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Chapter 16

A few days later the two arrived back at Coruscant. As soon as they dropped out of hyperspace, Dallon checked the receiver for his tracer and saw that it was picking up a signal. It was located somewhere in the Deep Core region, a few light-years from the Tython system. The signal disappeared a few hours later. That meant one of two things, either Janus jumped to hyperspace again or he found the tracer and destroyed it. Tython was where the Jedi Order began, over 25,000 years before. The strange thing was that, as far as Dallon knew, no hyperspace routes currently existed to Tython. The chaotic and intense gravity of the Deep Core would occasionally erase existing hyperspace routes. Repaving them was no small feat.

As before, Dallon and Namakwo spent most of the next day discussing the details of the mission with their respective masters and several members of the Jedi High Council. The testimonies of some of the previously captive Toongs were also recorded. Then the Council spent some time in deliberation. When they were finished, they summoned for the two padawans.

In the High Council chambers, it was a similar scene. Some members were physically present, others by hologram. The only difference from last time was who.

Yoda spoke and began the meeting, "Welcome back, padawans. Something special the Force has planned for you, it would seem. My heartfelt gratitude you both have for your work on Tund. Through your actions, much tragedy did you prevent."

Obi-wan continued, "Which is part of why we are here. As you have seen, a Jedi's ability to perceive deception is critical if they are to succeed. This is the purpose of the Trial of Insight. Unfortunately, Jedi are also sometimes forced to endure great pain, in many shapes and forms. The Trial of the Flesh is a product of that unfortunate reality."

Plo Koon spoke next, "Dallon, through advanced technology and the deceptive skills that the Sorcerers of Tund possess, they placed you in a convincing mental illusion of an alternative and utopian life. However, you were able to see through this trick and break free."

"Master Koon," Dallon spoke, "With all due respect, the only reason I was able to see through it at all was because of inconsistencies in the illusion itself. I do not deserve any special recognition for that."

"You think too little of yourself, Padawan." Plo Koon smiled, "You accomplished far more than you think. Some of the data you obtained from their network was related to the technology used to create that illusion. There were also biometric logs taken during the time that you were under its influence. An examination of this data suggests that the illusion was flawless. However, many times the Force is able to perceive things that we alone cannot. So we must sometimes rely on the Force to help us see through deception. It is our belief that your subconscious mind heard and understood the Force's call. Some of those inconsistencies were likely a manifestation of your subconscious mind trying to communicate with you."

Dallon was stunned, "Thank you Master. I hadn't considered that." Then his face grew concerned again. "But some of the inconsistencies that I saw were quite dark in nature. I find it hard to believe that they were the will of the Force."

Mace Windu answered, "They weren't. The recovered data also showed that they began experiments on you when you were under. Apparently the artifact you found emits some sort of energy signal. Long term exposure can alter thought patterns. They wanted to study those changes on you. Fortunately they didn't get very far. Your exposure was too short to cause any lasting effects. We believe that the darker elements of the illusion were related to this exposure. Perhaps again your mind was aware of what was going on and these were warnings."

Ki-Adi-Mundi spoke next, "That brings us to the next part. We know the temptations that you faced in that illusion and what you sacrificed to break free. You could have chosen to stay in that utopian fantasy with your family. But you chose to put a higher cause before yourself. Nevertheless, the bonds of your family were close. Having to break them for a second time must have been agonizing. Your biometric data suggests that you experienced the same amount and type of emotional distress as you did as a child when your family died. You may not bear any physical scars from this, but, at times, emotional pain can run even deeper. Thank you for your sacrifice Dallon."

Dallon bowed silently.

Yoda looked to Namakwo and spoke, "Your contributions must we also recognize. In many forms of deception are the Sorcerers of Tund skilled. Many of the senses can they fool. Always rely on them we cannot. Brought you clarity the Force did, new conclusions could you reach."

Obi wan was next, "Although we are relieved that the terentateks were not real, the level of realism present in these illusions is very disturbing. They could be used with devastating effect against an untrained and unsuspecting civilian population. Your reasoning saved not only your life, but also the lives of those captive Toongs and maybe more. Also, the fact that you were able to figure this out while under such physical duress is quite admirable."

Plo koon continued the speech, "Speaking of which, regardless of the terentateks' illusory nature, the physical harm that they caused you was very real. The fact that the illusions were used as a form of torture against you is absolutely atrocious. That being said, you chose a path that almost guaranteed great physical pain and possibly even a gruesome death for yourself in order to protect the innocent. For this, we thank you."

Like Dallon before him, Namakwo also bowed in quiet recognition.

Everyone's attention turned to Yoda, who stood and began to talk, "The decision of this Council it therefore is that pass the Trials of Insight and Flesh you both have. An unusual procedure this is, but unusual circumstances these are. Awaits you now, only the Trial of Spirit does. But know that the most difficult of all trials do some padawans find this."

Although this was a very formal setting, both padawans could not completely contain their elation. They looked at each other, smiled, turned back to the Council, bowed again and with noticeable enthusiasm in their voices said, "Thank you, Masters."

Yoda then continued to speak, "However, conclude our business this does not. First, concern we have about this artifact and the knowledge it contained. Nothing like it have we seen before. Still investigate this we will.

Also, an opportunity the Force seems to have presented us. Our understanding it is that our enemies were tracked to the Deep Core. Near Tython, our ancestral home, they may be. A coincidence this is not, more to this story there is. Hmmm…but great caution we must take, for a trap this may be. Right the time is, for you to be told."

The two padawans looked confused, Namakwo spoke for them, "Told what, Master Yoda?"

Yoda sighed then looked at Mace Windu who continued for him, "Several months ago, before you returned to the Temple, some of our long range sensors detected unusual energy readings near the Tython system. Although it is not known to many, a hyperspace route has been recently reestablished there. We had wanted to send several Jedi there to investigate, but the Clone Wars have stretched our resources far too thin. We simply couldn't afford to divert anybody to this mission. However, we later received word that the two of you would soon be returning to the Temple to take the Trials. If you passed, our intention was to assign both of you to investigate these strange readings as your first mission. But then events took an unexpected turn and forced us to proceed differently. Now your tracer signal places Janus in the same location as the strange readings. It seems as though it is all connected."

"On how to proceed, a decision must be made. Deliberate we will. May the Force be with us all." With that, Yoda concluded the meeting.

It was eventually decided that they would wait for the next message from Janus before they took any action. Although they had a location, there were far too many risks and unknowns to jump in early. In the end, they favored caution over a possible preemptive strike. So they waited for the next message and waited…and waited.

"You fool! You've led them right to us. My plans are far too important to be ruined by your treachery." The black robed figure tossed the man in the damaged armor back and forth between two walls. "You're lucky that you share that body with Janus or I'd kill you right now!"

"Share?" The injured man said, "I've been a slave in my own body for the past five years! I've been forced to bear witness as you and your lackey Janus commit this atrocity."

"Apparently you've been doing more than just watching. You allowed the Jedi to track you."

"Did you think that I'd just sit back and do nothing? Maybe I'm stronger than you thought."

"That is not a mistake that I will make again." As the hooded figure said this, a thick, black and electrified smoke began pouring from his hands towards his target.

No! the armored man thought Not again. I've worked too hard to regain control. If that stuff reaches me, Janus will be back stronger than ever and I'll be trapped for good. He struggled to move against the Force grip that was holding him in place. He slowly inched his hand toward a concussion grenade that he had on his belt. Just before the smoke reached him, he managed to grab the grenade and throw it towards the dark robed figure. When it exploded, the smoke instantly vanished and both people were thrown back, away from each other. The man in the armor quickly got up and ran as fast as he could out of the room and down the hallway. From there it was a quick dash to the docking bay and onto the same ship that he had come in on. He blasted out of that space station and never looked back.

"I need to find them," he said as he entered the hyperspace coordinates for Coruscant and activated the jump.

Soon after their meeting with the Jedi High Council, Dallon and Namakwo were contacted by Dr. Sienn'aris. She had wanted to meet with them to discuss something. They went to meet her in the Temple Archives.

Along the way they talked. Dallon started off a little awkwardly, "Namakwo, I know that we've been busy since we got back, so I haven't had a chance to say this yet. I wanted to thank you for helping me out after we left Tund. I was a mess, but you were there for me. Thank you for being my friend."

"You're welcome Dallon. Friends look out for each other. You did the same for me in the base. Speaking of which, thank you as well."

"No problem."

With that, they arrived in the Archives and saw that Dr. Sienn'aris was there waiting for them.

"Doctor," Namakwo greeted, "It's good to see you again."

She returned the greeting, "You as well, Namakwo. And you too, Dallon."

Dallon nodded to her in recognition, then asked, "So how can we help you Doctor?"

"Well, my research has led me to some startling possibilities and I need some new insight and perspective. I can look at data archives and journal entries all I want, but there are certain things that I simply can't learn from them. I need to know about the Force, from a Jedi's point of view."

Namakwo and Dallon looked at each other, both surprised and confused, then back at the Twi'lek. Namakwo spoke first, "Well, what exactly are you looking to know? The Force is a big subject."

Dallon added, "And understanding it is something that takes many years of practice and personal experience."

Sienn'aris continued, "Well perhaps first I should explain my motives. Since we took those ore samples from the asteroid, I've been studying MEC-2183 and its properties. Through some trial and error I have come to the initial conclusion that the ore does have the properties that Janus described, but only in the absence of the Force. I believe that the Force is somehow nullifying the ore's natural properties."

Both padawans were speechless for about ten or fifteen seconds before Namakwo finally said something, "I've never heard of such a thing, it doesn't even make any sense. Why would something only have these properties in the absence of the Force. The Force is universal. Unless…" He looked at Dallon.

Realizing where Namakwo's thoughts were leading, Dallon countered, "You can't be serious. Think about what you're saying."

"I know," he said, "but…what about the asteroid? And you yourself said that it happens naturally on Myrkr."

Both Jedi looked like someone had told them the sun would not rise tomorrow.

Dallon looked back at the Twi'lek with suspicion, "What exactly are you trying to imply Doctor?"

It looked like they were coming to the same conclusions that she had earlier. Seeing the mistrust and disillusionment in their eyes, she went on the defensive, "Guys, I'm sorry. I was worried that this might happen. Believe me, I'm not trying to break down or insult your beliefs. All I know is that I have this data and I'm trying to figure out what it means. I came to you to help me with that."

That seemed to reassure them a bit. Then, after a deep breath, Namakwo answered, "Very well, Doctor. Fair enough. I apologize, but you unloaded quite a lot on us at once."

"I know. I'm sorry, but there was no easy way to say it."

Just then, Dallon's wrist communicator beeped. It was Master Cordora. Dallon answered it, "Yes Master? How can I help you?"

"Dallon, is Namakwo with you right now?"

"Yes he is. We're both in the Archives talking with Dr. Sienn'aris about her current research."

"Okay, good, you're together. You're all needed right now. It's Janus."

"Has the message arrived?"

"No, he's here, at the main entrance. He's surrendered himself to our custody. I need you up here now."

"Yes Master."

As soon as he said that, all three of them sprinted as fast as they could out of the room.