A Heritage of Power 3: Jay's Story 9.99:
The Price of Survival part 5 of 6
by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/F, M/M, F/F, M/Herm sex, Violence and a bunch more
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file
Essani ran for the Council chamber from her quarters. The Kraken had just disappeared, most of the crew left stranded on a maintenance station by false orders. Mutiny had seemed possible ... up until the bodies were found. That left one chilling option.
Jay had turned, completely.
He was the only one who could have pulled this off.
The only real questions now were where he was going to start and how long it would take him to get to Coruscant.
Most of the Council had already arrived before she had, the rest arriving shortly afterwards.
"*Are there any signs of where the Kraken may have been heading when it left the Argos system?*" She asked, taking her seat, not sure if somebody else had information she didn't.
"From the location of the bodies, back out into the Outer Rim." Master Ty'thri'ku'mo Mython said evenly. "It is our only indication at this point, however."
"*Do we have any indication why he decided to come out of hiding now?*" Essani asked them.
"His kittens." Jamni spoke quietly, her eyes down slightly. "What better to protect them than a warship with his abilities?"
"It seems to be somewhat more than would be necessary," Zraii clicked. "Though I'll admit, Knight Clawson has a skewed concept of overkill."
"*And the timing is accurate,*" Essani agreed. "*This is actually good news for us.*"
"How so?" Noloth regarded her with a raised eye ridge.
"*His intents are defensive, even if his methods are negative. He is unlikely to attack anybody without provocation, out of fear of inspiring a similar response that would endanger his kits.*"
"He is, however, now capable of leveling entire plants if provoked." Miya said.
"He is also going to be significantly easier to track." Zraii added. "Kraken does not have nearly the ability to hide, or the cloaking shields of Sharufa."
"*And while he has more space to install additional cloaks or screens, the Kraken is a much more difficult ship to shield.*" Essani nodded. "*His capabilities have increased, but so have ours. The Kraken can't exactly stop at a random spaceport and not be noticed, even outside Republic space.*"
"Very true," Mython nodded his slender, triangular head. "He will have to do something to crew it as well if he intends to do much beyond limited travel. It is far too large a ship to crew himself."
"He will likely use droids for the vast majority of the work," Zraii pointed out. "They are quite capable, especially given the Kraken's capabilities."
"*Have the hunters been alerted of this development?*" Essani looked at the Verpine.
"The alert went out to them as quickly as it did to us," the insectoid nodded, mandibles clicking. "They're redeploying to points as suggested by search vessels that were already in the system even now."
"*Good,*" Essani settled her fur out a bit. "*Can anyone think of anything to add?*"
"The Kraken's manufacturing capabilities are impressive," Noloth said. "Given Knight Clawson's gift, there is no telling what it might be equipped with when it is found. It's more important now than ever that the fleet be summoned when it is found."
"The message has been sent to reinforce that part of their orders." Zraii told him.
"Then I believe that is all, unless somebody else has more to add," the Lizard said simply, looking around at his fellow Councilors and received a general negative response. They were all uneasy to have their rogue knight so well armed, but it was out of their hands.
"What is wrong, Master?" Misha looked up from her work on Jay's cock when she realized he wasn't responding anymore.
"Mina's labor has started." He murmured, his attention almost fully on the birthing room. He knew he wasn't welcome in there, but he'd be damned if he didn't watch.
Janos reached down, pulling Vondra up from the attention she was giving him to hug her as she sat in his lap.
"Everything okay?" He asked, knowing full well what Jay was up to.
"So far," the tom nodded and stood to settle in a more relaxed meditative pose on the floor of the master bedroom. "It'll be hours before it's over."
"Of course," the Wolf nodded. "Any idea what you're going to do after?"
"I'm inclined to kill her." He said simply, though he wasn't set on that course yet.
"Don't blame you," Janos chuckled grimly, though Vondra was clearly surprised by both of them. "Though it might be hard on Tami to nurse both litters."
"Once they've nursed for a few days, they can be transitioned to a bottle if need be." Jay countered, though the statement had made a definite impression and would likely buy Mina several months.
A factor that Janos wished he'd thought of before mentioning it.
"Something like that, or find another wet-nurse," he agreed. "This place is going to be pure chaos once things really get going," he chuckled.
"Oh, very much." Jay smiled fondly and chuckled. "Six kits strong in the Force, five with my family Gift for machines. It'll be a constant event when they learn how to crawl."
"I don't suppose we can use those little kit-proof gates to try and keep 'em under wraps?" The Wolf deadpanned. It lasted only as long as it took for Vondra to start giggling.
"Just hope none of them figure out flight as young as I did." Jay winked at his mate.
"I have the distinct feeling we're going to need to get Tamil's medical training finished," Janos muttered good-naturedly, nuzzling Vondra's neck lightly.
"It would be a full-time job." Jay snickered. "Fortunately, we both know something about healing as well."
"A bit," Janos agreed. "Getting better at it lately, what with everything that's been going on."
"Yes," Jay murmured, a bit annoyed that it was getting harder every day to heal the way he'd been taught. He'd begun to resort to taking his knowledge of how to fix machines and apply it to himself. It was messy, but it did work. It could also grow parts back with enough effort as his ear was beginning to show.
"Still hard to believe we've got this whole ship to ourselves. Kind of like being the last people alive, sometimes," Janos chuckled, changing the topic.
"Anytime you're feeling too isolated, we can just take Sharufa down to a planet for a reminder." Jay chuckled, though the offer was serious. "It's smaller than the ship I was born on, but nice sized to me."
"It's more the fact that we're the only folks on it," Janos explained. "Used to a ship this size having more noise."
"True," Jay consented. "Guess I just don't notice much. The machines aren't that quiet, and they're what I hear the most."
"And they're mostly background noise for the rest of us, unless they start saying something's wrong," Janos chuckled. As if on cue, the alert light started flashing in their room.
"A T'surr vessel has entered the system," Kraken informed them easily.
"Perfect timing," Jay purred and stood, rearranging his dark robes to cover himself. "Something to distract us from Mina for a bit."
"T'surr?" Vondra asked, looking back at Janos and shifting to the bed when he motioned for her to shift over so he could get up.
"Don't worry," he said reassuringly. "They're not going to be the ones doing the attacking this time."
"Yes," Jay purred dangerously and motioned for Misha to join the white Wolf. "It's time they were introduced to why 'the strangest takes all' can be a bad idea, when you piss off the wrong people. We'll be back when the party is over."
"Relax, Vondra." Misha nuzzled her. "They're very good at this."
"A-all right," she nodded, clearly disturbed by the notion even as she snuggled up to the Mink.
"Be back soon, promise," Janos smiled, following Jay out and towards the speeder that would take them to the Sharufa, now their boarding vessel.
"What's the head count by race on that ship?" Jay asked as they sat down.
"Uncertain, Master," Kraken said easily. "The slave quarters are well shielded so that Republic vessels can't pick up more than that there are several hundred life signs on board. However, I can detect roughly two-dozen T'surr."
"Easy pickings," Jay grinned with a deep rumble of approval and signaled the T'surr ship to open a comm line.
It wasn't necessary; the ship was already hailing them within moments.
"This is the vessel Kuranti," somebody said gruffly, the voice deep and gravelly. "Lower your shields and prepare to be boarded."
Jay actually laughed and shook his head. "They are making this too easy." He opened the com-link. "Agreed." He told them and closed the line as the speeder changed direction to take them to where the T'surr vessel was expecting to dock. "Kraken, go ahead and kill any T'surr that actually make it on board."
"With pleasure, Master," the ship chuckled.
"Maybe we don't need to worry about sensor masks," Janos chuckled, shaking his head. "I'll bet the captain just about wet himself when he found out how few folks are here, figured he'd found himself a new ship."
"I do hope they're all so thoughtless about wondering how a crew this small has this ship in the first place." Jay smirked and licked his whiskers back eagerly. "This'll be fun."
"They probably figure we're some sort of scientific vessel," Janos pointed out. "Some of those have a hell of a lot of automated systems. So, how are we getting on-board?"
"In position, docking bay opening," Kraken informed them.
"They want to board us, so they have to drop their shields and open a hatch." Jay grinned, his excitement building as the speeder came to a stop outside the docking bay the T'surr ship was maneuvering into.
"True," Janos nodded. "You have their weapons down, right? Lightsabers aren't really all that hot against ship-scale weapons."
"Yes, the ship's weapons are down." The tom nodded and stepped off the speeder. His dual lightsabers dropped into his hands but didn't light as he and Janos approached the docking ship.
A few of the T'surr started down the bay, armed with large blaster rifles - just in time for the Kraken to open fire, blasting them as soon as their feet touched down on the ship.
"Your friend's a smidge trigger happy," Janos muttered, drawing his own saber.
"That just means we have to move." Jay grinned and bolted for the intruder's hatch, his lightsabers flaring to life as he entered the fray.
Janos wasn't far behind him. The T'surr were mostly gathered near the entrance, blaster shots firing wildly as they realized they'd walked into a trap. The 'science vessel' was turning out to be anything but, and the two warriors invading their ship were making mincemeat out of the trained combatants who'd been caught with their proverbial pants down.
It was over in a few moments, neither Jay nor Janos having even broken a sweat yet as they began to search the ship for any T'surr or crew that might not have been in the boarding party.
There were a handful of them, but they were small and weak for their kind, and willing to surrender rather than be killed. It made for a dissatisfying end after the warriors, but slaughtering the last of the T'surr wasn't a question for Jay. They were all to die.
It didn't take long for them to realize it and start to fight back, but the fights were even easier than the surprise assault at the boarding ramp.
Through it all, Jay never really noticed Janos' disturbed expression, or the way he was unsettled by the wholesale slaughter of the T'surr willing to surrender.
Within the space of an hour, everything indicated the ship was theirs, hundreds of slaves packed into the holds like sardines, cheering for their freedom as their keepers were slaughtered.
With the only living things left the slaves, Jay reached out to Kraken to send droids in to escort the slaves into the makeshift secured sections on the ship for him to go over at his leisure. Then he reached out to the Kuranti and had it transmit his thoughts on the PS system.
"Attention. Cooperate with the droids that will escort you to new quarters on board the Kraken. You will be interviewed by a live crewmember as soon as possible. Until then, please do not attempt to leave the restricted zone. Security can be a bit trigger happy."
"They'll probably be grateful enough for what we give them to not want to leave," Janos pointed out, following Jay as they started to make their way off the ship, droids starting to move around, clearing bodies and escorting slaves in small groups.
"True," he nodded acceptance of the likelihood. "Guess I still think it's just polite to warn them it's not good to try to leave their area. There are probably a few in this lot that will make viable crewmembers. T'surr don't seem to bother to check on what skills someone has."
"Not once they decide you're good for something in particular," Janos agreed. "Slaves don't always get put where their skills are, after all, or Tamil wouldn't have been a pleasure slave."
"True, though he's very good at it, and happy to be one." Jay nodded. "Unlike Vondra before you got her."
"He also wasn't gang-raped on a regular basis as his introduction to sex," Janos growled lowly. "Now those T'surr I wouldn't have minded going back to slaughter once I found out about it."
"We may well find them at some point." Jay smiled faintly. "They are still in the business after all, and we know their ship."
"Even if they are working for another Hutt now," Janos agreed. "By the way, speaking of ships, any plans for this one?"
"Figuring on selling it." He shrugged. "Something you want?"
"Just figuring it wouldn't be that hard to pick up a nice, small smuggler or something afterwards," Janos shrugged. "Something that'd give us options besides the Kraken and Sharufa."
Jay nodded easily. "It would be fun shopping for one, instead of building it."
"And a lot easier," the Wolf chuckled. "We can always add to it after that.
"Quite true," he nodded with a throaty purr and ran his hand down Janos' side. "Why don't we get back to those pretty pets of ours?"
"Sounds good to me," the Wolf rumbled. "This was a lot faster than I'd expected."
"Very much," Jay reached up and licked the side of his muzzle playfully. "Much better too."
"Right," Janos chuckled, sincerely hoping that Jay was only referring to the number of slaves they'd taken, and not the number of bodies they were leaving behind.
"Master?" Misha looked up at Jay when he suddenly froze, his sharp claws digging into her arms as his attention snapped to elsewhere with a snarl between rage and heartbreak.
Janos caught the echo of exactly what had happened; the light bond between father and son that had built up over the last two months suddenly snapped. He couldn't tell which of the newborn, or unborn, kits had died, but five were now four and Jay was reacting in the not-to-unexpected way as he pulled out of the Minervan Mink and bolted for the door, his fur bristled and his focus only on reaching his other kits to protect them from whatever had claimed the life of one.
He didn't even bother with a speeder, just his natural speed to make it to the birthing room in record time. He didn't even notice that the door had been locked and sealed as he flung it open with a snarl and lit lightsaber, seeking whatever had happened to his son. He saw the midwife standing over the four surviving kits, Mina visibly exhausted and pained on the medical bed.
"*It's her fault,*" the Demon whispered to him. "*The midwife was supposed to keep them alive....*"
"*No,*" Mina protested across their bond. "*Jay, it ... I don't know what happened, but....*"
"I am sorry, sir." The midwife spoke softly, her grief at the death reverberating in the Force. "There was nothing to be done for him. I did everything I could, but he was already gone."
It was that truth, the emotions in the Force, that saved her life as close as she was to his surviving children.
Mina let out a soft mental sigh of relief, shielded behind her own grief ... surprisingly honest, though for a different reason entirely than the midwife's, or even Jay's.
Jay was still trembling, his rage and pain needing an outlet. Then his eyes fell on the surviving kittens, tiny and mewing, and the needs of the present overrode everything else.
The lightsaber was turned off as he stepped up to the midwife tending his newborn kits and he reached out to lightly touch each of them, cementing the parental family bond that was more instinct than knowledge. "Do you need Tami yet?"
"It would be best to leave them with their mother for now," the midwife said. "She can keep them, and they need her milk more than Tami's. If you'll help hold them?"
He nodded; the nervous, unprepared first-time father he was visible to both women as he took extreme care and submitted to the midwife's instructions without question as the survivors were brought to Mina and began suckling eagerly from four of her six breasts.
Mina, for her part, was grateful for the help, her largest breasts being suckled hungrily by the mewling kits who were literally too much of a handful for her to hold all at once. She'd have it figured out in time, but for now, she didn't have the coordination or knowledge to keep all four of them up.
She was fervently grateful that their claws wouldn't grow in for a week yet, and the needle-sharp teeth were a couple months away. She was also grateful that the incredible rage that had boiled up in her mate had been subverted by his kittens. He'd let it loose sometime soon, but not against her or the midwife she really did still need.
Here, she saw a tender, doting, absolutely enchanted side of the tom that didn't fit at all with the quickly-darkening Jedi she knew him to be.
"Master Janos? What is between Master Jay and Mistress Mina?" Misha asked quietly as the Wolf was panting between his two females. The Mink had been busy proving, along with Vondra, just how well the two of them could tire him out, Force-enhanced endurance and all.
"Besides the fact that she's a sadistic, twisted bitch who'd as soon torture somebody as say hello?" He asked her. "Probably the mess about how the three of us hooked up."
"Yes, Master Janos." She nodded. "You and Master Jay I can understand. How she got involved ... it's kinda hard to trick a tom into siring a litter."
"Our old Master did something to her that put her in heat," Janos explained with a sigh. It felt like it had been years since then. "It's complicated, but the short of it is that she tricked him into sleeping with her, and she was guaranteed to be pregnant afterwards."
"And he's enough of a father to take care of her." She nodded seriously. "She won't live much longer now that she no longer has the kittens to protect her, will she?"
"If she's smart, she'll leave just before the kits don't need her at all," Janos nodded. "They're all he cares about. He might just buy her off, but I wouldn't count on it if I were her. Wouldn't blame him either."
"She brings out the worst in him, I think." Misha murmured as she ran her slender fingers threw Janos' thick gray fur. "He seems so much nicer when he hasn't been around her for a while."
"He was a Jedi before," Janos said softly. "I was an idiot for ever working with Tembris... if it weren't for the things he's done since, I'd be tempted to fill the Jedi in on where he is, turn him over, take out Mina, and cut and run with what I could."
The females exchanged a look at the first revelation and Vondra shivered.
"I thought Jedi didn't believe in punishment." Vondra murmured uneasily.
"Yeah, tell that to any of a half-dozen Jedi who've tried to take me down," he muttered. "They might not believe in punishment, but they don't much believe in bringing in prisoners alive if they don't think it's worth trying to save 'em either."
"But you weren't one of them ... were you?" Vondra looked up at him uncertainly.
"Nah," he said, shaking his head. "Just a punk whose sire found out the hard way that you can only push a guy so far before he pushes back. Hard."
"Master Jay was though." Misha pointed out. "They'd probably try a lot harder to take him alive."
"Yeah, but some of the things he's done ... I don't think he'd want them to take him alive," Janos pointed out, thinking back to Naboo and Nar Shaddaa alike. Even more to Jay's reaction to his former mates on Toydaria. It spoke volumes for how much the tom didn't want to go back to the Jedi.
"He's good enough to make them kill him to, if he wanted to." Vondra murmured. "And the kittens ..."
"I don't think he'd kill them, but he doesn't want the Jedi getting their hands on them," Janos agreed. "He'd rather have Mina take them, I think."
That made both females shudder.
"Better that we take them, Master." Vondra said firmly.
"Believe me, I know," he nodded. "If it gets that far, I'll make sure she doesn't get them," he said firmly. "She's one person who should never have been allowed to breed, but it wasn't my idea ... as soon as she got some power of her own, she let it twist her."
Vondra nodded in understanding, though it was based in a very different kind of power. "It happens to some people. They just can't handle it."
"Too true," the elder Wolf nodded softly, hugging both women against him. "Come on, let's get out of bed and get something to eat. I could use a good meal."
"That sounds very good." Vondra smiled and nuzzled him.
"They had quite an inventory." Janos commented as he and Jay headed for a set of rooms set aside near the slave quarters for interviewing them before deciding what to do with each.
Most would be resold along with the T'surr ship, though Jay had a mind to free those captured from freedom recently and keep those who had the mindset and skills to be useful on the ship. First though, would be determining what they could do and whether they were actual slave material or not.
"So, who're we starting with?" The Wolf asked him, glancing at the datapad. "Ringtail?"
"The pilot?" Jay nodded. "Yes. We do need one after all."
"Hey, I'm not complaining," Janos said seriously. "This ship's way the hell too big for the two of us, and I'd rather have another living pilot than a droid."
"I kind of expected so." He chuckled softly and opened the door to where the Ringtail male was sitting at the small table, waiting for them. He'd clearly seen better days, but was likely much improved from when he'd been on board the T'surr ship. "Rob Starjumper?" Jay looked him over critically, looking in the Force more than with his eyes.
"Yes sir," the Ringtail said, nodding a little nervously. He wasn't at all sure what to expect, though the improved quarters and food that had been available were making him hopeful.
"T'surr records say you're a pilot." Jay said as he sat down across from the slave. "And seem to indicate you were not a slave before they 'found' you."
"I wasn't," he said easily. "The blue-skinned bastards caught me while my ship was recovering from a run through the Kessel system and captured me."
"You were freelance then?" Jay barely had to guess with how easy it was to read his mind.
"Yeah," the Ringtail nodded his striped, vaguely feline head. "Was running the spice legitimately too," he added quickly, not sure if it would be a problem or not.
The definite mental 'this time' in the pilot's mind wasn't missed by either sensitive.
"Do you want to earn your freedom?" Jay got to the point. "Two year contract and you can walk away, no implant, on any planet we stop at."
"*Hell yes!" The Ringtail said, unable to keep his excitement at the prospect under wraps. "Anything's gotta be better than being some Hutt's pet smuggler."
Jay couldn't help but chuckle. "I've been told otherwise, but that was before we had a ship that could out-fight nearly anything in the system." He reached down and slid a small lightslate from the bag he'd brought in and handed it over. "This'll show you where your new quarters are, the bridge, your duties, restrictions and what is expected of you."
"No problem," he nodded, taking the slate. "Uhm... I've never actually been one of the chief pilots on a ship like this before," he warned them. "I'm fully trained for it, but never actually got a post on one this big before I went solo."
"You just have," Jay nodded slightly. "Be ready for a fight. We have a few coming."
"How big a fight?" Rob asked him. "This ship could take anything up to a full-scale battle fleet without breaking a sweat, to look at it."
"Fairly accurate." Jay nodded. "And I expect a serious fight at least once." He stood to leave. "It's the Jedi fleet hunting us after all."
"The what?!?" The Ringtail asked, his eyes wide as saucers and the Wolf and Kat stood, walking out and leaving him behind to wonder just what he'd gotten himself into.
"Last one for a while?" Jay offered Janos a break after 20 interviews of varying levels of intensity and outcomes. They'd recruited a gunner and navigator in addition to their Ringtail pilot, but most didn't have a lot of skills and had been broken to the point that they really weren't suitable for much more than slaves anymore.
"Please," the Wolf almost groaned. "One more, but I really can't take another one like that weepy shecat."
"There are probably going to be a lot more given T'surr methods." Jay sighed and shook his head. "They believe in breaking, not training after all."
"Yeah, but one a day is my limit," Janos muttered. "Nice girl, I feel sorry for her, but she really was getting on every nerve I had left at that point."
"She'll do better on Alderaan." Jay nodded as they stopped in front of the next meeting room and took a deep breath. "I will so be ready for a break after this one."
"Here's hoping it goes well," Janos agreed, rolling his head, the vertebra in his spine 'cracking' lightly. "Well, let's see what we have to work with for her."
"An attitude," Jay actually smirked as he reached into the room with his mind before opening the door to reveal a flat-chested Mouse with rich burgundy, snow white and deep blue fur and a scowl on her face and complete defiance.
"I'm guessing she gave a few T'surr good cause not to go for blowjobs before they gave up," Janos observed quietly enough that he didn't think she'd hear it.
"Imna?" Jay greeted her with an even tone that didn't exactly hide his approval of her reaction.
"That's me. Who are you?" She demanded tersely.
"Jay," he answered easily and sat down across from her. "Janos," he nodded to the Wolf. "We're in charge of this ship."
"I guess you expect me to be grateful or something for getting me away from those things." She lifted a lip in distaste of her captors. Mouse or not, she had sharp teeth and the two large front ones were enough to slice into flesh with a good bite.
"Well, since you're not packed up like a sardine anymore it certainly wouldn't be out of place," Janos said dryly. "Though it's not like we we're in this for gratitude."
"You seem to have survived well for being with them for eight months." Jay nodded in approval and cut off her sharp retort.
"Surviving is what Painted Mice do." Imna shrugged and met the larger predator's gaze unflinchingly. "So what are you going to try?"
"Talking to you?" Janos suggested, his eyes roaming her unusually colored fur. He'd heard about them before, but not often, and the rumors about their colors were true. Imna had colors on her he hadn't imagined seeing on a Mouse before, at least not one who hadn't pissed off a fur-dye specialist.
"They had no idea what they were getting into with you." Jay abruptly laughed, shaking his head slightly. "So what are you skills? You don't seem like the pleasure-slave type."
"Wanna try it, furball?" She leaned forward defiantly, her large front teeth on prominent display.
"I have pets who enjoy it." Jay smirked, showing his own fangs in a grin. "You aren't that kind. Now I can just dig into your mind and find what I'm looking for, or you can chill a bit and tell me." He leaned on her in the Force a bit. Not quite a Command, but enough to get her to stop baiting them a bit.
"I did okay in school, but no skills to speak of." She murmured and settled down.
"So how'd the T'surr get their hands on you?" Janos asked. "Just a raid?"
"I was going to Parmainia to visit family. They attacked the ship I was on." She answered with more than a bit of anger showing.
"*I like this one. She'd make a damn good guard.*" Jay commented silently.
"*If she's willing, I'd have to agree,*" Janos responded. "*Attitude aside, you don't grow up in Wild Space without picking up a few tricks.*"
"How'd you like to earn your freedom and come out of a four-year contract with job skills, a full education and experience that'll get you in with most anyone you want to work for?" Jay cut to the deal. Despite her outward suspicion, he could feel how interested she was.
He couldn't help but be surprised that the education on offer was almost as valuable to her as the freedom to her.
"What do I have to do?" She asked warily.
Jay reached down and pulled a lightslate from the bag and handed it over. "Pick something on that list. You'll be trained for the job. You can pick up your education during your down time."
They waited while she looked over the list of jobs on the ship and suddenly perked up, her large, round ears twitching slightly as she looked up and met Jay's gaze.
"*She knows how to pick one that'll be training heavy,*" Janos observed mentally to his mate. "*Hell, I'm not even sure either of us would rate a real expert on the ancient Sith fighters on this thing.*"
"*She knows how to pick an adrenaline-junky job.*" Jay chuckled back. "*And don't worry about the fighters. I can handle that.*"
"Agreed." He nodded acceptance. "The slate will show you to your new quarters, restricted areas and expectations. I'll be in touch in a few days to work out a training schedule."
"You're about to learn how to fly ships that haven't been seen for a long, long time," Janos chuckled. "Hope you're a fast learner."
"And a couple that haven't been seen yet." Jay added with a snicker and stood. "Settle in and relax. You won't have a lot of time for it when we get started."
"Right." She nodded suspiciously, though both males knew they'd won her over if they kept their part of the bargain.
"Mmm ... y'know, when you're this tense, you usually can't keep your hands off me," Janos observed, rubbing Jay's shoulders as they snuggled in bed after the interview with Imna. "Can't be that wound up over the slaves, ex and otherwise."
"No," Jay admitted quietly and rolled over to face his mate for a soft kiss. "It's about who's chasing us...and how our bond was formed." He paused, biting his lip slightly. "If I die first, you'll probably end up with a lifebond to Fenrik."
Jay shook his head sharply and shifted to sit up. He reached for Janos' mind and drew a mental image of a thick band between himself and Fenrik.
"This is the natural bond between Fenrik and myself." He spoke softly. He glued a new band on, overlaying the original and linking Janos to him. "This is how we were bonded. Cut any one side, and the remaining two are still bonded. It's not quite a triad bond, but it's close."
"Unless the bond's weak enough that it just snaps instead," Janos pointed out. "And even if that is the case, there's not much we can do about it, is there?"
"We make sure I don't die first." Jay murmured, his eyes downcast, unwilling to spell out that it meant hunting their hunters and killing Fenrik before Jay could be captured.
"Hey, Jay," Janos said, tipping his head up so he could look into those eyes. "You realize that it doesn't have to reach a point where any of us die in particular?"
He watched as Jay struggled to believe that, something he wanted very much, and come up short.
"How?" He whispered.
"Well, if they don't catch us is one," Janos pointed out, nuzzling him lightly. "Besides, I think your mate would be willing to take you back without killing you, if worst came to worst."
"He would," Jay shuddered, the raw terror bubbling up from the back of his mind quickly overwhelming the well-trained tom. "To face Revan's fate. No." He shook his head sharply with a half-outraged, half-terrified snarl. "I will not have my mind wiped and replaced with something that suits them. I am Jay Clawson and no one will take that from me."
"Jay, your situation isn't like mine or Mina's," Janos pointed out. "I don't know who this Revan is, but I have a feeling it's not the same there... if the Jedi brought you back alive, they'd probably at least see if having you around them would fix things the way being around Mina fucked them up. I don't like the Jedi any more than the next guy, but you didn't choose the Dark Side, and if anything I've heard about them from Tembris is true they'd try and bring you back that way. You haven't killed any Jedi, after all."
"I've killed a great deal though." Jay murmured, wanting to believe and simply too afraid of what the Jedi could do to him, and his kits, to accept it. "They'd never leave my kits be. They trained me out of fear of my capabilities untrained, they won't allow four just like me, and even stronger, to run loose."
"And you don't want to give them up to somebody else to raise," Janos nodded understandingly. "Just remember, it doesn't do them any good for you to be dead either."
"I can't, no one else in this galaxy knows the Demon and how to use our family Gift. No one else can train them."
"Weren't you planning on building a drive that'll get us out of this galaxy and back to yours?" Janos pointed out.
Jay actually blinked, surprise written across his face. "Forgot that, actually." He murmured sheepishly. "Need to start to focus on that."
"Might be good," Janos chuckled, licking Jay's cheek. "The Azine kinda sidetracked us all. Jay... if you do go, I'm not sure if I'll be able to come with you, on that trip. I might, but I'm not sure."
"We'll have to find a strong mind-healer, then. One who doesn't ask questions." Jay accepted it with regret. "Leaving the bond intact with that kind of distance can be worse than shredding it intentionally."
"What about your other mates?" Janos asked him. "They are still alive, after all. Sounds like we'll have to find a healer either way."
"If it came to that, I know how to break bonds, even these." He whispered. "I can't do it before I get home. It takes too long to recover."
"All right," Janos nodded slightly. "I just know... they deserve the concern as much as I do. I'll have to raise the question with Vondra."
"They're trying to take me back," Jay protested the idea. "Take my kittens away."
"And the only reason you're not still there with them, the only reason you have kittens you didn't really want, is because Tembris and that thing in your head did something to force two bonds on you that you didn't want," Janos told him.
"I can't allow the Jedi to capture my kits." Jay shook his head. "No matter why they exist, Jedi -- anyone in this galaxy -- will corrupt them. Destroy their chance to be taken back into the family."
"Jay...." Janos sighed, shaking his head. "That's not what I meant. What I meant is that they're not the bad guys here. Nobody is, except Mina and Tembris."
"You ... think I should go back?" Jay trembled slightly.
"No," Janos admitted, caressing the older tom's jawbone and felt him relax and press into the contact a bit. "I just don't want you to think you have to do something you'll hate yourself for. Don't want you to put your real mates through any more hell than you have to, because you don't think they care about you anymore."
He felt how much that idea, that the Jedi were his real mates and they cared about him, confused Jay. It left the tom with his eyes closed and just soaking in the physical contact for a long moment.
"They'll never stop hunting me." Jay murmured painfully.
"You ever think of asking them to? They think you're a prisoner, after all, and that after they bring you back they'll be able to make you go back to the Jedi without any trouble."
"If it wasn't for my kittens, I probably would go back." Jay murmured uneasily. "I have to think of their future now, not just mine." He sighed and reached up to pull Janos closer for a lingering kiss. "I don't know what would happen if I saw them again."
"Don't trust them?"
"Not to talk me into something I'll regret, or just attack first this time." Jay sighed. "I just want to be left alone."
"So tell them. I'll make sure they don't get your kits... and that Mina doesn't."
Jay bit his lip, uneasy with the idea but turning to his mate's judgment in the face of confusion as he always had.
"I'll try." Jay whispered and pressed close, decidedly afraid of what was coming.
"You trust one of them more than the other?" Janos asked, rubbing his back. "Haven't run into a Jedi yet who'd break a real promise."
"Shi," he trembled. The fear in his soul of her, of the Healer, burned brightly to Janos, but so was the fact that as an Ice Walker, she would never break even the intent of her promise if it was her choice at all. "Fen is like me, he'd look to the mission and work his way around a promise somehow. He kisses me ...." Jay's voice drifted off as potent memories from his first meeting with the Panther drifted up. The way that first kiss had been a lightning rod on the bond that Jay's mind and soul had been seeking for years. The fact that Fenrik was the better fighter.
Always back to the potency of the bond, though. The absolute authority Jay had willingly submitted to nearly his entire life.
"So talk to her," Janos told him softly. "Make her promise you to meet you, just to talk, alone. We could find somewhere the rest of the fleet won't find us... I know places to hide that are damned hard to get in and out of."
Jay nodded slowly, submitting to the choice as he usually did Fenrik's. It made sense, but he wouldn't have done it on his own.
"Until then, no more thinking." Jay rumbled and claimed a kiss intended to arouse as he rubbed his body against his mate's.
"No more thinking," Janos agreed with a rumble, rolling over on top of him and returning the kiss deeply.
Shivasta sighed softly as she rubbed her temples, her head aching after yet another fruitless day of trying to get a feel for where Jay was. She'd only stopped when the computer had beeped, telling her a message had arrived.
Probably Fenrik calling her to get something to eat.
She opened the message, standing from where she was meditating, realizing it was more serious than she'd thought. A private message from Master Miya ... maybe she'd had some sort of insight into the situation.
When she saw that it was really from Jay, she wished she was still sitting.
"Contact me on channel 735.7. Be alone and keep it secure." He spoke softly and firmly, something about the determination in his manner a bit off. It took her a long moment to realize he was completely terrified behind that fairly controlled exterior.
She felt a lump in her throat as she went through the unfamiliar steps to set up the holo-net message to him, encrypted and highly secured using a set of protocols that had come attached to his message.
"Jay?" She asked, as the recorder started to scan her and he appeared before her. He looked worn and uneasy, the past few months telling on him nearly as much as on her.
"Yes," he said quietly, trying to hold himself together as he struggled to find the words that had come much easier not too long before. "I want to be left alone."
"What do you mean?" She asked him, her expression confused. "Jay, you don't need to keep running, we can work this out. Please, Jay, we're worried about you."
"Don't be." He shook his head. "I'm fine. I can't go back anymore. I don't want to. Just leave me be, Shi. Send the fleet home."
"Jay... can we at least meet somewhere, talk about this? I ... I need to know that it's really you who wants this. You can come back, Jay, what's happened isn't going to get in the way. We can fix things."
It had to be the people he was with. He hadn't been the most devout Jedi, but to just abandon them completely?
To abandon his mates ... her?
He swallowed, his fear of her shining brightly in his eyes even in the hologram. She was sure she could actually feel it pulsing along their bond.
"*Shi?*" Fenrik's mind touched hers. "*Is something happening?*"
"*No,*" she lied, hating herself for it even as she did so. Part of her knew that there was a reason Jay had contacted her ... and another part of her knew that the reason was because Fenrik would be able to handle this better than she was. "*Just multi-tasking, answering that message I got and looking for Jay ... not the easiest thing to keep up.*"
"Jay," she said softly. "Please... whatever the problem is, we can find a way around it. Don't let it end like this, please."
"*All right.*" He backed out reluctantly.
"All right." Jay sighed in defeat, unintentionally mirroring his mate's words as he reached out with his mind and sent a packet of instructions on how to get the Kyrani system. "You'll need a pilot. Chose one that will not speak of this to anyone."
"I take it a droid pilot won't do the trick?" She asked him. "And that you don't want me to have Fenrik come?" She asked more softly.
Her words seemed to panic him for a moment.
"No." He said firmly. "And I want your promise, as an Ice Walker and Jedi, that you will not give anyone a way to follow you or find me and that no one will attack."
"I promise," she said after a moment, sighing. "Jay... we both still love you."
He closed his eyes and shuddered. "I know." He whispered. "This isn't about me or us anymore, Shi. I can't betray my kits. I just can't." He closed the line before the tears fell.
"Sweet Gods," she whispered softly to herself, closing the line and resting her head in her arms.
She'd been desperately hoping they'd find him before they were born.
"*Shi?*" Fenrik was back, the sense of him rushing towards her in response to her distress.
She managed to compose herself by the time the door opened.
"We're losing him, Fenrik," she said softly when he stepped in and slid his arms around her. "I think we've got one more chance, but I have to take it alone."
"Why?" He resisted instantly. "He's my mate too." He managed not to say that Jay was his mate first.
"I promised him," she said softly, but firmly, reaching up to stroke the Panther's cheek. "I wish I could have you with me, Fenrik, but he was firm about it. I think he's worried about what'll happen if you're there."
"He knows me." Fenrik sighed and closed his eyes and rested his chin on her shoulder. "I'd find a way to capture him, no matter what."
"You'd have to kill him to do that," she said softly. "You would now, at least. He won't go back peacefully anymore, not without being talked into it."
"Our original plan still could work. I distract him until you can knock him out." He pointed out. "You've got the skills to take him down without hurting him much."
"No," Shi said firmly. "Fenrik, I promised him I would be alone, and that I wouldn't tell anybody else where to find me besides the pilot who'll be there with me. And you can't be that pilot. Besides, if we do that at this point, he'll never forgive either of us."
"If you need a pilot, choose a good one." He murmured and nuzzled her. "He's going to choose a place that's hard as hell to get into."
"I'm thinking of Kanna," she admitted. "She's a good pilot, and I know I can trust her to keep things under wraps." She rubbed his back and closed her eyes tightly. "I don't think I'll be able to bring him back, Fenrik," she admitted softly.
"Then what do we do?" He looked at her, his eyes darkening. "We can't leave him with those people, much less his kits. Those are our kits too, you know. Our children."
"That's the reason I don't think I can bring him back," she pointed out. "You remember how he reacted to the idea of kits... it wasn't just because of the Demon, I don't think. He doesn't trust the Jedi to take him back, and I think he'd rather die than see his kits raised by the Order. I don't know why, for sure, but I know that they're the real barrier now. I think I can get him away from the Dark Siders though."
"How?" Fenrik shifted to look her in the face.
"The kits," she explained. "If he doesn't want the Jedi to raise them, do you really think he'd want the Sith involved in raising them instead?"
"You're going to try to convince him to simply disappear on everyone?" He raised an eyebrow. "Shi, those bonds won't let him just leave." He paused and considered her. "Do you think you could break the false bonds, the ones overlaying ours, if he agreed?"
"I think so," she nodded. "If nothing else, I'm a good enough mind healer that if he was working with me I could help break them for him with a minimum of pain."
"At least break it with that female." He pressed his forehead against hers. "She's the Dark one. The male ... he's not so bad. I want Jay back, but he can't survive without a mate. Not sane, and not for long. He knows it too. Don't ask him to be alone to get help."
"I know," she agreed softly. "It's the woman I want gone too... and I think Jay'll go along with it, once I get him past the idea of breaking a bond. Another good reason for me to be the one to talk to him about it." She turned to kissed him softly, her expressive blue eyes reflecting the turmoil inside her. "I'm sorry, Fenrik. I wish I could do more."
"Just don't let yourself promise to never seek him out again." He murmured. "Back off for now, if we have to, but don't promise forever."
"I can't do that, Fenrik," she nodded. "He'll want me to, I'm sure, but I can't make a promise like that. Even if I did, the Jedi would be the only ones who'd expect me to keep it."
"Good," he let out a breath of relief and kissed her softly. "Kanna's a good pilot. She'll see you through."
"I know she will," Shi nodded slightly, hugging her mate. "I'll try to bring him back, you know that."
"I know." He murmured, holding her close for a long moment before he left her be to settle herself for this trial.
Jay drew a deep breath and fought to control his trembling. He would not show this kind of fear to the Healer. She'd be able to see it too easily anyway.
"*She's going to trick you.*" The Demon whispered in the back of his mind.
"*She'll never stop hunting me until she's seen me in person.*" Jay sighed and let the fear go, a strange kind of calmness enveloping him as he set himself on his course and landed Sharufa in the open near her small fighter by the lake in the middle of nowhere.
The blue-skinned Healer was near the lake, meditating, but she turned to face the Sharufa as she heard it come down to land. The fighter near her was sealed, but he could feel Kanna on-board. It was a little the worse for wear from navigating the black-hole riddled space near the Kyrani system, but that was what made this place safe.
His mate waited for him to come down, her expression masking her emotions ... but he could feel that she was almost as scared as he was.
In its strange way, it made this easier. If she wasn't feeling in control and confident, he had a chance of getting out of this in one piece.
"*This is a trap.*" The Demon warned him.
"*Of course it's a trap. She's Jedi.*" Jay snorted before opening the hatch and stepping onto the short blue-green grass.
"Hello, Jay," Shi said, taking a step towards him and swallowing hard. "It's good to see you again...."
"I wish this hadn't been needed." He pulled all his self-control together and the Demon's support not to rush to her and claim the kiss he hadn't tasted in over half a year.
"Our meeting?" She asked him, looking up into his eyes. "Jay, if I was just going to let you go, what sort of mate would I be?"
"Given we don't have a bond anymore, I'm not sure." He said uneasily.
"We do have a bond, Jay," she told him. "I can feel it yet, even with the other one it's been tied to. Try, please... reach out, and look under the Cat's. Our bond is still there."
"It doesn't matter." He shook his head sharply, his voice low. "I can't go back now, not until my kits are grown."
"Is it because you don't have family in the galaxy to help you raise them yet?" She asked, wanting to be sure before she said what Kanna had told her.
"Yes," he murmured, every nerve on edge.
"Jay, you family is on the way here," she said, nothing in her tone or mind suggesting deceit. "The Seers have sensed them, they shouldn't be more than a month, two months away."
"Then they will find me." He countered simply, his tone steely. "And they will take my kits home. If you're speaking the truth, I'll return in a few months at most."
"Assuming nothing happens to you between now and then... and that nothing happens to them," she pointed out. "Jay... I don't know much about the people you're with now, but I can tell some things about the Cat. She shouldn't be allowed in the same system as kits, and you know it."
That made him look away, an expressive acknowledgement of just how intimately he knew that.
"I can't bring myself to kill her, not with the bond there." He whispered.
"You don't have to kill her," Shi said softly. "I can help you break the bond, then you can turn her over to us. Jay ... I don't want to let her hurt you any more than she already has."
He stopped the first retort, then regarded her. It was an answer to his dilemma of that bond. It was also something he could feel the Demon gathering its full power to resist.
It was just enough to bring a smirk to his face as he leveled his gaze on her.
"I want two promises from you first." He spoke with the strength of his will suppressing the creature that had had all but free reign for months.
"What are they?" She asked him, both of them knowing she wouldn't make her promises blindly.
"Leave me be until my family has come." He began. "Stop this hunt; send the fleet to other duties."
"I can't promise that they'll stop on my say-so, Jay," she told him. "You know that Essani and the Council are concerned as well. But I can promise that I'll do my best."
"You are the one with the bond." He pointed out. "You and Fenrik. You can stop yourself, and him. If you two stop the hunt, the rest are easy to avoid."
"I will stop," she promised. "Until your kin have arrived."
Dear Gods, she hoped Charn, Zaian, and Kanna couldn't all be wrong about this.
"And stop Fenrik." He pressed her.
"If I can, I will," she nodded. "But only if you let me get that shecat out of your head and you give her to us."
"One other thing first," he hesitated, then stepped forward and brushed his hand along her cheek. "Promise me you won't use our bond against me. Breaking Mina's will bring yours back to full strength. You know enough to break me in minutes with that."
"I love you too much to do that, Jay," she said softly, returning the gentle touch and winced internally when he flinched away from it and back off. "And you know it. Please... come back to us, as soon as you can? We both miss you."
"I will." He reluctantly gave his word, something that he still considered binding against the howling protests of the Demon.
"All right," she nodded softly. "Are you ready then? I'm not sure if this is going to hurt or not, just that it will get her out of you."
Jay nodded, still uneasy and with the full knowledge that all four bonds were influencing him heavily. He could feel Fenrik's increased presence, the power and will of the Panther an intoxicating rush that demanded more. Still, he managed enough forethought to send a message to Janos, still on board the Kraken, to take Mina into custody and keep her there.
"Trust me," Shi whispered, reaching up to take his head in her hands and focus on reaching out to him across their bond, the twisted, sadistic shecat's wrapped around it like a strangling vine. "Want this fast, or slow?"
"Get it over with." He growled, focused on little more than submitting to this vulnerability for as little time as possible.
Shi nodded, focusing on the alien bond. She wished she had more time to do this properly; to soothe the pain that she was sure would result.
Instead, she channeled the Force along their bond, giving him what comfort she could as she ripped the emotional ties and connections away. One particular part was difficult, and it gave her a sinking feeling deep in the pit of her stomach as she realized what it was.
They had found one thing in common; they both enjoyed causing pain.
The false bond destroyed, she started to look into Jay's eyes, searching for any sign of how he was doing, only to realize the scream she heard from his mind was echoed by his voice as he clutched his head and yanked himself away from her. She could feel the gratitude at having the nightmare that was Mina out of his head even as he did his best to pull his shields tightly around himself to protect himself from the shining Light now on the other end of the bond.
She'd done it, but it would take months for him to come out of that shell.
It was then that she heard movement in the foliage surrounding the clearing. She whirled around, not at all clear what sort of wild animals would be on this planet, her hand on her lightsaber. If it was some sort of predator, attracted by the scream, she'd need to act quickly.
Instead she felt her other mate as his shields slipped a bit and a small dart whizzed by her to land perfectly between two of Jay's ribs on his long, powerful back. It wasn't a pain that even registered as a second dart hit and Jay crumpled forward, unconscious.
Shivasta's anger raged white-hot as Fenrik came out of the bushes, carrying the dart-pistol he'd used, and she had no reservations about venting it against him as only an Ice Walker Healer could.
It might not be the Jedi way, but she was not going to stand for this!
"What the Hell do you think you're doing?" She demanded, pulling the darts from Jay's body and checking to make sure he was all right. As usual, Fenrik knew exactly what he was doing. The drugged darts had just enough to take the tom down and not nearly enough to do any permanent damage.
"What you can't." He answered simply, unfazed by her rage as he stepped forward and brushed a hand along Jay's sleeping form. It was a rush all it's own to touch him again after so many months of barely feeling his presence.
"He trusted me," she nearly growled. "He trusted me that this wouldn't be an ambush, that I'd keep my promise, and that he would be safe. Because of that, I had his promise that he'd be back to us, and I practically had the one who's behind all this in our hands! Do you have any idea what you've just fouled up?"
"You actually believe the word of a Darksider?" He looked up at her pointedly. "He may mean it now, but give him five minutes back in the presence of that Wolf and it'll be a different story. It's the strength of your bond's presence that's creating that kind of compliance and that won't last."
"I believe Jay's word, Fenrik," she sighed, shaking her head. "I know he's not just another Dark Sider to you. And what do you think he'll do when he wakes up and we're hauling him back to Coruscant while his 'mates' have his kittens?" She asked him pointedly. "This isn't a situation you can just muscle your way through!"
"That's not my plan." Fenrik said softly. "I remember the power of a kiss with him. He'll lead us to the Kraken, willingly, with the right touch. He'll come back with us too, with some effort. It doesn't have to be us or the Dark, Shi. There are middle grounds for those kittens that bring him to us and keeps them safe from us."
"But not that leave him with them to raise them until another Clawson is available," she pointed out. "Unless you can think of something that you'll convince him of. If you do this, Fenrik... I don't know what it'll do between the two of you. He's vulnerable now, and you know as well as I do how hard it is for him to forgive that."
"At this age, they're unlikely to leave our quarters." He pointed out. "If you're even remotely correct about his kin, they won't even be weaned when they arrive. If not, they don't have to live at the Temple."
"Fenrik, I can suggest it to him, but if you do this you are going to completely undermine everything I've accomplished," she said firmly, slipping into full Healer mode. "It's no different than coming in while I'm working on somebody with an infected arm and hacking it off with your lightsaber, and I'm not going to allow it any more than I would that."
He started to argue, then flattened his ears and accepted the reprimand as he stood. "I hope you're right."
"If we do it your way, then all the control we have is what you put on him through the bond," she pointed out. "And if that's not enough, he'll have reason to turn against us. My way is the only way we can really bring him back."
"I don't agree with that," he actually growled softly. "But we will try this your way." He acquiesced and walked back into the forest.
Shi sighed and shook her head. It wasn't the first time the two of them had disagreed about how to handle something like this, and she was sure it wouldn't be the last.
She knelt next to Jay, focusing on working the Force through his body to clear the sedative. Fenrik seemed to forget that, with their bond at full strength now, she'd be able to find him a lot more easily.
The tom groaned softly and focused all his energy on bringing his body back to full awareness as rapidly as possible.
Shi looked around as he started to wake up, making sure that Fenrik was outside the area. She could sense him moving away, and was grateful to know that he was making his way towards his concealed fighter.
How he'd followed her without being noticed she didn't know.
Her full attention was drawn back to Jay, and determining just how much the tom knew about the past few minutes.
It left her with a choice. Jay hadn't even felt the darts; he was unlikely to realize anyone had even been here. But he might notice his scent; her nose wasn't as strong as his, and Fenrik's irritation had to be fairly strong.
The tension that rippled across his body a moment later came with awareness of that very scent.
"Where is he?" He growled and struggled to his feet, a lightsaber in hand even though he didn't stand a chance against the Panther right now.
"Gone," she said, making her own irritation with Fenrik clear. "I didn't know he was there, Jay, and when he came out I sent him away."
He looked at her, an odd expression on his face.
It took her a moment to realize he was trying to figure out why she'd do such a thing.
"I made a promise, Jay," she told him softly. "I promised you that I'd come alone, and that I wouldn't set something like this up. I didn't, and I didn't want you to think I had. Your kits need you, just now. Jay... are you willing to listen to an option you might not have thought of?"
As wary and uneasy as he was, as little as he really trusted her, he nodded and put his lightsaber away.
"As young as your kits are, they wouldn't be old enough to really leave quarters yet," she explained. "By the time they were weaned, your family would be here ... they wouldn't have to face the dangers out there if somebody takes the Kraken on.
"*If the Council doesn't act against me." He shook his head. Despite a level voice, she felt, right down to her bones, just how terrified he was of facing them again. Fear of loss, but not the loss of what.
"They won't, Jay, I'm sure of it. You haven't done anything that shows you couldn't be redeemed."
"No." He shook his head sharply and stepped back, towards Sharufa. She'd earned some trust, but not even close to that much. "You can't speak for them yet."
"At least contact Essani?" She asked him, confused by the arousal in him that was definitely directed at her. "She's worried about you, along with the rest of your friends. And if I can't speak for the Council, she certainly can."
"Maybe," he murmured and gave into the increasing sense of foreboding urging him to escape while he could. It was a dignified walk despite his feelings, but he never completely took his eyes off her until the hatch closed between them.
"*Come back to us, Jay,*" she said across their bond, only using it to make reaching his mind easier. "*Once your kits are with your kin, remember your end of the bargain, please.*"
He gave her no answer but to raise his mental shields as much as he could and lifted off, wanting nothing more but to be away from her and how close she'd come to talking him into going back to the Jedi.
Mina ran through the Kraken towards the nursery, her head throbbing with the pain of having her bond with Jay shattered abruptly.
The Healer was nearby. She felt it, just before the bond was ripped through. That blue-skinned bitch had managed to meet up with Jay, and she'd been caught completely unawares.
"You could have warned me," she muttered at the Demon that was still in the back of her mind.
"*I didn't know this was on his list of plans,*" the creature pointed out.
"Great, that makes me feel so much better about my impending death!" The shecat snarled. Without the bond, and the kittens already born, she knew her life wasn't worth a credit. All it meant was that she had to take matters into her own hands.
Preferably along with the kittens.
She reached the nursery and opened the door, the four infants sleeping, Tami watching them and holding her own kittens.
"Ma'am?" The wet-nurse asked, a little confused by Mina's disheveled, rushed appearance. It was rare enough for her to be down in the nursery, let alone seeming panicked about getting there.
"Quiet," the tabby said coldly, extending a hand towards Tami and reaching out through the Force, grabbing her head and slamming it back against the wall behind her hard enough to knock her out.
Mina reached out to pick up one of her kits as Tami's month-old kittens fell to the floor and started crying. She reached out through the Force to make them sleep as she picked up the first of her kittens, the red-on-black tabby boy, her touch surprisingly gentle as she cradled him in her arms.
"*Behind you!*" The Demon warned her.
Mina whirled around, seeing Janos behind her, drawing his blaster and leveling it at her, the kit between them the only thing keeping him from pulling the trigger already.
"You are not leaving here." He rumbled and shifted his aim to the hard hit but safer head shot.
"Actually, I am," she growled, grabbing his wrist through the Force and squeezing sharply until she heard the satisfying crack of the fine bones and joints being crushed. "And there's not a damned thing you can do to stop me."
Despite his howl of pain, the rage built up to quickly overshadow it as he grabbed his lightsaber in his good hand and lunged for her.
She ducked to the side, the Wolf stopping just short of the cradle with her other kits in it. She took advantage of his hesitation, shifting her kit to one arm and grabbing him telekinetically, hurling him up into the ceiling, then back through the door, the back of his head cracking against the top of the frame.
"*You're going to need more than that to stop him,*" the Demon warned her.
"*I'm open for suggestions,*" she snarled mentally as the Wolf struggled to his feet with a snarl of outrage.
"*I have just the thing. When you're done with him, head for docking bay twelve, they have fighters there with hyperdrives to get us out of here. Leave the other kits for now, this one will be enough.*"
"*All right,*" she agreed reluctantly. Better to escape with one than none.
"All right, now you die." Janos focused everything he had on her and moved. His Force-enhanced speed was too great for her to dodge, so she tried to force him back or to the side telekinetically again - only to have him charge head long into crackling red tendrils of energy that arced from her hands, wrapping around him like lightning, the potent Dark Side energies of the ship she was on coalescing into energy that ripped through his body, draining the life from him.
Mina's entire body tingled as she felt the Wolf's potent life-force being drawn into her, a rush unlike anything else she'd experienced before. And an entirely new sort of agony for Janos to deal with as she forced him to his knees and the red tendrils crawled across his body, singeing fur and flesh alike.
"Kraken, stop her." Janos ordered with the last of his conscious strength as he slipped into oblivion despite his best efforts.
"*Very good.*" The Demon praised her. "*But we must escape now.*"
"One more," she said, shaking her head and turning to grab another of her now-waking children. Once she had one of her daughters, and both her arms full, she started out of the medical bay to the full sirens-blaring, lights-flashing of a red alert.
The hiss of lasers aimed to kill her began to rain down from their placements all over the halls.
"*Tell Jay that his ship is about to kill his kittens,*" she snarled mentally at the Demon, drawing the Force around her to enhance her speed as she rocketed through the corridors, faster than she'd ever been able to move before.
Apparently, whatever the Demon had done had given her some of Janos' skill as well as his life.
It was only a few more shots and the weapons went silent, only to be replaced as every security door in the place slammed down and locked tight.
"*Blast it with the Force.*" The Demon told her, giving her telekinetic blasts enough power to shatter the blockades all the way down to the hanger. "*Move quickly. Jay will be able to control your ship in a few moments.*"
Much to her shock, the heavy metal blast doors ripped open to allow her through as she made her way to the docking bay. A force field rose to keep her from getting to the ship, but even that last barrier fell as she crushed the control panel next to it and climbed on board the two-man Sith fighter that was waiting after Rob was done with a training flight.
"What the Hell is happening?" The Ringtail said.
"You're going to get us into hyperspace as fast as you can, or you're going to learn a thousand new definitions for pain before the Sharufa catches up with us," she growled at him, taking her seat and grateful that there was a pilot here.
"What do you - yes ma'am." The Ringtail's change of heart came with a tight, frightened tone as she reached out to squeeze his heart lightly, sending shooting pains through his chest for a moment before he acquiesced and she released the organ. The small fighter was taking off a moment later, its narrow, dart-like shape pulling out of the Kraken and making its way towards the edge of the system, the computer working as fast as it could to generate hyperspace coordinates.
Mina was devoutly grateful that they weren't in the Kyrani system just now.
Jay was trembling in pain and fighting off Shi's presence in his mind in response to it as he got into range to contact Kraken directly.
"*What the hell happened?*" He demanded, the backlash of his rage and pain crawling along the computer's systems.
"*The she-cat escaped,*" Kraken explained, its pain clear to Jay. "*She ripped through the blast-doors and force-fields like paper, I've never seen that sort of power before!*"
"*My kittens?*" Jay trembled, his rage spiking even as he held back on hurting Kraken anymore just now.
"*Two were taken, Master. The Wolf fought her, but she did something to him.*"
"*Where did she go? Medical droid are working on Janos, correct?*" He began to adjust Sharufa's trajectory.
"Uncertain, Master," Kraken said, its voice coming across the Sharufa's intercom now. "Corewards, I was unable to determine anything more before the fighter went into hyperspace. And yes, they are, but they are uncertain how to help him beyond treating the electrical burns."
Jay closed his eyes and reached out towards the Wolf's mind, seeking to find out if Janos was still there.
He was, but there was something ... off. The damage wasn't entirely physical, he could tell that much. It wasn't really mental either ... it seemed to go deeper.
Jay drew a deep breath and waited impatiently as Sharufa docked, spending the time reaching out along the much weaker family bond with his kits to find out which were missing and what direction they were headed in. He couldn't determine much more than it really was coreward, which given where they were, didn't give him much. Nearly everything was coreward.
He didn't even bother to wait until Sharufa was properly docked to leap to the hanger floor and make a bolt for his remaining kittens.
He found Tami there, rubbing her head as she tried to calm all four kittens, hers and Jay's, the infants crying out loudly. Janos was unconscious outside the nursery being tended by the medical droids, his blaster crushed inside the room and lightsaber lying in one corner.
He stepped up to the cradle and gently touched his two remaining children, their squalls soothed by the light touch of one they were bonded to. With them calm and crooned back to sleep, he turned to see to his mate.
"There is deep muscle trauma that will require a full bacta bath to treat quickly," Kraken explained to him. "Unfortunately, our stores are less than adequate; I project it will take several weeks, at least, before he recovers fully, even before the question of whatever additional damage is raised."
"Where is the nearest location where whatever needed can be acquired?" Jay asked softly as did what he could with his own very limited healing abilities.
"With, or without, having to go into Republic controlled territory?"
"Without." He replied. Janos wouldn't die; he wasn't going to commit to that big of a risk yet.
"There is a colony in the Vexel system, Master," Kraken said easily. "They should have sufficient supplies, though I'm not entirely sure how willing they will be to surrender it. They are, however, well off the most probable route to find your kittens."
"Run a calculation of the best location based on our route to my kits and likely supplies." Jay shifted his instructions slightly even as he double-checked Kraken's estimate on where Mina was headed. "Also, open an encrypted channel to the Brythin."
"Beginning calculations, channel open," Kraken said easily.
"This is the Brythin; who is hailing us on this channel?" Kanna asked him.
"Jay." He told her softly. "I need to speak to Shi."
"What's wrong, Jay?" Shivasta asked.
He took a deep breath and instructed the medical droids to take Janos to the medical bay. "Mina got away with two of my kits and almost killed Janos in the process. His injuries are beyond my capabilities to heal and we don't have a bacta tank yet."
"Give the Kraken the command to let me board safely, and I'll help you," Shi said promptly. "Healer's duties, Jay - I won't do anything to interfere, and neither will Kanna. She might be able to help you too."
"Thank you." He nodded and passed the command on silently. "You're cleared. A droid will be waiting for you when you land to show you to medical."
With that, he headed up to the bridge. He needed to work with Kraken to figure out where the Hell Mina had taken his kittens.
A few minutes later, Shivasta and Kanna disembarked from the Brythin, both Ice Walkers a little nervous about being on the ship that had been stolen so recently, and had a known history of being both Sith and of killing its crew twice.
"Follow me, please," the droid they met said easily, turning and trundling off as they followed.
"*Are you sure Jay can keep this ship under control?*" Kanna asked silently as they walked through empty corridors and lifts, both sensitives keenly aware of the lack of people on board, and the condition of most of those who were.
"*He'll destroy it if it disobeys him, so I'm pretty sure,*" Shivasta agreed as they reached medical. "*The life here is ... unsettling,*" she mused to her former Padawan.
"*It doesn't really feel like a crew.*" Kanna agreed.
Then she stepped into medical, and saw the steel-gray Wolf unconscious on one of the beds, a much younger white-furred shewolf next to him, obviously concerned.
"I'm here to help," she told the younger Wolf softly. "Is this Janos?"
"Yes, ma'am." The shewolf nodded politely, her bearing that a wealthy Republic upbringing. "You are Shi?"
"Master Healer Shivasta Stormwarden," she nodded in agreement. Cases like this, the rank usually helped. "Do you know what happened to him?" She asked, taking a seat next to Janos and focusing on him. The injuries were strange ... but she actually recognized them, something most Healers couldn't even say, and very few other Jedi.
Something about what Mina had done to him had attacked him on the level of the Force itself, weakening the ties between it and his body.
"No, ma'am." Vondra shook her head and gracefully stayed out of the Healer's way while remaining close to her master. "He fought Mina. She did this to him."
"I haven't seen this done by a person before," she admitted. "But I do know how to help him," she added, looking Vondra in the eyes. "Are you his mate?" She asked bluntly.
"I ... maybe." She stammered, very startled by the question and her uncertainty of an answer. She knew what she wanted, but not if he thought of her as more than his pet. A pet he cared about, she was sure, but that was a long way from 'mate'. "It never came up like that."
"Ah," Shi nodded, grasping the situation quickly. "I'm going to have to do some fairly intensive work then ... whatever Mina did attacked the connection between his body and the Force, his ability to live. I need to repair that tie. If you're willing to try, it would help to have somebody who feels a connection to him here."
"I am." Vondra nodded, sure of that at least. "What do I need to do?"
"Take his hand, and focus on him waking up," Shivasta explained, giving her the easiest way for a non-sensitive to understand it. She looked back at Kanna, near the door.
"If you can talk the droid into taking you to the bridge, you might offer your talent to Jay in finding his kittens," she suggested.
"Yes, Master." She nodded easily, reinforcing Shi's rank just a little more to these outsiders, and turned to see if she could talk the droid into cooperating. If it wouldn't, at this range she could ask Jay directly if she needed to.
Vondra took Janos' hand between her own and did her best to focus on him awake and in her arms. She was out of her depth, but she was damned if she wouldn't do all she could.
Shivasta closed her eyes, taking Janos' other hand and reaching out. It would be all she could do to fix the damage that wasn't physical; until she was done with this, no amount of bacta would bring him back to consciousness. It wasn't like somebody had cut him off from the Force; she'd seen that before.
This was like Mina had taken the living part of the Force around him and ripped it out.
She focused on that part of it, tying it back to him, working it in, pulling the Dark Side away from him. She was surprised to find that, as angry and hateful as the Wolf could be, he wasn't nearly as Dark as she'd expected him to be. He had a real ability to care and two people, Jay and Vondra, were clear in his hazy mind as in that carefully-guarded place.
It made her feel better about leaving Jay with him for the next few months. Odd to think that there was a very real chance a Dark Sider would be her mate's voice of reason. It also made it much more likely that Jay wouldn't slide much further down that path than he already had. Mina had been the truly Dark one, the one that kept pushing and plotting. Janos might not be her first choice, but he wasn't actively Dark like the shecat was. He was just hurt and angry and self-trained. Anger and pain that Jay was tempering as the two found a balance in survival with what had been thrust upon them.
The Wolf groaned softly, every muscle in his body aching as Shivasta carefully pulled back, having practically wrapped him in the warmth of the Light Side of the Force, his fur still scorched in places, the healer exhausted.
"Will he be all right?" Vondra asked softly.
"In time," Shivasta nodded. "He'll need to rest, and probably won't feel like doing very much for a while, but he'll be all right in the long run. Some time for both of you to think, maybe."
"Who're you?" Janos slurred, not opening his eyes yet, though he squeezed Vondra's hand lightly.
"Shivasta, Jay's mate. Take care of him, once you're back on your feet."
"The Healer." Vondra added, not sure how well he was thinking yet. "She says you'll be fine. Jay's going to get a bacta tank to speed healing the burns."
"Tell 'im to get that bitch first," Janos muttered, squeezing Vondra's hand again. "Stay here a bit?" He asked the shewolf.
"It'd be okay," Shivasta said softly, nodding.
"I wasn't planning on going anywhere." Vondra smiled at him, her voice with the touch of steel to point out she was willing to fight for it even though it wasn't required.
"Good," he smiled back, turning his head to look up at her as Shivasta stood.
"I'll go check on my partner," she said easily. "You get some rest," she told Janos sternly, before turning to leave the room.
Kanna stood next to the droid by the sealed entry to the bridge of the Kraken. The ship still had her on edge, but at least now she had something to do.
"*Jay, could you open the door for me?*" She asked telepathically. "*It's Kanna, I'm here to help.*"
He didn't actually respond to her, but the door slid open to reveal him alone in the captain's seat in the center of a bridge designed for a score or more officers.
She could tell from the Force-flow that he was deep in focus taking the place of a such a large crew while following the tenuous parental bond he had with his kits. The Dark Force in the room was palatable, but it was focused ... different. He didn't have the Light strength to do what he had to, and he'd chosen to accept the price of the Dark in exchange for the strength to do what he needed to.
Even so, she knew all too well that over time it would manifest as anger, hatred ... ways that it was already manifesting.
"Jay," she said as she stepped in, moving towards a seat next to him. "You're overextending yourself. Let me take on part of it, my talents are better suited to finding them."
He looked at her, distrust evident in his eyes even though he was still willing to listen to her.
"Seers can track people?" He regarded her dubiously.
"It's easier to tell where somebody is than to tell you where they have been or where they're going to be," she pointed out. "And I've made a bit of a career out of the latter. I can see where they are, possibly where they're going."
He stared at her. He knew her record, he knew she was strong. He didn't want to give any of this over.
She could feel, even from the outside, the strength of the bond at this range with Shi influencing him when there was nothing to counter it.
Slowly, warily, Jay nodded. "Where are they?" He asked, his voice low and shaky.
"I'll need a few moments, but I'll be able to tell you then," she said, taking a seat and closing her eyes. "If you have any suggestions based on what you and Kraken have figured out, I'm open to them. They might help."
"They were headed coreward before entering hyperspace. She took our pilot too, and only a small fighter. It doesn't have the range for more than a day or so."
"She won't be on it for long," Kanna murmured as things began to come into focus. "How good is the pilot, and what sort of ships does he work well with?"
"Not as good as Fen or me, but skilled. He prefers smugglers and small traders." Jay told her. "He's not a sensitive."
"That'll limit it to planets with enough ships that they can steal one," she murmured. "What are the kits like?"
"They're only three days old." He murmured. "A boy, Jamil, and a girl, Tessra, were the ones taken. Both are strong sensitives like their sisters. Strong in the family Gift too."
That made sense. Kanna narrowed down to the one thing she could sense that was unique about the situation, and her visions - two 'eyes' in the middle of a cloud of darkness. The two kittens, still innocent, carried through the galaxy by their Dark Sider mother.
"They're going to Kethris Prime, and from there into the Core Worlds. She hopes to lose you there, once they have a new ship."
Jay nodded, that made sense and meshed with what he could sense.
Kanna felt the Force gather again, adding even more power and efficiency to the hyperdrive as Kraken surged forward towards Kethris Prime.
Master Essani moved as quickly as she could without appearing too rushed in the middle of the night. The Clawson's ship, after being tracked across the galaxy for a week, had arrived, and arrived earlier than expected. Their first communication had been directed to Master Jolani Panthera instead of her, as the Tigress was a race the newcomers knew and were at least visually related to. She was also the only other one on the Council that was at least somewhat familiar with the Clawson's native language from Jay.
Within minutes the Tigress had arranged for a full Council to greet the newcomers in the Council Chamber and had gotten the Clawson leader to agree to hold off on the questions until they were face to face.
Doruth was there, offering to act as an interpreter along with Master Panthera. He was more familiar with Jay's native language than she was, and while Essani was probably fully fluent, at least as much as Jay had been at the tender age of eight, she couldn't pronounce a single word. It wasn't long before the rest of the Council was present as well, most of them somewhat uneasy beneath their calm exteriors.
Essani couldn't blame them; they would, after all, have to explain to these newcomers that they'd managed to find, raise, and then lose, one of their own. Newcomers who could probably shut down the defenses and infrastructure of Coruscant with a few thoughts, if they wanted to.
They didn't have long to wait before the lift doors opened to reveal three female felines who walked into the chamber and instinctively positioned themselves in a loose, triangular back-to-back arrangement to leave no Jedi unfaced, and no back unprotected.
The oldest of them, her caramel fur graying heavily in her years despite the lean, powerful body she maintained. This was leader, and was facing Master Essani, knowing she led the Council. Her eyes, though, kept flicking to Noloth and Mython, considering the pair more dangerous.
"Greetings, Master Essani." The Clawson leader spoke in very carefully pronounced, though still heavily accented, Basic. "I am Marie Clawson, family leader."
"We have heard of you," she said in her native Kushiban, translating telepathically to Doruth, who spoke verbally to the Clawsons. More complicated concepts would be most interesting to discuss this way. She just hoped that, if any came up, much wouldn't be lost in the multiple translations. "You are Jay Clawson's grandmother, as I understand?"
"Jessie Clawson, and her son, our father, have both died since Jay was lost." Marie explained in careful Basic, using her ability to access her ship's computers to keep her words accurate, if a touch slow. "I am Jay's father's oldest kit and the family leader now. This," she motioned to the heavily built brown on fawn tabby female to her right that was at least a couple decades her junior, "is Felisha Furlong, Jay's mother."
"It is a pleasure to meet you, though we wish it was under better circumstances," Essani said, bowing her head respectfully. "None of us had really expected that the Clawson family would reach Republic space, particularly not after several decades."
"We wish it was under better conditions as well." Marie inclined her head. "I understand my brother has caused a great deal of damage here recently."
"Unfortunately, we believe he has, though ... how do you know this?" Essani asked, taking the opportunity to look at the three in the Force. The two leaders weren't all that surprising; they weren't sensitives, but they had Jay's gift in spades, the Force a dull gray around them. The third, a cinnamon-furred shekat who had yet to be introduced, some decades younger than Jay, was more interesting, much like Jay when they had found him, given more power and experience.
Marie paused, every Jedi aware that she'd just been asked about something she really didn't want to get into explaining.
"As we entered this galaxy, I could feel his state of mind. It was not good." She said, trying to give enough of an answer without getting into family Gift dynamics or language that didn't translate well. "All members born into this family share a mental ... link ... with their parents and the family leader. I can feel his state when I concentrate on him."
"Can you sense his location as well?" Essani asked, her fur shifting from a neutral white to a light, curious teal and earning her a very curious look from all three felines.
"I can track him," Marie nodded, not completely sure if that was what the strange rabbit meant. "It is how we got to this galaxy."
"More accurately than somebody with a mate's bond to him can?" Doruth asked, picking up on what Essani was thinking and pre-empting her question.
"No," Marie shook her head slightly. "Those are usually much stronger."
Felisha said something in their native language, which Marie translated.
"You do not know where Jay is?"
"He was captured by a faction of Dark-Siders, the Sith," Essani explained. "We have been searching for him for months. We have come close to retrieving him, but he has been blocking his mates and their bond because of the way he was captured." Just then, Master Winda looked down at her datapad as it beeped.
"That may have changed," the Rabbit said. "I received a message from Master Fenrik, I'll deal with it shortly."
"Very well," Essani agreed. "Madame Clawson, the short version of events is that Jay was tricked into believing his mates were dead, and the bonds usurped by two of these Dark-Siders. He has since killed their leader, but the two who have the bonds are still influencing him. One of them was pregnant with his kits the last we heard; we are trying to rescue him and the kits before things become desperate."
No one in the room missed that despite having very little grasp of what a 'Dark-Sider' was, all three were badly shaken by that news though they didn't show it. It was Felisha, though, that had the most obvious reaction as her ears went flat.
["I have grandkits lost?"] Felisha rumbled.
"I ... understand." Marie spoke quietly, her mind working on what it was going to take of those she'd brought with her to deal with such a threat. A light touch on Felisha's arm settled the shekat, though she was still very upset. "This is very bad, Master Essani. There is little more dangerous than a Clawson protecting their young."
"We understand, Madame Clawson," Essani nodded, her fur shifting to a deep grey. "Right now, we have much of the fleet out to search for him, more than we are technically supposed to have. We want him back as badly as you do, and his kits somewhere safe."
"You said he was only tricked into believing his mates were dead?" Marie began to put a plan together. "I would like to speak to them."
"They are currently on the hunt; it may take some time to arrange a meeting," Essani explained.
"Actually, we have very good news," Master Winda told her, reading the message from Fenrik. "And very, very bad," she sighed, reading farther. "Masters Fenrik and Shivasta have found Knight Clawson; Master Shivasta is with him currently. She is ready to speak with us via holo-net, and explain what has happened. Madame Clawson, if you and your kin would be willing to take a seat, we could begin? It will bring us all up to speed on exactly what has happened."
"Very good." Marie inclined her head and made a subtle motion with her tail that got both of her companions to sit in the open chairs that appeared from the floor for them. With the center of the room clear, a holographic image of a middle-aged blue-skinned woman in Jedi robes and long, dark blue hair appeared and bowed to the assembly.
"Council, I assume nobody will take offense if I dispense with the formalities," Shi said politely.
"Of course, Master Shivasta," Master Noloth nodded. "Your message said you had encountered Knight Clawson?"
"Yes," the Ice Walker explained. "I'll make this as brief as possible. He set up a meeting with me, requesting that Fenrik and I cease the hunt until his family arrived. I agreed on the condition that he would let me undo his bond to the shecat, one Mina Callahan. He agreed, and we broke the bond between the two of them. As you are aware, she was the worst of his two false mates. Unfortunately, neither of us anticipated her power, or what she would do when she felt the bond shatter.
"Mina kidnapped two of Jay's kittens, which were born in the past few days. She nearly killed his other mate in the process, and demonstrated a level of mastery over the Dark Side I've never encountered before. She escaped with one of the pilots now working on the Kraken, stealing an old Sith fighter and making off with Jay's son and one of his daughters. Jay contacted me to help heal his remaining mate, the Wolf, and Kanna is helping him track Mina now.
"We will remain with the Kraken until Jay's kittens have been recovered; right now, I wouldn't leave him alone for anything. I request that a contingent of ships be sent from the fleet to the Kethris system and watch for any stolen ships. If they encounter one, they should restrain it, but not board it. Mina is incredibly dangerous, but nothing compared to what Jay will be like if he thinks we're trying to take his kittens from him."
"Master Shivasta," Marie addressed the woman politely in slow, accented Basic. "You are one of Jay's real mates?"
"I am," the Jedi nodded, turning to face the voice. "I believe you have me at a disadvantage?"
"I am Marie Clawson, Jay's oldest sister and current head of the Clawson family." She answered simply. "His mother is also here." She motioned to the elder tabby sitting next to her. "Will the Wolf, the false-bonded one, survive?"
"He will," Shivasta nodded. "Whatever Mina did to him I was able to repair, he will simply require some time to recover from the physical portion of his injuries."
Marie let out a small breath of relief. "We would join you on this hunt. Jay, and his kits, are our kin as well."
Much to the surprise of the Council, she was clearly making a request now, rather than a demand worded as one.
"As far as I'm concerned," Shivasta said with a grateful bow, "any help you can offer us would be welcome. It would be good to have Jay know he's not alone anymore."
"Is your other mate with you?" Marie asked politely, clearly assuming a triad had formed.
"Not at the moment," Shivasta said, shaking her head. "Jay was uncomfortable with having Fenrik with us now, between the false bond and being afraid that he may be able to convince him to make a decision he felt would be contrary to the best interests of his kits."
"Understood, Master Shivasta." Marie nodded slightly. "We will meet you in the Kethris system?"
"Yes," she nodded. "Madame Clawson, is there any sort of a message you could give me, that would be incontrovertible proof that your family is here?"
The old shekat settled back in the rounded chair and pressed her fingers together in front of her face, thinking, for a long moment.
"Do you speak Aristalin?"
"Exceedingly poorly," Shivasta admitted. "He speaks Basic, and my jaws weren't really built to pronounce all the words well. Fenrik speaks it better than I do."
Marie nodded and went thoughtful again.
"Has he ever spoken of 'the darkest star'?"
"Not at all," Shi admitted, cocking her head curiously. "Something from your home-system?"
"Something from home, yes." Marie chuckled softly. "Tell him that the darkest star and father's heart have finally come for him. It will not be ... complete ... proof, but it may help you keep him calm until we are there."
"Thank you, Ma'am. That would be quite a help. Not as good as having his kits back, but it'll show you are here."
"Yes," Marie agreed. "We will join you as soon as possible, Master Shivasta."
"I'll let him know," Shi nodded, turning back towards the Councilors. "Are there any questions from the Council?" She asked them.
"How far has Knight Clawson fallen?" Master Noloth asked rather pointedly.
"Not too far to be redeemed," Shi said firmly. "He has killed, he has murdered, but he hasn't fallen to the level of the shecat. Come close at times, yes, but he will not stay there."
"Very good." Master Essani's fur lightened slightly as Doruth translated for her into Basic.
"What was the decision that he was afraid Master Fenrik could convince him to make?" Master Winda asked, the brown-furred Rabbit's ears twitching slightly.
"He does not want the Jedi to raise his kittens," Shivasta said, keenly aware that the Clawsons were still there. "He wants them raised by the Clawson family, at least until they are older."
"Why does he not want the Jedi involved?" Marie reentered the conversation as she leaned forward, keenly interested in this.
"Aside from himself, there are no Jedi who fully understand the Clawson gifts and abilities," Shivasta explained, hedging around what she thought was the deeper issue, his own discomfort with Jedi philosophy. "It is also typical Jedi policy to discourage contact between an Initiate and their kin under most circumstances. For obvious reasons, he feels this wouldn't be in the best interests of Clawson kits. I am inclined to agree, but he isn't at his most trusting when it comes to reassurance that the Jedi would bend their rules in the best interests of his children."
"Typical." Marie nodded with an indulgent smile for her little brother. "These are his first kits, then?"
"They are. He reacted very negatively to the suggestion of children during his lifetime, but he wasn't given a say in the matter this time."
Marie nodded and handed the meeting back to the Council.
"If there are no more questions from the Council, I would like to see to him soon," she explained. "In his current state he could cause himself no small amount of trouble."
"There are no more questions." Master Noloth answered for Essani after a brief scan of the Council. "Force be with you, Jedi."
When the hologram vanished, the three Clawsons took their place at the center again.
"Before we leave, I would like to have a copy of Knight Clawson's ... record ... file ... what information you have kept on and about him." Marie asked. Again, she was actually asking, even though they all knew she could take what she wanted with a thought.
She had a much better grasp on diplomacy than her brother generally did.
"We will make it available to you," Essani nodded slightly. "I assume you are capable of translating it, or would you prefer for us to do so?"
"Thank you, Master Essani. We can translate it." Marie inclined her head in thanks. "Our ship understands Basic much better than I do yet. Is there anything about this situation you would have us know before we are in the middle of things?"
"We would prefer that the situation is handled with a minimum amount of violence, and that Mina is captured, rather than killed," Essani explained. "However, given her time with Jay and her pre-existing Sith training, we aren't holding out too much hope that she'll be able to be captured without killing others in the process. There is a very real chance that she will have a weapon capable of carving through the hull of your ship with minimal effort. Add that to her apparently considerable skill with the Dark Side of the Force, and the potential is exceedingly dangerous."
"I understand, Master Essani." Marie's expression turned grim. "We have dealt with such people before. We will be careful, and do our best to do as little damage as we can. If I may ask, what are the penalties for what Jay has done?"
"Thank you," Essani nodded. "And it will depend on what else might happen while he is gone. However, in most circumstances, the Jedi are allowed to deal with Jedi crimes. At this point, he would be kept at the Temple and watched until we were sure he was back to his old self."
That raised an eyebrow, Marie's surprise visible on her face. There would be more questions later, to be sure, but for now it seemed to satisfy her. "I see. We will do what we can to keep him from doing more."
"Force be with you, Madame Clawson, and with your kin."
"Bastet's grace to you and yours, Master Essani." Marie Clawson bowed and turned to leave with her two companions.
"She is much easier to deal with than her brother," Master Noloth observed after the Clawsons had left the room.
"*She is the leader of her family, Master Noloth,*" Essani observed, switching back to telepathy now that they were gone. It simply wasn't polite to use it in the presence of people who weren't sensitives or naturally telepathic. The Kushiban's fur shifted to a very pale pink as she continued her observation. "*It's a position that often reminds one of the need to be diplomatic when she rather wouldn't be.*"
The amusement from some on the Council said her carefully worded barb wasn't lost on everyone.
"It will be interesting to see how things go when the emergency is over." Master Sarapas mused.
"Most interesting," Doruth nodded, agreeing with the Thississpian. "I imagine they'll have far more in the way of questions. I just hope they'll accept our judgment regarding any punishments for Jay."
"*Their people, as I understand, have a far more black and white history when dealing with their fallen heroes,*" Essani pointed out. "*I would be surprised if they have a case like this one in their history to draw on.*"
"Not that I ever heard of." Doruth nodded. "A quick death at the hand of one of their own was considered the merciful way of dealing with them. Though to be fair, they had only had two cases at the time of Jay's disappearance, one of them before the family had actually been formed. That is not much to form a system on."
"I have to admit that I rather hope they'll stick around after this is all over, for a time at least," Master Winda observed. "For the reason you just mentioned. Jay was only eight when he left them, and he has been a very firm adherent to the Clawson family's culture since. I have the sense from all three we met that the situation would not have been unique to him. A culture, even one that is mostly family-wide, that is that strong in such a short time is a fascinating concept, particularly formed after their species already had several of their own."
"It was born out of need, from a specialist culture not so different from our own in concept. Completely separate from the general population." Doruth commented evenly. It had fascinated him too, for a while. "They were a combat specialist group, a very different culture on its own, and added elements to cope with the Demon they face, separating the Clawsons from their base culture. It is likely as strong as it is so young because of the elements the Demon adds to their life. When facing something like that, the culture that is created to survive it would be well-engrained young."
"I suspect it is also something that is simply part of what Jay is." Master Zraii added. "He is most stubborn."
"That he is," Master Noloth agreed. "As are his kin, I am sure. I wonder how many other sensitives they have under their wings, born after he was."
"*I expect we will be able to ask, as long as this does not go poorly.*" Master Essani fluffed her fur. "*They do seem honestly interested in getting along with us.*"
"A refreshing change, compared to most species we've encountered outside the known galaxy," Master Dyba observed dryly.
"True," Master Ty'thri'ku'mo Mython nodded slightly. "They are also very different from every other group we have encountered in basic drive. These people are defenders, not truly explorers. The greater culture they are part of may well be quite different. The Clawsons would not have left their homeworld on their own."
"*In keeping with what little Jay has told me about their history,*" Essani agreed. "*They developed hyperdrive by adapting it from another species that attempted to conquer their world; much of what they accomplished was defensive in nature.*"
"Quite successful defense as well." Doruth couldn't help but feel respectful for a race that had succeeded in such a situation. It wasn't one that any Republic-contacted world could claim to have done. More often than not, they required help from the Republic as soon as they found them.
"I imagine we'll be able to fill in a few blanks about their history that Knight Clawson hasn't helped us with after this is all over," Master Nythen nodded, the aged Vixen's silver fur graying, but her interest in the various peoples they encountered no less keen.
"It will be most interesting how much of what he remembered was accurate as well." Master Noloth mused quietly. "His kin will have many conversations ahead of them when things have settled."
Shivasta walked from the Kraken's docking bay again after giving her report to the Council. She wanted to find Jay, give him the message from his sister. She'd felt them enter hyperspace just before the report, so she expected he'd be in the engine room.
Much to her surprise, her bond told her otherwise as she approached the nursery.
With a smile, she turned to follow her hunch. It wouldn't hurt to meet the new kittens, even if he wasn't there.
She felt six people in the room as she approached; a non-sensitive female, Jay, and four very young but Force-strong lives. She also felt Jay feel her approach and turn some of his attention from his kittens to being ready to protect them against anything.
She took her lightsaber off her belt and slipped it up beneath her robes, making it more difficult to reach and doing her best to seem inoffensive as she approached the door and looked in. Her mate was lying on a bed with two newborns mewing softly in his arms and an utterly indulgent look on his face every time he so much as glanced their way. A chocolate on gold tabby shecat was sitting in a rocker nearby nursing the other two kittens.
"May I come in?" She asked him with a soft smile.
Jay looked up at her, actually taking a moment to judge her, before nodding. "Yes."
"Thank you," she smiled, stepping in, looking between him and the kits, then over at the two slightly older ones nursing. "Are they all yours?" She asked him.
"Not by blood." He admitted, most of his attention on gently stroking the two newborns nestled in the crook of his arm as he lay on his side. "Tami's aren't." He nodded slightly towards the older pair.
"They're all beautiful," she smiled at the shecat nursing her own kits, who returned the smile gratefully as Shi moved over next to Jay carefully, watching in the Force as much with her eyes if she crossed some unknown line. Many races were aggressive about visitors around very the young, and Jay had reason to beyond instincts.
"We will get the others back, Jay," she promised him, a small reassurance that earned her a bit of a smile. Even if it was largely hollow, he was at least trying. "And some good news; your family's here ahead of schedule. Your sister said something about the 'darkest star' and 'the father's heart' coming for you."
"My sister?" He twitched one ear slightly. "Which one?"
"Marie, your oldest," she explained. "She said that she's the head of the family now. Your mother was there too; she seemed very concerned for you, and for the kits."
"I think the proper term would be completely freaked out." He actually chuckled softly. "So am I still the youngest?"
"I was being polite," she smiled softly with a chuckle of her own. "And not in the family, assuming the third woman they had with them was a Clawson. Not sure what her relation was to the others, we didn't actually talk too much. They said they'd meet us in the Kethris system to help hunt for the kits; you can meet them yourself then."
Almost all the tension left Jay's body with a soft sound that Shi couldn't identify, but could feel was largely relief, as he lowered his head to nuzzle his daughters, one sleek black and one a strawberry blond tabby with dusty rose stripes.
"It's finally over then." Jay murmured, looking forward to it even as he was scared of the consequences.
"Gods willing," she agreed. "And I asked the Council to reassign a portion of the fleet to making sure Mina doesn't get out of the Kethris system, if they're there in time. Just stopping her," she said quickly, "not boarding, not firing on."
He nodded slightly, strangely relaxed about it. "How is Janos?"
"He'll be okay, once he has a little time to recover," she said. "You care for him, beyond the bond?" She asked.
"I think so." He nodded slightly, still more than a little afraid of her despite that he trusted her.
"Jay, I'm not going to hurt you, or him," she said softly, reaching down to stroke his cheek lightly. "And I'm not going to ask you to go back to the Order before we've saved your kits from Mina."
"Then what?" He looked at her; absolutely terrified of what he thought would be his fate there.
"We take you back, we get you away from the people who've dragged you down as far as you've gone," she said, kneeling next to the bed to look him in the eyes and remove the element of dominance of standing over him. "And then we work to help you get away from the Dark Side, to regain your control."
"The way they did Revan?" He asked, his gaze steady as he voiced the core of his fear; the loss of himself.
"No, Jay," she said, shaking her head and a little stunned at just how potent his fear of that fate was. "That was a completely different situation than this is. The Jedi were ready to kill Revan, if they had to, and they saw a chance to save her, or at least the knowledge she had ... that was a war. This isn't the same."
"Promise?" His voice trembled slightly, though he was keeping an incredible amount inside to not disturb his kittens. "Don't let them do that to me."
Jay, if they tried, I'd fight it as long as I could," she said firmly, her eyes glittering with all the determination she had. "If I had to, I'd be with you on the ship back to your home before I let them wipe your mind that way. You are not Revan. She was on the verge of destroying the Order, willingly. You were captured and brainwashed, after a fashion."
"Led astray at least," he murmured and gently stroked his newborn's heads. "It will be clearer when my kittens are safe with kin."
Her reassurances meant something to him, she could feel it, but it didn't wash it all away.
She would have been surprised if it had.
"May I?" She asked, reaching towards the nearest one, the strawberry-blond tabby.
Jay tensed, his body shifting to shield his kittens and the Force gathered to help him before he processed her words. Then he slowly relaxed and nodded. Still he watched every move she made, physically and in the Force, sharply.
She gently stroked the kitten's head, smiling as she mewled softly.
"What are their names?" She asked him.
"She's Jemeka," he smiled, a brilliantly warm affection washing away everything negative in him with just a look at his daughter. "The black one is Mystera." He purred.
"They're both beautiful," she smiled. "Mystera takes after the Panther side of your family, I'm guessing?"
"And a black shekat that was my mother's great-grandmother." He nodded and nuzzled Mystera lightly, licking her short, fluffy fur. "It will be interesting to see which side of the family they take after."
"You know, they don't have to be either," she chuckled. "I'm sure not everybody in your family is a pilot or gunner."
"Well, no, though we're all inventors of some sort and special ops." He accepted the possibility without issue and continued to bath his kittens. "Most do have a strong talent for shooting or piloting, sometimes both."
"Given their Force-strength, probably piloting," she mused, petting Jemeka gently.
"They won't be Jedi." He pointed out a bit tensely. "It's a natural talent, not trained."
"I know, Jay," she nodded softly. "I didn't mean with the Jedi, it's just more common for pilots than gunners to be sensitives. From what I've heard, at least," she shrugged slightly.
"Different duties from back home." He nodded, remembering the first time he'd run across the difference. "Gunners have the rank and important duties where they're going."
"That's a point," she admitted. "Not that I know much about either, honestly. Are you sure you'll be sending them back to your galaxy?"
"Anything to keep them from growing up in this one." He nodded, his voice nearly a growl until it disturbed the kittens and he got himself under control again.
Still, it was a moment that showed Shi just how much he hated how things worked here, the local nature of power. How much he'd carefully buried and ignored for decades outside of debates about the origin of the Force.
"Are you going with them?" She asked him softly, reaching out lightly through the Force to help soothe the infants.
"No," Jay murmured, most of his attention focused on his daughters. "I'm a danger to them now. If I go back, I'll bring this infection with me."
"It's not a disease, Jay," Shi said softly, knowing what he was talking about. "It's just how things are here ... maybe it works differently elsewhere. But now isn't the time for an argument. Maybe your family will communicate more with us, so you can still be involved in their lives to some extent."
"Perhaps," he accepted ending the debate, though he'd already decided what he would tell them about the Force and what it would do if contact or philosophy from here was brought back.
"Jay?" She asked softly, not sure if the question she was about to ask would be a sore spot with him or not.
"Murr?" He looked up from tongue-bathing his kittens.
"How did you get the scar?" She asked him.
"Demon blocked my ability to control machines while I was practicing." He kind of shrugged the terrifying moment off. "It didn't flick off when it should have."
"Just glad you stopped it before it killed you," she murmured. "Do you mind if I take a look at it? I probably can't do anything, but I've been surprised before."
"I didn't stop before it passed my nose." He pointed out quietly. "You can try. I would like my whiskers back."
"I think I would too," she smiled softly, inspecting the injury. It had seen a healer's touch before, she could tell that much. Not a particularly good healer, but at least as good as Jay was.
"As old as it is, it'll take some work," she admitted. "If it was fresher it would be easier. I'll see what I can do once the kits are napping again."
Jay nodded and looked up at Tami. "Are they full?"
"They are, Master," she nodded, her kits having stopped nursing and started sleeping instead.
"Want me to help you trade off?" Shivasta offered.
"Mine are hungry." He nodded, though he wasn't quite willing to let Shi hold them yet as Tami set hers to bed in a large cradle for six and picked Jay's pair up with a skilled touch. "What do you think about having the Jedi raise your kits?"
"It's a better life than any of my others have had, Master," Tami said simply as she sat back down and let the two young females start to nurse.
"They do have the strength," Shivasta said, sure of that much already from what she'd felt.
"Their strength was why I kept you." Jay added with a nod as he sat up on the bed. "The wet-nurse skills and timing were just a plus. It is something the Temple might find of value too." He glanced at Shi, not sure how young they took children in normally.
"This young is a bit of a stretch, but not unheard of," she nodded. "I think it's safe to say you could have a home after this, if you want one."
"*How many slaves are there on this ship?*" Shi asked Jay silently.
"*Several hundred,*" he answered before accessing the information logged from the T'surr ship. "*587, not counting the ones I already made a deal with.*"
"*You are planning on setting most of them free, right?*" She asked him, the answer she expected clear.
"*At this point, yes.*" He nodded, it just as clear to her that it hadn't been the original plan.
It surprised her that it hadn't been, but she didn't say anything about it, sliding her arm under his shoulders and accepting the sharp tension that rippled across his body at the contact.
"We've missed you, Jay," she said softly, refusing to take the way his mind shied away from the soft pulsing of their bond at the contact. She could feel it wasn't a rejection of her, but of the pain of being drawn so close to the Light of her nature. "Fenrik's worried sick, though he doesn't show it."
"I've missed you both." He whispered, doing a fair amount of mental work to not push her away.
"I won't hurt you," she promised. "And you'll be more comfortable once you start to recover."
"It already hurts." He told her simply and managed to pull his shields up a little tighter to give himself some relief.
"I'm sorry," she said, putting her own mental shields up a bit. It was a good thing that Essani wasn't here. "You want me to work on your wound a bit now?"
"Yes," he nodded slightly and relaxed as the pain subsided.
"All right," she nodded. "I'm not sure how you'll react to this; if it hurts, let me know." With that, she started the careful, tedious work of trying to remove and revive as much of the scarred tissue as she could.
Shivasta rolled over in her bed, unable to sleep. The Kraken's quarters were comfortable; she even had a room to herself.
That was part of the problem, really.
Jay had been outside her room for nearly an hour not too long ago. Probably longer, but that was the time she sensed him during. Torn between wanting to be with her and knowing that being too close would be painful.
She had never run into a response like that before. Not even Dark Side spirits responded to her presence the way he did. She honestly wasn't sure what to make of it.
That was why, by the time she'd worked up the courage to ask him in, he'd already decided to leave.
"What is wrong with you, Jay?" She asked softly, looking up at the ceiling. "And how can I help you, if I can't come anywhere near you?"
She groaned softly at the sensations of arousal seeping through her body from nowhere.
Scratch that. Not from nowhere ... from Jay.
For a brief moment, she felt the same sinking feeling she'd felt the other times he'd been with somebody and she hadn't expected it. Fenrik ... the Cheetah ....
She had a brief mental image of the Mink she'd seen hanging off of him earlier, when he hadn't thought she was looking. Misha, if she remembered right.
What had happened to him, in these past six months? Could it really have only been six months? It wasn't the first time she'd thought it felt like longer ... undoubtedly wouldn't be the last. Until the last few months, she hadn't really felt all that old. Mid-seventies was ancient for her people, to be fair, the ones who saw combat. For a Jedi, it was about the time when you started looking at less field work.
She felt like she was in her hundreds already, now. Jay had to be feeling worse.
He'd gone from Jedi Knight to slaver and mass murderer in a matter of months. She could feel the death on him, the guilt, the anger and hate.
She knew he could come back. She just wondered how much the past few months had changed him that wouldn't be fixed. How much did any of the new "pets" in his life mean to him?
She cautiously opened her mind a little to him for a moment and saw the truth. The one he was with now was nothing more than a warm, eager body to burn off the stress and arousal he was experiencing. He appreciated her, but she was no more important to him than Tami was.
On the plus side, Misha didn't seem any more attached to any particularly partner than he was to her, if that much. But, then, she was a Minervan Mink. They were renowned for being a race of nymphomaniacs.
A soft knock on the door drew her attention away from Jay's doings and to who was outside.
Another of the pets, from her mind. One Shi hadn't met yet.
She stood and grabbed her robe, pulling it on and tying it around her body. Wouldn't do to meet people in the nude on this ship, especially not strangers.
"Hello?" She asked, opening the door and seeing a blue-skinned Twi'lek on the other side, dressed in the leather garb of a pleasure slave. "I'm sorry... I think you have the wrong room, miss...?"
"Y'alla, mistress." She smiled seductively. "I saw your mate is occupied elsewhere. Perhaps you would like some company?"
"That... depends on the type of company you're thinking," Shi said, pausing for a moment to think things through.
"Any kind you wish, mistress." Y'alla said easily.
"Talking, perhaps?" Shi suggested, smiling softly. "You probably know more about him than I do, at this point."
"I do not know about that, mistress, but I will try." The Twi'lek nodded easily.
"Please, come in," Shivasta said, stepping back. "Make yourself comfortable," she offered, just before her mind pointed out that might not be the best suggestion to make.
Y'alla pointed it out even more pointedly when she lay down on the bed and relaxed to make herself look particularly desirable.
Shi just took a seat on the other side of the bed, turning to look at her.
"Has he been treating you and the others well?" She asked softly, wanting desperately to get that much out of the way, at least. "And please... tell me the truth, regardless of whether or not you think he'll like it. I won't tell him."
"He is a very kind owner, mistress." She said the truth easily. "As is Master Janos. He even takes care to choose who to be with based on his desires. He doesn't play rough with those who don't really enjoy it." She added with a bit of amazement. "He is very generous too."
"Sounds like that's changed least," Shi murmured, looking down at Y'alla's exposed back. "Do you enjoy playing rough then, or were those Mina's doing?" She asked, reaching down to trace the scars of varying freshness along the twi'lek's flesh.
"Mina's, mistress, and many previous owners."
"I'm most concerned with the ones in the past few months," Shivasta admitted, her healer's instincts locking on to the pale marks. "You've enjoyed being Jay's then?"
"The few times I've been with him, yes." She nodded. "Mistress Mina was the one with a taste for pain. Master Jay stopped her more than once. He didn't like it."
"Good," Shivasta smiled softly. "I know he's enjoyed it with partners who did, it's good to know it didn't change that much...."
Though that didn't really help to explain how he'd ended up murdering a bed partner.
"They bought a special pet for when they're in that mood." She smiled easily. "He's quite the pain-slut."
"That makes sense, I suppose," Shivasta mused. "So I take it that Misha isn't into that sort of play ... has he ever lost control when he was with somebody, that you know of?"
She shook her head easily. "No, mistress. He likes to fuck his partners unconscious, he's left Tamil a bloody mess, but he never looses control."
"When did he buy you all?" She asked softly. None of this was all working out to make sense... she knew he wouldn't normally kill somebody, but Mina hadn't been with him before....
The thought that her mate was really inclined towards leaving some of his lovers dead the morning after was definitely not reassuring.
"Master Janos killed our former owner after the T'surr tried to enslave him ... three, four months ago. He sold the slaver ship and the rest of the cargo to the Hutt there, but he let his mates choose some of us to keep. Master Jay chose Misha, Master Janos chose Vondra, and Mistress Mina chose me for pets. Tami was kept for her skills and timing as a wet-nurse. They took another T'surr ship the day of the birth. The rest of the crew and everyone in the holding zones are from that ship. I know Master Jay and Janos have been talking to each one before deciding what to do with them."
"Well, their plans have changed rather suddenly, I'm sure," Shivasta murmured, leaning back against the headboard of the bed. She was rather surprised to find out that Vondra was Janos' 'pet,' but it made sense when she thought about it. "What have you all been doing since then? There's a pretty big gap in the middle there."
"A lot of time on Nar Shaddaa," she kind of shrugged. "They were enjoying Janos' wealth, and he was enjoying playing Alpha. This only really came up when the kittens got close. Before Nar Shaddaa was when they got us, and the last time you attacked."
"We were trying to bring Jay back home, where he belongs," Shi murmured. "If only we'd managed it then, so much pain wouldn't have happened."
"He still loves you, even though he's very afraid of you." Y'alla said softly and reached out to touch the Ice Walker's cool hand. "He is still a very good person, no matter how much you think has changed."
"I know," Shi nodded. "It's just a matter of some of the things he's done... from what I know, he's been worse than Mina, for short spells. It's hard to imagine him doing something like that, but I know he did."
"I don't know about those things, mistress." She said quietly.
"I saw them," Shi murmured softly, shivering beneath her robes, despite the fact that the room was perfectly warm for her. "So much fear... from both of them."
Y'alla had no answer to that, so she remained still, her hand on Shi's.
"I'm sorry, you don't know about this, it's not fair to burden you with it," Shi murmured, turning her hand to take Y'alla's in it. "What will you do, after you're freed?"
The Twi'lek blinked, her absolute shock and loss at the question -- the very idea -- easily visible on her face for a moment.
"Sex is the only trade I have," she answered after a moment. "If I don't have an owner to care for me, probably a whore house, or the street."
"This is going to be tricky, isn't it?" Shi sighed. "I know that Ryloth only pays lip service to the Republic's anti-slavery laws, but Jay can't keep you all, after all...."
"Master Janos is who owns us, mistress." Y'alla said simply. "Master Jay only bought Tamil, none of the others."
"You want to be a slave?" Shivasta asked Y'alla directly, not really able to comprehend it, but knowing that it wasn't really her choice.
"It's all I've ever been, mistress." She pointed out hesitantly, uneasy about saying something she knew was upsetting. "There are not many things for a pleasure slave to be that are better than a decent owner.
"And if I asked Misha and the others, would they be telling me basically the same thing?" Shi asked, reaching up with her other hand to rub the bridge of her nose. She didn't like it, but she knew that the best thing for them was to remain slaves, at this point.
"Misha was trained for a harem on Midriac from birth," Y'alla nodded. "Tamil has been one his adult life at least. Tami's a fifth generation slave. Vondra's the only one that had a life before she was captured."
"And she'll want to stay with Janos, I'm sure," Shi murmured. "This is going to be complicated, with him laid up the way he is...."
"I do not understand, mistress." Y'alla looked at the other blue-skinned woman curiously and wondered in the back of her mind if Mina had chosen her because of a level of resemblance. The idea of them as lovers was a truly strange one, but not the strangest thing she'd come across.
"Janos isn't in shape to pilot just now... and under Republic law, if you aren't all released, you will be, and he'll be hauled in as a slaver. To say nothing of other crimes he's probably committed. Jay can't keep you; the only way for this to work out would be for all of you to leave with him, somehow. Escape, so to speak, before the Kraken is under full Republic control again."
"I'm sure Master Jay will be able to work it out." Y'alla said confidently. "He's very smart."
"Yes, he is," Shi smiled softly. "But he's also distracted with his kittens. That's another mess entirely."
"I expect it is, mistress." Y'alla nodded, more than a bit at a loss as to what to say now.
"Do you want to spend the night here?" Shivasta asked her. "Without sex," she added. "I'm not sure if there's anybody available for you to spend the night with just now."
"Yes, mistress." She smiled slightly.
"All right," Shi smiled. "I'll probably sleep better for the company," she admitted, laying down on the bed the rest of the way, not quite comfortable with the idea of disrobing with the twi'lek next to her. "Sleep well, Y'alla."
"Sleep well, mistress." She responded easily and closed her eyes to rest.
Janos groaned softly as he woke up in the middle of the night, his entire body aching, Vondra snuggled up next to him in the medical bed. He smiled softly, looking over at her, and managed to work an arm around her body, squeezing her gently.
"You don't deserve this," he murmured softly, sighing inwardly. The Jedi were here, and if he was lucky he'd be able to get off the ship before he was hauled off in restraint cuffs. At least with the representative being a Healer, he wasn't likely to be run through with a lightsaber. At least not after she went to all the trouble of healing him as much as she had.
"Mmmm?" Vondra mumbled, not exactly awake, but not asleep either.
"Sorry," he murmured softly, closing his eyes for a moment. Mina had almost killed him earlier. It wasn't the first time he'd almost gotten himself killed, that was for sure. Probably wouldn't be the last.
It had been the most frightening. And the one that had made him rethink things the most. He'd finally felt the Dark Side, up close and personal. Fear, pain, rage, all channeled directly into him. It wasn't like the rage he was used to, seeing blood and not realizing what was going on until whatever'd pissed him off was dead and pulverized.
It was the receiving end of a lot more darkness than he had inside of himself. Enough to make him consider taking the money he had left and retiring for a while, until he had a few things sorted out.
He'd just have to figure out a way to get off the Kraken and out of Republic space while he did it ... which was where Vondra became an issue.
"Just how awake are you?" He asked her softly.
"Awake, master." She answered softly and nuzzled him a bit. "How are you?"
"Feeling like somebody hit me with the Sharufa," he admitted, returning the nuzzle softly. "And thoughtful. I ... haven't exactly been honest with you," he said, not sure how she'd take him knowing who she was.
"Master Healer Shivasta said that you'd recover fully, it would just take some time." She relaxed against him and gently ran her fingers threw his fur, careful of the spots still growing back.
"I know," he nodded slightly. "I just hope it's in time to get away from here before the Jedi have me hauled back to face whatever they call a trial."
"Jay will protect you," she reminded him gently. "He doesn't seem the type to go back on a promise."
"He isn't," Janos admitted. "I'm just not much for sitting back and waiting for other people to cover for me ... usually that sort of logic'd end up getting me killed." He turned his head to kiss her softly, rubbing her back lightly with the arm wrapped around her.
"I know you're a Santross," he said softly, wanting to get it out while he still had the nerve.
She tensed almost instantly, her eyes going wide as she assessed that, and then relaxed almost abruptly. "How?"
"When you were dreaming a few nights back, I picked up on enough details to put it together," he admitted. "I didn't want to say anything at first, but...."
"But what, master?" She asked quietly, her eyes down a bit.
"But you don't deserve to be owned by anybody, name or no name," he said, nuzzling her muzzle gently and got an affectionate lick for it. "Just makes me more glad that I didn't let Vondrich anywhere near you. I guess I just keep coming back to the point that you don't deserve to be owned by me either. Just don't see any reason a Santross would want to stay with a no-name Alpha who can't hold a pack together."
"Because you're nicer than any husband I could expect to get." She murmured quietly, her muzzle along his shoulder. "I may be the youngest daughter, but he'd be chosen for political reasons even now ... especially now."
Janos paused for a moment, the one thing he hadn't really expected to come out of this conversation now very much in the front of his mind.
"If you were free, think you'd get that choice?" He asked softly. "I know you don't think very highly of yourself lately, but your kin might change their minds."
"Depends on what you can live with." She continued matter-of-factly, now fully in the role of explaining personal politics among the super-wealthy of Corellia. It was a conversation she had been well groomed for by her mother as she grew up. "As a husband, they'd never accept it. As my lover, they don't really care as long as I have pups by my husband first and not too many by you. Nobody really expects loyalty out of a political marriage once the politics of it are addressed."
"I could handle it as long as your husband treated you well," Janos said seriously. "From the sound of it, that's anything but a sure thing."
"He'll be expected to do that, just not care about me, or stay in my bed when we aren't trying to make puppies. Not like you do." Vondra pointed out easily, still snuggled against his side. "He'd have hell to answer for if he beat me or something, even more so now that we're so few. Aunt Dymesta is going to be a bit on the over-protective side for a while. You do not cross the matriarch of the Santross Pack. It's not healthy, no matter who you are."
"Good to know," Janos murmured, hugging her close. "You've already taken enough abuse for a few lifetimes."
Vondra licked his cheek and snuggled close, still careful of the bare patches where his fur needed to grow in.
"Love you, Vondra," Janos said softly, meaning the words more than he had in a lifetime. The warmth he felt in her smile and gentle kiss made him feel better than he had in just as long.
"Love you, Janos." She murmured.
Shivasta stood outside of one of the Kraken's meditation chambers. That was the one good thing about the Sith ship; Sith and Jedi both understood the value of specially shielded chambers for meditation.
She was carrying a tray with the kat's favorite breakfast from back with the Order. Misha had been preparing something for him, but she'd taken up where the Mink had left off when she mentioned that Y'alla was fairly wound up. This would be a good chance to speak with Jay, and she wasn't going to miss it.
She tightened her mental shields and requested that the doors open.
They opened, half to her surprise, to reveal Jay working advanced katas, the four blades of his lightsabers flashing at a dangerous rate. Even as shielded as she was, Shi could feel how stressed he was; how badly he wanted things to be simple and make sense again.
The Healer part of her watched carefully to make sure he didn't manage to hurt himself again, while she just watched and waited until he started to slow down or noticed the smell of food.
It used to work, at least.
It still did, and it didn't take much longer than usual. He finished the kata, but she could tell she had his attention well before he actually stopped and turned his lightsabers off to face her, his nose twitching.
"I brought you breakfast," she said unnecessarily. "I hope your tastes haven't changed too much since I did this last time."
"No," he murmured as his stomach reminded him of how long it had been since his last meal. "Thank you." He added as he walked over to take the tray.
"You're welcome," she smiled, stepping back to give him some room as he set the tray on a small bench on the outside of the room and sat down to eat. She continued to watch for signs that her shields weren't enough to keep him comfortable, and found her to relief that between them he wasn't reacting badly to her presence.
"Jay?" She asked him, taking a seat on the bench across from the tray. "How much have things changed between us?"
He looked up at her and paused. "I don't know." He admitted. "I didn't want to change, but it happened."
"I guess I just need to know if we're still mates," Shi admitted quietly. "I know this has been hard for you, Jay, but we can work past it ... if you want to. I can feel you do, but I'm not sure how much of it is wishful thinking."
"Very little," he murmured, looking down at the food before looking up at her. "We are still mates, Shi. The bond is there, I'm not much on denying its existence. That pain that is making this so difficult is designed to keep me from slipping in the first place. I'd shy away from anything that started to hurt like that."
"Is there anything I can do to help with it?" She asked, fighting her urge to reach over and touch his cheek.
"I ... I really don't know." He sighed. "I don't know what's going to happen, but I should start to shift back to the Light. At least enough that we don't have to shield so strongly."
"There are treatments that I could help you with, but it would probably be painful," Shi admitted. "Beyond that... I could feel you outside my door last night, Jay. I missed you, but I wasn't sure what to say."
"I wasn't sure how'd you react ... or just how I would." He met her gaze for a moment. "I ... need you."
"More than -" Shi shook her head slightly, cutting off the comment she knew she shouldn't make about Misha. "I know that shielding our bond would be different, but would it be enough to let us be together like that?"
"It would be a start," he murmured, his heart in his throat and even more nervous than when they'd first shared a bed so long ago. "I've missed you, Shi."
"I've missed you too, Jay. So has Fenrik... gods we've missed you." This time, she did reach out to take his hand. It was hot and dry, just as it had been before. The way he moved his fingers to ghost his soft fur over her palm still sent chills down her spine.
"This isn't going to be easy for a while, putting the 'us' back together." Jay murmured and leaned forward to kiss her very softly, hesitantly, despite the desire driving him crazy.
"If it was easy, I'd be scared for both of us," she murmured after their lips parted. "Why don't you finish breakfast? We should have some time left before we reach the Kethris system."
Jay got a bit of a gleam in his eyes. "How about breakfast on you?" He purred throatily.
"Mmm ... you haven't changed that much," she chuckled, kissing him lightly. "Let's head back to one of our rooms then."
"As you wish." He chuckled and slid a hand up her arm as they stood.
"Jay, I've never been that much of an exhibitionist," Shi smirked, standing with him and grabbing his tray.
"It's a locked room," he pointed out with a snicker but made no effort to do anything but follow her to her room.
"And I don't doubt that most people who'd walk in on us wouldn't mind," Shi agreed. "Humor me." They left the meditation room, heading back to Shivasta's.
"Think you'll be able to spend the night with me?" She asked him softly. "Maybe Fenrik too?"
"I'll ... try." He consented uneasily. "I'm really not sure how I'm going to react to trying to sleep ... like this. No Fenrik until after I've met my folks."
"All right," Shi nodded, the door to her room sliding open as she reached it. "I'm sorry," she added softly, setting the tray down on a small table as they walked in.
"For what?" He cupped her face to look up at him.
"I know this isn't my fault, but if I hadn't been suckered by that Otter, they never would have gotten this far," she murmured, wrapping her arms around his waist and leaning up to kiss him tenderly.
"Probably would have anyway," he shook his head and rested his chin on her shoulder. "Janos' bond was overlaid without him being hurt."
"Mmm ... you were already vulnerable, and Fenrik was out of it for a few good minutes," Shi pointed out, kissing his cheek. "Let's not worry about it for now...." She rubbed his back softly, working on memory more than anything else to help him relax.
"Let's not." He rumbled softly and pulled her close, the sharp contrast in their body temperatures exciting from memories of decades spent together. "We're here now." He murmured and kissed his way down the side of her neck.
"That's what matters," Shi agreed, moaning softly at the feel of his touch, of finally being back with him.
"Master," Kraken piped up. "We are approaching the Kethris system."
Shi shuddered slightly at the abrupt shift that announcement caused in Jay. Without so much as a blink, he went completely Dark inside. Rage, vicious hatred, intent to cause pain all rippled to the surface and focused on the shecat that had taken his kittens.
"Good." He rumbled and turned away from Shi, forgetting what they were up to instantly as he headed for the bridge. "Power the weapons and shields to full strength. Sensor report."
"The Sith fighter is still in the system, but it is abandoned," Kraken explained easily as Shivasta followed Jay, not willing to let him out of her sight or influence for a moment just now. "However, the Jedi fleet has apprehended several stolen vessels, most of which are masking their contents."
"Not for long." Jay rumbled as he stepped onto a lift and leaned against the wall as it sped to the hanger where Sharufa was docked. He focused on reaching out to each ship, seeking the one with the shecat and two tiny babies.
He found it, and the Ringtail still piloting the vessel. Another fighter, its engines already damaged in the process of stealing it, and astromech droid working frantically to repair the damage.
The deflector screens of the vessel were fluctuating wildly as a result of the damage; they were trying to find a way to disable the tractor beams keeping them in place, and the distracted droid wasn't helping much.
"*This one.*" Jay grinned viciously. "Bring it on board, and open a channel to the vessel holding it."
"Doing so," Kraken said calmly, the door to the lift opening to let them onto the main hangar.
"Jay, I have a bad feeling about this," Shi warned him softly.
"Kraken, this is the Republic vessel Kyntassi," an unfamiliar voice announced from the much, much smaller transport that had the fighter held in place.
"Kyntassi, let the Keldan Lion go once we have our tractor beams locked on it." Jay said easily as the huge hanger door opened at his command. "We'll bring her on board."
"Very well, Kraken," the captain of the smaller vessel said easily.
The hangar door opened, revealing the tiny fighter and the Kyntassi nearby. Probably a half-dozen other fighters were in being held in place, a few larger vessels, assorted Jedi transports taking care of the situation.
"Something is very, very wrong," Shivasta murmured softly as they watched.
"Kraken, what is going on?" The Captain of the Kyntassi demanded suddenly. "Why are you -"
Whatever he was going to ask was interrupted by the sound of half the Kraken's turreted guns and every weapon mounted on the starboard side firing, vaporizing the Kyntassi, the explosion rocking every ship nearby. Shi and Jay were both very nearly thrown off their feet, both staring in shock.
The Keldan Lion reacted immediately, disappearing into hyperspace as soon as the tractor beam holding it in place was annihilated. The rest of the fleet wasn't nearly as quick to recover as two more of the captured fighters were blown away, and the transports started to pull around to bring their own weapons to bear on the Sith battle cruiser that had suddenly turned on them.
Too slow for a second transport, the Kraken's biggest guns firing on it, ripping it in two with blasts meant to level portions of cities.
"*Fenrik!*" Shivasta 'shouted' telepathically, ducking out of the way as the internal turrets of the bay hissed, lowering their weapons and preparing to fire on the Jedi. "*The Kraken is firing on its own, Jay is not giving it these orders!*"
Jay snarled with a whole new kind of rage and turned the full power of his family Gift fueled by the Demon itself on the ship's AI, ripping it to shreds the way a powerful Sith could rip a living mind apart.
Shi could practically feel the artificial personality's pain for a brief moment before there wasn't enough left of it to feel anything.
Everything was still and silent for a painfully long moment before a new ship came into the system, dropping out of hyperspace.
"*What the FUCK is going on over there?*" Fenrik roared back along their bond, the rocking of his ship clear in the message.
"We are being hailed." Kraken's default programming, now stripped of a personality, spoke up.
"Open channel." Jay ordered from where he was panting, half collapsed on the floor from the amount of energy he'd channeled in the previous moments.
"Greetings from the Aristal Explorer Far Ranger," a voice familiar female and language from his earliest memories came across the loud speakers. "I understand my little brother is the captain over there."
"Marie?" Jay looked up, somewhere between bewildered and wary threw his exhaustion.
"Yes, bro." The smile managed to come across in her voice. "Can we come aboard?"
"Sure." He struggled to his feet. "Hanger bay's open."
"*Everything's under control,*" Shivasta told Fenrik. "*Kraken's dead.*"
The Far Ranger approached, flying through the permeable shield that separated the hangar bay from the open vacuum of space.
It wasn't until that moment that Jay really believed his kin were here, and Shi felt the tension drain from him until he could barely stand as it settled down.
"*Please tell me there are survivors on the second transport?*" She asked Fenrik, moving close to Jay in case he couldn't stay on his feet as they waited for the Clawsons to disembark.
"*Not many,*" he muttered. "*We're rescuing them now. How's Jay?*"
"*Distracting himself with family,*" Shivasta told her other mate. "*I'll find out what happened with Kraken later, if I can. Jay... he annihilated the AI as soon as he realized what was happening. We still don't know why it fired.*"
"*If the AI is back, it is Sith.*" Fenrik pointed out as Jay reached down to squeeze Shi's hand.
"Shi ... would you ask Fenrik to join us?" Jay looked at her before his attention was drawn to those disembarking.
An elder shekat, the air of command and authority very different from the mindset she had walked into the Jedi Council. This time she only had one companion, Felisha Furlong.
"Mom?" Jay blinked, taking a long moment to convince himself he wasn't hallucinating, and then ran forward to pull her into a tight embrace with tears of relief ready to flow.
Shivasta stayed where she was for now; letting Jay get reacquainted with the family he hadn't seen in most of his lifetime.
"*Fenrik, Jay wants you to come to the ship now,*" she told the Panther. "*The Clawsons are here, and the Kraken is safe now. God, I only wish Jay had let us do that decades ago....*"
"*At least he's finally being reasonable.*" The Panther sighed to her. His hurt at being excluded was evident, even though he knew exactly why and couldn't fault Jay's reasoning. "*I'll be on board when the rescue is done.*"
"*I'm sorry, Fenrik,*" Shivasta said softly. "*If I'd let you stop this, maybe this wouldn't have happened. I can't wait for you to be here to help me ... Jay's still very much on the edge.*"
"*I'm really not surprised.*" He said softly. "*I'll be there as soon as I can.*"
Shivasta drew back from Fenrik's mind to let him focus on the rescues, then approached the Clawsons, noticing that the initial greetings had finally calmed down a bit and Jay was standing a bit back talking rapidly with his body as much as his voice.
"Mom, sis, this is my partner, Shivasta Stormwarden." Jay turned to face her with a warm smile and drew her closer; the pride and importance of the designation clear in his mind, and in their reactions. "Shi, my mother, Felisha Furlong and my oldest sister and head of the family, Marie Clawson."
"It's good to see you in person, Shi." Marie smiled warmly and extended a hand to the Healer. "A belated welcome to the family."
"Thank you, Madame Clawson," Shivasta smiled, accepting the handshake. "I'm not sure if there's something you'd prefer I called you...?" She asked, not honestly sure if she had a title she would prefer, or if being part of the family would affect anything.
"Marie is fine." She said easily. "You are family after all."
"We aren't big on titles or last names," Jay added with a teasing smirk towards his oldest sibling.
"I should have known it from Jay," Shi chuckled with a fond smile. "But then, things are a little different with the Jedi. It's good to meet his family; to be honest, none of us really expected it."
"If he had not turned, it probably would not have happened." Marie admitted. "That is what drew us here."
"Now I hear I have grandkits." Felisha dragged the subject back to something more pleasant than her oldest son's pending Omega status.
"He didn't turn all the way," Shivasta said softly. "And yes, you do," she added with a smile. "Beautiful ones, the two I've seen. The others... we'll be recovering them as soon as we can find where their sorry excuse for a mother ran off to when Kraken went rogue."
"Did you leave anything of him?" Marie asked her brother pointedly.
"Not that I could find," he rumbled dangerously.
"Any clues to where she went?" Felisha asked, urging the group to get moving before things got any more unpleasant.
"Not that I'm aware of, but I'm horrible with machines," Shivasta admitted as they started for the lift that would take them to the nursery. "Fenrik might have a better idea when he gets here, I don't doubt that half the sensors in the fleet were scanning that ship."
"She will not get far." Jay growled, only to dip his ears and head submissively at Marie's sharp look. He was no less riled inside, but the response to the silent reprimand was almost instant control.
"My grandkits?" Felisha prompted.
"Mystera's a solid black female, much like great-great grandmother Midnight." Jay answered with a soft smile for his children. "Jemeka's a dusty rose on strawberry blond tabby fem. The missing two are Jamil, a black on red tabby tom, and Tessra, a brown on rusty red tabby fem. Charance was a dark brown tabby tom." He added softly for his dead son.
"What...." Shivasta trailed off, realizing that now was not the time to ask what had happened. She couldn't help but feel that, somehow, it wasn't a natural still-birth situation.
If it was, it'd be the first thing natural that had happened since the attack.
"He was born dead." Jay answered as best he could. "The family bond snapped during the birth."
"I'm sorry, bro." Marie murmured and put a slender hand on his shoulder. "We'll make sure he gets a proper funeral."
Shivasta was quiet as the lift came to a halt, not sure what else to say, at least not with Jay's family there. He clearly wasn't as restrained with them as he was with most people, but she didn't know how far that went yet.
The others were silent too as they walked to the nursery, but it lightened almost instantly when the door opened and Tami looked up from four sleeping kittens, two only days old, the other two a bit over a month old.
Jay smiled indulgently, not even realizing how potent an effect the younger pair had on him as he walked up with his mother to touch and introduce.
"I would like a chance to talk to you in private, Shi." Marie spoke softly while others were distracted.
"Now's as good a time as any," Shi replied softly. "How private?"
"A quiet room to ourselves will do." The family matriarch nodded to herself. "I know well how unlikely it is he's not going to hear about it eventually. They'll keep themselves entertained with the kittens until there is something to do."
"There's a room just down the hall," Shivasta said easily, leading the way for the short distance to it. "Jay or Fenrik would be the only people who'd interrupt, I'm sure."
"No doubt," she chuckled softly as the door opened to the conference room. "Ace, my mate, might as well if it's important enough."
"I'm going to hope that nothing that important comes up, no offense," Shi smiled, stepping into the empty room. "Because it sounds like this is a serious issue at hand."
"It is, and it isn't." Marie sat down and relaxed in a comfortable conference chair. "Any time a Clawson takes a mate or may have gone Omega, it's serious. I'm also his older sister and head of the family, and I want to know what happened to him."
"Understandable," Shi nodded. "Where do you want me to start though? There's a lot of ground to cover, after all."
"A long lifetime's worth." She nodded. "How did you meet, get together?"
"We met when he decided to practice flying about ten years too early," Shivasta smiled with fond memories, taking a seat. "Master Essani was about ready to have a coronary herself when she got him into medical. I was on shift and assigned to take care of him once he was conscious again, and we became friends from there. Mates came after a year or two, when we were both getting old enough to start thinking of things in those terms. Still young, especially for Jedi, but it worked out in the end."
"Flying?" Marie raised an eyebrow sharply. "Is this a common ability?"
"Hardly," Shivasta admitted easily. "Not even most Knights bother learning how. But Jay loves it, and he's never really had a problem with thinking he couldn't do something, regardless of whether or not he could," she chuckled.
"It is good to know he learned that lesson well, even at eight." Marie nodded with an approving smile for her baby brother. "What drew you to him, as a lover?"
"He's Jay," Shi admitted with a smile, not quite sure how else to describe it for a moment. "He's usually sweet, caring ... we were friends before we were lovers. There was a bit of a misunderstanding that drew us together that way the first time ... but it worked out. To be honest, we both figured it was going to happen eventually, it was just a matter of how the timing worked out."
"What has he been like, before this mess?"
"Conflicted," Shivasta admitted. "He wanted to become a Jedi for the longest time, despite the fact that he's never been truly comfortable in the Order. He's always had a darker side to him, been short-tempered and prone to a violent solution to problems. But he's more than made up for it too. He's caring, loving, generous to a fault almost. Brave and curious... he's a true warrior and creator. Like a lot of warriors, you just don't want to be the one to make him angry. It hadn't happened for years before this.
"Marie? If I may ask, are you just curious about him as family? Or is there something else you're trying to determine?" Shi asked Marie.
"He is the first kitten we've lost and recovered," she said simply. "We've had a lot of theories about what is nature and what is learned, why we are so different from most Kats. This is a chance to find out a little more about how we are what we are. He is also teetering on the edge of an Omega classification."
That was a term Shivasta recognized, as well as the fate for people who received it.
"He isn't that far gone," she said.
"I'm inclined to agree, but it is not my decision to make." Marie said softly. "It is a matter of law, not opinion."
"Whose law?" Shivasta asked her. "By ours ... we have seen far worse acts committed by people who have gone on to redeem themselves, and will see it again."
"Our law," Marie regarded the younger woman evenly. "You may be able to block us from punishing him for his crimes, if he has actually committed any under our laws, but if he is an Omega, it will affect his choices on coming home."
"I understand," Shivasta said, inclining her head respectfully. "And it is not my place to speak for the Council on this. Will the circumstances of what has happened be considered?"
"Yes," she nodded. "We do consider mitigating circumstances. Given the sketchy information I have access to at the moment, I can't say much about what he's going to face from our side yet. If he hasn't tried for genocide or planetary domination or demolition yet, a mate able and willing to take responsibility for him also counts. By now, I'm sure you have encountered just how potent an effect a mate can have on a Clawson's behavior."
"Gods know I have," Shivasta nodded, shuddering slightly. "That's what got this whole mess started, after all. Marie ... we can't let Jay kill Mina, not if he reacts the way he did when we found her."
That raised an eyebrow. "Why not? It's as justifiable a homicide as there is."
"It's not because of what he'd be doing, it's why... it's complicated," Shi admitted. "What does your family know of the Force, and how it works? It sounds like Jay was the first who had any real inkling of it."
"I haven't really looked into it," she admitted. "Discerning local quirks in the universal power was rather low on the priorities list. I've spent most of my time working on my Basic and political structures. We've only been in this galaxy for ten days."
"Understandable," Shi nodded. "Though with sensitive relatives, it was possible your family had tripped across the Dark Side before. Effectively, it's all that's wrong about the Force ... and Jay is very, very vulnerable to it now. He has been for much of his life, thanks to his temper. But now ... when he gets put on Mina's trail, it's almost painful to feel his reaction. So much rage, so poorly controlled ... if he did kill her, I'm not sure what the effects on him would be, but in this state it couldn't be good."
Marie considered her levelly for a long moment. "Perhaps. We have found it can also be better than a lifetime of therapy. Everything gets vented on that moment and the wounds can begin to heal." She paused. "You keep mentioning his temper. He was easily one of the more even-tempered kits in the family at eight. Do you know if he suffered a brain injury or something that could have caused that change? It's pretty clearly not you or Fenrik from your records."
"It may well be a difference in what we mean by short-tempered," Shivasta admitted. "For one of my people, he's actually remarkably restrained. But for a Jedi, he was about one step short of dangerously easy to anger. But he did grow up in the slums of a slum world for two years before he was found ... that can change somebody."
"Brings out survivor instincts a little more than we usually like," Marie nodded. "We are also very action-oriented people. 'Even-tempered' and 'restrained' are not words you usually associate with any black op, much less one of us, unless it's a face we put on for the public or we're badly messed up by something. Looking at his records, I'd say he's typically quite restrained in his actions. Effective too." She chuckled softly. "We aren't usually good diplomats. It's not what we were bred for."
"He isn't much of one," Shi pointed out with a chuckle. "He can be when he has to, but he's much more at home on a dig or a battlefield. He, Fenrik and I have been involved in more than one small-scale war," she admitted.
"I'd be surprised if you hadn't been." Marie smiled slightly. "We live exciting lives, whether anyone likes it or not."
"That's one way to describe it," Shi chuckled. "Add that to being Jedi, and we're lucky that we've had any missions that weren't 'exciting,'" she smiled.
"True," she nodded easily. "He's interested in archeology?"
"Very," Shi smiled. "And technology, of course, but that really goes without saying. We were actually exploring an ancient set of ruins before this all started."
"Tell me about it, the records are sparse at best right now."
"I'm not honestly sure how much there is to tell," Shi admitted. "The whole thing could have been set up by the Wolf who arranged it. We actually should still have the statues in the hold, as I remember ... but I was off-world for a while before the attack.
"At any rate, it was an ancient Sith site, from before the Sith were a Dark Side sect. The statues we found were their last known records from their time before they were taken over by the Dark Siders."
"What has Jay been up to these last months, what happened to him?" Marie rephrased her question. "How did he reject you?" She struggled to phrase a question that was so far outside what was thought possible that they'd never worried about it.
"Ah, I'm sorry," Shivasta said, shaking her head. "I don't know all the details yet. When I was attacked, I was poisoned and in a coma for two months. He thought I was dead, and was bonded to the shecat who stole his kittens. You know that. What came after that ... his two 'mates' have been encouraging his fall to the Dark Side. You already mentioned the effect a mate can have on a Clawson. He killed a woman on Naboo ... murdered her, honestly. He's been on the run from the Jedi since he was captured, and we've been trying to find him.
"As for has he rejected me... do you mean why he's reacting so badly to being near me?"
"Sort of." Marie sighed. "That reaction is how most of us stay on the right side of things. Normally, if he started to slip, it would hurt, and that would stop that kind of behavior from becoming common. How another took your place ... normally that takes at least amnesia, or the death of the mate. That it can be done without either of those events makes it very important to understand how it happened."
"I understand now," she nodded. "To be blunt, I very nearly did die. The only reason I didn't is because I put myself into a coma that's almost indistinguishable. I'm pretty sure the Demon was helping as well, and the one who did the work was a very powerful Force user. Fenrik's bond was replaced later largely because, again, he was nearly killed. And beyond that, Jay was already vulnerable from having my bond usurped. Do you have mind healers back in your part of the universe?"
Marie paused to cross-reference the term from the Jedi databases they had downloaded before leaving. "No, nothing like you do." She shook her head. "That kind of power isn't known."
"It's not a very common skill, not to any sort of power, even here," Shivasta agreed. "I have some talent, but only a minimal amount for a Healer, and we're barely five percent of the Order's number. But Master Zykell, the former Jedi who arranged all this, was known for his unusual talent in the area, particularly for somebody who wasn't a healer. I imagine that, with the Demon's help, he was able to splice a new emotional bond in place over the existing one. Rather like a bypass, or putting two wires together. Except that the way these bonds were set up, the longer they were in place the more they replaced the existing ones.
"If you're familiar with botany, the easiest way to think of it might be like planting mistletoe on a healthy tree."
Marie considered that, running a cross-reference on the unfamiliar terms, and shuddered. "And since the new bonds were with people who are evil, he'd instinctively shift his behavior to come in line with them, much the same way as his behavior would have shifted to fall more in line with yours after you became mates."
"Exactly," Shivasta nodded. "What happened with the woman on Naboo is a prime example. He was already prone to enjoying rough bed play. By the time he reached Naboo, he'd been bonded to a true sadist for a few months, from what her 'pet' told me. So when he found a bed partner who enjoyed that sort of play... he went too far. It wouldn't have happened if he'd been with Fenrik or me, instead of two Dark Siders, one of whom murdered another woman in the morning just for fun. You can see why I asked about extenuating circumstances."
"Yes. Can you break the new bonds without killing him?" Marie asked softly.
"I already broke Mina's, though he didn't particularly enjoy the process," Shivasta explained. "The fact that the bonds aren't as strong as normal helps, a lot. Janos, the other one... I want Fenrik here before that happens. I don't want to take the chance that the backlash to any of the three of them could cause harm."
"How long until he arrives?"
"It depends on how long the rescue operations take, but I imagine not more than an hour, if that," Shivasta said easily. "Just be ready for him to be a little paranoid. He's the classic warrior, and if they were Wolves, I'd say he was his alpha."
"I expected that," Marie smiled warmly with a light chuckle. "Jay never was that rebellious, and you don't seem the domineering type. Has he been happy, overall, since you met?"
"I like to think he has been," Shivasta smiled. "And no, I'm not, though try telling my niece that sometimes," she chuckled. "But it's good to see him with him family. He's been happy, but he hasn't felt like he really belonged."
"In a very real way, he hasn't." She nodded in understanding. "It wasn't that long ago that we were used to being the only one of our kind, but not since our father's kittenhood has that been true. Jay was raised to be part of the family, part of the colony. It's clear in his file that you have about as much experience with our kind as we've had with yours. It's not a good feeling to be alone."
"No, it isn't," Shi agreed. "Especially not when keeping who you were meant to be is at odds with who you are now."
"Clawson and Jedi has not been an easy balance to strike for him, has it?" Marie asked.
"I don't think so," Shivasta nodded. "The Jedi espouse controlling your emotions ... from what I can tell, that's not a high priority for Clawsons, no offense intended. More often, the Clawson mores and Jedi ones aren't always in line with each other. Your family is fiercely individualistic, from what I can gather," she smiled. "And places a high value on history. Jay especially ... there have been some very painful discussions about history, in the Republic."
"No offence taken," Marie smiled slightly. "I expect he was horrified to realize that you've had interstellar travel longer than we've had cities and have so few records of it. That keeping, and protecting, of records and history is how we've defined civilized cultures in much of recent history. To forget the past is to be doomed to repeat it is a very well known, and well proven, saying on Aristal."
"That's a very accurate assessment," Shivasta agreed. "When he found out that there's a bit of a debate over whether or not my people used to be connected to the Jedi Order as explorers and miners before we were considered lost in space and regressed to a pre-industrial level of technology... well, if I hadn't been his mate, I imagine he would have gone ballistic."
"Quite likely," Marie murmured, disturbed herself, though she didn't show it nearly as much as Jay had years before. "Between being 'lost' himself and growing up on colony ships, it would have hit very close to home and hope. 'No one left behind' is something we have long embraced and is still a loyalty that ties us to Aristal as home. We know we'll be sought out if we're lost, even if it's only to return our body for burial."
"Where loyalties like that are held within a planet or family here, most often," Shivasta nodded. "After this is over, what do you plan to do?"
"Go home." Marie said simply, a choice that had been made long before. "We are far outside anywhere that we could maintain our social network. This is a rescue mission, not exploration."
"Fair enough. If he stays here, will there be any way to return his body to your kin, when the time comes? It could be a century or more, barring violence, even without what seems to be an unusually long lifespan in your family."
"Yes, and thank you." She nodded. "I believe you have sufficient preservation technology to hold his body until a message can get to us and a ship sent for him. It could take upwards of a year for the ship to arrive, but we will make sure we leave the information and technology needed for it to work."
"Thank you," Shivasta nodded. "Would it be inappropriate to request burial with him, at least in part?" The Ice Walker asked. "I can't honestly say if any of the three of us will have bodies that can be recovered, or that we'll die all that close to each other, but...."
"Not inappropriate at all," Marie smiled warmly at her. "We will do all we can to make it work. Do you know Fenrik's desires on the matter?"
"It hasn't really come up with him," she admitted. "Though his traditions place more emphasis on being returned to his home than on being buried with his mates, as I understand, and they don't agree with cremation unless it's absolutely necessary. We'll have to ask him, some time. Jay's been very clear about what he wants, and my people's traditions will take a little working to fill in, but I've already thought it through. Fenrik probably has too, but he hasn't mentioned it."
"It would be best to work out before we leave. Not to be too forward, Shivasta, but I would offer some advice." Marie spoke easily but cautiously. "Do whatever you must to get Jay in your bed as quickly as you can, even tonight. You were lovers before; your bond with him would have been founded in the sexual nature of your relationship. It may be difficult, even painful, but it will be the least disturbing way in the long run. He looks to be at the point right now that he could turn away from his bond with you as easily as turn back to you. It's hurting him now; I don't know how much pain he's willing to take for you, to be with you."
"We were about to try something before the ship interrupted us with the news we were reaching the system," Shi admitted. "I can keep the pain to a minimum, without him having to turn away. In a worst case scenario, we have something not unlike shock treatment that can help as well, but I want to save that for the worst case scenario. It would be extremely painful at this point, I'm sure."
"Likely," Marie nodded slightly. "This is also the risk of him finding someone who is less 'good' and voluntarily shifting his alliance. He may not be the type, but it's been known to happen."
"Janos being the best candidate just now," Shivasta nodded. "Though as the best outcome of the poor ones, it could be worse. I imagine that Fenrik will be more comfortable for him. Thank you, Marie."
"You are welcome. You have been very good for my brother. I do not wish to see that destroyed by odd psychology." She smiled warmly. "Ah, your Panther is here, with something else."
"Something else?" Shi asked, raising an eyebrow before reaching out to Fenrik and his companion. "Ah," she smiled. "That would be Cormoran, my niece's Padawan. This has probably been the most unorthodox first few months to his training in a few centuries," she chuckled, standing. "Do you want to come with me to meet them?" She asked Marie easily.
"Yes, I would." She nodded easily and stood with grace despite her advanced years.
"*Meet me outside the hangar; Jay's older sister is with me, he's showing off kittens to his mother,*" Shi told Fenrik silently, getting the door and waiting for Marie, eager to have both her mates on the same ship finally.
"*Will do. Cormoran is eager to have his Master back too.*" He chuckled, covering his own nervousness with difficulty. "*Jay still wants to see me?*"
"*I think he will, and have Cormoran contact Kanna, if he hasn't already,*" Shi told her mate as they started through the ship. "*He might be uncomfortable at first, but he'll probably handle being close to you better than he will me.*"
"*Why? You're the one he trusts.*" He frowned mentally.
"*Family mental defense. He's reacting painfully to being close to me unless I keep my mental shields clamped down tightly; response to the Light side.*"
"*This can't be a good thing.*" He murmured. "*Any idea how long it'll last?*"
"*Until he's back to the Light,*" Shivasta sighed mentally. "*Best guess at least. And you may have a few very painful moments ahead of you; I still have to break his bond to the Wolf.*"
She felt him wince at that.
"*It's going to hurt Jay too, even more, isn't it?*" Fenrik sighed.
"*And Janos,*" she agreed. "*It wasn't too bad for me when I was breaking Mina's.*"
"*Why do we care about that Wolf being hurt after what he did?*" The Panther rumbled darkly.
"*The Wolf isn't the one who was behind this, Janos,*" Shi said firmly. "*He was involved, but he regrets it. He's not Sith, not close to it.*"
"*Right.*" He backed down from the pending fight as the pair of females came into view in the hall outside the hanger. "Hi," he smiled much more warmly in greeting to his mate.
"Hi," Shi smiled, walking up to hug him gratefully as Kanna turned into the hallway, coming to greet the obsidian-feathered Raptor waiting for her beside Fenrik.
"Marie Clawson, Knight Kanna Stormwarden, my niece, Master Fenrik, my other mate, and Padawan Cormoran, my niece's apprentice," Shivasta introduced them quickly. "All, Marie Clawson, Jay's older sister and head of the Clawson family."
"It is good to finally meet you, Ma'am." Fenrik bowed to her in the respect due to one of her rank, and to his mate's elder kin.
"It is good to meet you, Fenrik." She smiled warmly at the slightly graying Panther. "I see my brother has fine taste."
"Pleased to meet you ma'am." Cormoran greeted her in Basic accented by his natural clicking, squawking language and bowed to the elder shekat.
"Pleased to meet you, Padawan Cormoran." Marie greeted him with a nod of respect even as she never really took her eyes off the person-sized dinosaur with his long, slender neck, stiff tail and covered by black, glass-like feathers. It was clear she'd never encountered anything like the talking reptile before.
"Likewise, good to meet you in person," Kanna smiled with a bow of her own.
"Let's go catch up with Jay," Shi smiled. "He's probably just about done showing off Mystera and Jemeka just about now."
"The real question would be if Felisha is done fawning over her newest grandkits yet." Marie chuckled as Fenrik followed her and Shi to the nursery while Kanna led her Padawan off to their quarters.
"I doubt it," Shi smiled. "To judge by how she reacted to them being there, I suspect she'll be at it until we catch up with the Keldan Lion, where ever it went."
"That won't be soon enough." Marie rumbled lightly. "My crew's already getting keyed up about it."
"Cormoran and Kanna will be trying to get us some idea of where to go as soon as they're settled," Shivasta said reassuringly. "Between the two of them, I'm sure they can manage it."
"We aren't exactly unskilled in that department either." Marie commented, a reminder that Jay was no longer the only one with a bond to the kittens available.
"I understand," Shi nodded. "I wasn't sure if it would be strong enough, given that even Jay's bond only helped him with general terms."
"It is not very precise, but if they stay put, we can find them." Marie nodded. "It is a skill as much as instinct, something I've had a great deal more practice at than he has."
"Very true," Shi nodded, then chuckled. "After all, you did find him two galaxies away. Your skills will probably be more helpful than ours then; our Seers can be blinded by some skills that Mina may have access to."
"And I had three kin to hunt down before him as well. The events that led us here began a hunt for every MIA Clawson on the books. The links are weak, but experience is worth a great deal. The Demon's interference will be the greatest difficulty here, as it was with Jay."
"That's how you knew how to find him then?" Shi asked, as they walked to the nursery.
"Yes," she nodded. "When he disappeared, he left no trace we could follow, or we would have been here fifty years ago."
"There's also been at least one change in family leadership since then," Shi nodded. "Do you have any idea what happened that brought him here? All he's ever known was that he was tinkering with a hyperdrive and it had a glitch."
"That's about right," she nodded. "All we could learn was that he was working on a unit taken out of one of the TurboKats, our main line fighter, and it activated, taking him with it."
"Quite a jump it managed," Shi murmured. "I've always wondered what he was meant to accomplish here, that the Force brought him to us. I assume your drives aren't typically capable of doing that sort of thing?"
"Technically, they are." Marie admitted. "It takes a lot of power to make this kind of jump, though. The ship we brought is the smallest that we could build that kind of generator into. It still took us eight jumps to get here. It's a mass and distance formula for the power needed, and the numbers are just huge."
"And I'm not at all familiar with how those sort of things work," Shivasta admitted. "So it's not unreasonable to think that it was something very unusual that brought him here?"
"Very unusual for normal folks or physics, yes. For a Clawson, the really unusual part is that he didn't come back within a year or so. We're kind of used to that kind of thing meaning they got dropped in a different dimension or time."
"I imagine the engine that dropped him off either didn't come with or it was torn apart while he was still recovering," Shi said seriously. "I wasn't kidding about him growing up on a slum world. Nar Shaddaa isn't pretty ... he's lucky he did as well as he did. I'm not surprised he became so close to Doruth after he was rescued. Between him and Essani, you're practically looking at Jay's parents in this part of the universe."
Marie smiled faintly at the Ice Walker. "I have met them, and they are good people. I think the reason he never came back to us was because he found what he wanted more than family here. He's been capable of rebuilding that drive for decades now. He chose not to come home."
"I think there's more to it than that, but it's true," Shi nodded. "Will it be a problem for his kittens, if they go home with you and he doesn't? I know there are some traditions regarding kits and their parents in your family...."
"They'll be adopted by someone to raise." Marie explained easily. "Yes, we do have a lot of traditions with close kin, but we also have a very high mortality rate and adoption by cousins or aunts and uncles is common. Likely my granddaughter, the one that was in the Council chamber with me, and her mate will end up raising them. She is one of the few who shares Jay's extra Gift."
"Good," Shivasta sighed with relief. "I know Jay was having some difficulties when he was getting older... a conflict between your traditions and Master Doruth's. We did resolve it, but it took time."
"*Is something wrong?*" Fenrik asked her.
"*Not that I'm worried about just now,*" she told him. "*His kits will have family to take his place. If he chooses to return with them, I'll be shocked.*"
"I'm not surprised there was a problem. He would have had a similar issue if he was taken in by a couple outside special ops back home too. You end up developing an odd culture when black ops teams become a family and not just something for solo guys."
"*As she said, he's been able to go back if he wanted to years ago.*" He nodded fractionally.
"And when that runs into a culture where families are the exception to the rule, it's even more of an issue," Shi nodded. "Well, we should probably stop talking about him behind his back before we're really behind it," she chuckled as they approached the nursery. "Thank you, Marie."
"You are welcome, Shi. If you have any questions about where he got some of his odder ideas, I can probably answer them." She added with a chuckle and smile as they came up to the nursery door. "I've gathered he has been very stubborn about giving up what he does remember of home."
"Any tidbits you can give us about Clawson laws and codes of justice might help us be ready for what he'll be expecting us to do to him," Shivasta said easily.
"After you are done with your greetings, perhaps?" Marie offered with a knowing look and opened the door to the expected scene of Felisha cooing and petting her newborn granddaughters and Jay relaxed against the back wall watching with an indulgent and rather proud look. "A bit more family history than he remembers too, and the last fifty-four years." She added to the offer.
"Thank you," Shivasta nodded with a smile. "Jay? Mind showing them off to Fenrik too?"
The tom looked up, startled out of his thoughts by her voice and his mate's name. When his eyes landed on the Panther, there was an instant tension, the struggle between wanting to rush up and kiss him senseless and the lingering fear of what his mate would do. It was a brief moment where his thoughts were not on his kittens.
"A kiss first?" Jay asked hesitantly and stepped forward, ready to be rejected or attacked and not intending to fight either.
"Not a problem," Fenrik purred softly, stepping forward the rest of the way and wrapping his arms around Jay, holding him and letting him make the move for the kiss, not sure how much of one Jay would want just now.
It was soft and slow, hesitant despite the need he could feel in Jay's body and mind as strong, unsure hands explored both their bodies. Eventually Jay ended the kiss to rest his muzzle along Fenrik's shoulder.
"*I've missed you.*" He whispered silently.
"I've missed you too, love," Fenrik murmured softly, turning to kiss Jay's neck. "But it's almost over now. We just have to get your kittens back and make the one behind this pay."
"Yes," Jay shivered slightly at the kiss and exposed his neck a bit more. "It's not a hunt we have to head anymore either."
"Come on," Fenrik murmured, kissing him again. "Introduce me to your kits, then we can go get you to relax."
"And you." Jay smiled faintly and nuzzled him before stepping back a bit. "I know you haven't really slept since I ... was captured. Shi definitely hadn't." He added and turned to shoo his mother gently away from the crib and motioned Fenrik to come close. "Mystera," he lightly scritched the black one's scruff, "and Jemeka," he touched his dusty rose on strawberry blond tabby daughter.
"They're very pretty," Fenrik smiled, reaching in gently to make sure nobody would object before petting the blind, mewling kits softly. "Much closer to their father than their mother, from the sound of it."
"Clawson genetics are very dominant," Marie said softly with a smile for her newest nieces from the other side of the crib. "They'll make very strong officers."
As odd as it sounded to Shi and Fenrik, Jay absolutely beamed at the phrase and the fact he was sure his sister meant it.
"Any idea who will raise them?" Jay asked softly, looking at Marie seriously.
"Likely my granddaughter, Jennie, and her mate. She has the same extra Gift that you do." Marie explained.
"Good," Jay nodded and gave his two kittens a last touch before brushing a hand along Fenrik's arm. "Let's leave the ladies to their ogling."
"We'll do our own later," Fenrik nodded with a smile, gently guiding Jay out along with Shivasta, then drawing him close for a close, loving embrace that wasn't resisted in the least.
For not the first time, Shi realized that there really was something deeper to the male's relationship than existed between her and Jay. She'd never understand what it was, but at this moment, she was too grateful for it to be jealous. It would have been excruciatingly painful if the boys had been broken apart by this, and for a very long few days, it really looked as if it might.
"*Join us?*" Fenrik asked her mentally, coaxing her moved to hug Jay from the other side, her shields tightly controlled to keep him comfortable. At least he didn't seem to be in any real pain with Fenrik.
"*I'm not nearly as Light as you, love.*" Fenrik told her gently and privately as Jay relaxed between them. "*I think we might want to get to a room soon.*" He added with a touch of worry. "*I think he's breaking down, finally.*"
"Come on you two," Shivasta murmured softly, starting to lead them the short way to Jay's room. "Let's go somewhere private."
Jay made no resistance, his main focus being on not crumbling in public. By the time the door closed behind them to the master bedroom on board the Sharufa tears were flowing freely and Fenrik had picked Jay up, grateful the tom was willing to press up against him and be carried.
It wasn't long before the three of them were undressed and in bed, Shi and Fenrik holding Jay as comfortingly as they could until all three were asleep.
Kanna and Cormoran rode the lift to the bridge in silence. They were both rested, though Cormoran's obsidian feathers had shredded his bedding into the nest he was used to in short order. Kanna in particular was grateful to hear that her aunt and her mates were in the same bed again. They had spent far too long together, been through far too much for this to break things up.
"Master, am I mistaken in that every Clawson has some Force-power, but only a few are like us?" His words still interspersed by the clicks and rawks of his kind, though his Basic was quite passable for a Jedi of his young age.
"Basically, from what I understand," Kanna nodded. "It's not unlike the Celegians; they can all levitate, but only some of them are capable of being Jedi. And, from what I understand, not every Clawson has the full Gift like Jay does."
"But their Gift it is not something common to their race?" He made sure he understood what little he had.
"No, it isn't," Kanna agreed. "I suspect their 'Demon' has something to do with it. It wasn't until a member of the family had found it that they had their Gift a few generations ago. I believe that the exposure to a Force talent has started to coax out a better recognized sensitivity to the Force in general. But I'm no expert on the topic."
"Will they be staying in contact with us, Master?" He chirped, his natural curiosity peaked by this unusual group.
"I hope so, but I don't know, Padawan," Kanna admitted easily. "I do hope they will at least have a means of communicating across the distances involved, even if they don't continue to communicate in person."
If the Night Raptor had another question, he was silenced by the lift door opening to show the bridge fully functional despite only having a quarter of its usual crew.
In the captain's chair was a cinnamon-furred shekat Kanna's age with a distant look on her face. The Force flowed around her in a tightly controlled pattern that reached out to the ship around them as her crewmates worked in a more normal manner.
It wasn't at all unlike watching Jay work earlier; the Clawsons were in charge of the ship now.
Kanna and Cormoran walked onto the bridge, careful to stay out of the way of the crew, droid and otherwise, as they found an empty place to sit.
The Clawsons did notice them, but didn't seem to object to their presence as Kanna settled in, Cormoran taking a few more moments to do so. His body was not built for the standard chair so he settled in like a bird at roost on the floor, his long legs tucked under him and his strong but slender feathered arm-wings relaxed along the sides of his oval body, his long and stiff tail out behind him.
"*Let's see if we can figure out where Jay's kits will be, then,*" Kanna told him across their bond. "*Just keep an eye out for Clawsons doing the same; you'll be able to find the bonds they're following, most likely, don't get too 'close'.*"
"*Yes, Master.*" He nodded his triangular head slightly and closed his eyes. As always, his mind-voice came as easily in imagery and sensation-feelings as it did in words.
"*Search for the ship, for the kittens,*" she instructed him mentally. "*I'll search for the mother.*"
Tightness... closeness... suffocation and constant worry. The Core worlds. They wouldn't be there long though; it didn't make sense, didn't fit Mina's profile. It would be too easy to run into somebody who'd recognize their ship, or realize they weren't giving the right name. It was just a stop to throw off the searchers.
"*Master Kennet, send the fleet home after salvage operations are complete,*" Kanna instructed the Jedi in charge. "*Make sure that the orders are public, don't bother encrypting them. Don't mention the Kraken. We'll be able to find them, and having the whole fleet out will make them less likely to reveal themselves.*"
She could sense the Master conferring briefly with Shivasta, and was grateful when her old Master agreed with her.
Now, where would they be going....
Cormoran's visions weren't nearly as clear yet. A black bird flew towards a cloud, two chicks on its back. Thunder crashed and lightning flashed, but didn't deter the bird. Why became clear shortly afterwards; as the crow disappeared into the storm, an eagle followed it, plunging blindly into danger.
Lightning flashed again, and crow and eagle alike fell from the cloud, dead, the chicks nowhere to be seen.
Kanna focused on Mina, on the ship she was in. Where would she go... where would be safe for them all.
She had an impression of barren terrain, rocky deserts. Shadows struggling to eke out a living, more shadows marching back and forth, soldiers in the making, preparing for an invasion they pray will come ... but fear never will. It was all hazy though, hard to see.
A shadowed face with a single eye....
"*Thurra?*" Cormoran suggested, bringing up the mental image of what came to him, a great orb circled by dozens of smaller ones; the gas giant of the system and its forty moons.
"*I think so,*" Kanna agreed. "*But there aren't any habitable worlds in that system ... odd. I think she's in the outer Core now though, we might be able to beat her to the punch.*"
"*How to tell the Captain?*" He asked uncertainly, more imagery than words coming through as he worked out of the vision trance.
"*Directly,*" Kanna said easily, coming out of her trance more quickly and reaching for a nearby console to contact the leader. If anybody would have the authority, it would be Marie Clawson.
"Marie." Her familiar voice came back after a moment.
"This is Kanna," the Ice Walker said easily. "We have a lead on the kits in the Thurra system. The coordinates are on record, but we should be ready for rough conditions when we get there."
"Understood," the elder woman answered simply. A moment later the bridge burst into activity as the ship prepared to launch into hyperspace with the full force of the Clawson Gift speeding its way. "We should be there in two days."
"Here's hoping the kits aren't until after we are," Kanna murmured. "Thank you."
"I will see that my brother knows he doesn't have anything important to do for a couple days." Marie almost chuckled, sure that the triad was unlikely to leave their bed for that time. "We will make this work, Knight Kanna."
"We will," she agreed, reaching over to touch Cormoran's shoulder reassuringly as he brought up the mental image of his vision. "Just make sure your brother doesn't do anything too rash to try and speed us on our way."
"If he's anything like the rest of us, that's almost inevitable," Marie sighed with both resignation and a bit of pride. "I'll see what I can do. His mates have more influence than I do, however."
"Point taken - I'll talk to Shivasta about keeping him occupied," Kanna smiled. "Force be with you, Marie."
"Force be with you, Kanna." Marie repeated the phrase she'd picked up as a 'goodbye' with Jedi and closed the channel.
"Come on," the Ice Walker told her Padawan as she stood. "Let's go get you caught up on your lessons while we have some time."
"Yes, Master." He said easily and stood with a natural predator's grace to follow her to the lift and somewhere to practice.
Go to Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6
A Heritage of Power 3: Jay's Story 9.99: The Price of Survival part 5 of 6
NC-17 for M/F, M/M, F/F, M/Herm sex, Violence and a bunch more
Het Level is High Het Smut Level is Medium Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is High Femslash Level is Low Femslash Smut Level is Low Herm Level is Low Herm Smut Level is Very Low
199 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written August 15, 2005 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann
Setting: Star Wars (Furry)
Primary Races: Cheetah, Feline, Ice Walker, Kat, Kushiban, Panther
Contents: Furry. Herm. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Femslash (F/F). Cannibalism, DarkFic, Genocide (Attempted), Mass Murder, Necrophilia, Rape (M on F), Rape (M on M), Rape Recovery, Relationship (Established), Sex (BDSM), Sex (BDSM), Slavery (Legal), Snuff (M on F), Torture, Torture (Sexual), Violence (Graphic)
Pairings: Doruth Parn/Tes Ramaris, Jay Clawson/Shivasta Stormwarden/Fenrik Aren, Jay Clawson/ Mina Callan/Janos Miklar, Various others. A lot of various others.
Notes: Thank you to Shane Nelson of http://www.ShaylaThePinkMouse.com for coming up with such an interesting character and race that he did with Shayla. No, she's not in here, nor any of his other characters, but some ideas are.
We have fun chatting on occasion. This came up when discussing what Doruth and Tes are up to when Shi and Jay are at the dig. Tes wanted more cubs, Doruth is remembering Nasim and Abayomi and the thought of litters of 4-6 like them that have followed in the years since ....
K: More accurately, he's saying something about preferring the idea of being sent out to track down Zykell and finish him bare-handed to the idea of trying to raise another litter like Nasim and Abayomi at this age (80, for reference). ^^()
R: ~giggle~ There were worse litters. Later ones had 4 or even 6 cubs as bad as that pair.
K: ~chuckles~ Doruth does ~have~ ears left, right? :-P
R: Of course, unless he refused to have the tears healed ;)
K: ~chuckles~ I just have this mental image of assorted Jedi hanging around the water cooler.
"Yeah, lost my hand fighting a Sith."
"The Emperor took off half my face."
"A Hutt got hold of me. You do not ~want~ to know what needed replacing afterwards."
"So Doruth, what's the story behind your ears? Nasty run-in with a Dug? Your old Master show up and try torturing you?"
"Fifty years of raising kits with my mate."
~dead silence and sympathetic looks all around~
Blurb: It's everyone's worst nightmare come true and it's not about to go easily for anyone concerned; Jedi, Sith, Darksiders, Clawsons or the universe at large. This is also the end of Jay's Story.
Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.
Page Hit Count from August 16, 2005