The Shattering Tide 1
If there was one thing that drove me crazy it was the terrible sense of impending doom countered by the fact that nothing terrible or out of the ordinary happened. Although I woke up almost every night bathed in sweat, stifling screams with my fists, the next day brought an eerie normality. It was so normal in fact that sometimes I even forgot the Emperor and Lord Vader had died. It was eerie to spend time in my old office going through old business, getting my affairs in order and sifting through three years worth of interoffice nonsense. Every now and then I would look up from my desk half expecting to see Lord Vader walk through the door way, barking orders in his usual acerbic manner. I missed him still although the ache had lessened but it was enough that I still had not gone to his Coruscant mansion to search the Imperial Data base from his computer there.
I took my time when it came to dealing with the office stuff. My droid had been destroyed when the Executor had blown up and I was saddened by his loss. While he had been an annoying chatterbox he knew his job and had done it well. I did not feel like training a new one in so this mean I did all the sorting out myself and this was far more time consuming than I had imagined. In between the work, Shiv made certain that I was not left alone much and whenever he had the time we went out to lunch and met with friends. It was so good to sit amongst people who knew me almost better than I knew myself, to laugh about mundane stuff and forget the terrible things that had happened. I was never sure if Shiv had told everyone not to bring the subject up or if enough time had passed that no one really thought about it any more, but what ever the reason I was glad not to have to talk about Endor or my own stupidity afterwards. Even my relationship with Thrawn seemed to be a topic that was kept quiet until Cati joined us for dinner. Once we had settled at the quiet table to chatter about everything she had asked the one question no one else dared to.
“So, how is your gentleman doing?”
Everyone had stopped and stared at me, then at Cati then at me again. She had just grinned and given me a look that only a rodian could which said…so are you going to answer me or what?.
After a careful and considered sip of my drink I told her and everyone else about my adventures with Thrawn and what had happened between us, in an abbreviated form. After I had finished the questions never seemed to end but it was Ynyth who had the presence of mind to raise her glass and propose a toast to the ‘happy couple.’ It felt a bit odd to say the least but I had smiled anyway, accepting their congratulations and good wishes with a blush.
Cati was always a welcome addition to our small gatherings. Her bright cheerful curiosity always made for fascinating conversations and this time was no exception. She knew even more gossip than Shiv and imparted it with a cheerful glee. It was interesting to hear how many things had changed but also to see that things had stayed the same. Despite the death of the Emperor and Lord Vader things, on the grand scale, had not really changed all that much.
We met often and I was grateful for the company. My uncle sporadically vanished, saying he had business to attend to, leaving me to my own devices which would have been spent alone had Shiv not seen to it that this was not the case. Before I knew it almost three weeks had passed and I was no closer to finding a way for Thrawn to get more information than before but I was fairly sure he would not mind so much. It had occurred to me after the first letter from him had arrived that he had half expected me to forget about my self appointed mission and settle back into a routine on Coruscant again. He understood, I was sure of it, that seeing my friends again was be good for me and I suspected that a break from me would do him good as well. By the end of the third week my life on Coruscant had almost become routine and only the terrible holo-news casts about the outbreaks of the mysterious disease that was killing aliens seemed to disrupt the day to day comings and goings but even this, like most other news which did not directly concern me, eventually got pushed into the back ground. I probably would not have given it much thought at all had it not been for the continuing dreams that woke me up almost nightly.
Gasping for breath and soaked in cold sweat I had gotten up and showered because I knew there was no going back to sleep from that. The nightmares were disjointed and made no sense, more often than not simply a collection of terrifying images that I could not put any meaning to. More often than not I had woke up as a crowd of alien beings surrounded me, their skin sloughing away from their bodies, craziness in their eyes crying for me to help them. In my dreams I could smell the rotting of their flesh and the memory of this stench often made me sick upon waking. My uncle got used to my screams shattering the still of night and had long since stopped running to see if I was being murdered in my sleep. Instead he would sometimes come to stand hesitantly at the door way to the main bedroom before I alleviated his fears by telling him I was okay. If I asked, he would keep my company while I got up to get a drink, sitting with me as we sipped brandy listening when I wanted to talk about the nightmares and keeping his peace if all I wanted was not to be alone. It was during these times that I missed Thrawn desperately. I spent a lot of time at the Palace in my office. I was a place I felt comfortable and safe, though I was never sure why. Time slipped away from me there and without Shiv badgering me to join him and Ynyth for supper or going out to meet up with the gang I had a tendency to forget the passage of time and work until I was almost falling asleep. I always had an excuse to not go home it seemed and this time it was because at the last minute Cati had called off the get together we had planned due to a headache.
During our last get together, I had been describing my time with the Dantassi when she had asked about the clothes they wore. Despite her high fashion designs she maintained a keen interest in the traditional clothes from other worlds. I had told her I would bring my Dantassi clothes over for her to see. Since both of our schedules were fairly flexible I didn’t mind her putting this off till later. I had told her I would drop by the next day and that had been fine wit h her. She had sounded exhausted but that was not too surprising as she had been busy with a large order that had her going a bit frantic and the last time we had all been together Shiv had commented that she aught to take things easier because she looked tired. She had told him tartly that he should try making ten dresses in four days and he had backed off but I had had to agree with him, she looked tired so I wasn’t too surprised when she messaged me to let me know she was making an early night of it. I, on the other hand, was not. I was almost done with the major sorting out and I wanted to finish it so I ignored the fact that I was yawning my face off and continued to work despite the late hour.
I suppose I should not have been shocked when a letter arrived for me from Thrawn but I was. I was even more taken aback that it was Jarack who delivered it because I had not seen or heard from him in ages. He found me sitting in my office going through the last of the paperwork which I felt I had to sift through. He grinned as he walked in but before he could say anything I had surprised him by jumping up and flinging my arms around him in a huge hug.
“Thrawn had told me you were still alive but until now I hadn’t believed it.” I said in a rush as he gently and somewhat embarrassedly untangled himself from me.
“I could say the same about you Miss Gabriel.” He chided as he pulled out a letter from his satchel and laid it on my desk.
“Cup of spiced coffee?” I asked.
“Don’t mind if I do.” He said and then, with his hands wrapped around the small cup for warmth he chatted to me about the latest news to come from Nirauan.
“So he’s busy?” I said after Jarack had finished telling me about the work to expand the Empire’s presence in the Unknown Region.
“Especially in the last week. They began the push out past the Braxant Sector but of course it is slow going. You know the Admiral, he likes to make sure that all his dejarik pieces are in place before he sweeps the board.”
I nodded, that certainly sounded like Thrawn. “I didn’t think that I had a way to send mail to him so I didn’t write anything.” I said as he finished his drink and handed me back the cup.
“He expected as much.” Jarack replied. “He told me that he would enjoy surprising you for a change.” When I rolled my eyes at him he grinned. “Well, I will not be leaving for twenty hours or so, my ship needs some repairs and I have some other business to attend to here, so if you can write something for me to take to him in that time I can swing by tomorrow to pick it up.
“I can do that.” I nodded.
“Good then, I’ll see you tomorrow.” He said cheerfully then added. “It is good to see you again Miss Gabriel.”
“You too.” I replied, meaning every word.
Only once he had left did I pick up Thrawn’s letter and allow the barrage of images that flowed with it to wash over me. They made me smile. He knew I would see these pictures and had planned accordingly. I loved him for it but would wait until I was done here before I opened the envelope to read what he had to say. As usual, I got home later than I had planned. I had decided to stay and finish up so that in that in the morning I could close all the open files and essentially be done. This meant that I could then begin the clear out of Lord Vader’s office which would be both short but painful. I still was not quite ready to face going into his house.
The flat was dark and quiet when I arrived. My uncle had left early in the morning the day before and had not yet returned. I had long since given up on questioning about his mysterious ways and accepted that he came and went much the same way the wind did. I showered, dressed for bed, made a cup of tea, settled down to read Thrawn’s letter and then once I had read his news I wrote him back, telling him everything that had happened so far not leaving anything out. I described the nightmares I had been having, similar to the ones I had had on Hjal when he had come back and wondered if he would have any interpretations for me. Once I was done, I sealed it and then went to bed but I couldn’t sleep.
Thrawn’s letter had been cheerful and chatty but underneath the banter was something else. He was busy with the expansion into the Unknown Regions, even more so than prior to the Emperor’s death but he was also preparing for his return to the core, a long term plan that would take several years and he was looking for a way to increase his military numbers. The word Clone popped into my head, although he had not written it and I knew it was on his mind as well as mine but the problem of how to get clones grown fast was the hurdle that seemed impossible to overcome. There was also the issue of where to find reliable cloning facilities. I wished that Lord Vader was still alive, because I was sure he would have some answers for me on this, and then I smiled because if he was still living this problem would not be on the table to begin with. Still this problem weighed on my mind and I wrestled with it as I fell asleep.
I walked down a long dark corridor flanked on either side by doors with transparasteel windows which showed into small padded cells. The corridor seemed endless. As I passed each door I glanced in and saw that these cells were inhabited. Without thinking about I started to look inside each cell. Alien eyes looked back at me, blank and staring. Some of them were screaming and clawing at the walls, others were simply sitting and staring, their skin sloughing off their bodies and faces. Despite my horror I could not look away.
“Tragic, isn’t it?” asked a voice from behind me.
I wheeled around to stare directly into the face of Ysanne Isard. “What is wrong with them?”
“They are dying.” She stated as blandly as if she were speaking about the weather.
“But you’re working on a cure.” I said.
She simply looked at me, her mismatched eyes boring right through me. “A cure?” she asked. “Bacta is the cure.”
“Bacta? Then why are so many dying?” I asked as we walked down the corridor some more. I tried to shut out the screams of agony which wailed all around us.
“Perhaps you should ask the rebels that question, after all, it is they who keep interrupting our supply line.” She replied calmly.
“Why don’t you stop them?”
“It is all a matter of numbers and force and I do not wish to leave Coruscant unattended in the event of an attack.”
I shook my head. “Grand Admiral Thrawn could help you.” I said.
Her lips twitched in a slight smile. “He too, is alien.” She said gesturing to the door we had stopped in front of.
I could not help myself as I looked into the room. Gorge rose in my throat as my eyes met those of a Chiss male, writhing in agony as he lay twisted and bent on the floor. I could not tell who it was because his skin, including his face was full of broken and oozing sores and pustules.
“Who is he?” I whispered, sure it was not Thrawn.
“Why don’t you go in and ask him?” Isard asked as she opened the door and pushed me in.
I fell on the floor, hands sprawled out before me. The first thing that hit me was the stench of decay and waste. The second thing that I realised was that there were suddenly more beings in this room than the Chiss. I got to my knees and looked around me. I saw faces that seemed familiar but were so badly distorted and destroyed it was impossible to tell. They all stared at me and then before I could move or do anything they began to close in on me, their ruined hands outstretched calling my name until I knew that these had all been my friends once upon a time. I tried to back away but there was no place to go and I ended up backed into a corner, curled up as small as I possible could.
It was the Chiss who reached me first, his hands cupping my face before I could stop him. I looked up into his eyes because there was no place else to look and realised that I knew him as well but I could not be sure if I was looking at Thrawn or Navaari because his eyes kept changing from one to the other.
“Help us.” He said and puss oozed out from cracks in his lips. “Help us tekari.” And he leaned in to try and kiss me. I went berserk fighting him off but he was strong and the others, their faces so familiar to me, were at his side, their hands reaching for me, clawing at me all the while moaning for me to help them. I could not get away from them and from outside in the corridor I could hear Isard laughing as she ignored my screams.
I woke up so suddenly that there was not even time to think before I bolted to the ‘fresher to vomit. I sat with my head resting against the lid of the toilet bowl catching my breath. A soft knock on the door let me know that at some point in the night my Uncle had returned and I had woken him up. When he knocked again I yelled that I was okay and he came in, I heard running water and then accepted the glass he offered gratefully.
“These nightmares, Lei'lei, they’re getting worse.” He said after a few moments, helping me get to my feet and watching while I brushed my teeth.
I nodded although he had not actually asked me a question.
He sighed. “Come on, I will make you some tea and you can tell me about what you saw.”
I shuddered I followed him into the living room and once he had brought tea recounted the dream that had made me sick to my stomach. When I was done he sat back in the chair and rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
“I don’t envy you, these dreams are terrible.” He said, “But you know that Thrawn is alright and not any where near this planet and as far as I know the outbreaks are all contained to Coruscant.”
I nodded glumly. “I know he is fine, I got a letter from him today. This wasn’t about him, it’s about something else but I can’t seem to define it or put my finger on exactly what it is. Half the battle is trying to unravel what the hell these dreams are really about.”
“How do you know they mean anything at all? News of this virus is all over the holonets. It is in your subconscious and you are particularly sensitive to your surroundings, something which comes with the territory of the force sensitive I’m afraid.”
I sighed and cupped the hot mug of tea in my hands grateful for its warmth. “Because firstly, they have that feel to them and secondly, it is virtually the same dream every single night.” I sighed. “Ever since I returned to Coruscant I have been dreaming the same thing over and over again. It doesn’t make sense and it’s driving me crazy.”
He regarded me for a moment then nodded. “Maybe there is no direct message. Perhaps you should stop looking so hard at the dreams themselves, try not thinking about it and the answer will come to you sideways.”
As odd as that sounded, he was right. We talked until I began to doze in the chair.
“Go back to bed and get some sleep, Lei'lei.” My uncle said nudging me to get up. “As you keep telling me they are only dreams and if bacta is the cure then there is nothing to worry about is there? Not even the rebels would stop bacta from getting through if they knew that beings were dying from lack of it would they?”
I had nodded at him, too shattered to speak but I wondered if he was right. Then decided I was too tired to try and sort it all out. I needed to sleep I had a dinner date with Shiv, Ynyth, Cati and the others. The last thing I wanted was to be told I was starting to look like I was back working for the Emperor again.