"There is no death, there is only the Force… and it has a plan"
*Chapter 1: The Knights of Zakuul and the Eternal Order*
Had she been seeing things? It was a question Kalifa asked herself when meeting face-to-face with her savior.
Had it been hunger and anxiety that made her believe in that monstrous appearance she thought she had seen back in the dark jungle? Kalifa remembered a literal mane of ghostly white hair wild and unruly, dark colored skin and ominous red eyes.
However, spending the next hour or two traveling through Hyperspace in relative silence, Kalifa didn't see that same ominous and intimidating look she thought she had seen back on the desolate moon. Instead, Kalifa saw a normal human boy's face.
Kalifa's savior was much younger than she thought, maybe a year or two older than her at least.
They rode in a shuttlecraft of an unknown design; the ship was big enough to hold ten or twelve people. And everyone, aside from Kalifa, Jinx and O-Mer, were individuals each gifted in the Force, and each exceptionally powerful in their own right.
However, one thing Kalifa knew was certain was that her savior's power dwarfed the others.
One thing they all had in common were the golden colored armor they wore and helmeted masks glowing bright blue from where the eyes were.
Kalifa's savior had taken his off and placed it on his lap.
The men and women in golden armor were placed on each side of the shuttlecraft, the men on the right and the women on the left side of the shuttle with Kalifa's savior in the middle. Looking over his shoulder, Kalifa saw the cockpit where the remaining two were – both also fellow warriors of the same party.
It wasn't just the gold armor they wore, placed at their side were large golden shields and holding onto their free hand were telescopic Lightsaber Pikes minimized into the same size as a regular lightsaber hilt.
They were an intimidating group; it was probably why Kalifa and her friends kept quiet since the trip.
These people came in and killed off the Trandoshans that kept them on Wasskah. Kalifa was brought to the ruined fortress that they decimated during the brief battle between the golden warriors and the Trandoshans. Rather than treating them like ignorant children – somehow Kalifa felt they all understood what she and her friends underwent. Something she was actually thankful for.
Leaving that moon, all that was left after Wasskah were Kalifa: the young Human female, O-Mer the young Cerean male, and Jinx the young Twi'lek male.
The shuttlecraft they flew in possessed its own Hyperdrive and allowed it to travel great distance that weren't normally used for this kind of starship.
Kalifa had no idea where they were heading, and neither did Kalifa's friends know either.
Since the trip, Kalifa eyed her savior moments at a time. The memory of seeing him kill that Trandoshan hunter so viciously, it matched the same way how the Force was felt around him. He had looked so very intimidating with the cover of night surrounding him with only the golden glow of his lightsaber. Now, thanks to the ship's fluorescent lights above, he seemed like any ordinary person – something Kalifa knew the blonde was far from that.
He was a teen rather than boy, having a bright shock of unruly and somewhat spiky hair. His skin was fair, three thin lines were seen on each cheek and his eyes were red-rimmed irises with molten orange surrounding his black pupils.
Kalifa remembered back during her studies in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant where the Jedi Masters spoke of practitioners who would twist and pervert the Force to their will. Saying along the line that it was proof of the corruption to them and the misuse of the Force itself.
It was obvious. If it hadn't been for her sense, she would have just believed those were his natural eye color. What the former Jedi initiate knew was that her savior was a practitioner to the Dark Side of the Force. With how much mastery, Kalifa did not know.
He moved somewhat in his seat, looking up right at her. "I can feel your thoughts in the Force ya'know? Got something on your mind?" Naruto asked her. After their success in killing those hunters back on Wasskah, the trip had been quiet enough to wonder in thought on what he and his fellow knights planned on doing with the three survivors they had found back on that moon. Though, a part of him ignored the stares the girl Kalifa gave him minute after minute – her mind just wondering who and what were he and his group.
Naruto couldn't really blame her for being curious. Especially for what they were.
His remark left Kalifa flustered a bit, a faint tint of red cover her cheeks at how her thoughts betrayed her. "Sorry, I ugh, who are you again? I don't think we exchanged names back on Wasskah" Kalifa wanted to know who these people were, she wanted to know who her savior's name was.
"Naruto. My name is Naruto, and yours?" he replied before asking her name.
"Kalifa. These are my friends O-Mer and Jinx" Kalifa pointing to the Cerean and Twi'lek by name both who either waved or nodded nervously.
Naruto nodded with a small smile, "It's nice to meet you three. Though I gotta admit, when we set out to find those Trandoshan scum, we didn't expect to find any survivors. I guess we should be thankful we got there in time – especially with your help Kalifa."
"Me?" Kalifa pointed at herself, confused. "I didn't do anything, you guys saved us."
"I felt you through the Force" Naruto elaborated, "we were just arriving on Wasskah when I felt you reach out for someone to help you, I heard the call and that was what led me to save you and your friends."
O-Mer and Jinx looked at her, drawing their attention towards her.
"I still didn't do much?" murmuring and looking away, Kalifa winced with a small pained grunt. The injury she suffered was minor now, thanks to Naruto using the Force to comfort and heal her, Kalifa didn't have a seared hole on her shoulder anymore. It wasn't perfect – Naruto could only manage to knit back the damaged bone, muscle and flesh just enough to close the wound, not properly heal it.
Seeing her wince from the pain, a phantom sensation ran along his shoulder in response to what Kalifa felt. He ignored it. "Kalifa, I have to give you guys credit, I'm amazed that you three were able to survive for six months on that moon" with a shake of his head in disbelief, it still struck him at how just three younglings were able to survive despite the odds not being in their favor.
"Is that how long it's been?" O-Mer asked in a faint gasp, their eyes widening slowly, taken back from the fact that that was how long they've been stranded on that accursed moon.
Days and months just ticked by with neither of them knowing.
"The Datapads we were able to collect from their fortress were used as journals – they catalogued everything they've hunter all around the galaxy. You guys were mentioned a couple times in it from how long you've survived – those sick Trandoshan scum made gambles on which of them would be lucky enough to kill one of you" extending his hand to the side, one of the armored men handed him a Datapad.
It was a Versafunction88 Datapad. A slight bulky handheld device featured with a touch-sensitive screen, data port, holoprojector, and handgrips. Scrolling his gloved finger along the screen Naruto continued, "taking the Datacards from all their Datapads, we were able to find out how many hidden bases they have across the Outer and Mid Rim and those that were off Wasskah. Once we take you three somewhere safe, we'll be heading back out to make sure the ones left alive face justice for the crimes they've committed."
The blonde mentioning the word safe made one of their questions answered. Yet, hearing the reassurance and certainty in his voice made all of them feel relieved. The dark days they suffered on that moon were finally over.
"I-I really thought the Jedi would be the ones to save us" Kalifa's voice cracked, "every night I hoped that they'd come. I'd always stay up just before going to sleep – reaching out with the Force to call out to them. Feeling so helpless I just wanted to scream at the top of my lungs – telling the whole galaxy that we were here, stranded and helpless. But they never came. The Jedi never came for us. Instead you did – all of you" shoulders slumped and head down, Kalifa grit her teeth and bit back the sobs she had.
The anger, the anxiety, all her fears rolled off of her and in turned left the Force to ripple around for everyone to feel.
O-Mer and Jinx looked at their friend in worry. The armored ones and Naruto were unfazed by the downtrodden feelings radiating off of the young girl. Handing over the Datapad to the one that gave it to him, Naruto eyed Kalifa when he felt her downtrodden thoughts. The feelings of sadness and anger boiling deep within her. And there were so many questions, so many thoughts running along her mind so quickly for her to even make sense of. One thing was certain, Kalifa refused to cry in front of him, seeing her wipe away whatever tears were in her eyes Kalifa looked up at him.
"Sorry. I – we – still don't even know who you guys are. You're Force wielders, but we know you aren't Jedi, so who are you people?" Kalifa asked, relaying the same question that was on both O-Mer and Jinx's minds.
Hearing her question, the golden warriors glanced at one another. A shared thought in mind, a questionable one they all shared.
The pilots paid no heed on the conversation between one of their own and the younglings they saved. O-Mer and Jinx kept quiet, waiting, wanting to know who the people that rescued them were. Words couldn't express how grateful they were to them.
Naruto spared at glance at his ilk and then back to Kalifa. There was a thought, wondering if he should even say. Then again, what harm could there be? They wanted to know who saved them, to show how grateful they were. "We are, the Knights of Zakuul, members of the Eternal Order" Naruto answered, almost sounding proud by the name of his order.
There was confusion followed by silence. The trio of younglings glancing at each other – not sure what to make of the identity of the people that saved them
"The Knights of Zakuul? The Eternal Order?" Jinx repeated what the blonde human said. "I don't think I've – we've ever heard of your order before, and we were taught a lot during our academy days in the Jedi Temple"
"That's good, then that means our secret is still safe even after all this time" it did them justice knowing one of the most recognizable Force-based organizations weren't aware of their existence yet.
"Wait? Then why? Trandoshans live in the Kashyyyk system which is in the Mid Rim. If your order really is reclusive that the Jedi doesn't know, then why come out of hiding?" O-Mer said. It struck him as odd to him at how an entire order of Force wielders could be even able to hide anywhere in the galaxy without either the Jedi or the Galactic Republic from knowing.
"Just because we're reclusive doesn't mean we're ignorant about what's happening to the galaxy around us. Those Trandoshan hunters were making a bit of name for themselves in hunting sentient life across the galaxy, and when they stumbled to close into our territory and kidnapped a few dozen people on one of our worlds – we were called to act and bring those scum to justice"
The trio were silent. It never came to them about how many innocent people were hunted by those vicious killers – they never even imagined how many people died at the hands of those monsters. And they never imagined that the Jedi didn't do anything to stop them.
"The Jedi were never going to come for us, were they" O-Mer said coldly. The three of them were practically raised by the Jedi Order, and the thought of the same order they grew to admire didn't so much as bat an eyelash to them missing spoke in volumes never before seen to each of the trio.
Betrayal was the only word to fit what O-Mer felt. How could the Jedi have abandoned them so easily? Six months? Were they ever searching at all?
Naruto sensed their feelings, "sorry my people weren't the ones you wanted. At least now you can be okay knowing those Trandoshan scum won't ever kill any more innocent people" that was the only solace he could give them. Their sense of purpose, one that each of them kept with them about their order they grew up seemed to shatter like glass at how everything they've come to believe wouldn't ever truly be what it was.
"No" Kalifa said abruptly, shaking her head. "You don't need to apologize; we owe our lives to you and your knights" looking down at her hands – seeing the rough calluses on her palms and fingertips. They shook. Not from anger, but a new sense of assurance. "You made me realize I can't trust the Jedi anymore. Living on that moon for six months, seeing all you do what the Jedi couldn't, I want to help other people the same way you did for me and my friends. I don't want innocent people to suffer like we did"
It had to have been a logical choice. A decision governed by just as much raw emotion as it was about logic. The galaxy was a harsh place, Kalifa wanted to help the galaxy when the Jedi failed at doing it. These people, these Knights of Zakuul made sure justice was ultimately served. "C-can I be able to join your Order?" saying it aloud for both O-Mer and Jinx to look at her, there was a fire in Kalifa's eyes, one they thought had disappeared on Wasskah.
"Join us?" Naruto now taken back; recruitment wasn't an intention he had mind. Naruto thought they would want to return back to their order, maybe at least go back to civilization where they could go back to what use to be – of course there was a procedure in making sure their secrets were safe.
Though, it was a question so sudden that even the other knights glanced towards their leader. Unable to read their expressions behind their helmeted masks, no one could see what they might have felt.
"Are you sure about that? Our way might be different from what you've learned with the Jedi. You might even regret it later" warning her, there were things in mind Naruto felt someone like Kalifa would not be able to handle. Even by their training regiment, some methods could likely kill their fellow knights. Naruto bit back, these three earned his respect for being able to survive for so long. They had potential in the Force. It would only be a waste if he forced such methods on them – then again, it was a matter of choice on their part.
"We were only Jedi initiates, we never made it to Padawan status before we were even kidnapped" Jinx explained. A chanced had come. An opportunity made for all of them. The Jedi abandoned them, and if these knights could do a little bit of good in the galaxy when the Jedi failed to do for them – Jinx would want to give the galaxy the same curtesy too.
"You guys have something we didn't have back on Wasskah. You did something I doubt the Jedi would have done for us; we want to do the same" O-Mer stated.
For the moment, Naruto stared at them. Eying them to see if they were really certain about this decision they were making. Sensing them through the Force, Naruto didn't feel the trio waver. "Alright. I'm convinced" Naruto agreed, each of them breathing out a sigh in relief and nod excitingly. "How long before we reach the fortress on Ota?" Naruto looked over his shoulder, curious to know when they'd reach their destination.
"Fifty more minutes before we reach the planet, my Exarch" the co-pilot stated.
Naruto nodded, there was plenty of time then. "Alright, Kalifa, O-Mer, Jinx, if we're going to trust you, then I need you three to tell me everything you know that's happened before you were kidnapped. Everything about the Jedi Order and the Galactic Republic. I want to know everything."
The certainty in their eyes wavered a bit, a sense of betrayal boiling in the pit of their stomachs. It seemed sudden now. To be asked something like that. Naruto sensed that.
"Don't worry, I'm not planning something bad. I need to know what's been going on in the Jedi Order and the Galactic Republic. I need to know if anything's changed about the government or the order itself. That's all. And I promise I'll share whatever you three want to know"
A part of Kalifa felt she could tell Naruto what she knew. She really couldn't understand it but, it was just a feeling.
Unbeknownst to her, Kalifa didn't noticed the connection the Force had placed between herself and Naruto. A Force-bond that linked their feelings and thoughts together – perhaps one-sided where Naruto was the one who sensed the connection, but it was a bond nonetheless.
Kalifa started with the Jedi Code.
"There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force."
And so, it when on from there, the Jedi Code, their experiences from in the Jedi Academy and the teachings they learned before they ended up on Wasskah. How Jedi initiates like themselves were caught despite the safety of their temple was from their attempt at gaining Padawan status. They all were allowed to perform the Gathering – an ancient Jedi tradition where initiates would have the rights to gain a Lightsaber Crystal and construct their own Lightsabers, thereby becoming Padawans.
"Hm. So, the Jedi Code hasn't changed much since the Old Republic, even the Republic still sounds the same" a little disappointed knowing there wasn't much usefulness in either side, the practices for the Jedi sure have changed enough for Naruto to notice. "Okay, since you told me everything, now's my turn to tell you about us. It was during the days of the Old Republic when the Knights of Zakuul were active. The knights you see in front of you – including me – are all part of a faction we've come to call as the Eternal Order. Seventeen-hundred years ago our faction left the Unknown Regions to explore and settle onto the known regions in the galaxy. We've kept to ourselves, but we never cut ourselves off completely. Sticking to the Outer Rim we were able to find countless planets that were perfect for new settlements – some were purely used for harvest in gathering plenty of resources to distribute throughout our territories and enough financially for profitable trade with the worlds under Republic control – of course it was under a different name so it wouldn't draw to much attentions to us directly"
Explaining further on the origins of the Eternal Order and Zakuul Knights and how they've been active, Jinx spoke up.
"Has the Eternal Order every come into contact with the Jedi Order since after the Old Republic?" that had been Jinx's question.
Naruto thought, "I remember back in my academy days that during the early wars between the Jedi and Sith, their battles would get to close to our territories in the Outer Rim – those was the only times the Zakuul Knights fought against both the Jedi and Sith and won." Naruto didn't go further to elaborate the remaining order had killed off both Jedi and Sith, making sure they weren't discovered and that no one would know any of the locations for the Zakuul territories.
"What about the Force? The Jedi Masters told us at times about their time exploring other worlds where other people practice the Force differently than how they use it. What makes the Zakuul Knights different in using it?" Kalifa asked.
"The Knights of Zakuul see the Force as a tool to be used in the pursuit of justice, nothing more than that" it was a simple doctrine that was the core belief to any Zakuul Knight.
"But what about the Dark Side? I saw you use it on that Trandoshan when you found me. Aren't you afraid what might happen to you or your people if you let it control you?" Kalifa asked.
Kalifa remembered what one of the masters told her about the Dark Side and how not to succumb to it. The masters would often tell the initiates about how individuals who follow the Dark Side tend to be more abrasive with their emotions and were quick to anger and hate. The most well-known practitioners were the Sith. But Naruto was no Sith. He didn't fit anything the teachers told her about other lesser Dark Side practitioners like Dark Jedi.
Seeing those molten orange orbs that Naruto had, the masters told that was the proof of someone's misuse of the Force and perverting it to their will.
"The Knights of Zakuul don't believe in that. I mean, we don't really reject or follow either side of the Force. What's really important to a Zakuul Knight is exploring their own personal connection to the Force and using it for the greater good. It doesn't matter how we use the Force, as long as we use it for justice and serving under our leader. Light or Dark doesn't matter if it doesn't benefit with our goal. So long as our goal is the same, our devotion for what we believe in, that's all there is to being a Zakuul Knight" Naruto elaborated.
"What about the rules? Or a council, isn't there anyone that watches over your order in case anyone doesn't follow what your ideals are?" Jinx questioned.
"A Zakuul Knight would never betray his own people" Naruto said sharply, "we live to serve our people, protect them and we live to serve and protect our leader"
It went on, going back and forth as they continued. So much unlike the Jedi, and so very much flexible in making sure that they as Force wielders could do to keep the peace.
"So, the knights have control over the Zakuul territories?" Kalifa asked, which the other knights glanced towards Naruto.
"The territories are policed somewhat by the knights, but our system is a monarchy which means our emperor has the final say. We either refer to him as our Emperor or His Excellency, he's our leader and the one that stands above all of us" before Naruto could have explained further, the ship had just come out of Hyperspace.
"My Exarch, now approaching the fortress on Ota" the pilot knight stated.
Coming out of Hyperspace, the Zakuul Dropship arrived to Ota.
Ota was a frozen world that underwent a brutal ice age. The frozen world was once populated by an advance society, but the ice age that swept the planet left the remaining population into primitive one thereafter – the Eternal Order would call the populace Snogar. Neither the Jedi Order or the Republic would ever have known of this world would be an outpost for the Eternal Order. Over the long centuries Ota was overlooked many times over as just some frozen backwater world useless to them. From here, the Eternal Order could assess over the inner parts of the galaxy without being detected. Here was a place no Jedi or Republic would ever come too.
In all its glory, orbiting the frozen planet was a massive battle-station of Zakuulan design.
A Star Fortress.
It was a massive space stations powered by Sun Generators; Star Fortresses were placed in orbit of worlds under Zakuulan control to ensure each and every world was protected from outside threats. Every Star Fortress contained numerous hangars, a combat droid facility, and Zakuulan military forces. As with any stations the Star Fortress provided necessities for its soldiers such as cantinas and bunks.
And as a precaution to the Star Fortress's protection, placed around the battle station were three battle cruisers every one of them being a Terminus-class destroyer with one additional ship being a Gage-class transport.
This was a home away from home.
"Once we land, make sure our new friends are taken care of. I have to make a report for His Excellency, understood" Naruto ordered, getting a 'yes, honorable Exarch' from each of the knights.
Already Naruto could hear the call of his master. He had to know what had happened in the last hour since their trip in the Mid Rim. The shuttle landed in the hangar of the Star Fortress and Naruto went to work.
"I just underwent an entire rewrite with minor or significant changes to the previous two chapters and now with the third chapter coming up, it will be good… I hope. Anyway, if any of you have noticed then thank you for being patient on the chapters. I have plenty of time, but real life tends to get in the way but we all need a way to live don't we. Anyway, like my previous question before:
Just how will this affect the Clone Wars? How will it affect the Republic? How will it affect the Confederacy of Independent Systems? How will it affect the Jedi Order? How will it affect the Sith? And most importantly, how will it affect Darth Sidious?
Please review and tell me what you think, NO FLAMES!