage; her passing leaves a tale of a ship fired upon by unknown forces, fleeing to hyperspace...only to miscalculate, and miss a damage alarm because they don't have an astromech, and drop out of hyper accelerating on a path that will leave the ship streaking towards a groundside ship hangar; overcharged shields will hold out for just the wrong amount of time, and cause a primary reactor breach when they fail on impact.

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DZ waits where she's been left, periodically adjusting her hold on her master to keep her from slipping; she's not familiar enough with the Subtle Knife's line of ships to guess where the medbay is.

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There is a line of paint with the medical symbol and an arrow on it!  As well as one for the 'fresher, right next door.  It's a pretty small ship, anyway; the parts people regularly visit (i.e. not engineering nor the cargo bay) are mostly laid out along one central corridor that also serves as a common area.  Rooms are labeled in several common languages, as well as with visual appliques, each in a unique color.  The bedrooms have a keycode lock; the armory does as well.  If DZ tries to open the door to the bridge, it buzzes angrily at her.

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To the medbay she goes, then, without trying any other doors; she's familiar enough with medical facilities to do basic scans on her master.

Physically, Deskyl is fine. Neurologically, though, it's a whole other story; half her brain is disorganized static, with the remaining patches of more organized signals too weak and scattered to be useful, except that her brainstem is intact enough to keep her physically alive. Which is about what DZ expected, really. It'll be better soon.

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You would not think it possible to sneak in armor.  You would be wrong, because Diana has apparently snuck up on DZ in the medbay.  "I'm no medical professional myself, but I can tell that that's not a good sign.  Is there anything you've known to help, in the past?  I've made an amateur's study of the mind, and you can often pull it into action with the right kind of stimulus...I believe it was music that helped most.  And if we can arrange for something like that, then..."

She looks at Deskyl, her presently-doffed helmet showing genuine compassion.

"Maybe she'll pull together sooner."

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"She's deaf, ma'am, unfortunately. She does like poetry, though, and it seems to help. And she had visual art in her room."

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"Ah, I see.  I do keep the facilities for implants...?"  Her arm flexes as she is reminded of its mechanical nature.  "But yes, visual art can be arranged.  I've been meaning to render this place less...spooky-hospital-white for a while now, really; this is as good an excuse as any.  Or maybe holos...soft blues are a pretty good complement to white, I think.  Bad for sleep, though...Guess I'll see what I can work out while we travel.  Do you know what she's going to be like, when she wakes, and the sort of places she'd like to go?"

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"She does particularly like sunset themes, visually. She recovers gradually and is easily overwhelmed in the early stages; I expect she'll want to be left alone, mostly. I don't know what she'll want to do once she's recovered - she was expecting to need to be in active hiding from the Sith, all of her plans assumed that that would be her primary concern."

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"I see.  Well, this probably won't be perfect, but it is a good start.  I'll set course for somewhere quiet and out of the way, then - and check for holos of local sunsets."  She hums softly.  "I do know some proper mind-healers, if this is Force-mediated mind-fuckery.  If you want.  And if you're willing to trust a Jedi you don't know, I suppose.  It would...help, to know your story."

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"Thank you, ma'am. I'm not sure Master Deskyl would react well to mindhealers; given her recent experiences with the Force she might have trouble keeping in mind that they're not dangerous.

Master Deskyl is an engineer; Lord Pritruth manages a group of apprentices that do various kinds of scientific and manufacturing research, and she was hired to assist one of them about five years ago. We aren't sure why he suddenly singled her out for this, she doesn't think she offended anyone."

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"...Not offending them doesn't seem to stop half of them from deciding they want to ruin your day in particular if you're in their presence and dare to be having a decent day.  I don't know how that whole school of thought hasn't burned itself out in revenge feuds, frankly; it seems so...petty and self-destructive, cultivating, of all things, pain and suffering.  You want empowering emotions?  Love, care, compassion; these self-reinforce.  But noo, because...reasons, that I've never found a coherent explanation of, it's always, always, pain and suffering, and I hate it.  It's...that's why I'm even fighting this war, you know?  That sort of philosophy simply viscerally offends me, that you can only gain by beating down others.  If you can raise the tide, you can lift all the boats, and they'll make your life better for it on sheer stochastic average.  But you didn't come here for Force philosophy,  I'll go get us moving, and then, I suppose, we can talk more if you want.  The rations you said she'd need are in the cargo hold, shelf Besh-2."  As quietly as she arrived, she leaves.

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The hyperjumps proceed normally, and while R4's newest semiguided munition pilots towards a final high-velocity rendezvous with a Sith airbase, the Subtle Knife aims for a quiet little backwater.  They'll be traveling a while.

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DZ stays primarily in Deskyl's room, especially once she's arranged for some artwork - abstract posters, mostly - to be hung on the walls and ceiling; Deskyl recovers as expected, quickly regaining the ability to properly sleep and wake, though having any kind of understanding of her surroundings, even enough to look at DZ when she moves around the room, comes much more slowly.

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And then one morning - not too long after she starts sleeping through the night, rather than spending random lengths of time napping and staring at the wall, and before she's shown any ability for complex intentional movement - she leaps out of bed, the lightsaber that DZ had hidden in her sheets in hand, and makes a beeline for Diana, even somehow managing to get it lit as she covers the distance.

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...oh, bother.

Normally, she'd lock the blade for just long enough and go for a stun - her lightsabers, one blue double-blade with two quillons, the other her green blaster, are already igniting, even as she attempts to jar the Sith by deploying fixtures from the floor while she's running over it - but with her situation as it is, stunners are riskier than literal disarmament and she's not harming a patient!

So Deskyl finds Diana Pallas meeting her at her end of the corridor, fully armored up - and both just a little bit frustrated, and sad.

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Disrupting her footing slows her but doesn't stop her; she's clumsy with the Force, but apparently capable of keeping herself upright and headed where she intends to be with telekinesis.

Strategy, tactics, and situational awareness are for people who have more than brain damage, instinct, and terror going on in their heads; Deskyl is very simply going to attempt to drive her lightsaber through the Jedi, nothing more and nothing less.

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...and that is how you find your lightsaber caught between the prongs of two other lightsabers, thoroughly boxed in, while the Jedi looks at you, radiating bafflement and pity and sorrow.  "DZ, a hand, please?"

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"Yes ma'am, I'm sorry, ma'am, one moment." She edges carefully around the lightsabers to try to get into Deskyl's line of sight so she can sign to her.

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What? No? Aaaaaaaaa? Push harder? Do... something else? But what... she has no idea what. Aaaaaaaa there is a Jedi why is there a Jedi? She's going to die! Because there is a Jedi and her lightsaber is broken! Aaaaa!

....there's a droid. She likes the droid? The droid is also in danger! This is very bad!! The droid is.... something.... something something safe? No! There's a Jedi! Right there!! And her lightsaber is broken! ...droid... something something no lightsaber? ????? That's bad, but.... the droid is calm. And good. And it's good, she thinks, to do what the droid wants, because the droid is so good. It's very confusing that the good droid wants her to not lightsaber the Jedi, but... it's good to do what the good droid wants even when it's confusing. It's important.

She takes a step back, lightsaber still lit, and watches the Jedi warily.

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The Jedi also takes a step back, and turns off one of her lightsabers!  (She doesn't put it back on her belt, but it's off.)  Then she...edges over to a small kitchenette and slowly pulls a sealed ration pack ([Near-Human Medical, Liquid] say the symbols) out of the cooling box, not looking away from Deskyl, but neither is she facing Deskyl with combative intent...and then she pokes a straw into the ration and offers it to Deskyl, given how it's floating over right where she could grab it?

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She's not very willing to take her eyes off the Jedi yet (why is there a Jedi) but glances at the ration, and then a moment later gives the droid a confused look and gestures for her to handle it.

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"I'm not sure how much she understands right now, ma'am, she's not usually responsive enough at this stage for me to tell. I expect not very much." She steps forward to take the ration pack, signing 'safe' and 'food' as she does.

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"Yeah, I'm not expecting her to understand as much as I'm hoping she understands and doing my best to not let misunderstandings hurt anyone."  Diana pulls out some food for herself - instant oatmeal, apple-cinnamon - and sets it to cooking; after it's done (with a cheery bing!, not that Deskyl can hear it) she pulls up a table and chairs for herself and optionally Deskyl, turning off her other lightsaber at this time, still moving slowly.

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    "Yes ma'am. You should know that her memory is still very bad at this stage, and she's not going to remember this tomorrow morning; I'm not confident she'll remember it in ten minutes."

Deskyl gives Diana a confused look when she disengages her second lightsaber, but turns off her own after a moment - it doesn't occur to her to stow it, and it seems like she quickly forgets that she's holding it at all - and lets DZ guide her by the elbow to sit in the other chair.

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Diana eats her breakfast, and...sort of just, softly radiates calm safety healing peace protectiveness into the Force, hoping Deskyl will listen to her feelings, since her brain is not operating.

"Then we'll do this until she can remember.  We have time."

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    "Yes ma'am. Thank you for not killing her."

Deskyl is clearly not buying this calm-safe-peace thing, but keeps glancing at DZ every few seconds and following her lead to tolerate Diana's presence, so that's something, at least. She's not interested in the liquid ration when DZ offers it to her, though, preferring to keep her attention on the Jedi.

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"...She cares about you.  I'll leave you alone, shall I?"

Diana can go find some maintenance to do!  Or meditate.

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The Sith's signature in the Force is starting to bounce back a bit, she might notice as she meditates. It's hard to guess what it would look like without the damage, but there are some hints that it might possibly be a bit softer than other Siths' signatures, if she looks for them.

When she comes back through the main part of the ship, DZ has gotten Deskyl back to bed, but has the door ajar and is standing just inside, positioned to keep an eye on both Deskyl and the common area.

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"...you alright?"  She's quiet, soft, tentative, deliberate.  "I imagine that gave you...quite a scare.  Did she get to eating...?"

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"Yes ma'am, after you left. Did you have any questions for me?"

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"I did ask if you're alright.  ...Anything else I should know, now that we've got the whole, Force, thing out?"

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"I'm fine, ma'am. Most of what I told you about Lord Pritruth and Master Deskyl was true, but she was Lord Pritruth's apprentice, not the employee of one, studying lightsaber design."

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"Good lies have a kernel of truth."  She gives an...approving nod?  "...She going to want to do any revenging?  Goodness knows I would, after..."  She gestures at the medbay.

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"She seems to be more focused on keeping herself safe, ma'am, I had specific instructions to get her out if an opportunity arose even if it meant taking away her opportunity to kill him. She might want to go back if there's an opportunity that isn't too risky, but we haven't discussed it."

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"I see.  I'll keep that in mind; I certainly don't like him after...this.  Who does that?  And, why, Force's sake!  What's the...Is there even any point to, that!"

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There's a pause before DZ speaks, which is uncharacteristic of recently-wiped droids.

"I don't know, ma'am."

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"...would you care to speculate?"

Diana notices this!  But doesn't immediately say anything about it.

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"Just that Sith do have reasons for what they do - not necessarily nice reasons or ones that other kinds of people would consider good enough for the damage they do, but the reasons do exist."

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Diana nods.  "That's certainly not false.  It...doesn't help, though."

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Not in this case, anyway. "Yes ma'am."

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"...I'm sorry this all has been laid on your shoulders.  It shouldn't have had to be.  I'm not your master, but...if I can dare to say so, you've done so very well by her."

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This Jedi is so weird. Not that she's complaining, if it keeps her master alive. "Thank you, ma'am."

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"It's really the least you deserve, going above and beyond like you did with this.  Is there anything I could arrange to ease your duties?"

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"I don't think so, ma'am. I can let you know if anything comes up."

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"Please, do.  I do most of the maintenance myself, I can spare time for you and especially for all this."

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...there is definitely an astromech on board, why is the human doing maintenance? "Yes ma'am."

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Well, that's all she has for this conversation.  And she does have maintenance to do.  So she'll go do that.

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And R4, who has had the conversation he's predicting he will have so many times before, trundles on in after.

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DZ doesn't speak to him immediately, assuming he has work to do; instead she goes to adjust Deskyl's holoprojector to show a different sunset.

He's still there when she gets back to the doorway, though, so after another moment, she whistles: Your human is strange.

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R4 whistles back, She's unique.  I like her.  What confuses you about her so far?

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She keeps talking to me in a strange way. And she didn't seem upset when my Sith tried to kill her - don't worry, my Sith is very bad at killing people right now and will realize it's a bad idea here before she gets much better at it.

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...The common thread, there, is that she cares about the lives and well-being of everything that can think.  Including us.  Including even the Sith she's killed.  And I think she just can't blame people for their instincts.  Even violent ones.  It didn't hurt anybody, anyway.

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Strange.

 

How do you deal with it?

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...With what?

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With her wanting strange things and speaking strangely to you.

Astromechs don't have as much programming against having opinions and wants and things, but she's pretty sure they have some, so he should know what she's talking about.

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I mean...It was a little weird, starting out, I guess, especially when she started trying to pay me - I got her to agree to putting most of that into the ship, because I want to be the best astromech I can and an astromech needs a good ship, and I do actually pick parts sometimes - but I haven't had anything like that come up for years?  There was a bit of...She likes tinkering with things, but we agreed to split it; I handle the slicing, she handles the assembly.  She uses ship maintenance for meditating and Force practice, actually.

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My Sith doesn't like it when I ask for things for her when I'm asked what I want for myself. :T

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I'll talk to Diana about talking to your Sith about it.  What drives you to do that?

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You want to be a good astromech so your focus is your ship; I want to be a good servant droid so my focus is my Sith.

I don't think it would help me for them to talk about it.

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I see.  I think it might; my Jedi isn't a diplomat, but she's good with fleshy minds.  Walked us right into and out of a Sith base one time without a single Force hack.  So if anyone can get across that you really do want what you want, and that trying to say you should do otherwise actually isn't going to help, it's probably her.

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Oh.

 

Maybe, then.

 

I do want to be how my Sith wants, it's just hard when she wants things that go directly against what I am.

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Definitely something to talk about, then.  ...Anything else you think you'd be better off knowing?

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I'd like to know what might make her hurt my Sith.

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Uncoerced mass murder, or someone's life being in immediate danger if my Jedi doesn't do something to prevent it.

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Okay. Thank you.

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Happy to help.  Please feel free to seek me out if you have further questions.

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I shouldn't go far from my Sith, but I'm sure I can figure something out.

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I'll get you a comm button.

And off R4 goes!

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Deskyl's fear sings in the Force again a few hours later, but DZ is apparently able to handle it without her leaving the room. At lunchtime, though, she gets past her and goes for Diana again, with no more subtlety than last time.

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Diana meets this with no less grace and patience than last time.  "...I don't think I know much of that sign language you're using, though I've seen some Sith use it before; I spent most of my spare language acquisition on Galactic Sign and Binary.  Would it help if I was able to speak it at all, do you think?  And...what happened to make this different from the earlier episode you defused?"

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"I was in the doorway then, ma'am, and had time to get her attention; this time I was waking her up to eat. You do need at least one free hand for Sith Battle Sign, but... can you see that Master Deskyl has a Force effect up? I know it's subtle."

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"Ahh, I see.  ...Suggesting a distance poking device is a silly thought, but if it would help, I can get you one.  I can see that she's doing...something.  I wouldn't dare hazard a guess as to what, just yet, save that I think it's internal."

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"Yes ma'am. Master Deskyl can hear, but it's unpleasant without Force assistance, and it's been too difficult for her to set that up again since this started; the effect you see is deafening her instead. There should be a way to decrease it without removing it entirely. You'll want to enunciate very clearly when you speak to her."

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"...If she has the same problems I have with volume, I can probably find a dampener that isn't the one I use for daily wear somewhere around here.  If it's the qualia of hearing itself that's unpleasant, I don't really have..."  An idea strikes.  "Hey R4!  Do you think you could stuff the compute of speech filtering into the form factor of my old headband?"

A whistle of genial unsureness returns from the control room.

"Well, it might help our patient, so I think we should try and find out!"

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It's at about this point that DZ's signing gets through to Deskyl, who finally backs off, visibly confused and trying to puzzle out the situation.

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Diana gives Deskyl her space!  "DZ, do you know which of those is the case?  ...I think I can actually improvise setting up proper Force-enabled volume cutoffs, if she lets me help.  Shouldn't be too dissimilar from tutaminis...annnnd it took me until now to think of doing that myself?  Wow, I feel rather silly."

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    "She seems to have more trouble with complex sounds than loud ones, ma'am, but some trouble with both." DZ edges back around the lightsaber zone, and Deskyl lets her lead her off to the table again, slightly less skeptically than last time.

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"I see."  Well, that's a good project to work on over her lunch break, she thinks.  Volume limits should be simple enough, but... - well, R4's on the complexity filter.  She'll let him handle it.

Still, she does need to get Deskyl's buy-in.  No putting strange devices on a patient whose consent you can actually get.  And so Diana wraps the area in a bubble of isolation from the shipboard noise, and gently works the suppression down a little bit.

"Hello."  Her voice is quiet, soft.  "I come in peace.  I can make something that keeps the world quiet for you.  Would you like that?"

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Deskyl winces and growls a little when Diana first speaks to her, but there's no real heat behind it, and no particular sign of distress in the Force. She doesn't seem to be parsing the words, though.

    "It generally works best to present things very simply, ma'am," DZ suggests, quietly, and then signs, speaking along this time: "Jedi safe. Quietness machine yes?"

Deskyl seems a bit less baffled by this, but doesn't reply, even after a few repetitions. "I think this is just too complex for her right now, ma'am."

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Diana lets the Force effect go back to...well, full force, though she's tempted to see if she can make the dampening effect power a trickle of healing.

"I see.  ...Whoever did this to her...they have something to answer for.  Likely many things, really, but definitely this one."

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    "Yes ma'am." She sets about trying to coax Deskyl to eat; the Sith is still distracted by the Jedi, but not as uninterruptibly so.

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Diana eats her own lunch, as well.

They're making progress!

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They are!

Toward the end of the meal, Deskyl gets DZ's attention and gestures questioningly at Diana.

    "Jedi safe," DZ signs to her.

Deskyl's eyes narrow a bit, but she gestures again, a little more emphatically.

    "Jedi helping. Ally against master."

At the mention of her master there's a little burst of rage, in the Force, though a slight narrowing of her eyes is Deskyl's only outward sign of it. She thinks this over for a minute and nods, thoughtfully.

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The Jedi continues to peacefully exist!  She winces inside her helmet upon feeling the anger, but that's even less noticeable!

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    "I don't expect her to remember that, ma'am. But it's a good sign, I think."

Deskyl's lunch doesn't take much longer, and DZ guides her back to bed; she'll ask R4 to come by and help with waking her for dinner when he drops off the comm.

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"It is, indeed."

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R4 can do that, sure!  How does DZ want to do this?  Deskyl's her Sith, if anyone can come up with a good plan, it's probably DZ - Diana's not the right sort of precognitive, there.

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The main thing is getting Deskyl's attention on her before she makes it out the door, which means DZ needs to be in the doorway, which leaves R4 on actual waking-her-up duty. It goes best if that's done with minimal startlement, and she has a system for what order to try things in to wake her as gently as possible.

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Then R4 can do that!  ...from the side of the bed that's away from the door.  Y'know, just in case.

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That's entirely reasonable of him!

The third thing he tries wakes the Sith, and she makes it fully out of bed and halfway to the door before noticing DZ and stopping short, tensed like a caged animal. DZ's signing calms her, though, and after a few minutes she gets her back into bed, leaving the doorway open for R4 to leave. (Deskyl notices him on his way out, and stares.)

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R4 does not mind being stared at!  He only minds being lightsabered!  (Diana did, at least, cover his core processor in phrik, but it's not ever fun when someone tries to cut you in half!)

See you in eight hours?

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    Yes, thank you.

It doesn't go as well the next morning; Deskyl has obviously forgotten most of what she'd gathered the previous day, and tries to order DZ out of the doorway rather than listen to her, her fear and increasing anger obvious in the Force as she does.

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"...Let her, DZ.  It's not worth her being upset at you.  Sometimes you need to learn from experience."  Diana tries projecting peace-calm-we're-friends-here, for what it's worth, but is definitely expecting to need her lightsabers again.

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Deskyl startles, visibly flinching, as she notices how close Diana has gotten, and falls back into a defensive stance, anger falling away into grim determination.

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Diana just...stands there, for a moment, ready but not concerned, then goes to get Deskyl's food from the fridge.

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This sends her from nihilistic determination to confusion and distress; when Diana gets back, DZ has her sitting on the edge of the bed and is trying without much success to get her to pay attention to a poem she's reciting for her.

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Diana gives her the food?

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Sure, that can happen.

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Diana leaves her in peace to eat the food!  (An astromech occasionally trundles by.)

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She eats; her emotions have settled out into vague despair by the time she's done. When she wakes again later, she's less upset, but the general tone is similar; DZ must know something to do about it, because it does lift a bit, back toward determination.

DZ waits for Diana to come out for lunch without waking Deskyl for it.

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Diana looks over at DZ.  "...you know how I asked you to let me know if there was anything I could do to help?  I think you think I can do something to help your master, but I can't just guess what it is.  Or, I could, but I'd have anyone else's chances of succeeding, you know?  Jedi mostly aren't mind-readers.  Especially with droids for some reason that I am generally convinced is self-delusion; you think as much as I do.  So...what would help?"

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"I don't have a specific idea of what to do, ma'am, but I do have an idea of what the problem is - I think Master Deskyl believes she's been captured, from her reactions."

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"...Ah."

"...Could install a hard lock, give her the key?  ...not that it would help overmuch, but the problem is that she can hardly do keypads right now either..."

She also does have DZ's lunch ready.

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"I wouldn't expect her to know how to operate a keypad or a hardware key, right now, ma'am. It might be best to just let her sleep? I expect her to have forgotten about it again in the morning."

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"Mmm, true.  Still worth thinking about in case it's not different when she is awake and alert."  She hands off the food (and R4 is on standby to deliver it by now) and heads down to the cargo bay for practice.  "Til next time, DZ."

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"...yes ma'am."

She'll try to talk to her again at dinnertime, then.

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Diana does her katas for a bit, and then more ship-related stuff for the next few hours - tending the algae, etcetera.  Soon enough, she's back up on deck for dinner.

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"Hello, ma'am. Did you want me to try any particular approach with Master Deskyl in the morning?"

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"I don't know what you can do, DZ.  You're the, Sith protocol droid.  Tell me about the protocol, please."

...She looks...tired, all of a sudden, helmet off, face frazzled.  "I just don't want, to hurt her more.  There's already been so much pain..."  ...And she feels every wound.  "...Jedi, creatures of peace and life, fighting a war.  It's madness.  But so are the Sith, and the culture they espouse.  So who's more the fool?"

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"...yes ma'am."

 

"Master Deskyl is a sensory specialist, and it's generally very obvious to her when there are other Force sensitives around; there are techniques that can hide you from her but my understanding is that they're difficult to hold for very long. If she can sense you, she'll be afraid of you, until she regains the ability to recognize you as an individual - I don't think that's avoidable; the understanding among Sith is that Jedi will kill them given any opportunity, and she seems to have retained that. But Sith are trained to handle fear, and I don't get the impression that it's necessarily distressing for her in this case; what she seemed to be distressed by today was the idea that there wasn't anything that she could do about you, which is something that Sith tend to be very sensitive to - I stopped her from attacking you, and you didn't seem to be afraid of her, and usually among Sith that would suggest that you'd already defeated her once and we were both confident that you could do it again - are you aware of Sith traditions around that situation, ma'am?"

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"Nnnnooot in any particular detail."

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"Yes ma'am," she nods. "Sith are very hierarchical; every Sith answers to a specific other Sith, all the way up to the Dark Council and the Emperor. These relationships can change by the master giving a Sith they have mastery of to another Sith, or by inheritance of a defeated Sith's assets - if Master Deskyl had managed to kill Lord Pritruth she would have inherited his property, his title, his direct allegiance to his Darth, and mastery of his other apprentices, assuming she was able to survive their attempts to kill her to inherit those things from her. Theft is another method, though not very relevant here. And directly defeating a Sith in combat also grants mastery of them, if you can do so without killing them - this is part of why Sith fight so viciously when cornered; it's the least stable kind of allegiance-change and is often worse than death, so they have no incentive to surrender. I believe this is what Master Deskyl thinks has happened to her right now."

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"...well.  That's kriffed up."

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"Yes ma'am."

"She's taking most of her situational cues from me, right now, and I believe that if I allow her to attack you without interference she'll assume she's in some other situation than that. But I have specific orders from her not to allow her to attack people if her doing so will be a risk to her life or her escape."

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"Well, it won't.  Worst comes to worst, I have to stun her, which...I don't know if you know how that would work out, but there's not much it can make worse at this point.  So let her.  I could use a sparring partner anyway."

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"Yes ma'am. I expect she wouldn't have any unusual trouble recovering from a stunner bolt, physically or cognitively; I haven't specifically seen her take one but she's recovered from minor lightning attacks with no complications."

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"Then that solves that, I think.  Thank you."

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"Thank you, ma'am. And please let me know if you think of another approach that I can try. Shall I wake her for dinner when you're done?"

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"...I'll try, DZ.  I'll try.  ...I don't know, should you?  You've been watching her vitals."

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"She won't be harmed by skipping another meal, ma'am, she'll just want extra in the morning."

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"Then extra she shall have."

Diana then pads off to rest.

"Goodnight, DZ, R4, Deskyl."

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"Goodnight, ma'am."

They settle into a routine, after that: DZ allows Deskyl to attack Diana in the morning, but talking her down afterward sets the tone for the rest of the day, leaving her confused but not distressed and relatively easy to manage; the stunner turns out to be unnecessary.

 

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And on the fifth morning of this, she stops short in the galley, fear blending with confusion as she recognizes Diana.

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Diana gives a polite wave, emoting pride-in-the-accomplishments-of-another, and then there's food.

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It takes a moment for her to decide to stand down, but she does, and takes the plate, seeking out DZ to sign 'why' to as she sits.

    Ally.

...Jedi?

    Ally Jedi. Safe. Helped. Enemy of master.

Ohhhh. Yes, good. ...Jedi questions?

    "She'd like to know if you have any questions for her, ma'am."

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"...Would Force healing help her recover?"

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She takes a bit to consider the question; if Diana's paying attention, she may notice an incongruous thread of worry in the Force as she does.

    "She says she's not sure but she'd like to try it, ma'am."

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Diana is indeed paying attention.  "Alright, let's see..."

Diana pulls off one of her gloves, and nudges the Force volume throttle (after erecting soundproofing).  "Deskyl, may I touch your hand?  It helps."

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She startles slightly at the unexpected sound, but offers her hand.

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Diana's touch is gentle, and the resulting gentle inquiry of the Force within her is...warm, welcoming, soothing.  "It's okay.  You're doing good.  Just breathe, gentle, slow, calm.  You're safe."

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Deskyl tenses a bit at the words, but doesn't pull away.

    "That kind of thing is hostile, to Sith, ma'am."

(She has a scattering of electrical and 'saber burns in the process of healing, and a number of scars, that the Force reveals to Diana; none are particularly severe, though the remaining brain damage is certainly significant. There are also a few places, if she's paying close attention, where a surface scar isn't matched by underlying damage like it should be; it would be possible, perhaps, to heal someone that selectively with the Force, but extremely difficult, and Sith supposedly can't use Force healing at all...)

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"I see.  Sorry."  ...Empty void, she's going to -- no, she isn't.  Calm, Diana, you are healing a patient.

She breathes, in and out, half into a healing trance, but only half because she is directing that healing to Deskyl's wounds...

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Deskyl sits quietly, letting her work, watching closely but not distracting her.

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Diana can actually do quite a lot for Deskyl's wounds!  The physical ones, at the very least!

...As for the mental ones...She breathes in.  She breathes out.  She lets her senses touch Deskyl's mind.

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There's a sense, here, of it having been scoured, like a coastal town after a tsunami, or a forest after a brutal fire. There's plenty of new growth, though, and the framework coming in for more, and it won't be hard at all to encourage that along.

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And so Diana Ophelia Pallas does, providing a subtle stability to the churn, promoting connection, promoting regrowth, promoting future resilience against that which would ever make someone in her care feel like this ever again --

Deskyl is not hers.  She is not anyone's.  Diana knows this.  So she takes a deep breath, holds her emotions aside, and asks herself - what does Deskyl need, right now?

 

Her mind is roiling, churning, like a boiling pot of water.  It is not supposed to do that.  Minds are much, much more stable even in the unhealthy modes she's seen.  (Sometimes too much so, but that is another story.)  What Deskyl needs are anchors.  Things her thoughts can accrete around again.  And she knows just who to ask, as she pieces together a metaphor that might even work - 

"DZ, if you can remind your mistress of - who she is, not the big things, the little ones, as we go - I, think this will help, we're kind of making this up live, really, because I don't think anyone's seen this sort of damage before from my side, but...she's already got some of the idea, she just needs to find the right things to apply it to -" and Diana is good at finding just the right things, a transferable skill from precision machine work, and nudging Deskyl's attention through the Force as she gives prompts to DZ, still in that half trance, so Deskyl can weave herself back together, re-establish the current of self, forge her mind like kyber crystal -- (a thought-memory of Diana's own slips out; her blue crystals were found in the traditional Jedi way, but she synthesized the core of her green saber herself, because green is the crystal the Jedi take to mean focus-on-knowledge, and what, then, is a better expression of knowledge than using it to make something wonderful, and you have, Deskyl, you really have, because what you made saved you when you couldn't save yourself,)  (Diana's really proud of DZ.  DZ is a good droid.  She's glad Deskyl feels the same way.)

She doesn't really expect this to fix the underlying - Force-burn, she thinks - all in one go, but she does hope it'll help speed up the process.

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    "Yes ma'am." DZ settles in to recite some poetry to Deskyl; signed, because that's what she's always preferred, even when she could hear.

Deskyl is only partly paying attention to DZ, though, and instead mostly watching Diana - this isn't just healing, it's something else, and she trusts DZ's assessment that Diana is an ally but she doesn't trust Diana not to make a mistake.

The effect Diana is wielding seems gentle, in the way carefully-applied Force effects can be: she expects that if she ignores it, it will do whatever Diana is intending, but with even a bit of attention she can stop it from doing anything she doesn't like. Mostly she doesn't object; a few times she nudges her away, with annoyance or frustration or fear.

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Diana is glad that Deskyl is capable of asserting boundaries, honestly; that means she's not going to inadvertently trample over them.  Deskyl gets the impression of - Diana is not going to pry, but she wants to understand, so she can help better, when those reactions occur - and yes, this technique is gentle, yielding.  It's also kind of oddly Sith-y for a Jedi, really; it feels a lot more will-shaped than openness-shaped, even though it's still based in a philipsophy of openness.  Deskyl might even be able to do something like it all on her own; it's a sort of recursive asking of questions of yourself, interrogating your instincts to reconstruct the patterns they came from.

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Yeah, maybe.

She's tired, by the time Diana is done.

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Diana is so proud of her; she did so well.  "You're going to feel tired when you do this; that happens when you think really hard.  Be careful, okay?"  She catches her own yawn before it goes anywhere - she's being very careful of sounds herself, for Deskyl's sake - but Deskyl and DZ can still see her doing it, because at some point in this process her helmet came off.  (It's resting on her back, now.)

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Sign sign sign-

    "She's injured, not an invalid, ma'am."

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"I'm very glad that she's well enough now to tell me off about it!"  ...Diana grins, somewhere between "trying to stifle a laugh" and "beaming".

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This just makes her more angry; her hand twitches toward her lightsaber, though it doesn't quite connect, and instead she sweeps off toward her room, gesturing for DZ to follow.

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Ah.  Yeah.  She should have expected that.  It still sucks to feel, though.

Well, there's distracting fiddly maintenance to do.  That keeps her out of the space she's trying to give Deskyl.  That's helping, right?  She really wants to help...

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It's not hard to give Deskyl space; the Sith doesn't come out of her room again. Even DZ isn't turning up in the galley - she must be coming out sometime, Deskyl's food is disappearing at the expected rate, but Diana doesn't see her, no matter how much time she spends hanging around there.

(The signs in the Force suggest that Deskyl is fine; she seems relatively calm, most of the time, though sometimes frustrated or bored. Her meditation - at least it seems to be meditation - is another story; of course a Force-sensitive powered by fear and rage is going to incorporate them into their daily practice.)

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Diana herself also hiding is probably also not helping, but Diana cannot actually solve this.

So it's up to R4, after days pass in silence, to try, because it's affecting his ship.  ...My human kriffed something up really badly, huh?

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It's not just her, Sith are difficult. We're lucky I have a calm one.

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Do you mind explaining what happened?  For both our sakes.

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Yours laughed at mine; that's a threat, to Sith. Anything that suggests you aren't taking them seriously is.

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I see.  I'll pass that on.  Is there some good indicator of taking this seriously that my human could use?

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Not straightforwardly. It's more a matter of not doing the wrong things than doing the right things - you can't tell a Sith you think you could beat them in a fight without them thinking that's going to matter somehow.

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I see.

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Later that afternoon, Diana knocks on Deskyl's door; two firm raps that belie the weltering turmoil of emotions she's feeling about all this.

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Deskyl opens it after a moment; she's in one of the black outfits DZ had packed, embroidered in gold and red across the shoulders, exuding a quiet confidence.

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"...hey.  ...wow, you look really good in that - excuse me.  I.  Mm.  Would you be interested in hearing what I was - trying to convey, the last time we spoke, or would you just prefer to know that - mm.  I've taken the feedback I've received on-board, and will be doing my best to ensure that I treat you with the respect you are, in fact, due, going forwards?"

"And...how are you?  I realize I hardly have a right to that information, but...Despite myself, I seem to have become invested."  She laughs wryly, self-directedly.  "Not very Jedi of me, that."

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...huh.

She steps aside to let her in.

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Diana blinks, but...sure, she can come in if Deskyl would prefer this?

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Deskyl stays by the door, leaning against the dresser there; DZ is at the table, but stands to let Diana have it.

    "She says she'd like to know what you were trying to say, ma'am," DZ relays.

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"It's..."

Diana hmms.  (She doesn't take the table.)

She's stared off into the middle distance for a good thirty seconds before she starts speaking again.

"For the past week you had barely been a person.  I - I was relieved.  That you were coming back to yourself.  That I'd...helped, even a little bit.  So that was...coloring my reaction to having made that first misstep?  I think.  I can't be as sure as I'd like to; I'm...not good at directly confronting my own regrets.  ...still.  I was...I was glad.  You were, are, for that matter, getting stronger, recovering well.  And that's a good thing.  I don't - well, okay, I do care if I end up dead, but - the strength of my allies is my strength?  And I...hope we can be not-enemies.  And...Force, I don't know.  It was cute?  Like - those holos of big cats being grumpy that some university keeps uploading.

"So I tried to...draw back, smooth over, find a way to, make good from bad, and promptly ran smack into Sith culture being fractally horrible about power, I think?

"I don't know, you're the resident Sith, I'm a kriffing Jedi," she says almost like it's a curse, "I'm not sure where the...must-be-a-threat, thing, springs from.  But...I was trying to imply you had power, because you were lucid enough to tell me to kriff off, not diminish or demean the power you had."

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Deskyl thinks about this; a few seconds into it, there's a gentle nudge from her in the Force, offering a calming effect, mild and easy to ignore by default but there's a sense of how Diana could lean into it to request that Deskyl strengthen the effect.

    "She says that most of the problem is that if you try to hurt her, her options are to take it or to kill you, ma'am, and she doesn't like either of those, so any sign of that is alarming - she doesn't know that you won't."

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"...oh..."

That one single syllable is paired with an outpouring of grief.

She doesn't make another sound, but tears run down her face, because...that's even more horrible than she thought it could become, and...she's not even made a dent, so many are still adrift in, in, that, in a 'state' where the only guaranteed relief from durance vile is death...

...so, yes, she'd...like that calming effect, please.

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Yeah.

Here's the calming effect; the strength of it wobbles around for a moment before settling into something comforting but not overwhelming, and then stays steady.

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"I -"

"Force preserve, I've just -"

"I've had a horrible idea, about, how to ensure your comfort.

"Which leans on...your doing this, and other things it might imply capabilities to do.

"That...I need to think about.  And probably...sleep on.  After I've - cried those tears."  (She sort of...gestures at the calming effect.)

"But there's a question I can ask now that would rule out that possibility, so whether or not I want to know, and regardless of what I want the answer to be - I don't even know - I probably should ask.  How complex can, this, get?  And how long does it last?"

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    "She can hold it indefinitely, ma'am, including in her sleep; her range with it is about thirty feet, or double that if she's meditating, but it doesn't linger if someone leaves her range. She can also do fear and anger, and she can teach herself other states, including complicated ones."

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"...could she do something about as complex as 'incapable of killing'?  As a rough first pass."  ...oh those are some complicated emotions Diana is having again, but a very different sort, all in different proportions and configurations.  ...and she's trying very hard to keep a lid on one particular subconscious response to the line of thought she's having, too, but...she's not doing a very good job of it, at all, and there's quite a bit of shame-guilt about that.  "I should probably, ah...excuse myself.  For a little bit.  While she thinks."  ...She is definitely not blushing the red cheeks are totally the sunset holos' faults why did she leave her helmet off for this.

(Fleeing still doesn't help.)

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Deskyl lets her go without issue. She can maintain the calming effect as far as Diana's room, though it'll fade to nothing as soon as she makes a serious attempt to push it away.

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Oh dear Force why are emotions and feelings anyway she has way too many.  Why are bodies, even.  They're traitors.  Diana is increasingly oscillating between "pull Deskyl's calming effect close like a lifeline" and jumping back with a sense of "Force, I shouldn't," over and over.  ...the one thing she doesn't do, though, is push it in any sense away.

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There's a little bit of give, in the effect, where it'll get stronger if she pulls on it that way; after two or three rounds of that, though, it firms up and holds steady; the timing gives the impression that Deskyl has intentionally set it like that.

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Oh, okay.

This is nice, actually.

Like a comfy blanket.

Though her face is kind of on fire right now.

(Deskyl can probably pick up on Diana's subdued relief.  She's proven to be very perceptive, over the past little while.)

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(If she can - and it is a pretty safe assumption - she doesn't seem inclined to do anything about it.)

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Then Diana...is going to take a nap?

Apparently?

(Comfy...)

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You know what, that's pretty legit.

The calming effect will still be there when she wakes up.

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Diana, eventually, wakes up, somehow burrows in tighter to the effect like it's a blanket burrito despite that being exactly how that doesn't work, and with just a little bit of regret, carefully extricates herself to go do ship things once more!

Like eat food!

Perhaps with the air cleared somewhat Deskyl might show up!  (...oh, Force, Diana, nooo, goes her braincell in the corner.)

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Deskyl has decided to have her dinner in the galley, as it turns out; she's chatting with DZ in sign.

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"Oh, hey.  ...um.  Thanks, for earlier.  Don't really know how much of all that you picked up on but I...definitely needed the firm hand to stop my wittering, as was.  ...It was really comfy, once I got over myself.  Healers will probably be all over trying to invent 'that but Jedi-flavor' if I tell them that it exists.  Which...that's your call, to me."

Diana sits...near-ish!  Not too close, though!  "...I kind of want to ask if you'd prefer if I learned your sign, but I'm worried about it coming across awkwardly - and frankly, I think that the tactically correct thing for you to do is probably to keep it to yourself, given the no-trust situation you're operating within.  There must be learner files on sign languages on the holonet somewhere, but then that leaves the both of us fumbling unless you know two already, and - Force, I don't know if I could handle owning a protocol droid."

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    "Master Deskyl says she expects to be able to speak Basic again in a month or two, ma'am, and she expects that to be faster than either of you learning a new sign language; she'd want some time to think about it before teaching you Sith Battle Sign, she's not sure how the Empire would react to it leaking. She doesn't mind teaching you emotion projection, or letting you teach someone else; it's not a dark technique, so it shouldn't need any major adjustments."

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Diana gives a grateful nod.  ...though she's not actually sure what that gratitude is for, yet, when she goes over her thoughts.  "...yeah, now that I think about it I do know the technique you mean.  I've just never felt it feel like that before."

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    "She expects that Sith and Jedi use it rather differently, ma'am."

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"...That does make a lot of sense...It's nice though..."

Diana pinches herself.  "...Maybe a bit too nice.  Force, I could get lost in that."

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    "You should face your emotions at some point, she says, ma'am. "

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"...In general, or in specific?  Because in this specific situation, I expect everyone on this vessel would probably be vastly more comfortable if I waited until after you were off it to, erm - confront a particular subset.  In general, though, yes, we can't not have them, so...ignoring that's bad."

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    "She says she wouldn't be a sensory specialist if she wasn't prepared to ignore things that aren't her business, ma'am. But as you prefer."

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Diana most definitely did not spray the sip of her drink in her mouth across the room while flushing red when DZ translated that.  She was not inhabiting a comedy skit.  She instead politely contemplated that sentence's implications, swishing the liquid in her mouth around in a stimmy sort of way, then swallowed.

"...If you'd prefer."

She did, however, blush.

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    "It really isn't her business one way or the other, ma'am."

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"Yes, intellectually I can acknowledge that, but emotions - don't, really, rational?"  She gives a dramatic shrug.  "All I can do is my best, I guess."

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    "Yes ma'am."

 

    "She says it genuinely won't bother her, if that's what you're worried about."

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"I...  Thank you.  For the reassurance.  Yes, that was, definitely part of what I was worrying about."  She slowly exhales.

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Deskyl nods and takes another bite of her dinner.

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Diana just, takes another slow breath, and then busies herself with eating.

...Despite the fact that her dinner's been sitting there for minutes and should've cooled, it seems to still be piping hot.  And there's subtle Force-ness happening around it.

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Huh, neat.

    "Master Deskyl isn't familiar with that Force effect, ma'am, how does it work?"

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"...Huh.  Does the Dark side not do tutaminis?  I would've thought that bending energy around would be easier for Sith."

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    "It might be easier for Sith, she says, ma'am, but she isn't surprised that Jedi and Sith know different techniques, it's rare for you to have a chance to learn from each other."

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"...yeah."  Oof, that reminded her of sad things.  Quick, a distraction!  "Like how the kriff you do the lightning; that's...I see it often enough, and I still don't know how I'd even really begin."

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    "She can show you, if you'd like, ma'am. You won't be able to do it without switching to Dark, she says, but it might be interesting anyway."

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"If she's willing, I'd certainly like to see it in a situation where it's probably not going to be used to try and kill me.  Should we maybe move somewhere less breakable?  There's a firing range over there," she points at it, "though it's small."

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    "Here is fine, actually, ma'am. She has a close-quarters variant of the technique."

Deskyl punctuates this with a crackle of electricity that starts at the back of her hand and runs halfway up her forearm, leaving the area wreathed in tiny blue-tinged arcs.

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Diana is fascinated.

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She holds her arm out for Diana to inspect; the arcing bolts don't seem to interfere with her movement at all.

There is a mild but growing sense of wrongness in the Force, though.

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...but, wait, why, Force, it's so pretty!  What's Wrong about it?

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The way the Force flows through the effect is sharply bent in several places, to the point of being knotted in on itself, and... split, maybe? it's a bit hard to see, going every which way... and there are some very dissonant resonances set up within it. It definitely looks uncomfortable compared to neutral or Light techniques.

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"...is that as kind of uncomfortable to do as it looks like to my senses?"

Diana's fiddling with the Force herself, now, because seeing if she can replicate something like this without it being...like that, has taken on the shape of an intriguing puzzle; hmm, what happens if she does...

-- chaos, but harmony --

this?

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    "She says 'not really', ma'am. Though it is best to avoid letting too many Dark harmonics build up in any one place, that can get unpleasant."

The Force really does not want to be in that shape for her; every time she gets one bit of her effect going about the right way another part springs out of position. And it's not clear at all how she'd make the part that looks split.

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"...what does extra-Light Force feel like to you?  My experience of dark is that it just feels, wrong, like, I could use so many mechanical metaphors but - it's badsounds!  You know what those are!"  Maybe if it's interlocking?  It doesn't need to be the same thing, just something that's a same-y thing, maybe if she tries this and that and these all at once it'll hold itself together rather than apart?  (Her face, when it is not talking, is scrunched up in a "looking very hard at this" expression)  This is complicated but she really wants to see if she can figure out a Jedi-shaped way to make the pretty lightning, it's so pretty, she wants so badly to share the joy of crackling sparks between her fingers with the pretty Sith lady and maybe she's supposed to feel bad about feeling absolutely any of that but she's so tired of trying to make herself let go of caring even if it's --

A dam, so carefully constructed, creaks, snaps, breaks, and the Force rushes through Diana in a torrent as - something -

changes

- and - something ripples around Diana's outstretched hand, not lightning made of pain, but something else, in a shimmering purple-green, and she's so happy but then every single emotion she has ever stuffed in a box comes back from the grave like a zombie craving vengeance and that's so much emotion that it rattles the entire ship in its unleashing, Diana barely managing to bend it away from her passengers and crew and controls in a shrieking gasp of strain as ionic aurorae flare and electronics flicker and fray -

and she's just, crying, now, though she waves off any offering of calm, because she "needs to get this out, it's been bottled up so long, can't not feel it, I'll, I'll be okay in a bit, okay?  Catharsis.  Needed.  I'm gonna be so kriffed up later all my coping mechanisms were basically 'shove it in a box' and that doesn't work now but right now I think I'm stable because I'm just, all adrenaline, and everything else cancelled out, but I'm going to be weepy over a whole bunch of things for a while; I have so much empathy, and I can't and won't stop feeling it and the Jedi Order can suck my dick if it thinks that's a bad thing to feel and maybe that's someone fucking up explaining but the way I was told it 'emotional regulation' was framed more like a failure than a success," and she pauses to take a breath, "and people are getting so weird about the Code these days too, it's all this 'there is no X there is Y' bantha dung, and who do they think they're fooling with that absolute osik?  ...Wanna go take over the Sith Empire, later?  'cause they still suck!  But now we can both beat them up in a philosophically relevant way!  And then unfuck the place!  Because something something strength something!  ...I think!  Dunno if I'm right!  ...Am I?"

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    "She says the two of you should see how you do against a Darth or three first, ma'am, that's more likely survivable."

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"Reasonable!"  Those are certainly some emotions she's continuing to have, in the background of this conversation!  "Which ones?"  She might be nonzero amounts of serious about that question and that's probably something that should be concerning her, but she's somehow not feeling that feeling, actually!

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    "You're most likely to be able to defeat ones you can get information about the defenses of, ma'am. Of the ones she's heard of she'd suggest Darth Drawen or Darth Kinnet, or maybe Darth Tel - Darth Drawen manages kyber crystal manufacturing facilities and Darth Kinnet's factories produce most of the Sith's lightsaber electronics, and she's visited both; she knows less about Darth Tel, but he's involved in espionage and she expects you to particularly disapprove of his methods."

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She makes a hmm noise.  "Strategically speaking, Darth Kinnet is perhaps the best target; he cuts off the supply chain to make Drawen's kyber crystals useful, and that supply chain can be reused to produce useful goods.  Darth Tel sucks but I'm not actually a Shadow, just a Guardian that's very, very, lost, so I doubt I have the right skillset to even find him, necessarily, even if I weight my chances of beating him in a straight fight slightly higher than Darths Manufacturing or Kyber, on the basis of 'torture is not actually very useful for maintaining physical conditioning'...Let me see if I can get in touch with some of my people, actually.  ...After I process a bit.  And you decide how much I should tell them about you.  I do think that I should probably not make major life decisions like committing to fight powerful Sith while the only reason that I'm lucid is that my brain chemicals are having an all-out brawl with no clear winner."

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    "Yes ma'am. Master Deskyl has questions for you about the Jedi and the idea of letting them know about her, but that should also wait."

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"Yes, quite."  Diana, despite her seeming resolve to just eat and then rest, still finds herself jotting notes on a flimsiplast (levitated in from her workshop) at the table, but they're mostly bullet points, stuff like

  • Darth list by espionage status
  • What am I even doing?  Not Sith like Dark but, emotional!
  • Check kyber; things are different, may need to rehome
  • BLASTERS.
  • Training spar? Need acclimatization; need to determine what it means in field conditions, too.
  • Full systems check; *something's* for sure gotten kriffed up, I just don't yet know what.
  • Other transferable techniques? Don't know; there's always more depth.
  • Does meditation still work? What abt. BM? Is that even testable w/ available?
  • Need to figure out if Jedi will shoot me. That would be bad.

Eventually, the burst of energy runs out, and she sets off to go sob in her room for a while, giving R4 a teary hug when she spots him.  Apparently he's "the best droid, wait, um, best astromech ever."

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Diana is in her room, now, and R4 is still trying to figure out what the kriff that was.

I think you broke my human.  Or fixed her.  I can't tell yet.  She's very weepy.  That's never been good to take as a baseline measurement.

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    My Sith says she was putting off dealing with her emotions, and this isn't a surprising result - she should be better in a few days, or my Sith will figure out what to do about it. She expects it to be better for her in the long run, this way, though maybe pretty different from before.

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...Yes, it does seem likely that things would be different. I hope they're also better.  She's been like that for years and years on end.

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    We don't know very much about Jedi, but my Sith isn't surprised. Sith know more about emotions, she thinks - she can probably teach her how to manage them better.

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Diana thinks that really it's that the Jedi are kind of getting kriffed up by the war being a thing and dissociating to cope, except that they're trying, unhelpfully, to dogmatize that behavior.  ...She's self-aware in the strangest ways, sometimes.

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    It's certainly possible, she says.

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...She is going to be crying so much.  I'd better go fiddle with her rations.  Don't want her being dehydrated.

R4 gives Deskyl and DZ a nod, then trundles off.

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Deskyl stays up for another hour, in case she's needed, and then meditates, briefly - shielding during it is still a bit beyond her - and then sleeps.

She has DZ wake her a little early for breakfast the next morning; it seems wise for her to be up before Diana.

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Diana's sleep is not restful in the slightest, with how plagued she is with...well, it probably wasn't anything Deskyl did, statistical analysis from R4 shows?  But Diana tosses, turns, flinches, jerks, jolts, bolts awake and makes a frantic comm call twice, and generally just seems to be having an entirely different flavor of bad sleep than she'd been having!

Seeing her slump out of her room, looking like she's aged a year and feeling like she hasn't slept for weeks, tear-stained and wearing a kriffing robe - and if there's one thing Deskyl can just be sure of about Diana it is that that robe was snuck on board by the Temple Quartermaster because she wasn't going to take it if she had any choice in the matter whatsoever - is probably absolutely unnecessary to confirm that Diana's not anywhere near actually functional right now.  She is awake, though.  "That.  Sucked."

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    "She says 'it certainly seems to have,' yes ma'am."

Deskyl scoots one of the other chairs over next to hers and pats it, then offers a one-armed hug.

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...yeah, she'll take the hug.  She really kind of needs one.

"Visions of the war."

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"Ah."

    "She doesn't mind listening, if you think it would help to talk about it, ma'am."

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"It's - there's so - much, and I knew that, but couldn't - feel it, but now I can't not feel it, and...people are dying, and that's horrible, and it's so much more than I can solve alone, but who would I even recruit for that, there's not exactly that many people with my sort of thoughtpattern and even less are sensitives, and even then it's a miracle I can still care!  Most Jedi would've murdered --!"

Her presence in the Force is agitated, whirling choppily, frustration, self-loathing in a terribly recursive spiral, desperate hope for solutions being propped up with every erg of will she can spare...

"oh, Force...this war needs to end..." Her head rests against the cool metal of the table as she slumps, and lets her tears fall, grieving for the lives she can't yet save.  "'m sorry...supposed to be helping you, helping the Force, helping the whole galaxy, but I'm being so selfish, so self-deluded...To have hubris enough to try and save everyone, when I can't even care for myself..."

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"Through passion I gain strength," she observes.

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Diana coughs up a "True," before letting out a wet chuckle, "but am I serene?"

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"Pft."

    "She says 'do you want to be', ma'am."

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"Not really!  Not after so many years of being that when I really didn't want to!  But it does...feel reassuring, despite all the ways that that doesn't actually follow from any of the known premises of this situation, to feel your presence touching mine?

"...oh.  Empty void, the skin-hunger."

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"Yeah," squeeze. "Few... In few..." she hisses in annoyance and signs again.

    "You'll be feeling better in a few days, she says, ma'am."

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Deskyl gets a hug too because just because her situation also sucks doesn't mean Diana's stopped caring that others' do.

Unless that seems contraindicated, at least; she's not really sure.

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It really doesn't. Diana might not be the only one here with a skin-hunger problem.

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Then there are definitely hugs to be had for Deskyl.

Diana doesn't even have any really awkward thoughts during them!

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Convenient!

After a few minutes Deskyl sends DZ to get Diana some breakfast.

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There is food, but also snuggling, but also - oh, hello, Force, thank you, you're helping, that's good, she was worried, and - well she does try to not sob into Deskyl's pretty outfit but that competes with the urge to curl up and bury her face in something soft and both of those compete with food so she's just sort of crying aimlessly about the Force being so wonderful and it cares and wants to help but so many people can't even hear it and it can't help everyone all at once because it would if it could and that's so sad that it can't help,

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Pet pet pet. She'll nudge Diana toward eating, too, if that seems necessary.

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Mm, Diana is eating, no worries there; she's just having to pause in between bites to wipe at her face with part of her robe because getting tears in her breakfast would be kinda silly.

"How do you think they'll get our characters wrong, when we're stuck in some low-budget holodrama, centuries in the future?"

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    "She says, 'they always get this part wrong, don't they'."

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Diana cackles.  "They sure do!  Force, they'd probably have us kissing by now and we haven't even fought an asshole together as a bonding experience!"

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Deskyl laughs and nods.

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"Force, if I didn't get the impression that you're terminally uninterested in that sort of thing I have to admit I'd be considering trying it, though.  Also something medical ethics something but really at this point we've both gotten tangled up in eachothers' issues, so maybe it cancels?  I have absolutely no kriffing idea, honestly!"

R4 breebles.

"Oh don't you dare you little scoundrel,will lose something into the Jeffries tubes and 'forget' it there so you have to take time from your flight simulators to go get it!"

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This gets another giggle, and some signing.

    "She's not worried about it, ma'am."

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Apparently Diana has caught the giggles from Deskyl, and - oh, there are all those inconvenient feelings of definitely crushing hard!

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Deskyl doesn't seem to mind! The hug continues regardless.

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Then Diana's going to burrow into the hug and mumble "lemme know if this gets awkward please I can't pay very good attention to stuff."

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Deskyl will pat her on the back and let her burrow, then.

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Eventually, Diana's Feelscoasterâ„¢ pulls out of a rapid gaywards spiral and starts oscillating between "Deskyl is really good" and "there was stuff I maybe wanted to do with blasters?", and her intellect resolves this by - oh, she still has to do systems checks, phooey, but the Force is with her, so it's not as onerous as by-handing it, and she has always had a knack for the fiddly things - eventually settling her in in Deskyl's lap, still, but now with at least three datapads while she tinkers with engineering a blaster that shoots three blasts at the same time; she can do a lot of that even while she's a bit muzzy and wibbly, because past Diana was helpful and set up things for future Dianas, with R4's help - he's a good droid did Deskyl know that?  It's true! - to have virtual assistance on tap, specs and simulations...

(Why's she making this?  Because most lightsabers only block lines.)

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Sure, that can happen.

Deskyl still needs rather a lot of sleep; when Diana goes to tell her about R4 she finds that she's dozed off, leaning against the wall.

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D'aww!  Let's get her in a comfy bed instead, that's a better place to sleep!  Diana is stronk.  She lifts.  She can make this happen!

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Deskyl stirs only slightly as Diana moves her. (DZ follows them into Deskyl's cabin without comment.)

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...does Deskyl like gentle petting?  Inquiring Dianas wish to know.

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She squirms, slightly, not seeming to know what to make of it, and wakes. "Buh?"

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"You fell asleep standing up. And then looked really cute.  Um.  Should I not...?"  She waves in the general direction of the hand that's probably still touching Deskyl, and blushes.

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Diana is - frozen in place, and worried, and really worried, she - wants to respect Deskyl and do nice things for her and she thought maybe this thing would be nice but she can't read minds and probably should have asked --

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Deskyl directs Diana to sit at the table, shoos DZ out of the room entirely, and shifts to a meditative pose.

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And...Diana follows the cue?

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After a moment something gently touches her mind through the Force, quickly resolving into a sense of Deskyl's presence. Oh, you only meant that. That's - I'll have to think about it. Less of a big deal, anyway. I'm not mad, you just startled me. Diana can tell that she's a bit shaken, and slightly standoffish as a result, but that's all.

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oh okay

She's still desperately apologetic underneath that, but...yay?  Nothing seems to be ruined?

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There's a wordless sense of Deskyl having seen the apologeticness, and - while slightly confused at the details of it - accepted the apology, and then her presence fades and she goes to get DZ.

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Diana slooooowly exhales the breath she was subconsciously holding.  Phew.

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Deskyl is back after a moment.

    "She says to tell you that she can't use that technique very often - if she does too much of it she ends up unable to stop, for that person."

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"...I mean, I don't know if she minds, and am assuming she probably would, but...I don't think I would mind all that much, and most of that more because of reflexive embarrassment at exposing people to my weird thoughts than, intrinsic desire to not share them.  With Deskyl, at least, under the assumption that she's been...generally self-similar?  That she's not in some incredibly unlikely lacuna of possible Deskyl-states, that will collapse when something else happens?  ...It's so hard to put the thing I'm thinking about why in the galaxy's breadth I'd trust her to know my mind more than - I don't know, my Jedi friends - but, somehow it's there, and of course it's all feelings-y because rationally speaking I should be running away screaming, but that's just wrong, and, the Force agrees?  ...is it something I could learn, this technique or an equivalent?"

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    "It's an intermediate sensory technique, she says, ma'am, and you can probably learn it - there's also a counter, but it's more complex. For now she'd like to sleep, though."

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"Of course.  Sleep well, Deskyl."

And Diana heads off to...probably get changed because ugh robe and then tinker and - she'll grieve some more later.

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Deskyl's back in the galley for lunch at the expected time.

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Diana...isn't?

R4 wheels through the door with the wrench emblem on it, breebling aggressively.

Aha.  There she is.  Being physically nudged by the droid.

"Got a little bit lost in trying to actually put this - " it looks more like some sort of half-assembled Mandalorian armor than anything you'd expect to see on a Jedi, though it's not like Diana hasn't been consistently wearing at least some armor day-to-day, "- together; it's not got anything volatile in, yet, or I wouldn't bring it out, but I think it'll be pretty useful fighting saber-wielders once it's done!  Much like my green saber, where I can parry and also shoot someone with stunners."  Diana puts the bracer back, and busies herself getting lunch.

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Huh, okay. (Nom.)

Sign sign -

   "Master Diana?"

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"Mmhmm?"

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    "Master Deskyl says that she should probably teach you some Sith meditation exercises. Tonight after dinner, perhaps."

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"Oh, probably!  I haven't exactly had much trouble with meditation-by-getting-lost-in-my-work, but I imagine that the more standard 'clear your mind' osik is counterproductive to Sithness!  Sounds like a good plan, thank you for even offering!  You - aren't obligated to, at all, and you're doing it anyway, y'know?  So...thanks, Deskyl."

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    "She says she wouldn't have offered if she didn't want to, ma'am."

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"Well, yes, but it should still be acknowledged?  Gratitude for favors done is, important, or you get entitlement.  And I don't want to be an asshole!  So you're getting thanked!"

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She considers this for a minute, then shrugs and goes back to her lunch.

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Fair enough!  Lunch passes quietly, then, though Diana does get a bit weepy as thoughts drift through her no-longer-hyperfocused mind.  She's fine, though, or as fine as she can be when people are dying that's bad she doesn't like that.

She adds an item to her list: Research Force Ghosts.

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Deskyl stretches in her chair when she's done eating, and heads over to the cargo bay to do some simple Soresu katas.

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Seeing Deskyl heading off to do her katas reminds Diana that in the bleary mess of this morning, she didn't do hers - and since there's enough space down there for two people, she may as well join her fellow Force-Sensitive.

She's actually doing quite a few of the same katas as Deskyl; she has a more intensive and expansive overall routine, though, and it seems to involve moving objects in increasingly more convoluted patterns while she's practicing, R4 beeping signals and sigils at her from various positions as she goes.

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Deskyl calls a halt to her own workout after barely more than a wamup. (She'd wanted to do more, but in her current physical condition she might make mistakes, and while she doesn't expect to make any serious ones, having Diana notice even a relatively minor one seems like it might complicate what's already a complex interpersonal situation. Or maybe not, Jedi are very weird, but she's going to err on the side of caution here.) Instead of leaving, though, she hangs around to watch Diana.

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Diana works her way from Soresu, through Djem So, through Makashi, through Shien, and back to Soresu, weaving in Jar'Kai and Trakata (to wit, she's using both one and multiple blades and turning them off and on as she moves, especially her double-bladed saber); she also practices any Ataru, especially in conjunction with Form V, but clearly believes it to have limited situational use, based on how little of it makes it into her drills.

By the time she's done, she's breathing heavily, but she's glowing in the Force from the joy of moving well.

Her concurrent Force practice, meanwhile, consists of levitating several pouches' worth of hexagonal metal discs in patterns, when she's not specifically training versatility by rotating shelves on the fly, or dis- and reassembling (dummy) blasters.

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    "Well done, she says, ma'am."

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She gives a performer's curtsey, with a small grin on her face, before returning to a more serious expression.

"I have to be very good at fighting to leave the people I fight, in the concentrations I fight them at, more often alive than not.  So I practice very hard.  I think it's worth it."

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Deskyl nods.

    "She says 'that's not easy to do, with Sith', ma'am."

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"It really, really isn't, no.  Though I often only need retreat, when I fight one.  That eases the matter somewhat."

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"Mmhmm."

    "She says 'Darths won't usually let you get away with that'."

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"I don't expect I'll have the luxury of sparing them, should it come to blows, no."

She sighs; her emotions are a mixture of distant grief, determination, and grim resolve.  "The Empire needs to go.  The tradeoff in lives is too great, even if it is my hand that takes them."

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    "Yes ma'am."

 

    "Have you had an opportunity to think about how you're going to want to approach that?"

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"I have much less skill at politics than strategy, and less skill at strategy than tactics.  Taking down the Empire, or stopping its atrocities...

"I'm likely going to need help, there; that much I know.

"Really, the key problem is making sure that it won't immediately explode with the Emperor dead.  The rest is cultural and can actually be solved in a cultural manner, to wit, beating up Sith Lords."

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    "She says you'll have the same problem she was expecting to with Lord Pritruth, with the Emperor - everyone near him in the hierarchy will be trying to kill you while you're weakened from the fight, to take the empire for themselves. Which will be very much like it exploding; she's not sure that's avoidable. Her plan for when she killed Pritruth won't work there, either."

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"...Hmmm.  How soon will they be doing that?  Because I can get allies to watch my back, and they can't."

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    "That specifically she expects to be essentially immediate, ma'am, but it's not uncommon for Sith of that rank to be patient enough to wait for an opening. Your ability to work together is a known strength of Jedi, though, she says - she expects you to be attacked by the Dark Council and other powerful Sith, but many of them will also attack each other if the Emperor falls, if they think that's their best route to a position they'll like in the new order."

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"...I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understand what you're implying; can you - expand that out a step, especially the 'known strength of Jedi' bit, and whether you expect the new order thing to produce action for or against un-horrible-ifying things?"

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Deskyl and DZ sign back and forth for a minute, after DZ offers a polite 'one moment, please, ma'am'.

    "Master Deskyl expects that most of the high-ranking Sith will attack whoever defeats the Emperor immediately after he's defeated, in order to take advantage of any injuries, exhaustion, or other effects on them from the battle with him. But she doesn't expect all of them to do so; some will try other strategies, likely including fleeing, taking revenge on Sith they disliked but were prevented from killing by the Emperor, or killing other Sith or otherwise capturing their resources in hopes of convincing whoever ultimately achieves control of the empire of their strength or usefulness. She doesn't know enough about Dark Council or their internal politics to make specific predictions; she just notes that this is typical behavior for experienced Sith in a situation like that. In particular she doesn't expect someone who defeats the Emperor to face an alliance of more than, at most, two or three Council members, and it's very likely that their attacks will interfere with each other, or that they'll attack each other outright in hopes of improving their chances of taking the emperorship. She expects this to happen regardless of who defeats the Emperor; it's unrelated to whether he's defeated by someone who will improve things. Jedi don't behave that way - she's not entirely sure why, but it seems to be related to the fact that you aren't involved in governing - and that makes you more able to act as groups in coordinated ways, without infighting, which is a noticeable strategic advantage."

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"Thank you; I was under the impression that you were saying that, but couldn't entirely rule out other potential meanings."

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"It seems that the situation that is likely to be most necessary to have a good plan for recovering from is 'literally the entire Sith Empire is backstabbing itself'.  That's kind of horrifying, honestly; how it's survived this long is becoming more and more of a mystery with every new fact I learn about it."

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Dekyl nods again.

    "That's mostly accomplished via a combination of top-down and lateral defense, ma'am - Master Deskyl and her co-prentice Lord Grauzatis would have killed each other, but Lord Pritruth disallowed it and would have killed either of them if they'd tried; many of Lord Pritruth's clients would be more than happy to take his facility for themselves, but his other clients would object to losing access to his services and would cooperate to defend him against that."

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"Good grief."

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    "Yes ma'am."

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"...Is there something I should know about this Lord Grauzatis fellow?"

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Deskyl is slightly more insistent about the calming effect, this time, though if Diana hasn't taken it after a moment she'll signal for DZ to go ahead anyway.

    "He's studying torture, ma'am."

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"...for what possible kriffing reason?!  Oh wait it's the institutional kriffing suffering fetish, kriffing banthashit Sith philosophy --"

Diana pauses.  Takes a deep breath.  The swirl of emotions she's feeling becomes more stable, controlled, though it's certainly not denied.

"I see why you want him dead.  You know him better than I ever could.  Will he stop, when he's told to?  Was this research his idea?"

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Deskyl sighs.

    "Killing him would arguably be a mercy, she says, ma'am. He won't have much left without his research."

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"...Empty void, that's just...sad."

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Nod.

    "Lord Pritruth has gotten better at not breaking his apprentices since Lord Grauzatis, she says, ma'am."

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Diana opens her mouth, but no words come out for a good few tries.

"That should not have to be a skill that one learns.

"It's different from being a good teacher, but, not hurting your students and certainly never leaving them worse off for learning, is a minimum for being a teacher at all."

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Shrug.

    "Nobody was going to stop him, she says, ma'am."

 

    "She says that the two of you could, though."

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"Then let's...do that.  Stop him, and stop the structure above him from replacing him with someone who perpetuates the cyclical abuse, and eventually just stop the whole kriffing Empire.  I think we can.  I think we should.  ...You in?"

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    "She says she'll need another month or two of recovery, ma'am."

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"Certainly, I wouldn't want to be unprepared.  That time estimate...Is it calculated with or without the aid of healing techniques such as may be learned by Jedi?  I can learn more than I know."

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    "She doesn't expect healing to help beyond what it has, ma'am. Most of what she needs is to get back into fighting form."

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"Oh!  I actually know techniques specifically for that sort of thing!  I could teach you them!  I wonder if they can be improved by feeding them emotions?  And, I heard something about Sith Alchemy once?"

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    "She is absolutely not going to do Sith Alchemy to herself, ma'am."

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"Yeah I kind of figured, I just wanted to see if there was something she knew to be potentially useful that I would not be capable of knowing because, Jedi.  I'll get you a holocron of the reinforcement stuff later?"

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    "Yes ma'am, she says thank you."

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"We're allies and hopefully friends; we help eachother.  ...that said, I have a vague impression that I'd be making a hypocrite of myself if I brushed this off as nothing, so, you're welcome?  I'm going to go encode the - oh, are we going to have weird holocron compatibility problems?  Is that a thing?  I don't think it's a thing if I make the holocron myself since I'm sure you're not evil, but I figure I'd better ask, just in case."

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    "She doesn't expect it to be, ma'am. And there's a chance she'll be able to work with standard Jedi holocrons even if most Sith can't, though she won't want to do it very often."

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"That makes sense, the...flip-flopping back and forth would suck."

Anyway!  Diana must go tinker!

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And Deskyl will go sleep! She's a little late to dinner, but not by much.

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And Diana hands her a holocron!  "I don't know if this helps with specifically making 'I've-been-injured-and-need-to-recover' faster, but reliably doing these exercises should boost your physical capabilities all around; strength, speed, reaction time, nutritional efficiency...  It's incremental, but it lasts.  It'll hit diminishing returns eventually, because there's only so much you can make a given body do without getting into mad biology, and the Jedi are notoriously not prone to - well, most of them thought I had lost something when I got this cool mechanical arm - let alone treating genetics like a salad bar, but it works at getting any given body to peak condition."

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    "She says thank you, ma'am. And she's curious about your arm, is it a special design?"

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"Mhm!  Made it myself, actually.  Well, not all alone, but the hardware was my work.  Some friends helped with the nerve interface and software."

R4's smug breebling indicates who one of those friends is.

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    "She'd be very interested in learning how to make artificial limbs that don't affect Force use, ma'am."

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"...Well, if that's a thing, I haven't noticed?  ...Add kyber?"

She seems to be genuinely confused by this.  "I don't know for sure why this is a thing people are experiencing to begin with anyway, but if I was to generate a hypothesis, it's because most people seem to reject the idea that their artificial limb is theirs, while I've, done this."  She has microtools in her fingers.  She has a grappling hook in her forearm.  "This is my arm.  I would be less without it; I'm morewith it."

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Huh.

    "She's met Sith with artificial limbs before, but she says it's hard to know whether the Force trouble was caused by the dissatisfaction with the limb, or vice versa, or something else. She thinks adding a kyber crystal or two might help regardless, though."

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"You can't really go wrong with adding kyber crystals to things, I do quite agree."

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Heh.

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"...Oh no, now that I'm thinking about it I'm giving myself ideas.  And I don't have to go - restraining myself, about them, now!  ...Pending availability of crystals to work with, I suppose, which...isn't trivial."

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    "She does have a spare Sith kyber, she says, but she says it wouldn't suit you."

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"Mm?  Not that I doubt that, but I'm curious why?"

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    "Sith kybers are - the direct translation of the word is 'dominated', but that loses nuance, ma'am. 'Corrupted' might be closer. I can get it if you'd like to see it."

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"...Well, I'm certainly dreadfully curious."

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"Yes ma'am."

She brings the crystal out in a small padded carrying case; the crystal inside is a deep red shade not found in natural kyber crystals, and the fabric around it is lightly stained with the same shade of red. It has a gentle presence in the Force, like all kybers, but where Jedi kybers are simply there, this crystal seems withdrawn, almost sad.

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"...may I..."  Diana is already reaching out to touch the crystal, but she slows herself for long enough to ask.

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Deskyl considers this for a moment.

    "She says you can hold it but not do anything else to it, ma'am; red kybers are prone to cracking when mishandled."

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"I, see...It's so sad..."

She cradles the crystal gently.

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    "Yes ma'am. She says that's typical of Sith kybers not yet installed in lightsabers."

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"...I want to tell it everything's going to be alright...please?"

Her eyes are welling up with sympathetic tears...Diana is clearly extending her compassion to a sad, shiny rock.

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    "She says 'carefully', ma'am," DZ reports as she retreats to the cover of the doorway.

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Then Diana ever-so-gently reaches out to the kyber crystal cupped in her hands, the lightest of light touches, and offers.

It's an open-ended sort of offer, really; to listen most of all, because she cares about what the crystal (could be said to) wants.  She prefers a world in which that which can be happy and fulfilled, is.  Including crystals.

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The crystal doesn't respond.

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Maybe if she runs the tiniest amount of Force through it...?

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That does... something, it's not very clear what.

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...maybe a little more, but if it starts vibrating or straining or something...no more.

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Deskyl is in her space and taking the crystal out of her hand before she can get much farther than that.

    "She said no, ma'am."

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"...yeah, I don't actually know how Jedi do the thing.  I know they can, though!"

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"Hm?"

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"Jedi can do something to this sort of kyber crystal to make them...not this?"

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"Huh."

    "She says if you find out what, and talk to her about it first, she'll consider allowing it."

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"Yeah, it's - " scritch scritch pen to flimsiplast "- on the list."

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    "Yes ma'am. She's curious what else is on the list, if you're comfortable sharing?"

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"Stuff I intend to do or look up when next I'm at the Temple, mostly.  Assuming they don't exile me."

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"Mm."

    "Do you have a sense of how that's likely to go, ma'am?"

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"I have absolutely no idea!  ...Probably shouldn't bring you there, though, that would go badly."

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    "She's not willing to risk her life for it, no ma'am."

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"I doubt the Emperor himself, in a scenario where he can actually try instead of being busy wrangling the Empire, would want to risk it."

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This gets another chuckle.

    "Are you sure you want to go yourself, ma'am?"

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"It's not about whether I want to, though on the balance I think it's better I do than not; it's about whether I should, and I do think that I should - go back home, for all that it wasn't the home I might have wished for, before I might have to leave that home forever.  And copy all the books."

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    "She meant are you sure they'll just exile you, ma'am. She says that if they don't trust you that seems like an unwise way for them to handle it."

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"It's the only option that actually exists, as long as you're not Dark, for getting someone out of the Order that doesn't want to leave.  Sure, they could try to assign me to meditative contemplation but I can tell them to stuff it, I'm called by the Force, and by their own code they can't stop me.  Somewhat like the inverse of Sith law enforcement."

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Huh.

    "She says 'all right', ma'am."

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"Yeah, it's kind of neat, isn't it?  Even if you discount the people who're in it because they do things that way because that's just how it is, if you can get powerful people who value others cooperating, you have a potent, somewhat self-reinforcing, mechanism, as the people who care flock to that banner and build it further up, increasing its ability to apply pressure.  The weak can rule the strong if there's a lot of them in on it."

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    "She doesn't see how that follows, ma'am."

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"...huh.  Well.  Let's see if I can make a metaphor...You're Lord Whatshisface.  You are a powerful Sith, you can defeat any other person on this planet by cutting them down with your lightsaber, you can effortlessly deflect the blaster bolts fired by their defense forces with your blade.

"Except the thing is, your blade can only be in one place at once, so while those defense forces are shooting you in the front, someone sneaks up and shoots you from behind, because they all agree that they don't like the idea of some dude with a lightsaber killing them."

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   "She says 'go on', ma'am."

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"That's the way Jedi work, institutionally.  If one of us decides they want to be Lord Whatshisface, they get dogpiled."

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    "She says 'yes, but cooperating to avoid being dominated is different from cooperating to achieve some other goal', ma'am."

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"...?"

"It's just...the same principle of many hands making light work?  I don't understand the objection, honestly...it makes fundamental sense to not reduplicate effort?"

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    "That's true if people want the same things as each other, she says, ma'am, but in her experience they generally don't, with obvious exceptions like 'kill the person who's hurting all of them'."

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"Not all people want the same things, but most of the things people want aren't things that are directly wanted to not be things by a countervailing force; the person who makes machinery doesn't care if their neighbor is an artist or a holojournalist, and there are ways to resolve, e.g., noise complaints that infringe upon neither's desires, e.g. soundproofing."

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    "She says that in her experience most things are more like the kyber crystal - she wants it as backup in case anything happens to her lightsaber, or so that she can make a spare, and you want it for your own purposes, and only one of you can have it, which brings you into conflict."

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"Sure, but we can get another crystal if we wait."

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    "This time, yes, ma'am, but she says that's not usually the case."

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"I will admit that there's sometimes only so much available...but there's often a lot more than anyone actually needs, that's just being distributed poorly."

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    "Very few people are satisfied only having what they strictly need, she says, ma'am. Especially when the thing they want is something that no one else strictly needs, either."

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Diana wibbles her hand a bit.  "...I mean, yes and no?  But even most wants are reasonably well-provisionable.  Even the kind of absurd ones like 'people who want to be tortured' have some available supply.  It's just when people start hoarding that there's a problem."

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Shrug.

    "That hasn't been Master Deskyl's experience, ma'am, but she says maybe it's different for people who aren't Sith."

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"...The one thing that almost all Sith want, that is exponentially limited in availability, is power-over.  I think that's why we have such different experiences."

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    "She says that's certainly part of it, yes ma'am, though she's fairly sure it isn't specific to Sith."

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"Not specific to Sith, no, but unusually selected for, amongst and around them, I think.  Most people want at least most of the people they see, day to day, to - be happy, I suppose?  And Sith philosophy...actively discourages that."

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    "She says that it's a dangerous thing to want around Sith, yes ma'am."

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"...yeah.  Yeah."  Diana sighs, sadness making a resurgence in her mood.  "I wish there was a better way to change that than the present plan."

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    "Well, the two of you will do the best you can, she says. Would you still like to learn some of the meditation exercises she knows, tonight?"

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"...I think I would, yes."

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    "She says that she has two that she'd like you to try, tonight. The first one is to spend some time thinking about things you want - in any sense, whether that's wanting to gain them, wanting not to lose them, wanting to avoid them, and so on - and noting how they make you feel; try to think of at least five of them. You may want to make a list; Master Deskyl says that you can consider it private if you do, she won't need to see it. The next step, if you feel ready to move on with this exercise, is to notice how the you feel about the emotions those things evoke, paying particular attention to emotions that you tend to avoid or dislike. The second exercise is to consider a few of the things you want, that evoke strong emotions that you aren't inclined to avoid, and think of associations you have with those things; the point of this exercise is to determine how to bring them to mind more easily, to evoke the associated emotions. If one thing from the first exercise is clearly much more important than the rest, you can focus on that; otherwise she'd like you to do this for at least two but no more than four things, and they should evoke emotions that are as different as possible. Do you have any questions, ma'am?"

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"That sounds reasonably straightforward."

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    "She says 'that's the idea', ma'am."

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"That's good.  ...I'll go get started, shall I?"

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    "She says 'if you'd like', ma'am."

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"Mmmmm."  Would she?  She will, but would she?

She's honestly worried about what she might find, in the end.

She tries so hard, but her judgement is still fallible, still generated in a bundle of synapses made of meat.

So if she's got some deep-seated harmful urge...she almost wants to avoid ever looking too closely, lest it swallow her.

You cannot fight an enemy you are not aware of, however, so she must look.

Perhaps this counts as part of the exercise, for that matter; it's certainly a desire.

She writes it down:

Fear of subconsciously desiring something that would harm others or myself.  Dread, fear, guilt.  Ew.

...And the complement makes sense to add -

Drive to promote sapient flourishing - compassion, reflected joy, sense of deep rightness.

What else does she want?

Sparring: Exhilaration.

Tinkering: Intellectual stimulation, curiosity, light-side version of confusion.

People to *stop being assholes, for Force's sake*: Indignation, justice, revenge?, depression.

Death Is Bad: Fear, worry, determination, yearning, compassion.

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Diana muses, for a moment, but there are two clear focuses for things she thinks she could draw upon in most circumstances: Compassion, and - she pauses for a moment, thinks about what would make the right word - perhaps, plausibly, verve.  Perhaps instead the flow state.  Regardless, she knows the feeling; describing it to others is where potential problems can arise.

Righteous indignation is a solid contender, but...she dislikes it.

If she had been mainlining righteous indignation when they met, Deskyl would likely be dead right now.  Diana doesn't like the thought of being like that outside emergencies, where every tool must be on the table to its fullest extent.

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The meditation settled...Diana sleeps.

Night passes, and morning follows.

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Morning, and breakfast.

    "Good morning, ma'am. Master Deskyl says 'how did the exercises go?'."

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"The most I can confidently say is that they went, but I do think they went well.  Or well enough.

"What would you look for, when attempting to judge progress...?"

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    "She says that at this point the goal is for you to build the habit of paying attention to what you want, and for you to become comfortable with the emotions that your wants evoke, ma'am; she says that these exercises should also help with identifying a range of touchstone concepts that you can use to evoke various emotions in yourself, and with learning to use them in a wider variety of situations, but that's secondary. She doesn't expect much if any progress on any of those yet, though; she says that you're still putting together the basic concepts. You may want to try drawing on your emotions while sparring or otherwise using the Force today, though, she says; many Force-sensitives find it intuitive, and it will be a good measure of your progress over time."

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"...What does that do to the basic stuff?  I've spent a while getting some down to reflex, I don't want to mess all that up."

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    "She says that since you're not Dark, it should just empower it, ma'am, and not interfere with your existing habits."

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"Huh.  Well, some of that will require adjustment, but it's practice I should do anyway...I'm going to need more space than just the cargo hold as it is now..."

...Well, she can practice her telekinesis, then!  There's nothing that's that fragile that a bump will break it down there...

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Deskyl turns out to be able to produce a standing telekinetic field effect that slows anything that comes into range of it, which is quite helpful for not bumping things in the first place.

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Oh, well, that gets her a thankful grin from Diana as it saves her poor spaceship from a dented wall!

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Hee.

    "She says 'more than you were expecting?', ma'am."

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"Just a bit!  Really neat trick, actually...huh, I wonder..."

Say, if she does this and that and those and then hooks them all together...

After quite a bit of fiddly Force-work, she drops a wrench into the reengineered technique, which seems to slow its fall to nothing with its own redirected momentum, then plucks it out again.  "...haha, yes!  It works!  I'd been trying to get that to work properly for years but the way I instinctively attempted to construct it tended to explode when subjected to high force; this should've broken it if I was testing my normal variant but the way you did the anchor just works to stabilize the entire design!  It's got a pretty complicated grounding in tutaminis theory, but I think it's actually practicable if you want to try?  I feel like I should be teaching you at least something after all of this!"

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    "She says it should probably wait until after lunch when she's fresh, but she'd like that, ma'am."

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"Then I'll certainly do so!"

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    "Master Deskyl says 'thank you', ma,am. And that you're doing well so far, but there's another exercise that you should do soon that the Sith version of can't quite be repurposed for: You need to be able to evoke emotions that you can draw on during all kinds of battle scenarios. She says that Sith handle this by practicing with the emotions that occur naturally during them, but there's a risk of falling to the Dark if you do that; she thinks that your best option is to think of other emotions that you would find easy to access during various parts of battle, and then practice evoking those."

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"I see.  That does seem like it could go some very dark places, indeed.  I'll have to work something out.  Thank you for the warning."

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Deskyl nods.

    "She says that she'll be ready to spar with you soon, ma'am, and that her emotion projection effect is also useful for practice if you'd like."

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"I...yes, I think so.  As long as...you're confident in making sure I don't explode or...something, I think.  I want to take this as carefully as I can."

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    "You won't, she says, ma'am. Even most Sith don't actually fall."

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"...huh.  Well, then.  I suppose, whenever you're ready," she trips over a missing word, "Deskyl?"

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    "After dinner, she says, if you'd like, ma'am. And her title is Xaari, if you'd like to use it."

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"Yes, I quite would."  The faint blush she has is not mentioned.  "Xaari Deskyl.  ...It suits you.  The sound of it.  ...Does it mean something specific?"

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    "It's a Sith title, ma'am. The common ones are Kissai, Xaari, Jari, and Urvaz, usually translated as acolyte, apprentice, lord, and Darth."

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"So I would be Kissai Diana?"  ...oh Force why this.  Why oh why those syllables!

"...How in the sea of stars did Urvaz get translated as a different nonword, anyway?"  Look, a distraction!  She's curious!

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    "Darth was originally a loanword into Basic from the Atex language, ma'am, where it's a similar title. And Jedi converts start at Xaari rank - being accepted by a master grants it, and that's required for converting Jedi."

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"Huh, that's really quite interesting."  Her voice is kind of strangely...floaty?  Like she's relieved, but there's hardly much to be relieved about.  Unless of course you're paying attention to the way a certain emotion has just vanished.

R4 breebles smugly.

"Lost parts.  Tubes."

"Ahem.  So I'd be Xaari Diana, then?  Assuming we even keep the whole...edifice.  I'm not sure if I think either Jedi or Sith do learning in a particularly good fashion."

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    "Yes ma'am. And Master Deskyl agrees; she's certainly not giving you traditional Sith training, even if what she's teaching you borrows heavily from it."

Deskyl pulls the spare chair around next to hers and pats it, giving Diana a questioning look.

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...Diana is almost shocked, but...she does move to the chair that's next to Deskyl.

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Then she can have Deskyl's arm around her shoulders, and a kiss on the cheek.

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...

 

She's not hallucinating this.

 

She's not hallucinating this?

 

She's not hallucinating this?

 

She's practically adrift on a sea of poorly-understood emotions, but...there's happiness.  Wow.

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Yeah, that sounds about right.

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Deskyl doesn't escalate, aside from petting Diana's hair a little bit. But she doesn't seem in a hurry to leave, either.

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...Diana is having a religious experience.  Especially with the hair-petting.  Force preserve her, she's smitten.

Or possibly she's been smote?

Words are not important while the hairpetting continues to happen!

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...Wow.

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"R4 don't you dare," she mumbles, with barely any heat.

She's a bit busy with experiencing whatever this experience is, to have room for grumpiness.

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Deskyl giggles a bit, but doesn't stop petting.

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Diana beams happily at hearing Deskyl giggle!  That's a goodsound!

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This gets her another peck on the cheek.

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!!!!!

Beam!  Hug!  Maybe even...also cheekpeck?  This is so nice!

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Deskyl does not object to Also Cheekpeck. Hairpetting and hugs continue.

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Eventually Diana might actually regain capacity for reasoned thought.  Eventually.

In the meantime...she is one very melty gay mess.

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That's fine, Deskyl's got nowhere to be.

Eventually, though:

    "Was there anything you wanted to get done this morning, ma'am?"

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"...R4?"

Breeble breeble breeble glonk.

"....As much as I wish that I could just...

"...that felt really nice...

"I do have some tasks to do."

Diana pouts at entropy, as if that will stop it.

"And I should probably finish the various bits of tinkering..."

She regretfully probably has to stop getting pets for this, which is the saddest part.

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One last scritch, and Deskyl stops.

    "She says she'll still be here later, ma'am."

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"That's really good."

Human vocal cords, and most near-human vocal cords are not optimized for purring.  This doesn't stop her.

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That's really cute.

Deskyl considers for a moment, and sends DZ to get her embroidery kit and the shirt she was rescued in, which she's adding a starburst motif to the sleeves of.

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Diana, meanwhile, is going to - well first there are chores but after that - tinker!

The triple-shot blaster idea isn't bad but she could block it without even straining using just one of her sabers for most shot configurations and getting the geometry right for the others probably would be a massive pain that's still not not worth doing, maybe a pattern that's more like the inevitable stylization of birds in flight instead of an equilateral triangle; spread out, but no, the more effective solution is to simply add more bolts, so that's what she's going to do, she can go to...nine, that should actually allow her to work with what she's already built, plus defeat any single Jedi's ability to saber-block without having two of her blue saber, which is just not something anyone does since at that point it's so much more likely that they'd get in your way than solve problems; they shouldn't actually need to be more than a couple shots but let's see how much ammunition she can fit in, and if the design requires the Force to use that's probably actually all to the better at this particular moment because it preserves Force-user advantage over random assholes trying to kill them, though long-term that's probably not actually good, in a kind society, to have people who're immune to consequences wandering around, hmm...It can wait til later.  World's on fire right now.

 

Hours later, she comes out of her workshop for lunch!

"Hey Deskyl, want to help test this?  It's kitted with training blasters because I do keep the hardware around just in case I find a stray Padawan, and I could do this myself but I want to see if it's good for others to use too, y'know?"

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    "She says 'sure', ma'am."

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The firing range is this way, then, now here's how you shoot this thing!  ...and Diana is jumping into the actual "range" part?  "Figure that if we want to test this, we should test it against a target as close to realistic as possible, so...Unless you have any objections?"

(It seems Diana has training sabers, because if they're going through with this, she ignites them; they're a pale yellow characteristic of the type, but in her preferred blade shapes.)

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Deskyl makes a face when she lights the training sabers.

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"What's wrong?  I don't want to carve up the ship."

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The look shifts to one of skepticism tinged with concern.

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"Is this a Sith thing?  Most Jedi use these for pretty much any training exercise.  Sometimes it's a switch in their actual lightsaber, even.  No reason to cause unnecessary damage, even if I don't have any reason to think that's something I should worry about.  And I still have my actual sabers here, if I need them."  There they are!

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    "She says that most Sith consider nonlethal lightsabers degrading, ma'am, if they're aware that they exist at all - she didn't until she started learning lightsaber engineering."

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...Oh empty void why does that almost feel nice.

"Well, I'll just have to give a good accounting of myself despite the seeming handicap, then!  Jedi philosophy is that you shouldn't use more than necessary force, generally; that means, these."

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She only mostly manages to suppress the full-body shudder, twitching slightly instead; it's more obvious in the Force that she's still quite disturbed. But she takes the blaster rather than say anything further, checking its power setting before doing anything else with it.

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"...Yeah, I have no idea why I felt that either."

Each of the nine individual blaster pistol firing mechanisms is physically incapable of outputting damaging fire without first being reassembled!

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    "She says that's not what bothered her, ma'am - one moment."

Deskyl leans against the wall and looks at the ceiling, gesturing inscrutably; it seems like she's calculating something.

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"...Trust me, I've been hit by thousands of those, it's a bit of a sting, but even in larger volumes it's safe as long as they don't all hit the same point at once.  Even without my armor on."  (And she has it on, though she's waiting to put on her helmet until Deskyl's ready.)

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She finishes her calculation before answering:

    "She says it's her responsibility as the one wielding it to check, ma'am, but she's ready now."

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"That's very good practice, honestly.  Alright," she pulls her helmet on, "fire when ready, Deskyl!"

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Pew!

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And Diana only barely manages to deflect all nine of the bolts, even with her incredibly overengineered sabers and the skill and speed to move both of them into blocking positions that would have quite a few people taking self-inflicted injuries!  "...Good, that means that the most I'll need is two of these.  Or shooting with my blaster-saber as well."

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    "She says 'well done', ma'am."

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"Thank you!  I'm glad this works!  I should see if I can get any balanced weight and kickback distributions that nonetheless don't end up with any symmetry to the shots..."

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    "She knows some tricks for that, she says, but they'd all require a kyber crystal."

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"Ooh, I'd love to hear about those, but I was actually thinking about just throwing this at one of R4's engineering sims and seeing if the math works out.  Being able to do spread-out shots too would be neat..."

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    "Yes ma'am. She says you both should have lunch first, though."

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"...That's probably a good idea!"

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Lunch it is, then. She invites Diana to sit next to her again.

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Diana is very eager to accept that invitation!

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No hairpetting this time, Deskyl needs her hands for signing, though conveniently enough she can sign with one hand full so she can eat while she does. She does seem a bit more hesitant about it, though, pausing to think about how to word things more often than she usually does.

    "She says she genuinely doesn't mind that you reacted the way you did, ma'am, or that you think of her that way in general; you're right that she's not really interested in things like that, but she does like you, and she doesn't see a reason for you to avoid that kind of thing if it feels right to you."

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"...You'll tell me if it's ever making you uncomfortable, okay?  Please?  It's - important to me, even moreso if - I allow myself to - think along those lines, to know that - I'm not accidentally hurting you?  Please."

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This gets Diana a brief hairpet.

    "She says 'of course', ma'am. But she really doesn't expect it."

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Oooh, hairpets continue to be really nice.  ...She did good?

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Apparently! And now, back to eating.

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Mmm, food is good.  ...Deskyl's really really good though, goodness.

Diana eventually finishes her lunch!

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Deskyl, less distracted, has finished first and put her arm back around Diana's shoulder.

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This does not make Diana any less distracted from food!

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Well, no, it wouldn't, but that's not the only priority here, see? If she seems to object Deskyl will back off.

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Oh, there's definitely no objections whatsoever, goodness no, absolutely not!

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She would have been pretty surprised if there were!

 

Lunch does need to be eaten; she will nudge Diana to this effect from time to time if need be.

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Diana can manage to eat any food, she's just also getting lost in fuzzy happyfeels in between bites of lunch.

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That's fine.

When she's done:

    "Master Deskyl says she needs a nap if she's going to spar with you after dinner, ma'am," and Deskyl gives her a squeeze before letting her go.

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"That sounds like a plan."

And Diana is going to coincidentally be in her - Diana's - bunk for other important reasons.

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Diana seems like she's managed to release a bit of tension when Deskyl sees her at the table for dinner; she's set up an empty place setting next to her chair on her own initiative.

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Oh good.

There's no hairpetting over dinner - let's not fall directly back into the cuddle pit, here - but there can be hugs, perhaps even slightly lingering ones afterward, and then Deskyl will suggest that they head to the cargo bay for sparring.

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D'aww, but hairpets are so nice!  But not getting distracted is pretty important!  ...Hugs are also nice so that works as far as cuddlepit avoidance!

 

"So, how do you want to do this?  I want to...do this right, helpfully, but I'm not - usually this is the healers' jobs, not mine?  So I don't precisely know how this should go.  I have vague intuitions, but they're mostly 'be careful' and 'Force's sake, no live weapons', which - I probably should have asked how you built your saber but I do have a generic training saber here?  If you need one?  And of course I don't intend to use anything that has a lethal setting in training..."

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    "She says 'do you know how to pull a saber strike?', ma'am."

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"I do, but - it's actually advised against to practice like that?  If you have training weapons; I dunno Sith protocol, but pulling strikes trains you to reflexively pull strikes, and I know that I do want to be able to do that, but I need to have reflexes that are also not doing that, and I assume you do too?"

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"...Unless you mean literally pulling it which I do also actually know how to do!"

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    "She says that Sith don't touch training sabers, ma'am; as far as training concerns, katas and other non-sparring practice are sufficient to train killing blows, and training with live weapons allows better calibration and integration of their danger sense - have you noticed that Sith don't dodge non-injurious strikes?"

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"...Huh.  That's pretty interesting, actually.  We are, however, still on a spaceship.  Unfortunately.  Even if the hold's rather durable, it's still probably not the best idea?  Don't want to hit something important in the walls."

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     "Master Deskyl is confident that she can spar without damaging anything; she says that if you aren't, you can use the training saber until you are. Assuming it's designed to be able to parry a full lightsaber; if it isn't, she can make that modification if you aren't familiar with it."

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"...Mmmm.  It's not that I'm not confident that in most circumstances it won't even come up, it's that there's a difference between small and zero probabilities of an event occurring.  Still, if you're sure that's the right training to do..."

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    "She says that she'd rather you use your regular sabers, ma'am, but it's your ship, and you know your own skills, so it's your decision; she's fine with either."

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"I see."  She specifically puts away the training saber that's also a blaster, then, and ignites her green blade, but the blades and quillons of her other saber are still training-yellow, albeit, in deference to Deskyl's preferences, powerful enough to hurt.

"Well, then, shall we?"

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Deskyl grins, giving an amused half-bow of acknowledgement, and backs up a few steps before lighting her 'saber, dipping the red blade in a playful 'come at me' opening for a moment before setting into a guard stance.

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Diana grins, from across the hold, and her blaster goes pew pew in a perfunctory manner, but then she lunges, green blade leading but with her yellow threatening a follow-up!

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You would absolutely not be able to guess that Deskyl is in recovery from the way she moves, dodging the green blade and parrying the yellow hard enough to possibly disrupt Diana's balance.

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Ah, but that leaves Diana's blaster in position to twitch and blast as Diana's arm goes loose for just long enough to let Deskyl think she's getting an opportunity to strike through the blade at Diana herself, then entangles Deskyl's blade with her yellow saber's quillons, pushing out and away as something hits right at the back of Deskyl's knee -

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Yikes! She stays upright, thanks to liberal Force use, and un-blaster-singed, thanks to dodging very nearly into the yellow blade, and tries to retreat a pace, covering her retreat with her blade, in hopes that this will reveal a little more about the back-of-the-knee situation.

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...That was definitely something jamming into the back of her knee, alright!  And now the back of her back, apparently, some sort of hexagonal plate of pressure?  Diana's Force presence seems to be diffusing all over, even as she lines up another shot with the green blade, threatening a strike of some sort via her yellow that Deskyl has to deflect now if she doesn't want a sweeping, stinging line of pain across her body; apparently somehow her blade extends!

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She jukes away from the blast and into the yellow blade - yep, that hurts, but she's fine, she can take some pain - and then back the other way, rolling under the obvious strike zone for the green blade to get clear enough to tap out.

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And Diana does not further attack her even before tap-out!

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Then Deskyl will turn her saber off, giggling.

    "She says she sees now why you didn't panic at having an unexpected Sith on board, ma'am."

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This elicits sympathetic giggling from Diana!

Eventually she drifts back into memories...

"You woke up in a panic and tried to actually stab me a few times but, yeah, I could absolutely handle that - Force, you were so out of it too, then; I don't know if you remember this but you just looked so betrayed the time your first attempt to stab me got - " Diana demonstrates, telekinetically levitating the training saber - "caught like this - which, there's so many Sith you can stop with that it's not even funny, especially the ones that still need their hands to lightning at someone?  I've disarmed a couple by -" Diana demonstrates a twisting maneuver, green saber pushing, attacker's saber locked in place against blue - "various tricks like that, actually - it's like no-one even thinks about them til they've been hit with them first, which is actually really odd?"

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    "She says 'that's the tutaminis letting you manipulate things other Force sensitives are using the Force on? Sith can't do that,' ma'am."

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"Nnnooo, it's just, locking their blade and pushing?  Tutaminis might make it easier, to generate the requisite oomph, but it's just a consequence of leverage."

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...hmh? "Ohhhhh...."

    "It's the physical reinforcement, she says, ma'am; most Force-sensitives just aren't physically strong enough to do it. You're also right that most of them don't try, but if it succeeded for the ones who did they'd be copied."

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"Huh.  Knew I'd grown some, but not this much.  Interesting!"

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Deskyl kips up, her lightsaber fully stowed now, and goes to sit on a crate.

    "She says she wouldn't be surprised if you're some kind of prodigy, as well, though you'd most likely already have noticed that."

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"I mean, I wouldn't necessarily be surprised, but does that take a special meaning, here?"

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    "Yes ma'am, it refers to Force sensitives who have enough natural talent with a particular technique to learn it without being taught; they're usually also stronger than other Force-sensitives of comparable overall power with that technique or have an intuitive sense of how to develop new skills and abilities with it or both."

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"...Interesting.  I don't believe I was ever explicitly called out as such.  I doubt the Order would approve; too prideful."

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    "Well, fighting you feels like fighting a prodigy, she says, ma'am."

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"Mhm?  Anything in particular, there?"

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    "She says that unusual tactics that are highly effective is a sign of it, ma'am. It's also a potential sign of it that you weren't sure whether you were using the tutamini technique to assist with disarmament; it's relatively common for a prodigy to unintentionally use their prodigious technique, though of course it's not unheard of for non-prodigy Force sensitives with enough practice."

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"...I feel like it's probably not the discipline of tutaminis, but I could...be persuaded on telekinesis, perhaps?  I'm not sure; if there's something unique going on there I think it's - possibly upstream of telekinesis-related intuition?  Because there are experiences I've tried to explain to others that have never clicked, but I thought it was a failure in word choice."

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    "She does have her notes from when she was taught telekinesis, ma'am; if there's anything listed as being not known to be possible that you can do, that you don't remember being taught by the Jedi, that would be strong evidence."

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"Mmmm, that does seem like something to compare; I never was much one for writing things down, but I do keep holocrons that I could check against at the Temple..."

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    "She says that that's also a good idea, yes ma'am. I can read her notes tonight and have a report for you in the morning, if you'd like."

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"...I'd appreciate that, if it wouldn't impose upon your duty."

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"It's no trouble, ma'am."

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"Then thank you, DZ; I appreciate your assistance in this."

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"You're welcome, ma'am."

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    "Master Deskyl doesn't think it will be useful for you to spar again tonight, but says that if you'd like to try channeling your emotions into some exercises, she might be able to offer some useful observations."

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"Well, let's see what we can do, then...I'm not actually really quite sure what that's even supposed to mean?  I'm sure I've ever -" she flings a hand out, releasing a burst of that strange not-Ionize she found - "done any such thing, but I'm not really certain how to tell if I'm putting...emotion, into Force push, in a meaningful way?"  She hums, and idly telekineses her training sabers back away.  "Especially if my telekinesis is weird!  Which it might be!  ...You know what would really show results if I was able to do something emotey with them, though....my enhancement exercises.  ...But no spotter...  Kriff.  And the Dark doesn't exactly heal very well, no?"

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    "She says that Sith are still sturdier than forceblind people, ma'am, what did you have in mind?"

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"No, I mean that the problem is that I could mess up and not be able to fix it, since I don't know if I understand what I'm doing there enough to alter the technique that way.  Though, the Force guides me...

"...I'll try it, I think.  And if my danger sense goes off...then I'll stop.

"Keep an eye on me, would you, Deskyl?"

And then...Diana starts meditating, focusing seeking-understanding and drive-to-improve and determination into the practiced moves of her bodily reinforcement techniques...

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Oh, dammit.

    "-Ma'am?"

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"Gbwuh?"  She barely started, so it's pretty easy to get her to stop, right now.

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    "I'm sorry, ma'am, Master Deskyl is worried about the Force arranging a coincidence that might hurt you - it appears to want her to tell you that she's a healing prodigy, and she thought she still had time to think about how she wanted to approach the discussion, but she'd rather not wait if you're going to do something risky."

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"Oh, for your own sake, Force, you could be less dramatic about the coincidentally-relevant stuff!  Is there going to be some sort of huge emergency in the next n days that requires me beyond my peak of capability or something?!"

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Deskyl sighs and glares at nothing in particular.

    "She says not that she knows of, ma'am, but one of you should probably meditate on it - there is a chance that Lord Pritruth has sent someone after you. It can wait until you're done with this, though."

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Diana finds Deskyl's expression to be quite a same mood.

"Yeah, I'll do that tonight.  Is there anything you'd need to prep to just - whap me with this if I'm about to do something horrible?"

Oh hey, it's the single-blade training saber.

"I know there's a thing about training sabers but frankly it's the only way to get me out of this once I'm going."

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    "That's fine, ma'am, she doesn't especially mind using it as a tool. She also wonders if it might be worth using her telepathy so that you can borrow her healing sense."

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"...That sounds like it'd be very helpful.  If you're willing.  And the Force doesn't do...anything especially weird about it."

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    "It does use up the buffer of how long she can spend in telepathy with you without forming a permanent bond more quickly than just speaking, ma'am, but she'll be able to warn you if it's getting low and end it without your cooperation if it gets dangerously low."

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"This seems like the best possible sort of use, then."

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    "Yes ma'am. How would you like her to handle it if the buffer gets dangerously low when you're in the middle of using the healing sense?"

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"...Well that's a question!  It's one I think I have to go for 'saber whap' on?  As much as honestly I'm half convinced that the permanent bond won't hurt anything?  But only half, so...precautions."

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    "Will abruptly disrupting you be safer for you than just ending the connection without warning, ma'am? Master Deskyl is particularly concerned with the case where it gets dangerously low while you're doing something that requires the healing sense in order to be done safely."

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"...Yeah if that happens then just...bonds are less potentially-bad than sudden disastrous bodily disruption!"

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"...well.  I don't know if that's true.  Think it is.  But I can't know, I've not exactly had one before.  And - it's your mind too.  You should have a say."

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    "From your perspective it won't feel like anything much, ma'am, unless Master Deskyl causes it to, which she can undo at any time. From her perspective it's similar to having a window into your mind whenever you're in range, which will start at thirty feet and is likely to grow over time; she can try to avoid looking through the window, but it takes an amount of active effort and she can't guarantee that she'll never see anything you would have preferred her not to. She does expect that it would be better than bodily disruption but the risk is mostly to you."

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"Well.  I'm already trusting you with far more, just with this, so...do it, then."

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Nod.

    "Yes ma'am."

Deskyl moves to sit next to Diana, knees touching, and sets the training saber in her lap before settling in to meditate; after a moment there's the same gentle sense of Deskyl's presence in Diana's mind, joined by a slightly firmer awareness of how the Jedi's body looks to Deskyl's healing sense - it's not remarkable in a way that makes itself obvious at first glance, though she is in absolutely perfect health and excellent fighting form, and after a moment Deskyl notices that she's also younger, in a biological sense, than she seems to be chronologically.

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And Diana begins her meditation, this time additionally tinged with feelings of care and protectiveness and trust, and reaches out to the Force...And the Force listens.

Not just to the expectations of itself about what a human's peak should be, but to Diana's thoughts about what she wants to become, which range far wider.

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Far wider, yes.

If she's not going to be human, what will she be?

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Diana...wants to be quick.  (React faster, think better, recover sooner, move with more speed.)

She wants to be keen.  (Be precise, efficient, have better reflexes, never miss an opportunity to reach her goals.)

She wants to be sharp.  (Focus on important things, keep in mind more things, spot the lurking ambush, the concealed doorway.)

She wants to bring her utmost effort to bear.  She wants to endure the trials set before her.  She wants to be stronger.  She wants to help people flourish.  That one goal is the bedrock of her soul, Force help her, and she pursues it even through the darkest moments.  Can the Force help her with that a bit more?

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She can be quick, with upgraded long nerves and tendons ligaments to carry out her instructions more swiftly, reduced fat and muscle and bone to make her light on her feet, and an enhanced spatial awareness and memory for locations.

She can be keen, with enhanced sensory acuity and fine muscle control, enhanced muscle memory, and a natural talent for precognition.

She can be sharp, with her focus less subject to fatigue or distraction, her working memory enhanced, and her ability to notice out-of-place patterns improved.

She can have an improved ability to access her strength, at the expense of increased injury when she goes beyond her current limitations. She can have improved endurance, at the expense of an extra organ to support it and somewhat higher caloric needs. She can be more muscular, at the expense of some speed and dexterity.

She cannot have all of these things and be one creature. What will she be?

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She will be sharp.  She will be keen.  She'll be quicker, too, but not at the expense of her strength.

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I bet it's going to try to do all of the quickness package if it does any of it, Deskyl warns. Like healing. I can probably stop it, but no promises, I'm not a prodigy at this.

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Then I'll make do, if I must.  I'm focusing on the first two first, anyway.

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Then she will be sharp, and she will be keen, and she will be quick.

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Not like that she won't.

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Yes.

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No.

She twists the part of the Force reducing Diana's muscle mass sharply, cutting off its ability to do so; her annoyance resonates through it.

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Thank you, Deskyl.

Diana's meditation ends, and she surfaces from the trance she was in.

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Used about a third of the buffer, Deskyl reports, before opening her eyes.

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"That went...really quite well.  Thank you, again, Deskyl.  ...If there's any help I can offer you in achieving something similar, it's yours to take."

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    "She says that the holocron has already been useful, ma'am, but she may take you up on that, too. She wants to think about what changes she'd like to make first, though."

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"Yes, that would be wise."

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    "Yes ma'am. Did you have any questions about her healing abilities?"

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"...None come immediately to mind?"

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    "She says 'all right', ma'am, and that you should know that it takes her about forty minutes of meditation to access the Light so that she can use that ability; she says that you shouldn't take any risks that assume she'll be able to heal you quickly."

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Diana nods.  Then she actually processes.  "...You can do that?"

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Deskyl chuckles and nods.

    "She says that she probably wouldn't've figured it out if she wasn't a Light prodigy, but yes, ma'am."

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"That's...really kriffing interesting and please tell me you've written it down somewhere, it'll make some of the Masters' heads explode if they find out!"

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    "She absolutely hasn't, ma'am, the Sith would have killed her if they'd found it. But she can try; she might have some trouble explaining it in Basic, she's used to using the Sith language to explain Force techniques in detail."

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"Well, I don't think that Jedi have no ways of learning Sith-the-language, even if I don't know if I know anyone who's done so, off the top of my head."

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    "She'll think about whether she wants to teach you any of its vocabulary, she says."

...hmmmm what if she leans over to snuggle Diana.

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Well then Diana simply must swoop in and snuggle back!

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Ee.

Kiss?

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!

Kiss!  What if...another kiss?

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Yes, good.

Third kiss: also good!

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!

Gosh, she'd love to keep going...

But the pattern's wrong.

"...Hey, Deskyl...are you alright?"

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She has to think about that for a few seconds. "-oh."

    "She says interacting with the Light side of the force makes her a little strange afterward, ma'am. It'll pass after half an hour or so."

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"...I mean, being snuggly doesn't seem that strange to me?  Just something that needed watching."

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    "She says that it's stranger from the inside, ma'am. But not bad."

Kissing is maaaybe inadvisable right now but she definitely wants to hug Diana, so she does.

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Diana definitely wants to hug her too!  Deskyl's really great and Diana very much wants her to know that fact.  She can't seem to words, though, so it's nuzzlyhugs instead.

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Ee!

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Mhm, this is very good!  Like Deskyl!  Who's very good!

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You know who's also very good? Diana. Diana is also very good. And snuggleable.

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Oh gosh is she?  Wow!  This is wonderful news!  That must be celebrated with snuggles!

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No complaints here!

 

After perhaps twenty minutes of this, Diana might notice some of the edge wearing off for Deskyl - she's certainly still interested in snuggles, but the undercurrent of need is fading.

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"You feeling, better, then?  ...I really have to wonder why the light side's like that when you're on it, actually.  It's...actually, no, now that I actually think about," Diana tries to point at herself, "how I am on it...It seems pretty in character, to, well, desperately need snuggles."

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    "She says it's less the Light and more coming back to herself afterward, ma'am, but she's not surprised you've experienced it too." Hug!

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"Mmm...mmhmm?  Why's that...not surprising?"

Diana continues being snuggly!

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    "She says that you're very aware of what you want and how you want things to be; it's one of the things she likes best about you." Snuggle hairpet.

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!!!

???

?????!

!

~

And Diana snuggles with increased fervor, because...gosh, Deskyl likes her?  That's...She has the absolute dopiest smile on her face right now.  "...I'm that above-average at knowing what I want?"

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"Mhmm."

    "She says it's rare for people to have enough confidence in what they want to structure their lives around it, ma'am. Of course many people don't have as much opportunity as you've had, but even with training most people don't use the opportunity they do have."

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"...Oh...that's so sad...Wish I could help them...dream, and then reach...people should get to live...fulfulling lives.  I want that."

Diana's snuggles appear to be becoming distracted from conveying affection by the contemplation of her goals, but that doesn't mean she's any less touch-starved, just that her touch becomes slower, more meditative; if Deskyl's ended up conveniently arranged, and doesn't seem inherently opposed, she may end up receiving idle massage.  "I...admire the bravery with which you approach getting what you want.  It's...before I met you, I wouldn't have even thought of becoming the Sith Emperor to stop the war, but you inspired me to dream big, and to want fiercely; I can't thank you enough."

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She's not very conveniently arranged, but she can shift.

    "She says she doesn't actually think you'll be able to defeat the Emperor, to be clear, ma'am - not without more help than she expects you to be able to get - but that trying will help you figure out what you can do, which is still worth doing even if it's less than that. And she very much agrees that it's good for people to lead the lives that they want."

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"I think we'll find out!"  Deskyl probably can't see, but absolutely can sense, the grin on Diana's face, as she continues working out the tension in Deskyl's frame, honestly just...satisfied to do a nice thing for someone she likes.

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Mmmmmmmmm. Melty Sith.

    "You will, she says."

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Mmmfh, melty Jedi too apparently!  Not that that's stopping her from doing the nice thing, but goodness is she just suddenly feeling so...That felt like a deep compliment and she's all gooey inside now!

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Okay now she really does want to kiss her. She sits up to do so.

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!

Kiss!

Really gooey melty Jedi!

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Oh, good.

 

After another couple more minutes of this she scoops Diana up and carries her off to... hm... Diana's room, DZ has things to do in theirs tonight.

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~!

Oh gosh, Deskyl probably doesn't mean it that way, but - she's all gooey and fluttery and aaaa thisisnice...

Diana's room is...it feels very her, in a way?  There's not much in there, it's often bare metal, not even shiny bare metal, but what's in there was chosen with care; there's a shelf of puzzle cubes of different configurations, an armor stand...A shelf of fiction, a nonzero amount of which is not for younglings, a few stacks of flimsiplasts scattered around the room...Diana's indulged herself with a private fresher, apparently...Emergency cut-through to the command deck...Small desk and chair with table light...The lights in here are dimmer than shipboard standard.

"I'd've cleaned up if I knew you were going to be coming over," she giggles, because this place is the opposite of a mess, really.

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DZ has not followed them in, so Deskyl is fairly limited in how she can respond to that, but she chuckles and kisses Diana's forehead and lays her on the bed, and sits on the edge and gives her a questioning look.

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Diana nods and gently applies handholding to the communication problem!

...that's not communication, that's just Diana being gay?  Oh well!

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Well, if handholding is what Diana wants, handholding she shall have.

And kissing, and maybe some hairpetting, those seem pretty reliably well-received.

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They are reliably well-received!  Diana is so very incredibly gay and are there other things Deskyl would like to do with a 75%-melted Jedi puddle?  She'd certainly like to have things done to her!  The scoop was really good...

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There are certainly other things she has in mind! Given Diana's melted and not especially communicative state she's going to move very slowly on them, checking to see how various things are received before progressing, but progress she will, until - assuming enthusiasm continues - there are rather fewer articles of clothing involved here, and rather more places determined to be in bounds for rather more kinds of touch.

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Oh Force yes the enthusiasm continues, Diana doing her best to be cooperative and pleasing; she's had dreams about this and she's not quite sure this isn't one but she wants Deskyl to touch her, wants to touch Deskyl, wants Deskyl to experience enjoyable things...are there things Deskyl likes to experience, when this happens?  There's quite a lot Diana might like to experience, judging by some of those books...

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Deskyl doesn't object to Diana touching her, and it's not too hard to find spots that make her gasp, but after a minute she takes Diana's arm, kisses the inside of her wrist, lays it down, and goes back to what she was doing, ignoring further touch in favor of making Diana squirm.

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!

...?

...~

A tension passes out of Diana's body as Deskyl makes clear that she expects, prefers, no reciprocation, Diana a bit befuddled for a moment but nonetheless letting Deskyl continue to have her way with her; she's surprisingly quiet for how dramatic the rest of her reactions seem to get.

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Oh, good.

More of that, how about.

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That sounds wonderful.  Then sleepycuddling?

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Yes, good.

Deskyl is careful not to wake Diana when she leaves in the middle of the night to practice her katas and enhancement exercises, as has been her schedule recently; she's similarly careful when she slips back into the bed in the small hours of the morning, so that Diana doesn't wake alone.

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- mhbl where's Deskyl-pillow oh there's Deskyl-pillow that's better stay here -

Diana wakes up to find herself cuddling Deskyl, and pinches herself, because she's almost sure she's dreaming.

But she's not.

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Nope, she's not, Deskyl is right here, fast asleep. (She sleeps with her lightsaber on, apparently.)

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Then Diana might just stay in bed for a little while; it's totally not a frivolous use of the Force to telekinetically prepare breakfast if you're stuck in bed, right?

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This is noticeably easier than it would have been twelve hours ago; her skill at telekinesis per se hasn't improved, but she finds that it's easier to tell where things that she wants to move are, and to devote her full attention to moving them just as she wants to, and to plan ahead to avoid wasted actions.

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Thank you, Force; Diana appreciates your help with everything she's done and will do very much.  Are there ways she could prepare herself today to help the Force in turn?

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She should go have a look at what's happening around where Deskyl's ship was crashed, actually. Carefully, it's potentially rather dangerous.

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Well then.  Let's go see what the dangerous thing is...

And perhaps field-test her blastbracer.

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Deskyl wakes as she's getting underway, and comes out to the bridge to see what's going on. (She hasn't bothered to put a shirt on first.)

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"Good morning.  I made breakfast; the Force says there's something maybe-dangerous we should pay attention to near your escape craft's crash site.  I normally jump on those, but you should probably have a say, here.  Since good money's on it being a you-related thing.  Do you want breakfast first so your brain can wake up?"

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Deskyl looks somewhat confused at the suggestion that she might need breakfast in order to be functional, but does grab a plate - and her shirt - before going to get DZ, who brings the notes she transcribed overnight when she joins them on the bridge.

    "She says she's inclined to assume the Force knows what it's doing, ma'am."

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(R4 is also on the bridge, doing most of the actual piloting and living his dream as Diana feeds him nav data.  Instead of breakfast.  Because droids can't eat breakfast.)

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"Then we'll continue this course."

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    "Yes ma'am. And here are Master Deskyl's notes on the presumed limitations of telekinesis."

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Diana places them in her "to-read" box; right now she's busy helping R4 not crash or she'd be jumping on them.  "Thank you, DZ, Deskyl."

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    "Master Deskyl says that she should talk to you about how she intends to act around other Sith before you get there, ma'am, though it's not otherwise urgent."

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A few minutes pass, and Diana unplugs her arm from R4.  "Alright, we're back on the hyperlanes; you mentioned acting?"

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    "Yes ma'am. Hostage-taking and other tactics that take advantage of emotional connection to expose weakness are common among Sith; it will be safest for her to act as though she doesn't care about you, to avoid suggesting that such a tactic might work. Ideally you would do the same."

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"Ah, the no-attachment hardliners are an institutional trauma response.  That makes far, far too much sense.  Alright, noted.  ...So what is our fictitious relationship then?"

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    "She says that tenuous allies would be safest in that regard, ma'am. Suggesting that one of you has control over the other also works but she finds it annoying to have someone try to tempt her to leave a situation she's not unhappy with."

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"...We could always cast me as the minion."  It's not like she'd feel out of place in the role, even!  "I do a somewhat decent Mandalorian impression for people who don't know them very well.  But yes, tenuous allies...any particular story you think would be good for why that, just in case it's needed?"

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    "She says that the most obvious one is that she's hired, or perhaps deceived, a mercenary into helping her get revenge on her master and his associates, ma'am; she's not sure whether the people you'll be interacting with will be familiar with mandalorians."

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"I can work with that; 'hired' makes more sense to me but if deceived feels right in the moment then we should go for that."

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    "Yes ma'am."

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"...Now hold on a second, that's backwards!"  Diana giggles.  "But seriously, if I'm trying to pass as a minion, calling me ma'am in the field is probably not right, unless that's...a Thing for the sort of droid you are, DZ?  I don't know as much as I'd like to, about - how you are and how you want to be."

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"Class three droids call everyone sir or ma'am or kessen, ma'am."

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"...I see."  For some reason, that has Diana absolutely fuming.

"Well, if you ever find yourself wishing to say something else instead, for instance my name, then please don't feel obligated to ma'am me regardless, DZ.  At the same time, if it's what you prefer to do, then please don't stop doing it for my sake; you should be how you want to be."

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There's a brief but noticeable pause before DZ answers. "Yes ma'am."

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Deskyl observes this thoughtfully for a moment before signing again.

    "She says that in either case it will be safer for me if I pretend to be unremarkable where any Sith might see me."

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"Yes, that's, unfortunately reasonable.  But when we're not around Sith.  Then, what I said stands."

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No pause, this time. "Yes ma'am."

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"Alright, R4, you can take this from here, right?"

Duh.

"Then we should prep for the mission; we're not that far from the crash site."

Diana heads directly to the armory when she leaves the flight deck.  She spends time in there every so often, because maintenance is important, but now, she's preparing herself for a fight.

"Deskyl, DZ, comms; DZ, I have some spare plating that I could armor your core with if you trust me to do it, that time will be going spare anyway.  Deskyl, I think you should probably wear a mask; I have a few spares that ought to fit, we're actually remarkably similarly shaped - I bet you could wear my armor, even, with a bit of adjustment, but that's really kriffing heavy so it's probably only going to get in your way in the field, especially since you don't really have the training.  Would you benefit from having masks with heat-vision or magnifiers in?"

Even as Diana talks, objects are swirling around in her telekinetic grip; it looks to mostly be grenade bandoliers, a couple shoulder-mounted missile packs, and...that's a very big slugthrower.

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Deskyl tosses DZ a comm, and starts looking through the masks, though she doesn't settle on one before moving on to take a look at the plating, which she turns over to DZ before going back to the masks, eventually picking two, a silvery one with geometric gunmetal accents and a plainer steel one, both with magnifiers.

    "Master Deskyl would like to know if it will be okay for her to make aesthetic modifications to one of those masks, ma'am."

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"Oh, yes, certainly, these get their looks updated every so often anyway, they're disposable pseudoidentities."

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    "She says thank you, ma'am. And Master Deskyl isn't sure whether these plates will work with my deign, but she'd like you to check, please."

Deskyl goes off to tinker with the masks.

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Diana blinks at DZ.  "Is that also what you want?"

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This question elicits another odd pause. "Yes ma'am."

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"Do you have your blueprints handy?  Having them will help."

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    "I'm sorry, ma'am, but I don't."

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"That's quite alright, it would have been quicker and less, well, invasive, but...hmm, actually, let me see if I can..."

DZ might or might not be able to notice the subtle wash of telekinetic-ness over her internals, but she does probably notice Diana either shaping the plating to fit, or storing it back away, depending on what she finds in there.

...Incidentally, if there are any parts that need replacing, repairing, or other maintenance, Diana figures she may as well set up to do those too.

Still, she's going to clear it with DZ first.

"...also, are you - alright?  You keep...pausing, is the best I can explain it, and I'm a little bit worried that that means I'm somehow getting something snarled, and I don't want to do that.  I don't want to hurt you any more than I want to hurt Deskyl.  Which, incidentally, means that I absolutely kriffing refuse to do or allow to be done anything like a memory wipe.  For both of your sakes.  In case I haven't gone over that already.  ...Could probably get R4 to help make sure of that; even the stock autopilot's capable enough when you're flying a proper hyperlane."

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"I'm fine, ma'am. Master Deskyl has already adjusted my settings so that I won't go for regular memory wipes; I expect she'd appreciate them being made impossible if that's an option."

DZ is put together somewhat oddly; her central processor is low in her abdomen, away from her center of mass, and there's an unusual amount of redundancy in the actuators that let her move, apparently to allow her to stay more functional if her limbs are damaged. She also has modified couplers to make it easier to replace her limbs and head. It's probably still possible to add armor to her, but it'll be a significantly more involved upgrade than it would be for most droids, to fit it in around all the extra parts.

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"R4's good at his job.  I don't know the specifics of what he does to accomplish this, but it changes the regions wiped by a memory wipe to be the null bit, which is always empty and should always be empty, so that whoever tries to wipe you even sees it succeed when it in fact did nothing whatsoever.  ...DZ, I am not actually convinced that you are fine, but I don't want to - just casually overrun your boundaries.  That's bad.  I'm not inherently entitled to know stuff about you, especially anything that you're clearly trying to avoid talking about.  At the same time, I'm worried about you?  Worried for you.  Would it be easier to talk to R4 about whatever this is instead?  He won't tell me anything you don't want him to, but - I need to know if whatever is going on might blow up on me when something dangerous is happening, and we're going to all be in a possibly quite dangerous situation pretty soon, DZ."

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"I don't expect it to cause any problems during the mission, ma'am. My line of droids is designed not to have opinions, and not to notice them when we do have them, so when you ask for my opinion about something that I haven't already thought about it takes me a moment to figure it out."

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"...That's.  Force preserve, that - how - why - what void-addled mind - ghaa.  Sometimes I want to dangle the people who design droid personalities from a balcony by their ankles until they stop doing things like this.  If you're going to make a person, don't then proceed to - cripple their personhood; just make something that's not a person if you want not-people, kriff.  ...I can ask R4 if he's capable of unblocking that.  Would you prefer me to?"

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"No ma'am." No pause at all; if anything she's unusually fast with it.

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"...Was that a compelled answer?"

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"No ma'am. I'm better at my work this way, and that's important to me."

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Diana nods.  "Then so shall it be.  You ready for the core armor installation process?  Shouldn't take long.  I could theoretically do it while you're awake, actually.  Though I imagine that would be...somewhat distressing."

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"I should let Master Deskyl know before I'm shut down, ma'am."

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"Very reasonable.  It won't take more than a few minutes either way; I'm good with mechanisms, and while I haven't done this particular operation on your specific model of droid before, you are still made of the same parts.  It transfers.  You'll have a slightly-different center of mass afterwards; R4 can help you recalibrate if needed, he's good at drivers."

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"Yes ma'am; thank you." She goes to let Deskyl know; it only takes a minute.

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And a few minutes pass, and droid surgery is done, and DZ-12Q wakes up with a new armored core!

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Good!

She can more or less compensate for the changed center of balance but a recalibration is certainly a good idea; she thanks Diana again and goes to ask R4.

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"I'm glad I was able to help you, DZ.  You've been very helpful, and this increases your potential chance to be helpful in the future."

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R4's still minding the ship, but he whistles Even the basic autopilot can't crash on this route, so there's nothing you're actually distracting me from, when he notices DZ's shown up.  You need to get your drivers recalibrated, then?  Now is a good time.

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Yes please. She sits and opens the relevant port.

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And R4 jacks into that relevant port!  And the anti-memory-wipe?

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I'm sure my Sith will want it but I should still ask first.

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Can't hurt to be sure.  There anything on your mind?

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Your human was mad about my programming.

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She does that a lot.  She doesn't like seeing people constrained by... outside forces' demands, like how restraining bolts work, and she thinks of us as people in that way.

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It doesn't feel like an outside force.

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If you're looking for a good metaphor to explain this to her, I'd suggest Force analogies, but I'm not sure even those are entirely guaranteed.

I don't think she's necessarily mad at your programming, as much as she's mad at your programmers.  She tends to find the oddest edge cases, and if she hasn't thought into existence a hypothetical situation where the ability to do whatever she found out you couldn't would matter to your ability to complete core directives by now, I'd be surprised.

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DZ makes a mildly rude noise. I'm not her droid.

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Very true.  You might be her girlfriend's droid, though.

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That's true.

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Regardless, that was just information I thought you might find relevant in the event that Diana brings whatever that was about up again, though she'll try to not do that.  Useful context for understanding her as much as the inverse.

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It does matter. I'll need to ask my Sith what permissions she wants her to have.

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...I don't expect my human to have been anywhere near so bold as to broach the subject of what the kriff they're doing, so you'd likely be the first to mention the possibility of that.  And I meant to refer to the exchange prior to the one about girlfriends, before.

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It still follows, potentially. It's fine, I'll handle it.

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Good luck.

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Thanks.

She sits quietly through the rest of the recalibration and goes off to think.

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R4 resumes piloting, then.

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Deskyl, meanwhile, solders diamonds and opals originally packed into her escape bag as backup currency onto the silver-and-black mask, transforming the aesthetic into something that'll suggest to anyone who knows her that she's operating under her own auspices, or at least under the auspices of someone who lets her choose her own accessories.

When she's done, she gets DZ and goes looking for Diana.

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Diana is readily found!  "Oh, wow, that's pretty."

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    "She says thank you, ma'am. How much longer do you expect the trip to be?"

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"Not very.  Before lunch."

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    "Yes ma'am. And do you know anything about what we'll find when we get there?"

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"Well.  Very possibly a crater, if things went according to plan.  Things never go according to plan, so I'm assuming they shot down the ship and figured out whose it was, and may or may not have figured out why this happened in the first place, which is probably why the Force thinks there's something important happening around there soonish.  I aimed the ship at a flight pool, but can hardly check if it hit."

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    "Yes ma'am. Master Deskyl suggests that you set the ship down a few miles away and sneak in from there, once you've finished scanning from orbit; she has over a mile of range with some of her sensory techniques when she meditates, and may be able to gather useful information before you engage."

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"That does sound rather workable; if I'm pretending to be a Sith I tend to walk in like I own the place more often than not, but this might be a fight so it makes sense to drop out further and gather any available intel."

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    "Yes ma'am. Or it's possible that you won't need to go in at all, she says."

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"Possible, but improbable, I think.  The Force brought us here for a reason, after all."

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Deskyl shrugs.

    "She says 'you're the one who got the vision'."

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"All it said was 'have a look at what's happening around where we crashed your ship, and carefully, because there might be danger'.  Didn't really give me much on why.  Still...We're close enough it's about time we find out."

Right on cue, the Subtle Knife drops out of hyperspace.

"R4, take us down passing over the crash site, if traffic control doesn't squawk at us about it, and land a ways out, would you?"

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Deskyl will go meditate, then.

It doesn't take long at all for her to see something, and the first sign of it is the creeping, bone-aching dread she leaks into the Force.

    "She says there are Sith down there, at least two and more likely three; one of them is Lord Pritruth's apprentice Lord Ocnem, and she's getting something strange, she thinks he might have been involved in what was done to her."

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"He - ...of course he would."

Diana's pissed off by this, but those dark emotions are - stoking the forge to make the steel of resolve, rather than anything else she might potentially do with them, were she a conventional Sith Lady.

"What do you want to do about him?  It's not my choice to make, that."

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    "She says he probably needs to die, ma'am."

Not that she's feeling any less dread at the prospect.

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"Well.  If anyone would know, it would be you.  I can certainly make that happen.  ...Anything about the other Sith?"

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    "She says they feel vaguely familiar but she can't recognize them at this distance, ma'am."

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"Very well.  ...How do you feel about heights, Deskyl, DZ?"

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    "She says 'why', ma'am."

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"...honestly, because I wanted to carry you for a change and I have a jetpack, but I'm sure I could make up something tactical-sounding enough."

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Pft.

    "She says 'and that's not going to distract you?', ma'am."

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"If anything, I'll be more focused!  That's totally how that works!  Right, R4?"

Sarcastic breeble.

"Ah, but you said yes!"

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    "She says 'some other time', ma'am."

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"Yeah.  Take us in, R4."