By the Force, we did it.
< deep sigh >
I’ll say more later – for now, though…
We did it.
Alright… a little different setup today – I’m recording from my practice room at the Academy. Formal lessons are done for the day, but while I’m here I’ve offered my normal tutoring hours, and some of the more experienced Padawans expressed interest. I’m sure this entry will be interrupted a few times, but I want to try to get my thoughts in order before tomorrow. Padawan Ward should be here in a few minutes, so I’d best get to it.
As I said yesterday, we somehow pulled it off. When Q’aleane and I arrived back here on Taris, we were greeted by a group of Jedi who escorted us immediately to the Council Chamber, where we were debriefed by Masters Ixlis, Onasi, Jeisel, and Master Tahl. I let Q’aleane do all the talking, and did my best to look as convincing as I could presenting “Roan’s” armor and the remaining Sith artifacts. Master Ixlis explained that our recent actions had caused concern among the Jedi – them and me both. However – and this is shocking – we were being assigned the investigation into Senator Thek’s assassination. Not only that, we were only being given this assignment because the civilian government of Taris asked for me and Q’aleane by name! Apparently, our—
< (intercom) “Hello, Knight Ren? It’s me, Keiran Ward. May I enter?” >
Yes, Keiran, of course. Please enter.
Good lesson – Keiran really is coming along. And, I may have finally convinced him of the weakness of that reverse-shien grip, especially when I switched from Makashi to Juyo… < chuckles >. Listen, I empathize with him – there was a time when I thought that changing a grip, adjusting a style, things like that… that it made me special or unique. But there’s a reason that the Seven Styles have endured over the ages! For me… < laughs > … for me, headstrong as I am, it took Master Ang thoroughly humiliating me on the practice field, in front of half the Academy, before I finally understood that particular lesson…
< contented sigh >
He certainly has a way of making me remember my place – and every lesson learned was one less barrier impeding my skills! Now it’s my turn to teach these lessons to maturing Padawans – one of the more fulfilling duties I have as a Knight and Instructor.
But – whoops – I’d best keep my eye on the chrono… now, where was I?
That’s right: Apparently when Q’aleane and I succeeded in protecting the Senator before our trip to Wayland, while the Council was agitated by our actions, the Tarisian government was… pleased. Now, other Jedi have failed to keep Senator Thek alive, and they want the Ren sisters back on the case! I could tell that Master Ixlis was not happy about this request, and so he presented a compromise: While Q’aleane and I would assist in the investigation, we would be joined once again by Master Tahl.
In all honesty, looking at Master Tahl was the hardest part of our debriefing. I still hadn’t told him about what happened on Wayland, and the prospect of doing so was… not enticing. Nevertheless, when we were dismissed, the three of us proceeded to Master Tahl’s quarters, and he addressed my earlier silence specifically. I knew I couldn’t keep it from him forever, so I told him – trying my damnedest to keep myself together the whole time. I don’t remember much of what he said at that time… I was so focused on maintaining my “Jedi” persona in front of him… but not long after, Q’aleane and I left our Master’s room, each with our own mandate. Intentionally, Q’aleane was sent to the practice fields, while I was told to meditate on all that had happened. I found a quiet corner in the eastern meditation courtyard and tried to focus my thoughts on banishing the false memory from Wayland.
I was only partially successful.
While I was able to begin the process of separating the simulation from my true memories, I found myself unable to quiet the part of my mind filled with questions – about Vergere, about the “Master Holocron,” about the reasons for the Sith simulation and what it might portend… In the end, I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be finding my center again until I knew more about Vergere’s quest, and I went to meet Q’aleane for dinner. Later that evening, I went to Master Onasi and asked him if I could be of service while I was at the Academy. Not only did he want my help, he also felt that I might benefit from more training.
More training with Ataru, to be specific. < sigh, then laughing > I swear, Master Ang must have said something to Master Onasi before he left, making sure that I would be kept on my toes at all times!
Even with the exciting prospect of continuing my instructor duties, my sleep last night was not exactly restful. My thoughts kept dwelling on the upcoming investigation, the mysterious adventures awaiting us outside the Academy, and, to be honest…Irsin… and they kept me up most of the night.
But I have to say: What a difference one good – one great – day can make! I—
< (intercom) “Hello, Q’ayla? Are you there? It’s Padawan Sha’dun.” >
I’ll be right there, Tok!
< sigh > Alright, back!
Today has been such a wonderful break from the chaotic and somewhat foreboding events of the past couple of weeks. I started off the day by joining Q’aleane in our common room for tea and breakfast, and we finally were able to catch up on the events of the past year. I told her everything about my time of Ansion – about Ranjiyn, the bombing of the Unity Council, my time with Vago, Desvin, and Trasa, my rescue and recovery by Kiruu and Clan Tasbir, and my successful operation against Galen Karrde and his followers. I listened with wonder as she told me about her time on Zonama Sekot, the pain-infused Vong ‘initiation,’ and her astonishing three Knighting ceremonies among different Jedi witnesses – finally I understand why she had that false Padawan braid at our, well, my only Knighting ceremony! All in all, I just enjoyed lounging around with her all morning, just talking about everything and nothing at all – more therapeutic than any meditation session!
After lunch, we went our separate ways, and I reported to the practice fields for an afternoon of intense lightsaber instruction. I acted as Master Onasi’s sparring partner, and we demonstrated the Ataru su ma velocities several times before practicing with the Padawans. Ataru isn’t my favorite – or best – style, but I certainly needed the practice, as I tend to fall back into my mainstay forms if I’m not forced to practice the others! < laughs > When Master Onasi finally dismissed the Ataru lesson, as I said I announced my tutoring hours, and now here I sit!
Let’s see… Keiran and Tok have already shown up, and I think Alema said she would stop by to work on some ‘Barrier of Blades’ challenges – always good fun, but an important skill to improve, for sure.
…So I guess I’ve recounted the day’s activities – tomorrow Q’aleane and I will meet Master Tahl and begin our investigation with questioning the only mercenary Taris Security was able to capture alive. I can only hope that our combined efforts will bring quick closure to this case… yet somehow, somehow I can’t shake the feeling that it’s only a fool’s hope < chuckles >…
Then, once the investigation is over, maybe Q’aleane and I can contact Irsin and figure out some way to continue looking for those Gray Holocrons and—
< (intercom) "Q’ayla, this is Padawan Alema Vann – I hope I’m not late for my Shien lesson! >
No, Alema, you’re … actually a little early, but that’s alright. Come on in!
< whispered > Until next time!
It’s been a long couple of days, and I have to go meet Q’aleane soon so we can message Irsin via the dead drop he and I set up. Needless to say, the investigation has gone well, and we have leads to follow. However…
…there have been complications.
We started by meeting Master Tahl in the Academy med bay, where the captive mercenary – a Weequay named Sev – was being treated for injuries suffered during the firefight. Q’aleane and I used our usual interrogation strategy – I began by asking simple questions and using my natural emotions to build rapport before Q’aleane took over, applied her diplomatic skills, and secured the desired information. It’s worked before, and it worked this time. We learned that Sev had been hired for the job by a Duros named Cei Baaks. We also learned that the mercenaries had been hired to enact a diversion only, leaving the assassination itself to the invisible attacker seen in the holorecording. Sev also identified the other two mercenaries – bounty hunters – still at large…
A heavily augmented, cyborg Twi’lek… and a female Chiss.
I’m sure Q’aleane felt it – hell, Master Tahl probably felt it – but I couldn’t stop the pang of fear! Could Trasa really be here on Taris? Does she know I’m here? Doubtful – Trasa didn’t seem the patient type on Ansion, and if she knew I was on Taris, she would have made her move by now… And what about the Twi’lek? Could Desvin have survived the Alwari attack?! No… I could have sworn I’d seen him die in the explosion, and then Trasa’s reaction… No, he has to be dead!
Suddenly, this investigation has taken an uncomfortable, personal turn. And, with everything else going on… I don’t need this. To be fair, though… I don’t know that it’s Trasa. Not yet, at least.
Anyways, Sev gave us information about where he had met with his Duros contact, so at least we had a place to start. Q’aleane and I both agreed that Sev’s punishment should be tempered by the knowledge that he had helped with the investigation despite the severe risk it represented. It was then decided that Master Tahl and I would go to the scene of the crime to look for further clues, while Q’aleane devised a plan to both lure the Duros out of hiding and give Sev a chance at life once his prison sentence had been served.
Unfortunately, the scene of the crime was less helpful that I’d hoped. Of course it had been several days since the attack, but the location of Senator Thek’s murder was still cordoned off, and several evidence holorecorders remained on site. While none of the evidence presented new information, Master Tahl and I were able to sense a faint, lingering Dark Side energy emanating from where the Senator had been standing. The energy moved off in the direction indicated by the recording we had seen earlier – ultimately, our time at the crime scene merely confirmed our suspicion that a Dark Side practitioner, most likely a Sith, was responsible for the assassination.
However, while alone with Master Tahl, I took the opportunity to do something I should have done days ago: I finally apologized for my actions during the Wayland simulation. I explained to him my feelings – how frustrated I was that the Code took priority over the life of my sister, and expressed to him how I sometimes wished there were other options available to me as a Jedi. I fully expected a strong, firm response. Yet to my surprise Master Tahl was… gentler with me than he has been in a long time. Of course he was saddened by my choices, but he presented a point of view that I had not considered: He told me that, because the arch’s test was not real, I now had the opportunity to learn an important lesson without any tangible, real-life consequences. He was not dead, and neither was Q’aleane – yet I had experienced emotional trauma that seemed as real as anything. Instead of wallowing in guilt, Master Tahl suggested that I use this experience as a learning opportunity about the importance of controlling one’s emotions and reactions. Furthermore, he reminded me once again that the Jedi Code is not always easy to follow – intentionally so. Yet, my struggle to adhere to its tenets illustrates how important it actually is – if it was easy, it would not be worth following. This last part was not a new lesson for me. But paired with his other point of wisdom, I think my Master may have given me the tools I need to finally push past the experience on Wayland, and come out a stronger, and more focused Jedi Knight.
Our business in the city concluded, we returned to the Academy to check on Q’aleane’s progress. She and Sev had composed a message – to be delivered by an intermediary – that would set up a meeting between Sev and Cei Baaks at their familiar cantina in the undercity. The meeting was to take place the following night – in the meantime, Q’aleane reached out to our law enforcement contact to explain the situation and ask for leniency for Sev in light of his help. Then, we needed only to change into disguises, and we’d be ready for the next phase of our investigation.
As far as disguises go, that part was easy for me. Earlier this afternoon, I went into my closet and found the dress that Kyakhta gifted to me on Ansion, as well as the veil that Kiruu made me. Before I put them on, I took a moment to feel them against my skin – I even smelled them – bringing back memories of my time among the clan. Considering my mind has been dwelling on Trasa, it was nice to find some solace in the good times I had while on Ansion. The dress still fits like a charm, and my boots even look good with it – dirt and grass is one thing, but walking barefoot through the streets of Taris is never an option! Once I had changed into my ‘disguise,’ I went and found Q’aleane and Master Tahl, and we proceeded to the cantina a couple of hours ahead of the appointed time.
As we arrived, Master Tahl took a seat at the bar near the door, and Q’aleane and I went and sat at a booth that gave us a clear view of the one to be used during the meeting…
< chuckles > I also noticed an Aqualish staring at me as we came in… which I guess means my ‘disguise’ was appropriate for the establishment, but perhaps less so for a Jedi! < laughing >
After ordering drinks, we waited. An hour before the scheduled meeting, a Duros with a prosthetic eye entered the cantina and sat in the booth we were watching. Seeming to match the description given by Sev, Q’aleane and I were certain that this was Cei Baaks, and we wasted little time before making our move. At Q’aleane’s signal, I moved to the edge of our booth and began withdrawing my lightsaber from my thigh holster – in the next instant, the Duros’ blaster was ripped from its own holster, and sprang across the room, slapping into Q’aleane’s palm. I stood up, moving quickly to the front of the Duros’ table, and told him clearly that he would be coming with us. Q’aleane quickly added that our business was with Cei Baaks, and that the other patrons would do well not to interfere. Considering how my last arrest attempt turned out, my senses were absolutely heightened… yet this time, things went according to plan. No one stood up, and the Duros resigned himself into our custody without any struggle. Moving quickly outside with our quarry, we returned to the Academy without incident.
Once we arrived, we took Cei Baaks to the holding cells and imprisoned him in a stasis field. The Duros was much less forthcoming with details about his involvement in the operation, but with Master Tahl’s help, we were able to confirm that Vorman Grale – Irsin’s Sith Master – was indeed behind the assassination of Senator Thek. Q’aleane was able to acquire bank account information that would later tie the operation’s funds to an account originating on Eriadu. Finally, Cei Baaks revealed that he had not yet paid the Twi’lek and Chiss mercenaries who had survived the firefight, and provided information about a dead drop he had set up with them to facilitate payment. Then, just when we all felt the interrogation was a success – something sudden and terrible happened!
Cei Baaks began convulsing violently, and blood began to ooze out of his eyes and ears. He lurched forward and shuddered before going still – it was all over in less than a minute. We released the stasis field and called for medical assistance, but we all knew it was too late. Reaching out with the Force, we could sense the Dark Side – a flitting energy coming from the Duros’ head. Master Tahl suspected an ancient Sith technique involving psychic conditioning, and when Master Onasi arrived on the scene, he could provide no further information. As med bay attendants removed the body from the holding cell, we decided on our next course of action.
Q’aleane went to visit our law enforcement contact to give him both an update on the situation and the details of the dead drop between Cei Baaks and the two remaining mercenaries. While she was doing that, Master Tahl and I remained at the Academy, and I set up the bank account hack with Taris Security, yielding the connection to Eriadu. While we were waiting for Q’aleane to return, as well as the results of the hack, Master Tahl noted that even though we now knew how to find the two bounty hunters, we should remain focused on completing our investigation, despite any personal intentions otherwise. This surprised me, and I told him as much, saying that even if these two were – somehow – Trasa and Desvin, I had no intention of seeking them out. The knowing look he gave me … Q’aleane! I knew she had been upset when I told her about my torture at the hands of those two, but it hadn’t occurred to me… she wanted to make them pay! Of course – why hadn’t I considered that?! Would I have done anything different if our roles had been reversed?! Actually, I can say with certainty that I would not have – will not – if we ever encounter the Vong again…
Unfortunately, when Q’aleane returned I didn’t have a chance to talk with her about this, as our next moves are now clear: We have a bank account on Eriadu to check, and Taris Security has provided us with information about a ship docked at spaceport that was connected with the fund transfers. Our inquiry at the spaceport revealed that the ship left Taris two days ago, with a flight plan to Telos submitted before departure.
Eriadu and Telos… Trasa… Desvin?!…Looks like my hope for a quick resolution to this case couldn’t have been more foolish. And what about Irsin? He was supposed to return to Taris well after we did, and he said he was going to look into the assassination and the whereabouts of his former Sith Master. But if Trasa really is here – and involved in all of this…
Then I pray – Ashla, please – that he is alright.