PART 2: EARTH

DANTOOINE

Prologue

Lower City of Taris, Five years earlier…

She felt like she had been treated – a beast. Her fur was matted, and infested with lice. Gold eyes, dulled by weariness and brutal conditions looked around the squalid market. She was badly underfed, only emphasized by her tall stature and the uneven growth patterns of adolescence.

Hugging her knees in the small cage, she hung her head and tried to look as unappealing to a buyer as possible. The rusted wire bit into the sores on her back. They hurt, but she wasn't sorry for earning them. She probably killed one of them, might have badly wounded another…too bad it seemed to make no real difference.

The cage was small to stand in, and sitting was agony, considering the other things those brutes had done to try and break her spirit. She still remembered one of them as they tore her leggings to shreds, his street-speak accent jolly and laughing.

"Just a little breaking in for ye, kitty. Want ye to be good and ready for market y' know."

Never mind that she already had a lover…well, used to. Tanni, another lonely outcast on this terrible human-dominated world, had been a regular at the cantina, a messenger for one of the gangs. Tanni had not been Cathar, but it hadn't mattered. The two girls were childhood friends who only grew closer as they grew older. Humans may have had strange ideas about same-sex lovers, but there wasn't the prohibition in their cultures. Three weeks earlier, she had felt Tanni's death. She did not know how or why, but she knew it even before another member of her gang came to the cantina with the sad news that her lover had been yet another casualty of the Lower City's perpetual gang wars.

A scarred, shuffling wreck of a human man sidled up to her cage. "Well, y're quite the sight. A little skinny, but I think you could become quite the prize. Cathar females make pretty amusing pets, I've found…" His wicked face broke into a leer, emphasizing the crisscrossing layers of scars all over his ugly face. "The name's Xor, and you're mine now, kitty-cat."

"I have a name." Her parents learned Basic late. As a result, her own speech was thickly accented. Ganni had considered it very attractive.

Xor laughed. "Your kind ain't worthy of that. Where t'hell is Davik? Gotta give him the credits –" Xor jerked up at the sound of shouting and swearing, looking about frantically as he escaped out the back. The girl could hear blaster shots, the clash of swords and blades and another odd sound…a low-pitched hum like that of energy focused through a generator.

One of her captors threw open the door to this creaky shelter, limping and clutching his chest. He took two steps before another blaster shot caught him in the back and he went down for good. Running in the door were four others – a human man and woman in orange and red uniforms she would later know to be of the Republic fleet. The other two were women - a Twi'lek and a woman of a species she had never seen before. They were dressed in unfamiliar robes with the same coloring as the soldier uniforms, but distinctly different in cut and pattern.. The uniformed humans guarded the door. The robed pair made sweeping gestures with their hands and the cages flew open. Most, seeing an opportunity, fled. Others cowered in fear in the back of their cages – afraid either of the newcomers or of the prospect of freedom.

"General," said the Twi'lek. "We have not found the Mandalorian spy, but we've certainly found something else. These people looked to have quite the slaving operation going on here."

Their leader walked in…their leader…

She climbed out of her cage and limped into the center of the room. She took a sharp, amazed breath. Their leader was beautiful! The girl could tell their leader was human – olive skinned and black eyed. Dressed in ivory robes trimmed in scarlet, her face covered in a half-mask, she carried one of the bizarre rods the other two robed liberators had, only hers was lit – a glowing blade of violet. The purple blade vanished, and she placed the rod back on her belt, walking forward.

"Are…are you a goddess?" the girl asked.

Upon getting a closer look, she could tell that the woman in the ivory robes wasn't much older than she was. "No. I'm just here to take you home. Where is your family?"

"I have no family." She looked down. "They are dead. I would suppose that would make me yours."

"Jedi do not keep slaves. What is your name?"

"Juhani," the girl said.

"Channa Mae and Nala will take care of you, Juhani." She looked behind her and nodded to the two others. "Make certain she gets a hot meal and good medical care. See to the others as well. I doubt he's gone far." She patted Juhani's shoulder. "Maybe we'll meet again, and may the Force be with you…"

Juhani watched as the beautiful human rose and left the hovel, walking like a ghost among the squalor.

It was the start of a dream…

Dantooine, Present Day…


…It was the end of a dream.

Master Quatra crumpled to the floor, the Falleen Jedi's sapphire-bladed lightsaber dropping from her lifeless hand, and powering off uselessly.

Juhani gasped. What had she done? The moment of blinding anger and fury had passed and left her shaking and confused. She was carrying her own blade, a deep ruby red. Juhani powered off the saber and dropped to her master's side, whispering Quatra's name. Quatra did not respond, and the young Cathar tried searching her fallen master for any sign of life.

She found none.

In blind panic, Juhani ran from the training room, as fast and far as she was able in the middle of the night. She ran across the vast plains of Danootine, her lightsaber in hand. She crashed through bushes and scrambled up rocks. Her robe was stained and covered in grass and mud by the time she could run no more.

In the moonlight, the meditation grove looked twisted and angry. A perfect place for refuge, Juhani thought. A perfect place to retreat into darkness and become the beast she always had been…the beast who tried to become something better than what she was only to turn into that she could not avoid.

She collapsed in the center of the stone circle and concentrated on her self-hatred, her grief and pain…no one would come near her. No one would try to redeem her…she was already beyond such things…