Chapter Eight

At 0330, the Council Members met at their room in the highest tower on the left side. Since the new Enclave—a very big Enclave, I might add—was carved into the large mountain wall, they had a perfect view of the ground below them. A large yellow glass dome protected them from the elements, and produced a golden light seemingly out of its' own accord. The dome connected to the mountain wall, nearly blending in with their surroundings. The walls and floors, like every room besides the cafeteria, was a pale pink marble imbedded with soft glow lights. Their Council seats, solid, rock-hard chairs, were nothing special.

Vieux counted the Council Members around him, and nodded his head slowly. The Masters, left-to-right, were as followed: Vieux, Gatemaster Hann, Jemayah, Lu Ten, and Sanji Taban. Xanni was still in the Medical Bay, and had already transmitted his latest news to the Grandmaster via comlink. Vieux interlocked his claws together and bowed his head in reverence to the hard-working men and women beside him. (Something terrible has happened…) His telepathic voice, usually no more than a whisper in their brains, was as loud and as low as a steam engine. (A mercenary, controlled by a greater evil, has infiltrated our place of learning and nearly killed our two Padawans, Jaing Ghetto and Jean Anek. Padawan Ghetto proceeded like he always does to the mess hall for a midnight snack when he heard something going on in the kitchens. He went to go look, unaware that it was not the serving droids, who had ran out when the mercenary shooed them and found the Brunaai's patrol. Jaing opened the door, and Padawan Anek gagged him with her hand, forcing him to quiet down. After a brief struggle, she let go and Jaing stayed quiet. Soon after, the lights went out, and the mercenary proceeded to fight them.)

(The fighting stopped as soon as Brunaai and others arrived. They escorted the mercenary to the Medical Bay so as Healer White could treat him. Brunaai took Anek and Ghetto to my quarters to relive the event, and for minimal Healing. The rest of this story comes from WeaponMaster Xanni. He and two others dragged the mercenary to a room in the Medical Bay, where Healer Bonnie White examined his memories. She was touched a dark spot in his mind, and was pulled into another conciousness. Soon, she was incoherent and in pain. Finally, she collapsed. The last thing she had said was to find Rogan Strife.)

(Master Xanni says that her heart still beats faintly. She has entered into a coma, swallowed by the darkness.) Vieux sighed through his nose. (What do you make of this?)

Sanji Taban, a Zabrak woman with a defined facial structure and chocolate skin, interlaced her fingers and bowed her head. "How can a minimal amount of a man's mind be forced into another's?" she asked.

(She walked into a part of his mind that was not his own, and was drawn into the other's consciousness.)

"But is that even possible?"

"Controlling mind takes practice," Lu Ten, the Trandoshan, said. "Not something all is gifted. And those are: they no become perfect at same day. Takes yeeerz. To do something that scale, you be older than, than… the Grandmaster. Can you do that?"

(Only when the need presents itself. The knowledge is partly lost to me. It's an art the Sith of old have used before. But I cannot do it on that scale, no.)

"None of us did it, I'm sure," Hann said stiffly. "And no other Jedi here are more skilled than Master Vieux." He paused a beat, looking hesitant. "Do you think the Sith are on the rise again?"

Sanji snorted. Her mocha dark skin glistened in the faint orange light that signaled the early Ossusian sunrise was not far off. "It would be too easy to believe that the Sith are back."

"Can you think of anything else? Anybody with a motive?"

"Rogan Strife," Jemayah said. "A dangerous man. He doesn't like Jedi."

(This sounds like Rogan Strife,) Vieux said. (He who would rather let the machine do it for him and lay back on his throne.)

"It's true," Sanji said. "But lets keep all the other options open, too. Do we have any current strayed Force Users? Jemayah?"

Jemayah's large, angular eyes closed, and Vieux knew she was running through her list of information in her mind. Finally, she nodded. "Jae Anek, Jean Anek's… mother. But she is accounted for. She left after Jean came into her life. She could not handle the responsibility. She keeps in touch, however. She does not want us to see her as a dangerous homicidal Dark Side user. In her own words. She works as a waitress at the Bucket on Coruscant. In the old days, Jedi families worked there to keep an eye on their children at the Jedi Temple."

"Write her up, Sanji," Hann said. "We'll check out the list when we're through." Sanji nodded. She had taken a sheet a flimsi paper from the small endtable next to her chair and was hastily scribbling notes and names down for further research. "I'll call in a favor from Irving at the RHI and see if we can get records. Blasted Cerean has all the answers."

Vieux was not amused by this statement. He was thinking of something else.

Rogan Strife… Vieux knew the man personally. Rogan, or "Rogue", as he liked to be called, was born to a big family on Talravin with three older brothers and two younger sisters. His mom left them when he was ten, and his father pursued the fine art of drinking. His dad had so many girlfriends, Strife had felt neglected. When he had asked for some form of attention, his father's current girlfriend had beaten him so severely he had nerve problems the rest of his life, resulting in a little "twist" of a brain cell. Strife had visions of a balance of order and nice people. When he was twelve, he had magnified this thought to a whole new level and killed his dad's newest girlfriend with a dinner fork. He had "Erased the evil from the house."

He was charged for second-degree murder and sent to juvvie on Coruscant, where he joined a gang called the Chatsworth Eights. They were high on the racial scale, and Rogan fit right in. They organized an escape, and Rogan was back out on the street with his newfound friends at fifteen years of age. A much too tender age for this to be happening.

On the one occasion Vieux had captured Strife, he surveyed his memories using the same method Bonnie White had used on the mercenary, At this time, he had started doing drugs and spice. He never touched alcohol, which in itself was strange since his father was an alcoholic. He killed fifteen more at a mass shootout between the Chatsworth Eights and CorSec, and at sixteen became the leader of the gang.

They started some bounty hunting jobs over on Concord Dawn, and always came up with their victims. Rogan Strife was indeed Force Sensitive, like Vieux had first thought, and had used these skills to his advantage without knowing it. Soon, Cem Dhagon heard of their exploits and enlisted them in his pirate crew: the HawkBats.

Rogan continued working for Cem for a long time, until his thirties. Once he took over the pirates, though, Vieux had been on his tail like that. He tried to arrest him, but Rogan Strife was a challenge. When Vieux had finally had him captured, he had performed the memory scan, and heavily sedated him. He had gone to regroup with the rest of the Jedi Knights hunting him, and found out the hard way how easily Rogan Strife could fake unconsciousness.

He had escaped and actually stole Vieux's ship, stranding them on Harrun Kal until the Republic sent a ride for them.

He is a very slippery one. Vieux had been looking for another excuse to go after him again—which he could have, considering he was the Grandmaster and all—but now he had a real reason, and not a desire for revenge. He was connected to all of this somehow, but not even Rogan Strife could dominate a person's mind like that without great training.

Jemayah looked at him with soft brown eyes that seemed to pierce his shields and let him know she knew everything that went on inside his head. (Rogan Strife needs to be captured,) Vieux said. (At all costs. Master Taban, how long do you think it could take you to get me a lead?)

"You're going after him," Sanji said softly, stating it as a fact. "Don't worry, Grandmaster: I've been researching him long before this incident. I'll call in a few owed favors. He can't hide for long."

(I will help.)

"No, you'll get in the way," Sanji said. "But thanks. I've got it taken care of, Grandmaster."

"The mercenary?" Jemayah asked. "Something needs to be done about him. And Healer White. Vieux?"

Vieux was silent for a heartbeat, processing this all. Bonnie White had to know something: they just had to get around the strong mental barriers she had placed around herself. Even if they could, Vieux had a strange feeling all they would find would be darkness, and held a secret fear that those who studied her would be connected to the alien mind somehow.

(I do not believe the man was the culprit, but rather the victim. Remove his restraints, if he has any, and let him walk freely. I sense no danger. And for Healer White… I will have two of my Padawans observe her. And myself.)

"Which Padawans are you planning on using, Grandmaster?" Sanji asked. "I was about to request Evlyn from you, if at all possible."

(You may take her. But let her rest. Let us all rest. It has been a busy day, and we're not even started yet. I will send Evlyn to you in this afternoon. Jean and Jaing will be reporting to the Medical Bay early in the morning.)

"Vieux hath spoken," Sanji said, though she sounded a bit distant, more put-off. When Vieux glanced at her, he noticed she was bent over sideways, writing like mad: she was on her third page of paper.

"Should we keep the lockdown initiated?" Hann asked.

(Yes, keep the lockdown active until further notice. If Rogan Strife is hiding on these grounds, I want him locked out of here. Jemayah and Hann will search for any sign of him outside.) They nodded. (Also, keep some of the older Padawans on patrols. I understand a Code Grey has been announced. Take seventy-five-percent back to their studies. Don't keep this a secret: We are all in danger.)

Jemayah cocked an eyebrow. "You're going to bargain with them indirectly," she muttered.

So she knows? I must be slipping.

(It will be easier for them to help, would it not?) Vieux inquired. (The slight fear will press them to act. A good life experience, and it may also help us become one step closer to finding Rogan Strife.)

"Girlie coming," Lu Ten said suddenly. His head was cocked to the side. "In hurry."

Vieux knew she was coming, too. There was a buzz at the door—three insistent buzzes—and then silence. Vieux could feel the anxiety radiating off of their intruder in waves. "Enter," Sanji called.

The door opened and a lithe girl of about eleven or twelve jogged in, obviously out of breath. Her face had gone pale. "Auron Kae, Jedi Padawan reporting," she said. She straightened, gave a quick bow, and brushed flyaway strands of blonde hair away from her eyes. "There's a bomb in the Enclave."

The girl could not have been more deadpan.

Each Council Member's face went blank with shock. "What?" Sanji asked. She had completely forgotten her notes. Vieux knew she did not intend to scare the younger girl, but achieved that desired effect. Auron's right shoulder dipped in her direction slightly and her back tensed. "How did this happen? Well?"

"I don't know, Masters," Auron stammered. "We were doing rounds—me, Evlyn, and Devin—and we went into the cafeteria. I found it first. It's small and black with a silver-and-red ring around the middle. It's attached to the Main Generator. Devin thinks it's remote-controlled."

There was a brief pause as this sunk in.

(Show me,) Vieux said. He rose out of his seat, all eight feet of him towering over the girl. She nodded, bowed, and turned around, jogging back towards the hallways.

Vieux followed close behind. The Council emptied out behind him as they each went tot their respective duties, and Vieux felt a gleam of satisfaction. Auron took a sharp left and entered a maintenance stairway instead of the Turbolift. When he questioned her on this, she said, "Aren't working."

No wonder she had appeared so out-of-breath. But this left Vieux with another matter.

Sabotage? Or a coincidence?

He made a mental note to find out soon.

Going down the stairs were hard for Vieux, especially since his feet were giant. And, of course, since he never used the stairs.

Warriors never forget to get attuned with their local surroundings. You have had it too easy.

They entered the boiler room where the Enclave's water was processed and the heat was made. The entire room was bathed in a red glow, accompanied by metal walkways and small service panels on every dead end. Ancient fans swirled above them, casting an unsuccessful wind on them. Auron had disappeared through another walkway, and emerged on the one opposite him. He followed close behind, making sure not to get burned.

This was not his territory anymore.

(How do you know your way around here?)

"Because I made exploring this place my business," came the short reply. She no longer sounded afraid on him. "Going down is a lot easier than up. Right turn."

After successfully navigating through hundreds of walkways and probably forty floors, they came back into a regular hallway. Vieux felt all stretched out and ready for a good bought of sparring. An amusing thought hit him. The boiler rooms could be a part of my morning exercises.

A part of him was ashamed that he had never visited that room before this. When eleven-year-old girls got curious enough they found out just about everything of everything. They say it's a sign of maturity when the young ones teach you something. Unfortunately, Vieux could not afford to take that lesson right now.

I will ask her later.

If there would be a later.

Bombs were the kind of things Rogan liked to use. He would prefer to sit back and watch the show, or even give a nudge or two for his enjoyment. He would never get his hands dirty. Vanity was the man's issue. Among others.

He was jerked back into the present when Auron tripped. A curse left her lips, and she steadied herself just in time. "We're almost there," she said.

(We're five levels up,) Vieux reasoned.

"I know," Auron said. "And the Turbolift is six levels down. Jump down the shaft, open the door, and the deed is done."

Vieux felt pride bubble within his chest at Auron's reasoning.

He envied no sentient who would inevitably try to outsmart her.

They reached the Turbolift doors and Auron typed in a number on the pad. The starship-exterior doors opened. Vieux had to duck through the opening, but managed to land safely on the top of the Turbolift roof. Auron landed a little less gracefully next to him. She put her hand on the door, and Vieux felt her draw upon the Force. With a casual twitch of her mind, the doors flew open.

They stepped out into the cool, air-conditioned hall, and Auron let go of her grip slowly so the doors didn't bang together. Vieux faintly recalled he had made sure that they were airtight when he first had them installed.

He had rebuilt the Enclave into a large mountain wall. The outside blended in, perfectly carved piece-by-piece. There were no windows, except for translucent orange domes at the top of every Spire, plus one at the very top of the Enclave, where the sunlight hit the most and cast a great color in the rooms. A large granite gate about five stories high prevented anybody without the proper codes entrance. Concealed turrets were positioned on the gate and in strategic places on the mountain wall. There were more than a thousand stories, most of which held empty room and false energy signatures in case of an attack. The dim lighting was made to confuse night-vision sensors and flesh-and-blood beings from detecting friend-or-foe. The airtight Turbolift shaft doubled as a refuge, for small tunnels were made every five floors that actually led through the mountain, underground, and into the capital city of Imbraani.

Everything had been tricked out to his specifications. He and the strongest Force Users of the day had built the Enclave by hand, shaping it, forming it… In Vieux's eyes, it was beautiful.

They stopped at a door, and Auron warned him to close his eyes. "They might not have time to adjust to the bright lights," she explained. She pushed open the door, and they entered the mess hall. Vieux didn't look at the wreckage, but over towards the kitchen door, a little ways away.

Vieux got there before the girl and walked into the wrecked kitchen. He raised a scaled brow in amusement as he surveyed the damage the other two Padawans had done. They had taken out almost half of the wall with delicate little strokes of a lightsaber, which he saw was lying a few meters away. The design looked similar to the one Devin usually used. The part of the wall they had chopped off was lying on the floor, inside paneling facing upwards. On further inspection, Vieux saw that it was actually hanging by two wires while its' end scraped the surface.

"We're back guys… Oh. What did you guys do?" Auron's surprised little voice came from behind him.

Devin was kneeling next to the main generator. He glanced up at Vieux and nodded. "It's a bomb, all right. She told you?" Vieux nodded. Devin pursed his lips. "I can't remove it without a real mechanic, or we'll all be a big floating hunk 'o junk orbiting Coruscant. Evlyn noticed a seam behind the wall next to the generator housing, and felt around a bit. We found this." He held up a stone in his hand for the older Jedi to see. "Could be anything. But look at it through the Force. See that?"

He reached out one clawed finger to touch it, sinking into the Force. Although sunken in Dark Side energies, Vieux found it radiated a sense of peace. Calm music seemed to play by itself in his mind, a kind of music that was just beyond remembering. He started humming from deep in his throat. It grew into an echo-like sounds, bouncing off of the walls. The three Padawans listened for a moment, eyes half-closed and wondering.

The song was one of ancient harmony and peace, something Vieux knew only his species could properly interpret. But he could not stop humming. It was a piece of his homeland coming back to him—

"Stop! Stop, please!" Devin's voice came over his humming. "I can't control myself!"

Opening his eyes, which he did not realize he had closed, he apologized and looked at the stone with an ancient sadness that seemed to reflect itself in the dark pools of green and purple inside of the gems. (I have not heard that for a long time…) He shared these thoughts with all in his presence. (It was music played by those who cannot talk. They weave their spells through their songs, making them nigh irresistible. Only my species are immune. The effects are more disastrous for humans. You may find yourself inclined to mate with the opposite gender, get a bad haircut… or destroy the Enclave.)

"What did it say?" Evlyn inquired.

Vieux turned his glazed-over purple eyes in her direction, looking through the girl in thought. (It was a form of persuasion that cannot be explained in words,) he offered. (I would suspect the true message is for the one carrying it. Master Xanni informed me of his Sorusan heritage.)

"Let's ask him, then," Devin said.

"What about the bomb?" Evlyn asked.

(It is not connected right,) Vieux said. (It poses no threat. It is safe to remove.)

The Padawans let out a sigh of relief. "The stone, though," Auron said. "How did he get the stone? Don't your people make that kind of 'music'?"

Vieux fell silent. After nodding that yes, indeed his people performed that kind of music, he stood and rocked back on his heels. Devin disconnected the bomb and stuck it into his pocket, possibly for a lady-friend Vieux had noticed he was getting close to. (You may return to your beds,) he said. (Evlyn, please report to Master Taban in the evening after your lunch. Auron, Devin: you're classed will go as planned.)

Vieux made sure the three were in front of him and away from the wreckage before he fingered the stone again and put it in his own pocket. Devin turned, obviously unaware of what the Grandmaster had just did. "What about Jean and Jaing?" he asked. "Are they going to keep their classes?"

(Thank you for reminding me. No, they will not. They will report to me at the MedBay at 1100 hours. I will be making an announcement near the evening of the recent events, and then we will concentrate on helping Master Taban find Rogan Strife.)

"The name clicks," Vieux heard Devin muttered. "But I don't know why."

"Auron, come on, I'll walk you back to your room," Evlyn said.

"No, I'm good," Auron said. "I'm going to check with Master Brunaai and man the cameras."

"Even with classes tomorrow?"

"I've lived on caffa before."

"You're crazy. You haven't even gone on a mission yet." This from Devin. They continued walking towards the exit. Already, behind them, service droids were cleaning up the mess. Everything would be as good as new come lunchtime.

Every trace gone.

Something changed on Auron's face as Devin's comment registered. "I don't have a Master yet," she said.

"Better get one soon," Devin said. "Thirteen's the limit, right?"

"Then it's a good thing I don't know when my birthday is, isn't it? I could say I'm nine."

"Just saying."

They walked in silence for a moment. Vieux realized that this kind of conversation must have happened before he came, and it was now being finished with respectful words and taunts.

Devin was toying with her fears.

I don't teach that here.

"Good night," Auron said stiffly, and disappeared. Her head later reappeared by a corner. "And Grandmaster, I'd advise you to do something about the Turbolifts. Or the AC."

Devin and Evlyn raised their eyebrows. Vieux shocked them both by bowing low to Auron. (I will. I promise. May the Force be with you, and the stars watch over.) The last part, he added only so she would hear: (You are a great apprentice. Do not let childish taunts fool you into believing you aren't. Good night.)

Auron smiled slightly and disappeared once more. Vieux turned and turned off the lights to the mess hall, covering everything with darkness.

--

Jean woke up to the sound of ringing and suppressed a groan. Hoisting herself up on her elbows, she opened her eyes, blinking back sleepiness. The first thing she did was reach out to turn off the alarm clock, but where her alarm clock used to be, there was a plate of food… and a note. Two notes.

Room service? Jean thought. She did a casual sweep of her room, as if looking for an intruder, then blinked. She blinked again. She was in the stark white MedBay, not the calm granite quarters she was used to living in. As the night's events replayed themselves in her mind, Jean experimentally flexed her leg. Her jaw hardened as sharp pang sang through her thigh, and decided just to reach out and eat her breakfast for the time being.

The nuna eggs looked good, but Jean wasn't very hungry. She nibbled a bit just to be polite, and so Healer White wouldn't fuss over her, and left it at that. She fingered the two notes left beside her plate of eggs, and opened the first one, which was written in sloppy handwriting she had to concentrate to actually understand.

:REPORT TO ROOM 001 IN SICK BAY AT 1100 HOURS – VIEUX:

I wonder if Smiley cracked yet… Where's Jaing at, anyways?

The next note answered her questions. It was from Devin.

:Hey, Jean. Why didn't you tell me you heard something outside your door? We could have checked it out together! The entire Enclave's on a Code Grey alert because of what happened. We've got an eleven-year-old manning the cameras! Auron Kae. All the Council Members are stirred up about Rogan Strife. I have to go meet Master Taban with Evlyn at 0700 to help find him.

You get all the luck.

Vieux says you're to report to him at 1100, so don't be late! Jaing's coming, too, if he's up to it. You sure as hell took a beating there, Jean. I was worried.

It's a good thing I'm not mentioning the bomb. Then you would be worried.

Dev

PS-Evvie brought your lightsaber. KEEP IT WITH YOU ALL THE TIME!:

Bomb?

What bomb?

What was going on?

Jean hastily reread the note just to make sure Devin said bomb, and leaned against her pillows, feeling confused and afraid. She stared blankly at the paper for another minute, running through the possibilities, before she finally put the tray back on the table and painfully got out of bed. She saw a clean leather jerkin hanging on the small foldable chair—the only other piece of furniture in the MedBay—and limped over, using the small bathroom to change into it. She kept on her sleeping pants, which still bulged slightly with bandages that hurt her if you touched them.

She took her lightsaber with her this time, heeding Devin's advice. She stepped into the corridor, lightsaber in hand, and started down the hall slowly. It was always bright, at maximum light like at the mess hall, so she had no real indication of time. Nobody was wandering the halls like her, and she managed to get herself lost in the maze of corridors.

Great.

Jean slumped against the wall.

I am such an idiot.

Jean grimaced and sat down, keeping her right leg straight out. Vieux had healed the worst of it, but the man had plunged half of the knife into her thigh and pulled down, ripping tendons and muscles she hadn't know existed until now. It was throbbing like hell, and Jean blew out a breath, exasperated.

You let that happen, Jean. What's gotten into you? You could've taken him out without Jaing's help!

Something had been wrong about the man. He didn't feel right. Hell, she didn't know. A Calming Exercise would've helped if she had ever paid attention in those particular classes. Okay. Focus. Breath in and out, let everything flow… Nope, not feelin' it.

Jean leaned her head against the wall and let out a heavy sigh. She closed her eyes for a moment, and had visions of a man with grey hair and a haggard face approaching her with a steel, bloodstained dagger…

--

Somebody was shaking her and calling her name. "I don't want to go to class," Jean muttered, turning her body sideways and away. "I'm beating up the merc…"

"Wake up, Padawan," said a weary, agitated voice. "Padawan Anek, wake up this instant."

Jean popped open one eye and grimaced. She opened her eyes again, squinting through the bright lights. "Huh?" she asked, staring up at the face of Healer Phalanx, a blue-skinned male Chiss dressed in shocking white medical uniform. His hard red eyes looked into her own blue ones. "Did I fall asleep?"

"Yes," Phalanx said. "Up, Anek. Your leg's not fully healed yet."

"I don't care," she muttered. Her face, scrunched up with effort to see past the bright lights, suddenly turned angry. "Where's the bomb at?"

"Bomb?"

"Devin said there was a bomb."

Phalanx sighed. "You will be told the entire story by the Grandmaster. I am not at liberty to discuss."

"Then how did Dev find out?" Jean shot back.

"He was the one who found it," Phalanx said patiently. "Now, follow me back to your room." He reached out a hand and held her arm in a vise-like grip, pulling her up.

"Hey, stop," Jean said. "I'm not going back in there. What time is it?"

"It is 0647," Phalanx informed her, though from the stiff tone in his voice, Jean knew he did not like being disobeyed. "Now, come with me young lady."

"No," Jean said, pulling away from him. "Can I at least go back to my quarters?"

"It is too stressful. March, Padawan/"

"I said no," Jeans said coldly. She looked directly into the Chiss' eyes. "I want to know what happened."

There was a short pause, in which Phalanx's lips tightened in what could have been a snarl. "You are seventeen years old, Padawan. You are not in the proper age group to be bossing me around."

"So what?" Jean snapped. "As a Padawan, it is my duty to know what is going on within the Enclave at all times. I'm not an apprentice."

"You are doing a reasonably good job of acting like it," Phalanx said angrily.

"Where's Healer White?"

Phalanx snarled. "Room. Now. I will fetch you when your Master arrives to take possession of you."

Jean snorted. "Him and what army?" she muttered. She didn't continue the argument, maybe because she was tired, or maybe because the sedative Phalanx had injected into her about an hour before she woke up was taking effect.

"I suggest a Healing Trance," Phalanx said stiffly as he led her back to her room. "Though they do no good if the user is as stubborn as a human."

"I'll take that as a compliment, sir."

A small growl issued in Phalanx's throat. She let herself a small smile before returning to her bed, sinking into the gentle currents of a Healing Trance.