Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

Under the Shadow of the Builders
Part 15- The Chill of Hyperspace

Manaan was in the same part of the galaxy as Kashyyyk, which meant another long hyperspace flight. Again, Ev insisted on several decoy jumps to assure that they weren't being followed. The four days passed much the same way as their trip to Tatooine had been, with one refreshing difference.

During the time that Ev and Carth were on a Jawa caravan to the star map, Mission discovered a substantial library of holodramas on the ship's secondary computer. It was a much easier way to pass the time.

One afternoon, Ev strode purposefully up to Carth in the ship's corridor. “I had this thought,” she started, “I might be able to help you understand the Selkath better on Manaan.”

“What do you mean?” Carth asked, “Lend me HK?”

“No, no, better than that,” Ev seemed to be growing excited, “Here, just give me a second. Let me try this.” She reached up and grasped Carth's head in her hands and then closed her eyes.

Suddenly an incredible pressure came over his head. It felt like it was going to burst. When the headache became almost too much to bear, suddenly it receded.

“What the hell was that?” Carth demanded, swatting Ev's hands away.

“You should be able to understand Selkath now,” Ev replied smugly, only the sounds that came out of her mouth sounded more like hissing and slurping than Galactic Basic.

“But what did you do to my head?” he demanded.

Ev laughed, “Ha! It worked. You understood me. It's a Jedi trick for learning languages quickly, only in reverse. There are more subtle ways of doing it, but that takes a lot longer.”

Carth rubbed his forehead, “You've left me with a nasty headache though.”

“You've got a whole nother language up there that you didn't a minute ago. Of course it's going to ache,” she replied. “Anyway, you'll thank me later.” She turned around and walked back down the corridor.

“I'll never understand that woman,” Carth muttered and shook his head.


One night Carth found himself sitting around with Bastila, Jolee, and Juhani while the rest of a the crew was watching a film that none of them had any interest in.

“Say, Jolee,” Carth asked, “Why did you join up with us in the first place?”

“You've got yourself a fast ship,” Jolee pointed out.

“If you just wanted off Kashyyyk, you could have asked us to drop you on Tatooine or somewhere else,” Carth observed.

“I could have,” Jolee agreed, “Or maybe it's the food. The slop your synthesizer turns out isn't half bad.”

“Must you be so elusive?” Bastila put in.

“Elusive? Me? Clearly you have never tried to catch a Twi'lek dancing girl after one too many Corellian whiskeys,” Jolee laughed at his own joke.

“No really, Jolee,” Carth persisted.

“Frankly, I don't have to tell you my reasons,” Jolee replied stubbornly, “But since you're probably not going to give up, I'll give you this much. After twenty years of the Shadowlands, I could use some excitement in my life again. I have never seen the Force swirl around anyone quite so much as around your Ev. That girl has a destiny before her, and I'd like to be around to see it.”

“A destiny? What kind?” Juhani asked eagerly, “You saw the future for her?”

“Whether I did or not is irrelevant,” Jolee replied enigmatically, “The future can always change. What matters is that it's going to have to be interesting.”

His answer didn't satisfy Carth, nor did it seem to satisfy the two Jedi, but Bastila changed the subject, “You know, Jolee, I've been thinking...” she started.

“Oh this is going to be the, 'Jolee, please come back to the Order' talk isn't it?” Jolee asked sourly.

“Well, of course,” Bastila replied, a bit surprised, “You were trained as a Jedi, you walk in the light, and yet you do not belong to the Jedi Order. Why did you leave?”

“Like I said before, I don't see things as extremes; light and dark,” he replied tersely, “And I didn't leave the Order. The Order left me.”

“That is ridiculous,” Bastila shot back, “What do you mean by that. And how can you expect to keep from the Dark Side without the wisdom and guidance of the Council.”

“Haven't I done that well enough for the last couple of decades?” Jolee retorted, “My past is my business. Just think of me as one of the non-Jedi members of this group like Carth or Canderous here. Only I can use a lightsaber. And the Force.”

“I do not understand how you can view the Jedi Order with bitterness,” Juhani added, “The Jedi are protectors of peace in this galaxy. They are compassionate and care for the good of the people.” Juhani grew nostalgic, eyes unfocused, “On Taris, when all I knew was hatred from humans and the other people around us, it was the Jedi that showed me the best of what sentients can be. Rescuing me out of slavery, they were like gods. After that, I vowed that I would become a Jedi, though I seem to have fallen short of the mark.”

“You know what I hate?” Jolee started, “Well, I hate a lot of things. But what I really hate is how people always think that Jedi are so perfect and that they can do no wrong.”

“Well, of course,” Juhani replied, “They do their best to—”

“Even with the best of intentions, Jedi can do terrible wrong, but they're too blind to see it,” Jolee replied, “Hiding behind their rules and traditions, they never see what they have done.”

“Give me one example where the Jedi have done wrong?” Bastila butted in.

“I'm not about to bore your ears off with the ramblings of an embittered old man,” Jolee said dismissively.

“The war wit the Mandalorians, for one,” Carth offered, “The only reason we won in the end is because of a group of rogue Jedi while the rest of the Jedi Order sat on their hands watching people die. If they had actually forced Revan, Malak, and the others not to go to our aid, we'd all be speaking Mando'a.”

“And would that really be so bad?” Canderous said, sauntering in and stepping over gizka as he came. Either the movie was over or he got bored with it.

“But at what cost?” Bastila asked, “You know what happened at Malachor V, Carth. And you have seen the end to which all of the Jedi who participated went. Had Revan and Malak not joined the war, we wouldn't be fighting the Sith now.”

“We'd be resistance fighters against the Mandalorians,” Carth muttered.

“I still fail to see your reasoning, Jolee,” Juhani said, bringing the conversation back, “The Jedi have their rules and disciplines so that they can perfect themselves in the Force.”

“Think what you want,” Jolee shrugged, “I know young people like you will never be convinced against your convictions, no matter how many parables I tell. I'm done yacking.”

Mission poked her head in, “Hey Canderous, we just found the sequel. Up for another one?”

“Why not?” Canderous replied and waded through the gizka back out of the cabin.

“Anyone else?” Mission offered.

They all murmured variations on, “No thanks.”

“Your loss,” she said and whisked out again.

The silence between the four people that remained hung thickly in the air.


Yawning, Ev shuffled through the gizka into the cockpit. “My alarm just told me that we've got five minutes until we drop out of hyperspace,” she said and unceremoniously plopped into the copilot's chair.

Carth checked the timer, “Six, actually. Your clock must be fast.”

“Well pardon me,” Ev said, mockingly offended. She leaned back in her chair, “I hope the port officials are up at this hour of the night.”

“I think we'll be coming into Ahto City at around midday their time,” Carth calculated.

“Ouch,” Ev winced, “We did a terrible job adjusting to Ahto time then.”

“If we take it easy the first day, I'm sure the jet-lag will be no problem,” Carth suggested.

“Manaan,” Ev said slowly, “One big globe of water. The Selkath built Ahto, a floating city, more for the outsiders than for themselves. But, they have gotten a good deal of trade and tourism out of the deal.”

“Manaan is the only source of kolto, isn't it?” Carth asked.

“Yeah, especially since no one has been able to synthesize it,” Ev nodded. After a few thoughtful moments, she added, “If the Builders were on Manaan too, it makes me wonder if it wasn't always one big ocean.”

“Where did you learn all of this stuff anyway?” Carth asked.

“The Ebon Hawk's central computer keeps updated planetary bulletins,” Ev answered, “I did some reading while we have been on our way. It also talked about how the Selkath are trying to play this war neutral, with strict laws enforcing that policy.”

“Neutral? Meaning they're supplying kolto to both sides?” Carth asked.

“Exactly,” Ev nodded, “And they're probably making a nice profit at it, but taking that stance, they really are trusting the Sith too much to play by the rules.”

“Ev, you never cease to amaze me,” Carth said, shaking his head, “It's hard to believe that only two months ago you were just a regular Republic soldier.”

“An ex-racer, ex-bouncer, ex-shuttle pilot special corps Republic soldier,” Ev pointed out with a smile.

“And even that is hard to believe,” Carth added, “You're pretty damned smart, Ev. You'd have to be the brightest ex-bouncer I ever met. If you'd stayed a soldier, even that would have been a waste of you. It's like you were always meant for the Jedi. It's not that I'm enamored with the Jedi like Juhani is, but where else could you use all of your skills so well?”

“You flatter me, Onasi,” Ev replied jokingly.

“I'm serious,” he replied, “You went from being a green ensign to leading this little quest that might finally give us the keys to stopping this war.”

“Now, there, I think you've made a mistake,” Ev corrected him, “This mission is Bastila's. I'm just along because of that Force bond we have.”

“Well, when Bastila fell apart back on Tatooine, you sure took charge,” Carth continued, “You're a better leader than she is.”

“Don't let her hear that, Carth,” Ev scolded, “This is still her mission. I'm just backup. I'll step up when I need to.”

“Can't you just take a compliment without arguing?” Carth demanded in half-frustration.

“That was all one confusing compliment? Well, thank you, I guess,” Ev replied, “But you really aught to make yourself clearer if you want a girl to feel confident about herself.”

Carth took a deep breath. “How about this: you're beautiful. Is that better?” he asked.

Ev smiled, “Thanks. That was better. But you don't mean that. Now here's one for you, in your style: you've always been there for me throughout this whole thing. I know Bastila is too, but it's different for her. She's always in my head, she knows what I'm thinking. You seem to be able to figure that out on your own without any sort of help from the Force. This whole instant-Jedi thing hasn't been easy. Carth, I appreciate it, a lot.”

Carth flushed. “Ev, I'll be there whenever you need me to,” he offered gently, “Just ask.”

“The rest of the crew could use a bit of your sanity too, you know,” Ev suggested, as if she hadn't caught his meaning. “I really aught to seal you in a room with Bastila and Canderous some time.” She chuckled.

“Ev!” Carth exclaimed in horrified disbelief.

“Oh, come on, it would be good for all parties involved,” Ev teased.

“If you aren't the most infuriating, unpredictable, stubborn woman I have ever met!” Carth exclaimed.

“Thanks,” Ev said with dry humor.

Carth took a deep breath. He could hardly believe what he was about to say, “What I'm trying to say, I mean, I think I love you, Ev.”

Ev stiffened, “I'm sorry, I didn't think I heard you right.”

“Ev, I love you,” Carth repeated emphatically.

Ev looked away stiffly. “You know, Onasi,” Ev said with cold professionalism, “I'm likely to have another one of those visions when we fly into Ahto City. You really should have someone more reliable as your copilot. Canderous is a pretty good pilot. He should do fine.”

“Ev...” Carth started, but his words fell dry in his mouth. His heart sank. All this time, I thought that she...

Without another word or so much as a glance in Carth's direction, Ev stood up and hurried from the cockpit.

Carth felt more alone than he had in a long time. “Carth, you've still got an important job to do,” he whispered hoarsely to himself. “She's just like any other woman—soldier.” Only she's not. At all.

Carth numbly took the controls and prepared to cut the hyperdrive. The moment came, and they snapped out of hyperspace above the serenely blue planet of Manaan.

Canderous sauntered drowsily in. Surly, he asked, “What is this about Ev thinking you can't pilot any more?”

“She didn't say that,” Carth snapped irritably. He wasn't about to let the Mandalorian catch him in his moment of weakness. “She realized that she'd probably have another one of those visions at an inconvenient time, so she suggested finding someone who would stay conscious more reliably.”

“So all you need me to do is stay conscious?” Canderous chuckled.

Carth sighed. Ev, what have I done?

 

- Next Part -

 

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