Star Wars

by Alicia G

Chapter Three

Jedi are the guardians of peace in the galaxy.
Jedi use their powers to defend and to protect.
Jedi respect all life, in any form.
Jedi serve others rather than ruling over them, for the good of the galaxy.
Jedi seek to improve themselves through knowledge and training.

Those are the words inscribed on Firith Ven's lightsaber. A constant reminder of his mandate, and in the days following his death, a reminder of why I stayed. It would have been so easy to leave. The Jedi, distracted by the war with the Separatists and the growing shadow created by the Dark Side, would have easily overlooked a runaway padawan. I certainly had the skills which would have allowed me to blend in and support myself. Ven had made sure of that. But instead I stayed. I believed I would be remiss in my duty and dishonor the teachings Ven had bestowed on me. In the end I was just a frightened youngling.

The year after Firith's Ven death was difficult. My training was at a standstill as the council deliberated on a suitable Jedi to fill the position of mentor. There was, however, one position they could never fill. I doubt they even knew such a hole existed. They would have frowned on its existence, counseled me till they believed me cured of such desires. Even now I find it difficult to shed the tenants drilled into me since I was a youngling.

~ * ---- * ~

It had been a long day as the injured continued to flow in from the most recent battles with the Separatists. After almost a year of being stationed on the medical cruiser I had never become used to seeing all the injured. Knowing at times there was nothing that could be done. Sometimes it felt like penance for the attachment which had formed between Ven and myself. My time here was becoming a reminder of why the Jedi took such a stance, why Jedi didn't act on such feelings. In a medical ward, it was unhealthy to get too attached.

"Ow." I had lost focus again and the jab my opponent sent my way went through my defenses hitting me right in the stomach. The armor I wore helped only a little to alleviate the impact. I didn't have a moment to think as he prepared for another strike. Sergeant Kaden, formerly known as CT-1532, stood in front of me on the practice mat. His fist poised to knock more sense into me.

"You let your guard down again," he stated, throwing the punch at me.

"No kidding." I deflected it aside with my arm, angling it away from me. I jumped back out of his reach, taking a relaxed position to indicate I was done with the exercise. Apparently he wasn't. He charged toward me ducking low to sweep his leg wide toward my knees. Blocking with my arm the force of the kick knocked me back. Quickly, I regained my footing bracing them firmly apart and brought my arms up to complete my defensive stance. Kaden threw a quick, hard punch aiming for my chest which I easily blocked. I wrapped my arm around his, locking up his shoulder and knocked him to the ground with a sharp blow to his back. Smiling slightly, I continued to hold onto his arm, pulling it straight up behind him as he fell. "Done now?" I asked his prone form.

"Now I'm done." I released his arm, allowing it to fall beside him. He stood up quickly adding, "Just remember, your enemy may not be done when you are."

I waved that comment off, "If you were my enemy I wouldn't have gone so easy on you."

Kaden smiled ignoring my comment as he bowed his head and left the mat. Following after him, I went to the bench where I had stored my gear. "I'm leaving today," I stated, picking up Ven's lightsaber... my lightsaber. My fingers lingering on the inscription before I attached it to my belt.

"Off to cause trouble somewhere else?" He was attempting to stretch out the strained muscles in his arm.

I sighed, then smiled despite myself. "You know me.. Can't keep my nose clean." I paused, picked up my cloak and draped it over my arm. We both knew I had been placed on this ship because of its supposed lack of trouble.

"Well, that's why we're here, Commander. To help clean up your messes."

Rolling my eyes, I ignored his comment. "The council has finally found a suitable master for me. His mission is away from the war front."

"In any case... We'll always be at your service." I nodded, understanding the context of 'we' to mean him and his squad. Kaden put his helmet on and turned to me. With a quick salute he said, "Now if you'll excuse me, Commander, I need to check up on my squad."

He was heading toward the door when I called, "Take care of yourself, Kaden."

Without breaking his stride, Kaden looked back. "May the Force be with you, Marina Numa." Then he was gone and I was alone.

Or so I thought. Leaning against the wall near a second doorway was a Jedi I had never seen before. "Have you finished here?" he asked without preamble. I raised an eyebrow as I studied him. The Jedi before me was perhaps in his early thirties. His brown hair was cut short and he wore a finely trimmed goatee. Unlike some of the Jedi stationed at the battlefront he didn't wear the preferred modified clone armor. In fact if it wasn't for the lightsaber hanging from his belt and his strong aura, I wouldn't have taken him as a Jedi. His green eyes met mine and we locked gazes.

Tucking a stray lock of black hair behind my ear I answered, "Yes, Master. I was preparing to return to my duties." Under his scrutiny I became increasingly uncomfortable; a reaction I hadn't had in many years.

He waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. "You have been relieved from those duties."

"Oh..." I began walking toward him and stopped a couple meters from where he was still leaning against the wall. "Well that changes things."

"What does it change?" He seemed rather amused by my statement.

"Well... If I've been relieved from my duties here that means I'm no longer under the supervision of Healer Ronin, which would only be the case if my new mentor was here." I looked him curiously as he continued to smile at me. "I assume you're him."

"You would assume correctly, Marina. I am Silas Draay."

I bowed to him slightly in greeting, "Pleasure, Master."

"Indeed, I have a feeling our time together will be quite interesting." There was a long pause as we considered each other again. "Now then, I'm planning to depart in three hours. You will be ready by then?"

Technically I was ready. My sparce belongings were packed in the pouches I carried and the only person I wished to say farewell to had just left. I was even wearing my armor, a gift from Kaden and his squad. "Yes, Master, much sooner than that."

Silas nodded in understanding, "Walk with me then." I followed him out the door and into the hallway, taking a position beside him as we walked. "What do you know of the missions I'm involved in?"

"Not much at all. Just that you have a mandate with the ExplorCorps. The data burst wasn't exactly forthcoming with details."

Silas smiled, "Nor should it have been. The Council has requested my reports be sent directly to them, instead of the archives." I was rather confused by that bit of information. Members of the Exploration Corps were supposed to send their findings to the archives so all would have access to the information.

"Wouldn't you then be working for the Council then, not the ExplorCorps?"

"A technicality, I suppose. The information will still be sent to the archives, but because of the nature of the information the Council wanted to review it first."

"And what exactly, Master, are we exploring?"

"Existance of other Force cultures. The Council believes the Seperatists, mainly Count Dooku, may take advantage of fledgling Force cultures." I nodded. It made sense to me that we should try to seek out the innocence of the war so they would not be dragged into the conflict. The fact the Council wanted a first look at the data we collected only made it more serious. Lost in thought, I didn't realize we had made our way to the docking bay. Silas stopped infront of the airlock door to a docking port. Through a nearby viewport I saw a relatively brand new YT-200. Signs of a recent battle scared the hull.

"This is your ship, Master?" I was looking at it impressed.

"It's vessel I contracted, yes. It's owned by.. well, you'll meet him shortly." He was opening the door and then indicated for me to go first. With a sigh I passed through the airlock and onto the ship. I was met by an angry voice.

"Look I don't care if you say that's the way it needs to be repaired. That's not the way you're going to do it." The voice was answered by the beeps and whirs of an astromech droid. Curious I continued further into the ship and found myself in the cargobay. "I said I don't care. Don't make me zap you, just do it my way" The astromech responded again, its tone condescending. "Look it hasn't fallen apart on me yet, besides I'm just transporting some Jedi around. I'm not even going near the battles. On top of that I know how the ship works better than anyone else. So just do it my way" The owner of the voice stood on the far side of the bay, holding a wrench menacingly in his hand as he watched the astromech move away.

"I trust everything is set to go, Captain Bannon?" Silas asked, walking past me toward the man. After a quick look around I followed to stand beside Silas. The cargo bay was smaller than would be expected of a trading vessel, which meant this was a private vessel. I had yet to be inside one of the latest of the Correlian Engineering Corporations latest design so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect.

"Yeah, just as soon as sparky here does the repairs the way I tell him to. No need to worry, I can fix it myself if needed." He turned to me with a big smile. "And who's the pretty lady?" Captain Bannon didn't look to be more than a few years older than myself and was remarkably handsome with his shoulder length black hair and dark eyes. Like most of the men I encountered he was about a head taller then me. His demeanor toward me informed me he was under the impression women tended to find him irresistible.

"I am Marina Numa, Captain." As was my custom, I bowed slightly to him in greeting.

"Marina will be traveling with us as my student," Silas added, in an attempt to dissuade him. He apparently hoped to emphasis the fact I was off limits.

"Hey, I'm not in the military so you don't need to call me captain. You guys can call me Arek," he said holding out a dirty hand. Neither Silas or I moved to accept it. "Ok we'll be leaving shortly. So if you guys need anything let me know and I'll see what I can do," he said, before turning around and picking up his blow torch. I could hear over the din of the torch as it started him say, "Looks like this was a good job to take after all. I just thought I would take a few old Jedi around, but I never expected that one of them would so good looking." I suppressed the giggle which threatened to escape me. It was apparently going to take much more than a few vieled threats to keep Arek in line.

"I have a few things to attend to before we depart. Shouldn't be more than a couple hours," Silas said, apparently not hearing Arek's latest comment.

"That's ok, you guys take your time. I'll be done by the time you get back," he called over the sound of the torch.

"I would like to stay here, Master. If that's alright." With a nod and a quick glance at Arek, Silas turned, leaving the way we had come in. I didn't move from the spot as I watched Arek go about repairing the system.

"So you have any idea how much trouble you two plan on getting into?" he asked as he stopped to look back at me "Just asking so I know what I'm getting into."

"I'm not the person to ask. Master Draay has the details concerning our mission."

"Well at least I'll have some good company this time. So you want to just stand there looking pretty or you want to help?"

I moved closer to kneel next to where he was working. "I think you need your eyes checked."

Arek laughed a bit before he knelt down and held out the blow torch. "What are you saying? That you're not pretty? Well I know my eyes are good, why do think I was hired? Anyways you know how to use one of these?" he asked looking at me "I just need a fix a few things up on the hull but the inside is a mess. So pick your poison."

"I don't know why you were hired. A fact which is between you and Master Draay." I took the blow torch from him and examined the area he was working in. "As for whether I know what I'm doing. I guess you will have to determine that yourself."

"On that note I think I'll fix the hull" He sighed. "You can clean up the inside. I didn't really get a chance to secure everything and I ran into some old friends on the way here. It's just the living quarters that need cleaned up. If you need to know where anything goes feel free to ask" Heading over to a locker he pulled out a space suit.

"When you say 'cleaning up', you mean just repairs, right?"

Arek stopped and thought about how to answer "Well...sort of, but I really need to work on the hull. You'll figure it out."

I sat up and put my hands on my hips, facing him I said sternly "I am not your maid."

"I never said you were, I just asked for some help. If you really don't want to that's fine. I just figured you would want to help get the ship ready. Besides it's your rooms that needs cleaned up, not mine." Turning back to the locker, he went about the tedious task of putting on the bulky space suit. With a sigh I turned to finish up fixing the damaged power converters.

Replacing the panel a wiped my hands on a spare cloth I saw laying around. I made a face of disgust as I looked at them. Dirty hands was one of the things I disliked about the mechanical work I usually delved in. Though because of the focus I put into the work, I normally didn't notice until I had already completed the work. Arek had left the cargo bay sometime ago, leaving through the airlock to fix the damaged hull plates.

I was getting ready to head further into the ship when Silas, carrying a heavy looking crate, came in. "Ah good you are still here. Help me with this."

Moving to help him, we set the crate down carefully. I looked at it curiously. As far as I had seen the ship had all the supplies we would need. Silas opened the crate to reveal the contents: warm weather clothing and climbing gear.

"We're heading to a planet called Galli VI."

I reached down to pick up one of the heavy fur-lined coats, already disliking the possibilities they presented. "I've never heard of it."

"Very few have. It was discovered by accident by a spacer who had the unfortunate luck to crash there." Silas reached down and pulled out a small pair of boots, holding them out toward me. "We're going to need these till we find the tunnels."

"Let me guess... It's going to be cold." I was staring at the sturdy, waterproof boots with distaste.

"Indeed. Even with this gear we will be hard pressed. The surface is a frozen wasteland." His amusement over my reaction to the gear was plain on his face. He nudged for me to take the boots. "Are you going to have a problem with this?" Of course I was going to have a problem. I hated the cold. A fact I wasn't about to admit to.

I took the boots without answering his question. "So why are we going there? Obviously the spacer was located if you have news of him."

"It's what the spacer found which has piqued my interest. Having taken shelter in a series of caves he discovered that there were tunnels which led further underground. He was surprised to find nestled in the safety of the caverns a community. The rest, well, we won't know how exaggerated his claims are till we get there."

Behind Silas the airlock opened and Arek stepped through into the cargo bay. He pulled off pieces of his space suit and put them in the locker. "So what's up with the gear."

Silas looked back at him, "It's for our first mission together."

"I take it we're going somewhere cold?"

"Indeed," Silas responded turning back to the crate. "I believe I got your size correct."

"Yeah I think so." Arek peered into the crate, examining the contents. "Oh, the climate control may have some issue," Arek said with a small smile. "So if it goes out you can always use my bed, Marina. After all body heat is a great way to stay warm"

I could feel the blush rise to my checks as I looked down at the gear in my hands. "I think I'll pass."

Silas had turned to face Arek and I could sense the glare he was sending his way. "That is quite enough."

"Ok, well the offer is always open." He winked ignoring Silas's reproach. "Well, we should get going." Storing the last of the suit in the locker he headed out of the cargo bay. Silas continued to watch Arek as he left.

"Be wary of him, Marina. His kind are not beyond using young women for their own ends." Silas left the cargo bay, following Arek toward the cockpit.

Sure I would be wary of Arek, but would that keep me out of trouble?

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