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Old 09-23-2009, 01:43 AM   #1
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Music of the Force

Music of the Force

“So you’re off, then?”

Young Jedi Knight Arai Elan turned to face her questioner, her eyebrows arching upward in mild surprise. Arai had met Reibe Vailar several years earlier – before she’d faced the trials – but at the time, the Sith Hunter had hardly given her a second glance. Instead, Vailar had seemed far more interested in ‘checking up’ on her master, who had evidently been trained by Vailar. To have the ancient woman now coming to see about Arai herself was more than a little suspicious.

“I daresay I am,” Arai answered. She removed her lightsaber from her belt and tossed it to Vailar. “Give this to Catalin, will you? I don’t intend to need it where I’m going.”

Vailar chuckled softly. “You plan to follow in your master’s footsteps, do you? Alright. So where do you plan to find a lightsaber crystal that is uniquely yours?”

Arai scowled. It was true that her master, Catalin Dykar had been trained by the Sith Hunter for the Jedi. But Arai’s training had begun in the Jedi Temple, before Catalin’s training was fully completed. For this reason, Arai had been dealt a healthy dose of “Hunter Distrust” by her Jedi instructors. Vailar could be counted on to do a small handful of things, and first and foremost, she was a hunter. Hunters were sneaky and always looking out for their own gain.

“What do you want, Vailar?” she snapped, perhaps a little more harshly than she’d intended. Vailar merely laughed and tossed the lightsaber back to Arai.

“I’ve seen a lot more of life than you ever will, Kid,” she said. “I’m connected to the Force in ways you will never even begin to understand. Though you did not locate the crystal yourself, that lightsaber has carried you through a great many situations in which you would otherwise have died. Trust me. You’ll want it with you.”

But Arai’s scowl deepened and she hurled it at the Hunter’s head. “Don’t play mind games with me, Reibe Vailar!” she spat. “Give. The lightsaber. To Catalin.”

Vailar moved her head a few inches to the right and the lightsaber whizzed past her ear, clattering to the ground behind her. She looked over her shoulder at it and then turned her gaze back to Arai. With a sigh, she said simply, “Then may the Force be with you.”

Without another word, she turned and left the hangar bay, catching the discarded lightsaber up into her hand as she went. Breathing a deep sigh of relief, Arai wondered if perhaps she’d made a mistake. It would not be the last time.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Truth be told, Arai had no plan at all as to where to look for her new lightsaber’s crystal. In fact, the only reason she was out searching at all was that the lightsaber her master had given her felt out of place in her hand. If she could ever feel right with a lightsaber, it had to be hers.

And so, sitting in the cockpit of her Jedi Starfighter, drifting in space just beyond Coruscant’s orbit, Arai Elan fell into deep meditation, seeking the will of the Force. Reaching out, she felt the currents of gravity even out here in space. She felt other ships passing her and saw bright explosions of light within her mind as each of them entered hyperspace. In their own special way, these sounds came together like a song.

As soon as the idea had occurred inside Arai’s mind, she heard the music so clearly that it could not be ignored. By instinct, her right hand entered hyperspace coordinates. Slowly. Then, faster, and the music began to swell. Soon, the full string of coordinates had been entered, and the music crecendoed into a brilliant finale as her starfighter plunged forward into hyperspace.

Breathless and in awe, Arai opened her eyes as the music faded and wondered where the Force was taking her.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

When the starfighter finally reverted to realspace, Arai leaned forward to get a better view of what was around her. Five planets surrounded the star in this system, but only one of them looked even remotely habitable. Arai felt an involuntary shudder race up her spine as her starfighter’s R4 unit began feeding her information on the planets, all the while hotly insisting that there shouldn’t be a system here, according to the Jedi Archives.

“The Archives account for charted systems only,” Arai shot back. “So don’t mention it again. Scan the second planet for suitable landing locations.” She stared at the planet and another shudder ran through her. Something was decidedly not right about that planet and yet it seemed that something there was calling to her. The Force wanted her to be there, though she did not know why. She doubted this was where she would find her lightsaber crystal.
Her R4 unit quickly informed her that the starfighter’s sensors were not strong enough to cut through the fog blanketing the planet. It also took that precious moment to inform her that it thought going into such an environment was suicide. Arai shook her head and rolled the starfighter, aiming for the second planet, much to the droid’s dismay.

“Something’s down there,” she insisted.

At least they could agree on that. The droid began feeding her numbers of life forms on the planet, all of which it found logical to assume were hostile. Arai couldn’t ignore the droid’s arguments and wondered for a second time if she’d made a mistake in leaving her gifted lightsaber behind. Pushing the thought aside, she flew down into the fog, descending carefully toward the surface. Frowning, Arai realized that her sensors were useless in this fog and she reached out with the Force to sense her surroundings. It would not do her well to crash land in this mysterious place.

The droid continued to wail in protest, insisting that Arai must surely be far out of her mind to be intent on landing here. Arai engaged the starfighter’s repulsors to set down gently on a dry patch her sensors had finally managed to locate, rolled her eyes and snapped, “Will you cut it out? The Force had a reason to bring me here, and I’ll-“

Abruptly, the repulsors flickered and shut off, and the starfighter dropped the remaining fifteen feet, landing with the nose on the dry patch Arai had found and the aft landing gear embedded in the mud of the swamp. The sharp impact sent Arai’s head crashing forward into her controls and she knew no more.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

“Come to me, Jedi child.” A shadow spoke.

Arai stared into it, trying to find some sign of sentient life within the shadow. As if understanding her struggle, it laughed.

“Fool!” it spat. “You cannot hope to know the darkness if you stand at its edge and stare at its border. Come. Enter. Find what it is you seek.”

“I dare not,” Arai said softly. “What are you?”

But the shadow gave no answer.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Day One

Slowly, painfully, Arai Elan lifted her head from her instrument panel. Only the sight of murky fog and strangely twisted plant life greeted her blurred vision. She leaned her throbbing head back against the headrest, seeking healing in the Force. After what felt like at least an hour, her vision cleared and the throbbing subsided. Finally, she could think clearly.

Then, she realized her astromech unit had not stopped squealing since they’d entered the planet’s atmosphere. Though her headache was mostly gone, a second headache of a different kind quickly swarmed in to take its place. Arai scowled through the starfighter’s canopy at the little droid’s head.

“Enough!” she spat. “I’m awake.”

The droid fell silent for a brief moment, and then began wailing about the fearsome creatures it had faced while she was peacefully unconscious. Arai rubbed her head.

“Hardly peaceful,” she mumbled, keying open the starfighter’s canopy and standing slowly, cautiously. The droid had no doubt been right about the wildlife here; much of it could be assumed to be hostile. She stepped out onto the wing beside her droid and closed the canopy behind her. It would not do well to leave it open for some curious creature to crawl into and have its way with.

She pried open the aft cargo compartment and withdrew the survival pack stored there. Satisfied, she stepped to the nose of the fighter and dropped off, landing solidly on her feet on the dry ground. And there, she found herself face to face with a strange creature. Her headache intensified just being near this thing and she reached into its mind, giving it the distinct impression it had somewhere else to be – and fast! With a loud yelp, it scurried away.

Behind Arai, the starfighter’s repulsors kicked on once more, lifting the fighter up and forward. Arai ducked out of its way and shouted, “R4, turn it off!”
Arai didn’t know if the droid didn’t hear her or deliberately ignored her order. The end result was the same. The starfighter rose, vanishing quickly into the fog. A short time later, she heard its engines kick on and she knew the droid would not be returning.

“Someone didn’t wipe him,” she growled softly. It was the only explanation for his outrageously annoying personality. She could only hope that he would return the fighter to the Jedi Temple and inform others of her location. In the meantime, she’d have to find a way to survive here. The Force could sustain her well, but even with the aid of the Force, the human body could only take so much. She would need both food and water.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Food wasn’t much of an issue here, Arai discovered during the next six hours. There was so much wildlife she could eat for years and never run out. Water was the key issue, for there were no clean springs. Fortunately, her survival pack had included a water purifier and a small container for the purified water. And with this planet being mostly swamp, finding water to purify was hardly difficult. Or so she thought until her first encounter with one of the creatures that lived in that water.

Had she not sensed the beast coming, it would have taken off her arm along with the water purifier. With a mouthful of large, sharp teeth, a head like a lizard’s, and the body of a snake, this thing was hungry and it didn’t much care what it ate. Furthermore, its mind was so full of aggression that Arai could not reach it. She fled from the edge of its pool, wishing again for the lightsaber she had left behind while using the Force to lead multiple trails away from the one she really took.

Beyond that, she could only hope and pray that dragonsnakes could not survive out of water.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Building a shelter was unnecessary, Arai discovered. Several of the larger trees had already been hollowed out, undoubtedly by creatures in search of a quiet, dry place to sleep. Arai soon found one of these that suited her and set up the emergency locator beacon from her survival pack just outside. Then, she attempted to get comfortable inside the tree-hut with her datapad. More for amusement than anything else, she began to keep a journal of events:

Day 1. R4-D101 left me behind on this unknown planet. Will recommend wiping his memory, if I am ever found. I’ve spent all this day setting up a base camp. Very tired now. I never realized what hard work it is to set up a camp, even with the Force on your side. Ran into something in the water, which I’ve called a dragonsnake. Won’t be going by that pool again. Very glad it didn’t follow me.

When I got here, I had this feeling that there was something here the Force wanted me to find. It’s gone at the moment. Really wishing for a lightsaber right now.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Day 7. I’ve made it a full week. Still no sign of a Jedi rescue team. Have been a little uncomfortable with the thought of leaving the tree-hut for fear of missing them entirely. I’ve been able to maintain my food supply by luring creatures here through the Force. It’s a tricky prospect, really, since I can never be entirely sure what sort of creature will come, or how easy it will be to kill.

That feeling of there being something here to find is back. But it’s very clouded. The Dark Side must have a firm grasp on this world. I can feel it. I’d not be surprised to find a Jedi could hide here without detection by other Force sensitives. The Dark Side is like a thick blanket here, you know, the sort that little children can hide under without anyone realizing they’re there. I can feel it crawling on my skin, and there’s a bad taste in my mouth.
The Jedi rescue team cannot get here fast enough.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Day 12. Noise. There’s too much of it; I can’t think straight. I want a lightsaber.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Day 14. Two weeks. The creatures that knocked out my repulsors give me headaches. Lightsabers would be good. I dream about them lately. Them and the shadows. Shadows are calling to me. I’m worried about what they might conceal.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Day 20. Just shy of three standard weeks, by my count. I’m thinking more clearly today. I believe it is because I spent some significant time in meditation. The shadows of the planet tried to prevent me. I think it means I’m growing stronger that I managed to prevail. Today, for the first time since I arrived here, I feel mostly at peace. The Dark Side is still an oppressive force here, but the shadows do not seem quite so dark. Felt a trace of the signature that led me here. Heard the slightest bit of the music. The Force wills that I be here. I will find what I am after.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Day 21. Lightsaber? No? Damn it.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Day 25. Looking back on my journal entries, I see day 21 as a dark point in my life here. In that darkness, I was barely able to recognize the path I was falling into. It took a considerable amount of time to establish my connection to the Light Side of the Force. I am exhausted, but I know that if I sleep now, I will revert. Sleep is not an option. I hear the music clearly now. I must find its source.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Day 26, 11 hours after journaling.

For the first time since she arrived, Arai really and truly left her tree-hut. In a constant meditative state, she trudged through the swampy overgrowth, humming the music to herself. Occasionally, she spoke to herself, understanding that the music, her connection to the Force, and her own conversations were the only things keeping her sane at this point.

As she hummed, she understood that the music was drawing nearer. Through her meditation, she knew that some of the worst creatures this planet had to offer stood in her way. She caught herself once more wishing for a lightsaber, and this time she wondered if her master’s master had somehow foreseen this future.

Before she could give it much further thought, a massive creature crashed through the trees above her, seeking to crush her beneath it. She dove out of the way and tugged at one of the trees through the Force. The tree groaned, bending and finally breaking under her power just as the creature lunged toward her. Crying out something that sounded almost like a war cry, Arai released the tree and it fell, crushing the beast beneath it.

Having done this, Arai allowed a darkness to touch her heart and the energy of the planet swirled around her, frightening off all further wildlife. She would have what she came for. And in short order, she found it.

It was a crystal, perfectly cut to fit inside a lightsaber. In the dim light of the swamp, it looked rather plain, but the music swelled around her so loudly as she drew near to it that its source could not be mistaken. This was the very thing that had drawn her to this Dark Side fortress of a world. Delicately lifting it up in her fingers, Arai felt the music pierce her to her very soul and the crystal flickered deep, blood red for several seconds. A blinding pain lanced through her and she almost dropped it. Then, she called on the Force and rediscovered the Light Side burning bright within her. As she did so, the crystal’s color changed, suddenly burning bright, blinding white; and Arai’s pain was gone.

There, in the midst of the swamp, Arai Elan fell to her knees, crystal in hand and meditated deeper than she ever had before. Pieces of her survival pack broke off and joined swirling masses of debris from the swamp itself and Arai lost all track of time. After what seemed like only a few minutes, she released the crystal and it sailed up to join the rest of the pieces and everything suddenly came together.

One lightsaber, a product of that crystal, Arai’s essence, and this Dark Side world fell into Arai’s open hand. Slowly, stiffly, she got to her feet and turned, recognizing a second presence there with her. To her surprise, it was none other than Master Yoda.

“Come,” he said simply, denying her a chance to speak. “Leave this world, we must, or consume you, it will.”

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

The journey back to Coruscant was full of intense discussions. Arai was informed that she had been missing for a full two months, something not properly shown by her datapad, for she had occasionally missed days. During her two month absence, the galaxy had been overcome in war. The ‘Clone Wars’, Yoda called them. He also stressed that she was not to join the wars until she felt ready.

Yoda explained that the planet she had been drawn to was called Dagobah, and that it had once been the site of a fierce duel between a Jedi and one of their Dark cousins. It was the Dark Jedi’s death that had tainted the entire world. Later in the planet’s history, it was removed from the Jedi Archives, for reasons unknown.

“Called to you, that crystal did, or find Dagobah, you would not have.”

“It sang to me,” Arai said, smiling softly. “I can still hear it. The song has changed, and it’s much softer now. But it’s there.”

Yoda nodded. “Bound to you, that crystal is. Knew your soul, it did. If find it, you had not, overcome by the Dark Side, you would have been.”

“I nearly was,” Arai admitted. She paused thoughtfully. “If I’d had a lightsaber with me, it likely wouldn’t have mattered. It was only through meditation with my crystal that I was able to find my way back. It… it helped me. Like you said, it saw through me to my soul, knew who I was at my core, not who I was manipulated to be.”

“Still, rest,” Yoda urged. “Recovering from that much darkness, not easy will it be.”

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Arai remained in the Jedi Temple for several weeks afterward, basking in the powerful Light Side presence there. On Yoda’s request, she kept the existence of Dagobah to herself and swore never again to return there. Near the end of this resting period, Arai was once again visited by Reibe Vailar. The Sith Hunter’s expression was troubled.

“I am truly sorry for what happened to you,” she said. “I thought I had seen your future. I envisioned you going to Tatooine. A Krayt dragon was present, and that is why I was so convinced you would need a lightsaber.”

Arai smiled faintly. “Perhaps you ought not lean so heavily on your own foresight. It may fail you again, and it may be an even greater consequence that befalls you or those you try to protect.”

Reibe looked troubled, but she made no reply. Instead, she left without another word. In another few moments, Master Mace Windu joined Arai in the Gardens.

“Master Windu,” Arai said softly. “I am ready to join the Clone Wars.”
Windu nodded solemnly. “I expected this. You are being placed in charge of a mission to a planet on the Mid Rim. The Seperatists have recently won a victory there, and we need to take it back.”

“I’ll leave immediately,” Arai promised.

Her lightsaber’s soft music grew slightly louder as she bowed to Master Windu and departed, and Arai Elan knew she had made the right choice.

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Old 09-28-2009, 11:40 AM   #2
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