The group of young Jedi spent the rest of the day slowly making their way between Citydomes, trying to keep inconspicuous - a difficult task to accomplish, the group being in the shape they were. With one of their number unconscious, another bleeding profusely, and another two looking as if they could lose consciousness at any moment, they had a hard time avoiding detection as they snuck through the network of underground caverns that connected the mighty domes that dotted the landscape.
By the time they reached the entrance to Erussa’s compound, the sun had risen and begun its descent, and despite the completely artificial weather conditions, Tawnos was still uncomfortable warm as they began their ascent to the hidden turbolift entrance to the compound. He had already discarded the bedsheet that he had taken along with them when he had picked up Osay, which despite its light, thin fabric had been quite warm. He turned to Celeb, who alone looked as if the ordeal of the past few hours hadn’t had any serious effects on him.
“How’s Lite?” he asked, panting slightly.
Celeb looked over at his shoulder, which Lite’s head lay on, eyes closed tensely, as if she were having some dream, or was in some pain due to her injury. Celeb looked back at Tawnos with a barely visible smile, “She’s...fine, still out, and seems to be experiencing some pain, but altogether she’s fine.”
He nodded, then turned to Gherion. “How about you guys? You doing ok?”
Gherion looked up blearily at Tawnos, Ashalle at his side. She had regained a small portion of her strength, and during the journey, Gherion was doing less and less of the supporting. In fact, they were almost holding each other up equally now. “We’ll be alright. I wish I were stronger, then I wouldn’t slow you guys down so much.”
Tawnos didn’t reply, as the ascent up the makeshift stone pathway began to steepen, and his berathing more laboured. After what seemed like more than an hour’s worth of climbing, they reached the hidden entrance. Tawnos shifted Osay in his arms, freeing up his right forearm to activate the concealed elevator shaft. After a moment of silence, the stone in front of them parted, and they all managed to squeeze into the rather cramped pod. The door sealed behind them, and the lift began its descent into the bowels of the planet.
They met Erussa at the bottom of the elevator. Without preamble, he led them into the medical bay, where a number of beds had already been prepared for patients. Tawnos let Osay down gently, and Celeb placed Lite on the bed next to him. Neither Gherion nor Ashalle had been able to get much further than the two beds closest to the door. Tawnos turned to Erussa.
“Lite is ok, for the most part. She was attacked by spice junkies, but we managed to get to her in time to stop them doing too much damage - but Gherion and Ashalle took a beating doing it. Osay bought us time to get to safety, but she got hurt bad.”
Erussa swooped over to her, examining her. He placed his hand over her wound, and closed his eyes. A pained look crossed his face, and he began to breath heavily. He withdrew his hand, and Tawnos saw that Osay’s wound looked considerably less enflamed. Erussa leant against the bed for a moment, then straightened.
“The medical droids will tend to her wound, and bring her to consciousness.” He turned to Celeb. “Please, return to the entrance and ensure that it has been properly sealed.” He returned his gaze to Tawnos. “Tell me what happened.”
As the droids cleaned and repaired Osay’s wound, Tawnos relayed the story of their morning to the older man, from their decision to split up to their journey down the elevator. He chose to leave out his conversation with Osay while he had tried to tend to her wound at the apartment - he didn’t feel the others needed to hear it, and made a mental note to ask for a private word with Erussa when the next opportunity arose. He couldn’t explain why, even to himself, but he was sure that he needed the old man’s guidance on the matter, and not that of Gherion or his sister.
By the time he reached the end of his account, Osay began to stir. She grumbled incoherently for a moment as the medical droids moved to Lite, and Erussa, Tawnos, and Celeb gathered around her bed.
“Calm, child,” said Erussa softly. “Your wound has been properly cleaned and tended. You may experience some discomfort for a few days, but it should heal completely. How do you feel?”
Osay squinted her eyes in the light and stared at the old man for a moment, then her face registered a look of recognition. She replied hazily, “I feel fine.”
Gherion turned in his bed to look at Osay, his face etched with a sunken, deathly tone, but he smiled regardless. “Those heroics of yours nearly cost you your arm, but you saved our skins.”
Everyone was intent on making sure Osay was ok - they didn’t notice that Lite was awake until they heard the crash of metal as a medical droid went flying. They turned to find Lite, fully concious and alert wielding a piece of the droid as a weapon. As the other droids came near her, she batted them away as if they were those annoying sensor balls at the Academy.
Lite was standing in a rather agressive position and her eyes looked as if they held a dare in them, almost as if she were daring the droids to lay a hand on her. She kept a firm grip on the droid part as she noticed the group. She spat out, “Where the blazes am I? Are you the perps who tried to rob me?”
Osay’s eyes narrowed, and she sat up abruptly. She threw her legs over the edge of the bed and snapped, “No, we’re the perps who saved you!”
Ever suspicious of people in nature, Lite waved the droid part into a more comfortable position. She replied, “Oh yeah? Hardly looks like you are better off than me.”
Tawnos stepped in front of Osay, blocking them from each other’s view. “Look, I know this has to be confusing,” he said to Lite, slowly moving forward, his hands held up slightly to indicate that he wasn’t a threat. “My name is Tawnos. How are you feeling?”
“I’ve been better,” Lite admitted. She still didn’t release the part. She didn’tk now who to trust. “Right now I want out of this bantha pit.”
Ashalle spoke first. “We’re just like you,” she said kindly. “We’re students from the Academy. We were sent by Erussa to find you, and bring you here.”
Propped up haphazardly against the back of his cot on the other side of the medlab, Gherion smiled slightly, the effort of doing such a simple thing seemingly draining him. “I’m sure you’re probably scared and unsure of our intention. We felt the same way when we came here. But hear us out. Hear Erussa out.”
“What I want is to be out of this joint.” Lite was not in the mood to listen to people - she wanted offworld and wanted out of there.
Tawnos turned as Erussa placed a hand on his shoulder. He nodded gently, and Tawnos stepped aside, allowing the old man to approach Lite. He did not raise his hands nor his voice as he drew closer. “I know you’ve been through a great deal in the last few days,” he said, ignoring the fact that she was now only a few feet away, brandishing a large piece of metal at him. “And I understand your anxiety. But you have nothing to fear here. My name is Erussa, and I have brought you here, along with five of your peers, for a very important purpose.”
Lite still brandished the weapon. “Oh yeah? Well ‘Erussa’, you can put me back where you found me. I want out of here. Now!”
Tawnos stepped forward once again, taking up position next to Erussa. “Look,” he said, taking a vastly different tone with the young woman than their Master had done. “We’re not going to hurt you. But we can’t let you go, either. We need you.”
“I don’t need anybody. I just want to get out of this place and burn sky.” She waved the droid part, “I’m not afraid to use this and I’m certainly not afraid of you.”
Osay had stood up and gained her balance. She stepped in front of Tawnos and replied tersely, “Then you can certainly be afraid of me. If you even attempt to attack any of us, I will be more than happy to disarm you, up to and including breaking something to make you shut up! Now sit down and listen to Erussa while he explains all this!”
Tawnos put a hand on her good arm, and caught her eye. “As I recall, you had your own doubts about all this when it started out too, and I didn’t start threatening to break your limbs if you didn’t listen.” He turned to Lite. “Please, just hear us out.” He moved foward slowly, his hands held out in a gesture of peace. “No one is going to hurt you, I promise. Just hear what we have to say, and if you still want to leave, then...” he sighed, cast a look at Erussa, and continued. “Then we won’t stop you.”
“You’re not going to hurt me? Well your girlfriend there seems to think otherwise,” Lite replied to the boy who spoke. Then to the girl she asked, “You afraid to let the boyfriend be a man?” She believed him partially, but her tendency to distrust everybody won over. The only thing that mattered was her survival.
Osay restrained her temper and said in the calmest voice she could manage, “As Tawnos has recently pointed out, I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I was brought here, either. Listen to Erussa, just for a second, okay?”
“This isn’t a hostage situation, Lite,” Gherion announced with a timid voice, now out of Lite’s range of vision. “You’re not in danger and we’re not interested in keeping you here against your will. Anything we’d want from you would involve your cooperation, which means that, if you still want to leave after you listen to Erussa, then we have no more use of you.”
“How do you know my name? I don’t recall ever giving it.” Lite’s temper was rising and she didn’t want to lash out but if it meant her getting out then so be it.
“We’ve... been looking for you,” replied Tawnos. “Listen, it’s going to take some time to explain. Now, if we wanted to, we could gang up on you and disarm you, no problem. We’re four on one, and we’ve got another man on his way back down any minute now.” He reached out his hand. “Give that to me.”
Lite looked at the boy with suspicion. Common sense told her that he wasn’t going to hurt her. Heck if he had wanted to, he would have done it already. Carefully and slowly she lowered the weapon into his hand. “Ok. What’s the guarantee you won’t gang up on me?”
Tawnos turned to Erussa, not sure how to go on. Erussa smiled kindly, and the students moved back, giving the old man room to step forward. “I assure you, no harm can come to you while you are in this facility. My name is Erussa. I have brought you here before me to teach you the ways of the ancient Order I have pledged to bring forth in this new era - all six of you, though I must say that you did cause the most... shall we say, ‘trouble’, in finding you.”
“Glad to hear it...” muttered Lite under her breath. Out loud, she said “Ok, so... what ‘Order’ are you talking about?”
Erussa hesitated for a moment. “It is my intention to train you in the ways of the ancient Jedi Order, to prepare you for a mission of great importance to the Galaxy.”
There was silence, all six of them watching him intently. “I fear that information about this mission must wait until you are ready,” he said slowly. “First, your training must be made complete.” He tilted his head, as if listening to something before speaking again. “But alas, it is getting late.” He turned from Lite to face the rest of the group. “You all did very well. Gherion, Ashalle, I would like to request that you remain here overnight. The rest of you would do well to retire to your quarters.”
Lite snorted. “I still want answers,” she said sharply.
Erussa nodded. “If you will retire to your quarters, I will be there shortly to answer any questions you may have.”
She glared at him, but agreed. She pushed her way through the door ahead of the others, and they all made their way to the living quarters.