By the time she was 23, Arissa had enough experience to fill ten lives. Currently, she was living with two...both of which had the uncanny ability to soak up tragedy like a sponge. In her true childhood, Arissa had a loving relationship with her parents. One night, the greed of one man took all of that from her. In her second life (was it truly even hers?) as Rose, she never knew the love of anyone. Rose had everything taken away from her: innocence, dignity, compassion... It wasn’t until she met Alohse Barriden – Gardener – that she truly felt love, even if it seemed to be one-sided. However, that first meaningful relationship was torn from her on the same night.
After she woke up (in a rather violent manner) from her metamorphosis, coma, merger, or whichever other term it could be labeled, she met Soledad Borrity. While Arissa never knew Soledad, the secret admirer of the Nassani family certainly new Arissa. The girl who had lost everything was adopted by an unknown part of her past and given new purpose. Over the few wonderful years Arissa knew her, she and Soledad grew close. Arissa learned more about her family before her birth and after her “accident” than she ever could have hoped elsewhere. Arissa had a friend, a sister even. She had a role model which she emulated in appearance and mannerism, as well as confided in mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Once more, due to the power-hungry and megalomaniacal controlling wiles of the Gardener, Arissa’s life was indignantly burnt to ashes again. Soledad’s headless body lay slumped on a conference table, and Alohse’s lay bloody on the floor. Arissa was torn. It felt so good to kill that man. Was it due to the completed revenge for her family? Was it Rose’s innate bloodlust? If either, why was there a twinge of uneasiness? Did she feel a bit of loss as she saw Rose’s only source of happiness and purpose in life lose his in a warm expanding pool of blood? Was it the blood? The red liquid life escaping a cooling body?
No matter, it had to be done.
“Damn you,” she said through clenched teeth, “damn your worthless self for causing me so much hurt and pain in my life. Damn you for Rose’s love and admiration, for being worth more to her than anything else. Most of all, damn you for being right…” The usurper of Nassani Galactic Import/Export was indeed correct. Only until she lost everything could she be molded into something more than she already was. The trouble is…there was now nobody to conduit her released energy. No parents, no friends. Not even an enemy. She had come this far without them…and they would only cause her more pain. Arissa set herself to guide her own way through life. She didn’t need anyone else. She didn’t need any more pain.
Arissa moved back to the flat she shared with Soledad in another life. Seemingly, one more thrown on the pile. She soon became overwhelmed on her directionless journey. Arissa was nothing more than a physical manifestation of the past…of memories…of experiences long ago lived out and forgotten. Soledad’s nickname for her was correct. She was in fact a shade, a ghost, a lonely revenant. She didn’t belong and was often out of phase, let alone the indicative physical characteristics of her Shade aspect.
Arissa was also shocked with a very startling conclusion: she didn’t seem to age. She looked exactly as she did when she awakened at age nineteen. Many nights, Arissa contemplated life but could find no application of it for her here in this existence. As a way to help her think and map where she lay in the grand scheme of things, she adopted a pet tooke. The tooke was cheap to own and was a patient listener as she delivered soliloquies to it and pace around the room.
“Living beings change. Living beings are dynamic. Only the dead are static. Ghosts don’t change in appearance, mentality, or mannerism after they emerge from their mortal shell. On top of that, living beings die.” With her (un)natural longevity and cursed unconscious reflex to become Shade upon great physical or emotional pain or damage…she was living death. She had no need to eat, no need to drink, and as Shade, she had no need to even breathe. “Yet despite my lack of these characteristics, my heart beats on.”
For a week straight Arissa cried and languished at her fate. When she grew tired, Shade would erupt in cold, roiling darkness to reenergize her. When her stomach pained for food, Shade quelled the cry. When Arissa’s lips grew dry, Shade renewed them.
Unfortunately, her tooke did need sustenance and it died due to her days-long mourning. When she discovered this, Arissa’s teetering psyche was pushed over the edge. She couldn’t even care physically for a small rodent. It wasn’t even the fact that it died so much that she was incapable and negligent about herself and her surroundings. There were even strands of jealousy mixed in as the small creature in front of her even had the ability to die.
She took up the dead rodent in her hand and shook it for one last lesson. “Who am I,” she sobbed, “What am I? What is my purpose? I don’t want to be in pain any more! I want my own life, damn you!” She struck her free hand sharply on a glass table. It shattered, tearing her flesh. Blood. Red blood. It flowed for a second from her lacerations before her guardian angel came to help. Darkness knitted her flesh and soothed her painful nerves. She was relieved as she could no longer see the horrible redness covering her forearm. She felt calm and focused in the cold, quiet darkness.
Arissa looked down at her two bleached-white hands. One held her late pet, curled with eyes closed. The other held a wavering void.
Tooke I, as she called it unoriginally, could do nothing for her. It didn’t even respond back to her. Perhaps it was a silly holdover from her childhood. The rhetorical questions she posed to it proved fruitless. Though uncommunicative, Arissa hoped to be able to learn more about life itself from the animal. But if she wasn’t truly alive, no amount of rhetoric could change that.
No, if she wanted answers, she should look at something internal. All her answers lay within her deathly white flesh and gloomy aura. Shade held all her answers. Shade contained her purpose. Shade was the looking glass into which Arissa would gaze for her understandings of existence. At this oddly new and comforting feeling, Arissa whispered to herself reflectively, “Damn you Shade…thank you…”
That point had finally gotten it through to the young woman. Shade was a part of her. Not separate, but a continual extension of herself. Arissa had to learn to embrace this and move forward. For her curses, she could also see in some fashion or another how they are also gifts. Arissa could use her natural ability to solely focus on herself. She was smart and athletic enough to blaze her own trail. This self-given purpose to use her abilities to her own ends invigorated her. There was nobody else in the galaxy who was like her. Arissa wouldn’t let anyone control her. She would be the focus and fury of her own power. She was legally in control of the company, though she hadn’t been active in it for a while. This was a tremendous personal resource…the means to her ends. Yes…the literal galaxy was at her fingertips!
Arissa began enrolling in classes at the galaxy’s most prestigious centers of learning. Because of her hyperspace...issues…she took distance learning as much as she could. At her “naturally supernatural” pace and her lack of need to eat, drink, or sleep, Arissa began learning about, well, everything. She obtained degrees in business and economics. She was learning a dozen languages a year. Her pace was fast and furious. She wound up getting another tooke, Tooke II, only this time it was purely as a pet (instead of a set of existential coordinates).
When Arissa was 25, she completed her doctorate degree in general interspecies medicine and would soon claim another doctorate in astrophysics. Her lack of any form of attachment gave her all the time she needed to study, pilot her newly modified A-Wing Adumbration, and most of all…construct a weapon that was a literal extension of herself as Shade.
Soledad’s old room was converted into Shade’s personal dojo. Much time and effort was poured into the Umbra Project as it involved both an understanding of the lightsaber technology as well as the more complex understanding of her personal attributes. Shade called upon her absorbed memories of (Dark) Jedi training as well as several other forms of combat both experienced and researched and used it to convert Gardener’s confiscated lightsaber into her customized “voidblade”. Finally, it was complete. Umbra was developed and tested specifically for Shade’s own use. On the outside, it looked like any other lightsaber, but it was on the inside that mattered. Umbra was a specialized tool, a prism of darkness focusing Shade’s powers into a controlled space.
Shade took the metal hilt into her white hand. She pressed the switch. A “blade” half the size of a normal lightsaber jutted outward. It was pure black, it was silent, and the temperature dropped considerably around it. Umbra was a perfect void. Shade’s normal dampening aura intensified. Her body absorbed even more than it does normally and she felt a little sharper, a little quicker, and a lot more powerful. But she knew that this exposed her to the risk of an accelerated Nova state – something she didn’t look forward to going through again.
“This is acceptable,” she said to her pet, Tooke III. Tooke II died during the meditative process and construction of Umbra. Arissa was upset, but sacrifices had to be made to achieve her goals.
Working in her client acquisition position at NGIE also helped her prosper socially (as her economic understandings had helped the company financially). Arissa took great joy in having people see her as sincere, but knowing that every deal she struck only furthered her own aims. She tasted the power of it, but felt the wonderful challenge of situational control. She never truly wished to have the responsibility over others as Gardener did, but he was right about what he said all along.
It wasn’t long before Arissa had a reputation which preceded her as being a very uncanny negotiator and suave face for the business. She always had the upper hand as she had the element of the unknown on her side. New clients heard the rumors of her accident and old clients always wanted to learn more about it. Also, in a business which was dominated by men, having a no-nonsense and intelligent woman essentially be able to sell sand to Hutts on Tatooine for a large profit left many impressed but slightly disturbed at just how good she was.
It was all about the unknown, and Arissa was certainly an unknown quantity. That kind of darkened mystery embraced Arissa and comforted her. She knew everything about the people she worked with, but they knew nothing of her.
But, there was one last thing that Arissa had to do for herself, and that was to test her physical abilities as Shade. She needed to find out just what she was capable of doing. Knowledge of strategy, counters, and combat meant little to one who was actually in the real danger on the front lines. But where was an appropriate front?
Random fights and murders didn’t appeal to her. Arissa liked Rose’s precise and tactical reasoning for death and that it often leaves behind less questions (and mess) than a random purge of a city street. Also, while they were inferior to her, she also respected that most people just want to go about their daily business like some kind of droning insect. Senseless murder served her no purpose. Her encounter with Mr. Barriden taught her that even the most worthless person to you can mean the world to someone else.
She just needed a reason…