Title: Young Jedi Knights: The Jungle Ruins Characters: Jacen Solo Timeline: Roughly 24 ABY Summary: A companion piece to YJK: Training Flight, Jacen Solo takes an early morning excursion into the jungles of Yavin IV to capture an image of another animal for his already extensive collection, and runs into a reminder of the jungle planet's violent past. *** The jungles of Yavin IV teemed with life. Through the thick trees that emerged from the swampy ground to the thick grasses, the sounds of dozens of animals merged together into a menagerie. Jacen Solo could name the sounds of each and every one of them: the belly-bird with its deep song to attract mates, the flap of the three-eyed Gort's blue feathers, the trampling of the runyip subspecies native to the moon. The young Jedi knew each of the animals by heart and kept many of the smaller ones as pets inside of his quarters in the Jedi Praxeum. The larger ones he had to settle for live recorded holoimages of, at least after a Yavin Capra had broken free of its pen and gotten aboard Mirax Horn's freighter and eaten half of the supplies meant for the Praxeum. Jacen clutched the holorecorder in his hands as he waded chest deep in the swamp, holding the tool high above the water line to protect the sensitive equipment inside. Yavin Capras weren't his quarry today but something a little more dangerous. He'd heard stories from Jaden Korr and other Knights about a large lizard species that lived deep inside of the jungle. The creature was as large as Jacen himself, if the tales were to be believed, and lithe as a whisperkit. The long blades of grass parted before Jacen's hand as he stepped out of the swamp and into a small glade. In the middle of the clearing, covered with dark red rust stains, was the ten meter tall form of an Imperial Juggernaut. The large weapon of war sat on ten wheels long since torn apart by time and animals, thick ivy vines scaling its length. Jacen followed the vines up to the top of the hull and then up the five meters tall observation spire, the transparisteel panels shattered. He paused as he surveyed the area, hand going to the newly constructed lightsaber upon his hip. Qorl's survival in a TIE fighter nearly 25 years previously still fresh on the young Jedi's mind. "Hello?" Only his echo returned his call. The craft, as rusted and damaged as it was, would still make a decent spotting location for his hunt. Jacen let the holorecorder drop and hang by the cord around his neck. The vines were sturdy to the touch and as thick as the boy's wrist. He couldn't hazard a guess at how long the battle tank had been sitting in the Yavin jungle, but he could easily imagine that it had been there long before he had been born. Putting his hands on the makeshift rope, Jacen jumped as high as he could and planted his feet against the durasteel hubs of the giant wheels. The thick protein wall of the vines bit slightly into his hands, but held his weight easily. He called upon the Force to bring additional strength to his arms and legs, fingers gripping the vine tightly. He shimmied up the vine, feet finding the occasional rest holds in the rusted out holes that spotted the tank. Hands clutched at the damp metal on top of the Juggernaut as Jacen Solo reached the artificial summit. He hitched his leg up from the side and used his own weight to roll himself over onto his back. Catching his breath, Jacen stood up and viewed the jungle from his current vantage point. Through the thin fog that rose off of the ground, Jacen could see the dark ochre stone of a Massassi ziggurat hidden in the tree branches. The young Jedi smiled and walked to the other end of the Juggernaut. With a creak of bending metal hitting his ears, Jacen felt himself falling. He flailed out with his arms and caught the edges of the hole. A scream escaped Jacen's lips though the young Jedi knew that no one could hear him. The slight trickle of warm blood tickled the inside of his leg. Legs kicked in nothingness, trying desperately to find purchase that wasn't there. Jacen looked down and saw nothing but overturned seats and empty storage crates, a haphazard landing even if he did use the Force to slow his descent. He closed his eyes and focused, feeling the connection between his own tendons and muscle and filling them with energy. Elbows moved downward onto the metal, warm skin pushing against the still cool hull. Jacen's chest rose from its location in the pit so that now his stomach was at the edge. The young Jedi grinned as he made it up to his stomach and lay on the top hull of the tank. A soft creaking of metal breaking killed the grin, replacing it with another scream as the hull gave way yet again. Jacen fell for what felt like forever and landed hard against slanted storage locker. Back screaming in pain, he slid down the makeshift slide and was dumped onto the floor of the crew compartment. Jacen laid still, every worse case scenario running through his head. He back hurt, as did his legs and arms, but nothing seemed to be broken. He slowly stood up, broken pieces of his holorecorder crackling upon the ground. A curse escaped from his lips and he momentarily panicked, waiting for a rebuke that never came. Eyes looked around the dark room, shadows forming from overturned chairs and storage lockers from the beam of light emitting from the large hole in the roof of the Juggernaut. Jacen removed the lightsaber from his belt and switched it on to form a rudimentary glowstick. He walked through the green-lit chamber, passing discarded blaster rifles and ration packs. Jacen found a hatch, set off on the bulkhead. His free hand found the controls offline, the reactor to the craft long since drained. He stared at the sealed hatch and at the glowing blade in his hand. Uncle Luke had told them about how dangerous lightsabers were when Jacen and his friends first made them and how easily they could cut through practically any material. His grip on the lightsaber's hilt was so hard that his knuckles turned white as he aimed the blade perpendicular with the closed hatch. Jacen concentrated, focusing solely on the point where he needed to stab. Precision was paramount. Hitting the bulkhead at an angle would result in the blade ricocheting off and to Force knows where. With a sideways plunge, Jacen sent the green blade into the exact center of the hatch. It sank into metal slowly. Jacen emerged from the glowing hatch an hour later, exhilarated as the jungle breeze met the hot sweat on his skin. He snuffed out his lightsaber blade and jumped the four meters to the soft ground below, using the Force to slow his descent. He turned to look at the Massassi ziggurat in the background. The howlers would have to wait another day. Jaina was at the base of the rebuilt Jedi praxeum when he returned, cleaning the trainer X-wing that she had been flying earlier that day and helping a blue-plated astromech droid down from its socket. Engine grease stained her hands. "Jacen, what happened to you?" Her brown eyes widened as they caught sight of his torn jumpsuit. He twisted his mouth into the same lopsided grin that his father was famous for. "Nothing much. I just had a nice trip!"