A Conversation Between Jynx and Aierobu

Setting: Aboard the Mine, Not Yours
Timing: After the events of Sparks 136C: Ettercapped

Disclaimer: The events of this conversation are private between the characters involved in this scene. Please keep any information here as out-of-character knowledge only, or do not read this page if you cannot keep this information OOC. Thanks.

On the flight home to the Discovery Jynx would like to take some time out, preferably while ChiChi and Kas'Tor are occupied either acquainting themselves with the girls, or in a game of sabbacc.

Inviting you up to the gun turret to help her check some wires….

"I want to apologize about being a twit on not passing a necklace out of that room. I was afraid if I didn't have both I wouldn't come out and well…curiosity piqued at the most inopportune moment" Jynx says as she passes a flask to Aierobu and asks for the hydrospanner out of a box of tools. She unscrews the platting on the side of the cannon and begins checking the wires.

"I also wanted to comment on the job you did to that sith war machine….the spider" she added. "I know ChiChi is claiming to have done it…" looking up to take the hydrospanner, a serious look crosses her face as she looks Aierobu in th eyes. "And I'll play along that he did, even if I know it's not the case…for a while at least."

Aierobu pauses for a moment before entering the gunwell. A look of curiosity crosses his face, and his saucer-shaped antennae begin to twitch in concern. A faint rush of pheromones wafts into the gunwell, smelling of sweat-drenched, aging spacer's boots after one too many seasons. "Thanks," he mutters as he takes the flask and admires the … wiring.

He leans back against the wall of the gunwell and pauses for a moment. His features have completely changed; gone are the normal nonchalance of everyone's favorite luggage boy and doormat. In their place is a calm, introspective mien with rapid, mercurial shifts underneath. "You weren't a twit, nor are you capable of being such. I accept your apology though none is needed. Truly, there are matters where caution is best. Though I opened the door, I had no idea if it was a trap or a treasure. Courage is not a lack of fear; courage is doing what we must in the face of those fears. You were courageous, highness, as befits your nobility and your rank."

"As for the … other matter," Aierobu says as he shifts his footing, "What happened is what needed to happen. You asked me to bring your husband back alive, and had things proceeded I could not have otherwise guaranteed his return." He hands off the hydrospanner before continuing. "It is better for the universe that he have been the one to destroy that beast. I implore you to understand - if it becomes known what we can do then our enemies will plan to overcome our defenses. If I am to protect the doctor, and now your daughters as she has ordered me to do, then it's best if I remain … nondescript."

"Besides," Aierobu says as he turns to look out a viewport to the stars beyond. "We all keep our secrets, no? I seem to recall you having a rather unhealthy understanding of what was contained in that room. And that you readily had a datapad loaded with an ancient and dreadful language… that too says something. As does your attention to those amulets."

She examined the wires, paying attention to Aierobu as she did. At the mention of highness she hesitated and for a brief moment the kind of regret befit a noble who understands there is nothing to be done for their charges overcomes her demeanor. "Please, just Jynx…or Reon unless it really calls for something else" she said, sweeping her hair back behind her ear.

She quarreled inwardly for a moment and she tried to shift her focus back to the wires. Something about knowing they might have been stuck on the planet had surfaced a little of her past, and she wasn't quite sure how she felt about it.

"What I did going into that room was stupid, not courageous. There could have been a trap on the other side….and seeing what was on the other side, well" she frowned a little, shifting her weight. "Sometimes my curiosity is not a healthy one…I had a glimmer of hope in what I thought the alchemy might mean for other reasons. But I understand that everything has…or should, have it's balance. And if I might intend to use that information for one reason, then surely there is going to be someone who want to use it for the opposite."

She felt flustered inwardly….too much time in the labs. It was something like the alchemy on the scrolls that started the other issue she was trying to clean up…so any thoughts she had entertained to use that knowledge had begun to dissipate. "As for keeping ChiChi safe" she nods, thoughts shifting for a moment to the carcass f the dead squib she had found and 'recovered'. "I did ask you to keep him safe, and to bring him back. He may be going around saying that he killed that…thing….but ChiChi will not lie to me. And the damage to that spider….I've seen done before."

Jynx paused, forgetting the wires for a moment as she checked the opening leading up to the gun well. It was average and unadorned as the other turrets she converted into her room, since it was her first time aboard Mine. Making sure no one was there she slid gracefully down on her knees before Aierobu as if in a practiced manner.

"I should not have tried to intimidate you about that. I know what you are, and you are not the first of that order I have met. Your secret is as safe as I can keep it. But I worry for ChiChi….he's like an explosive….it's a matter of time before something or someone sets him off. People might joke around that he isn't serious because he's merely a Squib, but there are others who won't stop or give a care. This incident no one but the crew was around, but that hasn't always been the case. And ChiChi is no Jedi, but he has merits, and honor, and a fierce love that I fear might eventually lead to his down fall. It's cause to worry, for me at least….you see because I am usually the reason that such things happen."

The young Rodian watches as his companion's facial expressions play out. He specifically notes the hesitation at the mention of her nobility and the grace with which she settles upon her knees. "Reon," he whispers as he considers who the young girl before him truly is. "You've danced this dance before, haven't you? The way you hesitate, the way you so glided to the floor… nobility has been some part of you before, eh? And yet, you give me your name?"

Aierobu shakes his head as he comes to his knees in the manner of one used to hours of meditation and introspection. "Shall we be what we are? I am the son of a merchant. In some places that may mean something, but on Rodia that's akin to being a garbage collector. It is not an honorable birth… it is a birth of the most lowly.

"And yet, they had hope. My clan is small, and they hoped I would be a savage warrior and bring great honor. Again I failed, showing compassion in a world where only brutality is lauded. And so I was expelled before I could shame my clan.

"So now, Lady and Exalted One, you kneel before me? I am not a monk, I am not a warrior. I am not a savior and I am not a saint. I am merely a sin perpetuated, and all I can hope for is the chance to honor my debts before I am truly gone." He bends forward, touching his forehead to the deck in an ancient gesture of subservience. "Please, you cannot kneel before one as lowly as I."

He sits back on his heels. "It is my order that is secret, not my own servitude to them. If you are aware of them, then I have no need to hide from you. As for your husband, well I understand the tempests that rage at him! Like you he did not shy away from the darkness in that library. He can be no Jedi, and yet he is not one of my order. If he dabbles in the darkness, then I share your fear for him. And if he loves you, an even more powerful storm tears at him. I have chosen to forgo the cloistered life; I marry triumph to tragedy and serve darkness that I may continue to uphold the light. But what can balance love? The love of one such as your highness is a truth that nothing can aspire to counterbalance. If he is not on the firmest ground, one tide or another shall sweep him away."

Aierobu closes his eyes, and a long sigh escapes his snout. "You sought me. You kneel before me, a creature before whom even the poorest peasants stand as lord over. What then can an untouchable outcast offer so regal a being?"

"You are Cryschock….I understand their path is not an easy one to walk" she said. "There's more nobility in that, perhaps than on your home planet….even in what it is you are doing now with Mel…and everyone else."

She glanced out the view port of the gun well for a moment, then back at Aierobu. "Love is torrid, but it's what keeps us together" she was silent for a moment, and her eyes shifted color for a moment, before she blinked them back to hazel. "ChiChi taught me what a family…a real family means. Not that it has to be blood ties" she frowned, her eyes seemed to mist for a moment as if she might cry, but she toughened it up. She took the flask that he had been drinking from and took a tentative sip before offering it back.

"Life is hard. I've made many mistakes in mine…you grew up on Rodia to a lowly clan. There are a lot of others in this rebellion like you Aierobu, and fewer like me. I know of only one one other close to me, come to think of it. The daughter of a noble woman from Kalandis IV, governess as is tradition there. My father was the Sector Moff…still is" she frowned. "I grew up privileged but alone, felt I made a horrible noble and diplomat because I couldn't be my mother. And even if I could have, I wasn't sure I wanted to. I dishonored my family, and they sent me away to an Imperial Academy. Shortly after I wound up here…I can't go back home. Made the mistake already in going back, bringing more shame to that family. Now, unless we are victorious I might never have the chance to go home…"

She dropped her gaze for a moment, then looked back up, brushing a tear away. "So the family and friends I have now are much more important, because I won't take them for granted. I can't be the noble from Kalandis any more than I can be Moff. I can barely stand to be Colonel here in the alliance. I am not exalted nor have I ever been. So you see, we aren't that much different" she said softly.

There was a noise from below, laughter as the kids chased one another, and then silence.

"I asked you to protect ChiChi and you did. I worry about him and I always will as he will for me. He's no Jedi, no Sith, no Cryshock. He's guided by love, though some will argue he's guided by credits. But he is a good an honest Squib. We keep one another out of trouble as much as we get each other into it…" she smiled, fingering the grenade pin that was her wedding band.

"Your secret is safe with me…it was foolish of me to suggest it wasn't. As for the Sith Alchemy" she reached into her belt pocket and pulled out a datapad. "The woman from the temple…the A.I….she palmed my datapad and shared all the knowledge of the Sith language into this device. It was how I was able to decipher things" she allowed him to take it from her hands to look. "I was afraid I might miss a warning on the walls since I couldn't read anything…but once I realized what the scrolls were…I admit I did entertain some fancies. Sometimes we get jaded working for a cause….or desperate…especially if it effects us directly."

She thought of the war going on inside her own body now. "You see…I was infected a few months ago with something I called R.A.G.E Syndrome….I just thought maybe the alchemy would help generate a cure. But…" she looked him in the eyes. "I know that no matter what good intentions I might have about using this information, that the end result won't be worthy. It will become corrupt along the way. And as for the amulet…I am not afflicted like you or some of the others. I feel safer having it because I know ChiChi will not pry after it while it is in my possession, and I know that I will not use it. I hate the force." She said the last with conviction.

Aierobu raises his hand in a polite refusal of the proffered flask. His long tapered fingers wriggle gently as the sucker-fingertips take in the scents in the air. Still a touch of his own pheromones, but now a slight salt… perhaps the sweat from the children running below. And there is something else, something with a slight spice. But the spicy smell lingers for only a moment, and he opens his eyes once more.

"Milady, nobility may begin for some at birth, but it cannot be sustained by birthright alone. To be noble is to be well-known. Nobility carries with it not only privilege but obligation. All the peasants of a realm may only serve one king, but their king must serve every peasant in his domain. This is why you are a noble; not for any right of your birth or schooling you may have had or system of stars you laid claim to but because you are coming to realize and accept your duty. To yourself, your loved ones, your family, and now to a ragtag band of rebels that call themselves allied." For the first time Aierobu raises his gaze to the level of his companion's eyes. "Will all due respect, Lady, I suspect your mother would be proud to see her daughter carry herself as she does now."

Aierobu shifts his weight slightly, placing one leg to the side as if sitting with a friend. He takes the datapad and studies it for a brief moment. With a few button presses he places the datapad into translation mode. "sau kam j'us zinot," he says gently. The air ripples faintly with energy as the ancient, dread language is once more brought into life by a fluent tongue. He hands back the datapad, on which the words I appreciate what you have shared are written.

"Your reputation also precedes you and speaks well of your skill in medicine. I presume that this syndrome cannot be cured by science, yes?" Aierobu turns his gaze outward to stars beyond and the secrets they may hold. "I have studied some of alchemy, and when I have time to study the holorecordings I suspect I will learn much more. But from what I know now, alchemy is practiced largely to destroy. The forging of weapons, the imbuing of armor, even the creation of savage beasts… all these things I have seen. What little I know of Sith healing is that it is designed to maintain a warrior's ability to fight at the highest level, and it always comes with a price. But there is much I do not know, and if I learn more I shall relate this to you."

He turns back to look upon his companion. "Have you sought out the Tyrians? Their knowledge of healing is reputed to surpass anything the other traditions are aware of. Perhaps they can aid you. To hate the Force is like hating a hammer. A hammer is not responsible for the laws of physics; it merely obeys them. The Force is not responsible for the balance of the universe; it merely obeys it. The Force is a tool, and in these desperate times do we not need all the tools we can use?"

She listened patiently as Aierobu spoke. It seemed he was teaching her a lesson about nobility, and she kept the smile from her face as she considered what he said. If ChiChi can teach me what it means to be family, then why can't Aierobu teach me what it means to be noble? She mused inwardly.

The smell of what Jynx took to be musk mingled in the air with the ever present scent of detonite and…a much more delicate fragrance, the Kalanda Lillies she had grown and made into her own perfume. Her thoughts lingered to home for a moment as he mentioned her mother and the idea that she might be proud of her, but that thought quickly vanished by the reality of the situation she had created at home. After all, it had been her own mother who had place her only daughter into precarious situations at too young an age to understand…and it had been her own mother who had placed a bounty on her head should she ever come back to system.

She capped the flask and slid it into her belt, along with the datapad after looking down at the message. She smiled as she looked back up at Aierobu, thinking it was a little odd that two being who had not spent much time together could share so much of one another in such little time. There were few she had met that this was true of.

"I've made strides in the syndrome already by merely figuring out what it is and what it does." She paused for a moment as if contemplating something before continuing on. "I have never heard of the Tyrians….at least not that I can think of. I will look into them and share thoughts of seeking them out with my colleagues.

She sighed and looked out at the stars for a moment as thoughts churned in her mind. "Sometimes I like to muse that the 'force' is what brought certain events into play….my marriage to ChiChi for example…now the adoption of the girls. Maybe it's for the best in the long run, especially now that I have this taint in my blood…Squibs and humans can't pass on traits together" she sounded almost relieved for it. "Pardon my hatred for the force, you are right that it is merely a tool….one that gets abused too much" she shook her head. "Master Silo was a real champion…And there are a number of users whom I respect…enough to count on one hand and still have digits left" she said, looking down at her hands. She flexed one, barely able to make out the delicate lines of scars that had nearly totally faded from existance from her last trip to see her dear 'uncle'.

"I grow tired of those who use it" she said. She let herself sit back, cross legged, some of what regal mien had shown through seemed to dwindle and fade away a bit as Reon turned into Jynx. "The ones that preach the ways of their teachings, or mean to parrot people like Master Silo….but so hesitant and distrusting of that…tool. Or afraid to use it." She looked out at the stars for a moment thinking on her nurse as a child. Speaking with Vandin and Taylor she had come to realize a lot of the stories her nurse had told her were to do with Jedi history, enough to have made Jynx pause to wonder once or twice if Alma had known any herself. She had been around when the war between the separatists and the republic had broken out.

She looked back to Aierobu, feeling for a moment as if she were speaking to Vandin, who seemed as level headed about things as anyone she knew. "Perhaps because I don't sense things the same way…which is for the best I think…I don't understand. But if the force is a tool then it should be used the same as anything else. It's a matter of time before they fail" she said. "It's like using a weapon. If you don't respect it, you won't really use it to it's best potential….nor will you really understand the consequences of what it is capable of."

Again her demeanor shifted, one Aierobu was more familiar with seeing. Jynx, the solider.

"People think I don't know what I am doing….that I am a loose canon. They are right to a degree….I know what I enjoy, but now I also know the dangers of it to others around me. But still….I do what I know. I don't hesitate….it might mean killing others, or hurting them. It's why I began to study medicine…to balance out that side of me. It's not always easy….when you were the one to take someone out, and then they realize you are also the one to make them whole again. It's a look about their eyes….trust lost, but you soldier through it. But some of the force users out there" she blinked, her view had gone distant for a moment as she spoke, but now she brought herself back. "Their hesitations…their fear, their anger…weaknesses. If it ever came down to it where it was me versus them, no matter what their abilities were all I need is for them to trip up. To hesitate and give me an opportunity to strike. To act on emotion, because it blurs your focus, makes you an easier target. It's the same thing I teach the recruits I train for the rebellion because it's the truth. In war there is only diplomacy, or death. If someone can't negotiate peaceful terms, then it is my job foremost to make sure that we get out alive."

"But the force….it gives me other causes for concern. I've seen the Jedi fall…and I have seen those who call themselves Jedi act in ways that might appall Master Silo. I know we are all imperfect beings but still…." she shook her head. "And now those concerns shift towards the younger lot. Sal…she is young still….enough that I hope Taylor will offer her guidance as opposed to others out there. Taking children in was probably not a good idea for me to have done….but they need someone to guide them. I was eighteen when I came into the rebellion….older than any of the girls are now….and I needed guidance then. Guidance that I didn't get until much later on."

Aierobu laughs, a wide smile breaking his serious demeanor. "Hey, don't take me for actually knowing anything! Like most of my order, I've read a lot and know pretty damn little. At least I get out of the monastery once in a while, right?"

He stretches his legs out in front of him and leans against the side of the gunwell. "Seriously, Force Orders, Nobility, Salvation… I'm barely staying alive here. Not that I'm trying very hard at that. But look, shoot me if you ever catch me preaching my Path. Because it's an imposter. Anyway, I heard about the Way of Tyria from an Infochant friend when I first started researching Force Orders after the Jedi told me I'd be better off tending crops on some remote moon. You can find him on Omze's starport."

Aierobu shakes his head in disbelief and disgust. "I share your … outlook on most users of the force. Of all the supposed Jedi I've met, I've seen a Jawa that is addicted to the sound of her voice, prideful and vain, a human whom whores would consider ambitious, too blinded by her own lust to comprehend the feelings of those around her, let alone the intricacies of the Force. And let's not forget a forgotten hick too busy playing dumb to notice the wrongs underfoot. I've seen Sith who are blinded by love trying to protect their familes. My own order? All but one are cloistered in a monastery, too afraid to affect the universe for fear of upsetting a balance already all but destroyed.

"But… there's a danger far worse, and that's to go through life without any guidance at all. You realized this, when you took those girls in. You may not have be the best possible parent in the galaxy, but you're better than anyone they had and that makes you better than anyone they could have ever wished for. You chose to love them. You chose to take them in as your own. And that makes them blessed.

"Sal is going to face that again. It's possible for one… you called us afflicted, to go through life without formal guidance and be safe. But it's a slim chance, and it's exactly these people whom the dark side recruits. I've seen Taylor use a lightsaber but that means less and less these days. I don't know what she follows, but someone I trust has vouched for her."

Aierobu shruggs. "The most important thing to me is that she know her choices and make her choice. I owe Melisaande a life debt, and she has ordered me to protect your daughters as if they were she. That is her prerogative, and I shall continue to serve my debt until repaid. But that is only against forces trying to harm her - if she chooses a darker path then it is what she chose. The same is true of your husband, who I suspect is far closer. Unless asked otherwise, that is all I've been given leave to do."

"The Force is a tool, perhaps most like an addictive drug. Used properly, we become capable of far more than without it. Used improperly we become addled and addicted, lost to the world. But this is a drug that is always present once you become aware of it, and even if you have no skill with the Force it is still capable of destroying you. I think that's the best I can explain it. Again, not like you asked though. Sorry." Aierobu looks a little sheepish. "I guess… well, I'm really good at being non-descript. It's kinda nice talking to someone."

Aierobu stretches his legs for a moment before leaning against the gunwell again. "So here you are. A husband that is neither Jedi nor Sith, but still harbors interst in the dark arts. A daughter whose purity disqualifies her from all but a single Force Order, one in which nobility and purity are seemingly lost. And what of yourself? Doing what you know, not hesitating, capitalizing on weakness… What darkness in yourself do you possess that you spend so much time healing to balance it? And more importantly, how will you keep it from pushing those you love over a precipice?"

She laughed at his notions on the force users, knowing who he was talking about. She took a swig of her flask and offered it back to Aierobu again, feeling a sense of comraderie. And also realizing that he had knocked down a wall she hadn't even known was there.

She sighed at the mention of Taylor, her mood shifting to unease as he mentioned Sal and ChiChi, and finally hit upon a moral dilemma that she had been struggling with for a very long time.

"ChiChi's fascinations are no more concerning than if he were anyone else. He is a good and honest Squib who has no grand schemes for using things for good or evil. He's observed the same things I have and tends to feel the same….the only good person to call themselves a Jedi was Master Silo, and it got him killed. But at least he wasn't afraid. ChiChi and I keep one another in balance" she chuckled sadly. "Sal said the same was true of her and Snarf…hopefully her influence rubs off on Ari as well."

She stretched her legs out, hands steepled together between her legs with the fingertips brushing the floor. She stared up, closing her eyes for a long moment as she counted down from ten. She felt tense, much tenser than she realized but things only seemed to pile onto her plate….a lot of that was self afflicted it seemed too.

"I worry for Sal and the rest. You're right they need guidance. ChiChi told me… and I got to see it first hand when we were on Paradise….that it takes a community to raise kids. I had my nana and on occasion my parents. I know I am not going to be the best mother….I am already struggling telling Snarf 'no'. She reminds me of me…which is both cute and endearing, but scary. Her blood lust…" she paused, not wanting to comment further.

"Sal I worry for because I can't help her out with things I don't understand. And I worry about the influence others might have on her, though she is mature and smart for her age. I think Chimera, Stinky, and a few of the other users would learn more from her than she from them. You said someone vouched for Taylor" she looked at him again, sizing him up. "I know who that was, and I have my own reasons why he did" she added. "Taylor is not a Jedi, nor does she approve of the way the others handle themselves. She has a good head on her shoulders but even she isn't perfect. If there was anyone I would want Sal to learn from it's Taylor."

She sighed, seeming tired for being so young. She looked out at the stars as she thought for a moment, her fingers tracing the wicked scar that cut an angry line from her left clavicle down and across her torso, obscured by her halter. It was a habit she had picked up since she got it. In fact up this close to Jynx without her vest on to hide it Aierobu could see that she was nearly covered in scars. Some seemed to be puncture wounds as if from spears or something like it, the one across her torso stood out from the rest, looking like either a sword or a lightsaber.

"You know…it's hard to know the consequences love has. I worry, fear, so much about those I care for. Their secrets are mine….and there is always the fear that I am not worthy nor strong enough to keep them. I keep thinking that I am here to keep ChiChi safe. I'm bigger than he is…" she closed her eyes, resting her head back on the hull plating as a tear slid down her cheek. "So often it's me that gets rescued. So yes, I'm always afraid that I will be the one to send him over the edge some day. He knows it too….we've discussed it before. He can try to reassure me of things, but deep down that fear doesn't go away. Inwardly it's consuming….we all know we will die someday, but most of us never think we will take someone else with us when that happens. I know of all the things ChiChi and I will ever face that not only will I be the one to stand to redeem him, if ever that moment comes to pass, but the one to send him down that path."

She wiped the tear away, but she was already too late. She sniffled, controlling her sobs so that the noise wouldn't travel down below. Now and again she could hear the kids running, and was able to guess that Snarf was trying to practice her Squib martial arts.

"You said you've seen Sith, blinded by love, protecting their families. ChiChi is no Sith. Any regular being consumed by love would go above and beyond to keep their loved ones safe…"

Aierobu frowns at the emergence of even more tears. He casts his eyes around the gunwell, but it seems that Kleenex are in scant supply in a gunnery turret. His eyes stare past his companion as he fixes his concentration on some point beyond sight. In a moment, a package of soft, absorbent medical gauze floats into the room and lands in his outstretched hands. His eyes come to focus on the object, and he groans. "Sorry," he mutters as he opens the package and offers the tissue substitute. "Was the closest thing I could find, it seems… As for Sal, you are her mother and she accepts you as such. If you choose Taylor to teach her and Taylor agrees, the choice is made. It's not my place to agree or disagree, highness."

His eyes settle on the floor, shifting nervously as if he were battling an internal war. "I think that's where the Jedi ultimately screwed up, though they didn't know it. See, they were all good. And that's great, but the universe has to introduce some evil to balance them. But the Jedi kept pushing, pushing… unconsciously depending on another force to balance them. Ultimately the scales tipped, and now the Jedi that remain push for anything but good.

"What I mean is… you can't depend on anyone to balance you. Not a sister, not a lover, not a confidant… eventually the scale will unbalance, either on your side or your counterweight's. And both sides of the scale then fall. This only becomes more catastrophic when the scales are weighted heavily. In your case, because you touch the lives of so many. In your husband's, because of the strength of his connection to the universe around him."

Aierobu's gaze falls upon the myriad of scars and the torso wound. He frowned again. He'd either have to excuse himself soon or change his bandaging in front of his companion. Already his suction fingertips could sense the smell of decayed flesh in his old bandaging.

Aierobu's eyes look away for a moment, and an inward smile begins to crook its way onto his face. "I was about to ask a girl out. A Twi'lek, firey and beautiful, who I ran into a little while ago. But I realized I can't. There's no rule prohibiting me, such as the Jedi bear. But if I love, I can't be what I need to be. I can't give my life to protect the people I am duty-sworn to guard. I can't serve balance if it calls on me to sacrifice my loved one's life. See, that's also the reason why a Sith cannot love or protect their family - because the Dark Side deals in quid quo pro, and eventually your family is lost in the deal. It's not to say we're not regular beings. We are struck by beauty, moved by tears, touched by camaraderie, and can be conquered by love. But eventually these things come into conflict, and we each have to decide what is most important to us."

He considers for a moment before removing a small knife from his belt. He turns the blade inward and traces a line along an exposed section of his forearm. A thin line of blue blood wells from the incision, and he extends his bleeding arm outward after sheathing his knife. "Very few of us are perfect. For the rest, many things can call themselves master over us. For some it's lust, for others pride. And there is wrath, or bloodlust. Envy. Gluttony. Greed. Sloth. But there are others as well. Humility. Kindness. Patience. Diligence. Liberality. Generosity. Valor. Unchecked, any one of these can destroy a being. And though you try to balance it with kindness and generosity, I suspect you see within young Snarf a mirror to your own darkness.

"That's good, though, isn't it? It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle." A blast of sound and flash of blue light radiates from below, probably the result of a successful Squib Martial Arts attack. "Afflicted or not, you seem to battle yourself as often as we do. I think you know my masters. Do you feel comfortable with yours? And do those who love you?"

She steeled herself, took a breath as she accepted a gauze, chuckling low as she did. She wiped her eyes, her make up running a little bit, then tucked it into a pocket.

She listened as he spoke, seeming to settle down a little bit though not fully. She almost never did unless she was with ChiChi or Kas'tor very near her….a reflex she blamed on too much military training. "You can try not to love, but when it happens you have to indulge it." She said. "It's our nature, as you say. I've seen a lot of people try…I even thought one succeeded" she paused, glancing around as if taking in the well for the first time, then her eyes settled on Aierobu, taking him in slowly too. It was a scrutinizing look, not the way a noble might search out a rival, or even the way Jynx would size up an opponent. Nor was it the loving look she gave ChiChi, but more mechanical almost…medical.

She took in his anatomy, but did it in pieces, as if she would dissect him and put him back together again…like an explosive. All the while listening, and noticing him take in her scars.

"No one should be without love, friendship…we are as weak as our strengths and as strong as our weakness" she said. "My father used to tell me that as a child."

She watched him as he pulled out a knife with disinterest at first, listening to him speak, but when he broke the skin she tensed as she watched his blue blood run out of the wound. Her eyes fixated on it, whatever he had been saying seemed slow and blurred, distant even. A few images flashed through her head, her first kill and seeing the soldier's eyes….eyes people in both the Imperial Academy and the Rebellion had told her would haunt her. But she was never bothered by that image, that memory. Blood pooled around, spatters of red and viscera all around from one of her explosives, the heat of it on her bare skinned face. The feel of soft flesh, then bone shattering, soft insides as her hand went through a Quarren's face. And then it shifted in an instant as she recalled blowing the arm off a man….whom she later saw to in the medical bay aboard Hope. Of Taylor's bloody and burnt body on a gurnee, her fault for it. Vandin laying sick, retching his life out as she huddled in the pouring rain hoping that she could make medicine from plants she found.

Her eyes went dangerously distant as she watched him cut his arm, the struggle inside. Then she suddenly blinked, seeming angry at him for it.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" She said, worry in her voice as she moved forward, moved much faster than he had expected from a human. She took the knife from his hand and stuck it expertly in her belt as it that too was a practiced motion. She pulled out the remaining guaze and pressed it to the wound, anger flashing in her eyes as she looked up into his face. "You…me, refresher. Right now…come on" there was no asking in her voice, it was all threat now.

Aierobu gets up without protest, allowing himself to be dragged to the refresher. His eyes follow her, a deep and impenetrable sadness coming over them. "Even if you can't avoid love, you don't have to indulge it. History is replete with examples of people who pushed love aside for other things. I never said I was without love or friendship; I only admit that I have to serve other duties first. Trust me, I'm not any good at taking my own advice."

A few corridors later, the door to the refresher came into view. Miraculously the children seemed occupied - probably "asleep" after playing with Squib Martial Arts. Aierobu entered the refresher first and went in as far as he could - most freighters didn't waste a lot of space on refreshers and evidently Sal's ship was no exception. He turned around, holding the gauze to his still dripping arm. "As you have commanded, your Ladyship," he says with a small bow and the faintest hint of a smile. And something else underneath… a mixture of the best of intentions and the worst of designs, as of a madman receiving the most elusive of non-existent gifts. "And I am sorry. I think I've made you uncomfortable."

He drops to his knees in the refresher, his hands fall to the ground and his head once more lowers prostrate before one his superior in every way. The gauze comes away from his arm, and a few drops of blue splash against the floor of the refresher stall.

Jynx frowned. It had been easy enough to navigate Sal's ship without running into the pair, since she had more experience sneaking about than they did. Nor did she want to explain to anyone why Aeirobu was bleeding openly.

"Aierubo, please get up" she said, stepping into the refresher and closing the door. There was a click as it locked into place, but it meant standing with either foot on either side of his head. She was annoyed now. Recruits knew better than to address her as rank in certain situations, and no one addressed her by noble titles unless it was called for or done by ChiChi. And she had already asked him stop addressing her so. If he had been a recruit in training she would have illustrated during a training exercise why not to address her by rank ever. But this wasn't training.

She took a breath, willing herself to be calm and in control. "Please, stop calling me by titles….one's I don't deserve" she said.

She was strong, stronger than most took her for as was proved as she pulled him up to his feet, and in a sleek movement she had him trapped in his own jacket. She had pulled him up by the back collar of it onto his feet, even slightly off them which seemed to surprise even Jynx for a brief moment before his feet touched the deck plating again. She tugged his jacket down hard and twisted it, pulling his arms back into the material. In the cramped space they were standing face to face, Jynx was slightly pressed against him and there was anger on her face, the rim of the bathroom sink trapped his hands behind his back for a moment.

Thus unclothed, Aierobu stood unflinching against Jynx. The gauze dressings on his back fell away, revealing the mess of scar tissue, fibrosis, and clear liquid drainage that had been his burden since some years ago. With his jumpsuit wrapped around his arms, the incessant dripping of his blood against the floor ceased. The air smelled faintly of blood, iron, Rodian pheromones, and barely-sanitized refresher.

Aierobu's face was neutral. There were no shifts beneath it, no twitches at the periphery of his eyes, nothing. His oversized eyes looked deeply into Jynx's own, not fazed by anger or entrapment. He held his hands behind his back, as if tied and presented to a firing squad. "As you wish," he whispered into the scant space between them.

She didn't bother saying it hadn't been smart to bait her. In the end she knew better, and it was like she told her recruits you could ask your enemies to be nice but you'd be a moron if you thought they would oblige you.

She loosened her grip, her eyes taking in the damage reflected back to her in the mirror.

"I'm sorry Aierubo" she said softly, letting her eyes fall slightly as she blushed. She was careful to remove his jacket then, not asking if she should or if he wanted help at all. She opened up the mirror, leaning over him a little as she did. She cracked open gauze and linen strips, cleaning the wound he had inflicted on his arm fast and neat as if she was in field working. She wound the strip around his arm to get it started then handed him the rest. "Wrap it and turn around. I need to see the wound on your back" she said.

She waited for him to do so, and examined the wound, getting ready to clean it. "It's going to sting" she said "but it'll feel better soon. What happened?"

Aierobu's features darkened, a conglomeration of disappointment and regret on them. He immediately turned around, partially as requested and partially to conceal his face further. He gently wrapped the offered bandaging around his arm, and then placed both of his palms against the far wall so the doctor could examine his back. "Imperial Torture Camp," he said simply. "I tried to rescue Mel, and was instead chained to a wall. They burned my skin off, then left me for three days without food or water. We escaped through a swamp, but the wound became infected. It's never healed, though Mel assures me it's just cosmetic. I change the dressings every now and then." His head hung low and his ear stalks fell against his head. His skin began to grow colder, as the blood within began to slow its transit around his body.

"Sorry to hear it" she said. "I've been in that situation before…made a really rookie mistake that I should have known better about doing" she said as she cleaned the wound. She took her time, being gentle about it. It was no different than treating the burn victims caught in the blast radius of her grenades.

"I wore my dog tags on that mission….we were caught. I had rank…didn't matter what anyone else said, I got the brunt of it before we escaped. I had to treat myself and the party afterwards…thought we would almost lose V" she said.

"Mel should spend more time training in field" she said after a while. She reached into her belt and pulled out something that he couldn't see. "No offense to her of course, mind you, she's still learning and will pass me up if she hasn't already. This is going to hurt some" she said. "You should have spent at least a few hours in bacta once you came back to command….I'd hate to report either one of you for disregarding protocol. Especially since I do it often…but Mel is a doctor and she should know better. And you should know better too. Bodyguards aren't much use dead" she said.

"You might be different than me and all but I screamed bloody murder when I had this applied….though, someone also tried to cauterize my back with a lightsaber so maybe these aren't so bad." She applied the flesh packs to his burns after she had cleaned and removed the dead areas, spraying on antibacterial as well. The strips sizzled into the wounds, felt like acid around the edges, but after a few minutes his back was patched over with 'new skin'. They were expensive but she always carried them in case, especially after some of the things she had managed to survive.

"You'll need a booster when we get back to Discovery, should spend time in bacta too" she said. "And that IS and order Aierubo, I will put it into command that you do. I'll even keep Mel out of it if you want…command is used to seeing this happen when I am put in charge of missions. It's a wonder I made Colonel at all."

She moved back an inch, her back against the door. She felt suddenly awkward. In the gun well it had been one thing. Trying to explain them both in the confines of the refresher would be another if anyone saw them in there, but she couldn't hear anything on the other side of the door. Besides, they had passengers to keep the others in line….and she hadn't heard Amanda yell at ChiChi or the girls for Squib martial arts.

"If you want the scars of this to fade from your skin time in the bacta will help that out too" she said. "Since the flesh packs aren't really for alien races…at least not ones with green skin."

The young Rodian stiffens slightly as the flesh packs are applied. Under his breath he murmurs, "sau tave verztis kia klase mano xela." He then straightens out, the musculature of his back relaxing once more despite the continued agony of the flesh packs. He then whispers the words "verztis akti sau'm" and begins to take slow, deep breaths. The dripping of blood onto the floor stops as the stains of blue blood fade rapidly from the gauze.

"I will be fine," he says softly. Having returned to Basic a sullen tone can now be heard at the edges of his pronunciation. Already the edges of his remaining good skin were growing over the flesh packs, augmented by mystical energy and bolstered by the nutrient layer of the synthetic flesh. "The doctor had many injured to tend after that mission. She felt, and I agreed, that cosmetic injuries did not warrant the expenditure of precious bacta."

He turns around, somehow graceful in the tight quarters. His back is once against to the far wall of the refresher, his face again in full view of his refresher companion. His posture is taller now, more poised… as of a birth or training far above that of a merchant's son. "And your military rank means nothing to me, Colonel Jynx. I serve Melisaande until my life debt is abated; I assist the Alliance insofar as I must in order to continue to repaying what I owe. That is the way of my people, and I choose to honor it."

He straightens himself out and begins to put his combat jumpsuit and vest back on. "Now then, I suspect you'd have some "splainin" to do if we were noticed to be in here together and not, say, in a medical bay. Unless you had anything further for me, Lady?"

"Mel is good doctor and we all make rookie mistakes. In the future don't think you aren't worth the bacta dunk. As for our situation in here…." she frowned. She had a habit of getting into these situations without meaning to. It had done a lot to her reputation as she had discovered: Kendil, Fred Slick, Mathias to name a few.

"Since I'm already near the door I'll step out first" she said, and paused to listen through the door. The hall outside seemed clear and as she unlocked the refresher door she looked back at Aierubo. "And if you keep addressing me by title I'll feed you Kas'Tor. I've seen him eat Rodian before…." a thought passed over her face and she grinned. "Actually it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be."

A dangerous and wicked look crosses Aierobu's face as he crooks a smile. His eyes fall to Jynx's hand, on the unlocked but not as yet opened door. "What wasn't as bad as you thought it'd be?" he asks in mock innocence. "Eating Rodian, or being locked in a refresher with me?"

Having finished redressing himself he lowers the containment lid on the refresher and sits on top of it. "On that matter, just exactly what do you think I'm worth? Until this mission, I was another Rodian that kinda hung around the Alliance, right? I can't imagine that's changed very much, or has it? You can pick me up by the scruff of my neck. You have a husband that wields dual lightsabers, a Barabel shock boxer, nevermind your own capabilities… is an errand boy really worth bacta? Or flesh packs, for that matter?"

He shakes his head. "It's like you said. In the Rebellion, there are many like me, and fewer … or perhaps one other, like you. You can turn the tide of a battle. I, at most, will protect one person. So who do you think our precious resources should be allocated to?"

She swore in Barab, meaning to do it in her head but it came out of her mouth instead, and she was left feeling embarrassed again. Maybe now he sees why I can't be a noble she thought, looking down at him.

"Look, I do stupid things. A LOT of stupid things, because I don't think about the consequences to my actions much before I do them." She was angry again, but it was with herself.

"Eating Rodian" she said in answer to his question. "Though being locked in this refresher is as a bad as being locked in a room with V!"

Her eyes widened for a moment as she had raised her voice, panic set in for a moment, but then she made herself calm down. Things never seemed to go smoothly with her at all. "Look Aierobu, I'm sorry" she said. "You have no idea how much so…I don't mean for you to sound useless. Or even like you can be replaced. How do you replace one life for another?" That seemed to hit a nerve deeper down that Aierubo might have been expecting.

"You do realize," he says as he leans back on his makeshift seat, propping a single elbow up against the bulkhead in the veritable image of scoundrel, "you're not going to offend me, right? For the record it's been a little while since I ate a human girl, and I dare say she enjoyed herself."

Aierobu rolls his neck, getting out one or two cracks. Again that smile rears its head, dark and mysterious. "That being said and fun aside, I know what I'm worth. At my best I might save one, maybe two lives before I burn out. You will turn the tide of battles, both by your hands and by your leadership. You are a renown doctor, demolitionist, and evidently stronger than most of the fighters on the shockboxing circuit. I'm just another Rodian, a particularly nondescript one as far as anyone knows. And that's why, if there is a shortage of resources and a priority, I fall at the bottom. Not for what I can do, but for what I must appear to be valued as. Mel protected that when she placed me at the last priority for bacta."

Suddenly Aierobu stands, closing the distance in the limited space. His body brushes yours lightly in the cramped quarters, and he bends his earstalks backwards to keep them from invading your space. His facial features change once more, his eyes now imploring. "Please, Reon… you confronted me. You and your husband have discovered that I am capable of far more than you ever knew, and I suppose that would eventually have happened. But you have to understand - this world needs leaders and it needs followers. You and your family belong in the light, providing leadership and an example of what to aspire to. I belong in the darkness, never acknowledged for anything other than a servant so that I might do what is necessary. When you walk out that door, I will never raise my eyes to you. I will bow when you walk past. I will lift your luggage and I will clean your ships. Not because I'm a servant, but because people need to believe that I am. I need to be overlooked; a line of defense no one will ever expect to protect those whom you love. And when I finally abate my debts, perhaps we can discuss me being something else."

Aierobu drops to his knees, his head falling once more to the floor of the refresher. He lowers his mouth and kisses the ground at your feet, a gesture of complete subservience and abject servitude. "I am begging you, Lady. I have little other hope of fulfilling my life debt. I will give my life as is necessary in the service of the doctor and your daughters she bade me to protect, but please let me be the nothing I was before this mission ever happened."

"There are people more noble asking for subjects like you Aierubo. I understand your plight" she paused as she tried to crouch down and raise him up gently out of the position he was in. "Granted, sometimes I forget things. I understand your need to be the servant. To walk abroad with a weapon says a lot in and of itself, even if it's for safety. It still implies intent. Whether it's Mel equipped with a blaster for self defense or Kas'tor walking around. Both are set ups for different reasons….you have it in your favor to present yourself the way you do. Even when I walk about it's not always armed…remember Omze's? All I had were two potentially fatal weapons that no one suspected as such…I walked about unarmed. Yet when trouble rose all I needed was that moment of hesitation to turn the tides."

"If you must insist on calling me Lady be it around others or in private" she frowned. "Please in private call me Reon at the very least. Your identity is safe with ChiChi and I. He will not expose you if I Shepard over you both, not at the threat of my displeasure that is" she said.

She paused, considering him seriously for a long moment. "There is something else you need to know. I understand the life debt you know have with Melissande, but there are some who do not perceive it that way. Thus far I have tided things over. ChiChi and I…well mostly me, have to deal with a lot of….jokes and misunderstandings from the others time and again. I would spare you both the same thing as I am trying. But there are times when the way you are treated by the good doctor is often seen as indenturement. It's no laughing matter….many have qualms against slavery for very real reasons. I would hate to see this misunderstanding get out of hand. You are oathbound to serve and protect Melissande, so you need to know."

Jynx seemed to think for another moment. "And know you owe neither myself nor my husband, nor anyone else anything without gaining something back in return. You are not a subject to my direction."

At the touch of Jynx's hands Aierobu lifts his chin to meet hergaze. His cold blood adapts to the heat of hers, echoing the physical warmth as well as the emotional.

"Thank you, Lady Reon," he says. A tear forms at the periphery of one of his large eyes. "I… my clan paid a freighter captain to smuggle me off planet. I was young, and believed the excuse they gave me - I went willingly. Once the captain revealed what had happened, I bargained with him to keep me on his crew. Those were good years, but many times we were targeted by pirates. On one such occasion, I was run through with what I now know to be an alchemically forged sword. I was dying a slow, painful death as its ancient power suffocated my life energy.

"There was a passenger on the freighter at the time, a young Mon Calamari who had just finished medical school. Captain Atakwa said she tended me personally for a month - evidently I was her first critically ill patient, and she refused to let me go. And so, a month later, I lived again. I had nothing to pay her - I barely made my board aboard the freighter. But I remembered the old customs of my people, and before Captain Atakwa as witness I swore a life debt to Melisaande. She knows I have sworn the debt, but she doesn't really realize what that burden means for me."

He grinned, his hand resting upon his knee as knights did before ladies of the realm. "And so, here I am. Years later, and despite all that I've learned I've failed to ameliorate my life debt. On that planet we just left, the doctor was nearly cleaved in twain with a lightsaber. She has been captured and tortured. Her leg was nearly severed, on her home world. Once I did manage to save her life from a thermal detonator blast, but I was mortally wounded and she had to save my life yet again."

He let out a sarcastic chuckle as his eyes looked away for a moment before returning to Jynx's hazel ones. The paltry light in the refresher reflects off of his sea green skin, giving the illusion of waves cresting against a shore. "So you see, I might be at this for a pretty long time. I am indentured, but of my own choosing. And if I could burden my Lady further, but should you ever again hear anyone take affront against the arrangement feel free to explain it. It is no secret; I merely don't like admitting it."

"On the matter of burdening you," he says as he casts his gaze downward once more, "I do owe you and yours a great deal. You have confronted me and now know the secret of some of my training. And you have given me the gift of maintaining its secrecy, but if you do not allow me to repay you in some fashion then I will be indebited to you for the maintenance of that secret. And it seems I'm really bad at paying off debts. So please… despite all that I am I realize how little that is in the eyes of one such as you. But I hope that you may find some way in which I can serve you, in recompense for the gifts of your confidence, your name, and your kindness."

"I know how life debts work" she said. "Few from Kalandis IV still see fit to use them, but there are a select few who stick to those customs, my father among them, though he is not native as my mother is. And on Barab" she said. "I know the burden. It's similar to one in command. Or one with a loved one. Or with children" she smiled, wanting it to be nice but inside she felt she twisted a knife into her own stomach.

"I can explain your life debt to others if it arises, and if you allow me to" she said. "But I can't ask any boon of you Aeirubo…"

When Jynx denies him, Aierobu's head sinks a little further downward. "Is there nothing I can do? Listen, I realize you're uncomfortable. I know this whole nobility thing is not exactly something you enjoy, but it's something that is becoming a part of you again. If you carry a title of Empress, people will respect it. Same thing with why I cut my arm. You spoke to me of your concern regarding your husband. If you realize and understand what is within you, then you'll have a better chance of helping him control his. I'm sorry if it doesn't seem like it… but I've been trying to help you all this time.

"But I'm being honest - I owe you for the gifts you have given me. You have offered so much - your name, your kindness, your discretion with my secrets, your assistance for Melisaande's work… I can't just take these things without giving something. I … I can't live with myself like that. Judging from your face, you know what it's like to live under a debt.

"So please, please reconsider. I'm not asking for much - just tell me something I can do to work this debt off and I'll do it if I can."

She frowned, he had hit another nerve. One she had been pondering about more recently. "I am not in debt to anyone Aierubo. If anything I am lucky that they still let me serve on missions" she said.

"Taking over as Empress….we'll see how that goes. I am not sure we can make it back here, though the salvage rights are prime. We could churn a profit possibly, and in return aid your cause to offer medical relief to those who can't afford it. It's the right thing to do, though I will need to speak to ChiChi about it. Besides, I am a doctor too…I can't turn people away who need help."

"I can't offer you anything that would be fair Aierubo, because I don't know what that would mean. You are life sworn to Mel already, that is burden enough to you. Even the path you walk on isn't easy, at least from what little of it I know." She thought about Pistolwhip, who had traded her a favor to be later named, and that he could not refuse her. She had meant it in jest, but he had accepted it. Even that still gnawed at her. "You are indenturing yourself to me, or so I feel it's so. I can barely be responsible for my own actions…"

Aierobu shrugs as he stands back up. "My burdens are mine to bear, Reon. I can assure you that I'm more than capable of handling them. And maybe debt was the wrong word, but you are certainly burdened and much more than you care to admit. You have your husband, your parents, the Rebellion, and now three young daughters and an entire star system. And those are only the ones I know about.

"Do you know what the Twi'lek homeworld Ryloth's main commerce is? Slaves and indentured servants. The entire planet… an entire species, dedicated to the pursuit of service. I'm not saying that most slavers are nice people - they're not even close. What I am saying is that there are cultures and places where being a manservant is an honorable, dignified profession. Life is full of places and times when we need something and we can't afford it just then. A cruel being will make the other wait until they have something of value to trade. One crueler still would give the thing for free, placing an immeasurable burden on the recipient. A kind being will offer the item for a debt to be repaid later, and the kindest of beings will accept a token in exchange. That's what a life debt is to me - giving me something beyond value, and accepting the token of my service as gradual payment."

He considers for a moment. "So now, what can I offer you? You've many concerns on your mind these days, Lady. Your husband, who stands closer and closer to requiring redemption. What happens if you are the one who sends him over the edge, and yet aren't available or capable of bringing him back? Your daughter, whose destiny is leading her to a place you do not understand and cannot guide her. She deserves the best, and that is formal education and training of some kind… more importantly, the protection that such education provides. And what of you yourself? An unwilling noble being pushed higher and higher onto a pedestal, becoming dizzied by the spotlight on you and the masses of people below, looking up to you for guidance, inspiration, protection, hope…"

Aierobu lets a moment pass and allows the air to settle before moving on. "Let me help you, if not in service then as a friend. I can be your insurance policy, that if your husband is losing himself and you cannot help him, I will go for you. I can accompany and protect your daughter Sal on all her journeys where you cannot go - I will not interfere with her decision but I will answer honestly any question that she asks and I will make sure she stays on the path she chooses, even if other 'leaders' on that path have strayed. And I can be a representative for you. I can bear your will and see that it is done; I can travel to the corners of the galaxy and meet with those you will not. Any of these things I could do for you, and I will rest comfortably knowing that I am earning your confidence and your compassion. And I can be your mirror - a being completely detached from your life, in whom you can ask questions without fear of complication. I think you've found I can be an able listener, and every now and then I might even have some insight. Choose what you would have me do, and when we shake our hands on the matter I shall give my word that it be done."

The hesitation is still there as she churns it over in her mind, but in the end she thought it was the fairest thing that could pass between them both. Especially since she had asked him to set the terms in place, because she was afraid of asking for too much. Even this…was too much.

"Aierobu, there are many who would stand up for ChiChi and this family situation I have created" she said. "ChiChi tells me often that it takes an entire community, and then some, to raise a child properly. There are areas I know we lack in, but those areas are only made stronger by the people around us. I am honored to have you invest in this family, but do it as part of it. Even on home our servants were treated well…lest they turn away from their employers." She sighed, setting her right hand in a diagonal to his right shoulder in a manner she had not done since before she left her home world.

"The terms are fair but in one aspect. Should you, in return, need assistance in any way, be it for personal reasons including medical care, or in assistance with Dr. Melissande…ask for it." She said.

Aierobu bows his head and lowers to one knee. "I accept this honor and am grateful for the trust you've shown me. I will join your family, committed to its prosperity as a member of it. I will assist you should your husband fall sway to darker powers, and I shall help guide your daughter Sal on the journey she is destined to take. I shall serve as your confidant and liaison wherever you have need of me. And I will make sure you are aware if Dr. Melisaande or I require your help. All this I swear in exchange for you holding my secret in confidence, for the kindness of letting me take your name in private, and for the compassion you've shown me."

He then looks up, an enormous grin on his face. "There, that wasn't so bad was it?"

Jynx sighed, but a small smile curled the corner of her lips. "Not so bad no, but it won't mean I'll stop slagging people in the future" she said.

Aierobu laughs quietly, so as not to alert everyone else that they were still locked away in the refresher together. "You make it sound as if I would stop you, even if I could," he says. "Now then, what are you holding back?"

Puzzlement crosses her face. "Holding back? What makes you think I am holding back something?"

"At this point?" Aierobu asks as he raises a quizzical look. "For one thing, we're still in this refresher. Unless you conduct all of your stately business in here, in which case we might have to discuss the role of conference rooms. For another, you hesitated when you were considering this deal. You never hesitate. Never. It's a sign of weakness, the only thing a stronger opponent has to show you for you to take advantage, right? Which means there's something on your mind. Maybe something else you wanted to add but didn't think you could?"

Aierobu stands again from being on one knee. "If I had to guess, knowing you it'd be something to do with yourself. You're an excellent mother, wife, and colonel - concerned with your family and those under your command before yourself. We've covered your husband, your daughter, and those you lead. Which means it's something for you. Perhaps even the reason why you found me in the first place? Maybe R.A.G.E?"

Aierobu pauses to consider further. "I'm asking, Reon. What's on your mind?"

"It's too cramped in here" she said, hitting the panel to open the door. She stepped back with one foot in the hall so as not to fall.

It was quiet on the ship, at least where they were. "Come up to the well….I realize I left the wires out on the weapons mount" she said.

The two made their way back to the gun well, Jynx walked casual with her thumbs hitched in her belt. She went up the ladder first and stepped aside, picking up the spanner and moving the wiring back in place so she could screw the panel back on.

"I hesitated because it's not in my comfort zone to handle bureaucratic issues, and you addressing me by a title other than Colonel makes me uncomfortable. I'm used to others playing face, like ChiChi. When it comes to someone offering services in the manner you did…or even feeling the obligation to do so…" she frowned as she tapped the panel to make sure it was in place, then sat backwards in the chair, her hands laced on the brim and her chin resting over them.

It was apparent she was most comfortable here of all the places in the ship. She seemed grounded, and well accustomed to this small space despite this being her first time on Mine.

"R.A.G.E is it's own storm brewing in my body and mind, but TikTik and a few others are aware I am infected and keep tabs on me." She frowned. "Only time will tell how that plays out in the end, though others rely on me to come up with a solution. It's the most stressful thing actually." She closed her eyes. "ChiChi knows about it…my tie to him is one of my biggest drives to combat this. I am not the only one with a loved one to consider…my colleague's loved one is also afflicted with this taint. The scariest thing….is knowing that you are a biological time bomb…and not knowing how much time you have before it goes off, or what stages will mean certain things falling into play leading up to the big bang…or even how to disarm it."

Aierobu chuckled to himself as he left the refresher. On his way out he washed his hands, smiling even further. A second later he follows to the gunwell and sits on the floor, back against the wall panel nearby. "I'm not blaming you for being hesitant; I'm only telling you why I thought you were holding something back. As for folks getting on their knees and swearing to serve you… I wouldn't worry. I have it on good authority that chivalry is dead in the universe."

He laughs softly as he hears the sound of screaming below. Evidently Squib Martial Arts is fun and games until someone is unwillingly put to sleep for a while.

"As for R.A.G.E., can you tell me more about it? How did you get it? Any inkling that it's mystical in nature? And do you want me to find the Tyians for you?"

"Progress has already been made." she said, rolling her neck. She sat back then, one hand on the head rest of the chair, the other tracing the line of her scar as she contemplated things, eventually playing with the washer she wore around her neck.

"I got it on a mission….we made the stupid mistake of jumping the gun on some information command had sent us after. Hell, command didn't even know we had jumped the gun on things….what a mess when we got back. Chimera and I were in some serious poodoo for it." She blinked, looking down at Aierobu. "See, we thought someone was in danger, had left us a plea for help. We weren't sure we could wait, so we high tailed after."

"In short, I was dosed with it" she said, glancing down where the hypo had struck her arm. Those marks were healed by now, though for a while she had an unhappy trail of marks up and down her inner arm that made her seem like a spic addict. "We were quarantined when we came back, but I had the longest stay in lock down because my results came back positive that something was wrong. And even after I had been acquitted I stayed to work on the research."

"What they were doing I can't tell you without betraying orders from command. It started out like a virus at first…the way that it seemed to be working in my system. But in rapid time it changed pattern, evolved, and began to mutate. It's why it makes it so hard to put a stop to now. And it happened faster than we could do anything about. Anyways….after seeing under the microscope what it turned into I called it Rapid Aggressive Genetic Exchange….or in short R.A.G.E Syndrome. It's weakened my own DNA structure and inserted itself in place. I can't cut it away without damaging my DNA, or without it springing back up even more aggressively."

She took out her flask again and took a drink, offering it to Aierobu. "It's near useless to test it on test subjects like pikara or zetdeer, as it has rapid fatal consequences….they aren't strong enough to combat it. I know that radiation speeds the process as well."

Again she sighed. "My colleague and I were able to recover a pure strain….we should be able to begin work on it soon, though I need to speak to him and TikTik in light of our coming by the sample. It's small….I would like to clone it but am not sure what effects that might have. I worry that we might make a mistake with so rare an item already of what we have. But waiting too long…I am not the only one on a time frame. Two others I am aware of are infected with R.A.G.E as well…one is holding up as well if not better than I am….the other has already begun to mutate."

"As to being mystical in nature…" she paused, hoping to turn that hesitation into reflection as she considered the symptoms. At least the ones that TikTik was aware of. "It doesn't make me afflicted like you are. I can't move objects with my mind, melt things with my hands, or anything to that capacity" she said. She seemed relieved for it actually. "As for the Tyians you have mentioned" she frowned again.

Her discomfort with trusting to the force was apparent. "I would need to understand who they are and what they stand for, as well as what they are capable of before I could commit any thoughts concerning R.A.G.E to them" she said, then added. "After all, I wouldn't want to get hopes up" she said, not mentioning her concern that they might see reason to suspect more taint than mere genetics.

Aierobu shook his head as he took in the tale. "I'm so sorry, Reon," he says after the story is completed. "It sounds like you are suffering a lot, and still are. I wasn't concerned about your becoming afflicted… I'm pretty comfortable that you're not. I'd know otherwise, if only from the way you behave. There are certain things we can't do. And I'm glad you're progressing."

"I don't know very much about DNA or medicine… I know about enough to put a medpac on someone if there isn't anyone else around. But I've been studying a little bit about darker traditions and alchemy. That room, in Ours System… that was a breakthrough and I'll spend some time working on it. But I have heard of alchemical processes that change living things. Make them stronger, add claws… I guess that would mean their DNA was re-written, right?"

Aierobu muses for a second. "Only thing is, I've never heard of undoing such transmutations. There's also the residual effect - when a being powerful with the Dark Side of the force dies, it leaves behind a residue. That residue can, over time, corrupt animals and beings exposed continually into monstrosities. The Light Side may have a method for overcoming such a taint, but I don't know it." He laughs. "Perhaps Chimera? No, I'm joking. I doubt he could purify very much, what with the syphillis and all."

"And force wraiths" she felt a chill run down her spine. "In any case….say…maybe you or the doctor could help me out with a little issue?"

Aierobu laughs. "Isn't that what we're talking about? I can't commit the doctor, but it's pretty evident you had me at 'hello'. What's up?"

"Perhaps you can speak with Dr. Melissande for me….my dear deliverer and keeper of messages."

She had been smiling, but it faltered from her face as she shifted her attention to the headset. She played with it on it's string for a moment in musing.

"I need to collect a specific DNA sample from the other infected and…" Jynx's face turned bright red, reminding Aierobu vaguely of the Twi'Lek honey on Delven. "Fred and I have had some…interesting…relationship issues. See, When I got married to ChiChi I wasn't serious about it. So I was still….er….anyways. I have cut those strings, but Fred doesn't wanna let it slide so easily."

She looked at Aierobu. "I can't have kids with ChiChi on the account of the Squib-human thing. But…if another infected wanted to ever have offspring, or did unknowingly….I need to know what the effects of that would be."

Aierobu's eyes pop out of his head… which is a pretty impressive feat for a Rodian. He quickly vanishes all thoughts of that particular twi'lek with a cool, calming breath as he looks out the viewport at the stars flying past.

"So wait… back there, in the refresher, you really might have…" He trails off, shaking his head again. "Alright, so let me get this perfectly straight. So you and Fred… were involved. And you need something from him, but you're afraid to get involved again for fear he takes you the wrong way." Aierobu nods, taking this all in stride. "Okay, that makes sense. I imagine Mel could grab the sample during a 'routine physical'. What specifically did you need?"

"Well….I have blood samples from before and after he got the taint…but in regards to this…I need a sperm sample." Jynx said, seeming to study her boots. "So, I don't think if I ask him to leave a sample in cup he'll want to do it without some help."

So you see… Rodians have some of the largest eyes in the galaxy. So large that one may wonder how their heads manage to contain all of that eye. So when we mention here that Aierobu's eyes popped even further out of his head, please realize that this is a miracle of Rodian physiology.

"You need… a … And the egg from the infected woman will probably be… hoo boy." Aierobu shakes his head. "This one is going to require some work. I doubt Mel will be in for collecting this … legitimately. No, we're going to need sedatives." He pauses, considering. "Rancor-level sedatives. Then I'm sure she'll have a way to extract… what you need. I don't even want to know what you'll do with it then."

He shakes his head. "The things I get in to. Alright, I'll ask her. I can't force her to do it. Meanwhile, you need to figure out a way to get Fred unconscious and aboard Howard."

She seemed to already have worked that part out, as something about her demeanor shifted, and her eyes turned pink in a blink.

"All I need to do is ask him to join me for an evening at Uneeq's to see how he's doing in relation to the taint" she said. "Slip him a roofie….you and Mel help me haul him to the ship, she does…er…what needs doing…." she frowned. "I'm probably complicating things."

She sighed, looking around. "But I can't ask him myself. Besides, I'll make it up to Mel. She can have anything she wants, so long as ChiChi is ok with it…for helping me out here. "I mean, it can't be as bad as owing a favor to a Hutt….right?"

Aierobu shrugs. "I owe two favors to a Whiphid, and I haven't been asked to collect sperm yet. I think your plan is simple enough to work fine. You get the roofie together, Mel may be able to get him to drink it. After that, we'll collect the sample and put him back in his room. As for what she wants…"

A slow, genuine smile crosses his face. For the first time ever, his expression is a simple one of happiness. "I'll leave it to Mel to figure out what to ask of you. I'm relatively certain it won't be anything onerous." Aierobu seems lost in thought for a second as he looks out the starport window, thoughts drifting amongst the stars floating past in hyperspace.

"Even so it's worth it" she said, thinking about what favor he might owe a Whiphid.

"I know what you and Mel are up to…champions of a very worth while cause" she said, resting her cheek on the head of the chair. "Follow in my wake, and like ChiChi rides the tide of salvage left behind I am sure you and her will have plenty boo boo's to bandage."

Aierobu shakes his head sadly, a wistful look in his eye. "No, Reon… I am not the champion. That's part of my path, never to be hero or villain. At best, I can facilitate the paths of the heroes as long as the universe is balanced against them. Someday, I may be called on to do the opposite."

His eyes come to focus on the present as he turns to you. "What happens if, when your child is born, he is afflicted with R.A.G.E? Will you kill it?"

"It's not a child" she said, not moving from where she was, though her eyes did blink back to hazel as they settled on Aierobu. "It would be a test subject" she said. "No different than the pikara I have used in the past for testing. You don't attach to them, don't give them names…."

"It's better this way in the long run, though I wonder if Fred will feel differently about that. Some people do." She shrugged. "I could run the probabilities through a system, sure, but there can be glitches that aren't accounted for" she said.

"If the test subject comes out to be infected with R.A.G.E…" she paused. "Hmmmn….I'd discuss it with TikTik and my other colleague, but most likely if there were no other uses for it then yes, we would terminate it."

Aierobu's stare matches Jynx's as her eyes changed colors once more. A long pause passed as he gazed past her eyes, somehow looking at a point beyond them. The silence is broken only by the low hum of the hyperdrive and the occasional scream from the girls downstairs.

Finally, he turns his gaze away, his interest moving again. "The decision is yours to make, Lady" he says quietly as he stands. "I will communicate your will to the Lady Melisaande."

Aierobu bows as well as he is able to in the gunwell and then begins to climb back out, to the main deck above.

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