Fragments from the Rim
Lessons from the Past
<appropriate dates for Feilar University Fails You Part I>
Four thousand years ago, during the Mandalorian wars, the Jedi and Mandalorians were at each other’s throats. A Jedi by the name of Val Isa sent her students away and managed to secrete a Jedi Holocron Cube before briefly meditating and then fighting off a number of Mandalorian attackers. I knew this because I’d seen it in a vision, as unlikely as that sounds.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Kira’s brother, Asher, was a professor at Feilar University in Ariadu. He sent her a Holovid asking her to come to the Outer Rim and visit him on Ariadu. Ariadu, unfortunately, had a strong Imperial presence in the form of a drydock orbiting the planet, so I helped forge credentials to get us by university security and avoid Imperial scrutiny. Ariadu was a highly polluted, industrialized planet, and with twenty billion residents, extremely crowded. The university at Feilar held a massive collection of artifacts known as the Archive, and Asher Sunrider was an expert in their lore. Not having any other pressing Alliance matters, we embarked for Ariadu.
The usual hijinks ensued as, in building our false identities, I thoughtlessly made Bao Bogo Chancellor of Coruscant University, with the rest of us Professors and such from all over the galaxy. I was a lowly teaching assistant. While on the university grounds, we encountered a scholar being harassed by the university security forces, being beaten in public, in fact. Bao and I halted the attack, inferring from the conversation that one of the guards had been outed by that scholar as a deathstick dealer. After cowing the hapless guards with our false credentials, we chatted with the dazed scholar about the actions of the guards. I was satisfied that they were venal but otherwise harmless, and prepared to leave the poor fellow to lick his guard-inflicted wounds, but Bao Bogo decided to take the poor man’s thesis in the form of his datapad. Feeling sorry for the scholar, I returned it to him under the pretense of him having dropped it.
I was convinced that Bao Bogo’s light-fingered tendencies would come back to bite us, but fortunately, the scholar posed no real threat to that, and we continued on to meet Kira’s brother. There was a brief moment of tension at the security checkpoint inside the Archive as Van Alden presented Bao Bogo’s childishly generated identification, instead of my more professionally made one, but I was able to convince the guards that we had been playing a prank on Van Alden and that all was well. As Soz headed to the refresher to find a computer terminal, we proceeded to Asher’s office, where we were able to talk the guard into leaving us alone with him.
We should have realized that there would be more than just the physical monitoring of the guards! Ariadu had every sign of being a Core World analogue, and as far as security was concerned, it certainly was the case that they were up to date. Leading up to our discovery by the local Imperial presence, we were at least able to get a look at some interesting artifacts in the Archive that Asher was examining: a talisman, roughly tear-drop-shaped, called The Weight of Our History; a Mandalorian battle helmet, cut in half by some sort of energy weapon; an ancient computer of some kind; a transponder for a wrecked, ancient star cruiser called the Astral Jester, and a small crystal. All seemed to have been picked up in the wreckage of a ship from the Deep Core, and Asher suspected they were Jedi-related.
Kira confirmed this: the Mandalorian helmet had been cut in half by a lightsaber, and the talisman radiated power that even I could feel. The talisman had tiny crystal veins that made it seem like a living thing, and it had a thread that made it appear to be a necklace of some kind. With Bao Bogo egging me on, I took the talisman in my hand. It seemed to have a feeling of calm and peace, but also sadness, loss, guilt, and grief. When I inevitably placed it around my neck, I had a vision of the Jedi Master Val Isa, four thousand years in the past, placing a Jedi Holocron in a safe underneath a dais.
Or rather, I was placing the Holocron in the safe. I moved a stone over the dais and then told my students to flee in the Sanctuary’s shuttle. Yes, my ship was called Sanctuary. My crew was similarly ordered to flee the Sanctuary. I could hear the sounds of battle, but I sank down on the dais and began to meditate. Mandalorians in battle armor broke through and rushed me, but as they did, I pulled my lightsaber into my hand at the last possible moment and began my last battle.
I died there, I think. No, wait. I wasn’t her. Was I? She died there. She said to not follow her example, retreating from the world. Jedi should struggle, succeed, and fail with the rest of the galaxy. But was she addressing me specifically? Did she know how conflicted I felt about the new way I was seeing the world?
<appropriate dates for Feilar University Fails You Part II>
The Imperials must have not known who we were. They only sent four TIE fighters after us as we left Ariadu. Not nearly enough, though the Crimson Eclipse took some damage in the fight. With Asher Sunrider secure on the ship, Soz took the A-Wing and used a concussive missile to destroy the TIEs during our escape, thus demonstrating that our decoupling maneuver was a viable battle tactic. We regrouped on board the Eclipse and noting that we were close to Bao Bogo’s homeworld of Sullust, we plotted a course and headed there for repairs.
The Alliance was massing their largest capital ships in orbit around Sullust, to our surprise. At least our reception on Sullust would be friendlier than our usual run-and-gun approach to neutral or Imperial planets. Once on the surface, I was unnerved to be surrounded by so many Sullustans. Clearly, spending so much time with Bao Bogo had given me a particular conception of what a Sullustan was like, so I was understandably tense while on Sullust. I was not alone; I could tell the initial reaction among the group to see so many Sullustans was a temporary wariness, as if we were suddenly in a very large minefield. We eventually settled down enough to start considering our next move.
Kira and I were eager to find the Sanctuary and the Holocron cube I saw in my vision. Unfortunately, she was not able to experience the vision for herself; for some reason, that part of the talisman seemed to have been a one-time thing, for good or ill. I could still feel the strong presence of Val Isa if I closed my eyes and concentrated on the memory of the talisman’s vision. It was unsettling: I felt as if the ghost of a woman four thousand years dead was inhabiting my body. Sharing my thoughts? Influencing them? Or was she just a strong memory? No, she had to be more than just a memory. Only time would tell what role her shade would play in my life.
The rest of the group saw the potential for ancient salvage and was willing to indulge our curiosity, so we began trying to determine where the Sanctuary was located. Looking at the items we had collected at the University, we were able to narrow our potential field to a handful of systems. Apparently, Master Isa was remembered by most as an artist, and not a Jedi Master, doubtless a result of the Imperial propaganda machine, but she was known for having painted a related series of planets, with each planet getting an elemental title: Bespin: Air, Dantooine: Stone, Koler: Fire, and Mon Calamari: Water. As for the Astral Jester’s transponder, I could recall a conversation I had with a couple of other scouts about a crazy captain of the Astral Jester trying to establish a claim to a new hyperspace lane to the Deep Core. He had filed a number of flight plans, but the one recurring planet in all of our research seemed to be Koler. I was not familiar with it, but surely someone on Sullust would be, and given the Sullustan sense of direction, we might even be able to get reasonable coordinates.
Bao Bogo asked around, and eventually located a Sullustan that had been to Koler. He described it as red giant, surrounded by the hulks of ships that had traveled there but had never left. It was a dangerous part of space, filled with dead ships, asteroids, solar flares, gravity wells, and black holes. Not the safest place in the world to go scavenging, though apparently that had not stopped a number of treasure hunters. Before leaving, we had a brief conversation with our Alliance masters, who were as surprised to see us as we were to see them; we were to report to Sullust in thirty days, and we would be on our own until then. We thus plotted a course to Koler based on the Sullustan’s information and hunkered down for a long trip. With time to kill, I hoped to speak to Kira about Val Isa.
As a result of our conversations, she began to train me in the ways of the Jedi. Given the limited space on the Crimson Eclipse, we mostly focused on lightsaber training, as she passed Antinnis Tremayne’s lightsaber on to me, at least for the purposes of training. It was a little unsettling to know that this was the weapon of a Dark Jedi, especially when we worked out in the glow of its red light. Although I was deeply uncomfortable with the idea of fighting with a blade that could just as easily destroy me, I started to sort of… sense where it was, and where Kira’s blade would be. It would be some time before I could claim any sort of mastery of this weapon, but I started to get more comfortable with it. At that time, at least, my preference for a blaster in a conflict was undiminished; my best case scenario, of course, was to avoid the conflict altogether, but I knew I couldn’t just talk us out of some situations. And others demanded action. Val Isa’s words? Or mine?
After a few days, we arrived in the hell in space that was the area around Koler. Asher and Van Alden had not had the Bao Bogo experience, so they sat alternately petrified or flinching as he brought us close to destruction a number of times. The rest of us were unperturbed, but it was interesting to note how far we had come: we would have been terrified when we first began voyaging together to have so many close-seeming brushes with death, but having flown with Bao Bogo for quite some time now, this was old hat. We barely glanced up as he narrowly avoided ships, asteroids, and who knows what else: at this point, incredibly, we trusted his skills as a pilot, even if his judgment would be forever suspect.
How do you find one ship in a graveyard full of them? I suspect my connection to Val Isa helped us there: as we passed ship after ship, I was suddenly certain I knew which ship was the Sanctuary, and I directed Bao Bogo to get us closer. Attaching to a still-operational air lock, we all put on our space suits, Asher being the notable exception, as he was ill-equipped for a space walk. Fortunately for him, the Sanctuary, for so it was, still had a thin atmosphere, so he was able to use a breath mask to visit the ancient ship.
We walked carefully through the wreckage of battle, my memory tugging me forward until we entered the Jedi training room, where I immediately recognized the dais from my vision. Master Isa would have died… there. And sure enough, Kira found the Jedi’s robes and a lightsaber hilt. We moved the stone covering the safe out of the way and there lay our prize: a Jedi Holocron. Of course, my experiences on Dagobah and my subsequent sensitivity to the Force had erased any doubt in my mind about their existence, but having a physical reminder still gave my explorer’s soul a thrill. I decided to take the cube back to the Eclipse immediately, rejoining R5, and put it away for safe-keeping.
I’m told that the rest of the group encountered some mechanical wonder from that age long past, but there wasn’t much to the encounter, as the machine was easily disabled by the group working together. Probably some minor mechanical system left over from the Mandalorian wars. More interesting than that extremely brief encounter was Kira’s realization that I would be able to repair Val Isa’s broken lightsaber hilt with the Ilum crystal embedded in the talisman around my neck. I wasn’t ready yet, but there would be a point at which I would be, and I would take that significant step then.