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  1. In Memory of LAJ_FETT: Please share your remembrances and condolences HERE

Beyond - Legends I, Tahiri Veila (The Remaster), Post-Crucible, Canon-Compliant *UPDATE 6/10*

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by rebel_cheese, Apr 30, 2014.

  1. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2006
    Hi there. A long time ago, on the previous incarnation of TFN, I posted a fic that meant to serve as a conclusive story for Tahiri Veila, one of the many, many characters in the Expanded Universe, and offer a possible future for her. However, around the time Episode VII was initially announced, I lost interest and moved onto other things, even though I had only posted half of what I had written.

    I've decided to change my mind, and have been rewriting and editing the story, which was almost finished. The intent is to make the story canon with X-Wing: Mercy Kill and Crucible, and while there's some things you will have to take a grain of salt for (VESTARA), due to them being a legacy thing of the original story . . . nevertheless I have managed to force I, Tahiri Veila into the "Legends" canon.

    While the story will not leave Tahiri's perspective, the goal now is not to just offer a conclusive ending for Tahiri, but also for the Expanded Universe as well. A coda, if you will.

    I hope to not lose focus this time, and actually remember to post the chapters. This is not a long fic, and should be fully posted before the end of the year. I hope you enjoy this "remastered" version, and feel free to offer any criticism (or continuity fixes!) you wish.

    (also, feel free to kick my ass if I forget about posting. Seriously).
    ___________________________________________________________________________________

    Title: I, Tahiri Veila (The Remaster)
    Author: rebel_cheese
    Setting: Original World, eventually Coruscant
    Timeframe: 45 ABY, Post-Crucible
    Genres: Action, Adventure, Angst, Drama, Mystery
    Characters: Tahiri, Allana
    Disclaimer: I own nothing, GL does, the usual thing. Except for my own OCs. I own those.
    Summary: After the end of the latest civil war, an ex-Jedi Knight has fallen between the cracks by her own free will. Tahiri Veila now lives under a false name on a world divided between rich and poor, doing odd jobs to get by. Unsure of what to do with her life as she has fled rather than face swift Imperial justice for the murder of Gilad Pellaeon, all Tahiri wants is a purpose. And when Tahiri discovers that purpose, she may become the final crack that separates the Empire and Galactic Alliance for good . . . and the one person who could save a girl's life.

    Dramatis Personae

    Aster Nightflare: Jedi Apprentice (female human)
    Allana Djo-Solo (aka Amelia Solo): child (female human)
    Ben Skywalker: Jedi Knight who's uneasy around Tahiri (male human)
    Boba Fett: Mandolorian bounty hunter (male human)
    Darth Scylla: Sith Saber (female Zeltron)
    Darth Thanatos: Sith Lady (female unknown)
    Emiya Lottoson: Jedi Master (female Evarri)
    Jaina Solo: Jedi Master (female human)
    Jagged Fel: Imperial Emperor (male human)
    Jysella Horn: Jedi Knight (female human)
    Kyp Durron: Jedi Master, entrepreneur of Kyp's Notes study materials (male human)
    Leia Organa Solo: Jedi Master (female human)
    Malinza Thanas: Senator-elect from Bakura (female human)
    Mirta Gev: Mandolorian bounty hunter (female human)
    Mursov Sebatyne: Jedi Apprentice (female Barabel)
    Myri Antilles: intelligence officer (female human)
    Sakana Ishima: Jedi Apprentice (female human)
    Syal Antilles: Rogue Leader (female human)
    Tomas Yarisla: Arelian prince (male near-human)
    Valin Horn: Jedi Knight (male human)
    Tahiri Veila: vagrant (female human)
    Vestara Khai: ex-Sith wondering what to do with her life (female human)

    Emiya Lottoson and Sakana Ishima are owned by Charlemagne19, a legacy poster on TFN who I respect much, and I had obtained permission to use a pair of his personal Star Wars characters in the original version of ITV. If he no longer wishes for me to use his characters I will rename them and alter them enough to be similar yet different from his interpretations.
    __________________________________________________________________________________

    One

    Everyone who's met me thinks I'm strange. And they'd be right.

    Let's go over a few things, the Kyp's Notes version if you will. Number one, I'm Tahiri Veila, a child of the Sand People on Tatooine. This is not something I'm proud of. When even Luke Skywalker, the most congenial and polite man I've ever met, described a typical Sand People triumphant yell as "HERRRRRRR-ARRRRR-ARRRRR-ARRRROOOO" you're not going to get a ton of respect from people. Not surprisingly, I keep that detail to myself.

    Number two, I like going barefoot. I get it, it's odd. Get over it. Though if I'm going to to protect my identity I generally do wear shoes or boots of some kind in public. I figure it's better if only my feet feel imprisoned than my entire body, if you know what I mean.

    Number three, I was once a Jedi Knight. I still am Force-sensitive, and still use the Force, but I'm not really a member of their Order anymore. I've chosen to go my own way, at least until I can figure out what the hell I should be doing. Good luck to me on that.

    Number four, the Yuuzhan Vong captured me nineteen years ago (give or take) and tried to make me into someone else, Riina Kwaad. That was fun, having a personality war inside my head until Tahiri and Riina merged together to form . . . me, I guess. I still have the introductory scars on my forehead, by the way, though I changed my hairstyle to include bangs so they'd be hidden. I can't quite bring myself to have cosmetic surgery done to remove them completely, and I guess that's the Yuuzhan Vong part of me that's refusing to let them go.

    Number five, which is also last but not least, I'm also marked for death by the Imperials. Murdering one of their heroes has that effect. With Jagged Fel no longer in charge of the Empire, that order hasn't been revoked . . . and when I left the Jedi Order to find my way, the Empire attempted to bring me to justice. Perhaps not surprisingly, I opted to flee instead of accepting the Imperial offer of a fair trial. So forget about me attending an Imperial dinner party anytime soon.

    Is that everything? Besides something that I will henceforth refer to as "the incident"?

    I think so. Good.

    It's been about a couple of years now since the end of the disastrous Admiral Natasi Daala administration. I don't know what possessed people to install her in the first place. People still scratch their heads about it today, when they're not busy mourning their dead.

    I'm not particularly grieving over her defeat. After all, she wanted me dead. I killed Gilad Pellaeon who she apparently was close with, and she wanted vengeance for that. In a way, I don't blame her for that, but in another way, I've learned that vengeance gets us nothing. There's something empty that hollows you out once you get over the blaze of glory over killing or otherwise disposing of the one who wronged you. And it got Daala nothing, other than her ultimate downfall and her name carved as one of the more infamous Chief of States in Galactic Alliance history.

    Since there's only been three so far, Cal Omas, Jacen Solo a.k.a. Darth Cadeus, and her, I don't think that means very much so far. Of the three only Cal Omas turned out anything resembling okay, and he was far from perfect. No wonder it's taking so long for a new, permanent Chief of State to be elected, and why the interim Chief of State remains in charge. People desperately want the new one to be right.

    Of course, I served the most infamous Chief of State of all, Darth Cadeus. I was his apprentice, actually. I believed he could save Anakin, bring him back to me. I would've done anything for Cadeus as long as that miracle was waiting for me. I was so caught up in Cadeus' words and flow-walking and whatnot that I never realized that the path I was taking was not what Anakin would have wanted. Anakin would've wanted me to let him go, to stay on the light side, to resist darkness, not embrace it.

    But, almost twenty years after he died, I still can't quite let him go. It's ridiculous. I'm almost thirty-four. Even with advanced medical technologies and Force-sensitivity helping to slow the aging process, I'm far from a child. But I can't let him go. Especially here, on this world, where I live next door to a reminder of his existence.

    And then, of course, there's the Gilad Pellaeon assassination I did and finally "the incident". I'm not real popular in the galaxy.

    So yeah, things could be better.

    My apartment is in one of the more lower-class parts of the capital city of Arelia. It's not the worst part of town, though crime is pretty common. The people here have no hope of leaving offworld and only the thinnest of dreams of advancing to a better part of the city. But they make ends meet and band together when there's trouble, and I admire that. It helps that, unlike the Arelian elite, that they tend to love Jedi. I am sure my true identity is known to at least a couple of my neighbors, but so far, no trouble has come my way.

    And I make ends meet too, by being a jill-of-all-trades, doing my best Jaina Solo imitation to fix things, being a spontaneous police officer when there's trouble, wiping out some Yuuzhan Vong leftover creatures and carnivorous vegetation when they try to muscle in, among other things. My landlord hasn't gotten angry at me yet so I guess I'm doing okay, but at the same time, compared to what I used to do, this is basic, almost boring work.

    But this is what I need right now. A break from the latest galactic crisis. Let me just take care of local problems. I'll make up my own damn mind on when I'm ready to face the rest of the galaxy. Ready to own up for what I have done.

    At least, that's what I want. I have no idea if things are gonna stay this way.

    "Tahiri!" shouts a young boy's voice, a voice I'm beginning to recognize immediately. I hear knocking at my door. "Tahiri, are you in there?"

    You may be surprised that I've kept my first name. It seems that on Arelia's undercity there was a trend of naming their children after heroes of the Galactic Civil War and the Yuuzhan Vong war. A trend that no longer exists thanks to more current events, but I can get into that later. I've met more than one girl named "Tahiri" and so I decided to keep my name, plus it helps that Tahiri's a fairly common name on Tatooine too. I did change the last name, though. "Tahiri" plus "Veila" equals "death wish".

    Unfortunately, the young boy carries a name with great emotional heft for me, and I have to hide it every time I speak with him.

    "Yes, I'm here, Anakin. It's unlocked."

    The boy immediately opens the door, so hard it slams into the wall. He's close to breathless. He has some similarities to the young man he was named after, he's a little pudgier and has some freckles, but has the same bright blue eyes and straight brown hair. "Tahiri, the shop . . . my family's been taken hostage!"

    Oh great, hostage rescue. I don't really like that part of my job. So much risk, to me, and to the people I'm trying to save. And I do it for close to free. I know I can't say "no", though, Anakin's store is one of the better places in the neighborhood . . . and I can't exactly condemn an innocent family to death. I think I've done enough condemning for one lifetime.

    I check my blaster's power pack, and it's fully charged. You always keep a charged weapon close at hand in this part of the town. It's a fact of life.

    "I understand," I say as I quickly slip my boots on. My feet feel stifled, and I force myself to ignore the crushed, suppressed feeling spreading across both my feet. I gather some spare packs, and make sure my lightsaber is also ready, in the event I need it. "Take me there. I'll see what I can do."

    Tahiri Veila is a barefooted, blonde ex-Jedi Knight on the run, fleeing justice for her actions. Tahiri Solus is a brunette, young, down-on-her-luck bounty hunter who uses a lightsaber for intimidation purposes . . and wears black boots. Believe it or not, the locals here buy my alter ego (most of them, anyway). They've got too much to be worried about at home to think too much about what's going on in the rest of the galaxy.

    Anakin nods frantically. "Okay, come on, hurry!"

    It is hard to have a similar level of youthful exuberance. I'm pretending to be a woman almost ten years younger than I actually am. Twenty-four-year-olds have energy that is much more difficult for someone a decade older to find. I have to draw on the Force slightly on occasion in order to find the youthful demeanor and intensity to give credence to my disguise.

    As far as I know, the Empire has very few Force-sensitives. So drawing on the Force isn't going to be a red flag. But that could change soon. I had heard rumors that the Imperials were considering making their own Force-sensitive division. Then I'm going to be in trouble. But until then . . .

    I chase after him, down the stairs and around the corner, and I use my longer legs to easily keep pace. "How many are there? Is everyone okay?"

    "Yeah, it's a burglary gone wrong! I think there's three maybe four!"

    "Are you the only one who got away?"

    "Yeah, I was outside when the whole thing happened! A few of the volunteer police have them surrounded but, well, you know who the volunteer police are!"

    Yeah, I do. They have a tendency to cave in quickly. They're not professional police at all, and anything outside of breaking up thug fights is out of their league.

    We slow down, and begin pushing our way through a burgeoning crowd to make it to a makeshift barricade in front of the store, where some of the volunteer police are grabbing anything they could find and placing it down as cover. The only thing identifying them as who they are are the purple cloth armbands around their left arms.

    Their leader, a man named Guill, approaches me. "That you, Tahiri?"

    "Yeah," I say. "What's going on in there?"

    "They're making the usual kind of demands before they start killing hostages," Guill says. "We've got fifteen minutes to agree before they kill the first one."

    "No!" Anakin cries.

    Guill turns to two of his soldiers, and they walk towards Anakin and gently move him away. "That store, and the Feldas family, are the lifeblood of this community. We can't afford to lose either, but they're putting us in a position to choose one or the other. And we're honestly kriffed either way."

    I look at the storefront. I would have to be exceptionally careful, but maybe . . .

    Oh, hell. I was a Jedi. I should be able to pull this off.

    "Okay. I think I can fix this up in ten minutes, maybe eleven. Hang on," I say, and I begin moving towards an alley in-between the store and an adjacent building.

    "Don't get yourself killed!" Guill shouts.

    That's the easy part. I already know I'm not going to die. I have intangibles nobody else around me does. But no one knows about those. I'm just an ordinary woman to them, an ordinary woman with extraordinary athleticism.

    I look up, and see a ladder partially extended to the ground, it'll require a pretty good leap to grab on. I jump and manage to get my hands around the lowest bar. Okay, I don't need the Force for this. My natural athleticism will get me to the roof in no time.

    My feet feel like total bricks as I begin to climb up, but my athletic ability compensates for the clumsy feeling that I have. I make it to a steel stairway and run my way up. There's no windows on the general store's side, so I'm not going to suddenly get shot at or get Anakin's family shot.

    I make it to the top of the roof, and stare across at the top of the general store. Thankfully, the general store is just a little bit lower than the building I've climbed up on. It'll make my leap seem plausible.

    I back up several feet and then take off at a mad sprint. The general store is total brick and duracrete, my impact will be masked somewhat. It'll be when I get inside when I have to really watch my step.

    I jump, giving myself just a small boost from the Force just to make sure I'll make it and not, you know, fall to my death. It will really be pathetic if I meet my end not because of fighting to end a galactic crisis but because I got stupid and overconfident and . . . well, have my asinine brains greet the ground.

    I make it and somersault onto the roof, and I see the top entrance. Stupidly, the burglars don't have anyone up here keeping watch. I chuckle to myself. What kind of idiots wouldn't send someone on the roof to stop an infiltration from above?

    But as I'm about to open the door to get to the bottom, the door opens in front of me. And there is one of the burglars, E-11 blaster rifle in hand, his face obscured by a bandanna across his nose and mouth.

    His eyes widen. I don't think he expected company.

    I pull him from the entrance before he could shout for help and chop him in the human nerve cluster in the back. He collapses in a limp heap. He'll be down for a few minutes, but my already thin time limit's become even thinner, I have no idea how long before he regains his sense of movement or when they'll try to check in with him.

    Okay, the burglars are slow-witted, not completely idiotic. I can't underestimate them. They're going to realize their many mistakes a little bit at a time, and that's going to make them more dangerous.

    I move down the stairs and into the storeroom. No one's here. Why would there be? If they only had three or four men to begin with and could only spare one for the roof, why would they waste another guard on this floor?

    There one more story to go before ground level, where the public is actually supposed to shop. And that story is clear too, and that leaves only the ground level for me.

    I have my blaster out the whole time, not my lightsaber. I'm not supposed to be a Jedi, just a rogue. Rogues go for the blaster first. Lightsabers are just extremely dangerous melee weapons for rogues, not the honorable, elegant saber for a Jedi Knight. It still doesn't feel right, holding a blaster, just like it doesn't feel right wearing shoes, but it's a sacrifice I must take in order to live.

    As I reach the end of the final, short stairway, I hear voices, and I slow my movement. One the final step, I stop, and peer out from behind my corner and towards the hostage situation.

    The other four members of Anakin Feldas' family are right here, kneeling down in a group, watched closely by two goons. The man who appears to be their ringleader is pacing back and forth by himself, speaking to a com.

    "Yosef, you better answer me in the next five seconds or I swear I'm gonna lose it here. You better not have been caught off guard, you hear me? 'Cause you ain't receiving no bail from me in jail! You want to be somebody's witch, that's your own fault!"

    Any second now, he's going to realize that Yosef indeed was taken down, and things are going to get more difficult. I look back at the goons. One's just holding a blaster pistol, but the other is holding something infinitely more dangerous, the Tenloss Disrupter rifle.

    The Disrupter is the perfect assassination weapon. A fully-powered shot can disintergrate its victim. It leaves no trace and hardly any evidence other than ashes, which basically tells nobody anything other than a Disrupter had fired from somewhere. Not surprisingly, it's banned and no longer sold, but old copies remain in circulation. And this guy has come across one.

    I have to take this guy out first. The Disrupter is just too dangerous. He could vaporize a victim . . . or me if I get careless.

    The ringleader throws his com to the ground and crushes it under his boot. The pistol-wielding goon looks at his boss dumbly. "Uh, what's goin' on, boss?"

    "Yosef's probably gotten his ass kicked. I betcha somebody's coming from that roof right now. Gimme one of the boys."

    "But you said-"

    "If we don't get out of here now, we're dead," the ringleader said, and he pulls a young boy to his feet. He cries out in protect, and the ringleader just whacks him on the head. He stays silent, other than a few whimpers that the ringleader doesn't seem to mind too much.

    I have to move right now.

    I set my blaster to "stun" and jump into the open. I aim right for the Disrupter-wielding goon and shoot him with the blue, wide-arcing stun wave, and he's knocked backwards and falls over, the Disrupter crashing to the floor.

    "What the . . ." The ringleader spun right towards me and I just stun him too . . . and, unfortunately, his hostage, though I don't think he'll mind too much considering the inevitable end result.

    The last goon, for his part, grabs the woman and puts a gun next to her head. "You stop right now! I mean it! I'll blast her brains out!"

    I set my blaster to "kill". Stun blasts are a little slower, and if I have to I'm going to need what little speed advantage I get by aiming to kill.

    "You should put down the blaster," I say, in a firm tone of voice. "It's over."

    "You shut up! You drop your blaster in five seconds! I mean it!"

    I sigh. As much as I dislike immersing myself in the Force, and displaying any effort and prowess, there's no choice here. I have to risk exposing myself to all of the people who knows me to save this woman's life. If I make this fast maybe nobody would be able to detect me.

    I channel the Force through my voice, through my mind, directing all of it towards the man. "You will let her go."

    "I . . . wha?"

    "You will let her go. You know it's over."

    "I . . . will let her go." He drops the woman, and she frantically crawls away.

    I breathe a sigh of relief for just a split second before resuming my concentration. "You will put the blaster down and kick it towards me."

    "Okay." The man carefully set the blaster down and kicked it towards me, and I caught the blaster with my foot.

    "Kneel down, and put your hands behind your head," I say.

    Just as the man begins obeying, I hear a groan from behind me. I spin around, and it's the ringleader I stunned. He must be in great shape to already be shaking off a stun blast . . . or have great mental fortitude to fight his body.

    "You idiot . . . she's doing some kinda-"

    Before he finishes, or try to point his blaster at me, the volunteer police, finally figuring out that I had won, busts inside and march all around us. Just as the ringleader had been about to expose me in front of everyone, I had been rescued by the cavalry. The police promptly rough up the ringleader, stunning him with electrical batons. They do that with all of the burglars, actually.

    I hear the woman, Velodi Feldas, begin talking to me. She can barely be heard above the general commotion. "How . . . how did you do that?"

    I smile at her. "I can be very persuasive when I want to be," I say. The woman's face scrunches in puzzlement, and I already know she doesn't completely buy it. What I just did was so stereotypically Jedi that everyone knows about it. The Jedi mind trick is just that famous.

    It's time to gather my stuff up and leave, and find another planet to live, before everybody starts putting two and two together. And I had done such a good job, too.

    But it's time for another false name, most likely one that doesn't use my first name, and very likely find a far scummier place to live. As unappealing as Nar Shaddaa and places like that are, I may not have any other choice.

    "Mom!" Anakin rushes past me and runs into Velodi's arms, and I just sigh and walk away. These people are going to miss me, when serious crime happened I was the closest thing they had to a special forces unit. I can just do things that they can't. They had been assuming that I was just that good, but now . . . I've screwed up just enough that they'll know that I'm not a Tahiri, I'm the Tahiri.

    And when word leaks out, it won't be long before the Imperials send their agents here to try and murder me. Agents that possibly have some skill in the Force.

    My time is borrowed starting now.

    As I walk outside, Guill runs up to me. "Excellent work as always, Tahiri. Uh . . ."

    "I'm fine. I didn't completely waste the blaster pack so I can recharge it at home. Consider this one on the house," I tell him.

    Guill's surprised. "Really?"

    "Just doing my part as a concerned citizen of the community. You don't need to pay me for it, you're strapped enough already," I say. "I'm gonna head back to-"

    Suddenly, there is a disturbance in the Force. A dark, violent disturbance.

    I instantly tense up. This disturbance is so strong even someone who has not maintained a consistent connection to the Force can sense it, like me. Something bad is here. Nearby. Somewhere . . .

    To my left.

    "Guill, get down!" I shout as I suddenly see a flash of blood-red color jolt from the crowd and come flying at me.

    Everyone is screaming, a panic is beginning in the crowd. I grab Guill, who is right in the path, and pull him to the right and down, sending us crashing to the ground as the lightsaber bounces off the ground and spins back towards its owner like a boomerang.

    I scramble to my feet, and I see a cloaked figure, clad in brown. The figure seems female, and humanoid, and as I stare I see dark violet lips and a small patch of lavender skin. Maybe a Zeltron?

    The figure catches the red lightsaber in mid-air, and the crowd backs away from the figure, everyone murmuring. Somehow, there's been no injuries from the lightsaber, other than some people having scrapes, bruises, and cuts from falling to the ground.

    The figure's free hand, her left, extends outward, and then her fingers flick backwards a couple of times. Come and get me.

    A clear taunt.

    I can't have the fight here. Not with all of these people. I look at Guill, who's still on the ground and in shock. "Stay here. I'll take care of her."

    Guill just manages a "Hey, wait-" before I take off.

    The figure immediately spins around and begins running herself, her speed enhanced by the Force.

    Now this simple store robbery breakup is now a chase scene between myself and a Sith.

    Questions fill my head. I thought the Lost Tribe of the Sith had been destroyed by Luke Skywalker and the Galactic Alliance. I thought Abeloth was gone. So then why is a Sith here? Why? Now? And why am I of all people the target?

    Well, I'm not going to find out just pondering about it, am I? I'm going to have to beat it out of her.

    I yank my lightsaber off my belt and ignite it, and begin chasing the figure through the streets.
     
    Revanfan1, Draconarius and mulberry like this.
  2. mulberry

    mulberry Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 20, 2009
    Can you tag me for updates? This is going to be fun!
     
    rebel_cheese likes this.
  3. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2006

    I would if I knew how. XD I'm glad you like the start of it, though! I'll get a bonus chapter up this weekend and get everything rolling!
     
  4. Draconarius

    Draconarius Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2005
    Just stick a @ at the start of a username. Like this: rebel_cheese

    So happy to see this back. Could I trouble you for a tag, as well?
     
    rebel_cheese likes this.
  5. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2006
    Thank you for explaining how to tag.

    I hope this will stay back. I've got a lot of chapters to go through here. Still making sure the revisions are up to snuff.
     
    mulberry likes this.
  6. TheChosenSolo

    TheChosenSolo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 9, 2011
    I like what I see here :) I've always been a fan of Anakin and Tahiri, and you've written her well. Add me to the tag list as well please :)
     
  7. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2006
    mulberry, Draconarius, Anakin Solo Revanchist
    ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Two

    The one good thing about this situation is that the figure's lightsaber is so intimidating and terrifying that the crowd scrambles to stay out of the way, lest they lose a limb, their torsos, or their heads. This makes it easy for me to run with my lightsaber lit, because our friendly neighborhood Sith is clearing the way.

    Speaking of whom, I have a strong feeling that I'm being led into a trap. A likely lethal trap. I don't think the Sith have any interest in recruiting me back into their ranks. I was never really with these Sith in the first place, I was basically part of the classic "Rule of Two", with Caedus as my master and me as the apprentice.

    But at this point, I have to assume I'm completely compromised. If I give up the chase and head back to where I live, I'm probably going to have Sith appear from everywhere, killing the people I know. They're probably occupying my apartment and waiting to ambush me. No, I have to keep chasing. If I chase this woman for long enough, her friends might eventually break from their positions to help her, and then I can turn around and grab my things before I get off this planet.

    She hops on a speeder bike and shoots down the street with it, and I know there's no choice. A delivery boy's speeder bike is still parked but running next to where the Sith's speeder bike was. Sorry, teenager in a part time job, but this is far more important than take-out delivery.

    I rev the bike and speed after her, and try to ignore the rather scrumptious smell emanating from the bike. Smells spicy, maybe it is pseudo-Kashyyyk cuisine. Humanoid-ized remixed and re-portioned versions of Wookiee food is the rage in fast food these days, at least on Arelia.

    Force, now I'm getting hungry. Never begin chasing someone on an empty stomach, you'll regret it.

    It's not long before I'm surrounded by other speeder bikes. Speeder bikes equipped with blasters. While little unarmed me is stuck with a cheap piece of junk that can barely be maneuvered, much less keep up on a high-speed chase.

    We've long left the neighborhood where I lived. We seem to be in a higher-class, more commercial quarter. More franchises, more style and effort put into making everything look good instead of cramming people in as condensed a space as possible. We're not at Coruscant-level traffic here, most traffic stays close to the ground floor unless we go way downtown, but it's becoming a more difficult drive.

    And now they're shooting at me.

    Krakssh.

    The piece of junk becomes a piece of scrap metal. I realize that just as it starts going out of control. I let the Force flow through me, and guide my best action, one that won't involve crashing.

    I see how. It'll be violent, but there's honestly no way to avoid a fight at this point. Besides, they shot first and they failed to kill me, unlike Han Solo, who shot Greedo first and Greedo never got to live to tell about it. At least, that's how Han likes to tell the story, I have a sneaking suspicion that Greedo either got the jump on Han or they basically shot at each other at the same time and Han had better aim.

    Thank the Force that Han will never give Sith shooting lessons.

    I leap off of the bike, and backflip straight towards another cloaked figure riding one of the armed speeder bikes.

    There's a surprised jolt in the Force that comes off as a bit of a deep rumble, like dark waves trembling in all directions. Definitely another Sith, and he's panicking.

    He ignites his lightsaber, but I'm already there. I kick him in the face and he goes spiraling backwards, presumably to go splat. I quickly gain control of the bike and accelerate it, and now I'm behind three Sith.

    They were not going to tolerate being chased for long. I switch off my lightsaber and stuff it into a pocket, it's time to go for the blasters. I get behind one of them and open fire. I hit him and he tries to pull the same stunt I just did, but I'm ready for an imitator. I weave to the left, and the Sith goes flying behind, presumably going splat like his brethren. Nothing like Sith roadkill in the morning.

    Just two left now. A sly grin appears across my face. These Sith must be the low-level flunkies, not important enough to face Luke Skywalker when he and the rest of his group decided to wipe the Lost Tribe out. I mean, if I can still take these guys . . .

    Sirens. I look behind me. The police are reacting, and their sirens are blazing.

    I quickly take a poorly-aimed shot at the two Sith still in front of me. I never had the intention to hit either, I just wanted to send a subliminal message to the police that I'm chasing them, that I'm not on the side of the Sith. It's hard to believe but some people can't tell the difference between Jedi and Sith and you have to shove it down their throats.

    Unfortunately, the police begin shooting at me anyway. I guess they don't care, they're just going to shoot everybody.

    I guess that makes a good survival strategy for them if they're in doubt. But that just makes things suck for me.

    We weave through more streets, and suddenly are propelled high into the sky. We're going to be in Coruscant-esque territory soon. If things weren't dangerous before, they were going to become even more so. Because you don't just go splat at this height. You get several seconds to reflect on how meaningless your life has been in the big picture of things, and then you go splat.

    I fire wildly at the pair of Sith ahead, and they both manage to dodge my shots. I sense a disturbance behind me, and just manage to dodge the police taking even more shots at me. And the police are getting reinforcements, there's six of them now. I can't dodge six of them, not for very long.

    I either need to disengage and try to outrun the police, or take the Sith out now and hopefully use the bodies of four Sith roadkill to get justification for my actions.

    I hit the turbo button as we approach the apex of our forced acceleration into the sky. If I time this right . . .

    Just as we reach the top and begin to go straight ahead, about thirty or so stories above ground level, I'm right beside one of the Sith. The cloaked figure next to me looks male though, and human, not Zeltron. Not my target.

    My left hand reaches into my pocket and ignites the lightsaber as I swing at the speeder bike's front. I not only knock the toe out of the bike, I destroy it completely, leaving me with the brief scent of hot metal. The bike begins spiraling out of control and the Sith abandons ship. It didn't look like he brought a parachute, so I assumed he was going to enjoy a very long fall and then leave a mess somewhere.

    Oh, boy. I think we all know what "assume" does, right?

    As I begin to concentrate on my final, Zeltron, target ahead, I suddenly realize something didn't go according to plan. There should be something furious yet terrified in the dark wavelengths of the Force, of a Sith realizing he's falling to his doom. No, I just feel something far smaller, of multiple ordinary people crying out in surprise and fear, and an evil, triumphant roar smothering the cries.

    I turn around. I hadn't killed the Sith at all. In fact, he was right behind me.

    He was now in control of one of the police's speeder bikes, and the first thing he did was wipe out the cop next to him, slicing the bike, and the poor cop, in half, and sending both plummeting to the ground below. The remaining cops fire in total panic upon the Sith, and such a wild, intense barrage is impossible to dodge.

    But as the Sith gets riddled with blaster bolts, he manages to fire a well-placed shot right at my bike.

    Krak-boom.

    He's wiped out my left engine. Instantly, I'm out of control, and the only thing I can do is try to hang on as I spiral from the sky, smoke flying everywhere all around me.

    It's getting harder to hold on, I'm already becoming so dizzy I want to fall unconscious. But, as I look to my right, there's a building made of glass.

    I can break glass.

    I turn the bike the best I can towards the building, and hopefully I can hit the building before I hit the ground.

    I accelerate, and then I hit.

    Crash.

    I slam on the brakes the moment I make impact, and the bike slams onto the ground, and I can't hold on any longer. I'm ejected from the bike, and using my connection to the Force, try desperately to flop on the ground in a way that won't result in any permanent injuries.

    Yeah, right. Even Jedi get broken bones from these stunts.

    I roll, slide, flop, somersault, spin, you name it, until I crash into a potted plant and finally hit a wall face-first.

    The Vong part of me thinks the pain is glorious, the human part . . . well, let's just say that the human part has the opposite reaction. Both parts of me agree on one thing, though:

    Ow.

    I fall backwards, as it feels like I've rubbed off all of the skin on the front of my body. I hit the ground, and see the leaves of the wrecked plant obscure my sight of everything. I can faintly hear commotion all around me, as it seems I've crashed in the middle of an office building, but I don't really care about that. What matters is that I'm still alive to hear conversation.

    My legs aren't bending the right way, though, and slowly, I realize that the pain is enormous. I definitely broke both of them, and I have no chance of getting up and trying to hobble away. All I can do is lay here and wait for the cops to get here and arrest me.

    I prepare myself for the inevitable healing trance. It'll help but it won't fix everything quickly, not without some bacta to go along with it.

    As I prepare to close my eyes, I hear the unmistakable sound of police running over to me. Two appear in my field of vision, and one smells vaguely of deathsticks. Guess drugs are corrupting the police force around here.

    I manage a smile that I know I'm ripping off from Han Solo. "Hiya."

    They both aim their blasters at me. "You're under arrest!"

    I move my arms into a position resembling surrender. They ache, but compared to the pain in my legs their pain is nothing.

    "Take her! It looks like she's hurt, don't kriff with the legs!"

    "Yeah, yeah, I'm on it."

    Knowing full well they were going to do me no favors in the pain department, I close my eyes and concentrate on the trance. I'll wake up when I'm damn good and ready.

    Unfortunately, I don't know when that will be.
    ***
    You know, being in prison gives you a lot of time to reminiscence. Not just about yourself and what you've done, but about all the people you know, how they must be doing right now, while you're stuck in a cell all by yourself. At least I got the privilege of solitary due to my injuries.

    Unfortunately, they were not very happy with me. My fake identification passed muster, but I had still stolen a speeder bike and caused a big disturbance in the peace. Plus carrying a lightsaber was apparently illegal on Arelia. So yeah, I was facing quite a bit of prison time and making bail was not likely . . . that is, if anyone who cared about me had enough credits for that. They've moved me more than once, from one prison to another, as my charges began to increase and as I began to heal.

    They were kind enough to give me bacta wraps to put around my legs, and they were changed daily, and after two weeks in the cell, my legs feel ginger but not broken anymore. Just a little wobbly, but nothing not another few days wouldn't hurt. I stopped putting myself in healing trances after the first couple of days, that way I'd just look like a fast healer to these guys, not like a Jedi or ex-Jedi.

    Jedi are not looked upon fondly on the so-called "normal" parts of Arelia nowadays thanks to Caedus' forces attempting a genocide on the planet, so now they tend to view Force-sensitives as witches who need to be burned at the stake (and I mean that literally), and they've exiled anyone who feels differently into the decaying, poor neighborhoods.

    Nobody from my part of town comes to visit me. I'm sure it's not for lack of trying. But people without money just can't visit people in prison on this planet. People without money aren't trustworthy to the rich. They're all criminals or on the borderline of it. And the rich here are fearful, too, fearful that the poor will smuggle something in to break criminals out.

    It's unreasonable, but a lot of things based in fear are. That's why fear leads to the dark side.

    And I'm afraid, too. That's the reason why I'm here, in this prison cell, instead of owning up to my crimes and mistakes.

    I'm afraid of death. I'm afraid of what awaits me once I become part of the Force. I don't think I'm the type who'll become a benevolent spirit and try to guide the living. I think I'm the type who's in for some serious suffering.

    And when I really think about it, do I deserve not to suffer? I've done a lot of cruel things. I didn't have to serve Darth Cadeus, especially after I learned how he was deceiving me. But I still did. And there's no excuse for that.

    And I could've faced my probably death proudly with my head high, after my desperate efforts to try to redeem myself during the last civil war. I helped Jagged Fel a lot during the final days of that war. Kinda was like a bodyguard. Saved his life multiple times, and helped end Abeloth and all of her servants. But that doesn't excuse me for what I did.

    In the end, he and I made a deal, and I was to honor my end of the bargain, even though it meant a likely death penalty with the Imperials.

    And, until the last possible second, I thought I could do it. Face my death. Just sit there, let them sound out the guilty verdict, and wait patiently for whatever lethal injection they were going to give me, and die as peacefully as I could, knowing that I had tried to make amends, somewhat, for killing the Empire's hero Gilad Pellaeon.

    And then my fear took over, and I ran. And now I'm back in prison, again.

    I am getting really sick of prison. Natasi Daala imprisoned me, the Empire tried to imprison me, and now the Arelia Royal Guard have imprisoned me, too. And it's only a matter of time before somebody important in this galaxy decides to check the curious case of "Tahiri Solus" out.

    I was hoping for reverse psychology with that alter ego. Like, it's so obvious that it can't be true, because Tahiri Veila wouldn't be that stupid. But reverse psychology can backfire, and backfire badly, and I was wondering if this was going to become one of those cases.

    And so, I am afraid.

    At least I'm not angry anymore. But being afraid isn't much better. Plus, you can make the argument that I'm suffering too, which means I'm beyond anger and hate. Suffering is the final part of falling to the dark side, after you've been eaten away by all of your hatred, and you're left with ultimately nothing. And I guess that's me right now, left with ultimately nothing other than my fear.

    I have nobody to blame but myself.

    My brunette dye job is beginning to fade, my blonde roots are showing. Soon, it'll be pretty obvious that I'm Tahiri Veila, even with the new hairstyle. And then I'm not just in trouble, I'm going to be hauled to justice, and that's if Imperial assassins don't put an end to me first.

    And the old saying, "you could've made it easy on yourself", echoes throughout my mind. I could've died honorably, but if I die now, it'll be dying as a coward. I doubt the Force will look too kindly upon that.

    A guard approaches my cell. It's a woman. The cell is very old-fashioned, relying on bars instead of force shields. Arelia is weird that way. They think force shields for prisoners is ineffective because of EMPs and all that, it'll be much more difficult to break prisoners out if there's bars.

    She chucks a brown bottle at me between the bars, and I catch it. It's my hair dye bottle.

    "Your request went in. Personally, I think it's dumb, I'd think you'd want a com or something so you'd get bail. I guess you must really like your hair or something."

    I smile at her. "No one will want to bail me out, I burned all of my bridges a long time ago."

    The guard looks away. "Somehow, I'm not surprised. Your kind always seems to do that."

    I want to make more conversation, but she's gone. I'm not surprised. Guards aren't supposed to communicate with prisoners any more than they have to. And the brief, terse conversation we just had was definitely on the borderline already.

    So I'm just here by myself again. It's almost enough to make me miss the days when I was Tahiri and Riina. But only almost. Conversations with yourself get old really fast, and Riina was never a chatty person anyway.

    I used to be an equal, fifty/fifty merge, but after all of these years in Galactic Alliance territory, it's getting harder to recall my Yuuzhan Vong heritage. I know part of the reason is that my Yuuzhan Vong part is formed from a lie. But Riina was real, and she remains a part of me. Riina's fortitude is probably the reason why I'm not crazy, and how I manage to keep moving through my life despite all of the pain and suffering. So I know that my Yuuzhan Vong half isn't gone by a long shot.

    Injured prisoners have their own sinks as well as their own freshers. I walk over and wash my hair, and use the dye. In moments, my blonde roots are completely gone, and I'm a full brunette again. But as I look at my reflection, I know that this identity is every bit a lie as Riina's origin. But just like Riina, this identity is real, too. I have no choice but for it to be real. This identity is how I survive.

    And, at least, getting to wash my face and hair makes me feel less like a vua'sa's armpit and more like a sentient being.

    I carefully reposition my bangs in front of my trio of forehead scars and just sit back down. What else can I do, besides sit? None of the guards seem to be weak-minded enough to trick them into getting me out, and even if I could, how far could I get?

    But I need to try. I'm just healthy enough, and my pain tolerance is incredibly high. Basically, I just need to get a blaster from somebody and I'll be armed enough to get out. I've constructed so many lightsabers at this point that it won't be much of an issue to build another. It's not like lightsabers grow on trees but it's pretty easy to get the materials and the necessary crystal that powers the thing.

    The hard part is building it. Not because it's hard, but because of its length. How much time can someone on the run spend in one place building a lightsaber? If I had a ship of my own I could just go to Dagobah, or maybe Hoth if I want to camp out in what remains of the destroyed Rebel Alliance base for a day or two. They're both located so far on the Outer Rim that it's more trouble than it's worth for the Imperials.

    But my plans are interrupted by reality.

    I hear the female guard cry out to the far right, and a soft thunk of a body hitting the ground followed the cry. The medical ward doesn't have many prisoners in it and most of those are too ill or badly hurt to really take notice, so there's an eerie silence instead of whooping or hollering.

    I walk up to the bars and try to peer to my right, but they've designed it so I can't really see to my left and right. All I hear are a solitary pair of footsteps, they're soft but purposeful, the person is light on his or her feet yet is determined and straightforward. Stealth isn't on the person's mind either.

    I back up a few paces, and ready myself. I think about reaching into the Force, but that might just alert whoever's coming than I'm onto them. I don't know who it is, but it's probably either Sith or one of those Force-sensitives the Empire was thinking of recruiting. In either case, the person coming is here to kill me.

    I gather the Force, in preperation to make a momentous shove. I'm going to need to knock the person off his feet, quickly steal his lightsaber, and cut him down. And then would come everything else.

    But as I prepare for such a show of power, the person suddenly appears in front of me.

    And she's not a Sith, a Jedi, or an Imperial.

    She is a lone entity, the only one of her kind.

    "Well," the brunette teenage girl says, placing her hands on her hips. "I see you're having fun in there. Guess being a rogue ain't working out too well for you, or am I just assuming things?"

    Her mouth hasn't changed from the last time I met her either. "Hi, Vestara, pleasant day to you too," I say.

    I only met Vestara Khai once, when the last war came to a close over a year ago. She had been traveling with Luke and Ben Skywalker for much of it, slowly switching her allegiance from a lost tribe of Sith to the Jedi . . . maybe. When I had last saw her, she was no Jedi by a long shot, but she wasn't really a Sith either. She was equivalent to the Jensarrai, basically someone who used the Force liberally and powerfully, regardless of whether it was light or darkness.

    "So, do you want me to get you out of there or do you want to rot until someone far less friendly than me comes to kill you?" Vestara asks.

    "Obviously, get me out of here," I reply.

    Vestara laughs. "All right, just stand back. Don't want any of these bars to come crashing down on your head. Be a bad start to your escape, don't you think?"

    "Just do it," I say, but I do take care to step backwards.

    Vestara draws and ignites her lightsaber. I take notice that it's not red anymore, it's now almost gold-colored. It's actually makes me freeze for a second. Has she really converted completely to the Jedi side?

    She slices the bars at the top of the cage, and, just as Vestara predicted, they fell backwards into my cell. I have to back all the way to the wall behind me to avoid getting flattened.

    The noise was loud and the exact opposite of stealthy, but I didn't care about that. Especially as I suddenly see a lightsaber handle being tossed my direction, and I barely caught it in time.

    "Your lightsaber. I figure you're gonna need it too," Vestara says.

    "Why are you here?" I ask, as I examine my lightsaber handle for a second, making sure there were no defects or damage. "Is this just to break me out?"

    Vestara just laughed. "That's rich. You're just a target of opportunity. Ben suggested that I come and get you. We're here for an entirely different reason, and we figured you might be helpful."

    "Oh yeah?" I ask as I clip my lightsaber to my belt. "What?"

    Vestara gives me a knowing grin. "Come with me and find out."

    She turns to begin walking away, but then she stops. "By the way, nice hair, but it fools nobody."

    And there she goes, chuckling to herself as she walks down the hallway.

    Now I remember something else about Vestara.

    I don't like her very much.

    But I follow her anyway. I do owe her one.

    However much that means, anyway. I think I owe everybody at this point . . .

    What's one more?

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    The Vestara Khai thing is a legacy plot point from the previous fic, where I inaccurately predicted that Vestara would eventually turn good. How wrong I was. Well, I made sure to set the new version after Crucible, thus giving Vestara time to figure out the error of her ways . . . or something. I admit it's still a bit of a reach, but I like the dialogue I wrote for Vestara too much to write her out.
     
    Revanfan1, mulberry and Draconarius like this.
  8. Draconarius

    Draconarius Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2005
    I'm glad you're keeping your version of Vestara. She honestly felt like a waste of a character in late-FotJ and Crucible. She was rather perfectly setup to be a great recurring anti-villain, or a very grey hero, only for Denning to, predictably, take the lazy route and turn her completely into a boringly straight-up evildoer. Sigh. Even if that weren't the case, I do agree that your version is way too much fun to drop, whatever the reason. :)
     
  9. mulberry

    mulberry Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 20, 2009
    Awesome update, I enjoyed the action.
     
  10. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 2, 2012
    This looks like fun. Continue!
     
  11. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2006

    Denning did take the lazy route, though even before Vestara turned, Denning did not write her well, I am not sure he cared much for the character, or preferred her as a straight-up villain (which made her more boring IMO) over an anti-villain or gray hero. I am trying to give an excuse for her switch from her behavior in Crucible, however, by having this story take place nine or so months after Crucible, so Vestara's had time to change her mind, reach out to Ben and Luke, and try being a Jedi. Vestara in this will be very "gray hero" though.


    I'm glad you enjoyed it. There's loads more action sequences to come. Throughout this fic I tried to feature every kind of Star Wars action possible, to help with the "coda" feeling.


    That's the main point of this fic, a fun little read. I will continue sometime mid-week, probably Wednesday.
     
  12. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2006
    @mulberry, @Draconarius, @Anakin Solo Revanchist

    Ready for Round Three?
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    Three

    Vestara, being an ex-Sith, isn't exactly the most trustworthy person I can think of. Then again, being an ex-Sith myself, who am I to talk? Which makes her the one to get me out really curious, and almost creepy at the same time.

    'The Force moves in mysterious ways', indeed.

    "So," I say, "What's going on here? I don't think Jedi regularly knock prison guards out."

    Vestara chuckles. "Ben sensed you here and told me to get you out. You might make good cannon fodder at least."

    It registers for the first time that Ben is here. Ben Skywalker, the son of the greatest Jedi I can ever hope to meet, and the other part of 'the incident'. And not only could he sense me, but he sent somebody to come get me out. Is he finally forgiving me for 'the incident', among a lot of other things?

    Of course, now it registers that Vestara has insulted me too. "I haven't fallen out of practice completely," I say.

    Vestara just gives me a knowing look. "You are such a terrible liar. If you were in shape, you'd never have gotten yourself captured in the first place. No wonder why you made such a crappy Sith apprentice, you have no skill at treachery."

    She's wrong. I spent a good part of the Yuuzhan Vong war tricking the Vong and manipulating them into making mistakes. I gave the young Galactic Alliances victories because I mastered the art of deceit. In hindsight, is that something to be proud of? Yun-Harla would, of course. But from a Jedi standpoint?

    I decide it's best to drop the subject, especially as I see Ben waiting for us at the end of the hallway. Ben just looks at a few twitching, unconscious bodies that were undoubtedly Vestara's handiwork. "Did you have to go the violent route, Vestara?"

    "They hired intelligent prison guards. Mind tricks weren't working," Vestara replies.

    Ben's eyes widen.

    "Yeah, I know, I could hardly believe it myself. Smart prison guards. I'm seriously beginning to hate this planet," Vestara says.

    She then makes a dramatic introductory gesture. "Here's Tahiri Veila, Ben, just as you asked. I'm going to go behead some fools while you bring her up to speed."

    Ben just shakes his head as Vestara walks away. "Uh, is she being serious or joking?" I ask him.

    "Honestly, I still don't know the difference," Ben replies. "But she's trying really hard at being a Jedi. I'm sure of that. But she's lived so much of her life preparing to be a Sith and, well, being one. It's a huge adjustment."

    I know he's right, but this is also something I'm glad to hear about. "Well, at least she's joined the Order. The Order could use someone like her, she's a really good fighter from what I've heard. Somebody Kyle Katarn would approve of."

    A slight smile crosses Ben's face. "I don't know. I think two Master Katarns are one too many for the Order."

    As much as I want to continue this light conversation, the distant zaps of blaster fire remind me that there is a miniature war going on. People are dying. If I'm going to help the Jedi, and keep our people alive, I have to know what's going on.

    "So, what brings you out here? I'm sure the Arelian government is just thrilled to have Jedi in their midst," I say.

    "Trust me, the royal family is the exact opposite of thrilled," Ben replies. "But they're pragmatic. There's a civil war going on, the king asked for the Galactic Alliance to step in and help hold the inner city and get his kids out of harm's way."

    "Civil war?" I ask.

    "Oh yeah, you wouldn't know. The representative branch, they call themselves "Parliament", they just rose as one against the king. You actually got shuffled from royal to rebel control."

    "Really?" I ask. "Nobody on the prison staff changed."

    "Well, yeah, because they rose up against the king too," Ben says.

    No duh, Tahiri. Force, that was dumb to say. Then again, I just got out of prison, so I guess I'm entitled to a few stupid questions before I have to get smart again.

    "So . . . why are you here?" I ask.

    "The king's son, Tomas, wasn't with the rest of his family when all of this happened. The rebels got him, they're holding him at this same penitentiary. We got a look at the cell documents, saw a "Tahiri Solus" in the medical ward, and I felt a Force presence around here, so . . ." Ben scratched the back of his head awkwardly. "I asked for permission to check it out, and Vestara volunteered to help me."

    I smile at him. "Thank you, Ben."

    "Yeah, no problem," Ben says, and he looks away from me. "Come on, we still haven't found Tomas. Can you help us?"

    I nod at him. "Yeah, sure. I'm right behind you."

    "Thanks," and Ben takes off, and I follow him through the hallways, closer to the incessant blaster fire up ahead.

    He's over a year older since I last met him just like Vestara. I can see his father in him, it's gotten more obvious. He's taller, stronger, really filling out. And he's handsome too, just like his father. But in many ways, he's reminding me of Anakin too. He's got the same mindset, the same bravery, the same "aw, shucks"-ness about everything he does. The resemblance is so uncanny yet heartwarming that something inside me flutters, if only for a moment.

    And then I remember 'the incident'.

    Force, Tahiri, you're such a nexu. Get your head out of the gutter, I tell myself.

    Ben was probably remembering 'the incident' too. That's why he couldn't look at me after a while.

    And yet, he went to rescue me anyway, just like he redeemed me a few years ago. That's just like his father, and just like Anakin.

    I just hope it doesn't end in him getting killed. He's already copying his father with having a dangerous, dark-side-influenced love interest. Though if Luke's marriage with Mara turned out okay . . .

    A blaster shot zooms right by my head, and then warps me out of my self-gossip. Back to war.

    I take cover with Ben, and some soldier types who are wearing an emblem I've never seen before. Their equipment aren't standard issue either, the weapons scream "expensive" and "customization".

    And there is Valin Horn, too.

    "You got what you came for, Ben?" Valin shouts above the blaster bolt din. He looks at me, and says "Oh."

    "Hi, Valin. I assume you're no longer crazy?" I ask.

    Valin just gives me a look.

    "You've heard that one before, haven't you?" I ask.

    "A lot," Valin says. "By the way, nice hair."

    "Thanks," I say. "I've heard that one before too."

    Valin clears his throat and looks at Ben. "The pincer movement's worked. We think the prince is right down the hall. Problem is, until you and Vestara showed up, and you too, Tahiri, this position didn't have anyone who can block the shots so the Marines can move up. I can't do that feat by myself."

    "So basically the four of us march toward them, twirling our lightsabers and be shields for these guys here?" I ask.

    "Hey, if we could use the Force, we would," snaps a young woman who's taken cover behind Valin in our little barricade.

    "Shion, enough," Valin snaps.

    "Sorry, sir," Shion replies. She looks younger, not much older than Ben and Vestara, when she's embarrassed.

    "Who are these guys?" I ask.

    "Galactic Marines. The Jedi and GA thought it might be a good idea for us to start working together. We can talk about it later, we need to get moving now before they think it's a good idea to give us a corpse instead of a prince," Valin says.

    I have no idea what Valin is talking about, but I'm not going to argue. I like having soldiers shooting at people who want to kill me. It's a refreshing change from everyone wants to kill me.

    I peek up from the barricade, and there's several Marines who've taken cover in corners and damaged walls in front of us, and they're all pinned down. The enemy soldiers not only have a pretty fortified defensive position, but have an automatic laser turret firing at any allied movement. Pretty nasty, but it could be worse. They could be armed with missiles.

    I sense that there's trouble quickly heading my way, and duck just in time to avoid getting a laser burn right through my head. I look at Valin. "Are you sure four Jedi can handle all that?"

    "We've got no choice. My sister's group is pinned down, and so is Tesar's. It has to be us."

    Lovely. These guys pull me from prison just to tell me to go save everybody. Speaking of Kyle Katarn, shouldn't he be available for crap like this? This type of situation is his speed, not mine.

    Vestara, who isn't with us on the barricade, but right in front of it using a corner for cover, shouts "Then let's get this over with!"

    "Vestara, wait-" Valin is cut off as suddenly Vestara steps out from behind cover, spinning her lightsaber liberally to deflect all of the bolts that came in her direction.

    "Guess we gotta go," Ben says, and he jumps over the barricade and runs up to Vestara, doing a similar spinning trick to keep the bolts from hitting him.

    I look at Valin. I try to smile. "Well, I've always wanted to live forever. Come on."

    Valin is not amused, but he quickly follows me over and soon the four of us are a colorful wall, deflecting the blaster bolts coming from everywhere in front of us.

    Being so deeply immersed in the Force isn't something I have done for a long time. It feels almost liberating. I sense the bolts coming, and I know where to put my lightsaber to send the bolts wherever I want them to. I start by deflecting them into the ceiling, but eventually, as my confidence grows, I start shooting them back at the enemy.

    My primary target is the automated turret, firing at us with vicious efficency. By itself, it nearly overwhelms me, and that is with three other targets for it to shoot at too. I can't imagine trying to face it by myself.

    But I'm eventually able to turn its bolts back at itself and it explodes. Now with that over with, things will hopefully be easier. The soldiers, with their standard-issue guns, aren't as difficult or as focused, and with the Marines starting to move and open fire from behind us, we're actually making progress. We're starting to win.

    Throughout the battle, I'm impressed with Vestara. She's the farthest of us in front, but even so, I don't feel the hatred or anger I've come to expect from a Sith. Ben is right, Vestara is trying. While she isn't calm, there's a strong determination about her, and I can sense that her determination is coming from the right emotions and feelings, perhaps even a sense of justice.

    Maybe the transition from Sith to Jedi is easier than I thought. It's almost inspiring.

    Of course, right then is when Ben gets shot.

    Ben has his attention on two other troopers when a third fires on him. Ben tries to get out of the way but only partially succeeds, and a blaster bolt grazes his right arm. He cries out sharply and falls to his knees, and Valin, using an impressive Ataro flip, gets right in front of Ben and defends him before any kill shot can be made.

    "Ben, no!" Vestara cries. Something furious emanates in the Force, and I realize it's coming from Vestara. Almost immediately, the surprise and horror transforms into a churning, blistering rage, and I sense a dark power exploding from Vestara.

    Oh shavit.

    Before anyone can do anything to stop her, Vestara points her right arm forward at the remaining enemy soldiers, and lightning flies from her fingertips. She hits multiple soldiers at once, but it doesn't end there. The lightning currents travel from soldier to soldier, zapping them one by one until all are caught in the dark blue lightning's embrace, shaking violently until they look like their appendages are going to fly off of them.

    Okay, Vestara's still a work-in-progress.

    To her credit, Vestara stops herself, and it doesn't look like she's killed all of the soldiers in her fit of rage. The last ones she hit are just lying on the ground, moaning and rolling on the floor. But the first ones she fried are definitely dead, they are not moving at all.

    Vestara stands there for a second, clearly trying to collect herself. She turns off her lightsaber, and grabs her forehead for a second, and then spins around and runs toward Ben and Valin. "Ben, I'm sorry! I'm really sorry, are you all right?"

    Ben groans as he sits back up, but his eyes are alert. "Nothing that a bacta patch won't fix," he replies. "But what about you? I sensed what you did . . ."

    Vestara bites her lip. "I . . . I got angry. I overreacted."

    "Vestara, you can't just go back to the dark side when you want to," Ben replies.

    "I'm trying, Ben, I'm really. It's hard," Vestara says softly.

    Valin walks over to me. "Let's leave them to their little talk. I've heard it way too much over the last few months. Let's secure the prince."

    He motions to a squad of Marines, who are apparently led by the Shion woman, and she has them follow us to the doorway. Valin grunts as he moves the automatic turret aside, and it collapses to the right with an unceremonious crash.

    "This isn't the first time Vestara's done this?" I ask, looking back at Ben and Vestara. Vestara's already gotten a bacta patch out and seems to be applying it to Ben's arm.

    "Since she joined the Jedi about six months ago, she's done this every now and then. It's gotten less frequent lately but, as you just saw, she can just lose it sometimes," Valin replies.

    "And you're okay with that?" I ask.

    Valin pauses. "No. Personally, I don't know why Ben keeps trying to help her. I don't think she can be completely redeemed."

    That hurt, because he could just as easily be talking about me this way. "So you're saying the Jedi should just give up on her? Did anybody give up on you went you went crazy?"

    Valin gives me a sharp look. "You're one to talk, Tahiri."

    Shion spoke up then. "Orders, please. Getting kinda antsy watching the two of you bicker."

    Valin sighs. "Right. Set the explosives on the door. Breach and clear procedure. Move it, and don't shoot the prince."

    Valin takes up a position right by the door, and I take the position across from him. I brace myself. Explosions are so damn loud . . .

    And so's this one. Boom.

    Before the smoke even clears, the Rangers go inside, and I hear blaster bolts flying left and right. Total chaos.

    Valin ignites his lightsaber. "Stay behind me."

    I nod, and follow him inside, igniting my lightsaber as well.

    But as we go in, the blaster sounds die. By a young man tied to a chair, two of the royal guards have their hands up in surrender. The Rangers knock them both to the ground but don't kill them, instead quickly cuffing them.

    The prince looks like he's been roughed up, but not tortured. He's quite handsome, he probably makes rich girls really happy whenever he walked into the room. Wavy blonde hair, honest brown eyes, defined cheekbones . . . yeah, girls would like him a lot.

    Valin turns off his lightsaber, and I follow his lead. Valin and Shion cut the prince loose, and the prince sighs as he got to his feet, stumbling a little bit like he's punch-drunk. "Figures. The people who come save me are Jedi. People are gonna kill me for that."

    "We saved your life," I say.

    "Doesn't matter. People here don't like Jedi," Prince Tomas says.

    "Oh yeah? Then why do people in the lower quarters name their children after Jedi?" I ask.

    Tomas gives me a look. "There's a reason why they're in the lower quarters and live in near-poverty or poverty, Jedi."

    Now I didn't want to protect this guy. It was obvious that he was not only a schutta but a total hypocritical demagogue who did not care about the people he ruled. No wonder there's a revolution going on! He and his family deserve to be overthrown!

    "Valin, if he doesn't want to be saved by Jedi, let's tie him back up. Neg this rescue crap, I'm done."

    Tomas's eyes widen in panic, and he is about to completely freak out on us when Valin interjects and talks over him, rendering Tomas' words as brief, incomprehensible gibberish. "That's not happening. It's not the Jedi way."

    "Well, I'm not a Jedi anymore," I snap back.

    "Do we really need this argument?" Valin replies. "Come on, we need to withdraw before there's a counterattack."

    Now that I'll agree with. We just wiped out a rebel platoon to get this guy, and I doubt the rebels will be happy about that. They'll want blood, Jedi blood. "I'll drop it if Tomas won't say anything more."

    Tomas sighs. "Fine, I'll keep my mouth shut in front of you people. Just get me out of here."

    "Gladly, Prince Tomas," Valin says, and he re-ignites his lightsaber and walks toward the door.

    Tomas frowns. "Keep that freaky weapon away from me."

    "That's the point," Valin says. "Freaky weapon slices other people up, not you. Tahiri, you lead the way out, I'll keep the prince under guard."

    A half-hour ago, I wasn't even part of their plan. And now, I get to lead the way. Talk about a promotion.

    One I don't particularly want. There's an old saying about those who walk in front . . . they're the first to die.

    But I would still be in my cell waiting to die if this hadn't happened. So I know I can't argue. I have to go.

    I open the door and walk outside, only to find there were a lot more people with lightsabers here than there were when we went to secure the prince.

    And all of the new lightsabers are red.

    Ben and Vestara are on one side, and Valin and I are on the other, and in the middle are eight, nine Sith. And one of them is the Zeltron.

    The Zeltron's attention, however, isn't on me. She's looking at Vestara. "This is what you're doing now, Vestara? You've become a Jedi? You're not cut out for that! I felt the hate in you just minutes ago! You're a Jedi like Han Solo is a politician!"

    Vestara's golden blade is lit, and there's a grim determination in her eyes. "Selva, there is someone very dear to me in the Jedi Order, and if he won't follow me into the darkness, then I will follow him into the light."

    Even from this distance, I can see Ben's face turn red from embarrassment. It doesn't take a genius to realize who the "someone" is.

    The Zeltron apparently named "Selva" doesn't notice or care, though. She just laughs. "I never thought I'd hear such cheesy words come from your mouth, Vestara. The Jedi have corrupted you more than I thought."

    Then, as if noticing me for the first time, Selva turns her head towards me, just a little. "Hello again, Tahiri Veila. Fancy seeing you here."

    "You tried to cut my head off two weeks ago," I say.

    The Zeltron's blue lips become pouty. "Aw, was that all I did? I thought there was a really fun chase too!"

    Vestara snaps then. "Selva, this is your last warning! Stay out of this! This doesn't concern you or the rest of the tribe!"

    Selva laughs again. "I no longer answer to the name 'Selva', Vestara. I am now Darth Scylla. I serve a different Lord now."

    There is silence. And now it is Vestara who laughs, and she laughs harder than Selva did. Vestara's laughter is so loud and violent she has to turn her lightsaber off and clutch her side.

    Ben just stares at her. "Uh, Vestara . . ."

    Selva's confidence turns into the rage. "What the hell are you laughing about, Jedi wannabe?"

    Vestara just shakes her head, and even though she gets herself under control, a demented, incredulous grin is still etched on her face. "Force, you're such a piece of wampa-bait. You want to know what the word 'Darth" always sounds like to me?"

    Selva cocks her head to the left slightly. "What?"

    "'Darth' to me sounds like an infant trying to say 'dark'. It's so stupid and immature-sounding. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Sith are good at throwing tantrums, you know. I'm sure you've had plenty of experience at it."

    The woman who wants to call herself Darth Scylla is ready to blow. I feel a dark churning sensation in the Force, like a volcano preparing to erupt. And it's all coming from her. Vestara's mouth is the trigger.

    "You will pay for your insolence, Vestara," she says.

    Vestara sighs and re-ignites her lightsaber. "That is such a thing a typical Sith would say. No wonder the tribe left all of you out of the final battle. You're all just morons."

    The volcano explodes, and the Zeltron rushes Vestara, screaming like a banshee from the depths of hell. The other Sith fan out in all directions, and two of them are coming right for me.

    This is going to be so much fun.

    Not.
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    You can definitely see the "gray hero" in Vestara here. She's trying to change, but her instincts just tell her otherwise.
     
    mulberry and Draconarius like this.
  13. Draconarius

    Draconarius Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2005
    Indeed you can. I kinda like it. :D

    I like Tahiri calling out Valin on his wanting to just give up on Vestara. You'd have thought Jedi trained by Luke Skywalker would be a little less eager to make snap judgements like that.
     
  14. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2006

    I'm glad. This is honestly my preferred path for Vestara, where she's trying to become someone better but her old instincts hold her back. It's more interesting than Crucible, where she was just stabbing people in the back in the classic Sith way and doesn't show any real recognition of Luke. That being said, this fic is canon with Crucible and Vestara's behavior in that story will be justified.

    Well, in Valin's defense Vestara has used dark side abilities quite a bit in her Jedi missions, and Vestara's been a Jedi for several months now. These periodic lapses into the dark side and her own complicated history with the Order means no one trusts Vestara other than Ben (even Luke is watching Vestara warily, even though he wants to believe in her). And honestly, Vestara did it to herself. Time and dedication will heal the wounds, but Vestara has not had enough time to get people to trust her, and until she can go a bit without relying on the dark side trust will be hard to come by.

    Ultimately, though, love redeems. After the events of Crucible, Vestara decided she would rather be a Jedi and be with Ben than follow the Sith path and be alone. Whether that will be enough, or whether Vestara is doomed to fall once more, remains to be seen.
     
  15. mulberry

    mulberry Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 20, 2009
    I enjoy reading this from Tahiri's perspective. Love seeing the younger generation work together.
     
  16. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2006

    Thank you. The entire intention of this fic is to demonstrate the younger generation working together.

    @mulberry, @Draconarius, @Anakin Solo Revanchist
    ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Four

    Vestara has a very big mouth. Not literally, but figuratively. And now I know why Valin isn't thrilled about her. She's probably started a lot of needless fights in her life. Caused some gratuitous violence and unnecessary deaths.

    Just guessing but I'm probably not far off from the truth.

    I don't necessarily blame Vestara, though. I see where she's coming from, and why she acts the way she does. I understand why she became angry when Ben got hurt, and channeling her rage on those who hurt him. She and I are frankly alike in many ways, and if Vestara isn't careful she'll go down as a failed Jedi much like I have.

    But Vestara loves Ben the same way I loved Anakin. It's obvious. It's very difficult to yank someone from a dark place, the person who's able to do that is very special indeed. Anakin was driven by a desire to prevent me from becoming this evil, vicious force, screaming in a tongue he did not understand and slaughtering everyone in sight. He loved me and would do anything to save me and when I recognized him I could not let Riina stay in control. I had to reach out to Anakin, and have him pull me back into the light. If Anakin had stayed alive, Riina would've probably never emerged again.

    Vestara had been a Sith. As we all know, Sith are evil types. But someone who is raised in that evil, raised to believe that this evil is right, that treachery and cruelty is just part of life, isn't going to realize how bad her life is. She never got to see what life is like for Jedi, or any ordinary citizen of this galaxy. All she had was her hatred and her darkness and her conniving, controlling strategies.

    And yet, here she is, rejecting the traditional Sith lightsaber, rejecting all but her last year or so of life, fighting those who were once on her side. Why? Especially after leaving Ben and the Order behind originally?

    It's obvious it's love. She basically admitted so. If she cannot make Ben be like her, she'll become like Ben. Her feelings are just that strong.

    And love is what turned me away from the Jedi. My love for Anakin was used in an evasive, controlling way, making me believe I can change the past and save Anakin by following this path of darkness that Caedus offered me. I really thought I could save him. I became so single-minded on saving him that I forgot an important fact.

    I was not thinking about Anakin. I deluded myself into thinking that I was. Anakin would never have wanted me to turn to the dark side to save him. I was thinking about myself. My love for him, not his love for me. My feelings, not his.

    Selfishness does not lead to the dark side. Everybody's selfish about something. Selfishness does something else. Selfishness blinds you to the dark side, prevents you from seeing the dark side's ultimate trap.

    Vestara's trying to move beyond selfishness, and that may saved her from a downfall that all Sith probably have: vicious, cruel, and ultimately pathetic. Caedus used my love of Anakin to put me on a path towards a downfall exactly like that. And, other than I haven't died yet, my fall is vicious, cruel, and pathetic.

    Well . . . considering I now have two Sith running at me, maybe my death is coming right now.

    Thank you, Vestara! Remind me to haunt you from my grave for all eternity!

    Well, assuming I'm gonna die, anyway.

    I have to shake off my rust and quickly, as this is the first real lightsaber duel I've had for a long time. I can't afford to make a single mistake, or there goes an appendage, or, worse, my head.

    I could have, should have, died in many situations far worse than this. I am not going to die to Sith that, if Vestara's not-impartial testimony is to be believed, are complete bantha-brains.

    I just sidestep the first Sith and let him stumble past me as he futilely tries to slow down. I then use the Force to give him a nice shove into the nearest wall. He goes flying past a bunch of Marines and slams into the wall face-first with a satisfying thunk. He'll be done for a bit.

    The second Sith is a bit smarter, he's realizing he's a little outclassed. He becomes far more cautious, he stands there, his arms stiff and his hands trembling, and his lightsaber jerks and swishes ever so slightly as he's unsure what move I'm going to make.

    He's afraid.

    I don't know when the opponent behind me is going to get up. I have to press my advantage, now.

    And the part of me that is Riina salivates at the prospect of beating this Sith into submission.

    I assault him, and all he can do is block me. His golden eyes are wide with so much fright, an intense fear that is paralyzing. Only his survival instincts, imbued in him from the years of Sith abuse, keep him from going down. But, even to me, he isn't much more than an amateur. Not even the adrenaline rush of fear is enough to protect this young man from me.

    Finally, I knock him off balance, and this exposes him. There is no way to defeat him without maiming him. I slash upwards and cleave both of his wrists off in an instant. His hands, still attached to his lightsaber, going flying high in the air and land behind me.

    He howls in pain. I hear footsteps behind me, and I realize the first Sith who rushed me is coming back at top speed, despite his nose basically leaking a spring of blood.

    I take my maimed Sith and chuck him at the bloodied Sith. The bloodied Sith doesn't even hesitate to slash downwards and cut his maimed ally in half, sending both halves crashing to the ground and they slide towards Prince Tomas, who visibly blanches at the sight.

    I guess even amateurs pick up on the "treachery is the way of the Sith" part really quickly.

    The act of slicing his ally in half does slow him down, though, which gives me an opportunity to go back on the offensive. I jump into the air and slash downwards, and he blocks me, but leaves his gut open. Before I land on the ground, I kick him hard in the gut and then use the momentum to jump backwards, giving myself enough distance that he can't just cut me down.

    He grabs his stomach, groaning in pain for a couple of seconds, but then he resets himself. He's in clear pain but he's been conditioned to overcome it. Definitely something that comes standard for either Sith or Jedi.

    Much to my surprise, I'm actually getting a little tired. I haven't had a fight like this since over a year ago. I haven't had to draw on the Force this much. Compared to a normal citizen of the Galactic Alliance I'm still okay but by Jedi standards I'm out of shape. I still can beat amateurs and apprentices but against a real Sith Lord I stand as much of a chance as a drop of water on Tatooine.

    There's a lot of stress entering the Force too, something powerful and oppressive, which makes it harder to find strength in this. What's going on to make the Force act this way? I turn around to see why.

    "Enough!" Vestara cries, her arms thrusting outward. The five Sith surrounding her and Ben go flying like rag dolls across the room.

    One's coming right at me.

    Not wanting to become a living cushion, I switch my lightsaber off and dive to the floor. The apprentice behind me isn't as quick, and he gets plowed into. Terrifyingly, neither Sith slow in the slightest as they plow into the wall, linger there for a second as if they're glued to it, and finally lay in a tangled heap.

    Scylla, the Zeltron, struggles to her feet, but she's clearly intimidated and bruised up. "Everyone, retreat! We'll fight later!"

    She pointed her lightsaber at Vestara. "I will kill all of you for this. Especially you, traitor."

    Vestara responds by making a rude gesture that a Corellian would be proud of.

    With a growl, Scylla looks up and jumps all the way through the ceiling. Wondering how the hell that's possible, I tilt my head up and notice that the ceiling had been made of glass. No wonder the Sith could appear out of nowhere, they pretty much did.

    The other surviving Sith scramble to their feet and follow Scylla in leaping out of the ceiling. I think fleetingly about following, but considering that the Sith outnumbered us roughly two to one to begin with, chasing them would frankly be stupid.

    Vestara rubs her forehead with the back of her sleeve, but her breathing is only a little labored. "So," she says cheerfully, "Who wants to do that again?"

    If she hadn't just chucked five Sith across the room, I'd be sorely tempted to slap her.
    ***
    Extraction is easy, it helps when there's no enemies left to fight you. Valin had vehicular transport parked outside the prison, personnel carrier-types. All of us Jedi and the prince get inside one of them and we're off, just like that.

    Valin looks at all of us. "We're flying towards the main palace. Tomas will be boarding the Jade Shadow along with his sister Alessandra, and we're going to bring them to the Dauntless, who'll then move them and us back to Coruscant."

    "What about me?" I ask.

    Valin shrugs. "I don't know. You weren't originally part of the mission. Maybe they'll let you go to Coruscant, maybe they'll let you stay here."

    "Who's in charge?" I ask.

    Valin sighs. "My father."

    I've worked with Corran Horn multiple times before. He's a good man, I trust him . . . as much as any Jedi, anyway. I remember helping Anakin drive him crazy for a brief while in the Yuuzhan Vong war, on a supply mission gone drastically awry. Other than the peril of near-certain death, that mission had been a lot of fun.

    Of course, that had been nearly a lifetime ago. I was only fourteen at the time. I can't believe it's been so long. A child born during that mission would be nineteen now, an adult in many cultures and species.

    "I see. It'll be nice to see him again," I say.

    Valin sighs. "He's not going to be happy that we deviated from the mission to get you out. Maybe if we knew it was you but-"

    Vestara interrupts. "Oh please. Her alias was 'Tahiri Solus'. Who do you think it was? Seriously, that is like the most obvious alias I've ever seen. I wonder what took you so long to get caught in the first place."

    I can't help but smile. "Actually, my fake identity was still passing muster. I was just in jail for disturbing the peace."

    Vestara's jaw drops. "My God, the police around here must be so stupid."

    "Then why couldn't you mind-trick the prison guards and had to resort to violence?" I ask.

    Vestara's eyes glimmer dangerously at that, but then Ben thankfully intervenes. "I don't think this is the right time to have a dumb argument. Especially since we're not exactly safe yet."

    Vestara sighs and looks around the carrier, at the Marines and the prince. "I thought we were in royal-held territory by now."

    "The whole planet's a war zone," Valin replies. "I'm not going to take anything for granted."

    Vestara looks at Valin. "You know, why are we protecting this guy anyway? His family tries to spread hatred of us all over the planet, uses our image to keep the poor, well, poor."

    "Not this again," Tomas moans. "Can't you guys come up with something else to talk about?"

    "Then do you want to answer my question?" Vestara asks, her voice just a bit sharper.

    Tomas glares at her. "You people are freaks. Witches. The poor cling to you people as if you can save them from their problems. It's pathetic."

    Vestara sighs. "Once again, my theory that only stupid people are breeding in this galaxy is holding up."

    Tomas looks ready to start stomping around the cabin. His voice is exceptionally vicious, but, in that regal way, curt and holier-than-thou. "Do you have anything to say other than insults?"

    "Stop leaving yourself open for insults and maybe I will," Vestara replies.

    It is Valin's turn to sigh. "Vestara, mocking the person we just rescued is highly counterproductive. Please stop."

    Vestara makes a mock pouty face. "But it's so much fun to diss him! Look at how red his face gets! He's a walking comedy holofilm!"

    "That's an order Vestara," Valin says, his voice becoming just a little touchy, his face hardening just noticeably.

    Vestara sighs, and Tomas smiles in triumph. "Nice to see you all shut-"

    "Prince Tomas, you are aware you're alienating everyone inside this cabin. Please don't dig yourself a deeper hole than you already have," Valin says coolly.

    Tomas looks bewildered, and just buries his face in his hands. "This is not fair. I should not be taking orders from you people . . . you witches and freak-lovers."

    The Marines, being the professionals that they were, keep silent, but make a classic Corellian obscene gesture at him as one. As Tomas looks up, the Marines collectively drop the gesture and return to their passive yet ready positions. It's amusing to witness and I could barely suppress chuckling. Everyone here is morbidly aware that they're protecting a hopeless idiot of a prince.

    And, I guess, so am I.

    The pilot looks back at us. "Hey, we're beginning our landing pattern. Get ready to disembark."

    Valin nods. "Thank you, Lieutenant." He looks at us all. "We're going to make this brisk and professional. We've played our parts, and we've all done a really good job. Casualties weren't that heavy, even with the Sith surprise. Now-"

    Suddenly, as we begin to slow down, the ship is rocked by a massive, deafening explosion that suddenly makes the world spin.

    Spin and spin and spin until everything's an incomprehensible blur of color.

    And this it comes to a sudden, grinding halt. We slide across the ground until we crash into something, and faintly, above the smoking, fiery crackles surrounding us, I hear blaster fire. Lots of blaster fire. But the world is moving so fast that I don't know if we're still spinning or if we've come to a halt and I'm just dizzy.

    Valin struggles to his feet. The floor seems to be moving under him, a truly surreal sight. "Secure the prince," he manages through gritted teeth.

    A Marine shouts "What the kriff just happened?"

    "Doesn't matter! Secure the prince! Get him out of harm's way!"Valin yells back.

    Valin bends down in front of me just as the world begins to settle down. "Tahiri, get up. The carrier's on fire. Help me save the prince."

    "Okay," I manage, and I scramble to my feet. I stumble and nearly fall back down, but I refocus, and I see the prince. He's unconscious, which is both a positive (no more of his idiotic words), and a negative (now I have to carry the rodder).

    I unhook him from his safety harness. I hear Ben from the front. "It's Mandalorians! They're attacking the emergency exit!"

    Great, Mandalorians. Do they have nothing better to do with their time than to make people miserable and dead?

    Wait, neg that. That's what Mandalorians do for a living: making people miserable and dead and not necessarily in that order. They truly have nothing better to do with their lives.

    It would be almost sad if they weren't trying to kill me.

    Valin looks at me. "Tahiri, get the prince out through the rear! I'll keep you covered!"

    He walks over to the closed rear entrance, the drop-off point for disembarking troopers, and swiftly slices through it with his lightsaber.

    A couple of Marines get to the newly-made exit before I can. I recognize the woman, Shion. "Let us lead the way, Jedi Veila."

    "I'm not-" I was going to say 'I'm not a Jedi', but Shion misinterprets what I'm going to say.

    "It's our jobs to protect you Jedi from non-Sith threats. Let us do it. We're a match for those Mandos," Shion says, as a couple of troopers exit through the hole behind her. Shion then follows them, and I just stare for a second. It takes some exceptionally brave people to fight alongside Jedi, but is their bravery bordering on foolishness? There's a reason why Jedi get the hard missions, after all. Marines don't have the whole "Force" intangible, at least, I assume they don't.

    Valin waves me onward. "I'm right behind you, now go!"

    I scramble out. It's a tight fit, even with my fairly small size, and I hit the prince's head more than once and scrape his back trying to get him out. I don't shed any tears over it. Maybe now the prince will whine about being in pain more than making rude, discriminatory, condescending remarks at the people trying to help him. It couldn't be any worse than what he had already said.

    I look behind me, and Valin has exited. "Okay, we've crashed just outside palace grounds, I think. We need to-"

    Boom.

    A rocket slams into the downed carrier and blows it to oblivion. Valin is catapulted away and slams into me, and I fall flat on the ground, losing my grip on the unconscious prince. I roll a few times and come to a rest next to some rubble.

    I am in some serious pain, but it's nothing compared to a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I've cracked a rib or something. My legs feel like they've been pushed to their limits, though. That's not good. They still haven't fully healed and they feel nearly as bad as my chest.

    I look up, and wipe the dust off my face. But just as I do, an armored boot meets my face and kicks me so hard I'm no longer laying face-down, I'm face-up. And feel like a tauntaun just stepped on me.

    "Ish'ka," I growl. It's a classic Yuuzhan Vong curse word, one that I've never been able to forget. I rub my jaw and try to look up, but when I do, I see a person so infamous in this galaxy that he is impossible to not recognize.

    And he's instantly recognizable not because of his appearance, but because of what he wears.

    The classic dark green Mandalorian armor, covered in silver scratches. The helmet. The blaster. The jet pack.

    There is no mistaking who is standing right in front of me.

    It's Boba Fett.

    "Um, you know, Boba Fett or Mr. Fett or whatever you want to be called, we teamed up last year. Fought the good fight, beat up an Abeloth form. Does that mean any kind of mercy?"

    His voice is emotionless and professional. "No."

    And he aims his blaster at my head and fires.
     
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  17. TheChosenSolo

    TheChosenSolo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 9, 2011
    Really like Tahiri's musings here. Maybe she and Vestara can work together to redeem themselves? I actually like how you've made her see reason here, profic butchered that hardcore methinks.

    Uh oh, Boba Fett? Wonder what he's up to...

    Nice update! :)
     
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  18. mulberry

    mulberry Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 20, 2009
    I do think this Tahiri is much better than profic Tahiri.

    It is just dumb luck I started reading this, because I really didn't care much for her post NJO so I am not usually interested in the character, but she is very interesting here and I feel she follows the normal character development I would have expected.
     
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  19. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2006
    Tahiri is about to turn 34 years old, I wanted her to muse a little bit. She's lived an extremely eventful life full of mistakes, and I'm trying to capture of a person looking backwards still even as she tries to move forward. Vestara is seeing reason now, but she's had a hard life too, and it's required an adjustment period, and it has made things tense for Vestara and for the Jedi around her. Still, Ben trusting her is better than having no one trust her.

    Boba Fett is doing his job. And as far as he's concerned, killing Tahiri is not personal.

    Glad you enjoyed the update!



    I'm trying to respect profic Tahiri in spite of some of my own disagreements with how Tahiri was handled. Regardless of how I feel, they happened, and they can't be erased. So I'm moving Tahiri forward. She's not a kid anymore, and that message is going to slap her across the face time and time again throughout this fic. She is not a young woman. She's in her thirties.

    I hope to make Tahiri as interesting as possible. She's the only constant in the story, everyone else is going to enter and exit as we go on (some might re-enter though). So that's kind of important. XD
     
  20. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2006
    @mulberrym@Draconarius, @Anakin Solo Revanchist
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    Five

    Just as he fires, a blue lightsaber emanates in front of me and deflects the shot into the sky. Boba Fett immediately activates his jet pack and blasts away from the blue lightsaber before it can swing at him, and lands a good distance away. He's hit a couple of times by blaster shots, but his armor is enough to dull the blows, he only staggers before taking cover.

    I'm yanked to my feet by someone behind me. "Damn, Tahiri, you're heavier than I thought," growls Vestara.

    In front of me, wielding the blue lightsaber, is Ben. "I'll keep you covered, Vestara! Just get Tahiri to a safe spot! Somebody else get over here and help the prince and Valin!"

    "I'm on it!" shouts an accented male voice, and I see a Twi'lek move into the open to grab the prince.

    Vestara drags me into an alley, and sighs as she examines me. "Are you all right? Does anything hurt?"

    "My chest," I manage. The pain's getting worse, maybe I haven't just cracked a rib. Maybe I cracked more than one. Or they've broken completely.

    Vestara pulls out a bacta pack and rips open my prison clothes. "Where?"

    "My lung, the one that doesn't have my heart in front of it."

    Vestara begins applying the bacta bandages. "Boba kriffing Fett. Is it just me, or have you made enemies with everybody in the galaxy?"

    I want to laugh, but it hurts too much to. "At the rate I'm going, I wouldn't be surprised if that's true."

    "That sucks. I'd like to fight with Boba Fett, not against him. Boba Fett's supposed to be really awesome."

    I got to experience how lethal Boba Fett is personally. Boba Fett helped me defeat a version of Abeloth, a Force-sensitive being that was filled with pure dark-side power and was nearly impossible to defeat. He's really good at his job. I guess I was naive to hope that meant he wouldn't kill me, but then again, he's a mercenary. He's gotta do what he's paid to do.

    "I don't think so," I say, and then there's a shot of pain in my chest that makes me cry out, and I barely stifle it from being a total shriek.

    "Ben's giving me a lot of training in healing," Vestara says. "I'm going to trance you for a little bit. I'll wake you up after I change the bandage, okay?"

    "Are you sure that's a good idea? I mean, it's a total clusterkriff out there," I say.

    Vestara shrugs. "If things go wrong, with any luck, the bad guys will assume you're a dead body."

    Nice bedside manner you have, Vestara. Remind me to tell Ben that you need training in that too.

    Vestara places her hand on my forehead. "Sweet dreams, Tahiri."

    Yeah, sure Vestara. I'm going to sleep just soundly knowing that if I wake up I could be seeing Boba Fett instead of a Jedi. That's wonderful, absolutely wonderful.

    But Vestara knocks me out anyway, and my galaxy goes black.

    And I don't see anything at all.
    ***
    I wake up inside a building. But it is not Vestara who wakes me up, it's Ben. His blue eyes, reminiscent of his father and his cousin Anakin, look concerned. Again, the similarity of him to Anakin puts a funny feeling in my chest. I force myself to slam the feelings down before anyone can detect them. They're not really for Ben anyway. They're for any vestige of Anakin Solo that remains.

    It's pathetic and I know it.

    I don't think Ben detected the brief romantic feelings that possessed me for a blink of an eye, but he certainly feels my despondency. "What's wrong?"

    Again, the concern and caring in his voice is so much like Anakin's that I want to scream, close my eyes, and cover my ears. I force myself to think that Ben's just acting like his father, not his cousin. Luke and Anakin had fairly similar personalities.

    "I . . . I was almost killed by Boba Fett," I manage. The goal is to give Ben something that's real so he won't probe any further. "Thank you. I'm sorry, I just feel pathetic."

    "You shouldn't. Boba Fett is a really tough opponent, somebody who can put up a fight against any Jedi and win," Ben says, seeming to believe me.

    "How's everybody?" I ask.

    Ben moves out of my field of vision a bit so I can look. "Well, take a look."

    There's Prince Tomas, pouting away and rubbing his head. Valin is right next to him, trying to explain something I can't hear and making a lot of motions with his hands. There's three Marines I can see around us, though there could be more that are keeping watch or something. And then there is Vestara, and her robes are singed, and so are the ends of her red hair.

    "Whoa, what happened to you?" I ask.

    Vestara's eyes flare. "I am going to kill Boba Fett."

    I nearly laugh, and then clamp down on my brief amusement. Force, it sucks keeping my feelings suppressed. But in this case, it's probably a matter of my personal survival, not personal embarrassment. Vestara has proved more than once already that she's capable of wiping the floor with most of us.

    Ben sighs. "Vestara, for like the umpteenth time, vengeance is of the dark side. Please, you need to calm down."

    "I'll calm down when Boba Fett's head is rolling around in the street," Vestara growls.

    Ben walks over to her and kneels down. "Vestara, please. It's okay. You're still alive." He takes her hands and encases them in his own. "That's what matters. Please, we lost a lot of people back there. We can't afford for you to have some kind of revenge quest. That's just going to get the rest of us killed."

    If dark side lectures can't reach Vestara, just Ben explaining reality can. I can feel the intensity in Vestara subside, just a little. It does much to improve the feel of this room, which seems to be like a bundle of nerves. Now things feel slightly more relaxed, less pressurized.

    Ben's back is turned to me so I can't see the expression on his face. But I can see Vestara's face. Her eyes soften and her lips tremble just a little bit. She almost looks like a different person.

    Her left hand rubs Ben's face. "I understand, Ben. Trust me, I won't do anything stupid. I mean that."

    They embrace each other. It's really obvious the two are in love. I hadn't gotten that feeling when I had seen them over a year ago, though maybe something had already happened behind the scenes that I don't know about. But it's fairly sweet to see, and for once Ben doesn't remind me of Anakin here. The scene is more like young versions of Ben's parents . . . well, except that Vestara is somewhere along the lines of 'Mara Jade on deathsticks', but that's another story.

    As if to confirm my analysis, Ben kisses Vestara on her forehead. His voice is soft, gentle, I have to strain to hear. "Thank you. See, you're getting better at this Jedi thing."

    Vestara smiles, though it seems a little wider than it really is thanks to the scar by her mouth. Instead of being gentle and kind, it seems almost wild, crazy, solely because of that scar. "No problem."

    Valin finally interjects. "Okay, lovebirds, enough of the moment! We need to figure out a plan! You too, Tahiri!"

    "Okay!" I say. I try to get up, and gasp in pain, but I'm overreacting, just a little. The ribs are more sore than anything else. The bacta and the healing trance had done its job, I can breathe a lot more freely, though not without pain.

    I rely on my Vong side to act as if nothing's wrong. My Vong side relishes, afores pain. I don't let it take absolute control because I'll probably seem very strange to everyone else here, but enough so I can act as if there's no pain at all. I'm going to need that, especially if we start fighting again.

    Actually, it's not really an if, it's a when. I doubt Boba Fett will let us go that easily.

    Vestara is back to her usual caustic self as she approaches Valin. "You're just jealous because you're like thirty and don't even have a girlfriend."

    I think that hit a little close to home, because I feel just a brief wave of irrational anger waft in the Force for a couple of seconds. "Immaterial," Valin growls.

    "So you really don't have a-"

    "Shut up, Vestara."

    "Ooo, touchy subject."

    "That's an order, Vestara."

    "Aw."

    Valin closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. "Okay, now first we need-"

    "Is the 'shut up' order rescinded yet?"

    "Vestara-"

    "Just checking."

    Can anyone besides Ben hang around Vestara for long without turning to the dark side? Probably not.

    Valin takes a couple more deep breaths and refocuses. He looks at all of us, and then towards one of the Marines in the room. "Shion, please come over here. I would like your opinion on this, you're the highest-ranking Marine still with us."

    "Understood, sir." The young woman marches over and then sits down by me. She really is young, probably not far removed from her teenage years. There's a stoutness to her at the same time, though, that reminds me of Octa Ramis. Maybe they come from the same planet or did the same sort of training.

    "Right now, we're basically cut off," Valin says. "The rebels have taken control of this area. Thankfully, they're mostly militia forces. Ill-trained and equipped. But, as we just discovered, we have Boba Fett and at least a squad's worth of his forces in the area, and I think we can bet that there'll be more Mandalorians around here soon."

    He looks at Shion. "What have you managed to do so far?"

    Shion nods. "We've set up sentry turrets at every entrance except for this front one and have a nest on the third floor facing the street, where there'll most likely be an assault. That's the best that we can do. We're low on rockets and ammunition isn't that great either."

    "Any contact with the outside?" Valin asks.

    Shion nods in affirmation again. "Our relief's been stalled a few blocks away from here. They ran right into a Mandalorian and elite rebel force and are stuck. Jysella changed her route to try to relieve us but her forces met heavy resistance, and many of their carriers were shot down too. The survivors are holding up across the street to the right, in the bank. They've got a ton of ammunition but no way to get some of it to us."

    Valin nods. I ask "Is Jysella all right?"

    "Yeah," Valin says. "She's still alive. I can sense her."

    Now I at least understand Valin's short temper. He's worried about Jysella. She risked everything to try to get to us and instead she's in the same predicament as the rest of us now. And probably going to be in huge trouble because she probably disobeyed orders.

    Shion looks down. "The rebels are winning, sir."

    Valin's eyes widen. "You can't be serious."

    Shion shook her head. "The latest reports say that the rebels are assaulting the palace right now. There's mass defections to the rebel side. The only pockets outside the castle that remain in the capital are us and the relief force that's stalled. And most of the Jedi are in the relief force. The relief force seems to be winning a local victory but I don't know if anyone besides Jedi can break through to us."

    Vestara sighs. "So basically, we're all gonna die."

    "We're not," Ben says, his voice firm.

    "I say we throw the prince outside in exchange for us getting to walk on out of here," Vestara says. Her voice and her eyes have hardened. She isn't joking anymore.

    Tomas, for his part, freezes up in fear. "Oh no. You're not seriously considering this, are you? They'll kill me!"

    "It's not the Jedi way," Valin says, but even he doesn't sound completely convinced anymore.

    Tomas backs up against a corner. "You're all considering it, aren't you? You're all the same! Jedi scum!"

    One of the Marines, an ebony-skinned young man who seems to be about Shion's age, walks over to the prince. "Sit the kriff down, prince. You're not helping things or yourself."

    Tomas grits his teeth. "You're gonna sell me out. Admit it, it's on all of your minds."

    Valin yells "Prince Tomas, sit down and shut up! Private Konter, give the prince some space! Clearly he's having issues right now."

    The young soldier raises his hands and walks away. "Yes, sir."

    Tomas looks at all of us. "This changes nothing."

    Valin sighs. "All right, with that settled for the time being, we should-"

    That's when a loud voice echoed throughout the building, drowning out Valin and all of our voices, and basically on the verge of drowning out my own thoughts.

    It was a female voice on the loudspeaker. "This is Mirta Gev, commander of the Mandolorian and militia forces surrounding both the office building and the bank. The war is lost. Give up the prince, and I will let you all walk away. If you don't, we will kill all of you. That simple. You have two minutes to decide."

    Just like that, we're all left in stunned silence. Except for Vestara.

    "Well, on the bright side, at least it isn't Boba Fett."

    Valin laughs briefly. "Oh no, he's here. They just don't want us to know that."

    Vestara smiles in a way that I can only describe as evil. "Then I'll make his head roll in the street after all."

    I try to stop myself, but I can't just resist. "Before you put me in a healing trance you were talking about how cool Boba Fett is. Now you want to kill him, just like that?"

    "He tried to barbecue me. He isn't cool anymore," Vestara growls.

    "And beheading him is a fair trade?"

    "Good point. I'll stab his lung and have him suffer for a few minutes and then kill him."

    "Vestara . . ." Ben says warningly.

    "Right, right, dark side, sorry." Vestara takes a few deep, calming breaths, and it seems to settle her down somewhat. "But he's still mine. Got it?"

    I don't think any of us are in a position to argue.

    Mirta Gev's voice bellows throughout the building again. "One minute remaining!"

    "I assume we're fighting," Vestara says.

    Valin nods. "That's right. Ben, can you and Vestara watch the upper floors? That's where I'm expecting Mandalorian incursions, many of them have jetpacks and are probably gonna use them."

    "So Ben and I get to drink the Mando'ade? Fine with me," Vestara says with a shrug.

    Ben gives Vestara a look. "That just sounds wrong, Vestara."

    "Boba Fett flavor, yum yum," Vestara says, a knowing smirk on her face.

    "Ugh." Ben puts his palm to his face and rubs it for a moment, perhaps mirroring how we all feel about that latest gem from Vestara. Finally, he sighs and says "What Vestara means to say is that we'll do our best."

    Valin nods. "Yeah, I'm kinda hoping that's what Vestara meant. One more thing, tell the nest that they'll be the last ones to pull out if we begin a retreat, they have to make it seem like we're still holding this position. Now get up there, both of you. We're out of time."

    Then Valin looks at me. "Tahiri, you're staying here by the prince. I'm expecting most of the combatants to be militia forces. You're out of practice, I need you here where the fighters are going to be easier. I hope you understand."

    I expected as much. But it doesn't make me feel that much better. Slaughtering militia is not my idea of a good time. These people are civilians who're rising up against their government. If the poverty-stricken are being mobilized, I'll be fighting against the people who I had been sheltering with just two weeks ago.

    How can I go from protecting and helping those people to killing them?

    Ben and Vestara run upstairs. The Marines all take their stations, and it is nerve-wracking to see that there aren't enough to cover every single opening. I hear machinery beginning to whir in the streets, have the rebels gotten access to some armor? That will just make things worse, though maybe they'll open fire on the bank first. Not that it makes me feel better, and I'm sure Valin is not enjoying the prospect of his sister having to face down armor.

    Valin sighs. "I'm going to cover the rear. If they don't spot it, it could be our way out of here. If they do spot it, that's the next best chance for Fett's forces to come pouring through. If we can withdraw, I'll say so in a few minutes."

    That's when Mirta Gev's voice comes booming through. "So, you Jedi are going to protect someone who doesn't want to be protected by you? So be it. You can all die like the fools you are."

    And then the armor opens fire.

    It is in the distance. They are aiming at the bank. None of the shots are hitting us.

    Valin swears under his breath. "Shavit, Jysella . . ." He finally shakes his head and runs towards the rear exit.

    There's nothing we can do for her. I know Valin wishes we could. But we're not invincible. Enough bolts being shot our way and we do go down. Not even Jedi can stop an army being arrayed against them. I just got a lesson in that from the Mandalorian ambush.

    All we can hope is that Jysella and her forces can withstand a siege. And that's easier said than done.

    I stand in front of the prince. I look back at him, and he just gives me a terrified look before backing up even deeper into the corner and huddles behind his knees. I wish I could consider him a coward but the prince is just a civilian. Civilians have the right to be scared. They're the one who don't fight and don't know how to.

    I ignite my lightsaber, and wait. Then the Marines open fire, and blaster bolts begin flying through the broken windows. A bright red shot comes right at me, and I deflect it into the ceiling.

    The battle is on.
     
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  21. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2006
    mulberry @Draconarius, @Anakin Solo Revanchist
    ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    Six

    It's not very long before I can see that our defensive position is not going to hold. There's too many bolts flying in here for me to deflect, and within the first minute at least three Marines are hit and knocked to the floor, and at least one was an obvious kill shot.

    If it sounds possible, it seems even more chaotic upstairs. But as I'm not upstairs, maybe it just sounds more violent than it really is.

    I force myself to block those thoughts out. The prince is my priority. And I have to protect him until Valin says it's time to leave.

    A guy dressed in civilian clothes but armed with a blaster storms inside, and sees the prince and I. He does the smart thing and shoots for the prince, not at me. But I can see the bolt's trajectory, and using my elevated Force abilities, I'm able to deflect the shot right back at the civilian and it hits him dead-on in the chest. Without any armor, the shot is without a doubt a kill.

    I can't let this bother me. This is war, and the civilian isn't trying to protect family or loved ones. He's just here to kill. And as much as I would like to sympathize with the rebels, especially considering what a rodder the prince is, I can't be swayed.

    The only reason I'm free right now is because of Valin, Ben, and Vestara. I owe them my freedom, and maybe even my life. I've betrayed everyone but Vestara at least once thanks to me becoming a Sith for a period. I'm not in the mood to stab people in the back anymore.

    A few more try to storm in and shoot me, and I just deflect their shots back at them. This requires a lot of strength on my part. Those bolts hit with a lot of raw velocity. If I don't withstand the bolts, they could go flying anywhere, including into me anyway. Sending them back towards the original shooters is one of the most difficult things you can do with a lightsaber, but once you master it, this ability is one of the most useful.

    After hitting six or seven shooters with their own blaster bolts, no more come in. Clearly, they've realized they aren't going anywhere trying to get through this entrance. They're running straight into a Jedi (well, ex-Jedi), and in most cases for a non-Force sensitive that means instant death. Mandalorians are one of the few "normal" types in the galaxy who can go toe-to-toe with a Jedi and possibly emerge victorious, though that possibility can be slim unless the Jedi is taken by surprise. Which is indeed possible. For militia attacking head-on, though, victory is practically impossible, even against a Jedi who's out of practice like me.

    Tomas is whimpering behind me. "Stop them . . . stop them coming . . .I can't take it, I can't take it."

    I want to knock him out cold just so I don't have to hear this, but I can't lose my focus for even a few seconds. I don't know when a second wave will come pouring in, and if my back's turned . . .

    Well, the Jedi-who-was-shaped becomes the Jedi-with-a-burn-hole-in-her-back.

    Still sounds like total chaos upstairs. Not that I'm surprised.

    I hear footsteps from the stairway to my left. I ready my lightsaber just in time to see a Mandalorian, wearing dark blue and black, come charging down. I deflect a blaster shot directly into his chestplate, but it only makes him stagger. Mandalorian armor is quite strong, it can take a couple of hits.

    I have to charge him. And, on this cramped stairwell, he has no way to get out of my lightsaber's path. I stab him in the gut and let him fall down the stairs by my right side.

    I hear Vestara's voice from the top. "Hey! Anyone still alive down there?"

    "Yeah! Do a better job up there!" I shout back.

    "Let's see you fight twelve of these guys at once!" Vestara sounds like she's trying to lead up to something, but she stops. I guess the fighting up there must be really bad. No wonder one of them got past.

    When I return to the bottom of the stairs, I see the militia again trying to make a push. I dive in front of the prince and direct as many of the shots as possible back into the militia. Five, six, seven, and finally eight go down before no more try to break through. I'm not surprised. Just because these people are tenacious doesn't mean they're stupid.

    Plus, I'm sick and tired of killing civilians. They're beginning to pile up at the entrance.

    I hear footfalls on the stairs again. Cursing under my breath, I'm about to turn my attention when I hear a masculine voice cry out and see the Mandalorian crash into the wall and then plummet down the stairs and land at my feet. He clearly has a broken neck.

    I hear Vestara's voice, rushed but strangely perky-sounding. "Got him this time!"

    I almost pity the Mandalorians up there. Ben and Vestara were single-handedly holding them off, which probably had to be embarrassing. But almost-pity isn't pity. They're mercenaries, and if they're going to be dumb enough to confront Jedi head-on, then they have death wishes that can all too easily be granted.

    I hear a small vehicular noise in the distance, just above all of the blaster noises, and suddenly Valin shouts "We're leaving! Everybody out!"

    His voice is loud. Probably augmented through the Force so everyone knows it's time to leave.

    I don't care how dangerous the streets will be. It's clear that staying here is a deathtrap. I run to the prince and pull him to his feet and drag him along. He does not resist. In fact, he now looks like he can barely register what's going on. The kid is that afraid. And again, I don't necessarily blame him for that. War is a terrifying thing, especially when you have the disadvantage.

    I run through Valin's designated rear exit, and spot three Mandalorian corpses. So it's not like Valin has been standing here the whole time while the rest of us fight. In the distance, I can see him, retreating, but also grasping his left arm, he's been wounded.

    In front of Valin is a highly armored bank speeder parked at the end of the alley. It takes me a moment to realize that it's probably Jysella. She had to fall back too. Then again, when you're facing a tank . . .

    Behind me, the surviving Marines on the bottom floor quickly charge out. One of them is Shion, another is the Konter person I saw speaking to the prince right before the battle. The third I don't recognize, but he's a Rodian.

    And then, just as the trio of Marines clear the building, Ben and Vestara jump from the second story, breaking glass in the process, and land directly behind the Marines. Immediately, Mandalorians come through the opening, using their jetpacks to slow their descents. Ben and Vestara immediately begin deflecting the shots, backing up quickly but deliberately, making sure the Marines and I were not going to get hit.

    It's clear that this is not my battle to fight. I continue to drag the prince through the alley until I make it to the armored bank speeder, whose rear doors open. I hear Jysella's voice. "Hurry, get in!"

    Valin jumps into the rear door and I follow suit, and I throw the prince inside before deactivating my lightsaber and following. The Marines are next, and as they get in, Jysella begins to accelerate the bank speeder.

    "You're going to leave Ben and Vestara behind?" I shout.

    "Of course not!" Jysella replies from the front.

    As the bank speeder accelerates, Ben, and then finally Vestara get in, and they both deactivate their lightsabers before awkwardly slamming the doors shut. Several bolts hit the doors, and dent them, but do not get through, as Jysella pours on the acceleration. We're suddenly accelerating at high speed and beginning to take to the sky. And we finally seem to have escaped the Mandalorians.

    "Master Valin!" shouts a girlish voice. I turn to my left and see a blond girl with a red streak in her bangs embrace Valin all of a sudden. She has a strange braid in her hair, and doesn't look much older than Ben did when he redeemed me back when Darth Caedus fell.

    Valin, despite how exhausted he looks, is able to summon a look of surprise. "Aster? What are you doing here? You're supposed to be at the castle!"

    The familiar Barabel siss began from the front of the bank speeder, but it was no Barabel that I know. "Thiz one's friend thought that we could be of use on your mission. Unfortunately, we joined with the wrong team."

    Aster looks at Valin, tears forming in her eyes. "I wanted to help you, Master! Please forgive me! I didn't want to lose you too!"

    Valin just sighs. "I'm not your Master. I'm just temporary until they can find a new one for you. And what about you, Mursov? What will Tesar think of what you've done?"

    Mursov sisses. "He'll approve. Recklessness iz a classic Barabel trait."

    "I see," Valin says softly. He turns towards the front of the bank speeder. "Jysella, where's everyone else? It's just you and the apprentices."

    I could feel sorrow from the front seat all of the sudden, answering the questions before words were spoken. "The Mandalorians killed the rest of the Jedi on my team. The surviving Marines opted to give their lives so I could escape with the apprentices."

    "I see," Valin says softly.

    Jysella looks back briefly. "I see Tahiri's there with you. Where'd she come from?"

    "Unexpected prison break," Valin says.

    "Wait," Aster says, finally removing herself from her temporary Master. "You're Tahiri Veila?"

    "Yeah?" I ask.

    Aster frowns at me. "You're that jerk Jedi that was all over the Holonet a while ago."

    We're going to get along fine, I can tell. "Thanks."

    Ben finally speaks up. "That's enough. Do we still have the prince here?"

    "Yeah," says a shaky voice from close to the front. I jump, and am able to briefly see the prince huddled in his seat right behind where Valin was sitting down. "No thanks to you guys."

    Aster turns around and looks at the prince. "So you rescued two jerks, Master?"

    "Tahiri is not a jerk, and for the last time I'm not your Master," Valin replies.

    "I want you to be my Master," the girl replies softly.

    Vestara snorts back laughter. "Oh, now I see what you don't have a girlfriend, Valin. You're into the underage type. Never pegged you for that, 'Master Valin'."

    I can only describe the wave of emotion I feel from Valin as 'urge to kill: rising'. But Valin settles down again, keeping a lid on his temper like he's had plenty of practice at just today. "Now's not the time for this," Valin growls.

    For once, Vestara doesn't push it. She raises her hands and then sits down. "Okay, I'll lay off. Besides, we almost died back there."

    "Thank you," Valin replies, obvious relief in his voice.

    Tomas spoke up. "This is the most botched rescue mission in the history of the galaxy. I just know it. I'm going to let my father know all about it."

    "Are you on coolant fumes?" Ben asks Tomas. "There have been rescue missions much more out of control than this one. At least you're still alive and going to arrive at a safe place."

    "There is no safe place on this planet anymore," Tomas growls, and he stomps his left foot into the floor. "I'm going to get dragged into the street and shot. Kriffing civilians."

    "Watch your language," Valin says sharply. "There's children here now. And number two, stop whining. You're going to live, and you will be in peace. The Galactic Alliance will make sure of it."

    "Uh huh, sure," Tomas growls in total sarcasm. "I don't see what's so childish about the lizard lady over there."

    The growl coming from Mursov sounds bestial. She clearly has an understanding of human insults. "A 'lizard lady', you call thiz one? You must ask for death daily to say such foolish thingz."

    "Hey, she's my friend!" Aster snaps. There is this slight, strange lilt in her voice now, distorting her Corellian accent. "What's wrong with you? Are you messed up in the head naturally or did your parents drop you on your head?"

    "I should ask you the same for befriending a Jedi lizard!" Tomas yells.

    The Corellian accent Aster has been using is half-gone now, and I can definitely hear the lilt in her voice. Enough so I can identify it, she sounds vaguely Adumari. "I can't believe ar of these people have died to save you. The galaxy would be bettar off without you in it."

    Valin speaks up. "Do you need to pick fights with every single one of us, Prince Tomas? If you don't have anything constructive to say, keep your mouth shut!" He turns to Aster then. "Stop talking to him. The conversation is just stressing everyone out."

    The Corellian accent is back full force in Aster's voice. "Yes, Master. I apologize."

    Valin sighs. "I am a Jedi Knight, not a Jedi Master. Please stop calling me something I am not, Aster."

    "I'm sorry," Aster says, her eyes looking down at the floor.

    "She should not have to apologize," Mursov says. "The prince should be apologizing. He iz the one who-"

    "I said we're dropping it, Mursov," Valin says. "Please, enough."

    "Thiz one understandz, Knight Horn," Mursov says politely.

    Tomas rolls his eyes and grumbles something I can't hear. At this point I'm giving up on the boy. It's clear he doesn't get it.

    Suddenly, impact.

    The speeder rocks and we're all thrown about. Valin looks towards Jysella in the front. "What's going on, Jys?"

    "The Mandos have brought air support! We're under attack!"

    "What about ours?" Valin asks.

    "Rogue Squadron has deployed from the Dauntless. They'll be here in thirty seconds!" Jysella replies.

    "You better do your best Dad impression," Valin says.

    "What do you think I'm doing?" Jys shouts back, and suddenly we're thrown around again, not by a laser impact, but by Jysella's evasive maneuvers.

    Back and forth, back and forth, side to side. Finally, we're all basically a tangled mess in the back, and I'm on top of Vestara, who is most displeased. "If you don't get off of me in the next five seconds, Tahiri . . ."

    "I'm trying," I growl as I try to lift this massive weight off my back without any help from my arms. Suddenly, we're thrown again and we crash into the wall, and I wind up squishing the poor guy who had been on top of me. And then Vestara slams into me.

    "We've got to stop meeting like this, Ben will get the wrong idea," Vestara says.

    I have no clue how to respond to that rationally. "That's what you're thinking about at a time like this?"

    "I gotta think about something other than dying, you know," Vestara replies.

    "Well, go fall into Ben's arms or something, I'm sure he'll appreciate it!" I say as I push Vestara away . . . just as we're hit again.

    And this time there's some serious damage. I can hear the warning klaxons blare throughout the cabin.

    Jysella's voice is raised but surprisingly calm. "Rogue Squadron got here but I can't keep this thing steady! I'm going in for a crash landing! Brace yourselves!"

    "Where?" I shout.

    "The palace, that's all I can say!" Jysella replies, and then we're on the ground.

    Without any seatbelts, there's nothing to keep up from flying towards the front seat, and then stop as the craft comes to a rest after its mercifully brief slide. I can hear a woman's voice on the com, Jysella must've hit a button or something to make the other end public. "This is Rogue Leader. Are you okay?"

    Jysella sighs. "We're okay, I don't think I got any fatalities."

    "Including the prince?"

    Tomas just moans "Here, kinda, sort of."

    Jysella confirms it. "Yeah, he's still alive."

    One of the Rogues replies then, I can't tell who it is. "We've managed to chase the Mando air support away but you have a squad or two who've managed to deploy right by your craft. I can't do a strafing run with you and the prince in harm's way. You need to retreat right away! Get inside the palace!"

    By this point, we've managed to untangle ourselves from the mess we've made. I don't know how we've managed to survive. Jysella must be a really good pilot. Considering her pedigree, I'm not so sure I should be surprised.

    Jysella gets on the com. "Roger that, Rogue Three. I'll let you know when I'm inside."

    She turns back to us, and begins to climb into the back. "We need to get out of here-"

    Blaster bolts begin to fly through the cockpit, and Jysella gasps as she's suddenly clipped. She collapses right by me and, acting on pure instinct, I grab her and drag her over my shoulder. "I have Jysella, we need to go, Valin!"

    Valin looks like he's going to stare into space. Ben, however, is able to react. "Follow me!"

    Ben kicks both doors open, and is immediately greeted by a Mando in dark blue armor. Ben ignites his lightsaber and quickly slices through the Mando, killing him instantly. Ben jumps out, and begins deflecting several bolts, and Vestara quickly joins him, covering Ben's back.

    Vestara looks at those of us still inside. "Get out, now!

    One of the Marines and I collide as we get out, and we fall to the pavement. Valin screams "Hey, that's my sister!"

    Great. Now he snaps out of it.

    Multiple Mandalorians are targeting me and Jysella, and I stand in front of her body, deflecting several blaster shots. My legs wobble and nearly give out as I assume a fighting stance. I'm pushing my legs way too much, way too often. It's a miracle I've managed to keep going so far.

    The Mandalorians are fast, fast enough that while they still get hit by my deflections, they're able to position themselves so an armored section can get hit. This merely knocks them off course for a few seconds and then they're back and ready to fire again.

    An X-Wing flies over our heads, firing several shots down by us, and several of the Mandalorians in the distance, still trying to get into an engaging position, are sent flying. They're clearly dead, being hit by an X-Wing turbolaser is usually fatal even if it's only a glancing blow.

    But that run only took out seven or eight of them, and there's still plenty more.

    "Is Jysella all right?" I shout as a Mandalorian gets a little too close and I punish him by putting my lightsaber in his gut.

    "She's alive!" Valin shouts, but his voice is clearly shaky.

    "Get her behind something! I'll draw them off!" I shout.

    "Tahiri, wait-"

    Total deja vu of two weeks ago. Guill yelled the exact same thing before I took off then, and I take off now just like that.

    What can I say? Other than I'm an idiot.

    I blame Riina for that. She's made me too sacrifice-friendly.

    One of these days, this appetite for putting myself in borderline-suicidal situations will kill me.

    But not today.

    At least . . . I hope not.

    There is only one path I can take. There's no other choices available. This is the only way for me.

    The hard way.
     
    mulberry and Draconarius like this.
  22. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2006
    @mulberry @Draconarius, @Anakin Solo Revanchist

    We're coming to the end of the Arelia arc here. However, something's about to happen that's going to haunt Tahiri for a good long while . . .
    ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Seven

    I charge past Ben and Vestara, and I slice another Mandalorian warrior in half just for emphasis. They do train their blasters on me, and, running as fast as I possibly could, charged down the exterior hallway, and four or five begin pursuing me. That's four or five the others won't have to deal with.

    They're fast. They've turned on their jetpacks and are faster than even an ex-Jedi who is using the Force to augment her speed. Granted, it might be that I'm out of practice or that my legs are this close to becoming jelly, but I don't remember Mandalorians moving this fast before.

    I jump on the wall, and quickly position myself before gravity can take over. I leap and rush the first Mandalorian in the air and cut her down, right through the head, taking some of her shoulders out as well.

    I land and my legs buckle out from under me. Yeah, they're done. I somersault and scramble to my feet, only to get kicked in the rear and sent flying into the wall I had just leapt off of. My lightsaber falls from my hands and falls onto the ground.

    A red-armored Mandalorian is responsible for this. He spins me around and puts his blaster to my chin, and his left food stomps on my lightsaber. "Any last words?"

    I hear a girl's voice to the right, with a slight Adumari lilt. "Leave her alone!"

    I look, and a Mandalorian cries out as he eats a deflected blaster bolt directly to his exposed skull. Another Mando, clearly a woman dressed in a gray/yellow armor blend, simply fires a trapping mechanism, and Aster is suddenly tied up by a rope top to bottom. She foolishly tries to move, and falls flat on her face.

    Before the female Mando can enjoy her triumph, I hear a hissing noise from above, and here comes Murasov. The female Mando just does the same thing, except Murasov is in mid-air, so Murasov winds up hitting the ground hard. Murasov slides into Aster and both roll several feet before winding up a tangled mess.

    They were only able to take out one Mando between the two of them, and could've been killed if the female Mando wasn't so clearly holding back. But they've given me one thing.

    A distraction. Just a little, the red-armored Mando has taken his attention off of me to watch the female Mando kick Aster and Murasov in the proverbial exhaust port. And his left foot doesn't have as good of a grip on my lightsaber as he thinks.

    I draw on the Force, and the lightsaber shoots out from under his foot. He cries out as he stumbles, and the lightsaber comes into my right hand and I ignite the blade to life.

    "I'm not letting you have any last words."

    And then I stab him right through the heart. His scream is muffled by his air supply being totally cut off, as well as blood rushing into his throat and spewing the inside of the helmet. Even with the darkened visor, I can see liquid hitting the inside, giving the visor different shades of black.

    The female Mando spins around. "Ghes! No!" she shrieks.

    There's only two Mandos left, a male in a burgandy color and the woman. The male suddenly throws his rifle away and draws knives. "Mirta, you need to move, now!" the male yells.

    Mirta? Wait, the woman is Mirta? Mirta Gev, the one who threatened us when we were stuck in the office building?

    Too late to think about that. The male Mandalorian is the biggest idiot I've ever see. Does he have any chance at all by rushing me with knives? It'll take all of two seconds for me to cut him down.

    But then Mirta moves as well, and then I realize the plan.

    The male's sacrificing himself. I stab him, and then Mirta kills me one way or another. But if I keep my attention on Mirta and concentrate on her, the male Mando is going to stab me right through the back.

    It's a no-win situation.

    I have no choice. I have to take the bait, and hope I can react to Mirta's attack in time, she looks like she's going to be rushing me too, she's thrown away her rifle and drawn knives as well. Maybe I can cut them both down.

    I step towards the male Mando as he enters my range, and step aside just enough for his knives to miss me, and then slice him in two right through the stomach. He falls unceremoniously to the ground behind me in two pieces, but as I turn to confront Mirta, I realize she isn't holding knives anymore.

    That's her ploy.

    I hear the knives clink into the ground. In Mirta's hands is a blaster pistol, being drawn into a firing position. I'm off balance, and my weakened legs can't move fast enough to compensate. I'm forced to rely on my arms to make a desperate lunge, but Mirta won't have any of that.

    I'm just fast enough that I force Mirta to fire from the hip. A blazing sensation erupts on my right shoulder and I can't suppress the surprised scream. Mirta rushes in with a bellow and kicks me into the gut, and now I can't breathe either.

    Before I can scarcely register getting the wind kicked out of me, an elbow comes rushing at my head and I'm sent into the pavement, in a daze and surrounded in incomprehensible pain.

    And, despite that, I feel a hot sensation on my forehead. I force my eyes to focus, and with Mirta's free hand, she pulls the helmet from her head, revealing her face. She's startlingly beautiful and resonant, and her short dark hair and brown eyes compliment her face perfectly.

    Her eyes are lit up with hatred and yet tears are pouring from her eyes. I know I can't move. The moment I try anything at all a blaster bolt is going through my head and I'm going to die.

    "Tahiri!" Aster screams to my right.

    I still hear blaster fire. None of the others are going to get to me. They're too busy. And what could they do if they got here? Mirta will just pull the trigger.

    Mirta's voice is throaty and choked up, with both grief and rage pouring into every word she spoke. "That was my husband, Jedi! How dare you!"

    Her left hand pulls out yet another knife, but unlike the others, this one is longer, and curved. She puts it right next to my face, and her face comes even closer, her breath is hot and labored and borderline hyperventilating. I do not need the Force to know how she feels, I can see it, I can smell it, and I can hear it.

    "I ought to gut you right in the chest and dig your heart from you body and hear you scream and cry and beg and finally die coughing on your own kriffing blood," Mirta snarls at me, as the first of her tears rain upon my face. Even her tears are hot, and feel almost like gel on my face.

    "I loved him, Jedi. I loved him so much. I . . . I . . ."

    Her eyes widen, and I suddenly realize she's recognized me. "No, not you. Why does it have to be you?"

    I want to talk, because frankly I've never seen this woman before, but I don't know what opening my mouth will do. Considering this woman's current behavior, any word I say will probably result in my spine being ripped from my body and being brandished as a club upon poor Aster and Murasov.

    "Why does it have to be you? A criminal? A coward? A fugitive? You should be rotting in jail or in an execution chamber! You should already be dead, Jedi! Why are you here and why did you take my husband away from me?"

    The last words are as much a wail as they are an accusation. And again, I can't answer. I'm too scared to. But at the same time, I want to apologize. I want to say I'm sorry, that I didn't know. But this woman is beyond words. Any pity from the Jedi who killed her husband will result in said Jedi's instant demise.

    And that would be me. In spades.

    She snarls and cries out multiple words in a tongue I don't understand, and then digs the knife into my cheek. I bite on my tongue to resist screaming from the newest pain, and involuntary tears leak from my eyes.

    She is completely hyperventilating now, and her arms are shaking so much that she could just pull the trigger and kill me by total accident. Not that she'd mind.

    Finally, she bends down low, and her breath drifts down my nostrils and mouth. "You better remember this face, you Jedi piece of shavit! You better remember this face! I'm the one who sent you to hell! I hope you kriffing burn!"

    Then I hear a voice from the right. "Mirta, wait! Stop!"

    It's another Mandalorian. Mirta looks to the right. "What do you want?"

    "A cease-fire's been signed! We have to end combat operations and head to the rendezvous point!"

    "Now?" Mirta shrieks, and then she looks at me, and she seems to be more monster than human.

    "Yes, now," the angel disguised as a Mandalorian says. "We can't break the contract, Mirta, under any circumstances."

    Mirta hesitates and grits her teeth, and then aims her blaster into the sky and fires it over and over. She screams total gibberish as she shoots the blaster repeatedly, venting her rage and her despair as much as she can until mercifully, her blaster clicks.

    Then, to my increasing horror, I realize that Mirta hasn't done that to burn off some of her anger. She's done that so she has no ammunition left to kill me with. She's so far out of control that she's had to deny herself a weapon in order to stay at a semblance of sanity.

    She whacks me in the head with the pistol, which the other Mandalorian does not object to. She then rests the pistol by my head. "The moment this contract is over, I will be coming for you. I will hunt you down and systematically tear you apart until you're begging to die. Not even your Vongformed brain will be able to take the pain."

    She punches me in the face one last time, and finally stands up and goes to pick up her helmet. Just to add insult to my considerable injury, she spits at me and it lands somewhere on my left leg. "I will not rest until I do this to you."

    "Hey, what are you doing? Get away from her!" That's Ben, finally coming to my rescue. I could almost kiss him right now for coming, I'm so grateful. I just need to know that I'm not alone, that this woman is going to have others to contend with, not just me.

    Mirta slams the helmet on. "I will find you." And then she ignites the jetpack and she's gone, and the other Mandalorian follows.

    Ben runs up to me. "Sithspawn, I thought she was going to kill you! Are you okay?"

    I can't believe how shaken I am. I have been never this close to death in my life. Even with all of the pain I have absorbed and all of the climactic battles I have fought, that was as close to death as I've ever gotten.

    But through my fear, I remember something she had said, something that didn't quite make sense.

    Something about a grandfather . . .

    I have a bad feeling about this.

    I look at Ben. "Who . . . who is that woman? Mirta Gev?"

    Ben's eyes widen. "You don't know?"

    "She swears she's going to come and kill me, Ben. Who is she? Tell me."

    Ben looks down, and then peers into my eyes. I see nothing but sympathy and foreboding in his blue eyes. "Tahiri . . . she's the granddaughter of Boba Fett."

    Now it dawns on me. I have just killed Boba Fett's granddaughter's husband and have in all likelihood instigated a blood feud with said granddaughter.

    And Boba Fett is the commander of the Mandalorians.

    I have made the most dangerous group of mercenaries in the whole galaxy my enemy.

    I'm so dead.
    ***
    It's bad enough that the Imperials are after me. But them I can deal with. I just have to be sneaky and not make myself obvious like installing a neon sign proclaiming "TAHIRI VEILA IS HERE". Not too hard. Not very stressful.

    Then it got worse two weeks ago. Sith. Sith are always bad things, and I've almost died once already from them trying to kill me, and I'm pretty sure I would've been in trouble back in that prison if Vestara hadn't been around. In fact, I may have been the Sith's target, and the Sith may have just picked the wrong time to bust in and kill me because they dropped in on a bunch of Jedi besides me.

    And now, it's beyond worse. Mandalorians, by themselves, are no match for Jedi. I've killed several of them today. But in a group, they can take a Jedi down. And someone like me, who's out of practice, who is still trying to shake off the remnant of bad injuries? I'm probably as easy of a mark as it comes.

    So now, there's three significant groups in the galaxy after me.

    My time is no longer borrowed. It's going to have to be stolen.

    I can't relax. I know I'm starting to panic but I can't relax. The fury, the bloodlust, the despair in Mirta Gev's eyes, her face, her whole body . . . she will stop at nothing to kill me. Either I kill her, or she kills me. And she has a lot more friends in this galaxy than I do.

    I have no choice but to lean on what few semi-friends I have left.

    The only good thing right now is that I can finally take my shoes off and let my feet breathe. It feels good to have them off. I feel like myself again. It doesn't matter that everybody's staring at me, I've never cared about that. I finally feel like myself.

    A really terrified version of myself, natch, but still myself.

    "Ben, please, you have to get me out of here," I beg as we walk down a random palace hallway with Vestara. Valin has wheeled Jysella towards an emergency room, she is probably getting treated for blood loss and for the burn in her back. The two Jedi apprentices, Aster and Mursov, follow us quietly, softly, a few paces behind.

    "I can't leave until I have permission to," Ben says.

    "Then what am I going to do?" I ask.

    Vestara sighs. "Sit and wait to die."

    I want to twist Vestara's neck off of her body, but I restrain myself. This is one place where Vestara and I are not alike at all. Vestara seems to enjoy fighting, in some small way. I don't. Battle has become something terrifying to me. I can't enjoy fighting, not when every battle could mean my death.

    Vestara senses my momentary, suppressed aggression, and her eyes narrow. "What? You wanna go, Tahiri Veila?"

    Ben speaks up. "Vestara, please. Taunting Tahiri will get us nowhere."

    Vestara sighs. "Yeah, you're right. Besides, this way I can get another shot at Boba Fett."

    "Again with Boba Fett. You're obsessed with Boba Fett," I say, before I can stop myself.

    Vestara again shows me her robes. "He tried to burn me alive! I have no idea how he can fit a flamethrower into his suit, but he can do it, and he's got good aim! I'm not going to let him do that to me again, or to anyone else. Especially Ben!"

    It occurs to me that this isn't just anger in Vestara. There's a small twinge of fear she can't suppress. I've never been put in a position to be burned alive, but I can imagine how that would feel. Boba Fett probably scared Vestara half to death when he lit her on fire.

    Now I understand.

    Especially since Mirta is apparently obsessed with hell. She'll probably try to burn me if she has any of the equipment her grandfather does.

    I have to get off this planet.

    We make a left, and very quickly Ben makes another left at the first door, and, feeling like I have no other choice, I follow him and Vestara inside.

    And there's Corran Horn and Kyp Durron, both pouring over something on a display that I can't see.

    "Master Horn," Ben says.

    Corran and Kyp turn around. Kyp smiles at Ben. "You did the best you could, Ben. You managed to succeed despite the circumstances and casualties. Maybe we'll give you command soon."

    Ben laughs softly, humorlessly. "I don't think I'm ready yet."

    "I agree," Corran says, and turns his attention to Kyp. "Which is why I don't want you planting ideas in Ben's head, got it?"

    "Got it, old man, you don't need to act all scary," Kyp says.

    "You're one to talk. What are you, fifty?" Vestara asks.

    Kyp's face becomes crestfallen. He looks down. "Actually, older . . ."

    "So more like sixty?"

    "I'm gonna go now," Kyp says, and he shuffles out of the room. I can't tell whether he's truly embarrassed or if he's just putting on a performance. Kyp Durron is a strange person that way.

    Then, as I turn my back to the door, I hear Kyp again, he sounds oddly cheerful. "Oh, before I forget, hi, Tahiri! Enjoy the light side and redemption and all that stuff! By the way, nice hair!"

    By the time I turn around, he's gone again.

    Corran buries his face in his palm. "He's become like a children's holotoon character since his Kyp's Notes holocron business took off . . ."

    He looks at me, and his eyes grow serious. "Tahiri. I never thought I'd see you again."

    "Well, I never thought I'd see anybody I knew ever again either," I reply. I actually feel embarrassed talking to him, like I'm not worthy to stand before him. I feel like a homeless vagabond standing before some royal guard dressed in a fancy uniform. I know it's not right to think that and the analogy isn't completely true, but that's how I feel.

    "I see." Corran clears his throat. "By the way, you apprentices hiding in the back, this is a private conversation. Leave at once!"

    I hear Aster yip and Mursov siss, and they make panicky gibberish sounds as they take off somewhere.

    Corran sighs. "They're going to be reprimanded for tagging along on the mission. What they did was reckless and endangered everyone's lives. They're lucky their involvement didn't add to the heavy casualties we took already."

    "How's Jysella?" Ben asks. "Jysella and Valin got here before we did."

    "I guess we should ask if the prince is here too, though I kinda hope he's dead," Vestara adds.

    Corran stares into space for a second. "The prince is still alive, though he's no longer your responsibility."

    "Thank the Force," Vestara says.

    Corran sighs. "The prince is a piece of work, but blame it on his parents, they're actually worse than he is."

    He pauses for a second."Valin and Jysella are actually going to be your new mission, Ben. Coruscant isn't that far away from here and the Jedi Temple has everything that Jysella needs. You're going to fly Valin and Jysella out of here."

    "Are you going to stay, Master Horn?" Ben asks.

    Corran nods. "I am in command here, and a cease-fire can be broken at any time. I, and most of the Jedi here, must stay. But your job is done. Go back to Coruscant and I assume the Council will assign you all a new mission."

    "Fine with me," Vestara says. "The people here make no sense anyway."

    Corran looks at me now. "And what about you, Tahiri? Valin gave me the short version, so I know why you're here now. But what's your plans?"

    I'm not quite sure how to answer without sounding unintentionally pathetic. I don't want to lie to him either. But I don't know what to say. "I . . . I'm going to go to Coruscant. I haven't decided whether I wanted to rejoin the Order, but I at least want to talk to Grand Master Skywalker. Maybe I can have some guidance before I decide what to do next."

    That's as close to the truth as I can get while leaving the Sith and Mando issues out. Thankfully, neither Ben or Vestara add to my statement.

    Corran smiles thinly. "I see. Good luck to you on that. I assume you're going to leave with Ben?"

    "Yes," I reply.

    "That's fine, you have my permission. I hope you find what you're looking for." He looks beyond me now, back at the door. "I know you've come back, Aster, Mursov! Neither of you are as sneaky as you think!"

    "Thiz one told you!" Mursov hissed.

    "Shut up, Mursov! Run for your life!" Aster growls, and both of them scamper off yet again.

    Corran rubs his forehead. "Teenagers. I do not know how I made it through Valin and Jysella's teenage years without turning to the dark side."

    "Maybe you have and you just don't know it yet," Vestara replies, her voice clearly teasing.

    Corran just shakes his head. "Please, I have other affairs to attend to. You all should leave."

    "Yes, Master Horn," Ben says, and he and Vestara turn around and begin walking away.

    I feel like I should say something more, but I can't come up with the words. Instead, I just say "I hope to see you again soon, Master Horn."

    "Maybe," Corran just says.

    And then I leave.

    At least on Coruscant, surrounded by Jedi, I'll be safe for the time being.

    Until my enemies all converge on me to kill me.

    I need a plan, and I need it now.

    I'm going to need the whole flight to Coruscant to figure that plan out . . .
     
  23. mulberry

    mulberry Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 20, 2009
    Exciting action! I enjoyed her introspection and the interaction with Master Horn.

    I hope she stays with the Jedi.
     
  24. Cobranaconda

    Cobranaconda Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2004
    I must say I'm quite enjoying this. Been a while since I've been back to these parts of the forum, nice to see at least the writing quality hasn't disappeared.

    Would appreciate it if you could add me to the reading list as well.
     
  25. Tahiri_Veila-Solo

    Tahiri_Veila-Solo Jedi Youngling

    Registered:
    Aug 29, 2021
    Siendo honesta me encantó!!!
    Se que lo publicaste hace mucho pero está genial...