I started and met my friend when I was 13 and we played on and off until I was in late high school but then of course high school got the better of us and we stopped. We started again a few months into my first year of college when she was already two years into her college experience.
After that we've pretty much kept up since then, though we've been taking a break since July. But that doesn't mean I have to take a break, right?
Writing is one of my hobbies that keeps me sane. I do some writing on my own, but I have the most fun writing with my friend.
Anyway, I wrote a short story involving one of my main characters and a new character I'm planning on introducing. Thought it might be cool to stick it up here.
Background: This story doesn't really have a particular time in the Star Wars universe that it fits in to, but my friend and I always figured it takes place during the New Republic era. I have created a small out of the way ultra radical Jedi sect and this is my story exploring some of that and it also is some of my back story for my character Kara Reiko. Also, I wrote this story all on my own, so don't use it and try to pass it off as your own and... any resemblance to any persons living or fictional or dead is purely coincidence. Thanks, and if you like it, I'd love to hear from you!
The room that Kara occupied wasn’t very large, but then neither she nor any of the other apprentices who lived there owned very many things so the rooms were adequate sizes for their needs. At the moment Kara was laying sprawled on her bed with her legs hanging off the side. Technically she had more training assignments to do for the day but one of her restless moods had settled over her and she didn’t quite feel up to settling down enough to practice. It was taking enough effort to lie quietly on her nearly made bed.
There was a subtle knock on her door and before she could answer it the door slid up and open. One of the other apprentices, a young girl with dark hair who was slightly taller than Kara but three years younger, stuck her head inside.
“Thought I might find you here,” Vestara said.
Kara sat up. “Hey, Ves. I was just about to go do my last routines for today,” she said to cover the fact she really had no such plan. She just didn’t like the other Masters or apprentices to catch on to her restless moods. The last thing she needed was to be held further back in training.
Vestara favored Kara with a look that clearly indicated she knew that Kara had no such plans but let it slide. “Well, I thought you might like to find something more interesting to do.”
Kara sat up a little straighter. “I’m in.” She didn’t even care what it was as long as it was something to do other than stare up at the ceiling and let her mind wander on to things she wasn’t supposed to be thinking about. “What did you have in mind?”
“There’s a ship incoming. I thought we might go check it out.”
Kara’s eyebrows went up at that. Normally they weren’t supposed to be near the hangars or comm stations without the approval of one of the Masters. It wouldn’t be all that hard to commandeer a ship, but it would be slightly harder to do so without anyone noticing. “You just want me for my piloting skills,” she teased. There was some measure of truth to the statement, though; she knew she was one of the better pilots among her fellow apprentices.
“You’re on to me,” Vestara replied with a mischievous smile. Kara smiled back. Despite the four year age gap Vestara was one of the few apprentices that Kara almost considered a friend. They both were apprenticed to Cole Tigh, one of the more strict Masters at the small academy, and they both were constantly being chastised by Tigh for their impatience and reckless streak. Kara and Tigh also tended to butt heads whenever Kara raised the forbidden questions about her past, and especially lately they had clashed on the issue. It was why Kara hadn’t yet finished her lessons for the day although it was already late in the day; Tigh had given her extra training routines as a punishment for again broaching the subject of her biological parents.
“I wonder what the ship is doing out here. It’s not like this is exactly a vacation spot,” Kara said, thinking out loud.
“We’ll just have to ask them,” Vestara answered.
Kara raised an eyebrow as she highly doubted that they’d get close enough to personally talk to whoever was on the mystery ship. “Nice and forward, I like it,” she said instead.
“Thought you would,” Vestara said, sounding, like she occasionally did, as though she was trying to get Kara’s approval. Kara, as always, ignored it.
It was nearing dinnertime for the small academy so the hallways were all empty. Most of the other apprentices were already at the mess hall. It didn’t take much exertion into the Force to tell that. She kept an ‘eye’ on their presences so they wouldn’t be surprised on their way to the hangar.
When they arrived at the hangar, even the one Master who was normally around working on the old ships to keep them in working order wasn’t around.
The academy only had three ships and all of them seemed on the verge of breaking down at any moment and Kara was sure that they were old even by the time the oldest of the Masters had acquired them. They were rarely used anyway since the academy was almost entirely self-sufficient. They only saw use when a Master would occasionally leave for one reason or another and even then the apprentices were almost never allowed to go along for the ride. Kara had only been off-planet once and that was nearly a year ago when she and Tigh had been assigned a task to go investigate a nearby distress call they had received. It was odd for there to be any hyperspace traffic in the area so Tigh had been dispatched and since Kara was the oldest of his apprentices she had been allowed to go along. The distress call had been nothing but a small yacht that had gone off course and needed some basic parts for repairs to their hyperdrive. It hadn’t even been the most exciting of things, but Kara had gotten a chance to talk to the younger children on board about what it was like to travel with their parents. Since then she’d been getting into increasing trouble with Tigh about things relating to her past and had been even more restless than usual. By comparison her mood today was almost calm.
Both Kara and Vestara carefully reached out with the Force to make sure no one was around. Satisfied that they were alone they made straight for the nearest ship.
Vestara hit the ramp control and nothing happened. “We need the access key.”
“I’ll get it,” Kara said right away. She remembered where she had seen Tigh retrieve the access codes the first and last time she’d gone out with him. There was a small cabinet near the other side of the hangar that held the codes for the ships. It was locked but it was a simple task for Kara to focus and use the Force to bypass the lock. She pulled the door open and pulled out the code they needed and headed back towards Vestara.
Vestara looked on as Kara used the code to open the ramp and they made their way inside. Each of the apprentices was given basic flying lessons once they hit a certain age and Vestara had just passed her lessons. For that reason she tried to slip past Kara with a grin.
“Don’t even think about it,” Kara said.
Vestara narrowed her eyes slightly at Kara. “Fine, but I fly on the way back.”
Kara nodded placatingly and started to get the ship up and running. Because of the size of the ship it only needed one pilot but there was a chair for a navigator if one was necessary. Vestara took that chair and watched while Kara gripped the control stick and eased the old ship out of the hangar and into the atmosphere.
“How’re we going to find this ship?” Kara asked, sparing a glance at Vestara.
“I’m bringing the sensors on line now,” Vestara answered. “Give me a minute.”
It would easily take at least that long to get the old ship doing the things they requested of it. It occurred to Kara then that they had no idea what to expect when they got out there, but it was too late to go back now. One of the Masters was bound to notice they’d left and since just by leaving they were going to be in trouble if they were caught, they might as well make good on the trip.
“What do you think is out there?” Vestara asked after a few moments of silence during which Kara continued to pilot them away from the academy.
“Probably just like last time. Some lost ship got turned around by a malfunctioning hyperdrive. It’s not as though anyone would be out here willingly,” she pointed out.
Vestara tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “What did happen last time?”
Kara realized then that Tigh must never have told her about what their last trip into space had been about. “Like I said, just some travellers that had a hyperdrive malfunction. They ended up out here, we gave them the parts they needed and they went off.” She didn’t see a reason to tell Vestara any more than that. Even though Kara and Vestara routinely trained together and were apprenticed to the same person they weren’t encouraged to be friends or to spend time together outside of training sessions. This was probably the longest period of time either of them had spent together without a specific reason to it.
“Sensors on line. Scanning now,” Vestara announced suddenly.
Kara had to keep the ship moving so they stayed clear of the academy, but she kept the throttle low as she waited for Vestara’s report.
“There.” Vestara read off a heading. “It’s not moving, I think they landed.”
The planet had a sparsely populated forest that surrounded the academy and Kara knew that there would be plenty of open patches that they could land in which she was sure was what the other ship had done.
It took another few minutes but she finally found a place to land far enough from the other ship that she hoped they wouldn’t be noticed right away. She left the ship in standby mode in case they would need to return in a hurry.
“It’s going to be quite a hike,” Vestara observed.
“No worse than the ones we have to do with Tigh,” Kara pointed out.
The two got to their feet and Kara led the way out. She sealed the ramp behind them and tucked the access code into her pocket. Her lightsaber hung reassuringly at her belt and she caught Vestara brushing a hand by her own. Vestara suddenly grinned.
“Race you there,” she said and darted off.
Kara opened her mouth to protest but the younger girl was already gone and Kara could feel her pulling on the Force to add to her speed. Automatically Kara did the same and sprinted after Vestara.
With the Force helping them speed along through the trees and small brush that comprised the sparse forest it took the two half as long to travel the distance between the ships than it would have normally. As they got nearer Kara reached out with the Force to tell Vestara to slow down. Together they quietly made their way through the trees until they could see into the clearing ahead of them. They lay flat on the ground so they wouldn’t be seen. The ship was clearly visible and Kara noted that it was hardly any bigger than theirs, but the first thing she did notice was that this ship was obviously heavily armed. For a moment she entertained the idea of telling Vestara they should go back and report on what they had found, but she shoved that thought aside with little effort. Her danger sense wasn’t tingling and she was getting nothing from the Force that the ship was a threat to them.
After a moment of watching the ship Vestara began to crawl slowly forward. At that moment a figure emerged from the ship and Kara reached out and grabbed Vestara’s boot in an invisible grip to get her to remain still.
The man was heavily armored in dark green armor with a matching green helmet on. At least Kara assumed it was a man by the form under the armor, but she couldn’t be certain it was human since there were plenty of humanoid species that could fit under that helmet. He was carrying supplies in his arms and after watching him the two realized he seemed to be setting up some kind of camp. Kara reached out with the Force but could only sense the one man.
Vestara must have noticed the same thing Kara did because she slipped out of Kara’s Force grip and started crawling forward again.
“Vestara!” Kara hissed at the younger girl and then cursed under her breath. “Stang.” Seeing no other choice, Kara started crawling after her, trying to keep as quiet as possible.
Vestara soon reached the edge of the tree line and settled behind a small shrub and remained prone on the ground. Still the armored mystery man continued to work at setting up his camp.
Kara was a few feet away from Vestara and just slightly behind and to the side of her. The armored man seemed to approach their area with some of the supplies for his camp and Kara thought that they must have been seen. At first he didn’t react but then both Kara and Vestara felt the familiar warning prickle at the base of their skulls and they jumped up from the ground as one. At the same time a blaster appeared in the armored man’s hand and the supplies he had been carrying were scattered at his feet. There was a snap-hiss of a lightsaber igniting, and although it was two separate weapons because it occurred so close together it sounded like only one. That seemed to freeze the armored man in his tracks and for a handful of heartbeats none of them moved.
“What are two Jedi doing here?” the voice was deep, confirming Kara’s suspicions that the visitor was male and he sounded human though she couldn’t be sure what effect the helmet was having on his voice.
“How do you know we’re Jedi?” Vestara asked right away.
“The lightsabers gave it away,” he replied.
“What are you doing here?” Kara asked him.
“I could ask you the same. I was under the impression no one was out here.”
“Well you were obviously wrong,” Vestara put in.
“I can see that,” he replied dryly. “Maybe we can have this conversation without the weapons?”
“You put yours away first,” Kara told him.
“I don’t think so. There’s two of you and one of me. You first,” he said in a voice that clearly booked no argument.
Through the Force Kara and Vestara came to an agreement and as one removed their thumbs from the ignition studs of their lightsabers. They knew that even if the armored man tried anything they would still have the Force.
“That’s better.” He holstered his weapon.
“You look ready for battle,” Vestara observed.
“Can never be too careful.”
Kara thought they were lucky he spoke Basic. “Who are you?”
His helmet tilted as he thought the question over. “Herder. Your turn.”
“Kara. This is Vestara.” She found she was oddly fascinated by the man and itched to know what he looked like under the helmet and whether he was even human or some species she’d never seen before. There were non-humans at the academy but they were fewer than the humans and in her studies were the only times she’d come across other species.
“Same question as before. What are you doing here?” Vestara asked brusquely. Kara didn’t think the tone was necessary; so far the encounter had gone rather smoothly.
“Still say I could ask the same of the two of you.” Clearly he wasn’t going to budge on this matter. Kara decided it was fair enough since he had given up his name first.
“We saw your ship come in and came to check it out.”
“To see what was worth stealing?” Herder’s hand twitched towards his blaster as did Kara and Vestara’s towards their lightsabers. Neither party actually produced a weapon, though.
“We’re Jedi, we don’t steal,” Vestara said indignantly.
“Then what?” Herder challenged but Kara could tell he didn’t believe them.
“You can imagine we don’t get a lot of visitors around here,” Kara said.
“You live here?”
Kara shook her head. “Your turn,” she said, easily turning his words against him. It seemed fair to continue to the question and answer session in that manner. She could sense his amusement at that response and was surprised by it considering how carefully guarded he seemed and not just by the armor. He was hard to read in the Force. Kara knew it wasn’t because he was Force-sensitive himself, that she would have been able to sense, and it seemed strange that he would be that hard to read. She didn’t know beings could do that without Force training.
“I’m looking for a place to set up for a while. Out of the way,” he answered. Kara couldn’t shake the feeling that under that t-shaped visor he was studying her as hard as she was studying him.
“Well, you sure found it then,” Vestara said dryly.
“Is this going to be a problem?” Herder asked.
“Only if the Masters find out,” Vestara received a Force nudge in the ribs from Kara for the comment.
Kara figured it was their turn and Herder posed it as a question so she decided to answer it. At least partially, since there was no undoing what Vestara had said. “The other Jedi Masters. You didn’t think we were the only ones, did you?”
“I had hoped,” he answered and Kara could hear the honesty in his voice. It was followed by a small sigh that the helmet didn’t cover. “Does this mean you’re going to make sure I clear out?”
Kara and Vestara exchanged glances. They both knew the first thing they should have done when they had seen Herder and his ship was report back to Tigh. At least then they would have had a clear reason for disobeying the rules. If they chose to hide Herder’s presence from the other Masters then if they were found out they would be in even more trouble.
“Give us a minute,” Vestara said and motioned Kara a few feet away. Herder said nothing but continued to watch them both and Kara wondered just how much that helmet was helping his senses. Vestara obviously had the same thought because when she spoke it was so softly that Kara had to use the Force to make it out.
“We should tell them what we found. Who knows why he’s really here.”
They were both facing away from Herder in case he could read lips. “He doesn’t seem to be a threat to us. He’s been honest so far.”
“You trust him?”
Kara was taken aback by the question- especially when she realized that the answer was ‘yes’. “He’s been truthful so far.”
“How can you tell? He’s even harder to read than Master Tigh.”
“I just know,” Kara said unable to help but sound a touch defensive.
Before Vestara could say anything else to that Herder spoke up. “Either of you two hungry, I’m going to put something together.”
The two turned and just managed to avoid gaping at him in surprise at the offer. He either didn’t care or pretended to not care because he turned away and started to bring out a small portable heater and some ready-made food packs. They exchanged a glance and before Vestara could voice any complaints Kara followed after him. She could feel Vestara’s disapproval but the teenager trailed after her anyway.
It took Herder only a moment to set up the heater and get the food started. He surprised them both by being able to sit down on a small box despite his armor. He even took it a step further and removed his helmet while they waited for the food to be ready. Kara tried not to stare but it was hard; he had striking blue eyes and extremely short brown hair. She could tell that he was her age and not much older. There was a small scar over his right eye and she found herself wondering how he got it. Judging by the obvious battle damage to his armor it was clear he was no stranger to fighting.
“What were you expecting?” Herder asked when he caught her staring at him out of the corner of her eye.
Kara quickly dropped her gaze and fought not to redden. “Wasn’t expecting to eat dinner here with you, that’s for sure,” she said evasively.
“You don’t have to stay.” With the way he looked at her, Kara couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking about her. To the other side of her she could see Vestara shifting impatiently but she ignored the teenager.
“You didn’t have to invite us.”
He smiled slightly but didn’t say anything to that. The food was ready a moment later and Herder reached over and distributed the packets to them. Both Kara and Vestara eyed the food for a moment after he handed it over.
“What? It’s not poisoned,” he told them.
“No, it’s not that,” Kara started.
“It’s just we never thought that we’d actually think the food at the academy looked good,” Vestara finished for her and the two exchanged the barest of smiles.
“Then maybe I’ll have to make you two some real food,” Herder said and even he seemed surprised by his offer.
“I’d like to see that,” Kara said lightly, highly doubting that they’d ever even see each other again after this.
“Once you eat some of my real food, you’ll keep coming back,” Herder said confidently. He even smiled now for real. Kara felt herself smiling back and quickly ducked her head slightly and popped a bite of the food into her mouth to avoid having to respond.
“What’s with the armor? Expecting trouble way out here?” Vestara asked.
Herder straightened rather self-importantly. “It’s beskar’gam. Mandalorian iron,” he told them as if that should have been obvious.
“That answers half my question.”
“No, it answers all of it. Not my fault you don’t know about Mandalorians.”
Kara blinked. She vaguely recalled something that had come up in one of her lessons, but history was never her favorite subject by any stretch of the imagination.
“You’re a Mandalorian,” Kara said skeptically.
Now her eyes narrowed at him. “And you didn’t shoot two Jedi on sight?”
“You can’t just learn about us in history books,” he told her.
Kara was beginning to realize he was right. The rest of the meal was eaten in an awkward silence although Kara now had dozens of questions buzzing around her mind. The moment Vestara swallowed her last bite of food she looked at Kara.
“We should get back,” the teenager said. Kara nodded.
“Uh, thanks for the food,” Kara said lamely. Herder smiled slightly at her.
“Anytime.” Again Kara believed him. “Hey, I’m not going to ask you to not tell your Masters about me, but I wish you wouldn’t. I’m not here to cause trouble and I’ll stay out of everyone’s way.”
She nodded at him and Vestara was already moving off towards the treeline.
“I’ll hold you to that dinner offer, Herder,” Kara said with a quick smile.
He smiled back. “I’m sure you will, Kara.”
She hurried after Vestara and easily caught up with the teenager. Vestara shot her a sideways look. Kara ignored it.
“We really need to get moving,” Kara said as she looked at her chrono.
Vestara nodded and they both sprinted off again back towards the ship with the Force to augment their speed.
The flight back to the academy was uneventful and both Kara and Vestara had come to the unspoken agreement that they weren’t going to talk about Herder or what happened. That was, of course, under the assumption that they could get back into the academy without anyone noticing.
Kara brought the ship down easily and managed to shut it down without issue. She got up and handed Vestara the access codes. “Here, put these back, you saw where. I have to go finish my exercises before Tigh comes looking for me.”
Vestara nodded and went to go do just that. As she did Kara slipped off to go complete her required routine.
Vestara put the codes back without incident and made her way back towards her room. She was barely out of the hangar when she nearly crashed right in to Tigh.
“My apologies, Master Tigh,” Vestara said right away, striving to keep her Force-presence calm.
“And where are you going in such a rush?” he asked, eyeing her.
“Just back to my quarters.”
Tigh didn’t seem entirely convinced. “You shouldn’t have any reason to be over in this direction so late in the day, Vestara.”
“I know, sir, but I was just taking a walk.” An outright lie was dangerous, as Tigh saw through it without any problem most of the time.
“If you were, as you say, just taking a walk, you should have no reason to be quite so nervous, Vestara.”
“I know. You just startled me.”
“You should have enough training by now to not be startled by something so trivial. Always be on your guard.”
Vestara almost let out a breath. It was Tigh’s usual speech, but if that was all she was going to get then she considered herself very lucky. “Yes, Master Tigh.”
He stepped aside to let her pass and she slipped past him but did her best not to seem like she was hurrying for any reason. She wondered if Kara had also gotten off without a lecture or even if the older woman knew Tigh was nearby and that’s why she had tasked Vestara with putting away the access code. She tried not to think about it and went to her room.
The next day Kara woke up after a restless night’s sleep. After having completed her extra exercises she had tried to get as much access as she could to the outside files they were allowed to access, trying to come up with as much information as she could on Mandalorians. Most of what she found was thousands of years old from the Mandalorian wars. It just made her more curious to talk to Herder again. It would be even more risky to try to take the ship out again, and she didn’t want to bring Vestara in on it. It was one thing for them to make a split-second decision to go out there, it was another to plan it. Tigh didn’t encourage friendships between his apprentices or any of the other apprentices and she didn’t want to get Vestara in any trouble.
She went about her training exercises, and true to their agreement, she and Vestara said nothing about the Mandalorian camped out nearby.
By that evening Kara thought she had figured out a way to go see Herder again. She left Tigh a message that she was going to spend the next day out in the field to do her training and she would report back to him when she returned. She packed up a small backpack and set out that evening to make the trip to Herder’s camp. Traveling at night she used her lightsaber for illumination. The green blade wasn’t the best for that purpose, but it was better than nothing. She stopped only a few hours before morning when she set up camp to get a few hours of sleep.
Kara rubbed the sleep from her eyes and glanced at her chrono. She’d slept for about as long as she’d anticipated and grabbed her pack. The rest of the distance to Herder’s camp wasn’t that far and she made plenty of noise to signal her arrival. The last thing she wanted was to surprise the Mandalorian.
She stood on the edge of his camp and looked for him. Herder appeared from behind his ship. He wasn’t in his armor this time, just dark gray pants and a black shirt with a dark green jacket that matched the color of his armor.
“Thought I heard you coming,” he said.
Kara shrugged. “I didn’t want to startle you.”
“You’d have to try harder than that. Breakfast?”
Now Kara could see that he had set up a better camp fire this time and already had food cooking.
The two sat in silence for a while during which time Herder finished cooking breakfast and served it.
“Wow. This is really good,” Kara said after the first bite.
“Told you.” Herder looked extremely pleased with himself. “I didn’t know there were any Jedi this far out.”
“We don’t like to get noticed. What are you really doing here?” She didn’t expect him to answer, but she couldn’t help but ask anyway.
Herder shrugged. “I’m always looking for new places to go. And this is a pretty nice place. All things considered.” He smiled at her again and she found she had to look away again as she felt herself redden.
“I guess it is. I don’t exactly have much to compare it to,” she admitted.
He stared at her. “You’ve never been off this planet?”
“Not since I got here.”
“When was that?”
Kara looked thoughtful. “Let’s see, my 21st birthday is coming up so… 20 years ago.”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
Kara shook her head.
“Fierfek. We have to get you out of here.”
She let out a laugh at that thought. “Yeah, right.” He continued to stare at her. “Wait, are you serious?”
“You bet,” he said.
For a moment Kara didn’t know what to say to that.
“Come on, what’s there to even think about?” he prompted.
“A lot actually,” she said, tone shorter than she’d intended but it got Herder to back off.
“Where’s your friend?” he asked, easily changing the subject.
“We’re not friends.” The reply came so quickly and automatically that Kara didn’t even have time to think about it. “We’re… apprentices aren’t really allowed to be ‘friends’ with the other apprentices. We’re supposed to focus our time on training.”
Herder’s eyebrow went up at that. “Jedi,” he said, sounding exasperated. “Then what about your family?”
That hit a sore spot and Kara didn’t bother to hide it. “I don’t know. Tigh brought me here when I was a few months old. I keep asking him but he won’t tell me. We’re not supposed to know.”
He shook his head in seeming disbelief and then surprised Kara with his response. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. It doesn’t matter.”
“You don’t believe that.” His tone was surprisingly understanding.
“I’d like to,” she said quietly.
He shifted closer to her when he thought she wasn’t looking. They sat that way for some time, quietly eating their breakfast and Kara was surprised at how easy it was to sit silently with him. After a while they conversation turned to less heated topics and the time passed quickly.
The next thing she knew it was lunchtime and Herder went about getting lunch ready. Her thoughts turned to how she needed to get back to the academy, but that was the last thing she wanted to do.
“Do they know where you are?” Herder’s voice broke into her thoughts.
Kara looked up and shook her head. “No. Of course not. I should get back soon.”
“If you want.” She thought she was imagining it but he seemed almost saddened by the news.
“But that doesn’t mean right now.” She favored him with a small smile and he grinned back.
“That’s what I like to hear.” He set to work again and this time Kara even tried to help where she could even as Herder started to make fun of her lack of cooking knowledge.
That night they arrived back at Herder’s camp when they agreed they were getting hungry once again. After lunch they had gone for a walk, simply enjoying each other’s company and slowly getting to know each other. They were both cautious, with good reason, but Kara had so many questions about where he came from, the Mandalorians and other things about the universe that they had plenty to talk about during their walk.
After they ate their dinner they watched the sunset and Kara felt her eyelids getting heavy since she’d only had a few hours of sleep the last two nights.
Herder watched her silently, already fascinated by this Jedi that was so different from any other he’d ever encountered. He couldn’t help but be amused as she fought to stay awake and lost the battle. Because she was sitting forward every time she slid forward she would come awake just slightly so he finally decided to guide her gently to his shoulder where she was finally able to sleep for more than just a few moments.
Kara didn’t wake up until the next morning and was surprised to find that she was tucked into a bedroll next to what remained of the campfire. Herder was already awake and shuffling about.
“Rise and shine,” he said brightly.
Kara pushed herself up into a sitting position and rubbed at her eyes. The first thought she had was the fact that she needed to be back at the academy but she made no move to do anything about it. It seemed much nicer to stay right there at that camp with Herder, and the thought frightened her but she couldn’t deny it. And she didn’t want to. “Morning,” she replied. She didn’t let any of the self-doubt she was feeling creep into her voice and instead favored Herder with a smile; the first real one she’d given him since they met. The night before they’d been talking and Herder had told her that he was 21 and they realized he was barely older than she was.
At the smile Herder launched into a lengthy description of what he’d made for breakfast and Kara again found herself enthralled by him but she couldn’t put the academy out of her mind even though she wanted to.
Vestara paced back and forth in the lightsaber training room. For the tenth time she looked at her chrono. Kara was supposed to have been there nearly twenty minutes prior for their weekly sparring session. If she didn’t show up soon Tigh would be furious. It occurred to Vestara then that Kara had to be with Herder. There was no other place for her to be, and she had seen how taken the two had been with each other. And if Kara was with Herder then that would mean Vestara would soon have to tell Tigh what had happened. It would mean fessing up to what they had done, but once Tigh started to wonder where Kara was then it would put Vestara in a slightly stronger position because she could tell Tigh where Kara was after negotiating a less severe punishment from him.
Even as she planned it out in her mind, though, she couldn’t help but feel slightly betrayed by the fact that Kara hadn’t taken her as well. She knew she shouldn’t feel betrayed because of the fact that apprentices were not allowed to form friendships but she rather looked up to Kara. It was hard to deny the fact that she felt a little left out.
Vestara decided she’d give Kara another few minutes to show up before she’d go inform Tigh of what happened and hope that by providing the information that she herself could avoid getting into too much trouble.
“Herder, I have to go back.” Kara couldn’t believe she was saying the words even as they spilled from her mouth. “I’ve been gone too long and I need to go back.” She put away the plate she’d been eating breakfast on and looked up at him, voice firm.
The look of disappointment was clear on Herder’s face but it was so fast that Kara thought she might have been imagining it. She waited a moment for a response from him but when none came she steeled herself and grabbed her pack.
“I’ll fly you back. I can stay low enough they won’t see me on the scanners. Least I can do.”
Kara looked at him and then nodded. “Alright then.”
They climbed into his ship, leaving behind his camp for now, and entered into the first uncomfortable silence since they met.
Herder brought the ship down as close to the academy as he dared. “This is your stop.”
“Guess it is,” she agreed. She looked at him and they both opened their mouths at the same time to speak and then promptly fell silent, also at the same time.
“You first,” Herder said.
“Um… thanks.” It fell far short of what Kara really wanted to say but she didn’t know how to put it all into words so she left it at that.
“No problem. Re'turcye mhi.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Goodbye. Literally, though, it’s ‘maybe we’ll meet again’.”
Kara nodded, liking that. “Re'turcye mhi, Herder.”
With that she hopped out of the ship and hurried back to the academy without looking back. Behind her she could hear the repulsorlifts of his ship as he headed back to his camp.
Vestara left the training room and carefully reached out with the Force to see where Tigh was. Even as she did she suddenly realized that she could sense Kara close by and approaching. She waited for the older apprentice to show up. When Kara did appear she was hardly out of breath and had obviously been using the Force to keep up a certain speed.
“You’re late,” Vestara said.
Kara dropped her pack in the corner and nodded, taking a deep breath as she steadied herself. “I know. Come on, let’s train.”
Despite the fact that she was filled with questions, Vestara managed to contain herself and they started their training session. Kara was still a bit worn out from her time with Herder and had to draw on the Force more than normal, especially when she realized that Vestara was going at her harder than usual. She attributed it to the fact that she was late, not realizing that the teenager suspected where Kara had been.
The training session went as long as it normally went and despite Kara’s tiredness she still held her own quite easily, much to Vestara’s disappointment. When they were done they each went back to their separate quarters. Kara went to wash up but knew she was going to have to go find Tigh sooner or later and explain to him what she’d been doing. Even if she did plan on simply leaving Herder out and describing the whole trip as an extended training session.
It was finally the end of the week and Kara collapsed onto her small bunk. So far she hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep since leaving Herder’s camp. Tigh had given her extra training which hadn’t helped the situation much. She was lucky he seemed to mostly believe her story about her training sessions in the wilderness, but he was still suspicious and upset she hadn’t returned when she said she was going to.
However, during all those training sessions, and after again trying to pull the information from Tigh about her parents, she still couldn’t shake the thoughts of Herder. It was becoming more and more tempting to simply up and leave. As the thought occurred to her she couldn’t shake what a good idea it was. Even if she didn’t find Herder, she wasn’t sure why she was staying with Tigh and the Jedi. It had been slowly happening since that first encounter off-planet with Tigh, and now she realized she simply didn’t belong there. Not when she wanted to know about her family or just have a friend. The latter was something she didn’t even realize she missed until she had spent the day with Herder. She didn’t know if she could consider him a friend since she didn’t know what they entailed, but she did know she wanted to find out about whether they could be friends.
Kara got to her feet and looked around the small room. There were only two small drawers where she kept her change of shirts and pants and an extra pair of boots were in the corner. There was also a datapad with a few spare datacards on the drawer. That handful of items, plus her lightsaber, summed up everything she owned. Having made up her mind she packed the clothes into her pack and clipped her lightsaber to her belt. The only thing that didn’t fit in the pack were her extra pair of boots. She bent down to make the bed, as was her habit, and then smiled to herself. Why bother making the bed to please Tigh when she didn’t plan on returning?
The way to the hangar was empty since everyone was already supposed to be in their rooms. She knew she could always just walk back to Herder’s camp, but she didn’t want to show up and expect him to look after her. She wanted to have her own ship if for no other reason than because she wanted to be as self-sufficient as she could be. As much as she liked Herder, she didn’t want to count on him and the fact that they ‘could’ be friends.
It was just as easy for her to break in to the access codes and she took the same ship as before. Within just a few minutes she was out of the hangar and away from the academy for what she knew would be the last time.
At first Kara thought that because it was so dark that she had missed the camp. After a few worried flybys she realized that she couldn’t find the camp because it wasn’t there. That took a moment to settle in but once it did she knew what she had to do. First she had to get rid of this ship as soon as possible. She had a feeling that Tigh would be able to track it, but after that she didn’t know what to do. One move at a time, she thought.
She turned the ship towards space and fired the engines, ready to go.
The next day the news of Kara’s departure was all over the academy. The first that was noticed was the fact that the ship was missing, and from there Tigh and the other Masters realized that Kara had taken the ship. Tigh also got Kara’s message loud and clear; he knew she had no plans on coming back. He also knew that he would have to come up with a sufficient cover story for why she was gone. In the past few days he had noticed both Kara and Vestara acting slightly different so he decided to start there.
Vestara was surprised when she sensed Tigh outside her door. He knocked and the door slid open.
“Master Tigh,” she greeted him, getting to her feet and quickly glancing around the room to be sure everything was neat. She didn’t have anything more than Kara had in her room, but she knew it was important to keep it all in order.
“You’ve heard about Kara.” It wasn’t a question.
Vestara nodded. “Well, I heard that she’s missing and so is one of the ships. It seems pretty clear what happened.”
“Vestara, what I’m going to ask is very important. You and Kara have been acting oddly lately.” Again, it wasn’t a question and Tigh never broke Vestara’s gaze. “You know why she left.” Although he had said he was going to actually ask something, Tigh left it at that and Vestara shifted ever so slightly under his gaze.
“I think so, yes, sir.”
“There… was another ship. We went to go look and we found a Mandalorian. He made a camp a few minutes from here by ship and… we talked to him. I think Kara met with him again after that. Sir, he was about her age. I think they liked each other.” It felt good to finally voice everything Vestara had had on her mind since Herder’s arrival but she also worried about Tigh’s reaction. He seemed fairly calm so far, like he was lost in thought.
“Very good, Vestara. Do not speak of this to anyone.” He turned to leave but Vestara spoke again.
“Master Tigh… Are you going to go after her?”
Tigh shook his head once and fixed the teenager with a hard look. “She made her choice and does not deserve our loyalty. Is that clear?”
Vestara nodded. “Yes.”
With that, Tigh swept from the room and Vestara let out a small breath she didn’t even know she had been holding. Tigh was right about one thing- Kara did not deserve her loyalty, especially once she had made plans to leave without consulting Vestara. She knew they weren’t supposed to form friendships, and she didn’t consider Kara her friend, but she had admired the older girl for other reasons. Now none of that mattered since Kara had made it clear how she felt about each of them, especially Vestara and Tigh. They didn’t even warrant a proper goodbye.
Almost a week after leaving the academy Kara was beginning to wonder just what she had gotten herself into. She made it to a small habited moon and made her first order of business acquiring a new mode of transport. That was when she realized just how poorly equipped for life outside the academy she was. She had no credits to speak of and only basic knowledge of the goings on outside the small planet the academy was on. She managed to find a buyer for the ship but doubted she had received anywhere near an adequate amount of credits for the ship. Especially since she had no idea what a reasonable asking price was. She certainly didn’t make enough to buy another ship.
During the past week she had been careful about spending her small pile of credits while she tried to figure out her next move, but the pile was shrinking fast and she knew she had to do something. The only jobs on the small moon were either as a mechanic or shop owner, neither of which Kara knew how to do even if she did have anything worth selling. That left only rather unsavory jobs that she decided she would not do even if it meant having to go back to the academy and apologize to Tigh. That option was out of the question.
Which left Kara with one choice. She had just enough credits remaining to go convince, with the help of a well timed Jedi mind trick, one of the local pilots to fly her to Concord Dawn. There she hoped to either run in to Herder or that there she would be able to find some other way of funding herself so she could start her new life outside of the academy. She finished eating the small piece of bread that she’d bought as a combination breakfast and lunch- she wished she’d thought to bring food from the academy- and headed to the spaceport. Earlier she had already decided which pilot she would choose so she went straight to the berth where his ship was docked.
The pilot was a short, pudgy human who seemed to be always either drunk or hungover which worked to Kara’s advantage. He would be easy to persuade with the Force and maybe she wouldn’t even have to hand over the remainder of her credits.
As she suspected, he was easy to coax into flying her to Concord Dawn, despite the distance and the fact that the credits she was paying him barely covered his operating costs one way. Kara clung to the remaining 100 credits she had managed to keep for herself and hoped that things on Concord Dawn would be different. The moment she felt the ship jump into hyperspace she reached for her small pack and unclipped her lightsaber from her belt. One thing she had learned from Herder was that Mandalorians were not always as friendly to Jedi as he was, and she didn’t want to get blasted on sight. She tucked the weapon away. It was the last reminder of her now former life as a Jedi that she hoped she could just forget about forever. She even found that since leaving the academy she had had to rely on the Force less, and the mind trick with the pilot was the first time she had overtly used the Force since leaving. Maybe that can even be the last time I use it ever. It seemed sound in principle to her. New life, new beginning and that didn’t have to include anything from her former life, even if there was no escaping her Force-sensitivity she could always do what she could to ignore it.
When they arrived at Concord Dawn Kara left the ship quickly before the pilot realized he had been duped and decided to do something about it. The planet was nothing like she had been expecting. Here almost everyone walked around in armor similar to Herder’s though there was numerous different color variations. And not everyone was human and sometimes she couldn’t be sure when a being was wearing their full armor. The hyperspace flight had left her hungry again so she made her first destination to the local bar in hopes that they would have food as well as drink. Then she could start planning on finding a way to get a job so she could have enough credits to continue to buy food.
Herder finished the diagnostic he was running on his ship and got to his feet and stretched. He decided to go to the local bar, which also doubled as a restaurant, to say goodbye to a few of his fellow Mandos before he set off on his latest job. The same one that had taken him away from the distant planet with the Jedi before he had planned. Since leaving he wondered about Kara and if she had ever tried to go back to see him. He felt bad about leaving so suddenly but he hadn’t had a way to get in touch with her. Besides, she was a Jedi and he was sure she wanted nothing to do with him. The day with him had probably been just an exercise in both rebellion and curiosity and nothing more. But that didn’t stop him from thinking about her more than he thought he should be.
He arrived at the bar and went inside and performed his customary scan of the customers to see if there were any of his friends inside. Herder did a double-take when he saw a strangely familiar ponytail of the same so light-brown-as-to-be-almost-blond hair as Kara’s. Immediately he attributed it to the fact that he had been thinking about her at the time until he looked closer and realized it was Kara. Although she was facing away from him he recognized not only the hair but her form and the same dark brown tunic and lighter brown pants and matching knee high boots he had seen Kara in last time. Surprised, but smiling, he went over to the table she was sitting on.
Kara had been so lost in her thoughts and on the meal she was eating that she started when someone appeared in the corner of her vision and dropped into the empty seat across from her. “Herder!” She tried to keep the surprise and relief from her face and voice but was sure she wasn’t entirely successful at first.
“The one and only.” He smiled at her. “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same,” she replied immediately, echoing their first exchange. That made him laugh.
“I was just going to head out on a job. I stopped by to say goodbye to some of my friends here.”
Kara tucked a stray strand of her hair behind her ear; it had escaped being tied back and out of the way and she was suddenly conscious that she hadn’t been to a decent ‘fresher since the academy. “Sounds good.” She decided to answer his question. “I left the academy. For good.” Kara couldn’t help but drop her voice slightly and glance around, worried about actually saying the word ‘Jedi’ outloud here.
Herder blinked his blue eyes at her at that and leaned back in his seat. “Cin vhetin.”
Kara frowned slightly at him. “What’s that?”
“It means a fresh start. A ‘clean slate’.”
Kara nodded. That was it exactly.
“Well, you couldn’t have picked a better place for it, Kara,” he said honestly. “That’s what we do here. As Mandos, we’ll take any misfit.”
“So you think I’m a misfit?” She raised an eyebrow at him.
He laughed again. “For now.”
“What makes you think that just because I’m here I want to be Mandalorian?”
“A hunch.” He grinned and winked at her. He seemed to be in a much better mood here on his home planet than he had been the first time they met.
“Well, we’ll see,” Kara said, not about to commit to anything yet. She was still reeling in some ways from severing all ties to the Jedi and didn’t know quite where she belonged yet.
Herder nodded in understanding. “Come with me.”
“With you where?”
“I have a job I’m going on. Bounty hunt, should be an easy score.”
Kara shrugged slightly and finished her plate of food. “I don’t know.”
“C’mon. Consider it a partnership. I’ll split the catch with you.” He eyed her. “Unless you have some other source of income I don’t know about.”
Kara grimaced at the reminder. “I don’t know how much help I’ll be.”
“Doesn’t matter. Just watch and learn. C’mon, Kara, it doesn’t get much easier than this. Let me help you out, you might learn something,” he teased.
Kara found she had to get used to his humor but she smiled slightly. “Alright.”
“Good.” Herder got to his feet and offered her his arm. Kara stared at it, not sure what to make of the action so he patiently reached over and linked her arm with his. He smiled again at her, to which she fought not to redden, and led the way out of the bar and back towards his ship so they could begin the job.
Kara knew there was a lot she had to learn, both about Herder and the Mandalorians but also about how things worked outside of the academy. She suspected, though, that she wouldn’t find a better teacher or friend than Herder.