Author's Note: This is my first attempt at fanfiction, so please be nice. I just recently read the Jedi Quest books in my brother's collection, and I found myself so enthralled by Darra's character that I had to write a bit of a tribute to her. Hopefully, you guys will enjoy reading this as much as I liked writing it.

Reviews: All feedback would be appreciated, but please do try to be respectful of my feelings. I spent a lot of time on this, so just keep that in mind when you make your comments just as I would keep it in mind when I review your stuff.

Disclaimer: I do not own any characters that you recognize from the Star Wars movies or the Jedi Quest books. However, I do own a pet hamster.

A Glorious Exit

Ever since the day that she had been old enough to crawl around the crèche, Darra Thel-Tanis had possessed one dream: to become a Jedi Knight and serve the Republic as a guardian of peace. She knew that she shared this overpowering, shining ambition with all the other Jedi initiates that resided in the Temple. No one had to tell her this. She just sensed it the way that she did that rain was wet.

Of course, any sentient who wasn't blinder than a dingbat could have spotted the desire blazing in every initiate. It was obvious in the manner in which they carried themselves and the million little things they did to impress any Knight that came to watch their classes. It was apparent in the way they all exchanged endless fantasies in their downtime about the feats they would achieve as they maintained peace and justice in the Republic once they became Padawans and later full-fledged Knights. It was plain in how they all clustered about the hangar bay, plopping down on empty oil tanks and gaping at the starships as the vessels departed into the crowded Coruscanti sky, transporting Jedi on missions all over the galaxy. In all their stares, the thirst they all had to leave the Temple and explore the rest of the Republic was as clear as transparisteel.

Unfortunately, Darra had been taught enough mathematics to comprehend that they all couldn't get what they wanted. Every Jedi initiate had until their thirteenth birthday to be selected as a Padawan. Those who were chosen traveled all over the galaxy, settling disputes and protecting all sorts of beings. Those who were not picked as apprentices were sent to the Agri-Corps. Yes, a person who toiled in the Agri-Corps, raising crops on worlds that had been ravaged by war or a natural disaster, lived an existence as full of service as a Jedi, but the gap between the excitement levels was as great as the distance between the top of a superskytower and the permacrete surface of Coruscant. Once someone had witnessed what they could do with a lightsaber, a hoe wasn't remotely interesting. After somebody had invested hours in learning diplomacy, seeds were uninspiring. Once someone had experienced training in the Force, training in gardening seemed meaningless.

To Darra, it was terribly unfair that anyone should be exposed to the heights they could attain if they were taught how to employ the Force properly only to shove them off into the fields. This notion had been occurring to her more and more frequently lately, and she suspected that it might have something to do with the fact that her thirteenth birthday was only a month away.

"I have one month left," Darra mumbled, fiddling around with a slab of fatty nerf steak that she had no real interest in consuming. Normally, she liked nerf steak, however fatty, but tonight was different. Tonight she didn't feel like eating anything. "One month left to be chosen by someone. Then I get shunted off to the Agri-Corps to water crops and dump manure on plants, which sounds almost as fun as watching paint dry. Actually, I might even have less time. Sometimes the Council has to arrange transport for initiates that aren't accepted as Padawans a week or two before their birthday, so I might have only one or two weeks left, now that I think about it."

"Don't think about it," advised Tru Veld, his slanted silver Teevan eyes somber. Although he had been in the Raging Ronto Clan with her since infancy, they had never been particularly tight before last week. Before last week, she would have turned to her two best friends since childhood, Janalea and Shannah, for consolation, but they had both been chosen as Padawans, and so they couldn't really relate to her concerns. As Tru hadn't been selected as an apprentice yet, he could sympathize with her complaints as her friends couldn't. Although Tru's tendency to voice his thoughts aloud midway through was more than a tad off-putting, he was a compassionate and humorous boy, and Darra was starting to wish that she had taken the time to get to know Tru before now. "It only upsets you, and you're thinking about it isn't doing you any good. Anyway, at least you don't have it as badly as I do. My birthday is in only three weeks."

"Yes, but you've got Ry-Gaul looking at you, and I don't have anyone that seems to be considering at me," she reminded him, an uncharacteristically gloomy expression in her rust-colored eyes. Typically, she was vivacious, but she couldn't be expected to continue displaying her infectious gusto when her dreams were dying slowly with every passing day, siphoning the life out of her.

"Soara Antana is," Tru corrected her through a mouthful of nerf steak. Averting her gaze from this revolting sight, Darra wondered inwardly why all teenage males had to possess all the table manners of a wrathful reek.

"She was," amended Darra, shaking her head and bullying herself into nibbling at her supper, because she had to keep up her energy even if it seemed pointless to do so now that she would never become a Jedi. "She was stopping me in the hallways between lessons and asking me about lightsaber techniques. She was watching me like a hawk-bat in lightsaber classes. Now she isn't. She left the Temple four days ago. Obviously, she decided that I wasn't worthy of being her Padawan, and who can blame her? None of the other Knights thought I was worth teaching either." A sigh exploded from her, and she went on in a frustrated tone, "I just wish that I knew what I had done wrong!"

"Maybe you did nothing wrong," Tru suggested softly. "To start a Master-Padawan relationship, both the student and the teacher have to be comfortable with the idea. Perhaps Soara Antana couldn't deal with the prospect of being a Master yet. After all, she was just Knighted. Maybe it had nothing to do with you personally."

"Maybe banthas can fly, too," replied Darra skeptically. Then, she scolded herself mentally. Honestly, Tru was doing the best he could to console her, so the least she could do was demonstrate some appreciation for his efforts. Her face breaking into a wry grin, she apologized, "Tru, I'm sorry. My problem has nothing whatsoever to do with you, so I had no business taking it out on you. These past few days, you've been a real comfort to me, and I thank you for that."

"Maybe we'll be together," Tru remarked.

"Was that intended to make sense?" asked Darra, her grin widening into a smile.

"Maybe we'll be shipped away together," he explained. "If neither of us our chosen, perhaps we'll be dispatched to the same Agri-Corps group, since we'll be leaving at the same time. I'd like it if we were."

"Me too," she agreed. If she had to serve in the Agri-Corps, it would be better to have him beside her than to be alone. Of course, she would have preferred to have him by her side as they went on missions, their lightsabers glowing as they defended the Republic, but she couldn't have all her wishes be fulfilled, as she had discovered the hard way over the past couple of days when the dream she had nourished of becoming Soara Antana's Padawan had been stomped out as easily as if it were a pesky gnatfly in the rectory.

"It could still happen," Tru informed her. Glimpsing her bemused features, he elaborated, "I mean, you could still be chosen. Tomorrow we have the Padawan's tournament for twelve-year-olds, and you're the best at dueling in our age group. Someone might see you fight and decide to take you then."

"Someone might." She nodded her head, but she thought it was a rather frail hope. Still, she reminded herself, it was better than nothing, so she should throw all her energy into the tournament tomorrow. Even if, as the laws that governed probability in this particular universe dictated, nobody decided to accept her as Padawan, at least she would have gone down putting up a tremendous struggle, and sometimes a glorious exit was all a body could demand of oneself.