"I'm sorry Miss Ambicon. We did everything we could for him but... Whatever technology was used, it was far beyond our understanding and... I'm sorry."
Mixed feelings ran through Eri as she stood beside the doctor, a middle-aged man in medical scrubs who seemed to have yet to get used to breaking the hard news to people. Laying on a table, her father, Cid, had suffered a severe brain aneurysm and the strange medical procedures that the Directive had performed on him to resurrect the body had only served to complicate any efforts to save him. Eri had already accepted his death once, she had been the one to pull the trigger before pulling it again and again as she released all those painful childhood memories and the loss of her childhood. But then when she saw him brought back to life, Eri wasn't sure what to think. At first, he didn't seem like the man she had once known, but as the fight wore on, he seemed more and more like the person she had once known.
"You... you did everything you could," Eri began as she wiped her eyes with the back of her left hand. "I... I just wish I could have said good-bye properly this time."
The doctor let the comment pass without asking, having been made well aware of Cid's medical file. "I'll be outside if you need a moment." Turning, he left the operating room, leaving Eri to once again try and cope with the loss of her dad. He had tried to make amends, somehow having retained enough of his memory after Eri shot his head with more holes than a hollowed out asteroid.
"I'm sorry," Eri began after the door closed behind her, sniffling as she wiped away more tears. "I thought we'd finally be able to return home, as a family." Though she said it, Eri was aware there was no home for them to return to right now, the Directive had destroyed the family house she had grown up in. They've taken so much away from me, Eri thought, finally breaking down and letting the tears fall down as she bent over and hugged the body on the table. No words materialized as she wept uncontrollably, letting out all of her life's frustrations, her tears falling onto the sheet that partially covered the body. "I'm sorry," she repeated, a sick, heart-wrenching feeling starting to form in her chest as if her stomach and heart were starting to wrap around each other. "I wish I never killed you in the first place!!!"
Though it felt like a huge weight had suddenly disappeared off her shoulders, the sadness remained as, despite her sorrow and grief and confession at having made what she considered the biggest mistake of her life wasn't going to bring him back to life.
For a long while Eri cried, occasionally mumbling an apology or wishing she could turn back the hands of time, hoping, just hoping that maybe if she wished hard enough, someone would grant it to her and she could be at home with her family, together with them, even if it was the three of them pitching in together to rebuild the house. The reality, however, hurt more than the pain of loss as whatever small vestiges of that playful, dreaming youth Eri had left slid away as the knowledge set in that her wishes would never come true, that her life, her Dad's life and even her Mom's life were forever changed and Eri knew it.
As they approached the recovery wing, the doctor stopped suddenly, drawing in a deep breath. Eri stopped and turned to face the man, noting the conflicting expression on his face. "Miss Ambicon, I... I think, before you go in there, you need to know that... We found a complication with your Mother's condition."
Eri thought she no longer had anything left in her to cry out, but somehow the doctor managed to make the tears return to her already puffy eyes. "Wha... What do you mean?" she gasped, wrapping her hands together and putting them against her chest.
"When she was brought out of the carbon freeze, we thought we followed all the normal safe procedures but it seems there's a clot in her brain, several of them actually. We're not sure how they formed but we do know that if they're not removed soon, they might get stuck in her heart or, worse, her brain and kill her."
"So... why haven't you done anything? I told you anything she needs, you do what it takes to make her better!" Eri said, her voice upset as she wondered if he had ever planned on telling her anything about this problem in the first place. "If it's about credits, I don't care how much it costs, I've hardly spent a single one since I joined the military and-"
"We would have operated," he cut her off before clearing his throat, "But she insisted that we leave her be."
That made Eri's heart hit the floor. Turning suddenly, she broke out into a run, the drops of her tears dotting the floor as she ran. Reaching the room, she burst through the door. "Mom!" she exclaimed, looking at the figure resting peacefully on the bed, sitting upright. The woman looked over and immediately lit up, smiling happily.
"Eri." Before she could react, Eri was already wrapping her arms around her Mom, relived to see her still alive. "How's my princess doing?" she asked, returning the embrace. Feeling her daughter tremble, she gently rubbed her soothingly, trying to provide whatever comfort she could. Her right hand felt strange, the cybernetic replacement, while looking and feeling just like her old hand, still felt foreign and didn't fully register in her mind. "There, there. It's okay." Moving her hands to Eri's shoulders, she pulled away a little to look into Eri's face. There was so much pain, sorrow and suffering and it hurt to see her so sad it was almost like she was looking at a complete stranger who only vaguely resembled her daughter. "Oh Eri... I wish we could have spent more time together."
"So do I..." Eri wept, trying to catch her breath between sobs before asking, "Why... Why aren't you letting them treat you?" Seeing her look away, Eri felt like she had just been stabbed in the heart with a knife. "Mom?"
"I... It was... I can't handle it..." Struggling for words, it was clear something was bothering the woman and Eri knew exactly what. The ordeal was traumatic, the capture, tattooing and subsequent cutting off of the right hand before being lowered into a carbonite freezing pit right after seeing her late husband once again among the living. "Every time I close my eyes... I see those horrible people... the cold... Cid..." shivering suddenly, Eri quickly hugged her Mom again and made a desperate attempt to change the subject, the fear that she might go into shock.
"I don't want to lose you," Eri managed, hoping to sway the decision in the other direction. "I... Dad... Dad died.... again..."
That caught Eri off guard. "Y-You do?"
Looking over, Eri was surprised to see such a warm smile on her Mom's face as she said, "We shared a lot of good times together and, well, it's just one of those things you know. You'll understand one day." The smile faded as she added in a regretful tone, "I wish you and I could have spent more time together. I'm sorry I wasn't always there for you... I'm sorry I was hardly ever there..."
Eri shook her head vigorously. "No. It's okay, you had work to deal with and had to support Dad and I."
A sigh escaped. "That's no excuse. I wanted to be a part of your life as much as your Dad, more even. I wanted you to be happy and pursue your dreams, to become a musician. I know he had other plans and I'm ashamed to say I wasn't in the picture enough to help influence you more than he did..."
It tore Eri up to hear her Mom speak those words. The fact they were true made it hurt even more as Eri had always thought that she just didn't care all that much, preferring to hop around the galaxy as an excuse to stay away from home. Eri opened her mouth to speak but she couldn't find the words to express her thoughts.
"I hear that you've still kept up with the piano though," she continued, smiling once again, a forced smile though she made it look so easy. "I hear they have on here in the hospital auditorium." The twinkle in her eyes conveyed the rest of the message that she didn't need to say anything more.
Eri again couldn't find the words. Her mother was dying and yet, rather than be treated, she wanted to hear Eri play on the piano? She wanted to protest, or somehow force her into the operating room, but instead Eri nodded and lead the way, her mother controlling the repulsor bed and following her out the door before coming up alongside her daughter. The trip to the auditorium was painfully quiet, Eri fighting to keep the tears away. They were nearly at the room when Eri finally found her voice and opened her mouth to speak. Sadly, her Mom was faster than she was.
"This is nice," she began softly, smiling warmly, "Being able to spend time with you like this." Looking up at her daughter, her smile grew even bigger. "You've grown up into such a fine young lady."
"Oh Mom..." Eri laughed a little, feeling slightly embarrassed at the statement. She smiled a little and her Mom giggled a little. "W-What's so funny?"
"Just your reaction," she answered, adding, "Your father is right though, you really did inherit my smile."
They entered the massive room and approached the large grand piano that was at the other end. "What should I play?" Eri asked, having a list of songs she had committed to memory though maybe a little out of practice.
"Whatever you feel like." It was a response Eri had hoped she wouldn't hear as she didn't know what to play right now especially as she only felt sad and afraid. Taking her place, she glanced back at her Mom who was patiently waiting for her to play something. "Take your time. Just remember, let the music flow and play from the heart."
Eri swallowed down the sadness that tried to resurface. 'Let the music flow' and 'play from the heart' were the first lessons she ever gave me... Briefly, her mind flickered back to her days as a kid, sitting at the baby grand at home, her Mom sitting on the bench next to her, teaching her about the powerful thing called music. Eri cherished those lessons not just because it was fun but because they were the only times she got to spend any real quality time with her mother and they were so few and far between. Placing her fingers on the keys, Eri looked up to the ceiling, trying to force the tears away. This is for you Dad... Mai... Everyone...
She started playing a tune she had only played a handful of times before. Eri had all but forgotten the upbeat tune she and Mai had played back in the lounge two years ago and, ironically, it was Wesiri who reminded her of those simpler times when everything in Eri's life had been going well and she didn't have a care in the world. Her fingers, overwhelmed with emotion, slipped up on the keys every now and then and Eri struggled to contain herself, cursing at each slip up while her Mom giggled, offering words of encouragement and support. Eventually Eri found her groove and the music flowed, filling the entire auditorium with the powerful sound of music. To Eri, the song somehow sounded hollow, she missed the violin accompaniment, she missed Mai, her Dad, everybody she had known and lost and as she played, in the back of her mind, she knew she was about to lose yet another person dear to her. Pushing those thoughts aside, Eri played on wanting to show her Mom how far she's come since they last played together. She wanted the music to lift up not only her Mom but her own soul and take it to place where she and everyone could enjoy it where there was no such thing as pain, suffering, death or sadness.
As it neared the end, Eri felt herself finally get into it fully, even feeling lifted up herself, buoyant, all the positive emotion pushing everything she had bottled up for the past while out of mind and soul. She no longer thought about the Dark Jedi and their selfish desires or the misguided decisions of Emperor Kane or the disaster that was Sarapin, Tsoss Beacon, Arkania, Empress Theta or any other number of recent campaigns. She didn't think about the countless people's lives she had ended, the children she killed or friends she lost. All that mattered right now was the music and the audience's enjoyment of it.
Finally the song came to an end and Eri sniffled once. She looked over to her Mom with a huge smile on her face, feeling years younger and happier than she had ever been in recent memory. Her Mom lay on the bed, eyes closed, her chest not moving at all with her head slumped to the side a little. There was a smile not unlike Eri's on her face too. For a long moment she sat in silence, waiting for the eyes to flutter open, a gasp to finally be released and some further expression of joy to escape...
Eri felt the pit in her stomach open up again as she waited, the seconds turning into minutes. Reaching over, she gently put a hand on top of her mom's folded hands. "M... Mom?" she choked out, her voice barely a squeak. "Please..." Hanging her head down, Eri started to tremble. "Please, don't leave me... You're all I have left."
Feeling something soft slowly grasp Eri's hand, she looked up with a gasp and saw her mom looking at her, light green eyes pooling up with tears that were trying to be held back. "Oh Eri, that was so beautiful... You really were telling me the truth. I-" the words got caught in her throat as she tried to express herself.
"Please Mom," Eri gave her hands a gentle squeeze, "Please, let the doctors treat you... I don't want you to go. There's still so much I need to show you, so much time we need to catch up on..."
A single tear finally found its way down. The resolve seemed to be wearing down. "Okay," she breathed in response, lifting her arms up and stretching them out for Eri as she came in close and embraced her tightly. Pulling back, she glanced once at the piano before looking back into Eri's bright, beautiful eyes that no longer seemed to carry the weight of the galaxy upon them. Picking up the small call button that was next to her, she activated it which would summon a medical droid over. "Could you play one more while we wait?"
Smiling, Eri laughed once as she turned back around. "Okay."
Watching her daughter place her fingers back on the keys, it was hard not to envision Eri as the little girl she once was, the smile on her face able to cure wounds better than bacta ever could. The sound of music was a powerful thing and, for the both of them, it's power further strengthened their resolve, to make up for past mistakes.