A Conversation Between Aierobu and Sal

Setting: Aboard the Mine, Not Yours as the ship is in dock and being refueled.
Timing: After the events of Sparks #120.

Disclaimer: The events below are only in-character for the parties involved. Please keep any information below out-of-character if you are not involved, or do not read any further. Also, if you have not played 120, don't read this! Some spoilers are below. Thanks!

COMM— To: Aierobu; From: Sal Vage

Mister Aierobu,

If possible, I would like to talk with you in private concerning our most recent mission together. At your earliest convenience, please visit me in the cockpit of the Mine. I will be there all day, fiddling.

A ripple in the Force radiates through the cockpit, as if the Force was being warped in unnatural fashion. A flash of light appears a split second later, from somewhere just outside the cockpit door. Aierobu gently knocks on the door just seconds after the comm is sent. "You wanted to see me, Captain?" he asks as he stands at the threshold of the cockpit.

Sal blinked. "Umm," she said, hastily pushing out from under the cockpit. "Yeah. Come in." She looked up at the Rodian in surprise. "That was fast. I just- I mean. Uhm, anyway." She got to her feet and plopped into the pilot's seat, gesturing to the co-pilot's. "Thanks for coming, Mister Aierobu. I hope I haven't taken you away from anything pressing."

Aierobu shakes his head and smiles. "No, nothing at all really." He settles into the co-pilot's chair, pivoting it to face the young girl. "What can I do for you, Sal?"

"Well," she began, suddenly nervous. "It's about… what happened…" She gestured back toward the lounge area of the ship. "Before. First, I want to ask - you didn't… /read/ that datapad before you gave it to me, right?"

Aierobu smiles, shaking his head gently. "Relax. Or at least try. I've given someone my word that I will protect you and your sisters, and I'll do so as much as I can." He considers the datapad and the meanings behind it for a moment. "I told you that what was on that datapad was for you and you alone. I meant it. I didn't read it. I can guess what might have been on it, though. You are young, and it's obvious that he saw you as someone to be guided and protected. Seeing that he wasn't able to continue his journey with you, he probably left you with some advice or a way for you to get further help. How am I doing so far?"

Sal nodded hesitantly, watching Mister Aierobu carefully. "Pretty good," she confirmed. "I hid it. I mean, first I translated it into Squibbian and then I hid it. I get the idea that I should keep it quiet. And I get the idea that… you keep stuff quiet too." She frowned, serious. "You're afflicted." It wasn't a question, but she waited for confirmation anyway.

"Sal… I'm not that much older than you. Call me Aierobu, or just A. It's okay, I promise." He leans back in the co-pilot's seat and tries to rest his legs on the console, but his legs are too short and he ends up just leaning against the paneling below the console.

"You're right to keep the datapad hidden. Like I said, that information was for you alone. And I'm sure you know, but even though the Empire doesn't actively hunt for those who can feel the Force, they're still each worth 100,000 credits to any bounty hunter that finds us out." He smiles in response to your last statement. "As for my affliction, it's true. You're very smart to realize it."

Sal grinned briefly. "There are worse things to be than 'smart,'" she joked. "I noticed when we all had that same vision, before. I wanted to ask - is it the same for all of us? I thought maybe - I'm trying to figure out why Snarf and I are so different. Is it because… of this? We found this old man, and he was… you know. Like Martoc but /real/. I felt so peaceful around his fire even though there were ghosts around. But Snarf didn't seem to feel any different. And when I know people are in pain… I can't help but … you know. Sympathize isn't the right word. I feel like I have to do something. Is it because I'm afflicted? Does it happen to you too?"

Aierobu reaches into his pocket and takes out an old coupling. He throws it up in the air and catches it on one finger, twirling it around as he considers for a moment. "Well," he says after another pause, "it's true and it's not true. I've heard a lot of explanations for it - some are more scientific and others are more religious. What I can tell you is that being aware of the Force is just another sense for us. Like sound, sight, and hearing, it's something we have the ability to feel and, with great practice, to manipulate. When there is a powerful ripple in the Force, many beings can share the same experience. It's like, for a moment in time, they are all in tune and seeing the same thing. Now the Force doesn't obey the laws of physics, time, or space - the Force has laws of its own. So those ripples in the Force can be an echo from another time, another space, even an alternate space where something else happened. So yes, we had the same vision before. It won't always be like that, but when it is a particularly powerful ripple in the Force, we all will.

"As for your feelings, young one," he says as he smiles and flips the coupling once more, "they do you credit. The Force can also ripple off of other beings. If they are happy, or sad… you may know if it's particularly powerful. If you practice with the Force, you can pick up smaller ripples and use them to figure out what people are thinking, feeling, or if they're hurt. Now how that affects you is entirely up to you. Right now you are young, and it's easy to confuse what others feel as your own feelings. In time and with practice, you can figure out which feelings are ripples of other people's and which ones are yours. That's what I did. So it used to affect me like it does you now… in fact, that's why I was thrown off of my home planet. And it's not as though I don't feel it now. It just affects me less."

Aierobu suddenly catches the coupling in mid-air and turns his attention onto the little Togruta. "Does that make sense, Sal?"

Sal nodded. "I need practice," she summed up. "But I don't know how to practice. Nobody likes to talk about it. Mom told me I'm not allowed to learn from some people, but other people are okay. I think she's just afraid for me. She knows better than I do that you don't need to be-" She waved her hand. "-to give your life for your cause. I just want to keep my family safe, and I think figuring this out, getting practice with it - I think that's the way to do it." She frowned at her console. "I don't think Mom will be happy. I'm worried about how she'll - what she'll do."

Aierobu nods sagely. "You're right, little Sal. You need practice. But there's something else, too. You need someone to protect you while you practice. As for your mother, I'll speak with her. I think she knows how important this is, but this is something she couldn't teach you. And she is worried for a good reason. Because it's dangerous - do you know what the Dark Side of the Force is?"

Sal nodded again. "Martoc explained a little. About the good and the bad. I think he might have been a little…" She twirled her finger around her montral to indicate a loss of marbles. "You know. But I think he was circling round a kernal of something good. But-" she rushed to assure. "I'll be really careful. I'll keep it all secret. I won't do anything that needs protecting."

Aierobu smiles again, very pleased. "It's not a bother, so don't worry. And I'm not going to get in your way, I promise. I told you that you have choices, and the most important thing for me is that you know your choices and that you choose what you want most."

"He was a good man, but biased. Basically, if the Force is all the connections between all the things in the galaxy, the Light Side is all the good connections. Parents who love their children, people who do random acts of kindness for strangers, stars being born, flowers blooming … all part of the Light Side of the Force.

"But that isn't all there is to life. The Dark Side is all the bad connections between all the things in the galaxy. Murderers who kill just to kill, strangers ignoring the suffering of others, stars dying, flowers being trampled… all part of the Dark Side of the Force."

Aierobu clears his throat. "The problem is, both sides of the Force are equally powerful. Afflicted people who do many good works become in tune with the Light Side, and become capable of wonderful things. But people who do many evil things become in tune with the Dark Side, and they too become capable of wonderful things. Neither side is right or wrong - everything born has to die, and everything that loves must also hate.

"The question you must answer, little one, is which do you think you'll like better? And once you choose, you have to give up anything that has to do with the other side. There's only one way to choose both, and that's the hardest of them all."

"Good," she said immediately, eyes wide. "I choose good. Who could ever choose bad? I know… everything dies." Sal nodded to herself. "But I don't have to like it. I don't have to be the thing that causes it. You chose good too, right?" She smiled.

Aierobu looks away, a little sad. "No, little one. I didn't get that choice. See, you are young. The good force users, the Jedi, will only train someone if they can start from an early age. You might be a little late, but I think they should take you as a student. For me… the Jedi didn't find me when I was young, and by the time I found them, it was too late for me. So I chose the best thing I could - I'm one of the ones that's in the middle. That doesn't mean I can't help you, but I can't be your only teacher. Does that make sense?"

"I guess," Sal replied, wrinkling her nose. "That doesn't seem right
though. Not to teach someone because they are too old? Seems like
the good side could use all the numbers it can get."

Aierobu laughs, partly amused and partly to mask a deeper wound. "I don't disagree, child, but I don't get to make the rules for them! They have their reasons, though, and I do understand them. I don't agree with everything the Jedi represent, but I think that they try to be good. They aren't the only teachers that focus on good, but they were the largest and most powerful for many, many years. It will be hard to find a teacher for you, but not impossible. In fact, I met a Jedi Master once a little over a year ago. He might be looking for a Padawan. I'll have to introduce you. His name is Master Ky."

Sal smiled wide. Life was changing, really fast. But for the better. She nodded. "That would be very nice, Mister Aierobu." Then she frowned suddenly. "And you'll talk to my mom?"

His chuckle turns to a laugh. "Yes, Sal. I'll talk to your mom. Would you like me to do that now?"

Sal chewed her lip. If he talked to her mother now, Mom could say no and then she'd be stuck disobeying her. Every Squibbian bone in her body, despite not actually /having/ any Squibbian parts, said that it was easier to say sorry afterward than to ask permission first. And if this Master Ky said she was too old? Then she didn't have to bring it up to her mom at all!

Except that there was no way she would give up, not if what Mister Aierobu was saying was right. She had the power to do something good, to turn her affliction into something with a purpose, and even if she had to find someone else to teach her, she was determined. And anyway, she wasn't great at lying.

"Yes, please," she said. "Thank you."

Aierobu smiles as he stands up. "A good and courageous choice, Sal Vage. I'll be back soon." He pats the little Togruta on the head before turning to walk out of the cockpit. He turns around a corner, and a flash of light accompanies the same uneasy feeling as the Force is torn asunder for a moment.

A few hours later, the Mine, Not Yours has finished refueling and is once again in hyperspace. That now familiar and still somehow wrong tearing of the Force occurs again, and from underneath the cockpit door a flash of light can be seen. A second later, there's a gentle knock. "Sal, it's Aierobu. Can I come in again?"

"Oh, yeah," she replied through the door, hastily dragging her arm across the bare part of the console between pilot and co-pilot,
sweeping her Hei-Arboo pieces into their box. Everybody got so uncomfortable when they found out their pilot played a kid's game.
And she was old enough to be a little embarrassed for still liking it. "Come in!"

The door to the cockpit opens, and Aierobu walks in. His clothing has changed, from the flightsuit he was previously wearing to a black combat jumpsuit and black blast vest. Across his back is a black, sawed off light repeater. As he enters the cockpit, he flicks some dust off of his shoulders even though the ship hasn't been anywhere dusty in a bit.

"Sorry about the wait," the young Rodian says as he walks in. "I ran into traffic a few systems back." Grinning, he pulls out a datapad and hands it to you. "Master Ky will hear your case. He has sent a few questions that he'd like you to take some time and answer. I can help you think through the questions if you wish, but I cannot answer them for you."

"As for your mother," he says with a dramatic pause, "she's okay with things so far. She knows she can't help as much as she'd like when it comes to our affliction, but there are people she trusts. She also reminds you about what she said regarding Taylor Castel."

Sal twisted her mouth up in thought, taking the datapad. She held up a finger. "One. Thank you for talking to her. I'll keep everything in mind, including Auntie Taylor." She put up another finger. "Two. Thanks for this." She waggled the datapad. "I hope I can answer these questions right. And three." She waved her hand over his general dusty area. "Do I want to know about… this? It's affliction-stuff, right? Do I get to learn how to, you know-" She whooshed with her hands. "Do I?"

A hearty laugh echoes from the Rodian. "Well, no. Not that. You see, how you interact with the Force determines how the Force interacts with you. If you do good things, then they resonate with you and it becomes easier for you to do good. That's why it's so danger for a Jedi to use dark powers - it breaks the good resonance and puts something dangerous in its place. That's why, once you start down a path, you need to stay with it.

"In this case," Aierobu continues, "the power that I used to get here is not natural. So the light side of the force does not use it. I however must stay balanced, so using this power lets me do that without hurting anyone else. Make sense?"

Sal nodded slowly. "Mmmm not at all," she said seriously. "But I trust you know what you're doing. Hey, is your uh… path - is it secret too? No one wants to talk about these Jedi people and I have a couple of those lightsaber thingies but I'm supposed to keep them hidden. Is yours like that?" She leaned forward, intense and conspiratory. "Should I not tell anybody about it?"

"Well," Aierobu begins as he settles back into the co-pilot's chair, "let's be honest. Time was that Force Users didn't have to hide in secret. The Jedi Order was lauded as the peacekeepers of the galaxy, and kept a major temple right in the political capital of the Galactic Republic. But with the emergence of the Empire, Order 66, and the Great Jedi Purge, the lives of force users has become much more perilous. Even now, the Empire will pay any bounty hunter 100,000 credits for any force user, no questions asked.

"And that," Aierobu continues as he shifts in his seat to lean forward, "is why no one talks about the Jedi or any of the other paths. Even being caught talking about the Force might be enough for some overzealous Bounty Hunter to try and take you in for a reward. So what few remain of the Jedi hide in secret. My path is a secret. So are all the others. And no one talks about them, because everyone doesn't want to be turned in. That being said I will do my best to answer any question you have, so talking to me is okay. So is talking to your parents, or Taylor Castel. Never talk about this in public, even if others do. They are fools."

Aierobu leans back. "Owning a lightsaber is also a crime so you must always, always keep them hidden. I don't have any lightsabers, for this reason and a few others. And never tell anyone that you have a lightsaber, where your lightsabers are, or that you can sense the Force. Do you understand?"

Sal frowned. "I don't like that. Mom said that the reason people say that all the good Jedi are dead is because those good ones stood up for what they believe in and didn't run and hide. How can I stand up for what I believe in and hide what I am? Wait-" She held out a hand, brain ticking over as the logic tumbled together with feeling, faster than her mouth could keep up with. "There's a bigger picture, isn't there. Jedi have to sacrifice their own personal honor in order to stay alive so they can keep using their power to help people. That's it, isn't it? If I do this, I'll have to hide, and be one of the dishonorable ones mom doesn't like, in order to do what I have to. That's a sacrifice I'll have to make."

Aierobu shrugs. "Listen, I didn't say that you shouldn't stand up for what you believe in. And let me tell you a secret: you don't have to use Force Powers to do anything. The Force is a tool, and there are many, many other tools as well. Using a lightsaber, deciphering ancient languages, even healing yourself - there's nothing you can do with the Force that you can't do without it, if you put your mind to it."

Aierobu stands up from the co-pilots chair and walks to the nose of the ship. Looking out of the viewport, he pauses for a moment before turning around to look at the little Togruta. "You have to stand up for what you believe in, Sal - you're a good person. But that doesn't mean you have to walk around waving a lightsaber and saying 'Look, look! I'm a Jedi!' It's more important to do the right thing. In fact… I'd say that the smartest Jedi are the ones that don't have to use the Force at all to accomplish good things."

The rodian walks forward and leans on the pilot's console, looking over it and down at Sal. "Learn about what you are, Sal. Learn about the Force, about the Jedi, about how to feel your way through all of the wonderful ripples and the Force itself. But learn how to exist without it using it for everything, too. Stand up for what you believe in - what's important isn't that you become a Jedi. What's important is that you become the best, most honorable person you can be."

Aierobu smiles wide. "And you won't be alone, I promise. Your mom and dad support you. Even though your sister fights a lot with you, I know she loves and supports you. And then there's all your Uncles and Aunts. Kas'tor. Taylor. Vandin. Melisaande. And me, too. We'll all be there, doing everything we can to make sure you succeed at whatever it is you want to do."

Sal nodded thoughtfully. Everything Mister Aierobu had said about not having to use the Force to do things, about being able to stand up for what you believed in without being a Jedi - he came around to saying pretty much what she'd been saying to her mom. So she smiled. "Okay." She tilted the datapad with Master Ky's questions on it toward her and wrinkled her brow at it. "Now I just have to figure out how to answer these…" She looked back up at Aierobu. "Thank you, Mister Aierobu."

"Hey, that's what I'm here for," he says with a smile as he stands back from the pilot's console and makes a small bow. "If you ever need anything, you know where to find me. It seems these days, I'm never that far away." He starts walking out of the cockpit but stops and looks over his shoulder. "Oh, in a few minutes your sister is going to try Squib Martial Arts on you. Try and act surprised."

With a smirk he walks out of the cockpit and back into the freighter. As he turns the corner, he begins whistling a few bars of an unusual tune.

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