Kaeira crouched beside the remains of the rancor she’d just killed, silent and invisible. The sweat from her palms made the smooth handles of her vibroblades seem slippery and hot—not surprising in this humid climate. The girl kept her breathing light. She didn’t want the T’katlu to hear her when it came—and it would come. The creature hunted in this area every day, and it wouldn’t pass up the entrails of a rancor. She’d masked her own scent on her way here—it wouldn’t know it was walking into a trap until she struck.
Hours passed; night fell above the forest-like landscape of Felucia. Still she waited, almost immobile. This was a lesson in patience, as well as a necessary step in her training, she reasoned. Staying cloaked this long would help her learn to use the Force continuously for long periods of time. She just had to stay focused.
Another hour passed. The teenager allowed herself to relax slightly and leaned back against the dead lump of flesh behind her. If she stayed this tense, she’d be tired from the strain when the beast arrived. Her thoughts began to wander…
1 Year Earlier…
“Hey, kid, wake up.”
Kaeira groaned slightly. The last thing she remembered was running, running from a bald Jedi…but…he’d caught her, and he’d held his hand out towards her, and an invisible hand had closed around her throat. She’d been struggling…
A hand shook her shoulder. “Come on, kid, the General wants a word with ya.”
The girl gritted her teeth and forced her eyes to open. A human in a Republic uniform was leaning over her. She scowled at him and pushed his hand away from her shoulder. He frowned, took her arm, and yanked her to her feet. “Get up, kid, you’re not hurt. Just a little bruised.”
Kaeira jerked her hand out of his and steadied herself, glaring at the much taller man. “Where am I!”
“You’re aboard the Republic ship Torrent.”
“A prison ship?” she asked bitterly.
“If the general decides to grant you amnesty because of your age, no.” The man shook his head and turned to walk away, muttering something about barbarians using children as soldiers. Kaeira’s eyes went from him to her surroundings. There wasn’t much to see, just some blank metal walls and one door. The soldier was exiting the small room. For a moment, she considered snapping his neck and trying to escape—but no. That would be a foolhardy decision. If there was one thing she’d learned from those damned Mandalorians, it was not to be reckless. She sighed and glanced at the walls around her. Of course, if what she’d heard about the Republic was true, she was going to be incarcerated for a rather large portion of her life, so it didn’t much matter what she did.
Kaeira glanced behind her; there was a low, narrow metal shelf built against the wall. She sat down in the corner of it and pulled her legs up under her chin, shivering slightly. These fatigues she was wearing were made for cooling off in a humid jungle, not for staying warm in a cell.
A few minutes later, the door slid open, and a tall, broad human male stepped into the tiny cell. Kaeira glanced up at him and immediately sprang to her feet. It was the Jedi who’d caught her on the planet! She balled her hands into fists and immediately started going over his earlier tactics in her mind, trying to find a way to defend herself against him if he decided to execute her here and now.
He crossed his arms over his massive chest and studied her critically for several long moments. Finally, he asked in a rough, almost grating voice, “What’s your name?”
The girl replied stiffly, “Kaeira. You are?”
“Alek. General Alek.”
Kaeira decided to skip the pleasantries and go right to the heart of the matter. “What do you want?”
The corners of his mouth twitched, as if he were trying to decide whether to laugh or smirk. He chose the latter. “You led me on quite a chase, young one.”
“Obviously, ‘quite’ wasn’t good enough.”
“Obviously.” He took a step closer. “Did you plan to kill that padawan, or did it just happen?”
Her brow furrowed. “Padawan?”
“The young Jedi you murdered.”
She laughed harshly and crossed her arms, almost as a mirror of him. “Oh, him. No, I didn’t plan it. I just happened to wake up his prisoner, and he happened to be carrying me into the Republic camp, and I happened to grab his lightsaber and stab him, that’s all.”
“How old are you?”
The girl shrugged. ‘Thirteen or fourteen.”
“You seem to know much about war for one so young.”
Her blue eyes filled with anger, and she snapped, “I was fighting in this war when you were still cowering in your Temple, Jedi!”
“I thought as much. The Mandalorians have been known to thrust those far younger than you into battle. Were you a slave, or a true Mandalorian?”
Kaeira gritted her teeth and hissed, “That’s none of your business!”
“Mm. A slave, I should have known.”
The girl uncrossed her arms and took a step towards him. “You didn’t come here to get my biography! What do you want!”
Alek pursed his lips. “Fine. You want to know how you killed that padawan?”
Kaeira shrugged carelessly. “I stabbed him. End of story.”
Suddenly, his hand flew out and slapped her across the face heavily, making her stagger back a step or two. “Foolish girl! Are you so arrogant you believe yourself capable of killing a Jedi with only a blade!”
Kaeira spat warm blood onto the floor as it trickled out of her nose and into her mouth. “I proved I could!”
“You killed an untrained boy!”
“If he was so untrained, he shouldn’t have been in the war!”
“You’ve done far worse to innocent people! I can smell the murders etched on your soul, the atrocities you’ve committed!”
Her rage boiled up inside her. What right did he have to judge her! She’d done what was necessary to survive among the Mandos! It was a vicious galaxy, a vicious war, and the only chance she’d had to see the end of it was to be vicious! She spat angrily, “Get to the point,
To her surprise, he smiled, a smile that sent chills to the marrow of her bones. “Good…good. You’re filled with anger.”
A mirthless smirk flitted across her face. “How many years of training did it take for you to figure that out?”
“Do you want to know how you killed that padawan?”
“Stop playing games and tell me!”
The man leaned forward, seeming to loom over her; his voice lowered and softened into a hiss. “The Force is strong in you. It shrouded you, concealing your attack. The padawan didn’t know you were awake until his own lightsaber plunged into him, driven by your hand.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What are you talking about? I’ve never heard of this ‘Force’.”
He straightened abruptly. “It’s enough for you to know that it
is power—power beyond your wildest dreams. I’ll teach you how to feel it, use it—but you must become my apprentice.”
Kaeira sniffed contemptuously and spat out more blood. “Go find someone else to train. I’m not going to be one of your Jedi pawns.”
He scowled darkly. “The Jedi are weaklings, obsessed with their own strength! Turning you into one of them would be a waste!”
One of her eyebrows rose. “Strange words for a Jedi, especially one as high-ranking as you.”
The man crossed his arms again. “Don’t be stupid. I’m no Jedi.”
“Then what are you?”
“I follow the teachings of the Sith. This Jedi façade is merely a cover allowing my master and me to complete our purpose.”
The girl’s mouth twisted into a smirk. “Master? Then you’re just an apprentice yourself.”
“Temporarily. Revan will fall when I choose…and I need an apprentice of my own. You have the potential, but you need me to realize your power.”
The girl bit her lip. This was tempting…if this Force was really so powerful, she could destroy the Mandalorians once and for all! They’d be gone, forever! All the death and grief they’d forced her to cause—she could atone for it! And, when she was done, she could kill this Alek and go on her way .There had to be a hitch in this somewhere. There just had to be.
“What’s the catch?”
“The catch?” His eyebrows rose. “I’ll show you the catch.” He extended his hand towards her; she felt invisible fingers wrap around her esophagus, just as they had in the jungle. She gasped as the grip tightened, cutting off her air. The girl struggled violently as she rose off the ground, trying to free herself from whatever was crushing her throat . Her lungs burned, and black spots started appearing in front of her eyes. The teenager saw Alek take two long steps towards her, his hand still extended. He lifted his other hand, placing his fingers on her face. She barely noticed; all that mattered was breaking free of his grasp, just drawing a breath of air—
A shooting pain went through her skull, and she dropped to the floor heavily. Kaeira coughed violently as oxygen filled her air passages again. She forced herself to look up at Alek. “Why did you do that!”
The man brushed off his hands and replied casually, “Just ensuring your loyalty, My Apprentice.”
“What’s that supposed to mean!” She pushed herself to her feet and glared at him.
“The Force has more than one application. There’s an unbreakable link between us now. At any time I choose, the blood vessels in your brain will rupture, and you will die. Betrayal is not a viable option, Apprentice.”
Kaeira forced herself to bow her head slightly. If what he said were true, he’d won this round, and she didn’t care to test his words. Her best option was to feign submission. “What now?”
“Take this.” The man pulled a blaster pistol from the back of his belt and handed it to her. “The guard will free you as soon as I’ve returned to my quarters. He’ll give you a map to a hanger bay. Kill him. Once you’ve reached the hangar, another guard will take you aboard a small transport ship and pilot you away from here. He’ll take you to the planet Felucia; kill him as soon as you’ve landed. There are two vibroblades aboard the ship, which you will use to defend yourself from the beasts on Felucia. I’ll join you as soon as I can and begin your training.”
The girl nodded slightly. “Okay. When—”
Alek cut her off with an impatient gesture. “Enough! I’ve already told you what you need to know!” He spun on his heel and left without another word.
A few minutes later, the door slid open once more. The guard who’d awakened her motioned for her to exit the cell. She complied immediately. He handed her a datapad and whispered, “Okay, we’ll follow this map. Lord Malak has a ship waiting for us.” The man turned his back to her and started punching something into a console. “Just give me one minute, and we’ll be on our way.”
Kaeira tucked the datapad into her belt and gripped the blaster with both hands. She aimed it at his head and stated coldly, “Not ‘we’. ‘I’.”
Kaeira scowled. What she hadn’t realized then was that he would strand her here on this forsaken waste heap. A week after she’d landed on Felucia, he showed up, destroyed the ship that had brought her, and began teaching her how to feel the Force. He’d had to leave a day later, though, so he’d given her a holocron to continue her training. Every few weeks, he came back to see how she was progressing, but not once had he mentioned her leaving this planet. Living in constant danger forced her to hone her skills constantly just to survive. But he’d been right about one thing—the Force was
power. Before, the world had been flat and cold; she could only see the surface if the universe. Now, she could feel the life and energy running through everything around her, sense the presence of creatures before they knew she was there—she could even wrap light around herself and become invisible. She could even read peoples’ minds.
But right now, she was completing a basic task for any Sith: building her lightsabers. Alek had left her the metal components for them on his last visit, but he had left her to get the crystals. On this planet, the only source for the crystals was a rare creature called a T’katlu. It was small and unimposing, but in its heart, there were two red gems perfect for her purposes. All she had to do was chip the stones into the right sizes and polish them, and she would finally have her lightsabers.
The girl suddenly froze. She could sense it. It was approaching from the other side of the corpse. The creature circled around the dead rancor, coming into her field of vision. Kaeira breathed lightly. It was small—only about two feet long—but it was the most dangerous thing on this planet. Its long, mousy snout was flanked by two tiny red eyes; its shelled back was covered with six-inch spines. The spines were the part she needed to worry about, she knew—it could literally launch them at her. The tips were covered with very potent poison. A milliliter could kill a full-grown rancor, like the one beside her. A tiny fraction of that would kill her in a matter of seconds. She just had to sneak up on it...
Kaeira waited until the creature went over to the rancor’s foot and started gnawing on it. She silently rose to her feet and crept up behind it. When she was just behind it, she drew back one of her vibroblades and brought it slashing down on its back.
To her surprise, the creature spun around, completely unhurt! It hissed, and one of its front paws lashed out, tripping her. Kaeira spat out a curse and flung herself to the side as a spine buried itself in the ground where she had been. She threw a blast of Force energy towards the T’katlu, sending it spinning away. The girl got to her feet and spun her swords, swallowing hard. She’d thought she knew everything about this creature, but no—its shell was impervious to whatever metal her swords were made out of.
Another spine hissed through the air towards her; she flicked her sword up and turned it slightly. The quill went halfway through the blade before it finally stuck. Kaeira cursed again. Apparently, her swords were able to be hurt by the spines, so she couldn’t just deflect them like she would blaster bolts. But maybe…yes, there was an idea. The spines would go through metal, and the metal wouldn’t pierce its skin, but maybe—just maybe—the spines would pierce the skin.
Three more of the dart-like projectiles flew towards her in quick succession. She caught each of them with the sword; each of them went through it partially. Kaeira dodged to the side to avoid the next two and threw one of her swords at it. She paused for a split-second and concentrated on one of the spikes sticking through her weapon. There…she had it free of the metal. Kaeira focused on the small dart and sent it flying back towards the T’katlu. The spine struck it right between the eyes.
The beast froze for a moment, then went limp.
Kaeira breathed a sigh of relief and walked over to the corpse. She knelt beside it and set down her sword. Now, how to turn it over…oh, of course. She held her hands above it, and the creature slowly rotated until it was on its back, exposing its soft underbelly. The girl licked her lips and drew her discarded sword to her hand. She carefully slit open the skin; the blade pierced it easily. Kaeira grinned and cut a little deeper.
A few minutes later, she held two glowing red jewels in her hands. Kaeira studied them closely. They were perfect. She stood and tucked them into a pouch on her belt. Now the real work began…
Hope you enjoyed.
(And, as usual, please criticize as harshly as you deem fit.)
PS: My former beta reader went to college a few weeks ago, so a different person helped me go over it. Unfortunately, the only things about Star Wars that she knows are from the movies, so it was a little hard to discuss the plot with her. >_< Still, I'd like to thank her profusely for helping me with the grammar and spelling.