Pain and Images: Star Search

by Rachel Schmutter, with input from Valerie Meachum Kessler

[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:


Go To:
Cantina Archives
Members Only Main Page
What's New Page