The Ruusan Pursuit
The speeder gasped its final breath and slowed to a stop on the brow of a hill, next to what looked like an abandoned Ruusanian shelter. Fuel cell warning lights danced across the panel in front of Needa’s eyes and the young Jedi cursed, before leaping out of the vehicle. He breathed heavily as Ruusan’s suns beat their harsh rays onto the smooth metal of the speeder, baking and suffocating the air around him. Flinging the hood of his brown cloak back and squinting against the sky, Needa moved his dark brown hair away from his eyes and wiped his brow. His face and cloak were covered in dust from the journey, and he used his sleeve to wipe his face. His soft features had aged many years in the last hour, and his skin looked worn and caked in the dust of the coarse Ruusan desert.
The young captain had been stationed at an encampment, a final warning system on the edge of the Arkine Forest before the long stretch of desert that led to the main Jedi outpost. But without warning his company had been attacked by a group of mercenaries loyal to the Sith. They were led by a cruel and malicious enemy, who had single handedly torn through their defences, opening the way for his troops to cut through the camp. Needa knew that the encampment was the last line of defence before Outpost 5, which could not, no, must not be lost if the Jedi were to finally eradicate the Brotherhood from the eastern borders. Overrun, their communications were soon destroyed, and his master ordered him into the last remaining speeder to warn Outpost 5 of the Sith betrayal. Needa swallowed hard as he remembered his master’s final order before he himself was cut down. Needa had cried out in pain and anguish before he had turned and fled, abandoning the screams of his friends and comrades. Despite the desperateness of the situation and his master’s final order, Needa regretted not standing and fighting. Even now, as his dark green eyes desperately searched the horizon for signs of the outpost, he knew that the guilt would plague his memories forever. Suddenly a reassuring noise from the speeder’s communications panel interrupted his thoughts:
“…self. Repeat, this is outpost 5 West, please identity yourse…” A dry voice crackled over the radio.
Needa hurried over and pushed down hard on the SEND button: “Outpost 5, this is captain Needa, please come in”. Needa waited for a response, but the speeder just returned static that hung in the dry air. “Outpost 5, do you read? Outpost 6 is down, overrun, repeat overrun. Prepare for imminent assault on your position, do you…” Suddenly a small spark jumped from the panel and Needa fell back, holding his hand up to his face. A small trail of electrified smoke signalled the end of the conversation. If there was one, Needa thought.
Taking a deep breath, Needa reached into the back of the speeder and searched for the long range visor. It was well hidden and beads of sweat ran down the Jedi’s face as he rummaged. He exhaled deeply as his fingers found the cool metal and he gladly pushed himself away from the baking speeder. Walking to the edge of the hill, he turned west, holding the visor to his face. The view he had was of a long uneven track that wound its way through the jagged rocks that scattered the desert, as they reached up to the suns like thirsty tongues. Needa licked his dry lips as he rotated slowly to the left, until he found what he was looking for. He smiled to himself as his eyes locked onto the faint shimmering outline of the Outpost’s entrance. The site itself was not in view, but he knew that the outpost was only a short journey up the hill. At least eight more miles to the entrance he thought. Quickly calculating the time in his head he inhaled deeply and closed his eyes. I can make it there in one hour on foot. But there may be a way to get the speeder working given time. If I just..
Suddenly a small push interrupted his thoughts, like a small and silent change in expression during a conversation. Needa was still a young Jedi, with much to learn, but he recognised the power of a Sith warrior when he felt it. Spinning round he hurried back over to the speeder and lifted the visor to his eyes again, this time facing east back towards the encampment. Through the dust covered lenses, he saw a small trail of yellow smoke moving slowly across the desert, heading straight for his position. What is that? Needa wondered, furrowing his brow. Adjusting the zoom on the visor, Needa focused the view and saw in horror as a small but discernible black figure moved in front of the dust, tearing a line across the yellow sand like a blade on fabric. But he’s moving so kriffin fast! muttered the Jedi aloud. Panicking he ran back to the speeder and punched the start up button whilst grabbing the throttle lever with both hands, frantically trying to get the aged Mark IV started. Forgetting his training he allowed frustration to get the better of him, and after failed attempts he slammed his hand against the display, the pain rushing up his hand, waking him up.
Patience. Said his masters voice in his head. Needa listened and took a calming breath before getting out of the vehicle again. He could not escape. Exposed on the top of a hill he knew what he had to do. Sitting down and crossing his legs, he closed his eyes and and began to gather his thoughts, his mind, allowing the power of the force to flow like a river between all the parts of his body. As he did this, Needa slowly pulled the cool hilt of his lightsaber, given to him by his master, out from under his cloak and allowed it to rest in his hand.
One of the first lessons his master had instilled in Needa was to never allow the trust in his ability to falter. But do not let this be confused with arrogance young Needa, his master would say, for this is an ally of the Sith. Instead, simply remember that your full power and potential can only be found once you shed all of your regret, your remorse. All of your fear.
Patience, said his master’s voice again, this time Needa joined it with his own, moving the word across his lips. He could feel the power of the Sith getting stronger and stronger with each passing moment. But there was something else. The approaching enemy seemed to be using the force to tug and pull at Needa’s thoughts, breaking through his concentration. No, Needa realised, taking something.
Needa ignored it and concentrated on his master’s voice, his teaching, but every time he did the memories were stolen and replaced by an image of his master falling, holding out his hand and reaching for Needa’s help. To the Jedi’s horror, the image also began to fill with all the faces of the others he had left behind and abandoned. Suddenly losing all hope, Needa’s hand opened and his lightsaber tumbled from his grasp onto the sand under his feet, as his eyes filled with the tears of regret. The Sith’s power robbed the young Jedi of his training, stole his hope, replacing it with all that lay suppressed and hidden in the Jedi. Needa’s lip trembled as he became consumed with loss and fear. Lowering his head he covered his face with his hands as he became inexplicably overwhelmed with shame, his resolve weakening to emptiness with every shaking breath.
The next thing that Needa heard was the unmistakable sound of a lightsaber being ignited just metres from where he sat.
Chapter 2 here!