Yoda: Dark Rendezvous: Star Wars Legends
The sun was setting on Coruscant. Shadows ran like black water, filling up the the alleys first, then climbing steadily higher, a tide of darkness rising to drown the capital. Twilight’s gloom spread over retail districts and medcenters, and crept like a dark stain up the walls of the Chancellor’s residence as the sun slipped below the horizon. Soon only the rooftops were gilded with the day’s last yellow light; then the shadows conquered them, too, swarming up the pinnacles of the Senate Building and the spires of the Jedi Temple. The long day of the Republic had come to an end.
Dusk on Coruscant.
On a moonless night a million standard years earlier, perhaps even before the rise of sentient beings, sunset would have meant darkness absolute, except for the distant burn of the stars. Not now. Even during galactic war, Coruscant was still the blazing heart of the greatest civilization in the history of the galaxy. As the sun retreated, the great city began to sparkle with innumerable lights. Speeders darted between tall towers like glowflies dancing in meadows of transparisteel. Signs flared to life along every street, blinking bright promises at evening passersby. Lights came on in the windows of apartments and stores and offices. So life goes on despite the gathering dark,
Senator Padmé Amidala thought, looking out her window. Each individual life burning bravely, like a candle raised against the night
. She kept her eyes on the spaceport landing platform nearest to the Jedi Temple. “It isn’t a luxury,” she said.
A handmaiden turned to look at her, puzzled. “Pardon?”
“Hope. It isn’t a luxury. It’s our duty,” Padmé said.
The handmaiden started to stammer a reply, but Padmé cut her off. “Someone’s landing,” she said.
A ship settled like a dragonfly on the landing platform nearest to the Temple, lights burning at its tail and wingtips. Padmé grabbed for a pair of macrobinoculars and tabbed the night-vision settings, trying to read the designation on the courier’s battle-scarred side. Searching the hooded figure climbing from the cockpit.
Slowly Padmé put the macrobinoculars aside. “It’s not him,” she said.
Chief Technician Boz Addle loved all the ships in his care, but he had a special affection for the sleek couriers. He ran a gloved hand along the metal flank of the Hoersch-Kessel Seltaya
-class fast courier Limit of Vision
that had just come home. “Electrical sparking, meteorite pocking, a couple of laser cannon burns,” he murmured. His hand paused over a nasty gash where part of the ship’s protective laminate had boiled away, showing a mass of fused wiring studded with shrapnel. “And uness I miss my guess, you took a few proton hits to boot.”
Jedi Master Jai Maruk clambered out of the cockpit. His face was gaunt, stitched with shrapnel cuts, and puckered by a bad burn that lay in a bar of charred flesh across his cheek. Half healed on the frantic trip home, the burned skin had bubbled and turned stiff, pulling up one corner of his mouth. The chief technician regarded him gravely. “You promised you’d bring my ship back without a scratch, Master Maruk.”
Grim smile. “I lied.”
The duty medic bustled forward. “Let me check you out.” He paused, squinting more closely at the slashing burn mark on the Jedi’s cheek. “Master Maruk! What—”
“There’s no time for that now. I must speak to the Jedi Council at once—as many as can be found, anyway.”
“But Master Maruk—”
The Jedi waved him off. “Forgive me, medic, but now is not the time. I have a message to deliver that cannot wait, and I have been left, very much on purpose, in good enough shape to deliver it.” Again the grim smile. He strode away, pausing only at the docking bay doors. “Chief Boz,” he said more gently.
“Sorry about the ship.”
The medic and the chief technician stood side by side on the landing platform and watched him leave. “Lightsaber burns?” Boz asked.
The medic nodded, wide-eyed.
The chief tech spat thoughtfully on the deck. “Thought so.”
The Clone Wars like a mighty hand had flung Jedi throughout the stars, leaving only a few senior Jedi Knights in the Temple at any time. Yoda, of course, as Master of the Order and military adviser to the Chancellor, was nearly always on Coruscant. Tonight only two others had joined him to hear Jai Maruk’s story: Jai Maruk’s close friend Master Ilena Xan, nicknamed Iron Hand by the students—she taught hand-to-hand combat, and her specialty was joint locks—and Jedi Council member Mace Windu, who was too intimidating for nicknames.
“We were running recon in the Outer Rim,” Jai said. “Began to think there was something funny going on in the neighborhood of the Hydian Way. Little drab transports kept popping up, like a mermyn-trail leading into and out of the Wayland region. Nothing so unusual about that, the Trade Federation has the whole region locked down . . . but these were popping in from strange coordinates. Deep-space vectors, not local traffic. I got a funny feeling about them, so I dressed up one of the clone transports in pirate’s colors and sent it to intercept. Turned out that little commercial shuttle had legs on it like a Neimoidian jakrab. Dropped down a burst of plasma fire and jumped to hyperspace in a heartbeat.”
Master Yoda’s wrinkled brow rose. “In a nerf’s coat, this krayt dragon was.”
“Exactly.” Master Jai Maruk glanced down at his right hand, which was trembling. An ugly char mark was burned across his palm. He regarded the hand steadily. The trembling stopped.
A young Padawan, a red-haired girl of perhaps fourteen, came into the room with a pitcher of water and some glasses on a tray. Bowing, she placed them on a low table. Master Xan poured a tumbler of water and gave it to Jai. He stared at the glassy, oozing skin on the palm of his burned hand, forced it to curl around the tumbler, and drank.
“So the Trade Federation was shipping something important into the Hydian Way,” Jai continued. “Why? Not new ordnance; we don’t have any significant troop concentrations out there. And why the disguise? They could wear their fleet colors proudly—it would scare off any pirates or casual raiders, like my poor clone troopers had pretended to be.”
“There has to be something there we aren’t supposed to know about,” Ilena said.
Mace Windu studied the lightsaber burns on Jai Maruk’s cheek. “Or someone
Yoda tapped out a pattern on the Council Chamber floor with his cane. “One of these krayts, followed it did you.”
“But you were caught,” Mace said.
Jai’s face tightened. “I tracked them to a rendezvous on Vjun.”
Master Yoda stirred and shook his head. The others looked to him. “Strong in the dark side, Vjun is,” he murmured. “Know you the stories?”
They looked at him blankly.
The corners of Yoda’s mouth turned down. “A trial of being old is this: remembering which thing one has said into which young ears. But he
knows; I remember we spoke of it when he was only a Padawan . . .”
The other Jedi stared. “Who knows?” Master Xan asked.
Yoda waved the question off with his stick. “It matters not. Master Maruk, continue.”
Jai took another sip of water. “At first I remained sunside, hidden from my krayt, but when it stayed dirtside for longer than just refueling, I had to risk following it to the surface. I made a soft landing many kilometers away, I kept my heat and IR signatures crushed down, I swear it—” He slowed to a stop. His hand was trembling again. “It doesn’t matter. She caught me.”
“She?” Master Xan asked.