Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Kneeling, eyes closed, Darrus finally let himself do what he'd been putting off for weeks. Ever since he began this Scarlet Wake business, he'd set aside part of his mind. Day after day, he had avoided what he was doing now. With a deep breath, Darrus opened the gates of his consciousness and let himself remember.

There were those who called the Jedi heartless. Unfeeling, uncaring monastics with mystical powers at the cost of their own souls. The truth was a little more complicated that that. Jedi were not at all uncaring. Quite to the contrary, the reason they seemed this way was because their connection to the Force made them exactly the opposite. The Jedi were not unfeeling.

They felt everything.

When someone without the ability to sense the Force had an emotional reaction to something, their thoughts and feelings remained within themselves. This could be a very strong reaction but it was centralized and limited. A Jedi's feelings echoed through the Force, affecting others and feeding on their reactions in turn. All intense emotion became amplified this way, resounding and increasing until even the smallest thought could become overwhelming.

And it did not stop there. Jedi were in touch with life and with all living things. They were not just affected by their own emotions. If someone near a Jedi felt strongly, he or she would start to feel that way as well. It was hard enough to control one's own mind; filtering out the untrained thoughts of others could border on the impossible.

Focusing on himself now, letting himself finally think after so long trapped in the persona of Wraith, it occurred to Darrus that this was probably why he had appreciated the clone troopers in his army so much. They were disciplined, trained to control themselves in battle and in everyday life. In a way, their minds were quiet. Even when they did show emotion, they never let it get out of control, thus providing him a certain peace in their company.

What had brought up that thought? Was he drawing a correlation between his clone troops and the Mandaloreans? Perhaps, though the only real denominator linking the two was their military lifestyle. In every other way, they were two very different animals.

Darrus moved past that, placing his hands on his knees as he straightened his back and breathed in deeply. There was more troubling him tonight than just runaway emotions.

During the battle, he could feel every death just as he had during the many engagements of the Clone Wars. Back then, it had taken all his training not to be overwhelmed by the loss. It had not always been easy to block out the dark echoes of ending life.

But during the battle earlier that day, there hadn't been any trauma at all. Each death, each fading light disappearing into oblivion, had been like a brief flicker of pain. Nothing more. What once had been so hard to endure was now barely more than a second of mental discomfort. By the end of the combat, there had been no sadness or anguish at all.

What was happening to him? Was he losing his connection to the Force?

No. That would have been a better answer than what he feared was the truth. For years he had struggled with the Dark Side, trying to keep himself for ever forging a true connection to its powers. No matter how badly his emotions had strayed from his control, he'd always been able to keep them from going too far. He had always drawn the line at death, always been able to make the distinction between right and wrong.

Now, the loss of so many lives wasn't affecting him at all. He sensed them but there was nothing there. No impact. No emotion. How could he feel this way, or more to the point, not feel? He had finally become jaded. Apathy was as dangerous as hatred. Not caring was as sure a path to the Dark Side as passion.

And of course, that word brought up other issues. Passion takes many forms.

"Darrus? You all right in there?"

Speaking of which...

He rose quietly, smoothing down his black metasilk robe over his legs. His arms and legs were bare, his hair loose and falling over one shoulder. Only his bantha leather belt and his lightsaber accompanied his robe; the rest of his garments were in the other room. With her.

"I am well. Just taking a moment to meditate. I haven't done it in a while."

Maya opened the adjoining door, leaning against its silver frame, one bare leg pulled up to rest foot first against her other knee. "You mind company?" Even in the half light of the bed chamber beyond, her gown clung to her invitingly.

Darrus closed his eyes, folding his hands and trying to center. "I really should do this alone."

There was a soft sigh and then the sound of the door closing again. "I understand, Darrus. No trouble. Just come back to bed when you're done? Please?"

He nodded, knowing she wouldn't be able to see the gesture and returned to his crouch on the floor. Lightsaber in hand, resting it across his lap, he tried to regain his focus.

There is no emotion; there is peace.

Very little in his life felt peaceful right now. At one time, he had been able to set all the turmoil in his soul aside and concentrate on the Code. Now... that was harder than ever. There was blood on his hands. Blood of friends. Blood of the innocent.

There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.

He was lost in this. He had no idea how to save himself, especially if he truly was starting to lose the ability to feel the darkness and find his way through it. Emotional detachment was useful but being heartblind was not. He needed help. He needed advice.

There is no passion; there is serenity.

That was not at all true these days. Passion was almost a given and not just because of the beautiful woman in the other room. The last few battles he'd fought had been more than just tactical. The rush of combat, the touch of fury riding every nerve. Dangerously close to the Dark Side each time, this was why he'd sworn his oath not to take a life again.

An oath he was no longer sure he could keep.

There is no death. There is the Force.

Groaning, Darrus stood up, returning the saber to his belt. This wasn't working. He felt no better now than when he'd started. Whatever was wrong, the Code was no comfort. If he was going to find himself again, it wouldn't be here.

Perhaps, and this concept terrified him deeply, it wouldn't even be as a Jedi.

Friday, October 12, 2007

To The Victors...

Deneb Station was alive with lights and motion, every ship in stardock running fully lit and firing its energy weapons into the darkness all around the aging, but still intact, facility. It was a celebration of survival. Everyone at Deneb knew how close they had come to getting blasted out of the stars.

And they also knew who to thank for their survival.

In the station's galley, all the best from the larder had been brought out and prepared like only spacer cooks with decades of experience could. The food was spiced within inches of explosion, the libations were flowing freely and the music was deafening. Throughout the station, no one was quiet or alone. Even the dock workers were taking a well-deserved few hours to just celebrate life. Life and the continuance thereof...

A mug of something cold and foaming lifted into the air at the heart of the galley throng. "A toast to the finest warrior drew in space!"

The response was like thunder. Three dozen men and women, all armored in one way or another, raised their drinks and shouted at the same time.

"And a toast to our ships; the fleet that would not fall!"

Again, a roar of agreement. Glasses were raised. Drinks were drained and refilled.

"And let us not forget," the commander-soldier speaking said with a wide smile, "a toast to the Archon that made this all possible!" He tipped his mug towards the man of the hour, the only 'Mandalorean' still wearing a helmet.

Behind his visor of alloys and glass, Jeht was feeling remarkably nervous. Never exactly a social creature on the best of days, all this attention was making him quite uncomfortable. Had it not been for Maya's insistence that the troops needed him here, Darrus would have already retired to a private chamber for the night.

"All hail the Silverguard and the savior they sent us!"

The reply boomed through the hall. Of all the toasts, this one echoed the loudest. "Hail! Hail! Hail!"

Darrus winced at the noise and the focused attention of everyone in the room. They were looking at him now. They were all expectant. They were calling him a savior. Part of him wanted to run. The rest of him wanted to vanish.

Instead, half at Maya's telepathic prompting, he raised his own mug and nodded quietly, hoping that would be enough for them all.

It apparently wasn't. The room went silent.

"Say something to them. Something encouraging."

He glances sideways at Maya, sitting beside him with a drink of her own. Mentally, he asked, "Like... what?"

Beneath the table, she patted him consolingly. "Let them know you are proud of the job they did. They are warriors. They want to know they fight well."

He sighed quietly and started to speak. Before he could even get the first breath past his lips, Maya cut him off quickly with another short, telepathic burst.

"Take your helmet off, silly."

Jeht cringed. "Do you really think that's a good idea? I don't exactly look normal, Maya." His pale skin and black hair would not be a serious issue but the total lack of white or color in his eyes would probably make an impression. If these people were expecting something specific, taking off his helmet was possibly the worst thing he could do.

"I will watch their emotions, Darrus. If any of them become apprehensive about the way you look, I'll let you know and we can get out of here before they react. All right?"

As they were conversing, the commander lowered his drink slightly. "Sir? Is everything all right?" Around him, people were starting to look nervous, shifting and staring at Darrus with curious eyes.

The time for discussion was clearly over. Time to act.

Darrus put his drink down and reached up to his chin, popping the respirator lines and unlocking his helmet. With a soft hiss, the faceplate split down the middle and slid back into the helm in both directions. Taking it off completely, he set it down on the table, retrieved his glass and looked up into the concerned gazes of the many people crowding the main table around him.

"I don't talk much outside combat," he started. His natural voice, barely more than a whisper, was loud enough to be heard by everyone in the suddenly silent room. "So you'll have to forgive me if this takes a moment."

Instantly, he could tell he'd said the right thing. Mentioning combat set the Mandaloreans at ease. They were obviously used to battle leaders with more savvy on the field than in the barracks. Maya reassured him quietly, confirming that suspicion. he'd disarmed the moment but he had to keep this momentum going or risk losing this goodwill.

"I have led troops into battle for years. I've seen wars fought among starts that no one has even named and killed people on planets that no one will ever remember."

All of that was true and because it had a weight of honesty behind it, the people in the galley accepted his words without question. The Clone Wars had taken through a general's journey, one that these soldiers could definitely relate with easily.

"But tonight, I saw a handful of men and women with virtually nothing take down an enemy with virtually every advantage. This night, those who opposed us are frozen among the stars while we burn in the fires of the righteous. They died. We lived. Be proud of this victory."

He paused long enough to look through his drink at the beaming faces of the Mandaloreans at the table. Even the commander was now smiling, all trace of suspicion or worry gone.

"And be proud of yourselves. Many stood as one and as one we stand triumphant now. You all salute me, but it is I who should salute you." Darrus raised his glass and downed its unknown contents in a single quaff.

"Well done, men. Well done."

The applause was louder than the roar of a thousand engines. The room exploded in cheers and activity, drinking and revelry. The commander at the other end of the table stood tall and rpoud, returning the gesture by finishing his own drink and bowing his head in deep respect.

"Darrus! That was incredible!"

He leaned against her, sighing and closing his eyes. "Maybe. But that speech was even better when Master Windu gave it after the Battle of Tirilis V."

Maya could not help but laugh into her glass, instantly frothing what was left of her drink.


She grinned up at him. "Yes, love?"

He rested his hand on her shoulder. To the rest of the room, it just appeared to be a gesture of companionship or affection. Only Maya could tell it was something else. Only she could feel that Darrus was suddenly resting more of his weight on her.

"I have no alcohol tolerance at all. Could you help me get out of here before I pass out?"

He was already swaying slightly. One drink and he was plastered. Maya had been the owner of a bar and now she was hopeless over a man with the beer stamina of a sun-addled Jawa. The irony most definitely wasn't escaping her.

But speaking of escape...

"Oh course, Darrus. Just lean against me and stay still when I stand. I'll walk you out of her and make it look like you are taking me to your chambers for some 'private celebration'."

Maya made a big show of fawning on him as she guided him through the galley. The envious looks and warm leers were all rather complimentary and nothing she hadn't dealt with before. No one here would question why Darrus was leaving so quickly. Between body language and slowly undoing his armor as they walked, she was making that pretty obvious, after all.

Besides, Maya thought to herself as they left the mess hall and the raging party behind. An inebriated Darrus was a prize in and of itself.

She'd never take advantage of him, drunk or sober, but there were a few questions she'd been meaning to ask...