After his explanation before the Jedi Council, the Captain, of the ship The Corona, is now making preparations for his daring mission. What has happened to him, that the two Jedi need to accompany him?
Many of the survivors fled. Once a population of almost two hundred million, at this time only a few dozen remained on the worthless planet. It was undesirable to both the Republic and the Empire, due to its crucial resources having been exhausted by excessive mining, a rapidly growing sun nearing the end of its lifecycle and frequent natural disasters. Molokai wasn’t exactly a great place to grow up.
Owen and Jan’cis were on a week-long hunting trip, and finally found their first ug’thalion, a large mammal that travels alone. It’s a wild, dangerous herbivore, and years before its succulent meat had helped bring flocks of tourists to Molokai. Jan’cis had killed many ug’thalions before with his father and a few on his own, but this particular beast was almost a full meter taller and stronger than any he had ever seen. An ug’thalion, weighing over two thousand kilograms, was enough meat to feed the entire village for almost a week. A distant cousin to the Bantha, it had huge spiral horns that were often the size of a small man. With the village going hungry, any chance of getting one was essential to sustain the life of the village.
“Jan, stay here in case I miss the shot.” Owen said. “If the animal even looks at you, don’t bother trying to kill it, just run. You can’t kill this on your own. Do you get me, boy?” Owen gave his best intimidating look to his eleven year old son. Jan nodded his head. Jan’cis felt that he could take this beast on himself. He was starving, and he knew the rest of the village was too. This kill was important. Their food supply had run out days ago. He was heartily sick of eating the local herbs his mother gathered.
Owen got out his rifle to take down the beast. But just as he took aim the beast saw him and charged. His rifle misfired only grazing the huge beast. The ug’thalion rammed Owen with his horns, sending Owen flying high in the air to land with a thud against a nearby tree about ten meters away. The beast moved in to finish Owen off. Just as it was about to hit him again with its huge horns, Jan’cis threw one of his spears at the beast, slicing deep into its back. The beast stopped its attack on Owen, turned around and charged the young boy.
Jan stood tall, ready to take the beast’s charge. Jan could feel the fear in him. He braced himself. Just as the beast was about to hit him, he leapt back, barely avoiding the huge spiral horns, and managed to push his spear through the beast’s softer underside. Although Jan hadn’t pierced the animal’s heart, the beast still roared in pain.
“Raawhhhh!” Owen roared as he jumped onto the beast. With his vibroblade, Owen slashed against its back. The beast roared loudly. It attempted to stomp Jan with its feet, but Jan avoided each blow, then spun out from under the beast. Owen thrust his blade deep into the beast. The beast screamed as it died.
Owen jumped off the beast and went to his son. He put his blade away in one fluid motion, that would have made the most graceful Twi‘lek dancer jealous.
“Wow, Dad. How did you get on top of it so fast?” Jan asked as the ug’thalion slowed down and stumbled to its death.
“Didn’t I tell you to run if there were any problems?” Owen shouted. “That thing could have killed you in a second.” He moved to his son and held him by both arms, searching his eyes for answers.
“But Dad, I was doing it just as I‘ve seen you do, and I almost had it!” Jan pointed to the spears in the beast, evidence of his capabilities.
“Really son?” Owen broke away, and looked towards the beast. “You may have saved my life, but this old dog has a few tricks up his sleeve.” He ruffled his son’s hair.
“I promise you that I can handle myself. Now stop being such a huge pain in the butt and make yourself useful. Come on, you know the rule-” Owen said with a smile and threw a bloodied sweat rag at his son.
“Yeah, yeah, Dad. ‘He that kills the beast doesn’t have to prepare it.’ But you always kill it!” Jan smiled at his father.
“Exactly!” Owen said. They both laughed and stared to butcher their kill together.
They spent the next few minutes cutting up the carcass and preparing a quick meal. Owen went to his pack about a half an hour later and pulled out his flare gun, which he aimed in the air and fired. They waited five minutes, expecting help to come bring the animal back to the village. He fired another flare. They waited for another few minutes. No return flare. Nothing.
Suddenly, Jan’cis felt something strange in his stomach. He felt darkness, and a great sadness. He looked at his father.
“Dad, I felt something really weird just now.”
Owen nodded in agreement. “It’s time to go back. Grab your stuff.” Owen frantically grabbed his rifle and gear.
“Something is going on.” Jan’cis said. Owen nodded his head in agreement. He quickly grabbed his weapons and motioned the boy to be quiet as they headed back to the village.
When they were close to the village, Owen violently grabbed his son’s arm.
“Son, listen to me now. Do what I say! If I say run, go and wait for me in that cave two days north of here.”
“Okay, Dad. Look, it’s Crim!” Jan’cis pointed to a slowly burning cottage off in the distance, and one of their neighbors running their way. They rushed towards him.
“Crim. What happened?” Owen asked his old friend.
“They are back. The Sith are back.” Crim said, panting. He collapsed on the ground, exhausted and famished.
“Jan, run! Get out of here. Now.” Owen said, urgently. Jan regretfully started to run away. He couldn’t bring himself to abandon his father, so he started to look for a good hiding spot and found one in a hill not far away.
Owen put the scope on his rifle. There was a figure in the distance that was quickly approaching.
“Don’t fail me now, old friend. That is no beast,” he said to his rifle. He looked through his scope and identified the figure as a grey-skinned Twi’lek, most likely a Sith by his robe and lack of any visible weapons or armor. He aimed at the twi‘lek off in the distance through the scope. The Twi’lek moved nearer. Owen took a deep breath, steadied himself, and fired. The blast hit the Twi‘lek near the face, hitting one of his head-tails, causing him to hiss in pain. Jan was amazed at the shot, as it was at eight hundred meters. The Twi’lek only seemed to move faster.
“You’ll die for that, human! Just like your friends.“ The Twi’lek, Rais, growled. Rais pulled out a red lightsaber revealing himself as a Sith and rushed towards Owen.
Owen changed the setting on his rifle from long range to rapid fire. He started to fire on the Sith. Each blast from his rifle was sent with amazing precision. But each blaster bolt was readily deflected by Rais’s lightsaber.
Owen rethought his tactics. He fired at a large branch above the Sith, causing it to fall. While the Sith was distracted, he shot him in the knee cap, crippling him.
“Time to die, human scum.” The Sith cried angrily, as he leapt to intercept Owen. But Owen parried with his vibroblade. He faced the Sith Lord with no fear. He parried twice, and used the Sith Lord’s bad leg to his advantage. Rais struck fast, but the Twi’lek’s overconfidence was his undoing. Rais couldn’t believe the human was fighting him off with such ease. After a masterful series of parries by the human, the Twi’lek adjusted himself for another go, only to realize his opponent had him and soon his good leg was missing lopped off by the human. The Twi’lek screamed for help as he toppled to the floor. But he never stood a chance. Owen quickly sliced off his opponent‘s head, head-tails and all.
A few moments later, a speeder bike landed. An older, middle-aged Zabrak, wearing a black robe, leaped off. He pulled back his hood to reveal horns on the top of his head, and dark yellow, black, and orange facial tattoos that covered his entire face. He looked like a shaved Wookie by the fact that he was huge and muscular. He was wearing heavy armor on that glimmered in the sun. Darth Paydon, a true Sith Lord, heard his apprentice scream, and quickly found what was left of poor Rais.
“You‘ll pay for that, Owen.” Darth Payden said. Owen looked at him in shock when he spoke his name.
“Yes, I know who you are, and exactly what you are capable of. I even know that you really want to kill me right now.” Darth Paydon said as he pulled out his bronze colored double-bladed light-saber. He ignited his weapon. With his eyes focused on Owen, he used the Force to lift the nearby Crim into the air, then to pull him apart. Crim screamed as his spine and skull were ripped from the rest of his body in a gory display of the dark side of the Force. Crim’s head landed at Owen‘s feet. Jan almost vomited at the display, but his father was stalwart and seemingly unaffected.
“You Sith are all the same. You think you can kill us, and enslave us, but you will die, like your pathetic friend.” Owen said, delicately moving the remains of his friend away from him with his foot, while staying focused on the Zabrak before him.
“We slaughtered almost fifty villagers. Oh, you should have heard them scream! It was glorious! My favorite was some silly woman that claimed her husband would come and kill me.” Darth Paydon mocked Owen’s wife’s death. “Draw that lightsaber. Feel your passion, and avenge your wife. Strike me down!” Darth Payden said as he put his light saber away, mocking him with open arms. Owen grabbed Rais’s light-saber, ignited it then swung the new weapon around in his right hand. He kept his vibroblade in his left, and looked ready to fight. “Talk is cheap, Sith.” Owen charged Darth Paydon. But at the last moment Darth Payden relit his lightsaber. Paydon parried, easily, and cutting off Owen’s left hand in a fluid motion. He danced away with incredible grace for a man of his age and size. Owen screamed in pain. Darth Paydon revelled in Owen‘s disfigurement.
“You fight well, but you’d do better with just one blade. I did you a favor… really. I will enjoy gutting you.” Owen felt something powerful. He’d never felt pain this strong before. It fueled his rage and gave him strength at the same time. He charged the Sith Lord again, this time giving a much better struggle. Darth Paydon parried everything he threw him, but Owen had something planned at every move. They exchanged dozens of blows.
“Enough!“ Darth Paydon didn’t want to kill this man, for the Sith Council had better plans for him. He knew he should not deal lightly with this fool. Using the Force he pushed Owen back, then electrocuted him until he was unconscious. He lifted the helpless body into the air, placing it atop of his speeder-bike.
“The Force runs strong in you, young Owen.” Darth Paydon felt the rush of victory come over him. He slowly walked to his speeder bike where Owen lay. It was now time to go back home and explain to the Sith Council how he lost yet another fully trained apprentice. But he had at least succeeded in capturing the prize recruit of this worthless rock planet. “Pity,“ he thought to himself as he got back on his speeder and started to fly above the tree line, with Owen laying over the back seat.
He was in deep thought, trying to make sense of this strange turn of events. Suddenly he saw Rais’s red lightsaber slashing right at his bike, taking it down. Another Force-user was still near him, he felt him, and he was extremely powerful.
Darth Payden fell to the ground. His only thought was how to save this new helpless apprentice. He levitated the new apprentice to safety, but he fell hard. While the fall was almost thirty meters with the Force to cushion his landing he only managed to accrue a few cuts and a pairs of sprained ankles. He forced himself onto all fours, then onto his knees, frantically trying to brace himself for another attack. He felt a fast-moving spear zinging past his head, barely missing him.
Darth Paydon turned to find a boy, about ten or eleven years old, charging him with a vibroblade. He Force-lifted the boy into the air. The boy threw the vibroblade at Paydon, nearly hitting him. But the Sith Lord’s Force Barrier easily deflected it. He then released the now harmless boy.
Payden laughed as the boy, full of rage, kept moving toward him, swinging his fists and hitting him in the chest and neck. The boy’s attempts were futile, as it was like a Jawa trying to take down a Rancore. The blows’ effects were marginal at best, but the rage kept feeding Jan. He continued to swing at the Sith Lord with all his might, full of rage. “Trust me, boy, you’ll have your chance for revenge, just not today.” He punched the boy square in the face, knocking him out.
“So now that the course has been plotted and we’re on our way, I’ll be in my quarters, Lieutenant.” I said hopefully, praying she wouldn’t mention something else I needed to be doing. No luck.
“Sir, the two Jedi requested a meeting with you now that we’re in hyperspace. They wouldn’t say anything more specific.” was Iridom’s quiet, stern reaction. I rolled my eyes. It was to be expected. Now that we couldn’t turn back, it was easier for them to talk with me. Short of shoving them out an airlock, I couldn’t get rid of them very easily. Still, I could settle into my anger toward them. I hoped I’d ignored them long enough to get them angry at me. I found them near the crew quarters and signaled them to follow me. As we walked I thought to myself how plain they looked, in their brown cloth robes, their armor packed away. We made our way to my quarters – about the only real private place on the ship. I sat down at the cramped conference table on the center chair and pointed the Jedi to the seats.
Then stared at the Jedi until they realized they needed to sit down too. The Twi’lek took her seat with grace, but her padawan remained standing behind her.
“Captain, first of all, thank you for having us on your ship. It has been nearly a week to get the entire mission in order.” the Twi’lek spoke. Her tone held no hint of annoyance, but her eyes showed the slightest hint of a challenge to me. A higher pitched voice, but it sounded soothing, relaxed. “My name is Arako’ant and this is my padawan Osam. You have seemed… hesitant to talk with us, which is frustrating, as our only goal here is to assist your mission. I know you must be angered that the Council has sent us to interfere in a mission that is very personal to you, but you must understand that you alone are not capable of dealing with the traitor. She will be much more powerful even than she was as a Jedi, now that she has fallen to the dark side.”
I didn’t reply. What could I say? She was right, but her words only made me angrier. As much as I blamed myself for what happened to her, I blamed the Jedi more. They were the ones who were supposed to train her, protect her from the dark side.
The Jedi Master looked at me as though all this was clear to her. I didn’t like it.
“Calm your self, Captain. All that anger you feel toward us helps no one. We don’t propose that you didn’t do anything you could, but your skills are limited.” She sighed with a hint of sorrow. “You do realize you are not the only person in the galaxy who has lost a friend to the dark side? We lose so many of our numbers, either in battle with the Sith, or by Jedi become consumed by the dark side. Our savior from the Jedi Civil War, Revan, one of the greatest Jedi to ever have lived, was seduced by the dark side, and took dozens of followers with him. Trust me when I say that we understand your anger. But it cannot get in the way of our mission.”
I nodded in agreement. The only thing I care about, is getting to her in time. I looked at my watch after this reprimand. The clock said it was 13.00 hours Coruscant time. In as calm voice as I could bring up, I responded to the Twi’lek. “Despite our start, I’d like to offer to the both of you to have a short meal with me, which also helps us to wrap our hands around the mission. One moment please.” I reached for the comm. The typical sound went off and the stern voice of Iridom came through. “What can I do for you, Sir?” she responded. “Could you sent one of the droids to us with a meal, so I can discuss more at length the difficulties of the mission?” “Aye, Sir.” I switched the comm of again. I turned to the Jedi Master. “Shall we run through the specifics now? Or do you want to wait for the meal?” The woman looked at her Mon Calamari companion. He spoke decisively, with the sort of rasp that is common to most of his species. “That won’t be necessary, Captain. We can discuss it now for a part and wait till the droid leaves us again and continue.” He looked at me like he was staring right through me. It made me uncomfortable.
I stared back at the padawn, but wasn’t really looking at him. My mind drifted to her and what I should do. With a short slam of decisiveness on the table, I started. “All right, you want to talk, I’ll talk. Here’s the story. I lost her on Malastare during our scouting trip. She seemed strange when we left, like something weighed on her. We’d left the crew in orbit around Tatooine and were flying an unregistered cargo ship. We were trying to find a way to bargain with the Hutts there and didn’t want to be flying Republic colors. That meant no backup, either. She’d been doing a lot of research before we left – old books, star maps, mostly stuff in some language I didn’t understand. When she betrayed me, she took them with her and whatever else she found on that planet.” I sighed. “I didn’t think anything of the research at the time. She had a habit of getting so caught up in research projects that she’d forget to eat, and this was far from the first time I’d seen her do it.” I said with a sad smile. “We were waiting on a signal to come in for the next step in our negotiating, so we had a bit of time to explore Malastare. Hutts can be a pain in the ass, so I didn’t think too hard about it when she said she wanted to go to Malastare for her research.”
The sound of the door opening held me from continuing on. It also gave me some time to recollect and get the happenings more in order. The protocol droid gently brought in the food and drinks. “Captain, can you help me with the plates, please?” I stood up and wanted to help the droid, when I saw the plates and glasses float in the air and come to the table. I shrugged my head. Jedi. Sometimes they need to use their own two hands again, instead of using the Force so much.
“Enjoy your meal, Sirs,”the droid said and left. The Mon Calamari finally decided to sit down and so we started to eat in silence. But after a few bites the two Jedi gazed at me in a silent request to continue the story. I waited a little longer before I would start again. I still find it difficult to talk about the events. When I was half finished with the meal, I grabbed the napkin, cleaned my mouth and stood up to walk slowly back and forth behind the table. The padawan started to look impatient and almost like he wanted to say something, but his master glanced at him and his face became calm again.
“Sorry this is taking so long,” I said, “but… the Council only knew the half of my relationship with Erlena.” Except maybe that little green guy. He seemed to know more then I told the Jedi Masters. I stopped walking around and felt my heart sink. But now I was picturing her face when she knew I had realized her betrayal. Her beautifull, sad expression. I tried to reconcile that image with what we had been to each other before. It still didn’t make sense. But to say her name out loud was painfull. “Erlena and I are… we’d been lovers.” The tension in the room then made me nauseous. I don’t know if they were surprised or not, but it obviously was a fact they were uncomfortable with. “I know it’s against the code and all that. But it happened. And we were happy, for a while.”
“Why do you tell us this, when you did not think it relevant to the Council?” Arako’ant asked with a questioning face. Her voice only bearing a small resembelance of discomfort. “Because you’re on my ship, and now your lives hinge on the decisions I make, and you deserve to hear the truth about the circumstances you’re walking into, if you might not be walking out again. My crew always knows what I know and where we stand. The odds of making it out alive. If I want them to follow me, they have to trust me and they have to believe I’ll do everything in my power to get them out alive. The same now applies to you, whether you like it or not. I tell you the truth so you know I’m honest. There’s no other way for you to trust me the way you’re going to have to.”They didn’t look convinced. Love was such strange idea for Jedi. Such a misnomer. They
took on different meanings, different values. But I wasn’t a Jedi, and I wasn’t about to start twisting things around like one.
“Please return to Erlena’s reasons for betraying you,” Osam said firmly.
“But that’s the problem,”I replied a bit harsh. “There wasn’t a reason. We’d been exploring some kind of temple, but she went inside and asked me to keep watch outside. I didn’t really feel like going in because that place felt like a tomb, so I didn’t think twice about it. When she came out, she gave me a kiss, but it was like she wasn’t all there. My instincts were going haywire but I couldn’t figure out why. Like you Jedi say, I felt almost a disturbance in the Force.”
I looked at the two Jedi and sat down again. They were absorbing everything, but I could tell by the way they were looking back at me they weren’t processing it right. But then, I didn’t know what was the right way to process it. So I just kept going.
“We flew back to Tatooine and rejoined the crew. We were told that our negotiations with the Hutts would be back on the next day. Erlena seemed very tired, so we turned in early. She was practically silent, and I knew when she got like that it was better for me to just shut up. But usually I don’t sleep very soundly. So I just sat there and I figured it’d be a few hours before I nodded off. But before I knew it I was out. And when I woke up, it was to Iridom telling me that Erlena had run off with the shuttle from Malastare. Right then I knew my instincts had been right and I’d been an idiot to ignore them. The crew had tracked the shuttle but I knew where she was going. She was returning to Malastare.”
To be continued…