Int. Hoth Base Med Bay. Later that day.
Jibril sits at an examination table with Ghost. Travok floats in the large bacta tank, headphones on, opera blaring. At the back of the lab, one of the scientists is running a blood test on Jibril’s sample, another is adjusting settings near Travok’s tank. Jacen is sat near the first scientist, an array of disassembled computer equipment spread out in front of him.
Jibril: Pfft, no pain no gain.
Ghost: So you want less treatments?! Fine enough, your choice I suppose.
Jibril: Now, let’s not be hasty…
Ghost: But you’ll gain immense pain. And from that pain you’ll gain new limbs. Become free from fear and morality.
Jibril: But then none of my dresses will fit. You wouldn’t like it when I’m having a bad hair day, let alone a bad dress day.
Ghost: You wouldn’t have to worry about that, neither having hair nor dresses to wear. Hair free and care free.
Jibril: You’d hasten a rage?
Ghost: Basics of therapy. Sometimes you have to break down those mental barriers before you can build new ones.
Jibril gestures to others.
Jibril: You heard it hear, folks! Ghost wants me to completely lose it!
Travok opens one eye lazily glancing at the pair, before returning his attention to his opera. Jacen doesn’t look up from his soldering.
Ghost: Once you have truly lost everything and come to know your despair all you have left is to rise.
Jibril: Look, if you want to have a girly chat, I am all for it. Once I’m properly medicated, mind.
Ghost: Best types of ammo belts to wear under dresses? Most firepower you can hide in cleavage? That sort of thing, right?
Jibril: Pretty much, among other topics.
Ghost: There are other topics worth talking about?
Jibril: The lack of parents for one. Placing bets about other members of the group, that sort of thing.
Ghost: Amazing. Such frivolous things are talked about?
Jibril: Such things are indeed. Loose tongues and all that.
Ghost: So how many magazines did you empty into your father’s head?
Travok’s eyes open, his claws reaching at the controls to pause his opera.
Jibril: Hah, never knew him. (Pause) What sort of magazines?
Ghost: Usually EM-11 high capacity tibana-mix blaster cells. Though in a pinch, the cheaper Blastec D9’s will do. Though it leaves a dirty scorch pattern. Not recommended for covert operations.
Jibril: Indeed not, don’t want your choice of cells to give you away. Hence the blades. A gun is so impersonal.
Ghost: Blades are ineffective and require you to be up close and personal, increasing the risk factor for an assassination. Not to mention the forensic leftovers on both the blade and target from the close interaction. A highly tuned blaster tweaked to imitate a common galvanising pattern leaves you anonymous, and a flash suppressor makes it virtually impossible to detect.
Jibril: A blaster, no matter how tuned, can never really compare to the slow, deliberate action of a good stab, watching their life drain away as they know who killed them. Done cleanly, a stab can be as anonymous. But of course, I’d never do that, it would be unwise to go around killing everyone. And I am a doctor.
Ghost: A poor killing method that doesn’t take into account many variables, such as guards, surveillance, recording implants. Being a ‘doctor’ would make you an ideal assassin. What better way to take out a target than with complications for an existing problem.
The electronic gear that Jacen suddenly lets out a high-pitched screeching feedback noise. It ripples across the red bacta in Travok’s tank, everyone jumps. Jacen tweaks his soldering iron and the noise cuts out. He waves apologetically to the others.
Jacen (Under his breath): Stupid Skype circuits.
Jibril: It would be highly unethical of course, but it is true, I could simply… encourage a complication. And as you say, I have a poor killing style.
Ghost: Your skill is such that there would be no need to ‘encourage’ any complications.
Jibril: That stabbed me right in the ego.
Travok: Pair of mono puncture needle gloves and even the act of greasing palms has the hardest Inquisitor kneel over begging for compassion.
Ghost: You’re supposed to kill enemies, not allies or collateral. (To Travok) That is true. Close quarters against a well armed opponent can frequently put them off balance making a kill easier.
Jibril: Your inference is that I would willingly kill my own company is a viper’s tongue, my dear. I have not made any such manoeuvres against any of you.
Ghost: I make no inference that you would. I’m stating outright that you did on an ally. Blood transfusions aren’t easy to mess up.
Jibril: Humph, you berate me for attempting to save a life?
Ghost: Intentional or otherwise, your medical ‘ability’ is a menace at best, and a liability at worst.
Travok: I’ve seen butchers heal more animals.
Ghost: I’ve seen animals heal more butchers. That is a day I would never like to repeat.
Jibril: And what of you? Hiding your face from your own allies, stomping around in that suit, where was your so called compassion for your fellow refugees?
Ghost: Showing my face on that planet would cause more trouble than it would have solved. There’s a reason I wear a mask after all.
Travok: You did promise to be a hero, the kind that people look up to. I remember it like it were yesterday.
Ghost: Half the people on that planet hate me for who I am, a traitor who left to join the Empire. The other half hate me for what I am, the child of the one who sold out the planet down the path that led to it’s destruction. My name, my face, even the suspicion that I’m there would have caused problems. Sometimes being a hero means that you have to save those you can, and shoulder the burden of the survivor’s hatred and anger.
Jibril: Then you must be no hero at all. You did not stand there and quell their fear as we took their children away. You left us to do it for you.
Ghost: I had faith that Jacen would do the right thing.
Jibril: It wasn’t Jacen whom lied to them. It was I.
Jacen is too engrossed with his electronics work to notice. Travok leans forward and addresses Ghost.
Travok: Compared to the end of all times? Ghost, I, Travok helped establish that cell, I didn’t know those people well but I knew they wanted change, the bravest sods I knew. Perhaps the truth was what they needed. The truth only us two and the Empire’s secret service would know.
Travok swings his head around to address Jibril.
Travok: Beside Jibril, that was a smooth service but ya gotta focus and not falter, every conversation is a battle for supremacy, the throats you exposed them almost discarded our quiver. In negotiations, the predator within us is friend. (Travok shivers) Sorry, I didn’t thank you for saving my life. I am grateful.
Jibril: And here I lay in that attempt. Your gratitude is warmly received. Do not mistake me, I am most grateful for the care that you, Ghost, hath bestowed on me but I fear you and I will never see eye to eye on a all manner of subjects. Your relationships, I observe, are best described as distant for want of standing alone. An unfortunate position to be in, I know. Perhaps then I will grant the three questions, here and now. You may fire when ready.
Ghost: To understand me is to walk the path I’ve walked in life, to experience the worst of all things and still keep walking. I hope you never reach that point of understanding because of what it would mean to have seen and done.
Travok starts preparing himself by looking up a High Galactic dictionary in the databanks.
Jibril: I don’t claim that we are the same but there are striking similarities, is there not? Both growing up without family, both fighting to survive. Perhaps I am the antithesis to you, a opposite but still valid outcome of a not particularly advantageous life. You would not agree? Heh, as I say, I am granting you all the three questions. Don’t let them go to waste.
Travok taps the tube to get their attention.
Travok: I’m not exactly a bleeding heart like you all. Just I owned a successful business, the Empire liquidated it and one of my brothers. I have been on contributing to the Alliance since then as a criminal. And I thought 20 years ago, the Empire was good for finally representing Trandoshan! How wrong I was. (Pause) Well… why did you seek this squad out? Surely you had better career prospects then the most dangerous commando squad in the galaxy.
Jibril is silent for a moment, contemplating. Jacen finishes his soldering and turns around to face the group, interested.
Jibril: My darling lizard friend, is it so wrong to want to advance oneself? The underground Sabacc tables on Coruscant are awash with…. stories of a group so brazen and deceitful, why, it was like you were all calling to me! I sought you out specifically to widen my horizons, to… appreciate how the Outer Rim lives. I had heard tales of your medic recently dying in combat… a Wookie of all things. Supply and demand did the rest.
Jacen: Do you have any blood family relatives alive? Given your situation you may need a transfusion.
Jibril (Sighing): No. I have no knowledge of either my mother, my father or of any relatives. My first memories is of a orphanage in the lower levels of Coruscant. It is rather ironic that until now, I gave little to no thought on the matter. Now it will ultimately kill me. (Pause) Your final question. Make it count.
Travok turns to look at Jacen within the bacta tank, before being swallowed up in the bubbles projected by a sigh.
Jacen steadily eyes Travok back.
Jacen: It was a decent question. Unlike Trandoshans, we can’t grow limbs back or cleanse our blood system at will. No one deserves to die like that.
Ghost: It was a question we’d already asked and received the answer to.
Jibril: It is rather amusing. I’ve poisoned people before to make them answer my questions, watched them as they cave into the chemicals coursing through their veins. Now I fear that my own blood is no longer my own.
Travok (shrugging): I will be honest with myself, I am not sure whether my physiology could handle it. Though I wonder what it would be like, living with a pink skin mammal body.
Travok begins turning within the red gel of the bacta, floating.
Jibril: My darlings, if you cannot fathom a question, how will you know the answer? I await your final question though let’s make some haste with it, death is a awful inconvenience to such things.
Jacen shrugs and gestures to Ghost.
Jacen: It’s Ghost’s call.
Jibril I won’t expect such haste from you Ghost. your distance encroaches on every part of your life.
Ghost: I have 72 questions I could ask right now. I’m trying to narrow it down.
Jibril fixes a gaze onto her arm.
Jibril: An utter tragedy…
Ghost: When the feeling’s gone and you can’t go on?
Jibril: Oh there is feeling there my dear. The feeling of impending death.
Ghost: I guess if I had to narrow down my question to one, it would be: Why do you continue the charade of lying to us in the face of imminent death with the only means of salvation being those you’re lying to. That, or: Why Rathtars. (Pause) Not why they do what they do, just why do they exist? But the first question will do.
Jibril shakes her head.
Jibril: You’ve already asked your three questions, a fourth is not permitted.
Travok hisses behind his breathing gear in the tank. The scientist tending Travok’s bacta tank raises a hand and mutters something when he realises that the 4 year degree he did on Rathtar psychology is meaningless as the question wasn’t addressed to him.
Ghost: Pop culture lyrical throwbacks are neither a question, nor something that can be answered by anything other than a continuation of the lyrics. So I neither asked a question, nor received an answer.
Jibril: I am sorry my dear, did your sentence not end with a question mark? (Pause) I rather think it did. And I have given you an answer
Ghost: Then I refer back to addendum b: You spoke, but didn’t answer that. I’m owed an answer, but since I already looked up the lyrics that will no longer suffice, since I had to answer it myself.
Jibril: You asked “When the feeling’s gone and you can’t go on?” and I replied “Oh there is feeling there my dear. The feeling of impending death.”
Ghost: Once again: Pop culture lyrical throwbacks are neither a question, nor something that can be answered by anything other than a continuation of the lyrics.
Jibril: And yet that is what you said.
Ghost: Much in the way a high five can only be answered by another hi five, anything else is not an answer. It is not a query of information return, but of a specific response which you failed to provide.
Travok: That’s why I very deliberately didn’t ask any questions: from my impersonal stance floating in a goldfish tank. I still think it’s worth answering. We have had a lot of people come and go lately from small details that could have been addressed in conversation. Sandy, Mesa, Tobin technically, since he had died… Ellen too.
Jibril smiles weakly.
Jibril: Perhaps you’ll more careful with your careless talk in the future and perhaps I’ll earn the right to be alive long enough to answer your extraneous question soon.
Ghost: That’s true. You’d need to live long enough to answer any questions. Given that I’m the only one keeping you alive at this moment, your survival kind of depends on my whims.
Travok continues to float and sighs.
Travok (Muttering): It’s not as if I can leave. Only 2 days and 16 hours to go…
Jibril: There’s that viper tongue again.
Ghost: On the contrary, a viper’s tongue would imply that I’m being devious. My ability to keep you in good health is entirely dependent on me being able to remain calm and composed. (Pause) It would be a shame if something were to disrupt that. In the wrong mindset that ability would do far more harm than help. (Pause) It’s quite hard to remain calm and composed whilst also looking over your shoulder to check if you still trust a person or not.
Travok attempts to get comfortable, wondering: Was this what my mother’s pregnancy was like? He pushes that thought down and continues watching the contest of wills, undecided as to which side he’d bet on.
Jibril: As I say my dear, you and I are the antithesis to each other. It is only natural to assume that you’ll not trust me, even when I laid out the rules clearly. I can trust that completely.
Ghost: Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you if you end up with worse claws than now. Or perhaps a snazzy tail. You know I thought about getting one installed once? Decided it would be impractical for clothing. And dignity
Jibril resumes looking at her arm, unperturbed by Ghost’s last comments.
Jibril: You know I once thought about a tattoo on my arm?
Ghost: They’re overrated, and vulnerable to rogue fountains of youth.
Jibril: Something… colorful and bold. Of course, no orphanage would allow such deviant behaviour. I even had a design ready, spent ages on it. (Pause) A shame that the place burnt down, it was lost in the process.
Jacen cocks an eyebrow.
Jacen: You can’t seriously be following an orphanage’s rules even now?
Jibril (Sighing): I have been to too many of those places. The ruins of the one we were at on that planet reminded me of that one in particular.
Travok: Aye what I wouldn’t give for a sip from that fountain right now. Always thought it was a bullshit story that barmy Rodian kept telling
Ghost: Could always try and track down another one. Might take a while
Jibril raises a questioning eyebrow and glances at the others. No one seems to want to explain the fountain of youth story.
The scientist near Jacen pulls out a datapad and starts writing down quotes from what the squad have said for his fanfiction. He seems really pleased with himself.
Jibril: It would be pointless to have a tattoo now, not when I present myself the way I do. Some (Looks at Ghost) choose to hide away, afraid of what you might see up close. Much too impersonal. And yet… looking at her arm, that might just be how you’ve survived this long.
Ghost: Sometimes it’s better to hide from the world than to lie to it.
Jibril: I hid for long enough. You’ll get the answer to your question soon enough my dear.
Ghost: Or a monster to put down. I have a feeling I’ll be disappointed either way.
Jibril: A vipers tongue, lashing out at all who displease you, I expected no less. As I say, you’ll have an answer soon.