Lesson of Troqa-Three
THE LESSON OF TROQA-THREE
Kos reads an old kurrf religious text, a red parchment of gold writings and diptychs. He translates the texts to a datapad. Te’Sha sits next to him piloting The Dianthus, their mid-sized trawler. The ship has since been re-purposed for excavation and archaeological study rather than hauling low orbit junk or sub-atmospheric fauna.
The Dianthus’s steel painted interior belies it homeliness – the hull of the ship is decorated with a multitude of colorful artifacts, remnants of long dead cultures or forgotten peoples, collected over the years by Te’Sha.
Master Te’Sha is a historian, she would to claim, above all else. She was knighted, yes, and she had given council, given her insight and time when it came to the direction and edicts of the Order, yes, but she has since “retired”, more-or-less, having grown indifferent to the bureaucratic politics which saturated most dialogue within the Order.
Shortly after her self-imposed leave of absence from the Jedi Order, Te’Sha found her stowaway on Corellia, in terms of herself and her purpose, yes, but also the force-sensitive orphan trying to escape the poverty of a life uncared for, hidden in the very room he now translates in.
Kos rubs his brow and leans back in his chair. He throws the datapad on the dash of The Dianthus, then ejects from the co-pilot seat. He yawns loudly and stretches, accidently hitting his master with his hand. Te’Sha has no outward reaction, but nonetheless Kos smiles hesitantly.
“S-Sorry, master”, Kos chitters, “I didn’t mean to…”
“How is the translation?” Master Te’Sha asks unfazed.
“Well, you know”, Kos says, “exhilarating battles; selfless love; action and suspense; real page turners.” Kos sighs and dumps the texts on top of the datapad. “The Order has a run for their credits in that department. How can you stand reading all this, master? It’s like watching grass grow.”
“It’s not for my edification, Kos. These studies are meant for you.”
“I get it, but…who cares about some secret princess of some secret kingdom no-one’s ever heard of, doing something no-one even knows about, that has no meaning or impact on anyone or anything for any reason. A silly tale for younglings.”
Kos sighs again. He heads out of the cockpit into the belly of the ship and grabs a vessel of water and some dried ponga fruit from a small plasteel container. He comes back and sits down next to his master.
“I much prefer training over reading”, Kos says, chomping loudly.
“For every Jedi that thinks himself the noble warrior”, Te’Sha espouses, “he is equal part fool. To know one thing is to only know one thing. To know the way broadly is to see it in all things.” Then quieter and with a more pointed tone, she adds, “The Order would do well to inhabit this. As would you, padawan.”
“I-I know, master. I’m just saying these aren’t exactly the most, uh, original works I’ve read. Simple parables, you know, stories for younglings – I’ve seen them all before, in different ways. I mean, I get why they’re told, I’d just rather they’d be…I don’t know…better.”
“A story is meant to convey meaning of experience, Kos. All of history runs together, all tribes, all worlds. In history, there is no such concept as aberration; there is nothing that is not connected. Maybe it’s not as exciting as you would like, as you think it should be, but these texts and these stories will one day let you know yourself, and in that, it will connect you with the greater whole. That is why you must study – ’there is no ignorance, there is only knowledge’.”
“—’Only knowledge’. I know the Code, master”, he says sharply. Then quickly, “I—I’m sorry. I just…I guess I’m tired. Feel like I’ve been at this for days.”
“In any case, we’ll arrive on Troqa-Three within the hour. I’d suggest getting some rest until then. You will have a long day ahead of you, I imagine.”
Te’Sha’s eyes seem to flicker against the hyper-light, but Kos doesn’t notice it. He agrees with his master’s assessment and leaves the cockpit once again, past the hull into a small cubby of a room where his bed is. He plops onto his bed-that’s-more-a-cot and falls asleep almost instantly. It really had been days since he began translating the religious texts for his master and his eyes welcomed the respite.
While they could employ any number of droids to serve as translator and scribe, Master Te’Sha thought it important that her pupil know language and culture and history for himself, in better service of his development.
The engines sputter and wretch, shaking the whole of the ship as it lands, waking Kos from his sleep. Kos bangs against the hull and the shrieking of the water tubes that run through his room. Every time The Dianthus lands, it’s as if the ship may never take-off again.
Kos asked his master many times for a more reliable means of transport, giving many reasons why, but she refused to acknowledge the wear-and-tear, thinking it a part of its history as much as anything else. For all her knowledge and musings, Master Te’Sha has never been too keen on the efficacy of machines or their general upkeep – this has always been a thorn in her apprentice’s side as he grew up getting by on repairing merchant droids and speeders for the wealthy of Corellia. Kos knows the value of a machine better than anyone—it was the reason he ran in the first place, after all.
Troqa-Three is the third moon of Troqa Prime, of the eponymous Outer-Rim system, a trinary system of mainly gas giants and dead, burned-out worlds. The second star is already in its final stages of life, beginning to expand and consume its sisters as well as irradiate and scorch some of the closer planets. According to the Galactic Republic Census, Troqa-Three has about fifty standard galactic years before it becomes unlivable for anything, and thus consumed and abandoned. Until then, it is a junker moon, comprised of a singular Republic embassy and hundreds of subterranean re-fueling ports; shops and cantinas and scavenging barges; a galactic pit-stop of seedy means. Its economy is propped up by various syndicates and cartels, despite what the Republic would argue, and the ticking clock nature of its existence often blurs the rule of law. The Republic rarely intercedes here despite its token presence; there is no real justice on Troqa-Three, only commerce.
The world of Troqa-Three is tidally locked between two other moons and the gas giant it orbits around. Because of this, there are wild and raging oceans of dense, toxic liquids that pound and shape the earth, jutting poisonous mists into the atmosphere. Therefore, most of the moon is too toxic for life, but around the equator, there is a band of breathable air and tepid weather and stable temperatures – civilization – for a time, anyway. The sky is permanently a sickly green with storms of static electricity coursing through it like a seer’s crystal ball. Without a re-breather or suit, staying on the surface for an extended period is deadly, so anyone landing and re-fueling on the moon must do so underground.
“Kos, come. We’ve arrived.”
“What are we doing here again?” Kos says, wiping the sleep from his eyes. He plucks the saber from the hook above his bed and latches it onto his belt. He walks to the galley of the ship with his master and down the boarding ramp into the port. They greet a droid who stops them and jots down some information into a datapad.
The docking bay is scattered with crates and detritus and detoxers: large vats of chemical wash that clean and strip any of the atmosphere’s mist that may have clung to the ship upon entry. Various automated D1 and J3 units begin cleaning The Dianthus as they are checked in.
The porter droid waves them through, satisfied with the payment and their ship’s registration, and the two move towards a turbolift that will bring them into a cantina near the surface of the moon.
“We’re here to meet a maven, Kos. He owns a garage of artifacts. He should have some texts I wish to procure. And for you to translate.”
Kos’s shoulders drop, “More texts?”
“These will, as you’ve requested, be more exciting. This, I promise.”
“Yes, master”, he sighs, dejected.
The turbolift carries them to a topside cantina. The cantina is mostly empty, save for a barkeep, a few wizened patrons, and a gungan band that listlessly play a gungan tune. On the way out of the turbolift, a corroded P3R7 droid presents them with a pair of re-breathers and warns them of the toxicity levels in the air outside:
“Hail, travelers. Republic statute 54.31.10 dictates that it is illegal to operate outside of designated safety zones without proper safety equipment or Republic contracts. If you defy this law, the Republic may, at their discretion, seek punitive damages and/or criminal charges. If you defy this law, the Republic will not undergo any rescue or medial operations on the surface of the third moon of Troqa Prime, known as Troqa-Three. Furthermore, the Republic forgoes any culpability for any and all loss of personal possessions, health, life, sanity, or goods procured. This agreement is implicit on your arrival to any port of Troqa-Three. If you have any questions, I will repeat this message. Thank you and have a good day.”
“Well, this’ll be fun”, Kos laments as he fits the re-breather mask over his mouth. “Are you sure we really need…whatever it is we need here?”
“You will be fine”, Te’sha says as she equips her own re-breather. “The maven’s place is not far. Come.”
The pair emerge from the bare cantina into a back alley of Troqa-Three’s prime market, The Troqarium. Moving down the alley, they soon come to the open belly of the market.
The adobe buildings which line the marketplace are sheathed in corrugated steel, corroded orange from the years of acidic air, and tattered coarseweave awnings drip like seaweed across the rim of each dwelling. Hundreds of communication antennae stab into random parts of every building; monthly or even weekly turnover for any one market stall or hut is so commonplace, most purveyors simply turn off previous transmitters, and install their own proprietary channels, rather than discard them. Discrete and encrypted communication is not only desired on Troqa-Three, it is seen as elemental to conducting any business.
Outside the makeshift buildings are various stalls, boxhuts, and vending units, mostly empty, some manned by merchant droids, but all of them having a distinct look of disarray and filth. There are few patrons and even fewer goods to buy. The market, if it can be called that anymore, does not inspire a look of commerce, nor does it seem built for such things. Every path, every step forward is maligned with detritus and abandoned effects. If one needed something, they would surely have to know exactly where to find it.
Master Te’Sha and Kos travel along from the belly of the market onto a side road, then into another alleyway, which then brings them into another glut of market stalls and abandoned buildings. This winding traveling repeats for some time until eventually they dump into a cul-de-sac where a large, semi-circular building lies. There is a red lighted marquee above the rusted steel that reads in aurebesh, The Glove That Fits The Hand. There is only a singular, black spire on this building and no others. It seems turnover for this shop is non-existent.
“This is the maven’s place”, Te’Sha says to Kos. “I need to…barter with the maven for what I seek.”
“So: be seen and not heard – I get it.”
“He’s…a fastidious person, Kos. He is particular in whom he does business with. I would rather this go smoothly than not, padawan. It shouldn’t take long.”
Inside the maven’s shop is decorated much like The Dianthus. There are enumerable amounts of trinkets, baubles, artifacts, art, weapons, machines, and furniture that clutter the space. Some items lie in shadow boxes or containment fields peppered across the adobe walls, but most things are stacked and hoarded around the perimeter of the shop like mounds of dirt pushed aside by some burrowing creature. Akin to the streets of The Troqarium, every step taken within the maven’s shop is a step belabored by doodads and forgotten junk and unkempt things.
Strangely enough, the shop’s counter is near pristine. It sits in the middle of the shop undisturbed and is occupied by the maven, whom seems busy with a datapad.
“Yes, yes. Yes, what do you want? I am rather busy right now”, the maven barks.
The maven does not look up from the datapad and continues to furiously type into it. The maven is a stout but small kurrf, from what Kos can gather. The moment he sees the maven, he shakes his head, knowing why his master was so keen on him studying their religious texts. If nothing else, Master Te’Sha was unsurprising in her determination to educate her apprentice at every turn.
The maven may look stout and small, covered in briny fur, but as Kos has come to understand, their kind is extremely spry and surprisingly powerful, with a bite that could pierce plasteel as easily as fruit. Their species large frontal tooth is as equally humorous as it is deadly. Knowing that most of this moon was inhabited via underground means, the fact that kurrfs were here at all seemed all the more telling of its history. Kurrf religions, or the stories they passed down anyway, were all built on secret, bloody wars and prophetic visions granted by the Force. They are a monastic culture and people, often dwelling far underground and out of sight. To see one out in the open is akin to witnessing an eclipse.
“Tichhi’tichhatak”, Te’Sha greets. Kos recognizes the clicking language as Kurrfi. He is surprised at how well his master speaks it and is equally embarrassed at how well he does not.
The maven whips his head around, staring his beady, black eyes at Te’Sha. The maven is dressed in common Republic clothing, not the ostentatious religious garb Kos read about in the texts. Kos suddenly feels silly thinking they’d be dressed like that all the time in this day and age. Maybe his master is right – maybe Kos needs to observe and follow.
“Chatti’tichhataki. It’s not very often I hear my own—”. The maven squints at the figure in front of him. He now realizes who he is talking to. “Oh. It’s you. What is a Jedi doing in my shop? Hm? All of my paperwork is in order, as it always is. Republic dogs have no quarry with me. For what? I’ve heard nothing from Lieutenant Mathias. This is against protocol! I know my rights. I will fight this! You people are relentless! I am a finder of the lost. I do not participate in any illegal business! This is madness! Everything I have, I own legally. I have all my paperwork right here. Somewhere…well, here. Somewhere here, but I have it! Everything is indexed! Every month I report my inventory to Lieutenant Mathias, as stated in the Republic Charter. He has no right to request a Jedi! I will—”
“Gauf. Gauf. Calm down. I am not here – calm down – I am not here with Republic. I simply want to – Gauf, calm down!”
However, Gauf the maven has no intention of being calm. He assumes he is being unlawfully raided and, as is the partial right of all permanent denizens of Troqa-Three, the maven therefore takes defensive action and reaches for a blaster that rests on top of the shop’s counter. Master Te’Sha sees this and force pulls the weapon from the counter and flings it across the shop. This does little to assuage the kurrf.
Master Te’Sha waves her hand in front of the maven, looking deeply into his black eyes.
“You will settle. We are not here to harm you.”
“I…I…you are not here…you…will…not take…my things!”
“Gauf. We will not take your things”, Te’Sha agrees as she wipes her hand in front of the maven’s face one more time.
The maven is silent for a moment that feels a lot longer than it is. Eventually he relents and is calmed, sitting back down in his chair and typing into his datapad as if nothing were different.
“Well…what is it that you want exactly, Jedi? I am quite busy.”
Te’Sha sighs and says, “I’m looking for a text, Gauf. Quite old. I was lead to believe that you have it in your possession.”
“Kikii’tcha’ki, Jedi”, Gauf hisses. Kos knows this phrase; he’s heard it before. It has something do with…oh. Not a nice thing.
“I have many books and texts. You will have to be more specific.”
“It looks like this. Transcripted from a holocron.”
Master Te’Sha unfolds a parchment and hands it to the maven. The maven shoves the paper between his black eyes. He inspects the image for a moment, looks up at Te’Sha, then back down at the parchment. He slams the parchment onto the immaculate counter and hops off his chair.
“Yes, yes. Yes, I’ve seen it. Somewhere…here. Somewhere in the back room; here. I have it, yes. What are you offering for it? What will I get? Hm?”
“Credits. Information. Which do you want, maven?”
“Information, hm, on what, exactly? Don’t lie to me! I can see it, you know.”
“What else? Treasure. Rakkatan Ships. Sunk and derelict in the Unknown Regions. Untouched, you have my word. I can give you the astrocharts. If this is amenable?”
The maven looks back and forth between Te’Sha and Kos, still unsure if this is all a ploy or not. His tooth chatters against his gray lips and he massages the fur between his scaly fingers. He turns around and heads towards the back storeroom, throwing one of his arms into the air.
“Very well, Jedi. Yes, you and your boy may follow me. It will take a while to find it, though.” Gauf stops and turns around, “I have many things.”
Kos and Te’Sha glance at each other. Kos smirks.
The maven opens a door and leads the pair into a back storeroom. If the front of the shop was a mess, the backroom is pure chaos. The ceiling stretches an extra thirty or so feet and there are dozens of piles of things that reach it. Gauf stands in the middle of the room and points to a dozen different heaps, as if divining where to go. For someone who is apparently as fastidious as Te’Sha warned, everything that surrounds or is contained in the shop seems haphazardly placed at best. Still, this does not stop the maven from searching and eventually deciding on where to plunge.
“I-I know where it is. I have many things. Yes”, the maven declares. He pulls a communicator from a breast pocket and barks into it, “Veshly, come! You are required in the storeroom.” The maven turns to the Jedi and her apprentice and adds, “My porter will be here in a moment. I will be back shortly. Do not touch anything.”
The maven then runs full clip towards a massive pyre of things and burrows headfirst into it, as simply as he would soil. Then the maven is gone.
“Master”, Kos says looking around, “is this…is he sane? How can he find anything here?”
“I know it may not look it, but there is no droid in the Republic that can store as much information as our little kurrf here. The density of their memory is something to behold. I’d bet there is not a single item in this entire store that is not accounted for, despite the…extensive inventory. If he says he’ll find it, he will find it.”
A beat passes and a then chiss boy enters the storeroom. The boy is dressed in simple, colorless robes, his blue-black hair frayed and greased. His head hangs below his neck as he shuffles forward like a subdued animal. He stops in front of Te’Sha and Kos. The boy says nothing.
Kos studies the hushed, stoic boy. His clothes, his smell, his demeanor, it all reminds him of Corellia. The way the boy hangs his head, the way he shuffles into a room as if trying not to be seen, the smallness of his aura; it is a familiar scene to Kos. It was Kos, long ago.
Kos is about to ask his master something, but sensing her padawan’s unease, Te’Sha shakes her head. Kos bites his tongue, visibly perturbed.
There is a rumbling from one of the junk pyres. The maven breaks through and tumbles onto the ground, causing a small cascade of detritus to flow forward from the pyre. He quickly corrects his posture and dashes towards Te’Sha and Kos. When he arrives at the two, the maven immediately looks at the boy and smacks him on top of his head.
“Were you late, Veshly? I told you never to be late!”
“No, maven. I was not late”, the boy whispers.
“Was he late?” the maven asks Te’Sha, unconvinced. Te’Sha shakes her head. “Well…good. He knows better than that. I paid a premium for him and I expect what I paid for, you see. Anyway, yes, here. Your texts. Go. Take this storage key. The boy will escort you. You will find it in container three-six-five, sub two-six-zero. A gray, uh, rusted thing. It will be buried near the bottom. It has a black cover with green symbols on it. There.”
“Wait…it’s not even here?” Kos says with a slight sting. Te’Sha glances at her apprentice.
“Here? Here, no. It’s not here. I don’t keep such rubbish here. In storage with the other crap. Yes, you’ll find it there. Now, Jedi. The coordinates?”
Master Te’Sha bows her head and smiles, a smile Kos rarely sees.
“Of course, Gauf. Kos.”
“Take the boy to the storage, procure the texts. I will meet you back aboard The Dianthus.”
“I…as you wish, master.”
“Take your time if you need to. Do not damage the texts.”
Kos is slightly confused by the request. It’s not often Te’Sha reinforces something so…trivial. Nonetheless…
“Yes, master”, Kos says bowing his head.
The boy, Veshly, suddenly grabs Kos’s hand, absconding with him out of the storeroom through a side hallway. Before he knows it, Kos is nearly sprinting through the tattered hallways of the maven’s shop, until the two burst out into a back alleyway of The Troqarium.
Veshly guides Kos through the alleyway into another alleyway. And another. And then another. The two maze back and forth through a canyon of alleys until they expire at a dead end, where only a discolored blast door lies.
Veshly pounds on the door. A red rusted TT-8L droid pushes through a circular slat in the adobe. The eye of the droid barks at Veshly, presumably to demand explanation. Veshly answers in Chenuh and the droid responds angrily. The droid retracts into the walls and the blast door wings open slowly and painfully.
“The garages are on the second level, sir”, Veshly says sheepishly.
“Kos. You can call me Kos.”
“N-No, I meant –”, Kos tries to explain, but Veshly ignores him and grabs Kos’s hand again and drags him through the blast door into the sublevels of The Troqarium.
There are two worlds on this moon, Kos soon comes to realize: the dispirited surface, where nothing seems of worthy repute, left to its own devices and dissolution, and the place he now walks through, the true face of Troqa-Three, this vibrant, dark underworld of commerce.
The sublevels of The Torqarium bustle with activity. There are market stalls and boxhuts, vendors of all kinds, much like the surface, but the difference here is that these tunnels teem with traffic and trade. Lights adorn every inch of wall down here, from simple candles to burning marquees to plasma torches of every make and model– in fact, the tunnels are so emblazoned by color and light, they are difficult to look at for any extended period.
As Veshly leads Kos through the tunnels, pushing past the crowds of people, the padawan begins to understand the true nature of this moon. For every stall selling droid parts or exotic meats or Spice, there is someone also hawking black market goods – banned weaponry, Republic military codes and codecrackers, healing baths, illegal fauna – and most obvious to Kos – slaves. If he has to guess, by the look of the people that walk the tunnels, one of every four must be a slave or indentured retainer. Everything about the look of those few, the way they move, is so familiar to Kos, it’s like he has stepped back into his own past.
Trandoshan, human, lorith, chiss, gamorean, tykish, amaran, clawdite, elomin, zabrak – there are more slave species here than Kos can count. As he flies past them and their auctioneers, their decorated markets of flesh, Kos feels rage build inside him.
The rich and their wants: the demand for a life that they will throw away at a moment’s hesitation; the desire of complete and utter control; the ineffable grief they produce; the ones that sustain this lifestyle and trade for their own glory and gain, uncaring for the beings they destroy or for the pain they cause – to Kos, he would slaughter every one of these “merchants” as easily as his once previous host. For Kos, there is no better end to their story than inglorious death.
After a long while of traveling through the sublevels of The Troqarium, Veshly and Kos finally arrive at their destination: Storage Unit 804. Flanking either side of the blast door to the Storage Unit are two armed security droids. Veshly communicates briefly with the droids until they step aside and the blast door opens. The boy urges Kos forward.
“Kos-sir, you must follow. It’s not far.”
Storage Unit 804 is really just an old, re-purposed landing port. There are racks and racks of grid like scaffolds that extend from ceiling to floor stuffed within it. Each row is tightly packed with various containers of various materials – kashyyykin wood, plasteel, fiberplast, allacrete, iron – and each row is marked with various symbols and numbers which only make sense to the maven and Veshly.
Veshly guides Kos down a few of these rows, winding through the scaffolds like the alleyways on the surface. Soon they come upon the row the maven suggested. Veshly presses a few buttons on a control pad embedded into the scaffold and a particular row extends outward in a mechanical hiss, lowering a rusted, gray durasteel container to the floor. Veshly unlocks the container with the maven’s keycard and digs through it, soon procuring a black, spiral bound booklet decorated with iridescent emerald symbols. The symbols seem familiar to Kos, but he can’t quite place them…
“Is this to your satisfaction, Kos-sir?” Veshly asks as he hands Kos the text.
“Y-Yeah…it’s fine”, Kos says taking the text and sealing it in a bag latched on his belt. “Veshly, just call me Kos. No ‘sir’.”
“But…I cannot. I-I must name all patrons sir. The maven has…”
“The maven is a fool. And he isn’t here. You don’t have to follow his rules. Not with me.”
Kos squints at the boy. He points at him.
“You don’t have another name, do you?”
This catches Veshly off-guard.
“You know my name is Kos”, he says. Then, “Only Kos.”
Veshly opens his mouth to say something, but conditionally lowers his head and remains quiet.
For a brief moment, Kos is disgusted with the boy, for he sees his past self in Veshly; he sees the host that once put him to work day in and day out, abusing him when he would fail at the things he’d never done before, starving him when he’d fail again, never once showing him compassion; he sees the meekness, the docility that once consumed his younger self, before Master Te’Sha accepted him and trained him in the ways of the Force.
But as soon as the feeling of disgust washes over Kos, it is replaced with empathy – and anger at those that did this to both of them.
“I was a slave, too, once”, Kos explains. “On Corellia. I was a foundling. An orphan with no history, no other name. My host never gave me his, he…I was named after a saltwater fish, from a factory that packaged them on Corellia. I was found abandoned on a road near that factory. I was picked up by a traveling merchant who sold me for a pittance. No one cared who I was.”
“I hated everything and everyone. For a long time, too. But I grew up. And I vowed if I ever got the chance…just one chance…”
Kos lingers on his words for a beat.
“…W-What?” Veshly asks, his eyes glassed and reaching.
“What do you think? What would you do if given a chance?”
“I…I don’t know…”
Kos bends down on one knee and grips Veshly’s shoulders. He stares hard into his red, glassy eyes. Veshly stares back. A sudden swell of words creep into the boy’s head, words he’d always thought about deep down, but could never say – after all, what good is a wish when there is no such thing as hope?
“I-I…”, Veshly stammers. Then, gathering the strength to say it, “I would…s-stop it. I would…stop all of it.”
“Okay, then”, Kos nods. He smiles at the boy and stands up, brushing the open lapel of his robes behind his hip. Kos unlatches the bronze hilt from his belt, firmly grasping the lightsaber. “I agree.”
“He’s in here? The kel-doran?”
Kos points to a guarded dwelling. The walls of the dwelling burn in red light, a clue for any patron seeking certain wares.
“Yes. Host Cham-Ko. He’s an envoy for the kel-doran syndicate. He owns most of the auctions here.”
“And are you sure you want this?”
“Yes”, Veshly says flatly. His eyes steady on the port blast door.
“You’re positive his ship is in there?”
“It’s a small, private port, but he never goes anywhere without it. But I’ve been sold. I-I won’t be allowed back in...”
“Don’t worry about that. Here’s what’s gonna happen: I’ll rush the droids, cut the door open. We go in, grab the host, get the chauffer codes for his ship, and get out. Easy.”
“You’re not…I thought Jedi were…”
“That’s the thing: I’m no Jedi. Not really, I mean. It’s…complicated. Don’t worry, Veshly. I’m doing this for me as much as I am for you.”
“You ready? It’s gonna be quick. Stay behind me and stay down. Okay?”
Kos smiles and nods at Veshly. He looks around and waits for the foot traffic to thin; they crouch hidden in an alleyway. Once he feels it’s clear enough, Kos ignites his saber. Veshly pulls back, surprised by the viridian blade. The sound of a Jedi’s weapon is terrifying to him. It is the first time Veshly has ever seen one. For a moment Veshly is unsure of his decision to run, but as he looks into Kos’s eyes, and at the blade of plasma, excitement and hope swell within him for the first time in a long time.
“Okay”, Kos says. “Here we go…”
Kos looks around one last time, then jumps up and sprints towards the two security droids that guard Cham-Ko’s dwelling. Before the droids can react, Kos jumps again and flips behind them. In one broad sweep, he slashes both droids in half and immediately turns around to the blast door, plunging the lightsaber into it and dragging the blade slowly in a circle. In a matter of moments, both droids have been dispatched and a melted, glowing hole burns in the center of the blast door.
Kos waves for Veshly. Veshly scrambles to him and then through the hole in the door.
Cham-Ko’s dwelling is as expected for a man of his repute: gold silkweave tapestries and crystal lattices adorn the walls; exotic plants and confusing sculptures abound; low lighting to hide the sordid business that haunt the port-home.
“The codes should be back here”, Veshly says pointing to a small side room by the entrance.
Just then, a confused kel-doran stumbles into the living room, hastily fixing his robes. He looks around, sees the Jedi and the light of his blade, as well as the glowing hole in his front door. It doesn’t take long to deduce what is happening. Cham-Ko reaches at his hip for a blaster, but Kos sees this and strips the gun from him. He force pulls the gun through the hole in the door, and then force lifts the kel-doran, slamming him into the ceiling. He slams him back onto the ground, and then thrusts him against the wall next to Kos, pinning him to it. Kos pushes the blade of the lightsaber inches from Cham-Ko’s throat.
“W-W-Wait, wait, wait!” Cham-Ko begs. “This, this must be a mistake! W-What do you want, Jedi? We can work this out, whatever it is!”
“You’re name is Cham-Ko?”
“And you know that boy?” Kos says, pointing at the ransacking Veshly.
“I…the boy…?” The kel-doran sees Veshly rummaging through his side room. “The chiss boy?”
Kos pushes the blade closer to the kel-doran’s throat. Cham-Ko can feel the heat of it.
“Yes, the chiss boy.”
“I…y-yes, I gave him to the kurrf. He calls himself the maven. Topside. If he’s reneged on a deal of yours, t-that’s not my concern, I – ”
“And you gave him his name?” Kos asks, ignoring Cham-Ko’s rambling.
“Y-yes…I mean, of course.”
“I-I don’t know…it, it sounded nice? Syndicate policy. B-Better than the chenuh one, anyway. Customers have a hard time with that…”
“What was your name before, Veshly?” Kos says aloud. Veshly comes out of the side room with a datapad, presumably the chauffer codes. He stands beside Kos.
“Vrugh’ediky’tlisars”. Then to the frozen kel-doran, “You took me from my family. Killed them, stole their ship. Then you sold me and gave me my name.”
“I-I-I…it’s just business! I-I didn’t…I mean, I wouldn’t have…w-what do you want, Jedi? Credits? What are you doing here?”
“Put your hands up…” Kos demands, releasing the force paralysis on Cham-Ko.
Cham-Ko falls to the floor with a dry thud, then does as he is told, hesitantly raising his arms above his head.
“Is your ship prepped for flight?” Kos asks him.
“Y-Yes? Yes! Always! T-Take my ship if you need. Take it, it’s yours!”
“How are the codes, Veshly?”
“They’ll work, I think”, Veshly says.
“Good. I guess we’re all set then.”
“All set? O-Okay? So, we’re…done…?” Cham-Ko stammers.
“Yeah. We’re done”, Kos says.
Kos steps back from the kel-doran. He swipes his saber across Cham-Ko’s wrists, cutting off both his hands. Cham-Ko falls to the ground mewing in pain.
“H-H-How can you?!” Cham-Ko yells as he writhes on the ground in pain. “How could you do this?! T-The Syndicate! They will come after you! I am an envoy! I will have both your heads! T-They will hunt you!”
“Let them come. This is a token of our gratitude, Cham-Ko”, Kos says in a low tone. He crouches over the squirming kel-doran. “Let this be a mark for those who host. One day, you will all know what you’ve wrought. This I promise.”
“But for now”, Kos says as he stands up. He sheathes the saber, latches it back onto this belt. “This payment’ll do.”
Cham-Ko’s ship is an S-class corvette, a custom Xil manufactured puddle-jumper used mainly for system wide traversal. Its long, sleek, peapod body is painted black and yellow and gold, the colors of his particular syndicate. The interior is flashy, as is expected. The ship is outfitted with a custom hyperdrive – not very powerful, but small and out of the way enough that it takes up little room in the ship. There is a crescent couch and a pazaak table, various art décor, a wetbar, multiple display monitors, and in the one room the ship has, a large round bed adorned with bright silkweave sheets. There are no manual controls for the cockpit as the ship has been designed for a chauffeur droid, of whom stands at the helm ready for coordinates.
Vehsly and Kos enter the ship from the dock behind Cham-Ko’s dwelling. Veshly rushes over to the chauffeur droid and enters the codes for take-off. The ship uncouples from the dock and rises out of the vertical tunnel towards the surface. Breaking into the acidic atmosphere of Troqa-Three, the ship hangs above The Troqarium, and the two passengers can see the entirety of the dilapidated marketplace.
“Well, Veshly, looks this is your ship now.”
“I…”, Veshly trails. He muddles with his hands.
“Where are you gonna go?”
Veshly shakes his head. His eyes fall to the floor.
“I don’t…I mean, I-I’m not sure where…I…”
“No”, Kos says, “No more of this indecision. Your life is yous now.” Kos smiles at the boy and touches his shoulders. “Where do you want to go? What do you want to do now?”
“I…”, Veshly begins to say.
He looks up at Kos, at the man that freed him from his bonds. Veshly has, for the first time in his life, an actual choice. A choice that he alone has to make; true agency for a once slave. This fills Veshly with a familiar fear and doubt, but is quickly subdued by the prospect and potential of his new life.
“I think…I’ll go home”, Veshly says lifting his head.
“Yes…I will…find the rest of my family.”
Veshly’s eyes fill and glisten and his arms fall to his side. Kos bends down to Veshly and shakes his head. He wipes the forming tears from Veshly’s eyes.
“It’s okay. I know it’s scary. It was for me, too. But everything new is scary at first. And then soon it won’t be. You make your own choices now, Veshly. No-one can take that away; don’t let anyone take that away from you. Not ever again.”
“Y-Yes…”, Veshly sniffles.
“I will only ask one thing from you.”
Kos stands up and points down at an edge of the marketplace by a canyon.
“Can I, uh, get a ride back to my ship?”
It is the first time Kos sees Veshly smile. He hopes it will not be the last.
“Okay. Okay! I can do that.”
Veshly inputs coordinates into the navicomputer. The chauffeur droid twists and turns in place and bleats out some nominal gratitudes, revving the engines. Then the ship turns and moves towards its new destination.
Kos pushes past a J3 droid scraping the hull of The Dianthus. He enters the ship and heads to his bunk, divesting his saber to the hook-shelf above his bed. Kos sees his master at the helm of The Dianthus and joins her in the cockpit.
Te’Sha is reading a datapad, one leg folded over the other. She is uninterested in her apprentice. She looks up from the datapad, at the tired face of Kos. A phantom smirk edges her face.
“Have you procured the texts?” she asks, her eyes gliding back to the datapad.
Kos digs through the small satchel on his belt and produces the black and emerald book. He tosses it onto the dash of The Dianthus.
“Good. And the boy?”
“I…”, Kos begins. At first, he isn’t sure what to say. He looks at his master. She continues to read her datapad. And then the true understanding hits him. He sighs, shakes his head, and sits down in the co-pilot seat. “We might have some trouble come at us.”
“I…oh, uh, just one. A purveyor – a Cham-Ko – for the kel-doran syndicate. Not sure the name…”
“The Sun Breakers, I believe. I’m familiar with them. But I meant the boy, padawan. What did you do?”
“I…”, Kos says. He glances at his master, then at the black texts that lay on the dash. “I let him choose, like you did for me.”
“And where is he now?”
“I…I’m not sure. But he’s gone, that much I do know. Gave him the purveyor’s ship.”
“I see. A boy with little resource, no mooring, and a criminal’s ship. Most likely to be pursued and marked for life. There won’t be a world he’ll be safe in.”
Te’Sha glances at her apprentice.
“I…he’s stronger than you think, master. As I was.”
“Perhaps. Or perhaps you have doomed him in another way”, Te’Sha eggs.
Kos kicks the dash of The Dianthus and spins the chair to face his master. His eyes burn, his fists clench.
“And what would you have me do, master? Leave him to this world, to this life? Why did you take me?”
“Because I heard the echoes within you. Because you could be trained, molded.”
“Because I had worth to you?” Kos says with venom. “Like he had worth to those that sold him.”
“In certain terms, yes. Like them, I had no compunction on taking you. I made an educated choice. Like they did. Like you did. While the means and ends may have been different, yes, the reasons are always the same: the will to power, the will to change the world around you, these are all gifted to us from the Force.”
“Gifts…you’re admitting to being no better than these slavers? Why even come here? Why take me at all?”
“What do you think the Order does, padawan? What would you call a Jedi? A host? A soldier? An arbiter? A savior? A menace? An indistinction. Life consumes life, padawan. It is the will of the Force that facilitates this Great Cycle in all its forms.”
Kos sighs and hisses, “You’re being opaque, master.” He feels the blood in his neck course, the pulse of his heart thicken. “Just say what you mean.”
“I understand your frustrations, Kos. But I am trying to teach you something.”
“What lesson is ignoring those that need help? I grew up being ignored, master, you know this; it did nothing but breed resentment and hatred and death. I will not apologize for what I did.”
“I am not admonishing your actions, Kos. I am only trying to elucidate.”
Kos kicks the dash again. The provocations and sidesteppings of his master are getting to him.
“So what would you have me do, master?”
“I would hope you would learn.”
“The actions of one can amount to much. And the actions of many can amount to more. All great and terrible acts are built on the procession of history. No one person can escape this. The Force wills itself through us as a loom would thread a cloak.”
Kos sighs and shakes his head. His voice lowers.
“Why does it choose, then? Why us and not him?”
Te’Sha smiles and puts down her datapad.
“That is a good question, padawan. Why, indeed.”
Master Te’Sha floats the black texts from the dash of The Dianthus into her hand. She flips through it, turns it over. She casually tosses the texts onto her apprentice’s lap.
“The words in here; they are forbidden in the Order. But how can a color be unseen?”
Te’Sha smirks. Her eyes flash.
Kos studies the black book, its shimmering green symbols. They look so familiar…
“What is it?” Kos asks his master.
“It is an account. A history deemed…unsatisfying. It is my lesson to you.”
Kos glares at the black book. Are the symbols different now…? How can this be?
“Why should I read this?”
“Because, padawan”, Te’Sha says, starting the engines of The Dianthus. The ship wretches from its stupor. It slowly climbs the vertical tunnel to the toxic surface of Troqa-Three.
“‘There is no ignorance, only knowledge’.”
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