CHILDHOOD: Growing Pains

by Bernadette Crumb and Ginna Wilcoxen

It took almost an hour to get to the clearing that Jerella and Rob often 
used for meditation.  It was a nearly perfect circle with a creek running 
through it, and a rough semi-circle of large weathered stones ranging from 
knee high to shoulder high on one side of the creek.  One could get there 
in minutes by speeder, but Jerella had never taken a speeder there.  The 
place just seemed too peaceful for noisy equipment to fit.

Octavia was quiet during the hike, almost brooding.  Jerella respected her 
silence and just led the way down the narrow trail to where it opened up 
into the clearing.  They paused at the edge of the trees, taking in the 
serenity and beauty of the place briefly, before moving into the open 
space. The only sound besides that of their movements through the thigh 
high grass was the bubble of the creek and, perhaps, a light breeze through 
the trees around the clearing.

Octavia took a deep breath of the moist, green-smelling air, and pushed it 
out into a deep sigh, as if she were girding herself for something 
unpleasant.  "Jerella, what do you feel about the games and what happened 

Jerella picked her way to the flat rock at the center of the semi-circle 
and pulled herself up to sit cross-legged on it. "What do you mean? How we 
all got to practice a lot of our skills in a silly game of murderball?" She 
added, "I've got to improve my TK if I'm going to get any better at playing 

Octavia shook her head. "It's a good game for kids, and it will help hone 
our skills, but those aren't the games I'm talking about. I mean the arena 
of death."

Jerella dropped her eyes... "I've tried not to think about that much over 
the last several months. I had nightmares for weeks after we got rescued." 
She held out her prosthetic left hand and flexed it. "I don't like what I 
had to do to survive, and I'm still fighting to get away from the desire to 
just do the easiest thing."

Octavia nodded shutting her eyes against her own memories of it.  "I don't 
mean to pull up painful memories, it's just--I need to find some kind of 
sense to all of this.  The arena.  Port Lansing.  This path of a Jedi."

"I don't think the arena made any sense at all." Jerella glanced over at 
her friend. "Something happened to you at Port Lansing."

Octavia nodded. "I failed someone ... a family member I discovered last 
year. I don't think--I don't think I can continue in Jedi training."  She 
sat down, leaning her back against another rock.

"I think we all feel like that." Jerella looked down at the moving water 
beyond her feet. "I got to thinking about my failure during the games and, 
well, I think it's one of those Trials the masters talk about. Who was it, 
if you don't mind my asking?"

Octavia was slow in answering. "My niece.  She's thirteen." She paused. 
"Her name is Victoria.  She's quite a bright person.  I'm proud of the way 
she has survived despite the background I discovered. ... but ... I stood 
by silently as she killed her father."

Jerella had closed her eyes and waited--being a receptive listener.  But 
the last comment made her snap her eyes open with a start.  Then she 
waited, refusing to judge.

"I tried to talk her out of it, but there were so many--Tara 
Alderson-Palpatine, and others--telling her it was justice.  She's only a 
child. No remorse in was visible in her eyes... She believes it was 
JUSTICE!" Octavia spat the word out.

"Who was there? Were there any other lightsiders around to support you? 
Were you there under duress?"  Jerella quickly added, "I'm not looking for 
excuses for you, but to understand the situation... Was SHE there under 

"I had an invitation from Victoria through Tara Alderson Palpatine. 
Victoria wanted to meet to discuss her custody. Victoria under 
duress?  No.  She was quite comfortable.  As for lightsiders--I honestly 
don't think so.  Though Lady Alderson seems to have her own set of values."

Jerella said, "You said you had only met Victoria a year ago. Do you think 
that her childhood before you met would have taught her that other's lives 
have value even if they have wronged you?"

Octavia shook her head. "I don't know... I doubt it.  I heard my own 
brother admit he killed his wife because she was going to tell the Empire 
about him supplying the Alliance and the resistance. Victoria went into his 
mind and discovered that he would have killed her as well." She looked up 
at her friend. "It's wrong to kill for revenge, isn't it?  Am I capable of 
killing because I was wronged?"

Jerella answered, speaking slowly, "I don't think so.  You see, while 
studying in the archives, I came across something someone wrote ages ago, 
that a child's character is pretty much well set by the time they are seven 
or eight years old... if they haven't been taught right from wrong, to have 
sympathy and remorse for wrong doing by that time, it's too late. I know 
that you didn't have the easiest childhood, but revenge was not a value 
that you were instilled with.

"I'm not saying that you wouldn't have thoughts of retribution in your 
mind, but I don't think you could ever really act on them except in the 
most extreme of situations.  And if you did, you would feel remorse for 
it... you would recognize that it was wrong and inappropriate."  She bit 
her lip, "Not to accuse your brother and sister-in-law of being bad 
parents, but isn't it possible that they had formed Victoria's psyche in 
her early childhood so that she has never developed the capacity for 
remorse for wrong actions?"

Octavia shrugged despairingly. "It's possible, though I cannot speak for 
another actions... she's so young to live with that.... She shouldn't have 
to live with that memory. And now the Emperor knows of her and where she is."

"Do you think she would have listened to you if you HAD spoken up?  Do you 
think that she might believe that you approved of her actions because you 
didn't try to stop her?"  She added, "I DO think, that with the Palpatines 
present, if you had tried, you might have ended up a corpse along with your 

"I don't think that anything could have stopped her. I did rise to try, but 
ended up on the wall as decoration."

"I bet you couldn't get a sound out too..." She smiled wryly. "I, um, have 
been in that position too. Not too long before I came over to the Alliance."

Syn Jinn's voice shook as she continued the recounting.  "I agreed to sign 
my rights away, I couldn't even look at Victoria after she killed him. The 
person who made sure it was legal informed me that I was not to seek 
contact with her or to interfere with her, or I'd be shot." Octavia closed 
her eyes. "I did what she wanted, but ..."

"Octavia, in the situation you were in, I really can't see that you could 
have done ANYTHING to stop her. You tried and were prevented from 
interfering by some of the most powerful Darksiders in existence. The fact 
that you are alive here and now to mourn how your niece turned out is a 

"Perhaps it would have been better if I hadn't walked out of there. The 
next day I faced the Emperor himself and he cut through my mind like 
butter. He discovered Victoria's existence and where she is.... I couldn't 
stop him. So much for training."  The hopelessness in her voice was 
positively painful to hear.

Jerella got up and embraced Octavia, sitting next to her and pulling her 
head against her shoulder in comfort. "Even Master Skywalker wasn't trained 
enough to prevent Palpatine from doing something like that to him.  And 
he'd been a Jedi far longer than you or I have."  She rummaged in a pocket 
and handed her friend a clean handkerchief.   "You know, while the Emperor 
might have discovered Victoria's existence from your mind because of 
circumstances, I think that he'd have discovered her soon enough.  Take it 
from a person with experience in a Darksider household, HE finds out all 
the secrets.  So Tara would have told him about her eventually...he just 
got to you first."

Octavia leaned on Jerella accepting the support that she offered. "Serris 
Suragar, Kiri and even Rachel said the same thing, but I felt I should have 
stopped him.  First he enters my dreams and then this.  Why didn't he kill 
me? It would have been so much simpler."  She hugged Jerella, allowing her 
emotions to escape at last, through tears and a dropping of all her mental 
defensive barriers.

Jerella caught the emotional outflow and briefly flinched before the 
intensity of the grief and confusion. Then she just let them
flow through and over her, broadcasting comfort in return, until Octavia's 
tears began to diminish.

Then, tentatively, she offered of herself to her friend, opening the door 
to her own self doubts and fears. *You made it through your encounter with 
Palpatine. You grieve when you touch on the dark. I exulted in it, back in 
the arena last year--I despised myself afterwards, but at the crucial 
moment, I failed in my quest to remain of the Light. If Palpatine ever gets 
hold of me again, the best I can hope for IS a quick death, because 
otherwise, I'll never have the strength to fight him and keep the Light 
I've learned to love.*

*But I'm also learning that I'm not a deity, and I make mistakes that I CAN 
return from, and learn from and avoid making again. Even if it's only to do 
my best to not get into a situation where making those mistakes is 
inevitable.  I know you are hurting. And what we've talked about won't heal 
it immediately. But you don't have to bear the hurt alone. I won't judge 
you. But I will support you and be your friend, and be there when you need 
a listening ear and an absorbent shoulder.*

Octavia took in what Jerella was offering to her. The trust she was giving 
her. Octavia's voice was suddenly soft and sure, with the confidence of 
revelation. "You have great Light inside of you, it gives you a strength 
that you have yet to realize." Then her voice went back to a more normal 
tone.  "I guess the Jedi are just human." She turned her head and looked at 
Jerella. "I thank you for your friendship, and I'm glad to have it." 
Octavia smiled a small, shaky, but true smile. "I'm even getting use to 
ghostly visits. My grandfather told me he had regrets. Guess we all do huh?"

Jerella nodded. "Yes, but we also have things to remember with fondness and 
joy. You know, if a person's character is fully formed by the time they are 
eight years old, I had better get a move on, hadn't I? I mean--I'm already 
four years old!"  She grinned in sudden humor.  "Want to be one of the good 
influences on my life?"

"Yes, and I think you've discovered the right way--through the children. 
Jeren will be a better influence than I, but I would love to try."  Octavia 
wiped her eyes and stood.  "I think we need some more humor.  Let's get 
back to the academy and see if we can't find some kids who like to practice 
murderball."  She paused.  "Thanks for listening."

~To be continued

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