TITLE: “Yearning to Be Free: Zai’ac Malthias Konran, Better Known as Mal” PAIRING: Not really applicable, though I have plans for our Mal . . . RATING: Uhm, probably a borderline PG-13,...
02.) Cool: When he was younger and didn’t know any better, he always thought it would be cool to be a real pilot, that it would be almost unbearably sweet to get out amongst the stars and visit new worlds and meet new folks, but the sad truth is that most inhabitable planets look alike and more (so-called) sentient beings are entirely too like for comfort, looking only to make a fast cred and have their jollies, whether such things come at the expense of others or no.
03.) Young: The mirror says he’s young, but it lies, for he cannot for the life of him recall a time when he was ever really young, ever really just a child.
04.) Last: The last thing he ever wanted was to be saddled with a nigh-on unpayable debt to a Jedi with not all her screws tight, but at the time she offered her hand to him, he thought himself in no real position to look a gift bantha in the teeth, and so now here he is, stuck with her and probably in more real danger of destruction than he ever was before.
05.) Wrong: It’s wrong to help this gorram Jedi, this ridiculously appropriately named (and just how is it, exactly, that the other Jedi have missed the hint?) Dark Woman, but it would also be wrong to forswear the debt he owes, and so, until another opportunity presents itself, he’s afraid that he’s just going to be stuck between the proverbial battle droid and melting pit.
06.) Gentle: He dreams about those two shiny famous ones, sometimes – Skywalker fierce and immoveable (unmoveable) as death; Kenobi with that deceptively gentle smile, hiding a spirit even fiercer and more steady than Skywalker’s – and wakes smiling like a loon, tears in his eyes, shivering convulsively, aching for a lack of something in his life he can’t even properly name.
07.) One: One day, he’s going to be free of this gorram debt, and, when he is, he’s going to go straight to Coruscant and the Jedi Order’s High Council, and he’s going to turn that damned Sith by any other name in, so help him, or his name isn’t Zai’ac Malthias Konran!
08.) Thousand: One thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight days and counting now his life has not been his own, and, if that karking Dark Woman doesn’t call them even soon, he won’t be held responsible for what happens, next!
09.) King: A man is supposed to be king of his castle, a pilot the prince of his ship, but until that thrice-blast Dark Woman is out of his life and off of his ship, he knows he’ll be nothing better than a virtual slave.
10.) Learn: He’s learned a lot under the Dark Woman’s patronage and tutelage, he will admit that (and it gives him a sort of fiercely unholy glee, at times, to think on the fact that there’s surely a whole blamed lot that the Jedi Order and its High Council would be fiercely unhappy to know has been passed on by the Dark Woman to such a one as he is, seeing as how such powers are only supposed to be taught to those who’ve been taken and carefully raised up and weeded out and chosen and conditioned as Padawan learners for the Jedi path), but the simple truth is that he’d much rather be the all but unlettered savage she plucked out of the hell of Nar Shaddaa than the most learned man in the whole farkled galaxy.
11.) Blur: The war has become one long blur of fighting and running and killing, so much so that he’s begun to feel utterly wrong whenever it happens that they find a moment to just sit still.
12.) Wait: He hates to wait (it’s always been a fault of his), and for the life of him he just can’t understand how so many commanders in battle can just hang back and sit on the sidelines and wait to see what happens, instead of being right there in the thick of things, fighting with the rest of the poor grunts and actually doing some of that leading that they’re damn well supposed to be doing in the first karkin’ place!
13.) Command: The Dark Woman gave over command of her white jobs to him once, and he’s never forgiven her for making him care so passionately about so many soldiers that she (and seemingly a good chunk of the rest of the galaxy, seeing as how he keeps hearing as how others refer to the clones as wet droids and other such plain nasty and not true terms) considered so entirely expendable.
14.) Hold: The hold of his ship is filled almost to overflowing with the Dark Woman’s things, but not even she, with all her vaunted Jedi skills, knows of the weapons, creds, and goods he has stashed away in the smugglers’ holds built into the hollow panels lining the floor and walls and even the ceiling of the hold.
15.) Need: Freedom is a need in him, burning as brightly and as painfully as hunger or thirst or the need for oxygen, and he can practically feel himself dying, a millimeter at a time, the longer he remains under the Dark Woman’s command.
16.) Vision: He’s had visions, sometimes, of the shape of his future, and he knows he’s going to have to get away from her, if he wants to ever truly live, but he fears trying to flee and being casually struck down out of hand (which he’s also seen happen, more than once), and so he waits and he watches and he prays for the chance he so desperately needs, to safely get away from her.
17.) Attention: He wonders, sometimes, if it was just his strength in the Force that drew her attention, on Nar Shaddaa, or if there were enough fragments of a conscience left in that rotten mind of hers to remember the Padawan learner she lost and so be moved to save him, as she so spectactularly failed to save Aurra Sing.
18.) Soul: She has no soul at all left, that he can tell, and it damages his calm and boggles his mind in the most unpleasant of ways to realize that she somehow manages to fool all of the other Jedi into believing that she still has one.
19.) Picture: There’s a picture that he carries about everywhere with him (and it’ll have to be taken off of his cold body, if anyone ever wants to hold it, because he’s never found anyone he trusts enough to let it out of his hands, even for a moment’s quick look), of him at about age one with his Ma and Da, before the slavers came and destroyed their settlement (and their lives), and its his most prized possession, though he’d as soon die as ever admit so to anyone.
20.) Fool: He’s a gorram idiot on a impossible idealistic damn fool crusade, following along behind the Dark Woman and trying to lessen the damage she inflicts everywhere she goes and on everyone and everything she touches, and he knows it, but what else can he do, if he ever wants to be able to live with himself, but what he’s a-doing?
21.) Mad: Some days the insanity and coldness in her eyes recedes enough for him to get a glimpse – fleeting, but unmistakable – of the formidable (wise and brave and surprisingly good, if also rather hard) soul she once was, but then the tides of madness will rise in her once more, and all of that potential will be undermined and swept away again.
22.) Child: She treats him like a child, most days, but he knows he’s at least sixteen (possibly closer to seventeen, though he really couldn’t swear to the accuracy of a such a claim), and he hasn’t been a child since the day the slavers came (he was about two years old, then, he thinks, though he’s not entirely sure, which is why he’s not really positive about his age now, either), and he really wishes she’d get that through her gorram head already!
23.) Now: He can remember believing, as a youngling, that good would always find a way to overcome evil, in the end, but now he’s fairly certain that apathy will end up trumping both, before all’s said and done.
24.) Shadow: There’s a shadow of bloodlust in her eyes when the Dark Woman speaks of Obi-Wan and Anakin, and (when he’s not near to panicking about what she wants to do to them) he wonders what those two shiny Jedi boys ever did to so royally hack her off (and if they might be willing to maybe do it again, so she’ll finally pop that damned blood vessel he can always see just a-throbbing away in her head when she gets pissed and off herself already!).
25.) Goodbye: He wants this war to be over and his debt repaid so he can tell this gorram woman goodbye and be on his merry way, but he’s beginning to fear, after three plus years of war and of him having to follow along even more closely behind her storms to try to clean up her messes that the end might never come.
26.) Hide: He hides from her, sometimes, when they make port, burying himself in the guts of his ship and tinkering with things that work just fine already, in hopes of avoiding having to deal with her.
27.) Fortune: He used to dream about making his way off Nar Shaddaa, of winning his freedom and his fortune among the stars, but great Force be praised, what he wouldn’t give for some solid earth under his feet that he doesn’t have to fight for the right to stand still on!
28.) Safe: He’s never felt any more safe in the Dark Woman’s company than he used to feel on Nar Shaddaa, a fact that he finds telling in the extreme, regarding the sheer wrongness of both his situation and the lady in general.
29.) Ghost: Ghosts of the men he lost come and visit him in his sleep, sometimes, but instead of asking him why he failed them (as any normal being might expect), they always ask why he’s failing himself by staying with An’ya Kuro, instead, and he never has a good enough answer to give to make them stop their questioning.
30.) Book: His mother used to carry around an old-fashioned book – heavy leather binding and creamy thick parchment paper pages and everything – that she somehow managed to hide (Force alone knows how) from the slavers in the lining of his carrier: that, along with the picture that was being used as a placeholder and a heart-shaped locket carved with a strange flower-like symbol he’s never been able to find anyone able to name (much less translate) and which was wrapped around the simple buckle hasp holding the book shut, is the sum total of what he has left of his parents, and it burns his heart that he cannot even read the ornate non-Basic type!
31.) Eye: The Dark Woman has different colored eyes – one light blue and one a strange, red-tinged amber that makes him think of a smoky topaz viewed through a ruby red crystal lense – but she manages to keep that fact hidden somehow whenever she’s not so angry that her control breaks enough for the illusion to shatter, and her eyes seem prone to going a frightful, hard, wolf-like yellow in her rage, so he’d never know it at all, but for the fact that he pays entirely too much attention to her slips, trying to mentally catalogue a list of her more Sithly traits so that he can one day present said list to the Jedi, so they’ll finally have to do something about the madwoman.
32.) Never: He never was prone to despair, before – jaded, pessimistic cynicism, perhaps, but in the real world, a body can hardly afford to be all that idealistic – but this gorram war has lasted so long and the toll has been so great that sometimes he starts to doubt whether anyone will ever be able to make things right again or heal the wounds caused by this civil war.
33.) Sing: He’s been known to occasionally sing, in the ’fresher, when it’s turned to actual water and not to sonics, but he’ll fiercely deny that it’s a defense mechanism meant to stave off tears.
34.) Sudden: The news of a sudden Separatist sortie against Coruscant itself is so unexpected and so horrible that it freezes him to the marrow with dread, and not even the news that the Supreme Chancellor is missing and presumed taken prisoner by Grievous can break through the shock of malaise to touch him.
35.) Stop: Time seems to stop, and then to break open, and he sees, with a sudden awful clarity, that the end of hope is swiftly approaching and in danger of engulfing the galaxy whole in its dark shadow, when word goes out that Kenobi and Skywalker are on that deathtrap of a ship, on an inevitable crash course collision with the planet.
36.) Time: Time and his heart start again only when the news comes that the Team has somehow done the impossible once again and landed a smoking fragment of that ship safely intact, though his heart, at least, stutters to a stop more than once when footage of that landing is finally released over the HoloNet.
37.) Wash: He should wash his hands of her, debt or no debt, he really should: it just ain’t natural for a Jedi to be so angry when such joyous news is breaking!
38.) Torn: He’s torn between telling An’ya that it’s a miracle and she should be glad, dammit, and demanding to know what bug crawled up her hinny and died, but in the end he bites his tongue and swallows anger and curiosity alike and pretends he doesn’t see her unreasonable rage.
39.) Change: Though he never would have guessed the shape that it would take, he could feel the change coming long before it arrived, via breaking news of the Sith Lord’s identity – after all, you can only put up with so much wrongness and inflict so much damage on a system before something finally gives, and that’s something’s been a helluva long time in the coming, in his not so very humble opinion!
40.) History: History is being made all around him, and he’s written his share of it, on the battlefields, but the idea that the war might just end, now, and that he might even be able to fade on out into obscurity makes him all but giddy with happiness and relief.
41.) Power: Usually the idea alone of someone having so much power terrifies him half out of his mind, but there’s something oddly comforting about the completely ridiculous amount of Force-energy that the Team can so easily generate – possibly because he can all too easily imagine them turning that power against the ungodly strength that An’ya can marshal.
42.) Bother: It bothers him, a little, not knowing who or what he truly is, knowing he’s Force-sensitive (and suspecting his Ma, at least, was too) and that his family was fairly well-to-do (he remembers them having things that they could never have afforded, otherwise, especially on a world only just being settled), that there could be all manner of good or of ill lurking in his past (perhaps even in his very blood), and that he has no way of knowing about any of it, until/unless it decides to rear its ugly head at him.
43.) God: His parents worshiped no god – he’s fairly sure of that – but his mother spoke of the Force sometimes as some grand fine lady, as if the Force were sentient and aware enough of her living children to love and care and grieve for them, and sometimes he finds himself slipping back into old patterns of being and praying to his mother’s lady with a desperate intensity
44.) Wall: The walls around his heart have grown so thick and so high and so much like a maze that he knows no one may ever be able to find a way past them, but he still can’t bring himself to lower or weaken his defenses, even though he knows that he’s probably doing himself harm, in the long run.
45.) Naked: He wishes his mental walls were as impenetrable as the barriers he’s erected around his heart, for it gives him the most frightful turns, whenever An’ya looks at him and seems to peer through his very brain to discern the shape of his naked thoughts.
46.) Drive: Sometimes, when they make port, he finds himself longing to snatch up the nearest speeder and just drive and drive and drive until he finally runs out of planet to use to run from the Dark Woman.
47.) Harm: He (usually) doubts that An’ya would ever deliberately harm him – unless of course she were to find him actively trying to betray her – but there are times when even he is frightened of her in her rages, and the one she has after she finds out about the General Recall being issued for the New Jedi Bendu Order (rather than just the Jedi Order) ends up making the hair on his arms and the back of his neck all stand up straight.
48.) Precious: The knowledge that the Sith Lord has been found out and destroyed and that the whole of the galaxy seems to be determined to reorganize itself fully is infinitely precious to him, especially in light of An’ya’s horrendous response to it and the hideously bad feeling he has about these plans of hers regarding Tatooine, and so he cherishes it (and his memory of that slyly perfect triumphant kiss between Obi-Wan and Anakin, in front of the still ever so slightly smoking Temple complex) close to his heart, to help him find enough strength and serenity to go about his work and continue to be able to sleep at night.
49.) Hunger: There is a hunger in An’ya’s eyes when she speaks of Anakin and Obi-Wan that sets every nerve in his body to jangling and screaming in warning of something horrible coming – as if he needed another gorram reason to be afraid that something bad’s coming, when his dreams are already full of all of the awful things that she could be planning to do to those two shiny Jedi Bendu!
50.) Believe: He has to believe that the Team will be good enough to avoid whatever vengeance An’ya has planned for them, because while he’ll surely do whatever he can to help them, he has a bad feeling that his uneasy response to the order to pack up and head out for Tatooine has alerted the Dark Woman to his increasing unhappiness with her and that she’s going to be watching him from now on like a proverbial dessert hawk, and he fears that the Team is going to basically be on its own, when whatever confrontation it is that she seems to have planned for them finally comes to pass . . .