Jon-ah was yanked back to consciousness by the sound of speeders arriving. As far as different ways of waking up go, this particular sound wasn’t high on his list. His head pounded from the noise, and he put his hand up to his forehead to ease the pressure. Instead, he got a handful of half-dried blood.
“Oh yeah,” he muttered to no one in particular, “battle.”
“Master! This one’s alive!” an eager young voice exclaimed.
Slowly, Jon-ah opened his eyes. Or rather, his conscious state began to filter the input from his ocular implants. It was bright.
Jon-ah squinted. “I need a hat. Something stylish yet imposing, you know?”
“Easy there,” the young voice said, kneeling beside him. Still squinting, Jon-ah realized the voice was attached to a young Zabrak in simple brown robes. The Zabrak was attempting to help Jon-ah sit up.
“Master, he’s injured.”
Jon-ah turned to look in the direction the Zabrak was speaking, and was rewarded with a spinning view of his surroundings. His equilibrium must have been knocked out of whack by whatever gave him the gooey forehead, and the implants were trying to compensate.
“Whoa, dizzy,” he said.
“Easy, friend,” the Zabrak told him again. “You’ve got a nasty head injury there. Let my master take a look at it.”
The Zabrak’s master turned out to be a human, probably close to Jon-ah’s age somewhere in the early thirties, with a full dark-brown beard, a worn blue robe, and the gentlest eyes he’d ever seen.
Not that he usually took stock of another man’s eyes.
The man squinted in the sun-light as he visually examined Jon-ah’s head wound, and then rested a hand on Jon-ah’s shoulder. “It’s nothing serious, you’ll be fine.”
He felt a warmth flow from his shoulder up his neck and around from the back of his head to the front, where the wound on his forehead tickled and itched. The deep throbbing pressure in his head subsided into a mild ache.
Jon-ah stared in amazement at the man. He’d never been healed by a Jedi before.
“Who are you?”
The man stood, proffering Jon-ah a hand, which he took.
“My name is Sreya Alcyon,” the Jedi responded as he helped Jon-ah to his feet. “And this is my padawan, Ky-an.”
The eager young Zabrak patted Jon-ah on the back. “Nice to meet you,” he said with a grin.
Jon-ah returned the grin half-heartedly, and then turned back to Sreya with a start. “Jenson! Is he…”
Sreya shook his head with a mournful expression and pointed to half of a trooper lying face down beside a smoking mortar.
Jon-ah looked away, unable to stop the pang of regret, even though he barely knew the soldier. “The rest of the unit is off to the north, I assume that’s why you’re here?”
The Jedi nodded, and returned to their speeders, Ky-an motioning for Jon-ah to site down behind him. With his help, the Jedi quickly navigated towards the battlefield proper, where the fighting had apparently been heaviest.
No fighting was taking place now, however, and only two of the troopers seemed to be up and about. One was the stony-faced sergeant who’d been interrogating him earlier; the other was the cute blonde who’d made sure he wasn’t injured.
The sergeant appeared to be checking for survivors while the blond, Katrynne, he thought her name was, labored to patch up a comrade in arms. A third speeder was somehow sitting close to the epicenter of the fighting, as if someone had driven it up straight into the melee.
The Jedi brought their speeders to a halt and dismounted. Jon-ah stayed sitting, it was more comfortable than standing and he still felt a tad weak. There was not much he could have done to help anyone in their current state anyways.
Sreya immediately stepped to Katrynne’s side to offer his help, while the padawan approached the Sergeant. Jon-ah noted the wariness in the younger Jedi’s eyes, as if he were expecting something to leap out at them any moment now.
“Sergeant,” the Zabrak said, “what happened here?”
Couryn tossed Jon-ah a “glad you’re alive” look, to which Jon-ah responded with an almost patriotic sense of camaraderie he thought he’d oppressed a long time ago, before responding to Ky-an’s question.
“Ambushed by mercs,” was the sergeant’s response. “Things weren’t looking good for us until another one of your order showed up. Got to say, I was impressed with the vigor that old man fought with. My unit took heavy casualties, but we managed to hold our position and fight off the mercs.
“Well,” the sergeant paused. “At least it looked like we were in the clear until that Sith showed up.”
Jon-ah was used to reading people, and despite the alleged control over their emotions the Jedi were famed for, he could tell both Jedi had just stepped up their wariness.
“She was bat-Sith crazy, I tell you,” Couryn continued. “She took out all the rest of us but the old Jedi with one wave of her hand. I came to near the end of their fight, but couldn’t muster the strength to help.”
Couryn shook his head. “The viciousness in her attacks, like a woman possessed, and yet she didn’t kill him. It was like she was toying with him, and finally she knocked him out cold with a big slab of rock from behind. Then she tossed him on the back of her speeder, and took off.”
“Which way did she go?” Ky-an asked.
Couryn pointed to the east. “Off that way, but if you’re planning on tracking her, I don’t know how you’re going to do it.”
The Jedi, without taking his eyes off his patient, spoke up. “Can you describe the woman who did this, Sergeant?”
The trooper nodded to Sreya. “Yeah, average height, orange hair, some sort of burn mark on the right side of her face. And she looked like she was wearing the kind of clothes one of you guys might wear.”
Jon-ah watched as Sreya stood and strode with purpose to his speeder. “Ky-an, stay here and guard the survivors.”
Ky-an appeared shocked by his master’s instructions. “Master!”
Sreya shook his head, clearly brooking no argument. “Go with them to the base, I’ll meet you there. I must confront this…” the Jedi paused, “…this Sith alone.”