On one level Meetra knew that if it hadn’t been for the events of Tumbleweed and the steps she’d taken there, she’d never have even gone for this conversation. Back when she’d been visiting Bastilla, before Texas, what she was didn’t need an answer. That was different now. It still felt like the Force’s punishment, now, but the more opportunities she took that wouldn’t have her end up like Nihilus the better.
That and all this could make it so she’d stand a better chance of saving Revan. Silver linings and all.
She flexed her cybernetic hand as she walked into the clinic, figuring she could kill two birds with one stone and get it checked out, giving Dan a quick text to say she was here. Even if she was sure he’d be able to feel it. Most had, back in Texas. At least those who could feel things like this.
Patiently, she took a seat. Jedi spent a lot of their time waiting, and she might have been exiled but she’d never quite lost her touch at just drifting into quiet, very shallow, meditation. It allowed her to put her thoughts in order.
Dan was still getting used to working normal people hours - meaning, actually getting up when the sun peeked in from behind curtains like a ghoul’s grin, when sharp shadows cast by streetlamps at night had long since faded, all those colors merging into pink and neon peach. Usually at that time he’d be asleep, getting home before the fiery ball in the sky made an appearance and the rays kissed everything. Now he was on something of a ‘typical’ nine to five schedule and it was the first time in years - maybe ever? He’d also worked the night shift back in Frazier, when Billy first got him the job at the hospice center.
So it was different, sure, but he actually kind of liked it better - he’d put on his scrubs and have breakfast, usually coffee and boring ol’ oatmeal, then head to the clinic and stash the lunch he’d packed the night before in the fridge. Time usually went quickly - it definitely did this morning, didn’t take more than a few blinks to make it to 10 in the morn’ and then he was out in the waiting room after receiving the text.
“Hey Meetra,” he greeted her, since he could indeed sense her and she felt - well, sort of like Siri, yes, that similar electrical current. But definitely different, something else lying in wait. It was a heavy sort of feeling but not bad, per se. “Nice to meet you in person, I’m Dan. Come on back?”
The thing she always had to get used to, was the quiet. She could still sense things, sure, but it always felt like it was under water. Had she her companions here, it would be different, but they weren’t and she wasn’t about to go near the other Jedi. they weren’t of her time, and didn’t need her interfering. She’d make do, as she always had.
So she didn’t feel Dan coming, but she did hear him. The sounds of any sort of medical ward were more or less the same, and there was a subtle difference of footsteps between those that worked here, and those that came because they needed aid. It was as good an exercise as any to try and differentiate between the two. She blinked open her eyes and looked up as he spoke to her. “Well met.”
She rose, still struggling with this thing called being social, and nodded. “Appreciate the hand,” hard to say if it was a joke, considering she was still as serious as she ever was but she was trying. “But I don’t need your assistance with sleep, now.” Meditation did sustain, and was practically no difference. And she wouldn’t dream. “But the more avenue’s I explore to see what I am, the better. I’ve seen what happens when this goes bad. No one wants that. Least of all me.”
There were a few rooms once you got past the front desk - not just the more clinical rooms, but the room Dan had set up for helping people visit the Sandman, and also the types of spaces dedicated to magical healing. Potion-brewing spots, or the water bending stuff Katara did - he couldn’t say he knew much about it, or magical healing in general, and originally he was even kind of skeptical of it, much preferring modern medicine. But magical healing had ensured Allison got her voice back - it was clear at that time the wound was going to take awhile to heal, and she wanted to be able to talk - so in some cases it was pretty damn useful.
But he’d let Meetra pick the room she wanted right now. “No sleeping, then,” he agreed, pausing in the hallway. “Do you want to talk in that room anyway? It’s cozier than one of the exam rooms. Or we can talk in one of those, whichever you prefer.”
If he was going to be using the Shining to open a link between them and traverse her psychic mindscape, maybe a less than clinical setting was better - but it was up to her.
She paused as he did, wanting to say it didn’t matter. It didn’t, not to her. One room was much the same as any other, just the decor changed. But she’d been raised in what one could describe as extreme minimalism, and the war hadn’t really done much to change that perception. But she wasn’t other people, and their perception of ‘cozy’ was probably the better option.
“Your Snooze Room will do.” It wasn’t for her to judge naming conventions, seeing the Jedi hardly named anything and when they did it was self explanatory things.
She waited for him to move again, obviously trying to be social, and having a limited experience with it. “You abilities, how do they work? Or is it a case of simply being, like the Force?” She realized that she was doing her General thing again. It was so easy to fall back into these habits. Normal conversations were hard. “If I can ask.”
“You can definitely ask,” Dan chuckled warmly, opening the door to the affectionately-dubbed Snooze Room. He showed Meetra inside, where the temperature was around 67 degrees - it was done that way on purpose, to help facilitate sleep. The lighting was dim, not harsh on the eyes, and the furniture functional - the sheets and blankets were washed regularly, and the room carried the subtle scent of relaxing things, chamomile and bergamot. Nothing overpowering, but certainly present - the whole room was a careful calculation worked by a certain Doctor Sleep.
He shut the door behind them. “Have a seat anywhere. Try to get comfortable,” he motioned to the general vicinity of the furniture - options to choose from, anyway. “But right, the Shining...” There was some consideration as he tried to think of the best way to explain it. “I think it’s more a case of being? I was born with the Shining and it tends to run in families - my niece has it too. And when I was a kid my mentor and friend once told me that some don’t know they have it, or don’t believe it. He said I shined really bright - I used to think of it as more of a curse than a blessing.”
Dan settled in one of the chairs, adjusting the stethoscope around his neck (and that stethoscope was a little blinged out, thanks to Claire). “But these days I try to use it to help people. It was good for when I worked in hospice, when I could comfort those who were dying.”
She took a seat as asked, wondering if she was supposed to say something. Comfort and it’s likes were foreign subjects to her and she thought that if she did say anything it would come off as disingenuous. So she settled her hands in her lap and leaned into the seat, listening.
“Much like the Force then.” To some, a blessing. To others, not so much. Not when you knew that it had a will and considered such aspects like ‘free will’ and ‘choice’ foreign at best and laughable notions at worst.
“A worthy use.” To her, death was just another aspect but she used to be Jedi. Not everyone looked at it that way. “How will this work? And what will be required of me?”
It had been awhile since he’d done a little work in someone else’s mindscape - at least not to the extent that he expected to with Meetra here. When Dan worked in the hospital, in Vallo City, he’d used the Shining in pretty much the same way he did at home - to bring comfort to those on their way out; he even took Azzie with him, had her registered as a support animal, so she could do her job.
Here, not so much. The clinic wasn’t really a place for a death-sense cat, which meant Azzie was back at the mortuary while Dan worked and therefore somewhat upset with him. He could tell, given her behavior - the way she’d purr at him, that wasn’t because she was happy to see him (and that look - cats were great at showing how upset they were through their eyes). But he guessed he couldn’t blame her for that.
“I’ll open a connection between us,” he said. “And just kind of take a look around your headspace? See how your thoughts and memories are stored, and what’s going on. I won’t poke where you don’t want me to go but you’d need to be open enough to let me in. That’s all.”
Dan wasn’t about to take a battering ram to the castle gates or anything. He wanted this to be a smooth process for them both.
She had figured it might be the case. It wasn’t her favorite thing, to let someone into her mind. With the trick Atton had taught her, it kept her thoughts safe, and there were things she didn’t necessarily want to show. But a lot of those were Malachor, and another’s perspective would be invaluable. There was the chance she’d missed something. And Dan wasn’t a Jedi, or attuned to the Force, which meant that whatever the Jedi, and she herself, had missed he might see.
“I’ll have to let you in,” still there were a few things she put behind the eternal cardgame that was her current thoughts, the not important things so she took the time to do so. Then she took a deliberate breath and closed her eyes, forcing herself to end the game for the moment. It was harder then she thought it might be, considering she had to hold a great deal of herself back. Her instinct was still to latch on, but she’d learned that making Bonds without at least telling people about that would be highly rude. At least she’d learned to hold it back.
After a moment she blinked her eyes open, letting out the breath. “Do what you do.” She hadn’t let anyone inside her head since Kreia. Hopefully Dan wouldn’t want her going off and trying to kill the force, while also using her to kill any wayward apprentices.
“Okay - here we go.”
Dan tilted his head a bit, a look of concentration on his face - he was reaching now, not just receiving random blips like he may have been if he just went about his business, but dangling a lure into the river of thought and seeing what psychic fish bit.
It didn't take long.
---want her going off and trying to kill the force, while also using her to kill any wayward apprentices
Surface thoughts happened quickly, especially when the subject was willing. Once the connection was forged, once he could feel that thought pulsing between his fingers, he plunged his hand back into the waters of Meetra's mind and kept it submerged in the current. And now they were officially linked.
You can hear me, he said without actually saying.
Long practice prepared her for the other voice in her head. It was odd, to just hear. She was so used to the force bonds with her companions. But she took a long breath, both physically and mentally, before responding.
'Yes', she gave. This was different but now he'd knocked, to use that analogy, she opened the door. It was less surprising then it should have been to find herself on the surface of Malachor.
Because it was always, always, Malachor. Just this part was ironic, as she'd never set foot on its surface. Not like this. Kreia's temple, sure. Not more. 'Hm' she thought and set her hands behind her back, waiting.
Dan could still see his surroundings, still hear them, still differentiate between physical reality and the psychic mindscape he'd thrust his hand into; he wasn't that deep (yet), so there was a constant stream of information feeding into his brain from his own consciousness in addition to Meetra's. It was like two rivers feeding into an estuary.
It takes me a second to -
He felt a push, an increase in the current and by countless things beneath the surface, thoughts akin to silt and river rock and mud and weed; physically, he closed his eyes, breathing deeply.
Settle in. Dan reached further in, tumbling further - there were layers to a person’s mind, and so he had to tread carefully. If there’s something specific you want me to see, you can pull us in that direction. Otherwise I’ll just take a look around. The landscape he eased into was very bleak - it looked like a wasteland, weathered by storms, pockets like a graveyard you could get trapped in.
Meetra could not see herself, which wasn’t odd she figured, but she could see Dan. He looked oddly normal. She didn’t know why she’d assumed he wouldn’t. There was every chance he was used to this. She was not, and so she appeared like an empty space, with dozens and dozens of forcefully cut strings attached to her.
’It would be better if I show you.’ She wanted to trust him, but trust came rare to her still. That and she wasn’t sure what kind of things this part of her hid. She’d settled the thoughts she didn’t want to touch aside, but still. That and she wasn’t too comfortable letting a stranger just poke around.
It was easier to walk, so it’s what she did. When the landscape changed from the desolate wasteland that was the planet to one of a ship she wasn’t too surprised. He wanted to see what had happened, and she’d offered to show. Describing it was one thing, even if she loathed showing this day.
Around them people were still, paused not waiting, and a younger version of herself stood in front of a window overlooking Malachor. Several smaller ships sat frozen as out in space as well. At her side, Bao-Dur stood, handing her younger version something. Meetra breathed and clenched her hands. 'This is what happened to me. I relive this often. You wanted to know what is wrong with me, how it happened. This would be the best explanation I could offer.' She glanced to Dan, and unclenched her hands. 'I can show you'
Dan went with the flow, their desolate surroundings fading out - it was like when a pebble was dropped into a pond, that ripple of colors all swirled and then refocused. They were somewhere else entirely - a ship, with windows that allowed a picture of space, diamonds of a thousand moons, supernovas and galaxies and dense air.
He could feel Meetra holding back too, but that was to be expected - beyond many walls, even beyond the subconscious, were the treasures that people buried. Going that deeply was a real big trust exercise, and most wouldn’t go for it right away; thus, he stayed away from that, didn’t push.
Show me, he encouraged, though his psychic tone also conveyed curiosity. And what’s with the cut strings?
That made her pause. She didn’t see strings, but she didn’t think Dan was the type to bring up things that didn’t matter. And perhaps she was using the delay to push this particular memory off for a bit, but she couldn’t feel terrible over that. It did take her a moment to put two and two together.
‘The Bonds’. Even her mental voice was a bit surprised by this. She turned to him, knowing he would understand some of it. 'Force Bonds are rare things. There are Jedi who know their padawans from birth and never make them. They offer an insight into someone's mind. A connection that is a s sacred as anything the Jedi consider sacred. You feel what they feel. You can talk to them, like we are. I didn't know, before, but I can make them on meeting someone.' She glanced back to the memory and clasped her hands together. 'I led men. A general able to feel those under her command is an invaluable resource. Whatever you see, it's part of this.' She nodded to the memory, before glancing back at Dan. 'I have to hold back. My explaining will not adequately prepare you for what a Force Bond actually is'. She figured she had to explain that bit too.
Then she sighed and looked back to the memory. No more delaying. She blinked and people started moving. Even though there were no sounds coming from outside it was clear this was a war. Her younger version was focused on a spot on the planet, while a language she seemed to understand was heard from a nearby radio. Boa-Dur, ever loyal, stood waiting. The battle was fierce, until the tone on the radio suddenly shifted. Meetra's younger version tensed, only subtly, before the voices came back. But now they were fiercely angry, and the ships that were the enemy seemed even more determined.
Frowning, Meetra's younger version leaned forward and took the radio, saying something into it in the same language as she watched a ship depart and fly to one of the ones on their side. She only got anger back and she sighed and straightened. She watched the battle as it grew fiercer until she tilted her head like she was listening to something. Boa-Dur stepped forward, telling her he could do it. For a moment she looked at him before she held out her hand. Boa-Dur nodded and handed her the device, then stepped back. Then Meetra's younger version looked at the planet and the battle. And became very, very still.
Then she pressed a button.
The planet cracked, exploding but not being destroyed. It's wake of destruction took out all the nearby ships, theirs and the enemies, and it's destruction was untold. Meetra's younger version almost flew back, despite the shockwave not having hit the ship or anyone else being affected, where she landed against a console. She stared at the now broken planet in fear and terror, before getting up and running. Then the memory paused again and the now Meetra looked to Dan. 'There is no emotion, there is peace. It's the only time I lived that part of the code. When I did this, I felt nothing. I think it's what saved me, as I should have died. I felt my men die. Their last moments, through the Bonds.' She looked back to the paused memory. 'I broke a people. Destroyed them. I killed my own, and destroyed a planet. In war, you only ever feel like you have few choices. I made mine. The Force does not let such things just lie idle. It punishes. What I am now, is It's doing. But perhaps you see something I missed.'
Just the sheer amount of destruction caused by whatever weapon that was, with the press of a button - a huge surge of gravity, dragging ships and tearing them to shreds, crushing people or sucking them into the vast depths of space; Dan felt it too, somewhat. How could he not, when seeing it play out?
You were forced to sever all the bonds you previously made - it was so sudden, so shocking, that created the...wound in you? he guessed. But you had to do it - it saved you, your sanity. Who knows what would have happened if she didn’t - maybe she’d have died, or switched sides. Like so many others in war. It wasn’t an easy thing at all.
There had to be a way for Meetra to become whole again - but whether she felt as if she wanted or deserved that, well, maybe she wasn’t there yet. Maybe she kept thinking she needed to be punished. The Jedi had exiled her but as an outsider, Dan was of the opinion that the Jedi could get bent, mostly.
They’re hanging off of you, literally, he said about the severed bonds. Maybe it will help if those get cleaned up.
She considered his guess for a moment, trying to work it out. 'Not forced. I didn't know the Bonds were there. I never knew I made them. I wasn't told.' There was the trace of bitterness there. If she'd known earlier, how much could have been avoided. 'I do not think I knew what I was doing. Instinct might have taken over'. All she'd known back then was before there had been plenty of sounds, a song even, and after there hadn't been anything.
'The body adapts.' She gave with a shrug. 'But yes. I do think that the Bonds being severed caused a backlash. It's the only thing that makes any sort of sense, along with the fact so much death happened here. But it's why I showed you this. To see if you had a different perspective.' She gave a slight smile, 'There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. And there's someone I need to save, and to do that I'll have to understand what I am as I will be going into very dangerous and enemy territory. If I go in blind, neither of us come out.'
She tilted her head at the offer. 'If there are any that are not broken, keep those'. She knew where those would lead. Revan, Atton, and the others. But the broken ones, well it couldn't hurt. She'd always carry Malachor with her, and it's scars, but she could let her men rest. They'd earned that much from her.
It definitely feels like it was instinct, Dan observed. You felt their pain, all of it - it would have killed you, if you didn’t cut yourself off from everything.
He sort of assumed that the Force was everything - it was life, the past and present and future, and to have a gaping hole within you where there was formerly connection with all that surrounded you - it was so vast. And hungry, for the life force that had been ripped away. How that hunger would end up being satisfied in Vallo, that was what they had to figure out.
There was definitely a mess here, but Dan could help clean it up. I’ll leave the intact ones, he promised. Being in someone’s mindscape involved a lot of carefully walking on eggshells, but it also involved building and creativity, if that was the direction they were going in - he and Dick had meandered onto the psychic plane, and he taught young Danny how to make the lockboxes which held hungry spirits (it made him think if he could make a lockbox for that hungry mass, but that was a question for another time).
Here, he focused on getting rid of the broken bonds. He pictured them dissolving like fog chased away by sunlight, like a dream - they floated off, leaving only the non-broken ones behind as promised.
Already, the aura of Meetra’s mindscape felt lighter.
Meetra wasn’t terribly sure what he was doing, but there was a lot less static once he focused. None of those she cared for were here, so she still felt the emptiness of the Bonds that remained but had no connection but it was a lot less to sort through now. Still, it hadn’t been really for her sake. She could carry the scars, and let her men join the Force.
She waited as he did what he did, noting that the ships in the memory weren’t as much gone but faded. Just objects now, not souls she’d condemned to the vast nothingness. She doubted it would make it easier to dream about this day, and she’d never wanted it to be easier either. She’d destroyed a people. Not just beaten them, but broken their spirit. Along with what she’d done to her own men, well this was as fitting as it could get.
'There is no death, there is The Force' she gave once she figured he'd finished. 'It simply wasn't done with me yet.' She'd been needed, to clear up Revan's last loose ends and to deal with the Triumvirate. She suspected the Force would have made it so another would appear, but there was a poetic justice in ensuring one of the domino's was there to clear up all the others. It was one of those things she could understand Kreia hating so much.
'Is there anything else?' This was the thing that had changed her so but it was polite to ask.
They call you a Wound, you said? Dan was trying to put the pieces together, see if he could come up with something that clicked - he didn’t want to blindly make guesses, however, so he kept concentrating on the vibe of Meetra’s mindscape, sinking further in. Looking for clues, anything he could pick up on.
It was - well, it was complicated. And painful. It didn’t look like the hedge maze of his own mind, but it was similarly complex. The planet that was destroyed was another Wound - what’s in you, is just another iteration of that. And it’s not like anything can just exist in all its emptiness like that - it has to be filled with something. So I guess maybe it’s - closing that void? Or healing it, or figuring out a way to contain it - somehow.
He didn’t expect an answer right away, however. Meetra said she wanted to figure out what she was, and that took time.
To her, her own mindscape simply was. Walking along the paths that Boa-dur’s remote had gone, and knowing that some of these paths led to other things. Other memories. But none of those were important right now. She also had to give it to Dan. He'd put the two and two together. Not even she had known Malachor had been another Wound until she’d returned.
'Yes. I'm impressed that you figured that out.' He was kind to offer but she shook her head. 'This is poetic justice. You can't do what I did and expect to just walk away from it. Not when you knowingly destroy that much life. Besides,' she motioned to the planet that was her mindscape. 'The only way I know how to fix what I am is by destroying it. Malachor's Wound was mended when I fully destroyed the planet. The Council tried to kill me, and in truth their theory was correct. Kill me, kill the Wound.' The sense of betrayal had long ago passed. They'd been fearful, and done the only thing that had made sense to them. And she'd accepted their judgment.
'This can go bad, and I've seen it's results. It isn't pretty. I know how to manage it. You're a good soul for offering, but this isn't yours to mend. It isn't mine either.'
Killing whatever is causing the issue, yeah, that’s always a solution, Dan said dryly. Did he necessarily agree with that? No, not in this case. There must be another way to deal with that emptiness, that hunger that felt so real it had teeth and claws and never seemed to be satisfied. He didn’t know the whole story behind her decision to hit that nuke button, so to speak, but from what he could tell - it wasn’t a decision Meetra made lightly, or without a care.
And war was never kind - that was a fact. It was violence, and doing what you could do survive, and whatever was necessary to end the conflict. Add in a code to follow that meant you were squelching all your emotions and not really coming to terms with them and that led to all sorts of problems.
But he would respect her wishes - hopefully he’d helped her at least a little. Lightened the burden some, anyway. You’re here now, though. I guess that changes the playing field a bit.
Not wanting to intrude further, he pulled back carefully - pulled away from her mind completely, eyes open, blinking a few times. And here he was, back in the clinic and in the present moment.
She felt him draw back, which was nice of him still. And re-organized her mind. It was easy, perhaps too easy, to fall back to the card game that she used to shield her thoughts. She blinked her eyes open. It would be hard to put into words how she felt, but she felt some comfort in knowing her men were at rest.
“It does level the field, but The Force guides us where we’re needed.” She gave to the last thought she’d gotten. “This is not my first trip into a different dimension. I take this as an opportunity to grow. Learn.” There was every chance it wouldn’t work, and the end result would be the same. But she had to try, for Revan’s sake, and the sake of his family.
She flexed her cybernetic hand a few times before rising from her seat. “I appreciate the second opinion. I will answer questions if you have any but,” then she bowed, like she would to any other Jedi, “You have my thanks. My men are more at rest now.” She rose again then.
The bow was something new - it sort of tickled Dan, a little, and he probably flushed because he just wasn’t to...that. Bowing was reserved for royalty or something - he definitely wasn’t falling under that umbrella anytime soon. “Yeah, of course,” he replied, standing as well, clearing his throat - rocks and debris blasted away. “Always here to help. Just reach out if you want to meet again.”
He wasn’t about to tell someone what to do when it came to what was going on in their own mind, but he could always provide a second opinion if necessary and he was glad that he could assist a little bit - Meetra was still very new to this world, and the rest would fall into place. It always did.