Slayers of the Old Republic
Book VI: Manaan
By Michael Weyer
Sorry for the long delay between chapters, got distracted by other fics. Here we go with a book that involves a bit more character interaction. Enjoy.
It had been over a week since the Ebon Hawk had left Tatooine. For the most part, the crew went about their normal duties, with three notable exceptions. First, Canderous had spent most of his time in his quarters, only coming out for the odd repair job and not very talkative. Second, Mission had managed to rebound from the pain of what happened with Griff nicely. She’d been quite talkative, getting along better with both Buffy and Faith.
The third, of course, were the gizka who kept hopping around and chirping all the while. They were a nuisance, no doubt, but the crew was trying their best to live with them, ignoring HK’s continual inventive suggestions on how to deal with them.
“Statement: Master, I assure you, they will not suffer! I will snap their necks before I eject them out the airlock.”
“For the tenth time today, HK, no!” Buffy snapped. She, Vance, Bastila, Jolee, Faith and Juhani were sitting in the galley, having some lunch. HK was in the corner, his photo-receptors fixed on the table.
Faith lightly kicked one gizka off her shoe. “I don’t know, B. I’m starting to think Robonut here has the right idea.”
“Statement: Thank you for the support, meatbag!”
“Okay, what’s with the ‘meatbag’ references?” Vance finally barked out. “It’s been driving me crazy ever since we bought you!”
“Explanation: Sorry, master. It appears that there is a subroutine in my programming that sees ‘meatbag’ as a proper metaphoric name for organic beings.”
“Query: Is that not good for you, Master? It’s just that…you have all these squishy parts. And all that water! How the constant sloshing doesn’t drive you mad, I have no idea…”
“Neither do I, come to think of it,” Buffy muttered.
“Statement: It is design flaws like that that make me proud to state I am not a meatbag, Master. No offense.”
“None taken,” Buffy said. She made a soft smile. “Sometimes, I almost envy droids.”
“Agreement: Yes, we are amazing creatures, are we not, Master?” At his side, T3 let out a loud beep. He and HK had mostly avoided each other as it appeared there some sort of rivalry between them. Faith had remarked that T3’s comments were shots at HK’s construction and programming which the droid took in his own unique way.
“Been too long since I worked with droids,” Jolee remarked. “I forgot how unique their personalities could be.” He sipped his drink. “I have to say, it’s been pretty good finally getting off planet and into the stars again. It’s tough to keep yourself occupied all day in a forest.”
Juhani chewed on her food as she took in his words. “I know that feeling, Jolee. My world…” She paused before continuing. “My parents rarely spoke of it. We were treated as slaves, as beasts, especially by the Mandalorians. We…were about to be sold when the Jedi came to our world.” She paused and looked up at Buffy and Vance. “Revan was leading them.”
“Revan?” Buffy said with surprise.
Juhani nodded. “The Jedi freed me from what would have been a terrible life – a slave's life. When I looked into the eyes of their leader, it was as if I had seen my own future. And it was so beautiful." She smiled wistfully. "I remember wondering if he were a god, a vision, and not flesh and blood." She sheepishly looked to the floor. "But he was...because he is gone now, fallen in battle.”
Buffy sniffed. “After he caused galaxy wide death and destruction. I hate to say it but I have to say the Council did a good job trying to pull him in. One way I put faith in them.”
Juhani shrugged. "My faith in them...How to explain my faith in the Council? Well, they are not infallible. Had Revan not rebelled, I would have been among those crushed to death on Taris - if I had survived so long. Yet, I know I am young, and foolish. They have seen - and made - much history. I would trust them as you would a...commanding officer or beloved teacher."
Buffy nodded. “I guess I get what you’re saying. It sounds like-------“
“FAITH!” They all jumped a bit as Bastila burst into the galley, her face tight. She held a lightsaber up in her hands. “What is the meaning of this?!” she hissed.
“Hey, what are you doing in my room?” Faith shot back as she rose to her feet, her leather pants and dark shirt shifting easily on her body.
“It is good I was there!” Bastila snapped as she hefted the lightsaber. “Where did this come from?”
Buffy coughed. “I, ah, took it off one of those Sith back on Tatooine.”
“And you gave it to…her?” Bastila stared at her apprentice.
“Well…I thought it might be good for her to have it!” Buffy defended herself.
“She’s got good blade skills,” Buffy pointed out. “I thought it might be good for her to have a lightsaber, increase her chances in a fight. If we run into more Sith, a lightsaber’s a better weapon than a vibroblade.”
Bastila shook her head. “Buffy…only Jedi are permitted to use these?”
“Oh, really? I don’t recall you needing a permit for those things!”
Bastila gripped the lightsaber. “I will not permit her to have this. It is not right, it is not proper, it is not safe, we cannot------“
The lightsaber flew out of her hands, across the table and into Jolee’s palm. The elderly Jedi had a solemn look on his face as he handed it to Faith. “Here. Some people should have better respect for privacy.”
Bastila gaped at him. “Jolee…”
He fixed her with a hard glare. “She wants to try and learn to use it, fine. They’re not exclusive for Force-users only and Buffy can teach her if she needs more experience.”
Bastila fumed and pointed out toward the corridor. Jolee didn’t seem that concerned as he stood up and followed her out. The two Slayers exchanged confused glances but then shrugged.
Faith thumbed the trigger and the crimson blade shot out. “Hmm…nice color.”
Buffy frowned. “You might want to use a different crystal. Red is a Sith color. It’s…trust me, it’s not something you want to use a lot.”
“I don’t know, B…”
“Think about it this way,” Vance interjected. “You can make it your own style. I think you’d like that.”
Faith smirked. “Wow, he knows me.” She winked at Buffy. “Gets it from you, huh, B?”
The two Jedi looked at each other, then looked away as Faith chuckled knowingly.
As soon as she was sure they were out of earshot, Bastila whirled on Jolee and hissed. “What are you doing?”
The elderly Jedi had his arms crossed and appeared quite calm. “Just trying to help a girl out.”
Bastila shook her head. “You cannot simply hand a lightsaber over to a non-Jedi like that!”
“Why not? Nothing in the Code to prevent it.”
“The Council?” Jolee’s face darkened. “Bastila…After what they did, I don’t think the Council has the right to make moral judgments on anyone.”
She looked away. “That is not relevant.”
“Yes, it is. Bastila, this can’t be hidden forever, you have to know that. It’s going to come out and when it does…” He shook his head. “Buffy and Vance are never going to be the same.”
“Which is why I am attempting to ensure they do not get any closer,” Bastila stated. “I am grateful there is still the bond. It is alerting me to their growing feelings for one another.”
Jolee stared at her for a long moment then threw his head back and let out a loud laugh. He actually wiped at his eyes as he tried to compose himself. “Woman, you don’t need a bond to tell that. You just need eyes. You can’t stop them from feeling what they’re feeling.”
“I can damned well try,” Bastila snapped. “You know what a disaster that could be! If they….if they….”
“If they do…” Jolee stated. “It may be what’s meant to happen. The Force is a strange thing, Bastila, you know that. You know you can’t always control destiny or your place in it.”
Bastila rolled her eyes. “Not another one of your little tales, Jolee. What is this time? Another Padawan who quit the Academy because of a near-sighted teacher? Another Jedi who fell into a smuggling ship’s power core and destroyed it?”
Jolee shook his head. “Nope. But there’s something about those two, Bastila. There’s a reason Faith is here with Buffy at this place and time. Maybe it’s to help her when the truth comes out. Either way, I think letting her train as she wants may end up being a good idea.”
Bastila stared at him and sighed. “This…this should never have been this way.”
Jolee smiled thinly. “That’s the way the universe works, Bastila. It can’t be controlled or ordained. Not even by the Jedi.”
She took that in and then licked her lips. “I have been meaning to ask you something…”
He laughed and shook his head at her. "Yep, I figured as much. It was only a matter of time until we had the whole 'come back to the Order' discussion," he shrugged. "Well, no avoiding it now. You might as well get it over with."
"I know you have...issues...with the Order," Bastila diplomatically said. "But you are a Jedi, Jolee. You command the Force. Without the guidance of the Council, how can you avoid falling to the Dark Side?"
"Well, I've managed to avoid it the last twenty-odd years. Besides, Dark Side, Light Side: they don't mean the same thing to you as they do to me. I don't see in absolutes."
"So, you don't have a problem with Malak? Or the Sith?" Bastila crossed her arms and scowled.
"I'd like to stop Malak as much as anyone, and know too well what Sith are capable of. But I don't have to join the Order to do it. Look at Carth or Canderous or Faith...even Mission. They're with us on this quest, but they aren't Jedi."
"They've less to lose," she said.
"Really? I'm sure they'd disagree with you on that." He folded his arms. "The capacity for good and evil, like the Force itself, is in all living creatures. Belonging to the Jedi, the Sith, or any other group won't change that."
"Oh, really. This coming from someone..." her voice trailed off.
Jolee nodded. "Not saying people can't change, but it takes a lot. And it can't be through codes, Councils, or any outside source. Those can trigger it, but it has to come from within yourself."
Bastila sighed and rubbed her chin. "I can see you are quite adamant. No doubt you've had ample time to think of this during your long seclusion. I guess it was foolish of me to think I could sway your position..."
"Yeah, I'm old and stubborn. But I appreciate the effort. Just think of me as any other non-Jedi in this group. I just...use a lightsaber and Force powers..."
Bastila smirked at that. "Now, who's the one lying to himself?"
Jolee just humphed before walking away, leaving Bastila with the triumphant feeling of finally getting the last word with him.
As Buffy entered the mechanic bay, she was surprised to see Canderous working at a bench on his gun. “Hey. Finally stepped out of the cave, huh?”
Canderous nodded. “I just felt like getting some work done.”
Buffy leaned on the doorway as she watched him. “Are you okay? Faith told me it was rough.”
Canderous welded a piece to his rifle barrel as he spoke. “It’s ironic, in a way. I spent years after the war missing the comradery, the honor, even the companionship of other Mandalorians. And the first one I met tries to kill me.”
Buffy took that in. “I….ah…can’t say I fully understand what you’re feeling. I do have to admit that I’ve had to fight people I didn’t want to. I’ve had to fight friends…and more.” She rubbed her temples. “Look, Canderous…I need to know if you’re still going to be able to handle this mission. If you want to go your own way, I understand. But…we need every person here willing to help in every way. Can you do that?”
Canderous locked his rifle in place and turned to her. His features were strong and calm as he answered. “The time of the clans is done. My people…I don’t know what is next for them. For myself…” He nodded to her. “I see you as someone worth following, the same as this quest. I will be with you for as long as you want me.”
Buffy smiled. “Thanks, Can,” she softly said. “I mean that.” She paused before trying to speak in a more light-hearted tone. “So…if you’re feeling better, maybe you’re up for some sparring with me and Faith?”
Canderous actually smiled. “Why not? I can teach you two a few new moves.”
Buffy smirked as they headed out. “Oh, no, no, no. We shall be the teachers today, war dog.”
Vance entered the flight deck of the ship and saw Carth at the controls. “How far are we from Maanan?” he asked as he sat in a neighboring chair.
“About an hour,” the Republic pilot answered. “We should be better off there. The Selkath protect their neutrality quite well.”
“For now,” Vance stated. “They won’t be able to play with the Sith too much.”
“True,” Carth noted. “Hopefully, we’ll have an easier time finding the map here.”
Vance sat back and tapped his foot on the console. “So…I’ve noticed you haven’t exactly been trusting of us.”
Carth shot a glance at him. “Are you reading my mind?”
Vance shook his head quickly. “I don’t do that. No, I’m just able to read people well. Enough to know you don’t trust us.”
Carth checked his readouts. “I just…I get the feeling there’s more to all this than Bastila is saying.”
“Really?” Vance raised an eyebrow. “Funny…I was going to say the same thing.”
Carth was surprised. “You…you were?”
Vance nodded. “She definitely knows something more than she’s telling. It’s small but there’s always some sort of tension whenever Revan and Malak are brought up or she’s pushed on details. I…I just feel like there’s something she’s hiding from all of us and I don’t like being kept in the dark about it.”
Carth rubbed his chin. “Have you discussed this with Buffy?”
Vance shook his head. “No. She’s been with Bastila a lot longer, she won’t listen to me over her, I know that.”
Carth studied him. “You care for her, don’t you? And I don’t mean in a friendly way either.”
Vance looked up at him. “I could ask the same about you and Faith. You two have been working together closely.”
“I’ve been teaching her how to fly,” Carth quickly said. “She might make a good pilot.”
Vance smirked. “Come on, Carth. I’ve seen the way you look at her. Not just lust, either. She means something to you.”
“Maybe,” Carth allowed. He shook his head. “It’s just…it’s been a long time and…”
Vance leaned in. “Carth…somehow, I don’t think your wife would want you to keep mourning her forever. She’d want you to move on. Maybe it’s time you listened to that.”
Carth tapped his fingers on the armrest. “Maybe,” he softly said. He glanced up at Vance. “What about you? From what I can tell, you’ve got rules preventing you from moving on.”
Vance smirked. “Rules and me are like this.” He held up a hand with forefinger and thumb spread wide apart. As Carth chuckled, Vance went on. “From what I’ve heard, Jolee understand a lot about love for a Jedi. Maybe…just maybe we can work something out.”
Carth pursed his lips. “We’ll have to be careful, no doubt about it.”
“Why?” Vance asked in confusion.
Carth half-smiled. “Because we’re dealing with two women who will literally break us in half if things go wrong.”
The two laughed as the ship headed to the blue orb awaiting them.