Trials and Fibrillations
Cyrella stood on the practice floor in front of Leia Solo, Grand Master of the Jedi Order, and two other Jedi Masters, Gwonameeth and Julither. The members of the triumvirate were seated on a raised dais at one end of the room. Aside from the four occupants, the cavernous chamber in the newly constructed Jedi Temple was utterly empty. And since being relocated to Tatooine, this was the first time such a ceremony had been conducted. Cyrella forced herself to focus and not consider how auspicious the circumstances really were.
“Welcome to the Jedi trials, young padawan,” Grand Master Leia solemnly said. “There is a reason that you have received no forewarning of what will occur here today. Our purpose isn’t to test what you’ve learned from your studies, nor are we interested in your mastery of any specific lightsaber form. You must answer from experience and personal insight. Any other response will be considered inadmissible. Keep in mind that you are in the presence of a telepath. In terms of your facility with the Force, whether it’s with your lightsaber or to accomplish tasks that we have appointed, you must demonstrate only spontaneity. Do you fully understand what is expected of you?”
“I do, Grand Master,” Cyrella stoically indicated.
“What is the difference between violence and aggression?” Julither instantly inquired.
“A violent act can be defensive,” Cyrella contemplatively replied. “Aggression is the initiation of the use of force.”
“Can aggression ever be justified?” the Grand Master pressed.
“That’s why we have courts,” Cyrella slyly responded.
“An insightful if somewhat evasive answer,” Leia smiled as she observed. “I will need you to describe a situation in which you might take an action that someone could consider aggressive.”
“In order to pursue and apprehend a known criminal, I might find it necessary to appropriate some form of transportation,” Cyrella countered after only seconds of consideration. “The owner of the commandeered vehicle would probably consider that as an aggressive action.”
“What would you do if you saw someone being attacked?” Julither immediately asked.
“I would intercede on behalf of the party being assaulted,” Cyrella reflexively replied.
“But the Force is only for knowledge and defense,” Julither rejoined. “It’s never for attack. In the situation I just described, you were not being attacked.”
“When the innocent are endangered, interference is defensive,” Cyrella insisted.
“Who told you such a thing? Was it one of your previous instructors?” Leia intently asked.
“No, Grand Master,” she circumspectly replied, pausing to consider the question. “Not in so many words. This discernment must be from the Force.”
“That’s the axiom at which each disciple must independently arrive,” Leia carefully informed her. “Altruism demands the adoption of such a double-edged responsibility. It could require us to sacrifice ourselves in order to save others. But it can also require that we aggressively intercede for the defenseless. A Jedi Knight must be prepared to take a life if there’s no other solution, but only in that specific case. To take a life needlessly is the suicide of the soul. That is the quickest path to the Dark Side.”
“In reality, somebody did once tell me that lives should only be taken when there is no other possible way to preserve the innocent,” Cyrella suddenly recalled. “But it wasn’t an instructor.”
“Who was it?” Julither inquired. But from the way Gwonameeth reacted, the members of the triumvirate all knew the individual’s identity before it was even given.
“Lamis Cormosa,” she hesitantly answered. “For a Dark Lord, he put on quite an impressive performance. Although he didn’t adhere to it, he definitely understood our code of ethics.”
“Unless our discernment is now completely compromised, Lamis Cormosa is no more,” Leia resolutely replied. “You and Fazif shared the conviction that eliminating the Chameleon’s Crystal would facilitate his downfall, and that was accomplished at great cost years ago. The lack of any aggressive action on his part can really only be adequately explained by his absence. Sith Lords are not known for their patience.”
“We no longer sense the Shroud of the Dark Side,” Julither said in support.
“Pardon me, my masters,” Cyrella cautiously contended. “But do you mean to imply that the One Crystal no longer exists?”
“We have no reason to assume that it was destroyed,” Leia explained. “But it appears that it is no longer being maliciously manipulated. We know not the manner of the Dark Lord’s demise, but it certainly seems as if no one remains to press it into such spiteful service. Our relocation to Tatooine was nevertheless necessary. The Jedi Order still has many powerful enemies. And our proximity to all those displaced by the use of the Star Killer is demonstrative both of our concern and our dedication to their recovery.”
Cyrella was not completely persuaded by the arguments of her mentors. Only Gwonameeth was really aware of this. But her doubts did not relate to the Dark Lord’s demise, so the towering telepath did not impart that perception to the other assembled members of the Jedi Council. She seemed mostly concerned with the question of whether or not someone could influence the One Crystal in a way that would defy detection. To Gwonameeth, her apprehension did not represent a plausible possibility. But the telepath had also been asked to focus only on the immediate.
There were a number of objects scattered around the outskirts of the room. Several were of significant size. Cyrella was instructed to simultaneously levitate them to the same height above the floor. This was not something she’d ever practiced, but her facility with the Force enabled its accomplishment. She was then asked to scale the sheer wall behind her, which distinctly lacked any protrusions to assist in such an effort. After having reached its top, she was then told to leap from that lofty location and land as noiselessly as possible. The examiners appeared to consider her performance satisfactory, although she was aware of making slight sounds as her feet came in contact with the floor.
“In your own words,” Leia said, pausing for effect, “please explain the Force.”
“Physicists would most probably refer to it as either super-space or the multi-verse,” Cyrella responded, prefacing her reply.”But those scientific terms, like the one we prefer, describe multi-dimensional reality. What it comes down to is this: everything both imaginable and unimaginable actually exists in an endless procession of parallel universes. And it isn’t even appropriate to call them parallel since they seem instead to be superimposed. Those of us who are Force-sensitive can learn to merge elements from those other realities with our own.
“There’s a reality where the law of gravity is different and the objects around the room hover at an equidistant altitude above the floor. There’s a reality where I weigh so much less that I can leap from a great height without risking injury and can also jump many times my own height. My attraction to a wall can even supersede my weight in that reality and allow me to scale a surface without any handholds. There’s a reality where an alternate version of me is standing instead on the other side of this room. Knowing this, I can use Force-speed and move there with far greater alacrity than someone who lacks these skills.”
As Cyrella demonstrated the principle, Julither asked, “But doesn’t that mean there’s also a universe where you can fly?”
“That would venture into the realm that we refer to as testing the limits of the Force,” Cyrella replied. “Gravity is a fundamental law that attaches us to our universe. It is one thing to bend the rules. It’s another to break them. I can lift an object into the air and keep it suspended there with nothing more than my hand. The levitation of other objects is nothing more than an extension of this ability. However, I have no innate capacity for suspending myself. Since I’ve never heard of even a Sith Lord having success with self-levitation, I suspect that the ability is outside the limits of the Force. And I will be satisfied with the flight I take when the time comes for me to transform into the Force.”
“You referred to testing the limits of the Force. What would you consider to be guidelines for identifying such infractions?” Leia carefully inquired.
“Anything that tended towards destruction or tried to circumvent the truths of our existence,” Cyrella answered.
“Besides gravity, what would be another truth of our existence?” asked Julither.
“Mortality,” she quickly countered, as if she had been anticipating the question. “Particularly when they have been trained, the Force-sensitive tend to live a little longer than what’s normally expected for someone of their species and even remain vigorous until just before the end of life. But the end must finally come. If my understanding is correct, this was the source of the dispute between Jedi Master Soma and her cloned captor.”
From the expression on Leia’s face, Cyrella was suddenly unsure as to whether it had really been wise to bring up Darth Duress again.
“You were instructed to bring a bokken,” the Grand Master reminded her. “Defend yourself!”
Leia then launched an attack that would have impressed a Dark Lord. And Cyrella was hard pressed to meet the interminable blows of her attacker. But in the end they fought to a standstill. The Grand Master was ultimately unable to overcome the insurmountable candidate. When Leia finally lowered her bokken and bowed, Cyrella wrongly assumed that the examination was over. This misperception was supported by the fact that Julither left her seat and strolled out upon the practice floor. After bowing, Leia had backed up several paces. There were now a few meters in between Cyrella and the Grand Master. From Cyrella’s left side, Julither began to angle into this area.
Suddenly swinging her bokken back up and moving menacingly towards Julither, Leia said, “Defend the defenseless!”
Julither, by this point, was almost standing between them, and Cyrella had a split second to decide what to do. As she swung at Julither, who seemed blissfully oblivious to the danger, Leia suggestively raised her left hand, apparently in preparation to deflect a Force-push. By throwing her bokken, Cyrella could have deflected the swing. But she elected instead to direct the Force-push at the passerby, thereby propelling her out of peril. As Julither skittered across the practice pad, Leia lowered her bokken again.
“You could’ve deflected my blow by throwing your bokken,” she observed. “If Julither wasn’t a Jedi Master and this had taken place anywhere besides on a practice floor, she could’ve been very seriously injured. Is this how you defend the defenseless?”
“If I had thrown my bokken instead, I would’ve been unarmed,” Cyrella unflinchingly replied. “I’d have sacrificed the opportunity for further defense against a Force-wielding attacker. There’s no way I can save anybody else if I’m already dead.”
“Always put your own oxygen mask on before attempting to save someone else,” the Grand Master grinningly agreed. “You’ve answered correctly, Jedi Knight Cyrella Lasari. In the name of the Jedi Council I welcome to our ancient order. In accordance with your graduation, you’re now under an injunction never to reveal the particulars of your testing. I know you’re friends with Jedi Master Julither’s original apprentice. As soon as she has also passed the trials, you’ll be sent on assignments together. I might have to send you on a solo mission beforehand if the need should arise. The Council is cognizant of your unique qualifications. But you can be certain it’ll be within your capacity to complete. I’ll be careful not to expose you to any unwarranted risk if indeed I do need to send you out unaccompanied on your initial deployment.”
“I look forward to serving the needs of both the Republic and of this revered assembly,” she sincerely answered, bowing.
“And I look forward to seeing many years of such distinguished service,” Leia replied as she bowed in return. “You’ll be called to come before the Jedi Council and receive your confirmation at its very next session.”
Bowing towards Masters Gwonameeth and Julither, the latter of which had recovered rather remarkably from her fall, Cyrella left the training room and headed out into the hallway. The new Jedi Temple had been built in one of the rockier regions of the wasteland world. Its situation was strategic. Deep scans had shown that an extensive system of large caves was located far below its surface. The subbasement of the new complex opened onto these caverns. This would easily allow for unseen expansions of the facility as the necessity arose. Lightsabers had already been used to remove obstructions from some of the more immediate passages. But all the inhabitants of the Temple were presently housed within its actual environs.
As she headed for her rendezvous with the friend to whom Leia had referred, Zayana Oshu, she deliberately allowed herself to imagine the day when democracy’s Force-wielding defenders would once again be as numerous as they’d been before the Clone Wars and padawan learners would hurry through lightsaber-hewn halls to cavernous classrooms. It was precisely the type of positive mental exercise that the Grand Master stressed to all the younglings: the envisioning of an advantageous future.
Zayana was seated near the back of the cafeteria. Using the Force, she pushed out a chair to receive her friend. Her face was a picture of expectation as she watched Cyrella slide into the extended accommodation.
“Well?” she impatiently pressed. “What happened?”
“As soon as you have also past the trials, we will be sent on assignments together,” Cyrella smiled as she answered, relishing the way Zayana reacted to her words. “I cannot say any more than that.”
“Ah yes, the legendary confidentiality of the knighthood,” Zayana smilingly responded. “If it’s the will of the Force, it’ll soon be my burden to bear as well. But now I know why I just heard that Xan and Priella are being recalled. Of course your mentor can’t take part in the assessment, but she will be here for your confirmation. And either she or Xan may also stand in for my master so I can face the trials. After decades of disarray and near annihilation, the Jedi Order has returned to the ancient arrangement of masters, knights, and padawan learners. The damage done by all the Dark Lords has all but been rescinded.”
“Your penchant for putting things in perspective is already almost legendary,” Cyrella said in impish reply. “I shall miss that if I’m sent on an assignment before your confirmation.”
“Have you any reason to anticipate such a thing?” Zayana rejoined, sounding unexpectedly more concerned than amused.
“The Grand Master suggested the possibility,” Cyrella reassuringly answered. “But even if it happens, although I shall languish for lack of your company, I’ll still have the Force as my ally.”
Since her supernatural capability was associated with a vergence in the Force, even though Fazif had already transformed into its netherworld, Cyrella had noted on manifold occasions that her associates often seemed to have their senses amplified during their interactions with her. As far as she could tell, there was no reason for Zayana’s apparent apprehension. But in spite of all her attempts, she was unable to interject levity into her discourse with Julither’s apprentice. This was something that she knew she desperately needed to understand. Her friend’s insightfulness had obviously been activated.
“Perhaps the Republic could be obliging enough not to become any more endangered than it already is until after you’ve also past the trials,” she teasingly suggested, still trying to assuage her friend’s mysterious misgivings. “It could happen.”
“Not if history is any indicator,” Zayana curtly countered, sounding uncommonly morose. “At least we have job security.”
This type of pessimism was not something Cyrella had ever observed in her friend before. It was clear to her that something was inducing this behavior. The abrupt turn in their conversation allowed for no other conclusions. Zayana’s initial excitement had transformed into uncertainty so swiftly that it was almost alarming. But her brand new knighthood notwithstanding, Cyrella could still discern no indication whatsoever of its source.
Being a compassionate mentor, Julither allowed Zayana to spend time with Cyrella. It would be counterproductive at this point, as she was well aware, to subject her apprentice to the stress of superfluous exercise. Her padawan would either pass the trials or the promotion would simply be postponed so she could undergo additional training; and for the purposes of the examination, it was better to be fresh than fatigued. Knowing that the nature of their relationship to each other was about to drastically alter, as they started carrying out assignments together as Jedi Knights, she thought it was best to give them an opportunity to understand their new dynamic. They were therefore able to spend a couple of days together as they awaited the arrival of the Jedi Masters and the subsequent convening of the Council.
The day before Masters Xan and Priella were scheduled to arrive, Leia surprised Cyrella by summoning her to the Council Chamber. Due to the fact that the returning Masters were coming from the periphery of the Outer Rim, Tatooine was actually closer to the Core systems. And Leia carefully informed Cyrella that she needed to send someone to Coruscant. If she sent any of the Jedi Masters on hand, it would mean delaying the trials for the other candidates.
“Questions have been raised about the way we cut some corners to expedite the rebuilding of the Order, and I’d hoped that those days were behind us,” the Grand Master admitted. “If you really believe that you should be confirmed in front of the full Council before you begin accepting assignments, I will handle this matter in another manner. But I think it would be beneficial for the citizens of the Republic’s capital to see a fresh face, especially yours. Most of its inhabitants are aware of the part you played in restoring relations with Utapau. Having you now lend your aid as a Jedi Knight should serve to reassure those who were upset by the Temple’s relocation.”
“So I will be both an ambassador and a sentinel,” Cyrella summarized. “I am only too happy to accept. May I please know the nature of my assignment?”
“From your studies you may recall that the Jedi Temple, after decades of disuse, was found to be booby-trapped,” Leia replied. “There was a droid army hidden in excavated regions behind the walls of the Archives. When we accessed the transponder system, we activated that army.”
“I am very familiar with the incidents to which you refer,” Cyrella politely responded. “In what way is that associated with my assignment, Grand Master?”
“Nobody’s claimed responsibility; at least, not as of yet,” Leia sighed as she answered. “But there was more than a bit of a bidding war for the sections of floor space in the new commercial complex into which the Ziggurat was converted. Commissioner Eisley believes it was most likely someone who didn’t manage to stake a claim that has now resorted to so vengeful an act. And it appears as if they have some knowledge of history. There is a group of rampaging droids on the loose inside the new business center, and the commissioner’s security forces have been unable to contend with them. Please go there and restore serenity. After you have destroyed the droids, you might be able to identify their programmer by examining their components. Eisley can assist you with this.”
“It won’t be the first time I’ve destroyed a rampaging droid,” Cyrella grinned as she rejoined. “I actually have some experience in that area.”
With a knowing nod, the Grand Master responded, “May the Force go with you as you bring order again to the place we so recently vacated. A ship has been readied for you. It’s waiting on the easternmost upper pad. I will look forward to conducting your confirmation when you return.”
The two women bowed to each other. Turning, Jedi Knight Cyrella left the Council Chamber and went directly to her ship. After she was aboard and underway, she used the craft’s com-link to advise Zayana of the development. She sensed both excitement and hesitation in the voice of her friend. But she couldn’t allow herself to be preoccupied by the apprehensions of others. She needed to focus on the immediacy of her mission. After the brief conversation, she sent the ship into light-speed and aimed her every perception in the direction of her objective.
Although Tatooine was closer to Coruscant than some other planets along the margin of the Outer Rim, there were still many parsecs of empty space through which she would have to pass before reaching the Republic’s capital. As she concentrated on the destination toward which she was constantly growing closer, she began to believe that something there simply did not belong. It was difficult to define. And she was reminded of what Zayana had said just before the close of their discussion when asked to try and articulate her concern. It’s something elsewhere, elusive.
Despite Eisley’s insistence, to anyone who would listen, that the Jedi Temple had only been relocated to diminish the danger to Coruscant, rather than to leave it defenseless, the politicians had insisted on increasing the frequencies of the city-shields. Storms had inevitably ensued. But after weeks turned into months without any hint of an attack, the settings were ultimately scaled back. With the Forthright and its fleet in orbit above the sprawling ecumenopolis, such measures were as needless as they were dangerous. And its citizens were very relieved by the reduction.
The commissioner was expecting Cyrella’s arrival. He and a small contingent of his security forces were waiting for her atop what had once been the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. She’d been initially surprised when she was guided to that landing location. It seemed strange to think that it was safe to land on the roof when it was considered suicidal to actually enter the structure. After circling the building and observing that there appeared to be no external damage, she finally set her ship down on one of the upper landing pads. But the familiar setting now seemed unsettling.
“Greetings in the name of the Force, Commissioner Eisley,” she cordially began with a bow after disembarking from her spacecraft. “I understand that the new commerce center is suffering from some sort of robotic infestation. Is it really wise to leave our ships parked up here?”
“Robotic infestation,” Eisley repeated, cocking his head and chuckling. “I do appreciate your attempt to make the situation seem less serious. But there’s very little here that makes sense.”
“Please enlighten me as to the nature of this dilemma,” she suggested.
“The means by which these droids gained entrance still remains mysterious in the extreme,” he replied. “We’ve reviewed the security recordings. All the cameras in the area of the structure, where they were first reported, somehow malfunctioned at the same time. But it is nowhere near any of the entrances, and none of the cameras that are located at the entrances observed them. None of the people who initially encountered them saw how they entered. We therefore have no idea whatsoever of how the hell they got inside. As you are no doubt aware, there is no tangible proof that anyone in the galaxy actually has teleportation technology. And no one claiming to do so expressed any interest in the new business complex by bidding on floor space. If anyone had that type of technology, there are locations on Coruscant that would make better military targets that a commerce complex that once used to be a Jedi Temple. And the behavior of these droids has been as bizarre as anything else.”
“Please explain,” she cautiously pressed.
“After driving everybody out of the entire building,” Eisley answered, “they then circulated all through the structure and finally regrouped again in the area where it seems that they somehow emerged. Since then, they have only attacked in response to our attempts to evict them. But I’m not about to allow civilians back into that structure while the droids remain. They could suddenly decide to start shooting again. We don’t have any ideas about their intentions. They’ve made no such announcement, nor have we been contacted by anybody claiming responsibility or making demands.”
“All of this does sound exceedingly strange,” she honestly admitted. “I guess they passed in front of functioning cameras while they were reconnoitering the structure. But maybe it would be just as helpful to me for you to describe them.”
“They look like modified destroyer droids,” Eisley explained. “And they have force fields with which to repel laser blasts. I am told that your lightsaber was designed to be especially effective at penetrating such protection. But you’d have to get dangerously close to make the attempt. I’m not anxious to see you get you killed. You’re the first Jedi Knight to visit Coruscant in years. You might want to wait for backup.”
“I’ll need to appraise the situation for myself,” she stoically countered. “Did I understand you to say that right now they are only attacking if provoked? If so, then I should be able to see them for myself without any real risk. I’m not as delicate as I look.”
“I’ve seen the Grand Master in action,” he grinningly rejoined. “I wouldn’t make that mistake. And I will even accompany you in this nest of gundarks.”
“The Grand Master speaks highly of you, as well,” she reciprocated. “Your kind offer is very deeply appreciated.”
Commissioner Eisley instructed his security forces to remain on the roof and be prepared to cover their evacuation if it should suddenly become necessary to retreat. After that, he went with Cyrella as she made her way to the nearest entrance. But before they stepped through, he used his handheld tablet to check the camera feeds and make sure the droids were all still assembled in the chamber where they’d mysteriously emerged. Since none of them were to be seen on any of the monitors, he knew they hadn’t moved. He indicated this to Cyrella.
As they entered the structure proper and made their way towards the nearest elevator tube, she said, “Do you think somebody could’ve perhaps purchased transporter technology and used it to smuggle the droids in? There’s a legend that tells of such a race in the Unknown Regions.”
“According to the legend, nothing larger than a single-celled organism has ever survived the process of teleportation,” Eisley answered. “It could explain how the droids got in here. But there doesn’t seem to be any reason for arranging this disruption. No one stands to gain from shutting down the business being done here. And the price of such a purchase could really only be offset by the demanding of ransom for the removal of the droids. Nobody’s made such a demand. And it would be far too expensive an activity in which to engage otherwise. I suppose you can’t really put a price on revenge. But why not receive remuneration for all the effort? It makes no sense.”
“I’ll grant that there seem to be contradictions in such a scheme,” she quietly conceded.
“The last time anybody volunteered to venture in here and check on them,” he said, tactfully changing the subject, “the droids seemed dormant. If I keep my blaster holstered and the holster fastened, they might take no exception to my presence. They’ve seen me before. So let me take the first peek to appraise the situation, and then I’ll let you know. But if I start running, that will of course mean you need to cover our retreat with your lightsaber.”
“Like you really needed to tell me that,” she playfully complained.
His halfcocked sidelong smile reminded her of a certain starship captain and previous pirate to whom the Grand Master was now married. But as they neared the entrance to the chamber in which the droids where suspected to reside, he held up a cautioning hand to stop her and slowly stepped before the opening. She was impressed by just how silently he made the maneuver.
“They’re here,” he softly said. “Step around me and you can see for yourself.”
Moving cautiously, so as not to possibly imperil the commissioner, she stepped around him and peered into a room she’d once known well. But its new occupants represented nothing with which she was familiar. Destroyer droids had become uncommon in the Core systems, and that is where she’d spent most of her time until recently. But as the invaders were revealed to all her senses, something about them suddenly seemed out of place. It was difficult for her to quantify.
Trying to make sense of her perceptions, she asked, “Have you been able to figure out why the cameras all malfunctioned?”
But before Eisley could answer, the droids suddenly stirred. They’d been positioned in such a way that some of them faced each of the room’s entrances. But now they oriented themselves so that they were angled exclusively toward the pair of interlopers who had dared to disturb their domain. Although their particle beam emitters were not yet leveled at the unwelcome observers, it was clear that the droids were now anticipating a threat. She knew a response was inevitable.
“I don’t understand this. You’re not even armed,” Eisley whispered, referring to the absence of a blaster at her side. But as he glanced at the place where such a holster would have hung, it abruptly became clear what was happening. “They’re keying on your lightsaber. But you haven’t even activated it. Why would they’ve been programmed to respond to something so specific?”
“Because of where they are!” she replied as she used a Force-push to propel him out of the line of fire. The droids had leveled their emitters and released an incinerating barrage. Using her Force-speed, she’d just barely succeeded in reaching cover behind the wall on the other side of the opening. “Somehow, the person who is responsible for this attack didn’t understand that this is no longer the Jedi Temple. Get out of here! They’re my problem now!”
Even though Eisley was not in favor of assenting to her instruction, there was little he could do against foes with force-fields. Albeit reluctantly, he retreated by heading back in the direction from which they had come – something that was no longer possible for his companion. She was now cut off from the most expeditious route out of the complex. But escape was not her plan. All she really wanted was to keep the commissioner from becoming collateral damage.
From her position she could sense that some of the droids were already moving through the opening around the corner to her left. They were trying to coordinate their attack, simultaneously striking from both sides. But this also meant the ones just around the wall to her right would wait until the flanking force was in position, and she knew they wouldn’t be anticipating a preemptive response. Using the Force to determine the one area at which their emitters weren’t aimed, she suddenly swung low around the corner as she activated her lightsaber. The droid at the head of the waiting column had its force-field raised, but the Gallantry sliced right through it. The scream of its mechanical voice lasted only a moment before its smoking sections slid noisily to the floor.
She knew her attackers would soon come around the wall from both sides. But for someone who possessed her skills, there was an option that did not involve making a suicidal stand in the passageway. Several meters over her head, there was a balcony that overlooked the corridor. It would not have represented a means of egress for the commissioner, but padawan learners had been making that leap for almost a millennium; so, it was a simple matter for a fully fledged Jedi Knight to extricate herself from a dangerous situation in this way.
Her facility with the Force gave her the capability not only to perform the prodigious leap but to do so between the laser bolts of her surprised pursuit. But as she executed a somersault over the parapet of the preferred platform, she noticed that the laser bolts were on a stun setting. The droids were trying to capture rather than kill her. This was a disquieting discovery. Droids can be barbarically brutal in the extraction of information. Although she wanted to think the Jedi Temple on Tatooine would be safe beneath its ray-shields, no one knew how the droids had managed to get inside the business complex undetected. If they succeeded in making her reveal the location of her associates, the security of their new facility could conceivably be compromised. She knew then that she had to either win the engagement or make sure she wasn’t taken alive. Something beyond what even the Grand Master had perceived was happening here.
It also occurred to her to wonder why the battle droids would have selected one of the more centralized chambers and one of the few with multiple openings. It didn’t seem rational to think it had anything to do with defense, since they’d almost immediately emerged from those decidedly defendable confines and gone on a rampage. As she sensed an opening in which to accomplish the observation, and in order to gain any understanding of her opponents’ objective, she popped up just long enough to peer down upon the area she had just evacuated.
The only thing of note that greeted her gaze was the disemboweled battle droid, visible now from the balcony. While executing her decisive slice, there hadn’t been time in which to examine its aftermath. She was sufficiently familiar with the components of droids to recognize, even with a brief glance, that some unknown apparatus had been incorporated into its inner workings. And as she beheld the spilled circuitry and the sparkling shard that was nestled at its center, a sense of unspeakable trepidation welled up within her. She felt the unmistakable aura of the Dark Side as it emanated from the entrails the disabled battle droid, and she experienced the certainty that she was witnessing the handiwork of an unsuspected Sith Lord.
Understanding that her mechanical enemies were maneuvering to converge on her location and she had but moments within which to do so, she activated her com-link and said, “I need for you to relay a message from me to the Jedi Council, Commissioner.”
“I just reached the rooftop,” Eisley answered. “What’s the message?”
“I’ve determined that these droids each have a shard from the One Crystal incorporated into them,” she replied. “The threat here is significantly in excess of what was initially estimated. And I think you should expand the evacuation to include all the areas around the business center.”
“Roger that,” he responded. “Is there any other way I can be of assistance to you?”
“No. You and all your people need to get completely clear of this complex immediately,” she unflinchingly affirmed. “Either I’ll win this engagement, or this’ll be the last time we talk. If it is the latter, make sure you pass on my recommendation that only Jedi Masters should be sent to deal with this situation.”
“May the Force be with you,” he ultimately acknowledged, unable to come up with any more appropriate an answer.
When the Jedi Order abandoned their ancestral dwelling, it had never occurred to Cyrella to consider that she might one day transform into the Force from within its famous confines. But as she activated the Gallantry and entered the passage that was adjacent to the balcony, such was practically her expectation. She needed to devise a plan that would somehow enable her to deal with the droids, despite their formidable force fields. And as she considered the artwork that now decorated her surroundings, a possibility soon suggested itself.
The force-fields of her foes were designed to be especially effective for deflecting laser fire. They weren’t nearly as advantageous against large objects. If she could just establish a position in an area where there was a supply of such objects, and where she could also avoid becoming surrounded, she might be able to thin their numbers significantly. But she first had to find such a beneficial location. She hadn’t been back inside the structure since its renovation; so, she would have to accomplish her exploration while she was also avoiding capture. It was not a very pretty plan, but it was the only one that offered any sort of feasibility.
Because of her hearing and her supernatural perceptions, she was able to keep track of the progress of her opponents as they circulated through the structure. It was nonetheless fortunate that she was familiar with at least the layout of the building; otherwise, she’d have almost surely been cutoff on several occasions. But after a series of very narrow escapes, she finally found an area that met her criteria for combat. It housed an assortment of statues and other artistic works which could be turned into weapons. She doubted that the associated artisans would appreciate the use to which she was planning to put their masterpieces. She was also certain the insurance adjusters would share a similar sentiment. But she’d come in response to a request for help and was thereby acting as an agent of the government. She consequently could not be charged with willful destruction, even if certain craftsmen would consider her actions aggressive.
Using the Gallantry, she deflected the laser fire of the droids while levitating the artwork into position. Once this was accomplished, she allowed it to suddenly descend on her enemies in an avalanche. In the midst of the skirmish she came close to being distracted by the realization that the droids were not actually focusing their firepower upon her, but upon the hilt of her lightsaber. They were attempting to disarm her. Although they were using a stun setting, she was worriedly aware that a direct hit could cripple her primary means of defense. But a Jedi Knight’s lightsaber is to its wielder an actual extension of their physical form. The battle droids had no more chance of hitting it than of hitting her, although they came extremely close to doing both.
After ultimately exhausting her supply of projectiles, since the droids began blowing into bits everything that could be hurled against them; she then used a burst of Force-speed and another prodigious leap to escape. Of the dozen droids that had somehow mysteriously emerged right in the midst of the business center, she had now cut their numbers in half. But she doubted if there was any chance of the same scheme working more than once, and she was unsure of any other options for effectively fighting the benighted dreadnaughts. They seemed all but indomitable.
To complicate matters, she hadn’t completely escaped. When the droids realized what was happening, those who had any option retreated before the trap. Already the malicious machines were maneuvering toward the places to which they had calculated that she might try to fall back. One had actually succeeded in interposing itself directly down the route she had selected. And if it took her too long to thwart the obstinate obstruction, she could swiftly find herself surrounded.
She knew a burst of Force-speed might enable her to leap over the obstacle. But she would need a distraction to orchestrate the opportunity and allow her to land safely on the other side. It was this necessity that incited an exceedingly advantageous discovery. Even though she initially considered levitating the droid to throw off its aim, the enclosed corridor offered no occasions for its disposal. She decided instead to temporarily disable it with a Force-push. It was the only type of long-range attack still in her arsenal and against which its force-field would have no effect. No other consideration was really given to the tactic. It simply seemed like the only logical course of action. But the Force-sensitive are famous for unconsciously taking correct courses of action.
As the more studious readers will undoubtedly understand, practitioners of the Jedi arts use their lightsabers for more than just defense. They use them to help in focusing the Force. This is why, aside from facilitating the cryogenically arcing blade, its crystal is so critical. And of course, the crystal in the Gallantry had been carefully crafted to be the antithesis of the One Crystal: the ultimate Dark Side device, some of the shards of which had been integrated into the droids. She knew this on an intellectual level, having seen the irrefutable evidence in the spilled components of the first one she disabled. But she had not yet considered the practical application.
Her Force-push shattered the crystal shard that had provided both power and programming for the seemingly indomitable battle droid. Fully dysfunctional, it fell to the floor of the cavernous corridor so quickly that it did not even have time to emit a mechanized scream about its demise. The smoke that issued forth from its ruined remains left no doubt about its disposition. After only a moment of astonishment, which was coupled with abrupt comprehension, Cyrella squared her jaw and went on the offensive. It then took no more than mere minutes for her to accomplish the cleansing of what had so recently been the Jedi Temple on Coruscant.
“I’m finished in here,” she unemotionally announced into the com-link. “The battle droids are all deactivated. But I could use some help examining their remains.”
“You’re what?” Eisley incredulously asked. But after he had taken a few seconds to process the information, he continued, “Very good. I’ll be right in.”
Using his portable tablet to access the camera feeds again, the commissioner quickly made his way to her location. He found her kneeling in the midst of mechanized carnage, using the hilt of her lightsaber to probe the open casing of a disabled droid. He recognized sudden concern in her eyes as she abruptly stepped back and turned to him.
“Each of these droids had a holocron integrated into its circuitry. It’s where the crystal shard was housed. It looks as if the holocrons were kind of like their hearts. When I used a Force-push to shatter the shards, it was like I gave them heart attacks,” she explained. “But I’m very sorry to say that the holocrons weren’t the only modifications made to this mechanical army. We’d better get some technicians in here to make sure the extractions are performed properly. It seems that each droid also came equipped with a thermal detonator.”
“Someone expected them to nuke the Jedi Order into nonexistence,” he exclaimed, leaping to the correct conclusion. “But they saw only civilians when they arrived, until you showed up.”
“That’s why they keyed on my lightsaber and were so determined to capture me. They were trying to determine where the Jedi had gone so they could complete their program,” she replied.
“But how could someone have such resources and yet not know that the Jedi had relocated to the Outer Rim?” he inquired in confusion.
“We might be dealing with another Dark Lord clone, one that recently emerged from stasis,” she suggested. “If I remember correctly, the teleportation technology, which we were discussing earlier, could be used to send inanimate objects across vast reaches of space. It would just be a matter of somehow supplying enough power. The One Crystal might’ve even been adequate for occasion. This attack could quite conceivably have originated very far from here.”
“But a scrupulous examination of the components in these modified monstrosities might just reveal at least the vicinity of its instigation,” he optimistically responded. “I’ll have my technicians take them totally apart and see if we can find some manufacturing information. It might not have been effaced, since the droids were supposed to destroy themselves along with the Temple.”
The commissioner used his com-link to summon an army of experts who carefully removed the thermal detonators. After that worrisome task had been completed, they began the business of dismantling the droids. Knowing that the techs were familiar with the minutia of manufacturing imprints from hundreds of worlds, Cyrella stayed out of the way and allowed them to do their job without the distraction of oversight. It seemed exceedingly strange to her to find herself lounging once again in the Temple Ziggurat. She felt a foreshadowing of the disquieting discovery before she was even beckoned to one of the hastily erected workbenches, where the inspections were being conducted.
Eisley had already been summoned and turned to her as she approached, saying, “I am not at all sure what to make of this. But they’re finding it inside all the droids. It’s not a mistake in the encoding. I’m going to turn the evidence over to you so you can take it back to the Jedi Council.”
Looking at the imprint that had been brightly illuminated for her examination, she came very close to recoiling. Only its prevalence on many of the other circuit boards made it seem anything but impossible. She stepped away wordlessly.
“I will have all the pertinent materials transferred to your ship,” Eisley softly said. “I just hope the Jedi Council can figure out how they could’ve been manufactured in the future. Components like these are often bought by distributors for resale to clients who don’t like coming too near the Core. The manufacturing date isn’t far enough in the future for you to get there before the sale is made to the supplier. But the industrialists on Eriadu keep really good records. You should have no problem determining the identity of the distributor. It’ll then be a simple matter of keeping that individual under surveillance until they lead you to the person responsible for this fiasco. It might be wise for me to have the Forthright follow you back to Tatooine. You might find you’ll need it.”
“If it comes to a shootout in space, we most certainly might,” she gratefully agreed. “I’m very glad for your offer of assistance. I thank you on behalf of the Jedi Order.”
As she bowed to the commissioner, he indicated a second table. The one before which they were standing was being used to collect any component with a manufacturing date in the future. The other table had become a repository for all the shattered crystal shards. As her host nodded in acceptance of her appreciation, Cyrella turned and skillfully unfastened her lightsaber from its covertec holder on her belt. Activating the Gallantry, she passed its shimmering emission above the assembled evidence of the unknown Dark Lord’s industry. The scattered fragments sparkled in response to the proximity of their nemesis, demonstrating even in their utterly decimated state that they were indeed the implements of just such an insidious instrumentality.
As she silently shook her head, Eisley looked up from his tablet and said, “At this distance a subspace message won’t reach Eriadu before the initial sale has occurred. But I’ve sent them all the relevant serial numbers and asked them to transmit the data on the distributor to both myself and the Jedi Council. By the time you reach Tatooine, they should have the information. In order for somebody to become a distributor, they have to supply transponder information. Imprints can be faked. The best way to verify if a request for warranty work is valid is if it’s possible to place a supplier in a specific star system at the time when the customer claims the sale was made. You should therefore have no problem tracking the distributor. Since suppliers update their inventory at the end of every sale, you’ll know when the components have changed hands.”
“You have the sincere thanks of the Jedi Order. It would probably be best now for me to get underway,” she suggested, bowing once again. “It has been my very great privilege to serve the Republic in this crisis.”
Indicating to the technicians that they should go ahead and perform the transfer of materials to Cyrella’s ship, the commissioner coyly replied, “I’d be miserably remiss in my responsibility as a diplomat if I allowed you to leave without refreshing yourself. The urgency of the situation kept me from making the offer when you arrived. But I could hardly let you undertake so protracted a return trip without at least the sharing of food and drink. I insist. I can assure you that the Grand Master will not begrudge you the delay. An ambassador must make allowances for errantry.”
“Perhaps it was rash of me to suggest such an immediate departure,” she very respectfully responded. “It being my first solo assignment, I seem to have misplaced my manners.”
“Not at all,” he laughingly replied, warmed by her response. “I imagine that it’s most difficult to make the transition from the battlefield to the banquet hall. But if my wife, Tysha, heard that a Jedi Knight had come to call on Coruscant and wasn’t invited for dinner, I am sure I would never hear the end of it.”
Cyrella then allowed herself to be led to an opulent reception area that was situated nearby. The owners of the business spaces in the newly renovated Jedi Temple were already beginning to gather there. Although he’d managed to conceal his intent, it was clear that the commissioner had arranged the event to give the other guests an opportunity to express their appreciation. An aura of uncertainty had descended after the extraction of the Jedi Council. Eisley saw this as an occasion for reconfirming the relationship that had always existed between the Republic and the Jedi Order. Cyrella could easily see why the Grand Master regarded the resourceful official as a close friend. She stayed just long enough to meet everyone and share a meal with them. Tysha, in particular, made her feel enormously welcome. It was therefore with some hesitation that she finally said farewell to her newfound friends and returned to her refueled spacecraft.
The trip back to Tatooine was a time of meditation. As parsecs of space slipped by at a rate of speed greater even than that of light, she considered the inexplicable circumstances in which the entire Jedi Order was now enigmatically immersed. Although she shared the Grand Master’s certainty concerning the death of Darth Duress, it was painfully apparent than another Dark Lord had arisen in his place. If it was a clone of Lamis Cormosa and he had not perfected the transfer technique, approximately ten percent more of the successor would comprise Dark Lord uploads. At least, this is what she inferred from the after-action report of Jedi Master Soma Sarmosini.
In a completely atypical lapse of poise, she wondered if she might return to Tatooine only to discover a radioactive crater where the new Jedi Temple should have been. But she knew she’d sense such a profound disturbance in the Force from even across the cosmos, and she recalled the account of Master Kenobi’s angst over the annihilation of Alderaan. She questioned how the Council could have been so blind, since they detected neither the Dark Lord nor the deployment of his droids, but then it occurred to her that their new opponent was apparently in possession of an instrumentality that allowed him to operate outside the continuum of normal time. No defense even seemed feasible against such a foe. There was no recourse for her but to trust the wisdom of the Council. After all, the Grand Master’s insight had caused her to dispatch the one emissary whose lightsaber was actually equal to the task. Cyrella reassured herself with this revelation as she completed her approach to the desert planet.
The Jedi Council had already convened and, while circling to land, she received instructions to report directly to the Council’s main chamber. And rather than succumb to the emotions of the moment, she used the stroll to her destination as a moving meditation to steady herself. It was a foregone conclusion that she was about to address the Council, and she needed her statements to reflect only clarity. The Order had nearly been destroyed again. No mistakes could be made.
As she entered the starkly decorated chamber, she observed that all the Jedi Masters were seated around the room’s circular center while their padawans occupied the surrounding gallery. The sole exception was Zayana Oshu. Julither’s eldest padawan was stationed in approximately the middle of the cavernous room. As Cyrella solemnly entered, Jedi Master Priella motioned for her to stand next to her friend. The Grand Master immediately rose and everybody emulated her example.
“It’s my great honor to proclaim in the presence of your previous Masters that you no longer are padawan learners,” Leia loudly announced. “You have each confirmed both your facility with the Force and your integrity concerning our principles. Be recognized now as Knights of the Jedi Order, Cyrella Lasari and Zayana Oshu. And may the Force be with you always.”
As one person, the Masters presented their lightsabers, igniting them in precise unison. The two young women responded in kind. And then, synchronizing the action with the Force, they all disengaged their radiant weapons simultaneously as the new Knights were added to their ranks. Cyrella and Priella bowed to each other while Zayana and Julither did likewise.
“This concludes the confirmation ceremony,” the Grand Master said, primarily for the benefit of the padawans in the surrounding gallery. “But I would like for everybody to simply stay in their places. Our ensuing discussion will concern everybody who is assembled here. And I’ve already informed Cyrella and Zayana that they will be paired for future deployments. We’ve received the report from Commissioner Eisley. It contained images of the evidence that accompanied Cyrella on her return trip. It is available for examination. But I think the report speaks for itself. And there has been a discovery of which our most recent arrival is unaware. Master Priella, will you please repeat what you had just told the Council?”
“The legendary teleportation technology, which we now believe was utilized in the incursion of the previous Temple, has serious shortcomings,” Priella explained. “The myth tells us it takes an enormous amount of energy to transmit something across the continuum. I think it’s probably also commonly known that nothing but single-celled organisms have ever survived an attempt at such translocation. These factors make it incredibly counterproductive to use the process. It was difficult, therefore, to find information on the subject. But our databanks here were uploaded with files from the Archives. When I saw what the pertinent research seemed to suggest, I conducted a test. I verified that the technology won’t work in a section of space which has been exposed to a solar shockwave like the one that laid waste to this world. Our ray-shields would be absolutely useless as a defense against it. But the Grand Master persuaded us to relocate the Jedi Temple to one of only a few sections of space where we’re actually safe from it. I can only conclude that it was the will of the Force. Perhaps I should also point out the prescience that was displayed in her decision to allocate the Gallantry to the campaign on Coruscant, which is why it succeeded.”
“My Master, do we have any idea how the time shifting is being accomplished or by whom it is being wielded?” Cyrella took the opportunity to ask in reply since she was the one really being addressed.
As Priella looked to the Grand Master, Leia postulated, “We can only conclude that this new enemy is a clone of Darth Duress. Perhaps Lamis languished from loneliness after he’d suffered such devastating losses, and he created a companion clone. He very possibly perished in much the same manner as many Dark Lords before him, slain by his own apprentice. If he’d managed to locate other crystals, as was his intent, I think the attack would’ve been more outright. But the existence of so many crystal shards suggests another possibility. Perhaps he found a way to cut the One Crystal into separate gemstones and create a miniature version of the matrix in which it formed. But even if it gave him time-shifting technology, the applications could still be extremely limited.”
Before Cyrella could even craft the question, Priella explained, “There’s a theory about time travel which insists that it would be impossible to send something back to a point before the time machine itself existed. It might be that this new Dark Lord sent the droids just as far back in time as the technology allowed. Maybe he really was aware that the Jedi Temple had been relocated to a sector of space that’s impervious to such an assault, and he was trying to destroy us before we accomplished the relocation. We consider that to be the most credible of possibilities.”
“Since he sent them from the future, he probably sent those battle droids as far back in time as he could whether he knew about the relocation or not,” Julither supportively interjected.
“As a result, we quite possibly have an unparalleled opportunity to intercept him,” the Grand Master observed. “But he could also quite conceivably be baiting us; so, we need to anticipate a trap. Consequently, I’m recommending that we send a team: a pair of Jedi Masters with a pair of Jedi Knights in support. As much as I’d like to take part in the assignment myself, it would mean postponing the promotion of some very deserving disciples. But that, of itself, would be a kind of victory for the Dark Lord. Therefore, I suggest to the Council that we send Jedi Masters Xan and Priella with the support of our new Jedi Knights, Cyrella and Zayana. Does the Council concur?”
There was no dissention whatsoever in the ensuing vote. Because it had been decided that the team would consist of four individuals, and speed was also essential in order to overtake the supplier’s ship, the Millennium Falcon was allocated to the endeavor. Some were worried that a vessel as substantial as the Forthright might scare off their quarry. Therefore, the flagship of the Republic fleet was also relegated to the role of support. Admiral Ackbar was asked to follow the Falcon and simply make certain the Dark Lord did not escape, once the components’ purchaser had been revealed. The session abruptly adjourned and the chamber emptied very swiftly.
There were multiple padawans who were waiting to undertake the trials and be promoted to knighthood. Although Priella’s apprentice, Cyrella, had accomplished her ascension; Rostla-Kon Romeni, the apprentice of Xan, had not. Awswi’s padawan, like the apprentice of Gwonameeth, was one of the few none-humans in the graduating class. And Hershonel Shanlu was a Togruta, like Seratu Benahshi had been. At Leia’s request, Master Julither had assumed responsibility for Dari Jenay, previously the padawan of Soma Sarmosini. But her new mentor didn’t consider her to be quite ready for the trials yet. Gwonameeth’s apprentice was a Wookiee named Chenezarr. He would hang out with Chewbacca whenever the opportunity arose. Leia’s apprentice, Avalynn Vosh, had respectfully requested to be tested last since her anticipated promotion would at least temporarily leave Leia in the position of having no assistant to help with the Younglings.
These aspiring hopefuls clustered closely around the assembly that exited from the Council Chamber. Knowing that she needed to allay any uneasiness, which they might be experiencing, Leia introduced a new subject into the discussion.
“While I have every confidence in this campaign to eliminate our new enemy, I think it might be time to undertake a project I’ve been considering for awhile,” she circumspectly began. “I am going to construct a light-side version of the weapon what was used by Darth Duress in his duel with Masters Seratu and Klimesh. And I believe I will call my three-section-staff the Centrifuge.”
The idea that there would soon be new kind of radiant weapon for them to master was very well received by the surrounding throng. Anxiety was transmuted into excitement. With no more than a few carefully placed words, Leia had them envisioning an advantageous future again.
Despite the unknown dangers, morale was extremely high as the team’s selected members made their way to the landing pad upon which the Falcon was parked. The suns were setting as they paused before the starship’s lowered ramp and exchanged words of farewell with the many friends who had followed them. The dusky desert provided a surreal backdrop as the spacecraft lifted from the pad and pivoted to the pilot’s preferred direction. The rebellion against the Empire had long since ended, but everyone still referred to the Grand Master’s spouse as General Solo.
Since he knew the Admiral had remained aboard the Forthright in order to keep updated on the whereabouts of the ship they were pursuing, he signaled, “My compliments, Admiral. What’s the current heading of our transponder fix? Did it already break orbit from around Eriadu?”
Ackbar answered, saying, “The ship already cleared the Seswenna Sector is headed out on the Sanctuary Pipeline. That would be the reasonable direction for a rendezvous with somebody coming from the Unknown Regions. But we should be able to catch up before it reaches the end of the Pipeline.”
“Good, I was hoping it wouldn’t head in the direction of Sullust,” Han replied. “My last visit to that place was exceptionally unpleasant. Of course, I was also carrying a Dark Lord in disguise.”
Sidestepping the issue, Ackbar signaled, “Let us know when you’ve made your calculations. We’ll make the jump to hyperspace right behind you and follow at a discrete distance.”
“I very much appreciate your support in this campaign, Admiral. I’m relaying the calculations right now. I’ll see you on the far side,” Han swiftly signaled back. Switching over to the starship’s intercom, he said, “Make sure you have yourselves strapped in. We are about to make the jump to light-speed.”
Since it would not be possible to track the transponder signal of their quarry while they were in hyperspace; Han and Chewy remained in the cockpit, readying their ship’s instruments for the estimated reacquisition. They knew they might have to very quickly recalculate for a subsequent jump. For both members of the command crew, it seemed strange in the extreme to be heading again in the direction of Endor. It summoned memories of the time when they were still part of a rebellion and traveling in the company of Leia’s twin brother. As a consequence, their customary banter was absent from the bridge.
In the spacecraft’s aft section, the members of the strike team had some time to discuss the more mysterious aspects of their compromised situation. It was Cyrella who decided to open the exchange.
“The components on the ship we are pursuing are essentially the same ones I brought back from Coruscant,” she observed. “That doesn’t seem like it should be possible. How can anything exist in two places at once?”
“Since you’ve both past the Jedi trials and I’ve seen the security recording of your exam, I’m going to use your own summary in attempting an explanation,” Priella replied. “When Leia asked you to explain the Force, you referred to dimensions in super-space. In reality, both the past and the future can be talked about in such terms. Even though it might really be a product of the way we process information, our sequential experience of time is one of the truths of our existence to which you referred. This nameless Dark Lord has redefined the testing of the limits of the Force. He is merging elements from the dimension of the future with the one that is concurrent with our experience. Apparently, the One Crystal gives him this abominable ability.”
“I must admit that I don’t truly understand why we’re so certain the Dark Lord has combined some sort of teleportation technology with his time-shifting device,” Cyrella chose to disclose. “Is it possible that the droids were somehow smuggled into the business center afterhours and then time-shifted to appear the previous day? Must we also assume that he can transmit matter?”
“I’ve also wondered if we’re perhaps crediting him with a capacity that might not necessarily be implied,” Zayana supportively said.
“I’m almost surprised this didn’t come up in Council,” Priella smiled as she replied. “It’s quite a reasonable question. It has to do with spatial displacement. Consider that Coruscant is in orbit around its system’s central star. Now, include in your equation the fact that all such star systems are in orbit around the center of the galaxy. Don’t forget that the galaxy is also speeding through space. If I could somehow send my lightsaber back in time a scant two seconds, it would appear in space ahead of this ship. We hadn’t reached this point two seconds ago. Without the capacity to compensate for the related spatial displacement, his imposing facility for performing temporal translocations would be almost meaningless. It’d just be an extremely expensive way to kill.”
“I guess I’ve always assumed that there’d be some sort of inertia involved in time travel and I would emerge in the same place at a different time,” Zayana said after some consideration.
“It’s a common misconception,” Xan understandingly answered. “But our comprehension of dimensional mechanics just doesn’t bear it out. A different time truly is a different place. Nothing in the universe is static.”
“The components were manufactured on Eriadu,” Priella reminded the young women. “If we fail in our attempt to intercept him during the transfer, we’ll then seek out the species from which the Dark Lord could’ve purchased the transporter equipment. But we will find this new nemesis.”
“My Master, is it the conclusion of the Council that nobody was aware of his activities due to the fact that they were occurring outside the continuum of normal time?” Cyrella decided to ask.
“That seems to be the most reasonable explanation,” Priella responded.
“Then, we will have no warning if he attempts this a second time?” Zayana asked, trying not to sound as worried as she really was.
“The Temple on Tatooine is impervious to any such an assault,” Xan took the opportunity to answer. “This concern was addressed while we were still in session.”
“And I’m grateful for your reminder, Master,” she politely replied. “But my concern is actually for targets that might not be so protected. Shouldn’t we perhaps be trying to anticipate the other ways in which he might use this instrumentality?”
“If we succeed in stopping him, there will be no need,” he carefully countered. “If we should fail, it might then become necessary to attempt such anticipation. But there is a danger involved in engaging in such consideration. The mind of malice can be a perilous thing to glimpse. There are some who have been lost to the Dark Side by straying too far in their attempts to understand the minds of its minions.”
“I will give assiduous consideration to your counsel, Master Xan,” she responded.
Even though Xan had not mentioned either of them by name, Julither’s recent graduate was immediately reminded of Soma Sarmosini and Dari Jenay. Despite being deceased, the treason of the Twi’lek Jedi Master continued to produce consequences. Zayana had seen how incredibly careful her mentor was with her adopted apprentice. The two padawans were approximately the same age, but there seemed to be an uncertainty in Dari that Zayana hadn’t noticed while Soma was still alive. It was the only contemporary example of the principle to which Xan was referring. But it was poignant in the extreme. The fact that a Jedi Master could succumb to the enticement of the Dark Side was sobering to consider. Soma never became belligerent towards the Council, but her loss was still something with which it constantly struggled to contend.
“I know next to nothing about the mythological technology that’s apparently been converted for the temporal translocations,” Cyrella candidly confessed. “But I somehow got the impression as I was destroying them that the crystal shards had served as the delivery devices. Did crystals play a part in the teleporter device, according to legend, or does their incorporation demonstrate an aspect that is unique to the Dark Lord’s instrumentality?”
“Crystals have many uses,” Priella commented as casually as she could. “Some are unique to their civilizations. We don’t know of any teleportation technology. Consequently, I can’t speak to the question of whether or not crystals are normally integrated into the object being delivered. But since crystals are common in cloaking devices, it is entirely possible that this new Dark Lord is able to completely conceal his ship. We must consider such things.”
Turning to Zayana, Xan said, “While it can be dangerous to dwell upon the designs of those who serve the Dark Side, there’re other more imminent concerns for which we must endeavor to prepare. If our new enemy inherited the Nubian Nadir, then his ship is every bit as formidable as the Falcon. And if he inherited most of the memories of Darth Duress, he could even be familiar with both the Falcon and the Forthright. Regrettably, because we needed to be able to catch up with the supplier, they were the only available vessels with sufficient speed. Transponder codes could be used to identify them at a distance. I’m certain their commanders will be careful, but we could still quite possibly be ambushed. A cloaked spacecraft would pretty much guarantee a first strike, unless the occupants within its target can somehow perceive its presence anyway.”
“If we can just manage to catch him on the ground, we can almost certainly take him down,” Priella was quick to contribute. “But we must survive long enough to do so. The Force might just enable us to detect his ship even if it’s cloaked. It’s the one service we can provide while we are still in space. There is nothing to distract us in these surroundings. We must stretch out with our perceptions and seek the ship with which the supplier is preparing to rendezvous. In order to do this, I brought along some of the shards from Coruscant. Remember the warning of Master Xan. Do not concentrate on the shards themselves, but see if you can use them to find any reflection in the space around this ship. After I distribute them, we will begin. Although there is peril in this enterprise, I entirely trust in your integrity. If we’re being baited, the four of us may offer the only forewarning that can save our shipmates. Silence yourselves now and focus on the living Force. Find the reflection of the fragment in your hand.”Cyrella and Zayana now comprehended the preamble, which the two Jedi Masters had very meticulously orchestrated. No item, by itself, is more evil than the purpose to which it is put. The shards, despite being decimated, were probably more hazardous to hold than the lightsaber of a Dark Lord. But the supernatural practitioners weren’t really wielding them, as such. Instead, they were simply using them like compass needles. The two Jedi Knights appreciated the cautionary instructions. Soon, the four Force-sensitive individuals were scouring space for any indication of an object that seemed to be associated with the shards. Everybody understood that if they really found such a reflection, it would indisputably represent the ship of the mysterious Dark Lord who had risen to replace Darth Duress. But of those assembled in the passenger compartment of the Millennium Falcon, where Luke Skywalker had first trained with a remote under the watchful eye of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Cyrella was the only one who’d actually ever laid eyes on the Nubian Nadir.