“Are the explosives set?”, Jaspar asked Zonia. “Almost”, she said. As Zonia and Jaspar worked to set explosives under an Imperial Walker, the sound of footsteps caught their attention. “Distract them”, Zonia told Jaspar. “How?” asked Jaspar. “However you can”, she said. Jaspar looked around the imperial installation. All around, they were surrounded by high walls. The walls were so high, they could barely see the tips of the mountains of the Corinthian Divide. As Jaspar looked around desperately to find a way to distract the stormtroopers, he saw an ISB agent up on one of the watch towers. “Perfect”, he muttered to himself. He grabbed a boomerang from his belt and tossed it as hard as he could towards the ISB agent. Within seconds, the boomerang hit the ISB agent on the head, and was knocked out cold out of the tower. His fall did not go unnoticed by the stormtroopers that almost found them, and they dared not leave him behind. As the stormtroopers helped their fallen comrade, Zonia finished setting the explosives on the AT-AT and the two made a run for the exit. As they climbed over the wall, they were immediately in trouble when they saw that the gangway that led up the wall from the outside had been shut, and it was a good 50 foot drop. “We’re in trouble”, said Jaspar. “Not quite”, said Zonia, “Barriss taught me a few tricks”. “After you”, said Jaspar. Within moments, Zonia jumped from the wall, did a backflip in the air and landed gracefully on the ground, using the force to slow down her fall. “Your turn!” Zonia shouted to Jaspar. Jaspar looked down from the wall. Although he himself was still in training to be an Erisil Guard, they were by no means Force-sensitive. He had no idea how to get down. “Just Jump”, said Zonia, “trust me”. Jaspar took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and walked off the wall. He had expected to hit the ground hard, but as he was falling off the wall, Zonia extended her hand and stopped his fall at the last second before he hit the ground. “Thanks”, said Jaspar. “No problem”, she said, “now we wait”. Within seconds, a loud and powerful explosion rocked the Imperial installation. The explosion under the AT-AT’s legs caused the massive walker to collapse to its side onto another AT-AT, which led to a domino effect that destroyed all the AT-ATs at the installation. As Zonia and Jaspar watched the fireworks unfold before them from the safety of the base, they stood side by side, and held their hands together. Barriss watched the whole Imperial Complex go up in flames from the safety of the canopy from one of the giant Conifers. As she watched the Complex go up in smoke through her binoculars, she turned her attention to Zonia and Jaspar, and saw them holding hands. She watched them for a few minutes, before deciding to contact them and tell them to return to base.
As they returned to base, Barriss needed to make contact with Ahsoka. “Fulcrum”, said Barriss, “this is Wild Card, come in”. “Wild Card, this is Fulcrum reading you loud and clear”. “I sent Wild Card 2 and Krieger into that Imperial Complex you recommended”, said Barriss, “everything went smoothly”. “That’s good news”, said Ahsoka, “have you had your talk with her yet?”. Barriss paused for a few seconds, remembering that she saw them kiss and hold hands. “No”, said Barriss, “I have not”. “You need to have that talk with her”, said Ahsoka, “the only one that could get hurt is her”. “The way I see it”, said Barriss, “she’s going to get hurt no matter what I do”. “What do you mean?” asked Ahsoka. “Well”, said Barriss, “she and Krieger, they, they…”. Barriss needed not say anymore. “I understand”, said Ahsoka, “I’ve been in her position before, and it’s not healthy for her growth as a Jedi”. “I know”, said Barriss, “I understand what you’re talking about. Do you think you could have a talk with her?”. “I cannot”, said Ahsoka, “there are bigger issues at stake here. That weapon we discovered on Serreno, it’s a good thing we found out about it, otherwise, we’d be totally in the dark with what we’re up against”. “But I sense there’s more”, said Barriss, “what is it?”. “The data is incomplete”, said Ahsoka, “we need the full blueprints so we can find out if it has any weaknesses”. Barriss was in disbelief. That weapon had been a source of many sleepless nights for Barriss, and now Ahsoka was just telling her that the plans were incomplete. “Don’t worry about this weapon”, said Ahsoka, “for now, focus on your mission, focus on finding the Triumphant, if the Empire finds it first, it won’t matter if we take control of that weapon and turn it against them”. “If this ship even exists”, said Barriss. “Don’t underestimate the value of this ship”, said Ahsoka, “one of my Mirandan informants has told me that the Triumphant is not a unique ship. It belongs to the ‘Hundulasiliah’ class Battleship. Apparently, the ancient Mirandans built hundreds of them. My informant has told me that the wreckage of one of these ships, the Matalan, is somewhere in the Corinthian Divide. Take Wild Card 2 with you to the wreck and learn what you can. It could provide you with clues in finding the Triumphant”. “Will do”, said Barriss, “Wild Card out”. As Barriss ended the transmission, Zonia knocked the door to her quarters. “Enter”, said Barriss. “I hear that we’re going on a mission?”, asked Zonia. “Yes”, said Barriss, “we’re going into the Corinthian Mountains”. As Barriss explained the nature of their mission, Jaspar walked outside of the Trailblazer and received a call on his commlink. “Brother Strasley, this Master Delorem, do you copy?”. “Reading you loud and clear”, said Jaspar, “what is it?”. “Inquisitors”, said Master Delorem, “I’m afraid they discovered our weapons cache in town and we need to move our remaining weapons to Kelma”. “Kelma?”, asked Jaspar as he looked up to see Miranda’s moon Kelma, “you want me to go off world?”. “Precisely”, said Master Delorem, “they’ll never think to look there, much less in the equatorial region”. Jaspar looked up to Kelma and then to its equatorial region. “That place is pretty dangerous”, said Jaspar, “there’s nothing there except Geysers and explosive outgassing”. “Exactly”, said Master Delorem, “we need you in town to move our last weapons onto a shuttle so we can depart for Kelma tonight”. “Copy”, said Jaspar, “I’m heading there now”.
As Jaspar got on his speeder bike and made his way back to Corinth, Barriss and Zonia exited the trailblazer via a Y-Wing fighter and made their way towards the Corinthian divide. From the ground, the mountains looked beautiful, but from the air, they were even more so. The Corinthian Pass looked tiny compared to the mountains, which averaged 4 miles in altitude. Zonia looked from the gunner’s seat in awe as she saw all the hanging valleys pour into the Pass, often in the form of majestic waterfalls. As Barriss changed course away from the pass and into the mountains, the wreck of the Matalan came into view. From what they were seeing, it was enormous. It was over 2400 meters long, by 300 meters tall. It was larger than an Imperial Star Destroyer. As Barriss and Zonia looked at the wreckage of the ancient warship, they could see large holes on the top, where its large guns had once been. As Barriss encircled the Matalan in her Y-Wing, she pointed her ship into one of the holes where its turrets had once been and landed her ship within the massive shell of what once had been a spacecraft, built by Mirandans for the sole purpose of war. As Barriss and Zonia stepped out of their ship, they looked up. Based on the size of the hole they landed in, anyone could tell that the Matalan once had really big guns. The hole was over 100 meters across and nearly 200 meters deep. Where a massive turret with multiple guns had once been, was now just an empty cavity. Barriss and Zonia looked around. The only light inside the ship was the sunlight pouring through the turret hole. As the Matalan has not had any power for over 3,000 years, it was pitch black inside. As Barriss and Zonia left their ship and entered one of the many corridors, they turned on their flashlights and started looking around. “What exactly are we looking for?” asked Zonia. “Clues”, said Barriss, “clues that could help us find the Triumphant”. “What kind of clues?”, asked Zonia. “I have no idea”, said Barriss. As Barriss and Zonia walked around in the dark and narrow corridors, a dark presence looked to them from around the corner. A dark presence that Barriss and Zonia were unaware of. As they walked further and further in the rusting hull of the Matalan, they soon found themselves inside a very large room near the side of the ship. There, inside of that massive room, sat one of the battleship’s massive cannons. Zonia looked at the ancient gun in awe. All around the gun there were canisters lying around. Canisters that would’ve once put the projectiles fired out of the gun into motion. “Do you think they’re still full?” asked Zonia. “I don’t know”, said Barriss. As Barriss and Zonia got a closer look, they saw a text written on the side of one of the canisters. Curious, Zonia used her force abilities to life the massive canister in the air. “That’s odd”, said Zonia, “it’s not as heavy as it looks”. As Barriss got a closer look, her WESTAR-35 blaster flew out of her belt and attached itself to the side of the canister. “Whatever it is”, said Barriss, “it’s magnetic for some reason”, she said as she removed her blaster from the side of the canister. As Zonia turned the canister around, she got a better look at the text. “Let me see”, said Zonia, “Jaspar taught me a bit of Mirandan language. I think I can decipher it”. “What does it say?” asked Barriss. “W-warning”, said Zonia, “Antimatter contents”. Immediately, a look of fear came over Barriss face. “Z-zonia”, said Barriss, “please put that down, very, very gently”. “Why?”, asked Zonia, “what’s wrong with it?”. Barriss immediately used her force abilities to help Zonia put the canister down. “Antimatter is very volatile”, said Barriss, “if it comes into contact with regular matter, it can be very explosive”. Zonia looked around the room. “Uhm Master Offee”, said Zonia, “we’re surrounded by a lot of it”. “Yes”, said Barriss as she put the canister gently back onto the deck, “I know. Which is why I would like it if we got out of here as soon as possible”. “Leave? Already? I sure hope you weren’t planning on leaving already”, said a dark mysterious voice to Barriss and Zonia. A feeling of fear ran down Barriss’ spine. She knew that voice all too well. As she turned around to see him, he revealed himself by igniting a pair of red-bladed lightsabers. Barriss looked to him, and put herself between him and her apprentice. “Marek”, she said as she ignited her purple bladed lightsaber.
“I sure hope you didn’t think about leaving me for dead, now did you?”, asked Marek as he approached Barriss and Zonia. “No”, said Barriss, “I was just hoping you wouldn’t come back”. “Indeed”, said Marek. “Zonia! Get out of here, now!” yelled Barriss as Galen Marek charged at Barriss with both of his lightsabers ignited. As their lightsabers clashed, Zonia ignited hers and charged at Galen. But before she could get near him, Galen unleashed a fury of force lightning at both Barriss and Zonia, forcing both of them to fly back. As Zonia struggled to get back up, Barriss did not want her to go up against Galen Marek. So as soon as she was back on her feet, Barriss force pushed her apprentice down an air shaft that led to the outside of the Matalan. “Shame”, said Galen as he approached Barriss, “I was hoping to teach her everything that you can’t”. “I would rather die than let you get near her”, said Barriss as she assumed a defensive position. “Let’s see”, said Galen as he charged. While Barriss and Galen fought inside the Matalan, Zonia kept sliding through the airshaft until she finally fell out, outside of the ship. As she lay on the ground in pain, an older man, a Mirandan, came near her to see if she was ok. “My girl”, said the Old Mirandan, “are you alright?”. “No”, said Zonia desperately, “my master’s in trouble. I need to get back in there!”. “Are you referring to that dark warrior? Is he troubling your master?”, asked the old Mirandan. “How could you know?”, asked Zonia. “I see everything that goes on in these mountains”, he said, “not one thing goes unnoticed. Not a single thing, Jedi”. Zonia looked closely at the old Mirandan, and saw that he had the same exact type of swords that Jaspar had fixed to his back. “You’re an Erisil Guard”, asked Zonia, “aren’t you?”. The old Mirandan nodded. “You have to help me”, said Zonia, “please, please help me”. The Erisil Guard looked away from Zonia. His leather hat concealed his eyes, and his long, shruggy beard made it difficult for Zonia to see what he was thinking. “What is your name child?” asked the Erisil Guard. “Zonia”, she said, “my name is Zonia”. “Delorem”, said the Eriil Guard, “Master Delorem. Let us go help your master”.
As Master Delorem and Zonia looked for a way to get back in the wreckage, Barriss kept fighting Marek in that munitions hangar, and his torments. “I guess I couldn’t get through to you by killing your Master”, said Marek. “You couldn’t get through to me even when I thought you killed my friend!” yelled Barriss. “Ah, Yes”, said Galen, “Ahsoka Tano. We’ve dispatched two inquisitors to hunt her and her friends down. So she won’t be a nuisance to us for much longer. But imagine this, imagine if I killed your apprentice. Imagine, while you’re lying on the ground, wounded and alone, your apprentice comes to your rescue. And while she comes to your rescue, she meets her demise at my blades. Tell me, how does that make you feel?”. Barriss didn’t respond. She kept her focus on her own blade, and Marek’s. “Or what if”, said Galen, “what if you don’t join me, but she does? Tell me, how does it make you feel thinking that you failed as a Master, and let your pupil fall to the dark side. Tell me, how does that make you feel?”. Barriss finally couldn’t take it anymore. She unleashed all her fury, but restrained herself to avoid falling back to the dark side. As Barriss clashed her saber against Marek’s, Marek force-pushed her into the wall and kept her pinned to the wall. As Barriss struggled to free herself from Marek’s restraints, one of the walls of the room was suddenly blown open, and light came into the massive room. As Barriss and Marek looked into the light, the Y-wing emerged from the smoke and began to open fire towards Marek’s direction. As Marek fought and deflected the blaster bolts heading his way, Master Delorem jumped out from the gunner’s seat and faced down at Marek. Marek wasted no time. He unleashed a fury of force-lightning towards Master Delorem, Master Delorem raised his swords and absorbed the fury of lightning. While Delorem and Marek had their stand down, Zonia landed the ship and helped Barriss back to her feet. “Master Offee”, said Zonia, “come on, get up. We have to go”. As Zonia helped Barriss back to her feet, Marek drew both of his lightsabers and engaged Master Delorem in a duel. As the two fought, the strange sounds that the Erisilian Gladiuses and lightsabers produced when they came in contact with one another echoed throughout the ship. As the two fought, Marek effortlessly increased the frequency of his attacks. Finally Marek’s attacks became faster and faster until finally, his lightsabers impaled Master Delorem through the chest.
As Barriss and Zonia saw the Erisil Master Guard collapse, Barriss reignited her lightsaber and charged at Galen. But before Barriss could get near him, Galen picked her up by the neck through the force, and smashed her against the wall; knocking her out. “I guess it’s just you and me”, said Marek to Zonia. “Whatever this is”, said Zonia, “I don’t want any part in it”. Before Zonia could say anymore, Marek extended his hand and began to choke her through the force. As Zonia lay on the deck, struggling to breathe, she tried hard to free herself from his grip. “Anger”, said Galen, “Hate, you have it all, don’t you? Why don’t you let me teach you instead of your master? I can teach you everything that your master can’t. Submit yourself to the dark side, unleash all your anger and hate!”. Soon after, Galen force pushed her against the wall repeatedly. Finally, Zonia couldn’t take it anymore and stared across to Marek, with an angry yellow hue built up in her eyes. As Barriss recovered and struggled back to her feet, she saw what her apprentice just went through. Instead of seeing the friendly, bluish-grey look in her eyes, she saw her eyes turn black and yellow with hate. “Zonia!”, Barriss cried out, “No!”. Just as Zonia was about to reach for her lightsaber, Master Delorem found the strength to get back to his feet, and used what strength he had left to swing one of his swords towards Galen. Marek screamed in pain and anger as one of the swords nearly cut off his arm. As Galen reached back for his lightsaber to engage the dying Erisil Guard, Zonia collapsed unconscious. Barriss didn’t stop to take on Galen. She went straight for her apprentice. As she reached Zonia, she grabbed her hands, which instead of feeling soft and warm like they usually did, they felt cold and clammy. “Zonia!”, Barriss cried out while she held her in her arms, “Come back!”. Finally, Zonia opened her eyes. Instead of seeing them Black and Yellow, they were the silvery-blue that they always were. “B-Barriss?”, said Zonia, “I feel s-so, cold”. “You’ll be OK”, said Barriss, “let’s get back to the ship”. As Barriss helped Zonia get back into the Y-Wing, Galen finally finished off Master Delorem quickly and cleanly, and looked to Barriss and Zonia.
Within moments, Barriss was in the cockpit and started up the engines. Just as soon as the ship had taken off, Galen extended his hand and used the force to stop the ship from leaving. As he began to pull the Y-Wing back, Zonia picked up her lightsaber, ignited it, and tossed it towards one of the Anti-matter canisters. Within seconds, a powerful explosion rocked the whole wreck of the Matalan, as one exploding canister set off all the others within the ship, providing Barriss and Zonia the opportunity to escape.
As the Y-Wing left the Corinthian divide, they went back to where the Trailblazer had landed. Right away, Jaspar was already waiting for them. As they got off the ship, Jaspar immediately saw Zonia’s expression. “Zonia?”, asked Jaspar, “are you alright?”. “No”, said Zonia, “I need to be alone right now”. As Barriss got back in the Trailblazer, she immediately went back to her quarters and told Ahsoka everything that happened. “I thought I lost her”, Barriss told Ahsoka. Ahsoka didn’t respond. She was as shocked as Barriss was. Ahsoka had helped train Zonia too. It devastated her knowing that she almost fell to the dark side. “You need to talk to her”, said Ahsoka. “I know”, said Barriss, “and I can’t put if off any longer”. “You will do what you think is right”, said Ahsoka, “Fulcrum out”. As Ahsoka terminated her transmission, Barriss sat down and meditated. She needed answers, and so did Zonia. Was Barriss, after everything she had done in her past, still fit to not only be a Jedi, but fit to train Zonia as well? Was Zonia fit to be a Jedi? Could she still have any hope after that brief fall to the dark side? She needed those answers. It wasn’t just about her anymore. Zonia was as involved in this as she was. As she sat in meditation, a calm voice spoke to her. So calm, it was almost like a whisper. “Have you done your best to train her?”, he asked her. “Master Qui-Gon, is that you?”, Barriss asked. “It is I”, said Qui-Gon, “do you still think you are fit to train the girl?”. Barriss thought long and hard about what to say. “I do not know”, she told him, “And I don’t know what to do. I don’t even think I’m still fit to be a Jedi, not after everything I had done. What I allowed myself to become”. “As I instructed you before”, said Qui-Gon, “the future is not set in stone. You can still change both the course of your life, as well as hers”. “But Master”, said Barriss, “I don’t even know where to begin, or how to continue. I almost lost her to the dark side today, I don’t want to lose her again. I can’t. I’m not strong enough”. As Barriss lay meditating in her room, a single tear went down her cheek. “Do you still believe you can continue?”, asked Qui-Gon, “how far are you willing to go?”. Barriss raised her chin. “As far as I am capable of going”, said Barriss. “You must leave this system”, said Qui-Gon, “abandon your mission for the time being, and go to a remote system. In this system, you will find a planet, strong with the living force. There, you will find the answers to the questions you seek”.
As Qui-Gon’s voice finally departed, Barriss found herself a renewed sense of purpose. As she left her quarters, she went looking for Zonia. She found her sitting on a barstool in the ship’s galley, with an emotionless look on her face. “Zonia?”, asked Barriss, “It’s me. Are you OK?”. Zonia didn’t respond. She simply nodded her head no in the slowest way possible. “I’m sorry”, said Barriss, “I know you’ve heard me say that so many times now, and I know everything you’ve been forced to go through. But I need to know, are you still willing to train under me?”. Zonia stayed quiet for a few moments, deep in her thoughts. “I’ll stay with you and train you”, said Barriss, “but only if you’re still willing”. As Zonia thought about what her Master had told her, she finally opened up. “Yes”, said Zonia, “I’ll train under you until the time is right”. “Excellent”, said Barriss, “we need to leave, now”. “Leave?”, asked Zonia, “where are we going?”. “You’ll see”, said Barriss as she led Zonia back to their Y-Wing. As they took off, Zonia looked down at Jaspar, who saw her leave. As the ship was about to leave, Zonia pressed her hand on the glass, looking down at him from the ship. Jaspar did the same thing, holding his hand in the air. As Barriss saw Zonia say goodbye to Jaspar through the rear-view mirror, she took her ship off into hyperspace. As she closed her eyes and meditated into the force, she felt the force guide her actions. Letting it take her and Zonia to the world where they needed to go. A journey that Zonia needed to make very badly, as did Barriss. As the ship flew through hyperspace, she began to feel that Zonia had begun to finally feel better, and recover little by little from her horrible ordeal. As they flew through hyperspace, Barriss could sense that they were getting closer and closer to their destination. “Where exactly are we going?”, asked Zonia. “I have no idea”, said Barriss, “I’m letting the force be my guide”. “Did the force tell you when we’d get there at least?” Zonia asked sarcastically. Barriss simply rolled her eyes in an annoyed manner. “It’s nice to see that her personality wasn’t taken away” she thought to herself. Not long afterwards, their Y-Wing came out of hyperspace over a strange planet. It looked nothing like Miranda, yet it was still full of life. Barriss and Zonia looked down to the planet in awe. An enormous jungle covered the whole planet. “Where are we?” asked Zonia. Barriss looked to the monitor on her console to see what it was reading. Barriss finally spoke the name of the planet: “Dagobah”.
Check back next Tuesday for another chapter of Jesus Armenta's ongoing fan fiction saga!