Marc Avis brought Targon to a penurious area, where every structure looked like it was about to collapse at any moment. Poor folk were littered all over the place, digging through garbage to find food. They all seemed to ignore the pair of strangers walking past them.
“Doesn’t the Republic do anything to help these people?” Targon asked.
The soldier sighed. “Yes, what aid can be spared for this world is sent to alleviate the suffering of the poor…but I’m afraid that most of the supplies never reach the people.”
“Why?” Targon asked, though he had a suspicion as to the reason.
“The government is full of greedy and selfish criminals masquerading as officials.”
“And yet the Republic works with them? Don’t they do more to stop the corruption?” Targon felt disgust rising in his stomach at the idea of the Republic working with criminals that starve their own people.”
“If I could do anything about it, I surely would,” Marc stated indignantly, for he felt that the Jedi’s accusatory tone was directed to him as well as his superiors. “I follow my orders, and I do what I’m told. I’m no commander, and I’m definitely not someone with power to bring supplies directly to the people.”
“Yes you are,” Targon countered.
“If I were a smuggler or a vigilante, then sure,” Marc shrugged. “But I’m a soldier – and there are rules to follow for a soldier. You wouldn’t understand, Jedi.”
Targon sighed. “I suppose I wouldn’t. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you. It’s just…I’ve never really seen suffering like this…up close and in person.”
“Well,” Marc’s tone softened when he himself realized that the Jedi meant well. “As a soldier, you end up seeing a lot of pain – on all sides of the conflict. These folks here, most of them are relatives and supporters of the separatists. I can’t say I blame them.”
“Won’t they have a problem with us?” Targon asked.
“Nah, they’re too busy trying to survive. And I keep on good terms with the guy in charge here. Jethro Pax, he’s called…and he’s the guy we’re going to see.”
“Is he part of the separatists?”
Marc nodded. “Head of one of the cells in the region. If you want to talk peace with the separatists, he’s a good one to see.”
“How is it you keep an amicable relation with him if he’s an enemy? Don’t your commanding officers…?”
“What? You think my superiors know about everything going on here?” Marc cut him off. “They’re too busy trying to run the cities, let alone manage what the troops do. Besides, nobody cares what old Greyhawk does.”
They came at last to a building that was supposed to be a library – or at least it used to be. No computers or books remained. Instead, the shelves and ragged furniture was put up as a series of barriers in the building. There wasn’t anyone around, which Targon thought odd, if it was where a separatist leader hung around.
Suddenly, three armed men emerged from clever hiding spots. They were out so fast that Targon didn’t have time to even sense their presence and intent before both he and Marc were surrounded – with blasters pointed at their heads.
“Are you greeted so hostile every time you come to visit?” Targon asked.
“Hostile? No, Jedi, this is a rare friendly greeting. They must have seen me coming a ways off and put down their guard a bit.”
Targon glanced at the closest blaster’s muzzle, mere inches from his ear. Friendly, eh? He’d hate to see an unfriendly greeting, then.
A man came out of the building. He was dressed in old body armor that was in dire need of cleaning. Actually, everything about him needed some cleaning – but then, Targon figured that the separatists wouldn’t be any better off than the civilians with the government being as it was.
“Well, Greyhawk,” the man laughed. “You’ve snuck away from your post for another chat, huh?” He shook Marc’s hand, and then regarded Targon. “I see you brought company…a Jedi, no less.”
Targon bowed his head in greeting. “My name is Targon Karashi, and I’m here to…”
The man cut him off. “Inside, we talk inside,” he pointed to the entrance of the building. The man led in Marc and Targon, and the armed guards followed behind them.
“You must be Jethro Pax,” Targon supposed when they finally came to a stop.
“Indeed I am,” the dirty man said. “Now, what’s your business in coming here, Jedi?”
“My master and I are here to promote possible peace talks between the planetary government of Ord Mantell and the separatists.”
“Those criminals are not our government,” Jethro frowned. “And I don’t like anyone considering them as such, or even hinting at them.”
“I’m sorry,” Targon apologized. “All I was meaning to say was that we want to bring peace to this world.”
“For all I know, the Republic could be using your Jedi peacefulness to draw us out and ambush us. I’m no fool to underhanded tactics in war, Jedi.”
“I assure you this is no plot of treachery,” Targon said.
“Yet what good is the word of a stranger?” Jethro asked. He held up a finger to silence Marc before he spoke. “And don’t try to sway me with your personal assurance, Greyhawk. I have no way of knowing whether you’re working for yourself or your masters in this instance.”
“Pax, you know me,” Marc protested.
“Maybe not as well as I should,” Jethro countered. “And I certainly don’t know this boy here.” He turned back to Targon. “If you really want to convince me of serious intent of peace, then you’ve got to prove it.”
“How can I do that?” Targon asked. In the back of his mind, he was starting to get nervous at the whole situation. Technically, he was speaking to a rebel and an enemy…but wasn’t he also a person and a man believing in his actions?
“You probably noticed the starving folks outside – my people,” Jethro pointed out the window. “Jedi are meant to help the weak and the suffering, aren’t they? I want you to raid a shipment of supplies that the worms in the government are shipping to their personal estates. Bring the food and aid to the people, and then I can consider going along with your plan to negotiate with us.”
Targon’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “You want me to steal? I can’t do that.”
“They are the one’s who have stolen from their own people!” Jethro said boldly. “You can’t steal from someone when it doesn’t belong to them in the first place. I would have thought a Jedi would know that.”
Targon did not know what to say to that. The only thing he could think of was to counsel with his master, and see what he thought about the matter. His thoughts were interrupted by Jethro’s next statement.
“Spies say a large shipment will soon pass the river a few kilometers east. That will be your target. Well, Jedi, are you going to help the people? Or are you going to keep throwing in your lot with the government?”
There was no time for contemplation, and certainly no time to get back to his master. He had to make a decision…but what? Should he refrain from getting so involved in the conflict? He came to make peace, not join in the fighting. Yet…could he sit and do nothing while people starved? Such was not the way of the Jedi.
To Marc it was a clear and easy choice – even though he had some of his own concerns to deal with. He clapped Targon on the shoulder. “Of course young Targon here will accept the mission, won’t you?” He raised a gray and bushy eyebrow.
“I…” Targon hesitated, but then he made the decision. “Yes, I will get the supplies. There’s probably no chance of simply talking about the matter and getting the food through diplomacy, is there?”
Jethro laughed. “No chance. We’ve been fighting the government for years…and they aren’t about to allow the poor and destitute respite any time soon. You’re probably going to have to fight them for the contents of the shipment, but that shouldn’t be too difficult for a Jedi.”
Targon sighed. “I guess I’d better be leaving now.”
He was shown to the door, and he walked slowly eastward. There were heavy footsteps tromping a little behind him.
“What are you doing, Marc?” Targon asked.
“You didn’t think I’d get you into this sort of mess and then just leave you to get out of it by yourself, did you?” the soldier asked.
“Couldn’t you get in trouble with the military for aiding the enemy? I can’t allow you to put yourself in that situation.”
Marc shook his head. “What does old Greyhawk care for those bums that run the Republic military from their fancy offices? This is about helping real people – about standing up for the principles that the Republic claims to uphold. If I end up being court-martialed for this, well then, I’ll still have felt better about today than my entire career in the military.”
Targon was awed by this man’s devotion, and it shamed him that he had actually had to think about his assignment – and even considered walking away from it. Well, now he was involved. It was nice to know he wasn’t going to be completely on his own.
He just hoped he wouldn’t disappoint his master.
Tieru leaned on his staff, using his free hand to rub his forehead in exhaustion and frustration. Yet another secretary brushing him off. He easily resisted the urge to simply force his way through and get results. Such was not the way a Jedi behaved – and he had over one hundred years’ worth of experience to tell him that confrontation is not the way to handle a situation – except in the rarest occasions. A stubborn office clerk was no such case.
Still, this work was getting tedious and was wasting a great deal of time. All the while, the conflict continued; somewhere on the planet, someone was dying or suffering. Did these government officials care? It became more and more apparent that they did not.
Targon had been gone quite a while, but as he had not made any progress, Tieru deemed it unnecessary to summon his padawan yet. He might be in the midst of getting somewhere Tieru was not. Then again, he might have gotten in trouble. Or he could have simply taken a longer stroll…there was no reason to jump to any conclusions.
He remembered Boreos – that old Lorridian – and he decided that since he couldn’t get anywhere, now was the best time to seek him out.
Tieru walked just outside the city and found a nice patch of ground to kneel down and slip back into meditation and the field of white. His mind searched and called out to his friend. There was no reply.
Following the trail of Boreos’ presence through the Force, he came to a monastery deep in wild space. A place ancient and forgotten. There was a darkness hanging thick in the air, like he felt on the world he tracked Urak to. No stench of death – there was any life there to begin with except one. The familiar feel of his old friend…yet his spirit had passed beyond the mortal world.
Tieru sighed sadly. Urak and Boreos were both dead. And there was only one person who could have possibly located them – and have been so dedicated in seeing them dead.
So they were being hunted one by one. Yet Tieru couldn’t understand how…how could he be finding them? Nearly fifty years…
Something brought him back to his physical surroundings. Three men stood around him. Three dirty, burly, and armed men. Tieru did not have to guess who they were, or what they wanted.
“Can I help you, gentlemen?” he asked calmly.
“You could hand over your possessions,” the biggest of the trio replied.
Tieru shook his head. “I’m afraid I have nothing that would interest you.”
“We’ll be the judge of that,” another of the thugs said. “You’ve got a nice animal skin, you might give us that.”
“What would you want with that?” Tieru asked, rising to his feet. “It’s so old – I’ve thought about getting a new one.”
The first man pointed to his dangling lightsaber. “That would be worth a lot to us, Jedi. Hand it over, and we’ll be on our way.”
“And don’t try pulling it out,” the last of the men barked. “I’ve got a blaster pointed right at your head. You try anything, and you’re fried. I’m the fastest shot on this side of the planet.”
“Are you separatists or just common thieves?” Tieru inquired.
“What’s it matter?”
“Not much,” the old Jedi shrugged. “I don’t want to pick a fight, but you’re not getting anything from me.”
“You must be senile, old man,” the man took a step closer, keeping the blaster trained on him. “I guess we’ll just kill you and take whatever you’ve got. Starting with the lightsaber…”
Tieru sighed. “The saber is not the weapon you should be worried about.” In a blur, he twirled his staff around and swatted the blaster out of the thug’s hand. Then he crashed the thick wood against the man’s head.
One of the others drew a knife and lunged. Tieru twirled the staff, knocked away the leading arm, and jabbed at the man’s chest. He dropped, gasping for breath.
Then Tieru faced the last man, who had a pair of pistols out and was inching to pull the triggers. Suddenly, he found the guns yanked out of his hands and thrown to the ground. Tieru then swiped his staff and knocked the man’s legs out from under him. The thug fell with a thud, and Tieru incapacitated him by rapping his cane against the man’s gut.
The incident was over in a few seconds. All three men were down – one unconscious, two struggling for breath. Before they could recover, Tieru walked off and headed back to the city. He had been meditating for several hours, apparently, by the movement of the planet’s sun. It might be time to find Targon and continue with his business.
Still, his mind was heavy with sorrow for the deaths of his friends…and the worry that Eseri was next on the forsaken one’s list.