Be sure to read Pandemonium: Part I!
Coruscant, decades before the events of Yavin IV, had always been the capitol of the Galactic Republic, and a place where its Senate convened to decide the fates of thousands of star-systems. Working closely together with the Galactic Senate, was the Jedi Order; a group of trained Force-sensitive individuals, who prized peace and understanding far above passion and ignorance; a thorn in the side of the corrupt politicians, and a great help to the just representatives of entire systems. Shortly before the rise of the Empire, when the Jedi Order still preserved peace and justice in the galaxy, many of the issues plaguing their members had been resolved behind closed doors.
Along the awe-inspiring, golden halls of the renowned Jedi Temple, between the three pillars of the entrance hall, two Jedi walked alongside each other, having a conversation about events of the past. In doing so, Jhim Karn; now a Master of the Jedi Order, sought to resolve a matter that had been plaguing him for fifteen years, since Ilum. He had faith that his oldest friend, Master Vi, would be able to help him with the unforeseen circumstance that one of his old pupils; a Knight named Zahara, had been crossing the line between the Light and Dark Sides of the Force, on many of her missions for the Republic.
Master Vi had been one of the only Jedi Masters who had accepted the lost younglings, once they had been returned safely to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. She was, by nature, a gentle soul; a caretaker like no other when it came to children, or those who would wander from the path of the Light. Her methodical and intelligent approach towards compassion had earned her a place on the Jedi High Council, the highest honor that a Jedi could receive. Master Karn had utter trust in his old friend, knowing that her honesty would prove helpful as they discussed the past.
“I can’t be certain, whether her behavior is related to what happened on Ilum. Have you had any progress with the other Jedi that were abducted?” Karn asked his confidant, open to any information that could help.
“Unfortunately, no,” Master Vi replied, “They all still refuse to share any information about what happened. This matter concerns the whole council, but they take it quite lightly. I believe that the younglings involved might have already forgotten it. It has been fifteen years since you freed them.”
“Yes, of course,” Jhim replied, bashfully, hiding the truth by changing the subject, “That mysterious Fallen Jedi…
After what happened, I could do nothing else but bring them back here; and even though so much time has passed, I still think that he did more to them than keep them locked up.”
“Perhaps we will never know the answer, but you must, as always, keep an open mind, Jhim. Your doubt in them could push many of them, including Zahara, over the edge. I have heard that she has gone to oversee the completion of the Katana Fleet, along with Karae Nalvas. I know he can be trusted.
She is being sent on peaceful missions, to make sure nothing happens like on Vaykaaris, three years ago. She should be returning soon, with the rest of the party. You should go see her.”
Jhim was momentarily distracted when he saw his droid, a small R3 unit, on the approach, and quickly answered Master Vi with, “That’s true, and I believe I am being summoned to her homecoming.”
R3-D7 was a small, militarized unit, presented as a gift to Master Karn; after the resolution of the Ilum crisis. Traveling along with him, the unit was far more intelligent than its R2 predecessor, even though it was only a prototype. At certain times, R3-D7 would malfunction, and require the assistance of its owner, making it more of a nuisance to Karn, than an assistant. On approach, with multiple electronic bleeps and bloops, the droid attempted to warn its master, quite fervently, about the appointment he would be missing quite soon.
“I know, R3, but is it that late already?”
The droid carried on with its electronic language, trying its best to coerce its owner to follow it.
Master Vi had seen R3-D7 on multiple occasions, and had taken a liking to the astromech droid, kneeling down and replying to it, “You still make me smile, R3. I agree, Master Karn should join you.”
The droid replied by rocking back and forth with glee, thanking Master Vi for her understanding.
“All right,” Karn sighed, “I guess I have no choice in the matter. I will take your words to heart, Vi. I hope you are right, and I can trust my old Padawan.”
“Of course, now go! She’s probably looking forward to seeing you,” Master Vi instructed, and with a bow and a small wave, they parted ways.
After leaving Master Vi behind, Master Karn rushed over to where the Republic Corvette would be landing, to meet up with his old apprentice. Walking at a quickened pace, his droid by his side, he hoped to be greeted with open arms and smiles. Jhim, in all his wisdom of the Jedi way of life, knew that his anticipation of her arrival was not fueled only by witnessing her safe return, but also by his curiosity. He wanted, most of all, to be certain that Zahara was not going to fall to the Dark Side of the force; to become a slave to the passion that the Jedi were taught to avoid.
It was a long walk to reach the meeting point where Master Karn and his droid companion would wait for her arrival, at the landing pad X4878H66; one of the many places where ships would dock, and deliver their passengers safely onto the city-planet. As the passengers exited the craft, one by one, he saw that Zahara’s companion for the mission, Karae Nalvas, was the only Jedi Knight present, among the passengers. Karn was uncertain and distraught as to why she would not have joined him, but stayed quiet, hooded, and casual, amidst the crowd of onlookers.
Master Karn would ask no questions, but knew that Zahara’s only option was to report to the council immediately, as all Jedi would do, after returning from even a peaceful mission. Even if she had not taken the same ship back to Coruscant, she would be reprimanded if she did not report her experiences to the council.
He rushed back to the Jedi Temple, R3 struggling behind to keep up, and ran up to the height of the building, proceeding to wait outside the closed doors of the meeting room. It would not be long before his old Padawan would pass through the doors, leaving the council behind, confronted with her old Master and his robotic companion.
Once exiting the High Council Chamber, Zahara did not even look him in the eyes, as the Master interrogated the apprentice, “How did you get back? Did you take a different ship? R3 and I waited for you-”
Jhim stopped his questions right away, as she continued past him, ignoring him completely: eyes straight forward, back straight, hands folded into the sleeves of her robe. He did not want to cause a stir, as the High Council, including his old Master, Jocasta Nu, were on the other side of what suddenly seemed to suddenly become a very thin door.
Karn was not deterred, and still possessed as much fortitude as he’d had in his youth. Without the answers that he so desired, he had no other choice but to follow her. He had recognized the taint of the Dark Side of the Force, feeling a sensation in his intuition that he had not felt in some time. The electrifying energy of the Grey Jedi of Ilum was a stain on his mind, and he could not accept that he had felt that way once more, as his Padawan passed him.
“Zahara!” he beckoned once more, as she left the room and continued down the hallway, slamming the door shut behind her.
Jhim Karn had no idea what was going on.
In an extremely stern tone, he ordered R3-D7, “Stay behind. I need to go check on her.”
Noticing, as much as a droid can notice that he was completely serious, R3 replied in bleeps and bloops a simple “okay.” Out of concern for his old pupil, and out of curiosity for the truth behind the silence, Master Karn followed her secretly, being careful to remain concentrated on hiding his power; an ability inspired long ago, by an old acquaintance.
Along the passageways of the Jedi Temple, further down the streets and alleys of Coruscant, even having to take a speeder closely behind her, Jhim was relentless in his pursuit. His caring nature was balanced by his knowledge of the Force, knowing that one slip-up of his ability could mean that she would turn back, or lead him to a place other than her original intentions would have brought her. Fortunately, Jhim had taken his title of Master to heart, and was certainly able to hide his presence from a Jedi who was far less skilled than him.
Climbing down a ladder to follow Zahara, he realized that they were entering the underworld of Coruscant; a place that was crawling with criminals and night clubs. There was to be no distraction, as Jhim saw her duck behind the corner of one of the clubs, and followed her down an alley, finally ending up at a building that seemed abandoned, old and crumbling.
Jhim surmised that it was wiser to wait until she had gone further inside of the building, before he was to enter. He still sensed the darkness from his old Padawan, as well as other, less powerful Force energies emanating from within. There was no denying it, she was meeting up with other Force users, some perhaps more powerful than she was.
Pulling his hood over his head, Master Karn looked around, and saw that there was no-one that would see him enter the building. At this point, there was no turning back. He opened the door with a wave of his hand, using the Force to break and enter this mysterious stronghold. He saw that, within, there was a long hallway leading to two large, black doors at the end. Left open only a crack, he knew that it would be easy, at the very least, to hear what would be happening on the other side. Still concealing his presence with his ability, he walked down the hall, stood resolute next to the slightly opened doorway, and listened.
The first voice that he heard was Zahara’s.
“I call to order the twelfth meeting of the Grey Order. May our Master rest in the peace that I had brought him, and may his wisdom, passed down to all of us, lead us to know the great mystery; better than the liars and cowards on the upper levels.”
Jhim was astonished and disappointed. How could she had known? Back then, in the ice cavern where he had been trapped, had she been listening the whole time? Was she persuaded by the words of the unknown Force user, like the rest of the children there? Did she hear about his dream, and wish to finish it for him?
“Hold on, I sense an intruder.”
-Oh no,- Jhim thought.
He surmised that the shock of her words had distracted him for that one moment that he did not have to lose; that moment when she would recognize his Force power, and realize that he had been following her all along.
Zahara reached out her hand, gripping the throat of her former master; using Dark Force abilities that he could never have taught her. Slamming him against the door to pull it open, she yanked him into the room with utter strength; power that he had not known that she possessed. He remained floating far from the ground, his feet dangling below him, as she finally revealed to him the truth.
“I see you have found us, Master. I was wondering when you were going to join us,” Zahara began, then turned to the dozens of grey robed Jedi around her, and spoke proudly to the audience, “You see this man? This filth! You all know him very well!”
Murmurs could be heard around the room, as the silence was broken by a ruckus of conjecture and shouting, but Zahara could be heard above all of them.
“You, Jhim Karn, are a traitor to truth, and so are a traitor to the Force! You never understood Master Gorean’s plan for an unbridled knowledge of the Complete Force!
These powerful individuals before you; these are the children you claim to have saved! They had followed him, out of curiosity, but they were still just children! You never took the time to understand them, none of you did!
Killing their Master was the only way I could ensure their freedom, so that they could get away from that dreadful place that Gorean so loved! I let you bring us back, so that we could start anew on this planet, and create a better Order than he ever could! And then, you… you decided to take all of the glory for yourself!
For I was the one that truly freed my brothers and sisters, and you lied to everyone! Now the whole council believes that we are outcasts; tainted by the Dark Side and unable to pass any trials to advance in the Order! Do you have any idea what that feels like; to be cast aside by those whom you trusted the most?”
Jhim tried his best to speak, “I… cannot… know…”
“Of course you can’t know! You were the hero!” she yelled at him, turning her hand to choke him even more, calming her voice and continuing, “but I know you Master,” she laughed, “you are the only one here that is a slave to passion. I know all about your childhood crush on a certain Jedi Master. We all do. And now has come the time for your reckoning.”
The Twi’lek Knight released the terrified Master from her grasp, letting him fall to the ground, gasping. Zahara commanded the members of her Order, “Bring her out!”
Six of the Grey Jedi left the room for a moment, exiting through a door in the back of the room. Jhim knelt on the ground, gasping for air, trying to make sense of it all, but he knew. He knew that this was the price of trying to protect them from persecution and exile from the Jedi Order. What Master Karn did not know, is that the price was far heavier than he ever could have imagined.
The six Grey Jedi returned to the room, escorting a woman in, dressed in tattered and torn robes, with bruises on every part of her body that could be seen.
Jhim could only speak one syllable, in horror, “Vi…”
Zahara smiled and continued her provocation, “Oh yes, you didn’t think we would let a chance like this slip by, did you?”
(To be continued…)