Strength and Passion 3

On a star ship, time becomes irrelevant. The days are marked by watches and shifts, outside the ship is eternal darkness marred only by the brilliant pin prick of thousands of stars. Daylight is an illusion. I slept when I needed to most of the time, since I was not part of the regular crew I had no official watch duties, no regular watch duties meant no real routine. Most of the time I could sleep okay but not after what had happened, too many images in my head. I closed my eyes and all I saw was the Tantive IV exploding, even though I hadn’t really watched the explosion, my mind created the image for me. I tried to shut that out and it would be replaced by Lord Vader or something else equally frightening. Finally, I gave up. Sleep was not going to come no matter how much I tried to relax.
I got up and dressed in clothes that were easy to move in and made my way to the training room Vader had used. I hoped it would be empty at this time.

The room is basic and sparse. It has high ceilings which is why, I would guess, Lord Vader liked to use it for his light saber practice. It was in a quiet part of the ship, away from much of the general movement, hustle and bustle. There was a rack of hand to hand combat weapons, some I have never seen before and others more familiar to me.

I kept the lights off, the room was not totally dark and I didn’t want the lights on at all, not even a little bit. I began by stretching which felt better than I had imagined. My neck and throat still hurt to move so I was careful, but the muscles were glad to move. Instead of trying to force my way through the training that Lord Vader had shown me I stepped back into something from my past, something I had not done for a while.

I began to work my way through the basic Kata forms that Jyrki, the mechanic from back home had taught me. I guessed, thinking baack on it, he had taught me many things, not all of which were happy things to remember.

I thought about him as I began to walk through the movements that started off slow and gradually increased in speed. My father had hired him after a really bad experience with a mech out of Corellia. The Corellian had completely buggered up a major repair and while he was arguing about it with my father Jyrki had come over and asked me what the fuss was about. I was all of fifteen then, maybe. Because he had just heard the yelling and thought maybe someone was in trouble. I explained to him the problem, and he said just like that. “Bettin’ I can fix ‘er for yer.” He had the strangest accent.

I just shrugged. “The hyper-drive is off, I think the regulator is blown but no one listens to me, you want to take a look-see go right ahead."

I walked with him into the engine room of the ship which my father and the Corellian, whose name I forget now, argued. He got right down to business, right down into the pit and had a good look. After a few moments he climbed back out. He didn’t say a word he just marched out of the ship and straight up to my father and said.

“Ya aughtta listen to the lady here, yer ship has a blown regulator, just like she said.” he nodded at me as I was just appearing from the gangway. “There’s a few other issues but basically the gal is right!”

My father just stared at him and right there on the spot hired him and fired the Corellian. A blown regulator should have been easy to spot and we all figured afterwards the Corellian was scamming my father.

I had liked Jyrki right from the get go, I suppose looking back on it all, it was natural thatI would fall madly in love with him. fifteen was the perfect age to fall in love with an older man and he was about ten years older than I was. He was built tall and slender but he moved with such a powerful grace and strength that no one ever bothered him, not even the morons who would pick a fight with anyone. He had an angular face with high cheek bones and very pale ice blue eyes that were deeply contrasted by his very long black hair and eyelashes. No matter how much time he spent in the sun light, his skin remained ghostly pale. I would have killed for eyelashes like his. His smile was sweet and cocky all at the same time. There was always oil and grease under his finger nails no matter how much he scrubbed his large hands.
We were fast friends from the get go. When I wasn’t in classes I was at his side learning as much as I could about everything he had to teach me.

I know my father had him checked out, but I had taken to Jyrki right away and that had said a lot, my father had learned to trust me and my weirding instincts. While, that had been enough to get him hired, the absolute trust with his daughter came later and what ever had been said was between the two of them. I knew there had been words but neither would talk of it.

Once I remember shortly after he had started to work for us, I had asked Jyrki how he stayed so fit.

“Practice,” He had said. “Hand me ther hypo-spanner, Mouse.” Mouse had been his nick name for me because I seemed to be able to get into the tiniest of places, useful for him when we were fixing something too small for his large hands to fit.

“Practice of what?” I handed him the spanner, I was being nosey, in the six weeks he had been with us I had learned almost nothing about him personally and it was beginning to bother my Jawa like curiosity. I was as drawn to Jyrki as a Jawa to junk.

He rolled himself out from under the crawler we were working on and sat up, wiped his hands on the cloth he kept for that purpose.

“You have grease on your nose.” He said handing me the cloth. I wiped at it and it made him laugh to see me making it worse.

“Here,” he said taking the rag from my hands and getting the grease off for me.

“So, practice what?” I pressed, by now I was used to his method of diversion.
He gave me one of those ‘you ain’t gonna let this go’ looks and I nodded.

“Okay, but I can’t just tell yer, I gotta show yer and if I am gonna show yer, yer gotta learn.” He said.

“Okay.” I said.

“Fine, I swing by after we’re done here and yer cleaned up. Be wearing something easy to move in, this ain’t no standing still thing, yer gonna sweat!” he said and slid back under the crawler and demanded the small wrench.

I waited for him, full of sand jiggers because it was the first time we would be together and we weren’t fixing something. He arrived on time and before we left he went inside and said his hullos to my father, I guessed he was telling him where we were headed and what we would be doing.

We drove on a speeder he had rescued from a scrap heap and brought back to life, it went very fast and I clung on to him for dear life. He took us out to a place just outside the city but not so far away that we would be in danger from Sand people. On one of the hilly places, we climbed up to the plateau and there we just stood for a few moments while I caught my breath.

He began to stretch and warm up, without words. I tried to follow him, every time I got the particular stretch right we would move on to the next, when I did it wrong he would repeat it until I got it right. Once we were warmed up, he began to go through what he called Kata forms. Slowly at first, allowing me to follow and imitate, discover the movement for myself. It looked so easy when he did it and it felt so awkward for me to try and emulate. He did not stop, he just ran through the same basic motions again and again until I got the move more or less right and then moved on to the next. By the time he had run through a third of these moves I was shaking with exhaustion, my muscles were aching and protesting loudly. Before I over did it completely he stopped. He handed me a canteen of water, gave me his jacket to keep me warm and told me to sit. I did as he asked without jokes or silly comments because this was a whole other Jyrki, not the grinning, kidding about mechanic I knew, but something completely different, something that could be deadly. I watched as he went back to working through the patterns he had taught me but instead of stopping he went further and began to get faster and faster until I could hardly keep up with his motion. I stretched out slowly, feeling the ache in my muscles that tomorrow would be stiff but not as much as I had imagined. The air at night was cold and I was beginning to feel that, but I stayed quiet and still because watching him move was pure magic. An hour later he too stopped, stretched out his muscles and drank from the canteen.

He made a ‘let’s go’ motion with his head and I followed him back down to the speeder. I took up my place behind him, wrapping my arms about his warm body and my head against the broad of his back as he drove us back to town. He dropped me off at the house, I stood there wanting to say something and not having any words.

He looked at me then with his pale ice eyes and he said. “The man who taught me is dead.” he said. “There’s damned few about now who knows this sorts of moves, and them that do is best to be keeping quiet about it. Old teachings, long forgotten and best not spoken of, can yer do that? Can yer keep a secret?”

I nodded.

“Right then, I practice that every night after work in case yer wonderin’. Yer’s welcome to join me.”

“I’d like that.” I told him.

He nodded and then kick started the bike into action, saying with a grin as he left “Right then, see yer tomorrow at the bay, we gots a lot to do, that blasted coupler should be there, I need yer tiny hands, Mouse” And with that he sped off to his home, where ever that was. I went inside, more tired than I could ever have imagined. I said my goodnights to my parents and dropped on my bed falling asleep immediately. For the next four years I went with him every night when it was possible, and worked out along with him, learning this secret ancient form of martial art.

Now in this room on board this Imperial Star Destroyer, I could hear his deep gentle voice and feel his calm manner as I began to walk through the ancient movements he had taught me. Just like Jyrki, I began slowly and worked my way up to a speed that when I first began to learn it, had never seemed possible for me. While I had not been keeping up with the work out in the last few weeks or so, I did not forget the motions.

There was a hypnotic rhythm to the sequences and I fell into the music of it right away, forgetting everything and everyone around me. In my mind, with my eyes closed I was back on Tatooine standing along side the first man I truly loved.

Jyrki’s lessons had not only been about movement and perfection of the action but also about the mediation upon the movements, the breathing techniques that accompanied the moves, I had learned everything he had taught me eagerly, because as well as being crazy about him, I loved the peace and the simplicity of the movement, I suppose that was partly my reasons for wanting to learn dance as well.

Now as I began the faster movements I could see how they all tied together, I could see the threads of the Force that wound around everything and how they moved about me when I got the particular move just right. It was pure magic and I felt light and free, for the first time in a long time I also felt a great weight lift from my shoulders. The longer I worked through each movement, the more powerful the feeling of connection got, the more light I could see in everything that was around me. I could hear Jyrki’s voice whispering in the darkness, telling to look around and see the world with open eyes, that everything was connected. That there were no coincidences and everything was chosen. It was then, that suddenly three things came to me all at once, a knowing slid into place that gave me the shakes and made me stop cold.

The first was his words, although leaning towards a different angle, and these movements were so incredibly similar to the exercises Lord Vader had tried to teach me. I was stunned that I had not seen the similarity before. That Jyrki had been force sensitive and I had not known it, astonished me, that he had hidden it from me even though it must have been as plain as day that I had the same weirding ways, somehow stung. Secondly, he, like my father, had always encouraged me to hide it. “Keep it in the dark.” He had told me. Looking back now I could see he had been terribly afraid, but for whom? The third thing that I suddenly realized was that I was no longer alone in this room. The steady rhythmic in and out of breathing told me that Vader had joined me.

He said nothing and the lights remained off. Lord Vader could see in the dark. He went to the weapon’s rack and pulled out two of the long fighting staves. I had never seen this particular design before but I knew the weapon. Jyrki and I had often sparred with staves, once I had gotten good enough, it was my favourite form of hand to hand fighting. The second was knives.

He tossed one to me and I caught it. We circled each other and I could feel the air crackle around us. When he swung I could see it and defended the blow. The crack of the staves against each other was loud. Again we circled, again he attacked again I parried. This was a dance, elegant and dangerous. Lord Vader, for such a large man, moved with an unbelievable grace and I felt we were, seemingly, well suited to each other, even though I knew he was far better than I could ever hope to be.
For every attack he made I had a block, I could see what was coming through the light of the Force. We continued at this level for a while and then he upped the ante. Suddenly there was a drawing of energy, I felt it crackle about us and he moved faster than before. It was harder to keep up with this and instead of easily deflecting each blow I had to work at it, duck and twist away. I was on the wrong end of several hard knocks and got the idea that he was toying with me. It was a dance with steps that were very new to me although I had learnt the basic steps well. He could see almost every counter move I was going to make, I was certain of it, but I kept my calm.
We would break apart and circle around one another, I, to catch my breath, he perhaps to find out my next move. Once more he attacked but this time instead of a simple defense I twisted up on the stick using it as a lever to gain height and kicked him full in the chest, it sent him flying. That was a trick Jyrki had taught me, think one move but execute another.

I leant on the staff, my own breathing heavy as I was beginning to get tired.

He stood up and acknowledged the move with a nod, I knew I would never, ever get to pull that stunt again, I was certain of it, but it had been worth it, just once to put him on the ground. We circled again.
His attack was more furious than anything he had previously thrown at me, he had been playing with me, toying with me, testing my abilities. I could barely keep up with it, relentless he was, and eventually, as it had to happen, I stumbled backwards, fell down hard and lay on the ground with the end of his staff lifting my chin. We stayed in this position for a moment and then I flicked the staff away from my face with the back of my hand and got up. I walked away from him and turned the lighting up a bit. I am certain he could have fought all night but I was now tired and had had enough.

I wiped the sweat from my face with my extra shirt, drank from the water container I had with me and stared at him. He was not even breathing hard. He put the staves back in their place and walked over to me. Took a hold of my chin andwith the tips his fingers and twisted my head from one side to the other, looking at my neck. His touch was surprisingly gentle and he let go of me without leaving any more marks.

“Someone has taught you in the ways of the Jedi.” He said. “Why did you not tell me this?”

“I have no idea what Jedi Ways are.” I said. “A mechanic on Tatooine taught me to how to fight. He said it was an ancient form of combat, Old teachings he had said, that’s all.” I sat down on the floor and began a slow stretch to cool my muscles down. Lord Vader sat on the bench that was nearest me.

“Never the less, you were well taught.” He said. There was a touch of admiration in his voice.

I looked up at him but it was impossible to tell what he was thinking. “Who exactly were the Jedi?” I asked.

“Traitors to the Empire.” He answered. “They were the guardians of the Old Republic, but they were too arrogant to see what was right under their noses.” The anger in his voice was palpable. “They were wiped out.”

“All of them?”

“In so far as it was possible.”

“Who killed them all?”

“I did, the Emperor did, along with others loyal to the cause and capable of doing such a thing.”

I was silent, I had no idea what to think of this.

“The one who taught you in the Jedi ways, did you love him?” Vader asked suddenly.

The question took me by surprise, but I answered it anyway. “Yes, yes I did.” And I wondered what Lord Vader would know about love.

“Was he also in love with you?”

I shrugged. “Maybe, I don’t know. “ I said, and it was the truth. No matter what, Jyrki avoided anything that had to do with getting too emotionally close, and only once had he kissed me and that had happened while we were both half cut on my father’s moonglow. I can still remember it, a kiss so sweet and so full of longing and desire that when he had broken away from me tears were in my eyes. He had kissed me just that once and never again, never spoken of it either. It was business as usual the next day and he had broken my heart in some small way. Shortly, after that I had taken the job at Jabba’s. I couldn’t bear to be close to him. Still, to this day, I ached at the memory of it.

Vader nodded. “I sense much pain in you when you think this man, why?”

“He left me, without a word. One day he was just gone. He had told my father he needed to go and that was that. He just left. My father always thought he was running from something.”

“He was.” Vader said. “He was running from the Emperor, he was running from me.”

I sighed. Pulled my knees up to my chest and hugged them closely.

“But he was clever to pass on what he knew in such a devious manner.” Vader said. “Tell me, did he ever tell you anything about the ways of fighting he was teaching you?”

“There was a mantra he used to say sometimes before we would start the work out.” I could hear Jyrki’s voice as I remembered the words. “There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is no passion, there is serenity. There is no chaos, there is harmony. There is no death, there is the Force.”

Vader nodded slowly. “That is the Jedi Code. But it is a lie. There is emotion, you have said so yourself, you loved your teacher. It is arrogance to think that beings can void themselves of their emotions. There are other ways.”

“Other ways?” I asked. “How can I learn these ways?”

“I will show you the path.” He said.

I looked up at him and he looked at me. There was so much I wanted to know, so much I needed to ask but I got the feeling he would not answer any more serious questions. I was in such turmoil, nothing was as it seemed. My whole world was changing, turning upside down and I didn’t know what to do about it.

I jumped when he suddenly broke the silence, “Peace is a lie, there is only passion. Through passion, I gain strength. Through strength, I gain power. Through power, I gain victory. Through victory, my chains are broken. The Force shall free me.” He said, never taking his eyes off me. I wished I could have seen his face, staring at him was like staring into some awful endless black mirror.

“I sense much passion in you, much hunger for knowledge.” He said.

I nodded, wondering, not for the first time just how much of my thoughts and feelings he could really sense. I thirsted after knowledge, it seemed I could never ever learn enough about anything I was interested in,

“You now have access to the archives, there is much there for you to learn.” He said. That was not simply a suggestion.

I suddenly needed to ask the question that had been burning at me since the last time we had been together.

“My Lord, why is it you do not wish me to accompany you on the Death Star?”

I half expected him to get angry again but it seemed this was a good mood day.

“There will be many things that I must take care of. Tarkin and the rest of the self styled, petty tyrants who think they own the galaxy would be only too happy to have me distracted. You, girl, are a distraction, with your untrained force powers and I cannot have that, it would serve their purpose perfectly. Especially Tarkin, who would find a way to use your attachment to me to his advantage and if you are to be used to anyone’s advantage it shall be mine.”

“You would use me to your advantage?” I asked flatly.

“I would kill you if it served my purpose.” He said coldly.

I looked away from his gaze.

He stood up and I watched as he paused for a moment, towering above me.
“Your mechanic Jedi friend betrayed you when he left you. He was not just running from the Empire, he was running from his feelings for you.” He said and I sensed he was angry, but I didn’t know why.I didn’t want to think that what he had said about Jyrki was real, but it had a ring of truth to it I could not deny and that made me incredibly sad. This sadness was a palpable ache and I fought it back.

Lord Vader nodded, “You fought well, you have some skill in this area, we will practice again, when I return.” And with a swirl of his long black cloak he left as silently as he had come in.

I waited until the door had closed before I lay my head on my knees and wept until I had no tears left to cry. I sat on the floor for a long time just being, not thinking , not crying , not anything. When I could no longer sit on that cold floor I made my way back to my quarters and I fell in to a deep and dreamless sleep. When I woke up, Lord Vader had already left the ship and the Devastator was on her way, else where. I felt the lack of his presence on the ship keenly and wondered just how deep the bonding went between the teacher and the student.

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