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From the Journal of Val Starwind

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Fan Fiction
From the Journal of Val Starwind

ProfessorWalsh's Avatar


ProfessorWalsh
12.13.2011 , 09:57 AM | #1
Hello all! I said I would raise this thread from the grave once the new forums hit and now is the time. I'll be re-posting the story up to the point that was seen, and, later today a new chapter will be added. Aiming for one chapter a week over the next 5 weeks to finish out the journal!

Thank you to all loyal readers.

Author's Note:
Please don't post in this thread until the first cascade of reposts is up, you'll see a note.

Edit:
The cascade is up, all current chapters are posted! Happy reading!
"There is no room for compromise. We walk the path of the light side, or we fall into darkness. There is no gray area, Ben."
~ Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker (P. 187 FotJ, Book II: Omen)
Host of the Jedi Council stream also author of From the Journal of Val Starwind

ProfessorWalsh's Avatar


ProfessorWalsh
12.13.2011 , 09:58 AM | #2
Compilation Post:

I am working on the next segment but I thought copying the full story here to one post would help new readers get into the story.

The Academy Set
Entries 1 and 2

Entry Title:

Attachment

Master Tao-Ri is away. He could not discuss with me the nature of his mission and could only tell me that he is going to investigate some pirate reports along a hyperspace route used to transport candidates here to Tython. He asked me to allow the children a day to play and so I took the children to a grove not far from the main academy complex.

They were full of energy, eager to practice their lessons. I had cautioned them to use care in their applications however it is great experience for them to run and play while calling on the Force. Once this war resumes this kind of second nature, instinctive use, may very well save their lives.

I relaxed in the shade of one of the tall trees near the edge of the grove and took in the sweet pure air. The air of Tython is always crisp and clean, it is a refreshing change from other places I have been such as Coruscant or Ord Mantell. I closed my eyes and extended my perceptions taking respite in the chirping of the birds, the warmth of the sun, and even the tickling sensation of a fly landing on my arm.

My meditation did not, however, go uninterrupted. I felt the pain, the shock, and the fear through the Force and found myself on my feet and was nearly instinctively reaching for my lightsaber before I heard the high pitched squeal of one of the younger children, a little Twi'lek girl named Luma. I did not feel any danger however so I moved my hand away from the hilt at my side, I chastised myself for such a rude action even as I quickly made my way to the child.

Luma stood with a little Rodian boy named Kurri who was around the same age as her as well as a slightly older human girl named Nara. I could see little Luma's four year old hands were cupping something, and I could feel pain coming from both her and the creature in her hands. I approached the five year old and knelt down to get a better look.

In the hands of the tear streaked face of the child was what appeared to be a small frog. It was twitching a little and I could see it's leg was broken, it was in terrible pain and was very afraid. "It was an accident." she said through a series of gasping sobs.

I looked at the other two children and felt a sense of guilt coming from Kurri, I looked at him and waited for him to speak. "I just wanted to see it." He said sullenly as I reached down and took the frog from Luma's hands and sent calming and soothing feelings to it through the Force.

"What happened?" I asked simply, keeping my tone soft and compassionate, trying to keep judgment from my voice.

"I saw Luma and Kurri arguing and came over." Nara said, she had a habit of being somewhat of a tattle-tale a habit that neither I nor Master Tao-Ri had been able to break the seven year old of yet.

I nodded, "Thank you Nara, will you go and gather the other children up for me?" I asked partially because I felt that this lesson might be important and partially so that I could speak with Kurri and Luma alone.

The girl nodded vigorously as she ran over and began to call the other children in. I turned to Luma, "Would you like to tell me what happened youngling?" I asked, feeling her compassion in the Force like a wave, her focus on the injured frog that I was gently stroking.

"I..." She began, and her face looked down at the grass beneath her, "He's my pet." she said. I could feel a wave of shame come from her.

"I see." I frowned, such things were generally not permitted at the academy, I knew why the child would hide it. "Go on."

"I found him last week when we were walking by the lake with Master Tao-Ri. I just wanted to keep him for a little while... When you told us we were coming to the grove today I thought I could bring him here and let him go but Kurri saw him and he tried to take him from me and..." Her eyes filled with tears again and her voice cracked, I looked to Kurri so that he could finish the tale.

Kurri fidgeted, "I just wanted to see it." He said, "So I picked him out of Luma's hand, but she grabbed at him and pulled back and she must have had his leg because it suddenly felt a lot of pain and I got scared and dropped it." He looked down at his feet and his guilt and shame intensified, "I didn't mean to hurt it."

I nodded and looked over my shoulder to see the children gathered already, I held the frog and continued to stroke him gently trying to do what I could to soothe his pain. "Come along." I said as I made my way to the gathered students.

A few minutes later we were all sitting cross legged in a circle around the injured frog which I had gently placed on the soft grass. Little Luma had regained her composure and I had already recounted the events of what had happened to the children.

"Now, younglings," I said, "What did Luma do wrong?" I asked the group.

One child raised his hand, a young Zabrak, after I nodded he said, "She hid it when she wasn't supposed to have a pet?" he asked.

I shook my head, "While it is true that she did hide the frog, she did not mean any harm to it, and while that was something she will have to apologize to Master Tao-Ri for, that isn't the biggest thing."

Another of the younglings reached for the air, "She should have let Kurri see it?" she asked.

I again shook my head, "While it is good to share, Kurri should not have tried to take the frog from her."

Luma's small voice then carried to the group, "I shouldn't have tried to grab for him." She said, "I wanted to keep him even though I was going to let him go. I never want to care about anyone ever again, if I didn't care about him he wouldn't have got hurt."

I frowned, "Not exactly." I said as I gently placed a hand on her shoulder, "You caring about him was not a bad thing. That shows compassion. That is a trait that we admire, if not foster. The problem was that you let this influence you too much." I gestured to the frog, "When Kurri took him out of your hand you were blinded by your attachment to the animal and tried to hold on to him."

"A Jedi must care about others, or they cannot be a Jedi, however a Jedi must not become so attached to something that it clouds their judgment. That is the danger in attachment young one. We often want to hold on so badly that we end up hurting the thing that we care about."

The girl nodded, "Is he going to be okay?" she asked, once more gesturing to the frog.

I smiled, "We will bring him to one of the healers and see what they can do for him. As you two are the ones that hurt him I will then expect you to care for him until he has healed. Once he has we will take him back to the lake and let him return home. Alright?"

The feeling of relief and happiness that erupted from the small Twi'lek washed over me like a warm summer breeze, "Really?" the girl asked. I nodded.

"Alright children." I said as I carefully lifted the frog up in my hand, "Let us return to the temple and help our amphibian friend here."

With that we returned to the temple and the healers were able to place a tiny spring on the frog's injured leg. Though they did give me odd looks about the act. I checked in a few minutes ago on Luma and Kurri and found both children dutifully watching their small green charge. I hope that the lesson on attachments is not one that they soon forget.

-----

Entry Ends.

---------------------

Entry Title:

Anger

The first line of the Jedi Code is one that I am always amazed so few people outside of the Jedi Order actually understand. I have had Republic Troopers try to tell me that the Jedi seek to be emotionless droids, and that they find it inhuman. The meaning of that first line however is important for Jedi to learn.

Today Master Tao-Ri was instructing some of the older children in the beginning arts of the lightsaber. This is an important part in every Jedi's training, the lightsaber is not simply a weapon, it is a tool of defense and an extension of the Jedi's core. Some people balk when they learn that we begin teaching younglings as young as six years of age how to handle the tool, however it is felt, by me at least, that the more natural the feeling of the item is in the hand the longer a Jedi has to become used to having it as an option.

Many Troopers when they get out of basic training are very aware of the presence of their weapon. So much so that they become distracted by it. It is on their minds at all times and thus it is always one of the first thoughts that will come to them in a tense situation. For a Jedi, such a distraction can be a serious weakness, and familiarity with the lightsaber can alleviate that possible issue.

Today though, there was a problem. Nara, one of our seven year old younglings in the Gizka Clan became angry. I know Master Tao-Ri felt it through the Force, and I could feel it as well, a building maelstrom that felt like it was pushing against a barrier. She was dueling with another young student, a Mon Calamari boy of nine named Kalun.

In the previous five matches he had managed to make contact with Nara before she could strike him. Her anger could be felt but her face remained serene. The feelings flowed off of her like the roar of an angry Krayt Dragon, yet she appeared to be calm on the surface.

I watched her, as did Master Tao-Ri. Her form had grown sloppy, but she had begin to move faster, I could see as the training continued that Kalun was becoming taxed more and more in each successive duel. Something was wrong, I traded glances with my Master but he simply raised a hand to me, palm out, motioning for me to wait, I thus deferred to the Nautolan's wisdom and continued to watch.

Nara drove the Mon Calamari back, his eyes swiveled a little showing a hint of panic. I watched as she struck his blade again and again, twisting her strikes left and right, each impact causing Kalun's wrist to twist painfully. I expected the match to end very soon but was very concerned with the feelings that were coming off of the youngling.

It was then however that Kalun, Nara's superior by two years, disengaged his lightsaber just as Nara took another devastating swing at him. Her blade passed harmlessly through the spot where Kalun's blade had previously been and she lost her balance, in a flash Kalun's blade reignited and before she could recover he held the tip to her throat. The training saber could not cut, but it could give a painful jolt, and it was clear that the older boy was indeed the winner in the conflict.

That was when it happened.

Nara's eyes flashed with anger and the barrier that we had felt earlier shattered like glass. The Dark Side had been unleashed. The girl let loose with a growl of anger and moving faster than Kalun could react dove along the edge of his blade and rammed the older boy in the face with her elbow. The Mon Calamari's lightsaber fell from his grip and in a split second Nara was on top of him.

I reached out with the Force but Master Tao-Ri was even faster. I saw as Nara was lifted into the air, her small limbs flailing. Her training saber fell to the ground. Kalun was holding a hand over one of his large round eyes and I could see that the pink skin around it was swollen and red.

I quickly made my way over to him and pulled him to his feet pushing him behind me as I did so. Nara was still flailing in the air but the anger had been released, it had run it's course.

"That is enough Nala." Master Tao-Ri said sharply, "Your training is done for the day."

Her nostrils flared as she was lowered to the ground gently, "What? I won the fight!" she snarled.

"You did," the Nautolan Jedi Master responded, "But you gave into your anger to accomplish it. Against another opponent that move would have cost you your life. Also, you won not by your skill with a saber, but by injuring your clan-mate."

Nala frowned and looked up, her hand going to her mouth as she did so. I turned and looked at Kalun and could see blood seeping through where his hand was pressed against his eye, he was whimpering slightly in pain, even I had not realized how severe her elbow had been.

"Go to your room Nala." Master Tao-Ri said, "I, or Jedi Starwind, will come and speak with you shortly."

The girl nodded a bit, I could feel the guilt rolling off of her, and lowered her head to walk back toward the temple.

"Jedi Starwind, please take Kalun to the infirmary to have the medical droids look at his eye."

I nodded and turned, "Come on Kalun," I said gently as I put a hand on his shoulder, "Let us get you patched up."

Then I left with the boy.

A few hours later I spoke with Master Tao-Ri and it was decided that I should speak to the child. Outside of her room I could feel a storm of emotions raging with in her. There was anger, sadness, shame, and guilt rolling like hurricane winds coming from within.

I knocked at the door and waited for permission to enter.

When the door hissed open I saw that Nara had packed her belongings into the small carrying chest that each initiate was given. "Nara?" I asked questioningly as I noted that her initiate robes were folded on her bed and she was clad in a simple jumpsuit.

She looked up, and I could feel the fear in her, "I am resigning from the Jedi Order Master Starwind." she said simply, a very odd thing to hear coming from such a small child. It would have been almost cute if she had not been so serious.

I frowned as I moved to sit near her bed, "Whatever for youngling?" I asked her.

"Isn't that what you are here to tell me?" She asked, "I hurt Kalun, I used the Dark Side. Now I have to leave the Order."

I placed a hand on her shoulder, "Kalun will be fine, the medical droids have already fixed him right up, and we would not exile someone from the order for a simple mistake."

She frowned at me, "But I can't do this!" she said, anger creeping into her voice, "I am not like you and Master Tao-Ri, or like Kalun, or any of the other initiates. I feel anger!"

I tilted my head a little, raising one eyebrow at her, "And you do not think that we do?" I asked.

"The Jedi Code." She says, "Tells us that there is no emotion, there is peace. I tried, I really did, but even when I ignore it it is still there I am still angry and I try to keep ignoring it but then it just comes through!"

I nodded, "Young one, Nara, listen to me. The code does not mean that we do not feel emotions, only that we do not let them control us. Everyone has feelings, and yes, your feelings are intense, however mine were too when I was your age." I smiled, "What is the second line of the Jedi Code?"

Nara frowned though responded without hesitation, "There is no ignorance, there is knowledge."

I nodded, "Good. Now tell me, why were you angry?"

She sighed and sat on the bed beside me, "I don't know. I just was."

I brushed her bangs away from her face, "Come on Nara, we both know that isn't true."

She looked down as her feet swung off the edge of the bed, "I was mad because he was better than me."

I patted her shoulder, "And why do you think that is?" I asked.

"Because he's been using a lightsaber for three years and he has started learning the other forms." she responded.

"Exactly. So you were fighting a superior opponent and were ashamed that you were losing." I said, "In the end he used Tràkata to defeat you that last time before you elbowed him, an advanced maneuver for one his age."

I felt a wave of shame come off of her again, "I just wanted to win." she said sullenly, "I wanted to show that I was just as good as him."

I nodded, "The mistake you made young one, was that you did not seek to acknowledge this anger, you tried to hold it in, you tried to contain it." I said, "Like air in a balloon though a balloon can only hold so much before it bursts."

"What else am I supposed to do then Master?" the child asked.

"Young one," I said, "Anger cannot exist when one knows why they are angry. You have to inspect your anger, dissect it, understand it, then you can conquer it. You cannot ignore it and hope it goes away. Bottling such things up only compounds the problem."

She frowned, "But what if I can't do that?" she asked me.

"You can." I said, "If I did not have faith in you, and Master Tao-Ri did not have faith in you, we would not be having this conversation." I told her, "Tomorrow you will apologize to Kalun and every morning after breakfast, but before lessons begin I want you to come to me and we will begin working on ways for you to better understand your feelings, until you are more confident with your ability to handle them. Alright?"

The child smiled a little, "Yes Master Starwind." she said as I stood.

"Good, then try to meditate on what we talked about, and stay in your room for the evening. I will see you tomorrow morning."

Nara nodded to me and picked her Jedi robe up off of her bed as I walked out of the room to prepare some exercises that I would use the next morning.

-----

Entry Ends
"There is no room for compromise. We walk the path of the light side, or we fall into darkness. There is no gray area, Ben."
~ Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker (P. 187 FotJ, Book II: Omen)
Host of the Jedi Council stream also author of From the Journal of Val Starwind

ProfessorWalsh's Avatar


ProfessorWalsh
12.13.2011 , 09:59 AM | #3
The Lighthawk Series
Entries 3-7

Entry Title:

Hand to Hand

I am waiting for Master Tao-Ri to arrive to have me released. I have a feeling that I will be scrubbing the floors back at the academy for some time when I get back. I am being held, on Tatooine, in a small jail cell, the charges levied against me are pretty long but include destruction of private property, assault, and public endangerment. If the younglings back at the academy knew about this they would likely lose a lot of respect for me, though I did try to tell the authorities that it wasn't my fault.

I had better start at the beginning...

I was sent to Tatooine on a routine mission. A mother had asked that the Order send someone to investigate her son whom she believed might be Force Sensitive. I went to discern the validity of her suspicion and found it to have some merit.

After I signaled the Jedi Temple with my findings I decided to wait for the transport that would return me to Tython by relaxing a little in the cantina near the dock. That was probably the biggest mistake I could have possibly made.

Let me explain a little about Tatooine for those reading this who have never had the pleasure of visiting this place. It is hot, for starters, there are multiple suns which render most of the planet and endless desert. The sand is gritty and annoying, the winds blow the particles into everything, mechanical devices, armor, weapons, hair, clothing, it is understandable that people's tensions run high in such a dismal place.

Though the planet teams with life it is a bleak sphere. It is dangerous, filled with Tuscan Raiders, deadly creatures such as the Kryat Dragon, and it is a den of thieves, smugglers, and bounty hunters. The troopers stationed here are far from their homes, cut off from their families, and are called out to handle everything from domestic disputes to massive slaughters of innocent people.

In the cantina there were three such troopers. They radiated frustration through the Force, and they were imbibing gratuitous amounts of jawa juice. I slid into a stool at the bar and ordered a blue milk hoping that the cool beverage would wash the stale taste of sand from my mouth.

As I sipped at the drink it appeared that I had gained the attention of one of the three. I do not know their names. The first one was tall, and had a sergeant's chevron on his armor. The second two were shorter, one was thin, the other kind of stocky looking. For the purposes of this entry I will refer to them as Sarge, Slim, and Stout.

It was Slim that started it, he was a human, and had short black hair. He pointed to me and slurred, "Oiy, look'it 'ere. A Jedi. I thou' yer kind up an' lef' with yer robes 'etween yer legs."

I remembered that I sighed and rubbed my temple with my free hand, the Jedi Order was not as respected as they once were, "We are recovering from our losses, we did not abandon the Republic." I replied.

Then it was Stout's turn to talk, "Too right. You and your shiny swords didn't really manage to do a whole lot during the war. Thankfully the Republic wised up. Got me and my brothers watching thing's now."

I raised an eyebrow and watched the one with the Sergeant's chevron, a questioning eyebrow raised.

"What?" He asked, the smell of cheap liquor rolling from his breath, "Can't handle the truth?" He leaned close and the stench of the drinks he had consumed became nearly unbearable, "Eh Jedi?"

"I don't want a fight. I just want to finish my drink..." I told him, however his reaction was not what I was hoping for. He snatched the half finished glass of blue milk from my hand and upturned the glass spilling the azure fluid onto the floor.

"Looks like you are finished." He said as his two cronies laughed.

I stood up, preparing to leave, I didn't want a fight, this was just a simple mission, an easy one, a relaxing trip away from the Academy for a short time. The troopers had other intentions however. Slim pushed me back down onto my stool before I could step away from the bar.

"Where' 're ya goin' Jedi?" He sneered, "Too good ta talk wi' us norma' people eh?"

I sighed, I didn't want to do this, but I did not want a fight here and now, I called to the Force as I looked at Slim, "There is no need to bother this guy."

His and Stout's eyes glazed slightly, "Ther's no need ya botha' this guy." he repeated.

I gestured again, "We should let him off easy. Go on, get out of here."

He nodded, "We shoul' let 'im off easy. Go on Jedi! Git outta 'ere!"

I felt the blow through the Force a split second before the bar stool crashed into me, "What are you doing to my boys!" the Sergeant bellowed at me as h e raised the bar stool to strike again.

I sprung quickly to my feet but the trance on Stout and Slim was already broken. As I rose I met Slim's fist and was rocked back, barely able to avoid a second swing from Sarge. I spun away quickly pulling my leg back on instinct as Stout hurled a kick at my shin. All hope of getting out of this without a fight vanished.

I pushed Sarge away from me as Stout threw a long extended right hook at me but I had the advantage of not only the fact that they were drunk but also the Force on my side. I grabbed his arm and pulled my way past him, pulling his arm around behind his back in a painful, but not damaging hammer lock. In the same motion I lashed out a kick toward Slim, which did nothing to him through his armor, but did manage to push him off balance.

I heard a roar as Sarge charged me, quickly I released my hold on Stout and shoved him forward, stumbling and off balance as I ducked low putting my shoulder into Sarge's midsection. Letting his own momentum carry him into me I stood and redirected him, he went careening over the bar behind me and I heard a loud crash as a dozen bottles shattered when he slammed into the shelves containing the bartender's stock, the smell of alcohol intensified in the room.

By this point patrons had lost all control and had begun numbers of other fights in the room, the brawl was getting out of hand. I saw a Zabrak and a Rodian rolling on the ground throwing punches. The bartender cried out as he waived his hands, "No blasters! No blasters!" as he ducked a hurled glass.

I barely had time to breathe before Slim dove on me from behind, wrapping his arms around my waist and weighing me down. I cursed myself for being so careless as Stout turned and lashed a nasty punch into my jaw.

For a second my vision blurred from the impact and I feared I would lose consciousness but fortunately the darkness did not creep in on me yet. I called to the Force to augment my strength as I fought back against Slim's grip, finally managing to pull one of his arms up to my shoulder and managing a passable hip toss. The thin trooper crashed into his stocky companion and the pair went down in a pile of flailing and armor.

I tried to catch my breath but there was little time. I sensed an attack coming at me from the bar but was too winded and still stunned from Stout's earlier punch. I felt something smash into the top of my head and stars exploded before my eyes, liquid, foul smelling and bitter poured down my face as pieces of glass cascaded around me.

I stumbled, there was also a bit of blood coming from the wound and the world began to tilt a bit. I managed to turn in time to see Sarge standing, what was once a bottle of spirits resting in his hand. The man with the chevrons on his armor dove at me from over the bar and we went down in a heap of limbs, armor, and robes.

To be honest I don't remember much about the brawl beyond that point. I recall that Sarge and I rolled around, and I remember knocking some stools over. Somehow I had gotten the upper hand over Sarge because I remember pulling myself to my feet, then there were security forces ordering me not to move, I think I turned to explain what happened but then I felt the impact of several bolts of blue stun blasts hit me before I lost consciousness.

When I awoke, in a peace keeper's office, some time later I was informed that I was under arrest. I was able to make one holonet transmission to Master Tao-Ri, who was... Disappointed... In me.

No doubt I will have much to explain to him when he arrives. For now all I can do is write in my data pad and meditate.

-----
Entry Ends

--------------------

Entry Title:

The Voyage Home

I have been placed aboard the freighter Lighthawk following my release from the detention center on Tatooine. Master Tao-Ri was side-tracked and was unable to arrive in person. Currently on board is not only myself but a trio of annoyed Troopers, members of Havoc Squad.

Once more I was grouped with Slim, Stout, and Sarge. At least that is what I called them. I learned from the Peacekeeper that their real names were Sergeant Duel, Private Wing, and Private Stall. I do not know their first names, and they do not seem very forthcoming.

It seems after our bar fight the trio had been reprimanded and their punishment was to be, as they referred to it, my babysitter. They were sober now, but to be honest it didn't do much to raise my opinion of them, nor did it seem to raise their opinion of me to tell the truth.

Whenever one of them walked by the room I had been assigned on the small freighter I could feel their annoyance through the Force just as easily as I could hear the sneer come from their lips. I decided that I wished to learn a little more about them before I cemented my judgment of them.

It did not take me long with my data terminal to receive their service records via data transfer from the Jedi Archives on Tython. After reading them I learned exactly why they had a severe distaste for me, and for all Jedi it seemed. I could not help but see things, slightly, from their point of view.

Sgt. Duel was stationed on Alderaan when the Sith made their attack there. His service record was very impressive. However, he made a note in his report that the Jedi did not intervene when they should have and because of their late action in preventing the Sith attack his wife and son were killed.

I could sympathize, I, after all, was a native of Alderaan myself. For all I knew it was possible that I could even be related to the man. Though he had let his anger fester and the Dark Side had grown strong within him.

Pvt. Wing was just a sleemo. I try not to use harsh words like that but I have no other way to describe him. He was ruthless, a liar, and judging from his record, little better than a Sith. He had disobeyed orders multiple times during missions and used lethal force on civilians. Those outbursts had kept his rank low despite his amazing skills, according to his file he was a one man demolitions squad and was capable of leveling a city in only a few hours.

Pvt. Stall was a loud mouthed braggart. He didn't like the Jedi because he believed, according to his reports, that we were, as he said, "A group of religious fanatics who believed that they were genetically superior to the normal people in the Republic." I couldn't exactly dispute that some people had that opinion of us, but they were completely wrong. As Jedi it is our job to serve the Republic, in essence, we believe that they are better than we are.

As Duel walked by my room I felt another wave of annoyance from him, this would indeed be a long flight.

I felt the ship buck suddenly. My danger senses alerted me only a split second before. If I had been more aware of the moment then perhaps I would have felt it, but instead my attention was devoted on the files I was reading.

I reached for my lightsaber and drew it to my hand from the small table beside where I was sitting. There was another shudder through the ship and then a loud thud. We were being boarded.

I made my way into the hall, glancing around, it didn't take me long to find the entry point. There was already the white hot mark of a lightsaber burning through, the red tip followed shortly afterward and began moving in a circular pattern. That ruled out pirates, there was only one thing that it could be, and the word sent a chill through me like a cold breeze on Hoth...

Sith.

I have fought Sith before. When I was a Padawan learner and I still remember the eyes. Some were yellow. Some were not. All were inhuman and filled with hate. I am no rookie. I've killed Sith before. My lightsaber has, more than once, succeeded in performing a sai cha in battle before on them. Even that doesn't cover their eyes though, which often glared at me even in their death.

The Troopers, lead by Duel, made their way to the hallway where I stood. He carried a Z-4 Rotary Blaster Canon.

The Z-4's are favored by those who believe that quantity is more important than quality. Regardless, the weapons are effective. They can spit out hundreds of blaster bolts per second and can shred armor like flimsiplast. Though a skilled lightsaber user can follow the stream with their blade, rendering the weapon useless if the Force user can maintain their focus.

Following Duel were the two privates: Stall and Wing. Stall carried a simple light repeating blaster, I preferred that weapon to the clumsy Z-4. It was more easily aimed, and while it didn't fire faster, it could be repositioned rapidly and was much more formidable to face when armed with a lightsaber in my opinion. Wing was armed to the teeth, I could see an E-6 Blaster Carbine gripped in his hands and a number of grenades strapped to his utility plate.

"Stand back Jedi!" Duel snapped to me.

I obliged, Duel was 29 years old, he had fought in the final days of the Great War when he was a fresh recruit at age 18. I technically had a lot more command experience than he did, having been given my own squad before I was old enough to shave, I had seen, according to records, about a year and a half more combat than he had despite being only 23. Pointing that out would be stupid though as, at this time, it would only increase tension.

I could see that the circle was almost complete and soon the wall section would fall away. I pressed the activation stud on my lightsaber and the blue-white beam sprang into existence giving a snap-hiss as it did so. I breathed in once, feeling the flow of the Force, and allowed it to enter me, to guide me, to ready me for what was to come.

The circular area fell away from the door and instantly Duel opened up with a spray of blaster bolts, he screamed like a rancor as he poured the deadly rounds into the hole. The anger in him was palpable, almost a tangible thing, and I could feel it in the air.

I felt the retaliation before I saw it. A grenade, guided by invisible hands, streaked out of the hole. Duel barely had time to open his eyes in surprise before it detonated. The blast would have wiped him clean from this plane had I not sensed it coming, I grabbed Duel in a Force grip and pulled him away from the blast in time, his armor taking the brunt of the damage even as he bounced off of the bulkhead from the blast wave, he was alive but he wouldn't be ready to fight for a while.

That was when she appeared.

She was at once both beautiful and hideous. I cannot describe her in any other terms. She was tall and slender, her hair pulled back in braids, in each hand she held a saber of crimson blood.

She went for Stall first, screaming like a wild animal, her form was primal and unrefined, what I had seen before in Sith. To Stall's credit, he did not panic, he retreated backward and fired a series of blasts at her, five to be precise, aimed, in the order of head, right leg, stomach, right leg, chest. It was a brilliant plan, and it almost worked, though she sensed the shots coming and managed to bat each one against the walls harmlessly.

Wing was paying attention though, as the last of Stall's shots were deflected he hurled a grenade, one coated in an adhesive, toward the Sith. She extended a hand however and sent it streaking back toward the soldier. I saw it stick to his mid section and I knew that there was nothing that I could do. Wing, to his credit, was a professional, instead of panicking he dove into the hole, to what he knew had to be a tube that was linking the Sith ship to our freighter.

The explosion was massive, it must have detonated all of his other explosives, because the force blasted us all into the wall. Decompression followed next. I held myself to the deck with the Force, so too did the Sith. Stall quickly tethered himself with a magnetic line and continued his blaster assault, he absolutely had bravery.

Duel began sliding toward the hole but I braced myself and grabbed for him to protect us both. I could hear bolt after bolt being fired and the smell of ozone from each shot. The Sith kept batting them back though, her jar kai was nearly flawless. I only hoped that the magnetic seal would form soon because I knew that Stall could not keep that up for much longer.

Time slowed for me, I saw the seal begin to form, I saw the Sith take another step toward Stall, I saw Duel's eyes come open with a start. I knew that this was the decisive moment. I let go of Duel, the seal was formed enough that he would not careen out into space, and I dove toward the crimson blade using Sith with every ounce of power I could muster.

I drew my second lightsaber, usually kept in a small pouch at the base of my back and ignited it in mid air. The Sith had turned and had to halt her attack on Stall to face me.

The movements that happen in a lightsaber duel are described as many things. Some call them savage battles of clashing ideology. Some call them a series of lightning fast blows too quick for someone to follow. I call it a dance. I duck, I leap, I twirl, I swing, and I dive.

My partner does the same.

In the handful of seconds of explosive motion I felt the brush of her saber within a centimeter of my skin more than half a dozen times. Her style was savage and unrefined. Mine was elegant and flowing like water through a stream.

I would like to write that I was the better fighter. I would like to write that I drove her back and took her captive. I would like to but I cannot.

The truth is, she was better than I was. Had that battle continued to it's outcome I would not be able to write this. As I engaged her though she left herself open for just one second. I missed the window of opportunity though.

Stall didn't.

His blast caught her right in the small of her back, causing her to stumble forward right into my blades. Both of my lightsabers pierced her and out of reflex I pulled them apart in different directions. The result was a sai tok.

With the boarding party defeated, mostly by Duel's barrage, and the grappling arm destroyed by Wing the frigate captain quickly took us to Hyperspace. During the battle however our hyperdrive had been damaged and less than fifteen minutes in we reverted to real-space.

Sgt. Duel is recovering from his wounds, and we have held a small ceremony on ship for Pvt. Wing. The hyperdrive failure destroyed our communications array however. We are on the boarder of Sith territory with no hyperdrive and no communications.

At this time that is all I can report.

I will write again once the situation changes.

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Entry Title:

Adrift

The damage to the Lighthawk's hyperdrive was extensive, though that was only the beginning of the bad news. In addition to the communications systems the sublight engines were also damaged. Our ship was running slow, wounded, and according to our navigation charts we were right on the boarder between Republic and Imperial space.

Following the attack we took stock of our situation. Pvt. Wing was more than dead and Sgt. Duel was pretty banged up. We didn't have any bacta on board either so his injuries would have to heal on their own. Captain Vell, the pilot of the Lighthawk, a twilek had come to join us shortly after the hyperdrive went offline. It was only due to his expertise that we had been able to get the ship moving at all again.

We didn't talk much about the attack, though Stall insisted that he be allowed to clean up the body of the Sith. The woman was beautiful, but now she lay in two pieces, separated just above her waist. He seemed to be handling the situation fairly well from what I could feel through the Force.

As the repairs were being done I found myself thinking back to the academy and wondering if the children were alright. I know that they would want to know what happened to me, I only hoped that I would be able to tell them the story myself. The coldness of space was starting to get to me, I had no love for space travel.

Some Jedi tell me that they can meditate more easily in space, that there are less distractions. They tell me that the stillness allows them to feel the Force more clearly and that they find it calming. I don't.

To me the darkness of space is cold, sterile, it is a place with no life. That is not to say that space should be feared, only that I seem to connect better with the Force in places where life flourishes. That is why I feel more at ease on my homeworld of Alderaan or in the forests of Tython.

My moments of introspection were interrupted by Stall, he had come to tell me that Captain Vell wanted us both on the bridge. Together we made our way through the corridors, still dimly lit by emergency glow panels, in complete silence.

Vell's news wasn't good. The ship would not be able to hold together for very long. It seemed that the inertial dampeners had failed and it was only a matter of time before the Lighthawk would shake itself apart. Fortunately for us, the smuggler had a plan.

The Captain knew of a nearby planet, Sith controlled, that had a shipyard in orbit. His plan was risky. With myself and Stall in the upper and lower gun pods Vell planned on a full frontal assault. The only crew on board were myself, Vell, Stall, Duel, and an old out-of-date medical droid designated as 2BM1.

M1 had a repulsor bed attached to him that was mobile so that it could be used to move wounded, like a stretcher. Vell reckoned that we could drive at the docking bays all guns blazing, then, steal a shuttle. The plan was reckless, but I had to admit that it had merit. After all the Sith wouldn't be expecting it, nobody could be that crazy.

The biggest risk was the ship breaking apart while it drove toward the bay from the hits, but that was where the beauty of Vell's plan came to be. The ship would move in a straight line and be completely depressurized. We would all be in vac suits, that way, when the hull buckled there would be no leaks to worry about and none of us could be sucked out. Vell guessed that once we were on a straight vector he could cut off the engines and at that point destroying the ship completely would be next to impossible as there would be nothing to explode.

The plan was risky, but it was the only one we had.

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Entry Title:

Full Frontal Assault

I sat in the gun pod and watched the space dock grow larger in the horizon. We saw two destroyers turning to face our craft and already we could see the lances of turbolaser fire streaking toward us, some missing, some impacting our shields and bouncing our craft around. I knew from this range our own gun pods would do nothing, all we could do was wait. Vell piloted by a maniac, the ship vibrated and I watched a panel fly off of our hull, I knew he was right, the Lighthawk was doomed before we started this attack run.

The fighters were on us in an instant. The ships were small, sleek, and deadly. They blasted at us, and launched a pair of concussion missiles toward our bow. Vell however twisted the ship in a maneuver that made my stomach flip end over end. The inertial dampeners were dialed low, Vell claimed that this allowed him to feel the ship better.

The only things I could feel were the Force and the Bantha steak in the rations that we had eaten as our potential last meal. I quelled my queasy stomach, allowed the Force to flow through me, and unleashed the power of the quad cannons into the Sith fighters.

One of the fighters crossed into my path, I felt it before I saw it, and my bolts struck home causing the ship's cockpit to disintegrate. I felt a flash through the Force, a momentary feeling of fear and panic as the pilot inside saw the void rushing to meet him. It passed faster than I could blink.

"One down." I calmly said into my comm as I began swiveling toward the next incoming target.

"Well you don't have to sound so excited about it!" Stall barked back in an almost joking manner, "Besides, I've got two!"

We spun again and I gritted my teeth as the stars that were below me had suddenly become the stars that were above me, "Quit yer yappin' and keep on shootin' you two! This ain't no competition! 'Sides, I already got five and there are four more out there!"

We spun again and I saw a pair of concussion missiles streak past my gun pod, so close I swear I could have reached out and touched them, I flinched out of reflex and I guess I must have let out a sound of concern because I heard Vell let out a deep belly laugh, "A bit close for ya Jedi?"

I did not reply, instead I tracked another target and opened fire. Once more one of the fighters blossomed into a fireball.

I felt another massive shudder through the ship, we had been hit.

"Okay boys!" Vell called over the comm system, "The engines are red-lining and they are gonna blow any second, I got our final vector in, so you two might wanna get to the hallway."

I didn't wait long. I dropped from the gun pod and slid down the ladder. The pressure suit I was in was one of the thinnest ones. It allowed a lot of mobility, which was required for my fighting style though provided low environmental protection, unlike the others it was also unarmored. The way the plan was laid out we would only be in vacuum for a short time and there might be heavy fighting in the bay so I placed my faith in the Force and chose the garment so that the others would have the added protection.

In the hall, connected to the inner wall, we had installed some make shift handles to secure ourselves as there was no danger of decompression. The helmet that I wore provided me more than enough air and allowed me pretty good visibility and peripheral vision. My lightsaber was clipped to my belt and I could feel it and the one I wore on the small of my back even through the suit I wore, their presences were reassuring.

In the hallway already was Captain Vell, his lekku wrapped around his neck in his enviro-helmet. Sgt. Duel was held onto the gurney of 2BM1 by a pair of flexiplast straps and was being kept from bouncing around by the repulsors of the droid that were doing an amazing job of keeping them both steady. It was not much of a surprise though, droids like 2BM1 with their square single eyed heads, were used all over the galaxy to keep injured soldiers from suffering further damage from being jostled during transport.

Stall barreled past me and grabbed onto one of the handles. His blaster rifle was held onto him by a thick strap, "Hey, Jedi." he asked, "What is the deal with the lightsabers?" he asked as we were bounced around by another series of impacts, "I thought only the bad guys carried two of them."

"Not always." I responded, I knew that the talking was a way of keeping his mind off what was going on, we all knew if the outer hull on this side of the ship buckled that we would all be dead, and it was a scary thought to feel so helpless, "I'm right handed, or at least I used to be, when I was five I was hurt during training."

"Training? What did you do fall down some stairs or something?" He asked.

"No, lightsaber, training lightsaber anyway. It was calibrated wrong, it seems one of the kids tampered with it and managed to raise the power output. Cut through my saber and then went about two inches through my upper arm." I pointed to the spot that I carried the small scar, "Almost cut my arm off. We didn't have any bacta at the time due to the war and even Jedi healing trances take a lot of time. It was over four months before I could use the arm again but instead of stopping I started using my left hand... By the time I got the use of the arm again I had become ambidextrous."

He winced, "And you said you started when you were five?"

Vell snickered, "Ya don't know much about Jedi do ya Private?" the Smuggler asked, "Jedi start young, real young, I once played evac for a squad in the Siswinna sector, the commander was a Padawan. Couldn't a been older than nine. His master fell in tha fighti' and tha kid lead them ta tha evac point. When he loaded tha injured troopers on board we was out of room so he opted to stay behin' till another pickup could git there. I saw tha kid later at tha medical frigate, he was on the field, alone, fer ova three hours."

"You are kidding." Stall said, "What kind of idiot would take a kid that young into battle, or put them in command?"

Vell smiled, "Nobody. But then again, he wasn't no kid, he was a Jedi."

The trooper shook his head, "What a load of bantha poodoo!" he started, "The Jedi are no diff-" he started, but then another shudder hit the ship.

"Something is wrong." I said suddenly, I could feel a disturbance in the Force, "I have a bad feeling about this."

Vell shook his head, "Nothin' we can do now but wait. Let me see if I can bring somethin' up from the forward cams."

He fiddled with a data pad that he had strapped to his forearm, "Not good." He answered, "We got a problem."

He showed us the image from his data pad's screen, the docking bay that we were heading for was closing. It would be shut before we made it. We were in trouble.

"Stang!" Stall murmured, "Well... That's it then."

"I reckon so." Vell agreed.

Sgt. Duel remained silent though, due to the sedatives he was under.

I could feel the tension but I knew that we could make it. The Force had given me an idea.

I released the handle and crossed the depressurized hallway, "I'll take care of it." I said. The trio, and somehow even the droid, seemed to look at me in shocked surprise as I pushed open the airlock. If we hadn't depressurized the ship we would have been spaced.

I stepped out of the ship and braced my legs on the inner part of the door, making me a platform that aimed directly at the shipyard's docking bay. I crouched and opened myself to the Force. I felt it coursing through me and I pushed off in a leap that was strengthened by the Force.

I shot from the ship. With the Force assisted leap adding to the momentum of the ship I was moving like a missile. I turned in the air, placing my feet beneath me, aiming at the side of the docking bay as I pulled my lightsabers from their resting places and ignited them, their snap-hiss, heard through the vibrations to my suit.

I saw the confusion on one of the Sith fighters as it passed near me, without even thinking about it I twisted, cutting through his thruster with my blue-white lightsaber. The ship exploded and I used the blast to propel me even faster toward the bay. I saw the bay beneath me and felt a cold feeling permeating through my body that I was sure was more than just the vacuum of space.

I bent my knees and pushed against the bay with the Force. I landed hard on the outer hull but nothing had broken. Then, I used the Force to hold myself to the hull like I was wearing a pair of magnetic boots.

The Lighthawk was above me and growing larger, I let the Force guide my hands and slammed my lightsabers into the hull just left of the closing bay doors. The metal turned red and vented gas and steam into the void and I could even feel it through the thin environmental suit.

Finally a shower of sparks shot from the hole, and not the kind from the metal. The bay doors had stopped closing. The Force had indeed guided me well, I must have hit the wiring that controlled the door. I only had a few seconds though to get through in case the Lighthawk got wedged in it.

Guiding myself with telekinesis I pushed myself through the opening just as the first part of the Lighthawk's hull began sc****** along the floor of the docking bay.

It took me a moment to right myself in the artificial gravity but I saw the others, and the medical droid leap from the open airlock as well. The plan, as crazy as it was, had worked. I quickly ran over to the others, still chilled from the brief exposure I had suffered.

"Boy!" Vell barked, "Tha' was tha craziest, dumbest, most suicidal thin' I had ever seen and if ya ever try somthin' stupid like that again withou' tellin' me first I swear I'll kill ya myself!"

A stream of blaster bolts suddenly blazed out from Stall's rifle's barrel, "You might not get that chance!" He said.

As I looked up I saw that we were surrounded by Sith battle droids. Seemingly in command of them was a single Sith, I could feel the Dark Side emanating from him, and in his hands blazed a crimson double-bladed lightsaber. A chill shot through my spine, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the exposure I had endured.

To be continued...

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Entry Title:

The Fight Scene

Many things happened at the same time. I will endeavor to cover as much of it as possible as I recount the sequence of events.

Captain Vell pulled something from his belt, it must have been some kind of grenade, and threw it toward the Sith Lord. The Sith caused it to arc backward toward the Smuggler but the object exploded in mid air sending out a devastating blast of sound and a brilliant, blinding, light. I heard a loud hum come from behind me and I knew that it was the 2BM1's protective ray shielding turning on. Blaster bolts began flying and I sunk into the Force hoping to stay alive long enough for my vision to clear.

By the time I had regained my sight the situation had changed significantly. Vell and Stall were using the medical droid and the wrecked and burning hull of the Lighthawk as a form of cover. The smuggler would slide out for only a few seconds to let fly a hail of blaster bolts from his modified DL-12 heavy blaster pistol before ducking back. I wondered how long the 2BM1's shields would hold.

The tactic was working however. Each time he slid out another battle droid would fall to the floor, damaged beyond function from the bolts that slammed into them.

Stall was trying another tactic. He had taken a page out of Wing's book and was tossing grenades into the battle droids by arcing the projectiles over the hull and the medical droid-shield. Bits of broken droid were already scattered around the room.

The droids were not focused on me, probably due to the risk to their commander, the Sith Lord. I could see that he too was in a similar state of recovery and almost before I was ready he had charged me. Our lightsabers clashed and for me, the rest of the galaxy seemed to melt away.

Some people call this ability "shatterpoint" I simply call it intuition. I knew, without knowing, that this Sith was the key to victory. If he fell then the day could be won, if he did not fall, then my companions, and myself, would surely die.

The Sith Lord in his resplendent cloak spun and leaped into the air. Like a buzz saw he flew toward me, twirling his blade like an extension of his arm. It came down toward me and would have cleaved me in two, from head to groin, had I not interposed one of my own blades while stepping backward.

Lightsaber combat is like a dance. Only unlike a dance a single misstep equals death. You never know precisely what your partner is going to do, but you have an idea of what they can do from any given position. That is where the Force gives a Jedi an edge in melee combat, the Force guides us, giving us an idea of which of those actions your partner is going to take instead of simply what they can take. That is why it is folly to face anyone skilled in the use of the Force in a one on one fight at close range.

I pivoted on my foot after stepping back and then, using the Force, changed my direction mid movement to enter a thrust. The blue-white of my right hand saber going high, for the Sith's chest, the green of my left sweeping low trying to disconnect my opponent's legs from his feet.

The Sith had successfully read the attack however. He twisted his saber end over end in a vertical spin and stabbed downward deflecting my stab and blocking the low shot. Quickly he adjusted his grip and forced the top of his blade forward, using my trapped second saber as a pivot to take a shot at my head.

I spun to the left, using my trapped weapon's blade as a point coming in a full circle, rotating around it and stepping off like a ballet dancer. While I did so I made a wide horizontal arc with my blue-white blade that was aimed at the midsection of the Sith Lord.

The shot was masterful and flawless, but was ultimately doomed to failure. Seeing what I was doing the Sith allowed his momentum to carry himself forward into a roll and going beneath my counter strike. In doing so it set him up to make a wide swing from the ground that could have removed one or both of my feet at the ankle.

The Force aided me however as I launched into a back flip, allowing the Sith's saber staff to pass harmlessly beneath me. I turned on landing and swung my sabers in succession, creating a pair of momentum driven vertical crescents as I twisted and leaped after the Sith Lord as he smoothly rose to his feet.

He sneered and drove his double bladed lightsaber upward in a horizontal block, intercepting the first of the two crescent strikes, then instead of trying to block the second one he turned his blade horizontal crashing the other end of his lightsaber into the descending second strike knocking it harmlessly to the side and retaliated with a slash that was aimed diagonally to strike at my right shoulder.

I sidestepped quickly to my left and could imagine sizzling heat of the crimson blade pass dangerously close to my fragile flesh, I could have sworn I felt it even through the envirosuit. I slammed my main blade down on to his, pinning his to the floor and rolled over his blade flipping toward the right, in doing so I swung my off-hand blade, the green blade that I had usually carried in a saber holster around my back, at the Sith's neck.

The Sith Lord tried to bring his saber staff up in time, but pinned beneath my blue-white lightsaber he simply wasn't fast enough. My emerald blade sliced through the two and a half foot long center of his double saber causing sparks to shoot from the second blade, the Sith had no time to react though as at nearly the same instant his head fell from his neck his eyes open with shock.

The battlemaster of Tython would have been impressed. The final maneuver had been complex, and the string of movements had completed their purpose. A sai into a jung that tied into a sun djem and a sai cha at the same time. If the enemy had chosen to sacrifice their weapon to the sun djem they could have escaped, but by trying to block the maneuver they only moved themselves into the position for the sai cha.

It was a maneuver I had learned during the war, and it used the Sith's own desires against them. A Sith craves nothing but power, and would often rather die than give power up. Their first instinct then in such a duel is to usually try to protect their weapon, which ultimately leads to their demise. Even if they do sacrifice their weapon though they are left unarmed and while that does not mean they are not dangerous, they are significantly less so.

Ending the duel though did not quite end the conflict. More battle droids had arrived and although the 2BM1's shields were designed to withstand light vehicle fire they had to be nearing their limits. I saw Vell come up and spray another series of blasts at the incoming horde while Stall was reaching for his last grenade. Across the bay was a small imperial shuttle, and I could see that indeed it's loading ramp was down.

I had other problems however. With the Sith Lord dead the droids were turning their attention to me. This was good for my companions and very bad for me. I drilled constantly in Soresu forms for situations such as this, though not as much as I trained in the ways of Ataru, but I knew I would not last long against concentrated fire from the battle droids.

That was when, however, Captain Vell saved us all. He tossed one final device from his belt. It looked like a grenade but was small and cylindrical. When it struck the ground though it exploded into a cloud of billowing black smoke.

"What are yall waitin' for!" He cried as he made a bee-line for the shuttle, "Go for tha shuttle! While we got a chance!"

The 2BM1 droid obliged and Stall continued to use it for cover as he walked behind it's shields, firing into the cloud. The droids were unable to aim at us but as the smoke expanded our ability to see went down as well. I was able to follow my allies by sensing them through the Force, had the Sith Lord still been alive, we all might have been easy prey for him.

The transit only took a few minutes and when we were finished we were on the shuttle and, fortunately for us, the ship was already powered up. There were crates on board as well and it was pretty cramped, I can only assume that they were loading it for delivery when we arrived. I tossed a silent thanks to the Force and strapped in.

The Twi'lek sat at the controls, "Hold on to yer butts!" he called as he engaged the engines and before I knew it we had cleared the doors.

I slumped, the battle exhausted me, and it was not one sided at all. I knew that I had come close to becoming one with the Force. Permanently.

There was nothing for me to do but watch, and put my faith in the Force and the Smuggler at the controls as Vell made a mad dash toward open space.

"Get the nav-comp workin'!" He yelled back to Stall, who was already at work at the terminal.

"Where to?" The Trooper asked, his armor blackened from a number of close hits.

"I don't blasted care! Whatever is fastest! We can plot a new course later!" The captain barked as a few shots made us bounce in our chairs.

"Done!" Stall responded and without hesitation Captain Vell pulled a pair of levers.

I watched as the stars stretched into star lines, and felt the acceleration push me back into my chair. We were safe... For now...

Entry Ends...
"There is no room for compromise. We walk the path of the light side, or we fall into darkness. There is no gray area, Ben."
~ Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker (P. 187 FotJ, Book II: Omen)
Host of the Jedi Council stream also author of From the Journal of Val Starwind

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ProfessorWalsh
12.13.2011 , 10:00 AM | #4
The Dark Jedi Series
Entries 8-17

Entry Title:

Feelings

We thought that we had escaped; we thought that we were safe. We were half right. Though we had escaped, the shuttle that we had stolen only had two locations programmed into the navicomputer. Stall, Vell, and I had no idea where we were actually going, but we all knew that it wouldn't be pleasant.

We had two primary problems at this point. We had our destination first and foremost. Though our second concern was Sgt. Duel, his injuries were severe, he was still sedated but his back was in very bad shape, if we didn't get him to a kolto or bacta tank soon there was a high chance that he would never regain the use of his legs, or even survive for too much longer.

The ship we had stolen was a shuttle. It wasn’t cramped, these shuttles could hold a decent amount of cargo and could seat up to 12 people without being too tight. The problem was that these types of shuttles were not designed for long trips, there were almost no supplies, and no way to know how long this hyperspace jump would take.

The three of us that were ambulatory all met on the bridge to try to figure out a plan.

Vell sighed, “Well, this dun look so good fer us.” He opened, “The Sith back at the port no doubt have already alerted des guys dat we are on our way.”

“Likely we will be under attack the moment we come out, unless they want prisoners anyway.” Stall added, “We need to come up with something, you got any insights for us Jedi?”

I frowned, his disposition toward me had obviously not changed, “This isn’t my area of expertise.”

“Figures.” He snorted as he turned to look at the Twilek.

“Look Private Stall, I’ve looked over your file.” I said, and it was the wrong thing to say, I felt through the Force his anger spike.

“You… Did… What?” he fumed.

Captain Vell turned back to the controls, suddenly studying them intently; there would be no help from him for certain. “I looked at your file. I made an official request because I thought that it might come in handy if something occurred in our journey.”

“Those files are private!” He snarled, “Don’t you Jedi understand the concept of confidential. You are not my commanding officer; you had no right to look at my files.”

“I meant no disrespect. I also felt that getting to know you a little more would give me some insight as to how to mend bridges after our incident on Tatooine.” I tried to explain.

“Mission failed Jedi.” Stall spat out, “And to think, I thought after seeing you pull that insane move back at the Starport you might be different. You aren’t, like all Jedi, you think that you have the right to do whatever you want simply because you have the Force.” He turned and stalked toward the doorway to the cargo hold, as the door hissed shut I got the distinction that if it was a hinged door he would have gladly slammed it.

“Smooth Jedi,” Vell snickered, “Tha’ was about as smooth as a satellite’s hull in an asteroid belt.”

“I did not mean any disrespect.” I sighed, having spent so much time with other Jedi I often forget that people on the outside of the temple aren’t as detached as we are. “What do you think I should do?”

Vell laughed, a deep belly rumbling sound, “A Jedi askin’ a spacer who is lookin’ for a quick buck fer advice?” He asked, a twinkle in his eye and humor pouring into the Force, “How tha kriff should ah know? I jus’ fly da ship. If I was you, I’d jus’ ignore it, ya can’t make people like ya… Me, I’ve seen Jedi before an while not all of ya are all that good hearted, ya seem alright to me. For what it is worth anyway.”

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Entry Title:

That's No Moon...

The ship rocked with a sudden deceleration and I could hear the inertial dampeners scream with the stress as they attempted to halt the momentum that was threatening to toss us around the body of the ship. I pulled myself to the floor with the Force trying to steady myself and managed to succeed rather admirably. Captain Vell slammed forward in his chair however he was restrained by his crash webbing. From behind me in the small cargo room I heard a thump and felt a sharp rush of momentary pain erupt from Private Stall.

“What the kriff was that?!?” The Trooper exclaimed as he stormed through the doorway to the cockpit.

“Ah don’t know!” Vell responded as he vigorously worked at his controls, “Somethin’ jus pulled us outta Hyperspace.”

“What could do something like that?” I asked, as I calmed myself quickly with a technique I had learned long ago before I even became a Padawan.

“Gravity well…” The Smuggler stated as he pulled back on his control yoke, “Tha means somethin’ is big, but, I don’t see anythin’. Sensors show nothin’ on screen but dere’s a huge gravity well here.”

“Could the sensors be malfunctioning?” Stall asked the captain as his eyes looked out over the sea of stars that loomed before us.

“The sensors are not malfunctioning.” I said as I closed my eyes, the feeling was as solid to me as a wall; the power of the Dark Side was all around us. I could feel people, living people, in what appeared to our eyes to be nothing but blank space, “There is something right there.” I extended my hand forward with my finger toward where I could feel the essence of living beings.

“You are outta’ yer mind Jedi.” Vell snapped at me, “Ah’m lookin’ right at it, there is nothin’ there.”

Stall however narrowed his eyes, “No.” He said, “The Jedi’s right.” He stated as though the words were trying to choke the life from him, “Look, you can see something move… It is very slight, almost like a distortion.”

“A cloakin’ device?” the Smuggler asked as he once more worked feverishly at his controls, “Tha’ would explain how it pulled us out. It’s a safe bet they know were ‘ere then. What do yall wan’ me to do?”

“Send a hail.” I said, “If they are cloaked it means they wouldn’t have been able to receive long range transmissions. They may not know that this is a stolen ship, and if so, then we might be able to surprise them.”

Stall nodded in agreement and Vell keyed up the comm., “To ah, station, this is shuttle…” he glanced at the transponder, “Shuttle Conquest, please ah respon’?”

The effect was immediate and dramatic as before our eyes a huge space station faded into view. The station was twice the size of the one that we had left. It was constructed of a single long cylinder down the center, with a ring around the whole place at least a mile long, at four points more cylinders jutted from the ring, it spun slowly in space, bristling with weaponry.

The comm Beeped, “This is Station Darklab, you are early Conquest, we weren’t expecting you for at least another three hours.”

“Sorry abou’ tha’ Darklab.” Vell responded falling into a more relaxed tone than he had possessed previously, “Tha order sheet ah was given said tha’ this was priority so ah took off soon as ah was loaded up.”

“Good to hear that someone over at our supply station at least understands the importance of the work that we are doing here. It is difficult to perform experiments if we can’t even keep our machines serviced.”

“Well ya’ dun have ta worry abou’ tha’ anymore.” Vell told him, “As long as it took tha droids to load us up ah think ya have enough supplies ta keep yah set fer a decade.”

Laughter erupted from the comm, “Yeah, right. Probably blow through this in a month. In any case we are sending you a landing vector now. Don’t dally we are supposed to be out of contact and need to recloak as soon as you are on board.”

Vell nodded while Stall and I held our breath, “Right-o send ‘em away and I’ll slip in quick as a vecna worm goes down a Hutt’s gullet.” Already the Smuggler was working to turn us around and make a break for it when the comm went off again

“Be advised Conquest, any deviation from this flight path will result in the high density turbolasers opening fire.”

The captain halted his plans and glanced at us, “This ship can’t take hits like the Lighthawk could. I’ll run if ya want but ah don’t thin’ we’d make it.”

“We don’t have a choice.” I told him, “We need to play along, sometimes the bantha has to enter the dragon’s den if he wants to avoid being eaten after all.”

“What the heck is that supposed to mean?” Stall asked, “Any Bantha that enters a dragon’s den becomes dinner.”

I glanced at the Trooper, “I was trying to sound wise and cryptic.”

Stall stifled a chuckle as he began to guide us toward the station by following their flight path.

--------------------

Separated

Begin entry...

Shortly after landing things happened at a whirlwind pace. I was ushered off of the ship quickly, the landing staff believed I was a Sith Lord. My companions and I were separated, Vell, slick as a Hutt's backside, managed to convince them that we were attacked on route and had the foresight to have Stall remove his and Duel's armor. The armor was stashed in the EVA Suit lockers and he convinced them that they should take Duel to the medical bay.

I only hope that Duel was lucid enough to understand what was going on. In order to keep up with the ruse I was forced to act in a manner that was unconcerned. I was lead away to some kind of VIP suite on the station. It seems they think of me as an honored guest.

The Darklab is apparently a secret research laboratory that specializes in genetic engineering and genetic study. It seems that their last Sith Lord was killed by someone that they call "Prisoner 0" on site. It seems that they think I am the Sith Lord's replacement, which was probably the intended position of the one I dueled back on the last station.

Darklab is a black operation. It seems, from what I gathered, that the entire station remains cloaked unless a scheduled shuttle is due to arrive. The only people allowed to know the location of this place are Sith Lords which means that the ship we stole was the personal ship of a Sith. This works in our favor, it will take the Sith some time to realize where we went since this station's location is only available to a few and since the cloaking will stop the station from sending and receiving holo-transmissions.

The Force must truly be with us.

I have traded in my borrowed EVA suit for some of the clothing I found here that must have belonged to the former lord. We were similar in size and they fit well enough, though I am forced to use my own boots as his were apparently too small.

Currently as I write this I am wearing a black bantha-hide vest on top of a purple ruffled shirt with matching onyx hide pants, as well as a purple trimmed silk cloak. I feel silly in this outfit. It is a far cry from my more functional, though less fashionable, robes.

I was given a dossier on "Patient 0" and my stomach has already turned several times over. The stench of the Dark Side that permeates this room is overwhelming, though that may only be in my head. The pain that "Patient 0" has undergone chills me to the bone, I find it amazing that he is still alive.

According to the file "Patient 0" is a Jedi. His name, before they rechristened him, was Durant Gantos. I had heard of a Jedi Scholar by that name not too long ago, during the height of the Great War he went missing. It appears that I have found him.

My course is clear. I will have to find my companions, rescue Durant, then escape before the Sith can figure out what has gone on and, if we can, put this place out of commission. The longer we stay here the more likely we are to be discovered.

I want to stall for time however, I estimate that we have at least a day before the Sith can get another shuttle here. This should be enough time for the facility's medical bay to get Duel back up and on his feet if the Force is indeed with us. We will need him too, I have a bad feeling that this is going to end up worse before it gets better.

--------------------

Patient 0

Begin entry...

I made my way out of my guest room, trying to look like I owned the station, trying to look like a Sith. My skin crawled inside of the clothes I was clad in, as if though I could be corrupted by the Dark Side just by wearing them. Every few steps I took brought me closer and closer to the place that the notes I had been given indicated Patient 0 resided in.

Opening the door I stepped in, finding the lab curiously empty. It had said, according to the dossier, that Patient 0 was not to be approached unless a Sith Lord was present. I assumed that he had been trying to influence the minds of the researchers around him, but it also meant that nobody had entered this lab with the exception of medical droids for over two weeks.

Patient 0, Durant Gantos, sat in a chair, I could see it was triple reinforced, and I could see repair marks telling me that he has tried to break out or at least damaged the chair more than once. He was thin looking, his beard was bushy and was in serious need of trimming, his hair was long and white but from premature aging as he was not a terribly old man only forty three if what I knew of him was accurate. I approached and his head snapped up to look at me, his brown eyes burned with hatred for me, or more for the Sith I appeared to be.

I stepped cautiously forward and pulled back the hood that I had pulled up to look at him and raised my hands in a gesture of peace, "Jedi Gantos?" I asked, afraid that whatever was in that chair was not Durant Gantos at all anymore.

He glared at me, and I could feel tendrils of the Force reaching out to me and I felt them begin to tighten around my throat. His voice was low and steady, strong, which surprised me after reading what he had been through, "So you are another of them?" he asked.

I tried to respond, already it was hard to speak, "Not... Exactly." I coughed, "My... Name is..." another cough escaped my throat, I could have shoved him with the Force, smashed his head to the side to break his grip but doing so would not gain me his trust which I would need if I was going to save him, "V-Val Starwind."

The invisible grip around my throat released instantly, "Tao-Ri's Padawan?" he asked with surprise, but the grip returned in force only a split second later taking me so much by surprise that I fell to my knees, "Nice try Sith." He seethed through clenched teeth, "I may not be able to get out of this chair, but I am going to kill as many of you as I can until one of you decides to kill me."

I could tell by his eyes that he meant it, and I did not think I could talk much more so I went with a new approach. I forced myself to my feet and took the few staggering steps forward that it would take to reach him and I drew my right lightsaber from my belt and with a snap-hiss the blue-white blade leaped into existence as I raised my hand to strike. I watched as Durant closed his eyes as if he was waiting for the end.

The end would not come though as I moved with accuracy despite the situation and in three rapid trikes I cut through the bonds on his hands and feet. The feeling around my throat vanished instantly as the Jedi Scholar released his grip. "What kind of a trick is this?" He demanded of me.

"No trick." I replied, "My name is Val Starwind and I'm here to rescue you."

Durant raised an eyebrow and stumbled to his feet, I could feel him pulling on the Force as he did so to steady himself and grant his atrophied muscles strength. "I've been here for over a decade." He said, "Why send rescue now?"

"We didn't know where you were. I found my way here by accident as it was." I replied as I rubbed my throat from where the invisible fingers had just moments ago squeezed.

"Right." He answered, "If this is a trick it makes little sense but it doesn't feel like you are lying. That doesn't mean much, Sith always lie."

"I'm no Sith, but we need to get out of here." I replied.

At that moment two orderly droids barged into the room, no doubt alerted that the prisoner had gotten free. The Scholar raised his hand and gestured toward them and I saw sparks fly from them as their heads were crushed in like empty cans of fizzy glug.

"Yes. We do." He replied as he began to walk toward the door that lead to the hallway entrance of the station.

--------------------

Battle to Med-Bay 5

Begin entry...

I have never seen anything like it. The sheer fury that poured off of Durant Gantos as the Jedi stormed down the hallway of Darklab 1 was staggering. The Dark Side, I knew it well, and I could almost see it swirling around Durant as he moved becoming an engine of pure destruction. I dimly heard the blaring of alarms and I already had begun to more than doubt my actions in freeing him so rashly.

A pair of Imperials rounded the corner, the alerts from the alarm system no doubt bringing them directly toward us. These two were different, they were clad in slick, black, form fitting armor, and each one carried a long assault blaster that was also suitable for sniper work. I swore under my breath, "Cipher Agents."

I drew my lightsaber and barley managed to deflect the first shot to come in, had I been even a split second slower my brain would have been cooked by the bolt. I was poised to deflect a second shot, but it never came, Durant didn't give it the chance.

He gestured and the second Agent spun, not of his own accord, and his rifle's barrel found itself pointing at the other imperial. With a small twitch of his finger Gantos forced the trigger to squeeze and the blaster bolt slammed into the second Agent's temple, he was dead before he even had a chance to register the shock.

I watched as the first Agent was yanked into the air and gasped at what came next. Gantos turned his wrist, and I could see a sadistic smile on his lips as the Imperial's head twisted completely backward, his feet twitching for only a moment before he too was dead.

Durant Gantos simply continued to walk on, unperturbed by the snuffing out of life that he had effortlessly engaged in. Not only did he engage in it, but his smile, his posture, I could tell... He enjoyed it. The Jedi Scholar stopped and looked at me, he must have sensed my thoughts, I had been betrayed by my feelings.

"They were animals." He said, in a cold and dangerous voice, "Sick, diseased, animals, killing them in a mercy." He did not give me a chance to comment and continued on, expecting me to follow, I had little choice but to do so.

"The Dark Side." He said as we continued to walk, "It is not as evil as we are lead to believe. It is not corrupting. It is simply more aggressive. In a war like this, that kind of aggression can be a powerful ally." He stopped, "You may disagree Val Starwind, but frankly I do not care, I will do whatever it takes to escape from this place and end the threat of the Sith. I have seen what they do. I have seen what they stand for."

He gestured suddenly and a door slid open, another quick turn of his wrist and a woman flew from it, he must have felt her presence. She was pretty, and young, younger than I am in any case. She was clad in a simple medic's uniform, I stepped forward as I sensed what was coming but I was too late.

Durant snapped his hand upward and her body followed through, held by the invisible grip of the Force. She slammed into the ceiling. A wet snapping sound and a blossom of read across the paneling and it was done. Durant simply continued to walk, while I saw the look of frozen horror a face that was, only moments ago, full of life.

"You said that your friend was in Med Bay 5?" He asked, as casual as anything as he took a few more strides on his legs.

"Yes." I replied, contemplating best how to confront him, this was not right.

"I know what you are thinking Padawan." He replied as he paused his steps once more, "You disagree with my methods. Fine. We can talk about it when we are off this place... Unless you want to stop me... If so, I warn you, you'll have to strike me down... An unarmed Jedi, a prisoner of war..."

"Of course not, I..." I tried to defend myself.

He turned and looked at me, cutting me off, his smile unsettling, "No." He said, "I didn't think so."

We were only a few halls away from Med Bay 5 by this point, and I knew that Sgt. Duel would be inside, hopefully able to fight, or at least move. Our movement however came to a screeching halt as we turned a corner. Standing in our path were three men one was tall, wearing thick heavy armor. I recognized that armor, Beskar. He was bristling with weaponry and carried a pair of blasters on his hips, his helmet featured a familiar T shaped visor. Across his back was a jet pack, the nozzles barely visible to us.

The other two wore similar outfits, and they bore the same insignia on their shoulders. It was a clan insignia, a cog with a wheel on the outer rim. I knew exactly what we were dealing with...

Mandalorians.

The tall one turned to his companions, "Ke'pare!" He ordered to them before he addressed us.

"I am Chief of Security for Darklab station." He said, "I knew something smelled fishy when I learned of your arrival so me and my boys here figured you'd come for the injured one eventually if something was up. I don't particularly hate you, and I don't feel like killing you if I don't have to. That one," He gestured to Durant, "Is particularly valuable. However, the Sith are paying shiny coin for us to watch this place for them and I have to do my job. If you don't surrender I won't hesitate to kill you."

I ignited my lightsaber, Mandalorians, we are taught, are not people that make idle threats. We, as Jedi, are taught to never underestimate an opponent and I was not willing to. My training had already taken over anyway, I had begun identifying the weak parts of my enemy's armor.

Beskar is a miracle of metallurgy. It is highly resistant to lightsaber strikes, but it is also immutable. Meaning it is hard to make flexible. Contrary to popular belief you can cut through the stuff, it simply takes a lot more time, thin bands of it though, such as those placed around moving joints, are considerably more vulnerable.

The battle started almost before I realized what was happening.

Durant raised his hand and the lead Mando unleashed a blast of flame almost instantly. My companion was forced to dive to the side, which effectively stopped him from grabbing the Mandalorian in a Force grip. I saw the big one move in, but by that point I had my own problems to worry about.

The second two Mandos, I don't know their names but we will call them Right and Left, unleashed a volley of blaster shots at me. Almost without thinking I drew my second lightsaber and began moving through a soresu pattern that was designed to help against that kind of attack. I knew against two Mandalorians if I made any mistakes at all I was as good as dead.

I knew I had to even these odds and I had to do so quickly. I dove toward the Mandos, switching to an Ataru movement mid-leap as I spun, trying to put as much momentum behind my attack as possible. The tactic worked, thankfully.

Part of Jedi training revolves around learning how people think. Psychology is a huge part of battle, much bigger than most other parts of it. When we have an opponent outnumbered and outgunned we expect them to retreat. Even though I wield a lightsaber, the most logical course of action would be to back away to find a position of tactical superiority.

The Mandalorians knew that in order for me to attack I had to close distance, though with two of them, and a hail of blaster bolts, they didn't expect me to suicidally charge them. My move took them by surprise, only briefly though.

The short Mandalorian that stood on the right side recovered and ignited his jets doing a quick burn backward. His friend however was not so lucky. To his credit he did try the same maneuver, but he was a split second late.

My blade came down aiming at the spot right below the elbow pad of the armor and the gauntlet. I knew that this part of the armor was the most vulnerable part on the substance. There was a brief delay as the thin beskar band in the underlay tried to resist the strike but it simply could not hold up, I burned through effortlessly, before another small delay and my blade came fully free. I had scored a cho mok, and Left's right arm came free from his body, this was the same arm that controlled his Jet Pack, but I could not afford to pause there.

Without stopping I allowed my lightsaber to continue into his body, the Beskar stopping my lightsaber more that effectively as it dug a furrow and melted through the top layer only, it did however cause my momentum to reverse on me, which was exactly what I had planned. I flipped my main-hand, my right hand, saber so that I held the blade point down and swept my left hand up into the heavily armored forearm of the Mandalorian's left arm to knock the arm upward even though my strike did no damage it was designed only to give me an opening as I turned with my new momentum.

I step back as I spun, the downward pointing lightsaber being angled along my forearm as my off hand held the Mandalorian's arm up exposing the arm pit, another weak point in the armor. As I finished my turn I jabbed with all of my force behind the drop point stab that penetrated the thin portion of the armor and burned into the insides of the Mandalorian and pierced his heart with a fatal shiak.

The entire movement took less than half a second, the dead Mandalorian stumbled backward his Jet Pack still sparking, I was hoping that his partner would have been stunned by the display, but my hopes were misplaced as the moment the now dead Left stumbled back and the angle was clear, Right unleashed a hail of blaster fire toward me.

In my credit, I survived, but not without suffering a graze to my side, and even that was only because I was still moving. A half inch more and the blast would have struck my left torso enough to collapse a lung which would have likely resulted in my death given the circumstances. This Mandalorian would not go down so easily.

"Mar'e," He said, "ala aru'e"

I don't speak Mandalorian, not in the slightest, but I got the feeling that he was excited. The way he said it had struck me as though he was looking for a good fight. I am a little surprised that he was not more upset by the fact that I had killed his comrade but as they say, "There is no figuring a Mandalorian."

My musings were interrupted by another barrage of blaster fire and once more the battle was on.

While my opponent and I circled one another testing each other's defenses, I caught sight of Durant and the lead Mandalorian battling. I was concerned for Durant as he was unarmed but now I could clearly see that his lack of a physical weapon was not much of a hindrance. He fought with the Force and he fought smart.

The Mandalorian must have tried to use his blasters because I saw them on the floor behind the Scholar, no doubt disarmed by the Force. This had made the Mandalorian move to a closer range, the older Jedi though was no fool. He had triggered with the Force his enemy's jet pack when he had moved forward and the wily Jedi guided him face first into the wall.

The impact didn't seem to stop the Mandalorian however as he must have been protected. He turned and lunged on the older Jedi and I watched as the two of them were locked in a grapple rolling on the ground each trying to gain the upper hand on the other.

I didn't have much time to focus on those two though as my own enemy, Right, had moved in and was leveling his flamethrower at me.

Flamethrowers are strange weapons but like all weapons they have strengths and weaknesses. Contrary to popular belief there are several ways for a Jedi to deal with one. The first way is to push the flame away with the Force, this can be done but this is very hard and I am not skilled enough to accomplish it. The second is to push the arm to the side, knocking off the aim of the person. The third is to pinch closed the nozzle and watch as the flame backs up and explodes the weapon and often the person holding in, I am not skilled enough to try that third one yet.

I went for the second method, with a twist... I pushed the Mandalorian's arm to the side, just slightly, and called on the Force to protect me from the radiant heat. Then I spun in with my lightsaber. My aim was not to sever his arm, but instead to target the fuel pump that fed the flamethrower. A split second later the flame thrower sputtered and died as my strike had succeeded, it wasn't a cho sun, but it would do.

"Osik!" He snarled as he looked at his sputtering flamethrower even as he disengaged from me, his posture was low and I have no doubt that had I been able to see through his visor I would have seen his glare, "Atin Jetii!"

I caught a glimpse of Durant's fight even as Right charged toward me, somehow the Scholar had wrenched off the lead Mandalorian's helmet and had it in his hand using it like a club as the two fought. Durant's hair was singed and I could see some blood coming from his arm while the lead Mandalorian, a man with dark hair and brown anger filled eyes was bleeding from his nose, which was bent at an odd angle and sported a fresh cut on his forehead.

At first I thought that my opponent had made a fatal error, I could feel his frustration and anger through the Force. He charged at me and I felt his rage build but then, something changed, suddenly he was a ball of fury and I couldn't anticipate his attack. He pulled some kind of blade and began slashing at me, before I could react my lungs filled with fire as something cut deep into my stomach.

I let out a gasp, I was cut, and I knew I was cut badly, but my opponent was pinning me. I could feel the blade exiting my back, which meant that he had gone right through me, and I was only fortunate that he had missed my spine. I squirmed and dropped my left lightsaber, the pain almost unbearable, and only managed to retain my composure because of my Jedi training even as he forced me back against the wall. He lifted his head up, so that I was face to visor with him even as my right lightsaber deactivated in my hand.

"Ib'tuur jatne tuur ash'ad kyr'amur." He hissed, almost as though he relished the words.

I smiled, and coughed a bit of blood up even as I did so, "Same to you."

"Parjai!" he crowed, radiating pleasure and a laugh as he pulled back slightly, preparing to finish me by yanking the blade up, the laugh however died in his throat as I hit my activator switch. In his battle fury the Mandalorian had never noticed that I pulled my deactivated lightsaber to my chest, with his head tilting up it left an opening beneath the lip of his helmet, an opening which my lightsaber was now extending through.

The blade had stabbed upward and diagonal, spearing the center of the Mandalorian's brain, he did not live long enough to finish his motion, or to even realize that he had lost.

I slumped to the ground, sliding down the wall, dimly aware of the world around me. The blade was still mostly through me, and I knew that I would have to do something quickly if I was going to survive, but healing was not one of my skills, at best I could hope to crawl into Med Bay 5 and find something there. I did get to see, however, how the final battle between Durant and the Tall Mandalorian ended.

The Mandalorian was on top, the pair were still wrestling. The Mandalorian pulled his ham sized armored fist back and laid a powerful punch into the Scholar's face. The Scholar looked pretty bad, one eye was swollen shut and his nose was also broken, the pair were bleeding heavily. I tried to stand up, but could not, the pain was too great, fortunately it did not look like I would have to.

Just as the Mando prepared another blow, one that would surely finish the older Jedi, he reached out and the Mandalorian's blaster slid across the floor and into Durant's out stretched hand. Then, it was over. Durant shot the Mando in the face and the large warrior simply stopped moving.

Durant collapsed to the floor however, and also stopped moving, I assume he had either passed out, or he had died but was too stubborn to go alone. I was unsure. I closed my eyes and allowed my world to fade to black wondering if I would join the Force before I awakened.

--------------------

Interlude

Begin entry…

I am adding the following section to the Journal of Val Starwind simply for a matter of filling in a stretch of blank space in the records.

My name is Sgt. Lemit Duel of the Republic Special Forces Havoc Squad. I wish to open by saying that I do not dislike Jedi Starwind, I just dislike the political games that the Jedi play, and that while I am not sure how Jedi Starwind depicts me in this journal I feel at least some degree of respect for him and for his willingness to act.

I was in and out of a lot of the events that lead us to Darklab Station, a lot of it is blurry, I remember a battle and I remember that at one point some shutta decided to use the repulsor bed I was strapped to as a means of portable cover. I remember being rushed to a medical ward. I remember the pain as a medical droid reattached the nerves in my spine as well, that wasn’t pleasant.

I should first explain the extent of my injuries in a little greater detail. The explosion severed my spinal column. This isn’t an injury that cannot be treated, but it needs to be treated pretty quickly or else recovery is nearly impossible. I am told that I just barely made the cut.

I woke up in the medical bay; I was wearing one of those silly flimsi-plast gowns that seem to be standard issue everywhere. My legs hurt like crazy, which was a good sign; it meant that I could move them again. The first thing I was aware of, after how much my legs hurt, was that there was blaster fire coming from outside of the medical bay.

Unarmed I decided to wait until the sound died down before I made my way to the door. In the hallway the situation was rather dire. There was an older man wearing a flimsi gown similar to the one I was wearing, who was laying next to what I could only assume was a Mandalorian, going off of the armor, the Mandalorian, a large man, had a blaster burn on his forehead, he was very dead, while the old man though beaten up pretty bad appeared to be alive, if unconscious. I found the blaster that I assume did the deed only a few inches from the older man’s hand and I picked it up, SOP (standard operating procedure) in these situations is to follow POSP (Procure on Site Protocol) and that means to make sure that I was armed.

There were two other dead Mandalorians, one of them was missing the lower part of his arm and it took me a few minutes to realize how the second one died. Val was also there, at first I thought that he was dead, but then I noticed that his chest was moving, but he was in bad shape. I had to make a command decision.

I grabbed Val, and as gently as I could, I drug him back into my medical room, Med Bay 5. It took some coercion but I was able to convince the medical droid to get to work. Then I pulled in the older man, and finally I took the dead mandos inside. Once that was done I sealed the door and made preparations to barricade myself inside.

The med droid assured me that Val was able to be treated, and though the injury was bad and his stomach and intestines were slashed pretty bad it claimed to have both the programming and supplies needed to treat the injury. The droid also claimed that the old man, the droid identified him as Patient 0, was not seriously injured, and aside from a broken nose and some bruises was simply exhausted. The automaton wanted to contact security, I advised it against that by pointing out that I was more than capable of patching the Jedi up if I had to and I knew where to put a bolt to fry its memory core. It saw things my way.

POSP states that after acquiring a weapon the next step is to procure body armor if possible. Thankfully I had three suits of Mandalorian armor to choose from. The larger Mandalorian was about my size and since he had been shot without his helmet on, which I also retrieved from the hall, it was no big deal to get myself dressed.

In Havoc Squad we are chosen because of our nerves of steel. We are chosen because we are willing to do whatever it takes. We are chosen because we are the best of the best. It was moments like this that I almost wish I was a little less of a man.

Allow me to explain. Many armchair soldiers like to claim that stripping the armor of your enemies to claim for your own is easy. Oh, it is easy; pulling armor off of a dead man isn’t very hard, it isn’t like they fight back. That isn’t the hard part.

The hard part is putting it on, especially when you don’t have a sani-steamer handy. When a person dies, a human anyway, the first thing that happens is we lose control of our bowel and bladder functions. This means putting on armor that someone died in, without properly cleaning it, is, for lack of a better term, gross.

I was actually lucky this time. Most Mandalorian armor is full environmental armor, and thankfully so was this suit. That meant that it automatically recycled bodily waste. I had heard that the reason that they employed this system was so that they never had to stop during a war march, I was just happy that I wasn’t going to be clothing myself in someone’s body juices. Bear in mind that I was naked save for a thin flimsi gown.

I did what I could to stash the three bodies of the Mandalorians. There were likely holocams so security may, or may not, already have known what happened but it wouldn’t hurt to try to cover my tracks in any case.

The medical droid took about twenty minutes patching Val up. That gave me enough time to take inventory of the weapons we had. There were six blaster pistols, only five of them were actually functional though, one appeared to have been crushed. There was some partial armor that maybe Val or the old man could use, but from what I know of Jedi I doubt Val would want it. We had two lightsabers, Val’s, I made sure to bring them in when I pulled the bodies inside. I also had a wrist mounted flame thrower with enough fuel left for a single burn, and a Jet Pack which had exhausted its fuel supply completely. Still it could have been a lot worse.

Knowing that company was going to come sooner or later I barricaded the door with one of the spare beds. I knew that it was a good precaution when I began to hear thumps against the medical room door. We were about to have company.

The droid claimed that while Patient 0 and Val needed to rest it could wake them with stims, and it assured me that it had done an adequate job of sealing Val’s wounds to where they wouldn’t reopen. I told it to go ahead, I had a feeling that Val’s lightsabers, and whatever the Old man could do were about to come in handy.

--------------------

Reunited

Begin Entry...

I awoke in the med bay, I felt like I had been through a ringer and a half, the first things I noticed were that I had not become one with the Force, the second thing I noticed was that a medical droid was standing over me and had just injected me with something. This could be either a good, or a bad, situation.

I sat up and saw a Mandalorian standing at the edge of the room, this was definitely not good. It was the big Mandalorian and I instantly reached for my lightsabers, which were not on my belt. About that time my brain clicked back into full wakefulness and I remember that the big Mandalorian had been shot in the head and I had seen it.

I forced myself to relax, if I was a prisoner, fighting an armed opponent while unarmed was the fastest way to become one with the Force that I could come up with. I also noticed that we were barricaded inside the medical bay: Medical Bay 5.

"Sgt. Duel?" I asked as I slid off of the bed that I had been laying on.

The Mandalorian nodded, and his voice was recognizable even through the speakers of the helmet, "Who else would you expect?" He said, "I pulled you and the old man in here, we have company coming so I told the medical droid to wake you up. You are sore, but you'll have to live with it."

I nodded, "Pain is an illusion, there are Jedi techniques to ignore it, I'll be fine. Have you had any contact with the others?"

Duel shook his head, "Negative." He said, "Your lightsabers are right over there, the old guy should be up soon."

I looked over and sure enough the medical droid was tending to Durant. The droid pressed a hypospray against the aging man's arm and a hiss came from the unit. It only took a second for it to work it's magic, the medical droid was sent reeling badkward as Durant pushed it with the Force savagely. It was unsurprising given the fact that he had been victimized by these droids many times in the past.

"Durant!" I ordered sternly as I caught the droid in my own grip, noting that it might be useful, "Calm down, we are okay."

He was on his feet in an instant, "No! No boy we are not! As long as we are on this station we are not okay." he growled, and I felt him reaching toward me with the Force, he was better with that kind of thing than I was and I knew if he lashed out I would not be able to deflect it all, I braced myself none the less.

"I hate to interrupt this." Duel said, "But we have more important things to worry about."

It was a mistake, Duel brought Gantos' attention toward him, and Gantos lashed out. I watched as the sergeant was lifted into the air and began to choke, I dove between the two, hoping to break Durant's concentration, "Durant! He's a friend! The one we came to rescue!"

I heard a thud as Duel hit the ground behind me and Durant's eyes went momentarily wide with the realization, "He swiped the Mando's armor?" he asked.

I nodded and stepped away, Duel was getting off of the ground rubbing at his throat, "Yeah, didn't have much of a choice." He sounded as though he was a combination angry and scared at the outburst, and I couldn't blame him.

"I apologize for my actions." The Jedi Consular said, "I didn't realize, I was shocked."

"Don't worry about it," Duel waved his hand, "If I woke up in a strange place with a Mando standing in front of me I'd probably attack too."

I raised an eyebrow, Durant's demeanor had completely changed, it was an act, I could feel that much, but it struck me as odd that he would put on a show in front of the Trooper. We, at the academy, are taught to always discern someone's motives. Being able to tell what someone's goals are can help explain, and help to predict, their behavior.

This was one of the secrets of the Jedi, as I mentioned before, there is no ignorance, there is knowledge. In this case I did not know what Durant's goals were. They could be revenge, they could be escape, they could be anything, however the fact that I didn't know meant that I could not make assumptions. It was something I knew I would have to keep in mind.

"Okay Sgt. Duel, what is the situation?" I asked.

"Well," He began, "I sealed the door, and barricaded it, but that isn't going to hold for long, most of the stuff in here was flimsy, and I know that there are people on their way."

His statement was given an exclamation point as at that very moment a thump slammed into the door.

"If we can't rely on the defenses," Durant began, changing his tone to sound instructive, "Then we have to attack. Sergeant, can you unseal the door so that it can be opened from the inside?"

Duel nodded, "Yeah, I just used the lock command anyway, didn't blast the console."

Durant Gantos nodded, "Good, then I propose we open the doors, I'll fling the barricade at them, that should distract them enough for you and Val to launch an offensive."

The plan, I had to admit, was sound, but I didn't like the source. The change in his demeanor was unsettling to me, however at this point i didn't have a choice but to play along, "Makes sense. I'll take whoever is on the right, is that acceptable to you Sgt. Duel?"

The Trooper in the Mando armor nodded and pulled out the blaster pistols that he had acquired, "I only wish I had a blaster rifle with me." he murmured.

"I agree," the Jedi Consular responded, "I would love to have my lightsaber at this point in time."

I shrugged and picked mine up from their resting place, "You can carry one of mine." I offered.

The Consular shook his head, "No. I shall be fine. You are extremely skilled in Jar Kai, you are also skilled in the single blade I know but you are far more effective with two instead of one. I shall be more than sufficient with my skills with the Force."

At that point a piece of the door warped as an impact hit it.

"Now the time has come to make our daring escape." The older Jedi said, "Open the door."

Sgt. Duel opened the door and time seemed to slow down, the barricade accelerated like it was a shrapnel explosion. Shards of debris, plasteel, metal, and more, rained out like a shaped charge. In the hallway we could see five of them, agents, this place must have been a very secret project to have this many on board.

Cipher Agents are good in a fight, however Jedi and Troopers are better. Agents tend to rely on range and surprise, two elements that they didn't have at the moment. Caught flat-footed and in the open they didn't stand a chance.

Duel charged first, slamming his shoulder into the first agent on the left, flipping him over in a judo style throw. The agent hit the ground and the one behind him, now the one in front of duel squeezed off a shot that bounced harmlessly off of the Mandalorian beskar armor. Duel stayed true to his name as he aimed one of the two stolen blaster pistols at the downed agent, while he aimed the second at the one who had shot at him. One squeeze of each trigger a split second later and neither one of the two imperials would be able to threaten anyone ever again.

I charged to the right, spinning my lightsabers before me in a defensive pattern. A blaster bolt went flying off of one of my sabers even as I made my attack. The Agent tried to step back, but he was simply not ready, and I wasn't willing to give him the chance. I swung low with my off-hand saber, aiming at a point above his knee but below his groin, effortlessly my lightsaber passed through and the cho mok was scored, the agent stumbled on his only remaining leg and began to fsll over toward the floor, I continued as I moved not allowing even that as I swept my other saber, it's brilliant blue-white blade, downward as I spun, landing a sai cha as I separated his head from his body.

I did not pause as I stepped over the first now dead agent, the second squeezed off a series of four quick blasts. Had I been using only one saber I could never have deflected them all, they came in at different angles of attack, making deflection with a single weapon impossible. Fortunately I had two and deflecting the bolts was simply a matter of coordination.

The Agent stepped back and tried to fire again, aiming at my legs. It was exactly what I wanted him to do.

I leaped into the air and turned full horizontal in mid motion, I began a jung ma, a three hundred and sixty degree spin, and became a virtual vibrosaw as I spun to the Agent. This maneuver was my two bladed version of the classic falling leaf technique.

I am ashamed to say that one of my weaknesses as a Jedi is that I have become too aggressive in combat. I allow myself to join with the Force and allow it to guide my hand but I fight with a manner that allows me to be most practical. I have been reprimanded for this by Master Tao-Ri many times. Had he seen me perform the technique that I was about to, he would have reprimanded me again.

It is not that I feel hatred, it is not the Dark Side, I simply have seen too much war. This is something that the masters say have touched many padawans, myself included, it was one of the reasons I was teaching rather than on active missions as of late. I simply do not like to risk not ending a fight instantly, and against enemies who try to kill me, I rarely hold back. It is something I deal with each time I draw my lightsabers.

I came down on top of the agent, spinning in a deadly twirl, and twisted to land on my feet at the last moment. The agent fell, half of him on one side, half on the other, his insides split and displayed gruesomely before me. Even the cauterizing effects of a lightsaber could not contain all of the blood as the deck became stained with crimson and the smell of burned flesh filled the area. I had performed a picture perfect and flawless vertical sai tok.

The remaining agent was stunned, possibly from the shrapnel blast, and possibly from the fact that in less than a second four of his friends were laying dead. I considered for a moment taking him prisoner but Durant did not give me the opportunity to act on that.

With a simple gesture from his hand the remaining enemy found himself slammed first into the ceiling, then into the floor, the wet snapping of bones told us all we needed to know. This fight was over.

We did not have time for rest, we knew that there might be more Cipher Agents around, and we still had to track down Captain Vell and Pvt. Stall and escape before more Sith forces managed to arrive.

Entry Ends...
"There is no room for compromise. We walk the path of the light side, or we fall into darkness. There is no gray area, Ben."
~ Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker (P. 187 FotJ, Book II: Omen)
Host of the Jedi Council stream also author of From the Journal of Val Starwind

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ProfessorWalsh
12.13.2011 , 10:02 AM | #5
From the Journal of Val Starwind

Returning to Tython

Begin Entry…

I contacted the Jedi Council as soon as I could pull myself out of the Bacta tank. They refused my request to change course for Corellia, they did not believe my vision was a premonition, or at least not one that needed to be acted on at the moment.

Their reasoning was very good however and I cannot fault them. Master Tao-Ri was currently on Tython awaiting my return. I remembered a feeling of relief come over me as I signed off, shivering nearly uncontrollably. The shadow of those visions did not leave me, but the time was not now.

Most of my injuries had been treated, but not all of them had finished healing before I wrenched myself from the Bacta tank in a very weakened and confused state. I would live though. My medical data, given to me by the medical droid on board, was horrifying, I could only thank the Force that I was alive.

I had suffered numerous contusions and abrasions from the various bumps and falls, none of those were lethal of course. It seemed that my right lung had collapsed at some point, probably when I was stabbed by the Mandolorian I had fought. My calf muscle was lacerated very deep, but the cauterized wound made it difficult to heal and I would need more specialized care to regain full use of my leg.

The Council was very pleased to learn that we had recovered Durant, and after learning that they asked me if they could have a moment to speak with him alone. I did not have a chance before that to tell them that I had suspicions that Gantos had fallen to the Dark Side. It was a theory that I decided to keep private until I had more information to confirm it.

The rest of my companions are recovering from their injuries very well. Captain Vell seemed frustrated when he learned of the red tape that would be necessary to cut through if he was going to get the Republic to reimburse him for the loss of his ship. I heard him mention that he would have a better chance of getting a discount from a Toydarian. I am concerned about Sgt. Duel and Pvt. Stall however, with the time of calm as we drift through Hyperspace it seems that the loss of Pvt. Wing had finally set in and the pair had at last found time to grieve.

Part of me wanted to console them, however another part of me is not sure how. As a Jedi I know that death is an illusion. We aren’t beings of flesh, we are beings of the Force, when our physical bodies cease to function we rejoin the Force. For a Jedi, when another Jedi passes, we know that the person is not gone, that they will walk beside us as long as the Force remains our ally. Though telling that to someone who was not raised as we are, who has not felt the Force as we have, can sometimes stir feelings of anger, and given that I was far from their favorite person I did not wish to risk that scenario.

I, instead, chose to write a letter to the family of Pvt. Wing, it was not the first time I had written such a letter. During the Great War I took command of a small squad of Troopers when I was a boy. We had gotten separated from Master Tao-Ri and Captain Teller, the second in command after Master Tao-Ri, had been killed by fire from Sith Battledroids. We made it out, thanks to their skills and my intuition, but I had written over fifteen such letters, and each one was a reminder to me that I was responsible.

It was actually partially that which was why I was moved to the Temple. Master Tao-Ri believed that the incident may have wounded me psychologically more deeply than it had appeared. To be honest the time at the Temple was helping. I still remember the screams that I heard in battle, they do keep me up at night.

One thing I can say about Sith, they don’t scream. When you kill a Sith, usually, they might cry out “No!” or spit a curse before they fall, but they rarely scream in terror. Most of the time they cannot believe that they have been killed, I am told that is because the Dark Side can cloud judgment and can give someone delusions regarding their own mortality.

When you kill a slave that has been told to fight or die though, or worse, been told that if they die their family will as well, they scream. I tried, I really did, to avoid that, but sometimes there is no choice. That, however, does not stop those screams of terror or anguish from leaving a mark.

Another group of people that scream are soldiers. Most Troopers try to pretend that they are too rough, too rugged, to scream. It is a lie. Many Troopers scream and I cannot blame them. They don’t have the same understanding of life and death that Jedi do. They don’t have the Force to push away pain. They have families; they have aspirations that they will never fulfill; they have a right to scream.

Whenever I have to write one of these letters I hear those screams as well. It is something that I have to live with. So I turned the holo-recorder on in the ship’s communication room and I began to record…

“This holo-recording is addressed to the family of Private Tyr Wing, member of Havoc Squad and loyal soldier of the Republic. My name is Val Starwind, I am a Jedi Padawan. By now you know from his commanding officer that Private Wing has passed on. I felt it was my duty to record this for you.”

I took a breath and calmed myself slightly with one of the meditation techniques Master Tao-Ri had taught me.

“I did not know Private Wing for very long, and I cannot say that he liked me very much, but in the end he died saving my life and the life of his squad mates. He died a hero. His quick thinking in his last moments allowed him to break the tube that held an enemy ship to our hull and prevented reinforcements from storming onto our vessel.”

I continued as calmly as I was able to as I remembered the detonation that destroyed both the Trooper and the boarding tube.

“If not for the brave actions of Private Tyr Wing none of the crew of the Lighthawk would be alive today, myself included. Thus I owe him my life. I wished you to know of his brave sacrifice and I wish to say that I am proud to have met him. Thank you and I am sorry for your loss. May the Force be with you.”

I clicked off the holo-recorder and wiped a bit of sweat from my brow, it was then that I heard a voice come from behind me; I was so focused on the message that I had not even sensed his arrival.

“Tha’ was a pretty poor way ta tell a family how there loved on died.” Captain Vell said, “Ya were pretty straigh’ ta the poin’ there.” He told me as he slipped in and took the other seat near me, “It didn’ feel natural.”

I nodded, “It was difficult for me.” I explained, “Jedi don’t see life like other people do.” I said.

Vell leaned forward, “Oh ah know tha’ is true.” He said, “But ya were forcin’ it.” The Twi’lek explained. “Ya were tryin’ ta make him out ta be a hero, but ya didn’ like ‘im very much did ya?”

I nodded, “To be honest Captain, Private Wing was a sleemo.” I said, “He was scum. I read his file. He willingly turned his blaster on civilians. He used his demolitions knowledge to cause buildings to fall into populated locations, then claimed it was an accident when according to his file it shouldn’t have been.”

Vell whistled, “So, ya tried ta be polite when ya lef’ tha message.” He said, though it was more of a question.

“Yeah, the truth is Wing didn’t jump into that tube to save me, or even his squad mates, I felt it before he went.” I said, “He simply knew that he could kill more Sith that way.” I shuddered, “A lot of people think that killing Sith makes you a hero,” I said, “And to some, I guess it does. Though, to be honest, why you do something is sometimes as important as what you do. Intentions are sometimes as important as actions.”

Vell raised the muscle that would, on a human, have been his eyebrow as his lekku raised a bit as well, “But not always?” he asked.

“No. If you do an evil thing for good reasons, it still is evil, no matter what your intentions are.” I said as I raised my right hand like I was picking up a cup, “On the other hand, if you do a good thing, for evil reasons, it too is still evil.” I lifted my other hand to match it.

“Go on…” He said as he listened intently.

“Private Wing’s reasons weren’t noble, nor were they honorable. He realized he was going to die and simply wanted to kill as many people as he could before he went. There wasn’t anything else there. His final action, though it saved us all, was ultimately evil.”

Stall’s head bobbed, “But you didn’ wanna tell them that?” he asked.

“No.” I said, “There was no reason to tell them that. If I told them the truth, his family would only feel shame and anger.” I said, “It would just cause them pain.”

Vell frowned, “But, isn’ lyin’ evil?” He asked, “If so, didn’ ya jus’ do an evil thin’ with good intentions?”

I shrugged, “I am not sure.” I said, “From one point of view, yes.” I said, “However, as I said some people would see what he did as heroic.” I explained, “So he did die a hero.” I continued, “His quick thinking did indeed save us all… I never said it was his intention to do so.” I said, “He was also brave, he felt no fear at the end, only anger.” I frowned, “Regardless of that I do owe him my life and I really do wish that I could say I was proud to have met him.”

“So, ya are sayin’ that technically, ya didn’ lie.” He said.

“From a certain point of view.” I replied simply.

“Okay…” The Twi’lek smuggler said as he smiled a little, “Tha’ was about as deep as Captain Vell gets.” He chuckled, “An tha’ was about as deep as ya should be only a couple o’ hours outta the tank.” He said as he stood up, “We shoul’ be at Tython in abou’ twelve hours. So, in tha meantime why don’t I show ya a new meditati’n technique.”

I stood, interested to hear of a new technique, and glad to be off of the topic that we had drifted to, “What kind of technique?” I asked.

The smuggler winked, “Ever heard o’ sabacc?”

To be continued...

Dramatis Persona:

Val Starwind – Narrator, Male Human Jedi Padawan
Captain Vell – Male Twi’lek Smuggler
Sergeant Duel – Male Human Trooper
Durant Gantos – Male Human Jedi Sage
Private Stall – Male Human Trooper
Master Tao-Ri – Male Nautolan Jedi Master
Nara – Female Human Jedi Youngling
Tissel Voh – Male Bothan Jedi Shadow
Jav Kir – Female Falleen Jedi Master
Gou Vassius – Male Barabel Jedi Master


From the Journal of Val Starwind
Temple Life

The ramp had touched down on the fertile ground of Tython, and the clean air from the forest planet found its way to my nostrils as I walked down the ramp of the Defender. Walking beside me was Durant, the Jedi we had rescued from the Dark Lab. Behind us shuffled Captain Vell and Sergeant Duel, the two were mumbling to one another.

“He cheats.” Vell said to Duel as the two walked.

“It was just luck.” Duel responded with a nod, “Had to be luck.”

“Nobody is dat lucky on their firs’ night.” Responded the smuggler as he grumbled, still smarting from the losses that happened only a short while ago at the Sabacc table on the ship.

Waiting at the ramp was my master, Tao-Ri, the Jedi who had been in charge of me for these last twelve years, the one who taught me how to open myself up to a greater universe. He was the one who lead me into battle and helped me to come out of it as intact as I had. The fact of the matter is Tao-Ri was the only reason I was even still a Jedi.

“Welcome home Val.” My Master said to me, with a small smile on the edge of his lips, “I see that you’re still in one piece.” His chin tentacles quivered showing amusement, “Next time I’ll send you to Korriban, it will probably be safer than sending you to Tatooine.”

I could feel relief wash over me, tensions that I wasn’t even aware of faded, “Thank you Master Tao-Ri.” I replied as respectfully as I could.

My master laughed, “Oh I would not be so relieved Val,” he said, “There is still that whole matter of that bar fight.” His eyes twinkled with humor as I felt my cheeks begin to grow warm.

“Yes Master.” I responded, “I promise that I can explain about that.”

Tao-Ri silenced me by raising his hand, “Later Val, later…” He looked at Durant, “It is good to see you again Jedi Gantos.” he said, “You had been missing for so long we had thought for sure that you were lost to us.”

Durant Gantos, the Jedi I was certain had fallen to the Dark Side nodded, “My time hasn’t come yet Master Ri,” he replied, “I still have work to do.”

Now that we were on Tython Durant seemed subdued, I could feel the uneasiness within him in the Force. I could tell that Master Tao-Ri could feel it himself but he elected to say nothing regarding it. My Master looked next to Sergeant Duel, “So you are the one that my Padawan had the fight with?” He asked.

“Yes sir.” The Trooper replied, “That was Private Stall, Private Wing, and I.” He confirmed.

“I hope that you and yours were able to knock some sense into his head.” Tao-Ri responded with a hearty laugh.

“I think we were able to, yes.” The Sergeant said, as a grin spread over his face.

“Good.” He said, “I read the report,” He offered, “I am sorry about what happened to Private Wing, is Private Stall still on the ship?” He asked.

“Yes sir,” Duel confirmed, “He was wiped out and was sleeping, I can wake him if need be but I think he needs the rest.”

Master Tao-Ri shook his head, “No need. From your reports I cannot help but agree.” Finally the Nautolan turned his gaze to Captain Vell, “And you would be Captain Vell?” He asked.

“Indeed.” The Twi’lek shot back, “And all I need to know is where I will be filin’ my property replacement and reimbursement forms.”

Tao-Ri barked out a laugh, a hearty sound that was loud and rolling, “Oh, you… I can tell I like you…” My Master clapped the Twi-lek on the shoulder, “You can come with me and we will take care of that right now.” He turned as he began to lead the stunned Smuggler away, “Val, you and Sergeant Duel are wanted in the audience chamber straight away. If you would be so kind as to show the Sergeant the way.” He added.

A sound then came from my right and I almost jumped out of my skin in surprise, “Jedi Gantos,” a voice hissed, “If you would come with me please.” Standing where I could have sworn nobody was before was a wide Bothan, his gray and black streaked fur largely hidden by the robes that he wore, an ornate hood covered the top half of his face. His name was Tissel Voh, and he was a Jedi Shadow, a Jedi who had answered a calling to travel to places filled with the taint of the Dark Side and seek out and destroy artifacts of the Dark Side.

The Jedi Sage nodded, “I do not see many other options.” He replied as he consented and stepped off of the ramp. When a Jedi Shadow in good standing tells you that they want to speak with you it is rarely a request after all. The two began to make their way toward a smaller series of buildings that many of the Padawans had nicknamed the interrogation hotel. I could not hide the pang of sympathy I felt for the Jedi Sage.

“Okay Val.” Sergeant Duel said, “Let’s get this over with.” He stated, “Lead on.”

Together Duel and I began making our way toward the Temple’s audience chamber, where no doubt we would be confronted by at least two of the masters and our stories would be checked. I assumed that we were getting the nice version of what Durant would be going through shortly with Voh.

The first portion of the debriefing that followed for did not take too long. After two hours into it Private Stall was brought in. The Private looked as though he was still tired but the Sergeant and I were forced to sit and listen as he told his recounting of the events. Starting with the bar fight on Tatooine and through to the events which lead us to the first Sith station. Once we had all reached that part, it was my turn again.

I rose and made my way to a comfortable padded stool that sat in the middle of the cylindrical room. In front of me sat twelve chairs, currently most of them were shrouded in shadow. Two of them however, were illuminated, and in each one sat a Jedi Master. For this debriefing they were the Jedi Masters Jav Kir and Gouh Vassius.

The slightly reptilian green skinned Jav Kir was someone that I can only describe as beautiful. Though she wore the same brown robes of office that all Jedi Masters wore it wasn’t so much what she wore but how she wore it. It is something that I can’t put my finger on but curves that normally would not be there were quite obviously there. There was also the way her hair, black and long, fell from her topknot to frame her face. The small ridges around her nose drew attention to her breathtakingly green eyes that seemed to drag all who glanced at them in. It also did not help that the smell, pheromones I already knew, that drifted off of her was playing havoc with my biology.

The other Master, also reptilian, was Gouh Vassius, a Barabel. He was large and physically intimidating, with bulging muscles that could be seen through his scaled skin. His face, in contrast to Jav Kir’s was the kind of thing that could bring nightmares to a human child. His small slit eyes and his wide mouth filled with razor sharp teeth were enough to make even the bravest individuals consider alternatives to a confrontation with the almost demonic visage. He too wore the robes of a Jedi Master, but his hood was down so that the ridges on his skull plate were completely visible.

“Thiss one wishess to ask the Padawan to exsplain how he, a Padawan, managed to sstrike down a Ssith of ssuch obvious sskill and possition when he wass outmatched by the raider he locked ssabers with on the Lighthawk.” The Barabel Jedi Master hissed out addressing me.

I ran quickly through a calming technique, trying to block out Master Kir’s pheromones, the purpose of which I already knew was to throw me off in case I was trying to deceive the Masters, “Yes Master Vassius,” I replied, “When we were on the Lighthawk I was not completely prepared for the combat, I was distracted by a number of things.” I explained, “When we made our way onto the first station I was, as strange as this is to say, more focused, I do not know why but for some reason I felt more at peace despite the situation.”

The Falleen leaned forward and stroked her chin, “Padawan Starwind, while I do not sense any intentional attempt at subterfuge from you, I can also sense that you are not being completely honest in that response, perhaps even from yourself. Would you like to elaborate on anything a bit more before we continue?” she asked.

I sighed and could see looks of confusion on both Stall and Duel as I tried to continue, “As the Masters know, since Alderaan I have had difficulty fully immersing myself into the Force, it is hard for me to fully let go.” I said, “When we were going to crash into the first station I accepted the situation, I was prepared to become one with the Force…” I looked down at my left hand as I opened and closed it trying to figure out how to properly word what had occurred, “At that moment though, I could feel exactly what I needed to do, so I just kind of let go and it was clearer than it had ever been. It was as though the Force were completely guiding me, I had not felt that way in a very long time.”

Jav leaned back, her brow furrowed in concentration, “You are sure that it was not something else?” She asked, “You are certain what you felt was not your own fear?” she said, “Perhaps whispers from the Dark Side?”

I felt a wave of ice wash over me, and I closed my eyes to push it away. I knew what I was being asked, and it was something that I had not considered previously. It was said, by many, that the Dark Side was a quick and easy path, that a Jedi who called on the Dark Side could gain tremendous power in a very short amount of time and I had witnessed it first-hand in the past. I let my thoughts drift back to that moment on the Lighthawk.

I replayed the events in my mind. I recalled the thoughts that were going through my head as I pushed off toward the Sith station. I recalled the look I received from the pilot of one of the Sith fighters as I passed beneath it. I was not feeling fear, I was not feeling anger, I was excited yes, but that was from the events as they happened, and not something I was drawing on or feeding. I opened my eyes feeling bolstered by my certainty.

“I am positive Master Kir, I did not call on the Dark Side on the Lighthawk nor did I call upon it while I battled the Sith on the station.” I responded to the Falleen.

She nodded, “Thank you Padawan Starwind, you may return to your seat.” She responded.

The two Jedi Masters spoke in quiet tones among themselves and then after a few minutes they called for Private Stall and asked him a number of questions regarding the events that had transpired. He answered as best he could, and likewise was asked to sit. This continued for another hour before the two Masters were satisfied with our combined report and we were dismissed.

I stood and began walking toward the exit when Master Vassius called for my attention, “Padawan Sstarwind, thiss one wisshess to tell you that a youngling named Nara hass been assking your sstatuss for ssome time. You sshould ssee her and easse her mind before you retire to your quarterss.” The Barabel Jedi Master instructed me.

I nodded, “Thank you Master, I will.” I replied as I turned to continue making my way out with the others.

As we walked out of the archway that lead from the audience chamber, none of us speaking much, we could see the sun had already begun to set. Private Stall let out a yawn that I found myself mirroring. Then we saw Tissel Voh and Durant heading toward the audience chamber. Gantos looked haggard and his sunken expression and slow gait left plenty for my imagination to conjure regarding how his debriefing had gone. The look in his eyes burned however, and though I could not feel it, I could see that there was a well of anger for the Shadow bubbling below Durant’s outer layer.

At the base of the steps stood a little girl who was no more than the age of seven. She had long brown hair and at her waist rested a training saber. That identified her as a member of clan Gizka. Master Tao-Ri’s group of younglings all carried training sabers as Master Tao-Ri did not believe that the clubs that the Order had begun using was sufficient for a proper education in how to use a lightsaber.

The little girl ran forward and wrapped her arms around my waist, the movement taking me somewhat by surprise, “I am so glad that you are back Padawan Starwind!” she chirped relieved or overjoyed I was not sure which at the moment.

“Hello Nara,” I said smiling down at her as she stepped back and composed herself, “I am sorry I worried you.”

I told her that I would see her tomorrow after I woke up, explaining how tired I was. I showed Sergeant Duel and Private Stall to a pair of guest rooms we kept for the non-Jedi staff then made my way back to my own room. All in all I thought it would feel good to get back to my normal routine.

Little did I know what was going to come next was anything but normal…

The Stuff Jedi Are Made Of

Dramatis Persona:

Val Starwind – Narrator, Male Human Jedi Padawan
Captain Vell – Male Twi’lek Smuggler
Sergeant Duel – Male Human Trooper
Durant Gantos – Male Human Jedi Sage
Private Stall – Male Human Trooper
Master Tao-Ri – Male Nautolan Jedi Master
Nara – Female Human Jedi Youngling
Tissel Voh – Male Bothan Jedi Shadow
Jav Kir – Female Falleen Jedi Master
Gou Vassius – Male Barabel Jedi Master

Begin Entry…

The next morning came all too fast. I woke up when my chrono alarm went off, and as I had done for many years; I began my morning exercises. I engaged in some basic stretches before beginning my customary push-ups. I began each morning with push-ups for a number of reasons, the least of which was to increase arm strength, a requirement for lightsaber combat.

After my push-up routine I began the other battery of exercises. Sit-ups, crunches, jumping jacks, and the like were all part of a daily rotation. Many people felt that with the Force we Jedi often eschewed physical training. Those people would be wrong, while the Force can indeed make an infirm body firm, not to mention increase strength, reaction time, and stamina there was no excuse for not maintaining a good, strong, and healthy body.

The basic routine did not even tire me anymore and I was not even sweating, but my muscles felt warm and loose, a good sign. I gathered my robes and a personal towel and made my way to the communal showers that the academy provided for us. On most Republic worlds I would be using a sonic shower, but here on Tython the clean water was tapped to provide us with the unique sensation of warm running water for our cleaning needs. Some thought that this was a little archaic, but I found such things refreshing.

On my way I passed Sgt. Duel and Pvt. Stall, the pair appeared to have likewise finished a morning work-out routine as well, I waved in greeting, “Good morning Sergeant.” I said.

Duel grunted a little, despite the work-out it seemed that he was not yet fully awake, “Do all of you Jedi have to be so karking chipper in the morning?” he grumbled.

I shrugged, “It is a part of temple life.” I replied, “We wake with the dawn and begin exercises, I would assume that members of Havoc Squad would be used to such a schedule.”

Stall chuckled, “Not since training.” He shook his head, “Usually while we remain in good shape we have the good sense to at least sleep until a reasonable hour.”

“It is five thirty in the morning.” I replied, generally fascinated, I had assumed my companions would not find waking and working this early odd at all, it seemed that my assumption about the Republic’s training regime was out-dated.

Duel shook his head, “Anyway, Starwind, can you show us where the sonic showers are?” he asked, “I didn’t see any in our guest room.”

“Ah, well, there are guest showers on the north part of the complex, or if you would prefer we have traditional water based showers as well, which is where I am heading.” I explained, “You are more than welcome to accompany me.”

The pair shrugged and began following me, “So,” Stall began, “What are you actually doing today?” he asked directing the question at me.

“Well, after breakfast I need to do my daily exercises, I have done my first set already, then I have my lightsaber training with Master Tao-Ri,” I began listing off, “After that my morning meditation, then I have to study the latest military strategy manuals and holovids,” I continued, “Then I have to give Nara her personal instruction time and after that I will take Gizka Clan to their afternoon lightsaber instruction.”

Duel whistled, “Sounds like you have a busy day planned.” He said, “I figured you’d get a couple of days of light duty after our little adventure.”

I laughed, “This is light duty.” I explained, “If I was doing a full day I would have far more activities on my schedule, I assure you.” I tilted my head, “What about yourselves?” I asked.

The Sergeant shook his head as we approached the shower building, “Republic command wants to review our reports, we are to remain here until they finish their evaluations.” He explained, “Basically we have been given a few days to relax with the bathrobe brigade.”

I stopped and raised an eyebrow, “Bathrobe brigade?” I asked frowning.

“Just a term I picked up back home,” he said, “I didn’t mean to offend.”

I looked at him, “You did not. However, nothing I knew about you indicated that you were a Mandalorian.” I said, “They are the only people whom I have ever seen use that particular slur regarding the Jedi.”

The Private grew quiet and simply watched the exchange between myself and his superior, I could sense that he expected some kind of violence to erupt and I wondered if I had once again stumbled onto a social landmine with the Sergeant.

Duel laughed, easing my worry a bit, “I’m not Mandalorian, but we had a Mando settlement near where I grew up. You pick up a thing here and there.”

“The Sergeant isn’t a Mando unless you get him drunk enough.” Offered Pvt. Stall, “But then you know about that already.” He laughed as he referenced how we had met; it seemed like a very long time ago even though ultimately it was only a few days.

We walked into the shower area where a number Padawans were tending to their hygiene already. I could feel Stall blush, and I admit I took a little humor at his discomfort. Padawans were taught to avoid detachment and block out distractions, because of that I had not thought to warn the Troopers that the showers were unisex. The feelings they had given off in the Force were felt by more than just me though as I saw several other Padawans turn to look in our directions.

“Val?” Stall asked, “Are these?” He began.

I nodded, “Yes.” I said as I began to store my effects in a small cubby hole, “I am certain that you have seen such things before.” I added as I prepared to step into one of the shower stalls.

“I assumed that Jedi would have more modesty given your feelings about…” Duel said, letting the question hang as he too began following suit. Presumably he was not willing to show that he had been taken off guard by the mixed showering. Each stall was separated by a frosted window anyway which served to preserve each person’s dignity anyway.

“Oh that,” I replied as I let the water pour over me, “It is complicated.” I replied, “We, as Jedi are allowed to have relationships, it is simply something that we have to attain permission to do.” I said as I washed my hair, “Really there is a good reason for it.”

My two companions had finally adjusted to the situation and were also dealing with the task of tending to their own hygienic needs, “What reasons?” Stall asked.

“Well,” I explained, “It is a matter really of pragmatism.” I said as I stepped out of the stall and began drying off, “We are expected to remain detached from all things.” I said, “Not let our personal feelings interfere with our missions. Our enemies are ruthless, the Sith would not hesitate to grab someone we cared about and begin threatening, or even torturing them.” I said as I began to redress, “As such not having them helps to avoid placing us in situations where we might have to allow them to be harmed, tortured, or killed.”

“So you are saying Val,” Stall said as he also dressed, “That if you had a significant other, and a Sith took them, you’d just let them die if it endangered the mission?”

I tightened the belt on my tunic and clipped my lightsaber to it, “If I had to,” I responded, “Yes. It is my duty as a Jedi to place the mission first.”

Duel straightened his jumpsuit, “That is kind of cold Val.” He replied, “Not the kind of thing I would expect to hear from a Jedi.”

I sighed, “I never said that it would be easy to do, just what I am expected to do.” I said, “I hope I never have to make a choice like that.”

After we were all ready we headed out to the Temple grounds, “Okay Val,” Stall asked, “Where do we get grub?” he asked.

I smiled, “The mess hall is this way.” I gestured and began making my way to the meal hall, “We have a section for the Padawans, but a separate section for guests. I am sure that you will find the guest selection a bit more robust than what we generally eat.”

It didn’t take us long to get to the food hall and get our breakfasts. Duel and Stall chose similar looking plates that were piled with nerf strips and fried eggs, I had my usual breakfast, fluffy biscuits that were coated in spicy Corellian white gravy. Our conversation was forgotten as we ate, each of us focused on easing the hunger, and also enjoying something other than cold rations.

After we finished eating Stall asked me something which surprised me, “Mind if I tag along with you today Starwind? I’d like to see how you Jedi train.”

Our training techniques were by no means a secret and I could see no harm in it, I nodded, “Of course you may Private Stall.” I replied, “I would be honored.”

Duel shook his head, “Not me.” He said, “I’m going to find some place to hold up and sleep. As far as I am concerned I am on vacation.” He laughed.

We parted ways and I showed Pvt. Stall the way to the training grounds where I knew Master Tao-Ri would be waiting for me. This was part of the usual routine, I would arrive and go through some exercises and then I would begin my lightsaber drills. I was explaining what was to come to Stall when I sensed that there was something different about today. When we rounded the turn I could see what that difference was.

Tissel Voh, the Shadow that had interrogated Durant stood beside Master Tao-Ri. I could sense unease from Master Tao-Ri and I knew that something was up, so too could Stall, “What is that guy doing here?” He asked me as we continued toward the pair.

“I do not know.” I replied, “Voh is a Jedi Shadow, he is kind of like, almost internal affairs. They root out the Dark Side and search it out, Master Tao-Ri and I generally do not approve of their tactics.” I explained, “His presence may bode ill.”

“Good afternoon Padawan Starwind.” Tissel called as we entered the training circle, “We have been waiting on you.”

I bowed my head a bit, showing respect, “I apologize, if I had known I would have endeavored to make more haste here.” I replied.

The bothan stroked his chin, “Would you have?” he asked, slightly in a lightly questioning tone.

“Val,” Master Tao-Ri said, as evenly and calmly as ever, “Shadow Voh has some doubts about your, and Jedi Gantos reports.” My master explained, “So I invited him here today so that he may ease his concerns.” I could see a small glimmer of humor in my master’s large black eyes, though he was nervous he was still, as always, seeing the humor in the situation.

“I see…” I said as I turned to face Tissel, “What part of my report do you have questions about?” I asked.

“Well… Padawan…” He said, slightly cautiously, “I think that you and Jedi Gantos are lying. He claims that you engaged Darth Mynock in single combat, and although you ultimately lost, he claims that you very nearly came close to defeating him.”

I shrugged, “That is correct.” I replied, curious as to why this would cast doubt onto me.

“I do not believe you.” The Shadow explained, “Mynock is a Sith Marauder, and a very good one.” He continued, “He holds the title of Darth and you are just a Padawan. I do not see how you could have possibly stood against him, let alone almost defeated him, without calling on the Dark Side.”

I frowned, “With all due respect Shadow Voh,” I defended myself, “It is no secret that I am highly skilled with the lightsaber as I am sure my master has told you.”

The Bothan’s fur flattened a little, “Oh Master Tao-Ri has told me, however many times Masters become a little too sympathetic with their students and begin to over-estimate their abilities.” He said, his voice dropping low and taking on a dangerous edge to it, “I cannot take his word for this.”

Pvt. Stall stepped in suddenly which startled me a bit as I had almost forgot that he was even with us, “I’ve seen Val fight.” He said, “While I didn’t see that fight I have no reason to doubt what Val, not to mention my superior officer, reported.”

The Shadow narrowed his eyes and shot a glare toward Stall, “I’ve read the reports. Your superior officer could be influenced. The Force can do such things to the weak minded.”

Stall bristled and took a step forward balling his fists; I could feel the flash of anger pour out of him, “Care to restate that sir?” He asked threateningly toward the Bothan Jedi Shadow.

Tao-Ri stepped forward at this point, “Everyone please calm down. I do not think that Shadow Voh meant insult Private Stall, he is simply concerned. That is why I asked him to come here. I would like to offer him the chance to test my Padawan’s skill directly.” He tossed a smile to the Trooper and I could see him offer a wink as he handed me a pair small one inch long cylinders.

I looked at my master and at the cylinders, they were limiter devices, small attachments that could be affixed to the end of a lightsaber that would convert the blade into a non-lethal training blade and I already figured out what he was trying to say. He was telling me that I was about to get the chance to shut the Jedi Shadow up and that I should take this opportunity while it was there. I could feel a little anticipation as I began connecting the limiters to my lightsabers.

I looked to Stall and it seemed that he had gotten the message too. He gave me a small nod that seemed to say, If you don’t take this guy down, I will.

“I do not think it will be much of a contest.” The Shadow spoke with a casual tone, “I’m a master of Juyo and a Jedi Shadow.” I could not tell if he was trying to get under my skin or not, but I wasn’t intimidated.

I offered a bow to my Master and took up a position at one end of the dueling ring. I drew each saber from my belt and a stereo cacophony of the stap-hiss that heralded the arrival of the signature blade of the Jedi split the air. I stood ready as my opponent smiled and affixed a pair of limiters to his own lightsaber. A double bladed weapon favored by members of the Shadows. A few moments later another set of ignitions shattered the silence.

I bowed to the Shadow and he did the same to me. A moment later we both exploded into motion as our blades sought each other out.

To be continued... Entry Ends...
"There is no room for compromise. We walk the path of the light side, or we fall into darkness. There is no gray area, Ben."
~ Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker (P. 187 FotJ, Book II: Omen)
Host of the Jedi Council stream also author of From the Journal of Val Starwind

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ProfessorWalsh
12.13.2011 , 10:04 AM | #6
Shadow and Light

Dramatis Personae

Val Starwind – Narrator, Male Human Jedi Padawan
Captain Vell – Male Twi’lek Smuggler
Sergeant Duel – Male Human Trooper
Durant Gantos – Male Human Jedi Sage
Private Stall – Male Human Trooper
Master Tao-Ri – Male Nautolan Jedi Master
Nara – Female Human Jedi Youngling
Tissel Voh – Male Bothan Jedi Shadow
Jav Kir – Female Falleen Jedi Master
Gou Vassius – Male Barabel Jedi Master

When someone fights it is more than a simple battle of strength. There are things that go into it that are well beneath the surface. A duelist has to be able to gauge what his opponent wants to achieve as well as how they plan to achieve it. There are so many things to keep track of in a battle, the movement of the opponent’s weapons, the movement of their feet, the angle of their body, how they move, and what their tells are, collectively we refer to this as body language.

When I played cards with Sgt. Duel and Captain Vell on the defender prior to our approach to Tython I was not lying to them when I told them I had never played Sabaac. I knew the rules to the game in passing, and it is very complicated, but I also could read the players. It was much like a duel.

When Duel had a good hand often his lip would curl a little as he scrutinized the pile of chips in the center of the table. When Vell had a good hand his lekku twitched just a little bit. When Duel had a bad hand his fingers tended to grip the cards with more force, as if he could will the cards to change. The Twi’lek would lick his upper teeth with his tongue when he had a bad hand. Both were good players and when they had neutral hands would remain stone faced in the extreme.

I did not know the odds as they did, so I could not predict likely outcomes, I did know however what a good and bad hand were. Because of this I could read my opponents and this allowed me to accurately judge when I had a decent chance of winning a hand. I could have used the Force, but there was no need to do so and that would have been dishonest.

In this duel of course, I was absolutely using the Force, but I was also reading my opponent. Tissel Voh was here for a reason, and it wasn’t just because he wanted to defeat me in a duel. He wanted to prove a point, this point, of course, was that I could not have performed as well as I had in the conflicts that he outlined. Both my Force senses as well as my normal perceptions were adding up to the same end result… Tissel Voh wanted to end this conflict quickly and cleanly.

Voh was good, very good, and he was also gifted in using the Force as he fought, I almost lost the confrontation on his opening move. The Bothan charged toward me, as I did toward him, but then he skidded to a halt while at the same time extending his left hand. I did not have but a moment to realize what was happening as I felt a strong Force tug yank me forward, adding to my own momentum, I would not be able to stop and I could see he adopted a one handed grip on his saberstaff, the tip of the blade prepared to skewer me and score a shiak.

There were a few options open to me to counter this maneuver. The first would be to try to anchor myself to the ground and stop the pull, but I knew I couldn’t compete with the Shadow in a battle of Force strength. The second would be to try to use the pull to my advantage and block the Shadow’s thrust with my left hand and skid down the length into him while attacking with my right hand from the other side. There was a third option as well, which would be to use the Force to leap into the air and try to go over my opponent, such a move would play into my strengths with Ataru, but at the same time it would serve to put me at the mercy of my opponent if his Force grip was strong enough to overpower my Force leap.

I chose the second action as I was pulled in; I used a standard forward grip on my left hand lightsaber and crashed it into Voh’s pushing it aside. At the last few moments before impact I swung my right hand saber, also in a forward grip in a horizontal arc in front of me. The move, had it been successful would have scored a clean cho mok, or contact point that would have removed the Shadow’s left arm had the blades been at full power, or it could have continued to score a sai tok which would be a point of contact that simulated cutting the bothan in half at the waist.

Neither of my motions connected however, the Shadow was far too experienced; instead he simply reversed his Force pull to push me backward. The movement was jarring, and I lost concentration for a second as my head snapped back from the sudden new burst of momentum. It was like being in a ship with failing inertial dampeners as it accelerated to lightspeed.

I hit the ground and rolled to my feet, bringing my lightsabers up in a defensive stance. The twin blades of green and blue-white hummed while I took a moment to push the pain I now felt in my neck from my mind. My opponent had no need to recover however, and he was already advancing toward me, the double bladed lightsaber’s acid yellow blades seemed to leave faint trails of light in their wake, though that may have been my slightly blurred vision.

The attack was nearly blinding in speed, Tissel swung his saberstaff with a two handed grip, using his right hand to direct the blow and his left to snap the blade in with added force. His intention was to break my single handed guard, and even despite my strength training I wasn’t going to be able to stop them with single handed blocks. The first blow came down diagonally aiming at my left shoulder and if it had hit, and not been weakened, it would have sliced me in half.

I pivoted at my waist and brought both of my blades across, creating a flash of light and sparks as green, blue, and yellow came together at the same point. My muscles screamed in protest and my fingers felt numb from the jarring impact, if not for the Force augmenting my physical attributes there would have been no way for me to have maintained my grip on the weapons. I wished that I could have had a moment to recover but the Shadow was not willing to give me that.

Tissel took the impact in stride and allowed it to push him away, turning that extra momentum into a spin. In a flash I was facing a similar attack from the opposite side. I could not stand up to this kind of attack repeatedly and I knew it. This was not just Juyo I was facing.

Often Jedi fall into a trap where they utilize only one style of lightsaber combat. Usually these are young Jedi and they don’t continue this practice for long. The truth of the matter is that the styles are only a fame work for a Jedi. We are expected, and it is required, to take elements from all of the styles to create our own special method of fighting.

In the case of Tissel Voh he was currently employing a combination of Juyo and Ataru. The art of Juyo emphasizes power and speed, while Ataru focuses on speed and agility. The unique trait of Ataru to easily build momentum for powerful hits, with the speed and raw strength of Juyo was something that physically I knew while employing Jar Kai I could not compete with. If I was going to win I knew that I would have to force him to change tactics.

I drew my blades across to the other side, and once more the three colors met. Once more I had to struggle to simply hold onto my lightsabers. Tissel continued to push his advantage however and once the impact occurred he snapped his blade downward aiming to score a cho mok against my right leg. I was not gifted with the ability known as shatterpoint, but through the Force I still knew. I knew that this was the moment where I could change the tide. I felt myself drift free for a moment and I knew what was about to happen.

As I have explained before, I cannot always sink into the Force as deeply as I wish that I could. Sometimes though, when I am in a duel, I can. This doesn’t happen often in a fight, but when I am training, or when I am in a duel, it seems to happen frequently. I could feel my Master watching, and I could feel concern from Pvt. Stall nearby, which from the moment this fight began had slipped my perceptions entirely. I could sense Tissel Voh and his intentions completely, I could see the moves that he had planned, I could feel the very moment that this fight was to be decided, and I knew that moment was now.

It was a brilliant strategy on behalf of Voh, the three hit combination was more than enough to batter through my defenses. The first two blows had so much momentum in them that I would be unable to recover in time. He had managed to maintain control because the saber staff allowed for a wider grip and, like a lever, it allowed him to overcome the counter force. He would have had me dead to rights.

I snapped a foot out at the center of his hilt, planting my foot squarely between his hands and kicked off of the ground with the Force aiding me. This had the advantage of slamming his blade into the ground where I had previously been as well as adding momentum to the direction that he was already moving. This was enough to throw his flow off just enough to stop him from making a rapid recovery. This, for one moment, disrupted what he was depending on.

As I had already mentioned, both Ataru and Juyo require speed. In order for him to raise his weapon, at this point he was forced to stop, which was enough to disrupt his combat form. Had he been using a style that required less movement he wouldn’t have been vulnerable to such an attack, but he was. Meanwhile the leap, aided by the Force, fed into my own style.

I do not fight with one style. I have my own technique; I use elements from all of the styles in it. I don’t name the style, because it is too haphazard to call a style in and of itself. The Battlemaster often refers to it as the Jedi equivalent of street fighting. The focus that it took for me to successfully meld this many styles caused me to suffer in many areas, which is why I had no chance of winning against the Shadow if it came to using the elements of Alter.

With me being in the air I was in a position to use a technique that I favor, the Trispizest maneuver is known as the spinning attack. Some people call it the ballet of blades. The Battlemaster calls it “That kriffing buzz saw move” and it is one of the flashiest moves that I know. When I perform it, I sometimes feel like I can fly.

The spinning attack, or my variant of it, involves leaping vertically into the air and then bending backward to invert, aiming my head toward the ground at the height of the leap. The next step involves extending my lightsabers outward, making me resemble an inverted “T” that comes screaming downward. The final step is the most difficult; I have to spin myself horizontally, so fast that I protect myself by creating a nearly impassible barrier as well as clearing areas around the landing zone on all sides.

The move works about half the time. I knew this when I performed it, and I could see as I began my descent that it would not work on this opponent. Voh was far from stupid, he had to know that staying there would spell his defeat; he did something that I had not anticipated. He released his grip on his saberstaff, letting the weapon disengage and fall to the ground. At the same moment he sprung backward to land well outside of my clearance zone.

I was almost too late to avoid his response. I heard the snap-hiss as his saberstaff came to life. I could see his hand reaching for it and I could feel his invisible grip through the Force. I watched as the staff rose from the ground, its acid yellow blades spinning toward me as I had begun to right myself for a landing.

The only way for me to avoid losing was to try something that I knew was risky; I extended my hand downward and abandoned my attempt to right myself. My only hope was that with the Force and my own training my hand would withstand the impact and not break. I locked my right handed saber into the on position and hurled it toward the Shadow, then felt my palm slap the cold stone floor of the dueling area I felt a painful shock shoot through my arm and hand, though it held.

Inverted in a one handed handstand with the acid colored spiraling weapon coming toward me left me less than a heartbeat to decide what to do. With one of my sabers sailing at Tissel I knew that I had disrupted his concentration for a moment, and my only option was to pivot on my arm and slap the offending blade to the side as I tried to roll into a standing position. I felt the impact as blade struck blade and felt the reassuring stone beneath my feet, the duel was still continuing.

Tissel Voh must have dove to the side in order to avoid my own blade, I could see his lightsaber arcing back toward him slowly. The look on his face was not the look I associate with a Jedi; his eyes were narrow, and burning. Though I could not feel the Dark Side I could feel the anger he had beneath the surface. He had expected to win this already, and he could not stand the thought that he was having this much trouble with a mere Padawan.

It was a dirty pseudo-secret within the Jedi Order but many Jedi Knights forgot that they were once Padawans themselves. Just because someone hasn’t taken the trials yet doesn’t mean that they aren’t as highly skilled as a Jedi Knight. The whole point of being a Padawan was that you went on the same missions as your master. You don’t become a Padawan if you can’t handle yourself.

I had been a Padawan for a long time, and I’d probably already be a Knight if I wasn’t dealing with my own blocks at the moment. I wasn’t yet a Knight because I could not fight, it was more subtle than that, and it seemed that Tissel Voh had forgotten that I was a veteran of the Great War myself. He had a preconception about me, and I can sadly say that I was taking a little pleasure to see him getting so upset.

The musing only gave me a second to recover though. The bothan Shadow was already renewing his attack on me. He was spinning to build up speed and I had not yet recovered my second lightsaber. I decided that at this time one would serve me better than two did and I gripped my blade in both hands and readied myself to clash with the Shadow once more.

My blue blade crashed with the acid blade of the bothan, but this time I did not nearly lose my grip. With both hands supporting the blade I was more than strong enough to rebuff his attack. He had lost his advantage, and he realized it. I had changed tactics and adapted, which was the one thing that it seemed that he had not taken into account.

While I usually favor Jar Kai, the use of two lightsabers, I am equally skilled in the use of one. When using one, in a two handed grip, I have superior defense, I can block heavier blows that would stress me when using two of them. While it is true with the proper training and the right aptitude two blades are indeed better than one, it is bad to depend on that advantage and that was a mistake that Master Tao-Ri never let me make.

Tissel Voh depended on the additional leverage of his saber staff to give him extra power on each hit, which while I was using two lightsabers was enough to overpower me, and would eventually break my defense. I had removed his dependency and now I had a chance to catch him off guard and put him on the defensive. I would not let the opportunity pass me by.

I saw the bothan tighten grip his handle, it was his tell. Like the twitching of Vell’s lekku, it indicated when he was going to make a powerful swing. He swept his blade cutting an arc from his left hip, toward his right shoulder, he pulled inward with his upper hand, which let him snap the bottom of his saberstaff up, the power of the blow was tremendous and I did not even need the Force to show me that as I spun and pushed my blade out to block.

The blades were not going to meet though. If I had tried to block the blow there was no way I could hold on even with a two handed grip. Instead I thumbed my activator switch and dropped to my knees letting the momentum from my spin to carry me in toward my opponent. The saberstaff passed harmlessly through the air, but the feint had done what it was supposed to do, the bothan had put all of his strength behind the blow and now was unbalanced.

The fight was over as my next move was completed. I activated my blade and rammed it upward carrying the center of the “blunted” blade into the jaw of the stunned Jedi Shadow. There was a painful sounding crack as a jolt shot through the blade and there was the smell of burned fur as the hair around the jaw of the bothan was singed black.

“A modification of the Tràkata unbalancing block maneuver.” Master Tao-Ri said, as the Shadow climbed to his feet, having stumbled following my winning blow. “I am impressed Val, I didn’t know you had fully mastered that one yet.” He stated as he walked over to stand between the Shadow and myself.

“A deceptive move…” The bothan hissed, “Exactly what I should have expected from him.”

“That is enough.” Master Tao-Ri snapped, I could hear in the nautolan’s voice that he was done with being pleasant, “You came here because you had questioned my Padawan’s ability to stand against a Sith Lord without the aid of the Dark Side.” He said, “Now, did you feel the Dark Side in him as he struck you flat?” he asked.

I blinked, not quite expecting to hear such an exchange be made, “No. No I did not.” The bothan admitted.

“Good.” My Master said, “Then the matter is settled.”

Tissel Voh shook his head, saying nothing to myself or to Pvt. Stall as he began to walk away, “For now Tao-Ri,” he said, “For now.”

… To be continued…

Daily Lessons

Dramatis Personae

Val Starwind – Narrator, Male Human Jedi Padawan
Captain Vell – Male Twi’lek Smuggler
Sergeant Duel – Male Human Trooper
Durant Gantos – Male Human Jedi Sage
Private Stall – Male Human Trooper
Master Tao-Ri – Male Nautolan Jedi Master
Nara – Female Human Jedi Youngling
Tissel Voh – Male Bothan Jedi Shadow
Jav Kir – Female Falleen Jedi Master
Gou Vassius – Male Barabel Jedi Master

Begin Entry…

My right hand was throbbing and my wrist and forearm burned, I was pretty sure that I had injured it when I pulled that hand stand maneuver. I grimaced as I touched it, the wrist was very tender. I heard the sigh come from my Master’s lips.

“You have managed to hurt yourself haven’t you?” He asked.

I nodded, “A little, I think I may have sprained my wrist.” I replied to the Nautolan.

A snort was heard from Pvt. Stall, “I’m not surprised, that was a ten foot fall you managed, you are lucky your wrist didn’t snap.”

“Val,” Master Tao-Ri said, “If you cannot help the younglings today I understand, if you need to, go have your wrist looked at.”

I shook my head, “No Master, I can have it tended to after I teach the lessons for today, I do not think it is broken anyway, only sprained.”

Master Tao-Ri nodded, “You must do what you feel is best of course.” He said, “For now, I think I should be off, I have no doubt that Shadow Voh will attempt to cause us some more difficulties in the near future and I would rather curb those while I can.”

My master smiled and made his final goodbyes before walking off, leaving myself and Pvt. Stall together, “So, Val,” he began, “What was up with that?” he said motioning to the arena, no doubt asking about the fight.

I sighed, “Well, I told you that I had some issues from when I fought in the Great War,” I explained as I began to lead us to the grove where the younglings would be, “Some of the Masters think that is has damaged my ability to properly use the Force.”

My companion shook his head, “That is insane Val, I’ve seen you fight, you obviously can use the Force.” He said.

A smile came to my lips; it was good to hear some encouragement, though the reality was something I could not deny, “They may be correct. When I am practicing, or dueling, sometimes I can forge an extremely strong connection to the Force, it is not something I can do in the heat of battle usually. It is a psychological issue.”

Stall frowned, “So what exactly did you see during the war that messed you up?” he asked.

My eyes closed and I was, for a moment, lost in memories as I recalled that day, “Tao-Ri and I were on Alderaan, the Republic was attempting to retake it.” I said, “One of the groups near us had managed to flank a squad of Sith and battledroids by surprise and had been whittling them down with crossfire. Something happened though…”

“What was it?” Stall asked me as we continued to walk.

“I don’t know the whole details on it,” I explained, “However, it seems that one of the Sith with that group managed to sense the ambush before it had begun, he had dispatched a group of Sith Infiltrators, assassins, to move away from the group and sneak up on the Troopers.” I shook my head, “They never saw it coming, the assassins came out of nowhere and decimated one of the Trooper groups, then, without the benefit of the flank, the second group wasn’t able to keep pushing the Sith back and they swarmed their position.”

Stall winced but asked, “What happened then?”

I slowed my walk a little, the grove was not far and this was not a story I wanted a youngling to overhear, “Master Tao-Ri and I got the call to rush to their defense, and we did.” I continued, “By the time we reached them they were down to a small group, the Sith were already executing some of them.”

My companion nodded, “Yeah, I heard stories of things like that happening at Alderaan.”

I nodded, “There were about eight left when we got there. I had never seen that many bodies before in one place.” I said, “Master Tao-Ri went in first, he was there to provide a distraction, my job was to come up on the executioners and take them out then guide the remaining Troopers out. Master Tao-Ri was going to distract them, then flee, and we were to rendezvous at one of the extraction points.”

There was no reply from Pvt. Stall so I let the story go on, “I did everything right, I got the drop on the three who were doing the executions, I was a bit shorter then so it really threw them off, a lot of the Sith aren’t that well trained, the Sith liked to have a lot of bodies and it shows. The three Sith went down almost instantly and in only a handful of seconds myself and the captives were running for it.”

“So did you make it?” Pvt. Stall asked after a moment.

I shook my head, “No.” I said, “Not all of us anyway.” I took a deep breath and continued though those old feelings felt like they were gathering in my chest and threatening to squeeze my heart until it burst, “A squad of Battledroids came after us, lead by a woman in Mandalorian armor, there were six droids, and all of them were bristling with weapons, the woman was a good shot too. I hesitated to attack immediately and I saw one of the Troopers go down, they were without weapons and they had no way to defend themselves.”

Stall put a hand on my shoulder but did not say anything, it was then I noticed that I had stopped walking.

“I tried my best to keep them off of us, I told the Troopers to run, I remember that I managed to brush the woman’s jet pack with my lightsaber and the resulting blast knocked her into the foliage, the battledroids though just wouldn’t stop, they weren’t even targeting me. I blocked what I could and started trying to take the droids out but there were a lot of them and every time I saw one of the men under my care go down I would stop for a second and that was a lot of the time enough for another to go down.”

I shook my head and quickly concluded the tale, “I could feel them dying through the Force and I had to just…” I failed to find the right words, “I had to block it out. I closed off that part of me and simply continued to take out the droids; all I knew was that I had to end it as soon as I could.” I swallowed hard, “In the end only two of them made it out.”

I finished the story and blinked back tears, I could feel dryness in my throat and I assumed that my voice had cracked. I closed my eyes and called on the Force to help achieve a sense of calm, “Ever since that day when I am in a combat situation I can’t reach that level of perfect harmony.” I shoot my head, “I can still call on the Force, but not to the extent that I should be able to, it is as if it is somehow muted.”

My friend did not say anything for a long moment, “That is horrible.” He said, “How old were you?” he asked.

I started walking again, “I was fourteen.” I responded, “Though that is in the past, the younglings are waiting on us, come, we don’t want to be late.”

And the moment was over, I was back in the present and those dark memories were once more pushed aside so that I could continue doing what I needed to do.



Dramatis Personae

Val Starwind – Narrator, Male Human Jedi Padawan
Private Stall – Male Human Trooper
Master Tao-Ri – Male Nautolan Jedi Master
Nara – Female Human Jedi Youngling (age 8)
Luma – Female Twilek Jedi Youngling (age 5)
Kurri – Male Rodian Jedi Youngling (age 4)
Kalun – Male MonCalamari Jedi Youngling (Age 9)
Altir – Female Kel-Dor Jedi Youngling (age 9)

Begin entry…

I was much more composed by the time we reached the grove. It is very important to make certain when you teach younglings that you are in control of your emotions, as young as they are they can pick up on them and they cannot always make sense of the input that they are getting. Thus it is never a good idea to approach them if you are upset, as they can misinterpret it and begin to think that they have done something wrong.

Today I only had to instruct five members of Gizka Clan. Nara: a youngling with some anger issues who I had been working with for some time, Luma: A young twilek girl that was very new to the Jedi way of life, Kurri: A young rodian, he had become Luma’s constant partner in crime, Kalun: A very skilled young MonCalamari, who like myself, showed that he had an affinity for lightsaber combat, and Altir: a Kel-Dor who had come to us to learn the ways of the Jedi, she was actually a member of the Baran Do order and who also was well versed in martial hand to hand combat. Today lesson plan focused on waking meditation as well as a lesson on when to fight and how much force, or Force, should be used.

“So what grade are these kids in?” Pvt. Stall asked me as we crossed into the meadow.

“Well, we don’t exactly work like that; this is some members of Gizka Clan, which is sort of like a class only much closer knit. The youngest in this group is four, and the eldest is nine.” I explained.

“Aren’t they a little varied to be taking the same lessons?” the Trooper asked.

“Not really, not all of them may get the lesson it is true, but they will have a number that are similar, it is not mandatory that they all get it at once, besides you would often be surprised what the very young are able to grasp.” I replied as I then called to the younglings, “Gather around younglings!” I called.

It did not take very long for the younglings to gather, they were used to my methods and more importantly they were glad to see me for I had been gone for a while.

“Hello Master Starwind!” The children chimed in unison after they had made their way to us.

“Master?” Stall asked me with a raised eyebrow.

Before I could explain Kalun supplied a response to Stall, “While it is true that Padawan Starwind isn’t a Jedi Master he is our teacher and due to that it is only proper and polite to call him master.”

Stall raised his hands with a grin in mock surrender, “I see, I didn’t mean any disrespect kids,” he smiled, “I was just trying to get a rise out of Val here.”

“Who are you?” Luma, a young twilek girl, asked my Trooper companion.

Stall got down on one knee and addressed the child, “I’m Private Stall, I’m part of the Republic Armed Forces.” He explained. The girl blushed at the response and her olive colored lekku moved to shield her face, a sign of shyness.

Before I could ask the children to settle down another question was fired off from my rather excited group, “Are you a Soldier?” came from Altir.

Stall looked over to me, as if asking if he should respond, I saw no harm in it and gave him a nod, urging him to continue. I think that it is a good thing for our younglings to be exposed to as many different kinds of people as possible. I feel that it helps them grow as individuals as well as Jedi, besides, a few minutes of missed meditation once in a while would not harm them.

“Yes I am.” He explained, “I’m a member of Republic Special Forces.” He said to the small Kel Dor with a hint of pride, her breath mask moved a little as she rhythmically breathed through the device taking the measure of my companion.

Kurri raised his hand, and Pvt. Stall pointed to him, the universal signal for a student to ask a question, “Have you ever shot anyone?”

That question took Pvt. Stall by surprise, “Uh, Val?” He asked, “Little help here?”

I nodded and stepped in, “Kurri,” I began, “That is not a very polite question, though I know that you are not trying to be rude. Private Stall has indeed seen a lot of combat and yes he has had to hurt people. I will ask that further questions not be focused on such things.”

The small boy looked down, “Sorry.” He murmured.

“Hey,” Pvt. Stall stepped in, “It is okay, you didn’t do anything wrong.” He smiled, “It just isn’t something we usually talk about is all.”

That seemed to put the rodian at ease and he looked up again with a slight grin on his face.

Then came a question that carried with it a seriousness that took me by surprise, and I realized that my lesson plan had just been hit by a proton torpedo. Kalun, one of the oldest members of Clan Gizka, asked, “Uh, Private Stall sir?” he asked, “Why does the Republic dislike us?”

Stall and I blinked in unison, but it was stall that recovered first, “Uh, come again kiddo?”

“I asked,” the MonCal said, “Why does the Republic dislike us? I mean the Jedi.”

“Kalun,” I said to the salmon skinned boy, “What gave you the idea that the Republic doesn’t like us?” I asked.

The other students had fallen silent, and I could tell in the time I had been gone, that this had become a topic that the students had been debating amongst themselves, “Well Master Starwind,” He said, “I know from my military tactics lessons that the Republic created Havoc Squad to replace us.” He began, “And the Republic refused to help us rebuild our temple on Coruscant.” He frowned, “And the holonet says that a lot of the people in the Republic blame the treaty of Coruscant on us.”

I frowned and saw Pvt. Stall bite his lip out of the corner of my eye; he must have been as blind-sided as I was by that question.

“Well Kalun,” I began, “While those things are true, they don’t mean that the Republic doesn’t like us.” I said, “The Sith use battledroids, which are against the Republic’s policy to employ in large numbers.” I began, “On top of that they conscript soldiers from their conquered worlds and force them to fight.” I explained, “So unfortunately it isn’t just the Sith that we have to fight in this war. There are simply too many enemies for the Jedi to handle alone, so in order to help us out the Republic created Special Forces groups to give us a hand.”

“As for what the holonet says,” Stall interjected, “You can’t always believe it.” He continued, “Yeah, there are some people who don’t like the Jedi.” He said, “Though a lot of that might have more to do with not knowing a lot of Jedi personally…”

He gave a look at me, as I knew that not too long ago he didn’t exactly like the Jedi.

“Or they are simply angry and want someone to blame. They will come around in time.” He said, “Even if they don’t like the Jedi Order that doesn’t mean that they don’t like you,” He said, “It is kind of like how some people may hate the government but they still like some individual senators. They are just angry and they want someone to direct it at, but I promise you that not everyone dislikes the Jedi.”

The MonCalamari nodded, “Okay, but why didn’t they let us rebuild the temple?” he asked.

Stall frowned, “Probably just a credit issue.” He said.

Nara frowned and shook her head, “That doesn’t make any sense Private Stall,” she said, “Because they helped us set up here and that had to cost less than rebuilding a single building.” The way she said it made her seem older than she was, it was then that I also recalled that I must have missed her birthday while I was away, I would have to apologize to her later.

I blinked, the younglings had obviously been thinking about this quite thoroughly, “Well Nara, for one, the temple on Coruscant was a huge structure, the damage to it was extensive, and replacing it would have been very expensive.” I said, “Further, there was a lot of damage to Coruscant as well.” I explained, “And if they had repaired the temple before working on a lot of the rest of the damage it would have looked like they were giving us special treatment.”

The children mulled all of that over and they seemed to accept the explanation well enough. Though, before another round of questions could be fired off, I had made certain to begin their lessons. After two hours had passed, and after some basic physical exercises, I dismissed the students.

When Private Stall and I prepared to leave he turned to me and frowned, “Sorry about all of that back there.” He apologized, “I didn’t mean to open up that kind of a debate.”

I shook my head, “It wasn’t your fault.” I said, “This was something they must have been concerned about for a while, you can tell by the fact that they had arguments and explanations at the ready.” I said, “In many ways this was likely fortuitous.” I stated as we headed toward our next destination, “Such fears are the seeds that help grow doubt, we are pledged to protect and serve the Republic, it is hard to do that if we start thinking that they do not like us.”

Stall nodded and we continued to walk, though he was quiet, I felt his unrest through the Force. Not too long ago Stall admitted to not liking the Jedi, and on some level I still thought that he still harbored that dislike. He seemed to have come to terms with me, considering me different from many Jedi, but he had just seen our children, our younglings, and he must have had to finally understand that Jedi are not all trained warriors.

It is something that can bother you, when you finally see your enemy for something other than an enemy. Children are the hardest of all to dislike really. Younglings are still kids, like any that Stall had encountered before, they were curious, they thought that blasters and soldiers were cool, they like to have fun and they like to play.

I know how easy it is to label an entire group, it is something that has to be done considering the Sith after all, but those labels often fall apart once you get to really know someone. Those labels being damaged can often give someone a lot to think about. Sometimes thinking on them can remove those labels, other times it can cement them, in any case such moments of introspection are something which gives us knowledge and understanding.

Pvt. Stall had just learned one of the reasons I like working with younglings so much. They can challenge your perception of things without meaning to. I often learn as much from the younglings as they do from me, it seems that might have been so in this case as well.

Confrontations

Dramatis Personae

Val Starwind – Narrator, Male Human Jedi Padawan
Durant Gantos – Male Human Jedi Sage
Private Stall – Male Human Trooper

After the class with the younglings it was time for me to engage in my daily meditations. I was rather shocked that Stall wanted to accompany me but there was no reason for me to refuse his request. We made our way to one of the dueling squares, a flat stone square ring that was used to test Jedi, initiates and knights alike, on their mastery of the lightsaber.

“So,” Pvt. Stall began, “You are just going to sit down and focus on your naval for an hour or something?” he asked.

An amused snort escaped me almost unbidden, “That is one type of meditation.” I said, “Though it is not the kind that I partake in.” I replied.

“Really?” was the response of the Trooper, “Then are you going to float some rocks in the air then?”

I could tell that he was trying to chide me, in order to lighten the mood though I had already come to peace with the incident with the younglings, “I am not as gifted in that area as some are.” I responded, “I will be practicing waking meditation, a kind of meditative state that allows sharper focus and a higher degree of performance when dealing with physical activities.”

Stall frowned, “Pardon my interjection but that sounds like more physical training.” He responded, “Shouldn’t you go and get your wrist looked at before you do that?”

I looked down at my right wrist; I was so used to pain that I was instinctively dulling my senses to it without thinking about it. I frowned, “I probably should.” I replied, “Though I will take it easy on that hand for now, I will go to the infirmary after my meditations.” I said, “I can pass on lunch and not miss out on training or on the session later with Nara.”

The trooper raised an eyebrow, “The girl from the class? That your kid sister or student or something?” he asked.

“No,” I responded, “It is nothing like that.” I explained, “Nara has some anger issues, something she is working through, I used to have similar problems, so I offered to help her overcome them.” I said.

“You?” He asked skeptically, “You don’t seem to have an angry bone in your body.”

I laughed, “I used to have a lot of problems controlling my emotions.” I replied, “You did not know me when I was younger. I was very ignorant back then.”

Private Stall sat down on a nearby bench as I walked toward the dueling square, “Ignorant?” He said, “Having emotions isn’t a form of ignorance Val. It is what makes us human.”

I chuckled, having forgotten for a moment that Stall was not raised like we were, “I did not mean to imply that Private Stall.” I apologized, “Having emotions is human, even Jedi have emotions, the thing is that most of the power over us that emotions hold are a result of ignorance.” I said as I began to move through a series of forms as I began to drift into waking meditation, something which allowed me more than enough focus to train and talk at the same time.

“How so?” My companion asked as he turned to face me from his seated position.

I ignited my lightsabers and began moving them in a circular defensive pattern as I replied, “Well, depending on the emotion of course, but I will use anger as an example.” I said, “Anger is born of a number of things but most people don’t really understand why they are actually angry.”

Stall frowned as he watched me begin a series of aerial spins and leaps, “Sure we do.” He said, “If some nerf herder almost hits us while driving his speeder we are angry because he almost hit us.”

I landed and twirled my lightsabers in a flourish, “Not really.” I said, “Nobody is injured as we said almost so there is no reason to be angry about that.” I continued as I began to engage in a series of thrusts and parries, “You are angry at the situation, that you were almost harmed by someone else.”

“Exactly.” Stall said, “Thus we know why we are angry.”

I shook my head as I continued my shadow play of maneuvers, “Not really, because that isn’t where the situation ends. You are angry because the person who almost hit you is driving. More importantly because he is allowed to drive.” I said.

“Okay, but how does that help us to not be angry?” He asked.

“Well, it gets a little more complicated before we get to that,” I said, “this is because your anger, which was directed at the person that almost hit you, isn’t directed at him at all.” I continued, “You are angry at the laws which allow a person like that to drive.” I explained, “Thus your anger at the driver is falsely placed.”

Stall shrugged, “So what?” He said, “I’m still angry, how does this help me to not be angry?”

I laughed as I performed a series of one handed back handsprings using my left hand, “It doesn’t.” I replied, “But before, when you were angry at the driver, it was possible that it would have influenced you to yell at him, or in some circumstances some people might have tried to attack him or his vehicle.” I moved through another offensive series before beginning a new defensive cycle, “It is natural and right to feel that anger, there is nothing that can be done to stop that. What you can do though is understand it, and once you do you lessen the hold it has on you because you understand that the person who almost hit you isn’t the target of your anger. The only thing that we Jedi practice is not allowing us to act on our emotions, but to reason through them and understand the situation.”

He frowned, “But don’t you hate the Sith?” He asked, “After all you guys do fight a lot.”

I continued to spin and twirl, “While it is true that we fight the Sith yes,” I stated, “That doesn’t mean that I hate them.” I made a few thrusts with my blades as I continued to explain, “I know that they are consumed by the Dark Side and I know that they have to be stopped.” I said, “Thus I will kill them if I have to, but I don’t hate them.”

“You don’t hate them,” He said, “But you are saying that you’d kill one without hesitation?” Stall asked.

I nodded, “Indeed. I will kill a Sith without hesitation, however not without remorse.” I said, “I feel pity for them, and I feel compassion for them, but I do not allow that to interfere with my actions, if I don’t have to kill them I will not, if I have to kill them, I will. How I feel about them personally has no bearing on that.”

The Trooper shook his head, “You are quite confusing Val.” He said, “You are acting like it is a simple matter.”

A voice, a third one, the voice of Durant Gantos interjected, “Because it is a simple matter Private Stall.” The Jedi Consular said, “If a dog is sick and cannot be cured of its disease, or cannot be captured safely, then it is a regrettable but necessary act to put the dog down.”

I halted my motions; I was so focused on the motions and the conversation that I did not sense Durant’s approach and that gave me reason to pause for a moment. “I am surprised that you share my compassionate but pragmatic view Jedi Gantos.” I said evenly.

The prematurely silver haired Jedi Consular regarded me with a look of mild disinterest, “I don’t Padawan Starwind.” He said, “I was merely explaining your position to our Trooper friend. Personally I don’t find killing Sith to be a regrettable thing at all. It is necessary so there is no reason to have regrets about it after all.”

Stall did not speak and instead watched myself and Gantos, though he did not feel the Force as we did, the tension in the air had grown nearly palpable.

“Jedi Gantos,” I began, “They are still alive, and it is always regrettable when a living thing is killed, even when it is necessary.”

A half smile came to Durant’s lips, “When we wash our hands bacteria, life is killed, and I hardly think that you mourn every time you wash your hands. When you eat food you know that something alive, plant or animal, died to produce it. So don’t be such a hypocrite Padawan Starwind, you simply allow your emotions about being the person who deals the death blow influence you. Not very Jedi-like if I do say so.”

I narrowed my eyes, Durant wasn’t exactly trying to hide that cold streak I felt from him back on the Darklab at the moment, “That is your opinion Jedi Gantos,” I replied, “Though I disagree.” I closed down my lightsabers, the presence of Durant had unsettled me and I did not want the weapons lit at the moment, “Is there something I can help you with?” I asked trying to figure out why he uncharacteristically was acting so openly hostile.

“No no, I was simply touring the grounds; I have been gone for so very long after all.” The Consular responded, “I noticed that you were teaching some younglings earlier, I think that perhaps you make a few too many excuses for the Republic for my tastes.”

I frowned; I did not remember seeing Gantos there, though I did know that some Jedi could cloak their presence in the Force, “Well maybe next time you can offer a counter-point.” I said, allowing my dislike for the Consular to seep into my inflection, “And we can let the children decide for themselves.”

Durant actually laughed at that, “Maybe so Padawan Starwind.” He replied, “But I do not think that will be something I can do. I will be leaving Tython later tonight you see.”

Stall interrupted with a query, “Where are you heading? Going to some kind of retreat or something to recover?”

That drew a snort from the Consular, “Hardly, no, I will be taking my new Padawan and leaving to begin their instruction.”

A cold chill ran through me, I could tell Durant was baiting me, “Why are you trying to make me angry Durant?” I asked, no longer willing to play this game.

“Because you are a fool Starwind.” The Consular said, also willing to drop the pretenses, “You have seen what the Sith are capable of, I read your file, I know that you are holding yourself back, and you are preaching such things as regret for killing Sith. I was hoping that you would come with me, together we could have made a difference by taking the fight to the Sith.”

I took a step back, “Durant! Are you insane?” I asked, already knowing the answer, “You know that there is a treaty in place, you could spark a war if you did something foolish like that.”

The Consular shrugged, “Maybe that is what is needed Starwind.” He said, “While we disagree strongly on many things I do not wish this to be a completely sour separation, you did save me from that wretched place and for that I am thankful, but I don’t feel that Tython is the right place for me now.”

The emotions and feelings coming off of Durant were confusing me, at first he was radiating anger, then disdain, now he seemed genuine, it was like I was feeling his mood swings. I had to push the emotions back out of concern that they might have managed to overpower me. This was different than the Durant that I knew only a few hours ago.

“Jedi Gantos,” I began, “I think that you are unwell, before you leave maybe you should talk to the Council first. Maybe they can help…” I tried to reason with him.

The Consular shook his head; the treatment that he received at the hands of Voh was still evident by way of his strained features “There is no point Padawan Starwind.” He replied, “I have made my decision, the Jedi Shadow was the only person I needed to speak to in order to know that I would find no help here.”

I tried one more time to talk some sense into him, “Please Jedi Gantos…” I began but I was not permitted to finish.

“Enough Padawan Starwind,” He said, once more his words rang genuine through the Force, “I have said what I came to say and I have come to my decision.” He stated with finality, “And now I have to be on my way as there is much to do before I depart.”

With that the Consular turned to leave, letting myself and Stall to watch him as he walked away.

“What the kriffing heck was that all about?” Private Stall asked after Durant had left our sight.

I shook my head, “I am not sure.” I said, “That did not make much sense at all. It was sporadic and not at all in-line with most of his behavior on the Darklab.”

The Trooper nodded, “While you were in the tank healing up he was also acting a little weird, seemed like some kind of battle stress or something.”

I offered my agreement, “I think that his mind is unbalanced, I know that he was calling on the Dark Side on the Darklab and I watched him kill several unarmed people, I made mention of that in my report to the Council.”

“And they didn’t take any action?” Stall asked me with confused anger in his voice.

“I am fairly certain that they issued an order for the matter to be investigated,” I said, “Which is why I think that Voh came to see me. I do not have the greatest reputation with all of the Council members, the Council would not act on my word alone though it seems odd that they would just let him leave this soon.”

My companion shrugged, “Can you just ask the Council what they have decided?” he asked.

“No, since I was the one who made the complaint, and if it is still being investigated, they would not tell me. You also have to understand that such things would go through my master anyway, I will bring it up to him when I see him tonight however.” I told the Private.

“I guess that is all you can do, but I’ll say that guy gives me the creeps.” My friend said as he turned to face me, “So are we done here?” he asked.

I nodded, “For now yes.” I replied.

“Good, now you need to get that wrist looked at and I am going to go find something to eat in this place.”

With that having been said we went our separate ways, I went toward the infirmary, my companion walked toward the mess hall. As I walked, I could not help but experience a cold shiver go through me. It was as though the Force were warning me to be on my guard.

There was a darkness looming in the future, I could almost see it.

To be continued…
"There is no room for compromise. We walk the path of the light side, or we fall into darkness. There is no gray area, Ben."
~ Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker (P. 187 FotJ, Book II: Omen)
Host of the Jedi Council stream also author of From the Journal of Val Starwind

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ProfessorWalsh
12.13.2011 , 10:04 AM | #7
Unauthorized Departure

Dramatis Personae

Val Starwind – Narrator, Male Human Jedi Padawan
Durant Gantos – Male Human Dark Jedi Sage
Kalun – Male MonCalamari Jedi Youngling (Age 9)
Tao-Ri – Male Nautolan Jedi Master
Tissel Voh – Male Bothan Jedi Shadow
Jav Kir – Female Faleen Jedi Master
Gou Vassius – Male Barabel Jedi Master

I walked toward the infirmary, as hungry as I was I really did need to get my wrist looked at, I quelled the growling of my stomach and endured as I headed toward the medical building. When the Republic helped us relocate to Tython we were fortunate enough to get a well stocked infirmary structure, we had high quality medical droids, and well above standard equipment and I knew my wrist would be taken care of by the time lunch had been finished.

As I pushed the door open I saw Kalun sitting in the waiting room. The nine year old MonCalamari looked distressed and I could see that the knuckles on his right hand were scraped and cut. Blood stained his olive skin and was seeping through the webbing of his fingers. The injury was by no means severe but they were unusual.

“Kalun?” I asked, “What are you here for?”

The boy looked at me, “I…” He said clearly embarrassed, “Lost my temper.” He told me.

My eyebrow rose, “Did you get into a fight?” I asked rather shocked as such behavior was very unnatural for the MonCal.

He shook his head, “Only with a tree.” He explained.

I tilted my head to the side as I took a datapad to sign myself in for a medical examination, “What happened?” I asked the boy as I began to fill out a request form.

“Master Durant played a trick on me.” He said sullenly.

I frowned and set the datapad off to the side, “What did he do?”

“I have trained so hard and for so long…” The boy said, and I was sure if MonCalamari had tear ducts I would see water in his eyes, “and I was so happy when he told me that he wanted me to be his Padawan learner.”

I was confused, “How was this a trick?” I asked the child, my brow furrowed in moderate confusion, “He did mention that he was looking for a new Padawan, though I don’t think that the Council would permit it just yet. His offer may have been genuine.”

The boy shook his head, “No, he was messing with me,” he insisted, “I saw him tell the same thing to Altir as well. He probably did not mean it in a cruel way, but he asked me to meet him during lunch at the Strip and then he asked Altir the same thing.”

I frowned; the Strip was a nickname many younglings and Padawans used to describe one of the often unused landing pads. It was primarily used officially for visitors which Tython did not often receive. Many younglings and Padawans took advantage of the Strip when it was unoccupied to practice maneuvers that needed lots of flat room.

“Did you ask him why he had made the offer to someone else?” I asked the MonCalamari as I was not really sure as to why he would be gathering younglings with such an offer, “Maybe he has plans to run some kind of tournament to choose who he makes the offer to?” I reasoned aloud perplexed.

A master choosing a Padawan by way of a tournament was absolutely not unheard of, and in fact was very common indeed, but usually this was done at the official yearly tournament and not in some kind of informal gathering.

“I blew it though.” Kalun told me, “After I lost my temper and punched the tree Master Durant saw me. He must have felt it in the Force. There is no way he’d take me as his Padawan now.”

I felt a tug at my lip that almost caused it to curl into a half smile, “I wouldn’t be so sure actually, but that is not the point. You chose to come here rather than go then?”

The boy nodded, “Yes, I saw no point in going; also I am still angry at Master Durant. He didn’t tell us anything about a tournament or anything. Not that it matters anyway,” He added, “The Strip is being used at the moment.”

“Oh?” I asked him, “By what?”

“You know that Smuggler you came back with?” He asked.

I nodded, “Yes, Captain Vell?”

Kalun nodded, “The ship the Order is paying him with is currently docked there.”

The plan couldn’t have been more obvious if it had been written on a piece of flimsi and set in front of me. I fought back a moment of panic and snatched my comlink from my belt quickly thumbing the activator.

“Master Tao-Ri!” I snapped into the comlink, “Please respond! This is urgent!” I said.

It only took a moment before my Master’s voice came back over the com, “Val? What’s the matter?”

“Durant!” I snapped as I was already heading to the door, the datapad and a very confused Kalun left behind, “He’s planning something. He’s over at the Strip right now. He asked Kalun and Altir to show up during lunch, he told them that he wanted a Padawan.”

I could feel something was wrong already, the Force was my guide and I gave into it, the Strip wasn’t too far away and my legs were pumping for all they were worth.

“Val, calm down, Durant Gantos was judged unfit to function as a Jedi Master for the time being by the Council, he can’t take a Padawan right now.” replied the comlink.

“I don’t think Durant cares what the council has to say!” I spat into the comlink, “I think he’s planning to take one of them and leave with Captain Vell’s ship!” I said as I cleared the main part of the temple grounds and plunged toward the landing area.

There was a burst of static suddenly even as I cleared a large tree stump in my hastened dash and the voice of Tissel Voh erupted from my comm, “Starwind, I picked only part of that up, can you repeat?”

I was rather shocked that I didn’t hear an accusation in the bothan’s tone, perhaps he could hear my own alarm or perhaps he was feeling me through the Force, either way I didn’t hesitate to repeat myself into the comlink.

“Do you have any proof of this?” The voice of the Jedi Shadow asked as I continued my run.

“Negative. Just what Kalun told me and my own instincts.” I responded.

“While I may have my doubts about you Starwind,” came his reply, “I’ll give you the benefit this time, I’m on my way.”

I tossed a thank you into the device as I clipped it to my belt. It wouldn’t be until later that I would realize that somehow Voh had heard me over a secured comm and had been able to interrupt and break into my conversation. Already I could see the landing platform of the new freighter, the running lights were blinking slowly indicating that the ship was still powering up, the ramp was down, and while there were no younglings to be seen Durant Gantos was waiting at the bottom of the ramp.

I hit the ground running and came to a stop, calling my lightsabers to my hands but not yet igniting them, “Okay Durant,” I said, “It’s over! I don’t know what your plan is but I’m not putting a stop to it.”

“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that Val.” The Dark Jedi said as an odd calm seemed to surround him, “I had half hoped that I would be gone before you realized something was amiss.”

Voh was on his way, I knew that, and I had hoped that Gantos didn’t. I had seen him in action. While I was sure I was better with a lightsaber than he was, his mastery over the alter aspects of the Force far outstripped my own and I wasn’t sure that I could take him in a fight. My best bet was to stall for the time being and try to figure out what he had done with Altir.

“Where is the girl?” I asked as I looked around for signs of the young Kel Dor.

“Which one?” The Dark Jedi replied with a smirk, “The Kel Dor? How about the Twi’lek? The human perhaps? What was her name? Nara?” he taunted with a grin and a low rasping laugh.

Durant Gantos had completely lost it. Even on the DarkLab I never saw him act like this. He was pulsing with the Dark Side in a way I had not even fathomed was possible. The very force of his presence was enough to make me take a step backward.

“What?!” I stammered, and then realized that I was falling into a trap. The technique was called Dun Moch, it was a Dark Side technique made to psychologically attack a target and make them agitated, make them sloppy, and make them doubt themselves. In short it was a way to stack the odds, and I wasn’t going to allow him the satisfaction.

I closed my eyes for a moment and allowed calm to fall over me. Although a physical combat had not begun a psychological one had. Detaching when I was in a fight was never an issue, and being able to close myself off was the best defense against letting the Dark Jedi break my concentration.

I reached out with the Force and felt the area; it only took me a split second to find what I was looking for.

“What did you do to them?” I asked, motioning to the ship. I could sense no less than six Force users on board, all of them children, and all of them faint.

“I merely put them into a deep slumber.” He replied, “It is a technique I became accustomed with back on the Dark Lab. They will wake up in a few hours, disoriented, but otherwise unharmed.” He smiled, “Unfortunately I don’t think I can say the same for you if you decide to try and stop me.”

I pressed the activation buttons on my lightsabers. A stereo cacophony of snap-hisses erupted as the blades sprang to life. From my right hand a blade of blue-white energy blazed and from my left a brilliant emerald twin. They buzzed as if in anticipation of the coming battle.

“I can’t let you leave here.” I said, “Surrender now.” I ordered, “I don’t want to fight you.”

To my surprise Gantos laughed, “Oh my! What a good actor we are Padawan Starwind. If I did not know any better I would almost believe you.” He drew his own lightsaber, it contained a violet blade that he commandeered from the Dark Lab.

The Sith weapon sprang to life, “I know that you revel in battle.” The Dark Jedi spoke in a low cracking voice, “You master it because you love it. I can feel it within you. Each time you draw your blade you take pleasure in it. You could use that to your advantage, you could use it to drive out the Sith. Instead you sit and you are complacent while those butchers, those monsters, roam freely across the galaxy.”

“This is your last warning Durant,” I said as I took a low defensive stance, “Surrender. You can’t win.”

“Oh really Jedi Starwind?” Came the taunting reply, “Watch me.” With that the Dark Jedi struck and the physical battle had begun.

Time slowed to a crawl as Durant drove toward me, despite my earlier estimation of his abilities he was extremely fast and even with my own heightened awareness. His style was somewhat unique; it was a combination of Makashi and Ataru, two styles that are usually incompatible. He held his lightsaber in his left hand, which put him in an unusual stance, and his powerful Force capabilities granted him the ability to stop or accelerate his momentum at a moment’s notice regardless of positioning, this was why he could meld the two styles so flawlessly.

As he charged at me he began to build momentum for a strike. He planted down his left foot onto the ground and I could feel him call on the Force as he added momentum to a spin. He propelled himself from the ground, but only by a few inches as he soared through the air toward me switching to a two handed grip in mid glide and unleashed a savage horizontal slash.

I pulled my emerald blade forward like a shield making sure to hold the blade vertical to catch the Sith weapon. The blow was powerful enough that I was barely able to absorb it and the strain from doing so made me gasp with pain. The clashing weapons unleashed a shower of sparks, purple and green, which sprayed off of the blades like an angry swarm of bees.

I struck back; switching my blue-white blade into a reverse shien grip I leaped into the air and allowed the absorbed momentum to push me into a spin of my own. At this close of a range the reverse shien allowed me to maneuver the blade more easily though using such a grip was risky, a powerful strike on the tip of the blade could overpower my wrist and drive my own blade into my upper arm. I hoped that my gambit would pay off.

Durant was no fool, like I had seen him, he had seen me. The Dark Jedi knew that I would retaliate, parry and counter-attack. It was the only logical action when using two blades and he knew it, instead of trying to draw his blade around for a parry the Dark Jedi threw himself backward with the Force which placed him well outside of the reduced range of my drop point attack.

Momentarily my back was positioned toward my foe and Durant was not willing to waste such an opportunity. He whipped a horizontal strike at me hoping to land a hit across the center of my body. Such an attack would split me in twain; it would be a perfect sai tok.

I wasn’t a fool either. I snapped my lightsaber behind my back and shuddered at the impact very much aware that sitting very close to my skin was a humming column of energy. When the block held I retaliated and returned my off hand to its normal grip and making a wide sweeping strike as I twisted my entire upper body to the right, using the time to right myself as well.

Gantos intercepted my wide swipe with his blade. He did not strike back however. The duel stalled a moment as we stared at one another while we returned to square one.

“Not bad.” He murmured as he stepped back, “Your reputation is well earned.”

The Dark Jedi stepped back and eyed me, holding his blade at the ready, “You are younger than me, and likely in better physical shape.” He smirked, “If we keep this up sooner or later I’m going to make a mistake… If this were a strictly saber-based duel.”

I prepared to attempt to counter what was coming, this was what I was ultimately afraid of. If Durant began assaulting me with the Force directly I would be overmatched eventually. Regardless of how skilled I was with a blade I was still a Padwan and he was a Jedi Master.

Durant Gantos gestured with his left hand and I felt a blast of pure energy lash out toward me. I tried to hold my footing, I tried to push his attack aside, but my connection to the Force was simply not strong enough. I felt myself sail backward and I slammed into the white duracrete floor of the landing pad.

I arched my back as I pushed off of the ground with the Force and flipped myself onto my feet, “I am not giving up that easily Dark Sider.” I snarled, the pain from the impact causing a momentary flash of anger that I barely realized. I quickly fought it down but the effort to do so was enough to provide Durant with another opening.

My opponent extended his hand toward me and I braced for another blast of kinetic force to slam into me, but I was not prepared to defend against what happened. Blue white lightning erupted from Durant’s fingers and slammed into me. I flew backward again and slammed into the ground, letting out a choked scream.

My body hurt. Everything hurt. The lightning danced over my body and caused my synapses to fire in random ways. My limbs were numb and despite my efforts I could not rise.

“And now Val Starwind…” He chuckled, “You will become one with the Force.”

Another blast erupted and once more I let loose a scream from my lips. I flopped, my muscles twitched. I blacked out for a moment and my vision started to dim. It was all I could do to curl into a ball as Durant prepared to release the bolt that would end my life.

I closed my eyes and I heard the crackling of the Force lightning once more lance toward me from the Dark Jedi’s hand. I prepared myself to unite with the Force. I was surprised when I felt no pain though and tentatively opened my eyes.

Standing over me, clad in the dark robes of a Jedi Shadow was a familiar bothan silhouette. Gripped in his hands was his acid-colored double bladed lightsaber. I could not hear its hum over the buzzing of my own blade. The top blade of his weapon still had crackling Force lightning dancing along it.

“Not if I have anything to say about it Gantos.” He said simply, he was quite possibly the last person I would have expected to step in and save me. I am sure that if Master Tao-Ri were present he would have gotten a laugh out of the irony of the situation.

The Jedi Shadow wasted no other words and I could only watch and hope that the tingling in my arms and legs would fade. He lunged forward toward the Dark Jedi and spun his saber-staff vertically like a baton. The acid-colored blades burned through the air and forced Durant Gantos to take a step back.

Gantos wasn’t an idiot. He realized that the situation had changed. He could defeat me but Gantos was a better swordsman than he was and was much closer to his match in the use of the Force. The Dark Jedi had already expended a great deal of effort against me and now he faced a fresh opponent. The odds were no longer in his favor.

That did not mean that the Dark Sider was unwilling to try however. Without hesitation the human went on the offensive. Durant swung his violet blade at the Jedi Shadow in a downward vertical arc, planning to end the duel with a cleaving slash.

Tissel Voh was no beginner, holding his blade in a wide grip he had the advantage of leverage. He swept his blade, held in a vertical position, to the right. The move was simple and effective; there was almost no wasted effort. Durant’s blade was slapped easily to the side which evoked a grunt of annoyance from his mouth.

The bothan did not let up either, he was playing to win. He snapped the other side of his blade up in a vertical swing, hoping to end the Dark Jedi once and for all. The blow was basic, but also powerful; with the momentum and the leverage behind it such a blow could easily plow through any defense that Gantos could muster.

It seemed that Durant Gantos agreed however, like with me he used the Force to spring backward rather than attempt to meet blade with blade. The action worked well against me, and it seemed to work here as well. Melding his Force skills with his melee skills seemed to be one of Durant’s strong suits.

Unfortunately for the Dark Jedi, the Shadow was not as weak as I am with the telekinetic aspects of the Force. Without pausing Tissel grabbed for Durant with the invisible hands of the Force. I could feel them wrap around the Dark Jedi and I could see the momentary surprise as the Jedi Master was pulled back toward the one tasked with combating the Dark Side wherever it hid.

Instead of being skewered though the former prisoner of the Sith adapted. He reached forward with his right hand as if to impale the bothan, but at the same time extended his left. From the left hand once more lightning blasted out, but in such a way that the bothan could not parry the blade and the lightning, he would have to make a choice.

Voh abandoned the chance to attempt a killing blow, he chose a safer path, and he parried the outstretched blade while he threw himself to the side at the same time. This carried him out of the path of the lightning but also gave the Dark Jedi a chance to catch his footing.

“Very good Voh.” Durant said, a dark and low laugh rumbling in his throat, “I had expected that last one to catch you for certain.” He took a step back and snapped a mocking salute with his lightsaber.

The bothan nearly growled a reply, “I’ve seen that one before.”

“I don’t doubt it. I don’t doubt it at all.” Came the reply.

Voh began to move in a slow circle which was mirrored by the Dark Jedi. I could see both of them sizing each other up. I cannot explain quite how I knew it, but I could sense that this battle was about to be decided.

Durant extended both of his hands and released a scream of primal fury, lightning once again erupted, but in two different directions. One blast headed toward me. I tried to move but my legs would still not properly respond, however I saw the acid colored energy blade possessed by Voh intersect and absorb the blast. The second blast hurtled toward the bothan.

He had to make a choice, protect me or protect himself. The man who was so quick to condemn me earlier had twice became my savior, but the second time cost him severely. The blast threw the Shadow backward and released from him a cry of pain. He writhed on the ground near me as Gantos released a laugh of triumph.

“And that is why the Sith have managed to accomplish what they have.” The Dark Jedi crowed, “You sacrifice yourself for those who have already been defeated. I might hate the Sith, but I have to see the merit in their actions. They don’t trade the strong for the weak. That is why I want the younglings; they have open minds, minds that can learn a different way.”

That was when I sensed them. Master Tao-Ri was on his way; with him I could feel the presence of two others. I smiled and tried once again to sit, partially being successful. I could feel my Master giving me strength through the Force and I continued to struggle to stand.

“You have lost this one…” I managed to spit out through clenched teeth, “The Jedi Council is almost here…”

His eyes looked far away as the Dark Jedi glanced at me, “Indeed they are, and so is your master I think.” He smiled, “It seems that you have earned a reprieve.”

He turned without another word and ran up the ramp of the ship as I struggled to rise. I let out a cry of pain as I managed to make it to my feet. I almost blacked out but called on the Force to sustain me, I could not let him escape with the younglings.

The ramp of the ship closed as I stumbled toward it, I could see that Tissel Voh was also making his way to his feet. The start up procedure that was initiated when we arrived had finished. The ship could take off as soon as Durant made it to the cockpit.

I don’t know what I thought I was going to do but I managed to stumble to the ship and grabbed onto one of the securing loops beside the door and reached for my lightsabers only to find that they were not on my belt. My head felt fuzzy and I must not have been thinking clearly as I didn’t realize I had dropped them.

I reached out to them with the Force, the effort was extreme in my condition but I managed to pull the emerald bladed saber into my left hand. Holding onto the ring I ignited it and prepared to plunge it into the door. As I pulled my arm back the ship suddenly lurched.

I lost my footing and fell forward but maintained my grip on the security ring. A scream fell from me as the ship lifted off the ground taking me with it. My wrist cried out in protest as it held my weight.

I called once more to the Force and tried to pull myself up enough to get a clear stab; if I could breach the door I might be able to stop the ship from going into the atmosphere. I ignored the pain but could see the landing pad beneath me growing ever smaller. I pulled again screaming in defiance as I started to make headway against the lift and the gravity.

I heard a wet snapping sound and then suddenly I found myself falling. I couldn’t understand what had happened. I looked at my hand and could feel a cold tingling going through my body. Something was wrong, I was groggy and dizzy, and I was pretty sure that my hand wasn’t supposed to be turned all the way around like that.

It was about that moment that I hit something that was white in color and very hard. There was a very loud series of snapping sounds, the kind of noises that one hears when breaking kindling. I didn’t have time to wonder what could possibly have made a noise like that before my vision went completely black.

Waking Up…

Dramatis Personae

Val Starwind – Narrator, Male Human Jedi Padawan
Tao-Ri – Male Nautolan Jedi Master
Tissel Voh – Male Bothan Jedi Shadow
Jav Kir – Female Faleen Jedi Master
Gou Vassius – Male Barabel Jedi Master

The first thing that told me that I was awake was the fact that usually I am not that sore in my dreams. I opened my eyes and could see that I was staring at the ceiling of the medical wing on the Jedi temple grounds. It only took my brain a moment to process what had happened and I instinctively tried to sit up.

Sitting up was a mistake. The room, white and sterile, spun like a child’s carnival ride, as my vision hurtled around I could make out four figures in the room. Master Tao-Ri I knew instantly, his greenish tentacle hair was hard to miss. The falleen who at any other time I would find beautiful known as Master Kir was also there. Rounding out the group was the large and imposing barabel known as Master Vassius, and sitting on a stool with singed fur sat the bothan Jedi Shadow known as Tissel Voh.

I wanted to say something witty and greet them as would be proper, unfortunately due to the spinning and spiraling of the room all I managed was a weak grunt before I vomited. Master Tao-Ri was fast enough to save me my dignity and the cleaning staff some work by maneuvering a small bucket beneath the stream of what had been my last meal. I found a hand; I do not know to whom it belonged, pushing me back down into the bed.

Master Tao-Ri held a glass of water with a straw in it near my lips, “Here Val, try to drink something.” He said, his usual cheerful demeanor obscured by the concern in his voice.

I used the straw and let the cool water slide down my throat, not only did it wash down the taste of the earlier vomit but it also seemed to ease the pain in my head somewhat. After a few more sips I tried to speak again, this time with a bit more success, “Gantos?” I croaked out, “The younglings?”

Voh’s snout scrunched in a frown, “They got away.”

I closed my eyes and processed that information, “We have to go after them.”

Master Vassius snorted, “You can barely stand Padawan Starwind,” he said, “Much less go after anyone. You need to rest and let the Jedi Council decide what is to be done regarding this.”

I nodded, I did not like it but they were right, and I did not yet know the full extent of my injuries, let alone how long I was out. I remembered my hand when I fell and I next looked toward it, fortunately it was still attached. It was currently encased in a tubular cast that had a liquid, bacta or kolto, I was not sure which, running through it.

Master Tao-Ri followed my gaze and answered my unasked question, “Your hand will be fine,” he explained, “Your wrist and forearm suffered a nasty spiral fracture, according to the medical droids thanks to the bacta you should have use of it again in a couple days.”

I nodded, thankful that the motion did not cause another resurgence of vomiting, “I see.” A sigh came from me, “What do you want me to do?”

“For now,” The barabel said, “You must rest. You will receive new orders when you are healed.”

Tissel Voh smiled, it was a look that is not common to be seen on a bothan unless they have you exactly where they want you, “I have a few things I’ll want to talk to you about Starwind.” He said with a predatory twinkle in his eyes, “But for now, get some sleep, I’ll talk to you when you are recovered.” Then the quartet left, leaving me only with the antiseptic smell of the medical room and the monotone voice of the medical droid.

I was in the hospital wing for nearly a week. My wrist had healed exactly as they said, but the damage from the fall had taken longer. Bacta patches had been applied to specific areas and the fact that I had also fractured my skull when I impacted the concrete required in-depth treatments before I was able to be cleared for release.

I could not help but marvel at the wonder of Bacta. As many scrapes as I had been in I had very few scars to show for it. Between Jedi healing trances and bacta my skin was relatively unblemished. Not that such things would be a sticking point with me, I had long ago accepted the fact that I had no need to attempt to make myself physically attractive to members of the opposite sex though there were certain appearances people expected from a member of the Jedi Order.

On the second day of my medical incarceration Stall, Vell, and Duel all came by to wish me a speedy recovery. They told me that some things had happened out on the border between Republic and Sith space and that they were heading out, it seemed that Vell had struck a deal for a new ship if he acted like a delivery boy for the Republic. I wished them farewell and told them the Force would be with them and they left. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel slight pangs of loss after they departed.

I spent the rest of the week reading holo reports and looking for any signs that I could of Durant surfacing. I had little luck in that department but I had learned a good deal about the state of the galaxy. The Sith had made grabs for some non-aligned systems and had expanded their territory, they also managed to achieve forming a beachhead on Illum, the world that supplied the Jedi Order with our lightsaber crystals.

It rankled me, those actions should have marked the end of the treaty, yet nobody was lifting a finger to stop the Sith. I shook my head in mild frustration, while I did not agree with the stance of Durant Gantos, I could still understand, at least in passing, what was frustrating. It seemed that the Sith were running roughshod all over us.

Master Gnost Dural’s reports weren’t exactly reassuring either as they seemed to always focus on what the Jedi Order had done wrong and never on any of the things that the Order did right. His reports, based on my own knowledge of our Order’s history, were incorrect in places and were way too praising of the Sith. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind showing respect to an enemy, but his wording, to me at least, seemed to read like a ballad of praise and admiration, reading them always left an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I was so glad to have that week over with, I often dealt with my frustrations with physical activities and being cooped up was almost more than my Jedi discipline could handle. When the last bacta patch was removed and the medical droid authorized my release I felt like a prison sentence had ended. I was looking forward so much to the fresh air, unfortunately when I stepped outside the air came with the sight of Tissel Voh as well, waiting for me.

“Took you long enough Starwind.” He said gruffly, “Like I said before, I have a few things I want to talk to you about.”

I sighed, “Of course.” I responded, “What can I do to help you Jedi Shadow?” I answered the bothan.

“Walk with me Starwind,” He said as he began to walk with his hands held behind his back, pressing out his brown robes.

I followed, curious, “Certainly Jedi Shadow.” I responded.

“Do you want to take another blaster shot at Durant Gantos?” He asked me after we had walked a short way.

Frowning I replied cautiously, “I would be dishonest if I said I did not feel responsible for his actions, I was the one who freed him.”

The bothan nodded, “Is it responsibility that you feel Padawan or do you want revenge against him for what he did?” He inquired as he came to a stop and turned to face me.

I started to respond, of course I was going to tell him it was responsibility, but I had to be honest, “I don’t know.” I replied, “Maybe a little of both.”

To my surprise the Jedi Shadow laughed, “Good, at least you aren’t lying to yourself.” He spied a nearby rock and sat on it, his legs crossed, “I can understand if you have feelings of revenge, he took the younglings you felt responsible for, he also beat you pretty badly… Beat us pretty badly I should say…”

I nodded, “Go on…” I was unsure of where this was going.

“I am actually pretty relieved that you are feeling that way, it shows that you haven’t killed off that part of you that feels.” The bothan explained, “However, there are two other things here… The first is that you feel attachment toward those younglings and it might have clouded your judgment.” He said as he motioned to my wrist, “I know you hurt your wrist during our duel and from the report given to me by your Trooper friend the main reason that you didn’t get it looked at sooner was because you wanted to instruct the younglings.”

“That would be correct.” I responded feeling a little ashamed, but there was no need to deny the truth Voh was a Jedi Shadow, he’d know if I was lying.

Tissel Voh grunted, “That is two in a row Starwind, keep this up and we can call it a streak. If you can’t detach and think clearly then you aren’t going to be any good to those kids, the order, or me.” He continued, “The second thing, your Jedi training has been lacking.” He said.

I was about to reply to that but the bothan held up a hand to cut me off, “Now, I am not saying that Master Tao-Ri didn’t do a good job or that you aren’t an impressive lightsaber duelist.” He explained, “However you are too specialized. I’ve spoken with your master and it is clear to him, and myself, that you are lacking in your development of your alter abilities. This isn’t completely your fault; you seem to be a bit deficient in that department as far as potential is concerned.”

I nodded, “Yes,” I said, agreeing with him, “It is an area that I have never been very strong in.” I told him.

“That we need to fix, if you were to get a chance to face Durant, if you faced him as you are now he would defeat you again.” He explained, “You aren’t going to be able to match his abilities with the Force, not on a case by case basis, but you can expand your repertoire to give yourself an edge, a few small things that could take him by surprise.”

A frown formed on my face, “Alright,” I said, “So what are you getting at?” I asked.

“Pretty simple Starwind,” He said, “I’m going to teach you what you need to know to take that insane ex-Jedi down…” A grin split his face, “I already talked to your Master about this too, he’s all for it, he thinks it might help you get past some of your hang ups if maybe you got another style of instruction.” A twinkle appeared in his eye, “Of course, only if you agree… I told Tao-Ri that you probably didn’t have the fortitude to handle being taught by someone who doesn’t use anything harsher than a stern reprimand.”

“If you think that you can intimidate me Tissel Voh, or goad me into something like this, then you are mistaken.” I replied to the bothan, though the challenge was evident and backing down, especially if by doing so I would miss out on something that might help was not something that I was too keen on, “If it’ll help then I’m not afraid to accept training from you.”

The bothan almost beamed with sadistic mirth, “Oh, I expect that you will regret that decision.” He replied as he rubbed his hands together, “Because now the fun is going to begin.”

*****

A few days later I came to the decision that Tissel Voh had a very odd view of what fun was. Shortly after lunch that day we left in Voh’s ship, a small yacht, the kind one would never expect to be owned by a Jedi, named Spacer’s Pride and set a course for a small moon that Voh referred to only as “a place of learning” to me. The moon was a blasted wasteland, a desert that stretched all around it, there were no facilities and there was very little life to be felt.

“Starwind,” Voh said to me, “Your problem has nothing to do with using a lightsaber, which is something that you do excel at.” He began, “Your problem is that your other Force abilities are atrophied.”

I nodded, already having heard this before, “So how do we fix that?” I asked him.

That predatory grin spread over his face again as he walked over to the yacht we came in and lowered the cargo ramp. The bothan walked into the ship and after a few minutes pushed a repulsor cart out, sitting on it were a pair of cages. Something made a purring growl from within, it was a lizard-like creature.

“Have you ever heard of a vornskr?” He asked.

I shook my head, “No, I cannot say that I have.”

The bothan patted the cage, “These are my, pets, Kor and Kar.” He explained, “They are hunting animals, and I have found them very useful in the past in hunting down Dark Side users.” He continued, “You see these animals hunt by feeling the Force.”

Cocking my head to the side I frowned, “I have never heard of such a creature before.”

“No,” the Jedi Shadow replied, “You wouldn’t have. They are native to a planet called Myrkr.” He lectured, “It is a place few Jedi go and there are creatures there that have evolved unique survival abilities.” He explained “One of them creates a bubble which pushes the Force away. They do this to hide from the vornskr.”

I looked at the cage, at the strange reptilian inside of it, “So how does this help me?” I asked.

When I glanced up Tissel Voh was gone, I was alone in the small clearing that we had landed in. I frowned and glanced around wondering where he went, I could see nothing, and I could sense nothing. Then the bothan’s voice purred in my ear, not but a few inches away, “Because it can get you close and give you an opening.”

I jumped a bit; surprised by the sudden speech and reappearance of the person I had traveled with. As the bothan let out a slight chuckle, “Do you see my point?” he asked.

“The point is very clear…” I replied as I composed myself, “And how are the animals going to help me learn to do that?” I asked.

“The technique is easy to learn, the animals are going to test you on how well you can do it. If you can hide your Force presence from a vornskr then you can hide from a Jedi… Or a Sith.” He told me, “However that isn’t all you must do.”

“I also have to hide from sight.” I stated.

“And smell, and even hearing.” The bothan agreed, “The Shadows use such techniques very often, they are very difficult to learn and they require a great aptitude for the Alter aspect of the Force.”

“Then how is that supposed to help me?” I asked, “We have already determined that I don’t have a lot of aptitude in that area.”

“Correct.” He said, “However you do have the potential, based on your ability to control a lightsaber in flight, or your ability to spin through the air, to vanish at least for a short time. You won’t be able to do it like I can, of course, but you should be able to incorporate it into your arsenal of techniques.”

“Why this moon then?” I asked the bothan.

“This moon has very little life on it, as I am sure you have noticed, it makes it easier for the vornskr to hunt you down, it clears the background noise as it were.” He told me, “I felt it was the perfect place for something like this… Also because my teaching methods are rather… Unconventional.” He explained, as once more that predatory grin spread over his lips.

I frowned, “Explain.” I requested.

“Well, you see, every time you fail, the vornskr are going to bite you Starwind. Not enough to kill you, but it will bleed, and it will hurt. You aren’t going to be able to patch up until your training sessions are done. Each time you fail you will feel pain, pain that you will have to then contend with as well as the difficulty of the technique.” His hair pushed itself down in a show of anticipation.

I nodded, “I can see why you did not want to do this on Tython then…”

He laughed, “Your master, not to mention the Council, often frown on such behavior… Personally I find it a valuable teaching tool. Let us begin Val Starwind…” He said as he began to instruct me on how the technique worked.

By the end of the first day, long after the sun had set, I was ready to collapse. The ground I stood on was wet with my own blood and my body was covered in numerous bite marks. Some of the bites were small, some of them were deep, all of them hurt.

Tissel Voh seemed to take satisfaction in my progress, or in the amount of blood his pets were able to draw, I was never sure which. However when I was done he seemed content to begin patching my wounds with medical sprays and bacta patches. I fell easily into a deep sleep, not even bothering to use the ship’s sonic shower to wash.

The next morning when the sun broke the horizon Tissel Voh and his pets were ready to begin anew. While part of me wanted to quit I was determined to continue with the training, if it would help me find and rescue the younglings, the ones I felt responsible for, I would endure.

To be continued…
"There is no room for compromise. We walk the path of the light side, or we fall into darkness. There is no gray area, Ben."
~ Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker (P. 187 FotJ, Book II: Omen)
Host of the Jedi Council stream also author of From the Journal of Val Starwind

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ProfessorWalsh
12.13.2011 , 10:10 AM | #8
Allies From the Past…

Dramatis Personae

Val Starwind – Narrator, Male Human Jedi Padawan
Tissel Voh – Male Bothan Jedi Shadow
Kalun – Male MonCalamari Jedi Youngling (Age 9)
Altir – Female Kel Dor Jedi Youngling (age 9)
Farrit the Hutt – Male Hutt Crime Lord
Waln Trask – Male Human Trooper (retired)

Begin entry…

It was three months. The training with Voh had taken that full time, with each day a new twist or challenge being added. Then, as the Jedi Shadow called it, we got a hit. Tissel Voh called me to stop my drills with his vornskr and come into the yacht.

The bothan sat above the communications console, “Finally…” He said as he looked at the text as it scrolled around the screen, “I knew that he’d make a move sooner or later.”

I frowned, “What? Did someone spot Durant?” I asked, knowing that Voh had been using his extensive system of contacts for the past three months to try to locate the Dark Jedi.

“Not Durant,” He said as he read some more of the transmission, “But two younglings, Force Users, around age nine or ten, one female Kel Dor, one male MonCal.” He explained, “It seems that they tried to break into one of the weapons depots owned by a crime lord known as Farrit the Hutt. The kids match the physical descriptions of Altir and Kalun, two of your lost Gizka clan.”

Looking over the Shadow’s shoulder I read the next section of the scrolling words aloud, “The two children were found armed with lightsabers and high yield explosive charges that were stolen from the personal weapon stockpile of Farrit the Hutt.” I continued to read, “When confronted by guards the two Force Users defended themselves, killing six guards and wounding three more.”

Tissel picked up where I stopped, “Both children were eventually taken down when the defense systems kicked in and the hallway the kids were caught in flooded with an aerosol tranquilizer agent and are currently being held in Ferrit’s personal throne chambers while the Hutt decides if he should kill them or simply auction them off to the highest bidder between the Jedi Order or the Sith.” He frowned, “At the present moment the Hutt has not made any formal contact with either group regarding this issue.”

I sighed and ran my hand along my face, “Alright,” I said, “What do we do?” I asked the Jedi Shadow.

He thought for a second, “We don’t do anything.” He began.

An intake of air filled my lungs, but before I could protest the bothan raised a hand to quell the objection, “We can’t.” He said, “They have not yet contacted the Jedi Order and this would be a matter for the Council.” He once more gave me that predatory grin, “Which someone has to tell them about.” He said, “That is why I will be going to Tython to tell them while I will drop you off on Nar Shadda.”

A frown formed over my lips, “Jedi Voh, I cannot take action regarding an issue this sensitive without the permission of the Jedi Council. You know that.”

He laughed, “Oh, I certainly know that you, being a straight blaster bolt wouldn’t take action without permission, however when I tell the Council of what happened I’ll also make certain that they know that we have a skilled asset in the location.” He snickered, “It won’t guarantee that they tell you to do anything, they may send someone else, but it increases your chance of getting in there.”

I couldn’t help but grin, but then I tilted my head to the side, “I agree but now I have to ask you a question.” I said.

“Go ahead.”

“Why are you doing this for me?” I asked, “From every interaction prior to the fight with Gantos on Tython it was apparent that you did not like me.”

He shook his head, “First of all…” He said, “I don’t like you.”

I blinked in surprise at the blunt response, but before I could remark the bothan continued, “I think that you are dangerous. You have an immense potential but you can’t let go of attachments and they are dragging you down. I think that the wrong string of events could make you fall to the Dark Side like a derelict star ship at the edge of a black hole.” He took a breath, “However, when I dueled you I let a dangerous Dark Jedi get access to a bunch of kids. I bought his line about you being the threat because I wanted to believe it.”

I nodded, he had previously told me that Gantos had deceived him and distracted him by directing him at me.

The bothan continued, “You genuinely want to help these kids and I respect that, I wrongly accused you of something and I am regretful of that. You are taking responsibility for bringing Durant Gantos back, but that is my fault, not yours. It was my duty to root him out and I failed to do that. So what I have done, it isn’t for you, it is for the kids, and it is for me.”

“I see.” Was all that I could reply and then I asked “What about that part about me being a highly skilled asset?”

“You are a highly skilled asset. If you fall then you will be a highly skilled detriment. No matter what I can’t go to Nar Shadda and send you to the council because it would cause things to be questioned, even if I recorded a message. Then we would likely be too late to do anything.” He looked at me, “Anything else you want to know?”

“No. I think you have said all that needed to be said.”

“Good,” came the Jedi Shadow’s reply, “Now, load up my vornskr and pack up. We need to leave within the hour.”

*****

The trip did not take long.

I had only stepped off the ship and began walking down the narrow connecting bridge when Voh peeled off in his yacht. He was in a hurry to get back to Tython and I had my own instructions to follow. I was undercover, using a fake identity card that the Jedi Shadow had provided me as well as a healthy traceless cred stick.

My cover was fairly believable. I was a fee negotiator for a prominent businessman who has chosen to keep his identity confidential. I was on Nar Shadda to speak with Farrit the Hutt regarding the acquisition of some pieces of artwork that he had in his private collection.

My mission, and my priority, was to procure a hotel room and attempt to schedule a meeting with Farrit the Hutt sometime within three days. I was uncomfortable in the clothing that Tissel Voh had supplied me with but they fit me rather well after some minor fitting work that I had done on the way here. Currently I was clad in a gray suit that matched the style worn often by up and comers on planets like Alderaan or Coruscant. I knew I would have to purchase some better clothes as soon as I could though.

I carried with me a sealed bantha hide security case that supposedly contained documents that had information pertaining to the transaction that I was to negotiate. In truth all that it held was my robes and my lightsaber, the latter in a shielded pouch that should resist attempts at being scanned. I would have to be careful though because if the authorities demanded to search the case then it would surely get back to someone that a Jedi was operating on Nar Shadda.

I passed through the landing area speaking only to the droid receptionist, trying my best to avoid making myself conspicuous. Though I was reasonably able to, for a handful of seconds, render myself practically invisible due to Tissel’s training, I was by no means a stealthy individual. I don’t know if it is the way I walked, or the direct manner in which I walked, but I did not make it halfway across the ground floor lobby before a male voice called out to me in an official tone, “Excuse me sir!”

I sighed inwardly and clutched the handle of the security case tighter then turned to face the person who was addressing me. I looked at the man who wore a security jumpsuit and my jaw nearly fell to the duracrete floor. What I was seeing felt almost impossible.

He stood a half of a foot over six feet in height and had muscles that appeared to have been carved out of stone by an artisan’s chisel. He had skin that was the color of chocolate cream. He had brown eyes that were rounded and accentuated by his cheek bones. The feature that most stood out on him though was his shocking white hair. The thing that had surprised me the most however was that I knew who this man was.

“Sergeant Trask?” I asked without being able to stop myself.

The big man grinned and grabbed me in a bear hug with his nearly inhuman strength and I found it almost impossible to breathe as he let out a hearty laugh, “What the heck are you doing here?”

I coughed, choking a bit as I managed to squeeze out of my lips, “Trying… To… Breathe.”

Waln Trask realized what he was doing and let me go as I fell to the ground, barely even realizing that he had lifted me off of it. I motioned my thanks as I steadied myself. As I tried to fill my lungs with air I thought back to the last time I had seen the Trooper I knew as Sergeant Trask.

We were on Alderaan, Trask was the second in command of Valdis Company. Reports had come in telling us that there was a mass retreat being attempted by the Sith and it was rumored that a Jedi Knight named Satele Shan had just killed the leader of the occupation force. I was never clear on the details but someone had reported that she collapsed a mountain on top of him.

We had just gotten separated from Master Tao-Ri when the reports came that our area was about to be overrun due to a suicide charge that was ordered by the Sith. I was a child, barely in my teens, and I had just assumed command of twelve men. I ordered our retreat to our evac point.

Even with the Force aiding my ability to recall memories the events that followed are still difficult to see. We retreated through the woods when the battledroids and Sith were on us. Lightsabers hummed and clashed, blaster fire lanced out. Explosions started tearing through the trees and spraying us with shrapnel.

Trask and I were the last two of the few of us that made it out. I remembered as we got onto the craft a blaster bolt rang out and I recalled Waln Trask crying out in pain. I remember pulling him in as we were taking off and seeing that his right arm was mostly gone, the blaster bolt tore through at the elbow and the weight of the large repeating blaster canon the Trooper had carried it free of his body. I remembered it as another of my failures.

I kept in touch for a while after Alderaan but over time I had lost track of the Trooper. The last I knew he was still on Coruscant. At the time he was still in a waiting line to get a prosthetic for his arm.

The trip into my memories felt like they took hours but only seconds had passed. I blinked them away and without realizing it allowed my eyes to travel to his left arm, where a black droid replacement hand could be seen poking out of the wrist hole at the end of the jump suit’s sleeve. I must have allowed my gaze to linger for a moment too long because it seemed Trask had noticed.

“Yeah,” He said, “Servotronics replacement,” he confirmed, “Model number T-72X.”

I winced, “I’m sorry…” was all I could say.

The large man frowned, “What are you sorry about?” He asked, “It was some stupid battle droid that shot it off.” He laughed and clapped me on the back.

“Look,” He said, his tone becoming suddenly serious and he dropped his voice to a whisper, “Why are you here Starwind?” He frowned, “It isn’t safe for uh, people like you.” He finished,

I nodded, “Uh, personal business.” I said, “I’m going to be acquiring some art for my client, or at least negotiating a price. I won’t be here more than a few days.”

He frowned, but seemed to get the message, “Oh uh, well, maybe we can talk some more before you leave?” He asked, “Maybe go out for a few drinks? I owe you a couple and well you are finally old enough for me to pay up.” He laughed.

“I’d like that.” I told the large man, “Say, maybe you can help me out, I need a hotel that is pretty discrete… Do you know anywhere nearby?”

He frowned and stroked his chin, “I know a couple places.” He said, “Here, wait a few minutes and let me see if I can get someone to cover the rest of my shift, I’ll show you around.”

And with that the man once known as Sergeant Trask turned and headed toward a small door leading to another part of the lobby. I stood and waited, knowing that the overly warm greeting would draw attention to me, and I could feel that I had attracted interest. Fortunately very shortly after he vanished behind the office door the man I once fought alongside returned and put a warm arm around my shoulder, “Come on,” he said, “Let me introduce you to the place known as Nar Shadda.”

To be continued…
"There is no room for compromise. We walk the path of the light side, or we fall into darkness. There is no gray area, Ben."
~ Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker (P. 187 FotJ, Book II: Omen)
Host of the Jedi Council stream also author of From the Journal of Val Starwind

ProfessorWalsh's Avatar


ProfessorWalsh
12.13.2011 , 10:11 AM | #9
Mission Objectives

Dramatis Personae

Val Starwind – Narrator, Male Human Jedi Padawan
Tao-Ri – Male Nautolan Jedi Master
Kalun – Male MonCalamari Jedi Youngling (Age 9)
Altir – Female Kel Dor Jedi Youngling (age 9)
Farrit the Hutt – Male Hutt Crime Lord
Waln Trask – Male Human Trooper (retired)

Begin Entry…

Waln showed me around Nar Shadda and helped me purchase some new clothes. After the brief shopping trip he led me back to a fairly upscale hotel where I was able to acquire a room for the duration of my stay. I ordered room service, a decent meal for us, and then after searching the room, the tray, and everything else I could think of for listening devices I was finally able to explain the situation to my friend.

“Stang…” He said in a low voice, “So, if I understand this right, the former Jedi kidnapped half a dozen Jedi kids and then he just took off?” He asked.

I nodded, “Now we have learned that Farrit the Hutt has two of the children being held as captives here after they tried to steal weapons from him.”

My dinner companion frowned, “What would make them do something like that?” he asked.

“There is no way to know, Durant Gantos is obviously manipulating them.” I responded, “Though there is no way for us to be sure how.”

“I have never met Farrit, but one of the guys who works at the airport used to work security for him for a time.” The former trooper explained, “I can see what I can find out, however from what I have heard Farrit isn’t a nice guy, though he does seem to treat his employees well… Unless they screw up that is.”

A frown came to my face, “That is problematic,” I explained, “If he treats his employees well as you claim, then it means that attempting to bribe them is unlikely to work and very risky.”

Waln Trask nodded, “Yeah, well, like I said, all I can think of is to ask around, I can make like I am thinking of going to work for him or am considering it or something. It shouldn’t be too suspicious.”

For a second time a frown came to my face, “Walnt,” I asked, “What are you doing here anyway? You were a great soldier, why aren’t you with the Republic military?”

His eyes grew a bit distant, “Well… After I lost my arm… It took so long to get a prosthetic and I couldn’t handle being a pencil pusher so I left.” He explained, “I tried to find work as a security consultant or even a bodyguard, but nobody wanted to hire a one armed grunt.” He said, “And after I got the arm the Republic wouldn’t take me back being that we were in peace time… So I had to take work where I could get it. A friend of mine knew a guy and got me a gig working spaceport security for Republic Spacelines.”

I nodded, Republic Spacelines was one of the largest private space transportation companies in the Republic and they delivered travelers all over the galaxy and were even able to broker deals to deliver clients to independent and imperial worlds.

“I don’t want you to get into any trouble for this Waln,” I said, “But any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.”

The security agent waved a hand dismissively, “Don’t worry about it; they aren’t going to fire me for asking a few questions. Besides, I mean there are kids on the line here.”

My companion stood and stretched his legs a bit, “Alright Val, I’m going to head out then. I’ll see what I can learn and stop by after work, alright?” He asked.

“That is more than I can ask for,” came my reply, “I thank you.”

He made his way to the door of the hotel room and opened it, looking back he frowned, “Hey Val,” he called, “Be careful okay? Nar Shadda isn’t exactly the safest place in the galaxy if you know what I mean.”

I nodded, “Understood,” I told him, “And may the Force be with you.”

He flashed me a grin before he closed the door, but I still felt apprehensive, if it was a feeling from the Force or just my own nerves I wasn’t sure. The feeling persisted for over an hour, causing me to perform another sweep of the spacious upscale hotel room. I came up with nothing, finally I decided, after a few hours, that enough time had passed and I placed a call out to a relay that would allow me to contact the Jedi Temple.

I knew that by using the relay it would make it much harder to track where the actual call was directed to, anyone tracking the transmission would find that I was making a call to a small outpost near Coruscant. It only took a few minutes for the feed to be patched through and for the familiar face of my Master Tao Ri to fill the holofield.

“Ah,” He said, “It is good to see you again! Such a rare pleasure my old friend!”

I gave a nod, the phrase was a signal, it told me which of the codes that we would be using to converse. “Always,” I replied, “It is not often that I can make a leisurely call.”

He also gave a small bob of his head, his scalp tendrils moving as he did; my reply indicated that I understood, “You look well.” He said, “Things are going great here. The wife is saying to tell you that you need to stop by next time you are in the area.”

The Nautolan continued to speak in a casual tone, “Work is difficult, soon we will negotiate a new pay scale and if successful it will help out a lot. Though, we are concerned because we will bargain with proposed results rather than actual ones.”

I made a grunt of understanding and continued to nod. I was letting my Master know that I indeed comprehended the message.

“The truth is that it is all a long shot.” He said as he let out a sigh, “A Hutt is more willing to part with money than the Republic government.” He laughed, “Things are better now though than they were several years ago I guess.” Tao-Ri gave a shrug, “Sometimes, I am forced to wonder if anyone even cares about the work that we do here.”

I nodded along and played my part, “You know that the work you do is important.” I replied, blinking once at the beginning of the sentence, and then once at the end, indicating that I wasn’t trying to give a message of my own.

“It just does not help that everyone just refused to supply us with the materials that we need.” He was doing a good job of looking frustrated, “You know what I mean?” He said, “We are doing the best that we can here. The time it takes to gather samples and record data costs credits, but we can’t really go any faster.”

Once again I made an understanding sound but continued to focus on his words, the code wasn’t complex but it did require concentration on my part.

The face in the holofield continued to speak; to anyone else it would have sounded like a fairly typical work rant. Which is after all what it was designed to sound like, “The economy is finally starting to recover now that the war is over. You would think investors would realize how much the pharmaceuticals we are developing will sell once people get back into their pre-war habits.”

I blinked, “Of course not my friend, that would take someone of vision.” I said as I blinked a second time.

“Children, the elderly, anyone who is at risk of common colds would benefit from the products we are working on.” He said as he rubbed his temples as though he had a headache, “We, by focusing on preventing people from getting sick, can generate income by selling medication to people who may not even get sick. The profit potential exceeds any other medical business model right now due to the upswing in medical costs.”

He paused for a moment and I motioned him to continue, “Truthfully many people currently lack the means to pay doctor’s fees and such. Spending a fraction of the credits that are necessary to cover one doctor’s visit, our product can protect themselves and their families for over three months.”

He looked at me, and I nodded a final time, this time making sure not to blink, “I understand.” I replied, “I wish I could talk longer but these holo-transmissions are not cheap.”

Master Tao-Ri blinked his eyes, “Of course. Take care of yourself alright?” He blinked again.

I nodded as I closed the holo-connection, “I will Master Tao-Ri.” I said quietly, and with that I now had my instructions.

… To be continued…

(Post 7 Ends)

Mission Objectives

Dramatis Personae

Val Starwind – Narrator, Male Human Jedi Padawan
Tao-Ri – Male Nautolan Jedi Master
Kalun – Male MonCalamari Jedi Youngling (Age 9)
Altir – Female Kel Dor Jedi Youngling (age 9)
Farrit the Hutt – Male Hutt Crime Lord
Waln Trask – Male Human Trooper (retired)

Begin Entry…

Waln showed me around Nar Shadda and helped me purchase some new clothes. After the brief shopping trip he led me back to a fairly upscale hotel where I was able to acquire a room for the duration of my stay. I ordered room service, a decent meal for us, and then after searching the room, the tray, and everything else I could think of for listening devices I was finally able to explain the situation to my friend.

“Stang…” He said in a low voice, “So, if I understand this right, the former Jedi kidnapped half a dozen Jedi kids and then he just took off?” He asked.

I nodded, “Now we have learned that Farrit the Hutt has two of the children being held as captives here after they tried to steal weapons from him.”

My dinner companion frowned, “What would make them do something like that?” he asked.

“There is no way to know, Durant Gantos is obviously manipulating them.” I responded, “Though there is no way for us to be sure how.”

“I have never met Farrit, but one of the guys who works at the airport used to work security for him for a time.” The former trooper explained, “I can see what I can find out, however from what I have heard Farrit isn’t a nice guy, though he does seem to treat his employees well… Unless they screw up that is.”

A frown came to my face, “That is problematic,” I explained, “If he treats his employees well as you claim, then it means that attempting to bribe them is unlikely to work and very risky.”

Waln Trask nodded, “Yeah, well, like I said, all I can think of is to ask around, I can make like I am thinking of going to work for him or am considering it or something. It shouldn’t be too suspicious.”

For a second time a frown came to my face, “Walnt,” I asked, “What are you doing here anyway? You were a great soldier, why aren’t you with the Republic military?”

His eyes grew a bit distant, “Well… After I lost my arm… It took so long to get a prosthetic and I couldn’t handle being a pencil pusher so I left.” He explained, “I tried to find work as a security consultant or even a bodyguard, but nobody wanted to hire a one armed grunt.” He said, “And after I got the arm the Republic wouldn’t take me back being that we were in peace time… So I had to take work where I could get it. A friend of mine knew a guy and got me a gig working spaceport security for Republic Spacelines.”

I nodded, Republic Spacelines was one of the largest private space transportation companies in the Republic and they delivered travelers all over the galaxy and were even able to broker deals to deliver clients to independent and imperial worlds.

“I don’t want you to get into any trouble for this Waln,” I said, “But any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.”

The security agent waved a hand dismissively, “Don’t worry about it; they aren’t going to fire me for asking a few questions. Besides, I mean there are kids on the line here.”

My companion stood and stretched his legs a bit, “Alright Val, I’m going to head out then. I’ll see what I can learn and stop by after work, alright?” He asked.

“That is more than I can ask for,” came my reply, “I thank you.”

He made his way to the door of the hotel room and opened it, looking back he frowned, “Hey Val,” he called, “Be careful okay? Nar Shadda isn’t exactly the safest place in the galaxy if you know what I mean.”

I nodded, “Understood,” I told him, “And may the Force be with you.”

He flashed me a grin before he closed the door, but I still felt apprehensive, if it was a feeling from the Force or just my own nerves I wasn’t sure. The feeling persisted for over an hour, causing me to perform another sweep of the spacious upscale hotel room. I came up with nothing, finally I decided, after a few hours, that enough time had passed and I placed a call out to a relay that would allow me to contact the Jedi Temple.

I knew that by using the relay it would make it much harder to track where the actual call was directed to, anyone tracking the transmission would find that I was making a call to a small outpost near Coruscant. It only took a few minutes for the feed to be patched through and for the familiar face of my Master Tao Ri to fill the holofield.

“Ah,” He said, “It is good to see you again! Such a rare pleasure my old friend!”

I gave a nod, the phrase was a signal, it told me which of the codes that we would be using to converse. “Always,” I replied, “It is not often that I can make a leisurely call.”

He also gave a small bob of his head, his scalp tendrils moving as he did; my reply indicated that I understood, “You look well.” He said, “Things are going great here. The wife is saying to tell you that you need to stop by next time you are in the area.”

The Nautolan continued to speak in a casual tone, “Work is difficult, soon we will negotiate a new pay scale and if successful it will help out a lot. Though, we are concerned because we will bargain with proposed results rather than actual ones.”

I made a grunt of understanding and continued to nod. I was letting my Master know that I indeed comprehended the message.

“The truth is that it is all a long shot.” He said as he let out a sigh, “A Hutt is more willing to part with money than the Republic government.” He laughed, “Things are better now though than they were several years ago I guess.” Tao-Ri gave a shrug, “Sometimes, I am forced to wonder if anyone even cares about the work that we do here.”

I nodded along and played my part, “You know that the work you do is important.” I replied, blinking once at the beginning of the sentence, and then once at the end, indicating that I wasn’t trying to give a message of my own.

“It just does not help that everyone just refused to supply us with the materials that we need.” He was doing a good job of looking frustrated, “You know what I mean?” He said, “We are doing the best that we can here. The time it takes to gather samples and record data costs credits, but we can’t really go any faster.”

Once again I made an understanding sound but continued to focus on his words, the code wasn’t complex but it did require concentration on my part.

The face in the holofield continued to speak; to anyone else it would have sounded like a fairly typical work rant. Which is after all what it was designed to sound like, “The economy is finally starting to recover now that the war is over. You would think investors would realize how much the pharmaceuticals we are developing will sell once people get back into their pre-war habits.”

I blinked, “Of course not my friend, that would take someone of vision.” I said as I blinked a second time.

“Children, the elderly, anyone who is at risk of common colds would benefit from the products we are working on.” He said as he rubbed his temples as though he had a headache, “We, by focusing on preventing people from getting sick, can generate income by selling medication to people who may not even get sick. The profit potential exceeds any other medical business model right now due to the upswing in medical costs.”

He paused for a moment and I motioned him to continue, “Truthfully many people currently lack the means to pay doctor’s fees and such. Spending a fraction of the credits that are necessary to cover one doctor’s visit, our product can protect themselves and their families for over three months.”

He looked at me, and I nodded a final time, this time making sure not to blink, “I understand.” I replied, “I wish I could talk longer but these holo-transmissions are not cheap.”

Master Tao-Ri blinked his eyes, “Of course. Take care of yourself alright?” He blinked again.

I nodded as I closed the holo-connection, “I will Master Tao-Ri.” I said quietly, and with that I now had my instructions.

… To be continued…

Aggressive Negotiations

Dramatis Personae

Val Starwind – Narrator, Male Human Jedi Padawan
Tao-Ri – Male Nautolan Jedi Master
Kalun – Male MonCalamari Jedi Youngling (Age 9)
Altir – Female Kel Dor Jedi Youngling (age 9)
Farrit the Hutt – Male Hutt Crime Lord
Waln Trask – Male Human Trooper (retired)

My mission was assigned; I knew that all I had to do now was set things in motion. After I closed the holocom connection I began to get ready for bed. I partook of the sonic showers and changed into some bed clothes. When I retired to the bed I slid my lightsabers from the security case and set them underneath my pillow. Finally I drifted off to sleep.

*****

I awoke in a dream, though I knew it was not a dream. I was angry, filled with rage as I stared at a large cowl-wearing face in a holoprojector image. The face spoke, “Your request is refused Mynock!” He bellowed, “Do not ask again, we will not authorize a breach of the treaty so that you can satisfy your personal hunger!”

Shaking with hatred at the pathetic excuse for a Sith who loomed before me, given his position which had not been earned by the glory of an earned kill, “He is mine!” He bellowed, “Rightfully taken! I have claim on him!” I slammed my fist into the holoconsole causing sparks to leap from it.

The Sith in the holofield shook with laughter, “You are out of control Lord Mynock. Perhaps I should inform the Dark Council that you are ignoring a direct order. Perhaps the Emperor will be merciful toward your insubordination.”

I felt a stab of fear. I would kill the Emperor, I knew that much, but I needed time to grow strong enough, “No…” I said as I was forced to swallow my pride, for now, the taste of it making me wish to vomit, “I will comply with this order.” I seethed, “However my claim is still legitimate, I want the boy, he is mine by right of combat, he is mine to eat.”

“Your appetites amuse me Lord Mynock, and if it is at all possible we will see if you can battle him again. For now however I want you to return to your assigned mission. We have received intelligence telling us that the patient formerly known as Durant Gantos has fled from Tython.” He said, “Taking with him a group of Jedi initiates.”

A growl escaped my lips; if I could not go after my meal then perhaps I could seek the escaped prisoner, “And what leads do we have for me to track this prey?” I asked of the cowl-wearing face in the holofield.

Though most of the Sith’s head was in shadow I could see a small smile spread across his lips, mocking me. The mocking would stop one day when I fed on the life that coursed through his body, and the bodies of any who had ever dared to doubt my power. He replied, “Nar Shadda.” He said, “One of the Hutts has captured two of the Jedi children that the prisoner escaped with, they put up quite a fight for children and we have reason to believe that the prisoner is recreating the experiments we were performing on him. The children’s minds should be easier to dominate and if that is the case then they could be completely under his mental influence.”

I frowned, “I have read the file.” I said nearly spitting at the screen, “I am no fool. The experiments were supposed to be able to suppress the personality of the victim and replace it with a copy of the controller. The process at its core is basically putting a copy of one’s own mind into the body of another.”

“Precisely,” said the face, “Against a fully trained Jedi, like Durant Gantos, we were unable to complete the process satisfactorily. Against a child it theoretically should work much better.”

“After a time,” I replied, “The process becomes irreversible as the underlying personality is destroyed.” I mused, “An interesting technique, though ultimately pointless, one does not gain power from this or immortality.”

The face seemed to shrug, “Power comes in many forms Mynock. None the less, because the bodies possess all of the knowledge of the original host as well as the personality from the dominator they are excellent infiltrators. Your mission is to kill Durant Gantos and the children, all of them; we cannot risk the Jedi learning the details of the process. I will send transmit you all of the data you will need for this mission.”

A grin spread across my face, “It shall be done.” I said, “Mynock out.” I punched a control on the holoprojector and shut it down. Standing I walked toward my door and opened it to the bridge. A hush fell across my ship, “Navigator!” I snarled, “Lay in a course for Nar Shadda… We have a meeting with the Hutts.”

*****

My eyes snapped open and struggled to get my breathing under control. My body was covered in a sheath of sweat and my head pounded. I closed my eyes and tried to go through a series of Jedi relaxation techniques. That dream was no dream; I had felt such a thing before, when we left the Darklab.

The Force was giving me a vision, warning me of what was to come. They, the Sith, were coming here, which meant I did not have much time. I did not know where they were exactly in the galaxy or how long it would take but it changed things. I also believed that I had a clue as to what Gantos might be doing.

I moved to the holocom and tried to contact the relay but received no answer. The sun was beginning to crest over the rotting cityscape of Nar Shadda and revealed the corruption and depravity which existed in this place ruled by Hutts. I made a quick call to Waln and let him know what had happened.

Waln nodded, “Alright Val, if you are sure, then I’ll back you up. Let me go down to the star port and talk to my buddy and I’ll come over to you.”

I sighed, “Thank you Waln.” I told him, “I am sorry I dragged you into this.”

He shook his head, “Don’t worry about it, kids are involved. I’m not going to stand by while one of these sleemos does who knows what to a pair of kids. I’d have been insulted if you didn’t let me help.”

I signed off and quickly made my way to the sonic shower. After adjusting some settings I let the vibrations pass through my body and eliminate the slick residues that clung to me after the nightmare vision. I finished and then quickly dressed, the outfit I had chosen was not the garments of a Jedi, but they would suffice.

Once I was clothed I tried to meditate and relax again. This time I was more successful. My breathing and heart beat slowed and I could feel the Force flow through me with much more ease. I had become like a net in a river, the Force flowed around me, through me, and I did not disturb its passage.

I do not know how long I meditated but I was shocked from the meditation by a sudden knock at the door. When I opened it I was greeted by the face of Waln Trask, and his face had a grim look about it. I could feel that he did not have good news and invited him inside.

Before we began to create our strategy I called room service and had a breakfast sent up, one of the lessons that Master Tao-Ri had imparted to me was that one should never plan a mission if one was hungry or tired. I had done all I could to remove the fatigue I felt, and the food would come next.

“So, we have to do this quick?” He asked, “Do you have any idea how quick?”

I shook my head, “No. The Sith could already be here for all I know, but I think I would sense them if they had arrived.”

He nodded, “Okay, well maybe we could try some sort of deception?” He said, “I could hide one of your lightsabers, maybe in my cybernetic arm or something, and let you get captured or something then toss it to you.”

I frowned, “That idea would never work.” I said, “What kind of security does he have?”

“Neerit has on staff usually twelve to thirteen guards.” Waln explained, “They are usually ex-military. Mandalorian, Sith, Republic, you name it. I have to say it is amusing that a Hutt has managed to bring the Sith and Republic together like this.”

“The irony has not escaped me,” I said, “what else?”

The former Trooper pulled a small datapad from his pocket, “According to my co-worker he also has a full group of twenty four battle droids.”

I nearly coughed a bit of my bantha steak and correth eggs, “Did you say twenty four?!” I asked aghast.

Waln chuckled, “Yeah, and wait, because it gets better.” He said, “Twenty of them are pretty standard Y-Tech Model B187’s. Basically humanoid from the waist up, they are armed with forearm mounted repeaters. On the lower legs they have quad leg mounts nothing too exciting. Basically the same kind the Sith use.”

A dry question came forth from my lips, “So how does it get better?” I asked as I chewed on a piece of toasted bread.

“The other four are new.” He explained, “And you are going to like this one Val, converted Jedi training drones.”

I allowed one of my eyebrows to rise, “You are kidding.”

He shook his head, “Nope. Apparently a shipment of those things you guys use to practice with your lightsabers got hijacked and Nerrit got his hands on a few of them. Not only that but he replaced their training sabers with real lightsabers that were scavenged from the battlefield, he then had the safety protocols removed.”

A whistling sound came from me, “Those things could have been a nasty surprise indeed. What else?”

“Oh, the usual,” He said, “He’s got a pair of death pits in his throne room.”

“Death pits?” I asked, “Do I want to know?”

Trask chuckled, “Sorry, I’m sort of enjoying seeing you like this… Though yeah… You want to know. Death pits are long tubes that drop straight through to a magma stream. He likes to drop people into the magma and hear them scream as they die.”

“This Neerit sounds like a nice cheerful guy.” I stated without a trace of humor.

“The front door is a massive blast door, and there is a single long hallway that leads right to his throne room, the throne room also has a blast door that can drop if he wants it to.” My companion explained, “According to my source,” he read from his datapad, “There is a retractable pair of e-web repeating blasters housed in the hallway. One is near the front door, one is near the throne room door, and supposedly they are designed to turn the entire hall into a kill zone from both sides.”

I frowned, “Why did your friend leave his work for Nerrit again?” I asked.

Trask became sullen, “He was a security specialist, helped to maintain the automated combat systems.” He explained, “A rival Hutt breached the outer blast door and were in the middle of the hallway, they were engaging some of the living forces when Neerit had the kill zone activated. According to my contact it killed all the attackers and Neerit’s own forces. After that he left Neerit’s employment.”

“I’m surprised that Neerit would let him go like that.” I said, “You’d think that Neerit would have killed him or something.”

Waln shook his head, “Doesn’t make sense to do so.” He explained, “If something goes wrong with the system Neerit might need him to fix it. Also Neerit hires only the best; if he killed people who left his employ legitimately he’d lose access to that market.”

“Isn’t your friend worried that Neerit will be angry that he blabbed all of his security measures?” I asked my companion.

He shook his head, “Not likely, a number of people have seen his system. Neerit is rather proud of it, he likes to give demonstrations.”

I grimaced, “I bet the people seeing these demonstrations aren’t very happy about that. How wide is this hallway?”

Waln laughed, “Probably not. I think the hall is around fifteen feet wide. Seriously Val, we need a plan here, you are talking about dealing with automated security guns, a massive number of droids, and around a dozen trained personnel. In addition to any changes that may have been made since Decker stopped working for Neerit.”

A smile came unbidden to my lips, “I have a plan.” I said, “Are there any military vessels at the star port at the moment?” I asked.

He looked at me curiously, “Well yeah, we have a Republic light battle cruiser, the ship’s engines are shot and the Republic is paying us to store it until it can be scuttled. Why?”

I rubbed my hands together, the plan taking a very tangible form in my mind, “Is the hull at least partially intact? If so can you get me access to it?” I asked.

“I think so.” Was his return, “Though I have no idea what you plan on doing.”

“I plan on trying something that a guy named Vell showed me once.” I said, “I will tell you now the same thing he told me. Trust me.”

... To be continued...
"There is no room for compromise. We walk the path of the light side, or we fall into darkness. There is no gray area, Ben."
~ Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker (P. 187 FotJ, Book II: Omen)
Host of the Jedi Council stream also author of From the Journal of Val Starwind

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ProfessorWalsh
12.13.2011 , 10:12 AM | #10
*****

A couple of hours later I was ready. Clad in a brown long coat suited to one who is on business in a rougher area of the galaxy and wearing beneath that a set of black colored loose fitting clothing I approached the front door to Neerit the Hutt’s palace. The clothing was specifically designed to cover up the fact that I was indeed a Jedi. I did not wish to give concrete proof that we had made an action on Nar Shadda soil.

Dragging behind me was a curved slab of hull plating roughly four feet wide and just over six feet tall that I cut free of the Republic light cruiser with my lightsaber. It had taken me nearly two hours to find a suitable piece and then cut it free. Every spent minute increased the chance that the Sith would arrive and I knew that I had to be finished by that point.

I had asked Waln to locate the shuttle that the children had landed in and gave him one of my cred cards to help him acquire it. I had my comlink tuned to his, hopefully when I got the children out he could pick us up. I had a sneaking suspicion that I would need to leave this place in a hurry.

Trask knew that he would have no choice but to leave Nar Shadda if he helped and had already packed and prepared to leave. I made a silent vow that if I made it through this I would do my best to see if I could get him a spot on the Tython security force. I owed him much more than that and I knew it.

I felt my lightsaber tap my thigh as I strode up to the door to Neerit’s palace and pulled the wide brimmed hat I wore to conceal my face down low. I reached up and palmed the door alert in hopes that I would make contact with whoever manned the gate. I did not have to wait long.

A metallic voice came over the small intercom connected to the alert sensor, “Who comes before the great Neerit the Hutt on this day?” It asked.

“I am a private citizen.” I said simply, “I have business with your master.” I stated, “He is not expecting me but I assure you that he wishes to hear what I have to say.”

There was a clicking sound from the intercom, “The almighty Neerit will not permit anyone to enter if they do not have an appointment.” The voice responded.

I locked a glare on the intercom, I knew that there would be a holocamera recording everything that occurred here, “Neerit the Hutt will either see me now or I shall take my business elsewhere. I have no time for petty games at the moment. It doesn’t matter to me if he misses out on an opportunity of a lifetime.”

There was a long pause. Hutts were notoriously greedy, not only that but based on what I knew of the people who worked for him the gate person might be too afraid of letting an opportunity like the one I seemed to be offering slip away because Neerit might actually kill them for it. I also made certain to insinuate that I could bring this to others, showing that I wasn’t desperate.

I waited a moment then gave a snort of disgust and turned on one heel and took a step away. It was then that I heard the creaking of the blast door as it rose up. I paused and turned to see the long hallway. Without much hesitation I walked through the blast door and pulled the sheet of metal along with me.

Once through I could see two humanoid security guards standing halfway down the hallway. I could not tell their race because they both wore full armor. Their armor wasn’t uniform however, one bore heavy plates welded to a suit of lighter armor, while the other opted for a more expensive and less modified suit of medium armor. Both of them carried what appeared to be blaster carbines.

The hallway was long, at least a hundred yards, and I could see the design of it. If someone were to be in the middle of it when the security system was turned on they could easily be cut to ribbons. The ground was cold stone and the walls matched, the place felt like a tomb and looked like it could withstand even starship level blasts. I heard the outer blast door slam shut behind me and knew that now I was committed.

I looked above me and it only took me a moment to spot the location that the repeater would drop down from, I positioned myself right below it. I could see the guards were looking at the piece of hull that I dragged in with me curiously. To my right and left I could see holocameras were on me and were no doubt recording.

I stopped and refused to come any closer. I turned and looked to the holocamera and spoke, assuming that I was being watched by Neerit the Hutt, “Neerit,” I said as I pulled the hat from my head to show my face, “My name is Val Starwind, I am here on behalf of the Jedi Order to negotiate the release of the two children that you captured. We have reason to believe that the children were manipulated into their deed and seek to resolve this situation and make reparations for their trespass.”

I waited a moment before I continued, “I know of your security measures and I have no reason to believe that you will not turn them on me if I continue to make progress through your fortress.” I said, “So I choose to negotiate with you from here in a position which puts me at less of a strategic disadvantage.”

One of the security people tilted his helmeted head to the right and brought his hand up to it. I recognized the pose; he was using an internal comm. He walked toward me, keeping his blaster pointed slightly away from me and spoke, “Neerit says that the Jedi kids killed one of his men.” He told me, “And they hurt three others.”

I nodded, letting my mental tally run up, that meant that four of the twelve or thirteen were down. That only left eight or nine, unless he had restocked already. I replied, “I am sorry for that, but the children were not acting of their own accord. Again the Jedi Order is willing to make reparations for their actions.”

One more the security guard tilted his head, after a brief period he replied, “The mighty Neerit says that someone has to pay with their life for attempting to steal from him. He says that he will release one, and only one, of the prisoners to you for the cost of two million credits.”

I almost choked, two million credits was the standard bounty the Hutts used for captured Jedi so in hindsight that shouldn’t have surprised me, but at the time I was quite taken aback, “That is unacceptable. What if we offer,” I pondered and contemplated for a moment, “six million credits for both children?” I asked.

Again the heavily armored guard spoke silently over his comm, “No deal Jedi.” He said, “The great Neerit the Hutt is insulted by your offer and has decided to end these negotiations.” He raised his carbine and pointed it at me, but I had already received a warning through the Force and was already in motion.

I grabbed the carbine in both of my hands and augmented my strength with the Force and then stepped into him placing my back against his chest. I wrenched up, already seeing the nearest repeater descend from the ceiling. Ripping the carbine from the guard’s hand I tilted it up and unleashed a burst into the repeater.

I was rewarded by the security measure erupting in a shower of metal and sparks and I also heard the blast door at the far end of the hall slam shut. As that was happening I stepped forward and sent the guard I had tussled with falling away from me with a Force enhanced back kick. I dove to my right and pulled the hull piece upright to take cover behind it. Looking over my shoulder I saw that the repeater on the far side had tracked my location and had torn the guard to shreds, when I kicked him I must have sent him into the path which bought me time enough to get to my own cover.

I felt a number of powerful blasts slam into the hull piece, though I was fortunate that it held. It almost got knocked over, which was another thing I planned on being possible as I braced my back against it. I dropped my commandeered carbine and snatched my blue-white bladed lightsaber from my belt and ignited it; I quickly drug it across the stone floor and cut a suitable groove in it. Using the Force I stepped forward, pulling the plate with me with the Force and setting it into the groove.

The other repeater continued to hammer against the hull, but the plate held it was, after all, designed to stop anti-ship weaponry. I pulled the green blade from my belt and it sprang to life with a snap-hiss. I leaned over as a hail of blaster fire continued to rain onto me and risked a quick peek out as I lobbed my lightsaber down the hallway. I could see the other guard, the one in the medium armor, had flattened himself against the left hand side of the wall, presumably to get out of the way of the deadly fire.

The lightsaber sailed through the air as bolts continued to slam into the hull and the blast door behind me. I thanked the Force that the door wasn’t magnetically sealed; if it had I would have been dead before I could have even reacted. The lightsaber’s emerald blade sliced neatly through the repeater’s base and I heard the blasts cease and a thunk as the weapon slammed inert into the ground. Unfortunately I was unable to guide the blade back because of the need to take cover, I gripped my blue-white blade in a two handed grip and prepared to press the attack.

I had chosen the hallway because I knew that I could relatively easily disable the e-webs and Neerit would send people in after me. With the hallway only being fifteen feet across truly surrounding me would be difficult. I gathered the hull because I also knew that I would be at a disadvantage against focused fire. I wasn’t worried, however, about rockets or grenades, both of those I had methods to deal with.

I spun out of cover and wove my blade in a defensive posture. The lone remaining guard, clad in medium armor raised his blaster carbine and unleashed a burst in my direction. He was not proficient in fighting Jedi but he was at least brave, I had to respect that. I quickly batted the bolts aside they were grouped tightly, a show of a good marksman, also much easier to parry.

I stepped up quickly to clear the last few feet before he could bring another volley to bear against me. With a quick angled slash, starting in the lower left and ending in the upper right past his shoulder I cut his weapon in twain in a smooth motion. He was disarmed and from the way he was moving I did not see any need to kill him.

I turned my blade off and in a smooth transition I grabbed his right arm and carried it over my shoulder as I spun carrying him over and hard into the floor. There was a quick series of cracking sounds and I could tell that he had broken a rib or two, armor, medium and lighter armor especially, was not so good at protecting the wearer from significant impacts. He would live but I was fairly sure that he was out of the fight for now.

I reached toward the hull plate with the Force and pulled, the plate was heavy however I was able to lift it out of the groove and begin dragging it to me. I needed to set it up here before the far end blast door opened and more of Neerit’s forces barged in. It was a race, I heard the blast door start to rise, it was slow to do so thankfully and I was able to reset my barricade moments before blasts started coming in, I also made certain that the downed guard was also largely protected by my cover.

I poked my head out quickly to get a fleeting glance at the situation. Four more guards had come in. One was in light armor similar to the kind that was worn by cipher agents that I had fought before. One was wearing decommissioned republic military armor. The third clad herself in an outfit that looked like someone had piecemealed a set of republic heavy trooper armor and sith heavy trooper armor with the white plates of the Republic clashing with the reflective metal solid plate helmet made famous by the Sith during the Jedi Civil War centuries ago. Finally the last wore generic security armor, the kind worn by police and law enforcement throughout the galaxy complete with a clear face plate and a bandolier of thick shells, grenades, across his chest.

Each member of the quartet carried a different weapon. Cipher carried a scoped blastech blaster rifle, the kind that served as a hunting rifle as well as a decent assault weapon. Decom, the one clad in military armor, carried a pair of blaster pistols, the make I couldn’t place. Piecemeal had two weapons, I could see a heavy blaster pistol at her hip and a basic carbine in her hands. Generic was the one I was most concerned with though, in addition to a heavy blaster he had an impact grenade launcher, it was a crude weapon, little more than a tube with a trigger attached, but in an enclosed space it could be very deadly.

They said nothing, but I could feel them cautiously approaching. They weren’t amateurs; they weren’t simply laying shots uselessly into my cover. That gave me plenty of reason to be concerned. I switched my lightsaber into my left hand and reached my other hand forward; back toward the way I came and yanked on the blaster carbine I had dropped earlier dragging it across the ground. I saw a salvo of blasts slam around it but none of them managed to hit it. It sailed into my right hand.

I did not risk peeking my head out again instead I placed my right hand out of cover and let a volley of bolts fly from the barrel of the carbine. I felt some retribution slam against the cover I was behind and also felt some sizzling bolts all but graze my arm before I pulled myself back. I had to even the odds.

I closed my eyes and reached out with the Force. I could all but see what they were doing. Cipher was setting up near the back, waiting for me to poke out from my cover again. Generic was against the left hand wall trying to get an angle where he could shoot a grenade directly above me. Piecemeal was standing beside Generic and looked like she was covering him. While Decom sat back with Cipher serving the same duty. This all but proved that they had experience working together.

I breathed deeply, for the moment nobody was shooting. A plan had formed in my mind, a plan born of the Force and I knew I would have to trust in it. I would know the moment that I needed to act. I pulled my long coat off and dropped it to the ground my toe beneath it. I continued to wait as the second ticked by.

Generic had found his spot and had fallen to his knee, his finger on the trigger. Cipher, Decom, and Piecemeal all tensed and were waiting. Then I knew, without knowing, that the time to act was now. Time slowed to a crawl as a series of events all happened at the same time.

I kicked the long coat out from behind the cover; it sailed through the air toward the right hand side wall. Cipher and Decom squeezed their triggers and sent a torrent of blaster fire into it shredding it but granting me an opening. I stepped out from behind my cover and fired a burst toward the two at the far end. This made Decom throw himself to the side but Cipher did not react in time; a trio of bolts struck him in the chest and head.

At the same moment Piecemeal unloaded a series of blaster bolts toward me, three of her bolts missed their mark, one I was able to deflect with my blue-white blade. Generic jerked and squeezed his trigger, but that was what I had been waiting for, with a quick and powerful nudge I pushed his barrel to the right sending the grenade into the wall point blank to him and Piecemeal. There was a savage explosion and I saw the pair torn and thrown from the blast, they might have still been alive but they were clearly out of battle for now.

The battle was far from over but with three down; the only ones standing at the moment were Decom and I. He looked stunned by the sudden turnaround but was recovering quickly. He began turning his outstretched arms to me but I was already in motion. I dropped my carbine and reached out with my right hand, my emerald saber, on the ground next to the dead body of Cipher burst to life with a snap-hiss and sailed back toward me. Decom had just enough time when he heard the sound to look before the blade sliced neatly through his outstretched arms just below the elbows.

I deactivated my sabers and clipped them back onto my belt as I moved back to my cover. I could sense a wide range of emotions through the Force. Pain, anger, shock, anguish, sadness, it was all but overwhelming. I quickly pushed them from my mind. By my reckoning if Neerit had twelve guards, if the children had killed one and left three injured that left Neerit only 8. I had just disabled or killed six more. He had to be running out of living security people by now.

I looked to the holocamera and forced myself to sound calm despite the adrenaline that was pumping through my body, “Neerit,” I said, “Some of your people are still alive but need medical attention. I am going to offer again, we are willing to pay up to six million credits for the younglings. I will, however, not leave without both of them.”

Behind me I heard the far end blast door begin opening again…

… To be continued…

Duel With a Mandalorian

Dramatis Personae
Val Starwind – Narrator, Male Human Jedi Padawan
Tao-Ri – Male Nautolan Jedi Master
Kalun – Male MonCalamari Jedi Youngling (Age 9)
Altir – Female Kel Dor Jedi Youngling (age 9)
Farrit the Hutt – Male Hutt Crime Lord
Visren Kasta – Female Human Mandalorian Bounty Hunter

… Begin Entry…

I turned toward the sound of the blast door to see what awaited me and could glimpse the throne room through the opening. Farrit the Hutt laughed on his pedestal as a figure stepped through the entryway. The female outline stood in front of the closing portal and did not twitch until the full archway sealed.

She was clad in the full regalia of a Bounty Hunter, the kind of armor that was often worn by the so-called “Supercommandos” of the Mandalorians. Her armor was mostly a matte gray with blue markings. I assumed that they meant something in Mando’ade but since I did not read the language any meaning was lost on me.

She looked to where the four I had just dispatched were laying. She was obviously eyeing my handy work, morbidly I wondered if she had approved. The Mandalorian walked over to the one I had identified as Cipher and seemed to inspect his wounds.

“Not bad Jeedai.” The woman’s voice came, distorted somewhat, from the helmet.

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” I replied, my lightsabers once more called into my hands, ready to spring back to life should I need to activate them.

The supercommando turned to look at me, “It was intended as a compliment.” She said, “I watched the entire display from Farrit’s throne room, you managed to kill all four of the men and women I had trained in less than two seconds once you went on the offensive. I am impressed.”

I said nothing, choosing to simply take in the woman. The Bounty Hunters who identified mostly with the Mandalorian cultural movement were known to many as Jedi-Killers. It was a name that both was, and was not, rightfully earned.

The reason for the dual legitimacy regarding the term comes from how people employ it. One method of employment was the belief that they were able to readily and easily kill Jedi. The other method to employ the term was the belief that they had more success at killing Jedi than any other group.

Those who believed that they could easily kill Jedi, which was a belief that they would often foster, were completely wrong. As a Jedi myself I am all too aware, having come close to it myself, of my mortality however I am also aware of what it takes to kill any trained Force sensitive, Jedi or Sith. This often led those who bought the hype into a false sense of security in their capabilities and that made them easier to handle, this Mandalorian did not give me the impression that she would be one of those types.

Those who believed that they simply had more success were completely and totally correct. Those kinds of Bounty Hunters brought down more Jedi than any other group outside of the Sith and they were not the kinds of people that should be underestimated. Those people who knew this truth were far harder to defeat than those who were overconfident. From the cautious way that this woman was moving I placed her firmly in the “do not underestimate” category.

I took stock of the Mandalorian. Aside from the air of competency and confidence I felt from her I noticed the weapons that she had mounted on her armor. The woman was a walking arsenal.

She had a carbine that was hung from a strap that went across her shoulder. On her back set a jet pack with a rocket mounted on the top of the fixture. A flamethrower, fueled from her jet pack’s reservoir I assumed, was mounted onto her left forearm. On her right forearm I could make out a mini-missile launcher, a device designed to send out a small but powerful volley and spray of high explosive shaped charges. Next to the mini-missile launcher was a small round device with a sharp spike sticking out of it; I recognized the weapon as a tow line launcher.

“We don’t need to fight.” I said, trying a diplomatic approach despite the suspicion that it was futile, “I am only here to retrieve the younglings.”

“I am well aware of why you are here.” She said as she continued to look at me, “However I am being paid to protect Farrit’s interests, not to mention if I take you down I stand to become a very rich woman.”

She tapped the side of her helmet, “I already scanned your face Val Starwind.” She said as waves of satisfaction rolled off of her, “Val Starwind, Jedi Padawan, currently wanted for crimes committed against the Sith Empire. Bounty currently set at five hundred thousand credits dead. One million credits alive if turned into Darth Mynock.”

I frowned and eased into a more defensive stance keeping my lightsaber switches still in their off positions, “It seems that you have me at a disadvantage.”

“In more ways than you know, however it is only right that I exchange names with you.” The supercommando replied, “My name is Visren Kasta, I am a Mandalorian, a Bounty Hunter, and soon to be your captor.”

I widened my stance a bit, “You wouldn’t be the first person to say something along those lines.” I stated as I began to refresh in my mind what I knew about Mandalorian armor.

Mandalorian armor was created from a special type of iron known as Beskar. Beskar was created by a combination of secret metallurgy techniques developed by Mandalorian smiths and special iron that had, to my understanding, only been found on Mandalore itself. Beskar was otherwise known as Mandalorian Iron and it was some seriously tough stuff.

Mando Iron was resistant to any and all known forms of weaponry. It was also highly resistant to lightsabers. Often people misinterpreted the term resistance to mean “invulnerable to” but that is not the case. Powerful strokes or repeated weaker strokes from lightsabers or blasters could compromise the armor but it was not as easy as cutting through almost anything else.

The mistake most people made when facing such armor was that they only remembered the fact that the armor could be breached. The armor only had such properties over places where the rigid pieces of Beskar could actually be placed. These places were the majority of the helmet, the shoulder plates, the chest plate, back plate, the overlapping waist slats, the upper arms, forearms, thighs, and shins.

Anywhere else on the person was just as easy to breach as anything else leaving particular weak spots in the carapace. The T visor was vulnerable to attack as well as the joints. The neck, inside elbow, arm pit, back of the knee, wrists, fingers, and ankles were all highly vulnerable to lightsaber attacks.

“No, I would assume that I am not.” She stated as she gripped her carbine, “However I am fairly certain that I will be the last.” She lifted the barrel of the weapon to aim it at me, “So how is this going to go down Starwind?”

I sighed and pressed the activator switches on my lightsabers. With a snap-hiss the emerald blade erupted from my left handed saber and the blue-white blade exploded from the right one, “We both know the answer to that question.” I replied somewhat sadly, “I have my mission and you have yours. I can give you one chance to stand down and avoid this battle.”

She laughed, a sound that was filled with genuine mirth, “Oh aren’t you the gentleman.” She said with a sarcastic edge, “I am a Mandalorian, raised and trained.” She said, “You are a Jeedai who is still learning. We are the third edge, Mandalorians, the Sith, and the Jedi, what hope could you possibly have?”

I closed my eyes for a moment and let the Force fill me completely, “You have no idea what you are talking about.” I said, “The Mandalorians are not the “third edge” of anything. The Jedi and the Sith are not the first two edges either. There is only the Force and those who do and do not serve its will.”

If I could see her eyes I had no doubt that they were rolling as I heard her exhale a sigh, “You are delusional Jeedai,” she stated, “The Force is an energy source, like any other, like the power contained in a blaster energy pack. It has no will; that is a silly belief that you use so that you can sleep at night.”

“If that were true Visren Kasta…” I said as I locked my eyes on the T-visor that she wore, “Then how come you have not attacked me yet?”

She took a step back to give herself a little more distance from me, “Because I wanted to learn what kind of prey would be capable of doing what you did here, and because I was curious to know why there would be such a high bounty on such a low ranking Jeedai.”

I took a step to my right so that I would not be pinned against a wall if I was pushed backward, “And have I satisfied that curiosity?” I asked.

She laughed again, “According to your psych profile,” she snickered, “I expected more of a cold-hearted person.”

That statement caught me off guard, “Excuse me?”

“Imperial Intelligence attached it to your dossier,” The Mandalorian replied, “According to Republic military files you are mentally unstable. They suspect you of being a borderline sociopath. Following the events on Alderaan, where you distinguished yourself quite impressively for a child, you were diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder due to post traumatic stress.”

I flinched. It wasn’t that the reports weren’t true; it was that they were apparently in Sith possession. After the events on Alderaan I was damaged, even I knew that I was. It was like a wound had opened up inside of me and for a long time it blocked me from touching the Force properly. Master Tao-Ri spent months working with me before I was able to feel the Force flow through me again and it never was quite like it had been before. I had healed but there was still a scar, it was something I was ashamed of to be honest.

A deep breath entered me as I banished those feelings from me, “Yes.” I said, “I needed to heal quite a bit after Alderaan.” I said, not willing to let her disrupt my ability to focus, “I am pleased to know that the Sith Empire has taken such an interest in my mental well being.”

“That is a pity.” She replied, “I had been looking forward to facing a sociopathic Jedi, it would have been quite a unique experience.” She said even as she pulled the trigger on the carbine that she held.

I intercepted the first series of blasts with my lightsabers. They had come fast and hard, moving to different locations with each shot, had I not had both of them at the ready I do not think I could have parried them all. Unfortunately the flashes of light and the force of the impacts kept me from making a move toward my armored opponent.

As I recovered I looked for her. She was smart. The second that she unleashed the last shot of her opening salvo she ignited her jet pack and moved to a new position, the idea, I assumed, was to keep me from being able to lock onto her and at the moment it was working quite well.

“A little slow there Starwind?” She taunted as once again she unleashed another torrent of energy in my direction.

This time I wasn’t going to play her game. I was not going to let her set the pace of this encounter. I leaped into the air batting back one of the bolts that had been fired but dodging the others, this gave me a chance to catch her movement as she darted away on the flames of her pack.

“I’m just getting warmed up!” I called as I tried to direct my fall so that I came down on top of her, trying to end the fight as early as I could.

I landed in front of her in a crouch and swung the saber in my right hand in a diagonal slash starting at my left hip and arcing up toward her right shoulder. The move was nothing but a feint however; my real target was her left ankle which I swung for with a horizontal stroke with my emerald blade.

She wasn’t stupid though. The Mandalorian realized my attack and reacted properly to it, she allowed my blue white blade to travel up the length of her chest plate doing no damage to her and only melting a small furrow in the beskar while she dropped to her left knee causing my second stroke to skitter off the thick Mando iron on her thigh plate.

The movements I had made carried a risk with them, and she was quick to capitalize on it. With my sabers in the position that they were in I was wide open for a counter attack at my right side, especially at this close range. She leveled her carbine at me and unloaded a blast.

There was no time for me to parry, especially at this close range, but there are plenty of alternatives to blocking blaster bolts. I pushed off with my legs rolling to the left and I felt the bolt pierce the bantha hide coat that I was wearing I can only imagine how close that it had come to my flesh. Unfortunately my opponent was prepared for that motion and I realized that I had rolled right into a trap.

In the middle of my roll I heard a noise that sounded like a “thwap” come from her right hand. Then as I was steadying myself I felt something thin wrap tightly around my right ankle. She had caught me with her tow line.

The supercommando let out a grunt of effort as her power armor aided her with its servo controlled strength enhancements. The line went taut and yanked my leg out from under me. I was slung off of the ground and I was accelerated through the air as I found myself careening right toward the wall that sat to my left.

I only had a moment to react as I sliced at the cable with my blue-white lightsaber blade. The cable was burned through easily but I was still hurtling toward the wall. I knew if I hit it at this speed I would lose consciousness and that was something that, at the moment, would prove fatal.

Using the Force I was able to just barely adjust my flight to hit the wall feet first. I bent my knees to absorb as much of the impact as I could. I silently thanked the Force that my ankle had not broken from the savage pull as I kicked off of the wall with all of my Force enhanced strength and managed to hit the ground and roll into a sitting position breathing hard.

The movement had taken a lot out of me and I wished that I had a moment to breath but already the Mandalorian was positioned for another attack. She bent over and the rocket mounted on her jet pack began to streak toward me. Rockets were one of the weapons that were not able to be dealt with by a lightsaber and I only had a moment to come up with a solution.

I rolled forward and called on the Force to augment my strength and placed my hands, still holding the lightsabers, against the ground. I gave a push with all of the strength I had and launched myself into the air; I was inverted as I saw the rocket strike the ground where I had been only a split second before. The blast wave pushed me as I twisted through the air, I could see that the Mandalorian was already aiming her closed right fist toward me.

Eight tiny missiles launched from her gauntlet simultaneously and flew toward me like a flock of avian raptors. Each one of the deadly projectiles would kill me if they struck home and I was all too aware of that fact. Time slowed as my perceptions sped up to give me a chance to seek out a solution.

The area was littered from debris, not only from her rocket hit a moment ago, but also from the battle I had engaged in earlier. Realizing that I had to act quickly I reached out with the Force as I continued to twist through the air. Directed by my thoughts the invisible hand of the Force grabbed a decent sized rock from the ground and hurled it toward the missile cluster.

The rock slammed into the lead missile and caused the projectile to explode into a brilliant ball of orange flame. The problem with using cluster missiles was that they were always close together, if one of them exploded, the one behind it would follow suit. This often caused a chain reaction and it was one of the reasons why chaff was so popular when facing cluster rockets in starship combat. I had hoped that it would work here as well and I was glad that my hunch paid off as I landed on my feet I heard six more explosions accompany the first two.

A ripple of anger came from the Mandalorian as I faced her. She had expected to have already killed or disabled me and she seemed to be filling with anger at the fact that she had not yet been able to claim her prize. She spat something in Mandalorian that I was fairly certain was aimed at my ancestry and unleashed another volley of blaster fire from her carbine.

I sidestepped the deadly plasma opting to not give up movement by parrying them. I had finally realized my flaw in this confrontation. From the first moment I had let the supercommando set the pace of combat. I had only been reacting to her and had not really been able to make an offensive move. Defense was all fine and well but one could only defend for so long before they made a mistake, if I did not do something then sooner or later she would overcome me.

Pushing off of the ground I surged forward, my left hand holding the blade horizontally in front of me defensively while I held my right hand off to my right and back so that the blue-white blade drug across the ground. The Mandalorian prepared to move backward with her jet pack to once more gain distance. I could feel through the Force that this was the moment that would decide this combat.

I reached out with the Force and wrapped the invisible hands around her. She hit the activator for her jet pack and then a feeling of complete confusion flooded the Force from her. She didn’t move anywhere at all despite her jet pack’s thruster firing.

Diving down at her, I nearly lost consciousness for a moment from the strain of holding her in place, and struck her carbine with all of my might. Sparks erupted from her weapon as the blue and green blades tore through it and shredded it into useless pieces. The energy pack inside of the weapon exploded and blasted both of us away from each other.

Rolling on the ground and stunned for a moment I stumbled to my feet. I could see that my counterpart had managed to do the same. My bantha hide long coat was shredded and I could see that she only suffered a black scorch mark where the carbine had exploded. We were both breathing hard and for the moment seemed to be waiting for the other to make a move.

“Not bad Jeedai.” She said as her breathing came over her speaker system audibly.

“The feeling is mutual.” I responded as I pulled in air in great gasps.

An eerie calm had descended onto the area. Aside from our words the only sound that existed in the long hallway was the hum of my lightsabers. The phrase, “The calm before the storm” entered my mind as we continued to stare at each other.

“You can still walk away from this.” I said to her, in one final attempt at ending this without more killing.

“We both know that I can’t do that.” She said as her I felt her determination build through the Force, “I guess.” She said as she readied herself, “That this is it.”

I nodded and mimicked her stance, “I guess so.”

She ignited her jet pack and rocketed toward me. She extended her left hand and a jet of flame erupted from it making it look as though a living fireball were crashing toward me. I could sense that the time to end this conflict had arrived at last.

I deactivated the blue-white lightsaber held in my right hand and switched the emerald one in my left to a reverse grip. I surrounded myself in the Force to protect myself from as much of the heat from her flamethrower as I could. At the last moment I twisted and sidestepped to the right.

As she sailed past me I stabbed outward with my left blade, the reverse grip let me stab horizontally. With her left arm held forward her arm pit was exposed. The blade went in smoothly and although her momentum tore it from my grasp which caused the blade to disengage I knew that the damage had been done.

The bounty hunter hit the ground and rolled onto her back. She was breathing hard but was otherwise unmoving. I no longer sensed danger from her and I recalled my lightsaber to my hand. I clipped both onto my belt as I walked over to the Mandalorian, I could feel her fading through the Force.

I knelt beside her and pulled the helmet from her head. She had short brown hair and eyes and was not exactly what I would consider beautiful but she was not hard on the eyes. She coughed and a bit of blood came forth from her mouth.

“You fought well.” She said as she exhaled a rasping breath.

“As did you.” I replied, “I will make sure that someone tells of the final battle of Visren Kasta.” I said. I could feel her silent thanks through the Force even as I felt her pass on. My blade had gone in through the arm pit and pierced her heart.

I shook my head and stood as I walked back toward the blast door. I don’t hesitate to kill when I have to, but that battle shook me a bit. It wasn’t needed, she had to know that she couldn’t win at the end, but she chose to die. It was a waste.

“Farrit,” I announced to the holocamera, “I know you can hear me.” I said, “I have come for the Jedi children, you can still negotiate with me and avoid any more bloodshed.”

I waited a moment and then once more the blast door began to slowly rise.

… To Be Continued…
"There is no room for compromise. We walk the path of the light side, or we fall into darkness. There is no gray area, Ben."
~ Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker (P. 187 FotJ, Book II: Omen)
Host of the Jedi Council stream also author of From the Journal of Val Starwind