To the readers: This is the same fic that I have posted on the KOTOR Fanmedia Page, the link to which is in my profile. However, the flaw with that site is that they only allow feedback from people who are members. Recently, I have been debating whether or not I am going to continue this fic beyond the already completed third chapter, and in order to determine my course of action regarding this fic, I will need all the constructive feedback possible. I still encourage you to go to the KOTOR Fanmedia Page to view this and other fics, so don't take this as an attack on that site, I simply need help with my decision. Now, without further adu, here is the first chapter…
Edit: I have made a revision in response to Shibboleth's Aeon's review. I hope it clears things up a bit.
By Gan Xingba
"Here we are. Dantooine," says the pilot over his shoulder as I rise out of the copilot's seat. "Don't know why you'd want to come to this place, but good luck doin' whatever it is you're doin'."
"Thank you for the transportation," I reply, and I pick up my duffel bag. "I took the liberty of transferring the sum we agreed upon to your account. I wish you well."
I don't really know the man that well, so without further farewell necessary, I make my way to the exit ramp and walk out of the aged freighter. I'm greeted by the familiar emptiness of the rusted metal landing pad that is the Khoonda Spaceport. Its only occupants are the elderly mechanic and the dysfunctional protocol droid that were here on my last visit, the latter of which manages a slightly garbled "Welcome to Khoonda!" as I make my way past it.
As I walk towards Khoonda, I realize that I have no idea why I came back here. My mission was done and over with on this planet. I had taken every bit of knowledge I could from the Jedi enclave here back to the Republic database on Coruscant, and I had reported the whereabouts of the exiled Jedi, Vagus Machaera, to the Republic...
Is that the reason I return? Some sort of wish for nostalgia? No, that's not a possibility. It's true, I had worshiped him as my hero for all those years at the Academy when I was a child, but the Mandalorian Wars changed that. Before the wars, he had been the shining symbol of the ideal Jedi, always doing the right thing, and always loyal to the code. Then, he left for the wars. Being the young fool that I was, I left the Jedi because he had; I tried to mimic him, thinking he couldn't possibly be wrong. But he was wrong, and so was I.
Unable to join the wars myself, I simply heard of my idol's horrific battles. There was Dxun, with its endless body count, Serraco in its barbaric glory, and finally there was Malachor. After hearing of the absolute slaughter committed at Malachor, I finally realized what he had become. The war had changed him, it had taken everything about him I had looked up to and destroyed it, replacing it with darkness. This was how I had always imagined it, at any rate. I had never seen him after the war, I only heard of his exile, but there was no doubt in my mind that only the dark side could have led him to do what he did.
Then, here on Dantooine, I saw him again in the library of the Jedi enclave. He had not been alone, though I took no time to examine his companions during our brief conversation. He did not recognize me, though that was hardly a surprise after all these years. It had been a standard conversation one would have with a stranger in a supposedly abandoned facility ("Who are you?", "Why are you here?", etc.), during which he had not given any indication of his darkness, nor had he shown any inclination to the light. Of course, I am not such a fool to think that has any meaning. One of the darkest things in the galaxy is deception, thus my previous conclusion remains unchanged.
He will have left now, anyway, so I need not concern myself with him. But if not him, then why am I here? The will of the Force? Perhaps…although the Force abandoned me personally almost a decade ago…
I put my thoughts on hold as I approach the entrance to Khoonda, however. Not because I don't wish to think about that right now, but because there is a young woman in patchwork armor pointing a blaster rifle at me.
"Halt! State your business here in Khoonda!" mandates the woman as I approach, clearly taking her job very seriously.
While I would be prepared for this if I were entering a high grade military facility, it was completely unexpected for such a…well, low grade one as Khoonda. Many people may be startled to the point of jumping if this were how their daydreaming was ended, but I am perfectly capable of restraining myself from such actions. After all, if I were visibly flustered by someone pointing a weapon at me, I wouldn't have lasted very long as a Republic Intelligence field agent.
"No need to be pointing weaponry at me," I respond, and stop walking in compliance with her order. "I'm Mical. I work for the Republic. I was here about a month ago for research."
"Oh yeah…" she says, lowering her blaster rifle as a loom of recognition appears on her face. "You're that historian guy. Sorry about that, just have to be careful. You never know when more mercenaries will attack."
"More?" I ask with a bit of confusion. "You were attacked before?"
"Big time," she says, shaking her head a little. "There were tons of 'em."
"What happened? How did you stop them?" I inquire, eager to learn more about this startling turn of events.
"That Jedi happened," she answers simply. "That guy was unbelievable. Him and his crew did almost all of the work for us. Without him, Khoonda wouldn't be more than a memory."
"This Jedi…" I begin after a few moments of stunned silence. "What did he look like?"
As she describes him, I have to struggle a little to prevent my jaw from dropping. The man she is describing matches Vagus Machaerain every way. Was it the he who saved these people? He could have let Khoonda burn, or he could have even joined the mercenaries. Yet he did neither, and instead he risked himself to save this place? Could this be possible?
I thank the woman for the information and head inside, thinking that perhaps she was confused. Perhaps it was some other Jedi that did this, and not the exile. I talk to several other people about the subject inside, and they have the same story, with the same hero.
I sit down on one of the public benches and look towards the ceiling as I try to collect my thoughts. This new information changes everything. No fallen Jedi would do this. No soul filled with darkness would put their very life on the line to save a town full of innocent people. If he has not fallen, then the wars did not change him, they simply changed how I viewed him, and if he has not changed, then the only reason he would come here would be if something of terrible importance. That means…oh, what a fool I have been!
I take a few deep breaths to calm the building frustration inside me as I think about the meeting we had back in the enclave. I see now what I could have done, no, what I should have done. I should have offered to join him, and to take part in shaping the future of the galaxy as his ally. Instead, I chose to stay by the wayside as the fate of the galaxy is being determined, and all because I refused to forgive him for the Mandalorian Wars; because I thought my hero had betrayed me. In reality, though, it was not he who betrayed me with his actions in the war, but I who betrayed him by losing faith in him.
While this is does indeed put things in a new perspective, surely it's not why I have returned here, is it? Has the Force brought me here just so it can taunt me? No, there must be something more here…and if that is so, then there is only one place it could be.
When I arrived at the Jedi enclave, I had been prepared for a countless number of scenarios to greet me, but nothing close to what I now looked upon. Three Jedi Masters, Vrook, Kavar, and Zez-Kai Ell, all lay lifeless upon the ground. I had met Vrook myself from my time as a Jedi in training, and the other two were famed members of the Jedi Council, so they were easily recognized. To even stand as an equal in combat against those three would be a feat in and of itself, but to kill them…
I slowly walk up to the body of Master Vrook, partly so I may check for his cause of death, and partly to prove to myself that he was actually deceased. I kneel and examine the body, but this only adds to my growing state of panic. There are no cuts, burns, or wounds of any kind. It was as is his very soul had been sucked right out of him. I check the other two, and the results are the same. What in the galaxy could have done this?
I close my eyes and try to calm my thoughts. Too many emotions are running rampant in my mind, and if I am to think clearly, then I must regain control of them. Once I have done so, I immediately come to a conclusion. Whatever did this is the very same thing that caused the Jedi to disappear from the face of the galaxy so suddenly. That is the only explanation, unless Vagus spontaneously went insane after saving Khoonda.
I start to stand, but I stop when I notice a cylindrical metal object hanging of Master Zez-Kai Ell's belt: his lightsaber. I unclip it from his belt and examine it, revealing no sign of damage. I had better keep these, if not for simple proof of their demise, than for...research.
I quickly shove Zez-Kai Ell's lightsaber into my duffel bag, and do the same with Kavar's and Vrook's before finally heading towards the enclave's exit with all due haste. I have to report this to Admiral Onasi immediately.
I arrive at Khoonda's militia headquarters to find it occupied by one distressed looking militiaman typing furiously at a computer console.
"Look, if this is about anything less than mass murder, then you're just gonna' have to deal with it," he states without looking up from the console. "If you counted all the hairless Wookies in the galaxy, you'd be damn close to the number of men I've got."
"Actually, I just need to use your long-range communications facility," I respond politely. "I'm here on Republic business, and I need to use your communications facilities. I have my ID if you need to verify it, but I really must make contact with command as quickly as possible."
"Oh! Sorry about that," he says, suddenly rising to his feet and almost knocking over a stack of datapads in the process. "I'm not normally like that, but I'm trying to secure a whole planet with eight of the greenest recruits the galaxy's ever seen, so I'm kinda' on edge lately."
That makes sense. Other than that young woman at the entrance, I hadn't really seen any other militia members in Khoonda. There had definitely been more before, and, come to think of it, this fellow didn't look anything like the grizzled veteran that was running the militia on my last visit.
"That sounds problematic. What happened to the others?" I ask, as I remove my ID card from my front jacket pocket and hand it to him.
"They're off planet with Zherron, the normal head of the militia, on some mission for the Republic, and I got left in charge of things back here with the rookies. They must've scrambled all loyal forces in the sector if they bothered calling us." he answers while swiping my ID through the terminal's scanner. "There we are…yup, looks like you check out. Let me take you to the COM room."
He hands my back my ID and walks past me, motioning for me to follow. He was probably right, the Republic would only use effort calling Dantooine's militia if it were part of a widespread call for assistance. More than likely they had finally decided to intervene in the Onderonian Civil War that had broken out recently. After about half a minute of walking down the hall, he stops at a blast door, swipes his ID card in the scanner, and punches in the access code on the small panel pops out of the wall.
"There you are," he says as the door slides open. "Don't bother letting me know when you're done. The door'll lock automatically when you leave."
"Thank you. Your assistance is most appreciated." I say with a salute, and after it is returned, I step into the COM room.
Having been here once before, immediately sit down at the communications console and enter in the frequency of Republic Fleet Headquarters on Coruscant. The Sojourn was scheduled to arrive at Coruscant a couple days ago. After a few moments, my call is answered.
"This is Fleet Headquarters, go ahead Khoonda," greets the human woman through the holoprojection.
"This is Agent 5607, I must speak with Admiral Onasi immediately," I insist, making sure that I have an urgent tone in my voice.
"I'm sorry, but the Admiral isn't here right now," replies the woman with the usual toneless voice of a COM officer. "Transmit your ID for confirmation and I'll be able to tell you his location."
I comply, and soon I see the holoprojection looking at an unseen display panel.
"The Admiral is currently on Telos, helping it recover from the recent battle," she finally answers, still toneless.
"What! When did this happen?" I demand as that feeling of panic begins to set in again.
"About three days ago," she answers, still showing no hint of emotion. "Do you want me to patch you through to the Sojourn?"
That must be where the militia was sent, not Onderon. Telos is vital to the recovery efforts of the Republic, so it would make sense to scramble all available forces to its aid. But why would Telos be attacked in the first place? There's nothing of any value to pirates, so it couldn't have been a raid. This might be worth investigation.
"No…I think I'd actually like to speak with him in person…could you send a shuttle to my location for pickup?" I request, silently pleading not to have to hitch a ride on another freighter.
"You're in luck, there's one heading for Dantooine with an ETA of six hours," she responds after another few seconds.
"Thank you, miss."
I end the transmission, and let out a sigh. It has been a very stressful day.