Coalescence, Chapter 17

Sreya grunted with effort as, with Couryn’s help, he carefully laid Galo-ban down outside the laboratory, next to Ky-an. He wanted to get the group out of the building as quickly as possible, he was more than a little concerned that Lilandra and her apprentice might change their minds, and the inside of that building was a death trap.

Katrynne was already providing some basic first aid to the young padawan, despite the bruises and possible broken bones she herself bore from the encounter. Sreya’s meager efforts with the battle meditation had left him far more drained than he had anticipated, so for the moment, Katrynne’s medpac was the extent of the medical attention either of the two unconscious Jedi would be receiving.

“Do you know him?” Couryn asked, grimacing as he straightened and gestured to Galo-ban. “He showed up during the fight, never got a chance to ask his name.”

Still kneeling by the two on the ground, ready to offer Katrynne what little assistance he could, he nodded. “I’ve seen him around the temple on Tython from time to time. His name is Galo-ban Dulsaer. He rose quickly in the aftermath of the sacking on Coruscant.”

Couryn appeared to freeze, “Did you say Dulsaer?”

Sreya turned his attention directly to the trooper, “Yes, why?”

He got the impression that the trooper wanted to say more; instead, all he said was “Oh . . . no reason.”

“We need to get these guys to a kolto tank, sooner rather than later Master Jedi,” Katrynne interjected.

Turning his attention back to her ministrations, Sreya nodded. “Agreed. We’ve got three speeders, I’ll take Ky-an on mine, if one of you wouldn’t mind carrying Galo-ban on theirs.”

Couryn was quick to respond. “I’ll take him. Let’s move.”

They secured their unconscious friends, and Sreya gave the laboratory one last look. He had finally found her, after all these years of searching, but he hadn’t been ready for the viciousness of her machinations. It had almost cost him the life of his padawan as well as another Jedi. And if the mercenary ambush had truly been part of her plan too, then their blood was as good as on his hands.

Sreya sighed. So much suffering, all on account of him. For the first time in well over a decade, he felt a genuine flash of anger.

Desperately, he pushed the anger down, and realized it had been replaced by fear of losing control to that anger. Deliberately this time, rather than pushing the new emotion down, he instead centered himself.

That hotbed of emotion was exactly what Lilandra wanted now. Most people failed to understand why emotions were so dangerous to Jedi, how even “proper” emotions, such as fearing for the safety of another, could fester and grow until it lashed out, but he had witnessed first-hand the danger of a truly enraged and out of control Jedi, and it was not her violence he was thinking about.

The Force was life, it amplified one’s connection to life, including emotions. Left unchecked, these emotions could cause utter turmoil and destruction in the hands of individuals already capable of laying waste with ease to those around them. And the Dark Side was not always so obvious in its temptations; it could be a subtle mistress, a slippery slope of convincing oneself that one’s actions were for the greater good or even just the good of a loved one, until finally a Jedi found him or herself tearing apart legions of troops or entire cities in a fit of fear or jealousy.

Of course, it had not been so subtle with him, but he had been young, and had had no delusions of Jedi infallibility for the Dark Side to wear down. He had been angry and afraid, and the Dark Side had simply bludgeoned him into obedience.

Gently now, he set those thoughts aside. Dispassionately, he reminded himself that those events were in the past. He was not now who he was then, but if he was not careful, Lilandra would evoke that in him.

Silently, he regarded his friends as they waited on him, as if they could tell he was considering difficult thoughts. He cared for Ky-an, and his heart went out to Galo-ban and the troopers that had come to his aid, but for the sake of so many more than them, he had to be prepared to let them suffer and die.

To the outside eye, it might appear cold, but Sreya knew that if he allowed himself to care too much, he would be the cause of far more suffering than just what his friends would receive. He would do everything in his power to protect them, to keep them from the harm Lilandra would inflict upon them, but ultimately he had to realize that if Lilandra’s efforts exceeded his power, then he could not lay the blame for her decisions at his own feet.

This was, of course, easier said than done, he thought as his unconscious padawan caught his eye. Sreya sighed deeply; as much as the coming events would endanger the physical lives of everyone present, the real battle would take place in his mind and in his heart. And he knew that it would be far more difficult than any battle he had yet taken part in.

Nodding to the troopers, he kicked his speeder ignition and took off, resolutely refusing to let his thoughts or his vision linger on the building that contained the only woman he had ever loved, or would ever love.

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