Before A Nice Place to Visit, part one( Jedi Civil War Concrit requested)

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  1. Ninjer-8492 Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Juhani slipped back to her corner, exhausted. The staff in her hand fell like a lead weight.
    The slightly furry warrior from Cathar chugged down an entire bottle of water in under a few seconds, her nose taking in the scent of sweat in the training chamber. It had taken a while to build up her muscles using weighted weapons and a strict exercise regimen, but the former slave had become a machine of precision under the Order's guidance.
    "Don't tell me you're tired already," Bastila Shan called out from her end of the chamber. "I was just getting started." She grinned and Juhani stared at the braces on her teeth. The beige human's hair hanging loosely. Both were wearing training gartments, loose fitting for breathability.
    Padawan stared at padawan. Bastila, a nineteen year old, was brash and arrogant. But such things were to be expected. With the council suspecting that the next time they saw Revan she would be fully a Sith, Bastila was currently seeking some method to help the Order. Like a true patriot, she had volunteered to participate in a series of Neurosurgery experiments--the Order desiring to amp Bastila's already potent talent for mind control.
    It struck odd to Juhani, herself only a few years into the Order, that Bastila would be recalled to the Dantooine enclave on such hush hush business. much less that she would be paired with the Cathar, who was being trained as the Order's equivalent of a police department’s Internal Affairs Officer. Either Bastila had committed treason, or Bastila was needed for some other, more serious purpose.
    Juhani, her natural brown locks made to stand on the top of her scalp via a special elastic band, begin to wonder why the Masters needed her to guard the Order's current MVP. Usually she investigated breaches of protocol by young knights. Covertly, of course. Something was in the air. A new sort of tension. They were being prepared for a mission. She could feel it.
    "Again?" Bastila asked.
    "Patience. This was just to kill time, remember?" Juhani replied, still not quite used to speaking basic, her accent thick. "Master's will want us soon. We must be on best behavior, Da?"
    "Right," Bastila replied eagerly, grabbing a towel. "The Master's seem worried to you?"
    "Da," Juhani stated bluntly, desiring to share her suspicions with the bubbly, energetic fighter. "But Masters always worry over something."
    "I mean, more worried than usual. Dare I say it, they seemed almost...freaked out. Like they were out of their element."
    "Padawans?" a Kel-Dor knight called out. "The masters are waiting for you in their private conference room. Be showered and presentable in fifteen minutes."
    Bastila's face scrunched like a kinrath pup as she begin to worry.
    "We're not in trouble, are we?" she asked Juhani as they headed to the nearby shower stalls.
    "Nyet. I no think so," Juhani answered. "Danger, however, is other matter entirely."
    ***
    "Good morning, Padawans. Please, be seated," Master Atris greeted them, cigar and a glass of whiskey in hand as the students sat down at the end of the long rectangular oak table. The room was simple and curved like an oval , dark brown in terms of color scheme, with white curtains over the closed windows. Juhani had no doubt the room was utterly soundproof. Scenes of flowers and deer were carved into the walls. What caught Juhani's attention was the famous oil painting, "The Death of Xendor", hanging from a nearby archway on her left.. Painted by Cambul Marek, a former Jedi and now notorious alcoholic and drug abusing cyborg freak of nature, it depicted a contingent of ancient masters assassinating the first known Dark Jedi. Cambul had captured the man's terror well, as he was depicted being stabbed more than thirty times with various shivs by quite literally the very people who had trained him, attacking him in a public forum in front of a crowd of horrified onlookers, particularly that of Xendor's lover, Arden Lyn. The Jedi had not truly understood the type of enemy they were now dealing with (and would be dealing with from now on) and it was said that they had acted irrationally, assuming him to be some sort of freak, which Xendor had, of course, been, at least at the time.
    Juhani refocused her attention on the Echani Jedi master, ice white hair coiled tightly in a conservative bun, her eyes like two jewels of cold blue fire. Her light beige skin wrapped tightly by an even whiter set of Historian's robes. Juhani often answered directly to Atris in most cases when Quatra wasn't instructing her, reporting on who was loyal and who was not, who had broken the code and who still honored it. Juhani was Atris's eyes and ears among the general Jedi population.
    "The other masters will be along in a moment. Would you two care for some water?" Atris asked, her clipped refined accent rippling along both Juhani and Bastila's spine.
    The pair shook their head. Bastila stood ramrod straight, attempting to look serious and confident. inwardly, Juhani knew Bastila had an attack of the butterflies in her stomach.
    "Ah well suit yourself," Atris replied, opening up a small manila folder. "Hmmm..."
    "Is something the matter, Master Atris?" Bastila asked.
    "Says here you've manifested Battle Meditation to a limited degree," Atris answered before looking up at the padawan. "Impressive. How are the migraines?"
    "I manage, Master Atris," Bastila replied formally, hands folded behind her back.
    "I like your attitude. Keep it up and we'll have a secret weapon yet. Now I should warn you that what is said in this room must never leave this room. You are not to ever repeat it to another soul as long as you live what you are about to hear. Is that clear?"
    Both nodded and took a seat.
    "Excellant. Ah, and here are the other Masters," Atris said as Vrook, Zhar, and Vandar walked in. Vrook, only a greying crown of hair on another wise bald head, was wearing his typical frown as he strode in wearing blue robes. He was light colored, and Bastila spotted liver spots on his hand as he sat down. Zhar, a middle aged man of the Twilek species with red skin also sat, wearing a typical brown and white set of robes. Vandar, a green skinned alien who went up to about Bastila's knee floated in on a specially made repulsorlift chair.
    "Good morning Padawans," Vrook said gruffly. "Master Atris instructed you on the importance of secrecy?"
    "Da," Juhani answered. "We are silent like good poison."
    "In that case, let us get straight to the point," Zhar began. "Are any of you familiar with the concept of parrallel universes?"
    "Da. Infinite in nature and scope. They contain either versions of ourselves or perhaps even situations and people completely foreign to us," Juhani answered. "Republic scientists currently have no known method of opening doorway to such places, if indeed they even exist."
    "But the Jedi council has always known better," Vrook added, scowl deepening. "Multiversal Incursions happen more often than you might think."
    "Understand this, Padawans," Vandar now spoke, ancient eyes deepening with concern. "We are taking a terrible risk letting you know anything on this subject. If you should end up falling for whatever reason, the entire galaxy could be put in danger, and we would have no choice but to...silence you."
    Juhani's hackles rose. This was definitely NOT an ordinary assignment.
    "Are you saying there has been an incursion?" Bastila asked, wide-eyed.
    "Yes, and recent," Atris answered. "An...interloper arrived. Asking for our assistance."
    "We verified the truthfulness of his claims telepathically. He's from a dimension where his version of the Order is only one hundred years old. Still young," Vrook mentioned.
    "His version of the Order operates like a police department rather than a sect of monks," Atris added. "He asked directly for you two to aid him. You're both dead ringers for 'his' versions of you."
    "What does this brother from another dimension want?" Bastila asked, on pins and needles.
    Atris downed the last of her drink, and re-lit her cigar with her pale blue light saber.
    "Oh, you're going to 'love' this next bit dear Bastila," Atris replied, taking a puff. "He wants you to help kill 'his' Revan."
    ***
    "We're not assassins," Bastila said firmly. "Why not pass it off to Kenobi?" Bastila had noted with distressing frequency how willingly--eagerly, even--the Order was resorting to a zero tolerance policy. It had already alienated some Jedi, choosing exile rather than serve an order whose first solution was now the light saber.
    Not so with her. She knew the score--better than most did. A war against the Sith would have to be fought with every measure at their disposal, for the enemy knew no mercy.
    Even so, the thought of being used for dirty work was disquieting to the young Jedi. Like it cheapened her somehow.
    "Kenobi and Dimmak are best used for when an...example needs to be made," Vandar answered carefully. "If we sent them, we risk a great deal of collateral damage, and we don't want to leave any bigger a footprint than we have to. It's not our territory. Not our rules."
    "Apparantly on the other side of the pond, Revan is as distrusted there as she was here," Vrook answered. "Apparantly, they've had their own experiences with other demensions. Revan going bad seems fairly common, like it's some sort of flashpoint or something."
    "They want to stop a problem before it starts," Zhar explained, folding his hands and sighing. "And after seeing the destruction Revan's caused here by answering the Mandalorians need for war...I'm inclined to be sympathetic."
    "If something goes wrong, we'll be trapped there," Juhani said.
    "We wouldn't send you there if we didn't know beyond a shadow of a doubt you could be retrieved," Vandar said. "And besides, we must know if the surgeries have taken. We must test you in the most stressful way imaginable."
    "You worry too much about trying to convince them, Master Vandar," Vrook spoke detachedly. "They'll go."
    "Forgive my impertinence, Master Vrook, but you seem awfully certain of my decision before I've made it," Bastila spoke as respectfully as possible.
    Vrook, far from being offended, actually took on an uncomfortable-to-look-at half-smile.
    "A friend once told me," he began, folding his arms as he leaned backwards in his seat, staring wistfully out a nearby window, "that when you're old. you'll have yourself a long, long list of memories. If you're lucky most will be good. If not, some will be bad, and if you're really unlucky, some of them will be so bad you'll never want to be reminded of them again. Ever. Now, in the next forty or fifty years, do you really want to live with the memory, 'I once had the chance to go on the trip of a lifetime into a parallel universe and stop a tyrant's rise to power'...but declined?"

    "Why, Master Vrook, I misjudged you," Atris joked, taking another puff as she felt the Padawans make their impulsive decision to take the assignment. "You DO have an electrum tongue."
    ***
    "Can you believe this, Juhani?" Bastila hissed to Juhani after they had been briefed on the mission of a lifetime. "I can't believe we got this sort of Job!"
    "Da. Pity it will have to be our little secret," Juhani answered with a throaty rumble.
    The pair were by themselves in the construction shop in the sub-level, both busily working on their light sabers. Bastila's was a single bladed hilt, constructed of a dull brown metal with a heavy looking, bowl-shaped emitter in a silver finish. The activation stud was deep set into the hilt's grip, to avoid accidentally hitting it.
    "They must really want to test you. They say you had battle meditation. Is it true?"
    "Yes," Bastila sighed, using a pair of tweezers and a magnifying glass to carefully remove the cyan colored crystal from the chamber in the hilt.
    "Here, Juhani. You can have this," Bastila said, dropping the crystal into the feline-like woman's palm.
    "Ooo, pretty. You have replacement?" Juhani inquired, putting it into her pocket.
    "Yes," Shan answered, wiping her forehead of the few beads of sweat that had formed in her concentration. She reached around her neck and pulled off a necklace with a small, translucent box filled with yellow light, barely bigger then her thumb. She carefully twisted the cap off and removed a crystal with the light of sunfire trapped within.
    "Never thought I'd see you actually use it. Where you get that one from?"
    "My father. He gave it to me when I joined," Bastila answered. "Oh, and look at these,"
    Bastila pulled out a small scroll from the pocket in her robes. She unfurled them and Juhani stared at the schematics of a hilt with two emitters.
    "Double-Blade?" Juhani said. "Master Zez gave you these?
    "Actually, It's my own design. I'm...just unsure as to whether I should actually use it."
    "I would wait. Be mindful of style's aggressiveness. There is reason they are known as Sith Light sabers."
    "I know, its just...single hilts always felt so...limiting. Two blades allow more unpredictability. But I suppose I shall have to wait, until I learn a little more discipline, at least," Bastila replied distantly, pocketing the schematics again.
    Juhani nodded and continued working on her own blade--, an one-and-a-half hilt design seemingly made of stone with the face of a sharp-toothed gargoyle. It was lightly engraved and bands of quartz shot through the design, making the center where the crystal chamber was visible, just under the small face. It was her own design, deviating from her Master, Quatra. Only a few years ago, and Juhani could not even have dreamed that she could have constructed such a thing, but so much had changed that her painful old life was now being pushed aside.
    And from what she could tell, Bastila had probably the same feelings. But where they would take her was anyone's guess.
    The pair continued working in silence.
    ***
    The next day...
    "And here, is our...guest," Atris announced, unlocking the turbo-doors of the guest room they had placed the interloper in.
    "You're kidding," Bastila breathed.
    The figure rose from the queen-sized bed. He was wearing a smooth brown jacket over a white turtleneck sweater with black trim on the neck, and brown slacks and black leather shoes with black leather gloves. He was tall, like...
    ...like Malak.
    Malak--or Alek, in this case, flashed a full smile at Bastila, His bald head bore no tattoos. His face had the same strong yet round jaw again. His eyes were a deep blue, his light skin did not bare the cold paleness of the Dark Side that her version bore.
    "Golly, this place is strange. You guys really are a bunch of ascetics over here, aren't you?" he asked, smiling as he marveled at Bastila's likeness to his own version. He held out his hand. "Alek's the name. Constable rank."
    Juhani took the hand, shaking it with authority. "Constable? Is that like Knight rank?"
    "From what our guest told us," Atris began , sitting down in a nearby durasteel chair with a blue finish, whose curving design arched over her head, "Constable is equivalent to Padawan. Officer is Knight. Investigator is Master."
    "I'm really glad you guys decided to help us out. Things have steadily been getting worse. If we don't act now, we'll have a repeat of what's going on with your universe."
    "Explain problem," Juhani stated.
    Alek sat down on the bed, rubbing his eyes.
    "I have reason to suspect that an interloper from your universe has been smuggling Force-based teaching aids to the Revan in mine. The Jedi Agency is tasked with prosecuting and controlling any non-government approved Force Sensitive activity. Making us the only game in town. We like it that way. The Force is too dangerous to explore on anything more than a cursory basis, and then only for critical instances."
    Juhani was listening intently, aware that there could potentially be a massive gulf in understanding. This 'Agency' , from what she could tell, endorsed a policy that was beyond what even the most conservative master on her side would be willing to advocate.
    From what Alek had just said, it almost sounded like they were a little...afraid of it.
    Da, this is good, Juhani thought to herself. Fear of the Force is the start of Wisdom.

    "We've been busting perps lately who were much more skilled than they should have been. I saw an Officer at one point get pushed over eight meters into a wall. We've never ran into criminals or techniques that strong before. The area around Coruscant's been showing instances of dimensional rending, and the only thing the boys in the forensics lab could determine was that someone has been making regular trips to our dimension. Which brings us to Revan," Alek continued. "They tell me you already met yours."
    "In passing," Juhani answered for herself.
    "My Revan's got a whole bunch of people worried. Some people are afraid he's trying to take The Force and turn it into a religion. Have you ever heard anything so insane?" Alek asked.
    No one present dared to shift uncomfortably in front of him.
    "Anyway, The higher-ups have had it. Revan has to go. It's rather sad actually. Me and him go back twelve years on the job. We passed the academy together. But the thing is, those techniques from your side of the pond? They've made him and his main supporters too dangerous to arrest. Our own methods just aren't good enough. But if we brought in people more familiar with these abilities, then we figure they could easily trounce such relatively unskilled opponents. So we decided to give our Bastila and Juhani the weekend off, come over here and talk to you. You help us do this, we'll owe you. Big."
    "How big?" Atris asked, pulling out another cigar and heating the tip with her pale blue light saber blade.
    "We'll give you something precious: a schematic of the device that brought me here," Alek answered smoothly. "Think. Your time might go a bit easier against your Revan if you had the resources of another Jedi Order to draw on."
    "I agree whole heartedly," Atris said, taking a puff. "You've got yourself a deal, Constable Alek. We'll have them over in a short time."
    Alek clapped his hands. "Great! Meet me in the Crystal Cave north of this location. I have everything you need set up."
    ***
    The Crystal Caves the Jedi used to construct their light sabers had been locked down ever since the 'Interloper' had arrived. The Council had in fact issued a temporary ban on crossing on enclave grounds to surrounding settlements. No one was around to interfere. Juhani and Bastila both felt curiously unsettled at what was about to take place, yet the epic nature of their task made them all the more resolute in the carrying out of it.
    "I have butterflies in stomach, Bastila," Juhani said suddenly in her typical thick accent and as-yet-to-fully-develop syntax.
    "You too?" Bastila replied. "Did you ever think this would happen when you became a Jedi?"
    "Not in million years," Juhani answered. "Do not worry. I right behind you. We have squid and ale when all this over, my treat."
    Bastila's stomach turned. "That's...lovely, Juhani. I'm sure it will be delicious."
    "Perhaps we find squid and ale over there, Da?" Juhani asked.
    Bastila shrugged. "I don't see why not."
    As the pair marched on the sunny, grassy plains to the caves, the entire Dantooine council following behind them, Bastila recited the code to calm herself. As if she didn't have enough to worry with where Revan was concerned, who did not yet know she existed but soon would, now someone wanted her to deal with 'their' version.
    She should feel honored, she supposed, that the Masters would trust her with such an unfathomably delicate assignment, yet at the same time she was disquieted by the nature of her task. She was being forced to kill a man whose only crime so far, it seemed, was to think for himself. True he had stolen from the Order, and Bastila knew that if there was one thing her version of the Order did not tolerate, it was thievery, but a death sentence seemed...too harsh. It certainly wasn't how Bastila would have done it, but then again, it was not her place to question the will of her masters. She was still a padawan. Once she was a knight she would be trusted with the way things worked in the real world, and be given more autonomy.
    Knights these days had a great deal of autonomy, so long as they adhered to council orders and the Jedi Code, they were otherwise allowed to operate in the field as they saw fit. Some even saw fit to set their own objectives, practice techniques the council might not actually approve of.
    Not Bastila. Bastila had always been the straight arrow. She had worked hard to earn their trust, and she had a ways to go, but earn it she would. She would not be another Kreia, or Valia Renn. She knew the value in not breaking rank, unlike Revan. She was, as Zhar had once put it, a "Company Professional". A True Believer.
    "Though your mission is to kill the Revan of that dimension, you are reminded to leave as little a footprint as possible. Curiosity will only make things harder for 'Their' Jedi," Atris instructed as they went deeper into the cave system, brightly lit by the floodlights the Knights had placed there to guide people to where the great mystery lay.
    Alek was waiting in a large chamber carved out by time and water, holding two duffle bags, which he tossed to Juhani and Bastila. The surrounding crystals glowed in every conceivable hue along the walls. Bastila took note of a dark red vein of rock signifying the forbidden red color.
    "The clothing and equipment you'll be wearing over there," Alek explained. "Tailored to your measurements, I hope."
    The pair nodded, both choosing a different pillar of rock to change behind. Every one waited until they finally showed themselves.
    Bastila was dressed in a dark brown trench coat with a pair of brown slacks and black boots, a white cotton shirt hinted at underneath. a white domino mask covered her face.
    Juhani also had a domino mask, but it was red, like the rest of her clothing, save for the black armor on her gloves and shins. Her outfit was tighter fitting, a simple set of red cloth slacks and a red leather jacket that did not seem to have either buttons or a zipper. A gold chain bearing a small shield with a set of numbers hung from her neck. a red beanie cap completed the look.
    "Spitting image!" he said merrily. he then handed them both what appeared to be batons.
    Bastila examined hers with a clinical attitude. It was a double-ended baton, the handle ridged and simple. The rods were built thin, but sturdy.
    Bastila saw a small activation plate in the middle. She pressed it.
    Small yellow arcs of electricity raced down its length, and Bastila found herself marveling at the bizarre correlation between this weapon and the design and color of the blade she desired to have eventually. If the council ever let her do this sort of thing again, she'd love to go and see just how common her tendency to want to use staff-like weapons actually was.
    Juhani's baton was just as simple, but without the second baton. Little arcs of blue electricity raced down it.
    "Not as fancy as that light saber-thingy of yours, but it will get the job done, trust me," Alek assured. "I'll have them back by tomorrow,"
    "See that you do," Vrook replied crankily. "We 'really' need her."
    Alek nodded and led the two padawans to a particular rock face.
    A small, boxy projector-like device with a an oil-in-water hue on its steel grey surface sat on a brass-colored tri-pod, light from its focusing lens flickering gently to what appeared to be a shimmering mirror image of the same device on the other side in a darkened area.
    "Step right on through," Alek said, gesturing elaborately. The pair sighed, took a deep breath and then both leapt through the wide portal at the same time, Alek following close behind.
    And then things promptly went to hell.
    As soon as Alek was on the other side of the portal, he clicked a small button on a metal stick he had concealed in his palm.
    The devices in both universes shattered as the explosive hidden in them went off at the same time.
    Before either Padawan could react to what was now a clear-cut act of betrayal, Alek slammed both of them into a rock wall with a powerful pulse of Force energy.
    Both were knocked out before they hit the ground
    ***
    Bastila's eyes fluttered open a few hours later. She was bound with neural restraints. Juhani was nowhere to be found. She lay on a small mattress.
    A flood light hit her. She blinked and stared at an approaching shadow in the light.
    "I apologize for the deception," the figure said. It was a man, and his voice was strong and charismatic. Listening to it commanded one's full attention.
    She had a terrible feeling she knew who was speaking to her.
    "You really do look like her, you know?" the figure continued. "The resemblance is perfect. A pity she won't see reason. With her at my side, this would have all gone much smoother. But you are a treasure unto yourself, my dear Bastila of Universe 11-99. You and your friend will be most helpful in demonstrating what the Force is truly capable of. We're not your enemies, and we don't have to be. We want you to help us reach our full potential."
    Bastila glowered as best she was able under the bright lights, the figure above her still indistinct from the rays. For someone who didn't want to be enemies, he sure had a funny way of showing it.
    "As my father would put it: Ye know not what ye ask," Bastila replied.
    "I ask to become a Jedi Knight like yourself, dear Bastila," the figure replied, shifting away from her. She still couldn't make him out. "You don't understand the situation here. The Mandalorian Cartels are gathering strength. The Galaxy is in need of a Jedi Agency that does more than just police our own. We need people ready to stand for the common good. The agency's commission of Senior Investigators refuses to act, when we might be the one power in the galaxy strong enough to resist. The Cartels will roll over our two centuries old Democratic Union with ease unless they are opposed," the figure continued. "But we need techniques that can actually stand up to them. The old techniques of clairvoyance and healing simply are not enough. We need to be able to do what Alek did. We must learn to fight as you do.
    "Teaching you would be like giving you a thermal detonator that's been activated. You don't know the kind of hell you'll bring on your dimension. I do. What happens when you start fighting Dark-Siders?"
    "What's a Dark-Sider?" the figure asked, obviously perturbed.
    Bastila stared in disbelief. They were still innocent.
    She decided not to answer.
    "We'll talk later, Bastila. Once you see what's going on, you'll do the right thing, I'm sure of it." The figure rose and left "Thanks for the light sabers, by the way. Alek knew you'd bring them along as an insurance policy."
    "Crap," Bastila swore as the figure left. "And three days from my frakking birthday on top of it."
    Bastila tongued the inside of her mouth, searching for the small lock pick she had hidden. Neural restraints canceled out any attempt to unlock it via the Force. Maneuvering, she rolled over on her back, tucked her knees in and slipped her arms under her feet, painfully scuffing her thumbs as she did so.
    She sat up, picking the restraints feverishly, until the silver cuffs came undone. Now to find Juhani and split.
    The trouble was, where to split to. The device that had linked their dimensions was gone. They had no way back.
    Bastila started to panic, but calmed herself as she remembered her history lessons. Jedi had been caught in impossible situations before. And if History had taught anything to Bastila, it was this: when a Jedi put their head to it and placed their trust in the Force, they could be absurdly difficult to bring down. Whether facing down a Sith, sneaking across a heavily guarded sector, Force-related landscape experiments gone horribly awry, or even instances of accidental time travel, Jedi could emerge relatively unscathed. Even Dark Jedi could occasionally beat the odds, her own father--once a soldier who had gone into the apprenticeship of one Darth Kitsun to escape the public hanging of the rest of his team-was testament to what grit and determination could do. He had spent years on the run after eventually mastering his potent mind-control talents and fleeing her castle in the night, breaking the mind of her assassin (A sociopath called The Hyena) in the process. Twenty years ago, he'd met her mother while hiding out as a fortune hunter, and the rest was history.
    She WOULD escape, she vowed. There was no way out but forward.
    Bastila crept through the rock chamber, past the flood light. It was a simple metal gate with a keypad lock on the front of it.
    She gave a small gesture of her hand and the gate's internal locks undid themselves, swinging the gate open.
    "Ah, the perks to this job," she said quietly to herself.
    Bastila began exploring the cave passages, feeling for Juhani's presence.
    She stifled a gasp of excitement as she sensed her close by, slowly stirring from unconsciousness in a small chamber with a man in a brown and white set of business clothes stood guard.
    Bastila waved her hand and the guard dropped to the floor asleep. Revan hadn't been kidding when he said their techniques were vastly inferior to Bastila's.
    "Juhani!" Bastila hissed, reaching the cathar woman as she rose inside her metal cage.
    Juhani suffered an anxiety attack as she saw the bars.
    "Cage!" She hissed, the brutal memories of her days as a slave hitting her hard. "Get me out of cage!" Juhani started to hyperventilate.
    "Juhani, the code! Remember the code!" Bastila whispered, picking open the lock. Juhani nearly tackled her in her desperate effort to escape her hated confines.
    Bastila winced as she felt cold sweat on the Cathar woman's fur. Juhani had a terrified look in her eyes, still breathing hard.
    "Juhani, shh, it’s okay. You're out now. You're out of the cage. You're out," Bastila said, stroking the top of her friends head as the Cathar shook in her arms.
    Finally, Juhani composed herself, standing up and smoothing over her clothes. She put her red beanie back on.
    "Come. We flee cave," was all she said, not acknowledging that she'd been almost a total wreck the moment before. "I never go into cage again. That was last time."
    "I don't doubt it, friend," Bastila said as Juhani helped her up off the rock floor. "C'mon, let's see just how screwy the scenery is."
    ***
    Bastila grew concerned as she ventured out onto the yellowed grass of Dantooine's fields.
    The sky had an ugly brown smog color; Bastila saw dozens of exhaust towers spewing foul toxins into the air, like belching volcanos. The factory technology must be primitive here: This would have been declared an ecological disaster on her end. Clear violations of the health and environmental code were rampant.
    Bastila smelled all manner of chemicals in the air. Juhani was coughing bad: Her nose and lungs were more sensitive.
    "Juhani, can you make it until we find shelter?" Bastila asked.
    Juhani nodded, wheezing, face scrunched in discomfort. "Da. Just don't take long."
    Bastila nodded and scanned the dying landscape. She spotted what seemed to be a spaceport in the distance. It was a few kilometers, but they could walk.
    As they walked as quickly as possible on the dying grass, Juhani decided to break the silence.
    "So Bastila," Juhani wheezed. "I hear your battle meditation have nasty effects."
    "You heard right. The Masters aren't sure why, but every time I use my power, I cause rabies-like symptoms to develop in enemy combatants," Bastila answered, wondering how Juhani was even aware of the side effects to begin with.
    "Be not naive, Shan. They know why your meditation no work right. They are Jedi Masters. They 'always' know," Juhani asserted.
    "And what do you do for the order, Juhani?" Bastila asked, as she took in the dead fields, curious why her partner would assert such a thing.
    "To put it in layman's terms? I am Narc," Juhani answered, not caring if Bastila knew her trade in the order. "Atris would not like it if she knew I tell you this."
    "Ah, I see. Your secrets safe with me," Bastila replied, grinning as she turned to stare at Juhani. "Of course, that doesn't change the fact you're a dirty, furry little snitch."
    Juhani laughed at the joke. "Ha ha. Funny. Maybe we get back and you microwave some more heads."
    The pair laughed at this. This was essential. Moments of levity were important in a situation like this.
    "C'mon, before this turns into a buddy comedy," Bastila said. "Still don't know how we're going to con our way onto a transport. You think they give Jedi discounts here like back home?"
    "I no bet on it. Order only century old here. Not enough time for good reputation, nyet?" Juhani asked.
    "Perhaps. It's just it would make it a great deal--DOWN!" Bastila yelled.
    Juhani hit the grass, still coughing, as a pulse of nearly invisible sonic waves raced past where her head had been. Juhani tried to reach for her weapons, only to realize that Alek had stripped them both.
    "When I get hands on him..." Juhani growled.
    Bastila set up a Force bubble around both of them as the pings from sonic weapons impacted from everywhere.
    Twelve people wearing brown and white clothes like Alek decloaked, holding sonic rifles.
    One man however, dressed in a brown set of slacks, shoes, and a formal jacket with white pinstripes stepped forward. His face was obscured by a dull bronze mask with a small visor. Bastila made the connection instantly.
    "Revan," Bastila said simply.
    Revan stepped forward, a baton with purple electricity arcing up and down it gripped in his hand. "There is no escape, Jedi Knight. My Agency Defectors surround you. Your strength, incredible as it is, will eventually wear down. Surrender. I told you I am not your enemy. I only want the same gifts you have to protect the innocent," he finished, that same commanding voice giving her pause as it answered.
    "I told you before: You don't comprehend what you're asking me to give you," Bastila answered. She dared not make any more mention of the Dark Side: The last thing this particular galaxy needed was some greedy bastard starting that sort of mess 'here'. She held her arms out stretched, keeping the bubble active.
    "I'm asking you to help me end the Agency's monopoly on how the Force should best be used! Once we drive the Cartels out of business, we'll prove our ways beyond a shadow of a doubt--"
    "Leaving you the head of a brand new cult," Bastila finished. "I've heard this one before. Out of my own Revan's lips. I said no to 'her' as well. This is not the kind of power you can just 'take' for yourself. There are consequences. Bad ones."
    "Then 'explain' them! Let us see what we're doing wrong!"
    "I didn't mean it like that. Look, Revan, just let us go. Send us back!"
    "I'm afraid I can't do that, Bastila," Revan replied, shaking his head. "You don't know the kind of effort a guy like me had to shell out, the kind of sweet I had to talk, to bring not just one, but two genuine bona-fide Jedi to this dimension. This is not a venture I can afford to leave empty handed. We're barely free over here from the tyranny of the Infinite Empire, I refuse to allow all I know to fall to the Cartels. I promise, once you've helped us get established, I'll send you home. But there's too much work to be done."
    Revan came a few more steps forward. Juhani was still on the ground. Her wheezing had gotten more severe.
    "Your friend here doesn't look so well," Revan mentioned, gesturing to her. "I can help her get medical attention."
    "It is trick," Juhani coughed. "He has snake for tongue."
    "I'm not lying, Bastila. I want to help her. Please, surrender," Revan asked, holding out a white gloved hand.
    Before Bastila could even contemplate taking the offer, a stream of blue blaster bolts rang out. The deadly pulses of energy nearly hit Revan, forcing him to deflect the bolts with his light-baton. The shots hit several defectors, dropping them.
    Bastila grabbed Juhani up, hoisting the rapidly weakening Cathar by the shoulder as she bolted across the field, sonic pulses ringing after her.
    She spotted it descending from an angle that made it look like it had come out of the smog-obscured sun. It was an air speeder, bronze in color, and covered in steel conductors in the front and strange steel rods in the back. The canopy appeared armored. As it settled own in front of her. Bastila spotted the insignia: A blaster and a baton shrouded by a pair of white wings.
    The side hatch swung open. Bastila was racing into the back seat with Juhani before she realized it.
    She felt the vehicle lift off, sonic pulses hitting it's underside.
    "Boy, you're lucky I tracked you two in time," the driver said, voice coarse and rough.
    Bastila stared. He wore dark brown slacks with many pockets and holsters. His leather jacket was black and tight fitting, with large brass buttons gleaming as one large fold of the jacket covered the other. She'd seen such jackets on republic bomber pilots when they were off duty. His right shoulder bore the symbol on his vehicle. His dark hair was short cut, but ever slightly curled. He sported a distinct, long pair of side burns and he was wearing a larger, thicker domino mask, also bronze in color. He had slightly dark skin, and was also slightly unshaven. Bastila could not make out the color of his eyes, the heavy mask obscured his eyes and nose.
    "And you are?" Bastila asked.
    "Name's Rae. Rae Nolin. SWAT Officer (Equivalent to Jedi Weapon Master)," Nolin answered, tossing a small bottle of oxygen and a breath mask to her in the backseat. "For your friend."
    Bastila panicked as she remembered Juhani, who had gone unconscious. She pressed the oxygen mask to Juhani's face., turning the handle on the bottle.
    "Not too much now. Don't wanna burst some vein in her head she might need," Nolin advised.
    Juhani's eyes fluttered open after a second. "Mama?" she called out, eyes unfocused.
    "Juhani, its Bastila. Do you know where you are?"
    Juhani squinted a few seconds before recognition dawned.
    "Thank you, Bastila. I'm fine," Juhani said. "We have been made, the two of us."
    "You ain't the only one, furball," Nolin said. "I keep tellin' em, 'Don't trust Revan'. 'Revan's running his own game'. Do they listen? Ha!"
    "I take it Revan is trusted here?" Bastila asked politely.
    "He's the commission's golden boy," Nolin answered as he sped up the vehicle, seeing two more patrol speeders line up behind his from the rear view mirror. "Finest Officer in the whole damn Coruscant Precinct. Tough on lawbreakers. Too ambitious for his own damn good."
    "Not fan, I take it?" Juhani asked, sitting up as she sensed the presence of their pursuers.
    "Word to the wise, Sister; You don't get that kind of clout in the Department without an intention to pull something major. Everybody trusts him. Everybody but me. But you're just people. They can easily dismiss you as imposters. His supporters will do that. I need hard evidence to move against him. Did you see anything? Anybody?"
    Before Juhani could answer, the vehicle was rocked by an impact.
    Nolin jerked the controls, sending the speeder careening down. Bastila almost lost her breakfast as the vehicle corkscrewed through the air. She heard the whizzing of vehicle mounted heavy blaster bolts. One punctured the rear transparisteel windshield and tore up the dashboard controls.
    Nolin yelled as he pulled up from the dive. Bastila and Juhani felt the lurch of the G-force exerted on the speeder as it pulled up seconds from impact. The pair were banged around badly as the speeder engine shrieked, sparking under the hood.
    Nolin pulled out a nickel-plated blaster with engravings on the barrel. He fired through the blasted away windshield in the back. The shots hit one driver, causing him to careen into another. Both tails exploded in mid-air.
    "Never try and take on SWAT: We never miss," Nolin said, relaxing as he put his slim weapon back into his jacket. "So," he began turning his head slightly as he piloted. "Are you two really from a parallel universe?"
    "How do you know so much?" Bastila asked breathlessly, trying to get her heart to stop pounding.
    Nolin grimaced. He focused his attention back on the sky in front of him.
    "It all started about a year ago," he began. "Me and my partner Mira? Got an APB over the horn one day in the Coruscant precinct for every officer to make his or her way to the First Intergalactic Bank deep in Little Rodia and just south of Cicero Sector. We'd all gotten calls from panicked bystanders about some perp trashing the place with his mind. It was a disaster. Guy practically brought the ceiling down on the SWAT Unit. My partner's bleeding out, rest of the team's dead, and I'm the only one in a position to do anything," Nolin answered, lowering the vehicle to the surface as they came within range of the spaceport. "Long story short? I eventually drop the guy, two to the chest. Thing is, right before this guy buys the farm, he tells me he escaped from a facility run by Revan, and that people from outside this dimension were aiding him. He'd probably been there to locate information on Revan's spending habits, track the money, but I couldn't prove it."
    "We'll help you," Bastila assured the man. "Our mission is unchanged. We're here to kill Revan."
    "That so? I want to see the bastard resign in disgrace, but I suppose dead is just as good. But I want evidence first. That way, no one will be able to say I acted on a baseless assumption. They'll expell me otherwise, and the last thing I need is walking around the rest of my days being called 'Exile'."
    Juhani and Bastila exchanged a look as Nolin piloted.
    ***
    When the speeder landed at the spaceport parking area, the three scrambled out of it immediately, following Nolin.
    "So, is it really true your version of the Jedi is caught in some sort of never-ending war?" Nolin asked as the trio moved through the throngs of busy soon-to be passengers, the stink from the maintenance pits wafting through smoggy air.
    "The Order is charged with opposing those who would mis-use the Force," Juhani answered.
    "If that is the case, why didn't you simply mow down Revan and his followers?"
    "We are not invincible, Officer Nolin," Bastila supplied, "Besides, we are mere apprentices: We have yet to develop our power to its fullest potential, and that is a long way off. A Master--even a knight--would have devastated the area.
    "So everything the Senior Investigators have been saying is true. The Force really is too dangerous to safely master."
    Bastila wanted to correct him but thought the better of it. A healthy amount of fear was a good thing every now and then.
    Juhani, however, chose to disagree. "It takes great discipline."
    "Too much discipline, if you ask me. Makes me wonder if this whole 'Jedi' thing is actually worth it. Doesn't seem to do anything but cause problems. I remember when all you needed to do to get by in the Agency was have good reflexes and see into the future slightly. Not anymore. Now we're dealing with a bunch of freaks who have telekinesis. Just thinking of the property damage that alone could cause gives me a headache. And that damnable man wants to make things even worse!" Nolin spat contemptuously
    "Be mindful of your anger," Bastila warned. "It will...take you places you don't want to go. Trust me on this."
    "Like how?" Nolin asked as he approached an open space hanger amidst the space port clutter and rabble. On it sat a dark colored, delta-wing shaped craft with four large ion engines. A small blue viewport from the cockpit glowed gently and the decal of a green Twi-Lek woman in red lingerie riding a screaming black bird in full dive was highly visible on the front of the craft. Blaster turrets mounted all sides of the craft.
    "The Ebon Hawk, ladies," Nolin said. "We're heading to Coruscant. I've gotten a lead but I don't want to tackle it without full back-up. You two up for a fight?"
    "I am always up for fight," Juhani answered.
    The three went aboard, and Bastila noted the interior had the design features of a military spacecraft, meant for efficiency and not comfort. Benches were hard and amenities few. She sat on a nearby table.
    A man stepped out of the cockpit in a brown set of slacks and boot and a garish orange turtleneck sweater. A mottled corncob pipe stuck out of his mouth and he looked like he had gone a few days without shaving or getting a haircut. Otherwise, he looked robust and healthy, and his skin had a nice tan, complimenting his brown hair.
    "Captain Onasi. Used to be in Union Armed Forces, ladies," Onasi said gruffly, holding out a hand. "and you are--?"
    "I am Bastila Shan, Padawan of the Jedi Order," Bastila answered. She gestured to Juhani. "This is Juhani of Cathar. Also a Padawan."
    "What's a Padawan?" Captain Onasi asked.
    "I'm an apprentice. Nobody knows where the Order got that word."
    Captain Onasi stared at Rae. "Since when did the agency become an order?"
    "Long story, and not important," Rae answered.
    Onasi shrugged at this and went back into the cockpit.
    "Buckle up ladies, this is gonna be a long trip," he called out.
    The three sat down.
    "He and I fought in the Independence Wars together. Saved him more than once, so I called in a favor. We're in good hands."
    "Tell us everything you know about Revan and the capabilities of his followers. We have to know what we are walking into," Bastila stated flatly.
    "Where do you want to start?" Rae asked as they all felt the ship lift off.
    "Has he displayed any abilities that seem driven by anger, or hatred?" Juhani asked.
    Bastila turned to Juhani with a stern look.
    "What? We do service to nobody keeping them in dark," Juhani replied.
    "Why's that important?" Rae asked.
    "Sometimes anger can make someone with the Force very dangerous," Bastila explained. "They're irrational. They make mistakes."
    "I haven't seen him display anything like that, really. Why, does anger make you more powerful?"
    "No," Bastila answered, telling a half-lie. "It's an empty road, and the price is death before one's time."
    "Oh, Nolin answered. "But if somebody could control such powerful emotions and harness them, surely--"
    "Many have said that," Bastila replied sharply. "They all died. All of them." Again, another half-lie.
    "Oh."
    "True mastery of the Force requires divesting yourself of emotion, focus on achieving clarity. It's a slow process, and has no immediate benefits," Bastila finished with another half-lie.
    "But you two--you two stopped shots being fired at you!"
    "A product of years of training. But with technique comes escalation. If we were to teach you anything, eventually you would be facing dissidents. Your galaxy would be dragged into one brutal conflict after another with them. And the stakes get higher and more ridiculous each time," she replied. "Trust us. You're better off as you are."
    "But what if the Agency eventually runs into someone who's been experimenting on their own? Some groups came to this one planet a couple of years back. Tython was the name of it I think, and they tried to pool everything they had learned in their own studies. Thank whatever deity is out there that the star Tython orbited unexpectedly went nova, or the Agency could have been swept aside."
    "He's right, Bastila. They must know 'something'," Juhani argued.
    "To what end?" Bastila asked snappishly. "I am NOT going to be responsible for bringing sin to this galaxy."
    "Sin? What you mean?" Juhani asked.
    "I mean that I'm not going to be the one whose flawed understanding of the Force ends up leading some poor soul down a twisted path. Let the blame be entirely on them for whatever might arise, but I will have no hand in showing them something I don't even have the wisdom or authority to teach. I think your people have a saying for it: 'Ngujag Awayin Buto Infernu Et Intan-no'
    Juhani raised a brow but accepted the argument.
    "What'd she say?" Rae asked Juhani.
    "It no matter," Juhani replied. "I accept her reasoning."
    "But that still leaves the original problem; what if we run into somebody who has done more research? Most Jedi here don't know what the Force is. No one knows how it's transmitted. Some of the investigators think its some sort of disease or a military experiment that went south and all of us got exposed to it somehow. Does it have an identifiable energy signature? Is it even energy? Most aren't sure they really want to find out. Some answers could really help," Rae argued.
    "I'm sorry, Officer Nolin, but some answers are best arrived at on your own," Bastila answered.
    "What I no figure out is this," Juhani asked suddenly, perturbed. She stroked her chin slightly as she explained herself. "If Revan already have training aids, why trick us over here? What's the point?"
    "Being taught how something should work and then actually seeing it in action are two different things," Nolin replied with a shrug.
    Bastila and Juhani exchanged looks for a split second.
    "Does he have friends? People who might be in the know?" Bastila asked.
    "Well...there is one person. Old Lady K. Has a cozy apartment above this swank little nightclub I use to go to. She's a tough one though. I never managed to get anything out of her. She was his Training Officer. You guys have any mind reading abilities? 'Cause I don't."
    "If we concentrate, we may be able to sense surface thoughts. And things aren't the same here. They don't have the proper mental defenses," Bastila answered, turning back to Juhani. "It's worth a shot."
    "We'll need weapons," Juhani asserted. "We try finding materials to build light sabers, Da? They already have ours."
    "We'll...I don't see the harm at this point. But what about the crystals? We don't have any."
    "Crystals?" Nolin inquired.
    "Crystals infused with the Force. They often have a composition similar to quartz," Bastila explained.
    "The crystals used in high end monitors and com-links work just as well," Juhani added. "We not know if regular crystals exist here."
    "It'll have to do, then," Bastila finished, turning back to Nolin, who was intently paying attention. "Take us to Old Lady K, Officer Nolin. If she knows anything, I'll drag it out of her," Bastila assured him.
    ***
    Coruscant, Cicero Sector.
    "The buildings are...interesting," Bastila said as she stepped off the Ebon Hawk's ramp onto the giant docking pad.
    The buildings of this Coruscant were as tall and beautiful as the ones in her own, but these buildings possessed magnificent carvings of faces and animals on all sides, gigantic in scope. Bright neon signs and holograms flashed at designated times and places in the middle of the air as their holoprojectors moved on a methodical path in the air, and strange massive floating globes of transparisteel, done in a clear lattice configuration, roamed the lower parts of the cityscape, bathing the lower parts of the buildings in a ruddy golden light. Dark grey clouds thundered in the distance. A fierce storm was brewing and it would not be long before it was on them. The hover traffic was surprisingly scant compared to her Coruscant, but Bastila figured that since they seemed to be behind in everything, it would take a while before they were choking in air-speeders.
    Captain Onasi stepped down the ramp followed by the others. "Been a while since I set foot here," he said, lighting his pipe. "Mind if I come with you, stretch my legs out? I'm pretty handy with a pistol," he said, drawing an ornate blaster with a drum like power cell set in the frame, giving it an appearance similar to a revolver. The metal was done in a blue finish, with a pearl grip.
    "Your assistance would be much appreciated, Captain," Bastila said.
    Onasi nodded, and the four headed for the turbo-lift that would send them down to the under works, led by Rae.
    "Captain, I have question," Juhani said in the ride down to the under works, unable to hold back her curiosity. "Why sweater so...orange?"
    "Oh, this old thing," Captain Onasi replied nonchalantly. "Morgana loves it when I wear orange. Its her favorite color. I think it makes me look like a particularly sweet and tangy fruit, but when your wife surprises you on your birthday with lingerie and a 'C'mere' attitude, you tend to let the odder things in the relationship slide."
    "She's the woman riding the bird on your ship's decal," Bastila added with momentary insight.
    "Yeah! How'd you know?"
    "I...it's complicated," Bastila answered uneasily.
    "That's her?" Juhani asked. She held her fist up to Onasi's chest. "Nice going, dude."
    The Captain bumped her fist with his own. "Damn straight."
    The turbo-lift stopped and opened, welcoming the four to the bright glitz of the under works. The streets were packed with rich and poor, alien and human, each seeking their own brand of vice in the maze of casinos, taverns, brothels, drug dens, lining alleys and main roads. The golden light from above shined on all, giving the scene of social ill more bright than it actually deserved.
    "By the Force," Bastila spoke above the chatter and hustle of the crowds. "Doesn't your agency do anything about this, Officer?"
    "We're only tasked with apprehending violators of the Sensitivity Act, which forbids non-government Force-Users from attempting to study. If a Force User wants to go legit, the Agency is the only way," Nolin answered. "The Government is working really hard to try and develop a cure, get some measures passed."
    "What measures?" Juhani asked.
    "Y'know, giving the parent the legal option to perform genetic therapy on the fetus to prevent sensitivity. It's very safe, I'm told."
    Part of Juhani wanted to yell that the Force wasn't a disease, but what Bastila had said to her earlier--in her own language, no less--stayed her voice.
    "They do that where you're from?" Nolin asked as they pushed through the crowd.
    "No. Children who are discovered are--never mind. I've spoken too much," Bastila replied, stopping herself. She felt like she was constantly walking on eggshells with Nolin, fearing one small slip could have terrible consequences for this galaxy.
    Besides, it wasn't as though she could mention it without remembering how she had been recruited, the terrible day her mother had shoved her into the arms of the Jedi Master sent to collect her.
    Just thinking about it brought anger. Anger that Bastila knew was wrong for a Jedi, but she felt it none the less.
    The surprised cries of people in front of her forced her away from the painful memory and she struggled to contain her shock.
    She was floating a few meters off the ground in place.
    Quickly regaining control of her power, she dropped herself back to the ground.
    Everyone was now staring, whispering.
    Onasi decided to be Damage Control.
    "It's okay folks. We're street magicians," he called out.
    "Why is she wearing agency clothes?" a woman in the crowd asked.
    "Part of the act," he answered.
    After a few moments of deciding amongst themselves, the crowd started nervously clapping, applauding the 'trick'.
    Juhani took Bastila gently by the arm. "What happened?" she asked calmly as the crowd went back to their buisness.
    "I'm not sure," Bastila lied, realizing her anger had allowed the Dark Side to fuel her power.
    Bloody Dark Side, she thought bitterly. It never gave anybody the day-off.
    The four continued down the street, not realizing a man in a pinstripe suit and full mask with a t-shaped visor had been watching them the whole time. He disappeared into the crowd, waiting for the right moment to act.
    to be continued...
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