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Old 07-30-2006, 07:18 PM   #406
Jae Onasi
@Jae Onasi
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Chapter 37

Well, folks, I finished up the last chapter. Hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 37: The Final Battles

“We are,” Talin said. I turned to look at him, surprised. He was standing next to Master Supat, both of them with lightsaber blades glowing. While he still showed Scourge damage, he was more healed than not. At least one squad of Republic soldiers stood behind them, weapons trained on Timan’s troopers.

Talin? You’re OK!

For the most part. Master Supat heals fast. Now let’s get this over with.

Jolee cocked an eyebrow at me. “I guess Talin wanted some fun, too.”

I smiled briefly towards both of them.

Timan stood up, blaster still pointed at Jolee and me. “You’re still outnumbered. And now you’re going to be very dead.” He pulled the trigger.

Jolee and I dove away, the Force helping us to dodge the blaster bolts. The heat of the blaster fire burned past my arm, but I escaped being hit. I rolled, jumped up, and willed my lightsaber to fly to my hand. The XO lost his grip on it, and it sailed into my hand. I ignited the blade, deflecting several blaster bolts from Timan’s troopers who had opened fire the moment he tried to shoot.

Supat and Talin calmly waded into the fray, lightsabers whirling to strike the troopers or deflect their shots. Blaster bolts flew everywhere as Dodonna’s soldiers traded fire with those allied with Timan.

The XO ran at me with a vibrosword. I stepped out of the line of attack and he nearly ran past. I whirled my blade around to strike him as he passed, but he whipped his blade up to parry my lightsaber before it could hit him in the chest. He did a half-spin and tried to push my blade away and slip his sword under my guard. I released the hold on his blade and stepped back out of the way as his sword shot past, then thrust straight through his chest. His eyes shut as he fell to the floor. I looked around to assess the battle.

Master Supat, Talin, and Dodonna’s fighters had forced many of the troopers and officers that survived to surrender. They were quickly secured for transport to the brig.

Jolee was still fighting the captain, the experience of both men showing in the rapid exchange of parries and attacks. I hurried to join the fight when I saw Timan feint high and then trip Jolee. Jolee fell, landing hard on the ground with a grunt. Timan held the point of his vibrosword just above Jolee’s heart, both men breathing heavily after the fierce battle.

Timan looked at Jolee on the ground. “Well, Jedi, it seems I have you at my mercy.”

“Drop the sword, Timan,” I said. “If you try to kill him, I’ll be forced to kill you. You can still come out of this alive.”

Timan kept his sword on Jolee but moved towards his captain’s chair. “Seems we’re at an impasse, then. If I kill him, I’m dead, and I refuse to surrender. There’s only one other option I have, then.” He reached for a small control on his chair and pressed a button before I could move to stop him. Alarms started sounding through the ship.

“You’re going to self-destruct,” Jolee stated.

“Even better. I’ve just engaged my tractor beam on The Crusader. When this ship self-destructs, it’ll take Dodonna’s ship and all of us along with it.” Timan gave us a self-satisfied smile.

Concentrating and using every ounce of Force power I could muster, I engaged a stasis field around Timan. His will was strong, and he started to break down the field. Then I felt Talin and Master Supat join me, and Timan’s movements were stilled. He stood locked in place, glowering at us. One of the soldiers cuffed him.

I walked over to Jolee and pulled him up. “Are you OK?”

Jolee brushed himself off. “Nothing but my pride got injured there. I knew it was a feint but I went for it anyway.” He looked over to Master Supat and all of the soldiers. “Everyone who can needs to evacuate, now.” Those that weren’t injured grabbed their comrades who were and moved quickly towards the escape pods. Master Supat left, leading whomever he could to safety.

I went to the controls and tapped the tractor-beam controls. “Tractor beam’s not shutting down, Jolee.”

Jolee called Dodonna. “Forn, we’ve secured Timan. We’ve re-entered the program so you can use the shut-down code, but I don’t know how long it’ll be before it fully loads. Timan locked the tractor beam on you and entered the self-destruct. We’re trying to shut it down, but you may have to fire on the bridge to keep the ship from exploding and destroying all of us.”

“Understood. We won’t fire unless we absolutely have to. I’ll see if we can find any bypasses.”

“How soon before the self-destruct initiates?” he asked.

I looked over at the monitor. “Looks like two minutes. That’s not enough time to get everyone off the ship.” My heart sank. It wasn’t enough time to search every circuit to find the right one to disable the self-destruct, either.

Dodonna said, “We’re going to keep transmitting the shutdown code. You have 100 seconds, but I’d really like you out of there instead.”

“Can’t do it, Forn. They’re evacuating, but we can’t get people out fast enough. We have to try to stop this instead or a lot of innocent people will die. Now quit trying to change my mind and let me get to work.”

Dodonna considered that for a moment, and then said, “I’ll respect your decision, Jolee. May the Force be with you.”

Talin felt the wave of my emotion. He walked over, kissed the top of my head, and put an arm around me. “Focus. I know you can get the self-destruct disabled.”

I turned and met his eyes. “You need to get off the ship, Talin. I may not be able to stop it.”

“I’m not leaving you. We’ll work on it together. Feel through the circuits. We’ll both do part of it.” He gave me a crooked grin. “Besides, I can hardly walk right now. There’s no way I can make it to any of the escape pods. You’re stuck with me.”

I took a deep breath to let go of the worry. “All right. Let’s go to work.” We both slipped into a meditation state.

I flew along the maze of wires, searching, and saw Talin in a distance doing the same.

I could hear Jolee talking with Dodonna somewhere far away. “Sixty seconds. No luck yet, but we’re getting closer.”

“Shutdown still hasn’t initialized.”

Where’s the circuit…. I can feel it now. Coming closer, closer. Talin’s found it now, too. Thirty seconds left…

“They’ve found it, Forn. They’re trying to disable it now.”

Oh, so complicated. Trying to pry open the switch, but it’s locked down….

“Fifteen seconds, Jolee.”

“Almost there,” Jolee said. “Shutdown codes are working! Tractor beam’s down, power’s on emergency backup. I’m using emergency thrusters to move us away.”

But the self-destruct is still active! I can’t budge the switch! Time’s up!

“Self-destruct is still online. We have to fire, Jolee.”

“We’re moving away from each other. Just give us ten more seconds,” Jolee urged.

Countdown commencing, ten, nine, eight…Focus, focus…Talin’s power flowing, joining mine, pushing with our combined strength to break open the circuit….

“…three, two….”

“Hold fire! Hold fire! They shut it down!” Jolee yelled out.

Both of us dropped out of our meditation. Talin leaned against one of the workstations and slowly slid to the ground, exhausted. I sat down next to him and pulled him into my arms, gently embracing him. “I’m glad you decided to stay.”

He looked up at me and managed a tired smile. “I never want to leave you.”

* * *

Master Supat looked over my hands and dipped them in a small tub of kolto. “Miraxton did a lot of damage. However, a few hours here and they should be much better.”

Jolee said, “Actually, she did pretty darn good. He was throwing everything he had at her.”

“And without her efforts, we wouldn’t be here,” Admiral Dodonna said, striding into the medbay with one of her aides. She gestured for everyone to remain as they were.

“I saw Hoth Crystal surrender,” Jolee said.

“They saw the light when you took Timan’s ship. The captain wisely decided she didn’t want to fight a boarding party lead by Jedi. All three captains and the other officers involved are in the brig, and we’re interrogating them to find out the extent of the plot. I expect more arrests down the line.”

“Have the Hutts been warned?” Talin asked. He was resting in one of the medbay beds, the effects of the Scourge dissipating as he continued to heal.

“We advised them of Miraxton’s plans and your part in thwarting them. They want to offer Jolee, Talin, and you a freighter and supplies as thanks.”

Jolee sniffed. “Probably stolen from the Republic in the first place.”

“It’s the thought that counts,” I said.

“You didn’t come all the way down here just to tell us this, Forn,” Jolee said.

“I came personally to give Jae and Talin the Medal of the Sacrificial Heart for injuries sustained in service to the Republic. I never want to see anyone get hurt in service to the Navy or the Republic, but it is a deep honor to present these to you both.” She attached the medals on each of us. “In several days I will be holding an awards formation, and I will be presenting all four of you with the Naval Medal of Valor.”

“Forn, I don’t need any more doo-dads on my robe. I don’t want the Navy’s highest honor for doing what a Jedi is supposed to do.”

“We would not be here without your work. You’ve saved the Navy, Nal Hutta, and quite possibly the Republic from a terrible plot.” She smiled, “Besides, I don’t recall asking if you wanted it, Jolee. I’m awarding it because it’s the right thing to do. I want to show my people what valor truly means.”

“You’re telling me to just say ‘thank you’ and shut up?” Jolee asked.

She nodded once. “In a word, yes.”

“We’ll be there in our fancy dress robes, then.”

“Good. You’ll be informed where and when. I see Master Supat wants to continue his work, and it looks like fatigue has gotten the better of Talin, so I’ll leave you for now.” Dodonna and her aide left.

I looked over towards Talin, who was resting in one of the beds. “He’s healing fast. I won’t be able to tell how badly he was injured by the Scourge in a few more hours.”

Master Supat followed my eyes. “He’s remarkably motivated. Captain Onasi requested I fly up to his ship while you were down on Telos so that I could help with any healing. When Talin learned I was on board and then heard you two chattering about boarding Timan’s ship, he was adamant about getting healed to the point where he could help.”

“He hates kolto,” I said.

Jolee chuckled and gave me a meaningful look. “It wasn’t the kolto that was motivating him, Jae.”

I tried not to blush and failed miserably. “I suppose not.”

“I know it’s not.”

“All right, Jolee, your turn. Even Masters need attention,” Master Supat gestured for him to sit down and have his injuries healed.

I carried the kolto tub with me to go sit next to Talin. He cracked his eyes open a bit.

“It’s just me,” I said.

“You’re not ‘just’ anything.” He pulled me towards him gently, and when I leaned over and laid my head down on him, he cradled it.

“Just your love, then?”

“Just the one I want to be with forever, if you’ll let me.” He thought a moment and shook his head a bit. “You know, that was not the way I envisioned proposing. We can go out in a few days and I’ll do it right.”

“Do I have to wait that long to say yes?”

He smiled, tightened his arms around my shoulders, and tilted his head to give me a kiss.

* * *

The wait to meet with the Council on Coruscant seemed interminable. Jolee sat in one of the chairs, confident and serene. I looked out the window and down at the Thousand Fountains again, trying to center myself. Talin stood next to me, hands clasped behind his back, looking up into the sky.

He looked over at me after a few moments. “Pulling on your collar won’t make it any better,” he said, taking my hand from up at my neck and holding onto it. I felt the love flow, and it gave me peace.

One of the Padawans called us into the Council chambers.

Jolee stood up and winked. “Don’t forget to play it up for Vrook. Groveling will be even better.”

He walked into the Chambers. Talin and I followed, and he didn’t let go of my hand. We all made slight bows to the Council. There were more Masters there than I had ever seen before at one time, testifying to the gravity of our situation. Vash, Dorak, Vandar, and Kavar sat in meeting, as did Zez Kai-El, Atris, Zhar, and Vrook.

Master Vandar opened the proceedings. “We have gathered today to discuss a most unusual development, one that is very rare in the Jedi Order. We are reviewing the relationship between Jedi Talin and Padawan Jae, and, if they choose to continue with that relationship, whether they should remain members of this Order.”

Vrook gave us a severe look when he saw us holding hands. “I see your defiance of the Order’s rules extends even to these Council Chambers.”

I swallowed hard and Talin gave my hand a slight squeeze of encouragement. His face remained a neutral mask. I willed the peace and calm to flow in order to concentrate on the words and thoughts of the Council.

Jolee looked at Vrook for a moment, and then in a frosty voice said, “Are you always this crabby, Vrook, or is this just one of your good days?”

“I do not appreciate comments that border on disrespect, Jolee,” Vrook retorted. “We shall concentrate on the issue of violating the Order’s stand on attachments and whether Talin and Jae should remain in the Order.”

“Yes, we shall, because it would be wrong to separate them. Even you can see that both of them are far more centered and in tune with the Force than the last time all of us were here. That can only be a good thing. Yes, they’re in love, and their situation is rather unique. If you’ve read any of the records of the past months, you know it’s the will of the Force for them to be together. They’re connected on a deeper level than even the Sunriders were. The only conclusion you can come to is that they should remain together as members in the Order.”

Kavar looked at both Talin and me, leaning forward to address us. I could feel the concern coming from him in warm waves. “Are you sure you want to pursue this? It could turn out to be a very difficult path for both of you. The path of a Jedi can be hard enough without adding extra challenges.”

Talin and I looked at each other briefly and then back at Kavar. We answered in unison, “Yes.”

“You are aware that pursuing an attachment can and has led to expulsion from the Order?” Atris said, her severe look nearly matching Vrook’s.

“Yes, Master, we are,” I answered.

“They’re Jedi, Atris, not idiots,” Jolee snorted. “They read the rule book a long time ago.”

“I would like to know why you allowed this to continue once you knew what was happening,” Atris accused Jolee.

“Because I think the rule on attachments is stupid, made up by some clueless Jedi who never understood love. Yes, passion can be dangerous, but answer me this—how many Jedi would have turned to the dark side in the Mandalorian Wars if they’d been grounded in the love of those back home? How many would have destroyed planets full of families if they’d had families of their own? Yes, we need a certain detachment to do our job properly, but we need more empathy and understanding, not less, and we have failed in that more often than we like. We should be teaching Jedi how to handle the responsibilities and challenges of their relationships, not avoiding them altogether because we think those challenges are inconvenient.”

Vrook said, “By asking us permission to allow this relationship to continue, you are asking us to change generations of tradition. These rules were not put in place without reason.”

“We don’t know what reason the Masters had when they created that rule. For all we know, it could have been a Jedi who was rejected by someone he loved and decided to make some idiotic regulation in response. Laws certainly have been created for less reason than that.”

“As Jedi historian, I researched the origin of this rule. It does not specify one way or another, Jolee. It’s impossible to speculate on the intent of the Masters who created that rule,” Dorak said.

Jolee conceded that point and went on. “Understand, Vrook, I am not asking the Council permission for the relationship to continue. They have already decided they will continue their relationship, and more power to them. I’m asking that they be allowed to remain in the Order. There's nothing you can do to their love.”

Vash said, “This is a difficult situation. Very few of our Order ever marry or have close relationships. We are not prepared to give appropriate guidance because of our inexperience. Our mistakes could have deadly consequences.”

“And what would you do if this request is refused?” Zhar asked, looking at all of us.

“Be mindful of your thoughts,” Zez Kai-El added. “There is a fine line between defending your decisions and outright rebellion.”

“While we are very committed to this Order and have no desire to leave, we would unfortunately have to resign,” Talin replied without hesitation. “However, we will continue our work because the need for help won’t go away. The galaxy doesn’t care if we’re members of the Order.”

Kavar said, “Your actions defeating Miraxton, saving two battleships from destruction, and uncovering the mutinous plot within the Navy were commendable. It required a great deal of skill to accomplish all this, and you’ve done what good Jedi are supposed to do. It would be detrimental to the Order to lose any one of you, much less all three.”

Vandar, who had been contemplating the proceedings, finally spoke to us. “Your case has created considerable controversy. We have done a great deal of research in the archives, and we reviewed your reports of the Miraxton affair. We have spent much time meditating and discussing this. We have concluded that the connection between Jae and Talin cannot be denied. It has strengthened as their relationship deepened, and it has saved them and quite possibly the Republic from disaster. Few Jedi have ever had, for lack of a better term, this love-bond. The histories have shown that when separated, the Force brings those with this type of bond back together, despite all efforts to the contrary. It would be foolish for us to try to violate the will of the Force in this matter.”

Kavar looked at Talin and me and added, “We agreed that asking you to separate would be wrong. However, the truth remains that we are not well-equipped to train you two on how to balance your relationship with the needs of the Jedi and the ways of the Force.”

“Despite my better judgment, I am forced to agree with the Council’s decision that Jolee is the only one who has the experience necessary to guide you in this area,” Vrook said.

Vandar continued, “Jae and Talin, the Council has decided you will remain in the Order under the guidance of Master Jolee. Jolee, we hope you will continue their training. It is your responsibility to develop the great potential that we see in all of you.”

“I’ll be glad to have them stay with me. Are you seriously worried about me giving it anything but my best?”

Vrook growled, “We’re not worried about you not giving your best. We’re worried about what strange ideas you’ll be planting in fertile young minds.”

“I understand. I’ll try not to corrupt them too much. By the way, even you are invited to the wedding.”

Vrook lifted an eyebrow but held his peace.

“The Council is adjourned,” Master Vandar said. “May the Force be with us all.”

I managed to contain my excitement until the Council doors shut, and then I wrapped my arms around Talin, joy radiating out to all of us. He picked me up in a bear hug, set me down again, and planted a solid kiss firmly on my lips. It deepened, and we didn’t let go until we had to breathe again.

He looked in my eyes, brushing a lock of hair of hair to the side, then kissed my forehead and murmured, “I love you.”

I hugged him tight. “I love you, too.”

Jolee had wandered over to the window to look out at the Fountains, but finally cleared his throat to get our attention. “This is probably not the best place to get all kissy-face,” Jolee pointed out. “You already made them nervous enough just holding hands. Let’s go see Mik’oth and give him the news. If we’re lucky, he might not even charge us for dinner.”

The reception from Mik’oth was no less effusive than any other time, and he was as colorfully dressed as usual.

“Hey, Tail-headed Tornado, didn’t anyone tell you that orange and purple plaid is a little over the top?” Jolee called out.

“Ah, it’s the Wonder! You know how I love to try the latest styles. And here is my favorite Padawan!! And my dear friend Jedi Talin!” Mik’oth came straight over to us, hugging Jolee and Talin and then kissing me loudly on both cheeks. “You both look no worse for the wear. What’s this?” he spied the ring on my hand.

I gave him a shy smile. “A betrothal ring,”

“Ha! I knew it the moment you two came in.” He peered closer at the ring. “Alderaan Blaze Sapphire, eh? A rare stone for a rare beauty. It matches the color of your eyes, you know. He chose something worthy of you. I approve. And I’m very happy for you.” Mik’oth smiled at me, then turned and poked Talin in the ribs. “You devil you, you’ve taken one of my greatest dancing possibilities off the market. When’s the big day? I have to clear my calendar for the reception! Let’s go sit down and celebrate.” He found a table for all of us, and then dashed off for meals and drinks.

“We don’t have a choice on where the reception is, do we?” Talin asked Jolee.

“Not unless you really want to upset Mik’oth,” Jolee answered.

“If he’s like this when he’s happy, I hate to see what he’s like when he’s mad,” I said.

“It’s very scary, trust me. I know.”

Mik’oth returned, poured us all champagne, and then sat down. “It’s Telosian, very rare. The vineyards in the Restoration zones are still small, but the Ithorians have cultivated an amazing wine grape that creates this exquisite delight for us. Cheers.” We raised our glasses and then sipped the champagne, savoring the subtle flavors.

“So, have you decided on a date yet?” Mik’oth asked.

“Six weeks. The Council has a mission for us in two months, and we want to have time for a honeymoon,” Talin told him.

“My, you took me at my word when I said I hoped it wouldn’t take you too long to figure it out.” Mik’oth pulled out a datapad and tapped on it a couple times. “Perfect! I’m free that day! Someone can marry you at that stuffy Jedi Temple, and then you can come straight here and have some real fun.”

“We’d like you to join us in the ceremony, too, as one of Jolee’s best friends,” I said.

Mik’oth was overwhelmed. “What a wonderful honor! Of course, anything! Oh, dear, now I have to find something to wear!”

“You look like you’re going to cry, Mik’oth. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you quite so emotional,” Jolee said.

“If they name their children after me, I will cry.” He smiled broadly and looked at Jolee. “You know, we’re going to have to take bets on how soon the first little one comes along.”

“Come on, Mik’oth, you’ll embarrass them,” Jolee replied. Then he grinned. “Put me down for two years.”

Mik’oth studied us for a few moments. “I say nine months after the wedding.”

“Six months,” I chimed in, smiling broadly.

All three of them were stunned motionless, mouths agape in silence, staring at me.

I couldn’t contain my laughter any longer at their looks of utter surprise. “I’m joking!”

Talin shook his head, smiled and then drew me in close. “I think I’m going to be selfish and keep you all to myself for awhile.”

“Jae, it’s against the Jolee Jedi code to give your master a heart attack like that! You could kill me with that kind of joke.”

I grinned back at him. “Jolee, you’re way too ornery to die. Besides, I have a feeling the Force is going to keep the three of us busy for quite some time to come.”

From MST3K's spoof of "Hercules Unchained"--heard as Roman medic soldiers carry off an unconscious Greek Hercules on a 1950's Army green canvas stretcher: "Hi, we're IX-I-I. Did somebody dial IX-I-I?"

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