Note: this takes place before THE BATTLE, by Season Irwin

BEFORE THE NEXT BATTLES...

by Ginna Wilcoxen and Season Irwin

Luke remained silent for a few moments, taking in Octavia's stricken face and posture.
"Talk to me, Octavia," he prodded gently, setting aside the refused bowl of gruel.
"I felt him die. I mean actually felt him die." She closed her eyes briefly and then opened them again.

"I can't do it again. It was horrible."
He left his hand where it was, between her shoulders, willing the warmth of its touch to give her some

remote comfort.

"I'm sorry. I do understand, and it isn't anything I would care to do again, either." His voice was quiet,

pained.
"You're used to it!" she snapped, looking up at him, and then suddenly noticed something in his face.

"It bothered you, too?"
Luke shut his eyes and finally removed his hand to rub absently at his face. "Part of me dies every time

I have to do such a thing. And especially this time. She was...she didn't even try to fight and win." He leaned over
and put his elbows on his knees, putting his head in his hands.
"She?" Octavia's voice was low. "How can you deal with it?" She placed her hand on Luke's shoulder.

"Is this what a Jedi does?"
"No," Luke answered quickly. "This is all wrong, and we are in a horrific situation. None of this should

be happening. I just have not managed to come up with a way for us to get out of here yet." He glanced at

her briefly, showing in that small meeting of their eyes how responsible he felt for their fate; guilty, even.

Luke could not bear to tell her how the woman had lunged forward, impaling herself on his sword. Yet he

was haunted by the image, replaying itself over and over in his mind's eye.
"It's not your fault, you know. You can't hold yourself responsible for someone else's actions. If it wasn't

for the voice I heard out there, I doubt if I would have won my fight. Perhaps she was tired of fighting."
Luke's blue gaze came up to meet hers again, questioningly. "You heard the voice again? Out in the arena?"
"Yes, he told me to relax and to let everything flow."
"And you agreed and followed the guidance?"
"Yes." Octavia paused. "Did I do something wrong? I mean .. it's not normal to, is it?"
Smiling suddenly, he replied, "No, not at all! I'm glad you had help out there. You can trust the voice, unless

you are told to do something you know is evil. Has that ever happened?" Luke knew the answer.
Octavia shook her head, "No,, not at all."
He looked at her searchingly for a few moments and then added, "You are definitely being guided by someone strong in the Force. I have a lot to share with you, once we get out of here." The next fighter was announced and taken out through the door. Luke's expression became grim.
"They're going to make us fight again aren't they?" Her voice was thin, yet urgent.
"Look, I am going to find a way to bring all of this to an end. If there is any way at all I can prevent it, you

won't be fighting again. I wish I could promise you more. I do have one idea."
"It doesn't matter what happens to me, but I have a feeling it matters what happens to you, you are a leader and are needed."
Luke set his jaw and nodded. "That may be, but I intend to get all of us out of this mess for good. You're as important to the balance of all things as I am."
Octavia rose and began to pace. He looked at her carefully. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Well, as fine as one can be in this setting. Do you think we have a chance to get out of here? I mean really have a chance?" Suddenly she burst out her feelings, leaving nothing back. "I HATE the people who

brought us here! It's not fair. If anyone should die, it should be THEM!"
He rose to meet her where she paced and stood in front of her. "Wait! Stop, listen to me a minute. Hate won't

get you out or help you in any way." Glancing around to see if anyone else was listening, he whispered, "I have

an idea, like I told you. I don't want you to be alarmed, so I need to tell you about it. I am going to appear to die
out there the next time they call on me. But I will not be dead."
Octavia stared at him in disbelief. "Do you know how crazy that sounds?" she answered him, her voice low. "How can you insure that they don't dissect the people who die?"
"Listen: Jedi can go into self-imposed death-like trances, appearing to all that they are dead. I can time the moment of my waking again by something that happens later, like when they remove these cuffs." His whisper

was so low that no one in the room could hear but Octavia.
Octavia glanced around the room, then back to Luke. "You've done this before?"
"Yes," he said emphatically, "I have. They probably have a place where they take the bodies of those slain in

the battles. I would be taken there, and most likely there will be no Force-damping mechanisms in place. Yes,"

he said emphatically, "I have. When they turn away from me to go back to the arena, I can be ready to come fully alert and to make a break for it."
"WHY didn't you try this earlier? If you thought it would work, you could have stopped all of this SOONER!" Her face hardened. "If you did it earlier I might not have had to kill." Her voice never rose, but the bitterness was like a slap.
He took hold of her shoulders and gripped them gently, forcing her to look into his face. "I would give

anything to have already thought of this sooner. Anything! But remember that everything in my plan depends on

my assumptions being right. I can't use the Force in here to help me know how this place is laid out." Luke swallowed the bitterness she dished out to him unflinchingly. If only he had thought of it first, before...
Octavia went to pull away, but stopped. She knew she was letting her emotions get the better of her. She

needed to get hold of herself. "I know. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to attack you. You were taken off guard as much

as I was." Her tone softened. "I trust you to do what you can."
"It’s all right, honestly. But whatever you do, you must control your thinking pattern towards what you have

to do if they should take you back out there, and not on what I am trying to do. Your opponent might read your thoughts."
Octavia let out a small chuckle. "If they take me back out there, I doubt if you will be on my mind - no offense."
Luke grinned slowly, saying, "That's it; that's good." He was starting to sense that this young woman would

come out of all this in one piece and with her senses intact. "I hardly thing that they will take either of us back out today, though.""I hope not." Octavia looked over at the gruel that was still sitting there. "Regardless, I don't think I'll be in the mood to eat. Would it be too out of place to ask you a question about the academy?"
Luke lead her back over to a bench and gestured for her to sit down with him. "No, go ahead. What would you like to know?"
"What do you do there? I mean when I think of an academy I think of young children. What if I'm too old?"
He grinned boyishly. "You aren't too old, because there are no requirements of age. Things are growing and changing in the Jedi academy, but we have not reverted to the ancient requirement of a tender age as yet. There

are far too many people like you being discovered. You'll find that there are all ages there."
"People like Jerella?" she asked.
"Yes, that's right. In the old days, babies were taken at a very young age from their parents to begin their

training. But so much time has gone by since that ended that there are beings of every age with Force potential

out there."
"Are there any records out there about the old Jedi? I mean like who they were?"
"Yes, some." He wondered if he was right about where this line of questions was leading.
"I would like to see these records, when we get of this. If I'm allowed to stay. You said I would have to

interview with other masters."
"You will be interviewed, yes, but something tells me you'll pass with flying colors. Of course you can see

those records. You obviously have someone in your ancestry who is guiding you. I think that is who your 'voice'

is."
"I can barely remember my father, but I know he showed me things, things
my mother stated were tricks and not to be trusted."
Luke nodded, intrigued. "But you are finding out that she was wrong, is this correct?"
"Yes, I am." Octavia shook her head. "I just don't understand why it
started happening now! I spent 11 years on the Electria. Why would I start dreaming of two men fighting,
and wake to find my saber by my side?" Octavia looked up at Luke. "Why wait to turn my life upside down,

that's what I don't understand."
"All things happen at the correct time. That's not just a pat answer, either. You will be learning that at the Academy. Had you ever considered that you might possess the best way to discover who this voice belongs to?"
"Me?" A small laugh escaped her. "I know what Rachel told me, that the saber I carry was my grandfathers, and

his name was Qui-Gon Jinn."
Luke smiled confidently. He knew that name well. "I would say that it is either your father or your grandfather. Why don't you try asking the voice next time you are able to use the Force? Not in the arena, but later, after we

are out of here."
"I just might have to do that." Octavia leaned against the wall, the roar of the crowd just distance noise in the background to her ears now. "I just want this to be over with; guess I'm impatient."
Luke let out a sigh and leaned against the wall. "I understand, but try to focus on how you'll keep yourself

alive instead. Make that your goal instead of winning the next fight. Impatience comes easily, but having patience will give you power to get through this situation." He turned his blond head and looked at her carefully. "And if
you have to go back out there, let the Force flow like never before."
Octavia closed her eyes. "Don't give in to fear, anger and aggression ..." she said softly, as if she was reciting from a text book.

He peered over at her curiously. "Is that what your father taught you?" Octavia nodded. "He repeated it

whenever he did our lessons. Guess that's why it takes so much to get me angry... Why, have you heard it too?"
Chuckling softly, Luke replied, "Oh yes, many times, from my teacher
Master Yoda. Every Jedi learns those things. They are essential to the way they need to
conduct themselves."
"They are? Why?"
"They are the key ingredients, as it were, to falling to the dark side."
"The dark side?"' Octavia repeated, "When a Jedi goes bad."
"I hope you have also heard this before: fear, anger, aggression - all of these things lead you to the Dark Side. Yes, the dark side is when you use the Force for your own purposes. That power can consume you to the point

that you become truly evil."
"A Jedi doesn’t use those emotions. She is at peace; calm, serene."
"Which means if I truly seek to complete what my father started, it will be a constant vigilance to guard

against those emotions, to keep them in check."
"In truth, it will be keeping them from governing your actions. Every Jedi becomes angry. They all feel fear. Even aggression. But to act upon those emotions, drawing power from them, is the path to the Dark Side." He

tossed up a hand, gesturing carelessly. "Using those emotions to fuel the Dark Side is easy. But not more

powerful."
Octavia nodded slowly, "Because you're not in control, the Dark Side is?" He remembered briefly his own

falling away from the Light, and shivered inside. He never would take that path again. [ author’s note: referring

to the comics where Luke did take up the dark side for awhile. ]

"Yes. Exactly right. The Dark controls the user."
"You speak as it you experienced this." When he looked at her, her head was cocked to one side curiously.
Not wanting to touch that subject right then, Luke veered away from it. "Yes. But I don't think it is right for me

to go into detail about that just yet, until you learn other things first, though. I hope you understand." He felt it

was wrong to tell her so personal a thing as his brush with the Dark with her at such an inexperienced level. He wanted more than anything to encourage her obvious leaning toward the Light.
Octavia nodded. "I understand." She rose to her feet and looked up at the vent. "They've quit for the night."

She turned back to Luke. "When you fought your opponent, did you feel her die? I mean, really feel it?"
Luke looked away from her and stared at the wall. "Yes." There was something heavy in his voice that let her know for certain that he had felt it with all his being and wished he had not. "I felt the life leave her body. It is not a pleasant thing in the situation we're in, forced to take a life or die. But all of that will change tomorrow."
"I wish you success Luke." Octavia sat down and stared at the floor.

"Thank you. I'll find a way to free us. I have to. This can't continue." He noted her resorting to finally calling

him by name and smiled inwardly. Perhaps this young lady had a bigger trust in him than he had in himself! That was good, for both of them, and for Jerella, too. Tomorrow it would give him the confidence he needed to free
them all.