The command bunker was a hive of activity. Talitha’koum glanced around at various agents and officers hunched over consoles and speaking into headsets. This was more than a normal Imperial mission – this was an intelligence-gathering operation. The anticipation of its possibilities was almost palpable. A few glanced up at the Twi’lek as she made her way to a holo-projector displaying known areas of Ilum. There were a few dark sectors, which Imperial Intelligence had failed to chart.
“We know the Republic camps are here and here.”, one Agent pointed out, “but we cannot exclude the possibility of others.”
“But sir,” a junior officer piped up, “why would the Republic need multiple camps on this ice bucket?”
The first Agent turned with arms crossed.
“Use your brain, Watcher Sixteen”, he said frowning. The Watcher blushed, which added extra colour to his already wind-whipped cheeks.
“The same reason we have multiple camps, Sir?”
The Senior Agent rolled his eyes, nodded and turned back to the console. Talitha sidled up to him.
“Excuse me, I was wondering if you could help me?”, she asked quietly.
“Always happy to help a member of the Order, what can I do for you?”
“I know we haven’t charted everything here yet, but any gauges on known Crystal Caves? And also the sector where the Jedi usually land during their Gathering Ritual?”
The agent reached for his datapad, made a few changes and extra dots and markings appeared on the holo-map.
“Red dots are known Republic encampments. Most are protected by Jedi. We suggest Acolytes avoid those areas.”
Talitha nodded, “I intend to.”
“Good. We are not always able to predict where the Jedi will land for their Gathering. Trends over the years seem to say that crystals mature in different areas. There are however more frequently used landing zones – marked by the squares you see on the map. Our information is patchy on that one, as they usually come during snow storms, which disrupts our trackers. Caves are usually near those landing zones.”
Tal’s eyes darted from point-to-point. She was looking for the zone least likely to contain Jedi, but more likely to contain salvageable crystals – not an easy combination.
“Anything else my Lord?”, the Agent asked.
“No…no thank you, you’ve been most helpful,” she said flashing a nervous smile, “I’ll let you get back to your duties.”
The Agent bowed his head, “If I may offer my comm-frequency if you need it? Not many Sith ask for our opinion and value it when they come to Ilum.”
The Twi’lek reached for her own datapad and took a note of the Agent’s frequency.
“Thank you. The Force is supposed to guide us, but here, I’ll need any advantage I can get.” and, taking the last breath of warm air she would have for some time, she turned and headed into the cold.
Finding the Path
Once clear of technology and human distractions, she found a secluded spot and knelt on the snow. The cold and wet soaked her lower legs, but this moment of solitude was needed. Closing her eyes, the Twi’lek reached out to the Force.
Grant me success…and safety, she willed. The Force enveloped her and gave her an element of internal heat, unnatural in the climate. She had a faint vision of a cave, surrounded by lumbering Guid, but containing glows of both blue and green. The vision faded and she cursed her untrained senses. She forced her body to stand and dusted the snow off her legs. Exhaling, her breath visible in the chilled atmosphere she looked around, and sensing a pull in one specific direction, began to trudge on.
An hour later, legs aching from wading through snow drift after snow drift, she came atop a ridge and took a sharp breath in. The view was stunning. An earlier snow storm had cleared allowing a full vista of sparkling stars and falling meteorites.
Korriban is missing so much the Force has to offer, she thought.
It was then that she saw something else that took her aback. A small group of beings standing over the remnants of a fire. One of the group seemed to be speaking to the group.
But the Force led me in this direction!, she screamed inwardly. I didn’t ask for Jedi.
Talitha crouched, watching the group intently. The group leader bowed to the others and then led them off. The Twi’lek closed her eyes and decided to move in a slightly different direction. She was more sure of her path now, but this expedition had just become more complicated.
The Crystal Cave Confrontation
As distracted by the group of Jedi as she was, she had lost focus on where she was going. So it was with some surprise she stumbled into the cave from her vision. Despite the protection from the chilling wind, Talitha’koum found herself wrapping her arms tightly around herself and ventured deeper into the cave. Icicles, as sharp as knives threatend her from above, while sharp rocks caused her some navigational difficulties on the ground.
Well, this was never going to be easy, was it?, she rued.
The deeper she went, the cold had less of an effect. Her eyes were also struggling with the lack of natural light. Reaching out as much as she could through the Force she felt her way through, rather than relying on her physical vision. After what seemed like an age she finally found the cluster of green and blue crystals. Taking her satchel from her back, she knelt down to examine these luminous creations of the Living Force. It was then her eye was captured by a few crystals nestled between blue and green, the colours merging to form cyan. Reaching into her satchel she pulled out some crude tools and gently prised out a small number of these.
Ilum’s known for blue and green. I wonder if anyone has found these before?
Securing her samples in a small lockbox she began to pack up when she felt the atmosphere of the cave change. Her Lekku twitched nervously and pulling her War Blade around she turned just in time to catch the assailant’s own blade. The darkness of the cave hid the hooded face – even the light emitting from the crystals was insufficient to reveal who she was being attacked by.
Using all the strength she could muster she pushed her attacker back and jumped up into a defensive stance. The darkness changed everything. The assassin leapt at her, screaming through the Force, threatening to tear her apart from within. Dodging to her right and sweeping around towards her enemy’s back she built up a defensive Force Shield around her. Her blade clashed harshly with the cave wall as the shadowy figure leapt at her again, striking her leg and making her cry out. In blind panic she thrust her blade forward, the energy-powered sword digging into her opponent’s shoulder. Falling backwards in a cry of pain, the hooded figure dropped their own weapon, sword arm badly damaged. The Twi’lek, breathless and in pain stood over the figure, barely able to stand on her right leg.
“I don’t want to kill you, but I must know who you are. Are you Jedi?”, she demanded, her mind flashing back to the group she saw earlier.
“No…no,” a weak voice rasped back at her, “are you?”
Talitha’s mind raced, thinking she recognised the voice despite the obvious pain she had caused.
“What makes you ask that”, The Twi’lek enquired, probing further.
“I saw the light around you when you meditated to find your cave,” the voice wheezed.
Her heart seemed to miss a few beats.
“Tal… it’s me. I’m sorry.”
Kicking her assailant’s blade away from them both, and sheathing her own, she reached out a hand for the hooded figure’s non-damaged arm. Pain shot through her leg but she grimaced and pushed through it. Once upright, her attacker pulled down their hood.
“Rala? But…why? No wait, first, let me bind you.”
Reaching out to the void between Light and Dark, Talitha bound her friend’s wounds as much as she could, before sinking into a sitting position opposite the Warrior.
“You can’t hide light in darkness forever, Tal. But let me explain…”. And in a strangely comfortable companionship despite their brief struggle, they both opened up to each other.
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