Before - Legends The Blue Side of the Force: Book I- Complements (6/14 -An unknown planet and an ACTUAL NEW CHAPTER)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Commander-DWH, Aug 15, 2005.

Moderators: Briannakin, mavjade
  1. LaForzaViva Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2008
    star 1
    Just fantastic.

    Thank you, honestly, for this story. You've inspired me to return to writing (as has SoA's own KotOR story) and I can't thank you enough for that. I hope there's more to come, and soon! [face_praying]
  2. Commander-DWH Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 3, 2003
    star 4
    *blows dust off thread*

    Wow, apologies, all. I really let my writing slide- Darth Real Life got the best of me, and I got wrapped up in my NaNo ovel (in which Leiraya grows up into her own fully original character, no Star Wars added!), but I'm not finished with this story just yet. I'm determined to see this through to the end, and on that note, I have a chapter for you.

    But first, replies!

    Striker: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed, and I'm really sorry the reply took so long. :oops:

    Ale: Thanks. :p Gotta love the candor of Canderous (see what I did there?).

    emerald54: Not as hard as you think- we're not talking slave Leia here, she's got a very full skirt. It won't be too hard to strap it to her leg and hide it there. Thanks for reading! :)

    SoA: Aiden pushes himself, maybe a little too hard. We shall see if it comes back to bite him. Also, thank you for poking me into finishing this chapter. ;)

    LaForzaViva: Thank you. It's inspiring to me to know that my writing has inspired others... my posting schedule may not always reflect this, but really, your kind words mean a lot. So thanks. :)

    Anyhoodle! I finally knocked out this chapter. I'll be honest, Korriban is killing me, and I can't wait to get off this planet.

    ...
    .....
    .......

    UH. CANCEL THAT.

    So, my lovelies. I just discovered that my document containing my entire story is corrupt, and I'm going to have to do some technical wizardry to get it back. But fear not! I have mad computing skillz and by golly, I will make it happen. Hopefully in the next day or two. Until then... uhh....

    Look at this shiny album of pictures of the Leiraya costume I made!

    Sorry folks, I'll work on fixing this file and having the new chapter up as soon as possible.

    To the techie-mobile... away!
    Last edited by Commander-DWH, Jun 14, 2017
  3. Commander-DWH Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 3, 2003
    star 4
    Document uncorrupted!

    That actually didn't take so long, but what took a while was fixing all the punctuation. It took my quotes and apostraphes and replaced them with spaces, and nuked all my italics. It did this for the whole document. I definitely have not rescued the whole document's punctuation/italicization yet, but I do have a nicely reformatted chapter for you.

    Chapter 41

    Dustil Onasi hated very few things, and of that he was rather proud. His fellow Sith were often full of hate, and he found it made them irrational. Though it wasn't necessarily an intuitive leap of logic for a Sith, he found that if he could detach himself from the situation, he had a much easier time finding his enemy's weakness. Which, around the Academy, was often centered around hate or anger. Cold as ice, they d called him.


    One thing, however, made him seethe, and that was his father.


    He hadn't even realized how badly his father offended him. For the most part, he'd pretended the man didn't exist. It wasn't that hard. He'd always been away with the military when he was a child, even before the Mandalorian Wars started. His mother, on the other hand, he missed her more than he would ever admit to his classmates. She was the one who had always been there for him, fixed up his wounds, helped him with his homework... everything that most kids he knew had two parents to help with. And then she'd died, and father hadn't come until just now, and it was seriously disturbing his calm.


    He wasn't sure what was worse- that the man had left, or that now that he was back, he seemed sincere. Dustil never figured his father would come looking for him, not after all these years. But somehow he'd managed to infiltrate the Sith Academy, and if the action didn't say enough, he could feel the emotion rolling off the man in waves. All the relief, joy, hurt and anger mixed into a giant bundle, and worst of all, he could tell that the only thing holding those emotions together was love.


    Dustil didn't like having his notions upset. This man was not the monster he'd thought of as his father for years.


    And so he d taken to meditation. Isolated, he had less of a chance of broadcasting his thoughts to his classmates. That was the last thing he needed- to let them know that he, too, had weaknesses. He'd worked hard to maintain the illusion that he brooked no unnecessary emotion.


    That, of course, begged the question of whether or not his emotion was unnecessary. To be fair to himself, he hadn't seen his father in years, and hadn't had a reason to think well of him in that time.


    He sat silently for nearly an hour, centering himself, before he felt the very presence that was most likely going to undo all the work he had just done. Still, he wasn't going to allow himself the irritation. If he was irritated, that would lead to anger, which would lead to who even knew what. He shoved his annoyance below the icy surface, where he always kept it, and stood to face the entrance to the hallway by the time his father walked in, this time with two people in tow- the woman, Leiraya, he'd met before, and another man he'd seen around, but didn't know.


    “Father.” He said flatly. “I trust you have a reason for this visit?”


    “I do,” his father said calmly and handed over the datapad, which Dustil accepted suspiciously. “I think you'll find this interesting.”


    Dustil opened the file on the datapad and started reading. As he scanned through the text of the file, his eyes went wide, and he looked back up, a dangerous look on his face. “Where did you get this?”


    The unfamiliar man answered, a mischievous look in his eye as he ruffled his own dark hair. “Oh, we might have liberated it from Master Uthar's quarters.”


    “No,” Dustil shook his head, stepping backwards. “This can't be true. There's no way.”


    “I'm sorry, son,” his father's voice came, infuriatingly gentle.


    “I thought... they said... she went home,” he insisted, choking the words out. “She wasn't up to Sith standards, so she went back to her family on Chandrila. And what were you doing in Master Uthar s quarters? You can't just get in there.”


    “It s a long story involving some double double crossing and each of your masters trying to use me to take out the other,” the unfamiliar man spoke up again. “I don't know what they've been having you guys do since before I showed up, but it is brutal out there. How did you not notice?”


    Dustil looked at him incredulously. “And who the hell are you?”


    “Oh, sorry.” The man extended his hand, which Dustil did not take. “Aiden Star, Initiate extraordinaire.”


    “And my father is spending time with you why, exactly?”


    “Oh,” Aiden waved his hand. “We're on a mission. Trying to keep Malak from destroying the Republic, and collecting a bunch of Star Maps. I met your father on the Endar Spire over Taris. He saved my life, and is possibly the first person to do so sincerely.” He turned to Carth. “You know, I don't think I ever thanked you for that sincerity.”


    “You're welcome,” his father looked askance at Aiden, who was clearly not in the most coherent state, and the woman poked Aiden in the side. Dustil briefly wondered who the adults in this particular conversation were supposed to be.


    “In any case,” Aiden continued, looking pointedly at Dustil, “we didn't make that up, and you know we didn't just make it up. You're not stupid, I'm sure you've noticed what goes on here.”


    “I...” Dustil faltered. The man was clearly not in his normal state of mind, but he wasn't wrong. He had noticed things, unsettling things, but the Sith had rescued him, had been his home. He hadn't thought of what he might do without them. “I know.” He let out a heavy sigh. “I knew they were strict, and that people kept leaving, but if this is what's really happening to them...”


    “It is,” his father replied sadly. “I wish it wasn't, son.”


    “Then I can't stay.” He squeezed his eyes shut and held the datapad out to Aiden. “Here, take it back. I don't want to see it anymore.”


    “You're making the right choice.” His father's voice sounded happy for the first time he'd heard since he was a small child on Telos, and it took most of Dustil's self control to maintain his composure. He may have just decided to leave the Sith, but he wasn't going to fall apart.


    “I'm not joining the Jedi,” he looked back up at his father intensely. “Just so you know.”


    “That's all right, son,” his father nodded, understanding. “I don t expect you to. Not now.”


    “That said, we'd appreciate it if you didn't hinder our plotting,” Aiden added, a slight twinkle in his eye. “As you might have gathered, we have big plans for this place.”


    Dustil looked from his father, to Aiden, and back again. “I don't think your friend is all right.”


    Leiraya shook her head ruefully. “I think that's an understatement.”


    “Hey,” Aiden protested. “If you were under the kind of stress I've been under, you'd be acting like a crazy person, too. It's how I cope.”


    “I won't sound any alarms,” Dustil promised. “I intend to make my own escape from this place, so with any kind of luck, you won't be seeing me, and I won't be seeing you.”


    “Dustil... do you think maybe we could meet up and just... talk? After all of this is over?” His father looked at him, almost pleadingly.


    He paused for several seconds before answering. “Sure,” he finally said. “We can talk. But later. If you survive.”


    “I'll make sure of it,” he promised. “You have my word.”


    * * *


    Aiden wasn't sure he d gotten enough sleep yet, but he'd long since accepted the fact that so long as he was on Korriban, he wasn't going to rest well. Even when he was in his quarters, he felt like any of the other students would just as soon stab him in his sleep, so he couldn't be too careful. He'd let Leiraya put him in the healing trance once, but that was all he could afford. He was in fit enough shape for the time being, and the best plan he had was to get himself and his crew off this Force-forsaken planet before he really started losing it.


    “What do you suppose you're doing?” He heard the sneering voice of Mekel behind him. “Everyone who goes down there dies.” He paused. “Not that I'd mind.”


    Aiden turned around and looked his classmate in the eye. “I suppose I'm doing what nobody else managed.”


    Mekel took a few steps closer. “I heard you went into the tomb of Ajunta Pall.”


    “You heard correctly.”


    “Nobody comes out of there, either.” Mekel narrowed his eyes. “You're up to something.”


    “And who here isn't?” Aiden crossed his arms. “Look, are we going to stand here talking suspiciously at each other, or are we going to do something productive with ourselves? Don't you have your own prestige to be gaining?”


    “I have more prestige than you know,” Mekel replied stiffly. “I'm watching you, Initiate Star.”


    Aiden resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the sheer melodrama. “Right. Can I go into my death trap now?”


    Mekel merely walked away slowly in a clear attempt to be menacing. Aiden, however, was having difficulty feeling menaced by anything on Korriban, knowing that, at one point, this had been his personal academy. Turning back to the tomb, he walked into the shadows before flipping a small switch on his belt, activating the sound-dampening field. Unlike Ajunta Pall s tomb, this tomb was devoid of the Tuka ta that had infested the corridors. It was eerily silent the whole way down, until he opened the main door to the tomb, revealing a droid whose rifle was already pointed at him.


    Aiden took a wary step back. “Are you going to shoot me with that thing?”


    “In spite of the sound dampening device you use, every sound you make very nearly overloads my sensors.” The droid lowered his weapon. “But, you are the only person who has thought to remain quiet. What do you seek?”


    “Actually, now I m just wondering what your story is.”


    “I have very sensitive sound receptors. Most people come here, banging and clanking away. I came down here in the first place for the quiet- any who disturb it will be dispatched immediately.”


    “Ah.You sound like my assassination droid.”


    “I am an assassination droid.”


    “That explains a lot.” Aiden paused. “So... can I help you?”


    “You could kill me,” the droid offered. “I wouldn't resist.”


    Aiden blinked. “Wait, just like that? You would let me destroy you?”


    “Rather than having to sit here tormented by the smallest of sounds? Yes, I would.” The droid s photoreceptors blinked. “I would do it myself, but self-preservation circuits prevent me.”


    “I don't really want to kill you, I'll be honest,” Aiden offered. “It sounds like a mechanical problem. Is there any way I could fix you?”


    “Are you a mechanic?” The droid looked at him quizzically. “I did not think that was the purpose of most who come here.”


    Aiden grimaced. “Well, sort of. I... used to be pretty good with machinery, but... I... I guess I had an accident and lost a lot of it.”


    The droid sat there for a few moments, processing. “Well. I suppose if I were to shut down my primary functions, I could do a hard reboot and that ought to set things right.


    “Can you not do that yourself?” Aiden looked askance at the droid.


    “Negatory. It is against my programming to shut down any non-trivial functions.”


    “Oh.”


    “It is also against my programming to tell you how to shut down any non-trivial functions, and should you shut them down out of order, it will result in my destruction.”


    Aiden raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Really.”


    “But I can give you a series of statements that you could use to discern the correct order of shutting things down. Or,” it reminded him, “You could just destroy me.”


    Aiden sighed. This wasn't what he'd planned, but he wasn't about to start killing anyone now, even if it was just a crazy droid. “I'm not going to destroy you, at least not on purpose. I'll take the hints.”


    “Very well. The Motor Function Matrix must be one of the first three to shut down...


    * * *


    Carth and Leiraya decided to lay low while Aiden went after the supposedly crazy droid. Curling up in a rare moment alone, Leiraya was close to drifting off to sleep in his arms, but she looked up at him. “How are you doing?”


    Carth sighed. “Tired. I can't even tell you how happy I'll be to leave this planet. Does Aiden have all the prestige he needs yet?”


    Leiraya shrugged. “He's doing well for himself, I think.” She yawned. “I think the kids here are scared of him.”


    “Scared?” Carth frowned. “What makes you think that?”


    “Well, for starters, I can feel it.” She readjusted herself briefly. “Reasons? He's older. He's more experienced. He had a lightsaber when he showed up. He was obviously a Jedi. He's walked into more than one death trap and come out with barely a scratch-”


    “You call that burn on his face barely a scratch?” Carth raised a skeptical eyebrow. “That's going to leave a mark.”


    “Maybe, but when it comes to comparing a nasty burn with being dead?” She shrugged. “I know which one I think is the better option.”


    “I guess.” He pulled her closer. “I still don't like any of this.”


    “I think we're all on your side there,” she replied with a gentle smile. “Come on, look on the bright side. Your son is leaving the Sith! That's cause for celebration. Later. When we're not falling asleep.”


    “You're right,” he admitted, kissing the top of her head tenderly. “That is the best thing to happen since coming here.”


    “And then Aiden will get the Star Map, and we'll get out of here, and everything will be better,” she replied, voice drifting into a mumble by the end. “You'll see.”


    “I know,” he replied, just trying to savor the rare quiet moment. “I know.”


    * * *


    “I hear odd things about you, Initiate Star.” Yuthura Ban paced around Aiden as he stood still, holding the gauntlets of Marka Ragnos. “Some say you bandied riddles with the ghost of Ajunta Pall to steal his sword.”


    “Actually, it was given freely,” Aiden corrected her, but seeing her stern glare, he straightened up and looked forward. “Master.”


    “Some say you took on an ancient Sith beast in the shyrack caves and came out with only this mark to show for it,” she caressed his cheek, and he took care not to flinch away from it. “And now, I hear reports of a droid taking flight- literally blasting off to who knows where outside the tomb of the Lord Marka Ragnos- and now you stand before me with his gauntlets. Curious.”


    “I was told that in order to gain prestige, I'd need to do better than memorizing the Sith Code,” he replied, risking a glance down at her. Her annoyance seemed to have passed. “My methods are slightly unorthodox-”


    “Don't apologize or explain,” Yuthura stopped in front of him and looked at him evenly. “You are Sith, and you need not placate anyone. Your unorthodox methods are why you are here, Initiate Star. I chose you for that reason, and you have not given me reason to regret it.” She smiled. “With these gauntlets, I do believe that Master Uthar will deem you ready for your final trials.”


    “Really?” Aiden's eyes lit up. “I don't suppose you can give me any hints as to what it is.”


    “It will take place in the tomb of Naga Sadow,” Yuthura replied evenly. “At the end, your true Sith lightsaber will await you- you will no longer need to feel tied to this weapon of the Jedi,” she practically spit out the last word. “What happens in between I cannot reveal. But, should you survive the trials, this is where we will move against Master Uthar.


    “About that,” Aiden interjected. “There's something you should know.” He waited for her to reply, but all he got in return was an expectant stare, so he kept going. “I told Master Uthar of your plans to overthrow him-”


    Yuthura s eyes flashed. “You idiot! Why would you do something like that? I ought to-”


    Aiden held up a hand. “Let me explain.” She pressed her lips together and nodded for him to continue. “He gave me a vial of poison. He asked me to poison you so that when I take my trial, we can overthrow you and, well...” he shrugged. “I guess he was going to give me your job.”


    Yuthura did not seem impressed. “Yes, and why are you telling me this?”


    “It's a contact poison. I was to affix it to your bed so that it would slowly poison you in your sleep. However, I may have taken a wrong turn somewhere and attached it to Master Uthar's bed.”


    As understanding dawned on Yuthura, she smiled wickedly. “You're good at this. Possibly too good, but such is the way of the Sith. You'll have my job, all right, after I take Master Uthar's.”


    Aiden shrugged modestly. “My goal was to gain prestige with the Academy s Master. I figured he'd take a liking to me if I foiled a plot against him.”


    “Unorthodox,” Yuthura smiled. “But again, that is why you're here in the first place.”


    Aiden gave her a slight bow. “I aim to please.”


    “Take the gauntlets to Master Uthar. He will be pleased. I will arrange for your trials to begin in the morning- rest as best you can, I suspect you will need it.”


    With that, Aiden bowed one last time and turned to leave the room. His boots echoed in the hallway and the rhythm pounded in his head. The tomb of Naga Sadow. This was his goal- his destiny. The Star Map was in there, and with it, he d be one step closer to defeating Malak once and for all. He would defeat Malak, save Bastila, and then find some forsaken corner of the galaxy where no one could bother him and retire. He knew he wasn't old, but he certainly felt it some days.


    He shook his head. Rest, that's all he needed. He'd barely gotten any since coming to Korriban, and tomorrow was shaping up to be rather important.


    Sleep, then Star Map, he thought. All he had to do was make it through one more day.
    Last edited by Commander-DWH, Jun 14, 2017
  4. SoA Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2008
    star 3
    Finally.

    Aiden is growing more amusing. I can totally support his wish to retire after all this. It has been a traumatic couple of months.

    Hoorah for Dustil too.
  5. LaForzaViva Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2008
    star 1
    Finalmente!

    Also add me to the PM list in case you're doing one. I love how Aiden reacts to the stress in the academy - that's something definitely unexplored by the game when you send a Jedi down into the academy to just sort of hang out with the Sithly folks. And I liked the perspective from Dustil and his wondering who the real adults were.

    More por favor!
  6. RK_Striker_JK_5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2003
    star 7
    Keep me on the PM list, please. :) Also, some interesting twists and turns, there. I take it the droid in the cave was part of the game?
  7. Commander-DWH Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 3, 2003
    star 4
    SoA: In fairness, you are part of my distraction from writing. :p

    LaForzaViva: Absolutely! I know this next part was a long time in coming, but from here on out it should be less spread out. I'm so glad you're enjoying the story!

    Striker: Yeah, the droid was actually one of my favourite caves. There's something hilarious to me about the mental image of a droid just wandering out and rocketing off to freedom. :D Thanks for your continued patience with my slow updates.

    And on that note, I actually wrote... not all the way to the end, but very near it for NaNoWriMo. Some of it's a little garbled, but it's within fairly easy editing distance. In any case, the posting interval should be much shorter now that I have so much of it finished. Huzzah!

    Chapter 42

    For perhaps the millionth time since arriving on Korriban, Aiden wondered what in the name of the Force he was doing.

    Masters Uthar and Yuthura had left him at the mouth of Naga Sadow?s tomb with little to guide him but for his goal of retrieving his true Sith lightsaber at the end. After all, they couldn?t have him running around with that distinctive Jedi blue longer than they had to. Frankly, he?d been surprised they hadn?t made him swap out the crystal sooner. Maybe they were trying to make him feel like he couldn?t belong until he had earned it? Whatever their reasons, Aiden wasn?t about to try to sort them all out. Not now, with the biggest trial he?d faced so far before him, and without his friends there to help him.

    He closed his eyes and tried to center himself by reaching into that place where he?d always been able to find Bastila. He hadn?t felt her there since Malak took her, but it was a reflex he couldn?t shake, and didn?t really want to. It was probably a silly hope, but he couldn?t help but believe that one day, he?d look there and her presence would be there, comforting and judging and friendly and critical and everything that made Bastila a good teacher and a good friend all at once. Sure, she drove everyone a little crazy, but he?d grown to like her for it. Maybe even more than that, but she?d been ripped away before he?d had the chance to do anything to figure that out.

    Shaking his head, he tried his best to clear such thoughts from his head. If this tomb was anything like the others, and all reports held that it was much worse, he was going to have to be paying the best of attention to his surroundings if he had any hope of surviving.

    With no map in hand and no real idea of the layout of the tomb, besides knowing that there were some large and angry lifeforms down the corridor to his right, he decided to explore the area to the left first.

    His footsteps echoed eerily in the hallways. The only other sound was the distant grunting of what sounded like more than one wraid, and the pounding of his heart in his ears. He tried to breathe deeply and slowly as he pressed forward. Fear would do him no good. Fear was the path to the dark side. The dark side was why he was here in the first place. He shook his head again, as though it would fling the unwanted thoughts out his ears and splatter them against the stone walls. He couldn?t dwell on that, not here, not now-

    THWUMMMP.

    All concerns about the dark side left his head immediately as he spun around, just in time to see the door he hadn?t even noticed behind him slide closed. He jogged the few steps back to it and pushed, but it had no give. Across the way, he saw an identical door, also closed.

    ?Great, just great,? he sighed aloud. The sound of his own voice was somewhat startling, but made it seem a little less lonely in there. ?Well, either this is the lamest trap the Sith have ever come up with to weed out initiates, or there is a way out.?

    Examining the room, he could see that there was a large and ancient looking mechanical apparatus, hooked up to a computer that was older than any he?d seen this side of a Star Map. Who knew, maybe it was even from the same era. Seeing nothing else to do in the room, he blew the dust off the
  8. SoA Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2008
    star 3
    That was well worth the wait. Well done including those infuriating tomb puzzles. I particularily enjoyed the banter between Aiden and Yuthura at the end. For an ex-Sith Lord, Aiden really is pretty chill.
  9. RK_Striker_JK_5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2003
    star 7
    Aye, worth the wait. Ah, Aiden. Out of the frying pan and all that. [face_laugh] You almost make me want to play the games.
  10. Commander-DWH Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 3, 2003
    star 4
    Thanks for reading before the move, SoA and Striker! Unfortunately, anyone who didn't see that last chapter in the week before the old boards closed now can't read it due to truncated posts.

    Now, I'm left with a few options. I've actually written at least three chapters beyond this one (I haven't divided it all up yet, but it's there), and am in fact almost done with the story as a whole. Yay being almost finished! Unfortunately, new readers are going to be super lost because, well, most of the story isn't here anymore. I also can't just have an epic copy pasta session, since the document containing this story is extremely large, has been corrupted and rescued.... and has about 200 pages with no punctuation. Clearly this is no good. And I'm a little reluctant to fix up the punctuation when my big project for November is a massive global edit of this story.

    I hate leaving new readers out in the cold, but I also don't want to make those of you who have been reading this story since the beginning (seven years now! Yikes, this has taken me a long time) wait even longer for the end.

    So, I guess my question is how you guys would like to experience the end. Should I:

    • Be evil, start the global edit and make you wait for another 6-12 months to get to the end
    • Post the rest really quickly! I WANT MAH STORY ENDING NOW.
    • Post at a normal-ish rate, finish it up, finish the global edit, and start over.
    I'll probably post on a weekly or biweekly basis from here to the end, since, oh hey, it's almost finished. But I'd like your feedback, as consumers of the story.
    Unrelatedly, the copy/paste format preservation on these boards is GLORIOUS. Posting has never been so easy! [face_love]

    Anyway, enough of my yammering. Here it is again, in all its untruncated glory:

    Chapter 42

    For perhaps the millionth time since arriving on Korriban, Aiden wondered what in the name of the Force he was doing.

    Masters Uthar and Yuthura had left him at the mouth of Naga Sadow’s tomb with little to guide him but for his goal of retrieving his true Sith lightsaber at the end. After all, they couldn’t have him running around with that distinctive Jedi blue longer than they had to. Frankly, he’d been surprised they hadn’t made him swap out the crystal sooner. Maybe they were trying to make him feel like he couldn’t belong until he had earned it? Whatever their reasons, Aiden wasn’t about to try to sort them all out. Not now, with the biggest trial he’d faced so far before him, and without his friends there to help him.

    He closed his eyes and tried to center himself by reaching into that place where he’d always been able to find Bastila. He hadn’t felt her there since Malak took her, but it was a reflex he couldn’t shake, and didn’t really want to. It was probably a silly hope, but he couldn’t help but believe that one day, he’d look there and her presence would be there, comforting and judging and friendly and critical and everything that made Bastila a good teacher and a good friend all at once. Sure, she drove everyone a little crazy, but he’d grown to like her for it. Maybe even more than that, but she’d been ripped away before he’d had the chance to do anything to figure that out.

    Shaking his head, he tried his best to clear such thoughts from his head. If this tomb was anything like the others, and all reports held that it was much worse, he was going to have to be paying the best of attention to his surroundings if he had any hope of surviving.

    With no map in hand and no real idea of the layout of the tomb, besides knowing that there were some large and angry lifeforms down the corridor to his right, he decided to explore the area to the left first.

    His footsteps echoed eerily in the hallways. The only other sound was the distant grunting of what sounded like more than one wraid, and the pounding of his heart in his ears. He tried to breathe deeply and slowly as he pressed forward. Fear would do him no good. Fear was the path to the dark side. The dark side was why he was here in the first place. He shook his head again, as though it would fling the unwanted thoughts out his ears and splatter them against the stone walls. He couldn’t dwell on that, not here, not now-

    THWUMMMP.

    All concerns about the dark side left his head immediately as he spun around, just in time to see the door he hadn’t even noticed behind him slide closed. He jogged the few steps back to it and pushed, but it had no give. Across the way, he saw an identical door, also closed.

    “Great, just great,” he sighed aloud. The sound of his own voice was somewhat startling, but made it seem a little less lonely in there. “Well, either this is the lamest trap the Sith have ever come up with to weed out initiates, or there is a way out.”

    Examining the room, he could see that there was a large and ancient looking mechanical apparatus, hooked up to a computer that was older than any he’d seen this side of a Star Map. Who knew, maybe it was even from the same era. Seeing nothing else to do in the room, he blew the dust off the terminal and activated the power button.

    The machine thrummed ominously to life as the screen lit up, displaying energy levels for four systems, and controls that seemed to indicate he could transfer them between the three pillars.


    “Caution,” he read, “’Some of the systems are very delicate and an improper transfer of power can cause the system to overload. To unseal the chamber, you must transfer all the power systems to the rightmost pillar.’ Well, isn’t that the best thing I’ve read all day? Ancient computer systems and puzzles. Just what I always wanted.” He paused, as if one of his companions would magically materialize and supply a witty reply, but was greeted only with the continuous thrum of the towers. “I guess I’ll just have to do… whatever this thing wants me to do.”

    He scrutinized the instructions detailing how he could transfer the power, wishing fervently that Carth or Canderous or even Mission were there with him. All of them, he was pretty sure, had a better grasp on mechanics than he did, and this looked like an engineering problem.

    Breathe, he reminded himself. Somewhere inside you is the guy who built HK-47. Just remember that. After several deep, calming breaths, he managed to steady himself, reaching to the Force for inspiration. As he sank deeper into its currents, he could feel the thrum of the energy, nearly a life force of its own. Even when he closed his eyes, he could see the particles swirling around, and the delicate balance between them.

    Energy. It’s just another part of life, a part of the Force. The more he calmed himself, the more obvious this fact became. He thought back to the Leviathan, when Leiraya discharged excess electricity from Carth’s body, and ventured a small smile. In matters of the Force, he knew he was on top of things, and now that he’d made the connection, the puzzle didn’t seem so intimidating. Looking back at the screen, he began to manipulate controls, ever feeling the balance of the energy, and listening when the Force suggested that his next move would end poorly. It was a concert of electrons, and he was the conductor. He was half tempted to wave his arms around in a pantomime of what he felt like he was doing, but he also realized he lacked the grace to carry off such a thing, even in private.

    It was a mere matter of minutes before the puzzle was solved. So attuned to the flow of the energy was he that it was startling when, after a brief moment of pure harmony, the entire system shut down and the doors pulled open.

    Grinning to himself, he couldn’t help but chuckle. “Not bad, Star. Not bad at all.”

    He walked through the door to face a giant statue of who he assumed to be Naga Sadow himself, judging by the ominous expression. Mounted directly beneath it was a sword. Aiden picked it up and looked at it critically. He caught a whiff of what smelled like poison and held it far from his face. “Poison blade. Yeah, that’s a tool of the Sith.” Shrugging, he decided to hold on to it. If he wasn’t mistaken, the two angry lifeforms he’d felt down the other end of the hall were Tarantareks, and he’d barely survived meeting them before even with the help of his friends. Poison was a pretty underhanded tool, but anything to weaken that grade of monster was a good thing in his book.

    As he made his way back down the hallway, he tried to formulate a plan based on the things he had with him. Too bad I didn’t think to bring Leiraya’s bag of goodies, he lamented internally. Land mines had proven extremely effective against the Tarantarek on Kashyyyk, and he simply didn’t have room to carry any in his belt pouches. A quick inventory of his supplies included a blaster pistol, his lightsaber, a plasma grenade, a sonic grenade, and now a poisoned sword.

    He slowed his approach, knowing the Tarantarek in the next room would be able to smell their next Force-sensitive meal before too long. He wanted to think he could enter the room, perhaps strike a heroic pose, and Jedi his way out of things. However, he knew better than that. Hefting the sonic grenade, he held back and waited until he could sense the two monsters were situated in the same relative area of the room. Once they were, he wasted no time. He ran like a man with nothing left to lose into the cavern, and hurled the grenade at the monsters, using the Force to land it directly between the two Tarantarek even as they turned to face him. He braced himself against the shock, building a wall of Force energy to act as a buffer. When the shock subsided, the two stunned looking monsters still lumbered towards him, but more slowly.

    Heroics be damned. He hurled the poison blade at them and began his run, guiding the blade to strike each one at what he hoped was a weak point, before calling it back to his hand as he ran through the rest of the cavern at a full sprint and dove through the far doorway whose door was mercifully too small for the Tarantarek to follow, even if he hadn’t hurt them. He picked himself off the ground and brushed the dust from his increasingly abused robes, which bore a couple of fresh tears from the dive. Surveying the room, he found himself faced with two opposing obelisks- one appeared to be made of molten rock, and the other of ice. Neither exuded any temperature difference, so he assumed the effect to be for the drama, but it was certainly compelling. Upon further investigation, both held grenades. He pocketed both, knowing that if he only chose one, he’d want the other.

    “Nothing else in the room? Great.” He took a deep breath. “I could go out there and face the ugly Sith monsters, or just… talk to myself.” He paused. “Yeah, I should not make a habit of this talking to myself thing.”

    Peering through the doorway, the Tarantarek were still slowed, but clearly angry. Hopefully his poison was setting in. Maybe if he just sat here, they’d die on their own… or, the poison will wear off and I’ll have to fight them at full strength. No, better to get this over with while they’re weak.

    He armed the plasma grenade and tossed it in their direction, ducking back behind the door as he did so. He’d already gotten one nasty burn from fighting these monsters, he didn’t need any more.

    The explosion nearly rocked him off his feet and he could feel the heat exuding from the entryway. Not wanting to waste any time, he held the poison blade in his off-hand and lit his lightsaber in the other and charged into the main cavern. He was greeted by the sight of charred walls and two injured and very angry Tarantarek. Centering himself as best he could, he ran straight at the one that seemed weaker, launching into a flying flip over its head. As he reached the apex, he thrust down into what he was pretty sure was the area between the creature’s head and neck with both blades. The poison blade barely impacted, but the lightsaber punched through. He heard an angry wail as he completed his path towards the ground, curling into a ball and hitting the ground in a rolling somersault back to his feet. The Tarantarek lurched a few more meters before collapsing. He couldn’t allow himself any moment of satisfaction, however, as one beast still remained, and much as a large part of him wanted to run, he also knew that the galaxy would be a better place without any such creatures in it.

    He jogged away from the remaining beast, running through his options. He’d used his grenades, and he wasn’t sure he’d get as good a shot at the other Tarantarek just by jumping over it. What he needed was space between him and the monster, and to switch things up a little. Still running, he deactivated his lightsaber and clipped it to his belt, and retrieved the blaster pistol he’d brought from its holster. This will either work, or kill me. One of the two. Aiden squeezed his eyes shut and threw himself fully into the Force. Without breaking his stride, he threw his arm back and let the currents of the Force guide his aim. The first bolt hit the monster above the eye, and it barely left a mark. It irritated the creature, though, as it threw its head back in an angry roar. Aiden seized the chance. He stood his ground, turned around, and as the monster’s head came back down, still open, he hurled the poison blade directly into the monster’s gaping maw, firing shots into the soft tissue of his mouth. It lumbered towards Aiden, waving its craggy arms in pain and desperation before falling forward and letting out a final heaving breath, stopping only inches from Aiden’s feet. He could smell the beast’s acrid breath as it rolled over him in waves, but he was too stunned to be nauseous.

    Aiden stood still for a full minute, breathing heavily and processing the fact that somehow, in spite of the extreme stupidity of his heroics in that moment, he was alive. Alive.Either I am amazing, or the Force really can’t stand to see me die. He suspected the later was the case, else he never would have gotten himself into this position in the first place by being captured by Bastila.

    Bastila. The thought smacked him back into the present, and the task at hand. He wasn’t just in here to slay ancient Sith monsters, he was here to retrieve the Star Map. Forcing himself to move, he jogged around the corpse of the Tarantarek and back down the corridor. Reaching the center of the corridor, he looked to his right. It was the only path he hadn’t yet taken, and he was pretty sure the Star Map was that way. It was hard to sort out any sort of concentration of dark side energy on this planet, but something about that direction called to him.

    He made his way down the hall, stepping over bones and other, fresher remains of those who he could only assume never successfully completed their Sith trials. He shook his head sadly. What must it be like, he mused, not knowing if you’ll survive to join the Order of your choosing? The Jedi were tough taskmasters, and he seriously questioned their ethics in their dealings with him, but if there was one thing he could say with absolute certainty about the Jedi order is that if at all possible, they refused to let you die. If having your identity replaced is living.

    His journey ended at the edge of a pool of acid. The acrid smell pierced his nose; his gloved hand flew quickly up to shield it from the burning sensation as he took a few steps back. “Well,” he said out loud, “I did not see that coming.”

    * * *

    Carth paced while Leiraya nervously gathered their few belongings into a contained area. “In case we need to make a hasty retreat,” she’d said, and he’d agreed. Still, it was hard to stand here, not able to do anything. Even slipping into the cafeteria for a bite to eat was torturous- Aiden hadn’t been there long, but as was his tradition, he made a huge impression, and quickly. He’d gone from being some clown who won his entry in a drinking contest to a serious threat, and it did not escape the notice of the other Sith initiates that he brought his own people with him. He was no Jedi, but he could feel their coldly calculating eyes on his back the entire time. Even Leiraya, who was by far better equipped to defend herself if they decided to attack, shuffled out of the hall as quickly as she could.

    He didn’t bother to ask her if she thought Aiden was fine. She would have known if something bad happened, and hopefully long enough before the other Sith did that they’d be able to make a run for the Hawk if necessary. Stop thinking that, Carth admonished himself. Aiden knows what he’s doing.

    Leiraya stopped her packing to walk over to him and place her hand on his cheek. “Don’t worry,” she said, as cheerfully as she could manage. “Aiden’s gotten himself out of plenty of terrible situations.”

    “Yeah, and he usually had us, or other people on the crew to help him,” he replied, but his gaze softened. “Do you ever step back and look around yourself and wonder how you got to where you’re standing right now?”

    Leiraya nodded. “It’s a little insane.”

    Carth sighed. “I’ll be happy when I can go back to my normal job.”

    “And give up this life of espionage?” She teased, pulling him in for a quick hug. “Yeah, I think I agree.”

    “Are we ready to make a run when we need to?”

    Leiraya stepped back and held up her bag of assorted supplies. “It’s mostly in here.”

    “And that dancer’s outfit Aiden put you in the first day?”

    Leiraya frowned. “I don’t have room to pack it in here. If we run, it stays. What would I even use it for?”

    Carth shrugged innocently. “I’m just saying, it wasn’t a bad look for you.”

    “Sure, flyboy.” She raised an eyebrow, but grinned mischievously. “It was a pretty fantastic skirt, I’ll give you that. If by some miracle we don’t have to run for our lives, I’ll grab it on our way out.”

    “That sounds like a great plan.” He allowed himself a smile and pulled her in for a kiss.

    “Mmmph,” she grinned, pulling away. “Trying to distract yourself?”

    “Any objections?”

    “Not really,” she said, leaning back in for another, deeper kiss, allowing herself to ignore the dangers of the Academy around them, even if only for a short time.

    It wasn’t until she looked up and was reminded of the Academy’s open floor plan that she broke the kiss. “Uh.”

    Carth looked mildly worried, but chuckled. “What, is my breath that bad?”

    “More to the point,” she nodded her head towards the open corridor, “this place has no doors.”

    He groaned and laughed all at once, falling back and pulling her down by his side. “Right. Can’t have any funny business going on between initiates.”

    “Aiden did mention that they think love is dangerous.” Leiraya ran a hand through his hair. “So yes, definitely no funny business.”

    “It’s probably better for us to be alert whenever Aiden needs us,” Carth admitted ruefully. “Even though I was having more fun before you pointed out the door problem.”

    “I know, I’m just no fun at all.” She curled up. “Nothing says we can’t sit and wait instead of pace and wait.”

    “Nothing at all,” he agreed, pulling her close. “In fact, I like this much better.”

    “Me too.”

    * * *

    Aiden weighed the two grenades in his hand, ice and fire. He was pretty sure that one of these would get him across the pool of acid, and it didn’t take him long to decide that tossing a fire grenade into a pool of acid sounded like a supremely bad idea. Without a further thought of potential consequences, in part because he was too damn tired to analyze anything else, he threw the grenade into the center of the pool. The effect was impressive- the initial splash froze almost exactly in place, and the acid rapidly crystallized out from the center until it hit the edge of the pool. It was mere seconds before the pool appeared solid. He ripped a loose bit of fabric from his tunic and tossed it on the frozen acid at his feet. It didn’t burn, so he shrugged and moved forward. His boots only had moderate traction so he had to concentrate on keeping his balance- no telling how deep this pool was, or if he hit it at any sort of speed if he’d break the surface and burn himself to death. Fortunately, he never had to find out. He stepped on the other side of the pool and through a new door. Before him stood an all too familiar sight. He reached forward and stroked a control panel, and the Star Map folded open. Pulling his datapad out of the one large pocket he had, he plugged it into the map and set it to download the data before looking around the room.

    On the far wall was his supposed prize- a Sith lightsaber. It was all sharp edges and hardness, its silver pommel never quite round. It was almost as though it had been taken from a stone and polished into its current sheen. He flipped it on, the red blade thrumming to life. He’d had one just like this, once. It felt alien in his hands, and he wondered if that meant he really was the Jedi the council seemed to be trying to make him. Or maybe it was just that the weight of it was wrong. His old saber had always felt more balanced, and sat comfortably in his palm like it belonged there even before he built it.

    Aiden blinked, and almost dropped the saber. Where the hell did that come from? Was it holding a Sith saber again? He knew he couldn’t go back without it, but suddenly he had much less of a desire to touch it. He unclipped his Jedi saber and hooked the Sith saber to his belt, hoping that maybe holding the other saber would return his equilibrium.

    The datapad pinged as the data transfer finished, and he hastily gathered his things and made his way back across the acid pool and back to the tomb’s entryway.

    Master Uthar and Yuthura were waiting for him upon his arrival. “Congratulations,” Master Uthar intoned, sounding genuinely pleased. “I see you have retrieved the lightsaber, though you do not carry it. Curious.”

    Aiden tried to shrug nonchalantly. “I like the balance of this one better. I made it for myself, after all.”

    Master Uthar seemed unimpressed, but shrugged microscopically. “It is of little consequence. You can build another, if you like. But first, I do believe we have some business to deal with.” He turned to Yuthura. “I’m sorry, but I do believe I have found your replacement.”

    “Do you?” Yuthura raised her eyebrow nonchalantly. “I think not.”

    He grinned wickedly. “Oh, how little you know, Yuthura. Your overconfidence was always your weakness.”

    “No,” she shot back, “the overconfidence in this case is all yours. That poison you tried to give me? Please. I’m insulted you’d send an initiate to do your dirty work for you.”

    Master Uthar’s eyes narrowed. “You found it? It doesn’t matter, Initiate Star and I are more than a match for the likes of you.”

    “No, you blind fool,” Yuthura bit out. “If you had any understanding at all, you’d have realized by now that you’re the one who was poisoned.” She cast a glance over at Aiden. “You did put the vial in his quarters, didn’t you?”

    “It’s a slow working agent,” Uthar replied, understanding setting in. “But the effect is irreversible, and incurable. Blast. And here I thought you scoffed the idea of sending an initiate to do the work.”

    Yuthura shrugged. “He did it of his own initiative. That’s how he did a lot of things. It’s why I chose him to replace me when I take your job.”

    Master Uthar scowled. “So. You’re siding with her, then, Initiate?”

    Aiden nodded. “She did teach me most of what I learned here.”

    “So be it.” He grasped his lightsaber and lit it. “If I die, you will both be joining me.”

    Faster than Aiden would have thought possible from a man who had been ingesting poison over the last couple of days, Uthar charged between the two of them. Aiden lit his blue saber immediately, spinning out of the way and deflecting the crimson blade as it came down towards his head. So, Master Uthar thinks I’m probably the easier kill. His mistake. Aiden was pretty sure in a one-on-one battle he could have taken the Sith Master, but with Yuthura on his side, they had the clear advantage. She was already twisting and leaping, her red saber twirling gracefully through the air. In some ways, her style was what he imagined a very angry Leiraya’s might have been- all grace and beauty, but extremely deadly.

    With two opponents, Uthar was left with little choice but to try incapacitating one. Lightning arced from his fingertips towards Aiden. He caught the bolts on his saber, inching ever closer to the enraged but clearly weakening Sith Master. Yuthura kept up her flurry of assaults from the other side, holding his attention enough that he wasn’t paying attention to Aiden’s steady advance. He snarled. “You think you can win this?”

    Yuthura held his gaze and her stance, deflecting each of his blows with ease. “Yes.” Whirling around, she grabbed a pile of rocks from the corner with the Force and flung them directly at Uthar. His eyes widened, and he ceased his lightning attack as he warded off the rocks flying at him, but he was not fast enough to stop both the blades of Aiden and Yuthura. Aiden’s blade connected at his shoulder, and continued down, cutting straight through his arm. Uthar collapsed, breathing heavily and uttering obscenities in what Aiden determined was at least three languages before trailing off. When his breath stopped completely, Aiden looked up at Yuthura. “Well, then.”

    Yuthura smiled broadly. “Well, indeed. You’re a strong fighter, Star. No wonder you came out of all of those tombs alive.”

    “I’ve got a few miles on me,” he admitted, deactivating his blade and stepping back.

    “I expect there will be many more, though I feel you’re almost wasted here at the Academy.”

    “Actually, you’re right about that one.” Aiden said carefully. “I can’t stay.”

    “What?” Yuthura looked at him in confusion. “I’m not going to say I can make you stay, but why ever not?”

    “The truth is,” Aiden admitted, “and I’m a little surprised you hadn’t noticed sooner, I’m here on a mission with the Jedi.”

    Yuthura crossed her arms. “I have a feeling it wasn’t just to oust Master Uthar.”

    “No,” he shook his head. “It’s much bigger than that.”

    “Bold of you, coming right out and saying it like that.” She narrowed her eyes. “I should kill you for such treachery.”

    “You could try, but two things.” Aiden held up a finger. “First, you know I could take you in a fight after this. Second,” he held up another finger and smiled knowingly, “such treachery is why you like me.”

    She sighed in exasperation. “I can’t do anything with you, can I?”

    “Should have seen that coming when I got in through a drinking contest.”

    “True enough.” She finally deactivated her own lightsaber and put it on her belt. “So, do you expect me to just let you go, then?”

    Aiden shrugged. “Your choice. I actually do like you, and don’t really want to kill you. You don’t seem as evil as most of the people who would have happily taken your job in my place.”

    “Evil is relative,” Yuthura shot back. “I don’t share the same lust for blood and violence as many others here, it’s true. But I am just as Sith as any of them- as are you.”

    “You don’t even know the half of it,” Aiden replied flatly. “I’m just saying, you don’t have to stay here. The other students, at least the ones everyone seems to notice, are seriously disturbed.”

    “And you don’t even know the half of that,” Yuthura quirked a smile. “Go. I won’t chase you down, but you’d better leave before the other students find out what happened.”

    Aiden nodded. “Just remember, I told you I think you’re a decent person.”

    “Out, Star, before I change my mind.”

    He grinned and gave her a mock salute. “Thanks for the Sith lessons.” With that, he released the door to the cave and jogged out.

    * * *

    Mission flopped over on the narrow bunk. “They’re never coming back. I’ll bet some Sith killed them all days ago, and we’re just stuck in here forever.”

    “That is not true,” Juhani insisted. “And we have not been here that long. You are just tired of being inside.”

    “Inside, I can handle.” She flipped herself back up again. “I spent my whole life growing up in the Lower City, where the sun is just an idea. But this space is just so small.” She fell back on her pillow. “Like any time Griff was in trouble.”

    “Your brother?” Juhani asked gently. “It must have been difficult living with him.”

    “Difficult, yeah.” Mission sniffed. “I loved him, you know. I thought he was coming back for me. I even tried to blame that table dancing schutta Lena for taking him away from me. But… he would have come for me if he really cared. No matter how much trouble he was in, he always came for me. This time he just… didn’t.”

    “But you still love him,” Juhani replied, sympathetically.

    Mission looked up at her. “He’s my brother. I can’t not love him.”

    “Sure you can,” Canderous’ gruff voice came from the hallway. “I saw more than one Mandalorian take out his brother because he was fighting dishonorably.”

    Mission sat up again. “We don’t do stuff like that in the real galaxy, Canderous.”

    He merely shrugged. “Galaxy seemed real enough to me.”

    “And yet we still beat the pants off you.” Aiden’s voice sounded from the entryway, and he poked his head around the corner to wave hello. “Anyone else ready to get the hell off this Force-forsaken planet?”

    Zaalbar’s roar could be heard from all the way across the ship, and Mission jumped up enthusiastically. “Finally. Geez, you guys took long enough.”

    “He broke just about every curve they had as it was,” Carth replied, taking off the nondescript brown robe he’d been wearing and tossing it in a storage bin. “What’s our next step?”

    “Get off this planet, and then analyze the Star Map data we have.” Aiden sighed. “I suppose we still have to find the map on Manaan, don’t we?”

    “Maybe not,” Jolee offered. “I don’t know much about this technology, but even since I’ve joined you all, I’ve noticed these maps have started to repair themselves. It’s like bringing them together makes them stronger.”

    “Huh.” Aiden scratched his head, then shrugged. “Well, let’s find an empty piece of space far from here, where we can plot our next move.”

    “You got it,” Carth grinned, and headed for the cockpit. “Strap in everyone, we are leaving as soon as I get this baby warmed up.”

    There was a flurry of activity, strapping things into place that had been sitting loose, and making sure everyone was on board. By the time Carth had permission to depart, everyone was safely on board and strapped in.

    As the Ebon Hawk soared into space, the entire crew breathed a collective sigh of relief. For just a moment, they could breathe.

    * * *

    I'll post the next chapter soon! Sooooooon. This 'already having stuff written' thing is pretty awesome. I should do it more often. :p
  11. RK_Striker_JK_5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2003
    star 7
    I vote for normal rate. Also, due to the new follow feature, no need for PMs for updates anymore. *Tracks*
  12. emerald54 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2007
    star 1
    Ooh, lookit that, update! :D

    I really love how you pointed out that Aiden is a Jedi, he's also a little bit Sith. And, how Mission says she still loves her brother. It rings true for me.

    Also, normal speed, which anyone that looks at my driving record would laugh at.
  13. Commander-DWH Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 3, 2003
    star 4
    Striker - Noted! I'll also take you out of the PM pool, though if you ever want to go back to that method rather than thread notifications, just let me know. :)

    emerald54 - Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the chapter, belated though it may be.

    Since it looks like the vote is for a normal rate, a normal rate it shall be! I'll probably post about once a week, barring DRL and such (I'm going on vacation in October, so there'll be a blip in there). So with that, I give you the next chapter!

    Chapter 43


    Aiden peered at the data swirling before them. “So, this isn’t an entire galaxy.”

    “It’s not,” Carth agreed. “There is definitely still some missing data.”

    “So, Manaan.” Aiden groaned. “Do you know how much I don’t want to go to Manaan?”

    “A lot,” Leiraya supplied.

    Jolee squinted. “What are you looking for, here?”

    Aiden rubbed his temple wearily. “The location of the Star Forge. If we don’t have everything, we can’t find the planet?”

    “Have you even looked closely at the map?”

    Aiden blinked. “No, because it’s missing data.”

    Jolee looked at him in exasperation. “Missing data only matters if it’s data you need. You didn’t even check to see if your Star Forge was on there, did you?”

    Aiden, Leiraya, and Carth all looked at each other sheepishly. “Maybe we should have tried getting a full nights’ sleep before attempting this,” Leiraya laughed, her face resting firmly on her palm. “Or had anyone else look at it.”

    Jolee shrugged. “You let an extra set of eyes nose in on your proceedings.” He leaned in. “So here’s Tatooine, Kashyyyk, and Korriban,” he said, pointing out each planet in turn. “This fourth planet, however, is not Manaan.”

    They all leaned in close, and Aiden squinted at the dot Jolee was pointing at. “Let’s get its coordinates into the navicomputer. Where’s T3?”

    A helpful whistle sounded from the corridor, and Aiden grinned. “Let’s find out what this mystery planet is.”

    They made a semi-organized rush into the cockpit, where T3 was already plugged in and feeding the coordinates from the Star Map data collection into the Hawk’s navicomputer. A single planet profile popped up on the screen in front of them.

    “Lehon?” Carth read aloud. “Never heard of it.”

    “Usually there’s a reason why for such things.” Jolee rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Revan went to a great deal of trouble to make sure nobody else could find this planet.”

    Aiden looked up at Carth. “Can you get us there?”

    Carth punched the numbers into the ship’s controls. “It’ll be two days’ travel from here, but we have the fuel to make it.”

    “Then let’s do it. And then,” he stretched, letting out a monsterous yawn, “mandatory sleeping. Both of you. And me. I guess I can’t enforce it because I will be asleep, but just know that I’ll be really disappointed in you both if I find out you were awake the whole time.”

    Leiraya leaned against Carth’s shoulder. “Believe me, there are no arguments here.”

    “None at all,” Carth agreed, setting the last few dials into place before pulling the hyperspace lever. “I never thought I’d be so excited to sleep on a ship’s bunk.”

    “Then to sleep with us all,” Aiden gestured grandly towards the doorway. “Our problems will still be here when we wake up, but at least we’re not surrounded by Sith anymore. For now.”

    “We’re not thinking about that yet.” Leiraya replied, walking out the room.

    “Right.” Aiden followed.

    Jolee could only shake his head as he watched the weary three depart the cockpit. He’d only gleaned a few small stories of what had happened during their time on Korriban, but it had clearly taken a toll on all of them. He didn’t put much stock in reading destiny, but even he couldn’t deny that what was facing them next was huge, and they’d all need to be at their best.

    Jolee chuckled. Well, this is why I left the forest. On a crazy treasure hunt across the galaxy for something that they only had a name for. The Force kept his life interesting, that much was certain.

    * * *

    Aiden woke exhausted. A quick glance at his chronometer told him that it was something like a reasonable hour of the morning, and his ears were telling him that people were up and milling around the ship. Unwilling to get up, however, he pulled his blanket in tighter, rolled over, and closed his eyes.

    Unfortunately, while his body was unwilling to move, it was also unwilling to let him drift back off into sleep. So there he stayed, with nothing but his thoughts. He’d had more than enough of that lately, but at least now he was surrounded by allies instead of enemies who could read any stray emotions he let loose. That in itself was a relief- he hadn’t slept a full night since they’d landed on Korriban, and that was probably why even now he was tired.

    He let his mind drift, hoping it would find its way to more pleasant shores. Unfortunately, it ended up drifting to memories he now knew to be false- friends and family from Deralia, laughing and smiling and telling him they were so proud of all he’d done. He wondered when the false Aiden’s memories ended and his began- the most he was sure of was everything since the Endar Spire. That was where he met Carth, and everybody knew Carth wasn’t in on the conspiracy. Up until that point, though? He had no idea. There was no serious gap in his memory. He followed the lines back, trying to trace to where something rang false, but it was proving difficult. There was an authenticity to the memories that couldn’t be denied, which Aiden supposed meant that the memories did, in fact, belong to somebody else. He turned over on his bunk again, disquieted by the thought. Would such a person still be alive? How did the Jedi get permission to access someone else’s memory like that? He shook his head. These were questions for a man far less exhausted than himself. Right now, all he wanted to do was lie there and wish that the galaxy’s problems would solve themselves without his intervention. He’d apparently been the cause of them all in the first place; maybe the galaxy would appreciate him stepping out of the fray.

    That, of course, he could not do. Not now, when he was so close, and with Bastila unaccounted for. Her absence was even more acute now that he was back with the whole crew. Their collective Force signature had become a familiar and comforting thing for him, since generally if everyone was in the same place, they were safely away from whatever dangers they’d been facing. Just as surely as a missing instrument would impact a symphony, Bastila’s missing presence was a sad gap in the group dynamic. It was the kind of constant bother that was like to drive him to distraction if he wasn’t careful. He just had to remember to focus on what was important: getting to Malak, presumably by way of the Star Forge, and rescuing her. At this point, he was pretty sure he cared more about that than finding the Star Forge- she may have been the reason he was here like this, but she gave herself up so he could go and save the galaxy.

    Heaving a sigh, he reluctantly sat up. He wasn’t ready to get out of bed, not really, but his stomach was starting to make noises and he wasn’t doing himself any favours by lying there alone with his thoughts. He quickly pulled on a clean robe and slid into his boots, then entered the main hold.

    Mission looked up brightly when she saw him come in. “You’re okay! Did you sleep all right? We tried to make sure Canderous wasn’t going to go tromping around all bad and Mandalorian-like, but he thought we were exaggerating about the amount of noise he makes.” She paused to take a breath. “Do you want some caf?”

    “You have no idea how much,” he said and slid into the nearest seat of the small table. “Not enough caf in the universe right now.”

    T3 offered a series of whistles and beeps. When Aiden looked at the droid blankly, HK helpfully translated, “Statement: the tiny astromech merely points out that there exist sufficient quantities of caf in the universe to kill a man much larger than yourself, so somewhere between your current state of grogginess and death, there is an amount of caf that would rouse you.”

    “Thank you, HK. And T3.” Aiden shook his head ruefully. “I really don’t know how I’d get along without you.”

    “Answer: Poorly, I suspect.”

    “Duly noted.” Aiden nodded gratefully as Mission handed him a steaming cup of caf.

    “It’s as strong as I could get it,” Mission promised. “This stuff can make Big Z jitter sometimes, so hopefully it’ll get you moving.”

    “Thanks,” Aiden replied, taking a sip. It was strong, though not the strongest thing he’d had in recent days. Still, it would at least get him through a respectable portion of the day before crashing again.

    “Good to see you’re still functioning,” Canderous nodded in his direction as he walked into the main hold. “I see you got the Star Map.”

    Aiden raised his mug. “And thank goodness for it having all the information we need. We’re heading to a planet called Lehon, and everything I know about it I learned from the records on thenavicomputer. Which, incidentally, isn’t much. It appears there’s lots of water there.”

    Canderous snorted. “That’s not exactly the kind of intelligence I like to go into a planet with.”

    “Me neither, but I don’t really see what other choices we have.” Aiden shrugged. “You wanna defeat Malak?”

    “I’m with you, no matter what you do,” Canderous affirmed. “Since that happens to be defeating Malak, I’m in. Never really liked the guy anyway.”

    “I did,” Aiden replied reflexively, not even thinking until after the words left his mouth that in his own memory, he’d certainly never cared for the man. “At least, I must have,” he corrected hastily. “I can’t imagine having my second in command being someone I hated.”

    Mission raised an eyebrow. “I dunno, he seems pretty much like a monster to me.”

    “Maybe he wasn’t always,” Aiden replied. “I mean, a lot of Jedi thought Revan was a monster. Force knows the Jedi on Dantooine spent a lot of time reminding me about how horrible Revan was and how I shouldn’t repeat his mistakes. People were very willing to demonize him. And okay, so Revan did a lot of really terrible things. But on the other hand, Revan is also me. And I’m not really a galaxy-conquering maniac. So… I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that maybe Malak wasn’t always like this, or even that there’s more under the surface than we see while he’s blowing people to bits.” He stared intently at his caf. “Or something.”

    Canderous chuckled. “Bastila would have a fit to see you giving a human face to the Sith.”

    “Well, Bastila’s their prisoner right now, so I guess she has that right,” Aiden snapped. “You seem unconcerned.”

    Canderous shrugged. “Bastila can take care of herself. She’s annoying and preachy as hell, but she’s good in a fight and stubborn as anyone I’ve ever met. I don’t waste time worrying about people who are probably fine.”

    “That’s one way to look at it,” Aiden replied skeptically. “I just… I feel like something’s wrong. I haven’t been able to feel her through our bond since the Leviathan.

    “I’ll bet Canderous is right,” Mission assured him.

    “Did I just hear the words ‘Canderous’ and ‘right’ in the same sentence?” Leiraya entered the room, rubbing her eyes. “Sorry, reflex. I’m sure whatever Canderous said was fine.”

    “He thinks Bastila is okay, wherever she is,” Mission offered.

    Leiraya thought about it. “Well, she’s not dead. We would have noticed that one.”

    “But as we have ample proof on this mission, there are far worse things than death that can happen to a Jedi,” Aiden replied sourly.

    “Even if Canderous is wrong, there’s no point in worrying,” Leiraya replied as she prepared a pot of tea. “We’re not exactly in a place right now where we can help her, and our goals are converging on a place where she’s likely to be, so we just have to be ready to spring into action when we find her.”

    Aiden threw his head back and heaved a sigh. “When did things get so complicated?”

    “I think they were always this complicated, we just didn’t realize it at first.”

    “True enough,” Aiden replied, then downed the last of his caf. “All right, I’m awake. Now what?”

    Mission shrugged. “Beats me. I’m out of things to do. While you all were running around playing Sith, the rest of us have done everything on this ship we like. We were kinda hoping you guys would come back and liven up the place, but I guess you’re pretty tired.”

    “That’s putting it mildly,” Aiden replied, rubbing his temples. “I never want to spend that long surrounded by Sith again.”

    “I, for one, am going to go practice some of my forms,” Leiraya said, taking a sip of her tea. “I’ve been really neglecting them since coming on this mission.”

    “Forms?” Aiden looked at her curiously. “I thought you were more of a dance enthusiast.”

    “There are Jedi arts that are very much like dancing, in a lot of ways,” she replied. “They’re not in as wide of use anymore since they’re not seen as combat practical. Funny thing is, they are designed to be practical, it’s just also important to be graceful and centered.”

    “Huh. Is it anything I saw on Dantooine?”

    “Similar, probably. There is overlap, but the approach is different.”

    “Interesting. Maybe you could show me later?” he asked. “Later, when I’m sure I won’t fall over.”

    Leiraya smiled. “Of course. And yeah, you’ll want that balance.”

    “I guess for now, I’ll just go meditate,” Aiden stood. “Thanks for the caf, Mission. I am now less likely to go back to sleep in the next few hours.”

    “No problem,” she grinned. “Never say I don’t do my part around here.”

    * * *

    Leiraya breathed deeply. She had commandeered the cargo hold for herself, and now was standing in the center, clad in a pair of loose brown Jedi pants and her customary fitted blue knit sleeveless shirt. It had been far too long since she’d given any time to working on her forms. Not since she’d left Corellia, really. She was so focused on making sure that she wasn’t caught up in all the violence that was constantly surrounding her, that she’d neglected her own training. A pacifist she was, but she was also a Jedi. She was also coming to terms with the fact that there were things she deemed worth fighting for. And as they drew nearer to the Star Forge, she knew that she’d need to be in her top fighting form if she was going to be able to help Aiden.

    She bent at the knee, lowering slightly towards the floor before gently picking up her right foot and sliding it further to the right. Breathing in again, she straightened, then sat comfortably back down into her ready position: knees bent, hips tucked, arms at the ready in front of her.

    It was like a familiar dance. Her feet pivoted and her arms moved through the air slowly, gracefully as she’d been taught all those years. Her masters had realized early on that she wasn’t interested in fighting like all the others, and dance was one of the ways they taught her to use a lightsaber. This branch of the Jedi arts was the other. And she actually did like it- it was at its essence a defensive art, and it was one of the most effective tools she had to center herself. Kylan had never taken a shine to it; it was too slow for his tastes. Her steps faltered at the memory, but she cleared him from her thoughts and continued, focusing on the way the Force was coursing through her and around her. As she stepped through the motions, she found herself relaxing into herself, into the Force, and all the anxiety built up during their stay on Korriban started to melt away.

    When she finally finished, she looked up and saw Carth standing in the doorway. “That’s beautiful. I haven’t seen you do that before.”

    She shrugged sheepishly. “Not just a dancer. I kind of wanted to keep it that way, but my masters said I’d never be a true Jedi unless I was trained in a proper combat art. For a little while, I thought that meant I’d just never be a full Jedi. But fortunately, we had a Master in Silver Hills trained in this particular style.”

    “You would have given up being a Jedi?”

    Leiraya paused. “My younger, even more idealistic self might have. I didn’t want to do anything that would ever put me in the position of being the aggressor, to the point of giving up anything that would have even given me the skills to do so. I’m glad I didn’t, though.”

    Carth smiled. “Me too. I mean, not that I’d ever consider you aggressive. But you are good to have in a fight.”

    Leiraya smiled and moved through a few basic motions. “It’s the years of training I’ve valiantly pretended not to have.”

    “Why is that?” Carth asked. “Nobody here would have judged you for it.”

    “Stupid pride, probably.” Leiraya sighed. “It’s a form that is often seen as useless by a lot of people, both outside and inside the Jedi Order. Too decorative. Personally, I think it’s closest to the essence of what a Jedi should be, but I didn’t see anyone practicing on Dantooine, and Bastila and I fought about enough things that bringing in combat forms was just not something that interested me.” She shrugged. “On top of that, I was pretty vocal about not fighting. What would it look like to start practicing kicks and punches?”

    “Like a Jedi,” Carth replied, taking her hand. “I really respect how much you respect life. It’s one thing that gives me hope in all this. But that respect is why I would trust you to fight more than anyone else here.”

    “Really?” Leiraya asked doubtfully. “I’ve easily the least combat experience of anyone here.”

    “You don’t undertake fighting lightly,” he replied. “I know that when you go into a fight, you are committed to ending it as quickly and as bloodlessly as possible. That’s a quality that more people could use, and that I wish had been the guide for the Jedi in the Mandalorian Wars.” He shook his head. “Those Jedi saw a lot of things they shouldn’t have had to, and I think it affected the entire Order. They lost sight of what really mattered.”

    Leiraya blushed. “Well, I really can’t claim to exemplify what the Jedi ought to be. But it’s an underappreciated art.” She paused. “Would you like to learn some?”

    Carthh looked momentarily shocked. “I’m no Jedi, I couldn’t possibly-”

    Leiraya waved her hand dismissively. “This can make use of the Force, but doesn’t have to. Legend has it the Jedi adapted it long ago from monks on Ansion when one of them joined their ranks. We’ve added our own exercises to it, but the basic form remains the same.”

    Carth thought about it a moment, and then shrugged. “Okay, why not? It looks… relaxing, I guess.”

    “It’s a form of meditation. Force knows the lot of us can probably use more of that these days.”

    “Could’ve used that on Korriban,” Carth added, removing his boots as he spoke.

    “And pull out a distinctly Jedi set of moves? That would have worked brilliantly.” She shook her head. “I thought about it a lot, but it would have blown what little cover we had.”

    “Can’t argue with that,” Carth acknowledged, taking off his jacket and setting it aside, leaving him standing in his well worn pants and a simple white cotton shirt. “Okay, so… how does this go?”

    “First things first, your posture. You want to sit down a bit, with your hips tucked, knees bent, and arms resting in front of you.” As he attempted the pose, she walked around him pushing and pulling his arms and legs and back into place. “The idea here is to rest all your weight on your upper thighs, so it takes all the strain off your back. Your arms shouldn’t be engaged at all, that should all be in your shoulders.” She gently took his elbows and rotated them down. “See, doesn’t that feel better?”

    “Strangely, yes.” Carth replied, feeling slightly off kilter but determined to at least try this. It seemed that there were more Force users in his life than he’d ever planned on having, so if there was anything at all that he could share with them, he was going to make damn sure he could do it.

    “Good.” She grinned enthusiastically, and then joined him. “I’m obviously not teaching you everything I know right now.”

    “I’m pretty sure I’d fall over if you did.”

    “Well, then let’s not have that.”

    Carth paid close attention and tried to emulate her moves as she went through several warmup exercises that involved sweeping arms and twisting hips. It was an entirely different range of motion from what he was used to doing. More than once she chided him about leading with his arms instead of swinging from his shoulders, and twisting at the waist instead of just moving his hips and letting everything else follow. It was not intuitive, and it was not easy. But slowly, he began to feel the movements more clearly. He was working less to do the same movement, and by virtue of that, he was even looking almost graceful. All things considered, he figured ‘almost’ was the best that could be expected of him in one night, and possibly ever.

    “You’re a pretty quick study,” she gave him a look of approval after completing a set of horizontal arm sweeps. “Must be all those dance lessons they made you take back in the day.”

    “It must be, because that’s the only thing that would give me any sort of coordination.”

    “I wouldn’t say that,” she replied, “you’ve got lots of field training that makes you good at running and shooting things. Also, as a pilot I know you need crazy levels of hand-eye coordination, particularly in a combat situation.”

    “Careful, you’re beginning to sound like someone who hangs out with the military,” he joked.

    “What can I say? You’re a bad influence. You and Aiden both.” She sat down and grabbed the glass of water she’d brought with her. “Kylan, too.” She took a long sip of her water and was silent for several moments.

    Carth sat next to her. “He was your best friend. It’s okay to be sad about him for as long as you need.”

    “I just keep thinking of what it’s going to be like when I finally get back to Corellia- if I ever get back. What kind of funeral should we give? We can’t give him the traditional burial for soldiers who die away from home, because nobody collected his body.” She sipped her water thoughtfully. “And even if we had, would he get that burial? I mean, he joined the Sith. And I don’t even know if I can tell his family that, either. Or anyone. I may have disagreed vocally with his choice to leave, but to a lot of people in the enclave, he was a hero. Going out to fight the good fight, make the galaxy a better place. How can I tell them that their hero did something terrible?”

    Carth shook his head. “That was how most of the galaxy felt when Revan-” he broke off, looking up towards the doorway and then lowering his voice. “When Revan came back from the Unknown Regions, having turned to the dark side. He attacked a Republic shipyard on Foerost. Those soldiers, I knew a few of them. We’d fought together in the Mandalorian Wars, and they should have been safe. We were all supposed to be safe, and Revan was the one who had saved us. To suddenly have that turned on its head was devastating, for a lot of people.”

    “I heard about that. That was when I started planning to leave to find Kylan,” she said softly. “He’d been missing for a while, but I figured if his hero the Revanchist was back, and wasn’t on our side anymore, then it couldn’t be good news for any of us.”

    “So Revan got you both off Corellia,” Carth shook his head. “Who knew.”

    “Some days I wish he hadn’t,” Leiraya replied wistfully. “Except for meeting you, that was all right.”

    “Just all right?” He raised an eyebrow.

    She grinned broadly. “More than that, which you know full well by now.”

    He pulled her in for an embrace. “I guess we have to get some bright spot out of this mess.”

    “How about if we win? That seems like it would add to the overall experience. And we’re off to this crazy unknown planet nobody’s ever heard of, which may or may not have anything to do with the Star Forge, but if it does, we’re definitely on the right track.”

    “That plan sounds perfect,” Carth agreed.

    “Fantastic.” She yawned. “Now let’s get moving before I fall asleep in the middle of the day.” She extracted herself from his arms and stood up in one fluid movement. “Come on, let’s take this ship by storm.”

    Carth chuckled and joined her in standing. “Count me in.”

    * * *

    Sasha felt homesick, but she wasn’t sure for where.

    It wasn’t for the Mandalorians. She had little love for them, as they’d only ever treated her as a slave and a nuisance. The only Mandalorian she actually liked was Canderous, and he wasn’t anything like the others. Not to her, anyway. Sure, he was gruff and didn’t talk in long sentences, unless it was about how to kill other people, but he treated her like a person. With, what was that word… respect.

    The Mandalorians had taken her when she was little, and she’d lost what Basic she’d had. The thought of it made her angry, and she got even more angry any time her thoughts came out in Mando’a. She was determined to drench every aspect of her life in Basic if she could. So she’d taken to reading everything she could get her hands on. It wasn’t much on the ship, but when she’d started, she couldn’t read much. It wasn’t until that day on Korriban when Mission hacked into one of the planetary databases that she’d acquired all kinds of interesting stories. They told of planets all over the Republic, and some even beyond it. Some of them didn’t even exist, though she wished they did. It wasn’t until she started reading about all the adventures that all these people were having that she realized… she just wanted to go home.

    Problem was, she wasn’t really sure where home was anymore.

    She remembered Dantooine, and being captured by the Mandalorian raiders there. She remembered that the Jedi weren’t far, but they still couldn’t help her when she needed it. The Jedi were gone, though, so she didn’t know if anything was left of her home, wherever it was in relation to them. She only dimly remembered her parents, anyway.

    The more she thought about it, the more she realized she didn’t actually have a home. Her place with her family had been stolen away from her, and even when she was with the Mandalorians she never stayed in one place for long. Not that she’d ever call anything with those monsters ‘home.’ And then she’d stowed away on the Ebon Hawk, and they’d taken care of her. She never really got to go outside the ship, either, since it wasn’t safe.

    Maybe she was just homesick for the outside world.

    “What’cha doing?” Mission popped her head inside the door of the cabin where Sasha was situated. “Still reading?”

    “No, just thinking.” Sasha turned to face the blue Twi’lek and brushed stray blonde hairs from her face. “Do you ever miss home?”

    “Taris?” Mission asked, plopping down ungracefully next to her. “I don’t know. I guess I miss the Hidden Beks, and I had some good times running around the sewers with Big Z and causing trouble for the Vulkars. But truthfully… it was a pretty rotten place.”

    “Yeah,” Sasha sighed. “I guess I just wish I had a home to miss.”

    “Aww, sweetie, don’t feel bad about that. Did I ever tell you I was shipped to Taris in a box with my brother?”

    Sasha shook her head. “That sounds awful.”

    “It was. I was five, he was probably running away from people who wanted the money I’m pretty sure he owed them.” Mission shrugged. “I guess what I’m saying is that, even if how you get there is terrible, a place can still be home. You’re home with us, right?”

    Sasha considered it. “I guess I might be. But… what about when all this ends? I know the only reason I’m still here is because there hasn’t been a safe place to drop off a kid since you guys found me. I know Aiden was planning on leaving me on Dantooine the first chance he got, but I’m glad he didn’t get the chance.” She pulled her knees in tight. “I don’t like this war.”

    Mission shrugged again. “Hey, I don’t even know what I’m doing when all this ends. I figure? I go where Big Z goes. He’d never survive in the galaxy without me. And since Big Z has a life debt to Aiden, he’ll go wherever Aiden goes, whether he wants it or not. Right now, luckily for all of us, everyone’s happy with the arrangement.” She sat back and grinned at Sasha. “I learned a long time ago that home is where you are. You can’t always count on a roof over your head or people who won’t shoot at you first chance they get, but you make the best of it.”

    Sasha paused for a few moments. “Do you think I could stay wherever you are?” she asked hopefully. “I don’t really know anybody else, except for Canderous, and I think he’d rather be off fighting.”

    “Are you kidding? I’d never turn you away,” Mission pulled her in for a hug, and then looked at her seriously. “Of course, I’m going to have to teach you all my survival tricks.”

    “I’d like that,” Sasha grinned, returning the hug enthusiastically. “It’s like having a sister!”

    Mission smiled. “You bet, kiddo. Now, do you want to learn how to pick electronic locks?”

    * * *

    Aiden wasn’t sure he liked sleeping anymore. He was exhausted, so he needed the sleep, but on the other hand, it worried him. Before Korriban, he’d been woken by horrible visions of Bastila being tortured every time he tried to sleep. Now, he wasn’t getting any of that. He was sure something was wrong, but he couldn’t know what, because he couldn’t feel anything. And that lack of feeling would wake him up after a while, because he was worried about what he wasn’t feeling, and then he’d just start thinking about any of the five million things he didn’t want to be thinking about right now.

    For instance, the Jedi. He really wasn’t sure where he stood with them anymore. His allegiance was definitely with the crew of the Hawk, as he’d been fighting side by side with them since this whole mess started. Carth had pulled his lifeless form out of an escape pod on Taris and nursed him back to health before any of them realised what a mess they’d gotten themselves into. Back in those days, their mission seemed so simple. Find Bastila, return her to the Jedi, and then get assigned to a new mission. Now, the mission wasn’t all that different. He still had to find Bastila, but now he also had to save the galaxy from Darth Malak and the mysterious Star Forge while he was at it by hunting for Star maps all over the galaxy.

    He sighed. This hadn’t been what he signed up for. Real him or fictional him. He wasn’t sure what the real him had signed up for. Originally, it was a lifetime of service to the Jedi and the Republic, but obviously he’d ditched that for something he’d deemed more important. That thought kept niggling at his brain. What could be so important that he’d forsake his Masters, everyone he’d presumably respected for all his life, to turn around and attack the Republic he’d just saved? The Jedi would have him believe that the dark side made him crazy. Aiden, however, was sure at a level so deep in his gut that he couldn’t deny it that there was more to it than that, and an increasing part of him wanted to find out exactly what that reason was.

    Not now, though. As he’d said, his allegiance was with his crew. He owed it to them to see this mission through to the end, to save Bastila, to save the whole damn galaxy. They deserved as much, even though he was pretty sure the Jedi didn’t.

    That was a knot of bitterness that he couldn’t uproot, and wasn’t sure he wanted to try too hard. After all, they’d stolen his identity from him, and they’d kind of managed to do it twice. He didn’t know if they’d ever been planning to tell him who he really was, but the life they assigned him hadn’t been so bad. It bugged him to know that it wasn’t his.

    In any case, he doubted they could have kept his identity from him forever. It had started with the healing trance Leiraya put him in on Korriban, but he was remembering things. Things he had no reason to know except that he knew that he had once been Revan.

    Perhaps his mind was not as damaged as Bastila led him to believe.

    It was a problem he couldn’t deal with right now, however, as the Jedi were far from his reach and fairly low on his list of concerns. No, he had a planet to find, so that he could hopefully find the Star Forge. He wasn’t sure what relation the planet had to the Star Forge, but he really, really hoped that they were in the same place, because he was tired of chasing things all over the galaxy.

    Some days, saving the galaxy was just not very much fun.

    He rolled over. Sleep may be difficult, but it is beyond necessary. Pulling his blanket over his head, he concentrated on a single phrase until he drifted into a restless sleep.

    I’m going to find you, Bastila…

    * * *

    Jolee jumped as Leiraya burst into the main hold early in the morning. “Heaven’s sakes, young lady, you can’t go jumping out like that any time you want,”

    “Sorry,” she said apologetically and stretched her arms out wide. “I have an unusual amount of energy, I guess.”

    “Sleeping well, then?” Jolee raised an eyebrow. “I know you folks haven’t been doing so well there.”

    “Yeah, well, I crashed really early last night. Possibly too early.” She pulled the Jedi robe she was so fond of wearing as a sweater around her to stave off the chill of the ship. “We’ve all had a lot to keep us up.”

    “And Aiden most of all,” Jolee agreed. “How do you suppose he’s been?”

    “Thinking too much,” Leiraya said almost immediately. “He doesn’t talk about it, but I can practically feel the gears turning in his head. I’m sure you have too, which makes me wonder why you’re asking.”

    Jolee gave her his most innocent look. “Oh, no reason. Just an old man wanting to know how the kids are holding up these days. I told you when I came along, and I said it again after that whole nonsense on the Leviathan, I’m just here to observe. Aiden’s got an interesting destiny about him, and I want to be there to see it.”

    Leiraya looked at him curiously. “You keep saying interesting, and I’m never quite sure what to make of that.”

    “Neither am I.” Jolee sat back and sipped his cup of tea. “Truth be told, I don’t know how things will shake down with him on that planet, but I can tell something’s coming, and we’d best all be ready for it.”

    “How can we be ready for something when we don’t even know what it is?”

    Jolee grinned. “Now there’s a question worth asking, and if you find the answer before I leave this mortal plane, you’ll have to let me know.”

    Leiraya sighed ruefully and poured herself a cup of tea. “I knew I was missing something when we were on Korriban.”

    “Now, don’t go making fun of the cranky old man just because you can,” he wagged his finger at her knowingly. “I’m not always this unhelpful.”

    “No, when you’re being unhelpful you never admit it,” she replied easily. “But I’m not kidding. Your sense of humour would have been welcome. I think out of all of us, you’re the least intimidated by the Sith.”

    Jolee raised a skeptical brow. “And how’s that?”

    “Like you said when we met you. You’ve seen both the light and the dark side, and both extremes annoy you. Whereas the rest of us? We’ve got a lot of baggage. Carth hates what they did to his family, Juhani fears giving into temptation and turning to the dark side again, Mission is angry about the destruction of Taris, Aiden, I think, is terrified at the idea that he was Revan…”

    “And they took your best friend from you,” Jolee finished. “Yeah, and they took my beautiful Nayama, too. But we all have the chance to move past that, if we want to. I figure, holding a grudge against the Sith is just as logical as me holding my breath and waiting for them to pass out.”

    “Huh.” Leiraya pondered the statement for a moment. “I can’t argue with that.”

    “Darn right you can’t,” Jolee gave her a satisfied smile. “It’s something we all get the chance to learn at some point, Sith or no Sith.”

    “Well, it’s good to have someone with more perspective on the galaxy than most of us along on this insane trip,” Leiraya replied.

    “That is the nicest way any of you have told me I’m old.”

    Leiraya shrugged. “It’s the best way to be old.”

    Jolee paused, and then relented. “I guess that’s the most I can hope for, isn’t it?”

    “Probably,” Leiraya grinned.

    * * *

    When Carth rolled over, finally ready to roll out of his bunk and face the day, he saw Canderous doing push-ups on the floor. “Mmmmph.”

    “Can’t hear you,” Canderous grunted. “I’m not sure if that noise was meant to be communication, but it doesn’t work. Is this how the Republic trains its soldiers to wake up in the morning? That would explain a lot.”

    Annoyed, Carth sat up and rubbed his eyes. “No, it wasn’t supposed to be communication. Just waking up, is all.”

    “Noisy waker,” Canderous observed, not breaking his rhythm. “Of course, I’ve rarely seen you sleep this late.”

    “It’s been a long week,” Carth replied dryly.

    “I’m sure,” Canderous replied, finishing off his set of push ups and rocking back on his heels, continuing back into a sitting position. “Can’t be easy pretending to be a Sith for long.”

    “You don’t know the half of it,” Carth shook his head. “Not that I really had to be terribly Sith like, but to pretend that it didn’t bother me…”

    “Must’ve driven you half crazy,” Canderous grinned.

    Carth narrowed his eyes. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”

    Canderous shrugged. “Can’t say I am. Though,” he admitted, “it does do me good from time to time to see a straight-laced Republic soldier type such as yourself thrown into extremely uncomfortable situations. So yeah, I guess I am kind of enjoying it. But not as much as you probably think.”

    “I…” Carth trailed off. “I guess I should know you better than that by now.”

    “That’s surprisingly non-defensive of you to say,” Canderous offered.

    “We’ve all been together on this ship so long, it’s getting harder to be defensive,” Carth admitted. “I know we don’t agree on a lot of things, but you’re not what I thought you’d be.”

    “Which was a bloodthirsty monster, right?” Canderous replied easily. “I spent enough time in the cantinas on Taris to overhear the chatter. We Mandalorians were not well regarded, even in a cesspit like Taris.”

    “You did start a war that none of us wanted,” Carth pointed out. “Well, your Mandalore did. A lot of people lost family, friends, their homes… it’s easy to make you guys out to be monsters when all they saw was armored troops coming to destroy their homes. At the beginning, they never even saw it coming.”

    “And the Republic did precious little to stop us,” Canderous countered. “I won’t argue with you about the ethics of going into battle, since this is a small ship and we need a pilot-”

    “Thanks,” Carth replied with no small amount of sarcasm.

    “Never say I don’t consider practicalities,” Canderous replied evenly. “Look, of all the people on this ship, next to Aiden, I probably respect you the most. And believe me when I say I never would have thought I’d end up saying that when we met.”

    “When we met, I told Aiden we’d probably have to end up shooting you,” Carth admitted.

    “It’s a good thing he has more faith in people than you do,” Canderous grinned and offered his hand. “But for a Republic soldier, you’re not half bad.”

    Carth accepted the handshake. “For a Mandalorian, you’re pretty all right.”

    “So we’re in this until the end,” Canderous replied, leaning back against a storage locker. “To whatever the Star Forge is, and wherever Malak is hiding.”

    Carth shook his head. “I have a feeling that we haven’t been through remotely the worst yet.”

    “We’ll get through it, or we’ll die.” Canderous stated firmly.

    “Yeah, those are pretty much the options,” Carth sighed. “I just wish we could find some time to rest before the final battle.”

    “Sleep now while you can,” Canderous advised. “I doubt we’ll find much rest otherwise.”

    “But then who would fly the ship?” Carth stretched his arms out and grabbed his clothes. “No, I’d better get moving. Wouldn’t do to stay holed up in here all day.”

    “Try staying holed up on this ship while you guys were gallivanting around Korriban,” Canderous countered.

    “Point taken, though ‘gallivanting’ is not the word I would choose.” He quickly slipped into his familiar black pants and well worn orange jacket. “Anyway, stuff to do. I’m going to go find it.”

    “Sure thing, Onasi.” Canderous returned to his exercise regimen without further pause as Carth stepped out of the door.

    Carth didn’t make it all the way to the main hold before the ship rocked violently. “Dammit,” he gritted his teeth, regained his footing, and ran to the cockpit. The ship had come out of hyperspace. Had he really slept that long? Shaking his head, he grabbed the controls and tried to steady the ship.

    “What’s going on?” Leiraya ran into the cockpit, Juhani close on her heels. “Are we here? Are the Sith shooting at us?”

    “Hold on,” Carth replied through gritted teeth. “I’m trying to figure out what’s happening. There’s something massive on my scopes…” he pulled the ship around so the viewport was facing the anomaly, and were greeted with the sight of a space station, larger than any of them had ever seen before.

    “Oh my.” Juhani gasped. “Is that…”

    “A Star Forge?” Leiraya finished incredoulously, eyes wide and jaw slightly agape. “I’d guess so.”

    The station was a spherical center with two towers encasing either side of it, extending upwards and downwards and slanting almost to a point. A long tendril of solar energy twisted up from the sun to the base of the station, a swirl of fire that was all destruction and life and energy. It was a beautiful, terrible sight to behold. However, they were not able to behold it for long before the ship rocked again, throwing both Leiraya and Juhani against the cockpit’s walls.

    “Leiraya!” Carth shouted, wrestling with the ship’s controls. “Are you guys okay?”

    “We are fine,” Juhani managed as she helped pull Leiraya off the floor. “What was that?”

    “I think we hit a disruptor field of some kind,” Carth replied, and hit the intercom. “Everybody, strap in if you haven’t already. This is going to be interesting.”

    Juhani was already out the door, but Leiraya hung back. “Define interesting?”

    “We’re not going to die,” Carth replied. “But you need to strap in right now.” He pointed at the copilot’s chair. “Please, just sit down.”

    Leiraya didn’t have to be told twice. “I hope I don’t have to do any actual copiloting from here.”

    “Wouldn’t do me much good,” Carth replied, frantically flipping switches, “since I don’t appear to have very many controls here.”

    “You what?” Leiraya gasped. “Repeat that part where we’re not going to die, because that just got a lot harder to believe.”

    “I’ve got something,” Carth said, furrowing his brow. “It’s not much, but it’ll take us down. Mostly.”

    Leiraya sank down into her chair. “Oh, good.”

    “Just don’t worry,” Carth assured her. “It’s going to be all right.”

    “I believe you,” Leiraya replied uneasily.

    Carth had to put all his focus into slowing the ship down and controlling its glide. As they entered the atmosphere of the planet, he opened up all the flaps and vents and every feasible surface he could find to increase the drag of the relatively sleek freighter, and tried to coax the backup generators into action. Thoughts of what would happen if they crashed now, so close to their goal, tried to press into his consciousness, but he shoved them away. He had to assume that they were all going to make it out alive, unscathed. That was the only acceptable outcome, so it was the only one he would entertain in this moment.

    As the ship descended, he could see and island. He did his best to point the Hawk towards it- even if he couldn’t make it, they could feasibly swim to shore. Closer, closer, closer they descended. He pulled the nose up, trying to prevent the kind of crash that would send them plummeting to the bottom of the ocean. The Hawk skipped along the water’s surface a few times like an overgrown stone. Shore was in sight, he could only hope they would--

    He jolted as the ship hit bottom, almost throwing him out of his seat in spite of the strapping. He could hear the screams and cries of the entire crew- hell, he wouldn’t swear his weren’t among them- as they spun around, skidding along the ocean floor until finally sliding to a halt on the beach.

    Carth couldn’t even move for a full minute, he could only try to breathe enough to calm his racing heart. They were alive, he was sure of that. Maybe they were hurt, but if they were strapped in, they should be okay. He looked over at Leiraya, who was still strapped firmly into her chair, but her eyes were squeezed shut and she’d pulled her knees up to her chest, her green skirt cascading to the edge of the chair and flowing over. He unstrapped himself and walked over on unsteady feet, placing a gentle hand on her cheek. “It’s okay, Leiraya. We made it.”

    She cautiously opened her eyes, looking first at him, and then out the viewport. “We did?”

    “We did.” He grinned, unstrapping her from the chair. “We’re-” he was cut off as she jumped up and planted a messy kiss on his lips.

    When she broke off, she looked up at him sheepishly. “Sorry. I honestly thought we were dying, and I’m pretty excited to be not dead right now.”

    “It’s a cause for celebration,” Carth agreed. “But first, let’s go make sure everyone else is okay.”

    “Right.” Leiraya gave him one more kiss. “Let’s go do that.”


    =================

    And that's your chapter for the week! I hope you all enjoy it. :D

    Cheers,
    DWH
  14. SoA Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2008
    star 3
    Fun times! It's the deep breath before the battle erupts. I really enjoyed Mission and Jolee in here, and I am interested to see where Sasha is going to wind up when this is all over. The droids were lots of fun too. I do wish you had checked up on Juhani and Zalbaar too. But, I shouldn't complain, that was a pretty long chapter as is. :)

    And now here's the part where you don't have to leave all but two of your companions back on the ship and they do exciting things on Lehon?
  15. RK_Striker_JK_5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2003
    star 7
    Great chapter. :D Can't wait for the next one. I found Aiden's sleeping patterns to be oddly humorous. ;)
  16. Commander-DWH Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 3, 2003
    star 4
    HELLO WORLD!

    So one of the big reasons I got behind on updating was that all my chapters were truncated and my main backup got corrupted because it turns out, Word doesn't like 300 page documents. But I managed to recover my work and reformat it, finally! The reformatting took a lot of time/motivation, haha. It is fully reformatted and I have everything up until the epilogue, which I have yet to write, but I have a few chapters yet to post.

    So I'm working on re-posting! I have re-posted every chapter up through Chapter 20, and I will be hopefully finishing the re-posting in the next couple of days. After that, I'll continue posting new chapters!

    So yeah, potential new readers, there's a lot of story here and in the next few days I'll be fleshing it out and within the next couple of weeks it will (schedule permitting) be completely done! Yay! What more can one ask out of a longfic these days?

    It's only taken me 13 years, but I think I'm about to actually finish this thing. ;)
    RK_Striker_JK_5 likes this.
  17. Commander-DWH Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 3, 2003
    star 4
    Be still my heart, it's an ACTUAL UPDATE!

    If any of my readers are still around I'm amazed and happy if you're still reading. If you're new, well, as of today you've got a lot of content to read that hasn't been available since... 2012? Yikes, it's been a long time. Anyway, enough of my yapping. To the story!

    Chapter 44

    The landing ramp groaned as it reluctantly lowered to the ground. The crew of the Ebon Hawk, battered and bruised though they were, walked down the ramp in one piece on to the beach.


    Aiden was first greeted by a cool ocean breeze, the smell of the salt bringing up memories of a home that was never his, and a career he’d never had. It was simultaneously comforting and disquieting, and he had to shake his head to clear the sensation. He was really going to have to start building new associations for things, and he planned on starting with the smell of the ocean going hand in hand with defeating the Star Forge.


    “Do you suppose anyone lives out here?” Mission scratched her head and looked around. “I don’t see anything.”


    “It looked like there were some pretty massive ruins on the other side of the island coming in,” Carth replied. “But I don’t know if there’s anyone here to go with them.”


    “What happened to the ship, anyway?” Aiden asked, turning to Carth. “That was unexpected.”


    “Tell me about it,” Carth replied sourly. “As far as I can tell, it was a disruptor field of some sort. I’ve got T3 running a diagnostic right now to figure out what we need to fix.”


    “That means someone is here,” Aiden replied grimly, “and they don’t want us here.”


    “Well gee, sounds like every other planet we’ve ever been to pretty much ever,” Mission rolled her eyes. “Please don’t tell us we have to stay on that ship. It smells like gizka in there all the time.” As if on cue, a gizka hopped past her. “Sasha!”


    Sasha scurried over and scooped up the gizka, then looked it in the eyes. “This one’s not one of mine!” she proclaimed. “Where did it come from?”


    “Here, I would suppose,” Juhani replied, stepping out from the shade of the ship and into the sunlight, shading her yellow eyes from the sun’s glare. “It is a beautiful planet.”


    “It’s a dangerous planet,” Aiden countered. “There’s a Star Forge in the sky, a disruptor field that nuked most of our ship’s systems, and who even knows what else…”


    “Uhh.” Mission elbowed Aiden. “Remember how I was wondering if anyone else was maybe here?”


    Aiden looked down at her. “Yes?”


    She pointed to a group of humanoids coming around the bend, wielding vibroswords and looking rather unhappy. “I think that answered my question.”


    Aiden jogged up to the front of the group, lightsaber in hand and stood his ground as they approached. “We come peacefully-” he started, but had to duck aside as one of them unceremoniously swung his sword at Aiden’s head. Well, then. I guess negotiation is not an option here. He was dimly aware of the others arranging themselves strategically around the area, with Mission and Carth ducking beneath parts of the Hawk in an atttempt to get a good angle on the strange beings. He’d never seen their like, except for statues around the Star Maps. They were angry, probably because they had landed unannounced and rather unceremoniously on their beach. Maybe it was an important beach? He wasn’t likely to find out from them, because they just kept swinging at him and missing as he ducked out of their way.


    Carth and Mission sniped off two of the warriors, whose attention was so focused on the four people with glowing swords that they’d simply forgotten about the other people in the crew, or at least written them off as unimportant. The final warrior seemed to realize that he was grossly outmatched, but he charged for Aiden anyway. There was a flurry of exchanged blows before Aiden quickly ended the skirmish by shoving his lightsaber in the warrior’s gut. The warrior slumped, then rolled over. Aiden deactivated his lightsaber. “Well, I feel completely safe here.”


    Juhani shook her head. “Let us move these bodies. They will quickly decay in the sun and we do not know what they will attract.”


    “Agreed,” Aiden nodded. “Canderous, Carth, Zaalbar, lend me your muscles. Juhani, Leiraya, Jolee, you’ve got some Force lifting. Mission, Sasha… help us find some place to put them?”


    The group set about finding a place to move the dead warriors with much haste. Mission and Sasha located a hollow down the shore near an outcropping of rocks, where the others moved the bodies. Between prodigious use of the Force and some well placed kicking of sand, they managed to cover the deceased without too much trouble.


    Juhani wiped her brow. “I have not seen their like before. I wonder where they came from?”


    “I’ve seen them only in statues,” Aiden replied. “But I know they’re connected to the Star Maps. It was a hologram of one of these guys that told me I could access the Star Map on Kashyyyk.”


    Jolee snorted derisively. “Yeah, I’ve never forgotten that face.”


    “Well, maybe if you hadn’t kept trying so hard,” Aiden grinned.


    “I was bored! Can you blame an old man for trying?”


    “So these guys have something to do with the Star Maps,” Leiraya interjected, pulling the conversation back on track. “Question is, what? Were they caretakers or something?”


    “Back on Dantooine I was told the Star Forge was created by the Builders,” Aiden mused. “I wonder if this is them. The language was right.”


    Leiraya blinked. “You understood them?”


    “Yeah,” Aiden frowned. “It’s almost like a Selkath dialect.”


    “You have a freaky knowledge of other languages.”


    “I’ve been accused of worse,” Aiden replied evenly.


    “[You!]” A Duros voice came from seemingly nowhere, when two Duros crept out from behind a nearby rock. “[You have saved us from those monstrous brutes!]”


    “More survivors,” Juhani gasped. “Tell us, how did you come to this world?”


    “[It was some sort of field, our ship crashed.]” The the taller Duro shook his head mournfully. “[Everyone we’ve met so far has died, attacked by those barbarians. They care nothing for life, they only wish to battle and feast on the flesh of the dead. Only the Mandalorians have been able to fend them off, but nobody wants to approach them. Your arrival was most opportune! Had you not arrived when you did, we would have died like the rest.]”


    “Well, I’m glad we could help,” Aiden said. “Are there other survivors?”


    “There were,” the Duro said mournfully. “They’ve all been killed. We thought for certain we’d be next.”


    “Oh.” Aiden looked nervously at his crewmates. “This could get interesting.”


    Canderous shrugged. “Has any other word ever defined this mission?”


    “Point taken,” Aiden admitted.


    “We thank you again for your help,” the Duro nodded his head enthusiastically. “But we must get back to the refuge of our ship before nightfall. If we are caught outside before dark, we will surely be killed.” Without a further word, the Duros both took off running.


    “Well, that was odd,” Aiden said.


    “At least now we know there have been other crash survivors, even if they didn’t live long once they touched down,” Carth replied.


    “In any case, we’ve got to figure out a plan of action. We know there are natives here, and we know they aren’t necessarily friendly. We also know that our ship is somehow broken and in need of repairs, without which we will be hard-pressed to leave. The sun is getting pretty low in the sky, so it’s best to stay near the ship for now- exploring can wait for the morning.”


    Carth groaned. “I only just woke up a little while ago. I picked a terrible side of the planet to crash on.”


    “We’ll find out how terrible it was tomorrow,” Aiden replied. “Who wants to gather some firewood?”


    Mission volunteered, and she and and Aiden set out to a nearby group of trees to gather downed branches and palm fronds. The rest of them headed back to the general vicinity of the ship, weapons at ready just in case another attack came.


    Leiraya ventured to the water’s edge, walking up to the point where the waves could reach up and lap at her feet. The water was cool, but not unpleasantly so. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. It was almost like being home again, out on the waterfront. If she concentrated very hard, she could pretend that she’d open her eyes and see the caravan coast instead of these strange shores. The salty tang was perhaps a bit stronger than on Corellia, but it was more than she’d had in over a year. Stray strands of hair whipped around her face as the breeze blew in from the ocean, and she let them.


    It wasn’t until she felt Carth’s hand on her shoulder that she brought herself back to the present. She placed her own hand over his and opened her eyes. It was beautiful, but it wasn’t home. “I think… I’m feeling a little homesick right now.”


    Carth smiled. “Is it much like where you’re from?”


    Leiraya tilted her head and examined the view. “A little, I guess. I think this is a more mild climate, so the vegetation is different. And this ocean is a little greener than ours. And a little saltier.” She took a deep breath. “It’s still a welcome change, though. If we have to be marooned with a busted ship somewhere, I’m liking right here.”


    “We’re not marooned,” Carth replied reassuringly. “We’ll figure out what the problem is, and I’ll fix it.”


    “With all our spare parts?” She looked back at him skeptically. “I don’t know, Carth…”


    “I’m an engineer, remember?” Carth grinned. “I’ll make it work if I have to will parts into existence.”


    “Right,” she sighed, turning back to look at the ocean.


    Carth’s gaze softened. “You’ll see your home again, I promise.”


    “You can’t make promises like that,” she replied. “And why should you? I knew when I left that I might not be coming back home. I knew there was a war going on, and that I was looking for someone who had turned up missing in the war before that one. I knew that there was really no reason that a pacifist like me should still be standing, even if I had remotely been able to fathom what I was going to be going through. I’m kind of amazed that I haven’t somehow managed to get myself killed yet, and I know it’s thanks to all of you. I wouldn’t have made it off Taris alive if Aiden hadn’t pulled me out of that cell.”


    “I think we’re all amazed, on some level, that we’re still alive,” Carth replied gently. “I never expected to live past my confrontation with Saul. I never expected to have anything to live for. But this mission, as insane as it is, has changed my life for the better. And I think we can all say that. Even Aiden.”


    She shook her head sadly. “I hope Aiden agrees with that.”


    “He’s been given a second chance,” Carth shrugged. “I’ve never really been in his position before, and I can’t say I’d want to be, but that’s the silver lining in all this.”


    “I guess it is,” Leiraya admitted. The sun was dipping steadily towards the horizon, setting off flares of brilliant colour in the clouds as it descended. She turned around fully, and saw over Carth’s shoulder that Aiden and Canderous were building a campfire. “Think we should go join them over there?”


    “Probably.” Carth kissed her forehead tenderly. “Just remember- you’re going to see your home again.”


    “Okay,” she smiled at him. “I’m going to hold you to that, then.”


    “Wouldn’t have it any other way.” He took her hand and the strolled over to the campfire. They’d set up a circle of rocks and filled it with branches and palm fronds, which they were now trying to determine the best way to light.


    “I’m telling you, a controlled flame thrower is completely safe,” Canderous insisted. “I can dial the power down, if it would make you feel better.”


    “Well, we definitely entered this conversation at the most interesting point,” Leiraya quipped. “Flamethrowers? Really? I didn’t even realize we had any.”


    Canderous shrugged. “I have a lot of things. Many of them involve forms of destruction. A Mandalorian is always prepared for any type of battle.”


    “I really don’t think the manufacturer had campfires in mind when they made the flamethrower,” Leiraya replied skeptically.


    “I’ve got a much smaller lighter,” Carth replied, reaching into his pocket. “It’s meant for small repairs, but it should get the fire going.”


    Aiden gestured widely at Carth and looked pointedly at Canderous. “See? I told you such a thing existed somewhere on the ship.”


    “Yeah, but it’s not as much fun,” Canderous grinned wickedly. “I just like to see you sweat a little, is all.”


    Carth set fire to one of the fronds and placed it in the center of the wood pile. The fronds, as expected, burned quickly, giving off a distinctly earthy smell as they curled up in the heat. The branches quickly caught fire afterward, and started their slow burn.


    “It’s a little risky,” Aiden admitted, looking around at the rapidly darkening sky. “We could easily be spotted and attacked. But I know most of you have been cooped up on the ship for a long time, and you deserve some time in the outdoors before going back in.”


    “Mmmm, fresh air.” Mission plopped down by the fire and reached out her hands. “We tried having fires a few times in the lower city, but usually it was with garbage. And almost always ended up burning down something somebody needed.” She sniffed the air, now filled with the woody aroma of campfire smoke. “I like this a lot more.”


    “We used to do campfires on the beach at home,” Leiraya smiled, joining her on the ground near the flames, tucking her skirt under her knees as she sat. “Skyler could build the best fires- they lasted for hours and were perfect for roasting food.”


    “I remember-” Aiden started, then shook his head. “I have this memory of going to this remote island with my sister, and all she wanted was to build a campfire, and she didn’t want my help. She knew I could do it, but she wanted to learn for herself. The hard way, apparently. It took her until almost after dark to figure it out, but watching her go through the steps, using her imagination to figure out ways that might work…” he smiled. “I don’t know where my memories came from, but I hope they came from a real person, because that person was so proud of her, and I really hope she exists, because she was amazing.”


    Leiraya patted his shoulder. “It’s okay, you’re building new campfire memories now.”


    “Among others,” he smiled gratefully. “Thanks, all of you, for being so patient with me.”


    By this time, the entire crew had gathered round the merry flames and the sky was completely dark. Juhani replied, “How could we be otherwise, when you have been so patient with the rest of us?”


    “She has a point,” Canderous admitted. “Personally, left to my own devices, I would not like any of you. But we’ve had to work together, and you’re the reason we’ve done that. You’re no destroyer of planets, but it seems you inherited Revan’s greatest trait- the ability to inspire loyalty in your people.”


    “You’re not my people,” Aiden replied, “but I appreciate the sentiment. I never would have made it this far, though, without all of you, and especially not without Bastila.” He was quiet for several moments. “We really, really need to find her.”


    They stayed quietly discussing around the campfire well into the dark of the night, at times trying to imagine that they were just on some sort of vacation instead of in mortal danger. It was a little easier here than in most places, with the quiet lapping of the ocean and the twinkling stars in the sky. If the natives had any habit of attacking after dark, Aiden did not know, but they didn’t seem to be coming. He extended his senses to try to detect any threats, but came up with nothing.


    It was just as well. They could deal with the locals in the morning. Right now, they just needed to be.


    * * *


    It was far too early, Carth decided, when Aiden roused them all.


    “Come on, guys, I know we’re all jetlagged from interplanetary travel, but this is important. We can’t go anywhere, the locals want to kill us, and apparently the only survivors are the Mandalorians, who probably also would kill us without much provocation.”


    Canderous shrugged. “I won’t argue that.”


    “Point being, get moving! Except you guys,” he waved indistinctly in the direction of Mission and Zaalbar. “We need someone to stay with the ship.” Zaalbar roared his assent as Aiden shooed them out of the ship, and reluctantly the crew members picked up their feet and dragged themselves down the ramp.


    A cool morning breeze hit Leiraya’s face, and she grimaced. “Wow. It’s just like old times. Up way too early, hitting the beach at ungodly hours, getting blasted in the face with cold salt wind. Yeah, I feel right at home again.”


    Carth chuckled. “Yeah, I can see why you might not love it. Did you do it often?”


    “More often than I liked.”


    “I like it,” Juhani countered. “It is refreshing.”


    “Easy to say when you’re the one with fur,” Leiraya replied sourly, but she sighed. “It does tend to wake a person up.”


    “Which is exactly what we need!” Aiden replied enthusiastically. “Come on guys, it’s a new day, and we have mysteries to solve.”


    The group trudged through the sand to one of the two paths that looked like a beach exit. It was a slow walk, slightly up hill, and the sand tended to slide their feet back into the ground where it was before every time they took another step. It was tedious, but eventually they reached the top of the hill and came on to more solid ground.


    Around the bend, they caught sight of another band of warriors. Aiden quickly ducked behind the rocky face so as to stay out of view.


    “What’s the plan?” Carth whispered.


    “I’ve got my bag of grenades and other assorted destructive things,” Leiraya offered.


    “I never thought I’d see the day when you would propose something violent,” Aiden shook his head. “But I think we might thin their ranks with a few grenades.”


    Leiraya handed a grenade to each of Carth, Canderous, and Aiden. Nodding silently at one another, they flicked the activator switches, then stepped around the corner and hurled frag grenades at the group of warriors all at the same time.


    The warriors only barely noticed the grenades before they hit. Two were able to back out of the way, but the other three were caught directly in the blast. They were barely able to pull themselves up again before Canderous and Carth quickly dispatched them with their blasters. The remaining two charged with their vibroswords, and the Jedi activated their lightsabers. Hopelessly outmatched, the warriors did not last more than a couple of minutes under the onslaught of the Jedi.


    Aidenn deactivated his lightsaber as the last warrior fell. “Well, I personally find it fascinating that they didn’t even try to claim their innocence, since we were definitely the aggressors this time.”


    “We do know they have a pattern of not seeming to care who they attack,” Carth pointed out. “Those Duros said they would just kill everyone.”


    “But not us.” Aiden stepped over the bodies and kept moving. “I know we’re better warriors than most, and I’m really glad for that right now. But I really want to find out who these people are and why they seem so insistent on attacking everyone.”


    The group continued down the path, which winded around several bends of rocks and through trees. It was a truly beautiful planet, even away from the water’s edge. The life there was vibrant and green, the trees rocked gently in the breeze, and gizka hopped gaily through the grass, unaware of the carnage that was surrounding them. Every now and then they’d pass by a downed ship, and Carth took mental note of where they were. They’d probably be good to salvage parts for the Hawk to get them back up in the air again. T3 had found a few parts that needed replacing, but everything else just needed to be properly wired back together. It wasn’t going to be easy finding everything, but he figured it would be a lot easier if perhaps these other ships had enough parts to cobble together something functional for the trip home. Even if he had to string together a collection of parts to make something else, he was pretty sure he could rig something together.


    It wasn’t until they’d been wandering for another half hour or so that they came upon another group of warriors. This group was standing in the clear, and seemed to be in formation. Aiden saw them and immediately brought his lightsaber into his hand.


    “[Stay your weapons]!” The leader of the new group called. “[We mean you no harm.]”


    Aiden came to an abrupt halt. “What do you want?”


    “[We wish to take you to The One. We have heard of your great warrior’s skills, and you have defeated our own warriors in battle using your magics. Accompany us, and we will take you to him.]”


    ‘What are they saying?” Carth hissed. “I don’t trust them.”


    “Neither do I,” Aiden replied under his breath. Louder, he replied. “Who is this ‘One’ you speak of?”


    “[The One is our leader,]” he replied. [“He has brought us together and is our greatest warrior. He wishes to speak with you if you will come with us.]”


    Carth looked suspiciously at them, and back at Aiden. Aiden looked helplessly at the group. “I think we need to go with them.”


    “Why?” Leiraya asked.


    “Because it’s just the right thing to do,” Aiden said, with a microscopic shrug. “It’s one of those Force things, I think.”


    “Can’t argue with that,” Carth replied a little sourly, but acquiesced. “All right, lead on.”


    “We will join you,” Aiden replied, trying to put an authoritative tone in his voice. He wasn’t really sure why, but it seemed like the right tack to take with this particular brand of warrior. They respected prowess in battle above all, so perhaps he should just let them think that he was always in battle-ready mode. Not that he thought anyone could really surprise him, but he didn’t exactly sleep with his lightsaber under his pillow. They didn’t need to know that.


    The crew followed as they went along with the group of warriors to a settlement. There were others just like them around, training in battle and doing calisthenics. They seemed very focused, and Aiden couldn’t help but wonder why they were so concerned with being so battle-ready. They were a war-like species, but the war on their planet seemed to be mostly of their own doing. It was an approach he didn’t really understand. Excellent as he was at battle, he had no desire to spend all of his days fighting things. In fact, he was quite content to find some place to settle down after all this, far away from all the Republic’s fighting and bickering, and simply enjoy life for a while. He wanted to find a planet like this one, but with less bloodthirsty locals and perhaps a local resort and a spa, and just go there and relax for a month. Maybe longer, if he thought he wanted to stay there and wouldn’t get stir crazy. The idea of continuing with this level of stress in battle just did not sound appealing.


    It was encouraging, though, that he could finally think about ‘when all this is over.’ It had been so long since they’d embarked on this mission, and they’d been through so much in so many places that he hadn’t even realised how truly tired he was until Korriban. Korriban was bound to be stressful even at full strength, but he wondered how much more difficult he’d made it for himself by waiting so long to go there. He knew that going there as a neophyte Padawan hadn’t sounded appealing, but in so many ways, he still felt like that Padawan, just barely trained in the Force and unsure of his powers. He had a lot of raw power, and now he knew exactly why, but it still felt new to him. He wasn’t sure how long that sensation would last. He wasn’t sure he wanted to find out. He really just wanted to have a nice, quiet time to himself.


    If the Republic would allow it, he thought sourly. He was sure that if he won, they’d find some way to parade him around as a poster child of victory and redemption, and he supposed they’d have that right, considering he used to be the biggest, baddest Sith Lord on the block. But then they’d be opening themselves up to the ethics of what the Jedi had done to him. If they chose to make those details public. Which, when he thought about it, he decided they probably wouldn’t. Too much of a public relations headache, too many hard questions, and too many people in the galaxy like Leiraya and Carth who were good people, and would never let them hear the end of it.


    Even the good guys have their issues, he thought, with a small shake of his head.


    As they entered the compound, he took note of the architectural style. It was wide open, which indicated to him that the planet had relatively mild weather. Any planet with any sort of precipitation tended to build more enclosures, but almost every room was open air here. He found that quite odd- even in Deralia’s better parts, he knew that there were generally several enclosed buildings, just for temperature control’s sake. He supposed that the weather here was steady enough that they didn’t need to worry about insulation. Or maybe their species was just extremely cold-resistant.


    Well, that was good to know, if he ever had a desire to try to freeze them to death, if he could even pull off such a feat.


    They entered a wide open courtyard, surrounded by giant cages. In the cages he could see what appeared to be young Rancors. He grimaced. Rancors were tough beasts, and he tended not to trust anyone who kept them. They were violent and from what he had seen, enjoyed snacking on sentient beings like they were chew toys. It wasn’t a pleasant thought. Thankfully, they looked young enough that, given a battle, he could overcome them. Back on Taris, he’d had to rely on ingenuity and a well-placed frag grenade to get past a particularly large and cranky rancor, but hopefully things wouldn’t come down to that here.


    Hopefully.


    “[Welcome, Revan!]” The lone figure in the center of the courtyard greeted him with a grand gesture of acceptance. “[We were beginning to think you would never return, but here you are.]”


    “Uhh… hi,’ Aiden waved nervously. These people knew him, and seemed friendly with him. That unnerved him.


    “[We thought after you’d left to find us the great secrets of the Elders that you had left us forever, or that the Elders had killed you. But when another ship fell from the sky, and my warriors reported tales of a great warrior who fought valiantly with magics, I knew you had returned to us. Now you can fulfill your vow to us to bring us the secrets of the Elders.]”


    Aiden stood silent for several seconds, looking helplessly at his crewmates before addressing the one he assumed was The One. “That’s… great. I have to tell you something, though. I’m not really Revan.”


    The One shook his head. [“No, I have met you before, and you are definitely Revan. Why would you suggest otherwise?]”


    “Because I lost my memories,” Aiden replied, having no desire to delve into the complexities of why he’d lost his memories. “I actually have no recollection of you, or coming to this place, or who the Elders might be.”


    “[Ahh.]” The One looked him over critically. “[I can see, you seem different. Well, no matter. You are still Revan to us, and we will always embrace you as such. Memory or no, our alliance can still stand.]”


    “I’m… honoured,” Aiden replied. “But, just for the sake of a guy who has no memory of this place…. Can you tell me what my vow was, and why we have an alliance?”


    The One nodded. “[It is to be expected. What do you wish to know?]”


    “Let’s start at the beginning,” Aiden replied. “Why was I here?”


    “[You came here, years ago, with your companion Malak,]” The One recalled. “[You came seeking the knowledge of the Star Forge, and you ripped the language out of our minds even as you put Basic into ours so you could ask us everything you wanted to know about these things. We promised to help you enter the Temple of the Ancients if you would kill the Elders and bring us their ancient tome full of the secrets of the Ancients.]”


    “Slaughtering Elders,” Aiden echoed. Well, hadn’t his former self been a charmer? “I see.”


    “[And now you are here again, and our promise remains the same],” The One vowed. “[If you help our people gain the great secrets of the Elders, then you will gain access to the Temple. You have our word, and we know you will keep yours.]”


    “I guess I will,” Aiden replied. “Who are these Elders?”


    “[They are few in number],” The One said dismissively. “[They guard the history and the secrets of our people, and they have never been willing to share their knowledge with the likes of us. Those of us who have fought the hardest to earn our place on this planet. We’ve tried capturing them several times, but every time we bring one of the Elders back and try to torture them for information, it is of no use. They fear the very knowledge they guard, and will not share it with us.]”


    “Ah,” Aiden replied. “So they’re like an entire collective of historians.”


    “[I suppose that is one way to look at it],” The One replied. “[And they hold the secrets you need to get to the Star Forge.]”


    “Well, I suppose we need to head that way, then.” Aiden looked at his companions. “Right?”


    “I don’t know how I feel about this whole slaughtering thing,” Leiraya said, low enough that The One couldn’t hear.


    “Me neither,” Aiden replied, “But it seems like it’s the only chance we have,” he shrugged. Turning back to The One, he nodded. “We will go to the Elders.”


    “[And keep your vow,]” The One finished for him. “[Go, bring back the secrets of the Ancients, and we will help you find the Star Forge.]”


    With that, he turned and left, leaving Aiden and company standing in the center of the courtyard. “Well,” Aiden said, “That was interesting.”


    “Interesting is about right,” Carth shook his head. “You actually managed to tear an entire language out of another species when you were Revan?”


    “Clearly,” Aiden rubbed his temple. “I don’t even want to think about how much raw Force power something like that would take.”


    “It would take a lot,” Leiraya said, with no small amount of shocked amazement in her voice. “I’ve never even heard of anyone doing such a thing. That’s a pretty deep invasion of the mind.”


    “Maybe I had the whole brain rewiring thing coming to me after all,” Aiden muttered. “Revan was really not a good man. I mean, he obviously found the Star Forge, so he clearly went to the Elders and got their help getting there. I personally think this tribe is awfully bloodthirsty, so let’s face it- even the evil version of me left these guys out to dry when given the chance.”


    “Yeah, they don’t seem like good people to help,” Leiraya frowned. “So what do we do?”


    “Same thing I apparently did last time,” Aiden shrugged. “Go find the Elders. Find out what we can about the Star Forge. Find out why they helped me, and see what happens from there.”


    “I guess that’s about as good a plan as any.” Jolee shrugged. “I can’t say I think they’ll welcome you with open arms, though.”


    “I have to try,” Aiden replied, turning around to walk out of the courtyard. “I got the galaxy into this mess, and these are the only people who seem to be able to tell me anything about who I was before. I guess I didn’t have the mask when I came here. They can tell me about my motivations, about my actions… I need to know.”


    With that, they followed him out of the settlement, past several groups of battling warriors who would all turn and bow as they passed. It was a little odd, but for a group that so respected warriors, it wasn’t so out of place as to be completely off-putting. Outside the settlement, they continued down the path in the other direction away from the settlement than the one they’d come from.


    It was another winding path, lined in cliffs and only wanting to lead in one direction. It was almost as though someone wanted to make sure no one would get lost, though Aiden couldn’t fathom why anyone would really want to do that. They continued walking, and a gizka hopped on ahead of them. They watched as it ran ahead of them, taking leaps into an open area. As it cheerfully hopped into the clearing, they were suddenly rocked by an explosion. Leiraya and Jolee nearly lost their balance, though managed not to fall, and everyone else was merely rocked back several steps.


    “What was that?” Leiraya coughed, accidentally inhaling some of the smoke that was now coursing through the air.


    “It was an explosion of some kind,” Aiden replied, blinking against the dust. “Not sure where or why.”


    Carth walked forward cautiously, and examined the side of the cliff aside the clearing. “Guys, I think I know what happened.”


    Leiraya came up behind him, and saw the green slime dripping from the walls, pocked with chunks of charred flesh. She gasped. “Not the gizka!”


    Aiden shook his head. “One moment you’re handing us grenades, the next you’re mourning the loss of a gizka.”


    “The gizka never hurt anyone,” she countered. “Besides, I’ve kind of gotten used to the little guys hopping around. I hope that wasn’t one of Sasha’s gone loose.”


    “Either way, it tells us something important- we have land mines around here. Canderous, how’s your demolitions training?”


    Canderous shrugged. “Average, so far as the Mandalorians goes. Which is probably better than most Republic types.”


    Carth frowned. “Are you saying that our demolitions division was bad?”


    “No, I’m saying that more of us knew about them,” Canderous replied. “I can find your land mines and disarm them, if that’s what you’re asking.”


    “It is, Aiden nodded. “I just want to make sure none of us gets hurt simply by walking around.” As if on cue, a blaster bolt went whizzing past his ear. “Or by ambush!”


    Within moments everyone had their weapons out and they positioned themselves so as to guard each others backs, clustered around the slimy green remains of the exploded gizka. From behind several obelisks and outcroppings of rocks, several men in Mandalorian armour charged out.


    “Canderous,” Aiden shouted, “get the mines! We’ll hold these guys off!”


    Canderous nodded and jogged off, and Aiden saw out of the corner of his eye as the Mandalorian knelt down and began defusing a land mine. He pulled his attention fully back to the charging raiders. These must be the Mandalorians the Duros had talked about, the only ones able to fend off the warriors. They’d chosen a good area to do it- the open courtyard only had two entrances, and many obelisks littered the area. To his left was situated a giant temple- the Temple of the Ancients, if he wasn’t wrong, and they’d set up camp around its steps. It didn’t look like they had managed to get in- but apparently even he, as Revan, had needed the help of the locals to do that.


    The cluster of Jedi surrounded Carth, deflecting the oncoming blaster bolts as Carth shot between them, at the Mandalorians. Their armour was protective, though, so it did almost nothing to slow them down.


    “Jolee!” Aiden yelled. “Think you can distract these guys?”


    “You got it,” the older man grinned wickedly and raised an arm. There was a shout of surprise as two of the Mandalorians suddenly found themselves spining in the air, unable to control their arms or the direction of their shots. “This distracting enough?”


    “You’d better believe it!” Carth grinned, doing his best to aim for the chinks in their armor. Juhani stepped in and made quick work of dispatching them while they were still airborne, their limp forms falling to the ground. That left three more warriors, two of which had pulled out vibroswords. One immediately engaged Aiden, who did his best to push back with the Force. The other went straight for Leiraya, who was much more nimble than the man in cumbersome armour. He slashed downward at her head, but quick as his stroke was, it was not quick enough. Her head was no longer there by the time his sword reached that area; she had bent over backwards. The vibrosword swished centimeters from her face, and she could practically smell the cool metal as it slashed by her. She immediately returned to the upright position and pushed outwards with the Force, planting a blow directly in the center of his chest and sending him stumbling backwards. He caught his balance and thrust forward at her shoulder, but she spun at the hips and the blade went right past her, even as her other arm came up with another Force push, this one catching him beneath the chin. His helmet came clean off, and she pressed the advantage as he got over the shock of no longer having head protection. He saw her coming and tried to grab her front, but she pulled her arms up between his and quickly pushed them out of the way, pulling one of his arms behind his back and flipping him on to the ground as she did. With her knee on his back and her lightsaber at his neck, she asked, “Do you really want to continue this?”


    The Mandalorain roared angrily. “You’ll never take me prisoner! I am Mandalorian, and you are nothing!” He pushed himself up with his free arm, sending her sprawling. She quickly turned it into a roll and landed with her lightsaber protectively before her. He charged straight at her, and she held her ground. As he lunged at her, she simply ducked and forced her blade upward. It hit the chink between his plates, and he fell over with a grunt. She stood, incredulously, trying to take in what had just happened. The man’s eyes rolled back in his head, and a trickle of blood came out of the corner of his mouth. She could only stand there, staring at what she’d just done, completely unaware of what her companions were up to.


    Carth came up behind her. “Are you okay?” Then he looked down. “Oh.”


    “Yeah.” She shook her head for a moment and looked around. “How is everyone else?”


    “Aiden just took out the last of them,” Carth confirmed. “Canderous found all the land mines, or so he says, and I believe him. The area should be safe now.”


    “Good.” She took a deep breath, which she could let out only shakily. “That’s good.”


    Aiden came over. “What happened over here?”


    “I… I got him,” Leiraya answered. “I tried to keep him alive, but he just charged me. It was like he didn’t want to live if he wasn’t going to win, and he really wanted to win, and I think I just killed him.’


    Carth held her around her shoulders. “It’s okay. It should never be an easy thing to take a life.”


    “No, I would think not,” she replied, settling into his embrace as she steadied herself. “So it’s always this upsetting?”


    “Maybe a little less so as a war goes on,” Carth admitted. “We try to protect ourselves from those emotions, since it gets in the way of a good focused battle. But I think it just means we have to push those feelings aside until the time comes that we can deal with them.”


    “Oh. Okay.” She took a deep breath and stood back up. “I guess so.”


    Juhani came over and clasped her upper arm. “You will be all right,” she assured the shaken woman. “It is a credit to you that you do not take killing lightly.”


    “I’ll remember that later,” she nodded. “When I’m a little less shaken up.’


    Aiden surveyed the area. “This is the temple where I need to get information about the Star Forge, I’m sure of it,” he said. “Now let’s find these Elders and see if they can tell me why I never went back to the One the last time I was here, and if they can help me find the Star Forge again.”
    RK_Striker_JK_5 likes this.
  18. RK_Striker_JK_5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2003
    star 7
    Oh, damn. This is a massive blast from the past. I... I might have some catching up to do.

    Good to see you back.
  19. earlybird-obi-wan Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 21, 2006
    star 6
    Great to see you back with this story
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