[Note: This takes place a little earlier in the "Pain and Images" cycle, during the chapter entitled "The Calm Before the Storm."] Rachel struggles to maintain her concentration amid the absurdly childish prattle of the Household. Sidra's quiet logic may have snapped Darana back into focus; but it didn't help her. The boundless rage she feels about Serris' condition is echoed and intensified by what she feels from her Otherself. (Rachel's separation from Darana's Dark Side is recent enough that there is still a kind of sympathetic bond between them--especially when it comes to Serris, who both of them have very strong feelings for.) Almost worse, though, is the fact that her own efforts are pointless. The starmap is a dull, lifeless printout: How could she pick up anyone's psychic resonance from that, much less Serris'? *I need something that's meaningful to her,* Rachel thinks. Abruptly, Rachel turns and dashes out of the room. She returns a while later with a medical scanner in her hand, one of the gadgets that Serris had used in that series of physicals she put everyone through recently--whatever -that- was about. By now, most people have left the room except for Kylie, who is still at the map console. Rachel walks up to the console, ignoring the senior Jedi trainee, and calls up an image of one of those medical exams; of Serris standing beside her with the scanner in her hand. She clutches the scanner so tightly she can feel its every button and depression imprinting their texture on her fingers. With her free right hand, she reaches out blindly to touch the still mind-dead surface of the map. A surge of despair is followed by a wave of anger and frustration. Infuriated at her inability, at the chaotic childishness disrupting the Household's all-important unity, at the bastards who had tried first to shatter the Alliance and now dared to assault her beloved former teacher, Rachel allows the dark emotions to build and gather within her. Drawing upon her earliest training, she drops into the deepest trance of her life so that nothing can distract her. Using her new skills, she concentrates their strength at the core of her being and uses it to harness the unseen power all around her. Straining, she finally manages to evoke a sense of 'Serrisness' from the scanner she holds. She sharpens and crystallizes that sense within her center, and calls it GOAL. Then, she calls upon the Sight within her and uses all Dark Side she can reach to -order- it to find Serris. Not soon enough, she feels the old swoop and seeking of her inner senses. It feels to her almost as if she launches her thoughts out of her body and into the star-strewn night... ~*~ Still gripping the scanner, Rachel slumps forward onto the console. "What the--?" Kylie grabs for her and steadies her. She resists the impulse to draw back at the surge of unfamiliar energy enveloping the other young woman. Probing her cautiously with the Force, then more boldly, Kylie receives no response: Rachel is completely withdrawn into her cocoon of fire. Its walls seem to be impervious. But she does sense some obscure connection between the girl and a great font of energy elsewhere. Her first thought is to track that thread to its source; but half a moment's further consideration yields the insight that acting as an anchor would be more helpful. Whatever Rachel's up to, Kylie can sense that she's in wholly unfamiliar territory. It still has that sense of wrongness about it that bothered her earlier, that feeling of grabbing the Force and twisting it to unexpected--and possibly unprecedented--ends. But that's all the more reason an anchor is needed. Without it, Kylie fears, Rachel could easily lose herself out there in the dark. Taking Rachel's right hand in both of her own, she composes herself around her center, forming her own spirit into a bright beacon of strength. *We are still here, Rachel,* she projects steadily, repeating it over and over like a mantra. *This is the way home. * ~*~ The bright-plumaged bird soars through the silver-spangled darkness that is its true home. A thing of passion and fire armored in adamantine will, it sears a path through the stars toward the target that hangs, glowing, behind its eyes. Inner vision flares. The firefalcon dives toward a pitiful cluster of planets thick with the scent of treachery and dead roses. Shrouding itself in the velvet cloak of Night, it stoops, then climbs effortlessly far out of reach. As the bird of prey streaks through the skies, unseen by all but the one who will never tell, it caws triumphantly. Clutched tightly in its talons is a single silver-white strand of hair. ~*~ Kylie draws back, startled, as Rachel's near-comatose body suddenly sits up. The immense surge of power around her seems to have died out completely, so much so that Rachel seems exhausted. But her eyes are opening; and her breathing and pulse are strong and steady. The scanner in her left hand, Kylie notes, is partially... melted??! Rachel looks at her right hand, now resting on the map console, pointing at an insignificant four-planet star system. Her gaze alone could burn a hole in the metal. In a voice that is oddly quiet, though filled with that same menacing fire, she speaks a single word: "THERE."
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