She was starting to be sorry she'd asked. Rikon was quick, even with that game leg and his awkward knee brace. Azarra had welts from one end of her body to the other, wherever the practice blank had found its target -- an unmistakable motivation to stay out of the way of the real thing. She spun after Rikon as he went past, inexplicably out of reach. He danced around her and nailed her squarely on the rear end. That did it. Azarra lost her temper and went after him full tilt, swinging her lightsabre like a madwoman, and somehow managed to whack him on the side of the head. Rikon yelped, jumped sideways, and landed on his butt in the dirt. "Oh my god!" Azarra dropped her lightsabre and knelt beside him. "Are you all right?" Rikon shook his head. "Aaaagh. Very good." Suddenly he grabbed her by the ankle, dumped her onto the ground, and rolled to his feet in the same motion. Azarra abruptly found herself flat on her back, staring at his practice blade an inch from her nose. "You just caught me on my blind side," he said, circling the blade's tip above her face. "But that's good. Take advantage of your opponent's weaknesses. There's no fighting fair when someone is out to kill you. And by the way, you're dead." "But--" Azarra spluttered. "I didn't say the lesson was over," Rikon told her. "And I'm fine. At least I'll be sitting down at dinner tonight." He gingerly rubbed the side of his head, and winced. "But I think tomorrow we'll wear helmets." *** "I swear that rock has more talent," Rikon muttered under his breath. "You don't have to make it fly around the room, you know. Just do something to it." Azarra glared at the rock on the library's mantlepiece, but it remained stubbornly inanimate. Such a small thing, half the size of the gem in her ring, a bland oval of rough granite with no mind of its own, yet so full of defiance. Not a wiggle, not a glow, not a hint that it noticed her efforts. The intense concentration was giving her a headache. "Not like that," Rikon said, exasperated. "You keep pushing on the Force and expecting it to find its own channel. That's the Jedi method, it doesn't work for us. Well, not very easily. You need to pull, to make it flow instead of waiting for it to happen. Like this." He touched her palm with a fingertip, and a tingling shock ran up Azarra's arm, an inrushing sensation like pale fire along her veins. It felt good, and it fed the anger, deep inside where he couldn't see it. Rikon paled and pulled his hand away from hers. "A little too much, I think." "Rikon, please don't hurt yourself on my account," Azarra said, vaguely alarmed by his expression. "I'll never get it and there's no point in harming yourself!" "It's not that. It doesn't hurt, it's just that I had to push on the Force to get you to see it, and it's kind of uncomfortable. Like having sand in your brain." "Oh." Azarra tried to pull power the same way by herself, but nothing happened. "I felt it, but I still don't see how you do it!" "All right," Rikon said, and grimaced. "This is going to hurt. You, not me. It's something I learned from Licari. I understand he learned it from Palpatine." Before Azarra could protest he gripped her by both shoulders, and a jolt ran through her body, like Palpatine's cold blue fire through her true love's heart. Suddenly angry, Azarra wrenched at the invisible blue fire in her veins, jerked it toward her heart, watched in fascination as the blue glow in her mind's eye turned red around the edges and grew into a violet fireball that swallowed everything it touched. Rikon's hands had gone rigid on her shoulders, his eyes wide and staring, mouth open as if to scream, but all that emerged was a strangled hiss. In that moment of distraction the fireball fractured and vanished. Rikon jerked away so hard that he flipped backwards over a chair and landed upsidedown behind it. Azarra stared after him, too shocked to react. "Gods below," he managed as he dragged himself upright, "what in all the nine hells did you just do?" "Are you--" "I'm fine, dammit. Do it again." Rikon took her hands. "Slower this time. And don't pull so hard. I want to see what you did." Tentatively, Azarra complied. The Force flowed more easily this time, the blue of deep water rather than electric fire. Rikon went stiff and made a squeak like a drowning animal. Alarmed anew, Azarra dropped his hands and backed away. The blue glow inside her head faded to purple, then red, and went out. "Rikon, I'm not going to do this if you're going to get hurt!" "That's totally bizarre," he said, ignoring her protest, then had to take a couple deep breaths before continuing. "Again. Slower. Try to hold the purple this time." "I didn't exactly pick the colour," she objected, intrigued despite herself. She took his hands, by the fingertips just in case, and pulled on the Force. The blue glow was dim this time, the violet bright and hot. Suddenly frightened, Azarra jerked her hands back. Rikon whooped in a lungful of air and fell into one of the chairs flanking the fireplace. "I think," he gasped between ragged breaths, "you could kill someone with that." "That's enough. I'm not doing any more of this!" "You have to learn to control it. Otherwise it's too dangerous. When it's blue, that's like normal draw, except it sucked the Force clean out of me. Made me headblind for a few seconds. But when it's purple -- it's like time stops. Everything stops. Inside me, I mean." "What are you saying?" "I couldn't move, or breathe. I even felt my heart stop. Damnedest thing I've ever seen." Rikon nodded toward the mantlepiece. "Try it on that rock." At least she couldn't harm a rock. Azarra pulled on the Force, trying to direct the flow through the rock. Gently at first, then harder as the rock continued to ignore her efforts. "It's stopped working," she said, half-relieved by her failure. "I don't think so. Try it on me again. Just start it," he insisted when she would have refused. "You don't have to go past the first blue." Azarra grimaced, but complied -- and was shocked to see the initial hint of blue rapidly transmute into harsh purple. "No! No more of this!" "If you don't learn how to control it," Rikon said when he had his breath back, "someday you're going to kill someone by accident." "I'll never use it. Never!" "It's part of you. You can't unlearn it. And it's a damned good thing we discovered it when we did, so you have a chance to learn some control. Try the rock again." He had a point. Uncontrolled power was indeed dangerous. No one had told the rock, which still blithely ignored her attempt to destroy it. "Weird." Rikon eyed the rock, pointed a finger at it, and it flitted across the mantlepiece and fell to the floor. "We'll need to do more tests, but I think it only works on animates. Live stuff, I mean. Rizen," he yelled toward the library door, "get in--" "Sir?" Rizen Haska appeared in the doorway, making both of them jump. "Your next victim," Rikon said wryly. "Absolutely not--" "You can't hurt him. He's a natural Force reflector." Rizen said, "I am?" Azarra demanded, "Meaning what?" "You need to get a look at this talent for yourself, so you can see exactly how it works. Whatever you try to do to Rizen will reflect back on you, so be careful." Rizen looked baffled, but said, "At your service, my lady." "Give me your hand, Lieutenant." Rizen extended a hand. Azarra held it lightly between her fingertips for several moments, then gritted her teeth and pulled. A blue void surrounded her mind, shifted toward violet. Her body went stiff, then numb. The sensation was fascinating, and utterly terrifying. Something stung her cheek once, twice, her lungs heaved, and colour returned to the world. She glanced around, surprised to find herself in one of the overstuffed chairs. She didn't remember sitting down. Rikon touched her brow. "No harm done," he said, looking relieved. "But I don't think we'll do that again." "A most effective demonstration," Azarra said weakly. "Thank you, lieutenant." Rizen nodded in response, for once at a loss for words. "Rikon, you're absolutely correct. I must learn to control this." The alternative was too hideous to contemplate. "You will," Rikon assured her. "You've been doing great. Ah, Rizen--" "Sir?" "You were on your way here for a reason?" "Yes sir. We just got a transmission from the capital." Rizen made a sour face. "We're going to have company. Eclipse is in orbit."
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