Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
He had been meditating for nearly an hour before he remembered why meditation had never been a particularly strong skill of his, at any stage of his training and well after he’d achieved the rank of Jedi Knight. Master Yoda’s chiding yet congenial voice came forth from his memory.
Clear your mind you cannot, he had said. Always concerned with the physical realm, you are.
Determined to prove himself capable of pushing past his limitations, Klaos had redoubled his efforts, had stayed in the meditation room long after other padawans had ended their day’s training. He had learned only that telling himself repeatedly to clear his mind was not an effective way of clearing his mind. Master Yoda had praised his effort and forgiven his failure, nonetheless.
Differences there are with all Jedi, he had said. If skill here you do not have, then skills elsewhere the Force has given you. For what purpose, only you shall know.
Klaos stood up and looked at the sapphire tunnel of hyperspace in front of him. Waiting patiently for his death would be unlike him; he found himself disinterested by the prospect of mere surrender. Whenever the Recluse inevitably collided with the asteroid or planet that was even now certainly moving into its path, Klaos decided he would be awake and on his feet. He left the cockpit and walked around the ship, studying the details of the walls and floors. He had not been captain of the Recluse when it had first crashed on Hoth; he had inherited it, after a fashion, by being the only one left alive and by restoring it to working status. There in the corner were the scorch marks from his earliest attempts to fuse together torn wires. There on the floor were the scratches made by his crude, unsteady, wampa-claw tools. There was the dent in the doorway where he’d once, dangerously, expressed his frustration through the Force.
He wandered near the door of the docking ring for the departed, destroyed shuttle. He wished for his younglings’ final act to have been a triumph, but here now, trapped in hyperspace and hurtling towards an unpredictable doom, it seemed unlikely he would be able to help the Order in the way that they had commanded him. He imagined what Janara, Robrus, and Myell would be saying or doing if they were here with him now. He was overcome with emotion but refused to weep, as he would have refused were they in front of him.
Near the floor by the docking ring Klaos saw something small and unfamiliar, placed in such a way that it could only have been done so deliberately. He walked over and picked it up, and as he held it he recognized it as the pouch Myell had kept around her neck. He opened it and found the figurine inside it, The Treskerax, a heroine from days long gone, its lightsaber poised to defend against any opponent coming her way. In spite of his sadness, Klaos smiled. Myell must have known, even before Robrus and Janara joined her in the shuttle, that she would be proposing a plan to save their master. He could envision her taking the pouch off, putting it to the side, letting go of her childhood once and for all.
Be strong, the youngling had said. May the Force be with you.
Klaos knelt again now, holding tight to Myell’s discarded figurine, treating the docking area as if it were sacred ground for fallen warriors. He was in an impossible situation, but he remembered when he had felt similarly on Hoth — impossible situations were his specialty now. They were the purpose Master Yoda had spoken of, the purpose only he would know. He closed his eyes and focused his energy, willing himself not to connect to the Force to find serenity, but to channel it into one last, unlikely attempt to extract himself from his predicament. He could see in his mind’s eye every inch of the Recluse, this ship he had once reassembled with his bare hands. He saw the conduits and fuses, the fuel lines and power cells. He saw the joints where the metal had been welded together. He traveled slowly in his mind through the inches of his ship until he located the outer edge of its damaged hyperdrive.
He could not repair the hyperdrive in this way; the damage was too great and the procedures too delicate. But he might, perhaps, be able to jettison the hyperdrive entirely by detaching it from the ship. It was a gamble, but since he was living on borrowed time anyhow, the risk of doing nothing seemed equitable. He focused on a fastener and slowly began to twist it out of its socket.
He was unaware of how much time had passed or how much progress he had made when he heard the first groans of the ship straining to hold onto the hyperdrive. He grew more careful with his actions, attempting to keep the power cells connected for as long as possible. When the drive detached he was unsure if the sudden drop out of hyperspace would break the ship in half. He braced himself and reached out to the last of the components holding the drive in place.
The sound of the hyperdrive ripping off of the ship lasted less than a second before being replaced by the angry pounding of the ship tumbling free of hyperspace. The remaining crates in the hold fell and flew around him as he dug his hand into the edge of a doorway. The hull was holding, despite its protests, and he could feel the ship begin to float in the vacuum out of momentum instead of propulsion. Klaos stood and went up to the cockpit. He turned the droid back on and began to scan his surroundings. The galaxy was completely unfamiliar to both his eyes and the computer’s data banks, and the system he was within seemed small and desolate — eight, possibly nine planets revolving around a single star, and the majority of them incapable of supporting life. The planet he had fallen out of hyperspace nearest was red and rocky, with canyons cut by absent water. He imagined this was what 979-D would look like in a few thousand years.
The next planet closer in orbit to the star, however, was verdant and vibrant, and he charted a course towards it. As the ship moved closer, the scanners began to pick up signs of life scattered across the surface–humanoid, but also other intelligent creatures of whom he’d never seen quite the like. He briefly allowed his relief at discovering an inhabitable world cloud his judgment, considered entering landing coordinates that would place him in a central concentration of the populace. But this was a new world, strange and alien, with customs no Jedi had ever seen, and it would be foolhardy to assume that he could blend into their society simply because they appeared on the surface to be a similar species. He piloted the Recluse towards the barren, sparsely inhabited northern icecap, and landed within a clearing of green trees covered with peculiar needles.
Klaos scouted the layout of the region, learned the patterns of the game animals, built shelters from ice and wood carved precisely by his lightsaber. He kept his distance from the nearby village, making short, discreet trips in order to discern the nuances of the language, which fortunately included many of the same basic components as Standard. He spoke no words aloud to anybody, not even to himself. He kept in his mind the memory of the creature he and the younglings had faced in the caverns of 979-D, the despair and solitude that had led it to fall to the Dark Side, and did his best to stave off such a fate. The Force permeated this planet but to his limited survey few knew how to wield it, or if they did they lacked understanding of how they had used it — a word of exceptional persuasion between merchant and buyer, a burst of violent power within a tavern brawl. If he were to be corrupted, he knew, in short time he could rise to become the conqueror of these people and any people he encountered as his reach expanded. He would rule the entire star system, empty planets and all, and then begin to thirst for systems beyond it. Nobody on this world would have the power to stop him.
On one foray into the village he watched the younglings. They were of hardy stock, Klaos noticed, capable of thriving in this environment. But more than that: They smiled. They laughed. They played with each other. Klaos had forgotten that this was what younglings did when they were not being put through their paces by their Jedi masters. It filled him with sorrow and regret. He thought of a war that felt long ago and far, far away, lost somewhere beyond the borders of his known universe, of the thousands dead and injured, the cultures displaced and those demolished, unlikely to recover. He thought of the way his masters had used the word peacekeepers when he was younger and how that word had fallen into disuse after the first engagements with the Separatists. He thought of the planets that had ceased being known as homeworlds, and instead had become known as Battles — Christophsis, Ryloth, Umbara. Klaos reflected on his time as a Jedi, as a teacher of young minds and bodies, on the occasional pain and misery he had inflicted under the auspices of helping them to grow.
And decided that he was done.
One particularly dark and cold evening, Klaos ventured for the first time into the village as a guest instead of a shadow. He remained taciturn, as if only passing through, but it was enough to make him feel part of these people for the first time. In the corner of the village tavern, he watched as a young mother huddled near the fire with a infant girl, trying in frustration to calm the child. Klaos stood and approached them, his posture open and inviting.
“Shh,” he said to the youngling, reaching out with the Force to help ease her anxiety. He touched her forehead with his hand, marveling at how soft and unscarred by existence it still was. He spoke to the child in his crude, slow attempts at the native tongue. “You are safe. All is well.” He reached into the pocket of his coat and withdrew Myell’s figurine, and placed it within the child’s grasp. She looked at it with wonder, her tears ceasing to flow. Then, in Standard, Klaos whispered to the child:
“Be strong. May the Force be with you.”
He nodded respectfully at the grateful mother, then turned on his heel and walked out of the tavern. As he walked back to his shelter in the forest, he imagined other figures he would spend the days ahead carving, and thought of the other objects he had seen the children playing with. Klaos thought of his oath to the Jedi, and to the Republic, and above them he layered an oath to himself that he would never again prepare children to be anything other than children.
It filled him with purpose. He got to work.
END OF PART VIII