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

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

  1. Vers20

    Vers20 Not bad. But not the worst either.

    Aug 16, 2021
    Likes Received:
    Nice timing.
    I'm literally watching Episode 1 rn lol.
    Cyrvus and JoMan1089 like this.
  2. poiu18894012

    poiu18894012 Beep boop, perverted robot.

    Dec 11, 2019
    Likes Received:
    That did not feel like 24k words.

    Anyways, amazing work as always!
    It's nice to see that the bioship lives in this universe :)
    Pity we don't get to see their reactions seeing a planet teleport/hyperspace via the force.
  3. Moran

    Moran Know what you're doing yet?

    Jun 7, 2022
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    The chapter is so good I got little to say. XD
    Although, you forgot to add Enhanced Regeneration in his PERK list. I can confirm it on his recent stat sheet (End of the Altered Destinies arc) and I’ll look forward to the next one.

    Personally, I hope the next Perk Cam pick is Bookworm. The long-term benefits of such a Perk, 50% skill growth just by simply READING about a particular skill and more skill levels means more Skill Points (2000 skill lvl for 1 SP), cannot be overlooked.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2023
  4. Wrandral

    Wrandral I don't have to take this! I'm going for a walk.

    Sep 15, 2021
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    Don't think killing all of the Vong force present on Sekot was ever a doable thing for Cam so i'd say he got the best result since he made the Vong leave the surface and promise to not set foot on it which allow Sekot to warp away.

    Always funny to see people frustrated with the ABSOLUTE PACIFISM of Fay. Cam is feeling like Rin/Saber trying to keep Shirou from doing something stupid and failing at that xD
  5. Vers20

    Vers20 Not bad. But not the worst either.

    Aug 16, 2021
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    I forgot what the perk "heart of the force" is.
    Does anyone remember?
  6. USSExplorer

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

    Mar 4, 2019
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    Whoops. Fixed now, thanks for spotting that.

    The dual Perk/Player Power (which is where HotF [2/2] is) that increased Cam's midi-chlorian count to levels into the Extreme range.

    She does, and her name is The Jade Raven. Or Raven for short.
  7. Moran

    Moran Know what you're doing yet?

    Jun 7, 2022
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    For further details, near end of chapter Cathedral of the Past 2.
    Before, his m-count is over 18,000, higher than Yoda's. After taking the dual Perk/Player Power, now over 25,000, lower than Anakin's.
    At least it’s not in Mando’a. I was half expecting a name representing Cam’s recent ‘adventure’. Like Endeavour, Enterprise or Onus.
    How HK will react to the new vessel, I wonder. Or how the vessel react to HK?
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2023
    Ayashi and Vers20 like this.
  8. Morkail

    Morkail Shado-Master

    Apr 21, 2020
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    Thanks for the chapter. Nice lengthy chapter too that said it’s easy to see how much of a problem the Jedi are going to be, In the long run he can only push so far even with hiding his dark side use before they move to contain him. Also I’ve personally always prescribe to the theory that the force was pushing for a massive military build up in the galaxy in order to counter the Vong and in general the Jedi order does not have the backing of the force it’s not actively pushing for the death of the Jedi but it’s certainly not in there corner anymore. They have Simply become to tied to the republic as enforcers rather then agents of the force.

    I feel it’s odd fea would act like this the vong have zero presence in the force they are quite literally outsiders her looking in to the force should have given her a big fat blank.

    wonder where this story is heading in the long certainly an enjoyable read.
    FTR2017 likes this.
  9. Ayashi

    Ayashi Connoisseur.

    Aug 3, 2018
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    Am i the only one getting more than tired about the Fay's hypocrisy?
    I don't want to start quoting it (because i'd basically have to quote her every time she opens her mouth) but honestly, if this is "peak Jedi-ess", it's wonder there isn't more Fallen Jedi running around...
  10. ClassHole

    ClassHole Not too sore, are you?

    May 12, 2018
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    Could you provide us some visual references for the new ship? I'm having trouble picturing it.
  11. Extras: The Jade Raven

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

    Mar 4, 2019
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    These are the images used to visualise Cam's new Sekotan ship, though they're only guide images.

    And yes, the base design is borrowed from another sci-fi series with "Star" in it's name :cool:
  12. ClassHole

    ClassHole Not too sore, are you?

    May 12, 2018
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    Nice! I always thought that SG really nailed the organic ship look pretty well when designing the Wraith.

    a much smaller Wraith cruiser isn't a bad looking whip at all. I just hope he can bolt some gats onto it lol
  13. LetMeRead

    LetMeRead Getting sticky.

    May 22, 2022
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    I think HK & Raven will get along very well. Why would HK accept anything less than a ship that could possibly aim on its own
  14. shinighoul6

    shinighoul6 I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Apr 13, 2020
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    Is Sekot gonna pull a Gallifrey Stands?
    Cause it feels like Sekot's gonna pull a Gallifrey Stands.
    Arimai and rifern like this.
  15. Ragnarokasgard67

    Ragnarokasgard67 Perpetually annoyed Fry-Cook

    Mar 13, 2020
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    I am interested in seeing what the High Council will say to this.
  16. Arimai

    Arimai Making the rounds.

    Aug 29, 2014
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    Am I correct in guessing that the bioships keep growing with age?
  17. Threadmarks: The Living Planet 5

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

    Mar 4, 2019
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    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.

    Additionally, all things being equal, then when the next chapter drops, I will have, after 19 years in China, returned home to Scotland!

    Current Date: 2 years until the Invasion of Naboo

    The Living Planet 5
    … …
    As the stars broke into the undulating shades of hyperspace, my eyes scanned the controls and displays of the ship. While nothing was indicating an issue, this was her first time jumping to hyperspace, and apart from the low fuel levels, I was concerned about how the ship would handle the strain of doing so. Yet, she was showing no signs of difficulty. Hell, I could sense some faint enjoyment from her as we eclipsed the speed of light.

    “Why did we run?!” Simvyl snarled behind me, his fury easy to hear in his tone. “We should’ve stayed and killed them all!”

    “Apart from that not being the Jedi way, you heard Cameron’s words as well as mine.” Fay’s response made me glad I was focusing on the controls, otherwise my master would likely see me roll my eyes at her words. “The planet, which has some form of sentience that resonates within the Force, wanted us to leave. I trust Cameron on this matter, as should you, Ranger.”

    While I was glad for the faith Fay had in me, especially after the issues that had arisen before the Vong had withdrawn from Zonama Sekot, her way of phrasing things was going to do little to calm the enraged Cathar. Nor Bo who, while she’d not said anything since we’d jumped, was a burning ball of fury behind me. Either she understood that I needed to focus on the controls of our new craft, or she simply felt shouting wouldn’t change the decision I’d made. That said, I knew she’d have words for me since I’d promised her early in the conflict that I’d not leave the planet until all the Vong were dead or they’d withdrawn. Technically, they’d done the latter, but it was a razor-thin line to draw and not one I liked either.

    Ripples in the Force drew my full attention back to the controls, and the faint bond I seemed to share with this amazing ship. She felt as if she was singing within the Force as the stars raced past, distorted by the effects of hyperspace, and the hull reacted to the peculiar energies of a hyperspace vortex. While it would be easy to get lost in those sensations, my focus was mainly on the more mechanical nature of the flight.

    “We need to turn around and fight!” Simvyl snapped back behind me.

    The Ne’tra Sartr, before her destruction, had held a class 1.5 hyperdrive, which was faster than most starships which used class 2 or 3 hyperdrives. This Sekotan vessel though, if I was reading the displays correctly – which was likely but there might be some variance since the ship and half her technology were new to me – was moving with an apparent 0.8 class hyperdrive. That meant, if accurate, this little, beautiful ship was one of the fastest in the galaxy.

    “The Force has chosen our path; we must stay on it.”

    As the argument continued to boil around me, I felt the ship shift. She was pushing herself to go faster, almost as if testing her limits. I reached out through the Force and centred a calming sensation on the walls around me. While I understood her desire and agreed with it, now wasn’t the time to push too hard. Yet as I did so, I felt her despairing to get us further from her birthplace, as if she sensed some oncoming doom and was racing against the dying of the light to escape it. The display tracking our hyperspace velocity shifted, and we increased to a 0.7 rating.

    While that would normally excite me, with my mind open to the ship, and the Force in general, I could sense a shift coming. Something big and dangerous, yet not threatening, was coming. I glanced at Fay, wondering if she felt it too, but her focus was on Simvyl. If the sensation kept growing, I’d have to draw her attention to it.

    As I concentrated on the ship, from the deepest corner of the Force connection, I heard a voice.

    [Goodbye and thank you.]

    Before I could think about what that meant, the ship shuddered. My fingers flew over the controls as power was suddenly cut to the hyperdrive. Instead of the normal, controlled exit from hyperspace that one would expect, we were flung violently into real space.

    Even as I heard someone crash into something behind me, and as my fingers danced over flickering controls, I felt a tremor in the Force. Pain exploded in my skull, and my head fell forward, my hands leaving the consoles. It felt as if someone was spearing my very soul within the Force. My fingers dug into my skull, frantically trying to push against a pain they could never hope to grasp even as terror blossomed from deep within me as I felt the ship slowly drift away from our bond.

    Two hands touched me. The one on my shoulder was soft, offering a calming beacon to grasp onto in the chaos I was experiencing. The other pressed against my back forcefully. While it didn’t offer the same metaphysical support, just knowing it was Bo granted me some strength.

    “Cameron?” I heard Fay say my name, but it was faint. As if she was on the far side of a chamber. Yet even then, I could hear the pain and concern in her voice. Drawing strength from her and Bo, I slowly pushed back the growing panic and pulled back from the bond I shared with the ship.

    With a series of blinks, I opened my eyes, taking in the various warning lights flashing around the cockpit as the power flickered intermittently around us. I swore I saw strange random patterns of lights under sections of the organic hull, yet my focus quickly settled on Fay. While she was trying to offer me support, I could see the tensing of her muscles, meaning she was also experiencing the same chaos in the Force that I was. Though likely to a lesser degree.

    “She’s dying,” I whispered, barely able to put the realisation into words. As the fear built in me at the idea this marvellous, newly formed being was about to die, I considered engaging Player’s Mind. The ability to think clearly and logically in the situation would be a help, yet I decided not to. The faint, flicking thread of power from the ship within the Force called me to in a way that, if I cut off my emotions, I felt I’d miss something important. As Bo’s hand pushed against my back, offering what support she could, I looked around the cockpit, desperate for a thread of hope.

    Simvyl was drifting away from one of the secondary seats, blood staining his fur near the elbow where he’d crashed into a display while Fenrir was clawing at the air, trying to return to the ground, his ears back. Thankfully his tail wasn’t flicking fully, as only the tip was snapping back and forth. If the full thing moved as I felt he wanted, then he’d smack all of us and possibly add to the chaos. Fay was keeping herself down by using the hand not on my shoulder to grip her seat while Bo was likely using the magnetic clamps in her armour to stay rooted to the deck.

    “How?” Bo asked from over my shoulder. I didn’t need to look back to feel her concern. While most of it was directed at me, hearing the ship we were on, and had just dropped out of hyperspace randomly with, was dying wasn’t something anyone wanted to hear. Though at least, according to the sensors, we’d come out on the very edge of a system with a red giant instead of in the emptiness between stars.

    “Sekot,” I replied quietly as I began to understand just who had whispered goodbye to me through the Force. “The planet… it’s gone.” I added as I realised the connection the ship had held to its birthplace was empty. Yet even suspecting that the planet wasn’t destroyed as there was no void in the Force from it suddenly being removed, it was still gone. Which made zero sense. Though the more pertinent issue was that it seemed that without that faint connection to the planet, this amazing vessel was rapidly dying.

    Shab!” Bo’s curse summed things up nicely, though her easy acceptance of what I’d just said granted me a small boost to my resolve. Bo disliked the more metaphysical side of the Force – she wasn’t a big fan of any of it if I was honest, though that was because she generally disliked when I used it on her – so for her to trust me so easily in this was encouraging. It granted me fresh impetus to find a way to solve this. To save us, and the ship.

    Glad a safety belt had activated to secure me into my seat when the connection to Sekot had been lost – though I did wonder why that hadn’t happened for Fay – I pressed my palms against an organic section of the controls. Closing my eyes, I reached out into the Force, searching for the weak bond I held to the ship. Panic and terror rippled around me, making it easy to find the link. I felt my palms press harder against the flesh of the ship as I reached down the bond and was assaulted by the confusion of a child’s consciousness.

    I tried to soothe her thoughts, such as they were, but she either failed to understand what I was trying to do or was so lost in her dread that she failed to realise I was here to help.

    “No.” The words slipped from my lips as I pushed further into the bond I shared with the ship, forcing the young, terrified alien mind to register my presence. Images of her home, her birthplace flashed through my thoughts, until, as she felt me there, they turned to how she’d first felt my approach. The first time her sensors had detected me approaching. “You’re not dying today.” I could feel her reaching out for help, and I wanted to, yet I felt as if something was blocking me from making the connection that she, that we, wanted. “Yes, I accept,” I muttered, hoping the issue was with the Interface.

    I grunted as whatever was blocking my connection to the ship vanished. The ship reached out for me through the Force, latching onto my signature as if gripping my soul as a lifeline.


    “Cameron! No!”

    I heard the voices of Bo and Fay, though they were distant. My focus was on the vessel, on the enlarged, empowered connection I now shared with the starship. In my head, could feel her; young, nervous, scared, yet relaxing and growing hopeful at our closeness. “I’m here. I’m not leaving you.”

    The presence that reached back was alien, yet within that, I felt glimmers of Sekot, of myself, and of Fay. The ships’ consciousness, just as Sekotans had said, was a merging of all of us. The ship shook around us and I grimaced as the imprints of all the ship’s aspects shifted. The parts that reminded me of Fay and Sekot slipped back as if the ship no longer found them important. Replacing them, in the ship’s perception, was myself as I felt the part of me that was the ship grow more prominent, more powerful. That power flowed around me, both in the Force and in the ship, as the vessel grew more confident, more sure of herself. I couldn’t help but smirk at the incredible thing I was witnessing through the Force.

    [I am here.]

    My eyes snapped open at the young, feminine voice I heard in my head. “Cameron?” I turned my head slowly, feeling the world wasn’t quite in sync, to see Fay looking at me from the co-pilot’s seat. One hand was still resting on my shoulder while the other was resting against part of the organic hull. “What have you done?”

    There was no accusation in her tone, though she was curious and confused about what had just happened. As I was. “I, I don’t know,” I replied slowly, taking a few seconds to try and put my thoughts in order. I blinked and gently shook my head, trying to re-focus on the world around me. “Th-the ship?”

    A small smile crept onto Fay’s face. “She is well, though I sense my connection to her has diminished.” The smile fell. “Though I suspect yours has grown stronger.”

    After glancing behind me, to see Bo standing over my chair, her hand still resting against my side. Fenrir was slowly settling down while Simvyl, resting in one of the other seats, looked beyond confused about what was going on.

    Blinking from the console drew my attention there. Lights danced over them in a pattern that now felt understandable. I’d known before that the vessel was using them to communicate in a form, but now it was as if I had the key to understanding what the lights meant. Or at least determine the meaning they were conveying. She was scared her creator, her birthplace, was gone, yet she was happy that she’d not only survived what had happened but grown ever closer to me.

    It was then I saw that the blue light I had thought was coming from her was actually a notice from the Interface. I opened it, expecting to see I’d formed some form of bond with the ship, but what I read was more than I’d expected.

    Elemental Force Bond Formed
    You have formed a very strong bond in the Force with a semi-sentient starship.
    This bond is something only a handful of beings will ever truly experience, and can, with time, effort, and patience, grow stronger and more complex.
    However, generating a bond of this form places a permanent drain on your overall Force Power.
    Bond Cost: 10% of overall Force Power.

    “Oh, wow,” I mumbled as I processed what the Interface was saying.

    I’d been right when I’d tried to help the ship about the Interface blocking the connection, and while I didn’t regret it – since the alternative would’ve been a slow death in space – the cost of this new bond was high. 1820FP was now all but lost, and that number would increase as I levelled up, though given my connection was helping to sustain a kriffing starship, I couldn’t say the cost didn’t make sense.

    Now, while it was a large chuck of FP to lose access to, many of the Force Powers I used regularly were maxed. That meant their costs were a tenth of their initial value, and even taking into account using every power I liked to engage for combat, I’d still be just under my regen rate. Though if a battle dragged on and I was forced to use other powers, such as TK or Lightning, then things might get dicey.

    “Do you understand what you’ve done?” I looked back at Fay. While her words could be interpreted as a challenge, there was nothing in her tone or face to suggest she was anything more than curious about what had happened. Or at least, that she was reserving judgement until I explained myself.

    “I saved us,” I replied, which was true. Though I knew that wasn’t going to be enough for her. “The ship was dying, Master. Sekot… the planet’s gone somehow. Not destroyed, that I’m sure of, but gone. Though I don’t know how I know.”

    The part of me that had come from my former life wanted to cringe at the whole bunch of nothing I’d said, and I could see Simvyl blink in confusion. Yet, with nearly eight years of learning to understand the Force, what I’d said did make some sense.

    “Without the ship, we’d have died here, Force-knows where. Oh!” I gasped as, through the strengthened bond I now had, the ship provided me with details. Sensor readings, aligned with star charts in her memory combined to let me know we were in an isolated system a handful of lightyears from where Zonama Sekot had been. “Ok, now I know where we are,” I added with a smirk, finding the flood of information odd but helpful.


    I blinked, and after limiting the flow of information coming from the ship, focused again on Fay. That was the first time in ages she’d used my rank, though there didn’t seem to be any hint of why she’d done so. “The ship knows where we are, Master, and she just let me know that. It’ll take time to plot a jump, but we’re not lost. Just… displaced.”

    “What in the hell?” I couldn’t help but chuckle at Simvyl’s comment even as I saw the fur on his face seemingly stand up and bristle. It was clear he had no idea what was going on, though, unlike Bo, wasn’t willing to remain quiet until I was ready to explain in layman’s terms what had occurred.

    “How exactly did you save the ship, Cameron?”

    “With the Force, Master.” I couldn’t help but smirk as I replied, which grew into a smile as Fay rolled her eyes. “She was dying. I had to save her. Save us.”

    Fay sighed and shook her head, though no anger or disappointment was coming from her. Just a sense of almost resigned weariness, and perhaps, some joy as well. “So, like with Fenrir here, you acted without thinking and formed a Force bond with a semi-sentient starship?” I shrugged in reply.

    “Ow!” I called out as something smacked the back of my head. I looked around at Bo as her hand started playing around with my hair.

    Gar mirsh solus,” she said with a chuckle even as I tried to push her hand from my hair.

    “While we are all grateful for your actions,” Fay began, having seemingly taken the momentary distraction provided by Bo to collect her thoughts, “I’m… concerned by your growing tendency to act before thinking. While a Jedi should trust the Force to guide them, and I feel that is the case here, there are worrying signs about how you approach these moments. You seem willing to risk everything, to forget much of your teachings, in your desire to do what feels like the right path; especially when it involves helping others.” She shook her head and glanced out the viewport. “it is a trend that I fear, if not tempered soon, may endanger you far more than it currently has.”

    I wanted to say something in response but held my tongue as I felt the ship in the Force. Fay closed her eyes as I noticed her hand was still resting against an organic section of the cockpit.

    A small smile came to her face when she opened her eyes. “Though, in this case, it seems the ship is extremely pleased with your choice.” A light laugh, a sound I’d not heard since we’d bonded with the seed-partners at the beginning of the year, echoed around the cockpit. “What is done is done. While we will speak more on this matter, and on your tendency to risk everything on guidance from the Force, now is not the time for it. Since you know where we are, it behoves us to plot a jump to the nearest habitable planet. The ship will need to rest and refuel before we return to the Temple.”

    “Yes, Master.”

    As I turned back to the controls, I felt the ship’s desire to fly between the stars once more. We were too distant from this system’s star for her to enjoy the radiation it emitted, and while she was curious about what it would feel like, her greater desire was to do what she was designed for and dance through the heavens.

    “Once we’re refuelled, if you wish, we can return to Zonama Sekot and determine the fate of the planet,” Fay said, speaking to Simvyl and Bo. “That said, if the Vong remain, we won’t engage, and will instead withdraw and summon support from the Jedi and the Republic.”

    “Fine.” Bo didn’t sound happy about this but seemed willing to accept the plan. That said I still expected her to raise a fuss once we were alone later. Simvyl grunted, clearly seeing he was outvoted, and since a Ranger followed the will of the Jedi, he shouldn’t challenge the decision too heavily anyway. That said, I suspected he’d use the time to refuel to gather his thoughts and try to develop arguments for why we, in an unarmed ship, should engage the Vong fleet if they remained in-system.

    I, however, knew that we would not find Sekot. Through both my connection to the ship, and my own perceptions through the Force, it was a doubly instinctive understanding. By the same token, I also understood that somehow it was still present in the Force, though far more distant than it had been. Almost as if it was lost somewhere beyond the stars.

    … …

    … …

    Just over a week later, I was sitting in the cockpit of the ship – as I had been most of my waking hours since we’d launched from Zonama Sekot, checking over the controls. We’d just lifted off from Sernpidal after taking time to refuel and check the ship while Fay had contacted the High Council.

    She’d reported briefly on the events of our mission, though held off on full details for an in-person report, which made perfect sense. While we had received the ship as planned, not much else had gone as intended. Not least that, after a quick refuel at a mining colony, we’d returned to the Sekot system and found, well… nothing.

    I’d already expected to not find the planet there when we’d returned – the sense of it being close in the Force was gone, replaced by a distant echo – expecting it and seeing it with my eyes were two entirely different things. The area where it had been when we’d jumped away was awash with exotic energy signatures as one would expect from a ship entering hyperspace. However, these were on a magnitude that was hard to comprehend even when I knew it was the planet that had somehow jumped.

    The Vong had still been present when we’d arrived in the system’s Oort cloud which had limited us to passive scanning, but by the second day, they had left. I’d had the ship plot possible routes the Vong were taking, but they weren’t heading toward any known habitable system. Instead, they’d jumped toward the Galactic Rim.

    With time to think about it, along with the others, we’d come to two conclusions. Either they’d jumped that way to head back to their main fleet, or they were travelling that way to make it harder for others to follow them. Bo had wondered if they might be planning to leave the galaxy, but Fay had shot that down by saying no ship could travel the vast distances between this galaxy and any nearby one of comparable size. Now, the galaxy had seven dwarf galaxies as companions, but those – like Rishi which was near where Kamino was – were close enough that hyperspace travel was possible with effort. There was nothing of the sort on a galactic north from the Core.

    Once the Vong had left, we’d moved in closer and carried out active scans. Those confirmed, even if I still had problems understanding how Sekot had jumped away. Where the planet had gone, or even if anyone on it had survived, was unknown. As was where it had gone. However, both Fay and I could faintly sense it at the very edge of the Force, though it was growing harder to do so as time passed.

    Blinking lights on the consoles, along with an urge from the ship to get moving – she was a remarkably impatient being, just like a few younglings I knew – brought my focus back to the cockpit. My fingers danced over the controls, marvelling at how the ship seemed to know what I planned to do even before I brushed against the relevant buttons to panels. With the improved connection we had, the ship felt like an extension of me, and while there’d been a slight improvement in our hyperdrive rating to 0.6, I felt there was still more I could do to improve the bond. Though how I’d go about that wasn’t something I understood.

    One thing I was sure of, was that before we reached Coruscant, I’d have picked out a name for her. So far, a few choices had been put forward by the others, with Jade Raven and Starchaser the two that seemed to resonate with the ship the best.

    A gentle grumble from behind reminded me that Fenrir was present as normal. The tuk’ata was far more restive on the ship than he’d been on the Ne’tra Sartr, which I suspected was due to its connection with me which Fenrir could sense. Since I was in the cockpit most of the time, Fenrir had all but assumed one area of the place for himself, forcing the chair there to groan in protest every time Fenrir pushed against it. The only time Fenrir left was for meals, or to ‘play’ with Bo who, while understanding of my need to be in the cockpit so much, was growing restless without someone to spar with. Well, to spar with during the day at least.

    As for HK, while the droid was glad to be off Zonama Sekot, I’d not yet hooked him up to the ships’ computers, which wasn’t something he was unhappy about. That was primarily because the ship lacked weapons – something we both disliked – and that it was a mainly organic vessel. HK had a few choice comments on the idea of meatbag starships, but I’d shut them down by explaining just how fast and manoeuvrable the ship was because I had a Force connection to it. Or at least forced him to limit his complaints to the lack of weaponry, which was something I planned to work on once back at the Temple.

    Internal sensors let me know Simvyl was approaching about a minute before the door opened even without the Force. I glanced back and gave him a nod, before returning to the controls. While he and Bo often came by the cockpit to relieve me, they never sat in the pilot’s chair nor did much more than check the readings. Even before the shift in the connection the vessel held with her Fay hadn’t shown much interest in piloting the ship, though that was something I’d expected since she’d never really shown interest in doing so for the Ne’tra Sartr and had stated on Zonama Sekot that I’d be the pilot. Still, the ship seemed to prefer her here to the others since it still held a weak bond with her.

    Oddly, Simvyl didn’t move straight to the co-pilot’s seat. “Cameron.” Hearing the slight uncertainty in his tone, I turned and looked at him. He was standing in a clean uniform – like myself he’d needed time to clean it enough that the smell of the planet and war was gone, though that’d taken him longer since his sense of smell was superior to mine – with his blaster and vibroblade at his sides. Both were clean, though the vibroblade is what drew my attention – a long blade with a gentle curve, it had belonged to Zarkos before he died. “I’ve had some time to think; about Zonama Sekot, the Vong, and everything. I, I owe you an apology for my behaviour after we left the planet.”

    “There’s no need for th…” I was cut off as he raised a hand and, at the same time, I sensed a need within him to speak his piece.

    “There is.” Fenrir lifted his head, curious at what was disturbing his latest snooze. “Every Antarian Ranger swore an oath to assist and follow the lead of the Jedi. I did so faithfully on Zonama Sekot, yet in my anger over our apparent retreat, I lashed out and challenged your authority. I forgot my oaths.” His yellow eyes stayed locked on mine well his ears twitched frantically, making me think there was more he wished to say which stayed on my tongue. “If not for your actions, and those of Fenrir,” that earned a pleased grunt from the tuk’ata, “and… Bo-Katan, I would’ve died in almost every battle we fought. I owe all of you, but you especially, my life several times over.”

    “As I owe you mine,” I replied, trying to please his sense of honour. However, all it did was draw a wry snort of amusement from him.

    “No. Even without us there to help, I feel you, more than anyone, would’ve managed to engage the Vong alone and still done serious damage to their operations. Yes, there were moments where a blaster bolt from either me or Bo-Katan aided you, but I have little doubt that you would’ve emerged from each battle alive and stronger. Especially with this mighty beast by your side.” Fenrir looked at me and based his teeth, almost as if challenging me to argue that he wasn’t a mighty beast.

    “Don’t give him a bigger head than he already has,” I commented. Simvyl snorted at that while Fenrir growled in annoyance, tail lashing behind him. He then shook his head before lowering it back onto his front paws.

    “Still, after taking the last week to think about my actions, and review the war, I now see you were right to have us withdraw. I still want to hunt down the Vong and make them suffer for what they did, but I see that if we’d tried to engage their fleet we’d have all died. All those who fell on Zonama Sekot would’ve lost hope that we would avenge them, making their deaths meaningless. Now, we can return to the Republic and warn them of the threat the Vong pose to everyone.”

    “That’s the plan,” I replied even though I had major doubts about the Jedi doing anything but ordering some investigations to locate the Vong’s homeworld. I’d expressed those doubts to Fay, and she admitted to sharing a similar concern. However, while she shared my concerns, feeling they may well consider it an issue for the very edge of the galaxy, and not something they could investigate without Senate approval, she felt we had to give them the chance to review our reports, and those from Bo and Simvyl – including the recording I’d prepared for them with Bo – before worrying about them dismissing the issue.

    “Good. Though, while I expect the Jedi to begin preparations to protect the galaxy, I know that when the Vong return you will be the one leading from the front. And not just against the Vong, but on righting the flaws that exist within the Republic as well.” Before I could comment on how fixing all the Republic’s issues was the work of several lifetimes and multiple people, he dropped to a knee. At the same time, he pulled the vibroblade – which was about a foot long – from its sheath. As the Force shifted around us, and I felt the ship grow confused and curious about what was happening he pulled the blade over one palm claws tensing, soaking the edge in blood.

    “I promise on this blood that I will always be faithful to you. Your enemies shall be mine, as shall your allies. I promise to provide true counsel on all matters and never to forsake you. My claws are yours to aim as you please, my honour yours to control. With this pledge, I give you my loyalty and bind myself to you for the rest of my days.”

    He held the blade in his palm, not caring about the dripping of blood on the deck, his eyes looking downward. The Force swirled around us, marking this as a moment of importance.

    For a moment, I considered not taking the offer of fealty, but I quickly rejected that. Aside from insulting the Cathar, that might insult the rest of the Rangers. I knew the Antarian Rangers often swore themselves to certain Jedi, and had even, in a few whispered cases Fay had heard of, married them. Yet I doubted any Ranger had ever sworn themselves so completely to a mere Padawan.

    Now, while Simvyl was still a raw Ranger, he had good instincts in battle – enough so that Bo felt he could be her equal with the right training – and was willing to follow my orders. He knew I was close to Bo and other Mandalorians, so doing this showed he was also able to place his grievances to one side for the greater good, which was another mark in his favour. And while I didn’t need a guard, the more people around me that I could trust would be of major benefit once chaos descended upon the galaxy.

    I picked up the vibroblade, turning it over in my hand. “I accept your offer of loyalty and fealty,” I said slowly trying to work out how to reply correctly. Sensing a shift from the Force, I let it guide me as the blade came toward my free hand. I felt the edge slice my palm, mixing my blood with his. “I accept your blade and claws, and I swear they will never be commanded to strike without thought, nor against those unworthy of their sting. And I offer you my promise to not force you to carry out actions that go against your beliefs and ideals."

    I handed the blade back to Simvyl as he stood, a large smile on his face exposing his vicious-looking fangs. He took the blade and pulled a rag from a pocket. “You know you only had to say you accept,” He said with a smile as he cleaned the blade.

    I shrugged as I replied. “I didn’t, but even if I did, your words deserved something more than a simple OK to confirm them.” As I spoke, he slid the now-clean blade into the sheath. I extended an arm to him, which he grasped near my elbow. “And it goes without saying, thank you for the faith you’re placing in me.”

    Simvyl nodded as his smile grew. “While young, I don’t doubt you will be a great warrior for the Jedi, for the side of what is right and just. You will do great things, I can feel that in my heart, and want to help you correct the rot that infects the very core of the galaxy.”

    “I just hope I’m worthy of your faith and trust.”

    Simvyl broke the grip as I spoke before moving toward the co-pilot’s station. “If I doubted you wouldn’t be, I would never have offered you my oath,” he said with a smile still on his face as he slid into the seat. “Now go. You need to rest,” I nodded and stood, Fenrir shifting as he realised I was leaving. “Though I doubt your mate will allow you any.”

    I paused a few steps from the door and glared at the back of Simvyl’s head. “She’s not my…” The Cathar chose that moment to laugh, and I shook my head in annoyance. “Oh screw you,” I muttered as I stalked out of the room, Fenrir at my side though he seemed amused by what had just happened even if he didn’t understand Basic.

    Yet, as much as I might deny it, Bo and I were fast approaching a point where we’d have to figure out just what we were to each other and where things were going. And it would have to be sorted before we reached the Temple, and not just because our closeness will be an issue for the High Council. The Mandalorian Civil War – at least this one – was officially over. That had been reported freely on the Holonet when we’d arrived on Sernpidal, and Bo had managed to get confirmation from her father that it was true and that Houses Kryze and Ordo now controlled Mandalore between them, and with the support of other clans, upwards of eighty per cent of the sector.

    Bo was going to want to return to her people, and while she’d want me to go with her, the Force still seemed to want me to remain with the Jedi. As I walked toward my cabin, where Bo was already resting – much to Fay’s subtle concern – I wondered how the redhead was going to take this. Bo claimed she wasn’t interested in this being more than an enjoyable arrangement, but I could feel her growing affection for me, and mine for her.

    Still, that was a concern for another night. For this one, before I tried to get some rest I planned to enjoy what awaited me in my bed. Preferably to the point where the red-haired warrior there passed out from exhaustion.

    … …

    … …

    “If I might ask,” began Oppo Rancisis as he stopped me from continuing my report to the High Council, “what exactly made you feel that challenging this alien leader to single combat was the correct choice to make?”

    I looked at the snake-like Jedi Master as he and the rest of the High Council sat in their chairs listening as I gave my report on what had happened on and to Zonama Sekot. Fay was at my side, though since she’d generally stayed quiet until just before the duel that I was now getting to, she’d been indisposed.

    Several times when I’d been giving my report, a member of the Council had stopped me to ask a question or clarify something. Mainly they’d asked for further reasoning on why I’d made a certain choice, or if I felt my actions had been in keeping with what the Force wished, but so far no judgement had been passed, meaning they were going to wait until I finished before offering one.

    The Council had also before this meeting had begun, spent time reviewing the reports submitted by myself and Fay, along with ones from Bo and Simvyl, and the planned recording from Bo’s armour when I’d not used Lightning but Electrokinesis instead. To go with that were recordings from the transport that had taken us to meet the Vong and then to my duel at the former location of the Magister’s compound.

    Honestly, the simple fact they weren’t offering snap judgements or condemning me for killing Vong aggressively was a nice surprise. Not even those who I knew disliked me, such as Windu and Piell, had made any effort to speak down on my choices. Hell, both of those two had seemed happier than Yoda and Yaddle when I’d revealed I’d ambushed Vong and not attempted to take any prisoners after the first few battles.

    Still, I was prepared for a massive argument with them at the end over my actions. While I doubted that they’d kick me from the Order – the fact many considered me the Chosen One granted me a fair bit of leeway – I knew there was a good chance they’d want me to be placed under supervision once more.

    “Master Fay is, as you are all aware, highly skilled at finding peaceful solutions; however, the Vong gave no indication of desiring such an outcome – something that became clear as their leader spoke of their holy reasons for invading the planet. Those comments, combined with how the Vong had behaved in previous battles and an inclination from the Force, made me offer another solution. Yes, it was a risky one to take, one Master Fay wasn’t pleased about, but I felt that risking, and possibly losing my life, to save hers and those of our companions was a risk worth taking.”

    “While, at the time, I disapproved of my Padawan’s decision,” Fay began. “With time to meditate on it, I see now that not only were the Vong a race with which normal methods of communication failed but that the Force was guiding Cameron to a solution that offered the highest chance of limiting unnecessary deaths.” Fay paused and sensed a very slight shift in her mood, though not one that suggested she carried any resentment at my choice. “I still feel that, given time, a peaceful resolution might have been reached. However, that would’ve taken weeks, if not months, to achieve, and resulted in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent Sekotans.”

    Fay’s words seemed simple enough, but after years around her, I knew she was still disappointed in how things had played out. Both in my choice to seek a quick and violent ending to the conflict and her failure to achieve a non-violent outcome. I disagreed heavily with her on that and had said so privately. The Council chamber though was not a place to voice those issues, nor our issues over me bonding with Raven or accepting Simvyl’s fealty; yet for the latter, because she agreed that I’d let the Force guide me to accept, there was far less of an issue. Not unless I wanted to risk irritating the Council and increasing whatever punishment they dealt for my actions.

    Fay was still a Jedi, but one that saw things differently from the High Council even if they and she all held the Code as something to live by and not, as I was quickly finding it, a guide for those who lacked the strength of character to control themselves.

    “From the reports you and your companions have submitted, and what you’ve mentioned here today, it’s clear these Vong have a warrior culture. One not unlike the Mandalorians of old.” I stayed my hand, not wanting to rise to the bait Windu was dropping as he offered an opinion. “Since you stand before us today, I assume it is safe to say you were successful in defeating their leader?”

    “Yes, Master Windu.” I paused and glanced at Fay. “At my master’s request, when an opportunity presented itself, I offered the Vong the chance to surrender. However, that only served to enrage them.” That wasn’t technically true, but by saying it like this it should, I hope, show the Council that I had sought a peaceful resolution before ending the duel in a more typical manner. “From then on, the only option left to me was to kill the Vong.”

    There was a grunt from my right, and I looked over to see Evan Piell glaring at me with his one good eye. “You and your companions have stated that these Vong are a grave threat to the Jedi and the Republic. Yet you, a Padawan, though a highly skilled one I don’t contest, managed to engage Vong forces on multiple occasions, and barring one instance, emerged from each confrontation victorious and unscathed.” It took some effort to not glare back at the Council member as he seemingly dismissed my concerns about the Vong. “From all that I’ve read and heard from you, including the scans provided by your companion,” he all but sneered at having to refer to Bo, “I see little that suggests a Vong armada would pose anything more than a regional-level threat to some Outer Rim sectors. Instead, I see little more than the worries of an overly excited, and battle-hungry Padawan.”

    I detested the disrespect he was showing to Bo, but I knew he was doing it simply to draw a reaction from me. With me having moved past the worst of puberty, I had greater control over the emotional reaction I took, allowing me to ignore his comments. Plus, Fay had warned me before the meeting that the Council would challenge much of what I said to confirm the veracity of our report. Though after nearly three hours, my patience with the short Jedi Master’s continual need to speak down about me and those close to me was getting on my nerves.

    “With respect, Master Piell. I was there. You were not. I, along with my companions, spent months fighting from a weaker position, against a technologically and numerically superior foe that, even from their lowest encountered fighters, were on par with Mandalorians I’d fought during the Battle of Keldabe.” I was, perhaps, laying things on thick, but I wanted to make clear how dangerous even the weakest Vong fighter was. Especially against a Force user unprepared for their inability to be affected by most directed Force abilities. “During the first encounter, as I made clear several times already, we were fortunate to survive, particularly once Master Fay was gravely wounded in their initial assault.” I paused, taking a moment to calm myself as the familiar rage I’d called upon on Zonama Sekot stirred as the memory of that first battle came to mind. Knowing where I was and concerned that Dark Side Masking – which was at Master:54 – might not be enough to hide that rage if I tried to simply push it down, I used the techniques taught to me by, among others, Master Fay. I felt the anger drift away into the Force, and once that was done, continued talking. “I’ve gone over every encounter I, and those with me had with the Vong. I can’t stress Master, just how difficult it was for me to defeat multiple Vong in simultaneous combat; and not, before you suggest it, due to any inherent flaw in my chosen Lightsaber form. However, those continual battles allowed me to refine a style that, while still full of flaws, granted me just enough of an understanding of the Vong’s style of fighting that when the time came for the duel, I felt confident in my chances to defeat it. Yet I didn’t emerge unscathed.” I made no effort to draw attention to the scar I bore over my eye socket, as doing so would just be silly given Piell had lost an eye in combat.

    The Lannik Jedi chuckled, likely because I’d drawn attention to the fact that like him I’d been scarred. “True enough. Though, I still have doubts that these Vong are as grave a threat as you suggest.”

    “Potential threats today, no judgement will be made,” Yoda cut in, speaking for the first time since he’d asked questions about my emotional state when Fay had been wounded. “The actions of Padawan Shan, discussing we are.”

    “The Council will spend time reviewing your reports before making any judgement on the Vong, Padawan. As Master Yoda said, today we simply wish to hear a full recounting from you on the conflict and sense how these actions have affected you.”

    I nodded at Plo Koon. “Yes, Master.” While I’d prefer they would consider the Vong threat today and declare them a danger to all, the fact they weren’t dismissing it out of hand was, as Fay had said, the best I could hope for. I stopped there, expecting him or another Council member to comment, however, Plo simply rolled his hand in a gesture that meant for me to continue.

    “With the Vong leader dead, I was concerned his second wouldn’t accept the terms. Thankfully, he did, though not before suggesting other Vong would seek me out for retribution. Zonama Sekot seemed to hold significance to them, though we never learnt why. After collecting the body, the second promised they would leave the world as the terms stipulated.” As I spoke, I once more cursed myself for being ambiguous in my wording. I should’ve made clear that they were to leave the system and never return, but as they say, hindsight is a bitch.

    “The choices the Vong made after the duel aren’t on your head, Padawan,” the words, surprisingly, came from Windu. “You fought with honour and won the duel. That the Vong then chose to adapt the terms to suit their goals is a choice they made and must live with, not you. The deaths caused by their subsequent bombardment are not a weight you need to carry.”

    “I understand that, Master Windu, and thank you for the words. However, I feel I should’ve been clearer in my terms.”

    A coughing chuckle came from Yoda. “The greatest teacher, time is. Learn from this, you will. Grow, you will.” I lowered my head, accepting the Grandmaster’s words of counsel.

    “After the Vong chose to reinterpret the terms of the duel, they began to assault the planet from orbit. Which is when you chose to attempt to engage them?”

    “Yes, Master Yaddle. While the Jade Raven was built unarmed by the Sekotans – a philosophy that may well have changed because of the Vong – it was the only vessel available to use to reach orbit. Or at least reach orbit and not be instantly shot down,” I added with a shrug. “I, we, knew the odds of us being able to stop a small flotilla of combat ships, most of which were larger than the Raven, were slim, but there was no other option we could come up with.”

    “As you moved toward the fleet, when the planet spoke to you, hmm?” I could hear the doubt in Yoda’s voice and sense a faint ripple of it within the Chamber. Which was understandable, as if I hadn’t experienced it myself, I’d likely doubt the story as well.

    “Yes, Master. While we were accelerating toward the Vong, though before we’d entered weapon's range, I was… pulled, for lack of a better word, into the ship’s consciousness. There, I met a figure who looked like the Magister, yet since his compound had been destroyed at the start of the conflict, I knew it wasn’t him. The figure revealed itself to be Sekot. It said it was able to speak to me due to the bond I shared with the Raven and the seed-partners used in her growth.” I paused and licked my lips. “Honestly, I’m still having trouble accepting that I spoke to the planet, but I don’t doubt it believed it was sentient. Plus, it's warning about us leaving if we didn’t wish to be trapped upon it or die in orbit was accurate.”

    “While I wasn’t privy to this meeting, I can confirm the Force was… agitated for a moment around Cameron and the ship,” Fay spoke before any of the Council could argue against my statement. A glance at her showed her lips twitching as she continued. “When he told me of this meeting, I searched the Force for any deception and found none. He believes it was the planet, this Sekot, that spoke to him. From how the colonists seemed to revere the planet and the incredible interconnectivity we felt within the Force before the Vong’s arrival, I find no reason to doubt Cameron’s statement. After that, and an impressive demonstration of flying in a new starship, we slipped by the Vong fleet and entered Hyperspace.”

    “While we have doubts about a planet achieving sentience,” Yaddle began as she leaned forward in her seat, “it is the events that occurred when you were forced from hyperspace that I find myself most curious about. The moment when you chose to form a deep connection in the Force with your vessel.”

    “I believe we all share that sentiment,” Plo Koon added, drawing nods from the majority of the Council. Most were leaning forward to varying degrees, curious to hear more. “While forming a bond with a tuk’ata isn’t unheard of, I cannot recall mention of a Jedi forming a bond within the Force with a starship.”

    “Mentions in the oldest holocrons, I believe there are. Early in the Old Republic, if I recall.”

    Plo Koon lowered his head at Yoda’s words even as he rubbed his chin, or more accurately, the breathing mask he wore. “Hmm, I’ll have to remember to search the Holocron Vault for those records.” He turned back to me. “However, that is for later. Please continue, Padawan. I wish to hear of how it felt to form a Force connection with the wonderful new starship you’ve brought to the temple.”

    “And perhaps, in the coming days, you might be willing to show some of us how well the Jade Raven handles,” Master Tiin added with a wry smile. Since he was regarded as the Order’s finest pilot – and would remain that way if Anakin never joined the Order officially – him being interested in how Raven flew was hardly a surprise. After all, he’d been part of the party that had met us when we’d returned to the Temple and he’d made little effort to hide his appreciation for Raven’s design.

    That said, he’d not be the only one I’d take for a flight in Raven. Apart from Serra and Tedra, I expected many friends – close and not – would wish for a short voyage in Raven. Though first I had to speak to Serra. I knew she was in the Temple, and while she’d been excited when we’d first felt each other within the Force, in the hours since a steady stream of nervousness had mixed with that excitement, along with a hint of fear.

    Though since it’d been over three years since I’d last seen her in the flesh, I could understand the worries she had, and I had some of my own. Though those were more to do with how she’d react when it was revealed I was currently seeing Bo. However, that was a matter for after this meeting.

    “As I said in my report, Raven dropped from hyperspace unexpectedly. I could feel her pain as we tumbled through space and systems began to flicker on and off. I admit I didn’t know what I was doing, but it felt as if the Force was guiding me to her, to Raven, to help. I knew I couldn’t let her die, as if she died those with me would also die, so I placed my faith in the Force and let it guide me toward what felt like the right thing to do. Somehow I was able to… sustain her through the Force, and while it feels as if I’ve given over part of my connection to the Force to save her, I consider it fair payment.”

    “I will admit at the time, I was concerned about Cameron’s actions, particularly that he’d taken them for selfish reasons, with time to meditate, I see now that wasn’t the case,” Fay added. While it did sound supportive, I felt she was saying it more as a way to cut off an obvious issue the Council might have with my actions. One she’d brought up with me in private before we’d reached Coruscant. That said, she was also being truthful in that she understood that, just as with Simvyl, I’d allowed the Force to guide my actions instead of imposing my will upon it.

    “Question your opinion on the Force’s will, this Council does not. Concerns us, however, your Padawan’s continual recklessness does.” Yoda leaned closer, his eyes searching mine for something. I felt a gentle prod against my Telepathic Shield, one I knew was coming from the Grandmaster. If given the choice, I’d happily slap it aside or ignore it, however, I knew doing that now would only increase the likelihood of me being punished. Thus, I allowed him access.

    Yoda closed his eyes as I felt his probe enter my mind, along with those from most of the Council. It was easy to tell which were examining my mental state and Force connection as many closed their eyes. While I disliked letting them even do this much, activating Player’s Mind would be a blunt admission I had something to hide, and would lead to more questions and examinations. No, it was better to submit to this check now, without seemingly protesting, than risk them wanting to carry out deeper scans and risk them finding the pool of rage I’d buried deep inside.

    “Hmm,” Yoda muttered after perhaps a minute just before he and the others opened their eyes, the various Council members looked at each other, though no words were spoken. Since I’d already experienced this before, I knew they were having a mental conversation, but it was still discomforting to stand in the chamber as the Council sat around me in silence. To outsiders, it likely came across as rude when they did it in a group, but I could see the benefits of discussing issues privately before presenting a unified front to those they were meeting.

    “It is clear that this mission has taken a great toll on you, Padawan,” Sifo-Dyas began, drawing my attention to him. He was one of the Council members I trusted the most, something aided by the soft, mentoring smile he gave me. “It has also, we sense, resulted in you being tempted by the Dark Side once more. Having that happen so soon after your experiences with the Bando Gora is concerning.” I hadn’t expected them to directly mention that incident, but considering it I wondered if they’d done so to see what sort of reaction I’d have to the mention. While I still had the odd flashback or distracting moment, the need to focus my energies on the war – and having a ready outlet for my anger – had helped me come to terms with things. At least to the point where I felt able to move on safely.

    Sifo-Dyas’ smile grew as I considered that, and he offered me a nod. “And it appears you’ve let go of your anger around the issue, most impressive.”

    “It is, but he has admitted to striking down at least one Vong in rage,” Ki-Adi Mundi countered, his large head always drawing my attention and reminding me of a potato. “That cannot be overlooked, nor dismissed easily, regardless of how understandable an action it was for any Padawan to take in this context.”

    “It won’t be ignored,” Windu replied, earning a nod – which I felt was staged – from Mundi. Windu fixed me with a look that likely terrified most Padawans. Along with many adults, Jedi or not. “While this Council is accepting of your choices on Zonama Sekot, and feels you have shown a remarkable ability to not dwell on what has happened to you over the last few years, we feel further sessions with Healer Allie would be advisable.”

    “Yes, Master,” I replied calmly. Windu’s brow twitched slightly at how easily I accepted the Council’s ruling, but I’d expected that to be the minimum outcome of this meeting. Even before Fay had stated this, I’d already been expecting further counselling at least. Ignoring that they'd want to spend time examining Raven and myself, I’d just gone through a series of events that would break many people. That required monitoring, so it was nice to see the Council was being more proactive in ensuring I got the help I might need.

    “While you will remain in the Temple for a time, you are free to continue your studies at your master’s discretion. That said, I feel Battlemaster Drallig and Master Bondara would be willing to have you assist them in instructing Initiates and younger Padawans once again.” Windu’s offer further softened the punishment, though I felt it was also a way to further bring me under the control of the Council while having me do something I enjoyed.

    “This will also allow us time to consider your last mission in greater depth,” added Oppo Rancisis, who I avoided looking over at. While I knew it was silly, something about talking to a giant, sentient snake-like creature just didn’t sit well with me. “Members of the Council, and others, will likely call upon you for details regarding the Vong and the threat you believe they pose, Zonama Sekot, and the unusual ship you’ve returned with.”

    “I don’t believe the Vong pose a threat, Master. I know it.” The fact he was so openly dismissing my concerns about the Vong wasn’t encouraging, even if I understood that they, as leaders of the Order, had to examine the issue from every angle they could.

    Yoda’s chuckle drew my focus to him to see he was shaking his head. “The certainty of youth, we see.” That earned a few amused smirks from the room, including one for Fay. “Refreshing to see, it is. Though mindful of your actions, you must be, young Padawan.” The fact Yoda was also now seemingly expressing doubt about my claims angered me a little. I understood that a Padawan managing to drive the Vong back certainly made them look like a lighter threat than I’d implied, but I’d only encountered a strong recon force, not the main body of their military.

    “I am, Master Yoda. However, I also know what I fought wasn’t something to be taken lightly.” Even without knowing there was more to the threat because of Invaders from the Void, I’d have still labelled the Vong a threat simply due to their inherent resistance to directed Force use.

    “And this Council will not do so. However, unlike a young, though skilled, Padawan, we don’t rush to judgement based on personal events from a single, though protracted, encounter. Other factors must be weighed before a course of action for the Order as a whole is decided upon.”

    “Yes, Master Windu.” While I understood the rationale, I didn’t like it. Plus, I felt their issue might be with me trying to dictate terms to the Council. Hopefully, that was the case, and not them underestimating the Vong. Otherwise, I feared the Council would once more not remove the stick from their collective arses and do something about the Vong. Hell, even if initially they just sent small teams into the Unknown Regions or the far edges of the Outer Rim near where Zonama Sekot had been, it would be better than them burying their heads in the sand and pretending the threat didn’t exist.

    “I, for one, wish to speak to you more about the Jade Raven. From the initial reports our more technically inclined members have submitted, it seems that not only is she semi-organic, but has some rare and powerful components installed in unusual ways.”

    “Certainly, Master,” I offered to Plo Koon even as I saw Saesse Tiin nodding in agreement.

    From the corner of my eye, I saw Windu surveying the room. When no one said anything else, he spoke. “Until we’ve come to our final recommendations regarding the Vong, and plans for the Jade Raven, we would prefer if you remained inside the Temple, though it isn’t a requirement. We would, though, insist you remain on Coruscant during this time.” I nodded in acceptance and his gaze shifted to Fay. “We will ask Healer Allie to contact you when she can to arrange further sessions for your Padawan.” Fay offered a bow to Windu. “Unless there is anything either of you wishes to add, you are free to go.”

    I followed Fay from the chamber. As normal, there were several Jedi gathered in the atrium outside waiting to speak to the Council, though all were giving Fenrir a wide berth. Since he was snoozing when we exited, the apprehension of the other Jedi made me chuckle. Fenrir must’ve heard that, or sensed my approach, as he lifted his head lazily. After yawning loud enough that a Padawan around my age all but hid behind their master, the tuk’ata stood and followed us into the elevator before the doors closed.

    “Do you think they’ll dismiss the Vong, Master?” I asked as we descended.

    Fay looked out the carriage carrying us down, taking in the sight of Coruscant, and the constant flow of ships in the skies around us, before answering. “They won’t, Cameron. The simple fact that the Vong are immune to directed Force abilities, particularly ones all Jedi rely upon, means they can’t ignore the issue. However, I do feel they may disagree with your blunt assessment about the dangers the Vong pose to the Order and the Republic on a military front. Particularly from how, even though you did limit yourself, you tried to pressure them to regard them as such.” Fay’s hand came to rest on my shoulder as my irritation at the Council’s likely inaction grew. “The Council, for all its faults, must decide the direction of all Jedi. You are certain the Vong are a future threat to the Order and the Republic, but you are just one member of the Order; and not even a Knight. Sadly, that is the way this works.”

    “But, Master…”

    “We must allow them time to deliberate on the matter, Cameron. They may well agree with your judgement, however, they won’t rush to pass judgement. Doing that has led to mistakes being made by the Order in the past and many on the Council are averse to change from what had worked for nearly a thousand years.” She smiled as her hand gently squeezed my shoulder. “Place your faith in the Force to guide them to the correct path, but don’t dwell upon it. Perhaps, instead, turn your thoughts to happier events. Like reunions with old friends. One in particular I know isn’t far from your thoughts.” I turned away, not wanting to risk Fay seeing the heat as it built in my cheeks. “I suspect you and her have much to discuss.”

    I nodded though my gaze stayed away from her. While there were others in the Temple I wished to speak with – Tedra and Darihd being the obvious two – Serra was the one I was excited and apprehensive to meet. I reached out through the Force, opening my mind to find where she was.

    [Where we first talked about the Code.] I blinked as her words entered my mind, caught off-guard that she’d learnt to communicate telepathically. Though given it’d been three years since I’d last seen her, it shouldn’t have surprised me.

    [I’ll be there soon,] I sent, letting her know I was on my way. As we reached our stop within the centre of the Temple I wondered how she’d changed, grown, in the years. And how she’d feel about the changes I’d gone through, both physical and mental.

    … …

    … …
    (Serra’s POV)

    She sat quietly on the bench, enjoying the view of the ecumenopolis as the sun blazed down on the planet. Shadows travelled around her, left there by starships, speeders, and other flying vehicles that buzzed around constantly in the skies of Coruscant. Yet, as much as the view often brought her peace of mind, today it failed. Her mind was, understandably, elsewhere, focusing on someone that was back in the Temple at the same time as her for the first time in more than three years.

    Of course, Cam might be why she’d made a beeline for this particular bench over any of the others. Apart from being close to the High Council spire, it was the same one she’d led him to back when they’d been Initiates. And she’d been here for several hours now.

    When she’d first sensed Cam returning, she’d been sparring with Sia-Lan, and sensing his presence in the Force had distracted her. Enough that her friend had managed to win the spar. Serra had been annoyed about that, as it was the first one she’d lost to Sia-Lan in about a year, and then more so when Sia-Lan had piped up that she’d felt someone return to the Temple. Her friend had teased her about seeing Cam for the first time in years, commenting on how he’d grown since then and taking amusement in knowing that she’d seen him last year while Serra hadn’t.

    A few years ago that sort of teasing would’ve angered Serra, and she was embarrassed whenever she remembered how she’d reacted when Cam had been hurt during his verd’goten. She’d been better when Cam had gone strangely silent within the Force just over a year ago, but she hadn’t been able to concentrate when she’d learnt he’d been captured by the Bando Gora. Now, even with him being distant for a year, even if there were faint whispers of something going on, she was at peace with things. Or as much as she could be.

    While she’d not seen him, she knew he’d grown, and matured over the years. Yes, he seemed to find trouble with alarming ease, but she trusted the Force to protect him, and guide him. Plus, just like him, she’d grown up. She still held feelings for him, but unlike back during her verd’goten, she no longer allowed them to dominate her thoughts.

    Still, after the spar had ended, and Master Drallig had reprimanded her for becoming distracted so easily, she’d left with the intent of finding Cam. A probe into the Force revealed he was with the Council, so she’d changed tact and arrived here instead. Though before reaching this bench, she’d run into someone more outwardly excited by Cam’s return than her.

    Initiate Tedra Zill was, in Serra’s mind, an odd one. She was skilled in the Force, having rapidly caught up to her clanmates with her skill using a lightsaber. However, the Zabrak girl was, from what Serra had heard, uninterested in the more spiritual aspects of being a Jedi, which didn’t surprise Serra after she’d gotten to know the girl at Cam’s request. As a former slave, Tedra was more interested in actively helping others than pondering the mysteries of the Force; a sentiment Serra found herself agreeing with as she matured. Though she also understood that Tedra’s rush to want to help was too reckless, and would place her, and others, in danger.

    After promising the Zabrak that she’d tell Cam to speak with her, Serra had managed to reach the bench with no other delays. At first, she’d been apprehensive as she waited for any shift in the Force to let her know Cam was on his way. That had given way to a bout of restlessness as she sat for close to an hour, though she’d chided herself for that behaviour, and the reminder it provided to her earlier behaviour around Cam.

    Back then she’d been possessive of Cam, treating anyone who was near him – especially, those in their age group – as some sort of threat to her and what she had with him. Now that she was older, and she hoped, wiser, she understood that wasn’t healthy. Oh, she still considered Cam to be someone important to her, but she wasn’t going to lose her temper whenever anyone said anything about him. No matter how pretty they looked, or what they hinted they wanted to do with him.

    At the same time, she couldn’t deny that a part of herself that she’d thought gone was growing agitated at seeing Cam again. Just knowing he’d soon be here, that she’d soon be talking with him lit a fire in her, one that while not the same pathetic flame from her younger years, burned in ways she’d rather not think about. Cam was the first to make her feel that way, though not the last. Though she’d never admit to anyone that Bo-Katan had also started having that effect on her, she did wonder if the Mandalorian girl was still travelling with Cam as Serra would like to catch up with her.

    When she’d thought about Bo-Katan, Serra’s mind had wandered back to her time on Mandalore, and as it often did, settled on her verd’goten. Yes, she’d been injured during her hunt – almost fatally if not for Cam’s quick intervention – but completing it had granted her a sense of fulfilment she’d never realised she needed. As if it was a test to herself to prove she wasn’t a simple Initiate anymore, but a trained warrior of the Jedi. Plus, as much as she enjoyed sparring with her friends and master, she felt something was missing in the Temple, almost as if the spars weren’t as fulfilling as they should be. At least to her.

    Her thoughts were brought back from their wanderings when she sensed a general ripple in the Force, one she knew was from Cam. Latching onto it, she sent a message to him. [Where we first talked about the Code.] She laughed gently as she sensed his shock, her evolving ability to communicate telepathically with him catching him off-guard. While she mainly used the ability with Master Drallig, she had been practising the skill with Aayla, Sia-Lan, and others over the years. Enough that she could now speak to Cam even though they’d not felt each other’s Force signatures for several years.

    [I’ll be there soon.]

    Hearing his voice again, even if just in her mind, sent a pleasant tingle through her, longing to see him again. As he pulled back, she scolded herself and hoped he hadn’t sensed it. She didn’t need him thinking she was still the same, young desperate girl he’d known. No, she wanted him to see she’s changed, hear him comment on how she’d grown stronger, more powerful. Not because she needed his approval, but to confirm it. While Master Drallig often complimented her on her improvement, Cam would be able to see the changes easier than her Master or friends.

    Yet as she pondered change, she realised Cam’s Force signature had done just that. There was still power there, still as oddly distant as it’d always been, but it had altered and grown. A sense of refinement was there, along with… something she couldn’t quite define, but whatever it was held an allure to her. She did want to delve into the Force, to learn what this change in Cam was, but she understood that to do that would be considered rude. Better to wait until he was closer. Until she could focus on it without making it obvious to try and see what had happened.

    It was likely that the events of the Bando Gora – which her friends had told her about when she’d returned to the Temple after Cam had left – had left a mark on Cam. She had felt the ripples when he’d lashed out back then, realising later that it’d been him lashing out in a desire for revenge for what he endured. Serra had shared that desire and felt a need to help him punish any remaining Bando Gora. No matter how much Master Drallig said such thoughts were unbecoming of a Jedi, Serra knew they dwelled within her.

    Yet as she felt him descend from the Council’s tower, and his presence granted her a sense of familiarity, she saw that there was more to it than simply what he’d endured with the Bando Gora. He appeared calm and in control, yet as she closed her eyes and let the Force wash over her, she swore she felt something dangerous, something dark, lurking behind that calm. It was hard to get a read on, as if something was blurring it out, making it difficult to spot, yet she could, and she could tell while it wanted to control him, he wasn’t letting it do so.

    She stood as his presence grew closer, entering the gardens. Faint trembles rattled around her stomach; her knees grew weak. She pushed those aside, not wanting him to see how nervous she was, and not thinking she was still that weak little girl. As he neared, questions surfaced in her head, lining up to ask once he was here. Yet the moment he came into view, they vanished into the void of her mind.

    She knew Cam would’ve changed, it’d been years after all, but knowing it and seeing it were two very different things. Just the way he walked conveyed how confident and assured of himself he was now; not that he wasn’t before, but back then she’d felt it was a type of bravado. Now, as he marched her way, she saw that self-assurance was stronger, yet there were little hints in the way he moved, the way his eyes took in everything around him, that made it clear he wasn’t pretending. Of course, the massive lumbering beast - which had several Jedi scampering to avoid - at his side certainly helped the image and made Serra pause any desire to rush to greet him.

    She was embarrassed that, in her desire to see Cam again, she’d put aside all thoughts about his new companion. Though this wasn’t the same beast Aayla had mentioned. Gone was the hound-sized friendly young pup, and in its place, much like its master, was a proud, powerful, and confident beast.

    The tuk’ata’s eyes locked on her, and it shook its shoulders, drawing her attention to the spinal crests; particularly the gap where one was missing. Serra had her confirmation that the beast, and Cam as well, had seen combat. A gasp from a group of Younglings walking by had the tuk’ata shift its gaze. The spinal crest started to flatten only for a gentle touch against its head from Cam to relax the great beast.

    Questions about the tuk’ata and what had cost it the crest formed on her lips, though they slid away as she looked at Cam close up, her gaze as always, drawn to his eyes. “What happened?!”

    “Huh?” Cam stopped, confusion rippling over his face. Serra blinked and then felt blood rush to her cheeks. She’d spent so long preparing for this, wanting to show him she’d matured and the first thing she’d done was call out like that. She opened her mouth to apologise only to stop when Cam chuckled. “Oh, this,” he placed fingers just under his eye, touching the very edge of a scar that ran from his eyebrow to upper cheek and appeared to have missed the eye by the slimmest of margins. “Just scars of battle,” beside him the tuk’ata made a sound that Serra quickly realised was something akin to laughter. “So, how have you been?”

    Serra’s mouth hung open, her mind going in a dozen different directions with how lazily Cam ignored the scar, how the tuk’ata seemed able to react to his emotions, and how none of this was how she wanted their reunion to start. “F-fine,” she managed to get out as she took a step toward him. Her hand came up, wanting to examine the scar herself, only to stop when a deep, powerful growl slipped from the maw of the beast at Cam’s side.

    “Fenrir.” There was no warning in the tone, yet Cam just saying what had to be its name was enough to calm the monster. Serra blinked in confusion as Cam flicked it on the nose, and then ignored the lazy snapping of the beast’s maw directed toward his hand. “Serra’s a friend. Like Bo.”

    Serra felt the Force shift, both as Cam spoke to the tuk’ata and when he mentioned Bo. Her mind brought forth images from some of her more confusing dreams, but she pushed those away. She didn’t want to blush now, nor let anything slip into the Force for Cam to sense. Still, it was clear that Cam was close to the Mandalorian, perhaps more so than Serra would expect for two people that had travelled together for several years. She also ignored the way her heart seemed to tense at that idea, focusing instead on how easily Cam was able to control the beast.

    “Serra, this is Fenrir, who’s been almost ever-present since I rescued him from slavers nearly two years ago.”

    “I,” Serra paused, the words failing to come as both man and beast looked at her. The combined stare of both made her momentarily unsure of herself. “I felt your pain. With the Bando Gora. And, I think, with whatever happened at the beginning of the year.” She said slowly, unsure whether bringing up those events – whatever the second was – was a wise idea. As she spoke, she could feel the Force shift around her and Cam, helping her see him more clearly within. The blurred edges she’d felt earlier had cleared slightly, revealing something powerful, something dangerous, that she found oddly excited her.

    As Cam’s expression turned sour, she feared bringing up those events. In his eyes, she saw the memories replaying, and felt the subtle shift in his Force signature as residual feelings linked to them pulsed around him. The Dark Side was there, she understood that this was what was hiding within him, trying to control him. Yet even as she fretted that she’d allowed that danger to take control, she felt him push it away, place it back behind whatever barrier it was he’d built within himself to control it.

    “Yeah, it’s been… an interesting few years.” He spoke slowly, his Force signature showing faint signs of discomfort. Thankfully, before her concern grew to the point she’d be obliged to mention this to Master Drallig, the last vestiges of the anger, the Dark Side, slipped away behind the wall Cam had created within himself. She’d been told that wasn’t the way to deal with the temptations of the Dark Side, and her moments of weakness had released the anger into the Force, yet she was willing to overlook it. She trusted Cam, and Master Fay, to know about the issue and be working to control it. “It’s had its ups and downs,” the beast, Fenrir, leaned into his hand, seemingly offering support. Cam smiled as he stroked the great black beast behind its ears, drawing a faint murmur of delight from the tuk’ata. “Though I’d say what I’ve gained more than outweighs the… difficulties I’ve endured.” As Fenrir leaned into Cam’s hand further, Serra couldn’t help but smile at seeing a beast she’d been told was a danger to Jedi acting like a puppy, though she did ignore and push away the small voice inside that said it should be her Cam was touching and not Fenrir.

    Serra looked away, not wanting Cam to see any hint of desire and dislike on her face at how close he was to the tuk’ata. The view, as it had failed to do today, didn’t help centre her thoughts. It had worked so well for that when she’d been an Initiate and in her early time as a Padawan, but since her verd’goten, she’d started feeling at times that there was something off about the view. Almost as if it was a distraction from something else, though she’d so far failed to put her finger on what that might be.

    “So,” she turned back as he spoke, feeling some warmth at the smile that had crept back onto his lips. “What have you been up to?” He was trying to engage her, yet she could sense some doubt within him, though it was focused more on himself than her. “I heard you and Master Drallig had an adventure last year.”

    She returned his smile as she nodded. “Yes, we were assigned by the High Council to help mediate a trade dispute in the Outer Rim.” There was a faint, momentary burst of what felt like annoyance when she mentioned the Council, but it was gone before she finished the sentence. “It took longer than Master Drallig had expected due to one of the factions deciding the talks would be more productive if they acted aggressively. Thankfully, their approach was easy for Master Drallig and me to handle.”

    Cam’s smile grew. “Sounds like you had fun then.”

    “Yes, though I didn’t end up with someone like Fenrir here at the end of it.” She leaned forward, feeling safe around the beast due to Cam’s presence. The connection between the two of them was strong, reminding her of the bond she shared with her master. Slowly she extended a hand toward Fenrir, stopping when it was about halfway there.

    In a move that amused her, the beast, which was only a head shorter than Cam, looked up at him for assurance. After receiving it, Fenrir took a few steps toward her. The beast sniffed her hand carefully as if judging if she was safe, or a member of its pack. Since she considered Cam one of her closest friends, she felt she was, and thus wanted the beast to feel comfortable around her.

    As its maw moved closer to her hand, Serra would be lying if she said she didn’t feel some trepidation. The mouth looked wide enough to swallow her arm from the elbow down in a single bite, and the brief glimpses she’d gotten of its teeth meant rendering flesh from bone wasn’t an issue for it. Yes, the Force gave no hint that she was in danger, but the instinctual reaction of being so close to a creature bred to kill Jedi was hard to overcome.

    A snort escaped its nose before it covered the last of the distance. Serra’s smile grew massively as it pushed its muzzle into the hand. She then laughed softly as a deep rumbling of contentment slid from the maw. She could feel the Force shift around them, marking her as someone the tuk’ata trusted, as part of her pack, and that delighted her.

    “He’s so warm,” she said as she looked up at Cam even as Fenrir moved forward, guiding her hand to the spot behind his eyes where Cam had been petting him previously. The missing spinal crest was easy to spot now, not least because the flesh around the area was lighter, being a dark shade of grey compared to the black fur that covered the rest of the great beast.

    “Aye, he’s a great heater on cold nights.” While the words sounded normal, there was a subtle shift in the Force that returned Serra’s gaze to Cam. Even without him saying anything, she knew something bad had happened on the last mission. More so than just the faint hints of rage she’d felt at the beginning of the year. Whatever it was had been serious enough that he and Master Fay had been locked in conversation with the High Council for hours, and it was clear, as much as he tried to hide it, that Cam wasn’t happy with the result of that meeting.

    “What happened?” she asked slowly, wanting to know but not willing to push the matter. “If you want to talk about it…”

    In her younger years, she would’ve pushed, and kept pushing to know what was going on. Back then, she’d have felt it was the right thing to do, to get someone to open up to help them. Now, she was older, wiser, and after her last mission, understood that pushing someone often just drove them further into their thoughts.

    As Cam took in the view, Serra’s thoughts turned to that mission. In particular, a Rodian aide named Vhuss Xenpa. Vhuss had been working for one of the groups at the negotiating table, and Serra had sensed something was off about her. She’d approached the Rodian and prodded her about it in a way that she thought was subtle at the time, but Serra now understood that she’d been anything but. Vhuss had retreated into herself and made sure to avoid Serra for the rest of the negotiations. Then, when things turned violent, Serra discovered that Vhuss was the one who’d betrayed the company she worked for to let the mercenaries in.

    Afterwards, when Serra had confronted Vhuss, she’d been confused at why Vhuss had done what she’d done. The Rodian revealed, under gentle persuasion from Master Drallig, that her family were ‘indentured workers’ for the other company, and they’d placed her as a spy in her current one at a young age. Serra had pressured Vhuss about why she hadn’t said anything when Serra had asked, but the Rodian had explained that her handler had seen them talking and warned her to stay away from the Jedi otherwise her family would be killed.

    Serra and Master Drallig had managed to locate and free Vhuss’ family, though it had been a close thing. When they’d returned to the Temple, Serra had pleaded with Master Drallig that this indentured worker system was slavery in all but name. Master Drallig had agreed but made clear that the Jedi could do nothing about it when the Senate knew and allowed the practice to persist. He made clear that he, and others, disagreed with the practice, but until the Senate did something about it, it was hard for the Order to actively combat the issue.

    Serra had stewed for a long time after that, trying to accept the issue. While it no longer came to mind easily, the difficulties she had with this state of affairs still caused her problems nearly a year later. She’d already promised herself that once knighted, she’d do what she could to help those in situations like Vhuss and her family. She knew she was but one Jedi in a galaxy of quintillions, but she felt she had to help. And, she hoped, her friends like Sia-Lan and Aayla might be willing to join her on this mission.

    “A lot happened.” Cam’s quiet words drew her from her thoughts, and almost from continuing to pet Fenrir, though the beast leaned into her hand as she tried to move it away, so she kept petting him. The scar over his eye seemed to pulse as he slowly turned back to her. Pain rippled in his eyes, and she sensed discomfort and irritation flowing from him within the Force. Something Fenrir picked up as the beast grunted to draw Cam’s attention. That brought a faint, short smile to her friend’s face and a prang of pain to her that it wasn’t her making him smile. “Come on.”

    She was startled at his sudden movement, and at Fenrir sliding from her petting to fall into step at Cam’s side. Quickly she moved to catch up with him. “Where are we going?”

    “Trust me,” he muttered as he led her and Fenrir into the garden proper. She stayed quiet as they walked, showing how much she did trust him, though inside she was confused about what was going on. The youngling class from earlier reacted as Fenrir passed by, but this time the startled responses of the children drew no response from the tuk’ata.

    As they walked through the Temple in silence, Serra couldn’t help but smile at how even some Jedi Knights shifted their paths to avoid Fenrir. Yes, he was a tuk’ata, but not only had the High Council said he was allowed within the wall, but Cam had complete control over the beast. Something anyone could sense with just a simple probe into the Force.

    They passed by one of the sparring rooms and Serra sensed Aayla and Darihd inside. From what she was sensing, the pair were sparring directly, and while Aayla was enjoying herself, the Togruta wasn’t. Probably because Aayla was far more skilled with a blade than he was. He, like his Master, was more inclined to think about the Force and apply it in subtle ways than drawing upon it to engage in combat as Aayla and Serra did.

    She glanced at Cam, wondering if he’d stop to see them, but he kept walking. The only hint he knew who was in the room was a slight turn of his head to try and steal a glance inside as they passed.

    “My mission was to somewhere, something unique,” Cam began as they entered an elevator under one of the Temple’s spires. His voice was soft, yet there was an odd hardness to it that demanded her attention. “The entire world… it was alive within the Force.”

    “Every world is,” Serra countered instinctively, though she found herself wondering if that was true a moment later. She’d grown up on Coruscant, and been so used to the faint ripples it generated in the Force that she’d always assumed every planet was like that. However, she knew Mandalore wasn’t, nor was any other planet she’d visited. Each had its own pulse, its own rhythm in the Force, and if she was being honest, she found she disliked the one generated by Coruscant.

    The planet may be the capital of the Republic, but something had felt off about it ever since she’d returned from Mandalore, and it had grown worse after her last mission. Coruscant never felt calm now, and there were hints of something off, something rotten within the Force about it. She’d spoken to Master Drallig about this several times, and he’d explained each time that this was caused by the sheer volume of beings who called the world home. While she’d accepted that at first, since her last mission, and the doubt it had formed inside regarding the Republic, she’d found herself thinking there was more to it. While she couldn’t put her finger on what, she did find herself wanting to travel the galaxy more, to experience new sensations and see new things.

    “Yes, but Zonama Sekot… it was something more than anything else.” Cam’s lips twitched upward as he spoke. “There, everything is connected so… completely, that words fail to describe how incredible it was.” He laughed, a sound she’d missed over the years, and shook his head. “At several points, Master Fay was acting like a Padawan constructing her first lightsaber.”

    Serra blinked in confusion, glad they were in the elevator as she was sure that statement would’ve caused her to forget how to walk for a moment. “Master Fay? Acting like a Padawan?” She spoke slowly, not believing the words she was repeating.

    Cam continued to laugh. “Aye. It’s something I’ll never forget.” The joy on his face made Serra smile as he’d seemed on edge ever since they’d met. Yet, that joy fell away as he continued. “Things went sideways after that though,” he muttered as his shoulders slumped. Feeling a need to comfort him, she placed a hand on his arm, doing her best to ignore how firm it felt under his robes.

    He looked at her, the smile returning slightly. He then patted her hand with his, sending ripples through the Force that Serra did her best to not react to. Yes, the closeness she felt with him excited her, but she understood this wasn’t the time nor place to focus on them.

    “The High Council has asked that I don’t discuss the matter with others for now, and while I doubt they’ll do what I feel is necessary, I’m prepared to wait and see. All I can say is that things were… tough for most of the year.”

    She offered him a smile as her hand gently squeezed his arm, and not because she enjoyed the feeling of power radiating from him. “It can’t have been that bad. I mean, you’re here.” Again, there was a voice that wanted her to say more, that he was here with her, but she understood now that wasn’t something to dwell on. Her friendship with Cam meant more than any unrequited feeling she may hold for him.

    “More or less.” She couldn’t stop her gaze from shifting just enough that the scar over his eye was her focus. He turned back to face the door, waiting for it to open, Serra wondered if the scar came from the same battle that had wounded Fenrir. Now, there was a chance they’d both not been injured in battle, but the odds on that were slim enough that she discounted it quickly.

    It was at that point that she realised the elevator wasn’t descending into the bowels of the Temple but rising into the spire. Which was odd as apart from the Council of Reconciliation there was little in this spire but administration offices. Well, there was one of the larger hangers in the Temple. While that seemed the most likely place for them to be heading, she couldn’t figure out why Cam wanted to take her. Unless he wanted to show her the Mandalorian ship he had. She’d heard about the vessel from Aayla and had been slightly jealous that the Twi’lek had gotten to travel with Cam and Bo for so long on it, but other than that, it held little interest to her. She simply wasn’t as mechanically inclined as Cam was, which was saying something as Cam was far from the most technically inclined Padawan she knew.

    She tensed slightly as she wondered if Bo-Katan would be present. She hadn’t spoken to the Mandalorian girl in years, though that hadn’t stopped Serra from thinking about her. No matter how much she was confused by those thoughts. To shift those thoughts, she returned her focus to Cam. He appeared calm, one hand resting on Fenrir’s head while the other stayed on hers against his arm. Doing her best to ignore how comfortable he was with leaving his hand on hers, and the butterflies it was causing in her stomach, she tried to get a reading on him in the Force without making it obvious.

    Those hints of anger and danger that had been blurred were stronger now she had a physical connection to him. Yet, unlike what she’d been told to expect from any tempted by the Dark Side, they didn’t appear to be affecting him. What it did do was give him an edge, a sense of danger that Serra couldn’t help but be intrigued by even as she wondered just what had happened to have him not only feel rage but keep it bottled down inside instead of releasing it into the Force as a Jedi was supposed to do.

    “You know it’s rude to read someone without asking.” She almost jumped at his quiet words, and she did pull her hand from his arm as her heart rate spiked.

    “S-sorry,” she mumbled, suddenly missing the contact. “It’s just… you’ve grown. And not just physically.” His gaze shifted to her, those green eyes of his wandering over her frame made the butterflies inside frantic. “N-not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just…” He silenced her by placing a finger near her lips.

    “I know, and while you’ve also grown,” his eyes narrowed as they drifted lower for a moment sending a spike of longing through her, “I get what you mean.” He lowered his finger and returned his gaze to the door even as he continued. “I’m more than willing to tell you how this has happened, within reason. However, as I just said, some things are restricted by the Council. As for others,” he shrugged and smiled at some private joke, “well, let’s just say it’s better to show than tell.”

    Serra considered asking how he planned to show her, a faint hope inside sparking that he still felt something for her. Yet, that question was cut off by the doors opening. She followed him out, expecting to see a Mandalorian ship dominating the hanger, only to pause after a few steps at what was instead dominating the bay.

    The ship was predominantly a dark shade of green, though there were patches of brown and black over the hull. None of those marks looked unintentional, and they seemed to give the ship an impression of speed even as it rested quietly in the middle of the bay as a dozen Jedi, and twice that in support staff, hovered around it. Yet, just as she moved to follow Cam toward this strange ship, she stopped and gasped as she felt something incredible from the Force. “How?!” She blurted out as she felt the ship reach out through the Force for Cam.

    Cam turned back to her, a smile spreading rapidly over his face even as Fenrir continued to move toward the vessel. Before he could say anything, she was sending out a probe, wanting to understand how the kriff the vessel was able to not only generate a presence within the Force but use it in some form. The ship responded to her, sending back gentle vibrations in the Force, and at the same time, she felt it again reach out for Cam. Almost as if it wanted reassurance that she was to be trusted.

    It honestly reminded Serra of how a pup behaved around its mother, which somehow made even less sense than the ship having a Force signature.

    “As I said, on Zonama Sekot, everything was connected. From the plants and animals that called it home, to the ground and even the starships they built there for clients.” Cam held out his hand, and she took it quickly, letting him guide her toward this marvel. “Master Fay was tasked with investigating two rumours from the Outer Rim. One dealt with a living planet, the other with a planet building unique starships for the rich and powerful. Unexpectedly, the rumours were both for the same planet.”

    Serra could feel Cam’s joy, not only in the Force as he responded to the ship's probe, but in his voice. “She’s beautiful,” she said as a smile spread on her face as well.

    “Aye, her name’s the Jade Raven, or Raven for short,” Cam added almost as an afterthought. To Serra, the name was perfect for her, and she could feel now that the vessel was indeed a she. As they neared, she saw the back of a familiar Jedi Master and reluctantly let her hand slide from Cam’s.

    “Ah, Padawan Shan, I hadn’t expected you to return here so soon,” Master Plo Koon began as he turned to face them. “Though seeing who’s with you, I cannot say I’m surprised.” He chuckled as Fenrir walked past him, seemingly unconcerned about the presence of the Jedi Master. “The first of many visitors to the Raven, hmm?” He asked with a chuckle.

    “Master Koon.” Serra bowed to the Council member even as Cam replied.

    “I’d assume so. Serra was just the first I found.” Serra felt her chest swell at Cam’s words as she knew she wasn’t the first he’d found. No, he’d sought her out, and when the chance to invite others was there, he’d chosen to keep this moment just for her.

    “That isn’t exactly a surprise, still, it is good you’re here. The researchers are having difficulty with your travelling companions.” Cam chuckled at Master Koon’s words and turned to her even as he started moving toward Raven. She fell into step beside him, her eyes marvelling at the incredibly smooth surface of the vessel. So smooth, in fact, that bar where the engines extended from the rear, it was hard to see any indication of how and where the covering must’ve been applied.

    “The hull, if you haven’t already guessed, is organic, as is most of her internal design. Her more critical components are mechanical.”

    “Indeed, and it is those that our non-Jedi technicians are eager to examine,” Master Koon added as he walked at Cam’s other side. “She is truly a remarkable vessel, and not just for the fact we can feel her within the Force.” The Kel Dor chuckled and stroked his chin just under his breathing mask. “I do believe even Master Yoda was shocked when Padawan Shan guided her into land. Now though, since you are here, perhaps you might convince your passengers to allow us entry to the vessel. They are quite insistent that they’ll only do so with a word from you or Master Fay.”

    “Simvyl isn’t exactly a passenger, Master,” Cam said, his lips twitching as he spoke. “Though I doubt it’s him that’s causing the biggest headache.”

    “I wouldn’t go that far, but yes, your other companion has been far more… descriptive as to what she’ll do if we attempt to enter the vessel without your permission.” The pair shared a laugh even as Serra reached out through the Force, wondering – and hoping a little – who the other companion was. She joined the others in smiling as she felt someone she’d not sensed in years but had hoped to see once again.

    “Then if you’ll excuse us, Master Koon, I’ll get to work convincing them to allow the researchers and engineers access.” The Kel Dor Jedi Master nodded and moved off toward a group of four Jedi who were gathered near the front of the vessel while Cam led Serra to the landing ramp that extended down under the middle of Raven.

    There she saw a black-furred Cathar making some rather animated gestures toward a trio of non-Jedi engineers. None of them looked happy about dealing with the Cathar and Serra didn’t have to do anything to sense irritation and anger from all four.

    “And as I told you, this ship belongs to C…” the Cathar’s rant stopped mid-word as he caught sight of Cam. “Cameron.” Serra’s brow rose as the Cathar bowed to Cam. Seeing a Cathar travelling with Cam was odd, given the race’s long-standing issues with the Mandalorians. Yet, seeing one show such respect to Cam… Now Serra really wanted to know what had happened on Zonama Sekot. “These… individuals insist they have the permission of the Jedi High Council to enter. However, neither you nor Master Fay left instructions saying anyone could board.”

    Cam chuckled even as he shook his head. “Somehow, I don’t think it was your idea to enforce this so aggressively.” He glanced into the ship, to where Serra knew Bo-Katan was standing, though she couldn’t see the redhead from her current location. Cam turned to the engineers. “If you could give me some time, I’ll help them disembark and then you can carry out your examination.” The lead of the trio, a green-skinned Twi’lek, nodded and moved to say something only for Cam to take a step toward them. “However, if I sense the ship in distress because you are… overly zealous in your actions… Well, then I might just allow my companions to speak with you privately.”

    “Um, yes, but, uh, the High Council wishes us to begin our examination as soon as possible,” the Twi’lek struggled to get out as Cam glared at them. While Serra knew he could be imposing, she felt it was the way Fenrir was now standing next to the Cathar, his spinal crests bent back slightly, which was the main reason for the fear radiating from the engineers.

    “And you can. Once my companions have disembarked and removed their personal belongings,” Cam shot back. Serra was barely able to muffle her laughter when the Twi’lek nodded almost frantically, and then the trio scampered away after Fenrir snorted.

    “Greetings,” Serra turned to see the Cathar had approached, one hand extended toward her. “I’m Simvyl, a member of the Antarian Rangers and sworn warrior to Cameron Shan.”

    “Um, Padawan Serra Keto,” she replied awkwardly as she shook the furred hand of the Cathar. Her gaze shifted to Cam, wondering why someone, particularly a Cathar, had sworn themselves to him. The more she heard about this last mission of his, the more questions formed without any answers being provided. She’d heard of the Antarian Rangers, though she’d never met any before today, and that they often worked with specific Jedi repeatedly, but it was rare for one to swear themselves to a Jedi. Never mind a Padawan who not only travelled with a Mandalorian but who was one as well.

    “I can’t go into details,” Cam began, understanding her confusion, “but after the mission, Simvyl swore himself to my side.” Yeah, that didn’t really explain anything, something Serra made clear with a creased brow.

    “While my fellow Rangers fell, they were avenged in the war. But I still want the Vong to pay for their actions.” Serra felt her brow crease at the fire in Simvyl’s words and the new batch of questions that formed in her mind. Who or what were the Vong and what war did they fight in? If a Jedi fought in a war, why hadn’t other Jedi come to help, why hadn’t the High Council sent Cam and Master Fay support, and why was Simvyl sworn to Cam when it would’ve been Master Fay leading?

    “Simvyl, the High Council has asked us to remain silent about what happened on Zonama Sekot,” Serra could sense the Cathar’s fury rising, “at least until they’ve reached a decision on how to handle future problems with the Vong.”

    Simvyl’s rage bled away, though like what she’d sensed from Cam, Serra realised he didn’t let go of it. It was also at this point she realised Simvyl was young, perhaps only a handful of years older than her and Cam. His fur and face lacked the same shifts she’d seen in Cathar Knights that were missing in the handful of Cathar Initiates and Padawans within the Order.

    “Understood,” Simvyl replied with a nod. “Do you think they’ll agree to your recommendation?”

    “We’ll see.” It was easy for Serra to hear the doubt in Cam’s voice, which made her wonder what the recommendation was. For most Jedi that she knew, Serra would wonder why they doubted the Council would listen to them, but she knew Cam wasn’t like most Jedi. He had his own opinions and often doubted decisions the Council in general, and Order as a whole took. After Mandalore and her most recent mission, she was beginning to understand why that was.

    “Very well.” Simvyl seemed almost resigned to that, though she sensed a flicker of renewed determination from within the Cathar. All of this just made Serra even more curious about what had happened on Zonama Sekot with these Vong; which she assumed was an alien race or cult that she’d never heard of before.

    “Finally finished talking with those di’kute in the high tower, eh?” Serra’s head turned to look up the ramp into the Raven to see Bo-Katan had moved into sight. Fenrir had moved up the ramp, leaning into Bo-Katan’s touch with as much apparent comfort as he had when Cam had petted him earlier. She felt a flicker of jealousy at how easily the tuk’ata accepted Bo-Katan, even as the redhead’s eyes seemed to spark as she saw Serra. “At least you brought something nice back with you.”

    “Play nice,” Cam commented as Bo-Katan moved down the ramp. Serra fought to keep a rush of heat from her cheeks as she took in the other girl’s face for the first time in years. She’d grown, as expected, though Serra noted her ponytails were longer now, and the green eyes, darker than Cam’s, had a hardness to them, making it clear she’d seen combat with Cam. Bo-Katan’s black bodysuit did nothing to stop Serra’s mind from wandering as the other woman walked toward her, nor Serra’s eyes from drifting over the way it held Bo-Katan’s hips.

    As Bo-Katan neared, a confident, assured smirk danced on her lips, and Serra suddenly felt nervous. It was as if she was reliving her nightmare standing in front of the Council without her robe. Before that fear manifested, Serra pushed it aside and moved forward to greet Bo-Katan.

    Bo-Katan gave her a nod as they grasped forearms, relieving Serra as she’d feared if they hugged Bo-Katan would hear how her heart was racing. “Where were you the last time he came back?” Bo-Katan asked as her fingers tightly gripped Serra’s forearms.

    “On a mission with my Master. We arrived back just after you and Cam left,” Serra replied. She had to ignore and let go of her returning annoyance at how she’d missed Cam – and Bo-Katan – a year ago by a mere week on either side of Cam’s return to the Temple. “It’s good to see you,” she added with a smile.

    “Aye, you too.” Bo-Katan’s gaze wandered downward, taking in Serra’s frame. When her eyes hesitated on her chest, Serra shifted her stance pushing it forward a little. “And I see you’ve grown.” Back on Mandalore, Serra hadn’t known how to react to Bo-Katan’s advances or those of others. Now though, with time to grow and mature, she felt more confident in her frame; especially as she’d outgrown the Mandalorian warrior in a few areas.

    Serra proved her confidence, even as she felt her face heat up, by running her eyes over Bo-Katan’s frame again. “As have you.” The redhead’s face shifted, the smirk growing more assertive, more aggressive, and Serra suddenly felt like she’d been presented to a rancor at mealtime.


    Bo-Katan looked over Serra’s shoulder, her smile losing some of its predatory tint. “What? You can’t tell me she hasn’t grown in some appealing ways.” Serra wanted to look back, to see how Cam reacted, but she didn’t. She wasn’t the same love-struck young girl she’d been, even if those feelings that she’d thought she’d buried were crawling back. However, merely not seeing Cam didn’t mean she couldn’t tell his reaction. The sharp, focused spike of desire radiating from him made her weak in the knees.

    “She has, but behave.”

    “Sure,” Bo-Katan responded. She met Serra’s gaze and then rolled her eyes, making Serra chuckle. “Keep pretending you’re not thinking the same thing I am.” A fire burned in Serra’s cheeks, as images from her dreams surged into her consciousness, which brought a feral grin to Bo-Katan’s face. “Or that she is,” Bo-Katan muttered, shifting forward slightly, leaving Serra unsure of how she should react, or how she wanted to.

    “How about, before you attempt to seduce a Padawan inside the Jedi Temple, you give her a guided tour first?” Serra looked over her shoulder to see Cam smiling at Bo-Katan’s actions. She wondered if he understood that letting Bo-Katan guide her into the Raven would remove them from the sight of the other Jedi. “While you do that, I’ll take Simvyl with me and arrange rooms for you two in the Temple.” He held up a hand. “No, you can’t stay on Raven. The High Council will be examining every centimetre of her day and night and I’d rather not get a call in the middle of the night, every night, saying you’ve injured, or done worse to, a random Jedi.”

    “I’d only annoy them,” Bo-Katan shot back, though even without the odd inflexion in her tone Serra wouldn’t have believed her. Though that inflexion made Serra wonder just how close Bo-Katan had gotten to Cam. She could feel the desire radiating from both of them, though Cam was working to hide it. Part of her was jealous, but worryingly for her – at least in reference to her dreams – another part of her was intrigued. “Still, Serra’s far more pleasurable than most Jedi to spend time with.” Serra didn’t need to look at Bo-Katan to know the redhead was licking her lips.

    “Then I leave her in your capable hands. Just don’t break her.” Serra’s eyes threatened to explode with how wide they got as Cam turned and walked away. As she slowly turned back to Bo-Katan, her mind unhelpfully pulled back those dreams she was trying to ignore.

    As Fenrir walked down the ramp, sliding past the pair without a care in the world, Bo-Katan smiled and her hand slipped down Serra’s arm to her hand. “Come on. While this ship is odd, it’s amazing.”

    Serra let Bo-Katan pull her up the ramp, feeling the Force shift around her as the Raven sensed her presence. Tentatively she reached out with her free hand and then gasped when her fingers grazed against one section of panelling. With physical contact, the ship’s signature within the Force was easier to experience. It was alien in a way Serra could barely comprehend, and yet it reminded her heavily of Cam, making Serra feel instantly safe with her hull. The ship was happy to feel her, meet her, though that might possibly be because with how strong Cam’s presence was within the Raven’s signature she simply recognized Serra because of him.

    “She wants to fly,” she muttered, earning a chuckle from Bo-Katan.

    “Oh, she can. Believe me on that. Once these Jetii have finished doing whatever they want to do, talk to Cam. I don’t think it would take much to convince him to take you,” Bo-Katan paused there, making Serra’s mind wander to places she’d rather not when with company. Bo-Katan chuckled, “for a flight, I mean.”

    Bo-Katan turned and pulled Serra further into the ship, forcing her to break the physical connection with the Raven. Yet, as they moved, Serra could feel the ship reaching out, curious about who she was and how the ship felt it knew her. That allowed Serra to ignore the fire that was growing inside, the one that wanted her to risk her friendships with Cam and Bo-Katan to see, no, to confirm, if they felt the same about her as she did about them.

    … …

    … …

    Just over a week after returning to Coruscant, and still waiting for a decision from the High Council – though Fay didn’t expect one to be made for at least a month – I was walking through a starport near the Temple. At my side was Bo and behind her was a small hovercart. While she, like me, had left most of her spare equipment on Zonama Sekot when we’d left, she’d insisted I help her restock. And since she knew about my Inventory, she’d tried to get me to ‘acquire’ certain equipment. While I hadn’t agreed – simply because with the sheer number of security cameras in those locations even I’d have had trouble pulling a heist off – she had been very inventive in her methods of persuasion.

    The sound of a ship’s engines flaring as it descended drew my attention. The vessel coming in to land at the private landing pad should’ve been Bo’s ride, and any doubt was pushed from my mind as I took in the vessel. Unlike the Ne’tra Sartr – and any other Kom’rk class ships that had been produced – this one didn’t have any extravagant moving parts. Instead, it looked solid and utilitarian, build for combat and working than the more elegant look the Ne’tra Sartr, which was commissioned by a group of New Mandalorians, did. Compounding that was the two-dozen weapon mounts I could see with my Force-boosted vision which likely had caused issues with Coruscanti security.

    “I assume that’s your ride?”

    Bo chuckled. “Probably. Not many mando’ade on this osik’palon.” I smirked at her response, as since we’d left the Temple, it was the longest sentence she’d used. As we passed through the last security checkpoint, she returned to her silent ways, leaving me to once more deal with the staff. They weren’t happy about how heavily armed Bo was, nor the hovercart of supplies behind us, but the fact a Jedi was escorting her seemed to placate most of their issues.

    Once we were through that checkpoint and had begun walking toward the landing platform, my mind turned back to why Bo was being so silent. Since she was heading home to Mandalore – the civil war was officially over – I’d chosen to escort her here, though before we’d left the Temple entirely, Bo had said her goodbyes to Serra, Simvyl, and Fenrir outside the walls of the Temple.

    She’d petted Fenrir and asked him to take good care of me, though not by making me avoid battle. Fenrir, seemingly understanding what was happening, had leaned into her touch more than he’d usually do, and then whined as she’d pulled back. Her interaction with Simvyl had been short and polite, at least in Bo’s terms, but they parted as comrades, most of the tension over their cultures having drifted away because of what we’d all endured together. However it was her goodbye to Serra, and the spectacle that had caused that I felt was why Bo was staying silent, and what my mind found hard to not think about while we walked.

    On the steps of the Jedi Temple, with various other Jedi standing around for differing reasons – including Master Drallig who didn’t seem to trust Bo – everything had seemingly been going fine. Serra had hugged Bo, much to Bo’s irritation. A smirk was followed by a whispered word and after Serra glanced my way, her cheeks reddening, Bo had caught her lips and kissed her rather passionately. Initially, Serra had frozen, fear and confusion radiating from her, but then, much to my surprise, she’d started to return the kiss.

    As Serra’s hands had begun to wander, Master Drallig had coughed loudly, making Serra all but jump back from the embrace. She then retreated a few steps, almost tripping as she did so. Bo had laughed at Serra’s behaviour, and when she turned to face me, she’d winked, though it was clear from her face that she’d enjoyed the kiss as much as Serra had.

    Of course, Bo hadn’t given me the chance to comment on things before she’d marched over and pulled my head down to her. Unlike Serra, I wasn’t caught out by the kiss, and more than happily returned it. Yes, doing so on the steps of the Jedi Temple wasn’t going to look good to many, but given I was letting Bo leave the planet, and making no effort to hold onto her, they had little ground to stand on. Attachments were forbidden by the Order, but I’d discovered that there was little directly against physical relationships so long as they didn’t evolve into much more than friends-with-benefits. While some might still raise an issue with one-night-stands, most would, I expected, let such things go.

    When we pulled back, a wicked smile crept onto Bo’s face before she walked off without saying or doing anything. After glancing at Serra – and letting her know that we’d talk once I was back – and then making sure Fenrir stayed with Simvyl, I had headed off after the Mandalorian female. Though before we’d arrived at the starport, and its various checkpoints, Bo had dragged me to restock her munitions.

    As we rounded a corner, we saw a group of five Mandalorians approaching. All bore the sigil of Clan Kryze over the right shoulder. Four of them bore a smaller sigil just below that, and I recognized two of them as marks of clans within House Kryze. The fifth wore a sigil I didn’t recognize on his right pauldron, though given the flash of excitement – mixed with some concern – coming from her, Bo did.

    “Cam,” Bo began as she stopped and turned to me. She slid her helmet off, letting me have one final moment of seeing her face. I knew I’d see her again, not least via the Holonet, but I didn’t know when or where I’d next get to see her in person. She opened her mouth to say something, only to stop and push back a bang of hair that had fallen over her brow. “Look, I suck at this, but… take care of yourself.”

    I smirked. “Are you going soft on me, Miss Kryze?” She threw a punch with the arm not holding her helmet, but I trapped that against my side. Before she could react, I decided to turn the tables on her, and pulled her in close, my lips capturing hers.

    As normal, she semi-fought against my grip, though this time there was more to it than just a need to prove she wasn’t some weak-willed girl. Perhaps that was because of who the fifth approaching Mandalorian was, but since she’d caused a scene at the Temple, I felt I owed it to her to return the favour this one last time. It was a shame she was wearing her armour as it prevented me from physically squeezing her arse, but the way she squeaked when I did so with the Force more than made up for that.

    “I was under the impression that our father sent you with Alor Cameron to explore the galaxy, not seek out a riduur.” I ended the kiss abruptly as the speaker started, recognizing the voice almost instantly. Bo pulled back just as fast, a glare falling away as soon as she turned to the speaker.

    “Dorgo!” She called, moving forward quickly; though not too quickly so she didn’t, at least to me, look needy to greet her brother. Dorgo pulled her into a hug as the four warriors with him moved into defensive positions around us. I knew it was standard procedure, but given I had Detection running, I knew there were over three thousand sentients within a kilometre of us, though none within two hundred metres. At least on this level or above us. Seeing I had a moment, I used Observe on each in turn and then on Dorgo. While none of the escorts stood out, I now had names to go with the sigils, and knowledge was power. As for Dorgo, it seemed he’d grown a fair bit over the last few years fighting in the civil war.

    Dorgo Kryze
    Race: Human
    Level: 26
    Health: 100%
    Age: 25
    Force Potential: Minimal
    Threat Potential: Low
    Reputation: Liked
    Affiliation Loyalty: Clan Kryze (86%) Mandalorian Protectors (34%)
    Emotional State: Happy/Curious/Jealous
    Dorgo is happy to see his sister again after many years and intrigued by how close you have become with her.
    He is, however, slightly jealous as he hasn’t managed to move on fully from the death of his wife and son, even if he executed the one responsible for planning the attack on Sundari.


    Yeah, gaining five levels in three years was impressive, though, given the hell for leather he’d have been going through while seeking revenge, it made sense. I was also glad he’d gotten revenge for the deaths of his family, though what stood out was that, unlike when I’d met him years ago, he no longer held any loyalty to the New Mandalorians or the Death Watch. That was a big change, though him simply being alive was likely a larger one to canon, and should ensure Bo didn’t join the Death Watch, which was the base objective for her linked quest; Flight of the Owl.

    Ven’alor Dorgo, it’s been some time,” I said once he’d let her go, using his title of clan heir. Dorgo, according to Bo, wouldn’t have any major challengers for leadership of Clan Kryze whenever Adonai passed on, however, there would be clans that tried to wrest control of the house from him.

    Bo glared at me, almost daring me to say something about the public display of care for her brother. I didn’t, but that was more because I didn’t want to ruin a family moment than poke fun at my friend/lover. I did wonder if Bo would react to me if it was three years before we saw each other again, but I doubted it. She’d either challenge me to a spar or drag me to a private room; probably both and in that order.

    Dorgo nodded though his helmet stayed on, a marked change from how he’d behaved before the death of his wife and son. “Alor Cameron, it is good to see you again,” he said as he clasped my forearm. His calling me chief was odd, as while it was technically accurate, it was a clan of one. “Though I wonder if perhaps I should call you vod now?”

    “Dorgo!” I chuckled even as Bo slammed an armoured hand against her brother’s armour. The crushgaunts were secured and hidden on the hovercart as, according to Republic law, they were considered illegal weapons. I’d had to convince Bo to hide them simply for expediency rather than keep them on and be forced to fight our way through security. I’d actually been surprised at how easily she’d agreed but given I’d only brought this up after the hovercart was overflowing with weaponry, she was probably in a good mood. “Unlike you, I don’t hold to the tradition that the first we bed is to be our mate. Else I’d have been wed long before we met Cam.”

    Dorgo looked between his sister and me. “Cam now is it?” Even with the helmet on, I could see the eyebrow rising. “Still, I do hope you’ve been keeping my little sister out of trouble.” I wasn’t sure which one of us was first, but it only took a few seconds before Bo and I were laughing in his face. “What happened this time?” He asked with a sigh. That only made us laugh harder.

    “Well, let’s see,” Bo began after the moment of levity had passed. “On a Jetii-sanctioned mission, we ended up on a world you’ll have to see the recording of to believe. A few weeks after being there, and after the Jetii brought in more wealth than I’ve ever seen, the Ne’tra Sartr was destroyed and the planet was invaded. Cam here slaughtered the first group of aliens, the Vong, and then started an insurgency war that lasted most of the year. The war finally ended after he bested the Vong leader in single combat.”

    About halfway through Bo’s short speech, Dorgo had locked his helmet on me and I sensed curiosity and disbelief from his guard. I shrugged as Bo finished. “That’s the short version of things, but yeah, that happened.”

    “Impressive,” Dorgo commented after a few moments had passed for him to process what he’d just heard. “I’d love to hear more of this adventure, perhaps over some ne’tra gal?

    “While I’d like that, the Council has requested that I not discuss the mission with others until they’ve had time to discuss certain elements of it,” I replied before glancing at Bo. “However, they didn’t explicitly state that Bo and others with me couldn’t discuss the matter, nor share any recordings her armour might have made.” Bo’s eyes lit up at hearing that, and worried she’d show recordings of me losing control, I added a caveat. “Though only show the recordings to people you trust.”

    I could’ve asked her to not show any to anyone, but that would be imposing on her. Yes, I wasn’t keen on others seeing that I’d drawn on the Dark Side so readily, but so long as Bo only showed them to her family, Naz, and perhaps one or two others, things should be fine. Otherwise, if she showed them to a large number of people, not only would word get back to the High Council, but I’d probably have dozens of Mandalorians showing up for duels.

    Bo smirked mischievously and I already knew she planned to show her family and others recordings we’d not shared with Master Fay or the High Council. “I knew there was a reason I liked you.”

    “And here I thought it was the regular combat, buying you replacement munitions, and the all-night sex that kept you around?”

    “Well,” she began, dragging out the word, “there is that.” She moved closer and pulled my head down to her ear. “Take care, and when Serra finally works up the courage to take what she wants, make sure she enjoys it.” Her lips caught my cheek for a moment before she continued. “And once you’ve finally broken her of those silly Jetii ideals, I want a piece. Oh, I’m sure Naz wants some as well.” She pulled back, a wicked grin plastered on her face as my mind fought to not get lost in the images her words had generated. “Ret'urcye mhi.”

    I nodded before replying. “K'oyacyi.” She took a further step back as I offered a small prayer to the Force to keep us both safe until we could meet again. I doubted I’d have a quiet year or so until Naboo was invaded, provided that still happened, but I’d take any help I could to ensure I made it safely there, along with Bo. While I’d not admit it openly, I was going to miss her deeply, and not just for the sex.

    Bo slid on her helmet and moved off with her brother. The hovercart was given a scan before two of the escorts took control of it. I watched them go, wondering when I’d next see them even as my mind tried hard to not wander back to the imagery Bo had created with her whispered words.

    … …

    … …

    I tried to remain calm as I waited in the private Holonet suite in the Temple. While I doubted Dooku was going to be upset with my actions against the Vong, I was nervous that he, like Fay, would be critical of many of the choices I’d made. I doubted he would be, but the fact was I was more concerned about his opinion than Fay’s; a change of perspective I hadn’t expected when I’d first been assigned as their Padawan and been drawn to Fay.

    Soon enough the console blinked and beeped before Dooku appeared as a blue hologram. “Master,” I said, lowering my head slightly.

    “Padawan, I’m led to believe that you wish to discuss your most recent mission, and the unusual circumstances around it,” he replied, diving straight into the topic without any need for common pleasantries.

    “That’s certainly one way to phrase things, Master.” My reply was accompanied by a chuckle. A shift in his brow made it clear he wanted me to begin. While I was reluctant to go into great detail over the Holonet – not least I felt the Sith already had the channels monitored, or at least those linked to Dooku, Fay, myself, the High Council, and others of note – I wanted him up to date on events, and to see how he felt about the mission. Fay had already contacted him and offered up a brief synopsis of events, but Dooku would want a complete picture before offering an opinion.

    Thus, with him waiting patiently, I began to recount my tale.

    “The Council are still deliberating on the matter, Master, though I’m concerned they’ll downplay or outright dismiss my concerns over the threat the Vong pose.”

    That was how, over two hours later, I finished my recounting of events to Dooku. Like the Council, he stopped me at times to ask questions, both in what I was saying and in correlation to Fay’s words and files she’d sent him. However, his questions hadn’t delayed me too long as, unlike the Council, it was only his opinions that came up. Oddly, when it came up that I’d drawn on my anger against the Vong, he never stopped me to ask a question. Something both the Council and Fay had done.

    “As Master Fay has no doubt told you, the Council will take their time deliberating on any matter they consider significant, so take some heart that they are at least doing that. That said, I suspect they won’t deem these Vong as serious a threat as you believe them to be, and while some of the Council may agree with you, they will present a unified front when they offer their judgement.” Even through the Holonet, I could sense Dooku’s disdain with the Council, though there was little hint of it in his voice. “Either before they reach their decision, or perhaps in the weeks after, certain members of the Council may seek you out for further information on the Vong.”

    “Masters Koon and Giiett have both spoken to me about the Vong, Master,” I replied. Giiett had asked about how similar the Vong were to other races and what I knew of their standing on the Force, though there was little I could offer to him there that might be helpful.

    Plo Koon had been interested in their technology, though he’d moved to the topic subtly by first asking questions about Raven after I’d taken him and a few others on a short flight on her. To say she adored flying or breaking through the ozone layer and letting the light of a star kiss against her flesh without an atmosphere in the way was like saying a fish could swim. A feeling several Jedi had commented on upon returning to the Temple. Master Tiin had taken nearly a dozen trips in Raven in the roughly three weeks since I’d returned to the Temple; more so than anyone else. In a rare moment of bonding, he spoke of feeling some envy about my bond to Raven and an interest, which would go unfulfilled since Jedi scouts had confirmed Zonama Sekot was no longer in the system, in gaining such a vessel for himself.

    “Now, regarding your choices during this conflict,” he paused, and I steeled myself, wondering where he’d find critiques or my actions. “While there are several places where I feel you could have, perhaps, chosen a different course or action, I would feel more comfortable discussing them in person. Your choices, based on what you would have known at the time, are logical and practical; though several likely raised issues with the High Council.” He didn’t have to say it, but the plan to capture and interrogate, and when that failed, dissecting a Vong was one of those moments. “As for your performance in combat, while there likely were moments in combat where I suspect your form was improper, without direct first-hand experience of them, I will not offer judgement, only relief that you emerged alive and well. While I reserve judgement on your combat proficiency with this Mandalorian blade until we have sparred with you using it, the fact it seemingly was able to pierce Vong armour with greater ease than a lightsaber negates most of my complaints about your use of the blade.”

    “Choosing to enrage the Vong leader to provoke ritual combat was something most Jedi would never have considered, though it was a pragmatic choice; doubly so since you emerged from it victorious and without risking the lives of those with you. While Master Fay is as skilled a diplomat as any Jedi, she can, like many members of the Order, be blind to moments where words cannot achieve the desired result. Such instances are nowhere near as rare as many in the Order and on the High Council might believe; however, your continual preference to using a lightsaber to solve issues is, perhaps, a troubling trend you need dissuading from. Subtlety, coercion, and an ability to adapt to any situation are far more likely to keep you alive than relying on the same method repeatedly to handle any difficulties that may arise in life.”

    I nodded along as he spoke. While I was glad he wasn’t as critical of my choices as Fay or the High Council were – though in her defence, with time to reflect, Fay accepted that my actions had been effective – his commentary and the ability to turn this into a lesson had more of an effect on me. I didn’t deny that I’d developed a tendency to solve issues with a lightsaber, nor that there were other ways to handle situations. Perhaps it was time I gave some thought to less Force-based approaches to conflict resolution.

    “With that said, I will review the data you and Master Fay have sent me more concisely and if I feel there is anything more to discuss, I will contact you directly.” He seemed to lean back though it was hard to tell since the hologram was only showing his upper body. “Now, is there anything else you wish to discuss?”

    I took a moment to think about other events that had occurred since I’d last spoken to him. Dooku wouldn’t care about my relationship with Bo; at least, so long as it didn’t become a weakness or interfere with my choices. Something proven wasn’t the case given I’d let her go without any issue. Nor would he care particularly about the loss of the Ne’tra Sartr or the gaining of a loyal friend in Simvyl, though Dooku would likely consider him a follower. And nothing was going on at the Temple that would interest him; certainly not Serra’s attempts to appear not unbalanced by Bo’s behaviour on the Temple steps. That left a single subject of conversation, and while I’d prefer not to ever deal with it, avoiding the matter was worse. “How goes your project with your former Padawan?”

    As Dooku watched me silently for a few seconds, I pushed down a spike of rage at what Vosa had subjected me to. She wasn’t here now, and if I couldn’t control my desire for vengeance when simply discussing her with Dooku, then I’d never be able to face her again. Though that might not be the worst outcome. “I’m impressed you would bring up Komari willingly, particularly after your last mission. Though you doing so does seem logical since both that mission and the one against the Bando Gora involved… difficult situations.” He paused and looked away for a moment. “Regarding her, progress has been slow, even more than I had anticipated. As I’ve said, I don’t believe Komari can ever rejoin the Order, however, there exists a possibility that she may have other uses as an unaligned Force user.”

    “That is… good to hear,” I managed to get out without grinding my teeth. There was still an urge to simply find and execute her, one I felt Bo and others would support. That said, I could see what Dooku was trying to do, or at least felt I could. Vosa was skilled with her lightsabers and held connections to the galactic underworld. If Dooku was able to rehabilitate her enough that she could regain some trust – a very high bar to clear in my opinion – then those connections could be invaluable with the chaos to come. Though I knew the next time I met her, it would be a struggle to contain my desire to rip her limb from limb, however, that urge had been tempered by spending some time with Player’s Mind active to analyse Dooku’s decision free of any emotional baggage.

    “There is no need to appear amenable, Cameron. Your opinion of Komari Vosa is understandable and entirely expected after what you endured. The fact you would bring her up openly shows you’ve begun to heal from the trauma she inflicted upon you and see possibilities of using her as an asset.”

    “Yes, Master.” While I could discuss the matter further, I had no interest in doing so, only mentioning her to gain an update on when Dooku might return. Plus, the longer I spent thinking about that bitch, the longer I risked my rage growing to a point Dark Side Masking wouldn’t be able to protect me from some rather uncomfortable questions.

    Dooku gave a single nod and then the connection was cut, leaving me alone in the communication suite. Putting aside the abrupt ending to the call, which was in keeping with Dooku’s nature to be precise, I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths. While I didn’t feel at risk of losing control, I wanted the fury inside buried before my next call connected. I let some residual anger toward Vosa slide into the Force, knowing Fay would’ve sensed it. Plus, hanging onto it was pointless since I could instantly recall every moment of my time under Vosa’s care with ease thanks to Eidetic Memory.

    I sat with my eyes closed, settling my thoughts with techniques taught to me by Fay and Healer Allie until there was a bleep from the console in front of me. Opening my eyes, I saw it was internal communication. “Yes?”

    “Padawan Shan, the second call you wished to make has been connected,” whoever was responsible for the Holonet connections with the Temple replied, “However, due to the distance involved, there may be some delay or signal degradation.” The person manning the communication centre was probably, like many in the Temple, not a Jedi but a civilian who worked for the Order, though there was the possibility that they were a failed Padawan or Youngling that had an aptitude for technology.

    “Understood.” The channel clicked closed and the Holonet unit flared into life, quickly showing a young Human boy. “Hello, Anakin.”

    “Cam!” Anakin shouted loud enough that I winced. He seemed to be sitting in a seat – probably somewhere in the Lokella station – though if he kept moving around he’d soon fall from it. The Lokella now had Holonet access thanks to a plan put in motion by Fay before we’d journeyed to Zonama Sekot with some funds from my book sales. The connection wasn’t great, as the tech had explained, with there being brief flickers in the image of Anakin, but it was better than them being cut off entirely from the wider galaxy. Plus, it’d allow me to remain in contact with Anakin easier in the following years before I decided exactly what to do with him.

    A smile came to my face as, even though I was thousands of lightyears from him, I could sense his joy and delight; the innocence of youth that was no longer restrained by slavery. That sense of wonder, of freedom, had grown stronger since I’d last seen him and was a refreshing change from the chaos, pain, and war I’d dealt with for the last year. “How have you been?”

    “Great!” His smile somehow grew, threatening to split his face in half. For a moment, I wondered if he’d done something incredible or stupid; or, given who I was talking to, both simultaneously. “Baalta’s been letting me learn about the ships we have! I’ve even gotten to pilot the Freerunner and others around the system!”

    I laughed as I imagined Anakin sitting in the pilot’s chair of a CR-90, and the faces of the rest of the bridge crew when their captain allowed and encouraged it. The only worry I had was that he might get to use the weaponry, but I suspected Shmi would murder someone if they allowed that. “Sounds like fun.”

    “Yeah, it was wizard!”

    Anakin started detailing his adventures, and as I leaned back in my chair, I felt some of the weight on my shoulders ease. Even if it returned once the call was over, the momentary break from worrying about the Council’s decision regarding the Vong was a relief, and once the call was over, I’d have to find a way to thank Fay. That did remind me that one day I’d have to have Anakin meet Serra, but that, similar to wondering how long it would take Serra to make her move, was a contemplation for another day. For now, I would enjoy this moment of freedom and revel in the faint sense of wonder I felt from Anakin.

    … …

    … …

    “Therefore, after careful consideration of the evidence submitted, it is the judgement of this Council that while the Vong are a concern due to their apparent resistance to directed applications of the Force, they are not to be designated a threat to the stability of the Order. Nor of the Galactic Republic. However, we reserve the right to return to this decision if further incursions into Republic space occur.”

    As Windu gave the Council’s verdict, I clenched my fist so tightly that I knew my knuckles were white. While they at least weren’t dismissing the threat out of hand, the fact they were designating the Vong as nothing more than a potential concern was short-sighted at best. Couldn’t they see how short-sighted they were being in only reacting retroactively? Were they too bogged down in the minor issues of kowtowing to the Senate that they lacked the will to face a true threat without the say-so of that group of self-serving morons? Haran, would they even get off their collective arses for anything other than the return of the Sith or a galactic war?

    I took a step forward, my rage bubbling away inside as insults and counterarguments gathered on my tongue. Given how some of the Council were watching me, with Evan Piell’s eye narrowing the more I stewed, there was little doubt they could sense my fury at their decision, yet the gentlest of touches on my arm along with a calm wave from Master Fay, who was standing to my side, was enough to stay my actions.

    That calming touch and wave were enough to settle enough of my fury that I could see that raging at the Council openly would do nothing but harden their stance. Along with renewing the issues many had with me. The Council had made their decision. It was a stupid-arsed one, one that I’d likely ignore, but it was theirs to make. Though now I’d have to spend time meditating and thinking on how to approach the future threat the Vong would pose. Yes, it might be years or decades after the Clone Wars that they invaded, but they were coming so I had to take steps to prepare for that.

    “You disagree with our decision, Padawan?” Windu asked as he leaned forward, staring intently at me.

    “Yes, Master Windu,” I began before taking a second to breathe deeply before engaging Player’s Mind. “This is a mistake. The Vong force we encountered was a probing force. The very tip of the spear of their military. We were beyond lucky to drive them from the world, and only an act no one considered possible prevented them from recapturing and holding Zonama Sekot. We did NOT, in point of fact, defeat them, or drive them away from a military perspective.” Player’s Mind helped me push the rage inside away from my words as I knew if the Council sensed my anger behind them, they’d dismiss my objections instantly. They still might, but this offered me a higher chance that at least some of them might listen. “If they were to invade the Republic, the unusual nature of their weaponry, and their fanatical devotion to whatever cause it is they’re following will result in the deaths of billions, if not trillions before the Republic and the Order can counter them.” Though that was if, in the current climate, they even could. The Ruusan Reformation was the most ill-advised pile of bullshit I’d ever seen and the Vong just proved that in spades.

    “The Council understands your concerns. However, given that you, along with a single Mandalorian and Antarian Ranger – who, like you, haven’t fought in major conflicts before – managed to harry and then drive the initial invasion force from the planet suggest you’re overplaying their threat.” If not for Player’s Mind I’d have likely been staring at Saesse Tiin as he dismissed my warnings as that ranting of children as if he’d suddenly grown four more horns, and a tail and started carrying a pitchfork. As it was, there was a moment when I wondered if the horns somehow interfered with how Iktotchi brains worked.

    “While we don’t agree with the Council’s choice on the matter, we will accept it.” That came from Fay as she cut in before I was able to respond to Tiin’s dismissal, though I’d already decided he was no longer allowed on Raven. I looked at Fay, wondering why she was cutting off the debate only to sense her unease with the Council’s decision. “If that is all?”

    “It is.” Fay bowed at Windu’s blunt dismissal, and I copied her move a moment later, though not before silently wondering which Council members wouldn’t need removing to have the body reverse their decision.

    “Padawan Shan,” I stopped and looked back at Plo Koon. “Perhaps we might speak later, I wish to continue our discussions regarding the Raven’s unusual construction.”

    “Of course, Master.” After a nod of thanks from the Kel Dor, I followed Fay from the chamber. As I disengaged Player’s Mind the anger at the Council’s decision came flowing back, though, with just a little bit of time to temper it, it wasn’t risking overflowing. I was further calmed as Fenrir, who’d stayed in the atrium outside the High Council chamber, stood with a loud yawn. That disturbed the other Jedi waiting for their turn to speak with the Council, which made me smirk. That evolved into a smile as Fenrir walked over and pushed his head against my shoulder as if he knew I was angered by the Council and was offering support. Though whether that meant in general, or a desire to kill those angering me I couldn’t be sure. He was bred for battle after all.

    “I know you are unhappy with the Council’s decision, Cameron,” Fay began as the elevator doors closed and we descended back to the Temple proper. “However, there is little we can do to change their minds at present. However, if we can turn up further evidence of the Vong within the galaxy, most likely from private investigations, then we can present that to them. Nor did they say nothing was preventing us from considering strategies to prepare for when the Vong return.”

    I offered her a smile in thanks. While I doubted she’d approve of many of the ideas I had for countering the Vong in war, the fact she trusted my judgement regarding the Vong was encouraging. “That is true, Master. And thank you.”

    Fay smiled in return before looking out of the elevator, taking in the planet. “While there will always be times when we disagree on matters, and where I disapprove of your choices, the Force is accepting of our methods. That, along with having watched you grow into a fine young man, one worthy of one day being a leader of our Order, helps guide me to trust your opinion on this matter. Though in future, I would advise caution with how you respond to a Council decision. Questioning their decisions will only entrench them further with those more opposed to your opinions. Nor will using your odd Force technique of calming and blocking your mind help ease their concerns regarding your actions.”

    “Yes, Master.” Fay wasn’t wrong as the Council would’ve sensed me activating Player’s Mind but it was better than raging at them and having them grow concerned about my mental state. I’d rather not have them snooping too deeply into my mind as I suspected even with Dark Side Masking in the mid-Savant range, Yoda at the very least would be able to sense something amiss.

    Since that had been avoided, I let my gaze follow Fay’s to the planet as ships buzzed around so much it looked like lines drawn in the sky leading from one point to another above the metal-covered Republic capital. A shell that hid the decay and deception from those who wanted to pretend it didn’t exist.

    Still, the issues of Coruscant were secondary in my mind at that moment. What dominated my thoughts were the plans I’d been slowly formulating over the last month and a half for if, as had happened, the Council rejected my recommendations. I had decades to prepare for the Vong, so they were, in the grand scheme, a minor issue for now, but not laying even the groundwork for combating them would be tactically naïve at best. But without at least some support from the Order, I lacked the reach and resources to even begin searching for rumours regarding the Vong in the Outer Rim, never mind developing strategies to counter their forces.

    … …

    … …

    I walked slowly up the stairs from the Great Atrium, avoiding the various groups that were moving around. Some gave me a nod or glance showing they understood I was a Jedi, though most simply ignored me, which was fine. I was taking my time walking, running over one final time how I wanted this meeting to go.

    It had been a few days since the Council had made their decision on the Vong, and I’d spent time thinking about what to do next. While investigating rumours might generate useful leads, the sheer amount of time it would take was insane. A general search of the Archives for reports of strange aliens attacking in sectors near where Zonama Sekot had generated over ten thousand reports. Most were ancient, dating back to before the Ruusan Reformation, but that still left over a thousand reports I’d had to read through, and none of them had been in any way helpful as the reports were made by Jedi who either dismissed the rumours or failed to provide much detail; and often both.

    Masters Koon and Giiett had both, as expected, continued to talk with me about the Vong, though I’d been surprised when Windu had done so as well. He’d started the conversation after inviting me to spar, something I’d lost without even coming close to landing a blow while he took it easy on me. That I’d lost wasn’t a surprise, though his comments about me having talent were appreciated. It was the talk afterwards in a private meditation chamber that had surprised and amused me. Having him side with me against Yoda regarding the Vong was proof that Dooku and Fay had been right about the Council offering a unified stance publicly while having others privately.

    Still, with all three of them hinting that I had their support to continue investigating rumours of possible Vong activity, I doubted they’d give me much more than that. Nor that the Order would be of any help beyond reports in the Archives. Thus, after several deep meditation sessions, an idea had come to me, one that I’d dismissed at first for how outlandish it was. Yet, the more I considered it, even doing so with Player’s Mind to remove any emotional issues I had with it, the more it held potential. It was incredibly risky, but one worth pursuing, which was why I was in the Galactic Senate making my way toward the offices of one Senator in particular.

    Fay had been caught off guard when I’d brought this idea to her, pointing out how I’d been averse to bringing the Senator into the Coalition, but she’d agreed that without support from the Order, we needed some from another powerful body like the Senate. I felt Dooku would also agree, but I’d not contacted him to avoid the chance my plan would leak to my target. While I didn’t doubt that he knew about my adventures, I wanted the reason why I was here to be a surprise as it might grant me a small insight into how he worked.

    “Ah, Padawan Shan, hello again.” That came from Kinman Doriana as he moved over and shook my hand. Around us, in the waiting area outside Senator Palpatine’s offices, several people looked up to see who the Senator’s aide was greeting. A few seemed surprised to see a Jedi there. “If you’ll wait just a moment, I’ll let the Senator know you’re here.”

    “Of course.” As Kinman moved off, I looked at everyone waiting to meet Palpatine, using Observe as I did. None of the names or their emotional states stood out, but they were added to the list of anyone I’d seen around Palpatine that might need removal from the board once the war began.

    About a minute later, Kinman returned and ushered me past the reception desk – manned by a very attractive orange-skinned Twi’lek whose eyes wandered over my face as we passed – into the Senator’s offices. He guided me to the same room I’d been in the last time I’d visited when I’d met the Tarkin family, which had been an odd thing. Wilhuff had come across as cold, but oddly pleasant, possibly because I didn’t speak or act as most Jedi would. His younger brother, Gideon, had shifted more, going from actively disliking me for simply being a Jedi to asking me questions about the Order and my adventures. Still, as the doors to the private room opened to reveal Palpatine, thoughts of the Tarkin and their role in what was to come slid from my mind.

    “Cameron, my boy, how wonderful to see you again.” Palpatine moved over, gripping my hand with both of his. “I must admit when you reached out for a meeting, I was caught off-guard. I do hope everything is well with the Jedi.”

    “It is Senator,” his smile slipped slightly, though it returned as I continued. “Sorry, uncle. However, an incident on my last mission has me concerned. The High Council have chosen to ignore those concerns, but I feel the Republic needs to be made aware of it and prepare for what might happen.”

    Palpatine frowned. “Oh my.” He guided me to the sofa. “That sounds most worrying. How might I help?”

    As we sat down, I pulled a datapad from my robes. With the Council having reached their decision, their restriction on me discussing the Vong with others had been lifted. Or at least, since they’d not made clear that it was still in effect, I was acting like it was. After this meeting, I planned to talk with Serra, Darihd, and others about what had happened. While there was little they could do to help, having them aware of what was going on meant that, Force-forbid, if they ever encountered a Vong, they’d at least know what they were facing.

    Still, I’d made sure not to mention why I wanted to speak to Palpatine when I’d arranged the meeting as I wanted to judge his reaction. As the datapad connected with a small holographic display on the table, I shifted my focus to the Senator. While he watched the same recording I’d provided to the Council, I wanted to watch him. While I doubted there’d be even the slightest shift in him when he saw me use Electrokinesis, his reaction to that and my approach to combat might offer some insight into his thinking. Or so I hoped.

    “Oh my, what exactly are those?” he asked as the recording came to life, though it waited for a command to begin.

    “Those are the Vong. A race I and my master encountered on the mission. A race that, apart from being seemingly immune to direct Force applications, fight on a level that makes them a threat to any Force user, never mind the Republic as a whole if their entire race attacked.” His brow rose in shock at hearing the Vong were immune in some way to the Force, and that I considered them a threat.

    “How dreadful,” he muttered, his attention returning to the display as it began.

    Yes, bringing this to him was a huge risk, but thinking about it while ignoring what I knew about his true nature meant it was the logical move to make. Plus, on the off-chance that I might fail and the Empire still rose, then I’d rather they ruled the galaxy than the Vong. From everything I’d seen from them on Zonama Sekot, they were the devil I didn’t know.

    … …

    … …
    A/N: Yep, Cam willingly went to Darth Sidious to prepare for help. What in the galaxy has gone wrong? :sneaky:

    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:

    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.
    Kerashana, Revlis, JEMMMI and 113 others like this.
  18. shinighoul6

    shinighoul6 I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Apr 13, 2020
    Likes Received:
  19. USSExplorer

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

    Mar 4, 2019
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    Though, tbf, this is what happened in the EU, with Sekot escaping to the Unknown Regions and not reappearing until the Vong invaded decades after Return of the Jedi.
  20. shinighoul6

    shinighoul6 I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Apr 13, 2020
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    I never rrad the EU or wikia surfed so this is all new info and first-hand experience for me.
  21. USSExplorer

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

    Mar 4, 2019
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    If you read but one EU novel, read the Revenge of the Sith novelisation.

    As for the wiki... only use it for general guidelines, there's far too much... changing going on there over the last 10+ years for it to be considered reliable.
  22. AgentWho007

    AgentWho007 Making the rounds.

    Mar 22, 2020
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    Thanks for the chapter.
    I just hope Cameron doesn't become Darth Revan 2.0
    Considering that that seems to be a large possibility of happening.

    Also why would the council believe him without evidence, that shouldn't shock him. Considering that they don't have his outside knowledge about Vong.

    Also wasn't there a race of AI from Vong galaxy if he finds them that would be quite the evidence.
    nomster, Chazz, MmmApplePie and 3 others like this.
  23. Marcrawsky

    Marcrawsky Not too sore, are you?

    Mar 7, 2020
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    I just had a thought with the ship being part or even fully organic is there a possibility of the reverse engineering of the Vong space weaponry to grow on the ship?

    I'm also just not sure how adding weapons to a biological ship works does it already have turret hardpoints or are they expanding the ship around the guns with the force?
  24. Commedia

    Commedia Know what you're doing yet?

    Apr 8, 2018
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    “Though this is the end of the age of Heros, it has saved its best for last.”

    chills. Even 15 years later.
    Luke skywaker and the Shadows of Mindor and Shatterpoint (done by the same author as the ROTS novelization) are worth a look as well if you like the writing style.

    Great chapter, and never forget, the enemy of my enemy is not your friend, but can absolutely be used as a meat shield. Because that’s just how Sheev rolls.
  25. USSExplorer

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

    Mar 4, 2019
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    There is I believe, but Cam doesn't know of them. (pesky lack of EU knowledge rears its ugly head, lol)

    In canon, the Sekotans added weapons to ships they grew/made, so in theory, it should be possible to have something added. Though whether that's conventional weaponry or something akin to what the Vong use, I can't say.

    Shatterpoint is on my list to read. I'd also highly recommend Plagueis (which I've had to read carefully for an upcoming chapter ;) )

  26. LuciferBael

    LuciferBael Mand'alor Te Talyc

    Dec 16, 2020
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    Yes, mostly in that galaxy still. .
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2023
  27. Wrandral

    Wrandral I don't have to take this! I'm going for a walk.

    Sep 15, 2021
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    Honestly i 100% agree with your choice of having Cameron go to Sidious to warn him about the Vong.

    Years ago i talked with a friend who read the EU and i checked the wiki and the sheer carnage wrought by the Yuuzhan Vong on the galaxy was apalling.
    True it was after the galaxy had exhausted itself through plenty of events even without counting the consolidation of the new republic but they were so powerful and brutal that they pretty much forced everyone to ally against them to have a chance of winning at all.

    Throwing down a Sith Lord like Sidious is way easier than fighting the Vong when they take the whole Galaxy by surprise ( especially considering that i don't think the current order would fare better than Luke's Jedi Order in the EU).
  28. Ayashi

    Ayashi Connoisseur.

    Aug 3, 2018
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    And Fey continues to level up her Hypocrisy skill level...
    nomster, FTR2017 and MmmApplePie like this.
  29. Vers20

    Vers20 Not bad. But not the worst either.

    Aug 16, 2021
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    Lol Bo's brother is actually king Arthur?
    Darman Skirata and Grimmouse197 like this.
  30. Nox Iradia

    Nox Iradia Know what you're doing yet?

    Mar 28, 2020
    Likes Received:
    the vong have complete control over their galaxy, irrc the main reason they're expanding here over other galaxies is to hunt the AI that turned them into what they are now.