KOTOR III: TRET'YE SRAZHENIE (THIRD BATTLE)
Chapter I: Mission Briefing
Eight years after the events of the VREMYA series
Padawan Brun Carral positively reeked of kath hound urine. He had not been volunteering to spray fields of farmers' crops on Dantooine. Instead, he had just been humiliated in the biggest practical-joke contest that the Jedi Enclave had ever seen, and not only that, but the contest was already over before it had really begun! The rules of the aforementioned practical-joke war, laid down by his Jedi Masters, said that the first contestant to lose his or her temper lost the contest altogether. Brun had caved in to his anger first, almost causing serious bodily harm to his opponent, Padawan Becca Solis. Becca was the one that had caused the remote droids in the training room to shoot out streams of kath hound urine instead of blaster bolts. Every time Brun had used the control keypad to stop the droids, four more of them had leapt into action and doused him with a new barrage of noxious liquid! He was absolutely furious, stinking and seething, and it was in this kind of mood that he sought out Master Atton Rand for an explanation--and a rematch.
"Becca cheated." Brun folded his arms across his chest and stood obstinately.
Atton raised an eyebrow (and wrinkled his nose). "How did she cheat?"
"She put kath hound urine in the training droids and set them on me! Every time I tried to use the controls to keep those kriffing
remotes from spraying me, four more came and made sure I was good and fragrant!" His eyes were almost ablaze, and his glare could have melted transparisteel.
Atton tried hard to keep his expression neutral, but found that a few wry chuckles escaped his tightly-pressed lips. "So? Sounds like a perfectly normal practical joke to me." He leaned back and put his feet up on the console desk.
"You don't understand! She--I--oh, Sith spit!" Brun shook his head and prepared to storm out of the room. "Come on. Just give me a rematch, Master Rand, and I'll be a good Jedi from here on out. No more fooling around. See, if you don't, this means that I've lost the practical-joke contest to Becca! I can't lose! Not right now! My honor
is at stake!"
The Jedi Sentinel frowned this time, in a sad and fatherly way. "A Jedi never gives into his anger, Brun. You almost hurt Becca once you found her. She defended herself very well against you, and in my opinion, she wins. You would do well to spend some time alone meditating, and ponder what it is that separates us Jedi from the Sith. Oh--and, please, clean up," said Atton with a noticeable grimace. "Tell the cleansing droids to spray on extra soap."
Brun grumbled, but he knew his Master was right. Thus, the Padawan departed for the refreshers, leaving Atton to activate the air sanitizer. He sighed, remembering plenty of times when he had succumbed to his anger...
...and so did Visas Marr. The Miraluka, Master of the Jedi Sentinels, was with the victor of the practical-joke contest, won after only a single round. She stood beside Becca Solis in the grassy courtyard of the Enclave. Even though Visas did not have normal vision and was blind by typical standards, she had the remarkable ability to "see" through the Force. She knew at a glance whether someone followed the path of the Dark Side or the Light, and could intuit paths around obstacles such as walls or sealed doorways. Such was the nature of Visas' vision, and others considered it far superior to the usual kind. Becca certainly did, and she waited to hear what Visas saw in her.
"I almost killed her, Padawan," said Visas softly, startling the younger girl.
"Who?" asked Becca. She felt a hot jolt of fear make her spine ramrod-stiff.
The name was not one that Becca recognized, and Visas Marr sensed this. Thus, she explained, "Back when I was a Sith, following the Lord of Hunger, I almost killed a Jedi--the only one who could break my Master's power. I held such hatred in my heart that I vowed I would stop at nothing to remove this threat to the one who had taken me on as his apprentice. The thing that stayed my hand, and my lightsaber blade, was nothing that I felt within myself, but within her. Within her I felt love and fear, and blinding pain."
"How did you manage to control your anger?" Becca asked, biting her lip.
"I didn't. Not at first. It was only when she had defeated me that I began to hope for a new purpose in life, and a new mission. I followed her to the ends of the galaxy, where my Master waited aboard his ship of the living dead, and in the end, I slew him--not because of hatred, but because of justice. It is this kind of justice which has compelled me to ask you to go on this mission, Padawan Solis." Visas smiled warmly. "You may have won the practical-joke contest, but the great task that I have set for you is no laughing matter."
"What is it, Master Visas?" The young Jedi stepped closer to the Miraluka.
"I...see things, as you know, through the Force, and it has shown me something lethal. Something that could consume the whole galaxy if it is not stopped. In fact, I sense that this presence has already begun its work, molding and shaping the minds of the galaxy's creatures and thus feeding upon them. My former Master's hunger was based on an unending emptiness: he felt nothing inside, and only if he felt the galaxy was reduced to absolutely nothing would his power be complete. This presence's hunger is different. It is not based upon a lack of fullness, but upon the very opposite: the more this hunger is satisfied, the more power the presence will want. This shadow that I see through the Force is not black, but blinding white, wanting to fill the galaxy with itself until all is swallowed, and yet left intact!"
Becca shook her head, not wanting Visas to "see" her confusion:
"I don't understand." Even though the sun was shining, a grey cloud of fear had suddenly descended over Becca's mind. "What must I do, Master?"
"Venture out into the galaxy and locate this presence," Visas said, trembling and sinking down upon one of the sun-warmed rocks in the Jedi Enclave courtyard. "Once you do, find...find the source of its power, and wipe it from the face of the galaxy. Destroy it, even if this means you cannot save the one who seeks to wield it. Once your mission is complete, we will finally be safe, at least until the end of all things...when the true Sith arrive."
"The true Sith?" Becca had encountered Sith before, or at least those who claimed to follow the ways of the Sith. "They're a threat, but not much of one. Not since--what was it, their defeat at Malachor V? That's what you and all the other Masters told us in a class discussion of Jedi history."
"Yes," replied Visas, "but we cannot deal with the threat of the true Sith and this Force presence all at once. I suspect that once you find the latter, you will wake the former from their long slumber, and we must be prepared."
Becca still did not understand, but rather than confess this to Visas, who saw things that even the wisest Jedi did not, she decided to accept her cryptic mission and "venture out into the galaxy" as she had been directed. "I'm ready," said the Padawan. "The thing is, I'll need a ship, supplies, a reliable crew, some utility droids to help me handle routine maintenance and repairs, several thousand credits--all of that. Do we have such supplies?" Visas stayed silent. "I guess I'll have to take a leap of faith."
"All things are possible through the Force," the Miraluka answered, "and as for supplies, everyone at the Enclave will help you to procure them. I'd like you to concentrate solely upon your crew. Whom will you choose to accompany you on this--possible suicide mission? I am afraid I cannot; nor can the other Masters, who must continue to train the Padawans left behind. You do not have to select everyone from the Enclave community--in fact, I would prefer that you did not. Take at least one from here with you, and the rest I leave you to recruit as you see fit. Be careful, Becca, and may the Force be with you!" Visas bowed her head, and it was not two minutes before she fell into the Jedi meditative stance that passed for sleep in ordinary mortals.
As for Becca, she was afraid, confused, and at a loss for words or thoughts. How was she going to find this vague "Force presence" Visas Marr had described when Visas had been so--vague? As for her crew, the Padawan had no idea who would be up to the challenge of seeking it, or even if her comrades at the Enclave would think she was crazy! All that Becca knew was that she had to trust the Force, no matter what it prompted her to do...