A trio of Attack Skiffs approached the Crucible just as it took off on the swamp planet of Dagobah. The lizard-like Trandoshans aboard screeched at their fleeing prey. The Leader, the Bounty Hunter Zost held up a commlink and signalled the rest of his kin, the Red Talon Clan.
“Mikaz,” Zost hissed into the commlink, “Scoop and scoot. Pursue the one we seek!”
In perfect coordination a customized YT-2400 Freighter, The Red Predator, came from the sky and scooped up the skiffs onto magnetic hardpoints. The Freighter flew forward in pursuit of the Crucible through the fog, trees and mountains of Dagobah.
Aboard the Jedi Training Ship, Crucible the scene was chaotic.
“Just fly an’ fly fast!” Cortree shouted across the ship.
“That I can do!” Galen replied, “Sit next to me, Padawan.”
Leoni Venusia jumped into the Co-Pilot seat, still not wholly familiar with what she needed to do. She managed to get her restrains fastened just as Galen dove the Crucible into the treeline.
“Who are those hunters?” Leoni asked.
“Markings look like the Red Talon Clan.” Galen said, looking at the readout of the ship’s hull.
“You know them master?”
“Sort of…They took me prisoner on Kashyyyk during a raid. Master Saberota and the rest of the crew on the Crucible rescued me and freed the wookiee slaves,” Galen said, remembering the fight months ago. The ship rocked violently from a near hit. “It seems that they were not appreciative of our efforts.”
Galen relied on the Force to tell him where to fly. Where to turn, when to accelerate and decelerate. He felt the ship and its place in the universe rather than use the instruments on the console. He attempted a dangerous maneuver that took the ship into the treeline of the swampy planet. Despite his connection to the Force he nearly lost control and the ship’s shields exploded into light as the Crucible sheered through the mighty branches of ancient trees. And the freighter was still hot on their trail.
“That was too close…” Galen said, “Cor, get those shields back up.”
“Bypassing the safeties on the power regulators.” Cortree said, flipping switches and pushing buttons in the engine room. The shields powered back up as the ship continued to take evasive maneuvers.
Aboard the the Bounty Hunter Ship, the Trandoshan Pilot Mikaz pulled down his goggles and gunned the engine. Mikaz was the fastest pilot in his clan and loved to fly this way, by the seat of his pilot suit.
The Bounty Hunter Zost took control of the ship’s guns and fired at the Crucible. His clan’s Bloodoath would be satisfied. They would take the Jedi’s head and score many jaganath points for their goddess the Scorekeeper.
The YT-2400’s blasters grazed the Crucible’s shields and ripped through the jungle below. The Red Talon Clan crew members made it to the ship’s systems and gained a target lock on the Crucible.
Aboard the Crucible, Jaden Windu battened down all the hatches and made the ship ready for incoming fire before heading toward the cockpit. The Bounty Hunter Ship fired at the Crucible, but Galen managed to evade the blasts. The evasive maneuvers scrubbed the Bounty hunter’s target lock , but the nimble pilot Mikaz kept on the Crucible’s six.
“I need more engine power!” Galen said.
“Rerouting secondary systems.” Cortree said, creating an engine boost that lurched the ship forward.
Galen used the newfound power to outmaneuver the other ship and get some much needed distance.
Jaden arrived at the cockpit and jumped into the Communications and Systems chair.
“Jaden, find me a way off this planet.” Galen said.
“I am on it!” Jaden said, bringing a Topographical map of the planet. “There’s a series of canyons ahead. Aim for this route.”
Galen looked at the map and spotted his target point.
“This is going to be close!” Galen said rapidly moving controls.
The Crucible flew into the canyon and beneath an arch of rocks towards a mountain going at full speed. At the last second Galen cut the throttle and pulled the nose of the ship up, going vertical, kicking in the afterburners scorching the swamp below. In the middle of the maneuver, Jaden used the ionic charge from the engines to try and overload the sensors of the enemy ship.
Mikaz the pilot, though not a Jedi, had nearly Jedi caliber reflexes. He pulled the ship up at the last second and went vertical too in the Crucible’s wake despite being sensor blind. The Bounty Hunter Zost growled in rage and shouted into the ship’s intercom. The Red Talon Clan Members punched the console a few times and barely managed another target lock.
“This guy’s incredible! I can’t shake him!” Galen said impressed.
A warning beep came from the systems console, red light flashing.
“What is that?” Leoni asked sheepishly.
“Missile Lock…Concussion Missiles!” Jaden shouted.
“Brace for impact!” Galen said.
The ship bucked violently as the enemy missile took down the shields.
“Shields are gone. Minimal damage.” Cortree said over the intercom as he made his way to the ship’s gunnery chair.
”But they still hurt my baby",he growled as he powered up the turret. Cortree took his time despite the rocking of the ship. He carefully lined up the shot and fired the Crucible’s few cannons at the enemy ship. Their shields exploded and fell.
“Help me out here, Jaden.” Cortree said, “Give me a fix on their engines.”Jaden pressed a few buttons and made some adjustments, “Target Locked.”
Galen moved the ship into a firing position, but the Trandoshan pilot matched his course. He didn’t however recognize Cortree’s trap. The ship’s captain fired the guns and nailed the YT-2400’s engines. A trail of smoke and black liquid flowed out of the freighter’s damaged engines.
“Are they slowing down?” Galen asked over the intercom.
“Naw.” Cortree said inspecting his scopes, “But they’ve got a fuel rupture.”
Aboard the Red Predator, the clan reported the damage and pleaded over the intercom for their Leader, Zost to call off the hunt for now. But Zost and the Red Talon Clan’s Bloodoath against Galen Argyus could not be be satisfied with retreat.
“Almost to the safe area for the jump to Hyperspace.” Galen said as the Crucible and the Red Predator both climbed out of Dagobah’s atmosphere.
“They ain’t giving up the ghost. They gonna keep chasin’ us.” Cortree said.
Jaden examined the readings of the enemy ship, “I concur, their behavior suggests they may seek death before abandoning the hunt. And they still have concussion missiles which could easily destroy us without our shields.”
“No choice then. Blow them out of the sky Cor.” Galen said
“Locking onto the Fuel Leak.” Cortree said, “Jaden, hop on that secondary remote turret.”
The two ships weaved and swerved both pilots trying to gain an advantage. The Red Predator moved into position for a boarding action. Jaden then fired the secondary turrets, causing the Predator to dodge right into Cortree’s waiting sites.
The blaster shots impacted the fuel leak and the Red Predator erupted into a momentary fireball in space.
“Target destroyed.” Jaden said, letting out a sigh tinged with sadness. Galen, who despised slavers such as the Red Talons, seemed far less disturbed by the death of the trandoshans. He calmly began entering calculations into the jump computer.
The Crucible jumped into Hyperspace and went to auto-pilot inside the hyperlane. The crew gathered in the main room as Cortree checked the damage.
“Good news: We are in one piece more or less although we do need repairs.” Cortree said. “Luckily, we are close to Sluis Van. Nice shipyards there.”
“Good thinking,” Galen said, “I have contacts there who can tell us more about these Bounty Hunters.”
“I can use the time to unlock the mysteries of Yoda’s ship.” Jaden said.
Leoni emerged from the cockpit, shaking and stumbling from the G-Forces of Galen’s desperate maneuvering.
“You did well, my padawan.” Galen said, proud of her coolness during the rocky flight.
“Captain, do the freshers still work?” Leoni asked looking decidedly pale.
“Yeah…” Cortree said pointing to a door down the corridor.
“Good.” Leoni said and stumbled towards it.
The sounds of her misery echoed back to the crew who all hid their smiles.
“Well, I think she’s coming along…” Galen said.
During the flight to Sluis Van, Galen got on his comm and called up an old friend.
“Sreb Rejo here.” The Twi’lek said on the other end.
“It’s Galen, I’m my way to you and I need some info.” Galen said.
“Anything for you, man.”
Sreb had been one of the many slaves liberated by Galen at the Battle of Socorro. In the years since the Twi’lek had become a successful, if low level, information broker who was dedicated to combating slavery on the Outer Rim. If there was one person in this sector that Galen could trust to not sell him out to the Hutts, it was Sreb.
“My sister Leena,“ Galen said solemnly, ”I need to know her last known location and who’s hunting her. Keep it quiet.”
“Can do. Drop by the Blackhole when you arrive. May the Force be with you!”
“May the Force be with you, Sreb.”
Some time later, the Crucible dropped out of hyperspace before a series of space stations shaped like traingular prisms. The snake-like Sluissi saw starship building not just as a craft but as works of art. Their shipyards as a result were known as some of the best in the Outer Rim Territories and also among the slowest. Decorum had to be maintained after all and that often got in the way of what many other species would refer to as efficiency. For the Jedi, it was the perfect place to take a breather and regroup.
“Orbital Dock V-475, Azure Fortune requesting permission for docking.” Galen asked over comms. The Sluissi were known for their adherence to protocol, so Galen asked as politely as possible.
“Purpose of your visit?” The Sluissi on the other end hissed.
“Repairs and rest.”
“Wait…is this Galen Argyus?…”
“Negative, you’re mistaken on that V-475.”
“No. I recognize you. I saw you on GNN. You are Galen Argyus… The Liberator of Socorro can dock here anytime, Master Jedi. You are clear to land in Docking Bay 41.”
“41, roger. Crucible out.” Galen said as he rubbed his temples in pain, “So much for laying low…”
The Crucible came in for a landing and found a crowd of people waiting for it. News reporters carried recording devices, ready to catch a glance of the (In)Famous Jedi Liberator. Luckily safety restrictions prevented the reporters from just rushing the ship which gave them some room to breath. The gangplank lowered and Galen and Leoni slipped out onto the bay floor with their hoods lowered and their faces in shadow.
“Keep a low profile and stay close to me, Padawan.” Galen said indicating the waiting horde, “Reporters can be more ruthless than kath hounds.“
“Yes master.” Leoni said.
The pair of Jedi moved swiftly and silently in the opposite direction from the crowd. Calling on the Force, they easily outpaced the reporters to the turbolift on the other end of the dock. Just as the doors closed Galen noticed a Trandoshan dock worker slinking off by himself with a comlink in his hands.
Meanwhile, Jaden and Cortree looked over the lifeboat of an ancient Jedi Master while a team of droids hosed the swamp muck off the outside of the lifeboat and the inside of the Crucible’s cargo bay.
“There better be somethin’ here,” Cortree said unscrewing the front of a panel in the cockpit as the muck on the outside dripped down, “The faster we move the sooner we can clean out the cargo bay. I’m not sure I’ll ever get the smell out.”
Jaden pulled the last of the drawers out of the ship dresser with great care and placed it into the arms of one of Cortree’s pit droids.
”I say patience…We will find what we are looking for with patience. Besides, finding knowledge aboard this craft will make the smell worth it” Jaden said.
“Patience. Right.” Cortree sighed as he pulled a black box out of the old navigation console. He sat on the Crucible’s deck with the Black Box connected to the Navigation console. He typed furiously, navigating through the data. A few beeps from the computer drew his ire for a moment, so he loaded the data onto a datapad and moved to the main room.
Jaden had Yoda’s personal effects laid out before him in a careful order. He took methodical steps to catalog each item and take scans of them. The Jedi Archeologist looked up to Cortree as he approached.
“And?” Jaden asked.
“Patience paid off. The ship’s memory core seems mostly intact.” Cortree confirmed a bit sheepishly, “Looks like he just copied data from his old fighter into it. I ran the star charts through our navigational computer, but they are a century old.“
”Was there any data on hyperspace routes to Tython?” Jaden asked.
Cortree handed him the datapad and the Jedi lit up, “Looks like there was a route programmed into the system even though the lifeboat couldn’t make the trip. Goes to the Deep Core about where Galen pointed to."
“Tython is within reach then?”
“Not perfectly. I tried to compensate for stellar drift an’ such, but there’s too many unknown variables that deep in the Core. Uncharted black holes. Stellar anomalies. Old junk floatin’ in space. With this information we should be able to get to the planet. It will be risky though,” Cortree replied cautiously.
“It will have to do.”
“What’s that you got here?” Cortree asked, looking over the various objects.
“The personal effects of Master Yoda. Clothing, pieces of his lightsaber. Long expired rations…” Jaden listed.
“What’re these tools for?” Cortree pointed to a pile of tools off to the side.
“They look like tools for making a Holocron.” Jaden said rubbing his chin, “But, I didn’t find one here.”
“Could it be back on Dagobah?”
“No, I can feel something is here. But I looked everywhere on the ship.” Jaden said.
“Don’t think so.” Cortree said, “I think this Master Yoda knew how to keep things hid. Well…so do I.”
Minutes later, a legion of small droids began scanning the inside of the lifeboat rivet by rivet. Jaden stared at the little army impressed.
“Very useful these droids of yours…” Jaden said.
“The right folks for the right job.” Cortree confirmed, smiling.
Meanwhile, Galen and Leoni found themselves in the Blackhole Cantina. The band played the same old playlists and people moved all around. Galen found his contact at his usual spot in the back. Something felt off though. Something wasn’t right. Srub seemed more wired than normal and had three empty glasses sitting next to him as he polished off a fourth drink.
The Twil’lek looked up as he finished his drink gave Galen a hug, “Galen, my friend. It has been too long.”
“It has, Srub.” Galen said, turning to Leoni he whispered, “Stand guard Padawan. Be ready for a quick exit.”
“Yes, master.” Leoni said and she began to scan the patrons of the Black Hole.
Galen sat down and looked over the datapad that Srub handed to him.
“Did you find her?” Galen asked.
“Yeah…last spotted around Eridau heading towards Coruscant.” Srub said, shaking.
“Good work, Srub.”
“But, honestly Galen… what the hell?”
“I know things seem shaky…” Galen began.
“No…what the hell, man? What are you into here? You need to get your sister outta whatever trouble she’s in and find a nice remote planet to take a long vacation on. Just saying.”
“You found her? How close is her pursuit then? How many Bounty Hunters?”
“Last week there were like ten hunters looking for her. Yesterday there were four. As of today…just one.”
“Competition got scared off. They want nothin’ to do with it.”
Srub looked around skidishly and moved in close, “Your sister is being tracked by the Moag.”
“The Moag?” Galen whispered, the name unfamiliar.
“Moag of Clan Wren of House Visla. Current Huntmaster for the Mandalorian Supremacy…”
“Mandalore’s top Bounty Hunter is after my sister?”
“Yeah.” Srub confirmed.
“I don’t know much about this Moag Wren.”
“Only thing you need to know, Galen: He’s got the best arsenal money can buy.”
Galen sat silent for a moment, contemplating the situation.
“I can get more info about if you need. For you man…” Srub said.
“No. You’ve put yourself at enough risk.” Galen said.
“Thanks.” Srub said, his eyes darting around. Galen felt something off.
“What aren’t you telling me Srub?” Galen asked.
Srub bolted up and ran away through the crowd, “Forgive me, Galen. The money was too good!…”
Galen and Leoni stared at the Twi’Lek in surprise. Leoni looked over to her master.
“Meeting over?” She asked.
“Let’s get out of here.” Galen said, standing up.
He then found his path blocked by a tall, massively muscled Herglic. The alien looked big enough to break Galen like a twig. Behind him were others who seemed interested by the discovery. The mob surrounded them. Too many. Far too many.
“Galen Argyus…” The Herglic said, his deep voice vibrating throughout the silenced cantina, “I have been looking for you.”
“Get behind me.” Galen whispered to his apprentice. She moved into a defensive position.
His massive hand went to his waist. Leoni’s hand went to her lightsaber. Galen raised a hand stopping her, realizing the situation as the Herglic something from his belt.
A Holorecorder was stuck in Galen’s face by the massive Alien, “Master Jedi, Galaxy Network News.”
The mob of people surrounding him pulled out their own recorders. Reporters. They were all reporters.
Give Galen a group of slavers, he’d find a way to free the slaves. Give him starfighter, he would dogfight in it. Give him a cave full of energy from the Dark Side of the Force and he’d walk through it. Give him a Rancor on the surface of a hostile planet and he would fight it with his bare hands. The Jedi trained him for situations like that.
But reporters with livestreams to the Holonet? Galen didn’t know how to fight them…
The torrent of questions came faster than he could comprehend. How could anyone talk so quickly? It was only because of his intense training in Ataru that Galen was able to think quickly enough to keep up. But just barely.
“What were your intentions when you fought those rogue Jedi in the streets of Coruscant?”
“No comment. The Jedi Council has my report.”
“Are you planning to leave the order like so many other Jedi? Will you head your own faction?”
“I am staying with the Order.”
“Will you be freeing more slaves in the future? With there be another Battle of Socorro? Is Nar Shaddaa or Nal Hutta next?”
“I will do what is right.”
“Does ‘Doing what’s right’ mean defying the Council if you think they’re wrong?”
“I follow the Order.”
“Do you support the current Council’s platform? Does Master Veshraan support intergalactic slavery?”
“The Jedi Council does not support slavery. Excuse us, we have to go.”
Galen tried to push his way through crowd. The crowd went for his apprentice. The torrent of questions came with no replies back.
“Do you support your master’s anti-slavery policies?”
“Will you defy the Jedi Council if the Republic decides to legalize indentured slavery?”
“Are you dating your apprentice? Isn’t that forbidden by the Jedi Order?”
“Do you think the Jedi Order should be given extra-judicial powers to free slaves?”
“You’re Leoni Venusia, is it true that you killed your Master?” The Herglic asked Leoni, putting the recorder in her face.
Leoni did not have her Master’s training and exploded in rage,”I did not murder my master!”
The room went silent and all attention turned to her.
“He was good to me. He saved my life. He put me on a ship and told me to run and I did.” Leoni cried.
The undignified rage was unbecoming of a Jedi and it had just been caught on holo. Galen had to do something. His mind raced before the torrent started again. He steeped forward toward the Herglic.
“I recognize you now, you made false accusations against Incom about falsified reports on the manufacturing of the XJ10 series X-wings. Clearly you need to do your research before asking such unfounded questions. My padawan had nothing to do with the death of her master. Implying such a thing is irresponsible.”
The crowd turned from Galen to the Herglic and like kath hounds began to devour their own giving the Jedi a brief respite. Galen and Leoni ran for the door.
“I’m sorry master.”
“We’ll talk about this later.”
Back on Yoda’s lifeboat, Jaden and Cortree sat as the team of droids worked.
“Maybe it is back on Dagobah…” Cortree suggested, ”I think I can borrow some Mole Miners if we need them.”
The conversation was cut short by a pit droid screeching in Binary.
“What is it?” Jaden asked.
“They found something.”
Cortree and Galen moved back into the lifeboat where the Droid team stood like parade line. The little pit droid pointed down at the floor tile below Yoda’s bed.
Both of the Force-sensitives could feel it now. A faint pulse.
“What did I say? Patience, Captain.” Jaden said serenely with no malice.
Jaden moved to the floor tile and removed it and then the both of them really felt it. It was as powerful a feeling as the one they had felt on Durace. But where before they had felt anger, rage, fear, here there was calm, serenity, and warmth. The archaeologist reached into the alcove and pulled out a box-shaped green crystal device. A Holocron made by the Jedi Master who had taught Jedi for nine hundred years.
Cortree followed Jaden as he moved carefully through the lifeboat and back into the Crucible. He seemed to know where to take it.
The main lounge area the team used for their inflight conversations was also the teaching room a long time ago. The Crucible was built centuries ago for training Jedi. An alcove in the wall just the right size opened of its own accord, somehow sensing the presence of the Holocron. Jaden placed the holocron into the proper slot and the device lit up with a bright green glow. The built-in holoprojector started up and the Caretaker of the Holocron, who would have to be dealt with to gain entry to the holocron’s secrets rendered itself.
Jaden looked around for a moment, expecting someone of human size, finding nothing. He finally looked down to find a alien with big ears. The Caretaker looked up at Jaden and smiled with familiarity.
“Master Windu, oohohohohoooo” The Caretaker said, “It has been too long.”
“Master?” Cortree asked.
“Master Mace Windu is a member of the Jedi High Council and one I would trust with the knowledge within this device.”
“Right.” Jaden said, realizing that the Holocron was speaking of his ancestor. The Caretaker had no sense of the passage of time. Jaden felt inclined to go with the will of the Force.
“That’s a Jedi Master?” Cortree asked, in awe of the device.
“Size matters not.” The Caretaker pined, turning to Jaden, “What questions have you?”
“Tell me about Tython.” Jaden said.
The Caretaker nodded and windows of data scrolled.
“Lost and found, many times it was. Birthplace of the Jedi. The place we go to rest, meditate and seek guidance of the Force. Where we go to rebuild when darkness comes.”
“Do you know where it is?”
“Rediscovered it was shortly before the blockade of Naboo by the Trade Federation. During the incident, the Council discovered the existence of a Sith Lord. Darth Maul.”
A graphic of the Zabrak Sith appeared in red. It sent a chill down Jaden and Cortree’s spines it see images of the Sith taken from the Naboo Palace security sensors.
“But, always two there are. Seen one we had, but not the other. Decided the Council did, to keep the location of the world a secret until the threat had passed.”
“Long have the Sith wanted to burn Tython. So secret it was kept. Trusted to a small team of Jedi and allies from the University of Alderaan.”
“What about the Clone Wars?”
“The Clone Wars proved difficult for this information. The Council did not fully trust the Supreme Chanceller, so secret from him it was kept. Tython was on no star maps. In those times, its secrecy became more valuable. How do you find a planet on no maps, hm?”
“So what did you do with it?”
“Many Jedi wanted nothing to do with the Clone Wars. Believed Jedi not to be Soldiers, they did. Rather than risk their leaving the Order, we sent them to Tython to rebuild and restore the ancient temple. As the war continued, many Jedi took serious injuries of not just the body. Taken off the line they were and taken to Tython to heal. About a third of the population, these Jedi made up. Others were sent there because they had become targets for the enemy.”
“Hm…Ex-Patriots. Turned Spies. Informants with too much knowledge and no where else safe to go. Another third, these made up.”
“And the last third of the population?”
“Tython’s secrecy had somehow come to the attention of Republic Intelligence in the last year of the war. Desperate, both sides had gotten. The Council decided to use the Tython System as a staging area for Special Operations. Special Clone Troopers, Republic Military Commanders, Agents and Jedi were sent there as the last third of the population. This in addition to the legion of Clones from the 503rd Clone Legion garrisoned there for security.”
“When was your last contact with the planet?”
“Last contact with the planet was the day Count Dooku fell. The Battle Over Coruscant.”
“Who was in charge of the people on Tython?” Jaden asked.
“Jedi Master Gelom Xalek and his Padawan Caleb Balian.“
Questions continued for an hour. Jaden learned all he could about the planet and the history of the place that Yoda had recorded.
“Caretaker…” Jaden said, putting down his datapad, “Tell me about Master Windu.”
“Mace Windu was a fine Jedi…”
The conversation went on for a while longer continuing until Galena and his apprentice returned from their excursion. As they ascended the ramp, they lowered their own voices and sat down in the back.
“How can Tython help the order?”
The Caretaker turned his head and smiled, “When the Order has been divided. Tython is where we return. For twenty five milennia have we done this. It is a place of healing. Of finding oneself. Of finding what Jedi were meant for."
Galen’s stomach dropped out when the Caretaker continued. The words it said must have been something older than Yoda. Something passed to him by his masters and so on to the beginning of the Order.
“The Jedi Order has endured countless struggles. We rise. We fall. We rise again. We protect. We teach. We open minds and hearts. We bring hope to the hopeless. Sometimes we rise to greatness. Sometimes, we fall into darkness. But, no matter how dark the paths ahead may seem…there is always a light to guide the way.”
The room was in awe at the words. They could feel their power. Then the caretaker laughed at Leoni as she approached it.
“Master…” Leoni asked.
“Yes Padawan? What questions have you?”
Leoni looked to Galen for permission. He nodded in return.
“I was on a planet once. I don’t know where it was. It felt dark. It was a world of Deserts and tombs…”
The Caretaker sighed, “The place you describe is Tython’s mirror. The birthplace of the Sith and their dark path. A place of darkness and dark power. It has had many names. Moraband. Pesegam. *Korriban*…“
Leoni slumped down to her knees in shock.
Jaden rubbed his chin, “Perhaps it is balance that the homeworld of the Sith is rediscovered at the same time as the Jedi’s Homeworld.”
Perhaps,” Galen said, helping his apprentice off the floor.”But we need to leave soon. This place isn’t safe.”
Galen helped Leoni into her quarters so she could recover and then heard his commlink beep. An incoming transmission for him.
He moved to the communication console and brought it up. It was scarmbled. No video. Just a woman’s voice. A voice he recognized immediately. A voice that could only belong to his sister.
“Meet where we left for Kashyyyk…”