- Posted On: Sep 11 2013 9:26pm
The Force Wars
Act One: The Unifying Force
Arix Askrima sat upon the terrace of his apartment overlooking Knossa City, in the tallest tower of the Great Jedi Library, meditating on the Force. It had been a difficult year. The Reaver incursions were no longer the pestilence of the galaxy as they had been, but Reaver territory was far from safe and the Ossan Defense Force Green Zone along the Reaver border was under constant assault.
Thank the Force for Chadd Fearsons, Zark thought, marveling at how much could change in so little time. Two years ago, he couldn’t imagine thanking Fearsons, Shadow Jedi Master and leader of the Jutraalian Empire (its capital, Jutraal, the new monikor Fearsons had chosen for what once had been New Alderaan), for anything.
That is, until Fearsons had, as his dying wish, bequeathed the entire Jutraalian Navy and all its worlds to the Ossan Parliament and the Jedi Enclave. The resulting donation had, over the past few months, led to the birth of the United Worlds of Ossus, or UWO for short. Zark was almost certain Chaddwick had been assassinated, and the thought of pursuing his killer to avenge the Shadow Jedi’s death had crossed his mind. But vengeance was no longer his path.
His path was that of the Jedi, and Fearsons’ killers would get what they deserved in the end. Sith always do, one way or another. Even total victory can drive a Sith Lord mad, as history had shown.
He was mulling over the trade agreements currently underway with the former Commonwealth, newly crowned Republic. Zark had learned from his forebears' mistake, there could be no unification between the UWO and the Republic, and it was for one reason and one reason only.
It would be a danger to them both. Ossus had to remain neutral, and even that hard choice had pained the Grand Master. The people had been willing to bear the Jedi’s burden, but at what potential cost?
All at once, he felt a disturbance in the Force unlike anything he had ever experienced. He instinctively reached for the activation switch of the crystal white saber embedded in his robotic hand. The hand was a newer model. The old one had let the robotic hand recede into the wrist in exchange for a saber sprouting directly from his wrist, but that had been too unwieldy, so this model shot the saber hilt directly from his palm, before closing and clicking into place, wieldable just as a normal lightsaber but still bolted to his robotic palm, and deactivated in much the same way, only reversed, the small panel on the side of the saber and on his wrist controlling the whole device.
The crystal had been an exhumed artifact of the Library, truly unique in the universe. Zark hadn’t wanted to take it, but the Knossans had insisted, and the Jedi Master had quickly learned that when the Knossans wanted something, even his pseudo-messianic reputation couldn’t stop it.
His finger was at the button when he paused, noticing for the first time that the presence was not of the Dark, but in fact exuding Light in quantities he had only experienced in the most powerful Jedi Masters, Jiren and Skywalker among them. All of the sudden there was a blinding white flash, and Zark instinctively threw himself to the floor of the balcony, only to feel cobblestones beneath him where there should have been Ossan lumber.
Blinking rapidly, his vision slowly cleared, and the sight before him took his breath away. He was no longer on his balcony, no longer in the Library, and from the sky it seemed as if he wasn’t even on Ossus anymore. He was standing in what looked to have been, millennia ago, some sort of meeting chamber. The walls were covered with moss and vines, and it was obvious that no living soul had been here in a very long time.
Suddenly, there was a presence to his right, and instantly his wrist saber flashed to life in a brilliant white blur.
“Peace, Master Jedi.”
At first the light was too bright to make out any distinctive features. But slowly it dimmed, though not completely, and standing before him was an alien, encompassed in Light, he had never encountered before, and considering his travels that was an impressive fact.
“Who...what are you? Where am I?” he said, all at once, his voice not harsh but emphatic.
“Peace,” the alien said, its voice soothing in a way reminiscent of Jedi mind tricks. Zark threw up his mental barriers instinctively, but soon realized there had been no foul play. Reluctantly, he deactivated his saber and dropped his mental guards, “No harm will come to you here.”
“What is this place?” he asked, more curious at this point than threatened.
“I have answers for all your questions, but first there are things you must know. Important things, and if I do not tell them to you you likely will not believe the answer I have for the question you seek,” the alien oozed calm, it showed no outward nor mental signs of feeling threatened by the Grand Master in the least.
“Very well, speak your piece…” and then he realized he did not even know its name.
“I am Valis,” she offered, recognizing his disconcert.
“Vah-liss," Zark said, repeating the proper pronunciation, "I have never seen your species before."
“Nor would I expect you to have,” Valis replied, offering what seemed to be a sad smile, “I am Kwa, and in your universe we are all but extinct.”
“Kwa? My what? My universe?” Zark wheeled around, “Where am I, then?”
“Relax, Master Jedi,” Valis said, her soothing voice once again a reminder of past tricks, “You are where you are supposed to be, the Corusca galaxy.”
“But where in the...the Corusca galaxy?” he pressed, trying not to be impatient.
“This…” it said, its voice filled with mourning, “is...was...Tython. The auxiliary Council Chambers, to be specific.”
“Tython?” Zark echoed, his eyes wide, “That's...that's an ancient Jedi world! We’ve only seen its name in records at the Library, but no other references and no galactic coordinates.”
“Those were destroyed a long, long time ago, by a dark race known as the Rakata,” the Kwa replied, and for the first time there was a flash of something resembling anger in her tone.
Before Zark could ask another question, there was a roaring overhead and a sudden Darkness filled the room, as if all the windows in the adjoining hallways had been cut off from the Light.
"What the Sith was that?!" he asked, meditating to keep any fear from rising.
"Cree'Ar, I would imagine," the Kwa responded, almost absentmindedly.
"The Cree'Ar?!" Zark asked, his eyes wide, "They're here? On Tython? Why?"
"They're looking for you, I suppose. Well, not just you, all Jedi."
"But why would they think to find us here?" Zark asked.
"Someway, somehow, they found the coordinates of Tython," the Kwa responded, "Who can tell how? Perhaps they had a sleeper agent already here, feeding information back to their home galaxy. Perhaps they knew before they left.
You must understand, it took centuries for the first wave of the Cree'Ar hibernation ships to get here. They have been planning this invasion for a long time. During the height of the Dominion, Tython was still flourishing with life. Perhaps they found the coordinates then and just assumed you would still be there. Either way, they are here.
“And as for your first assumption, you are wrong. Tython was not a Jedi world. It was Kwa. And after the Kwa went on their exodus, it became the home of the Je’daii.”
“The...the Je’daii?” Zark asked, enunciating the word awkwardly, confusion on his features, “I’ve never heard of them.”
“You wouldn't have, Master Jedi,” Valis said, making a gesture Zark took to mean a genuflection, “They disappeared long ago. For thousands of years, they occupied Tython and its neighboring worlds...until the dark times...until the Rakata came.”
“They were wiped out?” he asked, though he feared he knew the answer already.
“Not all, not all,” and on its face, an expression that could have been bemusement, “Some survived. And procreated. Many direct descendants of the Je’daii are alive and well in your galaxy.”
“Where are they?” Zark asked, excitement in his voice, “The Jedi Order is a Shadow of its former self in...in this galaxy, if there are Je’daii alive, they could help turn the tide!”
“Poor, poor Master Jedi,” the Kwa said, but her tone was that of genuine sorrow, “You do not understand. When the Je’daii Order fell, two sects split off. One, your galaxy knows now as the Jedi. The other, the Sith.”
“The Jed...the Sith?!...then the Je’daii are our...our…”
“They are your precursors, yes,” Zark could not contain his astoundment at the revelation. “You mean...you mean, the Jedi and Sith were both…”
“One in the same, yes,” to Zark’s surprise, there were actual tears in her eyes, “Forgive me. You must understand, in many ways, it was the fault of the Kwa. You see...we brought them there. The Je’daii. We sent our vessels, our Tho Yor, across the galaxy to gather Force sensitives. Those who chose to leave their homeworlds were brought here, to Tython, to learn the ways of the force. To learn the Je’daii way. Not Light, not Dark, but balance. Always balance.”
“But the Darkside is evil!” he screamed, and now he was angry, “It poisons everything and everyone it ever touches! I know. It touched me, and I went insane.”
“And yet, you are using it as we speak,” the Kwa replied, showing no surprise whatsoever at the Jedi Master’s outburst, and before Zark could bite back a retort, he realized at once that it was right. He was exuding Dark energy, “I...I...forgive me. I did not mean…”
“There is no forgiveness necessary, Master Jedi,” Valis said, smiling, “Under your present circumstances, where you are and who I am, your outburst is understandable, it was even calculated.”
“It was...my...you calculated how I would react?” Zark sputtered, “So the Kwa are scientists?”
“Science, philosophy, religion, the Force. They are all one, Master Jedi,” Valis replied, speaking without condescension but still in a tone more likely appropriate for a youngling than a Jedi Master, “The Kwa study the Force, so the Kwa study everything the Force affects. And the Force, Master Jedi, affects everything.”
“That part, at least, I know,” Zark nodded, regaining his composure, “So you mean...there are still Kwa alive, out there?” he said, pointing at the stars. Noticing for the first time the majestic beauty of Tython’s twin moons, one shale black and the other a bright white not dissimilar to the color of his wrist saber.
“Few, too few…” the Kwa said, once again sadness reverberating in her tone, “Most of us left this universe, we felt...guilt over our failure with the Je’daii. In hindsight, leaving was, at least in my opinion...a mistake. We should have stayed to right our wrongs; instead, we left you to defend for yourselves.”
“I hold no ill will towards you, Valis of the Kwa,” Zark replied, earnestness in his voice that seemed to momentarily surprise the alien, “Each of us, each sentient being, makes our own choices. We choose the Light, or we choose the Dark, and often we live by that initial choice forever. Perhaps balance is the best way, but until now not a soul in our galaxy thought it was possible, saver for the...what we call Shadow Jedi.”
“Shadow Jedi are not Je’daii,” Valis said, smiling softly, “The Shadows view the Darkside as a tool, a tool they can use in tandem with the Light. But thinking of the Dark as a tool...it always leads to corruption. Maybe not in a mortal lifetime, but for the immortals, always.”
“Immortals, then you’re...you don’t age?”
“Technically, no. But its a little more complicated than that,” the Kwa gave a gesture Zark took to mean a shrug, “Je’daii do not think of the Darkside as a tool, but as a gift, the same way the Jedi think of the Light. The Force is a gift, Arix Askrima, or maybe, just maybe, a curse, and the Dark is half of the Force, or at least it should be, and for too long we have left your galaxy to its own devices. But variables have changed, and the Corusca galaxy is now a high priority for my people. We are here...we are here to help, in what limited ways we can.”
“You know my real name?"
"There is little about you I do not know," the Kwa replied calmy, and though he should have felt threatened, for some unexplainable reason he did not.
"Earlier you said you left the...universe? Where did you go?”
“Somewhere else, somewhere close, yet far at the same time. Somewhere that is, and isn’t. Somewhere eternal, and instant. I know I speak in riddles, but it is difficult to comprehend if you have never seen it,” the Kwa said.
“Can you take me there?” he asked, elated at the idea of seeing the home of such an apparently ancient and renowned species.
“I can, but be warned, it is dangerous,” Valis replied, and its face showed no humor.
“I can take you there easily enough, but getting you back…” it paused, and for a moment, he sensed that it might have been keeping something from him, then it passed, “Getting you back would be...difficult.”
“The power required, for one,” Valis replied, “Our technology can produce vast quantities of power at one time, but even the Kwa had there limits. Taking you from Ossus, and bringing you and myself to Tython was...draining for us.”
“But surely your power sources recharge? What’s the problem?”
“The other problem is...more complicated,” Valis paused, as if searching for the right forwards, “There is...a sort of limit to this kind of thing. Passing through once is safe, but multiple journeys can lead to...complications.”
“What kind of complications?” Zark asked.
“Terrible ones,” and the Kwa gave what the Jedi thought might be a shudder.
“But surely you must have left this or another universe to go there. Wasn’t it dangerous for you?” Zark asked.
“It was a calculated risk, yes, but that’s not the point,” the Kwa paused, again searching for words, “The point is...Kwa are different from humans. Our physiology is not the same. The journey is...more taxing for your people. You can make it through to our side safely enough, but the return…”
The Kwa wasn’t lying, he could sense, but still he felt there was something Valis wasn’t quite telling him. Still, he sensed no malice from the Kwa, and as far as he could tell it had been straightforward with him to this point.
“So what are you saying?” Zark asked, “If I go through, I can’t come back?”
“You could, at least I believe, theoretically,” Valis admitted, “But the risk of complication would be enormous.”
“Its a chance I’m willing to take,” Zark said, not knowing why he was so compelled to take such a risk but nonetheless certain of his choice.
“One step at a time, Master Jedi,” the Kwa said, arms raised in a gesture of patience, “Unity is a magnificent place. And much good is done there, good that could affect not only this universe, but all of them at once.”
“But the people in this universe need me!” Zark responded emphatically, "And if the Dominion has reached Tython..."
“Peace. Things may seem as Dark as they have ever been, but it always looks that way before the Dawn. If it is your choice to return, when you are done in Unity, we will not try to stop you from attempting.”
“On your word?”
“On my word,” it said, “and the word of all Kwa. You will be allowed to leave, whenever you desire.”
“Very well. Earlier you kept saying Unity, is that what where we’re going is called?” Zark asked.
“In a manner of speaking. That is what everyone calls it. You will understand more when we arrive,” Valis said, calmly turning away from him and towards the twin moons.
“So...how exactly does this work?” Zark asked.
“Just relax,” the Kwa said, “Focus on Ashla, the Light, and Bogan, the Dark. Meditate on the Force, not just your experiences as a Jedi but your experiences of the Dark. Come to terms with them, if you can, and understand that for a mortal, the past is forever locked away. Mistakes can not be undone, only fixed.”
The words struck home for him, and for the first time, the burden of guilt for his past somewhat lessened. Perhaps it was just the kind words of an ancient alien meant to boost his morale, but as he turned toward the moons as Valis had instructed and began to meditate, he slowly became more and more assured that the Kwa hadn’t just been saying those words out of kindness, that they were the truth.
That they were the truest thing he had ever heard. He closed his eyes.
“We are here,” Valis said.
“Already?” he asked, surprised, and opened his eyes.
He could not believe them.