Targon awoke with a start; sweat beads were all over his face. He was lying on a weak and rickety cot. It was dark outside, and he had no idea how long he had been out. Standing over him were Marc and Jethro. Their looks were of relief, but also concern – probably with the intensity of how Targon awoke.
“You’re awake!” Marc gasped. “Are you alright?”
“What happened?” Targon asked weakly.
Jethro answered, “You collapsed while giving out supplies. No one could wake you, and some thought it was an attack.”
“A fearful proposition that was disproved quickly,” Marc waved his hand. “Do you know what happened to you? Why you fainted?”
“I…” Targon hesitated. He wasn’t exactly sure what he had seen. It was a vision, yet somehow he was interacting with it. That wasn’t normal. It was almost like he was communicating his voice and presence through the Force…and the two people had felt him and spoken to him.
“We don’t have much time to sit around chatting,” Jethro said. “The government authorities know about the missing convoy, and they’re probably going to hit here fast and hard. It’s time to get out of here. I’ve already started evacuating the civilians – my soldiers’ families. I think we need to go now, as well.”
“Why haven’t you already gone?” Targon asked.
“You weren’t in any condition to move,” Marc replied.
“Then you should go now, without me.”
Targon sighed. “I need to take responsibility for my actions.”
“You’re only in this as far as I am,” Marc stated.
“But I may be able to help you. The government of Ord Mantell doesn’t hold authority to punish a Jedi. They will take me to the city where I will be sent back to the Order to stand judgment. That gives you time to escape and avoid any retribution.”
“You’re willing to make that sacrifice for an enemy?” Jethro asked, amazed.
“I am. My master and I came here to build peace, not continue the civil war. Hopefully, this will help both sides see reason.”
“Then I’m staying with you,” Marc said. “I’ve got you into this, so I might as well face the consequences as well.”
“There’s no need,” Targon shook his head. “They might not even know who you are. If there’s a chance you can get out of this mess, take it.”
“Either you’re selfish for attention,” Marc sighed, “or you’re one of the most noble Jedi I’ve ever met. If they arrest you, I’ll be sure to bust you out – or die trying.”
“I pray that will not be necessary,” Targon said as he began to stand. “I’ll meet them outside the village. You need to get everyone out – including yourselves.” He wobbled a bit, still weak and uncertain from his experience. The vision remained clear in his mind…clear and horrible. But he pushed the fear aside so it would not distract him.
He walked out of the building, noticing the abandonment of the area. It looked like nobody was taking any chances with government retribution. From reports he had heard about the civil war, Targon remembered that many times whole villages were destroyed for housing enemy soldiers. It didn’t matter which side.
Targon was nearing the part of the city where he had left his master – the district of government administration buildings that had been ever so hospitable to them. He didn’t sense Tieru’s presence anywhere. And he didn’t see him…or anyone else, for that matter.
It must be a government curfew, or something. Nobody was about on the streets. But that wasn’t for long. Targon soon noticed half a dozen men coming his way. They were armed, and wearing the uniforms of the planet’s police force.
“Halt!” the lead man ordered when he saw Targon.
He did as he was instructed.
When they came nearer, the man observed, “You’re a Jedi.”
“Yes I am, officer,” Targon replied coolly.
“You match the description of a Jedi that raided a supply convoy earlier today. We are here to place you into custody and proceed with questioning.”
“Very well,” Targon submitted.
“You were also in the company of a traitorous Republic soldier. Where is he?”
“Well, he’s not here,” Targon replied.
“I don’t like smart-mouths,” the officer frowned. “Where is he?”
Targon sighed. “Truthfully, I couldn’t tell you.”
“You’re a fool if you think you can lie to us,” the officer got up in Targon’s face. “We know full well where the supplies you stole were taken.”
“If that’s so, why are you bothering with me?”
The officer smacked Targon’s face with his baton, sending him to the ground. Then cuffs were harshly put on his wrists and he was yanked back up to his feet. The officer pulled out a cigar and lit it. He took a puff and blew the exhaust into Targon’s face.
“You’re conspiring with separatists, Jedi,” he said. “Such treachery is punishable by death. And your friends will suffer the same fate. Fighter squadrons have been dispatched to nullify the hive of separatists you’ve aided. Those supplies had tracking beacons on them for such a case as this.”
Targon coughed at the smoke in his nose, but he kept calm. Perhaps the officer was lying? Trying to force a confession or a reaction? That would be plausible, but it didn’t make sense.
“Are you done? Are you going to take me away?” Targon asked. “I’d like to make sure my head is not badly injured.”
“Giving me attitude, are you?” the officer growled.
“So, sir,” Targon said, defiantly. He knew by his training that he shouldn’t get agitated, but the behavior of this officer was starting to rile him. And his discipline was starting to fail. These brutes had no idea what Targon had just seen. They were concerned about aiding the enemy, when he had just witnessed a Jedi Master be slain by unholy means.
“Let’s take this fool away,” the officer said to his group. A sound of distant explosions was heard in the silent night. “Ah, you hear that, Jedi? That’s the sound of your rebel friends being annihilated.”
The nasty smirk on his face made Targon angry. He shoved his elbow into the officer’s gut, but as he did so, another officer struck him from behind. Targon fell to his knees and felt a blaster be shoved up to his head. Targon tried to calm himself and focus on getting out of the cuffs.
He heard footsteps a little ways off. And then he heard a man shout, “Get back, citizen! This is official business!”
Suddenly, all the group’s weapons were pulled out of hands and holsters and thrown a great distance away. The footsteps grew nearer, and Targon could hear the distinct sounds of two feet and a wooden staff clapping against the road.
“Gentlemen, what is this all about?” the welcome voice of his master asked. “Unless my old eyes deceive me, you’re arresting my padawan.”
“This young man has stolen cargo from the District Administrator and given the supplies to separatist forces. He is an enemy to the government of Ord Mantell.”
“Now I find that just ridiculous,” Tieru said. “You must be mistaken.” That addendum was said in a familiarly dictated tone.
“I…must be…mistaken…” the officer responded slowly. “Yes, I must be mistaken.”
“You will release him and speak of this matter no more,” Tieru said.
“I…will release him and speak of this matter no more,” came the obedient repetition.
The cuffs on Targon’s hands were released, and the officers left. He remained on his knees for a moment. His head hurt, he worried that his master was displeased…and he feared that the people he had helped had been killed. Maybe they had escaped…but he wouldn’t be able to tell.
His master’s firm hand rested on his shoulder. “Well, Targon, I see we’ve had a bit of trouble today.”
“I’m sorry, master,” Targon said quietly.
“Well, why don’t you tell me what happened?”
Targon proceeded to relay his meeting with Major Marc Avis, his visit to the hideout of separatist officer, Jethro Pax; and the assignment he had been given to prove his honest intent on promoting peace. And then he told about his escapade with Marc against the Administrator’s convoy. Tieru listened intently, nodding with each new development.
“Have I done wrong?” Targon asked when he finished.
Tieru did not answer right away. He tapped his chin in thought, and then he answered, “No, Targon. I believe you did very well.”
“But, master?” Targon said, confused. “I stole, I attacked a government convoy…and I nearly got myself arrested.”
“Yes, that’s true. But, you found a way to talk to the separatists, you offered to negotiate for the supplies, and you fought only when they had provoked the conflict. And you gave the supplies to those who desperately needed it to survive. In my book, that’s how a Jedi should be. However, I think other – more traditional – masters would think differently.”
Targon smiled at his master’s praise, and thanked the Force he had a teacher who would have done the same as he had done. But the fear he had suppressed entered back into his mind. “Master, there’s something else.”
“What is it?”
“I experienced another vision…but it was different, and much worse.”
Tieru beckoned his apprentice to his feet. “Let’s get indoors. Some quarters have been prepared for us in an apartment complex a few blocks from here. It took a while to actually get them, but we might as well use them to our comfort for tonight.”
They arrived at the apartment, and when they were warm and settled, they each sat on one of the beds and faced each other.
“Now, Targon,” Tieru said, taking off his deerskin cloak and cowl. “Tell me about this vision.”
Targon related how he had collapsed suddenly, and then found himself in a chamber with an elderly Miraluka Jedi.
Upon her description, Tieru nodded. “Master Eseri, a very old friend of mine.”
Targon continued, informing his master of her sensing his presence and speaking to him, as though he were actually in the room. To that, Tieru admitted he was not sure how that was possible. Targon noticed his master holding something back and inquired into it.
Tieru sighed, “A lesson for another time, I believe. Suffice to say, it is possible for Jedi Masters to project their consciousness and communicate with other masters over great distances. However, I must say I know of only a few who can do so, and never has it occurred with a padawan. We must look into this, when we have the proper time to look into it. Now, please continue.”
Nodding, Targon then told of how the same dark person had entered, and destroyed Master Eseri the same way he had killed the witch in the previous vision.
Learning this, Tieru sighed, and grief was apparent on his face. “I was afraid of this,” he said solemnly. “It appears it was unavoidable. We knew about this…and we should have done more to guard against it…but perhaps that was not possible.”
“Master,” Targon said softly. “He sensed my presence in the vision. He mistook me for you – and he called himself Khan Arc-Saal. Who is he, master?”
Tieru was silent for a long while. His apprentice waited patiently until he spoke. “He is a man I had hoped would not return – yet I feared it may have been inevitable. Many years ago, not long before the Great War had begun, three Jedi Masters and myself discovered the secret to a hidden world deep in Wild Space from an ancient holocron. This world was a nexus to the Force – a power beyond all comprehension. Knowing the possible danger of such power, Masters Urak, Boreos, Eseri, and I hid the holocron away, never to let it be accessed by anyone. Not even ourselves.”
“What does this have to do with Khan?” Targon asked.
“All things in time,” Tieru said. “You must know the background first, and then you can understand the present. After a time, we thought there was no threat of anyone discovering the secret. But a scholar, who had spent his years studying the great Jedi Library, had happened upon a mention of it, and he sought us out. His name was Khan Arc-Saal, and he neglected the duties of a Jedi Knight in his pursuit of knowledge and power. We denied him the holocron, or any knowledge of it, and we foolishly thought he might forget about it and pursue other studies.”
Tieru paused and sighed sadly. “How foolish we were. Days later, Khan embraced the temptations of the Dark Side and slew his master. He was brought to judgment by the Jedi Council, and because of our involvement, we were part of the Council’s decision to denounce him as a Jedi and banish him. As he was taken away, he swore in a rage that he would find the secret, and use the power to become immortal and destroy all who challenged him. It was then that the four of us decided to destroy the holocron and divide the knowledge of the secret between us. Then we separated – each of the others went to remote areas across the galaxy and I remained at the Jedi Temple.”
“And you never spoke with them – your friends?” Targon inquired.
“No,” Tieru shook his head. “As I said, some Masters have been able to communicate over great distances. We may have never been together in person, but we were often in council through the Force. But it is apparent now that Khan has slain the others. And now he will be coming for me. I hold the last piece of the puzzle…he must never find it.”
“So we should retreat and return to the Jedi Temple,” Targon said. “He can’t assault Tython with the entire Order to stand against him.”
“It would be wise to fall back, young Targon,” Tieru nodded. “But not at the expense of others. Khan must be stopped – we must do what we failed to do nearly fifty years ago. I must destroy him.”
“How? He has killed the others!”
“I know. But I must try…and I think I can lure him into a place where the battle could be in my favor.”
“If he has been able to locate the others so quickly, then he likely knows that we are here on Ord Mantell, and will be on his way. Perhaps I can choose the field to face him.”
“You mean we will face him,” Targon said.
“No, Targon, I cannot ask you to face this monster.”
“Master, I cannot let you face him alone. He has slain the others – they were alone. I am not afraid of him.”
Tieru shook his head. “No, I can tell you are afraid, but you have courage – for you are willing to face that which you fear. You have the makings of a great Jedi, Targon. There is no sense in saying anything different. Your fear is well placed, for I too fear this man.”
“Then I suppose our mission to forge peace on this world is cancelled,” Targon sighed. “Our efforts are meaningless.”
“Do not be so sure,” Tieru said. “No acts of kindness and compassion are ever wasted, Targon. Your actions today may have great ramifications that lead to peace in the future…”
There was a knocking at the door. Tieru rose as Targon answered the door. Without any sort of greeting, the visitor walked in. He was dressed in business attire and he was flanked by a police officer.
“Master Tieru?” he asked the Jedi Master.
“I am he,” Tieru replied.
The man continued, a tone of franticness in his voice. “I come on behalf of the Administrator. We have lost all contact with one of our orbital stations. From last report, a vessel – of unknown origin, make, and even energy source – sent docking codes. And soon afterward, there was a brief distress call, and then complete silence.”
Tieru frowned. “So, all day I ask to speak with officials to discuss diplomacy with the separatists and am continually denied, but as soon as a crisis occurs, the Administrator seeks me out?”
“He was aware that the Jedi were here on the planet.”
“Might he consider our requests to discuss possible peace talks if we investigate this?” Targon asked, but Tieru held up a finger.
“We shall look into this at once,” Tieru nodded to the messenger.
“The Administrator will be most grateful,” the man bowed and left.
Tieru put on his deerskin as Targon handed him his staff. “So much for using the apartment,” he sighed. “And so much for choosing the field.”
“How could Khan have arrived so soon?” Targon asked.
“Eseri wasn’t too far from here, I believe, and perhaps he has found many new things in his long exile. It does not matter, regardless. He is here, and so we must face him.”
“Do you think there are any survivors?” Targon asked.
“The sooner we face him, the better the odds,” Tieru replied, but there didn’t seem much hope in his tone. “Come, Targon, whether or not the government decides to be cooperative afterward, this task is of greater importance than one world. If Khan obtains the secret I have tried to keep from him, then the galaxy will be lost.”