[FIC] Hidden Shades of Grey
After the defeat of Darth Malak, the Jedi Council sends the redeemed Revan, now known as Rade Chano, and the crew of the Ebon Hawk on a mission to recover an ancient relic—a relic stolen by Darth Revan at the beginning of his war against the Republic—and to discover if there is a new Sith threat rising…
It's a long story, semi still in progress, so I'll post it in installments. And now, to post the first chapter....
Hidden Shades of Grey © JLantill 2005
Hidden Shades of Grey--Chapter One
In the tranquil gardens of the Jedi Temple on the core world of Coruscant, Carth Onassi nervously paced in front of one of the fountains, while he waited with the rest of crew of the Ebon Hawk for their Jedi companions to return from the Council Chambers. He ran a finger over the golden medal given to him by Admiral Dodonna only a couple of weeks ago. He and his friends had all overcome incredible odds to earn this in their last mission—finding the Star Maps, destroying the Star Forge, and defeating the Dark Lord Malak and Carth’s own arch-nemesis, Admiral Saul Karath. It had been a long and arduous journey, both physically and mentally. Now they had finally made it to Coruscant and right away the Jedi were at their secret meetings once again.
He needed some…no, *deserved* some time off—time to recuperate, relax, to come to terms with all that had happened, and, hopefully, to rekindle his relationship with his son, Dustil. But even in this very serene place, amongst the fountains and neatly manicured greenery, he could find no peace. Again, he felt the tug of the Republic taking precedence over his private affairs and the first sparks of conflict rise within him like the initial tinges of an ion storm.
“I’m bored,” Mission Vao complained, as the young T’wilek swung her legs back and forth from the low garden wall she sat upon. Apparently, she couldn’t relax either, though Carth attributed the cause to youth, rather than any complex internal dilemma. “They’ve been in there for hours,” she moaned. “What do you suppose they’re doing in there anyway?”
“Talking,” Canderous the Mandalorian answered matter-of-factly, without looking up from the blaster he was polishing. “That’s what the Jedi do best. They talk, and they talk, and when they are finished, they talk some more.”
“Trouble is,” Carth sighed, “they never seem to talk to us.”
“C’mon, Carth,” said Mission, as she purposefully hopped down from the wall. “Let’s you, me, and Big Z go into the city. It’ll cheer you up. You know, I heard that they have anything and everything in Coruscant. Exploring it is bound to be more fun than waiting around here.”
Carth frowned a bit. “Erm…I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Mission.”
“I agree,” said Canderous Ordo. The grizzled Mandalorian gave Mission a look that a commander reserves for disciplining his troops. “Rade told us to wait here. So *that’s* what we’re going to do.”
Mission heaved an over-dramatic sigh. “But we’ve been waiting for hours!” she complained, stamping her foot for emphasis. “I mean, the Jedi Temple is nice and all. Way better than being cooped up inside the Ebon Hawk, but…sheesh! All these fountains, and flowers, and trees…well, it’s …it’s boring!”
“Arrr!” Zalbaar grunted.
“Erm…sorry, Big Z,” said Mission. “The trees are nice. Really. It’s just that I’m not used to them like you are, you know?”
Zalbar snuffled softly in apparent acceptance of her apology.
“C’mon, Carth, please?” Mission pleaded. “This is the very first time I’ve ever been to Coruscant. I just want to see what’s out there. You know, grab a meal, do a little shopping, maybe even check out a few of the local hotspots. Is there anything wrong with that?”
“No,” said Carth. “And when Rade comes back, I’m sure we’ll all have time to go and see it. Together. But for now, we wait.”
“It’s not like they’re coming out anytime soon,” Mission continued in her plea. “Besides, we need something to eat. I’m starving!”
Zalbaar roared in agreement.
“See? Big Z’s hungry, too. And you know what he’s like when he gets hungry.”
“Wookies are always hungry,” Canderous grumbled. “That’s what makes them good hunters.”
Zalbaar’s eyes narrowed and he growled softly at the Mandalorian.
“What?” Canderous gave Zalbaar an incredulous look. “It’s true.”
“All right, drop it you two,” Mission chastised them. She turned back to Carth to continue her pitch. “Look, I don’t know about you, Carth, but I’m getting sick of all this so-called healthy stuff the Jedi insist on feeding us. I mean haven’t they ever heard of….” Mission’s words hung in the air and her jaw dropped, mesmerised at something she saw over Carth’s shoulder. “Sith’s Blood,” she said softly.
Carth frowned. “What?”
Zalbaar growled in a low, ominous tone.
“Well, would you look at that….” Canderous muttered to himself.
Carth turned to see what everyone was looking at. Escorted by a Jedi Temple guard, was, at first glance, what looked to be a small detachment of Sith. Their leader, a tall man with chiselled features and dark hair worn in a single braid down the length of his back, wore the black garb indicative of a Sith Master, but he carried no visible weapon. Walking at a brisk pace behind his Jedi escort, his stride exuded the confidence of a seasoned soldier yet, at the same time, the composure of a diplomat.
Behind him marched four individuals, soldiers by any account. Covered from head to toe in black, their faces were obscured by deep hoods and they armed themselves with intimidating, yet elaborately decorated, double-bladed brands which they carried upright. Ceremonial weapons, Carth surmised. These four dark soldiers surrounded a fifth individual, although it was unclear to Carth if the figure was being escorted or guarded.
Either way, their charge was blatantly different from the rest. Wearing not the traditional black of the Sith but a floor-length, deep-hooded robe of a most unusual shade of violet, Carth watched the fifth person float gracefully across the polished stone floor of the open air corridor while the remainder of the party proceeded forward with precision and purpose toward the entrance to the Jedi Council Chambers. The Temple Guard rapped twice on the door, and the party was ushered inside.
Carth scowled. “What? There aren’t enough Sith roaming the Galaxy that the Jedi have to go and invite them to come here?”
“Only the leader was a Sith,” Canderous said knowingly. “The others are Jantessans.”
“Jantessans?” Carth echoed. His brow furrowed in thought. “Never heard of them.”
“I’m not surprised,” said Canderous. “Jantessa is located far out on the Outer Rim, about as far as you can get without leaving the Galaxy. They prefer to keep to themselves. Few outsiders are ever allowed on their world.”
“So how do you know about it? No, wait.” Carth smirked. “Let me guess. You Mandalorians conquered them, right?”
“Conquered them?” Canderous chuckled. “We tried. Never could get past their defences though. They had some type of planetary shield that we could never break through. And though our forces were superior in numbers, their small fighters managed to take quite a heavy toll on our resources. So, we moved on to more… rewarding targets.”
Carth’s brow raised and he snorted with amusement. “You mean to say, there was someone out there who defeated the Mandalorians before the Republic even got involved?”
“I wouldn’t call it a defeat,” Canderous said defensively. “More like a draw. Even so, I’d like to think we did them some damage.”
“So, why didn’t they help the other worlds that were being ravaged by the Mandalorians?” Mission asked.
Canderous shrugged. “Like I said, they prefer to keep to themselves. But I did hear a rumour that after Revan’s fleet turned on the Republic, the Jantessans willingly co-operated with the Sith.”
Mission scowled. “So they *are* Sith!”
“Perhaps,” Canderous answered. “Perhaps not. Either way I can tell you this. They didn’t come all this way for a social call. Like I said, they prefer to keep to themselves. They detest ‘outlanders.’”
Carth rubbed his forehead. “I don’t like this,” he said softly. “Something tells me that we’re going on another mission.”
“We’re not going anywhere until I’ve seen the city,” Mission said adamantly. “Besides, if those Sith guys have just arrived, then there’s no way our friends are coming out anytime soon. Please, Carth? Can we go? Pleeeease?” She batted her eyelashes persuasively.
Carth rolled his eyes, and exhaled a sigh of defeat. “It’s against my better judgement, but…all right, Mission.”
“Woohoo!” Mission jumped for joy.
“But just to get something to eat, all right?” Carth interrupted firmly.
“Yeah, sure,” Mission agreed, though she couldn’t hold back her mischievous smile as she rocked back and forth on her heels with anticipation. “Just to get something to eat.”
“Think I’ll stay here,” Canderous said, giving Carth an unenviable smirk at what he perceived as babysitting duty. “I’ll go and see how the droids are getting on in the maintenance bay.”
“Yeah, you do that,” Carth said flatly. “And, if Rade comes….” He paused, then shook his head. “Oh, who am I kidding?” he said under his breath. “We’ll meet you back here in a couple of hours, Canderous. C’mon, Mission. Let’s go.”
No sooner than Carth had turned his back, than Rade Chano’s voice called out his name from across the garden’s courtyard.
“Abandoning us already, are you?” Rade grinned broadly and his dark eyes smiled as he approached with Bastila, Jolee Bindo, and Juhani in tow.
Startled at his friend’s sudden appearance, Carth floundered a bit. “What? Erm, no, we were….”
“We were just going into the city to get something to eat,” Mission interrupted, glaring at Carth not to contradict her. “Care to join us?”
“You mean to leave the Temple grounds?” Bastila shook her head in shocked disbelief. “Oh, no. No, I don’t think that’s a very good idea, Mission. Coruscant is a very big place. Even dangerous, in some sections. Besides, you’ll find that the food provided here is far superior in its quality and nutritional value than anything you will find on the outside, especially for the needs of a….”
“If you say *growing child*,” Mission warned her, “I swear I’ll….”
“Food sounds good to me,” Rade chimed in, attempting to end the dispute before it got started.
Bastila stared back at Rade. “But she’s…”
“Hungry,” Rade finished for her. “Lighten up,” he added, giving her a quick wink. “I think we could all use a little diversion for a while. Don’t you?”
Bastila blushed. “Well, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to…to get our minds off of Council matters for an hour or so.”
“An hour?” Carth asked warily. “So is that how much time you expect those Jantessans to take with the Council?”
Rade winced. “Ah. You saw them, did you?”
“Yeah, we saw them,” said Mission. “In all their creepy Sithiness,” she added with a shiver.
“What do they want?” Canderous asked bluntly.
Rade sighed. “I can’t say.”
Carth snorted. “Typical Jedi,” he muttered under his breath.
“No, Carth,” said Rade. “I can’t say, because I don’t know. None of us do.”
“Then can you at least tell me what you were discussing in there for hours upon end?” Carth asked testily. “You know how much I hate being left out of the loop.”
Rade grinned. “I know, I know.” He paused, looking first at Bastila, then Jolee, then Juhani. “The Council didn’t say I had to keep it a secret,” he said to them.
“Are you sure you want to tell them?” Jolee asked with concern.
“They are your friends, Rade,” said Juhani. “I think they have a right to know.”
Bastila’s brow wrinkled. “Rade, I think it might be wise if you consulted with the Council before….”
“No,” Rade said decisively. “Juhani’s right. They all travel with us by their own decision. They have a right to know.” His deep brown eyes locked with Carth’s. “The Council was trying some ancient healing techniques to help me gain some of my memories back.”
“Oh,” Carth said, nodding even though he wasn’t quite sure what to make of Rade’s statement.
“Memories of when I was the Dark Lord,” Rade added.
Carth’s anxious expression quickly turned solemn. “Oh.”
“Jantessa is one of the worlds Revan visited. When the Council received the request from the Jantessans for an audience, they also received a curious query about Revan.” He shifted uncomfortably. “About me. They wanted to know if the Jedi had any information on where I might have travelled to after the Mandalorian Wars. The Council thought it was important that I try to remember visiting Jantessa to discover the reason behind their interest.”
“Oh,” Carth said tonelessly.
“And did they?” asked Mission. “I mean, did you remember anything?”
Rade shrugged. “Nothing substantial. Bits and pieces. Like the visions of seeking out the Star Forge.”
Mission let out a tense sigh. “Well, that’s a relief. I mean, not that I’m glad that you didn’t remember anything useful, but I’m glad that you didn’t remember anything…well, you know….”
“Sithy?” Rade teased.
Mission smiled. “Yeah. Sithy.”
“Don’t worry,” Rade said, and although he was answering Mission, he was looking at Carth. “I’m not Revan anymore. And if I ever do remember anything ‘Sithy’, you’ll be the first to know. As long as I’ve got friends like you to help me, there’s no way I’ll ever fall again.” He gave Bastila a look that told her what was true for him was true for her as well. “No way any of us will fall again.”
“Well, that’s good to know,” Mission said.
“Yeah, that’s…that’s good to know,” Carth echoed, noticeably relaxing, but still visibly tense.
“So, c’mon,” said Rade, smiling once again. “The city, and all of its inferior, unhealthy, non-nutritious culinary delights await us.”
“Ah!” Jolee Bindo rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “*Real* food!” He put a grandfatherly arm around Mission and led the way out of the gardens. “Now, I’m not knocking the Jedi’s version of ‘nutrition,’ but what I am really sick of is all that gunk that comes out of those damn processors on that ship of ours! Food? Hah! You know,” he said conspiratorially to the young T’wilek, “there used to be this little place that I knew of not far from here, found it when I was a student here, oh, a millennia or so ago, that used to serve the best Szantisian Paddlefish steaks this side of….”
As the rest of the group followed Jolee and Mission, Rade discreetly pulled Carth aside. “I have a feeling that the Council will be sending us on another mission soon,” said Rade. “You up for it?”
Carth nodded. “I’ve come with you this far. I won’t let you down now.”
“And what about your son, Dustil?” asked Rade. “I know you haven’t had the time off that you deserve. I’d understand if you had other obligations…”
“Don’t worry about me,” said Carth. “I’ll see Dustil again, but not at the expense of letting you or the Republic down. I serve the Republic so he can have a better life. He knows that.” Carth smiled weakly, then sighed. “C’mon. We’d better catch up. We’ll need to keep an eye on those two,” he said, nodding his head at Mission and Jolee walking up ahead. “No telling what kind of trouble they’ll get into.”
Rade patted Carth on the back. “Right. I’ll take Jolee. He’s old, and easily distracted,” he added with a grin.
Carth gave a quick grin back. “Aw, gee, thanks. And, thanks, Rade,” he added in a more serious tone. “For keeping me in the loop about your memory and all. It means a lot to me, and I appreciate it. I shouldn’t have doubted you.”
“I’m your friend, Carth. Voicing any doubts you have only helps me to stay on the right path. So really, it’s me who should be thanking you.”
“Still, it was wrong of me, and…and, well, I’m sorry. I do trust you, Rade. You know that, don’t you?”
“I know.” Rade’s eyes narrowed mischievously. “Just… don’t get all sentimental on me, okay? Bastila’s watching, and, well…,” He winked. “I have a reputation to uphold.”
Carth laughed. “I won’t say another word.”
Pretty good so far, Jasra. Keep it up!
Great job![/generic encouragement] Its pretty interesting, and it'll be good to see a fic with Mission in it. :D Keep up the work.
Good work :) Like it,
“The delegation from Jantessa, Masters,” the Temple guard announced to the members of the Jedi Council.
“Thank you,” said Master Vandar. The Temple guard nodded obediently and motioned the party forward. As their Sith leader approached, the Jantessan soldiers parted their ranks, allowing the solitary figure in the draping violet robes to join him.
“I am Master Vandar,” the Jedi Master addressed the Jantessan entourage. “On behalf of the Jedi Council, we welcome you to Coruscant.”
The leader of the party took a step forward. “I am Berland,” he said, his voice smooth and as confident as a statesman. “I bring you salutations and greetings from the Jantessan High Presidium. And may I present to you, Prime Keeper Ithra Do’Shaanan.”
Ithra’s hood was slowly removed, revealing a young, human female, dark haired, but with a fair complexion and pale violet eyes. Ithra and Berland both bowed courteously to the Council Jedi, but Berland made sure he did not bow so low as to lose eye contact. “We are pleased, Master Vandar, that the Jedi Council has granted our request for audience,” Ithra said.
Master Vandar bowed his head in return. “Given the reclusive nature of the Jantessans, the request was most…unexpected. Tell me, for what purpose have you come?”
Berland answered instead. “I am sent here as an envoy for the Jantessan High Presidium to ask for your assistance in a slightly unusual matter.” He paused, giving a brief look over his shoulder at Ithra. “But perhaps some history is in order first. Five years ago, two Jedi came to Jantessa and petitioned the High Presidium for an audience under the pretence of ‘facilitating communication’ with the Republic, who had just defeated the Mandalorians. Normally the Jantessans would have refused such a request by outlanders, being as they are a rather insular society, but somehow these two Jedi managed to gain favour from the High Presidium, and an audience was granted.”
Master Vandar sighed sadly. “Revan and Malak,” he said grimly.
“Yes,” Berland confirmed. “Lord Revan used the invitation to attack. Unprepared for the assault, many of the Jantessan leaders were slain. The remainder willingly submitted to Sith control, and Jantessa soon dedicated their resources to the Sith fleet. But you know this, yes?”
Master Vandar nodded. “We know of several worlds that provided resources to the Sith. Although,” he added thoughtfully, “not all of them did so willingly.”
“There were a few Jantessans who resisted,” Berland said. “But their resistance was,” he grinned, “…short-lived. The predilection Jantessans have for rules and regulations made it easy for them to adapt to Sith ways, especially once they realised there was much more to gain through collaboration than resistance. Their decision not only spared them any lasting damage to their planet’s surface, but kept their society intact. But, since the destruction of Darth Malak’s fleet, things have changed. The Jantessans are no longer servants of the Sith. Despite any ’undeserved’ rumours to the contrary,” he added quickly.
“Undeserved rumours?” Master Vrook commented acerbically. “Curious, then, that the Jantessans should choose a Sith Master to lead their delegation!”
Berland’s brow raised. “Sith Master?” he said incredulously. “Oh, you do flatter me, Master Jedi. However, you are mistaken. I am neither Master, nor Sith. I am merely...an ‘employee’ of the Jantessan High Presidium on a purely diplomatic mission.”
“Do not stand before us and deny you serve the Dark Side!” Vrook snapped. “We can all feel the disturbance in the Force, the dark power that radiates from within you!”
“Dark?” Berland snorted with amusement. “And here I was thinking I was more just a… deep shade of grey.” He gave a quick, wry grin. “I do not deny that I was once a Sith. In fact, I was one of the…administrators left on Jantessa by Lord Revan. But, being as I am your ‘guest,’ I will try to explain my particular situation to you, if only to alleviate any suspicions you may harbour.
“As I said,” Berland continued, “much has changed since the destruction of Lord Malak’s fleet. There was…unrest among the few Sith who remained on Jantessa. As word reached us of Lord Malak’s demise, most left to seek out other Sith, other Masters, but some, like me, remained. The Jantessans abhor contact with outlanders. So much so that they would rather employ others, like myself, to engage in such activities rather than do it themselves. In exchange for my services, they provide me with whatever I desire. I shall not bore you with any of the sordid details, but suffice to say I serve them because it suits me. And they accept my service because it suits them. It’s a comfortable arrangement—much more comfortable than any Sith Lord could offer me.” He turned to Master Vandar. “Now, shall I continue on to the reason for my visit, or shall I return to Jantessa and inform the High Presidium that you have refused to treat with them?”
“I believe you have explained yourself well enough for the moment,” Master Vandar replied. “Please, continue.”
Berland nodded politely. “Like I said, the Jantessans detest contact with outworlders. However, they are realists. With the defeat of Malak’s fleet, Jantessa has been left with few options for trade, mostly due to the disruption caused by the Mandalorian Wars. Only their routes with Onderon and Deralia remain, and the Jantessans cannot hope to prosper within such a limited scope. They seek new markets, but short of dealing with the Hutts or the Exchange, which they find less than desirable,” he added with a sneer of disgust, “they have few options. In short,….” Berland paused, and took a deep breath, as if it pained him to say the words. “The Jantessans want to join the Republic.”
Master Dorak, who had been quietly observing the visitors since their arrival in the Council Chambers, arched a curious eyebrow. “Then this is a matter for the Senate, not the Jedi Council.”
Berland’s eyes narrowed. “Believe you me, if I felt the Senate could help more in the matter, then I would not have bothered coming here. I have…contacts in the Senate who are more than willing to sponsor a motion for Jantessa to join, but the Prefects of the High Presidium are at odds in selecting a Senator. And therein lays the problem. They can’t exactly join the Republic if they have no one to represent them.”
Vandar frowned. “If you are asking us to choose a Senator for them, then that we cannot do.”
“You seem to be very adept at public speaking,” observed Master Zhar.
“For a Sith,” Master Vrook interrupted ascerbically.
“Why do you not represent them?” asked Master Zhar.
“Because of their stubborn penchant for the rules!” Berland snapped. He paused, taking a deep breath to regain his composure before continuing. “Although the Jantessans have allowed me certain ‘liberties’ in their society, I am still, and always will be, an outlander. Therefore, according to their ‘rules,’ the office of Senator is forbidden to me. However,” Berland gestured to Ithra, “it is not forbidden to Keeper Ithra.”
“Then I fail to see the problem,” said Master Vandar.
“Although they are isolationists,” Berland continued, “the Jantessans are not ignorant as to the role the Jedi play in the Republic. After all, you are the ‘famed mediators of the Galaxy,’” he said with more than a hint of sarcasm. “Ithra is young and inexperienced. It is their wish, their request, for the Jedi to instruct her in ways of the Republic—to impart to her the arts of diplomacy and protocol. In exchange for this service, the Jantessans promise to share their knowledge of planetary defensive shielding with the Republic. Information, I might add,” he said somewhat bitterly, “they refused to give the Sith, even during the occupation. Their shields proved quite effective against the Mandalorians. Indeed, even Lord Revan had to use subterfuge to gain his way through them. The technology could serve the Republic well.”
Master Vrook snorted with disgust. “And you think we would accept the promises of a Sith?”
Berland held up a finger in protest. “Ahem. *Former* Sith.”
“Call yourself what you will,” Vrook retorted. Turning to Master Vandar, he said, “This is obviously an attempt by the remnants of the Sith forces to spy on the Republic and the Jedi Order. To discover if we’ve been weakened by the recent wars.”
“Oh, please!” Berland interjected. “If the Sith, or the Jantessans for that matter, wished to spy on you would they have been so blatent as to send me here? A Derailian smuggler, a protocol droid, even a Mandalorian mercenary, would have been a less obvious choice!”
“Perhaps it is your intention to be obvious,” Vrook countered. “To hide in plain sight. It would not be the first time we have seen the Sith use that approach.”
“What? Do you actually believe that I *wanted* to come here?” Berland said incredulously, and he glared menacingly at Master Vrook. “Here to this…this ostentatious, overbearing Temple of Lies? To be surrounded by you so-called Masters of the Light, brimming with your archaic belief in your depraved Jedi Code, all too ready to spew forth prejudicial Jedi philosophies at even the slightest hint of the Dark Side? Why the very idea is not only revolting but….”
“Enough!” Ithra interrupted, to Berland’s obvious chagrin. “Do not berate our hosts, Berland. We are guests here.”
Berland’s jaw set, and he stiffly bowed his head to her. “My apologies, my lady.”
Keeper Ithra stepped forward. “Forgive me for my outburst, my lords,” she calmly addressed the Council, “but as Berland was specifically instructed not to dishonour you, it is my duty to intervene. He was not entirely truthful with you when he described his situation earlier. While it is true he comes at the bidding of the High Presidium, it is only with the completion of this mission will his position of envoy be secured. It is a punitive task,” she added, giving him a sideways glance, “but one he must complete for his part in the Contamination wrought by the Jedi.”
“The Jedi?” Master Vandar asked, his brow furrowing with doubt.
She nodded once. “As it is his task to explain, I shall allow Berland to continue,” and she moved back to her former place.
Berland cleared his throat. “The Jantessans hold Revan and Malak ultimately responsible for the Sith’s occupation--what they call the ‘Contamination’. And, just as they hold me responsible for once serving them, they hold you, the Jedi Order, responsible for training them in the first place. And the Jantessans desire… restitution.”
“Revan and Malak had already fallen to the Dark Side when they visited Jantessa,” Master Vandar said. “They were no longer of the Jedi Order.”
“Unfortunately, the Jantessans do not share your point of view,” said Berland. “Since the Jedi trained Revan and Malak, so the Jedi are held responsible for their actions. By agreeing to instruct Keeper Ithra, you will be redeeming yourselves in their eyes. As I reiterate, they have this unnatural penchant for adhering to the rules. They merely wish instruction about the Republic and its protocols before they ‘play the game’, so to speak. And, really, in all due respect, they aren’t asking for much in return.”
“And if we refuse their request?” Master Vrook asked suspiciously. “What then?”
Berland gave a non-committal shrug. “Then I will return to Jantessa and inform the High Presidium that their offer was vehemently rejected. Jantessa will not join the Republic, nor will they likely ever be inclined to do so in the future. Of course,” he added with a deliberately pensive sigh, “in order to secure my position with the Jantessans, I would have to seek out an alternative solution to their trade problem.” The corner of Berland’s mouth twisted upwards in an ill-boding smirk. “I imagine there are many worlds in the Outer Rim who would be most grateful to accept the Jantessan’s offer of planetary shielding in exchange for trading rights—quite possibly, even some who might even consider leaving the Republic altogether for such a grand favour. Especially considering how the Republic, and the Jedi, did such an ‘exquisite’ job in protecting them in the past,” he added sardonically.
Master Vandar frowned slightly. “We will adjourn to discuss this matter in private. Quarters will be provided to you and your party. When we are ready, you will be summoned before us to hear our decision.”
“Then I will leave you to your deliberations,” said Berland, bowing slowly. He and his party turned to leave, but as Berland reached the door, he paused, pointed a mindful finger in the air, and turned back to face Master Vandar and the Council.
“Oh, there is just one more thing,” he said with all of the shadiness of a used swoop bike salesman trying to explain away the small print. “When Lord Revan visited Jantessa he took away with him an artefact from one of their temples. The Jantessans would like you to return it to them, as a proof of your commitment to honour their request. A token of good will, more or less. I did tell them that they could hardly expect the Jedi Council to be interested in such a menial task, but…”
Vrook frowned deeply. “What sort of artefact?” he growled. “A Sith holocron, perhaps?”
Berland snorted with amusement. “No, nothing as remarkable as that, I’m afraid. To be honest, they didn’t tell me much about it. I know it’s a crystal, of sorts, and that it was housed in one of their temples until its removal by Lord Revan, but beyond that….” He shook his head. “It is my impression, however, that its value to them is more… sentimental in nature. If you decide to assist them, Keeper Ithra will provide you with more details.” He bowed curtly, and left to join up with the rest of his party.
As the door closed behind them, Master Vandar turned to one of the Jedi Temple guards. “Summon Rade Chano and the rest of the crew of the Ebon Hawk to the Council Chambers. We have much to discuss.”
Good job, any spoilers involving the crystal? ;)
Rade Chano drew breath as he approached the members of the Jedi Council for the second time today. While before only the Jedi in his party had been privy to the Council’s previous session, when they had attempted to retrieve his memories of being Revan, this time the rest of the Ebon Hawk’s crew had been invited to attend. Rade shot a quick look over his shoulder. The rest of his crew, apart from Mission who seemed to be more concerned with a loose thread on her newly purchased tunic than anything else, all seemed to realise this was going to be more than just a discussion. It was a briefing for their next mission.
“As you know,” Master Vandar addressed them, “the Council has met with the Jantessan delegation. They have informed us that they desire to join the Republic for the purpose of establishing new trading routes. And they want our help in educating and training one of their own in the ways of the Republic so that they may adequately represent themselves in the Senate.”
“Of course,” said Master Vrook, “we have doubts about their sincerity. Jantessa was one of the only worlds on the Outer Rim to come out of the Mandalorian Wars virtually unscathed. But when Darth Revan’s fleet attacked them,” he glared accusingly at Rade, “they willingly collaborated with the Sith. Without their resources, the Sith threat may not have grown so quickly. And although they claim to no longer be under Sith control, they have sent a *former* Sith Administrator as their chief envoy.
“They are reputed to be fervent isolationists,” Vrook continued, “but they do have some connections with other Outer Rim planets, most decidedly Onderon and Deralia, currently their only trading partners. As you know, Onderon’s commitment to the Republic is not as strong as we would like. If Onderon were persuaded to leave the Republic, they would most certainly take other planets with them, leaving the Outer Rim wide open to Sith influence.”
“Well, then we should help them,” Mission blurted. “The less Sith in the Galaxy, the better.”
Carth gave Mission a reprimanding glare. “Let’s not rush into things. Let’s just hear the rest of what the Council has to say first.”
Mission shrugged. “Sorry,” she whispered meekly.
“If we decide to assist the Jantessans,” said Master Vandar, “they have promised to share their advanced planetary shielding technology with the Republic.”
“Shielding which not only serves in a defensive capacity,” added Master Dorak, “but also helps regulate Jantessa’s climate, making it one of the most productive food producing planets in the Galaxy. This climate regulating technology could prove useful in healing the ecosystems of Republic planets damaged by the Wars.”
Carth’s attention piqued. “Wait, are you suggesting that the Republic could use these shields to somehow restore planets like…like Telos?”
“And Taris?” Juhani asked.
“It could aid in their restoration, yes,” Dorak replied.
“Then we should help them,” Carth said eagerly.
“If planets like Telos and Taris can be restored, it would benefit the Republic in so many ways,” Juhani agreed.
Mission snorted. “Talk about rushing into things,” she muttered under her breath.
“There is one further point of interest in the Jantessan request,” said Master Vandar. “As a show of good will, they wish us to recover a relic that was removed from one of their temples. A relic removed by you, Rade, when you were Darth Revan.”
Rade cocked an eyebrow, but remained silent for the moment.
“We feel that this relic is the reason for their initial inquiry about your whereabouts after the Mandalorian Wars,” Vandar continued. “They have been searching for it.”
“The Jantessan’s Sith envoy made a half-hearted attempt to dismiss this relic’s importance,” said Master Vrook, “claiming that he had no knowledge of its purpose or origin save that it was some sort of crystal from one of their temples. Whether he is being truthful, or whether he is purposely concealing information in order to get our attention, is uncertain. What is certain is that the crystal is important, but the manner of its importance remains a mystery.”
“And we will only receive more information about it if we agree to help educate their prospective Senator,” said Master Vandar.
Master Vrook eyed Rade critically. “The Jantessans hold the Jedi Order responsible for your actions as Revan, as a teacher is held accountable for the actions of their student. If we assist the Jantessans, then you, and the crew of the Ebon Hawk, must locate and retrieve this object.”
“Another task in the process of my redemption?” Rade asked, more of a statement than a question.
“Yes,” Master Vandar replied. “What are your thoughts on this matter?”
“Well,” Rade began, “I think first we need to establish if the Jantessan’s interest in establishing trade and joining the Republic is genuine. It could just be a thinly veiled attempt to spy on the Republic.” His comment gained an approving look from Master Vrook.
“While it does seem odd that they would want to join the Republic so readily,” Bastila said, “perhaps they have been influenced through their increased contact with Onderon. If their balance of trade has been disrupted from the loss of the Sith fleet, it naturally stands to reason that they would attempt to increase trade with one of their other partners. And," she added, "if it is their intent to spy on the Republic, it does seem rather obvious to send a Sith, former or not, to head their delegation.”
“Agreed,” said Master Vandar. “Although, as Master Vrook suspects, misdirection may be their intent.”
“As to the relic….” Bastila’s forehead crinkled slightly as she thought for a moment.
“Whatever it is,” Canderous interjected, “whatever its purpose, this relic was obviously important enough to Revan to take in the first place. I would guess it’s a Sith weapon of some sort.”
“It could be a weapon,” Bastila agreed. “Revan did purposefully seek it out at close to the same time as he was searching for the Star Forge.”
“But if it were a weapon,” Juhani asked, “wouldn’t the Jantessans have used it to defend themselves against Revan’s attack?”
Rade’s brow began to furrow.
“Maybe they were not aware of its full potential,” Jolee Bindo offered. “Or maybe they used it for a different purpose.”
“Perhaps it channels or augments the Force in some way,” Bastila suggested. “If the Jantessans are still co-operating with the Sith, they could be searching for it in order to bolster Sith power in the area. Using Jantessa as a base, the Sith could be seeking to restore the resources they lost with the destruction of the Star Forge.”
“The Council has also considered that possibility,” said Master Vandar.
“Then we have to help them,” said Carth. “If for no other reason than to get that relic before the Sith can get it their hands on it.”
Master Vandar noticed Rade was deep in thought. “Rade? What is it? Have you remembered something?”
“Nothing specific,” Rade said, shaking his head. “Just a…feeling really. But it does seem likely that if the Jantessans collaborated with the Sith, they would also have had access to the Sith’s administrative data. They should have some knowledge about what Revan was planning to do with the relic and where he was going when he left Jantessa.”
Master Zhar nodded. “We wondered that ourselves. Why come to us for answers, when the answers they seek should already be in their possession?”
“Unless that’s part of their deception,” Master Vrook added.
Rade shook his head. “I don’t think the Jantessans, or the Sith for that matter, would waste their time with such an elaborate scheme to merely spy on the Republic. No, I think they do need our help in finding the relic, this crystal. And I also think they believe that extending an offer to join and assist the Republic would be the only way of gaining our assistance.”
“To open themselves up to regular contact with the Republic seems a high price for isolationists like the Jantessans to pay for the return of a mere relic,” said Canderous.
“I agree,” said Rade. “But it seems it’s a price they are willing to pay to get it back.”
Master Vandar nodded. “I sense you are correct in your assumption,” said Master Vandar. “This crystal is indeed very important to them.”
“Well, I say we help them, whatever their intentions,” said Carth. “Spying can work both ways, you know. If Jantessa is still under Sith control, it would be easier to keep an eye on them if they were part of the Republic rather than not. And, the technology they’re offering is too good to pass up. It could save a lot of lives.”
“I concur,” said Bastila. “The benefits to the Republic far outweigh the risks. And we will only gain more knowledge about this relic if we agree to the Jantessan’s request. It’s obviously important. I believe it is the will of the Force that we find it.”
“Bastila is right,” said Master Vandar. “The Force is indeed at work here. We must agree to the Jantessan’s request.”
Master Vrook let out a sigh, followed by a reluctant, “Agreed.” In turn, the rest of the Council also agreed.
“All this talking and we came back to what I said from the start—less Sith, more Republic, we should help them,” Mission said, rolling her eyes. “So, when do we leave?”
Master Vandar chuckled. “Patience, young one. We first need the Jantessans to tell us more about this relic.” He nodded to one of the Temple Guards standing by the door. “Summon back the Jantessan delegation.”
Once again, the Jantessan Keeper, Ithra, and the *former * Sith envoy, Berland, were ushered into the Jedi Council Chambers. Sporting a slight smirk, Berland looked relaxed and confident as he approached, but when he caught sight of Rade Chano and his crew standing quietly off to the side, the corners of his mouth dropped and his face went ashen. He maintained his composure, but his posture indicated his awareness levels had dramatically risen.
“Hey, she’s not much older than me!” Mission whispered to Carth about Ithra.
“Shh!” Carth put a finger to his lips as a sign to be quiet.
Master Vandar spoke. “After much deliberation, the Council has decided to accept your petition for assistance. The Jedi will train Keeper Ithra on the ways of the Republic, and in turn we will arrange for the Republic to send some of their engineers to Jantessa to study your planetary shields.
“We will also attempt to locate your missing relic.” He motioned for Rade and Carth to step forward. “Jedi Knight Rade Chano will lead this mission along with Carth Onassi, a highly experienced Republic officer. Both of them have prior experience in navigating the Outer Rim.”
Berland cocked an eyebrow. “Indeed,” he murmured under his breath.
“Keeper Ithra,” Master Vandar continued, “your envoy has said that you would provide us with the necessary details on this missing relic. The more information we have, the quicker we may be able to establish its location and return it to Jantessa.”
Ithra nodded. “Yes, of course. The relic we seek is ….”
“Wait!” Berland raised his hand abruptly in front of her face, silencing her. He looked critically at Rade, and then turned his steely gaze on Vrook, then Zhar, then Vandar.
“Is something wrong?” Master Vandar asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence.
Berland let out a small snort. “If I didn’t already know that the Jedi lack a sense of humour, I would ask if this is some sort of joke,” he replied snidely.
Ithra frowned curiously. “Berland, what are you talking about?”
Keeping his eyes fixed on Rade, Berland leaned in and whispered something into her ear. Ithra’s eyes grew wide and a look of horror graced her delicate features. “What?” She, too, then stared at Rade for a moment, then turned back to Berland and asked, “Are you sure?”
“Oh, yes. Absolutely.”
“But why? Why would they do this?”
“I can only think of ‘one’ reason,” Berland answered, giving her a knowing look. “But as I have already expressed my opinions to you on that matter, I can only suggest that you ask the Jedi Council yourself.”
Ithra nervously bit her lower lip. “Master Vandar, this… this… man,” she stuttered as she glanced nervously at Rade. “The one you have chosen to lead this mission…. My envoy informs me that he is not ‘Rade Chano’ as you claim, but that he is, in fact… Darth Revan.”
Rade and the Council looked surprised at her revelation.
“Is this true?” Ithra asked.
Master Vandar sighed. “It is difficult to explain to an outsider,” he began. “But, yes, it is true that Rade was once Darth Revan. But through the Force, Revan’s damaged mind was healed by the Council, and Rade Chano now stands in his place.”
“So…he’s some sort of…clone?”
“No. But his memories have been altered, his corruption from the Dark Side healed by the Council—using a Force technique that is as ancient as the Jedi Order itself.”
“Healed?” Ithra’s brow furrowed with uncertainty. “How?”
“Like a memory wipe,” Rade volunteered. “I have no memories of being Revan or the Dark Lord. So now I am Rade Chano, Jedi Knight, a servant of the Light and protector of the Republic.”
Berland’s dark eyes focused on Rade. “So, the rumours were true. You have returned. You once again serve the Republic. And it was you, not the Republic, who defeated Darth Malak.” He shook his head slowly. “Even standing before you, my Lord Revan, I can scarcely believe it.”
“What I find hard to believe is how you recognised me,” Rade said, regarding Berland with suspicion. “Revan was known to always wear a face shield and cloak.”
Berland grinned wryly. “And he was also known to have a personal assistant whenever he sent his droid away on a mission. HK…47, wasn’t it?”
Rade frowned. “You were my personal assistant?”
“Only while we orbited Jantessa. I must admit I am grateful to you, my Lord Revan, for assigning me there when you departed. Your previous assistants ended up dead through a series of freak accidents and mishaps, all of which curiously coincided with the return of your droid. I was most fortunate that the droid had not yet returned when you decided to reassign me.”
“Enough of this reminiscing,” Ithra said irritably. “Master Vandar, this still does not explain why this Council would deliberately insult us by assigning this…this…*person* to head this mission. Nor does it explain your deception on the part of his identity.”
“We meant no insult,” said Master Vandar. “The Council believes it is fitting for Rade to be the one to recover your relic, as part of the process of his redemption.”
“Redemption? How is that even possible if he claims he has no memories of being…” Ithra wheeled to face Rade and her violet eyes turned suddenly and completely black. Rade grimaced in pain and clutched his temples at her unannounced invasion of his mind…
“Ithra!” Berland scolded her.
…and almost as soon as it had begun, it stopped. As her eyes returned to normal, her frown morphed into a scowl. “You lie,” she said to him accusingly. “Master Vandar, I find this man you call Rade Chano totally unacceptable!”
“Unacceptable?” Rade said incredulously, as he rubbed his forehead. “You invade my mind and you have the nerve to call me…”
“Be silent, defiler!” Ithra snapped in a raised tone. “And do not ever speak to me unless I address you first!” She turned back to Vandar. “We come here in good faith, to ask for your assistance in rectifying a serious situation your Order has caused our world, and you dare to mock us in this manner? Why Prime Prefect Keel even considered this petition in the first…!”
Berland grasped Ithra’s arm and hurriedly whispered something into her ear. “Please,” he added audibly. Ithra nodded and inhaled a deep, relaxing breath.
Berland cleared his throat. “Please forgive her outburst, Masters. Ithra is young and impulsive. Perhaps you can now understand why the Jantessan’s believe it important for her to receive the benefits of your wisdom and guidance before she becomes a Senator. The consequences of invading the minds of others in that type of environment could be… disastrous.” He nudged Ithra, and then nodded towards Rade.
“I’m sorry,” Ithra apologised to Rade, although it was plain that she still seethed with anger. “It was wrong of me to touch your mind without your permission. Please, forgive me. I meant no harm.”
Rade grudgingly nodded his acceptance. “No harm done. I think,” he added.
“Your connection with the Force and your ability to touch the minds of others was unknown to us, Keeper Ithra,” said Master Vrook. “Until now. Tell me, was it your intention to allow your envoy’s alignment with the Dark Side to cloud our perceptions?”
Ithra exchanged looks with Berland. “I admit it was intentional, yes,” said Ithra. “Berland was selected for this task in hopes that his affinity for what you call the Dark Side would serve as a distraction from my own Force affinity. But you must understand,” she pleaded. “We were afraid that if you knew, you would not meet with us, let alone help us. All Keepers are Force Sensitive, though we do not use its power in the same way as your kind does.”
“You accuse us of deception, yet it is you who have deceived us,” Master Vrook growled. “With such deceit, there cannot be an agreement between this Council and Jantessa!”
With great distress in her eyes, Ithra turned to Berland. “I am sorry. They should have chosen someone else, not me.” She hung her head. “I have failed them.”
“Ithra, you are the Prime Keeper,” Berland said, gently laying a hand on her shoulder. “There was no other choice.”
“Keeper Ithra,” said Master Vandar, “perhaps if you would explain more about this relic, and the nature of your use of the Force, we could still come to an arrangement.”
Ithra looked to Berland for guidance. He nodded, and she drew a breath and began. “The relic we seek we call the Aylah’han Gem. It is a violet coloured crystal, about the size of my palm, plain and smooth, but with reflective inner facets that make it beautiful to behold. Before it was stolen it resided in The Haven, our most revered Keeper Temple. It is ancient, but its true origins are unknown. It is our belief that the Gem radiates and reflects the very essence of the Force. We Keepers use our Force affinity to tune it, keeping our world in harmony and balance. With the Gem gone, our world and our people are descend into chaos. If the Corruption is not purged, if balance not regained, Jantessa will end up a lifeless and barren world. The Keepers have foreseen this.” She gave Rade an icy stare. “Revan sought the Aylah’han Gem’s power for himself. He killed many Keepers in his quest to gain its secrets. Now, only a few of us remain. And we want it back.” She faced Master Vandar. “We need it back.”
“This Gem…the Keepers use its power to manipulate the actions of others?” Master Vandar asked.
Ithra considered for a moment before answering. “I suppose,” she said slowly, “that an outlander might consider the Keepers' actions to be manipulation. We, however, prefer to call it ‘collective spiritual maintenance.’”
Vandar nodded knowingly. “Ah. All becomes clear now—its importance to you, and its importance to Revan.”
“Just how do the Keepers use the Force to ‘tune’ this Gem?” Master Vrook asked.
Even though he tried to hide it, it was obvious that Berland, too, was eager to know the answer to that question. But Ithra’s jaw set with stubborn resolve. “I will not tell you. That knowledge is forbidden to anyone other than a Keeper.”
Berland let out a barely audible sigh of disappointment. “Safe to say that without such knowledge, neither a Sith nor a Jedi could wield the Gem. Just in case you were wondering,” he added with a quick acidic smile directed at Vrook.
“Keepers do not ‘wield’ the Aylah’han Gem,” Ithra snapped at Berland. “Just as we do not ‘wield’ the Force. Only infidels, defectors from the true path, use the power of the Force in such a profane manner.”
“So you keep saying,” Berland commented softly.
“If I may ask, in what manner do the Keepers use the Force?” Master Vandar asked Ithra.
“We ride the currents of the Force, concentrating our efforts on seeking out the truths and deceptions within others. Although,” she admitted, “seeking is difficult when the subject is strongly attuned with the Force.” She looked at Rade. “If you had known I was seeking, you probably could have resisted my intrusion.”
“Well, I’ll be sure to be on my guard next time,” said Rade.
“I have told you all that I can,” Ithra said to the Council. “Will you not help us get the Aylah’han Gem back?”
“We will help,” said Master Vandar. “But we insist Rade Chano leads the mission. He and his crew have successfully faced many dangers… resisted many temptations of the Dark Side. And we believe that it is the will of the Force that they find the Gem. What say you?”
Ithra took a moment to consider. But just as she was ready to answer, Berland once again whispered to her. She frowned uncertainly as he spoke, but then nodded in agreement.
“I, too, believe the Force will guide the Gem back to us, Master Vandar,” she said. “But we still have considerable reservations about Rade Chano. However…,” She hesitated for a moment. “If there is no way to persuade you to choose another mission leader, I request that my envoy and I accompany him in the search.”
Mission did a double-take. “What?” she blurted. “She and the Sith want to go with us? Oh, no way!”
“Shh!” Jolee admonished her for interrupting.
“This is most…unexpected,” said Master Vandar.
“So, Sith,” said Master Vrook, “was this your plan all along? To use the Jedi to guide you to the Gem?”
“No,” Berland said matter-of-factly. “But it seems I have no choice now.” He looked at Rade. “My Lord Revan, you were the one who stole the Gem in the first place. How can we be sure that once it’s found you won’t just keep it for yourself?”
“Because I am a Jedi Knight and my duty is to uphold and obey the will of the Council,” Rade said flatly. “And don’t call me Lord Revan. My name is Rade Chano.”
Berland bowed his head. “My apologies. Old habits die hard.”
“Perhaps, Sith, it is you who seek the Gem’s power for yourself,” Master Vrook accused. “Perhaps you harbour ambitions to become the next Dark Lord.”
Berland laughed. “Again, you flatter me, Master Jedi! But my prime concern is securing my position with the Jantessans. Besides, the Gem would be no more use to me than a polished ornament. What Ithra said is true. Only a Keeper can attune themselves to its power. But I will be damned if such an artefact comes into the possession of the Jedi, and if that means going along on this mission to ensure that the Gem is indeed returned to Jantessa and not kept by you, then so be it.” He paused. “Think of me as an impartial third party, if you like. But if Lord Rev…if Rade Chano is going to be involved in its retrieval, then I’m coming along to ensure that he does what he was sent to do.”
“I have no objections to having passengers,” Rade said, gaining some surprised looks. “Provided, of course, they stay out of the way and don’t interfere with any of my crew.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Berland said smoothly.
“Then it is settled,” said Master Vandar. “Someone will notify you when the Ebon Hawk is ready to depart.”
“Thank you, Master Vandar,” Ithra said with genuine gratitude. “We will be ready.”
Great wor, keep it up!:thumbs1:
P.S. I nice sig :lol:
Great story so far Jasra. I can't wait to read more.
Chapter 5--Part 1
In the Jedi Temple’s hanger bay the Ebon Hawk was being prepped for departure. Carth was lingering by the ramp, supervising the loading of supplies, when he caught sight of Rade Chano examining the underside of the ship’s hull. Rade carried a hydrospanner in his hand. One of the supply droids nudged Carth with a datapad. Without looking, Carth hurriedly entered his approval and went to see what Rade was up to.
Rade had paused underneath a panel and had just removed it when Carth approached him. “Problem?” he asked.
“The maintenance log recorded some power fluctuations in the forward stabiliser circuits during diagnostic testing,” Rade said as he examined the circuits. “They were within tolerance, and it’s probably nothing, but I thought I’d check it out just to be sure.”
“Need any help?”
Rade tweaked a circuit. “Thanks, but I think I can handle it. Has everything been loaded aboard?”
“Just about. But,” Carth added slowly, “we’ll have to leave your swoop bike behind in order to fit everything in the garage.”
Rade sighed with marked disappointment. “Well, I don’t suppose there’ll be a need for any swoop racing where we’re going.” He closed the panel and crossed over to the one on the opposite side. “And how’s Canderous getting along?”
“He’s finished outfitting the cargo hold with the sleeping bays, like you asked,” Carth told Rade. “It’s more than adequate, but I’ve got a feeling that our ‘passengers’ will want something a bit more….”
“Luxurious?” Rade suggested, as he removed the panel’s cover.
“Well, for lack of a better word, yeah,” Carth agreed. “In fact, I doubt either one of them has ever even seen the inside of a freighter, let alone travelled in one. I can tell you, they won’t be happy.”
Rade grinned. “Actually, I was planning on assigning them the port dormitory, while we men take the cargo bay.” He tweaked one of the connecting wires. “But it won’t hurt to let Berland sweat a bit first.”
Carth chuckled. “I assume you have a reason other than personal amusement for not telling him this up front.”
“Personal amusement? Who me?” Rade grinned. “Yes, there’s a reason. If Berland thinks he’s gained a small victory, I was hoping it might cause him to drop his guard a bit. There’s still something he’s not telling us.”
“I sensed that, too. And I’m not even a Jedi.”
“All we can do for the moment is keep an eye on him and the Jantessan Keeper,” said Rade, as he used his spanner to make an adjustment. “See if either one of them act or do anything suspicious.”
Carth frowned. “I know the Sith could be trouble, but the girl? She’s just a kid.”
“I know.” Rade tightened up a bolt. “But innocence can be a powerful shield. Berland holds a lot of influence with her, and we don’t yet know the extent of her powers.”
“Yeah, she wasn’t too specific about them during the meeting, was she,” Carth agreed.
“I’d go as far to say ‘deliberately unspecific.’ And I can tell you from personal experience,” Rade added, gritting his teeth as he tugged on the spanner, “that her little ‘mind probe’ demonstration, brief as it was, was incredibly painful.”
Carth nodded. “I’ll warn everyone to keep an eye on both of them. Well, as soon as you’re done here, we should be ready to board. I’ll go tell the others and then get clearance to depart.”
“Great. And I’ll get the droids when I’m finished here.”
Carth hadn’t been gone a minute when Rade heard a voice say, “My Lord Rev…Rade, I’d like your permission to board.”
Still holding the hydrospanner in position, Rade turned his head to see Berland standing behind him. “Well, we’re not quite ready to depart.”
“So I see,” Berland said, eyeing the hydrospanner protruding from the open panel. “I’ve just come to see if the preparations you’ve made for Keeper Ithra are… adequate for her needs. She is an inexperienced traveller and I want to alleviate anything that could cause her any potential distress.”
Rade raised an eyebrow. “You sure do keep a close eye on her.”
“Since her armed escort is not accompanying her on this journey, the task of her protection has fallen to me. I’m only doing my job, my lo…. Rade.”
Rade eyed Berland dubiously. “I don’t have time to give you a tour myself, but I’ll have someone show you your quarters.”
Berland nodded. “Fair enough.”
Rade clicked his comlink. “Canderous, could you come out to the ramp and escort one of our passengers to their quarters? They’d like to inspect them before we leave.”
“Understood,” Canderous’ voice replied. “I’ll be right there.”
“I’m almost finished here,” Rade said to Berland. “I’ll join you in a few minutes.”
As promised, Canderous led Berland through to what used to be the Ebon Hawk’s cargo bay.
“This is a cargo hold,” Berland stated flatly as he walked inside.
“Yup. Sure is. You know, despite what everyone says, you’re pretty quick for a Sith,” Canderous added.
“*Former* Sith,” Berland corrected him, then frowned as he realised he had just been insulted.
Berland meandered around the hold, newly fitted out with some sleeping bays. “And this is what your captain considers ‘adequate’ accommodation?” He deliberately dragged a gloved finger over one of the fittings, then sneered at the dust collected on his fingertip. “This won’t do at all.”
“Well, it’ll have to,” said Canderous. “’Cause aside from the crew’s quarters, that’s all there is. Unless you’d like to see the storage room.”
With his nose wrinkled in disgust, Berland turned slowly to face the Mandalorian. “May I remind you that Prime Keeper Ithra is a diplomat, a member of the highest caste of her society, and her position demands the highest quality standards?”
Canderous gave him a malicious grin. “Only if I can remind you that this is a freighter, and not some pompous Corellian pleasure cruiser.”
Berland returned Canderous’ insincere smile with one of his own. “You surprise me, Mandalorian. I would never have thought you’d even seen the inside of a civilian ship, save perhaps another garbage scow of the like of this one. But perhaps I’m expecting too much. Mandalorian standards of acceptability are known to be more ignoble and less cultivated than the rest of the Galaxy’s.”
Canderous glared dangerously at him. “Is that the best you can do? Insults?”
“Insults?” Berland feigned innocence. “Why, I was just stating a fact. If you can’t handle the truth….”
“I can ‘handle’ all sorts of things,” Canderous growled, clenching his fists. “Perhaps you’d like a demonstration?”
“Problem?” Rade poked his head through the door.
“Yes,” Berland said, his eyes still locked with the Mandalorian’s. “These so-called quarters you have assigned to myself and Keeper Ithra are barely acceptable for a rancor, let alone a diplomatic envoy. I’ve seen better in the lowest levels of Nar Shaddaa.”
“Well, the Ebon Hawk is more suited to carrying plasteel cargo containers than pampered passengers. I’m sorry, but this is the best I can do.”
“What about your quarters?” Berland asked.
“I don’t have separate quarters,” Rade said. “I share the same conditions as the rest of my crew.”
“Indeed?” Berland said snobbishly. “Even so, surely they would be a more suitable alternative. I mean, look at this place! Visible supports, open grid ducts…. It’s not only drab, but thoroughly depressing!”
“My crew has been through a lot in the past few weeks,” Rade told him. “I can hardly ask them to give up their quarters just to provide you with better decor.”
“I’m not asking for a climate-controlled room with room service and a view,” Berland pressed. “Only for a bit more… privacy. This cargo bay…. It is rather exposed.”
“All the better to keep an eye on you,” Canderous said. “Sith.”
“Ach! This is pointless!” Berland pushed past Canderous and headed for the door. “If you won’t do anything about this,” he said to Rade, “then I will take the matter up with Master Vandar!”
“All right, all right.” Rade held his hands up in surrender. “I suppose,” he started slowly, “that I can move the men from the port dormitory to here. What do you think, Canderous?”
Canderous shrugged. “If it will shut him up, I’m okay with it.”
“There, see?” Rade said demonstratively. “All settled. Now will you please tell your protégé that it is time to board? We’re wasting time here.”
Berland huffed at Rade, but as he pushed past him, he smirked victoriously.
Just as soon as Berland was out of earshot, Rade said, “That went well.”
“Yes, it did,” said Canderous, without a hint of any anger. “Although I really wish you would have waited outside a bit longer just so I could’ve thumped him one.”
Rade grinned. “The mission’s just beginning, Canderous. You may yet get your chance.”
“Good,” Canderous smiled. “Something to look forward to.”
“Right. I’m off to get the droids now. Anything you need?”
“I could use some more chemicals,” said Canderous. “The Jedi don’t seem to believe in stims much. We’re running low.”
“You got it.”
Chapter 5--part 2
“Irritated Answer: Master, of course I am familiar with Jantessa! I am most disappointed that you did not think to ask me about it before you met with their envoy,” HK-47 said as he followed Rade through the Jedi Temple towards the hanger bay.
“Well, I didn’t really have the opportunity,” Rade replied. “Besides, the Council wouldn’t have allowed a droid like you to attend their session.”
T3 beeped and whirred.
“Indignant Reply: My assassination protocols have nothing to do with it! It is obvious that the reason for the Council’s aversion to droids is because they do not wish their sessions to be recorded by anyone other than them.”
“So what do you know about Jantessa?” Rade asked HK.
“Definitive Answer: Jantessa is the sole habitable planet in the Seridium system. It has a population of seventeen million meatbags, most of which engage in activities associated with its abundant agricultural and mineral resources. The Jantessans actively discourage visitors and allow only select traders to import or export goods. They rely heavily on their advanced planetary shields for their protection and therefore maintain a minimal defensive force.”
“So what happened when I…when Revan arrived?”
“Answer: Upon your arrival, you spent many hours in orbit trying to figure out a way to penetrate their planetary shields while you attempted to negotiate with the Jantessan leaders. Eventually, the Jantessan’s sent a delegation to meet with you. The meeting must have gone well, as the Jantessan’s lowered their shields, allowing you to invade their planet with relative ease.”
“And then what?”
“Statement: I do not know, Master. I appear to have no more data on the subject. Conjecture: Perhaps you deleted it from my memory core for security purposes.”
Rade brow furrowed in thought. “What do you know about a Sith called Berland?”
“Proud Answer: Berland was selected by me to be your personal assistant during my absence after the Jantessan invasion.”
“Explanation: Yes, Master. You sent me on a mission shortly after the planet had been secured. Reticent Addition: Although, I seem to have no record of that mission’s purpose nor its outcome. Most curious.”
“And you selected Berland yourself?”
“Incredulous Response: Why, yes, Master! I took great pride in selecting all of the meatbags that were your personal assistants. Berland had all of the relevant qualifications.”
“What ‘relevant qualifications?’”
“Detailed Narration: A weak command of the Force, but highly trained in melee and hand-to-hand combat; a high attention for detail; previous administrative experience; and, most importantly, expendability.”
“Condescending Explanation: Master, a personal assistant is privy to many private details that could pose a danger lest they were disclosed. Justification: Regular termination of your meatbag assistants was necessary for your protection.”
T3 whined softly.
“Not that I’m agreeing with your methods, but why didn’t you terminate Berland?” Rade asked.
“Perturbed Reply: Master, unfortunately you had already transferred the meatbag to the surface of Jantessa when I returned. Optimistic Suggestion: However, if you so desire, I will gladly carry out his termination.”
“No,” said Rade. “He’s the Jantessan’s chief envoy and he’ll be travelling with us on this mission. No matter how irritating he is, you are not to kill him. Understood?”
“Disappointed Affirmation: Yes, Master. Understood.”
Chapter 5--part 3
“I can’t believe that Rade agreed to let that Sith go with us,” Mission said to Zalbaar and Jolee as the three of them headed to board the Ebon Hawk. “I mean…eeuw! He gives me the creeps!”
Zalbaar grunted his agreement.
Jolee laughed. “He gives me the ‘creeps,’ too. But, Rade didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. And I don’t imagine old Berland will feel too comfortable himself being outnumbered by Jedi on a small ship.”
“I guess,” Mission agreed. “That Ithra seems okay, though.”
Zalbaar growled and shook his head.
“Okay, so she’s a bit stuck up, Big Z, but no more than Bastila is,” said Mission. “But apart from that, she seems nice enough.”
Zalbaar growled more urgently.
“Yeah, okay. That mind probe thing she did on Rade wasn’t very nice. And, did you notice her eyes? They like went completely black!”
“I noticed,” said Jolee.
Zalbarr growled and snarled a few times.
“Well, now that you mention it, Z,” Mission reconsidered, “I suppose that was kind of creepy, too. But, she did apologise for it afterwards, so she can’t be all that bad.”
“We’ll see,” said Jolee.
“Anyways, I think it might be nice to have someone my age on board for a change,” Mission continued. “We’re bound to have ‘something’ in common. Although I hope she doesn’t do that ‘eye thing’ if someone makes a crack about her age. Rade said it kind of hurt when she did it to him. I mean, I know people aren’t being mean when they tell me I’m too young, or too impatient, or too naïve, or too…”
“Talkative?” Jolee offered.
Zalbaar roared his own suggestion.
“See? That’s what I’m talking about. I know you guys are only joking, or that you say things like that because you care about me, but she might not be as mature as I am when it comes to that kind of stuff, you know?”
Jolee grinned. “Indeed. Well, her people want her educated in the ways of the Repulic. Perhaps you can give her some pointers.”
Mission beamed as they climbed the ramp of the Ebon Hawk. “Yeah,” she said thoughtfully. “Yeah, I mean, there’s bound to be a lot of stuff that she wants to know but might be embarrassed to ask an adult about.” She considered for a moment, then grinned. “Yeah, I think I might be able to teach her a thing or two.”
Zalbaar grunted in a low, cautionary rumble.
“I agree,” Jolee said to the Wookiee. “Just don’t overdo it, Mission.”
Wow Jasra, I am really enjoying your story so far. So much in fact, that I think it is the 3rd best fic I have read since I have been here. *Only 2 weeks, he he.* I would have to put them in this order.
1. Plight into darkness. By Forcefight
2. Mace Windu, Jedi master reborn. By RC
and your's would be 3rd :)
Chapter 5--part 4
“I’m afraid the accommodations on the Ebon Hawk will be rather more ‘humble’ than what you are used to, Ithra,” Berland said, as the two of them trailed behind Juhani who was escorting them to board the Ebon Hawk. “In fact, I’m very sorry that our duties are forcing us to experience such a disagreeable environment.”
“Duty is the hinge of Balance. Balance is the Keepers’ mandate,” Ithra said rather automatically.
Berland sighed as if he’d heard that saying one too many times. “Yes, my lady. But I just want you to be aware there may be potential hardships ahead for you. For us.”
Juhani glanced over her shoulder at the pair, then shook her head in disbelief. “I’m sure Rade will see that all of your needs are adequately met.”
“Nothing aboard that dilapidated scow will ever be adequate,” Berland commented snidely. “Though I suppose we should applaud any efforts to try.”
The three of them boarded, and Juhani led them through the main hold towards the port dormitory. Zalbaar and Mission stood off to one side, watching with interest as the three passed by them and into the corridor.
Ithra’s nose wrinkled. “Berland,” she whispered. “What is…that…that ghastly odour?”
Berland sniffed the air, then grimaced. “Which one?”
“It’s…biological,” Ithra said, gingerly raising the hem of her cloak up off the floor as she cautiously continued forward. “Like the lingering scent of a beast.”
“Ah,” Berland said knowingly. “That would probably be the Wookiee that was standing near the young T’wilek female we just passed in the main hold.”
“Wookiee?” Ithra shook her head. “I see no valid reason for the T'wilek to be allowed to bring her pet on this journey,” said Ithra. “It can only serve as a distraction from our quest. Berland, you will instruct Rade Chano to order her to leave it behind.”
Juhani abruptly stopped just short of the port dormitory’s door, and then turned and gave Ithra an odd look. “Zalbaar is *not* Mission’s pet,” she said defensively. “He is her friend and part of this crew.”
“Part of the crew?” Ithra said incredulously. She snorted. “I find it hard to believe how such a beast could be of any value whatsoever on this mission.”
“And I am finding it hard to believe the same thing about you,” Juhani countered.
“You will not address Keeper Ithra in such a disrespectful manner, Cathar!” Berland snarled. “She is here to observe and learn, not to be insulted by the likes of you.”
“Then she should observe quietly and learn to keep any prejudicial thoughts to herself,” Juhani said with controlled calmness. She opened the dormitory door. “These are your quarters. Please let me know if you need anything. Anything I can reasonably provide, of course,” she added with afterthought.
Chapter 5--part 5 (last)
On the bridge of the Ebon Hawk, Bastila sat in the navigator’s chair, plotting the course for Jantessa.
“Where’s Carth?” she asked, sensing Rade approaching her from behind.
“He’s just finalising our clearance to leave now that our passengers have boarded.”
“So Juhani mentioned.”
“Oh? Was there a problem?”
“Not as such,” said Bastila. “But Keeper Ithra has already complained to Juhani seven times—the room’s too cold, she needs more pillows, ….”
“Great.” Rade rolled his eyes. “And we haven’t even left yet. This is going to be a long journey.”
“Just under 60 standard hours, if I’ve correctly calculated the hyperspace route Berland gave us,” Bastila said, and she started to enter the co-ordinates into the navicomputer.
“Hopefully, things will settle down once we get moving,” said Rade. “Ithra’s probably just nervous about being among so many ‘outlanders.’”
“Or it could be that she’s just spoiled.”
“You think? Well, I guess your judgement would be better than mine about that.”
Bastila paused in her data input, her finger hovering over the next key. “And what is that supposed to mean?”
“Well, I just meant that you have more experience than I do when it comes to …”
“More experience? In what, being spoiled?”
“Yes…no…look, that’s not what I meant!”
Being that she was not facing him, Rade couldn’t see the corners of Bastila’s mouth gradually beginning to turn upwards. “Then what do you mean?”
“What I meant was that you have better judgement in this situation because you’re a woman.”
“Oh?” she said, sounding affronted. “So, now you’re saying you think only women can be spoiled? Is that it?”
“Look, you were a young girl cloistered in the Jedi order, and, well, I’m guessing she’s kind of from a similar environment. Just thought you might know better than I would about the reasons behind her behaviour, that’s all.”
She turned her head around to face him, and smiled sweetly.
Rade slowly blinked with the realisation that she’d been teasing him, and then he sighed. “Okay,” Rade conceded. “You got me. This time,” he added with a wink.
Bastila was about to say something, when Carth suddenly entered the cockpit and took his seat at the controls.
“Right,” Carth said, as he fired up the engines. “We’re all set.”
As the ship prepared for takeoff, Bastila leaned back in her chair with a satisfied grin.
“And, yes,” she said to Rade. “In my experienced judgement, I do think she’s rather spoiled.”
Chapter 6--part 1
Berland gingerly grasped the plastene-wrapped pillow Juhani had just irately shoved into his chest. “Thank you,” he said tenatively.
“You are welcome,” Juhani replied, her voice as cold as the polar ice of Coruscant. “Now, if that’s all…?”
Berland glanced over his shoulder at Ithra, who sat on one of the beds, drumming her fingers on the bedframe. “That will be all. For now.”
As he closed the door, he sighed. “Ithra, you really must be careful what you say in future."
Ithra shrugged. “I was just making a simple observation.”
“Yes, but ‘observing’ that the fibres on the extra pillow the Cathar Jedi brought to you appear remarkably similar in colour and texture to her own hair could be considered… inflammatory. Here,” he gave her the new pillow in its plastene wrapping. “She brought you a new one.” He sighed heavily. “You know, you are lucky she is a Jedi. Cathar’s are known to be easily agitated.”
“I don’t care. This ship is horrible,” Ithra complained, and she threw the pillow to the end of the bed. “Everything’s cold, and metallic, and cramped, and drab, and…, and… cold.” She drew her violet cloak tighter around her body. “I don’t like it.”
“I did warn you there may be hardships,” Berland said flatly. “And if you are to become a Senator, you will encounter many things you will not like. But that doesn’t mean you have to offer comment on all of them.”
Leaning back in his chair, with his feet propped up on the edge of the console in the main hold, Rade was reading through something on a datapad. Bastila sat next to him, but her attention was focused on one of the computer screens when Juhani quietly approached.
“Rade?” Juhani asked. “May I speak to you?”
“Sure.” He sensed she was uncomfortable. “Is something bothering you?”
“It’s that Ithra,” Juhani blurted. “She is so…so…infuriating! I have given her everything that she has asked for to make her more comfortable, and all she does in return is complain even more!”
“Hmm. I seem to recall someone saying, “Things will settle down once we get moving,’” Bastila quietly quoted Rade’s words without even looking up. “I wonder who that was…”
“In my opinion, Ithra is nothing more than a spoiled brat,” Juhani said hotly.
“Yeah, well, that seems to be the consensus around here, too,” Rade said, giving Bastila a defeated look.
“And,” Juhani continued, “I do not trust that Berland. Twice he has queried me about the security systems on this ship when I brought them extra supplies.”
Rade opened his mouth to say something more, but Juhani continued. “And, you know what is even worse?”
Rade shook his head.
“Ithra said….” Juhani paused to regain composure. “She said, I shed.”
There was a pause. Bastila slowly raised her eyes, then drew her hand over her mouth as she stifled a grin.
“You shed?” Rade asked, trying his best to look serious.
“Yes, she said I shed! Like a beast!” Juhani closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. “There is no emotion, there is peace.” After another couple of breaths, she continued. “And, Ithra said something similarly derogatory about Zalbaar when she was boarding, but I dare not repeat it.”
“I see,” Rade said slowly.
“And what’s more,…”
Rade held up his hand. “I think I get the picture, Juhani. I’ll have one of the droids take care of their needs for a while. You go and take a break.”
Juhani let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Rade.”
As she headed off for the starboard dormitory to meditate, Bastila’s eyes flicked cautiously in Rade’s direction.
“Did you know she sheds?” Rade asked straight-faced.
Bastila let out a laugh, then quickly covered her mouth, tighter this time. “I’m sorry,” she said after a moment. “I shouldn’t laugh at Juhani’s expense. It’s not funny.”
Rade’s mouth slowly upturned into a smile. “Yes, it is,” he said, unable to keep a straight face any longer. “But I think I’ll have a little talk with Berland just the same.”
Wow. Those were two well written parts of chapter 5. You had me laughing my guts out with the whole, "DId you know she sheds?" line. Very funny stuff. I really like your style. You have great attention to detail. Better be careful, I might have to move your Fic up to the number 2 slot on my favorites :)
Chapter 6--part 2
Berland closed the dormitory door behind him, and with his lips pressed into a tight line, he turned to Ithra. “I’ve just had the displeasure of being chastised by Rade Chano for your ‘observations’ about the Cathar. He has decided to assign one of his droids to tend our needs now.”
Ithra folded her arms across her chest. “At least droids don’t shed,” she said grumpily.
“No, they don’t. And neither are they easily manipulated.” Berland heaved a disappointed sigh. “Really, Ithra, you must be more cautious in what you say if you wish to remain a Prime Keeper. If you are truly not up to the task, I can always ask Prefect Keel to ….”
“Then, please, just do as I say,” Berland said, dropping his shoulders in exasperation. “Ithra, I know it’s hard for you being on board this ship with Lord Revan, or Rade Chano, or whatever he wants to call himself, but unforeseen circumstances have forced us into our current predicament. For the sake of our mission, we must make the best of it.”
“I know. But his presence is… disturbing.” She pulled her cloak tighter around her shoulders. “He lied about having no memories of being Revan,” she said accusingly. “He does. I sensed them. They were faint and unclear, like a whisper floating through a fog….” She shivered, and then her face grew blank as if recalling a forgotten memory of her own. “But they were there.”
“Then let us hope his memories stay buried,” said Berland. “We don’t need any more complications on this mission.” Her vacant gaze began to puzzle him. “Ithra?”
“Even from my room in the Priory, I could hear the screams echoing from the Haven that day,” she said distantly.
He studied her for a brief moment. “Ithra, some things are best left forgotten,” he said in a deceptively even tone while gliding his hand in a barely noticeable arc. “Do not dwell on the past. Keep your focus on the here and now.”
Ithra blinked a few times. “But we must not dwell on the past. We must focus on the here and now.”
“An excellent suggestion, my dear.” Berland pensively templed his fingers and began to pace the room. After a few moments, he said, “Now that we are underway, I believe it is time that we got better acquainted with our travelling companions.”
“Why? Because I know what I could expect from Lord Revan, but this ‘Rade Chano’ he now professes to be….” Berland paused, tapping an index finger across his lips. The faint creases across his brow soon deepened into contemplatory grooves. “He is an enigma. And to quote a proverb from my home world, “When the character of a man is unknown to you, look at his friends.’”
Ithra frowned. “But you told me I should not seek on outlanders,” Ithra said. “You said they consider it….”
“Impolite,” Berland finished. “Yes, that is exactly what I said. However, I am not suggesting that you use your seeking abilities on them. I was thinking of rather a more… direct approach.”
“What do you mean?”
“I want you to talk to them.”
A look of horror flashed across her face. “Me?”
“They are far more likely to open up to you than they are to me. A *former* Sith,” he added sarcastically.
“Talk to them about what?”
“Just engage them in conversation.”
“Actual face-to-face conversation?”
Berland nodded. “Yes. Discover their likes, their dislikes, their history, their skills, their weaknesses—get to know them.”
Ithra gasped. “But… but… that’s…that’s repulsive!” she said with obvious disgust. “I have absolutely no desire to ‘get to know’ any of them! They are outlanders! Infidels!”
“As am I,” said Berland. “And you have no problem conversing with me. Listening, is a problem. Heeding my advice, most definitely so. But you seem to have no problem whatsoever in voicing any of your opinions and ‘observations.’”
“But you’re….different,” she said. “You’re my mentor.”
Berland sighed with exasperation while he closed his eyes and smoothed his hands over his head. “Ithra,” he said, looking at her directly. “You will have to get accustomed to interacting with other ‘outlanders’ besides me if you are ever to become a Republic Senator. Is that not our prime objective? Your duty?”
“Yes.” Ithra's shoulders sank. “Duty is the hinge of Balance,” she said blandly. “All right. I will ‘talk’ to them.”
“Good. You can start with apologising to the Cathar.”
Ithra’s mouth dropped. “Do what?”
“Apologise,” Berland repeated. “My dear, it is most unwise to dismiss any of our travelling companions without first assessing if they possess skills or knowledge that could be deemed useful to us in future. And even though the Cathar was most upset with you, you will be amazed by the amount influence a modest retraction can gain.” He paused. “Oh, and keep in mind what I told you in the Council Chambers. Do not lie to any of the Jedi. Either answer only what they ask or change the subject. You did well, for the most part, in front of the Jedi Council, but you still lack the skills to completely mask any deceit. And if I can sense it, they most certainly can.”
“Be honest with them, but be frugal with your words, and ravenous with your ears.”
“I will do my best,” she said meekly.
“That’s all I ask,” Berland said gently. “But first, perhaps a small tour around the ship is in order, so that you may get your bearings. After all, we are passengers, not prisoners.” He motioned her to follow him. “Come. We’ll start with the basics, like the food dispensers, and work our way up to the Cathar from there.”
Great chapter Jasra. Very well written and thought out. My only question is when does the next chapter come out? :) It surprises me that you haven't gotten into RC's sig, but I guess you can only fit so many characters in those things so, oh well. Great job, keep it up!
Chapter 6--part 3
The door to the starboard dormitory was open when Berland approached it with Ithra in tow. Sitting in the middle of the floor, cross-legged and eyes closed, Juhani appeared to be meditating.
Berland quietly cleared his throat.
Juhani’s eyes slowly opened, then narrowed. With an expression like an early frost, she asked, “Yes? What is it you want now, Sith?”
“Forgive us for disturbing you,” Berland said in his best diplomatic voice. “But Keeper Ithra has something to say to you.” He gently nudged Ithra forward.
Ithra inhaled deeply before she began. “I came to apologise,” she said. “Berland has explained to me how my comments may have unintentionally affronted you. I find my sudden exposure to so many different beings to be... unsettling. Still, that is no excuse for my thoughtless words or tactless actions. Please, forgive me for what I said and how I have treated you.”
In the long silence that followed, one could almost hear the debate going on in Juhani’s head. Finally, the words came. “Apology accepted.”
Ithra released the breath she had not realised she’d been holding. “Thank you,” she said, sounding gratefully relieved.
“Now, is there anything else?” Juhani asked.
Ithra glanced at Berland, who gave her a negligible nod to continue. “Berland has told me that your people and mine share something in common,” said Ithra. “He says that the Cathars, like the Jantessans, sometimes find it difficult to relate with other species.”
“Yes.” Juhani’s expression softened, but suspicion still lingered in her eyes. “This is true.”
“If you could see to share some of your own experiences, I believe it might help me to empathise with outla…others, so that I may better serve my people, and the Republic, should I become a Senator.”
“You wish me to teach you?” Juhani eyed Berland with mistrust.
“You are a Jedi,” Ithra said. “Who better than a Jedi to instruct one on the fair treatment of others?”
“Indeed,” Juhani warily agreed. She again paused for consideration before answering. “If you are sincere in your request to learn more about fairness and empathy, then I will instruct you. A Jedi *would* be better suited for the task than a…”
Berland coughed, loudly and with intent to interrupt. “Yes, well, I believe that is my cue to leave.” He smiled at Juhani, although his smile wasn’t entirely friendly.
Ithra blanched. “You’re leaving me? Here? Alone?”
“Ithra, you are perfectly capable of keeping yourself occupied for a while,” Berland said to her. “Besides, the High Presidium requires a detailed report upon our return—a report that I have yet to even begin. And I shouldn’t need to remind you of how Prefect Keel feels about ‘proper documentation.’” Berland bowed his head and abruptly left, leaving Ithra with Juhani.
“Come. Sit down,” Juhani said, beckoning with her hand. Ithra hesitated, but eventually sat across from the Jedi, mirroring her cross-legged position, although it was hard to tell as the cloak covered her entirely apart from her head. “Now, where should I begin?” Juhani mused.
“I suppose at the beginning,” Ithra answered quite earnestly.
Juhani chuckled softly. “Ithra, how old are you?”
“In Republic standard years? Almost sixteen.”
“Almost?” Juhani’s head bobbed knowingly. “I see. And have you always wanted to be a Keeper?”
Ithra frowned. “I don’t understand your question. I am Force Sensitive,” she said plainly. “It is my duty to be a Keeper, so that is what I am.”
Juhani sighed softly. “I was young, much younger than you, when I first saw the Jedi. I was just about to be sold as a slave, when they came through on their way to fight in the Mandalorian Wars. They freed me, and I was grateful, but what’s more is that I was so impressed by their kindness and generosity, their strength and sense of justice, that I wanted to be just like them. Eventually, I found my way to the Jedi Enclave on Dantooine. I learned the ways of the Jedi—the Jedi Code, how to wield a lightsaber, and how to use the Force. But, even after all of my training, I was not a Jedi.” Juhani lowered her eyes. “I fell to the Dark Side.”
“But… you are a Jedi now?” Ithra said with uncertainty.
“Oh, yes, of course,” Juhani said. “But only after Rade showed me that being a true Jedi means that you must make sacrifices, take responsibility for your actions, and always be mindful of how your choices affect others. Even now, my hot Cathar blood makes following the path of the Jedi difficult, but I do not give up. Every day, I strive to be the best Jedi I can be. Just as you should strive to be the best Keeper, or the best Senator, you can be.
“Before, when you were following me to the ship, you said something to Berland. Something about duty and balance?”
“Duty is the hinge of Balance. Balance is the Keepers’ mandate.”
“Yes, that’s it,” Juhani nodded. “Is that the Keeper’s Code?”
“I suppose you could call it a Code,” Ithra said slowly. “It is one of the rules of Aylah’han, the First.”
“The first Keeper?”
“No…. Just the First.” Ithra frowned. “It is difficult to explain.”
“Well, balance is the hinge of empathy, too. You have to imagine yourself in another’s place—consider how they might feel or react to a situation. Then weigh your choices for action against those considerations. That is being empathic.”
Ithra frowned with confusion. “But that is why Keepers are taught to seek,” she said. “So we do not have to imagine the intentions of others.”
“And what about feelings?” Juhani asked her. “What if you find, after seeking, that a person has a different, yet valid, point of view?”
“Again, your question is confusing,” Ithra said uncertainly. “Only outlanders and exiles would have….” She suddenly paused. “Perhaps, I will gain more understanding if I take some time to think about what you have said.”
“Perhaps. But please feel free to ask me for assistance anytime. A Jedi is always ready to help when needed.”
“I do have one thing to ask," said Ithra. "Though it is rather… trivial,” she added.
“These… food dispensers on board….” Ithra lowered her voice conspiratorially. “Are there any other alternatives?”
Juhani smiled. “You do not like the food?”
“No, I do not. Jantessa has many different types of cuisine, but what comes from those devices does not look or taste like anything I would consider... food.”
Juhani laughed. “Talk to Jolee Bindo,” she suggested. “You’ll find him in the medical bay.”
“I’m sorry…I did not mean to suggest I was ill,” Ithra apologised.
“I know what you meant. Jolee doesn’t like the dispensers either. I bet he’s stored away some ‘emergency supplies’ for this journey. If you ask him, perhaps he will share some with you.”
“Thank you.” Ithra gracefully rose to leave. “I will go and… 'talk' to him now.”
Chapter 6--part 4
Jolee was kneeling in front of a storage cabinet in the med bay busy inventorying his supplies, when he heard someone behind him knock lightly on the hatch frame.
His eyes rolled as he turned to confront the interloper. “Look, can’t you see I’m….” He paused as he instantly recognised the unique shade of purple fabric that pooled elegantly on the floor in front of him. Slowly, his eyes lifted to meet a pair of light violet ones set in an expressionless yet flawless face. “Keeper Ithra. It’s you,” he said by way of apology as he rose to stand. “Is there something you need?”
Ithra stared at him for a moment before speaking. “Food,” she finally said.
“Food?” Jolee eyed her over, then chuckled. “Well, if you’re hungry, I can show you how to use the dispensers…”
“Berland has effectively demonstrated their operation to me,” she said frankly. “But whatever that ’product’ is that they dispense….” She shivered with revulsion. “It is not food. The Jedi Juhani suggested that you might be able to assist me.”
Jolee laughed this time. “Ah! So you’re a kindred spirit, are you?”
“No, just looking for something that isn’t….” She hesitated, choosing her words carefully. “Something that is slightly more… palatable.”
“Ach, go on. You can say it,” Jolee urged. “No one will argue with you, least of all me. The stuff that comes out of those processors is a disgusting, stomach churning, over-processed, flavourless muck, with the texture and colour of banth…”
Ithra swallowed back bile. “Yes,” she hurriedly interrupted. “All those things.”
“Oh, sorry,” said Jolee. He scratched his temple. “I have a tendency to get a little carried away sometimes.” Jolee waved a dismissive hand in the air. “So, what were we talking about? Oh, food! Well, let me see what I can do.”
The old Jedi began rummaging through one of the storage units and finally pulled out a small container. “Here’s something you might like,” he said. He opened the container to reveal a quantity of small, oval shaped pellets in a variety of bright colours. “Zorgang nuts. Extremely nutritious, incredibly tasty, very colourful, and most importantly,” he lowered his voice, “of a size that’s easy to hide. Go on. Take it. I’ve got plenty.”
Ithra’s eyes brightened, and a demure grin slowly appeared. “Thank you,” she said, politely taking the container then concealing it under her cloak. “I will try them.”
“Is there anything else you need?”
“No. Yes,” she said, changing her mind. “I am curious about something. The T’wilek female that travels with you….”
“Mission. Her name is Mission.”
“Mission,” Ithra repeated. “What is her position on this ship?”
“Her… purpose,” Ithra clarified. “It is obvious that you are the Medical Officer. What position does she serve?”
Jolee rubbed his chin. “Well, she’s…she’s pretty good at slicing.”
Ithra frowned. “Slicing?”
“You know…slicing through security locks and computer access codes…”
“She’s a criminal?” Ithra said, appalled.
“Well, no…I mean, I wouldn’t go as far as that,” said Jolee. “Let’s just say Mission likes to live her life on the fringe. Sort of thinks outside the box.”
Ithra raised an eyebrow.
“But she would never harm anyone,” Jolee continued. “Well, not out of malice anyway,” he added in retrospect.
“I see,” Ithra said curtly. “And what does her Wookiee do?”
“’Her’ Wookiee?” Jolee chortled. “Well, first of all, Zalbaar doesn’t ‘belong’ to Mission. He’s just her friend. And, take my advice: don’t ever mention that you thought Zalbaar ‘belonged’ to anyone in front of him. Unless, of course, you want to know what it feels like to have your arm pulled out of its socket.”
Ithra’s eyes grew wide.
“Wookiees have been known to do that, you know,” Jolee continued. “Wookiee’s are very strong, fierce fighters and expert hunters. But,” he added sadly, “some folk think they’re only good as slaves, and, understandably, the Wookiees are pretty sensitive about the subject. And some think that the Wookiees aren’t that intelligent since they can’t speak Basic. But don’t let that fool you. They’re just as smart as anyone else—smarter in some cases. Proud and honourable creatures, the Wookies. In fact, honour is why Zalbaar’s here. He has a life debt to Rade, a sort of pledge that the Wookiee’s take very, very seriously. Zalbaar will stay with Rade until the end.”
“You seem to know a lot about Wookiees.”
“I should,” Jolee said proudly. “I spent years in the Shadowlands on Kashyyyk. I’ve met plenty of Wookiees. Even made some very good friends.”
“But you still have not answered my question,” Ithra persisted. “What does the Wookiee…what does Zalbaar do on this ship?”
“Oh, sorry,” said Jolee. “Must have gotten off track again. Well, let’s see….” Jolee pulled at his beard. “He’s a good warrior, can handle most any weapon—blasters, bowcasters, swords—never mind his inherent natural strength. And he’s pretty good with demolitions, too—grenades and mines and the like. I guess if you’re calling me the Medical Officer, you could say he’s the Weapons Officer on board. Does that answer your question?”
Ithra nodded. “Yes. Thank you. You have been very… helpful.” She turned to leave. “And thank you for the nuts,” she added.
“Don’t mention it. And I mean that, mind you,” he said, wagging a finger at her. "*Don’t* mention it. Folk around here might start to think I’m getting soft.” He winked, and then resumed his inventorying.
Chapter 6--part 5
Ithra had taken a wrong turn in the corridor when leaving the med bay and ended up in the maintenance bay, now doubling as the cargo bay since its conversion into a temporary dormitory. Mission, the Mandalorian, and Zalbaar were grouped around a large cargo cube, using it as a table and footlockers as stools. With Zalbaar in the middle, Mission and the Mandalorian sat facing each other, with a small deck of Pazaak cards and a pile of Zorgang nuts arranged between them on the makeshift table.
“Twenty!” the Mandalorian said, victoriously tossing down his card. “I win.”
“Hey, wait a minute… that’s a tournament card, Canderous!” Mission complained. “You can’t use that. That’s cheating!” Arms outstretched, she began to scoop the heap of brightly coloured Zorgang nuts towards her. “The pot’s mine by default.”
“Hey! You didn’t say that I couldn’t…”
Canderous scowled at the Wookiee. “Couldn’t you have chosen someone else to be the adjudicator?”
“He’s a perfect choice. No one’s stupid enough to argue with a Wookiee.” Mission picked up a bright yellow nut and popped it into her mouth. “Not even you.”
Zalbaar uttered a series of staccato grunts in quick succession, laughing as only a Wookiee could.
Ithra was about to turn and go in the other direction when Mission spotted her. “Oh, hey there!” She beckoned Ithra forward with her hand. “Come join us. I’m Mission. And this is Big Z,….”
Zalbaar growled softly in greeting.
“…and that’s Canderous. We were just passing the time. In case you haven’t noticed, hyperspace travel is boring. So, wanna play a hand or two?” Mission deftly shuffled some Pazaak cards in her hands.
Ithra looked at Zalbaar, then Mission, then back to Zalbaar, then Canderous, then back to Zalbaar.
“C’mon,” Mission pleaded, invitingly patting the extra space on her footlocker. “You can sit by me. I won’t bite.”
Zalbaar stretched his arms upwards and rested them behind his head in a relaxed manner. He grunted a few times.
“And Big Z said he promises not to bite either,” Mission translated.
Ithra took a few cautious steps forward.
“I might though,” Canderous said suggestively.
Ithra bristled. “Jolee didn’t warn me about Wookies, or Mandalorians for that matter, being inclined to bite,” she said tartly. “But he did advise me on the propensity Wookiees have for limb dislocation.”
Canderous chortled. “I’m sure I could manage to provide a similar service, if you ask nicely.”
Ithra flashed him a look that could have reduced the Mandalorian to a pile of smoking ashes.
“Just ignore him,” Mission said, giving the Mandalorian an equally dirty look. “And don’t worry about Big Z. I’ll give you plenty of warning if it looks like he’s getting angry. C’mon. Sit down.”
Ithra edged a little closer. “What are you playing?” she asked, squinting to see the cards Mission held.
“You mean….” Mission’s eyes widened. “You mean, you’ve never played Pazaak?”
Ithra tentatively shook her head.
“Never?” A glint shimmered in Canderous’ eyes. “Well, pull up a footlocker, sweetheart, and we’ll deal you in. Erm…minimum wager’s forty credits.”
There was a thump from behind the cargo cube.
“Ow!” As Canderous rubbed his shin, he glowered at Zalbaar, then at Mission. She gave him a quick, wry grin, and then smiled gratefully at the Wookiee.
“Like I said, just ignore him,” said Mission. “We’re playing for Zorgang nuts.” From the other side of the footlocker, she picked up a container from the floor. “Bought them in this shop Jolee showed me on Coruscant. But we can play for something else.” Mission rummaged through the small box. “I’ve got Fizz Busters, some Drontan Gums, Mini-Kips….”
“So,” Ithra interrupted Mission’s recitation, “this Pazaak…it is a wagering game?” Ithra inched forward with curiosity.
“Well…yeah,” Mission said. “It’s kinda boring if you’re not betting something. Besides, when you use something like Zorgang nuts, you can eat your winnings.” And with that she popped a few more of the colourful treats in her mouth.
Zalbaar roared in agreement.
“If you want to, you can watch a hand or two first. Big Z’s just the adjudicator, so it’s just me and Canderous playing really.”
“Of course, it’ll just be me winning,” Canderous boasted. “Okay, kid. Enough talk. Deal.”
Ithra carefully observed how the game was played. The first time, Canderous won as he predicted. The second set was won by Mission. And now it was the last hand of the third set.
“Nineteen,” said Canderous. “I stand.”
Mission smiled. Unlike Canderous, she still held all four of her sidedeck cards in her hand and her cards showing on the table only totalled ten. She drew her next card. “Six.” She threw down one of the cards she held. “And four makes twenty! Yes!” She swept the nuts that made up the kitty toward her and added them to her pile. “Victory is sah-weet!” she said, popping a bright blue Zorgang nut into her mouth.
“Are you sure you’re not cheating?” Canderous asked, giving her a menacing but playful squint.
“Hey! It’s not my fault that you’re not any good at Pazaak,” Mission countered. “So, Ithra, do you want to play? I promise I’ll go easy on you.”
Ithra gently bit her lip as she considered the offer. “No, thank you,” she said politely. “Perhaps some other time.”
“Oh. Well, okay.” Mission looked a bit hurt. “We could play a different game, you know,” she added. “Think there’s a dejarik board around here someplace.”
“I really have to get back,” said Ithra, backing away. “But thank you for the offer.”
“Right. Sure. Anytime. Just let me know.”
Ithra left the way she came in, but she lingered in the corridor for a moment.
“Did I do something wrong?” she heard Mission ask. “’Cause, I don’t think she liked me.”
“The Jantessans don’t ‘like’ anyone,” Canderous replied. “Not even gregarious, hyper-active, Pazaak-cheating kids.”
“Cheating? Cheating! I’ll show you who’s cheating!” Mission challenged. “This time you deal, and it’s double or nothing!”
Canderous chuckled. “You’re on. I never back down from a challenge.”
Great job on the new chapters Jasra. Your story is coming alon very nicely. Can't wait for the next part. Oh and here is 200 coolpoints to add to your account :) And if you haven't been given any yet, then you now have 200 :) Yay!
Chapter 6--part 6
Berland was working on his report for Prefect Keel when Ithra returned to the dormitory. From the corner of his eye he watched her sit down heavily on the edge of her bed and let out a sigh, though whether it was one of relief or exhaustion he couldn’t tell.
“So, I see you survived your encounter with the Cathar,” he said without even looking up from his datapad. “Tell me…what did you talk about?”
“Well,” said Ithra, as she took the container of nuts from under her cloak and set it on her lap. “Basically she urged me to be the best Senator I could be by weighing my choices against the considerations of those with different points of view.”
“Typical Jedi drivel,” Berland huffed as he continued to enter data. “It’s obvious she knows nothing of politics.”
“I told her I needed more time to think about what she said.”
Berland nodded approvingly while he continued to work. “A wise move.”
“She also mentioned that she was once a slave,” Ithra continued. “And the reason why she wanted to become a Jedi was because she so admired the Jedi who freed her.”
“Yes, the Jedi often meddle in affairs that are none of their concern,” Berland commented absently.
“And, she said that holding to the Jedi path is difficult for her being that she has, as she put it, ‘hot Cathar blood.’”
A moment of silence passed—Berland busy entering data, Ithra watching him.
“She fell to the Dark Side once,” Ithra blurted.
Berland suddenly paused.
“She said it was Rade who showed her the path of the true Jedi,” Ithra continued. “She seems to hold him in very high regard.”
“Fell to the Dark Side?” The corner of Berland’s mouth slowly rose upwards into a twisted grin as he looked up. “Interesting,” he mused. “Ithra, you’ve done well to gather such worthwhile information. I shall mention this in my report.”
While Berland quietly resumed his work, Ithra opened the container of Zorgang nuts. There were so many colours to choose from, she wasn’t sure which one to try first. The hard nuts rattled and grated along the sides of the box.
It wasn’t long before the irritating sounds caused Berland to glance up and glare at her. “Ithra, would you please be quiet,” he said, frowning. “I am trying to work here.”
Ithra smiled apologetically and held up a bright orange nut. “Zorgang nuts. Jolee Bindo gave them to me,” she said. She popped the nut into her mouth, then nodded with satisfaction. “He was right. They are quite tasty.”
Berland stared at her dumbfounded. “You conversed with another outlander? On your own accord?”
Ithra nodded while she daintily selected another nut, this time a bright blue one. “And, I also encountered the T’wilek girl, and the Mandalorian, and the Wookiee.”
Berland nearly dropped his datapad. “Why, Ithra,” he said, astonished. “I’m impressed.”
“The Jedi Juhani sent me to Jolee Bindo when I asked her about alternatives to the food dispensers." She paused to eat another nut. "But I only met the others because I took a wrong turn in the corridor on the way back here. I found the Mandalorian to be true to rumour. Ill-mannered and vulgar.”
Berland donned an amused smile as he set down his datapad. “And what did you discover about our fellow travellers?”
Ithra took a moment to consider, and to eat another nut. “Well, the old man, Jolee Bindo, is easily distracted, and I found his thoughts often hard to follow. He talked mainly about Wookiees. He said he spent years in a place he called… the Shadowlands?”
“A place on the Wookiee’s homeworld,” Berland explained. “Go on.”
“When I encountered him, he was busy rearranging the medical supplies to hide containers like this one.” She raised the container of nuts. “I’ve heard that smugglers often do such things. I think he could have been one once.”
“Maybe he still is,” Berland concluded.
“At any rate, he seemed most eager to help me.”
“Perhaps a little too eager?” Berland hinted.
“Perhaps,” Ithra agreed. “But I believe his benevolence was genuine.”
Berland held up a mindful finger. “Beware of generosity without familiarity,” he cautioned. “He could be just trying to win you over so that he may ply you with questions later on.”
Ithra gave an obedient nod. “I asked him about the T’wilek girl. He said she was a…a ‘slicer?’ I’m still not sure exactly what that is, but it sounds criminal.”
“Indeed. Go on.”
“Then I asked about the Wookiee, what he did on board the ship. Jolee said Zalbaar, that’s the beast’s name,” she added condescendingly, “was sort of the security officer on board—skilled with all sorts of weapons as well as in demolitions. Oh, and the Wookiee has a life debt to Rade,” she added. “Some sort of honour debt that he will serve until….”
“Yes, I know what a life debt is,” Berland interrupted. “Excellent work, Ithra,” he praised her. “Anything else?”
“I witnessed the T’wilek, Mission she’s called, and the Mandalorian, Canderous, playing a wagering game called Pazaak. She invited me to join them.” Berland’s eyes widened. “The game seemed easy to play—the person that has the highest total not exceeding twenty…”
“Please tell me that you did not accept her invitation to play,” he pleaded.
“Certainly not!” she said defensively, although her eyes belied the fact that she had wanted to. “I politely declined.”
“Good. Never play a game until you know all of the rules. Especially if the game involves a wager.”
“They weren’t wagering credits. They were playing for nuts.”
Berland rolled his eyes. “Wagering is wagering. Do not be fooled by such poor camouflage.” He sighed. “Did you learn *anything* useful from observing them?”
Ithra considered for a moment. “Despite his overconfident attitude, the Mandalorian is not a good Pazaak player.”
“Well, I suppose that might be useful,” Berland said with some disappointment. “Still, you did well. The information you gained could be advantageous later on. Now, do you understand why I was upset with you earlier at having a droid assigned to us instead of a sentient being? Sentients can be plied, influenced, persuaded to do things by using their weaknesses against them,” Berland explained. “Droids cannot.”
Just then, the privacy chime on the door activated.
“Enter,” Berland said authoritatively.
The door whooshed open, and HK-47 stood at the threshold. Berland’s mouth dropped at the sight of the familiar rusty red droid.
“Greeting: I am HK-47, a fully functional protocol droid, temporarily assigned to insure any of your petty and incidental meatbag needs are met with minimal disturbance to the crew.”
Ithra raised an eyebrow. “Meatbag?” She gave Berland a strange look.
“Retraction: Oh, did I say that out loud?” said HK-47. “I apologise. It has been a long time since I have been assigned to serve a meatbag in this capacity.”
“Berland, this droid is malfunctioning,” said Ithra as she moved closer to investigate it.
“Statement: Keeper Ithra, I assure you I am functioning perfectly within my established parameters.”
“Which are?” Ithra asked.
“Answer: Why, to facilitate communications and terminate hostilities. However, my master has restricted the use of some of my more… unique abilities.”
“Ithra,” Berland asked, while his narrowed eyes were focused on the droid, “do you recall my earlier comments about droids and influence?”
“Well, they don't apply to this one.” Berland eyed the droid over. “Well, well, HK-47 is it? I seem to recall a very capable droid of the same designation and likeness when I served Lord Revan.”
“Proud Answer: Why, yes! In fact, I am the very same droid that selected you, Berland, as my Master’s personal meatbag assistant. Sadly, my master had transferred you before I was able to terminate your employment myself.”
“Berland…?” Ithra took a step backwards.
“And is that why you are here?” Berland asked warily. “To ‘terminate’ me?”
“Negatory: I have been specifically instructed to ignore my previous protocols and ensure the safety of the meatbags now under my care.”
“And Rade Chano has assigned you to care for us?” Ithra asked, more of a statement than a question.
“Answer: Yes. As degrading as the task is, I have been instructed to serve you and your meatbag mentor while you are aboard the Ebon Hawk.”
“Degrading?” Berland suddenly brightened. “HK-47, with your exceptional skills and qualifications it must be very frustrating for you to be treated as a common utility droid. It’s a shame that your master holds such little regard for you now that he’s been… redeemed.”
“Disclosure: I am programmed to obey my master. However, I do find it somewhat disconcerting that my master has developed such an irritating fondness and concern for meatbags and consistently refuses to utilise the full range of my more ‘unique’ skills.”
“Unique skills?” Ithra asked Berland.
“He’s an assassin droid,” Berland said.
Ithra gasped in horror. “What?! But that’s illega…”
Berland clamped a quick but gentle hand over Ithra’s mouth. “Shh.”
“Statement: Possession of an assassin droid is indeed illegal. Clarification: I am a fully capable translator and cultural analyst skilled in facilitating communication and terminating hostilities.”
“Which incidentally requires it to have knowledge of personal combat skills,” Berland said to Ithra as he uncovered her mouth, “for example, during specific situations that may require more aggressive negotiations.”
“Commentary: I am quite surprised, Berland, that your meatbag mind is able to appreciate the nuances of my programming.”
“It’s a shame, really, that a Jedi has no need for your sophisticated talents,” said Berland. “If you were my droid, I’m sure I could manage to find tasks more suited for your superior qualifications.”
“Conjecture: I do not believe my master would sell me to a meatbag such as yourself.”
“No, I don’t suppose he would.” Berland sighed. “Never mind. It’s probably the Jedi’s intention to allow your ‘special’ protocols to be corrupted by disuse over time. Pity really, but,” he shrugged, “what can a droid do?”
“Query: Are you suggesting that my master desires my programming to be altered?!”
“I am not suggesting anything,” said Berland. He gave Ithra a quick look, and then grinned. “I’m merely making an observation. Tell me, has Rade Chano ever asked you to eliminate a target?”
“Answer: No, he has never given me such an order.”
“Ever asked you to covertly sabotage someone’s ship?”
“Answer: No, he has not.”
“Hmm, well, I suppose he wouldn’t do those things, being a Jedi,” Berland said contemplatively. “What about asking you to incapacitate a target so that he may capture them alive?”
“How about allowing you to interrogate a captive yourself?”
There was a pause. “Answer: Sadly, no.”
“Ach, to see such valuable skills wasted.” Berland shook his head and tutted. “Very sad indeed. Still, I suppose such things can’t be helped, being as Rade’s *your* master and you must obey *him*.”
HK-47 went unusually silent.
“Please, thank your master for placing you at our disposal,” Berland said. “And if we require any mundane or petty tasks for you to do, we will summon you on the comlink. Until then, you may remove yourself to the cargo bay.”
“Statement: As you wish.” HK-47 turned and left, and Berland closed the door.
“Berland,” Ithra asked, “is it wise to attempt to plant a seed of dissention in an assassin droid?”
Berland grinned secretively. “We shall see. Now, then….” He rubbed his hands together. “I have a report to finish.”
Great job Jasra! Keep up the excellent work my friend :)
Bastila was alone in the cockpit, sitting in front of the navigation station double checking the Ebon Hawk’s progress to Jantessa, when she felt a pair of warm hands gently grip the back of her neck.
“You’re tense,” Rade said as his hands began to gently massage her.
“I have a feeling that something isn’t right,” she said, relaxing slightly under his touch. “That this mission involves more than just finding and returning this relic to the Jantessans.”
“I know what you mean. I feel it, too.” Rade intensified his efforts steadily moving his hands gently across her shoulders. “Where’s Carth?”
“Engine room. He muttered something about double checking a coupling and left a few minutes ago.”
“Not good about the coupling, but good that we’re alone,” Rade clarified. “This ship seems a whole lot smaller with the addition of just two people. We haven’t had a moment to ourselves.”
“Well, a Jedi’s life is sacrifice,” Bastila said coyly. Rade ran his thumbs up and down her neck in a fluid motion, causing her to let out an unintentional moan of pleasure. “Oh, that feels good,” she whispered gratefully.
“I was thinking,” said Rade. “After our passengers disembark, I’ll maybe take the new ‘guest’ quarters as my own. You know, convert them into the captain’s quarters.”
“Don’t you think that’s a bit extravagant for a Jedi?”
“Not really. There are occasions when a captain needs privacy.”
“Well, for example, it would be helpful to have someplace private to conduct negotiations.”
“Negotiations with whom?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Rade mused. “Maybe the captain of another ship, or a diplomat, or….” He worked his hands down her spine a bit, soliciting another involuntary moan.
“Yes, I… can see… how that might… be beneficial,” Bastila said, between the pulses of his kneading fingers.
Rade grinned. “Glad you agree.”
Rade heard a purposeful cough, then heavy footsteps approaching. His hands immediately stilled, coming to rest lightly on the back of Bastila’s chair. “So, how long before we reach Jantessa?” he asked her, as Carth entered the cockpit.
“Nineteen hours and seven minutes,” Bastila said, straightening herself in her chair. “Everything all right, Carth?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine,” Carth said, taking his seat and purposefully ignoring their proximity to one another. “I was just getting some odd fluctuations from a sensor near the intake coupling. I might have to do some adjustments when we dock, but it doesn’t look like it’s a big problem.”
“Good,” said Rade.
“You might want to check on HK though,” Carth said to Rade. “Mission mentioned he was acting a bit strange.”
“She said he was too quiet.”
Bastilla snorted. “That sounds like an improvement, not a malfunction.”
“Yeah, well, I think it’s a bit more than that,” said Carth. “I believe her exact words were, ‘He sorta sounds like he’s kinda depressed or something.’”
“Depressed?” Rade’s brow wrinkled with doubt. “I wasn’t aware droids got depressed.”
“That’s why you might want to take a look at him. I would’ve done it myself, but, well, you know how he is.”
“I’ll take a look.” Rade gave Bastila’s shoulder a gentle squeeze before turning to leave.
“Oh, and I think you were right about our innocent-looking young guest,” Carth added. “Jolee told me Ithra’s been asking a lot of questions about the crew.”
Rade paused. “Oh? What kind of questions?”
“Specific questions about backgrounds, skills, experience… those kind of questions.”
“Ah,” Rade said knowingly. “Well, maybe HK can shed some light on that as well. After all, he’s been waiting on our guests.”
“And you wonder why he’s depressed?” Bastila commented under her breath.
Mission, Canderous, and Zalbaar were still playing Pazaak when Rade walked in.
“Did Carth send you to check on HK?” Mission asked.
“Good,” said Mission. “He’s acting really weird. He came in and told us to move so he could put his weapons away in one of the lockers. When we asked him why, he said something about ‘unnecessary functions,’ then went and stood in the corner.” She pointed to where HK stood inconspicuously behind some cargo containers.
“And he refuses to run any fight sims,” Canderous added.
Zalbaar uttered a series of repetitive grunts and a growl.
“That’s right,” Mission said to the Wookiee. “He hasn’t called us ‘meatbags’ once. Not once,” she repeated emphatically. “It’s like he’s depressed or something.” She shook her head with disbelief. “Weird.”
Rade raised his eyebrows. “Indeed.” He walked over to the rusty red combat droid. “Hello, HK.”
“HK-47 is ready to serve, master.”
“HK, how are you?”
“Statement: All of my systems are functioning within established parameters.”
“I have some questions for you.” Rade waited for a lippy comment or quip to follow, but none came. “Erm… aren’t you going to ask if I need something killed?”
“Statement: Master, there is no logical reason to ask a question when the answer is already known.”
“I see. HK, I notice that you don’t have your blasters. Was there something wrong with them?”
“Answer: My blasters are functioning perfectly. They are currently stored in the weapons locker.”
“Answer: Blasters are of little use to a protocol droid not actively involved in defensive activities or aggressive negotiations.”
“Uh-huh,” Rade said slowly. “And how are our guests faring?”
“Answer: Envoy Berland and Keeper Ithra are in perfect health and appear to be content.”
“So you haven’t had any problems with either of them?”
“Answer: No, master.”
Rade frowned. HK hadn’t yet made a single contentious comment or used the word ‘meatbag’. “HK, has anyone performed any recent maintenance on you?”
“Answer: Routine system maintenance was last performed on me by Senior Technical Officer Seri Ollana in the Jedi Temple’s maintenance bay.”
“And has anyone attempted to access or alter your memory core?”
“Answer: Other than yourself, no, master.”
Rade rubbed his chin. “HK, how did Berland react when you went to inform him that you were sent to serve him and Keeper Ithra?”
“Answer: Berland was calm, master.”
“He didn’t seem surprised to see you?”
“Answer: Berland did initially enquire if my purpose was to terminate him. But once I assured him that I had been specifically instructed to ignore my previous protocols, he did not pursue the issue.”
“Did he say anything else to you?”
HK was silent for a moment. “Answer: Yes, master.”
Rade rolled his eyes. “This is like pulling teeth,” he muttered under his breath. “What did Berland say to you?”
Again, HK took his time in answering. “Answer: Berland expressed his appreciation for the nuances of my programming and superior skills. He also wished me to pass on his thanks to you for placing me at his disposal.”
Rade let out an annoyed sigh. “I see. Thank you, HK.” He left to go speak to Berland himself.
Rade opened the door of the port dormitory without waiting for permission to enter.
“My apologies for barging in like this, Keeper Ithra,” he said, as he barrelled past her. “But I need to have a word with your envoy. Alone.”
Before Berland could lodge a protest, Rade grabbed him by the back of the neck, and making certain that Berland’s long braid of dark hair was securely entangled between his fingers.
“Ahh…ow!” Berland uttered, as Rade drug him down the corridor, around the corner, and into the old cargo bay, which was now outfitted as the male dormitory.
“Now then,” Rade said, releasing Berland with a shove. “I think you’ve got some explaining to do.”
“How dare you!” Berland seethed. “How dare you treat me in such an obscene manner!”
“As you pointed out earlier, I’m the captain of this ship,” said Rade, blocking the exit. “I can do what I want.”
“Ah, but you’re a *Jedi* now,” Berland said condescendingly. “You’ll do what the Jedi Council tells you to. And rest assured they will not be pleased by how you are treating a diplomatic envoy who is in your care!”
Rade snorted contemptuously. “You know, even though my memory has been altered, I still seem to have a *slight* problem with authority.” He flashed a quick grin. “Now, what have you done to my HK droid?”
“I am a diplomat, not a mechanic. I have never laid a finger on your droid.”
“Not physically, you haven’t, but you have done something to him.”
“If your HK droid is malfunctioning, I would suspect it is due to some incompetent Jedi technician,” Berland sneered. “I imagine they are quite unfamiliar with the *unusual* protocol functions your droid seems to possess.”
Rade’s jaw set. “You’re smooth, Berland,” said Rade. “I’ll give you that much. But what I won’t give you is continued unrestricted access to my ship or my crew. I’m confining you and Keeper Ithra to your quarters.”
“Confine us to….!” Berland protested. “May I remind you that we are guests, not prisoners!”
“Exactly,” said Rade. “We’ll be arriving at Jantessa in about nineteen hours and for your own safety, it would be best if you were confined to your quarters. If my HK droid is malfunctioning, I don’t want to have any accidents being blamed on his *unusual* protocols.”
Berland’s eyes blazed with anger and he raised his right hand as if contemplating a Force attack.
“You really don’t want to do that,” Rade warned. “HK did tell me that one of the reasons he chose you as my assistant was because you were weak in the Force.”
Berland slowly lowered his hand, but his eyes still burned. “Weak, am I?” His left hand suddenly struck out, sending Rade burling across the room and slamming into the bulkhead.
Rade quickly shook it off, and countered with a Force Wave of his own. Berland flew backwards and skidded across the floor, hitting the opposite bulkhead with a loud thud.
“*Former* Sith, eh?” Rade said, sending a Force Whirlwind Berland’s way.
To Rade’s surprise, Berland easily repelled the attack. Bolts of Force Lightning streamed from Berland’s fingertips, narrowly missing Rade as the Jedi deftly dodged and rolled to the left. “*Former* does not mean *weaker*,” Berland sneered, as he prepared to deliver another jolt.
“Stop it!” Ithra had appeared in the doorway, horrified at the Force duel that was apparently taking place. She pointed a finger at Rade. “That’s enough, infidel!”
Taking advantage of Ithra’s sudden interruption, Rade attempted to throw Berland back with a Force Push, but to his surprise, he found himself launched back against the wall instead.
Berland, too, tried to take advantage of the girl’s sudden arrival. With a malicious snarl on his lips, he stretched out his hand. Force Lightning again leapt from his fingertips, but the bolts contorted and curled back on themselves, targeting Berland instead. He howled as his body spasmed with pain, but instead of Rade, his gaze was focused on Ithra.
Bastila and Juhani soon appeared in the doorway next to Ithra. “What’s going on!” Bastila demanded.
Rade stood up, slightly confused at how his Force Push had landed him against the wall and how Berland’s Force Lightning had turned on him as well. “Our *former* Sith decided to show his true colours,” he said.
“You goaded me, Jedi!” Berland snapped. “Admit it!”
“I said enough!” Ithra shouted. “Both of you!” She folded her arms angrily across her chest. “I will not tolerate such blasphemous use of the Force in my presence!”
“Forgive me, my lady,” Berland said, rising slowly. He glared at Rade. “I lost my temper when the Jedi said he was confining us to our quarters.”
“What?” Ithra’s eyes narrowed as she met Rade’s gaze. “Have we done something to offend you?”
“Your envoy has damaged my droid.”
“Liar,” Berland hissed.
“And I understand you have been asking a lot of questions,” Rade continued.
“Very specific questions,” Bastila added.
“Yes, I have,” Ithra calmly admitted. “Berland thought it was a good idea for me to practice my conversational skills with the outlan… with the crew.” She turned to Juhani. “Up until this very moment, I thought I was doing well.”
“I don’t think Ithra’s meant any harm,” Juhani said to Rade as she moved to stand next to Ithra. “She is just curious, that’s all.”
Bastila snorted. “Yes. Very curious,” she said quietly.
“I have no objections to being secluded in our quarters,” said Ithra. “Especially if it will calm any ‘historical’ tensions between us.” She gave a quick glance at Berland. “So, if not the droid,” she asked Rade, “who will be attending to our needs while we are confined?”
“I’ll look after you,” Juhani offered.
“Juhani, are you sure?” Rade asked.
Juhani nodded. “I think Ithra and I have a better understanding of each other now that we’ve talked.”
“Fine,” said Rade. “Well, Berland, I’m glad we’ve had this little chat. I think we have a better understanding of each other, too. Don’t you think?”
Berland’s mouth twitched. “Oh, most definitely.” He straightened his tunic and pushed his way past Bastila and Juhani. “Come, Ithra.”
Ithra eyed Rade over before following Berland back to their dormitory.
“Juhani, be careful,” Rade said. “They’re up to something.”
Bravo! Bravo! Hip hip hooray! What a great chapter Jasra, your best one yet. This is really a great read. I am going to take a wild guess right now and say that Keeper Ithra is going to save the day at some point in this story :) And Rade is going to be tempted to rejoin the darkside at some point. But I will just have to wait and see :) Keep up the more than excellent work.
Great job! Keep it up, but I was hoping to see some HK-style blasterness ;).
Thanks for the encouraging comments from you both! I've written the story in a synopsis form all the way through and I'm 'filling in' the chapters as I go. Every crew member has a part to play, so rest assured HK will have some blaster time in future! As for Ithra and Rade....well, you'll just have to be patient!
Chapter 7--part 2
Ithra followed Berland into the port dormitory. Once the door was closed, she shouted angrily, “Berland, you promised!”
“No,” he said between clenched teeth. “I said I would try.”
“Oooh!” she bellowed furiously. “I can’t believe you *did* such a thing in my presence!” she said, pacing angrily across the dormitory floor. “How could you!”
“I’m sorry, Ithra,” said Berland, wincing slightly from his bruises as he sat down on one of the beds.
“You have no idea how disturbing your little exhibition was to me, do you?” she said, pointing an accusing finger at him. “No idea! None at all!”
Berland sighed. “I said I was sorry,” he repeated. “But the opportunity presented itself and I had to take it.”
“You know how it makes me feel when I reflect someone using the Force that way!” she continued to rant. “You knew, and yet you continued anyway! It felt like… like….” Ithra shivered and hugged herself with her arms while she paced. “Ugh! It felt like my skin was crawling with a million and one Dylwyn Ants!”
Berland rubbed the arm that had borne the brunt of her reflecting his Force Lightning attack upon himself. “I can assure you, Ithra, it didn’t feel very good on my end either.”
She paced a few more steps, then shivered again. “I need a bath! A long, hot bath! And when Prefect Keel hears about this he’s going to…!”
“Now, now,” Berland firmly interrupted. “You know that the confrontation had to take place. Agreed, it was unfortunate that you were in such close proximity, but you know as well as I do that it had to happen eventually.”
Ithra’s jaw set. A moment of silence passed. “All I can say it that your plan had better work.”
“It will.” Berland smiled. “Now, when we reach Jantessa, there’s something that I want you to do….”
The Ebon Hawk jolted slightly as it came out of hyperspace.
“Well, there it is,” Carth said. “Jantessa.”
Carth and Bastila set about orbiting the planet, while Rade went to inform Berland and Ithra that they had finally arrived.
“It’s lovely,” Bastilla said admiringly about the planet. “Purple and blue seas, swathes of green across the continents….” Her forehead wrinkled with puzzlement. “What’s that shimmer?”
“That would be their shields,” said Carth.
Suddenly, an alarm began to bleep. “What’s happening?” Bastila asked. “Are we too close?”
“No, just an outgoing transmission,” said Carth, just as Rade was returning. “You were right,” he said, turning to Rade. “Looks like our ‘guests’ are sending a coded transmission to the surface.”
“Figured they would as soon as I left them alone. Have you made contact with the port authorities yet?”
“I hailed them, but so far no response.” Carth looked at Bastila. “Maybe a Jedi would have better luck in getting an answer.”
Bastila cleared her throat, and then pushed the button for the comlink. “This is Bastila Shan of the Jedi Order on board the Ebon Hawk,” she said in a clear but lofty tone. “We require immediate shield clearance and docking instructions. Send them now, or I shall be forced to inform Prime Keeper Ithra and her envoy. I can assure you they will not be pleased about the delay.”
A brief moment passed, and then the panel in front of Carth bleeped twice. He looked at Bastila askance.
“I downloaded what little information there was on Jantessa from the Jedi Archives before we left,” Bastila explained. “From what I could extrapolate, they prefer specific and direct instructions, and have a high regard for position and authority.”
“Bastila, if you had told us that earlier,” said Rade, “it might have made our journey a bit more pleasant.”
“Well, it was difficult to extract any useful information from the files,” Bastila said hesitantly. “Most of the records I encountered were… instructions.”
“Instructions for what?”
Bastila hesitated. “Food preparation.”
“What, like recipes?” Carth stifled a laugh. “You mean you spent all this time reading through a Jantessan cookbook?”
“Like I said,” Bastila said crossly, “there wasn’t much useful information in the archives. But the recipe instructions were very precise, and there were several references to ‘official’ and ‘authorised’ ingredients.” She paused. “I don’t really know much about cooking, but some of their ingredients seemed quite strange. I mean, I’ve no idea what Essence of Vercoumna is, do you?”
“What was it used for?” asked Rade.
“I believe it was for some sort of ritual bread. The recipe said to add the Essence to a mixture of ground grains and fermented fungal extracts, and then to expose it to a slow rising temperature over a period of three days while…”
“All right, everyone hold on,” Carth interrupted. “We’re passing through the shield corridor.”
Travelling through the corridor was like sliding through a kaleidoscope—the shield shimmered and danced with all the colours of a rainbow as the Ebon Hawk descended through it. Suddenly, there was a loud boom, and the Hawk lurched violently.
“What was that?” Rade asked Carth.
“Think we might have grazed the outer edge of the shield,” Carth said, as he struggled to keep control. “They sure didn’t give us much room to manoeuvre.”
Another boom and a lurch. Finally, the Ebon Hawk broke through into the atmosphere of the planet where they were met by two Jantessan fighter escorts, similar in design to the Republic’s, but smaller and much more streamlined.
“You will follow us to the designated landing area where you will receive further instructions,” ordered a static charged voice over the comm.
“Just do what they say,” Bastila said to Carth as he opened his mouth to protest.
“If your course deviates, you will be fired upon,” the fighter escort voice continued. “You will not be cautioned. Do you understand?”
Bastila hit the com button. “Yes. We understand.”
The ‘designated landing area’ for visitors was located just outside of the Jantessan’s capital city of Aru. As the Ebon Hawk approached, Ithra wandered into the cockpit. Rade frowned at her.
“I know I should be in my quarters, but… is it all right if I look out the window?” she asked him rather shyly. “I wasn’t able to do so on the outbound journey, and I’ve never seen the city of Aru from this far above.”
Rade’s frown softened, and he shrugged a shoulder. “Sure. Just go stand over there.”
Ithra moved to stand to the side of Bastila. Her eyes widened as she gazed down at the approaching planet surface. “Aru looks so tiny from up here. Even the Haven looks small.”
“The Haven?” Bastila asked, turning her head to face her.
Ithra cocked an ear toward Bastila but kept her gaze fixed on Aru as they descended. “See the Five Spires? There?” She pointed. “The Haven is the tallest—the violet spire right at the edge of the waters of the Northmere. It’s where the Prime Keepers used to live.”
Bastila’s gaze followed to where Ithra was pointing. At one end of the city, she could just make out the five tall spires near a body of calm violet-blue water. Each one was the centre point of a large pentagonal building, surrounded by smaller buildings and patches of deep green. “Where they *used* to live?”
“No one lives in the Haven now,” Ithra said distantly. “Not since the Contamination. Most, like me, live in the Priory now. That’s the silver spire to the south. And next to it, is the Matrix, where the Great Hall is. And on the other side, the Refectory.” She sighed. “I think I will appreciate the meals they serve there much more after my experience with what you seem to want to call food.”
“What’s the building on the end? The one with the black spire, set apart from the rest.”
“The Foundry.” Ithra paused. “There are a few who live there, but it is forbidden to speak of them.”
Ithra turned to Bastila. “Because,” she said matter-of-factly, “they are infidels and traitors.”
Bastila frowned. “It’s a prison?”
Ithra shook her head. “It’s a place where one is sent to be… re-educated.”
Rade lifted an eyebrow at her comment. “Re-educated how?”
Ithra didn’t answer his question. “Has Prefect Keel contacted you yet?” she asked him instead.
Ithra gave a non-committal shrug. “Berland sent word to him about your… previous visit,” she confessed. “Upon our arrival he will ask to meet with you, alone. It would anger him if you refuse his invitation.” She turned to leave, then stopped just at the entrance to the corridor. “A word of advice, Rade Chano.” She paused for a moment, as if considering how to continue. “Our laws permit an arbiter to accompany one when being summoned in front of a Prefect.” She flicked her eyes towards Bastila. “I would suggest you select Bastila for the task. Prefect Keel has a weakness for beautiful women.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Rade asked suspiciously.
Ithra snorted with disdain. “Because it would displease Berland, and I am angry with him at the moment. Why else?” With a flourish of her cloak, she quickly turned and left.
“Hmmph,” Carth snorted. “Now *that* was an interesting display.”
“Yes, it was,” Rade agreed. “Bastila?”
“I didn’t detect any intent on her part to deceive,” she said. “But…, she is hard to read.”
“Look, even I could tell there was something important she wasn’t telling us,” said Carth.
The Ebon Hawk suddenly shuddered.
Rade looked over Carth’s shoulder at the control panels. “What now?”
“They’ve locked a tractor beam on us. Probably just guiding us in to the docking port.”
A cheery sounding chime came over the com. “Welcome, visitors. You are now approaching the decontamination field,” said a pleasant, automated female voice. “Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms.”
“See?” Carth began to initiate engine shutdown. “Nothing to worry ab….” Carth suddenly frowned. “Uh-oh.”
“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms,” the voice repeated.
The Ebon Hawk shuddered more violently and the engines started to whine.
“Problem?” asked Rade.
“Erm…you remember that power coupling that was giving me some erratic readings?” Carth asked, as he pushed more buttons.
There was another hard jolt, and Rade grabbed the back of Carth’s chair for balance.
“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms,” the voice repeated.
“Carth, just shut down the engines,” Bastila said, her voice sounding slightly worried.
“That’s what I’m trying to do,” Carth said, frantically pushing more buttons and pulling more levers. “The intake is stuck wide open. I can’t power down!”
“Bastila, see if you can make contact with the port authorities,” said Rade. “Tell them we’re having a problem.”
“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms.”
The shuddering was getting worse. Everything was vibrating and the hull began to make strange creaking noises.
“They’re not responding to our hail!” said Bastila, clinging to the comm panel for support. “And our escorts have just left us!”
“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms.”
Another sudden jolt. Sparks showered from one of the panels near the star chart and Rade shielded his eyes. “Damn!”
“If I can’t get the engines shut down,” Carth said, his voice sounding staccato from the vibrations, “this is going to be a very, short, mission!”
“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms.”
Carth wiped sweat from his brow. “If… I... can… just… get… the….”
Quite suddenly, the shuddering ceased. The lights dimmed, and then a blue light filled the cockpit. Everything was deathly quiet.
The blue light vanished. “Thank you,” the automated voice said, breaking the thick silence. “Decontamination complete. Your co-operation is appreciated.”
Carth let out a sigh of relief. “That was close. Let’s just hope they allow us to do some maintenance before we leave.”
The tractor beam guided the Ebon Hawk through to a docking bay, and as the ship touched down, the bay door quickly slammed shut.
“Docking complete,” said the automated voice. “Please disembark and await further instructions.”
Good chapter Jasra. I can't wait to see what you do with the planet and it's people :) Your story is progressing nicely.
I need my hidden shades of gray fix!! Ahhhh!!! Must have more story!
I haven't read any of this in a while. Just pasted it all into a wpd so I can read it whenever, if that's alright.
[inside joke]And you need to mention yelt rats more often:xp:[/inside joke]
Chapter 8--part 1
((Sorry it's been a while since I've posted a chapter. Had a little 'sequencing' problem to work out, but it's resolved now and things are moving once again!))
Chapter 8--part 1
“What?! Aw, you can’t be serious!” Carth complained to the droid stationed by the heavily secured exit from the Jantessan ‘visitor lounge’ back to the hanger bay. “We just want to board our ship!”
“I’m sorry, sir,” said the protocol droid, in a most irritatingly pleasant female voice. “A Class Six control pass is required for any visitor wishing to depart the visitor’s lounge.”
Upon their arrival, the crew of the Ebon Hawk had been relieved of all of their weapons and escorted by Berland and Ithra to the visitor’s lounge area where they were to remain until Rade had completed his meeting with Prefect Keel. Berland had explained that they were “absolutely not under any type of house arrest” and had insisted that the security cameras and various droids were merely stationed at the exits in order to prevent any ‘unauthorised contacts’ between the Jantessans who worked in the facility and any visiting ‘outlanders’. All of their needs—food, rest, entertainment—would be seen to, provided that they stayed put.
To Berland’s chagrin, Rade had taken Ithra’s advice in selecting Bastila as an arbiter to accompany him to his meeting with the Prefect. Berland had been visibly irritated by Rade’s knowledge of the law, but then he had smirked and suggested that Rade also bring HK along. Rade had agreed, and so the five of them had left to go to the Prefect’s office.
The Jantessans were certainly very generous to their visitors, even if they couldn’t stand to be in the same room with them. Not a single Jantessan was in sight, except for the permanent and annoying holovid newscaster on the terminal in the far corner of the room.
All of the visitors’ needs were tended to by droids. And they were everywhere—security droids, protocol droids, serving droids, utility droids, and an entire fleet of cleaning droids that kept the facility clean to the point of being sterile. Entertainment was varied—there were pazaak tables and gaming terminals, a recreation facility with a swimming pool, an excellent restaurant, luxury sleeping quarters, even a cantina with a holovid Bith band with T’wilek dancers. Yes, despite what they called it, the Jantessans’ had gilded their visitor’s cage quite nicely. There were other ‘outlanders’ there, too—traders mostly—and the crew of the Ebon Hawk made no protest to stay and relax for a while.
Yet three hours later, Rade and Bastila had not returned. Carth was beginning to worry. He and the rest of the crew thought it might be a good idea to try and contact them from the Ebon Hawk through their com links, under the guise of wanting to check out any damage that had occurred when they had landed. So, far they weren’t having much success.
“Okay…so how do we get a Class Six control pass?” Carth asked.
“Applications for Class Six control passes can be submitted to the administrative assistant at the Departures Office on the first and last days of the week between the hours of ten and twelve or between sixteen hundred and eighteen hundred hours, and on the second and fourth rest days between the hours of five and seven or fourteen hundred and sixteen hundred hours, with the exception of State recognised holidays, to include Meering Day observance week, State in-service days, State training days, Prefectory elections,…”
Carth closed his eyes and sighed as the droid rambled on for another full minute.
“Fine. Is the Departures Office open now to submit an application?” Canderous intervened.
The droid paused for a brief moment while it calculated. “Why, yes, sir. At the moment, it is open.”
Carth brightened as he caught Canderous’ train of thought. “Good,” Carth said. “I’d like to submit an application.”
“Very well, sir,” said the droid. “Forms may be obtained from the Permits Office every other day between the hours of….”
Carth’s head drooped. “Just tell me how to get to damned Permits Office!” he interrupted.
“Certainly, sir. Proceed through these doors, then down the corridor, take the second right, down the hall through the double doors, then take the first left, up the stairs, proceed through the atrium, and you will find the Permits Office located at the end of the corridor marked ‘A’.”
“Thank you,” said Carth.
“Great,” Canderous added. They both started for the door.
The droids arm shot out, blocking Carth’s way. “Please present your Class Six control pass for verification and access.”
“I’m just going to the Permits Office to get one,” said Carth.
“You just gave us directions, remember?” said Canderous.
“Yes, sir. I do recall giving you directions. Would you like them repeated?”
“No, I don’t want them repeated!” Canderous forcibly attempted to go around the droid.
Carth stopped him by grabbing his arm. Over in the far corner, a laser turret moved, pointing its barrel at him. Carth nodded in its direction.
“Erm…Carth?” Mission interrupted. She pointed to the turret.
“Yeah, we see it Mission,” Carth said, still holding back Canderous. “Is there another way to get to the Permits Office from this location?” Carth asked the droid.
“No, sir,” the droid replied. “There are no alternative access points to the Permits Office from your present location.”
“Okay, let me get this straight,” Carth said, after a heavy sigh of irritation. “You’re not going to let us through this door without a Class Six pass.”
“That is correct, sir.”
“And we can’t get an application to apply for a Class Six pass unless we go through this door?” asked Canderous.
“That is correct, sir.”
There was the sound of heavy laughter from behind them. “First visit to Jantessa? Frustrating, ain’t it?” said a gruff voice.
Carth turned to see a burly, scruffy looking man leaning cockily against the wall a few metres away from where he and the rest of the crew stood. He had a scraggly dark beard, streaked here and there with grey, and close set dark eyes framed by equally scraggly brows. His shirt was clean, and although it was so faded that its original colour was hard to determine, Carth didn’t figure the man to be the type that would have chosen ‘mauve’ on his own accord. His outfit was completed by a pair of well-worn leather trousers, tucked into equally worn and scuffed up leather boots, and topped off with a Krayt dragon hide jacket that looked like it had seen more hard times than the current wearer had.
“Name’s Krex,” the man introduced himself, as he approached holding out a grubby nail-bitten hand. “Gilt Krex. I run the Shadow Chaser out of Deralia, and a few other non-descript ports here and there.”
Carth eyed him over, and then exchanged a long look with Canderous. “Carth,” he said, finally shaking the man’s hand. “And this is Canderous, Jolee, Juhani, Mission, and….”
“Zalbaar,” said Krex, nodding. “Heard of him already.” He looked at the Wookiee with deep admiration. “You’re the talk of the complex, big fella!”
Zalbaar uttered an inquiring grunt.
“Oh, no! Not bad at all!” Krex answered, apparently understanding Wookiee. “It’s just that not many people have ever seen a Wookiee in these parts. ‘Ceptin me, maybe. Then again, I tend to circulate in bigger circles, if you catch my meanin.’” He tapped a finger along side his nose.
“A smuggler, eh?” Canderous grinned reminiscently. “Shadow Chaser. Now I remember you. You were the one who ran through our blockade when we were last here.”
Krex grinned widely. “Why, I didn’t know I was so famous! Imagine that. Me. Gilt Krex. Known by name among the Mandalorians.” He paused in consideration. “I’ll have to add that to my résumé.” He snuffled, then wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “So, what are you in for?”
“In for?” Carth frowned. “You sound like you’re saying we’re in a….”
“Prison?” Krex looked over his shoulder, and lowered his voice. “Hey, if you don’t have a Class Six pass, that’s exactly what it is. Very nice though, as far as prisons go.” He paused. “Erm…so I’m told,” he added, with a sly grin.
“We’re just waiting for our friends,” Mission blurted. “They’re meeting with a Prefect.”
“Not Keel, I hope,” Krex said, guardedly. “He’s a right…” He paused, noticing the sudden look of worry on Mission’s face. “Ah. So it is Keel. Sorry ‘bout that, miss. I mean, sorry for your friends.”
“Sorry? What do you mean by that, exactly,” Carth asked. Already this guy was making his skin crawl. Jolee and Juhani had been rather quiet, and if his skin was crawling, Carth supposed that their ‘Jedi Sense’ had to be at least tingling with the same sort of wariness.
“’Xactly? Well, I ain’t much for ‘’xactlys.’ But I can tell you that he and his lackey Berland, are as sneaky as an Ichtorian Attack Stohl wrapped around a rich Corellian lady’s neck.”
“You know Berland?” said Carth.
Krex snorted. “Know him? Heck, I worked for him for a while! Erm…a brief while, granted. That Sith’s too slimy for even my tastes. In fact, I suspect he’s the reason why my Class Six pass is no longer ‘valid.’ A ‘glitch’ in the system, so I’ve been told. Should be resolved in, oh, I don’t know, six months or so,” he sneered. “Yeah, a real smooth ‘glitch’ that Berland is.”
“So, why does Berland not want you to leave?” Juhani asked. “I was under the impression that the Jantessans do not care for ‘outlanders’.”
Krex snorted with amusement. “’Don’t care for?’ My aren’t you the polite one!” He let out a chuckle. “They downright despise us. ‘Ceptin,’ of course, for Berland. They seem to like him and his apprentice a great deal.”
“Apprentice? You mean Ithra?” Jolee asked, suddenly interested.
“Ithra? Nah! She’s a Prime Keeper, in case you didn’t notice.” He nodded over to the holovid newscaster in the corner. Ithra’s picture was being shown as an insert as the newscaster reported her safe return to Jantessa. “Nah. I was talking about….” Krex suddenly paused, and a glint twinkled in his beady eyes. “Say,” he said conspiratorially, “maybe you and me can like help each other out, you know? If you can somehow finagle me a valid Class Six so I can get out of here, I’ll tell you who Berland’s apprentice is. I know a lot about what goes on here on Jantessa.” Again, he laid a finger on the side of his nose. “You could say eavesdropping is a little hobby of mine.”
Mission was about to blurt something again, but Carth cautioned her just in time by holding up his hand. “Maybe. We’ll think about it, okay? Right now, we’re just worried about our friends.”
Krex held up his hands in surrender. “All right, all right,” he said. “I can tell when I’m not wanted.” He turned to leave. “But I’ve been trading here for, oh, let’s see…too many years for me to count. If’n you ever need information about something, anything, just come see me and we’ll work something out. I’m usually at the gaming tables on Level Four. That’s where most of us ‘real’ folk hang out. Less security cameras down there.” He grinned broadly. “Or so I am told.”
As the group watched Krex leave, Jolee said, “Well, that was interesting.”
“Oh, so you thought he was lying, too, huh?” said Carth.
“No,” said Jolee. “In fact, just the opposite. I think he could be a great help to us.”
“I also felt that he was being truthful,” said Juhani. “Perhaps, we should consider helping him. His knowledge of Jantessa might be of use to us in finding the relic.”
“I agree,” said Canderous. “He’s a smuggler, granted, but he must have some credit with the locals, or he wouldn’t be allowed here in the first place. I wouldn’t write him off just yet.”
“Okay,” Carth conceded. “Let’s split up and see what we can find out about this place. We’ve got T3. Maybe we can find someway to forge one of those passes.” He checked his chronometer. “Let’s meet back here in an hour. With any luck, we might be able to get out of here and find out what happened to Rade and Bastila.”
And inside, Carth hoped that Rade and Bastila were faring better than they were.
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