Star Wars: Treasures of the Force – Ch 22

Ayli was married to a maniac. She was convinced of this even before Nix called the start to the bizarre game she’d made up for them.

“I get what you and I are doing,” Ayli said, holding a lit lightsaber blade three finger-widths from her wife’s face. “But why is she here?” 

She pointed to the ghost of Ravas Durla, who, as a ghost, didn’t have much to worry about from bumping into an energy arc that was capable of carving through blast doors.

How did I let her talk me into this? This is insane! Ayli kept repeating those words to herself but they did not make the situation any saner with repetition.

“Your challenge is to keep your blade from getting farther than the width of my hand away from me as we move,” Nix said, as cheerfully unconcerned as only a person who’d spent a week growing back bodily organs in a Bacta tank could be. “My challenge is to keep my hands aligned with hers without touching them.”

“How will you know if you touch her though?” Ayli asked, still deeply unclear what the point of the exercise was.

“I’ll electrocute her if she does,” Ravas said.

Ayli stiffened at that. 

No one got to hurt Nix. Even the thought made her blood boil and her grip tighten on the saber’s hilt

“Hey, I’ll be okay,” Nix said, running her fingertips along Ayli’s outstretched arm. Ayli felt the tension run out of her like a slowly receding wave.

“Arrogant,” Ravas said, but there was an expression on the ghost’s face that suggested she was as puzzled by Nix’s suggestions as Ayli was.

“We’ll see,” Nix said and offered Ravas an amused smile. “We can begin whenever you’re ready.

A cold smile crept over Ravas’ lips and an instant later she burst forward in an attack. Ayli tensed, and start to whip the saber’s blade away from Nix but stopped before she’d moved it more than half a finger’s width.

She didn’t need to move it. She could feel that it was safe for now.

Across from her, Ravas was straining towards Nix, hands bent like claws. Nix wasn’t looking at that though. She had her eyes fixed on Ayli, offering support and looking as calm and relaxed as could be, while her left hand was held up inches from Ravas’s clawed hands holding them back without making contact.

“How?” Ayli asked, which Ravas echoed with a growl.

“Aggression can be really predictable,” Nix said and turned to Ravas. “I feel like this is so basic it would have been an exercise you would have done as a kid. Not with a lightsaber, but maybe with a partner?”

Ravas growled again, and Nix began to give ground. Not fleeing, Ayli noticed, or retreating. It was more flowing that that. With slow, careful steps, Nix pivoted around allowing Ravas to press inward and control the basic direction of the dance, while Nix controlled the pace and angles they turned though.

For her part, Ayli found it almost relaxing. Moving the blade along with Nix was as simple as following the steady flow of their dance, and little by little, Ayli began to see where Nix would lead them even before they moved from one step to the other.

Ravas’ growl turned towards Ayli, but Nix brought her other hand up, blocking the hand Ravas had thrust out in Ayli’s direction.

“Just work with me,” Nix said. “I’m the one you’re mad at.”

That refocused the ghost’s attention. Nix seemed to reward her by stepping up the pace, falling back from Ravas’ advance faster and with quicker, tighter turns.

Ayli marveled at the feeling of speed that sang through her. The room around them turned into a blur as they changed directions, but even so it was almost effortless keeping the blade where it was meant to be. 

Rather than the speed demanding ever more perilous timing, it felt like the faster they went, the deeper into the shared calm Nix was bringing them, and the farther ahead that Ayli could see.

On one pass across the room, Ayli caught a glimpse of Ravas’ hands again and had to look twice. They’d relaxed from the claws they’d been curled into and where open and flat, paralleling Nix’s hands evenly.

Stranger still, the expression on Ravas’ face had faded from one of burning intensity to a quiet confusion.

Ayli made eye contact with Ravas on the next pass, asking without words what had changed.

Ravas turned from that glance, her sudden retreat forming a sharp change in the steps of the dance. Rather than throwing them off though, Nix flowed into the role of pursuer, casting aside being the one pursued as naturally as the step she’d been poised to take.

That hadn’t been what Ravas was anticipating and she jerked backwards, lending a staccato pattern to the danced steps, but, curiously, she did not lower her hands.

Nix matched her movements, never touching their hands together but keeping pace as Ravas slowed in her flight, pressed forward once more and backed away again, her movements growing more frantic as she strove to knock Nix off her footing.

The dance continued like that for another several passes around the room before a crate flew from the corner directly at Nix’s head. Nix caught the crate without a glance and looped it down to settle beneath her, giving the fight a third dimension as she stepped onto and over it.

One by one, more bits of brick-a-brack from the around the room took flight, most of which Nix simply directed into orbits around the dancers, turning their tight cluster into the center of a debris whirlwind.

Ayli sensed the moment when Ravas won, or would win. A sponge, soft, harmless, but just distracting enough was going to slip past Nix’s defenses and pop her on the nose. The blow would throw off her concentration allowing Ravas to bring their hands together and shock her and then the whirlwind would collide in on them.

The lightsaber could fix that.

Ayli could slice the sponge in two.

And then slice Ravas in two.

A lightsaber couldn’t hurt a force ghost, but the move would bring an end to their dance and warn Ravas that worse consequences would follow if she pushed it.

But that would be a win for Ravas.

And Ayli didn’t need to fight.

That was what Nix was trying to show her and Ravas.

With her own free hand, Ayli reached out.

There was a wind blowing around her without the air moving. There was electricity that sang between her and the ship and Nix and the sponge and everything. The weight of everything tugged at everything and it all flowed through her, just like she was flowing through the dance.

The sponge didn’t have to hit Nix.

Ayli had seen it happen, had seen the survivable catastrophe that followed, but that future was not written into the past yet.

So she chose another.

With a wave of her hand, she drew the sponge to herself, grasping onto it without turning her attention from following Nix. 

Crisis averted. Future changed.

Ayli didn’t have anything to do with a sponge, so she allowed herself a half spin and put it on the silliest spot she could imagine.

Being a ghost, Ravas shouldn’t have been able to hold a sponge on the top of her head, but she’d either forgotten that or the Force itself was amused at the idea so it stuck there for a long moment until Ravas glanced up, frowned, and stopped advancing or retreating.

The whirlwind of debris settled gently to the floor as the dance came at last to a halt.

Nix turned to Ayli and sketched her the sort of bow someone who’d only seen the gesture in holonet drama vids of imaginary royalty might make. Since that was as close as Ayli had come to royalty too, she returned the gesture in a similar manner. When they both turned to Ravas though, the ghost was gone.

“That’s probably not good,” Ayli said, trying to imagine where a ghost might go to hide and why Ravas of all people would.

“It’s okay,” Nix said. “She just needs a bit of time.”

“Should we give it to her?” Ayli asked. “She did try to kill you there.”

“No she didn’t. She tried to beat me. If she’d wanted me dead, she would have been a lot more direct about it.”

“Direct how?”

“Did you ever feel her fighting for control of the lightsaber’s blade?” Nix said. “And when I asked, she agreed to keep things between her and I.”

“You knew she would, didn’t you?”

“Not exactly? It’s hard to put in words still, since it’s more like I’m just following my feeling still. She seemed, honorable isn’t quite the right word but it’s close? I challenged her and she answered the challenge. Twice there actually. I hadn’t set any boundaries on the challenge, so the whole ‘chucking everything in the room at us’ thing was fair game. I think if we’d agreed not to do that up front she wouldn’t have done it though.”

“You think she would have given up an advantage like that?” Ayli asked, reflecting on her own bone deep willingness to do whatever was required to win when the situation required it.

“It would depend how the boundary was phrased I think,” Nix said. “If it was ‘let’s all play nice now’, I can’t picture her agreeing to it in the first place. If it was a question of enhancing the challenge by putting other limits on it though? Or rather raising the difficulty so that she’s one of the only ones who can handle it? She knows how strong she is, and I can’t picture being that strong and not wanting to show it off.”

Ayli considered that and had to shrug in agreement. Ravas may have been centuries old, but that didn’t seem to have diminished her ego at all.

“How did you hold her off? I thought she was going to slam you right into the saber’s blade,” Ayli asked.

“That week long nap seems to have done me a lot of good,” Nix said. “Once I finally admitted to myself that what I was doing wasn’t just listening well and lifting a bit harder than most, I realized I’ve been training in this stuff for a long time. People used to tease me about being such gearhead that I’d move engine parts out of sheer impatience rather than waiting for anyone to give me a hand with them. I always thought they were just lazy or weak. In hindsight though, moving a vario-power coupling by myself wasn’t all that different from throwing the Smoke Wraiths across the room. I just pushed a little harder with them. Or, well, a lot harder, but the basic idea was the same.”

“So you didn’t just wake up knowing how to use the Force?”

“I don’t think that’s possible, although who knows, maybe Ravas or someone like her can do some kind of data dump of their Force skills into someone else? That sounded like what she was offering on the bridge when we were getting away from the assassins yesterday.”

“Wasn’t interested then. Not interested now,” Ayli said, suppressing a shudder at the thought of what else would come along with a ‘gift’ like that from Ravas.

“I’m going to bet she’ll make the offer again, probably the next time we’re in dire circumstances,” Nix said.

“And I’ll tell her to go to hell then too,” Ayli said.

“I think she’s already been there,” Nix said. “I think that’s what her life was. Maybe not all of it, but definitely the end, and probably a long time before that too.”

“Did you see something?” Ayli asked, wondering how adept with the Force Nix had become.

“Not a vision or anything like that,” Nix said. “I probably need a lot more practice with being aware of what it is I’m trying to do before I can manage full scale visions. What I got was more of a general sense that things sucked for her and that the anger we see in her comes from a place of hurt fury rather than sadism or general malice.”

Which, to Ayli, explained why Ravas had chosen to latch onto her. 

“We’re coming up on our hyperspace exit,” Goldie said over the comms.

“There’s going to be more people there waiting for us, aren’t there?” Ayli said, the certainty of it stealing through her like ice water.

“I think so,” Nix said. “And I don’t think we’re going to escape them this time.”

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