As Sela and Dominik disappeared around the bend, Xid pulled his eyes away. He let out an audible sigh and returned to examining the console. They would find the power source. At least he hoped they would. His hands moved quickly through the wiring and circuits, repairing parts and soldering down new connections. As he finished up, his hands pressed the cover back into place. He looked to the Command who nodded then activated his wristlink.
“Xid got the console fixed, we just need power now. How are you progressing on that?”
"Coming in a few seconds." Came Dominik's voice through the comlink. Just a few moments later and the power to the outpost surged through its frame of wires, cords, and power cells. A deep rumbling could be heard as some conveyor belts whirred to life, creaking loudly as they slowly started to move.
Xid smiled. The machines began to hum and pulse, their movements rattling through the cobweb filled outpost. He loved the sounds of their miniscule ticking. The very noise seemed to deafen others, but for him it just vibrated inside his core. The sensation reminded him he wasn’t isolated from something bigger. Like a gear or circuit in a great machine, he had a purpose to serve. For a moment he lingered on the sensation until one of the troopers nudged him.
“Sorry,” Xid automatically uttered.
He received a slicing tool. The hand was long with a long rod at the end, which he inserted into the receiver port. The device whirled and clicked, indicating it was connected. His fingers clicked across the keyboard as he began to dive deep into the system. Firewalls provided only a small obstruction to his search and were easily dismissed. It was second nature to attack the wall’s weakness rendering it useless. After a few moments, Xid smiled. He found the map. He downloaded it into the data stick at the end of the slicing tool before ejecting it.
As Commander Hoss started to speak through the comlink, his words were stopped in his throat. His eyes widened and his hands clawed at his throat. Xid stepped back, frightened by the sudden shift in the Commander’s behavior. That’s when the darkness began to crawl into his awareness. Xid’s eyes followed where the other troopers already looked.
The Sith lord clapped his gloved hands in slow applause. “Job well done, Jedi.”
His apprentice, the young woman, had her hand out strength with a clawed gesture. Her lips curled into a malicious smile. She tightened her grip causing the Commander to lift in the air before she threw him against the far wall. The man’s body crumbled like a ragdoll.
Xid immediately bolted for the tunnel that Sela and Dom had vanished down. Just as he was about to make it, he jumped to the side. A chunk of the barricade came flying at him.
“Not so fast, you stupid boy.” The male apprentice sneered, his hand returning to his side.
Sela’s eyes widen as dread filled her, the emotions not her own. Her head looked back down the tunnel. Sounds of a brawl faintly echoed from it.
“Xid,” her voice cracked. Without another word, she rushed back the way they came.
Dominik turned just as Sela did, feeling a surge in the presence of Dark side of the Force, and it was close.
“Sela, wait a second- Shit.” Dom cursed, as Sela was already good and gone, but for good reason. The elder Jedi took a deep breath to calm himself. His eyes scanned the metal walkway for a few long moments. He looked ahead, and then behind him. If the outpost was similar to most others, the pathways might loop back around and reconnect, perhaps back to the main room. Dominik withdrew his lightsaber and mounted the hilt on his belt before heading down the hallway in the direction he and Sela had been going.
-----Oh shit, oh shit…
Xid thought as he faced the three Sith looking at him.
Realizing the shitstorm they were in, the troopers immediately opened fire on the three. Xid looked down the tunnel where Sela and Dom disappeared. She was coming. As if realizing what he did, the Sith lord’s body stiffened. Three lightsabers continued to deflected the blasters, one its way back to the source. One trooper found himself nailed across the shoulder while the other got it on the chest. He crumbled, never to rise again. The rest kept blasting as the Sith began to advance on them.
“Your master won’t make it.” The lord’s words chilled Xid’s spine down to the bone.
The padawan’s eyes took another glance and hoped to see Sela appear shortly. Everything happened so fast. From the corner of his vision, he spotted one of the last trooper’s grenades being tugged from his belt. Xid’s gut directed him to the female apprentice. Seeing him looking, her pale face smiled wickedly. She mouthed goodbye.
“Run!” Xid shouted. His telekinesis seized the grenade and tossed it down the tunnel. His master would sense his intentions and get clear of the blast. His hands shoved the trooper toward the nearest stairs leading up, pushing the trooper ahead.
“GO. GO, GO NOW!”
The buzz of a lightsabers were cut short when the explosive went off.
The explosion was not missed on the levels above, for Dominik heard and felt it. It reverberated through the metal walkway, the Master sensing the emotions of all below after the explosion settled.
The man quickly took to finding a way to the upper levels. There were parts of the outpost where it was an open balcony and you could see one to two levels below. Finding his way to one of these balconies, the Jedi moved his gaze down, hearing footsteps and sensing the emotions of the Force-users below.
Not a few moments later Dom spotted Xid below, running from the same Sith he and Sela had fought outside.
Wasting no time, Dominik turned down the closest tunnel, aiming to find a way to meet up with Xid, or to get ahead of him.
Xid’s breath grew show and shallow. He ran across the metal catwalk toward the ladder. His head darted behind him, spotting the Sith apprentices give chase and gradually gained on them. If he became cornered, it was over. His mind recalled the map while he lead the remaining trooper down the corridors to the command center.
“You can’t escape, Jedi. Stop and accept your fate, we’ll even make it quick.” The lord’s voice echoed behind them, leisurely following his more eager apprentices.
The moment the female apprentice came into range, she leapt and brought her lightsaber own on the last republic trooper. He turned to fire at her. Her blade cut down on the blaster slicing it into two. The gun crumbled having never fired a shot. Xid’s feet skidded to a stop at seeing this. His lightsaber flickered on, bright green in color, then rushed to block the next swing.
“DUCK!” Xid shouted.
The trooper crouched down when Xid’s blade came up, stopping the Sith’s horizontal slash in its tracks. Trooper would’ve lost his head if the padawan didn’t. Xid gritted his teeth, trying to push and keep her back. The female chuckled.
“Such a weak attempt.”
She gripped the handle with both hands and pushed harder. Xid dug his heels into the metal, feeling his strength struggle. Her blade tilted at an angle and trying to force him to take a knee.
Dominik was silent in his approach to the scene. The master was utilizing the Force to mold light around himself, almost as a cloak would do to its wearer. The focused inward, reigning in his presence, making it seem as though his being had simply disappeared from the world entirely.
The older Jedi walked, steadily and slowly so as to allow himself to remain focused, yet so he was aware of his surroundings. Dominik was a few feet above the scene on an overhead railing, watching as the female apprentice slowly forced Xid down. He took a deep breath before placing a hand on the railing and throwing his body over it, falling down and aiming to land next to the female Sith. Dominik revealed himself moments before his saber drew upon the female, his body seeming to have faded in from nothingness.
The female Sith released her challenge from Xid and raised her saber to block Dominik as he drew his, striking down on her hard as he landed directly next to her and Xid. A flurry of sabers ensued, Dominik pushing the female hard, taking step after step in an attempt to overwhelm her and catch an opening.
Seeing the Jedi appear out of nowhere, the male apprentice growled in frustration. His eyes darted between the padawan and master. The female appeared to be struggling to keep up with the rapid movements of her opponent, but let her rage boost her skills. A debate tumbled in his mind before he reached a decision. Seeing Xid start to rise, the padawan was easy prey compared to the master. A quick kill.
His lightsaber slashed at Xid. Seeing the attacking, he stepped up and slapped it away. The apprentice was about to counter when Xid whipped his hand at him. A loose pipe ripped off the side and slammed into his side. The Sith uttered a curse while he raised his lightsaber, severing it into two. By this time, Xid’s ally and him were rushing into the opposite direction.
“Come back here you little shit!” The Sith hollered then chased after.
Dominik focused intently on the Sith apprentice he was fighting, aiming to take out one more problem from his equation. If his dwindling group was to succeed in their mission these Sith would have to be dispatched, and fast.
Dominik pushed at her harder and faster, finally coming to a stop as their sabers crackled against each other, the Jedi Master pushing his enemy down in an attempt to get her to her knees, just as she had tried with Xid.
The sith’s face turned into a scowl. Her fury filled the air and continued to push against his advancements. Gradually her strength began to wane. Her right leg buckled underneath down to knee while her hands pushed against the plasma pushing toward her head.
The Sith Lord’s steps hastened when his eyes spotted the Master materialized from thin air. His lightsaber out and ready as he closed in.
Dom grew fiercer with each passing second, knowing time was running out, and knowing he needed to protect Xid. He heard as the kid ran off with the male apprentice following, but his focus was pulled as the Sith lord closed in and went for his open side. A speedy and precise slashing movement. Dominik's left hand went out suddenly, his right still holding his saber against that of the female's. Focusing on what he had learned and channeling the Force as it ran through him, Dominik's palm stopped the Sith Lord's saber mid-strike. It was obvious at the look on Dom's face that what he was doing was taxing. With every moment that passed by Dominik could feel his focus slipping, as on one side he had the apprentice, and the other was the master.
With the master’s attention divided, the Sith apprentice began to use her rage to push back. She gradually rose from her kneeling position. The Lord’s weapon pulled back and drifted toward Dom’s back, reading another slash.
His attempt was short lived as a cable shot at his legs. It wrapped about the feet causing him to adjust his attack. His lightsaber shifted directions and severed the anchor point. The surprise attack distracted the Lord enough for Dom to make a move.
Dominik took advantage of the sudden change in the Lord's behavior, noting the cable that had distracted him and allowed Dom a moment to regain himself. He met the female's rage with his own determination and pushed against her momentarily before noting the opening he had. A quick foot to her chest and the apprentice was sent back, hard. Master Rothul had no time for their games anymore.
Dominik turned quickly and struck at the lord with his saber, his movements quick and agile as he attempted to catch the Sith by surprise and stall the fight in order to catch back up with Xid.
The apprentice skidded back, narrowly avoiding tumbling to the seemingly endless pit below. She clutched her chest where the kick was made. It felt like the impact might’ve bruised her as she tried to regain her second wind. However, her master didn’t fare so well. In his carelessness, the Jedi master managed to slice through his lower calf. The Sith Lord let out a blood curdling scream from the pain. His stance collapsed underneath without its support. Realizing the wound sealed his fate, he released a full force Lightning chain against the master. Purple energy surged from the fingertips to wrap about the master.
In the background, the male apprentice had finally gained the upper hand. He rose Xid by the throat in a force choke and walked him to the edge of the catwalk. The younger Jedi struggled as his feet frailed and kicked. Ignoring his victim, his eyes turned to Dominik. Just when the Sith had been about to call for surrender, a dark haired figure thumped onto the catwalk behind him. Sela. Her weapon slashed at his arm. It dropped on the metal causing him to drop Xid instantly. Another scream filled the air.
Surprised and unprepared, Xid fell. His hand reached out and managed to catch the metal’s edge. He grunted as he came to a sudden stop. Gradually, he tried to pull himself up.
The Force lightning overtook Dominik's body in a few short moments. One of Dominik's hands shot out to catch himself with the metal railing. The man reigned in all of his strength and pushed through the pain from the lightning. He put a bottled foot down hard on one of the Lord's arms and plunged his saber into the Sith's chest, pulling it back quickly and pointing it towards the female apprentice, the last one standing.
He rushed her quickly, holding his saber to her neck threateningly. He knew Sela could handle the other downed apprentice and help Xid, so now he chose to ask a question that was taunting him.
"No more games!" He yelled, a little louder than he had intended, his ferocity and adrenaline starting to slow. "How did you find out about this, tell me now."
The female breathed hard. Her lightsaber held at her side, but didn’t strike. The man held the advantage as she tried to tame her rage and frustration. After a few moments to collect herself, she smiled a venomous smirk.
“You’re going to have to be a bit more specific, Jedi. Your demand covers a lot of ground to explain.”
The fighting in the background began to die down. Sela had managed to slice off the Apprentice’s head without mercy then proceeded to assist Xid up. Not far from the pair, a little hexagon shaped droid began to scramble out of the nearest hole in the wall. It bolted for Xid, climbing up onto his lap. The padawan smiled as he held the droid close for comfort. He rose to his feet and followed Sela, who stepped around the dead apprentice’s body.
"It's a simple… question." Dominik growled, breathing slowly, forcing himself to calm down, reigning in the adrenaline from the fight. With Sela and Xid nearby, Dominik knew he had to control his temper and reign in the lasting emotions from the fight. "How did your masters know there were going to be Jedi here. Four petty Sith don't just decide to show up to an old outpost without good reason."
“My master spotted your ship when it landed. We didn’t know Jedi were onboard until we spotted you walking off, then we knew the outpost had to be important. So we took a few Imperial troops to gain position first. They should be reaching the command center soon.”
Her eyes stared hard at the master. It was clear, she knew what happened in wartime.
“Now that you got your answers, do your worst. There is no mercy in war and the three of us know it.”
"Sela, take Padawan Terrik and resume looking for the central command. I won't be far behind." Dominik said, looking sternly to Sela. He knew the Knight would understand, and Dom did not want to expose Xid to anymore violence today if he could help it.
Sela nodded. Her hand ushered Xid away from the would be execution, her words soft and kind.
“Xid, where’s central command room? You did download the map, right?”
“Yeah,” he hesitated, trying to glance over his shoulder. Sela immediately discouraged that with a firm grip on his shoulder.
The Sith chuckled, a bittersweet one. “So… you’re too much of a coward to let him see what the price of being in the light truly means? To know you must kill to-"
Dominik did not glance over in the direction of Xid and Sela before his arm moved and there was naught but silence where the Sith stood. There was no hiding the truth from anyone, and he expected questions from the young Padawan later. Dominik was not often one to hide the truth of war from anyone in the Order; yet there was still that guilt of allowing their young to endure so much violence and bloodshed. If it could be avoided, Dominik would do so.
He took a deep breath, his mind pulling away from deep thoughts as his eyes closed. The man heard the head of the apprentice hit the metal floor and roll off the catwalk. The man withdrew his lightsaber, but kept the hilt held firmly in his hand. Mere moments went by before he turned away from the scene and moved to follow after Sela and Xid.
When they entered the command room, a gruesome scene greeted them. The doors were wide as the Jedi walked in. Bodies of Imperial soldiers were scattered across the room. Some hunched over the console and others lied on their side, all dead. Burn marks criss crossed over the chest of some, neck of one or two, and one had a hole in his face. Sela crouched down and examined the nearest one. He had a purple black line around his neck. Skin had a lavender tint and eyes were bloodshot, indicating he had been strangled. Sela instinctively looked to Xid for an explanation.
Xid then looked down at his creation in his hands. Navi whistled, clicked and beeped in his personal dialogue. The padawan paled slightly at whatever the machine had revealed to him before he looked toward Domink and Sela.
“Umm… Navi says he took care of the Imperial Troops. He let them in and laid an ambush, eliminating all threats to me.”
Sela didn’t say much, but glanced at Dominik. It was obvious this was part of the dark issues she spoke of earlier.
Dominik caught Sela's glance as he walked into the room. Resting the hily of his saber back on his belt, Dom paid the glance no attention. Though he now understood Sela's concern, now was not the time nor the place to talk about it.
Dominik moved past the bodies on the floor, stepping over or around them as needed. Approaching a large, raised console near the front of the room, Dominik glanced out the wide window ahead of it. They were on the upper levels of the outpost, which gave an impressive view of Balmorra's landscape below. Dominik’s eyes, however, moved to the battle that was growing ever closer with each passing moment.
"Xid. Is this console what you need?" He asked, turning back to look at the Padawan.
Xid nodded as he put Navi down. Immediately the droid scattered past Sela and onto the nearest counter, finding a perch it liked. Its red slots for eyes watched the trio with a mix of curiosity and disinterest. He looked at the consoles, his eyes alert and happy at being able to be useful. His hands touched the keyboard then flew like they memorized the access codes. The machines seem to react to him. They hummed to life and seemed to pulse with something mimicking life. After a few moments, Xid’s fingers simply stopped typing but the machines continued to follow his orders.
Outside, the outpost’s turret defenses began to shift. Dust fell from their forms as they stood upright, preparing their weapons to blast the incoming Empire troopers.
“There, I think we can secure this post until reinforcements arrive.”
“Good job Xid, you’ve saved many lives today.” Sela’s words caused a smile to spread across Xid’s lips.
In the background, Dominik had managed to get an old holoprojector to operate. It was a simple fix considering it was tech that the man had worked with throughout his life as a Jedi. The Republic base that their group had originated from needed confirmation that the team had managed to get the outpost up and running. However, due to the nature of the operation, no images or words would be spoken.
Dom insulted a string of numbers and letters into the small datapad that lined the holo projector's surface.
They would have to wait for reinforcements to arrive. Luckily, an extraction by air was not required due to the outposts fully functioning defense systems. The Jedi would, however, need to wait until forces arrived in order to fully secure the outpost. Now, it was a waiting game.
Sela began to pick up a body and start a pile outside the command room. Her attention distracted, Xid edged over to the older Jedi. His eyes filled with hesitation and concern while he approached.
“Master Dominik? What… what did you do to the Sith?”
At Xid's question, Dominik's fingers paused on the keys of the datapad. His head raised slightly as a map of the outpost expanded to fill the holo-projector.
"Padawan Terrik," he began, his head lowering before he glanced at Xid momentarily, "you remember your teachings on the Jedi Code, correct?"
Dominik grew silent as he let the question sink in, allowing Xid to think about the code and what it stated.
“Yes, I do.” Xid stated calmly.
"The Jedi way is a guide for all Jedi to follow. Throughout their lives, especially during wartime, many are forced to make difficult decisions." Dominik paused again, his mind flashing back to the apprentice, to how he refused to watch as he killed her; to the Sith lord who he'd impaled. "Each decision they make, they make for the greater good, and for the good of the Jedi Order."
He paused again, momentarily, "A Jedi must put the needs of the community above the needs of one individual." Dominik looked back at Xid after these words were spoken. He watched the young man, observing him in that moment, measuring his character and his feelings. "I do not enjoy killing, no Jedi should; if killing that Sith meant that you, and Master Kythor, and our troops live to fight another day, then I would not hesitate to do it again. You must act for the greater good of your allies and your fellow Jedi.” Dominik paused one last time before his eyes moved back to the holo projector. “There is no death, Xid. There is only the Force.”
Xid wasn’t sure how to react. He shuffled a bit, his head logically placing pieces together. Finally he asked another question.
“So if there was another way, would you still have killed her? My master says that Sith bring harm and destruction to the world. There is no such thing as a good Sith. Is that true?”
“All Jedi have different experiences in wartime,” Dom began, glancing over at Sela for a moment, his voice quiet, not attempting to make her feel singled out, “and these experiences change our views on certain things. If that is what you want to believe, Xid, then I will not try to sway you. That is what your master feels, but is it what you believe?” Dominik’s eyes remained upon the map of the outpost, but his focus was definitely on the conversation. He decided not to bring up what experiences shaped his beliefs, not unless the boy asked. Despite what had happened to Dominik in Sith hands, he held a belief not common among the Jedi.
“I don’t know what to believe. Part of me wants to believe they feel isolated and alone. So they lash out. The other part of me knows it’s a choice. Logically, some individuals are more drawn to it by various factors. Factors that can’t be changed.” Xid looked down at the floor, unsure if his thoughts would be acceptable.
“That is what you want to believe, Xid. I cannot force you to think one way but feel another. Your experiences as a Jedi will help shape your view on the galaxy.”
Xid nodded, but couldn’t find a proper reply. “I wish I knew what to think of it. I feel like a person looking through a window and unable to connect.”
As if sensing Xid’s meaning, Navi promptly picked himself up and walked over to the young padawan. He brushed the leg gaining his attention.
“It’s why I built Navi. He was my first friend that I connected to.” Gently Xid bent down to pick him, his hand cradled the small droid in his grip.
“Navi is a brilliant, Xid. I’m glad to see he’s helped you, and your skills have developed tremendously since then. But you must understand, he may not always be at your side. He is not capable of helping you through your journey as a Jedi. There are some things a Jedi must do alone. You must not rely on him to be with you every step of the way.” Dominik said, a slight smile on his face, his voice calm and soft as he spoke to the young padawan. There was more he wanted to say, but now was not the time nor the place. He preferred to speak to Sela first, as well. But that, too, would have to wait.
At the mention of Navi being absent from his side, the boy’s smile weakened. He sighed and nodded, understanding the meaning.
“I know this. I should be stronger. I want to succeed, yet I seem to fail more. Sela tries to be supportive, but I can see her disappointment.” His right shifted from underneath Navi, showing the blisters and developing calluses’ from long sessions of combat training.
“I understand machines so much better than organics. They make me feel less alone.”
“You are young, Xid. You have many years of growing and learning as a Jedi ahead of you. There are many who will help encourage your talents and strengthen your weaknesses. You are never alone.”