As much as I would like to say I own Disney I don't so I don't own Star Wars, either.

In honor of a new Star Wars movie, my first Star Wars story. For those that follow my other stories, I know I said I wasn't going to start any more stories until I finish off most of the ones I already have. In my defense, I've been inspired by some fine fanfics and the thought of the new movie (which I'll actually see tomorrow). And also in my defense, except for today this chapter hasn't taken any of my usual writing time from my other stories, I've only worked on it after finishing my usual daily quota and if that quota wasn't met, then this story didn't get worked on at all — and that's how I plan to continue. Still, while I haven't read all that much Star Wars fanfic, I like to think that I've come up with a rather different way of handling the problem of Dark Side temptation, we'll have to see.

Be warned that this story will eventually include F/F and possibly M/F/F. If that isn't your cup of tea, you'll want to avoid this.

As a not-so-side note, while I've seen the prequel movies, the Clone Wars movie, and own and am watching the five seasons of the Clone Wars cartoon, I am far from finished with that last. There's Wookieepedia, of course, but if anyone notes continuity/setting errors let me know and I'll do some more research and perhaps update the story.


Jenni stepped through the permanently irised open door, shook the snow off her sleeping bag-jacket, and brushed off her jeans, stamped the snow and mud off her hiking boots, then started forward again, twisting her head to play the beam from her flashlight-headband about what had been the foyer of the Youxia central headquarters, nostalgia from her and the two women and two men following her — the other four Dancers of her Bond — mixing until she couldn't tell where hers began and theirs ended. She was a little surprised — true, there was dust everywhere, but she'd expected at least a few bodies. It may have been over four years since the neutron bombs had wiped it clean of life inside and out and ended a thousand years of peace at the same time, but there should have been clothed skeletons at least. Maybe the Slaves didn't want decomposing corpses stinking up the place while they ransacked it.

A thousand years, while the League had ended the suffering of the poor if not poverty itself, while mankind had terraformed Mars and then Venus, had even reached out to the nearest stars with the newly-invented warp drive. All gone, replaced by death, chaos and terror as the Void Slaves and their secretly armed allies seized control of an Earth that had forgotten how to use the arms it didn't have.

At least the running will be over, if not the way we'd hoped, Jenni thought, her nostalgia morphing into grief at the memory of the long months on the run stretching into years as propaganda broadcasts had displayed the final battles of bond after bond that hadn't been gathered in the Mountain for the holiday celebrating Ming Song's discovery of the connection to the Tao, and how to both directly guide and be guided by it. Those bonds that hadn't become as skilled as her own bond at muting their presence in the Tao before being caught and turned into one more blow to the morale of a conquered Earth.

Feeling the concern coming from her bondmates, she shook off the grief. Remember, whatever happens, The Party never ends. Taking a deep breath and shifting her backpack to a (temporarily, after over a week of hiking) more comfortable position, she sent, "Come on, people, no time for sightseeing. I can't imagine the Void Slaves don't have Central under observation, so however isolated the Mountain might be we're on the clock. Let's give them a proper welcome."

Grim amusement came back, and the five Dancers broke into a trot toward the elevator banks; with no power the elevators wouldn't run, of course, but it would be faster to cut through the floors and make their own way down the shafts. And they could leave a few surprises along the way.

/\

The others were just laying down the last circles of crushed crystal-permeated paint as Jenni sorted out crystals they'd gathered from the hidden storerooms (and hadn't they been relieved that the Void Slaves hadn't found them) when a soft alarm went off by their stacked backpacks — the first of their booby traps had gone off. Everyone paused for a moment and looked up, then returned to their tasks at perhaps a slightly faster pace than before, just shy of hurrying.

A few minutes later Jason sent, "I'm done!" A chorus of agreement from the other three followed.

Jenni leaned back on her heels. "I think the large crystals I have will do the job. Everyone switch circles and double-check the work, and I'll get them laid out." As the other four carefully double-checked their work she inserted a large crystal in the depression at the center of each spiral and at the cardinal points of the circle inlaid into the floor in the center of the room, a huge crystal at the center, and then started double-checking her own circle for any breaks from four years of neglect — nothing.

The room shook as the second booby-trap went off.

"Okay, we're out of time. Drop what you're doing and get into position."

The four knelt at the open ends of the spirals they'd painted, and as Jenni sat half-lotus style and swept her headband's light around the room one last time ... but this time focused on the people she loved rather than the room itself: tall, red-headed Henrik who'd been 'gifted' the nickname of 'the Hammer' by the girls of the Bond, and not because of his blacksmithing hobby; bronze Kaulana, he of the gentle hands and easy Island smile; almond-eyed Yua, the eager, playful one, with a tendency to leave nip marks; and raven-haired Sacagawea, who got as much pleasure from a night of cuddling as wild heights of passion. Yes, their bond had had a good run — centuries long as Dancers had cycled through, even if only Jenni and Henrik had been been members when the Void Slaves struck, and Jenni only just barely — but it was over now. If David and Usagi's calculations were correct, in a few moments it would be over for every Flame that burned bright in the current of the Tao. Well, except for those Buddhists that moved to the Asteroid Belt so they could stare at their navels, anyway. But hopefully with the Void Slaves gone the people of Earth will be able to deal with their non-Awakened followers.

Breaking the silence for the first time, Jenni said, "See you on the other side." Then she took a deep breath, and stopped muting her presence in the Tao as for the first time in four years she opened herself fully to the heartbeat of the Universe. For a moment she feared being swept away by the sheer force of the life the pattern of crushed crystal paint focused on her, but she had always had an intuitive feel for the currents and now she rode them, gathered them, poured them into the large crystal at her feet. It in turn accepted her gift, amplified it, and divided it between the four cardinal point circles around her. The others reeled under the onslaught but managed to rally and feed the spirals. Those spirals amplified the power they received even more, and the four floods hammered into the crystals at their heart and transformed into the dark Yin of the Void before exploding outward.

To Jenni's shock, the world went white instead of black.

/oOo\

A hundred thousand years later, give or take a few centuries:

As the undulating, spinning, multi-white tunnel of hyperspace collapsed to streaks of pure light then settled to a starscape, Ahsoka Tano breathed a sigh of relief. Wherever she was, she'd made it! From the sounds the hyperdrive had been making, she hadn't been certain that would happen and hadn't dared drop out of hyperspace into the empty void between stars to make repairs the tramp freighter might not have parts for, or the fuel to get her back into hyperspace and to the nearest inhabited planet. She hadn't exactly had the time to do a survey of available resources before making her unannounced departure from whatever mid-Rim world she'd stowed away to after the first bounty hunters attacked her, and the fuel gauge was distressingly low. She didn't think that whatever was bedeviling the engines was the result of shoddy maintenance, not from the neat, eat-off-the-floor clean state in which the freighter's previous owner had kept the cockpit and common room, but the open panels and hanging wiring told the ship's age and keeping it running properly had probably been a near-full-time job for its captain.

Her mood darkened at the thought of that captain, the male human that had stepped into her fight with the second band of bounty hunters to find her — the ones that hadn't underestimated her because she no longer had her lightsaber thanks to her refusal to rejoin the Jedi Order, and were trying to kill her rather than going for a capture. His interference had cost him his life even if it saved hers, though he'd lived long enough to tell her which bay his ship occupied and the access codes to give her access. She just wished she knew his name, he hadn't been carrying any identification. Maybe there'll be something identifying him in his room, I'll have to check first thing once I land this hunk of junk. What if he has a family? The young Togruta had seen deaths in the two years she had been Skywalker's padawan, Jedi and clone troopers she had liked and respected among them, but the free trader had been one of the civilians she was supposed to protect, not be protected by!

Shaking off the dark thoughts, she turned her attention to the planet she was rapidly approaching, named Trey according to the nav-charts. It was the best choice when she had compared the nav-charts she downloaded from Traffic Control to those stored in the ship's nav-comp, barely registering on the download beyond a name and location on the official list but very well mapped on the ship's personal list — which meant she could arrive in less than a day, but anyone making a straight jump on her trail might take a week or more. And why would they? It was a barely settled Outer Rim backwater, one the dead free trader had probably been able to make a living off of partly because his detailed nav-charts significantly cut his travel time and so operating costs, but mostly because no one else saw the point in challenging him for the market. Hopefully, his desire to keep his monopoly extended to not letting anyone back in civilization know where his goods were coming from.

Realizing that her thoughts had again drifted back into the same bleak rut they had worn in the long hours she had occupied the pilot's seat, she refocused out the cockpit window to look over the planet growing ever larger: plenty of clouds, a large majority of the surface covered by oceans; most of the land one massive continent that mostly lay in the northern hemisphere, though it was narrow in spots that would probably be underwater if the ice sheet that covered much of the northern hemisphere wasn't so extensive. From the green not a desert world where it wasn't ice, thankfully, that meant she'd have more time to stay away from locals while she figured out what she was going to do next.

And speaking of locals, I'd better find out where they're located so I can stay away from them. She brought up the ship's database and was just beginning to look for a map of the settlements when she paused. Something ... was different ... cleaner? Fresher? All her life, she had heard the Jedi Knights and Masters that had trained her cohort speak of the ... the haze of the Dark Side that had clouded the Force, that had them striking at shadows even before the Battle of Geonosis and the beginning of the war. There had been times that she had thought they were making excuses for their failures. No longer, as she swept toward Trey and the clean, clear, beating heart of the Life of an entire planet wrapped itself around her. Not even her visits to the Crystal Caves on Ilum had felt like this. And look at those ice caps! And — she hastily glanced at the scattered dots of small settlements on the database's map — it's practically empty, what would a clean Coruscant be like!?

She shook off the thought, she'd have time to investigate once she was on the ground. Let's see, no hails from any kind of traffic control, no surprise there, and ... no landing beacons. I guess they expect you to know where you're going. (That wasn't really a surprise, either — a place this small and out of the way in the Outer Rim would be vulnerable to pirate and slaver raids, and the first place any raiders would land would be any settlement large enough to need, and be able to afford, a landing beacon.) So, somewhere rugged enough that there shouldn't be anyone around, and close enough to a major settlement that I can walk there in a few days if I have to. But hopefully there'll be some kind of speeder bike onboard.

She started looking over the various settlements, pulling up what data there was on them in the computer (not much), but her eyes kept wandering back to a spot inland on the northeastern part of the world continent. It was some of the most rugged terrain on the planet, and high enough about sea level that its center had acquired its own covering of ice separate from the northern and southern ice packs. It was also very far from any settlements, there was no way she was walking out of there. But while she hadn't felt the Force pulling on her like this very often she could recognize it for what it was — something down there was important, to her if no one else.

With a sigh, she finally brought the freighter to a halt in relation to the planet. She was going to have to investigate the ship's hold, see if there was a speeder bike, and enough power cells that she could get to what passed for civilization if she couldn't lift the ship once she landed.

/\

The speeder bike slowly coasted to a halt, and Ahsoka simply sat on it as she huddled in the blanket she'd pressed into service in lieu of a coat and stared up at the mountain, her breath cloudy in the cold mid-day air. The mountain was a steep, rugged, naked rocky spire, with glaciers on each flank like a scarf draped over a pair of shoulders, apparently empty of life except for a few flyers high in the sky. Whatever was pulling at her lay at the foot of the left-hand glacier, and like the larger (relatively) flat spot where she had left the freighter, this looked like the closest flat spot where she could park the speeder bike. She had no idea what could be there, hidden in this most desolate area of a backwater planet, but whatever was up there was still calling to her. It reminded of some lines of a poem she'd read once, before the war when she'd dreamed of exploring the Unknown Regions: 'Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges — Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!'

"Well, I guess I'm walking from here." Swinging a leg over the back of the bike, she dropped to the ground and pulled off the blanket, then untied the backpack of supplies she'd put together and slung it on her back before rewrapping the blanket around her. She made sure the blanket didn't cover the blaster she'd found onboard and was now strapped to her hip, then she pressed the off switch for the repulsorlift so the bike settled to the ground. Besides not knowing how long she would be gone and so needing to conserve power, the bike was like the freighter — lovingly maintained but way too old — and she didn't trust the repulsorlift to hold the bike's position in any kind of wind. As ready as she could be, she started up the mountain slope.

Hours later, a stunned Ahsoka turned off the hand light that she'd used to make her way deep into the mountain. The crevasse she'd found at the base of the glacier and the cracks in its wall had looked natural, but the room she'd found deep in one of those cracks with one wall sheered away leaving it open to the outside air, was clearly sentient-formed — a complex carved out of the heart of the mountain. And from the dirty streaks of ice running down the polished stone of the walls she'd passed as she carefully made her way deep into the mountain, squirming around collapses and backtracking from the occasional crevasse, up until recently the complex had probably been buried by the glacier.

And now she stood in an ice-free room buried deep in the heart of the mountain, a room where her hand light was unnecessary ... because it was brightly lit by a huge, slowly spinning oval mass of what she suspected was the Force so concentrated that it was made visible, coruscating with every color imaginable, reaching from floor to ceiling.

And even as that pure concentration of the Force overwhelmed her Force-sense, leaving her limited to her physical senses, still she could feel the pull toward it. She hesitated for long moments, before finally stepping forward and slowly reaching out a hand upraised and flattened.

As she approached, the colors bleached away from a spot on the oval mass and a face swam into view — a Human female face, young, bracketed by pure white hair shot through with streaks of blue in a pattern eerily similar to Ahsoka's montrals and lekku waving about her head as if she was submerged in liquid.

Ahsoka hesitated again, her hand a few centimeters from the surface of the coruscating pillar. Still feeling the pull — the need — she took a deep breath and thrust her hand forward into the swirling mass.

For a split-second the entire pillar of energy flashed clear to reveal a slim Human female slightly taller than Ahsoka dressed in a form-fitting shirt and pants and an open heavy coat, and Ahsoka instinctively spread her arms to catch the floating woman now falling forward just before the room plunged into darkness and the woman's weight slammed into her.


The bit of poetry Ahsoka remembers is from Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The Explorer." Not that I'm claiming it survived all those millennia and changes in language, just think of it as artistic convergence.