Star Wars: A Smuggler's Entanglement Part III of III
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
5 BBY, the Lehon System
Deacon 90 winced upon seeing the large, gaping hole that the bottom, port side fake-thruster of the Burned Cloak had sustained during their escape from the Empire back in the Utapau System a day ago. True, the most important thing was that Madam Ccer, the wife of ex-Black Sun assassin, Kaird, and her grown children and her grandchildren were not hurt, but it also meant that Deacon had lost one-fourth of his smuggling capacity! The worst of it, Deacon never got the payment from the Utapaun Committee after fulfilling his end of the bargain between he and Kaird by smuggling his family out of the Nedij star system, while the galactic Empire had finally taken control out there. The Empire's confiscation of that system blocked that plan!
But now that the Cloak crew had finally landed on one of Lehon's myriad of small islands on the blue planet, Deacon had a totally different concern. Ccer's brief summary of the ancient history of the Rakata society going to war with the more-advanced Kwa civilization over the Infinity Gates gave him pause about even landing on Lehon! Although it had been a hundred thousand, standard years since that war, the fact that the Rakata had won was disturbing! For even in their primitive-state, when the Kwa had encountered them many generations before the Kwa-Rakata War, their species was imbued with the Force...but then turned to the Dark Side after the Kwa imparted to them much knowledge of Force-science. The magical technology of hyperspace travel was used by the Rakata to enslave several other species on other planets, and, for that, the Kwa—rightly so!–battled the Rakata as they attempted to take Infinity Gate-knowledge from them.
And the Kwa lost...
This was more than antediluvian for Deacon 90. For he had grown up hearing how strong the Light Side of the Force was, and how those who used it were the trusted and good-natured beings in the Universe. Deacon was of the generation that he, also, heard about a prophecy among the Jedi; a prophecy of a young human male, as it turned out, not much younger than he was during the Clone War years. That young man, it was later rumored, had become a Jedi under the tutelage of the Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi...and, like the Rakata, had squandered his Force-gift and turned to the Dark Side and destroyed a multitude of life!
If the Light Side of the Force were truly stronger than the Dark Side, how in the Galaxy could an entire Force-civilization on the Light Side, like the Kwa, lose to the Rakata? How could a boy, supposedly born to bring balance to the Force, turn to the Dark Side, and kill so many padawans and Jedi? So many of his—
"You're a Jedi," one of Madam Ccer's female grandchildren said with a mixture of surprise and enthusiasm. She was joined by all of the Nediji-raptor grandchildren in excited leaps and chatter, while Ccer and her three adult offspring stared at the human with disbelief. Deacon could not help from smirking and shaking his head. He had encountered such reactions many times before on other smuggling runs.
The Burned Cloak crew had left the ship behind on the large island. Deacon maneuvered the Corellian ship during landing into a grove of tropical trees and the sloping side of a small mountain. They were all walking toward a grouping of what appeared to be large ruins at a nearby distance. It was there, on this particular island, that most of Burned Cloak's sensors had registered the largest concentration of ancient edifices, roads, and more recent spaceship traffic from contemporary archeologists, smugglers, and unknown spacers.
"I guess you can say, I used to be a Jedi," Deacon responded to the little raptoid, as they all continued to walk at a fast pace. Given the tropic climate, he had left his dark jacket at the Cloak and sported his white, long-sleeved shirt and beige pants and boots. The Kaird family had stripped down to their basic thin-material jumpsuits.
"Hey...where's your lightsaber," said an older, female grandchild, suspiciously; she quickly walked around him looking for one tethered to his person.
Deacon laughed. "Oh, I dismantled that a long time ago. Hey, if we can construct a lightsaber, why not disassemble it when we're done?"
"So, what'd you do with the crystal," the same grandchild asked, but before Deacon could respond, Ccer shushed her!
"Why don't you want to be a Jedi anymore," said another of the grandchildren; an older male.
Deacon inhaled as he thought on the question while they all stepped through the jungle. "It's not quite as simple as wanting to leave the Order...things happen in life that make you wonder about your belief in a way of life, and, well...you take another course!"
"Smuggling," Kairdda, Ccer's daughter, asked curtly; her violet, raptoid eyes on him while she continued to high-step through the jungle.
Again, Deacon had experienced such condescension from others during previous jobs. He ignored her attitude. "Your father hired me for his mining operation during a very bad time in my life and other Jedi. Remember, it was a few years after the Clone Wars, and the Emperor, a few years after that, had basically declared the Jedi enemies of the Empire! The smuggling came a little later; when the Empire began a blockade against some of the star systems that wouldn't cooperate with the notion of a one-galaxy empire. Supplies and food-staples really got expensive throughout the Galaxy because of the blockades!"
"And smuggling picked up some of the slack," Cceru, the eldest of Ccer adult children, asked; a bit more sympathetic.
Deacon's head whipped around and he looked at Cceru; pleasantly surprised at his understanding. "Indeed...you could say that."
"We can't be judgmental toward the Captain, now, Kairdda," Ccer finally spoke up. Being the Nediji elder, the short trek in the jungle was a bit burdensome for her. "We've all known that your father also supplemented the Operation with smuggling. And it gave you all a good life!"
"It doesn't mean I have to agree with it," the younger female raptoid quickly responded.
"So, did you fight in the Clone Wars," another of the male grandchildren asked.
"Actually, no. During those few years of the War, the Jedi Council assigned me to Teth; a system controlled by some of the Hutts back then." Deacon chuckled to himself. "The irony is, I was sent there with Jedi Master Plo Koon to stop the piracy; when the Galaxy was still the Republic!"
There was laughter in the band, which was finally reaching the clearing to the ruins that showed up on the Burned Cloak's sensors.
"Yeah, I'd bet Master Koon would be proud to see that you're a smuggler now," Tog, Ccer's youngest of her adult children, said in good humor.
But Deacon's smile melted away; his eyes cast down as they all stopped to rest just before going up to the ruins. "Master Koon was killed on Cato Neimoidia; that planet with the bridge cities...a few Jedi that survived the Massacre were able to intercept some communication-chatter between several clone troops and a nexus point that was encrypted, but it is believed to have been the Emperor! The code, Order Sixty-six, kept coming up in the transmissions."
Deacon then turned to Kairdda; a half-smile on his face. "That, young Nediji, is another reason why I smuggle. Word got around not to hire or even socialize with Jedi. Your father, as flawed of a raptoid he is, had the heart to hire me in his mining and factory operation, and the heart to move his family away from such evil power!"
It was the most serious any of the Kaird family had seen the rather meek man. Ccer cast a look at her family to indicate that it was a good time to stop asking questions. The Cloak group then proceeded to the first set of ruins before them...
The ruins were of white stone. Whatever other materials used in the municipals' buildings had long-since crumbled due to crippling time. Some of the vestiges loomed high, but certainly were no competitors of Coruscant's stately artificial canyons! Many of the structures still had stylized, monumental vignettes depicting what the Rakata were of that eon: tall, amphibious-humanoids; clad in modular clothing that covered mostly their torso. Their cranium arced high—as if it were a tall hat, and their eyestalks were more like another set of appendages. The narration of the monuments often showed the Rakata in a victorious stance; a double-bladed hilt raised high above their heads with the sword positioned horizontally. Sometimes, this particular motif had their vanquished set below the Rakata figure—a Wookiee, a Noghri, or a Human, among many others. Depictions of other planets and the Rakata's starfleet were also common. No doubt, the monuments were meant as a warning sign to any visitors to Lehon during those ancient times as they were a trophy to themselves, and certainly a reminder to any slaves on their planet!
After the Cloak crew silently walked several blocks within the fossilized municipal, Ccer pointed toward the apex of what appeared to be a ceremonial edifice. Crowning it was a cloaked figure; its cowl adorning it with some, perhaps, nondescript design on the trimmings. The figure appeared slightly stooped, but not in a humbling manner. Perhaps, it was the physiology of the being, or a feigned attempt at magnanimity?
"The Kwa," Ccer simply said. Indeed, the two species were difficult to confuse. "From the earliest era, no doubt. When the Kwa bestowed knowledge of the Force to these baser-beings!"
"The structure does look as if it might have been a temple," Deacon agreed.
"You know, Jedi," Cceru said thoughtfully, after they had all stopped to look at the statue, "there is a possibility that these enigmatic beings were the predecessor to all Jedi in the Galaxy!"
"They were," said a human female's voice from another ruin across the way. "Tens of thousands of standard years before the Je'daii Order."
By the time the human had finished talking, Deacon 90 already had his BlasTech drawn and, surprisingly, Ccer and her children had their own blasters out, too! Deacon had not noticed any of them carrying any sort of weaponry.
"Hello, Jedi Corel," said the human as she cautiously walked from behind a crumbled piece of an entryway.
She was actually wearing the traditional tunic that Jedi were famous for in the Galaxy! And that was the problem. Many of the surviving Jedi, like Deacon, had discarded their tunics and even lightsabers so they could hide from the Empire and blend in with galactic-society. Of late, even the Sith—the anti-matter, as it were, of the Jedi—were having a renaissance of their own and were also out to destroy whoever was left of the Jedi Order.
Deacon and the Kaird family could now see that hundreds of Jedi were popping up from the ruins all around them! They were a bit on the feral side, but that was to be expected. The tribe was of many species from throughout the Galaxy. Many of the older ones, recognizing Deacon, waved frantically; others wept for joy at the discovery of, yet, another Jedi alive; still others were children...offspring of Jedi pairing! He wondered just how strong the midi-chlorian count were in those children! Apparently, Deacon reasoned, the Survivors of this Jedi Colony had adapted to the existential threat to their lives and their society by allowing themselves to have mates and reproduce. Of course, the ancient-held practice for the Jedi was to embrace solitude in life and devote oneself to the Order, and even the Republic. But desperate situations called for new thinking and new ways of living...that was something that Deacon had already done, as a smuggler. But at that point, he began to realize after seeing so many others that had survived Order Sixty-six, Deacon had to go back to his original name...Jedi Selo Corel, of Corellia.
Careful not to crowd Selo and his raptoid companions, the Jedi tribe mostly remained by the ruins while a handful of them greeted the new arrivals. Selo finally remembered the human female that had first called out to him. She was Jedi Fri Dunn, of Bespin. They had gone on a few assignments throughout the Galaxy for the Jedi Order. The last time they worked together was on Coruscant, doing a security detail for several of the Galactic Senators just after the Clone Wars ended.
A male Pa'lowik that walked with a cane that was actually a lightsaber in disguise, also in traditional-Jedi garment, was one of the oldest in the entire Colony. Vee was another old friend of Selo, and a Jedi Master that had fought for Lowick's independence from the Galactic Republic...many years before it was the Empire! There were several others that went up to Selo and embraced him. After nearly a standard hour of this, the Colony finally settled down a bit and Jedi Master Vee and other elder Jedi Masters requested an impromptu feast to celebrate "the Return" of another Jedi, as they put it. The Lehon jungle-islands had a plethora of fruits and vegetables and no natural predators to worry about, so the gathering of food on short notice was no problem.
Truth was, however, Selo was not exactly sure if he was returning to the ways of the Jedi. But he kept that to himself during the feast.
The cityscape of the archeological settlement, now reclaimed by the Jedi Colony for the past several years, was eerily beautiful, with the large cluster of ruins lit by a moderate-level of lighting technology, the jungle spreading out before the ancient outcroppings, and from the distance the vast, planet-encompassing ocean that was dotted with thousands of islands. The closer of Lehon's two moons was so bright and nearby that its geological details were easily seen with the naked eyes. It dominated Lehon's indigo night sky, and seemed nestled into clouds that were transiting the moon.
Deacon 90, now reverted back to Selo Corel—the Jedi part yet to be decided—was seated on the roof of one of the tallest of the Rakata edifices. Kaird's family had retired to a circular structure lent to them by the Colony, so Selo finally had time to think. He had been on the roof for nearly two standard hours; replaying the last two days and how drastically different things had turned out since taking the job from Kaird back on Nedij. How the Burned Cloak crew barely escaped the small Imperial outpost on Utapau. And now, on Lehon, he and the Nediji family found themselves warmly received as family by a lost tribe of Jedi; hunkering down in a ruin-city that once served as, perhaps, the capitol of a Dark-Force civilization that had enslaved beings from other planets—
"Wonderful up here, isn't it," Jedi Fri Dunn asked from behind. Selo had not heard her come up. She was still dressed in her festive robe for the banquet put on for the Cloak crew by the Jedi.
"It is absolutely gorgeous..." Selo smiled at her and she sat on the roof's floor next to him.
"So, are you going to tell me what's wrong," she asked with a knowing face.
Selo chuckled as he shook his head. "You've always had a talent for reading beings, Fri...honestly, I have several things on my mind. I'm still wondering if I shook off the Empire back in Utapau System. I can't help but wonder if they've followed us here."
"Well, based on what you told us during the feast, they would've dropped from hyperspace by now. The Empire doesn't play games. They would've simply filled the sky up with Destroyers and sent those blasted TIE fighters down to finish the job. Besides, our sensors from our ships and in the city would've picked up any ships that approached this system."
He nodded at her point.
"You said several things were on your mind," the middle-aged human female reminded Selo.
This time he sighed. "Search your feelings, Jedi Dunn," he said formally, as they used to talk with each other on various Jedi assignments during the years just after the Clone Wars.
"Oh, Selo, I already felt it the moment I saw you and the Kaird family...you still have your doubts about the Jedi ways. Your feelings betray you, Deacon," she added playfully. They both laughed softly, but then she became serious. "Well, Jedi Corel, this is a difficult era for the Jedi. One we've not seen since the Jedi Civil War nearly four-thousand, standard years ago. The Empire; the Sith...we are in the Light Side of the Force, we should be winning against these Dark Force agents!"
She shook her head as she reached out with the Force and casually picked up a pebble from the roof and let it circle her hand. "Given the Jedi situation in the Galaxy, Selo, I can't say I blame you for doubting."
"But you don't agree," he stated immediately; his eyes on the rock as she let it drop harmlessly to the roof.
She blew out a soft sigh and held up her hands as she shrugged. "Selo, for all we know, this could be all that's left of the Jedi! We're too scattered throughout the Galaxy to even sense one another, and we can't risk sticking our heads out too much, or the Empire will spot us and take us out of commission...and there's the Sith!"
"So what are we supposed to do, Fri? I mean, something has gone amiss! Either all that talk of prophesy of the Chosen One bringing balance to the Force is fiction, or we've done something wrong! Or, even if it's true, is it a good thing that the Force needs to swing its balance to the Dark Side?"
He blew out a sigh of frustration and gestured that he was sorry for losing his temper. Jedi Dunn graciously bowed her head, her long, dark unbound hair tussled by a gentle breeze on the ancient roof.
"Stay with us, Selo...stay here, on Lehon. Madam Ccer and her whole family are more than welcomed as well, of course. We actually have a few colonists who are not Jedi!" Selo nodded with approval of the open-mindedness of the tribe. "But whatever you do," she continued, "please don't go back to that lifestyle of smuggling. And certainly don't go back working for any more Black Sun assassins!"
Selo had been looking at Lehon's closer moon, half-listening to his friend's suggestion. For he had expected the Jedi Colony would try to convince him to remain. But he did not expect that any of them knew about Kaird's past in the mafia! His head whipped toward Fri.
"We do have starships, Selo. Don't let our ratty tunics fool you," she said with a grin. Again, her countenance became serious. "We have a rotation system where a few of us go out to the Inner Core planets; you know, make sure we stay updated with what's going on in the rest of the Galaxy. But we have to do this incognito, you understand. How do you think our Colony found out about Lehon?"
"This tribe is full of surprises," he said with his own smile.
"Stay here," she persisted. She fixed her eyes on his, more determined this time.
"Last time I checked, Jedi mind tricks do not work on other Jedi," he said with good humor.
"If it took that to keep you here, Selo, I'd even try that."
With that, she patted him on a shoulder with a smile, and left Captain Deacon on the Rakata ruin to consider her words.
Early the next day Selo was awakened in his guestroom, in the same circular building that the Kaird family was staying in, but at another section. There was a commotion of colonists gathering on nearby pedestrian routes, which would have been streets in contemporary cities. The Lehon ruins were well-covered by jungle-growth, but even after several eras, the walkways were still mostly flat and walkable.
Selo, having already showered a few hours ago, late in the night after staying out on a ruin's roof, threw on some local clothing laid out for him on a chair in the room and hurried out to see what was going on. When he reached the closest knot of colonists, he saw that everyone was looking up; some pointing in the same direction; others looking through high-tech, eye-searchers that looked out of place in the ancient city! Selo reasoned that this was probably what the colonists did when they saw his ship descending to the island. For in the dark-blue, morning sky was a ship. It was still too high in the atmosphere to make out its profile with naked-eye inspection. But one of the colonists with an eye-searcher was able to make out some details.
"Well, it's not an Imperial design," the female Thisspiasian announced aloud for all those in that particular crowd to hear. Selo was deeply relieved to hear that. The serpentine Jedi continued to look through her searcher before speaking further. "Huh...a G9 Freighter!"
"Corellian," said another of the colonists; a male H'nemthe.
"Anyone else sensing a darkness with this, or is it just me," a female human in the large cluster asked, having a hand over her eyes, blocking out the sun.
"Yes," a female Feeorin confirmed. "But not Sith...May I?" The Feeorin had a hand stretched out toward the Thisspiasian. Whom, in turn, lent her eye-searcher to the Feeorin. "I've flown those freighters before...both of the extended gun-turrets are folded to the ship's fuselage! Means whoever is coming does not have any intention of conflict."
"Good," the Thisspiasian said as she retrieved her eye-searchers and replaced them into a pouch on her belt that encircled her tunic.
"It's alright, everyone," Selo said, throwing his voice as loud as possible, but without yelling. He looked around at the crowd to assure them. He saw Madam Ccer and Fri Dunn, standing next to each other, toward the back of the crowd. "I know who it is; you'll all be safe."
"Jedi Corel," a male Rodian spoke up a bit farther away; holding up the hilt of his lightsaber, "would you like some company, Sir?"
Selo could sense the unity among all those who were Jedi in the crowd, even more than he could see the determined look on all of their faces! He had just arrived at Lehon, on the island where the Jedi Colony secretly existed, and they were all protective of him...as if he were a baby born into a very extended family!
"Thank you, all," he said aloud as he look around. "But, the visitor is actually here for someone else."
As if by telepathy, all the Jedi instinctively looked at Madam Ccer. She had heard of the midi-chlorians in her extensive travels throughout the Galaxy. She did not know if she believed they were real or just some Jedi and Sith mythology, but she was sure she had a low count if they did exist...even Ccer could tell something was not right. She noticed that Selo had nodded at his human, female friend standing next to her, Jedi Dunn. Dunn had gently placed a hand on one of Ccer's small shoulder, and just then, the crowd of Jedi split in such a way that they had created a path for the two females to walk toward Jedi Corel! Again, Ccer had thought, as if by telepathy.
One of Ccer's grandchildren, disobeying her request to stay in the guesthouse until they found out more about the spacecraft, tried to run to her, but a female human child used a Jedi mind trick to have the raptoid follow her off to play.
The G9 Rigger Freighter, unlike the Burned Cloak, was parked out in the open on the island's shore. The medium-sized Corellian ship had the look of an elongated shuttle with a boom as a wing. Inside were several beings, though it was hard for Selo to see, given the cockpit's narrow window and Lehon's bright daylight.
Standing next to the ship was a tall human of about the same age as Selo. He was cloaked in a long jacket and a rimmed cap. This was another indicator to Selo that the crew of the G9 ship were not intending to stay, even for a short period. He held a container in both hands. Jedi Corel and Dunn walked toward the unmoving man with the Nediji-raptoid between them.
"Deacon," Madam Ccer asked Selo, still calling him by his smuggling identifier, "what's this all about?"
Selo waited until they got within a few steps of the man. Jedi Dunn felt it appropriate for her to remain several more steps away, giving Selo and Ccer some space.
When they stopped in front of the tall human, he nodded. "I always knew there was something different about you, Deacon."
Selo had forgotten about the Jedi tunic he had changed into that morning. He quickly looked down then smiled back at the man. "It's a very long story, Regolith."
Regolith laughed. "May be some day we can talk about it at a cantina on Tatooine...we make it a practice to place tracking devices on the family members. That's how we were able to find you here, Deacon." He then looked at Ccer; his face, clean-shaven, once again stern. "Madam Ccer, I am so sorry that we have to meet like this."
Regolith held out the box-like container toward Ccer. She looked up at Selo.
"Ma'am, Regolith is with Black Sun..."
Being the cosmopolitan being that she was, Ccer was finally able to piece the puzzle that had been eluding her for so many years without the need of either human explaining any further. She nodded to herself as she accepted the container from Regolith, as if it were logical that her husband, Kaird, would be involved with such criminal activity.
"The Empire," she asked, cradling the container.
Just then, Regolith's face stiffened as he held back a tear. "Oh, yes. You know, others in the Galaxy think that scoundrels like Black Sun, the Hutts," he then glanced at Selo, "smugglers, are the scourge of the Galaxy. But, this Empire..." He promptly wiped the single tear and looked at all three of them, speaking with harsh determination. "This Empire now stretches way out here, in the Outer Rim. I've heard from others during my Runs in the Galaxy that more and more star systems keep falling to this Emperor! And from what they are saying, he's bent on putting all of us out of business and using all of our turf for his own galactic fiefdom! Just like he did with Kaird's operation!"
Jedi Dunn looked at the man with caution; sensing in him a raging fire.
"Deacon, Madam Ccer..." Regolith glanced back at the G9 freighter, then back at them. "We're joining up with these Rebels we've been hearing about lately! Kaird's operation today, who's next tomorrow?" He then took a couple of steps toward Selo and Ccer. "Join us! I've already made contact with one of their leaders—the son of a royalty from Alderaan, of all places!"
Madam Ccer jerked. "Bail Antillies's son? He's one of the Rebels?"
Regolith now smiled. "If this rebellion against the Empire can get royalty from a rich planet like Alderaan on their side, you know there's a chance at fighting this dictator! And a chance for revenge..." Regolith looked at Ccer with sympathetic eyes, but his strong jawline hardened.
Madam Ccer thought long and hard, while the three humans waited for a response from her. The engines to the G9 freighter popped on and began to hum. Ccer turned to look at Jedi Dunn, the container yet clutched in her raptoid hands.
"Will your people take my family in," she shouted over the thrusters. Selo looked on, surprised.
"We already have, Madam," Dunn said over the thrumming from the G9.
Regolith quickly turned to face his crew in the ship and gestured for them to wait just a bit more. He held out his hand in an ushering way for the Nediji widow to enter the ship.
"The Rebels could certainly use some Jedi powers," Regolith now said to both Jedi, stepping even closer to them. "From what I've heard around the trading lines, of all the beings in the Galaxy, Jedi should be leading this rebellion!"
Fri Dunn stood silently, knowing that the offer was really more toward Selo, given their mutual friend's death by the Empire.
"May the Force be with you, Regolith," was all that Selo said to him.
Regolith's eyes went to both of them as he nodded. He then quickly turned and hastened to the G9 freighter's hatch and entered. The two Jedi watched, standing close to one another, as the Rebel ship lifted from the surface of the island and rapidly arced its way upward in the Lehon sky...