Journey into Darkness Synopsis: What if Kanan never found out about the Sith Holocron and Ezra continued to learn from it? How far can good intentions carry dark methods? “They would never have succeeded without me. Don’t they know that?” “Your anger gives you strength. Gives you focus. You can see things clearly, your friends cannot. Now, what else do you desire?” “They can’t see. If they can’t see, I must become stronger, more powerful. I will never let my friends get hurt again.” Prologue Dusk had come to Atollon. The planet’s sun was sinking swiftly beneath the horizon, with only a sliver of light still visible in the sky. A cool wind blew across the dry landscape, swirls of dust and sand visible across the flat plains that surrounded Chopper Base on all sides. Standing on one of the dead coral outcroppings that housed Chopper Base, a young man stared out at the darkening sky, his mind filled concerns and fears. About average height for a human male, the boy’s most distinguishing feature was his dark blue hair, a rare color among his species. Once long and wavy, the blue locks had been cropped short in a neat military-style cut that stretched only a few inches from the young man’s skull. His bright eyes matched his hair and as they watched the last rays of the sun vanish beneath the skyline, they narrowed. The young man let out a single breath and squared his shoulders, standing up straight. His name was Ezra Bridger, son of Ephraim and Mira Bridger, and he was a Rebel. But he was more than just a rank-and-file soldier. He was now a Lieutenant Commander in the Phoenix Squadron. Even more than that though, he was a Jedi. Or, at least, he amended, a Jedi Padawan. His bare fingers grazed the hilt of the lightsaber that hung from his utility belt. Black-cased with silver highlights the weapon was a more standard design than his first one. He had forged the weapon in the first few weeks after Malachor. Fresh from the loss of Ahsoka and Kanan’s blinding, Ezra had found refuge in the construction of a new weapon. He had fortunate enough to have snatched up the Kyber crystal from the wreckage of his first lightsaber after his humiliatingly brief duel with Darth Vader. Ezra shivered a bit at the memory of facing down the Dark Lord of the Sith and the sheer ease at which Vader had disarmed him. His right hand curled into a fist at the recollection of lying on the floor of the Sith Temple, facing down the imposing Dark Lord, completely powerless. Your anger gives you strength. The Sith Holocron he had retrieved from the Temple came to his mind. The only thing he and Kanan truly had to show for their failed mission to the Sith planet, Ezra had hidden the object from his absent Master, claiming that he had stashed the Dark Side artifact away. But that had been a bald-faced lie, one his traumatized Master had not seen through, too preoccupied with his own injuries and loss. Thinking of Kanan’s perpetual absence reminded Ezra why he’d come up to the high reaches of the mesa to be alone with his thoughts. He’d been promoted earlier in the day and would be leaving in the morning on his first mission as Lieutenant Commander. He felt the weight of command settle heavily on his young shoulders and for a moment he wanted to run away from everything. Just dash off into the desert and leave the Rebellion, the Jedi and Sith, all of it behind. In a way, he was still just a kid, seventeen and afraid of assuming such responsibility. The cold wind picked up, blowing dust past Ezra, the cool air biting at his bare skin. He clenched his jaw against the gale and balled his fists. Embrace your anger. Feel it, hold it. Let it fill you. Concentrate on it and only it. Your anger gives you focus! The words of the Sith Holocron flashed through his mind, the raspy voice of the Presence worming its way into his thoughts. Staring out at the shadow-engulfed desert, Ezra squeezed his fists even tighter and felt his anger growing. Anger towards the Empire for taking his parents, hate for Darth Vader and his humiliation of Ezra. Coming to a decision, the young man spun on his heel and strode away from the ledge, heading down towards the landing pad far below. Chopper Base was eerily quiet at this late hour. Most of Phoenix Squadron were fast asleep in their various bunks either in the base’s limited living space or on the various spacecraft berthed outside. The few members that weren’t asleep were ensconced in the command center, monitoring sensors and communications. Ezra didn’t encounter a single being on his short walk from the upper reaches of the mesa to the wide, flat section of the mesa that served Chopper Base as a landing field. Only a handful of vessels were berthed there at the moment, with a pair of large CR90 Blockade Runners sitting at opposite ends of the field. Berthed directly between them was the VCX-100 light freighter that Ezra had come to call home over the last two years. The Ghost’s landing ramp was down as it always was when Hera didn’t see Ezra in his bunk after nightfall. A faint smile graced the young man’s face at the small, but affectionate gesture. His new family did care about him when it came down to it. The smile swiftly faded. The fact that they cared about him meant he had to do his very best to protect them. His visage darkened with these thoughts, he hadn’t been able to save his parents from the Empire. He wouldn’t fail to save his new family. Boarding the ship, Ezra made his way to his cabin quietly. The room was empty as Zeb was hard at work in the command center, monitoring all the perimeter sensors. The Lasat took his duty as Chopper Base’s Chief Security Officer very seriously. Going up to his collection of Imperial helmets that lay on the right wall of the cabin, Ezra moved to take the center one, an Imperial Cadet bucket and paused. As always, the Sith Holocron somehow sensed his approach and the artifact came to life, crimson light emanating through the lenses of the helmet that concealed it from prying eyes. Lifting up the helmet and setting it aide, Ezra stared at the object that had been his teacher for the last six months. A small, fist-sized pyramid, the Sith Holocron was made of a strange translucent substance. Capped at the edges by gold, triangles that were rotated to odd angles, the entire device glowed with an angry red light. Lifting the object, Ezra held it in his open palm and called on the rage he’d felt at the dark memories. With a dull flash of light, the object came to life, vibrating slightly in his hand. The Presence said nothing. But then it never spoke on its own, only responding to Ezra’s questions or statements. “I need more guidance,” the young man said, an edge in his voice. “What do you seek to accomplish?” The Presence spoke in distinctly female tone, it’s voice shifting in tenor and pitch with each word, almost as if it were multiple voices speaking as one. “I’ve been promoted,” Ezra replied, uneasiness creeping into his voice. It felt odd telling the Sith Holocron about what he felt was his best accomplishment. “Leadership can present many challenges” the Presence said, “Subordinates cannot always be trusted to obey their leaders.” Ezra frowned, “They’re not my subordinates, they’re my friends!” The Holocron glowed brighter, “They may be. But you are their commander. Your duty is to lead. Theirs is to follow.” “How do I do that,” Ezra asked, his doubts rising to the surface of his mind. “They didn’t listen to me during the last mission. They don’t take me seriously.” His voice grew louder with his anger, “They still think I’m just a kid! They don’t know what I’m really capable of!” “They don’t believe in your strength. Your wisdom.” The Presence’s voice was low and understanding. “How do I show them that I’m not just a kid anymore? How do I get them to believe in me?” “Power must be demonstrated. Wisdom must be displayed. Lesser beings only believe in what they can see.” The light of the Holocron began to dim, throwing the cabin into deeper shadow. “The Force can be used to show them your power. You can use it to persuade them to follow you.” The crimson light shone into Ezra’s wide blue eyes. “Tell me,” he demanded eagerly, “Tell me how to convince them.” “Listen carefully,” the Presence said sibilantly, it’s voice radiating power and wisdom.