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Old 02-08-2006, 11:26 PM   #73
The Commander
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Join Date: May 2002
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Posts: 1,591
Strider let out a grunt of pain. His leg had just been jerked out from under his body and his chest forced down, causing a resounding thud on the hard floor of the training room. He reared back his feet and leapt forward feet-first, landing back in a ready position.

Jayde wasn’t holding back this time, and Strider could tell. He wasn’t anywhere near as experienced as she was, but it was as if with each move she made, knowledge flooded into Strider’s head like a roaring waterfall. Jayde came at Strider again now, fooling him into thinking she was going to throw a punch, and instead delivered a side kick.

Strider was ready for this one, or so he thought. He managed to grab a hold of her foot, but this was only the beginning of his mistake. Strider was about to twist her leg to spin her to the ground, but before he could even fathom it, Jayde pushed off the ground with her right foot, bent her left knee, and delivered a driving kick to Strider’s chest, knocking him onto his back, and freeing her left leg from his grasp.

“The possibilities are nearly endless, Strider. You have to expect the unexpected,” she preached, then moved her foot off his chest. “You alright?” she asked.
Strider nodded, and climbed to his feet. Just as he did so, Jayde did a sweeping kick at his feet. His spine made acquaintance with the floor once again with another resounding thud.

Jayde offered her hand this time to help him up. Strider took it and was pulled to his feet, but this was another mistake. Just as she pulled him up, she kicked one of his shins out from under him then drove her elbow into his back. Strider was once again reintroduced to the solid ground of the training chamber, but this time his chest and the left cheek of his face met the ground rather than his back.

Strider groaned and began to get back up. Jayde was about to speak and he quickly interrupted, coming off as a little frustrated, “Yes Master, I realize I have to pay attention…”

His master raised her eyebrow, and then responded, “Careful Strider. Your f…” but was once again interrupted.

Strider replied, with a hint of mock in his tone, “My frustration will cloud my judgment. My clouded judgment will cause me to make irrational decisions that lead me down the path of the Dark Side.”

Obviously not amused by Strider’s mockery, Jayde delivered a swift kick to his shin. Strider’s foot slipped back, but kept his balance. Dread flooded over his mind as he realized what he’d done, and the earlier frustration disappeared from his mind as swiftly as it had come. All in just a half second’s time, he wiped his mind of everything and concentrated on the next thing coming.

The next thing that came was Jayde’s foot to his gut. He quickly lifted up the leg that had slid back and blocked with his shin. Jayde was surprised at his reaction, and delivered a blow to his chest with her left fist, her foot still on his shin. Strider crossed his arms in front of him and blocked her punch. The force of it knocked him back, causing Jayde’s foot to fall from his shin. He then moved one hand down swiftly to grab her hand locked between his two arms. His other hand shot forward and hit her in her gut, shortly after his foot kicked forward at her shin, just enough to cause her foot to slide back. Strider then turned and pulled Jayde’s arm over his shoulder and hoisted her off the ground, flipping her over his shoulder.
Jayde however, managed to land on her feet, much to Strider’s dismay. She twisted around, her arm as well, and managed to pull free of Strider’s grip and struck with her right fist.

Her apprentice was ready, though, blocking with his left hand, then while holding onto her fist, leaped up and faked a kick with his left leg, then kicked forward with his right. His foot contacted with Jayde’s shoulder, causing her to stumble back and fall over.

Jayde tried to get up, but just as she did, Strider did a sweeping kick. She managed to jump over it, but Strider improvised just the same and from his position on the ground, kicked upward with both feet, and hit both her legs, causing her to fall face-down back to the ground.

Just as Strider hopped back up to his feet and readied himself for Jayde’s next move. However, Jayde held up her hand and called the session to an end. He blinked and stood back straight. When Jayde got up, they both bowed to each other respectively.
Jayde was the first to speak, “I saw your surprise after I hit your shin, and I noticed how quickly you cleared your mind and prepared for what next came. Don’t get frustrated Strider, falling may be frustrating, but as you saw just now, the longer our training went, the faster you were able to detect a counter technique to fight back with.”

Strider nodded and said in response, “I apologize for my attitude; I was merely getting frustrated with my own lack of performance.”

Jayde nodded and replied, “I understand, Strider. You expect too much from yourself though, and that kind of pride in your ability can lead to several things. I’m not referring to the Dark Side, but that is a possible path, but many Jedi who realize they have great potential begin to overestimate their ability and underestimate the situation they face.”

Strider took this to thought and then replied in a thankful tone, “I understand, Master. Thanks for veering away from the traditional ‘leads to the Dark Side’ cliché. The teachings often just say, ‘Don’t do this for it leads to the dark side.’ The way you explain it helps me relate to the lesson personally and adjust myself accordingly.”

Jayde smiled, and then said proudly, “I’m glad you realize that. Also, I was impressed by how you adapted to the fight that last round, you’re definitely getting the hang of this faster than I ever expected.” She paused for a moment, thinking, and then spoke her thought, “As for how I decide to inform you, I don’t quite agree with the redundancy of the teachings myself, which is why I try to make the situation a little more personal. This is probably also why they don’t want me on the Council.”
“I thought they wouldn’t let you in because you were too young?” Strider asked, now curious, given this new information.

“That’s what they told me,” Jayde replied. “But as we know, the Council is often elusive in their real reasons for making their choices, and I haven’t been a master long, but I’ve been a master long enough to know that my views differ from theirs, and they know it,” she finished.

Strider nodded, “I get what you mean. Even from my experiences, they were never quite straightforward with me but I could estimate their underlying reasons for their decisions.”

Master Averre nodded to him. “Now, go get some rest. You’re going to have a hard afternoon tomorrow, you need as much energy as you can get,” she advised.
“Yes, Master.”

* * * * * * *

At first the image seemed to be a fuzzy, unfocused lens. As it began to sharpen, the outline of the floor of the Council Chamber began to be visible. Soon, the silhouettes of the chairs were visible, and the edges of the large windows sharpened as well. Afterwards, the details in between began to come into focus. The designs on the Council floor, the seats of the Council members, the metallic walls and ceiling, and finally, the magnificent view of the Coruscant skyline. The perspective began to rotate, giving a full three hundred sixty degree view of the room, before finally coming to a halt overlooking the room from a balcony-like seating near the door way.
The bodies of the Council members faded into view, starting from the feet and slowly accumulating up to the torso, and finally the head. Shortly after their arrival, another body seemed to appear, assembling from the head down. It was a blue-eyed male with rather messy black hair donned in the traditional Jedi garments. This man was Strider, and he was standing before the Council alone. Master Averre was nowhere to be seen in the room. There was a peculiar silence, before finally one of the council members spoke.

“Strider Flamehart, step forward,” boomed the voice of one of the masters.
Strider stepped forward into the center of the room. His expression was neutral and carried little emotion; he seemed ready to face the consequences for some unknown actions of his.

“You are fully aware of your actions, and you are fully aware of the consequences of those actions. We are already particularly sure of what we will sentence upon you, but first, do you have any explanations to justify what you’ve done?” asked the head council member.

“I am fully aware, and I do know the consequences. As to my explanation, I have none. There is nothing to excuse what I have done, so instead I, knowing my chances of such a thing are already futile, ask for a chance at redemption,” replied Strider in a firm voice.

“You have fallen far, Flamehart. We don’t know if we can ever trust you within these walls again, and it would take you quite some time of service with the Jedi to prove your redemption. Although no Jedi is beyond redemption, you have done much, and I believe if our teachings failed you once, it is likely they will fail you again after such a swift transition back from what you submitted to,” spoke one of the masters.

“Yes, you have done much that would convince us that converting back would be time consuming, and possibly have little to no affect on the darkness that already resides within you. You are still too close to the Dark Side. It would be dangerous for the other students to allow you to train once more within these walls once again,” said another master.

“You have indeed fallen too far, making you too great a risk to be readmitted into the Order so soon. Your petition for redemption will only be valid after you have spent an extended period of time away from the temptation of the Dark Side and have proved you can commit selfless, honorable acts to assist either the Jedi or the Republic. The Council is in agreement, and our previously agreed judgment has proved to be the best course of action. Strider Flamehart, from this moment on, you are hereby exiled from the Jedi Order. As such, you are required to forfeit your lightsaber,” decreed the head council member.

Strider’s face remained emotionless as he removed his lightsaber hilt from his belt. He activated the blade, which caused most of the Council members to reach for their own hilts warily. Strider just gazed at the deep blue resonance of his blade for a moment, before deactivating the blade and handing it over respectfully to the head council member. He seemed awfully calm about all of this as he bowed, then left the Council Chambers without another word.

* * * * * * *

Strider bolted upright to a sitting position in his bed, body soaked in sweat. “Was that a dream…?” he asked himself. He looked around his room to reassure himself, and sure enough, he saw his own lightsaber hilt sitting on his nightstand and several datapads, disks, and a holographic projector scattered about the room and many other personal items signifying he was still in his room at the Jedi Temple.

He let out a sigh of relief. Everything was well. It must’ve been a dream, and he could only hope that’s how it would remain. He lay back on his bed, taking in a deep breath, his chest swelling to maximum capacity, then exhaled, his chest shrinking back to its normal proportion. He leaned over and checked the time. “Still too early in the morning,” he told himself, and rolled back over into his bed. As he did so, he noticed just how much he had perspired and removed his undershirt, revealing a rather toned torso with a few minor scratches, burns, and bruises from the recent training sessions. He lay back onto his bed and closed his eyes, then allowed himself to fall back into a deep sleep.

* * * * * * *

The image of Strider’s room faded into view, slightly blurry from the aftereffects of recent sleep. He could vaguely feel his body being shaken by an unknown force. His vision soon focused, and was quite startled to see the outline of the face of a close friend shaking him to consciousness.

“Wake up Strider, you don’t want to sleep in too late or you won’t have time to be ready for your training encore later this afternoon,” spoke a soft, female voice.

Strider’s view slowly sharpened and focused and soon identified this friend as Cylia. His eyes widened, his hands darting to pull the covers tighter around himself. “What’re you doing in a male’s dorm? What are you, a peeping tom?” he demanded.

Cylia couldn’t help but laugh softly, and then inquired jokingly, “When did you get so modest?” She rose from her kneeled position, then said, “I’ll wait outside, then,” and stepped out of Strider’s room.

Strider couldn’t help but feel quite disoriented about the whole thing. “She walked into my room!” he thought to himself, rising from his covers and dressing into his tunic. His fingers wrapped firmly around the lightsaber hilt on his desk, then secured the hilt onto his belt. Just as he stepped out of the room and started to turn down the hall, however, he was pulled to an immediate halt by Cylia.

“You look like a ravaged mess, Strider, turn around!” she exclaimed. Strider knew he wouldn’t have a choice, but then again, he hadn’t looked at himself since he woke up either. He turned around to face Cylia, who immediately began running her fingers through Strider’s hair in a, what seemed to be for her, a systematic fashion, making sure to remove the “pillow-hair” appearance from Strider’s locks. “There, you look better now,” she complimented, then said, “also, I couldn’t help but notice your hair is…well…”

“What? My hair’s what?” he asked.

“Well, quite soft, for a male’s hair, and for something so messy all the time,” she finished.

Strider merely shrugged. “Is it a big deal?” he asked.

“Not really, just noticed, that’s all,” she answered.

He shrugged again, and this time turned and headed down the hall to the turbolift. Cylia followed, on another occasion she would’ve let him go, thinking he needed the time alone to concentrate, but she noticed something odd about him right now, like something was afflicting his thought process. “Strider, please stop for a moment,” she requested.

Much to her surprise, given his stubbornness, he did stop. He spoke, but he didn’t face her. “I had a dream…a horrible dream. I dreamt that I was exiled from the order. For what, I don’t know, but in some way…the Dark Side was involved. I don’t know what it was all about…I don’t know why, I just know, I was exiled in my dream for something…it just…it seemed so real…,” he explained, his voice seeming slightly choked.

Cylia moved in front of him and looked Strider in the eye. His deep blue eyes seem to have lost their usual firmness and focus, and now they trembled in fear and confusion. She tried to think of something to say to encourage him. She reached up and put one hand on his shoulder, then spoke, “Strider…You’re the most amazing person, friend, and fellow Jedi I’ve ever met…I knew from the day I met you that you would accomplish great things. I’ve seen you when you focus your mind, you can do anything…so focus on being what you want to be Strider.”

Strider’s eyes seemed to lock with hers for a minute, their firm and focus returning. “Thank you Cylia…Your confidence in me is encouraging. Normally I’m rather independent and I don’t need such outside influence to help keep me going but…I’ve come to realize, from both things you’ve said and my master, that I push myself too hard and that the things that happen around me effect me more than I know.”

“Glad I could help,” replied Cylia. “Now, go show those Masters what you’re capable of, Strider,” she encouraged.

* * * * * * *

Strider had started his session almost immediately upon entering the training chambers. The masters had secured a blindfold over his eyes, and they loaded the session he had apparently saved during his previous session. An hour had already passed and had already well completed the starting difficulty level and the one after it, and now proceeded to finish the current one he was on. His finesse, strength, and skill were impeccable, and he took down each of the drones flawlessly, all the while maintaining a nearly perfect defense, visible only as deep blue blur swarming like a hive of angry bees around his body, deflecting bolts as if he knew where they would hit before they did. More and more time passed, the Masters, including his own, Jayde Averre, became increasingly impressed with his ability and adaptation to the changing conditions of the battle.

Finally as Strider got to the final stretch, with approximately three rounds left to go, he began to show some signs of minor fatigue. Just as the Council Members started to get ready to call the session to an end, Strider’s speed seemed to pick back up. He began fighting with a renewed strength, his lightsaber once again moving in a blur, so fast it was difficult to even trace where its previous position was.

At last, Strider ended the session by decapitating the last drone in the head by leaping overhead, slashing down, then as he flipped back to land on his feet, deflected the remaining blasts back at the drones, disabling them. He landed in a kneeling position, deactivated his lightsaber, and then pulled off his blindfold, his body drenched in sweat, his dark blue eyes gazing right at the masters, carrying an expression almost certainly saying, “I told you so.”

The score updated. Almost exactly the same as before, with some minor time differences, otherwise the overall scores were the same.
The head council member turned to Strider and spoke in a firm voice, “Incredibly well done, Padawan. You’ve set a score never before seen by any master who has ever served on the Jedi Council. This score will be hard to beat, and it will go down in the archives as one of the most impressive records ever set by a Jedi of your age and rank in history.”

Strider stood and bowed deeply before the masters, then responded, “It is not something that I believe should be recorded just yet, Masters. I haven’t completed my training yet, and I wish to have an opportunity to complete more levels than just a mere 8 before I feel I’ve accomplished what I set out to complete.”

“Patience, Strider. We’ll update your records as you accomplish them. No need to be too ambitious. We’ll be watching your progress personally and be sure to keep your information up to date. This way the others around you will see how you are developing and possibly be able to learn from your actions. However, Strider, do not let this ability cloud your judgment, and be mindful of the temptations that will enter your mind as you become more aware of what you are capable of. Such thoughts will lead you down a dark path. We can only point you in the right direction, Flamehart, it is you who must decide to walk the path of the Light or Dark,” said the head council member conclusively. With that, the masters adjourned the session, Strider bowed before all the masters, who bowed back, and the council departed. Jayde walked up to Strider and said softly, “I’m truly impressed, Strider. I mean, I knew you were impeccable with lightsaber technique, but I’ve never seen anything like that. No wonder you were tired several months back. Were you training for that?”

Her apprentice nodded and said in response, “Yes, Master. I was trying to condition
my body for the extended period of combat. Obviously, I still haven’t gotten it down as I get tired before the end is up.”

Jayde shook her head and put one hand on Strider’s shoulder. “My padawan, you expect too much of yourself. You are truly impressive, so have patience. I believe you will become a great Jedi Master in time,” she complimented.

In response, Strider bowed respectfully back. “Thank you for the praise, master. It means a lot to me,” he said. “What should I do for the rest of the day, Jayde?” he asked.

“Get some rest, Strider. We have a mission coming up soon, and you need all the rest you can get after this.”

* * * * * * *

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