Ursa Diol leads JT through corridor after corridor until they approach the medical wing. She issues a few orders to the guards and then turns to part ways. Clearly not put off by anything about this situation, JT addresses her before she leaves. “It would be great to see you at the gala, as well. Maybe the moff could sponsor a whole table for his staff. I know things are a little awkward right now…” JT holds up her manacled wrists. “But I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me. And you know what? I got to talk with the moff, which is what I wanted.”
Ursa marvels at the indomitable good cheer before her as Jai Tessa continues, “You deserve some time off. You’ve been doing a lot of work for that moff. You should enjoy yourself some while you’re aboard Dame Metropolis. There’s a lot of nice things here.” The younger woman nods her head toward the entrance to the medical facilities. “I’m going to check out this room now. But later, we should catch up and you can tell me about something fun that you did. Or we could meet up in one of the green spaces to meditate together. I know there are gardens in this place. Maybe there is one with native Naboo flora worked into it.”
Ursa reflects that it is shame this innocent woman has gotten all wrapped up in whatever triggered the alarms on the moff’s cargo. “Someone from the moff’s staff will be back to get more information from you later, but let me give you some words of advice. I know this gala is really important to you, but it is just one small piece of the galaxy.” Given the younger woman’s continued good mood, she tries a little humor herself: “Gala, galaxy. Just a part.”
JT laughs. “That’s clever!”
“The moff’s concerns are much higher and larger-scale. If you could just focus… Any detail, even if it seems small and inconsequential to you, Ms. Tessa, could make the difference between the Empire’s important work being accomplished and not.”
“Oh,” JT says. When she puts it that way… “I’ll do some thinking.” Ursa nods and then clacks away.
Dame Metropolis does not have a proper jail, but the medical facilities include an area for restraining passengers under the influence of substances or in various states of mental distress. The guards take JT through more hallways to the reception desk. They leave her there, instructing the 2-1B medical droid on duty that she is to remain there until someone from the moff’s staff comes to get her. As they depart, the droid greets JT. “Welcome, Class 3 Passenger Jai Tessa.”
“Thank you!” she replies, relentlessly cheerful. JT fell to the Dark Side once; nothing else really compares. This? This is just a temporary setback. “So nice to see you! Just taking a little break for a bit.” She requests the droid’s designation, and J4-1L supplies it. “J4, we share a letter! That’s so cool!”
As far as JT can tell, all of the staff in the immediate area are droids. She would like to think that it is because they are so diligent, but it is probably for defensive bureaucratic reasons, to cover Dame Cruise Lines in case of any complaints. After all, droids can be given protocols to follow for handling unruly passengers, and they will stick to them.
J4-1L checks her into the system and then escorts her through some more doors and into a foyer that accesses two rows of heavily cushioned holding cells. The doors facing the open space in the middle are padded bars with combination locks. The other walls hold straps for restraining guests in danger of hurting themselves. J4 advises her that she is welcome to avail herself of the water spout mounted in the wall and tells her that the dinner menu tonight is mashed potatoes. That sounds like pretty standard prison fare to JT; it is what they were fed on the Vigilant back when DRS first ran afoul of ISB agent Marek Quay and got mixed up in Muraga the Hutt’s affairs.
It is late afternoon but the area already holds two potential new friends. They walk past one cell holding a drunk Kel Dor. Her silky kimono is untied, revealing a gem-encrusted swimsuit underneath. As JT passes, she addresses her fellow inmate, “How is the swimming here? I haven’t made it out to the pools yet. That swimsuit is stunning. I love the crystals!”
“Oh, this is nothing!” the woman slurs back. “You should see the dress that I use. I’m singing tonight! I will be at the club. I’m sure my manager will sort this all out, and I’ll be there!”
“Oh my gosh! What club are you singing in?” JT asks as she is put in the cell next door, where she can no longer see the Kel Dor.
“What color am I singing in?” the drunk woman mis-hears. She rambles on about the burnt sienna gown that compliments her skin tone. “And it’s totally studded with topaz.”
Before the droid departs, JT thanks him for doing a great job. “Thank you for complying,” he replies. He turns to regard the inmate across from her cell, and JT sees that J4’s back has a bunch of attachments on it that can extend up around his torso to deliver shots. The other chamber contains a crouching Cerean in a straightjacket who is rocking back and forth. “Not all organics are so compliant,” J4 continues.
“I don’t know,” JT muses. “I think you’ll find that most organics are pretty pliable.”
“Yes. They bend easily.” The droid clomps off.
JT exchanges names with her neighbor Lo Strimm and then asks the Kel Dor if she is willing to sing. The other passenger starts into a bluesy number, crooning, “I’ve got the blues… the jailhouse blues…” Even though she is drunk, it sounds reasonably nice. She holds the notes just fine, but she trips over words now and then. Whenever she does, she restarts the song from the beginning. The woman can really belt it out, too, which is convenient for JT. While she was genuinely curious about how well she could sing, she also wanted the sound for cover. It would be best if no one heard the mantra JT uses for meditation.
For her mantra, JT uses the Jedi Code. Elaiza insists on it, particularly after everything that happened following Dathomir. JT’s muscles get all tense at the mere memory of the older woman’s tone during their most recent training session. She claimed that JT’s lack of discipline created an opening for the Dark Side, which is what enabled the Nardith Cluster to have the effect on her that it did. The crystal was just a catalyst for unleashing what was already inside JT. Elaiza has since required stricter adherence to proper practices, showing even less tolerance than before for the instinctive way JT was previously connecting to the Force. Strangely, though, Elaiza has remained silent on the topic of JT’s emotional attachment to Renci.
“This is how meditation works,” Elaiza had said, slapping the back of her right hand onto her left palm to emphasize each word. “There are rules; there is structure.” JT’s protestations were immediately dismissed. “You will use this mantra, developed over thousands of years. If the Counsel had held to this, it would not have fallen apart. You may think you have come up with something better. You haven’t. Do the mantra again; we’re getting worked up.”
In her cell, JT kneels on the padded floor, eyes closed. Val Isa was trying to reach her down in the cargo hold, but JT was not able to be fully receptive at the time; she feels like she only partially got the message. And she really does need to recenter herself after all that with the moff. Cuffed hands turned palm-up on her knees before her, JT quietly recites, “There is no emotion; there is peace. There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.” Lo Strimm starts her song over again, but JT is in the zone now. “There is no passion; there is serenity. There is no chaos; there is harmony. There is no death; there is only the Force.”
JT opens her eyes, and there before her stands the robed form of Val Isa. Everything around them is blurred. “Oh my gosh,” JT breathes, letting out a long sigh. “What do I do?” she asks her first Jedi contact.
“You are already doing so much,” Val Isa tells her. “What more is it that you want to do?”
“It’s not about what I want to do,” JT clarifies. She articulates her concern, sounding incredulous at her own actions. “I invited a moff to this event. Was that really the right thing to do?”
“The galaxy is a large place to heal,” the Jedi observes.
“I know… that’s why we need more staff…”
“Did you invite the moff for his money or to change him?”
“It’s a little bit of all three,” JT says, and Val Isa tilts her head questioningly. “Because, you know… well, I guess you don’t know…” JT’s thoughts turn to Tcho. Though she does not realize it at first, this summons him into the vision space off to the side in the nebulous nowhere. “There’s my new friend… he’s trying to do some good things, too, in his own way.” That is when she notices Tcho. “Oh my—What happened to him?!”
Tcho lies slumped on his side in a different top than she saw him wearing earlier, some sort of ski jacket. A red and black scarf is draped around his shoulders, but far more notable than that is the awful gash running from his upper chest and up along the side of his neck. It is bleeding profusely, but he remains still, eyes closed.
The entire vision waivers for a moment as JT almost loses focus, but she holds it together by tapping back into the Jedi Code: “There is no emotion; there is peace.” When things stabilize, JT addresses Val Isa again. “You’re right. The moff, just like my family, just like everyone else, is a person.”
Val Isa nods. “When we make them tools or obstacles, we take more of their personhood from them.”
JT lets out a breath. “That’s what I’m always saying about droids. That’s a good point. But I need to help my new friend. He’s in pretty deep.” She turns back to Tcho’s still form. “From the looks of it, he could use all the help he can get.” As she regards him, Tcho’s body moves slowly to sitting, his head still lolling to one side. He shifts, and she sees that his coat is branded with the Snowscape entertainment complex and that the back of it is marred by scorch marks. The movements of Tcho’s body are gentle and slow, as if someone is adjusting his position carefully. Then he is splayed out fully horizontal, eyes still closed, and the vision fades.