Tistura noted how quiet it was deep in the catacombs of the new Jedi temple. Buildings had been repurposed and built rapidly after the invasion. New structures were going up every day … but here … it was silent. The only noise was the quiet hum of air circulators.
The Jedi Order had quietly moved in and begun the rebuilding process, welcoming a steady trickle of force sensitives from across the aligned worlds. Tistura placed her mask across her face and set her goggles over her eyes. Her husband, Koro, clicked his mask into place. It’d been months since she’d worn it. A sign on the wall had warning symbols and a foreign language written on it – it read – “danger, atmospheric masks required.”
She approached the airlock door and opened it, stepping into a second, smaller chamber. Koro closed the airlock behind them. He felt the unusual sensation of the room repressurizing with an oxygen-laden atmosphere and his ears popped. A light flashed twice and remained lit on the third pulse. They stepped into the human quarters of the temple, a compartmentalized section that didn’t require a breathing apparatus for non-Kel Dor.
A young padawan stood on the other side and greeted them perfunctorily.
“General. Welcome,” the padawan bowed deeply, his brown robes hung down over his face, shrouding his face.
Tistura nodded her head. Koro adjusted his belt and grunted softly. The padawan wordlessly led them through the narrow, darkened corridors, twisting and turning throughout the maze. It was an inefficient layout but possibly designed that way on purpose.
“How is he? You Jedi haven’t been exactly forthcoming with his whereabouts.”
“Hmm?” The padawan continued to walk.
“He doesn’t answer his mail. He never returns any calls. The protocol droids are annoyingly unhelpful in setting up meetings,” Tistura felt her throat tighten in exasperation.
“I am sorry ma’am. I am not privy to the comings and goings of Master Jinroh.”
After an indeterminate time and a walk that seemed to deliver them to the deepest, most inconvenient recesses of the human quarter, the padawan stopped before a doorway and pressed a button. A chime trilled softly. A few moments passed.
“Send them in,” the electronic voice of Jinroh chirped through a speaker.
The padawan opened the door and motioned for Tistura and Koro to enter. He stayed outside and closed the door behind them. Inside, the room was illuminated by a single lamp on a desk. The rest of the room was in shadow. This didn’t bother either of the Kel Dor, their visors compensated for the lack of light.
Jinroh approached them slowly, a smile flirted at the edges of his mouth and at the corners of his eyes. He held a cane in his left hand, using it to support his weight as he walked. He limped toward his friends, his cane softly clicking on floor. He opened his arms.
“Koro!” Jinroh hugged Koro gently. The personal contact threw Koro off. In the many trials and adventures they’d had, the Jedi had not once shown physical affection for his companions. Koro returned the hug and warmly patted his friend on the back. “It is good to see you.”
The sight of the thin, white, oak cane was discomfiting to Tistura and Koro. Seeing their friend hobbling about with a wooden stick was off-putting. He turned to Tistura and nodded his head. “General.”
Using her title was an unnecessary formality. With less than a sentence, Jinroh placed an emotional barrier between them.
Neither he or Tistura made a move to give each other a hug. Koro felt the most awkward of all three. He opened his mouth to speak but Jinroh spun on his good leg and limped to a counter in the corner. “Tea? I was just about to have a cup myself.”
Jinroh fiddled with the dials on a small, primitive hotplate with a undistinguished, grey kettle.
“S … sure,” Koro said.
“Please. Thank you.”
The jedi set out three cups and placed a mixture of ingredients into each cup with his fingers. He mindfully poured the hot water into each. “Sit, sit. I knew you were coming so I had them bring us some chairs.”
Tistura noticed three chairs were set in the corner of the small room. Her visit was an unscheduled stop. They’d told no one of their travel plans today, despite the many diplomatic and military responsibilities they’d undertaken and constant rescheduling by the protocol droids.
Jinroh continued to speak while he fussed with the tea. “I know what you’re going to say … I’ve already made up my mind … the answer is, respectfully, no.”
Tistura glared at him beneath her visor.
Jinroh sighed and handed the steaming cups to his guests and limped back to the counter to pick up his own cup, “…but that’s not going to stop you … you’re going to say it anyway … so you might as well get it over with.”
Tistura had rehearsed this speech so many times in her head. She’d complained loudly and long to Koro, who dutifully agreed with her and nodded his head at every appropriate point and argument. Jinroh was being so frustrating today. They hadn’t talked in months and yet he’d already managed to get under her skin.
“You know … if your leg is bothering you I can arrange for the finest doctors in the sector. You shouldn’t need a cane. We can have a new one built for you that is so perfect you would forget anything was ever wrong.”
Jinroh’s face hardened slightly. Koro struggled to read the mood of his taciturn friend at the best of times. If Tistura irritated him, she didn’t seem to care. They’d witnessed Darth Umbra’s savage strike sever Jinroh’s leg from his body. Koro felt the bitter taste of copper in his saliva as he recalled seeing Jinroh collapse to the ground in a heap.
“The doctors say my leg is fine. They say it is all in my mind,” Jinroh sat down and placed the cane between his knees, resting his palms on the head of his cane, “To be honest, I still don’t remember much, let alone what happened my leg.”
Koro remembered the moment of his frantic leap into the dark chasm after Jinroh. If not for his jetpack and dark-vision visor, he wouldn’t have caught his friend’s shattered body. His fingers tensed up, wrapping around the cup, letting the hot water warm his palms.
Koro also remembered seeing Jinroh floating unconscious in the bacta tank, his skin shredded from the explosion. Activating a thermal detonator at point-blank range had not been one of Jinroh’s best military decisions. The thought of his friend’s attempted suicide attack on Darth Umbra lingered at the back of his mind. He looked over at Jinroh, who stared back at him, knowingly, as if able to read his dark, disturbing thoughts.
“Anyway. I am sure you are tired of talking about your leg,” Tistura dismissed the topic, “I haven’t seen you since the wedding, and before that, his funeral. You don’t attend council meetings. You cancel all of your appointments. Denia covers for you … as do all the other masters.”
Jinroh rested his chin on his hands and waited for Tistura to continue. Koro took a tentative sip of his tea.
“The tea is a Baran Do blend, designed to clear the mind and relax your body. It’s an acquired taste for humans, but I am sure you’ll like it. I’ve come to quite enjoy the flavour,” Jinroh explained.
“You can’t hide away from the universe forever, cloistered away in this temple, doing nothing! You have duties and responsibilities. People depend on you,” She felt the rhythm of her words hit their stride.
“I can’t?” Jinroh seemed to intone his question rhetorically, as if the idea had never occurred to him before. “I am training with the Jedi here. Working with the padawan … from time to time.” The Jedi sipped his tea.
“That’s not what Secura says. He said he’s barely seen you at all. He says that the younglings refer to you as the temple ghost,” Tistura had caught Jinroh in an obfuscation, if not an outright lie. “You’re being a coward.”
Koro interjected, “Now, Tis…”
Jinroh’s eyes narrowed and his lips pursed together in a tight line. She continued.
“You are all that’s left of the Baran Do Order on Kel Dor, one of the few survivors of the order in the whole galaxy. Do you think the elders chose you by mistake? They can see the future! I’ve already arranged for the construction of a new Baran Do academy. I want you to run the academy …” Tistura noticed Jinroh’s nose wrinkle up in disgust at the thought of leading a school. She backpedalled, “At the very least, you will be expected to attend the ground breaking ceremony and teach new potentials. It’s not negotiable.”
Jinroh sat silently. He blinked and stared past her. Tistura had hoped he’d been moved by her words.
“Do you think this is how he would have wanted you to live your life?” Tistura looked about the drab, dimly lit quarters and felt the urge to wretch growing in her throat.
The ghost of Momar seemed to permeate the air. Tistura got angry at Jinroh’s lack of emotional response … at his utter lack of reaction to her questions.
“He sacrificed himself for you!” Tistura stood up, the feet of her chair squeaked as they slide across the floor. She pointed her finger accusingly. “He paid the ultimate price for all of us. The least you could do is earn it!”
Koro finished his tea and set his cup on Jinroh’s bedstand. He stood up and interposed himself between Tistura and the passive Jedi.
“I think it’s time for us to go,” Koro frowned at his wife.
Tistura spun on her heel and stormed through the door. Koro seemed to shrug as if to apologize to Jinroh on his wife’s behalf. “Thanks for the tea … seriously though … we miss you. Don’t stay away forever. See you.”
Jinroh watched his former companions leave and close the door behind them. He stood up with much effort, pushing off on his cane, and sighed. His prosthetic leg ached. The doctors were wrong. Everything wasn’t fine with his leg. Jinroh rubbed his fingers along the seam in his skin on his left leg, where flesh met synthetic material. Despite what everyone else said he could tell the difference.
Defiantly, crustily, he hobbled, cane and all, to a mat in the nearby corner and sat seiza to begin meditating. Again, alone in the darkness, left to his own devices, including drinking tea and meditation. Moments became minutes and minutes became an hour, still, he sat and he meditated. It wasn’t about admitting who was right or wrong … even if part of her had been right.
Jinroh used the force to press a button on a communications console on his table. It trilled a few times. The face of Master Denia appeared, wrinkled and wise.
“Yes Jinroh? Are you okay? Is everything alright?”
He grunted softly. “I suppose we should begin training the Baran Do potentials how to fight with lightsabers…”
“We began their training months ago,” Denia smiled knowingly. “Did you think Master Sazen was waiting for your say so?”
Jinroh held his facial features still, if not his emotions. His Master sensed the wash of feelings projecting from her student.
“No … I suppose not,” he paused for a moment and studied the expression on his master’s face, “You sent for them didn’t you?”
Denia shook her head no and raised her hand to her mouth, “She was quite insistent.”
“Mmm,” Jinroh nodded in understanding. “Very well. I will prepare the first lesson for this afternoon.”