Chapter Four

Jean's comlink vibrated, and she smiled to herself. She reached the calm part inside of her body, breathing in and out, focusing on harnessing the Force. She felt the familiar tingling in her finger as the power rose like a giant wave, cradling her into the bigger ones. She breathed out and in, slowly become part of the trees, the rock, the air…

While drowning within the Force, Jean often felt powerful enough to move an entire world. It was the Force's false promise of greater power that led others down the dark path. Jean had to get past that second stage and look at the whole picture, at the forest fires thousands of kilometers away, at the gentle scraping of eating utensils at the Enclave, or the wail of a baby far off in the distant town of Imbraani.

The Force was a circle, much like life and death. Once one began to understand the flows and concepts, one would create their own, meant to live or die as it would. Life and death was the natural extension of the Force, something that happened without word, or thought. It simply is. The Force was everything. While other scientists said things about electrons or particles, you have to wonder: what did make the particles? And what made that? It was a crazy thing a three-year-old would play, like the game of 'why?' Why are you going to work? To get money. Why? To feed you. Why? So you'll grow up healthy and strong. Why why why why why!!!

But in short, the Force was also the child's game of 'why.' There was always and explanation for everything, but the sole maker revolved around the Force, the mysterious energy field that held a terrible power. Many Jedi wondered how the Force worked. Jean never did. As she stood there, locked in the depths of deep meditation, an image of a tranquil, peaceful bear drifted across her mind. It perked up its' head and looked at her mind's eye with a steady gaze, full of trust, before lowering its' head to go back to sleep.

She toyed with the memory for a moment, letting the feeling of trust and happiness envelope her like a blanket. She let out a soft hiss of air, and imagined herself floating, floating, until all you could see of her was a speck in the baby blue sky.

She took off the blindfold, suddenly aware of what she was looking for, and where it was.

--

After a ten-minute hike through the woods with inhuman speed and grace, Jean noticed that the trees were getting a lot let dense, and the air smelled more damp and alive. She sniffed again, catching the whiff of pine cones and more moist air, which was accompanied by the sight of dew-covered grass about ten feet in front of her.

Apparently it had rained, but the trees had covered her up like her own personal umbrella.

Deciding she might as well get a physical view of what she was looking for, she wrapped her arms and legs around the nearest tree and started climbing, using the natural grooves in the tree for footholds and handholds, Jean made quick progress. About five minutes ago she had tied her auburn hair back up into a sloppy bun, but resolved to take it out when she knew Devin was near. She continued climbing, and reached the top effortlessly. Balancing on one of the thicker branches, she kneeled and looked around.

She couldn't have chosen a better spot. In the distance, she could see the Academy, and to her right, she saw a large body of crystal blue water. She gasped, amazed at the natural beauty of it. The lake sparkled, and a large side of a mountain could be seen. Another natural part of the mountain was the walkway that led up all the way around. She imagined jumping off of it and soaring to the bottom, then throwing her head back and listening to the waves.

Sure, it sounded girly, but it brought a strange sense of happiness to her heart. All her life she had lived by machines: building machines, ordering machines, destroying machines, repairing machines… For once, there were no flickering panels with various light-up buttons. Nothing here was fake or artificial.

It just was.

And it was, she thought, the perfect place to practice a kata or chat with a friend.

"Beautiful, isn't it?"

Jean jumped. Somehow, he had gotten behind her. She found her cheeks blushing, and noticed his did, also, though at a more profound degree. She covered it up and saved face with a giggle, pointing towards the water. "It's great," she said. "How did you find this place?"

Devin just shrugged. "I brought a lunch," he said. "I set it up on the top of that cliff."

Jean elbowed him in the side. "Forethought! Yes! Just wait until Master Vieux hears you planned this!"

"Vieux won't know anything," Devin said. "It's just you… and me."

His face became softer, and Jean was aware of the subtle highlights on his skin and brown hair, of the curve of his eyebrows, of the color of his eyes, the most beautiful green eyes she had ever seen, flecked with amber, so gorgeous…

"Let's eat," she said tersely, breaking the silence. "Come on, I'm starved."

She jumped down the tree and beckoned to him. "Come on."

--

Somewhere in the Unknown Regions, maybe a lightyear or two away from the Galaxy Border, pirate captain Rogan Starks kneeled in front of a three-dimensional image of a large, cloaked figure. The creature's head did not allow a hood to cover it, but instead sported bright purple tattoos which glowed against his smooth, reptilian skin. The creature had no mouth, and only two slits for a nose. Even scarier than his marble black skin coloring was the way he talked, with a voice that seemed to echo in Rogan's head.

(Is it ready?) the figure asked impatiently. (We grow tired of waiting. The Head Chief wishes to know if we should continue without you.)

"No, no, not at all," Rogan said confidently. "Don't worry. We have them placed behind the fuel lines, activated by a remote. It will be gone in the press of a button."

(You should have given it to us while you set it. That way you and it would be out of the way.) Rogan blanched. (But still,) the figure continued, (we need you. Make sure the target is securely inside before proceeding. Human impatience can be very… aggravating.)

"Yes, yes," Rogan said, bowing. "I will. Well, uh… Good night."

The creature just stared at him before cutting the connection.