The next morning, Dean awoke, remembering his dream. He sat up in bed, looking over at where Sam slept to find his younger brother already awake, looking haunted and twitchy. Getting to be a regular thing with Sammy, Dean thought.
They brothers exchanged glances, both had knowing eyes, but if Dean had to guess, he figured his were even more haunted than Sammy’s right now. He was still shaking with the realization that he’d never see his mother again. He hadn’t realized how much he cherished her visits until he knew there would be no more.
“So…” Sam started, seemingly unsure where to begin, swinging his legs nervously, anger or frustration bubbling just under the surface.
“Mom came to you too last night,” Dean answered. It was a statement not a question. Starting off with the obvious seemed like the best option; he’d get to the bottom of Sam’s mood later.
Sam nodded, looking down at the floor. “She’s visited you before?” Again, his voice seemed caught somewhere between sadness and anger.
“Yeah,” Dean croaked, turning on the bed so he could elevate his ankle. It was finally starting to itch more than ache, which meant it was mending at last. He tried to use the itch to distract him from the sucking emotional loss he was feeling after hearing his mother’s words. “But she won’t be visiting me again. It… she’s gone to cross over,” he added sadly, forcing the words out past the lump in his throat.
“Cross over?” Sam asked, uncertain; his voice now more confused than angry.
“Become one with the Force,” Dean explained. She hadn’t said it in so many words, but he understood what she’d meant.
“Oh,” Sammy responded, looking down at his feet again.
“It’s hard for spirits to hang on here like mom’s did,” Dean started. He realized he’d always known that, even before Miss’Ouri had given them her little lesson the night before. “You heard what Miss’Ouri said, Jedi are supposed to join the Force. It’s why that Sith, Lord Azazel, is so bad,” Dean offered.
Sam nodded, sullenly. “Still makes me sad, like I miss her more now…”
Dean could hear the gulp and sniffle that meant Sam was holding back tears. Sam’s voice sounded so small and young.
“Me too, Sammy, me too,” he comforted, the conversation reminding Dean distinctly of many similar exchanges when Sam was a child.
Sam’s forehead scrunched up. “Did you know Mom was a Jedi?” he asked.
Dean felt his own brow furrow in response. That was a question he had been trying to answer since Mary’s visit. “I don’t know,” he admitted at last, raising a hand to quiet Sam’s burgeoning protest. “I mean it’s hard to explain.” He sighed. “When I was little, I didn’t know. I didn’t tell Dad, ‘cause I worried that he’d think I was crazy or cursed—besides, I really thought I was just dreaming her, at least at first. Then later, I understood it was really her, she sounded the same, smelled the same, knew things I didn’t… I think I just thought she was special…. Then later,” Dean shrugged, “I guess I learned enough about Jedi to figure it out, but I didn’t really think about it, what it meant. I figured that if she was a Jedi, she wasn’t one anymore when she met Dad, and she must have had her reasons.”
Sam nodded, “makes sense.”
As much as any of this does, Dean thought bitterly.
The two brothers proceeded to exchange the details of their dreams. Dean felt somewhat alarmed when Sam told him about the location of his dream and how he knew that something involving Darth Azazel would be happening there.
“Do you know what?” Dean asked as he hobbled around Miss’Ouri’s guest room, getting dressed in a loose-fitting shirt and pants that were particularly suited to Dantooine’s warm climate.
“What, what?” Sam asked frustratedly.
“What’s going to happen there—the place you saw with all the,” Dean made a rippling gesture with his hands, “water.”
Sam sighed. “It’s got something to do with Darth Azazel and his plans. Something important, but I don’t know what! It felt final? Like it was a major step in bringing back his followers or something.” Sam finished off sounding unsure, but Dean hadn’t missed his brother’s outburst. The pissy ire was returning to Sam’s voice and body language.
Ah, a clue, Dean thought.
“Can you give me all the details you remember about what it looked like?” Dean asked. He had an idea, and he wanted to see how far he could get with it.
“Yeah,” Sam answered. He was already dressed and was trying out stretches, probably seeing what he could and couldn’t do with his still-healing ribs. Dean knew Miss’Ouri planned to teach Sam some Jedi training exercises today.
“Good, I’m gonna ask Chevy to record your description,” Dean responded, fixing his hair where it was rumpled from pulling on his shirt.
“Why?” Sam asked, pausing mid stretch.
Dean couldn’t help laughing at Sam’s pose. He was half bent over with one arm in the air, legs spread wide, long hair flopping in his face, and his torso twisted sideways.
Chevy trilled her inquiry, snapping Dean from his amusement.
“Because Darth Azazel is planning something there and if you’re right, whatever it is will be close to the end, and I want to know where there is!” Dean said, surprised by how emphatic his voice sounded. “That way, if he goes there—”
“We’ll know we’re almost out of time,” Sam finished.
“And we’ll know how to get there,” Dean said nodded solemnly. He let the silence hang between them for a few moments.
Miss’Ouri chose that moment to enter, seeming to know the mood could use some interrupting. Come to think of it, she probably did know. She came bearing a tray of fresh fruit and bread as well as a pitcher of the chulaberry juice she’d served the night before. Miss’Ouri suggested the brothers take their time and eat in their room if the liked.
After setting the tray and pitcher down on the table between the two beds, she turned to exit, pausing in the doorway to give Dean a knowing look. “There’s a computer terminal in my study that you can use if you like, Dean,” she said. Then just as suddenly as she had entered, she was gone, leaving the two brothers and their droid alone together again.
It really was disconcerting how much the woman seemed to know about Dean’s thoughts without him saying a word.
After another awkward pause, Sam and Dean decided to eat. They wound up sitting on Dean’s bed with the food carefully spread out between them. Sam recounted a detailed impression of the place he’d seen in his dream, while they ate, Chevy dutifully recording all the while.
When Sam was done, Dean took the plunge. It was time to find out the source of Sam’s earlier anger.
“So, Sammy,” he paused, taking a bite of bread while he searched for the best words, “What’s got you so upset?”
Sam blanched, and for a split second, Dean thought he’d either read Sam wrong or Sam was mad at him and was now primed to blow up. But then, Sam opened his mouth, and Dean had his answer.
“I’m so angry at mom!” Sam started, his voice loud and carrying. “She never talked to me—came to me—before, and when I finally get a chance to talk to her, she’s all cryptic. She knew something Dean, she knew about the Sith, and she wouldn’t tell me. She just kept telling me the place was important, but she wouldn’t say why. She said the Sith wanted me, and that I had to resist, but she wouldn’t say what for or what to resist. And I’m just so mad! But I don’t want to be mad, ‘cause she’s Mom, and now I’m never gonna see her again and—”
Sam had burst into full-fledged tears, his voice broke off when the sobs were too strong to talk through.
Dean responded by snaking his arms around Sammy and pulling him to him, careful of Sam’s injured ribs, holding him and rocking him like he’d don when they were younger. “Maybe she doesn’t know everything Sam, or maybe she can’t tell you.”
“What, ‘cause like Miss’Ouri was saying, there’s some things you have to learn for yourself?” Sam sniffled skeptically into Dean’s shoulder.
Dean took a moment to think about it. The ex-Jedi’s words had sounded as preposterous to him as they apparently had to Sam when she’d said them, but now, he was starting to see the truth behind them. “Maybe, maybe something like that,” he settled on finally.
Sam let out a long, ragged sigh, his body shuddering against Dean’s. “I just feel all bad for being mad at Mom. ‘Cause it’s Mom, and she’s dead, and this blasted Sith killed her too,” Sam admitted.
“It’s ok, Sammy, feeling angry doesn’t mean you don’t love her,” Dean soothed, but in the back of his mind sat a nagging, niggling worry, triggered by Miss’Ouri’s explanations about anger and hate and how they made manipulation through the Dark Side so easy.
Sam composed himself, wiping snot and tears with his hands like he had as a young child. “D’you think mom might be the ‘Jedi of immeasurable strength’ that the prophecy talked about?” he asked, voice wobbly. “Maybe she found whatever it was that uh, woke Azazel up?”
The thought sickened Dean, but it had occurred to him too. “I think maybe, Sam; I mean if this prophecy stuff is really real, it would make sense. But that doesn’t make it mom’s fault. She couldn’t have known…”
“It’s ok,” Sam sniffled, holding up his hand to stop Dean. “I’m not going to blame her for that. I feel guilty enough for getting mad at her about the whole place, thing.”
“I’m going to see if I can find that place, today, while you’re working with Miss’Ouri,” Dean added.
“Great!” Sam said. “Uh, I’m gonna go use the ‘fresher and then see what Miss’Ouri wants me to start on,” Sam said, standing, clearly still embarrassed about his breakdown.
“Good luck, little bro,” Dean replied with a smile, pleased when Sam returned it.
Sam spent the rest of the morning, afternoon, and into the evening training with Miss’Ouri. She started out with some Jedi meditation techniques and had him practice using telekinesis, tracking objects through the force, and blocking and protecting objects through the force—all skills he started to master quickly.
The first thing Sam learned was how to mask his presence in the Force. Miss’Ouri explained how easy it was for one Force-sensitive to detect another, and demonstrated by having Sam stretch his mind and perceptions just a little. He was shocked when he could immediately feel Miss’Ouri’s presence.
“It’s that easy?” he said, surprised.
“Yes,” she said with a sage nod. “And if you are not careful to close yourself down, pull your senses close to your body, try to make yourself as small as possible, then that is what any Force-user will ‘see’ when you are near.
Miss’Ouri had Sam try again, this time minimizing her presence in the Force. Sam was surprised to find that he couldn’t sense her. After a few minutes of struggling and then relaxing to let his perception stretch out more naturally, he finally picked up that there was a sentient being there, but got no sense that it was a fellow Force-user. “That’s amazing,” Sam said.
Then Miss’Ouri had him practice masking his presence in the Force over, and over, and over again, until she was satisfied. “Good! You have learned quickly, Sam.”
They moved on through other exercises—sensing thoughts without being detected, meditating, telekinesis, force pushing (essentially just using telekinesis to push or knock people and objects away).
Miss’Ouri’s main criticism of Sam was that he got frustrated too easily and was prone to slipping into anger when he thought about Jess, their father, or stopping the Sith. She reminded him that anger was a quick way to open himself to Azazel’s influence.
Sam tried to control it, but it was so difficult! He wanted revenge so bad he could taste it, and it was hard not to ‘go there’ mentally when he thought about the purpose of his training.
Explaining this to Miss’Ouri, she suggested he practice emptying his mind, letting go of his emotions.
At first that was hard and frustrating, but eventually, Sam got the hang of it, and discovered that accessing the Force while in a neutral emotional state made his control much better. When Sam could pull Chevy too him and then push her away at will, without jerking her or pushing too hard, Miss’Ouri called their lessons to an end for the day.
“What about lightsabers?” Sam asked.
“A lightsaber is a very difficult weapon to control, and its making is a ritualized process that can only be completed when a Force-user as achieved control similar to that of a Jedi Padawan. We have neither the time, nor the resources for you to craft a lightsaber, and I can assure you, if you are to confront and defeat Darth Azazel, it will be mind to mind, not blade to blade.”
Sam felt a bit disappointed, but tried to hide it.
Miss’Ouri let out an amused laugh. “Sam, there’s a lot more to being a Force-user than having a fancy sword. But if you’ve got your heart set on learning the lightsaber, I would be happy to teach you some day.”
Sam tried to take that as encouragement that Miss’Ouri thought he’d live to see ‘some day,’ but he wasn’t entirely sure that wasn’t just wishful thinking.
Dean spent the day pouring over planetary data at Miss’Ouri’s console while Sam trained, searching planet after planet after for places with lots of water and white curved docking bays that floated on the water.
It took hours and over one hundred separate searches in the Planetary Database, but finally he had an answer!
After Dinner that night, he pulled Sam aside to show him what he’d found.
“Sam, does this look like what you saw in your dream?” Dean asked, displaying a photo of a blue planet entirely covered in ocean with a solitary, white floating city with a curving scalloped shape gracing the surface.
Sam scrunched up his brow. “Maybe… Are there any holos from its landing bays? I was in one that was right in the water.”
Dean flicked through a few more holos, with Sam shaking his head in frustration, until finally Dean found one taken from inside a docking bay looking out over the water.
“Yes, that’s it!” Sam said excitedly. “I think that’s exactly where I was. Where is that?” he asked cocking his head to the side to try to get a better sense of the planet.
“Ahto City,” Dean replied.
“Never heard of it, where is it?” Sam asked.
“Isn’t that an all-water planet?” Sam asked confused.
“Yes, but,” Dean said bringing up another file on the console, “Back during the Civil War and before, it was a big trading hub, and the native Selkath set up a floating city on the surface to cater to trade with land-dwelling sentients. They abandoned it a few millennia ago, but it was built to last, so it’s still there on the surface, just… empty,” Dean explained.
“Now we know,” Sam said. “If we track a hyperspace distortion on a route to Manaan…”
“We know it’s time,” Dean concluded. Time for what, he really didn’t want to think about.
Too late again! John Winchester couldn’t hold back his fury any longer. He was angry. At himself, at the Sith, at Miss’Ouri, maybe even a little at Mary, rest her soul, as he was starting to realize she might have not been only the innocent, droid-designing ex-Antarian Ranger he thought he’d married. No, Miss’Ouri’s explanation of the prophecy suggested it all tied back to Mary If she had been a Jedi, well, then she probably had more reasons, more understanding, than John of why the Jedi were so—destructive.
Most of all, John was desperate for a way to save his younger son. But right now he couldn’t seem to save anyone, as yet another family had been destroyed.
John had rushed to Onderon—a place whose security he dreaded—after the Folly had picked up on the report about the fire. There’d been a chance, a slim one, depending on exactly when Azazel had arrived there, that John might be able to catch the Sith Lord’s trail and confront him before he left the system. Now, John had wanted to curse himself for not following the Sith from Coruscant. He had rushed off to Miss’Ouri hoping for answers, and what had it gotten him? A confusing, nightmarish prophecy and another child motherless. John still had no way to save Sammy. No chance of stopping the Sith, this Lord Azazel.
He was standing in the center of what had once been a nursery, now just another melted, twisted hulk, open to the elements, like every fire before it. His DED in hand registering dark energy off the charts, but nothing else. Frustrated, John shut off the device and slipped it back into his jacket pocket.
He really wanted to talk to the family. But so far, the Onderon Security Forces were clustered too tightly around them, shielding them from nosy neighbors and those passersby who couldn’t help gawking at the ruins. The authorities were asking questions, offering formal comfort, making sure everyone who approached had the proper credentials and everything verified in triplicate. It had taken John half a day skulking through Iziz and working on the Folly to get all the documents together just to pose as a fire inspector, and another three hours of filing the paperwork and then convincing the guards on-site just to get in. There was no way he could get to the family until later, until the security forces had gone home for the day and the family had returned to the temporary structure that had been erected on the front corner of their lot. Even four days after the blaze, there were more officials with more questions.
One of the children—the oldest, not that much younger than Sam—had looked at him with such big, haunted eyes that John was desperate to talk to her. She must have seen something. John felt like if maybe he could talk to her, he could figure something out. Some clue he hadn’t yet unearthed.
As John carefully picked his way back through the still-smoldering ruins, he noticed a commotion stirring up a little way down the broad street. That’s odd, he mused. The security forces usually had everything so firmly under control, there was hardly a squeak out of order once they’d arrived. But sure enough, a crowd had gathered in the street, blocking it. He could hear surprised and awed gasps coming from the crowd and saw a nervous-looking lieutenant scurry over to the troops who were guarding the family and the colonel who was currently questioning them.
The colonel looked up from his datapad, stylus in hand, and acknowledged the lieutenant’s presence. The lieutenant leaned forward on tiptoe to whisper something in the taller colonel’s ear. The colonel pulled back, shocked, clearly asking “What?” The lieutenant repeated or clarified the information, whatever he said, though, it was too far away to hear or try to lip read—not that John was particularly good at that. The colonel asked something else, and the lieutenant turned to point in the direction of the crowd. At that moment, the crowd parted, and John had an answer.
A tall, dark-skinned human in Jedi Master’s robes flanked by two uniformed RI agents stepped into view.
“Sithspawn!” John cursed aloud. Master Shran and the real Republic Intelligence Agents were here. There was no way John could stick around. He’d posed as an RI agent to Shran, so he certainly couldn’t interact with him now as a fire inspector! If his deception on Coruscant hadn’t yet been detected, it soon would be. He had to leave and leave fast, or he wouldn’t be leaving at all—especially not with the platoon of Jedi Support Corps troops who had followed Shran and the RI agents through the crowd and the two dozen or so Onderon Security Forces personnel milling about.
John carefully changed direction, heading off the lot away from the temporary structure, careful to keep the family and their guard between him and the Jedi the entire time. When he reached the street, he turned his back to the Jedi and walked down the street away from the gathered crowd until he reached the other sentry manning the entrance to the area around the fire site that was sill electronically cordoned off.
“Leaving so soon, sir?” the sentry queried. John’s work order stated he would be there for another half-hour, damn bureaucratic government.
“Yes, I’ve had a little equipment malfunction with one of my sensors. Just heading back to headquarters to see if I can get a replacement,” John explained, gesturing to the shoulder bag of tools he carried, as the sentry signed him out.
“Ok, sir. If you get your equipment replaced, please come back and check in through me, and I will make sure you get the time remaining on your work order,” the sentry answered with forced politeness, probably seething over the extra paperwork John’s exit and expected reentry would cause him.
“Will do,” John said with an even faker smile, holding his inspector’s badge out for scanning. “Thank you for being so accommodating,” he added as he stepped around the sentry and left.
If the sentry had a reply, John didn’t notice, he was too busy focusing on making a speedy-but-unobtrusive get away.
It ended up taking John over an hour to get back to the Folly, since the spaceport was in the same direction as Shran’s approach. That meant going several klicks out of his way and then doubling back, but of course Iziz had lots of twisty, windy streets that seemed to end or run into walls in several random places, and—since he hadn’t bothered to consult an area map in his haste to escape—translated into several wrong turns and backtracking.
Then, as luck would have it (really, John should have known something like this would happen), RI and the Jedi had landed their ship at the same spaceport, which was now, consequently, crawling with uniformed RI agents (and probably scads more un-uniformed ones). John hadn’t thought to check the warrants and criminal bulletins yet, so he was unsure if his description or likeness might be on one for his little RI impersonation gig on Coruscant.
As a result, he wound up waiting (more like skulking) in the shaded side of a nearby open-air tapcaf, while stripping out of his inspector’s gear and calling up the Folly to stage a diversion. Thanks to the ship’s unique computer system, he was able to slice into spaceport security and cause an alarm to malfunction on the other side of the spaceport.
Sure enough, all the uniformed personnel (and several people not wearing uniforms) scurried away to investigate, and John seized the opportunity to approach the security desk.
The hassled, harried-looking woman behind the counter didn’t look pleased to see him, but a gracious smile and eager, concerned story about wanting to check on his ship because of the alarm, combined with his presentation of the correct claim ticket and pass code had him waived inside long before the alarm shut off and RI made it back.
Once inside, he avoided the lifts and opted to jog up the stairs and across the moving walkways until he reached the Folly’s landing pad. He arrived out of breath and more than a little paranoid. Checking over his shoulder, he punched in the access code to lower the security force field and enter while simultaneously signaling for the Folly to lower her boarding ramp.
A minute later, he was on board on the bridge starting preflight and on the comm. With Iziz ground control and Onderon customs to get clearance to leave. Good. No red flags, no hesitation, no non-routine questions or strange delays. Either he hadn’t been spotted, or Shran and the RI were letting him get away; either way, he was grateful.
While the bureaucrats were crunching numbers and running through procedures, John was trying to find a destination. He queried the Folly’s computer to see if it had found a trace of the Sith Lord or had probable destination for Darth Azazel. Sure enough, the hyperspace interference tracked with a diplomatic passenger transport headed for Naboo.
When Onderon customs queried him for his exit trajectory, he had his response ready. John only hoped that maybe he could get to Naboo on time.
Master Post | Part 9 | Part 11