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Knight.

 

Not a title Aelyn ever imagined would belong to her. It evoked the image of the armored warrior, the chivalrous protector. Difficult to provoke but skilled in arms, a force to be reckoned with on and off the battlefield. Scion of an ancient tradition and noble bloodline. A being of unwavering principle and courage, steadfast even in dire peril.

 

She didn't feel like she was quite any of those things, but the Jedi Council and Aira had agreed that she was fit for the title and was now a full member of the Order. A partner in their continuing legacy, the title conferred on her a sense that they stood by her and were available to support her as she would continue to support them. The Order was one of the oldest and best established organizations in the galaxy and had many friends and enemies. As a Jedi Knight, Aelyn represented her peers, and the galaxy would expect much from her. Even more than the Naboo government had.

 

"Thank you, Master," Aelyn said, her cheeks slightly flushed. "It's a big responsibility, and I know I still have a lot to learn, but I will never stop aspiring to it."

 

She glanced around at the other people in the tea shop before returning her gaze to Aira. "But it's hard to think ahead while the job here isn't really done. I feel that the leviathan, although she has retreated for now, is still a threat to these people. I have to see this through to the end. If you don't wish to stay, I understand."

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I smiled as I sat back in my seat. "You've earned it."

 

Aelyn then brought up the leviathan. "Of course I'll stay. The scientists are going to make their preliminary reports tomorrow. Depending on what they decide, we may still be needed." I reached into the Force, hoping for a glimpse or hint at what the future would hold. I didn't sense any violence. That was encouraging. "For now, though, let's just drink our tea."

 

---

 

The next afternoon found the two of us in the palace of Theed. This was being taken straight to the queen. We stood silently as the scientists made their recommendations. "All that said," the representative said, finally getting around to his point after a long-winded and mostly incomprehensible scientific explanation, "we believe that with a bit of conditioning, the creature prisitis maloba will be able to be acclimatized to our ecosystem without too harsh a strain on our world. Our team is eager to try and preserve this creature. However, it is our recommendation that we make the creature temporarily infertile, to prevent it from reproducing until we can learn more about it and it's origins."

 

There was other talk, but everyone seemed to agree. The queen was a bit more hesitant, but the scientists had done extensive research, and it was clear that they wouldn't have recommended this lightly. I was pleased. The creature didn't deserve to die simply because a Sith had manipulated it. And I was encouraged that they'd be keeping a close eye on it, in case there was lingering programming that another Sith could exploit.

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Captain of the Galactic Alliance & Jedi Knight

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"That's excellent news," Aelyn said at the end of the presentation. "I had all but given up hope. I trust that the greatest care will be taken to make sure it doesn't get another chance to attack any settlements. And if something does happen, know that I will make every possible effort to return here."

 

The Queen thanked her for her offer and her role in the ordeal. It seemed that they were on the same page. While all life was worth preserving, and Maloba's work in creating the leviathan was magnificent, it had been created as a vessel and a tool of war. A scientific effort to reform and acclimate it to Naboo was noble but if unsuccessful could result in disaster, and so would need to be treated with utmost caution.

 

Soon the two Jedi Knights had been dismissed from the Palace with the palace's compliments and they headed back out into the Naboo sun.

 

"Think I'm going to find somewhere to train for a bit, see where the Force takes me," Aelyn told her former Master. "Do you need a ride somewhere, or have you gotten your ship situation sorted out?"

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As we walked out, I felt good. Things here had been resolved, and in a way that was the best one could hope for. That happened rarely, and when it did, it was always worth celebrating. "I'm fine; I have a ship that can take me where I need to go," I replied to Aelyn's offer. "Go where the Force leads you, for sure--but I have a suggestion. Take a moment and celebrate. You've come so far, and we rarely get milestones like this in our lives." I hoped she'd take my advice. Aelyn had things she enjoyed, but I had never seen her just let her hair down. "And you should probably tell your parents the good news."

 

It was only a short walk to the hangar, and we arrived by the time we were done talking. Suddenly, I felt strange. "So, I guess this is it. For a while anyway." It was funny; I had known this day was coming from the moment I took her as my padawan, but I was still unprepared for how odd and unwelcome the moment of parting actually was. There wasn't really anything to say that hadn't already been said--except one. I reached out and hugged her tightly. "May the Force be with you, Aelyn."

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Captain of the Galactic Alliance & Jedi Knight

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If she was being honest, Aelyn wasn't sure that becoming a Jedi Knight was something that was to be celebrated. Although she was receiving recognition for completing a very difficult training program, she knew that the trials would never end. She was graduating into a life of service and sacrifice. There did seem to be a lot of freedom within the role -- Jedi didn't have an office where they needed to be for 40 standard hours a week -- and she thought that would suit her very well. But a Jedi was also never off duty. She would need to answer the call of the Force to intervene in a situation wherever and whenever it might be.

 

What had happened here on Naboo had been a hard-fought victory. By itself, she might not have been willing to celebrate it, either. Her first brush with death and the experience of knowing men and women she was responsible for had died had been harsh and would continue to challenge her even though she had decided to push forward.

 

But maybe between the two events, there was a good reason to look back at how far she had come and say a toast for the lives of those she might now be equipped to save.

 

"I'm certain that it will also be with you, Aira," she said, returning the hug. "Let's keep in touch. Uh, that is, if you don't end up deep undercover in some criminal organization again." She smiled but secretly hoped she didn't get involved in anything like that at least for a while. Holding the same rank as Aira didn't mean she had nearly the older Jedi's capabilities just yet.

 

"See you around!" she finally said, heading into the hangar and the finding the Open Road awaiting her.

 

Moments later the ship's engines flared to life and she headed for space. Time for more exploring!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I had spent a few days on Naboo after Aelyn had left, recentering myself. I sensed a change coming in my career as a Jedi. Training Aelyn had made me feel simultaneously more connected and more disconnected from the Jedi Order as a whole, and I didn't know what the Force was up to.

 

Until I got the call from the Grandmaster. And then everything fell into place.

 

It made sense. I was the Jedi with the most experience commanding fleet elements. And I couldn't deny that I was eager to get back on a ship again. Flying around, righting wrongs and defending innocents by using big guns and hoards of starfighters sounded just about right to me.

 

As I left Naboo and headed to rendezvous with the fleet, I was left to muse just how much in the path of my master I was following. I hoped that was a good thing.

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Captain of the Galactic Alliance & Jedi Knight

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  • 2 years later...

The hodge-podge array of freighters and fighters dropped out of hyperspace just as planned. They slipped into the shadowy darkness of space that was the dark side of Naboo’s biggest of three moons. This mission was the same, yet totally different. Naboo was a civilized world, with decidedly coordinated defensive measures that could harass and drive off the likes of Jaden Jorus and Shimsinblimp’s irregulars.

 

Silence was key. Drop to the moon, hit the warehouses hard and fast, load what could be grabbed, and get gone before too many reinforcements showed up. Spice mining was a legalized and regulated business for the Naboo, even if it was morally frowned upon. Some would surely rejoice at the destruction of such facilities. Others would react with malice.

 

Spice jacking was a high risk, high reward, adrenaline inducing career choice. It was like podracing; podracing without any rules while higher than a spaceborn nerf, and guns, lots of guns.

 

At the lead, Shimsinblimp’s Skipray held the lead. The Lady Legionnaire would lead the craft in. The bulk of Jorus’ fleet bypassing the bulkier freighters of Blimp’s. They would make the initial strafing run while Blimp and his men breached the warehouses and dealt with any initial resistance. As ships were loaded, they would swap with airborne craft until they had their fill or were driven back.

 

Again, as soon as they were known, time would be limited and speed and skill essential.

 

Pushing The Lady Legionnaire into a deep dive, the fleet began to accelerate rapidly towards the surface. By the time the alarm could be raised, they would be on the surface, taking their fill.

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"Alright, we want this fast. Naboo build their fighters pretty and fast, and I don't intend to get shot out of the sky by a showpiece."

 

Jorus's ships swooped down over the moon's surface, rapidly decelerating to land in around the mine like flies on a carcass. Rough looking thugs and mercenaries trickled out in twos and threes, setting up behind cover and opening fire. Per orders, they weren't aiming for anything, just establishing their presence to get the any workers to clear the area and draw the guards into defensive positions for Blimp and his squads to crack.

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Blimp eyed his onboard sensor questioningly before keying in a simple code to the ships under his command. It was nothing complicated; just a reworking of the strategy. As Jorus Jaden’s ships and crews slowed to begin an assault, a trio of gunships broke off from Blimp’s command and began a high speed strafing run across the rooftops of the compound. Turbolaser fire detonated the ground and tore through flimsy sheet metal roofs as the onslaught began.

 

The Lady Legionnaire circled and came into land within the fenced confines of the compound under a hail of small arms fire from the men under Jaden’s comand. A handful of freighters crowded in to land as well, much closer than galactic safety regulations would regularly allow.

 

Suited up in his custom dropsuit, Blimp thundered out of the ship, suit mounted rockets propelling him forward like a sand panther leaping for her prey. His suit mounted weaponry fired, adding to the din.

 

In the distance, klaxons began to blare announcing the sudden state of emergency. They were not needed to tell the handfuls of mining crews what was happening. It was too late for them as the majority scurried for escape and cover. They did not get paid enough for this.

 

Blimp smiled in wicked glee. It was a smile that barely twinkled in his eyes. The shimmer of light even there deep, dark and twisted and mingled with an unseen announce. The alarms were supposed to have been disabled. He keyed his comm, “Captain, begin loading as much as you can. If it ain’t nailed down, it is ours.”

 

With a sharp whirring, Blimp’s boot mounted saw hacked through the crude lock to the warehouse nearest he and his men. Showers of sparks litup the dark against the backdrop of blasterfire and roaring engines. The door clattered to the ground in a plume of moon dust. Before the dust even began to settle, his crews of spicejackers, lowlifes, and criminals were rushing in, weapons at the ready to secure the coveted spice within.

 

As his minions rushed past him and began their work like a well oiled machine, Blimp and a small hand picked group of eight diverted from the stores of spice. Quickly they made their way between the warehouses, their rocket packs, boosters, and other mechanical means of motion hurrying them along at supernatural speeds towards a single warehouse a short distance away. Several warning signs littered the barren area of ground between the compound of warehouses and this single warehouse. They warned of unspecified dangers, urged caution, and strongly suggested that the smoking of cigarras, spice, death sticks or otherwise was poorly planned.

 

Ceasing their mechanized motion, Blimp and company slowed to a cautious lope. Time was still of the essence. There was bo sense dying though. Not yet. Not here.

 

Reaching the locked blastdoor, Blimp quickly keyed in the access code. The light on the lock wavering on red for a mete second that felt like an eternity before chining to green. The heavy licks within the door and wall sliding back with a thud to allow access.

 

Blimp breathed a silent sigh of relief as he felt his shoulders relax a fraction. If there was one thing that the spice miners of Naboo were famous for it was being disgruntled; never happy with their cut of the profits. Disgruntled and feeling underpaid had made it east enough to buy the access codes and spreadsheets of warehouse stores. It had even allowed for Blimp and his associates to ensure that resistance would be light. The klaxon wailing in the distance had proven that not all turncoats could be trusted. 
 

With a heave, Blimp’s musclebound minions threw the doors open to reveal carefully stacked crates of baradium bisulfate labelled ‘MOONGLOW’. Several sharp intakes of breath could be heard over comms as his men tensed at the sight of the stacks. “Blimey! There is enough here to blow a hole in a,”  one crewman breathed before being cut off. 
 

“Two crates each. If we have time, we will come back for more. Put them aboard The Lady. Hurry.” Blimp did not need to tell his crew to use caution. Each of them knew well enough so as to not turn their immediate area into another crater on this moon.

 

With the assistance of his mechanically enhanced dropsuit, Blimp hefted a medium-sized crate beneath each of his four arms. 

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"Gyeaaaagh!"

Jorus grimaced as one of his men went down. The comm crackled before fading back into the sounds of muffled shouting and blaster fire. He must have fallen on the comm button.

 

Gut wound from the sounds of it. He wondered for a second what it said about him that he could tell as he cut the channel from the general feed.

 

"Sir!" This voice, a hint of hysteria creeping in, Jorus knew but couldn't place. One of the newer recruits then.

 

"Hold the line! Keep making a show, that troig is almost done." He snapped his fingers as he placed the voice. Borbo Gil, a freighter/smuggler Nok had picked up from a gutted mining venture. Ugly business, lots of dead miners. "Dont lose your mettle because of one dropped man!"

 

"What? No, sir, that's not it! I can see Blimp's crew now, and they've got baradium bisulfate! Kriffing crates of the stuff!"

 

Jorus was to hard boiled and tough to waver over a few explosives. He did, however, check the ship's altimeter and ease it up a few meters.

 

Standard precaution. That was all.

 

"Hold position anyway, and for the love of everything dont shoot near the stuff."

 

Jorus opened a panel in his arm and keyed in a code. The ship beeped in response, and the words "Encryption enabled" flashed across the screen.

 

A few more key presses, and the ship was recording.

 

"Boss, Blimp's stealing more than spice. Looks like baradium bisulfate. Lots of it, enough to leave this place a crater. I'll get you details but...this ain't the kind of thing you hunt down to sell, and if he plans on using it I dont wanna be nearby when he does."

 

With one more key press, the recording was being broadcast on a subspace transmission to Mon Calamari.

 

______________________________

 

Down below, the fighting intensified as the security forces got organized and pushed back. Jorus's goons tenaciously stood their ground behind crates, firing back without any real desire to hit. Stall and distract...

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Responding Security forces from the moon’s small outposts began to swarm towards and into the area, arriving in groups of one or two security speeders. The security took cover behind their metallic green soeeders; turning their vehicle-mounted cannons on the pirate forces.

 

Blimp’s men continued to shuffle crate after crate of spice from the breached warehouses to their ships. They moved at a break-neck pace to take advantage of the limited time they had. Each man returned fire when their hands were free or when providing cover for their comrades. Meanwhile, Blimp and his trusted entourage zigzagged back through the cacophony towards The Lady Legionnaire. Once they got to the ship, they carefully and quickly secured their cargo before exiting to return fire. Their brethren were still working, so Blimp and company began the process of laying down a heavy barrage of cover fire as they inched back towards the lone warehouse of baradium bisulfate.

 

In the distance, security forces continued to advance towards the attackers. The few freighters that were still airborne circled to rain fire down on some security forces in an effort to slow their advance somewhat, buying precious minutes by which to allow the forces to mop up their work and get offworld. 

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"Alright boys," Jorus called out into the comm, "pull on back. We're leaving."

 

Grinning, Jorus leaned down on the joystick of his AEG-77 VIGO gunship and dropped down to just above the moon's surface before rocketing along the dusty ground. This close, the ship's passing kicked up a huge trail of thick dust, and security forces scattered as the ship barreled past their barricades with only feet to spare. Licking his lips, Jorus eased the joystick gently back and forth, just dodging each pile of empty crates and clusuter of out-buildings.

 

One advantage to a mechanical arm...precision flying.

 

Jorus whipped the ship around and came back for another pass, but knew they had to move. If the Naboo royal space fighters didn't show up soon, the miners were liable to whip out whatever heavy armaments they had to deal with pirates like these. Turbolaser turrets, rapid deploy mines...

 

Out of the corner of his eye as he sped past, Jorus caught a glimpse of a long metal tube being set on a shoulder.

 

Rockets. Rockets were also a possibility.

 

"Everybody move fast! And get those shields up before you take off! They've got rockets, don't know how many!"

 

Jorus grimaced and whipped around again, this time laying down laser fire. the AEG-77 VIGO was a big ship compared to the little fighters a base like this might normally see, so it could take a hit or two. Better him than the spice.

 

Or the explosives.

 

An explosion that sent shudders through his craft told him he'd hit something that went boom on the last barricade he'd passed over. Two more booms that rattled his teeth told him he'd gotten their attention. He cut to the right and caught sight of a streaking pill of light shoot past him and explode a few yards off the port wing. Another rattling crash from underneath signaled a direct hit, and the blue shield monitor suddenly had a lot more red on the screen.

 

"We're ready commander! All ships taking off!"

 

Jorus grimaced and pulled around for one more run. He had to keep the security forces' attention.

 

Blaster fire and rockets crisscrossed the starry sky as Jorus blasted away two more barricades, sending men in uniform tumbling across the moon's surface in various states of char.

 

"We're away sir! We're away!"

 

Jorus pulled up on the joystick and the ship followed his lead, though sluggishly. He'd need to recalibrate the engine after a shakeup like this.

 

Fortunately, the engines still worked fine. Within seconds Jorus was rocketing into the night sky and out of range.

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Blimp cursed, his tirade a colorful string of less than professional descriptors in a variety of languages. He and his hand picked crew reversed directions, taking off at maximum propulsion towards The Lady Legionnaire and her fragile cargo.

 

Jorus’ orders over the comm alongside the chatter indicating the arrival of heavier defensive forces indicated it was time to go, sooner than Blimp had hoped, or paid for. Someone would have to pay; but that was an issue for another time and place. Right now, they needed to get out of there with their ill-gotten booty.

 

clamoring aboard the blastboat, Blimp snarled at the Duros in the pilot’s seat, “Get us out of here! Follow those pirates.” 
 

Even as the hatch began to close, the ship was lifting off. Throughout the compound, last second crates of spice and other materials were thrown haphazardly aboard the freighters as they too all began to lift off, pointing their bows towards the stars.

 

It was not a moment too soon as Naboo Security Forces began to materialize on the scanners. With a final pass of withering turbo fire, the ramshackle fleet rocketed from the moon, away from the planet, and towards the safety of the stars. 

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