Isaiah the Gray – The Story Thus Far – Chapters 1-30

To commemorate the conclusion of the Isaiah the Gray tabletop role-playing game story my brother and I have been playing off and on for a little over a year, I am including the whole story thus far here.

At its core, Isaiah the Gray is a Star Wars story, heavily inspired by Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) with some classic Star Trek flair thrown in for good measure.

Isaiah’s character is a Coruscant orphan, somehow lucky enough to become part of the lifeblood of drudgery of the lower class of the planet-city in his early adulthood.

Pushing the galactic equivalent of emails via a switchboard each day, Isaiah’s character is slowly going mad from the sheer, bland monotony of his existence.

That is, until he meets They and everything in Isaiah’s life changes forever.

Isaiah had always known there was something different about the way he perceived and interacted with the world. But when the user interface of his “email” switchboard lights up in bright, crimson red with his name, he was sure something was changing, something big.

Today, for the first time in Isaiah’s life, could finally be different than the previous one.

Chapter One – Life In (Coruscant) Purgatory

For Isaiah, every day is a reminder of his life’s painful not-quite-dead, not-quite-alive drudgery. Like most in the Coruscant lower class, he’s told he should feel fortunate – he has a job! – but ultimately he’s just a droid, toiling away with time at his back.

He sits at his switchboard, making connections to other boards throughout his quadrant of the city. A special occasion for him is making a VIP adjustment if a message needs delivery faster than the standard fare. That’s it – every day.

It’s nearing the end of his shift and his eyes are glazing over. He manipulates a message’s trajectory and moves it into place on the switchboard. Isaiah takes a deep breath, hoping that the bell will somehow just ring a little bit early today.

But, oddly, the lit messages on Isaiah’s switchboard have formed a pattern. And not just the shapes his mind creates to alleviate boredom, but words. It says, “Tomorrow.” The lights all flash red, unmistakably. Isaiah is sure it says “Tomorrow,” but, after he rubs his eyes, the pattern dissolves.

Isaiah sits back in his chair and wonders if he’s finally starting to lose it.

Later that night, as he clocks out, his overlord manager Claudia, shouts at him, “You’ll never get anywhere with that look on your face, Gray!”

On complete auto-pilot, Isaiah ignores her taunts.

“You hear me Gray!” she continues as Isaiah reaches the door, “You’ll always be here!”

A Dream of Dreams

Isaiah shakes his head, not caring to answer, and walks outside onto the florescent night streets of Coruscant. Not quite sure how to process things, he zones out as he inserts himself into the throngs of people doing the exact same thing on his way to his one room apartment.

Out of energy and what’s more, out of giving-a-shit, Isaiah prepares his frozen meal, sits down on his chair in front of the holo-set, and turns on the news.

“A plea to the Jedi Council from the Senate has been again rejected,” says the newscaster. “In a statement, the Jedi have reiterated once again that they are not the private defense force of this democracy. Stopping the Outer Rim rebellion must fall to the armed forces.”

Somewhere near hearing the Outer Rim and the last piece of barely edible frozen meat hitting his lips, Isaiah falls fast asleep and begins to dream.

Isaiah has always had an interest in history. But because he never had access to a formal education, he always felt like he was an outsider in the happenings in the world around him. As a teenager though, he was gifted an encyclopedia by one of the few kind caretakers at the orphanage where he was raised. And for whatever reason that book becomes increasingly omnipresent in Isaiah’s dream.

The book keeps getting closer and closer to where it’s directly front in front of Isaiah’s eyes: it opens, and a face is there inside. But, when Isaiah sees it, it’s…blank. As the shock begins to set in, a strange feeling, a powerful feeling Isaiah has only felt previously on the tingling edges of his being takes over. And the face becomes a hundred faces, all staring at Isaiah with serious intent.

It’s Time, Isaiah

Isaiah awakes, but not in his bed; he’s at his switchboard. Confused, he looks to his monitor which does indeed confirm that it’s the next day, right at the beginning of his shift.

“Well that’s not good,” he thinks as he snaps back to reality.

Nothing else being out of the ordinary, Isaiah decides to get to work. Naturally, the hours toil by, just as they do every day.

But during a slow-period in the late afternoon, Isaiah has a moment to stop and reflect. He thinks of the switchboard message. And his dream. The feeling was so unlike anything he’s felt before…

“Am I going crazy?” he says softly out-loud. His heart begins to pound, the anxiety setting in.

But then, a hand is placed on his shoulder.

“It’s time,” Isaiah hears behind him.

Chapter Two – They

“Am I going crazy?” says Isaiah softly. His heart begins to pound, the anxiety setting in.

But then, a hand is placed on his shoulder.

“It’s time,” Isaiah hears behind him.

In an instant, a massive jolt of energy courses through Isaiah’s body, mind, and soul. And yet, somehow, he’s still able to calmly stand and turn.

There, a man stands before him, clad in dark black robes, old and frayed, with his face hidden from view. For reasons Isaiah cannot explain, he knows that this is the man with a hundred faces from his dream the night before.

Defying reason, Isaiah is not phased; instead, he looks about the room that he’s been coming to every day for the past seven years and it feels entirely different. He can tap into its energy, feel its pulse, sense the other people inside the building…what has happened to him?

He turns his attention to the man in front of him. Isaiah can sense nothing other than the fact that he’s present.

“Who are you?” Isaiah asks.

The sharp whistle signaling the end of Isaiah’s shift sounds.

“Where shall we go?” the man asks, his voice a paradox of deep and ethereal.

The First Step Down the Path

Isaiah is rooted to the spot, not quite knowing how to process this new reality. A second blast from the end-of-day whistle renews Isaiah’s focus.

Claudia’s daily abuse begins to ring in his head, her words echoing in Isaiah’s mind, getting louder and louder.

“You’ll never leave! You’re worthless! You’ll die alone!”

Isaiah senses Claudia’s heart beat just a few rooms over…

An uncharacteristic, malevolent smile crosses Isaiah’s face. Without punching out, he storms out of his room and into the hall. There, Isaiah spots the numerous security cameras which line its path. Drawing on this newfound feeling of antipathy, each camera explodes, sending shards of debris scattering throughout the hallway.

Isaiah reaches Claudia’s desk, staring down at her with a gleeful intensity.

She looks up, unfazed, “You didn’t clock-out, Gray. Your shift is over, dumb-ass.”

Figurative flames dance in Isaiah’s eyes.

“That’s right,” he replies.

Isaiah hurls a tremendous gust of energy at Claudia sending her careening backwards into the wall where she’s knocked unconscious.

Staring down at her motionless body, Isaiah feels the many-faced man’s presence nearby.

“Bring me upstairs. To his office,” he says.

The Company President

The man nods and beckons Isaiah to follow. At the end of another adjacent hallway, the two men enter the building’s main elevator. The many-faced man waves his hand and the elevator’s security override feature is activated, sending the elevator up several stories. Isaiah is locked-in and silent, his bitterness and resentment guiding his actions.

The elevator dings and opens into the company’s executive suite, a magnificent and ostentatious room complete with every accessory you can imagine. Isaiah nonchalantly waltzes inside and over to the company President, who is sitting behind his desk on some sort of conference call.

The President looks up from his phone at Isaiah. The look in his eyes immediately changes from surprise to anger. But before the man can speak, Isaiah raises his hand and the boss’ jaw is forcibly shut.

“I’ve heard enough.” says Isaiah.

The man begins to choke as he gasps for air, his mouth shut. Isaiah remorselessly regards the company President as he withers, writhing in agony before dropping to the floor, dead.

Isaiah stares down at the man’s body, reflecting on all of his anger, hatred, and resentment toward this company and those who run it. Every day for seven years he was used like a glorified battery, draining little by little, gleefully stripping him of his humanity. These feelings snowball out of control in Isaiah’s mind, further warping his sense of reality.

The many-faced man whispers into Isaiah’s mind, “Time to go.”

Wrong for all the Right Reasons

Isaiah storms off back into the elevator. After another silent, stewing ride down to the ground floor, the two men make their way to the main entrance. Isaiah casts one last glance at Claudia’s unconscious body before exiting.

Across the street, in the company vehicle parking facility, is a powerful, sleek, and compact spacecraft, no larger than thirty meters back to front. The end-of-day crowd seems to pay it no mind; “It must be equipped with a cloaking device of some kind,” Isaiah thinks to himself.

The gangplank down, Isaiah purposely strides into the ship and takes a seat near the aft observation area. With a wave of his hand, the many-faced man closes the bay door. Isaiah takes one last look at his former place of employment as the ship is sealed.

The sight triggers a memory: Czerka Corporation owns the company Isaiah works for – they’re just as responsible for this horrible state of affairs. Reacting to Isaiah’s thought, the ship takes off and gets into low orbit. Looking out the window at the planet-wide city, it’s clear that they’re headed for the Czerka Corporation world headquarters, the third largest building on all of Coruscant.

Chapter Three – Jimmy C

The gangplank down, Isaiah purposely strides into the ship and takes a seat near the aft observation area. With a wave of his hand, the many-faced man closes the bay door. Isaiah takes one last look at his former place of employment as the ship is sealed.

The sight triggers a memory: Czerka Corporation owns the company Isaiah works for – they’re just as responsible for this horrible state of affairs. Reacting to Isaiah’s thought, the ship takes off and gets into low orbit. Looking out the window at the planet-wide city, it’s clear that they’re headed for the Czerka Corporation world headquarters, the third largest building on all of Coruscant.

Isaiah stares stares outside the window, many thousands of feet above the chaos of Coruscant. With the ship cloaked, the planet-wide city below now comes into focus for the first time in his life. The thought hits him: is this whole experience real?⠀

But Isaiah hears the Hundred Faced man in his mind, “Do not waver. Continue to act on what you believe is right.”

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

Stone-faced, his vigor renewed, Isaiah stands as the craft a lands on the heli-pad atop the Czerka Corporation world headquarters, the third largest building on the whole planet.⠀

The ship de-cloaks and alarms immediately begin to blare. Isaiah, laser-focused on retribution, walks down the gangplank as four top-tier Czerka Corporation mercenaries approach.

Flames dancing in his eyes, Isaiah sends a massive force blast their way, sending three careening off the side of the building. The fourth though, is entirely unaffected. Isaiah is shocked: he’s sure it was a direct hit. ⠀

The man takes a knee, his voice shakes, “I’ve…I’ve been waiting for you, Master.”

Jimmy C

“Stand. And tell me your name mercenary,” replies Isaiah.⠀

The man stands, clutching his heavy blaster. “Jimmy. Jimmy C, master.”

“Two things Jimmy: never call me Master again. The second? Follow me.”

Jimmy C nods, focused and ready.⠀

As Isaiah is about to enter the executive suite of Czerka Corporation world headquarters, he senses a tremendous reservoir of force energy within Jimmy C. But, digging deeper, Isaiah is shocked when he realizes that the force within Jimmy feels exactly like his own.⠀

Isaiah turns to the ship. The hundred-faced man sits atop the gangplank. Isaiah’s passion for retribution is instantly reinvigorated.

“Come Jimmy. There’s work to be done,” he says.

Chapter Four – What Have We Done?

As Isaiah is about to enter the executive suite of Czerka Corporation world headquarters, he senses a tremendous reservoir of force energy within Jimmy C. But, digging deeper, Isaiah is shocked when he realizes that the force within Jimmy feels exactly like his own.⠀

Isaiah turns to the ship. The hundred-faced man sits atop the gangplank. Isaiah’s passion for retribution is instantly reinvigorated.

“Come Jimmy. There’s work to be done,” he says.

Jimmy C nods and signals that he’s ready to go. Isaiah looks around: there’s a massive, ostentatious entrance inside Headquarters. He motions for Jimmy to follow.

The Hangar

The two men shove open the gigantic doors, revealing a spacious hangar bay inside which occupies the whole of the top floor of the epic skyscraper. The ceiling retracts and light pours in.

Nearly a hundred of Czerka’s finest mercenaries, waiting in rank and file, stare up at the sky as a huge, high-tech spacecraft descends to the ground. The gangplank retracts. A nearly seven-foot tall human woman, bedecked in some of the galaxy’s finest power armor, glides onto the steps.

“My comrades,” she begins, “we have made a glorious breakthrough. One which will setup Czerka for success for generations to come!”

Huzzahs echo off the walls of the room. The now-familiar itch of revenge similarly rattles around Isaiah’s mind.

“We’re going to have some fun, Jimmy,” says Isaiah.

Seemingly shot out of a cannon, Isaiah blasts forward toward the rank and file. The mercenaries waste no time displaying their elite training and turn in unison, firing several, disciplined volleys at the onrushing Isaiah.

For each volley that comes his way, Isaiah uses a concentrated shock-wave of Force energy to knock the blaster fire away in different directions. And because of the wall’s reflective materiel, some of the bolts rebound toward the mercenary squad, injuring some of their number. Arriving at their position, Isaiah pings from group to group, devastating their rank and file with his shock-wave’s laser-like precision.

A Terrible Mistake

From a distance, Jimmy observes the proceedings. As he watches Isaiah’s masterful work, a growing sense of failure at being unable to help builds inside him. And just moments later, that feeling comes to a head: in his mind, Jimmy meditates, gathering all the newfound force energy inside, and tries to send every ounce of it at the leader’s spacecraft.

Being completely new at using such power, however, Jimmy accidentally sends every ounce of his Force potential downward. The tremendous volume of energy travels through the main beams of the building and all the way through – and into – the ground many, many stories below. A look of horror on overcomes Jimmy’s face as a thundering series of cracks resound all around the hangar. Instantly, the massive structure they’re all in begins to buckle and start to sway.

Isaiah instantly realizes what’s taken place and flies to Jimmy’s side, knocking him out of his shocked trance.

“Jimmy! We’re leaving!” yells Isaiah as he grabs Jimmy by the shoulder.

The massive skyscraper begins to severely list to the side as the duo exits to the helipad. Their ship hasn’t tumbled to the ground below only due to the magnetic locks keeping it in place.

Choices Have Consequences

With the mega-structure moments away from total collapse, Isaiah and Jimmy board their craft and take off. With the Hundred-Faced man looking-on, Isaiah sits Jimmy down. He’s hyperventilating, muttering to himself.

A half-minute later, with the ship safely in the sky about to break orbit, Isaiah looks out of he window. Czerka Headquarters, the third largest building on a planet completely covered in one giant city cracks in two. Both halves hit the ground nearly simultaneously, sending vast shock-waves reverberating all around.

The ship breaches the atmosphere and the starry void of space greets Isaiah’s completely stunned visage. An almost incomprehensible devastation down on the surface below is easily seen from lower orbit. Isaiah and Jimmy look to one another: what have they done?

Chapter Five – The Defiant

Devastation. As their spacecraft hurtles through the upper atmosphere of Coruscant, Isaiah and Jimmy see the horrific scale the collapse of the Czerka World Headquarters building has brought to the planet’s surface. For many, many miles, there is nothing but a massive plume of ash. Fires have sprouted up everywhere and throngs of emergency vehicles fly to and fro.

Nothing in either of their lives has compared to a tragedy on this scale. Not knowing quite else how to react, Isaiah and Jimmy look to one another and then, momentarily, to the ground.

But a familiar voice echoes behind them, “As always, the choice is yours.”

Who is They?

They turn and find the hundred-faced man, his robes obscuring his face from view.

Isaiah’s bitterness returns in a flash, “Who are you? What the fuck happened back there??”

Jimmy stands, his hand on his blaster rifle.

“I am They,” responds the many-faced man. “And now, my part to play in the inertia of your life is complete. Be well.”

Before Isaiah or Jimmy can react, They waves their hand and an overwhelming feeling of drowsiness overcomes both Isaiah and Jimmy. Almost immediately, they both fall into a deep slumber and fall to the floor, unconscious.

A New Friend

The steady hum of the ship’s engine is all that’s heard as both Isaiah and Jimmy awake.

“How long were we out?” asks Jimmy of Isaiah.

“It has been 3 days, 12 hours, 9 minutes, and 10 seconds since you were both last conscious,” replies an unseen voice which seems to surround the two men.

“Who said that?” shouts Isaiah.

The unseen voice echoes through the ship’s intercom.

“I am the AI, responsible for the upkeep, maintenance, and operation of this ship. I have been monitoring your vital signs since you lost consciousness.”

Isaiah and Jimmy C give each other a wary look as they become acutely aware of their hunger and thirst.

“Computer,” says Isaiah, “provide us with our exact location.”

Korriban

The AI responds, “This ship is in near orbit to the Korriban system. Only one other ship is on our scanners in the vicinity.”

“Identify the ship,” commands Jimmy.

“I cannot,” responds the AI, “as the ship does not match any known design configurations in my database.”

Isaiah and Jimmy C share a puzzled look and stare out the main viewer: with the legendary Korriban as its backdrop, a predator of a ship, clad in a pure gray color, seems to stare back at them.

“Out of the frying pan and into the fire, Commander…,” says Jimmy.

Chapter 6 – A New Threat?

Isaiah and Jimmy C share a puzzled look and stare through the main screen: with the legendary Korriban as its backdrop, a predator of a ship, clad in a gunmetal gray, seems to stare back at them.

“Out of the frying pan and into the fire, Commander…,” says Jimmy.

“Who are they?” asks Isaiah, to no one in particular.

“I don’t know,” says Jimmy, “but I do recognize the ship’s design.”

“Well now we’re getting somewhere,” says Isaiah, turning to his compatriot.

“Several years ago, I was given a maximum-security assignment. During my research, I found myself looking through ship’s schematics in the Czerka database. This ship was there although the vast majority of the information on it was incomplete. Couldn’t shake that particular memory…I don’t think even Czerka knew who these folks are…”

Invisible to All

Isaiah looks puzzled.

“Another mystery. Hmm. Why can’t they see us?” he asks.

“This ship is equipped with a Galaxy-class cloaking device,” responds the ship’s AI as-if on cue. “We are entirely undetectable.”

“Some good news at least,” says Isaiah, happy to finally get something positive going.

“But why send us here?” asks Jimmy. “What is They after? Korriban has be deserted for a century.”

“Well, we won’t learn much by just sitting here. We ought to take a closer look,” responds Isaiah.

The AI swiftly interjects, “I believe I can help with that, Commander.”

“You know my title?” asks Isaiah.

The AI responds, “Isaiah Gray has been listed as the Commander of this vessel in this ship’s registry. As the commanding officer and ship’s owner, he is entitled to give orders of this ship at his discretion. Your title in my database is “Commander.” Would you like that changed?”

Both Isaiah and Jimmy share a concerned look.

“No, that’s fine,” says Isaiah. “Something to dig into further when we get back, Jimmy. Now, tell me how we can get on that ship.”

Taking the Next Step

“Commander, if yourself and Jimmy C could please get into the Away Pod, I will ensure your safety until you’re on board,” answers the AI.

Directional lights in the hallway flash, indicating the path Isaiah and Jimmy should follow. And not having any better ideas, both men comply and walk to the aft portion of the ship, passing both the impressive armory and med bay along the way. They both make mental notes to fully explore the ship upon their return.

At the rear of the ship, a pod built for up to four people is nestled into a torpedo tube. A bit apprehensively, Isaiah and Jimmy climb on-board and strap themselves in.

“You won’t feel a thing,” says the AI over the intercom, not exactly putting either man more at ease.

With an odd, loud popping noise, the Away Pod is ejected from the ship. Entirely surrounded by space, the two men are momentarily overcome by the beauty of the surrounding scenery. Especially with the pod cloak similarly cloaked to their ship, it feels as though Isaiah and Jimmy are floating in space. As they come to their senses, the ships’s AI remotely guides the pod to the mystery ship’s main cargo bay door.

Over the intercom, Isaiah and Jimmy hear AI’s voice, “Remotely accessing ship systems…Success. Opening cargo bay door.”

The two men see the cargo bay door opening and, moments later, their cloaked ship into the hold.

“That’s quite a piece of hacking, AI,” says Jimmy, genuinely impressed.

“I do come equipped with the most powerful algorithms in the business,” says the AI, who, if the two men didn’t know better, sounds like they take pride in their work.

The invisible Away Pod navigates above some gawking dock-hands who rush to close the bay door. And a few moments later, the Away Pod simultaneously de-cloaks and perfectly blends in with its surroundings, taking on cargo camouflage.

Still strapped in, Jimmy C turns to Isaiah and asks, “Well, where to next?”

Chapter Seven – The Gray

Still strapped in, Jimmy C turns to Isaiah and asks: “Well, where to next?”

Isaiah centers himself and begins to meditate, using the force to sense his surroundings. To his surprise, he discovers that there are nearly fifty people on this ship, all of whom possess some degree of force sensitivity. And what’s more, this ship has highly advanced internal and external sensor & scanning technology.

But a path, the right path, forms naturally in his mind.

“No problem,” says Isaiah quite confidently. “I’ll take care of it.”

Jimmy nods, deferring to his Commander.

The away pod’s hatch blasts open, breaking the ship’s camouflage. Jimmy, concerned, looks around but sees that the cargo bay guards all have their backs turned, forming an easy path to the hallway outside. Isaiah nods his reassurance – this was intentional. Jimmy find this level of power hard to accept but follows along without breaking his stride.

The two men simply walk out of the cargo bay, no one seeing them or trying to stop their advance. At various checkpoints down the long corridor, the security and monitoring systems effortlessly go dark. At the end of the hall, the turbo-lift arrives almost instantaneously.

A New Frontier

Isaiah and Jimmy enter the lift and, as it begins to hurtle toward the main bridge, Jimmy turns to Isaiah.

“I’ve never seen this type of power before,” he says.

Isaiah is silent for a few moments as the turbo-lift reaches its destination.

“Neither have I,” he says as he stares off into worlds unknown.

The doors to the main bridge open. A dozen people of numerous different species, clad in all gray, stand at their posts, monitoring activity on Korriban. They’re certainly unaware they’ve been boarded.

Now up close, Isaiah realizes that there are a select few here who possess incredible force potential, albeit not in the same league as his own power. As Isaiah ponders the potential consequences, Jimmy finds himself among such a high concentration of the force for the first time in his life. Somehow though, he’s able to walk unseen to the very front of the bridge area.

And it’s at that moment that Isaiah realizes the additional caution they should have here. So, as Jimmy gets almost “drunk” with the force in front of a crew this strong, the look on Isaiah’s face turns from pride to chagrin rather quickly.

The Big Reveal

To punish his foolish lieutenant, Isaiah deactivates Jimmy’s force cloak, revealing him for all to see. The bridge instantly reacts, raising both blaster rifles and some, readying their white lightsabers. The Captain though, raises his hand and beckons Jimmy to speak.

Jimmy C’s pupils go large, with massive amounts of the force flowing through his body. He stands tall and musters the courage to speak.

“We come…in peace!” says Jimmy, who collapses onto one knee, clearly exhausted from the sheer amount of energy his body is burning by using force of this magnitude.

“Well I would certainly hope so!” responds the Captain, calm as can be. “You made it this far after all. The force may have hid you from us, but now it is making you known. Come, let us talk.”

The Captain is flanked by two women, a Mandalorian head of security and a Twi’lek first officer. The trio emanate huge amounts of force potential, even as they try their best to make their presence. The Captain though courteously shows Jimmy the way to the nearby adjoining observation lounge. As if in a trance, Jimmy follows them inside, Isaiah close behind although still unseen.

The Gray

As the lounge door closes, Jimmy turns to seemingly no one.

“Commander, I had never felt such…energy before. My apologies. I will do better next time, I promise,” he says.

Isaiah removes the force blanket from his person, revealing himself to the others in the room.

“I know you will Jimmy,” he says.

Un-phased, the Captain turns to Isaiah.

“Ah, the master has revealed himself.”

“I am a master of nothing quite yet,” responds Isaiah. “But please, tell me who you are and the nature of this ship’s purpose. I feel it is entirely…unique.”

“Indeed it is,” responds the Captain. “I am Captain Issac. And this is my First Officer Hanari and my Chief of Security T’Enora. And this is the Gray ship “Odyssey.”

Jimmy pipes-in, ““Gray” ship?”

“Who are you all?” interjects Isaiah.

“We are the Gray,” answers Captain Issac.

Isaiah looks truly concerned for the first time since he received his powers.

“But…that’s my name,” he says.

Chapter Eight – The Same Page

“Who are you all?” asks Isaiah.

“We are the Gray,” answers Captain Issac, a bit matter-of-factly.

For the first time since he received his powers, Isaiah looks afraid.

“But that’s…that’s my name,” he says.

“A coincidence of fate, I’m sure,” replies T’Enora, their Chief of Security.

Given everything they’ve been through, Isaiah and Jimmy C share a “it’s not so simple” type of look.

Captain Issac casts a stoic glance around the room. “Where we may see coincidence or the arbitrary, the Force sees intent. What this means about you or about us, I’m not sure. But I am certain it is no accident. Now, appease my curiosity if you don’t mind: how did you hide from us? I had never before seen The Odyssey’s sensors bested.”

A Big Reveal

Isaiah speaks into the communicator on his armband. “De-cloak the ship.”

Outside the observation lounge window, the Defiant de-cloaks in its splendor. Subtle awe springs up throughout the Odyssey’s bridge crew.

Captain Issac mutters under his breath. “Marvelous technology.” His voice picks up. “How did you come by such a ship?”

The Defiant’s AI interjects over Isaiah’s communicator. “This ship was transferred to Commander Gray’s possession 3 days, 12 hours, 43 minutes, and 49 seconds ago. There are no records in my database regarding previous owners.”

Isaiah flashes a “well, ain’t that the truth” look at Captain Issac.

The Gray in the room begin to look uneasy.

Why Korriban?

Jimmy decides to break the building tension. “What are you all doing in the Korriban system?”

The Captain begins to speak, but no words come from his mouth. He smiles and looks to Isaiah.

“Ah, you are using the Force to compel me to speak the truth. An incredible and rare power. Use it wisely.”

Captain Issac looks to Jimmy. “We are here because we are monitoring a significant uptick in Sith activity. Korriban, of all the systems in the galaxy, has been their domain for many cycles. We believe there is a growing Dark Side power on the planet which warrants our constant vigilance.”

The Captain turns to Isaiah. “For the record, I do not believe you are a Sith. But our mission is too critical to be compromised.”

Isaiah and Jimmy share a look.

Getting on the Same Page

“Come back to our ship and we’ll discuss further,” says Isaiah. “We’ll figure out what’s truly happening down there. I would very much like to know as well.”

Captain Issac nods. “A wise course of action. We agree to your plan. Hanari, T’Enora, come. We will be tested on the surface.”

Minutes later, Isaiah, Jimmy C, Captain Issac, Hanari, and T’Enora, surround the main computer panel – built into the ground like a circular conference table – back on the Defiant.

Isaiah begins the proceedings. “Before we go down to the surface, I have some questions.”

“And I will do my best to answer them.” responds Captain Issac.

“Who are the Gray?” asks Isaiah.

Chapter Nine – Protectors of the Force

“Who are the Gray?” asks Isaiah.

Captain Issac ponders a moment as his lieutenants look-on nervously, knowing he’s being prevented from lying.

“Can’t say I’ve ever had to directly answer that question before,” he says with a heavy sigh. “The Gray are simply a group of people dedicated to preserving the Force itself. Light and Dark, Jedi, Sith…these are just titles given to aspects of the Force and the people who interact with it.”

Isaiah and Jimmy exchange a quick look before Captain Issac is able to continue.

The Force Itself

“The Force itself is a complicated and nuanced undercurrent of universal connection that binds all things. The Gray believe that the Jedi and Sith, in their arrogance, will inevitably destroy the Force when one destroys the other. A universal adoption of one type of connection to the Force will cause an imbalance in the Force itself, leading to its collapse.”

“An interesting…theory,” says Isaiah, not quite knowing what words he should be mustering.

“We further believe that the Light Side and Dark Side of the Force are misnomers,” continues Captain Issac. “Much like there are ways of interacting with your own emotion, passion, morality, and judgement, there are various ways to connect with the Force. The Jedi espouse honor, peace, control, and wisdom where the Sith believe in passion, emotion, strength, and power. But the Jedi and Sith are organized philosophies, not sources of truth.”

Captain Issac surveys the room, ensuring folks are following. He nods to T’Enora.

So Much More to Our Connections

“True enough,” she says, “the Light Side and Dark Side of the Force do exist. But we are only aware of them to the extent we’ve been able to connect with each side and pass along those learnings to others. There is far, far more to each side, and every piece in between, of the Force than we’ve been able to discover.”

Hanari takes the verbal baton from her comrade. “The Gray do not purport to be the Truth; we are merely preserving the thread of existence itself so we as mortal beings can continue to discover what that truth is for ourselves.”

Isaiah and Jimmy listen intently. The three Gray’s words resonate with each of them, as if they’d be waiting all their lives to hear this perspective.

Jimmy breaks the silence. “Fair enough. A measured and important perspective to be sure. But why are you here and now? Surely you don’t take joyrides to Korriban for no reason.”

T’Enora nods in agreement. “The Sith are moving and the Jedi impotently allow it to happen. We believe they’ve been infiltrated, and like a poison in a wound it will fester. And at a time when the balance is again shifting toward destabilization, we’ve been awakened to stem the tide.”

“Awakened?” asks Isaiah.

“We are the Gray.” responds Hanari. “We only awaken at the critical inflection point in each cycle and see to it the balance is maintained. And then, we sleep.”

The Next Step – Korriban

Isaiah and Jimmy C share a “what the hell have we got ourselves into?” type of look.

“I see,” says Isaiah. “And that’s why you’re here at Korriban…monitoring Sith activity?”

“Yes,” replies Captain Issac. “Precisely. We feel that Sith pride virtually all but mandates that they connect with their ancestors here. And before you arrived, we were preparing a trip to the surface to investigate.”

“We will join you. And we’ll find the truth for ourselves down there.” states Isaiah firmly.

“As you wish,” replies Captain Issac. “We welcome your company. It is…unusual for us to bring guests on away missions.”

Jimmy motions to the Away Pod. “After you.”

Chapter Ten – Valley of the Sith Lords

Jimmy motions to the Away Pod. “After you.”

As an act of good faith, the three Gray, Captain Issac, Hanari, and T’Enora, enter the pod. Jimmy follows close behind. At the main hatch, Isaiah stops for a moment.

“Computer, please stay in close communication. We may need a quick evacuation,” says Isaiah to the AI.

“Understood Commander,” replies AI.

The Away Pod ejects from Defiant, hurtles past the Ulysses, and effortlessly penetrates the atmosphere. Looking through the main viewer, the great desert of Korriban looms large below. A few moments later, the pod gracefully lands on the planet’s surface.

As the gangplank opens, harsh sunlight reflects off the sand in the Valley of the Sith Lords. And at that moment, it becomes immediately clear that the sheer, incredible Force gravity of the area is overwhelming in intensity. As the group of five exits onto the sand, the insane density of Force is difficult to ignore.

The Dense Atmosphere

Captain Issac turns to Isaiah. “Our sensor readings did not indicate anywhere near this level of force intensity on the planet’s surface. Clearly, something is intentionally masking the area. We must proceed with great caution.”

Isaiah nods. “Proceed as you will, Captain Issac.”

“Hanari, T’Enora, please return to the ship and gather the marines for an expedition to the planet’s surface. That’s an order.”

“Captain, I must object!” replies Hanari. “It is far too dangerous for you to continue alone with these men. Especially here of all places!”

“I must agree Captain,” chimes-in T’Enora. “We must keep you alive if our mission in this cycle is to succeed.”

“Your concerns are noted and wise,” replies Captain Issac. “I will be protected here. You have my word. Now, please do as you’re ordered.”

Hanari and T’Enora, angry over their Captain’s decision, withdraw back into the Away Pod which, a few moments later, blasts off into the atmosphere.

“This place isn’t safe for them,” continues the Captain. “I’ll admit, it isn’t safe for me either. But the Force is telling me I must press on with the two of you. I pray this is not a fool’s errand.”

Isaiah looks to Jimmy C, concerned about his friend’s Force sensitivity, especially given what took place on Coruscant. But Jimmy appears steady, perhaps used to this feeling by now.

“Only time will tell. Let us proceed. I feel…a yearning in the valley,” says Isaiah.

The Valley of the Sith Lords

The three men trudge through the sun, sand, and dense Force-laden atmosphere into the Valley of the Sith Lords. As they enter, the sun begins to set and a magnificent crimson red fills the area with a potent red light.

Tombs litter the mountains on each side like anthills. Isaiah though seems fixated on a certain direction. Like a bloodhound on the trail of his quarry, Isaiah pushes through the cloud of Force energy with ease in his quest to find…whatever he’s institutionally following.

The Captain and Jimmy C don’t object and follow him throughout his twists and turns down the valley. Eventually, they find themselves in front of a relatively unremarkable mausoleum, especially in comparison to the splendor of the others.

“Strange. This one is unmarked,” says Captain Issac. “For a culture that revered its most powerful, it’s odd for a tomb to be unlabeled.”

“A punishment, perhaps?” asks Jimmy rhetorically.

The Unmarked Mausoleum

Isaiah is unflinching in his conviction that this place is their destination and enters without another word. Jimmy and Captain Issac cast half-concerned, half-impressed glances at one another before following him inside.

The tomb is dark and cold. The three men make their way inside, with nothing to light their way. As the last morsel of outside light is lost, the room is flooded with an immense concentration of the Dark Side of the Force. Captain Issac immediately falls to his knees and struggles to breathe. Jimmy does his best to maintain his composure but quickly releases a bellow of furious rage, his voice echoing off the walls of the empty mausoleum.

And yet, Isaiah is unaffected. He calmly turns to Jimmy and puts his hand on Jimmy’s shoulder, restoring his balance. And in that instant, Jimmy sees the dark-filled tomb for what it is: an ingenious amplifier of force energy. There are torches all over the walls which, instead of carrying light, channel the Force and amplify it as it moves through each conduit. With his remaining power, Jimmy unleashes a blast of Force energy and severs the connection between the conduits, restoring the tomb to a sense of normalcy.

Captain Issac’s breathing returns to normal. He stands and approaches Isaiah. “I have been alive a long time. And I’ve lived through many cycles. But no being I’ve ever encountered should be unaffected by this room. What are you, Isaiah?”

In his mind’s eye, Isaiah is in many ways the same as he’s always been. At this moment though, he’s concerned. Having led a life of painful drudgery, to be thrust into extraordinary power and to cause massive ripple effects across the galaxy with each action is at best disconcerting to him. But Isaiah, through force of will, maintains his stoicism.

“I wish I knew. I hope we help solve that here. Now, let’s keep going.”

Chapter Eleven – The Father

The Sith cave seems to stretch on, unnaturally so. But still, the group presses on even as their senses tingle with anticipation. Eventually, after time is lost on its own, the three men enter a sparse room whose only striking component is its elegant minimalism. And true to form at its center is a plain, nondescript chair. But only Isaiah can see the man sitting in it.

Jimmy C looks around. “It’s empty,” he remarks.

Captain Issac moves around in the opposite direction. But a moment later both he and Jimmy instinctively look back at Isaiah: he hasn’t moved a muscle.

“Who are you?” asks Isaiah, seemingly of the chair, drawing concern from the two men.

A gentle yet firm voice elegantly echos off the walls. “I am the First. How did you come by this place?”

Jimmy and Captain Issac’s eyes go wide with fear.

Who Are You?

“The Force led me here,” answers Isaiah. “But…this place has been stripped of its markings. What is it then that you’re the first of?”

Captain Issac immediately draws his golden light-saber and puts himself in-between Isaiah and the “empty” chair.

The man reveals his presence to the others: a willowy, thin, and somewhat gaunt man of an ancient age and complexion. His eyes convey the stillness of untouched water yet the power of the surface of the sun.

“Do not worry, Captain Issac,” he says. “I will not harm your companion. I am not altogether here anymore anyway.”

The man stands from his chair. “To your question Isaiah Gray, I am the First Sith. I eschewed my name eons ago. So you may simply call me First.”

Jimmy and Captain Issac share a panicked look.

“It is interesting the Force led you here of all places,” continues the First. “I have been…monitoring the progress of my people from afar and find it curious the Force led you here. By design, it should not work in that way. Assuage an old man’s curiosity, what is it you felt?”

The Father of All Sith

Jimmy C looks to Isaiah and whispers (as if it helps). “The…father of all Sith? Can that be true?”

The First smiles, as if feeling a morsel of contentment for the first time in a long time.

“I felt only the Truth,” says Isaiah. That there was only one path and that path led me here. You say you are the First of the Sith. But…how can that be?”

The First carefully considers Isaiah’s words for several moments. “I am bound to this planet for the remainder of its existence. A deal that I made with the souls of my descendants at the formation of our race. They’re able to feed off my spirit like a lay-line you see. All Sith may, if they wish, enhance their connection to the Force by channeling through this place.”

Isaiah realizes something important. “But no one comes, do they?”

A long pause. “No, not for many cycles. This one (he points at Issac) could tell you more about those times. The Sith today are not as they once were: masters of the Dark Side of the Force. The “Lords” that live today believe themselves to be its puppeteer… but they’re nothing more than its marionette.”

Jimmy, and Issac are in awe of the First’s gravitas. Isaiah is merely listening closely.

The Dark Side

“The Dark Side is like fire, control it, and work within its flow, and you can have a power far greater than yourself. But Sith these days only see its power to “burn.” They fail to understand how the Force’s flow within you is supposed to marry to the Force’s flow within the Dark Side. And by so doing achieve a harmony. Darkness is not inherently evil; it is simply the opposite of Light. But perhaps that’s the bitterness of an old man talking.”

Isaiah considers the First’s words as Jimmy and the Captain stand frozen in fear. “I sense what you’re saying is true. And I also believe there is some place here that only you can show us the way to. Are you willing?”

“I see inside you Isaiah Gray,” says the First. “I know what it is you carry. You may believe yourself worthy someday. For now, seems to me, a warped, frustrated old man, that you are doing the right thing. You may go. May the Darkness be with you.”

Chapter Twelve – The Machine

Isaiah, Jimmy C, and Captain Issac exit the chamber, their hearts heavy from their encounter with the First. They exchange glances only to see on each other’s faces that no words are necessary.

As they emerge back out into the Valley of the Sith Lords, they discover that the lay-lines of Korriban have been exposed – there, they see the tremendous torrent of Force energy that flows through and down the valley like a masterfully controlled gargantuan flood of water. Isaiah takes a moment to look around. He senses the lay-line’s end point far off and begins to walk through the sand and down the great valley.

But before he can get any farther, Jimmy stops him. “Isaiah. I’ve never questioned you before and I don’t intend to start now. But this…this is all bigger than me. Bigger than anyone I know, except perhaps you. I…I just don’t want to hold you back.”

Isaiah turns to his friend. “Just you is just fine, Jimmy. Let’s go.”

With the sun beating down on them, the three men follow the lay-lines down the valley. As time wears on, the atmosphere becomes even more Force-dense, as if walking through water rather than air. Isaiah though traverses this Force-rich domain as naturally as a hawk takes to the winds.

The Sith Soul Gate

As the day turns to dusk, the valley comes to a head at a magnificent Petra-like structure carved into the face of the rock. But instead of architecture, an unidentifiable visage dominates the main gate. And yet even within the gate, the three men sense…living beings. Souls perhaps that have become a part of this entrance into who knows what. Through the Force, these spirits radiate a powerfully vibrant presence.

Isaiah stands firm before the gate. “I carry with me the birthright of the First! You will allow us passage inside,” he shouts.

“Fortunate you are that you speak the truth. Or joined us, you would have!” respond the souls within the Sith Gate in unison. “Enter, and do what you must.”

Jimmy and Captain Issac share a “glad our souls aren’t in a mystical Sith gate right now” type of look.

The visage’s mouth opens wide, revealing a great door which leads into the heart of the mountainside. As purposefully as Isaiah enters, Jimmy and Issac enter just as reluctantly.

The Great Machine

The doorway pulls the three men inside. There, a great machine of enormous complexity, its purpose a mystery, greets their gazes. In moments it becomes obvious to the group that this machine must be the central conduit, the nexus of the planet’s Force lay-lines.

As the shock wares off, a man steps out from inside the machine, his Force energy intimately entwined with its core.

Isaiah’s eyes grow wide: “You?”

The man turns: it is the hundred-faced man, They.

“Welcome Isaiah, Jimmy, Isaac. Come, there is much to discuss.”

Chapter Thirteen – The Hundred-Faced Man

“What is this place?” asks Isaiah.

“It is the Sith contribution,” replies They.

Isaiah looks around. The Force has no answers. “Contribution to what?”

“To you. To me,” says They.

Isaiah shakes his head. “I don’t understand,” he says.

“I know,” says They firmly. “Please, come here.”

The three men immediately are compelled to walk forward. As Isaiah resists, the other two sense the incredible strain on the Force within the room. Ultimately though, they find themselves standing by the machine, awaiting their fate.

A Destiny Fulfilled

Through the Force, They opens a conduit – a wormhole of sorts – through the fabric of reality itself. Inside, the Abyss meets the men’s souls, as if gazing through a mirror, and latches onto their very essences with an indomitable hold.

Jimmy C and Issac turn to Isaiah, feeling a profound change within their companion. The Force pulsates around him like a gravity well and eons of Force potential flow in and out of Isaiah’s system. He neither howls in pain nor collapses; Isaiah merely endures, his countenance severe yet focused.

The anomaly of Force energy around him dissipates.

“It is done,” states They flatly.

“What…have…you…done…to…me?” asks Isaiah, nearly out of breath.

“I have moved things along. It is not for me to say what happened. Perhaps the Force will share that with you in time,” answers They. “May the Force carry you to where you feel you need to go.”

What’s Next?

They disappears into thin air. Isaiah, Jimmy, and Captain Issac look around but see and feel nothing. Jimmy turns to Isaiah.

“Are you alright? What the hell was that?” he asks, anxiety permeating his voice.

“I…I don’t know. I, I hear now. Well…understand maybe. I feel a presence in me that I did not feel or hear before. It feels like him, but…not all,” says Isaiah, confused and still processing what’s just happened to him.

“Gentlemen, perhaps its best we return to the ship,” interrupts Captain Isaac. “There, we can rest and discuss. I fear here we may not be safe for much longer.”

Chapter Fourteen – Processing Experiences

With next to zero energy left, Isaiah doesn’t question Issac’s wisdom. Jimmy shoulders his friend’s weight as the three men slowly hobble out of the room and back into the stark daylight of the Korriban desert.

Isaiah activates his communicator. “AI, send the shuttle to our coordinates and pick us up.”

“Understood Commander,” responds the AI over the communicator. “The shuttle is inbound to your location. There is a powerful wind storm not far from your location that’s interfering with our sensors but we should be able to make it to your position in short order. Stay tuned.”

As the midday sun beats down, Jimmy and Issac hold Isaiah’s weight on the Sith Temple steps as the eyes of the spirits in the Sith gate stare warily at the group.

Minutes later, the shuttle breaks through the atmosphere and lands near their location. The gangplank mechanically lowers, reaching the ground with a dull thud. Hanari and T’Enora, appropriately armed, move into position and flank the group who, slowly but surely, make their way on board. The shuttle rockets off back toward space, the eyes of the gate on them the entire time.

The minute or so it takes for the shuttle to arrive back at the Defiant are a blur for Isaiah, who fades in and out of consciousness. The three Gray look warily at him, clearly concerned at his…transformation.

With the shuttle docked, Jimmy guides Isaiah inside and has him sit for a moment.

“Head back to the Odyssey and wait for our signal,” says Jimmy to the three assembled Gray. “The shuttle will bring you back when it’s time to depart.”

Issac, T’Enora, and Hanari share a look – as well as a collective nod to Jimmy – and re-enter the shuttle. A few moments later, Isaiah and Jimmy see the ship through the Defiant’s port window dock with the nearby Odyssey.

Alone

Isaiah seems to catch his breath and stands. Jimmy looks to his comrade, still concerned.

“What now, Isaiah?” asks Jimmy.

“In truth, I do not know Jimmy,” says Isaiah. “Let us sleep on it. Perhaps our dreams will have the answers reality, and perhaps the Force itself, is holding from us.”

Jimmy nods, puts his hand on Isaiah’s shoulder as a show of support, and then heads off toward his cabin.

And for the first time in what feels like a long, long time Isaiah is alone, the conglomerated background noise of the ship’s various technical instrumentation his only companion. These last days and weeks are an incredibly intense blur of passion, emotion, feeling, and experience. Isaiah, not having any answers or even any paths forward, decides that sleep is his only recourse.

He meanders throughout the still and silent ship, his bed his destination but his path there aimless.

In his room, Isaiah finds the sight foreign and strange, confused over the concept of comfort and rest. He shakes his head – such an absurd thought.

As the hours pass, Isaiah tosses and turns but cannot find sleep. His mind is a bizarrely juxtaposed duality between frenetic thoughts and a vacuum of feeling. He exhales deeply – no rest for the weary, apparently. Isaiah turns the light on, sits up, and walks over to the computer interface terminal.

An Additional Layer to the Mystery

“AI,” he says, “who built this ship?”

The AI is quick to respond. “I’m sorry Commander but the records relating to the construction of this vessel have been erased. I’m afraid I cannot answer the question.”

“Erased?” asks Isaiah

“Yes,” replies the AI, “it seems whomever deleted the records did so in a fairly obvious way. I surmise based on the available information that they wanted you to know that such records had be purposefully deleted.”

Isaiah nods his head and begins to pace the room. “But what about features, weapons, capabilities, or even cost…surely those records are intact?”

“Indeed they are,” replies the AI. “This ship is capable of the maximum speed currently reached in the Galaxy through hyperspace-lane travel. It is the only ship of its kind listed in my database with a cloaking device of this level of effectiveness. And if you don’t mind me saying Commander, the ship’s AI is considered a breakthrough in AI developmental capabilities. Moreover, its weaponry would be considered in the Royal class of ship weapons – which rates it at Fleet Flagship level. For cost, I do not have a price. Instead, a rating: Galactic. If I compare that rating to others which also hold that title, that puts the cost of this ship at a half-dozen Star Destroyers by itself.”

Isaiah looks shocked, as if those figures must be wrong. “But this ship is 1/1000 their size – and we’re worth six times their commission price?” asks Isaiah, likely rhetorically.

“At least,” replies the AI. “Galactic level prices do not have a limit.”

Isaiah continues to pace the room. “Let’s return to the subject of this ship’s ownership. You mentioned I was given ownership of it and was thus its Commander. Who granted that request?”

“The entity “They” is the one who transferred ownership to you per the ship’s records,” says the AI. Ownership before They is where my records cease to exist; my apologies again Commander.”

Isaiah sits on his bed, trying to put the puzzle pieces together. But again the Force is silent on the subject.

A few moments later, the AI interrupts Isaiah’s thinking. “Commander, I have detected another ship entering orbit around the planet. Coruscant in origin…likely Jedi from its registry codes. What are your orders?”

Chapter Fifteen – The Blind Jedi

Isaiah stands firm. “Scan for life forms,” he says to AI.

“I am only reading one life form aboard, Commander,” replies AI.

“Pursuit course,” orders Isaiah as he walks over to the nearby intercom. “Jimmy, we’ve got company.”

Jimmy’s voice comes through clearly on the other end of the line. “I see them,” he says. “I’ll meet you on the Battle Bridge momentarily.”

Isaiah shakes his head. “It’s always something these days,” he mutters to himself as he makes his way down the hall and onto the Defiant’s bridge.

Arriving at the same time, Jimmy yells out to Isaiah. “Who is it? What did AI detect?”

“AI says the registry codes match known Jedi configurations,” answers Isaiah. “But let’s find out for ourselves. AI, let’s see what this ship can do. Disable their vessel and prepare it to be boarded.”

“Yes, Commander,” replies AI, causing Jimmy to raise an eyebrow.

The Defiant, still cloaked, breaks orbit with Korriban and with incredible pace moves itself to the perfect spot. A few moments later, the Jedi ship comes out of light speed, none the wiser as to its pursuers, and moves to orbit the planet – with the Defiant close behind.

Corban

Corban, the blind Jedi librarian, sits in the pilot’s seat. A man in his sixties, Corban is weathered for his age but carries his scars well. Next to him in the co-pilot’s seat is his Protection Droid FUK-0U (Zero-You).

Corban turns to his compatriot. “I sense that we’re being followed rather aggressively. Please look into it.”

Zero-You nods and hooks himself up to the main computer. “Connecting to navigation and sensor arrays…ah, they’re already on us. How fun. EVASIVE MANEUVERS!”

With the Gray ship Odyssey framed in the far background against the planet Korriban, the Jedi ship begins to fly about in random patterns in an attempt to invade its invisible hunter. But for each move it makes, the Defiant is able to deftly adapt and close the gap. And with an incredibly precise series of shots, the AI is able to surgically disable the Jedi ship’s engines, completely stalling its movements.

“It seems as though the Force wants us to sit still this day,” says Corban. “Prepare yourself. We are going to be boarded.”

“Great, just when we were getting the hang of staying alive,” replies Zero-You.

The Boarding Party

Isaiah and Jimmy stare through their view-port at the disabled Jedi ship.

“Do you feel anything?” asks Jimmy of his Commander.

Isaiah considers for a few moments. “I do. A curiosity, an openness. No fear. A good perspective, I would think Jimmy.”

Isaiah gives a subtle wave of his hand. The Defiant extends an encapsulated gangplank which attaches itself onto the hull of the Jedi’s ship. As Isaiah and Jimmy look on expectantly, a series of hyper-focused lasers cut a doorway into their quarry’s hull.

Jimmy uses the Force to push the now freed piece of hull backward and onto the ground with a loud thud. On a nearby computer interface, Isaiah and Jimmy see that the gangplank area has successfully filled with atmosphere.

Without hesitation Isaiah proceeds to the mid-point between two ships.

“Jedi! Come, be sensible,” he calls out. “We do not wish you any harm but must insist we speak face to face.”

Chapter Sixteen – How the Force Brings Us Together

Corban sits for a moment, sensing the Force from within the cockpit of his inert ship. “There is an immense source of Force potential over there. Proceed with caution.”

Zero-You makes an R2-D2-esque “aw, crap” series of beeps. “It’s always something, Wolf.”

Corban flashes a wry smile as he wearily stands and makes his way down the hallway to the artificial hatch that’s been bored into the hull of his ship. With Zero-You in tow, Corban stands for a long moment at the edge of space, looking out at this mysterious ship that’s cut them down so easily.

He walks out onto the sealed, artificial gangplank and, immediately, Isaiah’s presence washes over the Jedi master, renewing his concern at this sheer volume of Force potential. And yet, perhaps unexpectedly given the locale, malevolence is not among the intent he’s sensing. So to satiate his curiosity, Corban attempts to bridge a force connection with Isaiah but is quickly forcefully rejected.

The Negotiation

“There’s no need for that,” says Isaiah.

Jimmy activates a force field, sealing Corban and Zero-You inside the gankplank.

“Let’s simply talk,” Isaiah continues. “Who are you and why have you come here?”

Corban opens his mouth and begins to speak but finds that no words arrive at the tip of his tongue. A moment later, an epiphany: Corban realizes he’s being compelled through the Force to tell the truth.

“A rare gift; use it wisely,” advises Corban, who can’t help but to be impressed.

Jimmy takes a closer look at the Jedi Master. “I know him. He is the Blind Wolf, one of the Jedi Masters. I have no idea why he’s here but we should not take him lightly.”

Isaiah nods to Jimmy and turns his attention back to the Jedi Master. “I am certainly trying to. But I must insist you answer the questions truthfully.”

Zero-You raises its arms, ready to fire its rockets into the force field. But before anyone can react, AI’s voice comes over the ship-wide intercom. “I am sorry; upon entry to the ship, I deactivated your weapon systems. I hope you will not take offense.”

Corban uses the Force to gently push Zero-You’s arms down to its sides. The old Jedi takes a deep breath, knowing he’s somehow found himself in over his head.

What Brings Us Here

“My name is Corban and I am a Jedi,” he says. “This is my companion Zero-You. We have been sent by the Jedi Council to investigate the incredible tragedy on Coruscant. Given the rise in Sith activity, it has been speculated that they may have been responsible for the destruction of Czerka headquarters and the resulting catastrophe on the planet’s surface. So we came to Korriban to see if they were in any way responsible.”

Corban pauses a moment, trying to read his audience through the Force to no avail. “Now, in the interest of fairness, may I ask who you are and what brings you here?”

“Despite it being forced,” says Isaiah, “I appreciate your candor. And in many ways, we are here for the same purpose. We’ve just returned from the surface. So, if you’ll behave, we can discuss further without the threat of violence on our ship.”

Corban turns to Zero-You. “Stand down,” says the Jedi Master, quite forcefully.

Zero-You complies with a shrug, albeit reluctantly. Corban turns to Isaiah and makes a type of “eye contact” through the Force. “We accept, let us get on the same page.”

Chapter Seventeen – The Absolute Truth

Corban releases the tight grip around his lightsaber as his companion, the assault droid Zero-You, powers down.

Jimmy deactivates the force-field.

“Thank you,” says Isaiah who invites the Jedi on-board with a polite gesture. “Please, follow me.” Corban nods and allows the Force to guide him as Isaiah and Jimmy make their way to the Defiant’s central meeting area.

“Corban, you said the Jedi had sent you here to investigate the connection between the Sith and the destruction of Cserka Headquarters on Coruscant. While we are not Sith, I will save you some time: we destroyed Cserka headquarters and are responsible for the fallout. It was unintentional, hard as that may be to believe. I am being completely honest with you in the hopes we can help one another achieve our goals.”

“I see,” replies Corban who ingests the full weight of Isaiah’s words. “And what are your goals?”

The Truth – Nothing More, Nothing Less

“We are looking for the truth,” answers Isaiah. “About what happened to me, to us, and why. And most of all, I simply want to be able to choose want happens to me – and not be some pawn in a game of galactic chess.”

Corban considers Isaiah’s words for several moments, turning over these new details in his mind. The Force guides the blind Jedi toward trust and belief. “I believe you,” says Corban. But what happened on Coruscant? How could such a horror be unintentional? And for that matter, what brought you here to Korriban? To flee perhaps?”

Jimmy can’t remain silent any longer. “It was my fault…”

But he’s cut-off by Isaiah. “We were exacting a toll. A most justified one. But the power granted to me and, by association, to Jimmy could not be controlled. The building gave way, causing the atrocity you witnessed. And we did not come to Korriban by choice; this spacecraft was set to auto-pilot and we awoke several days later to find ourselves here.”

The Blind Wolf fidgets as he thinks. “I will not press you further. So tell me, what did you find on the surface?”

What Did You Find?

Isaiah and Jimmy exchange a knowing look which Corban picks up on through the Force.

“Come with me,” replies Isaiah.

The three men walk to the center of the room, over to the main AI console. “AI, please construct and display the Sith Machine based on mission reports,” commands Isaiah.

“Right away, Commander. Just a moment,” responds AI.

At the center of the room, AI creates an incredibly detailed holographic reproduction of the Sith Machine.

Corban patiently stands, unable to view the creation. But as soon as Isaiah touches his shoulder, granting him the image in the Jedi’s mind’s eye, Corban’s expression changes to utter shock and amazement.

“It can’t be…the Catalyst?” he exclaims.

Chapter Eighteen – The Pact

“What’s a Catalyst?” asks Isaiah who is barely able to contain his curiosity.

Corban remains stunned, not able to speak for a few moments. “I don’t know if I’m the one who answers that question. But tell me, was there another on the surface? Or did this device react to your presence?”

Isaiah and Jimmy look to one another. “Why do you ask?” asks Jimmy.

“It is said by some in the galaxy that there was a…pact among some of our ancestors,” replies Corban. “A…test of sorts of their progeny and their kin. As today, there were spiritual, philosophical, and physical battles over the Light and Dark interpretations of our connections to the Force. It is said that the Jedi, Sith, and even the clandestine Gray fought to a standstill with no resolution.”

Skeptical as ever, Isaiah and Jimmy stare down Corban. They know he’s telling the truth; but still, a pact among ancient enemies seems unlikely. Un-phased, Corban continues his history lesson.

The Ancestor’s Pact

“So the sides came together and did something no other cycle had done: they agreed to disagree, in a manner of speaking. But more than that, the legend says that their agreement was to let the future settle their debate for them, in a test that’s as fair as possible.”

Corban pauses a moment and allows Isaiah and Jimmy to consider his story.

“But no one knows how,” continues the Jedi. “And over the years, a legend was passed down to the Keepers of History of the Jedi Order, and ultimately, to me: that there were once great Force Catalysts, powerful artifacts of hyper-concentrated Force potential, which somehow were tied to this pact our ancestors made. I believe I am seeing one through your memory, hard as it is to believe.”

“And you feel what we experienced on Korriban could have been…an interface with one of these Catalysts?” asks Jimmy.

“Yes,” replies Corban matter-of-factly. “And if I’m right, it could explain some of what’s been happening to you.”

“How so?” asks Isaiah.

Putting the Pieces Together

“Concentrate on your connection to the Force,” says the Blind Jedi. “Does it feel like you? Or something, or someone, different?”

Isaiah clears his mind and focuses on his connection to the Force. “It’s hard to say,” he responds. “I’ve never known anything different. Since Korriban, the connection has certainly gotten stronger, more fluid, more complete in a way.”

Corban pauses, and paces back and forth, pondering for several moments. “If you were to encounter another Catalyst, how do you feel you would react?”

“I didn’t have much of a choice last time,” answers Isaiah. “But, even still, I would react the same. I would take answers from it if it had any to give.”

“Zero-You, awaken,” commands Corban. The assault droid powers back on to life, waking from its forced slumber.

The Next Step

“You rang?” he says.

“Please, come here,” says Corban calmly.

“Anything you say,” responds Zero-You a bit more caustically than necessary.

Zero-You approaches the group. Corban reaches behind the droid’s head, right above where his spine you would be, and withdraws a data chip of some kind. Zero-You doesn’t look particularly pleased at being poked and prodded in this manner.

“This chip may have the location of a second Catalyst,” says Corban. “I was hoping to explore it on my own when I retired. I sense the Light within you Isaiah. I would be honored to accompany you there, if you’ll have me.”

Isaiah takes the chip. “AI, please set coordinates for the location on this chip. Keep us on high alert throughout the journey.”

Isaiah turns to Corban. “The Jedi never cared about me when I suffered. They preach and preach but their words ring hollow to those without the means to live decently. Do not attempt to turn me Corban for there is nothing to turn.”

Chapter Nineteen – Meeting of the Minds

Corban flashes a gentle smile. “There is nothing to turn to – the Light side is always there. If it puts you at ease, I will stay silent on the subject moving forward.”

Jimmy shakes his head. “Typical Jedi.”

AI’s voice comes over the intercom. “Commander, Captain Issac requests permission to board immediately.”

“Permission granted,” responds Isaiah who nods to Jimmy.

The former mercenary makes his way down the hallway and to the main boarding hatch. A few moments later, the steel doors unfurl themselves, retracting into the bulkhead to reveal the leader of the Gray, Captain Issac.

“Jimmy. It’s been too long,” says a smiling Issac.

“Captain,” says Jimmy, tipping his imaginary cap.

The two men make their way back to the central meeting area. Zero-You glares at Isaac from across the room. “Another Force user? Great. Really great…”

Captain Issac shakes his head but then looks to Corban. He can’t help but be surprised. It’s been so long…

“AI,” says Isaiah, “at your discretion please take us to the location listed on Corban’s special microchip. Maximum speed.”

“Understood Commander,” says AI. “We’re now on our way. Estimated time of arrival: three hours forty-two minutes.”

On Our Way

“Gentlemen, we will return shortly,” says Isaiah to the ship’s guests. “Please make yourselves comfortable.”

Isaiah and Jimmy withdraw to the Defiant’s bridge.

“What do you make of this Jimmy?” asks Isaiah.

“Things are starting to add up,” says Jimmy. “But it feels like we’re still missing something. Think about it: your life up until a week ago was mundane to the extreme. And now we find ourselves at the center of some test passed down by our ancestors over the very nature of the Force itself. That’s quite the shift. Almost the polar opposite.”

Isaiah nods as he considers Jimmy’s perspective.

“I get how I got here – you,” continues Jimmy. “But how do you fit into all this? And why? It is hard to trust anyone’s perspectives because they all seem so incomplete in answering that question.”

Isaiah takes a few moments to meditate and reflect. “It’s been in the back of my mind that this whole experience feels like a dream or a fantasy,” says Isaiah. “But I admit the depth of what’s been conveyed to me through the Force would be impossible to feel and know in a dream, right? This all has to be real. Our trust and respect, has to be real. And if that’s true, I come to the same questions that are on your mind: Why me? Why now? And how do we get back the control of our fate? It feels as if we’ve been swept away in the tide.”

You May Remember Me

Back in the main meeting space, Corban and Captain Issac are seated opposite one another.

“I sense you’ve not been with them since their journey began,” says Corban. “Tell me stranger, who are you?”

Captain Issac smiles. “You may remember me, Keeper. But that was ages ago; perhaps you’ve forgotten?”

The look on the Blind Jedi’s face morphs quickly to shock. “Issac…? But I felt you die, the Force drain from your body. How…? Why?”

Captain Issac hangs his head as if reliving a terrible memory. “Fate really is a fickle thing, Corban old friend,” he says. “It’s starting to become clear why we’re all here.”

“What do you mean?” asks the Blind Jedi.

The Captain caustically laughs. “We’re being played. But I don’t mind; it’s for the best.”

“I don’t understand,” responds Corban, confused as ever.

“Yes you do my friend,” says Issac. “The test of the ancient orders is real. We are living out their grand experiment. The Jedi, Sith and…the Gray.”

“That’s it!” says Corban in an odd mix of surprise, excitement, and almost disappointment. “That’s how you’re alive…you took the Vow. You’re a Gray now, aren’t you Isaac?”

Chapter Twenty – Moving On

Issac doesn’t answer, instead contemplatively staring off into space.

“Some life,” says Corban as he realizes the depth and seriousness of Issac’s situation. “Maybe “alive” was putting it too strongly, Issac.”

“There are some who value the Force above ideology, Corban,” retorts Issac. “That love can’t be taught with your textbooks or your philosophy. And that dedication requires a sacrifice. Even one this…extreme.”

“But undeath?” says Corban. “You can never pass on and truly rejoin what you purport to love. You can never feel its infinite embrace. Just how does that protect the Force?”

“And yet it still exists, despite the strain your kind places upon it,” says Issac who pauses, feeling strong emotion bubbling up from within. “Look at the signs all around you. The Force is being torn apart by the conflict between the Jedi and Sith. You think it’s a coincidence we’re sitting here talking, while he’s in the other room?”

Corban is surprised. What does Issac mean?

The Ancestor’s Test

“I was there on Korriban. I saw the Catalyst. And I…I met They.”

Corban sits in a stunned silence. But a few moments later he regains his presence of mind and laughs. “So I suppose we’ve been chosen! What a thing to be a part of, Issac. I feel for Isaiah. Let us be there for him, unbiased as our ancestors would have wanted.”

Issac nods in agreement. “Wouldn’t want it any other way. But if you and I are the Jedi and Gray representatives, who is the Sith?”

Jimmy walks into the room and immediately attracts Issac and Corban’s attention.

“Gentlemen, we’re going to be approaching Tatooine soon,” he says. “Please prepare yourselves; AI has detected a higher than usual amount of activity at our intended landing site.”

Tatooine

Jimmy feels a deep curiosity from both men as he turns and exits. He shakes it off as he heads back toward the bridge.

Issac looks to Corban. “I wonder…”

The Defiant pulls out of hyperspace and into orbit around Tatooine. The desert planet reflects the sun’s rays, creating a near halo effect around the system.

“Commander, we have arrived at the planet Tatooine,” announces AI over the intercom. “Shall we attain landing credentials at the Mos Eisley spaceport?”

“Yes, please. And then set us down,” says Isaiah who enters the cargo bay and approaches Corban. “Now, let’s go find this Catalyst of yours.”

Chapter Twenty-One – Big Trouble in Little Mos Eisley

“Zero-You, awake,” commands his master, the Jedi Corban.

In the corner of the cargo bay, Zero-You pops back to life, stretching in a mock-interpretation of organics when they wake up. “So good to see you again, Master. You rang?”

“We’re approaching Tatooine,” says Corban. “Prepare yourself; there will be trouble.”

“Ah well, then we can finally get rid of our terrible boredom,” replies Zero-You. “I’m not a hurry-up-and-wait type droid you know.”

“All too well,” says Corban in a somewhat exasperated tone.

Mos Eisley Spaceport

A spec on the horizon of deep space becomes the electric and elegant Defiant, bursting out of hyperspace and into orbit around Tatooine.

“Take us in,” says Isaiah.

The Defiant plunges through the atmosphere and hovers over Mos Eisley Spaceport for a few moments while its landing credentials are verified.

Jimmy looks outside the window and notices that there seem to be more ships exiting the port than usual. The Defiant receives a quick clearance over the radio and settles gently into its designated landing zone.

Isaiah, Jimmy, Isaac, Corban, and Zero-You gather at the gangplank, its controls signaling that it’s ready to retract.

Isaiah turns to his companions. “We’re here to find the second catalyst location. Do not get sidetracked. Stay hidden where possible. And above all –“

An extremely loud siren in Zero-You’s chest cavity interrupts Isaiah. The entire group looks to the droid who looks down at his chest. Several seconds go by where everyone gives Zero-You “are you going to answer that?” type of looks.

“Ah. To your point, “Commander,” there are numerous well-armed personnel surrounding this ship at this very moment,” says Zero-You. “Hiding may no longer be an option.”

Brawl Time

“Fantastic,” says Isaiah flatly. “AI, how did they know we were coming?”

“Unknown, Commander,” says AI over’s Isaiah’s ear piece. “Perhaps taking one alive and asking would be your best course of action. On my end, I can confirm no messages were sent from this ship and our tagging system should blend perfectly with the high-end ships entering this port facility.”

Jimmy turns to everyone. “Screw it. Let’s rock and roll.” He hits the gangplank button which swiftly descends onto the ground below.

A barrage of blaster fire immediately erupts, smashing into the Defiant’s hull with serious precision. Isaiah steps forward but Corban puts his hand across Isaiah’s chest. “Allow me,” says the Jedi.

Corban and Zero-You confidently move to the edge of the gangplank. The familiar sound of his resplendent blue lightsaber activating, Corban easily deflects the incoming blaster fire harmlessly off in a dozen directions. Zero-You meanwhile stands bored as his personal shield somehow absorbs the relentless impacts of the plasma fire.

At the barrage subsides, Corban speeds off at an incredible pace and collides into the first enemy, sending him flying into several storage containers. Pinging between his three nearby foes, Corban cuts each down with an elegant, sophisticated ease, each stroke of his light saber a master work in its use.

Zero-You meanwhile fires a number of heat-seeking rockets which hit their targets while sending up a great plume of acrid gray smoke. “Oops!” says Zero-You. “Meant to use the boom bomb, not the cloud bomb. Sorry!”

The Wolf At Work

Isaiah stands at the top of the gangplank, observing his Jedi companion make quick work of the assassins. No doubt, even though he cannot see, it’s clear as day why they call him “The Wolf;” he is a hunter, and an incredibly formidable one.

With the half-dozen foes slain, Isaiah, Jimmy, and Isaac meet Corban and Zero-You outside the Defiant. Zero-You is holding up one of the assassin’s plasma rifles.

“These are not common Hutt or low-life Tatooine criminals,” says the droid. “These rifles are Tajin in origin. Probably Jedi-hired mercenaries.”

“What?” says Corban, stunned. “Jedi-hired? Are you sure?”

“Well no,” replies Zero-You. “But this make and model was sold by Czerka to the Tajin specifically as part of the Jedi Defense Force package last year. All signs point to the Jedi having hired them.”

Isaiah turns to Corban. “What do you make of this, Wolf?”

“I’m not sure,” replies Corban. “It could mean many things, very few of them good. Obviously a heightened sense of caution is warranted.”

Zero-You’s monitoring alarm again begins to sound.

Chapter Twenty-Two – Blue Bombers

The blaring of Zero-You’s harsh monitoring alarm unpleasantly fills the space around Isaiah, Jimmy, Isaac, and Corban.

AI overtakes the group’s intercoms. “Commander, unidentified bombers have penetrated the atmosphere and are headed in your direction. Recommend you re-board the spacecraft immediately.”

Isaiah looks to his Jedi comrade. “Corban, what do you make of all this?”

Corban looks to the sky, his eyes closed as the bombers arrive on the edge of the horizon. “Tajin. I’m sure of it. But I still don’t know why.”

AI again interrupts the group’s intercoms. “Commander, I have gained access to the bombers’ targeting systems. We are not the target. I am sending the coordinates to you now.”

Isaiah is confused. “What the hell?”

The bombers blow past the Mos Eisley hanger and shriek to a halt right above the residential area of the city and begin to fire into the buildings below.

The Real Target

“A diversion!?” exclaims Jimmy, referencing the Tajin bodies around them.

Isaiah looks again to Corban. “Corban, Isaac, Zero-You: take the ship and give us air support. Jimmy and I will handle the situation on the ground.”

Isaac interjects. “But Isai –”

Isaiah interrupts. “I wasn’t asking. Please, go.”

Isaac nods reluctantly as he, Corban, and Zero-You race onto the Defiant. AI has already begun take-off procedures – the ship’s jets eject smoke as the ship begins to take flight.

“I’m right behind you,” says Jimmy.

“Double time now – let’s go,” replies Isaiah.

With an incredible amount of force, Isaiah blasts out of the Mos Eisley hangar with Jimmy close-by. They tear up the dirt-and-debris-lined street, past numerous gawking on-lookers who can barely register what’s just passed them by.

The two men arrive at the outskirts of the far more densely populated residential district of the city. And in the air above, the two Tajin bombers are absolutely lighting up an unseen building yonder.

Explain Yourselves

Isaiah comes to a dead-stop, holding his hand out for Jimmy to do the same. Jimmy looks to Isaiah in confusion. “Look, no one is here,” whispers Isaiah.

Jimmy looks around – Isaiah’s right. For such a densely populated area, there’s not a soul in sight. A feeling of unease creeps into Jimmy’s mind.

Moments later, several Tajin mercenaries, armed to the teeth, emerge from buildings on each side of the street. Isaiah and Jimmy find themselves surrounded.

“Explain yourselves!” yells Isaiah to the mercenaries.

The assassins say nothing and begin to close on the two men’s position.

Over his intercom, Isaiah gives commands to the Defiant. “AI, set course for the bombers. Disable their ships. Isaac/Corban: capture some Tajin for questioning.”

“Understood Commander. Targeting the Tajin bombers. We’ll be within range momentarily,” replies AI.

Isaiah waits a few moments until the Defiant screams overhead toward the bombers. Without being able to control their actions, each of the Tajin mercenaries robotically take their thermal detonators out of their pouch and hold them in front of their faces. The looks on their faces turns from intimidating to intimidated.

“Last chance,” says Isaiah as the Defiant begins tearing apart one of their bombers.

The mercenaries do not budge. In fact, one manages to break through Isaiah’s control but, far before he can act, Isaiah forces the other three to detonate their bombs whose explosions rip apart the entire area in a massive plume of smoke and flame. Isaiah and Jimmy though are unharmed as a force shield Isaiah has erected deflects the myriad debris.

Isaiah nods to Jimmy and the two are off like bolts of lightning toward the battle up ahead.

I Thought You Said You Were The Best

In the cockpit of the Defiant, Isaac, Corban, and Zero-You cheer as one of the two Tajin bombers is blown out of the sky by the Defiant’s guns and crashes into a desert dune outside the city. The second disengages from its target down below and fixes its aim on the Defiant. But before it can fire, it’s torn apart from below not by Isaiah or Jimmy, but by a ship escaping a hangar that the two bombers had been firing upon. The ship plows through the Tajin bomber’s debris and past the Defiant before it can react and out of sight into the desert.

From the ground, Isaiah and Jimmy observe the whole series of events. “What the hell was that?” Isaiah asks AI over the intercom.

“Processing data against known ship configurations. Nothing yet, Commander. The ship has also managed to evade our sensors, my apologies,” replies AI.

“I thought you said you were the best,” says Isaiah.

“I am,” replies the AI almost indignantly. “Or, I was built it be. It’s unknown how they’re able to remain undetected. I can confirm though they haven’t left orbit.”

“Bring us on board,” says Jimmy, frustrated that their chase was all for naught. “If it’s not us they were after, then who the hell was that?”

Chapter Twenty-Three – What The Hell Happened?

“Bring us on board,” says Jimmy, frustrated that their chase was all for naught. “If it’s not us they were after…then who the hell was that!?”

Silence falls over the group’s radio as neither the AI – nor anyone else – can answer his question. The Defiant’s gangplank unfolds, signaling an end to this phase of the mission.

Without a lead down below, Isaiah and Jimmy board the ship. As they make their way down the hall to its command center, AI takes the Defiant into Tatooine’s upper atmosphere. Looking out the port-side window, the crew gets a good view of Mos Eisley: a wide swath of its residential district is scarred from the Tajin bombs. The Hutts won’t be too happy.

A few minutes later, the group gathers in the command center. Everyone is tense.

“What the hell is going on? I want answers,” says Isaiah whose frustration is clearly getting the better of him.

“Here’s what we know,” responds Jimmy, trying to rein-in the chaos. “Tajin mercenaries, typically associated with fulfilling Jedi contracts, were both ready to stall us, and use weapons against civilians in a search for a unknown ship which is capable of avoiding – supposedly – the best sensors in the galaxy. You know, the usual,” he says with a wry smile.

“They are the best sensors,” retorts AI over the intercom.

Call A Spade A Spade

Jimmy rolls his eyes. “We need to call a spade a spade here: this was a setup. I’m not making any accusations but, in my experience, the most likely explanation is someone in this room told the Tajin we were coming.”

An uncomfortable silence takes hold in the command center.

After a few moments of reflection Corban speaks. “The Jedi do not use mercenaries to harm civilians. Track fugitives, yes, but the use of lethal force requires the highest clearance in the Council to approve. And only happens in the most dire of circumstances. Isaiah my advice to you, if you’re willing to hear it, is with your powers, you can likely verify Jimmy’s suspicions. But for my part, I do not sense any sort of treachery.”

Sensing the wisdom in Corban’s suggestion, Isaiah takes a few deep breaths and establishes a firm connection to the Force. To his surprise, everyone’s mind is open, allowing him access. One by one he senses their thoughts and, doubling his surprise, he finds that everyone present is on the level about not tipping off the Tajin.

“Seems as though Corban is correct about us,” says Isaiah matter-of-factly.

“What about Zero-You?” offers Isaac.

“What about me?” the droid replies.

“Surely even with your powers Isaiah you can’t sense within the mind of a droid?” retorts Issac, sharply.

Jimmy looks interested. “AI, can you access Zero-You’s memory to…”

“Absolutely not!” interrupts Zero-You.

The Only One Left Is Me

“Zero…” says Corban in a cajoling voice.

“Who is to say what the AI will do?” says Zero-You. “Would you all let Isaiah scramble your brains?”

“I understand your concerns,” says Isaiah. “AI, you are to only determine if Zero-You was responsible for the Tajin being alerted to our presence. Nothing more. That’s an order; am I clear?”

“Completely, commander,” replies AI.

Zero-You looks to Corban who nods. “Fine, go ahead,” says the droid.

“Scanning…….complete,” says AI. “I can verify that Zero-You is not responsible for the Tajin presence on Tatooine.”

“None of this is adding up,” says Jimmy. “If no one here tipped off the Tajin…”

“The only one left is…me,” says AI.

The Defiant’s ship-wide sensors sounding interrupt any follow-ups to AI’s train of thought. “What is it, AI?” asks Isaiah.

“My scan of the mystery ship has come back with a positive match,” answers AI. “The ship belongs to Roshannon Darek, Jedi, known as “The Sorceress” in some circles.”

“Oh,” says Corban, whose tone is rather morose. “That’s bad.”

Chapter Twenty-Four – The Sorceress

“Why? Who is she?” replies Jimmy.

“She zapped me last time!” interjects Zero-You.

Corban’s face becomes stern. “You called her a devil-woman,” he answers.

Miraculously, for a moment Zero-You is surprisingly lost for words. “Yeah good point,” he says.

Isaac though remains just as puzzled. “A sorceress? How so?”

Corban snorts, as if momentarily reliving an awkward memory. “She is one of the few Jedi to be able to channel Force Lightning without succumbing to the Dark Side,” he answers. “She earned the nickname by perhaps too liberally wielding that power. Last I heard, the Council had her in the Outer Rim territories on some investigation. Something is wrong here, very wrong.”

The Tatooine Catalyst

“Sounds like your house isn’t in order, Corban,” says Isaiah. “Why is she here? What does she want? It sure seems like the Jedi don’t want her here.” Isaiah’s body language is more tense than normal. And does not go unnoticed by the rest of the crew.

“It must have to do with the Catalyst here on Tatooine,” posits Isaac. “The Force tends to not deal in coincidences.”

“I agree,” says Jimmy. “This Roshannon Darek must be here against the Council’s will. And if her presence is related to the Catalyst here, it stands to reason, given their actions, the Jedi Council doesn’t want her anywhere near it. Still, I’m concerned with how they knew we were both here.”

“I am the only viable conclusion to the latter mystery, Jimmy,” states the AI over the intercom. “If none of you were responsible, it must have been me; although I certainly wasn’t aware. If I had to speculate, someone could have planted a program in my system to send the messages but somehow coded it to be hidden from my awareness. Just as much an art as a skill for such an act to be possible.”

“AI, I appreciate your concern and your suggestions,” says Isaiah. “But the answers to our many questions lie with Roshannon. What will it take to find her?”

“If I may,” says Corban, “it will likely be easier not to find Roshannon, but to find the Catalyst. That’s where she’s going after all.”

Isaiah considers Corban’s perspective. “I’m certainly open to suggestions, Corban,” he says.

“I believe the chip from Jedi Archives contains the location of the Catalyst here on Tatooine. But there’s a major catch,” says the blind Jedi.

“And what’s that?” says Jimmy, concerned.

“It’s encrypted,” replies Corban. “With an ancient Jedi cypher. It will not be easy for us to break down its barriers.”

Chapter Twenty-Five – Competition is Good for Business

“I believe I can be of service,” says Zero-You. The combat droid is positively beaming.

“Nonsense,” says AI over the intercom. “Please, allow me to help in retrieving the chip’s data.”

“And why, disembodied voice, do you get to have all the fun, huh!?” replies Zero-You, his expression becoming more exasperated.

“Fine,” says AI through the computer version of gritted teeth. “We’ll do it together.”

As the droid/AI rivalry simmers down, Jimmy turns to Corban. “How long have you had this chip?” he asks of the Blind Jedi.

Corban and Isaac share a glance. “It was a gift from the Council when I became its Chief Archivist,” says Corban. “At first, I could not glean anything from it, no Force sensitivity, no history, no nothing. But as the weeks and months went on, it began to vibrate when it was in my presence.”

“Never a good sign by the way,” says Zero-You, not looking up from his hacking work.

The Singing Crystal Chip

Corban, rarely phased by his droid comrade anymore, continues. “Years went by and one day, it began to sing the most beautiful tune. At first, I couldn’t understand the words but the more time I spent in its presence, I was finally able to make out “Tatooine,” “Desert,” “Jedi,” and “Path.” From my research and my own meditation, I surmised that this chip was related to the test of our ancestors and may contain the location of the Jedi Catalyst.”

Isaiah tries to put the pieces together. “That’s quite the leap Corban. But I trust in your faith here. A crucial question though comes to mind: if the Jedi gave this relic to you as a gift, do you feel they know what information it may contain?”

Corban ponders this question for a few moments. “Truthfully, I hadn’t thought so until very recently. But it’s not something we can rule out anymore.”

Isaiah feels something in Corban’s words, something missing. “Have you left anything out, Corban? Anything important?”

Isaac interrupts. “Corban is aware that…I gave the chip to the Jedi Council. A long time ago.”

Isaac’s Story

Isaiah fixes his gaze on Isaac. He accesses the Gray Captain’s memory through the Force to try and cut straight to the truth.

An image forms and fills Isaiah’s mind’s eye. Isaac, the same age as today, is standing on the magnificent stone steps of the Jedi Library. Frozen in time, he’s handing the chip to an old Jedi, cloaked in royal blue. On the surface this man looks very much like Corban – but not Corban himself. Isaiah fixes his attention on this old Jedi, using the Force to try and figure out his identity.

Back on the Defiant, Isaiah’s trance breaks and his eyes grow wide for a moment. “Isaac, how is this possible? That man was Corban’s ancestor from ten generations ago,” says Isaiah, stunned.

“I am sorry if this feels like deception,” replies Isaac. “What you witnessed is true. But this…is part of being a Gray.”

Surprised and skeptical, Jimmy pushes the issue. “How so?”

“As I mentioned before Jimmy, the Gray are awakened at critical inflection points in the Galaxy’s cycles to ensure the health and preservation of the Force itself,” replies Isaac. “But perhaps not as clear: it’s the same Gray who live through those events in each cycle. And are again put to sleep when the Force is back in balance.”

Isaiah and Jimmy have heard some extraordinary things in the past week or so. But this one from Isaac may top them all.

We Have a Catalyst to Find

“Our memory of our home-world are erased for its own protection,” continues Isaac. “But when our mission is a success we get to go home and sleep, awaiting our next awakening. That is the life of a Gray.”

The AI pops over the intercom as Zero-You runs back into the room. “Location confirmed. The chip is in the Tamari desert, nearly on the other side of the planet. My scans don’t reveal anything special in the area.”

“The mystery deepens,” adds Zero-You.

“We will save this conversation for another time,” says Isaiah to both Corban and Isaac. “For now, we have a catalyst to find.”

Chapter Twenty-Six – Set A Course

Corban, Isaac, Jimmy, and Zero-You go about their business, knowing that the conversation is over for now.

“AI, set a course for the chip’s location,” says Isaiah. “With all due haste.”

“Right away, Commander,” replies AI over the intercom.

The sleek and elegant Defiant zooms around nearly 180 degrees in mere moments – and blasts off through the massive desert expanse of Tatooine, shredding the sound barrier in the process.

With the sonic boom in the rear view mirror, Isaiah approaches Jimmy.

“Something feels off about this situation, Jimmy,” he says. “My gut tells me we’ll find more than we bargained for when we arrive.”

“I don’t doubt it,” replies Jimmy. “We’ve been on the back foot ever since we got here.”

“Commander, we’ve arrived at the coordinates,” says AI. “My sensors indicate that Roshannon Darek’s ship is set down near the edge of what appears to be a massive sarlacc pit. There’s nothing else on scanners for many miles around. I am also not detecting any lifeforms, even from the pit itself.”

“Set us down,” says Isaiah. “But everyone – you too AI – be on our guard for any trickery. She evaded the Jedi and their mercenaries; let’s do this right.”

The Desert Floor

One by one, Isaiah, Jimmy, Corban, Isaac, and Zero-You descend the Defiant’s gangplank and arrive back on the sands of Tatooine. The scorching heat of the mid-day suns beats down on the group as they fan out to begin their search.

In front of them spans a absolutely massive sarlacc pit – perhaps a half-mile across. Isaiah approaches its edge and tries to sense its life essence through the Force. The creature is indeed alive, but barely. Yet, oddly enough, it’s radiating an extraordinary amount of Light Side energy. Unexpected for a sarlacc. But perhaps that’s why the Jedi hid the catalyst here in the first place.

Jimmy turns to Zero-You. “Is this pit way larger than normal or is it just me?”

“By the looks of it, it would be the largest one ever recorded,” replies Zero-You. “But it could be just you too.”

Isaiah calls out to the group. “Jimmy and I will investigate the pit,” he says. “You three see if she’s still on-board her ship. Be on your guard. We don’t know what she’s capable of.”

Corban, Isaac, and Zero-You nod as Isaiah and Jimmy look down into the pit. They can’t see the bottom. To call it a daunting sight would be a tremendous understatement. “It’s radiating an immense amount of Light Side energy,” says Jimmy. “How is that possible?”

“Stands to reason the catalyst is down there,” says Isaiah. “Perhaps it even fused with this creature somehow. Let’s take a look. I will ensure the spines do not attempt to digest us.”

“That’s…comforting,” says Jimmy who wears an uncomfortable look.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Slowly but surely, Isaiah and Jimmy make their way down, treating the sarlacc’s spikes like a ladder. But with each step, the concentration of force energy is akin to sinking getting deeper and deeper into the ocean. The pressure mounting and building. For Isaiah, the descent is fairly easy; for Jimmy, each step is an arduous task.

At the bottom, there’s no stomach. Instead, there’s a long, organic passageway further into the creature’s depths. The “tunnel” of sorts is lit with what appear to be baby-blue colored beacons of some kind.

As he takes his last step and reaches the bottom, Jimmy is barely able to breathe.

“Stay here,” says Isaiah. “I’ll return for you.”

Jimmy hangs his head. He doesn’t have much of a choice.

Now in a bit of a hurry, Isaiah proceeds down the passageway. As he runs, the Light Side of the Force moves freely throughout his being. It’s a simultaneously exhilarating and anxiety-inducing sensation, one that Isaiah tries his best to block out.

At the end of the tunnel is a large, circular room. There, a great machine of incredible complexity, much like the one on Korriban, sits atop a raised altar of some kind. Roshannon Darek, clad in sand-colored camouflage robes stands in front of the machine, her back turned as Isaiah enters the room.

As she senses Isaiah’s presence in the doorway, she spins around. “Who are you?” she asks.

Chapter Twenty-Seven – Why Are You Here?

Isaiah is calm, perhaps unnaturally so. “I am Isaiah Gray,” he says. “Are you Roshannon Darek?”

Roshannon stands still for a moment, staring at Isaiah, using the Force to try and discern his intent. How can he be standing there, amid this flood of Light Side Force Energy, so calm?

“Yes I am,” she responds. “Why are you here?”

Isaiah drops all barriers into his mind, allowing Roshannon to see his truth. She immediately pounces on the opportunity and an uncontrolled outpouring of imagery assaults her mind. The destruction of Czerka Headquarters, They, the Sith Catalyst on Korriban, meeting the Gray, Corban, the ancient test of the Jedi, Sith, and Gray, and the group’s chase here to her crashes through her mind, the sheer volume of Force energy nearly too much to bear.

She nearly stumbles off the raised platform but manages to find her footing. Her stubbornness kicks-in, refusing to betray any weakness. “What does this all mean?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” responds Isaiah. “I’m here trying to find out.”

Roshannon’s visage contorts to anger. “I don’t believe you!” she sharply retorts.

“Why not?” calmly responds Isaiah.

“I…I don’t want to,” answers Roshannon, too truthfully for her liking. “What do you want from me!?”

Battling One’s Demons

“I need to access the Catalyst to understand the truth about this test,” says Isaiah. “And what, if anything, that has to do with me. I suppose ultimately, I wish to be free from control. What is it you want with it?”

“None of your business!” she snaps, filling with rage. Almost instinctively, Roshannon tries to sear pain into Isaiah’s mind through the Force. But Isaiah is easily able to harmlessly redirect the energy elsewhere. Her frustration amplifying her rage, Roshannon puts her hands on the Catalyst, absorbing a massive amount of Force energy as Isaiah looks on, growing increasingly more concerned.

Now filled with much of the Catalyst’s power, Roshannon tries to sever Isaiah’s connection to the Force with her mind. Pouring all of her anger, anxiety, and fear into her attack, she nearly tears a hole in the Force itself within Isaiah’s inner consciousness. But even with the incredible power she now possesses, Isaiah is still easily able to heal the wound in real time and again redirect the energy elsewhere.

“Stop, please,” says Isaiah, remaining calm. “There is no need for violence. We want the same thing! Stand down.”

Overcome by rage, disappointment, and most of all, fear, Roshannon fights within herself. Wracked by this inner torment, the unshackled dark side within her takes over. Again, she lashes out with tremendous force at Isaiah who, this time, simply absorbs all of the energy. He casts a pitiable look as she realizes it’s over.

Disappointment & Regret

Completely spent, Roshannon collapses to the ground, unconscious. No longer able to stay solvent in a room with such an immense density of Force energy, the last of her life force is absorbed by the Catalyst. Isaiah watches on as Roshannon dies, disappointed that neither of them were able to do more to change the result.

A few moments pass as Isaiah contemplates their failure. And yet, his quest resurfaces into his conscious mind, prompting him to continue on regardless. As Isaiah takes his first step toward the Catalyst, however, the unintelligible voices of Jedi spirits course through his mind.

With each step, Isaiah puts tremendous focus on trying to understand what they’re saying but, oddly enough, the words don’t resolve themselves. Confused, Isaiah stands for a moment, reflecting on his situation amid the flood of Light Side Force energy.

Isaiah decides instead to let the voices play out as if he’s simply listening to a track of music. And slowly, he begins to understand. “Welcome, Isaiah, to the Light. Come join us.”

Chapter Twenty-Eight – Who is “Us”?

“Who is “us”? replies Isaiah, to no one in particular.

The voices in Isaiah’s head echo in his mind’s eye. “We are the Light, the Yin to the Darkness’ Yang. We go by many names, Isaiah the Gray. You are here…at the fount dedicated to the Light. A component of the test set forth by by those who wanted to know.”

Isaiah tries to discern the voices’ meaning but can’t quite parse their intent.

“So what will you do, now that you’re here?” ask the Voices of Light.

“What did you refer to me as?” asks Isaiah, skeptically.

“You are Isaiah the Gray, the test-taker, the judge, the one with the power over balance. That is who the Force says you are,” replies the Voices.

Isaiah pauses for a few moments, ensuring he doesn’t rush the conversation in a desire to get answers. “What can you tell me about my place in this test?” he asks.

“Nothing more than you already know. Simply live out your choices and the ancients’ test will be complete,” replies the Voices of Light.

The Status Quo is a Choice

“How can that be true?” says Isaiah. “I could simply do nothing.”

“The status quo is a choice after all, isn’t it?” replies the Voices.

Isaiah remains still for a few more moments, allowing the Voices’ words, and the incredible Force density of the room, to wash over him.

“I wish to be free,” he says. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

The Voices of Light are silent. Lacking a different direction, Isaiah decides to approach the Catalyst. Staring into its abyss, he taps into the its seemingly infinite Force reservoir. A magnificent stream of divine energy wraps itself around Isaiah’s soul like a warm blanket on a cold night.

Isaiah feels and lives deeply in those moments. But he makes his decision: Isaiah breaks free of these powerful feelings of warmth, comfort, and joy and draws the Catalyst’s power into his being, absorbing its tremendous energy and potential.

Isaiah sits in meditation to collect his thoughts. Roshannon Darek appears in his mind’s eye and Isaiah is able to see her without the scars of life on her being…her full potential. Having been absorbed by the Catalyst – which now resides within Isaiah – Roshannon’s being is, in some ways, now inside of him.

“What an incredible waste,” Isaiah thinks to himself as he stands and walks outside the Catalyst room, brimming with even more extraordinary power and Force potential.

Chapter Twenty-Nine – I’d Ask You The Same Thing

At the end of the hall, at the base of the Gigantic Sarlacc pit, Isaiah comes across Jimmy. He’s still hunched over, exhausted from the sheer density of Force energy in the area. Jimmy looks up at Isaiah and smiles, stubborn as ever.

And yet, Jimmy knows something is different in Isaiah. “You okay?” he asks, drawing in deep gasps of air in the process..

“I’d ask you the same thing,” says Isaiah in reply. “Let’s get back to the ship. Our work is done here.”

Jimmy proudly stands up straight, doing his best to pretend such an exercise is easy. “After you,” he says.

Isaiah furrows his eyebrow, suppresses a smile, and props Jimmy over his shoulder. And together, they slowly but surely climb out of the darkness of the Sarlacc pit.

The Desert Sun

The blistering sun of the Tatooine desert immediately reminds Isaiah and Jimmy where they are. And as they take their last movement onto the sand, Corban, Zero-You, and Isaac approach.

“I assume you’re okay?” asks Isaac, trying to mask the concern in his voice.

Isaiah stands, brushing off the sand from his jacket. “As good as can be expected. We’re done here,” he says before noticing Roshannon Darek’s ship. “Well, almost done. Did you find anything on-board?”

“No lifeforms on-board,” says Zero-You. “But we did find numerous different pieces of equipment that would be atypical for the Sith.”

“Such as?” asks Jimmy.

“It’s true that the Sith do hide when it suits them,” pipes-in Corban. “But this ship has advanced integrations with stealth systems that rival even our Defiant. It appears its primary purpose was to stay off the grid.”

Isaiah takes a long, hard look at Roshannon’s ship. What was she up to? He searches his memories, hoping to pluck out an answer from Roshannon’s spirit.

A few moments later, Isaiah marches to the base of its gangplank. The Defiant’s crew curiously half-circle him, wondering what he’s up to.

“Zaren!” yells Isaiah into the ship’s belly. “Come meet us. The time for hiding is over!”

The ship is still. The Defiant crew looks to one another, puzzled.

“Roshannon wasn’t able to interface with the Catalyst. I’m sorry, Zaren,” says Isaiah expressing genuine sorrow.

The Man in Black

A tall man, dressed in black with an odd set of goggles dangling around his neck, emerges at the top of the ship’s gangplank. The Defiant crew is shocked; they had done a thorough search of the ship!

“Tell me what happened,” says the man, his face wracked with pain as if he already knows the answer.

Isaiah reaches out his hand and bridges a connection with the Force between their minds. And through that tunnel flows the memory of Roshannon’s demise, the integration of her spirit into the Jedi Catalyst, and Isaiah’s absorption of its essence.

A flood of emotion overwhelms Zaren as he nearly drops to his knees, knowing his love has passed on.

“Roshannon’s essence is within me now, Zaren,” says Isaiah. “The time for running is over. Come with us. And find your peace.”

The emotion and memories though are too much for Zaren. And even he, of prodigious Force powers of the mind, cannot control the emotional deluge within. Like a bomb building in his inner world, rage, grief, and despair swell to the point where his head is on the verge of literally exploding.

Isaiah though, through the incredible power of the Force, dispels the storm in Zaren’s mind. As the figurative clouds clear, Zaren drops his head, resigned to the present in which he’s found himself. “Where are you going?” he asks in a defeated, monotone voice.

“Away from here. Now, will you come? Or stay among the hunted?” answers Isaiah.

Her Fate

“What will happen to her?” asks Zaren, referring to Roshannon’s ship.

Isaiah turns to Zero-You. “Activate the self-destruct sequence. Ten minutes, silent countdown.”

A flash of anger crosses Zaren’s face as Zero-You moves up the gangplank and into the ship. But again resignation as to his fate, especially as he’s able to sense Isaiah’s overwhelming power, overtakes his feelings. Zaren nods. “Lead the way,” he says.

A few minutes later the crew, and the valuable materials they were able to scavenge from Roshannon and Zaren’s ship, are on-board the Defiant.

“Take us away,” Isaiah says to AI over the intercom.

As the Defiant breaks through Tatooine’s atmosphere, with Zaren looking on through a window, Roshannon’s ship explodes, leaving little doubt as to its fate.

“Come,” says Isaiah to Zaren. “There is much for us to talk about.”

Chapter Thirty – Introductions & Welcomes

The Defiant’s crew – Isaiah, Jimmy, Isaac, Corban, and Zero-You – gathers in the central operations room of the ship. Zaren, cold and despondent, files in last. An uncomfortable silence fills the space.

“Everyone,” begins Isaiah, “please introduce yourselves. Zaren here has been through a great deal. And whether he realizes yet or not, aligns well with our mission.”

The rest of the crew, including Zaren, raise an eyebrow or two. No one immediately pipes-in.

“My name is Corban,” begins the Jedi Master. “I am the Keeper of the Jedi Archives on Coruscant. Up until today, I was the protector of the location of the Jedi Catalyst. And I was sent by the Jedi Council to find the perpetrators of the Czerka Corporation Headquarters disaster. But when I met Isaiah, I realized that there was…more at stake. So Zero and I joined and are committed to reaching the finish line, together.”

The group naturally shifts their attention to Zero-You, on Corban’s right. Zero-You just stands there in silence, creating an awkward moment in the circle. Corban nudges the droid with his elbow.

“I’m with him,” says Zero-You pointing at Corban who shakes his head. The group then shifts to Isaac.

“Isaiah, are you sure it’s wise to discuss…my background with someone we’ve, respectfully Mr. Zaren, just met?” asks Isaac.

“I am,” replies Isaiah. “I have Roshannon’s memories, feelings, and Force energy inside me now. These were not bad people. If anything, they’re just like us – trying to gain freedom from forces seemingly beyond their control.”

The Gray’s Turn

Zaren perks up at Isaiah’s words. Maybe these people aren’t so bad.

Isaac seems mostly satisfied with Isaiah’s answer. “My name is Isaac,” he says. “I am the leader of this cycle’s Gray. We are an organization dedicated to the preservation of the Force and its balance. I believe the mission of this crew has the potential to shake the very fabric of the Force so I am here to ensure it’s protected.”

The focus shifts to Jimmy. He is serious, perhaps uncharacteristically so. “I am a former Czerka Praetorian Guard. My life changed when I met Isaiah. Something inside came to life and my…awareness totally shifted that day. I am responsible for the destruction of Czerka Headquarters. It causes me great pain to think about. But it was an accident. Since then, I have done my best to further Isaiah’s goals because I trust that they’re the right thing to do.”

And finally the attention in the room shifts to Isaiah. He looks from person to person in the room, as if to survey their demeanor. “The truth is I was no one. I lived a life so unfulfilling, so soul-crushing, I was considering taking my own life. But when They did what they did to me, and I became powerful, very powerful, I’ve been trying to find a way to break myself out of this supposedly pre-ordained cycle, this test from our ancestors, and to be able to live my own life, under no one else’s rules.”

From Prey To Hunter

Zaren raises his head, focused on Isaiah’s words. Isaiah focuses on Zaren.

“So you see,” continues Isaiah, “our goals are really the same at the end of the day.”

Zaren stays silent. He scans the room using the Force. Everyone seems to have given him a genuine story.

“Everyone,” says Isaiah, “Roshannon and Zaren weren’t renegades, pirates, or thieves. They were trying to escape from the Sith. They were once students, yes. And when they no longer wished to be a part of that society, and to be free to set their own destiny, they left. And for this simple “crime,” they’ve been hunted relentlessly ever since. They sought the Jedi Catalyst not to steal its power, but to augment Zaren with its energy. And ultimately empower him to erase the memories of the Sith hunters.”

A silence washes over the room as the crew digests Isaiah’s words.

“I know where the last Catalyst is,” says Zaren.

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