- "The Council wishes to apologize to Master Kenobi, who has warned us many times of the danger of Granta Omega. We did not take the warnings as seriously as they were given. You were right, Obi-Wan. Omega should have been our first priority. He is now ... You will be the first Jedi coalition to go after him ... The Council feels that there is Sith involvement, but to what degree we do not know. Therefore we urge each of you to weigh every move you make with care."
- ―Master Mace Windu of the Jedi High Council, to the special Jedi task force sent to track down and apprehend Granta Omega
A mission to Korriban occurred in 23 BBY when a Jedi strike team consisting of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Siri Tachi, Soara Antana, Ry-Gaul, and their respective Padawans were sent to the Sith tombworld to track down Void in the Force Granta Omega and his partner in crime, mad scientist Jenna Zan Arbor, both of whom were longtime enemies of the Jedi Order and the Galactic Republic. But the mission ended in tragedy when Padawan Darra Thel-Tanis was killed by Omega, who himself was then killed by Kenobi. Zan Arbor and the hidden Sith Lord, Darth Tyranus, escaped.
Prelude to tragedy
- "We have located Granta Omega and Jenna Zan Arbor ... They are on Korriban."
"Of course. He has striven to be noticed by the Sith, and at last he has succeeded. Now he goes for his reward."
- ―Mace Windu and Obi-Wan Kenobi
Only days had passed since the malicious attack on the Galactic Senate Building on Coruscant. The criminal operation that was masterminded by Granta Omega and Jenna Zan Arbor might have been catastrophic, had it not been for the quick response of the Jedi Order, for literally thousands of politicians had been targeted. Miraculously, only 21 Senators, and 24 advisors, aides, and guards were killed in the Senate Chamber battle against Omega's formidable phalanx of seeker droids. Above all, the attempt on Supreme Chancellor Palpatine's life had been thwarted.
The Jedi High Council had sensed very early on―with an affiliated anti-Jedi scheme to lawfully sever all Senate ties with the Jedi Order―that behind the deadly machinations lay "an unknown presence." Indeed, the Council had come to believe that a Sith was the real power behind the terrible plan, and the Senate feared that the attack was only the beginning of a much wider plot. They did not want to simply wait for the next attack. They had to preemptively act to cut the head off the snake, by spreading a wide net to lure in and trap the vicious creature. But galactic politics were volatile, and a period of calm was needed to steady the mood of the Senate, which had grown ugly since the attack. Chancellor Palpatine therefore urged restraint and cautioned the Jedi to be discreet in their pursuit of the notorious, murderous enemy.
Eighteen-year-old Anakin Skywalker was confident that he would be part of that pursuit, for his Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, knew the arch-villains better than anyone and, in fact, had been the first Jedi to warn the Council of Omega's plans. It was therefore fairly inevitable that Kenobi would be the one to head the team to bring Omega to justice―and, naturally, Skywalker would be there, too. The specially marked Padawan didn't have to wait long before his suspicions were confirmed: the Council called into their High Chamber the four Master-Padawan pairs that would comprise the critical strike team whose charge it would be to bring both Omega and Zan Arbor to justice.
Before that meeting took place, however, the Padawans had spent time together in preparation for whatever mission might lie ahead for them, as was customary for the Jedi, who frequently had to be ready to leave at a moment's notice. As starfighters and cruisers were being readied and fueled, apprentices and their Masters checked their gear and said goodbye to fellow learners and friends. Throughout the Temple, Jedi Knights finished up last minute-assignments as they readied for new ones, uploading new mission information to their datascreens. Anakin was in his quarters with his good friend Tru Veld, helping him check his lightsaber's power cell, reserve, blade crystals. Skywalker adjusted Tru's flux aperture and rebalanced the saber's handle. Liquid cable launcher, comlink, aquata breather―all utility belt items were checked ... including Tru's ever-ready snacks for the spacelanes, including Terratta strips. Sitting down to enjoy the food, they were content to have checked their equipment five times, even though they knew all was functional, for routine always seemed to keep nerves steady.
Padawan Darra Thel-Tanis entered with her usual witty humor, sitting down with her friends to enthusiastically enjoy the savory terk-hide treat. She announced suddenly that something was up, as both her friends' Masters, including her own Master Soara Antana, were at that moment in the High Council Chamber. Darra had the feeling that they'd all be leaving the Temple before the day was out, but she was ready. When Tru asked, she confirmed also that Siri Tachi was there, as she'd seen her walk into the Council room with her Padawan Ferus Olin. A jolt of jealousy shot through Anakin, and he asked Darra why Ferus was in session with the Masters, but the rest of the Padawans weren't. But she said she didn't know, asking Anakin if she really looked like a Council member to him―"Moons and stars, I hope I'm not that grim"―and told him he would just have to wait and find out. Trying to soothe Anakin's ego, for he knew that he and Ferus, mutual rivals, had clashed in the past (though they got along better now), Tru reassured Anakin that he didn't think it would be long now. Suddenly, as if Tru had just prompted fate, their three comlinks all buzzed at the same time, calling them into the Council Chamber.
Upon entering the chamber, to stand before the High Council, Anakin felt a heavy presence in the room. All of the Council members looked, just as Darra had said, grim. He felt the Force strongly, humming underneath their various seats and through their beings, as if (and he could only imagine) it were a council of war. Glancing over at Ferus, Anakin suddenly had a foreboding feeling that what he was about to hear he would not like. Master Mace Windu began by offering the Council's apologies to Obi-Wan Kenobi, for though he'd warned them on many occasions of the danger of Granta Omega, they'd not taken those warnings as seriously as they'd been given. Obi-Wan had, after all, been right: Omega should have been the Council's first priority. He was now, however, Mace said. He told the Jedi assembled before him that they would be the first coalition to go after Omega. Mace advised that they could contact the Temple at any time for whatever degree of help or Jedi backup support that they might need to join them.
The Council felt that there was some degree of Sith involvement in what they were about to face, but didn't know to what extent, and so urged each member of the team to weigh carefully every move that they would make. As if all of this weren't enough, Master Windu issued the startling revelation that the Council had actually located Omega and Zan Arbor: the criminal duo had found sanctuary on the Sith tombworld of Korriban. And suddenly Anakin understood the feeling of dread that filled the chamber. The great Force legends spoke of Korriban as the seat of Sith power, thousands of years in the past. And because it constituted the burial grounds of the ancient Sith Lords, it was a concentrated source of the dark side of the Force: no Jedi wished to go there to tempt its powerful pull toward the dark side. Kenobi was not overly surprised notwithstanding, as Omega had ever striven to be noticed by the Sith. He'd obviously succeeded at last: to his reward he apparently now went, whether that meant only protection or something more.
As Mace Windu's eyes settled on Anakin, he made yet another startling disclosure: Due to the galaxy's current state and the Council's concern over the gathering strength of the dark side of the Force, they had made a decision to speed up the process of apprentices becoming Jedi Knights. For Anakin, the news was electrifying, for he was sure the Council was going to announce that he would be allowed to undertake the trials of Jedi Knighthood early—and for that, he was, he assessed, more than ready. But because this was a major decision, the Council had decided to proceed with caution and grant only one test case. Skywalker's burgeoning heart betrayed his utter confidence that, of course, it would be him—he was, after all, the Chosen One: the one with the greatest skills and Force connection. It was, however, only after much deliberation and consultation with all the Jedi Masters that the Council had settled on Ferus Olin: he would be the first among the apprentices, when this new pressing mission had ended, to undergo the trials. Anakin Skywalker was fully stunned, heard only a blank where his name should have been. The unreal sensation made him want to move and cry out, for it couldn't possibly be true. Still Mace emphasized that their unanimous decision in no way reflected upon any Padawan's fitness to be a Jedi Knight. They believed in all of their apprentices and simply needed a way to begin to fill the urgent galactic need for a strengthened Jedi force, and Olin was to fill that vanguard role. Each Padawan would be ready in his or her own time. Despite that assurance, the disbelief and anger in Anakin were overwhelming, for he felt that his time was now. Indeed, he felt he would fully explode as his emotions ran rampant and he fought to contain them. "May the Force be with you," Mace said, dismissing the newly appointed Jedi coalition to their readied ships.
Kenobi told Anakin not to say anything, as they left the High Council Chamber. "Follow me," he said, as they descended on the turbolift several levels to the Room of a Thousand Fountains and its calming elements: the splash of the waterfalls, the green growth, the soft radiance of refracted light. Skywalker's face was hot with frustration and anger. Anakin couldn't understand how it had happened, or how it even could. Obi-Wan conceded that it was natural to be disappointed and, for such a high singular honor, to want to be first. "I am first!" Skywalker exploded—the almost nineteen-year-old Padawan was also, by a galactic standard, right. He was first in his class, first in lightsaber training, and, given his chosen status (one could well argue, as Anakin did), "First in the Force." But his Master frowned, for there was no such thing at the Temple: students were not ranked. Skywalker, however, who would be a Jedi Knight soon, knew that that wasn't what was whispered or said, that it wasn't the reality, and his Master knew it. But how good one was, was not the point of the Council's decision, Kenobi explained. What made Ferus better, then? Anakin wondered. Not the point, either, Obi-Wan said: the fact of the matter was that Ferus was more ready. Anakin knew now that he was pushing his Master's limits, for Kenobi's voice was raised, which didn't happen very often. But Skywalker couldn't help himself—he was ready, just as ready as Olin was. That was something that Anakin could not know, Obi-Wan cautioned, for it was not for the Padawan, but for the Master and the Council to know.
Skywalker started at the sudden knowledge that seared his brain: his Master had agreed—he'd voted for Ferus. It was not a vote, but a discussion, Kenobi corrected, to which all Masters were invited. He had agreed with the Council's choice. Anakin could feel only as if he'd been brutally prodded by an electrojabber. But it wasn't about Skywalker's skills, his commitment, or his abilities; it was about his readiness, and there was a clear difference. When Anakin flatly challenged Obi-Wan that he didn't think him ready, Kenobi responded that while he thought Ferus was ready, that did not mean that he believed that Olin would make a better Jedi, only that he was ready now. Beyond fairly certain, Anakin knew that Ferus had manipulated the Council members and the Masters, voicing aloud his own doubts about Skywalker, sometimes in front of Anakin's own Master, and had somehow corrupted their opinions of him. His fury was saber-hot, wild, scarcely containable. And looking at his Master, he suddenly didn't know him anymore: he seemed a stranger. "Take care," Obi-Wan warned, for he could feel his Padawan's anger. But Skywalker didn't care; he wanted to strike out.
Anakin's focus on who got to be a Knight first, however, simply reinforced the rightness of the Council's decision: Anakin was not emotionally ready to be a Jedi. Decisions such as this had to be accepted. Skywalker told Kenobi that he didn't need to quote Jedi teachings to him, for he knew them well—better than Olin, in fact, but then, that didn't seem to make a difference. His aspect tight, Obi-Wan told his Padawan that he needed time to compose himself, after which they could discuss the matter further. Turning away to leave, Kenobi suddenly relented and turned back: "I believe in you, Anakin," he said. But the young Jedi kept his back to his Master, for he couldn't answer, and only thought of Ferus—how he'd plotted, beaten him, and won. He was forced now even to work with him on their new mission, forced now to help Olin achieve what he, Anakin, deserved. He saw only Ferus' smug face as he accepted the praise of the Council, as he took Anakin's place as a Jedi Knight ... while the Chosen One would remain a Padawan! It simply couldn't happen that way, he silently resolved, taking his anger and focusing it. The many fountain waters around Anakin suddenly hung for a moment in the air, fully suspended: he'd used the Force to freeze them in midair, just to prove he could do it. The silence was deafening, but then he let them fall—all the waters gushing, trickling, and racing again. The noise grew enormous, torrential, as if he could hear every drop of water cascade with every stone, every pebble. Skywalker thrilled in the surge of power—and it was but a small part of what he was capable of. They would all soon know it. He would show them that they had made a serious mistake. For he should be the first apprentice to ascend to Jedi Knight. He knew this, and soon everyone else would, too. He would make them know it.
Into the Sith realm
- "Felt I did that look upon you all before you left I must. And tell you ..."
"Like Ry-Gaul, I have become. Nothing to say, I have ... What I would say, know you do already ... May the Force be with you."
- ―Grand Master Yoda, to Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Korriban coalition team
Two Republic cruisers would take the Jedi to Korriban, and the best pilots of the group—Master Ry-Gaul and Skywalker—would fly them. Assembling now together at the vast hangar, Siri and Ferus had been assigned to accompany Obi-Wan and Anakin, while Soara and Darra would travel with Tru Veld and his Master. Kenobi, who didn't think it wise to put Anakin and Ferus together in a small cruiser until Skywalker had cooled down, wished it could be otherwise. All choices they made from now on, however, had to be calculated ones, for the consequences of such decisions could be critical. In this case, they had no choice, with the looming possibility that their ships might be attacked on the journey. Indeed, going forward, nothing could be taken for granted.
As the designated pilots did their pre-flight checks and the rest of the Jedi team prepared to depart Coruscant, Obi-Wan took note of his comrades. More than three years had passed since they'd all shared a mission to Euceron, to patrol the Galactic Games, and the intervening years had been long and hard for everyone: his fellow Jedi looked more focused and intent. Veld and Ry-Gaul had survived a series of highly dangerous missions; Antana and Thel-Tanis had recently navigated a fierce interplanetary war—and the changes and the recognition he could see in all the Padawans were the same he once saw in himself as he neared the end of his years of apprenticeship. Their countenances mirrored the seriousness of their purpose and the things they'd seen—a long way indeed from each Jedi learner's early expectation simply to lead a life of service, adventure, and success. Failure was never a part of that rose-tinted vision, and the passing years brought not only satisfaction, but deep disappointment and heartbreaking loss as well. Forever imprinted in each one's memory were things they wished they had not seen. A Padawan polishing his or her lightsaber while yearning to be chosen, lost in heroic dreams, could not then imagine how vastly more complicated the Jedi path would be.
Siri Tachi was leaner, her edge was sharper, if that was possible; there was less humor and more frustration. Ry-Gaul's gray eyes had bleached almost to white: experience had, it seemed, leached out their color. The quiet, somber Jedi, moreover, if it were possible, spoke even less than he did before. But he had explained to Kenobi that there simply was "less to say." Oddly enough, the great lightsaber master Soara Antana had grown softer, almost tender, with Darra. But often replacing the lively exuberance in Thel-Tanis' eyes was now a shadowy sadness. They'd all changed, including Obi-Wan himself, who, catching a glimpse of his bearded face in the viewport, though younger than Qui-Gon Jinn was as a Master, nevertheless felt old. A strange weariness was in his bones. And he knew it was from the intense concentration and effort he placed in cautious vigilance, in ever watching and waiting for something he could not name. All the Jedi had felt it—a gathering of dark energies throughout the galaxy, from the Force's dark side. Having spent these last years pushing with their strength against the darkness and the chaos, they were tired, but had so much farther to go.
As for Anakin, Obi-Wan simply had to trust in the integrity of his Padawan's core. Kenobi must count on Skywalker's maturity now—that, with time, Anakin would forgive him for supporting Ferus. Indeed, Obi-Wan recognized the difficulty he had in admitting that Olin was the best candidate. It was only natural to have wanted Anakin to be chosen, but something had whispered no. Even so, he would never had consented had the feeling not permeated his being that, in this instance, the times were too perilous for the Jedi to make a mistake. But he knew his Padawan well, knew Anakin would find acceptance despite the profound struggles that Obi-Wan knew he could not help him with. But Kenobi was confident that, in time, Skywalker's better side would win.
From his quiet ruminations, Obi-Wan was suddenly brought back to the present by the surprise appearance of Master Yoda on the landing platform. He'd glided in on his repulsorlift chair from the turbolift to bid a special farewell. After Obi-Wan had quickly stepped forward to greet him and ask if anything was wrong, the beloved Jedi sage was silent, allowing his gray-blue eyes to scan each member of the Korriban coalition, moving from one Jedi to the next, until he lingered on the faces of the Padawans. Yoda told them that he felt he needed to look upon them all before they left, and tell them ... but he remained silent for a moment and, leaning on his gimer stick as he looked upon Obi-Wan with great affection, simply said that he had become as Ry-Gaul, and had, after all, nothing to say. What he would say, he told Obi-Wan, he knew already. Kenobi knew that Yoda spoke true, for a great dread lay within Yoda's soul. He knew the Grand Master needed to come look at them all in case any one of them did not return: he needed to be present so that each would know how deeply he felt for them. He wanted to see them off, see the last glint of sun on a wing as they flew. The pre-flight checks completed, the Jedi turned to board as Yoda lifted one three-fingered hand in fond farewell: "May the Force be with you," he said.
Having traveled in hyperspace for days from the galactic Core, the Jedi cruisers were on their final approach to Korriban within the Horuset system of the known Sith Worlds. Obi-Wan had found comfort in navigational routine (what he'd always done since he was an apprentice)—checking coordinates to forestall problems, though he knew precisely his team's position and how far they had left to go in a journey that had passed, after all, without incident. Kenobi appreciated Olin's effort to keep a delicate distance between himself and Anakin, for he did so without seeming to, giving his Padawan space. When Siri came up behind him, Obi-Wan activated the star charts' holomode and together they studied the isolated system of the marooned planet that other planets seemingly chose to hide from: Korriban. For Kenobi, Korriban was a source of evil that still called evil to come meet it. For Siri, on the other hand, it was just a place where some old Sith bones lay. Indeed, the Jedi were on their way to a place they'd heard about from their earliest days as students at the Temple: the Valley of the Dark Lords, where the dark side of the Force still lived. They'd used tales of the Valley to scare each other as younglings. But a thousand years and more had passed since the times of Sith occupation and the planet had remained, for the most part, barren of settlers and unattractive. In truth, Korriban had never recovered from the Sith presence, had never formed a government, had never joined the Senate, and therefore was not part of the galactic alliance. Even freighters wouldn't stop there, and there were few places that freighters would not go.
The Commerce Guild, nonetheless, had opened an office there, offering incentives to corporations to open branches in the Dreshdae spaceport. The business enterprise seemed strange to the Jedi, but they considered it to be "the same old dance"—just another power play by the Guild to gain influence and keep major corporations "in their backyard" so that they might control them. But the choice of Korriban prompted the Jedi Order's suspicion that the Sith might have been behind the Commerce Guild's presence there—even if the Guild (or most of it) didn't know it. The Guild would reap what it deserved, in that case, Siri said. The Padawans now had joined the conversation, and, in response to Ferus' inquiry about the kinds of beings who lived on Korriban, Tachi told him that there were three: those who were forced to live there because of work, those who had been stranded there, and, finally, those who chose to be there—which were the dangerous ones, Kenobi said. When Anakin voiced his concern about how they planned to find the criminals, being that they might be hiding anywhere on the huge planet, Obi-Wan said he didn't believe that they'd come there to hide, but that Omega had come for a reason. Kenobi believed that Omega had been invited: for having done his best to impress, Omega had finally attracted the notice of the Sith and was going there for his reward, whatever that might be.
Coming out of hyperspace, Korriban, that solitary "cradle of darkness," loomed in their vision—a large planet with blood-red clouds obscuring its surface—and the Jedi prepared for their descent and landing at the Dreshdae spaceport. Each of them felt what Kenobi did: the dark side of the Force emanating from the planet's surface in what was certainly the most complicated surge of dark energy any of them had ever felt. For it had a sick sweetness to it, something that seemed to pour through their veins—attracting and repelling them at once. They struggled to meet and clear their minds of it. Even as Obi-Wan entered the coordinates into the nav computer, he hesitated, for he got the distinct impression that in making the commitment to land, he was sealing their fate. Their faces to the viewport, none could turn away: dread seeped into their hearts as, through the red-blood clouds, the planet appeared to come up to meet them.
- "Zan Arbor has expensive tastes. She is most likely not too thrilled to be here. There doesn't seem to be much luxury in Dreshdae."
"It's a stinking rot."
"Yet there are business executives here, creatures used to having the best of everything. There must be something for them. If you're looking to buy special items, where would you go?"
"There's a loose kind of black market. Run by thieves, of course. Supplies are low, there are no stores, and it's hard to find essentials ... They rob when they can—from the better buildings, the offices. No hotel room in the spaceport is safe. They've made some hits on ships coming in with supplies for the Commerce Guild executives."
"So how do you get in touch with this black market?"
"It's on the outskirts, in a plaza that's in ruins ... I can give you the coordinates. If you want something, go at dusk. Ask for Auben. She's the best of a bad lot—she won't cheat you ... But watch out for the army—the executives in the Commerce Guild are tired of buying back their own items. They want to smash the black market."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi and businessman Theluron Thacker
Before he'd left the Temple, Anakin Skywalker had decided that he would have to wear another mask on this mission, but a mask of friendship, for Ferus could never know his true feelings: he would defeat Olin without him ever knowing that they were in competition. But, as often happens with well-intentioned plans or theories, they often falter when they're actually attempted. For Skywalker found that it was impossibly difficult to keep his true feelings hidden when faced with Ferus himself. His resentment, like a leaking gas, threatened to explode. But he kept telling himself that that would not happen, that he would prove that he was the better Jedi.
Flying now over Korriban's deserts, deep canyons, and mountain ranges, Olin inquired where the Valley of the Dark Lords was located. Obi-Wan answered that the Valley, invisible from the air and constantly under heavy cloud cover, was narrow—a slit hidden in the mountains some distance from Dreshdae. The disorderly settlement, its unsightly buildings clumped together, had been built on a plateau in the middle of the planet's largest mountain range. As they approached the spaceport, the Jedi could see that the recently (and poorly) refurbished landing platform was deserted, apart from a few cruisers parked behind an energy fence. Upon landing, the other Jedi cruiser passengers soon joined Kenobi's party, with the Masters going over final details in the cockpit while the Padawans stood on the ramp overlooking the spaceport as they prepared their equipment. It was a very grim place—not exactly Belazura, Darra said, as she stuffed her thermal cape into her survival pack. They tried to make light of the odd tension each felt: they remembered how nervous they'd all been on their earliest missions together, and Tru admitted comically that he still was.
Anakin, unable to help himself, asked Ferus if he was nervous, or was that not allowed for a Jedi Knight? He was, after all, closer to Knighthood that the rest of them were, and the Council's eyes were upon him. Olin, picking up on Anakin's taut meaning, frowned and said he wasn't thinking about that, only the mission—which idea Darra reinforced by stating that that's what they all were thinking about. Tru's eyes told Anakin to back off as he added that they all wanted to capture Omega. But Anakin wagered that Ferus wanted to be the one to do it, because once you started impressing the Jedi Council, you had to keep on doing it. Olin replied that it didn't matter who did it, only that it got done. Spoken like a true Jedi Knight, was Skywalker's rejoinder. Ferus, his neck flushing red, asked Anakin what was it exactly that he was trying to say, as Darra, in a warning tone, spoke Anakin's name. Stepping boldly toward Ferus, Skywalker clarified that Olin would do whatever he could to succeed on this mission, but not because he wanted to catch Omega: he wanted rather to be a Knight.
Ferus' dark eyes now flashed with anger, saying that Anakin's was a serious charge, and untrue. But Skywalker said he had news for Olin: Ferus wouldn't be the one to find Omega—Anakin would. And he was so confident on that point that he was willing to bet on it. Ferus, for his part, refused to bet on a mission. That was because Olin had too much riding on it, Anakin guessed; for if he lost, he might lose the Council's favor. It was no wonder Ferus refused to take up his offer. Olin spun and came within inches of Anakin's face, taking him up on his bet, after all—sure, whatever Anakin wanted, for he'd hate to stand in the way of Skywalker's ego. —Ego? Ferus was the one, Anakin countered, who spent all his time showing off. Olin responded softly, but with an icy edge now, that someone had to teach Skywalker that he wasn't as powerful as he thought himself to be. But now the Masters had overheard the bit of commotion, and were looking over, and Anakin could see that he had to control himself, for he'd gone farther than he'd meant to. But he didn't care, for it was now out in the open.
A light gray rain with an acidic taste was falling on Dreshdae's main thoroughfare. The Padawans had followed their Masters out onto the narrow, unpaved street, when Anakin felt a foreboding settle upon him. The drab hodgepodge that was Dreshdae had, over the years, grown and shrank without thought given to utility or beauty. Until the Commerce Guild had set up headquarters there, it was just a smattering of temporary structures in various states of disrepair, made up of plastoid blocks or cheaper metals that rusted with age. Newer buildings sprung up around them, most of them near the Guild's central office building—a multistoried durasteel edifice faced in a multicolored iridescent material that was intended to sparkle in sunlight but, in the drip of rain, looked rather cheerless. The strain of growth showed in Dreshdae's obvious efforts to promote itself, and it was clear that the spaceport would soon slide back into a dark, dangerous, lawless place. Evil undercurrents that bubbled up out of cracks in the stone and hastily built walkways could be felt by the Jedi. Beings didn't linger in the streets or cafés. There were no trees or plants, and nothing thrived.
Obi-Wan announced that their contact in Dreshdae was one Teluron Thacker, a prosperous businessman, who had done favors for the Jedi in the past and had agreed to help them, if he could. They were on their way, even now, to meet him. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Anakin felt a touch on his shoulder, and then another—whipping around, he found no one there; then came a whisper, then another. He couldn't make out the words, only their mocking, derisive intent. Crossing the street, he thought he saw blood coursing down a stone wall, but when he blinked, it was gone—was it all just his imagination? He looked questioningly at his Master, who told him it was the dark side of the Force, that he was picking it up, too, but to just ignore it. But there was something insistent in the whispering voices, which Anakin couldn't just ignore, that urged him to answer. Though anxious, Skywalker wanted, strangely, to face it, to get to the root of, and match himself against, this dark power—to prove that he was as strong as it was.
Arriving at the small, dingy café that had been predesignated (the roof of which was in serious need of repair), Kenobi wondered why Thacker would ever frequent such a place. Though not getting any Force premonition or warning, the problem was the energy on the planet—dark waves buffeted Kenobi from every side, as if he were swimming in an evil sea. The thick darkness made it hard to distinguish true threats. Ry-Gaul offered to scout out the place before they entered it. He emerged to tell them it was all clear and that Thacker was inside. Entering, they greeted the nervous Eeyyon native, who, because the Jedi had helped his homeworld, said he'd pledged to help them whenever he could. The tall humanoid, wrapped in a red cape, had pale skin and the soft look of a being used to spending time indoors, sitting down. He'd angered his previous, oversensitive boss, and she'd banished him to Korriban because of a deal that had gone south. A loss of a few million credits later, and he'd been handed an assignment to open an office on Korriban. But Thacker hadn't slept through the night since.
Siri Tachi asked Thacker what he could tell them about the two beings they were pursuing. "Only that they were there," came the reply. A human man and woman matched the Jedi descriptions perfectly. They weren't using their real names, however, and no hotel or guest house carried any clues. Kenobi asked if Thacker had looked into whether any businesses there were, in reality, a cover for Omega's enterprises. In fact, he had not done that, Thacker said, stating that, though he wanted to help the Jedi, people there said it wasn't wise to ask too many questions on Korriban. But then, Thacker suddenly offered a piece of information that the Jedi could actually use: he warned them that the Commerce Guild had its own army division on Korriban—which was there out of necessity, the Guild had said, to protect its business workers from petty crime. Spider and surveillance droids were everywhere, and so, if Omega and Zan Arbor had any contacts in the Commerce Guild, Thacker said, they could very well have access to all the surveillance information and could see everything.
Because Kenobi knew that Zan Arbor had expensive tastes and probably wasn't too keen on being on Korriban, he asked Thacker where one might go if one were a pampered business executive in "need" of special luxury items. There was a loose black market on the planet, Thacker said, one run by thieves who robbed when they could from the office buildings, spaceport hotels, and Commerce Guild supply ships. When Obi-Wan asked how they might get in touch with the black market, Thacker disclosed that its base of operations was in a ruined plaza on the outskirts of Dreshdae, that they should go at dusk and ask for Auben—who was the best of a bad lot and wouldn't cheat them. Thacker gave one last warning to watch out for the Commerce Guild army, as the Guild executives were tired of buying back their own items, and wanted to smash the black market.
The Jedi were soon walking toward the ruined plaza in the deep, dark, diffused red of Korriban's dusk. They couldn't see the Sun due to the pervasive cloud cover overhead. Anakin suggested that Auben might feel less threatened if only one person approached her, especially someone young, and he offered his services. Obi-Wan and Siri concurred that it was a good idea, but appointed both Anakin and Ferus to go together: they would pose as brothers, stranded on the planet. Anakin swallowed his groan, for it was bad enough that he had been teamed with Ferus. The two were not to reveal that they were Jedi—for that was information that could be sold. Though the Jedi knew Omega was expecting them, he didn't know when they were to arrive. The two Padawans walked to the marketplace in deathly silence, with no lessening of the tension between them. Anakin had wanted to meet with Auben alone, for he had hoped to gain information about Omega before Ferus did. No words were spoken between the two Padawans; no plans were made.
After circling the plaza once, they were approached by Auben—a young woman dressed in a tight-fitting gray tunic and leggings, with a leather headpiece fitted snugly over her ears. On her back she carried a huge satchel, seemingly without strain. She asked them if they were looking for something, and they replied that they needed blankets and handwarmers. Auben demanded to see their credits first, and after Anakin had handed them over, she tossed Ferus the goods. Anakin, sensing she was about to take off again, quickly told her that their parents had marooned them on Dreshdae, saying they'd be back, but it had been a few weeks now, and— Auben, interrupting, said flatly, however, that she didn't need their story, just their credits. When Anakin said they'd heard about a couple that landed at the spaceport recently, and asked if by chance she'd seen them, Auben replied that she didn't discuss her customers—ever. But when Ferus suggested that, armed with the same skills, contacts and discretion she already had, she might discover a lucrative business in finding not only things, but beings also, she paused to consider their proposition carefully. But before she could speak, a blast of artillery fire shattered a column directly behind her, and the explosion of rocks sent her flying toward Anakin and Ferus. All three landed on the ground, with Auben panting, "Commerce Guild droids—run!"
- "It's huge ... You could dispatch an army from here."
"Yeah, a lot of ships for a bunch of monks."
"The Sith were more than monks."
"So I've heard. The original evil guys, right? ... Well, they're all dead now."
- ―Ferus Olin, Auben, and Anakin Skywalker in the vast hangar at the Great Temple's Sith Academy on Korriban
When Auben took off, she had placed herself in an exposed position, her back to the blaster fire, and Anakin, who had dashed after her, had no choice but to defend her and reveal himself as a Jedi. Blaster bolts streaked from a phalanx of spider droids, and Anakin deflected them all. Ferus covered their retreat, as Auben yelled "Who are you?!"—but there was no time for either Jedi to answer. Pausing to catch their breath under the shelter of the dark ruins, Auben wanted to know, staring at the lightsabers, where she could get "one of those." But they had to move fast, for the Guild had tracking droids. When Anakin confessed to Auben that neither of them knew which way to go, she resolved that, because they'd saved her life, she would save theirs: "Come on," she said. Skywalker could sense that the other Jedi were close behind and were following them as the trio made their way through the ruins, twisting through narrow passageways and climbing through blasted-out holes. But the army was near, too, advancing on the outskirts of the spaceport. Auben led the Jedi from the ruins into the winding streets of a hovel that dwindled into a lane that wound out to a rocky landscape. And finally, they climbed up the steep lip of the plateau that cradled the spaceport. Reaching the top, Anakin looked down and beheld an ancient structure below them that rose out of the steep mountainside and spilled out into a narrow valley: two-thirds of the structure was made impenetrable because of the mountain. The structure's entrance was in ruins, blocked by great slabs of crumbling stone and huge toppled columns. And once again, Anakin felt tremors of the dark side of the Force rising to assault him and wrench his stomach. He knew what this wreck of a building was: the Sith Academy.
The ancient monastic halls of the Great Sith Temple were spread out below them, thousands of years old, deserted for centuries, and still a presence of evil. Once a bastion of Sith lore and learning where thousands had once trained "and thousands of hopefuls had once disappeared forever," the academy was, at once, repulsive and alluring to the Jedi. Auben didn't hesitate: she told the Jedi not to let its creepiness bother them, for nobody lived there. She knew they wouldn't be followed, at least, for everyone was afraid to go inside—except her. Starting down the steep path toward the academy, through boulders and crags, she explained that the ancients had blasted out the side of the mountain to build it. Something deep within Anakin suddenly lurched, revolted. Although he rarely felt fear, it was no stranger to him now: a deep inner voice warned him not to enter, while yet another that was deeper than fear, bade him go inside.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, lowering his electrobinoculars, could not understand why Auben was entering the ancient Sith Academy. Soara guessed that she probably had never found a better place to hide. The original inhabitants of Korriban who had built (and, in later years, rebuilt) the Sith complex had, of course, long since vanished, and nothing thrived there: but if the ancient stones could speak, "they would talk of blood and terror." For though the Sith academy had had the same goals as did the Jedi Temple—study and learning—this place had been ruled by fear. The Jedi knew it could very well be a trap, but they also realized that every step they took on the planet could lead to a trap. And so they pressed forward, following the path they'd seen Auben take when she led the Padawans into the academy through a crevice in the stones. The massive Temple and academy structures were faced with giant exterior walls composed of great stones that had "shifted" over the years, with sundry large slabs propped up against one another, and others that had toppled and crumbled into boulders. The Jedi all slipped through the crevice easily—all except for Ry-Gaul, whose tall, solid frame couldn't get through the crack. He told the rest that he would find another way in, and catch up; he quickly then disappeared. Taking their first steps inside, vast echoing chambers that rivaled the Jedi Temple's Great Hall were shrouded in darkness. They could hear echoing footsteps ahead as Auben led the apprentices farther into the ruins, and the Jedi followed them silently. An oppressive dread emanated from the academy's ancient cracks and hollows; the walls wept with moisture. Ancient voices could be heard, and spectral images of torture and pain passed, then vanished, like phantoms. When Obi-Wan turned a corner quickly, he saw a vision—a Sith apprentice on his knees, begging. He averted his eyes, but noticed that Tachi's face, too, had grown pale, and that Darra and Tru appeared quite shaken. Soara moved in to give her Padawan support.
Auben, they could see, had led Ferus and Anakin into a small chamber in the distance. Coming closer, but keeping out of sight, they could see through the half-ruined wall that the spaceport thief had taken them to her hideout and storage space, where she had stashed her stolen goods in bins along the wall. A bedroll was in the corner, and durasteel boxes had been stacked to form a table, upon which a glow lamp perched. Auben immediately guessed that Anakin and Ferus were Jedi, but said that it was all the same to her, as Jedi credits were as good as anyone else's. She told them that if they waited a bit, the army would stop tracking and they could leave, for the Guild army wouldn't come inside the Sith Academy. Auben lived there alone, and sometimes she got spooked, she admitted. She would hear things, but then realize that "it's just this old place." When Ferus offered to scout the place a bit, to make sure she was safe, Auben said she didn't need help, that she had her friends to help her—patting her belt where her two blaster pistols hung. She asked if they were really looking for a man and a woman, but not to lie by telling her that they were their parents. They confirmed that they were indeed looking for a couple and, moreover, that they'd make it worth Auben's time if she would tell them what she knew. But, suddenly, an explosive blast rocked the academy walls—which Obi-Wan and the Jedi, hiding behind the ruins, also felt, scarcely keeping their balance. They heard the pounding footsteps of soldiers and the unmistakable clack clack of spider droids: Auben had been wrong—the Commerce Guild army had followed them. Auben knew, because they were coming through the main chamber, that there was only one way out: "Follow me," she said. Obi-Wan directed Tru and Darra to stay close behind Anakin and Ferus while the Masters would take care of the droids and then come find them.
Auben was the key, Anakin was sure, to finding Omega, and he wasn't about to let her out of his sight. His feeling and instinct told him that she knew something—and there had been something in her eyes when they'd told her that they were looking for a couple. But Skywalker feared that Olin knew it, too, and he could feel Ferus' breath on his neck as they moved close together in the narrow passage: he'd been behind Anakin every step of the way. As Auben pushed forward, Anakin could tell, despite the thick blocks of stone, that they were moving parallel to the great hall, for he could hear the clatter of droids and the steady, fast ping of blaster fire. The stones were damp and slippery now, as she led them down sloping passageways that once had been hidden (the secret corridors once comprised a whole system by which powerful academy heads spied on the lesser Sith instructors and apprentices—standard Sith procedure, Anakin thought, being that trust was not a part of Sith doctrine; even so, it seemed to him a bleak way to live). Deeper into the complex they descended. They were now in that section of the academy buried by the mountain, and were about to be shown, Auben said, that which was not visible from above. As they pushed open a rotted door, Skywalker was awed at the sight of vestiges of the Sith's greed-torn Order that were strewn across a vast, ancient hangar where aggression and technology met—remains of huge hulking ships were witnesses to the Order's own perceived invincibility that, ultimately, was brought down in disaster by vengeance, lust and pride. Huge statues of terrifying beasts from many worlds marched on either sides of the hangar, where perhaps a hundred service bays flanked the titanic space—filled with the smell of rust and rot, and thick memory.
Looking now for the exit, Auben disclosed that the landing platform was completely blocked off, buried behind the mountain by centuries-old artillery blasts, she believed. But they could still get through one of the hangar bays. Although it would be a tough climb down the mountain, it was better than tangling with the army. Just then, however, Anakin's nerves screamed an alert—he was acutely aware that a dark presence lurked deep in the vast hangar. The surging feeling of the dark side seemed to rise from the soles of his feet and blast through the crown of his head: its undeniable power was stomach-turning, nerve-splitting—nauseating. Ferus felt it, too, and softly whispered Anakin's name. "I know," Anakin said. Resolved to execute a quiet retreat, they stepped back into the service bay again, where the cool shadow calmed Anakin's tripping heart. When Auben asked them what it was, Skywalker replied: "Something worse than the army. And it's coming this way."
The Masters, meanwhile, were assessing the Guild army attack. Dwarf spider droids and homing spider droids with laser tracking devices made up the first and second lines of assault. Local army troops clad in full plastoid armor with battlefield helmets followed—a sophisticated show of force that was quite surprising to Kenobi, who wondered why the Commerce Guild needed such an awesome security operation. It didn't make sense to him. The spider-droid blaster fire, while fast and accurate, couldn't compete with the Jedi's weapons that moved like pinwheels of glowing light, faster than the droids could track them. The opposing forces were mowed down, as smoke filled the air and drifted to the vast space above. The Guild army officers were startled when their deflected blaster bolts shot back at them, and they found it difficult to hold their line. This clearly wasn't, they realized, just a straggly band of thieves with a few blasters at their sides, and so seized their blaster rifles off the holsters strapped to their backs, and fired. Two dozen of them advanced, while a third wave of droids entered the fray. While Obi-Wan couldn't see the possibility of defeat, he did begin to break into a sweat: the last thing he needed was to get clipped by blaster fire and have to deal with a wound while chasing Omega.
Suddenly, Ry-Gaul appeared out of the shadows, behind the officers, brandishing his silver-gray lightsaber. The remaining officer squads, seeing that they were now surrounded by Jedi, began to retreat, firing as they went. The Jedi, of course, let them go, for they did not take a life if they didn't have to. The Jedi presence on the planet, they knew, could not stay a secret now for very long. Whipping out their comlinks, Kenobi and Tachi tried reaching their Padawans, but without luck, for there was too much interference within the academy. At the edges of his consciousness, Obi-Wan felt something then—a flicker started, and grew to a dark shape inside him. Quietly he spoke, announcing the dread in his heart: "He's here ... the Sith." He was there, somewhere, in the academy. Kenobi saw the same disturbing knowledge flash in Siri's face, Soara's posture, and Ry-Gaul's wintry eyes. Looking at each other, deep worry now ticked inside them: a Sith was there, and their Padawans were by themselves.
The Sith reemergent
- "Did you see him?"
"Only from behind. Tall. Dressed in a black-hooded cape that trailed all the way to the ground. I didn't see his face. He didn't even turn. I felt the Force come at me like an autoblaster cannon ... It could be a Sith."
"I know ... Keep your focus loose. He will come from anywhere when he comes."
"This time I'll be prepared."
"Don't be so confident. You probably won't be."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker pause in the pitch darkness of the ancient academy as they prepare to pursue the Sith (Darth Tyranus)
Ferus ordered Auben to stay in the service bay and hide when the Jedi heard the mechanical clatter of metal on stone, like a flock of mechanized birds. Moving to the front of the bay and peering out into the vast hangar, Anakin and Ferus saw, rising out of the gloom, line after line of battle droids, the like of which neither Jedi had ever seen. They would later learn that these were super battle droids; their control centers were placed lower than those of standard battle droids, which, Anakin noted, made it so that a Jedi couldn't cut off their heads. And they had reinforced armor. Because there were far too many of them (perhaps forty), Olin recognized the obvious need to retreat (despite Anakin's accusation that Ferus always looked at the odds). Skywalker thought that they could take them, utterly dismissing Olin's comment that it was no time to play the hero, and suggested they attack from above, for the droids would not expect it. Stepping out from the bay into the darkness of the hangar, they could see the infrared tracking devices moving over the space, and they knew they had only seconds before they were detected.
Gathering the Force, Anakin leaped onto the gigantic statue to his left, landing on its knee, and began to quickly climb. He knew Ferus, who he knew had felt compelled to follow him, was in tow; both Jedi looked for handholds in the crumbling stone. Though high above the floor now, each balancing on opposing shoulders of the huge statue, the Jedi could not see the hangar's ceiling, lost in the darkness above them. They would wait for the first wave of droids, Anakin said, then drop using their liquid cable launchers, while using the statues as cover. But only seconds before they were about to strike, two dark shapes sprinted out from the hangar: Darra and Tru, who'd clearly thought Skywalker and Olin were at floor level. To Ferus' horror, the droids were locking onto the others' positions. The Jedi leaped in midair—their cable launchers holding them secure—bounced off the statue, and swung over the first line of droids, their lightsabers moving in slashing circles. Between them, they took out a dozen droids (that indeed had failed to lock onto them due to the unexpected angle of their attack). The other two Jedi raced forward to engage the remaining droids.
Skywalker was no fool, and he knew their chances of defeating so many droids were practically nil, but he also was keenly aware that a true Jedi would only be revealed in gestures such as this. The hold Olin had on the Force, compared to his, was puny. Anakin reached out for the Force in every conceivable way—in the stones and the dust and the air, but also in the spaces between them. The Force enveloped him, his vision had never been sharper, and he was in perfect control. He kept moving, never hesitating or second-guessing his choices—a rolling force of destruction. All the while, he kept track of the positions of his fellow Jedi battling around him, for they had to cover one another. A damaged droid's random, stray blaster fire caught Tru in mid-leap, wounding him, his weapon flying from his hand as he fell. Another droid stepped on the lightsaber and kept going. As Anakin rushed to help, out of the corner of his eye he caught a flicker of sinuous, flowing movement: a cape. Moving quickly, the dark-robed figure headed towards the shadowy end of the hangar. Anakin was sure it was Granta Omega. As Anakin saw that the other Jedi were rushing to Tru's aid (telling himself that the situation was therefore covered and under control), he seized his one and only chance to prevent Omega's escape, and dashed off into the darkness.
Ry-Gaul led the Masters forward, for he knew where the Padawans were. Earlier, when he couldn't get in, he'd followed the wall back to the mountain and found the enormous ancient landing hangar, getting in at one of the end bays. But Soara immediately called to their attention that the Padawans wouldn't know it was a Sith until it was too late. It was therefore with increasing dread that they followed Ry-Gaul swiftly down into the darkness of the mountain. They were deep in the monastic Academy now. Though it was in ruins, Kenobi could see how different it was from the Jedi Temple. The high walls that narrowed in harsh lines and pyramidal angles at the top were designed to create a feeling of entrapment; slightly askew, they were meant to intimidate and keep beings off balance. With no openings to light or air, there were only the massive columns, bleak towering walls, and hard floors of cold gray stone. Obi-Wan could still feel the fear that had ruled there. He shuddered at the thought of the thousands, who had come for knowledge and training, who had been trapped within the academy by their own desires: amid the weeping stones, he seemed to feel each wasted life, each terrible death. He knew the other Masters felt it, too.
At last, they stepped through a doorway into what had once been a service bay, where they saw Auben cowering behind the wreck of an ancient vehicle. Silent, she pointed to the curved arch that led to the vast hangar. It was the silence of the space that frightened them: they rushed out into the darkness of the hangar, where they saw the littered remains of a staggering number of alien-looking battle droids. Had the Padawans done this on their own? They could tell that the battle had just ended: Tru lay wounded, with Darra and Ferus at his side tending to his wound with bacta. As Ry-Gaul rushed to Tru's side, fear welled up in Obi-Wan—Where was Anakin? Pointing to the vast darkness at the end of the hangar, Darra said that he'd thought he'd seen something and had run in that direction. Kenobi, relying fully on the Force, began to run. Opening himself up completely to its quiet voice, he needed to know if his Padawan had been wounded, or if the worst had happened. Obi-Wan was fully aware of what Anakin was chasing, but also, no matter what his apprentice thought, that Skywalker was not equipped to deal with a Sith. Considering what lay ahead, Kenobi simply could not risk the presence of light, and so he kept his lightsaber concealed as he ran into the darkness—a darkness so thick and foreboding in its power that it seemed to invade Kenobi's lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
Kenobi scrambled over ancient shreds of machines, fallen blocks of stone, parts of corroded engines and the skeletons of vehicles—scarcely able to keep his footing, but he made no sound. Relief suddenly washed over him when he detected movement ahead: he'd found Anakin. But he wondered momentarily, because he'd been so afraid, at the fear within that had seemed so out of proportion to what he knew were Anakin's very capable—even formidable—skills. All he knew, was that he had an overwhelming need to protect his Padawan from the Sith, to stand like an impenetrable wall between Anakin and the dark side. The feeling was only natural, he supposed. Anakin, hugging the hangar wall and moving quickly with an intense focus, did not even notice his Master behind him, which insensitivity struck Kenobi with alarm. Anakin should have sensed him, for his Padawan knew only too well, as he'd been taught, to cast his attention wide, like a net, and not be solely focused on the goal ahead. Quickening his pace, Kenobi felt the dark side of the Force grow and gather. He wanted to warn Anakin, call out to him, but he couldn't divulge their positions. But such a hope proved empty, naïve—because, whoever the Sith was, he knew precisely where Anakin was. To Obi-Wan's horror, his apprentice was lifted suddenly into the air, like a doll, and flung powerfully against the wrecked side of a cruiser. His body fell to the ground.
Rushing to Anakin's side, his saber aflame and his focus flung wide, Kenobi was ready for battle. He knew the Sith was aware of him, but also aware that Obi-Wan would rush to help his apprentice. No attack therefore came. Obi-Wan was soon bent over his Padawan, checking him for injuries, and he asked Anakin, when he suddenly became conscious again, how he felt—all right, just ... embarrassed, Skywalker said. He'd never felt a force like the one he'd just experienced. When asked if he'd seen the Sith Lord, Skywalker (recognizing now that he hadn't been trailing Granta Omega, after all) said that he'd fleetingly glimpsed the tall, black-hooded figure only from behind: his cape had trailed all the way to the ground, but he couldn't see his face. It was without even turning that the Sith had flung the Force at Anakin like an autoblaster cannon. Struggling to his feet, Skywalker suddenly began to move forward—but where was he going? his Master inquired. They had this one chance to make a stand, Anakin said, his aspect changing: his face hardened, his eyes were as flint, every muscle tightened. If they waited for the others, it would be too late. His Padawan was right—they had to try—and together they moved forward into the darkness. Obi-Wan told Anakin to keep his focus loose, because the Sith would come from anywhere, when he did. Skywalker responded that he'd be prepared this time, which Kenobi amended to the reality that he probably wouldn't be, and reprimanded his apprentice for his overconfidence.
Nearing the end of the hangar, Obi-Wan sensed rather than saw the corroded vehicles, more numerous now, lined up like ghoulish apparitions ... like giant phantoms that moved—"This way!" he yelled at Anakin, as the first vehicle suddenly flipped over, nearly crushing them as they dashed out of its way. Flattening themselves against the wall, another vehicle's jagged wing flung out to slice them into ribbons, while an old cruiser suddenly zoomed toward the wall, straight at them. "Drop!" and the Jedi hit the floor, hugging the stones, as the ship passed over them, smashing into the wall. Ancient vehicle parts began falling like rain, impacting the hard surfaces with deafening roars. Kenobi and Skywalker leaped, dived, twisted to avoid them, deflecting them with the Force when they could, and the two finally came to rest in the shadow of a gargantuan statue. Leaning against a clawed foot as he peered into the darkness, Obi-Wan couldn't see the Sith—could only feel his amusement, his triumph. The smashed vehicles had effectively created a blockade at the front of the hangar, a solid scorching mass that blocked the Jedi's exit. As Anakin tried to scale the mountain of smoking metal, Obi-Wan felt the dark side rise in a crest and then fall, leaving a vacuum behind. The Sith was gone. Sheathing his lightsaber, Kenobi told his apprentice not to worry: he had no doubt that they would meet the Sith again.
When Anakin returned to his fellow Padawans at the opposite end of the hangar, as Obi-Wan conferred with the other Masters, none of them looked at him. He only got a courteous "Ferus fixed me up," as Olin secured his med kit in his utility pouch and Darra studied the hilt of her saber. Anakin explained that he'd seen someone trying to escape and so he had to go after him—it turned out to be a Sith, his Master was sure of it. They were on Korriban, after all, Darra said, a hard, alien note of resentment in her voice. Their mission was to find Granta Omega, Anakin said, and, seeing that the others had things under control, he had gone after him—or, who he thought was him. Olin questioned Skywalker's assumption that they, in fact, had had everything under control, with Tru wounded and Ferus helping him, while Darra, on her own, faced off against a dozen droids. Anakin, gesturing to the fallen droids, maintained, however, that he'd made the right call. Of course, Skywalker could only have been thinking of the mission, Olin said. Anakin forthwith agreed, but then flushed, for he knew he'd also been thinking of himself: the chance, in truth, had presented itself for him to capture Omega on his own. And, wanting to win, he was secretly satisfied to leave Ferus behind. Partly to escape what had quickly metamorphosed into an awkward moment among his comrades, Anakin turned aside to join the Masters. He could tell Tru had looked strained and sad, but he was resolved to speak privately to him soon, for their friendship was very important to Anakin.
Soara, who was examining the wreckage with Ry-Gaul, observed that the fallen droids were the super battle droids that they'd heard of—new weapons that were a complete violation of Republic regulations. Of course, their next step would be to trace the route of the Sith, who Kenobi surmised must have just used the now-blocked exit that Ry-Gaul had found to get inside. But Siri suggested another possibility—that the ancient landing pad might still be functional. Anakin spoke up, saying that Auben had said that it was buried. But perhaps it only looked buried; they resolved to ask Auben herself, who could then show it to them. But Auben, who'd been hiding behind an old cruiser, seemed to have vanished when they entered that particular service bay. Because of her fear of the Commerce Guild army, Ferus noted, she wouldn't have returned to the academy. The Jedi guessed that she must have sneaked behind them and followed the path of the Sith. Heading back again to the dark front of the hangar, they used the Force, while they ran, to search each service bay on the way. Arriving back at the debris-blocked entrance, they used their lightsabers to cut a path through its mass of ancient metal, then crawled through. They soon discovered, in the last bay on the line, a new cruiser, with its ramp down. Obi-Wan asked Ry-Gaul if he'd seen the ship on his way in. But it must have landed, Ry-Gaul replied, after he'd entered the hangar. Moving closer, they saw a body sprawled out upon the ramp—it was Auben, and she was dead.
Having checked her vitals, and seeing that the victim was without any mark of injury, the Jedi concluded that Auben's heart had stopped beating when the Sith—whose Order, it was known, had used that technique of forbidden power in the past—forcibly stopped his victim's heart without touching her. But what was Auben doing there? When Ferus discovered two expensive-looking thermal capes in the cruiser, they knew she'd been stealing, for she'd mentioned to Ferus and Anakin that she had been able to get her hands on some luxury goods. As the other Jedi searched the ship for clues, Soara and Darra went off to find the landing platform. Checking the cruiser's nav computer, the Jedi found that its archives had been wiped. Thinking on what may have happened, they surmised that sometime earlier Auben must have discovered the ship and wanted to nab a few items on her way out. But then Obi-Wan thought of something he'd learned from Qui-Gon Jinn: When you catch a thief, he'll always pretend he was on his way in, not out.
Returning to Auben's body with his Padawan closely on his heels, Kenobi reached gently underneath and withdrew her hand. Uncurling her fist, they immediately discovered that the Sith, in his hurry to get away, hadn't checked the body of his prey. Auben had been clutching a micro-version holo-recorder (for which she surely would have gotten a good price on the black market): in its archive there was a received message. Pressing a button, a miniature image of Granta Omega appeared: "Greetings, Master..." the hologram began, the Force Blank bowing in respect. Omega expressed gratitude to the Sith Lord that his and Zan Arbor's failure to complete their mission at the Senate did not disappoint him, for (as their Master had generously conceded) the intent to disrupt and demoralize was achieved, and the Senate was more divided than ever. Omega expressed also his and Zan Arbor's gratification that the Sith Lord had decided to entrust them with his secret, saying they'd received the coordinates for their meeting, when, at last, the Sith would reveal himself to them. They would then truly be able to further his cause throughout the galaxy. Bowing again, Omega finished: "Until we meet, I, Granta Omega, and Jenna Zan Arbor, servants to no one in the galaxy, remaining servants to the Sith." And the hologram fragmented into a shimmer.
Omega and Zan Arbor had indeed come to meet the Sith, Siri observed, just as Obi-Wan had suspected. The Sith Lord was going to reveal his identity to them. Which meant, Kenobi said, that if they could find out where the meeting was, they would discover his identity as well. They had an entire planet to search, Tachi said, pursing her lips. No, Kenobi said softly, his gaze distant: there was only one possible place for them to meet. Suddenly Soara and Darra reappeared—they had found the landing platform, and it was still completely functional. Having also found new access controls hidden in the ruins, there was evidence of a recent takeoff of (what appeared by its scorch marks to be) a small airspeeder. Obi-Wan guessed that the Sith, using the landing area as a hideout, had bumped into Auben and killed her, then left the cruiser behind, opting for the more maneuverable airspeeder, a vehicle that was also harder to track. And it would get him where he needed to go, Obi-Wan thought.
Kenobi felt a tug, was suddenly drawn by some compelling force down the ramp, across the remains of the hangar, to the landing platform that Soara and Darra had found. Standing there in the chill wind, deep in the mountain, he gazed out through the gray sky to the valley below. And for the first time, he felt Omega's energy. The villain, though not a Sith, had sought out the dark side of the Force; and though unable to harness it for himself, he had lived in it. Obi-Wan was tied to him—energy to energy—and could track him now without instruments, with no need of clues or tips. Anakin, having drifted to his side, asked his Master what he sensed. Obi-Wan told him that he knew where Omega was—in the Valley of the Dark Lords, where the Sith had gone to meet him ... and where they could now uncover them both.
Valley of the Dark Lords
- "Attention, Koro-1 Deluxe Airspeeder. Land and show documentation. Stolen vehicle check. This is the Commerce Guild Army Patrol."
"Correction. Owner loaned the vehicle. Please check with owner Teluron Thacker."
"Negative. Owner Teluron Thacker reported vehicle stolen. Land or undergo firepower from laser cannon."
"Thacker betrayed us. That's why he was so jumpy. Somebody got to him ... Someone he's more afraid of than the Jedi."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi, en route to the Valley of the Dark Lords
In consulting with Madame Jocasta Nu of the Jedi Temple, who had provided the Jedi with their information on Korriban, Master Kenobi sought more information specifically about the Valley of the Dark Lords, which no one had dared to trespass for centuries—or, at least, had lived to tell about it. Madame Nu was able to provide Obi-Wan with the coordinates for the best approach to the Valley. Master Soara Antana and Darra Thel-Tanis saw to Auben, whose body couldn't be moved yet; they therefore wrapped her carefully in thermal capes. Anakin Skywalker, meanwhile, went to look for his friend, Tru Veld, who, like Ferus Olin, had suddenly disappeared. Skywalker, feeling uneasy, wondered if Olin was trying to steal his best friend away. He imagined Ferus filling Tru's mind with Olin's version of why Anakin had left them to fight the droids on their own, twisting the facts to make Skywalker look bad.
Finding both Padawans sitting and quietly talking in one of the service bays, Anakin paused in the shadows to use the Force to amplify their conversation—he thought he'd heard his name. They were talking about Tru's damaged lightsaber: the droid that stepped on it must have pulverized its power circuit, Ferus was saying. Tru was worried that it now was slipping back into half-power without warning. Anakin wondered why Tru hadn't told Ry-Gaul about his damaged lightsaber—apprentices were obligated, after all, to report to their Masters if their Jedi weapons were damaged. As if hearing Anakin's thoughts, Tru voiced his worry that, because his Master was always "so correct," Ry-Gaul might leave Tru out of battle situations, or even send him back to the Temple. Ferus concurred, however, saying that if Veld's lightsaber was permanently damaged, Ry-Gaul would be right to do so—which Skywalker thought so typical of Olin, who always felt he had to inform Padawans of the rules they knew by heart already. Tru didn't want, after all, Ferus told him, to meet a Sith without a lightsaber. Veld agreed, saying that the mission was crucial, and that's why he couldn't be sent back: he'd thought that if he could just fix it without having to tell Ry-Gaul... For while he conceded to Olin that he wouldn't be the first or even second candidate to enter the Jedi Knight acceleration program (that honor was to be Ferus and Anakin's, and Darra perhaps would be third), Tru didn't want to be left behind. When Ferus reminded Tru that his advancement was not the reason they were there, the injured Padawan retorted that that was not what he meant—only that he wanted to stand with his fellow Jedi because they all knew the darkness was growing. They needed every Jedi, and Tru wanted to be there. They all did, Ferus said compassionately.
Ferus Olin then bent over Tru Veld's lightsaber, fine-tuning it, which made Skywalker itch to get his own hands on it. What was Ferus doing to it? It worried Anakin, who knew himself to be a better technician than Ferus. Putting the handle back together, Olin handed Veld's saber back to him, telling him it was fixed and that he shouldn't have any more problems, as its power cell was now boosted. But if Olin had worked on the power cell, Anakin thought, that meant that Tru needed to check the flux aperture again. Anakin himself had tweaked Veld's lightsaber before the mission, and it probably now needed an adjustment to compensate for Olin's power boost. Knowing it would be wise to double-check, Anakin started forward, but stopped when he heard his name. Ferus had asked Tru why he didn't ask Anakin to fix it, acknowledging that Skywalker was better at that sort of thing than Olin was. Tru muttered that Anakin had been busy with Obi-Wan. But his friend had evaded the question, Anakin realized with a frown, looking on and noting the two Padawans' heads close together. Tru could have asked him for help: he could feel his friend drifting away from him. Standing up, Ferus didn't see any reason to tell Ry-Gaul, now that the lightsaber was fixed, but he suggested it better that they get back with the others. Retreating back into the shadows, Skywalker felt betrayed: Tru had chosen Olin to confide in! As Tru's best friend, he should have been the one to help him. Veld was clearly holding a grudge against him for not coming to his aid, Anakin realized, as he headed back to join the others. Well, if Tru didn't want his help, Anakin certainly wasn't going to offer it. Ferus had most likely done a perfect job, anyway—he was, after all, almost a Jedi Knight. But what was strange to Anakin, was that Ferus had agreed to keep Tru's secret. Anakin would have expected Olin to tell Ry-Gaul about the damaged weapon, or at least urge Veld to do so. Instead, he'd fixed it himself—which, technically, was a breach of the rules. And Ferus never broke the rules. It made Skywalker smile: So the perfect Padawan wasn't so perfect after all.
Anakin felt a disturbance in the air as he paused by the wreckage of the vehicles that the mysterious Sith had moved all too easily. It was as if the dark energy of the Force still pulsed around the wall of debris—as if the Sith had vanished, but left a pool of his darkness behind. As he looked past the outlines of Kenobi and the other Masters conferring on the landing platform, into the gray valley below, Skywalker concentrated hard to put a name to the new feeling he felt within. He recognized a beating heart—somewhere out there, reaching out, calling to him. It was something he knew he didn't want, but its pull was powerful, insistent, irresistible. Was it Omega? Anakin didn't think so, not this time. It didn't feel right—as before, when Anakin had sensed Omega's awareness of the Jedi as they left to pursue him from the planet Romin. This time it felt ... bigger, hidden—it was the Sith. He was calling out to Skywalker on the cold winds rising up from the Valley.
Knowing well—with just an hour of dusk left (for, according to Madame Nu, they didn't want to enter at night)—that it was simply too far to hike to the Valley of the Dark Lords, the Jedi urgently needed to get to their cruisers. Recognizing their long-sought prospect now to be imminent, Kenobi noted both the relief and trepidation on the other Padawans' faces: they all wanted to go, but they also feared it—all except Anakin. As Obi-Wan saw no fear on his Padawan's face, he wasn't sure how Anakin was feeling. But there was something going on ... underneath his Padawan's composed front. Kenobi understood that Korriban had unsettled them all, for even the Masters weren't eager to enter the Valley. They each felt strongly, however, that this was their only chance to at last find, expose, and end the hidden darkness that every Jedi felt was encroaching upon the galaxy.
Back at the Dreshdae landing platform, they rushed to their cruisers. Jumping into the cockpit, Anakin entered the coordinates Obi-Wan had given him for the Valley of the Dark Lords. Since it would scarcely be visible, they would need to find it through instruments, then survey the area before selecting a landing point. But in his pre-flight check, Anakin noticed all lights were green ... but the one for the portside fuel baffles hadn't cycled normally through the colors, from orange to yellow, first. He tapped on it—it was just a small thing, for the indicator was green now. When his Master asked if there was a problem, Anakin noticed something else: the pre-flight tool kit that was clamped to the bottom of the counter was rattling, which he would have noticed on the flight to Korriban, for it would have rattled during turbulence—someone had been aboard. When through the viewport Ry-Gaul gave him a thumbs-up from the other cruiser, Anakin shouted "No!" through the comm, "Don't start the engines!" Puzzled, Ry-Gaul nevertheless acknowledged the warning. When Obi-Wan asked again what the matter was, Anakin said he wasn't sure yet. But quickly disengaging the hatch and climbing down into the engine, he needed only a few seconds before he saw it and vaulted out of the engine bloc—they had to get out, and those in the other ship, too. "Evacuate! Now!" Kenobi ordered through the comm as Anakin hit the ramp control. As the Jedi poured from their ships, Anakin shouted for them all to take cover. Racing to the opposite side of the landing platform, they dived behind a cruiser as their two starships exploded in a fiery blast. Rising slowly from their cover, Anakin explained to the other Jedi what had happened, that when he'd looked at the engine, he saw that someone had rigged the main reactor to blow on ignition. Noticing also a small timer, he figured that, even if takeoff didn't take place, it was going to blow anyway. The Masters were grateful and commended Anakin for his skill, but they were running out of time. Grabbing his comlink, Obi-Wan was determined that Teluron Thacker was going to find his courage. Parrying Siri's doubts that Thacker would want to give them a hand, Kenobi told the other Jedi that Thacker didn't have to give them a hand—just a ship.
Thacker pulled up within minutes with a large company Koro-1 airspeeder for clients with a bright orange shell. Looking at the smoking hulks, he simply said, "I'm not going to ask." Clearly worried now, however, he told the Jedi that he wasn't supposed to lend the speeder out. Kenobi assured him that they would take good care of it, and thanked him, as Thacker stepped out of the speeder. On the other hand, it would be like driving a gooped-up gravsled, Anakin lamented, knocking on its decorative outside fins. Obi-Wan ordered his Padawan to drive, noting that it would fit them all and get them there. The speeder did have a couple of sniper blasters that might come in handy, Skywalker said with approval as he surveyed the instrument panel. But when Kenobi acknowledged Thacker's longtime friendship with the Jedi and told him they wouldn't forget this latest gesture, the Eeyyon native only swallowed and said he was sorry, as Anakin started the engines. When asked why, he said the speeder wasn't very fast, or agile—but Kenobi assured him it was fine. "I'm sorry!" Thacker yelled again as the Jedi took off. When Siri noted their "jumpy" informant's odd behavior, Darra replied that everyone was jumpy on Korriban—and could you blame them?
Having guided the airspeeder high above Dreshdae, Anakin estimated a ten-minute flight to the Valley and pushed the vehicle to maximum speed. But suddenly security cruisers were on their tail, and the comm unit crackled on the emergency channel with a Guild army patrol order for them to land their stolen vehicle. When Kenobi begged to differ, stating the speeder was owner-loaned, the patrol said its owner had reported it stolen and threatened laser-cannon firepower if they didn't comply within thirty seconds. The Jedi suddenly understood why Thacker was so jumpy—he'd betrayed them after someone who he was clearly more afraid of than the Jedi had "got to him." When Kenobi asked his Padawan if he could outrun the patrol, Anakin replied that he could if he had to, and took the speeder into a screeching dive. Struggling to keep up, the army speeders shot out with their cannons. Anakin found the sniper blasters were disabled, however, when he tried to respond in kind—the Jedi could only hope for canyon-cover as they sped for the academy. But if Anakin was to outrun the patrol, he realized, he was going to need greater speed. With Ry-Gaul taking over the controls, Anakin crawled past the other Jedi to the rear, let fly the canopy with a servodriver, and, with a fusion cutter Soara had handed him from the cabin toolkit, cut through the fastenings of the decorative port fins and kicked them off. He also made deep cuts in the bright plastoid shell and sent it sailing (the canopy, meanwhile, had smacked into the lead security speeder's viewport and sent it careening to the planet's surface). Crawling back to the controls, Anakin could now achieve maximum speed. To his pleasant surprise, the renowned Master-pilot Ry-Gaul relinquished the controls to him, obviously assessing Skywalker as better able to handle the evasive flying. Take that, Ferus!
Having trained on Podracers, the next bit of ground-hugging flying that was required of Anakin came naturally to him. Even as the mountains loomed ahead, he didn't slow down, but instead kept pushing the speed. As the airspeeder screamed down into the Valley, Skywalker looped around a peak and dived into a canyon dotted with boulders, whipping through it as if it were a racing course, with the three remaining security speeders on his tail. While he sensed all obstacles before they appeared, the speeder-pilots behind him did not, and so met their doom. Anakin allowed himself a moment to glance over at his Master, who had turned pale—a metamorphosis he always enjoyed watching. Anakin pushed straight for a tall canyon formation against Kenobi's rebuttal that their speeder didn't have, he believed, the kind of maneuverability to pull off the stunt—they'd soon find out for sure, was Skywalker's easy reply. At the last possible second, Anakin wrenched the controls, but instead of turning, he went straight up, causing the bottom of the speeder to skid, space-bound, along the formation: its screaming sound blocked out all other sound, including that of the engine. Smoke and flame rose up around them, which Obi-Wan noticed acutely, closing his eyes. Foolishly attempting the same maneuver, the security speeder behind them crashed head-on into the rock. Straightening out his craft, with all of the patrol vehicles now out of commission, Anakin gleefully noted that no one in the Jedi speeder said anything for a moment. In the nerve-splitting rush of vertical air, the fire on both wings had finally died out. Clearing his throat, Obi-Wan spoke at last: "And now, for the hard part."
Because the Sith Lord had been a step ahead of them since they'd arrived on Korriban and knew that the Jedi were coming, they understood they could not risk flying over the Valley of the Dark Lords. They therefore decided to arrive in a way he didn't expect: they would walk in. Having landed the now-battered speeder on a precarious rocky mountain ledge above the Valley, they had but a short distance to walk down the mountainside to reach it. Though Korriban's longer-than-average dusk was still holding, it was nevertheless dwindling, and so they hiked quickly, while still managing to conserve their energy for what lay ahead. The coming darkness was faintly tinged with red. The approach to the Valley of the Dark Lords led them through steep mountains that "crowded together like spiteful beasts," with cliffs pressing in from both sides; boulders would sometimes crash down suddenly without warning, sending them leaping for safety. As the Jedi entered the Valley proper, a dark wave hit them, causing them to slow to a stop—it fractured the Force they felt around them, tearing at it. The dark side of the Force was more concentrated than they'd expected it to be. The Sith tombs that inhabited the Valley were designed to amplify dark energy, and the Jedi could feel that physical presence press against their chests, instinctively making them reach for their lightsaber hilts. The dark-side energy made the red-tinged clouds of the perpetually overcast sky seem to roll past with an unnatural velocity, and the air carried by face-whipping winds to taste rank and spoiled.
Obi-Wan Kenobi felt the need to somehow bolster the spirits of his fellow Jedi—some phrase he would say to inspire, make them feel less marooned in this land of gloom and shadows. Ry-Gaul spoke what Kenobi would have: "May the Force be with us ..." And, of course, it was that phrase that renewed them—the one they'd spoken so many times to each other and to their Padawans: words that were more than words, that lived in their dreams. From the Valley entrance could be seen a narrow corridor lined with razor-sharp rock cliffs whose protruding patterns threw shadows upon ranks of Sith mausoleums. But surely, they couldn't just walk in—Obi-Wan knew there had to be a trap. As if on cue, Madame Nu's warning of the Valley's legendary guard in service to the Sith proved correct: for the entrance was guarded by vicious triple-horned tuk'ata beasts. Gigantic in stature, ten of them slowly rose on their four powerful limbs lightning fast in action) that ended in six-inch claws, stretching their long necks and sniffing the air. Yellow eyes flashed as their ear-splitting cries leaped from mouths lined with triple rows of teeth that dripped with blood-tinged saliva. But the Force was indeed with each member of Kenobi's Jedi coalition team, for they managed to battle their way past and through each of the fabled Sith sentinels of terror. Their pairs of whipping, wing-like poisonous stingers nearly caused, on more than one occasion, a Jedi fatality, including that of Anakin Skywalker, who wanted to be the first to bring one of the beasts down. "So much for legends," the 18-year-old Padawan muttered, when it was all over.
The Jedi could now proceed down the mausoleum-lined Valley. Hewn from great mountain slabs, battered by the elements and polished by slaves over hundreds of years, the columned and turret-bearing mausoleums were high and wide: mammoth statues posed outside the tomb chambers, as if guarding them. Ancient statues of horrible creatures were also perched on the cliff summits, to ward off any who dared to walk beneath them, for it was a valley designed to strike fear into every heart. As the Jedi advanced down the Valley corridor, the dark energies of the dead Sith Lords, having awoken to such a Force-sensitive presence, poured from the mausoleums—their evil voices whispering low, in tones guttural and insistent—and the Jedi could taste their anger, cruelty, and pain. But as the Jedi seemed undeterred, continuing determinedly to press forward, the whispers increased in their volume and intensity, with the Dark Lords casting their random-worded hisses of hate upon them: "Trespass don't we power Sith darkness command merciless ... Join us darkness conquer dominance glory ... You are blind and you are fools and understand nothing ..."
Obi-Wan Kenobi reached out with the Force and detected the mausoleum that Omega and Zan Arbor had gone into for their secret meeting with the Sith Lord. Anakin knew the Sith Lord was there, somewhere in the vast tomb-space—waiting, watching—but Omega, he could sense, didn't interest him: the Jedi did. Upon entering the mausoleum, the Jedi gazed upon the individual tombs which ran along the wall—each guarded by a pair of stone tuk'ata beasts, with fangs bared and claws raised. Glancing upward, life-sized carved stone figures representing the dead Sith Lords could be seen astride the tombs. Because the tombs themselves were decayed and crumbling, the bodies within were sometimes visible, wrapped in shrouds. Pictographs of Sith deeds—massacres, wars—were scrawled in some kind of red substance upon the walls. Sufficiently now disturbed, the Sith Lords, rising up from their crumbling tombs, approached the Jedi, their layers of shroud-rags falling away, their mouths gaping, their hands grasping, their wicked, whispering words taunting the intruders. When Anakin glanced over and saw Tru battling an animated stone creature as he gripped his lightsaber tightly, he remembered he'd forgotten to tell him to check the readout for the flux aperture! He'd walked away, angry and hurt, and he simply couldn't make sense of why he hadn't remembered. Had he wanted to forget? He'd, of course, get them both in trouble if he did anything now. But then, just like the way he did everything else, Ferus probably had fixed it perfectly, anyway.
Corpse visions attacked the Jedi's minds, including Anakin, who saw his mother, Shmi, approach and call out his childhood name, Annie! (It is the Jedi who keep you from her, the Jedi who took you away!)... Suddenly, his Master's voice—Anakin! It's a vision, nothing more—helped him wrench himself away. Embarrassed before his fellow Jedi, he caught Ferus' look of pity, and his hatred for Olin flooded Skywalker's heart again; his anger felt natural within him—it gave him strength. Eventually, the specters, because the intruders were sufficiently Force-protected, merely disintegrated onto the Jedi with foul smells and tastes (a far better fate than the unhappy lot of unknown numbers who were not so protected through the years, who were never thereafter heard of again among friends and associates, inclusive of enemies). The dark side of the Force felt as thick as a curtain, however, and slowed the Jedi's movement, as if it were a literal presence. Additionally, they soon encountered dark energy traps, concentrations of dark-side power that appeared as faint shimmers of purple in the air: these, of course (no doubt laid by the Sith Lord), could immobilize a Force-sensitive being for a time, but the Jedi were able to stay clear of them with Kenobi's advance warning.
- "Obi-Wan ... Did you really think you could avoid a few traps and catch me?"
"Get back here, you fool—Why must you always talk to him?"
"Because I'm enjoying myself ... I have, let's see—one, two, four, eight Jedi, all sent to capture little old me!"
"Are you forgetting I'm here, too? Typical. I was a Jedi enemy before you were born, Granta."
"My father was their enemy before me."
"This isn't a contest. I'm going on. Sith or no Sith, I can't wait to get off this planet. Come along. He's waiting for us. Come on. He'll take care of the Jedi—he promised us that. He's about to give us everything we worked for. Resources. Secrets of the galaxy. Wealth. An army of our own, Granta!"
"I can take care of this ... With his help."
"Can I remind you of something? You are not a Sith!"
- ―Granta Omega and Jenna Zan Arbor survey their Jedi pursuers in an ancient mausoleum in the Valley of the Dark Lords, while en route to meet with the hidden Sith (Darth Tyranus)
But suddenly, Omega appeared from behind a tomb, arrogant, cruel, sure of himself, laughing in vengeful derision. Appearing utterly at home in the terrible tomb, his handsome face was creased by a broad smile. Zan Arbor was there, too, in the shadows: she appeared as well-kept as ever, dressed in her blue shimmersilk, with her blond hair piled upon her head in a profusion of neat braids. Finally. Here, in the Valley of the Dark Lords, the Jedi at last would deal with these long-sought criminals, after having spent years tracking them down unsuccessfully (for both Omega and Zan Arbor had somehow always managed, at the last moment, to escape the Jedi's reach).
Omega boasted of his father, Xanatos—the arch-enemy of the Jedi before him, who had tried to destroy Obi-Wan's Master, Qui-Gon. Like father, like son. For both maintained the same arrogance and cruelty, both lusted for domination and power and nurtured the same vengeful desire to hurt the Jedi, to make them pay for everything they lacked themselves. And, as such, neither held any respect for the ancient Jedi values of truth and honor. Those things meant nothing to them. When Omega refused to, go, with Zan Arbor, who wished to get to their meeting with the Sith Lord, ignoring her in spite of her impatient demands and reminders of all the rewards the Sith had promised them, Anakin somehow knew that this moment would bring his downfall. Omega's imminent rewards meant nothing in the face of his personal revenge. Instead, the son of Xanatos boasted anew that he'd surprised Kenobi every step of the way without even knowing the secrets of the dark side! Could the Jedi even imagine what Omega was capable of now, in this place, where the very walls were Kenobi's enemy?
But Obi-Wan held Granta's gaze, with no desire to speak, though without anger. He simply wouldn't respond to Omega's taunts—but rather held fast to his grim commitment to finish this unsavory but necessary task. It was time to rid the galaxy of this heinous scourge. Indeed, there was no way Omega was leaving the tombs of the Sith unless Kenobi led him out. Realizing now that Kenobi wasn't about to give way or afford him the slightest satisfaction or pleasure, Omega gave a theatrical sigh and raised up his hand to reveal a KYD-21 blaster—fast, compact, precise.
The black-clad Void had to admit that it was inconvenient that the Jedi found him there, but, at the same time, it seemed such a delicious end for the meddlesome Jedi. For Omega was now invincible, he said, fighting with the power of the Sith at his back—which meant that he could watch Kenobi die, him and his Padawan. He could hardly wait. Did Kenobi wish to follow him to their secret meeting place with the Sith ... or was he too afraid to at last meet his final defeat? But Granta Omega's finger had scarcely begun to tense before Obi-Wan exploded in movement. Omega's blaster bolts came fast and furious, as Kenobi masterfully deflected each one—his lightsaber a blur of skill, classic technique and maneuver, as he swung it powerfully in a wide arc.
A horrid stench suddenly rolled out from behind the smiling villain—he clearly knew what was coming. For it was only after having to first battle through an undead-platoon of Korriban zombies (released by the Sith Lord in the wings, to stall them and guard Omega) that the Jedi Masters, who had all rushed to Kenobi's aid, broke through to advance on the criminals. But Omega and Zan Arbor had slipped away into the darkness around the back of the tombs and appeared again from behind—as did the Sith Lord, who stood waiting for them at the tombs' entrance: the three villains were about to escape through the mausoleum's front door.
Just then, as the Padawans were banishing the last of the zombies, Veld's weapon began to flicker and fail. Anakin watched the buzzing power-drain in horror. Exchanging a glance, Ferus and Tru simultaneously flipped their lightsabers through the air, swapping each other's weapons. As Tru went after the last of the undead, Ferus, knowing the peril presented now by Veld's half-powered lightsaber, dropped to a backup position. But now Omega unexpectedly came at them from behind, leaving Ferus open to attack with the faulty saber. As he attempted to block Omega's blaster bolt with Veld's flickering weapon, it finally failed altogether, and Omega's KYD-21 blaster bolt shot past Ferus, striking down Padawan Thel-Tanis, who was just then leaping into the fray to protect Olin. Anakin saw a smile cross the face of the self-satisfied Force Blank before he shot Darra in the chest.
As Soara cried out, Anakin felt the moment spin out into impossible time—time that froze everything, even his heart. Taking advantage of the distraction, Zan Arbor dashed for the entrance, shielded by the blue Force-lightning barrier of the Sith Lord, whose aspect remained hidden in the shadows. Anakin witnessed, as if time stood still, the heart-rending reaction of his friends: he saw Tru's mouth open in a howl of anguish and disbelief; saw Ferus drop to his knees and crawl toward Darra, taking a blaster bolt in the shoulder as he kept going; saw Siri leap forward to defend them all; saw Darra's head turn toward him, her cheek against the dirt, the cloudy film in her eyes, her grieving Master at her side. Anakin saw, even in her shock of catching the blow, Darra's gathering of courage to accept it. As Omega suddenly reversed course again, fleeing toward the stench of the mausoleum's bowels (instead of through the front door), an anguished Obi-Wan Kenobi turned from the Jedi and followed after him. As for Anakin, real time came rushing back, but there was not enough of it, and he, too, turned away from his fallen friend to race after his Master.
Guarded by concourses of zombies, Omega was standing firm—refusing to give up this chance to avenge himself of what he erroneously perceived to be his father Xanatos' death at the hands of the Jedi. Deep within the Sith mausoleum, Anakin witnessed his Master now break through the ranks of the undead and battle Omega with incredible speed and accuracy—utterly enveloped by the Force, which, in Anakin's eyes, became a great pulsating wave of power that barreled Kenobi toward his opponent. Unfortunately, Anakin witnessed the battle (and only a part of it, as his Master soon disappeared again into the darkness in renewed pursuit of Omega) from a dark energy trap, into which he'd just blundered. His attempts to call out to his Master were silenced by the energy trap itself, which sucked his voice out of the air and imprisoned it. His own visions of what had just happened to his dear friend got in the way of his accessing the Force to free himself. He saw again in his mind Darra's shocked face pressed against the tomb dust. It reminded him of how she'd looked on Haariden, when she was wounded in battle. He had felt her wounding then was his fault. Unsure of her abilities, sure of his own, he'd leaped to protect her, but collided with her instead. Thinking himself the better fighter, he'd pushed her into blaster fire. But she never had blamed him for what happened. In Anakin's mind, the image flashed again of her face, so pale—the bright, colorful ribbon she wove through her braid trailing in the dust of the tomb. Anakin involuntarily choked, as the knowledge that she was again badly wounded settled into his mind. Frozen by his inimical feelings toward Ferus, he had not gone to help him, but Darra had. For reasons he still didn't fully understand, he failed also to check Tru's lightsaber, and now Darra was lying on the ground again—because of him. What was happening to him? Why hadn't he helped his friends? Had he somehow changed? ... or was he changing now? ... But, if so ... What was he becoming?
Years had passed since Anakin had gone to see Darra during her med-clinic recovery, filled with remorse for what had happened. She'd shaken him out of his guilt with a grin, with her never-ending good humor: "Now I have something to impress the younglings with. I've been wounded in battle." She had always been so strong, but now Anakin was reminded of her fragility, too. He remembered her hand on the coverlet, how her fingers had so briefly touched his sleeve: "Stay with me until I fall asleep. It's lonely here."
Having pushed Omega yet deeper into the dark of the Sith mausoleum, Kenobi suddenly heard a hiss, and felt the dark side surge, scarcely having time to prepare, when an intense flash lit up the darkness. It was that infamous secret weapon of trench warfare, a lumablast sent by a rocket, which full-out blinded him—but only temporarily. With the help of the Force, he guided himself alongside a tomb and crouched behind it. Then he heard fire so rapid that he realized Omega had set up a repeating blaster—one of the most powerful ever manufactured, he could tell from its sound. The E-Web heavy repeating blaster had enough firepower to punch through a cruiser's armor plating. Mounted on a tripod, it usually required two gunners, but, if extremely skilled, one could handle it. Obi-Wan had to keep moving because the stone tombs were shattering all around him. Keeping his body low to the ground, he tracked Omega's blaster fire through the Force. Over several minutes Obi-Wan kept up a constant movement behind cover while his eyesight slowly returned.
Rising up at last (feeling close to recovery), Kenobi now faced in a final showdown his longtime nemesis. Wildly parrying E-Web blaster fire and wrist rockets, Kenobi drove through the distraction to achieve his somber aim. In the split second he gave himself to rest from the barrage of fire, Obi-Wan realized that within him blazed the memory of this crazed, desperate being who, clad now in an armor-weave tunic, lashed out before him—the memory of his every battle with Xanatos' son. Omega had, from the beginning, sought to humiliate, confound, and destroy Obi-Wan Kenobi. It was by attacking the Jedi again and again that Omega had set out to impress the Sith, and always—at the last possible moment—he had been able to escape. His murderous conquests were indeed impressive. Beyond the many galactic Senators, their advisors and aides, and several Republic guards, he'd even managed to machinate the death of a Jedi High Council member: Yaddle had sacrificed her life for this man's greed and revenge. This was why it all had to end here and now.
To give him the few precious minutes he needed to fully regain his vision, Obi-Wan asked Omega how it was that he'd ended up back in the tombs' bowels if he indeed had the help of the Sith. And could he honestly feel the Sith? Kenobi, himself a Jedi Master, certainly couldn't—and he was the one who could feel the Force, not Omega. But at that unwelcome observation the Force Blank snarled, calling Kenobi an arrogant fool, for he, Granta Omega, was to be a Sith—the Sith Lord had told him so. "And you believed him," Obi-Wan questioned. "Flattery will get him everywhere, it seems." The Sith wasn't flattering him, Omega insisted, but was instead allowing him, as "a Sith without the Force," to use the Dark Lord's power. Kenobi observed that it seemed to him, rather, that the Sith was using Omega. When the galactic criminal cried out that the Sith would not abandon him, Kenobi, his vision now perfect, responded: "You'd better hope so." Igniting his saber, the Jedi Master deflected Omega's fast and furious fire—he certainly could use, he realized, his Padawan's help right now. But in the midst of that thought, the kind, companionate voice of Qui-Gon Jinn stilled and strengthened him: You have everything you need, my Padawan. The voice inside him was real and true.
Gripping obdurately the hammering tripod blaster, Omega—screaming incoherently over the sound of gunfire—was intent in the full fury of his lust to take Obi-Wan down. Even so, the villain (though his blue gaze was burning with hate) was now tiring, and because he was not aware of his own weapon's potential defects, as Obi-Wan surely was, he was utterly unprepared for the grim consequences of such ignorance: that the weapon, overburdened, could turn against itself by overloading, shutting down, and back-blasting—which it did. The resultant explosion slammed Omega into a tomb wall, breaking his body. "You..." was all that managed to escape his lips before Kenobi heard his Padawan run up from behind him. When Anakin explained his delay, his Master was impressed that he had managed to remove himself from the energy trap on his own. But as they were about to return to the others, a gathering roar rose up from behind them.
The ever-resilient arch-villain, refusing yet to surrender to death, lurched forward one last time with blaster fire, swearing to Obi-Wan that because the Jedi had killed his father, Kenobi would not win. Resigned to what Fate now laid before him (for no matter how much he'd wished to stop Omega, he'd never wished to kill him), Obi-Wan was compelled to strike the killing blow (Fate had taken away his choices). Granta Omega's last words—as he curled up like a child and let go of life, though still holding to his hatred and rage for the Jedi: "Do you think you won? You didn't.... I know...who he is. You will wish...you did"—intimated strongly that the Sith, whose identity Omega professed to know (perhaps even of the Sith's own dark Master), was more perilous than Kenobi could ever possibly imagine. A strange smile of curious satisfaction still crossed his lips as Granta Omega's life-force rushed from him. The dark side of the Force retreated: the Sith Lord would not be found, for he had withdrawn both his presence and his protection.
As Master and Padawan returned to their friends, the scene that met them was heart-wrenching. In her arms, Soara cradled her apprentice, whom Tru had wrapped in his cloak. Head in hands, Ferus sat on the cold ground, and did not look up. Ry-Gaul and Siri flanked the group, guarding them, as it were, from harm. But harm had come already, and done its work: Darra was dead. Kneeling before her, Obi-Wan noted her eyes were closed, her face composed and impossibly calm. Anakin watched Darra's Master gently unravel the Padawan's braid, plucking the bright ribbon from her hair to hold it in her fist. Tears streaked down her face. And Skywalker started—for Soara Antana, fabled warrior, was actually in tears. The moment was surreal. He heard then Darra's voice rise like a cry inside him: Stay with me until I fall asleep. It's lonely here.
- "Anakin ... I think you should be the first to know. I have resigned from the Jedi Order."
"What?! But why?"
"Because I was responsible for Darra's death."
"That's not true! You couldn't have known—"
"But I did. I knew Tru's lightsaber had malfunctioned. I offered to fix it secretly. I did not tell his Master or urge him to do so. His lightsaber failed in battle, and Darra was killed trying to protect me."
"But you thought you'd fixed it!"
"You knew? ... You knew Tru's lightsaber had broken? You must have seen me fixing it."
"I didn't say that."
"No. You didn't. But there are only the two of us here, Anakin. You don't have to lie."
- ―Ferus Olin and Anakin Skywalker
Obi-Wan Kenobi was strangely numb and utterly weary as he made his way through the Temple to the Jedi High Council Chamber. The Great Hall seemed to be more vast, and his legs more heavy, than he could ever remember them being. Rumors circled throughout the Temple about Tru's faulty lightsaber, Ferus' secret fix, and that neither Padawan had told his Master. Directly following Kenobi's meeting with the Jedi Council, both Tru (who had been censured) and Ferus (who was in seclusion) would face the full Council. Unquestionably, the mission to Korriban had, in the Council's eyes, partially succeeded. Though Jenna Zan Arbor and the hidden Sith Lord had escaped, the Jedi Order had caught and dealt with Granta Omega. And stripped of any connection to Omega's wealth, Zan Arbor would not find it easy to hide. The High Council did not fault the Jedi for failing to uncover the Sith's identity, for they had yet made small advances by getting near him, by uncovering one of the planets that sheltered him. But instead of feeling any modicum of satisfaction for what was achieved, Kenobi found himself pondering certain things that he'd not thought of since his Master's death. Was the loss of Darra's life worth what they had obtained? Could he have done something more, beyond what he did?
Once, Darra's death would have been an unfortunate aberration. Why did he feel, then, that it was a portent? Obi-Wan could only feel more death approaching. He remembered how Xanatos' death had haunted Qui-Gon. He had not wanted the same fate, but now he found himself having to shake off, time and again, the memory of Omega curling up like a child as death claimed him. What might Granta Omega have been, had his obsession not gripped him? Finding weakness, the Sith Lord had exploited it; taking a flaw, he'd twisted it into a weapon. Whoever the Sith was, he had goaded Omega, used him, and abandoned him. How were the Jedi to fight such a cold, merciless monster?
The Temple Map Room was a place where Anakin Skywalker liked to meditate. And over the last few days Anakin had retreated to it. Though he didn't know exactly how, Obi-Wan felt that Anakin, though perhaps not directly, had been involved in some way in what had happened to Darra. But of course his Padawan would have told him, and Kenobi hated himself for having the feeling. He tried to clear his mind just before entering the Council Chamber doors. Some days it was difficult meeting so many Jedi gifted in Force-sensitivity at once—especially, as was the case that day, when the full Council was assembled. They acknowledged Obi-Wan as he took his place at the center of the room, where he'd stood on so many occasions before.
Grand Master Yoda and the other Masters recognized the death of Darra Thel-Tanis as a sad conclusion to the Korriban mission, and—though they grieved, recognizing that she had joined the Force—they would celebrate her life, they said. They remained "uneasy" with the conduct of Padawans Olin and Veld, however. And because of that, Master Adi Gallia announced, they had reconsidered their decision to speed up the trials of Jedi Knighthood for chosen Padawans. While the galaxy yet had great need of additional Jedi, Master Oppo Rancisis said, they simply could not rush readiness, as they now could clearly see. "Our mistake, it was," Yoda said, and this caliber of mistake in the perilous times in which they lived they could not afford. Even so, Master Windu told Obi-Wan that they would commend his Padawan for his bravery. To face a Sith, after all, was the hardest task for a Jedi, and Anakin showed ingenuity and bravery throughout the mission. The ever-perceptive Master Yoda, of course, peering at Obi-Wan, could sense that something troubled him, and asked Kenobi if he had something to share with them. There were, of course, many things—doubts, fears, sorrows—that vexed Obi-Wan's spirit, but it was not the time or the place to disclose such, and he hesitated: "No, Master Yoda," he said. But Yoda recognized, notwithstanding Kenobi's silence, that Obi-Wan's Padawan would be disappointed to hear that the Jedi Council had cancelled its plans to accelerate Knighthood. Obi-Wan conceded that his apprentice would indeed be crestfallen, saying that Anakin was "not good at waiting." Nodding, Yoda said, Then wait, he should. Excusing Obi-Wan from the council, Master Windu asked him to send in Ferus Olin. Kenobi bowed and retreated from the room.
Ferus stood up when Obi-Wan exited the High Council Chamber and told him that the Council was ready for him. Olin's face met Kenobi's eyes with such misery and heartbreak in it that Obi-Wan was deeply moved. He told Ferus that he was not there to be punished, least of all by himself. Ferus responded that he must go on living, and that that was his punishment. After Olin had gone in, and Kenobi had left the reception area outside the Council room, Anakin slipped inside from an alcove. He'd not yet felt ready to talk with his Master, and so had avoided the interaction, but he had to find out what was going on with Ferus, to whom he felt a strange attachment now, of all times. He yet grieved for Darra, couldn't grasp her death, couldn't believe it wasn't possible to see her again, to hear her laughter and her voice. If the Force was so powerful, why couldn't it stop death? Why couldn't he break through that wall and see his friend again?
Hearing a rustle behind him, Anakin turned to see Tru backing out of the exterior chamber. "Tru!" he called out, and Veld, reluctantly, edged back in a few steps. Anakin asked him if he knew anything, and he merely shook his head, not quite meeting Skywalker's gaze. When Anakin expressed how sorry he was about his friend's censure, Tru said that he himself felt he deserved it. Skywalker couldn't help himself in asking the question, for it burned on his tongue, of why Tru had gone to Ferus instead of him to fix his lightsaber? Anakin would have done a better job. But Tru hadn't gone to Ferus, he said—Ferus came to him. Olin had noticed that Veld's lightsaber was at half-power near the end of the Sith Academy battle. Tru wouldn't have gone to Anakin, anyway, because he wouldn't have wanted to get his friend in trouble: he knew that Anakin would have kept his secret ... just like Ferus did. Tru acknowledged that he was wrong not to have told his Master, but also wrong to have allowed Olin to stay silent. Anakin, in his friend's defense, told Tru that he was only thinking of the mission. But they were all wrong, Veld continued, as if he'd not even registered what Skywalker had said. In defense of them all, then, Anakin said that they'd done their best, and that Omega was dead. But so was Darra, Tru said coldly, as he turned and walked out.
Starting after him—for something was wrong, or had changed, between them, and he didn't know why—Anakin stopped when the Council Chamber doors opened. Ferus exited, then almost walked by Anakin, not seeing him, blinded as he was by his feelings. Ferus, hearing Anakin call his name, turned. He then disclosed to Skywalker (saying that he thought Anakin should be the first to know) that he had resigned from the Jedi Order because of the responsibility he felt for Darra's death. Shocked at this news, Anakin told Ferus that he wasn't responsible, that there was no way he could have known. Interrupting Skywalker, Ferus claimed, on the contrary, that he did know—knew that Veld's weapon had malfunctioned. He'd offered to fix the lightsaber secretly and didn't tell Tru's Master or urge him to do so. The lightsaber failed in battle, and Darra was killed trying to protect him, Ferus said. "But you thought you'd fixed it!" Skywalker blurted out. The words, of course, hung in the air—made Olin stop and gaze at Skywalker for a long moment. Anakin knew? Ferus asked. If Skywalker knew Veld's lightsaber had broken, then he must have seen Ferus fixing it. "I didn't say that," Anakin said quickly. No, you didn't, Ferus admitted, but there were only the two of them there, and Skywalker didn't have to lie. Anakin was immediately aware that Ferus Olin, as usual, was trying to trap him and show him how much nobler he was.
Olin further explained that, when the Jedi had returned from Korriban, he'd taken Tru's lightsaber to the Jedi Master Tolan Hing, the Temple's resident expert on the workings of the lightsaber. Hing told Ferus that the fusing between the flux aperture and the power cell needed a slight adjustment—nothing major. And Tru might never have noticed, except that in battle, the power drained faster than normal. Uncomfortable now, Anakin said he didn't know why Ferus was telling him all this ... But behind him Tru's voice rang out: "Because you fixed the flux aperture"—and Anakin would have known, Tru said, that it needed to be rechecked after the power-cell boost. Turning, Anakin accused Veld of not coming to him to have his lightsaber fixed! Shaking his head in dismay, Tru told Skywalker he thought the comment a bit odd—for shouldn't Anakin have said that he didn't know it was broken? They both were trying to trap him, Skywalker said angrily, looking at Ferus. And as Anakin then tried to backtrack, telling Tru that he'd never do anything deliberately to put him in harm's way, Veld's face hardened and his silver eyes took on a sheen that Anakin had never seen before—icy, as if Anakin could slip off his gaze. Tru had wondered at the moment the saber failed, he told Skywalker, if, in fact, Anakin knew then, for he saw how Anakin froze in the tomb. "But not my friend," Tru had reassured himself, his friend wouldn't do that. But then Tru had remembered how Anakin genuinely felt about Olin and how angry he had been: Skywalker would have wanted Olin to get in trouble, even if that meant exposing Veld. "That's not fair!" Anakin protested. Tru went on, by saying that he'd then suddenly realized that, yes, Anakin could have done that.
But even as he tried to assure the two Padawans that they were looking at the situation all wrong, in his own mind he still didn't know how he could explain it. He certainly couldn't admit that he knew Tru's lightsaber was broken, simply because he couldn't even explain to himself why he'd forgotten to tell Tru to readjust it—he still didn't know how he'd forgotten something so crucial, but Tru would think he'd deliberately forgotten it. Nothing he could say could convince them otherwise, because he himself did not know. Tru, on the other hand, didn't believe that he was looking at the situation "all wrong," but told Anakin that he believed he was, instead, seeing Skywalker as he truly was for the first time. Speechless, Anakin could only swallow: he truly didn't know what to say to Tru. This wasn't the friend of his childhood, but, suddenly, a personality entirely unfamiliar to him. Tru then turned to Ferus and told him he'd see him outside, and walked out. Turning savagely on Ferus, Skywalker asked him if he could see what he'd done. Yes, Olin definitely saw all that he'd done, Ferus said, but could Skywalker? he asked. Shaking his head, Ferus told Anakin that he was afraid for him, that Skywalker thought that simply admitting that he was wrong opened him up to attack. Anakin countered that it wasn't true—and that Olin should save his fears for himself. This last comment by Skywalker caused a spasm of pain to cross Ferus' face. Suddenly Anakin realized that he couldn't imagine how awful it must feel, to give up the Jedi Order. It would be like giving up everything that he himself lived for. Olin offered, in one last quiet gesture before walking away: "If the Jedi ever need me, I will be there ... That includes you, Anakin."
Ferus got the last word, Anakin thought angrily, as he watched Olin exit. And not only that, it was a kind word—the noble Padawan to the last, Anakin thought. But not a Padawan any longer. That satisfaction curdled to frustration, however: for Anakin felt that he'd somehow been beaten, and he didn't know why. He felt like he did in the mausoleum's energy trap—helpless—and he had never wanted to feel that way again. Yet he was trapped in his envy, in his anger, just as surely. Anakin realized that he would still remember this feeling, even if Ferus left the Temple forever. But, no. Skywalker was sure the feeling would fade. He would make it fade by pushing it down with his memories of Shmi. And now that Olin was gone, Skywalker could fulfill the promise of his destiny: He would bring balance to the Force. Tru was angry at Anakin, but Veld had never truly understood the burden that Skywalker carried. Perhaps Tru had never understood him at all. Maybe no one did, except for his Master. Surely Tru would come around. Walking out of the reception area, Anakin saw Ferus join Tru at the far end of the hallway—they seemed impossibly distant, as if he was watching them through the wrong end of electrobinoculars. Veld, sensing Skywalker's presence, looked back over his shoulder to him—and then it hit Anakin, like a lung-withering punch: Tru would never come around. Anakin had lost his friend forever, and he could only stand still as he watched his former comrades walk away.
Suddenly, Anakin's Master stood at his side; he'd been searching for him. "Was something wrong?" he asked his apprentice. When Anakin told him that Ferus had just resigned from the Jedi Order, Kenobi let out a dispirited sigh, for he had been afraid that Ferus might do something like that. Ferus had felt Darra's death so very strongly, he said. A lost look enveloped Obi-Wan's face as he gazed down the empty hallway: "The legacy of this mission is pain," he finally said. But Skywalker wanted to rip from his Master's face its faraway look: he didn't want Obi-Wan to feel so deeply about what had happened to Ferus. And so, his mind rushed to rephrase Kenobi's statement: "The legacy of this mission is that a great enemy has been defeated. I saw you strike him down." But the comment only earned Anakin a rebuke from his Master, who told him sternly that Omega's defeat wasn't an act that should bring a Jedi satisfaction, for Kenobi had actually taken a life. In his Master's defense, Skywalker said that it was done as a last resort, to rid the galaxy of a great evil, and was therefore necessary and right. Necessary, yes, Obi-Wan agreed. But right? That was not a word to throw around lightly, he said. The Jedi, after all, could not say what is right. They could only do their best. But Obi-Wan's gaze warmed ... "As you do, my young Padawan. You never give less than your best. I'm proud of the Jedi you have become." Because Obi-Wan Kenobi so rarely spoke this way, Anakin was moved. And he genuinely thanked his Master.
After gazing a long moment at his apprentice, Kenobi gently disclosed that the Jedi Council had canceled their plans to speed up the trials for Padawans—that Anakin's Knighthood would have to wait a bit longer. Skywalker absorbed the news. But Obi-Wan affirmed that when the time was right, Anakin would take the trials, and had no doubt that he would astonish them all. Until then, they would continue to work together as Master and apprentice. There still was so much left to be done, and Obi-Wan was grateful to have Anakin by his side for a little longer. Pausing, Obi-Wan asked if Anakin was all right ... He was all right, Anakin suddenly realized. The weakness he'd felt in his knees when he saw his best friend walk away had vanished. Indeed, the mission to Korriban had, in a strange way, strengthened him. He possessed a stronger conviction now, had a harder edge to fight with. Though everything had fallen away from him—his childhood, his friends, his wish to impress the Jedi Council—Anakin knew that he would never be helpless again and would only grow stronger. He had actually battled a Sith Lord and had seen true power. And, though not yet—someday, soon—he would be able to match and effectively fight that power.
Anakin had spurned all change as a boy, had wanted to keep those he loved close to him forever. But change had come anyway, affecting everything—hopelessly separated now from his mother, he'd also lost Darra, Tru, and Qui-Gon. And because he knew that he simply couldn't fight against these kinds of losses in the future, he would have to push them so far down that they didn't matter anymore. One day, he would inevitably face his worst loss—the loss of his Master. He would, in fact, lose him by surpassing him. The student will have outstripped the teacher, and Anakin's heart, feeling on that day the weight of impossible sorrow, would break for the last time. It would be a sorrow that he would not be able to bear ...
... Unless he no longer had a heart.
Behind the scenes
In 24 BBY, the Commerce Guild opened an office on the tax-free world of Korriban. Guild members deserving punishment were sent there. The Guild, however, motivated other corporations to join them by opening new offices of their own in the Korriban spaceport of Dreshdae. But by 23 BBY, local Guild executives were being robbed in their hotels with alarming frequency by black market thieves, as a Jedi coalition team learned from their Korriban informant, Teluron Thacker. Using rampant local crime against Guild workers as an excuse, therefore, but in violation of Republic law, the Guild sent a droid army (including dwarf and homing spider droids) to Korriban. This pre-Clone Wars state of affairs in the galaxy's "cradle of darkness" provided the setting for what was likely the beginning of the corroborative relationship of Guild Presidente Shu Mai and Count Dooku. For, in addition to the spider droids, the illegal new super battle droids were employed by Dooku's alter ego Darth Tyranus in fending off Jedi intrusion into the Great Temple's long-abandoned Sith Academy. There, the Jedi Master-turned-Sith Lord had set up a base for rendezvousing with Omega and Zan Arbor, to establish an "alliance" with them, which, in actuality, was but a cover to exploit their uses for his recently established Confederacy of Independent Systems—the Sith-backed prelude to galactic civil war.
- Jedi Quest: The Final Showdown (First appearance)
- SkyeWalkers: A Clone Wars Story (Mentioned only)
- The Last of the Jedi: The Desperate Mission (Mentioned only)
- "Ghosts of the Sith" – Star Wars Insider 88 (Mentioned only)
- The Last of the Jedi: Underworld (Mentioned only)
- The Last of the Jedi: Against the Empire (Mentioned only)
- The Last of the Jedi: Reckoning (Indirect mention only)
Notes and references
- The Essential Reader's Companion
- The Last of the Jedi: The Desperate Mission
- The New Essential Chronology
- Jedi Quest: The Final Showdown
- Jedi Quest: The False Peace
- Jedi Quest: The Dangerous Games
- Jedi Quest: The Master of Disguise
- Jedi Quest: The Shadow Trap
- Granta Omega, a Force Blank—who was not Force-sensitive, but whose father, Xanatos, was a notorious Dark Jedi—sought desperately in his lust for power to get the attention of the re-emergent Sith by first, seeking to kill a Jedi Master (Kenobi, at which he failed), then a Jedi High Council member (Yaddle, at which he succeeded), and, finally, the Supreme Chancellor and the Galactic Senate (at which he only partially succeeded with 46 casualties). Omega sought successively to outdo his last murderous objective in both its status and galactic impact. For her part, the deranged scientist Jenna Zan Arbor, with her plague-spawning viruses and life-killing drugs, was responsible already for the deaths of thousands across the galaxy.
- Skywalker had been required only a year before, while on a mission to Romin, to wear a synthflesh mask, to disguise himself from Jenna Zan Arbor, who had earlier, in 25 BBY, privately interrogated him in her Zone of Self-Containment drug-testing facility within a Vanqor prison.
- Jedi Quest: The Changing of the Guard
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
- Jedi Quest: The Trail of the Jedi
- Jedi Quest: The Moment of Truth
- Jedi Apprentice: The Day of Reckoning
- Jedi Apprentice Special Edition: Deceptions
- Jedi Apprentice: The Shattered Peace
- Jedi Apprentice: The Death of Hope
- Jedi Quest: Path to Truth