"What the HELL is going on here?!"
Maysh'la snapped her head towards the doorway at the sound of her Buir's voice. He was alive! And from the sound of it, he was infuriated.
She turned back to Atton, "Will you stay here until Mical is a bit more steady on his feet? I'll sort this out."
"Sure," he replied casually and she gave his hand a small squeeze.
Turning to the entryway, she jogged into the hall and halted in her tracks, staring at the scene before her. Between her and Canderous lay two unconscious guards who were hovered over by Bao and Mira. The walls were nearly demolished in places with large cracks and holes in the smooth stone. Bao was looking more fierce than she had ever seen him – to a stranger, he would have been terrifying.
On the other side of the narrow corridor, Canderous stood tall and helmless. His fists were curled tightly and his expression was one of total outrage as he glowered blame at Memh'net. She was pushing past his side and staring, at the scene, utterly baffled. The Exile moved quickly to stand between her and the crew before anyone could retaliate. As she moved, she casually brushed her hand along Bao's tensed forearm in the hopes that her touch would rouse him from his rage. He flinched and brushed his fingertips past her own as she moved. The sensation was electrifying.
"Please Buir, Memh'net…it's not what either of you are thinking," she said quickly.
"Well what IS it?" Memh'net snapped.
As she spoke the large, pointed, golden end of a staff raised high between her and Canderous and slowly lowered between their shoulders. At the touch of the metal, the Queen Mother's aide moved quickly to one side, allowing her Majesty to pass through to the violent scene within.
Silence fell over them as their bodies tensed.
Erenada stood still, clad in a long, black, form-fitting gown that hugged the curves of her body. It draped at the thighs and hung down in a gentle wave to the floor. It was overlaid with a delicate ebony lace that was punctuated with tiny, glistening jet beads and crept upwards from the bodice, ending in delicate whorls along her jawbone. Her hands were also covered in gloves of the same fragile material and aside from her face the only other skin that showed was the alabaster of her bare feet - a shocking white against the pitch hem of her gown and the black stone of the floor. Her hair hung straight down her back in a silken sheet and her enormous dark eyes swept critically around the room.
She took in the unconscious guards, staring at their prone bodies in intense concentration for what seemed like several minutes until they began to stir. Finally, she turned and moved on to Maysh'la, Bao and Mira, who was still outfitted in the Captain's armor. As her eyes moved to the door to the Medical Lab she paused.
Atton was there.
He stood, leaning on the doorway with his arms folded, glaring murderously at Erenada. She, in turn, met his eyes impassively and gripped her staff tightly. Pausing for just a moment she pushed it gently away from her body. Memh'net stepped up immediately in order to retrieve it from her mistress. Still not breaking her gaze with Atton she removed the delicate lace gloves and handed them off as well.
By this point, both of the guards were fully conscious and eyeing the Queen Mother with a nasty confidence that made May's stomach turn. Breaking eye contact with Atton for the first time, the Queen Mother spun and raised her arm high. With a flash of her hand the air crackled to life as enormous, bright orange bolts tore downward and into the now terrified faces of the guardswomen. The sound was deafening, utterly cancelling the noise of the Exile's shout as she ran to stop her. But it was too late, in a moment, they were dead.
Lowering her arm, Erenada slowly crossed the floor towards the Med Lab. Atton pushed himself away from the doorframe, bracing himself and eyeing her warily. When she reached him, she dropped slowly to her knees, her head bowed.
"I'm so sorry."
Whatever Atton had been expecting, it certainly wasn't that. Her voice was a low whisper, softly accented and flowed like honey. He shifted uncomfortably as he stared down at the top of her dark head.
"Will someone PLEASE tell me what the hell is going on here?" Canderous snapped.
She turned her dark eyes slowly towards the Mandalorian "Canderous Ordo," she began, "I have witnessed the events that occurred here personally through the memories of these former guards. They have inflicted a great evil on two of your traveling companions and I only hope that this just punishment will quell your anger."
His fists slowly uncoiled, his keen eyes watching her intently.
"My guests," she continued, "It is impossible for me to apologize sufficiently for what has occurred here…I am…very distressed… When I ordered you confined it was as a test…our experiences with outsiders have been unpleasant at best. I confined you and fogged you ability to concentrate in order to gauge the level of your powers. I fully expected you to attempt escape and to attack my guards which would have resulted in the end of our talks and your expulsion from Hapes. To see that you have been true to the promise of Mandalore in spite of your Jedi abilities and have been abused by the very staff I have put my faith in grieves me deeply. Believe me when I tell you that I had no idea that such machinery existed."
The Queen Mother's face darkened, the regal tilt of her head sliding into a position of misery.
"I am ultimately responsible for everything that occurs on this planet and I take full responsibility for this incident." she said in a low voice turning her gaze back to Atton, "I apologize to you and I will apologize personally to your doctor as well. If you wish to take your revenge for this it will be allowed. There will be no consequences for either your self or your crew. I will defend myself but you will be permitted to set the rules of combat. At this point I do not expect any sort of regard from you…you are free to leave if you wish but I know of the Sith threat that you have mentioned. If you desire to do so, you are all welcome to join me in my private chambers for a meal, some tea and conversation. If not, I understand…"
The silence jerked the Exile back from the near spellbound state she had been in. There was something about the expressiveness of the Queen Mother's face and especially her eyes that drew others in. But the sound of her voice took it to another level. It was filled with a charisma that seemed to glow with the Force and she could understand why the Hapians believed her to be a channel to their god. It was a dangerous thing for so much power to be available to someone so young and untrained.
"What did they do to you last night?" Atton asked suddenly, looking sharply at Canderous.
"Outside of telling me what was going on, eating and talking, nothing," he replied.
Atton's eyes cooled considerably as he gazed down at the young woman who knelt at his feet. "Look," he said uncomfortably, "I…uh…don't want to fight or anything. You didn't know, that's pretty obvious, so let's just stop the games and be honest here. No more mind tricks, no more theatre…I'm done. I'll call it even if you cut the crap and help us deal with these Sith."
She smiled warmly at him and extended a pale hand which he took, allowing her to rise to her feet, "Agreed," she said warmly, "Thank-you Atton. Would you excuse me for a moment while I attend to your doctor?"
"Your Majesty?" the Exile cut in.
"Yes," came the gentle reply.
"Mical…he was unconscious for the entire time…he's only just come around and we haven't told him…" she said haltingly.
Erenada nodded, "If you wish, I will not reveal anything to him."
"It is," she said.
"Very well," turning to Bao and Mira she asked, "Would you be so kind as to stow these treacherous baggages in an empty cell around the corner? It will be easier to keep all of this to ourselves if your doctor is not confronted by two bodies. You do NOT have to be gentle."
"With pleasure…" Mira snarled, grabbing the smaller one by a wrist and dragging her, sloppily, her head bouncing along the floor to the holding area.
Bao didn't speak; his jaw was firm, his mouth a sharp, grim line. He grabbed the larger one by the belt, carrying her like rubbish to join her partner.
"I…wish you hadn't killed them," Atton said quietly to the Queen Mother.
"But…they were guilty," she replied, confused, "I saw it, the darkness, the evil in their own hearts before I judged them."
"I know," he replied, "I'm as surprised as you are that I'm feeling this way. It's just…look, no matter how evil someone is, no matter what they do, as long as they're alive there's a chance for redemption. Sometimes all someone needs is just a clear shot at it. It's tough to do if you're dead."
She linked her arm into his, "Please accompany me to the back chambers and tell me your thoughts," she said, "I personally couldn't see any hope for either of them but I would like to hear your ideas if you are willing to share them."
"Sure thing," he replied as a phantom of his old, roguish grin crossed his face.
At that moment Mical entered the hall, slightly wobbly but intent in his effort. Mira immediately moved to brace him up and angle him down the hall towards the elevator.
As the others trooped ahead, Maysh'la fell back slightly with Bao Dur. When they were lagging comfortably, he slid his warm hand into hers, brushing the back of her hand with his thumb.
"Are you alright?" she whispered.
"Yes," he replied softly, "But I don't like this."