As always, I am grateful for betas from Emperor Devon and Jiara.
Chapter 21: The Chase
“Your master is going to be very disappointed,” I said, stepping out and shoving the Sith's crimson blade to the side. It melted through one of the metal rails and sliced effortlessly through some of the shrubs. The superheated wood smoked and burst into flames. Sentients screamed and scattered in all directions.
He wheeled around and charged with a flurry of blows, pressing me back away from Talin, who had rolled away to escape. Our sabers blurred into circles of light, humming a lethal cadence. So fast! Focus, focus....
He swiped at me and the tip of his blade nearly grazed my hip as I twisted away. The Force became a flood, slowing my racing heart, pushing away the wave of fear. I countered his blow, circling my blade down to trap his. We strained against each other's strength, our sabers moving back and forth as we fought for control. My arms shook with the effort.
He narrowed his eyes, a predator smiling over his prey. “You're wearing down. I'll have you in a moment.”
Talin ran to us and drove his blade down toward the Sith, who stopped it just before it sliced into his head. Their sabers crackled together. Talin whipped his blade down for another attack. I slashed my lightsaber around, snapping through the rain of attacks. We pressed him, and he retreated, sweat breaking out on his forehead.
Two more focused on us!
“Talin, duck!” I jumped away, rolling as blaster bolts peppered the ground where we were standing, making plumes of dirt and plants. “Snipers!” I shouted over all the noise.
“Stay with me on the one with the saber. We'll take them all together,” Talin called back.
The Sith leaped at me. I jumped up and ran to put him between the shooters and me. Talin deflected the rain of blaster fire with small arcs of his lightsaber and dashed to my side. He launched a hail of blindingly fast blows. The Sith took quick angry breaths as he struggled to keep pace with both of us. Talin attacked his head, drawing his guard up. I slashed at his side, making a surgically clean cut completely through. His eyes widened in shock and then rolled back as he dropped to the ground in two halves. The shooters backed away, still spraying us with red bolts. I threw my lightsaber after them, dropping one. The surviving sniper turned and ran.
“Better be. Jolee made me practice it enough.”
Talin grinned back and we sprinted off after the gunner. I turned the corner and ducked back as a blaster bolt hit the wall above my head, showering me with chunks of debris. I felt for him with the Force. “He's running again, Talin.”
“Let's go! Keep your guard up in case he does something funny.”
I took a quick look around the corner and saw him running away. We followed him to the end of a landing pad. He stopped short and looked over the edge at the chasm below, eyes darting about.
“There's no escape,” I said to him.
“We don't want to hurt you. Just drop the blaster and we'll take you in safely,” Talin added.
“Look, it's a long drop from here,” I said.
“You're old enough to have heard of jetpacks, sweetheart.”
“You jump from here and you'll be jumping into all that speeder traffic. It'll be suicide. Let's stop all this right now. We can protect you,” I urged him.
He laughed. “Sure. Like I'm supposed to believe anything a Jedi says.” He activated his pack and shot off a line of cover fire. Talin and I snapped our sabers around to deflect the bolts. One of the energy rounds ricocheted and hit his pack, sending him spinning down, away from the platform.
I sucked in my breath in fear. “He's going to get killed in all that traffic!”
“Jae, don't--” Talin held out a restraining hand.
I jumped, using every bit of Force power to span the distance. Time slowed as I flew through the air reaching out for him. I caught him around the neck. He grunted at the impact as we twisted wildly through the air, and then he blinked. “What? How? Damn Jedi.” The shocked look lasted a moment before he grinned. “Any other time, sweetheart, you could be my wildest fantasy.”
“Any other time, you still wouldn't be my type.”
His eyes widened and he inhaled sharply. I looked back. A speeder raced towards us, lights flashing in warning. I twisted to the side to shift our weight, and the pack turned. A line of speeders screamed by. I pulled down on the pack to dodge more aircars.
“Land this thing! Now!” I shouted over the wind.
More speeders flew towards us, and I leaned against him to tilt us away. One of the vehicles grazed the back of the pack and sent us spinning across the lanes of traffic, speeders beeping and dodging around us, creating chaotic swirls. My stomach lurched, and I fought to regain control and slow the spinning.
“How about I kill you first?” His free arm reached for the lightsaber I'd clipped to my belt.
I concentrated, feeling the Force rush out towards him. I worked through the dark recesses in his brain and found the right center. His body went limp and his head lolled as the Force knocked him unconscious. “How about 'no'?” I muttered, reaching for the controls. The button was melted where the blaster bolt had hit the pack. It jerked again as I tapped my comlink, and it nearly slid out of my hand. “Jolee! I have a little problem here....”
Jolee's voice crackled from the tiny speaker. “Let's see. The scenery's not romantic enough. No, wait. Talin's terrible at smooching. Remind me to give him some pointers later.”
“Jolee, I'm hanging on to a merc strapped to an out-of-control jet pack! I need some help here!”
“You know, that's not one of your brighter ideas.”
“Come on! We're in the middle of traffic and we're about to crash into a building....Oh geez, it's the Senate!” I twisted again to avoid another speeder.
“That'll make their day more exciting. Don't worry, you can't hurt it.”
I leaned back to slow the dizzying spin. “Jolee! How do you stop a jet pack with broken controls?”
“Can you open the panel above the controls?”
I looked at the side of the pack and pulled up the plastic door. “Got it. I see a couple power chips—one of them is shorting—it comes on and off.”
“There's a spare chip at the very top. Pull the bad one out and put the spare in.”
“Great, so I can have no control instead of partial control while the chip's out?”
Jolee snorted. “Where'd you learn to be sassy like that?”
“Hehe, you have a good teacher. Just trust your old master and do what I say.”
I pulled on the shorting chip. It broke off in my hand. The pack went out, and the sniper and I plummeted down. “I have a BIG problem. The chip broke off in the socket. I can't get the new one in!”
“Well, use the Force, dammit. It's not there just for you to throw things at Talin's head. Feel the air around you, just like Reeca did. Imagine decreasing gravity and making the air thick so it slows you down and acts like a pillow.”
I closed my eyes and felt the air rushing past me, wind whipping my hair on my face. The molecules seemed to rush in under us, cradling us as we fell. Our descent slowed. We fell hard to the ground in a graceless heap. I blew out the breath I'd been holding and wiped the sweat streaming down my face.
“You know, an update would be nice so I don't worry that you're a messy splatter on the ground,” Jolee called over the comlink a few moments later.
“Sorry, Jolee. I had to catch my breath. We're down. We missed the building, and the sniper's out cold.”
“Congratulations on surviving Coruscant traffic. I'll come with help.”
After assessing the soldier for injuries and finding nothing serious, I sat down to regain my spent energy. Jolee and the emergency transports arrived at the same time.
“You made it down in one piece. Good job,” Jolee said.
“It wasn't a pretty landing.”
“You're alive. What more do you want? You're not hurt, though, right?”
I nodded no. “I'm fine, but I had more close calls than I like.” I tilted my head towards the soldier, now surrounded by medical and security personnel. “He'll be out for awhile. I stunned him hard.” Jolee raised an eyebrow. “Well, he compared me to his greatest fantasy. What was I supposed to do?”
Jolee chuckled, then glanced away for a moment. “Look, Talin's coming. I'll let you two chit-chat. I'm sure he'll want to convince himself that you're not imminently dying. Then let's grab Handsome here and get him back to the Temple.” Jolee walked over to the emergency team to give them some instructions.
Talin hurried to me. “You okay?” He held out a hand to help me up off the ground.
I took it, giving it a subtle squeeze. “I'm fine. It was scary, but we're all in one piece.”
He kept possession of my hand as he looked me up and down, then nodded relieved agreement. “You don't look hurt, thank the Force.” Then he smiled. “I'd hate it if I never had the opportunity to fulfill your request.”
I grinned up at him and pushed the damp hair back out of my face. “I'll need a good cleaning, first.” I glanced over at Jolee, who I caught looking at us, amusement dancing in his eyes. I gave Talin's hand one last squeeze before slowly pulling away. “We don't need any prying eyes, either,” I said, tilting my head a fraction towards Jolee. “I hope he won't be mad.”
Talin looked over at Jolee, who had looked away and made himself busy with the sniper again. “I have a feeling he's not going to mind too much.”
“I don't know how he's going to react to the news. This affects so many things.”
“I wouldn't wait too long. He's not an idiot, and it won't take him long to figure it out.”
“I'll tell him soon, don't worry,” I sighed, and we followed Jolee back to the Temple.
* * *
We stopped at the medical facility briefly to discuss the shooter and his injuries and report on the Sith and the merc. Master Supat absorbed all the information and returned to his work, but not before cheerfully needling us with a comment about how quickly those Selkath got back into the water. We walked to Jolee's quarters to await the call to meet with the Masters.
His window offered a view of the courtyard of the fountains. I gazed down at all the water making airy dances, trying to center myself.
“You're going to wear out your collar pulling on it like that,” Jolee said.
I glanced down at my hand and let go of my robe, then turned to the two men. Jolee sat back, making himself comfortable on the soft couch. Talin sat straight in a chair, legs crossed, hands draped elegantly over one knee. “I'm just concerned about what they're going to say about the vision. I imagine they'll want to know what happened in the Kayl Gardens, too.”
“Is that all?” Jolee asked. “You seem kind of nervous for someone who's just had a bad dream and a little scuffle with a Sith.”
I glanced at Talin, who gave me a tiny nod.
Jolee lifted an eyebrow at him and looked back at me. “You know, if there's something you need to tell me, now would be a very good time.”
The door chime rang. I answered it and motioned in a fidgeting youngling gripping a holodisk in both hands. “Master Jolee! A messenger brought this to the temple for your padawan. He said it was urgent.”
“Come in, son. Jae, let's see that disk.”
“What is it?” Talin asked.
“Someone sent me a message. I hope it's good news,” I said, putting the disk into the player. I clicked it on and inhaled sharply. It was the black-robed figure of my nightmares. My stomach roiled.
Jolee asked the young boy, “Son, is the messenger still here?”
“No, Master Jolee. He delivered it, said it was urgent, and left immediately.”
“Did you notice anything else, son?” Jolee asked.
“He was from Coruscant Messengers, least that's what his uniform said. His badge said his name was Im'ran. But that was odd, Master Jolee.”
“Why was that?”
“It is a Twi'leki name, but he's human. He didn't speak like a Coruscanti, either,” the youngling replied.
“Very good observations, son. Run and tell security we'll need the vids from his stop here to see if we can find any other clues,” Jolee instructed.
“Yes, Master!” The boy scampered out, closing the door behind him.
Jolee stood and walked over to me. “Jae, how about you quit staring at that thing like it's about to bite you, and play the transmission?”
I pressed the play button. The shrouded figure's voice was grainy. “Good day, Padawan. I see you met my minions. I'll get down to business. You've taken something of mine, and I was rather fond of it. I'm quite angry about that, but I've decided to show you some mercy. Bring the holocron to Telos Citadel Station, and I'll allow you to continue your pitiful existence.” The shrouded figure's grainy voice had a sinister softness that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
Jolee snorted. “Oh sure. We believe that.”
I managed a tight smile at his quip and glanced at Talin. He frowned in concentration at the tall image.
The Sith Lord continued, “If you try to chase me, I will hunt you, and when I capture you, I assure you that you will wish you were dead. Instructions are on the datacard. My agent will contact you in two weeks. Don't keep me waiting.” The image faded out.
Jolee rubbed his chin, then said, “My, he's cocky. This guy must be nuts if he thinks we're just going to go to Telos with our hands in the air saying 'Hey, Mr. Sith Lord, come and get your toy, we trust you.'”
Talin grinned, but a shiver rippled down my spine.
Jolee looked at me and put a hand on my shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. “Jae, take a deep breath. A little fear is healthy—helps us keep our edge. A lot of fear's no good. Makes you stand there paralyzed like an Ithorian on spice. Trying to get a spiced Ithorian to do anything but stand around staring into space is about as easy as convincing a Cathar to go vegetarian. You just have to accept the fear's there and let it flow out. Focus on what your next action should be, not the fear. The Force will tell you what to do and when to do it.”
I nodded and took a deep breath.
The comm beeped. “Master Jolee, Talin, Jae--the Council would like to see you in a few minutes.”
Jolee said to us, “About time. They've been missing all the fun discussing some useless mumbo-jumbo, no doubt. Let's go.”
At the High Council doors, I adjusted my robe once more, smoothing the folds in place.
Jolee leaned over and said quietly as we entered the chambers, “Don't forget to play it up for Vrook.” He winked and I grinned in return as we went in to meet the Masters.