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Ryu was confused by the actions of his pursuers. Despite efforts to allay his fears, he was still deeply distrustful of their words. When the female disarmed herself, he wondered if it was a ruse. Even so, without a ranged weapon it seemed unlikely that she would able to attack him if he left his cover. Grudgingly he decided to stand up, revealing his sorry state. He looked like a ghost in the moonlight, his skin, hair, and eye in varied shades of gray. His flesh was a tapestry of scars, telling a story of violence that spanned hundreds of encounters. He was thin, emaciated from only intermittently eating what was provided for him in the cell. One of his arms was missing, a dark gray mechanical socket indicating that there had once been a cybernetic arm attached. His face was largely hidden behind the wild unkempt hair and bushy grey beard, his one glittering silver eye peeking out from the mess.

 

No Longer hiding, he studied the two before him. The boy seemed unimposing, looking like a fairly average spacer. He could see the lightsaber on his hip, but Ryu's intuition was that he hadn't a lot of experience with it. The woman concerned him more. Her gaze was stern, her stance told him that she had seen many battles. Even disarmed, she could be a a threat if she meant to be one. Looking in her pale green eyes, he sensed something... familiar. His muddled memory could not place what it was though. He had some slight inclinations of his past, but he knew only what had come back to him in the hallucinations he experienced from his cell.

"I..." Ryu began to speak but trialed off, hesitating. "I am lost. I think my memory has been tampered with, and I do not recall how I came to be here. I'm not even sure what planet this is. What..."

Ryu trailed off again, taking a few steps forward from the dense grass.

"If you don't intend to kill me or to put me back in that cell, what is it you want from me? Why have you followed me, and what do you intend to do now that you've caught me? "

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This was the first time that Draygo had gotten a clear look at the escapee. The man boasted nearly a third of a meter on her, but was emaciated--likely self-neglect after months or years in solitary confinement, which also explained the tangled mess of facial hair. It was the scars that concerned the veteran Jedi, however. If scars were script, then the man’s body was the equivalent of at least two volumes of Military History of Ryloth. His skin was a monument to warfare, with a violent past etched on every centimeter of skin that was exposed by the tattered coverall. That, or they were self-inflicted. Likely the former, as Draygo recognized the leads on his elbow that indicated that he had once made use of a prosthetic.

 

Her eyes drifted towards her gunbelt, briefly making contact with Genesis’. Her expression was devoid of affect, carefully poised to not reveal her emotions. Similarly, her Force-presence had stilled in an attempt to not betray her nervousness.

 

“For now, I’ll settle for your conversation,” Arrmiena responded breezily, returning to the deceased nerf in search of her discarded gunbelt. “Simple fact is that the Jedi believe that you’re dangerous. Dangerous enough that a power failure in your cell triggered a distress signal. They might have been correct, but what they did to you was torture. So… no, I’m not going to take the easy way out and just hand you back to them, and I’d really prefer to not kill someone tonight.” She knelt by the discarded belt, pawing over it for her canteen and a tiny air-tight canister.

 

“Caf? ‘Fraid it’s instant, but this seems like that kind of moment--ah, frack.” An irritated hiss issued from her lips. Ants were crawling all over her gunbelt. By this point, they had succeeded in invading every pouch in search for something edible--which now included her left hand. Still, caf had priority over minor physical pain and she mixed in the canister of instant-mix grounds before inspecting the dozen-odd insects that were attached to her hand by their mandibles. She wiped her hand furiously on her black jumpsuit.

 

She took a swig from the canteen. It was military-grade insta-caf, tasting of chemicals and mediocrity, but it was caffeinated and warm against the chill of the night. “Name is Armiena Draygo. Anyone?” The veteran Jedi offered, holding out the canteen to her Padawan and in the vague direction of the fugitive.

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As the man rose, I studied his figure. As with any figure whom had seen imprisonment, his hair was shaggy and his beard unkempt. But his form was frail and thin, likely having been kept in that box for who knows how long. Still, there was an unease in the pit of my stomach that remained even after he spoke and I couldn't truly understand why. His body was riddled with scars, and even a prosthetic socket adorned his arm. But his gaze seemed puzzled, and even almost timid. Yet I still for the life of me couldn't explain why he caused the hairs of my neck to stand on their ends.

 

Leaning over, I blew into the smoldering coals as I placed fresh fuel upon them, dry grass that laid within reach and a few logs the man had gathered before finding a stick to jab through the nerf he had thrown at me earlier. Laying it across another I had jabbed into the soil, my gaze shifted to meet Armiena's before turning to his own. Soon the smell of the fat rolling from the meat would wander around them as it boiled and sizzles against the flame.

 

"You're on Dantooine." I spoke with an almost hiss to my tone, my leeriness likely coming through over protecting my homeworld from someone the Jedi seemed dangerous enough to bury away. Still, I couldn't help but pity the man anyways, a possible mirrored reflection of what could have been my fate if Master Armiena hadn't came into my life. "And truth be told, we're simply investigating you, and why you were given such a fate..."

 

Before I could finish my sentence, I heard Armiena curse, causing a natural reaction to jerk toward her. "Master Draygo?" I spoke abruptly, but settled back down when i saw the entanglement she had placed herself in. When offered the caf, I shook my head a solid no. Wasn't much a caf drinker to begin with. Made me jittery. Looking back toward the man, I finished. "So tell us stranger. Now that you're free, what are your plans? Where would you go with no memories? Do you remember anything related to your past?"

 

I know I was being a bit inquisitive, but I was curious what his next moves were.

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Ryu cautiously took the canteen from Armiena. He wasn't sure if he believed they would not turn on him, but after such a long isolation he was more in need of companionship than he was willing to to admit--even to himself. He took a sip from the canteen, then after a moment contemplation, a second much longer drink, half emptying the canteen before passing it back. As the boy rekindled the fire he decided to take a seat. Ryu listened intently as he spoke, ruminating on the boy's glib explanations of where he was, and why they had followed him. He sat in cold silence for several moments following his line of questions, apparently lost in though.

"My plans do not extend far beyond this moment. I'm hoping to find some new clothes and a replacement for my arm. I was planning to tear one off the next droid I encounter, though in this wilderness I don't expect that would happen any time soon. If it is true that I'm not being pursued by anyone but you, then I suspect my past is quite lost. I don't know where I came from, and you who came after me when I escaped that prison don't seem to know why I was there either. I have no direction other than away from that cell."

Ryu stared into the fire. A few remaining ants from the Canteen were crawling on his arm, but as he he watched the flame he did not seem to notice them.

Do you remember anything related to your past?

The words stirred up what little recollection he had within him, horrific visions of an endless war on all that lived. He could hear the screams of countless dying men and women, and in the fire he saw entire worlds burning. He did not really understand what it all meant, when or where he was remembering, but he had a dreadful sense that the violence that haunted him was his own doing. He felt sickened by the notion that this carnage was all that laid behind him, guilty that he was likely the cause of immeasurable suffering but lacked any sense of why it had happened, or what had driven him to do it. He knew that despite Armiena's condemnation of his imprisonment, the words of the baleful specter that had haunted his cell were most assuredly correct. He did deserve it. He had earned that suffering and much more.

The ants were biting into his flesh now, sharp mandibles tearing away minute hunks of his flesh. He remained motionless, his eye still fixed on the flame. He opened his mouth to speak, but still took several moments before he found the words. He considered denying that he knew anything at all, sure that any admission of truth would change the Jedi's minds about their desire to chat. Yet, a sense of penitence drove him to admit what little could form into a coherent thought.

"All I know is that my name is Ryu. Kakuto Ryu. And your mercy is most certainly wasted on me."

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“So we are acquainted, then. I didn’t recognize you under the beard.” Draygo managed to keep her voice even, but there were a handful of indications that she was prepared to fight and kill. There was how she turned her face away from the newly-ignited flame to protect the night-vision of one of her eyes; how her eyes flickered between Ryu’s waist and shoulders for any sign of tension, any sign that he was about to attack. And the less subtle: there was an audible click as she abandoned the next swig of caf and shut the canteen; how her stance widened from an affected slouch in anticipation of a possible attack. 

 

How Draygo stepped forward to interpose herself between the former Dark Lord and her Padawan. Once the immediate jolt of adrenaline faded and her hand stopped shaking, she was able--finally--to probe this ruined creature that Ryu had become. She found… shame. That was difficult to believe. There were few sapient beings that had as much blood on their hands as the former Dark Lord. Perhaps the Arkanian was not quite as infamous as Faust or Ar-Pharazon, with their repugnant flare for the dramatic, but he had wrought as much devastation on the galaxy to sate his sadistic tastes.

 

Instinct told her to kill, to not risk unleashing the former Dark Lord on the galaxy. The memory of a departed friend warned her to not become a murderer.

 

“So you intend to leave and… just... live?” Draygo asked with a quiet snort. “My concern is the long-term. There have been several instances where Jedi believed that they could completely remake a sapient being--wipe their memory and start anew. I suppose that they believed it more compassionate than killing. New past, new memories, new personality. Tabula rasa, I think that’s the term.”

 

A glance away from Ryu indicated exactly what Draygo thought of that line of logic. “They were all wrong, of course--without exception. At some point your memories will begin to assert themselves and you’ll need to learn to live with the person that was killed from you. You will probably be followed by the Jedi Order for the rest of your natural life. That will be harder time than I can imagine. Unless…”

 

Draygo cut herself off. There was potentially a way that Ryu could walk away from this encounter with his life and the veteran Jedi with her conscience clear. But it was a ridiculous plan--absurd in its recklessness, likely to get her cashiered by the more conservative wing of the Jedi Order, if not killed outright when Ryu’s memories started to resurface. Still, as stupid of an idea as it might have been, Armiena could almost see Darex struggling to not burst out laughing at its audacity.

 

“Unless you were to leave with us.”

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"Nice to meet you Kakuto Ryu." I managed to get out before Armiena spoke, but his body language and words only quieted my cheerfulness after I spoke. He spoke with a condemned tone and his posture screamed remorse, but I could even begin to imagine what horrors he had seen or lived through. Still, I had my own tale, my own life before the Jedi, and it wasn't something that I, myself, was proud of. Poking at the fire, my gaze settling upon the ignited ashes flowing away in the breeze, I sighed. "We all have regrets, but mercy is something we all deserve."

 

Just as I finished speaking, an unease settled over my form and my gaze shifted to Armiena just as she spoke, her own posture and tone growing dark to my ears as curiosity took hold. So she knew the name, and by her aura and guise, it wasn't a good thing. For the first time in a long time, I felt a tinge of fear creeping across my form, and as she moved in between us, I could only sit there in silence and listen, watchful. I had never seen Armiena get so roused before, her very core shaken.

 

And her tone, though her words spoke different, I could hear the echo of disgust within her speech pattern. Whoever this man was, she didn't approve of his existence, his life, and it was apparent that she had begun to see why he had been locked away. All of which, of course, was lost upon me. But to see Armiena's fight or flight over the frail form of this being became the scariest curiosity of them all. And yet, out of all the outcomes, her words left me completely dumbfounded. 

 

"Him? Leave with us?" I questioned to myself after having witnessed Armiena like I had never before, so much so that I briefly questioned my Master's sanity. And yet, ironically, it felt right and there was logic in her words. Who better to watch over a man who stirred Armiena so well than Armiena? And perhaps I could discover why he stirred up such emotion while he does, this stranger who was locked away for what would be his eternity. Was he Sith? This made me worry even more. And yet, his remorse was sincere, something I knew alot about. Either way, our paths crossing was no coincidence. Opening my mouth, I spoke. "Why not?"

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Ryu let out the laugh that Armiena had imagined Darex trying to stifle. He had considered standing up to defend himself after he'd admitted his name, anticipating that his insistence that he was unworthy of mercy might convince her to put him out of his misery, but remained passive. Now he was glad he did, as her body language told him clearly that she was fully prepared to strike. She recognized him, knew more about him that he knew about himself. Just the sound of his name seemed to expose her fighting instincts. She was prepared to fight him, but at the same time, offer him a place as their traveling companion. The contradiction struck him as absurd, and he couldn't help but chuckle.

"And where would we go? I wonder about you, Miss Armiena Draygo, despite your criticisms of the Jedi, you seem to know a lot about their history, their thoughts, and how they will likely respond to my existence. Combined with your lightsaber, the Jedi here apparently sending you after me first, and your friend here addressing you as master, I'm led to believe that my assumption that you are yourself a Jedi was not likely far from the mark."

Ryu glanced down at the ants gnawing at his arm. Having only one hand, he tried to remove them by swinging his arm, but they held tight. He tried rubbing his arm on the grass but only a few came loose. Annoyed, he decided to hold his arm in the flame. Some burnt off and rest were driven up to his shoulder, where he was able to pinch them between his fingers and flick them into the fire.

"So if what you're saying is that I can either be pursued by the Jedi indefinitely, or come with you and face them directly, then the choice is clear. I will go with you willingly. Running forever doesn't sound that appealing. As long as you're not going to shepherd me into another cage, I'd rather face my fate head on."

Ryu tore off a fresh slab of Nerf and took a bite. Then, speaking with his mouth full, he digressed.

"Unless you're some kind of Jedi outcast yourself and you mean to say you know someplace we won't be followed, in which case I'm fine with that too."

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The veteran Jedi finally succeeded in mastering her instincts and relaxed from her poorly-disguised fighting stance. “The former. Genesis is my Padawan. There are all manner of things that I can be counted on to disagree vociferously with the rest of the Order, but they consistently tolerate me. I intend to be perfectly honest with the Grandmaster. I’ll request a new assignment, ask for permission to put you through your trials,” Armiena smirked at her Padawan, imagining what his reaction to the nonchalant announcement of the end of his training could be. “And I’ll make a status report and politely request that she not assign any Jedi to your case. Very politely.”

 

Draygo approached the dead nerf and plunged her right hand into the writhing mass of ants that was her gunbelt. At this point, any exposed edible matter had been devoured and the insects had formed a simple convoy system to and from the carcass of the nerf. Not even bothering to shake away the few insects that gave ineffectual bites at her prosthetic, she retrieved her lightsaber and ignited it with a snap-hiss that was startlingly crisp against the ambient buzz of the night. However, there was no malicious intent in the retrieval of her weapon, as she immediately turned the turquoise blade on the carcase of the nerf by dissecting away one of its ribs with four careful slashes.

 

Extinguishing the blade, Armiena placed a foot on the carcass of the pack animal and ripped away the bone with a powerful tug. “Hopefully we’ll be assigned to a Core world, a place where you can try and put together your memories in peace. Certainly get a better prosthetic arm than something from a protocol droid. My ship doesn’t have a slave circuit, so we’ll wait until dawn before heading out. I’ll take the first watch.” The veteran Jedi sat by the fire and began to methodically cut away pieces of fur and hide and fat with a small vibroknife. It would only be a few hours until the first light of dawn, and Armiena would remain awake throughout the remainder of the night, slowly roasting the nerf rib over the flame. But she only occasionally nibbled at the rib, instead staring simultaneously at the lightsaber hilt in her lap and at a fixed point a lifetime away.

 

She was concerned, but not for herself, nor the former Dark Lord of the Sith. Her concern was reserved for her apprentice.

 

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I remained in silence even as my words seemed overlooked, caught up in the conversation as the flame sizzled with the fat dripping into its coals, reaching forward and pulling the steak away. The tension in the air was about as thick as the slab of nerf that this Kakuto Ryu character had thrown at me earlier, though not nearly as tough as I quickly found out in the first bite.

 

"Hof-fa-fa-fa" I echoed as I attempted to chew the crispened and scalded meat without burning my tongue and simultaneously let it cool off without spitting it out.

 

I had to digress though. It made sense that Armiena, despite her feelings toward the man's name, would watch over him rather than locking him away as he had been before. And as she relaxed, I felt more confident that this was the Force's will. Taking another bit, I nodded my head as Armiena began to speak agreeing with her until my mind went completely blank at the mention of my Trials, that bite of meat the hardest swallow I had ever taken.

 

"Wait? What?" I questioned with likely the most dumbfounded look upon my face that was ever seen, like an Iriaz in a speeder's lamp. "My trials?"

 

The conversation continued on without me, myself lost in the thoughts of my trials and whether or not I felt I was ready and what this would mean for Armiena and I. I had grown to enjoy her companionship, the travels we had had, from aiding and abetting my escape at Felucia, to Coruscant during its moonfall, Borleias and my training, and here to Dantooine where i was born. Nervousness set up in my stomach, knotting it up so tight that i couldn't take another bite and handed it back to the man who had provided it.

 

When Armiena took first watch, i walked over and sat in an awkward spell of silence next to her as i tried to find my thoughts and words. Finally, i broke the silence with the only words i could find. "Are you sure that I'm ready for my Trials?

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Ryu laid down in the dirt to stare up at the stars. After so long in total sensory isolation this much stimulus was not going to permit him to sleep. He was able to use the opportunity to relax though, feeling comfort in the idea that if the woman wasn't willing to kill him outright, that same instinct would probably prevent her from letting him get torn apart by Kath Hounds in the night.

"My instinct tells me that this petition to the Jedi Grandmaster will not end well no matter how polite you are. But I will go with you to try. If anything, it'll be worth it to meet the one who would pursue me face to face. One day of running away from you and I'm already pretty sick of it. Running doesn't seem to agree with me."

Ryu closed his eyes and listened to the sound of the fire, and the insects chirping in the brush around him, contemplating  Draygo's proposition. He wondered what would become of the person he upon reconstructing the person he was, how it would change him, and whether it would be worth it. Draygo seemed to know more about him than he did himself, and though he was tempted to have her explain what she knew, he felt a strange apprehension about the the idea. Perhaps he would be better off not knowing. At least for now, he decided it should wait.

 

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"You're probably right. But as far as hills to die on go, this one looks pretty good." Armiena admitted with a shrug. Though not prepared to admit her apprehension to the former Dark Lord of the Sith, even temporarily amnesiac, Draygo sensed a strain of... viciousness that was beginning to creep into the Jedi Order's strategies. It needed to die a messy, public death before it had the opportunity to twist the Order into something cruel and pragmatic that would kill billions in unrestrained warfare.

 

Draygo continued to pick at the nerf rib, alternating between nibbling off bits of meat from the bone and sucking grease from her metal fingers. It was just as well that the hand lacked nociceptors, she decided--handling the bone likely would have left her with a terrible burn. Regardless of the result of her confrontation with Alluyen, she would need to have a difficult conversation with Ryu, hopefully before the botched job of wiping his memory began to fade away. But how to tell a man that he had been Asshole Number One of the galaxy, responsible for the deaths of billions indirectly and hundreds of thousands directly? And that had Draygo been the one to determine his fate, she almost certainly would have killed him in an instant?

 

But that was only a threat to her own life, and she was prepared to lose it in an attempt to prevent a former Dark Lord from being unleashed on the galaxy. Genesis, on the other hand… no amount of training or lightsaber instruction would prepare Armiena to let go of another Padawan. 

 

“No one is really ready, Genesis. But you’re better off than most,” Armiena said with a forced smile, reaching over to squeeze his knee. “You’re a compassionate and courageous young man, and you’ll make for a great Jedi Knight. We’ll be spending some more time training. There won’t be a moment to lose until I see the right opportunity to--hold on.”

 

At that moment, a comlink began chirping at her belt. Draygo got up to fish it and her belt from the marching formations of ants, who at this point had developed an intricate system of supply dumps, presumably in preparation for a war against a neighboring ant hill. She listened--and then spat out a venomous curse.

 

“Changed my mind, we’re going now. At least we have some stars, moon… first light in a couple hours.” She glanced up and decided that they at least would not be stumbling aimlessly in the dark. “Destination will be Corellia. Sith invasion--all hell is breaking loose.” The return journey was slow going, each step placed carefully in the tall grasses to avoid a stumble. It wasn’t until dawn that the outline of the Jedi conclave rose over the horizon and the three made their way aboard Draygo’s Barloz-class freighter. “Feel free to clean up, get a meal--just stick clear of the yellow tape or you’ll lose artificial gravity or power or… something,” Armiena mumbled sleepily on her way to the cockpit. 

 

Several minutes later, McShipface alighted from the Jedi outpost and fled into hyperspace.

 

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It was just as I had thought as Armiena got up to answer her comm, leaving me in silence once again. Though she tried to hide it, I could sense her own reluctance to let my padawanship go nearly as much as myself, growing from the crazy lady I met so long ago on Felucia shouting to the heavens to a mother figure I respected and cherished dearly. But, then again, both of us knew that in order for me to grow, I had to walk this Galaxy on my own again.

 

My sadness was interrupted by her sudden loud cursing, drawing my attention to her as she turned to face us. Without thought, I hopped up and offer Ryu a hand up before letting Armiena take the lead and placing myself at the rear. While my training had been quite peaceful, I remembered the chaos and disorder of Coruscant, of war. And while I had come to face this aspect of my duty, taking up the blade of the traditional Jedi, the nervousness in my gut only grew.

 

It felt like an eternity before we arrived at the Conclave, but the distraction of the newly found rush took my mind off of what we were going to be exactly walking into. Guiding Ryu aboard our ship and past the numerous hazards, i showed him the mess area and the refresher if he wished to use them, and also bringing him a set of dusty old robes I found in one of the ships quarters.

 

When I felt McShipface, I sat back and reclined, letting the memories of Coruscant take me.

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  • 6 months later...

"In the Beginning, there was the Force, a small spark igniting amongst the eternal Darkness. And where it's echo traveled, existence followed, and Life was birthed. It is still a silent thing to hear, but if one listens closely, it can still be heard, it's humm spreading across the Galaxy as the Cosmic Force grows." ~ Genesis Stormhelm

 

The Force bellowed forth as the auburn haired male stepped forth from the confines of the transport, his form draped in robes of the Miraluka as his stride settled amongst the dirt of his homeworks once more. Removing the garmant that hide his face from view, Genesis looked upon Dantooine with new eyes from beneath the veil that hide his eyes, and a smirk graced his face as the nostalgia took hold of his heart in a bittersweet moment of time. Almost a year ago he stepped away from his life as Jedi Padawan and left behind everything he knew to find his center, and yet, he returned to the world that birthed him still in search of a truth he may never find. It was a small layover until his ride to Katarr made its departure, but to step foot back upon Dantooine did his soul some good. With a deep breath, he mixed himself amongst the hustle of the starport and disappeared from sight.

 

When he emerges again, he was outside the starport, looking down at his watch at the few hours until his departure. He wasn't far from his home where he was born and raised, and a part of him wished to see it again, if only to cleanse himself of his worldly ties. For the last better part of a year, he had been focusing on his Miraluka heritage, trying to find the reason behind his cursed affliction, his inability to cleanse the Darkness he often sought to face with the Light within. But he had always failed in doing so, and as such, sought answers. And so, when he left Nar Shadaa that fateful Eve and took the Mantle of his Surname, he sought to forget his past only to find a deeper understanding soon after.

 

Rage and anger had become a part of him, the first steps of the fall for so many, and one he knew all too well. And a part blamed his Father's lineage for that, a farmer who once knew war and destruction in his youth. But such was the path of all Mandalorians as Genesis found out when he encountered his ilk on Chandrila, and forced a breaking point for the young hybrid. He knew of his own darkness, and of his potential should he ever let himself fall. But that would dishonor his parents and the memory they stood for. And Genesis would not have it. As rain began to pour, his face flooded with it's cold chill, he began his trek across the plains toward the old homestead, letting the memories of it's surface brush his soul.

 

With each kilometer trekked, Genesis took the moments of the silent journey to contemplate the road he walked getting here, meeting the Luka Sene and learning of his Mother's own lineage and what it meant for him, his training to see without his human eye, and what his visit to Katarr would inevitably mean for him. But he also let the road ahead wander across his thoughts, his decision to visit Dantooine and what his intent here was, as well as the choices he would make from here on out. If he was to truly embrace the life of a Jedi, he would have to cut the tether that bound him, releasing his worldly bonds and allow him to truly understand the Living Force by his actions in the moment. This was his pilgrimage, his journey to enlightenment. And it was filled with both sorrow and contentment.

 

And before Genesis stood his destination, a humbled home that was filled with haunting memories of happiness and delight, plagued by ghosts that could not find release until he was able to let them go. And he stood there in silence gazing forward as these memories and ghosts ran throughout his mind, from beginning to end, until a sigh escaped his lips and tears streamed his face behind veiled eyes. He let the moment sink in and settle, struggling against his very nature and accepting what it meant for him. He had to let go, and in doing so, would free himself to truly walk the path he wished to walk. Standing amidst the memories, the young man removed the thermal detonator from his satchel, placing it center of his former home and set the timer. With one last glance around, he took off to a safe distance as the explosion shook the area.

 

Watching his childhood erupt so violently, Genesis couldn't help but be torn not only by his actions, but by the decision to do it. But it had to be done. He knew it the moment he decided to return. A Jedi could not have attachments, nor a past. Only the here and now and what lead to the future for those he swore to protect. "Goodbye." He mumbled as he adverted his gaze and headed back toward the starport. "And good luck." He mumbled as if responding to his own.

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A number of small, furry mammals, invariably whiskered and cute to the eyes of most sapients, fled the arson of Genesis’ childhood home. It may not have been inhabited by humans in years, but the natives of Dantooine made use of any shelter that was to be found on the prairie. They scrambled into the grasses, some chittering angrily at the growing flames, some dashing into the prairie and back into their former making sure that the entirety of their offspring had escaped their den. An hour later, a passing freighter would take note of the burgeoning smoke and report it to the volunteer firefighters at Khoonda.

 

The sirens and the sunlight engines and the dusting of extinguishing mist would arrive later, however. For now, the plains were still. Perhaps they appeared just a little too still to the practiced eye, for more than a hundred meters away from Stormhelm, there was a patch of partially-flattened grass that was being trafficked just a little less by the buzzing, pollinating insects, where the dry gusting wind was failing to push aside the waves of grass. Upon close inspection, even the grasses appeared slightly… off, almost as though one was looking at a high quality image of Dantooine’s plains rather than the grasses themselves. There, a watchful presence waited for the approach of the erstwhile Jedi.

 

Misal Draygo was laying prone between the grasses, ignoring the teeming of a hive of stinging insects as they attempted to penetrate through her armor. It was not a comfortable posture; her cheeks were pressed painfully against the faceplate of her armor. She slowly breathed in the filtered air, scented heavily with sweat and antimicrobial filters. She deliberately kept her Force Presence very still--not an easy task for a Miraluka, especially not when her legs were aching from hours of trekking through Dantooine’s hinterlands. A low baritone voice piped into her ears at steady intervals.

 

“He’s coming towards you, space-mom. One hundred fifty meters and closing. One forty. One thirty. One twenty. Are you sure about this? The boy seems a bit distraught. Shocking him at a moment like this might provoke a reaction.”

 

“Maintain the count,” Misal snapped at her overwatch. “He would have fled if we signaled him by HoloNet transmission. He won’t be able to run at this distance.”

 

“Twenty.” A exasperated sigh followed. “He’s not looking at you.”

 

“Thank you.” A quick gesture of her left hand deactivated the adaptive camouflage that previously rendered her a wheat-colored ghost, and rendered the grey faceplate transparent. Old bones and knees complaining at every motion, Misal pushed off of Dantooine’s dirt to rise to her full height--almost to her full height, as a new pain in her hips rebelled at the notion of unsupported mobility. If Stormhelm happened to glance towards her way, it would appear almost as though a ghost had risen from the fields.

 

Admittedly, it was a short ghost and an unarmed one, favoring one leg, face heavily wrinkled by a long, productive life, and displaying undisguised the vestigial eye sockets of a Miraluka.

 

“Greetings, Stormhelm!" Misal called out to him. "It’s been a while--Coruscant if I remember correctly."

 

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Genesis watched as the small Dantooine creatures scrambled away, his head hung in shame. He felt their pain, their anguish. But it was a part of his life that needed to be erased. He raised a hand up, pulling and tossed aside the veil that covered his eyes, revealing the hazel eye of his human heritage. After nearly a year of self imposed exile, it was nearly time for his return. So hiding behind his mother's heritage would no longer serve any purpose as his gaze rose to the horizon.

 

Katarr, the colonial world of the Miraluka, the home world of his mother's lineage. A barren wasteland of a voided world. That was what laid ahead for him. It was his final test before returning to the Order. And it was something he had to do. There was something there he had to know. The Luka Sene commanded that he look upon it's surface with Miralukian eyes to see what he needed to and that he would know once he had, and only then, would he know his place, something that hybrids were taught amongst their people. Katarr was his destination.

 

"Greetings Stormhelm." A voice spoke, startling the young Genesis as a visage rose from the barren grass, leaving little time to react as he shifted his weight and stance, only to realize the face rather quickly and with a smile."It's been awhile... Coruscant if I remember correctly."

 

"Indeed it has, Lady Misal." Genesis spoke with a hearty surprise, but considered the coincidence. "I take it that Master Armiena has had you searching the Galaxy for me?"

 

Not that it mattered any. He half suspected to have been found long before now with Master Armiena's pull, even before becoming Jedi Grandmaster. His gaze shifted, half expecting to see his Master standing nearby, but with the way things were left and with the ongoing war, it wasn't much of one not to see her there. Shifting his gaze back, his smile disappeared. 

 

"Forgive my disappearance Lady Misal." Genesis began to explain, fumbling for the right words to explain to her his need. But inevitably, he simply chose to be blunt. "I was walking a path darker than I wanted. So I chose to leave and find my place in the Galaxy, away from destruction, away from war. I'm only now beginning to see the error of my beliefs."

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Partly out of necessity to block the young half-Miraluka’s passage and partially out of respect to perpetual aching of old joints, Misal remained perfectly still, her sightless gaze distracted between the smoke-cloud beginning to billow from the homestead and the young Stormhelm. No longer concealed by her traditional veil, a peculiar expression was on her face. She almost appeared… sympathetic.

 

“On the contrary, Armiena has no knowledge of my actions other than that I left that intolerable moon a few days after you did. Permission has never been something I’ve required from my daughter, not when it comes to looking after those she cares about.” Misal never felt particularly compelled to be diplomatic or justify her actions, yet she found herself speaking unprompted and explaining herself. Perhaps it was watching the distant fire that was making her sentimental. More likely, it was the fact that the Miraluka had helped to train dozens of young Force-Sensitives, some of whom bore as much trauma as the young Stormhelm.

 

For the moment, the Luka Sene and Katarr would need to wait.

 

“When I read about what happened to you on Chandrila, I was concerned that you were descending into a mindset of despair. Severing ties with your teacher and the Jedi Order, though you have my every sympathy in the latter, was a drastic decision. I decided to intervene when I learned that you had made contact with the Luka Sene and returned to Dantooine.

 

“I’ve trained many young--and not-so-young--sapients to use their abilities, and it wasn’t uncommon that we were forced to postpone their training while we dealt with lingering trauma that was becoming a significant distraction. My successful trainees tended to follow recognizable patterns, but the challenging ones were all distinct, sometimes engaging in spectacular and rather symbolic behavior. Quite simply, destroying your family home is a highly disturbing decision. Fire… and… explosions tend to have a significant element of symbolism in the minds of those recovering from trauma. What you intend to do with it, I have no idea.”

 

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Misal's sympathetic gaze was met with a painful one from Genesis as she spoke, not so much that Armiena was too busy to look for him, but more toward his own actions and the decision that had led him to walk away from the Order. Twice he had lost in combat, and twice the feeling of failure had turned to anger which did not sit well with his pacifistic outlook. He had felt torn, one side looking behind him and the other overlooking an edge into the darkness below. Perhaps it had been his youthfulness, but it was almost unbearable. And now that he had returned, he wanted to admit it. But first Katarr needed to be dealt with...

 

"It was actually my suggestion, Lady Draygo." A voice spoke as a familiar looking silver haired man, mid thirties, with aqua eyes stepped into view from the trail. Upon his hip sat two halves of a duel bladed lightsaber, and in his presence felt the emptiness of half his soul, as if a part of him had been ripped from his form along with his connection to the Force. "I once clung to the past like young Genesis here, and if it hadn't been for Master Nom Anorus' guidence, my fall would have had more consequences than I'd like to admit."

 

Genesis gazed over toward his companion, the surprise of his revelation may have complicated things. He hadn't expected to encounter Lady Misal here, and for a former Sith Lord to be accompanying him didn't bold well for the Jedi Padawan. And yet, still, Genesis was curious as to why his Elder had chose to reveal himself so quickly. For the hybrid he knew as Scorpio had never really revealed much about himself, only his teachings as a member of the Luka Sene since Genesis had encountered them.

 

"I brought young Genesis here to wipe the slate of his past clean so that he can focus more upon his future as a Jedi. The more he clings to the darker times of his life, the more likely that he will fall too." Scorpio spoke with a stern and yet understanding tone, respectful but firm. He had never met the mother of the one who began his training on Manaan before he was taken as a Padawan under Nom Anorus, but Misal Draygo was widely known throughout the Order even in his days as a Jedi and especially as a Sith. Clearing his throat, Scorpio cheerfully spoke as he outstretched his hand. "But where are my manners? I'm Scorpio Armegedon."

 

Genesis, having been quiet through the introductions, finally spoke. "How is Master Armiena? I hope I didn't cause too much worry." After all, Armiena had became a second mother for the hybrid, their connection more than just Master and Padawan on his side. He had never meant to cause her any grief, only taking into account what his fall would mean for her if he stayed. For if he was to fall, he didn't want to place the burden upon her shoulders, especially how she spoke of her other Padawans before him. It would have surely broke her heart. 

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There was some excited squawking coming from the headset comms, which Misal tuned out. She was perfectly capable of perceiving the appearance of a second humanoid who had somehow eluded her practiced gaze, and she was as irritated with her own failure as she was with the failure of her student’s overwatch. She merely raised her hands to just behind her ears, shifted her grip, and the near-transparency of her helmet changed to cold grey iron. The Miraluka rested the helmet on her hip and regarded the interloper with an unchanging stare of veiled disdain.

 

“Young man, Master Stormhelm is perfectly capable of speaking for himself. Answering a question directed to him isn’t merely patronizing, it’s bad manners and unproductive.” She did not return the handshake. She didn’t approach Armegedon. Her armor-clad form limping with every step, she hobbled towards the young Jedi Padawan and faced in towards the young half-Miraluka. The coldness with which she disregarded his chaperone was in stark contrast with the empathy written in the lines of her face.

 

“Armiena is surviving. She’s buried herself in work, no sign that she’s making progress in digging her way out. I’ve found that means that she’s deeply upset but understands that any intervention she could make would be a disaster. At least she isn’t drinking this time.” That addition may have been a touch too far. Her daughter would not have appreciated her divulging any details on a very low period of her life. “But I need to ask how you have fared since leaving.”

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Scorpio passively waved his hands about as Misal scolded him, the middle aged Echani hybrid quickly backstepping a few feet. It wasn't that she could pose a threat, one that he knew very could if he didn't tread lightly, but such an Elder deserved and demanded such respect. He knew well the reputation of the Matriarch of the Draygo lineage. Tie that in with the fact that she birthed Armiena Drayo-Darkfire, and you knew the depth of bantha poo-doo she could reap upon anyone she deemed an enemy. For now, he just asked her forgiveness and let her have her way, a understanding wink in Genesis direction.

 

"I'm glad work has been keeping her mind off of it. I never meant to cause her any pain." Genesis spoke with a somewhat relieved sigh, his gaze shifting from the retreating Scorpio and Lady Misal. "I've fared well. Spent a few months working freight until I came into contact with the Luka Sene. I've been under their care, along with Master Scorpio here ever since. Would still be on Alpheridies had Master Scorpio not talked me into coming back and facing my past."

 

Genesis' gaze shifted back from Lady Misal to Scorpio. 

 

"He could see the Jedi that still called within me. Said that I was destined to be something more, and that I could feel it in my heart. That the only way to heal would be to face it and conquer it." As Genesis spoke the praise he had for Scorpio, it wasn't unwarranted. Genesis knew it all too well, and Scorpio only talked him into it. He had come to respect the Echani and his wisdom, like an older brother. Turning to Lady Misal, Genesis reluctantly poised a question about herself. "I hope I haven't caused too much trouble for you as well, Lady Misal?"

 

From her sudden appearence here and her having left shortly after he did, Genesis had come to see the consequences of his actions and the choices he made. He had caused not only his Master a great pain, but those that cared for her as well. Master Scorpio had been correct on this matter, that every action big or small caused a reaction for those who cherished one, which was really no surprise. He had come to trust his advice as much as his training even if the older man could no longer touch the Force like Genesis could. But for everything he had caused, Genesis held a true regret for. He was a lost child amidst the chaos of war, and like any child, he had ran for safety. But he was no longer that child, and as such, needed to make amends and grow up.

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Misal linked a hand under Genesis’ arm and began to limp along in the general direction of civilization. From the unyielding grip on his arm and the occasional brush of their bodies, it quickly became apparent that the limp wasn’t an affectation. Her hand and shoulder were skeletal. There were slight tremors in her Force-presence even as she stepped.  

 

“Less trouble than you might expect, Stormhelm,” the aged Miraluka responded with a soft exhalation of laughter. “Forgive me. I’ve spent most of my life searching for people who preferred not to be found and reporting on their activities to interested parties. Small freight concerns in the Expansion Region tend to be highly susceptible to bribery and more amateurish forms of infiltration. The great difficulty in this particular task is a degree of emotional attachment that was absent from my previous assignments. I’ve never felt any urgent need to replenish the ranks of the Jedi Order, but I do wish to report to my daughter that you’re happy, healthy, and that she doesn’t need to continue worrying for you.”

 

Misal dug in her heels and stood still at the next step. “The Luka Sene have asked you to embark on a further task for them, haven’t they?”

 

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Genesis' face turned a pale white as Misal asked her question, her gift as strong as her level of maturity. He turned to face his Elder, the sudden shock of her question flooding from his face and his color returning. It was true. The Luka Sene had required one last task of him during his departure, a task that would last beyond. He smirked with saddened eyes as he knew not what it would mean.

 

"Yes ma'am." His voice was course as he swallowed hard in reply. As you know, Master Scorpio has been tasked to me to rid myself of the burdens I carried from my past. But it also goes back before even my mother was born. The Elders have seen things we cannot grasp or fathom. They knew my lineage without even knowing my name, connecting it with the Force that flowed through my very veins. And I do not yet understand why. But before I can return to the Order, they said that I needed to stand on Katarr and look upon the ruined world."

 

Genesis' sighed, looking toward the Spaceport where their ship resided and awaited their arrival in two standard hours. He turned back to Misal.

 

"I only know what they revealed to me." He spoke, an unease in his voice, not so much toward the journey, but what would be revealed to him. "They said my lineage began on Katarr, that my bloodline is one of few to have survived it's destruction. And only by seeing the truth of it's surface, that I would understand my place within the Order and become a part of it wholeheartedly. And once I am Knighted, that I am their gift to the Order in the war that is to come. Master Scorpio is here to ensure that I am delivered."

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Misal continued her limp, pondering morosely on what Genesis had just said. He spoke of being delivered to the Jedi Order was a gift from the Luka Sene. There was always the possibility of the young man speaking in metaphorical terms, as she hadn’t known the Miraluka Force-Sect to have degenerated so far into depravity as to indulge in sapient chattel. But, limping along with her right arm impeded by the boy’s elbow and a small blaster pistol in clear sight at her him, she was newly aware of the robed half-Miraluka behind them and began allowing her Force-Sight to wander.

 

The elderly Miraluka nodded. Her voice gained a meandering tone. “You may think it strange. Self-centered, perhaps. I have rarely thought of my own parents, not since having Armiena. I think often of the family I created, the dozens of students who I’ve taught. Some of them left me before I considered their training adequate. Some of them surpassed me. A few I’ve had to bury. My husband… constantly. He was a good man--not great, certainly not perfect, but that would have made him uninteresting.” A small smile had crept onto her face, and a queer inflection in her voice hinted that she was thinking of happier years in more than merely abstract terms. “It might not be much longer, I think.”

 

"Setting foot on Katarr is likely to be… unpleasant. But I think you will someday appreciate the effort. In my experience, the past is never dead. It isn’t even past.”

 

She remained silent for a few more minutes, the rustle of the grasses and buzzing of insects the only voice in their conversation. ”You’ve no obligation to answer this. I’ve always been somewhat mystified by the Jedi Order. Their call to service is admirable, but despite their insistence on not clinging to the past--or to personal attachments--they’ve lacked the courage to surpass a war that they have fought for millennia. From time to time they earn a few well-deserved centuries of stability, only to fail to win the peace and the Sith are able to consolidate and return. It’s a cycle that seems to repeat without end. I know that my daughter possesses the imagination to see the possibility, but I suspect she lacks the moral courage to break that cycle and this failing may… consume her. I’ve often wished for the capability to break it myself.”

 

That was more speaking than Misal was accustomed to and her mouth had become dry. There was no question asked, just a few thoughts that she wanted to share with a much younger man.

 

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Genesis contemplated Misal's words, taking them to heart. There was much wisdom to be gained from her life, and Genesis had never been one to overlook the wisdom of his Elders. But he was young, her life her own and it defined her. His, however, was merely beginning. Perhaps, in time, he may see the world as she did and as many of her students and loved one's continued to do. But Genesis could not properly respond. His determination to personify what he felt was the ideal Jedi still ringing in his heart. And yet, even with that determination, he had found himself lost.

 

As the two stopped, Genesis stood in silence as her words rolled around within his thoughts, the insects and life of the Plains echoing of the Force that surrounded and bound them, and after a moment, he sighed.

 

"Not to sound like one of the Sith, but.." Genesis turned his hidden Miralukian eye to her with a down trodden smile. "But war is inevitable. Chaos is inevitable. Destruction is inevitable. I seen it so openly during my Padawanship to Armiena. And I believe that is why the Jedi strive to be so closed off emotionally, to rid themselves of the very temptations that can cause wicked intent." He chuckled briefly. "You, yourself, would raize worlds if anything were to happen to Armiena or Aiden."

 

Genesis grew quiet again. His words to Misal was just a guess, but one that took the information he saw and felt into it's account. He had saw it when he and Armiena traveled with Ryu and felt it during his escape from Corellia when Ryu turned back to his darker nature. And that, in its self, laid Genesis' biggest regret and fear. He remembered the day he slaughtered innocent life here in retribution for the loss of his parents. Many could simply chalk it up an inexperienced child in the heat of the moment, and they would be right. But Genesis took it deeper, and knew if he could hold such hate even then, then he could hold it even more.

 

"Even the simplest of emotions can be manipulated and toyed into something sinister. And that is what scared me into running from myself." His gaze shifted toward the stars. "I only hope Katarr reveals the truth that the Elders foresaw within me and enable me to overcome this fear."

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“Actually, you sounded like my daughter for a moment.” There was a momentary flash of yellowed teeth, but it quickly disappeared into the gravity of their conversation. “She becomes easier to understand when you stop viewing her through the prism of her Jedi training and more through that of her background of her life as a soldier. But I digress.

 

“I would and have visited horror upon those that would violate my family.” Her thin lips pressed together and her blind gaze drifted over the many kilometers towards the horizon behind them, where the smoke clouds were just beginning to fade. “And sometimes those less deserving of my personal attention. The former I’m certain was necessary. The latter…”

 

It was several minutes before Misal spoke again. Her mind was focused on parsing through many years of memory: of missions, mentors, manipulation, and murder. Of a corpulent businessman that she’d left snivelling in a Coruscanti alley, drenched in a cocktail of expensive brandy and his own sweat. The Miraluka couldn’t even remember the man’s species. It was likely that he’d survived Hesperidium’s fall--he likely had the credits to book travel off-planet. That was one of the few occasions where she had threatened to utterly destroy a sapient--not merely to ruin their body, but to rend their bonds asunder and render them an island. That was absolutely necessary… even if she had escalated the man’s interrogation.

 

But there was another occasion. The muscle at the side of her vestigial eye sockets twitched in a grimace, stretching a network of crude scars.

 

“Yes. I believe that I would have been more careful about substituting my master’s will for my own. His ideals were admirable, but there was a certain callousness to his methods that was not always justified. Bah. I was an angry child then, impulsive, but afraid to trust my own judgement after I committed several critical errors. But I’ve no desire to speak of distant regrets. We must proceed to Katarr. Perhaps we will find useful answers there.”

 

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A smirked creased his youthful face as Misal spoke into the distance of her past, a brief flicker of an aged Armiena presenting its self unwillingly. Perhaps mother and daughter were not so unalike as they believed themselves to be. But such was the element of family, something Genesis only could see from the outside looking in and never the opposite. That had been taken away from him long ago. Still, there was joy in seeing it no matter which side of the glass you were standing on. "Then we're off to Katarr."

 

To be truthful, despite his faith in Scorpio, Misal coming along seemed to settle Genesis' nerves quite a bit, an uncanny bond the two had instantly clicked upon their introductions before Coruscant. Knowing that she had placed herself into the group gave him a bit more confidence and Scorpio was quick to pick up on it as he watched from behind with a sincere smile. From out of nowhere he spoke, breaking the silence that had lingered him amidst the foreground. "Excellent."

 

"Katarr has become a pilgrimage of sorts for many Miraluka, Luka Sene, and Hybrids alike. Especially those whom wish to follow the teachings of our heritage. Before we depart..." Scorpio began to speak, grabbing his satchel from upon his hip and rifling through his gear as he took to the front and turned to Misal and Genesis. "There are a few things you will need. Due to its destruction, it's atmosphere is highly unstable. So you'll need rebreathers." He tossed each of them one. "And I've charted us a ship with hyperdrive capabilities to get us there."

 

Scorpio grew silent for a moment, his face turned an eerie white that caused Genesis to shiver briefly as he met his gaze. "But the world is dead to the Force. So prepare yourselves." And with that, he went quiet again and didn't say another word until they reached the starport, leaving Genesis' to his thoughts the whole way back, the young Jedi unsure of the purpose of this quest. Loading up his gear, Genesis said not a word, and only looked up with a smirk toward Misal and Scorpio as he did, unsure what to say or do. Only when they were about to depart did Scorpio pull Misal into the cockpit away from Genesis' ears. "Whatever lesson the boy learns here is his alone. I can prepare him no more than you. You must trust in him and in the Force."

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There was a brief inhalation and a pointed pause from Misal. One could imagine that if she were younger, more impatient, and possessed functioning eyes, then she would have closed them and let out a sigh of exasperation before fixing Armegedon with a withering stare. Instead, she just nodded gravely and adjusted her gait as the grasslands gave way to pavement and pavement gave way to pressure-treated duracrete.

 

“We shall see what we shall see,” Misal responded patiently. “Imagining what we may find on Katarr will be pointless and potentially demoralizing. It is best to take sensible precautions and to work the problem when we encounter it. Please, lead us to your ship.” But there was a sharp edge of anxiety to her Force-presence. The Miraluka had once stepped into a gaping wound in The Force, on the umbral surface of Kashyyyk. It had not been a pleasant experience, and the location had attracted fauna that was better rendered extinct. Partly to distract herself, Misal lifted her helmet out of the cup of her hip and her fist and spoke loudly into its cavity.

 

“Overwatch, Space-Mom says to take a nap. I will re-establish contact once our task is complete. Night-night.”

 

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Scorpio nodded his head in agreement, and upon turning around, took the helm and began a quick preflight checklist. Hidden away from prying eyes and blocked out by concentrated memories, there was a hesitant look upon the Hybrid's face concerning the boy. But this was something that needed to be done. 

 

Moments later, the Helix Class Interceptor lifted off and took to the skies above Dantooine, the ship and it's passengers briefly enjoying a fly along some of Dantooine's Brith natives, and once the stars came into view, entered hyperspace.

Edited by Stormhelm

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