Chapter 4

Anaïs woke, still getting used to the silence. The ship she was on was so large she'd expected a small crew, three others at least, but it was only the two of them, and the low hum of the engines the only constant source of noise. As long and tall as a Consular-class cruiser, it was wide as well, providing three times the interior space, the entire ship rectangular instead of the wide base, narrow hull design of the vessels that normally carried Jedi. Instead of a full crew, however, the entire ship was built in such a way that it could be controlled just by her Master, though he did need to manipulate several sets of controls simultaneously with the Force, an impressive feat in of itself.

After the ship had jumped to Hyperspace, Master Lucian led her to the galley, made dinner for the both of them, and explained their route. They were to make their way out of the Core, stopping at a few key worlds on the way, though he hadn't mentioned just what those key worlds were. When she'd asked about training, he'd just told her that they'd start in the morning, when she was well rested, and that she should appreciate the sleep, as it was a precious commodity in their line of work.

On that somewhat worrying note he'd shown her to the guest rooms and instructed her to claim one. He was sleeping in a completely separate area altogether, one she was instructed not to enter unless specifically ordered to. It'd taken nearly an hour of meditation to fall back to a proper level of calm and drift to sleep.

Now, after a quick trip to the 'fresher, she made her way to the galley, discovering her Master already there, clad in a simple tunic shirt and pants, the only deviation from normal Jedi wear being their dark grey coloration. Nodding to her, he served her an omelet, his own half-eaten. "So," he said once she'd finished. "We need to establish a baseline. The boy said you were competent at making a Force Barrier, and close to three others. Out of the Central Six, that's not half bad, assuming he wasn't overestimating you."

She hesitated, not expressing the annoyance she felt at her Knight-level skill with her best technique being called 'competent', but he'd used a term she didn't know, and that needed to be addressed first. "'Central Six', Master?"

He looked askance at her, "Yes, the Central Six. The core six Force techniques that every Jedi can learn, and that some level of competence in is needed to be considered ready to be taken as a Padawan. Telekinesis," he said, levitating his fork. "Force Barrier." A shadowy disc appeared in the air, which the fork bounced off. "Force Sense." His presence billowed outward in the Force, filling the area around them before pulling back once again. "Force Control," he stated, casually grabbing and twisting the durasteel utensil in half with one hand. "Force Confusion." She waited for him to do something, only for the twisted fork she'd somehow forgotten about to bounce off her forehead. "And Force Healing," he finished, grabbing the mutilated fork and impaling his bare hand with one of the tines. Pulling it out, blood started to drip, but he raised a hand, thick with darkness, over his injured hand. Removing it revealed only smooth flesh, with a light spattering of dark red blood. "The Central Six."

She just blinked at the blasé display of power. He hadn't moved other than to talk, not controlling the Force with gestures, but had displayed a casual mastery of Force techniques her own teachers would be hard pressed to match. "I, I'm not sure I can do all that, Master."

He snorted, "I'd hope not, then I'd have very little to teach you, about the Force at least. No, when you're done with your training, you'll have mastered the Central Six. We're Jedi, and Sentinels at that. With where we're going there's no excuse to just get 'good enough' with the basics. But you seemed taken aback at the naming, Padawan. What are they calling them nowadays?"

Nowadays? she thought, but answered his question. "They're the Notable Nine. They have been for at least a century."

Master Lucian shrugged, "That explains it. Haven't taken an apprentice for almost two. So what have they added? I'm surprised they've increased the standards, from the complaining Er'izma's done when I was fool enough to ask. Maybe it's that the diversifying of subjects has lowered general competence?" he mused to himself, gaze distant before refocusing on her.

"Either way, that's not what I expected, but I'm pleasantly surprised. So, what are the new three? Is one of them Animal Bonding?" he asked with a grin, suddenly interested, expression more open than she'd seen in their short time together. "I've never had much luck with that one, so if you have extra insight I will do my best to help. Or Plant Surge, not good with that one either. Oh, I know, Tapas! Keeping warm in cold environments is a must, and it is the first step to Pyrokinesis, if you are so inclined. That I can help you with, though I haven't gotten the next step down as well as I'd like."

Taken slightly aback, not having expected the cool and collected Jedi to suddenly come alive with interest she hesitated once more. His presence, so devoid of emotion normally, was practically radiating joyful interest. Not able to understand what she'd said to cause such a change, she shook her head. "No, they're Force Empathy, Mental Shields, and Farsight."

Staring at her, the excitement dimmed, the shadows of his presence in the Force smoothing out once more into complete emotionlessness. "I'm not exactly familiar with those techniques," he said slowly, and she found that hard to believe. With how inscrutable her Master was in the Force his Mental Shields must be superb. Even with her own proficiency in Force Empathy, though less than her skill with Force Barriers, the only reason she could sense his emotional state at all while in the temple had been her Padawan Bond with the man. Whatever that just was aside, his Mental Shields were some of the strongest she'd ever seen.

"Force Empathy," she started, "is the ability to sense the emotions of an individual or a group, useful for negotiations and helping resolve a situation without violence. While I haven't mastered it, it is my next best technique."

Quiet for a long moment, Master Lucian asked slowly, getting up and washing their dishes. "So what you're saying is that you sense emotions. With the Force." Glancing at her, she nodded, and he asked, "So how, exactly, is that not the technique known as Force Sense."

That was a question she was able to answer easily, having asked it herself. "Force Sense is the sensing of one's surroundings, and acting reflexively in combat scenarios. I'm not very good with that," she admitted.

"You'll learn," he dismissed. "That's an. . . interesting distinction. And, what, is 'Farsight' just sensing things from afar with the Force?"

She nodded happy he was understanding, and that he believed that she'd achieve mastery in something that'd completely eluded her, "As well as receiving and interpreting the visions the Force can bring someone, yes."

Master Lucian was silent for a long moment, putting everything away. Turning back to her, he did not look pleased, though his presence was completely calm. "I was joking."

She felt her own happiness dim in return. "Oh. Um, well Mental Shields are used for protecting yourself from Mental attacks, even diminishing one's presence in the force."

Her Master, face blank, stared at her for a long moment. "So, the mental aspect of Force Control, essentially, along with one of the steps of Force Cloak."

"Force Cloak?" she asked, and he disappeared from sight. "Oh."

"Oh," he echoed from the doorway, reappearing. "So what you're saying is that they took the three aspects of one discipline, and the two aspects of another, and started pretending they were all entirely different powers. And let me guess, they don't require base competency in all of them anymore, do they?"

"Only six," she offered apologetically, "and I'm still trying to get a handle on healing, empowering my body with the Force, and confusing others."

Her Master sighed deeply. "I think I understand the little one's complaints now. Come along, we've got a lot of work ahead of us."


"Enough for now," Master Lucian called, and she relaxed, taking off her blindfold and weighted vest. "You're right, you've got sensing to a basic level, but you need to work on your physical conditioning, both with and without the Force, though the latter will lead to the former. Take the moment to collect yourself, though you can follow me if you want." With that, he put the training blaster down and walked out of the cargo hold, leaving her on her own.

She was soaked with sweat, her legs leaden, but she hurried after him. Arriving at the bridge as her Master took the captain's seat, closing his eyes, the ship came out of Hyperspace, revealing a blank field of stars in front of them. The controls worked at their stations without anyone at them, and the ship started to turn, revealing nothing but more stars. "Where are we?" she asked, more to herself.

"Deep space," he replied absently. "We need to turn, but doing so sharply in hyperspace can be. . . difficult."

She moved over to the sensor station, which displayed their position in space. Sitting down at it, she glanced at the older Jedi, who nodded to her, and she brought up the computer's menus. It took a moment, but she confirmed what he said. They were in deep space, somewhere between Thokos and Velusia. Wracking her memory, she tried to remember the hyperspace routes that came through this area of space, as they seemed to be changing lanes, but the only route she knew about was the one that linked those two planets.

She wished she could ask Jorel, he had a better memory for these things than she did, but as far as she knew, none existed. There wasn't even a hyper-space beacon, old as that technology was, to show the way. There was just nothingness in every direction. Interfacing her workstation with the navcomputer, she found that it had no record of any other hyperspace routes than the one they'd been travelling as well, though she could see a new course being entered as she watched.

The ship spun, orientated itself on the path provided, and jumped to Hyperspace once again. "Master, did we just make a blind jump?" she asked carefully, unsure. Blind jumps, if she remembered the Temple's basic astrogation training, were nearly suicidal, as any gravity shadow could damage the hyperdrive, wrecking it and leaving them stranded in an uninhabited system, if not destroying their ship outright.

"With the Force, there is no such thing as a blind jump," he disagreed seriously.

"Master?"

He laughed, standing up. "Don't worry, Padawan. We didn't make a blind jump. Just a nonstandard one."

Getting up as well, she couldn't help but ask, "But the navcomputer. . ."

"That old thing?" he chuckled. "I don't bother with it. Don't need it. Now come along, I think you're ready for healing training."

Not saying anything else, she followed him to a different room, one obviously set up for meditation. The way the room was set up, it was built with a single focal point in mind, a grey cushion at the center, while another seat, seemingly out of place, sat across from it. As he'd been with her the entire time, her Master must've set this up while she was still asleep. He motioned for her to take the central seat, and she did, legs cramping slightly as she took a meditative pose. "So," he asked, "What did your teachers tell you about healing with the Force?"

She closed her eyes, recalling the instruction. "The Force can be used to heal, to knit bones and muscles, to clear poison, to renew life that has been damaged. Through its application, one can restore health and remove injuries. To do so one must clear their mind, and allow the Force to guide ones actions and restore oneself and others, as is the nature of the Force to do so."

Her Master was silent as he considered her words. "Wow. That's. . . absolutely useless. I mean, from a certain point of view, that's correct, but. . . how many Padawans actually are proficient in healing, if that's what they teach you?"

Biting back her first response of 'I know!' she tackled the safer issue, opening her eyes to see his frown. "One in three, maybe one if four. How would you describe healing, Master?"

"Well, first of all, I have to explain what's wrong with the instructions. Where to start?" he asked to himself, his sharp gaze turning on her. "Padawan, what do you know about the Force?"

She blinked, not having expected such a basic question, but responded from memory: "The Force is an energy field created by all living things. It guides us, if we are willing to hear it, and helps us, if we know how to call it, and in turn we help it to protect all life." From her Master's expression, he didn't particularly care for her answer, but she was sure she'd remembered it correctly. "Isn't it?"

"The Force is a universal constant. Like gravity, or magnetism. It is what it is, independent of any person or group. It was here before we were, and it will still be here after we are all dust. It does not have a nature, per say, but responds to those who use it. We bring ourselves to it, and it reflects ourselves back at us. There is a power, and a danger, there," he instructed, and she listened.

Whenever she'd asked before, she'd been given answers like 'the Force is the Force' or 'It works because it does, because it is.' Answers that she was supposed to accept without proof, and which she'd given the appropriate answers to. Anything deeper she was instructed to ask her future master about, the teachers unwilling to explain, though she had found some writings in the archives, but they had been always vague, and often confusing. "So the Force runs through, and responds to, all living things?" she checked, trying to understand.

She could sense a slight irritation at her statement coming off him, though she still wasn't sure what she'd said wrong. "Some believe that, yes," he admitted, "but there is Force in everything. In the stars, the planets, even the void of space itself, though it is weak out here. It is through living things, though, that it is given deeper meaning, which we call the Dark and the Light sides of the Force."

"The light side?" she asked, not having heard the term before. At Master Lucian's stare, she hurried to explain "I was taught the Force is the Force, it is what it is," she said, echoing his statement, "a guiding force of peace and unity. The Dark side perverts the Force for selfish ends, twisting and harming it."

"Harming it?" he echoed, sounding as confused as she felt. "Harming it? It's a universal constant. That's like saying you can 'harm gravity' or 'harm thermodynamics', somehow twisting what fire is because you set off an explosion! That's. . ." He paused, realization dawning, and he let out a long sigh. "That arrogant green zealot."

"Master?" she asked, hoping for an explanation.

He held up a forestalling hand, looking down and to the right, and she waited. For several minutes. Finally, he nodded to himself, looking back up at her. "Alright, let's go to the most basic of basics. The Force exists. It has no 'Will', any more than friction has a will of its own, but its very nature clouds that fact. It responds to the wills of its users, at the very least, and thus it is like trying to observe the movement of light in a mirror, or watching the patterns in a lake you are swimming in. Your very presence in it affects what you see, and thus it is dangerously easy to attribute to it's deepest nature the patterns and goals you hold for yourself. For if one wishes to be in alignment with the Force, wouldn't it be comforting to see in it the traits you believe are best about yourself?" he asked rhetorically.

She was trying to keep an open mind, but. . . "What you're saying is against the Temple's teachings," she stated, without judgement.

"What I am saying is against the current Temple's doctrine. While the Jedi have existed for millennia, Padawan, they have not always existed as they do now," he countered. "And any disagreement nowadays is dealt with in a manner more befitting the cults one finds on the rim: with complete and total rejection. 'Know more than the elders, do you think? Wiser than them, you presume to be? Such arrogance, you display!'" he said mockingly.

"There are many reasons that I am not welcome in those hallowed halls," her Master stated. "My presence in the Force was the one that allowed the more outspoken of the time to force me to leave. Not because they could prove me wrong, but because I was, admittedly, disturbing the younglings by being that close. That, and Grandmaster Coven's person request, is why I left. However, my beliefs are not that uncommon among the Jedi, merely not condoned by those in power. Remember, girl, what Er'izma said: Temple politics."

She wanted to say he was wrong, but so much had been called into question already, with what had happened as they left, that she needed to approach this logically. With calm detachment, only looking at the facts, like a true Jedi would. "But if you can prove them wrong, why haven't you?"

His answer once more threw her thoughts into disarray. "Because I can't."

"What?"

Master Lucian sighed. "I point to the cloudy mirror, tell them they are seeing a reflection, but all they see is what they aspire to be, not realizing they are seeing themselves. I point to the ripples in the lake, caused by them, the Jedi near them, the Sith, and to, some extent, every living thing, though they are so weak as to not break the surface, swimming beneath but still causing slight movements, and because I cannot isolate and identify every ripple they can see, they claim the ripples are obviously caused by the lake itself."

"As you mentioned," he said, nodding to her, "some believe that the Force is a living thing, that it only runs through life, and that it has an intelligence of its own, though whether that's a general instinct, a gestalt subconscious, or true sentience they cannot say, and often disagree with themselves about. Then there is Temple Doctrine, where the Light Side of the Force becomes the 'true' Force, and the Dark Side is no longer a dangerous aspect to be wary of, as it exists naturally in all things, just as the Light does, but an active perversion of the Force, in no way natural, which means it must always be purposeful, and thus to be excised on sight. None can prove their beliefs conclusively, and thus all three remain, as well as countless other, smaller interpretations. It is only politics and bigotry that has led to a single view dominating all others in recent times. Recent-ish, for humans," he corrected.

Anaïs didn't respond, trying to work her way through what she was being told. She wasn't going to say he was wrong, not anymore, not without proof, but by his own words he did not have proof either. Small bits of what she'd heard, small pieces she'd been taught that hadn't made sense stuck out though. She'd asked the teachers about them, and their explanations had all made sense, but only when taken in a vacuum. She'd never had cause to question things further, having believed she had answers, and a firm in the belief that Jedi did not lie, but if that was a lie, as had been proven painfully true yesterday, then it was all in question once more.

If a Jedi Master was willing to lie to her face, one who held a position of respect within the order, especially lying about the one thing he was trusted to deal with fairly, sitting on the Council of Reassignment as he did, then the Masters, Knights, and members of the EduCorp may have been lying as well. Or, more likely, honestly passing along lies they'd taken as truth, because Jedi didn't lie.

She'd wanted to be a Sentinel for years, learning how to investigate, how to manage spies and contacts to bring things to her attention that wouldn't make enough of a splash in the Force to be seen even with her skill with Farsight, but large enough to need to be addressed by her personally. She'd never thought to turn those skills inwards, towards the Temple itself.

Taking a deep breath, falling into a meditative state, clearing her mind of concerns, of pre-suppositions, of what she 'knew' was true, she looked over what she'd personally observed with serene, dispassionate logic. Of the questions she'd asked, and the answers she'd been given. Of the records she'd read in the archives, and the strange phrasing that she'd put down to the personal quirks of the Jedi that wrote them. Of the fact that there was not one view of the Force, but at least three. Of the visiting Knights she'd sought out and talked to, and their odd pauses, ones which could not be laid at the feet of her being 'claimed' by Master Skaa.

She arranged it all, like a grand, complex, three-dimensional puzzle. The kind the Temple had as a training tool for helping to hone logical and telekinetic skill, and stilled, the pieces fitting together far too well. With intelligence work there would always be some outliers, reflecting how every problem was but a part in the greater whole of life and the Force. However, if circumstances were within set tolerances, they were likely true, and the closer the picture became to complete, the closer to certain one could become. The picture before her fit almost perfectly, far more than things had before. It had always bothered her, on some level, but she'd always assumed it was due to her inexperience and youth, but that didn't seem to be it all. And what the circumstances before her implied. . . no, what they proved.

Things fit together, and everything she thought she'd known shattered, the structures of her old understanding and 'logic' snapping like the rotten timber of lies like they'd turned out to be.

"Those kriffing duplicitous Hutt-spawn!"

Her eyes flew open, heart pounding in her ears, and looked to her Master, who had gotten a cup of tea and took a long, loud sip. "Anyone in particular?" he asked, sounding amused, and she felt her ire rise at the pleasure he was taking in her being fooled.

"All of them!" she practically yelled, springing to her feet, only to topple backwards as her Master lifted a hand, telekinetically forcing her back down.

"Breath, Padawan," he instructed, repressing a laugh. "As long as I'm not one of 'them', there's not anything you can do about them now."

"No!" she shot back, trying to get back to her feet. He was holding her down, just like they had, and she wouldn't stand for it. How could she help others, if she was being misled, lied to, like she had been by those she'd trusted. The pain, the evil that she had spent all of her life preparing to stop? It hadn't just been out in the Rim, far away from civilized space, it'd been with her all along, and she'd been too blind to see it. But she saw it now, and she'd do something about it!

Trying to match his Telekinesis with her own, but he was too strong. Just like her teachers before had been stronger in the force than her. She'd thought such strength came from a deeper understanding of the Force itself, and had listened to them, even as they lied to her, keeping her weak. She tried to use Force Control to make her stronger, make her stand, finding it coming easier than it ever had, the Force filling her, urging her on as it recognized her cause as just, and she started to get up again, fighting past his control of her. She would make them pay for lying to her! She would notberestrain-

She felt the amusement coming off her master cool in an instant, and the force holding her down multiplied what felt like tenfold, slamming her back-first into her cushion. She couldn't move, she couldn't breathe, and she struggled, the edges of her vision starting to go dark. She struggled, reaching for anything, not wanting to die, but it didn't come. As the sound started to leech out of the world, everything diming, the pressure pulled back, and she gasped, greedily sucking in lung-fulls of air.

Once she could think again, she realized he was still holding down her limbs, and was standing over her. His presence in the Force was a dark maelstrom, spinning and roiling, with a deep sense of disappointment coming from him. She felt fear shoot through her. Was he going to kill her? He could in an instant. She hadn't thought about it, but her presence was miniscule compared to this dark sea of Force power, far more than she'd even seen in the Temple.

She wanted to say something as he stood over her, one hand almost lazily pointed towards her while the other hung by his side, but she didn't know what. Her Master had no such issue. "If you act like a Sith Acolyte, I will treat you like a Sith Acolyte. Force knows I've killed enough of them over the years. Just because they lied to you about some things does not mean they lied to you about every thing."

Pulse pounding, drenched in sweat, muscles aching even more than they had before, she just felt confused, unbalanced, and wrung out. "What?" The Sith had been gone for a thousand years, and she didn't think he was old enough to fight in the New Sith Wars, but who knows, he might've been, but what did he mean about her acting like a Sith. . .

She paled, remembering that feeling of power in her desire to stand, suddenly about to infuse herself with the Force, but the way she felt wasn't how someone was supposed to feel when they used Force Control. She didn't feel revitalized, she felt exhausted, her muscles aching in a way that couldn't be considered in any way pleasant, like someone had sanded down her nerves so all was dull, grinding pain.

"I. . . I. . ." she said, unable to form any other words.

He stared down at her, for a long moment, before he sighed, and the pressure was taken off her limbs, already bruised. He mumbled something under his breath as she tried to sit up, but found herself unable to, her body weak. Reaching down towards her, she froze, and he stopped. The coldness in his presence thawed, the Maelstrom, not receding back to wherever his presence went, but calming to a stormy night sky, able to rage at any moment, but peaceful, for now. "If I wanted you hurt, my Padawan, I would've done so. But I told you, the Padawan Bond is a promise, and I do not go back on my promises."

Even though he seemed thin, and was only slightly bigger than she was, he physically picked her up, taking his seat as he laid her down on a bed of shadows, hanging in the air. Force Barrier? she thought, but to maintain one this large, and this stable. . . and it was almost soft. . . even as good as she was, she had no idea such a thing was possible.

Holding his hands over her, they wreathed themselves in darkness, like they had when he'd healed himself. "Focus on this feeling, it'll be a good start for your training," he murmured to her, starting from her stomach and working his way out. Her muscles that felt almost torn, and bones that almost felt fractured, were all slowly soothed back to normal.

Was this from when he forced me down? She thought, but she'd studied injuries as she tried to learn how to heal, and what she was feeling shouldn't have come from that. Even her eyes hurt, and that shouldn't have happened from being pressed down onto a cushion. Additionally, something else, almost like a poison, felt like it seeped out of her and up. It seemed to try to hook into her, to latch deeply, but the shadows surrounded it and gently pried it loose, the pitch-black acid joining the umbral shroud that covered her Master's hands, though he didn't seem to acknowledge it.

He continued for a while, she didn't know how long, as all she could do was lie there and trying to think what she'd just done. What was she going to do when she tried to stand up? Attack her Master? That's what people who used the Dark Side did, right? And she'd been a Padawan for all of a day and she'd already fallen to the Dark Side! What kind of a Jedi was she? She didn't deserve this. She should've just left the Order completely. She- "Ow!" she yelped, as her Master flicked her in the forehead. "What?"

"You're a Jedi. Just because they mislead you about the philosophy doesn't mean the techniques are bad. You're my Padawan, and I'm not going to let anything happen to you. Even if that means protecting you from yourself. Understood?" he stated calmly, with only slight annoyance, though his tone brooked no disagreement.

"Yes Master," she agreed, quiet for a long moment as he continued to heal her. The firm footing of the Order's Truth had been her foundation for all her life, and now she didn't know what to trust. In her fear, in her anger, she'd lashed, out, just like the Sith of old. She didn't want to ask, but had to, even as it tore at her to do so, the fear that nearly drowned her all but answering the question for her, "Master. . . did I. . . fall?"

Master Lucian paused for a second before the shadows over his hands dispersed, and he started to laugh. Not the wry chuckles he given before, or even normal laughter, the Master Jedi guffawed, face scrunched in mirth as he fell backwards onto his seat, seemingly disabled with amusement. Confused, and a little insulted, she tried to sit up, but she still felt weak, though better than she had when she'd been laid down. "Master Lucian?" she asked, and the Jedi waved a placating hand, not stopping.

He eventually sat up, wiping tears from his eyes. "I'm sorry," he apologized, still snickering. "I'm sorry, but. . . what do you think the Dark Side of the Force is?" Seeing her still struggling to rise, he picked her up like she was a youngling, sitting her down where he'd originally sat.

She swayed a little, but stayed upright, trying to copy what she'd seen and making a Force Barrier to lean on. It wasn't really there, and it didn't support much weight before she started to sink through it, but it helped. "It's. . . It's when you use the Force for selfish reasons. When you give in to hate, and anger, and fear, and twist the Force in unnatural ways, not caring about others. But. . . but that's not what you think, is it? That's why you laughed."

He nodded, invisibly bringing over a small table with tea and sandwiches that she hadn't noticed. "I'm sorry I laughed," he said, "but, how do I put it? You asking me that, it's like a youngling barely old enough to hold a training blade drops it, then looks at you and asks 'Does this mean I can't be a Jedi?'" He looked soulfully at her, the picture of innocent worry as his voice trembled in childish horror, before his visage cracked as he chuckled a bit more. "Absolutely adorable."

"I might have a been a bit harsh, but yes," he informed her, "you did tap into the Dark Side of the Force, just as almost every single Jedi that has ever existed has, at least the near-human ones. Remember how I said how the Force is, and how we give it its nature?"

She nodded, "Then, I wasn't using Force Control?"

"Oh no, you absolutely were," her Master disagreed. "And, with a bit of training, you might be able to use that experience to help you reach a competent level with it properly. You just used the Dark version of it, which, like almost all Dark Side techniques, is easy to use, but almost impossible to fully master. Every use of the Force I've seen, with some key exceptions, is neutral, with Dark and Light manifestations. Jedi can use the Dark Side, though it is dangerous to do so, and Sith can use the Light Side, though it is equally perilous, if for completely different reasons."

"But, I was fighting you!" she argued, some part of her stung at the youngling comparison. "I was going to strike you down!"

He regarded her for a long moment, then passed her a cup of tea, "Were you now? Because all you were talking about was 'not being held down' and 'making those liars pay' before I removed that option from you."

Reddening, she looked down. Had she said that aloud? The Dark Side was supposed to come with a loss of control, if her teachers were to be believed. "I might've," she mumbled, before taking a sip. It was spiced, and sweet, but rather nice. More than she deserved.

Master Lucian chuckled, "Because that's what fallen Jedi do?"

She nodded, not looking at him, taking a bite of the sandwich instead. It was good too, not nearly as tasteless as the food in the Temple had been. Was she enjoying this food too much? That, too, could lead one to the Dark Side, which is why the food in the Temple had been so bland. With how close she was, maybe she shouldn't be eati- "Ow!" She rubbed the spot on her forehead her Master had flicked, the exact same spot that he had before.

"Enjoy the food, Padawan Anaïs," he instructed as he leaned back, she hadn't even noticed him get close. "And don't worry about falling for the rest of today. Master's orders."

She looked incredulously at him. He couldn't just order her to stop worrying! She'd stop if she could! She suddenly felt something click into place, and made a note to apologize to Jorel the next time she saw him, if she saw him again. With what she'd done, she wasn't sure she could face him-

Leaning back, she missed the flick by less than an inch. "I'm trying!" she complained.

"Try not to think of Grandmaster Yoda in bright pink robes," her Master commanded.

"What?" she asked, immediately doing so. Why would her Master not want her to-

"And it looks like we'll add that 'Mental Shields technique' on to the list of things to work on," he sighed. "I have no idea how they ascertain competence, but there might be a few flaws with their new test."

At first, she felt indignation flare. While not her best technique, she had displayed enough competency to pass as one of her requirements! Then she thought about those last two statements, and what had happened, and felt something inside herself wilt a little, wondering how much of the praise she'd received as an Initiate was built on lies. "Yes Master."

He shrugged, taking a bite from his own sandwich. "It is what it is. Now, I want you to mentally take everything you've learned about the 'Force', and I want you to stick it under the heading of 'Light Side'. The compassion, the truth, the mercy, the love for others, all of those positive emotions are firmly on that side of the coin. But for every positive feeling, there is an opposite. Anger, fear, lies, cruelty, it all draws one towards the Dark. They are both concepts that living beings bring to the Force, and which the Force mirrors back to them in turn when they use it."

"Whatever you put out into the Force, it returns with. Light Side and Dark Side users both believe they hear the 'Will of the Force', but it tells them two completely different things," he explained, and Anaïs wondered who her Master had talked to learn this, but kept silent, taking another bite of her sandwich, trying not to enjoy it too much. "How can this be possible, if the Force itself has a will? Some believe the two halves are separate. That the Will of the Light Side is in eternal conflict with the Will of the Dark Side. The Temple believes that they are the ones who hear the true Will of the Force, while the users of the Dark are merely deluded or lying, as is the want of Dark Side users to do. However, it is my belief, and the belief of others like me, that both are speaking the truth, as they see it. Can you figure out why that is, young investigatress?"

Anaïs considered the issue, accepting the challenge. She wasn't the best at theory, preferring to work with hard realities, and this was nothing but theory, but she wouldn't fail here. Approaching it like a crime, where you had several parties who had conflicting accounts and with the possibility that they all believed they were telling the truth, she got to work. She thought about what Master Lucian said. She hadn't been with him long, but he didn't speak like her teachers did, full of vague statements that she was supposed to figure out herself.

No, he seemed to talk plainly, like one would about droid maintenance or mathematics. The Force was just there, and not some grand and mystical thing. She was just missing so much information, or had so much misinformation, that she thought that multiplication meant doubling, and doubling only. His insults towards the Temple aside, not that she was currently in a position, or had the desire, to defend it, the phrase 'as they see it.' seemed most important.

If she focused on that, along with what she knew was true because she'd figured it out herself, in conjunction with what he'd said before about the Force reflecting emotions. . . "The Force helps them get what they want, so they hear it helping them get what they want, and think they're hearing what the Force itself wants?" she asked unsure.

Master Lucian smiled broadly, "Exactly, my Padawan. See? I was right to choose you, unwarranted self-recrimination and all." Even with the reminder, she still felt a small happiness bloom in her chest, just as she had at the Temple. Unlike the Temple, however, he didn't suggest she stop asking questions.

"So, if they're the same powers, why did I feel so bad after I used the Dark Side version of Force Control, and why did it feel good when I was using it? I don't want to do so again," she quickly added, "but I'd like to know."

He shook his head, "Don't apologize for asking questions," he lightly chided, and she felt another thrill at being right. "I may not answer you then, but I will always try to. It's because that emotionality, both dark and light, changes the nature of the technique. When used with calmness and clear purpose, which are emotions no matter what the Temple says, Force Control invigorates, harmonizing with the body and working with it to allow the body to work past its limits while supporting it, caring for it in a way. It is limited though, as it won't push you past what you can handle. When used with anger and rage, Force Control forces the body to work past its limits, tearing muscle and straining bone, not caring for anything in the way of getting the job done. With one, the Force cares for you as much as you care for it, making you better for having used it. With the other the Force is just as greedy, brutal, and uncaring as you are, taking what it wants and leaves your body damaged in its wake, like an army through farmland."

"That said," he added, "With greater skill, the Light Side user can use it in a near constant state, working with it so completely that they no longer need to actively use the Force for it to help them. With greater skill, the Dark Side user can force the, well, Force to do what they wish, taking back the vitality the Force would demand as payment, just as the Dark Side user themselves would demand payment for any help they give others, only to steal that as well."

She thought about this. "So, it's alright to use the Dark Side a little, if one is willing to pay the price?" It sounded. . . wrong. Like she should be punished for even suggesting it, but with what he'd said so far, it made a certain kind of sense. If the Light and the Dark were so intertwined, wouldn't it be better to use both? He had said that both sides could use the powers of the other, though it was dangerous. If she knew the risks, could she still be of the light, but with a little grey? She'd never considered it, but maybe she could try to-

"No."

The seriousness and finality of the statement shocked her, almost as much as the shortness of it. For someone with as dark a presence as he had, her Master liked to talk a surprisingly large amount, but the answer was so unexpected she had to ask "Why?"

He looked at her seriously, and as before, she could sense the shadows in the room start to stir. "Because the price is never stated, and it is always more than you'd be willing to give. Always. This is not like building a lightsaber or learning a trade, young one. The emotionality you give the Force when you use it is present in every sense. There are differences between fallen Jedi and Sith, Padawan Anaïs, and that statement is why. When you use the Light, the Force is there to help you, just as you wish to help others. You can use it without restraint, openly and freely. When you use the Dark, the Force is there to hurt you, just as you wish to hurt others. You must use it carefully, always aware of the damage it will do. Tell me, when did you come to the Temple?"

"When I was three, Master," she replied, still not quite getting the distinction.

He nodded, "It would be easier to understand if you were older, but I had to learn this out in the greater galaxy after I was made a Knight. Hopefully you won't have to. A fallen Jedi treats the Dark Side as if it were the Light, using their anger, their hatred, and their fear to fuel their actions, expecting the Force to support them. And it does, at first. However, with every favor it does for them, it takes something in return, feeling as entitled to the Jedi as the Jedi feels entitled to the Force."

The man sighed ruefully, "It will always be small things at first, their control, their ability to sense, their positive feelings, their cherished memories, never so much as to be noticed unless they willfully drown themselves in it, but those that fall so quickly are rarer than the Temple likely would have you believe. No, it steals small things from them, bits so minor the fallen Jedi can appear whole, as long as no one looks to closely. Then, with time, it steals more, their health, their sanity, their ability to feel anything but that which powers the dark side, their very reasons for using the Dark in the first place. If not stopped, it leaves them gibbering, mad wrecks, incredibly powerful in the Force but denied the will or intelligence to actually do anything with the strength they've unknowingly traded everything for. If handled properly, they are fairly easy to kill, and at that point it's almost always a mercy to them to do so."

Anaïs shivered, despite the warmth of the room and her drink. She'd regained some of her strength, but the way her Master talked, the distant look in his eyes, she didn't think he was talking theory any longer. "And the Sith?" she asked, despite herself.

He sighed again, though with a sad smile, "Simultaneously better and worse. They go into the Dark with their eyes open, knowing they must be careful, that they cannot 'trust in the Force' because such a thing would be the height of stupidity, like going to the slums in fine clothing and talking about how you've had a great payday, but that you're also a pacifist. They trust only their own abilities, and thus approach the Force entirely differently, taking what they want, but aware if their reach exceeds their grasp, they're the ones who will likely lose everything, though the Force might give them what they want in exchange. Sith can be redeemed, though it is difficult to do so, and only sometimes possible, while truly fallen Jedi, once they've passed a certain point, rarely can be."

The Jedi Master shrugged, "It really depends on who they are, where they came from, and what they've known. For those who've never had kindness that wasn't poisoned in some manner, they believe that such a thing isn't possible. Mind you, they're likely to try to kill you for 'trying something so amateurishly stupid and obviously fake' on them, so one should never let down their guard, but it is possible." He smiled wistfully, absently touching his forearm.

"But," he finished, looking directly at her, "that is why one does not cross-dabble. The two sides, Dark and Light, are both aspects of the Force, yes, but one cannot stand on water, nor swim in land, and approaching the two sides as if they are the other has disastrous results."

"Can, can one learn to switch between the two?" she asked. He shook his head. "Why?"

"Your friend, Jorel, he is a better duelist than you, correct?" he asked instead. She nodded, not ashamed of that fact in the slightest. He worked hard at it, and was naturally talented. "And when you fight, do you ever consider using your barriers to fill his mouth, so he can no longer breath? Or, when he twists around, turn up your lightsaber's intensity to slice through the floor, using the surprise to move forward and, I don't know, take off a hand?"

"What? No! Why would I do that?" she demanded, repulsed by the very concept. "That would, why?"

Her Master shrugged, like it wasn't a big deal. "To win, of course," he scoffed dismissively, tone suddenly cruel. "To prove you're better than him. The fact that it'll be a permanent reminder makes it even better. He can get a new robot hand, or something, and every time he looks at it, every time he's denied a true sense of touch because of it, he'll know that. You. Are. Better." She just stared at him, trying to think of what kind of person would do such a thing, what her Master was saying completely contrary to everything he'd said before, so she thought she understood where he was going.

"That's how Sith think?" she asked, horrified.

Master Lucian nodded, sneer dropping from his face and returning to normal, "So, do you think you can switch between the two? That you ever could?" She shook he head. "So, you see why you can't 'dip into' the Dark Side?" she nodded. "Good. The only time the Dark Side is better is in sheer destructive power or if you want to do something very unnatural. For the latter, chances are it's not worth it. For the former, that's why Merr-Sonn Munitions developed the thermal detonator. Now, let's work on your Force Healing, okay?"

"What's the Dark Side version?" Anaïs couldn't help but query.

Her Master looked at her, before shaking his head and smiling a little. "Force Drain, and while I like you, Padawan, I'm not willing to let you painfully suck out my life force to heal some sore muscles. I'm sure you can understand."

Nodding, and cracking a bit of a smile in return, she followed her Master's instructions as their ship continued its journey through Hyperspace.