And the promised Start Wars snippet. I really need to learn how to write non-combat snippets one of these days.

The Two Faces Thereof

I probably should have realized something was wrong when Syra stopped talking.

There were four of us (Syra, Ji'kan, Olvis, and myself) along with Master Gu'do. Ji'kan was a shy Zabrak girl, still pretty new to the Order. Olvis's parents were Jedi (some people say that wasn't allowed before Master Skywalker founded the order again, but I wouldn't know) and, well, as for me I was never really a very distinguished padawan. Syra was always the odd one out. She'd come down with some kind of degenerative lung disease, and by the time more advanced medicine got to it all they could do was halt further damage to her lungs - in order to breathe properly, she had to wear a mask at all times, connected to a small filter that she wore on her back. She was Master Gu'do's (an older human man, though the name sounded like an honorific from another species) first padawan, but I could sense quite a bit of frustration and anger that bounced between the two whenever they talked for more than a few minutes at a time.

We'd been sent to investigate some missing persons in one of the less well-off districts of Nar Shadaa - normally outside of our area of interest, but a small group of desperate citizens had come to beg the Order for help. My Master and his small group of students were dispatched to see what we could do.

A 'milk run', Master Katarn had called it, and then he and Master Gu'do had shared an ironic chuckle.

Normally on such a trip Syra and our Master (and, for that matter, myself) would be debating ethics and history with a venom that just barely stayed on this side of improper, to the point where Syra had been officially chastised at least once for her inappropriate conduct. I should have realized something was wrong when Syra started being quiet, but I am shamed to say that in my sheer relief I did not notice what she had so clearly picked up.

We'd entered the power station - one of many - with procedural caution but not with much real care. We had good intelligence that it was abandoned, and so despite the relatively weak lights we moved without due attention to detail. A brief check of the computer systems suggested that something was out of place further into the building, and when Syra formed up on our rear I thought nothing of it.

Then, just as we passed the threshold into the storage room that contained the supposed error, Syra leaped back with a startled cry. Just as we turned to see what was amiss, a force field cut off our access to the outside world, leaving Syra in the small circular room we'd just left. Syra turned away from us suddenly, her left hand reaching down to unbuckle the handle of her weapon - a light-whip, unusual even for a Jedi. I'd often wondered at her choice of so difficult and dangerous a weapon, but neither she nor our Master spoke of it, nor of the large metallic gauntlets and boots that protected her from fingertips-to-elbows, toes-to-knees.

"Someone's...coming..." Syra wheezed through her mask. "I know," came the reply from our Master. "Remain calm, Syra. Remember what you have learned."

"What, precisely, is that?" I asked of my Master through teeth gritted in frustration. "I can sense it now too - Sith, Master. Sith."

Master Gu'do nodded grimly, knowing my concern. Since I'd known her, Syra had contrived to skip or otherwise avoid learning mastery of the Force. Though her potential was in no way undiminished, she refused to develop that power into a mastery more refined than what a youngling might be able to demonstrate. She could sense feelings, see some small distance into the future, and move simple objects, but anything else was above her training - and, evidently, beneath her interest. How she filled up the time she gained as a result was as complete mystery to me - but then my panicked ruminations were interrupted by the arrival of the Sith.

Not a true Lord of the Sith - he wasn't strong enough for that - but an intimidating specimen nevertheless. He was human, but covered in scars from countless battles. He wore no armor, but carried half a dozen lightsabers at his belt, each of them gouged with the personal symbols of their slaughtered owners. He fixed his eyes on Syra and smiled a predator's grin.

"Surrender immediately and you may live," he mocked, reaching for his own lightsaber. It came to life with a dull red glow as Syra set herself into a fighting posture - a simple one, with her feet shoulder-width apart, as though standing at rest. When she activated her weapon it crawled slowly to life, blue light bleeding from its handle all the way to the tip some three and a half meters away. She moved the whip around herself in deceptively slow motions, never letting it touch the ground or walls, and it left blinding afterimages in its lazy wake.

The Sith attacked without warning, launching himself directly at Syra with obvious intent to overpower his much-smaller opponent. She moved with the easy grace of a snake, side-stepping his charge almost lazily and spiraling her weapon so that three coils intercepted his blow; the sound of saber on whip made an electric snap! that was blinding and bright. Syra flowed around her opponent's next charge, her motions surprisingly rapid in spite of her unhurried posture; again and again the saber met the coils of her whip, sending sparks of plasma raining down on the floor without ever once getting within striking distance of my fellow padawan.

"Coward!" Syra's foe snarled, spitting the word like a curse. "Be still and fight me!"

Syra remained silent, the only noise she made coming from the scrape of her metal boots on the floor as she ducked a computer bank hurled by the Sith's power. She danced backwards with a twirling motion that snapped the tip of her whip at him again and again, forcing him to stand his ground and parry, helpless to prevent her retreat.

When she stopped, she ripped the mask from her face and snapped her whip into the panels on the ceiling.

The shocked intakes of breath from Master Gu'do, myself, and his other padawans happened at the same time that all the lights in the room burst, leaving the battlefield in darkness. Syra and her opponent were both briefly illuminated by their weapons before Syra deactivated hers, leaving us to stare at the Sith and the dull red death that he held in his hands.

"I know you're here, coward of the Jedi," the Sith snarled, turning his head to and fro. "I can sense you!"

A scuffling noise from the corner of the room - the Sith blasted lightning in that direction, only to find it utterly vacant. Blinded as we were by the sudden light, we almost missed seeing the Sith recoil as if struck. He grunted in pain and threw lightning in the direction of his assault - and this time we did see it, a mass of Syra's un-powered whip (now simply a very flexible metal cable) hurtling towards the side of the Sith's face. The impact split flesh beneath it, laying his cheek open to the bone and shattering his jaw. Though he was already leaning badly and starting to fall from the surprise blow, I saw Syra's foot snake out and rip his ankle out from under him.

The Sith hit the floor head-first, and a loud crunching sound indicated that his jaw had broken further. Delicately, Syra bent down and plucked the lightsaber from his numb hands, her foe too injured to resist, and in its light we could see that she was turning blue from holding her breath. With careful haste, she attached a new mask and took several deep breaths in the near-silence that followed.

"Well done," Master Gu'do finally said. It seemed to be the only thing to say.

* * *

Later, Syra asked to speak to our prisoner before he was handed over to the Order for judgement and interrogation. Following procedures, Master Gu'do asked me to be there as a silent observer.

"What do you want, girl?" the Sith spat from his cell. His jaw had mostly healed, by now, though it would always be slightly crooked. "Have you come to gloat?"


"Then what?"

Syra took a few deep breaths, her machines pumping and whirring mechanically in the meanwhile. When she began it was slowly, with careful intent.

"I...have...been...called...a bad...Jedi. I...refuse...instruction. I am...angry. Frustrated. All...of...the...time. But he Dark...Side."

The Sith gained a snide expression, "So you are here to lecture me on your virtue? Spare me, girl."

Syra shook her head. "No. Not...virtue. Not...discipline. Fear. I...did not...ask...for...the...Force. I...could. But I...cannot. So, . You...have...known...that...which...I...fear. know...that...I...understand."

"Touching, but the point is moot. Your Order will have me executed, girl."

Syra shook her head. " .a...try." When the Sith arched an eyebrow, Syra shrugged. "You...can...always...escape...later."

"...I suppose I could, at that."

Recognizing that this was all the thanks she was going to get, Syra turned and walked away, and with nowhere else to go, I followed.