Gray Jedi Ch. 10 "Serra, what's our status?" Malik asked. "Just broke through the atmosphere, but Imperial fighters are hot on our tail." "Rex, let's man the guns," Malik said. "Better idea: Rex and Laranth. I need you here, Malik," Serra replied. "Good call, that girl's a sure-shot." "I'll fetch her," Rex said, jogging out of the cockpit.
Down the hallway, he saw Jax consoling a very distraught Laranth Tarak. "It'll be ok, Laranth…" "NO!!!
I want to kill those bastards for what they did to Dex!" the Twi'lek replied. "Here's your chance," Rex said to them. "We've got fighters on our tail, and you and I are gonna man the guns.
You up for it?" Drying her tears, Laranth stood with a determined look in her eyes. "Just show me where they are, and I will end them." "Your station's down the hallway to the right, I'm down the left.
Jax, they'll probably need your help in the cockpit." "On it!" The trio broke up to their respective destinations. By the time Jax had arrived in the cockpit, Rex and Laranth were already powering up the main guns.
"Jax, keep an eye on the scope, give regular callouts to anything you see," Serra said. "Understood." "I'll get the hyperspace coordinates calculated.
Just hold 'em off for a few minutes," Malik said. "Activating cloaking systems." "That may not help us," Serra replied. "Sensors are picking up a new signal. Looks like the lead fighter chasing us is using a powerful, concentrated scanning system.
They're able to track our location, even while cloaked." "Got that, Rex? Take these guys out, or we're sitting ducks." "Copy that." By this time, a squadron of five ARC-170 fighters had caught up from the surface, beginning to pepper their shields with blaster fire.
The Middle Way held up, and Rex and Laranth soon began to return fire with gusto. Rex was aided by his familiarity with the tactics of the clone pilots they faced, and Laranth's incredible sense of prediction and timing proved invaluable. Within seconds, they had whittled the squadron down to two, though the lead fighter remained in hot pursuit.
"Nice shooting!" Malik said into the comlink. "Don't get cocky, Malik. Look," Serra replied. "Huh? Oh crap, that's bad…" Turning to look forward, Malik now saw a Star Destroyer moving to intercept them. As the battleship approached, another group of twenty fighters launched from the hangar and barreled towards the Middle Way. "Rex, Laranth, heads up! Got more fighters coming in ahead!" Malik said.
As Serra adjusted course to keep some distance between them and the incoming hostiles, the gunners began to fire on the group from a distance. This time, their goal was not necessarily to hit them, but to fire into their expected trajectory and delay their ability to get in range.
Thanks to a couple of well-timed callouts from Jax, they managed to accomplish this with some success.
Still, their time was running short. "Uh oh," Jax said from the radarscope. "Got more hostiles coming in from behind. Just launched from Coruscant." "I've got 'em. Laranth, keep on those bogeys from the Star Destroyer." "Will do," Laranth replied.
"Almost ready for the jump to hyperspace, just a few more seconds," Malik said. "Copy… wait, scratch that! Do not go to hyperspace! Repeat: do NOT go to hyperspace!" Rex shouted. "What?
Why not?!" Serra asked. "I can only outfly them for so long!" "The new hostiles chasing us are improved versions of the standard ARC-170 fighters; they're new prototypes equipped with some of the most powerful tracking equipment available.
As long as they maintain a target-lock on us as we go to hyperspace, they'll be able to track and follow us anywhere in the galaxy, cloaked or not!" "Only one choice now, Serra: we've gotta lose 'em," Malik sighed.
"On it! Just keep those fighters off us!" Rex and Laranth continued to attack the fighters chasing them. They managed to down a few of them, but their numbers were soon bolstered by the arrival of the squadron that had launched from the Star Destroyer. A few moments later, the Middle Way was rocked by a powerful hit from behind.
"Shield generator's hit! Power is at eighty-five percent, but dropping steadily," Jax reported. "Cloaking systems were disrupted, too," Malik said. "Ok, here we go. Malik, get the hyperdrive ready to activate, 'cause this is our shot." "Wait, what are you doing, Serra?" "That's Centax-1 up ahead, Coruscant's largest moon.
I'm gonna use it to give us a lunar slingshot assist," Serra replied. "You're nuts!" Jax laughed. "You got a better idea?" Serra fired back. "It'll get the fighters off our backs for just long enough to escape undetected." "It's as good a plan as any. Jax, let me know the moment we've broken target lock," Malik agreed. As Serra approached the moon, Malik began running a variable calculation program on the hyperdrive systems.
This would allow their lightspeed coordinates to keep up with the speed increase from the slingshot assist. But as Serra began her maneuvers, a call came in from Rex. "Serra, I think they've figured out your strategy! Two of the prototype fighters are moving in for a slingshot assist as well! They'll tear us to pieces before we can build up enough speed!" "On it!" said Laranth.
Two ARC-170 fighters moved into position and unleashed a volley of blaster fire on the Middle Way. At that moment, Laranth activated her cannon's rapid-fire mode and began predicting the trajectory of the incoming shots with the Force. It took immense concentration, but she managed to neutralize the blaster fire with her own before throwing the two pursuing fighters off with a pair of precision shots.
"You've got your opening, Serra!" she shouted. "Ok, here we go. Hold on!" Serra adjusted the throttle and began her tight orbit around Cintax-1. The fighters kept up as best they could and maintained target lock for a few seconds. Still, the furious return fire from Rex and Laranth made it difficult, and they soon began to fall behind. As Serra rounded the final curve of her flight path, Jax saw the computer light up. "Malik, we've broken target lock!" "Ok, here we go!
NOW!" The Middle Way lurched, the stars began to blur, and soon they had left Coruscant behind them. ***** "AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!" "This is now TWO failures for you, First Sister!" "Please… my Emperor…" "SILENCE!" Again and again Palpatine shocked her with Force Lightning. The pain was excruciating, but death would not come; Palpatine made sure of that.
He wanted to ensure that his message was well received. There would be no tolerance for such failures under his rule. At last relenting, he approached the smoking, crumpled form lying on the floor.
"Do not forget, First Sister… you are only of worth to the Empire when you accomplish our goals. You are strong, but you lack focus. Learn to fully embrace the Dark Side of the Force, or you will face certain oblivion.
It is that simple. Do I make myself clear?" "Y… yes, my Emperor…" "Good. Meditate on these things, First Sister. You still have much to learn." Palpatine then strode from the room, leaving the whimpering girl behind. He returned to his chambers activated his communications array. "Lord Vader, have you arrived?" "We are entering the Mustafar system as we speak, Master." "Excellent.
I have high hopes for our Grand Inquisitor. The First Sister has thus far been a disappointment." "I take it the fugitives have escaped?" "Indeed. They even managed to evade our trackers." "They will run and hide, Master. They know their days are numbered, and now the cowardice of the Jedi has been exposed. Rest assured, I shall not rest until they are brought to justice.
Have you any idea where they have gone?" "None. Though the First Sister did make one intelligent move: she has placed a bounty on the fugitives' heads. She managed to identify each of them, including the two interlopers that assisted in their escape yesterday.
Each now has a price of one million credits, dead or alive." "Shall I begin a search for them?" "Not at this time. Your primary focus must be on our new recruit. Ensure that he is prepared for the tasks that lie ahead.
Once he has become a true force to be feared, we shall unleash him upon the Jedi." "Yes, Master." ***** "How do we look, Serra?" Malik asked. "Could be worse," she called from below deck. "Engine and hyperdrive systems are operating perfectly.
Shields are a bit cooked, but should be an easy fix. And… there! The cloaking systems have been recalibrated. As long as we can find a safe port to repair the shields, we're no worse for the wear." "Would've been bad without Jax and Laranth…" "I'll say. That's twice they've saved our asses," Serra agreed.
The pair returned to the cockpit, finding Jax hard at work on the computer, while Rex and Laranth chatted off to the side.
"Malik, why didn't you tell me about this girl? She's a hell of a shot!" Rex gushed. "You are too kind, but you are the one with military training," Laranth replied with a giggle. "Yeah, she's somethin' else," Malik agreed. "How does it look out there, Jax?" "All's quiet. Nobody tracking us. I think we're in the clear." "Good. Ok, let's go over a few things," Serra said, taking a seat next to Malik.
"I can already see where this is going. We never intended to become stowaways on your ship. If you'll just drop us off at the nearest inhabited system, we'll find our own way back to Coruscant," Jax said. "Well… if that's what you really want, we're happy to help," Malik replied. "Still, I don't think going back to Coruscant is wise at this point. The Empire is going to be out for all of us. You'd be an easy target back there." "Fair enough.
Drop us off, and we'll figure out where to go next," Jax said. "Of course we will, if you really want us to. But we do have room to spare. If you want to stay a while longer, both of you are welcome," Serra said.
"That is very kind of you, but are you certain? We do not wish to burden you," Laranth replied. "No burden. You're friends, and you've already saved us twice. As far as we're concerned, you're welcome to travel with us for as long as you want," Serra said. "Besides, with the Empire dedicated to hunting us down, I think it best for us to stick together as much as possible," Malik agreed. "Hmm… I guess we can stay, at least until we reach another inhabited system," Jax said.
"But only if you're certain." "Positive," Malik said with a grin. "Well… I suppose it is our best option," Laranth agreed. "Awesome! We'll go get your quarters ready," Serra said, pulling Malik with her. "Welcome to the crew, hotshot," Rex said to Laranth. "We've got some time to kill.
What do you say to some target practice in the cargo hold?" Soon finding himself alone in the cockpit, Jax muttered, "Guess I'll just… keep an eye on our flight path…" ***** "Pull!" Another target drone launched into the air and was quickly downed by Laranth's pinpoint precision. "Damn! That's fifteen in a row!" Rex marveled. "Well, I can't have the embarrassment of missing and shooting a hole in our own ship, now can I?" Laranth giggled. "Nice try, but you know our blasters are on training mode.
I think you're just a bit of a showoff," Rex shot back. "Perhaps, but I have been using these DL-44 blasters for years.
After all this time, I cannot miss with them." "I know what you mean, I'm the same way with my DC-17's. Still, I always try to keep up my long gun skills. Versatility is never a bad thing," Rex said, picking up a blaster rifle from a box. "Where did you get that? That's a DC-15A!" "Old Dex had one that he swiped a few weeks back. He thought it'd do more good in my hands than his, so he gave it to me." Turning to the target launcher, Rex said, "Stationary target, distance: 300 meters." "300 meters?
How can you practice at that range in this tiny hold?" "One of the beautiful things about these target launchers, they're equipped with many different sized targets to simulate different distances," Rex replied. Backing up into the corner, he brought up his sights and targeted the tiny marble now floating in the air. After a few seconds, he held his breath, squeezed the trigger, and hit the marble dead center.
"Great shot!" Laranth squealed. "Yeah, this weapon is magnificent at long range. Here, you try." "Me? Oh, but I have never so much as held such a large weapon before," Laranth replied. "You handled those cannons like a pro earlier," Rex countered. "Yes, but that was a life-or-death situation, and I was mostly running on adrenaline." "Here, I'll show you a few pointers." Handing her the rifle, Rex continued, "Cradle the butt in the crook of your shoulder, and keep your right hand firmly on the grip for stability." "Like this?" "Perfect.
Try taking a shot. Stationary target. Distance: 100 meters." Laranth took aim at the small marble now floating in the room, trying her best not to rely on the Force. She squeezed the trigger, but her shot was off the mark. "Dammit! I suppose I am not as good a marksman as I would like to believe…" "Nah, you just aren't used to the weapon," Rex said.
"Here's the trick with heavier rifles like this one. Your left hand has to support the gun, but the more it tries to control it, the more off-target you'll be, as you just saw." "How do you mean?" Laranth asked. "Think about our ship's cannons or a battery of turbolasers. Their shots are so powerful that the barrel of the cannon is designed to recoil down a track, right?" "Yes." "The reason for that is to maintain accuracy. Smaller weapons such as pistols or light blaster rifles can be easily kept on target by controlling the upward recoil.
But larger guns, like the DC-15A, require that the shooter allow the gun to recoil. As with the cannons on our ship, think of your left hand as the track that the gun must slide back on in order to maintain accuracy. Obviously, this is only a miniscule amount, but it makes all the difference in the world, particularly at longer ranges." "Like this?" "No, still a bit too tight.
May I touch you to show you?" "Of course," Laranth smiled. Rex stepped behind Laranth and placed his hands on hers. Her right hand was firm and well positioned, but he had to provide some help with her left, moving it up and coaching her to relax her grip a bit. They first took a shot together, giving her more of a clue as to the proper grip and helping her confidence. After several accurate shots on her own, Laranth felt quite proficient with the weapon. "You are a wonderful teacher, Rex," Laranth said.
"Thanks. Had to learn how to coach on the job; it separates a good leader from a great one in the heat of battle." They sat on a pair of nearby boxes and began to disassemble and clean their weapons. "So… you and Jax seem like a great pair. You two made that troop of clones look like fools yesterday." "Thank you, though we did have the element of surprise. The fact that our fighting styles complement each other is also of great help." "Nice. You two must be pretty close to be so in tune," Rex commented.
"I suppose that is true." But not as close as I would like, Laranth couldn't help but think. ***** Jax stood alone in the hallway overlooking the cargo hold, watching from the window as Rex and Laranth practiced. They were bonding, becoming closer friends. He didn't understand. He had known her for years. Did that mean so little to her? They had watched each other's backs constantly in the weeks since Order 66. How could she so easily move on to Rex at the drop of a hat?
He thought they were closer than that. "Jealousy. Unbecoming, but nobody is completely immune." Jax spun at a voice coming from behind him, seeing Malik walking up. "Malik? Wha-" "Relax. I don't need to be a Jedi to read your mind right now," Malik laughed.
"What's up?" "Nothing," Jax replied, turning back to the window. "Liar. Spit it out already. I've seen the way you look at Laranth. Not that I can blame you.
She is an incredible beauty, and a cunning warrior to boot." Jax snorted. "You may have so easily caved to singular attachment, but some of us are able to hold true to the Order." "Maybe, but if you are as resistant to such emotions as you claim, why am I sensing nothing but jealousy from you right now?" "Fine," Jax sighed.
"She is… amazing." "Tell me about her," Malik encouraged him. "Well… the truth is we've known each other for years. We were actually initiates together in the Jedi Temple. We've trained together since childhood, part of why we make such a strong team in battle. Over the years, we grew up together and began to realize that we had an attraction that was far stronger than mere friendship.
After she left the Order in favor of the Gray Paladins, she wanted me to join her, not only as a Paladin but also as a partner. A lover. I… I couldn't bring myself to do it. Not after all the reminders of the Jedi Code I had been given over the years. But after she saved me from Order 66, everything has been bubbling back up all over again." "I'm guessing you were reprimanded for your personal feelings towards her?" "Yeah, several times," Jax replied.
"Mostly by Master Even Piell. He always seemed to catch us right as we were about to admit our feelings to each other. Master Piell made it perfectly clear to me that such feelings were not the Jedi way, and I had to purge myself of such emotional attachments." "Hmm… it seems Master Piell was not as wise as I thought." "Huh? What do you mean?" "Jax, I'm going to tell you something that you must keep secret, even from Rex and Laranth. Serra and I are the only ones who know of this.
Do I have your word?" "Um… sure. Of course." "Master Yoda is alive, Jax. After Serra and I began a relationship, we were still conflicted. Sensing our uncertainty, Yoda contacted us and asked to meet with us and see our relationship for himself." "I see. Did he… approve?" Jax asked. "In his own way. Considering what you know about Master Yoda, what do you think he would be doing in the aftermath of Order 66?" "I would think he blames himself for the fall of the Order, and is trying to understand how it happened and what could have been done differently." "Exactly!
Yoda believes that the stubbornness of the Jedi Order led in part to their downfall. He feels that the Jedi lacked the foresight to be able to adapt to changing times, compromising on issues where there was room to do so while still holding firm on our more important beliefs," Malik explained. "In seeing the relationship Serra and I have built, which is based on dedication and commitment, he agrees with our assessment that this is the will of the Force.
Being in love does not inherently lead to the Dark Side, Jax. It all depends on the context of those emotions." "I suppose you would know about things that lead to the Dark Side," Jax said. "What's that supposed to mean?" Malik asked, surprised by the insult. "I saw you fighting Offee as we made our escape. You used Force Lightning on her, didn't you?" "Ah… that's understandable.
Most Jedi believe Force Lightning to be a power specifically of the Dark Side, after all." "Are you going to try and convince me it's not?" Jax asked. "Whether I convince you or not is irrelevant, Jax. Lightning is a force of nature, nothing more, nothing less. Again, it all depends on the context. Yes, I have learned to harness Force Lightning, but I have never once drawn on anger or hatred to do so. Initially, it manifested as a reflex. I used it without realizing what I was doing to restart Serra's heart after she was nearly killed in Order 66.
Since then, I've worked to perfect using it at will while remaining true to the Light Side of the Force." "And you believe you've succeeded?" Malik shrugged. "Yoda himself praised my use of it, so take that as you will. And I'm not the first Jedi to use this power without falling to the Dark Side." "True, there was Master Plo Koon," Jax realized. Leaning against the window, he muttered, "Guess everything I've ever known has been turned on its head." "That's basically the nature of the galaxy," Malik offered.
"Everything changes, whether we like it or not. It comes down to how we respond to those changes." "Yeah… everything is changing…" "I know you think she's falling in love with Rex down there, but I don't think that's the case, Jax." "Why not?" "First, you underestimate the bond you share with Laranth.
These last few weeks have been a whirlwind for her too, so cut her a bit of slack. She's trying to keep up with all the changes, just like you." "Guess that makes sense. And second?" "Remember, Rex has his own emotional weight.
He's a clone defector, on his own for the first time in his life. He's just trying to find his way in the galaxy, forget any romantic attachments. Clones weren't even allowed such relationships!" "Hadn't thought of it like that," Jax said. "Trust me, what you're seeing down there is two individuals bonding over a shared love of marksmanship and weaponry. Still, you owe it to Laranth and yourself to be honest about how you feel.
If you aren't, then you have nobody but yourself to blame if she does fall for someone else someday." "So you think I should do it. That I should break the Jedi Code." "Jax, you're a big boy. I can't tell you what to do; you're not a Padawan anymore. You've got to make up your own damn mind. Is the Code more important, or are your feelings for Laranth more important?" Malik asked, turning to leave.
"You'll know when you figure it out." Once again, Jax was alone with his thoughts. ***** "Lord Vader, what are we doing in the Mustafar system?" "We are here for your training, Grand Inquisitor.
This planet is the forge that hardened me into what I am today. So shall it be with you." Turning to face his student, Vader continued, "Your weapon." "Er… of course," Blutt replied, handing his saberstaff to Vader. Clutching the weapon, Vader continued, "Though you have raised this weapon in the name of the Empire in the last two days, it is still a symbol of the traitorous Jedi Order.
You will use it no more." With that, Vader tossed the saberstaff off the edge of the platform on which they stood and into the river of lava below. "Am I to hunt Jedi with no means of defense?" Vader reached behind his back, withdrawing a black object. "Your new weapon." Taking the object from Vader, Blutt began to inspect the weapon. It was clearly a lightsaber, though in a rather peculiar shape.
The cylinder-shaped hilt was conventional enough, but a strip of metal extended from the top, connecting to the bottom of the hilt to form a crescent.
Gripping it in his slender hand, Blutt noticed a surprisingly large number of buttons on the control panel. "This weapon is the result of years of research and development by the emperor," Vader said. "It is the most versatile lightsaber ever created, capable of switching between single and dual blades in an instant with none of the compromises of the traditional saberstaff.
In addition, it possesses other… unique attributes not found in any other weapon." "Fascinating… how do I activate the saberstaff mode?
The controls are different than they were on my old lightsaber." "In due time, Grand Inquisitor. You were a powerful Jedi, but you cannot afford to limit yourself to only a saberstaff if you wish to hunt down the remaining Jedi. You must become adept in many styles of combat, for each Jedi has a technique all their own." Drawing his crimson lightsaber, Vader continued, "If you wish to best the Jedi, you must first contend with me." Unknown to all but the Emperor, Vader had spent the weeks since his defeat at Obi-Wan's hands in tireless training.
He not only desired to best his old master, but also had to become accustomed to his new, cumbersome body. Vader had worked without end, pouring over the recordings of his duel with Obi-Wan and perfecting different lightsaber forms against training drones, only pausing for the strongest urges of food and rest. Such was his dedication that, in a few short weeks, he had managed to incorporate advanced Soresu, Makashi, and Shii-Cho techniques into his preferred Djem So and Shein styles.
In spite of his mechanical body, he had become an imposing, intimidating, and deadly warrior. Gripping his new weapon, Blutt activated a single blade on his new lightsaber, savoring the red light before him. As a Jedi Temple Guard, he was trained in all forms of lightsaber combat except Vaapad, though he still had his strengths and weaknesses.
Beginning with his preferred Soresu opening, he stood in a defensive stance and awaited Vader's opening move. Swifter than anticipated, Vader lunged forward and executed the falling avalanche technique common to his Djem So form.
The overhead slash was so strong that Blutt was nearly driven to the ground even with a perfect block. Vader's brute strength was such that any head-on assault would result in a great advantage for the Sith Lord.
Giving ground once more, Blutt worked to keep his wits about him as he parried Vader's strikes. Blutt's concentration was great, but Vader remained relentless, slashing at him from every angle he could. Blutt began to wonder if Vader somehow knew exactly what he was going to do. After a successful block, Blutt moved in for a counterattack, only to have his attack parried before Vader Force Pushed him to the ground. "Wha?" Blutt gasped. "All too easy," Vader said, his sword pointing at Blutt.
"The last Jedi I faced was Obi-Wan Kenobi. He also uses the defensive Soresu style, but his is far more accomplished than yours. You are not so attuned with the Force that you can maintain such defenses for long periods of time, not like Kenobi can. You must let go of your preconceived notions of the Jedi Order. You must unlearn what you have learned. The Jedi relied too heavily on their defensive techniques, and so you must only do so when absolutely necessary.
Only by embracing your aggression and actively seeking to end the duel with a kill will you be able to hunt down the Jedi. Again." Rising to his feet, Blutt again assumed his Soresu opening stance. This time, he back-flipped over Vader's head after parrying the opening attack. As he landed, Blutt then shifted into a Makashi stance and began to thrust at Vader, attempting to penetrate his defenses.
"Ah, Count Dooku's technique," Vader observed. Blutt said nothing in reply, continuing his offensive as best as he could. Still, Vader's strength and ability to anticipate incoming strikes made it almost impossible for Blutt to get any solid openings on him. As the duel continued, Blutt began to corner Vader in an outcropping of rocks. Sensing the opportunity he needed, Blutt attempted to Force Push Vader to the ground and end the fight then and there, but Vader simply countered with a Force Push of his own.
This attack was so much stronger than Blutt's that it obliterated his attempt and still had power enough to push the Pau'an to the ground once again. "Better, but still sloppy," Vader remarked. "You are unwise to think you are as good as one of the greatest duelists the Jedi Order has ever produced.
I have bested Count Dooku myself; you will not defeat me with his techniques." "Wait… what did you say? You have bested Dooku?" "Enough," Vader replied lunging with his lightsaber. "Not for me," Blutt said, evading Vader's attack.
"Count Dooku was one of the greatest duelists the Jedi Order has ever seen. He was undefeated his entire career, and even following his defection to the Separatists. As I recall, he was only beaten once." "Silence!" "Yes, he was defeated… by you, Anakin Skywalker," Blutt chuckled.
"YAH!" Vader charged forward in a fit of rage. His blade locked with Blutt's, who just smiled and laughed the entire time. "It all makes sense now, Lord Vader. Beneath all the brooding and intimidation… you are still the same cocky brat you have been throughout your entire life. It would be humorous were it not so pathetic!" Before Blutt could anticipate, Vader broke their blade lock and leapt back a few paces. Stretching out his hand, he grabbed Blutt in a Force Choke, causing him to fly through the air and into Vader's grasp.
After delivering a pair of punches to the Pau'an's gut, Vader pinned him to the ground under his boot, lightsaber pointed at his throat. "You… have done well, Grand Inquisitor." "My Lord?" Blutt asked in confusion.
"With no instruction, you have tapped into a skill used extensively by the Sith: Dun Möch." "Dun Möch… the art of distraction?" "Indeed," Vader replied. "When properly utilized, Dun Möch diverts your opponent's concentration, perhaps giving you the opening you need to at last defeat them.
In addition, it is a form of psychological warfare. In battle, it is through the Dark Side that we attempt to dominate our enemies and impose our will upon them. Dun Möch helps accomplish this by breaking their spirit. The greatest user of the technique is the Emperor. He takes this skill to new heights when combined with his intellect and meticulous planning. In fact, the entire Clone War was an extreme exercise in Dun Möch." "Highly effective," Blutt remarked from the ground.
"May I be allowed to rise?" "No," Vader replied, pressing his foot down harder. "Here, you now learn the disadvantages of Dun Möch when applied improperly. Overuse of the technique can result in your enemy becoming enraged, not distracted. Even the Jedi can be susceptible to what they call 'righteous anger'. With such fury, even the most overwhelmed of opponents could turn the tide. Do you understand, Grand Inquisitor?" "I do.
You were distracted when I discovered your true identity. But in taunting you so fiercely, I was my own undoing…" "Precisely." With a final bit of pressure, Vader released him from beneath his boot, at last allowing Blutt to rise to his feet. "You are a surprisingly effective teacher, Skywal-" "That name carries no meaning for me!" Vader rebuked him. "Anakin Skywalker was a Jedi, and thus, a disgrace.
I destroyed him, and in so doing became stronger than he could have ever dreamed of. In the same way, you must cast out your identity of Topal Blutt. Topal Blutt is dead. Only the Grand Inquisitor remains. You will do well to remember this." "I… I understand, Lord Vader." "Good. And another thing: the only other individual who knows of my past is the Emperor, and it shall remain so.
Otherwise, the consequences for you will be most dire indeed." "Yes, Lord Vader. None shall know." "Now, engage me again, Grand Inquisitor." ***** "Hey, Serra." "Malik, come have a look at this," she replied, beckoning him to the copilot's seat. "Whatcha got?" "I've been looking over the holocrons we swiped from the vault. One of 'em had some particularly interesting information. See?" Inspecting the tiny images in front of him, Malik mused, "Whoa… no wonder this was locked away in the holocron vault.
If the Emperor ever got his hands on this…" "It would ensure no future Jedi could ever exist," Serra finished. "This holocron details the location of the ice caves on Ilum. You know what's there, right?" "How could I forget? It's where Padawans travel to obtain their kyber crystal and build their lightsabers," Malik replied.
"But why is Jedha also on this holocron?" "Because… oh my god! Jedha is the only place where raw kyber crystals are known to grow!" Serra said, reading the information on the holocron.
"Seriously?!" "Let's see… here it is. Even though Ilum is the traditional place for a Padawan to obtain their kyber crystal, the crystals do not grow there naturally," Serra continued. "The only known place in the galaxy where raw kyber crystals grow in large quantities is in the Jedha system, specifically on the largest moon of NaJedha. For generations, the Holy City has been a destination for pilgrims who believe in the Force, yet the existence of the kyber mines remains one of the most carefully guarded secrets in the Jedi Order." "Incredible… I wonder if any surviving Jedi are hiding in one of these locations?" "Possible.
I know for a fact that Ilum's ice caves are outfitted with an array of defenses to keep trespassers away. But with Jedha, I have no clue. I didn't even know there were kyber crystals there until now." Thinking for a moment, Malik said, "I would imagine that some Jedi might already be on Ilum, not only to hide, but also to protect the crystals there.
But with Jedha being such a huge secret, I doubt any Jedi would think to go there. Maybe we ought to check it out, make sure everything is secure, ya know?" "I agree, just as long as we can make it undetected," Serra replied. "We can't risk leading the Empire to a massive stash of kyber crystals." "Sounds like we've got our next destination," Malik grinned.
"Yep. How are our new shipmates adjusting?" "Just fine. Laranth and Rex spent all day in the cargo hold working on target practice," Malik said. "And what about Jax? Is it as you suspected?" Serra asked. Malik nodded. "The man is completely in love with Laranth, and I'm certain she feels the same way about him.
But he still refuses to make a move; he's hung up on the teachings of the Jedi Order." "To be fair, so were we for a while," Serra said, placing a hand on Malik's. "Yeah. Seems Jax had it ground into him even more forcefully than we did. His teacher, Even Piell, saw to that. I've told him my opinion, but he's a big boy; the choice is his alone." "You think it might help if we intervened more… directly?" Serra wondered. "I doubt it," Malik replied. "If they do get together, it ought to be because it's what both of them want, not because someone else pushed them to it.
We've done what we can; the rest is up to them." "Yeah, you're probably right." Grabbing the holocrons, Serra continued, "I'm gonna go lock these in the safe in our room.
Come to bed soon?" "Sounds good," Malik smiled, kissing his wife on the cheek. ***** "I'm turning in. Night, Laranth." "Sleep well, Rex." As Rex's door closed, Laranth paced through the hallways of the Middle Way, lost in thought at the events of the day.
She was, of course, still troubled by the death of Dex this morning, but the fact that she and Jax had been so readily welcomed by Malik, Serra, and Rex gave her great comfort. Rex had been especially kind to her, and they had quickly bonded over a long session of target practice. As she pondered all this, Laranth failed to notice Jax coming around the corner and ran right into him.
Jax, I'm so sorry!" she said, accidentally knocking him into a wall. "It's, um… it's alright," he replied. "How… how are you?" "I'm alright, all things considered. I am happy we have found some friends and confidants in the midst of this Empire nonsense. The loss of Dex is still fresh, though." "Yeah, he was one of the best," Jax agreed. Opening the door to her bunkroom, Laranth said, "I must admit that I am still running on adrenaline from today, and I doubt I'll be able to sleep for quite some time.
Care to sit up with me for a while?" "I… don't think that would be such a good idea," Jax replied, trying his best to resist his baser instincts. "We could both use a good night's sleep," he continued, turning towards his own bunkroom.
"Jax Pavan," Laranth said forcefully, causing him to stop in his tracks. "A girl can only ask so many times and in so many ways. We both know how we feel about each other. Why do you continue to spurn my affections?" "Because it's not the Jedi way-" "Screw the Jedi way!" Laranth spat.
"From everything I've learned in the last twenty-four hours, it is clear to me that the old, worn-out ways of the Jedi led in large part to their downfall. They were so stubborn that they refused to adapt to changing times, and so the times changed the Jedi… by driving them to the verge of extinction. I agree that we must hold true to the most important ideals of the Jedi Order, but this is too much!
Jax, I want you. I want to find love, and I wish it to be with you. Can you honestly say, in your heart of hearts, that you do not desire the same?" Jax sighed, grimacing at the internal battle he now fought. "It's not about me, Laranth. I won't take the chance of falling to the Dark Side over this. It's not worth it." "You truly think a good, honest man such as yourself would be flung into darkness merely by loving another?" "I don't know," Jax admitted.
"I don't pretend to be as strong with the Force as Malik is. If I were to try and walk the narrow path he now walks… I doubt I'd make it through unscathed." Seeing the pain in his eyes, Laranth took his hand, running her fingers along his knuckles. "You underestimate yourself, Jax." "Maybe… but I can't take that chance. Not with someone I care so much about. I'm sorry, Laranth. I do love you, so much so that I won't risk tainting you or me because of that love." Opening the door to his bunkroom, he said, "I'll see you in the morning." Laranth sighed and entered her bunkroom more conflicted than she had ever felt in her life.
She loved Jax, and now she was elated to hear him reciprocate in kind, yet he still refused to act on it. A part of her was now falling even harder for him in that he would give up what he wanted to keep her safe. But another part of her resented him for that same reason, hurt that he would take that decision entirely upon himself.
After kicking off her boots, Laranth began to strip nude in preparation for what she knew would be a restless sleep. Still, dropping her pants and peeling off her tank top felt quite liberating. The shared barracks used by the Gray Paladins didn't afford her the chance to sleep nude as much as she would like. Gazing at her reflection in the mirror, Laranth couldn't help but smile at what she saw.
Her body, while not quite as curvy as Serra's, was slim and athletic with clear muscle tone from top to bottom. Though most men in the galaxy preferred either red or blue Twi'leks, she had to admit that she loved her lime green skin; it was neither too dark nor too light. Her medium-sized breasts were firm and perky, topped by a pair of dark green nipples about a half-inch in diameter. Her lekku twitched in excitement as she tweaked them a bit, imagining it was Jax's hands. She could almost feel him kissing her and fondling her breasts before moving down her taut stomach to her firm ass.
"Oh, Jax…" Laranth could feel the growing wetness between her legs and slipped under the covers of her bed to prevent from losing her balance.
While her left hand continued to paw at her sensitive breasts, her right worked its way to the folds of her hairless sex. The musky scent of her womanhood began to fill the room, and she soon slipped her middle finger into her pussy, hoping against all hope that Jax would one day be there instead.
Faster and faster she stroked, her murmurs of pleasure only heightening her sensitivity further. As she began to feel an orgasm building within her, she moved her soaked fingers further north and began to rub her engorged clit. Before long, Laranth's muffled whimpers became complete moans of passion, her mind unable to imagine anything other than Jax between her legs. Her back arched, her toes curled, and her fingers furiously stimulated her clit, bringing her ever closer to climax.
As her eyes rolled back in her head from sheer ecstasy, she at last felt her pent up stress begin to release as she came long and hard, coating the sheets with her sweet juices. Laranth lay there for quite some time, panting and writhing as she enjoyed a few pleasurable aftershocks.
As wonderful as that had felt, she was still thankful that nobody had heard how out of control she must have sounded. Rolling onto her side, she dimmed the lights and drifted off to sleep. Unbeknownst to Laranth, the soundproofing between her room and Jax's was in need of maintenance.
As a result, he heard everything; her moans of pleasure, the repeated cries of his name, they were all as clear as day to him. Though he felt he ought to be ashamed of himself for listening and angry with Laranth for indulging in such frivolous behavior, Jax was incapable of such thoughts in those moments, due in large part to the painful erection he now endured.
He knew how hard it would be to sleep in such a condition, but he remained firm. As much as he might want to perform a manual release, and even as tempted as he was to go next door and satiate his instincts with Laranth, Jax stayed put. After several minutes of deep breathing and meditation, his erection had at least subsided for the moment.
And what of his feelings for the green-skinned beauty in the next room? That was a different case altogether.