The Lost Jedi
Cora & Zhâlu
Cora looked out the window that was open to the seas on Manaan. The facility she ran on one of the numerous islands on the planet. It had been carefully selected on a neutral world that while surrounded by Republic space was not somewhere that people were generally turned away. Credits were far too important here as well as within the Republic, Empire and Hutt Space. Cora had been cultivating this facility for nearly ten years now. Kylhn Institute was just starting to really flourish.
Cora’s mouth quirked into a smirk as she thought of the trials and tribulations that had brought all of them, her staff, to her. Athaka Quorr Head of Security the Kel Dor took her job as seriously as anyone that Cora knew. Lavidean Farlander is a brilliant Nautolan surgeon that Cora recently made Head of Surgery. Obri Drii a blessing of a Chadra Fan that is brilliant at organization and computers. Cora knew that he made her job as Administrator that much easier. He prefered not to have a title. Just having those three all together for the last nine years was more than Cora could have hoped for.
Obri had finally after eight years given her a better lead on the whereabouts of Bryn Dok. Or the young man that fits his description. Cora was prepared to finally collect him and bring him back into the fold of The Order.
Cora hoped that Zhâlu was ready to hear what her plan was. He was going to be surprised that was for sure. Her hair moved in the sea breeze brushing her cheek and fluttering her white dress tugging the loose three quarter sleeves. She had called Zhâlu to her office from his rounds of checking on the staff.
They, the staff, had questioned her at first but she didn’t need the prejudice that came with outward appearances and she squashed it quickly. Zhâlu had the courage to come over to the Jedi and she would not have him backsliding due to petty intolerant people. He had proved himself and she believed he truly wanted to be a Jedi fully.
She leaned looking out the window toward the hangar that held the Corvette that they would be leaving in very soon. Again she hoped that Zhâlu was ready for this. It would require him to be fully aware as to what was going on and what might happen. This mission would test his resolve. Not to mention that he wouldn’t like where they were going.
Finishing up with the last of the inspection rounds, Zhâlu stretched and suppressed the yawn that threatened to go with it. His master, Cora, had asked that he forgo any lightsaber training for a couple of days and take the time to instead meditate and focus on finding other ways to relieve the stress and frustration that would build on him. Mediation was still fairly new to the Sith Pureblood, even after all these years, but he still tried.
As he walked to her office where she’d summoned him to, he went over the last year in his head. Cora Alcyon had approached him shortly after his failed second attempt at the trials with the offer to take up his training. The Council did not argue and he saw no alternative to it, so he had, of course, accepted. When he learned that she was also a skilled Jedi Healer, well, that had only upped his interest in being her Padawan and so here he was. Admittedly, he had started to think that part of why the Council hadn’t argued with his becoming Cora’s padawan was because it put him well away from them and Tython and on Manaan helping around her medical facility most of the time.
Still, as he looked out a window that gave a view of the sea, he didn’t mind. The sounds of the ocean crashing against the rocks had helped him become better at meditation, the sound of the crashing waves helping to ease his mind when he was most troubled. And his master was perhaps one of the most patient beings he had ever met, working with him the few times his temper had flared up in the last year to find a way to redirect that energy and calm himself. Often, before she suggested he take a break from it, Zhâlu would spend time working on his forms, practicing his Jar’kai blade work in an effort to improve it, but each day coming to the conclusion that he would need to contact either a Jedi more focused on combat or a Battlemaster to truly find a way to get more skilled.
As the door to her office came into view, the Pureblood paused outside it to draw a deep breath to center himself before knocking three times. “You asked for me, master?”
Cora turned toward Zhâlu’s voice and looked up. She was used to having to look up at people. Her petite stature was second nature to her and she didn’t think she could really remember a time that it phased her that she was the smallest in the room, like now. “Yes. Please come in, Zhâlu.”
She moved to the large plush chair that was across from it’s twin and when she saw that he had opened the she indicated the opposite chair. She curled up getting comfortable in the plush chair. Her feet as normal were bare. She tucked them under her and arranged her dress to accommodate the new position. She wore dresses that were snug around the torso but flowed when they came to her hips. The shortest she ever wore them was ankle length and that was rare. Most of the others, like this one, were floor length. She thought flashing leg was worse than flashing cleavage. Likely because she had a nice set of legs.
Following his master’s indication, Zhâlu took the seat opposite of her, settling in as comfortably as he could. While Cora always preferred a more welcoming demeanor and attire, he wore his armored robes most of the time, his combat boots indicating that he was coming ahead of his arrival if one listened closely enough. It was a stark contrast between master and padawan, but one that didn’t bother him and he hoped didn’t bother her. ”Everything is as it should be master, no disturbances or missing staff that didn’t call ahead to inform us. Though I doubt you called me here for a report.”
Of course, this could be a discussion to see how his mediation went, it could also be to discuss the potential for a trip somewhere new to train or even go on a submersible exploration, though he wasn’t keen on the idea of dying deep underwater. Truthfully though, he had no idea, but he enjoyed the speculation.
Cora smiled at Zhâlu she could feel the curiosity pouring off him. “Excellent. As satisfaction to your curiosity, I have called you here to inform you of a mission that we will be going on. I will expand on that in a moment. First I must ask, do you feel like you’ve been progressing in centering yourself? Have you had difficulties? Is there something that helps more?”
Cora released the constraint that she normally had on her Empathy. She had to know that Zhâlu was ready for this. Truly he was the perfect decoy for the trip if he could play his part right if they got caught. She trusted him to be able to pull this off, but she knew that she could trust him to be able to do it. That didn’t matter. He had to trust himself. This would be a test. A trial. Possibly two or more if things went really badly.
The Sith Pureblood had to force the small frown trying to form on his lips down, keeping it from showing so as to not disappoint Cora. ”The sounds of the waves help the most, I often sit along the shore while meditating. But...staying centered, especially here, where it’s so peaceful, is hard sometimes. Even after I first joined the Jedi, the Council wanted me to stay busy and so I was often moving from battlefield to battlefield before the Sacking and then training to training on both Tython and Dantooine after the signing.”
He sighs and leans back further. ”But I feel like I’m making more progress now than I did then. What,” Zhâlu pauses as he considers the best phrasing and most efficient way to redirect the conversation, ”what exactly does this have to do with the mission?”
Cora shifted a bit. She inhaled and started to speak. "I was asked some time ago to find someone. I've finally had word back that is a better confirmation of their presence than I previously had. We shall be going and retrieving said person. This will take us into places that don't appreciate Jedi but are less inclined to turn away… others. I need you to be able to play a role that you might not be comfortable with and I will need you to keep your wits about you as you do it. So in response to your query, I need you in control of your temper. Your passion might actually help in this instance but your temper could get us in a lot of trouble where we're going."
Cora waited for Zhâlu's answer. She believed he could do it because she knew he could. Again that was not the point. He had to know he could do it or they could both end up dead. Cora was a patient person so she could wait till he responded.
Zhâlu was quiet for a long time, much longer than even he had anticipated, as he mulled over his master’s request. Places that he would be uncomfortable with varied greatly. He wasn’t a fan of Hutt Space because the place smelled of drugs, sex, and levels of dishonesty and crime he had a hard time believing existed. But he still would go there when needed, especially since some of their medical supplies were easier to obtain in Hutt Space, though it was never used without thorough investigation and testing. Then there were. ”You mean to say we’re going to the edges of Republic Space, along the neutral zone and most likely into Imperial Space.”
Admittedly, he had to take a moment to breath and center himself, not due to his temper, but due to the panic that began to well up inside of him. ”Master, you do realize if ANYONE recognizes me, we’re dead? My old Sith Master put out a Death Mark in Imperial space on me.”
Cora noted the panic in her Padawan's voice and flowing through the bond. She looked at Zhâlu. "Breathe. The chance of that happening is minimal. Besides that why would they risk the truce? Zhâlu we will more than likely be in Hutt Space. I have intel that we will find him there." Speaking slowly she sent calming emotions across the Bond. "Doubt will cloud the mind. Fear will drag you back to the Darkside, Padawan. I will never let that happen."
Cora cleared her throat and proceeded. "I can do this alone if need be. But I believe that this is a tipping point for you. Are you ready?"
At the mention of Hutt space, his sense of panic reduced some, though the Pureblood wasn’t entirely calmed by the thought. The Truce was stretched to its limits in Hutt Space, and he had heard rumors of the Empire working behind the scenes to get unaffiliated bounty hunters to remove some of the more problematic officials from the Republic from places like Nar Shaddaa. After another deep breath, he spoke again. ”I...I can work with Hutt Space, and I imagine I can still pretend to be who you’re likely to ask me to be. But if they ask me to activate my saber, we’ll be in a rough spot. I won’t let you down, Master, I promise.”
Zhâlu also had to agree with Cora about this mission being a turning point however. He hadn’t been as easily frustrated in the last three or so months that he had been for the entirety of his time with the Jedi and he’d even gotten better at tuning out the people who didn’t bother to speak about who and what he was quietly anymore. Their perception isn’t what matters, it’s mine.
Cora smiled. “I have no doubt that you won’t let me down Zhâlu. That was never a concern. We have a heading of Nar Shaddaa to rescue a Jedi from a Hutt.” She rose and made her way to the door. She turned back to Zhâlu. “How long will it take you to get ready Zhâlu?”
Cora was curious as to how this would pan out. Wishing she had Force Visions would be a waste but the thought flashed across her mind. Calling to mind the friend that she lost. I’m close, Gaul. So close.
Standing as well, Zhâlu made a pat down of himself before nodding, his last pat landing gently on his lightsaber hilt. ”Aside from a spare pair of robes and perhaps some less conspicuous attire, I’m ready now. Where should I meet you?” Nar Shaddaa still presented an opportunity for an unfortunate encounter, but on the Smuggler’s moon, bounty hunters died all the time, as did, unfortunately, Imperial and Republic personnel. He only hoped he could keep his master out of trouble.
Cora nodded. “At the Corvette. Gather what you think you might need and meet me there.”
Zhâlu bows and follows his Master out. ”I will meet you there within the hour.” And with that, he split from her at the first intersection, heading for his quarters to retrieve the other things he’d need.