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A New Player in the Force (SW/Lite Gamer)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by USSExplorer, Apr 24, 2020.

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  1. Solusandra

    Solusandra Foxes are Fantastic

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    Jumpchain, moving through various anime universes where powers can be gained through special actions rather than needing some sort of legacy. No R.O.B. explanation of how and what is happening.
     
    Grimmouse197 and FTR2017 like this.
  2. Sonic Dash

    Sonic Dash Getting sticky.

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    So I walked away from the story for awhile after the dragon fight and have now come back and reread the whole thing. It seems to me that over the course of writing it the author either came to dislike their initial premise, figured out a better idea for the plot, or learned enough about Star Wars cannon to have written themselves into a corner. Now stuck unable to pivot the story in the direction they want because of existing content and are forced to work around it to get there, frustrating themselves and upsetting the audience with the glaring heal turns and subverted expectations. It's not obvious when an arc is read in a vacuum, but really glaring when binged how different Cam, his system, and how he and other characters behave today versus the beginning. It looks like it has been slipping from an adventure into drama without anyone really noticing.

    There's enough poison and anger in the tone of both the audience's and the author's posts regarding the stories current direction that I don't really want to add to it. But at this point I feel the best direction for the story would be for a complete rewrite. A certain level of twist and surprise are expected, but outright changing the direction like has been done is like going from reading one story to another with the same characters and setting. I'd almost believe someone else took over writing the thing halfway though, if not for the near identical if evolved style. Rather then continue to piss off the audience, work around existing content, and be forced to continually change different characters "stats" and "abilities" for the sake of plot, I think everything would be better off if it was written with those changes in mind from the get go.

    The story has the hallmarks of one that wasn't outlined very well at the start, or that the direction was changed midway through. Professionally it means either rewriting the first half to match the new idea deadline permitting, or accept the fact that despite the new idea being "better" continue to write the story as originally intended so that it can be delivered on time/finished. While in film, the digital ages ability to allow creators to easily go back and tweak things has largely been a detriment, primarily because of the group nature of the media's production. The ability of the author to go back and completely rewrite everything so it's their perfect vision has almost universally been beneficial. But trying to make an existing premise fit a new narrative halfway through is a recipe for disaster.

    Generally though, whenever I find myself tabing over to YouTube, Sudoku, or getting up to do something else while in the middle of a chapter, or glazing through multiple paragraphs that skipping doesn't impact understanding of the current plot is a sign of something having gone terribly wrong. And while it hard to look away during the first half of the story, sometime during the Mandalorian arc something went wrong.

    But if I had to summarize to a sentence: I would say it had Yo-Yo Plot problems with Trope Telegraphing failures due to poor and overuse of Author Fiat.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2022
  3. Ayashi

    Ayashi Well worn.

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    Two days later:
    [​IMG]
     
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  4. Threadmarks: Facing the Council 1
    USSExplorer

    USSExplorer Doing what's necessary, even if it causes chaos

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    A/N:
    As always, thanks to those helping me write and plan out this story and checking it for continuality and logic errors.

    This chapter was released at least 2 weeks ago to my Patreons (with them seeing a draft version around 2 months ago) and on the story's Discord server (in GDoc form) about a week ago.
    Links for both are at the end of the chapter.
    Hopefully, all the little mistakes have been found and removed.



    Current date: 3 years until the Invasion of Naboo​



    Facing the Council 1
    … …


    I look around, taking in the gently rolling green hills and clear blue skies, and relax in the warm light of a sun sitting about halfway up from the horizon.

    “Cam.” I turn at hearing the familiar voice coming from somewhere to my right. “Cam, where are you?”

    The air shifts as I move, reacting to my presence. I move forward, heading towards the voice, but when I reach the peak of the nearest hill, I fail to see the speaker, though I note that clouds are gathering on the horizon.

    The familiar hum of a lightsaber powering up comes from my left, yet when I look that way, I fail to see anyone or thing. The hum of a second lightsaber comes from further to my left, yet still I see nothing.

    “Cam. I’ve missed you dearly.” The voice drifted on the wind even as the lightsabers buzz around me. “Where did you go?”

    I pivot, looking around for who was speaking. I knew the voice, yet still, I fail to see anyone as the clouds spread across the horizon, cutting the sky off from the ground with a thin white line.

    “I’m looking for you, Cam.”

    I spin around, still unable to see who was talking, even as the ring of white grew stronger; clouds rolling towards my location. A breeze kicks up, cooling the air.

    I move down the hill only to stop when my foot clips something. I look down and see a vambrace, immediately recognizing it as one of Bo’s. The breeze grows stronger, drawing more heat from the air as the clouds start to blot out the sun.

    Where are you, Cam? Why are you hiding from me?” There’s a shift in the voice, taking on an almost unhealthy tint. The hairs on the back of my neck and arms stand up. An urge to get away from the speaker drives me forward. “Don’t go. You’ll miss all the fun.”

    I demand my legs carry me away, but with each step, they seem to sink into the ground, as if the grass beneath me has turned into quicksand.

    “There you are.” A shiver rockets down my spine, almost paralysing me with fear. A second later I am frozen as a familiar, twisted laugh echoes around me. “I have you now.”

    In the blink of my eye, the world around me shifts. Gone are the green hills and dark clouds. I find myself lying on a hard surface, my arms and legs pulled away from me.

    I strain to free myself, but my limbs are bound too tightly.

    A sinister beam of red appears at the foot of my bed, followed by a second. A figure, a female, is silhouetted against the red. I go still as the figure steps closer and her face, once elegant and beautiful but now pale, twisted with yellow eyes framed by white hair, looks down at me.

    “Finally, I’ve found you once more,” Vosa says with a smile that is both caring and deranged at the same time. I struggle with greater ferocity against my restraints, but they refuse to move.

    One of her hands touches my leg, her lightsaber still active, and I freeze. It feels as if lightning has shot through me as she traces her fingers carefully upwards. “You left before we could finish our training.” She continues to smile, making her look both more attractive and insane.

    Her fingers kept drifting upwards, the heat from her blade adding to the sensation, only for her fingers to drift outward as they reached my waist. Any relief I gain from that vanishes as she lifts a leg and then straddles me just above my knees.

    She leans forward, both lightsaber-wielding hands coming toward my face. The heat from both almost burns my cheeks as all I can see is her face illuminated by the red glow of her blades. “We’re going to have so much fun.” She drags out the word ‘so’, then leans forward, licking the scar on my chest from my verd’goten.

    She wiggles her hips upward, and then giggles as she stops over my groin. “See, your body wants this even if your mind is not yet ready.”

    The lightsabers depower, sending me into darkness. The only sensation comes from Vosa as she rocks herself from side to side. I feel her fingers touch my stomach and then slide down. “Time to finish your training.” They hook under the rim of my underwear. “This is going to be so much fun.”


    … …

    I shot up in my bed, my heart beating so hard it felt as if it would leap from my chest. My eyes darted around the room, looking for the source of that… nightmare. Nothing came into focus as the room seemed to spin in time with the frantic thumping of my heart.

    I could feel my blood rushing through my veins, looking for a way to escape as my heart pushed it around at insane speeds. As the world came into focus, I reached for a cup beside my bed, only to knock it over, spilling the water all over the table. My hands were shaking as if from a high fever.

    My breaths were quick and shallow, yet I felt as if I was struggling to breathe. My mind struggled to process what I’d just experienced even as I felt something shift at the foot of my bed. It took me a moment to remember Fenrir was there, and another to recall that during my captivity he’d grown from the size of a poodle to a German Shepherd; and according to Fay, he’d keep growing quickly until reaching close to his full height – potentially on-par with a Kath hound – by the time he was three.

    I felt his presence, young and unfocused, within my mind; a feature of bonding with him. He was confused, and frightened, likely because of how I’d awoken. I reached out a still wildly vibrating hand, wanting to comfort him and myself even as my heart rattled around my chest. I needed to…

    Calm flooded my mind as I regained enough awareness to engage Player’s Mind. The terror that’d been wrenching at my soul was banished in an instant along with every emotional link to the dream I’d just experienced. I rebuked myself for trying to sleep without Player’s Mind, but in the days since we’d left the Lokella system, I’d become reliant on it to avoid having episodes where my thoughts turned back to my time under Vosa’s control, and I needed to stop doing that.

    Logically, I knew I was suffering from some form of PTSD. I’d seen and experienced it in my former life. But that dream was… something else entirely. While it confirmed my choice to not sleep even with Player’s Mind active as the right choice, I’d been ordered to rest by Fay as we were less than a day out from Coruscant and she wanted me rested and centred before we faced the High Council. I’d taken the chance that I’d be able to manage a night of sleep without the strange power active, but after … that, I knew I’d been wrong.

    Both my masters had commented on the fact that my mind seemed unusually tranquil since we’d left the Lokella system, which meant they could sense when Player’s Mind was engaged. That made perfect sense as not only had they known me for years, but both were highly skilled and experienced members of the Order. Still, suspecting I wouldn’t be able to keep Player’s Mind active while speaking with the Council, especially as Fay had explained they’d wish to observe me within the Force to see how my brushes with the Dark Side had affected me, I’d thought trying to sleep without it would work. Given the chronometer in the room saying it was barely past midnight and I’d gone to sleep around ten-thirty, it was safe to say the idea hadn’t worked.

    Fenrir pushed against my arm, then slumped against my leg – with far more weight than I’d expected – and my hand drifted to his head, scratching him just behind the ears. Hopefully, neither of my masters had been woken or disturbed by my dream, though I knew I’d have to discuss it with them come the morning. And Force was I not looking forward to that. As much as I’d try to avoid mentioning the more… provocative elements of the dream, both would likely pick up on it. While I might not be embarrassed about them knowing, as I was far from a normal teen, I was concerned about how Bo would react to it if she overheard us. Especially since at first, I’d thought the voice I’d heard was either her or Serra.

    I’d spoken to Bo again about the kiss, and tried to further smooth things over, but she’d been distant, which made sense. Her learning that I’d had a dream like this, and thought perhaps the voice might’ve been hers, would not in any way help her deal with my kissing her and her reactions to it. Observe was still saying she was confused about what I’d done and about me in general, but at least she didn’t seem to think I’d taken advantage of her.

    A part of me did wonder if pursuing things with Bo would be worthwhile as, while I’d told Serra and myself that I didn’t want to start anything until we were older and more mature, Bo was already physically older than me and lightyears beyond Serra in mental maturity. Then there was the fact she was a redhead; something I’d always had a weakness for. However, I’d promised Serra that we could revisit our feelings once we were older, so getting involved with Bo before then felt as if I was discarding Serra for Bo…

    I shook my head. Nope, I wasn’t going to think about this issue for now; even when I was putting the emotions behind it to one side with Player’s Mind. And certainly not after just dreaming about Vosa in a highly provocative manner. I needed to talk with a shrink, or whatever the Jedi equivalent was, and neither Fay nor Dooku would likely have any interest in dealing with this. That was fine with me as discussing such things with either of them just felt all sorts of wrong. Now, I’d been talking with Fay every day since she’d arrived in the Lokella station, but she’d made sure we didn’t go into too much detail as the wounds were still very fresh in my mind, and while those talks had been awkward as fuck, it was still far better than doing so with Dooku would ever be.

    Still, I knew that at some point reasonably soon, I was going to have to sit down with Bo and determine what her feelings toward me were, if I wanted to act on them, and how to handle how I felt about Serra as well. Honestly, I’d considered not telling her about me kissing Bo but quickly dismissed the idea as that would only make things worse if she ever learnt about it at a later date if we were to grow closer.

    Hopefully, Serra would understand why I’d kissed Bo when I had and would get over her anger about it quickly enough that it didn’t damage our friendship as, when it came right down to it, Serra was my closest and best friend – in or out of the Order – and I needed that connection; which had surprised me a touch when I’d realised it.

    I sighed and leaned back in bed. Fenrir pushed against my side as my hand started scratching him under his front leg. With Player’s Mind active, I knew I wouldn’t have another dream like I’d just had, yet even with my emotions suppressed, I was still concerned I would. Illogical, but entirely human. Plus, there was the fact that sleeping with Player’s Mind active wasn’t a long-term solution, but hopefully, that would be something I could work on once back at the Temple with Jedi trained to help those with mental problems.

    … …



    … …

    “While we understand that this base was a trap, one soaked in the Dark Side due to the Bando Gora’s actions beforehand, we are curious what drove you to race off toward these voices?” Windu’s question was pointed but I was able to avoid flinching under his gaze as while he was a scary motherfucker, I’d faced review boards for actions in combat before. However, the fact that the High Council wished to review every action I’d taken since first setting foot on Mandalore over two years ago was, in Dooku’s opinion, a highly unusual one to be taken regarding a Padawan. He'd stated that such matters were generally handled by the Council of First Knowledge and Yoda had explained, in that strange speech pattern of his, that I was an unusual Padawan, and the High Council reserved the right to review the actions of any member of the Order; from the smallest youngling to the wisest master.

    So far, we’d reviewed my time on Mandalore - with a heavy focus on why I’d chosen to go there for training -, my decisions leading up to and during the honour duel, and the completion of my Verd’goten. Their opinions on all three could probably have been predicted by the aforementioned younglings for their dogmatism. And though I could feel that Dooku was about as impressed with their responses as I was, and Fay being more disappointed than frustrated, all of us were able to weather the - what I felt was unjust - scrutiny with a calm exterior.

    Strangely, they had not had many issues with the attack on the slaver base in the Tantajoc system, nor with my bonding with Fenrir, save that I was possibly too young to establish a bond with such a potentially dangerous creature. Still, Plo Koon and Yarel Poof were interested in studying the effect of the bond on both me and Fenrir while Micah Giiett had wondered if my choosing to learn with the Mandalorians was in preparation for what specialization I’d follow once I was knighted.

    After I’d given my reasoning for each action, they’d gone quiet. If not for the fact that both Fay and Dooku had informed me they’d likely do this beforehand I’d have been unnerved. Force, even knowing it was going to happen was still unsettling. The High Council debated issues telepathically so they could project a unified voice when making decisions, but I’d noticed that on a few decisions, they’d taken longer to reach consensus than others. Still, while an approach I wasn’t used to, it was no different than when senior officers had dismissed me and my unit from the room so they could discuss issues regarding a mission privately. Hell, if the officers could’ve, I was sure they’d have loved to do it telepathically to simply unnerve those they were reviewing.

    “I… I don’t truly know, Master Windu,” I said in response to his question. “I’d love to say I did so because I thought my friends were somehow both on the planet and in danger, but I should’ve known better. Master Dooku warned us about the dangers we’d face inside before we breached, but even with the Dark Side swirling around us and trying to breach my mental defences, I should’ve tried to sense them instead of running in half-cocked.” I’d already gone over this twice before – once in my head and once with Dooku – yet it was only getting worse with time. Yes, hindsight was a bitch, but even ignoring me underestimating the Dark Side, which Dooku had suggested I’d done out of arrogance, the sheer number of stupid arsed mistakes I’d made on Kidriff was frankly insulting. And that’s saying nothing about me not using Player’s Mind or my other unique powers.

    “Mistakes you made on Kidriff, no one here doubts. Yet learnt from them, have you not?” I lowered my head at Yoda’s words of wisdom. “And suffered for your mistakes, no one here doubts. A more pressing issue to us, that is.”

    “Indeed.” I turned to Ki-Adi-Mundi as he spoke. “Regardless of how this council feels regarding your actions before encountering the Bando Gora, we are glad you are back with us. The… trials you faced under Komari Vosa’s care,” the Cerean’s gaze shifted to Dooku for a moment, “are ones many would struggle to survive; never mind overcome and return to us afterwards.”

    “While we are impressed with the strength of your mental barriers,” my focus turned to Oppo Rancisis as he spoke, and I was glad Player’s Mind was active as it diluted any issues that I had with staring at the massive snake-like Jedi master, “and fully understand why you have them so powerfully raised, we require you to lower them. Yes, you have returned to the Order after your ordeal, but there is little doubt your mind and connection to the Force will have been altered by this event.”

    “To be clear, we aren’t targeting you due to your age or the strength of your connection to the Force, Padawan. If what you’d endured happened to a member of this council, we would ask the same of them. The need to examine how this affected your connection to the Force, and how you are coping are things we need to know. For your wellbeing more so than our curiosity.” I gave Sifo-Dyas a nod in understanding and thanks for his explanation as, for a moment, I had been concerned I was being targeted due to how elements of the council felt about me.

    Both Dooku and Fay had made it clear that this was going to happen, but that didn’t make me feel any better about letting the High Council examine my connection to the Force or read any surface thoughts I was having. I knew they’d never be able to see the future knowledge I had – as neither Fay nor Dooku had seen it during the numerous sessions where we spent time telepathically linked – but my plans for how to handle what was to come were things I’d rather not have them see. Out of context, it’d look like I was preparing for war on the Republic, which while possibly true, wasn’t my motivation. Then there was them sensing anything I might feel regarding Vosa and how I still had a desire to kill her as brutally as possible, or my conflicted feelings regarding Serra, Bo, and a few others.

    To counter this, as I lowered Player’s Mind, I focused on random thoughts. Wondering how people I didn’t have a stronger connection to were doing, what was going on in the Senate and other random bullshit. If they sensed that, they’d know I was hiding things, but I hoped they’d think I was just trying to not relive my trauma once more.

    Almost as soon as Player’s Mind went down, I felt the familiar sensation of the mind of another brushing up against mine; though this time, the mind was not one I instantly knew. Nor was it alone. There was an urge to slap away the gentle brushing probes, but I chose not to. Instead, I closed my eyes and let them touch my mind with theirs. I had no idea how long this was going to take and the idea of staring at the apparent vacant eyes of the High Council as they examined me wasn’t something I wanted to do; not after dealing with it from Fay and Dooku when they’d examined me before we’d arrived back on Coruscant.

    After some time – though I had no way of knowing without glancing down at my chronometer which I suspected wouldn’t go over well with the High Council – I felt the various presences pull back, and I opened my eyes to see the council was still stationary. More than likely, they were going over what they’d sensed from their examination. To avoid having to watch them have their mental conference, I turned my attention to the view of Coruscant through the windows that lined the council chambers.

    “Has his mind always been so… distant?” My head snapped back to the council at Yaddle’s question, wondering what she meant by that. A nod from Fay to my right made my brow crease.

    “Yes. It is something that Master Dooku and I have spoken at length about.” My frown deepened as my mind tried to understand what they were implying. Was there something wrong with my connection to the Force, something that had been there for as long as the pair had been training me? “At first, we suspected it was a residual effect of how he arrived in our time, yet when it continued to exist even after several years, we realised it was caused by something else. Master Dooku has some theories on why his mind seems remote within the Force, and how he interacts with the Force, but that is, perhaps, a conversation for another time and place.”

    By now, my brow likely looked like a cracked eggshell with how pronounced my frown had become. Had I been using the Force wrong ever since I’d been reborn? Was that why I felt distant to the other Jedi or was there something else at play here? Could it be because I wasn’t originally born into this universe, but inserted by powers beyond anyone’s comprehension, or was it a result of having to use the Force through the Interface?

    “That is true, and I for one would be interested in Master Dooku’s theories.” Windu’s words and Dooku’s nodding acceptance of them drew me from my thoughts, though I knew I’d return to them later. “However, I feel you’re correct, Master Fay, regarding this strange connection not being relevant to today’s topics of discussion.”

    “Agree with you Master Windu, I do. Though concerns about this unusual connection, I have.” Yoda’s eyes drifted over me as if looking at me like something was both fundamentally wrong and incredibly fascinating at the same time. “Easy to observe, it is, how affected by events, you have been. What you endured, none should.” Yoda’s head shook as he spoke, remorse clear in his voice as I sensed his grief as he released it into the Force. “Holding up, you appear to be. But observation, we recommend.” His eyes shifted to my right. “Master Fay, trained in the mental arts you are, yes?”

    “It has been some time since I’ve used that training, but I remember my lessons well, Master.” A ripple in the Force passed between the two, possibly linking back to a long-shared memory regarding Fay’s time as a Padawan or young Jedi Knight. Yet under that, there was a faint taste of pain, as if the memory also brought up memories Fay would rather not face.

    “Good, good.” Yoda tapped his small hand on the side of his chair. “To assist you, a healer we will assign. Work with them, you will. Help Padawan Shan, together you shall.”

    “Padawan,” I shifted focus to Windu as he spoke to me, “from what we can see, your mind has held up remarkably well for what you’ve faced. The hardships you faced… we can sense echoes of them from you, and while your connection to the Force doesn’t appear to be unbalanced, and as such, even ignoring your actions that predate your torment, we recommend you remain within the Temple’s walls for some time.”

    “Yes, Master Windu.” While the idea of being locked up in the Temple wasn’t the most appealing, I understood why they wanted me to stay and agreed with them entirely. What I’d gone through with Vosa needed time to recover from or at least time to allow me to return to my training outside the temple without the risk that I’d suffer a fatal relapse over what I’d endured. Then there was the fact I’d touched the Dark Side of the Force three times since I’d last been in the Temple, and each time the amount of time using the Dark Side and desire to draw upon it had been greater. All in all, it was both the medically, spiritually, and tactically logical course of action to take.

    Windu nodded before turning to Saesse Tiin. I followed his gaze. When I’d first met this Jedi up close and, in the flesh, he had reminded me heavily of a demon. I knew that wasn’t the case, but deeply ingrained teachings from my former life were still within, and I’d reacted to them. Now, that feeling, while still present, was far less noticeable.

    “Padawan, from the reports we’ve read, you admit to not only changing the plan for your rescue to destroy the Bando Gora base – a worthy choice – but that you also wished to go after Komari Vosa.” He leaned forward, making it seem as if he was a monster toying with his food (namely me) before he ate it. “An admirable choice to make, especially given the circumstances of your situation.

    Being reminded of what that forced the images to come flooding back into my mind. I took several deep breaths, seeking to drive away the memories as I felt a hand come to rest on my shoulder. It left a moment later, but it was enough to help me push those memories out of my thoughts. They were replaced by my fight – and calling it that was being generous – with Vosa. Seeing her face once more, twisted with that deranged smile as she taunted me, brought up the anger within me once more. However, I knew this was going to happen, and after a few sessions with Fay, I was able to, if not let go of that anger, then push it aside for a time. Which is what I did now.

    Even as I did that, I felt a gentle brush against my mind and turned to Fay. She smiled down at me, though it was easy to see the concern behind the smile.

    “Do you need a moment, Padawan?”

    I shook my head. “No, Master Giiett. I’m just… not at a point where going over my actions doesn’t cause me to once more feel anger. Though now some of it is directed inward at how foolish I was to engage her. I was too weak and disoriented to stand a chance against her, yet seeing her again after being freed… I rushed in and, if not for the help of the Mandalorians, would’ve likely been recaptured by Vosa.”

    “Great horror, you have faced. While demons still plague your mind, to stand here today, great strength it shows.”

    “Thank you, Master Yoda.” I took another deep breath, trying to find a centre of calm in my mind; though when my thoughts drifted to Bo and Serra, I swiftly moved away. I didn’t need the council thinking I was feeling anything like that when speaking about Vosa. Especially not with the nightmare I’d had on the way to Coruscant still rattling around in my mind. Fucking Eidetic Memory was working against me on this.

    “I, I don’t deny that when I fought her, I wanted her dead. Nor that I still feel that urge, even if I’m not sure if I’d act on it if given the chance. Yet, as strange as it sounds, the very fact I wanted her dead is likely why she was more interested in recapturing me than killing me. She wanted to break me, to turn me to the Dark Side as a way to hurt Master Dooku. By forcing me to keep fighting her, to keep trying to rather pathetically fight her, she felt I would fall, and she would win.”

    “And did she?”

    “No, Master Koon, she didn’t. In the end, after Bo-Katan Kryze had stunned her, I had a moment where I could’ve killed her, but I didn’t.” My eyes sought out each member of the council as I spoke, making sure they believed the half-truth I was telling. It was a simple trick to use to convince people of your sincerity, but one they might not expect from me, which was likely why Dooku insisted I do it. I felt some of the council as they brushed against my mind with the Force. They were looking for the truth in my words, and they’d find them so long as I didn’t focus on the bits I was leaving out. “I did use the Force to ensure she stayed down, but I didn’t kill her when I had the chance.”

    Silence once more fell over the chamber as the council conferred with each other telepathically. I wanted to speak with my masters, but even doing so mentally would be sensed by the council and might make them wonder if I was hiding something, and what it was. As the silence stretched onward, I once again looked out over the gleaming surface of Coruscant. It was such a shame that underneath the shiny surface, where the Senate and Jedi Temple were, corruption ran rampant.

    “While there are elements of what you’ve just said that we are concerned about and will be discussing further with your masters over the coming weeks, we have reached a judgement on how to proceed.” Windu’s word snapped my attention back to the chamber. “While your usage of the Dark Side is extremely troubling – especially as it isn’t the only instance where you’ve shown a susceptibility to the Dark Side – the fact you stand here now to not only explain your actions but to receive our judgement speaks highly of your mental strength. Many Jedi more senior than you would struggle to survive what you did. The fact that your presence within the Force, however muted, isn’t corrupted by the Dark Side is a testament to your strength of will and the training given to you by your masters. That said, you have willingly used the Dark Side, and that is something we cannot overlook, no matter how… understandable the circumstances were.”

    As I worked out that I wasn’t going to be killed or thrown in a dark cell for the rest of my days, I released a breath I hadn’t realised I’d been holding. Yet any hope I had that I’d get off lightly vanished with the fractional upturn of Windu’s mouth. “As we, like your masters, are concerned about your mental state, and also wish to ensure you’re not placed in another situation in the near future, we have decided that beyond simply seeing a Jedi healer along with Master Fay, you will be confined to the temple for no less than five months for observation.” I wanted to groan, but I knew it could’ve been so much worse. “During this time, when not meditating on what has happened, you will assist Jedi Instructors in the teaching of the Code to Younglings and Initiates. Also, while you are still allowed to continue practising your velocities and maintain your lightsaber, you are not permitted to spar with any other member of the Jedi. This also extends to teaching elementary velocities and moves to other Jedi, regardless of if your masters feel you are sufficiently versed in those forms of combat or not.”

    “I… Yes, Master.” The punishment wasn’t the worst but being banned from any type of combat training was irritating. Still, I wasn’t stupid enough to complain about it, even if I suspected a few of my friends might.

    “Do you have anything you wish to ask the council before we move on from this matter?”

    “Yes, Master Rancisis, I do,” I replied after taking a moment to consider things. “When I was captured, Master Fay returned to seek help from the Order, yet none was given. While I know I’m not privy to your reasoning, I… I want to know why the only help that came was from Knight Vos and a squad of Mandalorians.” I tried to keep my anger at them for not providing more help under control, but it was hard. Dooku had hinted heavily that he was as perturbed by it as I was, and I suspected if I was already a knight that he’d had left the Order over this. Hell, if not for his words about there being benefits to being a Knight, I may well have left already. And even then, it was still a close-run thing.

    “The Council sent a team of Jedi after the Bando Gora once before. It did not end well.” Giiett explained slowly, his eyes not meeting mine initially. “When Master Fay sought our help, we were reluctant to risk another such disaster. Plus, with the mission being a rescue and not a confrontation, we felt a team of Master Fay, Dooku and Knight Vos would be sufficient to achieve the desired outcome.” A small smile came to his lips as he finally met my eyes. “It seems we were right in our judgement, even if the exact outcome was not one that we’d foreseen.”

    I wasn’t going to thank him for revealing that little, but it was still more than I’d expected. “I see.” Within the Force, I felt a sliver of remorse from him and a few others, including strangely Windu, but that was it. Still, at least it hadn’t been a simple ‘will of the Force’ bullshit speech about why they’d done nothing.

    “Now, Master Dooku, after reading over your report, we are led to believe that the former Padawan, Komari Vosa, is being held in a location you deem secure?”

    “Yes. While I had considered bringing her here with us, I felt it better for the state of my current Padawan to leave my former Padawan in another location. One that has the facilities to restrain a Force user when called upon.” I fought to keep a smirk off my face at that. Vosa was back with the Lokella, stuck in the training room that disrupted Force connections while secured in a cell and with the very mask she’d used on me secured over her skull. “I wish to request that I be allowed to attempt to rehabilitate her.” While his words were, as usual, clear and controlled, I could sense some faint discomfort or displeasure coming from him.

    Yoda leaned forward in his chair, his eyes narrowing as he focused intently on Dooku. “Your fault, you believe her fate to be?”

    Another faint ripple of either discomfort or displeasure drifted through the Force. “Yes, Master Yoda. While I feel her infatuation with me was a valid reason for her to be removed as my Padawan, I fear not assigning her to another, and not helping her complete her training to become a Jedi was a mistake on the part of the Order. That decision is what led her to seek, and for this council to approve, a role on the task force to Baltizaar.”

    Dooku had already discussed his plans with me and Fay, and while I understood his reasoning for wanting to help Vosa, a large part of me would prefer if the Council simply chose to have her pay for what she’d done to me. Still, it was odd to see him concerned about anyone, and didn’t fully fit with his personality; not unless he had an ulterior motive for doing this. However, I’d failed to determine what that was and when I’d asked him directly, he’d refused to reveal anything. That annoyed me heavily until I’d used Player’s Mind to take the emotion out of my thinking and come at the problem logically. Working from what I knew of Dooku and his plans, I felt there was a decent chance he wanted to help Vosa to prepare for what was to come and possibly even find a use for Vosa. While I felt this made some sense, I’d not brought it up with Dooku and certainly wasn’t going to with Fay as I knew she’d never approve even if my idea was without merit.

    “From you, unusual it is, for regret to show. Yet wisdom, I find in your words.” The diminutive, but deceptively powerful Grandmaster leaned back in his chair. “However, grave her crimes were, punishment, she must face.”

    “The Bando Gora has been a thorn in the Republic’s side for decades. One that evolved into a problem of the Order in more recent times. That the one responsible for their recent growth in power and influence was a former Padawan of ours is troubling as it could be seen by some as a sign the Republic has grown weak. However, with her capture and the destruction of their main base of operations, we feel the immediate threat posed by the Bando Gora has been neutralized.” Windu had taken up the point from Yoda with ease, and that was something that, the longer this meeting dragged on the more apparent it became. The two seemed to work in tandem, shifting control of a conversation to not only keep me on my toes but, I suspected, give the impression the High Council was in lockstep over their decisions and the reasoning behind them. Yet, from the subtle glances and shifts in postures from others – mainly Sifo-Dyas and Giiett – I wondered how complete the apparent unity of the council was. “As such, while this council agrees that rehabilitation should be attempted, it can only take place after she has stood trial before a Republic court and been sentenced for her crimes, and only then if we feel that there is any regret within her regarding her actions.”

    The urge to snort in disbelief was strong, but I managed to resist. It would be a cold day on Mustafar before Vosa, in her current state, would express guilt for what she’d done. Force, even after years of rehabilitation I doubted she would. It was almost as if the council was simply giving Dooku an empty platitude as they washed their hands of her; likely preferring if she was executed for her crimes so they could move on with pretending all was right in the galaxy. Of course, Dooku had expected this – as had Fay, though she had held out some hope the council might see reason – but seeing it play out was still a sight to behold.

    “This is the will of the Council?” Dooku’s tone gave no hint to how he felt about their ruling, but I didn’t even need to sense his feelings to know he was both angered at their decision, and unsurprised to be proven correct.

    “It is.”

    “Very well.” A lesser man might’ve ranted at the council over this; cursing them openly at their foolishness, but I knew Dooku wouldn’t do so. Though I’d have paid him every credit I had – currently a little south of three hundred million according to the publicist who wished to speak with Fay and me about a proposition he’d received – to see him do so.

    “Your disappointment in our ruling, we understand. However, face punishment for her crimes, Komari Vosa must. Our logic on this matter, you must agree with. Know this, your current Padawan does.”

    “Yes, Master Yoda.” Dooku lowered his head in acceptance, but I already knew he had plans for this happening, even if I wasn’t fully aware of them to spare me from having to lie to the council once he enacted them. Plus, this was another moment when it became clear where Qui-Gon Jinn got his tendency to go against the council from. “With your permission, I will speak with those holding her to arrange a transfer.”

    Windu stared at Dooku intently, almost as if he was looking into his soul, in a way I’d seen him stare at me before. For a moment I wondered if Windu could sense what Dooku was planning. Windu’s brow twitched, near the same place it had when he’d stared at me before he leaned back in his chair and crossed his fingers under his chin. “Very well. I will have the Temple Guard expect your call by the end of the day.”

    For the umpteenth time today, silence fell over the chamber before I saw Fay and Dooku turn. Realising the meeting was over – though not having been given a hint of that by the council – I followed a split second later, cutting off Windu from staring at me as I did.

    The walk through the antechamber was made in silence, though once we were on the elevator heading down, Fay spoke. “The council was far more lenient than I’d expected. Not so much regarding Komari Vosa, but toward their restrictions on Cameron.”

    “Indeed, though their insistence that he cannot have any martial training feels misguided. And as for their insistence that a healer is present while you help him through his trauma… They are close to overstepping their boundaries.” A frown marred Dooku’s face in a rare display of emotion. “As for Komari, it is as I expected.”

    “Then you will commence with your plan?”

    Dooku nodded at Fay and then looked at me. “I understand your feelings regarding Komari are strong, and that you may feel I am abandoning you to help her. However, I need you to trust my judgement on this matter. I do not have the same connection to her that I do to you; not then and certainly not now. That said, I feel she can play a role in coming events far greater than rotting away in a Jedi-controlled prison.” He turned and gazed out of the elevator, taking in the sight of the temple as we ascended towards the roof. “Therefore, before the council is aware, I will be departing the temple and returning to the ShaDo system,” even if I couldn’t do anything about it, I hated that name, “to remove Komari to a more… remote location away from the council’s prying eyes.”

    “Yes, master.” A part of me was angry that he was going to abandon me here to head off with her, but I did trust him. Or at least as much as I could without being sure he wasn’t going to become Darth Tyrannus. “I understand, though I’m not happy about it.”

    The corners of Dooku’s lips lifted upwards. It wasn’t a smile, but the beginnings of one, which was an unusual sight on his face. “I am glad that you can see past your, entirely valid and reasonable, dislike of Komari to trust me. I did not want to part with you thinking I was abandoning you.”

    “I know you’re not, master. And while I don’t think she can be redeemed; may the Force be with you.”

    “It’s good to see you’re already starting to let go of your feelings regarding Miss Vosa, Cameron. It is a good first step on your path to recovery.” I turned to Fay as she spoke, and while she wasn’t smiling, there was warmth in her expression. “Something that we’ll continue over the next few months.”

    “I feel the healer assigned to help will report their findings to the council.”

    “Yes, I feel the same,” Fay replied to Dooku’s comment. “To force you, no pun intended, into a personal situation like this is highly unusual. One that I agree comes close to overstepping their influence on how a Jedi trains their Padawan. Still, additional help should never be turned away; not unless the offer comes from one you cannot trust even slightly to work for a common good.” She paused and fixed her gaze upon me. “With that in mind, I think it would be best if, during our sessions, we avoid mentioning our friends within the Order. At least more than we would naturally do so.” The slight stress she applied to the word ‘friends’ made it clear she was referring to the Coalition, though that only consisted of a handful of other Jedi.

    “Of course, master.” Of the members, only Sifo-Dyas could be compromised if his name was revealed. And he was the one I’d least like to reveal as having a potential ally on the high Council wasn’t something I was willing to lose. Certainly not before I was knighted when I could move more freely around the galaxy and Dooku could reveal what exactly he was planning regarding the holocron vault and the archives.

    I frowned as my thoughts turned back to the just-finished meeting. “Um, why does Master Windu get that twitch on his forehead? The one right here,” I touched my forehead in the same spot. “He gets it whenever he stares at me intently; as he did today with Master Dooku.”

    My masters shared a look before Fay replied. “Much like Knight Vos, Master Windu has a very rare Force ability. Though Knight Vos can use psychometry, Master Windu’s ability is far more… esoteric. With the Force, he can see, let’s say cracks, in anything he focuses on. Be it an object like a sealed door or window, an event and its ramifications or even within another sentient being and how one action might affect their future. While other Jedi do have this ability, Master Windu’s ease with it is something I’ve heard of no other Jedi being able to do throughout my entire life. He can locate and if he chooses to, exploit the faintest weakness in anything; even allowing him to determine a threat before it develops into one. Or that is at least how I understand the power.”

    “I have seen Shatterpoint in action, and while Master Fay’s words are vague, they are accurate as to what the ability is capable of.” I felt my jaw fall as Dooku added a confirmation to Fay’s words.

    “That’s… just… wow.” A new notification in the Interface drew my attention and while I wanted to open it, I knew doing that in front of my masters – and my likely emotional response – would concern them. Thus instead, my mind wandered back to a clip of Windu using the Force during the Battle of Ryloth. There, Windu had used the Force to shatter the permaglass cockpit of an AT-TE. Up until now, I just thought he had that much control of telekinesis that he was able to shatter it without harming the vehicle’s driver. Now, however, I wondered if it was this power that allowed him to know exactly where and with how much force to shatter it safely.

    “Indeed. Master Windu is not averse to using the power on individuals when he is unsure of the path to follow or doubts the veracity of a being’s words. While he should use that knowledge to follow the will of the Force, I believe he chooses at times not to; but that is simply a personal feeling and not a proven fact.” Even though his voice was calm, I could easily sense Dooku’s unease about the ability, and frankly, I quickly understood why. The potential to use such a power and not abuse it wasn’t something I think most people could handle. Then there was the issue that, if misunderstood, there was the chance Windu could fail to see something in the same way a Force user might misinterpret a vision. “He has, I suspect, used the ability on you multiple times already, but based on what Master Sifo-Dyas and others have stated about their visions, I am fairly certain he cannot see the path you are following. Though knowing Master Windu as I do, there is a high probability that this is why he often appears antagonistic towards you. And armed with this new knowledge, you may one day be able to predict his behaviour.”

    “While I don’t think you should be looking to manipulate a senior member of the Order, Cameron, Master Dooku’s point is valid.” I turned to Fay as she spoke. “Also, while I’m sure you are curious about Shatterpoint, since you have failed to show any inclination toward the ability to date, I don’t think you ever could use it to the extent Master Windu does. Nor should we concern ourselves with that ability during your training.”

    “Yes, Master.” Though based on the notification that was waiting for me, I suspected Fay was off base about this. Yet with both masters watching me, I’d have to wait a little longer to confirm my feeling.

    A gentle ping was followed by the doors opening, and we stepped out onto one of the upper floors of the Temple. Dooku took a few steps away and then turned to face us. “I leave our Padawan in your care, Master Fay. Hopefully, while I am engaged with my project, he can avoid finding trouble within the walls of the temple.”

    Fay chuckled, filling the air with that sweet, musical laugh of hers. “I think we both know that is unlikely, Master Dooku. The Force does seem to have a plan for Cameron that often leaves us exasperated with his actions. Still, may the Force be with you during your work.”

    Dooku bowed slightly. “And with both of you.” With that he turned and walked away, heading, I assumed, towards either an exit or the hanger. We stood there and watched until he turned a corner before Fay spoke to me.

    “Come along Cameron. While I know you don’t wish to stay here any longer than necessary, I believe there may be a few people who will be glad of our return. Plus, it will do you good to spend time around Jedi your age for once.”

    “Yes, Master.” I slipped into step beside her. I knew she was jesting, but a part of me did wonder if she was concerned about the growing closeness between myself and Bo; and how that might affect my future within the Order. Fay might understand the Mandalorian culture, and may even be seen by many as one, but she didn’t want me to be influenced by their philosophies. Though with me now stuck in the temple, the odds of getting to see Bo outside of holocalls were slim. Hopefully, she wouldn’t grow too bored stuck on the Ne’tra Sartr with just HK for company.

    On second thought, I probably should be more concerned with HK convincing Bo that a good way to pass the time was to burn down the Senate or something.

    Putting that amusing but concerning thought from my mind, but not before noting to try and find a way to have HK not egg-on Bo, I opened the Interface’s notification.

    Force Power Discovered!
    Shatterpoint

    This is the ability to use the Force to see the faults within whatever they focus on. Be that an object, a living being, a style of combat, or even at its most powerful, how an event can affect the course of those involved in it. Both directly and indirectly
    ...
    WARNING!

    As you don’t have a natural affinity for this ability, nor have taken a perk to gain such an affinity, several restrictions are in place.
    XP gains for this power are reduced by a factor of 15 and you will be unable to take the ability above Professional: 1 without the relevant perk.
    Said perk will be available from level 30 onwards.
    ...

    Yeah, after Fay’s description that’s about what I expected. The wording and the issues with the power were almost word for word the same as for Psychometry; bar the fact the penalty factor was fifteen instead of ten. This was in keeping with certain Force Powers requiring an innate ability to use, yet the Interface allowed me to slide around those restrictions, to a degree, which while not ideal, was better than never being able to use those powers. Plus, when the description was added to Fay’s words, this seemed like a very impressive and useful power; one that, in the right hands, could be game-breaking. Pun intended. And with me being stuck in the temple for the next half a year, it might be worth training up.

    While getting it to Professional:1 would certainly not get me close to the level Windu could use it, I expected at even that level it would be extremely useful. And if I spent the perk point, then I’d have a power that, once trained up, could, in theory, allow me to see paths within visions that were the most beneficial to what I wanted to achieve. Of course, there was the possibility that at level 30 I’d discover more useful perks, but that was just something I’d have to deal with when I reached the level.

    “Cam!” The shout of my name drew my thoughts from Shatterpoint – though I knew I’d return to it later – and I turned right just in time to intercept a younger brown mass as it slammed into me. From the horns poking out of the black hair and the familiar sense I got from the child in the Force I quickly worked out it was Tedra. Something confirmed as a young-looking Jedi walked over with a group of Initiates behind him. The group were whispering to each other while staring at Tedra and me.

    “Hello, Tedra. It’s been a while.” As I spoke, I ran my hand over her hair, making sure to avoid the horns.

    “Initiate Zill,” Tedra pulled back from the hug as Fay spoke to look up at her, “it is good to see you again. How are your studies going?”

    Tedra bowed her head to Fay before answering. “Master Fay. It’s ok, I guess. The classes can be a bit boring, and I don’t like being told what to do.” The Jedi that was the one escorting her group came closer even as Fay commented.

    “To become a good Jedi, you must understand the fundamentals of the Force, Initiate. And while we understand why you dislike having to follow their orders, your minders are only trying to look out for you.”

    “I know,” Tedra all but whined, “but what’s outside the Temple is just so cool.”

    I frowned even as I saw most of her clanmates had shifted their focus to Fay. “Tedra, are you…”

    “Initiate Zill!” The loud, slightly exasperated tone of the approaching Jedi cut me off from asking if Tedra was sneaking out of the temple and made me develop an instant dislike for him. “You shouldn’t be bothering senior Jedi!”

    “She wasn’t bothering anyone,” I shot back. The Human male’s eyes shifted to me, before widening a touch though they widened even further when he looked at Fay. “After all, we were the ones to find and bring her to the Order.”

    “M-Master Fay, I’m sorry if the Initiate caused you any bother.” This Jedi choosing to ignore me further soured my opinion of him. “While she is gifted with the Force, she is far more... rumbustious than most Initiates.”

    “As my Padawan stated, Initiate Zill was not bothering us. That said, I’m not surprised she is having issues settling into the Jedi way of life.” Fay’s tone was light, but the slight tightening at the corners of her lips let me know she wasn’t impressed with this Jedi. Likely from his decision to ignore me. “As you appear to be her clan’s minder, I assume you were briefed on the fact that before we found her, she had grown up a slave?”

    The other Jedi blinked a few times before he looked down at Tedra as if seeing her for the first time. “I did not. The origins of new Younglings and Initiates are not something generally revealed to those who chose to teach them. The Council feels that way we won’t judge them on where and how they came to us. Or that is at least the case with most cases.” He paused and looked my way, which made me smirk. It wasn’t every day that the Jedi got a new Initiate who was technically older than even Grandmaster Yoda. Quickly, his gaze shifted back to Tedra. “I have only been assigned to Soaring Hawkbat Clan for a few months, but that piece of information does explain her… rougher edges.”

    “Nothing wrong with being rough around the edges.”

    Fay chuckled once at my retort. “No there isn’t. However, it means it takes longer for what is underneath to be polished into a corusca gem.” That made me chuckle even as she directed her focus to the other Jedi. “Which is why we will be staying in the Temple for at least half a year. Something I suspect Initiate Zill will be glad to hear.”

    I lowered my head, understanding both the compliment and note of caution in her words, though any retort was cut off by Tedra, who with a squeal of delight, hugged me once again.

    Once I’d eased her off, I looked down at her and ruffled her hair. “I’ll talk with you later, but for now I think you should re-join your clanmates.” She smiled then, after giving Fay a nod, did as I suggested and walked over to the group.

    “I take it this is your first time working with Initiates?” Fay’s question drew my attention from Tedra – who was quickly engulfed by her clanmates so they could question her – to the clan-minder.

    “Yes, Master Fay. After passing my Trials of Knighthood at the turn of the year, I felt that spending time giving back to the Order by helping the next generation would be a good way to spend my time until I felt ready to venture out into the wider galaxy.” He smirked as he looked back at his clan. “Perhaps I might even find my first Padawan among the Initiates.” He paused and his eyes widened a fraction. “Ah, forgive me.” He lowered his head to both of us. “I’m Cheenn Eislard and while I’d love to speak with you about Initiate Zill’s past, I need to escort the clan to their next class.”

    “Of course, Knight Eislard. Though when time allows, could you send me a copy of the clan’s schedule so I might arrange a time for us to catch up with Initiate Zill in greater detail.”

    Eislard nodded. “Of course, Master Fay. Good day to both of you.” After nods from us, he turned and walked away, gathering up the members of the Initiate clan, though the group seemed to still be focused on Tedra as he led them away.

    “An unexpected, but not unwelcome, encounter.” Fay’s remark drew my attention and I saw she’d taken a few steps away from me. “And apart from having to remember to send a message to Miss Iradel on Mtael’s Gift,” I groaned at hearing the name for the Lokella’s station, which made Fay’s smile grow, “to let her know how Initiate Zill is doing, I wonder if we might run into others who would be glad to see you return. Some more so than others.”

    “Master,” I groaned out, knowing full well she was once more teasing me about my friendship with Serra. While Dooku was less than thrilled about how close I was to my fellow Padawan, Fay took it as an easy way to needle me for her amusement. Not that I minded all that much when, as was often the case, her musical laughter filled the corridor.

    … …



    … …

    “So how long are you back for this time?”

    I looked up from my breakfast – a bowl of fruits grown by the agricorp, some bread, a meat broth and a glass of blue milk – to look over the table at Darihd. When I’d arrived in this mess hall for breakfast, I hadn’t expected to see anyone I’d wanted to speak with, but not long after I’d sat down, he came over and joined me; though the other Padawans were keeping their distance without being far enough away that they couldn’t listen in.

    “Council mandated at least five months, though I’m not complaining,” I dipped the bread into the broth, “I need the time to… refocus.”

    “Yeah, Aayla told us some details about what happened when she arrived back at the temple a few weeks ago with Knight Vos. Plus, Master Sifo-Dyas mentioned you’d gone through an ordeal.” After taking a bite of the now broth-laden bread, instead of my thoughts – once more – drifting back to my ordeal, they turned to the previous evening.

    When Fay and I had arrived at the nearest training area, I’d seen Aayla sparring with Vhiblul Soddid, an Ithorian former member of Dragon Clan who was a few years younger than me, and the last time I’d been in the temple, hadn’t yet been taken as a Padawan. I’d moved closer while observing Aayla had adapted a few Makashi velocities into her style and noted that Vhiblul preferred Niman, though was very, very limited in what she could do with the form. I could see various mistakes both were making, and if the High Council hadn’t banned me from doing so, I’d have pointed out and suggested corrections to them. Yet, before I could reach their sparring circle, Aayla ended the bout with an overly elaborate aerial move. Vos had approached right after and quickly led Aayla away.

    After speaking with Vhiblul and discovering she’d been taken by a Jedi Librarian as a Padawan, Fay suggested that Vos had taken Aayla away quickly as they may have another assignment they needed to begin. While that was plausible, I wondered if Vos might’ve done it over some residual anger towards me for his near-death experience at Vosa’s hand.

    Until Darihd sat down this morning, Aayla and Vhiblul were the only two people I’d run into that I’d consider friends.

    “That’s certainly one way to describe it,” I muttered before taking another bite of my bread. I couldn’t tell what type of meat was in the broth, but it tasted like pork. While exact details of what’d happened to me would eventually spread around the Temple – after all, the only thing quicker than hyperspace were rumours and gossip – the longer it took to spread the less chance there was people would look at me funnily or, Force forbid, ask me about what I’d gone through.

    “Right, right.” Darihd quietened down and took a bite from the steak on his plate. As I continued to dip my bread into the broth, I wondered just how it had happened that, out of all my friends, the only male was Darihd. While I’d spent considerable time with Mirali Redi, Raun Wott and Andeeld Krhul – the male members of my team at the Institute on Mandalore – I considered them more teammates than friends. Hell, the male Mandalorian I was closest to was Gar, which since I’d killed his father, was all kinds of fucked up.

    “So,” I looked up from my tray – having finished the broth and just picked up a Corellian apple – to see Darihd looking over at me, “you know Serra’s not here, right?”

    “Huh.” After that lovely reply, I closed my eyes and reached out with the Force. Using Detection within the Temple was just asking to make the minimap look like a smudge of bright light, but even through all that I failed to sense her. Not in the Temple, the surrounding district, or anywhere even on the planet. I’d not bothered searching for her, or anyone else, last night as I figured I’d just run into them as I spent time in the Temple, so hearing she wasn’t here was a surprise.

    “Yeah. Master Drallig was given a mission by the High Council about a week ago. Right after Aayla returned now that I think about it.” Darihd paused and took a sip of his milk, which unlike mine was green instead of blue. “According to Sia-Lan, Master Drallig hasn’t taken a mission off Coruscant in almost a decade. Force, he hasn’t even taken one on the planet since before he became Battlemaster.

    “Is that so.” Even as I replied, my mind was playing what Darihd had said, and I quickly suspected the High Council had given Drallig the mission to ensure that Serra wasn’t here when I returned. While that meant Bo and I had more time to unpack my kissing her, it also meant that the person I trusted the most within the Order wasn’t here to help me when I needed them the most. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I felt it unlikely the Council had given them the mission to ensure I couldn’t meet Serra as acting that petty was beneath them.

    “Yeah. Also, Serra mentioned that you did the Mandalorian trial of adulthood.” He leaned closer and I saw a few of the Padawans at nearby tables seemingly perk up at his words. “What did you hunt?”

    I put my thoughts on Serra’s absence and what it meant, to one side as I smiled at Darihd. “Dar, you could ask for a week, I doubt you’d even get close to getting the answer.” He leaned closer and movement to my left drew my attention. Three Padawans at another table – one Human, one Duros and one Sullustan – had stopped eating and were now looking our way. As were, I suspected, other Padawans at other tables.

    While the Jedi discouraged betting pools, I knew that some did exist among the Initiates and Padawans over chores that needed doing and, as the smile on my face grew wider, I wondered if any of them had gotten close with their guess as to what I’d killed. And how the general Order would react when they learnt I’d killed a Greater Krayt Dragon with nothing more than a knife.

    “Was it a rancor?” I chuckled as I took a big bite out of my apple, then shook my head. “A gundark?”

    I chucked again even as I chewed. This was going to be fun, and how I wished Belfarr had still been a member of the High Council when this came up so I could see his face as he tried to process everything. That would almost make up for having had to deal with his obnoxious behaviour.

    Darihd leaned back and tapped one of his montrals. While it was silly to watch, it was nice, for once, just relax and enjoy the moment. All thoughts of what had and will happen were banished, for the time being.

    … …



    … …

    I shifted around, for the umpteenth time, on the soft cushion seat I was resting on. It was one of the standard cushion seats in the temple that were used but, as had been the case since I’d returned to the temple, I was finding myself unable to sit comfortably enough to meditate for more than a few minutes at a time.

    I opened my eyes to see Fay and Jedi Healer Stass Allie sitting on their cushions nearby. Both looked comfortable and deep in meditation, which allowed me to focus on Stass. She was the healer assigned to me by the High Council and from what the Jedi records revealed was that apart from being a member of the Circle of Healers, was one of the youngest to ever be granted that honour having been added to the Circle not long after being knighted. Stass was, according to her and Fay, well versed in helping with psychological issues and had been the one to help Bultar Swan recover from her ordeal several years ago; though they still spoke a few times a month when Bultar needed to.

    While I was still reluctant to have her around since Yaddle had been the one to introduce us and Fay trusted the diminutive Jedi, I was willing to let Stass help me; or at least more so than if it had been some random Jedi assigned by the High Council. Though even there I might not have been too concerned as while the Jedi had to listen to the High Council, healers had a code that, while not identical to the Hippocratic Oath, was similar enough that most of what I’d revealed in our sessions wouldn’t be passed on to the council; not unless it threatened the very Order as a whole.

    And while I disliked having to spend eight or nine sessions – varying from thirty minutes to two hours – each day with Fay and Stass, I’d take them over my classes any chance I could. Those were, unsurprisingly, so fucking boring it was ridiculous. Plus, the Council always had someone monitoring my classes to ensure I didn’t stray far – if at all – from the interpretations the High Council pushed. That, when combined with my lack of interest in teaching the classes, meant I was barely getting one-third of the XP I should. Haran, even when I did try and enjoy the classes, I could barely get the XP rewards above forty per cent of normal.

    Once more I moved in the seat, though this time it made a faint noise which was enough to make both female Jedi open their eyes. Neither said anything, but after a month of this it was clear to me both were concerned at my struggles to meditate properly; never mind releasing my feelings over what the Bando Gora had done to me into the Force. And while I’d love to be able to do that too, Eidetic Memory was making it all but impossible to do so.

    Slowly Fay moved to stand, a faint frown marring her face. “Perhaps we should try something different. Stand up.”

    After I’d stood, and Stass had joined us, Fay lifted all three seats to the corner of the room with the Force. “Even before what happened, it was obvious to Master Dooku and me that you struggle to find a calm centre when meditating. Or at least fail to sink into the Force as deeply as someone with the strength of connection you have should. After a month of sessions, it has become obvious to me that even the limited centring you could manage with even levitating meditation has decreased dramatically. You can no longer sink into the eddies of the Force to release your burden into it. Therefore, I wish to try something that, for most Padawans, would not be considered.”

    “Ok.” Nothing Fay said wasn’t true as, outside of the boost to regenerating my FP, I just didn’t get as much relaxation or the ability to centre myself out of meditating as other Jedi did. Sinking into the Force was harder than Fay, Dooku and others had said it should be, and while I could touch the Force it always felt as if there was something in the way. For the longest time I hadn’t given that much thought, but since learning that I was distant within the Force to others, it had been something that had been on my thoughts a lot. Or at least when I wasn’t experiencing disorientating flashbacks to my imprisonment.

    The most recent time had been when in one of the temple’s elevators. The regular passing of lights as we descended triggered a memory where that motherfucking bastard had tortured me using light patterns and whenever I gave an answer he didn’t like – which was all the fucking time – he’d electroshock me at best. If I didn’t know he was dead and gone, I’d have happily spent years hunting him down to show him my gratitude for what he’d done. Force, there were moments where I wondered if I could raise him from the dead simply to kill him all over again.

    I was drawn from my darker thoughts, and the worried frown Stass sent my way, by Fay stepping into the middle of the now cleared room and beginning to move. I was transfixed as she glided around the room with a grace that would make every dancer on Earth green with envy. The way she twisted, twirled and turned made it clear that even at over seven hundred years old, she was incredibly limber. My mind, as much as I didn’t want it to, wandered as I watched her move, and from the way Stass’ eyes widened, I suspected she too was enamoured with Fay’s display as even in simple Jedi robes, it was easy to see how flexible and trained Fay’s body was.

    For a moment I thought she was channelling Niman into her movements, but that might simply have been my imagination as almost all the gyrations she performed weren’t in any way linked to a lightsaber form. Other elements of this dance, from which I was slowly feeling my body react, reminded me of non-aggressive martial arts like Judo and Aikido, which made sense given Fay’s preference to avoid combat where possible. At about the same time, I started to feel a shift in the Force, as it seemed to react to her movements and joined in with her. The sense of calm clarity and sereneness that began to radiate from Fay was awe-inspiring as it felt as if she had sunk so far into the Force that she and it were now of one heart and mind: moving together in perfect synchronicity.

    Just as quickly as she’d started, she stopped. While her breathing was measured, her cheeks had darkened slightly, yet far less than I’d expected, and it was the only hint she’d done such a complicated and incredible dance.

    “I, uh, um…” I mumbled out words, trying to clear my thoughts of a growing desire after seeing her dance – and calling it that felt like an insult – and the lovely shade of pink her face had turned. Fay smiled, seemingly amused by my reaction and I felt my knees tremble in response.

    “That was a variant of Alchaka, a more advanced form of moving meditation that is normally only taught once a Jedi has been knighted. However, in your case, I feel it might be of more use than standard meditation practices.”

    “While the Circle of Healers and the High Council may not approve of this, I bow to your experience in how best to help your Padawan, Master Fay.” As Stass spoke, I wondered why such a form of meditation wasn’t taught to Padawans.

    “In its purest form, Alchaka is when one strong in the Force allows themselves to sink deeply into the Force. This is done by performing a series of highly complex and energetic movements such that, as the movements are completed the mind of the practitioner relaxes unconsciously and allows the Force to guide, help and move with them. The movements often, but not always, have their basis in a form of martial combat and while some can achieve this state with a lightsaber, it is generally not encouraged as then the Jedi subconsciously expects to begin meditating while using their blade.” From what Fay was saying, it seemed I had it wrong about her using some Niman in her moves. Still, the moves she did do, even before hearing her explain more about Alchaka, were clearly from a combat form meaning she was still able to fight without the Force if the need ever arose.

    “It is also a highly personal matter; one often not shown even to your Padawan or master.” I lowered my head, letting her know I understood that what I’d seen was a highly private thing and that I was grateful for the demonstration. “However, you have always been someone who learns better by doing, be it learning to use the Force in a certain way or developing a more common skill. A fact I often lament on when worrying that you’ve yet to understand the deeper intricacies of the Force when asking it for help.” Stass smiled at that comment, while I accepted it simply. Even before my rebirth, I’d always been more hands-on in how I learnt so having that magnified by the Interface wasn’t the worst event. “What I just demonstrated for you was… a very slowed-down snippet of the routine I often commit to when using Alchaka,” I felt my brow rise at hearing she’d been going slow for my benefit as what I’d seen had been anything but slow or easy. “Now, while Healer Allie is right that the Council may not approve of me teaching this to you now - especially since they’ve banned you from any form of combat training - since Alchaka is a form of meditation, there is little they can do about me teaching it to you.” A small smile crept onto my face; one mirrored by my master.

    She stepped back, giving me the centre of the room, and Stass followed suit. “As I suspect the Mandalorian combat styles of Beskar’rev and Beskar’pel are the ones you’re most comfortable with, I want you to start with those. Take it slow to ensure that you don’t push too hard and to allow you to open your mind to the Force as you move.”

    I did as she suggested, however instead of adopting a Mandalorian stance, I took an elementary Judo one. It was far more reactionary than those used by the Mandalorian martial arts, but I’d found in sparring with Bo that it gave me time to adapt to her attacks and develop counters without relying too heavily on the Force. Plus Judo, and the bits and pieces of other Earth-based martial arts, were unknown to Bo making them useful for surprising her as I adapted them into my fighting style.

    “Stop!” I’d barely begun to move before Fay called out. “Don’t think about your movements. This is not a class where you are learning from or teaching others. Let yourself go and relax. The Force will, I hope, first begin to move with you; flowing around you as if the wind is responding to your touch. Once you feel that, increase your speed until you find a rhythm where you feel both you and the Force are in tune.”

    “I’d also suggest closing your eyes,” Stass offered. “Many who meditate this way find it easier to remove the visual distraction of their actions and focus inward.”

    I took a breath before closing my eyes and sliding back into an opening stance. As Fay had instructed, I moved slowly, mapping out my actions in my mind instead of watching where my limbs were. I knew I had room to move around, but not wanting to risk it, I kept things simple and stayed in the centre of the room. The movements, from both my lives, came easily to me, yet as I moved, I failed to sense any change in the Force around me.

    “That’s better. Just keep going, open your mind and trust in yourself and the Force.”

    Fay’s words, while predictable, were helpful as almost any support was better than none. I continued to essentially shadow-fight while trying to make my moves more instinctual instead of methodical. Slowly I could feel myself merging various combat styles into new movements while not actively thinking about doing so.

    Time seemed to slow – or I’d been this way for ages but had lost track of time, though that was unlikely with how the Interface helped my mind focus – until eventually, I felt something shift nearby. Instinctively, I knew it wasn’t Fay or Stass moving, yet I couldn’t quite grasp what it was. Whatever was there was faint, as if standing on the other side of a door or outside a window, and as I continued, I felt whatever it was begin to mirror my movements.

    I swore I felt something brush against me like a gentle breeze, but nothing was there. Or like water cascading over a raincoat that I was wearing. It wasn’t guiding my actions, but neither was it following. Instead, it, and I realised it was the Force, was moving with me. Not in perfect sync as I could still sense the slight delay in its reaction, but it was still there and trying to move with me. While the Force was remote, I still felt an incredible warmth and comforting feeling wrap around me.

    Thoughts of where I was, and what I was doing, drifted away as I focused on the Force as it mirrored my actions. For the first time in months, if not ever, I truly felt myself connect with the Force without any concerns or negative emotions getting in the way. The faint yet all-encompassing feeling of being enveloped in something far grander, ancient, yet more benign, was incredible. Without even trying, I could sense Fay and Stass as they mediated nearby. I could faintly perceive other Jedi within the Temple as they went about their daily business. Some flickered in the Force more brightly than others, though all sparked within its eddies. All in all, this was an incredibly awe-inspiring feeling that, while still feeling that I could sink further into the Force, was more comforting than anything I’d ever felt before.

    Eventually, after Force knew how long, I started slowing my movements; letting The Force withdraw from me. The process was slow, gentle, almost as if it didn’t want to pull back but understood it needed to. As if it was a friend reluctantly saying goodbye but knowing we’d meet again.

    When I opened my eyes, breathing only slightly heavier than I’d been before I started, I saw that Fay and Stass were stationary on their seats, meditating deeply. That gave me time to open a new notice in the Interface.

    Force Power Discovered!
    Alchaka
    An advanced form of Force Serenity that is achieved while carrying out other activities.
    ...

    I was a little surprised to see that come up as a Force Power, but after checking the base regeneration rate – and discovering the power had levelled up seven times already – I realised that once maxed out it would likely grant a greater FP regen rate than what Serenity provided. Putting that aside, I looked at my chronometer and inhaled sharply. A little over six hours had passed since I’d started my meditation. While I’d half expected it due to the level-ups Alchaka had gained, it was still shocking as it hadn’t felt as if that much time had passed.

    My breathing, while faster than normal, wasn’t too deep and my heart rate was barely beyond where it would be after a light jog. What I did notice was that I felt more refreshed and centred than I’d been in… possibly ever. It was almost as if today, for the first time, I’d sunk into the Force far enough that I’d started gaining the more esoteric benefits it provided to other Jedi. And yet, I felt there was still further and deeper I could go; if whatever was preventing the Force from coming closer was removed. All in all, it was incredible.

    “It is indeed.” I pivoted to see Fay had broken from her trance. She was looking up at me with a large smile that only enhanced her elegance. “While simple meditation, be it sitting, moving or levitation, is calming and grants one a sense of being part of a larger whole, it is nothing compared to the sense of fullness and completeness that mastering Alchaka grants. This is why it is one of the most fundamental skills taught to full Jedi since the days of the Je’daii Order on Typhon.”

    “Master Fay is correct, though I must admit I hadn’t considered the benefits of teaching it to more mature Padawans after an ordeal. Nor how effective it might be in helping one handle the issues that arise from such ordeals.” Stass added as she and Fay stood then she glanced at her wrist. “However, while today has clearly been beneficial as we can both sense your calmness, this is but the beginning of your recovery, not the end. I expect you back here tomorrow bright and early for our first session.” I nodded in understanding, which earned me a smile before she turned to face Fay. “That said, if his process of releasing his emotions linked to Komari Vosa into the Force continues as successfully as they have today, I suspect we will soon be able to decrease the number of daily sessions required.”

    “Thank you, Healer Allie.” I bowed as I spoke and chose not to focus on her bringing up Vosa. I knew it was an intentional move to see how I’d react and while I was nowhere near ready to forgive – and truthfully, I likely never would no matter how much the Jedi wanted me to let go of my feelings regarding Vosa – I couldn’t deny that this was the first session that felt as if something had changed for the better.

    “There is nothing to thank me for, Cameron. The suggestion regarding Alchaka was Master Fay’s, which is hardly a surprise because, as you would suspect, she does know you far better than I do. Even if we spent every waking moment together for the rest of the year, I feel that would still be the case.” She chuckled at her joke as I slapped aside thoughts that started conjuring in my mind. Stass was in her late twenties and while the strange hat and skin flaps that fell from it were off-putting, she was a remarkably attractive woman. “Now, if you’ll excuse me. My Padawan is likely wondering why I missed dinner.” I chuckled at that even as Fay lowered her head.

    “Yes, I’m sure they’ll be confused. Until tomorrow, Healer Allie.”

    “Master Fay, Padawan.”

    “Healer.”

    Even as I watched Stass leave, my mind was already playing over what I’d experienced today. The kind of connection to the Force that I’d experienced, while something that both my masters hinted at was normal for all Force users, was a first for me. Yet, even though my connection felt far… cleaner and clearer, there was no denying the Force still felt more isolated than it should be. Perhaps this again linked to what the High Council had said about my presence within the Force seeming dulled.

    I shook my head. I’d spent enough time over the last month mulling on that throwaway comment and didn’t feel like dwelling on it today. Instead, I was curious if, for the first time since arriving at the Temple, I would be able to sleep without Player’s Mind and not be subjected to the horrors that haunted my nightmares.

    … …



    … …

    Bo-Katan was glad her helmet was on as she walked down the darkened street on a level about sixty below the surface of Coruscant. Seeing people huddling on the streets, begging for a few credits while roving groups of scum wandered around demanding protection money from the various merchants that worked down here continually made her want to find her sister and drag her down here. This level of decay and poverty, on the capital world of her vaunted Republic, showed Bo-Katan just how flawed the ideals those dar’manda worshipped were.

    Still, at least Satine was beginning to change. Yes, she was still a peace-loving fool, but from the few talks the two sisters had had, Bo-Katan was seeing the blinders that Satine had been wearing were slipping. Satine still believed in the ideals of the Republic, of peace, but she now seemed to understand that there were flaws in the system; something that if Bo-Katan had mentioned to Satine before she’d left for Coruscant over two years ago would’ve resulted in the two having to be separated by their father or brother. Now, while their words were still heated, Bo-Katan didn’t feel a major urge to smack her sister around the head until the stupid leaked out. And, as much as it irked Bo-Katan, she had Master Fay to thank for that.

    It was the ageless Jedi who had arranged the dinner between the sisters a few weeks after Cam had been locked in the Jedi Temple, though the Jedi had chosen not to tell Bo-Katan who else was coming. Still, she could admit that the Jedi’s heart had been in the right place and, as much as she still didn’t believe it, she’d continued having dinner around once a week with her sister. Honestly, she wasn’t sure who was more shocked at this, her, Satine, or their father when the topic had been brought up in a holocall with him.

    A group of four Duros approached her, all armed with weapons and Bo-Katan grunted in amusement. Surely, they weren’t going to try and…

    “Oi! Mandalorian. Take off that armour or we’ll gut you like a bantha.”

    Bo-Katan chuckled in disbelief. While she was going to enjoy what was about to happen, she figured this would stop happening after that incident on level forty-four when she’d left nine humans lying in a pile of their own blood and bile after they threatened to have their way with her.

    “Did you hear…”

    The lead Duros’ words were cut off by Bo-Katan as she shot him between the eyes. The other three joined him before any could get off a retaliatory shot. She looked around, expecting and hoping there were others as, while this was annoying, it was a better way to spend her time than sitting around the Ne’tra Sartr. As much as she liked that ship, and privately hoped her father would have one made for her once she returned home, there were only so many times she could take comments on her biological nature from that blasted droid. While HK was a trove of stories, his need to put down every being – barring Revan and Cam – drove her nuts. Hence the various wanderings into Coruscant’s lower levels and the revelations about how skin-deep the Republic’s ideals truly were.

    Seeing no further threats, Bo-Katan stepped over the four Duros. While she was within her rights to take their credits and weapons, the latter would be, if the previous groups were anything to go by, barely worth a dozen credits between them while she doubted there were a hundred credits between all four of them.

    Of course, once it became clear to the locals that she wasn’t going to loot the bodies, nearly a dozen beings surged forward to do so. Before she turned the corner, about a hundred paces later, she glanced back to see the Duros had been stripped over everything bar their undergarments; something she was grateful for as she had shab-all interest in seeing naked Duros; male or female. While there were some alien species that she found attractive – like the green-skinned Twi’lek girl she’d taken to a hotel a few nights ago who could do amazing things with her tongue – most were physically repugnant to her.

    The same could be said for most human males who had tried to get into her armour whenever she visited a cantina. Most looked like they’d just crawled out of a spice mine and the few that didn’t… They didn’t measure up. Now that’s not to say there weren’t a few that looked and talked the right way, but whenever a man came toward her and tried to start something, her mind was always comparing them to Cam. And not a single one had come close to measuring up, even if a few had come close to doing enough to persuade her to take them somewhere. Still, after nearly three months on this world, and comparing every male to Cam, Bo-Katan had slowly come around to the idea that not only was Cam an acceptable male for her to pursue if she had to but that she wanted to scratch the itch to see if he was worth the amount of time her mind thought about him.

    What was making it hard to do that was the fact Cam was a prisoner within the Jedi Temple. Oh, he and Fay might not say he was, but the fact the Jedi’s High Council wasn’t letting him leave their temple left Bo in no doubt that he was. And as much as she felt they should be able to help him deal with what he’d gone through, rage constantly burned within her from being cut off from the one friend she had on the planet. Still, the up-side was that, until she’d let the issue settle – not die as she would never trust the Jedi as they were nothing more than lapdogs of the Republic Senate – she’d spent days watching beings coming and going from the temple. Haran, she still did. And because of that, she had over three dozen plans with varying likelihoods of success, for breaking into the temple and extracting Cam. And even if things were fine for Cam inside the temple currently, who was to say the situation wouldn’t change and she’d need a way to get to him?

    Watching the temple had, beyond being a good way to pass the time on this shabla world, also let her observe Jedi and see how well the Force made them aware of a threat. While she wasn’t a sniper on par with Rook, she’d easily lined up shots on numerous Jedi from various angles, even going so far as to disengage her rifle’s safety. Only two dozen had reacted to her targeting them and four of them were listed in public records as either current or former members of their vaunted High Council. On a few evenings when she’d reconned the temple, she’d spotted a young Zabrak sneaking in and out of the Temple. While Bo-Katan hadn’t found the exact way the youngster was exiting the temple, the fact they could do semi-regularly implied the security was far laxer than Bo-Katan had expected.

    Putting those thoughts aside and fighting off an urge to shoot a public news display as it talked about the good work the Senate was doing for the people of the Republic, Bo-Katan slipped through the door of a new cantina. This one was called The False Corn, which while a very stupid name, wasn’t the worst she’d seen over the last few months.

    Glad that her helmet filters were working optimally, she looked around the place. Within seconds she’d spotted what looked to be two tables where trading of illegal substances was taking place and another where it looked like a Twi’lek female was being bought for a night. And just like every other night she’d come to a level below twenty, she’d yet to see any sight of planetary security beyond a few droids that never left the docking entrances to the level.

    She moved over to an empty alcove and kept scanning the room. Most of the patrons were armed, but she knew she could take all of them; though maybe not all at once. She stopped watching as a blue-skinned Twi’lek that looked about her age approached. After ordering a drink, one she had little interest in drinking, Bo-Katan watched the Twi’lek saunter away. She knew she was doing it on purpose, but Bo-Katan didn’t particularly care choosing to simply enjoy the show.

    The Twi’lek returned and placed a mug on her table, along with a glass filled with a green liquid. Her helmet sensors quickly determined it was an Alderaanain brandy and nothing else, but why the drink had been brought over, Bo-Katan didn’t know.

    “From the Human at the bar.” Bo-Katan looked past the Twi’lek, though her eyes enjoyed drifting over the large breasts the female had, to see a red-haired male looking her way. The man lifted his glass, which made her roll her eyes. Yes, the man was fairly attractive, and with the red hair and faint green eyes, in a dark room, she might mistake him for Cam, but the smarmy grin on his face instantly made her blood run cold. Haran, she felt more of a need to simply shoot him instead of even talking to him.

    She slid the glass back to the bartender. “Not my type. Of drink or lover.” The Twi’lek’s brow rose as Bo-Katan tilted her head to make it clear what she preferred.

    Sadly, the Twi’lek didn’t do anything about Bo-Katan’s desire, nor did she take the glass when she left. Bo-Katan sighed as she once more watched the Twi’lek leave then groaned as the red-haired human begin to approach.

    Not reading the air, the male slid into the seat next to her, one hand coming to rest on her armoured thigh. “I don’t think...ugh, AARGH!!” whatever he planned to say was cut off as Bo-Katan grabbed the offending hand, twisted it back before slamming it onto the table, and then with her other hand, drove a knife through the palm; jamming it into the table.

    Sooran shab!” she growled as she stood, ignoring the man’s cries of anguish. Her blood sang for her to do more to him, to make him suffer, but she wasn’t going to kill over such an offence, though he was lucky that was all she did for daring to touch her.

    The movement of chairs in the cantina drew her attention away from the wailing hodar, and she saw about a dozen beings had stood; most moving their hands to their blasters. She tensed, wondering which of them would do anything about her actions; silently hoping someone would.

    At least then, this evening wouldn’t be a complete waste of time.

    … …



    … …

    “What? You really did that?” Sia-Lan’s face, like that of the others around us, was a mix of shock and awe at hearing what I’d killed for my verd’goten and how. After listening to Her, Darihd and others try and fail for months to guess what I’d killed, I’d finally shown mercy on them.

    “Aye. I…” My voice trailed off as, somewhere else in the canteen, I heard a female laugh.

    Instantly my mind was drawn back to Vosa; hearing her laugh echo around my head and I found myself back in that room, restrained and naked as she sauntered towards me.

    “Have you missed me?” her fingers came up and caressed my cheek. “I’ve thought of nothing else but seeing you again, watching you see the truth about the Jedi, and then us ruling the galaxy.” She leaned forward until I could feel her breath on my ears. “All you have to do is admit that the Jedi, the Republic is wrong, flawed, and all this will end. Then we can celebrate our future together.”

    I shivered, fighting to ignore the way her body felt against mine as she pressed against me as the cold air in the room blew over my naked body.

    This wasn’t real, it wasn’t.

    A hand slid over my stomach, flicking my nipples. “Are you there yet? Can you see the truth,” her voice whispered huskily into my ear. “Or is further incentive required?”

    From the shadows he appeared, the Sith-cursed hypo-syringe in one hand and a long, thin and disturbingly twisted knife in the other.

    I found renewed strength to fight, yet my chains only grew tighter. He moved closer, a deranged grin plastered inhumanly to his face.

    “The Priestess needs you to be ready.” His voice dripped with fanaticism as I felt the knife graze against my knee, drawing blood. “To have you see the light and embrace the true path.”

    I stayed still, scared to make things worse as the knife slowly crept upwards, a thin red line trailing in its wake.

    I tensed, fearful of what was to…


    “Cam? Cam!” I felt myself being shaken hard and blinked. My terror, my helplessness, faded as Player’s Mind filtered my emotions from my mind and I found myself looking at the scared faces of Sia-Lan and Darihd.

    “I,” I licked my lips, finding them strangely dry. “I’m fine. Just a memory I’d rather not relive.” My response was blunt, lacking any real emotion, but that was precisely why I’d somehow engaged Player’s Mind. This wasn’t the first time I’d suffered a flashback like this - Force, it was the ninety-sixth time since I’d come back to the Temple - but every time I’d eventually managed to engage my unique ability to cut off the fear rampaging through my body.

    I knew it was dangerous to keep relying on Player’s Mind like this, but I had no other choice. I… I wasn’t ready to truly face what had happened to me. I needed the enforced calm the power brought.

    “You sure?”

    I forced a smile onto my face. “Yeah. Where was I?” I didn’t need them asking about what was wrong, so returning to the story was the logical course of action.
    … …



    … …
    I lifted my head from the datapad I was reading – this one covering the events that led to the formation of the Trade Federation and how they’d developed a near total monopoly on Outer Rim trade – and looked toward the door of my quarters as it buzzed.

    A quick use of Detection confirmed it wasn’t Fay nor any of the several dozen Padawans and Knights that I shared a connection with. Curious as to why anyone would come to my room at such a late hour – it was a little past twenty-two hundred – I lowered my book and spoke. “Enter.”

    Knight Cheenn Eislard stepped in. While he moved calmly, the way his eyes searched my quarters before his shoulders slumped let me know something was wrong; most like regarding Tedra.

    “Knight Eislard, how can I help you?” Even as I spoke, I started to reach out with Detection.

    “Padawan, I was wondering if you’d spoken to Initiate Zill today?” His tone is measured but because I’m already reaching out through the Force, I can easily sense his worry. One I’m beginning to share when I fail to sense Tedra within the Temple.

    “No. I last spoke to her a few days ago over lunch.” My reply is honest as having a meal with Tedra at least once a month had been a feature of the last three months while I’d been stuck in the temple. Though what I left out, for now, was the fact Tedra had been regaling me with how she’d found another way to slip out of the Temple. While she’d only done that a handful of times – that I knew of – the fact she was missing and not in the temple had me concerned that something had happened to her during her latest jaunt.

    “Ah. I’d been hoping…” he trailed off mid-sentence then with a loud sigh, shook his head. “Initia… Tedra missed her morning classes and after discovering no one had seen her since last night, the temple was searched but no sign of her has been found. She’s disappeared a few times before, but after learning about her past from you and Master Fay, I’ve been willing to overlook that. At least until now. With her missing for nearly a day now, I’m growing anxious that something’s happened to her.”

    As he spoke, I finally sensed Tedra through the Force. I could tell exactly where she was, only that she was somewhere westward of me, and on a lower level. From the stories Bo had told me when we’d spoken, that set off kinds of red flags in my head, and with barely a thought, I pulled my communicator to me.

    As it flew towards me, I reviewed everything Tedra had told me. Not just about how she’d slipped out of the temple, but of any issues she’d had with her clanmates – nothing too major beyond a few comments regarding her ‘heritage’ – her teachers – just that they were all boring and, in Tedra’s words, had a stick so far up their arse you could see them when they spoke – or just in general. Nothing stood out that would make me think she’d run away from good from the Order, but it wasn’t a possibility I couldn’t discount.

    “Hey, Cam. Just to check and say I’ve gone out for some air. Should be back soon though.” Tedra’s voice filled the room after I pulled up a message that’d come in last night, but I hadn’t noticed as with me being in the temple, I barely needed to check the communicator. While Tedra had messaged me every time she’d vanished, I’d rarely heard the message before she was back and meeting up with me, so checking it wasn’t a high priority. Clearly, that had been a mistake. “I’ll be back by lunch, just in case the overlord comes asking.”

    Normally I would’ve chuckled at hearing her nickname for Eislard as she did enjoy using it when venting, but given the current situation, I had no desire to laugh. And the new notice in my Interface only confirmed that.
    Quest Alert!
    Initiate Lost
    [֍]
    Tedra Zill, the initiate you brought to the Jedi, is missing.
    Rating: C
    Objectives:
    Locate Tedra Zill and return her to the Jedi Temple alive and well.
    Rewards:
    900XP
    Small to average increases in reputation with members of the Jedi Order
    An average to large increase in reputation with Tedra Zill
    Failure:
    The possibility of injury to Tedra Zill
    The possibility Tedra Zill will not return to the Jedi Order
    The possibility Tedra Zill may die due to your failure
    Accept?
    Yes/No
    ...
    “What did she mean by ‘gone out for some air’?” Eislard’s question prevented me from thinking about the new quest, but the fact one of the penalties for failure was the risk of Tedra dying was going to bounce around my head until I found her. I paused and took a few deep, calming breaths to prevent any worry from rising in me; or for it to mix with my issues that liked to pop up when I was stressed or unbalanced.

    Once I was calmer, I ignored Eislard’s question and opened a channel with my communicator.

    “Yes?”

    “Master, there’s a problem with Tedra.” Even though I couldn’t see her, I knew that alone would’ve made Fay stop whatever she was doing. “Knight Eislard is here and after searching the temple for a day, there's no sign of Tedra. She said something about going out for air, so I suspect she’s found a way to slip outside the temple as I know she often finds it restricting to stay inside the walls.

    There was a moment’s pause before Fay replied. “Yes, that is a concern. Is it safe to assume that the areas where Initiates can and can’t go have been searched?”

    “Yes, Master Fay. The Temple guards have already searched the gardens, classrooms, training halls and even the holocron vault for her.” As Eislard answered I was glad that Fay didn’t ask how I was so certain Tedra had left the temple over an open line. Though I knew that once the situation was resolved, there'd be a long discussion about this as while Fay knew Tedra was slipping outside the temple, she’d chosen not to report it as a favour to me. “After searching everywhere and reviewing the security logs, the last sign of her was just past twenty-three hundred last night.”

    “Very well. I will head to the hangar and secure a flyer. Knight Eislard, please meet me there.”

    “Yes, Master Fay.” The Jedi Knight turned and walked quickly from the room, not even bothering to acknowledge me in the process. The moment the doors closed; Fay spoke again.

    “Cameron, while I understand that you wish to be involved in the search, with the High Council restricting you to the temple, you can’t. If you walk towards any entrance or the hanger, the Temple Guard will likely block your exit and escort you back to your quarters. As such, there is no way you can visibly leave the temple.”

    I smirked as while Fay had made it clear I couldn’t leave a normal way, she’d made no reference to the fact I could phase through walls or teleport outside, which had to be intentional. “I understand, Master.”

    “Good. I will keep you updated on the search. However, it might be wise to contact Miss Kryze. She has likely spent time exploring the area near and beneath the Temple over the last few months and may have an idea of where Initiate Zill has gone.”

    “Yes, Master. And may the Force be with you.”

    Even as the commlink signalled the channel had been closed, I was moving. I clipped my lightsaber to my belt before my room faded into a sea of silver.

    … …



    … …
    A/N:
    As always, this story is crossposted on Fanfiction.net and Archive of our Own and you can find me (and the backroom team who help with this) on Discord at:
    For this series: Heart of the Force
    For general chaos/Gamer stories: Shiro's Gaming Omniverse

    If you wish to support my writing, gain access to 1st drafts of chapters (where every level bar the lowest has access to at least the first draft of the next chapter and all got the redraft ~2 weeks early), consider supporting me on Patreon:
    USSExplorer






    Regardless if you join the discord or support my writing, I hope you enjoy the story and suggestions, valid criticisms, and ideas are always welcome.
    And of course;
    May the Force be with you. Always.
     
  5. Extras: Council Opinions (For Facing the Council 1)
    USSExplorer

    USSExplorer Doing what's necessary, even if it causes chaos

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    As an extra, here's how we broke down the various High Council's opinions on each matter regarding Cam.
    When they spoke, they presented a unified front, but they aren't all of one mind s this gives a little insight into the factions in the council.

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/...ouid=107847517360486927422&rtpof=true&sd=true



    Council
    Member

    Going to/Training with Mandalorians

    Honour Duel

    The Verd’gotens

    Cam’s moment of DS usage on Tatooine

    Beginnings of Civil War/Cams actions in that battle

    Fenrir

    Dooku going after BG w/o sanction

    Cam’s capture/torture

    Vosa’s fate

    Yoda

    Disapprove

    Disapprove

    Disapprove

    Disapprove

    Disapprove

    OK with?

    Disapprove

    Pity/concern

    Imprison

    Mace Windu

    Generally ok with the training

    Approve

    Disapprove (bc it means Cam became a Mandalorian)

    Disapprove

    Approve

    Unclear

    Disapprove as Dooku didn’t have HC/Republic sanction

    Impressed with Cam’s withstanding it (mostly ?)

    Would maybe support rehabilitation, but only after examining her with the Force

    Oppo Rancisis

    Disapprove

    Approve

    Disapprove

    Disapprove

    Disapprove

    Cautious but willing to see how things go

    Disapprove

    Pity/concern. Needs to be examined in the Force (which they’d be doing while he’s there)

    Imprison

    Saesee Tiin

    Approve

    Disapprove

    Disapprove

    Disapprove

    Cautious approval

    Cautious but willing to see how things go

    Agree, though would’ve preferred for Dooku to get support first

    Pity/concern. Needs to be examined in the Force (which they’d be doing while he’s there)

    Execute after trial

    Plo Koon

    Approve

    Neutral (approves Cam seeking justice, not in the way it was done)

    Neutral

    Neutral

    Approve

    Neutral (may wish to study the bond in a scientific way)

    Disapproves of the initial assault (mainly due to lack of backup), but approves of Dooku doing everything to save his Padawan.

    Concern

    Jedi trial, with imprisonment in a Jedi prison at a minimum (with later attempts at rehab)

    Yarel Poof

    Disapprove

    Disapprove, because it wasn’t handled diplomatically and Cam’s actions within it

    Disapprove

    Disapprove

    Disapprove of how Cam approached the battle. Should’ve used subtley/deception not combat

    Neutral. A potential target for seeing how Mind Tricks work on such a creature

    Comfortable with the investigation, but not the assault on Kidriff

    Pity/concern

    Rehabilitate if possible, if not imprisonment for life

    Adi Gallia

    Neutral

    General approval, just not the ending

    Disapproval based on the possible implications until knows why Cam did it.

    Disapprove

    Neutral

    Neutral

    Investigation Neutral, maybe an issue with Kidriff

    Pity/concern

    Rehabilitate

    Sifo-Dyas

    Approve

    Approve

    Neutral

    Neutral

    Neutral

    Neutral

    Approve

    Impressed with Cam’s mental Fortitude

    Rehabilitate (only bc friendship with Dooku?)

    Micah Giiett

    Approve?

    Approve

    Neutral

    Disapprove

    Approve

    Neutral, but it’s a DS creature so…

    Approve as a Sentinel?

    Impressed with Cam’s mental fortitude

    Execution, if not imprisonment in Jedi facility

    Yaddle

    slight disapproval

    Disapprove

    Disapprove, to a degree (understand its part of Mando culture, but Jedi shouldn’t do)

    Disapprove

    Neutral (disapprove of joining the fighting, not saving Damask)

    Neutral (might lean slightly to approving, if Cam was older/not just been tortured)

    Disapprove

    Simply glad Cam is alive and, for the most part, well. Wants to make sure he’s mentally stable over the coming months.

    Rehabilitate (Think this fits her character)

    Even Piell

    Approve

    Approve

    Disapprove

    Disapprove

    Approve

    Execute

    Neutral

    Impressed with Cam’s withstanding it (mostly)

    Execute after a “trial”

    Ki-Adi-Mundi

    Neutral

    Neutral (approves Cam seeking justice, not in the way it was done)

    Disapprove

    Worried, but more concerned about the torture/making sure Cam doesn’t fall

    Approve

    Execute

    Light approval but would’ve preferred Dooku had HC/Republic sanction

    Glad Cam is well and, seemingly, but knows it’ll leave a hint of darkness within (due to his former master)

    Execute

    General consensus

    Cautious approval

    Approve of the duel itself, not Cam’s actions at the end


    Disapprove, though accept Dooku’s reasoning that having political influence among a potential threat could be useful in the future

    Disapprove, but wrapped up with Cam’s mental state after the BG treatment

    Cautious approval, though would prefer the Cam had simply extracted the VIP instead of inserting himself into the battle.

    Cautious/concerned due to Cam’s young age/recent brushes with the DS

    SLight disapproval of Dooku going after the BG directly. fine with investigation though

    Concern about Cam’s state or mind/Force connection.

    Trial followed by imprisonment and/or rehabilitation (though most doubt that would work)
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2022
  6. GasperVladi0

    GasperVladi0 I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Not a fan of Bo sleeping around while Cam is gone but at least she isn't fucking any dudes. Fingers crossed Bo and Cam meet while he's out and about.
     
  7. Metabolicjosh

    Metabolicjosh Versed in the lewd.

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    They’re not together, though. He has no claim to her.
     
  8. Moran

    Moran Making the rounds.

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    Grimmouse197 and I slay gods like this.
  9. Prognostic Hannya

    Prognostic Hannya Knight of the Yuri Crusade

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    Think about what website you're on lol. Every female in a story is property of the MC unless stated otherwise.
     
  10. USSExplorer

    USSExplorer Doing what's necessary, even if it causes chaos

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    Didn't realise that. Table form posted in a spoiler.

    Do you think that (once he starts to do so) Cam would turn down a threesome with bo and a sexy alien?
     
  11. Hdjksnsndaj

    Hdjksnsndaj Not too sore, are you?

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    So the PTB gave him an interface that is both weak enough to be entirely disabled by the force but also gets in his way of using the damn thing? I am not even surprised at this point.

    Council was surprisingly less stupid than I expected, though still entirely useless. Typical “just meditate on it” behavior. The punishments are dumb, but at least they are light. Cam needs actual therapy from someone who he doesn’t feel is going to look inside his head without permission.

    I can’t believe I am saying it, but even a chapter of dealing with Jedi idiots makes me miss the mando circlejerk.
     
  12. GasperVladi0

    GasperVladi0 I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    ......I know? Not sure why you're stating the obvious. I just said I didn't like it, what does that have to do with him "having a claim to her"?
     
  13. Kyller

    Kyller Getting some practice in, huh?

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    I think people are giving this story more of a hard time than it deserves. Personally, I freaking love it, you've created characters I legitimately like, you dive into the details of people and worlds that Cam visits, and I very much appreciate that it's so well edited. The complaints aren't baseless, I agree with some of them to a degree because no story is perfect, but the ratio of bitching to compliments is a bit skewed, I think.

    I think one of the biggest sources of the problems people seem to be having is that word-wise we should be very far into the story, it feels like Cam should be well on his way towards being a fully realized badass, and yet plot-wise...we're kind of still in the prologue. This shouldn't be taken as a complaint, I'm a bit impatient with the story at times but in the end, I want you to keep writing and I want all of your ideas to be fleshed out. If you enjoy doing it, then by all means write a slow burn, detail oriented, monster of story. However, I think you were a bit too generous with the skill ratings on his stats, because they make him out to be an absolute wrecking ball, on par with any Jedi master, and to be fair sometimes he is, until he suddenly isn't.

    My personal critique of the story is that I think you've used the "He can't use his full power because of [Insert plot device]" too many times and all in a row. From trying to lay low, to satisfying mando honor, to wearing a power dampener, to a darkside nexus turning the system off, to a dampening mask, to uncontrollable anger, and now back to laying low...it's a bit frustrating. I want to think the MC is cool, and despite what people say, Powerful or "OP" characters can still be good. I think Cam (and the readers) could really use a win. A side quest where Cam puts his hard-earned skills to the test at full blast and comes out well on top and we can confidently feel like he's a badass.

    Additionally, I think a big part of the theme of the prequels was that legendary skill and power didn't save Anakin. It pretty much doomed him despite the fact that he often won his battles, so why not incorporate that idea a bit here. Instead of having Cam frustratingly struggle desperately in every major fight for whatever specific plot debuff that applies right then, maybe have him win battles but realize that despite his overwhelming skill he isn't winning the war, and his relationships with various characters will play a more important role in the big picture. Maybe that's exactly what you've intended to do and I'm beating a dead horse.

    I don't know your overall plot, but I do know that you're a much better writer than I am, and I always drop what I'm doing and read this when a new chapter comes out. So, please accept my offering of opinions, I hope you take it as the encouragement it's intended to be, and please keep writing this. It's one of my favorites.
     
  14. Rayna Redthorn

    Rayna Redthorn Know what you're doing yet?

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    Considering that he's dancing on the edge of using the dark side pretty much every time he uses his lightsaber thanks to his favorite style it seems a touch hypocritical of Windu to disapprove of Cam's Dark Side usage. Particularly since it was made clear he managed to pull himself back at the end when dealing with Vosa at a time when it would have been easy to justify giving in to his hate and just putting her down on the spot. But then again there are times when I think being a hypocrite is almost a requirement for being a Master of the high council so I suppose it's not too surprising.
     
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  15. Moran

    Moran Making the rounds.

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    I found this on this story’s Fanfiction.net review section. Very profound. I think other users need or might want to read this.



    By Security Leak:
    I think it would be interesting if Cam was like, before I became a Padawan I gave warning the Temple is not secure in tech or form of a security leak. Considering someone walked out of the temple in the middle of the night having found a means to do what you mostly believe impossible more so for someone of her age.

    I would also like to point out, that the Jedi are not teaching people how to survive. I think one of the reasons, you want me hear to observe me is in truth I am the only one here who has dealt directly with the Darkside or Sith. My ordeal both with what happen to my grandfather and I as well as the most recent events, it's of note that I may be consider more of a Jedi Warrior then some of you. But at the same time I wonder have any of you even asked why the Jedi Hunt the Sith? You do realize even the Sith can do good even if in some misguided way so long as they have not lost their fracking minds.

    I would also like to add Jedi can do Evil, by in action as you did by not sending someone to try and rescue me and now I bare the trauma of your failures. But my mind is strong and I will over come this, but all of you are not general prepared to understand how to over come something like I am should I release the flood gates and let you truly see how it felt day after day for months, as someone flayed my skin. So personally, I would add you should meditate on your faults and failures and ask the force if you can directly.

    Which of us is doing the will of the force and which of us are puppets of someone else in the republic and have not even realized it because their vaulted code does not allow them to do anything but ruggedly think that others mean til otherwise proven wrong. And that just means others are prepared to stick a saber or knife in your back when your not looking, be it the vaulted Republic or The Senate or some other such. It's one thing to believe in peace and try to protect it, but to openly support it at all costs to the alternative which is already happening around us is trash of the highest level, just go down into the lower levels of this planet in and around the temple and you will see the evils you protect from your temple on high.

    Your temple, is a beacon of failure for you disconnect from life and don't promote a chance for others to understand learn or grow if they don't meet some standard of the council at large they leave with little to nothing as poor as they came as children. You do know child soldiers are a horrible thing to groom and create. At least if you had adult volunteers they would have a more stable mind even if the light and dark side of the force could destabilize them over time. The same is true of anyone who think themselves above such feels or concepts, any of you on the council could turn over night without any of the others realizing it because you know how to hide from one and other in one and other's presents. Not saying it will happen but stating that it seems questionable how you act day in and day out, my grandfather said Jedi use to be Nomadic til the force lead them where they need to be often. Well they would train in a temple once they are knighted in less called on they would only be in the temple if asked to teach others.

    All of you should not be in the Temple, you should be out there learning to live a life understanding having kids and other such. The means and terms of your code is broken, and the one to break it did great harm to the Jedi by doing it. It use to be that families would move back to teach their children til they had been of age, that is when you train children in the force. Not other peoples kids, taking slaves and other down on their luck folks and giving them hope only to one day dash it and make them farmers seems to me like your have prepared a bunch of likely angery young and or adult people capable of being taken over by someone and trained to be a force for evil rather then sorting your business. Be it for me to be the one to tell you such clear weaknesses in your plans and actions execution and behavior.

    The fact that once people become force users they have little or no freedom or found to be so, is also quiet distressing we might as well be slaves of the Republic with how you run the temple. It use to be Jedi stood for freedom, not the lack of it. It also means a slave brought into the Jedi order is likely to learn and prepare better then a standard person or child because they may already know being a slave sucks and anything is better then that. These are the over sights and short sided behavior of the Jedi.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2022
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  16. Creed

    Creed I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Masters: He has been Imprisoned and tortured for an extended time.......We should Imprison him again for months.

    Like, you can pretty it up and deny it all you want, but if Cam isn't free to walk outside then he's at the very least under house arrest.

    I pretty much agree entirely with this. Unfortunately the author has made it clear he doesn't want Cam to "Win". If Cam does it has to be a pyrrhic victory and or with some new trauma.
     
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  17. Solusandra

    Solusandra Foxes are Fantastic

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    Looks like we've discovered the premiere lvl 30 perk. Combine that with Bastila Force Meditation and you automatically become the most powerful person in any solar system. Well, barring the training required to DO either of them, letalone do them at the same time. Still, take the synergy to it's logical conclusion, and you could actually stand a chance at fixing the various trashfire planets of the republic.
     
    BBJimmy likes this.
  18. Rayna Redthorn

    Rayna Redthorn Know what you're doing yet?

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    Last time he did that he wound up with a kill streak nearing the triple digits (Granted they were slavers so nothing of value was lost) and was damn near deified by a group of freed slaves who have continued to all but worship the lad ever since >.>;; Not that I'm saying giving him his badass moments is a bad thing mind, but Cam is currently walking a very fine line with the Council. The lad is very atypical by Jedi standards and, as several people have noted, the members of the council reeeeeally don't deal well with anyone that isn't just your standard, traditional, and extremely boring Jedi so until he is ready to leave he's gonna have to be very careful about what he does.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2022
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  19. Kyller

    Kyller Getting some practice in, huh?

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    That's a totally valid point, and despite how much I'd enjoy him going to a Hutt planet and just start purging...it's probably not going to happen haha. However, I think there are victories to be had while not making the council uncomfortable. There are a fair number of non-lethal offensive powers to train up, and I have a hard time thinking that the council would be mad if he volunteered to learn healing during his house arrest. (Just keep teaching himself if they don't let him) Now take your new knowledge, and start finding slaving rings, arrest every bad guy with your stun powers, and heal the slaves right then and there. He's already at the "destroy ships with my mind" level, so disabling smaller transports is totally viable without risking blowing them up. I feel like with a bit of training he could start knocking out zero body-count missions one after the other. That's more lightside than a lot of Jedi, who are a bit saber happy in my opinion.
     
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  20. Solusandra

    Solusandra Foxes are Fantastic

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    Thing is, they're not really supposed to be soldiers. All of the fun stories about Jedi are; but Most of them are wandering diplomats and spiritual teachers, with JUST enough enough martial experience to not require a guard-force.

    Kinda like all cowboys know how to use guns and are skilled marksmen, but while the stories talk about them all being gunslingers, most are just keeping feral dogs and hogs off their cattle.
     
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  21. kerleth

    kerleth Getting out there.

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    Counterpoint. Brainwashing children to be emotionless brainwashing killers doesn't become less bad just because most of them are able to avoid having to actually kill because they are so effective at brainwashing. It's the "spiritual teachings" that are the problem.
     
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  22. kjyl

    kjyl Getting sticky.

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    Depends on what view point you look at it from. For most human civilizations, for most of history, the role of a person who gave their lives over to a greater calling, and lived an austere life, was pretty freaking respected, and very commonly called for a dedication at a young age and a rejection of a tradition familial structure.

    that said I think that’s kind of boring and leads to a dead end story wise so I kind of like the idea that the Jedi had turned too far towards the introspective, removed mind set, at least partially orchestrated by the sith in order to bring about their down fall, but there you go.
     
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  23. kerleth

    kerleth Getting out there.

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    Hmmm, that statement looks a little different when we don't use flowery language and actually mention the details of what that "greater calling" is and where the "dedication" comes from. There is definitely a nuanced discussion to be had on the subject. Unfortunately that is very likely to end up crossing into more contemporary subjects that aren't permitted for discussion in QQ story threads. So yes it's complicated, but that complication is frequently framed in vague positive terms that leave out the negative parts. Which ...... isn't known for being a method to form a solid understanding or moral code.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2022
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  24. Solusandra

    Solusandra Foxes are Fantastic

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    Aaand then there's people like you, who discard all of the positive aspects and root causes, and inflate and emphasize the negatives.

    Also, I thought this was dropped 2 weeks ago...
     
  25. Your Target

    Your Target Very excited bastard

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    I hope Cam learns the valuable lesson of wearing a god damn helmet, and if not i hope things like bugs/rocks/fists/sharp things/ and floors hit him in the face until he does.
     
    Aezei likes this.
  26. Threadmarks: Facing the Council 2
    USSExplorer

    USSExplorer Doing what's necessary, even if it causes chaos

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    A/N:
    As always, thanks to those helping me write and plan out this story and checking it for continuality and logic errors.


    This chapter was released at least 2 weeks ago to my Patreons (with them seeing a draft version around 2 months ago) and on the story's Discord server (in GDoc form) about a week ago.
    Links for both are at the end of the chapter.
    Hopefully, all the little mistakes have been found and removed.




    Current date: 3 years until the Invasion of Naboo



    This wasn’t how this was meant to go.

    That thought echoed around Tedra’s head as she scurried into the room. Around her were various crates, some opened, some not and some half-and-half. None, however, were going to be of any use to her in this situation.

    She felt the Force shift around her, drawing her attention to one corner. Having learnt to trust in the Force, she scrambled forward. The crates in this corner were all too small for her to hide in, but just behind them was a half-open vent of some form. Far too small for most to enter, but for Tedra, it would be doable if a little tight.

    Ripples in the Force alerted her to the threat incoming and, trying not to dislodge the crates too much – and thus give up where she’d hidden – she slid behind them. Once given some cover, she closed her eyes and reached out through the Force until she sensed the vent’s cover. Slowly she willed it to pull back. As she heard the metal groan, she opened her eyes to see the gap in the vent was now wide enough that she could scamper through, which she did.

    No sooner had she slipped into the vent and pulled the cover back into place than ripples of warnings within the Force turned into waves. The Rodians chasing her, the same ones that had been on her tail since she’d first run into them hours ago, were close.

    Making sure to be silent and drawing the Force around her to hide within its eddies, she offered a silent prayer to not suffer the same fate as Aasuk had years before she’d been freed by Cam and sent to the Jedi. Her Togruta friend had managed to get free of his control collar – she never learnt how – and ran down an unused corridor of the station to hide. It hadn’t taken the Weequays hunting him to track him down, however, instead of recapturing him, the Weequays threw a grenade down the corridor, using her friend as a message to the other slaves.

    In the tight space of the vent, she could hear – and see on the surface mere centimetres from her face – the speed of her breathing. She’d been running nonstop for Force-knew how long, but she knew she needed to calm herself. If not because it was what Knight Eislard and her other instructors said, but because the sound of her breathing might alert the Rodians to her hiding hole.

    Using the exercises that the Jedi had taught her and trusting herself to be able to do so under pressure, she slowed her breathing. Her fear slipped into the Force, as she’d been trained to do, letting her truly feel for the first time how effective the meditative techniques were. Her mind drifted into the Force, letting it move through and protect her.

    “Where’d she go?” The scratchy voice of one Rodian – the one who’d first mentioned there was a bounty on young Jedi after another one spotted her – echoed into the vent from the room. It broke her concentration, but she stopped herself from vocally reacting. Growing up as a slave taught her the value of knowing when to not react.

    “No clue.” There was a moment’s silence before the second Rodian spoke again. “Right, split up. You three search in here. Spos, take some men down that corridor. I’ll head the other way with the rest.”

    The sounds of footsteps spreading out echoed in the vent. Tedra reached out with the Force, sensing those nearby. The excitement radiating from them angered her, but she knew that she needed to stay in control, and stay alert. Most of the Rodian had left but four, no five, stayed. As they spread out in the room, Tedra pulled the Force tightly around herself begging it to muffle any sound she made. As she slowly moved deeper into the vent, having sensed a path out through it, her mind played over how this had happened.

    She’d been slipping out of the Temple for months now, and while she was sure Knight Eislard and the others knew what she was doing, they didn’t bother to stop her. Which was a relief. As much as she loved learning to use the Force, the constant boring lectures on the dangers of holding on to your emotions infuriated her. Holding onto the hope of freedom, and if not that, then the chance to strike back at the slavers was one of the few things that had kept Tedra and the other slaves going. At least until Cam had turned up.

    She’d jumped at the chance to learn the same things her saviour knew, even potentially more as she’d discovered he’d joined the Jedi at an older age than her. But after less than a month at the Temple, she’d grown bored and a growing sense that she’d not gained her freedom, but instead just changed overlords festered in her mind. Several talks with Master Fay – one of Cam’s teachers – had dispelled that idea, but she'd grown restless in the Temple, thus why she’d started sneaking out not long after being made an Initiate.

    While having Cam back in the Temple was great, she knew something had happened to him. She could sense that something had changed him, and while he and Master Fay danced around the topic, she saw moments in his eyes that reminded her of older slaves whose hope had been shattered. She’d tried to get him to open up to her, after all, she understood the galaxy was far from the rosy picture her Jedi instructors insisted it was, but Cam, to her annoyance, wouldn’t talk with her about it, though he did share some of his adventures.

    Hearing Cam talk happily about the red-haired Mandalorian he’d been travelling with had hurt her. She didn’t quite understand why, but it had, and while she’d let go of that pain as her instructors had taught her, her dislike of this Mandalorian hadn’t faded. And she was sure this was the one she’d seen watching her when she’d slipped out of the temple over the last few months. Including last night when she’d slipped away.

    As normal, she’d slipped onto the roof of one of the various cargo vessels that descended into the depth of the planet. The surface was too shiny, too clean, and too nice for her and she’d found the lower levels far more to her liking. However, just as the transport she’d been catching a lift upon had passed the twentieth level, the Force had called out a warning. A moment later one of the vessel’s engines exploded. She’d leapt from the vessel, planning to use another as a step-stone to a nearby ledge. Yet as her feet had touched down on the ledge, it had shifted, and she’d slid down the edge of the massive shaft that led into the depths of the planet.

    She didn’t remember exactly what had happened, as her last clear memory was slamming onto the top of something orange, but when she’d woken, she’d been down so deep the entrance to the shaft was nothing more than a prick of light in the metal sky above. Nothing was broken, thank the Force, but most of her body hurt.

    Hoping to find a way to either get back to the surface, or failing that, contact the Temple, she’d instead run into this group of Rodians and been running for her life since they found out she was a Jedi.

    The sound of metal scraping on metal broke her chain of thought. The vent was too narrow to let her look back, but she knew it’d come from the room she was scurrying away from. Thankfully, she’d already turned the corner in the vent so even if one of the Rodians looked inside, they’d not be able to spot her.

    A glance at her bracer made her curse silently. The commlink on it had broken during her fall and while she might be able to repair it with some time, that was one thing she didn’t have. According to the chronometer, she’d been gone from the Temple for almost a whole day, so she knew people would be looking for her. However, the odds that anyone would look…

    She gasped in shock as she felt a powerful wave ripple through the Force. For a split second, she thought it was a dire warning and tensed, but then she relaxed. Instinctively she knew who that was: Cam. He knew she was missing and was scouring the Force on the planet to find her. She knew he was powerful, she’d felt it every time she’d been near him since he’s returned to the Temple, but to be able to feel his presence in the Force when she was Force-knew how far from the Temple…

    For the first time in hours, the faint hope in her that she’d escape this level unharmed – or at least, no more harmed than she currently was – grew. The embers that had existed before sparked into life and filled her with a renewed drive to keep going, to keep safe until help, until Cam, arrived.

    And then, she thought with a smile that would’ve gotten her in trouble with Knight Eislard, those Rodians were going to get what they deserved. Something strange surged through her, giving her power and renewed strength, at the thought of Cam killing the Rodians.

    It wasn’t the Force, yet it was. Though wondering what it was, she knew, was something best left for once she was safely away from this place. Preferably back in the Temple with Cam.

    … …



    … …

    “I knew things down here were bad, but this…” My words trailed off as we looked around the low level – it didn’t have an official number on the landing platform, like the last few we’d passed, but we were easily over twenty-seven hundred down – we’d just arrived at. The Force indicated that this was the one Tedra was on, but I silently hoped – against both the Force and the Interface being accurate – it wasn’t, and she was hundreds of levels above us as this place…

    “I’ve seen worse.” Bo’s comment, while not reassuring, wasn’t surprising. With me being stuck inside the Temple since we’d returned to Coruscant – and I knew that restriction was going to grow for this, but so long as Tedra came back safe and sound it’d be worth it – Bo had needed ways to blow off steam. Hell, she’d happily told me about every fight she’d gotten into while I’d been stuck in the Temple and frankly, I was getting jealous. If I could just spar it might be ok but being banned from that was sucking almost all the fun out of being in the Temple. To say nothing of not being able to abuse Training Superiority for XP. “You sure she’s down this far?”

    “More or less,” I replied while grimacing at the smell that invaded my senses. While Tedra was still beyond the range of my minimap – which was something I might upgrade the next time I got a Perk Point – given her elevation was only a few degrees below ours, I felt safe saying that she was on this level or the one below.

    I cursed in annoyance as my foot splashed into a puddle of what was clearly not water. No doubt once we’d found Tedra and were back in the Temple I’d have to wash my robes at least a dozen times just to get rid of the smell. That had me cursing once again that I didn’t have a hermetically-sealed suit of armour like Bo. Instead, I only had my vambraces, my dragon-skin cloak, and a pair of grenades that I’d taken from the Ne’tra Sartr beyond standard Jedi fare. I’d left my beskad on the off chance we ran into other Jedi before I got back to the Temple, but what I’d kill for was a helmet that could filter the revolting smell that swirled around us. Or I would’ve if I hadn't activated Breath Control to limit what I breathed in.

    “Come on.” I sighed at enjoying semi-fresh and unpolluted air for the first time in about an hour, even as I cursed myself for not using the Force Power earlier on.

    “Hey.” We’d only taken a few steps from the speeder that had brought us to this level before a slightly chubby human had stood up and slid into my way. “You paid the level entrance fee?” My eyes narrowed as I took in his dress. He was wearing some very light armour over his chest, but like the rest of his clothing it was worn, and nowhere did I see any sigil for Coruscant security. Behind him were nine males: four humans, three Twi’leks, a Zabrak and a Duros. All of their eyes were on us, though most were for Bo and not me.

    “You’re the authorities for this shab-hole?” Even as I asked that. I sensed desire and excitement coming from the group as their eyes drifted over Bo. I used Observe on half of them, including the leader, which confirmed that not only were they having thoughts about her that I wanted to rip them apart for, but they were all members of a gang that, I assumed, ran this level.

    “Yeah,” the man stepped closer, one hand on the pistol at his waist while his eyes lingered on Bo’s armoured chest. “Yough…” Whatever bullshit he was going to spew was cut off as I sent him flying into his cohorts with a flick of my fingers. He slammed into two of them, sending all three to the floor in a tumble, even as the rest shifted,

    Before any could get a shot off though, three were knocked back, smoking craters on their faces indicating Bo had shot them dead. The other four were lifted off their feet and slammed into a wall with a crunching thud before slumping to the group in a broken heap.

    A groan from the downed leader and the two men he’d hit had Bo aiming her blasters. “Leave the leader.” Even as bolts slammed into the two others, I lifted the leader into the air, drawing a new groan from him.

    “I’m looking for a young Zabrak girl,” I explained as he floated helplessly toward me. “About ten cycles old with reddish-brown hair and possibly wearing robes like mine.”

    The man’s eyes drifted around slowly, unable to focus on anything, suggesting he might have a mild concussion.” Y-you’re a Je-Jedi?” His voice lacked the bravado he’d shown earlier on.

    “Given you’re floating in the air, I’d say you could get on that.” He blinked at my retort even as I felt Bo’s amusement in the Force.

    “Wh-why should I help you?” He asked, recovering some of his confidence. “We own this level and you Jedi don’t care about anyone outside your shiny surface tower.”

    I pulled him closer until he was within striking range. “For your sake, it had better stay that way.” I closed my fingers into a fist, and he started struggling. If he could, I had no doubt he’d reached for his throat as the Force slowly crushed his windpipe. After letting him squirm for a short while, I released the pressure. “Now, about the girl.” He gasped heavily as I spoke.

    “Y-you can’t do anything to me! I know how your lot works!” He frantically called out in a raspy voice.

    Even as I slammed him into the deck, taking pleasure in seeing him splash down in a puddle of crud, I growled and stepped forward. “Fine.” My hand extended toward him. “You will tell me where the girl is,” I commanded as I used Force Compulsion. I felt it slam into and then wash over his mind with ease. I knew Fay wouldn’t have been happy with how aggressive I was in my application of the Force, but this arsehole was pissing me off. Everything about his body language – and a quick reapplication of Observe – confirmed he knew something about Tedra, so I felt no need to be subtle.

    His eyes glazed over for a moment before he replied. “I will tell you where the girl is.” He blinked though retained the glazed look. “I haven’t seen anyone matching that description, but I know the Blue Rakghouls are searching for a Zabrak elsewhere on the level.”

    I bit off a string of curses at his lack of help and chose instead to slam him into the wall where the rest of his squad had hit.

    “Cam,” Bo began as the body slumped to join the rest, but I was already striding forward. Tedra was on this level, and it appeared others were hunting her.

    “I’m fine.” I snapped back, only to stop as I felt my anger surge. Memories of what I’d endured under Vosa’s care once more slammed into my mind and if I hadn’t stopped, I’d have likely stumbled into a wall. I closed my eyes and sunk inward. I was in control of myself, not my rage. While my emotions could be focused, they obeyed me, not the other way around.

    I pulled up thoughts of how I felt when using Alchaka, focusing on the calmness and patience I felt when my mind drifted into the Force. Tedra didn’t have the time for me to carry out the meditative technique now, so the memories of how it felt would have to be enough. And they were as I felt my anger settle, returning to the gentle waves on a pond that it’d been before we’d reached this level.

    “Sorry. I’m just concerned about Tedra.” I said as I looked at Bo as she stood beside me. “And it seems I’ve still got anger issues to work through,” I added with a chuckle.

    Bo placed a hand on my shoulder. “Well duh. Still, osi’kovide like these are good for blowing off steam if nothing else.” Even with the armour in the way, I knew she was thinking about how she’d done similar things to pass the time over the last few months. Hopefully without breaking any planetary laws in the process.

    “Aye, though I think I might need to blow off more steam before we find Tedra.”

    Bo chuckled. “Here’s hoping. This lot wasn't even worth the cost of gas.”

    That made me chuckle. Bo looking for a fight was nothing new, she was a Mandalorian after all, but the more rational part of my mind hoped that there wouldn’t be too many more moments like this. While they’d be good for centring myself, I’d rather get Tedra back to the Temple before anyone was aware I’d slipped out.

    … …



    … …

    I barely gave the Duros I’d just tossed off a ledge a second thought as I surveyed the open area Bo and I were in. Nearby, Bo was gunning the last of the group that thought ambushing a Jedi and a Mandalorian was a good idea, though my attention was instantly on something else.

    Tedra had finally, after nearly six hours and, including this short interaction, five skirmishes of varying size, come into range of the minimap.

    “That way, less than a klick.” I pointed down a side passage, away from where we’d planned to go but from where the dozen or so reinforcements for this ambush had come. Of course, said reinforcements were littering the floor, killed by a combination of blaster bolts, lightsaber cuts, or broken bodies as I slammed them into anything around us.

    I took a step toward the passage only to stop as I heard Bo crouch. Turning back, I saw her searching the pockets of the two she’d just gunned down. While I wasn’t happy about her searching the bodies, mainly as I felt it generally slowed us down, Bo had pointed out that there was a chance we’d gain some intel from these morons, and that’d been proven true after our second skirmish.

    However, discovering that Tedra was being actively hunted by the Blue Rakghouls gang hadn’t done much for my control. Which, given the various dismembered bodies and limbs lying around me, hadn’t been a good thing for the gang members we’d encountered. The group before this ambush had been a team of twelve that had been directly hunting Tedra and I’d taken great pleasure in turning them into my prey. Knowing that tempering my anger was a failure waiting to happen, I’d adapted Djem So into my attacks, and channelled my rage into the attacks when we’d encountered the hunting party. Fay would no doubt complain if she ever learnt about this, as would the High Council, but I was fine with it as it gave me a way to bleed off some of the simmering lake of rage within me. These animals were hunting a friend, so they deserved everything they got in retaliation.

    However, my rage wasn’t as strong during this ambush, mainly as, with me worried about slipping back into a rage-induced berserker mode, I’d activated Player’s Mind after the hunting party were eliminated. Yes, it prevented me from drawing on my emotions to fight harder and faster, but the risk of losing control and suffering another incident was too great when Tedra’s life was on the line.

    “Fine. Shebs’palone barely had anything worth taking.” Bo stood and slid a pile of credits into her pouch, which was likely another thing the Jedi wouldn’t like, but I didn’t see an issue with it. If these beings were foolish enough to attack a Jedi and Mandalorian – even when the odds were six to one in their favour- then they didn’t deserve to live. Hell, we’d likely done the gene pools of their species a favour by removing them.

    Heading down the passage, I opened my mind and reached out through the Force, finding the bond I wanted with practised ease. [We’re near, Tedra. Stay safe.] I’d sent a few telepathic messages to her though this one, like the rest, didn’t bring a verbal response. Only a wave of relief and desperation that was stronger than any before it. As the Force helped push me forward faster than most could hope to manage, I looked at my minimap.

    Tedra was moving almost perpendicular to us, however, what drew my attention – and made me glad Player’s Mind was active – was the group of about a dozen other beings that seemed to be following her. It didn’t take much to determine that they were another team from the Blue Rakghouls –a group that I planned to crush brutally in future – were closing in on her.

    “She’s got company.” My words echoed in the empty corridor as I vaulted with ease over a pile of smashed crates. By the placement of the crates, it might’ve been Tedra’s work, but it could just have easily been another sign of how badly rundown this level was.

    “Stealth or shock and awe?”

    I chuckled at Bo’s response even as I noted she didn’t question my statement of Tedra’s location or situation. Before my capture – images flashed through my mind but Player’s Mind nullified any emotional reaction before it could incapacitate me – I’d sensed a great deal of hesitation from Bo regarding my orders, even if she never voiced it during a mission. Now, I didn’t sense any of that, just a resolve to find Tedra and get out of this shithole of a level. Now, things between us still needed to be sorted out, but I wasn’t willing to use Observe on her while we were outside the wire. That would just lead to distractions that could be deadly.

    “By ear.” I shot back as while sliding around more debris, I pulled my hand to one side. The Force dragged a door in my path open at the same time the group chasing Tedra closed on her. A shout of pain from somewhere ahead of us and through the Force made me growl before my anger was brought under control by the Interface. “Brutal,” I called out, changing my mind.

    There was no reply from Bo, and less than a minute later the voices drifted into range.

    “Come out, come out, little Jedi. No need to draw this out any longer.” Laughter from multiple distant sources accompanied that. “We don’t want to hurt you too much. The bounty’s worth more for you alive.” The sound of metal scraping against metal echoed around us. “Ah, there you are.”

    Tedra screamed as I rounded a corner and saw the opening to the area that she had to be in. Two Rodian were standing there, their blasters low and their backs to us. I pushed myself harder, accelerating as fast as I could with the Force.

    My lightsaber roared to life, drawing their attention, but before they could turn enough to see Bo or me, I was upon them. The one on my right side lost the upper part of his skull as my lightsaber sliced clean through it while the second was slammed into the wall next to the door with a blast of force energy that ended in a sickening crack.

    The chaos I was unleashing drew the attention of others in the room, not least Tedra whose relief and hope brightened up the force in this dank and darkly lit area. I moved forward, my lightsaber moving as fast as I was, and I slid to a stop no more than ten metres from Tedra and two Rodians standing over her.

    “If you’re looking for a Jedi, then I think I will suffice.” I snarled as the remains of four more Rodians slumped to the floor: the deadly effectiveness of my lightsaber made clear I wasn’t in the mood to play nice. Tedra was backed up close to an exposed opening that led into some sort of shaft. Given the gases rising from the opening, whatever was in there was either very hot or very dangerous. Possibly even both.

    Even as the two Rodians in front of me looked at me, I heard and saw bolts of yellow fly. Within seconds every Rodian in the room that I hadn’t killed or was in front of me fell under Bo’s brutally efficient fire.

    One of the Rodians near Tedra grabbed her, making her scream. I stepped forward as the other approached, pulling a vibroblade from his waist. With Player’s Mind active I didn’t instantly dismiss the weapon as there was no way the Rodian didn’t know such a blade was no match for a lightsaber: not under normal conditions.

    Even as I pondered what this Rodian had up their sleeve, I saw the other pull Tedra to them and lift a blaster toward her head. That was enough for me, and as Tedra tried to shuffle away from it, I moved. My blade thrust like lightning towards the Rodian. And as it brought its blade up to parry, a twist of my wrist was enough to slide the tip of my blade around the offending blade. Yet, as my lightsaber brushed the Rodian’s forearm, it flickered out.

    Realising the alien was wearing cortosis gauntlets and with its block turning into an attack as it saw my blade die, I adapted. The attack was well-timed and accurate. Or it would’ve been if the Force wasn’t moving me so fast its eyes were likely struggling to track me. With contemptuous ease, I shifted my weight so that the blade missed me while tossing up my extinguished lightsaber.

    As I closed on the overgrown bug, my hands gripped its wrists, and then with the Force increasing my strength, I crushed the joints. Even as the beginnings of a cry of pain slipped from the Rodian’s lips, I was turning, my grip still secure. With no chance to react, the alien was lifted off its feet and then, as I completed a full rotation, slammed face-first into a support beam with enough velocity that the head caved in and its brain smeared across the post even as I casually caught my lightsaber in my left hand.

    “Cam!” Tedra called out, seemingly more relieved to see me than disturbed by what I’d just done. As I looked her way, I saw the Rodian was affected as its eyes somehow looked as if they were going to grow larger than its very punchable head. He stepped back, pulling Tedra with it even as it held the blaster close to Tedra’s skull.

    “S-stay b-back!” the Rodian stammered out as I took a step closer. This made it take another step back, only to stop as it reached the opening. If not for the Force, the gases and steam seeping out would’ve made it hard for me to fully see.

    “Let her go and I might let you live.” While my emotions were kept in check by Player’s Mind, I knew some of it had seeped into my words as the Rodian pushed the blaster into Tedra’s skull. “Maybe.”

    Part of me was disappointed that Tedra didn’t just use the Force to break free, but given she’d been running from these fucking arseholes for almost a day, and was undoubtedly tired and hungry, I was willing to cut her some slack. Didn’t mean I wasn’t going to explain her faults once we were back in the Temple.

    “W-why sh-ould I trust you?” Its voice was barely held together, and fear was radiating from the alien so much that I was glad I was blocking off my emotions as, even with them suppressed, I found its reaction enjoyable.

    “You don’t really have a choice.” I shot back as my free hand indicated the remains of his compatriot’s brain dripping off the wall. I took another step closer.

    “DON’T!” It called out and it jammed the blaster into her skull. As Tedra whimpered my resolve to handle this subtlety ended.

    My fingers on my free hand twirled before closing into a fist. At the same time, the Rodian’s eyes somehow widened further before its arm jerked back strangely. A moment later the blaster, and the hand holding it, started to compact.

    “Aargh!” The alien grunted even as it struggled to process what was happening. I watched in enjoyment as its eyes shot from the bloody remains of its ruined hand, and the remains of the blaster within, to me. Finally, it understood it was outclassed.

    Yet before I could finish it off, Tedra slipped free, turned, and thrust her arms forward. The Force reacted to her demands and the alien was lifted off its feet and sent sailing through the opening.

    “AGH!” it screamed as it sailed into oblivion. Tedra turned back to me, relief at being saved, mixing with the shock of what she’d endured and just done on her face. I started to move toward her only to feel the Force react and warn me of danger.

    Before I could understand what, Tedra’s eyes widened before she was suddenly jerked into the opening.

    “GAH!”

    “Tedra!” I moved forward, the Force surging through me, and reached for her. However, my hand found nothing but air as her scream of terror echoed in the gas. The heat of the steam tingled over my skin until I shifted the Force to block it out even as I stared helplessly into the thick pea-soup fog that filled the shaft into which Tedra had just fallen. Not wanting to lose her when I’d almost had her, and seeing no other option, I stepped through the opening even as I slid my lightsaber into my Inventory instead of the magnetic clip on my belt. Without knowing one hundred per cent what was in the fog, I felt safer with my blade in my Inventory.

    Hot, thick air slammed into my face as I fell, making it impossible to see. I closed my eyes, opened my mind and reached out through the Force. As shaft, the gas and everything else came into focus within the Force, I was drawn back to memories of my former life, and every single jump I’d done – both in training and combat.

    Almost instantly after opening myself to the Force, I sensed Tedra no more than ten metres below me. Her screams echoed in the Force as if I was standing right next to her. Further below her, I sensed the Rodian, its fear and terror bringing a flash of joy to my heart; though that was quickly stymied by Player’s Mind, as was the rush of fury as I sensed a connection between it and Tedra.

    She hadn’t fallen but been pulled by the fucking bug in an attempt to take her with it.

    Glad my fury wasn’t going to cloud my judgement, nor let me dwell on the emotions of a few jumps that had gone wrong in my former life, I pulled my arms to my side and let myself accelerate as I fell.

    With the Force guiding me, and a decade of experience to call upon from my former life, I reached Tedra in seconds. “Cam!” Her voice barely carried over the roar of the gases around us even as I slid an arm around her waist. Quickly I found the cable the alien had fired at her and ripped it and a small patch of her robes off before tossing it away. My vambrace vibrated, meaning Bo was trying to reach me – had she jumped after us? – but my focus was on slowing our fall.

    Levitation activated and our descent slowed to a crawl. However, even with the power having reached its maximum potential within the Interface, it wasn’t enough to stop us from falling. The gases around us slowed down, making it possible to hear Tedra’s whimpers of fear as she clung tightly to my chest.

    Reaching out through the Force I searched for details on the shaft. How far did it go down and where were any exits located? The Force wasn’t clear with what it supplied, but I could tell this shaft went down deep, perhaps to the very lowest level on Coruscant, and there were no openings, or even potential ones, coming up any time soon.

    Fucking wonderful.

    My vambrace vibrated again and moving it slowly to not disrupt my concentration – nor have Tedra do so by reaching to my movement – I shifted my free arm to my face. A gentle application of the Force had the channel open. “Where are you?” I all but shouted into the link, hoping Bo would understand and reply in kind.

    “About a metre above you.” Her reply was loud, yet it was still a struggle to hear it over the sounds echoing around the shaft. I looked up and, while it wasn’t clear, managed to see the faint outline of a darker figure in the gas with red flames surrounding their lower half. “I had to make sure the gases wouldn’t ignite before following.”

    “Thank you. For both checking and coming.” Yeah, she’d shown more sense than I had in the situation as while I knew the gas wasn’t poisonous – thanks to the Interface failing to say I was being poisoned – I’d still leapt without having a plan. In my old life, that shit got you killed, but in this galaxy that just seemed to be the Jedi way. A nasty habit I’d have to be mindful of in future. “Any idea how we can get out of here?”

    The shadow shifted around, and I assumed Bo was using the scanners in her armour to check. At the same time, Tedra moved around, finding a more comfortable way to grip me painfully tight. The movement wasn’t enough to make me lose control of our slowed descent, but it did force me to pay more attention to controlling the Force around us.

    “Hard to tell. The gases are shabyriir the sensors, but it looks like there’s some sort of ledge about twenty metres below and to your right.”

    I reached out through the Force, confirming there was something there that should be able to take our weight; or at the very least, stop us from falling when combined with Levitation. “Got it.”

    It didn’t take long to reach the ledge, which would barely be big enough for Tedra and me to share. After a few experimental pushes against it with my feet while Levitation was active, I eased Tedra onto it. A quick check of my belt confirmed both grenades were still there and, with Tedra’s eyes blocked by them being jammed against my stomach and Bo still above us, I subtly pulled my lightsaber from my Inventory and reattached it to my belt; making sure the fastening was as secure as it could be.

    “H-how are we getting out?” Tedra shouted, though, against the roaring of the rising gases, it was barely louder than a whisper. I smiled in reassurance before reaching out with the Force. “Bo, any way out of here?”

    Even as I asked that the Force was indicating the area on the other side of the shaft wall was safe. Or at least safer than remaining in the shaft.

    “Sensors have an opening on the other side of the wall, but can’t tell if it's empty. Or much of anything other than it should have breathable air.”

    Bo’s scan confirmed what the Force had told me. “Good enough for me.” Carefully, not wanting to slip and fall or lose my lightsaber to the shaft, I unclipped the weapon and ignited the blade. Before cutting, I erected a Force barrier around Tedra, me and the ledge. One strong enough to block out the gases rising around us. There was a risk any cut would cause a backlash, which would be very dangerous and not something I wanted to chance.

    With the barrier active, I sunk my blade into the wall, and then as the metal melted from the heat of the plasma blade, I slowly sliced open a hole large enough for all three of us to walk through.

    While I still didn’t know what was on the other side, it had to be better than staying in this shaft and hoping to find another way out.

    … …



    … …

    Four hours later, and after several run-ins with Cthons – creatures I hadn’t seen since discovering the Sith shrine deep under the Jedi Temple not long after becoming a Padawan – later, I was growing royally pissed with Coruscant. The surface may look clean, shiny, and safe, but after spending half a day wandering the lower levels, it was abundantly clear the planet was none of those things, at least not for the overwhelming majority of the populace. Which had me considering if this was why there’d been no issue with the Republic transitioning into the Empire.

    I was also glad that Player’s Mind was active as, not long after entering this tunnel system Force knew how far under the surface of the planet, I’d heard my torturer’s voice drift from a dark corner of a side tunnel we hadn’t taken. If not for Player’s Mind, I knew I’d have suffered another moment and while I knew now that wouldn’t have been an issue, the fact it could happen seemingly at random was an ongoing concern.

    Yet, while I was glad that I had the special power to fall back on, it was infuriating – or would’ve been if the power didn’t nullify my emotions rapidly – that the only way I was getting through this ‘rescue’ was by relying on it.

    I’d long since reached out through the Force to Fay to let her know we’d found Tedra. While she wasn’t happy that I had gone out to find her - suggesting she was near another Jedi - she was relieved I hadn’t gone alone and that Tedra was with us. Still, it could be hours until we either found a way upward or she found a suitable way down that would bring her close to our location.

    From using the Force and examining the readings from Bo’s sensors, I knew we were in a tunnel system that seemed to go on for miles, yet there was no hint of how we could ascend or where to go to do that. Haran, if not for being able to use Force Sight – and teaching Tedra the basics of how to use the Force to see in the dark, which was a little awkward as how the Interface handled the Force was different from how other Force users interacted with it – we’d have been relying entirely on the lights from Bo’s armour for sight, and that could’ve become an issue. While her armour still had several days of power left, I’d rather not drain any more than needed on the chance we ended up staying down here for that long.

    “I hate this shabuiryr planet.” Bo’s cursing had been a regular feature of our treks. This one was brought on by her boot sinking into a pool of what, I hoped, was just dirty water. The smell would’ve likely made us all retch if not for us having armour or the Force to block it out, but I knew that the first thing I was doing when I got back to the Temple was tossing my robes in an incinerator, then taking a shower for about a week.

    “Me too.” Tedra’s tone while despondent was far more hopeful than it’s been just after we’d escaped the shaft. Most of that, I suspected, came from the fact Bo had reluctantly agreed to let Tedra carry one of her blaster pistols. She hadn’t been happy about it, but after our first run-in with Cthon, she’d been more accepting of the need for every member of our team to be armed.

    Hell, she’d even given Tedra some pointers in a far gentler way than I’d expected after that run-in, and it had helped greatly since Tedra’s accuracy was impressive; even knowing she was drawing on the Force to help her. It had reached a point that after the third encounter, Bo had extended the same offer she’d given Anakin that if the Jedi thing – as she put it – didn’t work out, Tedra could join her clan.

    Tedra had seemingly been confused by the offer, though she had said that so long as I was a Jedi she would be one as well. Bo had given me a glance at that as amusement radiated from her through our bond. I knew that once we were out of here, and my time in the Temple was through, she was going to tease the ever-loving fuck out of me about that. While I’d not enjoy it, simply getting out of here and into a shower would make it liveable. Hell, the idea of a shower was one of the things that were keeping me going which I’m sure was true for Bo as…

    My foot slipped on something, but I managed to not lose my balance. Bo glanced back at me, but I waved her off. I didn’t need her to look my way, not when my mind had imagined what she’d look like coming out of a shower. While Player’s Mind had slammed the door on that burst of emotions, it still had me cursing once more the fact I had to endure being a teenager – and all the shite that brought – all over again.

    We walked past two more intersections that led into darkness but didn’t take either. While there was nothing I could sense down either, the Force seemed to be guiding us forward with faint golden halos highlighting our current path that I could see with Force Sight. Of course, those same golden halos had drawn us into four groups of increasing sizes of Cthons so I was beginning to suspect the Force was finding ways that’d test us as a group.

    Tedra stopped mid-step and sensing confusion from her, I turned and saw her frowning.

    “Tedra?”

    She blinked and shook her head, almost as if she forgot for a moment that I was there. “I, I think I sensed something… different.” I turned back to look where we were going, spotting Bo having stopped with her blaster scanning the darkness in front of us, and then reached out with Detection, Force Sight, and Sense Force.

    “I’m not feeling anything.” Yet as I said that I realised that there was something strange going on. Just down the left tunnel of the intersection we were maybe a hundred metres from, there was an unusual section of… nothingness. The Force couldn’t sense anything in there; be it the walls, faint flickers of power in long-forgotten cables or plant life that had overgrown the ground. “Ok, that’s odd.”

    “What is it?”

    I ignored Bo’s question and glared into the darkness, trying to work out what could cause such a strange emptiness in the Force. There were some records in the Archives of creatures and objects that could restrict or outright block a Jedi from sensing them through the Force. However, none of them should be down this far under the surface of Coruscant. “There’s nothing in the tunnel to our left. As in the Force isn’t sensing anything. Not even the walls.” As I explained that to Bo, I ignited my lightsaber. Bo’s posture shifted instantly. Her blaster and the vambrace on her free hand moved with her helmet scanning the darkness for whatever threat could be out there. “Tedra, stay behind me.”

    I didn’t wait for a response before I moved to Bo’s side. Just before I reached her, my foot clipped against something hard. A minute ago, I’d have just ignored that as the remains of a durasteel plate from when these tunnels had been used, but now I was more alert. A glance down was followed by a closer look. While my eyes could see an oddly shaped grey block of what looked like duracrete, the Force couldn’t sense it, meaning it wasn’t. Worse was that, now that I knew what to look for, I sensed similar small patches of the duracrete-like substance leading into the darkness, angling toward the left tunnel at the intersection.

    Once I reached Bo’s side, I tapped her shoulder. Since I wasn’t hooked into her battlenet, I fell back on training to let her know I was present. Without responding she moved forward, cautiously approaching the intersection. As she took up a position at the edge of the left tunnel, I drifted toward the right tunnel – ignoring the faint golden glow coming from it – to allow me to provide support with the Force or the grenades and grant me a clean line of attack if I needed to surge forward.

    She slid out, her blaster sweeping into the tunnel, only for me to sense shock from her, followed by excitement. That was all I needed to know there was something there, yet before I could get a clear sight of what it was, Bo leapt back, and a blob came flying out of the tunnel. As it flew past me and slammed into the wall, I noted it was the same grey colour as the marking on the floor and was essentially invisible to the Force.

    Blaster fire erupted from Bo in response, though that only elicited a roar that made me lift my hands to my ears as the walls vibrated. Slowly, once I’d adapted to the roar, I moved forward enough to see something, large, armoured and covered in a shell-like skin skitter in the tunnel, moving toward us. I had a bad feeling about whatever that was; one that only got worse once I Observed it.
    Level: 75
    Species: Taozin
    Health: 99%
    Age: 1053 years
    Force Potential: None
    Threat Potential: Extreme
    This taozin is angered at being disturbed but is also hungry.
    ...

    I’d barely processed what Observe told me before another blob of grey goo shot out from the beast; this time, toward me. As I leaned back, avoiding it and silently cursing that of all creatures we could run into this deep under the surface of Coruscant was one that wasn’t detectable within the Force, I realised that here and now, taking it on wasn’t an option. Another globule of goo came at me and even as I avoided that, I brought up my lightsaber and let the tip hit the goo. I was relieved that the goo dissolved, as it meant the weapon wasn’t useless in this fight.

    Massive mandibles, larger than me, illuminated by the lights on Bo’s helmet – which she’d turned on, I assumed, to get a better look at the beast – lunged forward. They would’ve grabbed and crushed Bo if not for her engaging her jetpack and flying up and back from the attack.

    Even as that was happening, my mind was racing to pull up whatever I knew about taozins. Apart from the Archives being wrong that the beasts were extinct, the biggest things I could recall were that the beasts were both blind to sensing through the Force – something I already knew – and immune to directed Force attacks. Plus, being illustrated worryingly well by Bo’s ineffectual blaster fire, they were mostly impervious to directed energy attacks; be that from blasters or a lightsaber.

    That had me making a note to thank Fay for making me read up on creatures that were in some way or another immune to the Force.

    Wanting to buy Bo time to keep getting away, I flicked my wrist and hurled a boulder bigger than Tedra at the beast. That had the desired effect, though as it turned its large, soulless black eyes toward me, I had flashbacks to the Great Krayt Dragon. Before the taozin could do anything in retaliation, Bo opened fire again, redrawing its attention to her even as she swept around near the roof of the tunnel intersection.

    “Bo, that’s a taozin! We need to get out of here!” even as I shouted, one hand closed around a grenade. I doubted that would kill it, but hopefully, the explosion would give us time to get away.

    “We can kill it!” Bo shot back after dodging to one side to avoid another globule of goo.

    “It’s all but impervious to blasters and lightsabers!” I responded even as I depressed the grenade’s trigger. “We’ve got little room to manoeuvre, plus the mission is Tedra.” My arm slid back, drawing on memories from my old life and time training on Mandalore. “Also, grenade!”

    I could feel Bo’s annoyance even as she flew low and toward me, letting the grenade sail over her, bounce off the top of the taozin then, as I’d used the Force to ensure it happened, detonated directly above the beast’s massive, armoured head.

    Bo touched down and stumbled as the shockwave of the explosive reached us, sending dust and debris everywhere. A flick of my wrist moved most of the dust down the tunnel we’d come from, letting us see the entrance to the taozin’s lair had come down hard.

    “Did that kill it?” Tedra’s meek question – which came from behind me as she’d shifted over before I’d throw the grenade – was answered by a horrible, twisted, high-pitched shriek. Even as the Force helped nullify some of the pain in my ears, I kept my hands still, readying myself for more combat. A moment later, the rubble started to shift.

    Two long, dark mandibles crashed out of the chaos, followed by the black soulless eyes that locked onto me and promised a very slow and painful death if the taozin caught me. Even as I slipped one hand into Tedra’s I was using the light from Bo’s helmet to examine the beast. The head and hide were covered by plates that worked as armour like a beetle’s while in the gaps between them, the light diffused in the freakishly transparent body of the monster. I gulped as the remains of something vaguely humanoid were caught by the light as it floated around inside.

    “Run!” I called as I turned, pulled Tedra with me, and set off the tunnel we’d shifted toward during the fight. Thankfully, the one that had been marked by the Force with a faint golden halo. Even with Player’s Mind active, I could feel fear spiking inside me, though the strange power instantly cut it off. While that kept me calm and able to think clearly, it did limit my body as fear made me think and move faster.

    With the Force being unable to directly sense the movements of the taozin behind us, nor any globule of goo it shot in our direction, I was forced to improvise. I slipped my lightsaber onto my belt and then every piece of debris or junk that was at least as big as my head was sent flying back. I honestly wasn’t concerned if any were hitting the beast, or hurting it, being more mindful of creating blocks to any attacks it launched at me and Tedra. To my left, Bo was flying backwards, her blaster firing almost continuously while she added in shots and flame from her vambrace. Tedra was struggling to keep up, her shorter legs and her fear meant I was often having to lift her along to prevent her from falling.

    As I yanked Tedra one more time, almost lifting her into my chest, through the Force I saw a Y-intersection coming up; with a faint golden light illuminating the leftward passage. Even as I shifted toward that side, with Force Sight I noticed that the first support beam into that tunnel was damaged. Not enough that it would fall soon, but enough that, with the right concussive force, it would shatter and, I hoped, bring down the entire roof with it.

    “Left!” I called even as I carried out some quick mental calculations. After being sure of the numbers, I opened the Inventory and pulled two explosive grenades from a stack of fifteen that I’d gained back on the ship during my mission posing as Palpatine’s nephew. With the Force, I activated their concurrent detonation mode and pushed them toward the beam. Before they’d even reached their target points, two more were close behind along with the one from my waist. As all five latched onto the beam at various points – and through the chaos of this run I was impressed I was able to use the Force like this under such a difficult situation – I pulled one final grenade from the Inventory.

    “Bo!” I called out, hoping to get her attention. Waving the grenade in my hand so she saw it, I pushed it forward. “Twenty seconds!” Even as the last grenade flew towards the centre of the support beam, where it was weakest, Bo turned and accelerated down the left tunnel. Pushing a nagging concern that her sensors might’ve detected me throwing all six grenades out of my mind, I picked Tedra up and, pushing Force Speed and Bullet-Time to their maximum, took off after her.

    It didn’t take me long to pass her, which was when the taozin gave off another roar, and while I wasn’t willing to risk a backward glance to confirm, I suspected the beast was trying to keep up with us.

    I raced under the weakened beam with about ten seconds to spare, Bo a second further back, but neither of us slowed down. Even if what I had planned didn’t kill the taozin, this entire section of tunnel was going to come down hard and fast.

    As my mental count neared zero, I established a barrier behind us. Unlike at other times, I couldn’t devote my full attention to it, so there was a fair chance it wouldn’t stop all the debris that was about to come our way from reaching us, but it should stop most of it.

    As I reached zero in my head, the tunnel behind us was engulfed in an explosion as the last grenade set off the others. I was sent flying and pulled the Force around me as my arms wrapped around Tedra as she screamed. We bounced several times along the ground with harsh pain erupting from my back. My right leg caught on something and twisted awkwardly before, thankfully, slipping clear.

    As my tumble started to come under control, I ignored the pain in my leg as I slid to a stop. Slowly, even before the dust had settled, I extracted myself from Tedra’s death grip and then, painfully, stood. Pain from my leg was intense, but the Interface let me know it was only a bruised ankle I was dealing with and not a break, which was a relief. The Force had done enough to reinforce my body that the impact that would’ve broken my ankle in most cases, only left me with a nasty bruise that was easy to heal with the Force. The same was true of the various cuts and scrapes on the rest of my body, including a cut on the back of my head that, incredibly, hadn’t given me a concussion.

    The faint roar of my lightsaber echoed in the dust-filled area as I reached forward with Force Sight and Detection to see if there was any movement from where we’d come from. The entire section of the tunnel, and at a rough estimate, about twenty more metres had come down, yet within the blocked passage I could still sense the strange null space that indicated the taozin. A glance at my stat screen showed only a minor increase in XP, confirming, rather worryingly, that the beast wasn’t dead; just trapped.

    Bo walked unsteadily toward me, and even as her blaster aimed at the cave-in, her free hand slapped my shoulder hard. “Shabyr jagkc’kovid! You almost killed us!” Her anger came through the helmet’s speaker so clearly, that I didn’t need the Force to confirm it.

    “You’re welcome.” Even as I replied, I kept my focus on the rubble looking for any sign the taozin was trying to escape. Bo chuckled at my words before taking a cautious step toward the rubble.

    “Is it dead?” I looked back at Tedra, seeing her shaking as the aftereffects of our run-in with the taozin caught up with her. I reached over and placed a hand on her shoulder, sending feelings of comfort and safety to her through our weak Force bond.

    “I hope so but it’d be better if we’re far away from here if it isn’t, and manages to get out of that any time soon.”

    She blinked several times, and I felt her heart rate slowly drop. Eventually, she gave me a nod and I turned to walk away, only to pause as Bo was still looking at the rubble. “Bo?”

    “Yeah, just checking something with my sensors.” I hid any concern that she might’ve detected me using more than one grenade as, even if she had, she wouldn’t bring it up until we were safe and – I hoped – alone.

    Even as I used Nullify Pain on the wounds that I couldn’t heal easily with Force Heal, I gave the rubble one last look and offered a silent prayer to the Force that it was done messing with me. At least for today.

    … …



    … …

    It took us just over five hours to not only find a passageway that led upward but eventually reach a point where we could be collected by Fay in a speeder. I knew we were no longer under the Senate district – somehow having moved over the equivalent of three surface districts during our travels. That meant that while I could sense her coming closer with another Jedi – likely Knight Eislard – this unexpectedly long adventure wasn’t quite over.

    Thank the Force.

    After the taozin, the Force had taken pity on us or at least decided we’d been tested enough for today, as we didn’t run into any other combat situations. While I and Tedra were glad for that, as time wore on with nothing to do but walk, Bo had grown agitated.

    “Ahh…” I sighed contently as I was able to breathe in the air without needing the Force to filter out Force-knew what crud was in it. I knew it wasn’t that clean, but it was still nice to be able to inhale relatively clean air.

    I turned my head at the hiss of Bo’s helmet and as she lifted it over her head, I saw her hair was matted to her skull. The armour offered temperature control to ensure the warrior didn’t become uncomfortable, but wearing it constantly for nearly a full day couldn’t stop sweat from building up. “How long until Master Fay gets here?” Her face wrinkled as she ran on hand through her hair.

    I closed my eyes to look at the minimap, thus not making it obvious I was doing so. Fay was outside its range, but I knew she was closing fast. “Not long. Maybe no more than a few minutes.” I replied as I opened my eyes to see Bo looking at me. “What?”

    “Nothing.” Bo turned and looked over at Tedra who was sitting quietly off to the side, digging into a ration pack that I’d purchased once we’d reached the edges of civilization. I’d had to use Observe to ensure they were safe to eat, but once that was sure, I’d happily purchased a half-dozen for us. Bo’s were stored in her belt while Tedra was now eating my second pack. “How’s she doing?”

    Looking at Tedra, I began to answer even as Bo stepped toward me. “About as well a..ugf!”

    My words were cut off by Bo grabbing my head, then before I could ask what she was doing, she’d rammed her lips against mine. Even as I processed that she was kissing me, I tasted her sweat as her tongue slammed against my teeth, seeking a way inward. One of her armoured arms slid around my arm, pulling me against her even as my arms started to respond.

    I leaned forward and let my tongue slip from my mouth, yet as our tongues touched, she pulled back, leaving me flailing around. As I stood there, mouth wide and tongue hanging out, she smirked and slipped her helmet on.

    “W-what?” I mumbled out even as I took a step toward her, my body acting faster than my mind could process. She gave me a gentle shove. I stumbled back, once more caught off-guard.

    By the time I’d stopped myself, Bo was airborne and rising into the shaft that led to the surface. I blinked as she flew upward, my mind processing what she’d just done, then realised I didn’t know why and thus I used Observe.
    Rigel’s Grace
    Model: B-5 Light Freighter
    Condition: 76% (numerous minor issues)
    Value: 14,000 credits
    ...

    “Son of a Bitch!” Bo had moved behind a lowering freighter and Observe had worked on that, and not the now-hidden female Mandalorian. I kept looking upward, hoping she’d come back into sight, but either she was actively trying to keep hidden, or the Force was helping her do so.

    “What was that about?” I turned back to face Tedra, her face mirroring the confusion and anger emanating from her within the Force.

    “I… I don’t know.” Even as I answered, my mind started replaying the kiss. That had certainly been more than a friendly ‘thank Force that’s over’ sort of kiss but hadn’t quite been an ‘I want you’ kiss.

    Did… did that mean Bo had sorted out her feelings for me and decided to pursue something, or was this just a way for her to pay me back for my kissing her back in the Bando Gora base?

    I blinked as I realised that, then I’d not know the truth until I either drew the answer from her verbally over the comms – unlikely – or was able to use Observe on her. Meaning I’d spend the next few months hopelessly wondering what, if anything, the kiss had meant.

    “Fuck!” I snarled under my breath.

    Like I didn’t have enough issues to deal with.

    … …



    … …

    “And why, after being told implicitly to stay, when you sensed where Initiate Zill was, did you decide to disobey the orders of your master and this council and head off alone to locate her?”

    Windu was leaning forward in his council seat, looking intently at me while eight other members of the council – some also present, while others were here via holocall – did the same. Yoda along with three other members was off at the Senate building and had left control of the council on this matter in the hands of Windu. Which had me fearing my punishment would become much, much worse once everything was said and done.

    Bo had, without me knowing, sent a copy of our adventures to Fay, which had me concerned about how aggressive I’d been in dealing with the gang members hunting Tedra. However, either the worst parts had been cut out by Bo or the Council wasn’t concerned about them. Or, Force forbid, they were saving commenting on those moments until the end of the meeting.

    Still, the recording had backed up Tedra and my recounting, especially our run-in with a supposedly extinct beast. While killing the taozin had been a hidden condition of the quest to save Tedra, I’d only discovered that once the mission was over. However, I now had a simple quest – Bestial Revenge – that revolved around killing the taozin either alone or as a member of a strike team.

    Now though, I was at the part of the debriefing where I had to explain my actions.

    “Well, as the council is well aware from the recordings provided, I wasn’t alone.” It likely didn’t help my case that I was being snarky to them, but the way Windu just discounted Bo’s presence on the mission irked me; and not just because her kiss was still bouncing around my head a day later. “And as to why I went. Tedra is only in the Temple because of me.” I saw Piell’s brow rise in annoyance, but I continued before he could make any comment on my arrogance. “Along with Master Dooku, I was the one who found her, and without sounding arrogant, it was the Force that guided me to her, and it was me that convinced her to join the Order,” Piell grumbled, likely at me cutting off his planned comment which amused me. The short Jedi Master had never cared for me, so irritating him was almost as much fun as irritating Windu. “While I don’t have much attachment to her, she was, and is, still my responsibility. Not so much regarding her teaching, but in making sure she’s safe and comfortable at the Temple. As for why I went without telling anyone,” I gave Fay – who was standing at my right shoulder – an apologetic shrug. “While I know Master Fay would’ve believed me when I said I knew roughly where Tedra was, I also knew she’d pass the information onto the team tasked with locating her and then they’d likely dismiss my information,” I smirked as I focused on Windu. “Thus, I decided to do what I knew was right. To find her and bring her back, and then deal with the fallout once she was safe.”

    I could’ve been more apologetic in my explanation, but I simply didn’t feel like it. Fay had told me no members of either the High Council or the Council of First Knowledge – the one responsible for the training and safety of Initiates among other things – had joined the search team. Fay had explained that while she didn’t agree with that, she understood their logic in that the fate of one Initiate was better handled by those who knew her best. This was what infuriated me as I was one of those people, but the councils didn’t ask for my help.

    “Which is why we’re all here.” The remark had come from Saesee Tiin, and while I wanted to retort, I chose instead to keep my attention on Windu. The Council leader’s face gave nothing away as he stared at me, a vein on his head throbbing as he did so. When I compared that to what I knew now about his ability with Shatterpoint – my version of the power was only, after months of effort, at Adept:75 – I knew the throb in his forehead was him using the power intently as if searching for how a decision regarding an event or person would alter the future. Still, even sure he was using the power on me, I failed to sense any shift in the Force between or around us.

    Windu chose that moment to lean forward, interlocking his fingers together before resting his chin on them. His eyes looked into mine as he searched for, I assumed, proof that I was being truthful.

    “First off, I wish to make clear that I, and the council in general, am impressed with how you handled matters in the lower levels.” He began after what felt like an hour of him examining me but had only been five minutes of silent judging. “Far too often, Padawans struggle to reconcile what they might see on the lower levels of the planet with how the Temple and upper levels are. Many fail to understand that even on a world as important and powerful as Coruscant, there can exist hardships that are only meant to occur on the very edges of civilised space.” I held my tongue about commenting on why the Jedi wouldn’t do something about the issue if they knew it existed as I could already work out some of the reasons. Not enough Jedi to make a difference, not the focus of the Jedi, and a violation of some form of oath to the Senate were the three I felt would be the most likely to be given and while I already had counters for those, getting into an argument with the council over such things when awaiting judgement for my actions was a foolish thing to do.

    “Second, while we are less than enthused with how you approached your encounters in the lower levels, specifically those with other sentients, on a personal level, I have no issue with it. Any being that would actively target a member of our Order, particularly an Initiate deserves to be punished for such an action in the harshest possible terms.” I felt my brow rise at that. While I knew he was more martially inclined when it came to threats to the Jedi than most, I hadn’t expected him to all but grant his blessing with how violently I’d taken down the various gang members we’d run into. I’d have to remember that in the future if I faced a similar situation.

    “Third, ignoring the shared disbelief of this council that a taozin not only still exists but lives on the lowest levels of this very planet,” Windu glanced at Rancisis, earning a nod about something from the snake-like Jedi. “We are impressed by your ability to not only recognize what it was but realise that you were in over your head and that your self-appointed mission was to get Initiate Zill to safety to priority displays growth in your decision-making and the understanding that sometimes withdrawing from combat is the correct course of action.” His lips twitched upward. “That said, your usage of explosives over an indirect application of the Force was atypical of a Jedi. Which certainly fits your character.”

    I blinked as I realised Windu was seemingly cracking a joke at my expense. None of the Council laughed, though I caught the hologrammatic form of Plo Koon covering his breathing mask.

    The twitch on Windu’s face morphed into a small smile, which might be the first time he’s ever smiled around me. “We can sense your surprise at our opinions, which does make sense. You are far from a normal Jedi, showing a tendency to rush head-on into situations that, while reminding many of us of our younger days, have the potential to be far more dangerous than most Padawans would encounter. I will also add that, if our roles were reversed, I would likely have taken similar actions to those you did; with the understanding that they would bring with them a punishment for violating the instructions of this council.”

    Windu paused here and looked at each of the other council members who were present. Most didn’t seem to respond to his look, but Rancisis and Tiin both gave fractional nods. Windu then returned his attention to me. “In the end though, you have disobeyed the Council. As such, the time you are to remain within the walls of this temple is increased by two months, along with you having to continue educating the Initiates.” I fought to keep my shoulders from slumping as while two months wasn’t the worst, having to continue to teach Jedi ideals that I didn’t entirely agree with wasn’t something I was looking forward to. “However, once the initial time for you to remain within the temple has lapsed, we feel it would be beneficial, for both you and the Initiates, if you moved to assist Master Bondara in training the future of our Order in the most basic of lightsaber techniques.” I blinked in shock at hearing that which drew a snort of amusement from the man. “None here deny that you have an impressive ability with not only learning the various velocities of the lightsaber forms but that you can easily and quickly help others improve their ability as well. To not harness that while you are within the temple would be a waste of resources.”

    “On a personal level, I hope it might grant you some insight into what path you wish to commit to once your time training with Master Fay and Dooku has ended.” That came from Tiin, much to my shock. “The improvements in the styles of several of your fellow Padawans have been noticed by the temple’s lightsaber instructors and anything that helps prepare them for the dangers in the galaxy shouldn’t be discouraged.”

    “I, um, yes, Master Tiin.” I looked back at Windu. “Thank you, Master Windu.” I lowered my head in acceptance as while there were a few things I was confused about regarding their decision; I didn’t want to deal with them directly; not when doing so would mean spending more time here but also might make them change their minds.

    For the first time that I could remember, Windu laughed. It was a deep sound that seemed to reverberate within the walls of the chamber. “It’s refreshingly rare to hear a Padawan offer thanks to the council when we pass judgement on their actions.” Without taking my eyes off Windu, I saw and sensed the amusement from the other Jedi present and assumed those present by holocall also found it funny.

    Windu turned his attention to the other members of the Council, and I turned to leave. “Padawan.” I paused and looked over at the hologram of Plo Koon. “Once I have returned to the temple, I wish to speak with you about this criminal gang, the Blue Rakghouls I believe you named them. While there are sadly many such gangs on the lower levels, few are bold enough to hunt Jedi; even Initiates. Such a thing requires further investigation.”

    “Of course, Master Koon. I’ll be at your service once you’ve returned.” I smiled. “My Council-given assignments notwithstanding.” Plo laughed at that.

    “Indeed. Now on you go. Your punishments await, and I will contact Master Fay once I have returned so that I and a team of Jedi Investigators can speak with you.”

    I gave him a bow before walking toward the entrance to the High Council chamber. Fay was already waiting for me there. While she appeared her usual serene self, I could sense some unease coming from her. I didn’t ask about it as we walked through the antechamber, only doing so once we were alone in the descending elevator.

    “Master?” My question was open-ended as just letting her know I knew something was off with her was enough.

    “It’s nothing Cameron.” She looked out the elevator, taking in the gleaming lights of the capital of the Republic as night set upon it. “At least nothing unexpected.” A sigh escaped her lips before she shifted her gaze to me. “While I’m relieved that Initiate Zill is back safe inside the temple walls, something I felt assured of once I realised you had moved to find her,” a small smile came to her face, brightening it up immensely, “unlike Master Windu, I’m unsettled by your aggressive approach to finding her.”

    “The Bando Gora?” I offered, instantly regretting it as sights, sounds, and feelings from my time under Vosa’s care shot through my mind. I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths. Since I’d brought the topic up, I knew this was going to happen. I considered using Player’s Mind, but after months of Jedi therapy, I felt I had some control over these incidents. It took me time, but eventually, I was able to push the memories back into my mind and bring my heart rate under control.

    A hand came to rest on my shoulder, and I opened my eyes to see Fay looking at me carefully. “Yes, them.” She replied once I felt I was back in control.

    I sighed and, unable to meet her eyes, looked out over the planet. “My thoughts did once or twice… turn,” I spoke slowly to allow myself to stay in control. “However, those weren’t when engaging hostiles. There, my only thought was getting through the roadblocks and getting to Tedra.” I turned my gaze back to my master. “The… moments came at seemingly random times, though I’ve since realised they were mainly at points where I was moving through unknown dark locations.”

    Fay squeezed my shoulder slightly. “That is to be expected, and we will cover it more in our sessions with Healer Allie.” I nodded once in understanding. A part of me would rather not speak about my problems, but the more mature – and more significant – part knew that only led to problems further down the road. “For now, I wish to ask how you felt when you killed in pursuit of Tedra.”

    I took a breath and let my mind drift back to those moments. “I won’t deny I was angry at them, especially after I learnt they were hunting her. But I didn’t enjoy killing them, Master. Nor do I regret ending their lives.”

    Fay’s eyes stayed locked on mine for a long moment. “No, I didn’t suspect you would. While where they came from has to be considered, they chose to join a group that willingly hunted Jedi. That is something I cannot and will not accept. Their fates were determined by the Force the moment they made that choice. That said, it isn’t them I am concerned about but you.” She moved closer, stepping inside my personal space. “The role of a Jedi isn’t to act as judge, jury, and executioner. We follow the will of the Force; letting it guide us where we need to be. It won’t tell us how to handle a given situation, that is on us, but how we do so, has an effect. Both on us and upon the Force as it experiences mortal life through us.”

    “What,” I paused and licked my lips, finding them strangely dry. “What if the will of the Force, or how we interpret it, disagrees with the rules of something like the Republic?”

    Fay’s lips turned upward as if she was amused by my question. “The Force always comes first. The Republic, as influential and long-lived as it has been in its various forms, is only a fleeting thing in comparison to the Force. Normally the rules of the Republic align with the will of the Force, however in those moments where they don’t, trust in yourself and the Force over words decided upon my mortal beings.”

    “Yes, Master.”

    As the elevator pinged, letting us know we’d reached our level, Fay smiled at me. “Now come along. Tedra was released by the healers and if we hurry, we should be able to check in on her before her next lesson begins.”

    “Yes, Master.”

    … …



    … …

    I waited for the holocall to connect, then after a gentle ping, watched as the holographic shape of Dooku formed. “Master.” I didn’t bow, though I did lower my head in a gesture of respect.

    “Padawan.” His reply was formal, as I’d expect of him with no hint of concern about me nor familiarity as the call, even if being routed through a reserved Jedi channel, wasn’t secure. “I have been informed of your recent excursion.” There was a moment’s silence where I waited to see if he was going to offer a comment. When none came, I knew he wanted me to explain my actions and what had happened in clear and concise terms. As I did that, I was once more reminded of a post-mission briefing from my old life; right down to reporting to someone with an aristocratic air.

    Since I’d expected him to ask about this, as I spoke I sent a secured – with private encryption – data packet to him. After speaking, I fell silent and waited; watching his face for reactions as he reviewed certain parts of the recording Bo had provided to the Jedi to confirm what we’d encountered.

    “Since Master Fay and the High Council have already offered their judgements on your actions, I will restrict myself from being overly elaborate in mine.” I felt my lips twitch at that. If Dooku did give his opinions, they’d likely be very detailed and contain multiple subtle comments on the failings of the High Council. “While I disagree with your choice to head out looking for Initiate Zill, I understand your logic. Taking Miss Kryze along wouldn’t have been my preferred choice, but I cannot deny her fighting style compliments yours fairly well.” That almost sounded like he approved of her being around me, but that was probably my mind drifting back to her kissing me and wondering where it could lead. “How you dealt with the various… threats you encountered, while lacking in grace, were efficient and effective. Any beings lacking the mental capacity to understand a Force user is more than a match for a hundred common thugs, are better off fed into the recycling systems.” I choked down my laughter. Dooku wasn’t a directly funny person, but moments like that always made me struggle to not laugh; something he never liked me doing. “Encountering a taozin and escaping as you did, while not with the common Jedi approach was successful. Overall, there is little I would complain about in your actions, though I will send a full report on ways to improve your approaches to each situation in a few days.”

    “Yes, Master.” I knew he’d do that and while I’d already reviewed events in my head several times, it was always wise to get an outside perspective on matters. I was surprised he hadn’t offered a comment on me moving to help Tedra, but that might’ve been because he felt I saw her as an asset that I wasn’t willing to lose just yet.

    “I will also be sending some recommendations to Masters Sifo-Dyas and Bondara regarding your training while I’m not present.” To many, it might’ve been a surprise he wasn’t sending them to Fay, but the growing rift between them on how to handle certain matters was obvious to me. “You handled yourself well and kept command of your companions decently. However, I feel training to use the Force under stressful situations would help you learn to better integrate more external applications of the Force into your combat style.”

    “Yes, Master.” When I’d looked back on the various combat situations, it was clear that I relied heavily on my lightsaber and getting in close to fight. Since using the Force to boost myself was something that felt easier to do, and it fit my preferred way to fight, that made sense. Though I’d already spotted moments where using some Telekinesis or another Force power would’ve made a battle shorter. Then there was the taozin.

    Against that, a Barrier would’ve been useless while my lightsaber would’ve struggled to do much damage. I’d used some debris around me as improvised weaponry before turning to grenades. While that’d worked out, when I’d examined the fight last night, I’d seen moments where using a Force power would’ve produced the desired results with less effort or risk in exposing my Inventory: something I still didn’t know if Bo had clicked to.

    “How is… your project going?” I’d rather not ask about that bitch, but not doing so would suggest to him – and Fay as he would relay the information – that I was struggling to move on; or at least at a rate they’d deem sufficient for my healing. Once more, when bringing up Vosa or the Bando Gora, I had to close my eyes and take several deep breaths to recenter myself. And to not focus on the fact the next time I saw her, I planned to kick her arse from here to Tatooine and back before smacking her with a lightsaber to the face.

    “It is going about as well as I’d expected. The patient,” I was glad he was avoiding her name, “is, unsurprisingly, not overly interested in doing much more than detailing how she wishes to hurt me. While the High Council and you would likely consider this proof she is beyond redemption, I feel she can still be of use for… future events.”

    I nodded in reply as giving words to my thoughts or revenge wouldn’t do me any good. Plus, while I didn’t want to admit it, there was wisdom in Dooku’s words. That bitch would have contacts in the galactic underworld and while I had little interest in interacting with that element, to ignore it completely with the chaos to come was downright stupid.

    “If there is nothing else you wish to discuss, I will end the call and speak to you again in a month.” Dooku’s words drew my thoughts – thankfully – away from that bitch.

    We’d spoken each month since I’d arrived back in the Temple and every call had been short. Dooku wasn’t one for idle chit-chat and I had only a passing interest in what he was currently doing.

    “Yes, Master.” The hologram vanished as the call ended after a simple nod as Dooku felt no need to waste time on common pleasantries.

    With that, I stood and after taking a moment to put a cap on my feelings regarding Vosa and everything I’d endured – not because it was how I was dealing with the memories but because it allowed me to deal with other things without my emotions being constantly out of whack – I looked up at the chronometer. I had about twenty minutes until I was due in the classroom for my next lecture on the Jedi Code.

    While I was even less enthused about teaching this class than I’d been months ago, given I only had a few more classes left before shifting to teaching lightsaber basics, I was willing to endure it. Yet, even though those classes were guaranteed to be more enjoyable – both for me and my students – I knew I’d be watched carefully by Master Bondara and others. It was an open secret in the Temple that I’d been captured by a Dark Side Cult, so many were on edge around me. Plus, from Windu’s words, I felt the Council hoped I’d be interested in becoming a Jedi Instructor once I was Knighted. Not only would it keep me – they likely hoped – out of trouble but would have me be under their direct supervision.

    Which is why it’d never happen. Oh, I’d enjoy teaching others how to fight – with Anakin being the first person I planned to teach even if I was still uncertain about taking him as my Padawan – but staying in the Temple with what I knew was coming was akin to giving up and awaiting my death.

    If I was going to fail – which I understood was possible with how powerful Sidious would become – then I was going down fighting while causing him as much chaos as possible.

    … …



    … …

    “Stop!”

    At my command, the two Initiates that were sparring with training lightsabers – Tedra and a Twi’lek boy named Dadr Iveq – stopped and depowered their blades. However, since this wasn’t the first time they’d sparred under my watch, they stayed in the circle but backed off a few steps.

    I stepped into the sparring circle, moving toward Dadr first. I came up behind him and then slid my fingers over his on the hilt. “You’re gripping it too tightly.” My fingers gently pulled at his as I spoke. “A lightsaber is not a mining hammer, but a part of you. Like when you move, the joint – where you hold the hilt – should stay loose and flexible; able to respond easily to your mind’s commands.” I moved his arms around, letting him – I hoped – feel how the blade was moving in his new, looser grip. “Feel yourself within the blade, make it a part of you, and the movements will come more naturally without having to fight against yourself.”

    Satisfied he at least had an inkling of what I was saying, I released my grip on his blade and stepped back before moving over to Tedra. “As for you, you shouldn’t be trying to simply smack his lightsaber away. While that works, against anyone with greater strength or skill it simply leaves you open to some rather basic counters as you over-commit.” Tedra nodded along with my words, drawing a sigh from me. “Tedra, you hear what I’m saying but you’re not thinking about them. Listen to what I’m implying and learn. While being stronger than an opponent has its uses, it isn’t the be-all and end-all of lightsaber combat. The ability to control your blade, adapt on the fly, and then apply power is more useful than going for strong attacks every time, and it helps you last longer in a fight. Your lightsaber is a precision tool, not a blunt object.”

    “While not how I would’ve phrased it, Padawan Shan is correct.” I turned to see Anoon Bondara approach. Master Bondara was serving as Battlemaster temporarily while Master Drallig and Serra were off-planet, which made sense as until he took a Padawan himself about a year before I arrived, Master Bondara had been the Jedi Battlemaster. “You’re both advanced for your level of teaching, however, there are still numerous basic flaws that you need to overcome. As Padawan Shan has just pointed out.” As he finished, the adult Twi’lek smiled at me, finding some amusement in my assessment.

    “Yes, Master Bondara.” Tedra and Dadr replied as one, with both bowing slightly as they spoke. That made Bondara’s smile grow.

    “Good, now return to your starting positions and try again.” As the pair turned away, Bondara indicated for us to leave the sparring circle with a simple hand gesture. “When I was first informed of your assignment here, I must admit I was confused.” He began as we left the circle. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, you’re easily the most skilled of your generation, surpassing a good number of Knights as well, but allowing a Padawan with serious holes in their style to instruct Initiates is a highly unusual decision.” He paused and looked at the two Initiates. “Begin.” That had the pair moving toward each other again. “And then there were the rather poor reports of your performance in teaching basic Jedi tenants. However, after observing you teach in the circles for the last few weeks, and seeing how at ease you are – both in this place and with the Initiates – it’s clear the Council was wise to assign you here.”

    I shrugged in response as Tedra, finally listening to me, guided Dadr’s mechanical attack away with something less than full strength. “I find peace when using my lightsaber; be that sparring or working my way through velocities.” Dadr reacted quickly to Tedra’s defensive stroke and came in again, this time his blade not seeming as stuck to his hands as before. “It seems to rub off when I give pointers to others.”

    Bondara laughed softly. “I am not surprised you find peace with your blade. Most of the more martially inclined Jedi do, though few seem to have such a mechanical perfection to their actions.” While that wasn’t an insult, I knew it was a comment on the issue with my style that I’d realised a little over a year ago and had been working to overcome ever since. “Still, it is reassuring to find one so young who understands the tranquillity that comes when moving with your blade and allowing the Force to flow with you. Doubly so that such a student is willing to radiate that feeling when instructing others.”

    I lowered my head in thanks for the praise. While I’d only been working under his command for a few weeks, I’d found him to be a firm but fair person. Both as an instructor and senior figure. Though with Initiates he generally preferred a gentle word over a pointed comment to get his meaning across. “It’s just a shame that you can’t seem to avoid getting into trouble that needs a lightsaber to solve.” I chuckled at that, with so many Jedi being standoffish, if not downright withdrawn around me, it was refreshing to be treated as just another member of the Order.

    “As I’ve said many times before, to both my masters and others, I don’t go looking for trouble.”

    Bondara laughed once more. “No, like any true servant of the Force, you end up just when and where it needs you to be. Which does, for many of us, mean finding ourselves in volatile situations.” That made me laugh.

    “That’s one way to describe it, Master Bondara.” I looked back at the circle to see Dadr shift his stance. That made Tedra’s attack miss, leaving her open to a quick counter. While it didn’t land, it did grant Dadr the initiative. “Though I do hope that my next voyage outside the Temple will be slightly less… troublesome. Preferably without me having to run into creatures that are all but immune to the Force.”

    Bondara laughed once again and clapped me solidly on the shoulder. “You say that now, but it’s in such moments when we’re under the greatest stress, that our true selves reveal themselves. And they help us understand more of the Force’s designs on an instinctual level.” he turned me gently, so we were looking at each other and not the ongoing training spar. “Over the last few years, you’ve faced far more than most Padawans and Knights would ever expect to.” The serious expression he wore slipped as a grin returned to his face. “Even with the Force to guide you, for many, it’s a miracle you’ve come through everything as relatively unscarred as you are.” I did consider commenting that most of my scars were now internal, but I understood he meant things could’ve been far, far worse. “Yet, even with everything you’re dealing with, when a friend was in danger, you didn’t hesitate to help them. Even disobeying the High Council in the process.” He leaned closer as his voice dropped lower. “Something any true Jedi would do; including many who now sit on said council.”

    “I… Thank you, master.” Hearing such words from someone as high up and respected in the Order was both unexpected and reassuring. Far too often all I got from senior members of the Order were subtle glances or faint simmering of dislike and distrust regarding me and my choices. To have someone as well-connected and respected within the Order offer words of encouragement and praise was a breath of fresh air. Plus, it showed that while, in my opinion, and that of both my masters to varying degrees, the High Council and Order had strayed from the true ideals of the Jedi, there were still good and noble people within it. Ones that didn’t act as puppets of the Senate or High Council.

    … …



    … …

    “Are you sure you don’t wish me to accompany you to the Senator’s office?”

    I looked up at Fay and shook my head as we walked through the Senate Rotunda. Having Fay in the room would just make Palpatine less willing to attempt to ‘play nice’ with me. “No, Master. While I’d rather be anywhere but here,” that got a small twitch from her lips, “I doubt Senator Palpatine wishes to speak about anything planet-shattering with me. More than likely, as his message to you hinted at, he’s just heard some rumours about me and wishes to make sure I’m alright.” Well, as all right as I can be when I'm about to dance around a meeting with a Sith Lord without letting on how much I’m still dealing with while trying to determine how much of his spiel is intended to turn me against the Jedi Order.

    While I’d have preferred to simply ignore his request, doing so now, when I’d never done so before – though he’d not tried to speak to me since before I’d headed to Mandalore – risked making him think I was pulling away from him. Right now, I felt it was better to keep the Sith Lord at arm’s length than outright ignoring him.

    “Plus, I know you dislike being here even more than I do.”

    That had the twitch on Fay’s lips turn into a smile. “That is true, though Master Dooku and I had thought you felt the same. Particularly regarding how adamantly you insisted that we not even consider bringing the Senator into our little coalition.”

    “I still believe that Master. What we’re doing is not the concern of politicians, not when there might be an undue influence on people in this building from another group.” I refused to say ‘Sith’ out loud as with everyone believing them to be extinct – if they even think about them – I felt safer just not bringing them up in such a public place. “That said, ignoring a Senator that I have a friendship with might raise eyebrows within these walls.” And raise questions, though not the ones Fay likely believed would be asked.

    “Very well,” Fay looked away from me for a moment. “While you are speaking with your friend,” the subtle stress she places on the last word makes it clear she doesn’t see Palpatine as anything of the sort, “I will seek out Master Yaddle. She is currently in the building and has asked me for help regarding a matter on the very edge of the Outer Rim.” She turned back to me. “Once you’ve finished your meeting, contact me and I’ll likely meet you here unless my conversation with Master Yaddle takes far longer than I expect.”

    “Yes, master.” I lowered my head slightly as Fay took a step away. She only got a few steps before she stopped and turned back.

    “While you are walking to the Senator’s office, perhaps you’ll give more thought to Representative Shokvo’s offer. While I am reluctant for you to accept it, I can see the benefits of agreeing to the contract. However, in the end, since the work is yours, the choice is also.” I smiled at her and then watched as she walked toward the side of the Rotunda.

    As I walk forward, my sight drifts to the various large statues that line the entrance to the Senate building. They were all for former chancellors of the Republic – mainly from before the New Sith Wars – and included many Jedi Masters as a member of the Order almost entirely held the position during those wars.

    Ignoring the help desk as I know my way to Palpatine’s office and ducking to one side to avoid what looks like a primary school excursion, I move toward the stairs. Taking them would not only mean that I’d have more time to prepare for meeting the Sith Lord, but I can do as Fay suggested and think over the offer brought to me this morning.

    Bulb Shokvo was a Neimoidian who was my manager with the publishing company handling the distribution of the Lord of the Rings trilogy throughout the Republic and beyond. Once he’d gotten over the fact the writer of the trilogy was a child, which had drawn laughter from both Fay and me, the meeting had gone remarkably well. Apart from discovering that my account now totalled a little north of six hundred and fifty million credits from the sales of holonovels – and that was with all the credits Fay and Dooku had removed to help the Lokella get on their feet and purchase vessels and other equipment for their defence – the company had been approached with several offers. Most weren’t worth much time to consider and had already been rejected by my publishers – things like appearing on various planets in the Republic – but one particular group of offers did need discussing.

    The publishers had been approached by various production companies about turning my ‘work’ into holo-movies. That had caught me a little off-guard as while I’d considered it might happen, I hadn’t expected to be offered so soon; nor that some of the companies – including Typhoondream Productions and the Corellian Creative Company, who were two of the biggest holo-movie/drama creators in the Republic – were actively competing for the rights. Even if I took the offer that required the lowest level of input from me, I should, according to Shokvo’s projections, net northward of a billion credits. The ones from the major studios – which would require my input to varying degrees at certain times, allow me the chance to be on-set during production and attend the premieres (either publicised as the author or not) – would take longer to reach the screen, but had the potential to earn me four to five times as much, at the outside. Though they’d take longer to make and thus longer for me to start earning royalties.

    Even before the meeting had finished this morning, I knew I was going to take one of the offers, but I’d not given it much thought until Fay brought it back up in the Rotunda as my mind had been laser-focused on Palpatine. Basically, the offers for the holo-movie series came down to how quickly I wanted the money, how involved I could be and the like. I knew I wouldn’t be spending years on Coruscant, so it might well be hard to contact me for consultations, but that shouldn’t be an issue once the producers, directors and other staff learnt I was a Jedi; though I doubted I’d reveal my age to them until much further along in the production process.

    As I finished the long climb up the stairs to the floor containing Palpatine’s office, I sent a message to Shokvo – who now had a direct method of contacting me, much to Fay’s chagrin – to begin negotiating with the major companies and let them know I was a Jedi. The money would take longer to get, but with the insanity to come I knew I’d need every credit I could get my hands on; legally acquired or not. A reply came from Shokvo just as I came into view of the waiting area outside the Senator’s office confirming that he’d get onto the companies and not to expect any further news until most of the details had been finalised; at least not unless they wanted to change the stories significantly.

    It seemed there was some sort of meet and greet going on as several people were standing around talking, though the only one I recognized was Janus Greejatus. As the man spoke with a human female with some of the worst fashion sense I’d ever seen, I moved closer. His eyes narrowed almost imperceivably when he saw me approaching, only to relax and offer a seemingly genuine smile. A quick use of Observe confirmed the smile was genuine – and that he’s only gone up a single level while becoming even less of a threat since I’d last met him – as he was relieved to see it was me rather than another Jedi. Quickly he extracted himself from talking to the heinously dressed woman and moved toward me.

    His hand extended as he spoke. “Padawan Shan, a pleasure to see you again.” As I shook his hand I wondered why his voice was far higher than needed. The noise around us didn’t require him to talk only a little below a shout to me. “The Senator is excited to speak to the breaker of the Bando Gora once again.”

    I returned his smile even as I realised his game and slammed on Player’s Mind to avoid any issues with bringing up the Bando Gora. “Thank you, though I’m not sure I deserve such a title. The reason the Bando Gora were defeated was my masters and some allies helping me escape from the clutches of their deranged leader.” I matched his volume even as those around us started to listen in. No way did I want to help Palpatine use my accomplishments to boost his reputation; or at least not so much that it looked like I was trying to actively sabotage him.

    “Yes, and we are all glad you have recovered from your ordeal.” Janus broke the handshake and placed his hand on my shoulder. “However, from the reports given to the Senate, it was made clear that you were the one who defeated their leader in combat; and a fallen Jedi no less.” I heard someone gasp quietly behind me. “An impressive feat for any, to say nothing of one wounded from the Bando Gora’s attention. The Senator is most relieved that his nephew is making a full recovery.”

    “That was for one mission only,” I blurt out quickly as having my name linked to Palpatine’s, while potentially useful now, will be a fucking chain around my neck with what’s to come. Doubly so if the rumour gets out that I’m somehow related to him. “And as for my imprisonment, their leader was using me as bait for her former master.” If this man decided to go further, then I’d have proof he knew more than he should.

    “Ah. Well, it’s still impressive you were able to defeat their leader even after being in captivity for months.” He glanced around, likely seeing if everyone else was paying attention. Which I knew they were. “Still, I think I’ve taken up too much of your time and the Senator did say to bring in immediately unless he was meeting with the Supreme Chancellor.” I smile at his humour, then fall into step just behind him – disabling Player’s Mind as having it active around Palpatine might risk him thinking I was on to him as if the Jedi High Council could sense it, the Sith Lord certainly could – as he leads me through the waiting area and away from the inevitable whispers that are about to start regarding my connection to Palpatine. As we moved, I made note of anyone that looked important, which was, unsurprisingly, most of them, and used Observe judiciously. None of the names stood out but having them in my head will help if they ever came forward as one of Palpatine’s political inner circle.

    As we walked down the corridor to Palpatine’s office, I saw various statues, paintings, and other expensive-looking ornaments lining the walls. Some appeared to be from Naboo, but all had Humans front and centre in their imagery. I used Observe on some of them – not wanting to completely deplete my PP before entering a room with a Sith Lord – but nothing came back as Dark-Side aligned. As Janus paused, I looked away from the displays and noted he was moving toward a side door and not the main office.

    “Apologies for the interruption Senator,” he began as I followed him through an automatically opening door into what appeared to be a lounge area that connected to both the corridor and the office. “You asked me to bring Padawan Shan to you directly once he arrived.” I turned my attention to Palpatine as he sat on a sofa on one side of a large table. The sofa nearest me had three humans sitting on it, and all had their backs to me.

    Palpatine’s eyes brightened as he saw me, and he broke off his conversation with whoever was in the room and stood. “Yes, yes. Thank you, Janus.” Janus bowed and walked backwards, cutting me off from the door as the Sith Lord that he worked for approached. Palpatine was smiling though there was concern in his eyes as he reached me. “Cameron, my boy. It’s a pleasure to see you again.” One hand gripped mine in a handshake while the other clasped my elbow, preventing me from escaping. “I’ve been worried sick since I heard about your ordeal.” There’d been a moment where I thought he might hug me, but thankfully he stopped by just gripping my elbow as getting a hug from a Sith Lord would’ve been very close to the craziest thing that’s happened to me since I’d been reborn in this galaxy.

    Even as my mind started to analyse his movements, tone and word choices – a necessary evil of meeting one of the galaxy’s hidden Big Bads – I used Observe on him.
    Sheev Palpatine [Darth Sidious]
    Race: Human
    Level: 48
    Health: 100%
    Age: 47
    Force Potential: Very High
    Threat Potential: Extreme
    Reputation: Neutral [LOCKED]
    Affiliation Loyalty: Himself (100%) Order of the Sith Lords (63%)
    Emotional State: Contemplative/Intrigued/Calculating
    While giving off an external image of concern regarding your recent incidents, internally he is curious to see how it has affected your Force presence and state of mind.
    He hopes to use recent events to further gain your trust while moving you into his plans as a possible future apprentice.
    Though he knows he must be careful about how he does this, as his master has also developed an interest in you.
    ...
    While the details about his thinking weren’t unexpected, the fact he’s gone up a level in three years was. Assuming the requirements for him to increase levels were similar to mine, then he’d done enough to earn up to about half as much XP as I had over the last three years. Which was kriffing scary. As was learning that both he and Plagueis had designs on making me into a Sith. I’d suspected that would be the case, but confirmation, while useful, was terrifying.

    “Senator,” I replied as we shook hands, putting aside my concerns about his growth in the last three years even as his smile slipped, letting the faux concern take over his face.

    “I believe we’ve been over this, Cameron.” The words didn’t carry any venom even as we ended the shake at the same time.

    I lowered my head in acquiescence. “Of course, uncle.” That brought the smile back and seemed to banish some of his apparent concern. Though in my mind I was once more forced to confront the insanity that, for the time being at least, I had to refer to a Sith Lord as my uncle.

    A gentle cough from the other occupants of the room – specifically the oldest-looking of the three going by the greying hair – seemed to break Palpatine out of his thoughts. “Ah, where are my manners...” He turned, his hand on my elbow allowing him to guide me gently, in a non-threatening manner, to his side as the three seated figures rose. There was something familiar about all of them, though it was strongest with the middle-aged of the trio (one older man and two younger). “Cameron, allow me to introduce you to another member of the Senate, Ramin Tarkin of the Seswenna sector and his cousins; Wilhuff and Gideon.” It took a lot of effort to not tense up too much at meeting the man responsible for the Empire’s plans of terror. I knew Palpatine would’ve felt me tense up a touch, but I had to hope that he’d think it was just at meeting another Senator as I’d reacted when he’d given the family name. “Ramin, this is the remarkable young man I’ve mentioned to you before; Jedi Padawan Cameron Shan.”

    As Ramin moved around the sofa, his cousins just behind him, I took a moment to use Observe on them. That way Palpatine would, just like Plagueis, not realise I’d used the power to learn the truth about them, and believe it was an odd application of the Force that I used on most people. Plus, it would remove Sidious’ interest in Serra because, as things were now, she stood even less chance of escaping the Sith if they wanted her than I did, but at least I knew what I was facing.
    Ramin Tarkin
    Race: Human
    Level: 28
    Health: 98% (Minor infection: healing)
    Age: 46
    Force Potential: Minimal
    Threat Potential: Low
    Reputation: Neutral
    Affiliation Loyalty: Tarkin Family (95%), Militarist Faction (88%), Core Faction (71%)
    Emotional State: Curious/Intrigued/Amused
    Having heard of your exploits from Sheev Palpatine and read several reports that were sent to the Senate by the Jedi Order, Ramin is interested in getting to know you better.
    While generally not a fan of the Jedi, he is impressed with what he’d read about you and how you approach matters.
    He is also amused to see Sheev Palpatine show a genuine liking for someone younger than Ramin’s cousins or children.
    ...
    Wilhuff Tarkin
    Race: Human
    Level: 22
    Health: 100%
    Age: 27
    Force Potential: Minimal
    Threat Potential: Low
    Reputation: Neutral
    Affiliation Loyalty: Tarkin Family (87%), Republic Outland Regions Security Force (54%)
    Emotional State: Curious
    Wilhuff, while generally dismissive of the Jedi due to how they do little to ensure the security of the Republic, is curious about you.
    His cousin has spoken highly of Sheev Palpatine and Wilhuff can see potential in an alliance between his family and Palpatine. Since the Senator from Naboo holds you in high regard, that makes you a person of interest in Wilhuff’s mind.
    ...
    Gideon Tarkin
    Race: Human
    Level: 18
    Health: 100%
    Age: 20
    Force Potential: Low
    Threat Potential: Minimal
    Reputation: Disliked
    Affiliation Loyalty: Tarkin Family (92%), Republic Outland Regions Security Force (67%)
    Emotional State: Bored/Dismissive
    Unlike his brother and cousin, Gideon has little interest in political games. He understands their purpose but prefers to lead soldiers into battle.
    As you’re a member of the Jedi Order – a group he holds in poor regard for how little they do to help enforce security across the Outer Rim – he has little interest in dealing with you but will do so simply to keep up appearances.
    ...
    While I wasn’t sure how useful most of that was going to be for the future, it did give me a starting point with the three members of the Tarkin family. Ramin seemed to be a candidate who would support Sheev when the Sith Lord moved to become Chancellor while the only thing I wanted from Wilhuff was to kill him. I didn’t have a quest for that currently – mainly as I was avoiding adding ‘hit quests’ to the current pile – but he was in a list of people that I wanted to remove before the Clone Wars got into full swing. Gideon, on the other hand, seemed the most likely one of the family for me to manipulate: if I wanted to go down that route.

    Ramin’s face had lit up during the introductions – something that made sense when the details revealed by Observe were added in – and moved quickly, though not too quickly, around the sofa. His face, now that I had a name to fit it, had similar features to Wilhuff, though they lacked the coldness that came to typify the more famous member of his family. “Ah, a pleasure indeed.” He said as his hand sought mine out. “Sheev here has spoken of you often to myself and others; singing your praises openly to such a degree that we often wondered just who this young Jedi he was so proud of was. After reading the reports regarding the fall of the Bando Gora organisation,” I felt my heart quicken once more at having them mentioned, “I grew even more curious about you.”

    I smiled as we shook hands. “As I told Sen… my uncle’s assistant outside, I wasn’t of great help in taking down the Bando Gora given I was their captive for several months.” There was nothing from Palpatine in the Force when I said that – as I’d expected – but I knew he would be listening to every mention I gave of my time there with great interest. Along with seeing and sensing how I reacted to having to discuss the subject. “It was a result of my masters and allies rescuing me that resulted in the Bando Gora being dismantled.” Which I wasn’t entirely sure was true. There would be operations that would’ve survived the destruction of the main base and the capture of their leader.

    Ramin’s brow rose as I once more corrected the facts surrounding events. He glanced at Palpatine, who gave a subtle nod, then turned back to me grinning. “Sheev said you wouldn’t claim the credit.” He laughed and patted my arm. “Still, it was because of you that Komari Vosa was captured,” I fought to keep the whispers of her voice from my mind. “Your uncle,” he laughed at that, “and I sit on an oversight committee that was informed of her capture.” While I felt I’d managed to keep my concern about her being brought up under control, I’d failed when learning that Palpatine knew of her capture without having to spy on the Order.

    “I wasn’t aware such things were revealed to the Senate.” I’d considered not asking about that, but not doing so might seem odd to Palpatine. Force, did I hate politics even if I knew it was needed.

    “Normally it wouldn’t be,” I turned to look at Palpatine as he explained, “however, Miss Vosa was the leader of a growing threat to Republic interests in the Mid and Outer Rim. As such, the Jedi High Council deemed it worthy to inform us of it.”

    “Shame they don’t do that about other things.” Ramin’s words made it clear that he wasn’t happy about how secretive the Jedi were, which would be an easy avenue for Palpatine to exploit. Meaning, if he wasn’t already on it for being related to Wilhuff Tarkin, the man had just joined a growing list of people to remove if possible before the Clone Wars began.

    “Cameron, did you know that the Tarkin family practices a rite of passage similar to the Mandalorian trial you completed around two years ago?” I blinked at Palpatine, which made him smile. “They, and other families on Eriadu, have their children survive in the wild for several days to prove they are ready to become adults.”

    I felt my brow rise as I looked at Ramin, who nodded. “That’s true, though I’ve never heard of a Jedi joining the Mandalorian clans.”

    “I don’t know how many have done so in history, but a friend of mine completed her verd’goten – the name of the trial – the year before I did.” I paused and glanced at Palpatine. “Though I wasn’t aware my status as a member of the Mandalorians was public knowledge.”

    Palpatine’s laugh was a soft one, reminding me of a grandfather humouring his grandson. “You may not realise it, but your name is already being whispered in the halls of this building and elsewhere. The descendent of Revan reborn coming to prominence as the gears of this mighty Republic begin to creak under the weight of avarice and threats,” I slapped myself mentally to not comment that he and other Sith were responsible for a lot of that, “is an event many have started speaking about. Then hearing you spent time with the very people your ancestor famously fought to defend the Republic from,” he paused and laughed. “Is it so strange that your name is quickly earning its place alongside that of Masters Windu and Yoda with people in important positions?”

    “Or that some wish to attach their names to yours?” That came from Ramin as he gave Palpatine a sideways glance. It was clear that Ramin was aware of what Palpatine was doing in using my name, and while I was far from thrilled about it, if the roles were reversed, I'd have likely done the same.

    “If I may be so bold,” my head snapped round as Wilhuff, his voice frighteningly similar to what I remembered from A New Hope though lacking some of the gravitas it’d gain with age, spoke. “What exactly was it that you killed?”

    “I’m surprised that hasn’t been revealed along with me spending time with the Mandalorians.” Palpatine shrugged as I looked at him.

    “I’ve heard rumours from the Mandalorian Representative to the Senate, but they won’t go into details about what exactly you killed.” He shrugged and then started to move toward the sofas. “Apparently, telling outsiders isn’t something they are inclined to do.” He smiled as he picked up his cup. “Though given what I know of your skill and courage, I have no doubt it was a kill worthy of their songs.”

    I stared at him as he sipped his drink – some sort of wine I suspected – and wondered what his ploy here was. He had to know about my kill as Plagueis knew and keeping it hidden from outsiders wasn’t something the Mandalorians would do. At least not to the point of actively avoiding the topic like he was implying. Still, seeing no reason to not indulge his plans to have me grow closer to the Tarkins – it would make removing them later easier if they trusted me enough to let me get close – decided to play along. “I certainly think it was, uncle. My cloak here was made from the beast’s skin.” I rolled my shoulders, drawing everyone’s attention to the dark leather. “I don’t suppose you’ve heard of the Greater Krayt Dragon?”

    In a wonderful bit of acting, Palpatine’s cup slipped from his grasp and fell, shattering on the floor as all four men looked at me. “My word.” He muttered at the same time the youngest Tarkin, Gideon, responded.

    “Karking hell!” I chuckled at the comment as Gideon blinked. “How?”

    I bit off the urge to laugh at the reaction of the four men, even if one was such a good fake that if I didn’t know it was a lie I’d have bought it, and instead allowed a large smile to spread on my face. “With nothing but a beskar knife.” The reactions from all of them grew more incredulous and even I was taken in by Palpatine’s acting.

    “Th-that is a story I must hear.” Ramin managed to get out before he placed a hand on my shoulder and gently pulled me toward the sofas. “Come sit with us, young warrior, and regale us with the tale of your hunt.”

    … …



    … …

    As I stepped onto the Ne’tra Sartr my thoughts were on one thing. Or more importantly, one person. It had been several months since Bo had rather passionately kissed me and since then, whenever I’d tried to bring the topic up when we spoke, she’d either closed the channel without replying or changed the topic as if I’d never spoken. At first that had irritated me, but with time to think on it, I’d begun to suspect she’d been doing it to pay me back for how she’d had to process me kissing her in the Bando Gora base. The instant I saw her, walking through the central area of the ship, I ended any doubt by getting her attention with a whistle and then using Observe.
    Bo-Katan Kryze
    Race: Human
    Level: 22
    Health: 100%
    Age: 16
    Force Potential: Low
    Threat Potential: Medium
    Reputation: Trusted Confident/Desired
    Affiliation Loyalty: Clan Kryze (81%) Duke Adonai (71%) Clan Shan (48%)
    Emotional: Relieved/Interested/Curious
    Bo-Katan is glad to be finally leaving Coruscant. While the planet had brought some excitement, it was too fake and crowded for her liking.
    She’s curious about learning where you’ll be heading next, though that pales in comparison to seeing if your interest in her matches hers in you.
    ...
    While that didn’t settle why she’d avoided the topic, it did make clear she expected something to happen between us. And while I’d promised myself that I’d not get involved with anyone until I was seventeen, I’d come to realise how silly that idea was. Yes, starting anything with Bo without having had the chance to speak with Serra – who still hadn’t returned from whatever mission the Council had sent her and Master Drallig on – and clearing the air there was a risk. But the more I thought about Bo, and considered how comfortable we were with each other, the more I felt I wanted to see where things might head. Having the Interface confirm that she desired me, which was a new feature that either kicked in because of her age, mine or both, was another hint that I needed to stop procrastinating about relationships and begin to enjoy my life.
    FINALLY!

    I ignored the snide message from TPTB, and put aside thoughts of where things might head with Bo as she left the common area and I walked toward my quarters. Instead, I thought about how I wanted to spend the time as we travelled.

    While I’d not had much time to myself over the last half-year in the Temple, I’d managed to get to the minimum requirements for the Just Don’t Get Caught quest, which meant that was no longer hanging over me the way the You Can’t Hurt me quest was. Still, if worst came to worst, I had enough banked Skill Points that if I was still massively short of the requirements by the time the quest was due to expire, I could just drop them in that and complete the quest.

    I’d gotten Shatterpoint to Professional:1, which was as far as I could go without spending a Perk Point I didn’t currently have, but the power had been a massive disappointment. I could look intently at an object with the Force, be it anything from a door to the Ne’tra Sartr itself and spot flaws and weaknesses in them. While that might be useful in some cases, in most I could circumvent having to spend minutes searching for weaknesses by using another more developed power. Or I could take a more brute-force approach to removing an obstacle. And because I’d spent so much time dragging that power up to where I could, I’d not managed to get any other Power – bar Restore Stamina, which had been only a handful of levels short of maxing before my capture – maxed out. Though that was also because I’d all but reached the point where subtle Force Powers had been maxed and using the less subtle ones would, in most cases, result in unwanted attention and discussions with senior members of the Order if I’d been caught.

    Plus, there was the fact I needed to focus heavily on recovering from my ordeal, which I had as I felt I could now discuss the Bando Gora and Vosa without needing to take a moment to centre myself. I knew I’d still have moments of weakness – as was the case with any PTSD case – but Healer Allie felt I was more than ready to once more venture out into the galaxy and let the Force guide my path. Her words, not mine.

    Still, my Teaching skill had shot up while those skills I could train without too much effort (such as Athletics, Swimming, and most of my social and technical skills) had improved. While none had been at a point where I could generate a training quest to earn some easy XP from them when I'd first arrived at the Temple, a few had reached levels where I could take training quests which were possible to complete before my initial sentence was completed.

    After placing the few belongings I’d brought with me from the Temple in my quarters, I returned and moved through the common area toward a small brief room near the cockpit. While we still had about an hour before we’d depart, Fay wanted to talk very briefly about where we’d be heading.

    “Master.” I offered as I entered the room to see her and Bo waiting for me. I slid into a seat of my own, close but not too close to Bo. I might not want to string her along, but until we discussed things properly, nothing prevented me from subtly teasing her about our shared feelings.

    “So where are we heading?” The question came from Bo after she’d given me a hard, sideward look. I suspected she expected me to act awkward around her as I shouldn’t know how she was feeling, but no one ever said the war of the sexes was a fair battle.

    “For a while now, the High Council has been hearing rumours of semi-organic ships floating around the edges of galactic society. They suspect such vessels would have a strong connection to the Force and have tasked several Jedi, along with elements of the Antarian Rangers, that’s a group that works with the Jedi from time to time on the fringes of Republic space,” she offered that at the confused look Bo gave, “with searching for the world these ships might come from.” As she spoke, I sensed amusement and excitement radiating from her. The amusement was aimed at me and Bo while the excitement seemed to do with our mission. “I’ve heard rumours from some old friends out on the very edges of known space of a world that, apart from being seemingly alive, is claimed to be a nexus within the Force. While it’s unlikely that these rumours are true, they are worth investigating.”

    “How long’s it going to take to get there?”

    Fay smiled at me. “According to your droid, about a week to reach the closest known hyperspace route. From there, we’ll likely have to purchase maps for how to reach the planet. If it’s as isolated as my friends say, then it could take another week, perhaps two, to reach the planet.” I whistled softly at that. Most places in the galaxy didn’t take long to get to. Even going to and from the Lokella system only took a week and a bit from here, and that was because the routes near the system were sparsely used. If it would take weeks to travel the last few legs – when we’d probably only be travelling within a sector – it was an indication of just how remote this planet was.

    As I considered this planet, I felt… not a disturbance in the Force, but more of a gentle ripple. It was faint, almost as if coming to me from a great distance. Yet, as I tried to reach out for it, I felt as if I sensed… anticipation. Which was odd.

    I lifted my head, wanting to speak with Fay only to see she and Bo had left the room. It seemed that while I’d been trying to pin down what I’d sensed in the Force the pair had left.

    Deciding to do the same, I walked into the corridor. I turned as I spotted Bo in the common area and moved to speak with her, thinking it would be helpful to get everything out in the open before we left. However, after glancing my way, she slipped into the training room we’d created over a year ago – which was just a converted cargo hold – and locked the door.

    I chuckled gently and shook my head. If that’s how she wanted to play, then so be it. We had a few weeks before we reached wherever it was that we were heading, so I had time to play with.

    Plus, two could play this game.

    … …



    … …
    A/N: For those who know their EU lore, yes, the next arc involves that rogue planet. ;)
    ...

    As always, this story is crossposted on Fanfiction.net and Archive of our Own and you can find me (and the backroom team who help with this) on Discord at:
    For this series: Heart of the Force
    For general chaos/Gamer stories: Shiro's Gaming Omniverse


    If you wish to support my writing, gain access to 1st drafts of chapters (where every level bar the lowest has access to at least the first draft of the next chapter and all got the redraft ~2 weeks early), consider supporting me on Patreon:
    USSExplorer



    Regardless if you join the discord or support my writing, I hope you enjoy the story and suggestions, valid criticisms, and ideas are always welcome.
    And of course;

    May the Force be with you. Always.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2022
  27. theaceoffire

    theaceoffire I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    As much as I love your writing style and the story itself, things have gone bad so terribly for the main character in the past that I also have a bit of trauma!

    I'm twitching at every new turn and twist expecting something to go horrifically wrong or for him to be permanently and horrendously maimed or worse... I'll eventually get over it, but it's a process.
     
  28. USSExplorer

    USSExplorer Doing what's necessary, even if it causes chaos

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    As the saying goes, "To appreciate heaven well, it's good for a person to have some fifteen minutes of hell."
    Though in Cam's case, it does feel as if TPTB have decided 15 minutes should be several years...:sneaky:

    Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. (If you know anything about where he's going next, and are concerned, I suggest prayer :D )
     
  29. Marcrawsky

    Marcrawsky Not too sore, are you?

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    Is this setsua or something similar? That sentient water planet?
     
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  30. Windborne

    Windborne Devourer of Stories

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    No it’s Zonoma Sekot, and Sekot is sapient. I think this is Cam and Fey going as the first Jedi sent there, which has very interesting connotations since the Yuuzan Vong attacked the planet the first time a Jedi was there in the EU canon if I remember correctly. Whether that happens again or not is going to be interesting since this is actually the one threat that would see the potential coming conflict with the Sith be entirely postponed or no longer be viable. Plaguies won’t want to continue the Great Plan if there’s a serious threat to the galaxy from the Vong, Sidious might though. Sheevy is a moron like that.
     
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