JainaTaat Rating: PG
Thrawn McEwok

A more twisted take on Jaina's assimilation within an insect hive-mind in the "Dark Nest" books.

"I don't know why she came back here," Han grumbled from somewhere just behind Leia. "I mean, she knows they were just controlling her mind." He glanced through the wax of the next cell in the Nest. "Nope, just bugs in there."

"Same here," Leia agreed, pursing her lips as they moved round the mica path that edged the waxy central hub of the Nest. The beams of their flashlamps danced like crazy, sweeping through the vast dark space to pick out flashes of the cold, gleaming architecture. Occasionally, bug-eyed Killiks moved past them, singly or in small groups; all seemingly oblivious to the intrusion.

"Perhaps that's the reason in itself," Leia added, her forehead tensing slightly. "The mind-control, I mean."

"She's my daughter," Han frowned back. "Why would she do that."

He glanced into the next cell, and shook his head again, pulling his head back out quickly, turning away. He had his blaster drawn in his free hand, she noted.

Leia was about to move off after him, when her beam caught a flash of something pale.

"Han, wait." He glanced at her. "Let's take another look."

Slowly, they leaned in through the entry, their flashlight beams sweeping the inside.

At first, it just looked like all the other cells — packed full of squirming Killiks, most of them about the length of a hand or a shin, but a few were larger, the size of frog-dogs or even human beings.

Then Leia saw a flicker of white amid the coloured chitin, and the tight throng of Killiks shifted, forcing a human body to the front — a pale-skinned young woman with the frozen expression of a Joiner — eyes wide and unblinking, matched by the open circle of her mouth.

"Bug****er," Han breathed.

Jaina stood, swaying slightly — as if she wasn't used to standing upright any more. Her long hair was still drawn back from her scalp in a broad fan, with Killik spinners braiding it into the wall of insects behind her even as she watched. The palms of her hands rested against the flexing chitin too — partially for support, but also to allow a constant stream of bugs to flow on and off her body, coursing across her skin her in a dance that wrapped chitinous figures of eight around her waist and shoulders.

Leia glanced at the rippling ropes of highlights in her daughter's dark hair, and saw currents of tiny beetles coursing and teeming amid the insect-woven braids. For a moment, she had a nauseating image of Jaina's skull hollowed out, her brain eaten and replaced by a nest of beetles.

Han had already turned away, and was throwing up violently just outside the door.

"Hi, Mom," her daughter said, in a dazed, happy voice. A thumb-sized insect dropped from her tongue to the floor. Her eyes flickered with concern. "Uhh, Dad too, I guess. We ... we'd like you to meet our friend."

"Friend?" Leia pursed, suppressing a shiver as she looked at the mass insects. Through the Force, she had an impression of vastness, a space full of Killiks that was big enough to hide an entire squadron of X-wings in — and for all she knew, Jaina's XJ7 was in there somewhere, drawn into the shifting mass of Killiks just like she had been. "There seems to be a lot of, uhh ... him ...?"

Jaina just smiled. A tiny Killik darted across her bare thigh, and then a pair of slender forelimbs slipped around her upper body. Leia nearly leapt as a huge, bug-eyed head leaned out of the solid lock of insects behind her daughter's form, curved mandibles carressing her throat in an alien gesture of affection.

Jaina leaned back in the Nest's embrace, reaching one hand up to stroke a chitinous curve as two more limbs slipped around her belly. She closed her eyes, and gently nuzzled the insectoid face.

Then, still smiling — flush with happiness — she looked back at her mother. The Killik head seemed to be smiling, too — radiating contentment through the Force.

Leia just stared open-mouthed at the creature that had once been her daughter.

"This is Taat, Mom," Jaina said. "Say hi?"

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