Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

The Road to Rediscovery
Part 5 - Father and Son

Carth Onasi passed under the great arching entrance way of the Jedi Temple for the second time in his life, running his fingers absently under his collar. What usually felt comfortable and snugly tailored now constricted uncomfortably around his neck. He swallowed hard, trying to shake the feeling of being choked.

It had been nearly four mouths since his first visit to the temple when he came to see Ev's—Bastila and Jolee's too—knighting ceremony. Then he had been ushered around with the other guests who had come to see them, leaving no room for wondering where he was or wasn't supposed to be. Even after all this time working and becoming friends with Ev, Bastila, Jolee, and Juhani, the Jedi at large still made Carth uneasy.

Carth paused inside the grand entrance and gazed around, his attention unfocused. Jedi in earthy robes swept one direction or another, each caught up in his own business. For the moment at least, no one paid Carth any mind.

He could hardly believe that four month had passed already since the destruction of the Star Forge and the breaking up of their little group. Distantly, he missed them all, even Canderous, but especially Ev. Four months; the same length of time from when Carth first met Ev until they—well, there were so many Jedi around and there was no telling if any of them were eavesdropping on his mind. There were some things that it was best not to think about. In any case, in those four months since, Carth had hardly seen any of her. Their work had kept them both tied to the front of a war that wasn't quite over yet.

Soon, though, it would be very soon.

“Excuse me, sir, are you looking for someone?” The appearance of a Jedi at his side brought Carth out of his reverie. He was a youthful, pale-skinned, black-haired Nagai.

Carth's eyes widened and his mouth felt suddenly dry. Veshisht Um? No, but he died on the Star Forge. Carth swallowed hard again and composed himself. “Yes,” he replied, with only a hint of wavering in his voice, “I would like to see the Jedi Apprentice Dustil Onasi about his part in the Battle of Korriban four months ago.” Ev promised him that this would get him the respect he deserved

“And your name, sir?” the Nagai Jedi Knight asked politely.

“Captain Carth Onasi,” he replied crisply, “I commanded that battle, which he was so invaluable in.”

“I see, Captain Onasi,” the Nagai nodded, eying Carth with curious suspicion.

“Onasi is a very common Telosian name,” Carth stammered quickly. 'Don't make it obvious that you're a father coming to visit his son,' Ev had said, 'The Jedi don't like that very much.'

“Well, Captain Onasi,” the Jedi started thoughtfully, “If you would be so kind as to wait on one of those benches over there, I will see if Apprentice Onasi can be found.”

“Thank you,” Carth replied with a polite nod. The Nagai young man swept off deeper into the temple and Carth found the benches he had been pointing to, settling himself down to watch the other Jedi drift past.

Ev had assured him that this particular part of the afternoon was the best time to drop in for an unexpected visit. The early afternoon was spent in sparring practice for the apprentices, after which was a substantial break to change and wash up before the late afternoon meditation and lessons.

Checking his chrono intermittently, Carth's mind wandered through the rest of his schedule for his short stay on Coruscant. Tomorrow, already, he was leaving for the front again on another tour of duty. Tonight, there was a meeting with Grand Admiral Weshenn and Admiral Dodonna. Forn Dodonna was his direct superior and always dealt out his assignments, but the presence of the head of the Republic Navy was unexpected. Carth could only guess that tonight’s meeting would lead to not only to a new assignment but to his full promotion to Admiral, as he had been offered after the Battle of the Star Forge. It seemed that he had proven himself in his last tour after all.

Carth looked up to see the Nagai man striding back towards him. He glanced down at his chronometer; ten minutes had passed. Standing, he took a few steps to meet the Jedi.

“You came at a good time, Captain Onasi,” he commented as he reached Carth, “Apprentice Onasi is just between two training sessions now. He is waiting for you in the Southern Arboretum.”

“Thank you, Jedi Knight...” Carth replied, looking for a name.

“Krant,” the Nagai supplied it for him, “It's my pleasure. I don't have any pressing appointments myself this afternoon. If you would come with me, I will take you to the Southern Arboretum to meet him.”

“Please lead the way, Krant,” Carth replied.

Krant led him through wide galleries, vast halls, and twisting corridors. Most Jedi ignored Carth and his guide, but a few younger ones, padawans and apprentices, eyed his sharp, green uniform with curiosity.

Finally, they arrived at a pair of glass doors, fogged slightly with condensation from the inside. As Krant stepped towards them with Carth in toe, the doors slid noiselessly open. Warm, humid air carrying gentle fragrances washed over Carth as he stepped inside. He had the immediate impression of being surrounded by life as it filled his nostrils. Sure enough, the great Southern Arboretum was filled with all kinds of trees, flowers, and other plants imported from tropical worlds all over the galaxy. Little streams wove their way from pond to pond between the palms and flowerbeds and a collection of cobblestone paths twisted gently through the man-made garden.

Dustil, already pacing near the entrance looked up suddenly as they entered. “Fa—Captain Onasi,” he stammered. He wore the full uniform of a Jedi now, including the beginnings of a thin braid at the nape of his neck. Except for his brown boots and belt, Dustil's entire outfit was of different shades of cream. It was a stark contrast to the Sith uniform he had worn on Korriban.

“This is Captain Onasi,” Krant gave the unnecessary introduction, “I believe you have met before, in the battle of Korriban.”

“Yes,” Dustil answered stiffly, “We did.”

“Well, I will leave you to your conversation,” Krant said, and with a polite bow, excused himself.

“Thank you, Knight Krant,” Carth said as he left. Then he turned on his son. “Dustil,” he started in greeting, “How are you doing?”

“Fine,” Dustil responded tersely, looking anywhere but at his father's face, “You?”

“I'm alright, I guess,” Carth replied, trying to be casual. “The Republic Navy has been keeping me pretty busy lately.”

“As usual,” Dustil replied. Then added, embarrassed, “Uh, let's find a better place to talk. There's some benches this way.”

“Sure,” Carth echoed.

Dustil chose one of the narrow paths and started slowly down it. It snaked along side a stream channel towards a pond with a small lapping fountain in the center of it.

“This is beautiful,” Carth marveled. “Do the Jedi have many gardens like this?”

Dustil breathed in the sweet, humid air and sighed deeply. “There must be six or eight different gardens,” Dustil replied, “But I like this one best. It reminds me of...”

“Telos,” Carth finished for him. He could feel it too.

“I wouldn't be surprised if there were some Telosian plants in here somewhere,” Dustil added. “Master Sunrider—Nomi Sunrider that is—she thought up these gardens. I guess it's good for Jedi to spend some time in 'nature,' getting their hands dirty, and it's the best we can do on Coruscant. Everything living, even plants like this, are connected through the Force, so a lot of folks like to come in her to meditate or just to think.”

“Do you?” Carth asked.

“Yeah,” Dustil answered with a shrug.

In the small clearing with the fountain pond, Carth followed his son to one of the benches on the edge of the water. He noticed schools of small fish darting around under its surface.

“So, Krant said that you wanted to talk about the Battle of Korriban,” Dustil started, looking Carth in the eyes for the first time, “I would have thought that was way past.”

“Well,” Carth admitted slowly, “Ev said that was the best excuse I could give the Jedi for a chance to see you.”

“Did she?” Dustil smirked, “And the Jedi bought it. I guess you couldn't have told them you were here to visit your son. They would have tossed you out of here faster than a gundark can chuck a rock.”

Carth chuckled, loosening up a bit. “So how are your classes? How are the Jedi treating you?” he asked.

“Better than I expected,” Dustil shrugged, “They're not too suspicious of us and treat us fairly. Though, I'd be suspicious of them if they didn't keep an extra eye out for us. Bad habits take a lot of kicking before they stop showing up when you're tired. Lashowe pulled a lightsaber on someone who butted in the mess line the other morning.”

“How did the other apprentices take that?” Carth asked. He hated to think that his son's friends were causing trouble at the Jedi Temple.

“We calmed her down, the lout who budged took off running for the end of the line, and a bunch of the Jedi-raised kids panicked and called in Master Waykennit. He's pretty understanding when one of us slips. He has a good sense of humor about it. Even still, Lashowe got assigned extra guided meditation hours for the day,” Dustil said, pursing his lips thoughtfully. “I can't say that the other apprentices actually wanted to be our friends, but I can't really blame them. We used to be their enemies, and we're all older than the other apprentices anyway. But we've got each other, and the masters believe in us, for what it's worth.”

“The Jedi do love their redemption stories,” Carth commented.

Dustil laughed lightly, “And just having us around reminds everyone else that forgiveness is a virtue and coming back from the Dark Side is possible.”

“No one is giving you any trouble in your classes then?” Carth asked.

“No,” Dustil scoffed, “Not when it's just us. There's thirteen of us apprentices from Korriban—Lashowe, Kel, and me, and the rest of them you wouldn't know—and then those six Selkath. We're all having to relearn the same stuff, but not as much of the basic fighting techniques. So the Jedi Masters figured it was best to keep us together. That, and I think they were afraid of conflict. They're patient with us, and we're all learning pretty fast. Lashowe and a couple of the others from Korriban are having a tough time adjusting to this new way of life though. She always says she's determined to do it though, but maybe that's the wrong way of going about it. So uh,” Dustil turned the conversation on his father, suddenly realizing he had been talking too much, “How's the battle been going?”

“You've probably heard,” Carth started lamely, “But we're winning. We're chasing down the Sith everywhere we can find them. After the Star Forge, Korriban, and Ruuria, the Sith have been on the run. We're just taking back Republic systems and breaking them down so that they cannot form up into a threat again.”

“You better get them all,” Dustil warned darkly, “The more you pound them, the more the Sith will want revenge.”

“I hope my superiors understand that,” Carth sighed, “I'm just a captain, following orders.”

“Last time I saw you, you were going by 'Lieutenant Onasi,'” Dustil observed.

“Korriban was a test,” Carth replied, “They promoted me after that. And then they promised an Admiral appointment if I continued to do well through this last tour.” Carth paused, debating whether to go on, “I have a meeting with the head of the Republic Navy this evening. I think that might mean another promotion for me.”

“Well congratulations,” Dustil praised, but there was pent-up resentment in his voice, “Now you can spend even more time with your navy friends.”

“Dustil, I'm sorry,” it all suddenly came pouring out. “I'm sorry for not being for you all these years. I'm sorry for putting my work ahead of you and your mother. I'm sorry I wasn't there that day. Back then, I thought I was doing the right thing, giving all I had to the Republic's war efforts, but now I'm not so sure. I lost so much. We lost so much. If I hadn't been there, then the Sith wouldn't have taken you and—”

“Dad,” Dustil gently interrupted him, “You don't have to say it. I've forgiven you. Can you forgive me for joining the Sith?”

“Of course I can!” Carth whispered hoarsely, tears coming to his eyes. He wanted so badly to reach out and hug his son, but he didn't dare. There were still too many Jedi around, even in this remote part of the temple.

“So,” Carth uncomfortably changed the subject, “Have you seen Ev around much?”

“No,” Dustil shook his head, “She stopped in to check on our class with that Cathar—what's her name?”

“Juhani,” Carth supplied for him.

“Yeah, anyway, she stopped in with Juhani to check on our class a month or so ago, but had to go right back to the front,” Dustil answered.

“That's more than I've seen,” Carth murmured.

“She's a real inspiration to all of us,” Dustil continued with mounting excitement, “I mean, she was Revan. The masters won't admit it, but she's got to be the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy right now. And she doesn't let that go to her head either. Plus, she came back from the Dark Side deeper than any of the rest of us.”

“The Jedi won't have told you that her redemption wasn't her choice,” Carth replied sharply, “The captured her and rewrote her mind so that she would fight on their side.”

“Huh,” Dustil sat back thoughtfully on the bench, “She did mention something like that back on Korriban, before the battle.” He paused, then continued on with enthusiasm, “So maybe it is true that her original redemption wasn't her choice, but when faced with her past, she didn't let her sway her from what she knew was the right path. We've all got ugly stuff in our past, maybe not as bad as her, but we have to deal with it too.”

Carth nodded, a warm smile spreading across his face as Dustil praised Ev.

“But I've heard that ever since the Battle of Ruuria, the military decided that they can't be without her and those other three,” Dustil added, “Every report I've seen talks about how the four of them almost cleared out the entire Sith settlement themselves. Not that I'm surprised, anyway.”

Carth nodded again, “It's true. And ever since then, Ev, Jolee, Bastila, and Juhani have been shipped all over the galaxy, as the sword of the Republic. I haven't seen any of them since, well—” Carth broke off and looked all around them. No Jedi were near. The bubbling fountain behind them was the only sound besides their voices. “Dustil, Ev and I were married,” Carth admitted quietly, “after the victory tour.”

“Really?” Dustil laughed, dark eyes dancing. He slapped his leg and said, “I like her even more now. She went and got married? To you? Against the laws of the Jedi Council? Nice. Where did you guys get it done that the Jedi didn't notice?”

Carth's apprehension fled at his son's approval. “On Kashyyyk,” he answered, beaming, “Zaalbar set up the whole ceremony for us in his village.”

“Well, good for you,” Dustil replied brightly. It seemed that Dustil's admiration for Ev had expanded to include Ev through their marriage. “If I have to have a step-mother, I couldn't think of anyone better.”

“It's not likely that we will ever able to be a normal family,” Carth admitted with a sigh. “I'm a soldier and you're both Jedi.”

“And we're all working to save the Republic, at the call of our masters,” Dustil's enthusiasm was dampened slightly. He took a deep breath and released it.

“Dustil, I'm sorry about your girlfriend on Korriban,” Carth said seriously, “I really hope you can find another woman worthy of you.”

“Dad, don't worry about me,” he replied, “I miss Selene, but the Sith took more than just her from me. In the mean time, the Jedi Temple kind of lacks anything like a dating service.”

Carth chuckled. “So where do we go from here?” he asked, “I doubt I'll be able to come and visit you like this very often.”

“Probably not,” Dustil agreed neutrally, “The other Jedi will start to suspect something, and it won't take much digging for them to find out why you're actually here.”

“And then there is my work,” Carth admitted.

“Right,” Dustil nodded, “But I'm sure we'll find a way around it somehow.”

“We'll see what happens if I really am promoted to Admiral,” Carth replied, “And when you become a padawan yourself. I understand that means following around your master wherever he goes.”

Dustil sighed and leaned back again. “Dad, I'm sixteen years old,” he explained, almost desperately, “Thirteen is the usual cut-off for apprentices to become padawans before they're shipped off to some service corps, never to become full Jedi Knights. Our group is special because we all came in so old, but I've started to wonder if we have a chance at getting masters at all. There aren't a lot of Jedi around that don't already have a padawan of their own, after so many were killed in the war. There are more of us apprentices than there are people to train us. I keep hoping that we'll have a chance anyway, because of what we represent.”

Carth put a calming hand on his son's shoulder. “You are talent and intelligent, Dustil,” he said encouragingly, “I'm sure someone will see that in you and decided to train you soon enough. You haven't even been here half a year yet.”

“I hope you're right,” Dustil replied. Catching a glimpse of the chrono on Carth's wrist, he stood up suddenly. “I have to get cleaned up before guided meditation starts.”

Carth stood and met him eye-to-eye. Dustil was as tall as he was now, and it was something of a shock. He really is becoming a man. “Then I don't want to make you late,” Carth replied, “It was good to see you, Dustil.”

“Thanks for coming to visit, Dad,” Dustil replied, cracking a small smile.

Carth held out his hand and Dustil shook it firmly. Without thinking, Carth pulled Dustil into a hug, patting him on the back with his free hand.

Dustil broke away, flustered. “Well, I've got to run,” he said quickly, “Say hi to Ev for me if you see her, and good luck in your meeting tonight.”

“Do great in your training,” Carth urged, “I'll see you later.”

“Okay, bye,” Dustil replied hurriedly and turned down the path towards the door. In an instant he was gone, blocked from view by lush plants and trees.

Carth sighed and sank back down onto the bench. His son had forgiven him. He had even accepted his new wife. It was as if everything was starting all over again.

He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He was able to imagine that he was back on Telos before the Sith came and tore his life to pieces, if only for a moment.

- Next Part -


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