Comm terminals beeped quietly but persistently, the occasional astromech whirred through doing their daily tasks and the allies of the Alliance held their usual conversations and exchanged intelligence and ideas. As she followed directions to the meeting room, Mar’yssi could not help but feel this was more a calm before a storm, rather than business as usual. The fact she had been summoned by a former agent of the Sith Empire who had long been presumed dead, or at least, inactive, only made this even stranger.
It’s a strange time to be in the Empire, when there are at least three major powers in the Galaxy, the Mirialan pondered.
She had been surprised that security on Odessen was as strict, if not a degree more so, than back on Dromund Kaas, where people still thought she served the Empire. Shaking her head and adjusting her expectations, she turned into the little side room indicated on the mini holo-map she had been provided with.
Who’s Who, Really?
Against one wall sat a Zabrak with his head in his hands. On his left shoulder was placed a hand belonging to a young-looking Jedi of a race she wasn’t entirely familiar. Pale as a Rattataki, bearing tattoos, Mar’yssi had vague recollections of a world that sought diplomatic ties with the Republic, but kept its business to itself.
Sar’kai, Sarkhai or something like that, she thought, frowning.
Her steel-blue eyes rested next on the yellow-skinned Twi’lek who was leant against the wall, whose gaze was firmly fixed on the Zabrak, and a hint of confusion and concern was evident in her expression. Lastly she allowed herself to look at the Cathar, who appeared not to have aged since the last time a holo was taken of his face for the Intelligence database.
“Pakarius, I assume?” Mar’yssi asked.
The Cathar looked up at the Mirialan, gave a slight smile then nodded.
“Pleased to make you acquaintance, Agent,” he replied, formally.
“Just Mar’yssi will do, thanks,” she answered, more coolly than she had intended. “So, what’s this about?”
Pakarius glanced up at the Twi’lek who caught his look and took a deep breath.
“Greetings Mar’yssi, you already know who I am and likely who my distressed friend is too. But for the sake of introductions, I’m Talitha and the Zabrak is Cor-Jhan. Joint Alliance Commanders.”
Mar’yssi nodded, glad at least that no strange web of secrecy was being spun. At least, not on the Alliance side.
“A Sith and a Jedi working together, I guess the word ‘Alliance’ does not do it justice.” she noted.
“We can discuss philosophy another time, but, let’s just say ‘Sith’ does not describe me well, and ‘Jedi’ does not well represent Cor-Jhan. Right now, we are all just people, trying to help a friend,” Talitha explained.
Cor-Jhan, with force of effort, lifted his head and sat back in his chair, glancing between Talitha and Mar’yssi.
“And,” he said slowly, “Imperial Agent does not describe you well, does it Mar’yssi?”
The Mirialan did a double-take, cursing herself for the hesitation. With a wince, the Zabrak tried to smile.
“As Talitha said, we are all just people here. Though, for your thoughts, we all serve the same side. Not that it matters.”
Pakarius allowed himself a growling chuckle at that observation. Both the Empire and Republic would underestimate Alliance Intelligence, and be surprised how many were privy to it and still did not betray their Commanders. Mar’yssi coughed.
Steering the Focus
“Yes, well, as I asked, what’s this about?” she asked, trying to steer the topic of conversation away from her. Talitha rubbed her eyes and stretched, before lazily gesturing towards the Zabrak.
“Cor-Jhan. More specifically, an illness he has developed. As you wanted to ask but didn’t, that’s his wife, Nadia.”
Nadia looked up at the Mirialan briefly, before returning he gaze to her husband, her eyes trying to discern the cause of the malady.
Mar’yssi frowned again.
“A married Jedi at that, what a strange group of people. At least we all know who we are now. So, an illness that a Sith Healer, former Agent Medic and two other Force Users cannot solve? Must be something unusual.” she pondered.
“Healing isn’t exactly my skill,” Cor-Jhan slowly started to explain, “I’m used to protecting myself from outside forces and defending those closest to me. This is something I’m not used to. Everything hurts, like my body is attacking itself. I cannot defend myself from me.”
“Don’t push yourself, love,” Nadia said gently, “others can explain if it’s too much exersion”.
Cor-Jhan reached for her hand and squeezed it.
“I know you don’t need defending,” he said looking up at her.
“I know,” Nadia said smiling, “but you like to think you could if you had to. Don’t worry about me right now.”
Finding the Dissonance
Mar’yssi took off her satchel and abandoned her jacket on the floor, but kept her purpose-made “toolbelt” of medicinal goods and micro-scanners attached, before pulling up a stool next to the Zabrak.
“I’m not the mystical kind, however my other half has opened my eyes to influences beyond what I can see. We can form a harmonous melody in the Song of the Universe, if we also remove dissonance, he once said. The thing is finding the ‘dissonance’.”
Pakarius raised an eyebrow at Mar’yssi.
“Your other half refers to himself in the plural collective?” he asked, intrigued.
“Yes, he does.” Mar’yssi stated matter-of-a-factly, before turning back to Cor-Jhan, “Could your illness be some sort of curse, or mind-control?” she asked.
“No,” Cor-Jhan replied, shaking his head, “if that had been the case either Talitha or Pakarius could have intervened and interrupted it.”
“Alright,” the Mirialan agreed, “how about contracting it, say, from another ill person?”
Cor-Jhan reflected on the number of med droids and “biological samples” he had submitted to both the science and medical labs on Odessen. All came back perplexingly blank. Wanting to fill the silence, Pakarius piped up again.
“There’s no evidence of a virus at work. I’ve taken the usual tests, but it may be that my methods have been superceded by yours?” he asked.
“With the brewing war, the focus of the Empire has been on equipping its soldiers, gathering information and protecting the hierarchy. There have been no resources to allocate to medics only involved in helping everyday citizens.” she recounted.
Talitha sighed heavily.
“So much for a new, compassionate-yet-strong Empire,” she said sadly, shaking her head, “I tried.”
“And the Republic?” Cor-Jhan countered, “they used to be more concerned. And don’t worry, all secrets are safe here in this room.”
Mar’yssi brushed her hair from her face and joined in the sighing, accepting that pretense would not help here.
“Yes, that would be true. But I’m not aware of major steps forward. Certainly not in, let’s say, cause-less illnesses.”
No Outward Signs
To the casual observer, nothing appeared wrong with the Zabrak. His complexion was normal, save for lines of care due to his age and the stress of his position. His muscle tone appeared as an average, relatively-fit male of his height and species. Cor-Jhan just looked insanely tired.
“Just how long have you been in pain?” she asked, a hint of concern edging into her normally-professional tone.
“That’s exactly the problem,” Talitha interrupted, “sorry to interject. But Cor-Jhan has kept it mostly-secret for at least a year.”
The Zabrak flushed slightly in shame.
“I knew,” Nadia affirmed, “but I thought I could cure it. I should have been able to cure it. But I am still not strong enough.”
Cor-Jhan tried to sit up in his chair, which felt like dragging a newly-refuelled speeder with his neck.
“I’ve had aches for years, but I pushed through. I started hurting after the rather-inconvenient carbonite freezing incident on Zakuul. But it’s only the last year where it’s affected my judgement.”
“Affected it, how?” Mary’ssi asked.
“I’m slower than I should be when I’m fighting, I tire quickly and I can’t keep my defences up for as long.”
“Apologies Lord Shadow Commander Jedi thing,” he laughed, “but he walked into the doorframe ahead of this meeting. It caused a malfunction in the locking system that the droids had to fix.”
Cor-Jhan forced a wry smile, “Did I mention, I’m also very clumsy now?”
The Mirialan took that as permission to chuckle, which she had previously stifled in order not to offend the Zabrak.
“No you didn’t, so I guess you have a bad memory too?” she added with a laugh, which she suddenly cut short when she saw the stern expressions return to all in the room. “Oh, you actually do?”
“I have to travel with him now,” Nadia explained, “not that it’s a burden, but we have separate roles to fulfil, so we often worked apart. Until recently. Do you mind, love?”
Cor-Jhan shook his head, “You may as well lay all the facts out, Nadia.”
Nothing, Anything, Everything
“Alright, if you’re sure,” she responded, not quite so sure, “He’s forgotten important meetings, got lost on the way to places he has visited many times, and struggles to recall many names now. He also forgets to eat, sometimes intentionally, but usually the pain drowns out everything else.”
Pakarius handed his datapad to Mar’yssi. “Here’s all my notes, along with cross-references to people and events on Dromund Kaas, Taris, Zakuul and even some similar symptoms developed by the poor in the lower levels of Coruscant.”
The Mirialan scanned through the information, trying to take it in as quickly as possible.
“Well, if this is to be believed, you could have precisely anything in the Galaxy wrong with you and maybe not have any of those illnesses!” she exclaimed.
The Sickness Conundrum
“Welcome to the Sickness Conundrum, Mar’yssi,” Talitha said, folding her arms, “We have an illness, which is not contagious. So he could not have caught it from anywhere. On the plus side he cannot give it to anyone else either. He has pain throughout his body, but not the same levels in the same places at the same times. It tires him beyond that which can be explained by his responsibilities, age and relative fitness. Whatever it is affects his judgement. And,” she she added, looking decidedly uncomfortable, “I can feel his pain. Not as acutely as Nadia, however.”
Pakarius held out his hand to Mar’yssi who returned his datapad. Skipping a few entries, he turned back to Cor-Jhan.
“You had Jedi training, so,” he started to ask.
“No, the Force isn’t healing me, which is Talitha’s frustration, and no meditation doesn’t help.”
“Fine,” Pakarius noted, “I’m just looking through the types of medpacs and stims you’ve tried.”
Mar’yssi glanced over his shoulders, her eyes wide in shock.
“Like, what, thirty at least? In a total of forty different combinations. That’s nuts!”
“Is that your professional assessment?” Talitha smiled, lightening up a little, which was returned by the Mirialan.
“How long is your current combination effective?” Pakarius asked.
Nadia glanced up, with a sigh.
“An hour, sometimes two. They can be administered every six conscious hours, with a gap of eight hours while asleep.”
The room fell silent once more, each considering the Sickness Conundrum.
A Most Unusual Treatment
“Well, if the illness can’t be healed, cleansed, medicated against, meditated away or even effectively numbed, there is only one course of action,” Talitha said, “and you’re clearly too strong-willed for it to be Mind-Tricked away too.”
“Maybe two courses of action,” Mar’yssi added.
“I can think of a third,” grinned Pakarius.
“Don’t leave me in suspense then!” Cor-Jhan grumbled.
“The treatment is… friends,” announced Talitha, “You have to do less and you must let your pride go, allowing your friends to do more.”
“But…” objected the Zabrak.
“No ‘buts’ Cor-Jhan,” Mar’yssi continued, “It’s time to drop some things and spend more time with Nadia. What was your suggestion, Pakarius?”
“You have to do what I did; stop finding your identity in what you do. Your condition is caused by you, but not created by you, if you understand. You cannot fight yourself, so stop trying. My past work for Intelligence was giving me constant headaches. The divided loyalties, alertness stims, repeated self-medication – all these things were wreaking havoc with my head. That was before considering whether I had succeeded or failed in a mission.”
“Love, don’t you see?!” Nadia exclaimed suddenly excited, “You let one identity drop already – that of Jedi, to pick up another, Commander. Why do you need to be either?”
“What good does that do to the Galaxy?” the Zabrak asked, confused.
“What good does it do being in pain all the time? True, we cannot make the pain less, or disappear completely. But we can take away things that make it worse.” Nadia patiently explained. “You need lighter armour and lighter weapons, but more importantly, you need a mind that is less heavy too. You ask what good dropping your duties does? Yet you forget you carry the Force with you everywhere you go. That means, however normal and mundane your day is, you leave an impression, your unique mark on anyone you come across. Even if you hurt all the time, which I hate with a passion, you being you, without titles, is all I need you to be.”
Letting Go Is Not Easy
Cor-Jhan looked around the room; a “Sith” healer who already shared his work, two former Imperial Agents and his humble, yet amazingly strong wife.
“That’s going to be hard for me to do. I’m used to doing… things, all the time. But you wouldn’t be friends if you weren’t also open to nagging me to death to make sure I don’t overdo it again. Talitha, can you run the Alliance?”
“What makes you think we run it?” Talitha smirked, “What does Alliance mean, hm?”
“Are you done in here then?” a gruff voice asked beyond the door, which suddenly hissed open.
“Andronikos!” Talitha smiled, “Yes, we were just saying Cor-Jhan needed to let his friends help him.”
“So, drinks in the cantina then?” Andronikos asked, shrugging.
“That’s a good idea, so long as we get a booth. Maybe then we can stop talking about me?”
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