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View Full Version : Unexpected Destiny, Chapter 3b



Donovan Morningfire
10 March 2002, 09:43 AM
Author's Foreword:
Well, at long last here it is. It's the lengthest part so far, and is it's mostly character development. There are some bits that are rather suggestive, but I've kept it at least PG-13, so read with caution. I won't make any promises as to when I'll have 3c done, but hopefully it'll be finished and posted before AotC hits theaters :D Enough of my rambling, so enjoy the story.

"Why you wanna give me the runaround/
A sure fire to speed things up, but all it does is slow me down"
- Blues Traveler, "Runaround"

Rememberance
Six months after the Battle of Naboo
Place: Jedi Temple, Coruscant

In the months that followed the historic events that took place on the remote, almost obscure world of Naboo, many things had changed for Donovan Morningfire. He had grown in more ways than one. While his training in the Jedi Arts progressed exceedingly well, it was his development as an emotional living being that seemed to please the Jedi Master Quatre Zidann the most.

No longer did Donovan's psuedo-celebrity status affect him. While he didn't have the same prestige that Obi-Wan had, having bested a Sith Lord in single combat and being more notably involved in the Battle of Naboo, the young man did have his fair share of admirers. But where before he left for Naboo Donovan seemed to only cringe at any significant attention paid to him by the female students (and even a couple of the younger female Jedi), it seemed to roll off him, like water off a Gungan.

But it wasn't so much that Donovan was more comfortable with such attention, it was that his heart was often elsewhere. For almost a month after returning to Coruscant, Donovan had seemed to be sliding backwards in his training. His focus was distant, not at the moment where it should have been. He'd overheard one of the other Jedi Masters commenting to Quatre about it, but Quatre felt that this was something his Padawan would have to work through on his own. And as usual, Master Quatre was right.

For that month, about the only thing Donovan could ever seem to think of was Jasmine. While there were many attractive girls at the Temple, ranging from Padawans his age to Jedi Knights and Masters, none had ever ignited the spark in him that she had.

There was no doubt that Jasmine was beautiful, in more ways than one. A Twi'lek, her body was that of a gifted athlete, lekku swaying as she walked with feline grace. Everything about her physically had just seemed perfect. And she didn't feel the need to over-emphasize her physical beauty, as other women Donovan had seen in his travels felt the need to do. Jasmine prefered comfort and utility over fashion, a no-nonsense attitude considering her line of work as a "free trader," or smuggler in the common parlance. But the thing that probably captured Donovan the most was her attitude. To say she had spirit was an understatement. To Donovan, who had spent the majority of his life sequestered from the chaos of the galaxy and living under a long proscribed set of guidelines, Jasmine was nothing short of a highly intoxicating breath of fresh air. She lived her life as she saw fit, and let no one decide her destiny except herself. It was a sort of freedom Donovan knew he could never truly have, since his powers brought with them a responsibility to help others.

It were these distracting thoughts that had caused Donovan to backslide, perhaps due mostly to how they had parted company. For the short time that he'd been with her as part of a resistance cell on Naboo, he had found it hard to imagine not being around her. But when she said she was leaving, Donovan had felt a pain sharper even than that of the lightsaber of the phantom Sith Lord. Her kiss, probably something that meant little to her, had left him so stunned that he couldn't even say a word as she walked out of his life, probably never to re-enter it. 'Of different worlds,' she had said. For the time following, the only thing Donovan wanted was to be part of her world, to live free as she did.

His distractions came to a head when he almost injured another Padawan during a demonstration of lightsaber dueling stances for a batch of hopefuls. While the teacher in charge of the class was distressed, it was Donovan who had felt the worst for his slip-up, knowing that in his carelessness he could have killed the other boy instead of minorly wounding him.

After several days of solitary mediation and contemplation, Donovan had resumed his studies, and quickly picked up the slack. While he could not purge his daily thoughts of Jasmine, he could at least keep those thoughts, and the bittersweet feelings they brought, in check. 'Emotionless robots' some critics had called the Jedi Knights. 'If only I could show them what I've been going through, they wouldn't be so quick to call us emotionless,' Donovan thought ruefully to himself.

While the view of the Jedi was that they were cold and unfeeling, the truth was quite different, as is often the case with such things. It wasn't so much that the Jedi didn't feel emotions; they were living beings and as such had emotions just like anyone else. It was that they had to learn not to be ruled by their emotions. Anger, Fear, Hatred, Pride, Despair, even Love and Bravery. While some emotions were held in a better light than others, a large part of a Jedi's training was to learn how to act without undue influence of their emotions. There is no emotion, there is peace. It was part of the four-line mantra that Padawans had to learn by heart. It was also a very condensed set of guidelines on how to act and how to use one's gift with the Force responsibly. The full Jedi Code was a tricky thing, with dozens of scandocs that discussed and debated interpretations of it, and every Knight and Master seeming to have their views on how the Code should be interpreted. Some were more rigid to the words, such as Masters Yoda and Mace Windu. Others were more intent on the spirit of the words, such as the late Master Qui-Gon Jinn and to some extent Master Quatre. But most Jedi seemed to fall somewheres in the middle, as did Donovan.

But Donovan would have to hold his thoughts for later. He'd just recently been assigned to help chaperone a group of hopefuls on a trip to one of Coruscant's many museums, the Intergalatic Institute of the History of Conflict. The reason for going was due to the belief that it was a Sith Lord that had killed Qui-Gon and in turn been killed by his former apprentice, the High Council felt it necessary for all students to be more aware of the threat a return of the Sith could bring. Something Donovan could not argue with, since he still had a scar from when the Sith phantom's blade had nearly ended his own life. In fact, after getting his focus back to where it belonged instead of being on a certain Twi'lek smuggler, Donovan had spent more time than usual practicing lightsaber cadences. While in the past he had considered his skills good enough, that encounter in the mist-filled field had shown him just how much luck had played a part in his prior battles. Donovan had gotten more than a little cocky in his ability, and that close call with death was the wake-up call he needed.

When he arrived at the meeting place, his first thought was that it seemed an odd grouping. There was another Padawans, a Zabrak, helping keep about two dozen children under control, most of whom were more excited to be seeing Coruscant from some place other than behind one of the Temple's windows. Jedi Master Yaddle was apparently in charge.

Yaddle seemed to look up in time to notice Donovan's approach, and with a slight smile, turned to the children. "Now that everyone is here, we are prepared to go. Our rides should be arriving shortly. This is not a holiday, but instead an instructional trip. Keep together as much as possible, or at least within eyesight of either myself, Padawan Jothi," the Zabrak nodded at the mention of his name, "or Padawan Donovan."

As if on cue, the repulsor bus arrived, and they piled in. They weren't the best in Corscant transportation, but they did their job, no question about that. The pilot of the bus less than thrilled with having to drive around a bunch of kids all day, but he didn't say a word.

Before leaving, Yaddle faced the children, and said, "Remember to mind your behavior." And with that she sat down in the same seat as Jothi, who at the moment was watching a particularly crazed air cab nearly ram into a hover transport. That was fine with Donovan.

Of late he'd preferred to spend time alone, since it often gave him time to indulge in his thoughts and memories about Jasmine. While some masters might have been overly concerned with such thoughts, Quatre considered a part of growing up. While he'd been trained to be a Jedi most of his life, Donovan was still a human boy in his teenage years. Most humans his age were engaged in far more reckless and hormone-driven behavior than he would have ever considered, and if Donovan was content to dream, that was fine, but only so long as it didn't affect his studies. It hadn't taken much to figure that Donovan had been suffering from a bad case of a broken heart. After all, he'd finally figured out that Jasmine was the first women he had truly fallen in love with. So her abrupt exit from his life would naturally cause such feelings. But knowing their source didn't make it any easier to bear. In the weeks that followed, Donovan had gained a better understanding of why many Jedi eschewed such relationships. It was perhaps easier that way.

He was shaken out his thoughts when Master Yaddle announced they had arrived. Quietly they piled out of the bus, and the tour as a whole was fairly boring. Donovan had never been one for academia, prefering more active methods, and he could tell that several other hopefuls felt much the same way he did. They walked in a group, with Yaddle pointing out certain displays that were 'of interest' to the reason they were here. Murials about the Great Hyperspace War and the Sith War. There was even a section devoted to the Battle of Ruusan, the climatic battle between the Sith's Brotherhood of Darkness and the Jedi's Army of Light which had ended badly for both sides and was believed by the galactic populace at large to have been the final demise of the Sith. There was a replica of the double-bladed lightsaber wielded by Exar Kun some 4000 years ago. Remnents of Sith weapons and armor, with the centerpiece of that exhibit being a full suit of Sith battle armor complete with a monsterous sword that stood almost as tall as a human.

"Be a frightening thing to face, wouldn't it?" whispered one of the older hopefuls to some of his companions.

Donovan merely nodded. In a way, he had faced such a thing, almost a year and a half ago on the remote Outer Rim World of Xardas. The fallen Padawan Aerus had worn a similar suit of armor, but instead of a Sith sword he wielded an ancient lightsaber. But Aerus' appearance had still been the stuff nightmares could be made of. That was an event that Donovan would likely never forget, as it had shaped who he had no become. It had perhaps been one of his defining moments.

Then he heard it. A laugh, light and airy. When last he'd heard that laugh, it was on Naboo. Quickly, Donovan spun to see the source of that laugh, his heart hoping that the owner of that laugh was the person he thought it was. But then he saw the source. While it was a Twi'lek woman, well-dressed and attractive, it wasn't the particular Twi'lek he had hoped it would be. The man she walked with seemed to take note of Donovan looking at his companion, and gave the young Padawan a challenging glare. Donovan simply turned away. He could hear the woman admonishing her date, calling him jealous of a teenager. But for one brief moment, Donovan had thought that she was Jasmine. While there were a lot of physical differences, the Twi'lek woman's skin tone being blue instead of the bronzish-hue that Jasmine's was, the laugh had been almost the same. And it had set Donovan's heart racing.

'There's no two ways about it, I've still got it bad for her,' Donovan thought glumly to himself.

He'd spent the rest of the tour in a sort of haze. He was certain that Master Yaddle had noticed, and it was likely that Master Quatre would be hearing about it, and commenting on his Padawan's lack of focus.

When they returned, Donovan found his master waiting for him, an urgent look on his face. Could Master Yaddle have already communicated his inattention? It didn't seem likely, but what else could be on Quatre's mind?

As if sensing his Padawan's question, Quatre strode forward, walking straight up to Master Yaddle.

"My apologies Master Yaddle, but I need to speak with my Padawan immediately." There was a definite urgency to Quatre's voice. Yaddle merely nodded in response, and Quatre gestured to Donovan to join him off to the side.

At this point, Donovan was quite curious. When Quatre turned to face him, Donovan asked what the problem was.

Quatre's reply was terse, "It seems there's been an upheaval in a Mid-Rim world that we've been assigned to investigate."

Donovan was even more perplexed at this point. "What sort of upheaval, master?"

"The kind that involves militant factions overthrowing the rightful government."


Traveling Arrangements
One week later

It had been a terse trip, to say the very least. Along with Jedi Master Quatre Zidann and his Padawan Leaner Donovan Morningfire, there was a Republic representative and his entourage. Each had their own objectives to accomplish, though they seemed mutually exclusive to Donovan. The diplomat, a very heavy-set Kel Dor, was sent to ensure that the trade agreements made by the former rulers of Drux would be upheld, even if it meant supporting a potential dictatorship. His escorts consisted of his secretary and a half-dozen bodyguards.

Quatre and Donovan, on the other hand, were to search the planet for an surviving members of the ruling family, especially the legitimate heir to the crown, one Princess Me'rana. It was believed that even though she was off-world at the time, on an extended shopping spree of all things, and that she would try to return home to set things in order; namely ensuring that she maintained the life of luxury she was used to. Donovan had read her profile, and she fit the stereotype of the snobbish royal princess so well it was almost scary. Master Quatre had hoped they would be able to find her before the militants did, since she would doubtless stick out like a sore thumb amongst the common people. While the Senate had voted for and sent the diplomat, it was Senator Bail Antilles of Alderaan that convinced enough influential people to request that the Jedi Order take responsibility for finding the rightful rulers.

The diplomat, Donovan could never remember his name, felt that the presence of the Jedi would hinder his objective, as well as feeling that the galaxy as a whole would be better served if the entire Order would just up and disappear. A view he took every opportunity to express as loudly as possible. A few times Donovan felt like snapping back, but a look from Master Quatre was all that was needed to keep the young Padawan from making things worse.

After what seemed ages, they got to the starport where Quatre and Donovan would disembark and find other transportation to Drux, while the diplomat and his entourage continued onward aboard the red starship, a sign of diplomacy and nuetrality.

While he had been raised on Coruscant, and had seen many different sorts of places in their travels, Donovan could never help but to feel amazed at the activity that occured in the busier starports. Maybe it was just his ties to the Living Force and being near so much life in one place that caused it. Or far more likely that he was just far more naive about such places than most other sentients in the galaxy, to the point that they always seemed new and fascinating.

Donovan noticed Quatre talking with one of the street venders, and shortly came back over to his Padawan.

Quatre nodded sagely, "the merchant over there gave me some good suggestions as to where we can find a fast transport that won't ask a lot of questions."

"He just volunteered that information?" asked Donovan, a bit perplexed. From his experiences, very few beings just voluntarily gave away information to random people on the street.

Quatre simply shrugged, "Well, I did have to buy a couple shoddy wristchronos before he'd talk."

After a few hours in what were some of the worst hives of scum and villainy this side of Hutt Space, Donovan was beginning to feel that they would never find a transport. While he and his master were able to keep a low profile, Donovan still had to work to keep his feelings of shock and dismay in check. Slavers, spice runners, smugglers, guns-for-hire, loansharks, if you named a type of criminal scum Donovan had probably seen it during those hourse. But it seemed that at the last cantina, they finally struck paydirt. They'd found a Devronian who would be more than happy to take them, for much less then they had figured, and didn't seem to mind that there might be troubles of the military kind when trying to land somewhere ... 'discreet.' It was later that Donovan found out the only reason the Devronian agreed was becuase he'd never been to Drux, and was starting to get a little stir crazy at the starport.


Reunion
Three days later

"I have a bad feeling about this."

"Hush Donovan. There's no need to focus on your anxieties. Keep your attention on the here and now."

"Yes Master."

That interchange had happened quite a bit since their arrival a day ago. The Devronian was as good as he said he was. He'd gotten them planetside with no one the wiser. But their search had so far been fruitless. Princess Me'rana had yet to return home, and the armored goons patroling the streets made Donovan think back to Naboo and the seemingly endless patrols of battle droids.

It had quickly become apparant that this was more than a simple military overthrow. Drux was noted has having a very small standing army. Yet somehow the military leaders had found what amounted to an invasion force. Turns out most of the royal family had been summarily executed by the order of the new ruler, High General Chak Blissken. Blissken favored cutting ties to the Republic, and it turned out the Kel Dor diplomat had failed miserably, and had been sent back to Coruscant in a bacta tank, and his entourage in refrigeration boxes. There were also rumors that Blissken's primary advisor was a black-cloaked old man, and that it was this man that set in motion the events that had radically transformed Drux.

But for now, the two Jedi were forced to steal across the streets, not wanting to be seen. The success of their mission lay in secrecy. If they were found out, things would look very bad. The few people who were willing to talk had very little in the way of useful information, and most everyone else was too scared. Four days ago, there had been a protest, and Blissken had his hired soldiers gun down every person in that protest, even though the protesters had taken no violent action. These actions only served to highlight the necessity of their succeeding in finding Princess Me'rana and getting her to Coruscant. With the verbal statements taken from those few willing to talk, it should be more than enough to get the Galactic Senate to do something to get Blissken out of power.

It was later that day, almost into evening, while keeping an eye out for another patrol that Donovan noticed them. About a dozen and a half armored soldiers, escorting prisoners. It took a moment for him to fully register who the prisoners were. In the front was none other than Princess Me'rana. But it was the other three that really knocked Donovan for a loop. Right behind her, similarly magna-cuffed, were Zeth, Alexis and Jasmine!!!

Donovan quickly rushed to Quatre's side, "Master, she's here! We have to hurry, the soldiers have her!"

Quatre had allowed himself a moment's mediatation, and his Padawan's words came a bit quickly, but he could tell from the urgency that it was necessary to move quickly. "Let's go," was all Quatre said as he followed his Padawan to where the trouble was.

And sure enough, Donovan had found trouble. About eighteen soldiers, escorting the Princess and three others. Not a word was said between the two Jedi as they drew their lightsabers and sprang from the shadows. In less than a minute, the soldiers had fallen, victim to either reflected blaster bolts or the deadly blades of the two Jedi.

Out of the corner of his eye, Quatre noticed Donovan head over towards the other prisoners, most notably a Twi'lek woman. But before he could ponder this further, Princess Me'rana made her displeasure at being magna-cuffed and so rudely treated very well-known.

Meanwhile, as his master attended to the princess, Donovan quickly undid the cuffs binding Jasmine. He couldn't believe that she had re-entered his life, even if it was a very unusual circumstance. As soon as Jasmine was free, she set about doing the same for Alexis and Zeth, while Donovan at least managed to keep enough self-control to watch for other soldiers, as the blaster shots had been rather loud.

Quatre motioned for all of them to follow him into the sidestreets. After about an hour or so of dodging and weaving through various sidestreets, they arrived at what had passed for the two Jedi's 'safehouse.' It was a run-down room in an abandoned apartment complex, but it served as a rudimentary resting place.

Donovan felt it best to leave explaining the situation on Drux to the princess to Master Quatre. Besides, there was someone else Donovan really wanted to talk to. Some he hadn't talked with for several months.

He entered the small sideroom where Alexis was tending to some of Zeth's wounds, while Jasmine was looking out a broken window. It was Zeth that first noticed Donovan's entrance.

"Well, well, the Jedi boy wonder graces us with his presence," was Zeth's condescending way of saying hello, which earned him a glancing punch to a bruised area on his side from Alexis, who turned to Donovan and nodded before returning to her patient.

Jasmine turned and smiled, "Never thought I'd see you in a place like this."

"I never thought I'd see you again," Donovan blurted out, "Uh, any of you."

Zeth just rolled his eyes, Alexis allowed herself a slight chuckle, and Jasmine seemed to not even notice what Donovan had said.

"So ... um ... what brings the three of you here? Donovan inquired, hoping to quickly get past his initial blunder.

Jasmine was the first to speak up, "Supposedly just a simple passenger trip. A rich girl wanting a fast ride home. I should have known it's never that easy. What about you and the short red guy?"

Donovan was puzzled for a brief moment before he realized Jasmine was referring to Quatre. "Oh, us. We were sent to find Princess Me'rana and get her back to Coruscant."

Zeth snorted, "So why did you start at the last place she'd likely be at?"

"Becuase from her profile here was the place she was most likely to end up, and it would have taken longer to start anywheres else."

All four turned to face the source of the voice. Quatre had entered the room, and his tone had done something Donovan had thought would be nigh impossible. He got Zeth to drop the arguement and actually look respectful towards a Jedi. Quatre took a moment to size each of them up, and then turned to Donovan.

"I believe some introductions are in order, are they not?" Quatre asked, and even though his face didn't show it, Donovan could tell from his master's eyes he was quite bemused.

Donovan paused for a moment, then what his master had said fully registered, "Oh, right. Um, that's Zeth Frost on the floor, Alexis Zato tending him, and by the window is Jasmine. Guys, this is Master Quatre Zidann."

Alexis and even Zeth seemed a bit taken aback that they were standing in the presence of a Jedi Master. Jasmine had appeared to take it in stride, but she was probably a bit awed. Even still, Jasmine was the first to speak.

"So I take it Donovan this is your master?" she said, appraising Quatre as he had done just moments ago.

Quatre spoke up before Donovan could reply, "He is my Padawan, if that is what you mean, Miss Jasmine. But now is not the time for any sort of small talk. Is your ship nearby?"

Even as Quatre finished the question, Donovan could see the flinch in Jasmine's eyes. Something bad had happened to her ship.

But Jasmine still managed to answer in a casual, almost flippant tone. "Nearby? Yes. In working order, that's something else."

"What happened?" Donovan asked, before his master could respond.

Alexis was the one to answer. "We were flying on a standard approach pattern for the local starport when a bunch of CloakShape fighters started shooting at us. It was by luck and Jasmine's piloting skills that any of us survived."

"Did they know you had the princess on board?" was Quatre's next question, apparently intrigued that the Fallen Angel had been blown out of the sky.

"No, and they didn't even try to hail us. But that might ..." Alexis had started before a mock cough from Jasmine silenced her.

Quatre merely nodded. "Well then, it's at least fortunate we have our own method of transport. It seems that we'll just have to pay for extra passengers is all." And with that he left the room, but not before turning to Donovan. "Make sure everyone gets some rest tonight, and that includes you as well Donovan."

"Yes Master," said Donovan with a slight bow.

"Hey Donovan," Jasmine began, "could you excuse us for a bit. There's a few things we need to talk about amongst ourselves."

Donovan was instantly downcast. It seemed Quatre's unsurprisingly curt attitude had soured whatever tenuous friendship the four of them had. He merely nodded and closed the door. Suddenly, he had an urge to ask his master just what he meant by his questions and attitude.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Quatre waited in the common room, expecting his padawan. He motioned for Donovan to sit, and Donovan did so.

"I suppose you're wondering what I have in mind, are you not?" Quatre had his usual mirthful look to his features.

"That's one way of putting it," Donovan retorted, before fully realizing what precisely he had said. But if he had offended Quatre, the elder Jedi made no sign of it.

"First, there may be the matter of some history between those three and one of the minor players here, but that is not entirely relevant now. Secondly, I'd hoped to use a different plan than what we're going to use now. And thirdly, I was curious to see what sort of people they were. Will that suffice for a start?" Quatre then looked to Donovan, and suddenly the younger Jedi felt mildly uncomfortable. Quatre had just explained his actions in the way he would to an equal, but not to a student.

"I'm sorry master, it's just ..." Donovan began to apologize, but a wave of Quatre's hand cut the young Padawan off.

Quatre gave a half-hearted grin. "That's quite alright. Though to be honest, I was more than a little curious to see just exactly what sort of woman had so throughly ensnared my Padawan that he almost forgot the purpose of his mission here."

At this, Donovan noticeably cringed. Quatre was right, he had allowed his feelings for Jasmine, which he'd spent so many months learning to try and control, overwhelm him with ease.

Quatre noticed, and put a comforting hand on Donovan's shoulder. "It's alright to have feelings, even of those nature, but you must learn to control them lest they get the better of you and lead you to a bad end. And that is something I don't want to see happen to one who has come so far in so little a time. Now go get some rest. I'll explain my plans in the morning."

With that Donovan headed off to the small room that would serve as a sleeping area. As Quatre watched his Padawan leave, he looked out a broken window. 'You've come farther than you know young Donovan,' thought Quatre, 'and you still have so much further to go before you face your eventual destiny.'


Fly for Your Life
Following day

It was a crazy idea Donovan had to admit. Those were Princess Me'rana's words after hearing what Quatre had planned. The Jedi Master's initial hope had been to smuggle the princess quietly off-planet in the Devronian's ship But the increased level of planetary defense, via a pirate fleet that Blisskin had hired by expending a fair share of the royal family's treasury made that nearly impossible. And the spending of her money only seemed to incense Me'rana even more.

But as it was, there was little else they could really do. Quatre would make his way back to the Devronian's ship with the princess and head for Coruscant. Donovan meanwhile was to go with Jasmine, Alexis, and Zeth to help them steal a transport and make a spectacular escape from Drux, thus drawing the attention of the pirate fighters. Jasmine had come up with the last bit on her own, saying she was familiar with this particular pirate group and that she could draw their attention and then find safe harbor far from Drux.

Donovan had originally thought that he'd be going with Master Quatre, but was pleasantly surprised to hear otherwise. Seems that their actions and been noticed, and if a Jedi was spotted in the theft of the transport, then it would make Jasmine's ruse all the more likely to work. It also included dressing Alexis up to look more like Me'rana, something neither of the two liked. Alexis becuase she hated getting dressed up, and Me'rana becuase she felt it was a mockery of her royal station.

And so here they were, at the entrance door to the hanger for a military-class shuttle. Zeth had chosen this particular model, due mostly to it's speed, which is mainly what they needed. The plan was fairly simple. They'd barge in, cause as much of a commotion as possible, take off in the shuttle, and hopefully make it out alive.

"Well, it's now or never boys," Jasmine said to both Zeth and Donovan.

While it was no big secret that Zeth disliked all things Jedi, he did have a begrudging respect for Donovan's fighting skills. And while Donovan prefered the far more elegant lightsaber over the clumsy and random blaster, he had to admit that Zeth was very capable with his twin blasters. With a nod between them, they entered the room, Zeth getting the dozen guards' attention by putting a bolt through the head of one of their number. Jasmine and the disguised Alexis ran in behind the two of them, with Jasmine snapping off a shot or two as they hurried towards the shuttle. Donovan simply let himself go, and immersed himself in the moment. It was easy enough to knock aside the blaster bolts that the guards fired at him, and he even managed to send a few of them back into the guards. Zeth fired off a rapid series of shots, more to convince the guards to stay out of their way than to actually hit any of them, and ducked into the shuttle. Jasmine hollered that the shuttle was ready to blast off, and as Donovan dashed into the shuttle, Zeth closed the door and shouted for Jasmine to take off.

"Are we off-planet?" came Alexis' earnest inquiry.

"Off-planet but not out of danger yet," was Zeth's usually tert reply as he headed up to the cockpit.

Alexis gave a sigh of relief "Good then, I can get out of this stupid dress. How do people walk in these things anyways?" she added as she tossed the high-heeled sandals aside.

Donovan figured that Alexis was about to get changed and was in such a hurry she wouldn't care who was around. He just figured it would be best for him to be elsewhere. Besides, they weren't out of this yet. That decided, Donovan also headed for the cockpit.

He reached the cockpit just in time for Jasmine say to Zeth, "Here comes the audience. So let's make this look good."

Zeth merely nodded and took the chair Jasmine indicated. Seeing no place else to sit, Donovan simply hung back and out of the way.

He'd heard Jasmine boast about her piloting skills, but seeing them in action was something else altogether. Her hands seemed to dance over the controls, the shuttle responding almost like it was a part of her. And Zeth, obviously used to Jasmine's flying techniques, lined up several shots on whatever fighter was foolish enough to fly into his firing zone.

"Looks like Rhett's been busy since we last saw him," jibbed Zeth as he blasted another CloakShape into space dust.

"Think he heard that it was me down there?" asked Jasmine, a playful tone to her voice.

Zeth took a quick glance at the sensors. "Judging by the number of fighters coming up on us, I'd say yes."

"Well, too bad for him we're outta here. Coordinates laid in, and off we go!" Jasmine nearly shouted with glee. And with that, the stars faded into the familiar white streaks of hyperspace.

Zeth stood up, and began to head towards the door when he turned to Jasmine, "So how many times does this make it that you've ditched the not-so-good Captain?"

Jasmine chuckled. "I've lost count. So how's the 'princess?'"

Zeth shrugged, "How should I know?"

"By going back and checking on her, that's how," replied Jasmine, with an exaggerated roll of her eyes..

Zeth shrugged a second time, and went through the door leading to the passenger area.

Donovan had managed to hide himself just out of sight, and apparently Zeth wasn't expecting anyone out there as he just walked right past the young Jedi. After the door to the passenger area closed, Donovan mustered up what courage he could and entered the cockpit.

He saw Jasmine checking some instruments while quietly humming to herself. He was trying think of something to say, some way of trying to tell her just how he felt about her. But before he could puzzle anything out, Jasmine turned and blinked in surprise when she saw Donovan standing there.

"How long have you been standing there?" she asked, a definitely non-jovial tone to her voice.

"Um ... uh, not too long," came Donovan's stammered response.

"You heard what Zeth and I were talking about, didn't you?" The question was definitely rhetorical in tone. He knew that she suspected he'd heard the whole bit about this Captain Rhett.

"Is it that important right now?" he asked in return. He'd learned from listening to debate teams that sometimes the best way to answer a question is with a question. At the very least it throws the original question asker off for a bit.

Jasmine seemed to think a moment, then turned to Donovan, eyeing him in a way that made the young Jedi feel more than a little uncomfortable. "I guess not really," she said with a sigh.

Donovan sat down in the chair Zeth had just occupied, and thought to quickly change the subject. "So where are we headed?"

Jasmine gave Donovan a curious look at his question. "You can't tell from the instrumentation."

It was Donovan's turn to shrug. "I barely know how to operate an airspeeder, much less know anything about a starship."

Jasmine put her hand to her mouth to stifle a laugh at Donovan's matter-of-factly response. He didn't see anything funny about it, until he realized that Jasmine was under a lot more tension than she let on. This Captain Rhett person was someone that worried her a lot. From what little Donovan knew, he probably would have fit right in with the rest of the scum that he'd seen on that starport where he and Master Quatre had found the Devronian pilot. But this was something that could wait for later.

"We're headed for Nar Shadda, the Smuggler's Moon."

'Out of the fryer and into the blast furnace,' Donovan thought glumly. "So what are we going to do once we get there?"

Jasmine smirked the entire time she replied, her eyes twinkling with mischief. "Do something you probably have no experience with."

Donovan was both worried and curious at the Twi'lek's cryptic response. He'd done a far amount, but what could she be referring to that would cause her to smirk the way she had. While he had to admit that it was a very alluring look on her, it still concerned him.

Seeing the emotional mix on Donovan's face, Jasmine answered his unspoken question, and it was both a surprise and relief to Donovan.

"Get a day job."


Working for a Living
Four days later
Place: Nar Shadda, the Smuggler's Moon

They'd landed alright at Nar Shadda, and were able to sell the shuttle to an arms dealer for some quick cash. But the speed at which they needed the money, as well as the damage the little shuttle had taken during the escape, meant they got far less than it was probably worth. But it was enough for the downpayment on a fairly spacious two-bedroom apartment and get some basic groceries and toiletries. And that was about it, with everyone having a very small spending allowance.

True to Jasmine's words, they lot of them would have to find some means of income. They could be here for a long while. But it was probably the biggest shock to Donovan, something Zeth seemed to take a perverse enjoyment in. He was used to having most of his basic needs met by the Order. This was the first time he'd have to help fend for himself. The problem was that while Donovan excelled as a Jedi, he was woefully lacking in any trade skills. About the only machine he even remotely knew the inner workings of was a lightsaber, something that Master Quatre had told Donovan to begin working on during his time here, though it was doubtful his master had any idea his Padawan would end up deep in Hutt Space.

Alexis easily found work in a vehicle repair shop, while Zeth ended up declining the apartment saying he had some old contacts he intended to look up while here. Jasmine seemed confident she'd have no problems finding work, and after a few hours out, had come back saying she'd found a very nicely paying job. Donovan however had more trouble, since both his young age and inexperience in mundane life were major strikes against him. It took a bit longer, but Donovan was able to find a job as a dishwasher of all things in a low-scale resturant, called the BackDraft.

Jasmine had suggested that after he got out of work, Donovan stop over to where she worked. One of the few benefits that Donovan had from where he worked was a free meal, so he could grab dinner there and then go straight to see Jasmine after a quick stop at the apartment.

Perhaps the worst part of this whole thing was the planet they were one. There were certain sectors of space that Jedi were most certianly not welcome, and Hutt Space was the most prominent. While Donovan knew that if anyone started trouble with him, he would easily be able to handle it, he also had to keep a low profile and not advertise himself as a Jedi, just as a regular teenage boy. To this end, Jasmine and Alexis had used some of the left over money from the shuttle to get him some normal clothes. Donovan wasn't sure what was worse, that he looked, to his eyes, ridiculous, or that he didn't have the freedom of movement he was used to from his usual tunic.

But that didn't really matter. His first day was over, and Donovan was glad to leave. While it wasn't violent, the place was not pleasant. And the food barely qualified as fit for human consumption. Due to the odd laws the Hutts had on paying employees (probably due to the more transient nature of Nar Shadda's population), Donovan was paid daily. The first thing he bought was dinner at a fast food booth. While it would have been cheaper to eat dinner at the resturant, he didn't trust the food. And he had to admit that to him, fast food was a luxury. Padawans didn't get much in the way of an allowance, usually only when on a mission with their master. And Quatre hated the whole concept of fast food, calling it unhealthy and unnatural. As far as Donovan was concerned, unhealthy and unnatural best fit the fare at the resturant.

He finished his meal and quickly started walking towards the place Jasmine worked. She hadn't described it, just given Donovan the address and easy directions. He wasn't sure what she would be doing, so he had just put it aside in his mind. But when he reached the address, he started to reconsider.

Donovan found himself standing in front of a cantina of sorts. There were glowing signs advertising specials on drinks, as well as dancing girls. of various species. He tried not to flinch as the door-man, a massive member of some species Donovan didn't recognize, looked over the boy, but didn't say anything as Donovan paid the entrance fee and entered.

He was immediately deluged with lights and sounds. It was a dance hall, a fairly upscale one, probably at least as far as Nar Shadda was concerned. Donovan immediatly noticed a Farghul woman dancing on the main stage, wearing a very skimpy outfit. He also noticed the waitresses were also wearing very alluring outfits, with incredibly short skirts and tight shirts. They seemed to be ennured of the quick groppings that other patrons gave them as they passed.

Donovan managed to quickly find a small table that was empty, even though it was fairly close to the stage. A humanoid waitress asked for his drink order, and Donovan asked for something that, if he remembered right, was only mildly alcoholic. The waitress seemed to give Donovan a once over, and with a bit of a smile headed to the bar to get his drink.

He was keeping a general eye on the crowd, trying to avoid trouble, when he felt a very painful tapping on his shoulder. Donovan turned to see a brute of a Nik'to gesturing for him to move, accompanied by a very slimy looking human who looked very impatient.

"Is there a problem?" Donovan asked, not exactly sure what was going on.

The Nik'to grunted something in his native tongue, which Donovan didn't understand the slightest. "He says you're at our table. And if you value your limbs, you'd best leave."

Donovan could feel other eyes turn towards them. If he meekly left the table, he'd be easy pickings. While he did have his lightsaber with him, and figured he could easily take these two on, that would mean broadcasting that a Jedi had dared to come to Nar Shadda and apparently 'go slumming.' Or there was a third option.

Focusing on the slimy human, who seemed to be the brains of the two, Donovan subtly waved his hand and said with as much confidence as he could put into his voice, "You've got the wrong table."

The slimy human seemed dazed for a moment, then said, "We've got the wrong table."

Donovan pressed again with the Force. "The table you want is over there," he indicated towards a small corner booth.

"The table we want is over there. Let's go," was the slimy human's reply. The Nik'to seemed puzzled for a moment, then followed the human. The patrons that had been watching the whole affair turned and went about their business. The waitress returned with Donovan's drink, but before he could pay, she whispered with an added wink, "This one's free."

Donovan didn't question it, just accepted it and tried his drink. It was more potent than he thought, so he'd have to drink carefully. He then noticed that the music that accompanied the Farghul dancer had stopped and she'd left the stage. He tried to casually look about for Jasmine, figuring she'd gotten work as a waitress, though why here as opposed to some place else he had no idea.

He heard music start up again, and turned towards the stage. And then felt almost felt his jaw hit the floor.

Walking through the curtains was Jasmine, wearing a set of dancer's veils that were so small they could just barely be considered clothing of any sort. If Donovan had though she'd looked good in her usual pants and jacket, then right now Jasmine looked absolutely stunning. She had added makeup around her eyes and on her cheeks, and also had a fair number of metallic bands on her arms and legs. She first seemed to content to strike several very enticing poses, and then began to dance.

Donovan had heard many stories of the seductive dancing skills of Twi'lek females, but had just chalked it up to overblown stories. But now he knew full well those stories had been an understatement. Jasmine moved with a feline grace, swaying perfectly in time to the music. She proved that she was quite flexible as well, and drew many appreciative sounds from the mixed audience. Her arms and legs moved fluidly, her twin lekku also moving in time with the rest of her body. If he had had it bad for her before this night, then there was no doubt that Donovan was completely and totally enraptured with Jasmine now.

Before he fully realized what exactly had happened, he heard people applauding and whistling as the music winded down and the Twil'lek lovely took an extended and provocative curtsy before exiting the stage. It took a few more moments for Donovan to come out of his haze. He sat there the rest of the night, silently watching the other girls prance about on the stage. But after Jasmine's performance, they seemed rather plain and clumsy by comparison. He was hoping Jasmine would come out and dance again, and had to restrain himself from being too enthusiastic when she did come back out, this time in a sheer bodystocking with small black swatches of material that just barely preserved her modesty.

It was as this number ended, that perhaps the most astonishing thing in Donovan's life happened. As Jasmine was finishing her routine, she looked straight at Donovan, and with her mouth in a sexy pout, winked at him. While others in the dance hall that night might have thought she was winking at them, Donovan was pretty sure that it was intended solely for him.

He waited outside, near the employee's entrance, for Jasmine to exit when the dance hall closed. It was almost an hour later when she finally stepped out, still wearing that sheer bodystocking but with a jacket and miniskirt added. She quickly spotted Donovan and leisurely strutted over to him, a smile on her face much like the one of the proverbial sand panther that had eaten the equally proverbial fluuter bird.

"Did you like what you saw?" she asked as they began walking back towards the apartment.

"I never knew you could dance like that," Donovan said, blushing a little.

Jasmine's smile only seemed to deepen. Then she skipped in front of Donovan and turned to look him right in the eyes, her lekku drapped seductively over her shoulders. Then she leaned close to Donovan's face and whispered;

"If you're a good little boy, I might just give you a private performance sometime."

Jasmine mirthfully strolled ahead, but all Donovan could do was stand there, blushing profusely.


Of Dancers and Mercenaries
Two weeks later

Things had begun to fail into a routine for the three roommates. Alexis spent most of her time at the repair shop, often putting in extra hours, and only coming back to the apartment for the occasional meal and to rest. It seemed she was looking for a way to get enough together to buy a decent used transport, since they currently had no other options for leaving Nar Shadda. Donovan was still washing dishes, and spent his evenings and nights at the dance hall watching Jasmine up on the stage. A sight that he'd probably never get tired off seeing. And it seemed Jasmine had an endless variety of dances to draw from, much to the enjoyment of the crowd, Donovan included. He'd asked one night where she'd gotten the outfits she wore on stage. Jasmine said that she'd used some her share of the shuttle's sale money to buy a few different outfits and accessories. He then thought about asking where she learned to dance like she did, but a part of him thought better of it, and the question went unasked.

Of course, during the daytime, while Jasmine and Donovan were both at the apartment and Alexis was out, things got very interesting indeed. Jasmine seemed to be just as inventive in ways to playfully torment the young Jedi as she was with her dancing. On many occasions, she 'forgot' to bring a towel with her when she took a shower, and had Donovan go fetch her one. Other times she'd lounge on the couch watching the holovids wearing next to nothing. While he'd seen just about every contour of her body on stage, seeing it up close and personal had a very different and very profound effect on Donovan. Many times, he had to use every calming technique he knew. It seemed that she went out of her way to make Donovan uncomfortable. But whenever he thought that maybe she was doing this solely out of malice, he caught a glimpse of a warm, heartfelt smile, even if it only showed in her beautiful eyes.

He'd heard of, and seen, girls 'flirting' with their boyfriends, actual or otherwise. But Jasmine's antics went way beyond his concept of 'flirting'. If anything, it seemed she was flat-out trying to seduce him. While a part of him wanted to just give in, he knew that even so far from the watchful eyes of the Order, he was still a Jedi, and still had to follow the precepts of the Code. Which meant that he slept out on the not-so-comfortable couch while Jasmine and Alexis had their own rooms. It was frustrating. Were he a normal teenage boy, Donovan would doubtless be sleeping somewhere a lot more comfortable and far more pleasant. But then, his dreams each night as he slept were definitely ... interesting. And a more than once Donovan had almost thought that his dreams/fantasies were really happening, just from the sheer intensity of them. One particular night, he could have almost sworn he'd seen, in the dim light from the signs outside, Jasmine walking out of the room wearing nothing at all. But he'd just chalked that up to a combinnation of an overactive imagination and raging hormones, and just went back to sleep. The next day, Jasmine had carried on like nothing odd had happened, so he dismissed it as a very vivid fantasy dream.

As it was, Alexis eventually got wind of some of Jasmine's antics, as well as Donovan spending his nights at the dance hall, though whether she knew that Jasmine actually danced there or not wasn't known. She had gotten it into her mind that since Donovan was technically a minor, he shouldn't be at such a place alone. So if Donovan was going to be there to pick Jasmine up after the dance hall closed, so was Alexis.

Tonight would be the first night that Alexis would be acting as a sort of chaperone, something Donovan felt very uneasy with. While he might only be a month or so from 17, the last thing he needed was someone hounding his every move. And in a sense, he felt that the time he spent watching Jasmine dance was a way for the two of them to spend very intimate time together, and having Alexis there would ruin the feeling. But Alexis wouldn't have it otherwise. And so later that night, Donovan found himself sharing a small table with Alexis, feeling about as uncomfortable as if he had walked into the High Council's chamber without his clothes on.

But the moment Jasmine stepped through the curtains, he immediately forgot that Alexis was there. Jasmine was wearing a sequined gown with very high leg slits, and not much else from the looks of it. But whatever magic he was experiencing was shattered by an elbow to the midsection.

Donovan looked at Alexis, who seemed upset and worried. "What gives?" he asked.

She nodded her head towards the door. "Over there. Two guys in indentical black suits."

It took Donovan a moment, but he finally saw them. Two rough looking humanoids, wearing black suits that looked like they belonged in some bad gangster holo. And they were making a beeline towards the stage.

At that moment, Jasmine had leaned forward and seemed to whisper something to some of the men at the edge of the stage. Donovan wasn't sure if she saw the two goons or not, but it looked like trouble was about to happen.

Donovan thought quickly. "Alexis, go outside and get a speeder ready. I'll snag Jasmine and meet you out back."

Alexis looked at the young Jedi doubtfully. "How come you're going to go get her?"

"Because I don't know the first thing about hot-wiring a speeder, that's why," said Donovan as he got up from the table and tried to move towards the stage, with Alexis heading for the door as quick as she could.

Donovan was almost to the stage, his hand on his lightsaber, when something really unexpected happened. One of the guys Jasmine had been whispering too turned around and punched on of the two goons right in the face. That seemed to be the unspoken cue for a fight to break out amongst the patrons, with bouncers appearing out of the permacrete to put a stop to it.

The whole thing had taken him by surprise, and Donovan barely caught Jasmine ducking backstage out of the corner of his eye. Deciding there was nothing for it, he made his way to the unguarded door to the backstage area. As he entered the door, he saw several dancers running around panicked in various states of undress. Seeing no sign of Jasmine, he reached out with the Force, and felt her presence not to far away. He followed her presence, until he came to closed door. Not even thinking, Donovan opened the door and entered the room.

Only to see something he would doubtless ever forget for the rest of his days. To her credit, Jasmine didn't screech, but Donovan quickly closed the door and leaned his back towards it, his eyes closed and his face beet red.

"You can open your eyes now Donovan," said Jasmine somewhat imperiously after what seemed an eternity.

"Sorry," was all Donovan could say, and even that was barely a whisper as he opened his eyes. Jasmine had pulled on a simple flightsuit and slung her heavy blaster at her hip. It seemed that her outfits were packed as well.

"Most decent people think to knock before entering a lady's dressing room." Even though the tone was stern, Jasmine couldn't help but smile a little and Donovan's blunder.

Donovan began to say something, but Jasmine cut him off. "We can talk about your manners later. Right now we need to get out of here fast. Please tell me you came up with something at least have something resembling a plan before coming back here."

Jasmine's words brought home the urgency of the situation. "Alexis should have a speeder waiting for us out back. Let's go." Sometimes it even amazed Donovan how quickly he fell into the role of a warrior when it was necessary. He put his faux paus behind him for the moment and opened the door.

To be greeted by a hail of blaster fire. The two black-suited goons had gotten to the backstage area, and had been joined by yet another wearing the exact same outfit. Acting on his instincts, Donovan pushed with the Force at the three men, sending them reeling backwards. As they headed towards the exit, the were accosted by two more humanoids in the same black suits. With a fluid motion, Donovan cut one of them down with his lightsaber. Before he could strike, the second one had turned to flee, but tripped on something. At the same moment, Jasmine fired a shot from her heavy blaster. Some cruel power decided where exactly Jasmine's bolt would go, and Donovan could only cringe at sight of it. He looked at Jasmine, only to see her for the first time seem sheepish. A blaster shot from behind them convinced the duo to drop the matter and bolt out the back door.

As they did, they saw Alexis anxiously waiting in the speeder. Jasmine quickly hopped into the back seat, and Donovan was about to do the same when blaster shots streaked past. As he twirled to deal with his attackers, some one else dealt with them first by means of several blaster shots through their midsections. Then the gunman stepped out of the door.

Donovan had seen military personnal on the various worlds he'd visited with his master, and this man looked every bit the professional soldier. Well kept combat armor, blaster rifle, crew cut, chiseled features, the works.

"Shall we get going then?" was all the man said as he walked calmly towards the speeder. Donovan wasn't sure what to make of this, until Alexis piped up.

"He's a friend," she said earnestly, "I'll explain later. Let's go!"

With that, Donovan hopped into the back seat with Jasmine as the unnamed soldier got into the front passenger seat. As soon as he was in, Alexis gunned the engine and took off.

After they were a fair distance away, Alexis again spoke up. "Jasmine, Donovan, this is Fallon Corsair. I met him when I was doing tech work for a mercenary company."

At the mention of his name, Fallon turned towards Jasmine and Donovan and sized them up, though he seemed to spend a bit more time eyeing Jasmine. Then a cracked a grin.

"So which one of you two is the creative proctologist?"

Donovan and Jasmine just looked at each other and simultaneously rolled their eyes.


Dirty Little Histories
Several hours later

Fallon had said it was a tactically stupid move, but Alexis and Jasmine insisted. So it was decided that they would take the speeder back to the apartment and grab what few possessions they had there. Donovan for one was keen to get the parts for the lightsaber he was to have been working on that he'd spent part of his wages on. Alexis and Jasmine had both left several things they considered vitally important. Donovan figured that while they were there, he'd change back into his robes, as his current clothes were a bit scuffed and scorched from a few close shots.

So it was that while Fallon waited with the speeder, and Alexis and Jasmine were getting their things, Donovan was standing watch at the door to the apartment. He'd already changed into his robes, and had pulled the hood up. 'Maybe things will go smoothly after all,' Donovan thought with a bit of optimism. As it quickly turned out, that wasn't about to last. Donovan heard someone behind him, and quickly spun and drew his lightsaber to face his attacker.

But the attacker was a rotund human who looked in dire need of tips on personal hygiene. And instead of attacking, the person quickly did an about face and ran off, dropping something in the process. Curious, and hoping it wasn't some sort of explosive, Donovan cautiously looked at it.

The dropped device appeared to be a finely made holoplayer. Picking it up, Donovan also noted that it could record as well. He thought there would be better times to check this out later, and maybe even find a way to return it to it's owner. But his first concern was getting Jasmine and Alexis out of here.

On the way to the apartment building, Fallon had filled them in. Turns out that a Hutt named Gorga had put a bounty out for Jasmine's capture, alive only. And when a Hutt put a bounty out on Nar Shadda, every scum and lowlife with a gun tries to claim it. Fallon was out on the street when Alexis literally ran into him. She'd recognized him, given him the brief, and he'd put the rest of the pieces together, and for whatever reason decided to help. Jasmine had asked why she should trust a mercenary who for all she knew could be working for the Hutts. Fallon laughed it of and said that he was helping a friend get her friend out of trouble. All he asked for in exchange was a quick ticket off-planet. When Alexis explained they didn't have a ship yet, he'd just groaned.

Before Donovan could give the holocube more thought, he heard Jasmine and Alexis come out the door, each carrying a couple bags. Donovan had decided that the clothes he'd bought here would be unneeded baggage, so he'd left all but the eventual lightsaber components behind. He noted mentally that Alexis had more stuff than Jasmine to carry. Either Jasmine didn't have much to grab, or it was so small as to be able to fit into a single bag.

"We all clear?" Jasmine asked, looking around nervously.

"All clear," replied Donovan, tucking the holocube away in a storage pouch.

"Then let's get out of here," added Alexis.

They got out to the speeder with no interruptions, and Fallon drove them towards one of the more run-down sections of Nar Shadda. The plan was for Jasmine and Donovan to hide out while Fallon and Alexis worked to scrounge up a way off Nar Shadda. Given that there was a sizable bounty on Jasmine, and descriptions hade begun circulating about her two colleagues, that would be no small feat. Alexis, being the more plain looking of the two, would have an easier time passing unnoticed, especially if traveling with an armed escort such as Fallon.

And so Donovan and Jasmine found themselves in a second floor room in the burned out shell of a building, each leaning against a wall facing the other, the flickering flames of a small fire between them. There was an uneasy quiet between them. After her actions over the past two weeks, Donovan had found this far more unsettling than anything else she'd done. He decided to try and get her to talk, if only to break the oppressive silence.

"So ... any idea what this Hutt wants with you?" asked Donovan. The moment he'd asked though, he regreted it, as he saw Jasmine visibly shiver, and not from the cold.

With a sigh, she looked right at Donovan. "He wants his property back."

Donovan was taken aback. "Property?! But you don't belong to him!"

"Actually I do. There's a lot about my past you don't know, and you probably should since it's put your life in danger," Jasmine said, her tone apologetic.

Before Donovan could say that it wasn't necessary, that he was glad to risk his life for her sake, she continued. "Truth is I wast taken as a slave when I was a little more than a child. My clan on Ryloth was wiped out by slavers, with me and a few other females the only survivors. The slavers who captured me worked for a Hutt named Korchas, and it was decided that I would be trained as a dancing girl. When I turned 16 and my teachers felt that I'd learned all they could teach me about the arts of dancing and pleasure, I was presented to Korchas as a gift."

Donovan could only sit and listen. He would have never imagined someone like Jasmine was once a slave. While he knew that slavery did exist in the Outer Rim, there was little anyone could do about it. The Jedi Order might well have been able to gather en masse and stop it, but part of a Jedi's vows were that he would not act as judge, jury and executioner, that he would work within the laws of the Republic whenever possible. And the simple truth of the matter was the Republic, for all intents and purposes, just didn't exist in the Outer Rim.

"I was forced to dance for that slimy Hutt's court for two long months. Then, while he was on a journey to oversee some of his criminal holdings, with his entourage in two, me included, the ship was attacked by pirates," she continued, pausing only now and again for breath. "Korcha and most of his lackeys were killed. The only reason I was spared was becuase their leader thought I'd make a very nice trophy."

"Rhett?" Donovan asked, already pretty sure of the answer. Jasmine's nod was all the confirmation he needed.

"Yeah. I was a prisoner, forced to dance for the entertainment of the crew, at least at first. Over time, I slowely became accepted as one of them, and began to learn about how to handle myself in a fight and how to fly a starship. I even was a part of several raids, and after a while was just a part of the crew. I still danced on occasion, but it was more when I wanted to than being forced to. The captain at the time was an older human, and had some decency. His second was a shifty Falleen named Rhett, who eventually ended up killing the captain and taking control. It was about that time I decided to make good my escape. Which is actually how I met Zeth." The last she added with a wistful smile.

"He was a recent recruit, and quickly found that this pirate crew was of the worst sort, especially under Rhett's command. So, we stole one of their pricer ships and blasted off for a shadowport Zeth remembered visiting a short ways back. We sold the ship, purchased the Fallen Angel, and started lives as free traders. Alexis we sort of picked up along the way." Again a wistful smile played across Jasmine's face.

Donovan simply sat quietly for a moment. A part of him could understand why Jasmine had been reluctant to talk about any of this. While he had unpleasant moments in his past, they were nothing compared to what this beautiful woman in front of him had gone through.

"So what does Gorga have to do with all this?" Donovan asked, not wanting Jasmine to dwell too long on such a painful subject.

Jasmine sighed, though there was more resolve than before. "Gorga is Korcha's older brother and only living relative, so by Hutt law, all of Korcha's possessions now belong to him. Including me."

"He seems to be going out of his way to get you," Donovan said, though silently adding, 'not that I could really blame him.'

Jasmine actually laughed a bit at Donovan's comment. "I was Korcha's prized possession, and Gorga envied him for it."

Donovan stood up and looked out a window, the turned and looked down at Jasmine, who during her story had pulled her knees up close to her.

"I won't let them take you back to a life of slavery Jasmine," Donovan stated with solemn conviction.

At his words, Jasmine looked up at Donovan, and he could tell that his words meant a great deal to her. "Thank you," was all she said, but her face spoke volumes.

Feeling an odd sort of confidence, Donovan sat beside Jasmine. He was a Jedi, and as such it was his duty to protect those that needed his help. Jasmine had probably thought that she might have to face this alone. But Donovan was resolved to not let that be the case. He remembered the look of despair on the faces of those people he'd seen in the dungeons of Xardas, and silently vowed that he would never let Jasmine's face ever take on that look.

He was deep in thought when he noticed that Jasmine had leaned next to him, and was absent-mindedly twirling his braid. She stopped and looked at it for a moment.

"So what exactly is this for?" she asked, starting once again to twirl the braid in her fingers.

"It's the traditional way for Padawan Learners to show their status as as apprentice to a Jedi Knight," Donovan replied, not thinking much of it.

Jasmine stopped and seemed to be studying the braid. "And what to it happens when your apprenticeship is over?"

Donovan just looked up at the ceiling. "When I pass the Trials, I'll cut it off, signifing that I am no longer an apprentice, and that I don't need a teacher to guide me anymore. Why do you ask?"

Jasmine looked straight at Donovan's face, his braid still between her fingers.

"I just thought it was a fashion thing. After all, it does look rather cute on you," she said with a coy smile.

All Donovan could do in response was look away and try not to be too embarrassed, which only caused Jasmine to start giggling. Feeling the temperature drop, even though it had risen just a moment ago, Donovan put his robe around both him and Jasmine, trying to keep the both of them warm. He barely heard a contented sigh out of Jasmine before she drifted off to sleep, with Donovan not too far behind her.


Midsummer's Night Battle
That night

Donovan wasn't sure how long he'd been asleep with Jasmine snuggled close to him. He wasn't entirely sure at what point she'd gone from just leaning on him to getting this much closer. He then felt a slight chill wind, and figured she'd done it in her sleep, trying to stay warm. Their small fire had long since gone out. He figured he'd best find more kindling. But he was also curious as to what happened to Alexis and Fallon. Or to Zeth for that matter.

Oddly, up until now, he'd never thought about Zeth's whereabouts. Maybe he was either to busy working or too wrapped up in Jasmine's presence, but either way Donovan now worried. Especially since Jasmine seemed to have a debt of sorts to Zeth. He was still slightly in shock over her revelations. That she'd been a slave to a Hutt, who'd put out a substantial sum of credits for her return. Or that she'd been part of a pirate crew. There were probably a whole host of other things about her that would surprise him.

He could think about all that later. For now, he should focus on finding kindling. Reluctantly, he disengaged himself from Jasmine, making sure to leave his robe wrapped around her. There was little light, either natural moonlight or artificial lights from the section of Nar Shadda they'd just left. Either way, he could see little, which would make things a bit harder on his scrounging about.

He'd just begun when he heard footsteps hurrying up the stairs. He turned to face the direction of the sound, his hand already going to his lightsaber. Then he heard Alexis' voice from that direction.

"Jasmine, we've got to go there's a ..." Alexis had started shouting, but a sudden barrage of blaster fire from Donovan's left cut her off.

He spun in the direction the bolts had come from. The combined sounds of Alexis' shouting and the blaster fire had woken Jasmine, who had grabbed her heavy blaster and was looking for their attacker, not having seen where the shots had come from.

In the dim light, Donovan couldn't make much out, other than their attacker was female and carried a fairly intimidating looking weapon. For a brief second Donovan cursed himself for not studying the lessons on using the Force to sharpen one's senses, but it was doubtless he had the time for any sort of recriminations. He did notice that Jasmine was facing towards the stairs, and the bounty hunter, as this was obviously who she was, was getting ready to fire at Jasmine.

Without thinking, Donovan rolled inbetween the two of them, igniting his lightsaber as he came out of the roll. The bounty hunter fired, and with a speed that surprised even Donovan, he managed to intercept all of her shots. He'd even managed to bounce a couple of them back, one nearly hitting the bounty hunter, who tumbled forward to avoid falling out the window. She spun to face Donovan, his lightsaber casting more light into the room, to the point he could more clearly see their attacker.

He could make out much more detail. He had thought some of Jasmine's clothes were tight, this bounty huntress' outfit looked like it had been spray-painted on. She had armored gauntlets on her forearms, carrying who knows what for weapons, and her face was covered with some sort of helmet. She raised her left arm and fired some sort of cord, which Donovan's Force-enhanced reflexes just barely allowed him to avoid, cutting the cord with his lightsaber. Jasmine, now aware of just where her attacker was, fired a couple of quick shots, but they only succeeded in grazing their target.

Apparently realizing that whatever element of surprise she'd hoped to have was now completely lost, the bounty huntress leaped towards the stairs. Donovan moved to follow, but he heard a thump and Alexis cry out in pain, then a great deal more blaster fire followed by Fallon cursing up a blue streak.

Jasmine quickly got up, and holding both her blaster and Donovan's robe, headed towards the stairs. Donovan was part way down, maintaining a defensive stance, when he saw Alexis lying next to a side wall, holding her side and grimacing in pain. He didn't immediately see Fallon, but heard more blaster fire. Jasmine was right behind the young Jedi, and when she saw Alexis crouched over her friend. A few moments later Fallon re-entered the building and did not look pleased.

"We better get a move on. Probably won't be long before we have more uninvited company," he said, sounding very unhappy at the moment.

Jasmine helped Alexis stand. "So where do we go now?" asked Jasmine.

Before anyone could answer, Donovan's comlink beeped. The sudden sound caused everyone, including Donovan, to jump, but luckily no one fired. Deactivating his lightsaber, Donovan drew out his comlink.

"Hello?" he answered tentatively.

"Donovan, good, you're there. Are you and your companions safe?" The voice was unmistakable. It was Master Quatre.

"Yes, but what ..." Donovan began to ask how his master had known to find him here on Nar Shadda.

"No time. Head for the following coordinates, Jasmine should be able to recognize the ride." And with that, the signal went dead.

"Who was that?" Fallon asked, not exactly sure what was going on right now.

Jasmine was the first to respond. "Our ticket off Nar Shadda. Now let's get to those coordinates before she comes back with re-inforcements."

*******************************

He crouched on top of a building, several dozen meters away, keeping the building where his quarry and her friends had hidden. He'd watched that building for several hours, and was about ready to make a move when he'd seen another figure enter into a second story window. He saw the flashes of blaster fire, and then saw that same figure bolt out the first floor doorway. He readjusted his scope and looked through a blasted out window to see the several figures inside. One was a merc, that much was obvious just from his posture and the gun he carried. The human female was no big consequence, she'd gone down easy. The other female, the Twi'lek, was his target, and that's the one he was initially most concerned with. But then he spotted the boy, or what he had first assumed was just a boy. He'd seen enough Jedi in action to recognize that this boy knew how to handle that lightsaber he carried.

'So she got herself a Jedi protecter, did she?' he thought quietly to himself. 'That definitely complicates things.'

For a moment, he considered trying to take them down anyways, but decided against it. He was a good shot, but he wasn't sure he could take down a Jedi. There would be other opportunities for a smart hunter, he reasoned. And Darr Navia was nothing if not a smart hunter.

*******************************

Jasmine pushed their borrowed speeder as fast as it would go. Donovan wasn't sure what exactly Master Quatre had meant by Jasmine being able to recognize the ride, but he hoped it was a good omen. But in the same breath, he was kind of hesitant to face his master. He'd taken the time to reflect on the past two weeks was Jasmine drove and Alexis and Fallon kept their eyes peeled for anymore trouble. And had found his behavior wanting. While he'd managed to practice somewhat, his studies had surely fallen behind. And instead of practicing his skills or further honing his lightsaber techniques, he'd spent his nights watching Jasmine, amongst other females, prance around provocatively in a dance hall. He'd just barely gotten the components together to begin crafting his own lightsaber, but had been too busy paying attention to Jasmine's antics to make much headway on it.

He was still berating himself when he felt the speeder stop and Alexis nearly cry out in surprise. He looked to the others, and saw a look of surprise and joy on Jasmine's face. Following her line of sight, he understood why she was in such an elated mood.

Before them was the Fallen Angel, or least a ship that looked a great deal like her. There was no sign of any damages. And standing next to the boarding ramp was Master Quatre.

Both Jasmine and Alexis were like giddy little schoolgirls as they rushed to the ship. Fallon seemed to appraise it, grunted, and then headed towards the ship himself. Donovan was the last to head in that direction. Quatre noticed the solemn look on his Padawan's face, but said nothing, only gestured for him to board at once.

After all were aboard, Fallon closed the entry ramp. Jasmine had come back, a look of gleeful surprise on her face.

"How did you manage to restore her? This ship was trashed when I last saw her," Jasmine inquired of the Jedi Master.

Quatre just grinned a bit. "It took some doing, but the technicians on Drux were able to get it ship-shape in just under a week."

Alexis joined them, overhearing the last bit. "I thought Drux wasn't friendly territory?"

"It wasn't, but Princess Me'rana was able to drum up enough support in the Senate to get the Republic to send a small force to liberate her people," answered Quatre. "She asked if there was anything she could do to repay our assistance, and I mentioned a certain ship that had crashed."

Jasmine was all smiles. "This is great. Now I don't mean to sound rude or ungrateful, but how did you fly it here?"

Donovan also had a question. "And how did you know to find us here?"

"It seemed there was a pilot who'd lost his ship and was looking for a ride to Nar Shadda. He agreed to pilot the ship there, and disembarked just before I called you. As for finding you, well, you can thank the Force for that." Quatre had said the last with a quirky grin, as if enjoying a private joke. He then took a look at Fallon. "It would seem that one of your number has undergone a rather drastic change."

Alexis spoke up in Fallon's defense. "Um, we'll fill you in later. Right now, can we just blast out of here before more trouble shows up?"

"I'm all for that," agreed Jasmine, making her way towards the front of the ship and the cockpit, with Alexis right behind her.

Quatre put his arm around Donovan's shoulders. "We'd best strap in. Besides, I'm curious to know what transpired over the past two weeks. Nar Shadda being what it is, I'm sure you've got some interesting stories to tell."

Inwardly, Donovan flinched. He wasn't sure of his master's exact reaction, but he was doubtful that Quatre would be any sort of pleased. At least he might get a chuckle out of Donovan having a day job washing dishes. He wondered for a moment if there was a way to gloss over what exactly happened, mostly cutting out his watching Jasmine. No, watching wasn't quite the right word. He'd become almost obsessed. But he also realized something else as he thought about it. The feelings he'd harbored for the lovely Twi'lek had changed over the course of those two weeks. It had started as a crush, developed into a fantasy, had borderlined on obsession at a couple of points, and had settled into something else. At first, he'd been uncomfortable near Jasmine, due mostly to his having to fight his hormonal impulses, but that didn't seem to bother him anymore. He thought about it for a moment, then realized something. At somepoint over the course of those two weeks, he had truly fallen in love with Jasmine. And her actions, her intense flirting and asking him to come watch her dance, was her way of showing her own affection for Donovan. What exactly he'd done to win that deep affection he still wasn't sure of, but Donovan actually felt a smile creep on to his features.

"I take it you'll have some very fond memories of your time on Nar Shadda?" Quatre's question broke Donovan's line of thought, bringing him back to the here and now.

With a much lighter heart, Donovan gave a quick run-down of the events of those two weeks. Quatre nodded and hmm'd at parts, but was for the most part silent. He did break a grin at the dishwasher part, but was otherwise silent. Whether he could tell that Donovan had left out certain parts, namely the extent of Jasmine's flirting and her dancing, the young Jedi couldn't tell.

Quatre sat a moment considering what his Padawan had told him, then spoke. "I'm rather pleased. You handled yourself well, were cautious not to draw attention to yourself, and from the looks of things you've settled some personal matters that had been troubling you for some time. I'm certain there were minor details you left out, but I don't think I need to hear about those. That's between you and Jasmine."

His master's words just about floored Donovan. Quatre knew, or at least had some inkling, and wasn't upset. In fact, seemed rather glad. As if in response to his apprentice's befuddlement, Quatre placed a comforting hand on Donovan's shoulder.

"My biggest fear for you Donovan was that you would let your emotions get the better of you. But I am glad to see that such was not the case. Emotions are a part of being alive, and if you didn't feel anything I would be deeply concerned," Quatre explained. Then he leaned in close and whispered, "especially if someone like as beautiful as her was trying to get your attention."

Donovan looked up and saw Jasmine standing at the entrance arch to the common area, leaning against the wall. A warm and inviting smile was plain to see on her face. If he'd had any doubts before, they were washed away with that smile. He knew right then that she loved him just as much as he did her.

*******************************

Zeth sat at the bar, downing another mug of Corellian whiskey. He'd lost count of how much he'd drank, but the bartender seemed willing to keep serving them so long as Zeth could pay. And Zeth had a lot of money.

It was a darn shame to do what he had to do, Zeth blearly thought to himself. Shortly after reaching Nar Shadda, he'd gotten into a lot of trouble and was quickly flat broke. He'd managed to find a way out, at least for a little while, but that ended up getting him into more trouble and just as broke as before.

But just a day or so ago, a woman had cornered him and offered him a simple deal. He give her the dirt on where to find Jasmine, and she'd give him a cool 50,000 truguts. Being in as dire straits as he was, Zeth gladly told her what he knew about where to find Jasmine, as well as giving her a heads up on what Alexis and Donovan looked like, so she could trail them if need be.

He did feel a sting at betraying Jasmine, but then again she'd rebuffed his advices, and instead had taken an interest in a teenager. A Jedi of all things! Where was this Jedi when she was pretty much a prisoner on Rhett's ship? Did this Jedi help her escape, help her make a new life? It was Zeth that did all that, not some wet-nosed Jedi punk. And what did he get out of it? Nearly getting killed several times on a number of 'bleeding heart' jobs. The galaxy was a ruthless place, and she just wouldn't accept it.

But the thing that really made it easier for Zeth to sell out his so-called friends was the fact that the bounty huntress would at the very least kill Donovan. If she was half as good as her reputation indicated, she'd have no problem taking him out. While a small part of him would regret that Alexis ended up dead as well, it was all a part of doing business. As for Jasmine herself, well she was resourceful, and unless the Hutt put her to death, she'd find a way to get free, and would probably dupe some other hapless guy into helping her and coming along for the ride.

As he downed yet another Corellian whiskey, he thought about why exactly did he hate Donovan so much? The kid had come through in a couple of scrapes, much to Zeth's chagrin. And there was the whole thing with Jasmine. But he guessed ultimately it had to do with jealousy.

The one secret Zeth kept from everyone was that he had a small amount of Force potential. But instead of being taken in by the Jedi Order, he was rejected. 'They said his potential was too little for him to every be a Jedi,' he recalled his father saying at one point. He was a dissapointment to his father, and that was what ultimately caused Zeth to run away and join Rhett's pirate crew. That was why he hated the Jedi, with their elitest attitudes. Zeth hadn't been good enough to join them. But apparently Donovan had been. And what was worse was that Donovan, not even old enough to really start shaving, had the same attitude. He didn't say anything to discriminate against anyone, but he was sure that the boy was just as judgemental as the rest of those robe-wearing snobs. What was worse was that he'd actually made an effort to befriend Zeth. 'Hah, me friends with an overpretentious teenage Jedi. That'll be the day,' Zeth thought to himself.

While his senses were dulled due to his consumption of alcohol, he was still aware enought to notice someone behind him. He turned to see the bounty huntress, her sprayed-on outfit looking a little worse for wear, and her half cape sporting several new holes that weren't there when he last saw her. He also noticed that she had her hand next to the grip of her blaster carbine.

"Your information wasn't as complete as you said it was." Her tone would have brooked no argument from a sober man, but Zeth was hardly sober.

Zeth's answer was in a drunken slur, and he had to concentrate to make the words intelligeble. "Hey, you asked 'bout the Twi'lek, and I told ya 'bout the Twi'lek. You just asked for descriptions of her two pals, and I gave 'em to ya."

Her posture changed, probably due her realizing just how drunk Zeth was at this point. Her tone was still cool and even, and with her face concealed, it would have been hard to tell that she was upset. "You neglected to tell me that she'd picked up a bodyguard, namely a Jedi Knight."

At the mention of Jedi Knight, several other patrons took notice. When a Jedi Knight deigned to show up on Nar Shadda, it usually meant trouble for the local industry. That this man who'd been drinking alongside them had known about it and not said a peep was not taken well. There was sort of an unwritten rule amongst the criminal element. When the authorities came snooping, you at the very least let your fellow crooks know about it.

Zeth was too tanked to notice, or really even care, about the reactions around him. "Listen toots, you're supposedly so good that a little thing like an apprentice Jedi should have been no big deal. But obviously your rep is a lot of hot wind." With that, Zeth turned his back on the bounty huntress, feeling at least moderately good that he'd told her off.

There was the ring of a blaster shot. All the patrons in the seedy bar turned to see what caused it, as well as the source of the thump that followed shortly afterwards. The bounty huntress calmly put her blaster carbine back in its holster on her hip, and turned to exit, leaving the corpse of Zeth Frost, with a smoldering hole where his heart had been, lying on the floor, the remnants of a drink spilling across the floor.

GreenCape
11 March 2002, 07:01 AM
Hmmm...
I see the story's getting deeper. This is good stuff. Great job.

Nova Spice
13 March 2002, 05:06 PM
Donovan dude, I felt like I was reading a novel! Great work on this story man! If I have any free time, I'll try to write a short story set in the NJO I've been thinking about recently.
I really enjoy your writing style though and hope that this wiil continue to be immersive and fulfilling. Keep 'em coming! ;) :)