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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14


Written by Elena Zovatto
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 9

Gambit ran through the humid marshland, barely noticing the changing terrain. Despite his pace, the rough ground and the heavy weights strapped to his body, his breathing was deep and even, his legs pumping effortlessly as they had for the last hour. A wide stretch of brackish water appeared in front of him, but he didn't slow down. Gathering his speed, he ran to the water's edge, and gracefully leapt over fifty feet to clear the opposite bank, without so much as breaking stride.

Clouds of insects rose from the fetid mud to swarm around him, but they were quickly dispersed, lured away by a multitude of thin trails of Force that he projected, which held the promise of food. Gambit continued on his way, but suddenly, a creature reared in front of him -- a twelve-foot high, six-limbed monstrosity that vaguely resembled a cross between a hyena and a grizzly bear. It was snarling, teeth and claws bared, ready to attack -- but Remy was prepared.

He had sensed its presence -- and that of its cub in the shadows behind it -- some time before it actually appeared. Again using the Force, he distracted the animal into believing that its young was in the process of wandering off. Hurriedly, the beast broke off their confrontation before it ever really began in order to check on its little one, and Gambit passed without incident.

After a time, he found that the marshy ground was becoming too waterlogged to fully support his weight. But before he could start sinking into the mud enough to hamper his progress, he compensated. Remy willed the Force to partially support his body -- just enough to prevent the ground from slowing him down. Gradually, as he passed through the swamp, the terrain began to firm up again. Making adjustments to the flow of the Force he was using accordingly, he redirected the energy no longer needed to support his weight into the muscles of his legs.

Eventually, the landscape began to change from marshland to forest. He spied a clearing in the distance, and made his way toward it, intending to cut across.

He was halfway through the grassy enclosure when Nomi attacked from the shadows.

Gambit simultaneously drew his 'saber and parried her slash to his neck just as his own light-blade winked into existence, then twisted out of the way of her follow-through. Savagely, he cut at her knees, but she leapt over his blade, then brought her 'saber to her side, blocking his return strike to her ribs. As she did so, he lashed out with his foot, but Nomi stopped his kick with her shin, then lunged with her lightsaber. Remy brought his weapon up in time as he sidestepped, and deflected the stab away. The Jedi backed slightly away from her student, and they circled each other warily, the tips of their 'sabers almost crossed.

Nomi soon pressed her attack once more, and the deadly dance continued for several minutes, with neither gaining a clear advantage over the other. However, after a time, the Jedi regained the upper hand, pressing Gambit back with a flurry of well-placed blows. Then the tide turned once more, as he recovered the initiative. As he began his counterattack, Nomi swiftly withdrew, and Gambit moved forward to press his advantage -- just as a heavy metal bar fell from directly above him.

Sensing the danger, Remy sidestepped, saber flashing, and the beam hit the ground in four equal pieces -- but before they did so, he pivoted, turning to his rear, bringing his blade up to parry. There was a sizzling sound as his 'saber connected with the strike from behind, blocking the cut which would have cleaved him in two.

Expressionlessly, Nomi disengaged, and turned off her weapon, Gambit following suit. The test was over.

"So, chère -- what's de verdict?" he asked expectantly, sighing as he divested himself of the extra weight he had been carrying.

She didn't think she could hold back her smile any longer if she tried, so she didn't even make the attempt.

"Are you sure you've never done this before?" she asked teasingly.

"Because if you haven't, either you're a natural, or I'm a much better teacher than I ever thought I was."

Ordinarily, Remy tended to keep his emotions well in check, but praise was something which he had seldom received in his life, and he valued it all the more for that. And like his foster father, Jean-Luc LeBeau, Nomi Sunrider only gave it when it was well and truly earned.

He beamed.

"I'm thinkin' it's more o' the latter, but mebbe a bit o' both," he replied with a chuckle.

"Well, whatever the cause -- I think you have a lot to be proud of. Let's just sit down for a moment -- I have something I want to show you."

They sank down cross-legged, facing one another in the middle of the clearing.

"You've also been doing well in your meditation -- and I've shown you how to apply it in battle. But there is always more to learn, and I don't have all the answers. No one person ever could," she said frankly.

"Most forms of knowledge can be adequately passed from one generation to the next through simple holos or book chips -- but to learn the ways of the Force, those means are insufficient. The only real way to absorb Jedi teachings is through one-on-one instruction and practise ... which led to a real dilemma among the early Jedi."

"Loss o' knowledge?" Gambit guessed.

"Exactly," she replied with a nod.

"In earlier times, before interstellar travel became easily accessible, those with the talent to wield the Force had many difficulties in even finding a Master under which to train, so there were fewer students. And unless he had taken a student, whenever a Jedi Master died, most of his discoveries died with him. In order to solve this problem, and preserve their knowledge, the Jedi created a new, interactive teaching tool ..."

As she spoke, Nomi took a small container out of her belt pouch, and placed it between them, then opened the lid.

Gambit drew in a sharp breath as he saw the contents of the box. After all, he was a Master Thief -- and if any of his old cohorts from the Guild had been present, their mouths would have watered at the sight.

It was a perfect cube about two inches high -- and appeared to be made of solid diamond. Intricately carved designs appeared on its faces, and its facets glinted and glittered entrancingly in the light.

"Dieu ... it's beautiful. Qu'est-ce que c'est?"

"It's called a holocron. One of the tools I was speaking of -- this one is very old, and stores the cumulative knowledge of many Jedi. It was a gift to me from my first teacher, Master Thon, and he left his own teachings within it. It came to him from the legacy of his friend Arca."

Nomi's face was sad for a moment as she remembered the aftermath of that Jedi's death.

"How d' y' get at what it is y' want t' know?" Remy asked curiously.

Although he hadn't touched the thing, he had carefully looked it over, but he couldn't see any sign of a latch or other opening on the crystal, nor even an indication of any kind of toggle or control.

Nomi smiled.

"Different holocrons have different access modes. But this one, while not unique, is still quite special. Pick it up, Remy, and you'll see ..."

Gambit's mouth twisted in a small smirk, appreciating the humour of the situation -- after all, it wasn't often that someone invited a thief to handle anything so obviously valuable ...

Reaching down, he carefully lifted the holocron out of its box. He had barely withdrawn it from the container when the crystal emitted a concentrated blue glow, and a figure appeared before them.

It wasn't human, though it was humanoid in shape. Its skin was a dark, earthy brown, and very wrinkled. Actually, the better word was probably gnarled. It had hair of a sort, but in thick winding strands that resembled nothing so much as the roots of a tree.

"Ah ... a new apprentice. And greetings to you, Jedi Sunrider. What would you seek of this holocron?"

"At this time, I only wish to acquaint my student with its use, Master Bnar," Nomi replied.

"To that end, the primary host should identify himself, should he not?" the figure said in voice like rustling leaves.

"Very well -- apprentice, I am Master Ood Bnar, maker of this holocron, and primary guide to the knowledge it contains."

By this time, Remy had recovered from his initial surprise, and was able to answer with his characteristic aplomb.

"Remy LeBeau -- but some people call me Gambit. Pleased t' meet y', monsieur."

"Apprentice LeBeau -- how may I assist you?"

Remy smiled.

'Apprentice LeBeau' ... I ain' been called dat since I was sixteen. Goin' t' take some gettin' used to ...

"If y' could tell me jus' how dis t'ing started up, I'd be much obliged. I don' like bein' in the dark about how things work."

The creature inclined its head, acknowledging his question.

"There are many possible ways from which to choose to activate a holocron," the Jedi Master began.

"Some require a pattern to be traced, or a sequence to be depressed on their exterior, others the uttering of a certain phrase. Some require both. However, when I created this one, I determined that the knowledge should be accessible to anyone with the talent -- and I did not want access to be dependent on anything which could possibly be forgotten, or otherwise lost. To that end, all that is necessary to activate this holocron is that it be held by one attuned to the Force."

Remy nodded.

"D'accord -- dat tells me how I started it. But how does it really work ? Nomi, she tell me that de knowledge o' many Jedi is stored in this holocron ... an' I know microchips and all are wonderful t'ings ... but I can' believe dat any computer this small could store everything that this one is s'posed to."

"True -- except at its heart, a holocron is not a computer at all."

Gambit's eyebrows arched in surprise.

Master Bnar made a dismissive wave.

"Oh, there are some technological components -- quite a few, in fact -- but they mainly deal with the projector apparatus. The storage capacity of a holocron is limitless, and that is quite impossible with mundane technology, no matter how advanced.

To achieve this, each holocron contains a nexus to the Force itself, which allows the user to directly summon the Masters who have left their teachings here." 1

"But .. how c'n I be 'summoning' someone who's dead ? Y' mean that dis is just some really advanced hologram, mebbe amplified by the Force, right ? 'Cause this don' feel like no seance t' me," Remy said dubiously.

"Remy -- when a Jedi dies, only the physical body ceases to exist. At death, we become one with the Force," Nomi explained gently.

"Master Bnar 'died' a long time ago. The holocron stores his image, but it is his essence you've been speaking to."

Guess that catechism on eternal life Poppa made me go to meant somet'ing after all. he thought sardonically.

"Jedi Sunrider speaks the truth," Bnar spoke softly.

"Jedi are beings of light, not mere flesh. We persist."

Gambit swallowed as an unpleasant thought occurred to him.

"Does this mean dat ... non-Jedi jus' die f' good?"

His voice was quiet, but no less demanding for that, and he masked the sick feeling he had at the pit of his stomach as best as he could. Living forever, in whatever form, without the comforting presence of those you care about -- to Remy, that was a possibility too horrible to contemplate ...

"Absolutely not," Nomi replied firmly.

Master Bnar nodded again.

"All beings owe their existence, in whatever manner, to the Force. At death, the Force which was bound up in the life of the body returns to its source. A Jedi simply has more of it, and more command of it. Those are the sole differences."

Gambit exhaled in silent relief -- he wouldn't be alone again after all.

"Thank you, monsieur -- dat's about all I really want t' know right now ... or rather, that's 'bout all I t'ink I c'n handle knowin' right now," he amended wryly.

"As you wish, Apprentice LeBeau. Until the next time we speak -- may the Force be with you."

Remy deposited the holocron in its small container, and as he did so, the image disappeared.

He took in a deep breath.

"That was a lot f' a man t' take in at once," he said quietly.

"True -- but you did ask," Nomi pointed out with a small smile.

"If you ever have any questions about the teachings that you feel I haven't answered to your satisfaction, or just want a different perspective on them, feel free to use the holocron as a resource."

"Merci, chère," he said, rising to his feet, "But I don' think I'll be gettin' the chance to do dat for a spell."

He frowned.

"Much as I'm lookin' forward t' gettin' home -- I got a bad feeling 'bout what we're goin' t' find when we get there."

"Oh? What kind of feeling?" Nomi asked intently.

Gambit knew the cause of her interest -- pecognition as a Jedi ability was not uncommon, and one that came and went as it pleased, as she knew from experience. He couldn't sense anything definite, but the closer they came to Earth, the greater grew his general sense of unease.

He shook his head in frustration.

"I can' say what exactly de problem is -- I jus' know somet'ing's wrong ..."

"I've been feeling the same. But there isn't much we can do until we arrive, except prepare ourselves as best we can."

"One more day isn' much time t' prepare f' anything," he grumbled, "but y' right. We c'n always worry 'bout what might be once it actually is, an' not b'fore."

"You're learning ..."

"Oui -- an' I t'ink I got enough t' keep me occupied in de meantime."

Remy shook himself -- then his face brightened in a slow grin.

"Mebbe in the spirit o' preparation, I c'n talk Bishop into lettin' me heal some o' the bruises Deathbird left on him. That way, he can stop havin' t' pretend dat he ain' hurtin' whenever she walks into the room. I'd do the same f' her, but she'd prob'ly threaten t' gut me f' my trouble -- as usual."

Nomi smiled.

"She does have a way about her, doesn't she? Perhaps I can convince the Viceroy to let me take care of it. Although it has been amusing to see the two of them limp everywhere around the ship except when the other is in sight ..."

"Y' got dat right," Gambit chuckled.

"Now if that's all, I got t' get goin' -- I'm teachin' Joseph t' play poker."

"Poker?" Nomi repeated in a puzzled voice.

Remy's eyes sparkled.

"Oui -- y' don't know the game, chère ? Why don' you join us -- Rogue's goin' t' be in on it too, and we could always use another player ..."

"Maybe later. If it's anything like sabacc, it might even be interesting ..." 2

"Sabacc?" Gambit asked, his interest plain.

Nomi grinned.

"We can do a comparison of games of chance some other time. Go on now, I'll be by later -- after all, I have to make sure that you don't corrupt that young man any more than you already have."

Gambit put on his best innocent expression.

"Who, me?" he smirked, and with that, he left the room.

Smiling to herself, Nomi deactivated the holodeck.

I think I was right -- the training has definitely done more for him than amplify his natural talent with the Force. There was a time not so long ago where the outcome from that holo program would have been quite different. Then there's Joseph ... as Remy has come to see the balance of Light and Dark within himself, so he's begun to see it in others -- and not a moment too soon.

At this point, I've done all that I can do to prepare him for what lies ahead of us -- whatever that may be. I only hope that I can say the same for myself ...


1) I've checked out entries in Star Wars tech manuals on holocrons, and I've put my own spin on how they work. As a former physics major, I have a real problem with anything that claims to have 'infinite' storage space, so I had to try for an explanation that could make sense in my 'story universe'. Also, I figure I must be on the right track, given the degree of interaction between the holocron's Master Bnar and Nomi in the Dark Horse collection that inspired me in the first place.

2) Sabacc is a rather demanding game of chance, favored by both Lando Calrissian and Han Solo (Han won the Falcon from Lando in a sabacc game).


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