“Arissa? Arissa, can you hear me?” Detective Gunney sighed as he took his hand from the shoulder of the comatose six year old. He wasn’t sure any more why he came every night to try and get a response. Part of it was his duty. After all, the founder and president of the largest, non-Imperial import/export corporation and his wife were seemingly assassinated, the house nearly destroyed by an explosion which has a cause yet to be determined, his assets frozen suspiciously, and to top it off, there lies a little girl at his side – in a coma yet otherwise unharmed.
Yes, part of his concern was his duty as a police officer, but…the detective looked at her monitoring equipment. Normal readouts. No poisons, no concussions, no damage at all. Except for her brain activity. Eyes that have seen a lot in their time took in the erratic patterns and abnormally high displays of brain activity. He could see the girl’s innocent eyes move under their lids and occasionally she’d twitch or whimper.
“What are you dreaming of, Arissa?” The older detective cast his gaze from the red glow of the machinery to the pale face of the girl. “What could you tell me if you weren’t asleep right now?”
The police officer heard the door to the room open. In walked a nurse with a medical droid behind her. “Anything tonight, Harker?”
“Nothing I haven’t heard before, ma’am,” he said with a smile.
“Well then, old man,” the nurse snipped, “you had best move along so I can change her and give her more fluids. The poor thing goes through intravenous nutrients like nobody’s business.”
Detective Gunney smiled and nodded. With a staged groan he stood up slowly. It was met with a “tsk” from Nurse Hei. He moved out the door and left the older nurse to her business. Well, he mostly did. The near-retired detective stood outside the door “just in case”.
The elder head nurse changed the girl with delicate care and attention. Being a mother and grandmother herself, she knew how to care for children and it was her firm belief that even if they don’t show it, children will still feel love if given to them. As she tended the girl, Nurse Hei sang a soft lullaby that was passed on through her family. A lullaby from the now extinct planet of Alderan…
Rest now child
Lay and sleep
The day is done
Put up your feet
You’ve done so much
You’ve seen it all
From dawn’s ascent
To nights great fall
Close your eyes
My sweet, my love
Dream of us below
And those above
In the morning
Wake and see
Those who love you
The nurse kissed the girl’s forehead and made her way out of the room with her medical droid, turning out the lights behind her.
“You sing really well…for an old woman,” Harker smiled.
“You are really somewhat tolerable…for an old man,” Kiyrna responded, walking past the eavesdropping detective.
“Hey, mind if I walk with you for a bit?”
“It’s a free planet. Mostly.” Nurse Hei’s eyes twinkled as she joked about the current state of affairs on Coruscant.
“Has Arissa ever responded any differently around you?”
“Oh, a formal inquisition is this? Where’s my barrister for legal protection?”
“Ha-ha. Kiyrna, I’ve seen your face when you are in there with her. I see the compassion and sympathy you have for her. You are no stranger to losing everything yourself…” The old head nurse tinged at that memory revisited, but maintained her bedside manner. Detective Gunney did his best to recover. “…What I mean is, you can really relate in this situation. I’m no expert in medicine, but when I looked in there as you were singing, the squiggly lines on the monitor started to slow down and become more rhythmic.”
The two stopped outside a nursing station and break room down the hallway. Nurse Hei turned to the detective and said, “Can I interest you in a cup of stimtea? Tonight is rather slow, but despite the pace, tea seems to soothe one’s mind.”
“A cup would be wonderful.”
“Stay there, I’ll get you some.” Kiyrna turned and walked in, but she stopped when she felt a presence behind her. “Nurses only, Harker,” she sighed. Turning around she saw the old detective wearing a nursing cap he picked up from the station’s desk outside the break room.
“Did I ever tell you that back in my day I was a master of disguise?”
“Honey, let me be the first to welcome you to the present.” If nobody knew otherwise, a witness to this entire exchange would think they had been married for years and years. “Fine, you win. Come inside and we’ll talk.” The nurse left her droid at the desk and took the detective back into the room.
“To answer your question, Detective Gunney, I do indeed notice the change in her brainwave patterns. But to be less medically sterile and more concerned about who she is as a person…she’s a child who is floating alone in a world of loss, loneliness, and darkness. Whether or not she understands affection given to her doesn’t matter as much because she can feel it. Arissa is a very special child, and by simply sitting at her side I can tell there is something beautiful within her. She is fighting to break out of this coma, Harker, I just know it. If showing that girl love and affection helps shave off even one day of her nightmare, I will have done my duty as a nurse, and more importantly as a caring human being, to do so.”
The old policeman nodded and sipped his tea. “I feel the same way.”
Nurse Hei leaned forward over the table holding her cup in both hands, “Tell me Harker, and this is one old person on the verge of being forcibly retired to the other, what happened to push such a sweet and innocent girl like that into a realm of demons and nightmares?”
For dramatic effect, the detective also leaned forward. Any air of mystery seemed to be dissolved by his nurse’s hat, but in true detective fashion Harker recounted what the police could best put together from the scene. “This stays between us two grandparents, but from what we have gathered…”
- - - - - - - - - -
Down the hall, a little girl, Arissa Nassani, again recounted the same nightmares she’s always had. But not just hers, ever since the night her parents were assassinated, Arissa had a new set of memories to wade through. Those dreams would sometimes bleed into her own. That alone left the comatose girl feeling violated and her childhood taken from her, but she learned so much through the eyes and ears of another, a more mature woman. She learned of the greater pains in life than being hit on the head by a book.
Arissa’s brilliant mind sped along at near supernatural speeds as she relived over twenty years of memories from the consumed assassin’s mind.
As a child, Rose had been abandoned. Arissa learned this through a painful memory of revelation. She was found in a back alley in the labyrinth-city of Coruscant and was taken into an orphanage as an abandoned and unwanted child. The name Rose seemed out of place for a blue-skinned twi’lek, but she was found with one of the red flowers by her side.
Arissa wept in her mind at the life this little girl led. Rose knew she wasn’t wanted in society. She became embittered and would lash out. More than once she had to be placed in isolation because she posed a danger to herself and others. Her mood changed, t hough, when she found out that she’d finally have a home and a family.
Rose repented and thanked her destiny for finally having peace and solace from the misery of her current life. Arissa, too, felt this joy and she was happy as she played a first-person passenger on this lifelong story.
Not long after being processed out of the orphanage, the young twi’lek found that she had been bought into the sex slave industry in the more shady regions of the Outer Rim. She was given a room in a brothel. She was given clothes and makeup. She was given instructions. She was handed a new life. Rose wanted a new life, one in which she wasn’t alone and an orphan. To a perverse degree, she received just that. Now she always had company and was a child prostitute. The only thing she had left that was hers was her name. Her owner thought it was a good stage name, anyway.
Perhaps that is what made Arissa cry the most. She could feel the shame of being violated. She could feel the hands on her own body as if she were Rose herself. But most of all, she could feel the dismay at having these men call her by her real name as they were doing these things. But Rose didn’t let them have the meaning of the name, they simply borrowed the sound.
For the next ten years, Rose’s entire identity was stripped. Her innocence was taken many times under the harsh glow of the red lights of the brothels. She would always stare at those red lamps to help her escape what was happening to her. Rose would retreat into her mind as the only sacred place left to herself. Arissa felt the same emotions as they were now a part of her life. She felt the rage and the hatred. She felt the fear and the pain. She saw red. Everything was red. Red, red, red! Lights. Emotions. It was all one horrible but soothing red blur.
As she progressed to adulthood memories, Arissa was shocked at what she had taken in. Rose could no longer fetch her owner premium prices on that specific market of the industry, so she was sold to the Hutts on Tattooine. Rose was crushed. She wasn’t even good enough to be a whore in the various red light districts of the Outer Rim. The now ten year old Arissa was crushed by memories and feelings of suicidal depression. The comatose little girl was forced to reckon with complex, adult feelings…but not even through the prism of an adult as Rose was only fourteen at the time...
During her stay with the Hutts, Rose was taught how to fight to entertain the courtesans. It was here that she started to discover more about herself. Arissa, too, felt amazed at learning about one’s own abilities and the taste of victory. It was almost as if she was the one fighting in the palace pits of the Hutts herself! For the next five years, Rose fought and trained hard. She worked to recover her life and make something of it herself. Nobody else would tell her what to do. She had raw power and fury. She was faster than anyone else. She could jump higher. She could almost sense her opponent’s next move.
Arissa learned about forms of combat through Rose’s memories of training. She learned the taste and feel of blood. In a sick way, Arissa grew to like the sight of the red liquid as a reward for the hard work.
There came a day when Rose finally met her match in the fighting pits. It humbled her and she wondered how she was beaten. Her opponent was faster than her and even had the ability to push her away without making physical contact. The scrappy twi’lek woman fought with all she had. She focused all her pain, shame, fear, and anger into a powerful flurry of attacks. Even after she launched her last-ditch attack, she was utterly beaten. At the blue throat of Rose lay the tip of a weapon she had never seen before: a lightsaber. Her face was awash in red light and a droning hum. Staring into it almost hypnotized her. Rose was reminded of her helpless past as a prostitute and was now made to realize she was helpless as a pit fighter.
Arissa felt the powerlessness which came from this. She felt dismay of having everything that you gained and built with your two hands in life be torn down by another. The fifteen year old in the hospital bed on Coruscant was crushed with humility.
Her opponent was a human simply known to her as the Gardener. His job was to pluck promising flowers from the galaxy and recruit them into a new Imperial fighting academy. He had watched Rose grow and felt she was ready to blossom into something more than she already was. He told her that power meant nothing without control and that emotional chaotic rage will only get you so far. He promised her control over her power and emotions. He would rebuild her after tearing her down. To a woman with nothing, she could only gain everything. Rose took up the offer.
The little girl on Coruscant proceeded to get nearly ten years of Dark Jedi training by proxy. She could feel the focused power. She learned the techniques. Her brain swelled with philosophy, technique, information, experience, and a new feeling of self-respect and purpose. Through her training, the newly dubbed Red Rose grasped her fears and wielded them back at opponents. The orphan learned to focus on the red light of her lightsaber just as she focused on the red lamps of the brothels. As long as she had a goal, a pursuit, she could remain independent and focused. She could do anything.
Rose was finally given her first mission as a fully-fledged Dark Jedi. It was a mission of stealth and guile. It was a mission which should have been a good warm up to future commercial subterfuge to come…
“Shall I blossom tonight?”
“Yes, that would be lovely.”
From that point on, Arissa’s and Red Rose’s understandings merged into one. Simultaneously she saw and felt her own raw emotions as well as the assassin’s. Fear. Confidence. Dread. Excitement. Death. Life. It was a cacophony of intense power. Truly, these were dueling fates. Arissa’s ultimate understanding reached a climax. Her mind blurred. Thoughts and memories streaked by in swaths of light. She accelerated and was uncontrolled. The girl was frightened at the merger. She didn’t understand anything. She had no control. She didn’t even have any power. Time seemed to slow, but she continued to accelerate.
Arissa’s mind finally touched a complete void for the briefest of moments…
- - - - - - - - - -
The nurse on duty looked up at her monitor. A small red light was flashing. The patient in room 5-3 was crashing. The equipment showed her as having no signs of life.
“Attention crash team, report to 5-3 immediately,” she pleaded into the intercom. Being the only nurse in close proximity, she ran down to the room. There she found the young woman who had been there for the past 13 years sitting up in bed and convulsing. Her medical equipment was flickering and she was surrounded in a roiling mist of darkness. The nurse’s skin chilled at the sight and lack of heat and the windows frosted like they had thirteen years ago.
Arissa, for the first time in a long time, opened her eyes. They were inky and black save for illuminated pupils the color of red. Just as the crash team arrived, the pale woman screamed. It was an unnatural scream. It was a banshee wail which fought to escape a black hole. Then there was silence. Silent light expanded in a hemisphere around Arissa, knocking back the medical team. Just as before, lightning snapped inside the room. Monitors were crushed. The window was blown out of the wall.
Inside the body of a nineteen year old woman, two lives merged into one. A reckoning between two who have seen so much in such a short amount of time brought a penultimate understanding of the world, the galaxy, even the Force to this one powerful locus.