The datapad showed Galen Argyus a woman’s face. The correct age, a face reminiscent of his mother, but he still couldn’t believe the datapad and what it said.
“WANTED: 2 HUMAN SUBJECTS
FIRST SUBJECT: LEENA ARGYUS, WANTED FOR THE COLD-BLOODED MURDER OF HER MASTER VARGOLLA THE HUTT. KNOWN TO BE ARMED AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. APPROACH WITH CAUTION.
SECOND SUBJECT: GALEN ARGYUS, RENEGADE JEDI AND BROTHER OF FIRST SUBJECT, WANTED FOR THEFT OF LIVE PROPERTY AND THE MASSACRE OF SOCORRO. KNOWN TO BE ARMED AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. APPROACH WITH CAUTION.
BOUNTY OF 2 MILLION LOCAL CREDITS EACH FOR LIVE CAPTURE OF SUBJECTS. NO DISINTEGRATIONS.
BOUNTY PAYABLE BY VARGOLLA’S NEXT OF KIN, PORBOTTA THE HUTT AT HIS COMPOUND ON NAR SHADDAA UPON RECEIPT.”
Galen stood frozen in the moment. Memories flowed past his vision. A ventilation duct. The sounds of screams and blasters. His older sister being taken by slavers with the rest of the children. Reptilian growls…
“Galen?” Jaden Windu asked, bringing Galen back to the present.
“My sister, Leena. She’s alive, “ Galen said, “and I have to find her.”
“We will.” Jaden said, putting a hand on his shoulder.
The pair of Jedi together with their ally Cortree Tincove walked past the Corusant Security Forces hauling the pair of Bounty Hunting Brothers aand Former Jedi, Biggs and Wedge, into the back of a hovertruck. Biggs was hauled in shackles next to his brother, Wedge, who was strapped to a gurney.
Master Ashlan Kataar calmly strolled out from the throng, her hands behind her back.
“That was well handled, Jedi Argyus. Very Good work.” Master Kataar said.
“I did my duty, Master.” Galen said, bowing to her, “Any word on the woman, Halcyon?”
“She will be found.” Kataar said with no emotion.
“The brothers?” Galen asked.
“They will face the justice of the Republic and have a fair trial.”
“Master…” Jaden said, raising a hand, “Perhaps the Republic holds an opportunity for these brothers and other exiled Jedi. Service to the Republic in some fashion has been used in the past and may be a way to redeem those that have fallen from the Order’s strict standards.”
Kataar rubbed her head tail between two fingers in thought, “That is not a bad idea, Jedi Windu. The Council will consider it.”
Mast Kataar moved to Cortree and shook his hand.
“Captain Tincove, thank for your work in the temple. Finding that message. The Council is grateful to you for finding a piece of our history.” The Master said, her voice faltering for moment. Kataar, like all Jedi Masters spent all her time not hiding, but controlling her emotions. But that message had touched everyone in the temple.
“I was just fixin’ something that broke, Master Jedi. Ain’t no thing.” Cortree said.
“Indeed, Captain…” Master Kataar said, gathering herself, “Keep me apprised of your progress and situation. I will see what I can do about the bounty, but…you have your mission.”
“I can handle the Bounty. I will insure that it does not harm any innocents and I will complete the mission, Master.” Galen said.
“And Tython, Master?” Jaden asked.
“If the Force guides you there, it will be found.“ Master Kataar said, steel in her words, “If you can find it, it will more than just the Council that will be indebted to you all. May the Force be with you.”
“May the Force be with you.” Galen and Jaden returned in unison.
Less than an hour later, the Crucible flew out from Coruscant and went to hyperspace. Aboard ship, Cortree Tincove worked on the Communications array.
Cortree punched in a few more commands into the console and offered the seat to Galen.
“Is the line secure?” Galen asked, sitting down.
“Not sure. Best I could do on short notice.” Cortree said, “Bounty that big, someone might be listening.”
“It’s a chance we’ll have to take.”
Galen spent the next few hours calling his contacts in the Outer Rim. Among them were the Eriadu Emancipators and their Liberation Lane, an underground route for escaped slaves to find new lives in the Core Worlds. Galen had helped dozens of people through them. He could slep well at night knowing he had done something good.
“Hobbs, it’s me.” Galen said into the communicator, hours later.
His contact’s visage came up garbled, as always. The precautions he took always seemed excessive to Galen, but you never could be too safe in his line of work.
“Galen, I saw you on the holos. Very nice! You heard about that Bounty?” The distorted voice said.“I need all you can dig up on that Bounty. Everything. All biographical data. Every rumor, every echo. Everything.”
“Pull back your throttle for second. You know how I work.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll be there.”
“I’ll get what I can. I can’t promise I can keep it quiet.” The Voice said.
“Just do it. See you there.” Galen said with fury before cutting the transmission.
Galen turned off the Communicator and ran a hand down his face. He found his hand shaking. He took deep breathes to get his mind back to its center.
When he calmed down, Galen moved through the ship to Jaden’s station at the Crucible’s ancient Computer. A holographic display of a planet floated in the air with a few lines of miscellanous data below it. The other Jedi sat at his station and placed another datapad into the neat stack building next to him.
“Any luck on finding more about Tython?” Galen asked.
“Not much in the ship’s computer.” Jaden said, dejected, “The archives aboard have been encrypted, corrupted, overwritten or purged at some point. Most we have is general information on the planet.”
“Terrestrial Type. Breathable Atmosphere. Orbital Position five… The planet has been abandoned, lost and refounded several times in its history. Seiged at least once and had it’s Hyperlanes erased by the Sith at least once. Last confirmed record of Jedi habitation dates back to about one thousand years ago when the Jedi High Council ordered to have the Temple rebuilt. ”
“Master Obi-Wan mentioned a Temple in the message.”
“If it is the same Temple mentioned in the old records, it would be the oldest and largest Jedi Temple in the Galaxy. As large as a whole city. Maybe have its own archives or backups of the archives on Coruscant.” Jaden said, pointing to the ancient, out-dated blurry hologram that spun in the air.
“The Isolationists seemed ecstatic that we found evidence of it.” Galen said, scrutinizing the image. He felt a weight through the Force. A power coming from the very visage of the planet.
“I believe that the whole Order will take interest in it. It is the birthplace of the Jedi. Where one could gain knowledge of the past and of one’s self.”
“And the perfect place for the Isolationists to say we should all move and get out of the Galaxy’s way.”
“Or perhaps they would find new wisdom there. Change their perspectives.”
“Maybe when Hoth gets beach side property…” Galen chuckled.
Cortree walked in from the cockpit, stretching out. “Where are we headed first?”
“Eriadu.” Galen said, “My contact is there. He insists on meeting in person.”
“That’s fine, Dagobah is right on the Rimma Trade route. We can pick up some supplies while we’re there.”
“Weren’t you born on Eriadu, Galen?” Jaden asked.
“Yes.” Galen said.
The Crucible dropped out of Hyperspace and came in for a landing on the Planet Eriadu. Located at the center of several major Hyperspace lanes, Eriadu fancied itself as the future Coruscant of the Outer Rim. Ships and Trade Goods flowed into and out of the planet every minute. But, the fires of Industry created skies of smoke that matched the corruption of the planet’s government. The Planet’s Senator was notorious for his landslide victory in his Senate Race despite having not set foot on his home since taking office.
Galen vaguely remembered it as home.
The Ship landed and the Jedi disembarked. Galen and his apprentice Leoni walked together in the rain with Cortree right behind ordering around the maintenance droids hooking up the ship to refuel.
“Stay with the ship, Leoni. I’m going to meet my contact. If you get word from me, drop everything and make a fast getaway.” Galen said.
“Yes, master.” Leoni said with a slight bow.
“Careful out there, Galen,“ Cortree said,“ Watch for tails.”
“I will and I will.” Galen said, putting the hood up on his robes as he walked into the streets of Eriadu.
Cortree resupplied the ship with everything they could possibly need as Jaden practiced flying the shuttle. He practiced on a cargo container the estimated size of Master Yoda’s ship and had marked out the estimated search radius.
The lifting crane lowered for the target…and knocked the cargo container over. Again.
But Jaden kept at it. Kept practicing with the shuttle.
Meanwhile, Galen walked through the streets of Eriadu City. Workers and tourists moved past as he made his way to meeting site, an open-air Cantina with plenty of ways to enter, exit and be hidden.
A holoprogram blared out over the streets as Galen found a seat in the Cantina. A familiar voice to Galen these days given his notoriety.
“I am Gul Shyssa and I’m hear to ask you a question: What has the Jedi Order come to?…”
A stream of images from inside speeders played. Images of Lightsabers cutting through the roof of the hoverbus. Galen looking through the holes cut shouting, “Get down!”. Galen taking a Telekinetic ram to the gut.
“A duel in the skies above Coruscant between Jedi. In one corner, a pair of brothers who took the names of heroes of the Galactic Civil War. Disgraced. Forced to hunt bounties for the Hutts. In the other corner, their bounty. Galen Argyus, Liberator of slaves. Hero to many for doing what the rest of the Order refuses to. The right thing. The just thing…”
The Program continued and Galen inputted the specific order he wanted into the table’s controls. An item not on the menu. Code for the meeting.
“…The Jedi Order is in shambles and they still play at being politicians. Is Galen Argyus, son of Eriadu the enemy of the Jedi Order? Or the Jedi they need right now?”
At the mention of his home planet, the crowds watching the feed wooped. Galen pulled his hood down lower.
An hour later, after sipping a glass of water, the empty seat in front of Galen was suddenly occupied. An invisible shield and hologram came up around them, protecting them from outside eyes and ears.
Hobbs was a Dugg whose eyes never stopped moving and his four hands never stopped grasping things. He was a slicer instrumental in keeping the Liberation Lane running and Galen knew that if anyone in this area would know something about a Bounty, it would be Hobbs.
“We don’t have a lot of time. You got a lot of people looking for you and your sister. Two million a head is a lot.” Hobbs said. The Dugg passed a datapad under the table with his “foot” and Galen took it.
“Tell me about her. What did you find?” Galen said almost immediately.
“A whole lotta weird, friend. Your sister escaped a few years after she was sold a few times then she just disappeared for five years.”
“Define ‘Disappeared’, Hobbs.”
“No traces. Clean getaway. Then five years later she’s back with the Hutts again. Word is she was a Heavy Hitter for those slugs.”
“Heavy hitter? Like an assassin?”
“She made problems disappear as far as I can tell. How her name got out there but not to us before now…I don’t know. Weirdest thing is that her employer Vargolla wasn’t even with the Cartels.”
Galen scoffed. He had a hard time believing a Hutt wasn’t a gangster, “Spice Miner on Kessal?”
“Archaeologist. He authenticated Relics for Shogo the Hutt’s collection. Biggest brain for the stuff this side of the Galaxy. “
Galen looked at images of his sister, standing over the dead Hutt, “Leena killed him?”
“Word is they were tight. No problems. She just snapped one day out of the blue. Killed him, disabled his entire security entourage and stole his research without being seen. That’s all I got.”
“Thanks Hobbs. I owe you one. Try to find out where she’s been.” Galen said, passing some credits under the table.
Hobbs got out from his chair and stared at Galen for a moment, “I’m sorry about your sis. There will be more Hunters looking for you and ones that aren’t former Jedi won’t be as polite.”
As soon as the meeting was over, Galen could sense he was been followed. He didn’t know where or how, but he could sense them. But Galen knew how to beat tails.
Galen sent a message to Cortree and moved around Eriadu City for an hour. He moved to the industrial district, carefully taking the slowest, most circuitous route he could.
Galen went past places he hadn’t seen since he was a small boy. Memories of his sister found him. She didn’t want to go to Kashyyyk. But mom made them go anyway.
He moved silently into a droid factory. Any speeder or ship would not be able to go indoors. Galen used his Force enhanced speed and mastery of Ataru to leap and ascend to a higher level in a few quick hops. He moved to an open window, leapt to another factory and moved along the crossbeam along the roof. He moved to another window and leapt out to the waiting open hatch of the Crucible.
The Crucible flew off as fast as it could towards the skies, but behind them stuck in aerial traffic was a ANOTHER SHIP. The Bounty Hunters scrutinized their screens and spotted the Crucible’s tail section.
The Crucible left orbit and went to Hyperspace. The Ship came out of Hyperspace over the swamp world of Dagobah. The Jedi hid the ship on its only moon and flew down to the surface on the SHUTTLE.
A BOGWING flapped across the swamps of Dagobah with its croaking song as the shuttle touched down. The landing hatch opened and the gangplank extended.
The voices inside echoed out the front.
“Are you sure this is the site?” Cortree asked, “Not the best place to land.”
“These coordinates were taken from Grandmaster Skywalker’s own X-Wing. It’s the only lead we have to go on.“ Jaden said.
The first person on the plank was Galen’s Apprentice, Leoni. She put a hand over her mouth as the smell of the outside came to her attention.
“What is that stench?” Leoni asked muffled, “I thought this was..AHHH!” The Young Padawan slipped and fell face-first into the mock.
Galen followed her out, quicker than she was and did not slip. He reached out and pulled his apprentice out of the muck.
“What was that?” Galen asked.
“I said I thought this was the Desert planet.” Leoni said, spitting out swamp water and wiping muck away from her face.
“That’s Tatooine, my young apprentice. You should brush up on your history.”
“You thought it was the sand planet too!”
“No, I listened to Jaden.” Galen said and looked out to the landscape.
Cortree and Jaden walked out behind the pair and gave the landscape pause. Cortree shivered as he walked out.
“What’s that tingle?” Cortree asked.
“That is the Force.” Jaden said, “This place has a lot of life in it. It might have been why Master Yoda came here.”
“I woulda preferred Tatooine,“ Cortree said, “There are Cantinas there.”
Jaden looked over his scanner with a smile, “Coordinates are dead on. We should be within a hundred meters of the ship. I’ll take the East. Galen, take the West. “
“I’ll stay here in the warm, safe shuttle.” Cortree said, holding up a modified communicator,“My Beck ‘n Call will call the Crucible if we need it.”
Leoni looked into the fog of the swamp as she bound her wet hair back. She felt something in the fog.
“What’s that?” Leoni asked, “Its cold.”
She ran towards the feeling in the West.
“Leoni!” Galen shouted. He ran through the swamp in pursuit. His Ataru training had made him light on his feet, giving him amazing agility.
It did not do the same for Leoni. She let out a sound as she slipped again and fell back into the muck. Galen caught up to her as she got up herself in front of a large CAVE.
“This place feels cold.” Leoni said, overwhelmed by the Cave.
Galen picked up on it immediately, “There’s power here.”
Leoni’s eyes drifted to the side of the cave. She found a series of letters carved into the stone. She ran her fingers across them.
“Master, these were carved by a lightsaber.” Leoni said in awe, “It says, ‘You will find only what you take with you.’”
Leoni didn’t understand the words. Galen did.
“That is the Darkside of the Force. This place is rich with it. We must be cautious.” Galen said.
“Master… Yoda might have hidden something in there.” Leoni said.
“That is possible.” Galen said. He scrutinized the words cut into the rock. Burned there as a warning. The Forces inside called to him to enter, but his instincts told him it would be dangerous.
Galen removed his lightsaber and utility belt and handed them to Leoni.
“For once, do as I ask and stay here.” Galen said calmly.
“Yes, master.” Leoni replied and sat down on the stones.
Galen let out a deep breath as he entered a meditative trance and walked into the cave. He felt the power flow over him. The tingle, the cold. He walked down a flight of carved stone steps. He let the Force guide his way through the darkness.
Meanwhile, Jaden ran his scanner this way and that. He stepped carefully through the swamp. He set his feet and let the mud cover his boots. Eventually he turned off the scanner.
Jaden closed his eyes and let the Force flow through him. He could sense the rocks, shuttle, the dragonsnake, DON”T STEP ON THAT! He made his way through and he heard an echo. Something beneath him.
Jaden took another step and hear it again. He had found solid ground. Not just ground. Metal. Durasteel.
He toggled his commlink. “Galen, I found the ship. Galen?”
On the other end of the line, the distorted voice came out from Galen’s Commlink on his Utility Belt. Leoni got up and looked to the commlink and then to the cave. It was too much for her. She had to find her master.
She ran into the cave.
Galen’s training had taught him about places like the cave. A Force Nexus. Here he would be steeped in the Darkside and he would see other places. The Future. The Past. Old Friends and Loved Ones. Parts of himself he would rather be forgotten or buried brought to the surface. He couldn’t resist it completely, so he let it flow through him.
Galen wasn’t in the cave anymore. He was six years old on Eriadu. He was looking at all the people around him. So many people around him. Big people walking past without a care.
In front of him he saw the back of his sister arguing with their parents. She was angry.
“Mom, we can’t go! We have to do something about the slaves. We can free them!” Galen’s sister shouted.
She turned to him and stopped Galen cold. Her eyes were red and tinged with gold. The veins were practically popping out of her skull in rage.
“Right Galen?” She asked in a darker voice.
Galen kept his trained resolve. He heard a blastershot. He saw his sister as she was in the Bounty, in a tactical bodysuit of some kind standing over Vargolla The Hutt with a raised blaster. Her eyes were red, full of rage.
“He isn’t a traitor!” Leoni’s voice echoed down the tunnel, snapping Galen back to the present.
“Leoni?” Galen called out, running as fast as he dared in her direction.
He found his apprentice with her Lightsaber out, lighting her way like a torch. Leoni’s young face contorted as she closed her eyes and clenched her teeth in effort.
“This is a vision. There are no tombs. No sand. He is not a traitor…” Leoni said., “He is not a traitor. He is not a traitor. He is not a traitor!”
Galen grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her, “Snap out of it. It’s just a vision.”
Leoni got up and slipped past him, her eyes still closed. She ran deeper and deeper into the cave. Galen’s force enhanced speed allowed him to easily keep pace. He could hear her shouts echo.
“He is not a traitor! THIS IS NOT WHAT Galen is supposed to do! He is a good person! I don’t want to spy on him! I don’t want to lie anymore! This not the way of the Jedi!”
Galen caught up to her and grabbed her, ignoring the images that passed his own vision, not letting the Darkside take hold.
“Leoni, open your eyes!” Galen shouted. That finally seem to work. Leoni stopped, took a few short shallow breaths and looked ahead.
Leoni stood in a small chamber with pile of bones. Robes. Lightsabers. Big..ears?
“Don’t think so. Yoda became one with the Force. This one looks long dead.” Galen said. He didn’t know what he was looking at, but it felt important to him. But he felt that he had spent enough time in this place.
“Leoni,” Galen said coldly, “Run outside. Now!”
The pair of them ran. They ran as fast as the force could carry them. Visions flew by Galen’s eyes. Visions he chose to ignore.
As he reached the area where daylight seeped in, new visions came. Warm feelings. Some were familiar voices from static-filled Holograms he had watched on Yavin IV as a student. Some he didn’t recognize. But Galen knew what they were.
Jedi Masters of the Past reaching out through the Living Force. Teachers whose lessons had been forgotten. Their voices came in a torrent, one picking up where the other left off. A trail of history from Galen’s own master back thousands of years.
“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.”
Galen saw the light now. A trail of luminance that guided him to a beautiful place of peace, warmth and wisdom. Tython…
The Light faded and Galen stood in the swamp again. But he knew what he saw. The Way to Tython was here. He knew it.
He looked to his apprentice who was doubled over taking deep breaths in. She looked up to him.
Leoni stumbled over her words, “Master. Back there. I…”
“You should have followed my instructions. Do that or you won’t be able to pass the trials.” Galen said, “You can trust me Leoni.”
“Yes master.” Leoni said, “I went in there to tell you that Jaden found the ship. He’s waiting for word back.”
“Good” Galen said, taking his possession back and strapping them back on.
He toggle his commlink and Cortree’s voice came back, “Galen, where you been? We lost you for a second there?”
“Walking a different path. I’ll be there in a minute.”
“Copy.” Cortree signed off.
Leoni got up and Galen stopped her for a moment.
“Apprentice, is there anything you wish to tell me? Anything you haven’t told me?” Galen asked.
“No.” Leoni lied and Galen knew it.
Jaden Windu stood in the mud with his Vibrotunneler whirring. Preparing the site had gone smoothly with only a few local flora and fauna that had to be cleared away first. Cortree stood next to him, minding the equipment as he worked.
The last of the mud cleared away and Jaden found what he was looking for, the dorsal emergency hatch. He worked the handle with some help from the force and the hatch hissed open.
Jaden hooked on a line and lowered himself down into the ship.
“The ship must have sunk in the first few years here.” Jaden said, “It looks like Master Yoda built the Hut on top of it.”
“If this is a Fighter or a modified Lifeboat, then with a century of corrosion it’ll never fly again.” Cortree shouted over the tunneler, “Poor bird. But the interior would have gone hermetic and sealed itself shut mechanically, so it’ll be mostly watertight.”
Jaden moved his glowlamp around the pod. He found the interior as a ship inside should. Bed. Shelves. Sink. But the walls looked brown with corrosion. Swamp water dripped in slowly.
“Looks mostly intact. Mostly watertight.” Jaden said.
Jaden moved to the dresser drawers. He found them undisturbed and sealed. He could feel the echoes of life in here. Something was here for them to be found. He could sense it.
“Personal Effects are preserved. Perfect.” Jaden said.
“Check the cockpit!” Cortree called down.
Jaden’s light moved past the corrosion and found the cntrols for the ship. His lamp moved over the console and stopped on a single display long since gone out.
“It has got a Navigation computer!” Jaden called up.
Cortree clapped his hands, “Hot damn!”
“Call the Crucible. We need to get this out of here now.”
Less than an hour later, Jaden used the shuttle’s tractor beam in a practiced motion and carefully hauled the ship and the hut atop out of the muck. The Crucible came out of orbit and floated down near the surface.
The Crucible’s Cargo Bay opened and in a practice motion, Jaden hauled the entirety of Yoda’s Ship and hut into the cargo bay. The Swamp water and mud continued to drip down as the ship settled in the cargo bay.
Cortree’s prepared team of droids dutifully tied down the vessel in preparation of spaceflight. Cortree on the other hand covered his nose in disgust as Jaden brought the shuttle in, set it down next to Yoda’s ship and walked out next to it.
Galen and Leoni walked in behind him and covered their mouths too in response.
“The stink…it followed us in.” Leoni said dejected.
Cortree held his nose, “I hop I can scrub that out of the cargobay.”
Jaden walked past Yoda’s ship amazed by the sight of such history.
“Do those pit droids have olfactory sensors?” Galen asked.
“No. Don’t have a socket for ‘em either.” Cortree said.
“Lucky bastards…” Galen said.
The Jedi all stopped at once when the sensed more than heard it. They looked out the back of the Crucible and stared into the distance. Engine sounds.
“Attack Skiffs!” Cortree said, able to identify the threat form the sound alone.
“Bounty Hunters!” Leoni gasped as everyone came to the same conclusion and burst into motion to get the ship moving.
In the distance, a trio of Attack skiffs floated over the water as the Crucible rose out of the water and took to the skies slowly because of the trees.
The Skiff Pilots rose hands in a signal and the skiffs ascended and pursued the ship with great speed as their mother ship, a YT-2400 Star Cruiser came overhead.
The Chase was on…
Nicely written, Brad.