THIS OLD TEMPLE: LEAVING IT BEHINDby ardavenport “I don’t know, Luke. Sure you want to leave all this behind?” Han Solo looked up and around at the ceilings high overhead, twilight from artificial windows along the walls leaving huge patches of dark shadows above and in the corners of the huge halls. There was not enough power for more. A faint sheen of dust hung in the air, even after a small army of droids had cleaned and removed the wreckage and debris. Next to Han, Luke Skywalker looked around at the Temple of the Jedi Order of the Old Republic and suppressed a shudder under his long dark cape. The air was stale with disuse and he sometimes thought he could smell a trace of electrified flesh, especially in the enclosed areas where Jedi and clones had fought most fiercely at the end so long ago. “Yeah, I’m sure.” He strode off down the walkway, past columns wider than he was tall, toward the lifts, Han following, their footsteps barely echoing in the dead air. “You put a bit of work into it.” Han glanced again at the opulent open spaces. “The Republic gave it to you. Doesn’t make any sense to just give it away.” Luke just shook his head. Neither Han nor Lando Calrissian seemed to understand even the concept of giving away what Lando had glowingly described as ‘prime Courascanti real estate’. But after he had extracted what information he could about the Jedi – and Darth Sidious had destroyed so much – Luke had no ambition to hold on to what remained after their fall. “No possessions, no attachments” was written large in the Jedi Code that they had followed. His eyes again glanced to either side of him at the burnished colors and gold inlays of the floors and the luxurious use of space on the Old Republic’s former capital world, a city-planet crammed with hundreds of billions of individuals. If the Jedi were not supposed to have possessions, why did they have all this? “I’m just saying that you could get a pretty good deal for this place,” Han went on. “I don’t need it, Han.” The New Republic had granted him (and Han) a stipend for life as a ‘Hero of the Republic’. At first, he declined, not wanting to profit from the Rebel Alliance’s insurrection against the Empire. But his sister, Leia Organa, had given him a long talk about realistically living and traveling in a galaxy that ran on trade and currency. He accepted the stipend, but lived as modestly as possible. Indeed, in his search for knowledge, he had found that individually, Jedi lived according to their Code; the rooms in the Temple held only the minimum possessions for living. But the Jedi Order itself . . . . clung to far too much. Solo shrugged, letting the subject drop. For someone who placed so much value on profitable enterprises, Han Solo held on to surprisingly little. Everything he had fit into his ship, a battered Corellian freighter, the Millennium Falcon. He wore the same dark pants, boots and vest most of the time. The holster for his blaster was empty, respecting the local laws and causing some disquiet for a man used to going armed on more lawless rim worlds. “So, where are you supposed to meet these guys you’re giving this all to?” “We’re meeting on the roof before we go. R2’s showing them around.” Luke pointed toward the ceiling. “They’re looking at the upper levels right now.” They reached a row of lifts and took one up. “So, we’ll be leaving after you hand this off?” “Yeah.” Luke shrugged and smiled at Han’s ‘we’. Luke retained his old X-wing from the Alliance, gifted to him from the New Republic (and he had to admit that he needed his stipend to keep it running), so he did not need Han’s ship. But Han showed up anyway to ‘help’ him with his ‘Jedi stuff’. Which meant that he and Leia had another fight. So, Han had fled to a safe activity that would not make her madder than she was. It was starting to turn into a pattern and Luke had not decided what he wanted to do about it. But for the time being, he was glad enough for the company. “Dean T’chas gave me a list of locations where he knows the Jedi had outposts. Of course, that means that the Empire knew about them, so there’s probably not much left, but something might have been missed.” “Oh,” Han replied, standing next to him, looking up at the lights progressing over the top of the door. “So, more ruins and rocks again.” “Yeah, probably.” Han would be bored and that was not always good. Luke had to bail him out of jail once when he had come to ‘help’ him with his ‘Jedi stuff.’ “Is Chewie with you?” Luke asked after Han’s Wookiee first mate, who had a strong respect for Jedi. When Luke returned to the Alliance from Dagobah and after his near defeat on Bespin, Chewbacca had spoken loudly in his defense of his unexplained absence. And to Luke’s surprise, Chewie confirmed who Yoda was since he served with the Jedi and clones who defended Kashyyyk during the clone wars. He and his fellow Wookiees even helped Yoda escape when the clones turned on the Jedi on the Emperor’s orders, something that even Han did not know about his close friend. “Yeah, he’s with the Falcon. He . . . I don’t know. He doesn’t like this place. Thinks there are ghosts.” Han dismissed the superstition, but Luke heard a hint of doubt in his voice. They exited the lift into a rooftop hall, not as large as the halls below, but just as well decorated. And like them, the air was stale with disuse. If he closed his eyes, Luke could imagine himself in a much smaller, claustrophobic space. He wanted to get outside. None of the open areas were furnished with more than an occasional bench to sit on. And in the center of temple was the core of a much smaller Jedi Temple, its simple and humble beginnings from a simpler time. He could feel in when he meditated there, even in the burned-out rooms, trampled on by Sidious’s desecrations. The Force was still strong there. Neither Jedi nor Sith could change that. But the Jedi stayed at their Temple while a whole city-planet was built around them, walling in their sacred spaces as if they could contain the Force for themselves with layer after layer of an increasingly larger Temple. They walked down a wide set of stairs and headed toward the open doorway, midday sunlight streaming down on the courtyard outside. Han’s next question broke into Luke’s musings. “So, kid, what’s eating at you about this Jedi business?” Luke stopped, frowning and turning to the older man. “Nothing. Why do you ask that?” “I don’t know. Seems like you were a lot more eager when you started in on this thing. Now you can’t wait to get away from it.” “It’s not like that,” he denied, his voice going a little high. “Oh,” Han answered, unimpressed. “Okay, if that’s the way you want it.” “It’s not like that,” Luke repeated, much more calmly, but even less convincingly. “You wouldn’t understand,” he finished and resumed walking toward the sunlight. “Suit yourself.” Luke whirled around after four steps, his cape swirling around with him. Han had not moved. “You know what’s wrong with all this, Han?” he demanded. “It’s - - it’s too much. All of it. “The Jedi were supposed to be a simple, peaceful religious order. Master Yoda taught me that the Jedi never used the Force to attack. Only for defense. But - - “ His arm flew out, gesturing at their surroundings. “ - - when the Clone Wars broke out, they all became generals. The Jedi Council never even thought about not fighting in it.” “Well, if the Republic was being attacked, weren’t they just defending it?” “Defending it from what? From falling apart? It was corrupt; the Separatists were actually right about that; Darth Sidious had been running the Republic for ten years before the Clone Wars broke out. What were the Jedi defending? The Republic?” He threw both his arms out, the edges of his cape falling back from his dark tunic and pants. “Or were they just defending all this?” Han shrugged. “I don’t know. I wasn’t there.” “They were fighting a war. And this wasn’t their first one. The whole history of the Jedi Order was about them getting into wars. How does that make them peacemakers?” “Well, they kept the peace pretty well for the Republic. It lasted for a thousand years.” Luke shook his head. He’d pieced together what he could while he was on Coruscant; Sidious had destroyed everything he could about the Jedi, but even he could not erase people’s memories, and the occasional secret archive. “It wasn’t that peaceful.” He headed outside. The air was warmer there, and fresher, and alive with the vibration of the city and the endless traffic lanes that passed by the Temple on all four sides. Even the rise and fall of an Empire had not changed that. “So, you and the Jedi are parting ways then?” his friend asked. Luke whirled around again at the base of the stairs in the outside courtyard. “No, Han! I’m just . . . disappointed in them.” He hung his head. The stonework was cracked and striped with black scorch marks from when the Temple fell to the Clones who the Jedi had once commanded in battle. Luke took a long breath. The Force was still strong in all parts of the Temple. When he meditated in it, Luke could feel its millennia of history, not just its tragic fall. But the images were old, distant to him; they belonged to another age. One that needed to be left behind. “I’m just disappointed in all this. It’s not what I was expecting.” He gestured at their surroundings, pockmarked with hundreds, possibly thousands of blaster holes, the blackened, twisted remains of a tree and the white and yellow barriers that had been set up to block ways to other parts of the roof that were not sound enough to safely walk on. “This whole temple was a bunker. In the end it became just a command center with everything you needed to run a war.” He felt like he could still smell the fires and scorching ozone from the Jedi Order’s fall. “The war’s over.” “I thought you said this place looked like a Hutt palace.” “That, too.” He looked up at his friend. “I don’t want any of this.” “Sounds like you’re not going to take the New Republic up on their offer.” He shook his head emphatically. “No.” “Leia will be disappointed.” “She’ll understand.” Luke threw his hands out and stepped back. “It’s just me, Han. I can’t be a whole Jedi Order for them. And I can’t train anyone else. Not now. I don’t know what I’m doing. I need to learn a lot more before I can pass anything on to anyone else.” “You taught Leia some tricks.” Han sauntered forward, hands on his gun belt, and joined him in the open courtyard. “Not tricks, Han,” he snapped, a little annoyed by his flippancy. “And you don’t need to be a Jedi to learn about the Force. I’ve at least learned that. And Leia doesn’t want to be a Jedi.” “Hmm.” Han sounded too pleased to hear that. Had Leia told him? Or did Han not believe it until he said it? Luke shook his head. “Even if I trained more Jedi, the New Republic doesn’t need Jedi to keep the peace. They weren’t that great at it for the old Republic.” Solo grinned mirthlessly. “I don’t know, Luke. Cynicism doesn’t look that great on you. But . . . ” he nodded, looking around at the damage scars around them. “ . . . everyone you look up to ends up disappointing you. That’s just the way it is.” “Yeah. I know.” Han’s expression suddenly turned suspicious. “Why’re you looking at me?” Luke laughed. But his laugh vanished when he saw the small crowd emerging from the wide entry that they had come through. The delegation from the University of Coruscant descended the steps and approached. R2D2, their guide, bypassed the stairs, landing neatly on his jets. He was followed by two of the University’s humanoid-shaped protocol droids. Han looked over his shoulder and turned toward them, hands on hips and not impressed by the solemn, robed academics. R2 rolled forward with a string of ‘mission accomplished’ chirps. The delegation leader, Dean T’chas, bowed low, his long horns hanging below his weathered skull. He was elderly, with well-wrinkled skin and drooping, sad eyes. But the depth of sadness behind his dark brown eyes hinted that he had endured much under the Emperor’s reign. “Master Jedi Skywalker,” he began. Luke had told the elderly scholar that he hardly merited ‘master’ status, but T’chas claimed that he could not address him any other way. He fawned over Luke to such a degree that he had started avoiding the scholar. “We cannot hope to thank-you enough for such a gift. We hope we can fully honor your generosity.” “We’ll be petitioning the New Republic for funds to just make this structure usable,” Sub-Dean Yill’Ri declared. There was no mystery about where the tall Togruta’s tough attitude came from. She and a couple of other scholars in the group had been pollical prisoners, freed when the Empire fell. Her left horn was scarred and shrunken and one lekku cut off, testimony to the Empire’s cruel treatment to dissenters. “We’ll do a lot better with a statement from you and especially with a corroborating approval from Senator Organa.” “Of course.” Yill’Ri’s posture toward him was the exact opposite of her superior’s. She did not disrespect him, but she almost treated him as a tool, a source of a new acquisition for her university. T’chas and a couple of the others visibly shied back from Yill’Ri’s brusqueness as she stepped forward over a head taller, towering over him. But they said nothing. One of the younger scholars once confided to Luke that none of them agreed with Yill’Ri’s style, but she got so much work done that people rarely questioned her actions. Ever efficient, Yill’Ri held up a data panel. Luke looked down at the glowing yellow letters of a formal declaration of his support. R2 bleeped and hooted a denial that he had anything to do with it. Yill’Ri’s cheek twitched. “I compiled some of your statements from our earlier discussions. All you need to do is authorize it. I can forward it to the Senator for you and I can write a statement for her to authorize as well.” Luke was pretty sure that Leia would not appreciate that at all. But he scanned down the mercifully short document and found it factually accurate, though probably better written than anything he might have done. Leia would notice that. Even when fighting in the Rebel Alliance, accounting for his actions in reports to Command had been a curse for him and all the other squadron commanders. Thankfully, they accepted statements dictated to their R2s and other astromechs, though Leia had failed to convince him that so much detail was worth his time, especially when they were trying to survive and fight the Empire at the same time. Luke now wondered if the Old Republic Jedi had suffered under a weighty bureaucracy. Given their position as ‘peacekeepers’ for the galaxy, he could not see how they could escape it, though the evidence in the Archives in the Temple below had been thoroughly destroyed by Darth Sidious. He touched the affirmation box on the data panel. “This is fine. You should forward it to Leia and tell her to contact me if she has any questions.” She would. Probably something like, ‘Who is this Vice-Dean Yill’Ri person and did you really sign that?’ Yill’Ri’s lips tightened; Luke was quite sure that a statement for Leia had already been written and the Togruta was just disappointed that it would not be used. But she nodded. “Thank-you. If we move quickly, we should be able to begin the work next year.” Han Solo made a derisive noise, but everyone pretended not to hear it. “Luke,” Scholar Osho stepped forward. For such a small and slight human female, she had a surprisingly deep and authoritative voice. Dressed in thick, dark blue robes, her long frizzy orange hair waving as she slid between her comrades toward him. She was one of the few who did not insist on addressing him with honorifics even when he asked them not to. Her fellow academics disapproved with their stiff body language, but she ignored them. She held out a data chit. “I got a few more testimonials, from people who were here before the Empire.” Luke accepted it and thanked her. She frowned. “It’s not much more than what we already gave you.” Her frown turned into something more like mourning. “We couldn’t save any real data. You understand, it was death to keep anything about the Jedi on Coruscant. Even speaking about them could get your arrested.” “I understand,” he assured her, but his words did not sooth the tragedy in her eyes. What would it have been like to live under the Empire and not be able to fight against it? “Damn Jedi Archivists. Never shared,” one grumpy old scholar muttered. “Arrogant poodoo. Now it’s all gone.” T’chas hissed at him, but Luke did not disagree with the sentiment. ‘Failed, I did,’ Master Yoda confessed back on Dagobah. At the time, Luke had been too much in awe of him and his training to ask for many details; the defeat was obviously very painful to his small, elderly Master. Now he badly wished he had. He had meditated, searching for Yoda’s guidance in the Force. But he had felt neither him nor Ben Kenobi’s presence since Empire was defeated at Endor. His mentors had gone silent; all he found in the Force were old memories. He was alone as a Jedi. Before he died, Yoda had told him that he had learned all that he needed, but Luke did not feel that way at all. He felt abandoned, especially in this old Temple and he knew now that there was nothing more there for him. He tucked away the data chit and began his farewells. He needed to leave this place behind, go out into the galaxy and learn more. He knew enough about the Jedi for now. He needed to know more about the Force. “If we can be of any assistance, Master Skywalker, please contact us any time. We owe you,” T’chas’s eyes looked a little teary as he glanced around the roof of the ruined Temple, “so much.” Luke assured him that he would and confirmed the University’s contact codes. R2 whistled and headed toward their speeder bikes, using his jets to lift off and place himself in the side-car on Luke’s bike. “I don’t know, Luke. It doesn’t sound like that brain-trust back-there are going to get much done,” Han muttered as he mounted his bike. “You might have been better off letting Lando take this place off your hands.” Luke toggled the engine-start on the handlebars. “Yeah.” He had to admit that Lando could really hustle; Lando would never take a year just to get started. “But he’d probably turn it into a nightclub.” His shoulders tensed at the thought as he looked at the partially repaired rooftop and fire-scarred tower around them. Even with all the failings of the Jedi Order, their wrecked Temple hardly deserved that. “Yeah. That sound like Lando.” Han gave him a rougish grin. “But you got to admit, it would be a great nightclub.” >><< o >><< o >><< END >><< o >><< o >><< Disclaimer: All characters and the Star Wars universe belong to Disney/Lucasfilm; I am just playing in their sandbox.