Ask Killik Sol-utions

Jasnah Atreides

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Fortress Vader, Mustafar

The medical facilities at the base were state of the art, just what she wanted. And even if she did not have the authority to get the personnel to make the best use of said facilities, the medical droids she had been allowed to use were still proving to be of great help. Even a fraction of the best the Empire had to offer was capable of getting great results, and as she stared at the figure behind the protective glass as he was injected with some of the killik serum, she was content with what she had been able to achieve so far.

But this was just the begining, they were barely scratching the surface of what the gift from the Free Worlds Senator could offer to the Empire. As if to punctuate her point, the human they had injected let out a feral scream and ripped himself free of the constraints that bound him to the examination table, and pushed the medical droid away to come charging straight for her. Somehow it knew who she was, so they did retain information from the prior turning. That was good, that was data she could use. But, science could only take her so far, and as the sealed chamber was flooded with gas that knocked out the newly joined subject, she turned to look at the chrono display on one of the consoles. It was almost time. Soon after another droid approached her with a message, her guest was here.

"Good," she replied, a smile on her lips, "let them in."

It had taken some fishing to find someone with the right combination of knowledge and willingness to help her, but she had finally found someone who fit the bill. And now that they were here, the real work could begin.

 

Sol Kenuk

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This was an eerie place that bled the dark side. It's very air seemed tainted, and it's shadows uncannily deep. Sol is unbothered by the atmosphere, but he is nonetheless intrigued. The fortress itself was equally imposing, but the Kel'dor landed his Interceptor without much issue. He was, after all, expected. It was a droid who greeted him, not entirely unusual, but as Sol is guided through the facility he can't help but notice the lack of living staff. It only worked to add to the ominous static that seemed to prick at the stale air with a wintry bite. The Sith's curiosity was certainly piqued.

Through various chambers and unsettling halls, the black robed figure is guided, towering and pale, he was akin to a sickly specter with eyes that glowed like fire. A fanged mask adorned his face, goggles that disguised his lurking vision, and at his hip, the spiked hilt of a crimson saber, bled by the Champion's own hand.

Jasnah had certainly found the perfect ally to her cruel experiments, for Sol himself was often inclined to participate in equally wicked studies.

When he's finally allowed entrance to the chamber where the other Sith was undoubtedly waiting, the Kel'dor takes long strides into the interior, and pauses a mere few feet away. The first thing he notices is the examination room, it's subject subdued by swirling vapors. The mystery grew ever more delightful. Sol doesn't ask where she gets the victims, he doesn't care. What was learned from the experiments would undoubtedly be useful, and well worth the suffering. Finally, his frigid vision flickers toward Jasnah herself, as the studious Kel'dor memorizes all that he can.

"This is quite the facility." A compliment, though it's not given with any intent of flattery or personal gain. Merely a comment spoken by one who enjoyed the eerie atmosphere of the stronghold. "What do you have so far?" Straight to business, as was often his nature. His vision dances back toward the sealed room, where the victim still rested unconscious upon the floor.


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Jasnah Atreides

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Jasnah nodded at the medical droid upon the Kel'dor's arrival, and the droid held out a datapad for the Sith to inspect. Letting him inspect the data first hand, she began giving him a rundown of what they had discovered so far.

"We know how much of the..." she paused, not sure what to call the duplicated sample, "serum must be consumed to initiate the joining process. Once a threshold is crossed the process seems to be instantaneous. I had hoped that there would an in intermediate stage where we could access the hive-mind without losing control, but so far that seems improbable." She turned away from the chamber which was now getting cleared of gas and a couple of droids had stepped up to strap the subject back to the examination table.

"That is as far as we got," she pressed her hand against a panel on the wall and the glass walls separating them from the examination room, "you have the expertise to take this further." She began walking towards the subject and gestured for Sol to take a closer look if he so desired.

"We have infected subjects, we have the serum itself," at this point she gestured at a door behind which more "volunteers" were waiting, "and we have more bodies to test it on." She waited, letting the Kel'dor make the call. She did not know the man, so it was a good way for her to learn more about the man she had thrown her lot in with, to understand what kind of man he was.

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Sol Kenuk

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Sol inspects the datapad briefly, before Jasnah's vocals draw his focus back to her. The ghastly Kel'dor tilts his head, listens with a studiousness reflected upon his pale expression. So far, she seemed to have accurately measured the amount of the Killik serum required to created a Joined. That might seem insignificant to some, but on the contrary, it provided valuable information on just how much a person could be exposed before their minds and spirits were stolen from them, snatched away by the arching talons of the hivemind. She mentions her hope for an intermediate stage, a point in which the victim was not yet Joined, but still connected. She seems to think it's impossible, but Sol's not so inclined to give up so easily. Perhaps the force itself would provide the solution to their problems.

As she turns toward the chamber, Sol steps closer, his frigid vision thoughtful as it rests upon the Joined, now firmly strapped upon the examination table. At the very least, they'd likely be able to tap into his mind, but getting any useful information from a hivemind that was millions strong seemed rather hopeless. Without an intermediate stage, piercing the mind of a Joined would not only be difficult, but dangerous. Sol had heard that the Killiks were force sensitive. If they attempted to probe into one's mind, would the hive then probe back? It wasn't a risk Sol would take without an appropriate failsafe in place. The Kel'dor had no desire to become Joined himself.

Sol steps deeper into the room as the barrier parts, peering at the man who had been strapped down. At the very least, he knows how to tell a Joined from not, most of the time. Joined didn't seem to react to pain. They didn't scream, or cry. They didn't react to torture. It made detecting them a lot easier than before. Ultimately though, that doesn't bring the Empire any closer to curing the so called Joined, or defeating the threat as a whole. It seemed that the best way to obliterate the Killiks was to infiltrate the hivemind, locate their nests, and predicts their attacks. Then it was a simple matter of elimination. So far, though, infiltrating the hivemind was a virtually impossible feat. His vision flickers toward the other so called volunteers, as Sol ponders their next potential move. At least Jasnah had done all the work for him in gathering victims for the experiments.

"Have you tried alchemy?" The Kel'dor's vision flickers back to the woman. He can't help but wonder if alchemy might open a few extra doors to them that hadn't been present before. Could they plant a seed within a victim's mind before they were fully Joined, and then use that seed as a backdoor into the hivemind? Something that could be accessed without being noticed, something implanted where the presence of a watchful Sith might go unseen. It would be akin to a traitor in the army, a rat, but in this case, it was one of forced creation. "I am admittedly still rather new to it, but I've had some success. I may have an idea." Sol knew how to mutate with alchemy, but altering the brain was something a bit different. Either way, it was worth a try.


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Jasnah Atreides

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"No," she replied, arms folded behind her as she observed the subject after the droids had strapped him in and stepped away, "its not really my area of expertise. So if you have ideas I'm all ears." She gestured towards the array of instruments scattered around the room, including a large machine with arms at the head of the table where the subject was strapped in. "Whatever you try, we can capture the data and analyze it till we hit on something that works. I'm sure with the right combination of iteration and innovation we can crack this puzzle."

She would wait for Sol to share his ideas, after all that was why she had reached out to him. Depending on what he said she would have to reconsider what her next steps would be. She had plans in motion, to capitalize on the Killik threat, but this was another opportunity, and when opportunity came knocking only a fool chose not to answer.

"There is also the option of trying to reach them telepathically after they are joined." She pondered out loud some time later. "More data for you to study, and if nothing else it might prove useful for any Sith facing them in the future to know if it would be effective. Heck, we should just test out a broad range of attacks against both joined and killiks, see if anything changes how they act."

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Sol Kenuk

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The Kel'dor quiets, thoughtful as he gazes upon the Joined with wintry eyes. His companion seemed to have no experience with alchemy, and with Sol having precious little, he's not entirely sure about his level of confidence in utilizing it against the Killiks. It was still worth a try, and with a clear enough goal in mind, Sol thinks they have some chance.

"A backdoor. A mole, if you will. If we can... carve out a piece of the victim's mind for ourselves before subjecting them to the Joining, we might have a gateway into the hivemind itself. With that, we could predict their movements." It would be a forceful and uncomfortable procedure for the victim, but ultimately, their suffering didn't matter. Only results did. "Reaching a Joined telepathically after they have been joined is a bit more difficult than implanting our own backdoor into the mind beforehand. If the hivemind senses our presence, and they will, our own minds could be in danger." The Kel'dor would not connect to a Joined's mind unless he was certain there were failsafe's in place.

"As for attacks against the Killiks themselves, I think that wiping them out may be easier to do than initially realized." Sol recalls the holonet about unison, and working together to create something to eliminate the Insectoid threat. While the Sith champion was just as willing as any other to obliterate the catastrophe that was the hivemind, that still left the Joined in the wake of the destruction.

"I could synthesize a neurotoxin that will decimate the Killik population, provided I can get my hands on supplies. Aspiretech has the resources to get the neurotoxic compounds." More specifically, those that targeted the Killiks themselves. "You have a lab, samples, and multiple droids already on hand. We have a head start in combating the Killiks themselves, and I've got a fairly good idea on how to do so. Predicting the Hivemind's movements is certainly an added bonus." And that was where the alchemy, and their so-called 'backdoor' would come into play, if Jasnah decided it was something worth exploring.

"Do you have the means of running brain scans on our Joined subjects?" The Kel'dor inquired boldly, a single talon toying with his fanged maw, an idle gesture of contemplation. Seeing as how this was a lab outfitted with multitudes of medical technology, including the droids themselves, Sol isn't doubtful that they had most of what they needed on-hand.


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Jasnah Atreides

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"I have a contact," she mused, remembering a "friend" of hers who had taken great pleasure in rebuking her about her family's status, "who specializes in the telepathic uses of the Force. I am sure we can convince her to help us to breach a joiner's mind at different stages of infection. A cut of that Thorne grant will surely convince her to help." Well aware of the risks with such an endeavor, Jasnah had no intention of doing so herself, or letting Sol do it, what with him being the only arcanist she had at hand. That bitch Vivenna, on the other hand, could become a joiner twice-over for all she cared.

She thought back to the recordings of the fight on Thyferra, Jedi and Sith working together to kill joiners and killiks alike. Even Emryc Thorne, relying on pure physical ability, had been able to deal with them with ease. Joining did not seem to enhance their physical abilities in any way. "Easy enough to wipe out," she replied to Sol's comment about them being easy to deal with, "but it's always good to have more options at hand. I like being prepared, who knows when the most insignificant of details might prove useful. But worry not, that is something I can handle, just like any resources that you cannot acquire through Aspiretech."

She would nod at one of the medical droids, and a console on the side of the chamber would come to life, with up to date scans of the subjects brain activity. "Veles might not always show his face here, but he was one of the Empire's most experienced alchemists, so he made sure his labs were stocked. Now, in his absence, we reap the benefits."

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Sol Kenuk

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Sol's vision flickers back toward her, cold and yet swirling with curiosity. She claimed to have a contact, should they require it. Sol himself had plenty, but there was never truly enough. If this contact of her's could benefit them in their mission, then all the better.

"Sounds good, if you can get ahold of her." It meant less risk for Sol himself, so naturally, he was all for letting someone else risk their minds to the Joining.

The fact that they had brain scans on hand was even more delightful, and luckily for Jasnah, Sol was no stranger to science or the medical field. He couldn't heal, had no desire to, but he could recognize abnormalities when he saw them. He did, after all, co-own a medical company. Aspiretech's focus was on Cybernetics and therapy, but ultimately, the funds that the Kel'dor had access too would undoubtedly secure him the chemical compounds that he desired.

"I'll be able to gather the neurotoxins, for certain. Something that will target the Killiks specifically, and nothing else. An... insecticide, if you will. We'll need to make it transmissible in some form, though. Adding an irritant to the mixture to force coughing might be enough to spread the aerosols to other Killiks, which in turn, would rampage through their immediate population." That was, of course, provided the compound was stable, and that Killiks even coughed at all.

Of course, they were living creatures, they had to breathe, but most bugs didn't have lungs, per-say. Perhaps the Killiks were different, given their massive size. They'd likely need the support of lungs to maintain appropriate oxygen levels within their large bodies, particularly with their more humanoid shapes.

"Would it be possible to obtain a Killik for autopsy?" The Kel'dor questions the other Sith. They needed to know the anatomy of the enemy before they could truly work up something to target them, but that was far easier said than done. Killiks were rarely ever found alone, and obtaining the body of one would not be a simple task. Potentially, the corpses had been scavenged from recent battles with the bugs, but then, Sol certainly didn't have them off hand. Ultimately, that still left the Joined, and with the brain scans now pulled up and ready for observation, Sol is eager to get started.

"I didn't know Veles." Sol admits quietly, studying the scans with inquisitive eyes. "But I'm certainly impressed by the facility here." He comments, still working his way through the scans. "What do you notice immediately during and after a victim is Joined?" Perhaps she could narrow down his examination of the brain scans.


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Jasnah Atreides

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Jasnah took note of what was needed, the insecticides, the disposable telepath, and killik bodies to run autopsies on. The last one would prove to be the trickiest, as most attacks had so far been in Independent Systems or Free Worlds planets, and she wasn't sure if any of the forces deployed in those battlefields had had the foresight to pick up some killik bodies, dead or alive. "The killiks don't seem to be in any mood to slow down their offensive," she replied, "it should be easy enough to instruct some troops to collect some bodies for your needs. A living sample might seem even more useful, but might be trickier to procure, but given enough time we should be able to get our hands on a few."

She typed a few quick notes in her datapad, a few reminders, a few ideas on how to go about getting what was needed, and a random entry for some shopping she had completely forgotten about and had suddenly recalled. At least this time it wasn't when she was out looking for a snack in the middle of the night and had no way to do anything about it.

She thought back to the few turnings she had witnessed before his arrival. "As a precaution we had the subjects strapped in while administering the serum, as far as we could tell the conversion was fairly sudden. One moment there was no reaction and the next they were straining against their bindings and trying to escape. But I wonder if being in a stressful situation made the transition easier? Lowers the mental barriers, makes it easier for the hive mind to take hold. I do wonder," she was silent for a moment, letting her mind wander down this new line of thought, "would someone trained in the Force, if aware of being administered the serum, be able to hold off the conversion for a while. Might be a means to peak into the hive mind, if only briefly."

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Sol Kenuk

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As his eyes remain on the scans ahead of him, the Kel'dor does nod his agreement with Jasnah. Getting ahold of a dead killik for autopsy wouldn't be entirely simple, but nabbing a live one was an entirely different story. Ultimately, though? It was their best option at testing the chemical weapon that Sol wanted to create.

"Killiks rarely travel alone." Sol comments thoughtfully. Ruusan would likely be the best place to look, but getting onto the planet would be more of a suicide mission, and even if they made it past the Killik navy that blockaded the world, escaping it with a live Killik would be utterly impossible. "Perhaps a few were left behind on worlds that the Killiks failed to take." The Kel'dor thinks aloud. Thyferra was one, but Korriban was likely the best option. If there were Killik scouts left behind on the ancient Sith world, then Sol and Jasnah would be knocking out two birds with one stone, in a way.

Well, it seemed they had a bit of a game plan in place. For now, Sol would focus on reading the scans, and potentially connecting safely with the hive-mind. He still thinks that Sith Alchemy is the safest option, as opposed to subjecting another Sith to it. The Killiks didn't need anymore force users under their control. Regardless, Sol would gather the neurotoxins he desired from Aspiretech, and Jasnah would get a hold of a Killik body for autopsy. Then, perhaps together, they'd attempt to capture a live one.

"I'm not going to volunteer myself." The Kel'dor remarks dryly at Jasnah's last words. "Nor should we risk subjecting any Sith to the Joining without precautions. Unless, of course, you want a rogue Joined Sith reaping havoc within Imperial space." Sol doubts the Empire would be too happy about such a scenario, and neither would the Kel'dor.

His eyes do linger upon something on the first brain scan though, initially passed over, but the more he peered at it, the more the abnormality seemed to take shape.

"You are certain this individual had no signs of brain damage before the Joining?" Sol questions curiously, before his eyes shift toward the rest of the unfortunate volunteers. "I'll need to see the scans of another Joined." He decides, because if this was an abnormality shared across the Joined, then it was certainly a remarkable find indeed.


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Jasnah Atreides

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Jasnah smiled at Sol un-volunteering himself from her proposed experiment, not that she expected him to. He wasn't some starry eyed acolyte looking for any opportunity to prove their worth. "I hear you were present when Lord Raze dealt with the Jedi loving traitor," she spoke after a moment, well aware that it had been his class that had been interrupted by the incident but feigning ignorance to see how he felt about a would be traitor ruining things, "I'm sure no one would object if the next one ends up having to volunteer for the greater good of the Empire. Besides," she turned to him with a smile, "the risk of them being a threat would be greatly reduced if they are freed of their limbs before the experiments begin." It wasn't cruelty that drove that thought, but simple practicality. Of course it would counter the premise of not being stressed at the time of joining. Maybe if they were hopped up on drugs, spice maybe? That was a thought, for later.

"No," she replied without having to check with the medical droids, "no prior brain damage. They were all in almost perfect physical condition, barring a few nutritional abnormalities." She was no scientist, but even she knew that such an experiment would work best if the subjects did not have any prior conditions to contaminate the results. "Why, something catch your eye?"

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Well, he hadn't expected his class on force lightning to be brought up, but he does follow the line of thinking well enough, a jolt of dry amusement clouding his mind as the other Sith speaks. Sol responds with a dark drawl, "Ah, quite the spectacle. That class turned into a circus well before Darth Raze showed up." The Kel'dor snorts, and though there's some annoyance there, she might sense an equal amount of humor. If Sol ever saw John Q again, though, he'd certainly be more inclined to use the Acolyte for target practice.

"A shame you missed it. The disgraced Champion defeated Vahliri in a duel, severed her arm." Venomous satisfaction oozes through his thoughts. "A shock to everyone there, I think. Even lord Raze let him live after that." Such a show of skill could not be denied, despite the circumstances. "You have a good idea, regardless. If anyone else decides to tempt fate within the Sith, I don't see any reason why we couldn't utilize them as the experiment. After all, if they're not going to be useful to the Empire willingly, then they should lose their ability to make that choice." Much like Jasnah, the Kel'dor saw the practicality of it, even if some might think it cruel.

But back to the brain scans, the Sith is still peering at them with narrowed eyes, and the cold, calculating glimmer of a studious scientist. With the confirmation that all subjects were healthy prior to the Joining, Sol thinks he's found a lead. They'd need a bit more scans, first, just to compare with the other Joined 'volunteers', but ultimately, if they shared the abnormality, then Sol's certain he's made a breakthrough.

"The corpus callosum-" Sol points it out with a long claw, "It's been altered. There appears to be some sort of damage, or mutation. In other words, we might have just found how the Joining works. If it targets the corpus callosum, then the hivemind will be able to send it's own signals through the hemispheres of the brain, essentially bringing the victim under their control." With the Killiks being a telepathic species, the signals they sent would obviously override those that were natural of the host, and in turn, make them slaves to the hivemind.


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Jasnah Atreides

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Jasnah did not miss the tone in the Kel'dor's voice as he spoke about the champion who had lost her arm, and wondered if there was more there than she had first assumed. Taking a mental note to make inquiries of her own about the relationship between Sol and Vahliri, she let the other champion draw the conversation back in the direction of the matter at hand.

"Interesting." She gave the simple response to Sol's explanation, following some of it but not all of it. She had passed her xenobiology courses in the academy, but had no fond memories of the coursework, and did not remember enough to decipher more than the fact that he was talking about parts of the subject's brain.

"How sure are you of this?" As confident as he seemed, she was already thinking about the next steps. He would have to run more tests, and there were only so many bodies she could pass off as volunteers before people started taking notice. And then there was the matter of finding Killiks, if he needed some for this as well. "Is there a way to test this? Some way to undo the damage to the corpus whatever to see if it does anything? Disrupts the hive's signal, or something like that."

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Sol turns his head, peers at the woman as she speaks. How sure was he? Well, that all depended on how sure Jasnah was that the brain damage hadn't been present before the joining. Only further tests would tell.

"There's definitely an abnormality there. The only way to be completely certain is to compare the scans of this individual to other Joined." He advises smoothly. "As for undoing the damage..." He hadn't really thought much about it after the discovery. He supposed that, with the knowledge of which part of the brain had been altered by the Killik pheromones, it might be possible to create a cure. That wasn't exactly the Kel'dor's strong suite, though.

"Potentially, if we regenerate the corpus callosum. We could, theoretically, clone the brain cells of the victims and repair the damage. I can't guarantee it'll work, and it's quite expensive to do. You'll want to contact an actual doctor, I think." Sol points out. He was a chemist, not a neurosurgeon.


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Jasnah Atreides

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"Well," she said as she gestured towards the door through which the subjects had been brought in, and beyond which more awaited, "we might not have a limitless stock of subjects, but for now it should be enough to allow you to run a few more tests. Once you run out," she paused, wondering how best to deal with that eventuality, "we'll just figure something out when the time comes. As for a doctor."

She made a quick gesture which made one of the droids to step forward, an Emdee unit that had been running the experiments before Sol's arrival. "Start running a full medical checkup on subjects going forward, I want a full report before they are administered with the killik serum." The droid nodded, already transmitting the command to the other droids at the facility who were at her disposal. "And begin running sims on possible ways to deal with the damage reported in the corpus callosum of the subjects if they show similar damage in infection." The droids might have lacked the sentient spark to spot the abnormality that Sol had noticed, but given a direction they could run through the existing protocols in their database to see if any existing procedures or treatments could help the joiners in any way.

As the droid moved to carry out the orders, Jasnah returned her attention to Sol. "Might be along shot, but might as well put them to work while they are on hand. If they don't get anywhere I can try to get a doctor to show up and help out, someone we can trust. Any suggestions?" He fit very well into the classic definition of a mad scientist, and if the holonet was anything to go by, they were the sort to keep their ears to the ground about others of a similar disposition. Things would move a lot faster if he had anyone in mind, though it would not be the end of the world if he didn't. The good thing about doctors was that she could easily sell a story of wanting to cure the joiners, and get more than a few kind souls sign up to help them.

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Ah yes, the little problem of running out of volunteers. Easily solved, Sol thinks. There were plenty of neutral worlds in the galaxy that could be harvested for subjects. After all, nothing stated that the pair would have to use Imperial citizens, right? Better that they didn't, in fact. Sol and Jasnah could take however many they wished from the neutral worlds, so long as they were underhanded with the process.

His cold eyes shift toward the Emdee unit curiously. His fellow Sith certainly had an assortment of droids at her disposal. Where she got them all, Sol isn't sure. He's not the type to complain about it though. The staff, robotic as they may be, were proving to be quite beneficial. As for an actual, sentient doctor, the Kel'dor really couldn't help much with that. Aspiretech had surgeons and technicians, but nobody that specialized in the brain, or regenerating such tissue. Still, he supposed he could ask around. Many doctors knew other medical professionals within the community.

"I'll contact Aspiretech when I retrieve the neurotoxins. Perhaps they'll know someone with the qualifications to help us there." Sol offers with a bit of a shrug. "In truth, though, I'm less interested in a cure for the Joined, and more focused on destroying the Killiks themselves. Perhaps we can simply... put the information we've learned about the corpus callosum out over the holonet. It would certainly make us look good." A conniving smirk spreads behind the Kel'dor's fanged mask.

"With that out there, perhaps someone else can pick it up, and begin testing a cure for the Joined." The Star Guardians came to mind. Whether or not they had the resources to help with such a thing, Sol doesn't know, but perhaps they'd be willing to try. "We would have the good will of the galaxy. Even more-so if this Insecticide works." The Kel'dor points out.

For now, they should work on insuring that the damage to the corpus callosum was consistent across all Joined. After that, Sol would need to get started on his neurotoxins. He's still going to need a Killik for autopsy, and a live one to test the effects of the poison.

"Let's bring out another volunteer. I want to start comparisons on the corpus callosum while I'm here. Then we'll work towards getting a hold of a few Killiks. I need a dead one for autopsy, and a live one to test the neurotoxins." At the very least. Of course, it would be even better if the two Sith could capture more than one live Killik. That wouldn't be easy, though. "It might be easier to create the chemical weapon first, and then test it on living Killiks out in the field ourselves." They wouldn't have to capture any then, provided the weapon worked well enough.

"I'll still need that dead one, though." After all, knowing the anatomy of the creatures would be crucial.


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