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Beyond - Legends The Great Leap Forward (FotJ concurrent: Laera & OCs + Luke/Ben ? drama/action) Updated 2/23!

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Goodwood, Dec 25, 2011.

  1. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    May 11, 2011
    Title: The Great Leap Forward
    Author: Goodwood
    Timeframe: Concurrent to FotJ (slight AU possible), Legacy era
    Characters: Laera Reyolé, OCs, HK-47.5 + Luke and Ben Skywalker
    Genre: Drama, action, introspection
    Summary: Four thousand years after their presumed disappearance, Marine captain and Jedi Knight Laera Reyolé and her companions Lieutenant Silas Dan'kre and an assassin droid known only as HK-47, find themselves stranded on an unfamiliar world inhabited by a mysterious species who call themselves the Sa'ari. Thought to be the 'Starborne Ones' of legend, they are taken into their society.
    Meanwhile Luke and Ben Skywalker, temporarily free of obligations during their exile from Coruscant and the Jedi Order, take covert delivery of a holocron constructed by the enigmatic Jedi Revan. But the ancient Knight had encoded a secret message within the device, one meant for Reyolé's eyes only. Though armed with few facts, the Skywalkers set off to deliver this message, not knowing that they will learn far more than they had ever thought possible...

    Author's note: This is a direct follow-on to [link=]The Last Full Measure[/link].

    [B]Chapter One[/B]

    The red-haired youth's brow was raised dubiously. "Lahara sector, Dad? You sure about that?"

    Luke Skywalker looked at his son and smiled. He'd been taking the recent lack of activity with considerable grace for a young man his age, and had even accepted without argument the fact that he wasn't being told everything about what they were about to do. Ben was, however, raising an eyebrow at their next destination. "You've seen the records and you've accessed the holocron. If we're going to achieve our goal of tracking down this Reyolé woman and delivering Revan's message, wouldn't you agree that it's best to start with her homeworld?"

    Ben's brow went, if it were possible, even higher. "Dad, please. I've seen a lot of unbelievable stuff in this galaxy, but it's been four thousand years. Surely she's become one with the Force by now. Besides, what could possibly be so important about this message that we have to make sure she gets it if, by some miracle, she's not dead?"

    "Your guess is as good as mine, son," Luke replied with a sigh, patting Ben's shoulder. "It's just a feeling."

    "Yeah, [I]just a feeling[/I]," Ben echoed tongue-in-cheek. "Well, it's not like we have anything better to do at the moment, and at least now that Fel's in charge, the Empire won't bother us if they see us in their territory."

    Luke withdrew his hand and returned his gaze to the cockpit viewport as Ben verified their hyperspace vector. Indeed, the Empire under the steady leadership of Jagged Fel couldn't care less what a pair of errant Jedi did within their borders—as long as they didn't try to "liberate" anybody, of course, or interfere with Imperial business, legitimate or otherwise.

    As he continued to muse about what they had learned and where they were going, the Jedi Master watched the stars stretch into lines as the [I]Jade Shadow[/I] made the jump to lightspeed. It seemed remarkable how similar Revan's life had been to that of his nephew Jacen's: both had been highly-gifted Jedi Knights, both had witnessed war and bloodshed, and both had campaigned for justice in the face of conflict. Even the ways and whys behind their falls to the dark side were similar; Luke got the distinct impression, at least from the holocron, that Revan felt as though he had taken up the mantle of Dark Lord in order to [I]save[/I] the galaxy, not conquer it. But as had been the case with Jacen, the plan had gone awry, and though there had been no mortal redemption for his sister's elder son, there had been for the ancient Jedi who had shared his path. Revan's second chance had been spent most wisely in Luke's opinion, yet even after the defeat of his old apprentice and the end of the war he'd started, he had still returned to the unexplored vastness of the Unknown Regions, determined to find what he'd been willing to sacrifice himself to stop.

    Records seemed to indicate that Revan had only been successful in delaying the threat of the “true” Sith Empire, but it had been a delay of approximately three centuries. The data suggested that this had been ample time for the Republic to marshal the strength to eventually reassert itself and resist that renewed drive of conquest, though the galaxy had suffered dearly during those years of tension and conflict. But Jacen's plan...that was the troubling part. The experiences he and Ben had shared in the...what was it they had called it? The visions from "beyond shadows" had put forth the possibility of ultimate success, the vindication of his nephew's own supposed sacrifice. Who knew how long that could last, though. Was it even possible? Or had it all been a lie, conjured up by the monstrosity that had dwelt within the Maw? It had been three days since they had taken possession of the holocron at the drop point that had been arranged by Tionne Solusar, and during that time Luke had buried himself deep within all available records of that era, trying to corroborate the data that the artifact had contained.

    So many questions. Yoda had warned him about being too inquisitive. Yet still they lingered, even after having seen the other side of the equation behind the Mandalorian Wars and Jedi Civil War. Bearing witness to Revan's memories had raised more questions than had been answered, but Luke had long become accustomed to such things. Mara would have told him to snap out of it and get with the program, to stop [I]thinking[/I] and start [I]doing[/I].

    It was at that point that Luke decided to start [I]doing[/I]. Relaxing into the embrace of the Force, he let it guide him toward the future, to suggest the place where he ought to be in order to find the next step on the path he had set for himself. It was something he had done before with great success, and he was confident that the same would occur now. The cockpit of the [I]Jade Shadow[/I] vanished around him as he closed his eyes, swallowed up in a riptide of images and feelings. Suddenly, his mind blazing with clarity, the Jedi Master's eyes snapped open and, exerting his will, he brought the ship out of hyperspace.

    "Dad, what the—!"

    "It's okay, Ben," Luke reassured his son. "How long was I under?

    "About five and a half hours. I'd just finished eating and was bringing you something when you nearly made me fall face-first to the deck. Here you go."

    Ben tossed a foil-covered dish of food into Luke's lap. He caught it easily, ripping the cover away and stuffing down the nuggets with his fingers. Barely a minute later, he handed the empty plate back to his son, who pulled a face. "Let's get an idea of where we are," he said, as though he was asking about the weather on Coruscant.

    Still trying to come to grips with what had just happened, Ben complied in silence, transferring the data to the console before Luke. "This is interesting," the Jedi Master said, smiling to himself.

    "What, that you just happened to yank us out of hyperspace within spitting distance of a habitable world?" Ben asked incredulously. "Do that again and I might have to revoke your pilot's license."

    "And let [I]you[/I] fly the ship all by yourself?"

    "Dad, I'm serious. We don't need to be drawing attention to ourselves this deep in Imperial space."

    "I suppose that was a bit abrupt," Luke replied apologetically. "Next time I'll try to get off a warning."

    "Apology accepted, Captain Skywalker."

    Luke returned his attention to the console. They had reverted to realspace approximately three million kilometers from a verdant world that seemed to be teeming with life. The star system they were in had only been given a letter-number designation, and the information listed was scant. L16-22GS was a yellow G-type main sequence star that possessed eight worlds, three gas giants and five terrestrials, and an asteroid belt bisecting the system between the four inner terrestrials and the outer planets. Situated on the Coreward side of Lahara sector, it was several dozen parsecs short of the Mirgoshir system. For a star with a habitable world such as this, it was odd that no one had made the effort to colonize here, let alone give it a name. What was even more intriguing was that the system data didn't list any such hospitality in the third planet or any data at all on its two moons. "Ben, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

    "If you're wondering why nobody struck a claim to this seemingly-uninhabited garden world, then yes, you're thinking what I'm thinking," Ben replied tartly. "And the answer is yes."
    "You know your father too well, son," Luke said with a smirk. "Alright, let's take her in, but we'll do it the quiet way."

    "As ordered, Captain Skywalker..."

    While the [I]Jade Shadow[/I] came closer to L16-22GS-3, as their destination was listed on the navigational charts, a strange sensation crept into the minds of both Jedi. "Something's interfering with our sensors," Ben said as they brought the ship into high orbit in order to get a more detailed scan of the surface before landing. "There are several cities down there, but the scanners aren't reading any evidence of technology. Whatever is going on down there, the Force is very strong."
    Luke's skin puckered as he remembered his first visit to Dagobah. He had come to understand later that this had been a trick of Yoda's, which the old hermit had used to bring him to where they would most likely stumble onto one another. "'s almost as though..."

    " though someone doesn't want this planet explored," Ben finished. The two exchanged a quick glance, then turned back to their respective consoles. "Now I'm definitely curious."

    "So am I," Luke said. "If this effect could work on droid probes as well, then that would explain the lack of interest in this system. It feels like something similar to a trick that the [I]Jensaarai[/I] had used to hide themselves from the outside galaxy, but more sophisticated by several orders of magnitude. Even if anyone had bothered to send a crewed scout vessel, they wouldn't have found anything."
    "Whoever [I]is[/I] down there obviously doesn't want to be noticed," Ben agreed. "What do you think might be causing it?"

    "I think the more appropriate question is [I]who[/I]," Luke said pensively, his brow crinkled in a frown. "Followed promptly by [I]why[/I]. Still, we should be cautious. Engage the stealth system, I'm bringing the ship in."

    [CENTER]— — —[/CENTER]

    Fifteen minutes later, the modified [I]Horizon[/I]-class star yacht touched down in a small clearing in a forest on one of the northern continents. Using an optical scope, Ben had picked out a multitude of well-developed and -organized cities all over the planet, however they couldn't get much detail without risking detection by the inhabitants, whoever they might be. Father and son had decided to take an oblique approach, scouting out the hinterlands to get some kind of baseline reading of the native ecology before attempting to determine the cause of the sensor-dampening effect. Not much data was to be had, however, except that what color there was aside from the verdant hues of most of the planet's flora was mostly in the shorter half of the visual spectrum. Satisfied that nothing else was to be gained by lingering in space, the yacht made its final descent and the Skywalkers prepared to disembark.

    The outer hatch and egress ramp lowered with a gentle hiss and Luke, dressed in black robes with a dark brown cloak, took the lead. Ben, clad in more traditional Jedi attire, followed, his right hand riding the pommel of his lightsaber as his left gently waved a portable scanner back and forth. "Air is breathable, if a bit rich in oxygen," the younger Skywalker remarked as they circled the ship. "There's also quite a fragrance to it, as well."

    "That would help to explain the size and height of the trees; they've got to be over a hundred meters tall." Luke agreed, testing the ground by alternately standing on his heels and toes. "Gravity feels a bit light, too."

    "I'm getting nothing from this scanner," Ben grumbled. "Not even the most basic readings. It's as though this entire planet hates technology."

    "Keep it with us for now," Luke replied. "It might come in handy if we run into any of the native sentients; they might have worked up a way to get around the problem."

    Ben tucked the device back into a pouch on his belt. "Right, yeah."

    Luke turned to face the treeline, feeling for a path through the forest. The undergrowth at the edge of the wood was interspersed with fern-like fronds and flowering bushes, the latter blossoming with flowers that ranged from viridian-tinged white to deep violet. Oddly, there seemed to be little to no yellows, oranges, or reds in the mix, as on most of the planets he'd visited. "Let's go this way," the Jedi Master finally said, pointing toward a spot forward and to starboard of the [I]Jade Shadow'[/I]s bow. "Get the speeder bikes and—"

    With a slight rushing noise, a wooden arrow flashed past Luke's face, missing by a centimeter and impacting with a loud [I]crack![/I] against one of the vessel's stout landing skids. Ben reached for his weapon, but his father held out a cautionary hand. "Wait a moment," he said. "I don't sense any intent to kill; this might have been just a warning shot."

    "A warning shot from a bow and arrow that nearly plugged a Jedi Master right in the face, and you're telling me there's no intent?" Ben said incredulously.

    "Yes," Luke replied simply. "If there had been intent, I'd be dead. I'm still not picking up on who fired."

    The two Jedi looked about the clearing, each extending their awareness as far and wide as they could. Nothing registered, however, apart from the background signatures of animal and plant life, and certainly nothing to indicate that someone lurked within the effective range of such a primitive weapon. After twenty minutes of fruitless searching, they gave up for the moment and retrieved the pair of speeder bikes, laden with supplies, from the cargo hold. They were just about to mount the vehicles and ride off when Luke spotted her as she poked her way from behind a large bush.

    A middle-aged human woman, clad in a faded black body glove of an unusual cut that had been liberally adorned with vegetation, carrying a bow with an arrow-filled quiver slung across her back, emerged into the clearing and strode confidently toward them. Her auburn hair had been roughly cut and tied back with vine, and her intelligent blue eyes darted back and forth, taking in the vista before her, lingering fitfully yet missing nothing. Her body language spoke of many years of field experience and of living life outdoors and on minimal or even improvised tools, materials and food. Luke was sure that he could spot the faint echoes of military training in her stride as she paced the clearing. She came to within three meters of where the two men stood next to their bikes, glanced from one to the other as though sizing them up, then beckoned back toward the treeline.

    "They're friends," she called in Basic, though her accent was distinctly out-of-place. Luke suddenly found himself in the unenviable position of wishing that Threepio was with them.

    The thought had barely had time to coalesce when a Bothan male, clad in the same ensemble as the woman who had called out to him, crossed the treeline. Sandy-furred with tawny hair, his violet eyes were predatory in their focus, and like his companion, he drank in the tableau before him. His movements were slightly less experienced but just as confident as the woman who had called him forward, and he carried himself more like an officer. He too wielded a bow and bore a quiver, but while the woman held hers casually, he had an arrow notched and ready to fly at the slightest hint of danger. "Not just friends," he said, looking from Luke and Ben to his companion and back again. His accent, too, was out of place, even for a Bothan. "They're Jedi. Just like you said."

    And he slackened his grip on the bowstring.

    "Sorry about earlier," the woman said, offering Luke a cryptic sort of smirk. "But I had to test you."

    "I take it we passed?" Ben retorted.

    "With flying colors," the woman answered dryly. "Put those newfangled bikes of yours away and we can talk more back at my place."

    "How about we just hash things out right here?" Ben shot back.

    "Because the locals will be all over this clearing in a matter of hours, and I'd rather not be here when they arrive," the woman said quite calmly. "If you're lucky, your ship will still be flyable after they rummage through it for useful technology."

    "What locals are you talking about?" Ben asked, his tone sharpening even more.

    "Not here," the woman answered. "Besides, I don't have the proper equipment with me to show you."

    "It's okay, Ben," Luke said, raising a calming hand. "We'll come with you. Our ship will be safe enough here."

    "Confident, eh? I like that," the woman replied, her smile broadening. "You must have put a Force-trigger on your exterior hatchway, very clever. Some of us played with the idea a year or two back, but we couldn't make it work."

    "It was my wife's idea," Luke replied, returning her smile. "This ship was originally hers."

    "Good for her," the woman said. "They'll probably think it's bomb-rigged and leave it alone for the time being, hoping that whoever landed it will come back. But we can settle that later."

    Luke and Ben hauled the bikes back to the cargo hold, taking the supplies they had loaded onto the speeders and slinging the heavy packs onto their backs instead. Five minutes later, they were making swift but steady progress through the trackless forest floor, the human woman taking lead and the Bothan bringing up the rear, each with their weapons ready and covering a one-eighty degree arc ahead and to the rear of the impromptu parade. Though their guides said nothing, neither Luke nor Ben was able to figure out the need for such caution. The forest was oddly peaceful, without even the senses of predatory animals looking on in curiosity that would have been present on other worlds.

    They were still jogging down a seemingly random path through the undergrowth when the sun began to glow orange and sink toward the horizon; night was falling by the time they reached a particularly large tree, at which their guide stopped and began to climb. The two Jedi looked on as she raced up the trunk, which had to be at least a dozen meters thick, and they could sense that she was using the Force to temporarily "glue" her hands and feet to the outer surface. When she reached the top, she lowered a vine ladder, which the Bothan ascended as Luke and Ben used the same technique she had demonstrated. The bark was rough and coniferous, but not all that challenging for a Jedi to climb.

    They arrived at a hollowed-out crook that had been nestled between bole and branch about twenty-five meters up from the forest floor, which was only a fifth of the tree's total height. The space appeared to have been carved out through the use of primitive hand tools, but it was big enough to berth two in remarkable comfort considering the small space. The interior bulged out from the narrow entry hole, and was covered in what appeared to be dried sap. Two hammocks, woven from vines and tied with wood fibers, were hung from one side, and several jars of improvised candles were grafted to the walls. On the other side of the small room, more arrows and a spare bow were tucked into an alcove. Shelves that looked like they'd been carved out during the creation of the room itself were also present; the lower one was stacked with plates of an unidentifiable material that resembled armor components, while the upper two were laden with a mix of improvised technology and a few devices that looked to be of an extremely old design. From the ceiling were suspended bags of foodstuffs and two truly ancient-looking fully-enclosed battle helmets. The dwelling strongly reminded Luke of the Ewok villages of Endor, because whoever had built it had taken significant pains to keep the tree alive. Such a task was far from easy.

    "Welcome to Little Agamar," the woman finally said as she and her Bothan companion sloughed their quivers, placing them and their bows in the niche by the entrance. "I know it's a bit tight in here with the four of us, but hopefully that won't be a problem. So, what brings you here to T'lessia?"

    "T'lessia?" Luke asked, puzzled. The name the woman had given to her abode had piqued his interest, and he could sense that his son felt the same way.

    "That's what the locals call this world," the woman replied, lighting the candles with the tip of her finger before squatting on the floor, where she was joined by the Bothan. "It's actually quite beautiful, it's just too bad they're so incredibly xenophobic. Well, that's not entirely fair. [I]Most[/I] of them are xenophobic, while others are [I]very[/I] xenophobic."

    "It's the city-dwellers," the Bothan added tartly.

    "I'm sorry, but who are you people?" Ben interjected. Luke was curious, too.

    Their hosts exchanged glances, then looked back up at the two Jedi, who were still standing. "Before I answer that, I have a confession to make," the woman began. "When we approached your landing zone, I had held out some small hope that my senses were playing tricks on me and you weren't actually Jedi Knights. The idea was that my arrow would scare you away from the clearing long enough for us to steal your ship and get back to the Republic to report in. I swear, though, that we would have come back for you."

    "Did you say 'the Republic'?" Luke asked gently as he sat opposite their hosts, heading off the indignant retort that he knew Ben was aching to hurl at them.

    "Of course. You two [I]are[/I] Jedi Knights, correct?"

    "We are," Luke replied.

    "Then who else would have sent you, if not the Republic?"

    Ben finally assumed a seat next to his father, and the two exchanged a glance of their own. "The Force brought us here," he said simply.

    "Ah, yeah, I know how that can be," the woman replied sardonically, shaking her head in a world-weary fashion. "Sometimes I wonder why I even went for this Jedi racket in the first place. Still, you're here and you've got a working ship, and that means we can finally leave this unenlightened rock."

    "You still haven't told us who you are," Luke pointed out.

    "And neither have you." the Bothan countered with a smirk.

    "Fair enough," Luke replied. "My name is Luke Skywalker. This is my son, Ben."

    "Two Jedi, father and son...and a wife someplace," the woman remarked in an undertone, her brow raised in an odd mixture of curiosity and consternation. "Something like that, you'd think it would have been known throughout the Order. I've heard of Jedi getting exiled for less than that."

    "We don't exile Jedi for marrying or having children," Luke replied. "In fact, not only do we not exile Jedi, but we also encourage and support the raising of Jedi families. And my wife was killed by a Sith Lord some five years ago."

    "Look, buddy, I'm sorry about your wife, but don't play cute with me," the woman replied, her voice suddenly becoming heated as she jabbed a finger at Luke. "I may only have been a Jedi for a few years, but I'm not stupid. The Marine Corps doesn't mint stupid troopers."

    Luke's eyes flashed as a memory clicked into place. He looked from the woman to the Bothan, then to his son, before returning his gaze to the woman. "You're Laera Reyolé, aren't you?"

    Silence descended on the small refuge as the two hosts again exchanged looks, the woman's retort dying even as it had formed. When she did speak her voice was low with anxious surprise. " did you read me?"

    "I didn't try," Luke replied gently, extending a hand. "You may not believe it, but it's been four millennia since anyone has heard from you. My son and I had set out to find you, in fact, in order to deliver a message from someone you knew, someone whose orders affected your life deeply."

    — — —

    "And where is this message now?" I asked, at last ending the very pregnant pause that had descended upon our home.

    "Back on our ship," the Jedi Knight calling himself Luke replied in his funny accent. I knew I'd heard it before, but the place—and the person who'd served with me who was from there—I couldn't recall at the moment. "I didn't expect that we would run into you this soon."

    "Wonderful," I muttered. "Just great. So, now that you've found me, can you at least say who this message was from?"

    "It was from Revan.">
  2. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    great begin of your story with Laera
  3. Thumper09

    Thumper09 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 9, 2001
    Great start! Hmm, from what she's told Luke it doesn't seem like Laera is aware that so much time has passed. I'm curious to see if the planet is somehow causing that or if it's something else entirely. And xenophobic natives are never good news for offworlder protagonists. :p

    I really liked the description of the planet. It feels very alive.

    Looking forward to more! =D=
  4. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    May 11, 2011
    Hehehehe, you'll see!

    [B]Chapter Two[/B]

    My heart froze in my chest at the stranger's words. A cyclone of emotions swirled throughout my consciousness. It was bad enough that Revan was sending me messages from the Great Beyond, but to have been out of it for four thousand years? It was impossible, surely—it felt like only a few months had passed since our escape from the battle over Ord Mantell. Our escape, which had been a near thing, that had stranded us on this unknown dirtball. But even as Skywalker said the words, I knew that they were true, and there was no use even denying it. I glanced over at Silas, and the fleeting look he offered made it quite clear that he had an idea how this could have happened. Our hyperdrive systems must have been very badly damaged indeed.

    Something still bothered me, though, about how the elder Jedi spoke of Revan. This stranger, this...Skywalker, seemed to think that the man had been a hero; I didn't need the Force to spot the subtle tone of reverence in his voice. In fact, there seemed to be an ingrained undercurrent of idealism throughout his consciousness, despite the emotional scars that floated on his bright sand-colored aura like flotsam from a shipwreck. Nothing I knew about the Dark Lord suggested that redemption was even possible, but even as my passions raged at how the universe seemed to be throwing us about like a leaf on the breeze, the more logical part of my mind admitted that a lot could have happened in the intervening time. If nothing else, these new arrivals with their intact starship offered a way out for us, and I wanted the chance to be with Silas on a civilized world.

    "You mean 'Darth' Revan, don't you?" I finally replied, making the Sithspawned honorific into a curse. "That scum...last I knew, he was comatose and being carted back to the Republic in an assault lander."

    "Yes, I do," Luke replied, still in that annoying voice of hero worship. "That last mission you conducted, it was the key to his redemption, to the end of the war you were fighting."

    "He was redeemed?" Silas asked, a dubious glint in his eye.

    "It's a bit more complicated than that," the elder Skywalker began.

    "How fortuitous for us," Silas retorted mockingly. "Laera and I happen to love long, [I]complicated[/I] stories."

    "I'll make you a deal," I added. "You tell us what's been happening in the rest of the galaxy, and we'll tell you about this planet."


    For a full hour, Skywalker told us what he knew about Darth Revan's redemption. Beginning with the destruction of the [I]Endar Spire[/I] over Taris and continuing through the end of the war at a place called Rakata Prime and beyond, he told what he obviously thought to be a thrilling tale of courageous beings, acts of atrocities, intrigue, self-sacrifice, and the power of love. Though my jaded mind was skeptical of some bits, most of what the man had to say rang true, even through the distortion of the ages. When Luke revealed the duplicity of the Jedi Council in how they had mind-wiped Revan, however, I was dumbfounded; though I could see it logically, it was difficult to accept that these people of supreme compassion would inflict such a barbarous act upon a fellow sentient. It was clear, however, that Skywalker thought that while this undertaking had played out to the galaxy's benefit in the end, it wasn't because of them, but of Revan himself.

    In spite of my earlier feelings, I suddenly found myself wanting to go back to the visitors' ship and retrieve that message.

    But Luke's tale didn't stop there. He continued to recall the history of the Order after the war, including what he called "the First Jedi Purge" and the tales of a person whom he referred to as "a Jedi Exile.

    "Hold it a moment," I said, raising a hand to interrupt his testimony of what happened at a fuel mining facility and depot at Peragus II. "This 'Jedi Exile' you refer to, who was she?"

    "We don't know," the younger Skywalker replied. "Our records of that era are sketchy, a lot was lost when the enclave on Dantooine was sacked."

    Once again, my heart pulsed with grief. To remember a place where one's life is significantly altered, for better or worse, is a treasure. But to learn that such a place had been destroyed...all those children...all those friends. I thought of Aewa, of Belaya and Juhani, of Dak Vesser, and bore a silent prayer for them unto the Force. "Perhaps...perhaps you could describe her?" I managed to say.

    I could sense Luke suppressing a shrug. "Red hair, fair skin, blue almond-shaped eyes, about one point seven meters tall..."

    My eyes flashed and my heart swelled with pride as I shot a triumphant smirk at Silas. "Your 'Jedi Exile' is none other than Vima Sunrider."

    Predictably, it was the visitors' turn to look shocked. "You are certain?" Luke asked. "We still lack data of her eventual fate, only that she was one of the greatest Jedi of her age..."

    "You mean [I]my[/I] age," I said, still smirking. "Yes, I knew Vima very well. We both fought against the Mandalorians, and because of that, the Order kicked her out. I suppose your datafiles left that inconvenient fact out too, eh?"

    "Perhaps if you were to finish Vima's tale for us?" Silas put in, hoping to head off an argument. He didn't need the grateful pat on his arm that I gave him to know that I appreciated his efforts, but I offered it anyway.

    The elder Skywalker nodded, and continued his commentary. He spoke of Vima visiting Telos IV, as it was being rebuilt by the Republic, then of her search for several "lost" Jedi Masters at the behest of Atris, the Jedi Historian (whom I had met once, at my Knighting ceremony on Coruscant—she had seemed rather distant and standoffish to me, and I told Luke that). During this time Vima had, apparently, been responsible for the restoration of the Jedi Order itself, as it had nearly been wiped out by the predations of a new brand of Sith. As the story continued, I felt a mixture of emotions: sorrow at not having had the chance to meet her again; pride that the one Jedi I had trusted during the Mandalorian Wars had in fact returned to the Republic and played an instrumental part in saving it; and awe at how she had left everything behind to follow Revan and pursue an unknown threat.

    "So now you know what we know about Revan," Luke finished. "And you have enlightened us in turn about Vima Sunrider."

    "Happy to be of service," I remarked dully as Silas nodded grimly. "Before I hold up my end of the bargain, however, I need to know what you know of me, and of my companion."

    "Silas Dan'kre, Republic Intelligence," my love introduced himself. "Though I expect that designation will mean little to whatever government is in power now."

    "Pleased to make your acquaintance," Luke replied as we exchanged handshakes. "What we know about you, personally, Laera, is that you were once a career soldier in the Republic Marines who trained to become a Jedi Knight. You served with distinction during the Mandalorian Wars and Jedi Civil War, disappearing in 3956 BBY—that's years before the Battle of Yavin—after the successful capture of Darth Revan. Your homeworld was Agamar, and you trained at the Dantooine enclave under Jedi Master Vrook Lamar. That's pretty much all we know."

    I shot another quick glance at Silas, then turned back to the Skywalkers. "Nothing about my [I]other[/I] untimely demise?"

    "I'm afraid not," Luke replied, his brow raised.

    I sighed deeply. "It's getting late, we should continue this in the morning. Silas and I can kip on the branch above."

    "No, that's alright," the younger Skywalker said pointedly. "Dad and I wouldn't dream of putting you out of your home. Right, Dad?"

    "No, of course not," the father replied, momentarily nonplussed. "We'll take a branch further up."

    “Mind the dragonflies,” I said as they stood up. “They can grow to at least a meter across, and they like to nibble on exposed fingers and toes!”

    Seemingly oblivious to my warning the two Jedi left, their cloaks snapping in the stiff breeze.

    [CENTER]— — —[/CENTER]

    I tried to relax my beating heart and get to sleep as quickly as possible, but my psyche was too wound up to rest. Silas seemed to be of the same mindset. On most nights when we weren't otherwise engaged he would doze off right away, but tonight his hammock, the lower of the two we had woven into what we had affectionately dubbed "Little Agamar," was still creaking with movement. "You alright, love?" I finally asked, unable to take it any longer.

    "I'm well enough, Laera," he replied with a sigh. "It's you I'm worried about. These clowns came right out of the blue and dropped a ton of permacrete on your head."

    "I know, my heart's still racing. And don't forget, they dropped just as much on you."

    "A fair point, but I've not been through a fraction of what you've had shoveled into your life. So, do you believe what they're saying? That we've been out of it for four thousand years?"

    "It's not about believing, Silas, it's true," I replied mournfully. "They're Jedi through-and-through, they're not supposed to lie. While this Luke person may be extremely strong in the Force, I'm no slouch either. Besides, you're the pilot. You knew, just as I did, there was something bad about that jump, and we certainly didn't make it to Agamar."

    "You are correct," Silas said, his tone pensive. "I shudder to think what the locals would have gone out into the galaxy to do if the hyperdrive hadn't been melted into slag."

    "All that we knew, though, is gone," I said, then rolled out of my hammock to join Silas in his. The Bothan's fur against my bare flesh was comforting, and we luxuriated in each others' embrace. "We're a pair of antiques now."

    "Yes, but we're high-quality antiques," Silas countered playfully. "You're practically worth your weight in aurodium."

    "Oh Silas, you always did know how to cheer a girl up."

    I was on the terminator line of slumber when he popped the question.


    “Not tonight, Silas,” I admonished sleepily, speaking into his shoulder. “We've got a lot of storytelling to do in the morning.”

    “Not what I meant.”

    “Then what?”

    “Why are we still out here?”

    I took a few moments to mull that cheerful thought over; it was a fair question, and one that had been rattling through my skull on and off for the last dozen day cycles. “Reinforcements, dear,” I finally said, which seemed to satisfy our mutual curiosity.

    For the time being, at least.

    [CENTER]— — —[/CENTER]

    "I gotta say, Dad, you really have a way with people," Ben remarked as he and Luke reached the crook of the next higher branch, which was just as massive as the one they'd climbed up from. Ben slung himself out of his heavy pack and began to rummage through it for some food; finding a pair of ration packs, he handed one to his father as he tore open the outer packaging of the other.

    "What was your assessment of their reaction?" Luke countered, accepting the packet after sloughing his own burden. Wedging himself into a comfortable spot, he drew himself into a meditative pose as a large insect buzzed through the canopy overhead.

    "Judging from the fact that they didn't send us flying out of their little hidey-hole, I'd say it went about as well as we could hope for."

    "My sentiments exactly."

    "Still, there's something about this Reyolé person that's troubling," Ben muttered after he'd found a bit of branch for himself, nipping at his snack. "Aside from the fact that she's got as much power in the Force as half of those on the Masters' Council, she and that Bothan of hers are awfully close."

    "You felt it, too?" Luke asked.

    "Dad, a blind mynock could have seen it. They're in love." The younger Skywalker turned to his father, a knowing look on his face. "And that's not the most interesting thing I observed."


    "Dad, when was the last time you spent three nights in a row neck-deep in ancient Jedi history?"

    "If you're trying to suggest that—"

    "Think about it!" Ben hissed. "I saw the partial personnel file that Master Solusar was able to dig up. Captain Reyolé was never married, and it's clear from her documented exploits and her sense in the Force that she has a lot in common with Mom. She even [I]looks[/I] vaguely like her, if you don't count the difference in hair and eye color."

    "You know it's not like that," Luke said, his tone a warning.

    "I'm not saying you fancy her or anything, Dad," Ben said bracingly. "I just think you need to be on your guard. Don't let yourself get caught up in the quest for knowledge. Either of the ancient Jedi, or this planet's inhabitants."

    The sounds of a forest at night filled the air as father and son pondered what had gone on in the hovel below. Nocturnal birds hooted and screeched, large insectoids flitted about, and small ground-dwelling mammals scampered to and fro far below. Finally, Luke blew a sigh. "You're right. Maybe retelling the tales of Revan and the Exile—"

    "Vima Sunrider now, remember?"

    "—the tales of Revan and Vima, maybe it got to me a bit. But beyond that, I'm worried about them. How would [I]you[/I] feel if you'd been thrust four millennia into the future?"

    "Yeah, I see your point. They've got a lot of catch-up learning to do."

    Luke nodded his agreement. "On a different note, did you pick up on how they spoke of the native population?"

    Even in the darkness, Ben's expression of concern was palpable. "Yes, and it was a bit disturbing. What did you sense?"

    "We have no idea what the native sentients are like," Luke began, rubbing his jawline, "They don't seem to fear them, exactly, more like an elevated sense of caution brought on by experience. There could very well be aspects of Laera and Silas's dealings with them that have caused ill feelings; perhaps first contact didn't go so well."

    "What a cheerful thought to go to sleep on, eh Dad?"


    [CENTER]— — —[/CENTER]

    The dawn's light filtering through the leaves and into our home brought me back to consciousness, and I gently rubbed my nose against Silas's neck to rouse him as well. I didn't really want to leave the comfort of his arms, but we had guests to entertain, and it wouldn't be good for them to come down expecting a story, only to see us clad in nothing but our well-worn undergarments. It was obvious to me that they'd picked up on the cues, but it wasn't really a concern; the one called Luke admitted that, apparently, the Jedi Order of his day didn't give a whit about personal attachments.

    [I]His day.[/I]

    As I hitched up the loose plek'kak wool tunic I'd acquired from a fur trader, the sheer enormity of what the Skywalkers represented finally dawned on me. Silas seemed to have realized it at that moment as well, because even as he extricated a bundle of berries for breakfast, his eyes locked onto mine, and we exchanged horrified looks. "Four millennia..." I whispered, leaning against the weapons alcove.

    "It seems so trite on the surface, doesn't it?" an awestruck Silas replied.

    "It's too bad they've got the HK unit," I said. "It would have been able to access the HoloNet and verify everything in a trice."

    "I doubt it," Silas said after a beat, having set the floor with food for the both of us. "Technology changes a great deal in that space of time. The encrypt/decrypt would be completely different, possibly on opposite ends of the spectrum. Without the Skywalkers' help, we're going nowhere fast."

    I knelt across from him and took a bite of honeycake, savoring the flavor and thanking the Force once again for bringing Silas Dan'kre into my life. His hitherto unknown scavenging and cooking skills, combined with my Force-augmented hunter's senses and skill with the bow, had saved both our lives these past several months of living in isolation. I had known that he had undergone Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training (SERE for short), but had had no idea that he was this adaptable. "Do you think they'll buy it, though?"

    "Buy what?"

    "What's happened to us since we got here," I continued. "I'm still having a little trouble accepting it myself, particularly the bits about the locals' rather unique physiology."
    "Well, let's put it this way," Silas began, popping a berry into his mouth. "You trusted their version of history—their version of our future—at least what they've told us so far. I don't see why it would be any different for them."

    "You're right, of course," I conceded, using the Force to pop berries into both our mouths. These kinds of telekinetic tricks helped to keep my skills sharp, as well as to provide entertainment for the both of us, and it had become a custom at breakfast to play with our food in this way. "When I think about all that's happened to us in our lives, though, it feels like we're trapped in one big holodrama."

    "Maybe we are," Silas replied with a playful smirk, and I retaliated by bounding more berries off of his snout. "Think about it. Maybe some person, sitting at a computer terminal somewhere on a distant world, really [I]is[/I] writing out our lives for the entertainment of others."

    "Don't start, Silas," I warned, waggling a finger at him. "It's bad enough we're—"

    My rambling was cut short by a sudden sense of movement, and I glanced back at the entrance hole just in time to witness the Skywalkers as they alighted on the branch outside. "Good morning," the younger one announced.

    "Please, come in," I beckoned, Silas and I both standing to greet them. "Would you care to join us for breakfast?"

    “We already ate,” the one called Luke said, holding up a placating hand. “We brought food from our ship.”

    “Field rations?” I asked. “You sure you don't want to try some of these berries, or Silas's excellent honeycake? You could be here for a while."

    The Skywalkers closed their eyes at that, and I could feel them as they extended their senses throughout the forest, focusing their attention toward the clearing where their ship had touched down. I followed their lead and felt out with my own awareness, spotting the newcomers before they did. When they brought their attention back toward Silas and myself, I made sure to greet them with a knowing look. "You sense them, yes?"

    "What in space...?" Ben began, but his voice trailed off as he couldn't find the words.

    "They call themselves Sa'ari," I explained. "And like I said, they desperately want offworld technology."

    Luke nodded sagely. "I think it is time that we heard your side of the story, Laera."

    "Indeed, it is," I replied, waving a hand and sending our eating mat back to its place.

    It took only a few minutes to fill the gaps in my personal history; surprisingly, they took the news of my death and resurrection at Revan's order rather well. It certainly explained why a redeemed version of the long-dead Dark Lord would have taken such great pains to leave me a message and preserve it for so long. They listened intently as I outlined my involvement in the Mandalorian Wars and what they called the Jedi Civil War (a name I still had trouble wrapping my head around), and how I'd come to know General Sunrider. They nodded in all the right places as I discussed the battles I had fought in, my death on Onderon, and the events that marked my training on Dantooine. Ben listened with particular interest as I recounted the raid on Iridonia and the campaign that resulted, as well as the boarding of Revan's flagship and the subsequent running skirmishes.

    After that I brought them forward, to the moment we fled the battle over Ord Mantell...>
  5. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    Great to see the history enfold and how they are reacting to the news=D=

    You have a nice story going
  6. TrakNar

    TrakNar Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Apr 4, 2011
    Mmm... Silas.

    Anywho, that must be quite the shock to find out that one has been thrust four millennia into the future. And to not even know until they were told. Just think if one still had an active bank account...

    So, how soon til Laera gives them the grand tour of the planet?
  7. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    May 11, 2011
    Just a kick to let folks know the story was updated. Chapter Three will be posted tomorrow or Sunday.
  8. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    May 11, 2011
    Chapter Three

    Ord Mantell orbit, four thousand years earlier

    Alarms blared throughout the cockpit as Silas struggled to get the hyperdrive to function. "Main drive is fused, switching to backups!"

    "Whatever it takes, I know you can get us out of here," I reassured him, holding onto my chair as the ship shuddered in mechanical agony.

    "Just don't expect us to get anywhere fast," he replied, snarling imprecations against the Sith under his breath as he pounded the control boards. "Jumping in!"

    Through the viewport, the stars extended into lines, but instead of the usual muted pink and purple clouds of hyperspace, everything was blue-shifted, and black gaps were intertwined with jarring patterns. The tableau of utter wrongness was nearly enough to make me lose what little breakfast I hadn't yet digested. "What the stang just happened?!" I had to yell over the blaring of alarms and rattling of loose gear.

    "I don't know!" Silas bellowed back. "If I had had a chance to learn this infernal contraption's systems, I might be able to tell you!"

    "Can you get us back into realspace?!"

    "No, the system's shot to Chaos! The backup hyperdrive is showing signs of life, but I don't dare try and fix it. All we can do now is ride this wave until we come across a gravity well, hopefully one that slows us down instead of ripping us to pieces!"

    "Assuming we survive decanting, can we make planetfall?" I asked instead, not wanting to think about the idea of being trapped in hyperspace forever.

    "I think so," Silas replied, his voice lowering as the ride seemed to smooth out a bit and he succeeded in deactivating most of the alarms. "Hull integrity is holding, we've got one sublight engine, and the repulsorlifts were unaffected. Sensors and instruments seem to be operating normally, but we won't know for sure until and unless we make it out. We've also got enough fuel for a landing in atmosphere, but your guess is as good as mine in regards to taking off again."

    "We'll make it, Silas," I said, my confidence returning though I still had only a vague notion of where that assurance was coming from at the moment.

    "You sound so sure, Captain," he replied, turning in his seat to face me. "This a Jedi thing?"

    "Yeah," I reassured him. "It's a Jedi thing."

    "Good. Jedi senses I trust. My mechanical and piloting skills, I don't."

    I chanced unstrapping myself and stood in the small tandem cockpit, looking at the forward instrument and control panels. "Looks like we're on course for Lahara sector. When do you think we'll get there, assuming the backup holds out?"

    "We're talking more than a few thousand light years, Laera," Silas replied dubiously. "On a Class Ten drive, we could be stuck in this crate for a good deal longer than we'd like."

    "Then it's a good thing we took a shuttle instead of a starfighter," I retorted mildly. "If there's nothing else to be done up here, mind joining me in the cargo hold? Maybe the Sith were kind enough to pack us something useful."

    After an assenting nod from Silas, I picked my way aft, descending the ladder to the fairly large cargo area of the Herald-class shuttle we'd stolen from Darth Revan's flagship. Flicking on a glowrod obtained from an emergency equipment box tacked to the bulkhead, I passed its beam of light over various plasteel crates and cylinders. According to their labels, most contained mundane supplies like spare components, tools, survival gear and field rations. A few, however, were packed with weapons, and one held more palatable fare. I was disappointed, but not all that surprised, to find that nothing here was useful for fixing a hyperdrive, but what really drew my attention was the locked and unlabeled durasteel cask that had been bolted to the aft bulkhead. Sealed from the inside, it looked large enough to contain two Wookiees.

    "No joy getting this open, I suppose," Silas said as he joined me in examining the container.

    "Not sure I even want to know what's in there, to be perfectly honest," I quipped. "Hopefully whatever it is doesn't decide to come out while we're asleep."

    "At least we won't starve to death. What say we raid the officers' lunch basket first?"

    "Sure," I replied with a grin. "Then it's off to sleep, I'm exhausted."

    — — —

    We spent the next two weeks in hyperspace, cruising along on the shuttle's backup hyperdrive. Silas and I managed to put together makeshift sleeping pallets, and we survived mostly on combat rations intermixed with occasional dabbling into the more delectable fare that had been meant for the officers of the Sith warship that we'd barely escaped. In a miraculous bit of foresight, it turned out that the Bothan had loaded his armor's internal computer with a compressed file that turned out to contain the complete collection of Rickard Whipstaff's published works—in textual form, of course. With nothing else to occupy our minds, we whiled away the hours engaging in dramatic readings of the ancient holoplays; I soon began to appreciate why Nellus V had been one of Silas's favorites. Other plays that I enjoyed included Sestar III, about a licentious would-be usurper of an ancient kingdom; The Taming of the Gundark, which centered around a pampered princess whose coming of age was a bit bumpy and The Merchant of Coruscant, whose unprincipled protagonist wished to obtain a pound of Taung flesh for consumption at dinner.

    On the sixteenth day, with both life support and rations hovering at the halfway point, we began to grow concerned about our circumstances. It was easily the longest time either of us had spent in hyperspace, and I could only begin to guess what was going on in the rest of the galaxy. Silas was determined to hash out the possible ramifications of the mission, but I'd put a stop to that after the first three days; that was when he'd gotten out the Whipstaff. It was as we were finishing up the midday meal that the shuttle began to shudder.

    "I don't like the feel of that," Silas said, his ears perking up as he stowed the now-empty ration kit in the waste chute. "We'd better get to the cockpit and check the instruments."

    As he reached the access ladder and I rose to join him, the ship suddenly rocked violently, pitching us both to the deck and scattering loose gear everywhere as the interior illumination dimmed almost to nothing. I managed to turn my fall into a roll, coming up onto my left knee near where Silas had slid to a halt. The buffeting continued, and it was no mean feat for us to finally ascend to the cockpit amidst the juking and jinking of a spacecraft caught in the grip of cosmic forces too titanic to comprehend. Silas was about to take a seat in the pilot's chair when I automatically grabbed the back of his body glove, pulling him away.

    "What the—?" he began to shout, but the protest was cut off as a conduit ruptured, sending deadly sparks emitting from one of the control panels. We both flung our arms before our faces to protect them as the explosion sent us cascading into the side of the small compartment.

    And, just as suddenly as it had begun, the rough-and-tumble ride stopped.

    "You alright?" I asked as we gingerly resumed our seats.

    "Better than I would have been," Silas muttered shakily as he ran his hands over the helm, attempting to deduce what had happened. "I believe that's four times now you've saved my backside."

    "It was either that or put out a want-ad for a new pilot," I said bracingly. "What have we got?"

    "Not much more than scrap value at this point," the Bothan replied, shaking his head in consternation. "Looks like we got lucky, though; at least we're back in realspace. It seems as though we got yanked out by a gravity well—and within close proximity of a habitable world, too."

    "I told you we'd make it, love," I replied, smiling broadly and patting his shoulder. "Do we at least have communications?"

    Silas tapped another panel. "The comm system's still online; looks like we've got everything from radionics to HoloNet transceivers. Trouble is, the HoloNet's not accepting my queries and there's no sign of a hypercomm beacon within ping range. The good news is that we're being bombarded with radio transmissions, both audio and visual."

    "Any chance that these transmissions will be useful in finding out what they are and who's sending them?" I asked, concern mounting. Something serious had to have happened if a fully-functional HoloNet connection couldn't find the HoloNet. "I'd hate to go down there without intelligence."

    "I wish I could give it to you," Silas replied mournfully. "But at our orbit, the feed is so thick I couldn't even begin to separate the tangle of frequencies. Line-of-sight might help thin things out, if we can make planetfall undetected."

    "What about sensors, then? Can you tell what the planet below is like?"

    "Negative, the whole system's shot save for visual scanners, and they're barely functional." Silas turned in his seat to look at me. "Judging from what is working, I'd say we've happened upon a planet that has spawned its own pre-hyperdrive civilization."

    I nodded at this, then leaned back into my chair to relax into the Force. Following its currents, I extended my awareness to the world below, finding it teeming with life in all its myriad forms. It felt like an exquisite jewel, crafted of the energies of existence, calling to me like a magnificent trove of treasures too valuable to measure. The harmonics of nature within its varied ecosystems intermingled like no other world I had ever visited, and old feelings of belonging began to pound within my breast. This was where I had been led, and though the circumstances could have been more pleasant, at that moment none of it mattered. I was here, now, and with the man I loved.

    But first, we had to land. Once again letting the Force guide me, I attempted to feel for the most inviting population center, only to find that they were strangely closed-off. Oh, I could certainly feel the life-essence put out by the native flora and fauna, but in the areas where sentient beings would likely congregate, the space felt muted somehow, like someone had shrouded every thinking mind with the mental equivalent of a diffuser mat. I opened my eyes at that point to find Silas staring at me, the concern in his brow mirrored by the rippling of his neck fur. "Just pick a city and take us down, I guess," I finally said.

    "We'll be going down alright, but I doubt this crate will ever get back up again," he said. "Not without a complete overhaul, at least."

    "We'll deal with that when the time comes, Silas," I replied.

    "Alright then. May as well buckle up, Laera; this could get a little bumpy."

    "Indignant: Bumpy?" said a menacing artificial voice that was hissy and raspy at the same time. "Exclamation: That had to be the 'bumpiest' reversion to realspace that has ever been endured by droid-kind! Statement: It is clear that the meatbags before me must be highly intoxicated..."

    — — —​

    The two-meter tall rust-red automaton climbed the ladder with surprising grace, but what was more unexpected was the high-powered blaster carbine he was using to cover us. "Well, that solves one mystery," Silas quipped wryly, and I barely managed to suppress a chuckle.

    "Query: What is so humorous, female meatbag?" the droid demanded.

    "Oh, nothing," I said, hastily reconfiguring my face into something meant to resemble genuine shock and a hint of fear. This droid was of a make I'd never encountered before; it was definitely a combat unit, but it had none of the characteristics of any sentinel or assault droid variants I'd ever seen. The head was bulbous at the top, with a pair of small yellow photoreceptors set astride a grille-like vocoder. Its body and limbs were skeletal in appearance, with its chassis resembling a number of cylinders welded together. Its appearance was clearly meant to convey menace and induce anxiety; indeed, it clicked and clanked with every movement in a manner that had to be deliberate. "What is your designation, and why are you here?"

    "Statement: That is none of your business, meatbag," the automaton replied sharply. "Threat: You will take this vessel away from the planet below and plot a course for the Corellian system. Now."

    "Or what?" I asked simply.

    "Warning: Or I shall blast you both this instant, and do it myself!"

    "I don't think so," I said in an undertone. Reaching out with the Force, I lashed at the droid before it could react, sending it slamming into the bulkhead and ripping the blaster from its grip as it flew. While the unit was falling to the deck, I snagged its weapon in my free hand, aiming the bulky carbine at its former owner's chest. The droid, knowing it had been caught unawares, slowly rose back to its feet.

    "Nice going, Laera," Silas nodded.

    I kept my gaze firmly on the combat droid, however; my eyes bored into its photoreceptors and my tone was low and deliberate. "I'll say it again, droid. What is your designation, and why are you here?"

    The automaton seemed to consider his options for a few moments. Then, as though a switch had been flipped somewhere in its electronic brain, it seemed to adopt an almost servile pose. "Explanation: This unit is designated HK-47, Master, and it is a highly-skilled assassin droid of unrivaled sophistication. Addendum: However, it clearly was not as skilled as its maker would have liked."

    I chanced a quick glance back at Silas. "You ever heard of that designation?"

    He shrugged. "Well, there's HK-01 of course, and that droid rebellion he started about sixty or seventy years back. Czerka Corporation at one time manufactured units in the HK line, but we've never heard of a -47 variant. And yes, the ones we knew about were assassin models."

    "Statement: I was not created by Czerka, Master. Their earlier efforts were crude and inefficient. I was in fact manufactured by the Sith Empire, the initial unit was constructed and programmed by Darth Revan himself. Or so I have been told."

    "Awfully talkative for an assassin," Silas observed.

    "Warning: Only to my Master, you flea-bitten meatbag. Clarification: My Master is the human female sitting in the passenger seat of this shuttle—the Sith Lord who defeated me with a mere thought. Observation: Perhaps it was because she was dressed in a simple body glove that I failed to recognize her as such."

    I immediately burst out laughing, doubling up as the gales of mirth exploded out of me so that I almost dropped the heavy carbine. The droid made no move toward the weapon however, which struck me as odd even as I giggled myself silly.

    "Query: Was it something I said, Master? I did not think that this situation was particularly humorous."

    Finally able to wrestle myself back under control, I stood up, hefted the carbine to shoulder arms, then looked the droid in the faceplate once again. "Are you ready to serve me, droid?" I asked brusquely, letting a hint of veiled threat creep into my voice.

    "Affirmation: As you command, Master, so shall I obey."

    "And I have your service no matter what?"

    "Repetition: As you command, Master, so shall I obey."

    "Excellent," I said, my tone switching from Sithy to downright perky. "Then you should know that I am actually a Jedi Knight and a captain in the Republic Marines. Sixteen days ago we—that is to say, the Bothan and I—escaped from the battle that saw your beloved Darth Revan captured. And my Bothan friend here is actually a senior naval lieutenant serving with Republic Intelligence."

    There was a pregnant pause while the droid considered this. "Observation: Master, I am deeply disappointed in you."

    "Get used to it," Silas interjected bluntly, a snarl curling his lips. "We're not exactly thrilled to have a Sithspawned assassin droid along for the trip."

    I plastered a big, glowing smile onto my face then strode the three paces toward the droid as though meeting a cherished companion who had been absent for years. Then I shoved the blaster carbine roughly into its arms and patted the top of its head none too gently. "No killing unless I say so, got it?" I said sweetly.

    "Regret: As you command, Master, so shall I obey."

    “Good. Because I would hate to have to carve you up for scrap when we might still need your services,” I said under my breath before turning and resuming my seat. “Silas, take us in. Before I change my mind about this...thing.”

    — — —

    As predicted, taking the damaged shuttle into the atmosphere was quite a harrowing experience. As the air became thicker, things got so bad that I very nearly lost my lunch; it was worse by far than any combat drop that I'd endured during my career as a Marine. The ship rolled, rattled, and damn near shook itself apart as we continued to lose altitude, and the viewports soon became obscured by the fires of atmospheric reentry. I clutched the armrests of my chair in a death grip despite the straps that secured me, hoping that we wouldn't slam into a pocket of heavy turbulence or, even worse, a thunderstorm. The grueling ordeal lasted for at least five minutes, before the braking thrusters fired and the repulsorlifts engaged in a desperate attempt to bleed off velocity.

    "Brace for landing—this one's gonna hurt!" Silas yelled as the shuttle bucked still harder. We'd plotted a course that would take us near a lake, so that if things didn't work out as planned, we could try for a water landing that would, theoretically, mean the difference between survival and splattering ourselves over the landscape. A keening wail erupted as the repulsorlifts strained against the forces of gravity, until we finally impacted the surface.

    The abruptness nearly tore our seats from the deck; the assassin droid, not having secured itself, was thrown off its feet once again. The cockpit was plunged into near-total darkness as the ship's powerplant shut down, with only a few curtains of light piercing the shroud of charred transparisteel. A subtle yet noticeable ticking began to reverberate throughout the hull as it cooled from the descent.

    "You okay?" I asked Silas, massaging my ribcage as I unbuckled the seat harness. Nothing broken, but there might be some bruising...

    "Nothing a good nap wouldn't cure," he groaned in response. "However, I am required to inform you that any landing you can walk away from is a good one."

    "You say that like you don't believe it," I said, helping the Bothan to his feet and giving him a reassuring peck on his cheek.

    "Request: Master, please tell me that the meatbag at the controls is not a certified pilot," the droid put in as it got back to its feet.

    "Shut up," I grunted as Silas and I descended the ladder to the lower compartment and the exit. He walked with a slight limp, as though he'd banged his left leg on something during the crash (I was still hesitant to call it an actual landing). Motioning for him to stay back, I went ahead and cranked the manual actuator in order to open the egress hatch. The droid took up station at the back of the hold, clanking as it walked, aiming its carbine down the descending ramp. Silas accepted his sidearm from me after I'd summoned our weapons with the Force.

    "Cover me," I said in a whisper, glancing back at the mechanical murderer before walking into the brilliant shaft of sunshine ahead.

    My first impression of this world upon setting foot on its surface was that the gravity was lighter than standard, and that its oxygen content was above the norm. Breathing in the sweet-scented air made me feel alive and invigorated, and the sun was warm on my face as I stepped out from under the shuttle's shadow. Lightsaber and blaster pistol tucked into loops in the body glove that I wore, I put my right hand to my brow to shield my eyes as I gazed upon the landscape.

    The vista before me was of rolling hills covered with blue-green grass, broken only by a few clusters of buildings that bordered the lake to the right of our landing zone, as well as a few copses of tall trees here and there. The sun was bright but not harsh, the ambient temperature was mild and a pleasant breeze rolled off the water. It felt good as it rustled my hair, and I caught myself searching for a familiar scent on the wind. A few broken clouds scudded across the azure sky, accompanied by a flock of quite large birds that glided serenely by; as I watched, one of then dove toward the ground and came back up with something clutched in its talons. By contrast, the spot where the shuttle had impacted was bare dirt, charred slightly by the heat put out by the ion engines and repulsorlifts. One of the shuttle's landing legs had collapsed, and it was streaked with scorch marks, particularly around the area where the errant turbolaser shot had grazed the hull. A thin but noticeable pall of gray smoke rose gently from the wreck, carried aloft by the wind.

    Neither seeing nor sensing any other life forms of note within my immediate vicinity, I began to scrutinize the structures on the far side of the lake. They seemed to be residences, but the architectural style seemed more appropriate for a desert planet. Domes topped multileveled cylinders, and most of them shared similar hues, ranging from lilac to violet; no more than four of these dwellings were grouped together in any one cluster. It was unclear if they had been painted that way, or if this was the natural color of the material used in their construction. The grass itself seemed to be surprisingly well cared for, or perhaps it just grew naturally short. Here and there, evidence of a network of interlaced roads was visible.

    "All clear," I called as I walked back toward the ship. "But let's suit up just in case. Someone's bound to have seen our less than stellar landing, and I want to be prepared."

    Unfortunately, this was easier said than done. The rough ride had scattered our equipment, and we had to search the entire cargo area to make sure we had everything. By the time we were all geared up and ready to go with weapons in hand, the faint drone of engines could be heard off in the distance. As I'd predicted, someone had come to investigate.

    "I've got a bad feeling about this," Silas said as the three of us descended the ramp.

    Three wheeled vehicles, each one painted black and white and topped with lights that flashed red and blue, were rolling right toward us in a triangle formation. Kicking up dust as they continued to approach, whoever was at the controls of the lead groundcar triggered some sort of siren; this continued until all three of them stopped and took up station about a hundred meters back from where we stood. Doors opened and a quartet of tall, armored figures emerged from each one, taking up positions and drawing what looked like slugthrower pistols.

    "Zoet! Jeto vasi kei'geht!" one of them shouted as they took aim at us. "Kei'geht! Kei'geht!"

    Though the words were incomprehensible, through the Force I could gain a vague impression of the intent—it was definitely an order of some kind. Holstering my blaster and motioning for Silas and HK-47 to do the same, I raised my hands and reached out toward the natives with my mind.
    "We are not here to cause trouble!" I called back, then very slowly I removed my helmet, Silas doing the same. This caused a stirring amongst the gathering of troopers, and a sudden spike of emotion indicated that one of them had come to within a micron of opening fire on us.

    Six figures, including the person who had issued the initial order, detached themselves from the gathering of armed natives and began to approach cautiously, weapons still drawn and trained on us. As they drew closer, I recognized that they were taller than Silas and I by at least half a head and that they were all female; or, at least, feminine in form. This group continued to pace toward us, halting at about thirty meters away. The leader approached by another ten. "Yuv te iti?" she asked, her veiled eyes wide behind her visor.

    "Observation: Master, I believe I almost understood that," the assassin droid said suddenly. "Explanation: This being is speaking an offshoot of an ancient trade language that no protocol droid in the Republic would know, but it is part of a special suite that was programmed into the HK-47 line by the Sith."

    "Spit it out, then!" I hissed.

    "Translation: She wishes to know who we are, Master."
  9. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    Nice update with the 'meatbag' droid and history enfolding
  10. TrakNar

    TrakNar Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Apr 4, 2011
    Hoo boy... talk about a wild ride into THE GREAT UNKNOWN. Two weeks in hyperspace with only Shakespeare?err, I mean Whipstaff? Certainly there were other things Silas and Larea could have been doing to occupy their time, since they were, you know, all alone, in a ship, together, stuck in hyperspace for two weeks, not knowing where they were going, and they had nothing better to do, and were, you know, alone with each other, all alone, with nothing to do... :p
  11. Thumper09

    Thumper09 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 9, 2001
    Catching up here...

    I feel bad for Laera and Silas. Being displaced 4 millenia is a lot to absorb. That pair will need to rely a lot on Luke and Ben if they get off that planet and back to the galaxy at large, and in turn Luke and Ben need Laera and Silas to help them survive their time on the planet. I'm curious about what the locals do that has our heroes spooked.

    "Maybe we are," Silas replied with a playful smirk, and I retaliated by bounding more berries off of his snout. "Think about it. Maybe some person, sitting at a computer terminal somewhere on a distant world, really is writing out our lives for the entertainment of others."

    Heh heh. If only you knew, Silas. If only you knew. :p

    as the ship shuddered in mechanical agony

    That is a darn cool phrase.

    What a ride through hyperspace. Good thing they had a sturdy little shuttle that survived all that.

    "Observation: Master, I am deeply disappointed in you."

    I love HK-47's way of speaking, and I have to say that this line is my absolute favorite.

    So we've reached the first encounter with the locals. Positive: A Sith assassin droid is able to marginally understand and/or translate. Negative: A Sith assassin droid is able to marginally understand and/or translate. Of all the things I wouldn't want to filter sensitive communication in a tense, tricky spot through, that would top my list.

    Great posts! =D=
  12. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    May 11, 2011

    You have no idea...

    Chapter Four

    At that moment, it finally dawned on me who it was that we were being greeted by: the special response division of the local constabulary. Why it had not occurred to me that landing near a populated area would attract such attention was a puzzle that could wait until later; right now I had to figure out how we were going to get out of this with our skins intact. Though the minds of the dozen police officers that gazed at us were still shrouded, our proximity allowed me to glimpse tidbits of what went on underneath. Most of the cops leaked traces of fear and awe, intermixed with small doses of curiosity, but the woman closest was definitely more interested than she was afraid. On a hunch, I looked up and into her gaze, lowering all of my mental barriers.

    As if on cue, the lead officer holstered her own weapon and reached up to remove her helmet. Slowly she raised it, to reveal an azure-tinted visage whose hairless scalp was sculpted into six elegant ridges that ended in short, cartilaginous nubs. The inner two turned down, but the outer four poked upward, and where there would have been ears on a human, there were instead thick, fleshy folds of skin. Thin black brows and eyelashes marked the only trace of hair that I could see, and what looked like ritualistic markings, done in muted crimson, adorned the woman's face. Her human-like eyes were the most intense shade of green that I'd ever seen.

    She blinked rapidly for a few moments, then I felt the gentle caress of her awareness upon my mind as she inclined her head toward me. Gingerly she probed, and I subtly encouraged her, guiding her along as she sought out the truth of my intentions and those of my companions. After an age that passed in mere minutes, she finally withdrew her presence, looking back up at her companions and signaling them to follow her lead in putting away their weapons and doffing their helmets.

    “Burning stars...” Silas muttered under his breath.

    I was as astonished as he was. Every last member of our welcoming committee was also blue-skinned and ridge-scalped, and most of them bore different, yet similar, patterns on their faces. They were all definitely female as well, as indicated by their body armor, facial features, and the fluid grace with which they moved.

    "Myo setit," the leader said, the ghost of a smile playing across her purple lips. "Ghee'ja ke solei panau."

    "Translation: Wait here. The Elder has been summoned."

    — — —​

    For a full hour we waited, riveted to the spot and standing at attention, for this mysterious Elder to arrive. The special response officers, augmented by another three carloads of reinforcements, had put up a containment area around our landing site that, to my eyes, seemed to be more for our protection than for the other natives. As they arrived I began to wonder if this species was a matriarchal one, since not one of the squad of new arrivals was male and neither were any of the civilians who had started to arrive on the scene. As we waited, the cops intermingled with one another, sharing impressions and speculations about the new arrivals in their own language. Our de facto ambassador, however, was content to simply stand there, her eyes drinking in our presences though she continuously wrinkled her nose at the assassin droid.

    The sun had begun to sink below the horizon when the Elder finally arrived, brought to the area in a white groundcar with a large, glass-enclosed rear compartment that allowed everyone to see its occupant. Like the rest of the natives we'd seen so far she was female, as were the three people who accompanied her, and she looked significantly older than anyone else present. Standing over two meters tall, her skin was more purplish; her face and scalp were slightly wrinkled, her cheeks were somewhat hollow, and the area around her eyes was significantly darker. She wore a flowing robe of mauve that was embroidered liberally and elaborately with golden thread, along with a similarly-colored and -styled headdress; this ensemble was echoed by what appeared to be her retainers, though their outfits were less ostentatious. The groundcar was ushered through the cordon, where it stopped about fifty meters from the shuttle's exit ramp.

    When it stopped the Elder rose from her throne-like seat, and the officer who remained beside us strode quickly up to it and began speaking rapidly to the driver, who in turn jabbered something to the third occupant. A hatch on the rear of the vehicle opened and the Elder, walking with a regal air that did not appear haughty or arrogant, exited it and approached us, accompanied by the crimson-marked officer. Even at this distance, I could feel the power within her, and it became readily apparent that she was strong in the Force—as had been the woman who had first made contact with us. Suddenly I became aware of the fact that every native possessed varying degrees of affinity; indeed, none of them were below what I would have imagined to be the threshold required for Jedi training.

    "I bid you welcome to T'lessia, Starborne One," the Elder said in flawless Basic as she sketched a small bow. Her tone was quite warm and pleasant, and her accent was Coruscanti in nature. "I am Eldarch Bellinega T'Ledra, and your arrival has been greatly anticipated—and feared."

    "Thank you, Eldarch," I said, bowing low in reply to her gesture. "My name is Laera Reyolé, my companion is Silas Dan'kre, and the android behind me is called HK-47."

    "Laera Reyolé," Bellinega said, mulling over the sounds. "The Blue is strong within you, yet you are not blue, and your companions are strangely...colorless. Is that the right word?"

    "I do not know," I replied honestly, still utterly nonplussed at how the being before me could possibly have come to possess a Coruscanti accent. I did have a hunch, however, that "the Blue" of which she spoke was the name given to their concept of the Force, or perhaps its purer side. "We are strangers to this world, and we do not know how you come to know our language."

    "It was a gift to us from the Blue," the Eldarch explained. "Given over four thousand years ago, it has been maintained by my order ever since, in anticipation of the Starborne One who would either bring us to glory, or bring about our destruction."

    "Forgive me, Eldarch, but I still do not understand," Silas asked as he offered her an apologetic sort of bow. "According to our droid, who seems to know a bit of your language, the officer here said that an Elder was coming. Yet you call yourself 'Eldarch.' We assumed that she meant a city leader, but you are clearly something different."

    Bellinega smiled and nodded. "A mistranslation, most likely. 'Ghee'ja' is our word for my title—there is no direct translation, however, but it is similar enough to our word for 'mayor' or 'governor.' I am a Master of the Blue, and I teach others in its ways and means, helping them to explore it within themselves."

    "I see," Silas replied.

    "Eldarch, is 'the Blue' your term for 'the Force?'" I asked. "That is to say, do you comprehend it as an energy that connects all living and nonliving things throughout the universe, an energy that can be called upon and manipulated?"

    "You are indeed wise, Starborne One, as the prophecy foretold," she murmured with a satisfied nod. "That is precisely the core truth of the Blue. Tell me, did you deduce this from our appearance, or were you able to read it in our souls?"

    "The former, I'm afraid," I replied with a small hint of trepidation, but then another piece fell into place. "Your people...I can feel their connection to the Blue—it seems to be as natural to your species as breathing—but your minds are shrouded. It is as though you have learned to shelter yourselves from outside intrusion."

    The Eldarch nodded, the smile on her face becoming more ethereal. "Your reasoning is sound, Starborne One, as is your insight. We are all borne of the Blue, we feel its presence, and the 'shroud' as you call it is our own way of keeping ourselves separate, of maintaining our individuality and privacy. But we can raise this shroud in order to commune with those who we trust and consider friends."

    Bellinega began to pace before us, holding her chin in her hand as though carefully considering her next words. When she spoke again, her voice was pensive, concerned. "But since the prophecy and the gift of your language, the Sa'ari have become an insular people. Many of us fear what your arrival will bring, while others maintain hope that the tidings you offer will be good. If fear is allowed to consume us, if it carries the day, than the suffering that has been foretold will come to pass, with no chance for us to experience what the rest of the universe has to offer."

    The Eldarch's words caused my flesh to pucker beneath my armor. She must have noticed this, for she cast a concerned gaze upon me as I contemplated what all this meant. Her words were sincere, that much was plain, but they were also colored by a fervent desire to protect her people. I could sense that she herself was aware of this, indeed her anxiety was almost palpable. It was a feeling to which I could sympathize.

    "You fear that fear," I said, extending a hand toward the Eldarch. "I don't know if your people have a concept similar to the dark side, but fear is a key component of it."

    "We call it 'the blackness,'" the Eldarch replied dolefully. "It has covered parts of our world before, when groups of us seek to conquer and subjugate others, but always the light of the Blue returns to burn it away." She paused for a moment, then cast her gaze toward the cordon of constables before taking in the three of us once again. "You must come with me to my order's keeping, so that you may learn more of us and, the Blue willing, teach us how not to fear."

    "I cannot teach you to not fear," I said truthfully. "Fear is as natural an emotion as love or compassion. However, I can help you to prevent that fear from controlling you."

    "Spoken like my own mentor," Bellinega replied, bowing slightly. "Will you help us, then? Will you fulfill the promise of the prophecy and bring my people to glory?"

    I looked toward Silas, seeking his approval. He didn't like the idea; his aura sparked with suspicion and uncertainty, but he also trusted me to do what was right. His nod was all the assent I needed.

    "Yes, Eldarch, I will do my best."

    — — —​

    T'lessia, Great Western Forest, present day

    Luke had listened intently to Laera as she recounted the tale of her first contact with the Sa'ari, and how she had met with their Eldarch. When she finished describing having left the scene of their landing with Bellinega and the policewoman who had first greeted them, she paused, glanced at the Bothan intelligence officer, then stood. "Can we offer you some lunch, Luke?" she asked politely.

    "Yes, thank you," he replied, feeling that it would be a good idea to take a break from a morning full of storytelling.

    "So, what are your impressions thus far, Jedi Skywalker?" Dan'kre asked as he joined the woman in preparing salt-meat and lettuce sandwiches.

    "You seem to have made the most of a bad situation," Ben answered with a shrug. "Dad and I might have done the same thing—actually, we did do the same thing, but we ran into you two instead."

    "The most interesting part is yet to come, my young friend," the Bothan replied with a rueful smirk.

    "What did you, as the only non-Force sensitive on this world, do while you were under the Eldarch's care?" Luke inquired.

    "Oh, I managed," Silas replied as he served lunch. "You'd be surprised what a Bothan can learn when he is bored and left to his own devices. And what I learned turned out to be quite a help when it was time for us to leave."

    "Oh, don't spoil it for them, Silas!" Laera put in, patting the Bothan's shoulder as she sat across from Luke. "Let's not worry about that for now anyway, I'm ravenous."

    For the next half-hour the four of them ate their lunch, quietly enjoying the sandwiches as each contemplated their circumstances. Ben was beginning to appreciate everything that had gone into the construction of this hideout, wondering how the older woman had applied the Force to light the candles the previous evening, as well as how she'd managed to keep the tree alive despite having put such a large dent into its bole. His eyes fell upon the alcove where the hosts had placed their weapons as he finished the last of his lunch; after catching a peculiar flicker of the Force, he turned his gaze toward Laera.

    "Your lightsaber, why don't you wear it?" he asked, breaking the silence.

    "Not much call for it," she replied, swallowing the last of her own meal. "It's dead useful, don't get me wrong, but taking it out just draws attention. We don't need it to hunt, and I prefer using hand-tools when any construction or repair work is to be done. Well, except when we first carved out Little Agamar."

    She seemed to consider the younger Skywalker for a moment, then leaned back against the wall. "For us it's been only about nine months or so since we escaped the battle over Ord Mantell," she began again, her voice lowering as she assumed a mournful expression. "But for you, it's been four thousand years. I almost hate to ask, but what is the real Agamar like now?"

    "I suppose that depends on who you ask," Luke replied solemnly. "A lot has happened in the millennia since you disappeared."

    "Just give us an overview for now," Silas said. "We can save the detailed histories for when we get back to civilization."

    "Well, from what we know of that time period," Luke began with a nod, "Revan's efforts were sufficient to hold the true Sith Empire back for about three centuries. But like a persistent weed, the dark side keeps coming back. The Republic continued to endure, however, despite a long series of intermittent conflicts and full-scale galactic wars. Perhaps the worst, which took place during what we now call the Draggulch Period, finally came to a head about a thousand years ago. After the defeat of the Brotherhood of Darkness, the Ruusan Reformation was adopted, and the Republic's military forces were abolished in favor of the Judicial Department. The Jedi Order was put under the jurisdiction of the Galactic Senate, and assumed the role of a peacekeeping force that became increasingly involved in the day-to-day politics of the galaxy..." His voice trailed off as he caught the looks of utter horror that had sprouted on the faces of Laera and Silas.

    "The Marine Corps...they dissolved it, too?" the Bothan asked, blank shock evident in his voice.

    "They did," Luke replied grimly. "Most of those who were in active service at the time refused to join the Judicials, instead deserting en masse, with the various battalions and companies forming freelance mercenary bands. The vast majority of these units retained their core values, near as we can tell, but a few got involved with the Hutts and other crime syndicates. For a time, the Republic secretly paid the 'good' mercs to serve as a foil for the 'bad' ones."

    "Breaking up the Corps..." Laera began, but her voice broke. "Skywalker, I'm certain now more than ever that the Republic fell because they got rid of the Marines."

    "I wish it were that simple," Luke said sympathetically. "The Republic began its fall with a man named Palpatine, who after becoming the Senator of Naboo, began to manipulate the galaxy into a state of civil war, with himself as the secret mastermind of a secessionist movement that prompted his election to the office of Supreme Chancellor. From there he ignited the Clone Wars, drawing the Jedi into conflict where they could be betrayed by the clone armies that his minions had ensured would be ready by the time hostilities had begun. The Great Jedi Purge that followed Palpatine's transformation of the Republic into the Galactic Empire was even more thorough than the pogrom which Darths Nihilus, Sion, and Traya had initiated."

    "Luke, I know the Corps," Laera replied, her voice once again edged in durasteel. "We would never have stood by and let this Palpatine character get away with declaring an empire. We stand for honor, justice, loyalty and civilization, and we would have immediately formed the core of an armed resistance movement to restore the Republic to its rightful state."

    Silas nodded in fervent agreement. "Tyranny is for lesser beings, those who cannot fathom what it is to be a thinking, independent person."

    "And we would have welcomed any and all Jedi on the run," Laera added.

    "Don't worry, Ms. Reyolé," Ben replied. "Palpatine's empire is dead, Dad played a large part in seeing to that, as well as the restoration of the Jedi Order."

    The small hideaway fell quiet as the hosts contemplated this statement. Laera was looking at Luke as though she was finally seeing him for who he truly was; Silas was chewing on one of his fingers, lost in thought.

    "Sloppy," she finally spat, her eyes narrowing to slits. "Stupid, stunted, and sloppy. At the risk of being a bad host, Luke, I have to say it seems to me that your Order is but a shell of the organization that I once knew. The Jedi should have never, under any circumstances, subjugated themselves to any one government—if your 'rekindled' Order has done the same, then shame on you."

    "What do you mean?" Luke asked, brow raised in confusion.

    — — —​

    "Your thoughts betray you, Skywalker!" I barked, and I was pleased to see him visibly blanch. It was only for a moment, and then he managed to return to that state of implacable calm that had always annoyed me about certain Jedi Masters, but I knew at that moment that I had him pegged like a crippled kath hound. He might be the Grand High Master or whatever title he'd given himself, but at that moment I was willing to bet that I could beat his rump to the deck in a duel, whether it be in training or in actual combat.

    "You want to know what's wrong with your Order?" I asked roughly, reverting to the drill instructor persona I'd used aboard Vibrosword. "Sure, I'll tell you. Your people lack discipline, real mental discipline. You put up a brave front, but right now I can see your mind as clearly as a datapad—the Force blessed me with a special affinity for such things. It was your nephew that killed your wife, and you know why? Because you'd refused to see where he was heading, even though the signs were there long beforehand. Now I understand why the Order of my day prohibited Jedi families; you can't see what's right in front of your nose because you're too used to the bonds that such ties forge. Shall I go on, or do you want to prove me wrong?"

    Luke's face was still impassive, but his aura betrayed the fascinated horror and utter confusion that was roiling throughout his mind. I decided to up the ante by taking advantage of his lapse in concentration by implanting within his consciousness a vision of myself as Mara Jade Skywalker, forcing him to work to push me out even as he attempted to deal with the fact that I now knew more about him and his life than he had ever wanted me to.

    "Yes, try to push me out of your head," I continued remorselessly, focusing further on the mental assault while he tried desperately to understand just how I was doing it. "Keep at it, you're doing great so far. After all, Jacen Solo fooled you for so long, didn't he? I'd have killed him as soon as he'd killed Nelani Dinn; he would have reeked of the deed, but your nose was too clogged up to smell it. C'mon, push me out, do some real work for a change, Mister Jedi Master!"

    I stood up at that point, and put everything I had into messing with the man's head, vulnerable as it was, and pulling every intimate detail from his past that I could. He needed a kick in the pants, an encounter with someone just as strong as he was, who was unafraid of him or his legacy. "You're not a Jedi Master," I continued contemptuously. "You're not even a real Knight. I've been at it for only five years, but before that I was a Marine, forged in the crucible of training and tempered by the fires of battle and war. For twenty-two years I saw things that would make you run in terror. You think I'm wrong? Then push me out!"

    "You're awfully brave and self-righteous," the younger Skywalker interjected angrily, getting to his feet. "Good thing you never made a mistake in your life!"

    "Oh, I've made plenty," I replied with a scowl, casting a glance back at him. "Like taking on a bunch of Mandalorian mercs unarmed; I nearly got my head caved in for that."

    "Well they obviously didn't hit your sense of superiority, or knock that chip off of your shoulder!"

    "Your father needs this," I replied adamantly. "He needs to face his demons and put them to rest, instead of trying to find reasons for everything."

    "It's all right, Ben," Luke ground out as he fought to regain control and battle against my constant probing. "Things were different in her time—she has certain expectations of the Jedi Order that we don't live up to now. But there were reasons for what happened...Jacen was manipulated by Lumiya..."

    "Do you really believe that this is about expectations, Skywalker?" I replied hotly. "Four years or four thousand, it makes no difference; the Force is the Force! And speaking of Lumiya, you should have killed that witch long beforehand. People like her—and I know all about her now—they're a blight upon the universe. If allowed to live, they'll only cause more harm, sow more chaos, no matter where they go. If you couldn't hunt her down yourself, then you damned well should have gotten someone else to do it. Evil must be opposed, openly and without fear, and you did a lot less of that than you and your son claim."

    "That's not true," Ben replied defensively. "We've battled the dark side whenever it emerged, and Dad has personally taught some of the best Jedi of this age."

    "If that's true, then how do you explain Daala?" I continued. "How in the name of the Force did you let a self-deluded madwoman become head of your precious Galactic Alliance? And now she wants to exert yet more control over the Jedi than you've already let yourselves be party to! How can you expect the Order to fight injustice and preserve peace if they have to go through a galactic bureaucracy first? And don't get me started about your actions during the Yuuzhan Vong invasion!"

    " you know...about that?" Luke struggled to reply.

    "Skywalker, right now I can tell you the exact number of womp rats you shot while flying your precious T-16! Do you want to know why you're not able to push me out? It's not because of my unique talent, it's not even because you've never been subjected to this kind of attack. It's because you're soft. You idolize Revan and rightfully so, because at least he could keep me out."

    "Laera, aren't you taking this a little far?" Silas asked in an undertone, leaning in close as he too rose up from the floor. "I'm angry that the Marine Corps is gone as well, but you're pushing the bounds of decency here."

    "I know what I'm doing," I replied. "He's been looking for answers in all the wrong places, and until he figures that out, he's of no use to us or to his Order."

    I turned back to regard the elder Skywalker, who had finally managed to stand. "Work it out, Luke!" I roared. "I could keep you trapped in your own mind for days if I wanted to, but we don't have the time! Not if you ever want to see the Alliance again..."
  13. TrakNar

    TrakNar Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Apr 4, 2011
    Holy kriffin' damnation poodoo on a repulsor stick... Did Luke ever get a tongue-lashing! Though, Laera does have a point; the NJO has always struck me as lacking the discipline of the Old Order, like an alliance of LARPers. The thing about the Old Order is that it was monastic, it was insular, and it was, for the most part, tight-knit. The rules and regulations, as arbitrary as they may see to outsiders and some members of the Order, they helped to shape it and maintain control and thus an image. They had routine and they had regulation. It was orderly and it was respected. The NJO is loose and has faced more problems in less time due to how lenient they are. I've never really been too fond of the NJO, so I need to side with Laera's sentiment.

    But... I have nothing against LARPers. LARPing is fun. I like to LARP, I just need to find more people who like to LARP, too.
  14. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    Love Leara talking to Luke and his NJO
  15. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    May 11, 2011
    Chapter Five

    Luke had to admit to himself that he'd sorely underestimated the Marine-cum-Jedi Knight before him, despite his son's warning from the previous night. Perhaps the only saving grace for him at that moment was that he knew that she was doing this to help him, not hurt him; that this was the only way she could think of to make him see why she felt as though he and his Jedi had failed so often. He had known the when, this much she had made clear, but it dawned on him at that moment that this was only the beginning of understanding.

    In response to this epiphany, he ceased his crumbling resistance altogether, letting the woman's probes rush through his mind unhindered. Laera shifted tack at lightspeed, her focused energies diffusing to bridge connections that Luke had never realized could be made. He could see now the missteps that he had taken in handling the Jedi Order's response to the extragalactic invasion. He had been blind, deaf and dumb to the gentle descent into darkness of his nephew, distracted by amorphous thoughts and glimpses of mysterious manifestations of the Force. It took a great deal of introspection, but as the ancient Knight before him began to let him see into her own mind, he began to understand once again that much of the turmoil that had occurred throughout the history of the Order over the millennia held a common theme: fear.

    From her point of view as a soldier, the Order of her day had been paralyzed by fear of a greater threat when they had refused to join the Mandalorian Wars. This had resulted in Revan undertaking his crusade. History as he knew it also seemed to agree with Laera's feelings on why the Order had nearly succumbed to the First Jedi Purge: because it had been held catatonic by the seemingly invisible threat represented by the Sith Triumvirate. It was clear that, because of this, they had very nearly destroyed the last hope for the galaxy. Laera seemed to feel that if they had succeeded in stripping Vima Sunrider of the Force, then the light of the Jedi would have gone out forever. Records from the time of the Ruusan Reformation were also explicit, the opinions of its drafters laid bare. In the wake of the Republic's dark age and the defeat of Kaan's Brotherhood, the Senate had become so afraid of another resurgence of the Sith or another dark-side organization that they had abolished the military and sought to control the Jedi Order. The consequences of this, from Laera's point of view, had been disastrous.

    At that moment, the knowledge he needed to regain control and force Laera from his mind came to him. With all of his might he concentrated on overcoming this strange twist on the Force, ripping himself from her psyche and mentally pushing her out. Finally free, he slumped to the floor, utterly exhausted. Through barely-open eyes he observed her doing the same, though he felt that the woman still held the upper hand, if only slightly.

    "Very good, Skywalker," she said, her voice a hoarse whisper. "You're not out of the woods completely, but that was definitely a start."

    She then glanced back at Ben. "See to your father. He's going to need to talk this out with you for a while. Silas, let's give them some privacy."

    Ben joined Luke on the floor as their hosts exited the hovel and descended to the forest floor below, after having taken a bow and quiver of arrows apiece along with a leather sack. "Dad, are you alright?" he asked tentatively. "What did...what did she do to you?"

    "I'll be okay, Ben," Luke replied, his voice throaty. "She's been through quite a lot, and it's toughened her up. Whatever that technique she used, was very effective and it caught me completely off-guard."

    "But why use it now?"

    "Maybe there's something about the Sa'ari that she needs to prepare me for," Luke speculated. "Perhaps their endemic affinity for the Force has made them so used to it that someone who is unprepared for their abilities might find themselves easily manipulated and defeated."

    "Dad, she mentally tortured you!" Ben replied, aghast. "If she's really a Jedi, then she should have found a better way to condition you—to condition us—to whatever those people might be capable of!"

    "No, Ben, she's a Jedi," Luke said, gazing back at the entrance. "She's like me, in a way; her skills in the Force were borne out amidst the horrors of war and battle. When we fought, she let me catch glimpses of what she's experienced in her own life. We only had to deal with two Sith back then, just imagine what it would have been like if we had to deal with entire armies? Or for that matter, the united strength of the Mandalorian clans, unfettered by complicated codes of honor and willing to burn entire worlds for the sake of it?"

    "So what are you saying?"

    "I'm saying that she's got a point. While now might not be the best time to sit down and work out the full impact of what she means, when we finally find what we have set out to find and succeeded in convincing the Alliance of the truth, there's going to be a lot to think about. Maybe her insights will prove useful to that process, if she's willing to help. In the end, however, she was right about one thing: I wish I had run Lumiya to ground forty years ago, rather than let her go."

    "Dad, this isn't like you," Ben protested. "What would that have accomplished? We had no way of knowing if she was going to come back at all, never mind how she did."

    "Ben, what's the first thing you do when you come upon a poisoned well?"

    "Test it to see if it's really poisoned, of course."

    "And if your tests read positive?"

    "Do whatever it takes to identify the toxin and clean out the water supply."

    "Exactly. Now do you understand what Laera was trying to tell me?"

    "On the face of it, Dad, yes. But in practice, things are rarely that simple."

    "I know," Luke replied grimly, then shook his head in consternation. "And I think she knows that, too. That's what I'm still trying to figure out. Certain people in the galaxy, though, they could be seen as analogous to a poisoned well, wouldn't you agree?"

    "It certainly seems that way," Ben said pensively. "It wasn't all that long ago that some of them were trying to turn every last one of us, along with the praxeum on Yavin 4, into slag. Even now they're still trying to get rid of the Order. But how do you 'cleanse' someone in power without overthrowing a government?"

    Luke blew an exasperated sigh. "As Whipstaff once said, 'and therein lies the rub.' Laera Reyolé is a Jedi out of time, an anachronism, but that doesn't necessarily mean she doesn't have perspective. In a way, it's refreshing to deal with someone who has the same kind of power as we do, but who also didn't know who I was. She was completely and utterly unintimidated by me and that, I now feel, was why she was able to do what she did."

    — — —​

    It was refreshing to be back in the forest after what had happened between the Skywalkers and myself. Silas and I were now patrolling the southern treeline looking for any signs of Sa'ari sightseeing expeditions, keeping quiet but alert for anything out of the ordinary. So far as I could tell the natives were still keeping tabs on their ship, which I had learned was called the Jade Shadow, but the initial party had been relieved and sent back to the capital.

    "You still think I was wrong to do what I did, don't you?" I asked Silas as we huddled in the shadow of a fifty-meter tree about a kilometer from our refuge.

    "No, but I'm not sure it was right, either," he replied with a resigned shrug. "In any case, what's done is done."

    I looked at him for a few moments, then sighed. "I'm sorry, Silas," I said, and meant it. "It's not fair for you to be caught up in all this. I shouldn't have had you come with me when we fled Revan's ship."

    "Accepted, but unnecessary," he replied before kissing me on the cheek. "You need me, whether you want to admit it or not, and I'm glad to be here with you."

    "No, the apology is necessary," I insisted, squeezing Silas's shoulder affectionately. "You see, I knew this was going to happen."

    "What, that the Skywalkers would come, or that we'd end up stranded on this isolated planet in the first place?"

    "The latter," I began, then blew another weary sigh as I held my head in my hand. "Silas, I knew we'd get stuck here!" I quietly wailed. "That's why I wanted you flying our escape shuttle, because I had a vision of us walking the streets of a T'lessian city together!"

    The sounds of the forest echoed about us for a few moments as Silas looked at me, concern and pity in his eyes; his aura fluctuating with sympathy and affection. "Don't blame yourself, Laera," he said finally. "I'd have insisted on flying you back anyway and, let's face it, you couldn't have gotten this far without me."

    "And you couldn't have gotten this far without me," I agreed with a sniff, the tremulous ghost of a smile crossing my lips. "But if I'd known we'd be drifting four millennia into the future, I would have bucked the destiny I'd asked for."

    Silas slung his bow and put both furred hands on my shoulders, looking directly into my eyes once again. "Laera Reyolé, I may know jack squat about the Force, but I know that I love you, and that you love me. I would follow you into the mouth of Chaos itself, we both know that. So what if you had to beat up on Skywalker? You knew you had to do it, so you did it, and despite how I may have felt about it, I trust you to do the right thing."

    "I don't deserve you," I replied, looking away as a tear threatened to leak out. "You're right, I've been beating myself up too much. Just look at all we've missed, all we've lost. There's no going back to our old lives."

    "Then we start new ones," Silas said, and there was durasteel in his voice. "I don't know about you, but I intend to return to...what did you and Luke call it, the Galactic Alliance? When we've done what we set out to do here on this world, I'm going to make sure that the galaxy learns about the Marines. Maybe the Alliance will rekindle the Corps, maybe they won't, but at least I'll have done my best to pass along what we know."

    I slung my bow and embraced Silas, so that I could feel his sincerity through direct contact. The tear finally trickled down my cheek to splash into his neck fur; when we broke apart, we were both wearing expressions of relief. "Then that will be three lifetimes I'll have lived," I quipped, giving another soft sniffle.

    "So what will you do once we get back?"

    "I like your idea," I admitted. "The galaxy needs the Marine Corps again; they need someone who's willing to do whatever it takes to uphold our values, the values of the Republic. If the Alliance military won't do it, then we go into business for ourselves. I used to be a drill instructor, after all."

    "And a very fine one you were, too," Silas replied with a feral grin.

    — — —​

    After another two hours of patrolling, at which point Silas and I happened upon a grazing plek'kak that would make a fine evening meal for four, we decided to head back and patch things up with the Skywalkers. I climbed the tree as usual, carrying the skinned and cleaned carcass up with me, with Silas following on the vine ladder we'd left extended. Back on the branch I secured the ladder, then poked my head into our home to find that father and son were deep in meditation, the latter doubtlessly helping the former to clear the waters of all the mud I'd churned up earlier.

    "Let's leave them at it for a bit longer," I remarked dully, heading for the cooking pit further up the branch. It was little more than a sizable dent in the wood that I'd increased through carving, then lined with a high-temperature plastic sheet (used in survival situations on volcanic worlds) that I'd glued to the bowl-like depression with liquid cable from my utility belt, but it was an excellent place to conduct a spit-roasting. As Silas ran the plek'kak through and mounted it to the stubby wooden poles that sat astride the pit, I called upon the Force to ignite the kindling I'd retrieved from the bag of briquettes that hung from underneath the branch. We both secured the spit in its mountings, then I began rotating it gently with my mind as Silas rubbed salt and herbs into the raw flesh.

    As the meat cooked, I mulled over what I had pulled from Luke's mind. The man had certainly seen his share of horrible things, it was true, and he possessed far more experience with the Force than I ever had. Indeed, it took a being of exceptional strength and wisdom to do what he had done—he was very much like how Vima had been in that regard. And yet, how had I been able to penetrate his defenses so easily? It certainly wasn't because I was stronger than him, that much was now plain. Rather, it seemed as though some part of me, that part which I recognized as my own predatory instincts honed over two decades of Marine service, that had sensed his moment of weakness and pounced upon it with the savagery of a starved taopari. I knew that such a moment would never happen again, and that if Skywalker ever decided to press the issue, he could probably fillet me like a ghillie fish.

    Luke had, for so long, been the last of the Jedi, I could see that now. With the deaths of his teachers, he had fumbled in the dark for so long, not knowing his own strength, unsure whether what he was doing was of the darkness or the light. He'd succumbed to the dark side once, to save the lives of those he loved, such was his devotion to family and friends—to attachments. As I began to dismiss his fall as selfish, it occurred to me that were I in the same position, I might not have been willing to let Silas Dan'kre die, just as he had been unwilling to let both his sister and his best friend be killed.

    "Silas, got time for a hypothetical question?" I asked as the smell of cooking plek'kak meat began to waft about.

    "Of course, Laera," he replied with a nod, continuing to ladle honey onto the roast.

    "Would you be willing to die if it meant that I didn't have to embrace the dark side?" I asked anxiously.

    Silas's neck fur rippled with uncertainty and his right ear twitched. "I'm not sure, could you elaborate?"

    "Well," I began, unsure how to phrase this, "suppose the two of us were abducted by a Sith Lord and ushered into his presence amidst a gaggle of his goons. He then presents me with a choice: either join him and embrace the dark side, or watch as you are gunned down. We're both disarmed at the time, and though I could probably fight my way out of his lair, it would pretty much be a given that you would end up getting slaughtered. My question is, would you be willing to die for me?"

    Silas flattened his fur with his left hand as he set the carved wooden ladle aside."While I love life as much as the next Bothan, Laera, I would have to say that my answer would be an ironclad 'yes.' We've both witnessed the full power of the dark side, and I'd rather die than see you as a Sith. Aside from your own well-being, there's no telling how much damage to civilization that a person of your strength could do." He rubbed his chin pensively for a moment. "Why do you ask?"

    "Because Skywalker had to make a similar choice," I answered dolefully, "and he accepted Palpatine's offer. Sure, he did his best to sabotage the Emperor's efforts to reconquer the galaxy, and yes, he was eventually redeemed by his sister. However, the time he did spend under that old bastard's tutelage caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of beings. I'm not sure I could bring myself to do that. He's still marked by that time in the darkness, but the intervening years have buried that stain on his psyche so deeply that I doubt he's even aware of it any longer."

    Silas put a hand on my shoulder and smiled. "Laera, it isn't your job to psychoanalyze a Jedi Master."

    "No, it isn't," I replied with a weak chuckle. "But that's pretty much what I did to him. I ripped the memories from his mind and beat him over the head with them."

    "And that, my love, is why you're a Marine and a Jedi, not a therapist," Silas grinned. "If you think it might help, I could finish the story of how we wound up out here. That'll give you a chance to rest up a bit, maybe take stock of things."

    "I appreciate that, Silas," I said, and kissed him affectionately.

    — — —​

    The succulent scent of cooking meat drew Luke and Ben out of their meditations. Feeling refreshed and once again in control, the Jedi Master left the dwelling followed by his son, looking for the source. Ben spotted it first, and smiled at the ingenuity of the design; the fire pit had been camouflaged very well, so that even the thin smoke that rose from it was hidden from casual observation. "Hungry, Dad?" he said with a grin.

    "Like you wouldn't believe," the elder Jedi replied.

    The two made their way cautiously up the branch to where Laera and Silas squatted, portioning the cooked beast. The Jedi Knight was holding four slabs of meat suspended in midair so as not to get them dirty, smiling when she caught sight of the two guests' approach. "Plek'kak ribs," she explained. "Fresh off the carcass and incredibly delicious, especially the way Silas makes them."

    "And you're supposed to eat them with your hands," the Bothan added, baring his teeth in anticipation.

    Ben reached out toward one of the hanging portions and grabbed it, momentarily surprised at the feel of the meat's gooey juices on his hand. Gingerly he brought it to his mouth and took a bite, chewed and swallowed, then nodded his approval. "I haven't had ribs like these since...well, never!"

    "A peace offering," Laera said, her smile fading somewhat. "We got the plek'kak as we were patrolling the southern perimeter where your ship landed. A helicopter must have come in last night to drop off a new set of guards, but it doesn't look like they're interested in combing the forest. How are you feeling?"

    "Thank you," Luke replied solemnly, accepting his portion. "I'm still feeling things out, but given some time it should all come back together."

    "Of course, Luke," Laera said. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry."

    The four of them nodded to each other as they enjoyed the first bites of their meals. As Ben finished his second rib, he looked at Silas, a question in his eyes. "Have you ever had any of the natives come close to your hideout?"

    "No, they've never cared to venture into the forests," the Bothan replied with a contemptuous sniff. "I don't understand it myself, but for some reason the city folk don't much like the woods."

    "There are a few scattered clans of forest-dwellers in various regions," Laera put in. "One of the friendlier tribes has an encampment about twenty klicks northwest of here. We sometimes trade with them for things we need; furs for tunics and the like, and we've helped them to find lost children or livestock on occasion."

    "They're a very social people, but not wholly united," Silas added. "Most of the Sa'ari have embraced science and technology over the centuries, but others have dedicated themselves to maintaining a simpler life. As I understand it, the latter groups prefer to keep their connection to the natural world through the Force, living freely and in harmony. Of course, even the city folk feel the same way to a certain degree, which is why their tech is some of the most environmentally-friendly I've ever heard of."

    "Do they have an organized Force tradition?" Luke asked, addressing Laera. "You told us about your initial contact with this 'Eldarch', but there must be more to it."

    "There is," Laera explained. "The Sa'ari are entirely female, they use their natural Force-sensitivity to procreate without the need of a male. Some form of parthenogenesis, I think; science was never my strong suit. Basically, the 'mother' copies bits of DNA from the 'father', randomizes it with her own, and produces an embryo through means I couldn't begin to wrap my head around. They can also live for more than a thousand years, though an individual isn't considered to be a mature adult until age fifty or so. Eldarch Bellinega was eight hundred and seventy-three when we first met her.

    "They once had a separate caste that was devoted to finding the best breeding matches among each clan or tribe, though these arranged pairings were by no means binding. Over time, the caste learned that there was something more to what they call 'the Blue' than simple procreation. After the Eldarch of the time received the prophecy and their knowledge of Galactic Basic, however, they began to develop other uses, such as empathic sensitivity, increased perceptual capabilities, basic telekinesis, and even a form of Force-enhanced martial art. They're centuries away from developing the lightsaber on their own, but they're quite capable of copying it if they ever got hold of one. Same goes for the hyperdrive, the repulsorlift, and the ion engine.

    “As their society developed, Sa'ari culture started to distance itself from the Order of the Blue Light, as the caste had begun to call itself once they developed their Force skills. Mainstream Sa'ari began to focus more on politics and the sciences. As Silas indicated, they love to debate and sometimes their sessions can get very lively and last for days at a time. Though most don't choose to learn to manipulate the Force to an advanced degree, many mothers teach their daughters the basics. Cultural mores and taboos discourage casual displays of abilities, however. For the Sa'ari, the most heinous crimes that most individuals can commit are those which involve the uninvited intrusion into another being's thoughts.”

    “Is that even enforceable?” Ben asked, slightly bewildered.

    “It's rare enough that, yes, victims of such assaults can usually identify their attacker,” Laera replied. “Anyway, even after the divergence of the two aspects of Sa'ari society, the Blue Light continued to seek out members, bringing in especially luminous children still in their teens and inducting them into their Order. The summonses were always voluntary, but most candidates readily accepted, and initiates were taught Basic as the 'sacred language of the Starborne One.'”

    "And you're the 'Starborne One,' right?" Ben asked.

    "So it would seem," Silas replied wryly. "Laera and I are the first offworlders to visit T'lessia in their recorded history. The fact that we came in a half-wrecked shuttle and didn't start shooting the moment we were discovered probably didn't hurt their impression of us."

    "There's one thing I don't quite understand," Luke said after a contemplative silence. "You said yesterday that the city folk are xenophobic and, according to the Eldarch, there was a significant amount of fear among the population."

    "She did say that, yes," Laera replied, staring into the cook fire. "I may have been exaggerating a bit about the xenophobia, but you've got to realize that the entire populace has been living with this prophecy for four thousand years, which is consistent with our little disappearing act after the battle to capture Revan. Like we said, these people are very sociable among their own kind, and they've had ample time to speculate on what our coming really means. They've also had about nine months to mull over the implications of our arrival—as far as I can tell, this is the real reason why the planetary authorities have made no effort to track us down. They don't want to chance provoking us into bringing about the doom that the prophecy spoke of."

    "Why have you not acted sooner, then?" Ben asked. "You don't seem like the type to wish death and destruction upon anyone, so how come you've not returned to bring about peace?"

    "Because I'm a Marine, Ben," Laera replied, her face an emotionless mask. "The only way I know how to bring about peace on this scale is through superior firepower."

    There was a long pause as the fire crackled and spat, the four of them eating the last of the plek'kak ribs and the Bothan removing the rest of the meat for preservation as the sun began to sink below the horizon. "It's been six months since we've heard anything from the 'civilized' parts of T'lessia," he explained as he finished cleaning up. "That was when we were forced to flee the Order of the Blue Light's monastery. The last we saw of Eldarch Bellinega was when she ushered us to the secret underground evacuation passageway.

    "It was about three months after we'd arrived on-planet that it happened..."
  16. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    exciting update with all what is revealed about the Eldarch
  17. TrakNar

    TrakNar Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Apr 4, 2011
    Silas put a hand on my shoulder and smiled. "Laera, it isn't your job to psychoanalyze a Jedi Master."

    Exactly, it's not Laera's job. It's mine. :p *brandishes DSM-IV*

    Anyway, it's good that Luke has realized the faults in the NJO, without trying to explain them away or to dismiss them entirely. Though, that is not to say that the Jedi Order at any point in time was perfect, but the stricter procedures of the older Orders did at the very least help to maintain some level of control.

    And Silas... quit chewing on your fingers!
  18. Thumper09

    Thumper09 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 9, 2001
    Sorry, I've been kinda swamped lately. I should be able to keep up more regularly now.

    I really liked the description of the natives and the connection between the blue in their skin and the Blue. It sounds like a fascinating culture, especially with their unique perspective/connection to the Force, and I'm curious to see what happened six months ago that caused such a need for Laera and Silas to escape from the Sa'ari.

    Laera's mental assault on Luke was pretty intense. I felt bad for Luke, but I'm glad that later on Laera acknowledged that Luke had to originally learn a lot about the Force and the Jedi on his own. She was fortunate to have the surrounding Jedi Order institution during her own training, including all their first-hand knowledge and experience and support, and Luke had no such opportunity and a higher learning curve. I hope she'll continue to help him work through the gaps in his knowledge/training and perceptions. It was interesting to see how she acted when she wasn't intimidated by Luke and his "legend", and it was also pretty telling about how complacent Luke was and how he might have been taking it for granted that other people would be intimidated and in awe of him. ......That made more sense in my head. :p

    When we've done what we set out to do here on this world

    Hmmm. I wonder what that is?

    "Because I'm a Marine, Ben," Laera replied, her face an emotionless mask. "The only way I know how to bring about peace on this scale is through superior firepower."

    Heh, I really liked these lines.

    Great posts! =D=
  19. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    May 11, 2011
    Your wish is my command, Thumper!

    [B]Chapter Six[/B]

    [B]Blue Light monastery, City of Tal'adin, six months earlier[/B]

    The antique-style computer had been surprisingly easy to adapt to, with the exception of all the manual typing. It had taken me a few days at first to get used to the operating system, but the experience was worth it in the end. While Laera and the Eldarch had meditated together, or else exchanged bits and pieces of Sa'ari lore, HK-47 and I had developed a cordial, if somewhat cool, relationship. I was pretty sure that the blasted thing would have happily gutted me if it weren't for her direct order to "treat that Bothan as you would treat me, or I'll rip your limbs off and use them for a chair." This, at least, had made him stop calling me “meatbag,” though the thought of being master to an assassin droid was not altogether pleasant.

    When not exploring the T'lessian land-locked and two-dimensional version of the HoloNet in an effort to learn more about the planet and its people, I socialized with a number of the initiates and what they called "illuminated learners"—their term for Padawan, near as I could tell. Despite the fact that I was so different from anything they had ever known, what with being short, covered with fur, and Force-blind, everyone at the monastery was quite friendly. They were eager to hear tales of the outside galaxy and, in turn, were happy to inform me of various efforts being undertaken by different Sa'ari groups to develop spaceflight technology. By the time we'd gotten there the natives had already visited both moons, dubbed T'las and T'lec, and had set up an extensive network of communications satellites in orbit. The Tal'adin authorities had quickly salvaged the shuttle, and two months after our arrival the entire planet was abuzz with the prospect of having efficient, low-cost and easy-to-produce "landspeeders" in the not-too-distant future. From what I could tell, the planet's top scientists had been put on the case, though even they were hitting a few snags in unlocking repulsorlift technology.

    HK-47 and I had also worked to decipher the native language, so that the droid could serve as a translator if the occasion warranted it; indeed, it was only through his help that I was able to browse the wider info-entertainment network to learn more about the native culture. Laera was learning by different means; apparently the Sa'ari could project information into a willing mind, provided the bond between the two is strong enough, and even then it's exhausting work—or so Laera claimed. There were instances when I wouldn't see either of them for a week at a time or more, and though the general environment was pleasant and most of my needs were attended to, being holed up in the monastery had begun to grate on me. On those occasions when we had time alone together, we mostly talked about our impressions of the Sa'ari. We wondered how they might integrate into the galaxy at large if someone else with a working hyperdrive happened along, or they developed FTL travel on their own. Occasionally we discussed our relationship, but we decided early on that we'd wait until rescue to undergo any formalities. That, of course, hadn't included denying ourselves the pleasure of each others' company.

    Approximately eleven weeks after our arrival, we were finally permitted to roam the streets of Tal'adin, the largest city and seat of the planetary government. Accompanied by Eldarch Bellinega and two "lighters" (their equivalent of Jedi Knights—they generally work with local police on high-profile investigations or in delicate situations), Laera, the assassin droid and I walked one of the capital's vast indoor marketplaces. Laera wore a standard lighter's uniform—azure tunic and pants with maroon utility belt and cloak—which she'd been given not long after our arrival. I, on the other hand, had had to contend myself with walking about in my armor's black body glove until a tailor could figure out how to create clothing for someone who possessed more, but also less, in terms of biological equipment. Still, what they came up with was workable enough.

    There was no hiding the fact that we were different as we strolled through the various venues of the high-class shopping mall. The reactions of the denizens of Tal'adin ranged from mild curiosity to something resembling abject terror, though the latter was only apparent when Laera made note of it, having adapted her abilities to the vagaries of the Sa'ari zeitgeist and mental shielding. The majority of natives, however, regarded us kindly, though everyone gave HK-47 a wide berth and I swear the droid enjoyed his not-so-subtle threat display. Though I figured we were safe enough, Laera had given the assassin strict orders to only employ his blaster carbine's stun setting should anything go awry. Despite all this I thoroughly enjoyed the day trip, wishing only that I'd had some local currency, known as the [I]t'gol[/I], so as to purchase an excellent portable massage unit that had been for sale at a gadget store.

    That evening, we were asked to attend a special session at the Foruma Lawyteret T'lessia to address the planet's governing body. The hall was a vast, round chamber filled with tiers of seats, and served as the place of business for some two hundred twelve delegates; the various Sa'ari republics sending two apiece to debate matters of global importance. Since our arrival was quite possibly the single most important event of that year, we were ushered to the speaker's podium to address the assembly. The audience level was packed with blue people, many of them holding cameras of some type, but all of them paying rapt attention.

    Bellinega insisted that Laera stand at the podium, which was fine by me, and I was content to linger in the periphery next to HK-47, between the two lighters, and behind the Eldarch, well-hidden from the audiovisual recorders due to my relatively short stature. The crowd of delegates and watchers alike ceased their chatter and gazed upon the human woman occupying the dais, waiting for her to speak, but it was Bellinega who started things off.

    "Translation: Good people of T'lessia, I thank you for your generous hospitality," the droid muttered just low enough for me, and me alone, to hear. "We of the Blue Light have stood alone for so long, aware that one borne of the Stars may one day come to us. There are those of us who embrace the possibilities she would bring, but there are those who fear what they do not know, and this is understandable. We know each other intimately, a gift of the Blue. But this new arrival is of the Blue as well, and yet she is not blue, nor are her companions."

    She turned briefly to gesture toward Laera, then to myself and the droid in turn. "These Starborne Ones are stranded here, yet they have made no effort to interfere with our way of life. Instead they wish to learn as much of us as possible, and they freely discuss from whence they have come. I pray that you understand that this is a rare gift, one that must be cherished and nurtured, so that one day the Starborne Ones can return to their place in the heavens, and we can become part of a greater galaxy as a united people."

    The Eldarch stepped aside and bade Laera to speak, and I watched with misty eyes as she addressed the assembly in the native tongue, dutifully translated for my benefit by HK-47. "People of T'lessia, it is a privilege to be here addressing you directly. When first we arrived on your world we were greeted by armed police, but we hold no ill will toward you for that. Indeed, where we come from, that would be the same response to an unannounced crash-landing."

    There was a small outbreak of lighthearted muttering amongst several knots of delegates at that, with Laera continuing on once the conversations had died out. "You have been generous to us, and you deserve an explanation for how we happened to come to T'lessia," she continued, her words becoming more emotional as she gesticulated passionately. "We came here by accident, in a ship that was damaged while fleeing a terrible battle many light-years from this solar system. The galaxy is awash in conflict, but this world is an island in the storm, a safe harbor in which beings of light seek refuge, share companionship, and trade knowledge. Working together, I feel that we can achieve much, including bringing the Light of the Blue to the rest of the galaxy and showing them how to live in peace and harmony. Together we can bring about a golden age of exploration, seeking out new worlds and new life, boldly going where no one has gone before.

    "Your world is truly a marvel. It teems with life on a scale rarely witnessed, so much so that it calls out to me as does a long-lost home. I have spent the last twenty-six years of my life in martial training and combat, and it is truly a relief to be here, now, enjoying a small measure of peace and reflecting upon the Blue and its many gifts." Laera then glanced at Bellinega, who nodded her assent.

    Suddenly, my love's hands were in the air, and from each palm jets of glittery golden dust shot into the chamber and began to whirl amongst the gathered throng. The starry streamers wove intricate patterns in the air over the heads of the delegates, shifting this way and that like extremely long serpents. Everyone present began gasping in awe; scattered applause broke out, and soon everyone was standing and clapping wildly. The show went on for five whole minutes, at the end of which Laera called the dust back to her and presented the bag from where it had come back to the Eldarch. The appreciative noises of the crowd gradually faded away, with delegates and audience members resuming their seats in anticipation of what would happen next. But I could see the subtle signs of exhaustion in Laera's body language; the display had taxed her abilities close to their limits.

    Fortunately Bellinega seemed to notice this as well, for she then returned to the dais. "Truly my friends, this is an auspicious day for T'lessia. The Starborne One has shown the Order of the Blue Light many things, which we can now pass along to any who are willing to learn. Yet I still sense a delicate trepidation within some of you. We must not let ourselves succumb to fear of the unknown or what might be, we must not allow this fear to cloud our judgment. It is only with clear heads and glad hearts that we can continue further along the path of light."

    The Eldarch's words trailed off, leaving the chamber echoing with silence as many hundreds of bare, ridged blue heads looked at one another. Moments passed into minutes as the assembly contemplated what had been said and done. Finally, the elder Sa'ari spoke again. "There are no more words to be said by us this night. I leave it to this august assembly to decide how best to proceed in shaping the future of our world. May the Light guide you all."

    [CENTER]— — —[/CENTER]

    "That was an impressive display, Laera," I remarked with a wink. "Was that on impulse, or did the Eldarch put you up to it?"

    Guided by a young page who was probably older than either Laera or myself, we were leaving the Foruma by the VIP entrance, again escorted by Bellinega and her lighters. The elder Sa'ari was bringing up the rear of our little parade, speaking in an undertone to a politician I didn't recognize. The lighters, however, were taking it in turn to glance at the two of us as we talked, though I tried not to let this bother me.

    "It's actually a traditional greeting ritual," she explained, and I could hear the tiredness in her voice. "Whenever the leader of one of the republics visits the capital to address the Lawyteret, they bring a small bag of gold dust and basically do what I did. The more elaborate the display, the more credence is given to the speaker and what they have to say."

    "Ah, I see," I replied with a smirk. "Like plumage on a bird of paradise."

    "You could say that," Laera sighed. "It was Bellinega's idea, and I had to have a few tries before I could keep up the display for the expected amount of time. Gold dust is [I]not[/I] easy to clean up, especially on carpet."

    "I take it the Eldarch had to loan you a bag," I replied, trying to cheer her up.

    "Yes, it was the Order's own supply, for whenever the Eldarch wants to address the Lawyteret. Probably worth a mansion on the lakeshore, which meant that every time I spilled the lot while practicing, I had to make sure and get every bit back into the bag."

    Bellinega's private discussion finally ended as we crossed the threshold of the Foruma building and began to make our way back to the monastery. As we walked, she made her way to the head of the small procession and held up her hands to motion for a halt. "Thank you for your efforts tonight, Starborne One," she said, and I could hear that she, too, was nearing exhaustion.

    "Please, just call me Laera."

    The Eldarch seemed to consider this for a moment. "Very well...Laera," she said with some hesitation. "Though I believe the Lawyteret is duly impressed with our words and sincerity, I fear it will take much hidden effort for T'lessia to truly unify as you suggest."

    "Is that what you two have been discussing these past few weeks?" I asked, taken aback. "Laera...did you really suggest that?"

    She blinked, looked about the deserted, dimly-lit street, then nodded. "It seemed like the best way to fulfill this prophecy of theirs."

    "Have you even [I]read[/I] the full prophecy?" I protested, a sudden and horrifying thought occurring to me. "Laera, I know you about as well as I do anyone in the galaxy, and I know for a fact that you're no diplomat or politician."

    "And I suppose you are?" she retorted, nettled.

    "Love, I'm a Bothan. Politics and diplomacy are as natural to my kind as the Force is to the Sa'ari, even if I'm a Marine. Why else do you think the title of Commandant has been held by members of my species for so long?"

    "Politics amongst my people are slightly different," Bellinega put in. "When we vote on a measure, we do not waste time counting. When debate is done, we open our minds to one another and come to an agreement. This takes but a moment, and most are quite happy with the results."

    "With all due respect, Eldarch, it's still the same," I replied deferentially. "Public discourse is just the topmost layer. Wheels upon wheels in a great mental machine is the way of all sentient minds. As you say, it will take a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work to meld the various Sa'ari republics into one global entity. To be completely honest, however, I'm not sure that this is the best course of action."

    "What do you mean?" Bellinega asked, an odd look in her eye.

    "I've spent the last ten weeks absorbing as much of your culture as possible," I continued. "Though I am the only male on a female world, your people are not so different that a basic understanding is difficult to attain. Your social habits, your outlook on life, your cultural ethos, even how you've already developed a binding planetary authority, all point to the core strength of your political system. To try and change it now is foolhardy; there are many worlds in the Republic that function similarly to T'lessia, and they do quite well in interstellar matters."

    At that point, a large groundcar approached, stopping a few meters short of where we stood debating. A liveried driver then exited, stood, and beckoned us toward the vehicle as the doors on its right side opened. With HK-47 and the lighters keeping watch, Bellinega, Laera and I took the middle row of seats, with our protectors and the droid taking the rear bench. Laera, who was sitting between myself and the Eldarch, fell asleep almost immediately, her head falling onto my shoulder. As I gently rubbed my love's upper back I gazed into Bellinega's eyes to let her know how I felt: that she was making a mistake in attempting to fix what wasn't broken.

    After all, the best way to let a Force-user see the core truth of one's self is to look them in the face and empty your head...

    [CENTER]— — —[/CENTER]

    The pounding on my door jolted me awake; a glance at my chronometer (adjusted for the twenty-six hour T'lessian day) indicated that it was very early in the morning. Groggily I rose from bed, padding to the entrance as the pounding continued. Opening it a crack I caught sight of a flash of auburn hair and a frantic-looking blue eye, which prompted me to swing it wider. "What in blazes...?"
    She jumped into my arms, oblivious to the fact that I was clad only in skivvies, sobbing all the while. "Laera, what's the matter?"

    "The voices—I can't keep them out!" she gasped, then began sobbing into my shoulder. "From all over T'lessia, the Sa'ari are calling to one another!"

    I guided her to the small bed and we sat together, tears streaming as she buried her face in my chest and wept. For as long as I had known Laera, I knew that she possessed a special gift: the ability to sense the presences of sentient beings at astounding distances, and to see their minds as auras that broadcast their thoughts and emotions. I also knew that this world was home to nearly three billion Force-sensitives, and if they were all communing at once...

    "Laera, focus on me," I ordered, pulling her away and, holding her face in my hands, looking directly into her eyes. "Focus yourself onto me, and me alone. Link your mind with mine and read me as you would read yourself!"

    While I stroked her cheeks with my thumbs she complied, and I suddenly felt as though I were being scrutinized by a gargantuan electron microscope. My mind began to fog over as her presence wafted over me, tentative at first, but with a gradually-increasing intensity. A buzzing in my ears followed as she probed deeper, and I drew her into an embrace as she slowly reasserted herself. Several hours had passed by the time we broke apart, and I caught a glimpse of the dawn's early light through the nearby window.

    "Thank you, Silas," Laera said gratefully, her voice hoarse as she whispered into my ear. Tear tracks marred her otherwise beautiful visage, and my heart swelled with joy at having been able to offer some measure of help. "That mental shroud, I think I've got the hang of it now."

    "I'm glad," I replied. "You had me scared for a minute there."

    She giggled weakly, her hands fidgeting slightly. "Burning skies, I'm a mess," she muttered ruefully. "Forty-three years old and I'm blubbering like a baby."

    "Not your fault," I said bracingly. "I may be the only Force-blind being on this rock, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that a lesser mind would have been utterly destroyed by what you've just endured."

    "That's kind of you to say," Laera replied, rubbing her eye and offering a watery smile. "You know, I may have saved your life several times, but that's twice now you've saved my sanity. Having lost the former once already, I'd rather be dead than lose the latter."

    It took me a moment to figure out what she was trying to say. "You never did tell me how you died," I replied. "But I figured you'd let me know if and when you were ready, not that the details are important."

    "It's not that, Silas. It's this whole thing with the Sa'ari. You were right: I caused all of this."

    "How can you say that?"

    "Because of the voices," Laera explained, the blue of her wide, frightened eyes twinkling in the low light. "While I couldn't understand the words, the sentiments behind them were clear: they're confused and upset. A lot of them feel as though I've asked them to abandon their beliefs outright, while others see this as an excuse to go to war! Silas, I've thrown their entire society into chaos!"

    At that very moment, the door swung open again, revealing the disheveled form of Eldarch Bellinega. Laera, who was still fully-dressed from the night before, stood between us in an effort to preserve my modesty, a gesture that was unnecessary but no less appreciated. "Thank the Blue I've found you!" she exclaimed without preamble.

    "What's going on, Eldarch?" Laera asked as I instinctively lunged for my body glove and began to hurriedly slip into it.

    "I've just received word from an Order monastery in the Hiltone Republic," the elder Sa'ari replied in a rush. "Their military has rebelled, and the elected government has just been violently deposed! The new...what is the word...a 'junta?' has declared war upon the Starborne One, and seeks to isolate our people from the rest of the galaxy!"

    Laera and I exchanged horrified glances as I zipped myself up. "Isn't Hiltone the second-largest nation-state on T'lessia, aside from Tal'adin itself?" I asked, more calmly than I felt.

    "It is, but their alliances with other nations through the Lawyteret have given them control of a majority government. If the junta manages to convince the other delegates to back them..."

    There was no need for Bellinega to finish the sentence. Our eyes locked and I felt, for the first time, that we were both thinking precisely the same thing: if Hiltone got the Lawyteret on their side, they would surely get rid of us—after having put us through an elaborate show trial—and then begin interdicting their own world.

    "We're in trouble," Laera remarked in a would-be casual voice. "I just felt a disturbance in the Force—they're not bothering to wait for a vote. We have to get out of here, the sooner the better."

    "Come with me, then," the Eldarch replied. "I know a means of spiriting you both from the city without arousing suspicion."

    "We should secure our weapons, armor and gear first," Laera said. "With our Marine training and what we've got in our utility belts, we can survive in the wilderness until things have calmed down."

    "Agreed," I said, tacking on my own equipment with practiced speed. "Someone should secure the droid as well; we can't very well take him with us and it's better if he doesn't go shooting up the place."

    The three of us exchanged nods, the two women departing as I whipped out my comlink. "HK-47, this is a direct order," I said into the mouthpiece. "Shut down all systems and put yourself on lockdown, authorization code 'Bothawui Agamar,' matched to either my voice or Laera's."

    "Statement: As you desire, Master," the assassin droid replied in its raspy hiss. "Shutting down all systems and locking this unit under direct voice-print identification protocols."

    The comlink went dead, and I replaced it on my utility belt. Now fully armored, cradling my helmet in the crook of my left arm as my right hand rode the grip of my sidearm, I looked out the window. The sun had risen fully now and T'lec was beginning to dip behind the far horizon. Through slightly-muzzy eyes I found myself watching a lone helicopter as it buzzed slowly toward the Foruma. Though primitive by galactic standards, these craft nonetheless had an elegance about them. Relatively slow compared to contemporary airspeeders, their twin rotor-pods allowed them to accomplish maneuvers that the more advanced craft couldn't hope to match. The vehicle I was observing had begun its descent and was about to vanish from sight when the Eldarch and Laera returned, the latter now clad in her own battle armor.

    "I've given HK-47 the order to close up," I said as I joined them. "Eldarch, you'd better keep him here, but if anyone comes looking, let them have him—not too easily, of course. They'll have no chance accessing any of his systems now that he's in lockdown."

    "I will do so," she replied. "You must depart now, before today's session of the Lawyteret begins."

    "We're ready to leave," Laera said before we both donned our helmets. "Please show us the way."

    Bellinega did so, and we were soon leaving the familiar halls and open areas of the monastery behind and continuing quietly down dimly-lit corridors that looked positively ancient. As we descended a level by a well-worn set of stone steps, we were intercepted by a tall, shadowy figure. She held up her cloaked arms in a nonthreatening gesture, then bade us to join her. Though her face was hidden, Laera's body language seemed to indicate that this particular Sa'ari was vaguely familiar to her.

    "I must leave you now," Bellinega said regretfully as she handed Laera a large, carefully-wrapped bundle. "The Order has managed to procure some items from your ship that you may find useful. For my part, there is still much to be done to ensure that your escape is kept secret for as long as possible. I believe that you are already acquainted with Officer Pelenora?"

    Laera nodded, but I could do little more than stare at the three women. When the cloaked figure pulled back her hood, however, I nearly went for my blaster; her green eyes and subdued crimson facial markings were identical to those upon the constable who had made first contact with us nearly three months prior.

    "I will guide you the rest of the way," she said in passable Basic, though the melodious accent of the Sa'ari language was evident. "We must hurry, though, or I will be missed."

    "Wait a minute," I interjected angrily, drawing my weapon and pointing it at the policewoman. "First of all, I want to hear that damned prophecy. Second, I want to know what the hell [I]she[/I] is doing here!"

    Bellinega looked momentarily taken aback, but the shock faded as she realized that I was quite serious. "Very well," she said sadly.

    [CENTER][I]The Sa'ari stand alone, gazing at the sky;[/I][/CENTER]
    [CENTER][I]They watch and ponder, seek and strive;[/I][/CENTER]
    [CENTER][I]To reach the stars and to spread their wings;[/I][/CENTER]
    [CENTER][I]Hoping to find their universal connection.[/I][/CENTER]
    [CENTER][I]Beings, like them but not, will arrive;[/I][/CENTER]
    [CENTER][I]Bringing promises from the vast cosmos;[/I][/CENTER]
    [CENTER][I]Their presence may help or they may hinder;[/I][/CENTER]
    [CENTER][I]And the Sa'ari will either prevail or perish.[/I][/CENTER]>
  20. Thumper09

    Thumper09 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 9, 2001
    Wow, talk about needing to get out of Dodge quick! And things seemed to be going so well at the delegates' assembly. :( The Eldarch's concern about the fear of her people just reared its ugly head, but I can see why the Sa'ari felt so threatened and afraid. That's a lot for them to deal with from their first aliens, especially with a prophecy surrounding it all.

    I feel bad for Silas being the only non-Force-Sensitive on the planet, but that definitely became a huge benefit for him and Laera during the overnight Sa'ari planetwide Force-aided debate/discussion.

    Interesting prophecy. [face_thinking] I wonder how Silas (then) and Luke and Ben (at present) will react to it and interpret it.

    Great work!
  21. TrakNar

    TrakNar Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Apr 4, 2011
    Way to go, Laera. It's one thing to want to promote change, but this... It shows how naive the Sa'ari are, though, as they were almost willing to just convert. brings to mind missionaries that would go to isolated tribes in the Amazon just to convert them. The ethical implications of such missions don't sit right with me, as everyone should be permitted to live how they wish, regardless of what they believe in. And for Laera to instigate such vast political change...

    Tuffass should smack that woman upside the back of the head!
  22. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    May 11, 2011
    It was a goal of mine to establish an actual working culture for these new aliens, yes. It's the former (is there such a thing?) Trekkie in me... ;)

    [B]Chapter Seven[/B]

    [B]T'lessia, Great Western Forest, present day[/B]

    "Pelenora T'Yelc guided us through the catacombs of the monastery, which dated back to its original construction," the Bothan continued, having finished reciting the prophecy. "According to Eldarch Bellinega, this was four thousand years ago; as you can imagine, this still has us scratching our heads in wonderment."

    "Indeed," Luke replied with a nod. "I haven't had much experience with temporal mechanics myself, but a few years ago a Jedi Knight named Jaden Korr encountered a Jedi Master from the time of the Great Hyperspace War. He had been aboard a Sith warship whose hyperdrive he had sabotaged; this resulted in the vessel and its entire crew being catapulted into the present era."

    "Not to mention the rare instances when a starship's relativistic shielding simply fails," Laera put in. "I've only ever heard of one such incident, and that was just a twelve light-year jump."

    The fire had been rekindled, and was now crackling merrily in the darkness as Silas finished his story. "In the second level a secret tunnel had been carved, with only the presiding Eldarch and her protégé ever knowing of its existence or seeing to its maintenance and security. As Sa'ari technology advanced and the city of Tal'adin grew, the tunnel was connected to the sewer system beyond the treatment plants, thus it was surprisingly clean. After several kilometers of running flat-out we finally reached the city limits, squirming through an outlet that led into a swift brook that ran just beyond the treeline of the Great Western Forest. That was where T'Yelc left us, as she had to report for duty within the hour.

    "After that, it was a relatively simple matter of getting very lost very quickly, which we did by making our way deeper into the forest. The two of us spent at least a week wandering aimlessly before we found out why this region got its name; as winter descended, we chose to settle in one of the tuskwood trees. It was Laera's idea to carve out a home here, and we chose the largest and healthiest tree in the area to begin our work. Ten days later we had our home away from home, and we've been here ever since."

    "I'm guessing that the constable who guided you was in fact Bellinega's student," Ben said, cocking an eye at the Bothan.

    "We never found out for sure," Laera answered. "But yes, it does seem that way. In fact..."

    "What is it?" Luke asked, noticing that the woman's eyes had gone vacant as her words trailed off.

    "She's here," Laera replied in an undertone after a few moments of contemplative silence. "T'Yelc is one of the guards keeping an eye on your ship."

    "How many others?" Silas asked at once, and all three Jedi closed their eyes.

    "No more than two others," Laera said after a beat, then her voice became edged in durasteel. "And...I think they know T'Yelc. Luke, if we're going to take your ship back, we'll never have a better opportunity. If we wait any longer, they just might figure out how to get past that Force-lock of yours and we'll be stuck out here for the rest of our lives!"

    "I agree," Silas growled. "The time for action is now."

    Father and son exchanged glances while Laera and Silas retreated back to their den, pulling a heavy woolen curtain across the entrance. Ben was first to break the silence. "Well Dad, what do you think?"

    "I'm thinking that Laera isn't quite sure if she can trust this Sa'ari she mentioned," Luke replied. "But I'm also fairly certain that she's willing to bet that T'Yelc is on her side."

    "Well then, we'd better get ready to move out as well," Ben quipped.

    [CENTER]— — —[/CENTER]

    Fifteen minutes later, the party of four was snaking their way stealthily through the undergrowth surrounding the towering trunks of tuskwood. The fire had been extinguished through the simple (for Laera, anyway) task of using the Force to create an airtight barrier over it. Both Marines were dressed in full battle regalia, which Luke had to admit was an impressive sight. Their armor was well beyond stormtrooper grade, and he supposed that it might even be considered of equal worth to Mandalorian [I]beskar'gam[/I]. He didn't want to have to see that supposition put to the test, of course, but it was a comforting thought nevertheless.

    The party moved in two groups of two, each keeping no less than ten meters apart as they progressed toward the clearing. Ben walked with Silas in the lead, while Luke brought up the rear with Laera. "Luke, I truly am sorry about what happened earlier," she whispered through her helmet.

    "I don't blame you," the Jedi Master whispered back. "Ben actually accused you of mentally torturing me."

    "He wasn't that far off," Laera muttered, a note of self-loathing in her voice. "You've raised a sharp kid, you should be proud."

    "I understand why you did it, though," Luke reassured her. "You're still coming to terms with what's happened, and naturally you would feel angry and hurt. Your intentions were honorable, and you did at least manage to get through to me and drive home a few pointers. On reflection, it's probably better this way, because now you know how the galaxy has changed."

    "It certainly has," Laera replied with a sigh. "Things were much simpler when it was just us against the Mandalorians, and that didn't really change much when the Sith returned. Back then Silas and I could always figure out who our friends were, and even though most of Revan's people had once served the Republic, they wore their new hearts on their sleeves and were easily identified."

    "And now you've come forward to a galaxy rife with intrigue," Luke said, blowing a sigh of his own. "One that's still trying to come to terms with seventy years of near-constant strife."

    "I can handle war," Laera growled. "If we get off this rock, the first thing I'm going to do is 'arrange' a meeting with this Natasi Daala character. From what I gather, she's a bit of a female chauvinist as well as a control freak and hardcore militarist."

    "You know, that first thought hadn't occurred to me before," Luke replied in an undertone, slightly taken aback. "How do you know this?"

    Laera tapped her helmet twice as though the answer were obvious. "Judging by your past dealings, she and I are not all that dissimilar, personality-wise," she explained. "We even share a certain mistrust for the Jedi, though as you can tell I've long since come to terms with that particular issue. I won't know for sure until I meet her, but it may be possible to convince her, one soldier to another, to back off a little or try to come to some sort of agreement that everyone can live with."

    "You do know that she had once made it her life's goal to wipe us all out, right?" Luke retorted with a barely-suppressed chuckle.

    "I'm actually counting on that," Laera said, grinning beneath her visor.

    A few moments later, Luke noticed an oddity in Laera's left shoulder plate, as though it had been scorched and then patched with improvised materials. “What happened to your shoulder?” he asked.

    “A souvenir from my last combat mission,” she remarked ruefully. “During the fight aboard Revan's flagship, the squad I was with got pinned down in a corridor between two platoons of troopers. As I attempted to deflect and redirect the blaster shots from one group, the others exchanged fire with my people, and I got hit in the scuffle. If it hadn't been for the timely arrival of Lieutenant Ibratu'na and the squad he was leading, we would have been overrun and killed in short order.”

    “I see,” Luke replied. “What did you use to fix the hole?”

    “Tree sap mixed with sand,” she said. “The plate will need replacing, of course...”

    The two fell silent as they continued to make their way through the darkness toward where the [I]Jade Shadow[/I] had been parked. Several meters ahead, Ben and Silas were having their own muted discussion.

    "...and astronavigation hasn't really changed all that much, either," the younger Skywalker was saying. "The only difference now is that astromech droids have become small enough for starfighters to use."

    "I have to admit to being surprised at that," the Bothan replied. "How does that saying go? 'Every year ships get a little faster, droids get a little smarter, and everyone's waistline expands an inch or two,' I think."

    Ben managed to smother a peel of laughter; he'd heard the very same sentiment expressed once by a friend of his father's, Booster Terrik. "Basically, you'll just have to relearn all the frequencies and channels, then you'll be well on your way. Fortunately, Aunt Leia knows a guy who can help with that, an old slicer named Ghent who worked as the chief of New Republic Intelligence's cryptanalysis division. He retired a couple of years after the end of the Yuuzhan Vong War, I think, but he still does freelance work for the Order."

    "HK-47 won't know what to do with himself," Silas muttered with amusement. "I'm sure assassin droids these days are a thousand times more advanced."

    "Nope, just smaller," Ben smirked. "They're still illegal, but nowadays bounty hunters prefer to work with hunter-seeker probes and the like, or just do it themselves. I've never actually heard of that droid designation, what's it like?"

    Silas considered that for a moment as the two continued sneaking along the forest floor. "Bipedal, rust-red, and a bit like a protocol droid on hyperstims," he said finally. "Or else a well-built combat unit that can be as subtle or obvious as he wants to be. And he's got a [I]very[/I] sarcastic personality."

    "Some groups have outfitted battle droids for assassination, but no company I know of makes a purpose-built model," Ben replied. "He sounds like quite a character."

    "Assuming you like to be referred to as a 'meatbag' all the time, then yes," Silas chortled. "We had to leave him be—"

    Stopping mid-word, the armored Bothan crouched on one knee and held up his right hand to call for a halt. Flicking a switch with his tongue, he activated his helmet's thermal visor mode and began to scan the area ahead of them. "The clearing's not too far off, but someone may be going for a stroll," he explained.

    "I don't sense anything nearby," Ben replied, his voice barely above the night breeze that had sprung up around them.

    "You don't know the Sa'ari," Silas advised. "Laera tells me that they can 'shroud' themselves in the Force, so that someone who is unfamiliar with their species can't detect them."

    "What's going on?" Luke asked as he and Laera caught up.

    "Nothing to worry about," the armored woman replied as she too knelt on the ground. "Silas is just following his training. It would be poor form to barge in without scouting the place out first. There might be a couple of lighters hiding on the other side of the clearing; even I can't detect them when they do not wish to be found."

    "Wouldn't they have picked up on us by now?" Ben inquired.

    "Not if you've been keeping your own signature dimmed," Laera replied. "I've been covering for both Silas and myself, and Luke can also hide quite well."

    "That would explain why I never picked up on who fired that arrow," Luke deadpanned. Laera gave him a half-hearted armored shrug. "So, how do you want to play this?"

    "Stay here and keep watch on T'Yelc and her cohorts. I'll go around the other side and see if I can find something interesting." And without another word, Laera disappeared into the gloom.

    Several terse minutes passed, the rustling of leaves and the occasional call of a nocturnal avian the only sounds. Luke relaxed into the Force and attempted to seek out any possible ambushers for himself; he immediately sensed the presence of the three guards, one of which was quite strong and glowed with her own intense luminosity. This had to be Pelenora T'Yelc, who despite being quite detectable, betrayed nothing of how she felt or what she was thinking. Other then the three Sa'ari, nothing else was discernible beyond the background life-energy of the forest and its fauna.

    Ben had just begun to extend his own awareness when Laera touched their minds with the Force, signalling an all-clear and that she would be returning momentarily.

    [CENTER]— — —[/CENTER]

    I crept slowly back toward where Silas and the Skywalkers waited for me, still trying to penetrate Pelenora's mental defenses. The police officer-cum-lighter, however, was equal to the task; while I could have gone for a direct psychic assault, that would surely have given away my presence, and I wanted this to be a surprise. The fact that no one else was around was a bit of a relief, but that didn't mean we could approach casually. One call on their satellite comlinks and a dozen helicopters would arrive, raining down reinforcements that would cut us to ribbons.

    Circling back toward the others I removed the lightsaber from my belt, taking a moment to fully appreciate it for the first time in months. When I rejoined them, it was to find that both Jedi had gotten the same idea, with Silas having unlimbered his DL-3. "Move out," I whispered, drawing my own sidearm and tossing it to him. "Line abreast formation."

    As we marched silently toward the ship I took up station to Silas's left, Ben marching on my left, with his father to Silas's right. After a few minutes of pacing, we began to see a thinning of the darkness overhead as the space between trees grew larger. The night was magnificently clear, stars shone down upon the clearing along with both T'las and T'lec, bathing it with enough pale illumination that one could almost read a flimsi by it. This made the guards easy to spot, and with a nod toward the other two Jedi, I motioned for us to grab their communicators with the Force and take them away.

    Their reaction was palpable, but predictable as we cast the devices into the forest. T'Yelc began barking orders in her native tongue, but before either of them could move, three shafts of pure energy burst forth to shatter the gloom. "It's been a long time, Pelenora," I said, doffing my helmet so that she could see my face. "Tell your friends that everything is okay and we can all have a nice chat."

    "Very well," she replied, and nodded toward her companions. The three Sa'ari dropped their pistols onto the ground and drew together as we advanced upon them. "I had a feeling that you were somewhere nearby."

    "Funny how that works, isn't it?" I asked, though we both knew the question was rhetorical. "Luke, crack her open and let's take this inside."

    The Jedi Master nodded, and with a wave of his hand a hatchway opened on the near side, extending an egress ramp. Ben entered the ship and began activating systems as Silas, Luke and I covered the three officers. "Come on up," he shouted after about a minute or so.

    "Let's go," I said, waggling my lightsaber for emphasis. The three Sa'ari followed the young Knight into the ship, their eyes darting this way and that as they took in the marvels contained within the hull. Despite the situation they were now in, I could sense the intensity of their curiosity, a sentiment that both Silas and I shared in equal measure though we did our best to keep this hidden. This elegant craft made the [I]Herald[/I]-class shuttle we'd stolen from the Sith look like a rusted-out old scow held together with space tape and chewing gum.

    Taking the lead, the younger Jedi guided us to the ship's mess area, which had been equipped with a real table that sat four. I nodded at the Sa'ari officers, indicating that they should sit; deactivating my weapon, I took the seat across from Pelanora, while Silas and the Skywalkers watched over us.

    "I think introductions are in order," I began, gazing at the three natives in turn. "For those who don't know, I'm Laera Reyolé; the furry guy behind me is Silas Dan'kre, and we're the original Starborne Ones. These two are Luke and Ben Skywalker, and like me they are also possessed of the Blue Light. Now, I believe it's your turn."

    The officer sighed audibly, leaning forward and placing her elbows on the table. "There really isn't any call for such a display, you know," she began, a mix of resignation and relief in her voice. "To my left is Iper T'Royc, to my right is Fua T'Ooro, and we three all serve Eldarch Bellinega in our own ways."

    I closed my eyes and bowed my head as Silas and the Jedi put their weapons away. "I'm glad to hear that," I replied. "But until I could be sure, we had to take every precaution."

    "I understand, Starborne One," Pelenora replied. "T'lessia has gone through many changes since you took flight last year. You were correct in your intuition; mere hours after your departure, a Hiltone commando team arrived at the monastery with a writ of search from the Lawyteret Council of Justice itself. They seized your machine and though they did not believe the Eldarch's assurances that you had fled without her aid or support, they lacked proof enough to arrest her."

    "On what charges?" I asked, stunned.

    "Collaboration with the enemy, of course," T'Royc answered.

    "The Hiltone-controlled coalition had declared all off-worlders as enemies of the Sa'ari," T'Ooro added. "But as my superior has said, much has changed since then."

    "There is a fascinating word in your language, called 'serendipity' I believe," Pelenora continued. "As it happens, you had arrived during a planetary election year. Our political cycles can be complex, but once every sixteen of our years the elections for all the important offices merge into one voting day. Representatives to the various republics' own national lawytes; national governors, sub-governors, and secretaries, and delegates to the global Lawyteret itself are all decided upon. Even as you had come to us, the various campaigns were already underway.

    "Once you had gone into hiding, however, Eldarch Bellinega campaigned tirelessly in your stead, though she made it appear as though her message was of her own inspiration. She traveled from republic to republic and city to city, imploring the citizenry to embrace peace once more. She freely admitted that the call to global unity had been made in haste, and that the systems that had so long worked for our people should not be abandoned overnight."

    "So...what happened?" Silas asked hesitantly.

    "The Hiltone dictatorship, fearing that they would in turn be deposed democratically, canceled their own election at the last moment. This had a ripple effect on the rest of T'lessia, however; the junta lost all support in the Lawyteret when delegates from other allied nations were voted out of office and replaced with more amicable candidates. Seeking to reestablish their power through martial means, Hiltonian forces invaded three neighboring republics, and even launched a bombing raid on Tal'adin City itself."

    At that point, I could have happily cut my own head off. Not only had I tossed Sa'ari society into chaos, but I'd also started a devastating war. The magnitude of my blunder had been made clear as it had never been before.

    Pelenora seemed to notice my discomfiture, however, for she smiled sadly. "The retaliatory strikes all but destroyed Hiltone as a military power, as every other republic had united against them and contributed what they could to the effort. The junta surrendered as troops from the united forces marched on their headquarters, and emergency elections were held the next day. The conflict was brief, but bloody; it lasted for only thirteen days but claimed the lives of half a million Sa'ari, with many more left injured or homeless. We have spent the last five months rebuilding, and our society is slowly returning to normal though we still harbor a certain fear of outsiders. Indeed, after the armistice the republics agreed to unite their military forces, though the individual nations would retain political autonomy; this is something that has never happened before in the history of our world. Under this new system, only the Lawyteret itself can authorize a military action, and they authorized one when our satellites detected this ship as it landed.

    "When the Eldarch sensed the arrival of the Skywalkers, as you call your companions, she manipulated events so that only those in the T'lessian Defense Force who served the Order of the Blue Light would be dispatched to watch it. When my colleagues found your vessel to be empty, they assumed that its occupants had gone into the wilderness, perhaps in search of you, and chose to stand vigil. After a day they were relieved, and we were sent to maintain guard in the hope that you would seek out us, the new arrivals. It seems that our hopes were well-placed."

    "There's still one thing I don't quite understand," Ben said after a momentary silence. "You clearly possess a sufficient level of technology to detect incoming spacecraft, yet our own sensors do not work at all, out to a distance of millions of kilometers."

    "You know, that's a fair point," Silas put in, looking from the Jedi Master to Pelenora and then at me. "As I recall, our shuttle's sensors did in fact work, they just weren't picking up anything. The only instruments we were able to use were the optical scanners, and that's how we managed to find such a fortuitous landing site."

    I looked straight into the eyes of the Eldarch's protégé, at first attempting to get a sense of whether or not she was telling the truth. After several moments of terse silence, however, the bland look on my face morphed into a scowl as I felt deeper. "That's all well and good,” I said. “However, I get the feeling that there's more going on. So, are you going to tell them, or should I?"

    "I'm not sure what you mean," Pelenora replied, arching a quizzical brow.

    "Don't play dumb with me!" I barked, slapping the table with both open hands as a sudden realization hit me. "I saw it in the Eldarch's mind when we communed all those months ago, when I taught her of the galaxy, and she taught me of your language and lore! I see it in your eyes, even now you're trying desperately to keep me out! You're the Youngarch, the one ordained to learn the Order's deepest secrets, and to take Bellinega's place when she dies!"

    T'Royc and T'Ooro suddenly recoiled from T'Yelc as though she had burst into flame, and their auras surged with shock, anger, awe, even a hint of fear. "So, how long have you been running this little scheme?" I continued doggedly. "Were you going to just murder her, or were you going to have the common decency to wait until she died of natural causes before using the Order's resources to wrest rulership of T'lessia for yourself?"

    Pelenora stood up so suddenly that Silas nearly blasted her right there and then; only my raised hand stayed his weapons. "You..." she hissed evilly. "You think you're so clever, that you have all the answers, when you're but a babe in the woods, hiding from her superiors!"

    Before I could even formulate a reaction, the Youngarch lashed out with a blast of energy that sent me flying from my chair to slam headfirst into the bulkhead a meter back. Landing on the deck in a heap, I watched blearily as the Skywalkers and the other two Sa'ari attempted to restrain my assailant. But she had no intention of making a fight of it; instead she bolted toward the hatchway with incredible speed, lunging off another bulkhead and out of their attempted grasps.

    The blurred form of Silas Dan'kre swam into my field of view, and he was gently probing my cranium for signs of trauma. "Laera, can you hear me?" he asked, his voice echoing painfully in my ears.

    "Con...concussion..." I said, my voice slurred. "I' okay. stop...Pelenora."

    "You aren't going anywhere like this," Silas retorted gently but firmly. "You're in no shape to stand, much less run."

    "Is it true?" Luke asked, panting slightly as he reentered the impromptu wardroom. "Is she planning some kind of takeover?"

    "I caught the flicker of hate when she attacked, Dad," said Ben. "Pelenora T'Yelc is so far into the dark side that she's almost gone full circle. She is, as you said, a poisoned well...">
  23. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    caught up on the story and the fun with Daala;). Great details
  24. TrakNar

    TrakNar Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Apr 4, 2011
    Oh dear, a war, too? Way to go, Laera. Tuffass would use the Clue-By-Four on you for that blunder. But, perhaps that blast to the noggin will straighten you out.

    Can't wait to see how she gets out of this mess.
  25. Thumper09

    Thumper09 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 9, 2001
    Ouch, a lot's happened in the cities while Laera and Silas have been in hiding. With half a million Sa'ari killed I doubt any offworlders will find much support from most of the natives.

    I'm curious about the ship sensors. I wonder if the Sa'ari could have developed anti-sensor technology from Laera's shuttle, but that wouldn't explain the way Laera's shuttle's sensors worked when they first arrived. [face_thinking]

    Ruh roh, not good happenings with Pelenora. :eek: She can do a lot of damage. It'll be interesting to see how Laera and Luke treat this "poisoned well" after their earlier discussions on that topic.

    Great post!