“It’s only a flesh wound, Ayo,” said Sarolyn as she gently placed a bacta pack upon his injured shoulder. Ayo smiled sadly as she knelt down beside his couch.

“You seem sad,” she said in a soft, gentle voice as she gazed into his dark eyes. “What was it that upset Yarua in the butchery?”

Ayo avoided Sarolyn’s gaze. He stared up at the ceiling as he remembered Zibeon. He had become a dear friend and companion to both of them as they trekked across the countryside of Naboo.

“Before we ended up on Naboo,” said Ayo, “Yarua and I had gone to Despayre to spy on MHG, and we saw for ourselves what they were doing to the Zephoid Zez. We filmed a shocktrooper unit destroying a Zez nest.’ Ayo sniffed. The bacta was beginning to work and the pain was fading. He frowned as he recalled the account of his mission.

“We lost all our stuff when we were caught,” said Ayo with a sigh of defeat, “and they’d destroyed the Guvnor’s ship, so we had to get into Fort Myreion to get off Naboo.” Ayo looked sadly up at Sarolyn. “We gambled and we lost. One of us paid with his life.”

Ayo sniffed and his lip began to tremble. He thought of Zibeon, close to death aboard the Red Planet, with Yarua at his bedside nursing him back to health: a huge, strong Wookiee tending to the fragile little Zez, willing the creature to live.

Ayo recalled the time when Zibeon first said his name, and his joy when he found that Zibeon was able to speak a few words of Basic. As they journeyed across the plains and mountains of Naboo, he had become one of the crew. Zibeon had lifted their spirits, and Ayo could remember the little Zez’s exhilaration when he looked through the electrobinoculars at the view from the top of Kathra Sug.

Sarolyn took Ayo’s hand in hers. His dark skin contrasted with the paleness of her own as her long, thin fingers curled around his palm. She gazed tenderly into Ayo’s eyes and read his thoughts.

“Zibeon meant a lot to you, didn’t he?” said Sarolyn as she stroked his hand. Tears began to well up in Ayo’s eyes as he mourned his dead friend. He pictured Zibeon’s skinned body hanging in the butchery.

“Why did he have to die like that?” sobbed Ayo as Sarolyn leant forward and stroked his fuzzy hair with her other hand. “He never hurt anyone. Zib never had a bad bone in his body.”

Ayo’s face crumpled as he grieved for Zibeon. Sarolyn knelt beside him, saying nothing as she comforted him. The young Jedi continued to stroke his head as she slowly healed his grief, allowing the Force to flow through his body, cleansing and purifying, healing both the mental and physical wounds inflicted upon the young pilot just as she had healed Yarua back on Naboo.

Ayo stopped crying and returned Sarolyn’s intense gaze. He stared into her big, brown eyes and studied her calm, pale face that bore a hint of a smile. Ayo’s body began to tremble with a feeling he had not felt for a long time as she gently stroked him. Sarolyn Lordan was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.

Ayo had had many liaisons as he and Yarua ferried the Guvnor around the galaxy, but as he gazed at the graceful, doe-eyed girl before him and felt the touch of her soft hands on his, he realised that there was something special about Sarolyn. It seemed that they were destined to meet. Ayo had never believed in love at first sight...until now.

Sarolyn’s eyes widened slightly, as if she had known Ayo’s feelings all along. He began to sit up, but she gently set him back down into his couch.

‘Try and get some sleep, Ayo,’ said Sarolyn softly. She leant forward and kissed his forehead. ‘Zibeon will always be with you.’

Sarolyn stood up and stole out of the sickbay. She could sense that Ayo had strong feelings for her and she was confused, for she was well aware that his love stood a good chance of being requited. It was as if their meeting was the Will of the Force.

The Will of the Force. Sarolyn had been told many times about the dangers of emotion. She was a Jedi Apprentice, embarking on the final Trial that could make or break her Knighthood. Sarolyn thought about Bil-Kit, and how he had guided her through her training over the last seven years. He was a dear, kind old man who had served the Republic with compassion and dedication. She did not want to fail him.

A stern warning crossed Sarolyn’s mind, a warning that had been said to her by Master Yoda before she had left the Temple:

Grave danger face you if control your emotions you do not.



In the crew’s quarters, Neema and Yarua sat at a workstation with Japhta’s securitech droid draped over the bench surrounded by wires, components and circuit boards. Sarolyn strode across and joined them.

“Hi, Saz,” said Neema with a smile as Yarua hunched over the droid. “How’s Ayo?”

“He’s okay,” sighed Sarolyn as she flopped down on a spare chair. She pointed at the droid. “You two fixing up that monster?” Yarua grunted as he snapped shut the access door in the droid’s chest.

“He’s an RML-380Z unit,” said Neema. “Yarua thought that if he repaired him and reprogrammed him to recognise us as friends, then he could help us get into the research base on Despayre.” She turned to the young Wookiee and smiled. “Is Thriatizedd finished, then?”

Yarua nodded his bruised head and inserted a small key into a lock on the droid’s torso. The robot hummed into life, rising from the cluttered bench on its repulsors. The droid’s single, red slit of an eye pulsated as the robot floated before them.

Yarua reached up to one of Thriatizedd’s twin drives and shoved in a datacard. He turned to the two girls and grunted.

“What are you doing, Yarua?” asked Sarolyn with interest. She yawned, for she had not slept properly for ages and felt drained. Yarua explained in a melody of grunts and howls.

“That’s clever, programming him to understand Shyriiwook,’ said Sarolyn, impressed with what the young Wookiee had achieved.

Yarua continued his demonstration of the revived securitech, explaining his many functions. Unfortunately, Thriatizedd was a dated, silent droid who was able only to communicate through a computer link, but, he promised, it should not be a problem if he put his mind to it.

Sarolyn covered her mouth with her hand and yawned loudly. She watched her two friends as they set Thriatizedd to work. “I don’t know about you two,” she said wearily, “but I’m exhausted. I think I’ll get some sleep.”

“Night, Saz,” said Neema as Yarua barked goodnight. “No hanky-panky with Ayo!” Neema giggled as Sarolyn headed for the sleeping quarters.

The Millennium Falcon still had far to go before reaching Despayre, and Sarolyn considered their possible course of action on arrival. As she drifted off to sleep, she knew that she would have to face Japhta Fett again. Sarolyn would need all of her strength in order to pass the Trial. It was as if she and Fett were destined to meet in battle, just as she was destined to meet Ayo in love. She had never before fallen in love. It was a totally new experience for her. Sarolyn could foresee that her forthcoming showdown was a part of the test, and that her childhood rival had become a powerful Dark Jedi who would push to, and possibly beyond, the limit.

Sarolyn knew that Yoda was right. She must keep her feeling for Ayo in check if she were to defeat Japhta and destroy the Black Rot. As her mind drifted, Sarolyn wondered whether Ayo, too, was part of her Trial.

Forward to Chapter 40

Back to Chapter 38