Senator Thraurrallgisc wanted change.  He had promised the people of Sorensia that he would fight for their well-being and restore to them the security of their livelihoods.  He had failed.  The grizzled old Wookiee sat back easily in his smoky office as he considered the recent events, his paws clasped behind his head and a cigarette jutting from his mouth.


            He had promised.  Thraurrallgisc was well aware of the reputation of Republic politicians, particularly the present rabble that dominated the Senate floor.  In popular opinion, politicians were renowned for breaking promises.  He had represented the people of Sorensia in the Senate for centuries, more years now than he could be bothered to count, and throughout this time he had always been true to his word. He was a rarity, now that the Pandemos were confined to the very safest socialist seats.


     Of these safe seats, Sorensia was the most secure for the Party. Indeed, it was a hotbed for radical "hard-left" thinking and Sorensia’s nickname of the "Red Planet" did not come by accident.  Thraurrallgisc had named his ship after his constituency, such was his pride of his adopted home.


     Senator Thraurrallgisc wanted to keep his reputation as an honest straight talker.  The Senate had made it extremely difficult for him to act.  The Unions had no voice and what little influence they had was hopelessly ineffective offworld. Besides, he had voiced his concerns to Barnes Pikle, who merely stated that the Party could risk bankruptcy should he talk carelessly about MHG.  If the over-cautious Pikle would not endorse his views, then he would have to act alone to topple Mandalore.


            Just as the dour old Wookiee began to rack his brains for a viable plan of action, Ralrracheen knocked on the door.  Thraurrallgisc barked tersely and Ralrra crept in, carrying a greasy paper bag full of steaming food containers.  The office began to fill with the sweet, spicy smell of an exotic Chalactan takeaway as Ralrra beckoned for his employer to join him for dinner.


            Thraurrallgisc gladly complied; he was hungry and the spices would help to keep the flu at bay.  He rose from his desk, carrying a tin of smoking-herbs in his bandaged left paw and a bottle of beer in his right.  Summoned by the appetising smell of nerf bin’dhar-laow, he stomped into the lounge where Ralrra was sprawled on an armchair watching the large videoscreen set into the wall.  The screen was showing a teleweb documentary about Lord Mandalore’s hypersetting lifestyle.  Japhta Fett, looking all the more chic and glamorous for appearing in public, was showing the Twi’lek presenter her vast wardrobe of priceless designer clothes.


            Thraurrallgisc hated Japhta Fett and everything she stood for.  His comrades were being exploited by this epitome of Rhoufheighite greed.  Millions of Sorensians were working in virtual slavery, with no employment rights or job security, while Mandalore lapped up a life of luxury with the best of Coruscant’s high society.


            This ever widening gulf between rich and poor angered Thraurrallgisc, and it was evident on every world he had visited.  Here on Coruscant, the wealthy minority enjoyed their own exclusive penthouses whilst the remainder were consigned to the seedy depths, where they lived, packed together in tiny "sleeping units" like battery chickens amongst the crime and squalor of a city in decline.  Japhta Fett and her extravagance made the old senator livid with rage.  He took one look at the glittering young girl swaggering about the screen and ordered Ralrra to find another website.


            Ralrra broke off from arranging the food on the low, glass-topped table and drew breath to change the channel with the voice-activated control, but before he could say anything, Thraurrallgisc barked at him, saying that he had changed his mind.  The documentary was giving viewers a guided tour of Fort Myreion, Koraetor Mandalore’s vast palace on the rural backwater world of Naboo.  If he were to destroy MHG’s hold on his people, he would need to find out as much about Mandalore as possible.  The two Wookiees relaxed and watched the show as they greedily shovelled food into their mouths.



*          *          *



            The cluster of buildings that marked the nucleus of Doran Totli Spaceport was clearly visible as Dixor steered the battered old landspeeder into the windswept Sorensian countryside, a countryside polluted by the starships that usually thundered overhead.


            The rain had stopped, and the passing showers had brought into sharp relief the odours of the ground.  Bil-Kit Jinn glanced upwards, and it bothered him that the sky was empty of traffic to and from the port.  He glanced at Sarolyn seated beside him, and wondered whether he had been too harsh towards her when they were watching the demonstration from the safety of the Guildhall.  She was right to argue, but, he reflected, she should be more mindful of her place and not be so forthright all of the time.


            Sarolyn stared straight ahead, her eyes closed in meditation as the wind rushed over her pale, shapely face.  The elderly Jedi Master could sense that a rift had opened up between them and it disturbed him.  Their earlier disagreement were the crossest words they had ever exchanged.


            "The spaceport buildings will be heavily guarded," said Bil-Kit to the two trade unionists.  "I fear that MHG have stopped all shipping to and from the planet."


            "Aye," said Sjoort as Dixor took them through the wide thoroughfares of the Cargo Sector.


            "Docking bay fifty-eight, i’n’t it?" asked Dixor.


            "Yes, yes, dear boy," said Bil-Kit as he raised his hood.  The biting wind was getting into his bones and causing his ears to sting.  Holding his hood in place, he looked up at the docking bay complex that loomed before them; a functional, duracrete structure that resembled a city in miniature with its towers and platforms.


            Dixor swore as they neared the entrance to the bay.  The ant-like form of the Republic cruiser was surrounded by hundreds of shocktroopers.  A police landspeeder, sirens blaring, screamed out from behind the ship and came to a halt before Dixor’s vehicle, blocking its path.


            The police speeder’s bonnet-mounted laser cannon was trained on Dixor and his passengers as two shocktroopers climbed out and indicated for him to stop.


            Bil-Kit put a hand on Dixor’s shoulder.  "It’s all right, Dixor," said the old man with a smile.  "You leave the talking to us."


            Nervously, Dixor stopped his speeder and switched off the engines.  Four of the troops moved to surround the vehicle, their guns pointing at his head.

            "This spaceport has been closed under the Emergency Powers Act," said the amplified voice of the sergeant.  Sarolyn tried to peer into his helmet’s visor, but could see no trace of the face behind.  She wondered what the man looked like and whether he had a family.


            The sergeant thrust the muzzle of his blaster into Dixor’s temple.  "What is your business here?"


            Dixor’s eyes widened in panic and sweat began to form on his brow.  Sjoort stepped in to rescue his friend.


            "We’re ‘ere to meet some mates," he lied as he glanced around at his companions.

            "Where have you come from?"


            "We come from t’northeast," said Dixor, trying to conceal their tracks.  "We work down t’pit.  You know, Mechsborg Ore mines."


            "Let me see your driving licence," said the sergeant, ignoring Dixor’s previous answer.  Dixor again looked worried.  He fumbled around, rummaging through his pockets.  His driving licence showed his full details, and if the troops saw it, the game would be up.


            Bil-Kit looked up at the sergeant and discreetly waved his fingers.  "You don’t need to see his details," he said quietly as he stared into the soldier’s visor


            The sergeant scowled at Bil-Kit from behind his mask.  The shock troops of the MHG Special Police had been specially trained by Koraetor Mandalore himself to resist mind tricks.  "I’m not talking to you, old man," he sneered.  "Now," he said, returning to Dixor.  "Show me your driving licence."


            Dixor crouched down slowly, reaching into the space between his feet.  As he did so, Sarolyn gave Bil-Kit a look of despair.  She had never before seen a mind trick fail, and Bil-Kit suddenly looked old and weak as he slumped his shoulders in resignation.


            With the troops’ blasters trained on him, Dixor whipped out his own weapon from its hiding place under his seat.  Before the sergeant could respond, the burly trade unionist blasted him in the head, sending molten gobbets of armour in all directions.  The sergeant fell.

            Dixor was heavily outnumbered.  As soon as he had pulled the trigger, the rest of the shocktroopers fired, killing Dixor and Sjoort as Bil-Kit and Sarolyn repelled the sizzling laser bursts that peppered the landspeeder around them.


            "There’s too many of them!" yelled Sarolyn as she twirled her lightsabre around her as if she were a dancer.  Although she had resented it at the time, she could now see why Bil-Kit Jinn had sent her to Ballet School for two years when he had first taken her on as his Padawan.  Ballet and lightsabre technique were intimately connected.


            "We don’t have time to waste by chatting, young Padawan," said Bil-Kit as he cut down two shocktroopers with a complicated swing of his weapon.  Sarolyn could sense exactly what he meant, for they somersaulted down from the speeder, barely clearing it before it exploded.

            Sarolyn hit the ground and rolled gymnastically as she extinguished her burning cloak.  She and Bil-Kit cartwheeled to their feet as more troops charged at them from the docking bay entrance.  Bil-Kit Force-pushed them to the ground.  Sarolyn threw her lightsabre at the shocktroopers behind them; the weapon slicing through their ranks before returning to her. Sarolyn twirled around as the troops in front fired, their blaster bolts being returned to whence they came.


            "Come on, Sarolyn!" yelled Bil-Kit as he ran wearily towards the waiting Republic cruiser; the ship that had brought them to this world.  Suddenly Bil-Kit stopped.  The double doors at the back of the bay had opened, revealing Japhta Fett and an entire legion of shocktroopers.  The bright red blade of her lightsabre buzzed angrily as she marched her troops out towards the ship.


            "Put your hood up, Sarolyn," whispered Bil-Kit.  "Don’t let her see your face."


            "Yes, Master."  Sarolyn looked up at her Master’s tired eyes.  Surely he was not planning to face Japhta Fett!


            Although Japhta Fett had successfully concealed her Force abilities from the majority of the Jedi, Sarolyn was well aware of her considerable talent, for the two of them had been raised in the Jedi Temple from babyhood.  The two girls were almost exactly the same age, and had often trained together as children, sometimes under considerable animosity.  They parted company at the age of twelve, Sarolyn continuing her training under Bil-Kit while Japhta was expelled, deemed ‘unsuitable for further training’.  Because of this, Sarolyn could sense much anger and resentment in her former rival.


            Japhta Fett raised her hand and the troops immediately ceased fire.  As she strode into the bay, Bil-Kit turned to Sarolyn.


            "Get on board," he said quietly as the access ramp lowered under his Force command.  "Tell the crew to take off.  Go with them."


            Sarolyn’s eyes widened in horror from behind the folds of her hood.  Her beloved Master would be no match for the power of Japhta Fett.  The young Padawan could feel that Fett had become strong since her expulsion.


            Sarolyn could not abandon Bil-Kit.  She wanted to fight with him so they could escape together.  "But Master!" she protested. "I—"


            "Do as I say!" shouted Bil-Kit, livid that his Padawan continued to question his instructions.  It was time she trusted his judgement if she were to leave Sorensia alive.  Seeing that Sarolyn had not boarded, he raised his hand and Force-pushed her up the steps of the cruiser, where she landed in a crumpled heap in the vestibule behind the hatchway.  The young Padawan hugged a support strut and stared pleadingly through her hood as Japhta leapt at Bil-Kit, slashing at him with her lightsabre.


            Sweat pouring from his forehead, Bil-Kit moved as fast as his tired old body would allow, countering and parrying each attack from the young blonde girl before him.  Her round, hazel eyes blazed with hatred.


            "You’re a sad, pathetic old man, Bil-Kit Jinn," hissed Japhta venomously as their blades became deadlocked.


            Bil-Kit, breathless from the exertion of the battle, gazed down at Japhta, trying to calm the impetuous former Jedi student. "How would you define 'sad', young Japhta?"


            Japhta swiped at Bil-Kit, who blocked the blow and held her at bay.  "The richest man in the Republic is my lover," she purred with a sneer, "and I can have anything I like.  Look at you -- you’re nothing!"


            "You don’t need wealth to be rich, young Japhta," said Bil-Kit soothingly.  He smiled kindly at his adversary.  "Go on.  Strike me down.  You won’t achieve anything from it."


            Bil-Kit looked at Sarolyn, who was watching from the open hatch of the ship, hoping that her Master would see sense and come aboard.  She gazed longingly at Bil-Kit and the elderly Jedi Master smiled in return.


            As the engines of the cruiser began to whine, Bil-Kit Jinn, a Jedi veteran, switched off his lightsabre for the last time.


            Japhta lunged, her eyes narrowed in aggression as she ran her blade through the Bil-Kit’s chest. There was a flash, like a burst of lightning as the old man slumped to the ground.  Sarolyn screamed, a cry of anguish that echoed across the docking bay as the hatch of the cruiser slammed shut, cutting her off from her fallen Master.  Japhta glared.




            Sarolyn was spinning.  Her mind raced with disbelief at what she had witnessed.  Choking back the tears, she pounded the hatch, desperately calling for her Master as the ship floated up out of the bay amid a pursuing laser volley.  She slumped against a bulkhead and buried her face in her hands, her sobs filling the vestibule.




            Japhta Fett scowled up at the receding Republic cruiser as it soared into the grim Sorensian sky.  Methodically, she returned to the spot where Bil-Kit had fallen and picked up his cloak.  She frowned in confusion, for Bil-Kit Jinn was not in it.  In fact, there was no trace whatsoever of his body.  She had killed many times before, but there had always been a corpse, proof of her victory over a weaker opponent.  Here, there was nothing.  It was as if Bil-Kit Jinn had never existed.



*          *                                                       *



            Sarolyn stared sadly out of the porthole at the gloomy, cloud-covered orb of Sorensia as it receded below.  It felt as if a void had opened up in her heart, a void that could not be filled.  Bil-Kit Jinn was dead, and she felt that it was her fault.  She should have stayed and fought with her aged mentor. She sniffed and wiped her eyes.


            A voice formed within Sarolyn’s mind; a voice that was comforting and strangely familiar. The Force is with you, young Sarolyn.


            Sarolyn closed her eyes and began to meditate.  She had lost her Master and was fearful of the future.  She still had much to learn.  As the cruiser blurred into hyperspace, she considered every possible outcome from Bil-Kit’s death.


            Would the Reassignment Council send her to another Master, or would they deem her unsuitable for further training? She had come so far, learnt so much, but Sarolyn Lordan knew that her future was clouded.


 Forward to Chapter 6

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