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Book 1 - Chapter 13

From the outside, the damage to the Claw didn’t look so bad. It was only when you saw the lights flickering, or going off and staying off all over the ship that you knew something was wrong. Once you spotted the trail of debris spilling out the side of the ship you knew there was a serious problem. The expanding cloud of gas and smoke billowing out of the hole they’d blasted in the landing bay door signaled that something was dreadfully wrong. The final clue was the way the ship wobbled off course, jerking and twitching from one heading to another, revealing massive difficulties in the navigational controls.

Kor relaxed in his co-pilot’s chair, watching with detached interest as the Claw made its way back toward the planet in fits and starts. It was losing so much air Sanarrn didn’t have any choice but to set her down before the crew died from the vacuum of space. “Do you think they’ll make it?”

Prauf shrugged. “Should I care?”

“Well, they might crash land on your family’s home,” Kor said.

“Hardly.” Prauf gestured at their instruments. The readouts showed Claw’s trajectory would take it down about 20 or 30 clicks from there. The bottom of the Claw’s hull began to glow red as it reached the outer edges of Aubreta’s atmosphere. A trail of loose fragments broke away from the ship in a continuous stream. It wasn’t enough to destroy the ship but it wasn’t doing it any good either. The wreckage turned into thousands of tiny flaming meteors trailing the ship’s descent.

“It’s kind of pretty,” Kor said.

“From a distance,” Prauf said with a grin.

Kor laughed. “Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be on it.” The Claw appeared to have survived the initial stages of re-entry. Barring an unforeseen disaster, it would probably land safely. He dismissed the Claw and its crew to their fate and swiveled his chair around to face Prauf. “Do you want to check on your family?”

Prauf leaned back comfortably. “Nah. Ever since we left Bracca, we’ve brought them nothing but trouble. It’s probably best if we just leave them alone.”

Kor raised an eyebrow. “If you’re sure?”

“I’m sure.”

Kor nodded then decided it was time for him to assert himself a bit more than he’d been doing. He stood up. “In that case, you’re sitting in my chair.” He indicated the Captain’s chair Prauf was leaning back in.

His former supervisor grinned. “Well, well, well.” He bounced to his feet. “I was wondering when you’d get around to this. It’s about time.”

They exchanged places. “Yeah, yeah,” Kor said. “Better late than never and all that.” He made some adjustments to the chair. “There we go.” He nodded at Prauf. “Lay in a course for Zosma. Let’s go home.”

“Is it our home?” Prauf asked as he punched keys.

Kor hesitated. It had been a thoughtless remark. He hadn’t really meant anything by it but now he thought about it, it made sense. “We’re the only ones who know where it is,” he said slowly, thinking out loud, “and we’ll need someplace to call our own. If we don’t go there I’m not sure where we would go. It makes as much sense as anything else I can think of.”

“Course laid in,” Prauf said.

Kor hit the controls and the stars elongated into their familiar pattern as they jumped into hyperspace. He swiveled around. “What do you think?”

Prauf chuckled. “Are you kidding me? Kid, we’ve got our own planet! What’s not to like?”

Kor grinned. “Yep. Our own planet, a ship, heck, we’ve even got money.” He waved a hand at the money bag still sitting on the floor behind the co-pilot’s chair.

“But nowhere to spend it,” Prauf objected, “and those are the only clothes you’ve got left.”

“One thing at a time.” Kor examined himself. “But, yeah. Both of us could use some new clothes,” he said.

“In that case,” Prauf swiveled his own chair around and leaned forward intently, “maybe now you can explain what you did to me. How did you turn me into a Jedi?”

Kor scowled. “I already told you, I don’t know.”

Prauf frowned heavily. “How can you not know? You’re the one who did it.”

Kor shifted uneasily in his seat. It had been an intense moment, full of a thousand conflicting emotions, looming slavery on Bracca, a desperate desire to escape, and a grim, almost fanatical determination to protect Prauf. He tried haltingly to make Prauf understand. He talked for ten minutes before he finally ground to a halt. When he was done he wasn’t sure he’d actually said anything worth listening to. He felt like he’d been rambling rather than explaining.

Prauf sat there in silence for a moment. Kor could feel his confused emotions swirling around inside him. Suddenly the turbulence inside his friend died down, replaced a feeling of calm acceptance and curiosity. Kor cocked his head expectantly, waiting for him to say something.

“You know, it’s weird but I could feel your confusion and honesty the whole time you were talking,” Prauf said. “It’s like, I don’t know,” he waved a hand vaguely in the air, “a built-in lie detector or something.”

Kor nodded. He knew the feeling.

Prauf got a twinkle in his eyes. “Do you think those wrist bands would work on me?”

Kor couldn’t keep a grin off his face. “Why don’t we find out?” He pushed himself out of his seat and headed aft toward the engines where they’d hidden the bands, Prauf trailing along behind him. Prauf tried to say something to him in mind-talk.

Can . . . alk like this?

Kor paused to let Prauf get closer to him. “Try it again.”

Can we still talk like this?

Kor nodded and pulled out the bands. “According to what Master Morg taught me, it’s based on how close we are to each other. The more we practice it, the further apart we can be.” He handed the bands to Prauf.

As soon as Prauf put them on there was a tiny flair in the Force just like when he’d put them on. The expression on Prauf’s face told him everything he needed to know before Prauf said anything.

“I can feel it, it’s working!”

Kor grabbed his shoulders and turned him around. “In that case, lie down on your bunk and start your lessons.” He gently shoved him toward his cabin. “Go on, padawan.”

Prauf’s answering growl floated down the passageway behind him.

Kor smiled at his retreating back then took some time to clean up after their battle on the Claw. When he stepped out of the shower he frowned at his dirty clothes. He wrapped a towel around him and took his clothes to the tiny laundry closet behind the kitchen. There was some detergent there but Drafa had only included enough for a few loads. They’d have to get more.

He walked back to his cabin musing over Prauf’s words about not having anywhere to spend their money. Having what amounted to a price on their heads sharply limited where they could go and what they could do. Even the Jedi needed clean clothes. For that matter, they needed food too. He did a U-turn and headed back to the kitchen to check on their supplies.

After inspecting their food stores he concluded they had enough to last for about three more weeks. After that . . .

He shook his head. He might not be on a slave ship but that didn’t mean he had the freedom to go wherever he wanted.

He spent the rest of the trip back to Zosma training with the book. Some of the lessons were very advanced and he knew he’d have to review them over and over again before he learned everything. None of them held any detergent formulas but along the way, he learned a surprising amount of information about the Force and the Jedi who used it.

The gist of it was the Jedi were men and women who were sensitive to and could detect the presence of the Force. They enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with the Force, both using it and being used by it. Consequently, they were very nature-oriented, tending to live simplistic lives, wearing plain-cut clothes in earth tones. Because they esteemed life from which the Force comes, they also esteemed justice and fair play. Their focus was on skill with the Force rather than raw power.

Since the Force was created by life, the Jedi could use it to help life, causing plants to grow and blossom in whatever way they desire. In a matter of days, a Jedi could mold a tree from a seedling into a house. They could cause crops to grow overnight and befriend all manner of animals in an instant. They could find water underground, and using their power to move things, create a channel for it to create a spring wherever they want it to come up.

This nature stuff was news to him. He’d never heard it before.

According to his parents, the Jedi lived on Coruscant, the capital of the Old Republic and later, the Empire. It was a planet completely covered by one gigantic, enormous, never-ending city. It was the very antithesis of nature. Why did the Jedi live there if they were so connected to life and nature and all that?

Morg was unstinting in his disapproval of the “new way” the Jedi were going during his lifetime but he never actually came out and said why. Maybe it was so obvious to him it didn’t occur to him that someday it might not be apparent to others.

Kor found himself wondering if the Jedi really had drifted off the right path. From where he stood, it was clear they’d made some colossal mistakes, otherwise, they wouldn’t have been wiped out.

He discussed it with Prauf during one of the rare times they were both out of training but they couldn’t come up with any answers.

“Look, kid, you’re trying to answer questions that are hundreds of years old, maybe thousands,” Prauf said over breakfast a few hours before they arrived at Zosma. “No offense, but I think you’re wasting your time.”

Kor threw a napkin at him. “Some padawan you are.”

Prauf was shoveling food into his mouth and batted it aside with the Force. “I’m also about four times older than you are. Gimme credit for knowing a thing or two.”

“But don’t you want to know what happened to the Jedi?” Kor insisted. “Don’t you want to know if they went wrong and if they did, then where?”

Prauf belched into his napkin. “Nope.”

Kor was bewildered. “Why not?”

“Because I ain’t them,” Prauf said. “I’m me, with my own ideas and my own life. I don’t need them and don’t want ‘em either.” He got up and dumped his dishes in the tiny sterilizer. A moment later it ‘dinged’. He stacked them in the cabinet and closed it. “If you want to dig into it, good for you, but I ain’t interested.” He glanced at the chronometer. “It’s three hours until we come out of hyperspace. I’ll be in my cabin if you need me.”

Kor knew enough to realize pressing him wouldn’t do any good so he kept quiet about it all the way to the landing bay on Zosma. Once the Whimsy was down, he told Prauf he was heading to Morg’s old quarters to talk to the Jedi’s avatar.

Prauf nodded. “I’ll be in my cabin finishing the training.” He held up his wrists with the bands still on them. The complete lack of furniture in the building precluded them from living in it. As far as they knew, the only beds on the whole planet were right there in the Whimsy, so living on the ship was their only option.

“Alright,” Kor said. “I’ll see you later.”

Prauf waved at him as he left.

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