Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
The younglings had spent the journey reading through the sparse set of files the Order currently had on 979-D. The scouting report described a small planet, barely equal in size to one of Coruscant’s moons, composed primarily of canyons and caverns that had been carved over time by a complicated and planet-spanning system of rivers. The source of these rivers was hidden; 979-D lacked any evident ocean on its surface, which led the scouts to theorize that the water came from some large underground reservoir, feeding into itself and back out again like a large aquatic heart.
There were no maps in the file and while Master Klaos had referred to the planet as uninhabited the official designation was “assumed uninhabited.” Exploration and discovery were important values to the Jedi, but many such values had been given less attention as the Wars had continued, and so it went through most of the galaxy. Once the Republic wins, went the mantra among most of its citizens. Once we win, we can return to that which made us the Republic.
The Recluse dropped out of hyperspace. 979-D was alone in its star system, but close enough to that star to receive the light and heat it needed to maintain a mild climate and temperature. Klaos initiated a scan of the surface and called Robrus over to the console.
“Dahn,” he said. “Look at this scan. Tell me: Where would you touch down?”
Robrus studied the terrain and the atmospheric readings. He focused in on a large plateau near a wide basin of water where the ground was flat and easy to land on.
“There,” he said.
“Good,” Klaos said. He proceeded to chart and program a landing path that steered away from the region where Robrus had pointed. The Recluse made its way towards a dim and jagged canyon.
“You disagree,” Robrus said.
“I don’t,” Klaos replied. “That’s exactly the place I’d touch down if all things were ideal.”
“Which is why we’re landing someplace that isn’t ideal,” Janara interjected.
“Yes. I would crash-land the ship if I knew how to do it without killing us all. Nothing is perfect.” He landed the Recluse roughly within the canyon on a large rocky outcropping, a decent height from the dusty ground below, and opened the lower hatch. “Everybody out,” he commanded them. “Grab anything you think you might need.” The younglings moved quickly, picking up various supplies and personal effects, and then disembarked from the ship. Klaos stepped off shortly after with a small shoulder pack and motioned for the three to step back. The hatch closed and the ship ascended out of the canyon, piloted by droid.
“Hope you didn’t forget anything,” Klaos said.
“Where did the ship go?” Myell asked.
“The Recluse is going to wait for us at the coordinates young Dahn suggested earlier. Our job is to get from here to there within the next three days.”
“And if we don’t get there in time?” Janara asked.
“It will move to a randomly plotted location and we’ll have to go find it. It will do that every three days until either we get back to it or the Order sends somebody to rescue us.” His expression grew grim. “I’d be very disappointed if the Order had to send somebody. My disappointment is not something you want to see.” The younglings straightened their postures and took Master Klaos at his word.
“Where do we go?” Janara asked.
“I don’t know,” Klaos said.
“What?” she said.
“I do not know where to go, Vosenn. I’ve never explored this planet before.”
“You haven’t? But what if…how could you bring us…Master, we could all die out here.”
“Vosenn, I would be a poor survival teacher indeed if anyone died. Are you saying that I’m a poor teacher?”
“Of…of course not, Master, I just…”
“Make a decision, then,” he ordered her. “Tell us what to do first.”
Janara examined the canyon around them. The walls had been worn to a smooth polish by the centuries of water that had carved them, but there were clearly handholds to be found. Below them she could see a gently moving stream cutting a thin vein across the ground. They stood an easier chance of finding the Recluse once they could return to the surface, but it was clear that they were closer to the bottom of the canyon than its opening.
“Up or down?” Klaos asked. “Those are your options, Vosenn.”
“Down,” she answered. “We’ll follow the stream into the caverns and see if we can locate the central source of the water.”
“Reasonable,” Klaos agreed. “Did one of you remember to grab the rope or did we already begin this adventure with disaster?” Robrus opened his pack and pulled out a length of thick line. “Good,” Klaos said. “I’ll meet you down there.” He jumped from the outcropping, using the Force to cushion his landing, and sat quietly in the dust, waiting.
It took the younglings the better part of an hour to safely affix the rope to the canyon wall and descend. Robrus and Myell’s expressions were placid as they lit upon the ground; Janara’s was frustrated. Klaos knew that she had already mastered the skill of safely jumping from great heights and it must have been agonizing to use the relatively primitive skill of climbing.
“Why didn’t you jump?” he asked her.
“Myell doesn’t know how yet,” she said. “I wanted to stay with her during the climb.”
“That’s kind,” Klaos said. “It’s also foolish.”
“Surviving this situation requires you to be cold, not kind. Nature is unkind. Unforgiving. When you decided to stay with Myell you conceded an advantage of your skills.”
“I didn’t want her to fall,” Janara protested.
“And if she had fallen?” Klaos asked. “What then?”
“I would have used the Force to catch her.”
“While holding onto the rope?”
“Or would you have been in a better position to catch her with both of your feet on the ground, and both of your hands capable of focusing the Force on her body?”
Janara was silent. Master Klaos was correct.
“You stayed with Myell out of your own fear,” Klaos said. “Fear has no place in a Jedi. And Myell is stronger than you give her credit for.” Myell shrunk into herself.
“You are,” Klaos told her. “You hold back because you’ve become secure in Janara’s protection. A Jedi must be self-sufficient, not secure. Do you understand me, child?”
“I do,” she said quietly.
“Good,” Klaos said. He reached out with the Force and gave Myell’s ankle a harsh twist. She collapsed to the ground, howling in pain. Janara lunged at Klaos furiously only to be pushed back by a blast of the Force from his hand. Klaos looked at Robrus, who was frozen in one spot, horrified by what he was seeing.
“What happened to you, Dahn?” Klaos admonished. “Vosenn at least tried to subdue me.” Robrus snapped out of his shock and took a quick step towards Klaos, who flung him back towards Janara. “Too late,” Klaos said. “Both of you, stay where you are. I wish to have this moment with Myell.”
Myell’s howl had subsided, replaced by choked sobs. She held a tight grip on her ankle and looked up at Klaos with terror in her eyes. He knelt down in front of her.
“Hurts, I know,” Klaos said.
“You broke it,” Myell gasped.
“No,” Klaos said. “That would be more cruel than instructive. I want you to pay close attention. Focus on my voice and my words instead of your pain. Yes?” Myell closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them again she fixed her gaze on his face, her expression hardening and the sharp agony in her ankle transforming into a distant, throbbing ache.
“Yes,” she said, evenly.
“Master Ti informs me that your use of the Force to increase your speed has far excelled that of other younglings. Is that true?”
“I was the same, when I was a youngling,” Klaos said. “Which is why I’m going to show you what else you can do with it.” He grabbed a sharp rock from nearby and slashed the palm of his hand, creating an oozing red gash across it. “Your body is capable of healing from any injury given enough time. Death comes when the injury is faster. But we may, with concentration, draw the Force to command the smallest parts of ourselves to work faster still.” He placed two fingers near the gash and closed his eyes. Myell watched as the wound closed itself.
Robrus and Janara had picked themselves up and walked closer to Klaos and Myell when it became clear that the sudden attack had not been an attack at all. They stood over him now and watched him open and close his renewed hand.
“Now,” Klaos said, placing his hand over hers on her ankle. “Try it. I’ll help you.”
Myell closed her eyes and channeled the Force through her hand, feeling Master Klaos amplify her power. She visualized the raw fire of the pain, then the lightning of her nerves, the fibers of the muscles, the texture of the fibers, the cells of the textures. She could see, in the tiniest detail, the process of the broken pieces within her pain crawling to put themselves back together. She whittled her handle on the Force to a needle’s point and directed it towards those broken pieces. The slouch of her healing increased to an imperceptible blur. The fire cooled and extinguished. When she opened her eyes again the damage done to her ankle was a memory. She looked up at Master Klaos and smiled.
“Well done,” Klaos said, standing. He turned to Janara and Robrus. “You have time for one question each. Vosenn.”
“Do you do that to all of your students?” she demanded.
“No,” he replied. “Dahn.”
“How old are you, Master Klaos?” he asked. Klaos flinched, then smiled.
“Aha. That’s not what you’re truly asking, is it? You want to know the extent of the skill I just taught Myell.”
“Yes,” Robrus replied.
“You cannot halt altogether your body’s decay. But you can, yes, slow it down considerably. I am older than I look, which is all I will say on that subject.”
“Can you live forever?” Janara asked.
“One question, I said.”
“Can you live forever?” Myell asked, standing up behind him. Klaos smirked.
“I don’t know if I can live forever,” Klaos said. “I’ve never tried.”
“Master Yoda told me that the pursuit of immortality is a path to the Dark Side,” Robrus said.
“Master Yoda’s people live for centuries,” Klaos replied, “and I would trust his wisdom.” He grabbed his shoulder pack and pointed in the direction of a nearby cave. “No more questions,” he said. “Lessons are over for now, but we still have a task to accomplish. Vosenn, this was your plan. Kindly take the lead.”
Klaos and the younglings marched toward the entrance of the cave. They did not see the shadow of concern that went across his face as they entered. He intended to let the younglings solve as many problems as they encountered, but he kept his nerves sharp all the same.
Something was awry within this planet. At this moment he could not decide if it was dangerous.
END OF PART IV