Targon kept quiet during the trip. He said a quick farewell to some of his friends at the temple, and then he followed Master Tieru silently to the ship that would take them to Ord Mantell.
It was a small diplomatic ship, carrying several other ambassadors, suppliers, and office transfers. The Jedi pair were the last passengers to board before it took off and headed towards the war-torn planet. There, each of the passengers would go their separate ways Most to Republic military bases, others to offices in the cities. It was more than likely, Targon noted, that he wouldn’t be seeing most of these people again. So nobody bothered to get to know each other, despite the long and boring flight.
Tieru noticed the troubled thoughts from his padawan’s mind. He let the lad alone for a while, but soon he turned to his apprentice.
“Would you like to tell me what is bothering you, Targon?” he asked softly.
Targon looked up at his master. “I had a rough night, master.”
“So I see,” Tieru nodded. “You’re a little dark under the eyes, suggesting you didn’t sleep well. Not to mention your tired expression. But I’m guessing it was more than simple insomnia.”
Sighing, Targon said, “I had a disturbing dream…it may have been a vision.”
“A vision?” Tieru’s eyebrows rose slightly. “What did you see?”
“It was frightening, master, deeply entrenched in the Dark Side.”
“Indeed? What was it? Was it about you?”
Targon shook his head. “I was witnessing it, but I wasn’t participating. There was a dark cavern, with a walkway and a platform high above an abyss. There was an old woman…a Sith, I think. She was destroyed by her apprentice.”
“Killed? Like a coup or an assassination?” Tieru inquired.
“No master…I say destroyed because that’s what it was…She was ripped apart – at the molecular level.”
Tieru’s hand came to his chin in a pondering gesture. “I’ve heard of such techniques through the Force – but such is rare and terrible. It requires great power and enslavement by the Dark Side.”
“The apprentice,” Targon continued, “he was most frightening. He appeared completely ravaged by the Dark Side, his whole body…and his eyes…”
“Were there any names?” Tieru asked. “Did you learn who they were?”
“The old woman called her apprentice…Khan.”
Master Tieru’s expression betrayed nothing of what he thought. But when Targon mentioned the name of the man in his vision, his master questioned him no more.
“Is something wrong, master?” Targon asked.
“No, no…It is best to keep our minds focused on the here and now. We’ll be arriving at the planet soon enough and we need to be focused on our mission of diplomacy. We can discuss this later, and devote our full attention to it.”
Targon nodded, but he still felt uneasy. It was difficult to set aside such a disturbing vision, but he was able to keep his mind focused on the work ahead of him. He needed to remember all the proper etiquette that would be expected of him, the right things to say – and the proper time and manner in which to say them. While thinking, he happened to fall asleep. Peacefully, this time.
Seeing Targon asleep, Tieru stood up and walked to a secluded area of the ship for privacy. He then sat down in a meditative stance and closed his eyes. His consciousness left the ship and sailed through the depths of space to a calm and peaceful field of pure white. The light was nearly blinding, but he had long ago grown accustomed to it.
Here was where he had often gone in his meditations to find peace and solace. This was also where he could consult his closest friends, wherever they might be in the galaxy. He called out a name, and his voice seemed to echo endlessly through the empty field.
A figure faded in from the whiteness – a female Miraluka, slender and elderly. Her graying hair was tied carefully in a braid. She was dressed in soft blue robes, with a white band that covered where eyes would be, if she had any.
“Tieru, how good to see you,” she said with a soft smile. “How long has it been?”
“Too long, my old friend,” Tieru replied. “Almost fifty years.”
“Yet I suppose we had our reasons,” Master Eseri sighed. “What brings this meeting?”
Tieru replied, “A matter of grave importance. Do you know where the others are? Urak and Boreos?”
The Miraluka shook her head. “The others have been silent, and I have not been able to contact them over these many years. However, I suppose that could be considered a good thing, considering…”
“I’m afraid he is returning,” Tieru stated.
Eseri put her hand to her mouth in surprise. “Are you certain? How do you know?”
“My padawan has had a vision – and he saw Khan.”
“Impossible,” the Miraluka shook her head. “If he were still alive after half a century, he’d be a terribly old man. Humans do not live very long, and their strength fails them in their old age.”
“Not always,” Tieru countered. “You let your prejudice against the human species fool you into false security. Many humans have lived for long periods of time. The Force can strengthen and prolong life. And you know what Khan sought.”
“He was a blind fool then, Tieru, and if he still seeks immortality now, he is yet a fool. An old fool.”
“Like me, I suppose?” Tieru said, lightening the mood. “If Khan is returning, as my apprentice’s vision suggests, then we must warn the others.”
“I have tried to contact them, as I said,” Eseri shook her head. “I wonder if they are still alive. Fifty years is a long time, after all.”
“Not according to the universe, or the Force,” Tieru cocked his head.
“You continue to humble me, Tieru,” Eseri smiled in resignation.
“Only because you have much yet to learn, as do I.”
“Will you seek out the others then?”
Tieru sighed. “If you cannot find them, then I don’t know if I can. I lack the sight and clarity of the Miraluka.”
“You say that,” Eseri smirked, “and yet you seem to lecture me with your greater wisdom.”
“Wisdom and sight are not the same,” Tieru held up a finger. “But I have no need to lecture or instruct you, Eseri. You have been a master almost as long as I. Be watchful, my friend, for it would seem a greater darkness than the Empire is returning like a storm. I only hope we can stop it this time.”
Eseri bowed and then faded away. Left alone, Tieru at first tried to call out to the others…but as his friend had said earlier, they were not answering. He peered deeper, letting himself be taken on the currents of life through the Force, searching for Urak. That Feeorin was nearly as old as Tieru, and therefore had many more years to live.
He followed the path that his old friend had traveled through the galaxy, as though he were following his footsteps. They moved all over the Outer Rim…and then they stopped at a small world in a remote system. There were signs of recent life – whole cities, even – and now there was nothing. No life…and a lingering darkness. This was most distressing. Urak was nowhere to be found, his presence was not among the living.
Tieru then started to search for Boreos. He pursued the trail one planet after the other…
He suddenly felt himself yanked back into the world. Targon knelt before him, lightly shaking his shoulder.
“Master,” Targon said. “The ship has arrived at Ord Mantell.”
“Ah, yes,” the Jedi Master nodded and started to get up. He leaned a great deal on his staff for support. Targon took his arm and tried to help him.
“Thank you, my boy,” Tieru nodded to his apprentice. “We should be off at once.”
“What were you doing, master?” Targon asked. “Besides simply meditating?”
“Just meditating, Targon, just meditating.” He didn’t want to delve into this sort of thing at the moment. And certainly not with his padawan. This was something far beyond the boy’s control, and it would only put fear and unease into his mind.
Targon was frustrated. It had been hours since their arrival, and still they had yet to speak with anyone of importance with the government. The Republic garrison command had simply sent them off to the city center, and then the secretaries of the various departments had simply passed them around in circles.
Noting his padawan’s irritation, Tieru stopped before they entered into yet another office. He turned to Targon.
“Why don’t you go for a walk to relax your mind?” he suggested. “I’ll handle the obstinate business in here. I’ll contact you if I make any progress.”
“Are you sure you should be alone, master?”
“What? You think because I’m old I can’t handle a few politicians and their secretaries?” Tieru laughed. “I’ll be fine. It’s you who needs to find focus. And you definitely won’t find any walking in circles and listening to annoying officials direct us to a different department. I daresay the government on this planet is a joke.”
“That doesn’t sound very Jedi-like, master,” Targon smiled.
“No, I suppose it doesn’t. However, unhelpful individuals annoy even a Jedi Master. Yet, we must continue this work. Eventually, we’ll find someone who has the ability to see to any sort of peace talks. Perhaps you shall find a way on your walk – an unorthodox method. I’ve known many padawans that have done such.”
“Yes, master,” Targon bowed and walked down the street. There wasn’t much to be said for sights to see. Everything was run-down or damaged – consequences of the civil war. Soldiers were scattered through the area, most resting, others checking their gear.
Targon, while looking around inattentively, accidentally bumped into one. The bulk of the trooper nearly knocked him to the ground, but he caught himself.
“I’m terribly sorry,” Targon bowed.
The soldier turned around to face him. He was somewhat tall, and he was certainly a veteran. Targon noted his battle scars and gray hair. His armor was also battered, and well used.
“You’re quite alright, lad,” the soldier said. “I never could keep out of the younger generation’s way before, and I suppose it’s no different now.”
“I beg your pardon?” Targon raised an eyebrow.
“The name’s Marc Avis…but all the young boys call me ‘Old Greyhawk’.”
“Pleasure to meet you…Major?” Targon supposed, glancing at the insignia on the soldier’s armor. “I’m afraid I don’t understand what you mean by ‘out of the way’.”
“Well, you probably wouldn’t,” Marc sighed. “I am an old dog, a relic of the past war. I’ve no business being around young sports like you.”
“I suppose you’ve a few years over me to come up with that philosophy,” Targon said. “But I imagine you’re no grunt when it comes to the battlefield – you’re still here, aren’t you?”
Marc smiled. “Well now, I wasn’t expecting praise from a young lad – even a Jedi. Thanks.”
“Perhaps you could share your greater knowledge and experience with me?” Targon asked.
“How can I help?”
“My master and I have come to aid in possible negotiations with the separatists here on Ord Mantell – to put an end to the fighting.”
The major interrupted. “After all this time? The Jedi never came before – what’s with the change? All other attempts at diplomacy have failed. That’s kind of the reason this is a war-zone planet.”
“Well,” Targon chose not to be offended by the interruption. “The fighting has gone on for quite some time, and my master was hoping to bring an end to it.”
“Who’s your master?”
“His name is Tieru.”
“I’ve never heard of him,” Marc shook his head.
“No, you probably wouldn’t have.”
“So what’s your problem?”
Targon shook his head frustrated. “Everywhere we go to speak with someone useful in the government, we just keep getting sent to another office. And when we get there, they send us off again.”
Marc chuckled. “That’s not unexpected. The government of this planet is a bad joke, to be completely honest.”
Targon raised an eyebrow again. “My master said almost the exact same thing!”
“He was right,” the soldier sighed. He leaned in closer to him. “I’m not supposed to talk like this, but it’s really no secret that the whole planetary government is run by criminal cartels that threw in their lot with the Republic. If anything, you’ll probably find more success in diplomacy with the separatists…but that’s not saying much.”
“Thanks for the advice,” Targon nodded. “I certainly don’t want you to get yourself in any trouble.”
“Bah!” Marc scoffed. “I’m an old soldier – and command’s been trying to get me killed on the field for twelve years now. It doesn’t matter what I say.”
“Is there anything you could tell me about the situation on the planet? Or about the separatists?”
“Not much more than you probably already know,” Marc replied.
“Do you know any way to contact someone of the opposite side that might be interested in talking?”
“I don’t, but I know someone who will,” the soldier answered. “Follow me; I’ll take you to him.”
Targon followed, figuring to himself that if his master needed him, he would be contacted directly. Besides, Tieru would probably want Targon to start doing some Jedi business on his own. He needed to if he ever wanted to become a knight.