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Book 2 - Chapter 1

NAME OF PICTUREKor Sheen, lightsaber in hand, squared off against his best friend and fellow Jedi, Prauf ne Jhemon d’Aubreta, in a meadow just outside the ancient, overgrown Jedi Temple on the hidden planet of Zosma. The planet had been virtually erased from all galactic records by a long-dead Jedi Master named Morg Shippa, who had opposed the building of what was, at the time, the brand new Jedi Temple on Coruscant.

Before he died, Morg had left two teaching artifacts in the basement of the Temple on Coruscant, artifacts Kor’s parents stumbled across when they were fleeing from Anakin Skywalker the day he became Darth Vader. It was their very first day as padawans and they ran with no training of any kind. When Kor was born, they raised him the same way.

After they died, Kor, who had inherited his parent’s abilities with the Force, accidentally saved too many people from industrial accidents in the scrapyards of Ballador Shipwrights on the planet Bracca. His team’s unusual safety record finally drew attention when he saved Prauf from falling to his death. The two of them had to escape before anyone suspected what Kor was.

Buying a tiny starship called the Whimsy, they’d embarked on a series of adventures that resulted in Prauf also becoming a Jedi and the two of them laying claim to Zosma.

A Jedi named Rech Moreland, had discovered Zosma by accident just as Anakin became Darth Vader. Moreland died at the hands of the clones carrying out Order 66 and his possessions were claimed by Jhemon ne Jein d’Aubreta, Prauf’s father. Among Moreland’s possessions were the coordinates to Zosma.

The teaching artifacts, a set of armbands and a seemingly blank book, created virtual reality simulations where Kor, and later Prauf, could train with Morg’s avatar and learn the ways of the Force. Morg’s teachings, thousands of years old, showed Kor that the Jedi had become too hidebound as the centuries went by, slowly losing and forgetting much they had once known. Joining themselves to the Republic also meant they were obligated to enforce laws and regulations they might not agree with. Morg tried to warn the Jedi of his time against the path they were going down but they didn’t listen. His warning finally bore fruit when the Emperor and his evil apprentice, Darth Vader, destroyed the entire Jedi Order in a single day.

Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, along with Vader’s newborn children, were the only survivors. Later, the four of them led the Rebel Alliance in a successful bid to overthrow the Empire. First, Obi-Wan, then Yoda, died during the rebellion. After the destruction of the second Death Star, a suicidal Imperial officer who arrived too late to protect the Death Star, took revenge by crashing his Star Destroyer into the Alliance’s victory celebration on Endor, killing the entire leadership of the Rebel Alliance.

In the chaos that followed, the Empire fell apart and the New Republic was nearly still-born. Tens of thousands of systems, tasting freedom for the first time, found they liked it and didn’t want to allow any galactic government to take over again, no matter how well-intentioned.

In the middle of it all, Kor and Prauf released a video alerting the galaxy to the fact there were new Jedi on the scene and they could be contacted through Prauf’s father on Aubreta.

Kor and Prauf’s lightsabers came together with a crash. Kksssshhhh! Kksssshhhh! Kksssshhhh! Kor ducked and whirled like a madman, launching a blistering, whirling series of strikes but Prauf countered each one, over and over again. Kksssshhhh! Kksssshhhh!

Their new lightsabers, made entirely of kyber crystals, were stronger and more powerful than the old half-and-half lightsabers the Jedi had used for the last few thousand years. Even better, because they couldn’t be used by anyone except a Jedi.

Kor jumped back from Prauf as a big, leopard-like creature slithered out of the thick forest around them, heading straight for his friend. Prauf sensed the predator behind him and turned. He stretched out his hand and scratched the huge cat under the chin. The animal leaned into it, purring so loud it sounded like an engine idling.

Kor extinguished his lightsaber. “Isn’t that the same cat you were messing around with a few days ago?” He was tall for a human, broad-shouldered and strong from his years of hard manual labor in the shipyards on Bracca. His hair was usually too long and shaggy, but one benefit of being a Jedi was using the Force to micro-cut his hair every day to keep it from getting too wild. Now it was shorter and more under control. Combined with the experiences of the last few months, it helped lend a new depth of maturity to his features. He didn’t look like a kid anymore, even though Prauf still called him “kid” much of the time.

Prauf nodded absently. “Yeah. He keeps coming back. I think I’ll name him, Midnight.”

The animal was solid black from head-to-toe, with expressive purple eyes. “It fits him,” Kor agreed. He ran his hand through the silky fur and the purring got louder.

During Morg’s Jedi training, his avatar made mention of how connected the Jedi were to nature and how they could commune with animals. Prauf had decided to test that assertion on the dangerous predator and found it to be true. It had only taken him a moment to slip into the cat’s mind the first time they encountered it and calm the angry beast. Now, it had practically become his pet.

Kor looked around. A fantastic tangle of roots had grown up into a dome-shaped structure with a natural doorway on one side. Morg had also taught them the Jedi could direct plants to grow at accelerated rates into whatever shape they desired. “You made him a place to sleep?”

“Everyone needs a house, don’t they?” Prauf was pragmatic about it.

Kor stuck his head in. Prauf had directed a thick batch of local moss to grow into a soft cushion over the entire floor of the little hut. “Wall-to-wall carpeting, I see.” His voice echoed weirdly in it.

“Only the best for my pets.” Prauf had Midnight on his back, rubbing his belly.

Kor spent the rest of the day outside with Prauf and Midnight, loping through the rain forest-jungle. The Force lent wings to their feet, and with Morg’s training simulations under their belt, they were able to increase their stamina to the point they could run for hours without tiring. If not for Jhemon calling on their secure channel, they might have kept it up all day and all night.

Beep, beep, beep.

Prauf glanced at the communicator on his belt. “It’s my father.” He held it out and activated it. A hologram appeared over it. Jhemon, like all gray-skinned Dhiketh males, was naturally bald. Only the females of their race, whose skin was a lighter shade of gray than the men, had hair. The men uniformly had black eyes and the eyes of all the women were green. “Hello, Father.”

Jhemon nodded at him and Kor. “I just got a call from the government on Caragon, well, officially it’s Caragon-Viner but everyone calls it Caragon.” He waved it away. “They’re a non-aligned world out toward the rim who have been caught in the crossfire between the Hutt Cartel and the Spice Runners of Kijimi. They’re not sure if you’re actually Jedi or not, but they’re so desperate they’re willing to try anything.”

Kor felt his eyebrows climb over his steel-gray eyes. “That didn’t take long. We only released the video a week ago.”

Jhemon nodded his agreement. “As I said, they’re desperate.” He glanced at something they couldn’t see. “What do you want me to tell them?”

Kor knew Prauf’s answer before he looked at him. “Tell them we’re on our way.”

Jhemon smiled. “General Roagar Samlon is your contact. Ask for him when you arrive at the spaceport in their capital city of Cheley.” He paused. “I got the impression the general will have to be ‘persuaded’ you’re real Jedi. I don’t think he believes it.”

Kor wasn’t surprised. “There’s a lot of that going around.”

Ever since their video had been released, there had been a raging controversy on the galaxy-wide social media sites. Countless pages were rife with people calling them phonies, frauds, hucksters, and con men. So-called “video experts” had created long posts explaining exactly how they had “faked” all the dead bodies on Aubreta and paid off the SAF (a mercenary army that would do anything for money, the posters acidly noted) to pretend to be terrified of them.

The news channels – ISN, GBS, CORE, and others – had dug into their past to proclaim they were nothing more than a couple of opportunistic cargo haulers whose last real job had been delivering a souped-up speeder to a corrupt casino owner on Castilon. Before that, they’d worked for years on Bracca as cutters on a salvage crew. A spokesman for Ballador Shipwrights confirmed they’d been fired for endangering the safety record of their work crew. Then, even more, salacious information was dug up, proving that the one called Prauf had once been a notorious bounty hunter known as Professor Death, before going to work at Ballador.

It was a tissue of lies interwoven with half-truths to paint a completely false picture of them. Anyone reading it or watching the news could be forgiven for believing they were the reincarnation of the Emperor and Darth Vader.

Given everything being said about them, Kor was surprised anyone had called. “We’ll convince the general, then we’ll take care of their little mob war.”

Jhemon was more cautious. “There’s nothing little about the Hutt Cartel, and if the Spice Runners of Kijimi can stand up to them, there’s nothing little about them either. You should be careful.”

“We will, Father. Thanks for calling us.” Prauf put the comm-link back on his belt. “You know, kid, I like it that our first ‘official’ action as Jedi is stopping a mob war.”

Kor agreed. “It will put us in a good light, won’t it?” He bounced from foot to foot, rolling his head like a boxer, windmilling his arms to loosen up for a fight. “Let’s go bag some bad guys!”

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