Slayers of the Old Republic
Book VI: Manaan
By Michael Weyer
In the brief time they’d known him, the crew of the Ebon Hawk had seen Jolee as a mostly laid-back and humorous man. He could be a bit intense when in battle or during one of his arguments with Bastila but overall, the elder Jedi radiated an air of calm.
The air was now a storm of barely contained rage that made Carth, Faith and Juhani keep several steps behind him. Jolee marched down the streets, his face set in a hard expression. They passed by a few people who seemed upset at first over being brushed aside. One look at Jolee’s face and they were willing to give him a wide berth.
Without breaking his stride, Jolee entered the prison center, giving the warden a quick nod and marching right up to Sunry’s cell. The soldier smiled and rose from his small seat to face him. “Jolee. Good to see you. Any progress?”
Jolee could barely keep from yelling. “You son of a Hutt.”
Sunry was startled. “Wha…Jolee, what are you...”
“I know,” he spat. “I know you're guilty, Sunry. I've got the Republic's data recording," he said.
Shock and fear registered on Sunry's face. He shuddered, and his hands quaked more than ever. He opened his mouth to speak, then shut it again. On his fourth attempt to say something, words came out. "So, the truth is out. I never meant to kill her, you know. Never planned to..."
It did not help Jolee's dark mood. "Great Force, man! What were you thinking? How could you go and do that - after all the devotion Elora showed you. How could you break her heart like that?"
He shook his head, but his words betrayed him. "We...I...Oh, no...what this must look like..." He sighed, slumping over in his chair. "Yes. Yes, we were having an affair. I know it was wrong, but I am a weak man. Elassa was beautiful and young - how was I to resist her charms?"
"Ever hear of the words, 'no, I'm married?'” Carth bit out. His own mood seemed darkened, no doubt thinking of his own wife. “Or you could try keeping your pants on.”
“I saw everything - more than I ever wanted to see of you, Sunry,” Jolee snapped. “I can’t believe you’d to that to Elora.”
The other man glared at him, his face flushed with anger now. "You're a fine one to talk about Elora.”
Faith raised an eyebrow. I knew it. Jolee simply shook his head. "I walked - which is what you should have done."
"I loved her!"
Jolee arched one gray eyebrow and glowered at Sunry with contempt.
"Please, I made a terrible mistake getting involved with Elassa, but I was going there to break it off with her." Sunry put his head in his hands. "When I found out she was a Sith spy, using me to gain information, something inside me just snapped." Sunry looked back up at Jolee, pleading. "I...I killed her. Simple, really. But once I realized what I'd done, I...I panicked. I contacted those spies from the Republic to help me. They found the illegal monitoring device that the Sith had planted in the room, altered its recording to hide my part in it and cleared up the evidence. I figured that was the end of it."
“You should have known the truth would come out eventually,” Jolee said. “Damn it. How could you do this? You lie to my face, you cheat on Elora, and now you murder a woman in cold blood...and I do not CARE if she was a Sith or not.”
“And here I thought you were –“
“Nothing, Sunry. And I don’t like getting lied to – especially by people who claim to be my friends.” He shook his head. “The Sith wanted information from you, so they spy on you and the mistress. When you killed her, they must have seen the Republic's spies getting rid of the evidence and tried to plant some of their own. How did she end up with your medal, Sunry? Don’t bother lying.”
"Elassa must have stolen that Hero's Cross from me long ago and given it to her Sith masters like some kind of trophy." Sunry sighed shakily, on the verge of tears. "I just thought I'd misplaced it. But when the Cross turned up on her body, I knew the Sith had put it there.” He sighed and looked up at Jolee as the broken old man he was. “So, now you know the whole story, what are you going to do about it?"
Jolee shook his head. “You're going to have to confess, save yourself. We go to court, and I won’t lie for you. I can argue on your behalf, but you will not add me to the list of liars.”
"You think I'm some kind of monster, don't you?" Sunry roared. "All I did was kill a Sith. How many have you killed? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands?"
"That's different, Sunry, and we both know it. We do not kill them in cold blood while they sleep."
"I don't see how the two of us are any different. She was a spy! She was using me to get information so Malak's army could destroy the Republic. She deserved to die!"
"Killing your mistress while she sleeps is murder, even if she is a Sith. I can’t believe this. You were once a man of decency, of character...”
"If I confess, they will execute me, Jolee. And Ahto City officials might even place kolto sanctions on the Republic embassy. Without kolto, how can we treat injuries to our soldiers on the front lines?"
"Damn it, Sunry. We both know those are excuses. You have to own up for your actions!"
"No, I can't do that and put the Republic's supply of kolto in danger. No, I won't!" He slumped in the chair like the defeated old man he was. "I may have done something stupid, and it may only be worse for my standing by it, but I will not confess. If you turn me in, the Republic will likely lose its kolto export privileges and we'll lose the war for sure. Are you going to send all those soldiers to their deaths, just for your sense of 'justice'?"
"Sunry, this is wrong, and you know it. I am a Jedi. What is it that you expect me to do to defend your actions?"
"I know what I did, but I also know what's at stake here. No, I'll rot in here if I have to, but I won't betray the Republic. Do what you have to, but know what the consequences will be."
Jolee thought in silence before he stood up. "I'll tell the warden to begin the trial."
He turned to go but Faith suddenly brushed past him, marching up and leaning on the cell. “You wanna talk excuses for killing, save it. I’ve done that. I killed a guy once. He got in my way during a fight and I staked him in the heart and you know what? I didn’t feel a damn thing about it.”
That got her surprised stares from her companions. Faith just went on, her face tighter as she spoke. “I killed a couple other folks and same deal, I didn’t feel anything. It just got colder inside me, damn cold and I figured that was the only way to live. The person who should have been like a sister to me, I treated like the bad guy, hurt her as bad as I could. I ended up in a coma and then tried to go back to being that way but guess what? There was no reason for it and I knew it. So I faced up to what I did and spent time in the slammer for it.
“I got out eventually because the one guy who took a chance on me needed help. I kept on fighting, helping out the gal I screwed over big-time earlier. That sort of got me here. But I don’t forget what I did. I still see him in my mind at night. And I know that throwing out all the justifications you want won’t stop that pain. So maybe what you need is to face up to it, buddy. You did the crime, you gotta pay the price.” She backed away, shaking her head. “Who knows, you might actually earn some redemption someday…not that you deserve it.”
She began to march off, pushing past the group, who stared after her. Jolee gazed back at Sunry. “I’ll tell the warden we’re ready,” he said in a toneless voice. “Whatever happens…you have no one to blame but yourself.” With that, he turned and walked off. Sunry simply slumped back in his cell, looking every minute of his years.
Carth exited to see Faith leaning on a wall, hands propped on it, head bowed and eyes shut. He saw her tremble, fighting to keep from crying at the memories of her past. He carefully stepped toward, extending a hand.
“Don’t,” she choked out. “Just…don’t right now.”
He paused and pulled the hand back. He opened his mouth, then shut it and turned away, leaving a gulf between them.
The thick musty air of the underwater facility was cut by ozone as lightsabers were ignited. Vance’s eyes were dark as he took in Bandon. “I remember you,” he muttered. “You were on the Endar Spire. You killed Trask!”
“Did I?” Bandon thought about it and shrugged. “I don’t recall the name. Then again, I’ve killed so many Republic and Jedi fools, it’s hard to keep up.”
Bastila stepped forward, her face hard. “I shall give you one chance to leave peacefully, Bandon,” she stated in a cool voice. “I remember you from the Academy. Your skills were impressive but not as great as you believed.”
Bandon sneered as he lifted his lightsaber. “Ah, but I was being held back by those foolish Codes. My master, Lord Malak, showed me true power. And I shall now show it to you.”
“All right, hell with this.” Canderous hefted his cannon
“Agreement: Indeed, blood-thirsty meatbag! Let us show these fools how we defend the masters!” HK held his own rifle up and two opened fire. With blinding speed, Bandon and his two Dark Jedi managed to block every shot, sending blaster fire richoting around the room. Bandon threw out his hands and both Canderous and HK were sent flying back. The Mandalorian landed in a pile of debris while HK smashed hard into a wall. Both went down and lay still.
Buffy lunged forward, her lightsaber swinging toward one of the Dark Jedi who blocked it. Vance was quick to attack the other while Bastila faced off with Bandon. The sound of lightsabers clashing filled the room as the combatants squared off.
Bastila backed up, spinning her lightsaber about before striking out. Bandon’s own double blade matched her as he thrust out his hand to send a wave of Force energy at her. Bastila blocked it with her own palm, the two bouncing back a bit before going back on the attack.
Buffy leapt over one swing of her opponent and swung her lightsaber at his head. He blocked it as he tried to go on the counterattack. Buffy kept up with him. As usual when fighting like this, she seemed to find herself into a unique zone, with lightsaber and Force so natural to her, as if she had been doing this since childhood. It flowed with her as she pressed the Dark Jedi back, his flashes more desperate as he tried to fight his way past her defenses. She finally managed to sweep past one of his lunges and struck home, her blade slicing through his heart.
Before he dropped, she was rushing to help Vance with his opponent. The Jedi was pressed back against a console as the Sith attacked him, slashing his blade at the man’s neck. Vance managed to block it and lunged forward. The Sith was drawing his lightsaber back when he felt Buffy’s presence behind him. He turned in time to catch her blade with his own. He leapt back as the two attacked him together.
Nearby, Bastila deflected the dual attacks Bandon made and spun away from him. Bandon thrust out his hand and a blast of lightning rocketed out toward Bastila. The Jedi lifted her sword to deflect the burst and leapt back to avoid any stray blasts. Without warning, she felt herself rocked by a wave of air that sent her flying across the room.
Turning, Bandon was just in time to watch his other Dark Jedi cut down as Vance sliced him across the chest. He charged in, his dual blades flashing. Seeing him, Buffy rushed in and met his charge. Bandon’s lightsaber spun about, Buffy blocking each one of the strikes he attempted to make. He waved a hand and a large pipe flew from the floor toward the former Slayer. In one smooth motion, Buffy spun, slicing the pipe in half and still managing to block Bandon’s attempt to strike.
Bandon saw Vance rush in to attack and brought his lightsaber up to block both their strikes. He somersaulted back to gain more room as the two rushed in. They were good, he had to admit, flowing as if one, as if they’d worked together for years instead of months.
But then if what his master had told him was true…then they had.
He managed a smile as Vance’s lightsaber flew toward his head. He ducked and slashed up, Vance moving back so the blade sliced only his sleeve. “I’m disappointed,” he stated. “You used to be so much better.”
“Sorry, have we met before?” Vance asked even as he swung again. Bandon blocked it and kicked him back while using the other end of the blade to force Buffy back.
“You don’t remember? I’m hurt.” Bandon leapt out, swinging his legs in a whirlwind kick. One foot knocked Vance’s arm aside, sending his lightsaber knocking to one side. The other hit him in the jaw, stunning him. Seeing the opening, Bandon lunged his saber in a stabbing motion toward the man’s heart.
In a blur, Buffy’s saber knocked his own blade down at the last moment. Bandon looked up to see her fist race at his face and saw stars as he was knocked back. He shook his head and was barely able to block Buffy’s next strike. She kept up the attack, her blade a whirlwind of motion. Despite what he’d been told, Bandon was still thrown by how intense it was.
Buffy threw out her fist, Bandon stepping back to avoid the blow. At the last moment, Buffy opened her palm and a Force wave sent Bandon flowing back on the wall. He bounced off, stunned and saw Buffy grinning as she slashed her blade across his chest.
Bandon gasped in pain and staggered back. His armor had taken the burnt of the blow but he still felt the heat upon his flesh. He hissed, using his pain to fuel his anger and threw out his hand. Buffy leapt back and flipped as a blast of lightning flowed right under her. Landing on her feet, she rolled toward Bandon and kicked out, her boot landing on his kneecap.
The Sith screamed in pain as he felt his knee buckle. He still tried to block Buffy’s blows but his own were slower. He could see Vance coming back in, his own lightsaber swinging down and tried to block the attack. Each of them were held back by one of his blades as Bandon drew his strength and rose up. With a howl, he got up and spun his blade around, driving Buffy and Vance back. The two ducked his swing and both lunged as one.
Bandon gasped in agony as the two lightsabers cut through his body. He felt his strength leave as the lethal blows took their measure. He knew he was about to die but there was at least one more duty he could fulfill for his Master. He let his mind call out through the Dark Side, to send out one last message…Then he slumped to the ground and lay still.
Bastila groaned as she got back up to her feet, rubbing her head. She stopped as she saw Bandon lying dead and Vance and Buffy standing over him. The male Jedi switched his lightsaber off and moved to Buffy. “Are you okay?”
She nodded as she gave him a quick hug. “I am, thanks.” As if feeling Bastila’s stare, they broke apart to face her. Canderous let out a groan as he revived as well. He glanced at Bandon’s body and managed a smile. “Well…looks like you two have managed quite well.”
“We did our best,” Buffy said, looking at the body. “Both of us.”
“You were a bigger force,” Vance said.
“Hey, you managed a few big shots!” Buffy pointed out.
“Statement: Will one of you meatbags stop the mutual appreciation and help me up!”
Buffy stretched and took a deep breath as she got out of the sub. The group piled out onto the dock where Wann was already waiting with some soldiers. “Did you find out what happened?” he quickly asked. “Are there survivors?”
“The construction you were doing down there woke something up,” Canderous explained. “Something that wasn’t very happy about it. It was a gigantic shark and it drove the Selkath on the base into frenzy. We had to defend ourselves. They became animals and killed your mercenary teams and most of the scientists.”
“That's...that's horrible,” Wann said, his face drawn. “The entire operation wasted by a disaster we could never in a thousand years foreseen. But what has happened to the facility itself? Was it damaged?”
“The station is likely a total loss. And the harvesting machine had to be destroyed,” Buffy reported.
Wann threw up his hands. “No! That is terrible. That will set our work back years! It may even cost us the war. While I am glad that you were able to solve our problems, the cost may have ended up being too high.” He shook his head and sighed. “But you have done your job and helped us in our time of need, and for that I thank you.” As an obvious afterthought, he finally asked. “Oh, and did you end up finding your Star Map?”
“Yes,” Vance said. “We found it.”
“As you can see, by helping us, you helped yourself. Perhaps we can work together again in the future.”
“Don’t hold your breath,” Canderous muttered as the group headed out of the Embassy.
They’d barely reached the courtyard outside the Embassy before they were surrounded by Selkath guards. “Oh, this is getting monotonous,” Buffy complained.
“We have detected a number of underwater detonations coming from the vicinity of the Hrakert Rift,” the lead Selkath officer stated. “You have been known to have asked questions about this, and our spy monitors in the Republic Embassy recorded your leaving in a submersible that descended to the Hrakert Rift. You will come with us immediately to answer for your actions, or we will take you by force!”
Vance glanced at Buffy. “How is it I’ve found myself getting arrested more times as a Jedi than I ever did during my smuggling days?”
“Chalk it up to the Force’s wicked sense of irony,” Buffy noted as the group was led away.
Faith, Carth and Juhani tried to keep their expressions level as they watched Jolee step up to the main podium before the judges. After giving them a quick bow of his head, the elder Jedi slowly turned to the secured podium where Sunry stood.
“Arbiter,” Shelkar announced. “Are you prepared to make your opening statement?”
Jolee and Sunry stared at one another. The Jedi was expressionless, giving no indication what he felt. Sunry tried to be strong but the look of desperation and pleading was clear in his eyes. Jolee kept his gaze steady as the judges glanced at each other.
“Arbiter,” Shelkar stated impatiently. “Do you have an opening statement?”
Jolee glanced down at the datapad held in his hands, his eyes shut. Taking a deep breath, he stepped out of his box and headed toward the judges. “Your honors,” he said in a grave tone. “I have come across evidence that I believe can settle this entire case easily.” He held out the pad for them to study. Shelkar watched it and solemnly nodded. The recording of Sunry’s guilt was passed around the judges as the man himself bowed his head and closed his eyes.
“There can be no doubt of this man’s guilt,” Shelkar stated. “As such, there should be no delay in his punishment.” He paused and studied Jolee. “Unless…his Arbiter will attempt to plead for some form of clemency.”
Jolee did his best to hide a small smile. He’d always suspected this Selkath judge had a good heart and that was now confirmed. Clearing his throat, he spoke. “Your Honors, I will not say that what he did was right. Either the murder or the…events that led to it. However, this woman was a Sith who was planning to use Sunry to ferret information from the Republic here on Manaan. In other words, she was committing espionage on your own world, which could have put yourselves in danger.”
Jolee looked at Sunry, whose head was raised, a glimmer of hope in his tired eyes. “This man is a decorated hero,” Jolee calmly stated. “I can never forget what he did. I will not condone what he did. But…” He licked his suddenly dry lips. “But perhaps…forgiveness may be possible.”
Naleshekan glowered. “Our laws are clear on this! He committed an act of cold-blooded murder! He should be punished and the Republic with him!”
“For the Sith?” Kota observed. “The same Sith who attempted to use our own youth to take over our planet for themselves?”
“I am still not convinced…” Naleshekan began but Jhosa cut him off. “We had made the decision then that the Sith would receive no more special treatment or protection from us.”
“That decision came after the murder was committed,” Duula noted. He stroked his chin as he added. “However, the Sith’s actions do put a new light on this case. I have long felt that death for death may not be true justice.”
Naleshekan snorted. “Not this again, Duula! This is not the time to debate our laws!”
“Why not? This man is old and infirmed. What good is it to take his life now?”
Their debate continued for several minutes before Shelkar pounded his gavel on his table. “Enough! This is our decision:”
He turned to face Sunry. “Sunry Gensbrem, you are found guilty of murder. Your life shall be spared but you are to be imprisoned for the rest of your natural life.” He nodded to the guards, who surrounded Sunry. The old man bowed his head as they led him away. He paused to look at Jolee. He opened his mouth but one look at the Jedi’s face and he shut it. He nodded, a mixture of understanding and even a bit of thanks.
The guards did give him one moment to give a sobbing Elora a strong embrace and a kiss before leading him away. Elora stared at Jolee and then walked out, tears running down. Jolee knew he couldn’t follow her. All he could do was hope she’d get through this all right and not blame herself for what happened.
Carth, Juhani and Faith were all struck at how Jolee, for the first time, truly seemed his years as he slowly headed out toward the exit. “Should we…?” Faith began.
“Not yet,” Carth told her softly. “I know what it's like to realize a friend isn’t what you think he is.” Faith nodded but stopped as they saw the next group of defendants being led in. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.”
All the judges let out small moans, groans and sighs as they saw Buffy, Vance, Bastila, Canderous and HK being led into the courtroom. “Well, human,” Shelkar said. “You find yourself in a most difficult situation. The Hrakert Rift is the most precious resource on Manaan, and anything that threatens it or the kolto it produces threatens our entire species.”
“We do not tolerate threats to our neutrality, or existence, or our way of life,” Duula said.
Jhosa was in agreement. “As much as we may admire your Republic, and your order in particular, you will have a hard time explaining your role in this incident adequately.”
Naleshekan glowered at the party. “We have determined that you were responsible for the detonations that occurred near the Hrakert rift. We demand to know what happened down there.”
Duula crossed his long arms. “If the Republic has broken its neutrality treaty with us, the repercussions shall be grave indeed.”
Shelkar held up his hands to quiet his colleagues down. “What have you done to the Rift?”
“The explosions were at a research station the Republic and Selkath authority set up there to study the ocean floor,” Bastila said.
“Research station?” Naleshekan argued. “What are you talking about? Don't try to lie to us, human!”
Shelkar held up a hand. “We know of this facility.”
Naleshekan looked ready to choke. “What?”
Shelkar shot a glance to him “It will be discussed later.”
“This cannot be kept silent! The Council will...”
Shelkar glared at him “The Council will hear nothing of this! And you will keep your silence or be ejected from the court.”
Naleshekan still wanted to protest “But, we cannot...”
“Looks like the right fin doesn’t know what the left is doing,” Buffy couldn’t help noting under her breath.
Jhosa decided to continue with the questions. “What has happened to this research station? What caused the explosions?”
“Everyone on the station had been driven mad,” Bastila explained. “I’m sorry to bring such bad news, but many Selkath are among the dead.”
“Mad?” Jhosa was shocked. “I find that hard to believe, human.”
Kota leaned over to her colleague. “We did receive those transmissions just before the station went silent.”
Naleshekan stood up, head darting about the room in panic. “Ask the human what happened!”
Shelkar was a study in calm that even Jedi Masters would aspire to. “Well, human, what drove all of the sentients down there mad?”
“We can't be certain, but the Republic's machines woke up a giant firaxan shark...she may have been trying to protect herself and her brood. Her psychic call was perceived as a telepathic scream by the humans, but the Selkath reacted...violently. I'm...I'm sorry, but they attacked the other researchers as well as the rescue teams the Republic sent.”
Naleshekan could hardly speak “You accuse us of being to blame for this!”
Shelkar’s considerable patience was being tried. “Calm yourself. We are more advanced than that.”
Kota was breathless. “A giant firaxan? A mother firaxan? Could it be...?”
Naleshekan looked at Kota with disbelief. “Impossible! It is only a legend!”
Jhosa was worried. “But she said she killed it...didn't she?”
Shelkar shared the worry, but gave an appearance of control. “You killed this giant firaxan, human?”
Vance shook his head. “No, I destroyed the machines in order to save her. That calmed the firaxan down, and she swam back to her lair.”
“I even got close enough to touch her, and she made no move to attack,” Buffy added. “She is sentient, your Honor. She knew what I was doing down there and spared our lives.”
Shocked silence among the judges as they stared at the Jedi. One could hear a drop of water hit the floor in this room. Gone was the din of a few moments earlier.
Kota was smiling happily. “But what if it was the life-bringer...the ancestor of our species...think of what this could mean!”
Jhosa shook his head in wonderment. “If it always laired there, then perhaps the kolto...”
“Enough! Off-worlders are not to hear of such things,” warned Shelkar.
“But she says she saved it. She destroyed the Republic's machines to save it!” Kota’s green eyes were wide and full of reverence.
Shelkar nodded “This casts your actions in a whole new light, human.” He checked his terminal. “Yes...that would be the only explanation...” He looked up again. “We thank you for the destruction of the machinery and the saving of the mother firxan which, we believe, is the source of our kolto...or at least its guardian. We will not detain you any longer. While we cannot show our gratitude overtly, know that you have earned our respect. You may go.”
Buffy frowned. “Just like that? What about the kolto and the deal with the Republic?”
“Those are our affairs, not yours,” Duula stated quickly
Shelkar nodded. “That is true.” He leaned forward and his eyes looked as if they were pleading. “If that concludes your business on Manaan, I hope you may be able to leave soon. Please, human, do not come before us again!”
As the group filed out, the judges glanced at one another. “If I may make a proposal,” Naleshekan spoke up. “Should they invade the local swoop race facilities, destroy all the tracks, shoot up the bar and burn down the gaming houses…let us allow them to go free.”
Every judge raised their hand in agreement.
The most annoying part of space travel, Faith had found, was that it was damn hard to figure out what was day and what was night. Buffy had done her best to explain it to her but it had still taken Faith a while to get used to listening to her internal clock and not going by what it was like outside.
She was getting ready for bed, down to bra and her pants when there was a rapping at her door. She threw her shirt on before opening. She paused as she saw Carth standing on the other side, his face drawn. “Can I come in?” he asked.
She backed up as he entered and shut the door. For a moment, they just looked at each other until Carth cleared his throat. “I guess we should talk about it.”
“I guess,” Faith said. She brushed her hair back. “Carth, I’m not…good at relationships, believe me. “And I’m guessing you’re still hurt because of…her.”
“I was,” Carth said. “I still am.” He looked at her carefully. “But maybe…maybe you’re right…maybe it is time I started to live my life more, instead of being obsessed with just revenge.”
“Maybe,” Faith allowed. “But I don’t know if I’m the gal for it.”
He held up his hands. “So now what? We just chalk it up to one drunken night and that’s it?”
Faith crossed her arms and kept her voice steady. “Sounds safer. Let’s face it, Carth, we’ve already got a ton of shit on our hands without throwing romance on it.”
The soldier nodded slowly. “I suppose you’re right,” he solemnly intoned. He gazed at Faith and she gazed right back, neither moving an inch. Then they were in each other’s arms, kissing and clawing at the other’s clothing as they stumbled toward the nearby bed.
The sound of blade clashing on blade echoed inside the training area as Buffy and Vance circled each other. They had stripped down to loose clothing as they went at it, each trying to get an edge on the other. Had anyone been watching, they would have seen there was something else to this sparring that had not been there before. An extra edge, an energy, even a…passion that gave their moves an added fire.
Vance smiled as Buffy dodged one of his blows. “Your moves have improved,” he noted.
She grinned. “I’m aware you’ve been watching.” She tried a lunge but he leapt back and met her blow with a block of his saber. Both were smiling as they moved in, their sabers clashing, sweeping against each other, their arms raised high up and their bodies touching.
They stared at one another before Buffy kicked at the back of his knee. It buckled and he fell back, her on top of him. Their lightsabers fell from their grasps and turned off as they landed, Buffy pinning him down. “Gotcha.”
With a surge of Force energy, Vance shoved her back and they rolled around, him on top. They both let out grunts while smiling and then their lips met.
They kissed for a long, hard moment before breaking apart. They stared at each other, both heaving for breath as it hit them what had happened. “I…shouldn’t have…” Vance began.
“Why did you?” Buffy softly asked.
Vance licked his lips. “I…it’s been…a long time.”
“Me too,” Buffy said as she stroked his face. “I’m tired of being alone…of having to put up with sacred duty and being a champion or a Jedi…” She moved him closer to her face. “I just…want to feel something else again…with you.” She pulled him close as they kissed more. The heat of their sparring and the heat of the passion overcame them as they started to fumble with their clothing on the sparring room floor…
On the other end of the ship, Jolee leaned on a sealed bulkhead, lightly tossing Bastila’s lightsaber in one hand. Juhani stood next to him, glancing at the door. Her enhanced hearing could pick up the sound of Bastila’s fists pounding on it from inside her quarters. “She shall be quite upset when she gets out,” she pointed out.
“Let her,” Jolee barked. “What’s happening is inevitable, even if she won’t see it. You can’t stop it. We won’t let her do it.”
Juhani shrugged. “I have no problems with that.” She looked at him carefully. “But I cannot help but sense something ill may come of this.”
Jolee smiled. “Ah, then it may be true love after all.” They just stood back and did their best to drown out the sound of the Jedi on the other side of the door, who howled inside at the disaster this could create.
Saul Karath couldn’t help but feel less tense whenever Lord Malak wasn’t on the ship. It was like a dark cloud was lifted from the entire bridge and Karath could concentrate more on his duties. He was standing by the main windows, discussing a field report with one of his subordinates when an officer strode up. “Sir, we have just received a message from Lord Malak.”
Karath instantly came alert and turned to the main. “What is it, Captain?”
The man was at attention as he spoke. “Lord Malak reports that Darth Bandon has failed. However, he does know where the Ebon Hawk crew is going next and wishes us to intercept.”
Karath nodded. “I see. Prepare to move the ship. Did Lord Malak say anything else?”
“No, sir, the message was brief. But he did state that the attack on the Jedi Enclave on Dantooine is underway.”
“Very good, Captain. Spread the word that we are changing course and have all troopers on standby.” As the man saluted and left, Karath faced the wide screen before him. Somewhere in the distance, the Jedi Masters of Dantooine were facing a veritable hell that would raze the planet. And the crew of the Ebon Hawk were going to face a hell of their own soon.
So that’s all for this chapter. Next one is the one that KOTOR fans know is the most important part of the saga. But if you think you know what’s going to happen…you may be surprised.
Next: Book VII: Leviathan.