Virginity story: Gray Jedi – Chapter 4
“There it is,” Malik said, pointing at the star map. “I’ll program our route to the Dagobah system.”
“Excellent,” Serra replied. “Oh, incoming transmission from Alderaan, encoded.”
“I’d bet that it’s Bail Organa. Put it on screen.” As his face appeared on the monitor, Malik said, “Senator, I apologize for our abrupt departure.”
“Think nothing of it, Malik. I had anticipated something like this might happen. I’m just glad you two made it out without issue.”
“Thank you for everything. Your hospitality was so gracious,” Serra said.
“It was our pleasure. And, I hope you don’t mind but… last night I had a crew of my men board your ship. They restocked your supplies and filled up your fuel tanks. That should last you for a month or two, with any luck.”
“Wow… that’s very generous of you, Senator,” Malik said in surprise.
“It is the least we could do for you. Again, you will always be welcomed as friends on Alderaan.”
“Thank you, sir. We’re breaking contact now.”
“Very good. Oh Malik, one last thing. Have you considered what to name that ship of yours? It’s frightful bad luck to be flying a ship without a name, you know.”
“Well, in my experience, there’s no such thing as luck. Still, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt. Thank you again.”
“You are quite welcome. Organa out.”
“We will have to find a way to repay his kindness,” Serra mused.
“Yeah… I’ll think on that.”
They continued on for a few minutes in silence, until Serra asked a question that had been bothering her.
“I know Master Yoda said he was not angry, but… do you think he’d expel us for what we’ve done?”
Malik smiled. “I doubt it. What could he expel us from? He himself said that the Jedi Order is finished. No, I think he just wants to be sure that we have thought this through and that we proceed in our relationship in a healthy way. One that will not lead to the Dark Side.” Rubbing Serra’s arm, he continued, “No matter what disagreements we may have with him, Master Yoda will always be a friend to us. I have no doubt of that.”
“I hope you’re right…” Serra sighed.
The ship lurched as it exited hyperspace, arriving at the Dagobah system in the Outer Rim. The large, green planet loomed ahead of them, and both Jedi got the same feeling: this place was strong with the Force.
“Wow… so much life down there. I’m not finding any civilizations or urban areas, though. Master Yoda could literally be anywhere on the planet,” Serra said.
“I imagine that’s why he decided to hide here. Nobody would come look for an old Jedi Master out here,” Malik grinned. “Still, we’ve felt his presence in the past. If we channel the Force together, I bet we could pinpoint his location.”
Serra placed the ship back on autopilot for their approach and turned to face Malik in the chair beside her. The two joined hands, closed their eyes, and sunk into a deep meditation together, reaching out with the Force. It was quite difficult, but after almost ten minutes, they finally picked up a faint sign of familiarity on the surface. Malik concentrated with his all while Serra resumed control of the ship, following his directions. After tracking Yoda’s presence across the planet, they landed on the surface beside a large, swampy lake.
“Nice landing,” Malik commented.
“Thanks. This fog doesn’t make it easy. Can you imagine how lost we’d be if we had just decided to land and look for Yoda once we got here?!”
“I know. At that rate, we’d only find him if he found us.”
Grabbing their packs of supplies, the pair exited the ship into the murky world stretching out before them. Malik saw a pair of Jubba birds flying through the trees overhead, and could have sworn he caught sight of a Dragonsnake just beneath the surface of the nearby lake. As the couple began their explorations, a group of glowing fireflies swarmed near them. They at first paid them no mind, but an ethereal voice soon caught their attentions.
Young Jedi… traveled far you have. Come.
“Yoda…” Malik breathed.
They spoke not a word, simply following the glowing bugs as they illuminated the path before them. Soon, they came upon a strange yet welcome sight: an E3-standard starship lifeboat. Both knew that Yoda had to be nearby.
“Welcome, my friends,” came a gravelly voice from the ship.
“Master…” Overcome with relief at seeing their Grand Master again, Serra dropped her bags and dashed forward, wrapping the old Jedi in a warm hug. “Master Yoda, you’re alive!”
“Heheh, yes yes Serra, alive I am. Pleased I am that survived the attack on the Jedi Temple you did.”
“Well… I almost didn’t. I have Malik to thank for that.”
“Of course. Malik, how wonderful it is to see you again. Ah, but most rude I am being. Please, come into my home. Sit down, relax you must.”
“Thank you, Master,” Malik replied, stepping into the makeshift hut with Serra. Though it was cramped for the two adult Jedi, neither of them cared as they sat on the floor of the vessel.
“Master, I feel you’ve chosen a great place to hide,” Serra said as Yoda joined them. “None of the Empire’s agents would ever think to find you here.”
“Indeed, Serra. Full of life, this place is. And it also possesses other… unique qualities that enable my exile.” Taking a seat on the small cushion along the wall, Yoda continued, “Now then, Malik tells me that fallen in love you two have. Tell me of how this happened.”
Though she at first hesitated, Serra could sense no hostility or anger in Yoda’s voice, helping her to be more at ease. “Well, we’ve had strong feelings for each other for some time now. We’ve always been a good influence on each other, after all. Malik provides that logic and reason when I become brash and emotional, and I remind him never to back down on something he believes in with his all.”
“Yes, noticed this the Council did. Please continue.”
“I guess everything came to a head when Anakin attacked the Jedi Temple. We knew he was trying to get to the beacon to set a trap for all the Jedi off world, so I moved to intercept him. But Master Drallig was right… he was too much for me. He would have killed me after crushing my body under a pillar, had Malik not come along and resuscitated me.”
“I see. And how did you manage this, Malik?”
“Serra’s heartbeat was slowing by the second. She needed a jump-start. I didn’t know what to do at first, but a reflex appeared to happen in those moments, and I saved her by using… Force Lightning.”
“Hmm… and what then?” Yoda asked, seemingly unfazed by the revelation.
Serra said, “As you could imagine, being brought back from the edge of death by the man I harbored a secret love for was too much. The moment I saw Malik’s face, I lunged forward and kissed him. I… couldn’t have stopped myself if I had tried, Master. After that, we escaped Coruscant and went on the run together. She took a deep breath and continued, “Since then, we have become… intimate. We have made love on several occasions. Master, we are certain that we want to spend the rest of our lives with each other, no matter how long we may have left.”
Yoda paused for a few moments before replying, “A dangerous path you could be walking.”
Malik answered, “Yes, but in truth, no path is safe anymore. Not with the rise of the Empire.”
“Ah, quite right you are.”
“We believe this to be the will of the Force, Master.”
“Mean that do you, Malik? Or merely an excuse do you make?”
“We do mean that. Before we joined our bodies for the first time, we reached out with the Force. We were desperate for any sign that we were doing the right thing. At that time, we both felt a tremor in the Force, pushing us together, rather than apart. That is no coincidence, Master,” Malik said.
“Perhaps… right you may be. Yet great care you must take. A powerful emotion love is, capable of both good and evil. If your love leads to jealousy and fear, down the path to the Dark Side you may stray. Tell me, afraid to lose each other are you?”
The couple peered into each other’s eyes for a few moments, holding hands tightly. Serra replied, “We do not wish to lose each other… but we accept that we will at some point. The fact is that we do not know how long we have left, be it decades, years, or mere days. What we do know is that, no matter how long we have left, we want to spend that time together.”
Malik continued, “At some point, our lives will end. As you’ve always said, death is a natural part of life. When that happens, we will cease to be anything at all, except one with the Force. Until then, we will do as much good as possible, which I believe we can do together.”
“Hmm… genuine I now know your love to be. Pleased to see this I am.”
As am I.
Serra and Malik looked around startled by the disembodied voice they had just heard.
“Master… is someone else here?” Malik asked.
“Ah, good of you to join us, my Master,” Yoda said with a smile.
I felt a particular desire to. I believe my experiences in life could be of some help to our young friends. Malik… Serra… how wonderful it has been to see you grow into such accomplished Jedi. When last I saw you two, you were but Padawan learners.
Serra was lost beyond belief, but something about the voice felt familiar to Malik, as if he had heard it somewhere before.
“Could it be? Master Qui-Gon?” he finally breathed.
I am indeed.
“But… how? You died almost fifteen years ago!”
In time I will explain. But regarding your conversation with Master Yoda, I believe my life experiences are quite relevant.
“Does that mean… the rumors about you are true?” Serra asked.
They are. I was in love once. Against the teachings of the Jedi, I took a wife. She loved me, and I her. And it nearly destroyed me…
Her name was Master Tahl. She was an exceptional Knight of the Republic, and even continued her incredible career after being stricken blind in battle. Though a fierce combatant, her true strength was her ability to learn and gain wisdom and insight from those lessons. So wise was she, not only in matters of the Force, but also in many different subjects across the galaxy. We had trained together as younglings, developing a strong friendship. Over time, this grew into a deep trust as fellow Jedi, and this trust eventually blossomed into love.
I remember well that mission. She had gone to the world of New Apsolon, working undercover to try and disrupt an anti-government movement. But after she did not report in for several weeks, I disobeyed the Council and went out to look for her. When I found her at last, we were so overcome with emotion that we pledged our lives to each other. After that, she went back undercover, but was soon found out. The leader of the movement tortured her with a sensory deprivation containment device, draining her strength. I gave chase and managed to rescue her, but all too late.
I managed to get her out and to the nearest medical facility, but by then there was nothing that could be done for her. After I spent a few last pleasant moments at her side, she became one with the Force. As a result, I was beside myself with grief and anger, bent on seeking revenge against the man who had done this to her. I hunted him down, had him at my mercy, and was prepared to execute him then and there. But at the last moment, I heard Tahl’s voice. I knew then that she would not want this. If I did this, I would be crossing a line from which there was no return. It took every ounce of my will, but I turned the man over to the authorities.
I apologize for my ramblings, but my point is this. In my grief, my singular love for Tahl became an attachment and drove me dangerously close to the Dark Side. Had I not heard her voice, my memory would be despised today, rather than revered. You, my friends, are traveling down such a path. It is difficult to walk, and leaves no room for error. You cannot allow your commitment to lead you to anger. If even I, a vaunted Jedi Master, could be tempted as such, far greater danger will lurk for the two of you.
“But are you actually saying we shouldn’t be doing this?” Malik asked.
There was silence for a moment before Yoda gave a jovial laugh. “Perceptive he always has been, Master Qui-Gon.”
Indeed. I am not suggesting that you avoid your feelings for each other, but I wish to impart my experiences upon you so that you will be able to avoid my mistakes. That is, after all, the goal of a teacher, is it not? I do not regret my relationship with Tahl, only my actions in the aftermath of her death. I remain very lucky to have known her. That you both accept your eventual demise and separation bodes well for your future, in my humble opinion.
“I agree,” Yoda said. “And a greater mastery of the Force, helpful it would be, I think. Oh yes…”
You believe them ready for the trial?
“Excuse me, but I’m confused, Master. What trial? Malik and I have already been knighted; we’ve passed our trials,” Serra inquired.
“Indeed, and splendidly at that,” Yoda replied. “The trial of which I speak is one that will test your true mastery of the Force. Pass, and Jedi Masters you will be.”
“And fail?” Malik asked.
No physical harm will come to you. However, like the Trial of Spirit from your knighting, we can make no guarantees about your mental state afterwards.
“Decide now, you should not. Train with each other. Test your connection to the Force. When ready you are, the trial will await.”
The next day, Malik and Serra found themselves in a large clearing, ready to begin their training session. Though they could have slept in their ship’s quarters, both felt that it would be counterproductive to their regimen. With lightsabers in hand, the pair eyed each other in silence before Serra spoke.
“I think I can help you with your combat prowess,” she said. “You’re brilliant at defending against multiple enemies with blasters, but even you admit that one-on-one duels give you difficulty.”
“That’s wise, I suppose,” Malik replied. “We’ve got to figure Vader will find us sooner or later.”
“Ok, setting lightsabers to training mode.” Serra raised her weapons in the typical opening of her Jar’Kai form, one high and one low. “Prepare yourself!”
Malik replied with his Soresu opening, his lightsaber high and pulled back at the side of his face, pointing at his opponent. Waiting for Serra to make the first move, he tried to imagine this bout as far more than a sparring match. Someday, their lives would depend on their abilities to survive against Vader and his agents; they had to be ready for that. Soon, Serra rushed forward, swinging both of her swords in an overhead slash.
Malik parried her blows and gave a bit of ground, attempting to use the Force to anticipate her next move. She gave him little breathing room, assuming a relentless assault on him with both of her weapons. All the while, Malik tried utilizing the brilliant defenses of his Soresu form to redirect her blows and dodge in the subtlest ways. Though he had some success, Serra was far from an amateur, and soon began varying the pace of her strikes to try and throw him off.
Eye of the storm… be the eye of the storm, Malik thought to himself.
His efforts to remain calm and collected amidst the flurry of green lightsabers around him were only somewhat successful. Serra continued to try and penetrate his defenses, now incorporating her signature acrobatic maneuvers into her offensive. It was all Malik could do just to keep up with her aggressive Jar’Kai form. Seeing now that he would have to make use of all his capabilities, Malik began constantly drawing on the Force and keeping himself in constant motion, his blade ever spinning to provide maximum defensive coverage. The couple dueled for several minutes, now on equal footing, each managing to counter the best moves the other could throw at them. At last, Serra thought she had found an opening she could exploit. She tried to lock Malik’s blade up with one of hers before striking at him with the other before he could react. But Malik was too good for that, pushing her off hand back with the Force, rendering her helpless for a split second. In any normal duel, Serra Keto would have lost her hand in that moment, but to her bewilderment, Malik simply disengaged and leapt backwards, assuming a defensive stance once more.
“What’s wrong with you, Malik?!” Serra shouted in frustration. “You had a prime opportunity to disarm me and end the duel, but you chose not to! Why?!”
“I, um, didn’t want to hurt you, Serra.”
“Bantha fodder! You know damn well our lightsabers were on training mode and would have only stung. You gotta give me a better excuse than that!”
Sighing, Malik replied, “I’m trying to stay true to my training, Serra. Soresu is the ultimate form of Jedi nonaggression. There was another path without theoretically cutting off your hand. There is always another path, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t try to find it.”
Serra shook her head. “And what if I had been Skywalker or one of his agents?”
“I would have done what was necessary.”
“Would you really? Because I don’t know that I believe you, Malik. These are dark times, and we can’t afford to be so stubborn that it gets us killed. That stubbornness is exactly what got the Jedi into this mess in the first place.”
“Agree with Serra, I do,” came Yoda’s voice from the edge of the clearing. “Hold firm to our ideals, we should. But if such ideals make us blind to the danger around us, inhibiting us from serving the greater good and the will of the Force, reassess our ideals we must. As Serra said, our stubborn nature nearly destroyed us, made us blind to the rise of the Sith it did.”
“So now we’re advocating violence all of a sudden?” Malik replied, incensed.
“No, Malik. Never violence. Against those who oppose you but may not be your enemy, strive for nonaggression you should. But when comes the day that you must face Vader or his Emperor… stopped they must be. On this, all depends.”
“Vader?” Serra asked.
Yoda bowed his head in sadness, walking closer to the pair. “The new identity of Anakin Skywalker. Joined the Sith, he has. Gone is the hero of the Clone War, consumed now by the Dark Side of the Force. Attempted to kill him, Obi-Wan did. But when at his mercy Vader was, strike the killing blow Obi-Wan could not. It is for the Force to decide his fate, as he described it.”
“And the Force decided for him to survive…” Sera seethed.
“Peace, Serra. Blame Obi-Wan you should not. What if the situation were the same, but with you in Obi-Wan’s place and Master Drallig in Vader’s? What then, hmm?”
“I… I don’t know…” she admitted.
“As I said: blame Obi-Wan you should not. Failed I did to sense the rise of the Sith. Failed I did to defeat the Emperor. If blame someone you must, blame me.” Yoda moved back to the edge of the clearing, saying, “Now, again. This time, Malik, envision yourself in combat with the Emperor you must. If the opportunity arises for victory, hesitate you must not.”
“I understand, Master.”
The pair resumed their sparring, their strikes now much more fervent. Malik had known of his weakness for quite some time: his lack of finishing techniques. He resolved to shore this up in short order, which could only be aided by Serra’s masterful battle tactics. As they fought, Malik continued relying on his “eye of the storm” mindset while being ever aware of any openings or mistakes his opponent might make. Soon enough, Serra lost her footing ever so slightly, allowing Malik to Force Push her to the ground and place his blade at her throat, ending the duel.
“Impressive,” Serra smirked as he helped her up.
“You were good too, Serra. But I think you could be even better,” Malik replied.
“Well the primary weakness of your Jar’Kai style of combat is that even though you have two blades, each is powered by the strength of only a single arm. This often requires you to use both swords when forced into a blade-lock situation. But I think you might be able to bypass this, giving you a big advantage in the heat of battle.”
“How? I’m athletic, but I’m not that strong.”
“Well, how did Master Drallig use such blinding fast attacks? Was he that fast on his own?”
“No, I suppose not… he used the Force to aid him.”
“Exactly. He used the Force to enhance his own muscles, enabling him to accomplish feats beyond what his body could normally produce. I bet you could do the same with your muscles, focusing on strength rather than speed. Let’s try it. We’ll attack at the same time, but only use one arm in your blade-lock with me, ok?”
Both struck at once, their lightsabers locked in a struggle for power. As expected, Malik overpowered Serra with relative ease, since he was pushing against her with his entire body weight. She refused to give up, though, and within an hour was able to hold her own against him using the Force. She could have sworn she was becoming stronger on her own as well. All in all, both felt tired yet productive by the time they called it a day, joining Yoda back at his home for the evening.
“Sit. Eat. Worked hard you have today.”
“Thank you,” Serra replied, accepting a bowl of soup from him.
“Master,” Malik said quietly. “Do you know what caused Anakin’s fall?”
Yoda’s face twisted into an expression of inner pain.
“I’m sorry, Master. I don’t intend to cause you grief.”
“Worry not, Malik. It is natural that you wish to know, and as it so happens, know of these events you two should.” Sitting with the two young Jedi, he continued, “Skywalker’s fall… caused it was by a dangerous type of fear: the fear of loss. Remember, raised as a slave he was. Loved his mother deeply, the boy did. Then, right before the Clone War began, perished his mother did. At that time, fallen in love Anakin had with a woman. Married they were. Yet Skywalker’s grief for his mother did not subside. So overcome with anger after her death was he that nearly fell to the Dark Side then he did.
“Back from the brink he was coaxed by his wife, whom he loved so much. Yet obsessed he became with his inability to prevent his mother’s death. Believed he did, as the chosen one, stop people from dying he should be able to. Thus, when recently Skywalker began having nightmares foretelling of his wife’s demise in childbirth, desperate to prevent it from happening he was. Counseled him in this I did, though I did not know at the time the full circumstances. But my advice fell on death ears I fear. It was then that Palpatine, Darth Sidious, approached Skywalker. Told him he did of an ability to prevent death, yet that it was only available through the Dark Side of the Force. Sidious then orchestrated the arrest attempt by Master Windu to appear to be an assassination. Convinced that Sidious must live to save his wife, Skywalker turned on Master Windu, pledging himself to the Sith and becoming Darth Vader.”
“Wow… how did you come to learn all this?” Serra asked.
“During their duel on Mustafar, searched Vader’s feelings Obi-Wan did. Easy it was to uncover his motivations in his enraged emotional state.”
“I assume you’re telling us of this to illustrate the worst possible scenario for us moving forward?” Malik inquired.
“Indeed, though believe that it will come to that I do not. Far more mature the two of you are than Skywalker ever was.”
“I’m glad you think so,” Serra said with a warm smile. “I was… afraid that you would disapprove and shun us.”
“No, Serra. Never would I shun you. The fall of the Order, given me pause it has. Caused me to consider all the reasons for our failures. Challenge our preconceived notions. Though singular attachment drove Skywalker to the Dark Side, before me sits the most loving and true relationship imaginable. One not fueled by greed, but by trust, compassion, and a desire to do good together. Challenges you will face, but overcome them you can, together.”
Malik and Serra smiled at this, eating in silence for a few minutes. Yoda’s approval of their relationship meant more to them than either had realized it would. As they finished their meal, Malik decided to once again ask the question burning within his mind.
“Master, how is it you were able to communicate with me on Alderaan? Does it have anything to do with Master Qui-Gon retaining his consciousness after death?”
“Hmm. Indeed it does. Explain it best, I believe he can.”
It is a unique and near impossible to master ability, came Qui-Gon’s voice. One might say that I have somewhat achieved that which the Sith have sought for their entire existence: eternal life. They desire it so, yet because of their devotion to the Dark Side, they cannot touch this power.
“So you’re saying this is a power of the Light Side?” Serra asked.
Not specifically. To retain one’s consciousness after death requires ultimate selflessness. One must surrender completely to the will of the Force. It requires compassion, not greed. In short, love in its purest form. When perfected, this would give one the ability not only to communicate with the living, but also to manifest visually. Some would refer to this as a ghost or a spirit.
“Are you able to appear like that?” Malik inquired.
I am not. Allow me to explain. In life, I encountered a group of ethereal beings during my travels. The Priestesses of the Force, they called themselves. They existed in a plane between that of the mortal realm and the Cosmic Force that governs all. They are not among the living, yet they retain enough of their consciousness to interact with the mortal realm. When I first met them, they said that they possessed the secret to eternal life and were searching for a worthy successor to gain their knowledge. They believed me that successor.
I trained with them in secret, a little bit at a time. I told nobody of this, as these concepts were contrary to everything the Order taught of death. At times, Obi-Wan began to worry about me as I went off on extended expeditions alone. As I neared the end of my training, I was called back all of a sudden, as an urgent matter had arisen on Naboo requiring my attention. I am certain you know of the rest, the appearance of the Sith warrior and my failure to subdue him. As my training was incomplete at the time of my death, I cannot appear to you; I can only communicate in this manner. And it took quite some time for me to even be able to accomplish this.
“Master Yoda, for how long have you known of this ability?” Serra asked.
“Not long, a year perhaps. Remember do you my health scare?”
“Of course! I was away on duty but requested permission to come back and work with you on your recovery,” Malik replied.
“Worry not, Malik. In good hands I was. In truth, that scare an attempt it was to communicate with Qui-Gon Jinn. When near death I was, contacted me he did. Led me here to Dagobah, and so my training began. Through trials Qui-Gon put me, before directing me to the Priestesses of the Force to complete my training. Grueling though their tests were, deemed worthy I was in the end to retain my consciousness after death.”
Master Yoda is their true successor. He managed what I could not. After his death, he will be able not only to communicate with the living, but also to manifest himself as a spirit, if you will.
“Incredible…” Malik marveled. Serra nodded in agreement. “What did you experience in those tests? Master Qui-Gon mentioned that one must commit an act of selflessness. I assume that was part of your training?”
“Yes, but for my knowledge only those details are. Even Master Qui-Gon knows not of what I saw in my trials.”
“And speaking of trials, feel ready do you for your trial?”
Malik glanced at Serra, who replied, “Yes, but I think a few more days of training would do us good as well. I mean there’s no rush; we’ve got nothing but time at this point.”
“True, quite true,” Yoda said in understanding. “Ah, late it has become. Rest you should before your training continues.”
Over the course of the next week, Malik and Serra worked tirelessly to grow stronger in the Force and with each other. Soon, Malik’s timid hesitation to achieve victory vanished, and he had become quite a dangerous swordsman as a result. Though he still relied on his defensive tactics, the confidence he now displayed was rather intimidating; Yoda remarked that he had a similar look in his eye as Obi-Wan. For Serra, her connection to the Force was growing stronger every day, helping her feel more like a complete Jedi rather than just a warrior. She could now draw on the Force to enhance her body’s capabilities at will, almost without a second thought at all. Malik and Yoda were nothing short of impressed at her improvement; she had nowhere to go but up.
Soon, the two began to rub off on each other in combat styles. At Serra’s urging, Malik began incorporating more athletic flips and acrobatics into his Soresu, giving him increased mobility and an element of surprise. He reasoned that Obi-Wan himself had done this to great effect throughout his career, even after switching to his signature defensive combat style. Making these changes forced Serra to become more pragmatic in their duels. Her usual relentless offensive became near useless against Malik’s defenses, making her dual sabers more of a hindrance than an advantage. But soon she was able to find an effective counter: using the Force not only to enhance her strength and speed, but also to affect the environment around the battlefield. Whether it was a tree root sticking out of the ground or a mess of vines in a tree above, she became ever aware of her surroundings and used those things to her advantage. Though the effect on Malik was minimal, both agreed that it would be of great help to her in a real combat situation.
“Excellent,” said Yoda, watching their work. “Ready I believe you to be for your final trial.”
Nodding, Malik replied, “Let’s do it. You ready for this, Serra?”
“As I’m ever gonna be,” she sighed.
The pair followed Yoda through the swampy marsh, unsure of where he was taking them. Still, both knew better than to question him; Yoda knew what he was doing. Soon, they came upon an entanglement of trees and vines leading to a cave ahead of them. To the average observer, this cave appeared quite unassuming, and a casual glance might even cause one to overlook it. But to a Jedi, the feeling was unmistakable.
“I feel… cold,” Serra observed.
“This place,” Yoda said quietly, “is strong with the Dark Side of the Force. A domain of evil it is.” He turned back to face the couple. “In you must go.”
“What’s in there?” Serra nervously asked.
“Only what you take with you…”
Taking a deep breath, Serra said, “Let’s go.”
“Hang on a sec,” Malik replied, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Master, what did you mean by the last thing you said? Only what we take with us?”
“Nothing more I will say. The rest you must discover on your own,” Yoda answered, sitting down on a nearby tree stump.
Serra turned to Malik. “You’re right. That has to mean something. But what?”
“Only what we take with us…” Malik pondered this without end for several minutes before thinking of one potential answer. “What if that means we need to leave our weapons here?”
“Walk in there unarmed? I don’t know if that’s wise, Malik.”
“Serra, we are never unarmed. This is a trial meant to test our connection to the Force; that has to be the key to all this.”
Unsheathing her lightsabers from her back, Serra looked at them for several long moments before placing them on the ground near Yoda. Malik then removed his weapon from his boot and did the same. As they turned toward the cave entrance, Yoda smiled to himself. He was quite pleased to see that they had the insight to decipher the meaning of his cryptic clue.
Malik glanced at Serra. “Together?”
“Together,” she agreed, gripping his hand tightly.
Collecting their courage, the pair took their first steps into the cave…
Darth Vader marched through the corridors of his Star Destroyer, a bit unsteady on his feet. Mere weeks ago, he had been at the pinnacle of his skills and abilities, one of the most feared Jedi Knights in the galaxy. That, of course, was before he had pledged himself to the teachings of his master, Darth Sidious. At first, he knew he needed his master’s power for Padme’s sake, until Vader had killed her in his anger.
All this is Obi-Wan’s fault, he thought to himself. Because he would not stand by me, the Council never trusted me. Because of him, Padme turned against me. And to top it all off, he crippled me, cut off all my remaining limbs.
Though Vader had planned all along to kill Sidious once he had what he needed to save Padme’s life, the events on Mustafar had ruined everything. Not only had he lost his wife, but Obi-Wan had also taken away any ability for Vader to ever match the Emperor’s power. He could not betray him if he had wanted to; it would spell instant doom for him. His only purpose now was as the loyal servant to his master. And now his master called to him, needing to discuss an urgent matter with his apprentice. Vader arrived in his communications room and knelt before the holographic projector, an image of the Emperor appearing in front of him.
“What is thy bidding, my Master?”
“Lord Vader. How is the construction of our ultimate solution proceeding?”
“Everything is on schedule, Master. Tarkin’s leadership has been nothing short commendable.”
“Excellent. I knew he was the right man for this task. Now, another matter we must discuss. As I am sure you know, we have confirmed that several Jedi managed to survive Order 66.”
“Yes, Master. They will be hunted down and eliminated. Their betrayal will not go unanswered.”
“Of this I have no doubt. I have news for you of our plans to form a squad of Jedi Hunters. There are two individuals here on Coruscant that I believe may be most useful to our efforts. I wish you to return here at once.”
“It will be done, Master. I will prepare my shuttle without delay.”
As the transmission ended, Vader felt a twinge of excitement that he had not felt since joining Sidious. For the first time, he felt invigorated at the possibilities the future held in forming this team. He would have apprentices once more, and would be able to show them the power of the Dark Side. Yes, perhaps he did still have a purpose in life after all. Entering the hallway, he signaled a nearby officer.
“Prepare my shuttle for immediate departure.”
“Yes, Lord Vader.”
Within the hour, Vader’s transport had departed the Star Destroyer hangar and was headed for Coruscant. As the ship entered hyperspace, Vader felt a strange sense of calm descend upon him. Though the future was uncertain, he knew he would be the one to render justice upon the remaining Jedi.
Soon, my old master… soon…