"That smells good," Kali commented as she stood. "This is a beautiful place." She took a moment to inhale deeply, the aroma of the stew mingling with the scent of the grasses and flowers they were surrounded by. "I'm glad you approve," her Master said with a small smile. She handed Kaliandra a bowl and motioned for her to sit down. "The Meditation Gardens at the Temple were a lot like this," Master Alida commented as she sat down across from Kali. "There were fountains scattered throughout the Gardens, as well." Master Alida's eyes took on a faraway look for a moment, one Kaliandra knew well. The woman was remembering things and people from long before Kali had even been born. Things that would never be again. Even if the Alliance did manage to defeat the Empire, the Jedi Order that Master Alida remembered had been decimated. Her Master's eyes refocused and she smiled again. "Well, we shall see what Yavin holds for us, Padawan." "We're not going to stay there, are we?" Kaliandra asked somewhat anxiously. The memory of the turmoil she had felt in so many of those at Port Lansing was still strong and it had made her uncomfortable. "As in everything, it is as the Force leads." Master Alida set down her bowl of stew and picked up a mug. Steam wafted from the hot liquid inside as she lifted it to her lips. Putting it down again, she continued. "Your shielding skills could use some work, Kali. You have done well, but there was little chance for practical application of those skills on Almas. On Yavin, you will be surrounded by Jedi. Port Lansing was harder because of the number of those there who were agents of Darkness. Even then, you did well." She smiled quickly. "Thank you, Master," she acknowledged the praise as she picked up her own mug. The tea it held was beginning to cool as the temperature on the planet's surface dropped. She sipped at the somewhat spicy liquid, savoring the flavor as it danced over her tongue. "Finish your meal and then get some sleep. Tomorrow, we will begin working through our katas early," Master Alida said. She motioned toward the small shelter she had set up next to their ship. "If we do not hear from Yavin, we will spend most of tomorrow exploring." "Exploring?" Kali knew her eyes lit up at that. To be able to just explore this green, fascinating world would be amazing. "I'm looking forward to that." Master Alida chuckled. "I thought you might." The older woman stood and stretched. "I am turning in. Do not be long, Padawan. You will need your rest if we are to explore as much as I think you want to." Kaliandra grinned. "Yes, Master." She watched as her Master ducked into the shelter, then Kali settled back to listen to the sounds of the insects and small creatures that made this park their home. She would go to bed soon, but for now, this was nice. ***** The shelter rocked violently, startling Alida awake. She shot up, her hand dropping to her lightsaber. Next to her, Kaliandra mimicked her actions. Her Padawan's golden eyes had gone wide, full of confusion, but there was no fear there. "We're under attack," Alida said softly, gathering up the packs she had placed inside the shelter. "I want you to take this and run. Get to the city and get onto a shuttle to Yavin." "But, Master!" Alida spoke rapidly, hearing troops approach, "Remember your training and trust the Force." She shoved the girl forward. "Go!" They broke from the shelter, each in an opposite direction as blaster bolts lit the night. Her red blade drew colorful arcs through the darkness as she blocked one bolt after another. Alida shot a look over her shoulder. Kaliandra's amethyst blade flashed as the girl deflected the blaster bolts aimed at her. Alida frowned. In the darkness, their lightsabers were simply beacons, drawing troops toward them, even as they tried to repel the attack. She continued to fight, trying to make her way towards the trees surrounding the clearing where they had located their camp. Another glance over her shoulder showed no indication of her Padawan within the clearing. There! A bright spot of color gleamed in the trees, moving away from the camp. Good. The girl would make it. She had to. Force protect her. ***** Kaliandra paused, breathing heavily. She eyed the scorch mark along her sleeve. That last one had been much too close. She reached out, touching her Master's presence in the Force. Master Alida was still fighting, still running. The Padawan took a moment to center herself, calming herself. She would not fight well if she allowed her emotions to take over. There would be time for that later, once they were safe. Something crashed through the bushes. Animals of some sort? Wonderful. Not only did they have to deal with bipedal attackers, they had the four legged varieties after them, as well. Kaliandra suppressed a shudder. Their attackers were strong with the Dark Side; evil lay over the area, as thick and heavy as a blanket. "Jedi." Kali whirled around. The man standing behind her wore a smug smirk of superiority. She frowned. He'd sneaked up on her? Somehow he must have managed to mask his presence in the Force. How many others like him were there? She brought her blade to bear, the blade casting a violet light over the surrounding vegetation. "You're ours now, Jedi," he hissed, making a small motion with his hand. Four of the meanest looking creatures Kali had ever seen approached, surrounding her. She swallowed, but the lightsaber in her hand never wavered. She eyed the creatures warily, waiting for the attack she knew was coming. The first attacked and she rolled out of its way. Too late, she realized that was exactly what it had wanted her to do. Another of the creatures was waiting for her. She twisted, trying to avoid the claws that raked out at her. Kali failed in the attempt and she hit the ground, her lightsaber extinguishing briefly, then re-igniting as she rolled to her feet once more. She ignored the pain in her arm and shoulder as she came back up ready to fight. The man laughed. "A nice move, Jedi, but that won't help you. Give up while you still can." She tuned him out, focusing on the creatures. So much for a nice, peaceful planet. The inane thought crossed her mind just as the four attacked at once. She scored a few hits with her weapon, but it wasn't enough. There were too many of them for her to deal with at once. One of them swatted the lightsaber from her hand as it knocked her onto her back in the dirt. Breathing heavily, she looked up at the jaws and teeth looming over her and she prepared for death. ***** Alida continued to deflect blast bolts back at her attackers. She hit at least two of them fatally, the rest she thought might live. But she was tiring. There were so many and they just kept coming. All she had to do was keep as many of them occupied as she could while her Padawan affected an escape. Suddenly, the attack stopped. "Put down your lightsaber or the girl dies!" The voice echoed across the clearing, sending Alida's heart into her throat. No. They couldn't have Kaliandra. Invectives in a dozen languages flowed through her mind as she turned slowly to face the voice. Her Padawan was being held by two humans and they were surrounded by four creatures Alida had only heard of. Forvalaka. Kali's tunic was torn and bloody and the girl's eyes were glassy, probably from the pain. Alida frowned. She had no choice. She couldn't let them hurt Kaliandra any further. Powering down her lightsaber, Alida reached out toward her Padawan, using the Force to try to ease the girl's pain. She placed the weapon on the ground in front of her, glaring at their attackers. "Let her go," she said quietly. "She's only a girl, she has nothing you want." They laughed. She couldn't blame them, but it had been worth the try. She didn't move as a woman approached, her eyes battle-hardened and angry. Alida felt the cold prick of a hypospray against her neck and then she felt nothing at all. ***** Kali woke up gradually, her entire body aching fiercely. She glanced down at herself as she tried to push herself into a seated position. The last thing she could remember was her Master dropping to the dirt on the other side of the clearing. Their attackers must have drugged them. She reached out with the Force and felt…nothing. Nothing at all. Kali took a deep breath, trying to corral the panic she felt building inside. She'd never before been unable to reach the Force. It had always been there for her, an ever-present comfort. Slowly, she got her emotions back under control, allowing her to look around rationally. The clothes she had worn had been replaced by an institutional looking jumpsuit. Not surprisingly, her lightsaber was missing. She did a quick assessment of her own physical well-being. Her wounds had been given some basic treatment, so they wouldn't fester, thank the Force for small favors. It still hurt, however. The room she was in was probably equipped with some kind of Force-dampeners, she realized. Oh, this day was just getting better and better. She sighed and dropped to her knees. Meditation without the Force would be difficult, but not impossible. ***** Jumpsuit. Force-dampening cell. Missing weapon. Alida sighed. Some things never changed. She'd been in this position once before, as a young Knight. However, at that time she'd been alone. This time, she was missing something. Someone. Her Padawan. The girl had been injured and in great pain the last time Alida had seen her. Not knowing Kaliandra's location left the Master unsettled. She passed the day in meditation. As much as it pained her, there was little else Alida could do. She only hoped her apprentice was able to find similar solace. ***** "Get up." Alida complied slowly, eyeing the young man giving the order as she rose from the floor. "Turn around." Reluctantly, she followed his direction, uncomfortable with turning her back on him. Rough hands grabbed her arms, securing her hands behind her back. Another hypospray bit into her neck. "What was that?" she asked. "Force inhibitor," he said with a touch of glee. "Short term, but it serves our purpose. This," he chuckled as he produced another spray. "Makes you a lot easier for me to handle." She frowned as the contents of the hypospray were emptied into her and her vision began to darken. Not again. ***** Kaliandra's eyes snapped open. Darkness surrounded her. She couldn't move, but she couldn't feel anything either. A tiny curl of panic started in her belly, but it dissipated quickly. Okay, she could handle this, whatever this was. There was still no Force. There was also no light, no sound, no sensation other than that of immobility. She inhaled, at least she wasn't having any trouble breathing. These people were real big on knocking you out, she mused. The guard had come into her cell, given her two quick hyposprays and then she'd awakened here. If she even was awake. ***** It had been years since Alida had been inside a sensory deprivation tank. She was fairly certain that was where she was. Why? What possible reason could there be for this? She heaved a mental sigh. Well, she had told Kaliandra that excitement sought out the Jedi often enough. She just hadn't thought it would find them so quickly.
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