Scion of Darkness ~ Episode One: Fear Leads to Anger
~ All is darkest before dawn - and all is brightest before dusk...
Scion of Darkness
After nearly 400 years of mass lawlessness, plague, and starvation, the Galaxy is slowly crawling towards a new dawn. The GALACTIC ALLIANCE OF WORLDS, a benevolent government body, has taken shape on the mid-rim world of Retalia, spreading to many of the surrounding systems.
The knowledge of the old times, the period before the Great Dark Age following the collapse of the second Galactic Empire, is slowly being recovered and re-distributed through one of the most important places in the entirty of the new Alliance: the Galactic Doctryna Academy.
Now at the dawn of a new age of peace, prosperity, and re-education, the students of the Academy carry the future of the entire Galaxy on their young shoulders - a responsibility they will be forced to bear far sooner than any of them expect...
“Now, to prepare for your first quiz next week, who can tell me in as few terms as is prudent how the First Galactic Empire rose and fell?”
Professor Tavik walked slowly back and forth in a deliberate pace, making sure to look at each and every one of his students in turn, examining their reactions and calculating the invested attention, as well as comprehension in what he was asking. The exceptionally old professor had a reputation of giving notoriously intricate essays, and loved elongated, beautifully written elaborations on topics that could be shortened to a few simple utterances. In fact, this very aspect of Galactic History 101 was why Gherion enrolled in the course. If there was one thing he loved more in this universe, it was writing.
Without hesitation, the slightly pale, confident young half-echani shot his hand towards the button at the edge of his desk, barely making the first red light appear in the room. The hand was solid, and motionless, as unrelenting as steel in its resolve. His eyes and head, however, swiveled about, analyzing the room, as they typically did. He never really kept his eyes on one place for too long. Mentally, he stayed absolutely occupied with a solitary train of thought for days at a time, but physically, he was always at motion, trying to see each nook and cranny of his surroundings. If you were to ask him why he did this, he would simply tell you that he wished to fully understand the depth and sophistication of reality, for each little fault and each abnormality made it all the more intriguing.
Examining the lighted desks, Gherion turned his head to glimpse the figure, and immediately recognized it as Tawnos Rashel, the resident history major whom Gherion considered a fellow intellectual as well as a brilliant colleague. The two had never spoken intimately, only lightly during the qualifying exam when they had sat next to one another, but the Echani-raised philosopher knew of his talents, and respected him from an emotional distance. After scanning the room for a glimmer of hope in any of the less outspoken students, but finding none, the resigned teacher turned to Gherion, one of his reservoirs of knowledge in an otherwise speechless room, and motioned that he take it away. Gherion stood, and addressed the students, looking at each face as he spoke, never stopping his eyes moving in between their visages.
“The First Galactic Empire was a product of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine’s radical government reformations to the Galactic Republic in the closing months of the Clone Wars. After executing Order 66, effectively killing the Jedi, who acted as an honor guard of sorts for the Republic, the Supreme Chancellor, exacting emergency powers given to him by majority vote in the Senate, renamed himself as the first Galactic Emperor, the new leader of the first Galactic Republic. The new Emperor had near-unlimited powers, and any opposition in the Senate that could have stopped his reign was silenced by convenient accidents. Several years after the Empire was solidified, the Emperor, who would later be revealed as a Sith Lord, and his apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, A.K.A. Darth Vader, trained a young boy strong in the ways of the Sith with the singular purpose of using him to find and crush any members of the Senate still remaining that would rebel against the Dark Emperor’s power.
“The Sith Apprentice, after being betrayed several times by Darth Vader, his master, turned to the light side of the Force and tracked down major political figures such as Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, and Garr in a flag of rebellion. The group was captured on Correlia, and taken to the Death Star, as was originally intended by the Emperor. The Apprentice, however, survived an attempt of murder from Darth Vader, and boarded the Death Star, where he fought and freed the political resistance group, nearly killing the two Sith Lords, but losing his own life in the process. The group would later meet on Kashyyyk, and finalize an official declaration of rebellion as the new Alliance. This Alliance would fight in open war with the empire for several years, before Luke Skywalker joined their ranks. In a daring move, with the help of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Skywalker freed Leia Organa, Bail Organa’s daughter, from incarceration on the Space Station, and Princess Organa, in turn, escorted them to the Alliance’s base.
“From there, the Alliance found a major vulnerability in the Death Star’s defense, and with Skywalker’s help, they lead an attack on the Death Star, and destroyed it. This wounded the Empire significantly, but did not destabilize it irrevocably. Imperial intelligence tracked down the location of a major Alliance HQ, and the Emperor lashed out violently, sending a massive siege force to completely annihilate the rebel defenses. The battle of Hoth was a victory for the First Galactic Empire, but major Alliance figureheads such as Leia Organa, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker survived the devastating raid. Little is known of there whereabouts for a few years. The Alliance rebuilds, and discovers that a new Death Star is being built, but because it is under construction, believe its main weapon to be unfinished. Hoping to exploit the death star’s lack of operational systems, the Alliance, along with the resurfaced figureheads, attack the Death Star with as sizable a fleet as they can muster.
“Discovering that his father is actually Darth Vader, Skywalker, having become a Jedi Knight, leaves the fleet for the forest moon of Endor, where the new Death Star is in orbit, in an attempt to draw the Dark Lord out and bring about redemption. Vader instead takes Skywalker prisoner, bringing him before the Emperor. The Emperor, in a surprise attack, reveals that the Death Star is indeed operational. Skywalker lashes out, and in the ensuing chaos, Vader and Skywalker duel, the Emperor intervenes, and Vader kills the Emperor in a fit of pity for his son’s life, losing his own in the battle. Skywalker escapes with his father’s armor, and the Death Star is again destroyed. With the death of the Emperor, the Senate falls apart, and the Galactic Empire crumbles. Some of these facts are subject to debate, and most details of this era were lost due to inconsistent record-keeping in the Alliance and Empire, as well as disappearances from the Coreward database during the Second Galactic Dark Age.”
“Very good, very good, Mr…?”
“Mr. Aldos.” The professor, seemingly impressed by the length and detail of Gherion’s speech, nodded his head subtly up and down in a show of approval and pride in his student.
Gherion sat down slowly, pleased with his work. He had effectively taken any words the professor could have said and made them his own. An immense sense of satisfaction washed over him, even as he stared back into faces of contempt in his skill. In his opinion, their jealousy could not be helped, and he had little care for the disapproval of imbeciles. Taking his holo-notepad back into his hands, Gherion poised himself and prepared to take further instruction until class was over. The slow but persistent old man then walked over to a large display screen, and flicked a switch.
The imaging pad flashed to life, and the image of a male human in flowing brown robes flickered to life, standing with his arms relaxed at his sides. His robes were clean and tidy, and his brown hair was neatly kept, flowing gently to a stop at his shoulders. He could have been handsome, were it not for the blank look on his face, or his oddly frozen stance. The image began to slowly rotate as the lecturer began.
“The Jedi,” he said ominously, his voice rattling slightly in his ancient chest. “Possibly the most famous - or infamous - Order in the history of the Galaxy." He awkwardly shifted himself around his desk towards the imaging pad, bracing himself against the terminal as he reached it. "For millenia, they waged war with their Sith brethren, in an endless battle for dominance over the Galaxy - a battle that almost tore it apart on many occassions."
The class was somewhat better attended that it usually was - Ancient Galactic History was a much more popular course this term. Professor Ralgraddor Tavik, an old, withered-looking man stood at the head of the room, beaming up at all the young faces arrayed before him in the multi-tiered lecture hall. The new material he had introduced about the Jedi Order and the late Imperialistic Age had done the trick, alright. Once word spread that Professor Maltic had passed the course to someone else, it was sure to pick up some much needed popularity - the course had been in danger of being eliminated from the program entirely. Luckily, Tavik had been able to convince the Board to give him two semesters with it. He turned slightly, the better to see the hologram on the imaging pad.
“The man you see before you is a reasonable representation of the average human Jedi Knight’s appearance: unassuming robes, gloved hands, and neatly kept hairstyle.” He tapped a control on his data-pad, and the image slowly blended into a cross-section diagram of a strange cylindrical device. The class drew it’s collective breath as they looked up at the enlarged image of the ancient weapon. Tavik smiled. “I see you all recognise the Jedi lightsaber. For decades, they were believed to be nothing more than a myth, until a Mon Calamari doctor named Aamek stumbled across one while excavating the Zelhadi ruins on Tola Prime.” He tapped the data-pad again, and the imaging pad shut down as the lights faded in. “Next month,” he said, “We will begin our studies of the ancient Knights - spending a possibly unnecessary amount of time on some of the most famous names to come from the Order - Kenobi, Windu, and the Skywalker line in particular. We will also spend a good part of the semester studying the different branches of the Order, particularly the many denominations calling themselves Sith - and yes, there is a distinct difference between the Jedi and the Sith. But we’ll get to that.”
Tawnos Rashel sat near the back of the room, paying close attention to the lecturer, typing notes madly on his data-pad. He already knew a great deal about the Jedi Order and their Sith ‘counterparts’, but was sure that he would learn something from Professor Tavik. And if not, he would at least get an easy credit.
Professor Tavik continued. “I’d like to start by getting an idea of what lies and anti-Jedi propaganda your minds have been polluted with over the years. Can anyone tell me, first of all, about the hierarchy of the Order?”
A few members of the class exchanged blank looks at his question. A fairly large, pale young man activated the small red light in the top right corner of his desk, but Tawnos beat him to it - Tavik noticed his light first. He nodded for him to speak.
“There were three councils, all of them convening on the old capital of Coruscant at the Jedi Temple - the exact location of which is now unknown. Each council was governed by a single High Council, consisting of twelve Masters, headed by the Order’s Grand Master.”
Tavik nodded, seemingly impressed. “Excellent. And your name was...?”
“Rashel, sir,” he responded, somewhat nervously. He didn’t do well in front of crowds. He never had. “Tawnos Rashel.” He glanced over at the pale man on the other side of the room, who had a slightly dejected, almost defeated look about him. Tawnos didn't know the man very well, but was well aware of his intelligence. Though the term had just begun, Tawnos already saw him as a sort of intellectual rival, despite his own self-confidence and, at times, arrogance.
Tavik nodded, a small smile across his face. “Mr. Rashel is correct. From what we’ve been able to tell after recent excavations of the old Enclave here on Retalia, we know that four of the five pillars were occupied by a council - though which council convened in which tower, we’re not sure.”
“What about the morals of the Jedi? Can anyone tell me about them?”
A human female with short brown hair responded, a wry smile across her large, square jaw. “Sort of like a ‘slice first, ask questions later’ system,” she said. “Take no prisoners, don’t go down without a fight, that sort of thing.”
Tawnos rolled his eyes, but Tavik's face remained neutral. “Not entirely correct,” he said. “You’re most likely thinking of the Sith. No, the Jedi had a fairly advanced system of morals, for the barbaric times they lived in. Pacifism was a key aspect of their faith, as was vegetarianism. They refrained from killing their opponents in battle, as well, preferring to take live prisoners.
“And that is the point that I wish to impress upon you now, at the start of the semester, instead of two months from now. There are many... stories... about the Jedi that are simply untrue. Much of the ‘common knowledge’ about the Jedi is either misinformation, confusing the Jedi and Sith Orders, or simply fiction altogether. There is verifiable, historically accurate fact that disproves many of the commonly held theories about the Jedi Order. If you don’t accept that now, then you’ll have a hard time in this course, as the Jedi played a key part in the development of the Galaxy in the ancient times, before they became extinct.”
A deep bell chimed three times, signalling the end of the first Ancient Galactic History period of the semester. Tavik nodded to the class at large, signalling that they were dismissed. There was a crescendo of murmuring as the students began packing up their data-pads and shoving them into their overstuffed bags, heading off for their various next classes.
Tawnos stood, shutting down his computer terminal and carefully gathering his notes and placing them all in his bag. A few people bumped into him as they passed, not stopping to apologise. He glared at a particularly large Twi’lek male as the oaf nearly knocked him over as he passed on his way to the exit. He finished gathering his belongings, and followed him out of the room.
Osay rested her chin in her cupped hands and watched Professor Tavik pace back and forth in front of the class, his eyes darting from student to student, waiting for an answer to his question. The girl pursed her lips. How the heck was she supposed to know how some ancient Empire rose and fell? It had to have something to do with the Jedi and the Sith. Everything back then had started because of them. Some Jedi or Sith made a false step, and BOOM! the whole galaxy was thrown into a war that cost millions or billions of people who wanted nothing to do with either Order their lives. She smirked. And the Jedi had claimed to be the guardians of peace and justice!
Suddenly, Osay noticed that the student across the aisle from her was standing up to answer. He was tall with silver hair and a little goatee. She'd heard someone talking about him--for goodness' sake, what was his name? Osay shrugged the question out of her mind and readied her datapad, trying to watch his face. Grrr, why couldn't he hold his head still!
The young man began to speak. “The First Galactic Empire was a product of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine’s radical government reformations to the Galactic Republic in the closing months of the Clone Wars. After executing Order 66, effectively killing the Jedi, who acted as an honor guard of sorts for the Republic, the Supreme Chancellor, exacting emergency powers given to him by majority vote in the Senate, renamed himself as the first Galactic Emperor, the new leader of the first Galactic Republic..."
Osay scratched out notes with her touch-pen as he spoke. It would pay to know all this when the first test went around. Her narrow jaw tensed in determination. She'd never failed a class in her life, and she wasn't about to start now due to a lack of notes! Her hand moved faster, trying to keep up with his speech. Argh! Where did he learn all this stuff?
Two or three minutes later, he finished, "The Death Star is again destroyed. With the death of the Emperor, the Senate falls apart, and the Galactic Empire crumbles. Some of these facts are subject to debate, and most details of this era were lost due to inconsistent record-keeping in the Alliance and Empire, as well as disappearances from the Coreward database during the Second Galactic Dark Age.” Osay wrote down the last note or two as Professor Tavik smiled broadly and said, "Very good, very good, Mr...?"
That was his name, Gherion Aldos! There, now she could ignore that nagging question. She gave him a look of slight admiration. There weren't many people who could make a speech like that without preparing it. Sounded like it was straight from a textbook. Huh, it probably was...no, actually, it probably wasn't. History textbooks weren't that well organized.
Osay tucked her thick hair behind her ear as Professor Tavik slowly walked to the front of the class. He pressed a button on the imaging pad up front, and a picture of a human guy flashed up. Osay studied him for a moment, her sharp brown eyes taking in everything about him. His plain brown clothes looked like they'd just been pressed and washed, his face was clear, and his shoulder-length hair was perfectly combed and obviously gelled. Osay wrinkled her nose as she jotted down more notes. What was it with guys and hair gell? Was it somehow possible they weren't aware that having their hair slicked back invariably made them look like a bunch of wet gizka? A grin showed in her eyes as she scribbled out, 'Wet gizka' under her description of the hologram.
Her attention jerked back to the professor as he stated, "For millenia, they waged war with their Sith brethren, in an endless battle of dominance over the Galaxy - a battle that almost tore it apart on many occassions. The man you see before you is a reasonable representation of the average human Jedi Knight’s appearance: unassuming robes, gloved hands, and neatly kept hairstyle.” The old professor touched his datapad, and the image morphed into a long cylinder. Osay recognized it immediately. That was a lightsaber. She'd studied those in one of her mechanics courses last year. The girl gave a slight sigh. What she wouldn't do to get her hands on one of those! She could probably learn all sorts of things from that ancient device if she could just study it for a few days, take it apart, put it back together again, use it a little bit--basic things.
Oops, her mind was wandering into her mechanical world again! Osay snapped her attention back to the professor. He was saying something about studying some people called Kenobi, Windu, and Skywalker. The teenager quickly switched to a different file on her datapad and put down a couple notes on what they were going to be studying later in the year.
The professor continued, “I’d like to start by getting an idea of what lies and anti-Jedi propaganda your minds have been polluted with over the years. Can anyone tell me, first of all, about the hierarchy of the Order?”
Osay gave another sigh. One more question she couldn't answer...there, some blonde guy was standing up. He stated, “There were three councils, all of them convening here on the old capital of Coruscant at the Jedi Temple - the exact location of which is now unknown. Each council was governed by a single High Council, consisting of twelve Masters, headed by the Order’s Grand Master."
Osay switched back to her other notes file and scribbled out a short-hand version of what he had said. Dangit, where did these guys learn this stuff!?
Professor Tavik seemed quite pleased. “Excellent. And your name was...?”
"Rashel, sir. Tawnos Rashel."
Osay tucked the name into the back of her mind and cast him a sympathetic glance. Poor guy. He looked so nervous!
“Mr. Rashel is correct. From what we’ve been able to tell after recent excavations of the old Enclave here on Retalia, we know that four of the five pillars were occupied by a council - though which council convened in which tower, we’re not sure. What about the morals of the Jedi? Can anyone tell me about them?”
Some girl Osay didn't know turned the red light on her desk on and piped up, “Sort of like a ‘slice first, ask questions later’ system. Take no prisoners, don’t go down without a fight, that sort of thing.”
The professor shook his head and replied, "Not entirely correct." He then went on to talk about the Jedi had some higher moral code than the rest of the galaxy. Osay frowned as she wrote out more notes. If the Jedi had such advanced morals, how come they were the ones who always got the galaxy in trouble?
The end class bell rang. Osay tucked her datapad into her small purse and remained seated. She watched the others with some amusement as they shoved their notes into their large, cumbersome bags. Her fingers drummed on the side of her purse, feeling the small, compact datapad in it. That thin little computer held all the information she needed for her classes.
Once the majority of the stampede had passed, Osay stood up and left the classroom. As she walked down the hall, she took out her datapad once more and checked her schedule. First, a quick lunch, then she'd go to a literature class, then to PE. Osay grinned. She loved PE even more than computer class. The girl quickened her pace as she made her way to the cafeteria.
Gherion had a habit for trying to do too many things at once. As he ambled away from Galactic History, headed in no direction in particular, Gherion withdrew the datapad with his schedule on it from within the depths of his messily kept bag and inspected it, holding it close to his face as he walked, obstructing his vision. He had lunch next, then Republic Philosophy, followed with creative writing. Stuffing the datapad back where it belonged, Gherion looked around him and mused about what Professor Tavik had said in regards to the Jedi.
"There are many... stories... about the Jedi that are simply untrue..."
Gherion had taken a particular interest in religious belief when he was younger, and had managed to pick up several holo-novels on the topic of Jedi. One in particular had given him a considerable bit of knowledge, and had done so using completely unbiased, objective views toward the different belief systems. Based on what he knew from that book, the good professor was right. Jedi were mistaken for Sith, and vice versa, constantly. They were persecuted for helping protect the galaxy simply because of their detached nature from the rest of the galactic community. And the galactic community, when it does not understand something, condemns it. Still, Gherion knew that if the Jedi ever made a comeback, the universe would be better for it.
Though some of his contemporaries disagreed, Gherion knew that the Jedi were sometimes all that kept the Galaxy running. The religious sects were monumental in how the Universe worked, and for whatever reason, their activities made the galaxy what it was. Jedi and Sith were always at war with one another, but typically, a Sith was first to surface, and a Jedi would rise to bat them down. To Gherion, Jedi were preferable to Sith simply because they did what was right, not what bettered themselves. Without a Jedi keeping justice, a Sith could easily plunge the Galaxy back into the darkness it had endured for so long, and Sith always seemed to pop up at the worst possible times. Wouldn't the galaxy be safer, then, if we had some sort of defense against such a dominant factor in galactic politics?
Suddenly, Gherion's thoughts were brought to an abrupt end as, in his clumsiness, he lost his footing without any impedance causing him to fall, or any sort of physical mechanism tripping him. As he plummeted toward the cold durasteel of the floor below him, Gherion's datapads with his notes and writing erupted haphazardly from his bag and flew everywhere, scattering all over the hallway. Some students stopped and looked, others laughed, some didn't even hesitate, and kept moving with their harried pace, selfishly absorbed in the problems facing only them. Gherion did not particularly care about what others thought, so his embarrassment was little to none, but he was rather irritated at the fact that his physical deficiency had chosen to sprout up while he was on such a strict schedule, and would probably now be late for class. It was not the first time the young Half-Echani had been reminded of his coordination, or lack thereof. He had gotten most of his father's traits, his whimsical attitude, his hair, his eyes, his laugh, but he had recieved his mother's face, and her pathetic physical prowess. He knew that some practice in coordination or the art of combat would probably eradicate this issue, but he was too absorbed in academia to indulge that idea.
“I suppose it’s my curse…” Gherion muttered to himself, and, heaving a great sigh, dragged himself off the floor and began replacing articles in his now overly light bag, fellow students walking around him without paying him any attention whatsoever.
Tawnos fought against the swarm of students moving through the corridors like insects through a hive, his mind racing, the class he had just finished running through his head over and over as if on a filmstrip.
He wasn't used to being shown up like that. For as long as he could remember, he had been fascinated by history. The subtle ways in which events strung together to form the cohesive web of history; how a single, simple act could bring about either the beginning or the end of catastrophic wars; how just one person could tip the balance of power in the Galaxy to either side of a conflict or schism - and how more often than not, that one person was, or had once been, a Jedi Knight.
And it was them, that mythical Order of valiant men and women who took it upon themselves to protect the innocent, that had captured his imagination as a young child. Stoic guardians of peace of justice in the Galaxy; vigilant defenders of the poor, the refugees, the dispossessed - they all stood behind the protective arms of the Jedi. He had often dreamt as a child that the Order would rise again, and become a beacon of light in a dark and perilous Galaxy still struggling to escape the clutches of damnation. But his dreams had never come true, and now that he was older, he doubted they ever would.
He was roused from his own musings by a disturbance up ahead. He could hear a number of people laughing, but it wasn't the happy laughter shared by friends over an innocent joke - but rather, it was a cruel, mocking laughter that Tawnos knew all too well from his high school days. As he moved further down the hall, he saw a small group of students standing along the edge of the hall, laughing as another scrambled about, trying to gather up his belongings. It took a moment for Tawnos to recognise him as the silver-haired young man from his Ancient Galactic History class.
He set his own possessions down on the floor beside him, and knelt down to pick up a few datapads that seemed to be out of Aldos' reach. “You ok?” he asked, stacking them on the pile Aldos had already started.
It took Gherion a minute to realise that the young blonde man who he knew as Tawnos Rashel was next to him, helping him with his things. This kindness was unexpected, and Gherion felt the appropriate amount of gratitude towards his fellow intellectual. Gherion had a gift, a gut instinct, of sorts, that told him about the personalities of individuals he knew in passing. He had known that Tawnos was different from the others. He was vastly more mature than the common student, and Gherion hoped he could forge a friend from that feirce and eager mind, which mirrored his own so well. There was an instant kinship that the young philosopher felt with him, though he sensed it transcended a mere interest in similar academics. What else could be causing this emotional brotherhood, however, he did not know.
"You ok?" Tawnos asked, smiling amiably while helping Gherion stack some datapads to be placed in his bag. Around them, the crowd of students was thinning from the hallways as students rushed to their next classes. Gherion's destination was all the way across the academy, so he was almost certain he'd miss the first portions of whatever they were serving at lunch today. Couldn't be helped, though.
"Happens to me all the time," Gherion replied, returning the smile, his eyes cloudy and vague as they always were, "but thank you for helping, though I think we may both be late for next period. What class are you headed to next?"
"Recent Histories," he said, pushing against the floor and forcing himself into a standing position. "But I've got a short lunch break first. How about you?"
"Republic Philosophies, but with a lunch first as well, so I suppose we haven't messed up too badly." Gherion allowed a breif laugh to escape his lips. Grabbing the last of his datapads and stuffing them away, he stood and looked down the hallway. The lights signalling that the lunch break had began were blinking, and he wasn't sure how long they'd been on. He turned to Tawnos. "Care to walk with me?"
"Sure," he said, turning and walking towards the cafeteria. Gherion followed, walking parallel to the shy, yet brilliant young man. Tawnos was silent for a moment, then spoke again. "So, you seem to know more about the Palpatinian period than most other people."
"I read a lot," Gherion said, then paused for a moment, stroking his goatee and inspecting the ceiling as he walked. "Actually, that may be an understatement. I read nearly all of the time. I typically don't discriminate on the genre, either, but I am big into politics, galactic history, and social theory. So I suppose you could say that I've brushed up on the period rather heavily, yes. One of the reasons it attracted me was the fact that it's steeped so heavily in Jedi religious conflict."
Tawnos nodded. "I know what you mean. I've always been fascinated by the Jedi, and their age-old conflict with the Sith; ever since I was a child, I've dreamt about the Jedi, and what it would have been like to meet one..."
"In this galaxy, you never know. You may just get the chance to meet one. Or, at the very least, a Sith. But I doubt you'd want a run in with one of those," Gherion replied through light chuckles.
Tawnos laughed, but it was an empty laugh, undertoned with sadness. "I doubt it," he said somewhat darkly, running his hand through his hair. "Both Orders have been gone for so long... there's never been such a long period of time where the Galaxy hasn't known at least one of them. One can't exist without the other."
"Very true, but just because they're missing doesn't mean they're gone forever. The thing about ideas is that they're immortal. It just takes one individual to find the teachings, and take up the mantle." Gherion smiled coyly as he finished.
Tawnos gazed at him thoughtfully for a moment. "I s'pose that's true. But there have been plenty of expeditions into all corners of known space, and the teachings of both Orders seem to have vanished." He paused for a moment. "Actually, I was wondering what your take on that might be. The Jedi and Sith teachings both seem to have been systematically destroyed - removed from all known records. Almost like it was done intentionally."
"Removed? Yes. Destroyed? Possibly. Truth be told, nobody really knows what happened to them. No wreckage or damaged residue of Sith or Jedi Holocrons have been found, save for a scarce few on the surface of some mid-rim worlds. So, either our mystery entity is destroying them, and cleaning up after themselves extremely well, or they're taking them whole, operational, and storing them for their own use." Gherion stared into the empty space ahead of him, and noticed that, as they turned a corner in the hall, they were mere feet from the lunchroom, which was filled with the buzz of other students busily consuming their fill of sustenance for the day.
As the two weaved through the crowd towards the head of the room, Tawnos raised his voice to be heard over the din. "That's what I've always thought - or more hoped, I guess - myself. That someone has cared enough to preserve the teachings of both Orders, and maybe they're just... holding on to them. Y'know, for safe keeping. Maybe one day, the Jedi can return." He looked around him at the students surrounding him. Looking out at all the young faces, fresh with confidence, courage, and happiness, his eyes filled with what Gherion surmised was hope.
"Like I said, you never know." Gherion walked over towards the Ithorian attendant behind a long table laden with food, grabbing a credit dispenser from the inside of his coat and handing it to him. The alien inserted the card, then handed it back to Gherion. "I suppose we'll just have to wait and see how the galaxy unfolds, eh?"
Tawnos nodded as he grabbed his own lunch, and looked around the room. "There's an empty seat over there," he said, pointing akwardly to the far end of the room, where a solitary table stood empty.
"Looks good." Gherion said, grabbing a tray filled with food, and following Tawnos.
Another harried student dropping all of his books, papers, and holopads, another crowd of maalras hyenas laughing at him. To Lite, pronounced "leet" and formally known as Lezhite Somnoi, neither of these was anything new. She herself had dropped more than her share of the aforementioned items, but now she was trying to get "in" with the popular crowd. So far, she'd been hanging around with Veela, a sultry magenta Twi'lek girl, and Koren, a wiry Human male who would more properly be called a "guy" or even a "punk" by the more unkind. When they all saw the student tumble to the durasteel floor, Lite instinctively reached out a hand to help, leaning on her magnetically-charged walking stick, but Veela's stare made her recoil.
"Are you actually thinking of helping that one?" asked Veela, pursing her glossy pink lips into a haughty pout. "That wet-behind-the-ears gizka?"
"No," said Lite hastily, catching her breath and straightening up. "I just--uh--thought he was someone else or something. Come on. I'm starved!" Veela didn't buy it, and Lite knew that Veela didn't buy it. Nevertheless, she, the Twi'lek, and Koren started strolling leisurely toward the cafeteria. If they were lucky, they would feast upon bantha steaks; if not, it was dehydrated and processed vegetable matter imported from Dantooine. Knowing this, the three sped up, mingling easily with the horde of hungry fellow students. They fared fairly well with their fare: they didn't get the bantha steaks, but at least they were spared the "health-conscious vegetarian dish". Bantha-milk curry just happened to be Lite's favorite, though it made the others cringe.
"How can you eat that stuff?" asked Koren, giving Lite wide berth.
"It's better than that," Lite answered, gesturing to his dried vegetables.
Koren conceded the point by nodding, and then the three hastily seated themselves at a long cafeteria table that was specifically though unofficially reserved for those who were the top echelon at school in terms of popularity. "Hmm," said Koren. "So how were you guys' classes today?" he asked glumly.
Lite and Veela scoffed. "Are you kidding me?" asked Lite. "Galactic History 101 is the most boring and confusing class in the entire galaxy. Palpatinian Empire? Jedi and Sith? The Rebel Alliance? The Galactic Senate?" Lite blew upwards towards the crown of her blazing red hair, making her wispy bangs fluff up. "Professor Tavik says I'm going to fail if I don't pay attention, but I think I'm going to fail even if I do pay attention. I swear! I hate that class, I hate school, and I especially hate the geniuses that think they're smarter than me. Sure, they can remember everything under the sun that their teachers tell them, but can they remember this?" Lite winked at her fellow "popular" comrades and snuck toward the front of the cafeteria.
A deafening skreeee erupted from the holo-mike that was situated at a rusting metal podium. "Ladies and gentlemen," smiled Lite, "you can all go home! There has been a plague detected in the area, a virulent sickness called Ennui Terminischia. Also known as 'acute boredom'. If not treated by several doses of fresh air and leisure activities immediately, it could prove fatal!" Laughter erupted from several students at the front cafeteria tables nearest Lite, with softer rumblings of merriment near the back. "Whoa!" Lite tumbled backwards at the podium and fell, clutching on for dear life.
This time no one was laughing, though a few smirked at Lite's predicament.
Some authority figure Lite didn't know came to snarl at her. "Do you want to be expelled from this Academy?" he spat, stomping his foot down hard near Lite's delicate fingertips. "Your outburst just bought you twenty demerits!"
Lite shrugged, scared and not scared all at once. "I could do what my name says I should do. Lezhite Somnoi. In other words, 'lie with me.'" A wink.
"Fifty!" shouted the authority figure, turning on his heels and almost spitting in Lite's face. "That's not your real name anyway." Too late--the damage was done, and most students were laughing at him, not at her.
"Stupid, I know," she told the crowd, "but with idiots like that at the helm of this ship, what else could I do?" She closed her eyes and lay there silently.
Osay tucked her datapad back into her purse as she entered the cafeteria. She dug her credit chip out and passed it to the Ithorian on the other side of the counter. He tossed it back to her a moment later, and she dropped it into her purse. The teenager quickly filled a tray with food and went to find a seat. She glanced around the room, her eyebrows knitting together. Every table in sight was full. Wait, there was one with a few empty places.
Osay walked towards it and grimaced slightly. Peeeeerfect. She'd have to sit with the two history geeks. Oh, well. Maybe she could find out where they learned all that junk about the Jedi. She walked over and sat down at the table, a chair between her and the blonde guy--yea, Tawnos, that was his name.
Osay winced as a loud screech came from the podium. She glanced up at it and saw a smiling girl with flaming red hair announce, "Ladies and gentlemen, you can all go home! There has been a plague detected in the area, a virulent sickness called Ennui Terminischia. Also known as 'acute boredom'. If not treated by several doses of fresh air and leisure activities immediately, it could prove fatal!"
Osay frowned and looked away. A sense of humor was one thing, but stupid practical jokes were another thing entirely. She paid no more attention to that end of the room and concentrated on her food instead. After a moment, she took out her datapad, pulled up her history notes, and began studying.
Tawnos rolled his eyes, shaking his head as he turned back to face Gherion, the drama at the head of the room now abated. He hated pranksters. He could never understand why some people were so determined to do nothing but bother people, just to impress their miserable excuses for friends. It made him sick.
He shot Gherion a disgusted look, as if telling him all this with the look alone. Gherion nodded in agreement. “Yeah, there are always a few, and that applies for any environment. But... I don't know... I feel as if she's more than that.” Gherion took a quick look at Tawnos, and elaborated. “I have this 'sixth sense' of sorts. I can read people just by looking at them, or talking with them a bit. She's not really the prankster she feigns to be, from what I can tell.”
Tawnos shrugged, throwing another dirty look at the girl as she was confronted by a passing professor Tawnos recognised by sight, but who's department was so out of Tawnos' field of interest that he had never bothered to learn his name.
“If you say so. I've seen my fair share of bullies in the past, and she looks like one if I ever saw one. I remember this one back when I wa--“
He turned back to Gherion and fell silent. An odd look crossed his face for a fraction of a second, but returned to normal almost immediately. He dismissed the topic with a wave of his hand. “Forget it. It's not important.”
He sighed, and returned to his meal. “So, you mentioned you're a student of philosophy?”
Gherion's eyes brightened and sharpened when the subject of philosophy was brought up. Clearly, his life was his field, and he enjoyed nothing more than sharing what he knew with others. He wasted no time delving into the topic with vigor.
“Yes, philosophy. Mostly comparative social philosophy, how sentient races work together, but also a bit of spiritual philosophy. A large part of why the Jedi interest me is that they cover both of these fields. They were supremely skilled diplomats between races and warring tribes. They resolved conflicts of any scale almost daily, and a large number of them were polygots. Along with the fact that they seemed so in tune with a spiritual discipline makes them almost... godlike to my field.”
Tawnos smiled. “I know exactly what you mean. Some of the old stories I've heard about them... they all seem to portray the Jedi as something akin to Deities. Like the ancient Angels of Diego, or the Builders. Especially the Masters during the Clone Wars - Kenobi, Windu... I know a lot of it's gotta be down to historical embellishment, but all the same, it was almost as if they could do no wrong. Like they were the be all and end all of everything... “ he struggled to find the right word. “Decent,” he decided on, somewhat lamely.
“Yes, I agree. But, to temper admiration with logic, the original Sith, from what we know, were fallen Jedi. It would seem that though they intended no harm, those of their number that could not walk the same path of pacifism and tolerance did cause harm, and willfully.” Gherion paused and looked at his food, almost as if analysing it, before continuing on. “Their ways must have been hard to follow, and they must have been at constant battle with themselves. I suspect that a Jedi was on the brink of falling most of the time, and it took strict adherence to the Jedi way to keep themselves away from whatever the Sith embraced.”
“The Sith weren't really all that different, though,” said Tawnos, picking at his food thoughtfully as he spoke. “Sure, they tended to use... shall we say... less 'socially accepted' means of attaining their goals, but in the end they wanted the same thing the Jedi did - power. The Jedi may have used it differently, but they still yearned for power above all else. Morals are subjective. The Sith weren't inherently wrong, they were just against the social norm. If they had been around during the Dark Age, then they'd have been respected - even revered - by what little remained of the Galactic community.”
“From what I can tell, Jedi fell into power by means of heroics. They did things that were just in their views, and were commended thusly. They never sought after power, did whatever they could to gain it. It just sort of fell into their laps, and they did what they felt was best with it. However, you are correct, the morality of actions require a point of view, a perspective, which is why a madman may justify killing an entire world as saving them from the greater evil of living. But who's to say that madman is wrong at all?” Gherion stopped for a moment to take a big bite of a carrot before continuing, his mouth half-full, manners clearly nonexistent. “Still, the Sith actively longed for power, yearned for it, took no regard in innocent lives to attain it, and what they did with their power after they took it was usually vile, violent, and bloody. The Jedi saved lives, and were given power. The Sith took power, and ended lives.”
Tawnos shook his head. “The Sith, at their core, were no worse than the Jedi. The ones who became the bloodthirsty tyrants were simply too weak to resist the corrupting influence of the power they held. Once they accomplished their goal, they had nothing let but their own passion. They had no long term goals to drive their quest for power. Simply greed and selfishness that's inherent in all sentient beings.”
“Perhaps you over-simplify things. I do know that, according to what we know of the Jedi code, a Jedi Knight wanted nothing more than peace. At least, that's what they claimed. Power was never on their minds, never what they craved, but their influence was bound to make a large dent in the galaxy, and they knew this. So, in their wisdom, they directed their efforts on the best possible message they could send. Or, perhaps they were just hypocrites that never admitted to themselves that their power was all they were. I prefer to believe in the former, but...” Gherion paused and smiled at Tawnos in a smug manner, “... Call me an optimist.”
Tawnos shrugged. “I guess it's all a moot point. Neither of them are around anymore. We may never know.”
“Indeed.” Gherion smiled and ate his food silently.
Osay chewed slowly, pretending to study her notes. Actually, she was listening to the history geeks talk about the Jedi and the Sith. It was interesting...kind of. Ah, well, whaddya know. A minute-long break point in the conversation. Maybe now would be a good time to say something. She turned her head towards them and asked, "Where did you guys learn all that stuff about the Jedi and the Sith?"
Tawnos turned to face her, giving her a swift, calculating look, when he spoke it was in a much more distant tone, even a touch cold. "I've dedicated my life to studying them," he said, a condescending tone etching his voice. "I've spent years reading everything I could about both of them."
Gherion looked at Tawnos, then looked at Osay, his eyes warming slightly, and a small smile playing on his face. It was clear that he wasn't very good at being friendly, but he was making an effort. "What I think he's trying to say is that the Jedi were extremely important. They helped make the galaxy what it is today, and we probably wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for them on several occasions. That's why I read all I can on them, though I read all I can on a lot of things."
Osay returned Tawnos' look and replied in the same cold tone, "You both seem to idolize them. From what I gathered, they and the Sith just got innocent people killed during their struggle for power."
Gherion shook his head and closed his eyes for a moment, before opening them and articulating, "The thing about modern Jedi mythology is that it's biased against them, and typically distorts the truth out to make them monsters with no regard for human life. But the truth of the matter, when you dig past the status quo and study them, is that-"
"You're wrong," Tawnos said sharply, bristling slightly. He failed to see how people could continuously embarrass themselves by spouting mindless propaganda. "The Jedi protected innocent lives whenever possible. They were the defenders of the common folk. Nothing stood in the way of protecting those in need."
"... Yes, he's right." Gherion said sheepishly before continuing " The Jedi were pacifists at their core, but the Sith, who were selfish and thought nothing of life, forced their hands on several occasions. Had Jedi not interfered with the Sith, the galaxy would have probably burnt a long time ago. Jedi saved lives, they didn't end them purposefully, or at least without regard."
Osay tried to keep her temper in check. Who did this Tawnos character think he was, anyway! Her dark brown eyes narrowed ever so slightly, and she asked with strained politeness, "How can we know that? Their records are gone. The only thing left of theirs are their lightsabers. Those are weapons of incredible power!" She picked up her glass of water and continued, "If the Sith could use them for such mass destruction, why not the Jedi? Couldn't they be two factions of the same Order?"
It was Tawnos' turn to shake his head. "Yet more proof of your own ignorance. The Jedi and the Sith were at one time the same Order. But the Jedi exiled the followers of the Dark Side to the hind end of space for violating their teachings.
"But I believe Gherion is wrong in saying that the Sith thought nothing of life. They simply didn't allow cultural moral standards to define their actions. They did what they felt needed to be done, regardless of how it would effect others' feelings for them."
Gherion smiled, "My friend, it wasn't just others' feelings, their very lives were forfeit, and that's something that I cannot see as just a difference in morals. The Jedi attempted negotiation before violence, saw drawing their lightsaber as a last resort, and only with the intent of protecting innocent lives. The Sith wished to see the galaxy burn, so they could revel in their own power. Jedi defended the galaxy so that it could simply thrive, live, grow, and if that meant fighting the Sith, then they had no choice. The Sith killed, mercilessly, simply because it suited their needs."
Osay took a sip of water, her eyes hard after Tawnos' 'ignorance' comment. "Those are fine stories, and I suppose they could be true, but I want proof. Where did you read all this?"
Tawnos sighed. He dug around in his bag for an extra pad, and finally managed to find one near the bottom. He extracted it with some difficulty, made a few quick notes on it, and handed it to her. "Those are some of the better catalogues of Jedi and Sith -related findings of the past decade or so. From the first ruins uncovered here on Retalia 18 years ago to the discovery of the Lightsaber Blueprints just this year."
Gherion looked around in his bag as well for several minutes, finally withdrawing a small disk and handing to to Osay. "That's some of my writing on the differences between Sith and Jedi, and how the Jedi path, though harder and more difficult to follow, is meant to preserve life and work towards the main goal of justice and prosperity in the light of what's good and decent, while the Sith way is built on what is easy, but soaks the hands with the most blood, forsaking justice for darkness and perversion. There are sources cited in the bibliography, and most of them can be found in the Academy library."
Osay turned her datapad on again, jotted down the catalogs Tawnos had pointed her to, and handed his datapad back to him. She gave Tawnos a sharp nod and said tartly, "Thanks for the pointers." The girl smiled civilly at Gherion as he handed her a disk. "I'll be sure to take a look at this." Osay's smile disappeared, and she cast Tawnos a pointed look. "Maybe this will allow me to hide some of my ignorance, Mr. Rashel." She glanced at her datapad and exclaimed suddenly, "Dangit! I'm gonna be late!" The girl leaped to her feet, tossing her datapad and the holodisk into her purse. She picked up her tray as she said hurridly, "Mr. Aldos, I'll give that disk back as soon as possible. Be seein' you in history class." Osay snatched up her purse and hurried away.
As soon as she had gotten out into the hallway, Osay allowed her anger to boil over, turning her face into a storm cloud. That arrogant moron! Why should his opinion on an ancient, extinct Order suddenly be better than hers! She pursed her lips. When was PE again? She needed to blow off some steam! A smile crept across her face. Wouldn't it be funny if she got to spar with Tawnos? She suppressed a laugh and quickened her pace. It was one chance in a million, but it was fun to think about.
Ashalle dashed around her residence apartment, tearing the place apart looking for her stylus.
"Did you check in the bathroom?" asked her room-mate from the couch, her feet up on the table as she starred at the voew-screen mounted on the wall opposite.
Ashalle rolled her eyes. "Why would I have used my stylus in the bathroom? It's not like I do much writing in there." Her room-mate shrugged, and returned to her unhelpful state of vegetation. Ashalle finally gave up, and snatched up her room-mate's stylus instead. "I'm going to be late. I'm borrowing yours for now. Let me know if you see it though, ok?"
The other young woman grunted in acknowledgement, then, "Hey, you wanna order in tonight?"
Ashalle shook her head as she stacked her notepads and books in her arms. "I was hoping to find my brother, and catch up with him - we haven't talked in ages. I'm still a little worried about him."
She shouted a final goodbye as she turned for the door and left the apartment, swinging her bookbag over her shoulder as she went.
Gherion’s eyes followed the dark-haired girl out of the room, his mind afire with questions posed to himself. Much like Tawnos and the fiery prankster that he had seen from afar, this girl tugged at Gherion, his intuition screaming at him that there was something they had in common, as if an unspoken kinship between the two just emerged out of thin air. He had experienced feelings like these before, most notably in his last captain before leaving the astrogation business behind him and taking up a life of study, but this was the first time that it had happened with so many people, and all at once. Gherion played with the idea that perhaps his senses were just out of whack, or perhaps the feelings were more sexual. But his mind was always sharp, he never had a day when he couldn’t think clearly and precisely, and although it would taste of a lie to say that he had never looked at a woman and found her attractive, it was the very last thing on his mind. He was not a sexual being, and besides that, this attraction was happening with Tawnos, and with a much stronger effect. Gherion had no doubts in his sexual preference, no doubts at all, so he ruled out the chances of another part of his anatomy thinking for him immediately.
He pushed the notions to the back of his mind, instead focusing his thoughts on that girl with the dark eyes and the kind smile. The girl was civil enough, seemed to invest a fair amount of interest in her studies, but Gherion decided that she was one of many ignorant galaxy-dwellers who spoke of that which they simply did not understand as if they were the experts. It was an arrogance that the half-echani had little tolerance for, but he was raised in a household that held honor and respect above all else, so he bit his tongue and remained polite, though he felt similar to the way Tawnos spoke. His new companion seemed to do what he himself could not for the sake of manners, and in that way, Gherion felt they complimented each other nicely. Still, ignorance in the galaxy was a disease that apparently had no cure, and Gherion would just have to find a way to cope with being an island of intellect in a turbulent sea of idiocy. At least now, he felt like he had someone to turn to.
Gherion looked at his wrist device that told him the date, time, temperature of the room, number of life forms in the room, and atmospheric conditions, discovering that lunch was drawing to a close. The young philosopher picked up his tray, quickly placed it in the refresher, and sat back down in front of Tawnos to wait for that tell-tale bell that would act as the unquestionable force, driving students to their studies with the absolute tones that sent vibrations of ecstasy through some, and chills of dread and boredom through others. For Gherion, it was the former: he would be headed to a philosophy class, where he would no doubt shine as the top student his first day, after which he’d get the chance to write about figures and ideas from the overflowing fountain of his imagination for the first time in nearly two weeks. He was happy, and in his element. He understood exactly how to carry himself here, and although he would no doubt suffer another blunder in the physical realm of his existence before the day was done, his spirit was indomitable.
Still, he couldn’t help thinking about the Jedi. Tawnos had given him a new perspective on the mysteriously powerful figures of goodness, and he felt, for the first time in his life, a yearning to be a part of their Order. They were suddenly more than just historical facts to be studied and analyzed. Tawnos had made them seem real, their heroics as corporeal as they were, and by becoming something solid to Gherion, he came to a revelation on the possibility of being a Jedi. He wanted to learn all he could, discipline himself to their way; learn how to maintain order, balance, and life in the galaxy. It was a fool’s hope, the desire of a man who would never attain it. Still, one could dream, and perhaps through dreaming, his hopes would come to life.
Gherion tipped his head back in the silence with Tawnos, and stared at the cold silver surface of the ceiling, still waiting for the bell.
Lezhite Somnoi had played the fool in front of the entire cafeteria, and now she'd play the fool a second time in front of the two sentients in the whole educational facility that she considered friends. Beaming giddily, she almost skipped up to Veela and Koren, wanting their reactions. Unfortunately, they were cold. Veela had her magenta hands on her hips, and Koren's scrawny leather-covered arms were crossed over his leather-covered chest. Both of these illustrious and "popular" individuals were scowling darkly. Veela said:
"Very funny, Lite. Your sudden 'announcement' over the intercom system was quite clever, but unfortunately you got caught right at the end. That's not cool. It's not even sensible or smart. You should have quit while you were ahead and not fallen flat on your back at the podium." Koren snickered. "The way I see it, you were foolish, and a fool is what we don't need hanging around with us. So long, luzor," sneered Veela, with Koren following behind, leaving Lite in the wake of a swarm of students leaving the cafeteria.
Great, thought the blazing-haired prankster. Little does she know I'm a 'luzor' at everything in this fracking school. I'm a 'luzor' at History, Science, Philosophy, Physical Fitness--even Lunch. I try to pay attention in class, but then my mind wanders all over the place. Someplace else, and then someplace else again, and then someplace else altogether. It never stops--my mind. I'm probably at the bottom of my class this year, as I have been for the past three years. Ever since my parents got paid two thousand credits by a galactic social worker in order to send me here to learn some discipline, I've never fit in anywhere. All that's ever saved me, or tried to, is my wicked sense of humor! No one even appreciates that--no one who counts, anyway. Why don't I just drop out? At this rate, I'll finally graduate when I'm 200!
That gave Lite the most excellent idea she'd ever had in her turbulent youth. She almost did cartwheels down the hallway toward the Administrators' Office, which housed the principal, vice-principal, and guidance counselor. On the way there, she passed by an anxious group of students, frittering away their time as they waited for their Philosophy professor to show up. Feeling blithe and mischievous again, she walked up to the open doorway, waved, and made the hand signals for "drop" and "out". "Anyone want to come with?"
Laughter erupted from one half of the class, scowls from the other half. Typical, Lite thought. She winked and continued on her way to the office.
Tawnos sighed as the alert signalling the end of the lunch session went off and the sounds of talking and laughter were overcome by the sounds of scuffling chairs and ruffling book bags. Tawnos grabbed his own bag, slung it over his shoulder, and shouted to Gherion over the din.
“You said you have Republic Philosophies next, right? I'm in the same building.”
Gherion grabbed his own back and slowly slid the strap over his head, looking at the datapad with his schedule on it. “Yep, building B-3, and it's quite the walk.” Gherion sighed and started heading for the door, holding back to let Tawnos catch up.
Tawnos fell into step beside him, throwing a dark look at the retreating back of the girl from the Cafeteria at the other end of the hallway.
“I hate people like her,” he spat, as if picking up on a conversation they had been having.
“Well, she seems like the typical student here, to be perfectly honest. No passion in what they pursue, just going to class with empty life goals, so they can get a diploma and have a job they don't enjoy. It's a meaningless existence, and these drones march on toward it without a second thought. Still...” Gherion glanced at the bold young woman, his eyes unfocused, “... I get the feeling that she's got more to her than the rest.”
Tawnos shook his head. “Seems to me like she's like the typical woman,” he said, his voice sour. “Arrogant, selfish, and pig-headed.”
“Well, sentient beings tend to be very guarded. Very complex. We hide who we truly are to those we do not yet trust, and that makes it hard to see good people under the emotions they throw up to hover on the surface.” Gherion stroked his goatee as he spoke, his mind clearly in deep thought.
“Right,” said Tawnos, still not convinced. “Except I can't see why anyone would choose to hide their true self with the facade of a selfish schutta.”
Gherion smiled, “Perhaps she finds her real personality to be of lesser interest, or desire, than a selfish schutta. Perhaps she does it to force people away, so that she doesn't have to handle being hurt by a relationship that turns sour. You can never really tell until you get to know them, which is half the fun of sentient relations. Seeing the core of their character underneath all those layers.”
Tawnos thought for a moment. “How can you be so sure? What makes you so confident that at her core she isn't really just a stuck up, yelt-spawned little girl?”
Gherion paused for a moment, before looking at Tawnos, then turning back to the hallway in front of him. “I have an intuition for people. And I saw more in you that just a hot-headed and tempermental student who wants nothing to do with anyone, which is how you seem to portray yourself. Though, most of what I'm saying is speculation on my part. I was never very good with practice, only theory, which is why I suppose I'm a philosopher, and not a diplomat. I have trouble lowering myself to the common way of thinking, because, let's face it, the galaxy's filled with morons.”
Tawnos was silent for a moment as they stood in the middle of the hall, ignoring the ugly looks some of the passing students were throwing them as they squuezed past. “Maybe you're on to something. But in my opinion, it's really not worth the time and effort trying to get to know someone who'll more than likely just end up using you for their own purposes anyway.” He turned sharply, and continued down the hall.
“A pessimist's attitude, and the safe route, I will admit. If you keep to yourself, you never get used, abused, or humiliated. Better to be alone than to suffer indignities, but that sort of life is so... boring. Me, I've just never found a person up to my standards for a friend. Until you showed up, of course, and it wasn't like I didn't keep an eye out either.” Gherion looked at his watch quickly, then quickened his pace. “If we don't hurry up, we'll be late.”
A high female voice broke over the background noise from behind them. “Tawnos!”
They spun around to the sight of a tall, slender girl with eyes just like Tawnos' stalk up to them, smirking.
Tawnos sighed slightly, his hand automatically running through his hair as a stress release.
“What do you want, Ashalle?” he asked.
“Well hello to you too,” she said, giving him a reproachful look. “I see you've still got the same sunny disposition you had last weekend.” Her eyes fell on Gherion, and she smiled. Tawnos started slightly.
“Right, sorry. This is Gherion. Gherion, this is my sister, Ashalle.”
Gherion returned the smile and bowed his head slightly as a sign of respect. “Pleasure to meet you. I trust you have the same... colorful personality as your brother here?”
Ashalle snorted. “Yeah, right. Most people wouldn't realise we were brother and sister if we didn't have Mum's eyes and Dad's nose.”
Tawnos subconsciously scratched his nose as she spoke, glacing at his wrist-piece. “We're both going to be late, Gherion,” he said, throwing his sister a meaningful look.
“Right. Well, my class is this way, so it looks like we're split up from here.” Gherion smiled and offered his hand to Tawnos. “Our discussion was a refreshing change of pace.”
Tawnos returned the smile somewhat uncomfortably and offered his own hand in return. “It was,” he said. “I'll see you in class tomorrow.”
“And it was a pleasure to meet you, Ashalle.” Gherion said curtly before turning on his heel and hurrying off down the hallway.
“Nice guy,” said Ashalle, once he was out of earshot.
“Nice enough,” Tawnos replied dismissively. “What do you want?”
She looked slightly hurt. “I have to want something to talk to my twin brother?”
He shrugged. “Why break the pattern of a lifetime?” he asked, turning from her and walking towards his next class.
She rushed to keep up with him. “Tawnos, come on,” she said, grabbing him by the arm. He turned around, an exasperated sigh escaping him as he did so. She rolled her eyes. “Look, we’ve been here for almost a month now, and we’ve talked maybe twice.”
“And how is that all that different from back home?” he asked. “We were never really that close to begin with. I don’t know why you’re suddenly so keen on us being best mates.”
“For dark’s sake, Tawnos, you know why.” She looked around cautiously, but she needn’t have - the halls were now all but deserted, as this one was always one of the less occupied buildings. “I know you... had a rough time back on Gwellin, and... I wasn’t much of a sist--“
”I don’t want to talk about that,” he said sharply, his temper flaring.
“I know, I know,” she said quickly. “I just... I want to make it up to you. Maybe... get to where we’re supposed to be.”
He shook his head. “It’s a little late to try to build a relationship now, sis,” he said.
She sighed. “Can’t you at least let me try?” she asked. “What are you doing tonight?”
He ran his fingers through his hair again, ruffling it slightly when he reached the back. “Professor Tavik is testing us next week on the Palpatinian Era.”
“You know that stuff like the back of your hand,” she said dismissively. “What would you say to a walk tonight?”
He was silent for a moment, considering the look on her face. “Fine,” he said at last. “I’ll come by your building later tonight - I’ll give you a call when I’m on my way.”
Her face split into a smile. “Great. Well, I should get going - I’m already late for Experimental Psychology. I’ll talk to you tonight.”
He watched as she turned down the same side hallway that Gherion had gone, and then turned around to walk the other way - there was no way he was going to make it to class on time, and he hated walking in late. Thinking he could get a few hours of reading in before he had to meet his sister, he turned back the way he had come and headed home.
Osay strode briskly down the hall, fuming. After the conversation with that--that idiot--at lunch, the day had gone down the tubes. First, her literature teacher had chewed her out because she'd answered two questions--two questions--wrong! They were supposed to be the most obvious questions on the placement test, he'd said. Well, maybe to everyone else in the galaxy they were! In classic Rissian tales, a dark and stormy night didn't indicate that evil was abroad. It indicated that most of the story was going to be told in third-person because the narrator was telling it to some people on a dark and stormy night! There were never dark and stormy nights in the actual story! And a man in a trench coat wasn't always the villain or the hero. He was always the arms dealer or the petty thief that would help the hero later in the story! So now she was stuck in the lowest literature class with a bunch of losers who didn't know the difference between poetry and prose!
Then, after she had made a great impression there, she'd gone to PE. She was taking the 'combat skills' course, hoping that she could learn more than the Echani style, perhaps learn to shoot a blaster. Today, the teacher was having the students fight him in hand-to-hand combat one by one. Osay had promptly flattened him. Unfortunately, the instructor hadn't counted on fighting a student experienced in the Echani arts, so he had self-confidently not turned on the dampening field that kept people from getting hurt. Even more unfortunately, she had counted on having the dampening field on during the fight. The teacher was now in the infirmary with a sprained ankle, several cracked ribs, and a very bloody nose. The principal had screamed at her for several minutes over it, not even allowing her to explain what had happened! She was now in disgrace, and as punishment, she had three hundred demerits, and worse than that, she had a permanent black mark on her record, the one she had to show to get a job after the Academy! Now her chances of getting a good job were very, very slim. Respectable establishments simply didn't hire girls who injured their academy teachers, no matter what the circumstances were. And, on top of both of those, she had been detained in the office so long that she'd missed her next three classes!
Now she was on her way back to her small, cheap apartment. She wiped the back of her hand across her eyes. It came away wet. Osay broke into a run, angry at herself. She didn't want to cry, not here in public! The girl sped up. A minute later, she ran out the front gate of the Academy and slowed to a walk as she joined the crowd on the sidewalk. Osay kept walking for three or four miles. The crowd dissipated as she reached the scummier part of town. The girl kept up a quick pace, wanting to reach her apartment as soon as possible. Two more miles, and she would be there. Two more miles...
Celeb blinked as the PE teacher was literally pummeled by a skilled young woman. Celeb was both impressed, seeing as he was a combat buff himself, well, to a degree - and not-so-impressed, seeing as the man was hurt quite a bit, and although Celeb wasn't really the compassionate type, he didn't exactly care either, the PE teacher was a bully anyways; Celeb was more concerned about the girl's predicament, she was going to get a whole load of junk from not only the Principal, but the faculty would learn of it too, and pretty much shun, and ostracize her for quite some time. And Celeb also knew the consequences that would occur to the girl in the real world because of what she did too. But so are the ways of the galaxy, and how it worked, and all of its little intricacies; its cruelties and darknesses.
'Oh well,' thought Celeb, letting out a light sigh as PE ended and he proceeded to his next class. He had kind of hoped he could spar with the girl...But not all desires and hopes can be fulfilled, thus that is why things could be so saddening at times for Celeb. Although, normally, Celeb had a very self-depressing mindset anyway, so it didn't really matter.
The rest of the day went by quite uneventfully. Celeb entered into one of the smaller student lounges to pick up his clothes, which he had stored away in a 'locker', though technically they didn't have lockers. As Celeb was gathering his belongings, he heard some ruckus from some nearby punks playing around with a canister of...something, tossing it like it was perfectly safe...the dimwits.
Celeb ignored them, but as he was getting up to leave he heard someone cry out, causing him to turn to see what was going on, only to find the canister that the said 'dimwits' were playing with, hurling towards his face. As the lithe, dexterous person that he was, Celeb acted on some subconscious defensive instinct, almost dancing to the side, causing the canister to go flying by, but also swatting out at it as it did, snatching it out of the air as it was heading away from him. He turned, holding the canister up and looking at it with miffed scrutiny, the said throwers of the object looking on in silent awe of what he had done. But the awe was soon replaced by corrosive laughter, as the canister burst open, spraying and fizzing it's contents all over Celeb, who, in turn, simply dropped the canister, and left.
"Great, now I've gotta walk home looking like a limp Gizka, and clean myself when I get there," the dejected young man grumbled resignedly. "Speaking of Gizka, I need to feed Vex," he said, walking absentmindedly down the slowly emptying streets and sidewalks as he headed to that place where solitude was his only friend. Home. - (I know it's lame, so sue me!)
As the sun began to complete its descent below the horizon, Tawnos stepped out of his apartment complex and into the cool, artificially-heated air. He glanced upwards, gazing at the myriad of colours that the sun was casting on the massive dome encircling the campus, protecting it from the harsh environment of the planet’s surface. He was rather fond of his apartment, as it had a large west-facing window - the only window in the apartment - that offered a fantastic view of the Retalian sunset every evening, showering the apartment in a wide variety of coloured lights ranging from deep, blood red to sickly yellow, depending on the density of the ionised particles it passed through before reaching the city.
There were 7 other, similarly constructed though significantly larger citydomes dotting the harsh, irradiated Retalian landscape of the only populated continent, which together covered only a third of the planet’s surface. The rest of the planet was a wasteland of ruins, the remnants of the old cities that had stood before the planet had been decimated by now-unknown guns. The only survivors had been the citizens of a small city on the southern-most continent, where a series of deep underground caverns had given them refuge from both the building radiation and the enemy salvage parties. After a generation of chiselling a meagre existence within the bowels of the planet, the industrious people of Retalia returned to the surface, and dedicated themselves to re-claiming their world in defiance of the enemy that had attacked them.
Tawnos reflected on the plight of Retalia as he walked towards his sister’s residence building, starring at the ground as he went, his feet carrying him by instinct while his mind worked on other, more important tasks. There were, of course, projects underway that hoped to repair the damage done to the atmosphere and rebuild the planet’s ecosystem, but none of them had the funding or the resources to make any kind of serious progress - and heaven forbid that rival companies cooperate to achieve a real goal for once.
By the time he had reached Ashalle’s building, the sun had completely fallen, and the street lighting had activated. He pulled his portable communicator from his belt, scanned the dozen or so contacts he had - mostly school related - and found his sister. He activated it, and spoke into it.
“Ashalle, I’m outside. You almost ready?”
He heard her reply not through the communicator, but from the front steps of the building. “I’m here,” she said, pulling a dark grey knee-length jacket around her shoulders. He began walking back down the walkway before she even caught up, leaving her jogging to reach him.
“What did you want to talk about, Ash?” he asked her, as he slid his communicator back onto his belt.
“Well, we haven’t really had a chance to talk since we arrived,” she replied, still doing up her jacket. “I thought maybe we could just catch up.”
He rolled his eyes, but she missed it in the dark. “Ok,” he said after a moment. “How have things been going for you, then?”
“Pretty well, actually,” she said. “I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my schedule, but I think I’m doing alright so far - how about you?”
He considered for a moment. “Well, my Ancient Galactic History class began this year,” he said. “I’m expecting that to be an easy credit,” he said stiffly.
They were silent for a while, turning a corner into a much darker side-street. Ashalle sighed. “Maybe this was a bad idea after all...” she said sotto voce.
“What was your first clue?” he asked darkly.
“Well excuse me for wanting to improve our relationship!” she snapped. “In case Mum and Dad never told you, we’re supposed to be brother and sister. I hear siblings sometimes talk, and share, and even grow to care about each other. Especially twins.”
He shook his head. “We’re only brother and sister by chance, and we’re twins by biological oddity. That doesn’t mean I’m obligated to be close with you, or share my deepest feelings with you.”
“I just don’t see why you’re so afraid to open up with me!”
“I don’t want to ‘open up’ with anyone!” she hissed, whipping around to face her. “Why are you it’s suddenly so important to you. We’ve been siblings for 21 years now and you’ve never shown an interest in being any more than we are now. If you care so much about our relationship, where were you whe–”
“Tawnos, I know I’ve been terrible to you,” she said, trying to calm him down. “I should have been there for you when you needed me, and I let you down. I’m just–”
He raised a hand, and for a startling moment she thought he was going to strike her. But he stood stalk still, his head tilted to the side, as if straining his senses. “Tawnos, wh–”
“Shh!” he snapped. He reached towards his belt again, this time pulling from it a small blaster pistol that he made a point of taking with him when he ventured out at night - despite the Academy campus' almost non-existent crime rates.
A noise, like the sing-song whine of a breaking window mag-seal, brought Ashalle’s attention as well. She reached into her boot and extracted a small, slim dagger. Tawnos looked at it incredulously for a moment - he had never known her to carry a weapon back on Gwellin.
An odd, computerised beeping and whistling was emanating from a nearby alley, though they couldn't make out what was causing it. It couldn't have been a droid, Tawnos thought; all droids on Retalia were programmed to return home and shut down at sunset, to avoid theft. Tawnos moved in closer to the alley.
He motioned for her to stay put, and moved towards the alleyway. “Hello?” he called, his voice level. He gave Ashalle a dark look as she moved up beside him, holding her dagger at her side.
He put his back against the building to the right of the alley, a few feet away from its mouth. He pulled the blaster pistol to his chest, and closed his eyes, straining his other senses. He could smell the bitter scent of disposed-of food; the stench of a dead yelt rat; and he heard, unique from the natural night-time sounds and distinctly apart from the droid-like beepings, the sound of laboured breathing. He opened his eyes.
“I know someone's there,” he called, a little more quietly this time. “We’re both armed. Come out with your hands above your head, or I’m calling campus security.”
The sounds ceased suddenly, and the air was still for a moment. Then, without warning, Tawnos felt the air forced out of his lungs as he was flung to the ground by some unknown force, his blaster pistol sliding into the deserted street. He rolled over on his back, the better to see his attacker, but all he saw was a tall black figure and a blur of swift motion, and Ashalle screaming. He yelled for Ashalle to run before the world around him went black.
“It’s time to report to the dormitories, dear.”
Gherion looked up from a holo-novel he had started only hours previous, and had read non-stop in the surroundings of the Academy library since he’d been dismissed from his last class of the day. While everyone else did various other activities that rotted the mind, the likely catalyst of all those blank stares during classes when questions were posed by the professors, Gherion used his leisure period when the scheduled classes were finished reading. In his opinion, constant study was the only way to not waste precious moments of an all-too-short life, and very few people understood how swift death could be better than Gherion Aldos. Besides that, he loved the familiar sensations the library offered. The low hum of the database, whirring along, checking and double-checking its sources for validity and keeping the data streams tidy and up to date, the clicks and light beeps of students typing down notes, the stray murmur of a holocron set to low volume so as to avoid disturbing other students, the smell of electricity mingling with the musty scent of dust and age; they wrapped around Gherion like a mother would wrap her arms around a child. To Gherion, this was the atmosphere of comfort, of love, and more importantly, of learning.
His discussion with Tawnos earlier that day had sparked a renewed interest in the Jedi, and so Gherion’s genre of choice for today had been the scant number of Imperial and Alliance records on the Old Jedi Order, before the execution of Order 66 and the rise of the Palpatinian Empire. To his dismay, most of the holo-novels were ones he had already read, but when he performed a more ambiguous search on the Library’s database, he managed to track down a holo-novel telling the story of a Jedi named Jolee Bindo, whose adventures pre-dated the First Jedi Purge, even the Mandalorian Wars. Gherion was amazed that a tale this old had survived the toils of the galaxy, and surmised that the story must be truly compelling to last this long. The record was smudged and old, and judging from the layer of dust several inches thick, had probably not been read for many, many years. It was an operational disk, however, and Gherion wasted no time in popping it into his datapad and diving head-first into the life of an ancient Jedi Knight. The story was captivating in a way that Gherion knew only a Jedi’s biography could deliver, and this particular Knight had quite the life during his tenure with the Jedi Order.
Around him, the sound of note taking had slowly fallen silent, the murmurs of holocrons ceased. The library emptied, and grew dark as night seeped in through the tall windows framing the room. Gherion pressed pause on the automatic scroll mechanism he had installed into his holo-novel datapad himself, and smiled at the librarian, who returned the smile with courtesy. She was a Zabrak woman, and her features put her age in the forties, although a grey streak in her dark brown hair along the left side of her forehead could have hinted to a larger number. She was pretty in a stately, subtle manner, the groves in her face making a pattern much smoother and more artistic than one usually seen in Zabrak males.
“Just a few more minutes, I’m nearly finished. It doesn’t usually take this long for me to finish a holo-novel, but I was enjoying the story.” Gherion said apologetically, his eyes darting back to the screen as he spoke, as if eager to recommence.
“My word, boy, you can read faster than you have been? It’s only taken you a few hours to read an entire biography! It takes the average student several days to get halfway through most of the holo-novels with the same difficulty level.” The Librarian’s eyes widened with surprise, and she smiled. There was admiration in her gaze, and Gherion basked in it.
“Well, I read a lot. So, may I please finish? I promise I won’t be much longer.” Gherion said, working his mysterious charm with a coy smile.
“Hmmm… Okay, I suppose I could write you a pass.” The Librarian sat down next to Gherion, and watched him as the young half-echani’s eyes darted back and forth on the datapad.
Once Gherion had finished, he replaced the disk into its case and handed it to the librarian, who stored it neatly back in its designated section. The woman typed a quick pass out on a disposable datapad, pressed her thumb into the teacher verification scanner, and handed it to Gherion, who thanked her, and left. As Gherion meandered along in the dark hallway alone, he thought about his intuition, and how no less than four individuals had drawn his notice and made him feel connected to them, somehow. Gherion had probably felt this connection on three separate occasions in his entire life, and each time, the connection had been unexplainable, but in this situation, he had a sneaking suspicion he was going crazy. Four individuals, all worlds apart in terms of personality and character, but for some reason, Gherion felt as if there was something, something in each of them that they had in common, that bound them together, a missing piece to a larger puzzle. He considered the possibility that it was his imagination, but dismissed the notion almost immediately. This was an attraction that pulled at the core of who he was. He very much doubted that he could imagine that sort of tug at his very being.
He thought about Jolee Bindo, and how he had fought in wars, performed daring feats, often against the wishes of the Jedi council, and had still remained a part of their order, even when he left their ranks. He was the quintessential definition of breaking convention, of being abnormal and still holding to the traditional convictions that have been tested for centuries, and beyond. He was a man who thought outside of the box, that looked at being senile and eccentric as a right of the aged, and believed that what was accepted as normal behavior was a narrowing of perspective. Gherion decided that he would take a leaf out of Bindo’s book, and start looking at this new eruption of sensation as a sign that he wanted to make new friends, and his subconscious mind was just trying an alternative method. Satisfied with this explanation to himself, Gherion pushed the musings out of his mind, and turned the corner, barely avoiding a head-on collision with Ashalle Rashel, one of the four people his gut was pushing him towards, whom he’d met earlier today while speaking with her brother, Tawnos, the individual who Gherion felt a much stronger connection with than the others. He grabbed her by the shoulder, stopping her instantly, and upon inspection realized that her face was soaked with tears.
“Woah, woah, slow down, why are you out at this hour and where are you running to?” Gherion asked without thinking, not considering that it may be none of his business.
"Gherion!" she shouted, her voice shrill. "It's Tawnos. Something happened, we were walking, and arguing, and then someone attacked us! He was knocked to the ground, he told me to run, I... I don't know what happened!"
“Slow down, take deep breaths. I can’t help you if I don’t understand you.” Gherion said soothingly, holding Ashalle by the shoulders at arm’s length to keep her from falling should she feint, as she seemed more than willing to do so. “Try to tell me exactly what happened.”
She wiped her face with the back of her hand and forced herself to calm down. "We were out for a walk, and we were arguing about... just... about something stupid, and... we heard something down the alleyway. He went to check it out, and something attacked him. He was thrown to the ground, and he screamed at me to run, so I..." her eyes filled with tears again. "And I was trying to apologize for being a lousy sister..."
"Calm down, don't worry, we'll figure something out." Gherion said, but his mind was going through the story, and it didn't seem to add up to him. Though it was still rampant in the surrounding downtown areas, crime on Academy grounds had been reigned in harshly by local police forces, the threat of their punishment causing any sort of trouble-makers to cease their less than reputable activities. Who would have attacked Tawnos, and why? Gherion looked behind Ashalle, not knowing exactly why, then directed his eyes back to the distressed woman. "Did you see the attacker; do you know what they looked like?"
She shook her head, wiping her face again. "No, I didn't get a look. I was knocked to the ground at the same time - but I didn't..." she trailed off for a moment. "Now I think of it, I didn't see anyone at all. We were just... knocked over. Tawnos told me to run, so I just... got out of there. I was going to alert campus security, but they'll never get here in time..."
Gherion paused for a moment to collect his thoughts. Everything about this situation told him to leave, to go to his residence apartment and get some sleep for class tomorrow. Logically, he was getting involved in something that was not his concern, even if Tawnos was mixed up in it as well. But his instinct tugged at him, told him to help her, despite all the blaring signals in his head for him to leave. Two of the four, in distress, an invisible assailant wreaking havoc... there was a puzzle coming together, and his gut was telling him to follow the breadcrumbs, regardless of whether he was falling into a trap or not.
"You're right, they'll take all night to get to the scene, and anyone committing a crime on Retalia is not going to stick around for the authorities to show up..."
"Gherion, please, you have to help me... I don't know what to do..." Ashalle looked at Gherion pleadingly, her eyes full of tears. He barely knew her…
“… Alright, let’s… let’s go back to where he was attacked, and evaluate the situation from there.” Gherion said with a choked tone, his voice breaking on the word “attacked”. The half-Echani did little justice to his father’s culture, as he was an admitted coward with little to no ability in physical combat. He withdrew his slender blaster pistol from its holster, where it had hidden from faculty and staff all day, and started walking down the hallway Ashalle had just come from, motioning her to follow.
Osay walked down the street as darkness fell around her. She glanced around uneasily. Whatever had possessed her to get an apartment outside of campus? Oh, yea. They were out of room. Osay rolled her eyes. Since when did it make sense to get more students than they could house? Huh. It must have had something to do with their grand ambition to rebuild the galaxy.
The girl thought she heard someone behind her. She quickly turned, ready to attack. No one was there. Osay paused a moment and looked around. In fact, no one at all was there. She was completely alone. Her imagination had to be running away with her, that was all. She straightened up and continued down the street.
There it was again! Osay whirled, dropping automatically into a defensive stance. Nothing. The girl stood once more, her mind working. Someone was following her, she was sure of it. She needed to find out who it was. Maybe she should ready her vibrodaggers. No, she trusted her hands more than her knives. The teenager turned and continued walking slowly. The sound drew closer. It was like footsteps, soft footsteps of someone who didn't want to be heard. Osay kept walking. The skin on the back of her neck began tingling, like it always did when something bad was about to happen. She waited a few more moments. He was coming closer, closer...
Osay spun around, her left palm coming up under where her stalker's chin should have been while her right hand slammed into into his rib cage. She stumbled forward. No one was there! Something tightened around her throat. The girl choked on her scream and fell to her knees, her fingers trying to pry away whatever was strangling her. This couldn't be happening! Nothing was touching her! It was impossible--!
Osay fell to the ground, unconscious.
Ashalle jogged to keep up with Gherion, her mind racing, tears still streaming down her face. After all those years of ignoring him, of pretending she didn't have a brother just for the sake of her own reputation, she may now have lost him, forever. She would have to call back home, and tell their family what had happened. Their parents would be devastated... and it was all her fault.
She ran forward as they reached the spot she and Tawnos had been attacked, and retrieved his blaster pistol. She looked around, her eyes welling up again.
“It was here,” she choked, moving towards the alley slowly, her brother's blaster raised and ready.
Gherion looked in every direction, his eyes darting from side to side. He remained calm, but was clearly anxious and afraid. He knelt down and looked at the ground, “Strange... you can see your footprints, and where Tawnos fell, but there are no other signs of disturbance around here. Not even paw prints, or tracks of any other beasts.”
She knelt down next to him, the better to see what he was seeing - but she didn't see anything but the bare ground. “... how can you tell?” she asked.
Gherion smiled, looking into empty space as he spoke. “My father was Echani. Taught me how to track and hunt when I was very young. He would sometimes take me off-planet to a forest moon, or...” Gherion trailed off, his smile fading to an expressionless visage. He then cast his eyes at the ground before continuing on with his explanation. “Anyway, I remember a little bit of that training, and I know how to read footprints. Sort of. But these prints are fresh, meaning that whatever took your brother, it did it without touching the ground, or it was very careful to cover its tracks. Very careful.”
Ashalle rose again, looking up and down the street. “Ok, well... do you have any idea where his attacker may have come from, or better yet where they may have gone?”
Gherion rose, his hand scratching the back of his neck, a frustrated look etched into his pale features. “Not a clue, I'm afraid. There's no evidence for me to go on, which is so... odd. It's like whoever did this never existed. Maybe this is a better job for the security fo-“
Gherion stopped dead mid sentence, his eyes wide, and clutched his neck, gasping for air. Suddenly, he was thrust back off of his feet into a wall by... absolutely nothing. Suddenly regaining control of his breath, the pale young man attempted to stand on his feet again, but was pressed to the ground again by a crippling blow to his torso that was coming out of thin air. Gherion struggled to break the invisible force holding him down, but air again escaped him, and he was knocked unconscious.
Ashalle felt a tingle run down her spine as Gherion was thrown to the ground. She screamed bloody murder for the second time in a night, and ran towards Gherion - but she didn't make it two steps before she herself was thrown to the ground. She felt a powerful force press in on her face, as if someone were pressing a pillow over her. She struggled for air, but to no avail. With one final, desperate gasp for air, the world began to blur, and she passed out.
Celeb stepped outside of his apartment, letting out a sigh of boredom. After getting home, he had cleaned up, and gotten into his regular clothing, and was now currently heading out to do some odd jobs for some people. Seeing as Celeb had a kind of, 'Jack-Of-All-Trades' skill, he was wanted by many people to fix or do things they couldn't, but didn't want to pay out of the ear to have fixed - By a "professional" .
The young man started walking down the street, his gait leisurely, but the look in his eyes was a mixture of lazy-boredom, and weariness from the long day at the Academy. Suddenly he stopped, his eyes narrowing into a menacing glare; he whirled around, but all he set his sights on were the empty streets in which he was walking.
"Must have been a stray animal," he tried to convince himself, but in the back of his mind Celeb knew that it wasn't working, no, he had heard, or at the very least, his instincts knew something quite a bit unnatural had been around.
Celeb turned back around, heading towards his destination, ignoring what had just happened. Yet still, there was a nagging, gnawing feeling at the back of his neck that he could just not shake off. As he approached the doors to his first destination he stopped as he got to the threshold...something was near, that same unnatural sound, or instinct, or thing was back, and stronger than before. Celeb slowly reached into his duster and pulled out his elongated stun baton, more technically called a stun staff, or rod. As he flicked the switch to activate it, a strange tingling sensation went throughout his arm, and with a jerk of his arm the sensation went away, but the thing was, he wasn't the one moving his arm. Some unseen force was causing his arm to move abnormally, the weapon wielding appendage twitching out of control!
"What the fierfek is..." 'BAM'!!!
Was all Celeb said. He was quiet now, laying on the ground, his body still. - His arm had pushed the tip of the stun rod, the most volatile part of the whole weapon, and jammed it under his chin, luckily the stun particles in the weapon activate first, thus his nerves had been numbed; while his body was only just starting it's decent to the ground, the electrical cells activated, sending waves of shock throughout his body, sending his mind into a state of near-unconsciousness. But what little amount of consciousness he had left would not last, as his mind simply couldn't handle the sudden shock, thus as a consequence, he blacked out on his own.
In front of his crumpled up body, which still clutched his now deactivated stun rod, were the doors to the only safety he had perceived for that night, only a matter of a few feet away.
The darkness slowly surrendered to light, color, and figure as Gherion withdrew from unconsciousness and regained his bearings. After a few moments of looking around at blurry images that refused to focus in his mind’s eye, something clicked on in the young philosopher’s psyche, and his mind moved faster than it ever had, its progress obviously driven by the impetus that this was a matter of survival, of life or death, something Gherion had been forced to directly face only once before. Memories flooded his thoughts, memories of how he’d been taken, Ashalle screaming for the culprit to release him, obviously to no avail. He was frightened, terrified to the core, but it wasn’t for himself. He worried about what would become of him, of course, and shuddered at the notion of what must come next, but he feared for the life of a young girl more than his own. The selflessness was somewhat… new for Gherion, and it took him a moment to grasp what was causing him so much anxiety. He stepped back and evaluated this fear for another a moment, wondering whether the initial kidnapping had caused his brain injury, as for most of his life, his top priority had been himself. Then Gherion realized something in a flash that almost felt like a shock to his system, pulsing through him and giving him energy to respond.
He wasn’t tied down.
The half-Echani jerked up to a seated position on a small cot and viewed the room around him, a large space with durasteel walls in a soft butter yellow. His mind raced with horror as he remembered the current predicament, and shot his eyes at the surroundings to see if he could meet his aggressor at last. He was greeted with no real malevolent vision, but instead the lying forms of five other individuals, all on their backs as if neatly placed there, the individual cots they lay on tidily stacked in two rows of three, the cots facing each other, their backs to opposite sides of the room. He grimaced as he looked at the five others, all still deep in their own forced slumbers. He had an odd feeling about this, but he couldn’t place what it was exactly. This wasn’t like a normal hostage situation - though, admittedly, he’d never been a hostage before. Still, what he knew of these circumstances typically involved being tied down, gagged, and tortured, but all of them seemed to be receiving a fairly humanitarian treatment. He again questioned the motives of this mystery assailant, who had yet to give an appearance, despite clearly making impressive rounds on the Academy campus after dark to swipe students from their nighttime strolls.
He scanned the countenances of the others, and his heart leaped with joy twice as he met the faces of Tawnos and Ashalle Rashel, both alive and in one piece, if haggard from the obvious trauma. As he looked around a second time, he realized that his gut instinct hadn’t yet let him down. All four of the individuals he’d been drawn to the previous day were in attendance, including the redhead that had caused the ruckus at lunch, the young dark-haired woman who had spoken in ignorance of the Jedi, and another whom Gherion did not recognize, a male student with a militaristic haircut, that looked particularly roughed up from his experience. Gherion had no idea whether or not this young man would have been like the others, and in his current state of mind, he very much doubted that he would ever know. Despite the curious arrangements of their captivity, Gherion had still been forcibly taken, and he was facing possible, if not probable, death for the first time in nearly thirteen years, and the last thing in his thoughts was whether or not his intuition was telling him something about another human being. Anxiety gripped at him again, threatening to cause the pale and timid young man to boil over and begin screaming in a fit of terror. Even the notion of that caused him further fear as he became conscious of the contemplation that he did not know whether or not he could speak, remembering how quickly his voice had escaped him the moment he was attacked.
Then, logic snapped into focus, and Gherion understood that taking action on his fright would only serve to make a dreadful situation vastly more complicated. He calmed himself and attempted to clear his mind, partially succeeding, which was all he needed. He took a moment to give his new environment some scrutiny, now that his psyche was free of the distractions that had been clouding it since his return to awareness. The room was illuminated very softly by a pale white light, and though Gherion looked for the source, he could not locate it. The room had no visible light fixtures, which tickled at Gherion’s curiosity, but was quickly dismissed as some sort of alien technology he wasn’t familiar with. He then turned his attention to the far side of the room, across the cots, to a small door. He surmised that it was probably locked, and decided not to venture over to check that assumption. Instead, he scooted backwards against the wall, resting his spine on the cold metal, and waited for the others to wake. Hopefully then, they could figure out what they should do.
Next to him, an unconscious Ashalle began to stir from her strained siesta; her eyes squinted against the dull lights of their apparent dormitory. For a moment, she was calm, her mind obviously not yet processing the urgency that Gherion had felt himself, then her thoughts caught up with her and she sat bolt upright and took a breath to, Gherion assumed, scream. The slim and agile young Echani flung himself forward and covered her mouth before she could release the yowl, and forced himself to maintain a composed facade even though he felt contempt for her primary instinct to cause panic.
“Calm down, we’re the only ones awake, and we don’t need to make things worse by waking everyone up and sending them into panic mode.”
She stared at him for a moment, her eyes wide. Then she nodded, forcing herself to remain calm and collected.
"Where are we?" she asked once Gherion had removed his hand.
“I have no idea. Your brother is here, and breathing,” Gherion motioned to a still-unconscious Tawnos, “But, other than that, I don’t know. We could be anywhere, and who knows how long we’ve been out.”
She gasped slightly at the sight of her prone brother, and rushed to his side. "I still don't understand..." she said after a moment, "What happened to us? Do you have any idea who did this to us?"
Gherion looked again at the door, his mind filtering through the possibilities. Kidnappers? Why would they kidnap him, he had no money, nor family to barter ransom from. Lunatics? This crime was too precise, and there were too many factors that Gherion was piecing together himself. If this mystery person was crazy, then so was he. He ran through every scenario, but finally came up empty.
“Not a damn clue, and that’s what gets me. We have no idea who this is, we have no way of guessing their motives, and the way they’re treating us is so… kind. No restraints, soft beds, a relatively pleasing environment. It’s so strange.”
She sighed, nervously smoothing a wrinkle in the sheet by Tawnos' pillow. "Well, what are we supposed to do now?"
Gherion looked around, stroking his goatee. “I say we stick around and wait for the others to wake up. Then we can figure out a plan, perhaps think of a way to escape. I doubt our kidnapper will stay hidden for long, so let’s hope we’re ready when they come.”
Tawnos heard, as if from far away, the sound of two voices from somewhere above. The voices were strangely muted, as if coming from underwater. But as he dragged his brain into action, they began to become clearer, until he recognised one of them as his sister’s.
He groaned slightly as he opened his eyes, taking a moment to adjust to the lighting despite the warm, gentle tone of the room. As his brain kicked into full gear, his eyes shot all the way open and his body went rigid with adrenaline. He instinctively reached for his blaster, but found it missing.
“What happened?” he barked, struggling to stand. He began to fall over, but a pair of hands kept him steady and pushed him back to the bed - it was Gherion. “Gherion? What’s going on?”
Gherion smirked at the stubborn young man and folded his arms, sitting lightly back on his own bed. “You got kidnapped, Ashalle and I went looking for you, but also got kidnapped, and we all woke up here. That's basically the jist of it.”
He shook his head to clear the post-unconsciousness fog, and forced himself to his feet. He turned to Ashalle. “Are you ok?”
She nodded. “I’m fine...” she gave him one more worried look, the turned her attention to the other two people in the room. One was a young woman, with long blonde hair and a pretty face; the other was an almost unnaturally tall male, who looked like he’d been roughed up pretty bad in the capture.
“Any idea who these two are?”
Tawnos followed her gaze, and his stomach filled with lead - he recognised the male’s face, but had never had any direct contact with him. The female was none other than the arrogant schutta from the cafeteria the other day - or however long it had been since the day of their capture. He wasn’t quite sure how long they may have been unconscious.
He moved over between the two and looked over both of them quickly. “They don’t seem to be seriously hurt...” he said, more to himself than anything. His eyes lingered for a moment on the girl’s face before he turned to Gherion. “Any sign of our lovely host?”
Gherion shook his head, a pensieve expression etched into his features. “No. Which is curious, to say the very least. I'm an intelligent individual, and I can figure out most situations, but this one just doesn't add up. We've been kidnapped, but are treated like guests, and the culprit has still not revealed itself. And have you noticed that everyone in this room was on my biological radar today? My intuition picked up on you all.”
He shook his head as well, looking around the room. “That tells me that whoever or whatever has captured us is probably watching us as we speak.”
((Weird place to stop, I know. Waiting for either Endorenna or Archon to bring their character to consciousness.))
Osay could feel light assaulting her eyes. She winced slightly. What had happened? She had been walking down the sidewalk on the way home, and then--
Osay snapped into a sitting position with a sharp gasp, barely suppressing a scream. She glanced around wildly, her breath erratic. After a moment, she managed to calm herself, and she threw her legs over the edge of the bed. Her dark eyes narrowed when she saw who else was in the room. Great. The idiot and the history geek. Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse.
Tawnos pushed her back towards the bed by the shoulder, perhaps harder than was necessary. "It's alright, you're fine," he said, trying to inject some warmth into his voice. "There are five of us here, all of us from the Academy." He indicated Ashalle and Gherion behind him. "You've met Gherion; this is my sister Ashalle."
Osay gave Gherion and Ashalle a sharp nod in their general direction and asked Tawnos coldly, "Have you seen our captors yet?"
Tawnos gritted his teeth and bit back the sharp retort that her tone begged for. "Not yet," he said. "But they may be watching us."
Muffled sounds, fuzzy mental images, and something that smelled like raging hormones was all Celeb could depict in his semi-concious state. But as things grew clearer he could hear something come out of the misty torrent that was his mind, "...watching us." Weird, Celeb was half-concious, how could he be watching them? Was all that swam into the young man's quickly clearing mind.
The disoriented man said as he sat up slowly, opening his eyes further. As he did so he found himself surrounded by a small group of people...if two girls and two guys counted as a small group that is?
"Err-Uh...So...Where are we?" Was all the numb-brained young man said as he looked at the group with a bewildered look on his face.
Gherion looked at Celeb with an analysing gaze, his eyes darting from the tip of his head to his toes. His eyes felt as if they pierced flesh. "Not a clue, my friend. But I would suggest that you sit back down before you hurt yourself."
Tawnos stood and turned to look at him, but didn't move from beside the other bed. "We're safe, it appears, for the moment." He extended his hand. "My name's Tawnos. Tawnos Rashel."
Ashalle interupted. "I think some introductions are in order," she said, smiling slightly at the woman on the bed beside Tawnos.
Osay returned the smile and replied, "My name's Osay Katran." She stood up and glanced at a young man with a crew cut. "Your name is--?"
Celeb ignored the warning from the silver-haired young man, instead doing the complete opposite, and getting up off the bed - which, consequently, ended up with him sitting back down as his legs, to his surprise, gave out on him, and nearly caused him to fall over. "Name's Celeb Liqiu...And I feel like Bantha poodoo," he stated, rubbing his chin, little flakes of fried, dead skin coming off.
"My name's Gherion," replied the pale young man, smiling pleasantly. "We haven't actually met."
Ashalle abandoned her attempts to remain erect, and sat at the foot of Osay's bed. "I'm Ashalle," she said, slightly breathless. "Yes, I'm Tawnos' sister."
Osay sat down on the other end of her bed and crossed her ankles. "So, any ideas on what to do now?"
Tawnos saw that she was looking darkly at him, and bridled slightly. "I don't see that there's much we can do," he said, looking to Gherion. "We should prepare for the worst, though - we have no idea who brought us here, or why."
Osay stood decisively. "Agreed. Anyone here have combat training?"
Celeb rubbed his stiff neck, squinting at the blunt young woman, the lighting still bothering his eyes. "I do" he stated flatly, waving timidly with his free hand.
Tawnos also raised a hand timidly, to an odd look from his sister. "I've done some self study and practise, too," he said. "Nothing too serious, but I can hold my own."
Gherion and Ashalle both shook their heads. "I prefer brains over brawn," said Gherion. Ashalle nodded in agreement.
"How about you?" she asked, looking back to Osay.
Osay nodded. "I've trained extensively for several years."
Tawnos sighed. "Well, we'll have to do our be--"
Tawnos was cut short as the lights in the room faded suddenly, leaving them in near total darkness. He could just make out the four shapes of his fellow captives, their bodies tense as the sound of scrapping metal filled the room.
Light poured in from a large hole that had formed in the wall furthest from them. Tawnos threw his arm up to block his eyes, and sensed his fellows do the same. He could just barely make out a tall figure silhouetted against the bright light.
“Who are you?” Tawnos asked, his voice surprisingly calm and even despite the fear rising in his chest. “We're prepared to defend ourselves.”
A warm male voice spoke in reply. “That will not be necessary, Mr. Rashel,” it said. The figure stepped into the room. “I assure you, you are in no danger here.”
Ashalle stood, taking position behind Tawnos. “Who are you?” she asked, her voice nowhere near as steady as her brother's.
The man raised his hand, and the door into the room slowly sealed behind him. The lights faded back on, though the figure remained partially hidden. From what could be made out, he was an older, slightly timid looking man with a greying, balding head. His eyes shone from the shadows with a stark blue light, looking out at them with a calculating look that at the same time filled one with an odd sense of safety and serenity. “I am the Master of this facility,” he said. “My name is Erussa,” he said simply.
“Facility?” asked Gherion, also taking up a position alongside Tawnos.
Erussa bowed slightly. “Forgive me, mister Aldos,” he said. “This is a place of learning. Not too different from the place you were taken from.”
Tawnos glared. “That's another thing - why have you brought us here? And how do you know our names?”
Another bow. “I have been watching you - all of you - for some time. You have all demonstrated abilities that make you unique - far more so than you would ever believe.” He raised his hand again, and the hatch out of the room opened once more. The room was filled with light once more, though this time it was much less harsh, though still just as bright. “All will be explained, my young Knights,” he said elusively. He stood in the door once more, again silhouetted against the light from the hall. He reached out a hand towards them. “Come with me.”
When the figure had entered, Gherion’s mind had been completely blank, shutting down auxiliary thought for the purpose of staying fully focused on what now faced him. Only moments after the figure began to speak, however, Gherion’s senses underwent an assault. There was energy about this man, an energy that he had somehow been hiding, but now that he had revealed himself, the raw power of whatever he wielded was battering Gherion, forcing his mind into a lack of clarity, as one would become disoriented in the sudden presence of a bright light. As their kidnapper spoke, it was, for a time, as if from a distance to Gherion. Then, Gherion adjusted himself to the presence and began thinking rationally again. He realized that the intensity this man was emanating felt just like his intuition, except much, much stronger, and Gherion had a feeling that what he had just experienced was only a small measure of whatever this man could do, like the pulsing rhythm of a song just beyond hearing.
“I am Master of this facility. My name is Erussa.” The aging man said, his warm yet strong blue eyes dissolving into the very core of Gherion’s being.
“Facility?” Gherion rose and moved to stand next to Tawnos, who was at the forefront of this man’s entrance. So this was some sort of establishment? And what kind of organization wished to kidnap children in a humane manner? What did this person have in mind for them, what did he have planned?
As if reading his mind, Erussa, as he called himself, bowed slightly, as though accommodating the mental inquisition. “Forgive me, mister Aldos. This is a place of learning. Not too different from the place you were taken from.”
A place of learning? Gherion’s mind flickered with images and ideas for what kind of institution this could be. Very few centers of learning yet existed in the galaxy, and even fewer were of a forced attendance. Most schools were optional, not mandatory, and as far as Gherion knew, no Academy, University, or any other form of academia kidnapped their pupils. Perhaps this was a trick, a ruse to confuse them and keep them docile until they could be moved to a safer location, where they would be tortured and eventually killed. But for some reason, Gherion did not think this man meant any harm. He seemed to be powerful in a way that completely transcended conventional thought, thus, he could have killed them quite simply, and he also reflected a kindness in his manner that did not speak of cruelty, nor a wish to cause harm. He was serene, and those sharp blue eyes spoke of much wisdom, intermingled with the desire to pass it on.
Tawnos clenched his fist slightly and glared at Erussa. “That's another thing - why have you brought us here? And how do you know our names?”
Another bow. “I have been watching you - all of you - for some time. You have all demonstrated abilities that make you unique - far more so than you would ever believe.” He raised his hand again, and the hatch out of the room opened once more. The room was filled with light once more, though this time it was much less harsh, though still just as bright. “All will be explained, my young Knights,” he said elusively. He stood in the door once more, again silhouetted against the light from the hall. He reached out a hand towards them. “Come with me.”
Gherion smiled triumphantly. He had been right. There was something about all of them, something that bound them together, and now that his intuition had been confirmed, he guessed that the power he felt within this old man was the power that made them part of a larger whole. They were connected by ability, a talent, and this man planned to teach them of this talent, and how to weild it. He was still hesitant, unsure of this man’s motives, but he felt excited to learn, possibly discover more about himself and come to a revelation that he was more than just a simple philosopher, destined to simply lecture and write the rest of his life. He enjoyed those things, of course: they had been all he had ever craved. But recently, his priorities had changed. And he hungered for more, for something other than just the pursuit of knowledge in books. He wanted to uncover wisdom that stretched across the starts, retain affluence for the galaxy that could not be contained within the circuits of a dusty holo-novel. For whatever reason, Gherion felt that this strange, kind man held the key to uncovering mysteries not glimpsed for many years, and that sparked something in him to fits of unparalleled ecstasy.
But the smile quickly faded as the young half-echani reminded himself of the situation. He had kidnapped them, violently, and he could not yet be trusted. He touched Tawnos’ shoulder lightly, reminding him of his presence, before speaking. He chose his words carefully, watching the man walk slowly away from the room with a sort of shuffling gait. He seemed methodical in the way he moved, but Gherion could not place exactly what it was. He turned to look at Tawnos, who was now looking over his shoulder at the pale young student.
“Should we?” Gherion inquired.
Tawnos glanced at the others, his eyes dark. Then, "It's either that, or stay here," he said. "Besides, I..." he trailed off, thinking for a moment.”I think we can trust him," he said finally, his voice soft. "I just... feel it; we're safe here."
Gherion nodded, looking back through the doorway. "You're right. He just seems... safe. But did you feel that when he walked in? It was like a wall of invisible energy just slapped me in the face." Gherion directed his eyes to Ashalle. "Did you get that feeling?"
Ashalle nodded, her eyes glazed over. "It was as if the air itself pulsed with life," she said slowly.
Osay gave an exasperated sigh. "All right, all right, so we all felt the invisible energy." She glanced at the retreating old man. "We better get a move on."
Tawnos shook his head and turned to the door. "As a famous authour once said... Once more into the breach."
Gherion smiled at the reference, and took a moment to admire the relevance of it to the circumstances. They were being thrown into a completely new situation together, all five of them, unlikely a group as any could ever be, yet tied together by a brotherhood of unspoken and not yet understood power. It took some vast measure of courage to face what was next in store, for it was unknown, and that can be the most frightening future to meet. Typically, Gherion was timid in the face of fear, but for some reason, this group of defunct and mismatched individuals galvanized him, kept his spirits high for the journey into uncharted territory. He mustered up what little bravado he had, looked at Tawnos, nodded, and took the first step forward, into the breach.
Erussa led them through a small corridor, similar in lighting and colour to the room they had been held in. After a short while, they passed through another doorway into a much more open space. Tawnos moved into the room far enough to allow the others entrance, but did not step any further. Erussa, however, continued on, moving to the opposite side of the room. He turned to them.
“Please,” he said, indicating a number of cushions neatly arranged on the floor.
Tawnos cast a look at the others, his eyes again lingering for a moment on Osay, before moving cautiously towards the centre of the room. Ashalle followed him, and slowly but surely the others followed suit, though Celeb remained stone quiet and unreadable to Tawnos the entire time.
“Welcome,” Erussa said warmly, once they had all seated themselves on the floor in front of him. “Before anything else, I must tell you that as long as you are here, in my care, no harm can come to you. This place is to be a haven; a refuge for young people like you across the Galaxy who share your unique talents.”
Tawnos spoke, though the others looked as if they had only been beaten to the punch by a matter of seconds. “What do you mean, “people like us”? What makes us so “unique”.”
Erussa smiled at him. “The five of you,” he began. “Share a common gift. A natural affinity for control, empathy, and compassion. You all have specific talents that place you above your peers.”
Osay snapped, “Why did you abduct us!?”
Tawnos may not have liked the way she kept snapping, but she was right. So he nodded. “First you attack us in the streets, then you lock us in a dark room, and now you expect us to sit quietly and listen to you tell us how we're special.”
Gherion raised a hand gently to Tawnos. “He's telling the truth. I've felt it too, I told you about it. His methods may be questionable, but he's brought us here for a purpose, because something sets us out from everyone else.”
Tawnos ignored him. “You said this was a place of learning. As far as I'm aware, Doctryna is the only place in the Alliance where any sort of real education can happen beyond what planetary systems can teach,” he said. “Where are we?”
Erussa was silent for a moment, as if considering. When he spoke, it was sharply and decisively, yet still calm and gentle. “Very well, Mr. Rashel. You are currently deep within the caverns of Retalia, thousands of miles beneath the Academy from whence you came. This is a secret refuge, where I have watched and waited for many years. The six of you are--“
“Wait,” Ashalle interrupted, after a quick headcount. “There are only five of us.”
Erussa nodded. “There is, however, another student here at the Academy who demonstrates abilities beyond those of her fellows,” he replied. “But I was unable to arrange her attendance here tonight.”
Tawnos stood, losing patience. “I demand to know why we're here,” he said. “What do you want from us?”
Erussa seemed to grow larger, not at all intimidated by Tawnos' stature. “You are here because I have brought you here. The abilites you have shown would have been, in the old days, recognised by the Jedi Order as attributes of Force Sensitive children. I have brought you here to train you to master these abilities, and teach you the ways of the Force.”
Silence rung through the room. Tawnos felt as if he had been struck on the back of the head with a mallet. He stared silently at Erussa, hardly daring to believe what he had heard had actually been said.
Osay broke the silence. “So you're saying that we're going to become Jedi?” She stood up and crossed her arms.
“With luck,” said Erussa. “You will become the first of a new generation of Jedi Knights, and lead the Galaxy in this new era.”
Ashalle stood as well. “Why?” she asked. “The Galaxy has gone without them just fine for almost 2 generations now. Why are they needed now?”
Gherion looked at Ashalle, and spoke with a kind, if not patronising, tone. “The Galaxy needs the balance, the contrast between the Jedi and Sith, to last. History was made out of the forge their conflicts wrought, and one will always rise, with the other to fight it. If it's not the Jedi, then the Sith will rise again. It's almost an inevitability of the galaxy.”
Osay's jaw tensed, and she exclaimed hotly, “Since when can you assume that we all want to become Jedi!”
Tawnos turned to her, shaking his head. “You really are clueless, aren't you?” he said bitterly. “The Jedi were revered in their time by most of the Galaxy. They were looked on as saviours; protectors; guardians of the innocent. How could anyone not want to be a part of that?”
((Ok I am just coming in here and not sure how I would fit in so I am going to wing it until I find my feet))
Lite bustled along the corridor intent on getting to the office. She was just outside the door when the intercomm sounded that students were to leave for the dormitories. Lite stomped her foot and muttered, "Sithspit."
Still that wasn't going to stop her from telling them fogies in the office that she wanted out. She opened the door and marched up to the secretary's desk and said, "I want out."
The response wasn't what she wanted for the secretary looked at her with a piercing lookand told her that students were to report to their dormintories at once. Lite, of course, stood there and said, "I ain't movin' until I have done what I needed to do to get out of here."
The secretary though was made of tougher stuff and had encountered Lite before on various occassions. Lite wasn't suprised to see that the lady would be in her face soon. She wasn't even suprised when the secretary repeated for her to go into her assigned dormitory. Lite was firm though and said, "I want out and I'll do it now."
It was more or less a standoff until the the headmaster, just short of tossing her out the office, escorted her out and gave her orders to go to her dormitory. Lite stuck her tongue out at the closed door and shouldered her bag. She took off down the hall when the idea struck her to just bolt. It wasn't like they were going to search for her anyway. Taking hold of her brilliant idea, she backtracked to the doors that were rarely watched by the watchdogs, as she called them.
Looking around corners to make sure she wasn't caught, she skirted around till she made it to the doors. She just had her hand on the handle when a voice called out asking what she was doing and that students were supposed to be in their dorms. Lite didn't stop to think but reacted and opened the door and ran out. She had a ways to go to get outside the premises. Luckily enough she knew the nooks and crannies from late night kitchen runs and the like. She managed to avoid any more of the watchdogs.
Once outside the compound, Lite let out a sigh of relief. She was free from a boring existence of rules and schoolbooks. She was her own boss now and she could do what she wanted to do. Lite took off down the path, looking for a speeder she could hitch a ride with to the main part of the city. She found it by trading the silver crest of the academy for the ride.
The city was not how she imagined it. There were the lights and all the razzle dazzle but there was also a dark side and Lite thought she found it. As she walked the streets she saw poverty and squallor, things that she had not see for a long time nor during her time in the Academy. She saw junkies trying to get anotheer hit to stay high, mothers trying to feed children, garbage and dirt everywhere. She thought it was the lowest place imaginable.
Once or twice lewd remarks were directed at her. Lite was aware that she stuck out like a sore thumb given that she was still wearing part of the uniform and she was carrying a school bag. She knew that she would have to get new clothes as son as possible but with little money, she would have to do something like steal to get what she needed. That was one thing though she refused to do. Even though she was a bona fide smartass, she was no thief. If she was going to get what she needed, she would do it with her brain. The only skills that she had were her pazaak cards and her skill at chance. Seeing that is what she decided to to, Lite felt around in her pockets to make sure her deck was there and took off to look for the nearest cantina. She was instantly lost, wandering through the dark walkways, not knowing which way to go.
Osay faced him, placing her hands on her hips. “You really are clueless, aren't you? Maybe I'd like to have a life instead of sitting around meditating on some all-powerful Force! The Jedi are looked on as the destroyers of the galaxy. How could anyone want to be a part of that?”
He moved towards her in a somewhat threatening manner. “Don't let your ignorance cloud your judgment,” he spat. “There are more important things than finding some dumbass yelt-spawn to have snotty little kids with. Don't you want to be part of something bigger than just a common, everyday household?”
Osay's eyes blazed up. “Of course I do! But not this!”
A soft beeping erupted from a panel on the wall, and Erussa held up a hand for silence. He glanced at the panel before speaking.
“Apologies,” he said. “I must leave you for a time. I will return in a moment.”
He turned on his heel and hurried from the room. Tawnos watched him leave, then sighed as the others in the room moved away, breaking into semi-private conversations about their situation. Tawnos saw Osay cast him a look of deepest loathing and turn away. He followed.
“Hey,” he said, trying and mostly failing to sound intimidating. “What's your problem?” he asked shortly.
Osay whirled and asked angrily, “My problem? I have a better question! What's your problem!”
Tawnos bristled. “Well, I dunno, I generally tend to have a problem with arrogant, judgemental females who care more about themselves than the greater good!”
Osay snapped, “And I tend to have a problem with stupid, self-righteous males who are convinced that they're right and no one else is!”
“Look you spoi--“ he began, but broke off as he realised that they were drawing strange looks from the others. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before continuing.
“Look,” he said, forcing himself to remain calm. “I... think we may have started off on the wrong foot.” He extended his hand. “Truce?”
Osay sighed and glanced at his hand. She gingerly placed her hand in his and replied in a slightly mistrusting tone, “I--guess. Truce.”
He smiled, though it was more like a tight, very forced grimace. He withdrew his hand quickly. “Listen... Osay, was it? I just think that... well, there's more to the Jedi than you kn--“ he stopped and corrected himself. “Than you seem to be aware. Your misconceptions are... flawed,” he finished lamely.
Osay's 'smile' matched his, and she clasped her hands behind her back. She replied stiffly, “Really? Perhaps you could--enlighten--me, Mr. Rashel.”
“Well...” he began slowly. “The Jedi... have been like a power check; a balancing force in the Galaxy since the beginning of history. Every day, they made people's lives just a little bit easier. The Order dedicated itself to aiding those who needed them the most.” He was silent for a moment. “There are still millions of people... thousands of worlds out there that still need that force. Even if they only serve as a rallying point for the disheartened. We could bring hope to countless people across the Galaxy. Help bring in a new age of peace and justice. After all those years of pain, and poverty... I just don't see how you can even think about not doing something about it.”
Osay's mouth lost its fake smile, and she spat, “You think I don't know about pain or poverty? I've had my fair share, Rashel, and I do intend to do something about it!” Her jaw tightened suddenly, and she cut off any more of her outburst. She added in a more controlled tone, “Sorry for yelling.”
“It's fine,” he said. Before he knew what he was saying, he went on, “I'm sorry too.” He was surprised to feel that he meant it, and continued. “I wasn't trying to... I mean... I didn't mean to belittle any pain you've... you know.”
Osay was shocked for a few moments. He actually sounded like he meant it! She regained her composure and replied in a polite tone, “I understand. Slip of the tongue.”
Tawnos nodded, and took another deep breath. “I know I can be... over confident. Arrogant, even. But I've studied the Jedi all my life - you have to believe me when I tell you that they're not what you think.”
Osay's back straightened. “I have to admit that I haven't studied them very much yet. Perhaps I was being a little--arrogant myself when I refused to believe what you told me about them.”
“Just... please, consider this. Don't just throw away the chance to become something more than you ever thought possible.”
Osay allowed herself a wry grin. “Well, considering the the fact that I muffed trying not to get kidnapped, I don't have much of a choice, do I?”
Tawnos smiled slightly himself. “I guess not,” he said. “But I don't think this Erussa guy would force anything on us. He just seems... trustworthy.” He was silent for a moment again before continuing. “Which is odd. I don't normally trust very easily.”
Osay bit back a snide remark, reminding herself that she wasn't trying to start another argument. She lowered her voice slightly so only Tawnos could hear her. “I don't think we should put our faith in him so easily. Once, back at my school, a boy a year or two older than me was enrolled. Some poor girl I knew was almost immediately convinced that he was a wonderful, kind, honest guy, and she trusted him implicitely.” Her dark brown eyes took on a grave look. “He turned out to be a murderer.”
“No...” Tawnos replied, shaking his head. “This is different. I've been betrayed before. More than once. And... there's just something about this guy... he radiates calm; peace; compassion. He's everything I imagined the Jedi being ever since I was a child.”
Osay glanced around uneasily, as if someone were watching. “I dunno...” She locked eyes with him. “If he's such a compassionate, peaceful man, why did he violently kidnap five academy students to offer them a proposal no one in his right mind could pass up? Doesn't this sound just a little fishy to you?”
He stared at her for a moment, lost in thought. He wondered exactly could have made her this mistrusting - he was wary enough with his trust himself, but she seemed to become outright paranoid about just about everything. Maybe Gherion had been right - there was more to her than met the eye.
“Well,” he said finally. “Think of it this way: if a strange old man you'd never met before came up to you in the streets and asked you to become a warrior for the Jedi Order, do you really think you'd be all that receptive?”
Osay gave a slight laugh. “I suppose I'd tell him in no uncertain terms to go back to whatever padded cell he'd escaped from.” She glanced over at the others for a moment before looking back up at Tawnos. “But what about someone like Gherion? I'll bet he'd jump at an opportunity to become a Jedi, even if some old man he'd never met offered it to him!”
“Gherion is... hard to read,” he said, glancing over at the young man across the room. “I don't think he'd be so quick to leap into something like that. Maybe in this situation, where the idea is slightly less... ludicrous. I know that on an ordinary day, if I were asked if I wanted to become a Jedi Knight... I'd admit to wanting to, of course, but... I would never imagine it coming true. But something about all this makes it seem... real.”
Osay shrugged. “Maybe you're right. Maybe Erussa really is a nice old man who has our best interests at heart. Maybe we're all going to become Jedi and save the galaxy. I don't know. You don't know. We can't know.'” She sighed and muttered, mostly to herself, “Where the heck is that guy, anyway?”
Gherion could not believe what he was hearing. In only moments, his entire world had been turned upside down, all the conventions of what the galaxy had become, all the constructs of his mind convincing himself that the past would never return to make the galaxy a glorious jewel again, they were wiped clean, and his ideas were made fresh and new. He had the capacity to learn the ways of the Jedi, and the first steps were being offered to him. Only hours previous, he had been a simple philosopher, struggling, striving to learn all he could about ancient times and historical figures, to understand all the knowledge the Galaxy had to offer, and for one so young, he felt he had been well along his way to achieving that end, but no longer. As this strange and powerful old man began using terms totally unknown to him and speaking of this great energy of life called the Force, Gherion came to the realization that there was so little he really knew of the galaxy, and so much that he was about to learn. His mind returned to what the old “Jedi” had said:
“You are here because I have brought you here. The abilities you have shown would have been, in the old days, recognised by the Jedi Order as attributes of Force Sensitive children. I have brought you here to train you to master these abilities, and teach you the ways of the Force.”
As Erussa continued his elaborations on Jedi and the Force in clear, intricate tones, Gherion immersed himself in the knowledge, absorbing every inch into his psyche. These teachings, this knowledge he was planning on imparting to them, it was all absolutely right, all of it was irrefutably true, and though Gherion had no proof of this, his mind screamed for him to accept it. In any other situation, the half-echani student would have named the man a fool, or perhaps insane. Yet there was a universal preciousness to Erussa’s word, an unspeakable importance that transcended rationality, logic, and factual evidence, and instead touched upon the feelings, the emotions, and tapped into the core of the human sentiment. This Force could not be proven, but it didn’t have to be, those who felt it just knew, and this fact became clearer to Gherion as he played with the concept in his mind, though he still knew relatively nothing about it. To Gherion, it was real; he had felt it all his life without knowing. All this time, he had thought it was a good intuition, but as his mind opened more and more, he grasped the idea that in reality, his intuition had been a Jedi sense, an ability to feel when one is strong in the Force like himself. His mind had been reaching out to touch other Force sensitive individuals, this energy in him eager to mingle with others radiating the same strength, and he had never known.
It was then that Gherion realized where the Jedi and Sith holocrons scattered throughout the galaxy had disappeared to. He knew immediately upon realizing the connection that Erussa had been all across the known universe, undoubtedly facing impossible dangers, to gather these teachings and bring them to this motley crew of intellectuals and martial artists to learn the ways of discipline that only those strong in the Force, this all-controlling factor of the universe, the breath of life in all things, the heartbeat of the galaxy, could learn. He had known that intelligence was a key factor in how the Jedi chose their candidates, but he had never thought for an instant that, had he been born in earlier times, that he would have been taken into the Jedi Order for training. However, now that he knew what lay in store, and why he was so special, a sort of comprehension dawned on him, like the lost piece of a puzzle clicking into place. His fascination with the Jedi had been for a reason. He was meant to be one; it was what his life was destined for. He was fated to search the galaxy for deeper mysteries, and in gaining knowledge and mastery over this new and yet to be understood Force, start healing the darkness that had brought his home, all their homes, so far from the glory it had once partaken in.
“Apologies,” Erussa announced to the room, jerking Gherion out of his own mind, “I must leave you for a time. I will return in a moment.”
A sense of dejection washed over Gherion for a moment as the old man scuffled out of the room. He had been intent on hearing more, on making a final decision and becoming a student of this “Force”. He instead decided that now would be a good time to see how the others, whom he now allowed himself to consider friends, were doing. He looked over to Tawnos and saw that he spoke in raised words to Osay, undoubtedly letting his temper get the best of him. Perhaps they would resolve their conflict and learn to work together, as Gherion believed that confrontation was often the best remedy for unspoken tension. Leaving the two to their machinations, Gherion instead stood and ambled over to Ashalle, who was watching Tawnos intently, still seated on her pillow. They had been captured together, so Gherion was drawn to her for consultation on these new ideas.
“Some night… day… however long it’s been, right?” Gherion muttered awkwardly, sitting next to her and smiling slightly, but not so much as to seem inappropriate.
She also smiled, looking at him with a distant look on her face. "I... don't really know what to make of it all," she said. "I mean... Jedi? I could understand Tawnos. He's intelligent, passionate... everything he was always saying the Jedi embodied. But me..." she shook her head. "I think I was taken by mistake. I mean, I was left behind when they took Tawnos. The only reason I'm here is because I was there when both of you were taken."
“No, I do not think that’s true. He said the six of us, as if that number were precise, pre-destined, something that was planned ahead of time by months, even years. You’re here because you’re as important as any one of us.” Gherion looked at the door Erussa had disappeared into, and narrowed his eyes, thinking. “Perhaps he did not take you with Tawnos because he needed you to find me… to bring me to him.”
She considered for a moment. "I hadn't thought of it like that..." she trailed off, and then looked around the room at the others, thinking to herself. Finally, she spoke again. "He said six," she began cautiously. "And there are only five of us. Why do you think he hasn't brought the sixth to him as well?"
Gherion did not answer immediately, but instead thought about the question. Then, he turned to Ashalle, and shrugged. “I don’t know. Perhaps he had trouble with them, and couldn’t incapacitate them the same way he did with us. It could be that they were close to an authority figure, or someone he didn’t want to alert. It’s impossible to tell, though. Still… what do you think of this ‘Force sensitive’ business? It makes sense to me, for some reason… like I always knew about it, but never had the words to define it.”
She thought about it for a moment. "I guess... I mean, I've always been... empathic, kind of. Like, I feel what other people feel, because I... empathise..." she finished lamely.
Gherion nodded. “It’s different for me. I’ve never been very good with others unless I’m teaching, but I learn… abnormally fast. And I get feelings about select individuals, things that tell me about them without direct conversation. I got those same feelings from all four of you in this room, this same sort of… kinship. But, anyway, I was wondering about your thoughts on this Erussa character.”
She shrugged. "He seems... ok, I guess," she said. "He's kind of... how I picture my brother being when he's older. Intelligent, but... not... brainy. If you know what I mean. He seems to radiate calm serenity." She also looked over at the doorway the old man had left through. "When he looks at you, it's... almost as if he can see right through you. Like he can see right into the core of your being, and draw out the best in you."
Gherion’s eyes fogged over and he nodded once to signify that he knew what she meant. “He seems… right to me, like, what he’s telling us is just true. I feel safe with him, calm, collected. When he’s in the room, once you get past the weight of his presence, it’s easier to think, and there’s warmth to him. I wonder where he is right now…”
She watched him with an odd look as he spoke. "Maybe it has something to do with the sixth ‘Jedi’," she said. "I guess we'll find out when he gets back."
Celeb sat off to the side during the whole ordeal of Erussa telling them about this thing called the 'Force', and during the ensuing conversations that followed. He was a somewhat introverted type, not liking to deal with people, he liked to call himself, an 'Observer', just watching others, and learning from their mistakes, because as the saying goes, a truly wise man learns from others' mistakes. Since early life Celeb had always been the odd-man-out, so to speak.
The young man looked down at his hands as the older, and, as Celeb decided, very strange man, left the room. Followed shortly thereafter by two of his fellow acquaintances starting a yelling contest. As they carried on with their little immature bickering, Celeb simply sat on his isolated cushion, hands in front of his face, and as each person talked, more like spat, at each other, he used his hands to mimic them, like a bored child would. Soon this too ended, each person calming themselves, trying to reason with each other, this made Celeb lower his hands back down to his lap, his eyes following.
The Arkanian-Offshoot sighed with boredom, and a hint of sadness, he was sitting alone again, but this was normal, everyone here was of relative normality, all seemed human enough, maybe some were a Near-Human species like himself, but none of them looked different than the rest, each person there was comfortable with all the others, except for maybe him. Who would be? He questioned, as he looked at his hands which had long slender, but powerful fingers, which were surprisingly feminine in appearance for a male; his fingernails were milky white and grew faster than normal, meaning his nails were almost always longer than they should be. His skin, although much darker than it should be for his species, being almost tan, was most definately different, having a smooth, almost laminate appearance. His eyes weren't as sharp in appearance as humans, they were filmy and dull, and seemed unfocused, include an intricate dark blue tattoo on the right half of his neck, coming from the back of his jaw, behind his right ear, not to mention he had long pointed ears. Throw in the fact that he was so abnormally tall, and that his weight did not contrast his size, nor his muscle tone, making him seem anorexic by all appearances; he was in all respects, the odd-man-out in the group, and he knew it, he had always known it. This was what made him so sad, so stand-offish, and yet so very interested in people too.
Celeb looked up at the small group of people talking amongst themselves, he couldn't blame them for ignoring him, he was strange in all respects, and not normal by human standard, and as Celeb knew, humans could be so very prejudicial about so many little things. He watched as they stood on the other side of the room from him, talking about the events of that day...or night, whatever it was at the moment. He wasn't all too caring about any of it, he was just going to wait and see how many of them decided to become 'Jedi', and then decide by the outcome. His only beef, was the old man, he seemed nice enough, and had an "aura" of what Celeb could call serenity about him, he seemed too good, or, more like too deceptive, because unlike the other four, he had been captured in a very inhumane manner...with a stun rod that had electric cell mods, with his own arm being possessed and used against him, from what Celeb had read of the Jedi, which was more than the average person, and quite a lot by some perspectives, he knew that it was against their ways to use such methods. Had the old man done it to prevent noise, seeing as Celeb had been pretty close to a residential building? No, he could have done something else to prevent noise, Celeb was sure of it.
He picked off another flake of fried skin from under his chin, looking at it, then throwing it. Then again, he could be over thinking the whole issue, which Celeb most likely was, seeing as all the others, except the girl Osay, seemed to be, and had been, relatively calm during the whole time they were here. The young Arkanian-Offshoot stretched his arms, letting out another saddened sigh when he was done. Whatever had happened, or was going to happen, whether they were really going to become Jedi or not, Celeb would just have to take it, like he had done his whole life, take it.
(Another lame post by yours truly. :D )
Their thoughts and conversations came to a near-instant halt as the door opened once more, and Erussa returned. His presence filled the room with an overwhelming sense of peace and calm. It was almost as if just being there set the young ones at ease, helped their minds remain clear and their attitudes remain pliable. He smiled warmly at them as he looked from each face to the next, his hands behind his back.
“I apologize for the wait. Now, as I was saying, I have waited many years for you. It has been quite the journey, across the ages, gathering these teachings, so that you may come to know them yourselves.”
“So... you’re responsible for the missing teachings of the Jedi?”
“Yes, I thought so.” Gherion said quietly, his eyes narrowed as he habitually stroked his goatee. “Tawnos and I were speaking about that just today. You seem well within the capabilities of gathering all of that knowledge, scattered across the galaxy... but they disappeared years ago. How long did it take you?”
“It is hard for me to say. The passage of time has lost its texture as I grow older, and my memory fades. Hundreds of years, possibly.”
Osay asked pointedly, “Hundreds of years? You’re telling me that you’re hundreds of years old?”
“I suppose that could be inferred, yes.” Erussa said lightly. He waved his hand at the air dismissively. “That subject is for a later time, and will be explained when it has the proper relevance to your destinies.”
“And what exactly do our “destinies” entail?” asked Ashalle.
“All in due time, Ms. Rashel, all in due time. But first we must find our missing night, a young woman by the name of Ms. Somnoi, though I believe she calls herself ‘Lite’. An unfortunate turn of events did not allow me to bring our final student to this place, as she has left school grounds, and appears intent on leaving the planet altogether. An...” Erussa searched for the words a moment, his mouth twisting into a sort of bemused grimace, “undesirable change in the future, but an unavoidable one, I suppose.”
“So, how do you plan to bring her here?” Gherion asked cautiously, the words playing on his lips ever so slightly.
“I was hoping the five of you would retrieve her for me, actually.”
Tawnos looked sidelong at Gherion for a fraction of a second before speaking. “How do your propose we do that? Are we to approach her in conversation, or do you want us to “retrieve” her the same way we were retrieved?”
“I would prefer persuasion over force, but in this case, I do not think it prudent. She is not of a sound emotional state, I am afraid, and being approached by total strangers in academy garb would only lead to a needless display. I would like you to bring her here, by any means necessary, but she is not to be harmed.” Erussa paused for a moment, before continuing, “I know this must seem wrong to you, but it must be done, and I am sure that even as I speak, you realise this. She is part of the knighthood, and she must be given the chance of audience as you have.”
Osay crossed her arms. “For one thing, we don’t even know what she looks like. For another, why should we help you kidnap her?”
It was Gherion who replied. “I know who she is,” he said, the memory rushing back to him. “There was a girl in the cafeteria the other day - she caused quite the disturbance. I got the same sensation when I saw her that I now feel from all of you.”
“And like it or not, Osay, this is real,” said Ashalle kindly. “And whatever this ‘destiny’ we share is, we’ll need her.”
Tawnos stared at Erussa for a moment, his eyes taking in the man’s wrinkled skin, greyed hair, and settled on the old man’s eyes. The twin pools of gentle blue light that seemed to penetrate into your very soul, and drag out the wisdom within you. He took a deep breath, and nodded. “The Galaxy needs the Jedi again,” he said simply. “I’ve always dreamt of being able to become a part of the Order. I’ll do whatever it takes.” He turned to face the others, and extended his hand towards them. “I’m in.”
Gherion looked at a wall on the far side of the room, his eyes vague, his mind searching. Then, he looked at Erussa, and furrowed his brow. “I am not an advocate of violence. I detest it, actually. But... I get this sense that you’re right. Something’s telling me to seek her out, find her, that she has as pivotal a role to play as we do in this new Jedi Order we’re supposed to be building.” Gherion looked at Erussa for a moment, then stood and joined his hand with Tawnos’. “I’ll go too.”
Ashalle took a deep breath, looking from her brother to Erussa to Gherion. “I can’t say I like any of this,” she said. “But Gherion is right - something here is telling me that this needs to be done.” She stepped forward and put in her hand as well. “Count me in.”
“Me too,” said Celeb, rising from his solitary cushion and speaking for the first time in a while. “I’m not one to shy away from a challenge.”
They turned to look at Osay. It was Tawnos who spoke first. “No one can force you into anything you don’t want to do,” he said, far more gently than he had spoken to her before. “But the Galaxy needs you. We need you.”
Osay glanced at the others. They all seemed so...calm about this. She bit her lip for a moment and crossed her fingers for luck. “Fine. I’ll do what you want.”
Tawnos’ beamed at her. “Thank you.”
Lite wandered about the alleyway wondering how in the blazes she could have gotten lost. It shouldn't be so hard to find a blasted cantina, even one that looked like it had a Hutt crawling around inside of it. Lite stomped her foot impatiently and tried to think. She calmed herself by breathing and thinking of her steps.
When she wasn't angry anymore, she found that she was breathing normally and could retrace her steps to where she first got lost. She walked back there, avoiding the people huddled in their dark corners. When she arrived, she looked around, this time more carefully.
The cantina was not one of the best dives around but it would do. She was going to play pazaak, not dejarik. She took a deep breath and went in. It was as bad on the inside as it was out but at least it was well lit. Lite went to the bar to order a drink that was light on the head. Using her perfected technique, she looked around to see potential players.
It wasn't that hard to spot one player and Lite had her up for a match. One match became two as Lite played with all the skill she had to win her pile of credits. Her opponet wanted a chance to get even and called a game of strip pazaak. Lite only lifted a brow and her green eyes came alive. The last time she played that, the loser had to walk through the Academy butt naked. It was the time of her life. Rising to the challenge, Lite agreed to the sound of cheers from the men that had gathered. It wasn't everyday that they got a free peep show.
Lite played determined not to lose. The first thing was her headband so her reddish mane was forced to flyaway on its own. The next three rounds, Lite demanded the pants, boots and shirt. It was over. She had won and had a pile of credits to get her clothes and a start. As she stood up, a thought struck her. She tossed back the shirt and said, "Now I can't take an opponent's shirt off their back."
When the opponent demanded her pants and boots, Lite held them away and said, "I said shirt. Not pants and boots," and smiled sweetly.
It would have gotten her into trouble but the woman across from her seemed to think better of it and turned to walk away to a dressing room.
Lite, though was not so cruel. She followed the woman and handed everything back to her. The woman in show of good sport gave Lite a set of pants and new boots. Lite's top was fine except her pants and boots were unmistakeably Academy wear. Lite accepted and changed into them. The woman took her old clothes and handed back her headband wishing LIte luck wherever she was going. Lite nodded and grabbed her bag. Checking her pockets to make sure she had her credits, she stepped out of the dressing room and out of the cantina. Now she had enough money to barter passage on the next transport offworld, if she found one.
Lite wandered the streets looking for something that resembled a transport. She caught a speeder that took her to another part of the city and it was just as dark and as univiting as the last sector she was in. Still she was told that she could find a transport there so she set out looking. She couldn't help but think that it was a trap. Her snses were alive at the signs of life in the dark corners and she was wary.
After nearly three hours being briefed on this “Lite” character’s last known movements, the five students agreed to split into two smaller groups to search for her.
“You will find that a number of your personal effects have already been brought to your private rooms,” Erussa had told them, showing them to a third wing of the massive underground facility. “These will be your living quarters for as long as you need them. Good luck.”
They took another hour to prepare in their rooms. Tawnos discovered his blaster lying on the bedside table, replaced in its holster and a fresh battery pack installed. He also found his leather jacket, which had been taken off while he was unconscious, and a fresh change of clothes hanging in the tiny closet by the bed. He removed his dark green shirt and greying slacks, replacing them with the solid black pants and deep red shirt hanging in front of him, marvelling at how strong, yet relatively light the fabrics were. He pulled his leather jacket overtop of it, and attached his blaster to his belt.
He turned to look at himself in the full-length mirror placed at the foot of the bed. He looked incredibly tired, with dark bags forming below his eyes and a slightly ruffled look building in his hair. Both, of course, were probably symptoms of his lack of sleep over the past week or so, he thought. He tried in vain to flatten his hair, and rubbed his eyes for a moment. He threw his reflection one more fleeting glance, and hurried out of the room to meet the others.
The sun had nearly fully risen above the city of Retalia as the Team stepped out of the dark of the underground facility.
“We should all exchange comm numbers,” suggested Ashalle. “That way we’ll be able to contact each other if anything goes wrong for any reason.”
They all agreed, and after swapping numbers, broke into their groups.
Tawnos turned to Osay and Celeb, who along with him would make up the first team. “According to Erussa, Lite’s last known co-ordinates placed her in the southern-most sector of the city. We should start there.”
“The southern district?” Celeb muttered to the two, scratching his head with curiosity. “Isn’t that the ‘slums’, or some such? Why would someone with two brain-cells go there? ...Wait, we’re going there,” he said in a low tone afterwards, more to himself than to the other two.
Osay shrugged. “No worries. I’ve been there several times.”
Tawnos raised an eyebrow at her, but didn’t say anything. “Right then... we won’t have access to the region’s CCTV network, so we’ll have to do this the hands-on way. We should probably start in some of the cantinas and pazaak dens.” He turned to Celeb. “You’ve been awfully quite since this all started,” he said. “What do you think we should do?”
Celeb blinked, his eyes widening very slightly. “I-Uh, I don’t know, I’m just the sidekick,” he said hesitently, looking from Tawnos to Osay, and back again. “I guess we could check some of the spaceports, the old guy did say she was trying to get offworld,” Celeb reluctantly advised, hoping his suggestion wouldn’t have any ill repercussions.
Tawnos nodded. “Good idea. What do you think?” he asked of Osay.
“From what I saw of her, she’ll be well on her way to getting off-world,” she said.
“Then we’d better get moving. Let’s go.”
After nearly three hours being briefed on this "Lite" character's last known movements, the five students agreed to split into two smaller groups to search for her.
"You will find that a number of your personal effects have already been brought to your private rooms," Erussa had told them, showing them to a third wing of the massive underground facility. "These will be your living quarters for as long as you need them. Good luck."
The sun had nearly fully risen above the city of Retalia as the Team stepped out of the dark of the underground facility.
"We should all exchange comm numbers," suggested Ashalle. "That way we'll be able to contact each other if anything goes wrong for any reason."
They all agreed, and after swapping numbers, broke into their groups.
Gherion moved briskly on the crowded streets of downtown, his gait perfectly blended with the harried paces of the city’s many citizens. Ashalle moved behind him, her walking quickened not by a carefully crafted camouflage, but by an ever-pressing need to keep up with her companion. Once Gherion had been set to his mission, something clicked on in him, and his instinct thrust into full gear. He knew what he was, what he was looking for, and had no shadow of doubt in his new path in life. This fresh perspective allowed Gherion to follow his impulses, slow his constant thought to align with the rhythm of his spirit, the beat of his soul and his untapped power in the Force. He thought as deeply, clearly, and precisely as he always had, but it was as if his cognition resided at a totally novel level. His mind and body were in tune with one another, and he allowed himself to follow his senses to their destination.
Every so often, he glanced down at the data-pad in his hand to be certain that he was not merely going mad with excitement in becoming a Jedi, allowing himself to wander in his giddiness and send the both of them totally off-track. When he checked the pre-established movements, then studied the possible destinations programmed onto the screen, he was right on course, yet as soon as he had left the others with Ashalle, he had not looked at the data-pad before twenty minutes after. He doubted this could be mere coincidence, yet he made sure of his bearings every so often, a habitual need for orientation and affirmation that came along with Gherion’s intellect. He wanted to be constantly sure of himself, something he admittedly lacked, and the datapad was giving him that assurance. As he looked ahead, his gut drove him. When there were forks in the road, one called out as a beacon to him in his mind’s eye. When there was a turn, his intuition pushed him forward or jerked around and carried him along the new road. There were larger powers at work, and Gherion was acting as a conduit, a willing puppet for the intended purpose. At the same time, however, something told him that there were more individual elements to this strange phenomenon, that he himself was merely using a current of control, passive and pliable to suit his needs.
"Are you sure we're going the right way, Gherion?" asked Ashalle, as she jogged to keep up - even at the slowest of paces, she had to take two steps for every once of his, and he was walking far faster than he normally would have.
Gherion paused to look at his surroundings. They were on the darker side of the city, drug addicts running down alleyways looking for their next fix, Twi’lek prostitutes standing on street corners, displaying their colorful and curvaceous bodies to prospective customers. This was the true face of the galaxy, the real, gritty texture of life under the fantastic, if not ethereal, sheen of the government buildings and wealthy districts. Gherion had lived for years hopping from planet to planet, and had seen every ugly visage the known universe wore, so little surprised him. But after spending so much time getting acclimated to the Academy, it was an unexpected shock to his system to see what was really going on at ground level. Though the dark age had indeed ended, its scars and echoes remained in the hearts and minds of the people, who still continued to be slow to trust and quick to blame. The Galaxy had grown claws over the years, and trimming them would be a decades-long process. Sometimes, Gherion just didn’t know how the Alliance hoped to do it, but now that the Jedi were coming back, and Gherion would be one of the first, he had a new optimism when looking at the residual filth.
He pulled his mind away from the musings, and turned to look at Ashalle. He glanced at his data-pad, smiled, the pocketed it once again in his long grey coat. “Yes, we are. I can’t tell you exactly how I know, but if you let yourself just… go, then I’m sure you’ll understand how I know that this is the way to find her.”
Ashalle tried to focus her mind, but she was too pumped with adrenaline at the thought of what they were attempting to do. She shook her head impatiently. "Whatever," she said dismissively. "We don't have a lot of time - she's already got a decent head start on us. And if she's trying to get off-world..."
“Oh, she is,” Gherion announced confidently as he turned and continued on, “she’s headed for the docking bays, probably hoping to catch a ride off-planet. Who knows where she’s planning to go. I doubt even she does.”
Ashalle forced her mind to clear, and closed her eyes. She could hear, of course, the sounds of the bustling city streets and the hurried pace of Gherion's footsteps. She tried to imagine what she would do in Lite's position - out of place amongst the students at the Academy, alone on a metropolis of a world... and she felt a powerful surge of feelings that weren't entirely her own as she pictured the young woman as Gherion had described her earlier. She could feel the panic, and the anxiety even apart from her own.
She opened her eyes, and saw that Gherion hadn't waited for her - on the contrary, he seemed to have quickened his pace. "Hey, wait up!" she called.
“Can’t!” Gherion replied, his mind searching, feeling what Ashalle had felt, “she’s nervous; frightened, even – we have to hurry.”
She full-out ran to catch up, panting slightly as she fell into step beside him again. "Then let's find her, and get back to Erussa."
Gherion nodded, and started running full-tilt, his instincts rocketing him forward towards their missing Lite. He followed the path laid before him effortlessly, his senses not deterred from the considerably faster pace at which he was now moving. They would find Lite, and bring her back to Erussa. Back to her new home.
Lite sensed them before they attacked. She couldn't explain why or how but it felt as if she was always able to do that. She dropped her shoulder bag and did a complete backflip to avoid the perp who tried to grab her. Landing on her feet she raised her fists in defense and said, "I don't think so."
The perp was a junkie no doubt and he and his cronies obviously thought that she had money to feed their habit. Lite suspected that they were spice junkies since they had no lick of sense yet she could tell that they were pretty strong. She let them make the first move.
She ducked to avoid a punch and delivered two fast ones to the gut of one of them. It became a hand to hand match that you would only see on the gambling circuits. Lite used her speed and skills to deliver kicks and punches at her attackers. She was good but then every good person had to get their noses bloody. She had been grabbed from behind and she was feeling pressure on her throat. Trusting her body, she managed to bring her leg straight up and hit the perp in the face. She jumped away and looked to find a weapon.
Not a very good weapon but a pipe proved to be useful and Lite swung it out in front of her. One of the perps actually pulled out a knife and Lite gave a wry grin, "Right." She then bolted in a direction, towards a wall. She didn't stop running but gathered her momenttum and ran up the side to do a flip over the perp's head. Landing, she let her legs collapse into a split, giving her a chance to give a good crack at the perp's shin.
Lite rolled away and ran back to where her bag was. Along the way she encountered one more perp who demanded her credits. Lite of course didn't comply and used her pole to deliver a few good clouts to the perp. When he was down, she said, "No one takes from me."
She didn't see her initial attacker as he gave her a clout across the back of her head and sent her sprawling. Seeing stars, Lite hit her head on the ground and saw nothing but black.
Tawnos led the way through the dankest sector of the city, his hand resting on his blaster holster and his senses sharp despite how exhausted he was. He glanced down at his datapad, trying to make sense of the readings.
"Celeb, can you make heads or tails of any of these readings?" he asked.
Celeb jerked his head in Tawnos' direction, still not used to others even so much as asking for his imput showed how long he'd gone without social interaction, or friends. He looked down at the datapad reading the display, and as the Jack-Of-All-Trades he was, he simply pointed down a darkened street, "That's the general direction it's telling us."
Tawnos looked up in the direction he pointed - towards the docking rings, where dozens of ships landed and took off every day. He turned to Osay. "How about you? You said you've been in this area before?"
Osay replied, "Yea, there's a good chance she'll be there. That's the cheapest spaceport on Retalia."
He nodded. and activated his comm. "Tawnos to Gherion."
It was Ashalle who replied. "Gherion's a little... busy," she said slowly. "What do you need?"
"The projections from Erussa are pointing us towards the docking ring - at least, we think," he told her. "Are you gathering the same?"
She took a moment to reply. "Yes," she said. "We've entered the docking ring now. How are you guys doing?"
"We're... doing," he said. "We'll stay in contact. Tawnos out."
He replaced the comm unit in his jacket. "Ok. Let's try to make up for lost ground. Let's go."
Gherion turned hard down a corner and bolted across the last stretch of road separating him from the alleyway, and Lite. The feeling had only gotten stronger, and now Gherion sensed that she had felt immense pain, suffered a conflict, and then her struggle abruptly ended in no thought or feeling whatsoever. The half-Echani surmised that Ashalle felt it to, for as he glanced back at her, sprinting to keep up with him, a look of shock and urgency as etched into her pink, sweaty face. Something was wrong, and they both knew it. His heart sank with the dread of the thought that she had been seriously harmed, or possibly even murdered. Gherion felt a responsibility for Lite, a brotherly instinct to protect her and make sure no harm came to her. It was a gut impulse; it drove him unquestioningly into certain danger, made him act unlike himself. He felt braver, surer, and it made him feel alive, yet he had no idea why he was feeling this way. What he did know, however, that this was not some strange Force possessing him, it was who he was, raw and unfettered, doing what he had always wanted, what he was meant to do, though he had never consciously recognized it. He was trying to save another’s life.
As he skidded into the alleyway, he saw a scene that shocked him for a moment, even though he had expected worse. There were a group of junkies, four in the lot, two of which were nursing wounds along the side of the far left building while the other two bent low over the silent but breathing body of Lite Somnoi, moving to remove articles of clothing, more than likely to sexually abuse her. Gherion pulled his blaster from its sheath without hesitation, and pointed it directly at the largest one’s head. If he removed that one from the group, they’d be easier to take one-on-one, though, with Ashalle as wingman, he very much doubted they would be able to handle even one of the others. Gherion straightened himself up, and when he spoke, it was as if his voice had changed with the situation. It was still of similar persuasion to how he usually spoke, with a calm, slightly quiet, polite tone, but it had a firmness and commanding tinge that was entirely new to him. He was scared, terrified, and he knew that logically, if it ended with fists, he would be dead. But his voice showed no ounce of that fear.
“Step away from her, and I won’t put a bolt from this blaster into your large companion’s head.” His mind was telling him to run, but his heart and gut kept him firmly in place. The gun remained stern and focused, and if Gherion pulled the trigger, he knew that his target would be dead. Gherion had no intention of becoming a killer again on this night, but he knew in the back of his mind that to save this girl, he would do what he abhorred above all else, what he had done to his father all those years ago.
The sentient opposite him, a stout Aqualish male wearing a black leather flight suit, stood and turned towards Gherion. He spoke in basic, but with a raspy and unrefined tone that spoke of inexperience with the language.
“You don’t have the guts, human, and we ain’t goin’ nowhere. This girlie’s ours, and we’ll make your little sweet thing there ours too if you ain’t careful.”
Ashalle slid a long, slender dagger from the sheath in her boot. "I assure you, ‘sir’, that any part of your body that touches mine, you'll never see again."
The second man stood, his height showing itself completely as he turned to the two of them. He was huge, a spice addict, no doubt, his muscles revealing a particular compulsion for injection, as opposed to the direct spice-to-mouth application that most junkies used. When spice was refined to the point of being injected, it caused a much stronger effect, and typically brought about a considerable increase in strength and size that regular spice simply did not. This man was dangerous, and Gherion understood that all too well.
“Ha. Feisty. I like that in my women.” He snapped, his voice harsh and deep. His bald head shone in the street lamp behind them, revealing tattoos all across his skull.
“I will repeat myself only once. Leave, now, and do so without the young woman, or I will kill you.” Gherion replied, his blaster still pointed at the addict’s head.
It was the Aqualish thug that moved first. He went for Ashalle as he withdrew a small knife and slashed in the air at her. His injured friends cheered him on, apparently enjoying the prospect of watching a young woman die. Ashalle reacted quickly, the adrenaline forcing her body into action before she really knew what she was doing. She lashed out with her own weapon, barely blocking his knife from making contact with her chest. She kicked out, her foot making contact with his stomach - and before she could stop herself, she had slid the end of her blade into the back of her attacker’s neck. Gherion looked on in shock, but was forced to turn suddenly by the charging form of his target, who was now rampant with rage at the death of his apparent friend. Gherion did not think, slipped outside of his own mind, and pulled the trigger. The hulking monster dropped instantly as the resounding ping of the bolt cut through the quiet night air. Gherion fell to his knees and clutched at the ground, his blaster skidding away from him, as the shock of what he had just done washed over him. His mind whirled with images of his own father lying dead in a pool of his own blood, the blood of his family, and just as he reached the breaking point, he vomited.
Looking up blearily at his surroundings, he saw that the injured duo had absconded with Lite’s belongings, and were nowhere to be found. He breathed a sigh of relief for their retreat, even as the weight of his murder still hung on his mind. He turned to Ashalle, who had also lost the contents of her stomach across the cold ground beneath her, staring at the body of the Aqualish male, her dagger still protruding from his back, thick green blood forming in a pool around him. Her eyes were full of tears, and she was trembling. He crawled over to her and embraced her, knowing of nothing else he could do. He forced back his own bitter tears, and composed himself as best he could.
"We... we have to get Lite to Erussa. We have to get her somewhere safe."
Gherion reached in his pocket and pulled out a small communications device. He pressed a button on its surface and began speaking. "Gherion to Tawnos, are you there?"
Tawnos’ voice crackled to life through the small speaker. "I'm here. What's the matter?"
“We found Lite. She’s alive, but unconscious, attacked by spice junkies who wanted her credits. We… we killed two of them, the others left. We need your assistance here.”
The reply was a short curse, followed by "What's your location?"
Gherion searched his surroundings, and saw a large sign above a back exit near the far side of the alleyway. “We’re in the alley behind the Rancor’s Breath Cantina. Hurry, Tawnos.”
"We're on our way."
Gherion pocketed the comm, and looked at Ashalle. She was quiet, her eyes wide and unmoving, but she was alive, and that was all Gherion needed. He pushed the thoughts of his own horrible act out of his mind, and scooted both of them back, pressing their backs against the wall closest to them. Doing all he knew how, his body still drained from greif, Gherion closed his eyes, and waited for help.
She was running through a tunnel. It was a long one and it seemed that there was no end. She stopped running to look around only to find herself alone.
'Well, girl, you sure got yourself into a fine mess,' she thought to herself as she looked to find a way out of the tunnel. All she could see were shadows. Sometimes they surrounded her and other times they ran away from her.Then she heard them. They were comforting yet strange.
The voices. They were talking but she couldn't understand. They seemed far away. One was a female. She sounded scared and the other was male. He was...shocked. They were talking, breathing. She could count their breaths as they talked to each other. Whispering.
Lite moaned slightly but didn't open her eyes. She was seeing and hearing things but she couldn't tell if they were real or not. Her head felt like a chunk of carbonite and she was so tired. Her mind began to slip back into a deep void. The voices weren't going away. Too many voices.
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