The clash of lightsaber blades drowns out the sounds of an otherwise peaceful jungle. Again and again, the younger fighter, a Human male with slightly-mussed, short black hair swings his yellow blade at his opponent, an older Human male with short, trimmed brown hair and full beard who meets each blow almost casually with his own blue saber. As each attack is parried, the younger combatant’s frustration comes through more and more easily, until he finally breaks form and starts swinging wildly, determined more than ever to land at least one slash. Realizing the change in his behavior, the older man parries several attacks before stretching out his hand and pushing through the Force to send the young one flying backward through the air and landing with a thud several meters away.
“Enough!” cries the older one as he deactivates his lightsaber. “You’re letting your anger get the best of you again, Ganner.”
With a grunt, Ganner punches the soft ground before hastily standing. His impatience betrays his emotions as he replies, “But Master Katarn, I never seem to make any progress! I . . .”
“That is because,” Kyle interrupts, “you let your emotions interfere. You need to keep your head clear and let the Force guide you. If you continue the way you’re going, you . . .”
The sudden sound from the air stops the conversation, as both teacher and student look through the jungle’s canopy to the sky. After a few seconds, both of them spot two starships, a YT-2000 transport and a smaller Incom starfighter, fly overhead toward the pyramid about a half-mile walk through the foliage.
“It appears we have guests,” comments Kyle. “Let’s pick up our lesson later and see who’s visiting.”
Ganner shuts down his lightsaber and, clipping it to his belt, falls into step about a meter behind the instructor walking back to the Jedi Praxeum.
Back at the academy, the two ships gently settle on the permacrete floor on the lowest level of the building. Several seconds later, the transport’s boarding ramp lowers and touches onto the floor a couple of seconds before the cockpit opens on the fighter to reveal its Wookiee pilot. Shaking his head and letting his fur fly free for a second, Kurrelgyrre breathes a sigh of relief as he looks at the transport and watches Snteil walk down the ramp. A few steps behind him walk Zeethree and Jan Tolbara, who appear to be having some sort of conversation.
“No, I don’t think it’s healthy,” Jan states as he reaches the bottom of the ramp. “Shooting at everyone you do not recognize is not a good way to make friends and allies, and it’s a good way to get yourself shot.”
“Not unless I shoot them first,” adds Zeethree. “Then, they can’t shoot at me.”
“True, but . . .”
“Then, the issue is solved,” the droid resolves. “As long as I shoot them first, then I will be safe.”
“No! That’s not what I’m saying! What I’m trying to tell you is . . .”
“Would you two stop already?!” Snteil interrupts anxiously. “You two have been at it for at least two hours, and it’s driving me nuts! We’re here already, so can we just drop it?”
With a brief sigh, Jan replies, “That is an excellent idea, Snteil.”
After a secondary pause, Zeethree adds, “Only because you were losing the argument.”
As Jan turns to respond, Snteil cuts him off and scolds, “Oh, no you don’t! This conversation is over!”
The silence that fills the bay over the next few seconds creates a feeling of uneasiness between the three beings standing next to the Aurora. Finally, Kurrelgyrre walks up to the group and cheerfully asks, “So, how was the trip?”
The silence lingers still for a few seconds, until Jan finally responds, “It was . . . okay.”
“Okay?” KG asks, puzzled by the response. “Is that it?”
Snteil quickly interjects, “Yep! Just okay.”
The Wookiee straightens as he ponders this unexpected turn of events, thoughts of a jolly reunion quickly dissipating with each passing second.
“Uh,” begins Kurrelgyrre, unsure of how to proceed. “I . . . hope everything gets . . . better. Don’t you?”
“Oh, yeah. Sure. I think so,” the other three suddenly offer absent-mindedly, each silently hoping the awkwardness quickly passes.
As the persistent silence returns again, KG quickly adds, “Good. Now, who else is down here?”
The Wookiee glances around the bay, when his eyes suddenly fall upon two others walking their way. Kurrelgyrre instantly recognizes them, flings his arms out and calls excitedly across the room, “Tionne! Kam! How’ve you been?”
The two younger Jedi smile in response, and Tionne replies, “Good! Glad to see you made it, KG!”
The silence suddenly creeps in again, and KG realizes that all eyes have fallen upon Jan.
The smile on Kam’s face quickly fades as he asks, “So, who’s this?”
It suddenly dawns on the Wookiee that Jan has not met most everyone at the academy, seeing as he reached knighthood and ventured out into the galaxy just before Master Skywalker began recruiting his new students.
Jan, on the other hand, looks right at the pair of Jedi and flashes one of his confident but cautious smiles.
Taking the reins, Kurrelgyrre says, “Kam Solusar, meet Jan Tolbara. Jan, this is Kam.”
Striding purposefully across the floor, Jan extends his hand and adds with a smile, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Kam.”
The two men grasp hands and slowly shake as they stare at each other, prompting the ever-present silence to return again. Jan’s smile slowly fades as he watches Kam stare at him, but he continues to slowly shake the other’s hand.
Tionne, recognizing the awkwardness, clears her throat, snapping Kam out of his staring match.
“Oh, yes,” states Kam. “And, this is Tionne.”
Jan’s smile returns as he takes her hand and greets, “Pleased to meet you. I’ve heard a lot of good things about you.”
Sparking a smile on her face mostly out of embarrassment than anything else, she replies, “Oh, really? Well, thank you.”
“So,” interrupts Kam. “You’re the one that claims to be Skywalker’s first student, huh?”
Releasing Tionne’s hand, Jan looks back at Kam and answers cautiously, "That’s right. I completed my training shortly before Thrawn showed up around . . . ten years ago now.
“Is that right?” he asks with a sideways glance to Kurrelgyrre.
Before KG can respond, Kam continues, “I see. And, you were the one that Master Skywalker sent Kurrelgyrre here off to find. Am I right?”
Slowly, Jan nods, “Yes.”
“So, if you were his first graduate, why didn’t you stay around and help Master Skywalker start the academy?”
Cocking an eyebrow, Jan asks, “What are you getting at?”
Stepping in between the two men as Kam starts to take a step forward, Tionne interrupts, “Excuse me a minute. Kam, can we talk?”
“In a minute, dear.”
“No,” she continues, more sternly. “We need to talk . . . now.”
Kam stops, his eyes locked on Jan for a long second, and turns to be guided by Tionne across the landing bay.
After a few seconds, Jan asks quizzically while not taking his gaze from Kam, “What was that all about?”
Unexpectedly, Zeethree interjects, “Maybe you should have shot him first. I’ll go get my blaster rifle.”
KG thunks Zeethree on the head as he walks to Jan.
“I don’t know. It may have something to do with Exar Kun’s return when we got the academy started. That incident was…bad. It was when I faced my trials.”
Snteil glares at his droid. “Let it drop already, Zeethree! When I get a moment’s peace, I swear if you don’t find a way to fix that glich yourself, I’ll look into getting that glich fixed for you. And I’ll pay cheap!”
Zeethree quickly falls silent. KG reflects as the silence returns.
“I sense conflict in Kam. I can’t say I know much about the man.”
After more silence, KG decides to break the ice. He places one arm around Jan and another around Snteil, squeezing his two friends.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I’m sick of protein bars. Let’s grab some real food. I’m starved!”
“I can honestly say that’s the best thing I’ve heard all day,” Snteil says without much cheer in his usually cheery cynicism. “Let’s.”
“Yes, please!” Jan hurriedly interjects. “I feel like I haven’t eaten in five years.”
As the three start to move to the exit, they see Tionne heatedly scolding Kam, pointing back toward them as she talks. Her words cannot be clearly heard, but the humbled expression on Kam’s face tells volumes.
“Um, where is that food again, KG?” Jan asks hesitantly.
KG stares for a second. A few years back, he would have had words (or growls, as that may be) with Kam. Now, though, he was a Jedi. He had learned control.
“This way.” KG leads the party to the dining hall, looking for old comrades and friends. He was surprised to see just how much he had come to miss Yavin IV.
Snteil falls in beside KG, walking the familiar corridors. He certainly hadn’t missed this place; it made him uneasy. He kept his eyes darting, trying not to make eye contact with anyone they passed in the halls.
“This is stupid,” he thought. “I doubt anyone here even remembers who I am.”
He paused in thought after that, contemplating the path that his life had taken to bring him back here after all that time.
“Damnit…where IS Skywalker, anyway?” he thought to himself.
Seeing that it is mid-morning and most everyone is involved in their studies, the walk to the dining hall is unsurprisingly quiet.
Arsix chirps something that sounds optimistic, and Zeethree replies, “If you say so. I couldn’t care less.”
A long string of irritated tones come from Arsix. Zeethree holds his hands up as if he wants the astromech to stop but says after Arsix is done, “Well, I suppose he can’t be that bad, considering how well Kurrelgyrre and Jan turned out.”
As Arsix chirps victorious, the group walks into the dining hall to find one person within. A Human woman with blonde hair tied back in a ponytail wearing a white shirt and khaki pants grabs a piece of fruit and takes a bite as she strides toward the door.
The young woman approaches the door while chewing her food, when Snteil spots Zeethree’s hand reaching from behind him toward the blaster holstered on his thigh.
“NO!” cries Jan, and he tackles the protocol droid to the stone floor just before Zeethree grabs the gun.
The woman stops just short of the group and stares at the scuffle taking place on the floor.
“Get off me!” Zeethree states at the Jedi keeping him pinned to the floor.
The woman hesitantly asks, “Is . . . everything okay?”
KG looks at Zeethree, then at the woman. “Yes. Why? Does something seem odd to you?”
The blonde woman slowly shakes her head, never taking her eyes off of Jan and Zeethree. She cautiously takes a few steps through the door and quickens her pace after she passes the group.
Glancing backward to see her walk away, Jan pushes himself off of Zeethree and cries, “What do you think you’re doing?!”
“She looked dangerous to me, so I was going to take appropriate action,” Zeethree answers nonchalantly.
Jan’s jaw drops as he stares in disbelief at the protocol droid. After a few seconds, he stammers, "I . . . I don’t believe this! We’re in the middle of the Jedi Academy, and you still think there are enemies about?! What are you . . .
“Snteil!” Jan continues, his voice raised in annoyance. “I swear that if you don’t do anything about him, I will! And, it won’t be pretty!”
Zeethree interrupts, “What? Can’t handle me yourself?”
Jan snaps his gaze back at Zeethree, stares hard at him for a second, and draws his lightsaber, instantly activating the purple blade as he prepares to swing at the droid.
As Jan starts to swipe his blade at Zeethree, his lightsaber suddenly flies out of his hand, deactivates while in the air, and lands on the stone floor behind him against the wall.
“There will be none of that here,” scolds the bearded man approaching with a younger Jedi student following close behind.
Everyone turns to watch the new arrivals approach the group. Instantly recognizing him, Kurrelgyrre smiles and extends his hand in greeting.
“Kurrelgyrre!” the man exclaims as he grasps KG’s hand. “How are you doing?”
“Well. Snteil here and I just got back from rescuing some old friends.” KG points at Jan with his thumb. “I’m starting to wonder if that was a mistake…”
“Well, he did have it coming,” Snteil says as he gives the droid a dirty look. “I’m not going to be there to save him every time,” he says by way of explanation to Kyle and KG, “maybe it’s time for him to learn a lesson…the hard way. Threatening to have him re-programmed certainly didn’t have any effect.”
He turns back to Zeethree, “Or did your thick processor delete that conversation!?”
Jan retrieves his lightsaber and asks as he returns it to its place on his belt, “And, this is . . .”
“Kyle Katarn,” the man answers, turning and offering his hand after introducing the lad accompanying him. “And, this is Ganner Rhysode, a student here at the academy. You must be Jan Tolbara.”
Taking his hand, Jan answers quizzically, “Yes. You’ve heard of me?”
“Master Skywalker has mentioned you a few times, and I’m sure that he would love to see you again. He’s up in the meeting hall right now. Would you like me to take you up there?”
“Yes, please.” KG starts to walk, following along behind Katarn. As he walks by, he slams Z3 against the wall – hard.
“That, Jan, is how you deal with yappy droids.” KG lets out a Wookiee laugh.
“Come on you stupid droid,” Snteil says as he pulls Zeethree out of the new droid shaped indention in the permecrete wall.
Jan responds with a nod and drops in line with everyone else, as Kyle and Ganner lead the rest to the audience chamber at the top of the pyramid.
After a few moments, everyone walks into the large room. Although it is late morning at the academy, the sunlight from outside seems to barely enter the room, forcing artificial lights to pick up the slack and light the rest of the stone-laid room. At the far end seated on the floor at the foot of the wide steps up to the platform are several people of various races: a couple of Humans, a green-skinned Twi’lek female, and a Bith. Apparently students at the academy, they quietly listen to the man standing on the platform.
Dressed in his black robes, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker addresses the students assembled before him, passing on another lesson on the Force.
“. . . sure that you call on the Force when calm and at peace with yourself and the environment around you. Only then can the Force help you to the best possible . . .”
Luke’s gaze lifts from the students below to the visitors entering the chamber. His eyes pass over each person in the group quickly. But, a smile forms on his face when he sees Kurrelgyrre and Jan standing next to each other.
The sudden pause in their instruction prompts the students to turn around and see who just entered.
“Excuse me a minute,” mutters Luke as he hastily moves down the steps and across the chamber.
Jan smiles widely as his master approaches, and he steps away from the group and moves to stand in the front.
Seconds later, Luke reaches the group and greets Jan with outstretched arms. Without a word, Jan steps forward, and the two Jedi embrace as long-lost friends reunited at last.
After a few seconds, Kyle glances behind him at Kurrelgyrre and deliberately clears his throat, forcing Luke and Jan to separate and regard each other.
“Welcome back, Jan,” Luke exclaims with glee.
Jan smiles and replies, “Thank you, master. It’s good to see you again. You haven’t changed much.”
“You have. What’s with the long hair?”
Jan shrugs and says, “I figured I would try it and see how I feel about it.”
“It looks good.”
“I think he needs a haircut,” Kyle interrupts.
Both Luke and Jan turn to look at him for a second, then all three start laughing.
As their mirth starts to die down, Luke steps over to Kurrelgyrre and Snteil, offers his hand and says, “Thank you both for finding him.”
“I could do no less.” Kurrelgyrre accepts the master’s hand.
“There was no stopping him,” Snteil says as he indicates KG. “You know, ‘the Blazes hath no fury…’ and all that. And someone had to keep him out of trouble,” he finishes with a wink, prompting a laugh from the Wookiee.
Off to the side, Jan turns to Kyle and states, “Haircut, huh?”
“Well,” Kyle replies with an innocent shrug. “It IS a little long.”
Jan flips his hair back with his hand and adds facetiously, “I think you’re just jealous.”
A stifled laugh from Ganner earns him a glance from Jan and Kyle.
“So, you were interested in meeting our Devon friend?”
Luke’s face shows his surprise as he answers, “Oh, you got her back! Good! Yes, I would love to meet her. Bring her up here, please!”
“We tried to contact you again shortly after your last communication, but were unable to track you down. So…we…decided to come find you,” Snteil says cautiously. After glancing around slowly, as if taking in his surroundings with his mind wandering and not liking the thoughts they’re giving him he continues, “No offense Master Skywalker, but the sooner we can get this over with….” He trails off, but indicates they should head back to the Aurora.
Luke nods and replies, “Sure. No problem. Give me just a moment.”
He turns and walks to his students and addresses them.
“We have just been presented with a rare opportunity. A member of another Force tradition is currently present at the Academy, and I would like you to learn something about them while they are here. If you will come with me, we can take advantage of this offer together.”
All of Luke’s students rise to their feet and follow him back to Snteil.
Moments later, the group arrives at the foot of the Aurora’s boarding ramp. Snteil guides Luke and his students inside and to the brig, where his lone prisoner waits.
Snteil reaches the door and peeks in to find the Devon sitting cross-legged on the far side of the brig and facing the wall. Silently, he beckons the Jedi Master to take a look.
Luke steps forward and looks inside along with the Sullustan. After a few seconds, he steps back and asks, “Could you bring her out?”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? It can be very…uh…persusuasive.”
“I’m sure we’ll be fine,” Luke replies. “Besides, I am sure that, with her in your custody, you can keep her under control. I want the entire academy to have an opportunity to see her.”
KG merely shrugs towards Snteil. His hand, however, is on his lightsaber.
After a short pause in conversation, Luke nods and says, “Well, I will let you make your preparations. I am going to gather everyone together in the audience hall. I will see all of you in a few minutes.”
The Jedi Master walks toward the ladder and adds, “Jan, come with me.”
Luke rounds the corner and ascends the ladder to the main deck. As he does so, Jan turns to Kurrelgyrre and Snteil, shrugs with a puzzled look on his face and follows his teacher, with the few students that made it down the ladder following Jan back up.
As Jan and Luke turn to leave, Snteil looks at KG before turning back towards the holding cell. “Keep an eye on it for me, will ya buddy? Actually, keep an eye on me too. If I start doing something stupid, or I’m not myself…you have my permission to knock me out cold.”
KG laughs at this. “I was going to do that anyway.”
With that, Snteil will turn on the holding cell speaker. “For some reason, the Jedi are interested in meeting you. So, you’re gonna get some fresh air. Don’t try anything funny, the bounty on your head was non-specific as to how you’re to be brought in.”
Snteil watches through the door as his prisoner rises to he’ir feet, turns on he’ir heel and strides to the door. She’a presses the switch and answers, “So, will I be granted the ability to wield my pulsairs, or must I stand there unarmed while they strike me down?”
Kurrelgyrre leans in. “Nobody is going to strike you down. Not unless you’re wielding your pulsairs.”
The Devon ponders KG’s response for a brief moment and finally replies somberly, “Very well.”
She’a bows he’ir head and steps back from the cell door.
“Alright, no funny business now,” Snteil says as he opens the cell door. His prisoner stands about a meter back with he’ir head bowed and hands held behind he’ir back. Without uttering a word, Snteil circles behind he’ir and places the binders on he’ir wrists with no resistance from the Devon.
As they head toward the ladder leading up to the main deck, Snteil states, “Let’s go meet your fans.”
Several moments later after Kurrelgyrre and Snteil escort the prisoner to the audience chamber at the top of the structure, the three of them walk in to find a few dozen people assembled in the room, most of which are gathered together in groups of three to five. KG notices that Luke stands on the far side of the room atop the dais.
As the trio enters, Luke looks up at them and beckons them to approach. After hearing he’ir mutter the word “naseth”, Snteil nudges his prisoner forward and escorts he’ir through the crowd of Jedi. As he’ir steps echo through the hall, an eerie hush falls over the assembly, as all eyes turn toward the Devon and the bounty hunter and Wookiee guiding he’ir to the front.
The three stop at the top of the platform to stand next to Luke, and she’a turns to face the crowd staring at he’ir. He’ir eyes narrow as he’ir gaze pans from one side of the room to the other.
“You may remove her binders,” Luke requests.
Cocking his head, Snteil asks, “Are you sure that’s wise?”
With a nod, the Jedi Master answers, “I think I can keep things under control.”
Snteil sighs, shrugs and unlocks the binders on he’ir wrists. She’a glances behind he’ir to see the Sullustan pull back with the binders in his hand, and she’a brings her arms about to rub he’ir wrists.
“Fellow Jedi,” Luke announces to the crowd. “We have a rare opportunity today that I would like to share with you.”
Indicating with a hand gesture, Luke continues, “Standing before you is a Devon, a representative of a little-known race that was enslaved by the Sith many centuries ago. With her cooperation, I hope that we can open a dialogue with her and maybe even establish relations between us and her people.”
Luke turns to the Devon and says, “Welcome to Yavin! I am Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight and founder of this academy for the Jedi Order.”
As he extends his hand in friendship, the Devon looks down at his hand, takes a step forward and spits in Luke’s face. As multiple gasps fill the room, she’a says angrily, “Now, we know what you look like!”
KG barks a Wookiee growl of warning. “You’re about stupid, aren’t you? Unless you come from some backwater world, the whole galaxy knows what he looks like!”
KG pauses for a quick second, calming his wookiee anger. Back in the old days, he would have just backhanded he’ir. Now, he was a Jedi Knight.
“Something is wrong here. I can feel it. ‘We?’”
“How dare you!” cries Ganner as he bolts up the stairs with ignited
lightsaber in hand.
As Luke flinches with the Devon’s saliva sprayed on his face, he thrusts out a hand, signaling his students to stop and calm down. Ganner stops halfway up, his gaze shifting between Luke and the Devon.
Luke wipes the spit from his face and says facetiously under his breath, “Charming.”
“Stand down, Ganner. The Devon isn’t going anywhere.”
KG looks at the Devon, straight on. “I give you my word as a Jedi Knight that no harm will befoul you here – so long as you behave. I cannot guarantee your safety if you continue to act like that. Are we understood?”
The Devon turns he’ir head to look at Kurrelgyrre and softly says with a sneer on he’ir face, “You are the ones that brought me in here, not me. As I see it, that makes you responsible for my behavior.”
She’a glances around the audience chamber and continues, “Although I believe that I could fight my way out of here, I will concede for now.”
Snteil only smirks as he unbuttons his holster.
She’a turns back to Kurrelgyrre, glares right into his eyes and says with a grimace, “And, I will thank you to stand downwind, Kashyyyk! You’re about to make me vomit again!”
With an exasperated sigh, she’a turns to Snteil and bitingly asks, “Are visiting hours over at the petting zoo yet, bounty hunter?”
“Get he’ir out of here. We don’t need such venom.” KG turns to Luke. “There is nothing more to be gained here.”
As Luke nods his agreement, Snteil tugs his prisoner along with him as they make haste to the nearest exit.
Just as they reach the door to leave, one of the Jedi students calls out from the floor, “What lesson are we to learn from this, Master Skywalker?”
A short while later as Kurrelgyrre, Snteil and the Devon reach the hangar, she’a turns to the Sullustan and asks, “I need to use the refresher when we get back aboard. I want to wash this Wookiee stink off of me. I am already starting to feel nauseous.”
“You lost any sympathy from me when you spit on Master Skywalker,” replies Snteil. “You’ll be going right back to your cell.”
He gives KG a look that says, “We need to talk” but won’t say anything at the moment. He’s going to wait until the prisoner is back in the cell.
“Sympathy?” the Devon exclaims, the expression on he’ir face displaying he’ir flared rage. “You parade me in front of my stated enemies, and now you have the gall to declare you had sympathy for me?!”
“To be honest, Devon, I haven’t been comfortable with this from the start,” Snteil states in response to her being paraded about. “But let’s not forget, it was you who attacked me. We completely missed you when we boarded the Smiling Sarlaac. You could have just left and we’d have been none-the-wiser. So in a way, this predicament you’re in was completely avoidable by your own doing.”
She’a calms for a second, glances behind he’ir and continues in a more civilized demeanor, "But, I suppose that I am equally guilty.
“I would not make an enemy of you, Si Snteil, and beg your forgiveness for my barbarity. You, after all, are merely performing a civil service.
“I would ask this of you, though. If you were suddenly confronted by some form of creature from your darkest nightmares, how would you respond?”
“Well, seeing as I’ve already had that happen once this cycle,” he says with a noticable shiver, “I can tell you I’d shoot it in the head.”
“Hmmm,” she’a adds. “So if I did what you would do, Skywalker would be dead now. Interesting.”
Snteil notices at this point that the Devon’s eyes seem puffy and red, and she’a is blinking a lot as if she is fighting back tears. She’a appears to be reacting to something adversely. As the group reaches the hangar, she’a lurches as if she is about to vomit but stops he’irself.
“What’s wrong with you?” Snteil keeps a watchful eye on he’ir.
After a few deep breaths, she’a answers, “I told you. It’s Kashyyyk back there.”
“Well, to be fair, my nightmare was coming at me with claws and teeth trying to eat me, I don’t recall seeing Master Skywalker do that to you,” adds Snteil.
“How is it that Master Skywalker is ‘some form of creature from your darkest nightmare’?”
“He is Naseth,” she’a replies. “He, his students, your friend, and his friend are all Naseth. According to my people, they are very closely related to the Seth. The Seth ruled over my people thousands of years ago. Very evil people, killing thousands and keeping the rest as slaves. The Naseth are just as bad to us. They are all the same.”
“Not Seth…Sith.” Kurrelgyrre sounds annoyed as he speaks. “You refer to the Sith Wars, some 4000 years ago. I, along with the other Jedi students at the Academy, fought against the ghost of Exar Kun, a Sith Lord whose spirit had survived from that era. It was during this time that I fought my inner demons and became a Jedi Knight. The Sith have been mostly extinct for years, save for those who fell under the Rule of Two.”
KG ponders for a bit…
“The Jedi…those you call the Naseth…are not cut from the same cloth as the Sith.”
The Devon rapidly turns on he’ir heel to face Kurrelgyrre and exclaims, “Extinct, you say? Then, why did the Seth and their minions hunt down my compatriots during the reign of this Empire, cutting a swath through our ranks? Why did they put out bounties on my mavens’ heads, demanding them to be brought before them dead? Why were we forced to retreat back to our homeworld for fear of our lives? More Naseth lies!”
She’a spits at Kurrelgyrre’s feet and continues, "What difference is there between the Seth and the Naseth? The Seth take people as slaves, forcing them to work toward their cause. The Naseth steal children away from their families and raise them to work toward their cause. No difference!
“And, you constantly fight each other! Naseth fighting Seth! Seth fighting Naseth! I hope you wipe each other out of existence! I hope you . . .”
KG shakes his head at all the hate and misinformation.
She’a suddenly stops as he’ir breathing becomes labored. She’a backs a few steps away from Kurrelgyrre, gasping for breath, and she’a turns and sprints for the ship.
“Aw, cripes.” Calling upon the Force, Kurrelgyrre sprints forward at blinding speed and stops in front of the fleeing Devon. She’a slams into him, forcing him to take a step back to maintain his balance. She’a looks up at him, trying desperately to catch he’ir breath, when she’a suddenly vomits onto the Wookiee.
After several seconds, she’a finally stops, collapses on the floor, and says with a raspy voice, “You want me to die, don’t you?”
KG looks down in disgust, with a warning bark. The smell is overwhelming.
“You have tried my patience too much this evening. You have insulted me and Master Skywalker. You have told lies about the Jedi Order. And now…this!”
“If you are sick, we will take you to the infirmary. Otherwise, you’re going back to your cell without another word.”
The rage in he’ir eyes appears uncontrollable as she’a stares hard at the Wookiee before he’ir. She’a opens he’ir mouth as if to speak, but violently sneezes twice instead.
“You really are an idiot, aren’t you, Kashyyyk?” she’a heatedly asks, he’ir voice sounding stuffy. “Itchy, watery eyes, breathing problems, sneezing, vomiting. All signs that SOMEBODY HAS A NEGATIVE REACTION TO SOMEBODY ELSE’S MUSK AND DANDER!”
She’a pauses for a brief second before continuing in a calmer tone, “When was the last time you bathed? You know, don’t even bother answering.”
“Snteil,” she’a cries while still glaring at Kurrelgyrre, “Unless you want a dead Devon on your hands because some stupid Wookiee can’t fathom the obvious, I need a breath mask.”
Just after finishing he’ir statement, she’a sneezes on KG’s robes.
KG leaves, a look of disgust on his face. “I’m getting a shower. If she’a can’t hold down her lunch again…shoot he’ir.”
“Alright,” Snteil sighs, “that’s enough you two…please.”
As the Wookiee ascends the boarding ramp onto the Aurora, the Devon enters a coughing fit that lasts several seconds and is punctuated with a few sneezes in between.
A few seconds after the coughs subside, she’a tries to calm he’ir breathing. After a deep breath, she’a exclaims, “I can still smell him. I . . .”
She’a suddenly lurches forward to vomit again onto the hangar floor. Several more seconds pass, until she’a finally ceases and crumples onto the floor, facing the ancient stone ceiling.
“Snteil,” she’a whispers loud enough for the Sullustan to hear while she’a struggles to breathe freely. “I will be glad to be back on Teagan, even if the only reason is to get away from him.”
“Hey, Snteil!” a voice cries out from several yards behind him. Around the nose of a parked X-Wing fighter, Jan jogs into view, when he suddenly stops and stares at the scene next to the Aurora. A few seconds pass, and Jan sprints toward them.
Quickly reaching them, Jan kneels next to the Devon and asks, “Are you okay?”
Even in he’ir weakened state, she’a whips her body away from the Jedi and softly exclaims, “Don’t touch me, Naseth!”
A look of surprised shock forms on Jan’s face, as he falls silent and looks upon he’ir. After a brief moment, he turns to Snteil and asks, “What happened?”
“It appears that the Devon is allergic to Wookiees,” he says as he picks the Devon up off the floor. "Come along. I’ve got breathing masks on board.
“Wow!” Jan responds. “I hope it’s only he’ir.”
“I don’t know, I’ve never encountered Devons before,” Snteil says.
“So Jan, what are your plans? I still have to deliver he’ir to the Devon authorities…what’s next for you?”
“Actually, Master Skywalker wants me to go along with you. He has appointed me to deliver a message of peace to the Devon. To that end, he asked Tionne to assemble all known information about the Devon and hand it over to me to study on the trip. She should be arriving at any moment to deliver the datacard. Do you have a datapad that I can borrow?”
“What kind of ship do you think I run here?” he says with a wink. “Of course I have a datapad! I’ll go get it for you.”
Jan smiles. “Okay, thanks!”
Turning back to the Devon, “Alright, let’s go, back to your cell. I’ll get a breath mask for you. Hopefully that will make you more comfortable. Do you require food since you just emptied your stomach?”
She’a nods weakly as Snteil lifts he’ir off the cold floor and carries her into the ship and to he’ir cell where he removes the binders on he’ir wrists, stopping only to grab a breath mask.
After the binders are removed, she’a rubs he’ir wrists and says, "Thank you, Snteil.
“Although I do appreciate the breath mask, I feel that it will not totally prevent Kashyyyk’s scent from reaching me, as his musk is somewhere on my body. Is there any way that I can borrow your refresher? I will even let you watch over me.”
“I’ll get something arranged for you. For the moment, the breath mask is going to have to do. I’ll be back shortly.” With that, he leaves and re-seal the cell door. She’a sighs and lifts the breath mask to he’ir face as the cell door shuts.
While retrieving a datapad for Jan, Snteil runs into KG after he’s finished showering. “Sorry pal. If it’s any consolation, I’ve gotten used to your smell!” he says with a smile.
“I’ve gotten used to yours as well.”
A few minutes later after Snteil hands the datapad over to Jan, the Sullustan hears a woman’s voice call out from the boarding ramp.
Snteil heads down the ramp. “Looking for someone?” he says to the newcomer.
Standing at the foot of the boarding ramp is Tionne, holding a single data card in her hand.
“Captain Seit, thank you,” she answers. “I have a datacard that is supposed to go to Jan Tolbara. Could you please make sure that he gets it?”
Before Snteil has a chance to respond, Zeethree walks into view at the top of the boarding ramp while holding a blaster rifle.
“Put your hands in the air and step away from him,” the droid demands harshly while training the gun on Tionne.
The Jedi’s jaw drops open as she gazes at Zeethree.
“You can’t be serious!” cries Tionne. “I’m only here to deliver a datacard.”
Zeethree replies skeptically, “Yeah, likely story. Drop the device, and let me see those hands.”
“Zeethree!” Snteil snaps, “What are you doing!?! These are Jedi,” Snteil continues as he walks up the ramp towards Zeethree. “Jedi are good people, you can let your guard down here,” he continues towards Zeethree and puts his hand on the droid’s shoulder. “Now just give me the blaster…” Snteil begins to reach for the blaster with his outstretched hand, then deftly darts his hand that had been resting on Zeethree’s shoulder over and flicks the switch to shut Zeethree down.
As soon as Snteil sees that Zeethree is shut down, he snaps. “Stupid frakking droid!!” he yells as he hits Zeethree hard in the chest and shoves him into the bulkhead wall. As Zeethree’s lifeless hulk crumples on the floor of the ship, Snteil continues to berrate the droid, “Look what you made me do! I can’t handle this anymore! You god damn droid…I can’t take your paranoia anymore!” He calms down slightly and looks crest fallen, “You’ve left me no choice, old friend.”
Suddenly, Snteil remembers he has an audience. “Oh, I’m sorry. You said you had something for me, Master Jedi?”
“Um,” Tionne begins, apparently embarrassed with the situation between Snteil and his droid. “Yes. Could you please deliver this datacard to Jan? He needs it for his trip.”
After Snteil takes the datacard and Tionne departs, the pilot walks up the ramp and stops to find Jan standing at the far end of the short corridor with a remorseful look on his face.
Snteil walks down the corridor and hands the datacard to Jan. “This is apparently for you,” he says then heads back to pick up Zeethree. He carries the droid to the back and straps him in to keep him from getting knocked around.
Jan looks at the datacard for a few seconds. He looks up at Snteil and says before retreating back through the hatch, “For what it’s worth, Snteil, I’m sorry.”
Snteil shrugs, “It’s been a long time coming, Master Tolbara. Let’s be honest, we’re lucky he hasn’t hurt anybody, yet.”
As Snteil carries Zeethree into the lounge and sets him down, Arsix rolls into the room and stops short upon seeing the ship’s captain. Its domed head swivels to peer at Zeethree, turns to gaze briefly at Jan seated with the datapad on the far side of the room, and then
centers on Snteil before uttering a question in Binary.
“Are you asking what happened to Zeethree?” Snteil asks.
Arsix responds with an affirmative tone.
“He’s sick, Arsix,” Snteil says, crestfallen. “His paranoia is going to get himself or someone else killed, and I can’t take that chance anymore. I see no alternative than to have his memory wiped. Of course,” he continues, more to himself. "Maybe there’s a slicer out there who can surgically remove that part of his personality.
“Anyway, he’s no good to me if he can’t hold a blaster, but he’s even less use if he loses his piloting capability. But, I can’t afford to have him hurt someone he shouldn’t just because of his programming glitch.
“You see my dilemma?
“Nevermind the fact that I’m talking about losing one of my oldest friends.”
Arsix whistles loudly and rushes to the nearest computer terminal. Extending its scomp-link, the droid plugs in and rifles through a number of dossiers, until it stops on one. Arsix whistles again and waits by the terminal.
“What have you got there, Arsix?” he asks as he steps over to look at the file.
The file is of a Human woman in her early 20s named Shannon Voorson, noted as a highly skilled slicer that worked for the Rebellion during the Galactic Civil War.
A message appears on the screen from Arsix that says, “She is with the woman you encountered earlier at the academy’s cafeteria. I saw the two of them together in the audience hall, when we brought the prisoner in.”
With a nod, Snteil through the ship toward the boarding ramp, nearly running into Jan on the way. Jan leaps against the wall to avoid the collision.
Snteil doesn’t stop. “Be right back.”
Moments later, the Sullustan darts into the temple’s computer library and spots two women sitting around a nearby terminal. The one with the blonde hair tied back in a ponytail he remembers as the one he saw in the cafeteria earlier. The other with dark, shoulder-length hair he recognizes as the one Arsix showed him, Shannon Voorson. “Excuse me.”
The women look in his direction. Shannon gives a half-frown. “Something I can help you with?”
“Sorry to interrupt you, but I am in need of your computer skills.”
The women look at each other for a second before turning back to him. Shannon shrugs. “Might as well. You’ve already interrupted us.” She stands and walks toward Snteil, a look of utter annoyance graces her face. “Renci, could you please?”
The other woman, Renci, nods and scoots her chair closer to the terminal as Shannon leaves with Snteil.
“I’m really sorry to take you away from what you were doing.” Snteil weighs his words, hoping not to annoy her further.
“As long as this doesn’t take too long, you’re fine. I have only so many days here before I have to go back to Coruscant. And believe me, my trip here isn’t a vacation. I was sent by the New Republic to fix their computer issues.”
Back on the ship, the pair enter the back room where the unpowered Zeethree waits. Arsix stands next to the protocol droid.
Snteil points at Zeethree. “There he is. Do you think you can find the flaw in his programming and fix it?”
Shannon shakes her head and sighs. “Let me see what I can do.”
A short time later, Kurrelgyrre walks into the cockpit to find Snteil sitting in muted contemplation. “Snteil, you okay?”
“Huh?” Snteil looks over his shoulder at the Wookiee. “I’m just worried about Zeethree. Arsix referred me to a slicer that’s here for a while. She’s looking through Zeethree’s programming right now.”
KG sits in the co-pilot’s chair and claps a furry hand on Snteil’s shoulder. “I know how you feel. I had similar feelings while we were looking for Jan. It’s rough. Trust in the Force, and everything will turn out fine.”
Snteil steals a glance at his friend. “I hope you’re right.”
“I know I’m right.” Kurrelgyrre pulls his hand back.
With a nod, Snteil responds to KG’s words of encouragement. “Thanks.”
Snteil and Kurrelgyrre turn to find Jan standing in the doorway.
“Your slicer friend wants to see you.”
Returning to the back room, they discover Shannon sitting in front of Zeethree and fastening a data transfer cable to the droid’s torso. She stops and looks at the group, giving them a neutral expression. “Okay, I’ve found your problem. I can fix it, but it will take some time that I don’t have while I’m here. I can take his programming with me back to Coruscant and fix it while in transit, or you can deal with the bugs until you can find another slicer with the time to dedicate to your issue.”
Snteil stares back at her, speechless.
“Wow.” Jan tries to keep his voice low, but the glance he receives from Kurrelgyrre tells him that he failed.
Shaking his head, Snteil moves toward the door. “I’ll need to think about this.”
The pilot passes through the door. Kurrelgyrre moves to follow, but a firm hand catches his arm. He finds Jan at the other end of the impeding hand.
“Give him some time, KG. He knows he has our support, but this is a decision he alone has to make.”
The Wookiee stares at the open doorway and back to his friend. He displays a slight frown but nods. “Very well.”
Several minutes pass before Snteil returns. Only Shannon and Zeethree remain in the room, but Arsix rolls in behind him.
“Shannon, go ahead and take the programming. Arsix tells me you’re one of the best, and I don’t know how soon I’ll find another slicer.”
She nods with a grim smile and touches a couple of buttons on the terminal.
He watches the file transfer commence from the droid to the data card inserted into the computer. Within minutes, the transfer is complete, and she pockets the card.
Shannon steps toward the door but stops next to Snteil. “Don’t worry. I’ll take good care of it. If it means anything, I noticed that you have a backup of his programming already stored here.” She doesn’t wait for a response before departing.
“That’s right. I do have a copy of him. If all else fails, I can fall back on that.” A smile forms on his face.
Snteil bolts from the room toward the bridge. “Okay, guys! Let’s get this show on the road.”